147

PÆSTUM.


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THOUGH roseate odours float on every gale
That sweeps, sad Pæstum, o'er thy desart vale;
Though each soft zephyr bear upon its wing
The sweets and promise of perennial spring,
Like life's illusions o'er the captive sense
Veiling in smiles the ruin they dispense;
Thy perfum'd breath a venom'd shaft conveys,
And the lorn pilgrim at thy shrine betrays!
Yet joy'd the man on whose rapt vision first
The prostrate glories of thy city burst;
With kindred feeling traced thy classic plains,
Thy tower-capt walls,—thy desecrated fanes,
Whose massive columns from their deep repose
In mingled symmetry and ruin rose,
And as the wonders of the scene he view'd,
Broke the long silence of thy solitude.

∗ The roses of Pæstum are celebrated as peculiarly fragrant, and blowing twice every year; yet, though the air is thus perfumed, it is destructive, as the malaria prevails.

† The temples of Pæstum, though in a situation so open to notice, remained unknown for centuries; they were then, it is said, discovered by a painter.


148

Lo! 'mid the desart, grateful to the eye,
As a green spot in sandy Araby,
Yon hallow'd porch, above each rival form,
Bright in a sunbeam through the coming storm,
Stands, like the ancient genius of the place,
Evoking from the tomb, his Dorian race!
Beauteous in ruin, in decay sublime,
A splendid trophy o'er the wreck of time;
Struggling with fate,—the glorious past recalls,
And rob'd in majesty, like Cæsar falls.—
Seems still the whispering breeze to bear along
The mournful melody of Grecian song,
As when in solemn rite thy patriot band
Sang of their fathers in a stranger land.
And yet, 'tis desolate! no voice invokes,
No victim bleeds,—no teeming incense smokes!
Where be thy gods? beneath the general gloom
Sleep they too in the silence of the tomb?—
See, on yon moss-grown stone, with front serene,
The unmov'd idol 'mid the changeful scene,
As when he gave thy sons to be, of yore,
Lords of the dark-blue sea that laves thy shore;
His shrine, the shadow of that empty boast,
Stands a lone beacon on thy desart coast!

∗ The largest of the temples was dedicated to Neptune, the tutelary deity of ancient Posidonia: it is of Doric architecture.


149

So flits the pageant of life's troubled dream,
So float man's works down time's oblivious stream;
But nature still the same through ages past,
Blush'd in the rose, and thunder'd in the blast;
And in her great unerring laws we trace
The mighty mind that fills all time—all space.
Prostrate the star on Bethlehem's Plain we hail,
Which o'er the wreck of worlds, and through the Vale
Of Death itself spreads its celestial ray,
And breaks from darkness to eternal day.