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And in her loneliness, her pomp of woe,
Where now she dwells, withdrawn into the wild,
Still o'er the mind maintains, from age to age,
Her empire undiminished. There, as though
Grandeur attracted grandeur, are beheld
All things that strike, ennoble 27 - from the depths
Of EGYPT, from the classic fields of GREECE,
Her groves, her temples all things that inspire
Wonder, delight! Who would not say the forms
Most perfect, most divine, had by consent
Flocked thither to abide eternally,
Within those silent chambers where they dwell,,
In happy intercourse? And I am there!
Ah! little thought I, when in school I sate,
A school-boy on his bench, at early dawn
Glowing with Roman story, I should live
To tread the APPIAN, once an avenue
Of monuments most glorious, palaces,
Their doors sealed up and silent as the night,
The dwellings of the illustrious dead to turn
Toward TIBER, and, beyond the city-gate,
Pour out my unpremeditated verse
Where on his mule I might have met so oft
HORACE himself 219 or climb the PALATINE,
Dreaming of old EVANDER and his guest,
Dreaming and lost on that proud eminence,
Long while the seat of ROME, hereafter found
Less than enough (so monstrous was the brood
Engendered there, so Titan-like) to lodge
One in his madness; 220 and inscribe my name,
My name and date, on some broad aloe-leaf,
That shoots and spreads within those very walls.
Where VIRGIL read aloud his tale divine,
Where his voice faltered and a mother wept
Tears of delight!
But what the narrow space
Just underneath? In many a heap the ground
Heaves, as if Ruin in a frantic mood
Had done his utmost. Here and there appears,
As left to show his handiwork not ours,
An idle column, a half-buried arch,
A wall of some great temple.- It was once,
And long, the centre of their universe,2
The FORUM whence a mandate, eagle-winged,
Went to the ends of the earth. Let us descend
Slowly. At every step much may be lost.
The very dust we tread stirs as with life;
And not a breath but from the ground sends up
Something of human grandeur.
We are come, Are now where once the mightiest spirits met In terrible conflict; this, while ROME was free, The noblest theatre on this side heaven!
Here the first BRUTUS stood, when o'er the corse
Of her so chaste all mourned, and from his cloud
Burst like a god. Here, holding up the knife
That ran with blood, the blood of his own child,
VIRGINIUS called down vengeance. But whence spoke
They who harangued the people; turning now
To the twelve tables, 224 now with lifted hands
To the Capitoline Jove, whose fulgent shape
In the unclouded azure shone far off,
And to the shepherd on the Alban mount
Seemed like a star new-risen? 225 Where were ranged
In rough array, as on their element,
The beaks of those old galleys, destined still 2
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,"
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, 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,231 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,**
The last on PHILIP's throne; and the Numidian,
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 **
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; 23 the Egyptian, when her asp
Came from his covert under the green leaf;
And HANNIBAL himself; and she who said,
Taking the fatal cup between her hands,
"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. "But she was beautiful!"
Replied a soldier of the Pontiff's guard.
"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,