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.
Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809–1885)
I WENT to greet the full May-moon
On that long narrow shoal
Which lies between the still Lagoon
And the open ocean’s roll.
How pleasant was that grassy shore,        5
When one for months had been
Shut up in streets,—to feel once more
One’s foot fall on the green!
There are thick trees too in that place;
But straight from sea to sea,        10
Over a rough uncultured space,
The path goes drearily.
I passed along, with many a bound,
To hail the fresh free wave;
But, pausing, wonderingly found        15
I was treading on a grave.
Then, at one careless look, I saw
That, for some distance round,
Tombstones, without design or law,
Were scattered on the ground:        20
Of pirates or of mariners
I deemed that these might be
The fitly chosen sepulchres,
Encircled by the sea.
But there were words inscribed on all,        25
I’ the tongue of a far land,
And marks of things symbolical,
I could not understand.
They are the graves of that sad race
Who from their Syrian home,        30
For ages, without resting-place,
Are doomed in woe to roam;
Who, in the days of sternest faith,
Glutted the sword and flame,
As if a taint of moral death        35
Were in their very name:
And even under laws most mild,
All shame was deemed their due,
And the nurse told the Christian child
To shun the curséd Jew.        40
Thus all their gold’s insidious grace
Availed not here to gain
For their last sleep a seemlier place
Than this bleak-featured plain.
Apart, severely separate,        45
On the verge of the outer sea,
Their home of death is desolate
As their life’s home could be.
The common sand-path had defaced
And pressed down many a stone;        50
Others can be but faintly traced
I’ the rank grass o’er them grown.
I thought of Shylock,—the fierce heart
Whose wrongs and injuries old
Temper, in Shakespeare’s world of art,        55
His lusts of blood and gold;
Perchance that form of broken pride
Here at my feet once lay,—
But lay alone,—for at his side
There was no Jessica!        60
Fondly I love each island-shore,
Embraced by Adrian waves;
But none has Memory cherished more
Than Lido and its graves.

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