THE TRIUMPH OF FAME
THE TRIUMPH OF FAME.
Da poi che Morte trionfò nel volto.
When cruel Death his paly ensign spread
Over that face, which oft in triumph led
My subject thoughts; and beauty's sovereign light,
Retiring, left the world immersed in night;
The Phantom, with a frown that chill'd the heart,
Seem'd with his gloomy pageant to depart,
[Pg 382]Exulting in his formidable arms,
And proud of conquest o'er seraphic charms.
When, turning round, I saw the Power advance
That breaks the gloomy grave's eternal trance,
And bids the disembodied spirit claim
The glorious guerdon of immortal Fame.
Like Phosphor, in the sullen rear of night,
Before the golden wheels of orient light
But who the tendant pomp can tell,
What mighty master of the corded shell
Can sing how heaven above accordant smiled,
And what bright pageantry the prospect fill'd.
I look'd, but all in vain: the potent ray
Flash'd on my sight intolerable day
At first; but to the splendour soon inured,
My eyes perused the pomp with sight assured.
True dignity in every face was seen,
As on they march'd with more than mortal mien;
And some I saw whom Love had link'd before,
Ennobled now by Virtue's lofty lore.
Cæsar and Scipio on the dexter hand
Of the bright goddess led the laurell'd band.
One, like a planet by the lord of day,
Seem'd o'er-illumined by her splendid ray,
By brightness hid; for he, to virtue true,
His mind from Love's soft bondage nobly drew.
The other, half a slave to female charms,
Parted his homage to the god of arms
And Love's seductive power: but, close and deep,
Like files that climb'd the Capitolian steep
In years of yore, along the sacred way
A martial squadron came in long array.
In ranges as they moved distinct and bright,
On every burganet that met the light,
Some name of long renown, distinctly read,
O'er each majestic brow a glory shed.
Still on the noble pair my eyes I bent,
And watch'd their progress up the steep ascent.
The second Scipio next in line was seen,
And he that seem'd the lure of Egypt's queen;
With many a mighty chief I there beheld,
Whose valorous hand the battle's storm repell'd.
[Pg 383]Two fathers of the great Cornelian name,
With their three noble sons who shared their fame,
One singly march'd before, and, hand in hand,
His two heroic partners trod the strand.
The last was first in fame; but brighter beams
His follower flung around in solar streams.
Metaurus' champion, whom the moon beheld,
When his resistless spears the current swell'd
With Libya's hated gore, in arms renown'd
Was he, nor less with Wisdom's olive crown'd.
Quick was his thought and ready was his hand,
His power accomplish'd what his reason plann'd;
He seem'd, with eagle eye and eagle wing,
Sudden on his predestined game to spring.
But he that follow'd next with step sedate
Drew round his foe the viewless snare of fate;
While, with consummate art, he kept at bay
The raging foe, and conquer'd by delay.
Another Fabius join'd the stoic pair,
The Pauli and Marcelli famed in war;
With them the victor in the friendly strife,
Whose public virtue quench'd his love of life.
With either Brutus ancient Curius came;
Fabricius, too, I spied, a nobler name
(With his plain russet gown and simple board)
Than either Lydian with her golden hoard.
Then came the great dictator from the plough;
And old Serranus show'd his laurell'd brow.
Marching with equal step.
Who, fresh and vigorous in the bright career
Of honour, sped, and never slack'd his pace,
Till Death o'ertook him in the noble race,
And placed him in a sphere of fame so high,
That other patriots fill'd a lower sky.
Even those ungrateful lands that seal'd his doom
Recall'd the hanish'd man to rescue Rome.
Torquains nigh, a sterner spectre stood,
His fasces all besmear'd with filial blood:
He childless to the shades resolved to go,
Rather than Rome a moment should forego
That dreadful discipline, whose rigid lore
Had spread their triumphs round from shore to shore.
[Pg 384]Then the two Decii came, by Heaven inspired,
Divinely bold, as when the foe retired
Before their Heaven-directed march, amazed,
When on the self-devoted men they gazed,
Till they provoked their fate.
And Curtius nigh,
As when to heaven he cast his upward eye,
And all on fire with glory's opening charms,
Plunged to the Shades below with clanging arms,
Lævinus, Mummius, with Flaminius show'd,
Like meaner lights along the heavenly road;
And he who conquer'd Greece from sea to sea,
Then mildly bade th' afflicted race be free.
Next came the dauntless envoy, with his wand,
Whose more than magic circle on the sand
The frenzy of the Syrian king confined:
O'er-awed he stood, and at his fate repined.
Great Manlius, too, who drove the hostile throng
Prone from the steep on which his members hung,
(A sad reverse) the hungry vultures' food,
When Roman justice claim'd his forfeit blood.
Then Cocles came, who took his dreadful stand
Where the wide arch the foaming torrent spann'd,
Stemming the tide of war with matchless might,
And turn'd the heady current of the fight.
And he that, stung with fierce vindictive ire,
Consumed his erring hand with hostile fire.
Duillius next and Catulus were seen,
Whose daring navies plough'd the billowy green
That laves Pelorus and the Sardian shore,
And dyed the rolling waves with Punic gore.
Great Appius next advanced in sterner mood,
Who with patrician loftiness withstood
The clamours of the crowd.
But, close behind,
Of gentler manners and more equal mind,
Came one, perhaps the first in martial might,
Yet his dim glory cast a waning light;
But neither Bacchus, nor Alcmena's son
Such trophies yet by east or west have won;
Nor he that in the arms of conquest died,
As he, when Rome's stern foes his valour tried
Yet he survived his fame.
But luckier far
Was one that follow'd next, whose golden star
[Pg 385]To better fortune led, and mark'd his name
Among the first in deeds of martial fame:
But cruel was his rage, and dipp'd in gore
By civil slaughter was the wreath he wore.
A less-ensanguined laurel graced the head
Of him that next advanced with lofty tread,
In martial conduct and in active might
Of equal honour in the fields of fight.
Then great Volumnius, who expell'd the pest
Whose spreading ills the Romans long distress'd.
Rutilius Cassus, Philo next in sight
Appear'd, like twinkling stars that gild the night.
Three men I saw advancing up the vale,
Mangled with ghastly wounds through plate and mail;
Dentatus, long in standing fight renown'd,
Sergius and Scæva oft with conquest crown'd;
The triple terror of the hostile train,
On whom the storm of battle broke in vain.
Another Sergius near with deep disgrace
Marr'd the long glories of his ancient race,
Marius, then, the Cimbrians who repell'd
From fearful Rome, and Lybia's tyrant quell'd.
And Fulvius, who Campania's traitors slew,
And paid ingratitude with vengeance due.
Another nobler Fulvius next appear'd;
And there the Father of the Gracchi rear'd
A solitary crest.
The following form
Was he that often raised the factious storm—
Bold Catulus, and he whom fortune's ray
Illumined still with beams of cloudless day;
Yet fail'd to chase the darkness of the mind,
That brooded still on loftier hopes behind.
From him a nobler line in two degrees
Reduced Numidia to reluctant peace.
Crete, Spain, and Macedonia's conquer'd lord
Adorn'd their triumphs and their treasures stored.
Vespasian, with his son, I next survey'd,
An angel soul in angel form array'd;
Nor less his brother seem'd in outward grace,
But hell within belied a beauteous face.
Then Nerva, who retrieved the falling throne,
And Trajan, by his conquering eagles known.
[Pg 386]Adrian, and Antonine the just and good,
He, with his son, the golden age renew'd;
And ere they ruled the world, themselves subdued.
Then, as I turn'd my roving eyes around,
Quirinus I beheld with laurel crown'd,
And five succeeding kings.
The sixth was lost,
By vice degraded from his regal post;
A sentence just, whatever pride may claim,
For virtue only finds eternal Fame.
Pien d' infinita e nobil maraviglia.
Full of ecstatic wonder at the sight,
I view'd Bellona's minions, famed in fight;
A brotherhood, to whom the circling sun
No rivals yet beheld, since time begun.
But ah! the Muse despairs to mount their fame
Above the plaudits of historic Fame.
But now a foreign band the strain recalls—
Stern Hannibal, that shook the Roman walls;
Achilles, famed in Homer's lasting lay,
The Trojan pair that kept their foes at bay;
Susa's proud rulers, a distinguish'd pair,
And he that pour'd the living storm of war
On the fallen thrones of Asia, till the main,
With awful voice, repell'd the conquering train.
Another chief appear'd, alike in name,
But short was his career of martial fame;
For generous valour oft to fortune yields,
Too oft the arbitress of fighting fields.
The three illustrious Thebans join'd the train,
Whose noble names adorn a former strain;
Great Ajax with Tydides next appear'd,
And he that o'er the sea's broad bosom steer'd
In search of shores unknown with daring prow,
And ancient Nestor, with his looks of snow,
Who thrice beheld the race of man decline,
And hail'd as oft a new heroic line:
Then Agamemnon, with the Spartan's shade,
One by his spouse forsaken, one betray'd:
And now another Spartan met my view,
Who, cheerly, call'd his self-devoted crew
[Pg 387]To banquet with the ghostly train below,
And with unfading laurels deck'd the brow;
Though from a bounded stage a softer strain
Was his, who next appear'd to cross the plain:
Famed Alcibiades, whose siren spell
Could raise the tide of passion, or repel
With more than magic sounds, when Athens stood
By his superior eloquence subdued.
The Marathonian chief, with conquest crown'd,
With Cimon came, for filial love renown'd;
Who chose the dungeon's gloom and galling chain
His captive father's liberty to gain;
Themistocles and Theseus met my eye;
And he that with the first of Rome could vie
In self-denial; yet their native soil,
Insensate to their long illustrious toil,
To each denied the honours of a tomb,
But deathless fame reversed the rigid doom,
And show'd their worth in more conspicuous light
Through the surrounding shades of envious night.
Great Phocion next, who mourn'd an equal fate,
Expell'd and exiled from his parent state;
A foul reward! by party rage decreed,
For acts that well might claim a nobler meed:
There Pyrrhus, with Numidia's king behind,
Ever in faithful league with Rome combined,
The bulwark of his state.
Of Syracuse, I saw, a firm ally
To Italy, like him.
But deadly hate,
Repulsive frowns, and love of stern debate,
Hamilcar mark'd, who at a distance stood,
And eyed the friendly pair in hostile mood.
The royal Lydian, with distracted mien,
Just as he 'scaped the vengeful flame, was seen
And Syphax, who deplored an equal doom,
Who paid with life his enmity of Rome;
And Brennus, famed for sacrilegious spoil,
That, overwhelm'd beneath the rocky pile,
Atoned the carnage of his cruel hand,
Join'd the long pageant of the martial band;
Who march'd in foreign or barbarian guise
From every realm and clime beneath the skies
[Pg 388]But different far in habit from the rest,
One tribe with reverent awe my heart impress'd:
There he that entertain'd the grand design
To build a temple to the Power Divine;
With him, to whom the oracles of Heaven
The task to raise the sacred pile had given:
The task he soon fulfill'd by Heaven assign'd,—
But let the nobler temple of the mind
To ruin fall, by Love's alluring sway
Seduced from duty's hallow'd path astray;
Then he that on the flaming hill survived
That sight no mortal else beheld, and lived—
The Eternal One, and heard, with awe profound,
That awful voice that shakes the globe around;
With him who check'd the sun in mid career,
And stopp'd the burning wheels that mark the sphere,
(As a well-managed steed his lord obeys,
And at the straiten'd rein his course delays,)
And still the flying war the tide of day
Pursued, and show'd their bands in wild dismay.
Victorious faith! to thee belongs the prize;
In earth thy power is felt, and in the circling skies.
The father next, who erst by Heaven's command
Forsook his home, and sought the promised land;
The hallow'd scene of wide-redeeming grace:
And to the care of Heaven consign'd his race.
Then Jacob, cheated in his amorous vows,
Who led in either hand a Syrian spouse;
And youthful Joseph, famed for self-command,
Was seen, conspicuous midst his kindred band.
Then stretching far my sight amid the train
That hid, in countless crowds, the shaded plain,
Good Hezekiah met my raptured sight,
And Manoah's son, a prey to female sleight;
And he, whose eye foresaw the coming flood,
With mighty Nimrod nigh, a man of blood;
Whose pride the heaven-defying tower design'd,
But sin the rising fabric undermined.
Great Maccabeus next my notice claim'd,
By Love to Zion's broken laws inflamed;
Who rush'd to arms to save a sinking state,
Scorning the menace of impending Fate
[Pg 389]Now satiate with the view, my languid sight
Had fail'd, but soon perceived with new delight
A train, like Heaven's descending powers, appear,
Whose radiance seem'd my cherish'd sight to clear
There march'd in rank the dames of ancient days,
Antiope, renown'd for martial praise;
Orithya near, in glittering armour shone,
And fair Hippolyta that wept her son;
The sisters whom Alcides met of yore
In arms on Thermodon's distinguish'd shore;
When he and Theseus foil'd the warlike pair,
By force compell'd the nuptial rite to share.
The widow'd queen, who seem'd with tranquil smile
To view her son upon the funeral pile;
But brooding vengeance rankled deep within,
So Cyrus fell within the fatal gin:
Misconduct, which from age to age convey'd,
O'er her long glories cast a funeral shade.
I saw the Amazon whom Ilion mourn'd,
And her for whom the flames of discord burn'd,
Betwixt the Trojan and Rutulian train
When her affianced lover press'd the plain;
And her, that with dishevell'd tresses flew,
Half-arm'd, half-clad, her rebels to subdue.
Her partner too in lawless love I spied,
A Roman harlot, an incestuous bride.
But Tadmor's queen, with nobler fires inflamed,
The pristine glory of the sex reclaim'd,
Who in the spring of life, in beauty's bloom,
Her heart devoted to her husband's tomb;
True to his dust, aspiring to the crown
Of virtue, in such years but seldom known:
With temper'd mail she hid her snowy breast,
And with Bellona's helm and nodding crest
Despising Cupid's lore, her charms conceal'd,
And led the foes of Latium to the field.
The shock at ancient Rome was felt afar,
And Tyber trembled at the distant war
Of foes she held in scorn: but soon she found
That Mars his native tribes with conquest crown'd
And by her haughty foes in triumph led,
The last warm tears of indignation shed.
[Pg 390]O fair Bethulian! can my vagrant song
O'erpass thy virtues in the nameless throng,
When he that sought to lure thee to thy shame
Paid with his sever'd head his frantic flame?
Can Ninus be forgot, whose ancient name
Begins the long roll of imperial fame?
And he whose pride, by Heaven's imperial doom,
Reduced among the grazing herd to roam?
Belus, who first beheld the nations sway
To idols, from the Heaven-directed way,
Though he was blameless? Where does he reside
Who first the dangerous art of magic tried?
O Crassus! much I mourn the baleful star
That o'er Euphrates led the storm of war.
Thy troops, by Parthian snares encircled round,
Mark'd with Hesperia's shame the bloody ground;
And Mithridates, Rome's incessant foe,
Who fled through burning plains and tracts of snow
Their fell pursuit.
But now, the parting strain
Must pass, with slight survey, the coming train:
There British Arthur seeks his share of fame,
And three Cæsarian victors join their claim;
One from the race of Libya, one from Spain,
And last, not least, the pride of fair Lorraine,
With his twelve noble peers.
Direct their march to Salem's sacred towers;
And plant his throne beneath the Asian skies,
A sacred seat that now neglected lies.
Ye lords of Christendom! eternal shame
For ever will pursue each royal name,
And tell your wolfish rage for kindred blood,
While Paynim hounds profane the seat of God!
With him the Christian glory seem'd to fall,
The rest was hid behind oblivion's pall;
Save a few honour'd names, inferior far
In peace to guide, or point the storm of war.
Yet e'en among the stranger tribes were found
A few selected names, in song renown'd.
First, mighty Saladin, his country's boast,
The scourge and terror of the baptized host.
Noradin, and Lancaster fierce in arms,
Who vex'd the Gallic coast with long alarms.
[Pg 391]I look'd around with painful search to spy
If any martial form should meet my eye
Familiar to my sight in worlds above,
The willing objects of respect or love;
And soon a well-known face my notice drew,
Sicilia's king, to whose sagacious view
The scenes of deep futurity display'd
Their birth, through coming Time's disclosing shade.
There my Colonna, too, with glad surprise,
'Mid the pale group, assail'd my startled eyes.
His noble soul was all alive to fame,
Yet holy friendship mix'd her softer claim,
Which in his bosom fix'd her lasting throne,
With Charity, that makes the wants of all her own.
Io non sapea da tal vista levarme.
Still on the warrior band I fix'd my view,
But now a different troop my notice drew:
The sage Palladian tribe, a nobler train,
Whose toils deserve a more exalted strain.
Plato majestic in the front appear'd,
Where wisdom's sacred hand her ensign rear'd.
Celestial blazonry! by heaven bestow'd,
Which, waving high, before the vaward glow'd:
Then came the Stagyrite, whose mental ray
Pierced through all nature like the shafts of day;
And he that, by the unambitious name,
Lover of wisdom, chose to bound his fame.
Then Socrates and Xenophon were seen;
With them a bard of more than earthly mien,
Whom every muse of Jove's immortal choir
Bless'd with a portion of celestial fire:
From ancient Argos to the Phrygian bound
His never-dying strains were borne around
On inspiration's wing, and hill and dale
Echoed the notes of Ilion's mournful tale.
The woes of Thetis, and Ulysses' toils,
His mighty mind recover'd from the spoils
Of envious time, and placed in lasting light
The trophies ransom'd from oblivion's night
The Mantuan bard, responsive to his song,
Co-rival of his glory, walk'd along.
[Pg 392]The next with new surprise my notice drew,
Where'er he pass'd spontaneous flowerets grew,
Fit emblems of his style; and close behind
The great Athenian at his lot repined;
Which doom'd him, like a secondary star,
To yield precedence in the wordy war;
Though like the bolts of Jove that shake the spheres,
He lighten'd in their eyes, and thunder'd in their ears.
The assembly felt the shock, the immortal sound,
His Attic rival's fainter accents drown'd.
But now so many candidates for fame
In countless crowds and gay confusion came,
That Memory seem'd her province to resign,
Perplex'd and lost amid the lengthen'd line.
Yet Solon there I spied, for laws renown'd,
Salubrious plants in clean and cultured ground;
But noxious, if malignant hands infuse
In their transmuted stems a baneful juice
Amongst the Romans, Varro next I spied,
The light of linguists, and our country's pride;
Still nearer as he moved, the eye could trace
A new attraction and a nameless grace.
Livy I saw, with dark invidious frown
Listening with pain to Sallust's loud renown;
And Pliny there, profuse of life I found,
Whom love of knowledge to the burning bound
Led unawares; and there Plotinus' shade,
Who dark Platonic truths in fuller light display'd:
He, flying far to 'scape the coming pest,
Was, when he seem'd secure, by death oppressed;
That, fix'd by fate, before he saw the sun,
The careful sophist strove in vain to shun.
Hortensius, Crassus, Galba, next appear'd,
Calvus and Antony, by Rome revered,
The first with Pollio join'd, whose tongue profane
Assail'd the fame of Cicero in vain.
Thucydides, who mark'd distinct and clear
The tardy round of many a bloody year,
And, with a master's graphic skill, pourtray'd
The fields, "whose summer dust with blood was laid;"
And near Herodotus his ninefold roll display'd,
Father of history; and Euclid's vest
The heaven-taught symbols of that art express'd
[Pg 393]That measures matter, form, and empty space,
And calculates the planets' heavenly race;
And Porphyry, whose proud obdurate heart
Was proof to mighty Truth's celestial dart;
With sophistry assail'd the cause of God,
And stood in arms against the heavenly code.
Hippocrates, for healing arts renown'd,
And half obscured within the dark profound;
The pair, whom ignorance in ancient days
Adorn'd like deities, with borrow'd rays.
Galen was near, of Pergamus the boast,
Whose skill retrieved the art so nearly lost.
Then Anaxarchus came, who conquer'd pain;
And he, whom pleasures strove to lure in vain
From duty's path.
And first in mournful mood
The mighty soul of Archimedes stood;
And sage Democritus I there beheld,
Whose daring hand the light of vision quell'd,
To shun the soul-seducing forms, that play
On the rapt fancy in the beam of day:
The gifts of fortune, too, he flung aside,
By wisdom's wealth, a nobler store, supplied.
There Hippias, too, I saw, who dared to claim
For general science an unequall'd name.
And him, whose doubtful mind and roving eye
No certainty in truth itself could spy;
With him who in a deep mysterious guise
Her heavenly charms conceal'd from vulgar eyes.
The frontless cynic next in rank I saw,
Sworn foe to decency and nature's modest law.
With him the sage, that mark'd, with dark disdain,
His wealth consumed by rapine's lawless train;
And glad that nothing now remain'd behind,
To foster envy in a rival's mind,
That treasure bought, which nothing can destroy,
"The soul's calm sunshine, and the heart-felt joy.
Then curious Dicaearchus met my view,
Who studied nature with sagacious view.
Quintilian next, and Seneca were seen,
And Chaeronea's sage, of placid mien;
All various in their taste and studious toils,
But each adorn'd with Learning's splendid spoils.
[Pg 394]There, too, I saw, in universal jar,
The tribes that spend their time in wordy war;
And o'er the vast interminable deep
Of knowledge, like conflicting tempests, sweep.
For truth they never toil, but feed their pride
With fuel by eternal strife supplied:
No dragon of the wild with equal rage,
Nor lions in nocturnal war, engage
With hate so deadly, as the learn'd and wise,
Who scan their own desert with partial eyes.
Carneades, renown'd for logic skill,
Who right or wrong, and true and false, at will
Could turn and change, employ'd his fruitless pain
To reconcile the fierce, contending train:
But, ever as he toil'd, the raging pest
Of pride, as knowledge grew, with equal speed increased.
Then Epicurus, of sinister fame,
Rebellious to the lord of nature, came;
Who studied to deprive the soaring soul
Of her bright world of hope beyond the pole;
A mole-ey'd race their hapless guide pursued,
And blindly still the vain assault renew'd.
Dark Metrodorus next sustain'd the cause,
With Aristippus, true to Pleasure's laws.
Chrysippus next his subtle web disposed:
Zeno alternate spread his hand, and closed;
To show how eloquence expands the soul,
And logic boasts a close and nervous whole.
And there Cleanthes drew the mighty line
That led his pupils on, with heart divine,
Through time's fallacious joys, by Virtue's road,
To the bright palace of the sovereign good.
But here the weary Muse forsakes the throng,
Too numerous for the bounds of mortal song.
More Poems by Francesco Petrarch
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