Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Birds of Passage
Vittoria Colonna, on the death of her husband, the Marchese
di Pescara, retired to her castle at Ischia (Inarime),
wrote the Ode upon his death, which gained her the title of
Once more, once more, Inarime,
I see thy purple hills!--once more
I hear the billows of the bay
Wash the white pebbles on thy shore.
High o'er the sea-surge and the sands,
Like a great galleon wrecked and cast
Ashore by storms, thy castle stands,
A mouldering landmark of the Past.
Upon its terrace-walk I see
A phantom gliding to and fro;
It is Colonna,--it is she
Who lived and loved so long ago.
Pescara's beautiful young wife,
The type of perfect womanhood,
Whose life was love, the life of life,
That time and change and death withstood.
For death, that breaks the marriage band
In others, only closer pressed
The wedding-ring upon her hand
And closer locked and barred her breast.
She knew the life-long martyrdom,
The weariness, the endless pain
Of waiting for some one to come
Who nevermore would come again.
The shadows of the chestnut-trees,
The odor of the orange blooms,
The song of birds, and, more than these,
The silence of deserted rooms;
The respiration of the sea,
The soft caresses of the air,
All things in nature seemed to be
But ministers of her despair;
Till the o'erburdened heart, so long
Imprisoned in itself, found vent
And voice in one impassioned song
Of inconsolable lament.
Then as the sun, though hidden from sight,
Transmutes to gold the leaden mist,
Her life was interfused with light,
From realms that, though unseen, exist,
Thy castle on the crags above
In dust shall crumble and decay,
But not the memory of her love.