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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/297

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CANTO II.]
259
THE PROPHECY OP DANTE.

Over Cambyses' host[1] the desert spread
Her sandy ocean, and the Sea-waves' sway
Rolled over Pharaoh and his thousands,—why,[2]110
Mountains and waters, do ye not as they?
And you, ye Men! Romans, who dare not die,
Sons of the conquerors who overthrew
Those who overthrew proud Xerxes, where yet lie
The dead whose tomb Oblivion never knew,
Are the Alps weaker than Thermopylæ?
Their passes more alluring to the view
Of an invader? is it they, or ye,
That to each host the mountain-gate unbar,
And leave the march in peace, the passage free?120
Why, Nature's self detains the Victor's car,
And makes your land impregnable, if earth
Could be so; but alone she will not war,
Yet aids the warrior worthy of his birth
In a soil where the mothers bring forth men:
Not so with those whose souls are little worth;
For them no fortress can avail,—the den
Of the poor reptile which preserves its sting
Is more secure than walls of adamant, when
The hearts of those within are quivering.130
Are ye not brave? Yes, yet the Ausonian soil
Hath hearts, and hands, and arms, and hosts to bring
Against Oppression; but how vain the toil,
While still Division sows the seeds of woe

And weakness, till the Stranger reaps the spoil.[3]
  1. [Cambyses, the second King of Persia, who reigned B.C. 529-522, sent an army against the Ammonians, which perished in the sands.]
  2. —— and his phalanx—why.—[MS. Alternative reading.]
  3. [The Prophecy of Dante was begun and finished before Byron took up the cause of Italian independence, or definitely threw in his lot with the Carbonari, but his intimacy with the Gambas, which dates from his migration to Ravenna in 1819, must from the first have brought him within the area of political upheaval and disturbance. A year after (April 16, 1820) he writes to Murray, "I have, besides, another reason for desiring you to be speedy, which is, that there is that brewing in Italy which will speedily cut off all security of communication.... I shall, if permitted by the natives, remain to see what will come of it, ... for I shall think it by far the most interesting spectacle and moment in existence, to see the Italians send the Barbarians of all nations back to their own dens. I have lived long enough