At this lone hour…


Villa Roccabruna (back in the day)

I’m taking a tour of Italian properties, one of which is CastaDiva in Lake Como. I arrived this afternoon to crisp air and a faint haze hovering around the undulant slopes that ring the beautiful body of water. I’ve been reading Percy Bysshe Shelley, who spent some time with Lord Byron in Lake Como one summer. The idea that two such great poetic minds would have come together in such a delicious setting has always fascinated me and I feel blessed as a writer to get to soak in the atmosphere, thinking for a moment that I’m channeling the energy that feeds the future of the poetic arts.

Shelley, who left England with his second wife Mary in 1818, was mesmerized by Italy and toured many of the country’s greatest cities. He wrote “Adonais” and “Prometheus Unbound” while traipsing from town to town before he drowned in the Bay of Spezia on July 8, 1822, aboard his boat “Don Juan” during a storm.  As I was flying into Milan today, skimming above the Alps in a plane, I began a poem, a work in progress, that felt incredibly good to write.

I’ll be penning more practical reports of my time here, of course, but for tonight (it is evening here), I’m sending you these heartfelt lines that soothed me after a non-stop filled-to-the-brim-with-activity trip to London to see Johnny Grey’s launch of his new kitchen furniture line at Decorex. Shelley made the same trek I made this morning, though he didn’t fly from London, of course. During his first spring in Italy, remarks John Lehmann, who wrote Shelley in Italy, “each step he took seemed to increase his enthusiasm, and also his power of description…He began by thinking of staying in Como, the first Italian scene to be celebrated in his poetry (in Rosalind and Helen).” In the poem, Shelley’s protagonist warns, “Remember, this is Italy,/ And we are exiles.” Oh, but to be exiled here!

Ode to the Alps

Mountains heave themselves

toward haze-capped shelves of azure,

the highest peaks aglow

as the sun effervesces the snow.

 

Green valleys lumber through gorges

punctuated by grids of sienna

as the edge of the range gives way

to a concerto of crags—

white billowing down the slopes

and heaped inside the tallest pockets,

mouths gaping to the sky.

 

Roadways are sliced into mountainsides—

snail-like wanderings as they zig and zag

toward the high terrain.

The sculpted fringe of the highest peaks

are stiff, fluted cuffs

on an ancient poet’s sleeves—

the frozen fabric deftly starched taut.

 

The plane of crops square-dance up to

the hulking walls of stone, some of which loom

above the horizon and into a dowsing of blue

holding in its grasp a ghostly moon.

In Lake Como the mountains hunker down,

their backs hunched against the beauty

of a gemmed lake they cannot take.

-Saxon Henry

If you want a rather contemporary take on the subject of Byron’s and Shelley’s days in Lake Como, Haunted Summer is a fun flick to watch for imagining what the two bad boys in their age might have been up to!

  • Jason Oliver Nixon

    Love this, Saxon! Sounds sublime… Enjoy!

  • Saxon Henry

    Thanks, sweets! Where are you traipsing to now? I so can’t keep up with your galavanting…you’ll be in fair Italy by week’s end, right?

  • Chamois

    Beautiful! Glad you got to have such a moment in what sounds like an incredibly hectic week! Thanks for sharing

  • Saxon Henry

    It’s so funny, Cham, but I love the design world and what I do so much that I don’t notice how exhausting it is until I sit down for a minute. I’ve been reading “Shelley in Italy” and Byron’s Don Juan and the mountains just provoked this pouring-out of language. I usually take long periods of time to work material but I thought “just put it out there and be more immediate!” Thanks for your interest; it means so much!

  • Susan

    Gorgeous! Wish we were raising a glass together to toast your lovely poem and the inspiring surroundings. Drink it in. xox

  • Saxon Henry

    Hey Bunny! Wish you were here…it’s beyond incredible. We must put a trip to Italy on our twin “bucket list”!

  • Jade

    The best part about Italy, and certainly the spot you’ve landed is that the source for inspiration is a tangible and timeless thing. So you tapped into your inner Saxon poet and we fully expect some warbling arias in the manner of Giuditta Pasta to be next. That is unless the Castadiva spa, saltroom, floating pool, 5-star food and terrace views with wine keep you too busy for bust-an-operatic move.

  • Saxon Henry

    Giuditta and her many whims will definitely be in the mix of my posts. Love that story! And, yes, I’m quite distracted by the charms of CastaDiva (said as I’m being poured a glass of Prosecco)!