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Arches on arches! as it were that Rome,
Collecting the chief trophies of her line,
Would build up all her triumphs in one dome,
Her Coliseum stands; the moonbeams shine
As 't were its natural torches, for divine
Should be the light which streams here, to illume
This long-explored but still exhaustless mine
Of contemplation; and the azure gloom
Of an Italian night, where the deep skies assume
Hues which have words, and speak to ye of heaven,
Floats o'er this vast and wondrous monument,
And shadows forth its glory. There is given
Unto the things of earth, which time hath bent,
A spirit's feeling, and where he hath leant
His hand, but broke his scythe, there is a power
And magic in the ruin'd battlement,
For which the palace of the present hour
Must yield its pomp, and wait till ages are its dower.
Oh time! the beautifier of the dead,
Adorner of the ruin, comforter,
And only healer when the heart hath bled-
Time! the corrector where our judgments err,
The test of truth, love, —sole philosopher,
For all beside are sophists, from thy thrift,
Which never loses though it doth defer-
Time, the avenger! unto thee I lift
My hands, and eyes, and heart, and crave of thee a gift:
Amidst this wreck, where thou hast made a shrine
And temple more divinely desolate,
Among thy mightier offerings here are mine,
Ruins of years—though few, yet full of fate:-
If thou hast ever seen me too elate,
Hear me pot; but if calmly I have borne
Good, and reserved my pride against the hate
Which shall not whelm ine, let me not have worn
This iron in my soul in vain-shall they not mourn?
And thou, who never yet of human wrong
Lost the unbalanced scale, great Nemesis ! **
Here, where the ancient paid thee homage long-
Thou, who didst call the Furies from the abyss,
And round Orestes bade them howl and hiss
For that unnatural retribution-just,
Had it but been from hands less near--in this
Thy former realm, I call thee from the dust!
Dost thou not hear my heart?--Awake! thou shalt, and must.
It is not that I may not have incurr'd
For my ancestral faults or mine the wound
I bleed withal, and, had it been conferr'd
With a just weapon, it bad flow'd unbound;
But now my blood shall not sink in the ground;
To thee I do devote it-thou shalt take
The vengeance, which shall
yet be sought and found, Which if I have not taken for the sakeBut let that pass--I sleep, but thou shalt yet awake.
And if my voice break forth, 't is not that now
I shrink from what is suffer'd: let him speak
Who hath beheld decline upon my brow,
Or seen my mind's convulsion leave it weak;
But in this page a record will I seek.
Not in the air shall these my words disperse,
Though I be ashes; a far hour shall wreak
The deep prophetic fulness of this verse,
And pile on human heads the mountain of my curse!
That curse shall be forgiveness.—Have I notHear me, my mother earth! behold it, Heaven! Have I not had to wrestle with
Have I not suffer'd things to be forgiven?
Have I not had my brain sear’d, my heart riven,
Hopes sapp'd, name blighted, life's life lied away?
And only not to desperation driven,
Because not altogether of such clay
As rots into the souls of those whom I survey.
From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy
Have I not seen what human things could do!
From the loud roar of foaming calumny
To the small whisper of the as paltry few,
And subtler venom of the reptile crew,
The Janus glance of whose significant eye,
Learning to lie with silence, would seem true,
And without utterance, save the shrug or sigh, Deal round to happy fools its speechless obloquy.
But I have lived, and have not lived in vain :
My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire,
And my frame perish even in conquering pain,
But there is that within me which shall tire
Torture and time, and breathe when I expire;
Something unearthly, which they deem not of,
Like the remernber'd tone of a mute lyre,
Shall on their soften'd spirits sink, and move
In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of love.
The seal is set.-Now welcome, thou dread power!
Nameless, yet thus omnipotent, which here
Walk’st in the shadow of the midnight hour
With a deep awe, yet all distinct from fear;
Thy haunts are ever where the dead walls rear
Their ivy mantles, and the solemn scene
Derives from thee a sense so deep and clear
That we become a part of what has been,
And grow unto the spot, all-seeing but unseen.
And here the buzz of eager nations ran,
In murmur'd pity, or loud-roar'd applause,
As man was slaughter'd by his fellow man.
And wherefore slaughter’d? wherefore, but because
Such were the bloody circus' genial laws,
And the imperial pleasure. Wherefore not?
What matters where we fall to fill the maws
Of worms--on battle-plains or listed spot?
Both are but theatres where the chief actors rot.
I see before me the gladiator lie: 59
He leans upon his hand— his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his droop'd head sinks gradually low-
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder-shower; and now
The arena swims around him—he is gone,
Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hail'd the wretch who won.
He heard it, but he heeded not-his
Were with his heart, and that was far away;
lle reck'd not of the life he lost nor prize,
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay,
There were his young barbarians all at play,
There was their Dacian mother-he, their sire,
Butcher'd to make a Roman holiday-
All this rush'd with his blood-shall he expire
And unavenged?-Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire!
But here, where murder breathed her bloody steam;
And here, where buzzing nations choked the ways,
And roar'd or murmur'd like a mountain-stream
Dashing or winding as its torrent strays;
Here, where the Roman million's blame or praise
Was death or life, the playthings of a crowd,
voice sounds much- and fall the stars' faint rays On the arena void-seats crush'd--walls bow'dAnd galleries, where my steps seem echoes strangely loud.