Sidor som bilder
PDF

CXXXVI. From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy Have I not seen what human things could do? From the loud roar of foaming calumny To the small whisper of the as paltry few, And subtler venom of the reptile crew, The Janus glance of whose significant eye, Learning to lie with silence, would seem true, And without utterance, save the shrug or sigh,

Deal round to happy fools its speechless obloquy.()

CXXXVII. But I have lived, and have not lived in vain: My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire, And my frame perish even in conquering pain; But there is that within me which shall tire Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire; Something unearthly, which they deem not of, Like the remember'd tone of a mute lyre, Shall on their soften’d spirits sink, and move In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of love.

(1) [Between stanzas czXxv. and czxxvi. we find in the original MS. the following: —

“If to forgive be heaping coals of fire–
As God hath spoken—on the heads of foes,
Mine should be a volcano, and rise higher
Than, o'er the Titans crush'd, Olympus rose,
Or Athos soars, or blazing Etna glows:–
True they who stung were creeping things; but what
Than serpents' teeth inflicts with deadlier throes 2
The Lion may be goaded by the Gnat. -

Who sucks the slumberer's blood 2-The Eagle 2 – No: the Bat.”

— El

CXXXVIII. Theseal is set.—Now welcome, thou dread power! Nameless, yet thus omnipotent, which here Walk'st in the shadow of the midnight hour With a deep awe, yet all distinct from fear; Thy haunts are ever where the dead walls rear Their ivy mantles, and the solemn scene Derives from thee a sense so deep and clear That we become a part of what has been,

And grow unto the spot, all-seeing but unseen.

CXXXIX. And here the buzz of eager nations ran, In murmur'd pity, or loud-roar'd applause, As man was slaughter'd by his fellow man. Andwhereforeslaughter'd? wherefore, butbecause Such were the bloody Circus' genial laws, And the imperial pleasure. —Wherefore not ? What matters where we fall to fill the maws Of worms—on battle-plains or listed spot? Both are but theatres where the chief actors rot.

- CXL.

s I see before me the Gladiator lie:

He leans upon his hand—his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his droop'd head sinks gradually low —
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder-shower; and now
The arena swims around him—he is gone,

Ere ceased theinhumanshout which hail'd the wretch

who won.

CXLI. He heard it, but he heeded not—his eyes Were with his heart, and that was far away: () He reck'd not of the life he lost nor prize, But where his rude hut by the Danube lay, There were his young barbarians all at play, There was their Dacian mother — he, their sire, Butcher'd to make a Roman holiday (2)— All this rush'd with his blood — Shall he expire And unavenged?—Arise ye Goths, and glut youry ire | CXLII. Buthere,where Murderbreathed herbloody steam; And here, where buzzing nations choked the ways, And roar'd or murmur'd like a mountain stream Dashing or winding as its torrent strays; Here, where the Roman millions' blame or praise Was death or life, the playthings of a crowd, (3) My voice sounds much—and fall the stars'faintrays On the arena void—seats crush'd—walls bow’d— And galleries, where my steps seem echoes strangely loud.

(1) Whether the wonderful statue which suggested this image be a laquearian gladiator, which, in spite of Winkelmann's criticism, has been stoutly maintained; or whether it be a Greek herald, as that great antiquary positively asserted *; or whether it is to be thought a Spartan or barbarian shield-bearer, according to the opinion of his Italian editor; it must assuredly seem a copy of that masterpiece of Ctesilaus which represented “a wounded man dying, who perfectly expressed what there remained of

4. * Either Polifontes, herald of Laius, killed by CEdipus; or Cepreas, herald of Euritheus, killed by the Athenians when he endeavoured to drag the Heraclidae from the altar of mercy, and in whose honour they instituted annual games, continued to the time of Hadrian; or Anthemocritus, the Athenian herald, killed by the Megarenses, who never recovered the impiety. See Storia delle Arti, &c. tom. ii. pag. 203, 204, 205, 206, 207. lib. ix. cap. ii.

[ocr errors]

CXLIII,

A ruin—yet what ruin! from its mass
Walls, palaces, half-cities, have been rear'd ;
Yet oft the enormous skeleton ye pass,
And marvel where the spoil could have appear'd.
Hath it indeed been plunder'd, or but clear'd?
Alas! developed, opens the decay,
When the colossal fabric's form is near'd :
It will not bear the brightness of the day,

Which streams too much on all years, man, have reft

away.

CXLIV.

But when the rising moon begins to climb
Its topmast arch, and gently pauses there;
When the stars twinkle through the loops of time,
And the low night-breeze waves along the air
The garland forest, which the gray walls wear,
Like laurels on the bald first Caesar's head; (4)
When the light shines serene but doth not glare,
Then in this magic circle raise the dead:

Heroes have trod this spot—'tis on their dust ye

tread.

life in him.” Montfaucon and Maffei thought it the identical statue; but that statue was of bronze. The gladiator was once in the Villa Ludovizi, and was bought by Clement XII. The right arm is an entire restoration of Michael Angelo.

(2, 3) See “Historical Notes,” at the end of this canto, Nos. XXIX. XXX.

(4) Suetonius informs us that Julius Caesar was particularly gratified by that decree of the senate which enabled him to wear a wreath of laurel on all occasions. He was anxious, not to show that he was the conqueror of the world, but to hide that he was bald. A stranger at Rome would hardly have guessed at the motive, nor should we without the help of the historian,

CXLV. “While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand; () “When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall; “And when Rome falls—the World.” From our own land Thus spake the pilgrims o'er this mighty wall In Saxon times, which we are wont to call Ancient; and these three mortal things are still On their foundations, and unalter'd all; Rome and her Ruin past Redemption's skill, The World, the same wide den—of thieves, or what ye will.

CXLVI. Simple, erect, severe, austere, sublime — Shrine of all saints and temple of all gods, From Jove to Jesus—spared and blest by time; (2) Looking tranquillity, while falls or nods Arch, empire, each thing round thee, and man plods His way through thorns to ashes—glorious dome! Shalt thounot last? Time's scythe and tyrant's rods Shiver upon thee — sanctuary and home

Of art and piety — Pantheon I — pride of Rome !

(1) This is quoted in the “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” as a proof that the Coliseum was entire, when seen by the Anglo-Saxon pilgrims at the end of the seventh, or the beginning of the eighth, century. A notice on the Coliseum may be seen in the “Historical Illustrations,” p. 263.

(2) “Though plundered of all its brass, except the ring which was necessary to preserve the aperture above; though exposed to repeated fires; though sometimes flooded by the river, and always open to the rain, no monument of equal antiquity is so well preserved as this rotundo. It passed with little alteration from the Pagan into the present worship; and so convenient were its niches for the Christian altar, that Michael Angelo, ever studious of ancient beauty, introduced their design as a model in the Catholic church.”— Forsyth's Italy, p. 137.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »