Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Italy
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII.  1876–79.
Rome, Churches of
San Nicolo in Carcere
Lord Byron (1788–1824)
(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

  THERE is a dungeon, in whose dim, drear light
  What do I gaze on? Nothing; look again!
  Two forms are slowly shadowed on my sight,—
  Two insulated phantoms of the brain:
  It is not so; I see them full and plain,—        5
  An old man, and a female young and fair,
  Fresh as a nursing mother, in whose vein
  The blood is nectar;—but what doth she there,
With her unmantled neck, and bosom white and bare?
  Full swells the deep pure fountain of young life,        10
  Where on the heart and from the heart we took
  Our first and sweetest nurture, when the wife,
  Blest into mother, in the innocent look,
  Or even the piping cry of lips that brook
  No pain and small suspense, a joy perceives        15
  Man knows not, when from out its cradled nook
  She sees her little bud put forth its leaves—
What may the fruit be yet?—I know not—Cain was Eve’s.
  But here youth offers to old age the food,
  The milk of his own gift: it is her sire        20
  To whom she renders back the debt of blood
  Born with her birth. No; he shall not expire
  While in those warm and lovely veins the fire
  Of health and holy feeling can provide
  Great Nature’s Nile, whose deep stream rises higher        25
  Than Egypt’s river: from that gentle side
Drink, drink and live, old man! heaven’s realm holds no such tide.
  The starry fable of the milky way
  Has not thy story’s purity; it is
  A constellation of a sweeter ray,        30
  And sacred Nature triumphs more in this
  Reverse of her decree, than in the abyss
  Where sparkle distant worlds: O holiest nurse!
  No drop of that clear stream its way shall miss
  To thy sire’s heart replenishing its source        35
With life, as our freed souls rejoin the universe.

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