« PreviousContinue »
The starry fable of the milky way
Has not thy story's purity ; it is
A constellation of a sweeter ray,
And sacred Nature triumphs more in this
Reverse of her decree, than in the abyss
Where sparkle distant worlds :-Oh, holiest nurse !
No drop of that clear stream its way shall miss
To thy sire's heart, replenishing its source
With life, as our freed souls rejoin the universe.
Turn to the mole which Hadrian 1 reared on high,
Imperial mimic of old Egypt's piles,
Colossal copyist of deformity,
Whose travelled phantasy from the far Nile's
Enormous model, doomed the artist's toils
To build for giants, and for his vain earth,
His shrunken ashes, raise this dome : How smiles
The gazer's eye with philosophic mirth,
To view the huge design which sprung from such a birth !
But lo !? the dome—the vast and wondrous dome,
To which Diana's marvel 3 was a cell-
Christ's mighty shrine above his martyr's tomb !
I have beheld the Ephesian's miracle ;-
Its columns strew the wilderness, and dwell
The hyæna and the jackal in their shade ;
I have beheld Sophia's bright roofs swell
Their glittering mass i' the sun, and have surveyed
Its sanctuary the while the usurping Moslem prayed ;
But thou, of temples old, or altars new, Standest alone, with nothing like to thee-| Hadrian.] The Mausoleum of Hadrian.
2 This description of St. Peter's at Rome (cliii.-clix.) is most beautiful. See in reference to Michael Angelo and St. Peter's “The Prophecy of Dante.'
3 Diana's marvel.] The great Temple of Artemis or Diana at Ephesus. The description of Newstead Abbey in “Don Juan' is similarly graphic, canto xiii. 67.
4 Of temples old, 8.c.] It was to raise funds for the completion of St. Peter's that Pope Leo X. proclaimed indulgences, an act which was the proximate cause of the rise of Luther and the Reformation. See • Deformed Transformed,' part ii. scene 3.
Worthiest of God, the holy and the true.
Since Zion's desolation, when that He
Forsook his former city, what could be,
Of earthly structures, in his honour piled,
Of a sublimer aspect? Majesty,
Power, Glory, Strength, and Beauty all are aisled
In this eternal ark of worship undefiled.
Enter : its grandeur overwhelms thee not ;
And why? it is not lessened; but thy mind,
Expanded by the genius of the spot,
Has grown colossal, and can only find
A fit abode wherein appear enshrined
Thy hopes of immortality ; and thou
Shalt one day, if found worthy, so defined,
thy God face to face, as thou dost now His Holy of Holies, nor be blasted by his brow.
Thou movest, but increasing with the advance,
Like climbing some great Alp,' which still doth rise,
Deceived by its gigantic elegance ;
Vastness which grows, but grows to harmonise-
All musical in its immensities ;
Rich marbles, richer painting-shrines where flame
The lamps of gold—and haughty dome which vies
In air with Earth's chief structures, though their frame Sits on the firm-set ground, and this the clouds must
Thou seest not all ; but piecemeal thou must break, To separate contemplation, the great whole ; And as the ocean many bays will make That ask the eye-so here condense thy soul To more immediate objects, and control Thy thoughts until thy mind hath got by heart Its eloquent proportions, and unroll In mighty graduations, part by part, The glory which at once upon thee did not dart,
| Alp.] Not necessarily the Alps, but simply a high mountain.
Not by its fault_but thine : Our outward sense
Is but of gradual grasp—and as it is
That what we have of feeling niost intense
Outstrips our faint expression : even so this
Outshining and o’erwhelming edifice
Fools our fond gaze, and greatest of the great
Defies at first our Nature's littleness,
Till, growing with its growth', we thus dilate
Our spirits to the size of that they contemplate.
Then pause, and be enlightened ; there is more
In such a survey than the sating gaze
Of wonder pleased, or awe which would adore
The worship of the place, or the mere praise
Of art and its great masters, who could raise
What former time, nor skill, nor thought could plan ;
The fountain of sublimity ? displays
Its depth, and thence may draw the mind of man
Its golden sands, and learn what great conceptions can.
Or, turning to the Vatican, go see
Laocoön's torture 3 dignifying pain-
A father's love and mortal's agony
With an immortal patience blending : Vain
The struggle ; vain, against the coiling strain
And gripe, and deepening of the dragon's grasp, ;
The old man's clench; the long envenomed chain
Rivets the living links,--the enormous asp
Enforces pang on pang, and stifles gasp on gasp.
Growing with its growth.] An adaptation of a usual expression, 'grew with its growth, and strengthened with its strength.'— See Burke's Speech on American Taxation.
2 The fountain of sublimity.] As from a fountain of sublimity man may draw, from the contemplation of St. Peter's, particles of gold, i.e. the knowledge of what great men can do.
3 Laocoon's torture.] The group of Laocoon and his sons in their death-struggles with the two serpents, taken from Virgil. It was discovered in 1506 in the baths of Titus at Rome, and now stands in the Vatican. Pliny says it was the work of three Greek artists, Polydorus, Athenodorus, and Hegesander, and is opus omnibus statuariæ artis præponendum.' For Laocoon's story, see Virg. Æn, II.
Or view the Lord of the unerring bow,
The God of life, and poesy, and light-
The sun in human limbs arrayed, and brow
All radiant from his triumph in the fight;
The shaft hath just been shot—the arrow bright
With an immortal's vengeance ; in his eye
And nostril beautiful disdain, and might
And majesty, flash their full lightnings by,
Developing in that one glance the Deity.
But in his delicate form-a dream of Love,
Shaped by some solitary nymph, whose breast
Longed for a deathless lover from above,
maddened in that vision-are exprest
All that ideal beauty ever blessed
The mind with in its most unearthly mood,
When each conception was a heavenly guest-
A ray of immortality--and stood,
Starlike, around, until they gathered to a god!
And if it be Prometheus stole from Heaven
The fire which we endure, it was repaid
By him to whom the energy was given
Which this poetic marble hath arrayed
With an eternal glory—which, if made
By human hands, is not of human thought ;
And Time himself hath hallowed it, nor laid
One ringlet in the dust-nor hath it caught
A tinge of years, but breathes the flame with which 'twas
But where is he, the Pilgrim of my song,
The being who upheld it through the past ?
Methinks he cometh late and tarries long.
He is no more- —these breathings are his last ;
i Lord of the unerring bow.]. The Deus Arcitenens, Apollo. The statue of Apollo Belvedere, discovered in 1503 in Antium, an old wn of Latium. The statue is confessed by all to merit the noble commendation bestowed upon it,
His wanderings done, his visions ebbing fast,
And he himself as nothing if he was
Aught but a phantasy, and could be classed
With forms which live and suffer-let that pass-
His shadow fades away into Destruction's mass,
Which gathers shadow, substance, life, and all
That we inherit in its mortal shroud,
And spreads the dim and universal pall
Through which all things grow phantoms ; and the
Between us sinks and all which ever glowed,
Till Glory's self is twilight, and displays
A melancholy halo scarce allowed
To hover on the verge of darkness ; rays
Sadder than saddest night, for they distract the gaze.
And send us prying into the abyss,
To gather what we shall be when the frame
Shall be resolved to something less than this
Its wretched essence ; and to dream of fame,
And wipe the dust from off the idle name
We never more shall hear, - but never more,
Oh, happier thought ! can we be made the same :
It is enough in sooth that once we bore
These fardels 1 of the heart-the heart whose sweat was
Hark! forth from the abyss a voice proceeds,
A long low distant murmur of dread sound,
Such as arises when a nation bleeds
With some deep and immedicable wound ;
Through storm and darkness yawns the rending ground,
The gulf is thick with phantoms, but the chief
Seems royal still, though with her head discrowned,
And pale, but lovely, with maternal grief
She clasps a babe, to whom her breast yields no relief.
1 Fardels.] French fardeaux, a common expression in Wiclis's Bible for burdens,