Pompeii

 
Early in the morning,

     The rose tree bends its head,

The gold-fish keep returning

     To where the fountain wavers

Down cascades of lead.

 

     Violets and Naples lilies,

Ivy and laurel leaves,

     The listless peacock dallies

Along the paths of topaz,

     While the ring-dove grieves.

 

There columns cast the shadows

     Of Greece in Roman guise,

Where bronze and marble shade those

     Who stand or sit together

Like statues in repose.

 

They speak of Virgil dying

     Not far from where they are,

And one repeats the saying

     Of Dido to the ocean,

     Aeneas to his star.

 

Then both, while strolling, stumble

     Over a broken bough

Of laurel, and dissemble,

     Smiling at idle omens,

     The fear they disallow.

 

Mosaics seem to shimmer;

     The statues, do they stir?

Far off, a goose-yard clamour

     Brings back the classic warning;

     And dust weighs down the air.

 

The peristyle is darkened,

     Some clouds across the sun;

The slaves, who sing at work, end

     Their song unfinished, and the

     Fountain is fine spun.

 

Alas, those poetry-lovers,

     Alas, their tragic frieze;

The water-clock endeavours

     To trickle time a moment

     Longer from the lees.

 

The gold-fish lose their lustre,

     The lilies, ashen, die;

Ah, Virgil, in disaster

     What words of yours will comfort?

     The rose absorbs the sky.

 

And gone the pleasant city,

     Whose nightfall came at noon;

With all its works of beauty,

     And all its rich tomorrows,

     A landscape on the moon.