Page images


Majestic, though in ruins.-MILTON.

MOULDERING away in desolated pride,
Thy glory past, thy majesty remains;
Though time has torn thy pillar'd porches wide,
Where Echo sleeps, and horrid Silence reigns.
Thus onwards all things to destruction glide,
Whatever pageantries this world contains-
Decaying, not o'erthrown! thou still art seen
A monumental wreck of what thou erst hast been!

Still let me contemplate thy wasting walls,

Thy topless columns whence the owlet screams: Those grass-worn mounds were once baronial halls, Whose pristine worth surpasseth Fancy's dreams; There Chivalry presided o'er the balls,

The sun of beauty there shed forth its beams : Now all is loneliness! Reflection, say,


How long the works of man outlive man's little day!


Such as are ambitious are incited by the greatness of their power to attempt great matters; and the most sottish or lazy may discharge themselves of cares, and hope that others will be more easily hired to take the burden of business upon them while they lie at ease. SIDNEY on Government, p. 165


THAT master-vice, Ambition, has its course;
It wakens Hope,-it promises success:
Can Wisdom, Reason, Justice break the force
Of those bold passions that o'erlook distress?
Not Fear itself their vigour can repress.
Hence Pride attempts what Fancy had design'd,
Betraying often its own littleness;

Fortune unbalances the strongest mind,
And vanities beset the mightiest of mankind.


These truths experience, history ever taught,
And many a moral tale in childhood loved;
But men by splendid wickedness are caught,

They laud those acts which erst they disapproved;

Their spleen by buried crime alone is moved. Great villains thrive-we deem them great indeed. How brave their spirits, wheresoe'er they roved To desolate the world, while millions bleed, Officious fools for aye the cause of bravoes plead.


While Avès vehement confuse their brains,
Kings would be demigods, and courtiers kneel.
Audacious mockery! the Muse refrains

From courting those who ne'er for others feel.
Alas! she cannot scorn the vain appeal
Of steel-clad heroes to her lofty lay;

For them she weaves the laurel-wreath with zeal :
As hirelings stalk along in proud array,
Where blazing lights shed forth an artificial day.


And Genius thus is self-betray'd to please
A heartless tyrant in his pride of power.
The love of flattery is a sore disease;

It spreads from chieftains' hall to ladies' bower;
The worm that gnaws the oak destroys the flower.
Shall sacred poesy, that heavenward springs,
Her flights, to creep before a mortal, lower?
She scorns the song which venal minstrel sings,

Nor to delight the proud her own proud offering brings.


The worshippers of images offend

Against Omnipotence; nor they alone?
Those too, who, mindless of their nature bend
Before a fool or tyrant on a throne!

Such men to scorn their God are ever prone:
Their idols soon are swept away from earth,
In folly riotous, with pride upblown.

What then avail their victories or mirth,

The splendour of their deeds, the lustre of their birth?


"Talche si potè dire Alboino vinse l'Italia, et una Femina vinse Alboino."-Del Regno d'Italia Epitome.

"He would despise me as a thing that bears
Insult with patience, or dissolves in tears:
A better lesson to his sex I'll teach;
The cruel madman is within my reach.
Revenge is mine; that passion ill supprest
Rages with quicken'd fury in my breast!
Were there no mountebanks to furnish sport
For all the savages who crowd his court,
But I must be selected to delight

Their vaunting spirits-forced to such a sight?-
Yet it unnerves me not; my father's will
Is done, and hatred stifles sense of ill.

This pleasant triumph too may sadly end;

Trust not, fool-hardy prince, the seeming friend!
Thy wife is but thy slave, untrue to thee,

Her person is encaged, her heart is free;

For the story to which this fragment relates, see Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." Quarto edit. vol. iv. page 430.

« PreviousContinue »