Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VII. Descriptive: Narrative
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VII. Descriptive: Narrative.  1904.
 
Descriptive Poems: III. Places
A View across the Roman Campagna
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)
 
1861

OVER the dumb campagna-sea,
  Out in the offing through mist and rain,
Saint Peter’s Church heaves silently
  Like a mighty ship in pain,
  Facing the tempest with struggle and strain.        5
 
Motionless waifs of ruined towers,
  Soundless breakers of desolate land!
The sullen surf of the mist devours
  That mountain-range upon either hand,
  Eaten away from its outline grand.        10
 
And over the dumb campagna-sea
  Where the ship of the Church heaves on to wreck,
Alone and silent as God must be
  The Christ walks!—Ay, but Peter’s neck
  Is stiff to turn on the foundering deck.        15
 
Peter, Peter, if such be thy name,
  Now leave the ship for another to steer,
And proving thy faith evermore the same
  Come forth, tread out through the dark and drear,
  Since He who walks on the sea is here!        20
 
Peter, Peter!—he does not speak,—
  He is not as rash as in old Galilee.
Safer a ship, though it toss and leak,
  Then a reeling foot on a rolling sea!
  —And he’s got to be round in the girth, thinks he.        25
 
Peter, Peter!—he does not stir,—
  His nets are heavy with silver fish:
He reckons his gains, and is keen to infer,
  “The broil on the shore, if the Lord should wish,—
  But the sturgeon goes to the Cæsar’s dish.”        30
 
Peter, Peter, thou fisher of men,
  Fisher of fish wouldst thou live instead,—
Haggling for pence with the other Ten,
  Cheating the market at so much a head,
  Griping the bag of the traitor dead?        35
 
At the triple crow of the Gallic cock
  Thou weep’st not, thou, though thine eyes be dazed:
What bird comes next in the tempest shock?
  Vultures! See,—as when Romulus gazed,
  To inaugurate Rome for a world amazed!        40
 
 
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