ilpetrarca testo integrale brano completo citazione delle fonti commedie opere storiche in prosa e versi,
francesco petrarca, francecso, petarca
Translated by Rev. Henry Boyd
[ THE TRIUMPH OF LOVE ]
The fatal morning dawn'd that brought again
The sad memorial of my ancient pain;
That day, the source of long-protracted woe,
When I began the plagues of Love to know,
Hyperion's throne, along the azure field,
Between the splendid horns of Taurus wheel'd;
And from her spouse the Queen of Morn withdrew
Her sandals, gemm'd with frost-bespangled dew.
Sad recollection, rising with the morn,
Of my disastrous love, repaid with scorn,
Oppressed my sense; till welcome soft repose
Gave a short respite from my swelling woes.
Then seem'd I in a vision borne away,
Where a deep winding vale sequester'd lay;
Nor long I rested on the flowery green
Ere a soft radiance dawn'd along the scene.—
Fallacious sign of hope! for, close behind,
Dark shades of coming woe were seen combined.
There, on his car, a conqu'ring chief I spied,
Like Rome's proud sons, that led the living tide
Of vanquished foes, in long triumphal state,
To Capitolian Jove's disclosing gate.
With little joy I saw the splendid show,
Spent and dejected by my lengthen'd woe;
Sick of the world, and all its worthless train,
That world, where all the hateful passions reign;
And yet intent the mystic cause to find,
(For knowledge is the banquet of the mind)
Languid and slow I turn'd my cheerless eyes
On the proud warrior, and his uncouth guise.
High on his seat an archer youth was seen,
With loaded quiver, and malicious mien
Nor plate, nor mail, his cruel shaft can ward,
Nor polish'd burganet the temples guard;
His burning chariot seem'd by coursers drawn;
While, like the snows that clothe the wintry lawn
His waving wings with rainbow colour gay
On either naked shoulder seem'd to play;
And, filing far behind, a countless train
In sad procession hid the groaning plain:
Some, captive, seem'd in long disastrous strife,
Some, in the deadly fray, bereft of life;
And freshly wounded some. A viewless hand
Led me to mingle with the mornful band,
And learn the fortunes of the sentenced crew,
Who, pierced by Love, had bid the world adieu.
With keen survey I mark'd the ghostly show,
To find a shade among the sons of woe
To memory known: but every trace was lost
In the dim features of the moving host:
Oblivion's hand had drawn a dark disguise
O'er their wan lineaments and beamless eyes.
At length, a pallid face I seem'd to know;
Which wore, methought, a lighter mask of woe;
He call'd me by my name.—"Behold!" he cried,
"What plagues the hapless thralls of Love abide!"—
"How am I known by thee?" with new surprise
I cried; "no mark recalls thee to my eyes."—
"Oh, heavy is my load!" he seem'd to say;
"Through this dark medium no detecting ray
Assists thy sight; but I, like thee, can boast
My birth on famed Etruria's ancient coast."—
The secret which his murky mask conceal'd,
His well-known voice and Tuscan tongue reveal'd;
Thence to a lighter station we repair'd,
And thus the phantom spoke, with mild regard:—
"We thought to see thy name with ours enroll'd
Long since; for oft thy looks this fate foretold."—
"True," I replied; "but I survived the strife:
His arrows reach'd me, but were short of life."—
Pausing, he spoke:—"A spark to flame will rise,
And bear thy name in glory to the skies."—
His meaning was obscure, but in my breast
I felt the substance of his words impress'd,
As sculptured stone, or monumental brass,
Keeps the firm record, or heroic face.
With youthful ardour new, and hope inspired,
Quick from my grave companion I required
The name and fortunes of the passing train.
And why in mournful pomp they trod the plain—
"Time," he return'd, "the secret then will show,
When thou shalt join the retinue of woe:
But years shall sprinkle o'er thy locks with gray,
And alter'd looks the signs of age betray,
Ere at his powerful touch the fetters fall,
Which many a moon thy captive limbs shall gall:
Yet will I grant thy suit, and give to view
The various fortunes of the captive crew:
But mark their leader first, that chief renown'd—
The Power of Love! by every nation own'd.
His sway thou soon, as well as we, shalt know,
Stung to the heart by goads of dulcet woe.
In him unthinking youth's misgovern'd rage,
Join'd with the cool malignity of age,
Is known to mingle with insidious guile,
Deep, deep conceal'd beneath an infant's smile.
The child of slothful ease, and sensual heat—
By sweet delirious thoughts, in dark retreat,
Mature in mischief grown—he springs away,
A wingèd god, and thousands own his sway.
Some, as thou seest, are number'd with the dead,
And some the bitter drops of sorrow shed
Through lingering life, by viewless tangles bound,
That link the soul, and chain it to the ground.
There Cæsar walks! of Celtic laurels proud.
Nor feels himself in sensual bondage bow'd:
He treads the flowery path, nor sees the snare
Laid for his honour by the Egyptian fair.
Here Love his triumph shows, and leads along
The world's great owner in the captive throng;
And o'er the master of unscepter'd kings
Exulting soars, and claps his purple wings.
See his adopted son! he knew her guile,
And nobly scorn'd the siren of the Nile;
Yet fell by Roman charms and from her spouse
The pregnant consort bore, regardless of her vows
There, cruel Nero feels his iron heart
Lanced by imperious Love's resistless dart;
Replete with rage, and scorning human ties,
He falls the victim of two conquering eyes;
Deep ambush'd there in philosophic spoils,
The little tyrant tries his artful wiles:
E'en in that hallow'd breast, where, deep enshrined,
Lay all the varied treasures of the mind,
He lodged his venom'd shaft. The hoary sage,
Like meaner mortals, felt the passion rage
In boundless fury for a strumpet's charms,
And clasp'd the shining mischief in his arms.—
See Dionysius link'd with Pheræ's lord,
Pale doubt and dread on either front abhorr'd.
Scowl terrible! yet Love assign'd their doom;
A wife and mistress mark'd them for the tomb!—
The next is he that on Antandros' coast
His fair Crëusa mourn'd, for ever lost;
Yet cut the bonds of Love on Tyber's shore,
And bought a bride with young Evander's gore.
Here droop'd the victim of a lawless flame:
The amorous frenzy of the Cretan dame
He fled abhorrent, and contemn'd her tears,
And to the dire suggestion closed his ears.
But nought, alas! his purity avail'd—
Fate in his flight the hapless youth assail'd,
By interdicted Love to Vengeance fired;
And by his father's curse the son expired.
The stepdame shared his fate, and dearly paid
A spouse, a sister, and a son betray'd:
Her conscience, by the false impeachment stung,
Upon herself return'd the deadly wrong;
And he, that broke before his plighted vows,
Met his deserts in an adulterous spouse.
See! where he droops between the sister dames,
And fondly melts—the other scorns his flames,—
The mighty slave of Omphale behind
Is seen, and he whom Love and fraud combined
Sent to the shades of everlasting night;
And still he seems to weep his wretched plight.—
There, Phyllis mourns Demophoon's broken vows,
And fell Medea there pursues her spouse;
With impious boast, and shrill upbraiding cries,
She tells him how she broke the holy ties
Of kindred for his sake; the guilty shore
That from her poignard drank a brother's gore;
The deep affliction of her royal sire.
Who heard her flight with imprecations dire.—
See! beauteous Helen, with her Trojan swain—
The royal youth that fed his amorous pain,
With ardent gaze, on those destructive charms
That waken'd half the warring world to arms—
Yonder, behold Œnone's wild despair,
Who mourns the triumphs of the Spartan fair!
The injured husband answers groan for groan,
And young Hermione with piteous moan
Orestes calls; while Laodamia near
Bewails her valiant consort's fate severe.—
Adrastus' daughter there laments her spouse
Sincere and constant to her nuptial vows;
Yet, lured by her, with gold's seductive aid,
Her lord, Eriphile, to death betray'd."
And now, the baleful anthem, loud and long,
Rose in full chorus from the passing throng;
And Love's sad name, the cause of all their woes,
In execrations seem'd the dirge to close.—
But who the number and the names can tell
Of those that seem'd the deadly strain to swell!—
Not men alone, but gods my dream display'd—
Celestial wailings fill'd the myrtle shade:
Soft Venus, with her lover, mourn'd the snare,
The King of Shades, and Proserpine the fair;
Juno, whose frown disclosed her jealous spite;
Nor, less enthrall'd by Love, the god of light,
Who held in scorn the wingèd warrior's dart
Till in his breast he felt the fatal smart.—
Each god, whose name the learned Roman told,
In Cupid's numerous levy seem'd enroll'd;
And, bound before his car in fetters strong,
In sullen state the Thunderer march'd along.
Thus, as I view'd th' interminable host,
The prospect seem'd at last in dimness lost:
But still the wish remain'd their doom to know,
As, watchful, I survey'd the passing show.
As each majestic form emerged to light,
Thither, intent, I turn'd my sharpen'd sight;
And soon a noble pair my notice drew,
That, hand in hand approaching, met my view.
In gentle parley, and communion sweet—
With looks of love, they seem'd mine eyes to meet;
Yet strange was their attire—their tongue unknown
Spoke them the natives of a distant zone;
But every doubt my kind assistant clear'd,
Instant I knew them, when their names were heard.
To one, encouraged by his aspect mild,
I spoke—the other with a frown recoil'd.—
"O Masinissa!"—thus my speech began,
"By Scipio's friendship, and the gentle ban
Of constant love, attend my warm request."
Turning around, the solemn shade address'd
His answer thus:—"With like desire I glow
Your lineage, name, and character, to know,
Since you have learnt my name." With soft reply
I said, "A name like mine can nought supply
The notice of renown like yours to claim.
No smother'd spark like mine emits a flame
To catch the public eye, as you can boast—
A leading name in Cupid's numerous host!
Alike his future victims and the past
Shall own the common tie, while time itself shall last.
But tell me (if your guide allow a space
The semblance of those tendant shades to trace)
The names and fortunes of the following pair
Who seem the noblest gifts of mind to share."—
"My name," he said, "you seem to know so well
That faithful Memory all the rest can tell;
But as the sad detail may soothe my woes,
Listen, while I my mournful doom disclose:—
To Rome and Scipio's cause my faith was bound,
E'en Lælius scarce a warmer friendship own'd:
Where'er their ensigns fann'd the summer sky,
I led my Libyans on, a firm ally;
Propitious Fortune still advanced his name,
Yet more than she bestow'd, his worth might claim.
Still we advanced, and still our glory grew
While westward far the Roman eagle flew
With conquest wing'd; but my unlucky star
Led me, unconscious, to the fatal snare
Which Love had laid. I saw the regal dame—
Our hearts at once confess'd a mutual flame.
Caught by the lure of interdicted joys,
Proudly I scorn'd the stern forbidding voice
Of Roman policy; and hoped the vows
At Hymen's altar sworn, might save my spouse.
But, oh! that wondrous man, who ne'er would yield
To passion's call, the cruel sentence seal'd,
That tore my consort from my fond embrace,
And left me sunk in anguish and disgrace.
Unmoved he saw my briny sorrows flow,
Unmoved he listen'd to my tale of woe!
But friendship, waked at last, with reverent awe,
Obsequious, own'd his mind's superior law;
And to that holy and unclouded light,
That led him on through passion's dubious night,
Submiss I bow'd; for, oh! the beam of day
Is dark to him that wants her guiding ray!—
Love, hardly conquer'd, long repined in vain,
When Justice link'd the adamantine chain;
And cruel Friendship o'er the conquer'd ground
Raised with strong hand th' insuperable mound.
To him I owed my laurels nobly won—
I loved him as a brother, sire, and son,
For in an equal race our lives had run;
Yet the sad price I paid with burning tears;—
Dire was the cause that woke my gloomy fears!
Too well the sad result my soul divined,
Too well I knew the unsubmitting mind
Of Sophonisba would prefer the tomb
To stern captivity's ignoble doom.
I, too, sad victim of celestial wrath,
Was forced to aid the tardy stroke of death:
With pangs I yielded to her piercing cries,
To speed her passage to the nether skies;
And worse than death endured, her mind to save
From shame, more hateful than the yawning grave.—
What was my anguish, when she seized the bowl,
She knows! and you, whose sympathising soul
Has felt the fiery shaft, may guess my pains—
Now tears and anguish are her sole remains.
That treasure, to preserve my faith to Rome,
Those hands committed to th' untimely tomb;
And every hope and joy of life resign'd
To keep the stain of falsehood from my mind.
But hasten, and the moving pomp survey,
(The light-wing'd moments brook no long delay),
To try if any form your notice claims
Among those love-lorn youths and amorous dames."—
With poignant grief I heard his tale of woe,
That seem'd to melt my heart like vernal snow,
When a low voice these sullen accents sung:—
"Not for himself, but those from whom he sprung,
He merits fate; for I detest them all
To whose fell rage I owe my country's fall."
"Oh, calm your rage, unhappy Queen!" I cried;
"Twice was the land and sea in slaughter dyed
By cruel Carthage, till the sentence pass'd
That laid her glories in the dust at last."—
"Yet mournful wreaths no less the victors crown'd;
In deep despair our valour oft they own'd.
Your own impartial annals yet proclaim
The Punic glory and the Roman shame."
She spoke—and with a smile of hostile spite
Join'd the deep train, and darken'd to my sight.
Then, as a traveller through lands unknown
With care and keen observance journeys on;
Whose dubious thoughts his eager steps retard,
Thus through the files I pass'd with fix'd regard;
Still singling some amid the moving show,
Intent the story of their loves to know.
A spectre now within my notice came,
Though dubious marks of joy, commix'd with shame,
His features wore, like one who gains a boon
With secret glee, which shame forbids to own,
O dire example of the Demon's power!
The father leaves the hymeneal bower
For his incestuous son; the guilty spouse
With transport mix'd with honour, meets his vows!
In mournful converse now, amidst the host,
Their compact they bewail'd, and Syria lost!
Instant, with eager step, I turn'd aside,
And met the double husband, and the bride,
And with an earnest voice the first address'd:—
A look of dread the spectre's face express'd,
When first the accents of victorious Rome
Brought to his mind his kingdom's ancient doom.
At length, with many a doleful sigh, he said,
"You here behold Seleucus' royal shade.
Antiochus is next; his life to save,
My ready hand my beauteous consort gave,
(From me, whose will was law, a legal prize,)
That bound our souls in everlasting ties
Indissolubly strong. The royal fair
Forsook a throne to cure the deep despair
Of him, who would have dared the stroke of Death,
To keep, without a stain, his filial faith.
A skilful leech the deadly symptoms guess'd;
His throbbing veins the secret soon confess'd
Of Love with honour match'd, in dire debate,
Whenever he beheld my lovely mate;
Else gentle Love, subdued by filial dread,
Had sent him down among th' untimely dead."—
Then, like a man that feels a sudden thought
His purpose change, the mingling crowd he sought,
And left the question, which a moment hung
Scarce half suppress'd upon my faltering tongue.
Suspended for a moment, still I stood,
With various thoughts oppress'd in musing mood.
At length a voice was heard, "The passing day
Is yours, but it permits not long delay."—
I turn'd in haste, and saw a fleeting train
Outnumbering those who pass'd the surging main
By Xerxes led—a naked wailing crew,
Whose wretched plight the drops of sorrow drew
From my full eyes.—Of many a clime and tongue
Commix'd the mournful pageant moved along
While scarce the fortunes or the name of one
Among a thousand passing forms was known.
I spied that Ethiopian's dusky charms,
Which woke in Perseus' bosom Love's alarms;
And next was he who for a shadow burn'd,
Which the deceitful watery glass return'd;
Enamour'd of himself, in sad decay—
Amid abundance, poor—he look'd his life away;
And now transform'd through passion's baneful power,
He o'er the margin hangs, a drooping flower;
While, by her hopeless love congeal'd to stone,
His mistress seems to look in silence on;
Then he that loved, by too severe a fate,
The cruel maid who met his love with hate,
Pass'd by; with many more who met their doom
By female pride, and fill'd an early tomb.—
There too, the victim of her plighted vows,
Halcyone for ever mourns her spouse;
Who now, in feathers clad, as poets feign,
Makes a short summer on the wintry main.—
Then he that to the cliffs the maid pursued,
And seem'd by turns to soar, and swim the flood;—
And she, who, snared by Love, her father sold,
With her, who fondly snared the rolling gold;
And her young paramour, who made his boast
That he had gain'd the prize his rival lost.—
Acis and Galatea next were seen,
And Polyphemus with infuriate mien;—
And Glaucus there, by rival arts assail'd,
Fell Circe's hate and Scylla's doom bewail'd.—
Then sad Carmenta, with her royal lord,
Whom the fell sorceress clad, by arts abhorr'd,
With plumes; but still the regal stamp impress'd
On his imperial wings and lofty crest.—
Then she, whose tears the springing fount supplied;—
And she whose form above the rolling tide
Hangs a portentous cliff—the royal fair,
Who wrote the dictates of her last despair
To him whose ships had left the friendly strand.
With the keen steel in her determined hand.—
There, too, Pygmalion, with his new-made spouse,
With many more, I spied, whose amorous vows
And fates in never-dying song resound
Where Aganippe laves the sacred ground:—
And, last of all, I saw the lovely maid
Of Love unconscious, by an oath betray'd.
Like one by wonder reft of speech, I stood
Pond'ring the mournful scene in pensive mood,
As one that waits advice. My guide in haste
Began:—"You let the moments run to waste
What objects hold you here?—my doom you know;
Compell'd to wander with the sons of woe!"—
"Oh, yet awhile afford your friendly aid!
You see my inmost soul;" submiss I said.
"The strong unsated wish you there can read;
The restless cravings of my mind to feed
With tidings of the dead."—In gentler tone
He said, "Your longings in your looks are known;
You wish to learn the names of those behind
Who through the vale in long procession wind:
I grant your prayer, if fate allows a space,"
He said, "their fortunes, as they come, to trace.—
See that majestic shade that moves along,
And claims obeisance from the ghostly throng:
'Tis Pompey; with the partner of his vows,
Who mourns the fortunes of her slaughter'd spouse,
By Egypt's servile band.—The next is he
Whom Love's tyrannic spell forbade to see
The danger by his cruel consort plann'd;
Till Fate surprised him by her treacherous hand.—
Let constancy and truth exalt the name
Of her, the lovely candidate for fame,
Who saved her spouse!—Then Pyramus is seen,
And Thisbe, through the shade, with pensive mien;—
Then Hero with Leander moves along,—
And great Ulysses, towering in the throng:
His visage wears the signs of anxious thought
There sad Penelope laments her lot:
With trickling tears she seems to chide his stay,
While fond Calypso charms her love-delay.—
Next he who braved in many a bloody fight.
For years on years, the whole collected might
Of Rome, but sunk at length in Cupid's snare
The shameful victim of th' Apulian fair!—
Then she, that, in a servile dress pursued,
(Reft of her golden locks) o'er field and flood,
With peerless faith, her exiled spouse unknown,
With whom of old she fill'd a lofty throne.—
Then Portia comes, who fire and steel defied,
And Julia, grieved to see a second bride
Engage her consort's love.—The Hebrew swain
Appears, who sold himself his love to gain
For seven long summers—a vivacious flame,
Which neither years nor constant toil could tame!—
Then Isaac, with his father, joins the band,
Who, with his consort, left at God's command,
Led by the lamp of faith, his native land.—
David is next, by lawless passion sway'd;
And, adding crime to crime, at last betray'd
To deeds of blood, till solitude and tears
Wash'd his dire guilt away, and calm'd his fears.
The sensual vapour, with Circean fume,
Involved his royal son in deeper gloom,
And dimm'd his glory, till, immersed in vice,
His heart renounced the Ruler of the Skies,
Adopting Stygian gods.—The changeful hue
Of his incestuous brother meets your view,
Who lurks behind: observe the sudden turn
Of love and hatred blanch his cheek, and burn!
His ruin'd sister there, with frantic speed,
To Absalom recounts the direful deed.—
Samson behold, a prey to female fraud!
Strong, but unwise, he laid the pledge of God
In her fallacious lap, who basely sold
Her husband's honour for Philistian gold.—
Judith is nigh, who, mid a host in arms,
With gentle accents and alluring charms
Their chief o'ercame, and, at the noon of night,
From his pavilion sped her venturous flight
With one attendant slave, who bore along
The tyrant's head amid the hostile throng;
Adoring Him who arms the feeble hand.
And bids the weak a mighty foe withstand.—
Unhappy Sichem next is seen, who paid
A bloody ransom for an injured maid:
His guiltless sire and all his slaughter'd race,
With many a life, attend the foul disgrace.
Such was the ruin by a sudden gust
Of passion caused, when murder follow'd lust!—
That other, like a wise physician, cured
An abject passion, long with pain endured:
To Vashti for an easy boon he sued;
She scorn'd his suit, and rage his love subdued:
Soon to its aid a softer passion came,
And from his breast expell'd the former flame:
Like wedge by wedge displaced, the nuptial ties
He breaks, and soon another bride supplies.—
But if you wish to see the bosom (war
Of Jealousy and Love) in deadly jar,
Behold that royal Jew! the dire control
Of Love and Hate by turns besiege his soul.
Now Vengeance wins the day—the deed is done!
And now, in fell remorse, he hates the sun,
And calls his consort from the realms of night,
To which his fatal hand had sped her flight—
Behold yon hapless three, by passion lost,
Procris, and Artemisia's royal ghost;
And her, whose son (his mother's grief and joy)
Razed with paternal rage the walls of Troy,—
Another triple sisterhood is seen;
This characters of Hades. Mark their mien
With sin distain'd: their downcast looks disclose
A conscience of their crimes, and dread of coming woes.—
Semiramis, and Byblis (famed of old)
Her mother's rival there you next behold;
With many a warrior, many a lovely dame
Of old, ennobled by romantic fame.—
There Lancelot and Tristram (famed in fight)
Are seen, with many a dame and errant knight;—
Genevra, Belle Isonde, and hundreds more;
With those who mingled their incestuous gore
Shed by paternal rage; and chant beneath,
In baneful symphony, the Song of Death."
He scarce had spoken, when a chill presage
(What warriors feel before the battle's rage,
When in the angry trump's sonorous breath
They hear, before it comes, the sound of Death)
My heart possess'd; and, tinged with deadly pale,
I seem'd escaped from Death's eternal jail;
When, fleeting to my side with looks of Love,
A phantom brighter than the Cyprian dove
My fingers clasp'd; which, though of power to wield
The temper'd sabre in the bloody field
Against an armed foe, a touch subdued;
And gentle words, and looks that fired the blood,
My friend addressed me (I remember well),
And from his lips these dubious accents fell:—
"Converse with whom you please, for all the train
Are mark'd alike the slaves of Cupid's reign."—
Thus, in security and peace trepann'd,
I was enlisted in that wayward band,
Who short-lived joys by anguish long obtain,
And whom the pleasures of a rival pain
More than their proper joys. Remembrance shows
Too clear at last the source of all my woes,
When Jealousy, and Love, and Envy drew
That nurture from my heart by which they grew.
As feverish eyes on air-drawn features dwell,
My fascinated eyes, by magic spell,
Dwell'd on the heavenly form with ardent look,
And at a glance the dire contagion took
That tinged my days to come; and each delight,
But those that bore her stamp, consign'd to night.
I blush with shame when to my inward view
The devious paths return where Cupid drew
His willing slave, with all my hopes and fears—
When Phœbus seem'd to rise and set in tears
For many a spring—and when I used to dwell
A lonely hermit in a silent cell.
How upwards oft I traced the purling rills
To their pure fountains in the misty hills!
The rocks I used to climb, the solemn woods,
Where oft I wander'd by the winding floods!
And often spent, whene'er I chanced to stray,
In amorous ditties all the livelong day!
What mournful rhymes I wrote and 'rased again,
Spending the precious hours of youth in vain!
'Twas in this school I learn'd the mystic things
Of the blind god, and all the secret springs
From which his hopes and fears alternate rise:
'Graved on his frontlet, the detection lies,
Which all may read, for I have oped their eyes.
And she, the cause of all my lengthen'd toils,
Disdains my passion, though she boasts my spoils.
Of rigid honour proud, she smiles to see
The fatal triumph of her charms in me.
Not Love himself can aid, for Love retires,
And in her sacred presence veils his fires:
He feels his genius by her looks subdued,
And all his spells by stronger spells withstood.
Hence my despair; for neither force nor art
Can wound her bosom, nor extract the dart
That rankles here, while proudly she defies
The power that makes a captive world his prize.
She is not one that dallies with the foe,
But with unconquer'd soul defies the blow;
And, like the Lord of Light, displays afar
A splendour which obscures each lesser star.
Her port is all divine; her radiant smile,
And e'en her scorn, the captive heart beguile;
Her accents breathe of heaven; her auburn hair
(Whether it wanton with the sportive air,
Or bound in shining wreaths adorns her face,)
Secures her conquests with resistless grace;
Her eyes, that sparkle with celestial fire,
Have render'd me the slave of fond desire.
But who can raise his style to match her charms?
What mortal bard can sing the soft alarms
That flutter in the breast, and fire the veins?
Alas! the theme surmounts the loftiest strains.
Far as the ocean in its ample bed
Exceeds the purling stream that warbles through the mead,
Such charms are hers—as never were reveal'd
On earth, since Phœbus first the world beheld!
And voices, tuned her peerless form to praise,
Suffer a solemn pause with mute amaze.
Thus was I manacled for life; while she,
Proud of my bonds, enjoy'd her liberty.
With ceaseless suit I pray'd, but all in vain;
One prayer among a thousand scarce could gain
A slight regard—so hopeless was my state,
And such the laws of Love imposed by fate!
For stedfast is the rule by Nature given,
Which all the ranks of life, from earth to heaven.
With reverent awe and homage due obey,
And every age and climate owns its sway.
I know the cruel pangs by lovers borne,
When from the breast the bleeding heart is torn
By Love's relentless gripe; the deadly harms
Of Cupid, when he wields resistless arms;
Or when, in dubious truce, he drops his dart,
And gives short respite to the tortured heart.
The vital current's ebb and flood I know,
When shame or anger bids the features glow,
Or terror pales the cheek; the deadly snake
I know that nestles in the flowery brake,
And, watchful, seems to sleep, and languor feigns,
When health-inspiring vigour fills the veins.
I know what hope and fear assail the mind
When I pursue my love, yet dread to find.
I know the strange and sympathetic tie,
When, soul in soul transfused, a fond ally
For ever seems another and the same,
Or change with mutual love their mortal frame.
From transient smiles to long protracted woe
The various turns and dark degrees I know;
And hot and cold, and that unequall'd smart
When souls survive, though sever'd from the heart.
I know, I cherish, and detect the cheat
Of every hour; but still, with eager feet
And fervent hope, pursue the flying fair,
And still for promised rapture meet despair.
When absent, I consume in raging fire;
But, in her presence check'd, the flames expire,
Repress'd by sacred awe. The boundless sway
Of cruel Love I feel, that makes a prey
Of all those energies that lift the soul
To her congenial climes above the pole
I know the various pangs that rend the heart;
I know that noblest souls receive the dart
Without defence, when Reason drops the shield
And, recreant, to her foe resigns the field.—
I saw the archer in his airy flight,
I saw him when he check'd his arrow's flight:
And when it reach'd the mark, I watched the god,
And saw him win his way by force or fraud,
As best befits his ends. His whirling throne
Turns short at will, or runs directly on.
The rapid follies which his axle bear,
Are short fallacious hope and certain fear;
And many a promise given of Halcyon days,
Whose faint and dubious gleam the heart betrays.
I know what secret flame the marrow fries,
How in the veins a dormant fever lies;
Till, fann'd to fury by contagious breath,
It gains tremendous head, and ends in death.
I know too well what long and doubtful strife
Forms the dire tissue of a lover's life;
The transient taste of sweet commix'd with gall,
What changes dire the hapless crew befall.
Their strange fantastic habitudes I know,
Their measured groans in lamentable flow;
When rhyming-fits the faltering tongue employ,
And love sick spasms the mournful Muse annoy;
The smile that like the lightning fleets away,
The sorrows that for half a life delay;
Like drops of honey in a wormwood bowl,
Drain'd to the dregs in bitterness of soul.
So fickle fortune, in a luckless hour,
Had close consigned me to a tyrant's power,
Who cut the nerves that, with elastic force,
Had borne me on in Freedom's generous course—
So I, in noble independence bred,
Free as the roebuck in the sylvan glade,
By passion lured, a voluntary slave—
My ready name to Cupid's muster gave.
And yet I saw their grief and wild despair;
I saw them blindly seek the fatal snare
Through winding paths, and many an artful maze,
Where Cupid's viewless spell the band obeys.
Here, as I turn'd my anxious eyes around,
If any shade I then could see renown'd
In old or modern times; the bard I spied
Whose unabated love pursued his bride
Down to the coast of Hades; and above
His life resign'd, the pledge of constant love,
Calling her name in death.—Alcæus near,
Who sung the joys of Love and toils severe,
Was seen with Pindar and the Teian swain,
A veteran gay among the youthful train
Of Cupid's host.—The Mantuan next I found,
Begirt with bards from age to age renown'd;
Whether they chose in lofty themes to soar,
Or sportive try the Muse's lighter lore.—
There soft Tibullus walk'd with Sulmo's bard;
And there Propertius with Catullus shared
The meed of lovesome lays: the Grecian dame
With sweeter numbers woke the amorous flame
While thus I turn'd around my wondering eyes,
I saw a noble train with new surprise,
Who seem'd of Love in choral notes to sing,
While all around them breathed Elysian spring.—
Here Alighieri, with his love I spied,
Selvaggia, Guido, Cino, side by side—
Guido, who mourn'd the lot that fix'd his name
The second of his age in lyric fame.—
Two other minstrels there I spied that bore
His name, renown'd on Arno's tuneful shore.
With them Sicilia's bards, in elder days
Match'd with the foremost in poetic praise,
Though now they rank behind.—Sennuccio nigh
With gentle Franceschino met my eye.—
But soon another tribe, of manners strange
And uncouth dialect, was seen to range
Along the flowery paths, by Arnald led;
In Cupid's lore by all the Muses bred,
And master of the theme.—Marsilia's coast
And Narbonne still his polish'd numbers boast.—
The next I saw with lighter step advance;
'Twas he that caught a flame at every glance
That met his eye, with him who shared his name.
Join'd with an Arnald of inferior fame.—
Next either Rambold in procession trod,
No easy conquest to the winged god.
The pride of Montferrat (a peerless dame)
In many a ditty sung, announced his flame;
And Genoa's bard, who left his native coast,
And on Marsilia's towers the memory lost
Of his first time, when Salem's sacred flame
Taught him a nobler heritage to claim,—
Gerard and Peter, both of Gallic blood,
And tuneful Rudel, who, in moonstruck mood,
O'er ocean by a flying image led,
In the fantastic chase his canvas spread;
And, where he thought his amorous vows to breathe,
From Cupid's bow received the shaft of Death.—
There was Cabestaing, whose unequall'd lays
From all his rivals won superior praise.—
Hugo was there, with Almeric renown'd;—
Bernard and Anselm by the Muses crown'd.—
Those and a thousand others o'er the field
Advanced; nor javelin did they want, or shield;
The Muses form'd their guard, and march'd before.
Spreading their long renown from shore to shore.—
The Latian band, with sympathising woe,
At last I spied amid the moving show:
Bologna's poet first, whose honour'd grave
His relics hold beside Messina's wave.
O fickle joys, that fleet upon the wind,
And leave the lassitude of life behind!
The youth, that every thought and movement sway'd
Of this sad heart, is now an empty shade!
What world contains thee now, my tuneful guide,
Whom nought of old could sever from my side?
What is this life?—what none but fools esteem;
A fleeting shadow, a romantic dream!—
Not far I wander'd o'er the peopled field,
Till Socrates and Lælius I beheld.
Oh, may their holy influence never cease
That soothed my heart-corroding pangs to peace!
Unequall'd friends! no bard's ecstatic lays
Nor polish'd prose your deathless name can raise
To match your genuine worth! O'er hill and dale
We pass'd, and oft I told my doleful tale,
Disclosing all my wounds, end not in vain:
Their sacred presence seem'd to soothe my pain.
Oh, may that glorious privilege be mine,
Till dust to dust the final stroke resign!
My courage they inspired to claim the wreath—
Immortal emblem of my constant faith
To her whose name the poet's garland bears!
Yet nought from her, for long devoted years,
I reap'd but cold disdain, and fruitless tears.—
But soon a sight ensued, that, like a spell,
Restrain'd at once my passion's stormy swell:
But this a loftier muse demands to sing,
The hallow'd power that pruned the daring wing
Of that blind force, by folly canonized
And in the garb of deity disguised.
Yet first the conscious muse designs to tell
How I endured and 'scaped his witching spell;
A subject that demands a muse of fire,
A glorious theme, that Phœbus might inspire—
Worthy of Homer and the Orphean lyre!
Still, as along the whirling chariot flew,
I kept the wafture of his wings in view:
Onward his snow-white steeds were seen to bound
O'er many a steepy hill and dale profound:
And, victims of his rage, the captive throng.
Chain'd to the flying wheels, were dragg'd along,
All torn and bleeding, through the thorny waste;
Nor knew I how the land and sea he pass'd,
Till to his mother's realm he came at last.
Far eastward, where the vext Ægean roars,
A little isle projects its verdant shores:
Soft is the clime, and fruitful is the ground,
No fairer spot old ocean clips around;
Nor Sol himself surveys from east to west
A sweeter scene in summer livery drest.
Full in the midst ascends a shady hill,
Where down its bowery slopes a streaming rill
In dulcet murmurs flows, and soft perfume
The senses court from many a vernal bloom,
Mingled with magic; which the senses steep
In sloth, and drug the mind in Lethe's deep,
Quenching the spark divine—the genuine boast
Of man, in Circe's wave immersed and lost.
This favour'd region of the Cyprian queen
Received its freight—a heaven-abandon'd scene.
Where Falsehood fills the throne, while Truth retires,
And vainly mourns her half-extinguish'd fires.
Vile in its origin, and viler still
By all incentives that seduce the will,
It seems Elysium to the sons of Lust,
But a foul dungeon to the good and just.
Exulting o'er his slaves, the winged God
Here in a theatre his triumphs show'd,
Ample to hold within its mighty round
His captive train, from Thule's northern bound
To far Taprobane, a countless crowd,
Who, to the archer boy, adoring, bow'd.
Sad fantoms shook above their Gorgon wings—
Fantastic longings for unreal things,
And fugitive delights, and lasting woes;
The summer's biting frost, and winter's rose;
And penitence and grief, that dragg'd along
The royal lawless pair, that poets sung.
One, by his Spartan plunder, seal'd the doom
Of hapless Troy—the other rescued Rome.
Beneath, as if in mockery of their woe,
The tumbling flood, with murmurs deep and low,
Return'd their wailings; while the birds above
With sweet aerial descant fill'd the grove.
And all beside the river's winding bed
Fresh flowers in gay confusion deck'd the mead,
Painting the sod with every scent and hue
That Flora's breath affords, or drinks the morning dew,
And many a solemn bower, with welcome shade,
Over the dusky stream a shelter made.
And when the sun withdrew his slanting ray,
And winter cool'd the fervours of the day,
Then came the genial hours, the frequent feast
And circling times of joy and balmy rest.
New day and night were poised in even scale,
And spring awoke her equinoctial gale,
And Progne now and Philomel begun
With genial toils to greet the vernal sun.
Just then—O hapless mortals! that rely
On fickle fortune's ever-changing sky—
E'en in that season, when, with sacred fire,
Dan Cupid seem'd his subjects to inspire,
That warms the heart, and kindles in the look,
And all beneath the moon obey his yoke—
I saw the sad reverse that lovers own,
I heard the slaves beneath their bondage groan;
I saw them sink beneath the deadly weight
And the long tortures that forerun their fate.
Sad disappointments there in meagre forms
Were seen, and feverish dreams, and fancied harms;
And fantoms rising from the yawning tomb
Were seen to muster in the gathering gloom
Around the car; and some were seen to climb,
While cruel fate reversed their steps sublime.
And empty notions in the port were seen,
And baffled hopes were there with cloudy mien.
There was expensive gain, and gain that lost,
And amorous schemes by fortune's favour cross'd;
And wearisome repose, and cares that slept.
There was the semblance of disgrace, that kept
The youth from dire mischance on whom it fell,
And glory darken'd on the gloom of hell;
Perfidious loyalty, and honest fraud,
And wisdom slow, and headlong thirst of blood;
The dungeon, where the flowery paths decoy;
The painful, hard escape, with long annoy.
I saw the smooth descent the foot betray,
And the steep rocky path that leads again to day.
There in the gloomy gulf confusion storm'd,
And moody rage its wildest freaks perform'd;
And settled grief was there; and solid night,
But rarely broke with fitful gleams of light
From joy's fantastic hand. Not Vulcan's forge,
When his Cyclopean caves the fumes disgorge;
Nor the deep mine of Mongibel, that throws
The fiery tempest o'er eternal snows;
Nor Lipari, whose strong sulphureous blast
O'ercanopies with flames the watery waste;
Nor Stromboli, that sweeps the glowing sky
With red combustion, with its rage could vie.—
Little he loves himself that ventures there,
For there is ceaseless woe and fell despair:
Yet, in this dolorous dungeon long confined,
Till time had grizzled o'er my locks, I pined.
There, dreaming still of liberty to come,
I spent my summers in this noisome gloom;
Yet still a dubious joy my grief controll'd,
To spy such numbers in that darksome hold.
But soon to gall my seeming transport turn'd,
And my illustrious partner's fate I mourn'd;
And often seem'd, with sympathising woe,
To melt in solvent tears like vernal snow.
I turn'd away, but, with inverted glance,
Perused the fleeting shapes that fill'd my trance;
Like him that feels a moment's short delight
When a fine picture fleets before his sight.
[ THE TRIUMPH OF CHASTITY ]
When gods and men I saw in Cupid's chain
Promiscuous led, a long uncounted train,
By sad example taught, I learn'd at last
Wisdom's best rule—to profit from the past
Some solace in the numbers too I found,
Of those that mourn'd, like me, the common wound
That Phœbus felt, a mortal beauty's slave,
That urged Leander through the wintry wave;
That jealous Juno with Eliza shared,
Whose more than pious hands the flame prepared;
That mix'd her ashes with her murder'd spouse.
A dire completion of her nuptial vows.
(For not the Trojan's love, as poets sing,
In her wan bosom fix'd the secret string.)
And why should I of common ills complain,
Shot by a random shaft, a thoughtless swain?
Unarm'd and unprepared to meet the foe,
My naked bosom seem'd to court the blow.
One cause, at least, to soothe my grief ensued;
When I beheld the ruthless power subdued;
And all unable now to twang the string,
Or mount the breeze on many-colour'd wing.
But never tawny monarch of the wood
His raging rival meets, athirst for blood;
Nor thunder-clouds, when winds the signal blow,
With louder shock astound the world below;
When the red flash, insufferably bright,
Heaven, earth, and sea displays in dismal light;
Could match the furious speed and fell intent
With which the wingèd son of Venus bent
His fatal yew against the dauntless fair
Who seem'd with heart of proof to meet the war;
Nor Etna sends abroad the blast of death
When, wrapp'd in flames, the giant moves beneath;
Nor Scylla, roaring, nor the loud reply
Of mad Charybdis, when her waters fly
And seem to lave the moon, could match the rage
Of those fierce rivals burning to engage.
Aloof the many drew with sudden fright,
And clamber'd up the hills to see the fight;
And when the tempest of the battle grew,
Each face display'd a wan and earthy hue.
The assailant now prepared his shaft to wing,
And fixed his fatal arrow on the string:
The fatal string already reach'd his ear;
Nor from the leopard flies the trembling deer
With half the haste that his ferocious wrath
Bore him impetuous on to deeds of death;
And in his stern regard the scorching fire
Was seen, that burns the breast with fierce desire;
To me a fatal flame! but hope to see
My lovely tyrant forced to love like me,
And, bound in equal chain, assuaged my woe,
As, with an eager eye, I watch'd the coming blow
But virtue, as it ne'er forsakes the soul
That yields obedience to her blest control,
Proves how of her unjustly we complain,
When she vouchsafes her gracious aid in vain
In vain the self-abandon'd shift the blame
Upon their stars, or fate's perverted name.
Ne'er did a gladiator shun the stroke
With nimbler turn, or more attentive look;
Never did pilot's hand the vessel steer
With more dexterity the shoals to clear
Than with evasion quick and matchless art,
By grace and virtue arm'd in head and heart,
She wafted quick the cruel shaft aside,
Woe to the lingering soul that dares the stroke abide!
I watch'd, and long with firm expectance stood
To see a mortal by a god subdued,
The usual fate of man! in hope to find
The cords of Love the beauteous captive bind
With me, a willing slave, to Cupid's car,
The fortunes of the common race to share.
As one, whose secrets in his looks we spy,
His inmost thoughts discovers in his eye
Or in his aspect, graved by nature's hand,
My gestures, ere I spoke, enforced my fond demand.
"Oh, link us to your wheels!" aloud I cried,
"If your victorious arms the fray decide:
Oh, bind us closely with your strongest chain!
I ne'er will seek for liberty again!"—
But oh! what fury seem'd his eyes to fill!
No bard that ever quaff'd Castalia's rill
Could match his frenzy, when his shafts of fire
With magic plumed, and barb'd with hot desire,
Short of their sacred aim, innoxious fell,
Extinguish'd by the pure ethereal spell.
Camilla; or the Amazons in arms
From ancient Thermodon, to fierce alarms
Inured; or Julius in Pharsalia's field,
When his dread onset forced the foe to yield—
Came not so boldly on as she, to face
The mighty victor of the human race,
Who scorns the temper'd mail and buckler's ward.
With her the Virtues came—an heavenly guard,
A sky-descended legion, clad in light
Of glorious panoply, contemning mortal might;
All weaponless they came; but hand in hand
Defied the fury of the adverse band:
Honour and maiden Shame were in the ban,
Elysian twins, beloved by God and man.
Her delegates in arms with them combined;
Prudence appear'd, the daughter of the mind;
Pure Temperance next, and Steadiness of soul,
That ever keeps in view the eternal goal;
And Gentleness and soft Address were seen,
And Courtesy, with mild inviting mien;
And Purity, and cautious Dread of blame,
With ardent love of clear unspotted fame;
And sage Discretion, seldom seen below,
Where the full veins with youthful ardour glow;
Benevolence and Harmony of soul
Were there, but rarely found from pole to pole;
And there consummate Beauty shone, combined
With all the pureness of an angel-mind.
Such was the host that to the conflict came,
Their bosoms kindling with empyreal flame
And sense of heavenly help.—The beams that broke
From each celestial file with horror struck
The bowyer god, who felt the blinding rays,
And like a mortal stood in fix'd amaze;
While on his spoils the fair assailants flew,
And plunder'd at their ease the captive crew;
And some with palmy boughs the way bestrew'd,
To show their conquest o'er the baffled god.
Sudden as Hannibal on Zama's field
Was forced to Scipio's conquering arms to yield;
Sudden as David's hand the giant sped,
When Accaron beheld his fall and fled;
Sudden as her revenge who gave the word,
When her stern guards dispatch'd the Persian lord;
Or like a man that feels a strong disease
His shivering members in a moment seize—
Such direful throes convulsed the despot's frame.
His hands, that veil'd his eyes, confess'd his shame,
And mental pangs, more agonising far,
In his sick bosom bred a civil war;
And hate and anguish, with insatiate ire,
Flash'd in his eyes with momentary fire.—
Not raging Ocean, when its billows boil;
Nor Typhon, when he lifts the trembling soil
Of Arima, his tortured limbs to ease;
Nor Etna, thundering o'er the subject seas—
Surpass'd the fury of the baffled Power,
Who stamp'd with rage, and bann'd the luckless hour
Scenes yet unsung demand my loftiest lays—
But oh! the theme transcends a mortal's praise.
A sweet but humbler subject may suffice
To muster in my song her fair allies;
But first, her arms and vesture claim my song
Before I chant the fair attendant throng:—
A robe she wore that seem'd of woven light;
The buckler of Minerva fill'd her right,
Medusa's bane; a column there was drawn
Of jasper bright; and o'er the snowy lawn
And round her beauteous neck a chain was slung,
Which glittering on her snowy bosom hung.
Diamond and topaz there, with mingled ray,
Return'd in varied hues the beam of day;
A treasure of inestimable cost,
Too long, alas! in Lethe's bosom lost:
To modern matrons scarcely known by fame,
Few, were it to be found, the prize would claim.
With this the vanquish'd god she firmly bound,
While I with joy her kind assistance own'd;
But oh! the feeble Muse attempts in vain
To celebrate in song her numerous train;
Not all the choir of Aganippe's spring
The pageant of the sisterhood could sing:
But some shall live, distinguished in my lay,
The most illustrious of the long array.—
The dexter wing the fair Lucretia led,
With her, who, faithful to her nuptial bed,
Her suitors scorn'd: and these with dauntless hand
The quiver seized, and scatter'd on the strand
The pointless arrows, and the broken bow
Of Cupid, their despoil'd and recreant foe.—
Lovely Virginia with her sire was nigh:
Paternal love and anger in his eye
Beam'd terrible, while in his hand he show'd
Aloft the dagger, tinged with virgin blood,
Which freedom on the maid and Rome at once bestow'd.—
Then the Teutonic dames, a dauntless race,
Who rush'd on death to shun a foe's embrace;—
And Judith chaste and fair, but void of dread,
Who the hot blood of Holofernes shed;—
And that fair Greek who chose a watery grave
Her threaten'd purity unstain'd to save.—
All these and others to the combat flew,
And all combined to wreak the vengeance due
On him, whose haughty hand in days of yore
From clime to clime his conquering standard bore.
Another troop the vestal virgin led,
Who bore along from Tyber's oozy bed
His liquid treasure in a sieve, to show
The falsehood of her base calumnious foe
By wondrous proof.—And there the Sabine queen
With all the matrons of her race was seen,
Renown'd in records old;—and next in fame
Was she, who dauntless met the funeral flame,
Not wrong'd in Love, but to preserve her vows
Immaculate to her Sidonian spouse.
Let others of Æneas' falsehood tell,
How by an unrequited flame she fell;
A nobler, though a self-inflicted doom,
Caused by connubial Love, dismiss'd her to the tomb.—
Picarda next I saw, who vainly tried
To pass her days on Arno's flowery side
In single purity, till force compell'd
The virgin to the marriage bond to yield.
The triumph seem'd at last to reach the shore
Where lofty Baise hears the Tuscan roar.
'Twas on a vernal morn it touch'd the land,
And 'twixt Mount Barbaro that crowns the strand
And old Avernus (once an hallow'd ground);
For the Cumæan sibyl's cell renown'd.
Linterno's sandy bounds it reach'd at last,
Great Scipio's favour'd haunt in ages past;
Famed Africanus, whose victorious blade
The slaughterous deeds of Hannibal repaid,
And to his country's heart a bloody passage made.
Here in a calm retreat his life he spent,
With rural peace and solitude content.
And here the flying rumour sped before,
And magnified the deed from shore to shore.
The pageant, when it reach'd the destined spot,
Seem'd to exceed their utmost reach of thought.
There, all distinguish'd by their deeds of arms,
Excell'd the rest in more than mortal charms.
Nor he, whom oft the steeds of conquest drew,
Disdained another's triumphs to pursue.
At the metropolis arrived at last,
To fair Sulpicia's temples soon we pass'd,
Sacred to Chastity, to ward the pest
With which her sensual foes inflame the breast;
The patroness of noble dames alone—
Then was the fair plebeian Pole unknown,
The victress here display'd her martial spoils,
And here the laurel hung that crown'd her toils:
A guard she stationed on the temple's bound—
The Tuscan, mark'd with many a glorious wound
Suspicion in the jealous breast to cure:
With him a chosen squadron kept the door.
I heard their names, and I remember well
The youthful Greek that by his stepdame fell,
And him who, kept by Heaven's command in awe,
Refused to violate the nuptial law.
[ TRIUMPH OF DEATH ]
That spotless soul that left her dust behind,
And shines all glorious now, an angel mind
From ties material unrestrained and light—
I sung, victorious in the hardy fight
Over that mighty lord, whose potent sway
And fraudful wiles the sons of earth obey.
Her strength was from above—her vestal fire
Consum'd the flying shafts of low desire—
Her heavenly glance overcame his wanton smiles—
Her soaring thoughts escap'd his tangling wiles;
And Wisdom, by her winged guardian taught,
That sanctified each accent, look, and thought.
Oh what a glorious prospect there was seen.
When Cupid's baffled arms bestrow'd the green
With, many a lifeless corse and captive swain.
Newly entangled in the Cyprian chain!
Then, with the trophies of the well—fought day,
Her chosen troop victorious in the fray
She led; a slender band, but fam'd afar
Wherever Phœbus wheels his burning car.
Distinguish'd names, but rare; and each might claim
A poet's passport to eternal fame:
High floating on the winds, a lively green
Their banner shew'd a beauteous ermeline:
A golden ringlet round his neck was wrought,
Where gemmy rays from many a topaz caught
The dazzled sight, as in the eye of day
The verdant folds were seen aloft to play.
And not as mortals march they seem'd to move,
But like a pageant of the powers above.
As, planets round the sun in order bright.
Their eyes, all bent on her's, imbib'd the light;
And ever as they gaz'd their rapture grew,
Though mortal eye could ill sustain the view.
The violet and lose in blended pride
A fragrant wreath to every fair supplied;
Their starlike eyes confess'd the constant flame
That burn'd in every breast lor deathless fame.
But soon a sable ensign far display'd
In the dim welkin hung a dismal shade;
And, like a wan eclipse approaching slow,
Spread its pale umbrage o'er the gaudy show:
Beneath its shade was seen a female form,
Whose looks were lightning and her voice a storm,
All wrapt in black her giant shape was seen,
With such ferocious menace in her mien
As mark'd of old the heaven—defying crew
Who brav'd the vollied lightning as it flew.
She rais'd her hand, and thus vindictive said:—
"O thou in more than mortal charms array'd.
Behold that mighty power, whose awful name
Mortals, with pale antipathy, proclaim!
Whose prospects I involve in sudden night.
While they rely on long arrears of light.
The Grecian glory sunk beneath my frown,
I laid in dust the Dardan's long renown:
Even Rome victorious erst in many a fray
My more tremendous falchion swept away.
Far o'er barbarian climes my trophies spread,
And shores unknown are heap'd with nameless dead;
Hope's gaudy forms in rising prospect fair
Sink at my touch like images of air;
And with an harpy's haste I bear away
Weak man's abortive schemes, a sudden prey
To you whom vernal scenes of life allure:
Yet from the sad and wintry charge secure,
Ere yet my hand the bitter dregs instill,
And the deep mingled bowl with anguish fill,
I come a friend."—The peerless dame replied,
"Already these your deadly darts have tried.
I dare the proof. These vestments of decay
Are your's: the deathless soul contemns your sway.
Not for myself, but for another's woes
I plead, for more than life my life bestows.
Not for myself I bless the friendly stroke
That frees my spirit from this earthly yoke."
As one that sees with palpitating heart
An unexpected form to being start.
And wandering stands, and seems his doubts to blame,
The spectre listened to the peerless dame
With mild regard, and eyes of temper'd flame:
Then thus replied:—"I know their doom is past:
I well remember when the bitter blast
Of Death they proved! "He paused; and turning mild,
Like one by Virtue's charms, of rage beguil'd,
He said, "Oh you who guide that angel band,
Who ne'er have felt the rigour of my hand;
If to my sapient counsel you attend,
You'll find me less a tyrant than a friend.
I could compell; but choose the softer skill
By Wisdom's influence to subdue your will.
If the long toils of slow consuming age
You wish to shun, and leave the earthly stage
With unreluctant feet, my gentle power
Shall smooth the horrors of the parting hour
With comforts, never yet bestow'd on man
Since first my Triumphs o'er his race began."—
"Be it as heaven ordains!" was her reply;
"My will submits to Him who rules on high.
I crave no prouder lot than others know;
Content, like them, to meet the final blow."
She scarce had spoke, when o'er the shaded plain
Approached, in mournful march, a countless train;
Beyond the power of prose or poet's lay
To number, or to name. From rich Cathay,
From India, Spain, and Mauritania's coast
Like meeting floods, appear'd the mighty host;
The sons of every clime and every age,
And covering far the mighty mundane stage.
The fortune's minions in the press appear'd,
Pontiffs, and kings, and potentates rever'd;
But naked now, disconsolate, and bare,
They look a ghastly squadron of despair.
Where are their Riches now? their honours flown,
The gemmy sparks that starr'd the regal crown?
The guards, the splendid throne, the purple vest,
The rod of sovereign sway from east to west?
O wretched they who place their hopes below
On the poor pageant of this empty show!
But who are faultless? who avoids the blame
Of selling heavenly hope for lasting shame?
And first by heaven, a common doom they share;
When vanity they sow, and reap despair.
O blind of intellect! of what avail
Are your long toils on this sublunar vale?
Tell, ye benighted souls! what gains accrue
From the sad task which ceaseless ye pursue?
Ye soon must mingle with the dust ye tread,
And scarce your name upon a stone be read:
Yet e'en your vanity were not in vain.
Were mortals lessen'd by your fruitless pain!
Rise, then, ye phantoms of imperial sway!
And tell the fruits of many a slaught'rous day;
Send on the posting winds your black renown,
For kings subdu'd and freeborn states o'erthrown.
Like meteors, kindling on the Stygian gale.
As down Perdition's gloomy gulf ye sail.
What countless toils, what perils ye sustain
By land and sea, for glory or for gain!
The time will come, when nature's frugal fare
Will be acknowledg'd more to claim your care
Than gems of gold. Bat now my devious straia
Turns to the cavalcade of Death again;
For now remorseless Fate, like envious Night,
Drew her dim curtain o'er that glorious light;
And that terrific hour, the dread of man,
Its baleful march, with leaden feet, began.
Another female choir the band increas'd,
(Not from their earthly tenements releas'd)
Who round the victim stood, with awful pause,
To see if Death would mitigate her laws.
The ringlet now she seiz'd, the golden prize
By fate devoted to the nether skies.
"Ah!" gently did she crop the sweetest flower
That ever, yet adorn'd a summer bower,
As if she fear'd to hurt its tender bloom
Fated in heavenly climes to breath perfume.
Then oh, what loud laments were heard around!
Yet calm, expecting Fate, in peace profound
The victim sate; nor throb, nor starting tear
Betray'd the symptoms of degenerate fear.
Those eyes were still serene, whose lambent light
Had fir'd my soul, and wing'd the Moses' flight.
Midst the tumultuous scene of general woe
Hope in her ardent eyes was seen to glow,
As if she saw amid the opening skies,
E'en now, her well—spent life's etherial prize.
"Go, denizen of heaven, to earth assign'd!
Pure emanation of th' Eternal Mind.
Oh! when immortal charms must plead in vain
'Gainst those fell hands that loose the vital chain,
What must the rest expect? What dreadful change,
When in a few short days the fatal range
Of pale Disease such desolation made,
And of its matchless beauties disarray'd
That form, by turns to fiery pangs a prey,
Or the chill ague's unrelenting sway!"—
On what, alas! can human hope repose
Amid a series of incessant woes?
They only, they that saw the final strife
Between the rival powers of Death and Life,
Can tell the symphony of groans that rose.
The tears that fell around that couch of woes!
Six times the sun of April drank the dew
When his fell bow the King of Terrors drew,
And sent the shaft, that from all worldly ties
My spirit freed, when Laura sought the skies.
O fatal Liberty! disgusting boon!
Never did woeful soul beneath the moon
Lament his bonds, or death impending blow,
As I my freedom in this world of woe.
O why should Death the fatal stroke suspend?
Who longer saw the sun, should first descend
To fill the welcome grave! the public voice
And slow consuming age would sanctify the choice.
Ah! why should Death commit such direful waste
On worth, and let th'ignoble number last?
Yet why the anguish of that day recall?—
Friendly Oblivion! spread thy thickest pall
O'er my past woes, that words can ill display,
For prose too mournful, or the Muses' lay!—
"Etherial purity from earth is fled,
Beauty and worth are numbered with the dead;"
So mourn'd the drooping dames abopt the funeral bed.
"How is the light eclips'd which Heaven supplied.
Too soon recall'd! what beacon now shall guide
Our dubious steps on that unbeaten road,
Where her pure lamp, with light transcendent, showed
What fine gradations lead the female train.
Like saints to live, and join their blissful reign?
That heavenly voice no more shall charm our ears
With strains that seem'd the music of the spheres."
The fatal moment came at last that show'd
The Virtues, soaring from their pale abode
In one bright orb, that o'er the welkin drew
A track of glory where the spirit flew.
No meddling friend that haunts tbe parting soul
Dar'd on that couch his baleful eyes to roll,
Or his tremendous features there disclose
Till languid Nature sought her last repose,
Aud Death his task perform'd: but now at last,
When they beheld the vital struggle past,
When trembling Hope was frozen to Despair,
All fix'd their eyes upon that heavenly air
That still her face adorn'd; the lamp of life
Seem'd not to yield with long reluctant strife,
But, with a lambent self—consuming fire,
By slow gradations gently to expire,
Of nutriment depriv'd; no mark was seen
By pain impress'd on her seraphic mien;
No earthy hue her pallid cheek display'd;
But the pure snow, that, when the winds are laid,
Clothes the long Appenines with shining vest,
Seem'd on the relics of the saint to riest.
Like one recumbent from her toils she lay,
Losing in sleep the labours of the day:
And from her parting soul an heavenly trace
Seem'd yet to play upon her lifeless face,
Where Death enamour'd sate, and smil'd with angel grace.
That fearful night that closed on Laura's doom
(Quenched, like the day—star in Cimmerian gloom;
But fated, too, like him, with rising ray,
To mix her splendour with empyreal day:)
Was come, and found me with benighted eyes
Mourning her passage to her native skies.
And now her sacred dews Aurora shed,
That chace the dreams by earthy vapours bred;
And genuine visions from the hallow'd seat
Of heavenly truth, in airy pageant, fleet
Through the rapt mind; when, like another day,
Doubling the splendours of the matin ray,
A form seraphic with a crown of light
Too radiant for the strength of mortal sight,
Her station left, where many a living star
Dispens'd a soft celestial charm afar.
That hand, which oft I long'd to touch in vain—
That hand, so oft refus'd with cold disdain,
She seem'd without reluctance to bestow,
Enkindling rapture's soft Elysian glow.
"And is your Laura yet unknown?" she cried:
"Will you not recognise your gentle guide
That led you from Oblivion's dusky vale,
The sunny hill of high renown to scale?"
She spoke, and led me to a flowery seat,
Where shading beech and laurel seem'd to meet;
While, mingling tears of grief and glad surprise,
Sighing I said—"What demon sealed mine eyes?
Say, do you live? or share the common doom
In the dark chambers of the silent tomb?"—
"Oh! mine is life indeed!" with matchless grace
She said; "but you are bound in Death's embrace,
And still in that cold jail doom'd to pine
Till the strong barrier yields to power divine.
But time is short—repress your fond desire
Too much or too minutely to inquire—
The day is near"—I then returned in haste,
"O tell me when the dream of life is past,
What terrors are in death!"—The vision fair
Thus seem'd to answer with benignant air:—
"While in the common track your fancy flows,
And ignorance her baleful umbrage throws
O'er your sick mind, your sin—degraded soul
Can never taste the joys above the pole.
Death, to the mind from mortal passions free,
Opes the fair palace of eternity:
But to the mole—eyed, self—embruted train,
That glorious scene were only change of pain.
Oh! could my spirit, lodged within your breast,
Infuse the faintest rapture of the blest,
That parting shock which now your soul annoys
Would raise your faculties to boundless joys."
She spoke, and seemed to fix her ardent eyes
In sacred silence on the glowing skies.
The time was opportune my doubts to clear.
And thus I scann'd the cause of general fear:—
"Nero and Caius, with Etruria's lord,
Marius, Sylla's far—destroying sword;
The pains that grind the joints, the fever's flame,
And each disease that wastes the human frame;
With dire ingredients fill the bitter draught,
And make our exit horrible to thought."—
"Alas!" she cried, "the family of Pain
That lead the car of Death (a dreadful train)
Appall each sense; and fear of worse behind
Like heaven's own thunder smites the trembling mind.
But when the prowess of victorious Faith
Wafts the weak spirit o'er the gulf of Death,
What then is Death but one expiring sigh,
That bears a new—fledg'd angel to the sky!"—
When now more near the fatal moment drew,
Methought within an holy instinct grew;
Though my sick frame, at Fate's imperious call,
Seem'd like a fabric tottering to its fall;
When, in sad accents, tremulous and slow,
This mournful chant beside me seem'd to flow:—
"Unhappy he, whose hours in tardy train
Seem each a day of long—protracted pain!
One vision haunts him through the tedious way
By land and sea, to lasting woes a prey:
One lovely vision fills the gloomy void—
On that his thoughts and words are all employed."
I turn'd me at the sound, and spied the dame
Whose caution temper'd oft our mutual flame;
Her looks, her words, the dear remembrace woke
How oft her prudence eas'd the heavy yoke
Of hapless Love, even in the rosy prime
Of youth, ere yet the flame was check'd by Time.
That flame which woke the Muses' ardent song,
Which plausive realms in many a strain prolong.
Yet ah! these gay delicious hours, that bring
A train of youthful pleasures on the wing,
Are like the miserable dregs of age,
Match'd with the joys that now my heart engage.
"Thine is the Triumph! thine, victorious Deaths
That gently stole away my parting breath!
No exile, to his native home returned.
For the lov'd spot with more devotion burn'd,
Than I, expectant of the second birth,
But one soft tie confin'd me still to earth—
Pity for thee!"—"O tell me!" I exclaim'd,
"By that soft passion which my heart inflam'd,
By the strong charm of my unalter'd faith,
Now seen more clearly since the hand of Death
Has mov'd the veil from that primeval light
Where truth essential shines distinct and bright;
Did ever Love inspire a tender thought,
Was e'er your heart by soft compassion taught
With my unceasing woes to sympathise,
Though still intent on Virtue's glorious prize?
Some sweetness mingled with your looks of scorn,
And Love, methought, I saw, in anger born;
No less than when, with soft pacific smile,
You gently deign'd my sorrows to beguile."
I scarce had ended, when a lambent ray
Of soft Elysian transport seem'd to play
O'er her angelic face—delicious light,
That oft had put my gloomy cares to flight!
Then with a gentle sigh she thus return'd:—
"For thee, for thee alone, this bosom burn'd:
The spark was felt below; but here above
Flames like a taper of eternal Love.
Yet still I knew your stubborn heart to tame
And temper with my looks your raging flame.
'Twas Love, chastis'd by Virtue's holy charm,
With which I tried your captive heart to warm,
And save us from that ignominious fate
Where Ruin seem'd with Infamy to wait
For our united fall. My cold disdain
Was like a mother's pious care to train
Her child to happiness. How oft I said,
'Love's genuine fires that loyal heart invade:
'But cool Discretion must the means provide
'To turn the fury of the storm aside
'That rages in his breast; the wild controll
'Of Hope or Fear benight the prison'd soul;
'The cloud or sunshine which my looks display
'Shall rule his passions with imperial sway.
'Thus let him watch the changes of my face,
'What lurks within his eye shall never trace.'
This was the heart that like a gentle rein
Oft held your passion in suspended pain
Restrain'd if causeless Hope your bosom fir'd;
Relax'd, if cold Despair the sigh inspir'd.
How oft has anger lighten'd in my eyes,
When tyrant Love had made my heart his prize!
Yet ne'er did Reasons's sceptre leave her hand,
Or once give way to Passion's wild demand.
Then, when I saw an overwhelming cloud
Of damp despair your pallid features shroud,
I sent a sunny smile that broke the gloom;
And seem'd to wake you from the yawning tomb.
For oh! your life was dear, but dearer far
A spotless heart, my soul's peculiar care.
Then, if your passion too intensely flam'd,
One cold and wintry frown your madness tam'd,
Or well—dissembled fear completely froze
Your hope, when to a frantic pitch it rose.
Such were the wiles which cautious Love inspir'd,
To curb the passion which your bosom fir'd
Soft—beaming smiles, commixt with cold disdain
Led you to Virtue's height by artful train
My changes were the theme of many a song,
That told my Triumphs to the applauding throng;
And oft your languid eyes, suffus'd with tears,
Fed by Despair, awoke my tender fears.
'He dies!' I cried : 'O let me haste to save
'My victim, ere he fills the yawning grave!'
I look'd you into life; but, soon compell'd
By your presumptuous love, your hope withheld,
And check'd the flowing rein with prudent hand
That kept your wild career in due command.
Thus Hope and Fear with ever—changing hue
Taught the hard lesson of allegiance, due
To Virtue and to me. And now at last
With joy I see your arduous trial's past."—
"Oh!" I replied, "what raptures would I prove,
Could I believe the shaft of mutual Love
Had touch'd your heart!"—"O misbeliever, hear!"
She cried, with kindling cheek and brow severe:
"Why do you listen with suspended faith?
Why should I trifle in the shades of Death?
You never learn'd on earthy nor need you know,
How strong I felt the sympathetic glow;
Yet with no common joy I saw you bound,
With joy I heard when you my conquest own'd;
Nor less I lov'd the thrilling voice of Fame,
That spread througrh many a clime my honour'd name.
Thy love I priz'd, but not its boundless rage,
And cool discretion used the flame to'suage;
When most I felt for you, I show'd disdain,
And curb'd my passion while your mournful strain
To all the listening world your woes declar'd,
While on my lips I kept a painful guard.
This is the key to that mysterious plan
That through the tenor of my conduct ran;
We lov'd, but heavenly Wisdom's gentle sway
Kept in each breast the raging pest at bay.
Your passion kindled mine, but your's was shown;
My bosom burn'd like your's, but burn'd unknown.
I heard you spend your voice in fruitless prayer,
I saw your face the picture of Despair,
Yet durst not give relief: Distrust and Shame
Represt the fury of my rising flame;
Yet think not one who thus her flame conceals
Less than the loud complaining lovers feels;
Or what he never felt perhaps may feign,
While others shrink beneath a smother'd pain.
But still did Fate for once the veil remove,
When, panting, I perus'd the Lines of Love;
While you, in pale suspense, stood trembling by,
And saw my burning cheek and downcast eye:
My heart was your's—I quench'd my ardent flame,
I checked my tell—tale eyes;—was I to blame
If I denied my smiles?—my heart was thine:
Why should you at the nobler gift repine?
Yet often as I seem'd your love to slight.
Far oftener I indulg'd the dear delight
Of many a secret glance, from you conceal'd,
And all the woman in toy looks reveal'd.
Love, all—commanding love you there might read,
But much I feared the rising flame to feed;
Else had I met your dear delicious glance,
And fed your glowing Love with kind advance.
Yet this I will disclose:—a certain sign
What love and pride and reverence mixt, was mine
I often mourned my low inglorious lot,
That fixt my birth in that sequestered spot
Among the Tramontanes—so far from thee,
Far from the golden bounds of much—lov'd Italy;
Yet some peculiar charms the spot may claim,
When first these eyes inspir'd the glorious flame.
Oh! had we never met, that feeling heart
From other eyes had felt the burning dart!
And I, a name renown'd from zone to zone.
Had sunk to dunst, forgotten and unknown!"—
"O no!" I cried, "the rolling spheres above
That kindled first the nascent spark to love,
Whatever clime your heav'nly presence own'd,
Had led me there by sacred instinct bound."—
"Whate'er you think, the honour all was mine,"
The vision answer'd with a smile divine;
"But, heedless how the blissful moments fly,
You see not how Aurora climbs the sky,
Fresh from her golden bed; and Sol is seen
Just half emerging from the wavy green.
I see the signal to depart with pain,
Be brief, my only Love! if aught remain
Still on your mind to question or disclose;
The fleeting hours a long divorce impose."—
"Whatever I endur'd, or yet may know,
This condescension soothes my deepest woe,"
Thus grateful I replied : "but how to bear,
Without thy guardian eye, the lot severe
Of life, is hard to learn. O kindly tell
How long I'm doom'd beneath the moon to dwell!
And whether Fate allow to join your flight,
Like fellow—angels in the fields of light
After a short sojourn!"—The saint replied,
"As far as light of knowledge is supplied,
Yet many years must walk their tardy round
Before your brows with amaranth be crown'd."
[ THE TRIUMPH OF FAME ]
When cruel Death his paly ensign spread
Over that face, which oft in triumph led
My subject thoughts; and beauty's sovereign light,
Retiring, left the world immersed in night;
The Phantom, with a frown that chill'd the heart,
Seem'd with his gloomy pageant to depart,
Exulting in his formidable arms,
And proud of conquest o'er seraphic charms.
When, turning round, I saw the Power advance
That breaks the gloomy grave's eternal trance,
And bids the disembodied spirit claim
The glorious guerdon of immortal Fame.
Like Phosphor, in the sullen rear of night,
Before the golden wheels of orient light
He came. But who the tendant pomp can tell,
What mighty master of the corded shell
Can sing how heaven above accordant smiled,
And what bright pageantry the prospect fill'd.
I look'd, but all in vain: the potent ray
Flash'd on my sight intolerable day
At first; but to the splendour soon inured,
My eyes perused the pomp with sight assured.
True dignity in every face was seen,
As on they march'd with more than mortal mien;
And some I saw whom Love had link'd before,
Ennobled now by Virtue's lofty lore.
Cæsar and Scipio on the dexter hand
Of the bright goddess led the laurell'd band.
One, like a planet by the lord of day,
Seem'd o'er—illumined by her splendid ray,
By brightness hid; for he, to virtue true,
His mind from Love's soft bondage nobly drew.
The other, half a slave to female charms,
Parted his homage to the god of arms
And Love's seductive power: but, close and deep,
Like files that climb'd the Capitolian steep
In years of yore, along the sacred way
A martial squadron came in long array.
In ranges as they moved distinct and bright,
On every burganet that met the light,
Some name of long renown, distinctly read,
O'er each majestic brow a glory shed.
Still on the noble pair my eyes I bent,
And watch'd their progress up the steep ascent.
The second Scipio next in line was seen,
And he that seem'd the lure of Egypt's queen;
With many a mighty chief I there beheld,
Whose valorous hand the battle's storm repell'd.
Two fathers of the great Cornelian name,
With their three noble sons who shared their fame,
One singly march'd before, and, hand in hand,
His two heroic partners trod the strand.
The last was first in fame; but brighter beams
His follower flung around in solar streams.
Metaurus' champion, whom the moon beheld,
When his resistless spears the current swell'd
With Libya's hated gore, in arms renown'd
Was he, nor less with Wisdom's olive crown'd.
Quick was his thought and ready was his hand,
His power accomplish'd what his reason plann'd;
He seem'd, with eagle eye and eagle wing,
Sudden on his predestined game to spring.
But he that follow'd next with step sedate
Drew round his foe the viewless snare of fate;
While, with consummate art, he kept at bay
The raging foe, and conquer'd by delay.
Another Fabius join'd the stoic pair,
The Pauli and Marcelli famed in war;
With them the victor in the friendly strife,
Whose public virtue quench'd his love of life.
With either Brutus ancient Curius came;
Fabricius, too, I spied, a nobler name
(With his plain russet gown and simple board)
Than either Lydian with her golden hoard.
Then came the great dictator from the plough;
And old Serranus show'd his laurell'd brow.
Marching with equal step. Camillus near,
Who, fresh and vigorous in the bright career
Of honour, sped, and never slack'd his pace,
Till Death o'ertook him in the noble race,
And placed him in a sphere of fame so high,
That other patriots fill'd a lower sky.
Even those ungrateful lands that seal'd his doom
Recall'd the hanish'd man to rescue Rome.
Torquains nigh, a sterner spectre stood,
His fasces all besmear'd with filial blood:
He childless to the shades resolved to go,
Rather than Rome a moment should forego
That dreadful discipline, whose rigid lore
Had spread their triumphs round from shore to shore.
Then the two Decii came, by Heaven inspired,
Divinely bold, as when the foe retired
Before their Heaven—directed march, amazed,
When on the self—devoted men they gazed,
Till they provoked their fate. And Curtius nigh,
As when to heaven he cast his upward eye,
And all on fire with glory's opening charms,
Plunged to the Shades below with clanging arms,
Lævinus, Mummius, with Flaminius show'd,
Like meaner lights along the heavenly road;
And he who conquer'd Greece from sea to sea,
Then mildly bade th' afflicted race be free.
Next came the dauntless envoy, with his wand,
Whose more than magic circle on the sand
The frenzy of the Syrian king confined:
O'er—awed he stood, and at his fate repined.
Great Manlius, too, who drove the hostile throng
Prone from the steep on which his members hung,
(A sad reverse) the hungry vultures' food,
When Roman justice claim'd his forfeit blood.
Then Cocles came, who took his dreadful stand
Where the wide arch the foaming torrent spann'd,
Stemming the tide of war with matchless might,
And turn'd the heady current of the fight.
And he that, stung with fierce vindictive ire,
Consumed his erring hand with hostile fire.
Duillius next and Catulus were seen,
Whose daring navies plough'd the billowy green
That laves Pelorus and the Sardian shore,
And dyed the rolling waves with Punic gore.
Great Appius next advanced in sterner mood,
Who with patrician loftiness withstood
The clamours of the crowd. But, close behind,
Of gentler manners and more equal mind,
Came one, perhaps the first in martial might,
Yet his dim glory cast a waning light;
But neither Bacchus, nor Alcmena's son
Such trophies yet by east or west have won;
Nor he that in the arms of conquest died,
As he, when Rome's stern foes his valour tried
Yet he survived his fame. But luckier far
Was one that follow'd next, whose golden star
To better fortune led, and mark'd his name
Among the first in deeds of martial fame:
But cruel was his rage, and dipp'd in gore
By civil slaughter was the wreath he wore.
A less—ensanguined laurel graced the head
Of him that next advanced with lofty tread,
In martial conduct and in active might
Of equal honour in the fields of fight.
Then great Volumnius, who expell'd the pest
Whose spreading ills the Romans long distress'd.
Rutilius Cassus, Philo next in sight
Appear'd, like twinkling stars that gild the night.
Three men I saw advancing up the vale,
Mangled with ghastly wounds through plate and mail;
Dentatus, long in standing fight renown'd,
Sergius and Scæva oft with conquest crown'd;
The triple terror of the hostile train,
On whom the storm of battle broke in vain.
Another Sergius near with deep disgrace
Marr'd the long glories of his ancient race,
Marius, then, the Cimbrians who repell'd
From fearful Rome, and Lybia's tyrant quell'd.
And Fulvius, who Campania's traitors slew,
And paid ingratitude with vengeance due.
Another nobler Fulvius next appear'd;
And there the Father of the Gracchi rear'd
A solitary crest. The following form
Was he that often raised the factious storm—
Bold Catulus, and he whom fortune's ray
Illumined still with beams of cloudless day;
Yet fail'd to chase the darkness of the mind,
That brooded still on loftier hopes behind.
From him a nobler line in two degrees
Reduced Numidia to reluctant peace.
Crete, Spain, and Macedonia's conquer'd lord
Adorn'd their triumphs and their treasures stored.
Vespasian, with his son, I next survey'd,
An angel soul in angel form array'd;
Nor less his brother seem'd in outward grace,
But hell within belied a beauteous face.
Then Nerva, who retrieved the falling throne,
And Trajan, by his conquering eagles known.
Adrian, and Antonine the just and good,
He, with his son, the golden age renew'd;
And ere they ruled the world, themselves subdued.
Then, as I turn'd my roving eyes around,
Quirinus I beheld with laurel crown'd,
And five succeeding kings. The sixth was lost,
By vice degraded from his regal post;
A sentence just, whatever pride may claim,
For virtue only finds eternal Fame.
Full of ecstatic wonder at the sight,
I view'd Bellona's minions, famed in fight;
A brotherhood, to whom the circling sun
No rivals yet beheld, since time begun.—
But ah! the Muse despairs to mount their fame
Above the plaudits of historic Fame.
But now a foreign band the strain recalls—
Stern Hannibal, that shook the Roman walls;
Achilles, famed in Homer's lasting lay,
The Trojan pair that kept their foes at bay;
Susa's proud rulers, a distinguish'd pair,
And he that pour'd the living storm of war
On the fallen thrones of Asia, till the main,
With awful voice, repell'd the conquering train.
Another chief appear'd, alike in name,
But short was his career of martial fame;
For generous valour oft to fortune yields,
Too oft the arbitress of fighting fields.
The three illustrious Thebans join'd the train,
Whose noble names adorn a former strain;
Great Ajax with Tydides next appear'd,
And he that o'er the sea's broad bosom steer'd
In search of shores unknown with daring prow,
And ancient Nestor, with his looks of snow,
Who thrice beheld the race of man decline,
And hail'd as oft a new heroic line:
Then Agamemnon, with the Spartan's shade,
One by his spouse forsaken, one betray'd:
And now another Spartan met my view,
Who, cheerly, call'd his self—devoted crew
To banquet with the ghostly train below,
And with unfading laurels deck'd the brow;
Though from a bounded stage a softer strain
Was his, who next appear'd to cross the plain:
Famed Alcibiades, whose siren spell
Could raise the tide of passion, or repel
With more than magic sounds, when Athens stood
By his superior eloquence subdued.
The Marathonian chief, with conquest crown'd,
With Cimon came, for filial love renown'd;
Who chose the dungeon's gloom and galling chain
His captive father's liberty to gain;
Themistocles and Theseus met my eye;
And he that with the first of Rome could vie
In self—denial; yet their native soil,
Insensate to their long illustrious toil,
To each denied the honours of a tomb,
But deathless fame reversed the rigid doom,
And show'd their worth in more conspicuous light
Through the surrounding shades of envious night.
Great Phocion next, who mourn'd an equal fate,
Expell'd and exiled from his parent state;
A foul reward! by party rage decreed,
For acts that well might claim a nobler meed:
There Pyrrhus, with Numidia's king behind,
Ever in faithful league with Rome combined,
The bulwark of his state. Another nigh,
Of Syracuse, I saw, a firm ally
To Italy, like him. But deadly hate,
Repulsive frowns, and love of stern debate,
Hamilcar mark'd, who at a distance stood,
And eyed the friendly pair in hostile mood.
The royal Lydian, with distracted mien,
Just as he 'scaped the vengeful flame, was seen
And Syphax, who deplored an equal doom,
Who paid with life his enmity of Rome;
And Brennus, famed for sacrilegious spoil,
That, overwhelm'd beneath the rocky pile,
Atoned the carnage of his cruel hand,
Join'd the long pageant of the martial band;
Who march'd in foreign or barbarian guise
From every realm and clime beneath the skies
But different far in habit from the rest,
One tribe with reverent awe my heart impress'd:
There he that entertain'd the grand design
To build a temple to the Power Divine;
With him, to whom the oracles of Heaven
The task to raise the sacred pile had given:
The task he soon fulfill'd by Heaven assign'd,—
But let the nobler temple of the mind
To ruin fall, by Love's alluring sway
Seduced from duty's hallow'd path astray;
Then he that on the flaming hill survived
That sight no mortal else beheld, and lived—
The Eternal One, and heard, with awe profound,
That awful voice that shakes the globe around;
With him who check'd the sun in mid career,
And stopp'd the burning wheels that mark the sphere,
(As a well—managed steed his lord obeys,
And at the straiten'd rein his course delays,)
And still the flying war the tide of day
Pursued, and show'd their bands in wild dismay.—
Victorious faith! to thee belongs the prize;
In earth thy power is felt, and in the circling skies.—
The father next, who erst by Heaven's command
Forsook his home, and sought the promised land;
The hallow'd scene of wide—redeeming grace:
And to the care of Heaven consign'd his race.
Then Jacob, cheated in his amorous vows,
Who led in either hand a Syrian spouse;
And youthful Joseph, famed for self—command,
Was seen, conspicuous midst his kindred band.
Then stretching far my sight amid the train
That hid, in countless crowds, the shaded plain,
Good Hezekiah met my raptured sight,
And Manoah's son, a prey to female sleight;
And he, whose eye foresaw the coming flood,
With mighty Nimrod nigh, a man of blood;
Whose pride the heaven—defying tower design'd,
But sin the rising fabric undermined.
Great Maccabeus next my notice claim'd,
By Love to Zion's broken laws inflamed;
Who rush'd to arms to save a sinking state,
Scorning the menace of impending Fate
Now satiate with the view, my languid sight
Had fail'd, but soon perceived with new delight
A train, like Heaven's descending powers, appear,
Whose radiance seem'd my cherish'd sight to clear
There march'd in rank the dames of ancient days,
Antiope, renown'd for martial praise;
Orithya near, in glittering armour shone,
And fair Hippolyta that wept her son;
The sisters whom Alcides met of yore
In arms on Thermodon's distinguish'd shore;
When he and Theseus foil'd the warlike pair,
By force compell'd the nuptial rite to share.
The widow'd queen, who seem'd with tranquil smile
To view her son upon the funeral pile;
But brooding vengeance rankled deep within,
So Cyrus fell within the fatal gin:
Misconduct, which from age to age convey'd,
O'er her long glories cast a funeral shade.
I saw the Amazon whom Ilion mourn'd,
And her for whom the flames of discord burn'd,
Betwixt the Trojan and Rutulian train
When her affianced lover press'd the plain;
And her, that with dishevell'd tresses flew,
Half—arm'd, half—clad, her rebels to subdue.
Her partner too in lawless love I spied,
A Roman harlot, an incestuous bride.
But Tadmor's queen, with nobler fires inflamed,
The pristine glory of the sex reclaim'd,
Who in the spring of life, in beauty's bloom,
Her heart devoted to her husband's tomb;
True to his dust, aspiring to the crown
Of virtue, in such years but seldom known:
With temper'd mail she hid her snowy breast,
And with Bellona's helm and nodding crest
Despising Cupid's lore, her charms conceal'd,
And led the foes of Latium to the field.
The shock at ancient Rome was felt afar,
And Tyber trembled at the distant war
Of foes she held in scorn: but soon she found
That Mars his native tribes with conquest crown'd
And by her haughty foes in triumph led,
The last warm tears of indignation shed.
O fair Bethulian! can my vagrant song
O'erpass thy virtues in the nameless throng,
When he that sought to lure thee to thy shame
Paid with his sever'd head his frantic flame?
Can Ninus be forgot, whose ancient name
Begins the long roll of imperial fame?
And he whose pride, by Heaven's imperial doom,
Reduced among the grazing herd to roam?
Belus, who first beheld the nations sway
To idols, from the Heaven—directed way,
Though he was blameless? Where does he reside
Who first the dangerous art of magic tried?
O Crassus! much I mourn the baleful star
That o'er Euphrates led the storm of war.
Thy troops, by Parthian snares encircled round,
Mark'd with Hesperia's shame the bloody ground;
And Mithridates, Rome's incessant foe,
Who fled through burning plains and tracts of snow
Their fell pursuit. But now, the parting strain
Must pass, with slight survey, the coming train:
There British Arthur seeks his share of fame,
And three Cæsarian victors join their claim;
One from the race of Libya, one from Spain,
And last, not least, the pride of fair Lorraine,
With his twelve noble peers. Goffredo's powers
Direct their march to Salem's sacred towers;
And plant his throne beneath the Asian skies,
A sacred seat that now neglected lies.
Ye lords of Christendom! eternal shame
For ever will pursue each royal name,
And tell your wolfish rage for kindred blood,
While Paynim hounds profane the seat of God!
With him the Christian glory seem'd to fall,
The rest was hid behind oblivion's pall;
Save a few honour'd names, inferior far
In peace to guide, or point the storm of war.
Yet e'en among the stranger tribes were found
A few selected names, in song renown'd.
First, mighty Saladin, his country's boast,
The scourge and terror of the baptized host.
Noradin, and Lancaster fierce in arms,
Who vex'd the Gallic coast with long alarms.
I look'd around with painful search to spy
If any martial form should meet my eye
Familiar to my sight in worlds above,
The willing objects of respect or love;
And soon a well—known face my notice drew,
Sicilia's king, to whose sagacious view
The scenes of deep futurity display'd
Their birth, through coming Time's disclosing shade.
There my Colonna, too, with glad surprise,
'Mid the pale group, assail'd my startled eyes.
His noble soul was all alive to fame,
Yet holy friendship mix'd her softer claim,
Which in his bosom fix'd her lasting throne,
With Charity, that makes the wants of all her own.
Still on the warrior band I fix'd my view,
But now a different troop my notice drew:
The sage Palladian tribe, a nobler train,
Whose toils deserve a more exalted strain.
Plato majestic in the front appear'd,
Where wisdom's sacred hand her ensign rear'd.
Celestial blazonry! by heaven bestow'd,
Which, waving high, before the vaward glow'd:
Then came the Stagyrite, whose mental ray
Pierced through all nature like the shafts of day;
And he that, by the unambitious name,
Lover of wisdom, chose to bound his fame.
Then Socrates and Xenophon were seen;
With them a bard of more than earthly mien,
Whom every muse of Jove's immortal choir
Bless'd with a portion of celestial fire:
From ancient Argos to the Phrygian bound
His never—dying strains were borne around
On inspiration's wing, and hill and dale
Echoed the notes of Ilion's mournful tale.
The woes of Thetis, and Ulysses' toils,
His mighty mind recover'd from the spoils
Of envious time, and placed in lasting light
The trophies ransom'd from oblivion's night
The Mantuan bard, responsive to his song,
Co—rival of his glory, walk'd along.
The next with new surprise my notice drew,
Where'er he pass'd spontaneous flowerets grew,
Fit emblems of his style; and close behind
The great Athenian at his lot repined;
Which doom'd him, like a secondary star,
To yield precedence in the wordy war;
Though like the bolts of Jove that shake the spheres,
He lighten'd in their eyes, and thunder'd in their ears.
The assembly felt the shock, the immortal sound,
His Attic rival's fainter accents drown'd.
But now so many candidates for fame
In countless crowds and gay confusion came,
That Memory seem'd her province to resign,
Perplex'd and lost amid the lengthen'd line.
Yet Solon there I spied, for laws renown'd,
Salubrious plants in clean and cultured ground;
But noxious, if malignant hands infuse
In their transmuted stems a baneful juice
Amongst the Romans, Varro next I spied,
The light of linguists, and our country's pride;
Still nearer as he moved, the eye could trace
A new attraction and a nameless grace.
Livy I saw, with dark invidious frown
Listening with pain to Sallust's loud renown;
And Pliny there, profuse of life I found,
Whom love of knowledge to the burning bound
Led unawares; and there Plotinus' shade,
Who dark Platonic truths in fuller light display'd:
He, flying far to 'scape the coming pest,
Was, when he seem'd secure, by death oppressed;
That, fix'd by fate, before he saw the sun,
The careful sophist strove in vain to shun.
Hortensius, Crassus, Galba, next appear'd,
Calvus and Antony, by Rome revered,
The first with Pollio join'd, whose tongue profane
Assail'd the fame of Cicero in vain.
Thucydides, who mark'd distinct and clear
The tardy round of many a bloody year,
And, with a master's graphic skill, pourtray'd
The fields, "whose summer dust with blood was laid;"
And near Herodotus his ninefold roll display'd,
Father of history; and Euclid's vest
The heaven—taught symbols of that art express'd
That measures matter, form, and empty space,
And calculates the planets' heavenly race;
And Porphyry, whose proud obdurate heart
Was proof to mighty Truth's celestial dart;
With sophistry assail'd the cause of God,
And stood in arms against the heavenly code.
Hippocrates, for healing arts renown'd,
And half obscured within the dark profound;
The pair, whom ignorance in ancient days
Adorn'd like deities, with borrow'd rays.
Galen was near, of Pergamus the boast,
Whose skill retrieved the art so nearly lost.
Then Anaxarchus came, who conquer'd pain;
And he, whom pleasures strove to lure in vain
From duty's path. And first in mournful mood
The mighty soul of Archimedes stood;
And sage Democritus I there beheld,
Whose daring hand the light of vision quell'd,
To shun the soul—seducing forms, that play
On the rapt fancy in the beam of day:
The gifts of fortune, too, he flung aside,
By wisdom's wealth, a nobler store, supplied.
There Hippias, too, I saw, who dared to claim
For general science an unequall'd name.
And him, whose doubtful mind and roving eye
No certainty in truth itself could spy;
With him who in a deep mysterious guise
Her heavenly charms conceal'd from vulgar eyes.
The frontless cynic next in rank I saw,
Sworn foe to decency and nature's modest law.
With him the sage, that mark'd, with dark disdain,
His wealth consumed by rapine's lawless train;
And glad that nothing now remain'd behind,
To foster envy in a rival's mind,
That treasure bought, which nothing can destroy,
"The soul's calm sunshine, and the heart—felt joy."
Then curious Dicaearchus met my view,
Who studied nature with sagacious view.
Quintilian next, and Seneca were seen,
And Chaeronea's sage, of placid mien;
All various in their taste and studious toils,
But each adorn'd with Learning's splendid spoils.
There, too, I saw, in universal jar,
The tribes that spend their time in wordy war;
And o'er the vast interminable deep
Of knowledge, like conflicting tempests, sweep.
For truth they never toil, but feed their pride
With fuel by eternal strife supplied:
No dragon of the wild with equal rage,
Nor lions in nocturnal war, engage
With hate so deadly, as the learn'd and wise,
Who scan their own desert with partial eyes.
Carneades, renown'd for logic skill,
Who right or wrong, and true and false, at will
Could turn and change, employ'd his fruitless pain
To reconcile the fierce, contending train:
But, ever as he toil'd, the raging pest
Of pride, as knowledge grew, with equal speed increased.
Then Epicurus, of sinister fame,
Rebellious to the lord of nature, came;
Who studied to deprive the soaring soul
Of her bright world of hope beyond the pole;
A mole—ey'd race their hapless guide pursued,
And blindly still the vain assault renew'd.
Dark Metrodorus next sustain'd the cause,
With Aristippus, true to Pleasure's laws.
Chrysippus next his subtle web disposed:
Zeno alternate spread his hand, and closed;
To show how eloquence expands the soul,
And logic boasts a close and nervous whole.
And there Cleanthes drew the mighty line
That led his pupils on, with heart divine,
Through time's fallacious joys, by Virtue's road,
To the bright palace of the sovereign good.—
But here the weary Muse forsakes the throng,
Too numerous for the bounds of mortal song.
[ THE TRIUMPH OF TIME ]
Behind Aurora's wheels the rising sun
His voyage from his golden shrine begun,
With such ethereal speed, as if the Hours
Had caught him slumb'ring in her rosy bowers.
With lordly eye, that reach'd the world's extreme,
Methought he look'd, when, gliding on his beam,
That wingèd power approach'd that wheels his car
In its wide annual range from star to star,
Measuring vicissitude; till, now more near,
Methought these thrilling accents met my ear:—
"New laws must be observed if mortals claim,
Spite of the lapse of time, eternal fame.
Those laws have lost their force that Heaven decreed,
And I my circle run with fruitless speed;
If fame's loud breath the slumb'ring dust inspire,
And bid to live with never—dying fire,
My power, that measures mortal things, is cross'd,
And my long glories in oblivion lost.
If mortals on yon planet's shadowy face,
Can match the tenor of my heavenly race,
I strive with fruitless speed from year to year
To keep precedence o'er a lower sphere.
In vain yon flaming coursers I prepare,
In vain the watery world and ambient air
Their vigour feeds, if thus, with angels' flight
A mortal can o'ertake the race of light!
Were you a lesser planet, doom'd to run
A shorter journey round a nobler sun;
Ranging among yon dusky orbs below,
A more degrading doom I could not know:
Now spread your swiftest wings, my steeds of flame,
We must not yield to man's ambitious aim.
With emulation's noblest fires I glow,
And soon that reptile race that boast below
Bright Fame's conducting lamp, that seems to vie
With my incessant journeys round the sky,
And gains, or seems to gain, increasing light,
Yet shall its glories sink in gradual night.
But I am still the same; my course began
Before that dusky orb, the seat of man,
Was built in ambient air: with constant sway
I lead the grateful change of night and day,
To one ethereal track for ever bound,
And ever treading one eternal round."—
And now, methought, with more than mortal ire,
He seem'd to lash along his steeds of fire;
And shot along the air with glancing ray,
Swift as a falcon darting on its prey;
No planet's swift career could match his speed,
That seem'd the power of fancy to exceed.
The courier of the sky I mark'd with dread,
As by degrees the baseless fabric fled
That human power had built, while high disdain
I felt within to see the toiling train
Striving to seize each transitory thing
That fleets away on dissolution's wing;
And soonest from the firmest grasp recede,
Like airy forms, with tantalizing speed.
O mortals! ere the vital powers decay,
Or palsied eld obscures the mental ray,
Raise your affections to the things above,
Which time or fickle chance can never move.
Had you but seen what I despair to sing,
How fast his courser plied the flaming wing
With unremitted speed, the soaring mind
Had left his low terrestrial cares behind.
But what an awful change of earth and sky
All in a moment pass'd before my eye!
Now rigid winter stretch'd her brumal reign
With frown Gorgonean over land and main;
And Flora now her gaudy mantle spread,
And many a blushing rose adorn'd her bed:
The momentary seasons seem'd to fleet
From bright solstitial dews to winter's driving sleet.
In circle multiform, and swift career:
A wondrous tale, untold to mortal ear
Before: yet reason's calm unbiass'd view
Must soon pronounce the seeming fable true,
When deep remorse for many a wasted spring
Still haunts the frighted soul on demon wing.
Fond hope allured me on with meteor flight,
And Love my fancy fed with vain delight,
Chasing through fairy fields her pageants gay.
But now, at last, a clear and steady ray,
From reason's mirror sent, my folly shows,
And on my sight the hideous image throws
Of what I am—a mind eclipsed and lost,
By vice degraded from its noble post
But yet, e'en yet, the mind's elastic spring
Buoys up my powers on resolution's wing,
While on the flight of time, with rueful gaze
Intent, I try to thread the backward maze,
And husband what remains, a scanty space.
Few fleeting hours, alas! have pass'd away,
Since a weak infant in the lap I lay;
For what is human life but one uncertain day!
Now hid by flying vapours, dark and cold,
And brighten'd now with gleams of sunny gold,
That mock the gazer's eye with gaudy show,
And leave the victim to substantial woe:
Yet hope can live beneath the stormy sky,
And empty pleasures have their pinions ply;
And frantic pride exalts the lofty brow,
Nor marks the snares of death that lurk below.
Uncertain, whether now the shaft of fate
Sings on the wind, or heaven prolongs my date.
I see my hours run on with cruel speed,
And in my doom the fate of all I read;
A certain doom, which nature's self must feel
When the dread sentence checks the mundane wheel.
Go! court the smiles of Hope, ye thoughtless crew!
Her fairy scenes disclose an ample view
To brainless men. But Wisdom o'er the field
Casts her keen glance, and lifts her beamy shield
To meet the point of Fate, that flies afar,
And with stern vigilance expects the war.
Perhaps in vain my admonitions fall,
Yet still the Muse repeats the solemn call;
Nor can she see unmoved your senses drown'd
By Circe's deadly spells in sleep profound.
She cannot see the flying seasons roll
In dread succession to the final goal,
And sweep the tribes of men so fast away,
To Stygian darkness or eternal day,
With unconcern.—Oh! yet the doom repeal
Before your callous hearts forget to feel;
E'er Penitence foregoes her fruitless toil,
Or hell's black regent claims his human spoil
Oh, haste! before the fatal arrows fly
That send you headlong to the nether sky
When down the gulf the sons of folly go
In sad procession to the seat of woe!
Thus deeply musing on the rapid round
Of planetary speed, in thought profound
I stood, and long bewail'd my wasted hours,
My vain afflictions, and my squander'd powers:
When, in deliberate march, a train was seen
In silent order moving o'er the green;
A band that seem'd to hold in high disdain
The desolating power of Time's resistless reign:
Their names were hallow'd in the Muse's song,
Wafted by fame from age to age along,
High o'er oblivion's deep, devouring wave,
Where millions find an unrefunding grave.
With envious glance the changeful power beheld
The glorious phalanx which his power repell'd,
And faster now the fiery chariot flew,
While Fame appear'd the rapid flight to rue,
And labour'd some to save. But, close behind,
I heard a voice, which, like the western wind,
That whispers softly through the summer shade,
These solemn accents to mine ear convey'd:—
"Man is a falling flower; and Fame in vain
Strives to protract his momentaneous reign
Beyond his bounds, to match the rolling tide,
On whose dread waves the long olympiads ride,
Till, fed by time, the deep procession grows,
And in long centuries continuous flows;
For what the power of ages can oppose?
Though Tempe's rolling flood, or Hebrus claim
Renown, they soon shall live an empty name.
Where are their heroes now, and those who led
The files of war by Xanthus' gory bed?
Or Tuscan Tyber's more illustrious band,
Whose conquering eagles flew o'er sea and land?
What is renown?—a gleam of transient light,
That soon an envious cloud involves in night,
While passing Time's malignant hands diffuse
On many a noble name pernicious dews.
Thus our terrestrial glories fade away,
Our triumphs pass the pageants of a day;
Our fields exchange their lords, our kingdoms fall,
And thrones are wrapt in Hades' funeral pall
Yet virtue seldom gains what vice had lost,
And oft the hopes of good desert are cross'd.
Not wealth alone, but mental stores decay,
And, like the gifts of Mammon, pass away;
Nor wisdom, wealth, nor fortune can withstand
His desolating march by sea and land;
Nor prayers, nor regal power his wheels restrain,
Till he has ground us down to dust again.
Though various are the titles men can plead,
Some for a time enjoy the glorious meed
That merit claims; yet unrelenting fate
On all the doom pronounces soon or late;
And whatsoe'er the vulgar think or say,
Were not your lives thus shorten'd to a day,
Your eyes would see the consummating power
His countless millions at a meal devour."
And reason's voice my stubborn mind subdued;
Conviction soon the solemn words pursued;
I saw all mortal glory pass away,
Like vernal snows beneath the rising ray;
And wealth, and power, and honour, strive in vain
To 'scape the laws of Time's despotic reign.
Though still to vulgar eyes they seem to claim
A lot conspicuous in the lists of Fame,
Transient as human joys; to feeble age
They love to linger on this earthly stage,
And think it cruel to be call'd away
On the faint morn of life's disastrous day.
Yet ah! how many infants on the breast
By Heaven's indulgence sink to endless rest!
And oft decrepid age his lot bewails,
Whom every ill of lengthen'd life assails.
Hence sick despondence thinks the human lot
A gift of fleeting breath too dearly bought:
But should the voice of Fame's obstreperous blast
From ages on to future ages last,
E'en to the trump of doom,—how poor the prize
Whose worth depends upon the changing skies!
What time bestows and claims (the fleeting breath
Of Fame) is but, at best, a second death—
A death that none of mortal race can shun,
That wastes the brood of time, and triumphs o'er the sun.
[ THE TRIUMPH OF ETERNITY ]
When all beneath the ample cope of heaven
I saw, like clouds before the tempest driven,
In sad Vicissitude's eternal round,
Awhile I stood in holy horror bound;
And thus at last with self—exploring mind,
Musing, I ask'd, "What basis I could find
To fix my trust?"—An inward voice replied,
"Trust to the Almighty: He thy steps shall guide;
He never fails to hear the faithful prayer,
But worldly hope must end in dark despair."
Now, what I am, and what I was, I know;
I see the seasons in procession go
With still increasing speed; while things to come,
Unknown, unthought, amid the growing gloom
Of long futurity, perplex my soul,
While life is posting to its final goal.
Mine is the crime, who ought with clearer light
To watch the winged years' incessant flight;
And not to slumber on in dull delay
Till circling seasons bring the doomful day.
But grace is never slow in that, I trust,
To wake the mind, before I sink to dust,
With those strong energies that lift the soul
To scenes unhoped, unthought, above the pole.
While thus I ponder'd, soon my working thought
Once more that ever—changing picture brought
Of sublunary things before my view,
And thus I question'd with myself anew:—
"What is the end of this incessant flight
Of life and death, alternate day and night?
When will the motion on these orbs impress'd
Sink on the bosom of eternal rest?"
At once, as if obsequious to my will,
Another prospect shone, unmoved and still;
Eternal as the heavens that glow'd above,
A wide resplendent scene of light and love.
The wheels of Phœbus from the zodiac turn'd;
No more the nightly constellations burn'd;
Green earth and undulating ocean roll'd
Away, by some resistless power controll'd;
Immensity conceived, and brought to birth
A grander firmament, and more luxuriant earth.
What wonder seized my soul when first I view'd
How motionless the restless racer stood,
Whose flying feet, with winged speed before,
Still mark'd with sad mutation sea and shore.
No more he sway'd the future and the past,
But on the moveless present fix'd at last;
As at a goal reposing from his toils,
Like earth unclothed of all its vernal foils.
Unvaried scene! where neither change nor fate,
Nor care, nor sorrow, can our joys abate;
Nor finds the light of thought resistance here,
More than the sunbeams in a crystal sphere.
But no material things can match their flight,
In speed excelling far the race of light.
Oh! what a glorious lot shall then be mine
If Heaven to me these nameless joys assign!
For there the sovereign good for ever reigns,
Nor evil yet to come, nor present pains;
No baleful birth of time its inmates fear,
That comes, the burthen of the passing year;
No solar chariot circles through the signs,
And now too near, and now too distant, shines;
To wretched man and earth's devoted soil
Dispensing sad variety of toil.
Oh! happy are the blessed souls that sing
Loud hallelujahs in eternal ring!
Thrice happy he, who late, at last shall find
A lot in the celestial climes assign'd!
He, led by grace, the auspicious ford explores,
Where, cross the plains, the wintry torrent roars;
That troublous tide, where, with incessant strife,
Weak mortals struggle through, and call it life.
In love with Vanity, oh, doubly blind
Are they that final consolation find
In things that fleet on dissolution's wing,
Or dance away upon the transient ring
Of seasons, as they roll. No sound they hear
From that still voice that Wisdom's sons revere;
No vestment they procure to keep them warm
Against the menace of the wintry storm;
But all exposed, in naked nature lie,
A shivering crowd beneath the inclement sky,
Of reason void, by every foe subdued,
Self—ruin'd, self—deprived of sovereign good;
Reckless of Him, whose universal sway,
Matter, and all its various forms, obey;
Whether they mix in elemental strife,
Or meet in married calm, and foster life.
His nature baffles all created mind,
In earth or heaven, to fathom, or to find.
One glimpse of glory on the saints bestow'd,
With eager longings fills the courts of God
For deeper views, in that abyss of light,
While mortals slumber here, content with night:
Though nought, we find, below the moon, can fill
The boundless cravings of the human will.
And yet, what fierce desire the fancy wings
To gain a grasp of perishable things;
Although one fleeting hour may scatter far
The fruit of many a year's corroding care;
Those spacious regions where our fancies roam,
Pain'd by the past, expecting ills to come,
In some dread moment, by the fates assign'd,
Shall pass away, nor leave a rack behind;
And Time's revolving wheels shall lose at last
The speed that spins the future and the past;
And, sovereign of an undisputed throne,
Awful eternity shall reign alone.
Then every darksome veil shall fleet away
That hides the prospects of eternal day:
Those cloud—born objects of our hopes and fears,
Whose air—drawn forms deluded memory bears
As of substantial things, away so fast
Shall fleet, that mortals, at their speed aghast,
Watching the change of all beneath the moon,
Shall ask, what once they were, and will be soon?
The time will come when every change shall cease,
This quick revolving wheel shall rest in peace:
No summer then shall glow, nor winter freeze;
Nothing shall be to come, and nothing past,
But an eternal now shall ever last.
Though time shall be no more, yet space shall give
A nobler theatre to love and live
The wingèd courier then no more shall claim
The power to sink or raise the notes of Fame,
Or give its glories to the noontide ray:
True merit then, in everlasting day,
Shall shine for ever, as at first it shone
At once to God and man and angels known.
Happy are they who in this changing sphere
Already have begun the bright career
That reaches to the goal which, all in vain,
The Muse would blazon in her feeble strain:
But blest above all other blest is he
Who from the trammels of mortality,
Ere half the vital thread ran out, was free,
Mature for Heaven; where now the matchless fair
Preserves those features, that seraphic air,
And all those mental charms that raised my mind,
To judge of heaven while yet on earth confined.
That soft attractive glance that won my heart
When first my bosom felt unusual smart,
Now beams, now glories, in the realms above,
Fed by the eternal source of light and love.
Then shall I see her as I first beheld,
But lovelier far, and by herself excell'd;
And I distinguish'd in the bands above
Shall hear this plaudit in the choirs of love:—
"Lo! this is he who sung in mournful strains
For many years a lover's doubts and pains;
Yet in this soul—expanding, sweet employ,
A sacred transport felt above all vulgar joy."
She too shall wonder at herself to hear
Her praises ring around the radiant sphere:
But of that hour it is not mine to know;
To her, perhaps, the period of my woe
Is manifest; for she my fate may find
In the pure mirror of the eternal mind.
To me it seems at hand a sure presage,
Denotes my rise from this terrestrial stage;
Then what I gain'd and lost below shall lie
Suspended in the balance of the sky,
And all our anxious sublunary cares
Shall seem one tissue of Arachne's snares;
And all the lying vanities of life,
The sordid source of envy, hate, and strife,
Ignoble as they are, shall then appear
Before the searching beam of truth severe;
Then souls, from sense refined, shall see the fraud
That led them from the living way of God.
From the dark dungeon of the human breast
All direful secrets then shall rise confess'd,
In honour multiplied—a dreadful show
To hierarchies above, and saints below.
Eternal reason then shall give her doom;
And, sever'd wide, the tenants of the tomb
Shall seek their portions with instinctive haste,
Quick as the savage speeds along the waste.
Then shall the golden hoard its trust betray,
And they, that, mindless of that dreadful day,
Boasted their wealth, its vanity shall know
In the dread avenue of endless woe:
While they whom moderation's wholesome rule
Kept still unstain'd in Virtue's heavenly school,
Who the calm sunshine of the soul beneath
Enjoy'd, will share the triumph of the Faith.
These pageants five the world and I beheld,
The sixth and last, I hope, in heaven reveal'd
(If Heaven so will), when Time with speedy hand
The scene despoils, and Death's funereal wand
The triumph leads. But soon they both shall fall
Under that mighty hand that governs all,
While they who toil for true renown below,
Whom envious Time and Death, a mightier foe,
Relentless plunged in dark oblivion's womb,
When virtue seem'd to seek the silent tomb,
Spoil'd of her heavenly charms once more shall rise,
Regain their beauty, and assert the skies;
Leaving the dark sojourn of time beneath,
And the wide desolated realms of Death.
But she will early seek these glorious bounds,
Whose long—lamented fall the world resounds
In unison with me. And heaven will view
That awful day her heavenly charms renew,
When soul with body joins. Gebenna's strand
Saw me enroll'd in Love's devoted band,
And mark'd my toils through many hard campaigns
And wounds, whose scars my memory yet retains.
Blest is the pile that marks the hallow'd dust!—
There, at the resurrection of the just,
When the last trumpet with earth—shaking sound
Shall wake her sleepers from their couch profound;
Then, when that spotless and immortal mind
In a material mould once more enshrined,
With wonted charms shall wake seraphic love,
How will the beatific sight improve
Her heavenly beauties in the climes above!