« AnteriorContinuar »
JULIAN THE APOSTATE.
[Many of the facts stated or referred to in this Sketch, may be found in Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. On the night before the Emperor Julian fought his last battle, he had the dream which I hare detailed in the first Scene of this Sketch; and it is recorded that on the night of his death he addressed his soldiers, distributed rewards amongst them, and conversed with the sophists around him, respecting the immortality of the Soul. The names of Anatolius, Nevitta, &c. are taken from history. ]
Scene L The Tent of the Emperor Julian. Night—near day-break.
(Julian—alone.) To-morrow ?—aye, to-morrow. The bright Sun
Of my life will set in blood. Dark, heavy clouds
Are rolling round about me, yet my eye
Can reach into the dim eternity,
And in its bosom is—my grave. Oh t then,
Valour and War, farewell I Soldiers and friends,
Who in tempest of the battle, once,
With your loves girded me like triple steel,
I must be gone. Morning and Night farewell!
And all the beauty of this visible world;
And thou, fair Air! who music art and perfume,
Colour and light, and in thy silent arms
Now nursest with cold dews the sleeping flower,
And bidd'st the fever'd heart forget its pain,
Shall I behold thee never again ?—Never I
A dull, protracting, melancholy word,
That, in an alien language, talks despair.
'Never J'—then Hope is gone and time departed;
And Happiness that flies and then returns,
Making its presence precious—all are gone.
—Is there no armour of the soul wherein
I may array my thoughts and vanquish Death?
It may not be: my hour is come—is come:
And I must tread upon that shadowy strand
A shadow, a pale solitary thing,
For ages and for ages, and there be
A Spirit, filled with human thoughts and pains,
Languishing for some remote Elysium.
Great Mars, look down upon me: Am I not
Thy son adopted? oh! my patron Mars,
My father, and my god, I perish here
For want of succour. Fate and Death, at hand,
Wait smiling for the dust of Julian;
And the grave opens, with a sickly smile,
Its hollow home inviting me to rest.
Away—this must not be. Imperial Rome
Leans on my sword.—Who goes?
Anat. My emperor!
Julian. 'Tis nothing—nothing. I am welL
Come hither, Anatolius: sit by me.
To-morrow I—pshaw! that's for after thought.
To-morrow we must give the Persians battle.
What say you, Sir? Is your heart firm, or have
These Syrian suns withered your spirit up?
Anat. It is the same as ever.
Julian. My good soldier.
Anat. Let us hut once meet Sapor face to face: We fly now. Oh! that we should fly from slaves, Whom we have fought and beat day after day, 'Till we were faint with conquest—
Julian. Forget this.
'Tis true, indeed, we take less time for breathing,
Now that we march for Rome, than when we came
Intent to see the Persian on his throne:
And in our trumpets now the wailing notes
Sound lingering and prolonged. Well! 'twas not so
When we did visit Antioch—no, by Mars,
Nor when we rode thro' Anatho, or pushed
Our battering engines thro' the gates of Anbar.
Those were good times—great times.
Anat Aye, when we shook
Down to the dust their sixteen towers of brick
At Maogamalcha, and did mine our way
Beneath the dark foundations of its walls,
The Persian did not smile: there was no time—
And yet, (before,) do you remember how
They laughed upon us from their ramparts, and
Sung out with lusty lungs triumphant songs
About the glory of Sapor, (then he hid
His head in Ctesiphon,) and—but you droop.
My noble king!—
Julian. Good Anatolius, you
Have been my friend and fellow soldier long;
From my youth upwards. We have fought together
In Germany and Gaul, and on the banks
Of the black Danube, when its waters lay
'Tween us and Hope.
Anat Like a dark rolling Hell.
Oh! I remember it
Julian. My spirit never
Quail'd in those times of peril, yet—
Anat My lord!Julian. Nor doth it now: but there is on my soul
A solemn foreboding that to-morrow's light—
—To day's—for even now the clouds begin
To break about the east, and dawn is here
before the stars have left us: Be it so.
My fate comes onward with a hurrying step:
I'll meet it as becomes me.—My old friend,
Bear with me, and believe no idle fears
Shake me at this great hour. Thou shalt never
Blush to behold thine old companion die,
Who once fought well beside thee.
Anat. Oh! you hurt me.
By the great Jove you tear my heart away.
Why will you do it?
Julian. My dear soldier, this
Is the last day of Julian. Mourn it not
Early I die, but in my life I have
Seen many things that age but seldom looks on,
Pleasure and power and peril. I have made
Myself a name, and carried the Roman arms
Nobly amongst the nations. I shall be
Known to far ages as a man who bowed
Before his ancient Gods, and left a path
In which he thought he erred, for one more bright.
Nor, when posterity shall speak of me,
Will it forget to say that I—(I hope not)
Was Anatolius' friend.
Anat. I cannot stay.
I shall be angry with you—Oh! is it thus
You tune my ear for battle. I shall not fight
As I was wont: I know it. Farewell now;
We'll talk of this to-morrow.
Julian. Oh! to-day
I must say something, Anatolius;
And you must listen, for 'twill ease my soul.
Fear not for me to-day. You'll see my sword
As busy as ever at its bloody work,
And, in the van, my plume. I have a leaf
From the green crown of Victory. You shall see
How soon we'll tame the Persian spirits down.
Anat. Aye, now you speak like Julian. Oh! we'll beat
These brown barbarians to their silken tents,
As we were wont. Let's talk of better times,
(If we must talk)—of the old Roman times,
When our rich veins fed Conquest with their blood,
And fear was stifled in our hearts. Away—
We'll fight as bravely as great Julius did,
And feast to-day with Sapor.
Julian. You shall do it
And now but listen to me.—I have had
A solemn dream. Methought there did appear
The Genius of my country by my couch:He held the horn of plenty in his hand,
And, covering it with a veil funereal,
Shrouded his head in darkness: Slowly then,
Without a word—one word, he floated out,
And left me in my tent, alone.
A not. Go on,
Julian. I 'woke and started from my bed, But there was nothing,—nought: So, I went forth, (Then wide awake) to look upon the sky; For I have studied deeply the high art Of divination, and can read the stars—
Anat. You jest?
Julian. No; by my father's spirit Until now
You never heard me tell of this: but, once—
•Tia long ago—at Athens—(ere I dream'd
Of Rome or of the purple,) I was wont
To commune with her gray philosophers;
And they did bare the secrets of the grave,
And show'd unto mine eyes Cadmean scrolls,
Torn from the tombs of Egypt I became
An Eleusinian, and partook those rites
Mysterious and sublime, which no man knows
Save only the elect I have listened to
The famous oracles; and, once a day.
Have heard at Thebes the lonely marble voice
Speak out unto Apollo. I have learned
Magic, and things which, since the birth of time,
Have all been hidden from inferior minds,
Which better thrive in darkness than in light Anat. And now—
Julian. And now, I can divine my fate.
Last night I saw my tutelary star
('Tis Mars) rolling in the blue firmament,
Usurping all one quarter of the sky;
At last he seem'd to shake, and left his orb,
Streaming athwart the heavens. Methought he went
To meet the morn and died. By Serapis!
I saw him vanish in the east
And what of this? 'tis nothing.
Julian. I am now
Deserted by my planetary God.
Ah '—the sun comes: then I must haste to speak.
—You must remember when Constantius died;
He left a widow. Anat. And a child. Julian. 'Twas so.
Eusebia was—ev'n while Constantius' wife,
Gracious to me. In boyhood, when I was
Once in great danger, she did plead my cause,
(You know how eloquent she was,) and «aved me;
And ever after, thro' my ehequer'd life,
She stood my friend. Beneath her warning smile
My fortunes flourish'd, and I grew to power,
Who else perhaps had lived not.
Anat. That was noble.
I did not know what cause you had to love her.
Julian. She loved me; more perhaps than might become
The emperor's wife; (for when I wedded Helena
She was estranged awhile, and saw me not;)
But my wife died, and then Constantius fell,
Hated by all. Somewhat indeed of hate
(Unjustly) clings upon his widow still.
When I have perish'd, Anatolius, thou
Wilt be Eusebia's friend?
Anat. I will, I will.
But you will live.
Julian. But should I die, my soldier,
(I must) do thou be poor Eusebia's friend.
Bid her retire to Athens. She will there
Be safe, and (for 1 know her,) glad to shun
The imperial splendour. Well! what say you, friend F
Julian to Anatolius speaks his last
Anat. I swear by all—by these hot shameful tears:
But—but I too may fall.
Julian. Look on this paquet.
Bear it about thee, and lest any harm
(The Gods keep harm from thee!) hinder thee from
Befriending the poor queen, tell to Nevitta,
Before the battle, this his general's wish.
He will do all, I think, (but not as thou,)
Eusebia's gloomier fortunes ask. Tell him
To look upon my arm when I am dead,
And he'll see there a scar I got in Gaul.
It saved his life once: bid him think on that,
And be my friend for ever.
Scene II. Julian's Tent—Evening.
Julian (on his couch wounded ;) Paiscus, Maximus.
Mas. You 're easier now?Julian. Much easier: many thanks.
—And so you think, good Priscus, that the Soul
Doth of necessity quit this feeble clay,
When the poor breath departs—that 'tis not hung
On muscle or nerve, or buried in the blood,
As some will teach. For my part, I believe
That there is good and evil, and for each
Due punishment and reward. Shall we not meet
Our friends hereafter, think you, Maximus f
Max. I hope so, my dear Lord.
Julian. What think you, Sir f
Prisons. I must believe it There is in the world
Nothing to fill up the wide heart of man;He languishes for something past the grave;He hopes—and Hope was never vainly giveu.