Poems of Italy: selections from the Odes of Giosue Carducci/To Giuseppe Garibaldi
ALONE rides the Dictator at the head
Of the advancing mournful band, withdrawn
Into his thoughts and silent; round him earth
And sky alike are leaden, squalid, chill.
The heavy plashing of his horse's hoofs
In the deep mire was audible; behind,
The cadenced fall of footsteps and the sighs
Breathed from heroic breasts into the night.
But from each clod livid with slaughter's stain,
From every blood-dewed bush, wherever lay
The poorest fragment or the smallest, torn,
O you Italian mothers, from your hearts—
There, like a star a flame sprang up, and rose
A sound of many voices chanting hymns;
Far in the background shone Olympic Rome,
And through the air a mighty pæan ran.
Mentana saw proclaimed the ages' shame,
Cæsar's and Peter's infamous embrace;
Thou hast, O Garibaldi, at Mentana
On Peter and on Cæsar set thy foot.
O thou, of Aspromonté splendid rebel,
O glorious victor of Mentana thou,
Come then, and tell Palermo's tale and Rome's
Unto Camillus in the Capitol!"—
Thus a mysterious voice of spirits ran
Solemnly through the Italian sky that day
When all the vile lamented in their fright—
Curs that shrank cowering from the avenging lash.
Now, Italy adores thee. A new Rome
Is hailing thee her latest Romulus.
Thou dost ascend, divine one; round thy head
There cannot come the silences of death.
Over the common gulf of little souls
Refulgent art thou, by the ages called
Up to the lofty heights and councils pure
Of gods and heroes watching o'er our land.
Thou dost ascend. And Dante, looking, says
To Virgil: "Ne'er a nobler hero form
Did we conceive ...” Then Livy, with a smile,
"To my domain, O poets, he belongs.
"Yea, written in Italian civil story
The record of tenacious daring stands—
Daring that had its root in justice, reached
To loftiest heights, and in the ideal sought light."
Glory to thee, O father! In the grim
Shud'rings of Etna breathes thy lion heart
And in the whirlwinds of the Alps, let loose
Against barbarian foe and tyrant's rule.
Serenely shines from thy calm heart diffused,
Light in the sea's blue laughter and the sky's,
In all the flowering Mays, and o'er the tombs
Of heroes, and their fair memorial marbles.
Written probably on an anniversary of the battle of Mentana, which occurred on November 3d, 1867. "Peter and Cæsar," of course, represent church and empire leagued together against Italy, who is struggling to throw off the yoke of both.