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Passion-flowers

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Julia's Poetry: Passion-Flowers
A Protest From Italy


I. THERE

Amid Italian orange groves
A distant murmur reached mine ear,
The wrangling tongues of Western men,
Each crossed at arms with his compeer.

In that fair land, where passions rage
Briefly, through Nature's gentleness;
Where the black eyebrows' direst frown
Must yield to the soft air's caress;

Where even curses fall in words
Whose beauty heals the wound they make;
(Though strong to feel, those Southern hearts,
They're timid to o'erturn and break;)

I felt my life so calm and deep,
Such rapture, settling to such peace,
I sighed: 'Hush! hush! my countrymen--
Let this untempered babbling cease!

'Ye who assert your rights in men,
What right is worth such evil blood?
You--frantic champions of the slave,
Bethink-God orders all for good.

'Shake not thus ruthlessly your cup
Of new-fermented liberty,
Till the scum mantle to the top,
And leave the sun-touched liquor free.

'Northern and Southron, part in peace,
Each to his own contentment thrive,
Since each divergent destiny
May keep a sacred good alive.'

Thus sang I in that land of rest,
Till, drunk with Music's golden wine,
I crossed my hands upon my breast,
And dreamed of heaven at Raphael's shrine.

II. HERE.

Bathed in your icy Northern springs,
My slumbering eye is roused to sight;
The sharp steel wind doth sunder all
My silken armor of delight.

Mine ear, by mass and anthem lulled,
The trumpet's brazen voice awakes;
From its slow pulses, keenly stirred,
My blood its natural current makes.

Things which in distance dimly showed
Press on me in the nearer view;
I see the race that's passing out
Weave hateful fetters for the new.

I see a plague, long held aloof,
That to the social heart hath crept,
See blood-hounds track the inner shrine
Where, sacred once, the outcast slept.

I see, upon the altar steps,
Base Interest trample Godlike Right.
Strike, lyre, thy chorus of brave sounds!
Find, palsied hand, thine ancient might!

Back! back, volcanic flood! that creep'st
So snakelike through our peaceful plains;
Back, tortuous Intrigue! Thou art bold
To drop thy mask where Justice reigns.

Back, baleful force! Back, perjured law!
Sacred while ye the right sustain,
But fallen like Judas, to betray
The sinless blood for love of gain.

Judas! That gain will serve thee naught!
It will but buy a field of blood,
Whereon impartial Time shall write,
'Here they fought for Freedom stood.

'These men the tie of Nature held,
A claim beyond the pride of race;
Their banner bore Man's bleeding heart
Without the color of his face.

'Reluctantly they bared the sword,
And let the prudent scabbard go;
They perished in the name of Christ;
He enemies would have it so.

III. THERE AND HERE.

The natural loves that move my heart,
My country, matter not to thee;
Yet let me to my words impart
That which may make them one with me.

And tell thee that, however dear
I hold the light of Roman skies;
However from the canvas clear
The soul of Raphael blessed mine eyes;

Howe'er intense the joy of flowers,
And the spring-wedded nightingale,
Or deep the charm of twilight hours
Hushed to the Miserere's wail;

A holier joy to me were given,
Could I persuade thy heart from wrong;
As rapturous birds drop down from heaven,
With heaven's convincement in their song.