Here you will find the Long Poem Ravenna of poet Oscar Wilde
To my friend George Fleming author of 'The Nile Novel' and 'Mirage') I. A year ago I breathed the Italian air, - And yet, methinks this northern Spring is fair,- These fields made golden with the flower of March, The throstle singing on the feathered larch, The cawing rooks, the wood-doves fluttering by, The little clouds that race across the sky; And fair the violet's gentle drooping head, The primrose, pale for love uncomforted, The rose that burgeons on the climbing briar, The crocus-bed, (that seems a moon of fire Round-girdled with a purple marriage-ring); And all the flowers of our English Spring, Fond snowdrops, and the bright-starred daffodil. Up starts the lark beside the murmuring mill, And breaks the gossamer-threads of early dew; And down the river, like a flame of blue, Keen as an arrow flies the water-king, While the brown linnets in the greenwood sing. A year ago! - it seems a little time Since last I saw that lordly southern clime, Where flower and fruit to purple radiance blow, And like bright lamps the fabled apples glow. Full Spring it was - and by rich flowering vines, Dark olive-groves and noble forest-pines, I rode at will; the moist glad air was sweet, The white road rang beneath my horse's feet, And musing on Ravenna's ancient name, I watched the day till, marked with wounds of flame, The turquoise sky to burnished gold was turned. O how my heart with boyish passion burned, When far away across the sedge and mere I saw that Holy City rising clear, Crowned with her crown of towers! - On and on I galloped, racing with the setting sun, And ere the crimson after-glow was passed, I stood within Ravenna's walls at last! II. How strangely still! no sound of life or joy Startles the air; no laughing shepherd-boy Pipes on his reed, nor ever through the day Comes the glad sound of children at their play: O sad, and sweet, and silent! surely here A man might dwell apart from troublous fear, Watching the tide of seasons as they flow From amorous Spring to Winter's rain and snow, And have no thought of sorrow; - here, indeed, Are Lethe's waters, and that fatal weed Which makes a man forget his fatherland. Ay! amid lotus-meadows dost thou stand, Like Proserpine, with poppy-laden head, Guarding the holy ashes of the dead. For though thy brood of warrior sons hath ceased, Thy noble dead are with thee! - they at least Are faithful to thine honour:- guard them well, O childless city! for a mighty spell, To wake men's hearts to dreams of things sublime, Are the lone tombs where rest the Great of Time. III. Yon lonely pillar, rising on the plain, Marks where the bravest knight of France was slain, - The Prince of chivalry, the Lord of war, Gaston de Foix: for some untimely star Led him against thy city, and he fell, As falls some forest-lion fighting well. Taken from life while life and love were new, He lies beneath God's seamless veil of blue; Tall lance-like reeds wave sadly o'er his head, And oleanders bloom to deeper red, Where his bright youth flowed crimson on the ground. Look farther north unto that broken mound, - There, prisoned now within a lordly tomb Raised by a daughter's hand, in lonely gloom, Huge-limbed Theodoric, the Gothic king, Sleeps after all his weary conquering. Time hath not spared his ruin, - wind and rain Have broken down his stronghold; and again We see that Death is mighty lord of all, And king and clown to ashen dust must fall Mighty indeed THEIR glory! yet to me Barbaric king, or knight of chivalry, Or the great queen herself, were poor and vain, Beside the grave where Dante rests from pain. His gilded shrine lies open to the air; And cunning sculptor's hands have carven there The calm white brow, as calm as earliest morn, The eyes that flashed with passionate love and scorn, The lips that sang of Heaven and of Hell, The almond-face which Giotto drew so well, The weary face of Dante; - to this day, Here in his place of resting, far away From Arno's yellow waters, rushing down Through the wide bridges of that fairy town, Where the tall tower of Giotto seems to rise A marble lily under sapphire skies! Alas! my Dante! thou hast known the pain Of meaner lives, - the exile's galling chain, How steep the stairs within kings' houses are, And all the petty miseries which mar Man's nobler nature with the sense of wrong. Yet this dull world is grateful for thy song; Our nations do thee homage, - even she, That cruel queen of vine-clad Tuscany, Who bound with crown of thorns thy living brow, Hath decked thine empty tomb with laurels now, And begs in vain the ashes of her son. O mightiest exile!