A couple descriptions (capturing it perfectly, and its suddenness) of the pyramid in his notebooks--Hawthorne defers seeing the graves. Defers deliberately, and apparently twice--why? "Earth's Holocaust" pays a lovely tribute to Shelley and, which was it, "P's Correspondence" (?) expresses a Browningesque desire to claim him into religion. Something in them feels similar to me so often, though Melville, Emerson, Dickinson, Whitman and Thoreau (and Stevens and Crane and) are all much closer to his thought, much better candidates for the American Shelley, might we be so lucky. Still..."Young Goodman Brown" parallels "Triumph of Life" down to its length, hell, down to its ambiguous breakoff. Hawthorne's Miriam/Beatrice obviously owes much to Shelley's. Hawthorne cordoned off so much of himself, had that strange, conservative's gift of opening gates only as needed. I suppose Shelley was behind one.
I walked quite round the hill, and saw, at no great distance from it, the enclosure of the Protestant burial-ground, which lies so close to the pyramid of Caius Cestius that the latter may serve as a general monument to the dead. Deferring, for the present, a visit to the cemetery, or to the interior of the pyramid, I returned to the gateway of San Paolo, and, passing through it, took a view of it from the outside of the city wall. It is itself a portion of the wall, having been built into it by the Emperor Aurelian, so that about half of it lies within and half without. The brick or red stone material of the wall being so unlike the marble of the pyramid, the latter is as distinct, and seems as insulated, as if it stood alone in the centre of a plain; and really I do not think there is a more striking architectural object in Rome. It is in perfect condition, just as little ruined or decayed as on the day when the builder put the last peak on the summit; and it ascends steeply from its base, with a point so sharp that it looks as if it would hardly afford foothold to a bird. The marble was once white, but is now covered with a gray coating like that which has gathered upon the statues of Castor and Pollux on Monte Cavallo. Not one of the great blocks is displaced, nor seems likely to be through all time to come. They rest one upon another, in straight and even lines, and present a vast smooth triangle, ascending from a base of a hundred feet, and narrowing to an apex at the height of a hundred and twenty-five, the junctures of the marble slabs being so close that, in all these twenty centuries, only a few little tufts of grass, and a trailing plant or two, have succeeded in rooting themselves into the interstices. It is good and satisfactory to see anything which, being built for an enduring monument, has endured so faithfully, and has a prospect of such an interminable futurity before it. Once, indeed, it seemed likely to be buried; for three hundred years ago it had become covered to the depth of sixteen feet, but the soil has since been dug away from its base, which is now lower than that of the road which passes through the neighboring gate of San Paolo. Midway up the pyramid, cut in the marble, is an inscription in large Roman letters, still almost as legible as when first wrought.
Maybe he's a little too surprised at the pyramid, needs it to be a general monument, wanders off in a hurry. Maybe not? Look on my works ye mighty and defer. Even the pyramid, strikingest architectural object in Rome, doesn't make it into his novel--admittedly, not at first glance of much importance to his theme.
In the state of mind in which I now stand towards Rome, there is very little advantage to be gained by staying here longer. And yet I had a pleasant stroll enough yesterday afternoon, all by myself, from the Corso down past the Church of St. Andrea della Valle,—the site where Caesar was murdered,—and thence to the Farnese Palace, the noble court of which I entered; hence to the Piazza Cenci, where I looked at one or two ugly old palaces, and fixed on one of them as the residence of Beatrice's father; then past the Temple of Vesta, and skirting along the Tiber, and beneath the Aventine, till I somewhat unexpectedly came in sight of the gray pyramid of Caius Cestius. I went out of the city gate, and leaned on the parapet that encloses the pyramid, advancing its high, unbroken slope and peak, where the great blocks of marble still fit almost as closely to one another as when they were first laid; though, indeed, there are crevices just large enough for plants to root themselves, and flaunt and trail over the face of this great tomb; only a little verdure, however, over a vast space of marble, still white in spots, but pervadingly turned gray, by two thousand years' action of the atmosphere.
Stopping, what, thirty yards from Shelley's grave? And Keats' too, but I don't remember Hawthorne ever mentioning him.