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And, ever brooding there, as o'er its shrine,
A Spirit, invisible and bodiless,
Making us own its influence divine,
With awe-an awe we would not render less-
SILENCE doth reign ; not such as we confess,
Musing o'er Nature, when above, beneath,
Is felt her life, though all be motionless;
But the cold pulseless apathy of death :
A void, a chilling stillness that suspends the breath.
An open space girt round with shattered walls,
Where broken frieze and cornice show the ground,
And pillars riven from the capitals;
The white bright stucco's fragments clinging round
Their dull, red tufa, once with marble bound;
Lo—the rent shrine of Jove upreared on high !
Beside it—she who aye hath altars found:
Love-Venus ! worship of eternity,
To whom, where'er man kneels, 'tis not idolatry.
The Shrine of Isis, and the open cell ;
T'he hollowed spaces where the jugglers gave
Words which hope tortured to an oracle ;
So Truth succumbed to Cunning still the slave,
Till raised at last, immortal from her grave !
All, save the broken shafts, to earth are cast:
They, like the Forest-trunks, still standing, brave
The present—as the Tempest of the Past :
Head, stem, and branches shorn by that earth-rending
Such the Pompeian Forum ! even now
Sitting, where round this arch its ruin throws,
How close above frowns yon Destroyer's brow!
Not, as once, beautiful in green repose,
King of the Mountains which around him close,
But dark and savage, as when based with wood,
O'er the Phlegræan burning fields he rose:
When the earth round was fen or fiery flood:
Haunt of the savage wild, or wilder solitude.
Yet what a social haunt the Forum here,
For recreation and delight !- the sky
Hued in its twilight loveliness ; its sphere
Blue as yon Sea, whose breath refreshingly
Arose, and gladdened every heart and eye,
Oppressed, and fevered with the heats of day:
Moments when life was felt, when even the sigh
Was pleasure; impulses that all obey,
As Nature o'er the heart exerts her magic sway.
Thou who dost press the seats around arrayed,
In that void Theatre ; yon stage, the same
They saw, save where the Scene illusion made ;
Whom the same hopes, wants, joys, and wishes claim,
As thy own fellow-men : thou wilt not blame
Thyself for weakness, if, from thought severe
Thy brow relaxing, gentler feelings tame :
If thou dost sigh, it may be, drop a tear
For those who lived like thee, who thronged rejoicing
And muse upon the satire and applause, That lightly mocked the follies of the hour ; Or the more dignifying Scene that draws The tears which own the Muse's tragic power; And they who gazed,- the lover, and his flower Of beauty, near him ; in whose ear was sighed That tale still prized beyond the wealthiest dower ; Where are they now in their patrician pride? Their very dust with nature doth no more abide !
Yet, rising there, one living witness stands,
As if designed a monument to be
More touching than if reared by human hands,
For it doth speak aloud its elegy
In sounds which ever here make melody'
A requiem for those who long have fled;
Yon shadowing and gigantic willow !—see
How its broad, bright green umbrage round is shed As if by Nature reared to mourn above the dead.
How vacant now those seats where Life hath been ;
The columns, the orchestra, and the Scene;
Behind which toiled inventive art to win
The thunder of the applauding gods; how green
Yon landscape in the distance ! how serene
Above, the quiet of yon azure sphere !
No roof, or light velarium spread between ;
How like a desolate and open bier
Mid Nature's deathless works man's mortal wrecks
Looking a Satire, how severely true,
Upon the enjoyments of the vanished dead;
The stage of human life exposed to view :
Its gauds, and shows, and tinsel fopperies fled:
How like a Skull 'tis cast beneath! ye thread
Those avenues which man no more shall build :
The portals, and the winding paths that led
To chambers once with stirring life so filled :
Where the retiring Mind planned, reasoned, thought,