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Of bright transparent beryl were the walls,
The friezes gold, and gold the capitals :
As heaven with stars, the roof with jewels glows,
And ever-living lamps depend in rows.
Full in the passage of each spacious gate
The sage historians in white garments wait:
Graved o'er their seats the form of Time was found,
His scythe reversed, and both his pinions bound.
But, in the centre of the hallowed choir,
Six pompous columns o'er the rest aspire:
Around the shrine itself of Fame they stand,
Hold the chief honours, and the fane command.
High on the first the mighty Homer shone;
Eternal adamant composed his throne:
Father of verse! in holy fillets drest,
His silver beard waved gently o'er his breast:
Though blind, a boldness in his looks appears;
In years he seemed, but not impaired by years.
The wars of Troy were round the pillar seen:
Here fierce Tydides wounds the Cyprian Queen;
Here Hector glorious from Patroclus' fall,
Here dragged in triumph round the Trojan wall.
Motion and life did every part inspire,
Bold was the work, and proved the master's fire;
A strong expression most he seemed to affect,
And here and there disclosed a brave neglect.
A golden column next in rank appeared,
On which a shrine of purest gold was reared;
Finished the whole, and laboured every part,
With patient touches of unwearied art:
The Mantuan there in sober triumph sate,
Composed his posture, and his look sedate:
On Homer still he fixed a reverend eye,
Great without pride, in modest majesty.
In living sculpture on the sides were spread
The Latin wars, and haughty Turnus dead;
Eliza stretched upon the funeral pyre;
Æneas bending with his aged sire;
Troy flamed in burning gold; and o'er the throne
Arms and the Man in golden ciphers shone.
Four swans sustain a car of silver bright,
With heads advanced, and pinions stretched for flight:
Here, like some furious prophet, Pindar rode,
And seemed to labour with the inspiring God.
Across the harp a careless hand he flings,
And boldly sinks into the sounding strings.
The figured games of Greece the column grace,
Neptune and Jove survey the rapid race.
The youths hang o'er their chariots as they run;
The fiery steeds seem starting from the stone:
The champions in distorted postures threat;
And all appeared irregularly great.
Here happy Horace tuned the Ausonian lyre To sweeter sounds, and tempered Pindar's fire; Pleased with Alcæus' manly rage to infuse The softer spirit of the Sapphic Muse. The polished pillar different sculptures grace; A work outlasting monumental brass. Here smiling Loves and Bacchanals appear, The Julian star, and great Augustus here: The doves, that round the infant poet spread Myrtles and bays, hang hovering o'er his head.
Here, in a shrine that cast a dazzling light, Sate, fixed in thought, the mighty Stagyrite: His sacred head a radiant zodiac crowned, And various animals his sides surround: His piercing eyes, erect, appear to view Superior worlds, and look all nature through.
With equal rays immortal Tully shone; The Roman rostra decked the Consul's throne: Gathering his flowing robe, he seemed to stand In act to speak, and graceful stretched his hand. Behind Rome's Genius waits with civic crowns, And the great father of his country owns.
These massy columns in a circle rise, O'er which a pompous dome invades the skies: Scarce to the top I stretched my aching sight, So large it spread, and swelled to such a height. Full in the midst, proud Fame's imperial seat, With jewels blazed, magnificently great: The vivid emeralds there revive the eye, The flaming rubies show their sanguine dye, Bright azure rays from lively sapphires stream, And lucid amber casts a golden gleam.
With various-coloured light the pavement shone,
And all on fire appeared the glowing throne;
The dome's high arch reflects the mingled blaze,
And forms a rainbow of alternate rays.
When on the Goddess first I cast my sight,
Scarce seemed her stature of a cubit's height;
But swelled to larger size the more I gazed,
Till to the roof her towering front she raised:
With her the Temple every moment grew,
And ampler vistas opened to my view:
Upward the columns shoot, the roofs ascend,
And arches widen, and long aisles extend.
Such was her form as ancient bards have told,
Wings raise her arms, and wings her feet infold;
A thousand busy tongues the Goddess bears,
And thousand open eyes, and thousand listening ears.
Beneath, in order ranged, the tuneful Nine
(Her virgin handmaids) still attend the shrine:
With eyes on Fame for ever fixed, they sing;
For Fame they raise the voice, and tune the string:
With Time's first birth began the heavenly lays,
And last eternal, through the length of days.
Around these wonders as I cast a look,
The trumpet sounded, and the Temple shook ;
And all the nations, summoned at the call,
From different quarters fill the crowded hall:
Of various tongues the mingled sounds were heard ;
In various garbs promiscuous throngs appeared;
Thick as the bees, that with the spring renew
Their flowery toils, and sip the fragrant dew,
When the winged colonies first tempt the sky,
O'er dusky fields and shaded waters fly,
Or settling, seize the sweets the blossoms yield,
And a low murmur runs along the field.
Millions of suppliant crowds the shrine attend,
And all degrees before the Goddess bend:
The poor, the rich, the valiant, and the sage,
And boasting youth, and narrative old age,
Their pleas were different, their request the same;
For good and bad alike are fond of Fame.
Some she disgraced, and some with honours crowned;
Unlike successes equal merits found.
Thus her blind sister, fickle Fortune, reigns,
And undiscerning scatters crowns and chains.
First at the shrine the learned world appear, And to the Goddess thus prefer their prayer: Long have we sought to instruct and please mankind, With studies pale, and midnight vigils blind ; But thanked by few, rewarded yet by none, We here appeal to thy superior throne: On Wit and Learning the just prize bestow ; For Fame is all we must expect below.
The Goddess heard, and bid the Muses raise
The golden trumpet of eternal praise :
From pole to pole the winds diffuse the sound
That fills the circuit of the world around;
Not all at once, as thunder breaks the cloud,
The notes at first were rather sweet than loud:
By just degrees they every moment rise,
Fill the wide earth, and gain upon the skies.
At every breath were balmy odours shed,
Which still grew sweeter as they wider spread;
Less fragrant scents the unfolding rose exhales,
Or spices breathing in Arabian gales.
Next these, the good and just, an awful train,
Thus on their knees address the sacred fane:
Since living virtue is with envy cursed,
And the best men are treated like the worst,
Do thou, just Goddess, call our merits forth,
And give each deed the exact intrinsic worth.-
Not with bare justice shall your act be crowned,
(Said Fame) but high above desert renowned:
Let fuller notes the applauding world amaze,
And the loud clarion labour in your praise.
This band dismissed, behold another crowd Prefer the same request, and lowly bowed; The constant tenor of whose well-spent days No less deserved a just return of praise. But straight the direful trump of slander sounds; Through the big dome the doubling thunder bounds : Loud as the burst of cannon rends the skies, The dire report through every region flies, In every ear incessant rumours rung, And gathering scandals grew on every tongue. From the black trumpet's rusty concave broke Sulphureous flames, and clouds of rolling smoke ;
The poisonous vapour blots the purple skies,
And withers all before it as it flies.
A troop came next, who crowns and armour wore, And proud defiance in their looks they bore: For thee (they cried) amidst alarms and strife, We sailed in tempests down the stream of life; For thee whole nations filled with flames and blood, And swam to empire through the purple flood. Those ills we dared, thy inspiration own; What virtue seemed, was done for thee alone. Ambitious fools! (the Queen replied and frowned) Be all your acts in dark oblivion drowned; There sleep forgot, with mighty tyrants gone, Your statues mouldered, and your names unknown! A sudden cloud straight snatched them from my sight, And each majestic phantom sunk in night.
Then came the smallest tribe I yet had seen; Plain was their dress, and modest was their mien. Great Idol of Mankind! we neither claim
The praise of merit, nor aspire to fame ;
But safe in deserts from the applause of men,
Would die unheard of, as we lived unseen.
'Tis all we beg thee, to conceal from sight
Those acts of goodness which themselves requite.
O let us still the secret joy partake,
To follow Virtue e'en for Virtue's sake.
And live there men who slight immortal Fame?
Who then with incense shall adore our name?
But, mortals! know, 'tis still our greatest pride
To blaze those virtues which the good would hide.
Rise! Muses, rise! add all your tuneful breath ;
These must not sleep in darkness and in death.
She said in air the trembling music floats,
And on the winds triumphant swell the notes;
So soft, though high, so loud, and yet so clear,
E'en listening angels lean from heaven to hear.
To furthest shores the ambrosial spirit flies,
Sweet to the world, and grateful to the skies.
Last, those who boast of mighty mischiefs done,
Enslave their country, or usurp a throne;
Or who their glory's dire foundation laid
On sovereigns ruined, or on friends betrayed;