Literary Gazette, 19th July 1823, Page 459
EXECUTION OF CRESCENTIUS.
I looked upon his brow,—no sign
Of guilt or fear were there,
He stood as proud by that death shrine
As even o'er despair
He had a power; in his eye
There was a quenchless energy,
A spirit that could dare
The deadliest form that death could take,
And dare it for the daring's sake.
He stood, the fetters on his hand,—
He raised them haughtily;
And had that grasp been on the brand,
It could not wave on high
With freer pride than it waved now.
Around he looked with changeless brow
On many a torture nigh:
The rack, the chain, the axe, the wheel,
And, worst of all, his own red steel.
I saw him once before; he rode
Upon a coal-black steed,
And tens of thousands thronged the road
And bade their warrior speed.
His helm, his breastplate, were of gold,
And graved with many a dint that told
Of many a soldier's deed;
The sun shone on his sparkling mail,
And danced his snow-plume on the gale.
But now he stood chained and alone,
The headsman by his side,
The plume, the helm, the charger, gone;
The sword, which had defied
The mightiest, lay broken near;
And yet no sign or sound of fear
Came from that lip of pride;
And never king or conqueror's brow
Wore higher look than his did now.
He bent beneath the headsman's stroke
With an uncovered eye;
A wild shout from the numbers broke
Who thronged to see him die.
It was a people's loud acclaim,
The voice of anger and of shame,
A nation's funeral cry,
Rome's wail above her only son,
Her patriot, and her latest one.L. E. L.
- ↑ This appears in The Improvisatrice and Other Poems (1824) as 'Crescentius'