Rhymes On The Road. Extract XIII. Rome.

A poem by Thomas Moore

Reflections on reading Du Cerceau's Account of the Conspiracy of Rienzi, in 1347.--The Meeting of the Conspirators on the Night of the 19th of May.--Their Procession in the Morning to the Capitol.--Rienzi's Speech.

'Twas a proud moment--even to hear the words
Of Truth and Freedom mid these temples breathed,
And see once more the Forum shine with swords
In the Republic's sacred name unsheathed--
That glimpse, that vision of a brighter day
For his dear ROME, must to a Roman be,
Short as it was, worth ages past away
In the dull lapse of hopeless slavery.

'Twas on a night of May, beneath that moon
Which had thro' many an age seen Time untune
The strings of this Great Empire, till it fell
From his rude hands, a broken, silent shell--
The sound of the church clock near ADRIAN'S Tomb
Summoned the warriors who had risen for ROME,
To meet unarmed,--with none to watch them there,
But God's own eye,--and pass the night in prayer.
Holy beginning of a holy cause,
When heroes girt for Freedom's combat pause
Before high Heaven, and humble in their might
Call down its blessing on that coming fight.

At dawn, in arms went forth the patriot band;
And as the breeze, fresh from the TIBER, fanned
Their gilded gonfalons, all eyes could see
The palm-tree there, the sword, the keys of Heaven--
Types of the justice, peace and liberty,
That were to bless them when their chains were riven.
On to the Capitol the pageant moved,
While many a Shade of other times, that still
Around that grave of grandeur sighing roved,
Hung o'er their footsteps up the Sacred Hill
And heard its mournful echoes as the last
High-minded heirs of the Republic past.
'Twas then that thou, their Tribune,[1] (name which brought
Dreams of lost glory to each patriot's thought,)
Didst, with a spirit Rome in vain shall seek
To wake up in her sons again, thus speak:--
"ROMANS, look round you--on this sacred place
"There once stood shrines and gods and godlike men.
"What see you now? what solitary trace
"Is left of all that made ROME'S glory then?
"The shrines are sunk, the Sacred Mount bereft
"Even of its name--and nothing now remains
"But the deep memory of that glory, left
"To whet our pangs and aggravate our chains!
"But shall this be?--our sun and sky the same,--
"Treading the very soil our fathers trod,--
"What withering curse hath fallen on soul and frame,
"What visitation hath there come from God
"To blast our strength and rot us into slaves,
"Here on our great forefathers' glorious graves?
"It cannot be--rise up, ye Mighty Dead,--
"If we, the living, are too weak to crush
"These tyrant priests that o'er your empire tread,
"Till all but Romans at Rome's tameness blush!

"Happy, PALMYRA, in thy desert domes
"Where only date-trees sigh and serpents hiss;
"And thou whose pillars are but silent homes
"For the stork's brood, superb PERSEPOLIS!
"Thrice happy both, that your extinguisht race
"Have left no embers--no half-living trace--
"No slaves to crawl around the once proud spot,
"Till past renown in present shame's forgot.
"While ROME, the Queen of all, whose very wrecks,
"If lone and lifeless thro' a desert hurled,
"Would wear more true magnificence than decks
"The assembled thrones of all the existing world--
"ROME, ROME alone, is haunted, stained and curst,
"Thro' every spot her princely TIBER laves,
"By living human things--the deadliest, worst,
"This earth engenders--tyrants and their slaves!
"And we--oh shame!--we who have pondered o'er
"The patriot's lesson and the poet's lay;[2]
"Have mounted up the streams of ancient lore,
"Tracking our country's glories all the way--
"Even we have tamely, basely kist the ground
"Before that Papal Power,--that Ghost of Her,
"The World's Imperial Mistress--sitting crowned
"And ghastly on her mouldering sepulchre![3]
"But this is past:--too long have lordly priests
"And priestly lords led us, with all our pride
"Withering about us--like devoted beasts,
"Dragged to the shrine, with faded garlands tied.
"'Tis o'er--the dawn of our deliverance breaks!
"Up from his sleep of centuries awakes
"The Genius of the Old Republic, free
"As first he stood, in chainless majesty,
"And sends his voice thro' ages yet to come,
"Proclaiming ROME, ROME, ROME, Eternal ROME!"

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