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Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Florentine Pilgrim


"I'll do the old dump in a day,"
He told me in his brittle way.
"Two more, I guess, I'll give to Rome
Before I hit the trail for home;
But while I'm there I kindo' hope
To have an audience with the Pope."

We stood upon the terraced height
With sunny Florence in our sight.
I gazed and gazed, too moved to speak
Until he queried: "What's that creek?"
"The Arno, sir," I said surprised;
He stared at it with empty eyes.

"It is," said I, "the storied stream
Where Dante used to pace and dream,
And wait for Beatrice to pass."
(Oh how I felt a silly ass
Explaining this.) With eyes remote
He asked: "Was Beatrice a boat?"

Then tranced by far Fiesole
Softly I sought to steal away;
But his adhesiveness was grim,
I could not pry apart from him:
And so in our hotel-ward walk
Meekly I listened to his talk.

"Bologna! Say, the lunch was swell;
Them wops know how to feed you well.
Verona! There I met a blonde"
Oh how that baby could respond!
Siena! That's the old burg where
We soused on Asti in the square.

"Antiquity! Why, that's the bunk -
Statues and all that mouldy junk
Will never get you anywhere . . .
My line is ladies' underware,
And better than a dozen Dantes
Is something cute in female scanties. . . .

"One day in Florence is too small
You think, maybe, to see it all.
Well, it don't matter what you've seen -
The thing is: you can say you've been."

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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