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There was a time when Ætna's silent fire
Slept unperceiv'd, the mountain yet entire ;
When, conscious of no danger from below,
She tow'r'd a cloud-capt pyramid of snow.
No thunders shook with deep intestine sound
The blooming groves, that girdled her around;
Her unctuous olives and her purple vines,
(Unfelt the fury of those bursting mines)
The peasant's hopes, and not in vain, assured,
In peace upon her sloping sides matured.
When on a day, like that of the last doom,
A conflagration lab'ring in her womb,
She teem'd and heav'd with an infernal birth,
That shook the circling seas and solid earth.
Dark and voluminous the vapours rise,
And hang their horrors in the neighb'ring skies,
While through the Stygian veil that blots the day
In dazzling streaks the vivid lightnings play.
But oh! what muse, and in what pow'rs of song,
Can trace the torrent as it burns along?
Havoc and devastation in the van,
It marches o'er the prostrate works of man,
Vines, olives, herbage, forests disappear,
And all the charms of a Sicilian year.
Revolving seasons, fruitless as they pass,
See it an uninform'd and idle mass,
Without a soil t'invite the tiller's care,
Or blade that might redeem it from despair.
Ye time at length (what will not time achieve ?)
Clothes it with earth, and bids the produce live.
Once more the spiry myrtle crowns the glade,
And ruminating flocks enjoy the shade.
O bliss precarious, and unsafe retreats !
O charming paradise of short-lived sweets !
The self-same gale that wafts the fragrance round
Brings to the distant ear a sullen sound :
Again the mountain feels th’imprison'd foe,
Again pours ruin on the vale below;
Ten thousand swains the wasted scene deplore,
That only future ages can restore.
Ye monarchs, whom the lure of honour draws,
Who write in blood the merits of your cause,
Who strike the blow, then plead your own defence,
Glory your aim, but Justice your pretence,
Behold in Ætna's emblematic fires
The mischiefs your ambitious pride inspires !
Fast by the stream that bounds your just domain,
And tells you where ye have a right to reign,
A nation dwells, not envious of your throne,
Studious of peace, their neighbours' and their own.
Ill-fated race ! how deeply must they rue
Their only crime, vicinity to you!
The trumpet sounds, your legions swarm abroad,
Through the ripe harvest lies their destin'd road,
At ev'ry step beneath their feet they tread
The life of multitudes, a nation's bread;
Earth seems a garden in its loveliest dress
Before them, and behind a wilderness;
Famine, and Pestilence, her first-born son,
Attend to finish what the sword begun;
And echoing praises such as fiends might earn,
And folly pays, resound at your return.
A calm succeeds ;—but plenty, with her train
Of heartfelt joys, succeeds not soon again,
And years of pining indigence must show
What scourges are the gods that rule below.
Yet man, laborious man, by slow degrees, (Such is his thirst of opulence and ease)
Plies all the sinews of industrious toil,
Gleans up the refuse of the gen'ral spoil,
Rebuilds the tow'rs that smok'd upon the plain,
And the sun gilds the shining spires again.
Increasing commerce and reviving art
Renew the quarrel on the conq'rors' part;
And the sad lesson must be learn’d once more,
That wealth within is ruin at the door.
What are ye, monarchs, laureld heroes, say,
But Ætnas of the suff'ring world ye sway?
Sweet Nature, stripp'd of her embroider'd robe,
Deplores the wasted regions of her globe,
And stands a witness at Truth's awful bar,
To prove you, there, destroyers as ye are.
Oh place me in some heaven-protected isle,
Where peace and equity and freedom smile,
Where no volcano pours his fiery flood,
No crested warrior dips his plume in blood,
Where power secures what industry has won,
Where to succeed is not to be undone,
A land that distant tyrants hate in vain,
In Britain's isle, beneath a George's reign.
ON THE RECEIPT OF MY MOTHER'S PICTURE
OUT OF NORFOLK.
O that those lips had language ! Life has pass'd
With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
Those lips are thine—thy own sweet smiles I see,
The same that oft in childhood solaced me ;
Voice only fails, else how distinct they say,
“Grieve not, my child, chase all thy fears away!”
The meek intelligence of those dear eyes
(Blest be the art that can immortalize,
The art that baffles Time's tyrannic claim
To quench it !) here shines on me still the same.
Faithful remembrancer of one so dear,
O, welcome guest, though unexpected here !
Who bidd'st me honour with an artless song,
Affectionate, a mother lost so long,
I will obey, not willingly alone,
But gladly, as the precept were her own :
And, while that face renews my filial grief,
Fancy shall weave a charm for my relief,
Shall steep me in Elysian reverie,
A momentary dream that thou art she.
My mother! when I learnt that thou wast dead,
Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed ?
Hover'd thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son,
Wretch even then, life's journey just begun?
Perhaps thou gav'st me, though unfelt, a kiss :
Perhaps a tear, if souls can weep in bliss,
Ah, that maternal smile! It answers-Yes.
I heard the bell tolld on thy burial day,
I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away,
And, turning from my nurs’ry window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu !
But was it such ?-It was. —Where thou art gone
Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown.
May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore,
The parting sound shall pass my lips no more !
Thy maidens, griev'd themselves at my concern,
Oft gave me promise of thy quick return.
What ardently I wish'd I long believ'd,
And, disappointed still, was still deceiv'd.
By expectation every day beguild,
Dupe of to-morrow even from a child.
Thus many a sad to-morrow came and went,
Till, all my stock of infant sorrow spent,
I learnt at last submission to my lot;
But, though I less deplor'd thee, ne'er forgot.
Where once we dwelt our name is heard no more,
Children not thine have trod my nursery floor ;
And where the gard'ner Robin, day by day,
Drew me to school along the public way,
Delighted with my bauble coach, and wrapt
In scarlet mantle warm, and velvet capt,
'Tis now become a history little known,
That once we call’d the pastoral house our own.
Short-liv'd possession ! but the record fair
That memory keeps of all thy kindness there
Still outlives many a storm that has effac'd
A thousand other themes less deeply trac'd.
Thy nightly visits to my chamber made,
That thou mightst know me safe and warmly laid;
Thy morning bounties ere I left my home,
The biscuit, or confectionary plum ;
The fragrant waters on my cheek bestow'd
By thy own hand, till fresh they shone and glow'd ;
All this, and, more endearing still than all,
Thy constant flow of love, that knew no fall,
Ne'er roughen'd by those cataracts and breaks
That humour interpos’d too often makes ;
All this still legible in mem’ry's page,
And still to be so to my latest age,
Adds joy to duty, makes me glad to pay
Such honours to thee as my numbers may;
Perhaps a frail memorial, but sincere,
Not scorn'd in heaven, though little notic'd here.
Could Time, his flight revers’d, restore the hours,
When, playing with thy vesture's tissued flow'rs,
The violet, the pink, and jessamine,
I prick'd them into paper with a pin
(And thou wast happier than myself the while,
Wouldst softly speak, and stroke my head and smile),
Could those few pleasant days again appear,
Might one wish bring them, would I wish them here?
I would not trust my heart—the dear delight
Seems so to be desired, perhaps I might. -
But no—what here we call our life is such
So little to be lov'd, and thou so much,
That I should ill requite thee to constrain
Thy unbound spirit into bonds again.
Thou, as a gallant bark from Albion's coast (The storms all weather'd and the ocean cross’d) Shoots into port at some well-haven'd isle, Where spices breathe, and brighter seasons smile, There sits quiescent on the floods that show Her beauteous form reflected clear below, While airs impregnated with incense play Around her, fanning light her streamers gay ; So thou, with sails how swift! hast reach'd the shore, “ Where tempests never beat nor billows roar," And thy lov'd consort on the dang'rous tide Of life long since has anchor'd by thy side. But me, scarce hoping to attain that rest,