Like one who, homeward bound from distant lands,
Describes strange climes and visions passing fair,
Yet deftly hides from others’ eyes and hands
A private casket filled with treasures rare,
So, favored Countess, all that thou dost say
Is nothing to thy secrets left unsaid;
Thy printed souvenirs are but the spray
Above the depths of ocean’s briny bed.
For, oh! how often must thy mind retrace
Soft phrases whispered in the Tuscan tongue,
Love’s changes sweeping o’er his mobile face,
And kisses sweeter far than he had sung;
The gleam of passion in his glorious eyes,
The hours of inspiration when he wrote,
Recalled to Earth in sudden, sweet surprise
At feeling thy white arms about his throat;
To have been loved by Byron! Not in youth
When ardent senses tempt to reckless choice,
But in maturer years, when keen-eyed Truth
Reveals the folly of the siren’s voice.
Last love is best, and this thou didst enjoy;
Thy happy fate to see no rival claim
A share in what was thine without alloy;
How must the remnant of thy life seem tame!
Yet this thy recompense,—that thou dost keep
Thy friend and lover safe from every change;
For, loyal to thy love, he fell asleep,
And life it is, not death, that can estrange.
Through the marble gates of Ostia,
Where the Tiber meets the sea,
And a hundred Roman galleys
Strain their leashes to be free,
Streams a flood of sunset glory
From the classic sea of old,
Till Rome’s seven hills stand gleaming,
And the Tiber turns to gold.
Why, indifferent to this splendor,
Do the people throng the streets?
What is everyone demanding
Of the stranger whom he meets?
They have heard alas! the rumor
That, ere dawn regilds the sky,
All the world may be in mourning,
For the Emperor must die.
Search, O Romans, through the annals
Of the rulers of your race,
From the zenith of their glory
To their ultimate disgrace,—
And as earth’s most perfect master,
And the noblest of your line,
You will yield your greatest homage
To this dying Antonine.
For he holds a Caesar’s sceptre
In a loving father’s hand,
And his heart and soul are given
To the welfare of his land;
Through his justice every nation
Hath beheld its warfare cease,
And he leaves to his successor
Rome’s gigantic world at peace.
Hence these nations now are waiting
In an anguish of suspense,
For their future is as doubtful,
As their love for him intense;
By the Nile and on the Danube,
From the Tagus to the Rhine,
There is mourning among millions
For the man they deem divine.