Samuel Rogers.

The poems of Samuel Rogers, with a memoir online

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most experienced? — "Were I as mighty as I
am weak," said he, "my fears for j'ou would
make me as nothing. But I will be there,

* Ce pourroit etre, eaya Bayle, la matiere d'un joli
pn)bleinR on pourroit examiner si cette fille avancoit, ou
fii elle retardoit le prof.l de ses audiieurs, en leur cachant
ft->n beau visase. lly auroit cent choses a diro pour et
coiitxe la-dessiis.



3KJrietta ; and may the Friend of the Fnend
.ess give me strength in that hour ! Even now
m.y heart fails me ; but, come "what will,
while I have a loaf to share, you and your mother
ehall never want. I will beg through the worlcj
for you."

The day arrives, and the court assembles.
The claim is stated, and the evidence given.
And now the defence is called for — but none is
made ; not a syllable is uttered ; and, after a
pause and a consultation of some minutes, the
Judges are proceeding to give judgment, silence
having been proclaimed in the Court, when Lo-
renzo rises and thus addresses them.

" Reverend Signors. Young as I am, may I
venture to speak before you ? 1 would speak in
behalf of one who has none else to help her ;
and I will not keep you long.

"Much has been said; much on the sacred
nature of the obligation — and we acknowledge
it in its full force. Let it be fulfilled, and to the
last letter. It is what we soHeit, what we re-
quire. But to whom is the bag of gold to be
deUvered ? What says the bond ? Not to one—
not to two — but to the three. Let the three
stand forth and claim it."

From that day, (for who can doubt the issue?)
none w^ere sought, none employed, but the sub-
tle, the eloquent Lorenzo. Wealth followed
Fame ; nor need I say how soon he sat at hia
marriage-feast, or who sat beside him.



ITALY. 167

XVII.

A CHARACTER.

One of two things Montrioli may have,
My envy or compassion. Both he cannot.
Yet on he goes, numbering as miseries,
What least of all he would consent to lose,
What most indeed he prides himself upon,
And, for not having, most despises me.
" At morn the minister exacts an hour ;
At noon the king. Then comes the council-
board ;
And then the chase, the supper. When, ah !

when,
The leisure and the liberty I sigh for ?
Not when at home ; at home a miscreant-crew.
That now no longer serve me, mine the service.
And then that old hereditary bore.
The steward, his stories longer than his rent-roll
Who enters, quill in car, and, one by one,
As though I lived to write and wrote to live.
Unrolls his leases for my signature."

He clanks his fetters to disturb my peace.
Yet who would wear them, and become the slave
Of wealth and power, renouncing willingly
His freedom, and the hours that fly so fast,
A burden or a curse when misemploy'd,
But to the wise how precious ! — every day
A little life, a blank to be inscribed
With gentle deeds, such as in after-time
Console, rejoice, whene'er we turn the leaf



68 ITALY,

To read them ? All, wherever in the scale,
Have, be they high or low, or rich or poor,
Inherit they a sheep-hook or a sceptre.
Much to be grateful for ; but most has he,
Born in that middle sphere, that temperate zone
V/here Ivnowledge lights hia lamp, there mos*

secure,
And Wisdom comes, if ever, she who dwells
Above the clouds, above the firmament,
That Seraph sitting in the heaven of heavens.

What men most covet, wealth, distinction,
power,
Are baubles nothing w^orth, that only serve
To rouse us up, as children in the schools
Are roused up to exertion. The reward
Is in the race we run, not in the prize ;
And they, the few, that have it ere they earn it
Having by favour or inheritance,
Thtse dangerous gifts placed in their idle hands
And all that should await on worth well-tried,
All in the glorious days of old reserved
For 2nanhood most mature or reverend age,
Know not, nor ever can, the generous pride,
That glows in him who on himself relies.
Entering the lists of life.

XVIII.

SORRENTO.

He who sets sail from Naples, when the wind
Blows fragrance from Posilipo may soon



ITALY. 169

Cro.«sing from side to side that beautifui lake,
Land underneath the cliff, where once among
The children gathering shells along the shore,
One laugh'dandplay'd, unconscious of his fate;*
His to drink deep of sorrow, and, through life,
To be the scorn of them that knew him not.
Trampling alike the giver and his gift.
The gift a pearl precious, inestimable,
A lay divine, a lay of love and war.
To charm, ennoble, and, from age to age,
Sweeten the labour, when the oar was plied
Or on the Adrian or the Tuscan sea.

There would I linger — then go forth again,
And hover round that region unexplored.
Where to Salvator (when, as some relate.
By chance or choice he led a bandit's life.
Yet oft withdrew, alone and unobserved.
To wander through those awful solitudes)
Nature reveal'd herself. Unveil'dshe stood,
In all her wildness, all her majesty.
As in that elder time, ere Man was made.

There would I linger — then go forth again ;
And he who steers due east, doubling the capSj
Discovers, in a crevice of the rock.
The fishing-town, Amalfi. (58) Haply there
A heaving bark, an anchor on the strand.
May tell him what it is ; but what it was,
Cannot be told so soon.

*Tas3o,



170 HALY.

The time has been,
When on the quays along the Syrian coast,
Twas ask'd and eagerly, at break of dawn,
*' Wha*. ships are from Amalfi?" when hei

coins,
Silver and gold, circled from clime to clime ;
From Alexandria southward to Sennaar,
And eastward, through Damascus and Cabul
And Samarcand, to thy great wall, Cathay.

Then Vvere the nations by her wisdom sway'd;
And every crime on every sea was judged
According to her judgments. In her port
Prows, strange, uncouth, from Nile and Niger

met.
People of various feature, various speech ;
And in their countries many a house of prayer,
And many a shelter, where no shelter was,
And many a well, Hke Jacob's in the wild,
Rose at her bidding. Then in Palestine,
By the way-side, in sober grandeur stood
An Hospital, that, night and day, received
The pilgrims of the west ; and, when 't was

ask'd,
" Who are the noble founders?" every tongue
At once replied, " The merchants of Amalfi."
That Hospital, when Godfrey scaled the walls,
Sent forth its holy men in complete steel ;
And hence, the cowl relinquish'd for the helm,
That chosen band, valiant, invincible,
So long renown'd as champions of the Cross-,
In Rhodes, in Malta.



ITALY. I7ii

For three hundred years,
There, unapproach'd but irora the deep, they

dweh ;
Assail' d for ever, yet from age to age
Acknowledging no master. From ttie deep
They gather'd in their harvests ; bringing home,
In the same ship, relics of ancient Greece, (59>
That land of glory where their fathers lay,
Grain from the golden vales of Sicily,
And Indian spices. When at length they fell
Losing their liberty, they left mankind
A legacy, compared with which the wealth .
Of Eastern Kings — what is it in the scale ?—
The mariner's compass.

They are now forgot.
And with them all they did, all they endured,
Strugghng with fortune. When Sicardi stood,
And, with a shout like thunder, cried, " Com^

forth,
And serve me in Salerno !" forth they came.
Covering the sea, a mournful spectacle ;
The women waihng, and the heavy oar
Falling unheard. Not thus did they return,
The tyrant slain ; though then the grass of years
Grew in their streets.

There now to him who sails
Under the shore, a few white villages,
Scatter'd above, below, some in the clouds.
Some on the margin of the dark-blue sea,
And glittering through their lemon-groves, ai^

nounce
Tbe region of Amalfi, Then, half-faJlen,



172 ITALY.

A lonely watch-tower on the precipice,

Their ancient land-mark, comes. Long may it

last;
And to the seaman in a distant age,
Though now he little thinks how large his debti
Serve for their monument ! (60)

XIX.

P^STUM.

They stand between the mountains and the

sea ;
Awful memorials, but of whom we know not !*
The seaman, passing, gazes from the deck.
The buflalo-driver, in his shaggy cloak,
Points to the work of magic and moves on.
Time was they stood along the crowded street.
Temples of Gods I and on their ample steps
What various habits, various tongues beset
The brazen gates for prayer and sacrifice I
Time was perhaps the third was sought for

Justice ;
And here the accuser stood, and there the

accused ;
And here the judges sate, and heard, and judged.
AH silent now ! — as in the ages past,
Trodden under foot and mingled, dust with dust.

* The temples of Paeslum are three in number ; and
have survived, nearly nine centuries, the total destruc*
tjonofthe city. Tradition is silent concerning them;
but they must have existed now between two Bad thre*
fJiousand ytars.



HALT. 173

Ho^ many centuries did the sun go ro^md
From Mount Alburnus to the Tyrrhene sea,
While, by some spell render'd invisible,
Or, if approach'd. approach'd by him alone
Who saw as though he saw not, they remaiu'd
As in the darkness of a sepulchre.
Waiting the appointed time ! All, all within
Proclaims that Nature had resumed her right,
And taken to herself what man renounceJ ,
No cornice, triglyph, or w-orn abacus,
But with thick ivy hung or branching fern ;
Their iron-brov/n o'erspread with brightest
verdure !

From my youth upv/ard have I longed to tread
This classic ground — And am I here at last ?
Wandering at will through the long porticoes,
And catching, as through some majestic grove,
Now the blue ocean, and now, chaos-like.
Mountains and mountain-gulfs, and, half-w?y

up,
Towns like the living rock from which they

grew ?
A cloudy region, black and desolate.
Where once a slave withstood a world in arms.*

The air is sweet with violets, running wild
*Mid broken friezes and fallen capitals ;
Sweet as when Tully, v.'riting down his
thoughts,

♦ Spartacus. See Plutarch in the life '-f Cra55U3



174 ITAtY.

Those thoughts so precious and so lately loat,
(Turning to thee, divine Philosophy,
Ever at hand to calm his troubled soul)
Sail'd slowly by, tv^^o thousand years ago,
For Athens ; when a ship, if north-east winds
Blew from the Peestan gardens, slack' d her



On as he moved along the level shore,
These temples, in their splendour eminent
Mid arcs and obelisks, and domes and towers,
Jleflecting back the radiance of the west.
Well might He dream of Glory !— Now, coil'd

up,
The serpent sleeps within them ; the she* wolf
Suckles l*r young ; and, as alone I stand
In this, the nobler pile, the elements
Of earth and air its only floor and covering,
How solemn is the stillness ! Nothing stirs
Save the shrill-voiced cicala flitting round
On the rough pediment to sit and sing ;
Or the green Hzard rustling through the glass,
And up the fluted shaft with short quick mo»

tion.
To vanish in the chinks that Time has made.

In such an hour as this, the sun's broad disk
Seen at his setting, and a flood of light
FilUngthc courts of these old sanctuaries,
Gigantic shadows, broken and confused,
A,cross the innumerable columns fluna)



ITALY. 175

la. such an hour ba came, who saw and told.
Led by the mighty Genius of the Place.*

Walls of some capital city first appear'd,
Half razed, half sunk, or scatter' d as in scorn ;
—And what within them t what but in the

midst
These Three in more than their original

grandeur
And, round about, no stone upon another ?
As if the spoiler had fallen back in fear,
And, turning, left them to the elements.

'T is said a stranger in the days of old
(Some say a Dorian, some a Sybarite ;
But distant things are ever lost in clouds),
'Tis said a stranger came, and, with his plow,
Traced out the site ; and Posidonia rose, (61)
Severely great, Neptune, the tutelar God;
A Homer's language murmuring in her streets>
And in her haven many a mast from Tyre.
Then came another, an unbidden guest.
He knock' d and enter' d with a train in arms ;
And all was changed, her very name and

language.
The Tyrian merchant, shipping at his door
Ivory and gold, and silk, and frankincense,
Sail'd as before, but sailing, cried " Fo»

Paestum 1"

• They are said to have beea discovered by accident
tbjul the middle of ihe laal century.



176 ITALY.

And now a Virgil, now an Ovid sung
Paestum's twice-blowing roses ; while, within,
Parents and children mourn' d — and, every year,
I'T was on the day of some old festival)
Met to give way to tears, and once again,
Talk'd in the ancient tongue of things gone by.*
At length an Arab climb' d the battlements,
Slaying the sleepers in the dead of night ;
And from all eyes the glorious vision fled !
Leaving a place lonely and dangerous.
Where whom the robber spares, a deadlier foet
Strikey at unseen — and ar a time when joy
Opens the heart, when summer-skies are blue,
And the clear air is soft and delicate ;
For then the demon works — then with that air
The thoughtless wretch drinks in a subtle

poison
Lulling to sleep ; and, when he sleeps, he dies.

But what are These still standing in the midst?
The earth has rock'd beneath ; the Thunder-
stone
Passed through and through, and left its traces

there,
Yet still they stand as by some Unknown

Charter !
Oh, they are Nature's own ! and, as allied
To the vast Mountains and the eternal Sea,
They want no written history ; theirs a voice
For ever speaking to the heart of Man !

* AthenJEUs, xiv. t The Mal'ana..



ITALY. 177

XX.

MONIE CASSINO.

"What hangs behind that curtain?" —
" Wouldst thou leavn?
If thou art wise, thou wouldst not. 'T is by some
Behaved to be his master-work, who look'd
Beyond the grave, and on the chapel-wall,
As though the day were come, were come and

past, •
Drew the Last Judgment.* — But the Wisest err.
He who in secret wrought, and gave it life,
For life is surely there and visible change,
Life, such as none could of himself impart,
(They who behold it, go not as they came,
But meditate for many and many a day)
Sleeps in the vault beneath. We know not

much ;
But what we know, we will communicate.
'Tis in an ancient record of the House;
And may it make thee tremble, lest thou fall!

Once — on a Christmas-eve — ere yet the roof
Rung with the hymn of the Nativity,
Tliere came a stranger to the convent-gate,
And ask'd admittance ; ever and anon,
As if he sought what most he fear'd to find,
Looking behind him. When within the walls,
These walls so sacred and inviolable,
StiU did he look behind him ; oft and long,

♦ Fichael Angelo.
12



178 ITALY.

With haggard eye and curling, quivering lip,
Catching at vacancy. Between the fits,
For here, 'tis said, he linger'd while he lived,
He would discourse, and with a mastery,
A charm by none resisted, none explain' d,
Unfelt before ; but when his cheek grew pale,
All was forgotten. Then, howe'er employed.
He would break off, and start as if he caught
A glimpse of something that would not be gone ;
And turn and gaze, and shrink into himself,
As though the Fiend was there, and, face to face,
Scowl'd o'er his shoulder.

Most devout he was ;
Most unremitting in the Services ;
Then, only then, untroubled, unassail'd;
And, to beguile a melancholy hour,
Would sometimes exercise that noble art
He learnt in Florence ; with a master's hand,
As to this day the Sacristy attests,
Painting the wonders of the Apocalypse.

At length he sunk to rest, and in his cell
Left, when he went, a wor'K. in secret done,
The portrait, for a portrait it must be,
That hangs behind the curtain. Whence he

drew,
None here can doubt: for they that come to

catch
The faintest glimpse — to catch it and be gone,
Gaze as he gazed, then shrink into themselves,
Acting the self-same part. But why 't was

drawn,



ITALY. 179

Whether in penance, to atone for Guilt,

Or to recoid the anguisli Guilt inflicts,

Or haply to familiarize his mind

With what he could not fly from, none can say,

For none could learn the burden of his soul."

XXI.
THE HARPER.

It was a Harper, wandering with his harp,
His only treasure ; a majestic man,
By time and grief ennobled, not subdued ;
Though from his height descending, d-ay by day
And, as his upward look at once betray'd,
Blind as old Homer. At a fount he sate,
Well-known to many a weary traveller ;
His little guide, a boy not seven years old,
But grave, considerate beyond his years.
Sitting beside him. Each had ate his crust
In silence, drinking of the virgin-spring ;
And now in silence, as their custom was.
The sun's dechne awaited.

But the child
Was worn with travel. Heavy sleep weigh' J

down
Elis eye-lids ; and the grandsire, when we came,
Embolden' d by his love and by his fear.
His fear lest night o'ertake them on the road,
Humbly besought me to convey them both
A little onward. Such small services
Who can refuse ? — Not I ; and him who can,
Blest though he be with every earthly gift,



ISO KTALT.

I cannot envy. He, if wealth oe his,
Knows not its uses. So from noon till night.
Within a crazed and tatter'd vehicle, (62)
Tliat yet display'd, in old emblazonry,
A sliield as splendid as the Bardi wear ; (63)
We lumber' d on together ; the old man
Beguiling many a league of half its length.
When question'd the adventures of his hie.
And all the dangers he had undergone ;
His shipwrecks on inhospitable coasts,
And his long warfare.

They were bound, he sai^^
To a great fair at Reggio ; and the boy,
Believmg all the world were to be there,
And I among the rest, let loose his tongue.
And promised me much pleasure. His short

trance,
Short as it was, had, like a charmed cup,
Restored his spirit, and, as on we crawl' d.
Slow as the snail (my muleteer dismounting.
And novv his mules addressing, now his pipe.
And now Luigi) he poured out his heart.
Largely repaying me. At length the sun
Departed, setting in a sea of gold;
And, as we gazed, he bade me rest assured
That like the setting would the rising be..

Their harp — it had a voice oracular.
And in the desert, in the crowded street.
Spoke when consulted. It the treble chord
Twang'd shrill and clear, o'er hill and dale th:^
venU



ITALY. 181

•Fhe gTCJidsire, step by step led by the child;
And not a rain-drop trom a passing cloud
Fell on their garments. Thus it spoke tx)-day
Inspiring joy, and, in the young one's mind,
Brightening a path already full of sunshine.

XXII.

THE FELUCA.
Day glimmer' d ; and beyond the precipice
(Which my mule follow'd as in love with fear,
Or as in scorn, /et more and more inclining
To tempt the danger where it menaced most),
A sea of vapour roli'd. Methought we went
Along the utmost edge of this, our world ;
6ut soon the surges tied and we descried
Nor dimly, though the lark was silent yet,
Thy gulf. La Spezzia. Ere the morning-gun,
Ere the first day-streak, we alighted there ;
And not a breath, a murmur ! Every sail
Slept in the offing. Yet along the shore
Great was the stir ; as at the noontide hour,
None unemploy'd. Where from its native rock
A streamlet, clear and full, ran to the sea.
The m.aidens knelt and sung as they were wont,
Washing their garments. Where it met the tide,
Sparkling and lost, an ancient pinnace lay
Keel-upward, and the fagot blazed, the tar
Fumed from the chaldron ; while, beyond the fort
Whither I v;-ander'd, step by step led on.
The fishers dragg'd their net, the fish within
At every heave fluttering and full of life.



182 ITALY,

At every heave striking their sJvcr fina
'Gainst the dark meshes.

Soon a boatman's shout
Re-echoed ; and red bonnets on the beach,
Waving, recall'd me. We embark'd and left
That noble haven, where, when Genoa reign'd,
A hundred galleys shelter'd — in the day.
When lofty spirits met, and, deck to deck,
Doria, Pisani fought ; that narrow field
Ample enough for glory. On we went,
Ruffling with r.iany an oar the crystalline

sea, (64)
On from the rising to the setting sun.
In silence — underneath a mountain-ridge,
Untamed, untamable, reflecting round
The saddest purple ; nothing to be seen
Of life or culture, save where, at the foot.
Some village and its church, a scanty line,
Athwart the wave gleam'd faintly. Fear of ill
Narrow'd our course, fear of the hurricane,
And that yet greater scourge, the crafty Moor,
V/ho, like a tiger prowling for his prey,
Springs and is gone, and on the adverse coast
(Where Tripoli and Tunis and Algiers
Forge fetters, and white turbans on the mole
Gather, whene'er the Crescent comes display'd
Over the Cross) his human merchandise
To many a curious, many a cruel eye
Exposes. Ah, how oft where now the sun
Slept on the shore, have ruthless cimeters
Flash'd through the lattice, and a swarthy crew
Dragg'd forth, ere-!ong to number them for sale.



ITAL1. 183

Ere-long to part them in their agony,

Parent and child I How oft where now we redo

Over the billow, has a wretched son.

Or yet more wretched sire, grown grey in chains,

Labour'd, his hands upon the oar, his eyes

Upon the land — the land, that gave him birth ;

And, as he gazed, his homestall through his tears.

Fondly imagined ; when a Christian ship

Of war appearing in her bravery,

A voice in anger cried, " Use all your strength!"

But when, ah when, do they that can, forbear
To crush the unresisting ? Strange, that men,
Creatures so frail, so soon, alas ! to die.
Should have the power, the will to make this

world
A dismal prison-house, and life itself.
Life in its prime, a burden and a curse
To him who never wrong' d them I Who thai

breathes
Would not, when first he heard it, turn away
As from a tale monstrous, incredible ?
Surely a sense of our mortality,
A consciousness how soon we shall be gone,
Or, if we linger — but a few short years —
How sure to look upon our brother's grave,
Should of itself incline to pity and love,
And prompt us rather to assist, relieve.
Than aggravate the evils each is heir to.

At length thg day departed, and the iroon
Rose like anot:i3r sun, illumining



184 ITALY.

Waters and woods and cloud-capt promon-
tories,
Glades for a hermit's cell, a lady's bower,
Scenes of Elysium, such as Night alone
Reveals below, nor often — scenes that fled
As at the waving of a wizard's wand,
And left behind them, as their parting gift,
A thousand nameless odours. All was still ;
And now the nightingale her song pour'd forth
In such a torrent of heart-felt delight,
So fast it flow'd, her tongue so voluble,
As if she thought her hearers' would be gone
Hire half was told. 'T was where in the north

west.
Still unassail'd and unassailable,
Thy pharos, Genoa, first display'd itself,
Burning in stillness on its craggy seat ;
That guiding star, so oft the only one,
When those now glowing in the azure vault.
Are dark and silent. 'T was where o'er the sea,
For we were now within a cable's length,
Delicious gardens hung ; green galleries,
And marble terraces in many a flight.
And fairy- arches flung from cliff' to cliff",
Wildering, enchanting ; and, above them all,
A Palace, such as somewhere in the Eas>^,
In Zenastan or Araby the blest,
Among its golden groves and fruits of gold,
And fountains scattering rainbows in the sun,
Rose, when Aladdin rubb'd the wondrous lamp
Such, if not fairer ; and, when we shot by,
A scene of revelry, in long array



ITALY. 185

The windows blazing. But we now approach'd
A City far-renown'd ;* and wonder ceased.

xxiir.

GENOA.

This house was Andrea Doria's. Here he
lived ;
And here at eve relaxing, when ashore,
Held many a pleasant, many a grave discourse
With them that sought him, walking to and fro
As on his deck. 'T is less in length and breadth
Than many a cabin in a ship of war ;
But 't is of marble, and at once inspires
The reverence due to ancient dignity.

He left it for a better ; and 't is now
A house of trade, (65) the meanest merchandise
Cumbering its floors. Yet, fallen as it is,
'T is still the noblest dwelling — even in Genoa!
And hadst thou, Andrea, lived there to the last,
Thou hadst done well ; for there is that without,
That in the wall , which monarchs could not give,
Nor thou take with thee, that which says aloud,
It was thy Country's gift to her Deliverer.

'T is in the heart of Genoa (he who comes,
Must come on foot) and in a place of stir ;
Men on th)ir daily business, early and hte,

* Genoa.



186 ITALY.

Thronging thy very threshold. But wlien there,
Thou wert among thy fellow-citizeng,
Thy children, for they hail'd thee as their sire ;
And on a spot thou must have loved, for there,
Calling them round, thou gavest them more

than life,
Giving v/hat, lost, makes life not worth the


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Online LibrarySamuel RogersThe poems of Samuel Rogers, with a memoir → online text (page 9 of 16)