Italy : 37. The Fire-Fly

There is an Insect, that, when Evening comes,
Small though he be, scarcely distinguishable,
Like Evening clad in soberest livery,
Unsheaths his wings and thro' the woods and glades
Scatters a marvellous splendour. On he wheels,
Blazing by fits as from excess of joy,
Each gush of light a gush of ecstasy;
Nor unaccompanied; thousands that fling
A radiance all their own, not of the day,
Thousands as bright as he, from dusk till dawn,
Soaring, descending.
In the mother's lap
Well may the child put forth his little hands,
Singing the nursery-song he learnt so soon;
And the young nymph, preparing for the dance
By brook or fountain-side, in many a braid
Wreathing her golden hair, well may a braid
'Come hither; and the shepherds, gathering round,
Shall say, Floretta emulates the Night,
Spangling her head with stars.'
Oft have I met
This shining race, when in the Tusculan groves
My path no longer glimmered; oft among
Those trees, religious once and always green,
That yet dream out their stories of old Rome
Over the Alban lake; oft met and hailed,
Where the precipitate Anio thunders down,
And through the surging mist a Poet's house
(So some aver, and who would not believe?)
Reveals itself. ---- Yet cannot forget
Him, who rejoiced me in those walks at eve,
My earliest, pleasantest; who dwells unseen,
And in our northern clime, when all is still,
Nightly keeps watch, nightly in bush or brake
His lonely lamp rekindling. Unlike theirs,
His, if less dazzling, through the darkness knows
No intermission; sending forth its ray
Through the green leaves, a ray serene and clear
As Virtue's own.