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.
Appendix: Frascati
At the Villa Conti
William Wetmore Story (1819–1895)
  WHAT peace and quiet in this villa sleep!
Here let us pause, nor chase for pleasure on;
Nothing can be more exquisite than this,—
Work, for the nonce farewell,—this day we ’ll give
To fallow joys of perfect idleness.        5
  See how the old house lifts its face of light
Against the pallid olives that behind
Throng up the hill. Look down this vista’s shade
Of dark square shaven ilexes, where spurts
The fountain’s thin white thread, and blows away.        10
And mark! along the terraced balustrade
Two contadine stopping in the shade,
With copper vases poised upon their heads,
How their red jackets tell against the green!
  Old, all is old,—what charm there is in age!        15
Do you believe this villa when ’t was new
Was half so beautiful as now it seems?
Look at these balustrades of travertine,
Had they the charm when fresh and sharply carved
As now that they are stained and grayed with time        20
And mossed with lichens, every grim old mask
That grins upon their pillars bearded o’er
With waving sprays of slender maiden-hair?
Ah no! I cannot think it. Things of art
Snatch nature’s graces from the hand of Time.        25
Here will we sit and let the sleeping noon
Doze on and dream into the afternoon,
While all the mountains shake in opal light,
Forever shifting, till the sun’s last glance
Transfigures with its splendor all our world.        30
  Hark! the cicala crackles mid the trees,
How shrilly! and the toppling fountain spills
The music of its silvery rain, how soft!
Into the broad clear basin,—zigzag darts
The sudden dragon-fly across, or hangs        35
Poised in the sun with shimmer of glazed wings.
  And there the exquisite campagna lies
Dreaming what dreams of olden pomp and war,
Of love and pain and joy that it has known!
Sadder, perhaps, but dearer than of yore,        40
With wild-flowers overstrewn, like some loved grave;
Its silent stretches haunted by vast trains
Of ghostly shapes, where stalks majestical,
Mid visionary pomp of vanished days,
The buried grandeur of imperial Rome;        45
Moaned over by great winds that from the sea
Sweep inland, and by wandering clouds of tears;
How it lies throbbing there beneath the sun,
So silent with its ruins on its breast!
There, far Soracte on the horizon piles        50
Its lonely peak, and gazes on the sea;
There Leonessa couches in repose,
And stern Gennaro rears its purple ridge,
And wears its ermine late into the spring.
When all beneath is one vast lush of flowers,        55
And poppies paint whole acres with one sweep
Of their rich scarlet, and entangling vines
Shroud the low walls, and drop from arch to arch
Of the far-running lessening aqueducts,
On his broad shoulders still the imperial robe        60
Of winter hangs, and leashed within his caves
The violent Tramontana lies in wait.
*        *        *        *        *
  Hark! from the ilexes the nightingale
Begins its beating prelude, like the throbs
Of some quick heart, then pauses, then again        65
Bursts into fitful jets of gurgling song,
Then beats again; and listen! rising now
To its full rapture thrills the shadowy wood
With the delirious passion of its voice;
With dizzy trills, and low, deep, tearful notes,        70
And hurried heaping of voluptuous tones
That, blent together in one intricate maze
Of sweet inextricable melodies,
Whirl on and up, and circling lift and lift,
And burst at last in scattered showers of notes,        75
And leave us the sweet, silent afternoon.

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