Romans in Dorset: A.D. MDCCCXCV

1        A stupor on the heath,
2        And wrath along the sky;
3        Space everywhere; beneath
4A flat and treeless wold for us, and darkest noon on high.
5        Sullen quiet below,
6        But storm in upper air!
7        A wind from long ago,
8In mouldy chambers of the cloud had ripped an arras there,
9        And singed the triple gloom,
10        And let through, in a flame,
11        Crowned faces of old Rome:
12Regnant o'er Rome's abandoned ground, processional they came.
13        Uprisen as any sun
14        Through vistas hollow grey,
15        Aloft, and one by one,
16In brazen casques the Emperors loomed large, and sank away.
17        In ovals of wan light
18        Each warrior eye and mouth;
19        A pageant brutal bright
20As if once over loudly passed Jove's laughter in the south;
21        And dimmer, these among,
22        Some cameo'd head aloof,
23        With ringlets heavy-hung,
24Like yellow stonecrop comely grown around a castle roof.
25        An instant: gusts again,
26        Then heaven's impacted wall,
27        The hot insistent rain,
28The thunder-shock; and of the Past mirage no more at all,
29        No more the alien dream
30        Pursuing, as we went,
31        With glory's cursèd gleam:
32Nor sin of Cæsar's ruined line engulfed us, innocent.
33        The vision great and dread
34        Corroded; sole in view
35        Was empty Egdon spread,
36Her crimson summer weeds ashake in tempest: but we knew
37        What Tacitus had borne
38        In that wrecked world we saw;
39        And what, thine heart uptorn,
40My Juvenal! distraught with love of violated Law.
Publication Notes: 
Guiney, Louise Imogen, The Martyrs’ Idyl and Shorter Poems (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1899): 38-40. Guiney, Louise Imogen, Happy Endings: The Collected Lyrics of Louise Imogen Guiney (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1927): 16-18.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire