(Inscription on an altar-fragment, found on the Island of Lake Como, 1910, and belonging formerly to a temple of Delian Apollo,—the “Delian Father,”—which no doubt existed there.)
Once more Lake Como’s storied isle
Reveals the Roman past!
Again a stone of classic style
The spade hath upward cast;
How can such relics thus endure
Two thousand years of sepulture?
More eagerly than those who toil
For nuggets of mere gold,
We seize and rescue from the soil
This monument of old,—
An altar-fragment, much defaced,
Yet on whose surface words are traced.
With reverent hands we cleanse from grime
The legend chiselled there,
Which now, triumphant over time,
Still proves the sculptor’s care,
Engraved when on this wave-girt hill
The Pagan gods were potent still.
’As on their own peculiar page
The fingers of the blind
Decipher truths of every age,
As mind communes with mind,
So, one by one, these letters spell
A name the ancient world knew well.
For “Delio Patri” heads the lines
Inscribed upon this stone,
And instantly the mind divines
What, else, had been unknown,
Since that familiar name makes clear
Apollo once was worshipped here;
Perhaps because the spot suggests
That other tiny isle,
Upon whose shore forever rests
The Sun-God’s tender smile,—
Fair Delos, where, one fabled morn,
Both he and Artemis were born.
Beneath, the donor’s name is placed,
And lower still we read
In characters, now half effaced,
The motive for his deed;—
“Onesimus this altar reared
To One he gratefully revered.”
Faith, grateful reverence,—these are traits
Worth more than rank or fame,
And what this brief inscription states
Does honor to his name,
And makes us wish still more to know
Of him who built here long ago.
“And is this all?” the cynic sneers,
“The remnant of a shrine?”
Alas for him who never hears
Or heeds the world divine
And in this fragment fails to see
A stepping-stone to Deity!
The Sun-God’s shrines in ruins lie,
But not the glorious sun!
A thousand transient faiths may die.
All prototypes of One,
Since under every form and name
Their essence still remains the same.
By Acqua Fredda’s cloister-wall
I pause to feel the mountain breeze,
And watch the shadows eastward fall
From immemorial cypress trees.
Like arms outstretched to bless and pray,
Those dusky phantoms downward creep
To where, by Lenno’s curving bay,
The peaceful village seems to sleep;
While mirrored peaks of stainless snow
Turn crimson ’neath the farther shore,
And here and there the sunset glow
Threads diamonds on a dripping oar.