A treasury of war poetry, British and American poems of the world war, 1914-1919/Italy

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ITALY



ITALY IN ARMS

OF all my dreams by night and day,
One dream will evermore return,
The dream of Italy in May;
The sky a brimming azure urn
Where lights of amber brood and burn;
The doves about San Marco's square,
The swimming Campanile tower,
The giants, hammering out the hour,
The palaces, the bright lagoons,
The gondolas gliding here and there
Upon the tide that sways and swoons.


The domes of San Antonio,
Where Padua 'mid her mulberry-trees
Reclines; Adige's crescent flow
Beneath Verona's balconies;
Rich Florence of the Medicis;
Sienna's starlike streets that climb
From hill to hill; Assisi well
Remembering the holy spell
Of rapt St. Francis; with her crown
Of battlements, embossed by time,
Stern old Perugia looking down.


Then, mother of great empires, Rome,
City of the majestic past,
That o'er far leagues of alien foam
The shadows of her eagles cast,
Imperious still; impending, vast,
The Colosseum's curving line;
Pillar and arch and colonnade;
St. Peter's consecrated shade,
And Hadrian's tomb where Tiber strays;
The ruins on the Palatine
With all their memories of dead days.


And Naples, with her sapphire arc
Of bay, her perfect sweep of shore;
Above her, like a demon stark,
The dark fire-mountain evermore
Looming portentous, as of yore;
Fair Capri with her cliffs and caves;
Salerno drowsing 'mid her vines
And olives, and the shattered shrines
Of Pæstum where the grey ghosts tread,
And where the wilding rose still waves
As when by Greek girls garlanded.


But hark! What sound the ear dismays,
Mine Italy, mine Italy?
Thou that wert wrapt in peace, the haze
Of loveliness spread over thee!
Yet since the grapple needs must be,
I who have wandered in the night
With Dante, Petrarch's Laura known,
Seen Vallombrosa's groves breeze-blown,
Met Angelo and Raphael,
Against iconoclastic might
In this grim hour must wish thee well!


TO ITALY

THOU art the world's desired, the golden fleece
Of Time's adventurers faring down to Hell,
But Helen's self dwelt not so far from peace
Nor so beset since lofty Ilium fell.
Tyrants would pluck thee as men pluck a rose,
Carthage and Greece, the Vandal and the Goth:
Now more are added to thy many foes
From East and West, ay, thou hast suffered both.


Greece was enslaved, and Carthage is but dust,
But thou art living, maugre all thy scars,
To bear fresh wounds of rapine and of lust,
Immortal victim of unnumbered wars.
Nor shalt thou cease until we cease to be
Whose hearts are thine, belovèd Italy.


ON THE ITALIAN FRONT, MCMXVI

"I WILL die cheering, if I needs must die;
So shall my last breath write upon my lips
Viva Italia! when my spirit slips
Down the great darkness from the mountain sky;
And those who shall behold me where I lie
Shall murmur: 'Look, you! how his spirit dips
From glory into glory! the eclipse
Of death is vanquished! Lo, his victor-cry!'


"Live, thou, upon my lips, Italia mine,
The sacred death-cry of my frozen clay!
Let thy dear light from my dead body shine
And to the passer-by thy message say:
'Ecco! though heaven has made my skies divine,
My sons' love sanctifies my soil for aye!'"