Treasure Island

Thomas Love Peacock

(1785 - 1866 / England)

Palmyra (2nd Edition)


---anankta ton pantôn huperbal-
lonta chronon makarôn.
Pindar. Hymn. frag. 33


Spirit of the days of yore!
Thou! who, in thy haunted cave,
By the torrent's sounding shore,
Mark'st the autumnal tempest rave:
Or, where on some ivied wall
Twilight-mingled moonbeams fall,
Deep in aisles and cloisters dim,
Hear'st the grey monks' verpser hymn:
Or, beneath the cypress shade,
Where forgotten chiefs are laid,
Pacing slow with solemn tread,
Breathest the verse that wakes the dead---
By the ivied convent lone,
By the Runic warrior's stone,
By the mountain-cataract's roar,
Spirit! thee I seek no more.
Let me, remote from earthly care,
Thy philosophic vigils share,
Amid the wrecks of ancient time,
More sad, more solemn, more sublime,
Where, half-sunk in seas of sand,
Thedmor's marble wastes expand.

These silent wrecks, more eloquent than speech,
Full many a tale of awful note impart:
Truths more severe than bard or sage can teach
This pomp of ruin presses on the heart
Sad through the palm the evening breezes-sigh:
No sound of man the solitude pervades,
Where shattered forms of ancient monarchs lie,
Mid grass-grown halls, and falling colonnades.
Beneath the drifting sand, the clustering weed,
Rest the proud relics of departed power.
None may the trophy-cinctured tablet read,
On votive urn, or monumental tower,
Nor tell whose wasted forms the mouldering tombs embower.

Enthusiast fancy, robed in light,
Dispels oblivion's deepening night.
Her charms a solemn train unfold,
Sublime on evening clouds of gold,
Of sceptred kings, in proud array,
And laurelled chiefs, and sages grey.
But whose the forms, oh fame! declare,
That crowd majestic on the air?
Pour from thy deathless roll the praise
Of kings renowned in elder days.
I call in vain! The welcome strain
Of praise to them no more shall sound:
Their actions bright must sleep in night,
Till time shall cease his mystic round.
The glories of their ancient sway
The stream of years has swept away:
Their names, that nations heard with fear,
Shall ring no more on mortal ear.
Yet still the muse's eye may trace
The noblest chief of Thedmor's race,
Who, by Euphrates' startling waves,
Bade outraged Rome her prostrate might unfold,
Tore from the brow of Persia's pride
The wreath in crimson victory dyed,
And o'er his flying slaves
Tumultuous ruin rolled.
Throned by his side, a lovely form,
In youthful majesty sublime,
Like sun-beams through the scattering storm,
Shines through the floating mists of time:
Even as in other years she shone,
When here she fixed her desert-throne,
Triumphant in the transient smiles of fate;
When Zabdas led her conquering bands
O'er Asia's many-peopled lands,
And subject monarchs thronged her palace-gate:
Ere yet stern war's avenging storm,
Captivity's dejected form,
And death, in solitude and darkness furled,
Closed round the setting star, that ruled the eastern world.

Dim shades around her move again,
From memory blotted by the lapse of years:
Yet, foremost in the sacred train,
The venerable sage appears,
Who once, these desolate arcades
And time-worn porticoes among,
Disclosed to princely youths and high-born maids
The secret fountains of Mæonian song,
And traced the mazy warblings of the lyre,
With all a critic's art, and all a poet's fire.

What mystic form, uncouth and dread,
With withered cheek, and hoary head,
Swift as the death-fire cleaves the sky,
Swept on sounding pinions by?
'Twas Time. I know the foe of kings,
His scythe, and sand, and eagle-wings:
He cast a burning look around,
And waved his bony hand, and frowned.
Far from the spectre's scowl of fire,
Fancy's feeble forms retire:
Her air-born phantoms melt away,
Like stars before the rising day.


One shadowy tint enwraps the plain:
No form is near, no steps intrude,
To break the melancholy reign
Of silence and of solitude.
Ah! little thought the wealthy proud,
When rosy pleasure laughed aloud,
And music, with symphonious swell,
Attuned to joy her festal shell,
That here, amid their ancient land,
The wanderer of the distant days
Should mark, with sorrow-clouded gaze,
The mighty wilderness of sand,
While not a sound should meet his ear,
Save of the desert-gales, that sweep,
In modulated murmurs deep,
The wasted graves above
Of those, who once had revelled here
In happiness and love.

Short is the space to man assigned,
His earthly vale to tread.
He wanders, erring, weak, and blind,
By adverse passions led:
Love, that with feeling's tenderest flow
To rapture turns divided woe,
And brightens every smile of fate
That kindred souls participate:
Jealousy, whose poisonous breath
Blasts affection's opening bud:
Wild despair, that laughs in death:
Stern revenge, that bathes in blood:
Fear, that his form in darkness shrouds,
And trembles at the whispering air:
And hope, that pictures on the clouds
Celestial visions, false, but fair.

From the earliest twilight-ray,
That marked creation's natal day,
Till yesterday's declining fire,
Thus still have rolled, perplexed by strife,
he many-mingling wheels of life,
And still shall roll, till time's last beams expire.
And thus, in every age, in every clime,
While years swift-circling fly,
The varying deeds, that mark the present time,
Will be but shadows of the days gone by.

Swift as the meteor's midnight course,
Swift as the cataract's headlong force,
Swift as the clouds, whose changeful forms
Hang on the rear of flying storms,
So swift is Time's colossal stride
Above the wrecks of human pride.
These temples, awful in decay,
Whose ancient splendor half endures,
These arches, dim in parting day,
These dust-defiled entablatures,
These shafts, whose prostrate pride around
The desert-weed entwines its wreath,
These capitals, that strew the ground,
Their shattered colonnades beneath,
These pillars, white in lengthening files,
Grey tombs, and broken peristyles,
May yet, through many an age, retain
The pomp of Thedmor's wasted reign:
But Time still shakes, with giant-tread,
The marble city of the dead,
That crushed at last, a shapeless heap,
Beneath the drifted sands shall sleep.

The flower, that drinks the morning-dew,
Far on the evening gale shall fly:
The bark, that glides o'er ocean blue,
Dashed on the distant rocks shall lie:
The tower, that frowns in martial pride,
Shall by the lightning-brand be riven:
The arch, that spans the summer tide,
Shall down the wintry floods be driven:
The tomb, that guards the great one's name,
Shall yield to time its sacred trust:
The laurel of imperial fame
Shall wither in unwatered dust.
His mantle dark oblivion flings
Around the monuments of kings,
Who once to conquest shouting myriads bore.
Fame's trumpet-blast, and victory's clarion shrill,
Pass, like an echo of the hill,
That breathes one wild response, and then is heard no more.

But ne'er shall earthly time throw down
The immortal pile that virtue rears:
Her golden throne, and starry crown,
Decay not with revolving years:
For He, whose solemn voice controlled
Necessity's mysterious sway,
And yon vast orbs from chaos rolled
Along the elliptic paths of day,
Has fixed her empire, vast and high,
Where primogenial harmony
Unites, in ever-cloudless skies,
Affection's death-divided ties;
Where wisdom, with unwearying gaze,
The universal scheme surveys,
And truth, in central light enshrined,
Leads to its source sublime the indissoluble mind.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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