In Vita. Canzone XI.

A poem by Emma Lazarus

O waters fresh and sweet and clear,
Where bathed her lovely frame,
Who seems the only lady unto me;
O gentle branch and dear,
(Sighing I speak thy name,)
Thou column for her shapely thighs, her supple knee;
O grass, O flowers, which she
Swept with her gown that veiled
The angelic breast unseen;
O sacred air serene,
Whence the divine-eyed Love my heart assailed,
By all of ye be heard
This my supreme lament, my dying word.


Oh, if it be my fate
(As Heaven shall so decree)
That Love shall close for me my weeping eyes,
Some courteous friend I supplicate
Midst these to bury me,
Whilst my enfranchised spirit homeward flies;
Less dreadful death shall rise,
If I may bear this hope
To that mysterious goal.
For ne'er did weary soul
Find a more restful spot in all Earth's scope,
Nor in a grave more tranquil could win free
From outworn flesh and weary limbs to flee.


Perchance the time shall be
When to my place of rest,
With milder grace my wild fawn shall return
Here where she looked on me
Upon that day thrice blest:
Then she shall bend her radiant eyes that yearn
In search of me, and (piteous sight!) shall learn
That I, amidst the stones, am clay.
May love inspire her in such wise,
With gentlest breath of sighs,
That I, a stony corpse, shall hear her pray,
And force the very skies,
That I may wipe the tears from her dear eyes.


From the fair boughs descended
(Thrice precious memory!)
Upon her lap a shower of fragrant bloom
Amidst that glory splendid,
Humbly reposed she,
Attired as with an aureole's golden gloom.
Some blossoms edged her skirt, and some
Fell on her yellow curls,
Like burnished gold and pearls,
Even so they looked to me upon that day.
Some on the ground, some on the river lay,
Some lightly fluttering above,
Encircling her, seemed whispering: "Here reigns Love."


How many times I cried,
As holy fear o'ercame,
"Surely this creature sprang from Paradise,"
Forgetting all beside
Her goddess mien, her frame,
Her face, her words, her lovely smile, her eyes.
All these did so devise
To win me from the truth, alas!
That I did say and sigh,
"How came I hither, when and why?"
Deeming myself in heaven, not where I was.
Henceforth this grassy spot
I love so much, peace elsewhere find I not.
My Song, wert thou adorned to thy desire,
Thou couldst go boldly forth
And wander from my lips o'er all the earth.

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