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Owen Meredith, Evening in Tuscany 13/04/2011

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Owen Meredith (1891 aka Robert Bulwer-Lytton) in Clytumnestra and other poems, 1855

Look! the sun sets. Now’s the rarest

Hour of all the blessed day.

(Just the hour, love, you look fairest!)

Even the snails are out to play.

Cool the breeze mounts, like this Chianti

Which I drain down to the sun.

There! shut up that old green Dante,

Turn the page, where we begun,

At the last news of Ulysses,

A grand image, fit to close

Just such grand gold eyes as this is,

Full of splendor and repose!

So loop up those long bright tresses,

Only, one or two must fall

Down your warm neck. Evening kisses

Through the soft curls spite of all.

Ah, but rest in your still place there!

Stir not – turn not I the warm pleasure

Coming, going in your face there,

And the rose (no richer treasure)

In your bosom, like my love there,

Just half secret and half seen;

And the .soft light from above there

Streaming o’er you where you lean,

With your fair head in the .shadow

Of that grass-hat’s glancing brim,

Like a daisy in a meadow

Which its own deep fringes dim.

O you laugh, you cry! ‘What folly!’

Yet you ‘d scarcely have me wise,

If I judge right, judging wholly

By the secret in your eyes.

But look down now, o’er the city

Sleeping soft among the hills,

Our dear Florence ! That great Pitti

With its steady shadow tills

Half the town up: its unwinking

Cold white windows, as they glare

Down the long streets, set one thinking

Of the old dukes who lived there;

And one pictures those strange men so!

Subtle brains, and iron thews!

There, the gardens of Lorenzo,

The long cypress avenues

Creep up slow the stately hillside

Where the merry loungers are.

But far more I love this still side,

The blue plain you see so far!

Where the shore of bright white villas

Leaves off faint: the purple breadths

Of the olives and the willows:

And the gold-rimmed mountain-widths:

All transfused in slumbrous glory

To one burning point – the sun !

But up here, slow, cold, and hoary

Reach the olives, one by one:

And the land looks fresh: the yellow

Arbute-berries, here and there,

Growing slowly ripe and mellow

Through a flush of rosy hair.

For the Tramontana last week

Was about: ‘t is scarce three weeks

Since the snow lay, one white vast streak,

Upon those old purple peaks.

So to-day among the grasses

One may pick up tens and twelves

Of young olives, as one passes,

Blown about, and by themselves

Blackening sullen-ripe. The corn too

Grows each day from green to golden.

The large-eyed wind-flowers forlorn too

Blow among it, unbeholden:

Some white, some crimson, others

Purple blackening to the heart.

From the deep wheat-sea, which smothers

Their bright globes up, how they start!

And the small wild pinks from tender

Feather-grasses peep at us:

While above them burns, on slender

Stems, the red gladiolus:

And the grapes are green: this season

They’ll be round and sound and true.

If no after-blight should seize on

Those young bunches turning blue.

that night of purple weather!

(Just before the moon had set)

You remember how together

We walked home ? the grass was wet –

The long grass in the Podere –

With the balmy dew among it

And that nightingale – the fairy

Song he sung – how he sung it!

And the fig-trees had grown heavy

With the young figs white and woolly,

And the fire-flies, bevy on bevy

Of soft sparkles, pouring fully

Their warm life through trance on trances

Of thick citron-shades behind,

Rose, like swarms of loving fancies

Through some rich and pensive mind.

So we reached the loggia. Leaning

Faint, we sat there in the shade.

Neither spoke. The night’s deep meaning

Filled the silence up unsaid.

Hoarsely through the cypress alley

A civetta out of tune

Tried his voice by fits. The valley

Lay all dark below the moon.

Until into song you burst out,

That old song 1 made for you

When we found our rose, the first out

Last sweet Springtime in the dew.

Well ! . . . if things had gone less wildly,

Had I settled down before

There, in England, labored mildly,

And been patient, and learned more

Of how men should live in London,

Been less happy, or more wise,

Left no great works tried, and undone

Never looked in your soft eyes

I . . . but what’s the use of thinking ?

There! our nightingale begins,

Now a rising note, now sinking

Back in little broken rings

Of warm song that spread and eddy,

Now he picks up heart, and draws

His great music, slow and steady,

To a silver-centred pause!

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