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

Divina Commedia

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

OFT have I seen at some cathedral door

A laborer, pausing in the dust and heat,

Lay down his burden, and with reverent feet

Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor

Kneel to repeat his paternoster o’er:

Far off the noises of the world retreat;

The loud vociferations of the street

Become an undistinguishable roar.

So, as I enter here from day to day,

And leave my burden at this minster gate,

Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray,

The tumult of the time disconsolate

To inarticulate murmurs dies away,

While the eternal ages watch and wait.

How strange the sculptures that adorn these towers!

This crowd of statues, in whose folded sleeves

Birds build their nests; while canopied with leaves

Parvis and portal bloom like trellised bowers,

And the vast minster seems a cross of flowers!

But fiends and dragons on the gargoyled eaves

Watch the dead Christ between the living thieves,

And underneath the traitor Judas lowers!

Ah! from what agonies of heart and brain,

What exultations trampling on despair,

What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong,

What passionate outcry of a soul in pain,

Uprose this poem of the earth and air,

This mediæval miracle of song!