At Rome

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At Rome
by Arthur Hugh Clough

O, richly soiled and richly sunned,
Exuberant, fervid, and fecund!
Is this the fixed condition
On which may Northern pilgrim come,
To imbibe thine ether-air, and sum
Thy store of old tradition?
Must we be chill, if clean, and stand
Foot-deep in dirt on classic land?

So is it: in all ages so,
And in all places man can know,
From homely roots unseen below
The stem in forest, field, and bower,
Derives the emanative power
That crowns it with the ethereal flower,
From mixtures foetid, foul, and sour
Draws juices that those petals fill.

Ah Nature, if indeed thy will
Thou own’st it, it shall not be ill!
And truly here, in this quick clime,
Where, scarcely bound by space or time,
The elements in half a day
Toss off with exquisitest play
What our cold seasons toil and grieve,
And never quite at last achieve;
Where processes, with pain, and fear,
Disgust, and horror wrought, appear
The quick mutations of a dance,
Wherein retiring but to advance,
Life, in brief interpause of death,
One moment sitting taking breath,
Forth comes again as glad as e’er,
In some new figure full as fair,
Where what has scarcely ceased to be,
Instinct with newer birth we see—
What dies, already, look you, lives;
In such a clime, who thinks, forgives;
Who sees, will understand; who knows,
In calm of knowledge find repose,
And thoughtful as of glory gone,
So too of more to come anon,
Of permanent existence sure,
Brief intermediate breaks endure.
O Nature, if indeed thy will,
Thou ownest it, it is not ill!
And e’en as oft on heathy hill,
On moorland black, and ferny fells,
Beside thy brooks and in thy dells,
Was welcomed erst the kindly stain
Of thy true earth, e’en so again
With resignation fair, and meet
The dirt and refuse of thy street,
My philosophic foot shall greet,
So leave but perfect to my eye
Thy columns, set against thy sky!

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.