Italy : 39. The Fountain - Poem by Samuel Rogers
It was a well
Of whitest marble, white as from the quarry;
And richly wrought with many a high relief,
Greek sculpture -- in some earlier day perhaps
A tomb, and honoured with a hero's ashes.
The water from the rock filled and o'erflowed;
Then dashed away, playing the prodigal,
And soon was lost -- stealing unseen, unheard,
Thro' the long grass, and round the twisted roots
Of aged trees; discovering where it ran
By the fresh verdure. Overcome with heat,
I threw me down; admiring, as I lay,
That shady nook, a singing-place for birds,
That grove so intricate, so full of flowers,
More than enough to please a child a-Maying.
The sun had set, a distant convent-bell
Ringing the Angelus; and now approached
The hour for stir and village-gossip there,
The hour Rebekah came, when from the well
She drew with such alacrity to serve
The stranger and his camels. Soon I heard
Footsteps; and lo, descending by a path
Trodden for ages, many a nymph appeared,
Appeared and vanished, bearing on her head
Her earthen pitcher. It called up the day
Ulysses landed there; and long I gazed,
Like one awaking in a distant time.
At length there came the loveliest of them all,
Her little brother dancing down before her;
And ever as he spoke, which he did ever,
Turning and looking up in warmth of heart
And brotherly affection. Stopping there,
She joined her rosy hands, and, filling them
With the pure element, gave him to drink;
And, while he quenched his thirst, standing on tip-toe,
Looked down upon him with a sister's smile,
Nor stirred till he had done, fixed as a statue.
Then hadst thou seen them as they stood, Canova,
Thou hadst endowed them with immortal youth;
And they had ever more lived undivided,
Winning all hearts -- of all thy works the fairest.
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