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With the same divine glow of enthusiasm he speaks of the Greck statues at Rome.
Or, turning to the Vatican, go see
Laocoon's torture dignifying pain-
A father's love and mortal's agony
With an immortal's patience blending :-Vain
The struggle ; vain, against the coiling strain
And gripe, and deepening of the dragon's grasp,
The old man's clench ; the long envenomed chain
Rivets the living links,—the enormous asp
Enforces pang on pang, and stifles gasp on gasp.
Or view the Lord of the unerring bow,
The God of life, and poesy, and light-
The Sun in human limbs arrayed, and brow
All radiant from his iriumph in the fight;
The shaft hath just been shot--the arrow bright
With an immortal's vengeance ;
And nostril beautiful disdain, and might,
And majesty, flash their full lightnings by,
Developing in that one glance the Deity.
But in his delicate form-a dream of Love,
Shaped by some solitary nymph, whose breast
Long'd for a deathless lover from above,
And madden'd in that vision-are exprest
All that ideal beauty ever bless'd
The mind with in its most unearthly mood,
When each conception was a heavenly guest
A ray of immortality and stood,
Starlike, around, until they gathered to å god !
And if it be Prometheus stole from Heaven
The fire which we endure, it was repaid
By him to whom the energy was given
Which this poetic marble hath array'd
With an eternal glory-which, if made
By human hands, is not of human thought;
And Time himself hath hallowed it, nor laid
One ringlet in the dust-nor hath it caught
A tinge of years, but breathes the flame with which 'twas
wrought. p. 83, 84. While he yet remains at Florence, he meditates for a while on the ashes of the great men in Santa Croce; and then, expressing a feigned scorn of those very works of art, which had awakened his inspiration, he carries us at once into the bloody field of Thrasimene.
By Thrasimene's lake, in the dele:
Fatal to Roman rashness, more at home ;
For there the Carthaginian's warlike wiles
Come back before me, as his skill beguiles
The host between the mountains and the shore,
Where Courage falls in her despairing files,
And torrents, swoln to rivers with their gore,
Reek through the sultry plain, with legions scatter'd o'er.
Like to a forest fell’d by mountain winds;
And such the storm of battle on this day,
And such the phrenzy, whose convulsion blinds
To all save carnage, that, beneath the fray,
An earthquake reel'd unheededly away!
None felt stern Nature rocking at his feet,
And yawning forth a grave for those who lay
Upon their bucklers for a winding sheet;
Such is the absorbing hate when warring nations meet !
The Earth to them was as a rolling bark
Which bore them to Eternity; they saw
The Ocean round, but had no time to mark
The motions of their vessel; Nature's law,
In them suspended, reck'd not of the awe
Which reigns when mountains tremble, and the birds
Plunge in the clouds for refuge and withdraw
From their down-toppling nests; and bellowing herds
Stumble o'er heaving plains, and man's dread hath no words.
How delightful, after such a terrible picture, is the placia and beautiful repose of what follows.
Far other scene is Thrasimene now;
Her lake a sheet of silver, and her plain
Rent by no ravage save the gentle plough ;
Her aged trees rise thick as once the slain
Lay where their roots are; but a brook hath ta'en-
A little rill of scanty stream and bed-
A name of blood from that day's sanguine rain;
And Sanguinetto tells ye where the dead
Made the earth wet, and turn'd the unwilling waters red.
But thou, Clitumnus ! in thy sweetest wave
Of the most living crystal that was e'er
The haunt of river nymph, to gaze and lave
Her limbs where nothing hid them, thou dost rear
Thy grassy banks whereon the milk-white steer
Grazes ; the purest god of gentle waters !
And most serene of aspect, and most clear ;
Surely that stream was unprofaned by slaughters--
A mirror and a bath for Beauty's youngest daughters!
And on thy happy shore a temple still,
Of small and delicate proportion, keeps,
Upon a mild declivity of hill,
Its memory of thee; beneath it
Thy current's calmness ; oft from out it leaps
The finny darter with the glittering scales,
Who dwells and revels in thy glassy deeps ;
While, chance, some scatter'd water-lily sails
Down where the shallower wave still tells its bubbling tales.
p. 35, 36. This gentle scene is again suddenly disturbed by a description of the Cataract of Velino, which absolutely thunders in our ears like a reality. The passion with which the whole description is imbued, is peculiarly characteristic of Byron.
The roar of waters !—from the headlong height
Velino cleaves the wave-worn precipice ;
The fall of waters ! rapid as the light
The flashing mass foams shaking the abyss ;
The hell of waters ! where they howl and hiss,
And boil in endless torture ; while the sweat
Of their great agony, wrung out from this
Their Phlegethon, curls round the rocks of jet
That gird the gulf around, in pitiless horror set,
And mounts in spray the skies, and thence again
Returns in an unceasing shower, which round,
With its unemptied cloud of gentle rain,
Is an eternal April to the ground,
Making it all one emerald :-how profound
The gulf! and how the giant element
From rock to rock leaps with delirious bound,
Crushing the cliffs, which, downward worn and rent
With his fierce footsteps, yield in chasms a fearful vent
To the broad column which rolls on, and shows
More like the fountain of an infant sea
Torn from the womb of mountains by the throes
Of a new world, than only thus to be
Parent of rivers, which flow gushingly,
With many windings, through the vale :-Look back!
Lo! where it comes like an eternity,
As if to sweep down all things in its track,
Charming the eye with dread,-a matchless cataraci,
Horribly beautiful! but on the verge,
From side to side, beneath the glittering morn,
An Iris sits, amidst the infernal surge,
Like Hope upon a death-bed, and, unworn
Its steady dyes, while all around is torn
By the distracted waters, bears serene
Its brilliant hues with all their beams unshorn :
Resembling, 'mid the torture of the scene, Love watching Madness with unalterable mien. p. 37–39. There immediately follows this a passage, which produces a powerful effect on our imagination, as it would seem almost entirely by the mere enumeration of the names of famous mountains. We feel as if we, as well as the poet, had been eyewitnesses of all the sublimity.
Once more upon the woody Apennine,
The infant Alps, which had I not before
Gazed on their mightier parents, where the pine
Sits on more shaggy summits, and where roar
The thundering lauwine-might be worshipp'd more;
But I have seen the soaring Jungfrau rear
Her never-trodden snow, and seen the hoar
Glaciers of bleak Mont-Blanc both far and near,
And in Chimari heard the thunder-hills of fear,
Th' Acroceraunian mountains of old name;
And on Parnassus seen the eagles fly
Like spirits of the spot, as 'twere for fame,
For still they soared unutterably high :
I've look'd on Ida with a Trojan's eye ;
Athos, Olympus, Ætna, Atlas, made
These hills seem things of lesser dignity,' &c. p. 39, 40. But the Pilgrim now approaches and enters that place whither all his visions were tending, and which surpasses in grandeur all that even his eyes had before witnessed on earth. He has not disappointed us in his poetical commemoration of the Eternal City. Souls the most untouched with that inspiration of which he has drunk so deeply, cannot gaze upon that most affecting of all earthly scenes, without being wrapt for a season into something of that high ecstasy which is the privileged element of genius,---without catching a Roman grandeur in the midst of the crumbled palaces of Rome. The Seven Hills themselves have mouldered into one mass of ruin. The concussions of war, time, and barbarism, have levelled the old land-marks with which we are familiar in the pages of Livy, Tacitus and Virgil,—they have bereaved not only the Palatine of its splendour, but the Tarpeian of its height. We descend, not ascend, to the Pantheon; and in a few damp, dreary, and subterranean dungeons, we survey the only relics of the gigantic palace of the Cæsars, the Domus Aurea,' the wonder of the world. In the midst of this chaos and this desert-throned on the pathless labyrinth of her ruin, sits the Genius of the place a personification which is not dreamlike or imaginary, but which rivets and rules the soul of the most prosaic observer,—the ma
jestic image or memory of the fallen city. Here indeed the
sombre spirit of Harold must have found a fitting resting-place.
Here, indeed, there was no occasion for the exercise of that
fearful power, with which it has been his delight to throw a
veil over gladness, and make us despise ourselves for being
happy even under the fairest influences of the bloom of Nature.
The darkest soul might here revel in images of grief, without
fearing any want of sympathy for its terrible creations. But
Byron has wisely forborne to carry the impression further than
was necessary; or rather, with the genuine submission and re-
verence natural to a truly great mind, he disdains to be other
than passive on such an arena ; and taking, as it were, the trou-
bled fingers of his Pilgrim from the lyre, he sets up the trem-
bling strings to answer, only as it may be spoken to them by the
mournful breezes of the surrounding desolation.
Oh Rome! my country ! city of the soul !
The orphans of the heart must turn to thee,
Lone mother of dead empires! and controul
In their shut breasts their petty misery.
What are our woes and sufferance ? Come and see
The cypress, hear the owl, and plod your way
O’er steps of broken thrones and temples, Ye !
Whose agonies are evils of a day-
A world is at our feet as fragile as our clay.
The Niobe of nations! there she stands,
Childless and crownless, in her voiceless woe ;
An empty urn within her withered hands,
Whose holy dust was scatter'd long ago ;
The Scipios' tomb contains no ashes now;
The very sepulchres lie tenantless
Of their heroic dwellers: dost thou flow,
Old Tiber! through a marble wilderness ?
Rise, with thy yellow waves, and mantle her distress!
The Goth, the Christian Time, War, Flood, and Fire,
Have dealt upon the seven-hilld city's pride;
She saw her glories star by star expire,
And the steep barbarian monarchs ride,
Where the car clim'b the capitol : far and wide
Temple and tower went down, nor left a site:
Chaos of ruins ! who shall trace the void,
O'er the dim fragments cast a lunar light,
And say, “here was, or is,” where all is doubly night?
The double night of ages, and of her,
Night's daughter, Ignorance, hath wrapt and wrap
All round us ; we but feel our way to err :
The ocean hath his chart, the stars their map,