The Immortality Of Rome
``Urbi et Orbi,''--mystic euphony,
What depth of Christian meaning lies in Thee!
How, from this world apart, this world above,
Selected by a special will of Love,
In its own spi'ritual atmosphere sublime,
Rome lives, a thought, without the reign of Time.
Thus, at the gates of great Eternity,
Nature, the constant he'rald of God, I see,
And ever onward reads she this decree:--
``Let nations have their cycles,--let their course
Still run unchanged, whate'er their inner force;
Let each, whate'er its fabric, firm or frail,
Give its one chapter to the' historic tale,
In silence and in shadow then to lie,
And, but in Memo'ry's echo--life, to die;--
There is an end for all that is begun,
For the Sun's self, and all beneath the Sun.''
Who dare deny this record?--Rome alone;
Rome has no histo'ry she can call her own;--
The histo'ry of the Western World is hers,
Writ out in all its mazy characters:
What know we of it, till that name began,
Whose light still hovers o'er the Vatican?
Where is the fount of all its myriad rills,
But springing 'mid the seven low Latian hills?
There, thoughtless organs of divine intent,
Some scanty tribes in rudest union blent
Defensive force and martial will combined,
Till lust of conquest filled them, like a mind;
Then fast the mustard--tree of power up--grew,
Fed into strength by Fortune's choicest dew,
Gathered the winds within its ample room,
And gave the swaying boughs a voice of doom,
For ever striving, as none else had striven,
Earth for its root, and for its branches Heaven.
And when the flush of life was past,--when came
Age's dry heart and Winter's naked shame,--
The conscious giant trembled at the spell,
Bowed his high head in agony, and fell.
That ruin is before us,--and we all
Have felt the shock of that tremendous fall
Within our quive'ring hearts; we all have seen
Those temples altarless, and streets grass--green,
And columns standing lone, and basements bare,
And fragments crumbling in the new--found air;
And, if at last our thought found utte'rance, said,
``Surely this is the City of the Dead!''
I stood one night,--one rich Italian night,
When the Moon's lamp was prodigal of light,--
Within that Circus, whose enormous range,
Tho' rent and shattered by a life of change,
Still stretches forth its undiminisht span,
Telling the weakness and the strength of Man.
In that vague hour which magnifies the great,
When Desolation seems most desolate,
I thought not of the rushing crouds of yore,
Who filled with din the vasty corridor;
Those hunters of fierce pleasure are swept by,
And host on host has trampled where they lie.
But where is He, that stood so strong and bold,
In his thick armour of enduring gold,
Whose massive form irradi'ant as the sun,
Baptized the work his glory beamed upon
With his own name, Colossal?--From the day
Has that sublime illusion shrunk away,
Leaving a blank weed--matted Pedestal
Of his high place the sole memorial?--
And is this mira'cle of imperial power,
The chosen of his tute'lage, hour by hour,
Following his doom, and Rome, alive,--awake?
Weak mother! orphaned as thou art, to take
From Fate this sordid boon of lengthened life,
Of most unnatu'ral life, which is not life,
As thou wert used to live; oh! rather stand
In thy green waste, as on the palm--fleckt sand,
Old Tadmor, hiding not its death;--a tomb,
Haunted by sounds of life, is none the less a tomb.--
Then from that picture of the wreck--strewn ground,
Which the arch held in frame--work, slowly round
I turned my eyes and fixt them, where was seen
A long spare shadow stretcht across the green,
The shadow of the Crucifix,--that stood,
A simple shape of rude uncarven wood,
Raising, erect and firm, its lowly head
Amid that pomp of ruin,--amid the dead,
A sign of salient life;--the Mystery
Of Rome's immortal being was then made clear to me.
No reviews yet.