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Hung tyranny; beneath, sat deified The sister pest, congregator of slaves; Into the shadow of her pinions wide, Anarchs and priests who feed on gold and blood Till with the stain their inmost souls are dyed, Drove the astonished herds of men from every side.
The nodding promontories, and blue isles,
And cloud-like mountains, and dividuous waves Of Greece, basked glorious in the open smiles
Of favouring heaven; from their enchanted caves Prophetic echoes flung dim melody On the unapprehensive wild. The vine, the corn, the olive mild, Grew, savage yet, to human use unreconciled; And like unfolded flowers beneath the sea, Like the man's thought dark in the infant's brain,
Like aught that is which wraps what is to be, Art's deathless dreams lay veiled by many a vein
Of Parian stone; and,yet a speechless child,
Athens arose; a city such as vision
Builds from the purple crags and silver towers Of battlemented cloud, as in derision
Of kingliest masonry: the ocean floors Pave it; the evening sky pavilions it; Its portals are inhabited By thunder-zoned winds, each head Within its cloudy wings with sun-fire garlanded, A divine work! Athens diviner yet
Gleamed with its crest of columns, on the will
Of man, as on a mount of diamond, set; For thou wert, and thine all-creative skill Peopled, with forms that mock the eternal dead In marble immortality, that hill Which was thine earliest throne and latest oracle.
Within the surface of Time's fleeting river
Its wrinkled image lies, as then it lay Immovably unquiet, and for ever
It trembles, but it cannot pass away I The voices of thy bards and sages thunder With an earth-awakening blast Through the caverns of the past; Religion veils her eyes; Oppression shrinks aghast.
A winged sound of joy, and love, and wonder, Which soars where Expectation never flew
Rending the veil of space and time asunder I One ocean feeds the clouds, and streams, and dew;
One sun illumines heaven; one spirit vast
With life and love makes chaos ever new, As Athens doth the world with thy delight renew.
Then Rome was, and from thy deep bosom fairest,
Like a wolf-cub from a Cadmean Maenad,* She drew the milk of greatness, though thy dearest
From that Elysian food was yet unweaned; And many a deed of terrible uprightness By thy sweet love was sanctified; And in thy smile, and by thy side, Saintly Camillus lived, and firm Atilius died. But when tears stained thy robe of vestal whiteness,
And gold profaned thy Capitolian throne, Thou didst desert, with spirit-winged lightness,
The senate of the tyrants: they sunk prone Slaves of one tyrant. Palatinus sighed Faint echoes of Ionian song^ that tone Thou didst delay to hear, lamenting to disown.
From what Hyrcanian glen or frozen hill,
Ur utmost islet inaccessible,
Didst thou lament the ruin of thy reign,
reaching the woods and waves, and desert rocks,
* See the Bacchse of Euripides.
And every Naiad's ice-cold urn, To talk in echoes sad and stern, Of that sublimest lore which man had dated unlearn?
For neither didst thou watch the wizard flocks Of the Scald's dreams, nor haunt the Druid's sleep.
What if the tears rained through thy shattered locks
Were quickly dried? for thou didst groan,
When from its sea of death to kill and burn.
A thousand years the Earth cried, Where art thou?
And then the shadow of thy coming fell On Saxon Alfred's olive-cinctured brow:
And many a warrior-peopled citadel, Like rocks, which fire lifts out of the flat deep, Arose in sacred Italy, Frowning o'er the tempestuous sea Of kings, and priests, and slaves, in tower-crowned majesty;
That multitudinous anarchy did sweep
And burst around their walls like idle foam,
Whilst from the human spirit's deepest deep, Strange melody with love and awe struck dumb
Dissonant arms; and Art which cannot die, With divine want traced on our earthly home Fit imagery to pave heaven's everlasting dome.
Thou huntress swifter than the Moon ! thou terror Of the world's wolves! thou bearer of the quiver,
Whose sun-like shafts pierce tempest-winged Error,
As light may pierce the clouds when they dissever
In the calm regions of the orient day!
Luther caught thy wakening glance: Like lightning from his leaden lance Reflected, it dissolved the visions of the trance In which, as in a tomb, the nations lay;
And England's prophets hailed thee as their queen,
In songs whose music cannot pass away, Though it must flow for ever: not unseen Before the spirit-sighted countenance
Of Milton didst thou pass, from the sad scene Beyond whose night he saw, with a dejected mien.
The eager hours and unreluctant years
Trampling to silence their loud hopes and fears,