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

Rome, Ruins of

Mausoleum of Augustus

By William Whitehead (1715–1785)

AMID these mouldering walls, this marble round,

Where slept the heroes of the Julian name,

Say, shall we linger still in thought profound,

And meditate the mournful paths to fame?

What though no cypress shades, in funeral rows,

No sculptured urns, the last records of fate,

O’er the shrunk terrace wave their baleful boughs,

Or breathe in storied emblems of the great;

Yet not with heedless eye will we survey

The scene though changed, nor negligently tread;

These variegated walks, however gay,

Were once the silent mansions of the dead.

In every shrub, in every floweret’s bloom

That paints with different hues yon smiling plain,

Some hero’s ashes issue from the tomb,

And live a vegetative life again.

For matter dies not, as the sages say,

But shifts to other forms the pliant mass,

When the free spirit quits its cumberous clay,

And sees, beneath, the rolling planets pass.

Perhaps, my Villiers, for I sing to thee,

Perhaps, unknowing of the bloom it gives,

In yon fair scion of Apollo’s tree

The sacred dust of young Marcellus lives.

Pluck not the leaf,—’t were sacrilege to wound

The ideal memory of so sweet a shade;

In these sad seats an early grave he found,

And the first rites to gloomy Dis conveyed.

Witness thou field of Mars, that oft hadst known

His youthful triumphs in the mimic war,

Thou heardst the heartfelt, universal groan

When o’er thy bosom rolled the funeral car.

Witness, thou Tuscan stream, where oft he glowed

In sportive stragglings with the opposing wave,

Fast by the recent tomb thy waters flowed,

While wept the wife, the virtuous, and the brave.

O lost too soon!—yet why lament a fate

By thousands envied and by Heaven approved?

Rare is the boon to those of longer date

To live, to die, admired, esteemed, beloved.

Weak are our judgments, and our passions warm,

And slowly dawns the radiant morn of truth,

Our expectations hastily we form,

And much we pardon to ingenuous youth.

Too oft we satiate on the applause we pay

To rising merit, and resume the crown;

Full many a blooming genius, snatched away,

Has fallen lamented who had lived unknown.