Page images

Who hath beheld decline 1 upon my brow,
Or seen my mind's convulsion leave it weak;
But in this page a record will I seek.
Not in the air shall these my words disperse,
Though I be ashes ; a far hour shall wreak

The deep prophetic fulness of this verse,
And pile on human heads the mountain of my curse !


That curse shall be Forgiveness.-Have I not-
Hear me, my mother Earth! behold it, Heaven !-
Have I not had to wrestle with my lot ?
Have I not suffered things to be forgiven ?
Have I not had my brain seared, my heart riven,
Hopes sapped, name blighted, Life's life lied away?
And only not to desperation driven,

Because not altogether of such clay
As rots into the souls of those whom I survey.


From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy
Have I not seen what human things could do ?
From the loud roar of foaming calumny
To the small whisper of the as paltry few,
And subtler venom of the reptile crew,
The Janus 2 glance of whose significant eye,
Learning to lie with silence, would seem true,

And without utterance, save the shrug or sigh,
Deal round to happy fools its speechless obloquy.


But I have lived, and have not lived in vain :
My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire,
And my frame perish even in conquering pain ;
But there is that within me which shall tire

Decline.] From declinatio, a substantive. These stanzas have a melodramatic and unreal look about them.

2 Janus.] The double-faced God, and the meaning, therefore, of the passage would be, the deceitful glance of their eye-for they have learnt to lie without speaking would look true. Without utterance, too, save the shrug or sigh, they deal round to fools who trust them the unexpressed obloqny of their gesture (i.e. shrug or sigh).

Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire ;
Something unearthly, which they deem not of,
Like the remembered tone of a mute lyre,

Shall on their softened spirits sink, and move
In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of love.


The seal is set.-Now welcome, thou dread power!
Nameless, yet thus omnipotent, which here
Walkest in the shadow of the midnight hour
With a deep awe, yet all distinct from fear;
Thy haunts are ever where the dead walls rear
Their ivy mantles, and the solemn scene
Derives from thee a sense so deep and clear

That we become a part of what has been,
And grow unto the spot, all-seeing but unseen.


And here the buzz of eager nations ran,
In murmured pity, or loud-roared applause,
As man was slaughtered by his fellow man.
And wherefore slaughtered ? wherefore, but because
Such were the bloody Circus' genial laws,
And the imperial pleasure.-

Wherefore not ?
What matters where we fall to fill the maws

Of worms-on battle-plains or listed spot? Both are but theatres where the chief actors rot.


I see before me the Gladiator lie :
He leans upon his hand-his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his drooped head sinks gradually low-
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder-shower ; and now

The arena swims around him-he is gone,
Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hailed the wretch

who won. ! A description of the Dying Gladiator, so familiar to all visitors of Rome. The figure in reality is that of a Gaul, as is proved by the Celtic torques or necklace ; it stands in the Capitoline Museum.

• As Dacia men to die the eternal death
For a sole instant's pastime.'— Deformed Transformed.'


He heard it, but he heeded not—his eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away ;
He recked not of the life he lost nor prize,
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay,
There were his young barbarians all at play,
There was their Dacian mother-he, their sire,
Butchered to make a Roman holiday-

All this rushed with his blood-Shall he expire
And unavenged? Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire!


But here, where Murder breathed her bloody steam ;
And here, where buzzing nations choked the ways,
And roared or murmured like a mountain stream
Dashing or winding as its torrent strays ;
Here, where the Roman millions' blame or praise
Was death or life, the playthings of a crowd,
My voice sounds much-and fall the stars' faint rays

On the arena void-seats crished-walls bowed-
And galleries, where my steps seem echoes strangely



A ruin-yet what ruin! from its mass
Walls, palaces, half-cities, have been reared ;
Yet oft the enormous skeleton ye pass,
And marvel where the spoil could have appeared.
Hath it indeed been plundered, or but cleared ?
Alas ! developed, opens the decay,
When the colossal fabric's form is neared :

It will not bear the brightness of the day,
Which streams too much on all years, man, have reft



But when the rising moon begins to climb
Its topmost arch, and gently pauses there ;
When the stars twinkle through the loops of time,
And the low night-breeze waves along the air
The garland-forest, which the gray walls wear,
Like laurels on the bald first Cæsar's head ; 1
1 The bald first Cæsar's head.] Suetonius tells us that Julius

When the light shines serene but doth not glare,

Then in this magic circle raise the dead : Heroes have trod this spot~'tis on their dust tread.



• While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand ;

When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall,
And when Rome falls--the World.' From our own

Thus spake the pilgrims o'er this mighty wall
In Saxon times, which we are wont to call
Ancient; and these three mortal things are still
On their foundations, and unaltered all ;

Rome and her Ruin past Redemption's skill,
The World, the saine wide den-of thieves, or what ye



Simple, erect, severe, austere, sublime
Shrine of all saints and temple of all gods,
From Jove to Jesus—spared and blest by time ;
Looking tranquillity, while falls or nods
Arch, empire, each thing round thee, and man plods
His way through thorns

to ashes--glorious dome !
Shalt thou not last ? Time's scythe and tyrants' rods
Shiver upon thee-sanctuary and home
Of art and piety-Pantheon !*—pride of Rome !

Relic of nobler days, and noblest arts !
Despoiled yet perfect, with thy circle spreads 3
A holiness appealing to all hearts-
To art a model ; and to him who treads

Cæsar was most sensitive on the subject of his baldness, and concealed the fact by the laurel crown. See • Deformed Transformed’

*His brow was girt with laurels more than hairs.' 1 In Saxon times.] Bede tells us that in his day (A.D. 673–735) the saying amongst Anglo-Saxon pilgrims to Rome was,

that Rome would stand as long as the Coliseum

stood. 2 Pantheon.] In the Campus Martius ; finished by Agrippa B.C. 27, but in a.d. 610 was consecrated by Boniface iv. to the Virgin Mary and the Martyrs. Hence the words (line 3) from Jove to Jesus.'

3 The Pantheon is circular, and lighted from above.

Rome for the sake of ages, Glory sheds
Her light through thy sole aperture ; to those
Who worship, here are altars for their beads ;

And they who feel for genius may repose
Their eyes on honoured forms, whose busts around them



There is a dungeon, in whose dim drear light
What do I gaze on? Nothing : Look again !
Two forms are slowly shadowed on my sight--
Two insulated phantoms of the brain :
It is not so ; I see them full and plain-
An old man, and a female young and fair,
Fresh as a nursing mother, in whose vein

The blood is nectar :-But what doth she there, With her unmantled neck, and bosom white and bare ?


Full swells the deep pure fountain of young life,
Where on the heart and from the heart we took
Our first and sweetest nurture, when the wife,
Blest into mother, in the innocent look,
Or even the piping cry of lips that brook
No pain, and small suspense, a joy perceives
Man knows not, when from out its cradled nook

She sees her little bud put forth its leaves-
What may the fruit be yet?-I know not-Cain was Eve's.'


But here youth offers to old age the food,
The milk of his own gift : it is her sire
To whom she renders back the debt of blood
Born with her birth. No; he shall not expire
While in those warm and lovely veins the fire
Of health and holy feeling can provide
Great Nature's Nile, whose deep stream rises higher

Than Egypt's river : from that gentle side
Drink, drink and live, old man ! Heaven's realm holds

no such tide.

Byron refers to the story of the imprisoned father, whose life was supported by his daughter.

« PreviousContinue »