To My Cicerone

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My Cicerone, on this monument
A name protrudes obscured by time and gloam,5
Engraved by a man to mark his stay in Rome.
I must needs know that traveler’s intent.

Perhaps he will be welcomed at the inns
By joyful cries, perhaps the speechless sand
Will hide his acts of kindness and the sins
Which we shall never know nor understand.

I have to know what then he felt and thought
When in this stony book of Italy,
Instead of a phrase his name he merely wrought,
Of all his life the only trace to be.

Did he with a trembling hand engrave it here,
As if a tombstone in a steadfast rock,
Or rashly cut the words upon this block
As if a sad and lonely good-bye tear?

My Cicerone! Childish is thy face,
But ancient wisdom o’er thy forehead shines,
Through Roman gates I followed thee apace,
Thou wast my guarding angel in the shrines.

Oh, Thou canst even look through a heart of stone,
When thou but glancest at its stubborn shell,
From a single word the past to thee is known,
Perhaps thou know’st the pilgrim’s fate to tell.