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Poem by Letitia Elizabeth Landon


There is a multitude, in number like
The waves of the wide ocean; and as still
As are those waters, when the summer breeze
Sleeps on the moveless billow; there is awe
On every countenance; and each does stand
In gasping breathlessness, as terror chain'd
The life pulse down; or, as they deem'd, a sound
Might call down new destruction on their heads
The sun look'd smiling from his clear blue throne,
And nature seem'd to gladden in the ray;
When suddenly a cloud came over heaven,

A black and terrible shadow, as the gloom
Of the destroying angel's form; the wind
Swept past with hollow murmur; and the birds
Ceasing their song of joyfulness, with mute,
And quick, and tremulous flight, for shelter sought!
Fear was on every living thing: the earth
Trembled as she presag'd some coming ill;
The voice of thunder spake; and in the midst
Of that proud city, in the midst of Rome,
The ground was riven in twain; and in the spot,
Where human steps had but so lately been,
There yawn'd a fearful gulf, dark as the powers
Of hell were gather'd thereno eye might scan
That fathomless abyss; the augur's voice
Hath told the will of heavennought may close
That gulf of terror, till it is the grave
Of all Rome holds most precious. Then came forth
A youthful warrior"What is dear to Rome,
But patriot valour? Ye infernal Gods,

Who now look wrathful from your deep abodes,
Behold your ready sacrifice!" He comes,
Arm'd as for battle, save no plumed helm
His black hair presses: he is on the steed
Which has so often borne him to the field.
Young Curtius came, but with a brow as firm,
And cheek unchang'd, as he was wont to wear,
When he essay'd the glorious strife of men;
Pride glanced upon his eyebut pride that seem'd
As a remembrance of the higher state
In which aspiring spirits move; whose thoughts
Of avarice, indolence, and selfish care,
The chains of meaner ones, have given way
Before the mighty fire of the high soul
Whose hope is immortality, whose steps
Are steps of flame, on which the many gaze,
But dare not follow. He on moment paus'd,
And cast a farewell look on all around.
How beautiful must be the sky above,

And fair the earth beneath, to him who gives
A lingering look, and knows it is his last!
Then onward urg'd his courser. Hark! a voice,
A wild shriek rings upon the air: he turn'd,
And his glance fell on her, his own dear love.
She rush'd upon his bosom silently,
As if her life were in that last embrace.
All was so still around, that every sob,
And the heart's throb of agony, were heard.
He clasp'd her, without power to soothe her grief,
But press'd her coral lipdid never flower
Yield fresher incense forth!and kiss'd away
The tears on her pale cheek, then on her gaz'd.
All his deep feeling, anguish, high resolves,
And love intense, were in that passionate glance.
He clasp'd her wildly, and his dark eye swam
In tenderness; but he has nerv'd his soul
He has spurr'd onand the dread gulf is clos'd!

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Letitia Elizabeth Landon's other poems:
  1. Portrait
  2. To Sir John Doyle, Bart
  3. The Tournament
  4. The Nameless Grave
  5. Song (I wrote my name upon the sand)

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Isabella Crawford Curtius ("How spake the Oracle, my Curtius, how?")

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