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When Caesar's troops were gathered in their strength
And Magnus saw the battle day was near
Before his camp, Cornelia he resolved
To send to Lesbos' shore, from rage of fight
Safe and apart: so lifting from his soul
The weight that burdened it. Thus, lawful Love,
Thus art thou tyrant o'er the mightiest mind!
His spouse was the one cause why Magnus stayed
Nor met his fortunes, though he staked the world
And all the destinies of Rome. The word
He speaks not though resolved; so sweet it seemed,
When on the future pondering, to gain
A pause from Fate! But at the close of night,
When drowsy sleep had fled, Cornelia sought
To soothe the anxious bosom of her lord
And win his kisses; when amazed she saw
His cheek was tearful, and with boding soul
Shrank from the hidden wound, nor dared surprise
Magnus in tears. But sighing thus he spake:
' Dearer to me than life itself, when life
'Is happy (not at moments such as these);
'The day of sorrow comes, too long delayed,
'Nor long enough! With Caesar at our gates
' With all his forces, a secure retreat
'Shall Lesbos give thee. Try me not with prayers.
'This fatal boon I have denied myself.
'Thou wilt not long be absent from thy spouse.
'Disasters hasten, and things highest fall
With speediest ruin. 'Tis enough for thee
' To hear of Magnus' peril; and thy love
'Deceives thee with the thought that thou canst gaze
'Unmoved on civil strife. It shames my soul
'On the eve of war to slumber at thy side,
'And rise from thy dear breast when trumpets call
'A woeful world to misery and arms.
'I dread lest Magnus in this war endure
'Nor loss nor sorrow. But do thou lie hid
'Safer than kings or peoples, far removed;
'That so the grievous fortunes of thy lord
' May lighter fall on thee. If unkind heaven
' Our armies rout, still let my choicest part
' Survive in thee; if fated is my flight,
' Still leave me that whereto I fain would flee.'
Hardly at first her senses grasped the words
In their full misery; then her mind amazed
Could scarce find utterance for the grief that pressed.
Nought, Magnus, now is left wherewith to upbraid
'The gods and fates of marriage; 'tis not death
'That parts our love, nor yet the funeral pyre,
Nor that dread torch which marks the end of all.
I share the ignoble lot of vulgar lives:
'My spouse rejects me. Yes, the foe is come!
'Break we our bonds and Julia's sire appease! -
Is this thy consort, Magnus, this thy faith
'In her fond loving heart? Can danger fright
'Her and not thee? Long since our mutual fates
'Hang by one chain; and dost thou bid me now
'The thunder-bolts of ruin to withstand
Without thee? Is it well that I should die
'Even while you pray for fortune? And suppose
' I flee from evil and with death self-sought
' Follow thy footsteps to the realms below--
' Am I to live till to that distant isle
' Some tardy rumour of thy fall may come?
' And then thou say'st, unfeeling! that by use
' Strength shall be mine to bear such load of ills
' As fate reserves for us: but at such a strength
' My spirit trembles. Ah! forgive the truth.
' And if the favouring gods shall hear my prayers,
' I shall be last to hear the victory
' In that lone isle of rocks. When all are glad,
' My heart shall throb with anguish, and the sail
' Which brings the message I shall see with fear,
' Not safe e'en then: for Caesar in his flight
' Might seize me there, abandoned and alone
To be his hostage. If thou place me there,
The spouse of Magnus, shall not all the world
'Well know the secret Mitylene holds?
This my last prayer: if all is lost but flight,
'And thou shalt seek the ocean, to my shores
'Turn not thy keel, ill-fated one: for there,
'There will they seek thee.' Thus she spoke distraught,
Leaped from the couch and rushed upon her fate;
No stop nor stay: she clung not to his neck
Nor threw her arms about him; both forego
The last caress, the last fond pledge of love,
And grief rushed in unchecked upon their souls;
Still gazing as they part no final words
Could either utter, and the sweet Farewell
Remained unspoken. This the saddest day
Of all their lives: for other woes that came
More gently struck on hearts inured to grief.
Borne to the shore with failing limbs she fell
And grasped the sands, embracing, till at last
Her maidens placed her senseless in the ship.
Not in such grief she left her country's shores
When Caesar's host drew near; for now she leaves,
Though faithful to her lord, his side in flight
And flees her spouse. All that next night she waked;
Then first what means a widowed couch she knew,
Its cold, its solitude. When slumber found
Her eyelids, and forgetfulness her soul,
Seeking with outstretched arms the form beloved,
She grasps but air. Though tossed by restless love,
She leaves a place beside her as for him
Returning. Yet she feared Pompeius lost
To her for ever. Nay! such happy lot
The gods prepared not; for the hour drew near
Which gave her Magnus to her arms again.
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