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I know not why—but standing thus by thee,
It seems as if I had thine inmate known,
Thou tomb! and other days come back on me
With recollected music, though the tone
Is changed and solemn, like the cloudy groan
Of dying thunder on the distant wind;
Yet could I seat me by this ivied stone
Till I had bodied forth the heated mind
Forms from the floating wreck which ruin leaves behind;
And from the planks, far shatter'd o'er the rocks,
Built me a little bark of hope, once more
To battle with the ocean and the shocks
Of the loud breakers, and the ceaseless roar
Which rushes on the solitary shore
Where all lies founder'd that was ever dear:
But could I gather from the wave-worn store
Enough for my rude boat, where should I steer?
There woos no home, nor hope, nor life, save what is here.
Then let the winds howl on! their harmony
Shall henceforth be my music, and the night
The sound shall temper with the owlets' cry,
As I now hear them, in the fading light
Dim o'er the bird of darkness' native site,
Answering each other on the Palatine,
With their large eyes, all glistening gray and bright,
And sailing pinions.—Upon such a shrine
are our petty griefs?—let me not number mine.
Cypress and ivy, weed and wallflower grown
Matted and mass'd together, hillocks heap'd
On what were chambers, arch crush'd, column strown
In fragments, choked up vaults, and frescos steep'd
In subterranean damps, where the owl peep'd,
Deeming it midnight:-temples, baths, or halls ?
Pronounce who can; for all that learning reap'd
From her research hath been, that these are walls-
Behold the imperial mount! 't is thus the mighty falls.51
There is the moral of all human tales ; 52
'Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First freedom, and then glory—when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption,—barbarism at last.
And history, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page,—'t is better written here,
Where gorgeous tyranny had thus amassid
All treasures, all delights, that eye or ear,
Heart, soul,could seek, tongueask- Away with words!draw near,
Admire, exult--despise—laugh, weep,—for here
There is such matter for all feeling :-man!
Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear,
Ages and realms are crowded in this
This mountain, whose obliterated plan
The pyramid of empires pinnacled,
Of glory's gewgaws shining in the van
Till the sun's rays with added flame were fill'd!
Where are its golden roofs ? where those who dared to build ?
Tully was not so eloquent as thou,
Thou nameless column with the buried base!
What are the laurels of the Caesars' brow?
Crown me with ivy from his dwelling-place.
Whose arch or pillar meets me in the face,
Titus or Trajan's? No—'t is that of time:
Triumph, arch, pillar, all he doth displace
Scoffing; and apostolic statues climb
To crush the imperial urn, whose ashes slept sublime, 53
Buried in air, the deep blue sky of Rome,
And looking to the stars: they had contain'd
A spirit which with these would find a home,
The last of those who o'er the whole earth reign'd,
The Roman globe, for after none sustain’d,
But yielded back his conquests :-he was more
Than a mere Alexander, and, unstain'd
With household blood and wine, serenely wore
His sovereign virtues—still we Trajan's name adore. 4
Where is the rock of triumph, the high place
Where Rome embraced her heroes? where the steep
Tarpeian? fittest goal of treason's race,
The promontory whence the traitor's leap
Cured all ambition. Did the conquerors heap
Their spoils here? Yes; and in yon field below,
A thousand years of silenced factions sleep-
The forum, where the immortal accents glow,
And still the eloquent air breathes—burns with Cicero!
The field of freedom, faction, fame, and blood :
Here a proud people's passions were exhaled,
From the first hour of empire in the bud
To that when further worlds to conquer fail'd;
But long before had freedom's face been veil'd,
And anarchy assumed her attributes;
Till every lawless soldier who assail'd
Trod on the trembling senate's slavish mutes,
Or raised the venal voice of baser prostitutes.
Then turn we to her latest tribune's name,
From her ten thousand tyrants turn to thee,
Redeemer of dark centuries of shame--
The friend of Petrarch—hope of Italy,
Rienzi! last of Romans! While the tree 55
Of freedom's wither'd trunk puts forth a leaf,
Even for thy tomb a garland let it be-
The forum's champion, and the people's chief-
Her new-born Numa thou—with reign, alas! too brief.
Egeria! sweet creation of some heart 56
Which found no mortal resting-place so fair
As thine ideal breast; whate'er thou art
Or wert,-a young Aurora of the air,
The nympholepsy of some fond despair;
Or, it might be, a beauty of the earth,
Who found a more than common votary there
Too much adoring, whatsoe'er thy birth,
Thou wert a beautiful thought, and softly bodied forth.
The mosses of thy fountain still are sprinkled
With thine Elysian water-drops; the face
Of thy cave-guarded spring, with years
Reflects the meek-eyed genius of the place,
wild margin now no more erase Art's works; nor must the delicate waters sleep, Prison'd in marble, bubbling from the base
Of the cleft statue, with a gentle leap The rill runs o'er, and round, fern, flowers, and ivy, creep
Fantastically tangled; the green hills
Are clothed with early blossoms, through the grass
The quick-eyed lizard rustles, and the bills
Of summer-birds sing welcome as ye pass;
Flowers fresh in hue, and many in their class,
Implore the pausing step, and with their dyes
Dance in the soft breeze in a fairy mass,
The sweetness of the violet's deep blue eyes,
Kiss'd by the breath of heaven, seems colour'd by its skies.
Here didst thou dwell, in this enchanted cover,
Egeria! thy all heavenly bosom beating
For the far footsteps of thy mortal lover;
The purple midnight veil'd that mystic meeting
With her most starry canopy, and seating
Thyself by thine adorer, what befel?
This cave was surely shaped out for the greeting
Of an enamour'd goddess, and the cell
Haunted by holy love—the earliest oracle!