Naples by John Greenleaf Whittier
INSCRIBED TO ROBERT C. WATERSTON, OF BOSTON.
Helen Waterston died at Naples in her eighteenth year, and lies buried in the Protestant cemetery there. The stone over her grave bears the lines,
Fold her, O Father, in Thine arms,
And let her henceforth be
A messenger of love between
Our human hearts and Thee.
I give thee joy!–I know to thee
The dearest spot on earth must be
Where sleeps thy loved one by the summer sea;
Where, near her sweetest poet’s tomb,
The land of Virgil gave thee room
To lay thy flower with her perpetual bloom.
I know that when the sky shut down
Behind thee on the gleaming town,
On Baiae’s baths and Posilippo’s crown;
And, through thy tears, the mocking day
Burned Ischia’s mountain lines away,
And Capri melted in its sunny bay;
Through thy great farewell sorrow shot
The sharp pang of a bitter thought
That slaves must tread around that holy spot.
Thou knewest not the land was blest
In giving thy beloved rest,
Holding the fond hope closer to her breast,
That every sweet and saintly grave
Was freedom’s prophecy, and gave
The pledge of Heaven to sanctify and save.
That pledge is answered. To thy ear
The unchained city sends its cheer,
And, tuned to joy, the muffled bells of fear
Ring Victor in. The land sits free
And happy by the summer sea,
And Bourbon Naples now is Italy!
She smiles above her broken chain
The languid smile that follows pain,
Stretching her cramped limbs to the sun again.
Oh, joy for all, who hear her call
From gray Camaldoli’s convent-wall
And Elmo’s towers to freedom’s carnival!
A new life breathes among her vines
And olives, like the breath of pines
Blown downward from the breezy Apennines.
Lean, O my friend, to meet that breath,
Rejoice as one who witnesseth
Beauty from ashes rise, and life from death!
Thy sorrow shall no more be pain,
Its tears shall fall in sunlit rain,
Writing the grave with flowers: “Arisen again!”