Felicia Dorothea Hemans
Night-Scene In Genoa - Poem by Felicia Dorothea Hemans
In Genoa, when the sunset gave
Its last warm purple to the wave,
No sound of war, no voice of fear,
Was heard, announcing danger near:
Though deadliest foes were there, whose hate
But slumber'd till its hour of fate,
Yet calmly, at the twilight's close,
Sunk the wide city to repose.
But when deep midnight reign'd around,
All sudden woke the alarm-bell's sound,
Full swelling, while the hollow breeze
Bore its dread summons o'er the seas.
Then, Genoa, from their slumber started
Thy sons, the free, the fearless-hearted;
Then mingled with th' awakening peal
Voices, and steps, and clash of steel.
Arm, warriors, arm! for danger calls,
Arise to guard your native walls!
With breathless haste the gathering throng
Hurry the echoing streets along;
Through darkness rushing to the scene
Where their bold counsels still convene.
- But there a blaze of torches bright
Pours its red radiance on the night,
O'er fane, and dome, and column playing,
With every fitful night-wind swaying,
Now floating o'er each tall arcade,
Around the pillar'd scene display'd,
In light relieved by depth of shade:
And now, with ruddy meteor-glare,
Full streaming on the silvery hair
And the bright cross of him who stands,
Rearing that sign with suppliant hands;
Girt with his consecrated train,
The hallow'd servants of the fane.
Of life's past woes, the fading trace
Hath given that aged patriarch's face
Expression holy, deep, resign'd,
The calm sublimity of mind.
Years o'er his snowy head have pass'd,
And left him of his race the last;
Alone on earth - yet still his mien
Is bright with majesty serene;
And those high hopes, whose guiding-star
Shines from th' eternal worlds afar,
Have with that light illumed his eye,
Whose fount is immortality,
And o'er his features pour'd a ray
Of glory, not to pass away.
He seems a being who hath known
Communion with his God alone,
On earth by nought but pity's tie
Detain'd a moment from on high!
One to sublimer worlds allied,
One, from all passion purified,
E'en now half-mingled with the sky,
And all prepared - oh! not to die -
But, like the prophet, to aspire,
In heaven's triumphal car of fire.
He speaks - and from the throngs around
Is heard not e'en a whisper's sound;
Awe-struck each heart, and fix'd each glance,
They stand as in a spell-bound trance:
He speaks - oh! Who can hear, nor own
The might of each prevailing tone?
'Chieftains and warriors! ye, so long
Aroused to strife by mutual wrong,
Whose fierce and far-transmitted hate
Hath made your country desolate;
Now by the love ye bear her name,
By that pure spark of holy flame
On freedom's altar brightly burning,
But, once extinguish'd, ne'er returning;
By all your hopes of bliss to come
When burst the bondage of the tomb:
By Him, the God who bade us live
To aid each other, and forgive -
I call upon ye to resign
Your discords at your country's shrine,
Each ancient feud in peace atone,
Wield your keen swords for her alone,
And swear upon the cross, to cast
Oblivion's mantle o'er the past!'
No voice replies - the holy bands
Advance to where you chieftain stands,
With folded arms, and brow of gloom
O'er shadow'd by his floating plume.
To him they lift the cross - in vain,
He turns - oh! say not with disdain,
But with a mien of haughty grief,
That seeks not, e'en from heaven, relief:
He rends his robes - he sternly speaks -
Yet tears are on the warrior's cheeks.
'Father! not thus the wounds may close
Inflicted by eternal foes.
Deem'st thou thy mandate can efface
The dread volcano's burning trace?
Or bid the earthquake's ravaged scene
Be, smiling, as it once hath been?
No! for the deeds the sword hath done
Forgiveness is not lightly won;
The words, by hatred spoke, may not
Be, as a summer breeze, forgot!
'Tis vain - we deem the war-feud's rage
A portion of our heritage.
Leaders, now slumbering with their fame,
Bequeath's us that undying flame;
Hearts that have long been still and cold
Yet rule us from their silent mould;
And voices, heard on earth no more,
Speak to our spirits as of yore.
Talk not of mercy - blood alone
The stain of bloodshed may atone;
Nought else can pay that mighty debt,
The dead forbid us to forget.'
He pauses - from the partiarch's brow
There beams more lofty grandeur now;
His reverend form, his aged hand,
Assume a gesture of command,
His voice is awful, and his eye
Fill's with prophetic majesty.
'The dead! - and deem'st thou they retain
Aught of terrestrial passion's stain?
Of guilt incurr'd in days gone by,
Aught but the fearful penalty?
And say'st thou, mortal! blood alone
For deeds of slaughter may atone?
There hath been blood - by Him 'twas shed
To expiate every crime who bled;
Th' absolving God who died to save,
And rose in victory from the grave!
And by that stainless offering given
Alike for all on earth to heaven;
By that inevitable hour
When death shall vanquish pride and power,
And each departing passion's force
Concentrate all in late remorse;
And by the day when doom shall be
Pass'd on earth's millions, and on thee -
The doom that shall not be repeal'd,
Once utter'd, and for ever seal'd -
I summon thee, O child of clay!
To cast thy darker thoughts away,
And meet thy foes in peace and love,
As thou would'st join the blest above.'
Still as he speaks, unwonted feeling
Is o'er the chieftain's bosom stealing;
Oh! not in vain the pleading cries
Of anxious thousands round him rise;
He yields - devotion's mingled sense
Of faith, and fear, and penitence,
Pervading all his soul, he bows
To offer on the cross his vows,
And that best incense to the skies,
Each evil passion's sacrifice.
Then tears from warriors' eyes were flowing,
High hearts with soft emotions glowing;
Stern foes as long-loved brothers greeting,
And ardent throngs in transport meeting:
And eager footsteps forward pressing,
And accents loud in joyous blessing;
And when their first wild tumults cease,
A thousand voices echo 'Peace!'
Twilight's dim mist hath roll'd away,
And the rich Orient burns with day:
Then as to greet the sunbeam's birth,
Rises the choral hymn of earth;
Th' exulting strain through Genoa swelling,
Of peace and holy rapture telling.
Far float the sounds o'er vale and steep,
The seaman hears them on the deep,
So mellow'd by the gale, they seem
As the wild music of a dream:
But not on mortal ear alone
Peals the triumphant anthem's tone;
For beings of a purer sphere
Bend with celestial joy, to hear.
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