Page images

Had thy design been laudable, thy tongue
With honest freedom boldly should have spoke
Thy discontent. Ye live not in a reign
Where truth, by arbitrary power depressed,
Dares not maintain her state. I charge thee, say
What lawless measures has my power pursued?
Athol. I come not to mitigate your royal wrath
With sorrow and submission; not to sum
The motives which compelled me to the field.
King. I found your miserable state reduced
To ruin and despair: your cities drench'd
In mutual slaughter, desolate your plains:
All order banished, and all arts decayed:
No industry, save that with hands impure
Distressed the commonwealth: no laws in force,
To screen the poor, and check the guilty great;
While squalid Famine join'd her sister fiend,
Devouring Pestilence, to curse the scene!

I came I toiled-reformed-redressed the whole!
And lo! my recompence !-But I relapse.

What is your suit?


We sue, my liege, for peace.

King. Say, that my lenity should grant your prayer, How, for the future, shall I rest assured

Of your allegiance?


The pledge of our behaviour.


Stuart shall be left

And your arms,

Ere noon to-morrow, shall be yielded up.
Athol. This too shall be performed.

Then mark me, thane,

Because the loins from whence I sprung
On thee, too, life bestowed-enjoy the gift.
I pardon what is past. In peace consume
The winter of thy days. But if ye light
Th' extinguished brand again, and brave my throne
With new commotions-By th' immortal gods!
No future guile, submission, or regard,
Shall check my indignation!-I will pour
My vengeance in full volley; and the earth
Shall dread to yield you succour or resource!
Of this no more. Thy kinsman shall remain
With us, an hostage of thy promised faith.

So shall our mercy with our prudence join,
United brighten, and securely shine.



Cicero. OUR long debate must close. Take one proof


Of this rebellion. Lucius Catiline

Has been commanded to attend the Senate.

He dares not come.

I now demand your votes ;

Is he condemned to exile?

[Catiline comes in hastily. All the Senators go
over to the other side. Cicero turns to Catiline.
Here 1 repeat the charge, to gods and men,
Of treasons manifold;—that, but this day,
He has received despatches from the rebels-
That he has leagued with deputies from Gaul
To seize the province; nay, has levied troops,
And raised his rebel standard ;-that, but now
A meeting of conspirators was held

Under his roof, with mystic rites, and oaths,
Pledged round the body of a murder'd slave.
To these he has no answer.


Conscript Fathers!
I do not rise to waste the night in words:
Let that plebeian talk; 'tis not my trade;
But here I stand for right. Let him show proofs,-
For Roman right; though none, it seems, dare stand
To take their share with me. Ay, cluster there,
Cling to your master; judges, Romans,-slaves!
His charge is false ;-I dare him to his proofs,
You have my answer now! I must be gone.

Cic. These, as I told you, were this evening seized
Within his house. You knew them, Catiline?


Know them! What crimination's there? What

Lives in that helm to charge me? Cicero-
Go search my house, you may find twenty such;
All fairly struck from brows of barbarous kings,
When you and yours were plotting here in Rome.
go search my house. And is this all?

I say,

I scorn to tell you by what chance they came.
Where have I levied troops-tampered with slaves-
Bribed fool or villain, to embark his neck

In this rebellion? Let my actions speak.

Cic. This is his answer! Must I bring more proofs ? Fathers, you know there lives not one of us, But lives in peril of his midnight sword. Lists of proscription have been handed round, In which your general properties are made Your murderers' hire.

[blocks in formation]

Fathers! this stain to his high name and blood,
Came to my house to murder me; and came
Suborned by him.

Cat. (scornfully.) Cethegus!

Did you say this?


Not 1. I went to kill

A prating, proud plebeian, whom those fools
Palm'd on the Consulship.


And sent by whom?
Ceth. By none. By nothing, but my zeal to purge
The senate of yourself, most learned Cicero !

Cic. Fathers of Rome! If man can be convinced
By proof, as clear as day-light, there it stands!

[Pointing to the prisoner.

This man has been arrested at the gates,
Bearing despatches to raise war in Gaul.
Look on these letters! Here's a deep laid plot
To wreck the provinces: a solemn league

Made with all form and circumstance. The time
Is desperate,-all the slaves are up;-Rome shakes!
The heavens alone can tell how near our graves
We stand ev'n here!-The name of Catiline
Is foremost in the league. He was their king.
Tried and convicted traitor, go from Rome!

Cat. Come, consecrated lictors! from your thrones ;
[To the Senate.
Fling down your sceptres :—take the rod and axe,
And make the murder as you make the law.

Cic. Lictors, drive the traitor from the temple.
Cat. Traitor!' I go-but I return. This―trial!
Here I devote your Senate! I've had wrongs,
To stir a fever in the blood of age,
Or make the infant's sinew strong as steel.
This day's the birth of sorrows! This hour's work
Will breed proscriptions. Look to your hearths, my
For there henceforth shall sit, for household gods,
Shapes hot from Tartarus;-all shames and crimes;


Wan treachery, with his thirsty dagger drawn;
Suspicion, poisoning the brother's cup;
Naked rebellion, with the torch and axe,
Making his wild sport of your blazing thrones;
Till anarchy comes down on you like night,
And massacre seals Rome's eternal grave!

Senators. Go, enemy and parricide, from Rome!
Cat. (indignantly.) It shall be so!-(Going. He sud-
denly returns.)-When Catiline comes again,
Your grandeur shall be base, and clowns shall sit
In scorn upon those chairs.

Then Cicero and his tools shall pay me blood-
Vengeance for every drop of my boy's veins ;-
And such of you as cannot find the grace
To die with swords in your right hands, shall feel
The life, life worse than death, of trampled slaves!
Senators. Go, enemy and parricide, from Rome!
Cic. Expel him, lictors! Clear the senate-house!
Cat. I go, but not to leap the gulf alone!
I go; but when I come-'twill be the burst
Of ocean in the earthquake rolling back

In swift and mountainous ruin. Fare you well!—

You build my funeral pile, but your best blood

Shall quench its flame. Back, slaves! (to the Lictors.) I will return!



ARE there not times, Patricians! when great states
Rush to their ruin? Rome is no more like Rome
Than a foul dungeon's like the glorious sky.
What is she now? Degenerate, gross, defiled;
The tainted haunt, the gorged receptacle
Of every slave and vagabond of earth:
A mighty grave, that luxury has dug,
To rid the other realms of pestilence;
And, of the mountain of corruption there,
Which once was human beings, procreate
A buzzing, fluttering swarm; or venom tooth'd,
A viper brood insects and reptiles only!
Consul! Look on me-on this brow-these hands;
Look on this bosom, black with early wounds:

Have I not served the state from boyhood up,
Scattered my blood for her, laboured for, loved her?
I had no chance; wherefore should I be Consul?
Patricians! they have pushed me to the gulf;
I have worn down my heart, wasted my means,
Humbled my birth, barter'd my ancient name,
For the rank favour of the senseless mass
That frets and festers in your commonwealth :
Ay, stalk'd about with bare head and stretched hand,
Smiling on this slave, and embracing that,
Coining my conscience into beggar words,
Doing the candidates' whole drudgery.
What is't to me that all have stooped in turn?
Does fellowship in chains make bondage proud?
Does the plague lose its venom, if it taint
My brother with myself? Is't victory,
If I but find, stretched by my bleeding side,
All who came with me in the golden morn,
And shouted as my banner met the sun?

I cannot think of't. There's no faith in earth;
The very men with whom I walked through life
Nay, till within this hour, in all the bonds
Of courtesy and high companionship,
They all deserted me; Metellus, Scipio,
Æmilius, Cato, even my kinsman Cæsar,-
All the chief names and senators of Rome,
This day, as if the heavens had stamped me black,
Turned on their heel, just at the point of fate,
Left me a mockery in the rabble's midst,
And followed their plebeian consul, Cicero!
No! I have run my course. Another year!
Why taunt me, sir? No-if their curule chair,
Sceptre, and robe, and all their mummery,
Their whole embodied consulate were flung,
Here at my feet, and all assembled Rome
Knelt to me, but to stretch my finger out,

And pluck them from the dust,-I'd scorn to do it;
This was the day to which I looked through life;
And it has failed me,-vanished from my grasp,
Like air.

I must not throw the honourable stake,
That won, is worth the world,-is glory, life;
But, like a beaten slave, must stand aloof,
While others sweep the board!

'Tis fixed!-Past talking now!-By Tartarus!

« PreviousContinue »