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

Appendix: Pæstum


By John Edmund Reade (1800–1870)

(From Italy)

LO, far on the horizon’s verge reclined

A temple, reared as on a broken throne:

The sun’s red rays in lurid light declined

O’er clouds that mutter forth a thunder-tone,

Gleam athwart each aerial column shown

Like giants standing on a sable sky;

What record tells it in that desert lone?

Resting in solitary majesty

Eternal Pæstum there absorbs the heart and eye.

Pause here, the desolate waste, the lowering heaven,

The sea-fowl’s clang, the gray mist hurrying by,

The altar fronting ye with brow unriven,

In isolation of sublimity,

Mates with the clouds, the mountains, and the sky:

But the sea breaks no more against his shrine,

Hurled from his base the ocean-deity;

His worshippers have passed and left no sign,

The Shaker of the Earth no more is held divine!

There like some Titan throned in his retreat

Of deserts, the declining sun’s last rays

Falling round him on his majestic seat,

Each limb dilated in the twilight haze

Of the red distance darkening on the gaze:

An image whose august tranquillity

The presence of unconscious power betrays,

Whose co-mates are the hills, the rocks, the sea,

Even so the awestruck soul reposing dwells on thee!

And there thou standest stern, austere, sublime,

Strength nakedly resposing at thy base,

Making a mockery of the assaults of time;

Earthquakes have heaved, storms shook, the lightning’s trace

Left the black shadows time shall not efface,

And the hot levin dinted where it fell!

But on thy unperturbed and steadfast face

Is stamped the impress of the unchangeable,

That fixed forever there thy massive form shall dwell.

Spirit of gray Antiquity! enthroned

With solitude and silence here, proclaim

Thou, brooding o’er thy altar-place, who owned,

Who reared, that mightiest temple? from whence came

The children of the sea? what age, what name,

Bore they who chose this plain their home to be?

Arena meted for the race of fame:

For gods to applaud the deeds of liberty,

Knowledge, and glorious art, that flows but from the free.