Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

8. Chapter VIII (continued)

               THE FUNERAL DIRGE

      O'er the sad threshold, where the cypress bough
         Supplants the rose that should adorn thy home,
       On the last pilgrimage on earth that now
         Awaits thee, wanderer to Cocytus, come!
       Darkly we woo, and weeping we invite--
        Death is thy host--his banquet asks thy soul,
       Thy garlands hang within the House of Night,
         And the black stream alone shall fill thy bowl.

      No more for thee the laughter and the song,
         The jocund night--the glory of the day!
       The Argive daughters' at their labours long;
         The hell-bird swooping on its Titan prey--

      The false AEolides upheaving slow,
         O'er the eternal hill, the eternal stone;
       The crowned Lydian, in his parching woe,
         And green Callirrhoe's monster-headed son-

      These shalt thou see, dim shadowed through the dark,
         Which makes the sky of Pluto's dreary shore;
       Lo! where thou stand'st, pale-gazing on the bark
, That waits our rite to bear thee trembling o'er!
       Come, then! no more delay!--the phantom pines
         Amidst the Unburied for its latest home;
       O'er the grey sky the torch impatient shines--
        Come, mourner, forth!--the lost one bids thee come.

As the hymn died away, the group parted in twain; and placed upon a couch, spread with a purple pall, the corpse of Apaecides was carried forth, with the feet foremost. The designator, or marshal of the sombre ceremonial, accompanied by his torch-bearers, clad in black, gave the signal, and the procession moved dreadly on.

First went the musicians, playing a slow march--the solemnity of the lower instruments broken by many a louder and wilder burst of the funeral trumpet: next followed the hired mourners, chanting their dirges to the dead; and the female voices were mingled with those of boys, whose tender years made still more striking the contrast of life and death--the fresh leaf and the withered one. But the players, the buffoons, the archimimus (whose duty it was to personate the dead)--these, the customary attendants at ordinary funerals, were banished from a funeral attended with so many terrible associations.

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