My books are on their shelves again
And clouds lie low with mist and rain.
Afar the Arno murmurs low
The tale of fields of melting snow.
List to the bells of times agone
The while I wait me for the dawn.
Beneath great Giotto’s Campanile
The gray ghosts throng; their whispers steal
From poets’ bosoms long since dust;
They ask me now to go. I trust
Their fleeter footsteps where again
They come at night and live as men.
The rain falls on Ghiberti’s gates;
The big drops hang on purple dates;
And yet beneath the ilex-shades—
Dear trysting-place for boys and maids—
There comes a form from days of old,
With Beatrice’s hair of gold.
The breath of lands or lilied streams
Floats through the fabric of my dreams;
And yonder from the hills of song,
Where psalmists brood and prophets throng,
The lone, majestic Dante leads
His love across the blooming meads.
Along the almond walks I tread
And greet the figures of the dead.
Mirandula walks here with him
Who lived with gods and seraphim;
Yet where Colonna’s fair feet go
There passes Michael Angelo.
In Rome or Florence, still with her
Stands lone and grand her worshipper.
In Leonardo’s brain there move
Christ and the children of His love;
And Raphael is touching now,
For the last time, an angel’s brow.
Angelico is praying yet
Where lives no pang of man’s regret,
And, mixing tears and prayers within
His palette’s wealth, absolved from sin,
He dips his brush in hues divine;
San Marco’s angel faces shine.
Within Lorenzo’s garden green,
Where olives hide their boughs between,
The lovers, as they read betimes
Their love within Petrarca’s lines,
Stand near the marbles found at Rome,
Lost shades that search in vain for home.
They pace the paths along the stream,
Dark Vallombrosa in their dream.
They sing, amidst the rain-drenched pines,
Of Tuscan gold that ruddier shines
Behind a saint’s auroral face
That shows e’en yet the master’s trace.
But lo, within the walls of gray,
E’re yet there falls a glint of day,
And far without, from hill to vale,
Where honey-hearted nightingale
Or meads of pale anemones
Make sweet the coming morning breeze—
I hear a voice, of prophet tone,
A voice of doom, like his alone
That once in Gadara was heard;
The old walls trembled—lo, the bird
Has ceased to sing, and yonder waits
Lorenzo at his palace gates.
Some Romola in passing by
Turns toward the ruler, and his sigh
Wanders amidst the myrtle bowers
Or o’er the city’s mantled towers,
For she is Florence! “Wilt thou hear
San Marco’s prophet? Doom is near.”
“Her liberties,” he cries, “restore!
This much for Florence—yea, and more
To men and God!” The days are gone;
And in an hour of perfect dawn
I stand beneath the cypress trees
That shiver still with words like these.