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THERE was a time when Ætna's silent fire
Slept unperceiv'd, the mountain yet entire;
When, conscious of no danger from below,
She tower'd a cloudcapt pyramid of snow.
No thunders shook with deep intestine sound
The blooming groves, that girdled her around.
Her unctuous olives, and her purple vines
(Unfelt the fury of those bursting mines)
The peasant's hopes, and not in vain, assurd,
In peace upon her sloping sides maturd.
When on a day, like that of the last doom,
A conflagration lab'ring in her womb,
She teem'd and heav'd with an infernal birth,
That shook the circling seas and solid earth.
Dark and voluminous the vapours rise,
And hang their horrours in the neighib'ring skies,
While through the stygian veil, that blots the day,
In dazzling streaks the vivid lightnings play.
But oh! what muse, and in what pow'rs of song,
Can trace the torrent as it burns along?
Havoc and devastation in the van,
It marches o'er the prostrate works of man,
Vines, olives, herbage, forests disappear,
And all the charms of a Sicilian year.
Revolving seasons, fruitless as they pass,
See it an uninform’d and idle mass;
Without a soil t invite the tiller's care,
Or blade, that might redeem it from despair.
Yet time at length, (what will not time achieve?)
Clothes it with earth, and bids the produce live.
Once more the spiry myrtle crowns the glade,
And ruminating flocks enjoy the shade.
O bliss precarious, and unsafe retreats,
O charming Paradise of shortliv'd sweets!
The selfsame gale, that wafts the fragrance round,
Brings to the distant ear a sullen sound:
Again the mountain feels th' imprison'd foe,
Again pours ruin on the vale below.
Ten thousand swains the wasted scene deplore,
That only future ages can restore.
Ye monarchs, whom the lure of honour draws, Who write in blood the merits of your cause, Who strike the blow, then plead your own defence, Glory your aim, but justice your pretence;
Behold in Ætna's emblematic fires
The mischiefs your ambitious pride inspires !
Fast by the stream, that bounds your just domain,
And tells you where ye have a right to reign,
A nation dwells, not envious of your throne,
Studious of peace, their neighbours', and their own.
Ill-fated race, low deeply must they rue
Their only crime, vicinity to you!
The trumpet sounds, your legions swarm abroad,
Through the ripe harvest lies their destin'd road;
At ev'ry step beneath their feet they tread
The life of multitudes, a nation's bread!
Earth seems a garden in it's loveliest dress
Before them, and behind a wilderness.
Famine, and Pestilence, her first-born son,
Attend to finish what the sword begun;
And echoing praises, such as fiends might earn,
And Folly pays, resound at your return.
A calm succeeds—but Plenty, with her train
Of heart-felt joys, succeeds not soon again,
And years of pining indigence must show
What scourges are the gods that rule below.
Yet man, laborious man, by slow degrees, (Such is his thirst of opulence and ease)
Plies all the sinews of industrious toil,
Gleans up the refuse of the gen’ral spoil,
Rebuilds the tow'rs, that smok'd upon the plain,
And the sun gilds the shining spires again.
Increasing commerce and reviving art
Renew the quarrel on the conqu’ror's part;
And the sad lesson must be learn’d once more,
That wealth within is ruin at the door,
What are ye, monarchs, laurelld heroes, say,
But Ætnas of the suff'ring world ye sway?
Sweet Nature, stripp'd of her embroider'd robe,
Deplores the wasted regions of her globe;
And stands a witness at Truth's awful bar,
To prove you there destroyers as ye are.
O place me in some Heav'n-protected isle, Where Peace, and Equity, and Freedom smile; Where no volcano pours his fiery flood, No crested warrior dips his plume in blood; Where Pow'r secures what Industry has won; Where to succeed is not to be undone; A land, that distant tyrants hate in vain, In Britain's isle, beneath a George's reign!
THE GIFT OF MY COUSIN ANN BODHAM.
O that those lips had language! Life has pass'd
With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
Those lips are thine-thine own sweet smile I see,
The same, that oft in childhood solac'd me;
Voice only fails, else how distinct they say,
“ Grieve not, my child, chase all thy fears away!"
The meek intelligence of those dear eyes
(Blest be the heart that can immortalize,
The art that baffles Time's tyrannic claim
To quench it) here shines on me still the same.
Faithful remembrancer of one so dear,
O welcome guest, though unexpected here!
Who bidd'st me honour with an artless song
Affectionate, a mother lost so long.
I will obey, not willingly alone,
But gladly, as the precept were her own: