Thomas Hardy

(2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928 / Dorchester / England)

The Bridge of Lodi (Spring, 1887)


I

When of tender mind and body
   I was moved by minstrelsy,
And that strain "The Bridge of Lodi"
   Brought a strange delight to me.

II

In the battle-breathing jingle
   Of its forward-footing tune
I could see the armies mingle,
   And the columns cleft and hewn

III

On that far-famed spot by Lodi
   Where Napoleon clove his way
To his fame, when like a god he
   Bent the nations to his sway.

IV

Hence the tune came capering to me
   While I traced the Rhone and Po;
Nor could Milan's Marvel woo me
   From the spot englamoured so.

V

And to-day, sunlit and smiling,
   Here I stand upon the scene,
With its saffron walls, dun tiling,
   And its meads of maiden green,

VI

Even as when the trackway thundered
   With the charge of grenadiers,
And the blood of forty hundred
   Splashed its parapets and piers . . .

VII

Any ancient crone I'd toady
   Like a lass in young-eyed prime,
Could she tell some tale of Lodi
   At that moving mighty time.

VIII

So, I ask the wives of Lodi
   For traditions of that day;
But alas! not anybody
   Seems to know of such a fray.

IX

And they heed but transitory
   Marketings in cheese and meat,
Till I judge that Lodi's story
   Is extinct in Lodi's street.

X

Yet while here and there they thrid them
   In their zest to sell and buy,
Let me sit me down amid them
   And behold those thousands die . . .

XI

- Not a creature cares in Lodi
   How Napoleon swept each arch,
Or where up and downward trod he,
   Or for his memorial March!

XII

So that wherefore should I be here,
   Watching Adda lip the lea,
When the whole romance to see here
   Is the dream I bring with me?

XIII

And why sing "The Bridge of Lodi"
   As I sit thereon and swing,
When none shows by smile or nod he
   Guesses why or what I sing? . . .

XIV

Since all Lodi, low and head ones,
   Seem to pass that story by,
It may be the Lodi-bred ones
   Rate it truly, and not I.

XV

Once engrossing Bridge of Lodi,
   Is thy claim to glory gone?
Must I pipe a palinody,
   Or be silent thereupon?

XVI

And if here, from strand to steeple,
   Be no stone to fame the fight,
Must I say the Lodi people
   Are but viewing crime aright?

Nay; I'll sing "The Bridge of Lodi" -
   That long-loved, romantic thing,
Though none show by smile or nod he
   Guesses why and what I sing!

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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