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POMPEII AND HERCULANEUM. Friedrich Schiller

POMPEII AND HERCULANEUM

   What wonder this?-we ask the lympid well,
   O earth! of thee-and from thy solemn womb
   What yieldest thou?-is there life in the abyss-
   Doth a new race beneath the lava dwell? 
   Returns the past, awakening from the tomb? 
   Rome-Greece!-Oh, come!-Behold-behold! for this! 
   Our living world-the old Pompeii sees;
   And built anew the town of Dorian Hercules! 
   House upon house-its silent halls once more
   Opes the broad portico!-Oh, haste and fill
   Again those halls with life!-Oh, pour along
   Through the seven-vista’d theatre the throng! 
   Where are ye, mimes?-Come forth, the steel prepare
   For crowned Atrides, or Orestes haunt,
   Ye choral Furies, with your dismal chant! 
   The arch of triumph!-whither leads it?-still
   Behold the forum!-on the curule chair
   Where the majestic image?  Lictors, where
   Your solemn fasces?-Place upon his throne
   The Praetor-here the witness lead, and there
   Bid the accuser stand

                 -O God! how lone
   The clear streets glitter in the quiet day-
   The footpath by the doors winding its lifeless way! 
   The roofs arise in shelter, and around
   The desolate Atrium-every gentle room
   Wears still the dear familiar smile of home! 
   Open the doors-the shops-on dreary night
   Let lusty day laugh down in jocund light!

See the trim benches ranged in order!-See
The marble-tesselated floor-and there
The very walls are glittering livingly
With their clear colors.  But the artist, where! 
Sure but this instant he hath laid aside
Pencil and colors!-Glittering on the eye
Swell the rich fruits, and bloom the flowers!-See all
Art’s gentle wreaths still fresh upon the wall! 
Here the arch Cupid slyly seems to glide
By with bloom-laden basket.  There the shapes
Of genii press with purpling feet the grapes,
Here springs the wild Bacchante to the dance,
And there she sleeps [while that voluptuous trance
Eyes the sly faun with never-sated glance]
Now on one knee upon the centaur-steeds
Hovering-the Thyrsus plies.-Hurrah!-away she speeds!

Come-come, why loiter ye?-Here, here, how fair
The goodly vessels still!  Girls, hither turn,
Fill from the fountain the Etruscan urn! 
On the winged sphinxes see the tripod.-
Ho! 
Quick-quick, ye slaves, come-fire!-the hearth prepare! 
Ha! wilt thou sell?-this coin shall pay thee-this,
Fresh from the mint of mighty Titus!-Lo! 
Here lie the scales, and not a weight we miss
So-bring the light!  The delicate lamp!-what toil
Shaped thy minutest grace!-quick pour the oil! 
Yonder the fairy chest!-come, maid, behold
The bridegroom’s gifts-the armlets-they are gold,
And paste out-feigning jewels!-lead the bride
Into the odorous bath-lo! unguents still-
And still the crystal vase the arts for beauty fill!

   But where the men of old-perchance a prize
   More precious yet in yon papyrus lies,
   And see ev’n still the tokens of their toil-
   The waxen tablets-the recording style. 
   The earth, with faithful watch, has hoarded all! 
   Still stand the mute penates in the hall;
   Back to his haunts returns each ancient god. 
   Why absent only from their ancient stand
   The priests?-waves Hermes his Caducean rod,
   And the winged victory struggles from the hand. 
   Kindle the flame-behold the altar there! 
   Long hath the god been worshipless-to prayer.


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