Winthrop Mackworth Praed


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DESOLATE Athens! though thy gods are fled,

Thy temples silent, and thy glory dead,

Though all thou hadst of beautiful and brave

Sleep in the tomb, or moulder in the wave,

Though power and praise forsake thee, and forget,

Desolate Athens, thou art lovely yet!

Around thy walls, in every wood and vale,

Thine own sweet bird, the lonely nightingale,

Still makes her home; and, when the moonlight hour

Flings its soft magic over brake and bower,

Murmurs her sorrows from her ivy shrine,

Or the thick foliage of the deathless vine.

Where erst Megæra chose her fearful crown,

The bright narcissus hangs his clusters down;

And the gay crocus decks with glittering dew

The yellow radiance of his golden hue.

Still thine own olive haunts its native earth,

Green, as when Pallas smiled upon its birth;

And still Cephisus pours his sleepless tide,

So clear and calm, along the meadow side,

That you may gaze long hours upon the stream,

And dream at last the poet’s witching dream,

That the sweet Muses in the neighboring bowers

Sweep their wild harps, and wreathe their odorous flowers,

And laughing Venus o’er the level plains

Waves her light lash and shakes her gilded reins.

  How terrible is Time! his solemn years,

The tombs of all our hopes and all our fears,

In silent horror roll! the gorgeous throne,

The pillared arch, the monumental stone,

Melt in swift ruin; and of mighty climes,

Where Fame told tales of virtues and of crimes,

Where Wisdom taught, and Valor woke to strife,

And Art’s creations breathed their mimic life,

And the young poet when the stars shone high

Drank the deep rapture of the quiet sky,

Naught now remains but Nature’s placid scene,

Heaven’s deathless blue and earth’s eternal green,

The showers that fall on palaces and graves,

The suns that shine for freemen and for slaves:

Science may sleep in ruin, man in shame,

But Nature lives, still lovely, still the same!

The rock, the river,—these have no decay!

The city and its masters,—where are they?

Go forth, and wander through the cold remains

Of fallen statues and of tottering fanes,

Seek the loved haunts of poet and of sage,

The gay palæstra and the gaudy stage!

What signs are there? a solitary stone,

A shattered capital with grass o’ergrown,

A mouldering frieze, half hid in ancient dust,

A thistle springing o’er a nameless bust;

Yet this was Athens! still a holy spell

Breathes in the dome, and wanders in the dell,

And vanished times and wondrous forms appear,

And sudden echoes charm the waking ear:

Decay itself is drest in glory’s gloom,

For every hillock is a hero’s tomb,

And every breeze to Fancy’s slumber brings

The mighty rushing of a spirit’s wings.

O yes! where glory such as thine hath been,

Wisdom and Sorrow linger round the scene;

And where the hues of faded splendor sleep,

Age kneels to moralize, and Youth to weep!

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Main Location:

Athens, Greece