Menella Bute Smedley

Cavour

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I met a woman, weeping by the sea,
Not patiently, as women sit and weep,
But running, white with passion, wild with fear,
And as she ran she cried, “Cavour is dead!”
And cast the grey sea-sand upon her hair,
And cried, beating her breast, “Cavour is dead!
Was any near him? Tell me how he look'd
When they came in and said that he must die?
Must shut the casket, open in his hand,
Whose wealth he had seen, not touch'd! Did not the gloom
Of that immense regret, shared by the world,
Trouble his closing eyes; or were they void?
Void as the place he leaves among the powers!
In stifled murmurs from the watching crowd,
A sea of heads, still as that other sea
When it awaits the tempest, he might hear
The first pathetic note of his own dirge,
Soon to swell out in thunder through the world
Vast sobs of grief, cleft by some clarion-tones
From foes who kept their silence while he lived;
Ah, let them be content; they broke his heart,—
He died of Villafranca!”

Here she paused,
And hid her face. But when I ask'd her name
She did not tell it, but she turn'd upon me,
And fronted me as stately and as pale
As the moon stood on Ajalon, and waited
For the first shout of conquest; so she show'd
The fatal gift of beauty in her face,
And all the tearful traces of the Past;
And I beheld her while she answer'd me.
“I am his Widow. Do not look at me
With that familiar pity, which was mine
Before he lived, but never while he lived:
I have forgotten how to suffer pity.
I am his Widow: bring me to his grave!
I think I shall not die upon his grave,
But, when I take my place, and wear my crown,
And the world wonders, men shall stoop to read,
Upon the topmost step of my great throne,
An epitaph—‘Here lies Cavour; a man
Who built the throne of Italy, and died.”

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Menella Bute Smedley