1 O MY lamented TALBOT! while with Thee
2 The Muse gay-rov'd the glad Hesperian Round,
3 And drew th' inspiring Breath of Ancient Arts;
4 Ah! little thought she her returning Verse
5 Should sing our Darling Subject to thy Shade.
6 And does the Mystic Veil, from mortal Beam,[Page 10]
7 Involve those Eyes where every Virtue smil'd,
8 And all the FATHER'S candid Spirit shone?
9 The Light of Reason, pure, without a Cloud;
10 Full of the generous Heart, the mild Regard;
11 Unblemish'd Honour, uncorrupted Faith;
12 And limpid Truth, that looks the very Soul.
13 But to the Death of mighty Nations turn'd
14 My Strain, be there absorb'd the Private Tear.
15 MUSING, I lay; warm from the sacred Walks,
16 Where at each step Imagination burns:
17 Ten thousand Wonders rowling in my thought,
18 As the Great Scene of deathless deeds I tread,
19 Tread the blest Ground by more than mortals trod,
20 And see those Skies that breath'd the Roman Soul. [Page 11]
21 Mean time wide-scatter'd round, awful, and hoar,
22 Lies a vast Monument once glorious Rome,
23 The Tomb of Empire! Ruins! that efface
24 Whate'er, of finish'd, modern Pomp can boast.
25 Of these Ideas full, reposing Sense
26 In slumber sunk; and Fancy's Magic hand
27 Led me anew o'er all the solemn Scene,
28 Still in the Mind's pure eye more solemn drest.
29 When strait, methought, the fair majestic POWER
30 Of LIBERTY appear'd. Not, as of old,
31 Extended in her hand the Cap, and Rod,
32 Whose Slave-inlarging touch gave double life:
33 But her bright Temples bound with British Oak,
34 And Naval Honours nodded on her Brow.
35 Sublime her Port. Loose o'er her Shoulder flow'd[Page 12]
36 Her sea-green Robe, with Constellations gay.
37 An Island Goddess now; and her high care
38 The Queen of Isles, the Mistress of the Main.
39 My heart beat filial transport at the sight;
40 And, as she mov'd to speak, th' awaken'd Muse
41 Listen'd intense. A while she look'd around,
42 With mournful eye the well-known Ruins mark'd,
43 And then, her Sighs repressing, thus began.
44 Mine are these Wonders, all thou see'st is mine;
45 But ah how chang'd! the falling poor Remains
46 Of what exalted once th' Ausonian Shore.
47 Look back thro' time; and from the gloom disclos'd,
48 Painting my words, behold the scatter'd Scene.
49 The Great Republick see! that glow'd sublime
50 With the mixt Freedom of a thousand States;[Page 13]
51 Rais'd on the Thrones of Kings her Curule Chair,
52 And by her Fasces aw'd the subject World.
53 See busy Millions swarming all the Land,
54 With Cities throng'd, and teeming Culture high:
55 For on her free-born Sons then Nature smil'd,
56 And pour'd the Plenty that belongs to Men.
57 Behold, the Country chearing, Villas rise,
58 In lively Prospect; by the secret lapse
59 Of Brooks now lost, and Streams renown'd in Song:
60 In Umbria's closing Vales, or on the brow
61 Of her brown Hills that breathe the scented gale:
62 On Baia's viny coast; where peaceful Seas,
63 Fan'd by kind Zephirs, ever kiss the shore;
64 And Suns unclouded shine, and purest Air:
65 Or in the spacious Neighbourhood of Rome;[Page 14]
66 Far-shining upwards to the Sabine Hills,
67 To Anio's Roar, and Tibur's Olive Shade;
68 To where Preneste lifts her airy Brow;
69 Or downwards spreading to the sunny shore,
70 Wav'd from the main, where Alba draws the Breeze.
71 See distant Mountains leave their Vallies dry,
72 And o'er the proud Arcade their Tribute pour,
73 To lave Imperial Rome. For ages laid
74 Deep, massy, firm, diverging every way,
75 From sea to sea, her Public Roads behold:
76 By various Nations trod, and suppliant Kings;
77 With Legions flaming, or with Triumph green.
78 Full in the Centre of these wondrous Works,
79 While Tombs of Heroes consecrate the way,
80 The Pride of Earth! Rome in her Glory see! [Page 15]
81 Behold her Demigods, in Senate met;
82 All Head to counsel, and all Heart to act:
83 The Commonweal inspiring every Tongue
84 With fervent Eloquence, unbrib'd, and bold;
85 Ere low Corruption taught the Servile Herd
86 To know a Master's voice. Astonish'd, mark
87 Her Forum, earnest, popular, and loud,
88 In trembling wonder hush'd, when the two*
* L. J. Brutus, and Virginius. SIRES,
89 As they the Private Father greatly quell'd,
90 Stood up the Public Fathers of the State.
91 See Justice judging there in Human Shape.
92 Hark how with Freedom's voice it thunders high,
93 Or in soft murmurs sinks to TULLY'S tongue.
94 Her Tribes, her Census see; her Generous Troops,
95 Whose Pay was Glory, and whose best Reward[Page 16]
96 Free for their Country and for ME to die;
97 Ere Mercenary Murder grew a Trade.
98 Mark, as the purple Triumph waves along,
99 The highest Pomp and lowest Fall of Life.
100 Her Festive Games, the School of Heroes, see;
101 Her Circus, ardent with contending Youth;
102 Her Streets, her Temples, Palaces, and Baths,
103 Full of fair Forms of Beauty's eldest born,
104 And of a Race by Plastic Virtue mark'd.
105 While Sculpture lives around, and Asian Hills
106 Lend their best Stores to heave the pillar'd Dome:
107 All that to Roman Grandeur the soft Touch
108 Of Grecian Art can join. But Language fails
109 To paint this Sun, this Center of Mankind;
110 Where every Virtue, Glory, Treasure, Art,[Page 17]
111 Attracted strong, in heighten'd lustre met.
112 Need I the Contrast mark? unjoyous View!
113 A Land in all, in Government, and Arts,
114 In Virtue, Genius, Heaven and Earth revers'd.
115 Who but these far-fam'd Ruins to behold,
116 Proofs of a People, whose heroic Aims
117 Soar'd far above the little selfish sphere
118 Of doubting modern Life; who but inflam'd
119 With Classic Zeal, the consecrated Scenes
120 Of Men and Deeds to trace, the Wonder, Theme,
121 And Model of Mankind; unhappy Land!
122 Would trust thy Wilds, and Cities loose of sway?
123 Are these the Vales, that once exulting States
124 In their warm bosom fed? The Mountains these,
125 On whose high-blooming sides my Sons of old[Page 18]
126 I bred to Glory? These dejected Towns,
127 Sordid, and mean, where Life can scarce subsist,
128 The Scenes of Antient Opulence, and Pomp?
129 Come! by whatever Sacred Name disguis'd,
130 OPPRESSION, come! and in thy works rejoice!
131 See Nature's richest Plains to putrid Fens
132 Turn'd by thy Rage. From their unchearful bounds
133 See raz'd th' enliv'ning Village, Farm, and Seat.
134 First Rural Toil, by thy rapacious hand
135 Robb'd of his poor Reward, resign'd the Plow;
136 And now he dares not turn the noxious Glebe.
137 'Tis thine intire. The lonely Swain himself,
138 Who loves at large along the grassy Downs
139 His flocks to pasture, Thine abhorrent flies.
140 Far as the sickening Eye can sweep around,[Page 19]
141 'Tis all one Desart, desolate, and grey,
142 Graz'd by the sullen Bufalo alone;
143 And where the rank unventilated Growth
144 Of rotting Ages taints the passing Gale.
145 Beneath the baleful Blast the City pines,
146 Or sinks infeebl'd, or infected burns.
147 Beneath it mourns the solitary Road,
148 Roll'd in rude Mazes o'er th' abandon'd Waste;
149 While Antient Ways, ingulph'd, are seen no more.
150 Such thy dire Plains, thou Self-Destroyer! Foe
151 To Human-kind! Thy Mountains too, profuse
152 Where savage Nature blooms, seem their sad plaint
153 To raise against thy desolating Rod.
154 There on the breezy Brow, where thriving States,
155 And famous Cities once, to the pleas'd Sun,[Page 20]
156 Far other Scenes of rising Culture spread,
157 Pale shine thy ragged Towns. Neglected round,
158 Each Harvest pines; the livid, lean Produce
159 Of heartless Labour: while thy hated Joys,
160 Not proper Pleasure, lift the lazy hand.
161 Better to sink in Sloth the Woes of life,
162 Than wake their rage with unavailing Toil.
163 Hence drooping Art almost to Nature leaves
164 The rude, unguided Year. Thin wave the Gifts
165 Of yellow Ceres, thin the radiant Blush
166 Of Orchard reddens in the warmest ray.
167 To weedy wildness run, no Rural Wealth,
168 (Such as Dictators fed) the Garden pours.
169 Crude the wild Olive flows, and foul the Vine;
170 Nor Juice Coecubian, nor Falernian, more[Page 21]
171 Streams Life, and Joy, save in the Muse's bowl.
172 Unseconded by Art, the spinning Race
173 Draw the bright thread in vain, and idly toil.
174 In vain, forlorn in wilds, the Citron blows;
175 And flowering Plants perfume the desart gale.
176 Thro' the vile hedge the tender Myrtle twines.
177 Inglorious droops the Laurel, dead to Song,
178 And long a stranger to the Heroe's brow.
179 Nor half thy Triumph this: cast from brute Fields
180 Into the Haunts of Men thy ruthless eye.
181 There buxom Plenty never turns her horn;
182 The Grace and Virtue of exterior Life,
183 No clean Convenience reigns; even Sleep itself,
184 Least delicate of Powers, reluctant there
185 Lays on the Bed impure his heavy head. [Page 22]
186 Thy horrid Walk! dead, empty, unadorn'd,
187 See Streets whose Echos never know the voice
188 Of chearful Hurry, Commerce many-tongue'd,
189 And Art mechanic at his various task
190 Fervent employ'd. Mark the desponding Race,
191 Of Occupation void, as void of Hope;
192 Hope the glad Ray, glanc'd from ETERNAL GOOD,
193 That Life enlivens, and exalts it's Powers,
194 With views of Fortune — Madness all to them!
195 By Thee relentless seiz'd their better Joys,
196 To the soft aid of cordial Airs they fly,
197 A kind Oblivion breathing o'er their Woes,
198 And Love and Music melt their Souls away.
199 From feeble Justice see how rash Revenge,
200 Trembling, the Ballance snatches; and her Sword,[Page 23]
201 Fearful himself, to venal Ruffians gives.
202 See where GOD'S Altar nursing Murder stands,
203 With the red touch of dark Assassins stain'd.
204 But chief let Rome, the mighty City! speak
205 The full-exerted Genius of thy Reign.
206 Behold Her rise amid the lifeless Waste,
207 Expiring Nature all corrupted round;
208 While the lone Tyber, thro' the desart Shore,
209 Winds his waste stores, and sullen sweeps along.
210 Patch'd from my Fragments, in unsolid Pomp,
211 Mark how the Temple glares; and, artful drest,
212 Amusive draws the superstitious Train.
213 Mark how the Palace lifts a lying front,
214 Concealing often, in magnific Jail,
215 Proud Want, a deep unanimated Gloom! [Page 24]
216 And often joining to the drear abode
217 Of Misery, whose melancholy walls
218 Seem its voracious Grandeur to reproach.
219 Within the City Bounds, the Desart see.
220 See the rank Vine o'er subterranean roofs,
221 Indecent, spread; beneath whose fretted gold
222 It once exulting flow'd. The People mark,
223 Matchless, while fir'd by me; to Public Good
224 Inexorably firm, just, generous, brave,
225 Afraid of nothing but unworthy Life,
226 Elate with Glory, an Heroic Soul
227 Known to the Vulgar Breast: behold them now
228 A thin despairing Number, all subdu'd,
229 The Slaves of Slaves, by Superstition fool'd,
230 By Vice unman'd and a licentious Rule,[Page 25]
231 In Guile ingenious, and in Murder brave.
232 Such in one Land, beneath the same fair Clime,
233 Thy Sons, OPPRESSION, are; and such were MINE.
234 Even with thy labour'd State, for whose vain show
235 Deluded Thousands starve; all age-begrim'd,
236 Torn robb'd and scatter'd in unnumber'd Sacks,
237 And by the Tempest of two thousand Years
238 Continual shaken, let my Ruins vie.
239 These Roads that yet the Roman hand assert,
240 Beyond the weak repair of modern Toil;
241 These fractur'd Arches, that the chiding Stream
242 No more delighted hear; these rich Remains
243 Of Marbles now unknown, where shines imbib'd
244 Each parent ray; these massy Columns, hew'd
245 From Africk's farthest shore; one Granite all,[Page 26]
246 These Obelisks high-towering to the Sky,
247 Mysterious mark'd with dark Egyptian Lore;
248 These endless Wonders that this*
* Via Sacra. Sacred Way
249 Illumine still, and consecrate to Fame;
250 These Fountains, Vases, Urns, and Statues, charg'd
251 With the fine stores of Art-compleating Greece.
252 From these too drawn, mine is thy every Boast:
† M. ANGELO BUONAROTI, PALLADIO, and RAPHAEL D'URBINO; the three great modern Masters in Sculpture, Architecture, and Painting. BUONAROTIS, thy PALLADIOS mine;
254 And mine the fair Designs, that RAPHAEL'S soul
255 O'er the live canvass emanating breath'd.
256 What would you say, ye Conquerors of Earth!
257 Ye Romans! could you raise the laurel'd Head;
258 Could you the Country see, with Seas of blood,
259 And the dread Toil of ages, won so dear;
260 Your Pride, your Triumph, your supreme Delight! [Page 27]
261 For whose Defence oft, in the doubtful hour,
262 You rush'd with rapture down the gulph of Fate,
263 Of Death ambitious! till by awful Deeds,
264 Virtues, and Courage, that amaze Mankind,
265 The Queen of Nations rose; possest of all
266 That Nature, Art, and Glory could bestow:
267 What would you say, deep in the last Abyss
268 Of Slavery, Vice, and unambitious Want,
269 Thus to behold her sunk? Your crowded Plains,
270 Void of their Cities; unadorn'd your Hills;
271 Ungrac'd your Lakes; your Ports to Ships unknown;
272 Your lawless Floods, and your abandon'd Streams;
273 These could you know? these could you love again?
274 Thy Tibur, HORACE, could it now inspire
275 Content, Poetic Ease, and Rural Joy,[Page 28]
276 Soon bursting into Song: while thro' the Groves
277 Of headlong Anio, dashing to the Vale,
278 In many a tortur'd Stream, you mus'd along?
* Tusculum is reckoned to have stood at a Place now called Grotta Ferrata, a Convent of Monks.Yon wild retreat, where Superstition dreams,
280 Could, TULLY, you your Tusculum believe?
281 And could you deem yon naked Hills, that form,
282 Fam'd in old Song, the Ship-forsaken†
† The Bay of Mola (anciently Formiae) into which HOMER brings ULYSSES, and his Companions. Near Formiae CICERO had a Villa. Bay,
283 Your Formian Shore? Once the Delight of Earth,
284 Where Art and Nature, ever-smiling, join'd
285 On the gay Land to lavish all their Stores;
286 How chang'd, how vacant, VIRGIL, wide around,
287 Would now your Naples seem? Disaster'd less
288 By black Vesuvius thundering o'er the Coast,
289 His midnight Earthquakes, and his mining Fires,[Page 29]
290 Than by Despotic Rage: that inward gnaws,
291 A native Foe; a foreign, tears without.
292 First from your flatter'd CAESARS This begun;
293 Till houseless spreads, at last, the*
* Campagna selice, adjoining to Capua. Syren Plain,
294 That the dire Soul of HANNIBAL disarm'd;
295 And wrapt in Weeds the†
† The Coast of Baia; which was formerly adorned with the Works mentioned in the following Lines; and where amidst many magnificent Ruins, those of a Temple erected to Venus are still to be seen. Shore of Venus lies.
296 There Baia sees no more the joyous Throng;
297 Her banks all beaming with the Pride of Rome:
298 No generous Vines now bask along the Hills,
299 Where sport the Breezes of the Tyrrhene main:
300 With Baths and Temples mixt, no Villas rise;
301 Nor, Art-sustain'd amid reluctant Waves,
302 Draw the cool murmurs of the breathing Deep:[Page 30]
303 No spreading Ports their sacred Arms extend:
304 No mighty Moles the big intrusive Storm,
305 From the calm Station, roll resounding back.
306 An almost total Desolation sits,
307 A dreary Stillness, sad'ning o'er the Coast;
* All along this Coast, the antient Romans had their Winter retreats; and several populous Cities stood. Where, when soft Suns and tepid Winters rose,
309 Rejoicing Crowds inhal'd the balm of Peace;
310 Where city'd Hill to Hill reflected blaze;
311 And where, with Ceres, Bacchus wont to hold
312 A genial Strife: Her youthful Form, robust,
313 Even Nature yields; by Fire, and Earthquake rent:
314 Whole stately Cities in the dark Abrupt
315 Swallow'd at once, or vile in rubbish laid,
316 A nest for Serpents; from the red Abyss[Page 31]
317 New Hills, explosive, thrown; the Lucrine Lake
318 A reedy Pool; and all to Cuma's Point,
319 The Sea recovering his usurp'd Domain,
320 And pour'd triumphant o'er the bury'd Dome.
321 Hence, BRITAIN, learn; my best-establish'd, last,
322 And more than GREECE, or ROME, my steady Reign;
323 The Land where, King and People equal bound
324 By guardian Laws, my fullest Blessings flow;
325 And where my jealous unsubmitting Soul,
326 The dread of Tyrants! burns in every breast:
327 Learn hence, if such the miserable fate
328 Of an heroic Race, the Masters once
329 Of Humankind; what, when depriv'd of ME,
330 How grievous must be thine? In spite of Climes,
331 Whose Sun-enliven'd Aether wakes the Soul[Page 32]
332 To higher Powers; in spite of happy Soils,
333 That, but by Labour's slightest aid impell'd,
334 With Treasures teem to thy cold Clime unknown;
335 If there desponding fail the common Arts,
336 And sustenance of life: could Life itself,
337 Or, heart-consum'd, a Tyrant's rotten Pomp,
338 Subsist with thee? Against depressing Skies,
339 Join'd to full-spread Oppression's cloudy Brow,
340 How could thy Spirits hold? where Vigour find,
341 Forc'd Fruits to tear from their unnative Soil?
342 Or every Harvest storing in thy Ports,
343 Profuse of all, to plow the dreadful Wave?
344 Here paus'd the GODDESS. By the Pause assur'd,
345 In trembling accents thus I mov'd my Prayer.
346 "Oh first, and most benevolent of Powers! [Page 33]
347 " Come from eternal Splendors, here on Earth,
348 "Against despotic Pride, and Rage, and Lust,
349 " To shield Mankind; to raise them to assert
350 "The native Rights, and Honour of their Race.
351 " Teach me thy lowest Subject, but in Zeal
352 "Yielding to none, the PROGRESS OF THY REIGN ▪
353 " And with a Strain from THEE enrich the Muse.
354 "For thy proud Slave, alone; her Patron Thou,
355 " And great Inspirer be! then will she joy,
356 "Tho' narrow Life her Lot, and Private Shade:
357 " And when her Venal Voice she barters vile,
358 "Or to thy open or thy secret Foes;
359 " May ne'er those sacred Raptures touch her more,
360 "By slavish Hearts unfelt! and may her Song
361 " Sink in oblivion with the nameless Crew! [Page 34]
362 "Vermin of State! to thy o'erflowing Light
363 " That owe their Being, yet betray thy Cause. "
364 Then, condescending kind, the HEAVENLY POWER
365 Return'd. — "What here, suggested by the Scene,
366 " I slight unfold, record, and sing at home,
367 "In that blest Isle, where (so we Spirits move)
368 " With one quick effort of my Will I am.
369 "There Truth, unlicens'd, walks; even Kings themselves
370 " Invite her forth, the Monarchs of the Free!
371 "By that best Glory pierc'd, that God-like Joy,
372 " That gay Security, that Pride of Rule;
373 "When Men, not Slaves, when all-performing Love,
374 " Not sluggish Hate, and faithless Fear, obey.
375 "Fix'd on my Rock, there an Indulgent Race
376 " O'er BRITONS wield the Scepter of the Heart:[Page 35]
377 "And, mixing Worth with Worth, the ROYAL PAIR
378 " To steady Justice yielding Goodness join.
379 "Nor sets the Prospect in this pleasing view;
380 " While there, to finish what his Sires began,
381 "A PRINCE behold! for ME who burns sincere,
382 " Even with a Subject's Zeal. He my great Work
383 "Will Parent-like sustain; and added give
384 " The Touch, the Graces and the Muses owe.
385 "For BRITAIN'S Glory swells his panting Breast;
386 " And Antient Arts He emulous revolves:
387 "His Pride to let the smiling Heart abroad,
388 " Thro' Clouds of Pomp, that but conceal the Man;
389 "To please his Pleasure; Bounty his Delight;
390 " And all the Soul of TITUS dwells in Him. "
391 Hail glorious Theme! But how alas! shall Verse,
392 From the crude Stores of mortal Language drawn,
393 How faint and tedious, sing, what, piercing deep,
394 The GODDESS flash'd at once upon my Soul.
395 For, clear Precision all, the Tongue of Gods
396 Is Harmony itself; to every Ear
397 Familiar known, like Light to every Eye.
398 Mean time disclosing Ages, as She spoke,
399 In dread Succession pour'd their Empires forth;
400 Scene after Scene, the Human Drama spread;
401 And still th'embody'd Picture rush'd to sight.
402 Oh THOU! to whom the Muses owe their flame;
403 Who bid'st beneath the Pole Parnassus rise,
404 And Hippocrenè flow; with thy bold Ease
405 The striking Force, the Lightning of thy Thought,[Page 37]
406 And thy strong Phrase, that rowls profound, and clear;
407 Oh gracious GODDESS! reinspire my Song:
408 While I, to nobler than Poetic Fame
409 Aspiring, thy Commands to BRITONS bear.