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Ancient of days! august Athena! where,
Where are thy men of might? thy grand in soul?
Gone-glimmering through the dream of things that were:
First in the race that led to Glory's goal,
They won, and pass'd away is this the whole?
A schoolboy's tale, the wonder of an hour!
The warrior's weapon and the sophist's stole
Are sought in vain, and o'er each mouldering tower,
Dim with the mist of years, gray flits the shade of power.
Son of the morning, rise! approach you here!
Come but molest not yon defenceless urn:
Look on this spot - a nation's sepulchre !
Abode of gods, whose shrines no longer burn.
Even gods must yield— religions take their turn:
'Twas Jove's-'tis Mahomet's- and other creeds
Will rise with other years, till man shall lea.n
Vainly his incense soars, his victim bleeds;
Poor child of Doubt and Death, whose hope is built on reeds.
Bound to the earth, he lifts his eye to heaven-
Is't not enough, unhappy thing! to know
Thou art? Is this a boon so kindly given,
That being, thou would'st be again, and go,
Thou know'st not, reck'st not to what region, so
On earth no more, but mingled with the skies?
Still wilt thou dream on future joy and woe?
Regard and weigh yon dust before it flies:
That little urn saith more than thousand homilies.
Or burst the vanish'd Hero's lofty mound;
Far on the solitary shore he sleeps: (')
He fell, and falling nations mourn'd around;
But now not one of saddening thousands weeps,
Nor warlike-worshipper his vigil keeps
(1) It was not always the custom of the Greeks to burn their dead; the greater Ajax, in particular, was interred entire. Almost all the chiefs became gods after their decease; and he was indeed neglected, who had not annual games near his tomb, or festivals in honour of his memory by his countrymen, as Achilles, Brasidas, &c. and at last even Antinous, whose death was as heroic as his life was infamous.
Where demi-gods appear'd, as records tell.
Remove yon skull from out the scatter'd heaps:
Is that a temple where a God may dwell?
Why ev'n the worm at last disdains her shatter'd cell!
Look on its broken arch, its ruin❜d wall,
Its chambers desolate, and portals foul :
Yes, this was once Ambition's airy hall,
The dome of Thought, the palace of the Soul:
Behold through each lack-lustre, eyeless hole,
The gay recess of Wisdom and of Wit
And Passion's host, that never brook'd control:
Can all saint, sage, or sophist ever writ,
People this lonely tower, this tenement refit?
Well didst thou speak, Athena's wisest son!
"All that we know is, nothing can be known."
Why should we shrink from what we cannot shun?
Each hath his pang, but feeble sufferers groan
With brain-born dreams of evil all their own.
Pursue what Chance or Fate proclaimeth best ;
Peace waits us on the shores of Acheron:
There no forced banquet claims the sated guest,
But Silence spreads the couch of ever welcome rest.
Yet if, as holiest men have deem'd, there be
A land of souls beyond that sable shore,
To shame the doctrine of the Sadducee
And sophists, madly vain of dubious lore;
How sweet it were in concert to adore
With those who made our mortal labours light!
To hear each voice we fear'd to hear no more!
Behold each mighty shade reveal'd to sight,
The Bactrian, Samian sage, and all who taught the right!
There, thou! whose love and life together fled,
Have left me here to love and live in vain
Twined with my heart, and can I deem thee dead
When busy Memory flashes on my brain?
Well I will dream that we may meet again,
And woo the vision to my vacant breast:
If aught of young Remembrance then remain,
Be as it may Futurity's behest,
For me 'twere bliss enough to know thy spirit blest!
Here let me sit upon this massy stone,
The marble column's yet unshaken base;
Here, son of Saturn! was thy fav'rite throne: (1)
Mightiest of many such! Hence let me trace
The latent grandeur of thy dwelling-place.
It may not be nor ev'n can Fancy's eye
Restore what Time hath labour'd to deface.
Yet these proud pillars claim no passing sigh;
Unmoved the Moslem sits, the light Greek carols by.
But who, of all the plunderers of yon fane
On high, where Pallas linger'd, loath to flee
The latest relic of her ancient reign;
The last, the worst, dull spoiler, who was he?
Blush, Caledonia! such thy son could be!
England! I joy no child he was of thine:
Thy free-born men should spare what once was free,
Yet they could violate each saddening shrine,
And bear these altars o'er the long-reluctant brine. (2)
But most the modern Pict's ignoble boast,
To rive what Goth, and Turk, and Time hath spared ; (")
Cold as the crags upon his native coast,
His mind as barren and his heart as hard,
Is he whose head conceived, whose hand prepared,
Aught to displace Athena's poor remains
Her sons too weak the sacred shrine to guard,
Yet felt some portion of their mother's pains, (*)
And never knew, till then, the weight of Despot's chains.
(1) The temple of Jupiter Olympius, of which sixteen columns, entirely of marble, yet survive: originally there were 150. These columns, however, are by many supposed to belong to the Pantheon.
(2) The ship was wrecked in the Archipelago.
(3) See Appendix to this Canto [A], for a note too long to be placed here.
(4) I cannot resist availing myself of the permission of my friend Dr. Clarke, whose name requires no comment with the public, but whose sanction will add tenfold weight to my testimony, to insert the following extract from a very obliging letter of his to me, as a note to the above lines. "When the last of the Metopes was taken from the Parthenon, and, in moving of it, great part of the superstructure with
What! shall it e'er be said by British tongue,
Albion was happy in Athena's tears?
Though in thy name the slaves her bosom wrung,
Tell not the deed to blushing Europe's ears;
The ocean queen, the free Britannia, bears
The last poor plunder from a bleeding land:
Yes, she, whose gen'rous aid her name endears,
Tore down those remnants with a harpy's hand,
Which envious Eld forbore, and tyrants left to stand.
Where was thine Ægis, Pallas! that appall'd
Stern Alaric and Havoc on their way? (1)
Where Peleus' son? whom Hell in vain enthrall'd,
His shade from Hades upon that dread day
Bursting to light in terrible array!
What! could not Pluto spare the chief once more,
To scare a second robber from his prey?
Idly he wander'd on the Stygian shore,
Nor now preserved the walls he loved to shield before.
Cold is the heart, fair Greece! that looks on thee,
Nor feels as lovers o'er the dust they loved;
Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed
By British hands, which it had best behoved
To guard those relics ne'er to be restored.
Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved, And once again thy hapless bosom gored, And snatch'd thy shrinking Gods to northern climes abhorr'd!
But where is Harold? shall I then forget
To urge the gloomy wanderer o'er the wave?
Little reck'd he of all that men regret ;
one of the triglyphs was thrown down by the workmen whom Lord Elgin employed, the Disdar, who beheld the mischief done to the building, took his pipe from his mouth, dropped a tear, and, in a supplicating tone of voice, said to Lusieri, Téλos! -I was present." The Disdar alluded to was the father of the present Disdar.
(1) According to Zosimus, Minerva and Achilles frightened Alaric from the Acropolis; but others relate that the Gothic king was nearly as mischievous as the Scottish peer. See CHANDLER.
No loved-one now in feign'd lament could rave;
No friend the parting hand extended gave,
Ere the cold stranger pass'd to other climes :
Hard is his heart whom charms may not enslave;
But Harold felt not as in other times,
And left without a sigh the land of war and crimes.
He that has sail'd upon the dark blue sea,
Has view'd at times, I ween, a full fair sight;
When the fresh breeze is fair as breeze may be,
The white sail set, the gallant frigate tight;
Masts, spires, and strand retiring to the right,
The glorious main expanding o'er the bow,
The convoy spread like wild swans in their flight,
The dullest sailor wearing bravely now,
So gaily curl the waves before each dashing prow.
And oh, the little warlike world within!
The well-reeved guns, the netted canopy, (1)
The hoarse command, the busy humming din,
When, at a word, the tops are mann'd on high :
Hark to the Boatswain's call, the cheering cry!
While through the seaman's hand the tackle glides ;
Or schoolboy Midshipman that, standing by,
Strains his shrill pipe as good or ill betides,
And well the docile crew that skilful urchin guides.
White is the glassy deck, without a stain, Where on the watch the staid Lieutenant walks : Look on that part which sacred doth remain For the lone chieftain, who majestic stalks, Silent and fear'd by all not oft he talks With aught beneath him, if he would preserve That strict restraint, which broken, ever balks Conquest and Fame: but Britons rarely swerve From law, however stern, which tends their strength to nerve.
(1) The netting to prevent blocks or splinters from falling on deck during ac tion.