Celia Thaxter

Jun 29, 1835 - Aug 25, 1894


Little Assunta

by Celia Thaxter

Climbing the Pincian Hill's long slope,
When the west was bright with a crimson flame,
Her small face glowing with life and hope,
Little Assunta singing came.

From under ilex and olive-tree,
I gazed afar to St. Peter's dome;
Below, for a wondering world to see,
Lay the ruined glories of ancient Rome.

Sunset was sorrowing over the land,
O'er the splendid fountains that leaped in the air,
O'er crumbling tower and temple grand,
Palace, and column, and statue fair.

Little Assunta climbed the steep;
She was a lovely sight to see!
A tint in her olive cheek as deep
As the wild red Roman anemone.

Dark as midnight her braided hair
Over her fathomless eyes of brown;
And over her tresses the graceful square
Of snow-white linen was folded down.

Her quaint black bodice was laced behind;
Her apron was barred with dull rich hues;
Like the ripe pomegranate's tawny rind
Her little gown; and she wore no shoes.

But round her dusk throat's slender grace,
Large, smooth, coral beads were wound;
Like a flower herself in that solemn place
She seemed, just blooming out of the ground.

Up she came, as she walked on air!
I wandered downward with footsteps slow,
Till we met in the midst of the pathway fair,
Bathed in the mournful sunset's glow.

Buon giorno,1 Signora! she said;
Like a wild-bird's note was her greeting clear
Salve!2 I answered, my little maid;
But it is evening, and not good-morning, dear!

She stretched her hands with a smile like light,
As if she offered me, joyfully,
Some precious gift, with that aspect bright,
And Buon giorno! again sang she.

And so she passed me and upward pressed
Under ilex and olive-tree,
While the flush of sunset died in the west,
And the shadows of twilight folded me.

She carried the morn in her shining eyes!
Evening was mine, and the night to be;
But she stirred my heart with the dawn's surprise,
And left me a beautiful memory!

1 Good-morning, lady.

2 A term of salutation pronounced Salvé, and meaning Hail, or Welcome!


Poems For Children
Copyright 1883
Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston
Illustrator: Miss A. G. Plymptom