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The beaks of those old galleys, destined still 226
To brave the brunt of war — at last to know
A calm far worse, a silence as in death?
All spiritless; from that disastrous hour
When he, the bravest, gentlest of them all, 227
Scorning the chains he could not hope to break,
Fell on his sword !
Along the Sacred Way 22
Hither the triumph came, and, winding round
With acclamation, and the martial clang
Of instruments, and cars laden with spoil,
Stopped at the sacred stair that then appeared,
Then through the darkness broke, ample, star-bright,
As though it led to heaven. 'T was night; but now
A thousand torches, turning night to day, 230
Blazed, and the victor, springing from his seat,
Went up, and, kneeling as in fervent prayer,
Entered the Capitol. But what are they
Who at the foot withdraw, a mournful train
In fetters? And who, yet incredulous,
Now gazing wildly round, now on his sons,
On those so young, well pleased with all they see,
Staggers along, the last? — They are the fallen,
Those who were spared to grace the chariot-wheels;
And there they parted, where the road divides,
The victor and the vanquished - there withdrew;
He to the festal board, and they to die.
Well might the great, the mighty of the world, They who were wont to fare deliciously And war but for a kingdom more or less, Shrink back, nor from their thrones endure to look, To think that way! Well might they in their pomp
Humble themselves, and kneel and supplicate
To be delivered from a dream like this!
Here CINCINNATUS passed, his plough the while
Left in the furrow; and how many more,
Whose laurels fade not, who still walk the earth,
Consuls, Dictators, still in Curule state
Sit and decide; and, as of old in ROME,
Name but their names, set every heart on fire!
Here, in his bonds, he whom the phalanx saved not,233
The last on PHILIP'S throne; and the Numidian, 234
So soon to say, stript of his cumbrous robe,
Stript to the skin, and in his nakedness
Thrust under ground, "How cold this bath of yours !”
And thy proud queen, PALMYRA, through the sands 235
Pursued, o'ertaken on her dromedary;
Whose temples, palaces, a wondrous dream
That passes not away, for many a league
Illumine yet the desert. Some invoked
Death and escaped ; 234 the Egyptian, when her asp
Came from his covert under the green leaf; 25
And HANNIBAL himself; and she who said,
Taking the fatal cup between her hands, 238
" Tell him I would it had come yesterday ;
For then it had not been his nuptial gift.
Now all is changed ; and here, as in the wild,
The day is silent, dreary as the night;
None stirring, save the herdsman and his herd,
Savage alike; or they that would explore,
Discuss and learnedly; or they that come
(And there are many who have crossed the earth)
That they may give the hours to meditation,
And wander, often saying to themselves,
" This was the ROMAN FORUM!”
"WHENCE this delay ?”—“Along the crowded street
A funeral comes, and with unusual pomp.”
So I withdrew a little and stood still,
While it went by. “She died as she deserved,"
Said an Abatè, gathering up his cloak,
And with a shrug retreating as the tide
Flowed more and more. 6 But she was beautiful !'
Replied a soldier of the Pontiff's guard.
66 And innocent as beautiful!” exclaimed
A matron sitting in her stall, hung round
With garlands, holy pictures, and what not?
Her Alban grapes and Tusculan figs displayed
In rich profusion. From her heart she spoke ;
And I accosted her to hear her story.
“The stab," she cried, " was given in jealousy ;
But never fled a purer spirit to heaven,
As thou wilt say, or much my mind misleads,
When thou hast seen her face. Last night at dusk,
When on her way from vespers
none were near,
None save her serving-boy who knelt and wept,
But what could tears avail him, when she fell
Last night at dusk, the clock then striking nine,
Just by the fountain — that before the church,
The church she always used, St. Isidore's —
Alas ! I knew her from her earliest youth,
That excellent lady. Ever would she say,
Good-even, as she passed, and with a voice
Gentle as theirs in heaven! But now by fits
A dull and dismal noise assailed the ear,
A wail, a chant, louder and louder yet;
And now a strange fantastic troop appeared !
Thronging, they came — as from the shades below;
All of a ghostly white ! "O, say!” I cried,
"Do not the living here bury the dead ?
Do spirits come and fetch them? What are these,
That seem not of this world, and mock the day;
Each with a burning taper in his hand ?”.
" It is an ancient Brotherhood thou seest.
Such their apparel. Through the long, long line,
Look where thou wilt, no likeness of a man;
The living masked, the dead alone uncovered.
But mark.” -- And, lying on her funeral couch,
Like one asleep, her eyelids closed, her hands
Folded together on her modest breast,
As 't were her nightly posture, through the crowd
She came at last — and richly, gayly clad,
As for a birth-day feast ! But breathes she not?
A glow is on her cheek—and her lips move !
And now a smile is there — how heavenly sweet !
“O, no!” replied the dame, wiping her tears,
But with an accent less of grief than anger,
"No, she will never, never wake again!”
Death, when we meet the spectre in our walks,
As we did yesterday and shall to-morrow,
Soon grows familiar — like most other things,
Seen, not observed ; but in a foreign clime,
Changing his shape to something new and strange
(And through the world he changes as in sport,
Affect he greatness or humility),
Knocks at the heart. His form and fashion here
To me, I do confess, reflect a gloom,
A sadness round; yet one I would not lose;
Being in unison with all things else
In this, this land of shadows, where we live
More in past time than present, where the ground,
League beyond league, like one great cemetery,
Is covered o’er with mouldering monuments;
And, let the living wander where they will,
They cannot leave the footsteps of the dead.
Oft, where the burial-rite follows so fast
The agony, oft coming, nor from far,
Must a fond father meet his darling child
(Him who at parting climbed his knees and clung)
Clay-cold and wan, and to the bearers cry,
“Stand, I conjure ye !"
Seen thus destitute, What are the greatest? They must speak beyond A thousand homilies. When RAPHAEL went, His heavenly face the mirror of his mind, His mind a temple for all lovely things To flock to and inhabit — when he went, Wrapt in his sable cloak, the cloak he wore, To sleep beneath the venerable Dome,239 By those attended, who in life had loved, Had worshipped, following in his steps to Fame (’T was on an April day, when Nature smiles), All Rome was there. But, ere the march began, Ere to receive their charge the bearers came, Who had not sought him ? And when all beheld Him, where he lay, how changed from yesterday, Him in that hour cut off, and at his head His last great work ; 240 when, entering in, they looked Now on the dead, then on that masterpiece,241