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Upon a mossy stone I sate me down, And thought of mighty Cuma in her pride! She of the Oracles of old renown; I thought of all the infinite life that plied Through buried streets where now the worms abide! I thought of all the good, the great, the just : Of chiefs for god-like actions deified, Whose names are vanished-record-fame-and bust; Of Beauty's heavenly form—all turned alike to dust!
I would have mourned—my bosom sought relief:
My heart yearned sadly toward my human kind!
But Nature's self forbad the unnatural grief:
The Sun shone down reproof, and, in the wind,
I heard a spirit bid me be resigned:
Was not the crowning blessing-Life—allowed ?
The faculty, the enjoyment unconfined ?
Low to the monitory Voice I bowed;
And walked rejoicing on-my gratitude avowed.
Pause for awhile on yonder grassy hill,
When, offering up the steerage of his wings,
The tale of Dædalus instructs us still:
How beauteous those divine imaginings
Of the old time, round which fond Fancy flings
Her brightest hues to arrest the heedless mind!
How flower-like truth from buried fable springs !
Here the sad Father in his grief designed
The story of his son, in rash presumption blind :
Thrice he essayed-and thrice the sire confessed
The o'ermastering power of Nature as he failed!
What need the truth implanted in each breast?
On human wisdom the restraint entailed,
Whose glorious ambition heaven assailed ?-
To leave the baser herd behind, to prove,
Even though the wrath of man or heaven prevailed,
Its immortality, that vainly strove
To'o'erleap its mortal state, and sphere itself above.
Lo-far beneath, along that curving strand,
Where stood Liternam, gleams a ruined Tower:
How doth a glory round its wreck expand !
Time may the records of the past devour,
Yet shall that spot o'er answering minds hold power ;
The vanquisher of Hannibal, the sword
Of Rome, there lingered out life's latest hour :
There died he, exiled, hated; the reward Dealt by mankind to those their freeman's rights who guard.
If thou dost well, descend that shelving shore,
The rocks, the hills, the pebbled ridge the same:
The waves break round thee with the same wild roar,
As, when beside them, Scipio strove to tame
The memory of his wrongs, and blighted name;
Perchance, the enduring forms around confessed,
Showed him the fleetingness of earthly fame;
It may be, Nature entering his breast,
Soothed, till it hushed awhile, ambition's self to rest.
Ah! vainly may the tutored soul essay
To steel itself to an unnatural mood
Of self-endurance-stern resolve gives way:
The stifled passions checked, but unsubdued,
Are ever springing forth to be renewed ;
Time closes not that hidden wound which pained,
The wasting canker of ingratitude !
How in his mighty heart that pang remained :
He, who beyond the grave, indignant wrath retained !
XXXIX. The Mountain-peaks—earth's portals to the sky : Lo, even here on Capri's loftiest cime, The wrecks of grandeur, arch, and column lie: Here, where enthroned in solitude sublime, Tiberius drew a majesty from crime: Who strove to veil, that hoary eremite, Deeds by stern fame recorded to all time;
Who, buried here from man's detested sight, Revelled in crime that hides its orgies from the light.
Cold as the cliff, and inaccessible
To human sympathies, one passion sate
Within that bloodless heart immovable ;
With power, fame, lust, ambition, satiate,
All there was buried, save undying hate
Of his own human kind: he stood so high,
Nor hope, nor flattery could more elate:
He sunk so low-polluting Infamy
Failed on that blackened heart to cast a deeper dye.
He clung to Power as his minister:
Loathing the slaves who made him tyrant; scorn
Engendered hatred with mankind at war:
Asserted freedom he had better borne ;
Aught that the flatterer's veil aside had torn,
And shown the heart from all its foldings bare ;
He wreaked on them the vengeance they had drawn;
A fallen, conscious spirit, plunging there
In deeds he loved, yet loathed—ambition in despair !