Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Sir Walter Scott at the Tomb of the Stuarts in St. Peter’s

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

Rome, Churches of

Sir Walter Scott at the Tomb of the Stuarts in St. Peter’s

By Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809–1885)

EVE’S tinted shadows slowly fill the fane

Where Art has taken almost Nature’s room,

While still two objects clear in light remain,

An alien pilgrim at an alien tomb,—

—A sculptured tomb of regal heads discrowned,

Of one heart-worshipped, fancy-haunted, name,

Once loud on earth, but now scarce else renowned

Than as the offspring of that stranger’s fame.

There lie the Stuarts!—There lingers Walter Scott!

Strange congress of illustrious thoughts and things!

A plain old moral, still too oft forgot,—

The power of genius and the fall of kings.

The curse on lawless will high-planted there,

A beacon to the world, shines not for him;

He is with those who felt their life was sere,

When the full light of loyalty grew dim.

He rests his chin upon a sturdy staff,

Historic as that sceptre, theirs no more;

His gaze is fixed; his thirsty heart can quaff,

For a short hour, the spirit-draughts of yore.

Each figure in its pictured place is seen,

Each fancied shape his actual vision fills,

From the long-pining, death-delivered, queen,

To the worn outlaw of the heathery hills.

O grace of life, which shame could never mar!

O dignity, that circumstance defied!

Pure is the neck that wears the deathly scar,

And sorrow has baptized the front of pride.

But purpled mantle, and blood-crimsoned shroud,

Exiles to suffer and returns to woo,

Are gone, like dreams by daylight disallowed;

And their historian,—he is sinking too!

A few more moments and that laboring brow

Cold as those royal busts and calm will lie;

And, as on them his thoughts are resting now,

His marbled form will meet the attentive eye.

Thus, face to face, the dying and the dead,

Bound in one solemn ever-living bond,

Communed; and I was sad that ancient head

Ever should pass those holy walls beyond.