The Mediterranean

            Hail! thou eternal flood, whose restless waves
            Roll onward in their course, as wild and free,
            As if the shores they lashed were not the graves
            Of mouldering empires; When I think of thee,
            Thou dost remind me of that ebbless sea --
            The sea of Time, whose tide sweeps unconfined,
            Its channel Earth, its shores Eternity;
            Whose billows roll resistless o'er mankind; --
        Like that thou rollest on, nor heed'st the wrecks behind.
            Thy shores were empires; but the tide of Time
            Rolled o'er them, and they fell; and there they lie,
            Wrecked in their greatness, mouldering, yet sublime
            And beautiful in their mortality.
            And god-like men were there, the wise and free;
            But what are they who now look o'er thy waves?
            They're but as worms that feed on their decay;
            They kneel to stranger lords -- a land of slaves,
        Of men whose only boast is their ancestral graves.
            Upon thy shores the Holy Prophets trod,
            And from their hill-tops came the voice of One
            Whom thou obeyest, even the Eternal God;
            And on thy breast the star of Bethlehem shone:
            That star, though quenched in blood, hath risen a sun,
            And other climes are radiant with its light;
            But thy fair shores, alas! it shines not on,
            Save when some land, with its effulgence bright,
        Reflects the heavenly rays upon their moral night.
            Philosophy hath decked her form divine,
            In all her loveliest draperies, and wrought
            Her brightest dreams by thee, thy shores her shrine,
            Thy sons her oracles, the kings of thought;
            But they have passed, and, save their names, are naught,
            And their bright dreams are buried like their clay,
            Or shattered, like the fanes where they were taught.
            But though religions, empires, men decay,
        Thou, restless, changeless flood -- thou dost not pass away.
            There Poesy hath woven such fair dreams,
            That man hath deemed them bright reality;
            There she hath peopled hills, and vales, and streams,
            And thy blue waters with her phantasy;
            And fabled gods left heaven to roam by thee:
            There she embodied passions of the heart,
            In such fair forms, that frail morality
            Failed to conceive, until triumphal Art
        Bade from the Parian stone the immortal image start.
            The loftiest bards, whose names illume the past,
            Have sung upon thy shores; and thy deep tone
            Ceased at their Orphean lyres; -- but now the last,
            "The pilgrim bard," whose matchless song alone
            Had made thy name immortal as his own, --
            A stranger of the north, but, "as it were
            A child of thee," his spirit too hath flown.
            Thus have the greatest passed. Thine azure air
        Still echoes to their song, but thou alone art there.
            Thine empires, one by one, have fall'n, and now
            The last is crumbling in decay: -- yes, she,
            The coronet upon thy furrowed brow,
            The mistress of the world, the queen of thee,
            The paradise of earth, sweet Italy;
            Stript of her queenly robes, in dust she lies,
            Enchained by slaves, nor struggling to be free.
            There hath she fallen, as the dolphin dies,
        More brightly beautiful in her last agonies.
            But though thy shores are sepulchres, that Time
            Hath peopled with dead empires; though they are
            But shattered wrecks, and every other clime
            Hath sprung from their decay; yet Nature there
            Hath made their pall of beauty sadly fair;
            And they shall be, while thy blue waves shall foam,
            The Mecca of the world, -- the altar, where
            Science, Devotion, Genius, Art shall come,
        And feel as Moslems feel above their prophet's tomb.
            And thou, unchanging flood, that wanderest on,
            Through that dark path of ruin and decay,
            Still must thou roll untended and alone.
            Men shall arise, and shine, and pass away,
            Like the bright bubbles of thy glittering spray;
            And thrones shall totter, kingdoms be laid waste --
            Yea, empires rise and fall along thy way,
            Like the dark heavings of thy troubled breast;
        But thou shalt still roll on -- for thee there is no rest.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.