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XXXVI. And Tasso is their glory and their shame. Hark to his strain! and then survey his cell ! And see how dearly earn’d Torquato's fame, And where Alfonso bade his poet dwell : The miserable despot could not quell The insulted mind he sought to quench, and blend With the surrounding maniacs, in the hell
Where he had plunged it. Glory without end Scatter'd the clouds away—and on that name attend
The tears and praises of all time; while thine
Would rot in its oblivion in the sink
Of worthless dust, which from thy boasted line
Thou formest in his fortunes bids us think
Of thy poor malice, naming thee with scorn-
Alfonso ! how thy ducal pageants shrink
From thee! if in another station born,
Scarce fit to be the slave of him thou madest to mourn :
Thou! formed to eat, and be despised, and die,
Even as the beasts that perish, save that thou
Hadst a more splendid trough and wider sty:
He! with a glory round his furrow'd brow,
Which emanated then, and dazzles now
In face of all his foes, the Cruscan quire,
And Boileau, whose rash envy could allow
No strain which shamed his country's creaking lyre, That whetstone of the teeth—monotony in wire!
Peace to Torquato's injured shade! 'twas his
In life and death to be the mark where Wrong
Aim'd with her poison’d arrows; but to miss.
Oh, victor unsurpass’d in modern song!
Each year brings forth its millions; but how long
The tide of generations shall roll on,
And not the whole combined and countless throng
Compose a mind like thine? though all in one Condensed their scatter'd rays, they would not form a sun.
Great as thou art, yet parallel’d by those,
Thy countrymen, before thee born to shine,
The Bards of Hell and Chivalry : first rose
The Tuscan father's comedy divine;
Then, not unequal to the Florentine,
The southern Scott, the minstrel who call’d forth
A new creation with his magic line,
And, like the Ariosto of the North,
Sang ladye-love and war, romance and knightly worth.
The lightning rent from Ariosto’s bust
The iron crown of laurel's mimick'd leaves ;
Nor was the ominous element unjust,
For the true laurel-wreath which Glory weaves
Is of the tree no bolt of thunder cleaves, .
And the false semblance but disgraced his brow;
Yet still, if fondly Superstition grieves,
Know, that the lightning sanctifies below
Whate’er it strikes ;-yon head is doubly sacred now.
Italia! oh Italia! thou who hast
The fatal gift of beauty, which became
A funeral dower of present woes and past,
On thy sweet brow is sorrow plough’d by shame,
And annals graved in characters of flame.
Oh God! that thou wert in thy nakedness
Less lovely or more powerful, and couldst claim
Thy right, and awe the robbers back, who press
To shed thy blood, and drink the tears of thy distress ;
XLIII. Then mightest thou more appal ; or, less desired, Be homely and be peaceful, undeplored For thy destructive charms; then, still untired, Would not be seen the armed torrents pour'd Down the deep Alps; nor would the hostile horde Of many-nation'd spoilers from the Po Quaff blood and water; nor the stranger's sword
Be thy sad weapon of defence, and so, Victor or vanquish’d, thou the slave of friend or foe.
Wandering in youth, I traced the path of him,
The Roman friend of Rome's least-mortal mind,
The friend of Tully: as my bark did skim
The bright blue waters with a fanning wind,
Came Megara before me, and behind
Ægina lay, Piræus on the right,
And Corinth on the left; I lay reclined
Along the prow, and saw all these unite
In ruin, even as he had seen the desolate sight;
XLV. For Time hath not rebuilt them, but upreard Barbaric dwellings on their shatter'd site, Which only make more mourn’d and more endear’d The few last rays of their far-scatter'd light, And the crush'd relics of their vanish'd might. The Roman saw these tombs in his own age, These sepulchres of cities, which excite
Sad wonder, and his yet surviving page The moral lesson bears, drawn from such pilgrimage.
That page is now before me, and on mine
His country's ruin added to the mass
Of perish'd states he mourn’d in their decline,
And I in desolation : all that was
Of then destruction is; and now, alas !
Rome—Rome imperial, bows her to the storm,
In the same dust and blackness, and we pass
The skeleton of her Titanic form,
Wrecks of another world, whose ashes still are warm.