Florence Gray

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Florence Gray
by Nathaniel Parker Willis
586531Florence GrayNathaniel Parker Willis

I was in Greece. It was the hour of noon,
And the Egean wind had dropp'd asleep
Upon Hymettus, and the thymy isles
Of Salamis and Egina lay hung
Like clouds upon the bright and breathless sea.
I had climb'd up the Acropolis at morn,
And hours had fled, as time will in a dream,
Amidst its deathless ruins—for the air
Is full of spirits in these mighty fanes,
And they walk with you! As it sultrier grew,
I laid me down within a shadow deep
Of a tall column of the Parthenon,
And, in an absent idleness of thought,
I scrawl'd upon the smooth and marble base.
Tell me, O memory, what I wrote there?
The name of a sweet child I knew at Rome!

I was in Asia. 'Twas a peerless night
Upon the plains of Sardis, and the moon,
Touching my eyelids through the wind-stirr'd tent,
Had witch'd me from my slumber. I arose
And silently stole forth, and by the brink
Of "gold Pactolus," where his waters bathe
The base of Cybele's columns fair,
I paced away the hours. In a wakeful mood
I mused upon the storied past awhile,
Watching the moon, that, with the same mild eye,
Had look'd upon the mighty Lydian kings
Sleeping around me—Crœsus, who had heap'd
Within that mouldering portico his gold,
And Gyges, buried with his viewless ring
Beneath yon swelling tumulus—and then
I loiter'd up the valley to a small
And humbler ruin, where the undefiled[1]
Of the Apocalypse their garments kept
Spotless; and crossing with a conscious awe
The broken threshold, to my spirit's eye
It seem'd as if, amid the moonlight, stood
"The angel of the church of Sardis" still!
And I again pass'd onward, and as dawn
Paled the bright morning-star, I laid me down
Weary and sad beside the river's brink,
And 'twixt he moonlight and the rosy morn,
Wrote with my finger in the "golden sands."
Tell me, O memory, what wrote I there?
The name of the sweet child I knew at Rome!

  The dust is old upon my "sandal-shoon,"
And still I am a pilgrim; I have roved
From wild America to Bosphor's waters,
And worshipp'd at innumerable shrines
Of beauty; and the painter's art, to me,
And sculpture, speak as with a living tongue,
And of dead kingdoms I recall the soul,
Sitting amid their ruins. I have stored
My memory with thoughts that can allay
Fever and sadness, and when life gets dim,
And I am overladen in my years,
Minister to me. But when wearily
The mind gives over toiling, and with eyes
Open but seeing not, and senses all
Lying awake within their chambers dim,
Thought settles like a fountain, still and clear—
Far in its sleeping depths, as 'twere a gem,
Tell me, O memory, what shines so fair?
The fact of the sweet child I knew at Rome!

  1. "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments: and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy." —Revelation iii, 4.

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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