By Rome’s dim relics there walks a man,
Eyes bent; and he carries a basket and spade;
I guess what impels him to scrape and scan;
Yea, his dreams of that Empire long decayed.
“Vast was Rome,” he must muse, “in the world’s regard,
Vast it looms there still, vast it ever will be;”
And he stoops as to dig and unmine some shard
Left by those who are held in such memory.
But no; in his basket, see, he has brought
A little white furred thing, stiff of limb,
Whose life never won from the world a thought;
It is this, and not Rome, that is moving him.
And to make it a grave he has come to the spot,
And he delves in the ancient dead’s long home;
Their fames, their achievements, the man knows not;
The furred thing is all to him–nothing Rome!
“Here say you that Caesar’s warriors lie? –
But my little white cat was my only friend!
Could she but live, might the record die
Of Caesar, his legions, his aims, his end!”
Well, Rome’s long rule here is oft and again
A theme for the sages of history,
And the small furred life was worth no one’s pen;
Yet its mourner’s mood has a charm for me.