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

Rome, Streets of

Vicolo della Fontana

By John Edmund Reade (1800–1870)

(From Italy)

WE stand before the dwelling of a man

Who proved, ere meteor-like his spirit fled,

Through Rome’s live heart the blood of freedom ran;

That, with the dust of ages o’er her spread,

Prostrate and chained, the Helot was not dead;

A resurrection of futurity

Awaiting yet: to raise her buried head,

Cola Rienzi! was reserved for thee:

To breathe into her veins the life of liberty.

Here like a fallen angel mid the wreck

Of a crushed world thou stood’st, evoking forth

Passionate words that waited at thy beck

To raise the fiends hate, vengeance, into birth,

And the old memories of heroic worth:

The skeleton fragments of Rome’s giant power

Recalled the minds that once o’erruled the earth;

The freemen heard, the spirit that made cower

Tyrants, awoke again the Nemesis of the hour.

Patriot, sage, poet, orator, each part

Was subtly played, all save the unattained,

The greatest, the unfelt, the hero heart:

Dazzled wert thou thy giddy eminence gained,

While flattery whispered that the Tribune reigned.

Foes mocked thee: patriots saw their liberty

By crime and vanity and folly stained;

Failure, flight, cowardice, apostasy,

Proved what thou wert too late, vain martyr of the free!