Oh, come to Rome, it is a pleasant place,
Your London sun is here seen shining brightly;
The Briton, too, puts on a cheery face,
And Mrs. Bull is suave and even sprightly.
The Romans are a kind and cordial race,
The women charming, if one takes them rightly;
I see them at their doors, as day is closing,
More proud than duchesses,—and more imposing.
A far niente life promotes the graces;
They pass from dreamy bliss to wakeful glee,
And in their bearing and their speech one traces
A breadth of grace and depth of courtesy
That are not found in more inclement places;
Their clime and tongue seem much in harmony:
The Cockney met in Middlesex, or Surrey,
Is often cold—and always in a hurry.
Though far niente is their passion, they
Seem here most eloquent in things most slight;
No matter what it is they have to say,
The manner always sets the matter right:
And when they've plagued or pleased you all the day,
They sweetly wish you 'a most happy night'.
Then, if they fib, and if their stories tease you,
'Tis always something that they've wished to please you!
Oh, come to Rome, nor be content to read
Alone of stately palaces and streets
Whose fountains ever run with joyful speed,
And never-ceasing murmur. Here one meets
Great Memnon's monoliths, or, gay with weed,
Rich capitals, as corner-stones, or seats,
The sites of vanished temples, where now moulder
Old ruins, hiding ruin even older.
Ay, come, and see the pictures, statues, churches,
Although the last are commonplace, or florid.—
Some say 'tis here that superstition perches,
Myself I'm glad the marbles have been quarried.
The sombre streets are worthy your researches:
The ways are foul, the lava pavement's horrid,
But pleasant sights, that squeamishness disparages,
Are missed by all who roll about in carriages.
About one fane I deprecate all sneering,
For during Christmas-time I went there daily,
Amused, or edified, or both, by hearing
The little preachers of the Ara Coeli.
Conceive a four-year-old bambina rearing
Her small form on a rostrum,—tricked out gaily,
And lisping, what for doctrine may be frightful,
With action quite dramatic and delightful.
Oh come! We'll charter such a pair of nags!
The country's better seen when one is riding:
We'll roam where yellow Tiber speeds or lags
At will. The aqueducts are yet bestriding
With giant march (now whole, now broken crags
With flowers plumed) the swelling and subsiding
Campagna, girt by purple hills, afar,—
That melt in light beneath the evening star.
A drive to Palestrina will be pleasant;
The wild fig grows where erst her turrets stood;
There oft, in goat-skins clad, a sunburnt peasant
Like Pan comes frisking from his ilex wood,
And seems to wake the past time in the present.
Fair contadina, mark his mirthful mood,
No antique satyr he. The nimble fellow
Can join with jollity your salterello.
Old sylvan peace and liberty! The breath
Of life to unsophisticated man.
Here Mirth may pipe, here Love may weave his wreath,
Per dar' al mio bene. When you can,
Come share their leafy solitudes. Grim Death
And Time are grudging of Life's little span:
Wan Time speeds lightly o'er the waving corn,
Death grins from yonder cynical old thorn.
I dare not speak of Michael Angelo—
Such theme were all too splendid for my pen:
And if I breathe the name of Sanzio
(The brightest of Italian gentlemen),
It is that love casts out my fear, and so
I claim with him a kindredship. Ah, when
We love, the name is on our hearts engraven,
As is thy name, my own dear Bard of Avon!
Nor is the Coliseum theme of mine,
'Twas built for poet of a larger daring;
The world goes there with torches, I decline
Thus to affront the moonbeams with their flaring.
Some day in May our forces we'll combine
(Just you and I), and try a midnight airing,
And then I'll quote this rhyme to you—and then
You'll muse upon the vanity of men!
Oh, come! I send a leaf of tender fern,
'Twas plucked where Beauty lingers round decay:
The ashes buried in a sculptured urn
Are not more dead than Rome—so dead to-day!
That better time, for which the patriots yearn,
Enchants the gaze, again to fade away.
They wait and pine for what is long denied,
And thus I wait till thou art by my side.
Thou'rt far away! Yet, while I write, I still
Seem gently, Sweet, to press thy hand in mine;
I cannot bring myself to drop the quill,
I cannot yet thy little hand resign!
The plain is fading into darkness chill,
The Sabine peaks are flushed with light divine,
I watch alone, my fond thought wings to thee;
Oh, come to Rome—oh come, oh come to me!