The Child's Funeral

William Cullen Bryant

Fair is thy site, Sorrento, green thy shore,
  Black crags behind thee pierce the clear blue skies;
The sea, whose borderers ruled the world of yore,
  As clear and bluer still before thee lies.

Vesuvius smokes in sight, whose fount of fire,
  Outgushing, drowned the cities on his steeps;
And murmuring Naples, spire o'ertopping spire,
  Sits on the slope beyond where Virgil sleeps.

Here doth the earth, with flowers of every hue,
  Heap her green breast when April suns are bright,
Flowers of the morning-red, or ocean-blue,
  Or like the mountain frost of silvery white.

Currents of fragrance, from the orange tree,
  And sward of violets, breathing to and fro,
Mingle, and wandering out upon the sea,
  Refresh the idle boatsman where they blow.

Yet even here, as under harsher climes,
  Tears for the loved and early lost are shed;
That soft air saddens with the funeral chimes,
  Those shining flowers are gathered for the dead.

Here once a child, a smiling playful one,
  All the day long caressing and caressed,
Died when its little tongue had just begun
  To lisp the names of those it loved the best.

The father strove his struggling grief to quell,
  The mother wept as mothers use to weep,
Two little sisters wearied them to tell
  When their dear Carlo would awake from sleep.

Within an inner room his couch they spread,
  His funeral couch; with mingled grief and love,
They laid a crown of roses on his head,
  And murmured, "Brighter is his crown above."

They scattered round him, on the snowy sheet,
  Laburnum's strings of sunny-coloured gems,
Sad hyacinths, and violets dim and sweet,
  And orange blossoms on their dark green stems.

And now the hour is come, the priest is there;
  Torches are lit and bells are tolled; they go,
With solemn rites of blessing and of prayer,
  To lay the little corpse in earth below.

The door is opened; hark! that quick glad cry;
  Carlo has waked, has waked, and is at play;
The little sisters laugh and leap, and try
  To climb the bed on which the infant lay.

And there he sits alone, and gayly shakes
  In his full hands, the blossoms red and white,
And smiles with winking eyes, like one who wakes
  From long deep slumbers at the morning light.