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 Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

OR, turning to the Vatican, go see

Laocoön’s torture dignifying pain,—

A father’s love and mortal’s agony

With an immortal’s patience blending: vain

The struggle; vain, against the coiling strain

And gripe, and deepening of the dragon’s grasp,

The old man’s clench; the long envenomed chain

Rivets the living links,—the enormous asp

Enforces pang on pang, and stifles gasp on gasp.

Or view the lord of the unerring bow,

The god of life and poesy and light,—

The sun in human limbs arrayed, and brow

All radiant from his triumph in the fight;

The shaft hath just been shot,—the arrow bright

With an immortal’s vengeance; in his eye

And nostril beautiful disdain and might

And majesty flash their full lightnings by,

Developing in that one glance the deity.

But in his delicate form—a dream of love,

Shaped by some solitary nymph, whose breast

Longed for a deathless lover from above,

And maddened in that vision—are exprest

All that ideal beauty ever blessed

The mind within its most unearthly mood,

When each conception was a heavenly guest,—

A ray of immortality,—and stood,

Starlike, around, until they gathered to a god!

And if it be Prometheus stole from Heaven

The fire which we endure, it was repaid

By him to whom the energy was given

Which this poetic marble hath arrayed

With an eternal glory,—which, if made

By human hands, is not of human thought;

And Time himself hath hallowed it, nor laid

One ringlet in the dust,—nor hath it caught

A tinge of years, but breathes the flame with which ’t was wrought.