Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Italy
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII.  1876–79.
Rome, Ruins of
Ruins of Ancient Rome
Sydney Dobell (1824–1874)
(From The Roman)

The hoar unconscious walls, bisson and bare,
Like an old man deaf, blind, and gray, in whom
The years of old stand in the sun and murmur
Of childhood and the dead. From parapets        5
Where the sky rests, from broken niches,—each
More than Olympus, for gods dwelt in them,—
Below from senatorial haunts and seats
Imperial, where the ever-passing Fates
Wore out the stone, strange hermit-birds croaked forth        10
Sorrowful sounds, like watchers on the height
Crying the hours of ruin. When the clouds
Dressed every myrtle on the walls in mourning,
With calm prerogative, the eternal pile
Impassive shone with the unearthly light        15
Of immortality. When conquering suns
Triumphed in jubilant earth, it stood out, dark
With thoughts of ages: like some mighty captive
Upon his death-bed in a Christian land,
And lying, through the chant of psalm and creed        20
Unshriven and stern, with peace upon his brow,
And on his lips strange gods.
                    Rank weeds and grasses,
Careless and nodding, grew, and asked no leave,
Where Romans trembled. Where the wreck was saddest
Sweet, pensive herbs, that had been gay elsewhere,        25
With conscious mien of place, rose tall and still,
And bent with duty. Like some village children
Who found a dead king on a battle-field,
And with decorous care and reverent pity
Composed the lordly ruin, and sat down        30
Grave without tears. At length the giant lay,
And everywhere he was begirt with years,
And everywhere the torn and mouldering Past
Hung with ivy. For Time, smit with honor
Of what he slew, cast his own mantle on him,        35
That none should mock the dead.

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