States fall — Arts fade — but nature doth not die
William Brevard Dusenbery
of Lexington N.C.
"States fall—arts fade—but nature doth not die" 
Such was the ejaculation of the immortal Byron while standing on the Bridge of Sighs, thinking on the sad fate of fallen Venice. To his eye there came up with the vividness of lightning, the fire of their genius, their sense of beauty, and amidst all the disadvantages of repeated revolutions, the desolation of battles and the despair of ages, their still unquenched "longing after immortality," —the immortality of independence.
Those words so appropriate to Venice, are not less so to other cities. Where now are the gorgeous temples and magnificent dwellings of Herculaneum and Pompeii? The proud monuments of the masters of ancient times are now no more. While wandering over those gilded domes, now levelled with the dust there comes the keen desire to people again those deserted streets, to repair those graceful ruins, to reanimate the bones which are spared to the survey, and to awake to a second existence, the city of the dead.  In the porticoes hallowed by holy and venerable shades, in the orange groves of Ilyssus, may still be heard the voice of poetry, and on the heights of Phyle the clouds of twilight seem yet the shrouds of departed freedom.  The burning lava of Vesuvius has wrought this sad destruction. The white walls and gleaming columns that adorned the lovely coast are no more. Sullen and dull are theHerculaneum and Pompeii. The darlings of the deep are snatched from her embrace. Century after century  shall the mighty mother stretch forth her azure arms and know them not, moaning round the sepulchres of the lost 
Placed in contrast with the mighty pomp of Rome, the luxuries and gaud of the vivid Campanian cities would have sunk into insignificance. Her awful fate would have seemed but a petty and isolated wreck in the vast seas of the imperial sway.  Rome! the mistress of the world, her day of greatness is passed. Athens, the rival of Rome in war and the superior in the arts, when her present condition is compared with that of her former glory, appears but tame. The city that once filled a space in the eye of Philosophy and taste incomparably greater than the mightiest empires that have overshadowed the earth, has sunk into insignificance.
Thebes, with her hundred gates has fallen to ruins and kissed her kindred dust. Her lordly palaces now lie crumbling along the shores of the Nile. Troy, that witnessed the warlike deeds of the heroic Hector, alas! how truly has she experienced the melancholy prediction—
The same starry firmament on high that canopied the shepherds of Bethlehem, that watched their flocks by night, remains yet spanning with its azure vault the arid plains of Arabia. The mighty Euphrates flows on in placid quiet by the spirit of desolation that sits brooding over the ruins of Babylon. The fertilizing Nile that spreads plenty o'er the smiling land of Egypt, pours her resistless tide through her numerous deltas into the sea, with the same undistinguished murmurs as when the lofty towers and battlements of Thebes butted above her banks. What a striking contrast! and who can ponder upon it without forcibly bringing into comparison the destructable nature of works wrought by the hand of man and the imperishable creations of God. See the magnificent temples, whose colossal dimensions threatened to defy the ravages of ages, now mingled with their kindred
1. George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto IV, stanza 3, line 24 (1818).
Though undated, Dusenbery's essay was composed in the spring semester of 1853, when its author was a senior at the University of North Carolina. It was written on three sheets of cream-colored lined paper measuring 39 ½ cm x 25 cm, folded in half, and subsequently bound together with essays by his classmates as Speeches of Graduates, University of North Carolina, 1853. The volume contains 55 essays by members of the 1853 graduating class and is housed in the North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Though the work of all but four of the students in the senior class is represented, only students graduating with honors would have delivered their compositions on the public stage during commencement week.
2. Joseph Addison, Cato, V.i. (1713): "Plato, thou reasonest well!/—Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire,/This longing after immortality?"
3. Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, The Last Days of Pompeii, Preface (1834): ". . .it was not unnatural, perhaps, that a writer who had before laboured, however unworthily, in the art to revive and to create, should feel a keen desire to people once more those deserted streets, to repair those graceful ruins, to reanimate the bones which were yet spared to his survey; to traverse the gulph of eighteen centuries, and to wake to a second existence—the City of the Dead!" (Vol. 1, v).
4. Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, The Last Days of Pompeii, Chapter 11 (1834): "There is a charm to me which no other spot can supply, in the porticos hallowed still by holy and venerable shades. In the olive groves of Ilissus I still hear the voice of Poetry—on the heights of Phyle, the clouds of twilight seem yet the shrouds of departed Freedom . . ." (Vol. III, Book 5, 302–303).
6. Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, The Last Days of Pompeii, Chapter 10 (1834): "The white walls and gleaming columns that had adorned the lovely coast were no more. Sullen and dull were the shores so lately crested by the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The darlings of the Deep were snatched from her embrace! Century after century shall the mighty Mother stretch forth her azure arms, and know them not—moaning round the sepulchres of the Lost!" (Vol. III, Book 4, 297–298).
7. Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, The Last Days of Pompeii, Preface (1834): "Placed in contrast with the mighty pomp of Rome, the luxuries and gaud of the vivid Campanian city would have sunk into insignificance. Her awful fate would have seemed but a petty and isolated wreck in the vast seas of the imperial sway; and the auxiliary I should have summoned to the interest of my story, would only have destroyed and overpowered the cause it was invoked to support" (Vol. I, ix).
8. Alexander Pope, The Iliad of Homer, Book IV, lines 196–199 (1718): "The day shall come, that great avenging day/Which Troy's proud glories in the dust shall lay,/When Priam's powers and Priam's self shall fall,/And one prodigious ruin swallow all."
9. James Thomson, "Winter," lines 143–145 (1726): "NATURE! great Parent! whose directing Hand/Rolls round the Seasons of the changeful Year,/How mighty! how majestick are thy Works!"
10. Joseph Addison, Ode, line 24 (1712): "The hand that made us is divine."