Pampenea: An Idyl

LYING by the summer sea,
I had a dream of Italy.
Chalky cliffs and miles of sand,
Ragged reefs and salty caves,
And the sparkling emerald waves
Faded ; and I seemed to stand,
Myself a languid Florentine,
In the heart of that fair land.
And in a garden cool and green,
Boccaccio’s own enchanted place,
I met Pampenea face to face,—
A maid so lovely that to see
Her smile is to know Italy.
Her hair was like a coronet
Upon her Grecian forehead set,
Where one gem glistened sunnily,
Like Venice, when first seen at sea.
I saw within her violet eyes
The starlight of Italian skies,
And on her brow and breast and hand
The olive of her native land.
And knowing how, in other times,
Her lips were ripe with Tuscan rhymes
Of love and wine and dance, I spread
My mantle by an almond-tree :
“ And here, beneath the rose,” I said,
“ I ’ll hear thy Tuscan melody ! ”
I heard a tale that was not told
In those ten dreamy days of old,
When Heaven, for some divine offence,
Smote Florence with the pestilence,
And in that garden’s odorous shade
The dames of the Decameron,
With each a happy lover, strayed,
To laugh and sing, at sorest need,
To lie in the lilies, in the sun,
With glint of plume and golden brede.
And while she whispered in my ear,
The pleasant Arno murmured near,
The dewy, slim chameleons run
Through twenty colors in the sun,
The breezes broke the fountain’s glass,
And woke Æolian melodies,
And shook from out the scented trees
The bleachèd lemon-blossoms on the grass.
The tale ? I have forgot the tale ! —
A Lady all for love forlorn ;
A Rosebud, and a Nightingale
That bruised his bosom on a thorn ;
A pot of rubies buried deep ;
A glen, a corpse, a child asleep;
A Monk, that was no monk at all,
I' the moonlight by a castle-wall; —
Kaleidoscopic bints, to be
Worked up in farce or tragedy.
Now while the sweet-eyed Tuscan wove
The gilded thread of her romance,
( Which I have lost by grievous chance,)
The one dear woman that I love,
Beside me in our seaside nook,
Closed a white finger in her book,
Half-vexed that she should read, and weep
For Petrarch, to a man asleep.
And scorning me, so tame and cold,
She rose, and wandered down the shore,
Her wine-dark drapery, fold in fold,
Imprisoned by an ivory hand ;
And on a ridge of granite, half in sand,
She stood, and looked at Appledore.
And waking, I beheld her there
Sea-dreaming in the moted air,
A Siren sweet and debonair,
With wristlets woven of colored weeds,
And oblong lucent amber beads
Of sea-kelp shining in her hair.
And as I mused on dreams, and how
The something in us never sleeps,
But laughs or sings or moans or weeps,
She turned, — and on her breast and brow
I saw the tint that seemed not won
From kisses of New England sun ;
I saw on brow and breast and hand
The olive of a sunnier land !
She turned, — and lo ! within her eyes
The starlight of Italian skies !
Most dreams are dark, beyond the range
Of reason ; oft we cannot tell
If they be born of heaven or hell;
But to my soul it seems not strange,
That, lying by the summer sea,
With that dark woman watching me,
I slept, and dreamed of Italy !