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No!-in that tall attenuated form,*
Lone as some prowling leopard of the storm-
In that pale cheek, and those red restless eyes,
Where the sweet balm of slumber never lies
In the parch'd lips, cleft by a moaning sound,
And haggard locks, where, twisted wildly round,
Empire's dread fillet clasps his temples broad,
Mark all a Despot needs to mar the works of God.
“ Bright maids!" the mad Blasphemer mutter'd" ye
Who track'd Orestes with such constancy
That his brain burn'd, and reason fled at last
Beneath the spell your beauties round him cast
Accept my thanks, that, turning from the fane
His ardours rear'd you on Telphusia's plain,t
You now vouchsafe to shake the witchery curl'd
In your fair locks, o'er him who shakes the world!
More faithful than the mortal nymphs whose care
Is still my momentary love to share,
Ye never leave me-morning, fragnant noon,
And night, fierce-glaring with its bloody moon-
That moon that, even when icy winter reigns,
Scorches and dries the current in my veins,
And still will stare upon my aching sight,
Startling the slumber that does not alight:
All constant Three!
- yet if, avenging Jove,
Thy handmaids come commission'd from above
To wreak-as erst upon thy sire-on me,
Earth's thunder-wielder, thy grim jealousy,
I scoff the scourge that only can destroy.
Storm as thou wilt--the dull lethargic joy,
Which the vile slave in Laurion's caverns dim-
Could Cæsar sleep-might boast he shared with him.
Yet hold the hour imparts with its deep rest
To this unslumbering, pleasure-craving breast
One stimulating throb-one strong delight-
To burst upon the soft patrician's night,
And watch the terror starting through each limb
When summon'd here, 'mid gladiators grim
They stand ;-by Orcus! how they seem to feel
The cold keen fury of the griding steel
Already severing life asunder:-yes,
Night even to me is not without its bliss ;
And, while one sapient senator remains
To speed my hours with what fools call his pains,
Pale Nemesis may watch her lonely shrine,
Heap'd by no fear-wrung sacrifice of mine-
And choke my thresholds with a shadowy throng,
Each red hand shaking the uplifted thong ;
And the Olympus-throned may thunder still
Upon the right of this defying hill:-
Even now I spurn,"
At once-as if the stroke
That in the Alp-storm smites the wasted oak
Had felld him there-the god-contemner prone
Dropp’d, like that wild tree from its mountains blown:
And ere the noiseless and attendant crowd
Of slaves, who watch'd behind the Tyrian cloud
That flung its folds, in many a silken fall,
Around the vastness of that gorgeous hall,
Could reach their prostrate lord, a change had cast
Its shadow o'er him-paralysed--and pass'd.
They raised him, with stunn'd frame and drooping head,
As one scarce rescued from the ghastly dead-
They fann'd his forehead, where the fiery will
With some strong agony contended still:
Sudden he shook aside their trembling cares,
And starting forward, as a maniac stares
Upon some shape_how dreadful we but guess
From the rack'd gazer's terrible distress
Transfix'd he stood; his fear-dilated eye,
Wild with amaze, stretch'd into vacancy,
As though some palpable horror stood between
Him and the placid beauty of the night,
That, through the rose and citron's fragrant screen,
Filld all the portal to its Parian height.
Long stood the Cursed-with-empire moveless there,
As marble vow'd by nations to Despair ;
Long seem'd to shudder at some voice, whose tone
Of thunder broke upon his ear alone :
At last the trance gave way in one wild gasp,
And, reeling back, he caught, with feeble clasp,
The nearest column, while shock'd nature's pain
Dropp'd from his forehead like the summer rain ;
“ Ho!-instant, slaves !" at length he falter'd“ Fly!
Bid to our sacred presence instantly
That prophet-raver, half a knave_half fool
Adept in all that yonder starry school
Vouchsafes to teach its students_he who told
The wreath of empire never should enfold
This brow until o'er Baïæ's sunny bay-
A liquid path-I urged my war-steed's way;"
Fool-as if winds or waves could
That awful voice !-tis crushing in my brain !
And thou wilt visit me, Tremendous Power,
Henceforth for ever in the stabber's hour ?
'Tis well-thou look'st too dreadful for a God
That kings can bribe, or hecatombs defraud.
So let me dare thee deeply-yes, by Him
Who shakes the sable urn in Hades grim!
Or by an oath more sacred-by the shrine
Thrasyllus, an eminent soothsayer at Rome, in this and several of the preceding reigns, hazarded the prediction alluded to:-“Non magis Caium imperaturum, quam per Baianum Sinum equis discursurum." To disprove the prediction, Caligula bailt the bridge from Pozzuoli to Baiæ.
And name of her_Drusilla the Divine ! *
As Jove the Cloud-compeller, o'er my head
His judgment thunders ever vainly sped,
So do I shake my tameless spirit free
From all thy funeral threats, mysterious Deity!
Again—why stays the dotard ?-soft-he's here
Thrasyllus, soothsayer, dismiss the fear
That blanches in thy cheek, it mocks the snow
Of thy most reverend tresses' scanty flow.
Approach and mark me-quick-thy laggard foot
Treads onward as reluctantly and mute,
As thou wert bidden to those glorious feasts
Where I and Torture pledge the white-lipp'd guests ;
As if the domes that lean in radiant line
Their ponderous gold upon the Palatine
O'erhung thee now, filled with the festal state
I love to fling around the gulf of fate.
Thou start'st, as if thy moon-bewilder'd sight
Saw not this spacious audience-hall aright:
Look round thee, priest, perchance thou'lt dare to say
This is not Naples—that Sarrentum's bay ;
And there Misenum's cape, from whence-come near,
I saw what none e'er saw but me-what ear
Was cursed not with till now,- THE MIGHTY SEA,
As LIVE THE IMMORTAL GODS! HAS SPOKEN UNTO ME!
And lifted up its thousand tongues, and shook
All its wide deeps into one stormy look ;
And cast the thunder of its voice's roll,
And aspect's fierceness on both sense and soul.
“ List to the portent.--Scarce an hour is past,
Since, on yon emerald promontory cast,
I look'd along broad ocean's hush'd expanse
Fill'd with the strength of midnight's countenance :
Boundlessly slept the deep ; nor sail nor oar
Broke from the far horizon to the shore
The stretch of waves that, lapsing calmly even,
Drank the dark glory of the sapphire heaven;
And far, away afar, Prochyta's isle
Hoarded one hue of day's departed smile,
One flush of rose-light that, I know not why,
Long as it linger'd, fix'd my feverish eye ;
At length it faded into night, and then
I faced the giant loneliness again!
I listen'd—'twas the rusbing through my heart
Of the hot blood in many a fiery start;
I listen’d_'twas the sedges' whispering speech,
Kiss'd by the waters on the silver beach ;-
Once more I dream, or else the sounds that surge
Still louder, break from ocean's circling verge!
'Twas even so—at first a mingling hum,
Like that of nations meeting as they come,
And then a loud hubbub-a sullen roar,
And dash of waves on every sounding shore-
And billows rose and rose, without a breeze,
And the stars shrank before the howling seas
His favourite sister. He caused temples to be erected to her divinity-and upon all occasions of unusual solemnity he swore by her name.
And mighty clouds came upward from afar,
Like the old giants crowding on to war;
And Heaven was hid, and hurrying voices high,
Calling and answering from the upper sky,
Shook the wild air : At length, when fiercest raged
The strife the waters with stunn'd Nature waged,
At once the whole tremendous Ocean heaved
Up in one wide convulsion ! Earth, relieved,
Reeld to her centre ;-still the growing sea
Rear'd to the zenith its immensity,
And whirlwinds girt its limbs in stormy crowds,
While from above career'd the thunder-clouds,
And helm'd its shadowy head, as with the gloom
And dreadful tossing of a battle-plume;
And the broad lightnings leap'd about, and pour'd
Their terrors round it like a fiery sword!
-Thou tremblest, slave,-well, Caïus may confess
That he, for one brief moment, did no less:
Upward I strain'd my gaze to meet the brow
Whose glance I felt was burning through me now.
In vain for still the thunder's streamy scowl
Muffled the features with a mighty cowl;
And, though at times the madd’ning winds would sweep
That veil aside, I could not bear the deep
And wrathful face reveal'd and wrapp'd so soon
-Lurid and dim, like an eclipsed moon!
Fatigued I sank; but, mark me, not subdued
By aught that savours of a weaker mood.
Then on my ear a voice, whose accents spoke
With earthquake's hope-destroying loudness, broke;
At once o'er continent and islands spread
A calm, than even that warring din more dread;
And thus Bis-Ultor Mars! what boots it what was said ?
Fierce words that told of some great Spirit still
Claiming ascendance o'er my sceptred will,
Some nameless God, who deem'd the Julian line
Were not so guiltless, not so all-divine
As slaves would hold; denouncements, too, that urge
To madness, lash'd as with a brazen scourge
My soul, and bared the future as the past,
And menaced of an hour, when on the blast
Of glory's heaven, no more our Eagle's wings
Should darken wide earth with their shadowings,
But cower and stoop before the iron hail
That broods even now in some far Polar gale !
-I bore no more-but sprang and faced the sea
With a proud Roman's conscious majesty ;
And saw but there the fast-subsiding flood
Through eyes bedimm'd as with a film of blood.
“ And I had still to suffer: in the east
The breeze that freshen'd o'er the billow's breast
Dash'd them to foam that, far as night prevails
Gleam'd like the canvass of a thousand sails ;
And sails were there, that forward fast and free
As those white billows, bounded countlessly;
Strange spectre ships in many à ghastly fleet
Crowding, and wafting one portentous freight,
Which the rude barks demonstrate came from far
- The Spear's stern merchandsie-barbarian War!
They near'd; each vessel burden'd with its group
Of savage warriors at the shielded poop;
Tall fire-eyed men, like the Athletæ we
Feed for the Arena's sportive butchery :
And still they swarm'd, and anchor'd, and outpour'd
On wailing shores that devastating Horde !
And a red haze swept o'er the groaning hills,
And every sound and sight, whose horror thrills
Perception, seem'd, by Hell's own black decision,
Rollid on my soul in one chaotic vision!
Jove! what a blinding scroll was there unfurld,
The last wild throes of my own Roman World!
The ravaged Province—slaughter'd people— Fanes
Blazing and tumbling on the famish'd plains;
Even Rome, the god-built, belted round with war-
And lo! the worse than Gauls burst through her every bar!
And, 'mid the Plague's rank steam, mad Famine's roar,
And woman ravish'd and man's rushing gore,
The savage feasted in our palace halls—
Aye, by the jasper founts, whose lulling falls
Bless my Velitrian villa with their rain,
Beneath its shadows of luxuriant plane
Grim Scythia styed and quaff’d each priceless cup
The Scipios' suppliant children proffer'd up!-
It was too much—a whirling in my brain
A snapping of each hot distended vein-
And then oblivion--and that hour of fear
Was o'er—and thou, dull prophet, thou art here !
Aye, I remember all—while I have spoken,
Back on my sense reality has broken.
I have but dream'd-and yonder guarded shades
Shroud in ʼmid Rome those glittering colonnades :
And I am safe—have called thee, crafty Greek,
To read the purport of my vision-speak !”.
Slowly that bow'd and listening sage arose,
And, though a century's consecrating snows
Had whiten'd o'er his head, he stood as tall
In the rich shadows of that sinful hall,
And with as dauntless look, as he who read
The words Jehovah the Avenger traced
Before Belshazzar, in the hour the Mede
Burst in red valour on that godless feast.
“ Caïus !” thus calmly spoke the prescience-gifted,
In accents solemn as sepulchral breeze
Through some lone cypress, while his hands uplifted
Seem'd to attest immortal witnesses :-
“ Casus ! my words are few ; but, though the gloom
Enwraps me of inexorable doom ;
Though to my searching eye thy stern intent,
Fang'd with all tortures tyrants can invent,
Is not unknown, as I have yet conceald
No truth thy wilful race would see reveald;
The Imperial Villa at Velitræ was his favourite retreat. It was celebrated for its gigantic plane-trees; one of which was capable of containing in its branches a large table, with the Emperor, attendants, &c.- Pliny.