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A Letter from Italy

Joseph Addison 1672 (Milston) – 1719 (Holland House, London)

Salve magna parens frugum Saturnia tellus,
Magna virûm! tibi res antiquæ laudis et artis
Aggredior, sanctos ausus recludere fontes.
Virg. Geor. 2.

  While you, my Lord, the rural shades admire,
  And from Britannia's public posts retire,
  Nor longer, her ungrateful sons to please,
  For their advantage sacrifice your ease;

  Me into foreign realms my fate conveys,
  Through nations fruitful of immortal lays,
  Where the soft season and inviting clime
  Conspire to trouble your repose with rhyme.

  For wheresoe'er I turn my ravish'd eyes,
  Gay gilded scenes and shining prospects rise,
  Poetic fields encompass me around,
  And still I seem to tread on classic ground;
  For here the Muse so oft her harp has strung
  That not a mountain rears its head unsung,
  Renown'd in verse each shady thicket grows,
  And ev'ry stream in heavenly numbers flows

  How am I pleas'd to search the hills and woods
  For rising springs and celebrated floods!
  To view the Nar, tumultuous in his course,
  And trace the smooth Clitumnus to his source,
  To see the Mincio draw his wat'ry store
  Through the long windings of a fruitful shore,
  And hoary Albula's infected tide
  O'er the warm bed of smoking sulphur glide.

  Fir'd with a thousand raptures I survey
  Eridanus through flowery meadows stray,
  The king of floods! that rolling o'er the plains
  The towering Alps of half their moisture drains,
  And proudly swoln with a whole winter's snows,
  Distributes wealth and plenty where he flows.

  Sometimes, misguided by the tuneful throng,
  I look for streams immortaliz'd in song,
  That lost in silence and oblivion lie,
  (Dumb are their fountains and their channels dry)
  Yet run forever by the Muse's skill,
  And in the smooth description murmur still.

  Sometimes to gentle Tiber I retire,
  And the fam'd river's empty shores admire,
  That destitute of strength derives its course
  From thrifty urns and an unfruitful source;
  Yet sung so often in poetic lays,
  With scorn the Danube and the Nile surveys;
  So high the deathless Muse exalts her theme!
  Such was the Boin, a poor inglorious stream,
  That in Hibernian vales obscurely stray'd,
  And unobserv'd in wild meanders play'd;
  'Till by your lines and Nassau's sword renown'd,
  Its rising billows through the world resound,
  Where-e'er the hero's godlike acts can pierce,
  Or where the fame of an immortal verse.
  Oh could the Muse my ravish'd breast inspire
  With warmth like yours, and raise an equal fire,
  Unnumber'd beauties in my verse should shine,
  And Virgil's Italy should yield to mine!
  See how the golden groves around me smile,
  That shun the coast of Britain's stormy isle,
  Or when transplanted and preserv'd with care,
  Curse the cold clime, and starve in northern air.
  Here kindly warmth their mounting juice ferments
  To nobler tastes, and more exalted scents:
  Ev'n the rough rocks with tender myrtle bloom,
  And trodden weeds send out a rich perfume.
  Bear me, some god, to Baia's gentle seats,
  Or cover me in Umbria's green retreats;
  Where western gales eternally reside,
  And all the seasons lavish all their pride:
  Blossoms, and fruits, and flowers together rise,
  And the whole year in gay confusion lies.
  Immortal glories in my mind revive,
  And in my soul a thousand passions strive,
  When Rome's exalted beauties I descry
  Magnificent in piles of ruin lie.
  An amphitheatre's amazing height
  Here fills my eye with terror and delight,
  That on its public shows unpeopled Rome,
  And held uncrowded nations in its womb:
  Here pillars rough with sculpture pierce the skies:
  And here the proud triumphal arches rise,
  Where the old Romans deathless acts display'd,
  Their base degenerate progeny upbraid:
  Whole rivers here forsake the fields below,
  And wond'ring at their height through airy channels flow.
  Still to new scenes my wand'ring Muse retires,
  And the dumb show of breathing rocks admires;
  Where the smooth chisel all its force has shown,
  And soften'd into flesh the rugged stone.
  In solemn silence, a majestic band,
  Heroes, and gods, the Roman consuls stand,
  Stern tyrants, whom their cruelties renown,
  And emperors in Parian marble frown;
  While the bright dames, to whom they humbly su'd,
  Still show the charms that their proud hea
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Joseph Addison

Joseph Addison was an English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician. more…

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