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



By Robert Stephen Hawker (1803–1875)

HOW fair the scene! the sunny smiles of day

Flash o’er the wave in glad Sorrento’s bay;

Far, far along mild Sarno’s glancing stream

The fruits and flowers of golden summer beam,

And cheer, with brightening hues, the lonely gloom

That shrouds yon silent City of the Tomb!

Yes, sad Pompeii! Time’s deep shadows fall

On every ruined arch and broken wall;

But Nature smiles as in thy happiest hour,

And decks thy lowly rest with many a flower.

Around, above, in blended beauty shine

The graceful poplar and the clasping vine;

Still the young violet, in her chalice blue,

Bears to the lip of Morn her votive dew;

Still the green laurel springs to life the while,

Beneath her own Apollo’s golden smile;

And o’er thy fallen beauties beams on high

The glory of the heavens,—Italia’s sky!


Lovely in ruin, graceful in decay,

The silent city rears her walls of gray:

The clasping ivy hangs her faithful shade,

As if to hide the wreck that time had made;

The shattered column on the lonely ground

Is glittering still, with fresh acanthus crowned;

And where her Parian rival moulders near,

The drooping lily pours her softest tear!

How sadly sweet with pensive step to roam

Amid the ruined wall, the tottering dome!

The path just worn by human feet is here;

Their echoes almost reach the listening ear:

The marble halls with rich mosaic drest;

The portal wide that wooes the lingering guest:

Altars, with fresh and living chaplets crowned,

From those wild flowers that spring fantastic round,

The unfinished painting, and the pallet nigh,

Whose added hues must fairer charms supply;—

These mingle here, until the unconscious feet

Roam on, intent some gathering crowd to meet;

And cheated Fancy, in her dreamy mood,

Will half forget that it is solitude!

Yes, all is solitude! fear not to tread,

Through gates unwatched, the City of the Dead,

Explore with pausing step the unpeopled path,

View the proud hall, survey the stately bath,

Where swelling roofs their noblest shelter raise;

Enter! voice shall check the intruder’s gaze!

See! the dread legion’s peaceful home is here,

The signs of martial life are scattered near.

Yon helm, unclasped to ease some warrior’s brow,

The sword his weary arm resigned but now,

The unfinished sentence traced along the wall,

Broke by the hoarse Centurion’s startling call:

Hark! did their sounding tramp re-echo round?

Or breathed the hollow gale that fancied sound?

Behold! where mid yon fane, so long divine,

Sad Isis mourns her desolated shrine!

Will none the mellow reed’s soft music breathe,

Or twine from yonder flowers the victim’s wreath?

None to yon altar lead with suppliant strain

The milk-white monarch of the herd again?

All, all is mute! save sadly answering nigh

The night-bird’s shriek, the shrill cicada’s cry.

Yet may you trace along the furrowed street

The chariot’s track, the print of frequent feet;

The gate unclosed, as if by recent hand;

The hearth, where yet the guardian Lares stand;

Still on the walls the words of welcome shine,

And ready vases proffer joyous wine:

But where the hum of men? the sounds of life?

The temple’s pageant, and the forum’s strife?

The forms and voices such as should belong

To that bright clime, the land of love and song?

How sadly echoing to the stranger’s tread,

These walls respond, like voices from the dead!

And sadder traces, darker scenes are there,

Tales of the tomb, and records of despair;

In death’s chill grasp unconscious arms enfold

The fatal burden of their cherished gold;

Here, wasted relics, as in mockery, dwell

Beside some treasure loved in life too well;

There, faithful hearts have mouldered side by side,

And hands are clasped that death could not divide!

None, none shall tell that hour of fearful strife,

When death must share the consciousness of life;

When sullen Famine, slow Despair consume

The living tenants of the massive tomb;

Long could they hear, above the incumbent plain,

The music of the breeze awake again,

The wave’s deep echo on the distant shore,

And murmuring streams, that they should see no more!

Away! dread scene! and o’er the harrowing view

Let night’s dim shadows fling their darkest hue!