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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Birds of Passage

Flight the Fourth. Belisarius

I AM poor and old and blind;

The sun burns me, and the wind

Blows through the city gate,

And covers me with dust

From the wheels of the august

Justinian the Great.

It was for him I chased

The Persians o’er wild and waste,

As General of the East;

Night after night I lay

In their camps of yesterday;

Their forage was my feast.

For him, with sails of red,

And torches at mast-head,

Piloting the great fleet,

I swept the Afric coasts

And scattered the Vandal hosts,

Like dust in a windy street.

For him I won again

The Ausonian realm and reign,

Rome and Parthenope;

And all the land was mine

From the summits of Apennine

To the shores of either sea.

For him, in my feeble age,

I dared the battle’s rage,

To save Byzantium’s state,

When the tents of Zabergan

Like snow-drifts overran

The road to the Golden Gate.

And for this, for this, behold!

Infirm and blind and old,

With gray, uncovered head,

Beneath the very arch

Of my triumphal march,

I stand and beg my bread!

Methinks I still can hear,

Sounding distinct and near,

The Vandal monarch’s cry,

As, captive and disgraced,

With majestic step he paced,—

“All, all is Vanity!”

Ah! vainest of all things

Is the gratitude of kings;

The plaudits of the crowd

Are but the clatter of feet

At midnight in the street,

Hollow and restless and loud.

But the bitterest disgrace

Is to see forever the face

Of the Monk of Ephesus!

The unconquerable will

This, too, can bear;—I still

Am Belisarius!