The Great War

from A Treasury of War Poetry, an electronic edition

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 P├Žstum where the gray 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 Raffael,

Against iconoclastic might

In this grim hour must wish thee well!