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Want wishing Change, and Waste repairing War,
Rapine for ever lost to peaceful Toil,
Guilt unaton'd, profuse of blood Revenge,
Corruption all-avow'd, and lawless Force,
Each heightening each, alternate shook the state.
Meantime Ambition, at the dazzling head
Of hardy legions, with the laurels heap'd
And spoil of nations, in one circling blast
Combin’d in various storm, and from its base
The broad Republic tore. By Virtue built,
It touch'd the skies, and spread o'er shelter'd earth
An ample roof: by Virtue too sustain'd,
And balanc'd steady, ev'ry tempest sung
Innoxious by, or bade it firmer stand.
But when, with sudden and enormous change,
The First of Mankind sunk into the Last,
As once in virtue, so in vice, extreme,
This universal fabric yielded loose,
Before Ambition still ; and, thund’ring down
At last, beneath its ruins crush'd a world.
A conqu’ring people to themselves a prey
Must ever fall, when their victorious troops,
In blood and rapine savage grown, can find
No land to sack and pillage but their own.
By brutal Marius and keen Sylla first
Effus'd the deluge dire of civil blood,
Unceasing woes began; and this, or that,
Deep-drenching their revenge, nor virtue spar'd,
Nor sex, nor age, nor quality, nor name;
Till Rome, into a human shambles turn'd,
Made desarts lovely.-Oh, to well-earn'd chains
Devoted race !- If no true Roman then,
No Scævola, there was, to raise for me
A vengeful hand; was there no father, robb’d
Of blooming youth to prop his wither'd age ?
No son, a witness to his hoary sire
In dust and gore defil'd ? no friend forlorn ?
No wretch that doubtful trembled for himself?
None brave or wild, to pierce a monster's heart,
Who, heaping horror round, no more deserv’d
The sacred shelter of the laws he spurn'd ?
No: sad o'er all profound Dejection sat,
And nerveless Fear. The slave's asylum theirs :
Or flight, ill-judging, that the timid back
Turns weak to slaughter; or partaken guilt.
In vain from Sylla's vanity I drew
An unexampled deed. The pow'r resign'd,
And, all unhop'd, the commonwealth restor'd,
Amaz'd the public, and effac'd his crimes.
Through streets yet streaming from his murd’rous hand
Unarm’d he stray'd, unguarded, unassail'd ;
And on the bed of peace his ashes laid :
A grace which I to his demission
But with him died not the despotic soul.
Ambition saw that stooping Rome could bear
A Master, nor had virtue to be free.
Hence, for succeeding years, my troubled reign
No certain peace, no spreading prospect, knew.
Destruction gather'd round. Still the black soul
Or of a Catiline or Rullusl swellid
With fell designs; and all the watchful art
Of Cicero demanded, all the force,
All the state-wielding magic of his tongue,
And all the thunder of my Cato's zeal.
With these I linger'd; till the flame anew
Burst out in blaze immense, and wrapp'd the world.
The shameful contest sprung, to whom mankind
Should yield the neck : to Pompey, who conceald
A rage impatient of an equal name;
Or to the nobler Cæsar, on whose brow
O'er daring Vice deluding Virtue smil'd,
And who no less a vain superior scorn'd.
Both bled, but bled in vain. New traitors rose.
The venal will be bought, the base have lords.
To these vile wars I left ambitious slaves ;
And from Philippi's field, from where in dust
The last of Romans, matchless Brutus, lay,
Spread to the North untam'd a rapid wing.
“ What though the first smooth Cæsar's arts caress'd,
Merit, and virtue, simulating me?
Severely tender! cruelly humane!
The chain to clinch, and make it softer sit
On the new-broken, still ferocious, state.
From the dark third, 1 succeeding, I beheld
Th' imperial monsters all,—a race on earth
Vindictive sent, the scourge of human-kind!
Whose blind profusion drain’d a bankrupt world ;
Whose lust to forming Nature seems disgrace;
And whose infernal rage bade every drop
Of ancient blood, that yet retain'd my flame,
To that of Pætus, 2 in the peaceful bath,
Or Rome's affrighted streets, inglorious flow.
But almost just the meanly-patient death
That waits a tyrant's unprevented stroke.
Titus indeed gave one short evening gleam;
1. Third : ' Tiberius. 3 Pætus:' Thrasea Pætus, put to death by Nero.
More cordial felt, as in the midst it spread
Of storm and horror. The delight of men,
He who the day, when his o’erflowing hand
Had made no happy heart, concluded lost !
Trajan and he, with the mild Sire and Son, 1
His son of virtue ! eas'd a while mankind ;
And Arts reviv'd beneath their gentle beam.
Then was their last effort : what Sculpture rais'd
To Trajan's glory, following triumphs stole,
And mix'd with Gothic forms (the chisels shame), 510
On that triumphal Arch, the forms of Greece.
“ Meantime o'er rocky Thrace, and the deep vales
Of gelid Hæmus, I pursu'd my flight;
And, piercing farthest Scythia, westward swept
Sarmatia, 3 travers ’d by a thousand streams.
A sullen land of lakes, and fens immense,
Of rocks, resounding torrents, gloomy heaths,
And cruel desarts, black with sounding pine ;
Where Nature frowns; though sometimes into smiles
She softens, and, immediate, at the touch
Of southern gales, throws from the sudden glebe
Luxuriant pasture and a waste of flowers.
But, cold-compress’d, when the whole loaded heav'n
Descends in snow, lost in one white abrupt,
Lies undistinguish'd earth ; and, seiz’d by frost,
Lakes, headlong streams, and floods, and oceans sleep.
Yet there life glows; the furry millions there
Deep dig their dens beneath the shelt’ring snows:
And there a race of men prolific swarms,
To various pain, to little pleasure, us’d;
On whom, keen-parching, beat Riphæan winds ;
Hard like their soil, and like their climate fierce,-
The nursery of nations! These I rous'd,
Drove land on land, on people people pour’d;
Till from almost perpetual night they broke,
As if in search of day; and o'er the banks
Of yielding empire, only slave-sustain'd,
Resistless rag’d, in vengeance urg'd by me.
Long in the barbarous heart the buried seeds
Of freedom lay, for many a wintry age ;
And though my spirit work’d, by slow degrees,
Naught but its pride and fierceness yet appear’d.
Then was the night of time, that parted worlds.
I quitted earth the while. As when the tribes
Aërial, warn'd of rising Winter, ride
Autumnal winds, to warmer climates borne ;
So, Arts and each good Genius in my train,
I cut the closing gloom, and soard to heaven.
“ In the bright regions there of purest day,
Far other scenes and palaces arise,
Adorn'd profuse with other arts divine.
All beauty here below, to them compar'd,
Would, like a rose before the mid-day Sun,
its blossom ; like a bubble, break
The passing poor magnificence of kings.
For there the King of Nature, in full blaze,
Calls every splendour forth; and there his court
Amid ethereal powers and virtues holds —
Angel, archangel, tutelary gods
Of cities, nations, empires, and of worlds.
But sacred be the veil that kindly clouds
A light too keen for mortals ; wraps a view