BESIDE LAKE COMO
Within my garden’s silence and seclusion,
In pensive beauty gazing toward the dawn,
There stands, mid vines and flowers in profusion,
A sculptured Faun.
The boughs of stately trees are bending o’er
The scent of calycanthus fills the air,
And on the ivied parapet before him
Bloom roses fair.
Beside him laughs the lightly-flowing fountain,
Beneath him spreads the lake’s enchanting hue,
And, opposite, a sun-illumined mountain
Meets heaven’s blue.
Across Lake Como’s silvered undulation
The flush of dawn creeps shyly to his face,
And crowns his look of dreamful contemplation
With tender grace.
And he, like Memnon, thrilled to exultation,
As if unable longer to be mute,
Has lifted to his lips in adoration
His simple flute.
Ah! would that I might hear the music stealing
From yonder artless reed upon the air,—
The subtle revelation of his feeling,
While standing there!
Perhaps ’tis for the Past that he is sighing,
When Como’s shore held many a hallowed shrine,
Where such as he were worshipped,—none denying
Their rights divine.
That Past is gone; its sylvan shrines have crumbled;
From lake and grove the gentle fauns have fled;
Its myths are scorned, Olympus has been humbled,
And Pan is dead.
Yet still he plays,—the coming day adoring,
With brow serene, and gladness in his gaze,
All past and future happiness ignoring
Just for to-day’s!
Sweet Faun, whence comes thy power of retaining
Through storm and sunshine thine unchanging smile?
Forsaken thus, what comfort, still remaining,
Makes life worth while?
Impart to me the secret of discerning
The gold of life, with none of its alloy,
That I may also satisfy my yearning
For perfect joy!
I too would shun those questions, born of sorrow,—
Life’s Wherefore, Whence and Whither; I would fill
My cup with present bliss, and let to-morrow
Bring what it will.
O Spirit of the vanished world elysian,
Cast over me the spell of thy control,
And give me, for to-day’s supernal vision,
Thy Pagan soul!
(The only Island on Lake Como, the Lake Larius of the Romans)
There sleeps beneath Italian skies
A lovely island rich in fame,
In days of old a longed-for prize,
And bearing still an honored name,—
A spot renowned from age to age,
An ancient Roman heritage;
A valued stronghold, for whose sake
Unnumbered men have fought and died,—
The Malta of the Larian lake,
Forever armed and fortified,
To Como’s shores the master-key,
The guardian of its liberty.