Italy : 10. Como - Poem by Samuel Rogers
I love to sail along the Larian Lake
Under the shore -- though not to visit Pliny,
To catch him musing in his plane-tree walk,
Or fishing, as he might be, from his window:
And, to deal plainly, (may his Shade forgive me!)
Could I recall the ages past, and play
The fool with Time, I should perhaps reserve
My leisure for Catullus on his Lake,
Though to fare worse, or Virgil at his farm
A little further on the way to Mantua.
But such things cannot be. So I sit still,
And let the boatman shift his little sail,
His sail so forked and so swallow-like,
Well pleased with all that comes. The morning air
Plays on my cheek how gently, flinging round
A silvery gleam; and now the purple mists
Rise like a curtain; now the sun looks out,
Filling, o'erflowing with his glorious light
This noble amphitheatre of hills;
And now appear as on a phosphor-sea
Numberless barks, from Milan, from Pavia;
Some sailing up, some down, and some at rest,
Lading, unlading at that small port-town
Under the promontory -- its tall tower
And long flat roofs, just such as Gaspar drew,
Caught by a sun-beam slanting through a cloud;
A quay-like scene, glittering and full of life,
And doubled by reflection.
After so long a sojourn in the wild,
To hear once more the peasant at his work!
-- But in a clime like this where is he not?
Along the shores, among the hills 'tis now
The hey-day of the Vintage; all abroad,
But most the young and of the gentler sex,
Busy in gathering; all among the vines,
Some of the ladder, and some underneath,
Filling their baskets of green wicker-work,
While many a canzonet and frolic laugh
Come thro' the leaves; the vines in light festoons
From tree to tree, the trees in avenues,
And every avenue a covered walk
Hung with black clusters. 'Tis enough to make
The sad man merry, the benevolent one
Melt into tears -- so general is the joy!
While up and down the cliffs, over the lake,
Wains oxen-drawn and panniered mules are seen,
Laden with grapes and dropping rosy wine.
Here I received from thee, Basilico,
One of those courtesies so sweet, so rare!
When, as I rambled through thy vineyard-ground
On the hill-side, thy little son was sent,
Charged with a bunch almost as big as he,
To press it on the stranger. May thy vats
O'erflow, and he, thy willing gift-bearer,
Live to become a giver; and, at length,
When thou art full of honour and would rest,
The staff of thine old age!
In a strange land
Such things, however trivial, reach the heart,
And thro' the heart the head, clearing away
The narrow notions that grow up at home,
And in their place grafting Good-Will to All.
At least I found it so, nor less at eve,
When, bidden as a lonely traveller,
('Twas by a little boat that gave me chase
With oar and sail, as homeward-bound I crossed
The bay of Tramezzine,) right readily
I turned my prow and followed, landing soon
Where steps of purest marble met the wave;
Where, through the trellises and corridors,
Soft music came as from Armida's palace,
Breathing enchantment o'er the woods and waters;
And through a bright pavilion, bright as day,
Forms such as hers were flitting, lost among
Such as of old in sober pomp swept by,
Such as adorn the triumphs and the feasts
By Paolo painted; where a Fairy-Queen,
That night her birth-night, from her throne received
(Young as she was, no floweret in her crown,
Hyacinth or rose, so fair and fresh as she)
Our willing vows, and by the fountain-side
Led in the dance, disporting as she pleased,
Under a starry sky -- while I looked on,
As in a glade of Cashmere or Shiraz,
Reclining, quenching my sherbet in snow,
And reading in the eyes that sparkled round,
The thousand love-adventures written there.
Can I forget -- no never, such a scene
So full of witchery. Night lingered still,
When, with a dying breeze, I left Bellaggio;
But the strain followed me; and still I saw
Thy smile, Angelica; and still I heard
Thy voice -- once and again bidding adieu.
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