Records of Woman: with Other Poems/The Image in Lava

For other versions of this work, see The Image in Lava.


THE IMAGE IN LAVA.*[1]




Thou thing of years departed!
    What ages have gone by,
Since here the mournful seal was set
    By love and agony!

Temple and tower have moulder'd,
    Empires from earth have pass'd,—
And woman's heart hath left a trace
    Those glories to outlast!


And childhood's fragile image
    Thus fearfully enshrin'd,
Survives the proud memorials rear'd
    By conquerors of mankind.

Babe! wert thou brightly slumbering
    Upon thy mother's breast,
When suddenly the fiery tomb
    Shut round each gentle guest?

A strange dark fate o'ertook you,
    Fair babe and loving heart!
One moment of a thousand pangs—
    Yet better than to part!

Haply of that fond bosom,
    On ashes here impress'd,
Thou wert the only treasure, child!
    Whereon a hope might rest.


Perchance all vainly lavish'd,
    Its other love had been,
And where it trusted, nought remain'd
    But thorns on which to lean.

Far better then to perish,
    Thy form within its clasp,
Than live and lose thee, precious one!
    From that impassion'd grasp.

Oh! I could pass all relics
    Left by the pomps of old,
To gaze on this rude monument,
    Cast in affection's mould.

Love, human love! what art thou?
    Thy print upon the dust
Outlives the cities of renown
    Wherein the mighty trust!


Immortal, oh! immortal
    Thou art, whose earthly glow
Hath given these ashes holiness—
    It must, it must be so!

  1. * The impression of a woman's form, with an infant clasped to the bosom, found at the uncovering of Herculaneum.