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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

John William Mackail

An Etruscan Ring

WHERE, girt with orchard and with olive-yard,

The white hill-fortress glimmers on the hill,

Day after day an ancient goldsmith’s skill

Guided the copper graver, tempered hard

By some lost secret, while he shaped the sard

Slowly to beauty, and his tiny drill,

Edged with corundum, ground its way until

The gem lay perfect for the ring to guard.

Then seeing the stone complete to his desire,

With mystic imagery carven thus,

And dark Egyptian symbols fabulous,

He drew through it the delicate golden wire,

And bent the fastening; and the Etrurian sun

Sank behind Ilva, and the work was done.

What dark-haired daughter of a Lucumo

Bore on her slim white finger to the grave

This the first gift her Tyrrhene lover gave,

Those five-and-twenty centuries ago?

What shadowy dreams might haunt it, lying low

So long, while kings and armies, wave on wave,

Above the rock-tomb’s buried architrave

Went million-footed trampling to and fro?

Who knows? but well it is so frail a thing,

Unharm’d by conquering Time’s supremacy,

Still should be fair, though scarce less old than Rome.

Now once again at rest from wandering

Across the high Alps and the dreadful sea,

In utmost England let it find a home.