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.
 
Scylla, the Town
Destruction of Scylla in 1783
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)
 
The Earthquake

CALMLY the night came down
  O’er Scylla’s shattered walls;
How desolate that silent town!
  How tenantless the halls
Where yesterday her thousands trode,        5
And princes graced their proud abode!
 
Low, on the wet sea-sand,
  Humbled in anguish now,
The despot, midst his menial band,
  Bent down his kingly brow,—        10
Ay, prince and peasant knelt in prayer,
For grief had made them equal there.
 
Again!—as at the morn,
  The earthquake rolled its car;
Lowly the castle-towers were borne,        15
  That mocked the storms of war.
The mountain reeled,—its shivered brow
Went down among the waves below.
 
Up rose the kneelers then,
  As the wave’s rush was heard;        20
The silence of those fated men
  Was broken by no word.
But closer still the mother pressed
The infant to her faithful breast.
 
One long wild shriek went up,        25
  Full mighty in despair,
As bowed to drink death’s bitter cup
  The thousands gathered there;
And man’s strong wail and woman’s cry
Blent as the waters hurried by.        30
 
On swept the whelming sea;
  The mountains felt its shock,
As the long cry of agony
  Thrilled through their towers of rock;
And echo round that fatal shore        35
The death-wail of the sufferers bore.
 
The morning sun shed forth
  Its light upon the scene,
Where tower and palace strewed the earth
  With wrecks of what had been;        40
But of the thousands who were gone,
No trace was left, no vestige shown.
 
 
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