Frances Anne Kemble

(27 November 1809 - 15 January 1893 / London, England)

Hadrian’s Villa - Poem by Frances Anne Kemble

Let us stay here: nor ever more depart
From this sweet wilderness Nature and Art
Have made, not for light wandering feet to stray,
Through their fair chaos half one sunny day;
But for th' abiding place of those whose spirit
Is worthy all this beauty to inherit.
Pervading sunlight vivifies the earth,
The fresh green thickets rock, as though in mirth,
Under its warmth, and shaken by the breeze,
That springs down into them from waving trees,
Whose dark blue branches spread themselves on high,
On granite shafts, that seem to prop the sky.
Around, a rocky screen the mountains spread,
Wood-mantled to their middle, but each head
Gray, bare, and bald, save where a passing veil
Vaporous, and silvery soft, the low clouds trail
Over their craggy brows:—down their steep sides
The light procession of fleet shadow glides,
Garlands of melting gloom, that join and sever,
And climb, and then run down the hills for ever,
Like rapid outspread wings, flying away
Before the golden shafts of the bright day.
Turn from the rocky wall, and lo! a sea
Of level land, like an eternity,
Spreads its vast plain beneath the hazy light,
Till far, far on th' horizon's edge, one bright
And blinding streak betrays the distant verge,
Where earth and ocean in each other merge.
Look from this promontory made of ruin,
Through whose brown broken arches the soft wooing
Of the Spring air in murmurs low is heard,
Answering the voice of that triumphant bird,
Who, hid 'mid fragrant wreaths of hawthorn bloom,
Sings loud and sweet, here, in this wondrous tomb
Of the earth's greatness:—look below, around,
Above,—survey this magic sky and ground;
These crumbling arches, that blue vault of heaven,
These pillars, and these friezes, fallen or riven
From their stone sockets; those fair cypress trees,
Those vine and ivy garlands, Nature's frieze;
These graceful fragments, over which she flings
The still fresh mantle of a thousand Springs;
Hear from it all the strange and solemn story,
Decay and Death reaping all human glory.
Ho, Adrian! Emperor, Conqueror, Priest, and Lord!
Who the great Roman world swayedst with a word!
Thou who didst cast off power without measure,
To dwell in joy, possessing only pleasure!
The wild bee hums in the wild wreaths of thyme
That carpet o'er thy halls and courts sublime;
The nightingale, sweet single chorister,
Fills the void circle of thy theatre,
And northern pilgrims, with slow lingering feet,
Stray round each vestige of thy loved retreat,
And spend in homage half one sunny day
Before they pass upon their wandering way,
Leaving thy royal ruin of delight
Lordly and lonely, lovely, sad, and bright.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, September 6, 2010

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