At Syracuse

ALL day my mule with patient tread
Had moved along the plain,
Now o’er the lava’s ashen bed,
Now through the sprouting grain,
Across the torrent’s rocky lair,
Beneath the aloe-hedge,
Where yellow broom makes sweet the air,
And waves the purple sedge.
Lone were the hills, save where supine
The dozing goatherd lay,
Or, at a rude and broken shrine,
The peasant knelt to pray ;
Or where athwart the distant blue
Thin saffron clouds ascend,
As Carbonari, hid from view,
Their smouldering embers tend.
Luxuriant vale or sterile reach,
A mountain temple-crowned
Or inland curve of glistening beach,
The changeful scene surround ;
While scarlet poppies burning near,
And citrons’ emerald gleam,
Make barren intervals appear
Dim lapses of a dream.
How meekly o’er the meadows gay
The azure flax-blooms spread !
What fragrance on the breeze of May
The almond-blossoms shed !
Wide-branching fig-trees deck the fields
Or round the quarries cling,
And cactus-stalks, with thorny shields,
In wild contortions spring.
Here groves of cork dusk shadows throw,
There vine-leaves lightsome sway,
While chestnut-plumes serenely glow
Above the olives gray ;
Tall pines upon the sloping meads
Their sylvan domes uprear,
And rankly the papyrus-reeds
Low cluster in the mere.
And Syracuse with pensive mien,
In solitary pride,
Like an untamed, but throneless queen,
Crouched by the lucent tide ;
With honeyed thyme still Hybla teemed,
Its scent each zephyr bore,
And Arethusa’s fountain gleamed
Pellucid as of yore.
Methought, upstarting from his bath,
Old Archimedes cried,
“ Eureka! ” in my silent path,
Whose echoes long replied ;
That Pythias, in the sunset-glow,
Rushed by to Damon’s arms,
While from the Tyrant’s Cave below
Moaned impotent alarms.
And where upon a sculptured stone
The ruined arch beside,
A hoary, bronzed, and wrinkled crone
The twirling distaff plied,—
Love with exalted Reason fraught
In Plato’s accents came,
And Truth by Paul sublimely taught
Relumed her virgin flame.
The ancient sepulchres that rose
Along the voiceless street
Time’s myriad vistas seemed to close
And bid life’s waves retreat,—
As if intrusive footsteps stole
Beyond their mortal sphere,
And felt the awed and eager soul
Immortal comrades near.
The moss-grown ramparts loom in sight
Like warders of the deep,
Where, flushed with evening’s amber light,
The havened waters sleep ;
Unfurrowed by a Roman keel
Or Carthaginian oar,
The speared and burnished galleys now
Their slumber break no more.
But when the distant convent-bell,
Ere Day’s last smiles depart,
With mellow cadence pleading fell
Upon my brooding heart, —
And Memory’s phantoms thick and fast
Their fond illusions bred,
From peerless spirits of the past,
And wrecks of ages fled, —
Joy broke the spell; an emblem blest
That lonely harbor cheered :
As if to greet her pilgrim guest,
My country’s flag appeared !
Its radiant folds auroral streamed
Amid that haunted air,
And every star prophetic beamed
With Freedom’s triumph there !