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Here naked rocks, and empty wastes were seen,
There towery cities, and the forests green;
Here sailing ships delight the wandering eyes;
There trees and intermingled temples rise:
Now a clear sun the shining scene displays,
The transient landscape now in clouds decays.
O'er the wide prospect as I gazed around,
Sudden I heard a wild promiscuous sound,
Like broken thunders that at distance roar,
Or billows murmuring on the hollow shore:
Then gazing up, a glorious pile beheld,
Whose towering summit ambient clouds conceal'd.
High on a rock of ice the structure lay,
Steep its ascent, and slippery was the way;
The wondrous rock like Parian marble shone,
And seem'd, to distant sight, of solid stone.
Inscriptions here of various names 1 view'd,
The greater part by hostile time subdued;
Yet wide was spread their fame in ages past,
And poets once had promised they should last.
Some fresh engraved appear'd of wits renown'd:
I look'd again, nor could their trace be found.
Critics I saw, that other names deface,
And fix their own, with labour, in their place:
Their own, like others, soon their place resign'd,
Or disappear'd, and left the first behind.
Nor was the work impair'd by storms alone,
But felt the' approaches of too warm a sun;
For fame, impatient of extremes, decays
Not more by envy than excess of praise.
Yet part no injuries of heaven could feel,
Like crystal faithful to the graving steel:
The rock's high summit, in the temple's shade,
Nor heat could melt, nor beating storm invade.
There names inscribed unnumber'd ages pass'd
From time's first birth, with time itself shall last;
These ever new, nor subject to decays,
Spread, and grow brighter with the length of days.
So Zembla's rocks (the beauteous work of frost)
Rise white in air, and glitter o'er the coast;
Pale suns, unfelt, at distance roll away,
And on the' impassive ice the lightnings play;
Eternal snows the growing mass supply,
Till the bright mountains prop the' incumbent sky:
As Atlas fix'd, each hoary pile appears,
The gather'd winter of a thousand years.
On this foundation Fame's high temple stands;
Stupendous pile! not rear'd by mortal hands.
Whate'er proud Rome or artful Greece beheld,
Or elder Babylon, its frame excell'd.
Four faces had the dome, and every face
Of various structure, but of equal grace:
Four brazen gates, on columns lifted high,
Salute the different quarters of the sky.
Here fabled chiefs in darker ages born,
Or worthies old, whom arms or arts adorn,
Who cities raised, or tamed a monstrous race,
The walls in venerable order
Heroes in animated marble frown,
And legislators seem to think in stone.
Westward a sumptuous frontispiece appear'd, On doric pillars of white marble rear'd, Crown'd with an architrave of antique mould, And sculpture rising on the roughen'd gold. In shaggy spoils here Theseus was beheld, And Perseus dreadful with Minerva's shield: There great Alcides, stooping with his toil, Rests on his club, and holds the' Hesperian spoil:
Here Orpheus sings; trees moving to the sound Start from their roots, and form a shade around: Amphion there the loud creating lyre
Strikes, and beholds a sudden Thebes aspire!
Cythæron's echoes answer to his call,
And half the mountain rolls into a wall:
There might you see the lengthening spires ascend,
The domes swell up, the widening arches bend,
The growing towers, like exhalations, rise,
And the huge columns heave into the skies.
The eastern front was glorious to behold,
With diamond flaming, and barbaric gold.
There Ninus shone, who spread the' Assyrian fame,
And the great founder of the Persian name:
There in long robes the royal magi stand,
Grave Zoroaster waves the circling wand;
The sage Chaldeans robed in white appear'd,
And brachmans, deep in desert woods revered.
These stopp'd the moon, and call'd the' unbodied
To midnight banquets in the glimmering glades;
Made visionary fabrics round them rise,
And airy spectres skim before their eyes;
Of talismans and sigils knew the power,
And careful watch'd the planetary hour,
Superior and alone Confucius stood,
Who taught that useful science, to be good.
But on the south, a long majestic race
Of Egypt's priests the gilded niches grace,
Who measured earth, described the starry spheres,
And traced the long records of lunar years.
High on his car Sesostris struck my view,
Whom sceptred slaves in golden harness drew :
His hands a bow and pointed javelin hold;
His giant limbs are arm'd in scales of gold.
Between the statues obelisks were placed,
And the learn❜d walls with hieroglyphics graced.
Of gothic structure was the northern side,
O'erwrought with ornaments of barbarous pride.
There huge colosses rose, with trophies crown'd,
And Runic characters were graved around:
There sat Zamolxis with erected eyes,
And Odin here in mimic trances dies.
There on rude iron columns, smear'd with blood,
The horrid forms of Scythian heroes stood,
Druids and bards, (their once loud harps unstrung)
And youths that died to be by poets sung.
These and a thousand more of doubtful fame,
To whom old fables gave a lasting name,
In ranks adorn'd the temple's outward face;
The wall in lustre and effect like glass,
Which o'er each object casting various dyes,
Enlarges some, and others multiplies:
Nor void of emblem was the mystic wall,
For thus romantic Fame increases all.
The temple shakes, the sounding gates unfold,
Wide vaults appear, and roofs of fretted gold,
Raised on a thousand pillars, wreath'd around
With laurel foliage, and with eagles crown'd:
Of bright transparent beryl were the walls,
The friezes gold, and gold the capitals:
As heaven with stars, the roof with jewels glows,
And ever-living lamps depend in rows.
Full in the passage of each spacious gate,
The sage historians in white garments wait;
Graved o'er their seats the form of Time was found,
His scythe reversed, and both his pinions bound.
Within stood heroes, who through loud alarms
In bloody fields pursued renown in arms.
High on a throne, with trophies charged, I view'd The youth that all things but himself subdued; His feet on sceptres and tiaras trod,
And his horn'd head belied the Libyan god.
There Cæsar, graced with both Minervas, shone;
Cæsar, the world's great master, and his own;
Unmoved, superior still in every state,
And scarce detested in his country's fate.
But chief were those who not for empire fought,
But with their toils their people's safety bought :
High o'er the rest Epaminondas stood;
Timoleon, glorious in his brother's blood;
Bold Scipio, saviour of the Roman state,
Great in his triumphs, in retirement great;
And wise Aurelius, in whose well-taught mind
With boundless power unbounded virtue join'd,
His own strict judge, and patron of mankind.
Much-suffering heroes next their honours claim,
Those of less noisy and less guilty fame,
Fair Virtue's silent train; supreme of these,
Here ever shines the godlike Socrates:
He whom ungrateful Athens could expel,
At all times just, but when he signed the shell:
Here his abode the martyr'd Phocion claims,
With Agis, not the last of Spartan names:
Unconquer'd Cato shows the wound he tore,
And Brutus his ill genius meets no more.
But in the centre of the hallow'd choir,
Six pompous columns o'er the rest aspire;
Around the shrine itself of Fame they stand,
Hold the chief honours, and the fane command.
High on the first the mighty Homer shone;
Eternal adamant composed his throne;
Father of verse! in holy fillets dress'd,
His silver beard waved gently o'er his breast;