The sunset's changing glory bright
Shone full on clouds of snowy white,
That, floating high in ether blue,
Fast changing to the rose's hue,
Were in the crescent's crystal flow
Brightly reflected far below.
The distant shore seemed all ablaze
With the sun's last ling'ring rays,
And o'er the dreamy hills there hung
A purple veil by evening flung.
Sweet Luna smiled but faintly, yet
Seemed waiting for the sun to set,
Shrinking from his gorgeousness,
His ruby face and dazzling dress.
Amidst this bright and tranquil scene
A mountain stood, calm and serene.
Around his brow a vaporous wreath
Curled, and, wafted by each breath,
Streamed far adown his rugged side,
Then quickly by the airy tide
Was lifted high, and, floating out,
Seemed longing still to cling about
His towering crest, for one faint thread
Of silver mist the cloud outspread
Still held. Thus like a phantom tree
It stood, and gently waving free,
Loosed from its clinging hold, at last
Rose high and higher, till it passed
Like soaring bird from sight away,
Among the mists of closing day.
A plain with wealth of herbage green
Lay spread the bay and mount between.
Upon its undulating breast
A city smiled in peace and rest.
Within its high embattled walls
The pride of wealth, and all it calls
Its own, hold sway midst pomp and power,
While wanton pleasure fills each hour
That silently, on noiseless wheels,
Rolls by to music soft that steals
Along the sense in lulling strains
Like siren notes which hold in chains
The wills of those who pause to hear,
Dragging them down to death so drear.
And that devouring monster dire,
Idolatry, in arms of fire
You city holds; and how great God,
Who laid the eternal spheres, withstood
His kindled wrath 'gainst those who paid
To hideous forms, human made,
The homage due to Him alone,
Was wonderful. Yet years had flown,
While graciously on all he shed
His bounties manifold, and fed
With tend'rest care those truant souls.
But, sure as yonder planet rolls
Its orbit round this world, 'twill come,--
All shall receive their final doom.
The last faint gleam of golden day
From earth and sky has passed away;
And where the dazzling light now shone,
All is changed to sombre tone.
The bleating sheep and lowing herd,
The country maid and twitt'ring bird,
Alike have gone to sweet repose,
That only innocence e'er knows.
But yonder city's busy life
Still ebbs and flows 'mid noisy strife.
The hurrying feet and burdened heart
Turn, weary, from the crowded mart
To seek relief and quiet rest
Among those scenes, of all the best,
Sweet home's kind, endearing charms,
The soft caress of loving arms.
Thus the bustle and the din
Grow faint and fainter, till within
All is silent, hushed in sleep,
Excepting those who vigils keep
Around some dying loved one's couch;
Or some on crime intent, who crouch
Low in the darkest, deepest shade,
By towering wall or turret made.
Closed at last, with jar and clang,
That through the night discordant rang,
Were all the city's massive gates--
The dozing guard the morn awaits.
The morning dawned, that awful day,
Calm and peaceful. It's mild light lay
On proud Vesuvius' towering head,
From which the mystic cloud had fled,
And, reaching out upon the plain,
Awoke to life the twitt'ring train,
From warblers 'mong the olive leaves
To insects creeping 'neath the sheaves.
The early hunter climbs the mount,
Pausing near the gushing fount,
Bending o'er its mossy brink
A cool, refreshing draught to drink.
Then high, and higher still, he goes,
Treading paths that no one knows.
The merry milkmaid sings a song
As she gayly trips along,
Pond'ring o'er the words last night
Were whispered 'neath the moon's pale light,
Words which said, "No long delay
Shall keep our nuptial day away."
The laborer clasps within his arms
The baby boy, and her whose charms
First won his wild and wayward heart
From war and strife to play love's part;
But as he bids a fond goodbye,
His heart feels sad, he knows not why.
Thus all upon that morn awoke
To life and love. Nought breathed or spoke
Of that dread hour, so close at hand,
When oblivion would hold the land.
The contadino wends his way
With song and merry roundelay,
Bearing within his rustic cart
His dewy flowers and fruits to mart.
Too early he for dozing guard,
He finds the gates still closely barred;
But, like the trumpeters of old,
He sings until the gates unfold.
Then, calculating o'er and o'er
The value of his precious store,
He heedeth not the thronging street,
The gay attire and hurrying feet,
Or glance of spear, and burnished shield,
Or dagger's point but half concealed,
Which tell that in yon circus now,
With bloodshot eyes and fierce-knit brow,
Ready with lance and spear in hand,
The gladiators, waiting, stand;
For are they not to try this day
Their skill and prowess? Some to slay,
And some, while the exultant shout goes high--
Ignobly where they fall--to die.
The imperial will this day decreed
Should every other day exceed
In revelry and bloody sport;
And he with all his minion court
Would join the gath'ring throng who crowd
The amphitheatre. Soon loud
The shout is heard above the din,
"Let the gladiators come in!"
The tardy trumpet sounds at length
Its clarion call, when in their strength,
Midst wild applause, from out their den
They rush within the arena. What men!
Their giant forms and sinews strong
Bespeak the struggle, hard and long;
But as they stand arrayed for fight,
And bear each other down with might,
A sound is heard as though great Jove
Had loosed the eternal thunders, and strove
To rend with one united blast
The earth in twain. All stand aghast
With horror pale, for, lo! they see
The mountain belching forth a sea
Of fire and blackening smoke, which soon
Obscures the glorious light of noon.
In wild confusion, while some implore
Their deities, and midst the roar
Of thunder's peal and earthquake's shock,
Which cause the city's walls to rock
And reel, falling with sudden crash,
And midst the lightning's lurid flash,
And yonder mountain's fiery glare,
And the appalling darkness hov'ring there,
Pours forth the terror-stricken throng,
Who rush tumultuously along,
As if hurrying to meet their doom,
In the sulphuric heat and gloom;
For the burning tempest soon descends
O'er all the city. Nought defends.
It burns its way through roof and wall,
And with the blist'ring heat they fall
In burning agony, and die.
An avenging God heeds not their cry.
All day the tempest of fire falls,
Covering at length tower and walls.
Oh, what a change! The mountain's side,
The verdant plain, the river's tide,
The city, have passed from sight away.
The evening's glory and morning's ray,
As oft in future time they come,
Will find no more the peaceful home
That stood upon the mountain's side;
For there, alas! a fiery tide
Goes seething down, and never more
Will flowers bloom, or sweet birds pour
Their happy strains from sheltering tree.
All, all have fled. Nought e'er will be
That e'er has been, for in their stead
Will ever rest a lava bed.