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Divina Commedia

 Oft have I seen at some cathedral door 
A laborer, pausing in the dust and heat, .
Lay down his burden, and with reverent feet .
Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor .
Kneel to repeat his paternoster o'er; .
Far off the noises of the world retreat; .
The loud vociferations of the street .
Become an undistinguishable roar.
So, as I enter here from day to day, .
And leave my burden at this minster gate, .
Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray, .
The tumult of the time disconsolate .
To inarticulate murmurs dies away, .
While the eternal ages watch and wait.
How strange the sculptures that adorn these towers! .
This crowd of statues, in whose folded sleeves .
Birds build their nests; while canopied with leaves .
Parvis and portal bloom like trellised bowers, .
And the vast minster seems a cross of flowers! .
But fiends and dragons on the gargoyled eaves .
Watch the dead Christ between the living thieves, .
And, underneath, the traitor Judas lowers! .
Ah! from what agonies of heart and brain, .
What exultations trampling on despair, .
What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong, .
What passionate outcry of a soul in pain, .
Uprose this poem of the earth and air, .
This medi?val miracle of song! III.
Written December 22, 1865.
I enter, and I see thee in the gloom .
Of the long aisles, O poet saturnine! .
And strive to make my steps keep pace with thine.
The air is filled with some unknown perfume; .
The congregation of the dead make room .
For thee to pass; the votive tapers shine; .
Like rooks that haunt Ravenna's groves of pine .
The hovering echoes fly from tomb to tomb.
From the confessionals I hear arise .
Rehearsals of forgotten tragedies, .
And lamentations from the crypts below; .
And then a voice celestial that begins .
With the pathetic words, "Although your sins .
As scarlet be," and ends with "as the snow.
" IV.
Written May 5, 1867.
With snow-white veil and garments as of flame, .
She stands before thee, who so long ago .
Filled thy young heart with passion and the woe .
From which thy song and all its splendors came; .
And while with stern rebuke she speaks thy name, .
The ice about thy heart melts as the snow .
On mountain heights, and in swift overflow .
Comes gushing from thy lips in sobs of shame.
Thou makest full confession; and a gleam, .
As of the dawn on some dark forest cast, .
Seems on thy lifted forehead to increase; .
Lethe and Euno? -- the remembered dream .
And the forgotten sorrow -- bring at last .
That perfect pardon which is perfect peace.
Written January 16, 1866.
I lift mine eyes, and all the windows blaze .
With forms of Saints and holy men who died, .
Here martyred and hereafter glorified; .
And the great Rose upon its leaves displays .
Christ's Triumph, and the angelic roundelays, .
With splendor upon splendor multiplied; .
And Beatrice again at Dante's side .
No more rebukes, but smiles her words of praise.
And then the organ sounds, and unseen choirs .
Sing the old Latin hymns of peace and love .
And benedictions of the Holy Ghost; .
And the melodious bells among the spires .
O'er all the house-tops and through heaven above .
Proclaim the elevation of the Host! VI.
Written March 7, 1866.
O star of morning and of liberty! .
O bringer of the light, whose splendor shines .
Above the darkness of the Apennines, .
Forerunner of the day that is to be! .
The voices of the city and the sea, .
The voices of the mountains and the pines, .
Repeat thy song, till the familiar lines .
Are footpaths for the thought of Italy! .
Thy fame is blown abroad from all the heights, .
Through all the nations, and a sound is heard, .
As of a mighty wind, and men devout, .
Strangers of Rome, and the new proselytes, .
In their own language hear thy wondrous word, .
And many are amazed and many doubt.

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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