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The Dream Of Pio Nono




by: John Greenleaf Whittier

IT chanced that while the pious troops of France
Fought in the crusade Pio Nono preached,
What time the holy Bourbons stayed his hands
(The Hun and Aaron meet for such a Moses),
Stretched forth from Naples towards rebellious Rome
To bless the ministry of Oudinot,
And sanctify his iron homilies
And sharp persuasions of the bayonet,
That the great pontiff fell asleep, and dreamed.

He stood by Lake Tiberias, in the sun
Of the bight Orient; and beheld the lame,
The sick, and blind, kneel at the Master's feet,
And rise up whole. And, sweetly over all,
Dropping the ladder of their hymn of praise
From heaven to earth, in silver rounds of song,
He heard the blessed angels sing of peace,
Good-will to man, and glory to the Lord.

Then one, with feet unshod, and leathern face
Hardened and darkened by fierce summer suns
And hot winds of the desert, closer drew
His fisher's haick, and girded up his loins,
And spake, as one who had authority
"Come thou with me."

Lakeside and eastern sky
And the sweet song of angels passed away,
And, with a dream's alacrity of change,
The priest, and the swart fisher by his side,
Beheld the Eternal City lift its domes
And solemn fanes and monumental pomp
Above the waste Campagna. On the hills
The blaze of burning villas rose and fell,
And momently the mortar's iron throat
Roared from the trenches; and, within the walls,
Sharp crash of shells, low groans of human pain,
Shout, drum beat, and the clanging larum-bell,
And tramp of hosts, sent up a mingled sound,
Half wail and half defiance. As they passed
The gate of San Pancrazio, human blood
Flowed ankle-high about them, and dead men
Choked the long street with gashed and gory piles,--
A ghastly barricade of mangled flesh,
From which at times, quivered a living hand,
And white lips moved and moaned. A father tore
His gray hairs, by the body of his son,
In frenzy; and his fair young daughter wept
On his old bosom. Suddenly a flash
Clove the thick sulphurous air, and man and maid
Sank, crushed and mangled by the shattering shell.

Then spake the Galilean: "Thou hast seen
The blessed Master and His works of love;
Look now on thine! Hear'st thou the angels sing
Above this open hell? Thou God's high-priest!
Thou the Vicegerent of the Prince of Peace!
Thou the successor of His chosen ones!
I, Peter, fisherman of Galilee,
In the dear Master's name, and for the love
Of His true Church, proclaim thee Antichrist,
Alien and separate from His holy faith,
Wide as the difference between death and life,
The hate of man and the great love of God!
Hence, and repent!"

Thereat the pontiff woke,
Trembling, and muttering o'er his fearful dream.
"What means he?" cried the Bourbon, "Nothing more
Than that your majesty hath all too well
Catered for your poor guests, and that, in sooth,
The Holy Father's supper troubleth him,"
Said Cardinal Antonelli, with a smile.
1853.





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