Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/450

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408
[CANTO IV.
CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE.

CVIII.

There is the moral of all human tales;[1]

'Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,

    antiquary. [The Palatine was the site of the successive "Domus" of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula, and of the Domus Transitoria of Nero, which perished when Rome was burnt. Later emperors—Vespasian, Domitian, Septimius Severus—added to the splendour of the name-giving Palatine. "The troops of Genseric," says Hobhouse (Hist. Illust., p. 206), "occupied the Palatine, and despoiled it of all its riches ... and when it again rises, it rises in ruins." Systematic excavations during the last fifty years have laid bare much that was hidden, and "learning and research" have in parts revealed the "obliterated plan;" but, in 1817, the "shapeless mass of ruins" defied the guesses of antiquarians. "Your walks in the Palatine ruins ... will be undisturbed, unless you startle a fox in breaking through the brambles in the corridors, or burst unawares through the hole of some shivered fragments into one of the half-buried chambers, which the peasants have blocked up to serve as stalls for their jackasses, or as huts for those who watch the gardens" (Hist. Illust., p. 212).]

  1. The author of the Life of Cicero, speaking of the opinion entertained of Britain by that orator and his contemporary Romans, has the following eloquent passage:—"From their railleries of this kind, on the barbarity and misery of our island, one cannot help reflecting on the surprising fate and revolutions of kingdoms; how Rome, once the mistress of the world, the seat of arts, empire, and glory, now lies sunk in sloth, ignorance, and poverty; enslaved to the most cruel as well as to the most contemptible of tyrants, superstition and religious imposture; while this remote country, anciently the jest and contempt of the polite Romans, is become the happy seat of liberty, plenty, and letters; flourishing in all the arts and refinements of civil life; yet running, perhaps, the same course which Rome itself had run before it, from virtuous industry to wealth; from wealth to luxury; from luxury to an impatience of discipline and corruption of morals: till, by a total degeneracy and loss of virtue, being grown ripe for destruction, it fall a prey at last to some hardy oppressor, and, with the loss of liberty, losing everything that is valuable, sinks gradually again into its original barbarism." (See Life of M. Tullius Cicero, by Conyers Middleton, D.D., 1823, sect. vi. vol. i. pp. 399, 400.)