Oblivion’s boon is vainly sought
Amid those scenes sublime;
Forever lurked within his breast
The nemesis of crime;
Not all that flood of limpid spray
Could wash the fatal stain away.
Yet certain fearless souls have dwelt
Within that haunted pile;
Among them she, whose portrait still,
With enigmatic smile,
Lights up the mansion, like a gem
Set in a tarnished diadem;—
The princess, at whose thrilling call
Unnumbered patriots rose
To drive from fettered Lombardy
Her immemorial foes,—
A woman, loved from sea to sea,
As Liberty’s divinity.
But now the old, historic site
Lives only in the past;
Neglected and untenanted,
Its life is ebbing fast;
Each crumbling step, each mossy stone
Is marked by Ruin for her own.
Yet one mysterious charm abides,—
The spring, whose ebb and flow
Were praised in Pliny’s classic prose
Two thousand years ago,—
A fountain, whose perennial grace
Millenniums could not efface.
Thrice daily in their polished cup
Its crystal waters sink;
Thrice daily do they rise again
And overflow the brink,—
Since Pliny’s day no more, no less,
Unchanged in rhythmic loveliness.
Sweet Larian lake, and sylvan cliffs,
Cascade, and storied spring,
Ye are the same as when he loved
Your varied charms to sing;
’Tis man alone who sadly goes!
The lake remains, the fountain flows.
Like drops in its exhaustless flood,
Our little lives emerge,
Swirl for an instant, and are gone,
Sunk by another surge!
Whence come they? Whither do they go?
O Roman poet, dost thou know?
From Lake Como’s depths ascending,
With embankments steep
Stands a wooded headland, bending
With majestic sweep
Till its rugged shores, expanding,
Join two charming bays,
Now, as formerly, commanding
Years ago a papal Primate
Built a hospice here,
Which, from its delightful climate,
Mild throughout the year,
Soon became for convalescence
A renowned retreat,
Where pure air and strict quiescence
Made all cures complete.
Of the Primate’s seat—,
Gave its name to this location
In a form more sweet,—
Soft, sonorous “Balbianello”,
Spoken, as if sung
In the speech, so smooth and mellow,
Of the Latin tongue.
Point of liquid name,
With thy walls of golden yellow
And thy flowers of flame,
When thy varied charms enthrall me
Under summer skies,
Tenderly I love to call thee
From thy base, where in profusion
Countless roses bloom,
To thy crest, where sweet seclusion
Reigns in leafy gloom,
All is beauty, uncontested
By a rival claim,
All is symmetry invested
With a storied fame.