Landon in The Literary Gazette 1829/Fame
Literary Gazette, 20th June, 1829, Page 412
FAME: AN APOLOGUE.
The Three Brothers.
"The sands of those deserts which lie to the westward of Egypt are encroaching on and narrowing, by a constant and irresistible inroad, the valley of the Nile of Egypt. We see the pyramids gradually diminishing in height, particularly on their western sides; and we read of town and villages which have been buried in the desert, but which once stood in fertile soil, some of whose minarets were still visible a few years ago, attesting the powers of the invading sand. * * * Advancing, I repeat, to the annihilation of Egypt and all her glories, with the silence, but with the certainty too, of all-devouring time! * * * We have a broad and inextinguishable flood of light breaking in on this death-like gloom."—Sir Rufane Donkin's Courts, &c. of the Niger.
They dwelt in a valley of sunshine, those Brothers;
Green were the palm-trees that shadowed their dwelling;
Sweet, like low music, the sound of the fountains
That fell from the rocks round their beautiful home:
There the pomegranate blushed like the cheek of the maiden
When she hears in the distance the step of her lover,
And blushes to know it before her young friends.
They dwelt in the valley—their mine was the corn-field
Heavy with gold, and in autumn they gathered
The grapes that hung clustering together like rubies:
Summer was prodigal there of her roses,
And the ringdoves filled every grove with their song.
But those Brothers were weary; for hope like a glory
Lived in each bosom—that hope of the future
Which turns where it kindles the heart to an altar,
And urges to honour and noble achievement:
To this fine spirit our earth owes her greatest:
For the future is purchased by scorning the present,
And life is redeemed from its clay soil by fame.
They leant in the shades of the palm-trees at evening,
When a crimson haze swept down the side of the mountain:
Glorious in power and terrible beauty,
The Spirit that dwelt in the star of their birth
Parted the clouds and stood radiant before them:—
Each felt his destiny hung on that moment;
Each from his hand took futurity's symbol—
One took a sceptre, and one took a sword;
But a little lute fell to the share of the youngest,
And his Brothers turned from him and laughed him to scorn.
And the King said, "The earth shall be filled with my glory:"
And he built him a temple—each porphyry column
Was the work of a life; and he built him a city—
A hundred gates opened the way to his palace
(Too few for the crowds that there knelt as his slaves,)
And the highest tower saw not the extent of the walls.
The banks of the river were covered with gardens;
And even when sunset was pale in the ocean,
The turrets were shining with taper and lamp,
Which filled the night-wind, as it passed them, with odours.
The angel of death came and summoned the monarch;
But he looked on the city, the fair and the mighty,
And said, "Ye proud temples, I leave ye my fame."
The Conqueror went forth, like the storm over ocean,
His chariot-wheels red with the blood of the vanquished;
Nations grew pale at the sound of his trumpet,
Thousands rose up at the wave of his banners,
And the valleys were white with the bones of the slain.
He stood on a mountain, no foeman was near him,
Heavy and crimson his banner was waving
O'er the plain where his victories were written in blood,
And he welcomed the wound whence his life's tide was flowing;
For death is the seal to the conqueror's fame.
But the youngest went forth with his lute—and the valleys
Were filled with the sweetness that sighed from its strings;
Maidens, whose dark eyes but opened on palaces,
Wept as at twilight they murmured his words.
He sang to the exile the songs of his country,
Till he dreamed for a moment of hope and of home;
He sang to the victor, who loosened his captives,
While the tears of his childhood sprang into his eyes.
He died—and his lute was bequeathed to the cypress,
And his tones to the hearts that loved music and song.
Long ages past, from the dim world of shadows
These Brothers return'd to revisit the earth;
They came to revisit the place of their glory,
To hear and rejoice in the sound of their fame.
They looked for the palace—the temple of marble—
The rose-haunted gardens—a desert was there;
The sand, like the sea in its wrath, had swept o'er them,*
And tradition had even forgotten their names.
The Conqueror stood on the place of his battles,
And his triumph had passed away like a vapour,
And the green grass was waving its growth of wild flowers,
And they, not his banner, gave name to the place.
They passed a king's garden, and there sat his daughter,
Singing a sweet song remember'd of old,
And the song was caught up, and sent back like an echo,
From a young voice that came from a cottage beside.
Then smiled the Minstrel, "You hear it, my Brothers,
My songs yet are sweet on the lute and the lip."
King, not a vestige remains of your palaces;
Conqueror, forgotten the fame of your battles:
But the Poet yet lives in the sweetness of music—
He appeal'd to the heart, and that never forgets.
L. E. L.