By Father Abram J. Ryan
At last, the dream of youth
Stands fair and bright before me,
The sunshine of the home of truth
Falls tremulously o’er me.
And tower, and spire, and lofty dome s
In brightest skies are gleaming;
Walk I, to-day, the ways of Rome,
Or am I only dreaming?
No, ’tis no dream; my very eyes
Gaze on the hill-tops seven;
Where crosses rise and kiss the skies,
And grandly point to Heaven.
Gray ruins loom on ev’ry side,
Each stone an age’s story;
They seem the very ghosts of pride
That watch the grave of glory.
There Senates sat, whose sceptre sought
An empire without limit;
There grandeur dreamed its dream and thought
That death would never dim it.
There rulers reigned; yon heap of stones
Was once their gorgeous palace;
Beside them now, on altar-thrones,
The priests lift up the chalice.
There legions marched with bucklers bright,
And lances lifted o’er them;
While flags, like eagles plumed for flight,
Unfurled their wings before them.
There poets sang, whose deathless name
Is linked to deathless verses;
There heroes hushed with shouts of fame
Their trampled victim’s curses.
Beneath yon crumbling portal,
And placed upon the brow of Rome
The proud crown of immortal.
There soldiers stood with armor on,
In steel-clad ranks and serried,
The while their red swords flashed upon
The slaves whose rights they buried.
Here Pagan pride, with sceptre, stood,
And fame would not forsake it,
Until a simple cross of wood
Came from the East to break it.
That Rome is dead— here is the grave
Dead glory rises never;
And countless crosses o’er it wave,
And will wave on forever.
“Beyond the Tiber gleams a dome,”
Above the hill-tops seven;
It arches o’er the world from Rome,
And leads the world to Heaven.
Father Abram J. Ryan (1838-1886) was ordained on the eve of the Civil War and served in the South. During the war he served as a Chaplain in the Confederate Army. After the war, he became famous as a post of the “Lost Cause,” and his poems on the Confederacy were standard reading in schools throughout the South.