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

Rome, Hills of

Monte Pincio

By Sarah Bridges Stebbins

The Gothic Kings. Four Statues on the Pincian Hill

ANCIENT captives we,

Bound eternally;

With weary hands enchained,

And faces bowed and pained,

While eras dawned and waned,

We thus have watched the mightiness of Rome!

Never to be free!

Whither could we flee

To reach some blessed land

Unheld by conquering band,

Ungrasped by outstretched hand

Of an insatiate and world-possessing Rome!

Images of stone,

Mournful and alone

Amid the bright To-Day,

Signs of things past away,

We symbolize the sway

Of unrelenting and resistless olden Rome!

Types of something more:

In those days of yore

Some subtly thinking Greek

Beholding strength grow weak,

Made deathless marble speak

Of Freedom’s yearning strife against enslaving Rome!

For as sculptor wrought

Farther reaching thought

Saw happy coming hour

When e’en earth’s conquering power

No more could darkly lower;

For death the prisoners freed even of law-girt Rome!

Musing o’er the clay,

“Lo,” he said, “alway,

O captives, ye shall stand

Personifying band,

In emblematic land,

Of bondage wider than the thraldom of great Rome!

“Types of awful Fate,

Common human state,

Whose chains of circumstance

Forbid the soul’s advance

Towards fetterless expanse

Of liberty beyond our stern condition’s Rome!

“Endless spirit-strife,

Throughout mortal life

Of longing to be free

From entailed misery

Of unsought destiny

Controlled and crushed by an inexorable Rome!

“As the ages roll

From man’s unseen soul

Shall evermore arise

The secret anguish cries

Of doubt that never dies,

Humanity’s protest against ordaining Rome!

“Questioning of death

‘If with end of breath

The bonds of time and place,

Of nature and of race,

Of heritage’s trace

Shall fall forever off from slaves of this earth’s Rome?’”

Thousands come and go

Our sad gaze below,

But few the seeing eyes

That in our captive guise

Know hidden meaning lies

Of Fate-environed life midst universal Rome!