1820
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Salerno.

The View, and other Poems.

Chandos Leigh


A Horatian ode in six Spenserians: a hill-poem moralized with reflections on the Roman Church: "The spiritual pride of Rome must yield | To pure philosophy, that now disdains | Those Papal fiats to which kings appeal'd, | When mad ambition used religion as its shield." The image of the sun rising above the mists is perhaps taken from the famous passage in James Beattie's The Minstrel. Salerno, in southern Italy, was the site of Pompeii.



How beautiful, Salerno! is thy bay;
How green thy heights monastic! — let me stand
On yonder mountain, ('tis the break of day,)
And view, outstretch'd below, a sacred land
Beneath the day-blush indistinctly grand.
Here beauty smiled, and valour boldly fought;—
Who would not fight when beauty gives command?
Here, with unclouded mind, the scholar sought
Those academes, where learning every science taught.

Hail, thou thrice-blessed sun! how very few
With thankfulness enjoy thy genial beams;
Or from the mountain's height are wont to view,
With feelings of delight, morn's earliest gleams,—
The mist uprising o'er the distant streams!
The morn's an emblem of our second birth;
When we shall quit this pleasant land of dreams,
The sun, to those who feel and know their worth,
Predicts eternal glories for the sons of earth.

Here let me pause. The blood of Christ was spilt,
To free mankind from death's eternal chains:—
Not through indulgences to cancel guilt,
Or from the tainted heart wash out its stains,
Unless repentance chasten it with pains.
The spiritual pride of Rome must yield
To pure philosophy, that now disdains
Those Papal fiats to which kings appeal'd,
When mad ambition used religion as its shield.

Ye haughty Cardinals, who o'er the minds
Of despot sovereigns held despotic sway,—
No heir to your self-willed ambition binds
Nobility, with iron links, to-day;—
Your power anomalous has past away!
Ye were most potent ministers, and well,
With eagle swiftness, pounced upon your prey.
Yet are ye greater now than those who dwell
On Nicolo's vast heights, or hermit in his cell.

Ye have upraised indeed the monarch's power,—
That it might fall from high with greater force:
The chains ye forged were broken in an hour,
By outraged multitudes, without remorse.
Affection is true loyalty's prime source,—
Upmounts ambition, like a seeled dove;
While vulgar spirits wonder at its course,—
Higher and higher yet, it mounts above
Royalty's self, that scorns (how blind!) the people's love.

A few years pass away, and then — farewell
To wealth and rank, and all we hold most dear!—
For ever and for ever we must dwell
With saints or daemons, — death approacheth near.
Why quakes yon mighty potentate with fear?
He leaves a name behind; and heroes toil
To gain — what many have who ne'er appear
But in the poet's fabled lays, — they spoil
Others' repose, and lose their own through vain turmoil!

Are not the heroes of romance as known
As Caesar, Attila, or Ammon's son?
What an unreal thing is that renown
Which after ages give — for battles won—
To him, who from this bustling world is gone!
He wanders through the mansions of the dead,—
Where joy ne'er smiled, the light has never shone,—
Vexed by the groans of those who daily bled,
That through — else happy — lands their lord might ruin spread!

[(1822) 169-72]