Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Dirge of Alaric
By Edward Everett (1794–1865)
 
        Who stormed and spoiled the city of Rome, and was afterwards buried in the channel of the river Busentius, the water of which had been diverted from its course that the body might be interred.


WHEN 1 I am dead, no pageant train
  Shall waste their sorrows at my bier,
Nor worthless pomp of homage vain,
  Stain it with hypocritic tear;
For I will die as I did live,        5
Nor take the boon I cannot give.
 
Ye shall not raise a marble bust
  Upon the spot where I repose;
Ye shall not fawn before my dust,
  In hollow circumstance of woes:        10
Nor sculptured clay, with lying breath,
Insult the clay that moulds beneath.
 
Ye shall not pile, with servile toil,
  Your monuments upon my breast,
Nor yet within the common soil        15
  Lay down the wreck of Power to rest;
Where man can boast that he has trod
On him, that was “the scourge of God.”
 
But ye the mountain stream shall turn,
  And lay its secret channel bare,        20
And hollow, for your sovereign’s urn,
  A resting-place for ever there:
Then bid its everlasting springs
Flow back upon the King of Kings;
And never be the secret said,        25
Until the deep give up his dead.
 
My gold and silver ye shall fling
  Back to the clods, that gave them birth;—
The captured crowns of many a king,
  The ransom of a conquered earth:        30
For e’en though dead will I control
The trophies of the capitol.
 
But when beneath the mountain tide,
  Ye ’ve laid your monarch down to rot,
Ye shall not rear upon its side        35
  Pillar or mound to mark the spot;
For long enough the world has shook
Beneath the terrors of my look;
And now that I have run my race,
The astonish’d realms shall rest a space.        40
 
My course was like a river deep,
  And from the northern hills I burst,
Across the world in wrath to sweep,
  And where I went, the spot was cursed.
Nor blade of grass again was seen        45
Where Alaric and his hosts had been.
 
See how their haughty barriers fail
  Beneath the terror of the Goth,
Their iron-breasted legions quail
  Before my ruthless sabaoth,        50
And low the queen of empires kneels,
And grovels at my chariot-wheels.
 
Not for myself did I ascend
  In judgment my triumphal car;
’T was God alone on high did send        55
  The avenging Scythian to the war,
To shake abroad, with iron hand,
The appointed scourge of his command
 
With iron hand that scourge I rear’d
  O’er guilty king and guilty realm;        60
Destruction was the ship I steer’d,
  And vengeance sat upon the helm,
When, launch’d in fury on the flood,
I plough’d my ways through seas of blood,
And in the stream their hearts had spilt        65
Wash’d out the long arrears of guilt.
 
Across the everlasting Alp
  I pour’d the torrent of my powers,
And feeble Cæsars shriek’d for help
  In vain within their seven-hill’d towers;        70
I quench’d in blood the brightest gem
That glitter’d in their diadem,
And struck a darker, deeper die
In the purple of their majesty,
And bade my northern banners shine        75
Upon the conquer’d Palatine.
 
My course is run, my errand done:
  I go to Him from whence I came,
But never yet shall set the sun
  Of glory that adorns my name;        80
And Roman hearts shall long be sick,
When men shall think of Alaric.
 
My course is run, my errand done—
  But darker ministers of fate,
Impatient, round the eternal throne,        85
  And in the caves of vengeance, wait
And soon mankind shall blench away
Before the name of Attila.
 
Note 1. Mr Everett was born in Dorchester, Mass. His father was pastor to the New South Church in Boston. He studied at Harvard University, and was ordained as a minister over the Brattle Street Church in Boston, at the early age of eighteen. Upon the foundation of the professorship of Greek literature at Cambridge, he was called upon to fill the office, in consequence of which, he relinquished his pastoral duties in Boston. After making a visit to Europe, he entered upon his business as professor, and continued in that station till 1825. Since that time he has been a representative in Congress.
  Mr Everett’s reputation, both as a statesman and a scholar, is too widely extended to need any comments from us. Among the great variety of his labors, he has found moments to devote to the muse. The following piece, and a Phi Beta Kappa poem, written in his youth, are, we believe, all that have appeared in public. [back]
 
 
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