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But yet whose very memory, strong and clear,
Exalts, ennobles this terrestrial sphere.
The while young nations panting strive to tread
In the bright burning footsteps of the dead !
And still the nearer they to these advance,
The nobler shine in proud predominance;
My thought-my rushing thought was then of all
That on this earth most startling can befall,
The blight of nations and their overthrow,
The eclipse and wreck of mens' best hopes below;
The ordained decay of princeliest Dynasties,
And of ignoble names the astounding rise ;
Unknown, unblazoned, and unechoed names,
That on man's expectations had no claims,
Yet rose at once to rouse the world from sleep,
To make all earth one echo, long and deep!
Of scythed war's sharp trouble and fierce stir;
Of those great changes that at times occur,
And seem to unhinge the eternal Order then,
And bring a wilder Chaos back again;
And with a dread officiousness to outrun
The march of Time, the progress of the Sun !
My thought was of black threatenings, dire events-
Of stern atchievements, yet more stern intents-
Ambition and its aims, its deeds, and dooms;
The myriads weltering in their steaming tombs,
And in their earth-framed clayey coffins closed
(Their mangled limbs by no kind hands composed)
Down-soldered with their own black stiffened gore ;
They who the harness of the battle bore,
And, lion-like, press’d on in stormy strength,
Helpless as weakling babes to fall at length.
Those myriads swept, like leaves, from earth’s broad plain,
Scatter'd, effaced, like drops of April rain,
Because one man was reckless and was vain!
Of the fierce clash of aims and interests here,
Or wild illusions that as such appear;
For wisdom knows-despite each adverse claim,
Mankind's best interests still must prove the same!
Yet those are found who with rash zeal perverse,
From emulation's heat wring discord's curse.
What! shall high heaven in vain point out our path,
And seek to lead from blood stain'd ways of wrath?
Experience, history, ages, rainly teach,
The good of all must be the good of each?
My thought was of man's wild distempered moods,
Of destiny's most dire vicissitudes,
Of Pride, Power, Fortune, Victory, Glory, Fame,
Of all that risks a soul, and rears a name !
Man's littleness at even his loftiest height,
His weakness in his hour of proudest might,
His tendency to sink and fall away,
(Too much the vassal of the o'ermastering clay);
Even in the zenith of his power or zeal,
While one dire error clouds his splendid weal !
His countless faulterings in his upwards flight,
On all he claims his tenure faint and slight;
From wisdom and from truth, from good and right
His frail infirm secession, while drawn on
By many-faced Temptation till undone!
Twas of disastrous chances, stern and dread,
Of all by which is gender’d, wrought, and fed,
The awe of dizzy admiration; fear
And wild astonishment, profound and drear,
Chiefly of that dread hand of Providence
Traced throughout all things, though in strange suspense
They seem to rest or vibrate for awhile,
Till Heaven doth vindicate itself and aisle
In its great temple of this world beneath,
Its glorious attributes—then deigns to sheathe
(While all things in regenerate order move)
Vengeance in mercy, majesty in love;
Power infinite, in yet more infinite grace,
That can all crimes absolve, all wrongs efface !
Heaven's crown'd Omnipotencies walk abroad,
And meet us ever on our earthly road;
But we, familiar with those glories grown,
Pass on, intent on life's poor schemes alone,
Till in some startling and o'erwhelming hour,
We quail before the outburst of its power.
When terror reigns with undivided sway,
And nations shudder with a sick dismay;
When wild distress o'erclouds all minds with gloom,
And common things new attributes assume.
My thought was of all mysteries of our fate,
All miseries man doth for himself create;
All terrors, and all triumphs, and all woes,
All harsh oppressions which this doom'd earth knows:
Of desperate feuds and blood-stain’d anarchies,
And ground-born tempests thund'ring up the skies
Of fortune's varying course, and freaks of change;
Of dread catastrophes, austere and strange;
Of wond'rous retributions—dooms of fear;
And dark ordeals and expiations drear,-
Of judgments stern, and visitations sore,
And wild vicissitudes unknown before;
Of earth's proud Sovereignties Imperial, made
The spoils and appanage of one array'd
gory stole of victory's stern success,
A dreaded name, but an adored no less,
By those oft marshall’d to red conquest's field,
-The veteran heroes, long untaught to yield-
By him the Suzerain of the Sceptred! him,
Before whose star all others there wax'd dim !
My thought was of bow'd thrones and shatter'd shrines,
Of marvels, and of mysteries, and designs,
Vasty and strange—of venturous enterprise,
And royal, proud, stupendous Pageantries,
Outgoing all of
pomp that yet had been,
Yet vanishing like vapours from the scene !
Of desperate tribulations, shuddering round-
Convulsions fierce, calamities profound-
Of all things startling, and of all things strange,
Beyond imagination's wildest range!
Of greatness at its greatest foild, and thrust
From its starr'd pinnacle to rayless dust;
Of proud exemptions, and resistance proud
Of those who Heaven's protecting grace avow'd,
And sought and found in sheltering Providence,
Their first, their surest, and their best defence !
Who made not forts nor armaments their boast,
Nor wholly trusted in the embattled host,
But bow'd, meek suppliants, at the Eternal's shrine,
With prayer and sacrifice—for help divine;
Then far and free the unconquer'd flag unfurld,
back freedom to the fetter'd world!
My thought was of imperial festivals,
Of haughty revels in old regal halls,
Usurp'd from princely masters, where display'd
The spoils and trophies of the invaller, made
All ancient shows of ostentation fade;
Of all earth's grandeurs, all earth’s glories blent,
In one triumphal blaze magnificent.
Of thrones, and principalities, and powers,
And dazzling splendours such as proudly showers
The day-god round him, in his brightest hours;
Of all that mighty and mysterious Fate
Can shape or grant, of glorious and of great !-
Since still I thought on that lorn woman's son,
And she-was MOTHER OF NAPOLEON!
A VISIT TO MADAME LETITIA, MOTHER OF
NAPOLEON, MAY 26Th, 1834. The foregoing, theme, being full of interest, and the poetical sketch necessarily imperfect, I cannot resist the