Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

How Florence Rings Her Bells - Poem by Alfred Austin

With shimmer of steel and blare of brass,
And Switzers marching with martial stride,
And cavaliers trampling brown the grass,
Came bow-legged Charles through the Apennine pass,
With black Il Moro for traitor guide;

And, passing by Pisa's ransomed towers,
He swept up stream over Arno's plain,
Where Florence garlands herself with flowers
From burgeoning vineyards and olive bowers,
And emerald furrows of sprouting grain;

And, flying and flaunting his pennons proud,
Crossed her bridges with naked sword,
And sware he would flourish his trumpets loud
And bristle his spears, save her beauty bowed
Itself to his stirrup, and owned him lord.

Then Savonarola's voice was heard
Swelling as Arno, storm-flushed, sweels,
And, with threat for threat, and with gird for gird,
Capponi flashed back the famous word,
``Then blow your trumpets, we'll ring our bells!''

And lo! as he spake, into street and square
Streamed Florentine burghers in grim array:
Then Charles, and Sforza, and groom Beaucaire,
Scared by the city they deemed but fair,
Shouldered their pikes, and passed away.

But now a Monarch more mighty far
Than ever from Gallic or Teuton throne
Swooped from the Alps upon wings of war,
Comes welcome as April and west winds are,
When Winter is over and mistral flown.

The Fair City peacefully rings her bells,
Rings her bells, and the loving peal
In the lazuline ether ascends and swells,
Till hoary turrets and convent cells
Feel young once more as the young buds feel.

And iris gonfalons scale her walls,
And rustic roses storm square and street;
In sound of her gates the cuckoo calls,
And the slow-swaying ox-wain creaks and crawls
'Twixt blossoming bean and beardless wheat.

In gabled pathway and shaded porch
Men gather and wait to acclaim ``The Queen'';
While over the wall, where the sunrays scorch
And the lizard is lost, the silvery torch
Of the fig is tipped with a flame of green.

And cypress spire and stonepine dome,
And circling mountain look on and smile,
Saying, ``Hitherward evermore seek your home,
When you traverse the furrows of fallow foam
That nourish with glory your Northern Isle,

And from weightier cares than a Caesar's brain
Pondered of old, would crave release;
Wise Ruler whose long victorious Reign
Imposes on love-loyal land and main
The fetters of proud Imperial Peace.''


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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