In Tuscany

DOWN San Miniato in the afternoon
Slowly we drove through still and golden air.
’T was winter, but the day was soft as June :
Florence was spread beneath us, passing fair.
The matchless city ! Set about with flowers,
Peaceful along her Arno’s banks she lay ;
Her treasured splendors, roofs and domes and towers,
In tender light of the Italian day.
Sweet breathed the roses blowing far and wide,
Pink, gold, and crimson ; dark in stately gloom
Stood the thick cypresses ; on every side
The laurestinus, rich with creamy bloom ;
And exquisite, pale, sharp-leaved olives grew
In moonlight colors, silver-green and gray,
While, lifting their proud heads high in the blue,
Sprang the superb stone-pines beside the way.
O wonderful, I thought, beyond compare !
And hushed with pleasure silent sat and gazed,
When lo ! a child’s voice, and I grew aware
Of loveliness that left me all amazed.
A little beggar girl that leaping came
Forth from the roadside and put out a hand,
And dancing like a bright and buoyant flame,
Besought us in the music of her land.
Her eyes were like a midnight full of stars,
Below the dazzling beauty of her brows,
Her dusky hair dark as the cloud that bars
The moon in troubled skies when tempests rouse ;
A mouth where lightning-sweet the sudden smile
Came, went and came, and flashed into my face,
And caught my heart, as holding fast the while
The carriage edge, she ran with rapid grace.
Who could withstand her pleading, — who resist
The magic of those love-compelling eyes,
Those lips the red pomegranate flowers had kissed,
The voice that charmed like woven melodies!
Not we ! Surely, I thought, imperial blood,
Some priceless current from a kingly line,
Ran royal in her veins, — a sunny flood
That marked her with its fine, mysterious sign.
She was not born to ask, but to command;
She seemed to crown the wonder of the day,
The perfect blossom of that glorious land,
While her sweet “ Grazie ! ” followed on our way,
As down mid olive, cypress, stately pine,
Among the roses in a dream we passed
Through glamour of the time and place divine,
Till Arno’s quiet banks were reached at last,
And pleasant rest. ’T is years since those fair hours,
But their rich memories live, their sun and shade,
Beautiful Florence, set about with flowers,
And San Miniato’s peerless beggar maid.
Celia Thaxter.