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Nor could old ocean's monarch, while he dwelt
Within his own domains, have e'er beheld
The votive gifts suspended from these walls,
Or heard the prayers or praises offered here;
Unless, indeed, the zealous worshipper
Had, with a trumpet, called upon his god,
And spoken in thunders louder than his own;
Or - which is far from probable - unless
The god had taken a carriage at the beach,
And been set down here at his own expense,
Whene'er he wished to show his peaceful head *
To those who bowed in worship at his shrine.
I've seen seven columns, standing now at Corinth,
On five of which -- for two bear nothing up –
Some portion of the entablature remains;
And that old ruin the same style displays
Of severe Doric beauty, that prevails
In these grave works of hoar antiquity.
But to what god rose the Corinthian fane,
Or when, or by what architect, 't was reared,
How much below the time of Sisyphus,
Who laid the corner-stone of Corinth's state,
How much above the æra of Timoleon,
Whom that proud state commissioned to dethrone
The tyrant Dionysius, and convey
A Grecian colony to Syracuse —
'Tis all unknown. The ruins there, and here,
Of the same genius speak, and the same age ;
And in the same oblivion both have slept
For more than two milleniums. Roman bards t
Have of the rosaries of Pæstum sung,
Twice blooming in a year. And he who first
Held in his hands the empire of the world
Augustus Cæsar — visited this spot,
As I do now, to muse among these columns,
Of times whose works remain, whose history's lost.
And yet the palace of that same Augustus,
Built, as you know, upon the Palatine,
With all that Rome could do to hold it up
Beneath the pressure of the hand of Time,
Is now all swept away, even to the floor.
This little piece of marble, jaune antique,
Which now I use to keep ihese Sibyl leaves,
(As she of Cumæ cared not to keep bers) *
From floating off, on every wind that blows,
Before the printer gives them leave to fly,
Once formed a part of that same palace floor.
Among the weeds and bushes that o'erbang
The giant arches that the floor sustained,
I picked it up. Those arches, and the mass
Of bricks beneath them, and the floor above,
And bushes as aforesaid hanging o'er,
And, with their roots, helping the elements
To pry apart what Roman masons joined,
And fit the lower creature for the use
Of the superior - converting thus
Things inorganic, mortar, bricks, and stones,
To soil, that it may feed organic life,
Grass, flowers, and trees, that they, in turn, may serve
As food for animals, and they for man,
According to the eternal laws of God
Are all, of Cæsar's palace, that remains.
* Placidum caput. - Virg. Æn. 1. 127.
Biseri rosaria Pæsti. - Virg. Georg. iv. 119.
Tepidi rosaria Pæsti. - Ooid, Met. xv. 708.
Nec revocare situs, aut judgere carmina curat. - Virg. Æn. II. 451.
But of this solemn temple, not a shaft
Hath fallen, nor yet an architrave or frieze,
Triglyph or metope. Dissolution's work,
The work of frost and moisture, cold and heat,
Has not, on this old sanctuary, begun.
The suns and rains of ages seem not yet
On any one of all these ponderous stones
To have given root to the minutest plant.
Not even a lichen or a moss has dared
To fix itself and flourish on these dry
And everlasting blocks of travertine.
The sun has only touched them with a tinge
Of his own gold. And, as I sit between
These columns, and observe how gently fall
His beams upon them, and how soft and calm
The air is, as it sleeps upon their sides,
(Even now, though 't is a January day,)
How gingerly that quick-eyed lizard runs,
In the warm sunshine, up and down their grooves,
It seems as if the very heavens and earth,
With all the elements and creeping things,
Had formed a league to keep eternal silence
Within, above, and all around this pile,
To see how many ages more 't would stand.
Methinks, even now, as the soft wind flows through
These noble colonnades, as through the strings
Of an Æolian harp, I hear a low
And solemn voice it is the temple's voice
Though in what language it addresses me,
Greek, Latin, or Italian, it were hard
For Mezzofanti or the Polyglott,
Without a close attention, to decide;
For, since this temple pyenostyle hath stood,
It hath been exercised to many a tongue;
And to my ear it says, or seems to say:
'Stranger, I know as little of the world
From which thou comést, as thou dost of the time
From which I came: 't is only yesterday
To me, since it was known there was a world
West of the promontories thou 'st heard called
The Pillars of my old friend Hercules.
I was so young, when I was first set up,
That I've forgotten who my builders were,
Or to what god my altars were devoted ;
Else would I tell thee; for, I know the Muse
Would, through the lines which thou wilt write of me,
Preserve the knowledge to all future time.
But Hercules — the friend of whom I've spoken -
I well remember, and for ever shall :
For, once he sat where thou art sitting now.
It was, I think, when he was on his way
From Thebes to Calpè, when he went to help
Atlas, his father-in-law, hold up the heavens.
I told him, then, that if he'd bring them here,
And lay them on my shoulders, I'd uphold
The whole of them to all eternity.
Excuse what, to thy cold and western ear,
May savor, somewhat, of hyperbolè!
But, friend, it is the privilege of age
To be laudator acti temporis.
And, long since then, I've heard events, unmoved,
Which shook all Italy with their report,
And, ever since, have echoed round the globe.
For, I was quite in years when Hannibal
Came down the Alps, and at the river Ticin,
Which, on thy journey homeward, thou shalt croes,
O’erthrew the Romans under Scipio :
When, after that, by Thrasymene's lake,
(Thou canst not have forgotten the nice fish
Thou a'st, one night, upon the same lake's shore,
Or how, like the good wife of Abraham,
Thy pretty hostess laughed, in unbelief,
When, in the papers of the Pope's police,
Thou didst report thyself.a clerkly man,'
Because thou woregi not a monkish garb !)
The Roman legions, that Flaminius led,
Were, by the Carthaginian, overthrown,
In such a desperate, all-engrossing shock,
That even an earthquake walked unnoticed by!
And when, still later, the same African
Sent forty thousand Romans to the shades,
And their gold rings, by bushels, o'er to Carthage,
From yonder field of Cannæ; the small stream,
Bridged by the bodies of the Roman dead,
Is still called 'Sanguinetlo' - Bloody Brook ;
(Thou hast one, I've been told, in thine own land.)
When all these empire-shaking shocks were felt,
I heard them all, and heard them all, unmoved.
. But later still, when, had the conqueror gone
With nothing but the panic of his name,
And said, in thunder, to the gates of Rome,
'Lift up your heads, Eternal City's gates,
And let the Conqueror of Rome come in!'
Those gates would have swung open. O, when I
Then saw those Africans sink down and doze
On the soft bosom of Parthenope;
When they who scaled the Alps, and stemmed the Po,
(A very muddy river that, you'll find,)
And stood against the arms of Rome's best men,
Within the arms of Capua's worst women
Fell, as fell Sampson in Dalilah's lap;
Then was I moved, indeed ; yea deeply moved,
At the same time with gladness and with grief,
For though for Rome I smiled, I wept for man!
'Stranger, beware! for still Parthenope,
From whose bewitching smile thou hast withdrawn,
To visit these drear solitudes, and muse
For a few hours among my colonnades,
Spreads all the snares that were by Capua spread,
The indolent and thoughtless to destroy.
But 'supienti verbum sat! Thou goest,
And I no more shall see thee; but I pray,
(I see thou lakest pleasure in my stones!)
Spare me, as Time hath spared; though I am sure
I owe him little thanks; for I have felt
The hackings of his scythe, (now somewhat dulled,
Thou 'lt guess, thou sayest ihou art from Yankee land,)
For some few thousand years; and I leave thee
To judge which hath the better of the game:
So, lift not hand, or hammer, I entreat,
To break a fragment, as 'a specimen
Of the strange, hard, but spongy-looking stone
That the Silaro, (which from yonder hills
Thou seëst flowing to Salerno's gulf,)
Turns all things into that it falls upon :
I've heard the same thing of Medusa's
0, treat me not as did the plundering Pict
My fair young sister, hight the Parthenon,'
Whom ihuu shalt see, and seeing shalt deplore,
When thou shalt visit the Acropolis.
Yea, spare me, friend, and spare me, all ye gods,
From virtuosi, earthquakes, Elging spare,
And let me have my tussle out with Time!'
• BREAKERS ahead !- breakers ahead! All hands on deck !' These startling words, uttered in a loud, shrill voice, accompanied by violent stamping overhead, roused me from a delightful slumber, as I lay in the berth of a noble coaster, on a bleak December night. It was but a few weeks after the melancholy wreck of the Home, whose timbers, peering above the water, we had seen and passed a few days before.
With the velocity of thought, I sprang from my berth, and made for the companion-way; but such a getting up stairs ! I was twice violently prostrated, before I succeeded in the attempt. The captain, who was also sleeping when the alarm was given, reached the deck just before me. On the first appearance of danger, an attempt had been made to put the vessel about, when there were but two men on deck; and she was now rolling and struggling in the trough of the sea, while the utmost confusion prevailed among the crew.
The roar of the tempest, the blackness of the night, the rain sweeping and hurtling by, with the thunder-voice of the breakers, that seemed entirely to surround us, gave a terrific character to the scene, which I can never forget.
I had scarcely glanced at our situation, when the vessel, raised by a tremendous sea, was pitched forward upon the bottom. Heavens! how the many waters' swept over her! For a moment, not a word was uttered by the crew, who were laying hold of the nearest objects, as a temporary security against being borne overboard. Drenched from head to foot by the chilling food, I retreated farther into the cabin. Every timber in the vessel groaned audibly; she trembled like a huge leviathan, in the agonies of death. As she rose upon the succeeding wave, she seemed to recover from the shock of the first breaker. The crew, inspired with courage by the apparent effort which she made to escape destruction, resumed their endeavors to put her about. She wore round beautifully ;' and we began to flatter ourselves we had escaped.
With this hope swelling his bosom, one of the crew sang out, in exulting tones, * We are off! — we are off! But before the words died upon his lips, the delusion had vanished. The vessel struck again and again. We were in a field of breakers ! Orders were given to take in the few sails that were flying ; but the united strength of a crew of nine men failed to accomplish the object. The next cominand was, to throw overboard the deck load, naval stores and cotton. 'A few barrels were cast into the sea; but the attendant danger was so great, that the captain soon ordered the crew to desist.
While these operations were going forward, I still occupied my place on the steps of the companion-way, with my eye fixed upon a spar near at hand; for I recollected that some who escaped the wreck of the Home, had floated to the shore upon a similar material. At length we all sought refuge in the cabin ; which-thanks to copper bolts, live oak, and faithful workmen - had admitted but little water.
Drawing over the sliding cover of the cabin passage-way, we were in a comparatively comfortable situation. A light was soon obtained, by means of a flint and steel, when I had an opportunity of observing the countenances of the crew. The captain, having great confidence in the strength of his vessel, was more collected than the rest; but his faith was greatly diminished, whenever a quick succession of heavy seas ground the vessel with such force upon the bottom, that it seemed impossible for any materials, united by human means, long to hold together. The terror of most of the crew could not be concealed, as they stood shivering and dripping with cold and wet, clinging to a berth or pillar, to keep themselves upright, amidst falling stoves, tables, chairs, trunks, barrels, etc. I confess, I was not a little surprised at the change which had come over these men in so short a time. I had fancied that persons inured to danger, by continued exposure to it, were entirely free from fear; but these hardy sailors, by the subdued tone of their voices, half-choked utterance, and lamentations over their helpless condition, showed that a near prospect of death was to them any thing but a matter of indifference.
Caged in our narrow cabin, exposed to all the violence of the breakers, during a protracted storm, and entirely ignorant of our whereabout, our situation may be easily conceived. The reef of breakers upon which we were rocking and grinding, was truly terra incog. nita. Perchance it was one of those fearful shoals that make far out to sea, whence there is no hope of escape. Ever and anon some of the crew would venture upon deck, and strain their eyes in the vain endeavor to pierce the surrounding darkness. Their reports varied, as hope or fear held the supremacy. One thought, while the rain slackened for a moment, and wind and wave raged less furiously, that he could discern, in the 'dim obscure,' something blacker than the rest, which he 'guessed' was land. Another could see no sign of land; we were far at sea; and, with the thought that he should never again see his distant home, he threw himself into a berth, exclaiming, in the bitterness of his soul, that he would die there! The most philosophical of the crew, was the cook, a long, lank, limping negro, named Nuby, who sat demurely in a corner, patiently awaiting the course of events. When asked if he was not alarmed, he replied: Me ben wreck before, cap'n; twice in de West Indies; but 't want half so bad as dis bout !
When confined to a bed of sickness, I have often thought the nighthours moved slowly on ; that the hand of the great time-piece must have been reversed, for some inscrutable purpose, and that the blessed light of day would never again break upon my vision. But now, penned up in a narrow inclosure; protected from the sea only by a few planks, that threatened every moment to separate ; surrounded by night, and storm, and darkness;' the moments ‘waned slowly' indeed. The Captain assured us we could not be far from land, and that day-break we must receive assistance from the residents near the beach. With this hope, we looked eagerly forward to the first gray hue of morning. At last the hour for day arrived, but it brought small increase of light. The water, meanwhile, had been gaining upon us very fast, and we were soon compelled to retreat to the deck.