O Italy! When winter groweth young and dies,
When grim leans gay and dirges merrily,
And corpsey-husks late wan burst blossoming,
And dip and dance upon forgetful sighs
Of southern breaths which bear those she supplied,
Who bade the cithara, and lute, and tambourine
To nurse her sickened heart across the sea,
For borne it was from her, whilst she behind!
Yet think not thus ye winds arrayed
With passion’s kiss of passion’s Queen
Of Carthage, come north decked in day—
As learnt of wing in Araby—
Ye wild, wild songs of Dido, play
And break your kin Etruscans free!
Remember not those sad and pagan days—
But vent upon the dreadful Winter throne—
Unrein, thou South, and have revenge on Rome!
The ice’s order end in Afric haze,
Where thick the clouds of incense ‘neath a blaze
Of pure unclouded heav’n, that rageful shone
Apollo spurned by wanton Ethiops
And wailing Arabs lost in Bacchic lays—
So bring, ye Spring-winds, us re-birth
Of dim, young times be quick’ning breath—
And soothe away Demeter’s curse!
“The Bride,” then sing, “her bower left—
So tress her marriage-bed, thou Earth,”
Thus be, for only grieveth Death.
Nay—but another bride, of whom sing loth
Not, weave her epithalamia, stay,
And hymn the God of Fairness for this Maid!
Doth prove Him true she come to plight her troth.
That virgin blushing works Aurora wroth
Who weeps as maids are wont on wedding days—
And dawns an end of nights where lonely lay
She ‘neath her dreams and hopes and cottar’s cross.
(Why be then still, ye charms of Spring?)
The cross, above what girlish frights
The raging melancholy brings,
And steady through her fearful sights
(Aid me, lovely Springtime, sing!)
She prayed an end to lonely nights.
O God, be patient Thou if I contend:
For my weak heart is lost and I am dazed
By her, though fawn-like, tremble I to gaze—
For what a thing is she in realms of men,
(And what unlikely gifts are we to them!)
Where phantom dreams of head-sick rage
All this world wreck, the silly stage
Of wretched men!—and shall we thus be friends?
Yea, let the world bear men who rave
Of paradises ‘neath the sun,
Where license wearies, freedom grays—
But we’ll renew th’old folly sung
(Nor fear, for Frederick keeps his cave)
In Eden’s eve, when we were young.
The Sun unbolts his canopy, thy Man is come—
Nor vaunted knight nor merchantman of wealth,
A boy obscure, unpartisan, not Guelph
Nor Ghibelline, but son of simple son—
Let children dance, for little things have won!
For what thou seest is, and nothing else,
And what he is thou hast all to thyself,
Nor patrons, slaves to leave thee lesser sum!
O Bride, thou freshness of the day,
‘Neath thy veiled laurel whisp’reth Death,
All Nature sayeth: “Be thou gay,
Belov’d, but Spring’s not ever fresh,
For emp’rors are but stalking shades
And common children are but breath.”
— Carl Hildebrand is a Latin Old Calendarist (i.e., traditional Catholic) writing from the American Midwest. His poetry has also been published in Social Matter. Under another name he writes academic religious history.
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