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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Cowards
By Aleardo Aleardi (1812–1878)
 
From ‘The Primal Histories’

IN the deep circle of Siddim hast thou seen,
Under the shining skies of Palestine,
The sinister glitter of the Lake of Asphalt?
Those coasts, strewn thick with ashes of damnation,
Forever foe to every living thing,        5
Where rings the cry of the lost wandering bird
That on the shore of the perfidious sea
Athirsting dies,—that watery sepulchre
Of the five cities of iniquity,
Where even the tempest, when its clouds hang low,        10
Passes in silence, and the lightning dies,—
If thou hast seen them, bitterly hath been
Thy heart wrung with the misery and despair
Of that dread vision!
                    Yet there is on earth
A woe more desperate and miserable,—        15
A spectacle wherein the wrath of God
Avenges Him more terribly. It is
A vain, weak people of faint-heart old men,
That, for three hundred years of dull repose,
Has lain perpetual dreamer, folded in        20
The ragged purple of its ancestors,
Stretching its limbs wide in its country’s sun,
To warm them; drinking the soft airs of autumn
Forgetful, on the fields where its forefathers
Like lions fought! From overflowing hands,        25
Strew we with hellebore and poppies thick
The way.
 
 
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