Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.

Busento, the River


By Felicia Hemans (1793–1835)

IS then that daring spirit fled?

Doth Alaric slumber with the dead?

Tamed are the warrior’s pride and strength,

And he and earth are calm at length.

The land where heaven unclouded shines,

Where sleep the sunbeams on the vines;

The land by conquest made his own,

Can yield him now—a grave alone.

But his—her lord from Alp to sea—

No common sepulchre shall be!

O, make his tomb where mortal eye

Its buried wealth may ne’er descry!

Where mortal foot may never tread

Above a victor monarch’s bed.

Let not his royal dust be hid

’Neath star-aspiring pyramid;

Nor bid the gathered mound arise,

To bear his memory to the skies.

Years roll away,—oblivion claims

Her triumph o’er heroic names;

And hands profane disturb the clay

That once was fired with glory’s ray;

And avarice, from their secret gloom,

Drags e’en the treasures of the tomb.

But thou, O leader of the free!

That general doom awaits not thee:

Thou, where no step may e’er intrude,

Shalt rest in regal solitude,

Till, bursting on thy sleep profound,

The Awakener’s final trumpet sound.

Turn ye the waters from their course,

Bid nature yield to human force,

And hollow in the torrent’s bed

A chamber for the mighty dead.

The work is done,—the captive’s hand

Hath well obeyed his lord’s command.

Within that royal tomb are cast

The richest trophies of the past,

The wealth of many a stately dome,

The gold and gems of plundered Rome;

And when the midnight stars are beaming,

And ocean waves in stillness gleaming,

Stern in their grief, his warriors bear

The Chastener of the Nations there,

To rest at length from victory’s toil,

Alone, with all an empire’s spoil!

Then the freed current’s rushing wave

Rolls o’er the secret of the grave;

Then streams the martyred captives’ blood

To crimson that sepulchral flood,

Whose conscious tide alone shall keep

The mystery in its bosom deep.

Time hath passed on since then, and swept

From earth the urns where heroes slept;

Temples of gods and domes of kings

Are mouldering with forgotten things;

Yet not shall ages e’er molest

The viewless home of Alaric’s rest:

Still rolls, like them, the unfailing river,

The guardian of his dust forever.