Monday, January 17, 2011


A Halcyon Age

Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter III:
If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus.
Herman Melville, The Age of the Antonines:
While faith forecasts millennial years
  Spite Europe's embattled lines,
Back to the Past one glance be cast—
  The Age of the Antonines!
O summit of fate, O zenith of time
When a pagan gentleman reigned,
And the olive was nailed to the inn of the world
Nor the peace of the just was feigned.
  A halcyon Age, afar it shines,
  Solstice of Man and the Antonines.

Hymns to the nations' friendly gods
Went up from the fellowly shrines,
No demagogue beat the pulpit-drum
  In the Age of the Antonines!
The sting was not dreamed to be taken from death,
No Paradise pledged or sought,
But they reasoned of fate at the flowing feast,
Nor stifled the fluent thought,
  We sham, we shuffle while faith declines—
  They were frank in the Age of the Antonines.

Orders and ranks they kept degree,
Few felt how the parvenu pines,
No law-maker took the lawless one's fee
  In the Age of the Antonines!
Under law made will the world reposed
And the ruler's right confessed,
For the heavens elected the Emperor then,
The foremost of men the best.
  Ah, might we read in America's signs
  The Age restored of the Antonines.

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