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.
Varese, the Lake
Lines Written beside the Lago Varese
Aubrey Thomas de Vere (1814–1902)
        STILL rise around that lake well sung
          New growths as boon and good
        As when, by sunshine saddened, hung
          Her poet o’er that flood,
And sang, in Idyl-Elegy, a lay        5
Which praised things beauteous, mourning their decay.
        As then great Nature, “kind to sloth,”
          Lets drop o’er all the land
        Her gifts, the fair and fruitful both,
          Into the sleeper’s hand:        10
On golden ground once more she paints as then
The cistus bower and convent-brightened glen.
        Still o’er the flashing waters lean
          The mulberry and the maize,
        And roof of vines whose purple screen        15
          Tempers those piercing rays,
Which here forego their fiercer shafts, and sleep,
Subdued, in crimson cells, and verdurous chambers deep.
        And still in many a sandy creek
          Light waves run on and up,        20
        While the foam-bubbles winking break
          Around their channelled cup;
Against the rock they toss the bleeding gourd,
Or lap on marble stair and skiff unmoored.
        Fulfilled thus far the poet’s words;—        25
          And yet a truth that hour
        By him unsung upon his chords
          Descends, their ampler dower.
Of Nature’s cyclic life he sang, nor knew
That frailer shape he mourned should bloom perpetual too.        30
        There still, not skilful to retract
          A glance as kind as keen,
        By the same southern sunset backed,
          There still that Maid is seen:
Through song’s high grace there stands she! from her eyes        35
Still beams the cordial mirth, the unshamed surprise!
        Not yet those parted lips remit
          A smile that grows and grows:
        The Titianic morning yet
          Breaks from that cheek of rose;        40
Still from her locks the breeze its sweetness takes;
Around her white feet still the ripple fawns and rakes.
        And, brightening in the radiance cast
          By her on all around,
        That shore lives on, while song may last,        45
          Love-consecrated ground;
Lives like that isthmus, headland half, half isle,
Which smiled to meet Catullus’ homeward smile.
        O Sirmio! thou that shedd’st thy fame
          O’er old Verona’s lake,        50
        Henceforth Varese without blame
          Thine honors shall partake:
A Muse hath sung her, on whose front with awe
Thy nymphs had gazed as though great Virtue’s self they saw!
        What shape is that, though fair severe,        55
          Which fleets triumphant by
        Imaged in yonder mirror clear,
          And seeks her native sky,
With locks succinct beneath a threatening crest,—
Like Juno in the brow, like Pallas in the breast?        60
        A Muse that flatters nothing base
          In man, nor aught infirm,
        “Sows the slow olive for a race
          Unborn.” The destined germ,
The germ alone of Fame she plants, nor cares        65
What time that secular tree its shining fruitage bears;
        Pleased rather with her function sage—
          To interpret Nature’s heart;
        The words on Wisdom’s sacred page
          To wing, through metric art,        70
With life; and in a chariot of sweet sound
Down-trodden Truth to lift and waft the world around.
        Hail, Muse, whose crown, soon won or late,
          Is Virtue’s, not thine own!
        Hail, Verse, that tak’st thy strength and state        75
          From Thought’s auguster throne!
Varese too would hail thee! Hark! that song,—
Her almond bowers it thrills and rings her groves along!

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