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THIS last hill top indeed a noble gulf
Reveals ! How call you it? The gulf of Spezzia. Yon mountain that its darkling serrate peaks Thrusts far into the sky, is near Carrara : The further snowy range is Apennine. Now by this road with zigzag traverses And turns abrupt, through ancient olive groves, And graceful champaign thick with leafy rows Of tall elms married to festooning vines, Smoothly we drop into the plain, and now Are come to Spezzia ; where the peasant girls Surmount their brows with pigmy bats of straw, Scarce half a span in width. At Spezzia, he That feels, may hourly, without seeking, find Ecstatic themes for pencil or for pen, For they will come to him. But
These were the shores the Corsican, with aim To make a foot-ball of the world, pricked down Upon the outspread map, and said, they shall Have greatness thrust upon
them : navies launched
From Spezzia's arsenals shall in thunder walk
The ocean: wealth and power shall circle thence,
As from the heart of empire without bound !
Words as resultless as the flagging breeze,
That ends in silence. But our converse here
Should be, methinks, with nature. Let us float
To where, a natural prodigy! a fresh
Unfathomed water-spring, some cables' lengths
From shore, a fountain broken up
The everlasting bases of the hills,
Bursts upwards in a column through the sea,
Yet with the briny flood is scarcely mixed,
Raised in a glassy convex visibly,
Above the surface of the vexed salt stream.
Turn now this way. By yonder narrow creek The savage Magra pours his torrent flood Into the bay: and further yet (your eyes Are good) among the cliffs you may descry The fishing town Lerici; once the home Of hapless Shelley. Well his tale is known, So touching, and so touchingly disclosed
By her with whom the mellow grief survives :
But it is good to dwell upon
it here. Here in his bauble boat the
breeze that blew ; rode still afloat
At morn, and eve, or weltering at mid-day;
And with imaginative soul drank in
The inspiration of Italian skies.
Oft paddled to some cavern in the rocks
By moonlight, on the calm phosphoric sea,
There to pour out melodious verse, what time
The village girls, half sea-maids, wildly sang
To the reverberant rocks, strange madrigals,
Or footed in the surf their gamesome rounds.
Fearless, one summer-morn he left the bay
For the wide ocean, and with
Sailed to Livorno: but on his return,
By those who stood on shore, a thunder-cloud
Enveloping the ocean like a pall,
Was seen to blot his vessel from all view.
It passed off, and he was not : not a speck,
Howe'er minute, was on the ocean: 0
The heart-sickening hours for those who watched for him
With chill forebodings, and with fluttering hearts !
There lay the uniform blank of sea, that gave
No certain tidings ! but left ample place
For miserable doubt, report, and hope
Beyond all hope: the spot alone was marked
Where he was last seen on the purple sea.*
But soon the truth was manifest. His corse
Was washed on shore. His boat was after found
In twice five fathom sunk. But here the tale
Ends not. Perhaps the law's severity
That from dire pestilence defends this coast
To you may be unknown. The public weal
Requires it, and so runs the law's decree,
(In truth, severer seeming than is need,)
That all things cast on shore be straight consumed
To ashes, and be scattered to the winds.
And thus the rites of burial were denied
To one, a Briton, in a foreign land
Untimely dead. And they who loved him best,
By supplications and unwearied prayers,
Hardly prevailed to wrest the stubborn law
Aside thus far, a bare permission gaining
To gather up his ashes. A dear friend
Lighted the funeral pile, and the remains
Collected. And when all at length was done,
In self-devoted friendship, how unfeigned !
He came with scorched and blistered hands, and stood
Before her, who a wife's most grievous loss
Bewailed, and to her charge the casket gave
That held all left on earth of one so dear.
I knew not Shelley; but if e'er the gift
Of song on mortal was bestowed, 'twas his.
Often and often have his melodies,
Sweeter than music heard in morning dreams,
Drawn down my cheeks refined luxurious tears.
I will no more. His
His ashes, gathered in a golden urn,
Repose at Rome, by Cestius' pyramid,
In a sweet spot where earliest violets blow,
Which you, I hope, will visit soon with me.
But the sun sinks apace; and in the east Mysteriously the snowy Apennines, With unimaginable tints of gray, Come out upon the sky emblazoned o'er With the reflection of his western throne, Waited upon by flaming ministers. The universal canopy of heaven Is flecked with fire; cold lies the earth beneath ; But under such a firmament, how fair!