Pompeii in the Moonlight

Nicholas Michell

The rich-roofed baths, fair courts without a name,
The house where burned the Vestal's sacred flame;
Love's pictured shrine, each circling Thespian pile
Where soul-moved thousands wont to weep or smile;
The columned Forum, boast of Caesar's age,
Where spoke the statesman, and where taught the sage,
These still attract, to musing bosoms dear,
And charm the eye of him who wanders here.
Strange are the spells on each old object cast;
Starts at each step some image of the past;
But when day yields to midnight's solemn noon,
And o'er Vesuvius hangs the yellow moon,
Column and arch, beneath the softening beam,
Less gray with years, less bowed by ruin seem;
More richly glow the marbles in the hall,
More life-like spread the paintings on the wall:
Gay forms on couch of stone and spangled floor,
Appear to lean, or softly glide once more;
While streets, here bathed in light, there wrapped in shade,
Seem to pour forth — not phantoms shroud-arrayed,
But ancient citizens, a living throng,
Who sweep in robes, or urge the car along.
Thick and more thick these visions crowd the brain —
But brief the stay of Fancy's radiant train,
For like the forms that charm the slumbering eye
Of sorrow's child, flit past, and smile and die,
The moon goes down o'er fair Pompeii's site,
And all our gay illusions take to flight.

Main Location:

Pompeii, Naples, Italy