Treasure Island

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882 / Portland, Maine)

Divina Commedia


I.Written March 29, 1864.1.
Oft have I seen at some cathedral door
.
A laborer, pausing in the dust and heat,
.
Lay down his burden, and with reverent feet
.
Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor
.
Kneel to repeat his paternoster o'er;
.
Far off the noises of the world retreat;
.
The loud vociferations of the street
.
Become an undistinguishable roar.
.
So, as I enter here from day to day,
.

And leave my burden at this minster gate,
.

Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray,
.

The tumult of the time disconsolate
.

To inarticulate murmurs dies away,
.

While the eternal ages watch and wait.II.2.
How strange the sculptures that adorn these towers!
.
This crowd of statues, in whose folded sleeves
.
Birds build their nests; while canopied with leaves
.
Parvis and portal bloom like trellised bowers,
.
And the vast minster seems a cross of flowers!
.
But fiends and dragons on the gargoyled eaves
.
Watch the dead Christ between the living thieves,
.
And, underneath, the traitor Judas lowers!
.
Ah! from what agonies of heart and brain,
.

What exultations trampling on despair,
.

What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong,
.

What passionate outcry of a soul in pain,
.

Uprose this poem of the earth and air,
.

This mediæval miracle of song!
III.Written December 22, 1865.3.
I enter, and I see thee in the gloom
.
Of the long aisles, O poet saturnine!
.
And strive to make my steps keep pace with thine.
.
The air is filled with some unknown perfume;
.
The congregation of the dead make room
.
For thee to pass; the votive tapers shine;
.
Like rooks that haunt Ravenna's groves of pine
.
The hovering echoes fly from tomb to tomb.
.
From the confessionals I hear arise
.

Rehearsals of forgotten tragedies,
.

And lamentations from the crypts below;
.

And then a voice celestial that begins
.

With the pathetic words, "Although your sins
.

As scarlet be," and ends with "as the snow."
IV.Written May 5, 1867.4.
With snow-white veil and garments as of flame,
.
She stands before thee, who so long ago
.
Filled thy young heart with passion and the woe
.
From which thy song and all its splendors came;
.
And while with stern rebuke she speaks thy name,
.
The ice about thy heart melts as the snow
.
On mountain heights, and in swift overflow
.
Comes gushing from thy lips in sobs of shame.
.
Thou makest full confession; and a gleam,
.

As of the dawn on some dark forest cast,
.

Seems on thy lifted forehead to increase;
.

Lethe and Eunoë -- the remembered dream
.

And the forgotten sorrow -- bring at last
.

That perfect pardon which is perfect peace.
V.Written January 16, 1866.5.
I lift mine eyes, and all the windows blaze
.
With forms of Saints and holy men who died,
.
Here martyred and hereafter glorified;
.
And the great Rose upon its leaves displays
.
Christ's Triumph, and the angelic roundelays,
.
With splendor upon splendor multiplied;
.
And Beatrice again at Dante's side
.
No more rebukes, but smiles her words of praise.
.
And then the organ sounds, and unseen choirs
.

Sing the old Latin hymns of peace and love
.

And benedictions of the Holy Ghost;
.

And the melodious bells among the spires
.

O'er all the house-tops and through heaven above
.

Proclaim the elevation of the Host!
VI.Written March 7, 1866.6.
O star of morning and of liberty!
.
O bringer of the light, whose splendor shines
.
Above the darkness of the Apennines,
.
Forerunner of the day that is to be!
.
The voices of the city and the sea,
.
The voices of the mountains and the pines,
.
Repeat thy song, till the familiar lines
.
Are footpaths for the thought of Italy!
.
Thy fame is blown abroad from all the heights,
.

Through all the nations, and a sound is heard,
.

As of a mighty wind, and men devout,
.

Strangers of Rome, and the new proselytes,
.

In their own language hear thy wondrous word,
.

And many are amazed and many doubt.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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