ページの画像
PDF
ePub

In ample territory, wealth and power,
Civility of manners, arts and arms,
And long renown, thou justly may’st prefer
Before the Parthian; these two thrones except,
The rest are barb'rous, and scarce worth the sight,
Shar'd among petty kings too far remov'd;
These having shown thee, I have shown thee all.
The kingdoms of the world, and all their glory.”

The reader who has been instructed in history, knows that this splendour has in the course of years passed away, and that though travellers still resort to Rome for the gratification of curiosity, yet the monuments of its former greatness form the present attraction to it. Under the Emperors, such bloody civil wars raged at Rome, that it became an unsafe and unhappy residence; the arts of peace were neglected, and its population insensibly diminished. The Goths and other barbarians devastated the empire; and in A. D. 476 Rome was abandoned its by last Emperor. Then Genseric and Alaric, two barbarian generals, with their infatuated armies, took and ravaged the city of the Cæsars. But they did not entirely demolish it—it ever retained its name, and after its conquerors grew weary of destruction, civilization sprung up from its ashes.

In A. D. 800 Charlemagne, who included Italy in his dominions, yielded the city to the Pope, formerly the Bishop of Rome. From that time Rome became the capital of a new dominion—that of the Catholic religion; and the fine arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture, have attained to high perfection in modern Rome. Still Rome continually decays, and its present population little exceeds 100,000. Mr. Pope describes Rome thus : “ See the wild waste of all-devouring years!

How Rome her own sad sepulchre appears,
With nodding arches, broken temples spread
The very tombs now vanish'd like their dead!
Imperial wonders rais'd on nations spoil'd,
Where mix'd with slaves the groaning martyr toulai

Huge theatres, that now unpeople'd woods,
Now drain'd a distant country of her floods :
Fanes, which admiring gods with pride survey;
Statues of men scarce less alive than they!
Some felt the silent stroke of mould’ring age,
Some hostile fury, some religious rage.
Barbarian blindness, Christian zeal conspire,
And Papal piety, and Gothic fire.
Perhaps, by its own ruins sav'd from flame,
Some buried marble half preserves a name ;
That name the learn’d with fierce disputes pursue,
And give to Titus old Vespasian's due."

Barbarian blindness, Christian zeal conspire,

And Papal piety, and Gothic fire. These several causes contributed to the destruction of Rome. The Goths with undiscerning tury, burnt, battered down, and buried many beautiful works of ancient arts; and the Catholic Christians, finding among the buildings of Rome many heathen temples and many statues of ancient gods and heroes, thought it their duty to destroy those remains of Paganism.

Some buried marble half preserves a name. It has become desirable among the curious and the learned to recover and identify as much as possible of the buried sculpture of ancient Rome. Much of this has been disinterred, and many disputes among connoisseurs have originated in the doubtful character of these marbles.

The most animated and touching commemoration of ruined Rome is by Lord Byron. This great poet visited that city within a few years of this time, and his imagination, saddened in all its views by affliction, has formed a most striking picture of the desolation of that great Babylon.

"Oh Rome! my country! city of the soul!

The orphans of the heart must turn to thee,
Lone mother of dead empires! and control
In their shut breasts their petty misery.
What are our woes and sufferance? come and see
The cypress, hear the owl, and plod your way
O’er steps of broken thrones and temples, Ye!
Whose agonies are evils of a day-
A world is at our feet as fragile as our clay.

The Niobe of nations! there she stands,
Childless and crownless, in her voiceless wo;
An empty urn within her wither'd hands,
Whose holy dust was scatter'd long ago;
The Scipios' tomb contains no ashes now;
The very sepulchres lie tenantless
Of their heroic dwellers : dost thou flow, ?

Old Tiber! through a marble wilderness?,
Rise, with thy yellow waves, and mantle her distress.

The Goth, the Christian, Time, War, Flood, and Fire,
Have dealt upon the seven-hill'd city's pride ;
She saw her glories star by star expire,
And up the steep barbarian monarchs ride,
Where the car climb'd the capitol; far and wide
Temple and tower went down, nor left a site :
Chaos of ruins! who shall trace the void,

O’er the dim fragments cast a lunar light,
And say, “here was, or is,' where all is doubly night?

The double night of ages, and of her,
Night's daughter, Ignorance, hath wrapt and wrap
All round us; we but feel our way to err:
The ocean hath his chart, the stars their map,
And Knowledge spreads them in her ample lap;
But Rome is as the desert, where we steer
Stumbling o'er recollections ; now we clap

Our hands, and cry • Eureka!' it is clear-
When but some false mirage of ruin rises near.

Alas! the lofty city! and alas!
The trebly hundred triumphs! and the day
When Brutus made the dagger's edge surpass
The conqueror's sword in bearing fame away!
Alas, for Tully's voice, and Virgil's lay,
And Livy's pictur'd page!—but these shall be
Her resurrection; all beside-decay.

Alas, for Earth, for never shall we see
That brightness in her eye she bore when Rome was free!"

The Niobe of nations.—This metaphor alludes to a wellknown classical fable. Niobe, a princess of Lydia, had twelve beautiful children, six sons and six daughters. Latona, the mother of Diana and Apollo, had only those two children, but Niobe boasted that herself and her beautiful children were more proper objects of worship than Latona and her children. To punish this insolence, Apollo and Diana destroyed Niobe's sons and daughters; and Niobe, overwhelmed by her misfortune, was changed to stone, and became the source of a rivulet. This account of Niobe is taken from Homer. Achilles, in the twenty-fourth book of the Iliad, says to Priam, who is mourning the death of his son Hector,

“But now the peaceful hours of sacred night
Demand refection, and to rest invite :
Nor thou, O father! thus consum'd with wo,
The common cares that nourish life, forego.
Not thus did Niobe, of form divine,
A parent once, whose sorrows equall?d thine : .
Six youthful sons, as many blooming maids,
In one sad day beheld the Stygian shades;
These by Apollo's silver bow were slain,
Those, Cynthia's arrows stretch'd upon the plain.
So was her pride chastis'd by wrath divine,
Who match'd her own with bright Latona's line;
But two the goddess, twelve the queen enjoy'd;
Those boasted twelve th' avenging two destroy'd.

Steep'd in their blood, and in the dust outspread,
Nine days neglected lay expos'd the dead;
None by to weep them, to inhume them none;
(For Jove had turn’d the nation all to stone :)
The gods themselves at length relenting gave
Th’unhappy race the honours of a grave,
Herself a rock (for such was heaven's high will,)
Thro’ deserts wild now pours a weeping rill;
Where round the bed whence Acheloüs springs,
The watry fairies dance in mazy rings,
There high on Sypalus his shaggy brow,
She stands her own sad monument of wo;
The rock for ever lasts, the tears for ever flow.".

Mirage, an optical illusion which occurs in sandy deserts. The distant sands assume the appearance of water to the eye of the thirsty traveller, and he fancies that he shall be refreshed, but as he approaches the supposed waves he is cruelly undeceived. In the same manner, the poet supposes that a traveller who should seek in modern Rome for some object of which he has read in works of antiquity, would be as much deceived in imagining he had got sight of it as the traveller in the desert is deceived by the mirage.

The last stanza, from Lord Byron, laments the intellectual degeneracy of modern Rome, where no patriot like Brutus, no orator like Cicero, no poet like Virgil, no historian like Livy, now exists. Yet, the poet intimates that the spirit of these immortal minds yet lives, and may still revive the genius of liberty which has been stifled by the influences of despotism and superstition.

• In describing the glories of the world, to disregard a place where the human mind had attained the highest perfection, and where the arts had flourished for ages, would have been an oversight not at all characteristic of the pervading intelligence which comprehended the various genius of them all. Therefore, before he descends from the mount of observation, the tempter stops

« 前へ次へ »