Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Lord Caesar, when you sternly wrote8 Avaricum: Attacked by Julius Caesar, defended by Vercingetorix in 52 B.C. (De Bello Gallico 7.15-31)
The story of your grim campaigns,
And watched the ragged smoke-wreath float
Above the burning plains,
Amid the impenetrable wood, 5
Amid the camp's incessant hum,
At eve, beside the tumbling flood
In high Avaricum,
You little recked, imperious head,
When shrilled your shattering trumpet's noise, 10
Your frigid sections would be read
By bright-eyed English boys.
Ah me! who penetrates to-day
The secret of your deep designs?
Your sovereign visions, as you lay 15
Amid the sleeping lines?
The Mantuan singer pleading stands;
From century to century
He leans and reaches wistful hands,
And cannot bear to die. 20
But you are silent, secret, proud,
No smile upon your haggard face,
As when you eyed the murderous crowd
Beside the statue's base.
I marvel: that Titanic heart 25
Beats strongly through the arid page,
And we, self-conscious sons of art,
In this bewildering age,
Like dizzy revellers stumbling out
Upon the pure and peaceful night, 30
Are sobered into troubled doubt,
As swims across our sight
The ray of that sequestered sun,
Far in the illimitable blue,—
The dream of all you left undone, 35
Of all you dared to do.
17 Mantuan singer: Vergil