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

  THERE is a stern round tower of other days,
  Firm as a fortress, with its fence of stone,
  Such as an army’s baffled strength delays,
  Standing with half its battlements alone,
  And with two thousand years of ivy grown,        5
  The garland of eternity, where wave
  The green leaves over all by time o’erthrown;—
  What was this tower of strength? within its cave
What treasure lay so locked, so hid?—A woman’s grave.
 
  But who was she, the lady of the dead,        10
  Tombed in a palace? Was she chaste and fair?
  Worthy a king’s,—or more,—a Roman’s bed?
  What race of chiefs and heroes did she bear?
  What daughter of her beauties was the heir?
  How lived, how loved, how died she? Was she not        15
  So honored, and conspicuously there,
  Where meaner relics must not dare to rot,
Placed to commemorate a more than mortal lot?
 
  Was she as those who love their lords, or they
  Who love the lords of others? Such have been        20
  Even in the olden time, Rome’s annals say.
  Was she a matron of Cornelia’s mien,
  Or the light air of Egypt’s graceful queen,
  Profuse of joy,—or ’gainst it did she war,
  Inveterate in virtue? Did she lean        25
  To the soft side of the heart, or wisely bar
Love from amongst her griefs? for such the affections are.
 
  Perchance she died in youth: it may be, bowed
  With woes far heavier than the ponderous tomb
  That weighed upon her gentle dust, a cloud        30
  Might gather o’er her beauty, and a gloom
  In her dark eye, prophetic of the doom
  Heaven gives its favorites,—early death; yet shed
  A sunset charm around her, and illume
  With hectic light, the Hesperus of the dead,        35
Of her consuming cheek the autumnal leaf-like red.
 
  Perchance she died in age, surviving all,—
  Charms, kindred, children,—with the silver-gray
  On her long tresses, which might yet recall,
  It may be, still a something of the day        40
  When they were braided, and her proud array
  And lovely form were envied, praised, and eyed
  By Rome,—but whither would conjecture stray?
  Thus much alone we know,—Metella died,
The wealthiest Roman’s wife: behold his love or pride!        45
 
 
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