Marble Quarries

ONE by one pale forms of beauty,
Which so long in darkness lay,
Have been summoned from their caverns
To the adoring light of day.
Gods, for many vast Olympiads,
Rested here in snowy sleep,
Record of whose grim awaking
No historic pages keep.
Through insensate sunless æons,
Niobe for Scopas wept;
And the fingers of Apollo
On his lyre of marble slept.
Here the Dying Gladiator
Lived eternities of pain,
While the Cnidian Aphrodite
All her charms revealed in vain.
Here the priestly Trojan struggled
In the snake’s eternal rings,
Typing Ormuzd, and Osiris,
And the God whom Milton sings; —
Julius and the Young Augustus;
Proserpine, with Egypt’s Dream;
Near the mighty Galilean,
Sophists of the Academe, —
Flashing out in ghostly whiteness,
Trembling like a vesper bell
On the soul of Phidias, dreaming,
Or where Myron’s mantle fell.
So the dazzled Tuscan, gazing,
Saw, where Sinai’s glory shone
From the lightning-veiled Jehovah,
Moses, in his tomb of stone.
But there is one solemn chamber,
Which has been forever locked ;
Though its portal would have opened,
Had angelic Michel knocked.
Shade of Buonarotti ! Fondly
Seek that cavern’s marble keep,
Where, with face upturned, our martyr
Lies in pale and dreamless sleep.
Nothing of the Roman toga,
Or the world’s forgotten dress,
Drapes his figure, all unclassic
Save its garb of commonness.
Something of the Roman Lictor,
In that presence, is revealed
By the axe, so long uplifted
For those giant arms to wield.
Classic as the blacksmith apron,
Which the hosts of Persia bore,
Time will make that booted woodman.
And the hunting-shirt he wore.
Gently break his marble slumber ;
Place him in our central land,
With the title earned by labor,
And its sceptre in his hand !
Show the lines of care and travail,
Wrinkling patient eyes and brow
Like the oxen’s in the furrow,
Toiling wiser than they trow,—
Eyes of seer, whose prophet vision
Saw Virginia’s gallows-tree
Shaping, through the smoke of cannon
To a dream of Galilee.
Through his roughly nurtured features
Let a childlike sweetness play!
So the Godlight filled the stable
Where the Babe of Mary lay.
Carve those lips, whose inspiration,
Like Isaiah’s psalm and sigh,
Thrilled us when the ghosts of armies,
On their burial-field, passed by.
Throne the Anointed of the people,
Clasped and folded to their heart
For his homely grace, demanding
Grand embodiment in art.
Crown him with the nation’s sorrow !
Diadem him with her stars !
Wreathe below, with black men’s muskets,
Treason’s gonfalon of bars.
Time’s Avenger! He has waited —
With the axe uplifted — long,
While the Upas grew, which, falling,
Crashed through centuries of wrong.