The New Zealand Evangelist
The Rev. W. J. Kipp in his Christmas Holyday in Rome, speculates thus as to the probable fate of the Imperial City. The same view was taken by an eminent writer more than twenty years ago. “But what is to be the destiny of Rome? Is she to be the centre of Christendom, and age after age the place to which pilgrims from every land shall direct their steps? Is she entering on a new dominion—the third cycle—in which she is to rule the world by Arts as once she did by her Arms, and then her Faith? There is another thought which has in it something affecting and solemn. The malaria is increasing, so that large portions of the city, which a century ago were famed for their salubrity, are now uninhabitable. At the Lateran, the Pope has been obliged to leave his palace, and the humble dwellers around him their abodes, so page 159 that the tall grass waves in those wide squares, and an unbroken silence has taken the place of the hum of busy population. The enemy is stealthily creeping on, its presence betrayed by no external sign, but there seems to be a fresh and delicious atmosphere, which they who breathe find death. No human sagacity can detect it in the transparent air, nor any human means arrest its progress. An invisible and mysterious agent, it expels man from the region over which its wing is spread, or he remains only to wither and die.
But if such continues to be the history of coming years, how strange must be the destiny of the Imperial City! Its people will gradually retire before this destroying Spirit, and seek in other spots the safety denied them here, until once more the Seven Hills become as silent as they were before Romulus encamped upon their heights. Then it will remain, like the city of which we read in Arabian fable, whose inbabitants in a moment were turned to stone, so that the traveller wandered in amazement through palaces and halls, where none came forth to meet him, and no sound was heard but the echo of his own steps. Its mighty monuments will stand, like those of Pæstum, waste and desolate in their grandeur. Spring, and summer, and winter will pass over the forsaken city—the hoariness of age gather on its marble columns and stain its gilded walls—and Nature, spreading her luxurance over them and wreathing them each year with a thicker drapery, thus silently yet surely reclaiming her dominion—until at last all which we now gaze upon will only harmonize with the wild and dreary Campagua around.
But would not this be a fit conclusion to the long and eventful career of the Mistress of the World? There seems a strange and mysterious awe lingering about her, which forbids the thought that she should fall by human agency. If, after surviving wars and sieges and conflagrations, she must at last be numbered with Nin-eveh and Babylon, and those cities of the Elder World whose names only live in history, let there be no proud conqueror rejoicing over her end! Let her not be crushed and humbled by the violence of man, but thus pass away “without hands,” so that the hour can scarcely be marked in which she ceases to exist!