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


The Ruins of Ostia

By Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910)

SAY they, a famous seaport town?

One took abroad I bid thee cast,

Then tell me if thou canst descry

A dwelling here, or there a mast.

Of all its old magnificence

Stands one poor skeleton of brick,

With grass are sown the hidden streets,

The palace ploughed in furrows thick.

And this, the temple of a god,

The body of a mighty thought!

Here vowed the heart, elate with hope

When priests the struggling victim brought,—

Hearts like these hearts of ours; that drink

Existence, as an endless cup,

And smile to hear of an abyss

Where life and strength are swallowed up.

These men our brothers were, but built

Of sturdier frame and mind than we;

Tamed by their will, the unruly flood

Led their proud galleys to the sea.

Walk further, let my guidance show

One crumbling tower of Trajan’s port.

Strange that Christ’s vicar, God-inspired,

Has never had as wise a thought.