Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SORRENTO, by BAYARD TAYLOR

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

SORRENTO, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The gods are gone, the temples over-thrown
Last Line: And bind the myrtle buds to crown a purer venus.
Alternate Author Name(s): Taylor, James Bayard
Subject(s): Goddesses & Gods; Mythology; Nature; Past; Roman Empire; Sorrento, Italy


THE gods are gone, the temples overthrown,
The storms of time the very rocks have shaken:
The Past is mute, save where some mouldy stone
Speaks to confuse, like speech by age o'ertaken.
The pomp that crowned the winding shore
Has fled for evermore:
Its old magnificence shall never reawaken.


Where once, against the Grecian ships arrayed,
The Oscan warriors saw their javelins hurtle,
The farmer prunes his olives, and the maid
Trips down the lanes in flashing vest and kirtle:
The everlasting laurel now
Forgets Apollo's brow,
And, dedicate no more to Venus, blooms the myrtle.


Yet still, as long ago, when this high coast
Phoenician strangers saw, and flying Dardans,
The bounteous earth fulfils her ancient boast
In mellow fields which Winter never hardens;
And daisy, lavender, and rose
Perpetual buds unclose,
To flood with endless balm the tiers of hanging gardens.


From immemorial rocks the daffodil
Beckons with scented stars, an unreached wonder:
On sunny banks their wine the hyacinths spill,
And self-betraying violets bloom thereunder;
While near and threatening, din and deep,
The wave assails the steep,
Or booms in hollow caves with sound of smothered thunder.


Here Nature, dropping once her ordered plan,
Fashioned all lovely things that most might please her --
A playground guarded from the greed of man,
The childish gauds, wherewith he would appease her:
Her sweetest air, her softest wave
Reluctantly she gave
To grace the wealth of Rome, to heal the languid Caesar.


She stationed there Vesuvius, to be
Contrasted horror to her idyl tender:
Across the azure pavement of the sea
She raised a cape for Baiaee's marble splendor;
And westward, on the circling zone,
To front the seas unknown,
She planted Capri's couchant lion to defend her.


A mother kind, she doth but tantalize:
Nor from her secret gardens will she spurn us.
The Roman, casting hitherward his eyes,
Forgot his Sybaris beside Volturnus -- Forgot the streams and sylvan charms
That decked his Sabine farms,
And orchards on the slopes that sink to still Avernus.


Here was his substance wasted: here he lost
The marrow that subdued the world, in leisure;
Counting no days that were not feasts, no cost
Too dear to purchase finer forms of pleasure;
Yet, while for him stood still the sun,
The restless world rolled on,
And shook from off its skirts Caesar and Caesar's treasure.


Less than he sought will we: a moon of peace,
To feed the mind on Fancy's airy diet;
Soft airs that come like memories of Greece,
Nights that renew the old Phoenician quiet:
Escape from yonder burning crest
That stirs with new unrest,
And in its lava-streams keeps hot the endless riot.


Here, from the wars of Gaul, the strife of Rome,
May we, meek citizens, a summer screen us:
Here find with milder Earth a perfect home,
Once, ere she puts profounder rest between us:
Here break the sacred laurel bough
Still for Apollo's brow,
And bind the myrtle buds to crown a purer Venus.

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