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A Day At Tivoli - Prologue

John Kenyon 1784 (Trelawney Jamaica) – 1856 (Jamaica)



Fair blows the breeze—depart—depart—
And tread with me th' Italian shore;
And feed thy soul with glorious art;
And drink again of classic lore.
Nor sometime shalt thou deem it wrong,
When not in mood too gravely wise,
At idle length to lie along,
And quaff a bliss from bluest skies.

Or, pleased more pensive joy to woo,
At twilight eve, by ruin grey,
Muse o'er the generations, who
Have passed, as we must pass, away.
Or mark o'er olive tree and vine
Steep towns uphung; to win from them
Some thought of Southern Palestine;
Some dream of old Jerusalem.

Come, Pilgrim-Friend! At last our sun outbreaks,
And chases, one by one, dawn's lingering flakes.
Come, Pilgrim-Friend! and downward let us rove
(Thy long-vow'd vow) this old Tiburtian grove.
See where, beneath, the jocund runnels play,
All cheerly brighten'd in the brightening day.
E'en in the far-off years when Flaccus wrote,
('Tis here, I ween, no pedantry to quote,)
Thus led, they gurgled thro' those orchard-bowers
To feed the herb—the fruitage—and the flowers.

Come, then, and snatch Occasion; transient boon!
And sliding into Future all too soon.
That Future's self possession just as brief,
And stolen, soon as given, by Time—the Thief.
Well! if such filching knave we needs must meet,
Let us, as best we may, the Cheater cheat;
And, since the Then, the Now, will flit so fast,
Look back, and lengthen life into the Past.

That Past is here; where old Tiburtus found
Mere mountain-brow, and fenc'd with walls around;
And for his wearied Argives reared a home
Long ere yon seven proud hills had dream'd of Rome.
'Tis here, amid these patriarch olive trees,
Which Flaccus saw, or ancestry of these;
Oft musing, as he slowly strayed him past,
How here his quiet age should close at last.

And here behold them, still! Like ancient seers
They stand; the dwellers of a thousand years.
Deep-furrow'd, strangely crook'd, and ashy-grey,
As ghost might gleam beneath the touch of day.
All strangely perforate too; with rounded eyes,
That ever scan the traveller as he hies:
Fit guardians of the spot they seem to be,
With centuries seen, and centuries yet to see.

Who treads this pallid grove, by moonlight pale,
Might half believe the peasant's spectre tale
Of Latian heroes old, that come to glide
Along these silent paths at even-tide;
Or Sibyl, wan with ghastly prophecy,
From her near fane, as whilom, wandering by.
But Morning, now, and sunny vines are here,
From tree to tree gay-gadding without fear;

Or else in verdant rope their fibres string,
As if to tempt the little Loves to swing;
Or, tricking silvery head and wrinkled stem
With tendril-curl, or leafy diadem;
A sportive war of graceful contrast wage,
The Grave and Gay—green Youth and hoary Age.
Hence we may feel Resounding Anio's shock,
As his full river thunders from his rock.
Yet mark! meanwhile adown its own small dell
How falls or winds each little cascatelle.

With no rude sound—with no impetuous rush;
But blandly—fondly—or by bank or bush.
Or floats in air; as when mild mermaid frees
(Or so they feign) her tresses to the breeze;
And careless, for a while, of coral bower,
Basks on the sunny sands till noontide's scorching hour.
How sweet! to have such gentle waters near;
Just soothing, ne'er disturbing eye nor ear.
Nor deem I those unblest, whom choice—or fate—
Leads to prefer the Lesser to the Great.

'Repose, thou better privilege than fame.'—
So felt, we know, the great historic name,
Mecænas; he who owned those villa-halls,
All stately once, tho' now but rifted walls.
And hither, wisely truant, oft would come,
Forth from the smokes, the toils, the strifes of Rome.
For, tho' defaced, discolour'd, broken, bow'd,
Yet were they then of gold and ivory proud.
Or far beyond what proudest wealth might do,
From thoughtful art a nobler triumph drew.

There, dark-hued urns, with mythic picture fraught,
Time's treasures! stood, from old Etruria brought;
Which even then had claim'd uncounted date,
When you great Rome was yet a struggling state.
Or marble vases there, in white array,
Beam'd back an added lustre to the day.
Or, better, when the gladly-welcom'd guest
Came to the banquet, rich with every zest,
From lamp of chisell'd bronze, adjusted light
Threw out some Phidian marvel on the night;
Evoking, heightening thus, in form or face,
Each subtler beauty or diviner grace.

Nor yet, when hours of feast had found their close,
Or jaded statesman sighed for short repose,
Was
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:54 min read
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Quick analysis:

Scheme ABABCDCD EFEFGHGI JJKKFFLLMM NNOOPPQQ RRSSTTQQ XXFFDDUU VVWWUXXY ZZHH1 1 2 2 XV XXTT3 3 YX4 4 5 5 6 6 IS7 7 EE 8 8 4 4 FF9 9 XXX
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,349
Words 757
Stanzas 12
Stanza Lengths 8, 8, 10, 8, 8, 8, 8, 10, 10, 10, 12, 3

John Kenyon

John Kenyon (1784–1856) was an English verse-writer and philanthropist, now known as a patron of Robert Browning. 'Patron of the arts and poet' and friend of the Brownings. Born in Trelawney Jamaica, the son of a West Indian slave-owner, and also inherited part of the estate of his brother-in-law John Curteis (d. 1849). Married Caroline Curteis 19/01/1821 at St Marylebone. Left £180,000 at his death. 'Many a literary home has been made brighter this Christmas time by the noble sympathy of John Kenyon, the poet, whose death we recently announced. The poet was as rich as he was genial. Scarcely a man or woman distinguished in the world of letters with which he was familiar has passed unremembered in his will, and some poets and children of poets are endowed with a princely munificence. Among those who have shared most liberally in this harvest of goodwill we are happy to hear that Mr & Mrs Browning receive 10,000l, Mr Proctor (Barry Cornwall) 6000l and Dr Southey a very handsome sum, we think 8000l. We hear that there are eight legatees many of them the old literary friends of the deceased poet. - Athenaeum.' In 1851 John Kenyon aged 67 'Proprietor land and funds' born Jamaica was living at 39 Devonshire Place, which had according to the ODNB been the house of his brother-in-law John Curteis and where John Kenyon and his wife Caroline Curteis 'probably established themselves' between 1831 and her death in 1835. more…

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