Arthur Hugh Clough

Here you will find the Long Poem Amours de Voyage, Canto II of poet Arthur Hugh Clough

Amours de Voyage, Canto II

Is it illusion? or does there a spirit from perfecter ages, 
Here, even yet, amid loss, change, and corruption abide? 
Does there a spirit we know not, though seek, though we find, comprehend not, 
Here to entice and confuse, tempt and evade us, abide? 
Lives in the exquisite grace of the column disjointed and single, 
Haunts the rude masses of brick garlanded gaily with vine, 
E'en in the turret fantastic surviving that springs from the ruin, 
E'en in the people itself? is it illusion or not? 
Is it illusion or not that attracteth the pilgrim transalpine, 
Brings him a dullard and dunce hither to pry and to stare? 
Is it illusion or not that allures the barbarian stranger, 
Brings him with gold to the shrine, brings him in arms to the gate? 

I. Claude to Eustace.

What do the people say, and what does the government do?--you 
Ask, and I know not at all. Yet fortune will favour your hopes; and 
I, who avoided it all, am fated, it seems, to describe it. 
I, who nor meddle nor make in politics,--I who sincerely 
Put not my trust in leagues nor any suffrage by ballot, 
Never predicted Parisian millenniums, never beheld a 
New Jerusalem coming down dressed like a bride out of heaven 
Right on the Place de la Concorde,--I, nevertheless, let me say it, 
Could in my soul of souls, this day, with the Gaul at the gates shed 
One true tear for thee, thou poor little Roman Republic; 
What, with the German restored, with Sicily safe to the Bourbon, 
Not leave one poor corner for native Italian exertion? 
France, it is foully done! and you, poor foolish England,-- 
You, who a twelvemonth ago said nations must choose for themselves, you 
Could not, of course, interfere,--you, now, when a nation has chosen---- 
Pardon this folly! The Times will, of course, have announced the occasion, 
Told you the news of to-day; and although it was slightly in error 
When it proclaimed as a fact the Apollo was sold to a Yankee, 
You may believe when it tells you the French are at Civita Vecchia. 

II. Claude to Eustace.

Dulce it is, and decorum, no doubt, for the country to fall,--to 
Offer one's blood an oblation to Freedom, and die for the Cause; yet 
Still, individual culture is also something, and no man 
Finds quite distinct the assurance that he of all others is called on, 
Or would be justified even, in taking away from the world that 
Precious creature, himself. Nature sent him here to abide here; 
Else why send him at all? Nature wants him still, it is likely; 
On the whole, we are meant to look after ourselves; it is certain 
Each has to eat for himself, digest for himself, and in general 
Care for his own dear life, and see to his own preservation; 
Nature's intentions, in most things uncertain, in this are decisive; 
Which, on the whole, I conjecture the Romans will follow, and I shall. 
So we cling to our rocks like limpets; Ocean may bluster, 
Over and under and round us; we open our shells to imbibe our 
Nourishment, close them again, and are safe, fulfilling the purpose 
Nature intended,--a wise one, of course, and a noble, we doubt not. 
Sweet it may be and decorous, perhaps, for the country to die; but, 
On the whole, we conclude the Romans won't do it, and I sha'n't. 

III. Claude to Eustace.

Will they fight? They say so. And will the French? I can hardly, 
Hardly think so; and yet----He is come, they say, to Palo, 
He is passed from Monterone, at Santa Severa 
He hath laid up his guns. But the Virgin, the Daughter of Roma, 
She hath despised thee and laughed thee to scorn,--The Daughter of Tiber, 
She hath shaken her head and built barricades against thee! 
Will they fight? I believe it. Alas! 'tis ephemeral folly, 
Vain and ephemeral folly, of course, compared with pictures, 
Statues, and antique gems!--Indeed: and yet indeed too, 
Yet, methought, in broad day did I dream,--tell it not in St. James's, 
Whisper it not in thy courts, O Christ Church!--yet did I, waking, 
Dream of a cadence that sings, Si tombent nos jeunes héros, la 
Terre en produit de nouveaux contre vous tous prêts à se battre; 
Dreamt of great indignations and angers transcendental, 
Dreamt of a sword at my side and a battle-horse underneath me. 

IV. Claude to Eustace.

Now supposing the French or the Neapolitan soldier 
Should by some evil chance come exploring the Maison Serny 
(Where the family English are all to assemble for safety), 
Am I prepared to lay down my life for the British female? 
Really, who knows? One has bowed and talked, till, little by little, 
All the natural heat has escaped of the chivalrous spirit. 
Oh, one conformed, of course; but one doesn't die for good manners, 
Stab or shoot, or be shot, by way of graceful attention. 
No, if it shoul