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.
Rome, Churches of
St. Peter’s
Lord Byron (1788–1824)
(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

  BUT lo! the dome,—the vast and wondrous dome,
  To which Diana’s marvel was a cell,—
  Christ’s mighty shrine above his martyr’s tomb!
  I have beheld the Ephesian’s miracle,—
  Its columns strew the wilderness, and dwell        5
  The hyena and the jackal in their shade;
  I have beheld Sophia’s bright roofs swell
  Their glittering mass i’ the sun, and have surveyed
Its sanctuary the while the usurping Moslem prayed.
  But thou, of temples old, or altars new,        10
  Standest alone, with nothing like to thee,—
  Worthiest of God, the holy and the true.
  Since Zion’s desolation, when that he
  Forsook his former city, what could be
  Of earthly structures, in his honor piled,        15
  Of a sublimer aspect? Majesty,
  Power, glory, strength, and beauty, all are aisled
In this eternal ark of worship undefiled.
  Enter: its grandeur overwhelms thee not;
  And why? It is not lessened; but thy mind,        20
  Expanded by the genius of the spot,
  Has grown colossal, and can only find
  A fit abode wherein appear enshrined
  Thy hopes of immortality; and thou
  Shalt one day, if found worthy, so defined,        25
  See thy God face to face, as thou dost now
His holy of holies, nor be blasted by his brow.
  Thou movest, but increasing with the advance,
  Like climbing some great Alp, which still doth rise,
  Deceived by its gigantic elegance;        30
  Vastness which grows, but grows to harmonize,
  All musical in its immensities;
  Rich marbles, richer painting, shrines where flame
  The lamps of gold, and haughty dome which vies
  In air with earth’s chief structures, though their frame        35
Sits on the firm-set ground, and this the clouds must claim.
  Thou seest not all; but piecemeal thou must break,
  To separate contemplation, the great whole;
  And as the ocean many bays will make,
  That ask the eye, so here condense thy soul        40
  To more immediate objects, and control
  Thy thoughts until thy mind hath got by heart
  Its eloquent proportions, and unroll
  In mighty graduations, part by part,
The glory which at once upon thee did not dart,        45
  Not by its fault, but thine. Our outward sense
  Is but of gradual grasp, and as it is
  That what we have of feeling most intense
  Outstrips our faint expression, even so this
  Outshining and o’erwhelming edifice        50
  Fools our fond gaze, and, greatest of the great,
  Defies at first our nature’s littleness,
  Till, growing with its growth, we thus dilate
Our spirits to the size of that they contemplate.

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