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



By William Sotheby (1757–1833)

I SAW the ages backward rolled,

The scenes long past restore;

Scenes that Evander bade his guest behold,

When first the Trojan stept on Tiber’s shore,—

The shepherds in the forum pen their fold;

And the wild herdsman, on his untamed steed,

Goads with prone spear the heifer’s foaming speed,

Where Rome, in second infancy, once more

Sleeps in her cradle. But in that drear waste,

In that rude desert, when the wild goat sprung

From cliff to cliff, and the Tarpeian rock

Lowered o’er the untended flock,

And eagles on its crest their aerie hung;

And when fierce gales bowed the high pines, when blazed

The lightning, and the savage in the storm

Some unknown godhead heard, and, awe-struck, gazed

On Jove’s imagined form;

And in that desert, when swoln Tiber’s wave

Went forth the twins to save,

Their reedy cradle floating on his flood;

While yet the infants on the she-wolf clung,

While yet they fearless played her brow beneath,

And mingled with their food

The spirit of her blood,

As o’er them seen to breathe

With fond reverted neck she hung,

And licked in turn each babe, and formed with fostering tongue;

And when the founder of imperial Rome

Fixed on the robber hill, from earth aloof,

His predatory home,

And hung in triumph round his straw-thatched roof

The wolf-skin, and huge boar-tusks, and the pride

Of branching antlers wide,

And towered in giant strength, and sent afar

His voice, that on the mountain echoes rolled,

Stern preluding the war;

And when the shepherds left their peaceful fold,

And from the wild wood lair, and rocky den,

Round their bold chieftain rushed strange forms of barbarous men,—

Then might be seen by the presageful eye

The vision of a rising realm unfold,

And temples roofed with gold.

And in the gloom of that remorseless time,

When Rome the Sabine seized, might be foreseen,

In the first triumph of successful crime,

The shadowy arm of one of giant birth

Forging a chain for earth;

And though slow ages rolled their course between,

The form as of a Cæsar, when he led

His war-worn legions on,

Troubling the pastoral stream of peaceful Rubicon.

Such might o’er clay-built Rome have been foretold

By word of human wisdom. But—what word

Save from thy lip, Jehovah’s prophet! heard,

When Rome was marble, and her temples gold,

And the globe Cæsar’s footstool, who, when Rome

Viewed the incommunicable name divine

Link a Faustina to an Antonine

On their polluted temple,—who but thou,

The prophet of the Lord! what word, save thine,

Rome’s utter desolation had denounced?

Yet, ere that destined time,

The love-lute and the viol, song and mirth,

Ring from her palace roofs. Hear’st thou not yet,

Metropolis of earth!

A voice borne back on every passing wind,

Wherever man has birth,—

One voice, as from the lip of human kind,

The echo of thy fame? Flow they not yet,

As flowed of yore, down each successive age

The chosen of the world, on pilgrimage,

To commune with thy wrecks, and works sublime,

Where genius dwells enthroned?


Rome! thou art doomed to perish, and thy days,

Like mortal man’s, are numbered; numbered all,

Ere each fleet hour decays.

Though pride yet haunt thy palaces; though art

Thy sculptured marbles animate;

Though thousands and ten thousands throng thy gate;

Though kings and kingdoms with thy idol mart

Yet traffic, and thy throned priest adore,

Thy second reign shall pass,—pass like thy reign of yore.