Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Minerva Medica

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

Rome, Ruins of

Minerva Medica

By Bessie Rayner Parkes (1829–1925)

IN ancient Rome a temple stands,

Around whose aged feet

The tide flows up from many lands,

And eddies through the street;

The human tide that ceaseless pours

To break its waves on Rome,

And gathers from a thousand shores

Its scallop shells and foam.

That temple’s shrines are empty now,

Its altars dark and bare,

The goddess of the marble brow

No longer worshipped there.

No longer wings her spells abroad

The fevered pulse to heal,

And unrelenting, if implored,

Were deaf to each appeal.

“Restore, restore,” she scorns to say,

“The homage which ye gave,

And when laborious pains ye pay,

I will consent to save.”

Her home was on the radiant shores

Where snow-white Athens shines;

How beautiful her servitors,

How stately were her shrines!

And how, from farthest east to west,

And by the unknown sea,

What goddess was so well beloved,

So much revered, as she!

A sweeter faith is now enshrined

In Athens and in Rome;

Her honors everywhere declined,

Her priests without a home.

And even what she nobly taught,

And what she symbolled then,

Is banished out of human thought,

And quite forgot by men.

And yet methinks her statue stands,

And makes a mute appeal,

“Give helpful blessing, all ye lands,

On women bent to heal.”