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For prompt and mutual aid,

Expected and accorded in the stress

And peril of the war that all must wage;
One in whose sight

To arm the hand of man against his brother,
Spread snares and stumbling blocks

For mutual injury,

Not less infatuate seems than in a camp
Beleaguered, pressed, at hottest of the fight,
If the defenders, careless of the foe,

On their own soldiers levied hateful war
And sought with fire and sword

Their friends to overthrow.*

When thoughts like these, made clear,

Shine forth apparent to the general mind,
And that first dread of Nature which combined
Mortals in social bonds shall have returned,
In part, through wisdom learned;

Then civil intercourse upright and fair,
Justice and piety, will have some root
Better than haughty myths tradition feigns,
Whereon much public probity is based

With such security as all may see

That which on error stands elsewhere attains.

Oft on this barren shore

Clad as in mourning by the lava's flow,

That still a wavelike motion seems to show,

I sit at night, and, o'er this wilderness,

Austere and cultureless,

See the clear stars in deeps

Of purest blue come forth,

Whereto the sea her mirror turns below;

And in this glittering sphere

Our universe appear,

And vast serene of heaven, and all aglow.
Then, on these lights I gaze which to my eyes
Are only specks, although in truth so great
That land and sea with such
Compared, seem but a speck;
To whom man and this globe,
Where man himself is nought,

1. 71, Bk. II, 'The Task.'

And 'tis but seemly that, where all deserve
And stand exposed by common peccancy

To what no few have felt, there should be peace,
And brethren in calamity should love.

Are both alike unknown:

And when I see

Those yet again endless and more remote
Clusters or knots of stars,*

Each like a filmy cloud

To us, for whom not man, nor earth alone,
But all summed up in one,

The greater stars, the nearer heavenly host,
And golden sun

Exist not, or but seem

As they to us a point of nebulous light—

O poor humanity,

What art thou in my sight!

When, further, I but think

On thy estate below,

Here imaged in the clod beneath my feet,

How, on the other hand,

Thou wouldst be lord and ultimate aim of all,

Fabling so often, as thy pleasure is,

That on this grain of sand

Which 'Earth' we call

The authors of the universe came down

For thy behoof, and talked familiarly

With thee in human guise

How, too, this age which others would excel
In manners and a true regard of things,
Renewing idle tales, insults the wise:

What thought of thee, unhappy race of man,
What feeling, at the last, my heart assails?
I know not whether pity or scorn prevails.
As when at autumn, on the happy dwelling
Of an ant-nation-in the crumbling glebe
Hollowed with art and toil, competitive,
By this assiduous race,

And providently stored against the cold—
From some high tree a little apple falling,
By ripeness and no other cause brought down,
Breaks, shatters and deforms it at a blow;
So, deluging from the dark sky above,
All suddenly, ruin and night conjoined,
Stones, pumice, cinders, streams of liquid fire
Shot upward by the mountains thund'rous womb

* 1. 214, Bk. III, 'The Task.'

I cannot analyse the air, nor catch

The parallax of yonder luminous point

That seems half quenehed in the immense abyss.

Into heaven's vault on high

Or, overflowing down her flanks, immense
A flood of molten metal, burning sand,*

Over the tender grass

Descended furiously,

And those bright cities by the sea that stood
On the land's furthest verge, in little space
Crushed, covered and consumed.

Above them now the goat

Browses at will; there other cities stand
To which the buried are but as the soil,
And on the prostrate ruin at her foot
The giant mountain treads as if in pride.
Truly no better care,

Or tenderness has Nature for the seed
Of man than for the breed

Of ants, whom she esteems

Like him, no more nor less.†

And if such carnage be indeed more rare

For man than for the ant, that puny race
Than ours more fruitful seems.

Full eighteen hundred years

Have passed since vanished thus,

By force of fire o'erthrown these populous seats;
And still the villager who heedful rears

His vines, to which on these gaunt fields

The parched and lifeless soil with drudgery yields
Poor nourishment, raises an anxious eye

To that dark summit, in no way appeased,
Still terrible, still menacing to pour
Ruin and death on him, his little ones,
And their scant household store!

Often the jaded hind

All night lies sleepless, starting up at times
To pace the ground, or from his hovel's roof,

Two forms of activity on the part of the volcano are here indicated. Burning material was thrown up into the sky and then descended in a fiery hail on the district. Lava also overflowed from the brink of the crater and poured down like a sea of fire to the coast.

L. was well acquainted with Pope whose somewhat similar lines may

recar to the reader:

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And now a bubble burst, and now a world.'

* Accurately 1757 years at the date of the poem. A.D. 79 was the year of

the eruption.

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In the hot wind,

Watch the descending track

Of the dread current, seething, that o'erflows

From the exhaustless womb

Adown the ash strewn back,

And burns, and glows,

Shining afar o'er Caprian sea and land,
Naples, the port, and Mergellina's strand.
Then if he see it near,

Or, from the bottom of the cottage well
Ever a sound can hear

Of water bubbling up,

In haste he wakes his children, wakes his wife,
With all that they can carry,

swift! away!

And fleeing, sees far off his little field

And dear familiar nest,

Their sole resource from want,

Become the prey

Of the devouring flood,

Inexorable, that hissing glides along

And spreads itself o'er all, enduringly.
Returns Pompeii, dead, to the heaven's light
After oblivion of the ages flown,

As from the earth a buried skeleton,
Which piety or greed† has disinterred,
Comes forth to open day;

And in the desolate Forum where he stands
Mid rows of columns broken or o'erthrown,

The traveller from strange lands

Gazes aloft at the divided steep,t

And smoking crest,


That threaten still the ruins round him strewed.
There, in the dread uncertain hour of night,§
Through empty theatres, disfigured shrines,

And houses rent in twain,

Where the bat hides her brood,

The solicitude of the poor man for his children is here contrasted

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§ At this point Dr Garnett's criticism comes to mind: 'In L.'s later d his horizon seemed to expand.... La Ginestra, inspired by the hardy humble Broom-plant flourishing on the brink of the lava-fields of Vesuv is more original in conception and ampler in sweep than any of predecessors.'

Like a funereal torch

Through silent palaces that flickering goes

Wanders the ominous lava's mournful gleam
And, reddening in the darkness from afar
Tints dimly all around.

Thus ignorant of man and of the ages
That he calls ancient, ignorant of all

The sons who follow as their grandsires led,

Stands Nature ever young

Or rather she proceeds, but by so long
A course she seems to stand.

Meanwhile the kingdoms fall,

Peoples decay, their languages are lost;
She sees it not; yet of Eternity

Man proudly makes his boast.

And thou that with thy fragrant woods adornest
These wasted lands, gentle Ginestra, thou

Must also yield to the relentless sway

Of the dread power beneath

Who, to the accustomed place
Returning, soon will spread

Over each downy spray

Her ravenous mantle's verge.

Under that mortal burden thou wilt bow

Thine innocent and unresisting head;
Not meanly bent to supplicate in vain,
Ere it shall be the oppressor of that hour;
Not led by pride to seek

Vainly the stars, nor scornful of the waste
Where, not thy will, but fortune placed
Being and birth for thee, that art indeed
Wiser than man, less weak

In this-thou deemest not thy feeble flower
Immortal made by Fate, or thine own power.


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Or rather she proceeds.' 'This is a correction or explanation of “stands," It means; she does not stand still, she advances; her path is, however, so limitless that the movement is indiscernible' (Straccali's note) (eg. The 'fixed' stars).

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