— Tenues ignavo Pollio chordas
Pulso; Maroneique redens in margine templi
Suae animum, & magni tumulis adcanto magistri.
1 I Came, great bard, to gaze upon thy shrine,
2 And o'er thy relicks wait th' inspiring Nine:
3 For sure, I said, where Maro's ashes sleep,
4 The weeping Muses must their vigils keep:
5 Still o'er their fav'rite's monument they mourn,
6 And with poetic trophies grace his urn:
7 Have placed the shield and martial trumpet here;
8 The shepherd's pipe, and rural honours there:
9 Fancy had deck'd the consecrated ground,
10 And scatter'd never-fading roses round.
11 And now my bold romantic thought aspires
12 To hear the echo of celestial lyres;
13 Then catch some sound to bear delighted home,
14 And boast I learnt the verse at Virgil's tomb;
15 Or stretch'd beneath thy myrtle's fragrant shade,
16 With dreams extatic hov'ring o'er my head,[Page 111]
17 See forms august, and laurel'd ghosts ascend,
18 And with thyself, perhaps, the long procession end.
19 I came — but soon the phantoms disappear'd;
20 Far other scenes, than wanton Hope had rear'd;
21 No faery rites, no funeral pomp I found;
22 No trophied walls with wreaths of laurel round:
23 A mean unhonour'd ruin faintly show'd
24 The spot where once thy mausoleum stood:
25 Hardly the form remain'd; a nodding dome
26 O'ergrown with moss is now all Virgil's tomb.
27 'Twas such a scene as gave a kind relief
28 To memory, in sweetly-pensive grief:
29 Gloomy, unpleasing images it wrought;
30 No musing, soft complacency of thought:
31 For Time had canker'd all, and worn away
32 Ev'n the last, mournful graces of decay:
33 Oblivion, hateful goddess, sate before,
34 And cover'd with her dusky wings the door:
35 No silver harps I heard, no Muse's voice,
36 But birds obscene in horrid notes rejoice:
37 Fancy recoil'd, and with his tinsel train,
38 Forsook the chearless scene; no more remain
39 The warm ambitious hopes of airy youth;
40 Severe Reflection came, and frowning Truth:
41 Away each glitt'ring gay idea fled,
42 And bade a melancholy train succeed,
43 That form'd, or seem'd to form, a mournful call
44 In feeble echoes mutt'ring round the wall.
45 Seek not the Muses here! th' affrighted maids
46 Have fled Parthenope's polluted shades:
47 Her happy shores, the seats of joy and ease,
48 Their fav'rite mansions once, no longer please:
49 No longer, as of old, in transport lost,
50 The sisters rove along th' enchanted coast;
51 They turn with horror from each much-lov'd stream,
52 And loath the fields that were their darling theme:
53 The tuneful names themselves once fondly gave
54 To ev'ry swelling hill, and mossy cave,
55 So pleasing then, are only heard with sighs;
56 And each sad echo bids their sorrow rise.
57 Yet Nature smiles, as when their Virgil sung,
58 Nor 'midst a fairer scene his lyre was strung;
59 Still bloom the sweets of his elysium here,
60 And the same charms in ev'ry grove appear.
61 But ah! in vain indulgent suns prevail;
62 Health and delight in ev'ry balmy gale
63 Are wafted now in vain: small comfort bring
64 To weeping eyes the beauties of the spring.
65 To groaning slaves those fragrant meads belong,
66 Where Tully dictated, and Maro sung.
67 Long since, alas! those golden days are flown,
68 Where here each Science wore its proper crown;
69 Pale Tyranny had laid their altars low,
70 And rent the laurel from the Muse's brow:
71 What wonder then 'midst such a scene to see
72 The Arts expire with bleeding Liberty?[Page 113]
73 Pensive and sad, each fair angelic form
74 Droops, like the wearied dove beneath a storm:
75 Far other views the poet's thought engage,
76 Than the warm glories of th' Augustan age.
77 Can mis'ry bid th' imagination glow?
78 Or genius brighten 'midst domestic woe?
79 To see desponding wretches round him pine,
80 Horace had wept beneath the Alban vine.
81 Sad sits the bard amidst his country's tears,
82 And sighs, regardless of the wreaths he wears.
83 Did ever Want and Famine sweetly sing?
84 The fetter'd hand uncouthly strikes the string.
85 Lo! stern Oppression lifts her iron rod,
86 And Ruin waits th' imperious harpy's nod:
87 Black Desolation, and destructive War,
88 Rise at the signal, and attend her car.
89 From the dire pomp th' affrighted shepherd flies,
90 And leaves his flock the rav'nous soldier's prize.
91 Where now are all the nymphs that blest the plains?
92 Where, the full chorus of contented swains?
93 The songs of love, of liberty and peace,
94 Are heard no more; the dance and tabor cease:
95 To the soft oaten pipe, and past'ral reed,
96 The din of arms, and clarion's blast succeed:
97 Dire shapes appear in ev'ry op'ning glade;
98 And Furies howl where once the Muses stray'd?
99 Is this the queen of realms, for arts renown'd?
100 This captive maid, that weeps upon the ground![Page 114]
101 Alas! how chang'd! — dejected and forlorn!
102 The mistress of the world become the scorn!
103 Around stand Rapine, Horror and Despair;
104 And Ign'rance, dark ally of barb'rous War:
105 She, at th' usurping Vandal's dread command,
106 Displays her gloomy banner o'er the land:
107 Beneath its chilling shade neglected lies
108 Each sister Art; and unlamented dies.
109 Lo! Sculpture lets her useless chissel fall;
110 While on some ruin'd temple's broken wall
111 Sad Architecture sits; and sees with shame
112 Mis-shapen piles usurp her injur'd name:
113 Music and Verse, unhappy twins! belong
114 To antique Masque, and weak unmanly Song:
115 The gath'ring deluge swells on ev'ry side,
116 And monkish Superstition swells the tide.
117 By the resistless torrent overborn
118 Floats ev'ry Virtue, from its basis torn:
119 Fair Learning droops, the sick'ning Arts decay;
120 And ev'ry laurel fades, and ev'ry bay.
121 All is confus'd, no traces now are seen
122 To shew what wretched Italy has been.
123 Thus once Vesuvius, crown'd with circling wood,
124 Parthenope, thy beauteous neighbour stood:
125 Perpetual Spring cloath'd the fair mountain's side;
126 And what is now thy terror, was thy pride.
127 Sudden th' imprison'd flames burst forth; and laid
128 On smoaky heaps each shrieking Dryad's shade:[Page 115]
129 Now deep in ashes sinks the myrtle bow'r,
130 O'er beds of flow'rs sulphureous torrents roar;
131 And exil'd demi-gods their ruin'd seats deplore.