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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Chorus of Spirits

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

At the Storming of Rome by the Constable of Bourbon, 1527

From ‘The Deformed Transformed’

’TIS the morn, but dim and dark.

Whither flies the silent lark?

Whither shrinks the clouded sun?

Is the day indeed begun?

Nature’s eye is melancholy

O’er the city high and holy;

But without there is a din

Should arouse the saints within,

And revive the heroic ashes

Round which yellow Tiber dashes.

O ye seven hills! awaken,

Ere your very base be shaken!

Hearken to the steady stamp!

Mars is in their every tramp!

Not a step is out of tune,

As the tides obey the moon!

On they march, though to self-slaughter,

Regular as rolling water,

Whose high waves o’ersweep the border

Of huge moles, but keep their order,

Breaking only rank by rank.

Hearken to the armor’s clank!

Look down o’er each frowning warrior,

How he glares upon the barrier:

Look on each step of each ladder,

As the stripes that streak an adder.

Look upon the bristling wall,

Manned without an interval!

Round and round, and tier on tier,

Cannon’s black mouth, shining spear,

Lit match, bell-mouthed musquetoon,

Gaping to be murderous soon—

All the warlike gear of old,

Mixed with what we now behold,

In this strife ’twixt old and new,

Gather like a locust’s crew.

Shade of Remus! ’tis a time

Awful as thy brother’s crime!

Christians war against Christ’s shrine:

Must its lot be like to thine?

Near—and near—and nearer still,

As the earthquake saps the hill,

First with trembling, hollow motion,

Like a scarce-awakened ocean,

Then with stronger shock and louder,

Till the rocks are crushed to powder,—

Onward sweeps the rolling host!

Heroes of the immortal boast!

Mighty chiefs! eternal shadows!

First flowers of the bloody meadows

Which encompass Rome, the mother

Of a people without brother!

Will you sleep when nations’ quarrels

Plow the root up of your laurels?

Ye who wept o’er Carthage burning,

Weep not—strike! for Rome is mourning!

Onward sweep the varied nations!

Famine long hath dealt their rations.

To the wall, with hate and hunger,

Numerous as wolves, and stronger,

On they sweep. O glorious city!

Must thou be a theme for pity?

Fight like your first sire, each Roman!

Alaric was a gentle foeman,

Matched with Bourbon’s black banditti.

Rouse thee, thou eternal city!

Rouse thee! Rather give the torch

With thine own hand to thy porch,

Than behold such hosts pollute

Your worst dwelling with their foot.

Ah! behold yon bleeding spectre!

Ilion’s children find no Hector;

Priam’s offspring loved their brother;

Rome’s great sire forgot his mother,

When he slew his gallant twin,

With inexpiable sin.

See the giant shadow stride

O’er the ramparts high and wide!

When the first o’erleapt thy wall,

Its foundation mourned his fall.

Now, though towering like a Babel,

Who to stop his steps are able?

Stalking o’er thy highest dome,

Remus claims his vengeance, Rome!

Now they reach thee in their anger;

Fire and smoke and hellish clangor

Are around thee, thou world’s wonder!

Death is in thy walls and under.

Now the meeting steel first clashes,

Downward then the ladder crashes,

With its iron load all gleaming,

Lying at its foot blaspheming.

Up again! for every warrior

Slain, another climbs the barrier.

Thicker grows the strife; thy ditches

Europe’s mingling gore enriches.

Rome! although thy wall may perish,

Such manure thy fields will cherish,

Making gay the harvest-home;

But thy hearths! alas, O Rome!—

Yet be Rome amidst thine anguish,

Fight as thou wast wont to vanquish!

Yet once more, ye old Penates,

Let not your quenched hearths be Atè’s!

Yet again, ye shadowy heroes,

Yield not to these stranger Neros!

Though the son who slew his mother

Shed Rome’s blood, he was your brother:

’Twas the Roman curbed the Roman;—

Brennus was a baffled foeman.

Yet again, ye saints and martyrs,

Rise! for yours are holier charters!

Mighty gods of temples falling,

Yet in ruin still appalling,

Mightier founders of those altars

True and Christian—strike the assaulters!

Tiber! Tiber! let thy torrent

Show even nature’s self abhorrent.

Let each breathing heart dilated

Turn, as doth the lion baited:

Rome be crushed to one wide tomb,

But be still the Roman’s Rome!