« AnteriorContinuar »
And Knowledge spreads them on her ample lap;
But Rome is as the desart, where we steer
Stumbling o'er recollections ; now we clap
Our hands, and cry, “ Eureka!” it is clear-,
When but some false mirage of ruin rises near.
Alas! the lofty city! and alas !
The trebly hundred triumphs !.and the day
When Brutus made the dagger's edge surpass
The conqueror's sword in bearing fame away!
Alas, for Tully's voice, and Virgil's lay,
And Livy's pictur'd page !_but these shall be
Her resurrection; all beside-decay.
Alas, for Earth, for never shall we see
That brightness in her eye she bore when Rome was free!
Oh thou, whose chariot rollid on Fortune's wheel,
Triumphant Sylla! Thou, who didst subdue
Thy country's foes ere thou would pause to feel
The wrath of thy own wrongs, or reap the due
Of hoarded vengeance till thine eagles flew
O'er prostrate Asia ;-thou, who with thy frown
Annihilated senates-Roman, too,
With all thy vices, for thou didst lay down
With an atoning smile a more than earthly crown
The dictatorial wreath,-couldst thou divine
To what would one day dwindle that which made
Thee more than mortal ? and that so supine
By aught than Romans Rome should thus be laid ?
She who was named Eternal, and array'd
Her warriors but to conquer-she who veil'd
Earth with her haughty shadow, and display'd,
Until the o'er-canopied horizon fail'd,
Her rushing wings-Oh! she who was Almighty hail'd !
p. 42–45. Here his mind reverts, in its passion, to the great ruling spirits of his own country or age, in whom he discerns a dark and shadowy resemblance to the Syllas and Cæsars of Rome; and, passing from Cromwell to Napoleon, he glances at the French Revolution, and fills several confused and turbid stanzas with political rétrospects and prophecies. From these lucubrations, however, we confess we are not unwillingly brought back to the scene before him, by a very beautiful passage, which ends, like so many others, with the powerful expression of his own gloom and misanthropy. This strain, however, is soon discontinued. Among the ruins of Rome there is no stedfast resting-place for the indulgence of individual sorrow; and the pilgrim, rising into a loftier mood, thus blends his spirit with the glorious decay.
Then let the winds howl on! their harmony
Shall henceforth be my music, and the night
The sound shall temper with the owlet's cry,
As I now hear them, in the fading light
Dim o'er the bird of darkness' native site,
Answering each other on the Palatine,
With their large eyes, all glistening grey and bright,
And sailing pinions.-Upon such a shrine
What are our petty griefs ?-_ let me not number mine.
Cypress and ivy, weed and wallflower grown
Matted and mass'd together, hillocks heap'd
On what were chambers, arch crush'd, column strown
In fragments, chok'd up vaults, and frescos steep'd
In subterranean damps, where the owl peep'd,
Deeming it midnight :- Temples, baths, or halls ?
Pronounce who can; for all that Learning reap'd
From her research hath been, that these are walls--
Behold the Imperial Mount ! 'tis thus the mighty falls.
There is the moral of all human tales ;
'Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory--when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption,-barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page,-'tis better written here,
Where gorgeous Tyranny had thus amass'd
All treasures, all delights, that eye or ear,
Heart, soul could seek, tongue ask-Away with words ! draw
Admire, exult-despise-laugh, weep, for here
There is such matter for all feeling :-Man!
Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear,
Ages and realms are crowded in this span,
This mountain, whose obliterated plan
The pyramid of empires pinnacled,
· Of Glory's gewgaws shining in the van
Till the sun's rays with added flame were fili'd!
Where are its golden roofs? where those who dared to build ?
Tully was not so eloquent as thou,
Thou nameless column with the buried base!
What are the laurels of the Cæsar's brow ?
Crown me with ivy from his dwelling-place.
Whose arch or pillar meets me in the face,
Titus or Trajan's ? No-'tis that of Time:
Triumph, arch, pillar, all he doth displace
Scoffing; and apostolic statues climb
To crush the imperial urn, whose ashes slept sublime,
Buried in air, the deep blue sky of Rome,
And looking to the stars : they had contain'd
A spirit which with these would find a home,
The last of those who o'er the whole earth reign'd,
The Roman globe, for after none sustain'd,
But yielded back his conquests :-he was more
Than a mere Alexander, and, unstain'd
With household blood and wine, serenely wore
His sovereign virtues - still we Trajan's name adore.
Where is the rock of Triumph, the high place
Where Rome embraced her heroes? where the steen
Tarpeian? fittest goal of Treason's race,
The promontory whence the Traitor's Leap
Cured all ambition. Did the conquerors heap
Their spoils here? Yes; and in yon field below,
A thousand years of silenced factions sleep-
The Forum, where the immortal accents glow,
And still the eloquent air breathes--burns with Cicero!
p. 56–59. On the accidental recurrence to his mind of the character of Numa, his spirit falls into a passionate dream of the Egerian Grot, in which there breathes that full, delicate, and perfect sense of beauty which often steals upon him during moods of a very different kind, and wins him, somewhat reluctantly, away into scenes filled with images of stillness and peace.
Egeria ! sweet creation of some heart
Which found no mortal resting-place so fair
As thine ideal breast; whate'er thou art
Or wert,-_a young Aurora of the air,
The nympholepsy of some fond despair ;
Or, it might be, a beauty of the earth,
Who found a more than common votary there
Too much adoring; whatsoe'er thy birth,
Thou wert a beautiful thought, and softly bodied forth.
The mosses of thy fountain still are sprinkled
With thine Elysian water-drops; the face
Of thy cave-guarded spring, with years unwrinkled,
Reflects the meek-eyed genius of the place,
Whose green, wild margin now no more erase
Art's works ; nor must the delicate waters sleep,
Prisoned in marble, bubbling from the base
Of the cleft statue, with a gentle leap
The rill runs o'er, and round, fern, flowers, and ivy, creep,
Fantastically tangled; the green hills
Are clothed with early blossoms, through the grass.
The quick-eyed lizard rustles, and the bills
Of summer-birds sing welcome as ye pass;
Flowers fresh in hue, and many in their class,
Implore the pausing step, and with their dyes
Dance in the soft breeze in a fairy mass;
The sweetness of the violet's deep blue eyes,
Kiss'd by the breath of heaven, seems coloured by its skies,
Here didst thou dwell, in this enchanted cover,
Egeria ! thy all heavenly bosom beating
For the far footsteps of thy mortal lover;
The purple Midnight veil'd that mystic meeting
With her most starry canopy, and seating
Thyself by thine adorer, what befel ?
This cave was surely shaped out for the greeting
Of an enamour'd Goddess, and the cell
Haunted by holy Love-the earliest oracle !
And didst thou not, thy breast to his replying,
Blend a celestial with a human heart;
And Love, which dies as it was born, in sighing,
Share with immortal transports? could thine art
Make them indeed immortal, and impart
The purity of heaven to earthly joys,
Expel the venom and not blunt the dart
* The dull satiety which all destroys-
And root from out the soul the deadly weed which cloys ?
p. 60-62. But he will not allow himself to be held in the innocent enchantment of such emotions, and bursts again into those bitter communings with misery, without which it would absolutely seem he can have no continued existence, till at last he denounces a curse--the curse of forgiveness it is said to be-on all that has perturbed and maddened his spirit. We wish to avoid, as much as possible, all reference to such distressing passions. But here they give a dark and terrible colouring to the poem, and it is impossible to misunderstand them. Our business is only with the poetry—at least we desire not to extend our privilege: And of the poetry we must say, that the season when the wild curse is imprecated, midnight; the scene, the ruined site of the Temple of the Furies; the auditors, the ghosts of departed years, and the imprecator, a being whose soul, though endowed with the noblest gifts of nature, is by himself said to be in ruins like the grandeur around him and even dark hints thrown out, that for its aberrations there may be found the most mournful of all excuses in the threatening of the most mournful of all human calamities;—all this renders the long passage to which we allude, one of the most awful records of the agonies of man-perhaps the most painful and agitating picVOL. XXX, NO. 59.
ture of the misery of the passions, without their degradation, that is to be found in the whole compass of human language. Let us escape from it, and turn our eyes to the moonlight and indistinct shadow of the ruins of the Coliseum,
A ruin-yet what ruin! from its mass
Walls, palaces, half-cities, have been reared ;
Yet oft the enormous skeleton ye pass
And marvel where the spoil could have appeared.
Hath it indeed been plundered, or but cleared ?
Alas! developed, opens the decay,
When the colossal fabric's form is neared :
It will not bear the brightness of the day,
Which streams too much on all years, man, have reft away.
But when the rising moon begins to climb
Its topmost arch, and gently pauses there;
When the stars twinkle through the loops of time,
And the low night-breeze waves along the air
The garland-forest, which the grey walls wear,
Like laurels on the bald first Cæsar's head;
When the light shines serene but doth not glare,
Then in this magic circle raise the dead :
Heroes have trod this spot-'tis on their dust ye tread.
p. 74, 75. We regret that our limits will not allow us to quote any more of his description of the Ancient City;--not even that of St Peter's in which the loftiest words and most majestic images render back an image of the august conceptions by which the mind of the poet seems to have been expanded in its contemplation. There are still, however, two passages in the poem which we would wish to lay before our readers--that on the death of our Princess and that on the Ocean. On the first we have not yet heart to venture--and with the last, therefore, we shall conclude; in which the Poet bids us farewell in a more magnificent strain than we can hope to hear again till his own harp, which has assuredly lost none of its music, be once more struck-and may it then be with steadier hands, and a more tranquil spirit !
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods;
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet can not all conceal,