Felicia Dorothea Hemans
Alaric In Italy - Poem by Felicia Dorothea Hemans
Heard ye the Gothic trumpet's blast?
The march of hosts as Alaric passed?
His steps have tracked that glorious clime,
The birth-place of heroic time;
But he, in northern deserts bred,
Spared not the living for the dad,
Nor heard the voice, whose pleading cries
From temple and from tomb arise.
He passed - the light of burning fanes
Hath been his torch o'er Grecian plains;
And woke they not, the brave, the free,
To guard their own Thermopylae?
And left they not their silent dwelling,
When Scythia's note of war was swelling?
No! where the bold Three Hundred slept,
Sad freedom battled not - but wept!
For nerveless then the Spartan's hand,
And Thebes could rouse no Sacred Band;
Nor one high soul from slumber broke,
When Athens owned the Northern yoke.
But was there none for thee to dare
The conflict, scorning to despair?
O city of the seven proud hills!
Whose name e'en yet the spirit thrills,
As doth a clarion's battle-call-
Didst thou too, ancient empress, fall?
Did no Camillus from the chain
Ransom thy Capitol again?
Oh! who shall tell the days to be,
No patriot rose to bleed for thee?
Heard ye the Gothic trumpet's blast?
The march of hosts, as Alaric passed?
That fearful sound, at midnight deep,
Burst on the eternal city's sleep:
How woke the mighty? She, whose will
So long had bid the world be still,
Her sword a sceptre, and her eye
The ascendant star of destiny!
She woke - to view the dread array
Of Scythians rushing to their prey,
To hear her streets resound the cries
Poured from a thousand agonies!
While the strange light of flames, that gave
A ruddy glow to Tiber's wave,
Bursting in that terrific hour
From fane and palace, dome and tower,
Revealed the throngs, for aid divine
Clinging to many a worshiped shrine:
Fierce fitful radiance wildly shed
O'er spear and sword, with carnage red,
Shone o'er the suppliant and the flying,
And kindled pyres for Romans dying.
Weep, Italy! alas, that e'er
Should tears alone thy wrongs declare!
The time hath been when thy distress
Had roused up empires for redress!
Now, her long race of glory run,
Without a combat Rome is won,
And from her plundered temples forth
Rush the fierce children of the north,
To share beneath more genial skies
Each joy their own rude clime denies.
Ye who on bright Campania's shore
Bade your fair villas rise of yore,
With all their graceful colonnades,
And crystal baths, and myrtle shades,
Along the blue Hesperian deep,
Whose glassy waves in sunshine sleep;
Beneath your olive and your vine
Far other inmates now recline,
And the tall plane, whose roots ye fed
With rich libations duly shed,
O'er guests, unlike your vanished friends,
Its bowery canopy extends.
For them the southern heaven is glowing,
The bright Falernian nectar flowing;
For them the marble halls unfold,
Where nobler beings dwelt of old,
Whose children for harbarian lords
Touch the sweet lyre's resounding chords,
Or wreaths of Paestan roses twine,
To crown the sons of Elbe and Rhine,.
Yet, though luxurious they repose
Beneath Corinthian porticoes,
While round them into being start
The marvels of triumphant art;
Oh! not for them hath genius given
To Parian stone the fire of heaven,
Enshrining in the forms he wrought
A bright eternity of thought.
In vain the natives of the skies
In breathing marble round them rise,
And sculptured nymphs of fount or glade
People the dark-green laurel shade;
Cold are the conqueror's heart and eye
To visions of divinity;
And rude his hand which dares deface
The models of immortal grace.
Arouse ye from your soft delights!
Chieftains! the war-note's call invites;
And other lands must yet be won,
And other deeds of havoc done.
Warriors! your flowery bondage break,
Sons of the stormy north, awake!
The barks are launching from the steep
Soon shall the Isle of Ceres weep,
And Afric's burning winds afar
Waft the shrill sounds of Alaric's war.
Where shall his race of victory close?
When shall the ravaged earth repose?
But hark! what wildly mingling cries
From Scythia's camp tumultuous rise?
Why swells dread Alaric's name on air?
A sterner conqueror hath been there!
A conqueror - yet his paths are peace,
He comes to bring the world's release;
He of the sword that knows no sheath,
The avenger, the deliverer - Death!
Is then that daring spirit fled?
Doth Alaric slumber with the dead?
Tamed are the warrior's pride and strength,
And he and earth are calm at length.
The land where heaven unclouded shines,
Where sleep the sunbeams on the vines;
The land by conquest made his own,
Can yield him now - a grave alone.
But his - her lord from Alp to sea -
No common sepulchre shall be!
Oh, make his tomb where mortal eye
Its buried wealth may ne'er descry!
Where mortal foot may never tread
Above a victor-monarch's bed.
Let not his royal dust be hid
'Neath star-aspiring pyramid;
Nor bid the gathered mound arise,
To bear his memory to the skies.
Years roll away - oblivion claims
Her triumph o'er heroic names;
And hands profane disturb the clay
That once was fired with glory's ray;
And Avarice, from their secret gloom,
Drags e'en the treasures of the tomb.
But thou, O leader of the free!
That general doom awaits not thee:
Thou, where no step may e'er intrude,
Shalt rest in regal solitude,
Till, bursting on thy sleep profound,
The Awakener's final trumpet sound.
Turn ye the waters from their course,
Bid Nature yield to human force,
And hollow in the torrent's bed
A chamber for the mighty dead.
The work is done - the captive's hand
Hath well obeyed his lord's command.
Within that royal tomb are cast
The richest trophies of the past,
The wealth of many a stately dome,
The gold and gems of plundered Rome;
And when the midnight stars are beaming,
And ocean waves in stillness gleaming,
Stern in their grief, his warriors bear
The Chastener of the Nations there;
To rest, at length, from victory's toil,
Alone, with all an empire's spoil!
Then the freed current's rushing wave
Rolls o'er the secret of the grave;
Then streams the martyred captives' blood
To crimson that sepulchral flood,
Whose conscious tide alone shall keep
The mystery in its bosom deep.
Time hath passed on since then - and swept
From earth the urns where heroes slept.
Temples of gods and domes of kings,
Are mouldering with forgotten things;
Yet shall not ages e'er molest
The viewless home of Alaric's rest:
Still rolls, like them, the unfailing river,
The guardian of his dust for ever.
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