O poet, come you haunting here
Where streets have stolen up all around,
And never a nightingale pours one
Drawn from your drowse by the Seven famed Hills,
Thought you to find all just the same
Here shining, as in hours of old,
If you but came?
What will you do in your surprise
At seeing that changes wrought in Rome
Are wrought yet more on the misty slope
One time your home?
Will you wake wind-wafts on these stairs?
Swing the doors open noisily?
Show as an umbraged ghost beside
Your ancient tree?
Or will you, softening, the while
You further and yet further look,
Learn that a laggard few would fain
Preserve your nook? . . .
—Where the Piazza steps incline,
And catch late light at eventide,
I once stood, in that Rome, and thought,
“’Twas here he died.”
I drew to a violet-sprinkled spot,
Where day and night a pyramid keeps
Uplifted its white hand, and said,
“’Tis there he sleeps.”
Pleasanter now it is to hold
That here, where sang he, more of him
Remains than where he, tuneless, cold,
Passed to the dim.
“Ah Madam; you’ve indeed come back here?
’Twas sad—your husband’s so swift death,
And you away! You shouldn’t have left him:
It hastened his last breath.”
“Dame, I am not the lady you think me;
I know not her, nor know her name;
I’ve come to lodge here—a friendless woman;
My health my only aim.”
She came; she lodged. Wherever she rambled
They held her as no other than
The lady named; and told how her husband
Had died a forsaken man.
So often did they call her thuswise
Mistakenly, by that man’s name,
So much did they declare about him,
That his past form and fame
Grew on her, till she pitied his sorrow
As if she truly had been the cause—
Yea, his deserter; and came to wonder
What mould of man he was.
“Tell me my history!” would exclaim she;
“Our history,” she said mournfully.
“But you know, surely, Ma’am?” they would answer,
Much in perplexity.
Curious, she crept to his grave one evening,
And a second time in the dusk of the morrow;
Then a third time, with crescent emotion
Like a bereaved wife’s sorrow.
No gravestone rose by the rounded hillock;
—“I marvel why this is?” she said.
- “He had no kindred, Ma’am, but you near.”
—She set a stone at his head.
She learnt to dream of him, and told them:
“In slumber often uprises he,
And says: ’I am joyed that, after all, Dear,
You’ve not deserted me!”