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The Database of Ornament

                                                 AMALFI, March 1887.



                    Wherefore of joy remembered should I sing—
                    Do any bells for bygone bridals ring ?
                        For nesting joy of years and years agone ?
                    Do the birds chant, upon the wheat a-swing ?

                    Nay, sharp as joy-thrill breaks the sudden song,
                    Cleaving the murmur of the cornland’s throng.
                        For this glad mom, for these young ones that flit
                    On balanced wing the summer flowers among.

                    I sing because my love desires a lay—
                    New as new bliss, and old as Love’s old May:
                        I sing a song of love fresh-garnered
                    From Love’s last volume, clasped in his old way.




                    In morning shine I wrote Love’s good and ill—
                    Echoes, they say, from some Sicilian hill
                        Of linked arms, and seas that separate,
                    And eyes like wells where Love might drink his fill.

                    Yet who dare say what songs are new or old ?
                    Great Omar’s scroll at either end was rolled,
                        And in the midst he read one single line—
                    A shadowy now traced on the gleaming gold !

                    Unroll which way you will, from that great now,
                    And read the script, I care not when nor how,
                        There will you see, blazoned in blood of men,
                    Love, hate; joy, sorrow; faith, and broken vow!



                    No new song then I sing, no note of new,
                    Save new joy’s marvel ringing through and through—
                        Only of Love and Her and Italy—
                    Alas I unworthy I, God keep me true.

                    Hither from England, lying bleak and grey.
                    We came. Ah, wondrous WE! To this fair bay
                        Of white Amalfi, whose mysterious hue
                    Gleams blue and bluer fifty miles away.

                    Sweet, sweet above the dash of waves, to catch
                    The shine of eyes, to mark the light winds snatch
                        A lock precise to gentler negligence.
                    Or the kissed cheek’s responsive red to watch.




                    These make more fair the girdling: Apennine,
                    Brighter the changing sapphire of the brine,
                        Cut in ten myriad facets multiform—
                    As various as this joy of mine and thine.

                    Behold the Apennine!   Ethereal
                    As the white throne set in God’s judgment hall,
                        Between the inmost sea and outmost Heaven
                    They wait His pleasure and the close of all.

                    Draw in the breaths from many an orange tree,
                    And drink the bursting passion of the sea—
                        Strange welling perfume from the morning flowers,
                    This Southland’s half-awakened mystery.



                    Lo! cliff on cliff in surge tumultuous,
                    In passionate protest overfrowning thus
                        The waves’ dull clamour and white Judas kiss.
                    Whose silver sparkles scatter tremulous.

                    Which love we best? Still day of upturned Heaven,
                    The blue-globed sea and sky a marvel given.
                        Turned by its Maker’s hand, perfect as God,
                    Wherein our souls dream, waking, sorrow-shriven?

                    Or this fresh, dewy, air-stirred earth,
                    A wide, glad place, wherein is room for mirth.
                        Where earth and sea and sky talk each to each,
                    New merged in some diviner bath of birth.




                    To each green terrace clings the dark stone pine,
                    The cliff’s grim ruin breaks the black sea line’:
                        And oranges of orbed Hesperian gold,
                    Like chaliced cups, hang rich with scented wine.

                    Grey tower, bright dome, white winding loops of road
                    Flashing and twining like the serpent rod,
                        The prophet cast to earth by Nile’s old flood—
                    Shall tell us ‘Lo! sweet Italy you trod !’

                    White bending sprays of spineless strange hawthorn,
                    Pure favours by a bride’s tire-maidens worn,
                        Weep blinding sheets of tears, or distant shine
                    In mourning argent o’er a land forlorn.



                    How men have loved thee, Italy divine.
                    How the Greek pledged thee in his Chian wine.
                        And set his temples’ magic colonnades,
                    At Paestum and Girgenti, o’er the brine.

                    From the far burning East thy lovers came
                    To weary thee with war’s fierce amorous game.
                        Till through the death song of imperial Rome
                    Pealed the wild clamour of Muhammed’s name.

                    Now Mahmoud’s moon is old. But fiercely then
                    The crescent swayed o’er hosts of swaying men.
                        Ah ! never more shall sabre flash attest
                    The surging glory of the Saracen.




                    That was Italia’s glorious afternoon:
                    It is her twilight now. Pray ye that soon
                        Over the Adriatic may arise
                    The glowing crescent of a worthier moon.

                    Even now it shines upon the solemn seas,
                    Sifts on us as we pace the terraces
                        Of bursting vine—and in this high-piled town
                    Transmutes to faery pearl her palaces.

                    O for one flash of the old dead renown,
                    To make this Italy the whole world’s crown.
                        For Rome is gone. Her name is all of her—
                    And all her gods’ high temples broken down.

                                                                            S. R. CROCKETT.

MLA citation:

Crockett, S.R. “The Song of Life’s Fine Flower.” The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal, vol. 2, Autumn 1895, pp. 75-79. Evergreen Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2016-2018. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.