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
William Sotheby (1757–1833)
 
I SAW the ages backward rolled,
The scenes long past restore;
Scenes that Evander bade his guest behold,
When first the Trojan stept on Tiber’s shore,—
The shepherds in the forum pen their fold;        5
And the wild herdsman, on his untamed steed,
Goads with prone spear the heifer’s foaming speed,
Where Rome, in second infancy, once more
Sleeps in her cradle. But in that drear waste,
In that rude desert, when the wild goat sprung        10
From cliff to cliff, and the Tarpeian rock
Lowered o’er the untended flock,
And eagles on its crest their aerie hung;
And when fierce gales bowed the high pines, when blazed
The lightning, and the savage in the storm        15
Some unknown godhead heard, and, awe-struck, gazed
On Jove’s imagined form;
And in that desert, when swoln Tiber’s wave
Went forth the twins to save,
Their reedy cradle floating on his flood;        20
While yet the infants on the she-wolf clung,
While yet they fearless played her brow beneath,
And mingled with their food
The spirit of her blood,
As o’er them seen to breathe        25
With fond reverted neck she hung,
And licked in turn each babe, and formed with fostering tongue;
And when the founder of imperial Rome
Fixed on the robber hill, from earth aloof,
His predatory home,        30
And hung in triumph round his straw-thatched roof
The wolf-skin, and huge boar-tusks, and the pride
Of branching antlers wide,
And towered in giant strength, and sent afar
His voice, that on the mountain echoes rolled,        35
Stern preluding the war;
And when the shepherds left their peaceful fold,
And from the wild wood lair, and rocky den,
Round their bold chieftain rushed strange forms of barbarous men,—
Then might be seen by the presageful eye        40
The vision of a rising realm unfold,
And temples roofed with gold.
And in the gloom of that remorseless time,
When Rome the Sabine seized, might be foreseen,
In the first triumph of successful crime,        45
The shadowy arm of one of giant birth
Forging a chain for earth;
And though slow ages rolled their course between,
The form as of a Cæsar, when he led
His war-worn legions on,        50
Troubling the pastoral stream of peaceful Rubicon.
Such might o’er clay-built Rome have been foretold
By word of human wisdom. But—what word
Save from thy lip, Jehovah’s prophet! heard,
When Rome was marble, and her temples gold,        55
And the globe Cæsar’s footstool, who, when Rome
Viewed the incommunicable name divine
Link a Faustina to an Antonine
On their polluted temple,—who but thou,
The prophet of the Lord! what word, save thine,        60
Rome’s utter desolation had denounced?
Yet, ere that destined time,
The love-lute and the viol, song and mirth,
Ring from her palace roofs. Hear’st thou not yet,
Metropolis of earth!        65
A voice borne back on every passing wind,
Wherever man has birth,—
One voice, as from the lip of human kind,
The echo of thy fame? Flow they not yet,
As flowed of yore, down each successive age        70
The chosen of the world, on pilgrimage,
To commune with thy wrecks, and works sublime,
Where genius dwells enthroned?
*        *        *        *        *
  Rome! thou art doomed to perish, and thy days,
Like mortal man’s, are numbered; numbered all,        75
Ere each fleet hour decays.
Though pride yet haunt thy palaces; though art
Thy sculptured marbles animate;
Though thousands and ten thousands throng thy gate;
Though kings and kingdoms with thy idol mart        80
Yet traffic, and thy throned priest adore,
Thy second reign shall pass,—pass like thy reign of yore.
 
 
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