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Beside the path the unburied carcass lay ;
The shepherd, by the fountains of the glen,
Fled, while the robber swept his flock away,
And slew his babes. The sick, untended then,
Languished in the damp shade, and died afar from men.
But misery brought in love-in passion's strife
Man gave his heart to mercy pleading long,
And sought out gentle deeds to gladden life ;
The weak, against the sons of spoil and wrong,
Banded, and watched their hamlets, and grew strong.
States rose, and, in the shadow of their might,
The timid rested. To the reverent throng,
Grave and time-wrinkled men, with locks all white,
Gave laws, and judged their strifes, and taught the way of right.
Till bolder spirits seized the rule, and nailed
On men the yoke that man should never bear,
And drove them forth to battle : Lo! unveiled
The scene of those stern ages! What is there?
A boundless sea of blood, and the wild air
Moans with the crimson surges that entomb
Cities and bannered armies ; forms that wear
The kingly circlet, rise, amid the gloom,
O’er the dark wave, and straight are swallowed in its womb.
Those ages have no memory—but they left
A record in the desert-columns strown
On the waste sands, and statues fall'n and cleft,
Heaped like a host in battle overthrown;
Vast ruins, where the mountain's ribs of stone
Were hewn into a city; streets that spread
In the dark earth, where never breath has blown
Of heaven's sweet air, nor foot of man dares tread The long and perilous ways--the Cities of the Dead:
And tombs of monarchs to the clouds up-piled-
They perished—but the eternal tombs remain-
And the black precipice, abrupt and wild,
Pierced by long toil and hollowed to a fane ;-
Huge piers and frowning forms of gods sustain
The everlasting arches, dark and wide,
Like the night heaven when clouds are black with rain.
But idly skill was tasked, and strength was plied,
All was the work of slaves to swell a despot's pride,
And virtue cannot dwell with slaves, nor reign
O'er those who cower to take a tyrant's yoke;
She left the down-trod nations in disdain,
And flew to Greece, when liberty awoke,
New-born, amid those beautiful vales, and broke
Sceptre and chain with her fair youthful hands,
As the rock shivers in the thunder-stroke.
And lo! in full-grown strength, an empire stands
Of leagued and rival states, the wonder of the lands.
Oh, Greece! thy flourishing cities were a spoil
Unto each other; thy hard hand oppressed
And crushed the helpless; thou didst make thy soil
Drunk with the blood of those that loved thee best ;
And thou didst drive, from thy unnatural breast,
Thy just and brave to die in distant climes;
Earth shuddered at thy deeds, and sighed for rest
From thine abominations; after times
That yet shall read thy tale, will tremble at thy crimes.
Yet there was that within thee which has saved
Thy glory, and redeemed thy blotted name;
The story of thy better deeds, engraved
On fame's unmouldering pillar, puts to shame
Our chiller virtue ; the high art to tame
The whirlwind of the passions was thine own;
And the pure ray, that from thy bosom came,
Far over many a land and age has shone,
And mingles with the light that beams from God's own
And Rome—thy sterner, younger sister, she
Who awed the world with her imperial frown-
Rome drew the spirit of her race from thee,-
The rival of thy shame and thy renown.
Yet her degenerate children sold the crown
Of earth’s wide kingdoms to a line of slaves ;
Guilt reigned, and wo with guilt, and plagues came down,
Till the north broke its floodgates, and the waves Whelmed the degraded race, and weltered o'er their graves.
Vainly that ray of brightness from above,
That shone around the Galilean Jake,
The light of hope, the leading star of love,
Struggled, the darkness of that day to break;
Even its own faithless guardians strove to slake,
In fogs of earth, the pure immortal flame;
And priestly hands, for Jesus' blessed sake,
Were red with blood, and charity became,
In that stern war of forms, a mockery and a name.
They triumphed, and less bloody rites were kept
Within the quiet of the convent cell;
The well-fed inmates pattered prayer, and slept,
And sinned, and liked their easy penance well.
Where pleasant was the spot for men to dwell,
Amid its fair broad lands the abbey lay,
Sheltering dark orgies that were shame to tell,
And cowled and barefoot beggars swarmed the way,
All in their convent weeds, of black, and white, and
Oh, sweetly the returning muses' strain
Swelled over that famed stream, whose gentle tide
In their bright lap the Etrurian vales detain,
Sweet, as when winter storms have ceased to chide,
And all the new-leaved woods, resounding wide,
Send out wild hymns upon the scented air.
Lo! to the smiling Arno's classic side
The emulous nations of the west repair,
And kindle their quenched urns, and drink fresh spirit there.
Still, Heaven deferred the hour ordained to rend
From saintly rottenness the sacred stole ;
And cowl and worshipped shrine could still defend
The wretch with felon stains
his soul; And crimes were set to sale, and hard his dole Who could not bribe a passage to the skies ; And vice, beneath the mitre's kind control,
Sinned gayly on, and grew to giant size, Shielded by priestly power, and watched by priestly eyes.