Steet of Tombs

Nicholas Michell

The Street of Tombs! — Oh! pace with reverent tread
O'er hushed Pompeii's long-forgotten dead!
We view the spot ere, stealing Taste's fair name,
To seize his prey the modern spoiler came;
Gloom o'er the graves no dark-winged angel
throws, But calm as lovely seems their deep repose.
What though no more the sacred cypress weeps,
Love that ne'er dies each frail memorial keeps.
Still in its niche the urn of ashes stands;
The vase for flowers once twined by friendship's hands,
The pictured glass that held affection's tear,
The lyre, the death-god's statue — all are here!
It seems as mourners just had passed away,
And o'er the lost ones wept but yesterday.
See! near the city-gate, his cuirass on,
And cap of steel, yon glist'ning skeleton!*
'Tis he, the sentry, who disdained to fly,
And there with Roman firmness stood to die.
Move down the streets where traffic hummed of yore,
And "salve!" read o'er many a lowly door:
The causeway bears the track of chariots still,
The empty wine-flask stands upon the sill.
So true the scene, ye scarce would start to greet
Jove's own adorers winding through the street,
The sage within his porch, the man of war
Guiding in haste his trophied iron car.
Pass the fair fount which never more shall shower
Its living diamonds round at noontide's hour.

The Street of Tombs at Pompeii is on the road leading towards Herculaneum outside the Herculaneum gate of Pompeii. It was against the law to bury the dead within the city.

*A skeleton of a sentry was found in a recess by the Herculaneum gate.