To My Friends
Yes, my friends!--that happier times have been
Than the present, none can contravene;
That a race once lived of nobler worth;
And if ancient chronicles were dumb,
Countless stones in witness forth would come
From the deepest entrails of the earth.
But this highly-favored race has gone,
Gone forever to the realms of night.
We, we live! The moments are our own,
And the living judge the right.
Brighter zones, my friends, no doubt excel
This, the land wherein we're doomed to dwell,
As the hardy travellers proclaim;
But if Nature has denied us much,
Art is yet responsive to our touch,
And our hearts can kindle at her flame.
If the laurel will not flourish here--
If the myrtle is cold winter's prey,
Yet the vine, to crown us, year by year,
Still puts forth its foliage gay.
Of a busier life 'tis well to speak,
Where four worlds their wealth to barter seek,
On the world's great market, Thames' broad stream;
Ships in thousands go there and depart--
There are seen the costliest works of art,
And the earth-god, Mammon, reigns supreme
But the sun his image only graves
On the silent streamlet's level plain,
Not upon the torrent's muddy waves,
Swollen by the heavy rain.
Far more blessed than we, in northern states
Dwells the beggar at the angel-gates,
For he sees the peerless city--Rome!
Beauty's glorious charms around him lie,
And, a second heaven, up toward the sky
Mounts St. Peter's proud and wondrous dome.
But, with all the charms that splendor grants,
Rome is but the tomb of ages past;
Life but smiles upon the blooming plants
That the seasons round her cast.
Greater actions elsewhere may be rife
Than with us, in our contracted life--
But beneath the sun there's naught that's new;
Yet we see the great of every age
Pass before us on the world's wide stage
Thoughtfully and calmly in review
All. in life repeats itself forever,
Young for ay is phantasy alone;
What has happened nowhere,--happened never,--
That has never older grown!