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CARMEN SECULARE ET ANNUS HAUD MIRABILIS.
Impar Congressus Achilli.
The “good old times”—all times, when old, are good-
Are gone ; the present might be, if they would ;
Great things have been, and are, and greater still
Want little of mere mortals but their will:
A wider space, a greener field is given
To those who play their “tricks before high Heaven.”
I know not if the angels weep, but men
Have wept enough—for what ?—to weep again.
All is exploded—be it good or bad.
Reader ! remember when thou wert a lad,
Then Pitt was all; or, if not all, so much,
rival almost deem'd him such.
We, we have seen the intellectual race
Of giants stand, like Titans, face to face-
Athos and Ida, with a dashing sea
Of eloquence between, which flow'd all free,
As the deep billows of the Ægean roar
Betwixt the Hellenic and the Phrygian shore.
But where are they—the rivals ?-a few feet
Of sullen earth divide each winding-sheet.
How peaceful and how powerful is the grave,
Which hushes all ! a calm unstormy wave
Which oversweeps the world! The theme is old
Of“ dust to dust,” but half its tale untold.
Time tempers not its terrors-still the worm
Winds its cold folds, the tomb preserves its form
Varied above, but still alike below;
The urn may shine, the ashes will not glow.
Though Cleopatra's mummy cross the sea,
O’er which from empire she lured Anthony :
Though Alexander’s urn a show be grown
On shores he wept to conquer, though unknown-
How vain, how worse than vain, at length appear
The madman's wish, the Macedonian's tear!
He wept for worlds to conquer-half the earth
Knows not his name, or but his death and birth
And desolation ; while his native Greece
Hath all of desolation, save its peace.
He “ wept for worlds to conquer !” he who ne'er
Conceived the globe he panted not to spare !
With even the busy Northern Isle unknown,
Which holds his urn, and never knew his throne.
But where is he, the modern, mightier far,
Who, born no king, made monarchs draw his car ?
The new Sesostris, whose unharness’d kings,
Freed from the bit, believe themselves with wings,
And spurn the dust o'er which they crawld of late,
Chain’d to the chariot of the chieftain's state!
Yes! where is he, the champion and the child
Of all that 's great or little, wise or wild ?
Whose game was empires, and whose stakes were thrones ;
Whose table, earth—whose dice were human bones ?
Behold the grand result in yon lone isle,
And, as thy nature urges, weep or smile.
Sigh to behold the eagle's lofty rage
Reduced to nibble at his narrow cage ;
Smile to survey the Queller of the Nations
Now daily squabbling o'er disputed rations ;
Weep to perceive him mourning, as he dines,
O’er curtail'd dishes and o’er stinted wines;
O’er petty quarrels upon petty things :
Is this the man who scourged or feasted kings ?
Behold the scales in which his fortune hangs,
A surgeon's statement and an earl's harangues !
A bust delay'd, a book refused, can shake
The sleep of him who kept the world awake.
Is this indeed the Tamer of the Great,
Now slave of all could tease or irritate,
Thy paltry jailor and the prying spy,
The staring stranger with his note-book nigh ?
Plunged in a dungeon, he had still been great :
How low, how little was this middle state,
Between a prison and a palace, where
How few could feel for what he had to r!
Vain his complaint-my lord presents his bill,
His food and wine were doled out duly still :
Vain was his sickness,-never was a clime
So free from homicide-to doubt 's a crime ;
And the stiff surgeon, who maintain'd his cause,
Hath lost his place, and gain'd the world's applause.
But smile—though all the pangs of brain and heart
Disdain, defy, the tardy aid of art ;
Though, save the few fond friends, and imaged face
Of that fair boy his sire shall ne'er embrace,
None stand by his low bed—though even the mind
Be wavering which long awed and awes mankind :
Smile—for the fétter'd eagle breaks his chain,
And higher worlds than this are his again.
How, if that soaring spirit still retain
A conscious twilight of his blazing reign,
How must he smile, on looking down, to see
The little that he was and sought to be!
What though his name a wider empire found
Than his ambition, though with scarce a bound ;
Though first in glory, deepest in reverse,
He tasted empire's blessings, and its curse ;
Though kings, rejoicing in their late escape
From chains, would gladly be their tyrant's ape:
How must he smile, and turn to yon
The proudest sea-mark that o'ertops the wave!,
What though his jailor, duteous to the last,
Scarce deem'd the coffin's lead could keep him fast,
Refusing one poor line along the lid
To date the birth and death of all it hid,
That name shall hallow the ignoble shore,
A talisman to all save him who bore :
The fleets that sweep before the eastern blast
Shall hear their sea-boys hail it from the mast :
When Victory's Gallic column shall but rise,
Like Pompey's pillar, in a desert's skies,
The rocky isle that holds or held his dust
Shall crown the Atlantic like the hero's bust,
And mighty Nature o'er his obsequies
Do more than niggard Envy still denies.
But what are these to him ? Can glory's lust
Touch the freed spirit or the fetter'd dust?
Small care hath he of what his tomb consists,
Nought if he sleeps--nor more if he exists :
Alike the better-seeing shade will smile
On the rude cavern of the rocky isle,
As if his ashes found their latest home
In Rome's Pantheon, or Gaul's mimic dome.