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

Vesuvius, the Mountain


By John Edmund Reade (1800–1870)

(From Italy)

O THOU Vesuvius! that risest there

Image of drear eternity, alone

Seated in thy own silent fields of air;

Titan! whose chainless struggles have been shown,

The annihilating powers are still thine own,

Parent of lightnings, and the tempest’s shroud,

Crowning, or round thy giant shoulders thrown

In majesty of shadow, ere the cloud

Break on the nether world in fulmined wrath avowed.

Grave of dead cities thou! thy heart is fire,

Thy pulse is earthquake, from thy breast are rolled

The flames in which shall penal earth expire;

Thy robes are of the lava’s burning fold,

Thine armed hand the thunderbolt doth hold,

Thy voice is as the trump that calls to doom;

Creator and destroyer! who hath told

What world of life lies buried in thy womb,

What mightiest wrecks are sunk in thy absorbing tomb?

Hark! as we onward pass, the sullen ground

Reverberates beneath the hollow tread,

Where Herculaneum sleeps in trance profound;

A city rises o’er her ashes’ bed,

All life, all joy, the living on the dead!

The tear unbidden dims the eye and swells

The heart with its quick throbbings fuller sped:

Deeper than thought a feeling in us tells

Our kindred with the world beneath our feet that dwells.

Spirit of desolation! here thou art

A Presence palpably bodied on the eye:

Thy sternness to the mind thou dost impart,

Awed while inspired by thy sublimity,

Thou that stand’st here aloof, and draw’st a high

And thrilling grandeur from the sense impressed

Thou giv’st, that thou dost make a mockery

Of death and ruin: Destiny confessed

Art thou, thy throne yon mountain’s thunder-splitten breast!