Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Italy
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII.  1876–79.
 
Rome
Rome
Lord Byron (1788–1824)
 
(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

  O ROME! my country! city of the soul!
  The orphans of the heart must turn to thee,
  Lone mother of dead empires! and control
  In their shut breasts their petty misery.
  What are our woes and sufferance? Come and see        5
  The cypress, hear the owl, and plod your way
  O’er steps of broken thrones and temples, ye
  Whose agonies are evils of a day,—
A world is at our feet as fragile as our clay.
 
  The Niobe of nations! there she stands,        10
  Childless and crownless, in her voiceless woe;
  An empty urn within her withered hands,
  Whose holy dust was scattered long ago.
  The Scipios’ tomb contains no ashes now;
  The very sepulchres lie tenantless        15
  Of their heroic dwellers: dost thou flow,
  O Tiber, through a marble wilderness?
Rise, with thy yellow waves, and mantle her distress.
 
  The Goth, the Christian, time, war, flood, and fire,
  Have dealt upon the seven-hilled city’s pride:        20
  She saw her glories star by star expire,
  And up the steep barbarian monarchs ride,
  Where the car climbed the Capitol; far and wide
  Temple and tower went down, nor left a site.
  Chaos of ruins! who shall trace the void,        25
  O’er the dim fragments cast a lunar light,
And say, “Here was, or is,” where all is doubly night?
 
  The double night of ages, and of her,
  Night’s daughter, Ignorance, hath wrapt, and wrap
  All round us; we but feel our way to err:        30
  The ocean hath its chart, the stars their map,
  And knowledge spreads them on her ample lap;
  But Rome is as the desert, where we steer
  Stumbling o’er recollections; now we clap
  Our hands, and cry, “Eureka!” it is clear,—        35
When but some false mirage of ruin rises near.
 
  Alas, the lofty city! and alas,
  The trebly hundred triumphs! and the day
  When Brutus made the dagger’s edge surpass
  The conqueror’s sword in bearing fame away!        40
  Alas for Tully’s voice and Virgil’s lay
  And Livy’s pictured page! But these shall be
  Her resurrection; all beside—decay.
  Alas for Earth, for never shall we see
That brightness in her eye she bore when Rome was free!        45
 
 
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