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

Rome, Palaces and Villas of

The Vatican

By James Thomson (1834–1882)

(From Liberty)

AMID the hoary ruins, sculpture first,

Deep digging, from the cavern dark and damp,

Their grave for ages, bid her marble race

Spring to new light. Joy sparkled in her eyes,

And old remembrance thrilled in every thought,

As she the pleasing resurrection saw,

In leaning site, respiring from his toils,

The well-known Hero, who delivered Greece,

His ample chest, all tempested with force,

Unconquerable reared. She saw the head,

Breathing the hero, small, of Grecian size,

Scarce more extensive than the sinewy neck:

The spreading shoulders, muscular and broad;

The whole a mass of swelling sinews, touched

Into harmonious shape; she saw, and joyed.

The yellow hunter, Meleager, raised

His beauteous front, and through the finished whole

Shows what ideas smiled of old in Greece.

Of raging aspect, rushed impetuous forth

The Gladiator: pitiless his look,

And each keen sinew braced, the storm of war,

Ruffling, o’er all his nervous body frowns.

The dying other from the gloom she drew:

Supported on his shortened arm he leans,

Prone, agonizing; with incumbent fate,

Heavy declines his head; yet dark beneath

The suffering feature sullen vengeance lowers,

Shame, indignation, unaccomplished rage,

And still the cheated eye expects his fall.

All conquest-flushed, from prostrate Python, came

The quivered god. In graceful act he stands,

His arm extended with the slackened bow:

Light flows his easy robe, and fair displays

A manly, softened form. The bloom of gods

Seems youthful o’er the beardless cheek to wave:

His features yet heroic ardor warms;

And sweet subsiding to a native smile,

Mixed with the joy elating conquest gives,

A scattered frown exalts his matchless air.

On Flora moved; her full proportioned limbs

Rise through the mantle fluttering in the breeze.

The Queen of Love arose, as from the deep

She sprung in all the melting pomp of charms.

Bashful she bands, her well-taught look aside

Turns in enchanting guise, where dubious mix

Vain conscious beauty, a dissembled sense

Of modest shame, and slippery looks of love.

The gazer grows enamored, and the stone,

As if exulting in its conquest, smiles.

So turned each limb, so swelled with softening art,

That the deluded eye the marble doubts.

At last her utmost masterpiece she found,

That Maro fired; the miserable sire,

Wrapt with his sons in fate’s severest grasp:

The serpents, twisting round, their stringent folds

Inextricable tie. Such passion here,

Such agonies, such bitterness of pain,

Seem so to tremble through the tortured stone,

That the touched heart engrosses all the view.

Almost unmarked the best proportions pass,

That ever Greece beheld; and, seen alone,

On the rapt eye the imperious passions seize:

The father’s double pangs, both for himself

And sons convulsed; to Heaven his rueful look,

Imploring aid, and half accusing, cast;

His fell despair with indignation mixed,

As the strong curling monsters from his side

His full extended fury cannot tear.

More tender touched, with varied art, his sons

All the soft rage of younger passions show.

In a boy’s helpless fate one sinks oppressed;

While, yet unpierced, the frighted other tries

His foot to steal out of the horrid twine.