Friday, August 24, 2018

Near Rome

Though the hills are cold and snowy,
And the wind drives chill to-day,
My heart goes back to a spring-time,
Far, far in the past away.

And I see a quaint old city,
Weary and worn and brown,
Where the spring and the birds are so early,
And the sun in such light goes down.

I remember that old-time villa
Where our afternoons went by,
Where the suns of March flushed warmly,
And spring was in earth and sky.

Out of the mouldering city,—
Mouldering, old, and gray,—
We sped, with a lightsome heart-thrill,
For a sunny, gladsome day,—

For a revel of fresh spring verdure,
For a race mid springing flowers,
For a vision of plashing fountains,
Of birds and blossoming bowers.

There were violet banks in the shadows,
Violets white and blue;
And a world of bright anemones,
That over the terrace grew,—

Blue and orange and purple,
Rosy and yellow and white,
Rising in rainbow bubbles,
Streaking the lawns with light.

And down from the old stone-pine trees,
Those far-off islands of air,
The birds are flinging the tidings
Of a joyful revel up there.

And now for the grand old fountains,
Tossing their silvery spray;
Those fountains, so quaint and so many,
That are leaping and singing all day;

Those fountains of strange weird sculpture,
With lichens and moss o’ergrown,—
Are they marble greening in moss-wreaths,
Or moss-wreaths whitening to stone?

Down many a wild, dim pathway
We ramble from morning till noon;
We linger, unheeding the hours,
Till evening comes all too soon.

And from out the ilex alleys,
Where lengthening shadows play,
We look on the dreamy Campagna,
All glowing with setting day,—

All melting in bands of purple,
In swathings and foldings of gold,
In ribbons of azure and lilac,
Like a princely banner unrolled.

And the smoke of each distant cottage,
And the flash of each villa white,
Shines out with an opal glimmer,
Like gems in a casket of light.

And the dome of old Saint Peter’s
With a strange translucence glows,
Like a mighty bubble of amethyst
Floating in waves of rose.

In a trance of dreamy vagueness,
We, gazing and yearning, behold
That city beheld by the prophet,
Whose walls were transparent gold.

And, dropping all solemn and slowly,
To hallow the softening spell,
There falls on the dying twilight
The Ave Maria bell.

With a mournful, motherly softness,
With a weird and weary care,
That strange and ancient city
Seems calling the nations to prayer.

And the words that of old the angel
To the mother of Jesus brought
Rise like a new evangel,
To hallow the trance of our thought.

With the smoke of the evening incense
Our thoughts are ascending then
To Mary, the mother of Jesus,
To Jesus, the Master of men.

O city of prophets and martyrs!
O shrines of the sainted dead!
When, when shall the living day-spring
Once more on your towers be spread?

When He who is meek and lowly
Shall rule in those lordly halls,
And shall stand and feed as a shepherd
The flock which his mercy calls,—

O, then to those noble churches,
To picture and statue and gem,
To the pageant of solemn worship,
Shall the meaning come back again.

And this strange and ancient city,
In that reign of his truth and love,
Shall be what it seems in the twilight,
The type of that City above.

By Harriet Beecher Stowe

Photo credit: