The breathless transfer of men, thoughts, and things,
Improved designs for vaster fratricide,—
Are these the leading gifts this century brings,
The twentieth, too, since Christ was crucified?
Yet thoughts that most have influenced mankind
Were not sent broadcast with the lightning’s speed;
Nor do the works of Plato lag behind
The myriad books and papers that we read!
And thou, Italia, that for ages played
A role whose majesty can ne’er be told,
Hast thou, like all the rest, thy trust betrayed,
Adored the New, and sacrificed the Old?
Wilt thou for fashion make thy Past forlorn?
Waste precious substance upon useless ships?
Transport to Africa thine eldest born,
And let gaunt hunger blanch thy peasants’ lips?
Make poorly paid officials banded knaves?
Drive starving sons by thousands from thy shore,
Or let them rot in Abyssinian graves,
And hide the cancer festering at thy core?
If so, ’tis certain thou must dearly pay
For playing thus the war-lord’s pompous part,
And thou shalt feel at no far-distant day
The people’s dagger driven through thy heart.
Fain would I find some peaceful Pagan shrine
Unspoiled as yet by vandals of to-day,
Around whose shafts the sweet, wild roses twine,
And on whose marble walls the sunbeams play;
There would I dream of days when life was sweet
With poetry, art, and myths devoid of dread,
When all the Gods in harmony could meet,
And no eternal torment vexed the dead.
Our vaunted age is one of feverish haste,
Of racial hatred and of loathsome cant,
Of gross corruption and of tawdry taste,
Of monster fortunes, with a world in want.
I am not of it, and I will not be!
Its social strife and slavery I despise;
Gone is its shore; I sail the open sea
O’er tranquil waters and ’neath cloudless skies!
I tread the vast deserted stage
Whereon the Caesars lived and died;
The relics of Rome’s golden age
Lie strewn about me far and wide,
Mementoes of an empire’s pride,
The homes of men once deified.
What are they now? Stupendous piles
Of mouldering corridors and walls,
On which alike the sunshine smiles
And cold the rain of winter falls;
A wilderness of roofless halls
Whose tragic history appalls!
Below me, like an opened grave,
The Forum’s excavations lie,
Where column, arch and architrave
In solemn grandeur greet the eye,
Still guarding ’neath Italia’s sky
The glory that can never die.
And here, above me and around,
In part still shrouded by the soil,
A stony chaos strews the ground,
Where patient students delve and toil
To bring to light Time’s buried spoil,
And History’s tangled threads uncoil.