Page images

In combat with each other, and required
To fall with grace, with dignity -- to sink
While life is gushing, and the plaudits ring
Faint and yet fainter on their failing ear,
As models for the sculptor.

But their days,
Their hours are numbered. Hark! a yell, a shriek
A barbarous outcry, loud and louder yet,
That echoes from the mountains to the sea !
And mark, beneath us, like a bursting cloud,
The battle moving onward! Had they slain
All, that the earth should from her womb bring fort
New nations to destroy them? From the depth
Of forests, from what none had dared explore,
Regions of thrilling ice, as though in ice
Engendered, multiplied, they pour along,
Shaggy and huge! Host after host, they come;
The Goth, the Vandal; and again the Goth!

Once more we look, and all is still as night,
All desolate! Groves, temples, palaces,
Swept from the sight; and nothing visible,
Amid the sulphurous vapors that exhale
As from a land accurst, save here and there
An empty tomb, a fragment like the limb
Of some dismembered giant. In the midst
A city stands, her domes and turrets crowned
With many a cross; but they, that issue forth,
Wander like strangers 2 who had built among
The mighty ruins, silent, spiritless;
And on the road, where once we might have met
CÆSAR and Cato and men more than kings,
We meet, none else, the pilgrim and the beggar.




Those ancient men, what were they, who achieved
A sway beyond the greatest conquerors ;
Setting their feet upon the necks of kings,
And, through the world, subduing, chaining down
The free, immortal spirit ? Were they not
Mighty magicians ? Theirs a wondrous spell,
Where true and false were with infernal art
Close-interwoven; where together met
Blessings and curses, threats and promises ;
And with the terrors of Futurity
Mingled whate'er enchants and fascinates,
Music and painting, sculpture, rhetoric,
And dazzling light and darkness visible,
And architectural pomp, such as none else!
What in his day the SYRACUSAN sought,
Another world to plant his engines on,
They had ; and, having it, like gods, not men,
Moved this world at their pleasure.21 Ere they came,
Their shadows, stretching far and wide were known;
And two, that looked beyond the visible sphere,
Gave notice of their coming -- he who saw
The Apocalypse ; and he of elder time,
Who in an awful vision of the night
Saw the Four Kingdoms. Distant as they were,
Those holy men, well might they faint with fear ! 282


WHEN I am inclined to be serious, I love to wander up and down before the tomb of CAIUS CESTIUS. The Protestant burial-ground is there; and most of the little monuments are erected to the young; young men of promise, cut off when on their travels, full of enthusiasm, full of enjoyment; brides, in the bloom of their beauty, on their first journey; or children borne from home in search of health. This stone was placed by his fellow-travellers, young as himself, who will return to the house of his parents without him; that, by a husband or a father, now in his native country. His heart is buried in that grave. .

It is a quiet and sheltered nook, covered in the winter with violets; and the Pyramid, that overshadows it, gives it a classical and singularly solemn air. You feel an interest there, a sympathy you were not prepared for. You are yourself in a foreign land; and they are for the most part your countrymen. They call upon you in your mothertongue --- in English — in words unknown to a native, known only to yourself; and the tomb of CESTIUS, that old majestic pile, has this also in common with them. It is itself a stranger, among strangers. It has stood there till the language spoken round about it has changed; and the shepherd, born at the foot, can read its inscription no longer.



’T is over; and her lovely cheek is now
On her hard pillow — there, alas ! to be
Nightly, through many and many a dreary hour,
Wan, often wet with tears, and (ere at length
Her place is empty, and another comes)
In anguish, in the ghastliness of death;
Hers never more to leave those mournful walls,
Even on her bier.

”T is over; and the rite,
With all its pomp and harmony, is now
Floating before her. She arose at home,
To be the show, the idol of the day;
Her vesture gorgeous, and her starry head -
No rocket, bursting in the midnight-sky,
So dazzling. When to-morrow she awakes,
She will awake as though she still was there,
Still in her father's house; and, lo! a cell
Narrow and dark, naught through the gloom discerned,
Naught save the crucifix, the rosary,
And the gray habit lying by to shroud
Her beauty and grace.

When on her knees she fell, Entering the solemn place of consecration, And from the latticed gallery came a chant Of psalms, most saint-like, most angelical, Verse after verse sung out how holily, The strain returning, and still, still returning, Methought it acted like a spell upon her, And she was casting off her earthly dross ;


Yet was it sad as sweet, and, ere it closed,
Came like a dirge. When her fair head was shorn,
And the long tresses in her hands were laid,
That she might fling them from her, saying, “ Thus,
Thus I renounce the world and worldly things ! ” 263
When, as she stood, her bridal ornaments
Were, one by one, removed, even to the last,
That she might say, flinging them from her, “ Thus,
Thus I renounce the world!” when all was changed,
And, as a nun, in homeliest guise she knelt,
Distinguished only by the crown she wore,
Her crown of lilies as the spouse of Christ,
Well might her strength forsake her, and her knees
Fail in that hour! Well might the holy man,
He, at whose feet she knelt, give as by stealth
(’T was in her utmost need; nor, while she lives,
Will it go from her, fleeting as it was)
That faint but fatherly smile, that smile of love
And pity!

Like a dream the whole is fled ;
And they, that came in idleness to gaze
Upon the victim dressed for sacrifice,
Are mingling in the world; thou in thy cell
Forgot, TERESA. Yet, among them all,
None were so formed to love and to be loved,
None to delight, adorn; and on thee now
A curtain, blacker than the night, is dropped
Forever! In thy gentle bosom sleep
Feelings, affections, destined now to die,
To wither like the blossom in the bud,
Those of a wife, a mother; leaving there
A cheerless void, a chill as of the grave,

« PreviousContinue »