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Chapter 10

I AWOKE in the morning, just as the higher windows of the lofty houses
received the first beams of the rising sun. The birds were chirping,
perched on the windows sills and deserted thresholds of the doors. I awoke,
and my first thought was, Adrian and Clara are dead. I no longer shall be
hailed by their good-morrow--or pass the long day in their society. I
shall never see them more. The ocean has robbed me of them--stolen their
hearts of love from their breasts, and given over to corruption what was
dearer to me than light, or life, or hope.

I was an untaught shepherd-boy, when Adrian deigned to confer on me his
friendship. The best years of my life had been passed with him. All I had
possessed of this world's goods, of happiness, knowledge, or virtue--I
owed to him. He had, in his person, his intellect, and rare qualities,
given a glory to my life, which without him it had never known. Beyond all
other beings he had taught me, that goodness, pure and single, can be an
attribute of man. It was a sight for angels to congregate to behold, to
view him lead, govern, and solace, the last days of the human race.

My lovely Clara also was lost to me--she who last of the daughters of
man, exhibited all those feminine and maiden virtues, which poets,
painters, and sculptors, have in their various languages strove to express.
Yet, as far as she was concerned, could I lament that she was removed in
early youth from the certain advent of misery? Pure she was of soul, and
all her intents were holy. But her heart was the throne of love, and the
sensibility her lovely countenance expressed, was the prophet of many
woes, not the less deep and drear, because she would have for ever
concealed them.

These two wondrously endowed beings had been spared from the universal
wreck, to be my companions during the last year of solitude. I had felt,
while they were with me, all their worth. I was conscious that every other
sentiment, regret, or passion had by degrees merged into a yearning,
clinging affection for them. I had not forgotten the sweet partner of my
youth, mother of my children, my adored Idris; but I saw at least a part of
her spirit alive again in her brother; and after, that by Evelyn's death I
had lost what most dearly recalled her to me; I enshrined her memory in
Adrian's form, and endeavoured to confound the two dear ideas. I sound the
depths of my heart, and try in vain to draw thence the expressions that can
typify my love for these remnants of my race. If regret and sorrow came
athwart me, as well it might in our solitary and uncertain state, the clear
tones of Adrian's voice, and his fervent look, dissipated the gloom; or I
was cheered unaware by the mild content and sweet resignation Clara's
cloudless brow and deep blue eyes expressed. They were all to me--the
suns of my benighted soul--repose in my weariness--slumber in my
sleepless woe. Ill, most ill, with disjointed words, bare and weak, have I
expressed the feeling with which I clung to them. I would have wound myself
like ivy inextricably round them, so that the same blow might destroy us. I
would have entered and been a part of them--so that

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,

even now I had accompanied them to their new and incommunicable abode.

Never shall I see them more. I am bereft of their dear converse--bereft
of sight of them. I am a tree rent by lightning; never will the bark close
over the bared fibres--never will their quivering life, torn by the
winds, receive the opiate of a moment's balm. I am alone in the world--
but that expression as yet was less pregnant with misery, than that Adrian
and Clara are dead.

The tide of thought and feeling rolls on for ever the same, though the
banks and shapes around, which govern its course, and the reflection in the
wave, vary. Thus the sentiment of immediate loss in some sort decayed,
while that of utter, irremediable loneliness grew on me with time. Three
days I wandered through Ravenna--now thinking only of the beloved beings
who slept in the oozy caves of ocean--now looking forward on the dread
blank before me; shuddering to make an onward step--writhing at each
change that marked the progress of the hours.

For three days I wandered to and fro in this melancholy town. I passed
whole hours in going from house to house, listening whether I could detect
some lurking sign of human existence. Sometimes I rang at a bell; it
tinkled through the vaulted rooms, and silence succeeded to the sound. I
called myself hopeless, yet still I hoped; and still disappointment ushered
in the hours, intruding the cold, sharp steel which first pierced me, into
the aching festering wound. I fed like a wild beast, which seizes its food
only when stung by intolerable hunger. I did not change my garb, or seek
the shelter of a roof, during all those days. Burning heats, nervous
irritation, a ceaseless, but confused flow of thought, sleepless nights,
and days instinct with a frenzy of agitation, possessed me during that
time.

As the fever of my blood encreased, a desire of wandering came upon me. I
remember, that the sun had set on the fifth day after my wreck, when,
without purpose or aim, I quitted the town of Ravenna. I must have been
very ill. Had I been possessed by more or less of delirium, that night had
surely been my last; for, as I continued to walk on the banks of the
Mantone, whose upward course I followed, I looked wistfully on the stream,
acknowledging to myself that its pellucid waves could medicine my woes
for ever, and was unable to account to myself for my tardiness in seeking
their shelter from the poisoned arrows of thought, that were piercing me
through and through. I walked a considerable part of the night, and
excessive weariness at length conquered my repugnance to the availing
myself of the deserted habitations of my species. The waning moon, which
had just risen, shewed me a cottage, whose neat entrance and trim garden
reminded me of my own England. I lifted up the latch of the door and
entered. A kitchen first presented itself, where, guided by the moon beams,
I found materials for striking a light. Within this was a bed room; the
couch was furnished with sheets of snowy whiteness; the wood piled on the
hearth, and an array as for a meal, might almost have deceived me into the
dear belief that I had here found what I had so long sought--one
survivor, a companion for my loneliness, a solace to my despair. I steeled
myself against the delusion; the room itself was vacant: it was only
prudent, I repeated to myself, to examine the rest of the house. I fancied
that I was proof against the expectation; yet my heart beat audibly, as I
laid my hand on the lock of each door, and it sunk again, when I perceived
in each the same vacancy. Dark and silent they were as vaults; so I
returned to the first chamber, wondering what sightless host had spread the
materials for my repast, and my repose. I drew a chair to the table, and
examined what the viands were of which I was to partake. In truth it was a
death feast! The bread was blue and mouldy; the cheese lay a heap of dust.
I did not dare examine the other dishes; a troop of ants passed in a double
line across the table cloth; every utensil was covered with dust, with
cobwebs, and myriads of dead flies: these were objects each and all
betokening the fallaciousness of my expectations. Tears rushed into my
eyes; surely this was a wanton display of the power of the destroyer. What
had I done, that each sensitive nerve was thus to be anatomized? Yet why
complain more now than ever? This vacant cottage revealed no new sorrow--
the world was empty; mankind was dead--I knew it well--why quarrel
therefore with an acknowledged and stale truth? Yet, as I said, I had hoped
in the very heart of despair, so that every new impression of the hard-cut
reality on my soul brought with it a fresh pang, telling me the yet
unstudied lesson, that neither change of place nor time could bring
alleviation to my misery, but that, as I now was, I must continue, day
after day, month after month, year after year, while I lived. I hardly
dared conjecture what space of time that expression implied. It is true, I
was no longer in the first blush of manhood; neither had I declined far in
the vale of years--men have accounted mine the prime of life: I had just
entered my thirty-seventh year; every limb was as well knit, every
articulation as true, as when I had acted the shepherd on the hills of
Cumberland; and with these advantages I was to commence the train of
solitary life. Such were the reflections that ushered in my slumber on that
night.

The shelter, however, and less disturbed repose which I enjoyed, restored
me the following morning to a greater portion of health and strength, than
I had experienced since my fatal shipwreck. Among the stores I had
discovered on searching the cottage the preceding night, was a quantity of
dried grapes; these refreshed me in the morning, as I left my lodging and
proceeded towards a town which I discerned at no great distance. As far as
I could divine, it must have been Forli. I entered with pleasure its wide
and grassy streets. All, it is true, pictured the excess of desolation; yet
I loved to find myself in those spots which had been the abode of my fellow
creatures. I delighted to traverse street after street, to look up at the
tall houses, and repeat to myself, once they contained beings similar to
myself--I was not always the wretch I am now. The wide square of Forli,
the arcade around it, its light and pleasant aspect cheered me. I was
pleased with the idea, that, if the earth should be again peopled, we, the
lost race, would, in the relics left behind, present no contemptible
exhibition of our powers to the new comers.

I entered one of the palaces, and opened the door of a magnificent saloon.
I started--I looked again with renewed wonder. What wild-looking,
unkempt, half-naked savage was that before me? The surprise was momentary.

I perceived that it was I myself whom I beheld in a large mirror at the end
of the hall. No wonder that the lover of the princely Idris should fail to
recognize himself in the miserable object there pourtrayed. My tattered
dress was that in which I had crawled half alive from the tempestuous sea.
My long and tangled hair hung in elf locks on my brow--my dark eyes, now
hollow and wild, gleamed from under them--my cheeks were discoloured by
the jaundice, which (the effect of misery and neglect) suffused my skin,
and were half hid by a beard of many days' growth.

Yet why should I not remain thus, I thought; the world is dead, and this
squalid attire is a fitter mourning garb than the foppery of a black suit.
And thus, methinks, I should have remained, had not hope, without which I
do not believe man could exist, whispered to me, that, in such a plight, I
should be an object of fear and aversion to the being, preserved I knew not
where, but I fondly trusted, at length, to be found by me. Will my readers
scorn the vanity, that made me attire myself with some care, for the sake
of this visionary being? Or will they forgive the freaks of a half crazed
imagination? I can easily forgive myself--for hope, however vague, was so
dear to me, and a sentiment of pleasure of so rare occurrence, that I
yielded readily to any idea, that cherished the one, or promised any
recurrence of the former to my sorrowing heart. After such occupation, I
visited every street, alley, and nook of Forli. These Italian towns
presented an appearance of still greater desolation, than those of England
or France. Plague had appeared here earlier--it had finished its course,
and achieved its work much sooner than with us. Probably the last summer
had found no human being alive, in all the track included between the
shores of Calabria and the northern Alps. My search was utterly vain, yet I
did not despond. Reason methought was on my side; and the chances were by
no means contemptible, that there should exist in some part of Italy a
survivor like myself--of a wasted, depopulate land. As therefore I
rambled through the empty town, I formed my plan for future operations. I
would continue to journey on towards Rome. After I should have satisfied
myself, by a narrow search, that I left behind no human being in the towns
through which I passed, I would write up in a conspicuous part of each,
with white paint, in three languages, that "Verney, the last of the race of
Englishmen, had taken up his abode in Rome."

In pursuance of this scheme, I entered a painter's shop, and procured
myself the paint. It is strange that so trivial an occupation should have
consoled, and even enlivened me. But grief renders one childish, despair
fantastic. To this simple inscription, I merely added the adjuration,
"Friend, come! I wait for thee!--Deh, vieni! ti aspetto!" On the
following morning, with something like hope for my companion, I quitted
Forli on my way to Rome. Until now, agonizing retrospect, and dreary
prospects for the future, had stung me when awake, and cradled me to my
repose. Many times I had delivered myself up to the tyranny of anguish--
many times I resolved a speedy end to my woes; and death by my own hands
was a remedy, whose practicability was even cheering to me. What could I
fear in the other world? If there were an hell, and I were doomed to it, I
should come an adept to the sufferance of its tortures--the act were
easy, the speedy and certain end of my deplorable tragedy. But now these
thoughts faded before the new born expectation. I went on my way, not as
before, feeling each hour, each minute, to be an age instinct with
incalculable pain.

As I wandered along the plain, at the foot of the Appennines--through
their vallies, and over their bleak summits, my path led me through a
country which had been trodden by heroes, visited and admired by thousands.
They had, as a tide, receded, leaving me blank and bare in the midst. But
why complain? Did I not hope?--so I schooled myself, even after the
enlivening spirit had really deserted me, and thus I was obliged to call up
all the fortitude I could command, and that was not much, to prevent a
recurrence of that chaotic and intolerable despair, that had succeeded to
the miserable shipwreck, that had consummated every fear, and dashed to
annihilation every joy.

I rose each day with the morning sun, and left my desolate inn. As my feet
strayed through the unpeopled country, my thoughts rambled through the
universe, and I was least miserable when I could, absorbed in reverie,
forget the passage of the hours. Each evening, in spite of weariness, I
detested to enter any dwelling, there to take up my nightly abode--I have
sat, hour after hour, at the door of the cottage I had selected, unable to
lift the latch, and meet face to face blank desertion within. Many nights,
though autumnal mists were spread around, I passed under an ilex--many
times I have supped on arbutus berries and chestnuts, making a fire,
gypsy-like, on the ground--because wild natural scenery reminded me less
acutely of my hopeless state of loneliness. I counted the days, and bore
with me a peeled willow-wand, on which, as well as I could remember, I had
notched the days that had elapsed since my wreck, and each night I added
another unit to the melancholy sum.

I had toiled up a hill which led to Spoleto. Around was spread a plain,
encircled by the chestnut-covered Appennines. A dark ravine was on one
side, spanned by an aqueduct, whose tall arches were rooted in the dell
below, and attested that man had once deigned to bestow labour and thought
here, to adorn and civilize nature. Savage, ungrateful nature, which in
wild sport defaced his remains, protruding her easily renewed, and fragile
growth of wild flowers and parasite plants around his eternal edifices. I
sat on a fragment of rock, and looked round. The sun had bathed in gold the
western atmosphere, and in the east the clouds caught the radiance, and
budded into transient loveliness. It set on a world that contained me alone
for its inhabitant. I took out my wand--I counted the marks. Twenty-five
were already traced--twenty-five days had already elapsed, since human
voice had gladdened my ears, or human countenance met my gaze. Twenty-five
long, weary days, succeeded by dark and lonesome nights, had mingled with
foregone years, and had become a part of the past--the never to be
recalled--a real, undeniable portion of my life--twenty-five long, long
days.

Why this was not a month!--Why talk of days--or weeks--or months--I
must grasp years in my imagination, if I would truly picture the future to
myself--three, five, ten, twenty, fifty anniversaries of that fatal epoch
might elapse--every year containing twelve months, each of more numerous
calculation in a diary, than the twenty-five days gone by--Can it be?
Will it be?--We had been used to look forward to death tremulously--
wherefore, but because its place was obscure? But more terrible, and far
more obscure, was the unveiled course of my lone futurity. I broke my wand;
I threw it from me. I needed no recorder of the inch and barley-corn growth
of my life, while my unquiet thoughts created other divisions, than those
ruled over by the planets--and, in looking back on the age that had
elapsed since I had been alone, I disdained to give the name of days and
hours to the throes of agony which had in truth portioned it out.

I hid my face in my hands. The twitter of the young birds going to rest,
and their rustling among the trees, disturbed the still evening-air--the
crickets chirped--the aziolo cooed at intervals. My thoughts had been of
death--these sounds spoke to me of life. I lifted up my eyes--a bat
wheeled round--the sun had sunk behind the jagged line of mountains, and
the paly, crescent moon was visible, silver white, amidst the orange
sunset, and accompanied by one bright star, prolonged thus the twilight. A
herd of cattle passed along in the dell below, untended, towards their
watering place--the grass was rustled by a gentle breeze, and the
olive-woods, mellowed into soft masses by the moonlight, contrasted their
sea-green with the dark chestnut foliage. Yes, this is the earth; there is
no change--no ruin--no rent made in her verdurous expanse; she
continues to wheel round and round, with alternate night and day, through
the sky, though man is not her adorner or inhabitant. Why could I not
forget myself like one of those animals, and no longer suffer the wild
tumult of misery that I endure? Yet, ah! what a deadly breach yawns between
their state and mine! Have not they companions? Have not they each their
mate--their cherished young, their home, which, though unexpressed to us,
is, I doubt not, endeared and enriched, even in their eyes, by the society
which kind nature has created for them? It is I only that am alone--I, on
this little hill top, gazing on plain and mountain recess--on sky, and
its starry population, listening to every sound of earth, and air, and
murmuring wave,--I only cannot express to any companion my many thoughts,
nor lay my throbbing head on any loved bosom, nor drink from meeting eyes
an intoxicating dew, that transcends the fabulous nectar of the gods. Shall
I not then complain? Shall I not curse the murderous engine which has mowed
down the children of men, my brethren? Shall I not bestow a malediction on
every other of nature's offspring, which dares live and enjoy, while I live
and suffer?

Ah, no! I will discipline my sorrowing heart to sympathy in your joys; I
will be happy, because ye are so. Live on, ye innocents, nature's selected
darlings; I am not much unlike to you. Nerves, pulse, brain, joint, and
flesh, of such am I composed, and ye are organized by the same laws. I have
something beyond this, but I will call it a defect, not an endowment, if it
leads me to misery, while ye are happy. Just then, there emerged from a
near copse two goats and a little kid, by the mother's side; they began to
browze the herbage of the hill. I approached near to them, without their
perceiving me; I gathered a handful of fresh grass, and held it out; the
little one nestled close to its mother, while she timidly withdrew. The
male stepped forward, fixing his eyes on me: I drew near, still holding out
my lure, while he, depressing his head, rushed at me with his horns. I was
a very fool; I knew it, yet I yielded to my rage. I snatched up a huge
fragment of rock; it would have crushed my rash foe. I poized it--aimed
it--then my heart failed me. I hurled it wide of the mark; it rolled
clattering among the bushes into dell. My little visitants, all aghast,
galloped back into the covert of the wood; while I, my very heart bleeding
and torn, rushed down the hill, and by the violence of bodily exertion,
sought to escape from my miserable self.

No, no, I will not live among the wild scenes of nature, the enemy of all
that lives. I will seek the towns--Rome, the capital of the world, the
crown of man's achievements. Among its storied streets, hallowed ruins, and
stupendous remains of human exertion, I shall not, as here, find every
thing forgetful of man; trampling on his memory, defacing his works,
proclaiming from hill to hill, and vale to vale,--by the torrents freed
from the boundaries which he imposed--by the vegetation liberated from
the laws which he enforced--by his habitation abandoned to mildew and
weeds, that his power is lost, his race annihilated for ever.

I hailed the Tiber, for that was as it were an unalienable possession of
humanity. I hailed the wild Campagna, for every rood had been trod by man;
and its savage uncultivation, of no recent date, only proclaimed more
distinctly his power, since he had given an honourable name and sacred
title to what else would have been a worthless, barren track. I entered
Eternal Rome by the Porta del Popolo, and saluted with awe its
time-honoured space. The wide square, the churches near, the long extent of
the Corso, the near eminence of Trinita de' Monti appeared like fairy work,
they were so silent, so peaceful, and so very fair. It was evening; and the
population of animals which still existed in this mighty city, had gone to
rest; there was no sound, save the murmur of its many fountains, whose soft
monotony was harmony to my soul. The knowledge that I was in Rome, soothed
me; that wondrous city, hardly more illustrious for its heroes and sages,
than for the power it exercised over the imaginations of men. I went to
rest that night; the eternal burning of my heart quenched,--my senses
tranquil.

The next morning I eagerly began my rambles in search of oblivion. I
ascended the many terraces of the garden of the Colonna Palace, under whose
roof I had been sleeping; and passing out from it at its summit, I found
myself on Monte Cavallo. The fountain sparkled in the sun; the obelisk
above pierced the clear dark-blue air. The statues on each side, the works,
as they are inscribed, of Phidias and Praxiteles, stood in undiminished
grandeur, representing Castor and Pollux, who with majestic power tamed the
rearing animal at their side. If those illustrious artists had in truth
chiselled these forms, how many passing generations had their giant
proportions outlived! and now they were viewed by the last of the species
they were sculptured to represent and deify. I had shrunk into
insignificance in my own eyes, as I considered the multitudinous beings
these stone demigods had outlived, but this after-thought restored me to
dignity in my own conception. The sight of the poetry eternized in these
statues, took the sting from the thought, arraying it only in poetic
ideality.

I repeated to myself,--I am in Rome! I behold, and as it were, familiarly
converse with the wonder of the world, sovereign mistress of the
imagination, majestic and eternal survivor of millions of generations of
extinct men. I endeavoured to quiet the sorrows of my aching heart, by even
now taking an interest in what in my youth I had ardently longed to see.
Every part of Rome is replete with relics of ancient times. The meanest
streets are strewed with truncated columns, broken capitals--Corinthian
and Ionic, and sparkling fragments of granite or porphyry. The walls of the
most penurious dwellings enclose a fluted pillar or ponderous stone, which
once made part of the palace of the Caesars; and the voice of dead time, in
still vibrations, is breathed from these dumb things, animated and
glorified as they were by man.

I embraced the vast columns of the temple of Jupiter Stator, which survives
in the open space that was the Forum, and leaning my burning cheek against
its cold durability, I tried to lose the sense of present misery and
present desertion, by recalling to the haunted cell of my brain vivid
memories of times gone by. I rejoiced at my success, as I figured Camillus,
the Gracchi, Cato, and last the heroes of Tacitus, which shine meteors of
surpassing brightness during the murky night of the empire;--as the
verses of Horace and Virgil, or the glowing periods of Cicero thronged into
the opened gates of my mind, I felt myself exalted by long forgotten
enthusiasm. I was delighted to know that I beheld the scene which they
beheld--the scene which their wives and mothers, and crowds of the
unnamed witnessed, while at the same time they honoured, applauded, or wept
for these matchless specimens of humanity. At length, then, I had found a
consolation. I had not vainly sought the storied precincts of Rome--I had
discovered a medicine for my many and vital wounds.

I sat at the foot of these vast columns. The Coliseum, whose naked ruin is
robed by nature in a verdurous and glowing veil, lay in the sunlight on my
right. Not far off, to the left, was the Tower of the Capitol. Triumphal
arches, the falling walls of many temples, strewed the ground at my feet. I
strove, I resolved, to force myself to see the Plebeian multitude and lofty
Patrician forms congregated around; and, as the Diorama of ages passed
across my subdued fancy, they were replaced by the modern Roman; the Pope,
in his white stole, distributing benedictions to the kneeling worshippers;
the friar in his cowl; the dark-eyed girl, veiled by her mezzera; the
noisy, sun-burnt rustic, leading his heard of buffaloes and oxen to the
Campo Vaccino. The romance with which, dipping our pencils in the rainbow
hues of sky and transcendent nature, we to a degree gratuitously endow the
Italians, replaced the solemn grandeur of antiquity. I remembered the dark
monk, and floating figures of "The Italian," and how my boyish blood had
thrilled at the description. I called to mind Corinna ascending the Capitol
to be crowned, and, passing from the heroine to the author, reflected how
the Enchantress Spirit of Rome held sovereign sway over the minds of the
imaginative, until it rested on me--sole remaining spectator of its
wonders.

I was long wrapt by such ideas; but the soul wearies of a pauseless flight;
and, stooping from its wheeling circuits round and round this spot,
suddenly it fell ten thousand fathom deep, into the abyss of the present--
into self-knowledge--into tenfold sadness. I roused myself--I cast off
my waking dreams; and I, who just now could almost hear the shouts of the
Roman throng, and was hustled by countless multitudes, now beheld the
desart ruins of Rome sleeping under its own blue sky; the shadows lay
tranquilly on the ground; sheep were grazing untended on the Palatine, and
a buffalo stalked down the Sacred Way that led to the Capitol. I was alone
in the Forum; alone in Rome; alone in the world. Would not one living man
--one companion in my weary solitude, be worth all the glory and
remembered power of this time-honoured city? Double sorrow--sadness,
bred in Cimmerian caves, robed my soul in a mourning garb. The generations
I had conjured up to my fancy, contrasted more strongly with the end of all
--the single point in which, as a pyramid, the mighty fabric of society
had ended, while I, on the giddy height, saw vacant space around me.

From such vague laments I turned to the contemplation of the minutiae of my
situation. So far, I had not succeeded in the sole object of my desires,
the finding a companion for my desolation. Yet I did not despair. It is
true that my inscriptions were set up for the most part, in insignificant
towns and villages; yet, even without these memorials, it was possible that
the person, who like me should find himself alone in a depopulate land,
should, like me, come to Rome. The more slender my expectation was, the
more I chose to build on it, and to accommodate my actions to this vague
possibility.

It became necessary therefore, that for a time I should domesticate myself
at Rome. It became necessary, that I should look my disaster in the face--
not playing the school-boy's part of obedience without submission; enduring
life, and yet rebelling against the laws by which I lived.

Yet how could I resign myself? Without love, without sympathy, without
communion with any, how could I meet the morning sun, and with it trace its
oft repeated journey to the evening shades? Why did I continue to live--
why not throw off the weary weight of time, and with my own hand, let out
the fluttering prisoner from my agonized breast?--It was not cowardice
that withheld me; for the true fortitude was to endure; and death had a
soothing sound accompanying it, that would easily entice me to enter its
demesne. But this I would not do. I had, from the moment I had reasoned on
the subject, instituted myself the subject to fate, and the servant of
necessity, the visible laws of the invisible God--I believed that my
obedience was the result of sound reasoning, pure feeling, and an exalted
sense of the true excellence and nobility of my nature. Could I have seen
in this empty earth, in the seasons and their change, the hand of a blind
power only, most willingly would I have placed my head on the sod, and
closed my eyes on its loveliness for ever. But fate had administered life
to me, when the plague had already seized on its prey--she had dragged me
by the hair from out the strangling waves--By such miracles she had
bought me for her own; I admitted her authority, and bowed to her decrees.
If, after mature consideration, such was my resolve, it was doubly
necessary that I should not lose the end of life, the improvement of my
faculties, and poison its flow by repinings without end. Yet how cease to
repine, since there was no hand near to extract the barbed spear that had
entered my heart of hearts? I stretched out my hand, and it touched none
whose sensations were responsive to mine. I was girded, walled in, vaulted
over, by seven-fold barriers of loneliness. Occupation alone, if I could
deliver myself up to it, would be capable of affording an opiate to my
sleepless sense of woe. Having determined to make Rome my abode, at least
for some months, I made arrangements for my accommodation--I selected my
home. The Colonna Palace was well adapted for my purpose. Its grandeur--
its treasure of paintings, its magnificent halls were objects soothing and
even exhilarating.

I found the granaries of Rome well stored with grain, and particularly with
Indian corn; this product requiring less art in its preparation for food, I
selected as my principal support. I now found the hardships and lawlessness
of my youth turn to account. A man cannot throw off the habits of sixteen
years. Since that age, it is true, I had lived luxuriously, or at least
surrounded by all the conveniences civilization afforded. But before that
time, I had been "as uncouth a savage, as the wolf-bred founder of old
Rome"--and now, in Rome itself, robber and shepherd propensities, similar
to those of its founder, were of advantage to its sole inhabitant. I spent
the morning riding and shooting in the Campagna--I passed long hours in
the various galleries--I gazed at each statue, and lost myself in a
reverie before many a fair Madonna or beauteous nymph. I haunted the
Vatican, and stood surrounded by marble forms of divine beauty. Each stone
deity was possessed by sacred gladness, and the eternal fruition of love.
They looked on me with unsympathizing complacency, and often in wild
accents I reproached them for their supreme indifference--for they were
human shapes, the human form divine was manifest in each fairest limb and
lineament. The perfect moulding brought with it the idea of colour and
motion; often, half in bitter mockery, half in self-delusion, I clasped
their icy proportions, and, coming between Cupid and his Psyche's lips,
pressed the unconceiving marble.

I endeavoured to read. I visited the libraries of Rome. I selected a
volume, and, choosing some sequestered, shady nook, on the banks of the
Tiber, or opposite the fair temple in the Borghese Gardens, or under the
old pyramid of Cestius, I endeavoured to conceal me from myself, and
immerse myself in the subject traced on the pages before me. As if in the
same soil you plant nightshade and a myrtle tree, they will each
appropriate the mould, moisture, and air administered, for the fostering
their several properties--so did my grief find sustenance, and power of
existence, and growth, in what else had been divine manna, to feed radiant
meditation. Ah! while I streak this paper with the tale of what my so named
occupations were--while I shape the skeleton of my days--my hand
trembles--my heart pants, and my brain refuses to lend expression, or
phrase, or idea, by which to image forth the veil of unutterable woe that
clothed these bare realities. O, worn and beating heart, may I dissect thy
fibres, and tell how in each unmitigable misery, sadness dire, repinings,
and despair, existed? May I record my many ravings--the wild curses I
hurled at torturing nature--and how I have passed days shut out from
light and food--from all except the burning hell alive in my own bosom?

I was presented, meantime, with one other occupation, the one best fitted
to discipline my melancholy thoughts, which strayed backwards, over many a
ruin, and through many a flowery glade, even to the mountain recess, from
which in early youth I had first emerged.

During one of my rambles through the habitations of Rome, I found writing
materials on a table in an author's study. Parts of a manuscript lay
scattered about. It contained a learned disquisition on the Italian
language; one page an unfinished dedication to posterity, for whose profit
the writer had sifted and selected the niceties of this harmonious language
--to whose everlasting benefit he bequeathed his labours.

I also will write a book, I cried--for whom to read?--to whom
dedicated? And then with silly flourish (what so capricious and childish as
despair?) I wrote, DEDICATION TO THE ILLUSTRIOUS DEAD. SHADOWS, ARISE, AND
READ YOUR FALL! BEHOLD THE HISTORY OF THE LAST MAN.

Yet, will not this world be re-peopled, and the children of a saved pair of
lovers, in some to me unknown and unattainable seclusion, wandering to
these prodigious relics of the ante-pestilential race, seek to learn how
beings so wondrous in their achievements, with imaginations infinite, and
powers godlike, had departed from their home to an unknown country?

I will write and leave in this most ancient city, this "world's sole
monument," a record of these things. I will leave a monument of the
existence of Verney, the Last Man. At first I thought only to speak of
plague, of death, and last, of desertion; but I lingered fondly on my early
years, and recorded with sacred zeal the virtues of my companions. They
have been with me during the fulfilment of my task. I have brought it to an
end--I lift my eyes from my paper--again they are lost to me. Again I
feel that I am alone.

A year has passed since I have been thus occupied. The seasons have made
their wonted round, and decked this eternal city in a changeful robe of
surpassing beauty. A year has passed; and I no longer guess at my state or
my prospects--loneliness is my familiar, sorrow my inseparable companion.
I have endeavoured to brave the storm--I have endeavoured to school
myself to fortitude--I have sought to imbue myself with the lessons of
wisdom. It will not do. My hair has become nearly grey--my voice, unused
now to utter sound, comes strangely on my ears. My person, with its human
powers and features, seem to me a monstrous excrescence of nature. How
express in human language a woe human being until this hour never knew! How
give intelligible expression to a pang none but I could ever understand!--
No one has entered Rome. None will ever come. I smile bitterly at the
delusion I have so long nourished, and still more, when I reflect that I
have exchanged it for another as delusive, as false, but to which I now
cling with the same fond trust.

Winter has come again; and the gardens of Rome have lost their leaves--
the sharp air comes over the Campagna, and has driven its brute inhabitants
to take up their abode in the many dwellings of the deserted city--frost
has suspended the gushing fountains--and Trevi has stilled her eternal
music. I had made a rough calculation, aided by the stars, by which I
endeavoured to ascertain the first day of the new year. In the old out-worn
age, the Sovereign Pontiff was used to go in solemn pomp, and mark the
renewal of the year by driving a nail in the gate of the temple of Janus.
On that day I ascended St. Peter's, and carved on its topmost stone the
aera 2100, last year of the world!

My only companion was a dog, a shaggy fellow, half water and half
shepherd's dog, whom I found tending sheep in the Campagna. His master was
dead, but nevertheless he continued fulfilling his duties in expectation of
his return. If a sheep strayed from the rest, he forced it to return to the
flock, and sedulously kept off every intruder. Riding in the Campagna I had
come upon his sheep-walk, and for some time observed his repetition of
lessons learned from man, now useless, though unforgotten. His delight was
excessive when he saw me. He sprung up to my knees; he capered round and
round, wagging his tail, with the short, quick bark of pleasure: he left
his fold to follow me, and from that day has never neglected to watch by
and attend on me, shewing boisterous gratitude whenever I caressed or
talked to him. His pattering steps and mine alone were heard, when we
entered the magnificent extent of nave and aisle of St. Peter's. We
ascended the myriad steps together, when on the summit I achieved my
design, and in rough figures noted the date of the last year. I then turned
to gaze on the country, and to take leave of Rome. I had long determined to
quit it, and I now formed the plan I would adopt for my future career,
after I had left this magnificent abode.

A solitary being is by instinct a wanderer, and that I would become. A hope
of amelioration always attends on change of place, which would even lighten
the burthen of my life. I had been a fool to remain in Rome all this time:
Rome noted for Malaria, the famous caterer for death. But it was still
possible, that, could I visit the whole extent of earth, I should find in
some part of the wide extent a survivor. Methought the sea-side was the
most probable retreat to be chosen by such a one. If left alone in an
inland district, still they could not continue in the spot where their last
hopes had been extinguished; they would journey on, like me, in search of a
partner for their solitude, till the watery barrier stopped their further
progress.

To that water--cause of my woes, perhaps now to be their cure, I would
betake myself. Farewell, Italy!--farewell, thou ornament of the world,
matchless Rome, the retreat of the solitary one during long months!--to
civilized life--to the settled home and succession of monotonous days,
farewell! Peril will now be mine; and I hail her as a friend--death will
perpetually cross my path, and I will meet him as a benefactor; hardship,
inclement weather, and dangerous tempests will be my sworn mates. Ye
spirits of storm, receive me! ye powers of destruction, open wide your
arms, and clasp me for ever! if a kinder power have not decreed another
end, so that after long endurance I may reap my reward, and again feel my
heart beat near the heart of another like to me.

Tiber, the road which is spread by nature's own hand, threading her
continent, was at my feet, and many a boat was tethered to the banks. I
would with a few books, provisions, and my dog, embark in one of these and
float down the current of the stream into the sea; and then, keeping near
land, I would coast the beauteous shores and sunny promontories of the blue
Mediterranean, pass Naples, along Calabria, and would dare the twin perils
of Scylla and Charybdis; then, with fearless aim, (for what had I to lose?)
skim ocean's surface towards Malta and the further Cyclades. I would avoid
Constantinople, the sight of whose well-known towers and inlets belonged to
another state of existence from my present one; I would coast Asia Minor,
and Syria, and, passing the seven-mouthed Nile, steer northward again, till
losing sight of forgotten Carthage and deserted Lybia, I should reach the
pillars of Hercules. And then--no matter where--the oozy caves, and
soundless depths of ocean may be my dwelling, before I accomplish this
long-drawn voyage, or the arrow of disease find my heart as I float singly
on the weltering Mediterranean; or, in some place I touch at, I may find
what I seek--a companion; or if this may not be--to endless time,
decrepid and grey headed--youth already in the grave with those I love--
the lone wanderer will still unfurl his sail, and clasp the tiller--and,
still obeying the breezes of heaven, for ever round another and another
promontory, anchoring in another and another bay, still ploughing seedless
ocean, leaving behind the verdant land of native Europe, adown the tawny
shore of Africa, having weathered the fierce seas of the Cape, I may moor
my worn skiff in a creek, shaded by spicy groves of the odorous islands of
the far Indian ocean.

These are wild dreams. Yet since, now a week ago, they came on me, as I
stood on the height of St. Peter's, they have ruled my imagination. I have
chosen my boat, and laid in my scant stores. I have selected a few books;
the principal are Homer and Shakespeare--But the libraries of the world
are thrown open to me--and in any port I can renew my stock. I form no
expectation of alteration for the better; but the monotonous present is
intolerable to me. Neither hope nor joy are my pilots--restless despair
and fierce desire of change lead me on. I long to grapple with danger, to
be excited by fear, to have some task, however slight or voluntary, for
each day's fulfilment. I shall witness all the variety of appearance, that
the elements can assume--I shall read fair augury in the rainbow--
menace in the cloud--some lesson or record dear to my heart in
everything. Thus around the shores of deserted earth, while the sun is
high, and the moon waxes or wanes, angels, the spirits of the dead, and the
ever-open eye of the Supreme, will behold the tiny bark, freighted with
Verney--the LAST MAN.

THE END.

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