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In that small heap of dust, was not confined
So great a shade; but from th' ignoble pyre
And limbs half burnt sprang forth1 and sought the sky
Where dwells the Thunderer. Black the space of air
Upreaching to the poles that bear on high
The constellations in their nightly round;
There 'twixt the orbit of the moon and earth
Abide those lofty spirits, half divine,
Who by their blameless lives and fire of soul
Are fit to tolerate the pure expanse
That bounds the lower ether: there shall dwell,
Where nor the monument encased in gold,
Nor richest incense, shall suffice to bring
The buried dead, in union with the spheres,
Pompeius' spirit. When with heavenly light
His soul was filled, first on the wandering stars
And fixed orbs he bent his wondering gaze;
Then saw what darkness veils our earthly day
And scorned the insults heaped upon his corse.
Next o'er Emathian plains he winged his flight,
And ruthless Caesar's standards, and the fleet
Tossed on the deep: in Brutus' blameless breast
Tarried awhile, and roused his angered soul
To reap the vengeance; last possessed the mind
Of haughty Cato.
He while yet the scales
Were poised and balanced, nor the war had given
The world its master, hated both the chiefs,
But followed Magnus for the Senate's cause
And for his country: now in all his heart
Was bound to Magnus, since Pharsalia's field.
Shorn of her guardian his country found
In him her guide; the people's trembling limbs
He cherished with new hope, and weapons gave
Back to the craven hands that cast them forth.
Nor yet for empire did he wage the war
Nor fearing slavery: nor in arms achieved
Aught for himself: freedom, since Magnus fell,
The aim of all his host. And lest the foe
In rapid course triumphant should collect
His scattered bands, he sought Corcyra's gulfs
Concealed, and bore in thousand ships away
The fragments of the ruin wrought in Thrace.
Who in such mighty navy had believed
A host defeated sailed upon the main
Thronging the sea with keels? Round Malea's cape
And Taenarus open to the shades below
And fair Cythera's isle, th' advancing fleet
Sweeps o'er the yielding wave, by northern breeze
Borne past the Cretan shores. But Phycus dared
Refuse her harbour, and th' avenging hand
Left her in ruins. Thus with gentle airs
They glide along the main and reach the shore
From Palinurus 2 named; for not alone
On seas Italian, Pilot of the deep,
Hast thou thy monument; and Libya too
Claims that her tranquil harbours pleased thy soul.
Then in the distance on the main arose
The shining canvas of a stranger fleet,
Or friend or foe they knew not. Yet they dread
In every keel the presence of that chief
Their fear-compelling conqueror. But in truth
That navy tears and sorrow bore, and woes
To make e'en Cato weep.
For when in vain
Cornelia prayed her stepson and the crew
To stay their flight, lest haply from the shore
Back to the sea might float the headless corse;
And when the flame arising marked the place
Of that unhallowed rite, ' Fortune, didst thou
Judge me unfit,' she cried, ' to light the pyre
'To cast myself upon the hero dead,
'The lock to sever, and compose the limbs
'Tossed by the cruel billows of the deep,
To shed a flood of tears upon his wounds,
To fill my robe with ashes from his urn,
And scatter in the temples of the gods
All that I could, his dust? That pyre bestows
No honour, haply by some Pharian hand
Piled up in insult to his mighty shade.
Happy the Crassi lying on the waste
Unburied. To the greater shame of heaven
' Pompeius has such funeral. And shall this
' For ever be my lot? her husbands slain
' Cornelia ne'er enclose within the tomb,
' Nor shed the tear beside the urn that holds
' The ashes of the loved? Yet for my grief
' What boots or monument or ordered pomp?
' Dost thou not, impious, upon thy heart
· Pompeius' image, and upon thy soul
' Bear ineffaceable? Dust closed in urns
' Is for the wife who would survive her lord,
' Not such as thee, Cornelia! And yet
'Yon scanty light that glimmers from afar
' Upon the Pharian shore, somewhat of thee
' Recalls, Pompeius! Now the flame sinks down
' And smoke drifts up across the eastern sky
' Bearing thine ashes, and the rising wind
' Sighs hateful in the sail. To me no more
' Dearer than this whatever land has given
' Pompeius victory, nor the frequent car
' That carried him in triumph to the hill;
' Gone is that happy husband from my thoughts;
' Here did I lose the hero whom I knew;
' Here let me stay; his presence shall endear
' The sands of Nile where fell the fatal blow.
' Thou, Sextus, brave the chances of the war
'And bear Pompeius' standard through the world.
' For thus thy father spake within mine ear:
' " When sounds my fatal hour let both my sons
' " Urge on the war; nor let some Caesar find
' " Room for an empire, while shall live on earth
' " Still one in whom Pompeius' blood shall run.
' " This your appointed task; all cities strong
' " In freedom of their own, all kingdoms urge
' " To join the combat; for Pompeius calls.
' " Nor shall a chieftain of that famous name
' ' Ride on the seas and fail to find a fleet.
' Urged by his sire's unconquerable will
' " And mindful of his rights, mine heir shall rouse
' " All nations to the conflict. One alone,
' " (Should he contend for freedom) may ye serve;
' " Cato, none else! " Thus have I kept the faith;
' Thy plot 3 prevailed upon me, and I lived
'Thy mandate to discharge. Now through the void
· Of space, and shades of Hell, if such there be,
' I follow; yet how distant be my doom
' I know not: first my spirit must endure
' The punishment of life, which saw thine end
' And could survive it; sighs shall break my heart,
"Tears shall dissolve it: sword nor noose I need
Nor headlong plunge. 'Twere shameful since thy death,
' Were aught but grief required to cause my own.'4
She seeks the cabin, veiled, in funeral garb,
In tears to find her solace, and to love
Grief in her husband's room; no tempest howl
Among the shrouds, no angered waves aroused
Her soul, nor cry of sailors in dismay:
For life their prayers; not hers: and prone she lies
Resigned to death and welcoming the storm.
1 This was the Stoic theory. The perfect of men passed after death into a region between our hemisphere and the heavens, where they remained until the day of general conflagration (see Book VII., line 955), with their senses amplified and rendered akin to divine.
3 Meaning that her husband gave her this commission in order to prevent her from committing suicide.
4 Lord Clarendon quotes this passage in regard to the death of Lord Falkland at the battle of Newbury: 'If there were no other brand upon this odious and accursed civil war than that single loss, it must be most infamous and execrable to all posterity. “Turpe mori post te solo non posse dolore”.'
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