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Poem by Richard Monckton Milnes

An Italian to Italy

Along the coast of those bright seas,
Where sternly fought of old
The Pisan and the Genoese,
Into the evening gold
A ship was sailing fast,
Beside whose swaying mast
There leant a youth;--his eye's extended scope
Took in the scene, ere all the twilight fell;
And, more in blessing than in hope,
He murmured,--``Fare--thee--well.

``Not that thou gav'st my fathers birth,
And not that thou hast been
The terror of the ancient earth
And Christendom's sole Queen;
But that thou wert and art
The beauty of my heart:--
Now with a lover's love I pray to thee,
As in my passionate youth--time erst I prayed;
Now, with a lover's agony,
I see thy features fade.

``They tell me thou art deeply low;
They brand thee weak and vile;
The cruel Northman tells me so,
And pities me the while:
What can he know of thee,
Glorified Italy?
Never has Nature to his infant mouth
Bared the full summer of her living breast;
Never the warm and mellow South
To his young lips was prest.

``I know,--and thought has often striven
The justice to approve,--
I know that all that God has given
Is given us to love;
But still I have a faith,
Which must endure till death,
That Beauty is the mother of all Love;
And Patriot Love can never purely glow
Where frowns the veilèd heaven above,
And the ****rd earth below.

``The wealth of high ancestral name,
And silken household ties,
And battle--fields' memorial fame,
He earnestly may prize
Who loves and honours not
The country of his lot,
With undiscerning piety,--the same
Filial religion, be she great and brave,
Or sunk in sloth and red with shame,
A monarch or a slave.

``But He who calls this heaven his own,
The very lowliest one,
Is conscious of a holier zone,
And nearer to the sun:
Ever it bids him hail,
Cloud--feathered and clear pale,
Or one vast dome of deep immaculate blue,
Or, when the moon is on her mid--year throne,
With richer but less brilliant hue,
Built up of turkis stone.

``The springing corn that steeped in light
Looks emerald, between
The delicate olive--branches, dight
In reverend gray--green;
Each flower with open breast,
To the gale it loves the best;
The bland outbreathings of the midland sea,
The aloe--fringed and myrtle--shadowed shore,
Are precious things,--Oh, wo the be
Must they be mine no more?

``And shall the matin bell awake
My native village crowd,
To kneel at shrines, whose pomp would make
A Northern city proud?
And shall the festival
Of closing Carnival
Bid the gay laughers thro' those arches pour,
Whose marble mass confronts its parent hill,
--And I upon a far bleak shore!
My heart will see them still.

``For though in poverty and fear,
Thou think'st upon the morrow,
Dutiful Art is ever near,
To wile thee from all sorrow;
Thou hast a power of melody,
To lull all sense of slavery;
Thy floral crown is blowing still to blow,
Thy eye of glory ceases not to shine,
And so long as these things be so,
I feel thee, bless thee, mine!''

Richard Monckton Milnes

Richard Monckton Milnes's other poems:
  1. London Churches
  2. The Subterranean River, At Cong
  3. Switzerland and Italy
  4. To the Moon of the South
  5. Valentia

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