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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.


By Aleardo Aleardi (1812–1878)

From ‘The Primal Histories’

IN the deep circle of Siddim hast thou seen,

Under the shining skies of Palestine,

The sinister glitter of the Lake of Asphalt?

Those coasts, strewn thick with ashes of damnation,

Forever foe to every living thing,

Where rings the cry of the lost wandering bird

That on the shore of the perfidious sea

Athirsting dies,—that watery sepulchre

Of the five cities of iniquity,

Where even the tempest, when its clouds hang low,

Passes in silence, and the lightning dies,—

If thou hast seen them, bitterly hath been

Thy heart wrung with the misery and despair

Of that dread vision!
Yet there is on earth

A woe more desperate and miserable,—

A spectacle wherein the wrath of God

Avenges Him more terribly. It is

A vain, weak people of faint-heart old men,

That, for three hundred years of dull repose,

Has lain perpetual dreamer, folded in

The ragged purple of its ancestors,

Stretching its limbs wide in its country’s sun,

To warm them; drinking the soft airs of autumn

Forgetful, on the fields where its forefathers

Like lions fought! From overflowing hands,

Strew we with hellebore and poppies thick

The way.