Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IN A COLUMBARIUM, by JOHN LAWSON STODDARD



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IN A COLUMBARIUM, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The autumn sun still bravely streams
Last Line: Love soars immortal to the skies.
Subject(s): Autumn; Love; Past; Roman Empire; Seasons; Time; Fall


The autumn sun still bravely streams
Along the tomb-girt Appian Way,
And warms the heart of one who dreams
Of all its splendor on the day
When Scipio triumphed, bringing home
The spoils of Africa to Rome.

On this same road the conqueror came,
Called "Africanus, the Divine"
By thousands who adored his fame,
And proudly watched the endless line
Of Punic captives in his train,
And trophies, won on Zama's plain.

To-day the vast Campagna rolls
In stately grandeur to the sea,
But where are now the countless souls
Whose dwelling-place this used to be,
When all its space to Ostia's gate
Lay peopled and inviolate?

Ask of the Claudian arches gray
Which stride toward Rome in broken lines;
Ask of the lizards at their play
On relics of the Antonines;
Ask of the fever-blighted shore,
Where Roman galleys ride no more!

Yet some poor traces still remain
Of those who here have lived and died;
For underneath this solemn plain
The Christian catacombs still hide, --
A city of sepulchral gloom,
The martyrs' labyrinthine tomb.

Moreover, in this classic soil,
Where sleeps so much of ancient Rome,
A simple peasant at his toil
Discovered 'neath the upturned loam
The spot to which I now have come, --
A Roman Columbarium.

Down through its modern, open door
A flood of mellow sunshine falls
In golden waves from roof to floor,
Revealing in its moss-grown walls
The "dove-cotes", where one still discerns
The fragments of old funeral urns.

One vacant niche, whose ampler space
Betokens special love and care,
Contained no doubt a sculptured face
Above the hallowed ashes there;
While, just beneath, faint letters spell
A faithful woman's fond farewell.

How often on love's winged feet
She doubtless sought this dear recess,
To deck with floral offerings sweet
Her sepulchre of happiness,
Whose script, despite two thousand years,
Preserves the memory of her tears!

Rome's annals hint not of the name
Of him whose dust lay treasured here,
But could the fleeting breath of fame
Have made him to her heart more dear?
A word of tenderness outweighs
In woman's soul a world of praise.

What though, remote from pomp and state,
At Caesar's court he could not shine?
Less blest had surely been his fate
Upon the lustful Palatine!
And mutual love, wherever viewed,
Is life's supreme beatitude.

Alas! the urn no longer stands
Within the little alcove dim;
Gone also are the faithful hands
That hung sweet roses on its rim;
And vanished even is the bust
Which watched above the sacred dust.

Yet still its words of love survive
The shocks and tragedies of time,
And bid our drooping hearts revive,
Inculcating the faith sublime
That, while the urn in ruin lies,
Love soars immortal to the skies.





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