Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

11. Chapter the Last



GLAUCUS to his beloved Sallust--greeting and health!--You request me to visit you at Rome--no, Sallust, come rather to me at Athens! I have forsworn the Imperial City, its mighty tumult and hollow joys. In my own land henceforth I dwell for ever. The ghost of our departed greatness is dearer to me than the gaudy life of your loud prosperity. There is a charm to me which no other spot can supply, in the porticoes hallowed still by holy and venerable shades. In the olive-groves of Ilyssus I still hear the voice of poetry--on the heights of Phyle, the clouds of twilight seem yet the shrouds of departed freedom--the heralds--the heralds--of the morrow that shall come! You smile at my enthusiasm, Sallust!--better be hopeful in chains than resigned to their glitter. You tell me you are sure that I cannot enjoy life in these melancholy haunts of a fallen majesty. You dwell with rapture on the Roman splendors, and the luxuries of the imperial court. My Sallust--"non sum qualis eram"--I am not what I was! The events of my life have sobered the bounding blood of my youth. My health has never quite recovered its wonted elasticity ere it felt the pangs of disease, and languished in the damps of a criminal's dungeon. My mind has never shaken off the dark shadow of the Last Day of Pompeii--the horror and the desolation of that awful ruin!--Our beloved, our remembered Nydia! I have reared a tomb to her shade, and I see it every day from the window of my study. It keeps alive in me a tender recollection--a not unpleasing sadness--which are but a fitting homage to her fidelity, and the mysteriousness of her early death. Ione gathers the flowers, but my own hand wreathes them daily around the tomb. She was worthy of a tomb in Athens!

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