Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
Birds of Passage
Flight the Fourth.
I AM poor and old and blind;
The sun burns me, and the wind
  Blows through the city gate,
And covers me with dust
From the wheels of the august        5
  Justinian the Great.
It was for him I chased
The Persians o’er wild and waste,
  As General of the East;
Night after night I lay        10
In their camps of yesterday;
  Their forage was my feast.
For him, with sails of red,
And torches at mast-head,
  Piloting the great fleet,        15
I swept the Afric coasts
And scattered the Vandal hosts,
  Like dust in a windy street.
For him I won again
The Ausonian realm and reign,        20
  Rome and Parthenope;
And all the land was mine
From the summits of Apennine
  To the shores of either sea.
For him, in my feeble age,        25
I dared the battle’s rage,
  To save Byzantium’s state,
When the tents of Zabergan
Like snow-drifts overran
  The road to the Golden Gate.        30
And for this, for this, behold!
Infirm and blind and old,
  With gray, uncovered head,
Beneath the very arch
Of my triumphal march,        35
  I stand and beg my bread!
Methinks I still can hear,
Sounding distinct and near,
  The Vandal monarch’s cry,
As, captive and disgraced,        40
With majestic step he paced,—
  “All, all is Vanity!”
Ah! vainest of all things
Is the gratitude of kings;
  The plaudits of the crowd        45
Are but the clatter of feet
At midnight in the street,
  Hollow and restless and loud.
But the bitterest disgrace
Is to see forever the face        50
  Of the Monk of Ephesus!
The unconquerable will
This, too, can bear;—I still
  Am Belisarius!

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