Italy : 23. Bologna

'Twas night; the noise and bustle of the day
Were o'er. The mountebank no longer wrought
Miraculous cures -- he and his stage were gone;
And he who, when the crisis of his tale
Came, and all stood breathless with hope and fear,
Sent round his cap; and he who thrummed his wire
And sang, with pleading look and plaintive strain
Melting the passenger. Thy thousand Cries,
So well portrayed, and by a son of thine,
Whose voice had swelled the hubbub in his youth,
Were hushed, Bologna, silence in the streets,
The squares, when hark, the clattering of fleet hoofs;
And soon a Courier, posting as from far,
And doublet, stained with many a various soil,
Stopt and alighted. 'Twas where hangs aloft
That ancient sign, the pilgrim, welcoming
All who arrive there, all perhaps save those
Clad like himself, with staff and scallop-shell,
Those on a pilgrimage. And now approached
Wheels, through the lofty porticoes resounding,
Arch beyond arch, a shelter or a shade
As the sky changes. To the gate they came;
And, ere the man had half his story done,
Mine host received the Master -- one long used
To sojourn among strangers, every where
(Go where he would, along the wildest track)
Flinging a charm that shall not soon be lost,
And leaving footsteps to be traced by those
Who love the haunts of Genius; one who saw,
Observed, nor shunned the busy scenes of life,
But mingled not, and 'mid the din, the stir,
Lived as a separate Spirit.
Much had passed
Since last we parted; and those five short years --
Much had they told! His clustering locks were turned
Grey; nor did aught recall the Youth that swam
From Sestos to Abydos. Yet his voice,
Still it was sweet; still from his eye the thought
Flashed lightning-like, nor lingered on the way,
Waiting for words. Far, far into the night
We sat, conversing -- no unwelcome hour,
The hour we met; and, when Aurora rose,
Rising, we climbed the rugged Apennine.
Well I remembered how the golden sun
Filled with its beams the unfathomable gulfs,
As on we travelled, and along the ridge,
'Mid groves of cork and cistus and wild-fig,
His motley household came -- Not last nor least,
Battista, who, pon the moon-light sea
Of Venice, had so ably, zealously,
Served, and, at parting, thrown his oar away
To follow thro' the world; who without stain
Had worn so long that honourable badge
The gondolier's, in a Patrician House
Arguing unlimited trust. -- Not last nor least,
Thou, tho' declining in thy beauty and strength,
Faithful Moretto, to the latest hour
Guarding his chamber-door, and now along
The silent, sullen strand of Missolonghi
Howling in grief.
He had just left that Place
Of old renown, once in the Adrian sea,
Ravenna! where, from Dante's sacred tomb
He had so oft, as many a verse declares,
Drawn inspiration; where, at twilight-time,
Thro' the pine-forest wandering with loose rein,
Wandering and lost, he had so oft beheld
(What is not visible to a Poet's eye?)
The spectre-knight, the hell-hounds, and their prey,
The chase, the slaughter, and the festal mirth
Suddenly blasted. 'Twas a theme he loved,
But others claimed their turn; and many a tower,
Shattered, uprooted from its native rock,
Its strength the pride of some heroic age,
Appeared and vanished (many a sturdy steer
Yoked and unyoked) while as in happier days
He poured his spirit forth. The past forgot,
All was enjoyment. Not a cloud obscured
Present or future.
He is now at rest;
And praise and blame fall on his ear alike,
Now dull in death. Yes, Byron, thou art gone,
Gone like a star that thro' the firmament
Shot and was lost, in its eccentric course
Dazzling, perplexing. Yet thy heart, methinks,
Was generous, noble -- noble in its scorn
Of all things low and little; nothing there
Sordid or servile. If imagined wrongs
Pursued thee, urging thee sometimes to do
Things long regretted, oft, as many know,
None more than I, thy gratitude would build
On slight foundations; and, if in thy life
Not happy, in thy death thou surely wert,
Thy wish accomplished; dying in the land
Where thy young mind had caught ethereal fire,
Dying in Greece, and in a cause so glorious!
They in thy train -- ah, little did they think
As round we went, that they so soon should sit
Mourning beside thee, while a Nation mourned,
Changing her festal for her funeral song;
They that so soon should hear the minute-gun,
As morning gleamed on what remained of thee,
Roll o'er the sea, the mountains, numbering
Thy years of joy and sorrow.
Thou art gone;
And he who would assail thee in thy grave,
Oh, let him pause! For who among us all,
Tried as thou wert -- even from thine earliest years,
When wandering, yet unspoilt, a highland-boy --
Tried as thou wert, and with thy soul of flame;
Pleasure, while yet the down was on thy cheek,
Uplifting, pressing, and to lips like thine,
Her charmed cup -- ah, who among us all
Could say he had not erred as much, and more?

by Samuel Rogers

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