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Modern Greece (Felicia Hemans)

Published onApr 10, 2024
Modern Greece (Felicia Hemans)

Modern Greece

by Felicia Hemans


“O Greece! thou sapient nurse of finer arts,

Which to bright Science blooming Fancy bore,

Be this thy praise, that thou, and thou alone,

In these hast led the way, in these excell’d,

Crown’d with the laurel of assenting Time.”

Thomson’s Liberty.


Oh! who hath trod thy consecrated clime,

Fair land of Phidias! theme of lofty strains!

And traced each scene that, midst the wrecks of time,

The print of Glory’s parting step retains;

Nor for awhile, in high-wrought dreams, forgot,

Musing on years gone by in brightness there,

The hopes, the fears, the sorrows of his lot,

The hues his fate hath worn, or yet may wear;

As when, from mountain-heights, his ardent eye

Of sea and heaven hath track’d the blue infinity?


Is there who views with cold unalter’d mien,

His frozen heart with proud indifference fraught,

Each sacred haunt, each unforgotten scene,

Where Freedom triumph’d, or where Wisdom taught?

Souls that too deeply feel! oh, envy not

The sullen calm your fate hath never known:

Through the dull twilight of that wintery lot

Genius ne’er pierced, nor Fancy’s sunbeam shone,

Nor those high thoughts that, hailing Glory’s trace,

Glow with the generous flames of every age and race.


But blest the wanderer whose enthusiast mind

Each muse of ancient days hath deep imbued

With lofty lore, and all his thoughts refined

In the calm school of silent solitude;

Pour’d on his ear, midst groves and glens retired,

The mighty strains of each illustrious clime,

All that hath lived, while empires have expired,

To float for ever on the winds of time;

And on his soul indelibly portray’d

Fair visionary forms, to fill each classic shade.


Is not this mind, to meaner thoughts unknown,

A sanctuary of beauty and of light?

There he may dwell in regions all his own,

A world of dreams, where all is pure and bright.

For him the scenes of old renown possess

Romantic charms, all veil’d from other eyes;

There every form of nature’s loveliness

Wakes in his breast a thousand sympathies;

As music’s voice, in some lone mountain dell,

From rocks and caves around calls forth each echo’s swell.


For him Italia’s brilliant skies illume

The bard’s lone haunts, the warrior’s combat-plains,

And the wild rose yet lives to breath and bloom

Round Doric Pæstum’s solitary fanes.

But most, fair Greece! on thy majestic shore

He feels the fervours of his spirit rise;

Thou birth-place of the Muse! whose voice of yore

Breathed in thy groves immortal harmonies;

And lingers still around the well-known coast,

Murmuring a wild farewell to fame and freedom lost.


By seas that flow in brightness as they lave

Thy rocks, th’ enthusiast rapt in thought may stray,

While roves his eye o’er that deserted wave,

Once the proud scene of battle’s dread array.

—O ye blue waters! ye, of old that bore

The free, the conquering, hymn’d by choral strains,

How sleep ye now around the silent shore,

The lonely realm of ruins and of chains!

How are the mighty vanish’d in their pride!

E’en as their barks have left no traces on your tide.


Hush’d are the Pæans whose exulting tone

Swell’d o’er that tide—the sons of battle sleep—

The wind’s wild sigh, the halcyon’s voice alone

Blend with the plaintive murmur of the deep.

Yet when those waves have caught the splendid hues

Of morn’s rich firmament, serenely bright,

Or setting suns the lovely shore suffuse

With all their purple mellowness of light,

Oh! who could view the scene, so calmly fair,

Nor dream that peace, and joy, and liberty were there?


Where soft the sunbeams play, the zephyrs blow,

’Tis hard to deem that misery can be nigh;

Where the clear heavens in blue transparence glow,

Life should be calm and cloudless as the sky;

—Yet o’er the low, dark dwellings of the dead,

Verdure and flowers in summer-bloom may smile,

And ivy-boughs their graceful drapery spread

In green luxuriance o’er the ruin’d pile;

And mantling woodbine veil the wither’d tree;—

And thus it is, fair land! forsaken Greece, with thee.


For all the loveliness, and light, and bloom

That yet are thine, surviving many a storm,

Are but as heaven’s warm radiance on the tomb,

The rose’s blush that masks the canker-worm.

And thou art desolate—thy morn hath pass’d!

So dazzling in the splendour of its sway,

That the dark shades the night hath o’er thee cast

Throw tenfold gloom around thy deep decay.

Once proud in freedom, still in ruin fair,

Thy fate hath been unmatch’d—in glory and despair.


For thee, lost land! the hero’s blood hath flow’d,

The high in soul have brightly lived and died;

For thee the light of soaring genius glow’d

O’er the fair arts it form’d and glorified.

Thine were the minds whose energies sublime

So distanced ages in their lightning-race,

The task they left the sons of later time

Was but to follow their illumined trace.

—Now, bow’d to earth, thy children, to be free,

Must break each link that binds their filial hearts to thee.


Lo! to the scenes of fiction’s wildest tales,

Her own bright East, thy son, Morea! flies,

To seek repose midst rich, romantic vales,

Whose incense mounts to Asia’s vivid skies.

There shall he rest?—Alas! his hopes in vain

Guide to the sun-clad regions of the palm:

Peace dwells not now on oriental plain,

Though earth is fruitfulness, and air is balm;

And the sad wanderer finds but lawless foes,

Where patriarchs reign’d of old in pastoral repose.


Where Syria’s mountains rise, or Yemen’s groves,

Or Tigris rolls his genii-haunted wave,

Life to his eye, as wearily it roves,

Wears but two forms—the tyrant and the slave!

There the fierce Arab leads his daring horde

Where sweeps the sand-storm o’er the burning wild;

There stern Oppression waves the wasting sword

O’er plains that smile as ancient Eden smiled;

And the vale’s bosom, and the desert’s gloom,

Yield to the injured there no shelter save the tomb.


But thou, fair world! whose fresh unsullied charms

Welcomed Columbus from the western wave,

Wilt thou receive the wanderer to thine arms,

The lost descendant of the immortal brave?

Amidst the wild magnificence of shades

That o’er thy floods their twilight-grandeur cast,

In the green depth of thine untrodden glades

Shall he not rear his bower of peace at last?

Yes! thou hast many a lone, majestic scene,

Shrined in primeval woods, where despot ne’er hath been.


There by some lake, whose blue expansive breast

Bright from afar, an inland ocean, gleams,

Girt with vast solitudes, profusely dress’d

In tints like those that float o’er poet’s dreams;

Or where some flood from pine-clad mountain pours

Its might of waters, glittering in their foam,

Midst the rich verdure of its wooded shores,

The exiled Greek hath fix’d his sylvan home:

So deeply lone, that round the wild retreat

Scarce have the paths been trod by Indian huntsman’s feet.


The forests are around him in their pride,

The green savannas, and the mighty waves;

And isles of flowers, bright-floating o’er the tide,

That images the fairy worlds it laves,

And stillness, and luxuriance. O’er his head

The ancient cedars wave their peopled bowers,

On high the palms their graceful foliage spread,

Cinctured with roses the magnolia towers;

And from those green arcades a thousand tones

Wake with each breeze, whose voice through Nature’s temple moans.


And there, no traces left by brighter days

For glory lost may wake a sigh of grief;

Some grassy mound, perchance, may meet his gaze,

The lone memorial of an Indian chief.

There man not yet hath mark’d the boundless plain

With marble records of his fame and power;

The forest is his everlasting fane,

The palm his monument, the rock his tower:

Th’ eternal torrent and the giant tree

Remind him but that they, like him, are wildly free.


But doth the exile’s heart serenely there

In sunshine dwell?—Ah! when was exile blest?

When did bright scenes, clear heavens, or summer air,

Chase from his soul the fever of unrest?

—There is a heart-sick weariness of mood,

That like slow poison wastes the vital glow,

And shrines itself in mental solitude,

An uncomplaining and a nameless woe.

That coldly smiles midst pleasure’s brightest ray,

As the chill glacier’s peak reflects the flush of day.


Such grief is theirs, who, fix’d on foreign shore,

Sigh for the spirit of their native gales,

As pines the seaman, midst the ocean’s roar,

For the green earth, with all its woods and vales.

Thus feels thy child, whose memory dwells with thee,

Loved Greece! all sunk and blighted as thou art

Though thought and step in western wilds be free,

Yet thine are still the daydreams of his heart:

The deserts spread between, the billows foam,

Thou, distant and in chains, are yet his spirit’s home.


In vain for him the gay liannes entwine,

Or the green fire-fly sparkles through the brakes,

Or summer-winds waft odours from the pine,

As eve’s last blush is dying on the lakes.

Through thy fair vales his fancy roves the while,

Or breathes the freshness of Cithæron’s height,

Or dreams how softly Athens’ towers would smile,

Or Sunium’s ruins, in the fading light;

On Corinth’s cliff what sunset hues may sleep,

Or, at that placid hour, how calm th’ Ægean deep!


What scenes, what sunbeams, are to him like thine?

(The all of thine no tyrant could destroy!)

E’en to the stranger’s roving eye, they shine

Soft as a vision of remember’d joy.

And he who comes, the pilgrim of a day,

A passing wanderer o’er each Attic hill,

Sighs as his footsteps turn from thy decay,

To laughing climes, where all is splendour still;

And views with fond regret thy lessening shore,

As he would watch a star that sets to rise no more.


Realm of sad beauty! thou art as a shrine

That Fancy visits with Devotion’s zeal,

To catch high thoughts and impulses divine,

And all the glow of soul enthusiasts feel

Amidst the tombs of heroes—for the brave

Whose dust, so many an age, hath been thy soil,

Foremost in honour’s phalanx, died to save

The land redeem’d and hallow’d by their toil;

And there is language in thy lightest gale,

That o’er the plains they won seems murmuring yet their tale.


And he, whose heart is weary of the strife

Of meaner spirits, and whose mental gaze

Would shun the dull cold littleness of life,

Awhile to dwell amidst sublimer days,

Must turn to thee, whose every valley teems

With proud remembrances that cannot die.

Thy glens are peopled with inspiring dreams,

Thy winds, the voice of oracles gone by;

And midst thy laurel shades the wanderer hears

The sound of mighty names, the hymns of vanish’d years.


Through that deep solitude be his to stray,

By Faun and Oread loved in ages past,

Where clear Peneus winds his rapid way

Though the cleft heights, in antique grandeur vast.

Romantic Tempe! thou art yet the same—

Wild, as when sung by bards of elder time:

Years, that have changed thy river’s classic name,

Have left thee still in savage pomp sublime;

And from thine Alpine clefts and marble caves,

In living lustre still break forth the fountain waves.


Beneath thy mountain battlements and towers,

Where the rich arbute’s coral berries glow,

Or midst th’ exuberance of thy forest bowers,

Casting deep shadows o’er the current’s flow,

Oft shall the pilgrim pause, in lone recess,

As rock and stream some glancing light have caught,

And gaze, till Nature’s mighty forms impress

His soul with deep sublimity of thought;

And linger oft, recalling many a tale,

That breeze, and wave, and wood seem whispering through thy dale.


He, thought-entranced, may wander where of old

From Delphi’s chasm the mystic vapour rose,

And trembling nations heard their doom foretold

By the dread spirit throned midst rocks and snows.

Though its rich fanes be blended with the dust,

And silence now the hallow’d haunt possess,

Still is the scene of ancient rites august,

Magnificent in mountain loneliness;

Still inspiration hovel’s o’er the ground,

Where Greece her councils held, her Pythian victors crown’d.


Or let his steps the rude gray cliffs explore

Of that wild pass, once dyed with Spartan blood,

When by the waves that break on Œta’s shore,

The few, the fearless, the devoted, stood!

Or rove where, shadowing Mantinea’s plain,

Bloom the wild laurels o’er the warlike dead,

Or lone Platæa’s ruins yet remain

To mark the battle-field of ages fled:

Still o’er such scenes presides a sacred power,

Though Fiction’s gods have fled from fountain, grot, and bower.


Oh! still unblamed may fancy fondly deem

That, lingering yet, benignant genii dwell

Where mortal worth has hallow’d grove or stream,

To sway the heart with some ennobling spell;

For mightiest minds have felt their blest control

In the wood’s murmur, in the zephyr’s sigh,

And these are dreams that lend a voice and soul,

And a high power, to Nature’s majesty!

And who can rove o’er Grecian shores, nor feel,

Soft o’er his inmost heart, their secret magic steal?


Yet many a sad reality is there,

That Fancy’s bright illusions cannot veil.

Pure laughs the light, and balmy breathes the air,

But Slavery’s mien will tell its bitter tale;

And there, not Peace, but Desolation, throws

Delusive quiet o’er full many a scene—

Deep as the brooding torpor of repose

That follows where the earthquake’s track hath been;

Or solemn calm on Ocean’s breast that lies,

When sinks the storm, and death has hush’d the seamen’s cries.


Hast thou beheld some sovereign spirit, hurl’d

By Fate’s rude tempest from its radiant sphere,

Doom’d to resign the homage of a world,

For Pity’s deepest sigh and saddest tear?

Oh! hast thou watch’d the awful wreck of mind

That weareth still a glory in decay?

Seen all that dazzles and delights mankind—

Thought, science, genius—to the storm a prey;

And o’er the blasted tree, the wither’d ground,

Despair’s wild nightshade spread, and darkly flourish round?


So mayst thou gaze, in sad and awe-struck thought,

On the deep fall of that yet lovely clime:

Such there the ruin Time and Fate have wrought,

So changed the bright, the splendid, the sublime.

There the proud monuments of Valour’s name,

The mighty works Ambition piled on high,

The rich remains by Art bequeath’d to Fame—

Grace, beauty, grandeur, strength, and symmetry,

Blend in decay; while all that yet is fair

Seems only spared to tell how much hath perish’d there!


There, while around lie mingling in the dust

The column’s graceful shaft, with weeds o’er grown,

The mouldering torso, the forgotten bust.

The warrior’s urn, the altar’s mossy stone—

Amidst the loneliness of shatter’d fanes,

Still matchless monuments of other years—

O’er cypress groves or solitary plains,

Its eastern form the minaret proudly rears:

As on some captive city’s ruin’d wall

The victor’s banner waves, exulting o’er its fall.


Still, where that column of the mosque aspires,

Landmark of slavery, towering o’er the waste,

There science droops, the Muses hush their lyres

And o’er the blooms of fancy and of taste

Spreads the chill blight;—as in that orient isle

Where the dark upas taints the gale around,

Within its precincts not a flower may smile,

Nor dew nor sunshine fertilise the ground;

Nor wild birds’ music float on zephyr’s breath,

But all is silence round, and solitude, and death.


Far other influence pour’d the Crescent’s light

O’er conquer’d realms, in ages pass’d away;

Full and alone it beam’d, intensely bright,

While distant climes in midnight darkness lay.

Then rose th’ Alhambra, with its founts and shades,

Fair marble halls, alcoves, and orange bowers:

Its sculptured lions, richly wrought arcades,

Aërial pillars, and enchanted towers;

Light, splendid, wild, as some Arabian tale

Would picture fairy domes that fleet before the gale.


Then foster’d genius lent each caliph’s throne

Lustre barbaric pomp could ne’er attain;

And stars unnumber’d o’er the orient shone,

Bright as that Pleïad, sphered in Mecca’s fane.

From Bagdat’s palaces the choral strains

Rose and re-echoed to the desert’s bound,

And Science, woo’d on Egypt’s burning plains,

Rear’d her majestic head with glory crown’d;

And the wild Muses breathed romantic lore

From Syria’s palmy groves to Andalusia’s shore.


Those years have past in radiance—they have past,

As sinks the daystar in the tropic main;

His parting beams no soft reflection cast,

They burn—are quench’d—and deepest shadows reign.

And Fame and Science have not left a trace

In the vast regions of the Moslem’s power,—

Regions, to intellect a desert space,

A wild without a fountain or a flower,

Where towers Oppression midst the deepening glooms,

As dark and lone ascends the cypress midst the tombs.


Alas for thee, fair Greece! when Asia pour’d

Her fierce fanatics to Byzantium’s wall;

When Europe sheath’d, in apathy, her sword,

And heard unmoved the fated city’s call.

No bold crusaders ranged their serried line

Of spears and banners round a falling throne;

And thou, O last and noblest Constantine!

Didst meet the storm unshrinking and alone.

Oh! blest to die in freedom, though in vain—

Thine empire’s proud exchange the grave, and not the chain!


Hush’d is Byzantium—’tis the dead of night—

The closing night of that imperial race!

And all is vigil—but the eye of light

Shall soon unfold, a wilder scene to trace:

There is a murmuring stillness on the train

Thronging the midnight streets, at morn to die;

And to the cross, in fair Sophia’s fane,

For the last time is raised Devotion’s eye;

And, in his heart while faith’s bright visions rise,

There kneels the high-soul’d prince, the summon’d of the skies.


Day breaks in light and glory—’tis the hour

Of conflict and of fate—the war-note calls—

Despair hath lent a stern, delirious power

To the brave few that guard the rampart walls.

Far over Marmora’s waves th’ artillery’s peal

Proclaims an empire’s doom in every note;

Tambour and trumpet swell the clash of steel,

Round spire and dome the clouds of battle float;

From camp and wave rush on the Crescent’s host,

And the Seven Towers are scaled, and all is won and lost.


Then, Greece! the tempest rose that burst on thee,

Land of the bard, the warrior, and the sage!

Oh! where were then thy sons, the great, the free,

Whose deeds are guiding stars from age to age?

Though firm thy battlements of crags and snows,

And bright the memory of thy days of pride,

In mountain might though Corinth’s fortress rose,

On, unresisted, roll’d th’ invading tide!

Oh! vain the rock, the rampart, and the tower,

If Freedom guard them not with Mind’s unconquer’d power.


Where were th’ avengers then, whose viewless might

Preserved inviolate their awful fane,

When through the steep defiles, to Delphi’s height,

In martial splendour pour’d the Persian’s train?

Then did those mighty and mysterious Powers,

Arm’d with the elements, to vengeance wake,

Call the dread storms to darken round their towers,

Hurl down the rocks, and bid the thunders break;

Till far around, with deep and fearful clang,

Sounds of unearthly war through wild Parnassus rang.


Where was the spirit of the victor-throng

Whose tombs are glorious by Scamander’s tide,

Whose names are bright in everlasting song,

The lords of war, the praised, the deified?

Where he, the hero of a thousand lays,

Who from the dead at Marathon arose

All arm’d; and beaming on the Athenians’ gaze,

A battle-meteor, guided to their foes?

Or they whose forms to Alaric’s awe-struck eye,

Hovering o’er Athens, blazed in airy panoply?


Ye slept, O heroes! chief ones of the earth![31]

High demigods of ancient days! ye slept:

There lived no spark of your ascendant worth

When o’er your land the victor Moslem swept.

No patriot then the sons of freedom led,

In mountain pass devotedly to die;

The martyr-spirit of resolve was fled,

And the high soul’s unconquer’d buoyancy;

And by your graves, and on your battle-plains,

Warriors! your children knelt to wear the stranger’s chains.


Now have your trophies vanish’d, and your homes

Are moulder’d from the earth, while scarce remain

E’en the faint traces of the ancient tombs

That mark where sleep the slayers or the slain.

Your deeds are with the days of glory flown,

The lyres are hush’d that swell’d your fame afar,

The halls that echo’d to their sounds are gone,

Perish’d the conquering weapons of your war;[32]

And if a mossy stone your names retain,

’Tis but to tell your sons, for them ye died in vain.


Yet, where some lone sepulchral relic stands,

That with those names tradition hallows yet,

Oft shall the wandering son of other lands

Linger in solemn thought and hush’d regret.

And still have legends mark’d the lonely spot

Where low the dust of Agamemnon lies;

And shades of kings and leaders unforgot,

Hovering around, to fancy’s vision rise.

Souls of the heroes! seek your rest again,

Nor mark how changed the realms that saw your glory’s reign.


Lo, where th’ Albanian spreads his despot sway

O’er Thessaly’s rich vales and glowing plains,

Whose sons in sullen abjectness obey,

Nor lift the hand indignant at its chains:

Oh! doth the land that gave Achilles birth,

And many a chief of old illustrious line,

Yield not one spirit of unconquer’d worth

To kindle those that now in bondage pine?

No! on its mountain-air is slavery’s breath,

And terror chills the hearts whose utter’d plaints were death.


Yet if thy light, fair Freedom, rested there,

How rich in charms were that romantic clime,

With streams, and woods, and pastoral valleys fair,

And wall’d with mountains, haughtily sublime!

Heights that might well be deem’d the Muses’ reign,

Since, claiming proud alliance with the skies,

They lose in loftier spheres their wild domain—

Meet home for those retired divinities

That love, where nought of earth may e’er intrude,

Brightly to dwell on high, in lonely sanctitude.


There in rude grandeur daringly ascends

Stern Pindus, rearing many a pine-clad height;

He with the clouds his bleak dominion blends,

Frowning o’er vales in woodland verdure bright.

Wild and august in consecrated pride,

There through the deep-blue heaven Olympus towers,

Girdled with mists, light-floating as to hide

The rock-built palace of immortal powers;

Where far on high the sunbeam finds repose,

Amidst th’ eternal pomp of forests and of snows.


Those savage cliffs and solitudes might seem

The chosen haunts where Freedom’s foot would roam;

She loves to dwell by glen and torrent-stream,

And make the rocky fastnesses her home.

And in the rushing of the mountain flood,

In the wild eagle’s solitary cry,

In sweeping winds that peal through cave and wood,

There is a voice of stern sublimity,

That swells her spirit to a loftier mood

Of solemn joy severe, of power, of fortitude.


But from those hills the radiance of her smile

Hath vanish’d long, her step hath fled afar;

O’er Suli’s frowning rocks she paused a while,[33]

Kindling the watch-fires of the mountain war.

And brightly glow’d her ardent spirit there,

Still brightest midst privation: o’er distress

It cast romantic splendour, and despair

But fann’d that beacon of the wilderness;

And rude ravine, and precipice, and dell

Sent their deep echoes forth, her rallying voice to swell.


Dark children of the hills! ’twas then ye wrought

Deeds of fierce daring, rudely, sternly grand;

As midst your craggy citadels ye fought,

And women mingled with your warrior band.

Then on the cliff the frantic mother stood[34]

High o’er the river’s darkly-rolling wave,

And hurl’d, in dread delirium, to the flood

Her free-born infant, ne’er to be a slave.

For all was lost—all, save the power to die

The wild indignant death of savage liberty.


Now is that strife a tale of vanish’d days,

With mightier things forgotten soon to lie;

Yet oft hath minstrel sung, in lofty lays,

Deeds less adventurous, energies less high.

And the dread struggle’s fearful memory still

O’er each wild rock a wilder aspect throws;

Sheds darker shadows o’er the frowning hill,

More solemn quiet o’er the glen’s repose;

Lends to the rustling pines a deeper moan,

And the hoarse river’s voice a murmur not its own.


For stillness now—the stillness of the dead—

Hath wrapt that conflict’s lone and awful scene;

And man’s forsaken homes, in ruin spread,

Tell where the storming of the cliffs hath been.

And there, o’er wastes magnificently rude,

What race may rove, unconscious of the chain?

Those realms have now no desert unsubdued,

Where Freedom’s banner may be rear’d again:

Sunk are the ancient dwellings of her fame,

The children of her sons inherit but their name.


Go, seek proud Sparta’s monuments and fanes!

In scatter’d fragments o’er the vale they lie;

Of all they were not e’en enough remains

To lend their fall a mournful majesty.[35]

Birth-place of those whose names we first revered

In song and story—temple of the free!

O thou, the stern, the haughty, and the fear’d,

Are such thy relics, and can this be thee?

Thou shouldst have left a giant wreck behind,

And e’en in ruin claim’d the wonder of mankind.


For thine were spirits cast in other mould

Than all beside—and proved by ruder test;

They stood alone—the proud, the firm, the bold,

With the same seal indelibly imprest.

Theirs were no bright varieties of mind,

One image stamp’d the rough, colossal race,

In rugged grandeur frowning o’er mankind,

Stern, and disdainful of each milder grace;

As to the sky some mighty rock may tower,

Whose front can brave the storm, but will not rear the flower.


Such were thy sons—their life a battle-day!

Their youth one lesson how for thee to die!

Closed is that task, and they have passed away

Like softer beings train’d to aims less high.

Yet bright on earth their fame who proudly fell,

True to their shields, the champions of thy cause,

Whose funeral column bade the stranger tell

How died the brave, obedient to thy laws![36]

O lofty mother of heroic worth,

How couldst thou live to bring a meaner offspring forth?


Hadst thou but perish’d with the free, nor known

A second race, when glory’s noon went by,

Then had thy name in single brightness shone

A watchword on the helm of liberty!

Thou shouldst have pass’d with all the light of fame,

And proudly sunk in ruins, not in chains.

But slowly set thy star midst clouds of shame,

And tyrants rose amidst thy falling fanes;

And thou, surrounded by thy warriors’ graves,

Hast drain’d the bitter cup once mingled for thy slaves.


Now all is o’er—for thee alike are flown

Freedom’s bright noon and slavery’s twilight cloud;

And in thy fall, as in thy pride, alone,

Deep solitude is round thee as a shroud.

Home of Leonidas! thy halls are low;

From their cold altars have thy Lares fled;

O’er thee, unmark’d, the sunbeams fade or glow,

And wild-flowers wave, unbent by human tread;

And midst thy silence, as the grave’s profound,

A voice, a step, would seem as some unearthly sound.


Taÿgetus still lifts his awful brow

High o’er the mouldering city of the dead,

Sternly sublime; while o’er his robe of snow

Heaven’s floating tints their warm suffusions spread.

And yet his rippling wave Eurotas leads

By tombs and ruins o’er the silent plain;

While, whispering there, his own wild graceful reeds

Rise as of old, when hail’d by classic strain;

There the rose-laurels still in beauty wave,[37]

And a frail shrub survives to bloom o’er Sparta’s grave.


Oh, thus it is with man! A tree, a flower,

While nations perish, still renews its race,

And o’er the fallen records of his power

Spreads in wild pomp, or smiles in fairy grace.

The laurel shoots when those have pass’d away,

Once rivals for its crown, the brave, the free;

The rose is flourishing o’er beauty’s clay,

The myrtle blows when love hath ceased to be;

Green waves the bay when song and bard are fled,

And all that round us blooms is blooming o’er the dead.


And still the olive spreads its foliage round

Morea’s fallen sanctuaries and towers.

Once its green boughs Minerva’s votaries crown’d,

Deem’d a meet offering for celestial powers.

The suppliant’s hand its holy branches bore;[38]

They waved around the Olympic victor’s head;

And, sanctified by many a rite of yore,

Its leaves the Spartan’s honour’d bier o’erspread.

Those rites have vanish’d—but o’er vale and hill

Its fruitful groves arise, revered and hallow’d still.[39]


Where now thy shrines, Eleusis! where thy fane

Of fearful visions, mysteries wild and high?

The pomp of rites, the sacrificial train,

The long procession’s awful pageantry?

Quench’d is the torch of Ceres[40]—all around

Decay hath spread the stillness of her reign;

There never more shall choral hymns resound

O’er the hush’d earth and solitary main,

Whose wave from Salamis deserted flows,

To bathe a silent shore of desolate repose.


And oh, ye secret and terrific powers!

Dark oracles! in depth of groves that dwelt,

How are they sunk, the altars of your bowers,

Where Superstition trembled as she knelt!

Ye, the unknown, the viewless ones! that made

The elements your voice, the wind and wave;

Spirits! whose influence darken’d many a shade,

Mysterious visitants of fount and cave!

How long your power the awe-struck nations sway’d,

How long earth dreamt of you, and shudderingly obey’d!


And say, what marvel, in those early days,

While yet the light of heaven-born truth was not,

If man around him cast a fearful gaze,

Peopling with shadowy powers each dell and grot?

Awful is nature in her savage forms,

Her solemn voice commanding in its might,

And mystery then was in the rush of storms,

The gloom of woods, the majesty of night;

And mortals heard Fate’s language in the blast,

And rear’d your forest-shrines, ye phantoms of the past!


Then through the foliage not a breeze might sigh

But with prophetic sound—a waving tree,

A meteor flashing o’er the summer sky,

A bird’s wild flight reveal’d the things to be.

All spoke of unseen natures, and convey’d

Their inspiration; still they hover’d round,

Hallow’d the temple, whisper’d through the shade,

Pervaded loneliness, gave soul to sound;

Of them the fount, the forest, murmur’d still,

Their voice was in the stream, their footstep on the hill.


Now is the train of Superstition flown!

Unearthly beings walk on earth no more;

The deep wind swells with no portentous tone,

The rustling wood breathes no fatidic lore.

Fled are the phantoms of Livadia’s cave,

There dwell no shadows, but of crag and steep;

Fount of Oblivion! in thy gushing wave,[41]

That murmurs nigh, those powers of terror sleep.

Oh that such dreams alone had fled that clime!

But Greece is changed in all that could be changed by time!


Her skies are those whence many a mighty bard

Caught inspiration, glorious as their beams;

Her hills the same that heroes died to guard,

Her vales, that foster’d Art’s divinest dreams!

But that bright spirit o’er the land that shone,

And all around pervading influence pour’d,

That lent the harp of Æschylus its tone,

And proudly hallow’d Lacedæmon’s sword,

And guided Phidias o’er the yielding stone,

With them its ardours lived—with them its light is flown.


Thebes, Corinth, Argos!—ye renown’d of old,

Where are your chiefs of high romantic name?

How soon the tale of ages may be told!

A page, a verse, records the fall of fame,

The work of centuries. We gaze on you,

O cities! once the glorious and the free,

The lofty tales that charm’d our youth renew,

And wondering ask, if these their scenes could be?

Search for the classic fane, the regal tomb,

And find the mosque alone—a record of their doom!


How oft hath war his host of spoilers pour’d,

Fair Elis! o’er thy consecrated vales?[42]

There have the sunbeams glanced on spear and sword,

And banners floated on the balmy gales.

Once didst thou smile, secure in sanctitude,

As some enchanted isle mid stormy seas;

On thee no hostile footstep might intrude,

And pastoral sounds alone were on thy breeze.

Forsaken home of peace! that spell is broke:

Thou too hast heard the storm, and bow’d beneath the yoke.


And through Arcadia’s wild and lone retreats

Far other sounds have echo’d than the strain

Of faun and dryad, from their woodland seats,

Or ancient reed of peaceful mountain-swain!

There, though at times Alpheus yet surveys,

On his green banks renew’d, the classic dance,

And nymph-like forms, and wild melodious lays,

Revive the sylvan scenes of old romance;

Yet brooding fear and dark suspicion dwell

Midst Pan’s deserted haunts, by fountain, cave, and dell.


But thou, fair Attica! whose rocky bound

All art and nature’s richest gifts enshrined,

Thou little sphere, whose soul-illumined round

Concentrated each sunbeam of the mind;

Who, as the summit of some Alpine height

Glows earliest, latest, with the blush of day,

Didst first imbibe the splendours of the light,[43]

And smile the longest in its lingering ray;

Oh! let us gaze on thee, and fondly deem

The past awhile restored, the present but a dream.


Let Fancy’s vivid hues awhile prevail—

Wake at her call—be all thou wert once more!

Hark! hymns of triumph swell on every gale—

Lo! bright processions move along thy shore;

Again thy temples, midst the olive-shade,

Lovely in chaste simplicity arise;

And graceful monuments, in grove and glade,

Catch the warm tints of thy resplendent skies;

And sculptured forms, of high and heavenly mien,

In their calm beauty smile around the sun-bright scene.


Again renew’d by Thought’s creative spells,

In all her pomp thy city, Theseus! towers:

Within, around, the light of glory dwells

On art’s fair fabrics, wisdom’s holy bowers.

There marble fanes in finish’d grace ascend,

The pencil’s world of life and beauty glows;

Shrines, pillars, porticoes, in grandeur blend,

Rich with the trophies of barbaric foes;

And groves of platane wave in verdant pride,

The sage’s blest retreats, by calm Ilissus’ tide.


Bright as that fairy vision of the wave,

Raised by the magic of Morgana’s wand,[44]

On summer seas that undulating lave

Romantic Sicily’s Arcadian strand;

That pictured scene of airy colonnades,

Light palaces, in shadowy glory drest,

Enchanted groves, and temples, and arcades,

Gleaming and floating on the ocean’s breast;

Athens! thus fair the dream of thee appears,

As Fancy’s eye pervades the veiling cloud of years.


Still be that cloud withdrawn—oh! mark on high,

Crowning yon hill, with temples richly graced,

That fane, august in perfect symmetry,

The purest model of Athenian taste.

Fair Parthenon! thy Doric pillars rise

In simple dignity, thy marble’s hue

Unsullied shines, relieved by brilliant skies,

That round thee spread their deep ethereal blue;

And art o’er all thy light proportions throws

The harmony of grace, the beauty of repose.


And lovely o’er thee sleeps the sunny glow,

When morn and eve in tranquil splendour reign,

And on thy sculptures, as they smile, bestow

Hues that the pencil emulates in vain.

Then the fair forms by Phidias wrought, unfold

Each latent grace, developing in light;

Catch, from soft clouds of purple and of gold,

Each tint that passes, tremulously bright;

And seem indeed whate’er devotion deems,

While so suffused with heaven, so mingling with its beams.


But oh! what words the vision may portray,

The form of sanctitude that guards thy shrine?

There stands thy goddess, robed in war’s array,

Supremely glorious, awfully divine!

With spear and helm she stands, and flowing vest,

And sculptured ægis, to perfection wrought;

And on each heavenly lineament imprest,

Calmly sublime, the majesty of thought—

The pure intelligence, the chaste repose—

All that a poet’s dream around Minerva throws.


Bright age of Pericles! let fancy still

Through time’s deep shadows all thy splendour trace,

And in each work of art’s consummate skill

Hail the free spirit of thy lofty race:

That spirit, roused by every proud reward

That hope could picture, glory could bestow,

Foster’d by all the sculptor and the bard

Could give of immortality below.

Thus were thy heroes form’d, and o’er their name,

Thus did thy genius shed imperishable fame.


Mark in the throng’d Ceramicus, the train

Of mourners weeping o’er the martyr’d brave:

Proud be the tears devoted to the slain,

Holy the amaranth strew’d upon their grave![45]

And hark! unrivall’d eloquence proclaims

Their deeds, their trophies, with triumphant voice!

Hark! Pericles records their honour’d names![46]

Sons of the fallen, in their lot rejoice:

What hath life brighter than so bright a doom?

What power hath fate to soil the garlands of the tomb?


Praise to the valiant dead! for them doth art

Exhaust her skill, their triumphs bodying forth;

Theirs are enshrinèd names, and every heart

Shall bear the blazon’d impress of their worth.

Bright on the dreams of youth their fame shall rise,

Their fields of fight shall epic song record;

And, when the voice of battle rends the skies,

Their name shall be their country’s rallying word!

While fane and column rise august to tell

How Athens honours those for her who proudly fell.


City of Theseus! bursting on the mind,

Thus dost thou rise, in all thy glory fled!

Thus guarded by the mighty of mankind,

Thus hallow’d by the memory of the dead:

Alone in beauty and renown—a scene

Whose tints are drawn from freedom’s loveliest ray.

’Tis but a vision now—yet thou hast been

More than the brightest vision might portray;

And every stone, with but a vestige fraught

Of thee, hath latent power to wake some lofty thought.


Fall’n are thy fabrics, that so oft have rung

To choral melodies and tragic lore;

Now is the lyre of Sophocles unstrung,

The song that hail’d Harmodius peals no more.

Thy proud Piræus is a desert strand,

Thy stately shrines are mouldering on their hill,

Closed are the triumphs of the sculptor’s hand,

The magic voice of eloquence is still;

Minerva’s veil is rent[47]—her image gone;

Silent the sage’s bower—the warrior’s tomb o’erthrown.


Yet in decay thine exquisite remains

Wondering we view, and silently revere,

As traces left on earth’s forsaken plains

By vanish’d beings of a nobler sphere!

Not all the old magnificence of Rome,

All that dominion there hath left to time—

Proud Coliseum, or commanding dome,

Triumphal arch, or obelisk sublime,

Can bid such reverence o’er the spirit steal,

As aught by thee imprest with beauty’s plastic seal.


Though still the empress of the sunburnt waste,

Palmyra rises, desolately grand—

Though with rich gold[48] and massy sculpture graced,

Commanding still, Persepolis may stand

In haughty solitude—though sacred Nile

The first-born temples of the world surveys,

And many an awful and stupendous pile

Thebes of the hundred gates e’en yet displays;

City of Pericles! oh who, like thee,

Can teach how fair the works of mortal hand may be?


Thou led’st the way to that illumined sphere

Where sovereign beauty dwells; and thence didst bear,

Oh, still triumphant in that high career!

Bright archetypes of all the grand and fair.

And still to thee th’ enlighten’d mind hath flown

As to her country,—thou hast been to earth

A cynosure,—and, e’en from victory’s throne,

Imperial Rome gave homage to thy worth;

And nations, rising to their fame afar,

Still to thy model turn, as seamen to their star.


Glory to those whose relics thus arrest

The gaze of ages! Glory to the free!

For they, they only, could have thus imprest

Their mighty image on the years to be!

Empires and cities in oblivion lie,

Grandeur may vanish, conquest be forgot,—

To leave on earth renown that cannot die,

Of high-soul’d genius is th’ unrivall’d lot.

Honour to thee, O Athens! thou hast shown

What mortals may attain, and seized the palm alone.


Oh! live there those who view with scornful eyes

All that attests the brightness of thy prime?

Yes; they who dwell beneath thy lovely skies,

And breathe th’ inspiring ether of thy clime!

Their path is o’er the mightiest of the dead,

Their homes are midst the works of noblest arts;

Yet all around their gaze, beneath their tread,

Not one proud thrill of loftier thought imparts.

Such are the conquerors of Minerva’s land,

Where Genius first reveal’d the triumphs of his hand!


For them in vain the glowing light may smile

O’er the pale marble, colouring’s warmth to shed,

And in chaste beauty many a sculptured pile

Still o’er the dust of heroes lift its head.

No patriot feeling binds them to the soil,

Whose tombs and shrines their fathers have not rear’d;

Their glance is cold indifference, and their toil

But to destroy what ages have revered—

As if exulting sternly to erase

Whate’er might prove that land had nursed a nobler race.


And who may grieve that, rescued from their hands,

Spoilers of excellence and foes to art,

Thy relics, Athens! borne to other lands,

Claim homage still to thee from every heart

Though now no more th’ exploring stranger’s sight,

Fix’d in deep reverence on Minerva’s fane,

Shall hail, beneath their native heaven of light,

All that remain’d of forms adored in vain;

A few short years—and, vanish’d from the scene,

To blend with classic dust their proudest lot had been.


Fair Parthenon! yet still must Fancy weep

For thee, thou work of nobler spirits flown.

Bright, as of old, the sunbeams o’er thee sleep

In all their beauty still—and thine is gone!

Empires have sunk since thou wert first revered,

And varying rights have sanctified thy shrine.

The dust is round thee of the race that rear’d

Thy walls; and thou—their fate must soon be thine!

But when shall earth again exult to see

Visions divine like theirs renew’d in aught like thee?


Lone are thy pillars now—each passing gale

Sighs o’er them as a spirit’s voice, which moan’d

That loneliness, and told the plaintive tale

Of the bright synod once above them throned.

Mourn, graceful ruin! on thy sacred hill,

Thy gods, thy rites, a kindred fate have shared:

Yet art thou honour’d in each fragment still

That wasting years and barbarous hands had spared;

Each hallow’d stone, from rapine’s fury borne,

Shall wake bright dreams of thee in ages yet unborn.


Yes! in those fragments, though by time defaced

And rude insensate conquerors, yet remains

All that may charm th’ enlighten’d eye of taste,

On shores where still inspiring freedom reigns.

As vital fragrance breathes from every part

Of the crush’d myrtle, or the bruisèd rose,

E’en thus th’ essential energy of art

There in each wreck imperishably glows![49]

The soul of Athens lives in every line,

Pervading brightly still the ruins of her shrine.


Mark on the storied frieze the graceful train,

The holy festival’s triumphal throng,

In fair procession to Minerva’s fane,

With many a sacred symbol, move along.

There every shade of bright existence trace,

The fire of youth, the dignity of age;

The matron’s calm austerity of grace,

The ardent warrior, the benignant sage;

The nymph’s light symmetry, the chief’s proud mien—

Each ray of beauty caught and mingled in the scene.


Art unobtrusive there ennobles form,[50]

Each pure chaste outline exquisitely flows;

There e’en the steed, withhold expression warm,[51]

Is clothed with majesty, with being glows.

One mighty mind hath harmonised the whole;

Those varied groups the same bright impress bear;

One beam and essence of exalting soul

Lives in the grand, the delicate, the fair;

And well that pageant of the glorious dead

Blends us with nobler days, and loftier spirits fled.


O conquering Genius! that couldst thus detain

The subtle graces, fading as they rise,

Eternalise expression’s fleeting reign,

Arrest warm life in all its energies,

And fix them on the stone—thy glorious lot

Might wake ambition’s envy, and create

Powers half divine: while nations are forgot,

A thought, a dream of thine hath vanquish’d fate!

And when thy hand first gave its wonders birth,

The realms that hail them now scarce claim’d a name on earth.


Wert thou some spirit of a purer sphere

But once beheld, and never to return?

No—we may hail again thy bright career,

Again on earth a kindred fire shall burn!

Though thy least relics, e’en in ruin, bear

A stamp of heaven, that ne’er hath been renew’d—

A light inherent—let not man despair:

Still be hope ardent, patience unsubdued;

For still is nature fair, and thought divine,

And art hath won a world in models pure as thine.[52]


Gaze on yon forms, corroded and defaced—

Yet there the germ of future glory lies!

Their virtual grandeur could not be erased;

It clothes them still, though veil’d from common eyes.

They once were gods and heroes[53]—and beheld

As the blest guardians of their native scene;

And hearts of warriors, sages, bards, have swell’d

With awe that own’d their sovereignty of mien.

Ages have vanish’d since those hearts were cold,

And still those shatter’d forms retain their godlike mould.


Midst their bright kindred, from their marble throne

They have look’d down on thousand storms of time;

Surviving power, and fame, and freedom flown,

They still remain’d, still tranquilly sublime!

Till mortal hands the heavenly conclave marr’d.

The Olympian groups have sunk, and are forgot—

Not e’en their dust could weeping Athens guard;

But these were destined to a nobler lot!

And they have borne, to light another land,

The quenchless ray that soon shall gloriously expand.


Phidias! supreme in thought! what hand but thine,

In human works thus blending earth and heaven,

O’er nature’s truth had spread that grace divine,

To mortal form immortal grandeur given?

What soul but thine, infusing all its power

In these last monuments of matchless days,

Could from their ruins bid young Genius tower,

And Hope aspire to more exalted praise;

And guide deep Thought to that secluded height

Where excellence is throned in purity of light?


And who can tell how pure, how bright a flame,

Caught from these models, may illume the west?

What British Angelo may rise to fame,[54]

On the free isle what beams of art may rest?

Deem not, O England! that by climes confined,

Genius and taste diffuse a partial ray;[55]

Deem not the eternal energies of mind

Sway’d by that sun whose doom is but decay!

Shall thought be foster’d but by skies serene?

No! thou hast power to be what Athens e’er hath been.


But thine are treasures oft unprized, unknown,

And cold neglect hath blighted many a mind,

O’er whose young ardours had thy smile but shone,

Their soaring flight had left a world behind!

And many a gifted hand, that might have wrought

To Grecian excellence the breathing stone,

Or each pure grace of Raphael’s pencil caught,

Leaving no record of its power, is gone!

While thou hast fondly sought, on distant coast,

Gems far less rich than those, thus precious, and thus lost


Yet rise, O Land, in all but art alone!

Bid the sole wreath that is not thine be won!

Fame dwells around thee—Genius is thine own;

Call his rich blooms to life—be thou their sun!

So, should dark ages o’er thy glory sweep,

Should thine e’er be as now are Grecian plains,

Nations unborn shall track thine own blue deep

To hail thy shore, to worship thy remains;

Thy mighty monuments with reverence trace,

And cry, “This ancient soil hath nursed a glorious race!”

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