Richard Monckton Milnes Houghton

(1809-1885 / England)

The Papal Benediction, From St. Peter’s

Higher than ever lifted into space,
Rises the sove'ran dome,--
Into the Colonnade's immense embrace
Flows all the life of Rome;

The' assembled peasants of a hundred mountains,
Beneath the Sun's clear disk,
Behold that peerless Whole of radiant Fountains,--
Exorcised Obelisk,--

And massive Front, from whose high ridge outslanted,
A spacious awning fell;--
The swaying breadth each gazer's breast enchanted
To follow its slow swell.

Why are they met in their collective might,
That earnest multitude?
Is it to vindicate some injured right,
By threat and clamor rude?

To watch with tip--toe foot and eager eye
Some mere device of Pride,
Meaningless pomp of regal vanity
The void of Truth to hide?

To feed some popu'lar lust which cautious power
Would, for wise ends, restrain,
Not barte'ring to the passion of an hour
What ages toiled to gain?

Thanks, thanks to Heaven, that in these evil days,
Days of hard hearts and cold,
Days where no love is found in all our ways,
When Man is overbold,

And loathes all tender mutual offices,
And nothing old reveres,
Unwilling to be seen upon his knees,
Ashamed of his own tears,--

My soul the gracious privi'lege of this sight,
This priceless sight, has won,
A people of too simple faith to slight
A Father's benison;--

Not in low flatte'ry, not in selfish dread,
Before one meek old man,
A people, a whole people, prostrated,
Infant and veteran.

By that High--Priest in prelude of deep prayer
Implored and sanctified,
The benediction of paternal care
Can never be denied.

Most surely from that narrow gallery,
The oriflamme unfurled,
Shelters within its grand benignity
Rome and the orbèd world.

The faintest wretch may catch the dew that falls
From those anointed lips,
And take away a wealth that never palls,
A joy without eclipse.

Old pines, that darkly skirt the circling hills,
Bend down in grateful awe,--
Infuse the earth's dry heart, prolific rills,
With Love's unbroken law!

Bear the glad tidings to your sister seas,
Mediterranean waves!
Let eve'ry mutte'ring storm be husht in peace,
Silent the thunde'rous caves!

And would my spi'rit from Earth's embasing rule
Were in this moment riven!
That I might pass through such fit vestibule
Up to the face of Heaven.

Submitted: Tuesday, October 05, 2010

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