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He who sets sail from NAPLES, when the wind
Elows fragrance from POSILIPO, may soon,
Crossing from side to side that beautiful lake,
Land underneath the cliff, where once among
The children gathering shells along the shore,
One laughed and played, unconscious of his fate;
His to drink deep of sorrow, and, through life,
To be the scorn of them that knew him not,
Trampling alike the giver and his gift,
The gift a pearl precious, inestimable,
A lay divine, a lay of love and war,
To charm, ennoble, and, from age to age,
Sweeten the labour, when the oar was plied
Or on the ADRIAIT or the TUSCAN sea.
There would I linger— then go forth again,
And hover round that region unexplorad,
Where to SALVATOR (when, as, some relate,
By chance or choice he led a bandit's life,
Yet oft withdrew, alone and unobserved,
To wander through those awful solitudes)
Nature revealed herself. Unveiled she stood,
In all her wildness, all her majesty,
As in that elder time, ere Man was made.
There would I linger, then go forth again; And he who steers due east, doubling the cape, Discovers, in a crevice of the rock, The fishing-town, AMALFI. Haply there A heaving bark, an anchor on the strand,
May tell him what it is; but what it was,
Cannot be told so soon.
The time has been,
When on the quays along the SYRIAN coast,
'Twas asked and eagerly, at break of dawn,
• What ships are from AMALFI ?' when her coins,
Silver and gold, circled from clime to clime;
From ALEXANDRIA southward to SENNAAR,
And eastward, through Damascus and CABUL
And SAMARCAND, to thy great wall, CATHAY.
Then were the nations by her wisdom swayed;
And every crime on every sea was judged
According to her judgments. In her port
Prows, strange, uncouth, from NILE and Niger met,
People of various feature, various speech;
And in their countries many a house of prayer,
And many a shelter, where no shelter was,
And many a well, like JACOB's in the wild,
Rose at her bidding. Then in PalESTINE,
By the way-side, in sober grandeur, stood
A Hospital, that, night and day, received
The pilgrims of the west; and, when 'twas asked,
Who are the noble founders ?' every tongue
At once replied, "The merchants of AMALFI.'
That Hospital, when GODFREY scaled the walls,
Sent forth its holy men in complete steel ;
And hence, the cowl relinquished for the helm,
That chosen band, valiant, invincible,
So long renowned as champions of the Cross,
In RHODES, in MALTA.
For three hundred years There, unapproached but from the deep, they dwelt;
Assailed for ever, yet from age to age
Acknowledging no master. From the deep
They gathered in their harvests; bringing home,
In the same ship, relics of ancient GREECE,
That land of glory where their fathers lay,
Grain from the golden vales of SICILY,
And INDIAN spices. When at length they fell,
Losing their liberty, they left mankind
A legacy, compared with which the wealth
Of Eastern kings — what is it in the scale ?
The mariner's compass.
They are now forgot,
And with them all they did, all they endured,
Struggling with fortune. When SICARDI stood
On his high deck, his falchion in his hand,
And, with a shout like thunder, cried, Come forth,
And serve me in SALERNO!' forth they came,
Covering the sea, a mournful spectacle;
The women wailing, and the heavy oar
Falling unheard. Not thus did they return,
The tyrant slain; though then the grass of years
Grew in their streets.
There now to him who sails Under the shore, a few white villages, Scattered above, below, some in the clouds, Some on the margin of the dark blue sea, And glittering thro' their lemon-groves, announce The region of AMALFI. Then, half-fallen, A lonely watch-tower on the precipice, Their ancient land-mark, comes. Long may it last; And to the seaman in a distant age, Though now he little thinks how large his debt, Serve for their monument !
•What hangs behird that curtair ?'-'Wouldst thou
If thou art wise, thou wouldst not. "Tis by some
Believed to be his master-work, who looked
Beyond the grave, and on the chapel-wall,
As though the day were come, were come and past,
Drew the last Judgmert.* But the Wisest err.
He who in secret wrcught, and gave it life,
For lifo is surely there and visible change,
Life, such as none could of himself impart,
(They who behold it, go not as they came,
But meditate for many and many a day)
Sleeps in the vault beneath. We know not much;
But what we know, we will communicate.
'Tis in sa cient record of the House;
And may it make thee tremble, lest thou all!
Once-on & Christmas-eve.
erə yet the roof
Rung with the hymn of the Nativity,
There came & stranger to the convent-gete,
And asked admittance; ever and anon,
As if he sought what most he feared to and,
Looking behind him. When within the walls,
These walls so sacred and inviolate,
Still did bs look behind him; oft and long,
With curling, quivering lip and haggard eye,
Catching at vacancy. Between the fits,
For here, 'tis said, he lingered while he lived,
He would discourse and with a mastery,
A charm by none resisted, none explained,
Unfelt before; but when his cheek grew pale,
(Nor was the respite longer, if so long,
Than while a shepherd in the vale below
Counts, as he folds, five hundred of his flock)
All was forgotten. Then, howe'er employed,
He would break off, and start as if he caught
A glimpse of something that would not be gone;
And turn and gaze and shrink into himself,
As though the fiend was there, and, face to face,
Scowled o'er his shoulder.
Most devout he was;
Most unremitting in the Services;
Then, only then, untroubled, unassailed ;
And, to beguile & melancholy hour,
Would sometimes exercise that noble art
He learnt in FLORENCE ; with a master's hand,
As to this day the Sacristy attests,
Painting the wonders of the APOCALYPSE.
At length he sunk to rest, and in his cell Left, when he went, a work in secret done, The portrait, for a portrait it must be, That hangs behind the curtain. Whence he drew, None here can doubt; for they that come to catch The faintest glimpse -- to catch it and be gone, Gaze as he gazed, then shrink into themselves, Acting the self-same part. But why 'twas drawn, Whether, in penance, to atone for Guilt, Or to record the anguish Guilt inflicts, Or haply to familiarise his mind With what he could not fly from, none can say, For none could learn the burden of his soul.'