We present this work in honor of the poet’s 205th birthday.
Oh! bright on the silvery Shannon lies
The light of the setting sun,
And stately the city’s spires arise,
Where the isle’s last field was won!
But now, no stain of the battle’s blood
Remains, to sully that peaceful flood,—
Nor sound in the summer-evening swells,
Save that of St. Mary’s vesper bells.
There came a late and a lonely boat,
O’er the shining river’s breast;
And it bore, from a land far, far remote,
A sad and a stranger guest:—
A darker tint had tinged his brow
Than the skies that bent above him, now,
Could give their sons—and a brighter beam
Had shone on his youth, by Tiber’s stream.
His was the peerless land of song,
By the Muses blest, of yore;
But his steps had wandered, far and long,
From the bright Hesperian shore:
And his early home was a darkened spot,—
For the love, that brightened his hearth, was not;
And heavy and chill the clouds of age
Fell on his lonely pilgrimage.
But still, in his memory’s echo, swelled
A sweet and a solemn chime,—
That oft, through the golden twilight pealed,
In his own far southern clime:—
Oh! many a city and many a shore
Had the weary pilgrim wandered o’er,—
But they never sent to his aged ear
The sounds he had loved—and pined to hear!
Yet why doth the stranger start,—and turn
From his lonely musings, now?
And why doth such glowing gladness burn
In his aged eye and brow?
‘Tis only the vesper bells, again,
That ring from St. Mary’s sacred fane,—
But oh! to the wanderer’s heart they tell
Of scenes and voices remembered well!
His arm was strong, and his hope was bright,
When he tuned to melody
Those vesper bells, in the cloudless light
Of his own Italian sky;—
And now, on a distant northern shore,
That music breathed on his heart once more—
Though the strength and hope of his years were past—
As sweet as when he heard it last!
For the light of many a twilight hour,
And the breath of many a strain,
From cottage porch, and from myrtle bower,
With that sound returned again:—
And the wanderer listened, like one whose soul
Had found the path to its early goal,—
But his eyes were fixed, and his very breath
Seemed hush in the changeless hush of death!
Fainter and fainter the last low note
On the waters died away;
And the rowers paused,—for the lonely boat
By the stately city lay.
But the wanderer moved not—spoke not—still,
Though the dews of night fell fast and chill,
And strangers lifted his drooping head,—
But they found that the weary soul had fled!
Oh! strange were the yearning thoughts and fond
Round that lone heart’s ruined shrine,—
As the Hebrew’s thirst for the fount beyond
Philistia’s leaguering line!
But the sounds, that in life he loved the best,
May peal, unheeded, above his rest,—
For still, through the summer twilight, swells
The sound of St. Mary’s vesper bells!