Never enough time. . .
Now by your children’s cradles, now by your father’s graves,
Be men today, Quirites, or be forever slaves!
For this did Servius give us laws? For this did Lucrece bleed?
For this was the great vengeance wrought on Tarquin’s evil seed?
For this did those false sons make red the axes of their sire?
For this did Scaevola’s right had hiss in the Tuscan fire?
Shall the vile fox-earth awe the race that stormed the lion’s den?
Shall we, who could not brook one lord, crouch to the wicked Ten?
Oh for that ancient spirit which curbed the Senate’s will!
Oh for the tents which in old time whitened the Sacred Hill!
In those brave days our father stood firmly side by side;
They faced the Marcian fury; they tamed the Fabian pride:
They drove the fiercest Quinctius outcast forth from Rome;
They sent the haughtiest Claudius with shivered fasces home.
But what their care bequeathed us our madness flung away:
All the ripe fruit of three score years was blighted in a day.
Exult, ye proud Patricians! The hard-fought fight is o’er.
We strove for honours–twas in vain: for freedom–’tis no more.
No crier to the polling summons the eager throng;
No tribune breathes the word of might that guards the weak from wrong.
Our very hearts, that were so high, sink down beneath your will.
Riches, and lands, and power, and state–ye have them:–keep them still.
Still keep the holy fillets’; still keep the purple gown,
The axes, and the curule chair, the car, and laurel crown:
Still press us for your cohorts, and, when the fight is done,
Still fill your garners from the soil which our good swords have won.
Still, like a spreading ulcer, which leechcraft may not cure,
Let your foul usance eat away the substance of the poor.
Still let your haggard debtors bear all their fathers bore;
Still let your dens of torment be noisome of yore;
No fire when Tiber freezes; no air in dog-star heat;
And store of rods for free-born backs, and holes for free-born feet.
Heap heavier still the fetter; bar closer still the grate;
Patient as sheep we yield us up unto your cruel hate.
But, by the Shades beneath us, and by the Gods above,
Add not unto your cruel hate your yet more cruel love!
Have ye not graceful ladies, whose spotless lineage springs
From Consuls, and High Pontiffs, and ancient Alban kings?
Ladies, who deign not on our paths to set their tender feet,
Who from their cars look down with scorn upon the wondering street,
Who in Corinthian mirrors their own proud smiles behold,
And breathe of Capuan odours, and shine with Spanish gold?
Then leave the poor Plebian his single tie to life–
The sweet, sweet love of daughter, of sister, and of wife,
The gentle speech, the balm for all that his vexed soul endures,
The kiss, in which he half forgets even such a yoke as yours.
Still let the maiden’s beauty swell the father’s breast with pride;
Still let the bridegroom’s arms infold an unpolluted bride.
Spare us the inexpiable wrong, the unutterable shame,
That turns the cowards hearth to steel, the sluggard’s blood to flame,
Lest, when our latest hope is fled, ye taste of our despair,
And learn by proof, in some wild how much the wretched dare.
-Macualay’s Virginia, from The Lays of Ancient Rome
Make of it what you will, the acts are all the same;
The players may have shifted, the story is unchanged.
Veritas numquam perit,
The Gentleman Poet