To a Friend (on visiting the Roman Wall) by Robert White, 1867.
Again, how active in his place
Each member of that wondrous race
How loving in domestic life,
Yet evenmore prepared for strife!
Each nobler impulse well he knew ;
What power into his deeds he threw ;
How bold in mighty enterprise,
In war how brave, in peace how wise!
Behold, again, how acts of worth
Could draw his veneration forth ;
With deities he classed the name
Of him who scaled the steep of fame,
Severed a fragment from the rock,
His story graved upon that block,
Shaping it in proportion fair.
Then all devoutly worshipp'd there.
Still farther — if a vow he made,
As he implored the gods for aid.
Again its head the altar reared,
The record on its front appeared.
Destroying Time hath not effaced
From yonder stone the words he traced;
Go, read them in the classic tongue
That Tully spoke and Virgil sung !
Or view him in the public caus :
How he obey'd his country's laws;
To all her statutes true as steel,
He lived but for the common-weal.
With what persistence he pursued
Designs of matchless magnitude,
Bearing on plain and rising hill
Remains that are a marvel still!
Lo, where the Barrier holds its way,
Cresting the rock and mountain gray,
In ruin hoar, defying time.
Through all its range it seems sublime.
O, to have seen it when of old
It stood with all its turrets bold —
Its stations, castles towering high
In solemn grandeur to the sky!
Here have we ample scope for thought;
What energy the Roman brought
To execute such lines of strength.
Stretching from sea to sea in length!
Nor less the fabric tells of those,
The Britons rude, who were his foes;
How powerful must have been their might,
How fierce and terrible in fight!
Now stand we on the ruin'd mound;
Before us all is hallowed ground!
You cannot raise a single sod
But there a martial Roman trod.
Here did he live, here cast his eye
Around on dale, on hill, and sky;
Here mark in June the flowerets blow,
And shiver in December's snow.
Yes, where we are, he oft would prove
The garnered wealth of woman's love;
Bask in her smile, and happy be
To have his children round his knee ;
Remember, on his narrow hearth,
The sunny land that gave him birth;
Or with an aching heart deplore
He never might behold it more!
Besides, with what prevailing art
He could his bent of mind impart
To those whom erst, in lands afar,
He met and overcame in war!
Mildly obedient to his will.
They bore his arms, acquired his skill;
And, aliens though they were in name.
Upheld his honour and his fame.
Fortune was with him for a time,
And he enjoy'd her summer's prime;
It lasted not: — a heavy doom
Impended o'er imperial Eome.
She who had seen her flag unfurl'd
O'er every region of the world.
Beheld, at last, her power decay,
And felt her sceptre pass away.
What were her crimes, and how she fell.
Gibbon's historic page will tell:
Enough for us if soon or late
Ourselves may shun such hapless fate.
But while her errors we disown,
Her virtues let us make our own;
With lofty aim and purpose high,
Ennobled live — unshrinking die!
Much from the Roman was concealed
Which Heaven to us in love reveal'd:
O'er him were darkness, gloom, and death;
Light from on high illumes our path.
The blessed One who came to save
Tells of a home beyond the grave.
Where with himself, in radiant bowers,
Immortal glory may be ours!