In this week’s extract, Aurora celebrates the beauties of Florence.

19th century engraving of the Duomo and Campanile, Florence, Ita

19th century engraving of the Duomo and Campanile, Florence, Italy, photographed from a book titled ‘Italian Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil’ published in London ca. 1870. Copyright has expired on this artwork. Digitally restored.


I found a house at Florence on the hill
Of Bellosguardo. ‘Tis a tower which keeps
A post of double-observation o’er
That valley of Arno (holding as a hand
The outspread city,) straight toward Fiesole
And Mount Morello and the setting sun,
The Vallombrosan mountain opposite,
Which sunrise fills as full as crystal cups
Turned red to the brim because their wine is red.
No sun could die nor yet be born unseen
By dwellers at my villa:morn and eve
Were magnified before us in the pure
Illimitable space and pause of sky,
Intense as angels’ garments blanched with God,
Less blue than radiant. From the outer wall
Of the garden, drops the mystic floating grey
Of olive-trees, (with interruptions green
From maize and vine) until ’tis caught and torn
Upon the abrupt black line of cypresses
Which signs the way to Florence. Beautiful
The city lies along the ample vale,
Cathedral, tower and palace, piazza and street,
The river trailing like a silver cord
Through all, and curling loosely, both before
And after, over the whole stretch of land
Sown whitely up and down its opposite slopes
With farms and villas.

(Aurora Leigh, Book 7, ll. 515-41) 


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