University of Virginia Library



Ah Rome, your tie! may child clean part?
Nay, tugs the mother at the heart!”
Strange voice that was which three there heard
Reclined upon the bank. They turned;
And he, the speaker of the word,
Stood in the grass, with eyes that burned
How eloquent upon the group.
“Here urging on before our troop,”
He said, “I caught your choral strains—
Spurred quicker, lighted, tied my mule
Behind you clump; and, for my pains,
Meet—three, I ween, who slight the rule
Of Rome, yet thence do here indeed,
Through strong compulsion of the need,
Derive fair rite: or may I err?”
Surprise they knew, yet made a stir
Of welcome, gazing on the man
In white robe of Dominican,
Of aspect strong, though cheek was spare,
Yellowed with tinge athlete may wear
Whom rigorous masters overtrain
When they with scourge of more and more
Would macerate him into power.
In wrought herewith was yet the air
And open frontage frankly fair
Of one who'd moved in active scene
And swayed men where they most convene.
His party came from Saba last,
Camping by Lot's wave overnight—
French pilgrims. So he did recite


Being questioned. Thereupon they passed
To matters of more pith. Debate
They held, built on that hymning late;
Till in reply to Derwent's strain
Thus warmed he, that Dominican:
“Crafty is Rome, you deem? Her art
Is simple, quarried from the heart.
Rough marbles, rudiments of worth
Ye win from ledges under earth;
Ye trim them, fit them, make them shine
In structures of a fair design.
Well, fervors as obscure in birth—
Precious, though fleeting in their dates—
Rome culls, adapts, perpetuates
In ordered rites. 'Tis these supply
Means to the mass to beautify
The rude emotion; lend meet voice
To organs which would fain rejoice
But lack the song; and oft present
To sorrow bound, an instrument
Which liberates. Each hope, each fear
Between the christening and the bier
Still Rome provides for, and with grace
And tact which hardly find a place
In uninspired designs.”
“Let be
Thou Paul! shall Festus yield to thee?”
Cried Rolfe; “and yet,” in altered tone,
“Even these fair things—ah, change goes on!”
“Change? yes, but not with us. In rout
Sword-hilts rap at the Vatican,
And, lo, an old, old man comes out:
‘What would ye?’ ‘Change!’ ‘I never change.’”
“Things changing not when all things change
Need perish then, one might retort,


Nor err.”
“Ay, things of human sort.”
“Rome superhuman?”
“As ye will.
Brave schemes these boyish times instill;
But Rome has lived a thousand years:
Shall not a thousand years know more
Than nonage may?” “Then all the cheers
Which hail the good time deemed at door
Are but the brayings which attest
The foolish, many-headed beast!”
“Hardly that inference I own.
The people once elected me
To be their spokesman. In this gown
I sat in legislative hall
A champion of true liberty—
God's liberty for one and all—
Not Satan's license. Mine's the state
Of a staunch Catholic Democrat.”
Indulgent here was Derwent's smile,
Incredulous was Rolfe's. But he:
“Hardly those terms ye reconcile.
And yet what is it that we see?
Before the Church our human race
Stand equal. None attain to place
Therein through claim of birth or fee.
No monk so mean but he may dare
Aspire to sit in Peter's chair.”
“Why, true,” said Derwent; “but what then?
That sums not all. And what think men?”
And, briefly, more, about the rot
Of Rome in Luther's time, the canker spot.
“Well,” said the monk, “I'll not gainsay
Some things you put: I own the shame:
Reform was needed, yes, and came—


Reform within. But let that go—
That era's gone: how fares it now?—
Melancthon! was forecast by thee,
Who fain had tempered Luther's mind,
This riot of reason quite set free:
Sects—sects bisected—sects disbanded
Into plain deists underhanded?
Against all this stands Rome's array:
Rome is the Protestant to-day:
The Red Republic slinging flame
In Europe—she's your Scarlet Dame.
Rome stands; but who may tell the end?
Relapse barbaric may impend,
Dismission into ages blind—
Moral dispersion of mankind.
Ah, God,” and dropped upon the knee:
“These flocks which range so far from Thee,
Ah, leave them not to be undone:
Let them not cower as 'twixt the sea
And storm—in panic crowd and drown!”
He rose, resumed his previous cheer
With something of a bearing sweet.
“Brother,” said Derwent friendly here,
“I'm glad to know ye, glad to meet,
Even though, in part, your Rome seeks ends
Not mine. But, see, there pass your friends:
Call they your name?”
“Yes, yes” he said,
And rose to loose his mule; “you're right;
We go to win the further bed
Of Jordan, by the convent's site.
A parting word: Methinks ye hold
Reserved objections. I'll unfold
But one:—Rome being fixed in form,
Unyielding there, how may she keep
Adjustment with new times? But deep


Below rigidities of form
The invisible nerves and tissues change
Adaptively. As men that range
From clime to clime, from zone to zone
(Say Russian hosts that menace Ind)
Through all vicissitudes still find
The body acclimate itself
While form and function hold their own—
Again they call:—Well, you are wise;
Enough—you can analogize
And take my meaning: I have done.
No, one more point:—Science but deals
With Nature; Nature is not God;
Never she answers our appeals,
Or, if she do, but mocks the clod.
Call to the echo—it returns
The word you send; how thrive the ferns
About the ruined house of prayer
In woods; one shadow falleth yet
From Christian spire—Turk minaret:
Consider the indifference there.
'Tis so throughout. Shall Science then
Which solely dealeth with this thing
Named Nature, shall she ever bring
One solitary hope to men?
'Tis Abba Father that we seek,
Not the Artificer. I speak,
But scarce may utter. Let it be.
Adieu; remember—Oh, not me;
But if with years should fail delight
As things unmask abroad and home;
Then, should ye yearn in reason's spite,
Remember hospitable Rome.”
He turned, and would have gone; but, no,
New matter struck him: “Ere I go


Yet one word more; and bear with me:
Whatever your belief may be—
If well ye wish to human kind,
Be not so mad, unblest, and blind
As, in such days as these, to try
To pull down Rome. If Rome could fall
'Twould not be Rome alone, but all
Religion. All with Rome have tie,
Even the railers which deny,
All but the downright Anarchist,
Christ-hater, Red, and Vitriolist.
Could libertine dreams true hope disable,
Rome's tomb would prove Abaddon's cradle.
Weigh well the Pope. Though he should be
Despoiled of Charlemagne's great fee—
Cast forth, and made a begging friar,
That would not quell him. No, the higher
Rome's In excelsis would extol
Her God—her De profundis roll
The deeper. Let destructives mind
The reserves upon reserves behind.
Offence I mean not. More's to tell:
But frigates meet—hail—part. Farewell.”
And, going, he a verse did weave,
Or hummed in low recitative:
“Yearly for a thousand years
On Christmas Day the wreath appears,
And the people joy together:
Prithee, Prince or Parliament,
An equal holiday invent
Outlasting centuries of weather.
“Arrested by a trembling shell,
Wee tinkle of the small mass-bell,


A giant drops upon the knee.
Thou art wise—effect as much;
Let thy wisdom by a touch
Reverence like this decree.”