At Rome.

What came we forth to see ?  a prima donna1
Caressed and fêted by an idle crowd ?2
Or would we do some favoured princeling honour3
That thus we herd so close, and talk so loud ?4
Pushing and struggling, fighting, crushing, shouting,5
What are these motley gazers here to seek,6
Like merry-makers on a summer outing ?7
’Tis but the services of Holy Week.8
The pious Romans thank the Virgin Mary,9
For pockets heavy and for feelings light ;10
And most devoutly mulct the forestieri11
Of a round number of strange coins per night.12
The Eternal City swarms with eager strangers13
From every quarter of the busy earth ;14
Who fill the temples, like the money-changers,15
And say some prayers—for what they may be worth.16
In never-ending tide of restless motion,17
They come to burn, in fashion rather odd,18
The incense of their polyglot devotion,19
Before the altars of the Latin God.20
As flock the Londoners to Epsom races,21
Or form a “ queue” to see the newest play,22
So do the pilgrim-tourists fight for places23
Before the chapels in their zeal to pray.24
From holy place to holy place they flit,25
To “ do” as many churches as they can ;26
And humbly kneeling, for the fun of it,27
They climb the staircase of the Lateran.28
Here a fair maid from melancholy * Erin,—29
Where by Swiss bayonets the way is barred,30
Nor Heaven, nor Pope, nor Antonelli fearing,—31
Breaks through the lines of the astonished guard.32

* The epithet rests, it will be remembered, on high authority.
In customary suit of solemn black,33
With string of beads and veil à l’Espagnole,34
She means to “ see it all;” to keep her back35
Would be to peril her immortal soul.36
There a slim youth, while all but he are kneeling,37
Through levelled opera-glass looks down on them,38
When round the Sistine’s pictured roof is pealing39
Our buried Lord’s majestic Requiem.40
For him each storied wonder of the globe is41
The sort of thing a fellow ought to see ; ”42
And so he patronized Ora pro nobis,43
And wanted to encore the Tenebræ.44
Stranger !  what though these sounds and sights be grandest45
Of all that on Earth’s surface can be found ?46
Remember that the place whereon thou standest,47
Be thy creed what it may, is holy ground.48
Yet I have gaped and worshipped with the rest49
I, too, beneath St. Peter’s lofty dome50
Have seen, in all their rainbow-colours dressed,51
The tinselled glories of monastic Rome ;52
Have heard the Pontiff’s ringing voice bestow,53
Mid cheering multitudes and flags unfurled,54
Borne by the cannon of St. Angelo,55
His blessing on the  “ City and the World ; ”’56
Have seen—and thrilled with wonder as I gazed57
Ablaze with living lines of golden light,58
Like some fire-throne for Arimanes raised,59
The great Basilica burn through the night ;60
Have heard the trumpet-notes of Easter day61
(Stones on the lake translated into sound,)62
In strange unearthly music float away,63
Their silver echoes circling all around :64
But I would wander from the crowd apart,65
While heads were bowed and tuneful voices sang,66
And through the deep recesses of my heart67
A still small voice in solemn warning rang.68
O vanity of vanities ! ye seem,69
Ye pomps and fineries of cleric state,70
To make this text the matter of your theme,71
That God is little, and that Man is great.72
Is this parade of priestly wealth and splendour73
The lesson of the simple Gospel-word ?74
Is this the sacrifice of self-surrender75
Taught by the lowly followers of the Lord ?76
In that bent form, with lace and gold bedizened,77
Wrapt in the incense of idolatry,78
Are the old spirit and old heart imprisoned79
Of the poor fisherman of Galilee ?80
Do we, who broider thus the garment’s hem,81
Think of the swaddling-clothes the child had on ?82
Grace we the casket, to neglect the gem ?83
Forget we quite the manger for the throne ?84
How long, O Lord, how long ?  Must then for ever85
The idle throng deface thy sacred walls ?86
Will mighty Rome throw off these trappings never ?87
Oh, of her prelates and her cardinals88
If there be one who with his faith not palters,89
But holds the truths divine not taught in vain,90
And if about her desecrated altars91
One shred of true religion yet remain,92
Among their ranks will not the late avenger93
Rise, as of old the Saviour rose in wrath,94
O’erthrow the tables of the money-changer,95
And scourge the rout of mummers from his path ?96
Or will the waters break from Earth asunder,97
In some new flood the sons of pride to drown,98
And the insulted Heavens descend in thunder99
Upon this masque of impious mockery down ? ”100


While thus in moralizing mood I pondered,101
I turned me from the hum of men alone ;102
And, as my vagrant fancy led me, wandered103
Amid the maze of monumented stone.104
The crowd their favourite lions had deserted105
Left galleries and ruins in the lurch ;106
The cicerone’s glory had departed,107
For ’twas the proper thing to be at church.108
So at my will I strayed from place to place,109
From classic shrines to modern studios110
Now musing spell-bound, where Our Lady’s * face111
In nameless godhead from the canvas glows.112
Now, from the still Campagna’s desolate rise,113
I saw the hills with jealous clasp enfold114
The lingering sunlight, while the seaward skies115
Paled slowly round the melting dise of gold ;116
Now gazed, ere yet on dome and tower had died117
The glory of the Roman afterglow,118
Over the map-like city lying wide,119
Half-dreaming, from the Monte Mario.120
Traveller, do thou the like ; and wouldst thou learn121
How Rome her faithful votaries enthralls122
With all the memories that breathe and burn123
Within the magic circle of her walls,124
Leave pomp of priest and track of guide-led tourist :125
And drink of history at the fountain-head ;126
For living minds and living things are poorest127
In that vast mausoleum of the dead.128
There, where the stately Barberini palace,129
Like some new Nimrod’s fabric Heavenward climbs,130
Enduring monument of Christian malice,131
By outrage wrested from the Pagan times ; ♰132

* The Madonna of Foligno,
♰  “ Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini.”
Where, lulled and drowsy with the distant hum,133
The sentinel keeps watch upon the town,134
And from the heights of old Janiculum135
On Father Tiber’s yellow face looks down ;136
Where in their southern grace the moonbeams play137
On Caracalla’s tesselated floors,138
And rescue from the garish light of day139
The Colosseum’s ghostly corridors ;140
Where Raphael and all his great compeers141
Art’s form divine in giant-mould have cast,142
The very air is heavy with the years,143
The very stones are vocal of the past.144
Still, as we saunter down the crowded street,145
On our own thoughts intent, and plans, and pleasures,146
For miles and miles, beneath our idle feet147
Rome buries from the day yet unknown treasures.148
The whole world’s alphabet, in every line149
Some stirring page of history she recalls :150
Her Alpha is the Prison Mamertine,151
Her Omega, St. Paul’s without the Walls.152
Above, beneath, around, she weaves her spells,153
And priest and poet vulgarise in vain :154
Who once withm her fascination dwells,155
Leaves her with but one thought—to come again.156
So cast thine obol into Trevi’s fountain157
Drink of its waters—and, returning home,158
Pray that by land or sea, by lake or mountain,159
All roads alike may lead at last to Rome.”160