John Ruskin

(1819-1900 / England)

The Hills of Carrara

Amidst a vale of springing leaves
Where spreads the vine its wandering root
And cumbrous fall the autumnal sheaves
And olives shed their sable fruit,
And gentle winds, and waters never mute,
Make of young boughs and pebbles pure
One universal lute.
And bright birds, through the myrtle copse obscure,
Pierce with quick notes, and plumage dipped in dew,
The silence and the shade of each lulled avenue.


Far in the depths of voiceless skies
Where calm and cold the stars are strewed,
The peaks of pale Carrara rise.
Nor sound of storm, nor whirlwind rude,
Can break their chill of marble solitude;
The crimson lightnings round their crest
May hold their fiery feud-
They hear not, nor reply; their charmed rest
No flow'ret decks, nor herbage green, nor breath
Of moving thing can change their atmosphere of death.


But far beneath, in folded sleep,
Faint forms of heavenly life are laid
With pale brows and soft eyes, that keep
Sweet peace of unawakened shade,
Whose wreathed limbs, in robes of rock arrayed,
Fall like white waves on human thought,
In fitful dreams displayed;
Deep through their secret homes of slumber sought,
They rise immortal, children of the day,
Gleaming with godlike forms on earth, and her decay.


Yes, where the bud hath brightest germ,
And broad the golden blossoms glow,
There glides the snake and works the worm
And black the earth is laid below.
Ah! think not thou the souls of men to know;
By outward smiles in wilderness worn;
The words that jest at woe
Spring not less lightly, though the heart be torn,
The mocking heart, that scarcely dares confess
Even to itself, the strength of its own bitterness.
Nor deem that they whose words are cold,
Whose brows are dark, have hearts of steel,
The couchant strength, untraced, untold,
Of thoughts they keep and throbs they feel,
May need an answering musing to unseal,
Who knows that waves may stir the silent sea,
Beneath the low appeal
From distant shores, of winds unfelt by thee?
What sounds may wake within the winding shell,
Responsive to the charm of those who touch it well.

Submitted: Friday, August 24, 2012

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