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While oft some temple's moldering tops between
With venerable grandeur mark the scene.
Could Nature's bounty satisfy the breast,
The sons of Italy were surely bless'd.
Whatever fruits in different climes were found,
That proudly rise, or humbly court the ground—
Whatever blooms in torrid tracts appear,
Whose bright succession decks the varied year —
Whatever sweets salute the northern sky
With vernal lives, that blossom but to die—
These, here disporting, own the kindred soil,
Nor ask luxuriance from the planter's toil;
While sea-born gales their gelid wings expand
To winnow fragrance round the smiling land.
But small the bliss that sense alone bestows,
And sensual bliss is all the nation knows;
In florid beauty groves and fields appear—
Man seems the only growth that dwindles here !
Contrasted faults through all his manners reign:
Though poor, luxurious; though submissive, vain:
Though grave, yet trifling; zealous, yet untrue—
And even in penance planning sins anew. 130
All evils here contaminate the mind,
That opulence departed leaves behind;
For wealth was theirs—nor far remov’d the date
When commerce proudly flourish'd through the state.
At her command the palace learn'd to rise,
Again the long fallen column sought the skies,
The canvas glow'd beyond even nature warm,
The pregnant quarry teem'd with human form;
Till, more unsteady than the southern gale,
Commerce on other shores display'd her sail, 140
While naught remain'd, of all that riches gave,
But towns unmann'd and lords without a slave—
And late the nation found, with fruitless skill,
Its former strength was but plethoric ill.
Yet, still the loss of wealth is here supplied
By arts, the splendid wrecks of former pride:
From these the feeble heart and long fallen mind
An easy compensation seem to find.
Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp array'd,
The pasteboard triumph and the cavalcade;
Processions form'd for piety and love—
A mistress or a saint in every grove:
By sports like these are all their cares beguil'd :
The sports of children satisfy the child.
Each nobler aim, repress'd by long control,
Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul;
While low delights, succeeding fast behind,
In happier meanness occupy the mind.
As in those domes, where Caesars once bore sway,
Defac’d by time and tottering in decay,
There in the ruin, heedless of the dead,
The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed; 162
And, wondering man could want the larger pile,
Exults, and owns his cottage with a smile.
My soul, turn from them, turn we to survey
Where rougher climes a nobler race display—
Where the bleak Swiss their stormy mansions tread,
And force a churlish soil for scanty bread.
No product here the barren hills afford
But man and steel, the soldier and his sword;
No vernal blooms their torpid rocks array,
But winter lingering chills the lap of May; 172
No zephyr fondly sues the mountain's breast,
But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest.
Yet still, even here, content can spread a charm,
Redress the clime, and all its rage disarm.
Though poor the peasant's hut, his feasts though small,
He sees his little lot the lot of all;
Sees no contiguous palace rear its head,
To shame the meanness of his humble shed—
No costly lord the sumptuous banquet deal,
To make him loathe his vegetable meal–
But calm, and bred in ignorance and toil,
Each wish contracting, fits him to the soil.
Cheerful at morn, he wakes from short repose,
Breasts the keen air, and carols as he goes; 186