Evening at Naples

I.

THE day went down, beneath an amber sky,
On all the wonders of that magic land:
There, an old crater’s burnt-out Cyclops eye :
Here Virgil paced in thought the curving strand.
On shores and cities glowed the late, low sun ;
On plumed Vesuvius mirrored in the wave ;
And faintly flushed the wan-ribbed skeleton,
Pompeii standing in her open grave.
On plume and peak the parting sunset flame
Lingered, diffused, an upward-fading gleam.
Capri, remote on the rimmed sea, became
A roseate mist and melted into dream.
The soft sirocco, from hot Afric sands
Blowing all day across the Midland Deep,
Sank with the sun, upon the empurpled lands,
With all its Libyan languors lulled asleep.

II.

I stood at evening on a terraced height
And viewed the wondrous world, city and sea,
Sails softly wafted on pale bands of light,
Or to still moorings drifting dreamily.
The goat-bells’ tinkling ceased upon the air;
The human tide’s interminable roar
Rose, a dull murmur, to my terrace stair,
The sullen thunder of a lone, low shore.
Garden and villa and curved parapet
Darkened around me ; myriad-roofed, far down
The mountain-slopes, where coast and mountain met,
Gloomy and vast and slumberous, spread the town.

III.

As night drew on, unnumbered gleams appeared,
Where lanterned ships on lanterned shadows lay ;
By distant coasts ; and where Vesuvius reared
His tawny torch above the clouded Bay;
The lighthouse bursting into sudden blaze,
Flashing its spear of beams across the sea;
The broad Riviera’s constellated rays ;
And all the city’s starred immensity.
By day unseen, the crater’s spectral light
Increased and reddened, far aloof and lone ;
The vulture cloud abroad on the still night
Spread balanced wings, perched on the flickering cone.
Unseen by day, that dull portentous glow,
A pulsing core of fire that climbed and fell,
Illumed the murk, — mysterious, veiled, and slow, —
Dim flashes from the throbbing throat of hell.
The upheaved cloud, with windless folds wide flung,
Huge as the mountain’s double, piled in space,
Poised peak on peak miraculously hung,
Burying the stars in its inverted base.

IV.

Anon from the snow-muffled Apennines,
Fitful at first, a rushing wind came forth
And whirled about me, clashing boughs and vines,
Keen as a gust from my own native North.
Over the city roofs and courts it played ;
With wafts of most delicious coolness blessed
The stifled streets ; and, swelling seaward, swayed
The pillared cloud on the volcano’s crest.
As if a bodiless power with wings of air
Closed with the phantom, scattered and dislimned
The towering shape, and swept the Orient bare,
With all its ancient lustrous orbs undimmed:
Ranging the heavens forever, the Hyades,
Like starry waterfowl in arrowy flight;
The Bull’s bright horns, the Pleiads’ golden bees ;
And there, most glorious of the hosts of night,—
Emerging from the crater’s flying reek,
Back from that gorge of Chaos wildly blown,
One conquering knee above the red-lipped peak, —
Orion with his sword and blazing zone !
John Townsend Trowbridge.