Childe Harold's Pilgrimage: Canto 04. (0-99)
I. I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; A palace and a prison on each hand: I saw from out the wave her structures rise As from the stroke of the enchanter's wand: A thousand years their cloudy wings expand Around me, and a dying glory smiles O'er the far times when many a subject land Looked to the winged Lion's marble piles, Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles! II. She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean, Rising with her tiara of proud towers At airy distance, with majestic motion, A ruler of the waters and their powers: And such she was; her daughters had their dowers From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East Poured in her lap all gems in sparkling showers. In purple was she robed, and of her feast Monarchs partook, and deemed their dignity increased. III. In Venice, Tasso's echoes are no more, And silent rows the songless gondolier; Her palaces are crumbling to the shore, And music meets not always now the ear: Those days are gone—but beauty still is here. States fall, arts fade—but Nature doth not die, Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear, The pleasant place of all festivity, The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy! IV. But unto us she hath a spell beyond Her name in story, and her long array Of mighty shadows, whose dim forms despond Above the dogeless city's vanished sway; Ours is a trophy which will not decay With the Rialto; Shylock and the Moor, And Pierre, cannot be swept or worn away— The keystones of the arch! though all were o'er, For us repeopled were the solitary shore. V. The beings of the mind are not of clay; Essentially immortal, they create And multiply in us a brighter ray And more beloved existence: that which Fate Prohibits to dull life, in this our state Of mortal bondage, by these spirits supplied, First exiles, then replaces what we hate; Watering the heart whose early flowers have died, And with a fresher growth replenishing the void. VI. Such is the refuge of our youth and age, The first from Hope, the last from Vacancy; And this worn feeling peoples many a page, And, may be, that which grows beneath mine eye: Yet there are things whose strong reality Outshines our fairy-land; in shape and hues More beautiful than our fantastic sky, And the strange constellations which the Muse O'er her wild universe is skilful to diffuse: VII. I saw or dreamed of such,—but let them go— They came like truth, and disappeared like dreams; And whatsoe'er they were—are now but so; I could replace them if I would: still teems My mind with many a form which aptly seems Such as I sought for, and at moments found; Let these too go—for waking reason deems Such overweening phantasies unsound, And other voices speak, and other sights surround. VIII. I've taught me other tongues, and in strange eyes Have made me not a stranger; to the mind Which is itself, no changes bring surprise; Nor is it harsh to make, nor hard to find A country with—ay, or without mankind; Yet was I born where men are proud to be, Not without cause; and should I leave behind The inviolate island of the sage and free, And seek me out a home by a remoter sea, IX. Perhaps I loved it well: and should I lay My ashes in a soil which is not mine, My spirit shall resume it—if we may Unbodied choose a sanctuary. I twine My hopes of being remembered in my line With my land's language: if too fond and far These aspirations in their scope incline,— If my fame should be, as my fortunes are, Of hasty growth and blight, and dull Oblivion bar. X. My name from out the temple where the dead Are honoured by the nations—let it be— And light the laurels on a loftier head! And be the Spartan's epitaph on me— 'Sparta hath many a worthier son than he.' Meantime I seek no sympathies, nor need; The thorns which I have reaped are of the tree I planted,—they have torn me, and I bleed: I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed. XI. The spouseless Adriatic mourns her lord; And, annual marriage now no more renewed, The Bucentaur lies rotting unrestored, Neglected garment of her widowhood! St. Mark yet sees his lion where he stood Stand, but in mockery of his withered power, Over the proud place where an Emperor sued, And monarchs gazed and envied in the hour When Venice was a queen with an unequalled dower. XII. The Suabian sued, and now the Austrian reigns— An Emperor tramples where an Emperor knelt; Kingdoms are shrunk to provinces, and chains Clank over sceptred cities; nations melt From power's high pinnacle, when they have felt The sunshine for a while, and downward go Like lauwine loosened from the mountain's belt: Oh for one hour of blind old Dandolo! The octogenarian chief, Byzantium's conquering foe. XIII. Before St. Mark still glow his steeds of brass, Their gilded collars glittering in the sun; But is not Doria's menace come to pass? Are they not BRIDLED?—Venice, lost and won, Her thirteen hundred years of freedom done, Sinks, like a seaweed, into whence she rose! Better be whelmed beneath the waves, and shun, Even in Destruction's depth, her foreign foes, From whom submission wrings an infamous repose. XIV. In youth she was all glory,—a new Tyre,— Her very byword sprung from victory, The 'Planter of the Lion,' which through fire And blood she bore o'er subject earth and sea; Though making many slaves, herself still free And Europe's bulwark 'gainst the Ottomite: Witness Troy's rival, Candia! Vouch it, ye Immortal waves that saw Lepanto's fight! For ye are names no time nor tyranny can blight. XV. Statues of glass—all shivered—the long file Of her dead doges are declined to dust; But where they dwelt, the vast and sumptuous pile Bespeaks the pageant of their splendid trust; Their sceptre broken, and their sword in rust, Have yielded to the stranger: empty halls, Thin streets, and foreign aspects, such as must Too oft remind her who and what enthrals, Have flung a desolate cloud o'er Venice' lovely walls. XVI. When Athens' armies fell at Syracuse, And fettered thousands bore the yoke of war, Redemption rose up in the Attic Muse, Her voice their only ransom from afar: See! as they chant the tragic hymn, the car Of the o'ermastered victor stops, the reins Fall from his hands—his idle scimitar Starts from its belt—he rends his captive's chains, And bids him thank the bard for freedom and his strains. XVII. Thus, Venice, if no stronger claim were thine, Were all thy proud historic deeds forgot, Thy choral memory of the bard divine, Thy love of Tasso, should have cut the knot Which ties thee to thy tyrants; and thy lot Is shameful to the nations,—most of all, Albion! to thee: the Ocean Queen should not Abandon Ocean's children; in the fall Of Venice think of thine, despite thy watery wall. XVIII. I loved her from my boyhood: she to me Was as a fairy city of the heart, Rising like water-columns from the sea, Of joy the sojourn, and of wealth the mart And Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakspeare's art, Had stamped her image in me, and e'en so, Although I found her thus, we did not part, Perchance e'en dearer in her day of woe, Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show. XIX. I can repeople with the past—and of The present there is still for eye and thought, And meditation chastened down, enough; And more, it may be, than I hoped or sought; And of the happiest moments which were wrought Within the web of my existence, some From thee, fair Venice! have their colours caught: There are some feelings Time cannot benumb, Nor torture shake, or mine would now be cold and dumb. XX. But from their nature will the tannen grow Loftiest on loftiest and least sheltered rocks, Rooted in barrenness, where nought below Of soil supports them 'gainst the Alpine shocks Of eddying storms; yet springs the trunk, and mocks The howling tempest, till its height and frame Are worthy of the mountains from whose blocks Of bleak, grey granite, into life it came, And grew a giant tree;—the mind may grow the same. XXI. Existence may be borne, and the deep root Of life and sufferance make its firm abode In bare and desolate bosoms: mute The camel labours with the heaviest load, And the wolf dies in silence. Not bestowed In vain should such examples be; if they, Things of ignoble or of savage mood, Endure and shrink not, we of nobler clay May temper it to bear,—it is but for a day. XXII. All suffering doth destroy, or is destroyed, Even by the sufferer; and, in each event, Ends:—Some, with hope replenished and rebuoyed, Return to whence they came—with like intent, And weave their web again; some, bowed and bent, Wax grey and ghastly, withering ere their time, And perish with the reed on which they leant; Some seek devotion, toil, war, good or crime, According as their souls were formed to sink or climb. XXIII. But ever and anon of griefs subdued There comes a token like a scorpion's sting, Scarce seen, but with fresh bitterness imbued; And slight withal may be the things which bring Back on the heart the weight which it would fling Aside for ever: it may be a sound— A tone of music—summer's eve—or spring— A flower—the wind—the ocean—which shall wound, Striking the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound. XXIV. And how and why we know not, nor can trace Home to its cloud this lightning of the mind, But feel the shock renewed, nor can efface The blight and blackening which it leaves behind, Which out of things familiar, undesigned, When least we deem of such, calls up to view The spectres whom no exorcism can bind,— The cold—the changed—perchance the dead—anew, The mourned, the loved, the lost—too many!—yet how few! XXV. But my soul wanders; I demand it back To meditate amongst decay, and stand A ruin amidst ruins; there to track Fall'n states and buried greatness, o'er a land Which WAS the mightiest in its old command, And IS the loveliest, and must ever be The master-mould of Nature's heavenly hand, Wherein were cast the heroic and the free, The beautiful, the brave—the lords of earth and sea. XXVI. The commonwealth of kings, the men of Rome! And even since, and now, fair Italy! Thou art the garden of the world, the home Of all Art yields, and Nature can decree; Even in thy desert, what is like to thee? Thy very weeds are beautiful, thy waste More rich than other climes' fertility; Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin graced With an immaculate charm which cannot be defaced. XXVII. The moon is up, and yet it is not night— Sunset divides the sky with her—a sea Of glory streams along the Alpine height Of blue Friuli's mountains; Heaven is free From clouds, but of all colours seems to be— Melted to one vast Iris of the West, Where the day joins the past eternity; While, on the other hand, meek Dian's crest Floats through the azure air—an island of the blest! XXVIII. A single star is at her side, and reigns With her o'er half the lovely heaven; but still Yon sunny sea heaves brightly, and remains Rolled o'er the peak of the far Rhaetian hill, As Day and Night contending were, until Nature reclaimed her order:—gently flows The deep-dyed Brenta, where their hues instil The odorous purple of a new-born rose, Which streams upon her stream, and glassed within it glows, XXIX. Filled with the face of heaven, which, from afar, Comes down upon the waters; all its hues, From the rich sunset to the rising star, Their magical variety diffuse: And now they change; a paler shadow strews Its mantle o'er the mountains; parting day Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues With a new colour as it gasps away, The last still loveliest, till—'tis gone—and all is grey. XXX. There is a tomb in Arqua;—reared in air, Pillared in their sarcophagus, repose The bones of Laura's lover: here repair Many familiar with his well-sung woes, The pilgrims of his genius. He arose To raise a language, and his land reclaim From the dull yoke of her barbaric foes: Watering the tree which bears his lady's name With his melodious tears, he gave himself to fame. XXXI. They keep his dust in Arqua, where he died; The mountain-village where his latter days Went down the vale of years; and 'tis their pride— An honest pride—and let it be their praise, To offer to the passing stranger's gaze His mansion and his sepulchre; both plain And venerably simple, such as raise A feeling more accordant with his strain, Than if a pyramid formed his monumental fane. XXXII. And the soft quiet hamlet where he dwelt Is one of that complexion which seems made For those who their mortality have felt, And sought a refuge from their hopes decayed In the deep umbrage of a green hill's shade, Which shows a distant prospect far away Of busy cities, now in vain displayed, For they can lure no further; and the ray Of a bright sun can make sufficient holiday. XXXIII. Developing the mountains, leaves, and flowers And shining in the brawling brook, where-by, Clear as its current, glide the sauntering hours With a calm languor, which, though to the eye Idlesse it seem, hath its morality, If from society we learn to live, 'Tis solitude should teach us how to die; It hath no flatterers; vanity can give No hollow aid; alone—man with his God must strive: XXXIV. Or, it may be, with demons, who impair The strength of better thoughts, and seek their prey In melancholy bosoms, such as were Of moody texture from their earliest day, And loved to dwell in darkness and dismay, Deeming themselves predestined to a doom Which is not of the pangs that pass away; Making the sun like blood, the earth a tomb, The tomb a hell, and hell itself a murkier gloom. XXXV. Ferrara! in thy wide and grass-grown streets, Whose symmetry was not for solitude, There seems as 'twere a curse upon the seat's Of former sovereigns, and the antique brood Of Este, which for many an age made good Its strength within thy walls, and was of yore Patron or tyrant, as the changing mood Of petty power impelled, of those who wore The wreath which Dante's brow alone had worn before. XXXVI. And Tasso is their glory and their shame. Hark to his strain! and then survey his cell! And see how dearly earned Torquato's fame, And where Alfonso bade his poet dwell. The miserable despot could not quell The insulted mind he sought to quench, and blend With the surrounding maniacs, in the hell Where he had plunged it. Glory without end Scattered the clouds away—and on that name attend XXXVII. The tears and praises of all time, while thine Would rot in its oblivion—in the sink Of worthless dust, which from thy boasted line Is shaken into nothing; but the link Thou formest in his fortunes bids us think Of thy poor malice, naming thee with scorn— Alfonso! how thy ducal pageants shrink From thee! if in another station born, Scarce fit to be the slave of him thou mad'st to mourn: XXXVIII. THOU! formed to eat, and be despised, and die, Even as the beasts that perish, save that thou Hadst a more splendid trough, and wider sty: HE! with a glory round his furrowed brow, Which emanated then, and dazzles now In face of all his foes, the Cruscan quire, And Boileau, whose rash envy could allow No strain which shamed his country's creaking lyre, That whetstone of the teeth—monotony in wire! XXXIX. Peace to Torquato's injured shade! 'twas his In life and death to be the mark where Wrong Aimed with their poisoned arrows—but to miss. Oh, victor unsurpassed in modern song! Each year brings forth its millions; but how long The tide of generations shall roll on, And not the whole combined and countless throng Compose a mind like thine? Though all in one Condensed their scattered rays, they would not form a sun. XL. Great as thou art, yet paralleled by those Thy countrymen, before thee born to shine, The bards of Hell and Chivalry: first rose The Tuscan father's comedy divine; Then, not unequal to the Florentine, The Southern Scott, the minstrel who called forth A new creation with his magic line, And, like the Ariosto of the North, Sang ladye-love and war, romance and knightly worth. XLI. The lightning rent from Ariosto's bust The iron crown of laurel's mimicked leaves; Nor was the ominous element unjust, For the true laurel-wreath which Glory weaves Is of the tree no bolt of thunder cleaves, And the false semblance but disgraced his brow; Yet still, if fondly Superstition grieves, Know that the lightning sanctifies below Whate'er it strikes;—yon head is doubly sacred now. XLII. Italia! O Italia! thou who hast The fatal gift of beauty, which became A funeral dower of present woes and past, On thy sweet brow is sorrow ploughed by shame, And annals graved in characters of flame. Oh God! that thou wert in thy nakedness Less lovely or more powerful, and couldst claim Thy right, and awe the robbers back, who press To shed thy blood, and drink the tears of thy distress; XLIII. Then mightst thou more appal; or, less desired, Be homely and be peaceful, undeplored For thy destructive charms; then, still untired, Would not be seen the armed torrents poured Down the deep Alps; nor would the hostile horde Of many-nationed spoilers from the Po Quaff blood and water; nor the stranger's sword Be thy sad weapon of defence, and so, Victor or vanquished, thou the slave of friend or foe. XLIV. Wandering in youth, I traced the path of him, The Roman friend of Rome's least mortal mind, The friend of Tully: as my bark did skim The bright blue waters with a fanning wind, Came Megara before me, and behind AEgina lay, Piraeus on the right, And Corinth on the left; I lay reclined Along the prow, and saw all these unite In ruin, even as he had seen the desolate sight; XLV. For time hath not rebuilt them, but upreared Barbaric dwellings on their shattered site, Which only make more mourned and more endeared The few last rays of their far-scattered light, And the crushed relics of their vanished might. The Roman saw these tombs in his own age, These sepulchres of cities, which excite Sad wonder, and his yet surviving page The moral lesson bears, drawn from such pilgrimage. XLVI. That page is now before me, and on mine HIS country's ruin added to the mass Of perished states he mourned in their decline, And I in desolation: all that WAS Of then destruction IS; and now, alas! Rome—Rome imperial, bows her to the storm, In the same dust and blackness, and we pass The skeleton of her Titanic form, Wrecks of another world, whose ashes still are warm. XLVII. Yet, Italy! through every other land Thy wrongs should ring, and shall, from side to side; Mother of Arts! as once of Arms; thy hand Was then our Guardian, and is still our guide; Parent of our religion! whom the wide Nations have knelt to for the keys of heaven! Europe, repentant of her parricide, Shall yet redeem thee, and, all backward driven, Roll the barbarian tide, and sue to be forgiven. XLVIII. But Arno wins us to the fair white walls, Where the Etrurian Athens claims and keeps A softer feeling for her fairy halls. Girt by her theatre of hills, she reaps Her corn, and wine, and oil, and Plenty leaps To laughing life, with her redundant horn. Along the banks where smiling Arno sweeps, Was modern Luxury of Commerce born, And buried Learning rose, redeemed to a new morn. XLIX. There, too, the goddess loves in stone, and fills The air around with beauty; we inhale The ambrosial aspect, which, beheld, instils Part of its immortality; the veil Of heaven is half undrawn; within the pale We stand, and in that form and face behold What Mind can make, when Nature's self would fail; And to the fond idolaters of old Envy the innate flash which such a soul could mould: L. We gaze and turn away, and know not where, Dazzled and drunk with beauty, till the heart Reels with its fulness; there—for ever there— Chained to the chariot of triumphal Art, We stand as captives, and would not depart. Away!—there need no words, nor terms precise, The paltry jargon of the marble mart, Where Pedantry gulls Folly—we have eyes: Blood, pulse, and breast, confirm the Dardan Shepherd's prize. LI. Appearedst thou not to Paris in this guise? Or to more deeply blest Anchises? or, In all thy perfect goddess-ship, when lies Before thee thy own vanquished Lord of War? And gazing in thy face as toward a star, Laid on thy lap, his eyes to thee upturn, Feeding on thy sweet cheek! while thy lips are With lava kisses melting while they burn, Showered on his eyelids, brow, and mouth, as from an urn! LII. Glowing, and circumfused in speechless love, Their full divinity inadequate That feeling to express, or to improve, The gods become as mortals, and man's fate Has moments like their brightest! but the weight Of earth recoils upon us;—let it go! We can recall such visions, and create From what has been, or might be, things which grow, Into thy statue's form, and look like gods below. LIII. I leave to learned fingers, and wise hands, The artist and his ape, to teach and tell How well his connoisseurship understands The graceful bend, and the voluptuous swell: Let these describe the undescribable: I would not their vile breath should crisp the stream Wherein that image shall for ever dwell; The unruffled mirror of the loveliest dream That ever left the sky on the deep soul to beam. LIV. In Santa Croce's holy precincts lie Ashes which make it holier, dust which is E'en in itself an immortality, Though there were nothing save the past, and this The particle of those sublimities Which have relapsed to chaos:—here repose Angelo's, Alfieri's bones, and his, The starry Galileo, with his woes; Here Machiavelli's earth returned to whence it rose. LV. These are four minds, which, like the elements, Might furnish forth creation:—Italy! Time, which hath wronged thee with ten thousand rents Of thine imperial garment, shall deny, And hath denied, to every other sky, Spirits which soar from ruin:—thy decay Is still impregnate with divinity, Which gilds it with revivifying ray; Such as the great of yore, Canova is to-day. LVI. But where repose the all Etruscan three— Dante, and Petrarch, and, scarce less than they, The Bard of Prose, creative spirit! he Of the Hundred Tales of love—where did they lay Their bones, distinguished from our common clay In death as life? Are they resolved to dust, And have their country's marbles nought to say? Could not her quarries furnish forth one bust? Did they not to her breast their filial earth entrust? LVII. Ungrateful Florence! Dante sleeps afar, Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore; Thy factions, in their worse than civil war, Proscribed the bard whose name for evermore Their children's children would in vain adore With the remorse of ages; and the crown Which Petrarch's laureate brow supremely wore, Upon a far and foreign soil had grown, His life, his fame, his grave, though rifled—not thine own. LVIII. Boccaccio to his parent earth bequeathed His dust,—and lies it not her great among, With many a sweet and solemn requiem breathed O'er him who formed the Tuscan's siren tongue? That music in itself, whose sounds are song, The poetry of speech? No;—even his tomb Uptorn, must bear the hyaena bigots' wrong, No more amidst the meaner dead find room, Nor claim a passing sigh, because it told for WHOM? LIX. And Santa Croce wants their mighty dust; Yet for this want more noted, as of yore The Caesar's pageant, shorn of Brutus' bust, Did but of Rome's best son remind her more: Happier Ravenna! on thy hoary shore, Fortress of falling empire! honoured sleeps The immortal exile;—Arqua, too, her store Of tuneful relics proudly claims and keeps, While Florence vainly begs her banished dead, and weeps. LX. What is her pyramid of precious stones? Of porphyry, jasper, agate, and all hues Of gem and marble, to encrust the bones Of merchant-dukes? the momentary dews Which, sparkling to the twilight stars, infuse Freshness in the green turf that wraps the dead, Whose names are mausoleums of the Muse, Are gently prest with far more reverent tread Than ever paced the slab which paves the princely head. LXI. There be more things to greet the heart and eyes In Arno's dome of Art's most princely shrine, Where Sculpture with her rainbow sister vies; There be more marvels yet—but not for mine; For I have been accustomed to entwine My thoughts with Nature rather in the fields Than Art in galleries: though a work divine Calls for my spirit's homage, yet it yields Less than it feels, because the weapon which it wields LXII. Is of another temper, and I roam By Thrasimene's lake, in the defiles Fatal to Roman rashness, more at home; For there the Carthaginian's warlike wiles Come back before me, as his skill beguiles The host between the mountains and the shore, Where Courage falls in her despairing files, And torrents, swoll'n to rivers with their gore, Reek through the sultry plain, with legions scattered o'er, LXIII. Like to a forest felled by mountain winds; And such the storm of battle on this day, And such the frenzy, whose convulsion blinds To all save carnage, that, beneath the fray, An earthquake reeled unheededly away! None felt stern Nature rocking at his feet, And yawning forth a grave for those who lay Upon their bucklers for a winding-sheet; Such is the absorbing hate when warring nations meet. LXIV. The Earth to them was as a rolling bark Which bore them to Eternity; they saw The Ocean round, but had no time to mark The motions of their vessel: Nature's law, In them suspended, recked not of the awe Which reigns when mountains tremble, and the birds Plunge in the clouds for refuge, and withdraw From their down-toppling nests; and bellowing herds Stumble o'er heaving plains, and man's dread hath no words. LXV. Far other scene is Thrasimene now; Her lake a sheet of silver, and her plain Rent by no ravage save the gentle plough; Her aged trees rise thick as once the slain Lay where their roots are; but a brook hath ta'en— A little rill of scanty stream and bed— A name of blood from that day's sanguine rain; And Sanguinetto tells ye where the dead Made the earth wet, and turned the unwilling waters red. LXVI. But thou, Clitumnus! in thy sweetest wave Of the most living crystal that was e'er The haunt of river nymph, to gaze and lave Her limbs where nothing hid them, thou dost rear Thy grassy banks whereon the milk-white steer Grazes; the purest god of gentle waters! And most serene of aspect, and most clear: Surely that stream was unprofaned by slaughters, A mirror and a bath for Beauty's youngest daughters! LXVII. And on thy happy shore a temple still, Of small and delicate proportion, keeps, Upon a mild declivity of hill, Its memory of thee; beneath it sweeps Thy current's calmness; oft from out it leaps The finny darter with the glittering scales, Who dwells and revels in thy glassy deeps; While, chance, some scattered water-lily sails Down where the shallower wave still tells its bubbling tales. LXVIII. Pass not unblest the genius of the place! If through the air a zephyr more serene Win to the brow, 'tis his; and if ye trace Along his margin a more eloquent green, If on the heart the freshness of the scene Sprinkle its coolness, and from the dry dust Of weary life a moment lave it clean With Nature's baptism,—'tis to him ye must Pay orisons for this suspension of disgust. LXIX. The roar of waters!—from the headlong height Velino cleaves the wave-worn precipice; The fall of waters! rapid as the light The flashing mass foams shaking the abyss; The hell of waters! where they howl and hiss, And boil in endless torture; while the sweat Of their great agony, wrung out from this Their Phlegethon, curls round the rocks of jet That gird the gulf around, in pitiless horror set, LXX. And mounts in spray the skies, and thence again Returns in an unceasing shower, which round, With its unemptied cloud of gentle rain, Is an eternal April to the ground, Making it all one emerald. How profound The gulf! and how the giant element From rock to rock leaps with delirious bound, Crushing the cliffs, which, downward worn and rent With his fierce footsteps, yield in chasms a fearful vent LXXI. To the broad column which rolls on, and shows More like the fountain of an infant sea Torn from the womb of mountains by the throes Of a new world, than only thus to be Parent of rivers, which flow gushingly, With many windings through the vale:—Look back! Lo! where it comes like an eternity, As if to sweep down all things in its track, Charming the eye with dread,—a matchless cataract, LXXII. Horribly beautiful! but on the verge, From side to side, beneath the glittering morn, An Iris sits, amidst the infernal surge, Like Hope upon a deathbed, and, unworn Its steady dyes, while all around is torn By the distracted waters, bears serene Its brilliant hues with all their beams unshorn: Resembling, mid the torture of the scene, Love watching Madness with unalterable mien. LXXIII. Once more upon the woody Apennine, The infant Alps, which—had I not before Gazed on their mightier parents, where the pine Sits on more shaggy summits, and where roar The thundering lauwine—might be worshipped more; But I have seen the soaring Jungfrau rear Her never-trodden snow, and seen the hoar Glaciers of bleak Mont Blanc both far and near, And in Chimari heard the thunder-hills of fear, LXXIV. The Acroceraunian mountains of old name; And on Parnassus seen the eagles fly Like spirits of the spot, as 'twere for fame, For still they soared unutterably high: I've looked on Ida with a Trojan's eye; Athos, Olympus, AEtna, Atlas, made These hills seem things of lesser dignity, All, save the lone Soracte's height displayed, Not NOW in snow, which asks the lyric Roman's aid LXXV. For our remembrance, and from out the plain Heaves like a long-swept wave about to break, And on the curl hangs pausing: not in vain May he who will his recollections rake, And quote in classic raptures, and awake The hills with Latian echoes; I abhorred Too much, to conquer for the poet's sake, The drilled dull lesson, forced down word by word In my repugnant youth, with pleasure to record LXXVI. Aught that recalls the daily drug which turned My sickening memory; and, though Time hath taught My mind to meditate what then it learned, Yet such the fixed inveteracy wrought By the impatience of my early thought, That, with the freshness wearing out before My mind could relish what it might have sought, If free to choose, I cannot now restore Its health; but what it then detested, still abhor. LXXVII. Then farewell, Horace; whom I hated so, Not for thy faults, but mine; it is a curse To understand, not feel, thy lyric flow, To comprehend, but never love thy verse, Although no deeper moralist rehearse Our little life, nor bard prescribe his art, Nor livelier satirist the conscience pierce, Awakening without wounding the touched heart, Yet fare thee well—upon Soracte's ridge we part. LXXVIII. O Rome! my country! city of the soul! The orphans of the heart must turn to thee, Lone mother of dead empires! and control In their shut breasts their petty misery. What are our woes and sufferance? Come and see The cypress, hear the owl, and plod your way O'er steps of broken thrones and temples, Ye! Whose agonies are evils of a day— A world is at our feet as fragile as our clay. LXXIX. The Niobe of nations! there she stands, Childless and crownless, in her voiceless woe; An empty urn within her withered hands, Whose holy dust was scattered long ago; The Scipios' tomb contains no ashes now; The very sepulchres lie tenantless Of their heroic dwellers: dost thou flow, Old Tiber! through a marble wilderness? Rise, with thy yellow waves, and mantle her distress! LXXX. The Goth, the Christian, Time, War, Flood, and Fire, Have dwelt upon the seven-hilled city's pride: She saw her glories star by star expire, And up the steep barbarian monarchs ride, Where the car climbed the Capitol; far and wide Temple and tower went down, nor left a site;— Chaos of ruins! who shall trace the void, O'er the dim fragments cast a lunar light, And say, 'Here was, or is,' where all is doubly night? LXXXI. The double night of ages, and of her, Night's daughter, Ignorance, hath wrapt, and wrap All round us; we but feel our way to err: The ocean hath its chart, the stars their map; And knowledge spreads them on her ample lap; But Rome is as the desert, where we steer Stumbling o'er recollections: now we clap Our hands, and cry, 'Eureka!' it is clear— When but some false mirage of ruin rises near. LXXXII. Alas, the lofty city! and alas The trebly hundred triumphs! and the day When Brutus made the dagger's edge surpass The conqueror's sword in bearing fame away! Alas for Tully's voice, and Virgil's lay, And Livy's pictured page! But these shall be Her resurrection; all beside—decay. Alas for Earth, for never shall we see That brightness in her eye she bore when Rome was free! LXXXIII. O thou, whose chariot rolled on Fortune's wheel, Triumphant Sylla! Thou, who didst subdue Thy country's foes ere thou wouldst pause to feel The wrath of thy own wrongs, or reap the due Of hoarded vengeance till thine eagles flew O'er prostrate Asia;—thou, who with thy frown Annihilated senates—Roman, too, With all thy vices, for thou didst lay down With an atoning smile a more than earthly crown— LXXXIV. The dictatorial wreath,—couldst thou divine To what would one day dwindle that which made Thee more than mortal? and that so supine By aught than Romans Rome should thus be laid? She who was named eternal, and arrayed Her warriors but to conquer—she who veiled Earth with her haughty shadow, and displayed Until the o'er-canopied horizon failed, Her rushing wings—Oh! she who was almighty hailed! LXXXV. Sylla was first of victors; but our own, The sagest of usurpers, Cromwell!—he Too swept off senates while he hewed the throne Down to a block—immortal rebel! See What crimes it costs to be a moment free And famous through all ages! But beneath His fate the moral lurks of destiny; His day of double victory and death Beheld him win two realms, and, happier, yield his breath. LXXXVI. The third of the same moon whose former course Had all but crowned him, on the self-same day Deposed him gently from his throne of force, And laid him with the earth's preceding clay. And showed not Fortune thus how fame and sway, And all we deem delightful, and consume Our souls to compass through each arduous way, Are in her eyes less happy than the tomb? Were they but so in man's, how different were his doom! LXXXVII. And thou, dread statue! yet existent in The austerest form of naked majesty, Thou who beheldest, mid the assassins' din, At thy bathed base the bloody Caesar lie, Folding his robe in dying dignity, An offering to thine altar from the queen Of gods and men, great Nemesis! did he die, And thou, too, perish, Pompey? have ye been Victors of countless kings, or puppets of a scene? LXXXVIII. And thou, the thunder-stricken nurse of Rome! She-wolf! whose brazen-imaged dugs impart The milk of conquest yet within the dome Where, as a monument of antique art, Thou standest:—Mother of the mighty heart, Which the great founder sucked from thy wild teat, Scorched by the Roman Jove's ethereal dart, And thy limbs blacked with lightning—dost thou yet Guard thine immortal cubs, nor thy fond charge forget? LXXXIX. Thou dost;—but all thy foster-babes are dead— The men of iron; and the world hath reared Cities from out their sepulchres: men bled In imitation of the things they feared, And fought and conquered, and the same course steered, At apish distance; but as yet none have, Nor could, the same supremacy have neared, Save one vain man, who is not in the grave, But, vanquished by himself, to his own slaves a slave, XC. The fool of false dominion—and a kind Of bastard Caesar, following him of old With steps unequal; for the Roman's mind Was modelled in a less terrestrial mould, With passions fiercer, yet a judgment cold, And an immortal instinct which redeemed The frailties of a heart so soft, yet bold. Alcides with the distaff now he seemed At Cleopatra's feet, and now himself he beamed. XCI. And came, and saw, and conquered. But the man Who would have tamed his eagles down to flee, Like a trained falcon, in the Gallic van, Which he, in sooth, long led to victory, With a deaf heart which never seemed to be A listener to itself, was strangely framed; With but one weakest weakness—vanity: Coquettish in ambition, still he aimed At what? Can he avouch, or answer what he claimed? XCII. And would be all or nothing—nor could wait For the sure grave to level him; few years Had fixed him with the Caesars in his fate, On whom we tread: For THIS the conqueror rears The arch of triumph! and for this the tears And blood of earth flow on as they have flowed, An universal deluge, which appears Without an ark for wretched man's abode, And ebbs but to reflow!—Renew thy rainbow, God! XCIII. What from this barren being do we reap? Our senses narrow, and our reason frail, Life short, and truth a gem which loves the deep, And all things weighed in custom's falsest scale; Opinion an omnipotence, whose veil Mantles the earth with darkness, until right And wrong are accidents, and men grow pale Lest their own judgments should become too bright, And their free thoughts be crimes, and earth have too much light. XCIV. And thus they plod in sluggish misery, Rotting from sire to son, and age to age, Proud of their trampled nature, and so die, Bequeathing their hereditary rage To the new race of inborn slaves, who wage War for their chains, and rather than be free, Bleed gladiator-like, and still engage Within the same arena where they see Their fellows fall before, like leaves of the same tree. XCV. I speak not of men's creeds—they rest between Man and his Maker—but of things allowed, Averred, and known,—and daily, hourly seen— The yoke that is upon us doubly bowed, And the intent of tyranny avowed, The edict of Earth's rulers, who are grown The apes of him who humbled once the proud, And shook them from their slumbers on the throne; Too glorious, were this all his mighty arm had done. XCVI. Can tyrants but by tyrants conquered be, And Freedom find no champion and no child Such as Columbia saw arise when she Sprung forth a Pallas, armed and undefiled? Or must such minds be nourished in the wild, Deep in the unpruned forest, midst the roar Of cataracts, where nursing nature smiled On infant Washington? Has Earth no more Such seeds within her breast, or Europe no such shore? XCVII. But France got drunk with blood to vomit crime, And fatal have her Saturnalia been To Freedom's cause, in every age and clime; Because the deadly days which we have seen, And vile Ambition, that built up between Man and his hopes an adamantine wall, And the base pageant last upon the scene, Are grown the pretext for the eternal thrall Which nips Life's tree, and dooms man's worst—his second fall. XCVIII. Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn, but flying, Streams like the thunder-storm AGAINST the wind; Thy trumpet-voice, though broken now and dying, The loudest still the tempest leaves behind; Thy tree hath lost its blossoms, and the rind, Chopped by the axe, looks rough and little worth, But the sap lasts,—and still the seed we find Sown deep, even in the bosom of the North; So shall a better spring less bitter fruit bring forth. XCIX. There is a stern round tower of other days, Firm as a fortress, with its fence of stone, Such as an army's baffled strength delays, Standing with half its battlements alone, And with two thousand years of ivy grown, The garland of eternity, where wave The green leaves over all by time o'erthrown: What was this tower of strength? within its cave What treasure lay so locked, so hid?—A woman's grave.