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

Rome, the Campagna

The Campagna of Rome

By Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)

(From Italy)

HAVE none appeared as tillers of the ground,

None since they went, as though it still were theirs,

And they might come and claim their own again?

Was the last plough a Roman’s?
From this seat,

Sacred for ages, whence, as Virgil sings,

The Queen of Heaven, alighting from the sky,

Looked down and saw the armies in array,

Let us contemplate; and, where dreams from Jove

Descended on the sleeper, where perhaps

Some inspirations may be lingering still,

Some glimmerings of the future or the past,

Let us await their influence; silently

Revolving, as we rest on the green turf,

The changes from that hour when he from Troy

Came up the Tiber; when refulgent shields,

No strangers to the iron-hail of war,

Streamed far and wide, and dashing oars were heard

Among those woods where Silvia’s stag was lying,

His antlers gay with flowers; among those woods

Where by the moon, that saw and yet withdrew not,

Two were so soon to wander and be slain,

Two lovely in their lives, nor in their death

Then, and hence to be discerned,

How many realms, pastoral and warlike, lay

Along this plain, each with its schemes of power,

Its little rivalships! What various turns

Of fortune there; what moving accidents

From ambuscade and open violence!

Mingling, the sounds came up; and hence how oft

We might have caught among the trees below,

Glittering with helm and shield, the men of Tibur;

Or in Greek vesture, Greek their origin,

Some embassy, ascending to Præneste;

How oft descried, without thy gates, Aricia,

Entering the solemn grove for sacrifice,

Senate and people! Each a busy hive,

Glowing with life!
But all erelong are lost

In one. We look, and where the river rolls

Southward its shining labyrinth, in her strength

A city, girt with battlements and towers,

On seven small hills is rising. Round about,

At rural work, the citizens are seen,

None unemployed; the noblest of them all

Binding their sheaves or on their threshing-floors,

As though they had not conquered. Everywhere

Some trace of valor or heroic toil!

Here is the sacred field of the Horatii.

There are the Quintian meadows. Here the Hill

How holy, where a generous people, twice,

Twice going forth, in terrible anger sate

Armed; and, their wrongs redressed, at once gave way.

Helmet and shield and sword and spear thrown down,

And every hand uplifted, every heart

Poured out in thanks to Heaven.
Once again

We look; and lo, the sea is white with sails

Innumerable, wafting to the shore

Treasures untold; the vale, the promontories,

A dream of glory; temples, palaces,

Called up as by enchantment; aqueducts

Among the groves and glades rolling along

Rivers, on many an arch high overhead;

And in the centre, like a burning sun,

The Imperial city! They have now subdued

All nations. But where they who led them forth;

Who, when at length released by victory

(Buckler and spear hung up, but not to rust),

Held poverty no evil, no reproach,

Living on little with a cheerful mind,

The Decii, the Fabricii? Where the spade

And reaping-hook, among their household things

Duly transmitted? In the hands of men

Made captive; while the master and his guests,

Reclining, quaff in gold, and roses swim,

Summer and winter, through the circling year,

On their Falernian,—in the hands of men

Dragged into slavery with how many more

Spared but to die, a public spectacle,

In combat with each other, and required

To fall with grace, with dignity,—to sink

While life is gushing, and the plaudits ring

Faint and yet fainter on their failing ear,

As models for the sculptor.
But their days,

Their hours are numbered. Hark, a yell, a shriek,

A barbarous outcry, loud and louder yet,

That echoes from the mountains to the sea!

And mark, beneath us, like a bursting cloud,

The battle moving onward! Had they slain

All, that the earth should from her womb bring forth

New nations to destroy them? From the depth

Of forests, from what none had dared explore,

Regions of thrilling ice, as though in ice

Engendered, multiplied, they pour along,

Shaggy and huge! Host after host, they come;

The Goth, the Vandal, and again the Goth!

Once more we look, and all is still as night,

All desolate! Groves, temples, palaces,

Swept from the sight; and nothing visible,

Amid the sulphurous vapors that exhale

As from a land accurst, save here and there

An empty tomb, a fragment like the limb

Of some dismembered giant. In the midst

A city stands, her domes and turrets crowned

With many a cross; but they that issue forth

Wander like strangers who had built among

The mighty ruins, silent, spiritless;

And on the road, where once we might have met

Cæsar and Cato and men more than kings,

We meet, none else, the pilgrim and the beggar.