Samuel Rogers.

The poems of Samuel Rogers, with a memoir online

. (page 7 of 16)
Online LibrarySamuel RogersThe poems of Samuel Rogers, with a memoir → online text (page 7 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


heard
Among those woods where Silvia's stag was

lying,
His antlers gay with flowers; among those woods
Where, by the Moon, that saw and yet with-
drew not,
Two were so soon to wander and be slain,
Two lovely in their lives, nor in their death
Divided.

Then, and hence to be discern'd,
How many realms, pastoral and warlike, lay
Along this plain, each with its schemes of power,
Its little rivalships! What various turns
Of fortune there ; what moving accidents
From ambuscade and open violence !
Mingling, the sounds came up ; and hence how

oft
We might have caught among the trees below,
Glittering with helm and shield, the men of

Tibur ;*
Or in Greek vesture, Greek their origin.
Some embassy ascending to Prceneste ;t
How oft descried, v/ithout thy gates, Aricia,t
Entering the solemn grove for sacrifice,
Senate and People ! — Each a busy hive,
Glowing with life 1

But all ere-long are lost
In one. We look, and where the river rolls
Southward its shining labyrinth, in her strength
A City, girt with battlements and towers,

* Tivoli. t Palesirina t La. Riccia.



^ ITALY.

On seven small hills is rising. Round about,
At rural work, the Citizens are seen,
None unemploy'd ; the noblest of them all
Binding their sheaves or on their threshing-

Hoors,
As though they had not conquer'd. Everywhere
Some trace of valour or heroic virtue !
Here is the sacred field of the Horatii,
I'here are the Quintian meadows. Here the

hill *
How holy, where a generous people, twice,
Twice going forth, in terrible anger sate
Arm'd; and, their wrongs redress' d, at once

gave way,
Helmet and shield, and sword and spear thrown

down,
And every hand uplifted, every heart
Pour'd out in thanks to Heaven.

Once again
We look ; and, lo, the sea is white with sails
Innumerable, wafting to the shore
Treasures untold ; the vale, the promontories,
A dream of glory ; temples, palaces,
Call'd up as by enchantment ; aqueducts
Among the groves and glades rolling along
Rivers, on many an arch high over-head ;
And in the centre, like a burning-sun.
The Imperial City I They have now subdued
All nations. But where they who led them forth;
Who, when at length released by victory,
C tickler and spear hung up — bm Lot to rust)

♦ ^lous Sacer.



ITALY. 129

Held poverty no evil, no reproach,

Living on little with a cheerful mind,

The Decii, the Fabricii ? Where the spade

And reaping-hook, among their household-

things
Duly transmitted ? In the hands of men
Made captive ; while the master and his guests,
RecUning, quaff in gold, and roses swim,
Summer and winter, through the circling year.
On their Falernian — in the hands of men
Dragg'd into slavery, v/ith how many more
Spared but to die, a public spectacle,
In combat with each other, and required
Yo fall with grace, with dignity to sink,
While life is gushing, and the plaudits ring
Faint and yet fainter on their failing ear,
As models for the sculptor.

But their days.
Their hours are number'd. Hark, a yell, a shriek,
A barbarous dissonance, loud and yet louder.
That echoes from the mountain to the sea !
And mark, beneath us, like a bursting cloud,
The battle moving onward ! Had they slain
AH, that the earth should from her womb bring

forth
New nations to destroy them ? From the depth
Of forests, from what none had dared explore,
Regions of thrilling ice, as though an ice
Engendered, multiplied, they pour along,
Shaggy and huge ! Host after host, they come ;
The Goth, the Vandal ; and again the Goth !
Once more we loo^k, and all is still as night,



130 ITALY.

All desolate ! Groves, temples, palaces,
Swept from the sight, and nothing visible,
Amid the sulphurous vapours that exhale
As from a land accurst, save here and there
An empty tomb, a fragment like the limb
Of some dismember'd giant. In the midst
A City stands, her domes and turrets crown'J
With many a cross ; but they, that issue forth,
Wander like strangers who had built among
The mighty ruins, silent, spiritless ;
And on the road, where once we might have met
Caesar and Cato, and men more than kings,
We meet, none else, the pilgrim and the beggar.

VII.

THE ROMAN PONTIFFS.
Those ancient men, what were they, who

achieved
A sway beyond the greatest conquerors ;
letting their feet upon the necks of kings,
And, through the world, subduing, chaining

down
The free immortal spirit ? Were they not
Mighty magicians ? Theirs a wondrous spell.
Where true and false were with infernal art
Close-interwoven ; where together met
Blessings and curses, ihr^ats and promises;
And with the terrors of Futurity
Mingled whate'er enchants and fascinates,
Music and painting, sculpture, rhetoric
.Ind architectural pomp, such as none else ;



ITALY. 131

And dazzling light, and darkness visible i (55)
What in his day the Syracusan sought,
Another world to plant his engines on,
They had ; and, having it, like gods, not men
Moved this world at their pleasure. Ere ihey

cams,
Their shadows, stretching far and wide, wera

known,
And Two, that look'd beyond the visible sphere,
Gave notice of their coming — he who saw
The Apocalypse ; and he of elder time,
Who in an awful vision of the night
Saw the Four Kingdoms. Distant as they were,
Well might those holy men be filled with fear '

VIIL
CAIUS CESTIUS.
When I am inclined to be serious, I love to
wander up and down before the tomb of Caiua
Cestius. The Protestant burial-ground is there ;
and most of the little monuments are erected to
the young ; young men of promise, cut off when
on their travels, full of enthusiasm, full of enjoy-
ment ; brides, in the bloom of their beauty, on
their first journey ; or children, borne from
Itome in search of health. Thi$ stone was placed
by his fellow-travellers, young as himself, who
will return to the house of his parents without
him ; that, by a husband or father, nuw in his
native country. His heart is buried in that
grave.



193 ITALY.

It is a quit^t and sheltered nook, ccvered in
the winter with violets ; and the Pyramid, thai
overshadows it, gives it a classical and singular-
ly solemn air. You feel an interest there, a
sympathy you were not prepared for. You are
yourself in a foreign land ; and they are for the
most part your country-men. They call upon
you in your mother-tongue — in English — in
words unknown to a native, known only to
yourselves : and the tomb of Cestius, that old
majestic pile, has this also in common with
them. It is itself a stranger, among strangers. It
has stood there till the language spoken around
about it has changed ; and the shepherd, born
at the foot, can read its inscription no longer.

IX.

THE NUN.

*T IS over ; and her lovely cheek is now
On her hard pillovs — there, alas, to be
Nightly, through many and many a dreary hour
Wan, often wet with tears, and (ere at length
Her place is empty, and another comes)
In anguish, in the ghastUness of death ;
Ilers never more to leave those mournful wallay
Even on her bier.

' T is over ; and the rite,
With all its pomp and harmony, is now
Floating before her. She arose at home,
To be the show, the idol of the day ;
Her vesture gorgeous, and her starry head—



ITALY. 133

No locket, bursting in the midnight-sky,
So dazzling. When to-morrow she awakes,
She will awake as though she still was there,
Still in her father's house ; and lo, a cell
Narrow and dark, nought through the gloom

discerned.
Nought save the crucifix, the rosary.
And the grey habit lying by to shroud
Her beauty and grace.

When on her knees she fell.
Entering the solemn place of consecration.
And from the latticed gallery came a chaunt
Of Psalms, most saint-like, most angelical,
Verse after verse sung out, how holily !
The strain returning, and still, still returning,
Methought it acted like a spell upon her.
And she was casting otT her earthly dross ;
Yet it was sad as sweet, and, ere it closed,
Came like a dirge. When her fair head waa

shorn,
And the long tresses in her hands were laid.
That she might fling them from her, saying,

"Thus,
Thus I renounce the world and worldly things!"
When, as she stood, her bridal ornaments
Were, one by one, removed, even to the last,
That she might sav, flinging them from her,

" Thus,
Thus I renounce the world!" When all was

chang'd
And, as a nun, in homeliest guise she knelt,
Veil'd in her veil; crown'd with her silver crown



L34 iTAiif.

Her crown ( f lilies as the spouse of Christ,
Well might her strength forsake her, and her

knees
Fail in that hour ! Well might the holy man,
He, at whose feet she knelt, give as by stealth
('T was in her utmost need; nor, while she lives,
Will it go from her, fleeting as it was) (56)

That faint but fatherly smile, that smile of love
And pity !

Like a dream the whole is fled ;
And they, that came in idleness to gaze
Upon the victim dress' d for sacrifice.
Are mingling in the world ; thou in thy cell
Forgot, Teresa. Yet, among them all,
None were so form'd to love, and to be loved,
None to delight, adorn ; and on thee now
A curtain, blacker than the night, is droppV
Forever ! In thy gentle bosom sleep
Feelings, affections, destined now to die,
To wither like the blossom in the bud,
Those of a wife, a mother ; leaving there
A cheerless void, a chill as of the grave,
A languor and a lethargy of soul,
Death-like, and gathering more and more, till

Death
Comes to release thee. Ah, what now to thee,
What now to thee the treasure of thy Youth f
As nothing !

But thou canst not yet reflect
Calmly ; so many things, strange and perverse.
That meet, recoil, and go but to return,
The monsfrous birth of one eventful day.



ITALY. 135

Troubling tliy spirit — from the first, at dawn,
The rich arraying for the nuptial feast,
To the black pall, the requiem. (57)

All in dm
Revisit thee, and round thy lowly bed
Hover, uncall'd. The young and innocent heart,
How is it beating ? Has it no regrets ?
Discoverest thou no weakness lurking there ?
But thine exhausted frame has sunk to rest.
Peace to thy slumbers I



THE FIRE-FLY.

There is an Insect, that, when Evening

comes,
Small though he be and scarce distinguishable,
Like Evening clad in soberest livery,
Unsheaths his wings, and through the woods

and glades
Scatters a marvellous splendour. On he wheeb,
Blazing by fits as from excess of joy,
Each gush of light a gush of ecstacy ;
Nor unaccompanied ; thousands that fling
A radiance all their own, not of the day.
Thousands as bright as he, from dusk till dawn,
Soaring, descending.

In the mother's lap
Well may the child put forth his little hands,
Singing the nursery-song he learnt so soon;
And the young nymph, preparing for the dance
By brook or fountain-side, in many a braid



136 'TJLLY

Wreathing her golden hair v ell may she cry,
" Come hithei ; and the shepherds, gathering

round,
Shall say, Floretta emulates the Night,
Spangling her head with stars."

Oft have I met
This shining race, when in the Tusculan groves
My path no longer glimmer'd; oft among
Those trees, religious once and always green,
That yet dream out their stories of old Rome
Over the Alban lake ; oft met and hail'd.
Where the precipitate Anio thunders down.
And through the surging mist a poet's house
(So some aver, and who would not believe ?)
Reveals itself.

Yet cannot I forget
Him, who rejoiced me in those walks at eve,
My earliest, pleasantest ; who dwells unseen,
And in our northern clime, when all is still.
Nightly keeps watch, nightly in bush or brake
His lonely lamp rekindling.* Unlike theirs.
His, if less dazzling, through the darkness

knows
No intermission ; sending forth its ray
Through the green leaves, a ray serene and

clear
As Virtue's own.

XL
FOREIGN TRAVEL.
It was in a splenetic humour that I sate ir»a
*Thegljw worm



ITALY. 137

down to my scanty fare at Terracina ; and how
long I should have contemplated the lean
thrushes in array before me, I cannot say, if a
cloud of smoke, that drew the tears into my
eyes, had not burst from the green and leafy
boughs on the heai th-stone. "Why," I ex-
claimed, starting up from the table, " why did
I leave my own chimney-corner ? — But am I not
on the road to Brundusium ? And are not these
the very calamities that befell Horace and Virgil,
and Maecenas, and Plotius, and Varius ? Horace
laughed at them — then why should not I ?
Horace resolved to turn them to account; and
Virgil — cannot we hear him observing, that to
remember them will, by and by, be a pleasure?"
My soliloquy reconciled me at once to my fate ;
and when, for the twentieth time, I had looked
through the window on a sea sparkling with
innumerable brilliants, a sea on which the he-
roes of the Odyssey and the Eneid had sailed,
I sat down as to a splendid banquet. My
thrushes had the flavour of ortolans ; and I ate
with an appetite I had not known before.

" Who," I cried, as I poured out my last
glass of Falernian,* (for Falernian it was said to
be, and in my eyes it ran bright and clear as a
topaz-stone) — "who would remain at home,
could he do otherwise ? Who would submit to
tread that dull, but daily round ; his hours for-

♦ We were now within a few hours of the Campania
Felix. On ihe colour and flavour of Falernian, consull
Galen ard Dioscorides.



138 ITALY.

gotten as soon as spent?" and, opening my
journal-book, and dipping my yen into my
ink-horn, I determined, as far as I could, to
justify myself and my countrymen in wander-
ing over the face of the earth. " It may serve
me," said I, *' as a remedy in some future fit ol
the spleen."

Ours is a nation of travellers ;* and no won-
der, when the elements, air, water, fire, attend
at our bidding, to transport us from shore to
shore ; when the ship rushes into the deep, her
track the foam as of some mighty torrent ; and.
in three hours or less, we stand gazing and
gazed at among a foreign people. None want
an excuse. If rich, they go to enjoy, if poor, to
retrench; if sick, to recover; if studious, to
learn ; if learned, to relax from their studies.
But whatever they may say, whatever they
may believe, they go for the most part on the
same errand ; nor will those who reflect, think
that errand an idle one.

Almost all men are over-anxious. No sooner
do they enter the world, than they lose that
taste for natural and simple pleasures, so re-

♦ As indeed it always was, contributing those of every
degree, from a milors wilJi his suite to him whose only
attendant is his shadow. Coryate in 1603 performed })is
journey on foot; and returning, hung up his shoes in his
village church as an ex-voto. Goldsmitli, a century and
a half aftprwards, followed in nearly the same path;
playing a tune on iiis flute to procure admittance, when-
ever he approached a cottage at night-fall.



ITALY. 139

markable in etrly life. Every hour do they
ask themselves what progress they have made
in the pursuit of wealth or honour ; and on they
go as their fathers went before them, till, weary
and sick at heart, they look back with a sigh of
regret to the golden time of their childhood.

Now travel, and foreign travel more particu-
larly, restores to us in a great degree what we
have lost. When the anchor is heaved, we
double down the leaf; and for a while at least
all effort is over. The old cares are left cluster-
ing round the old objects ; and at every step, as
we proceed, the slightest circumstance amuses
and interests. All is new and strange. We
surrender ourselves, and feel once again as
children. Like them, we enjoy eagerly ; hke
them, when we fret, we fret only for the mo-
ment ; and here indeed the resemblance is very
remarkable, for if a journey has its pains as
well as its pleasures (and there is nothing un-
mixed in this world) the pains are no sooner
over than they are forgotten, while the plea-
sures live long in the memory.

Nor is it surely without another advantage.
If life be short, not so to many of us are its days
and its hours. When the blood slumbers in
the veins, how often do we wish that the earth
would turn faster on its axis, that the sun
would rise and set before it does, and, to escape
from the weight of time, how many follies, how
many crijnes are committed ! Men rush on
danger, and even on death. Intrigue, play^



140 ITALY.

foreign and lomestic broil, such are their re.
sources ; and, when these things fail, they
destroy themselves.

Now in travelling we multiply events, and
innocently. We set out, as it were, on our ad-
ventures ; and many are those that occur to us,
morning, noon, and night. The day we come
to a place which we have long heard and read
of, and in Italy we do so continually, it is an
era in our lives ; and from that moment the
very name calls up a picture. How delightfully
too does the knowledge flow in upon us, and
how fast !* Would he who sat in a corner of
his library, poring over books and maps, learn
more or so much in the time, as he who, with
his eyes and his heart open, is receiving impres-
sions, all day long, Irom the things themselves ?t
How accurately do they arrange themselves in
our memory, towns, rivers, mountains ; and in
what living colours do we recall the dresses,
manners and customs of the people ! Our sight
is the noblest of all our senses. ' It fills the
mind with most ideas, converses with its ob-
jects at the greatest distance, and continues
longest in action without being tired." Our

* To judge at once of a nation, we have only to throw
our eyes on the markets and the fields. If ihe markets
are well supplied, the fields well cuUivated, all is right.
If otherwisia, we may say, and say truly, these people
are barbarous or oppressed.

t Assuredly not, if the last has laid a proper foundation.
Knowledge makt s knowledge as money makes money.
not ever perhaps so fast as on a journey.



ITALY. 141

mgki is on the alert when we trav jl ; and its
exercise is theii. so dehgatful, that we forget the
profit in the pleasure.

Like a river, that gathers, that refines as it
runs, like a spring that takes its course through
Bome rich vein of mineral, we improve and
imperceptibly — nor in the head only, but in the
heart. Our prejudices leave us, one by one,
Seas and mountains are no longer our bounda-
ries. We learn to love, and esteem, and ad-
mire beyond them. Our benevolence extends
itself with our knowledge. And must we not
return better citizens than we went ? For the
more we become acquainted with the institu-
tions of other countries, the more highly must
we value our own.



I threw down my pen in triumph. " The
question," said I, "is set to rest for ever.
And yet — "

"And yet — " I must still say. The wisest
of men seldom went out of the walls of Athens ;
and for that "vorst of evils, that sickness of the
soul, to which we are most liable when most at
our ease, is there not after all a surer and yet
pleasanter remedy, a remedy for which we have
only to cross the threshold ? A Piedmontese
nobleman, into whose company I fell at Turin,
had not long before experienced its efficacy :
and his story, which he told me without re-
ferve, was as follows :

" 1 was weary of life, and, after a day, such



l42 ITALY.

as few have known and none would wish to re-
member, was hurrying along the street to th«
river, when I felt a sudden check. I turned
and beheld a little boy, who had caught the
(skirt of my cloak in his anxiety to solicit my
notice. His look and manner were irresistible.
Not less so was the lesson he had learnt.

" ' There are six of us ; and we are dying for
want of food.' — * Why should I not,' said I to
myself, ' relieve this wretched family ? I have
the means ; and it will not delay me many
minutes. But what if it does?' The scene of
misery he conducted me to, I cannot describe.
I threw them my purse ; and their burst of
gratitude overcame me. It filled my eyes — i*
went as a cordial to my heart. 'I will cal.
again to-morrow,' I cried. ' Fool that I was,
to think of leaving a world where such pleasure
was to be had, and so cheaply 1' "

XII.

THE FOUNTAIN.

It was a well
Of whitest marble, white as from the quarry;
And richly wrought with many a high relief,
Greek sculpture — in some earlier day perhaps
A tomb, and honour'd with a hero's ashes.
The water from the rock fiil'd, overflow'd it ;
Then dash'd away, playing the prodigal.
And soon was lost — stealing unseen, unheard.
Through the long grass, jind round the twisted
roots



ITALY. *43

Of aged trees ; discovering where it ran
By the fresh verdure. Overcome whh he&t, -
I threw me down ; admiring, as I lay,
That shady nook, a singing-place for birds,
That grove so intricate, so full of flowers,
More than enough to please a child a-Maying.

The sun was down, a distant convent-bell
Ringing the Angelas ; and now approach'd
The hour for stir and village-gossip there,
The hour Rebekah came, when from the well
She drew with such alacrity to serve
The stranger and his camels. Soon I heard
Footsteps ; and lo, descending by a path
Trodden for ages, many a nymph appear'd,
/A.ppear'd and vanish'd, bearing on her head
Her earthen pitcher. It call'd up the day
Ulysses landed there ; and long I gazed,
Liike one awaking in a distant time.

At length there came the loveliest of them all,
Her little brother dancing down before her ;
And ever as he spoke, which he did ever,
Turning and looking up in warmth of heart
And brotherly affection. Stopoing there,
She join'd her rosy hands, and, filling them
With the pure element, gave him to drink ;
And, while he quench'd his thirst, standing on

tiptoe,
Look'd down upon him with a sister's smile,
Nor stirr'd till he had d'^'^e, fix'd as a statub-



144 ITALT.

Then liadst thou seen them as they stood,
Canova,
ThoU hadst endow' d them with immortal youth ;
And they had evermore lived undivided,
Winning all hearts — of all thy works the fairest,

XIII.

BANDITTI.

'T IS a wild hfe, fearful and full of change,
The mountain-robber's. On the watch he lies,
Levelling his carbine at the passenger ;
And, when his work is done, he dares not sleep.

Time was, the trade was nobler, if not honest ;
When they that robb'd, were men of better faith
Than kings or pontiffs, when, such reverence
The Poet drew among the woods and wilds,
A voice was heard, that never bade to spare,
Crying aloud, " Hence to the distant hills !
Tasso approaches ; he, whose song beguiles
The day of half its hours ; whose sorcery
Dazzles the sense, turning our forest-glades
To lists that blaze with gorgeous armory,
Our mountain-caves to regal palaces.
Hence, nor descend till he or his are gone.
Let him fear nothing."

When along the shore,
And by the path that, wandering on its way,
Leads through the fatal grove where TuUy fell
(Grey and o'ergrown, an ancient tomb is there),
He came and they vithdr.ow : they were a race



ITALY. 115

Careless of life iii others and themselves,
For tacy had learnt their lesson in a camp ,
But not ungenerous. 'T is no longer so.
N.v,v crafty, cruel, torturing e'er they slay
The unhappy captive, and with bitter jests
blocking misfortune ; vain, fantastical,
Wearing whatever gUtters in the spoil ;
And most devout, though when they kneel and

pray,
.With every bead they could recount a murder.
As by a spell they start up in array,
As by a spell they vanish — theirs a band,
Not as elsewhere of outlaws, but of such
As sow and reap, and at the cottage-door
Sit to receive, return the traveller's greeting,
Now in the garb of peace, now silently
Arming and issuing forth, led on by men
Whose names on innocent lips are v/ords of fear,
Whose lives have long been forfeit.

Some there are
That, ere they rise to this bad eminence,
Lurk, night and day, t^e plague-spot visible.
The guilt that says, Beware ; and mark we now
Him, where he lies, who crouches for his prey
At the bridge-foot, in some dark cavity
Scoop'd by the waters, or some gaping tomb,
Nameless and tenantless, whence the red fox
Slunk as he enter'd. There he broods in spleen
Gnawing his beard ; his rough and sinewy

frame
O'erwritten with the story of his life :
On his wan cheek a sabre-cut, well-eam'd
10



146 n-ALY.

In foreign warfare ; on his breast the brani
Indelible, burnt in when to the port
He clank'd his chain, among a hundred moio
Dragg'd ignominiously ; on every limb
Memorials of his glory and his shame,
Stripes of the lash and honourable scars,
And channels here and there woni to the bona
By galling fetters.

He comes slowly forth,
Unkennelling, and up that savage dell
ArDciously looks ; his cruise, an ample gourd


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibrarySamuel RogersThe poems of Samuel Rogers, with a memoir → online text (page 7 of 16)