Alas, that love could not avail
To guard this sweet repose!
That strength should fail, and life prove frail
And fleeting as the rose!
So fair! and yet, who can forget
The heir to Prussia’s throne,
Who here fought death with labored breath,
And faced the great Unknown?
O Spirit of the Fatherland,
O love that changeth not,
Thy filial hand hath made this strand
A consecrated spot;
For on the wall, where roses fall,
Bronze words recall his fate,—
A sceptre won ... when life was done,
An empire gained ... too late!
“Halt, wanderer from a German shore!”
(Thus runs the sad refrain,)
“Here dwelt thine Emperor, here he bore
With fortitude his pain;
Hear’st thou the lone, low monotone
Of billows tempest-tossed?
In that long roll the German soul
Still mourns for him she lost.”
San Remo’s stately palms still rise
Beside the storied shore;
But he now lies ’neath northern skies,
At peace forevermore,
In that calm, deep, untroubled sleep,
Whose secret none may know,
While, one by one,—their courses run,—
The long waves ebb and flow.
The autumn sun still bravely streams
Along the tomb-girt Appian Way,
And warms the heart of one who dreams
Of all its splendor on the day
When Scipio triumphed, bringing home
The spoils of Africa to Rome.
On this same road the conqueror came,
Called “Africanus, the Divine”
By thousands who adored his fame,
And proudly watched the endless line
Of Punic captives in his train,
And trophies, won on Zama’s plain.
To-day the vast Campagna rolls
In stately grandeur to the sea,
But where are now the countless souls
Whose dwelling-place this used to be,
When all its space to Ostia’s gate
Lay peopled and inviolate?
Ask of the Claudian arches gray
Which stride toward Rome in broken lines;
Ask of the lizards at their play
On relics of the Antonines;
Ask of the fever-blighted shore,
Where Roman galleys ride no more!
Yet some poor traces still remain
Of those who here have lived and died;
For underneath this solemn plain
The Christian catacombs still hide,—
A city of sepulchral gloom,
The martyrs’ labyrinthine tomb.
Moreover, in this classic soil,
Where sleeps so much of ancient Rome,
A simple peasant at his toil
Discovered ’neath the upturned loam
The spot to which I now have come,—
A Roman Columbarium.
Down through its modern, open door
A flood of mellow sunshine falls
In golden waves from roof to floor,
Revealing in its moss-grown walls
The “dove-cotes”, where one still discerns
The fragments of old funeral urns.
One vacant niche, whose ampler space
Betokens special love and care,
Contained no doubt a sculptured face
Above the hallowed ashes there;
While, just beneath, faint letters spell
A faithful woman’s fond farewell.