Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Italy
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII.  1876–79.
 
Rome, Hills of
Monte Pincio
Sarah Bridges Stebbins
 
The Gothic Kings. Four Statues on the Pincian Hill

            ANCIENT captives we,
            Bound eternally;
          With weary hands enchained,
          And faces bowed and pained,
          While eras dawned and waned,        5
We thus have watched the mightiness of Rome!
 
            Never to be free!
            Whither could we flee
          To reach some blessed land
          Unheld by conquering band,        10
          Ungrasped by outstretched hand
Of an insatiate and world-possessing Rome!
 
            Images of stone,
            Mournful and alone
          Amid the bright To-Day,        15
          Signs of things past away,
          We symbolize the sway
Of unrelenting and resistless olden Rome!
 
            Types of something more:
            In those days of yore        20
          Some subtly thinking Greek
          Beholding strength grow weak,
          Made deathless marble speak
Of Freedom’s yearning strife against enslaving Rome!
 
            For as sculptor wrought        25
            Farther reaching thought
          Saw happy coming hour
          When e’en earth’s conquering power
          No more could darkly lower;
For death the prisoners freed even of law-girt Rome!        30
 
            Musing o’er the clay,
            “Lo,” he said, “alway,
          O captives, ye shall stand
          Personifying band,
          In emblematic land,        35
Of bondage wider than the thraldom of great Rome!
 
            “Types of awful Fate,
            Common human state,
          Whose chains of circumstance
          Forbid the soul’s advance        40
          Towards fetterless expanse
Of liberty beyond our stern condition’s Rome!
 
            “Endless spirit-strife,
            Throughout mortal life
          Of longing to be free        45
          From entailed misery
          Of unsought destiny
Controlled and crushed by an inexorable Rome!
 
            “As the ages roll
            From man’s unseen soul        50
          Shall evermore arise
          The secret anguish cries
          Of doubt that never dies,
Humanity’s protest against ordaining Rome!
 
            “Questioning of death        55
            ‘If with end of breath
          The bonds of time and place,
          Of nature and of race,
          Of heritage’s trace
Shall fall forever off from slaves of this earth’s Rome?’”        60
 
            Thousands come and go
            Our sad gaze below,
          But few the seeing eyes
          That in our captive guise
          Know hidden meaning lies        65
Of Fate-environed life midst universal Rome!
 
 
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