Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Asia
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII.  1876–79.
Syria: Gilboa
Vittorio Alfieri (1749–1803)
(From Saul, Act II, Scene 1)
Translated by C. Lloyd

THIS dawn how splendid! The universal sun
Arises not wrapt in a bloody shroud;
He seems to promise a propitious day.
O my past years! where now are ye all fled?
Saul never from his martial bed, till now,        5
Rose in the camp, without the certain trust
That, ere at eve his pillow he resumed,
He should be victor.
*        *        *        *        *
O Abner, with what different eyes do youth
And hoary age contemplate the events        10
Of human life. When with a well-knit arm
I grasped this ponderous and gnarled spear,
Which now I scarcely sway, I ill conceived
The possibility of self-mistrust,
But I have now not only lost my youth,—        15
Ah! were the invincible right-hand of God
E’en yet with me! or were with me at least
David, my champion!
*        *        *        *        *
                    And what? Wouldst thou
Conceal from me the horror of my state?        20
Ah! were I not a father, as I am,
Alas! too certainly, of much-loved children,
Would I have now life, victory, or the throne?
I should already, and a long time since,
Headlong have cast myself mid hostile swords:        25
I should already, thus at least, at once
Have closed the horrible life that I drag on.
How many years have now past, since a smile
Was seen to play upon my lips? My children,
Whom still I love so much, if they caress me,        30
For the most part inflame my heart to rage.
Impatient, fierce, incensed, and turbulent,
I am a burthen to myself and others;
In peace I wish for war, in war for peace;
Poison concealed I drink in every cup,        35
In every friend I see an enemy;
The softest carpets of Assyria seem
Planted with thorns to my unsolaced limbs;
My transient sleep is agonized with fear;
Each dream with imaged terrors that distract me.        40
Why should I add to this dark catalogue?
Who would believe it? The sonorous trumpet
Speaks to my ears in an appalling voice;
And fills the heart of Saul with deep dismay.
Thou seest clearly that Saul’s tottering house        45
Is desolate, bereft of all its splendor;
Thou seest that God hath cast me off forever.
*        *        *        *        *

                        That selfsame voice.
Imperative and visionary voice,
Which as a youth my nightly slumbers broke,
When I in privacy securely lived        50
Far from the throne, and all aspiring thoughts
For sundry nights hath that same voice been heard
In menacing, denunciatory tones;
Like the deep murmur of the stormy waves,
Thundering repulsively, to me it cried,—        55
“Depart, depart, O Saul.” The sacred aspect,
The venerable aspect of the prophet,
Which I had seen in dreams before he had
Made manifest that God had chosen me
For Israel’s king, that Samuel, in a dream,        60
Now with far different aspect I behold,
I, from a hollow, deep, and horrible vale,
Behold him sitting on a radiant mount:
David is humbly prostrate at his feet:
The holy prophet on his forehead pours        65
The consecrated oil: with the other hand
Stretched to my head, a hundred cubits length,
He snatches from my brow the royal crown,
And would replace it on the brow of David:
But wouldst thou think it? David prostrate falls,        70
With piteous gesture, at the prophet’s feet,
Refusing to receive it; and he weeps,
And cries, and intercedes so fervently,
That he refits it on my head at last.

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