Decius Brutus, On The Coast Of Portugal

Never did Day, her heat and trouble o'er,
Proclaim herself more blest,
Than when, beside that Lusitanian shore,
She wooed herself to rest:

And, freed from all that cumbrous--gilded dress
That pleased the lusty noon,
Lay down in her thin--shaded loveliness,
Cool as the coming moon.

There stood the gentlest and the wildest growth
Together in the calm,
The nightingale's long song was over both,
A dream of bliss and balm.

Pale--amber fruit among the cloiste'ring leaves
Hung redolent and large,
Strong--spikèd aloes topt the broad rock--eaves
Above that fair sea--marge.

When through a thunder--cleft, now summer--dry,
A loosely--straggling band,
Plated in war's offensive blazonry,
Descended on the strand.

Men of flint brows, hard hands and hearts, were they,
Hunters of weaker men,
Shedders of blood for pleasure and for prey,
Wolves of the Roman den.

From their great home they had come out so far,
Nor ever loss or shame
Had lowered their fierce pride, they likened war
To pestilence or flame.

Frighting the tongueless caves with untuned cries,
They leapt from stone to stone;
But last, and linge'ring, with unheedy eyes,
The leader came alone.

And suddenly upon the clear--edged orb,
Fast--verging to the sea,
He gazed, like one whom music doth absorb
In mournful reverie.

His burly limbs were frosted with strange cold,
His blood grew half--asleep,
Beholding the huge corpse of ruddy gold
Let down into the deep.

At last to that wild crew he called aloud,
``O soldiers! we have been
Too daring--hardy,--we have been too proud,--
Too much have done and seen.

``It is a ventu'rous and unholy thing
To try the utmost bound
Of possibility,--our froward wing
Has racht forbidden ground.

``We stand upon the earth's extremest edge,
Beside the sacred bed
Of the Sun--god,--it is a privilege
Too lofty not to dread.''--

But they were drunk with glory as with wine,
They heard him not that day;
That coast to them was nothing but a sign
Of Rome's earth--circling sway;

Till when, like dancers by amazing thunder
Stunned in their mad career,
Their bold mid--revel ceased for very wonder,
Their insolence for fear.

For they had caught a sound, first quive'ring low,
Then wide'ning o'er the brine,
As of a river slowly poured into
A red--hot iron mine.

And with confede'rate looks and held--in breath,
They watcht the molten round
Loosing its form, the swelte'ring ooze beneath,
To that terrific sound.

The hissing storm toward the darke'ning land
A heated west--wind bore;
They closed their ears, they croucht upon the sand,
But heard it more and more.

They saw the whole full Ocean boil and swell,
Receiving such a guest
As elemental Light inscrutable,
Within its patient breast.

At last into the void of dreary space
The tumult seemed to roll,
And left no other noise on Nature's face
Than the waves' muffled toll.

But to their first mistempered haughtiness
Those hearts returned no more,--
They were encumbered with a sore distress,
Crusht to the very core.

The Chief this while had stood apart, and bowed
In penitential pain
His staunch war--soul, till that now--supple croud
His voice thus reacht again:--

``Oh what a sanctu'ary have we profaned
In this unblest emprize!
Oh that a jealous wrath may be restrained
By timely sacrifice!

``On these crag--altars let our choicest spoil
Be laid with humblest prayer;
For what avails our valor or our toil,
If angered Gods be there?

``As ye hold dear the memory of Rome,
Implore the Lords of Heaven,
That we once more may bear our victo'ries home,
This sacrilege forgiven!''

So was it done:--columns of vapo'rous grey
Rose from that lone sea--glen,--
And Brutus and his followers turned away
Wiser and gentler men.

Thus, in the time when Fancy was the nurse
Of our young human heart,
The Power whose voice is in the universe,
And through each inmost part

Vibrates, and in one total melody
Man and Creation blends,
Workt out by marvel and by prodigy
Its high religious ends.

Knowledge to us another scene displays,
We fear nor sight nor sound;
Nature has bared her bosom, and we gaze
Into the vast profound.

A myriad of her subtlest harmonies
Our learnèd ears can tell;
We dare those simple liste'ners to despise,
But do we feel as well?

Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.