Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Italy
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII.  1876–79.
 
Florence
Santa Croce
Lord Byron (1788–1824)
 
(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

  IN Santa Croce’s holy precincts lie
  Ashes which make it holier, dust which is
  Even in itself an immortality,
  Though there were nothing save the past, and this
  The particle of those sublimities        5
  Which have relapsed to chaos;—here repose
  Angelo’s, Alfieri’s bones, and his,
  The starry Galileo, with his woes;
Here Machiavelli’s earth returned to whence it rose.
 
  These are four minds, which, like the elements,        10
  Might furnish forth creation;—Italy!
  Time, which hath wronged thee with ten thousand rents
  Of thine imperial garment, shall deny,
  And hath denied, to every other sky,
  Spirits which soar from ruin: thy decay        15
  Is still impregnate with divinity,
  Which gilds it with revivifying ray;
Such as the great of yore, Canova is to-day.
 
  But where repose the all Etruscan three,—
  Dante, and Petrarch, and, scarce less than they,        20
  The Bard of Prose, creative spirit! he
  Of the Hundred Tales of love,—where did they lay
  Their bones, distinguished from our common clay
  In death as life? Are they resolved to dust,
  And have their country’s marbles naught to say?        25
  Could not her quarries furnish forth one bust?
Did they not to her breast their filial earth intrust?
 
  Ungrateful Florence! Dante sleeps afar,
  Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore;
  Thy factions, in their worse than civil war,        30
  Proscribed the bard whose name forevermore
  Their children’s children would in vain adore
  With the remorse of ages; and the crown
  Which Petrarch’s laureate brow supremely wore,
  Upon a far and foreign soil had grown,        35
His life, his fame, his grave, though rifled,—not thine own.
 
  Boccaccio to his parent earth bequeathed
  His dust,—and lies it not her Great among,
  With many a sweet and solemn requiem breathed
  O’er him who formed the Tuscan’s siren tongue,—        40
  That music in itself, whose sounds are song,
  The poetry of speech? No; even his tomb
  Uptorn, must bear the hyena bigots wrong,
  No more amidst the meaner dead find room,
Nor claim a passing sigh, because it told for whom.        45
 
  And Santa Croce wants their mighty dust;
  Yet for this want more noted, as of yore
  The Cæsar’s pageant, shorn of Brutus’ bust,
  Did but of Rome’s best son remind her more.
  Happier Ravenna! on thy hoary shore,        50
  Fortress of falling empire, honored sleeps
  The immortal exile;—Arqua, too, her store
  Of tuneful relics proudly claims and keeps,
While Florence vainly begs her banished dead, and weeps.
 
 
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