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The growing towers, like exhalations rise,
And the huge columns heave into the skies.
The eastern front was glorious to behold,
With diamond flaming, and barbaric gold.
There Ninus shone, who spread the Assyrian fame,
And the great founder of the Persian name:1
There in long robes the royal Magi stand,
Grave Zoroaster waves the circling wand,
The sage Chaldeans robed in white appear'd,
And Brachmans, deep in desert woods revered.
These stopp'd the moon, and call'd the unbodied shades
To midnight banquets in the glimmering glades;
Made visionary fabrics round them rise,
And airy spectres skim before their eyes;
Of talismans and sigils knew the power,
And careful watch'd the planetary hour.
Superior, and alone, Confucius stood,
Who taught that useful science, to be good.
But on the south, a long majestic race
Of Egypt's priests the gilded niches grace,
Who measured earth, described the starry spheres,
And traced the long records of lunar years.
High on his car Sesostris struck my view,
Whom sceptred slaves in golden harness drew:
His hands a bow and pointed javelin hold;
His giant limbs are arm'd in scales of gold.
Between the statues obelisks were placed,
And the learn❜d walls with hieroglyphics graced.
Of Gothic structure was the northern side,3
O'erwrought with ornaments of barbarous pride:
1 Cyrus was the beginning of the Persian, as Ninus was of the Assyrian monarchy. The Magi and Chaldeans (the chief of whom was Zoroaster) employed their studies upon magic and astrology, which was in a manner almost all the learning of the ancient Asian people. We have scarce any account of a moral philosopher except Confucius, the great lawgiver of the Chinese, who lived about two thousand years ago.
2. The learning of the old Egyptian priests consisted for the most part in geometry and astronomy; they also preserved the history of their nation. Their greatest hero upon record is Sesostris, whose actions and conquests may be seen at large in Diodorus, &c. He is said to have caused the kings he vanquished to draw him in his chariot. posture of his statue, in these verses, is correspondent to the description which Herodotus gives of one of them remaining in his own time.
3 The architecture is agreeable to that part of the world. The learning of the northern nations lay more obscure than that of the rest;
There huge Colossæ rose, with trophies crown'd,
And Runic characters were graved around.
There sat Zamolxis with erected eyes,
And Odin here in mimic trances dies.
There on rude iron columns, smear'd with blood,
The horrid forms of Scythian heroes stood,
Druids and bards (their once loud harps unstrung)
And youths that died to be by poets sung.
These and a thousand more of doubtful fame,
To whom old fables gave a lasting name,
In ranks adorn'd the temple's outward face;
The wall in lustre and effect like glass,
Which o'er each object casting various dyes,
Enlarges some, and other multiplies:
Nor void of emblem was the mystic wall,
For thus romantic fame increases all.
The temple shakes, the sounding gates unfold,
Wide vaults appear, and roofs of fretted gold:
Raised on a thousand pillars, wreathed around
With laurel foliage, and with eagles crown'd:
Of bright, transparent beryl were the walls,
The friezes gold, and gold the capitals:
As heaven with stars, the roof with jewels glows,
And ever-living lamps depend in rows.
Full in the passage of each spacious gate,
The sage historians in white garments wait;
Graved o'er their seats the form of Time was found,
His scythe reversed, and both his pinions bound.
Within stood heroes, who through loud alarms
In bloody fields pursued renown in arms,
High on a throne with trophies charged, I view'd
The youth that all things but himself subdued ;2
Zamolxis was the disciple of Pythagoras, who taught the immortality of the soul to the Scythians. Odin, or Woden, was the great legislator and hero of the Goths. They tell us of him, that, being subject to fits, he persuaded his followers, that during those trances he received inspirations, from whence he dictated his laws; he is said to have been the inventor of the Runic characters.
1 These were the priests and poets of those people, so celebrated for their savage virtue. Those heroic barbarians accounted it a dishonour to die in their beds, and rushed on to certain death in the prospect of an after-life, and for the glory of a song from their bards in praise of their actions.
2 Alexander the Great; the tiara was the crown peculiar to the Asian princes; his desire to be thought the son of Jupiter Ammon caused him to wear the horns of that god, and to represent the same upon his coins; which was continued by several of his successors.
His feet on sceptres and tiaras trod,
And his horn'd head belied the Libyan god.
There Cæsar, graced with both Minervas, shone;
Cæsar, the world's great master, and his own;
Unmoved, superior still in every state,
And scarce detested in his country's fate.
But chief were those, who not for empire fought,
But with their toils their people's safety bought:
High o'er the rest Epaminondas stood;
Timoleon, glorious in his brother's blood;1
Bold Scipio, saviour of the Roman state;
Great in his triumphs, in retirement great;
And wise Aurelius, in whose well-taught mind
With boundless power unbounded virtue join'd,
His own strict judge, and patron of mankind.
Much-suffering heroes next their honours claim
Those of less noisy and less guilty fame,
Fair Virtue's silent train: supreme of these
Here ever shines the godlike Socrates:
He whom ungrateful Athens2 could expel,
At all times just, but when he sign'd the shell:
Here his abode the martyr'd Phocion claims,
With Agis, not the last of Spartan names:
Unconquer'd Cato shows the wound he tore,
And Brutus his ill genius meets no more.
But in the centre of the hallow'd choir,3
Six pompous columns o'er the rest aspire;
Around the shrine itself of Fame they stand,
Hold the chief honours, and the fane command.
1 Timoleon had saved the life of his brother Timophanes in the battle between the Argives and Corinthians; but afterwards killed him when he affected the tyranny, preferring his duty to his country to all the obligations of blood.
2 Aristides, who for his great integrity was distinguished by the appellation of the Just. When his countrymen would have banished him by the ostracism, where it was the custom for every man to sign the name of the person he voted to exile in an oyster-shell, a peasant, who could not write, came to Aristides to do it for him, who readily signed his own
3 In the midst of the Temple, nearest the throne of Fame, are placed the greatest names in learning of all antiquity. These are described in such attitudes as express their different characters: the columns on which they are raised are adorned with sculptures, taken from the most striking subjects of their works; which sculpture bears a resemblance, in its manner and character, to the manner and character of their writings.
High on the first, the mighty Homer shone;
Eternal adamant composed his throne;
Father of verse, in holy fillets drest,
His silver beard waved gently o'er his breast;
Tho' blind, a boldness in his looks appears:
In years he seem'd, but not impair'd by years.
The wars of Troy were round the pillar seen:
Here fierce Tydides wounds the Cyprian Queen;
Here Hector glorious from Patroclus' fall,
Here dragg'd in triumph round the Trojan wall:
Motion and life did every part inspire,
Bold was the work, and proved the master's fire;
A strong expression most he seem'd to affect,
And here and there disclosed a brave neglect.
A golden column next in rank appear'd,
On which a shrine of purest gold was rear'd;
Finish'd the whole, and labour'd ev'ry part,
With patient touches of unwearied art:
The Mantuan there in sober triumph sate,
Composed his posture, and his looks sedate;
On Homer still he fix'd a reverend eye,
Great without pride, in modest majesty.
In living sculpture on the sides were spread
The Latian wars, and haughty Turnus dead;
Eliza stretch'd upon the funeral pyre,
Æneas bending with his aged sire:
Troy flamed in burning gold, and o'er the thron
ARMS AND THE MAN in golden ciphers shone.
Four swans sustain a car of silver bright,1
With heads advanced, and pinions stretch'd for flight:
Here, like some furious prophet, Pindar rode,
And seem'd to labour with the inspiring god.
Across the harp a careless hand he flings,
And boldly sinks into the sounding strings.
The figured games of Greece the column grace,
Neptune and Jove survey the rapid race.
The youths hang o'er the chariots as they run;
The fiery steeds seem starting from the stone;
The champions in distorted postures threat;
And all appear'd irregularly great.
1 Pindar, being seated in a chariot, alludes to the chariot-races he celebrated in the Grecian games. The swans are emblems of poetry, their soaring posture intimates the sublimity and activity of his genius. Neptune presided over the Isthmian, and Jupiter over the Olympian games.
Here happy Horace tuned the Ausonian lyre To sweeter sounds, and temper'd Pindar's fire: Pleased with Alcæus' manly rage to infuse The softer spirit of the Sapphic muse. The polish'd pillar different sculptures grace; A work outlasting monumental brass. Here smiling loves and bacchanals appear, The Julian star, and great Augustus here. The doves that round the infant poet spread Myrtles and bays, hung hovering o'er his head. Here in a shrine that cast a dazzling light, Sate fix'd in thought the mighty Stagirite; His sacred head a radiant zodiac crown'd, And various animals his sides surround; His piercing eyes, erect, appear to view Superior worlds, and look all nature through. With equal rays immortal Tully shone, The Roman rostra deck'd the consul's throne: Gathering his flowing robe, he seem'd to stand In act to speak, and graceful stretch'd his hand. Behind, Rome's genius waits with civic crowns, And the great father of his country owns.
These massy columns in a circle rise,
O'er which a pompous dome invades the skies:
Scarce to the top I stretch'd my aching sight,
So large it spread, and swell'd to such a height.
Full in the midst proud Fame's imperial seat
With jewels blazed, magnificently great ;
The vivid emeralds there revive the eye,
The flaming rubies show their sanguine dye,
Bright azure rays from lively sapphires stream,
And lucid amber casts a golden gleam.
With various-colour'd light the pavement shone,
And all on fire appear'd the glowing throne,
The dome's high arch reflects the mingled blaze,
And forms a rainbow of alternate rays.
When on the goddess first I cast my sight,
Scarce seem'd her stature of a cubit's height;
But swell'd to larger size, the more I gazed,
Till to the roof her towering front she raised.
With her, the temple every moment grew,
And ampler vistas open'd to my view:
Upward the columns shoot, the roofs ascend,
And arches widen, and long aisles extend.