Page images
PDF
EPUB

Helmet and shield, and sword and spear thrown down,
And every hand uplifted, every heart
Poured out in thanks to heaven.

Once again
We look; and lo, the sea is white with sails
Innumerable, wafting to the shore
Treasures untold ; the vale, the promontories,
A dream of glory; temples, palaces,
Called up as by enchantment; aqueducts
Among the groves and glades rolling along
Rivers, on many an arch high over-head;
And in the centre, like a burning sun,
The Imperial City! They have now subdued
All nations. But where they who led them forth;
Who, when at length released by victory,
(Buckler and spear hung up-but not to rust)
Held poverty no evil, no reproach,
Living on little with a cheerful mind,
The Decii, the FABRICII? Where the spade,
And reaping-hook, among their household-things
Duly transmitted ? In the hands of men
Made captive; while the master and his guests,
Reclining, quaff in gold, and roses swim,
Summer and winter, through the circling year,

On their Falernian--in the hands of men
Dragged into slavery with how many more
Spared but to die, a public spectacle,
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 out-cry, 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 forth
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 vapours 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 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.

[ocr errors]

THE ROMAN PONTIFFS.

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!

* Whoever has entered the church of St. Peter's or the Pauline chapel, during the Exposition of the Holy Sacrament there, will not soon forget the blaze of the altar or the dark circle of worshippers kneeling in silence before it.

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.* 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 it

* An allusion to the saying of Archimedes, ‘Give me a place to stand upon, and I will move the earth.'

+ An allusion to the Prophecies concerning Antichrist. See the interpretations of Mede, Newton, Clarke, 8c.; not to mention those of Dante and Petrarch.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »