Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

To-day I killed a man in the arēna; and, when I broke his helmet-clasps, behold! he was my friend. He knew me, smiled faintly, gasped, and died; - the same sweet smile upon his lips that I had marked, when, in adventurous boyhood, we scaled the lofty cliff to pluck the first ripe grapes, and bear them home in childish triumph! I told the prætor that the dead man had been my friend, generous and brave; and I begged that I might bear away the body, to burn it on a funeral pile, and mourn over its ashes. Ay! upon my knees, amid the dust and blood of the arena, I begged that poor boon, while all the assembled maids and matrons, and the holy virgins they call Vestals, and the rabble, shouted in derision, deeming it rare sport, forsooth, to see Rome's fiercest gladiator turn pale and tremble at sight of that piece of bleeding clay! And the prætor drew back as I were pollution, and sternly said, Let the carrion rot; there are no noble men but Romans!' And so, fellow-gladiators, must you, and so must I, die like dogs. O, Rome! Rome! thou hast been a tender nurse to me. Ay! thou hast given, to that poor, gentle, timid shepherdlad, who never knew a harsher tone than a flute-note, muscles of iron and a heart of flint; taught him to drive the sword through plaited mail and links of rugged brass, and warm it in the marrow of his foe;

to gaze into the glaring eye-balls of the fierce Numidian lion, even as a boy upon a laughing girl! And he shall pay thee back, until the yellow Tiber is red as frothing wine, and in its deepest ooze thy lifeblood lies curdled!

66

-

Ye stand here now like giants, as ye are! The strength of brass is in your toughened sinews; but to-morrow some Roman Adōnis, breathing sweet perfume from his curly locks, shall with his lily fingers pat your red brawn, and bet his sestérces upon your blood. Hark! hear ye yon lion roaring in his den? 'Tis three days since he tasted flesh; but to-morrow he shall break his fast upon yours, and a dainty meal for him ye will be! If ye are beasts, then stand here like fat oxen, waiting for the butcher's knife! If folye are men, low me! Strike down yon guard, gain the mountain passes, and there do bloody work, as did your sires at Old Thermopyla! Is Sparta dead? Is the old Grecian spirit frozen in your veins, that you do crouch and cower like a belabored hound beneath his master's lash? O, comrades! warriors! Thracians!-if we must fight, let us fight for ourselves! If we must slaughter, let us slaughter our oppressors! If we must die, let it be under the clear sky, by the bright waters, in noble, honorable battle!"

23. SPARTACUS TO THE ROMAN ENVOYS IN ETRURIA.— - Original.

ENVOYS of Rome, the poor camp of Spartacus is too much honored by your presence. And does Rome stoop to parley with the escaped gladiator, with the rebel ruffian, for whom heretofore no slight has been too scornful? You have come, with steel in your right hand, and with gold in your left. What heed we give the former, ask

Cossinius; ask Claudius; ask Varinius; ask the bones of your legions that fertilize the Lucanian plains. And for your goldwould ye know what we do with that, -go ask the laborer, the trodden poor, the helpless and the hopeless, on our route; ask all whom Roman tyranny had crushed, or Roman avarice plundered. Ye have seen me before; but ye did not then shun my glance as now. Ye have seen me in the arena, when I was Rome's pet ruffian, daily smeared with blood of men or beasts. One day shall I forget it ever?ye were present; -I had fought long and well. Exhausted as I was, your munerator, your lord of the games, bethought him, it were an equal match to set against me a new man, younger and lighter than I, but fresh and valiant. With Thracian sword and buckler, forth he came, a beautiful defiance on his brow! Bloody and brief the fight. "He has it!" cried the People; "habet! habet!" But still he lowered not his arm, until, at length, I held him, gashed and fainting, in my power. I looked around upon the Podium, where sat your Senators and men of State, to catch the signal of release, of mercy. But not a thumb was reversed. To crown your sport, the vanquished man must die! Obedient brute that I was, I was about to slay him, when a few hurried words—rather a welcome to death than a plea for life told me he was a Thracian. I stood transfixed. The arena vanished. I was in Thrace, upon my native hills! The sword dropped from my hands. I raised the dying youth tenderly in my arms. O, the magnanimity of Rome! Your haughty leaders, enraged at being cheated of their death-show, hissed their disappointment, and shouted, "Kill!" I heeded them as I would heed the howl of wolves. Kill him? They might better have asked the mother to kill the babe, smiling in her face. Ah! he was already wounded unto death; and, amid the angry yells of the spectators, he died. That night I was scourged for disobedience. I shall not forget it. Should memory fail, there are scars here to quicken it.

[ocr errors]

--

Well; do not grow impatient. Some hours after, finding myself, with seventy fellow-gladiators, alone in the amphitheatre, the laboring thought broke forth in words. I said, - I know not what. I only know that, when I ceased, my comrades looked each other in the face and then burst forth the simultaneous cry- "Lead on! lead on, O Spartacus!" Forth we rushed, -seized what rude weapons Chance threw in our way, and to the mountains speeded. There, day by day, our little band increased. Disdainful Rome sent after us a handful of her troops, with a scourge for the slave Spartacus. Their weapons soon were ours. She sent an army; and down from old Vesuvius we poured, and slew three thousand. Now it was Spartacus the dreaded rebel! A larger army, headed by the Prætor, was sent, and routed; then another still. And always I remembered that fierce cry, riving my heart, and calling me to "kill!" In three pitched battles, have I not obeyed it? And now affrighted Rome

sends her two Consuls, and puts forth all her strength by land and sea, as if a Pyrrhus or a Hannibal were on her borders!

Envoys of Rome! To Lentulus and Gellius bear this message: "Their graves are measured!" Look on that narrow stream, a silver thread, high on the mountain's side! Slenderly it winds, but soon is swelled by others meeting it, until a torrent, terrible and strong, it sweeps to the abyss, where all is ruin. So Spartacus comes on! So swells his force, small and despised at first, but now resistless! On, on to Rome we come! The gladiators come! Let Opulence tremble in all his palaces! Let Oppression shudder to think the oppressed may have their turn! Let Cruelty turn pale at thought of redder hands than his! O! we shall not forget Rome's many lessons. She shall not find her training was all wasted upon indocile pupils. Now, begone! Prepare the Eternal City for our games!

24. MARULLUS TO THE ROMAN POPULACE.-Shakspeare.

WHEREFORE rejoice that Cæsar comes in triumph?
What conquest brings he home?

What tributaries follow him to Rome,
To grace in captive bonds his chariot-wheels?

You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!
O, you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome!
Knew ye not Pompey? Many a time and oft
Have climbed up
you
to walls and battlements,
To towers and windows, yea, to chimney-tops,
Your infants in your arms, and there have sat
The life-long day, with patient expectation,
To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome;
And when you saw his chariot but appear,
Have you not made an universal shout,
That Tiber trembled underneath her banks
To hear the replication of your sounds,
Made in her concave shores?

And do you now put on your best attire?
And do you now cull out a holiday?
And do you now strew flowers in his way,
That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood?
Begone! Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,
Pray to the Gods to intermit the plague

That needs must light on this ingratitude!

25. MARCUS BRUTUS ON THE DEATH OF CESAR.- Shakspeare.

ROMANS, countrymen, and lovers! Hear me for my cause; and be silent, that you may hear. Believe me for mine honor; and have respect to mine honor, that you may believe. Censure me in your wisdom; and awake your senses, that you may the better judge. If

there be any in this assembly, dear friend of Cæsar's,-to him I - any say, that Brutus' love to Cæsar was not less than his. If, then, that friend demand,why Brutus rose against Cæsar, this is my answer: Not that I loved Cæsar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather, Cæsar were living, and die all slaves, than that Cæsar were dead, to live all freemen? As Cæsar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; he was valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him. There are tears, for his love; joy, for his fortune; honor, for his valor; and death, for his ambition! Who is here so base, that would be a bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so rude, that would not be a Roman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so vile, that will not love his country? If any, speak; for him have I offended. I pause for a reply..

None? Then none have I offended. I have done no more to Cæsar than you shall do to Brutus. The question of his death is enrolled in the Capitol; his glory not extenuated, wherein he was worthy; nor his offences enforced, for which he suffered death.

Here comes his body, mourned by Mark Antony; who, though he had no hand in his death, shall receive the benefit of his dying, a place in the commonwealth: As which of you shall not? With this I depart: That, as I slew my best lover for the good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself, when it shall please my country to need my death.

26. MARK ANTONY TO THE PEOPLE, ON CÆSAR'S DEATH. -Shakspeare. FRIENDS, Romans, Countrymen! lend me your ears.

I come to bury Cæsar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interréd with their bones:
So let it be with Cæsar! Noble Brutus
Hath told you Cæsar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault;
And grievously hath Cæsar answered it!
Here, under leave of Brutus, and the rest,
For Brutus is an honorable man!

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Cæsar seem ambitious?

When that the poor have cried, Cæsar hath wept.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff! ·

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honorable man!
You all did see, that, on the Lupercal,
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,

Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?-
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And sure he is an honorable man!

I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke;
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once; not without cause:
What cause withholds you, then, to mourn for him?
O judgment thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason! Bear with me:
My heart is in the coffin there with Cæsar;
And I must pause till it come back to me.

But yesterday, the word of Cæsar might
Have stood against the world; - now lies he there,
And none so poor to do him reverence!
O masters! if I were disposed to stir
Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong,
Who, you all know, are honorable men!-
I will not do them wrong: I rather choose
To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you,
Than I will wrong such honorable men!
But here's a parchment with the seal of Cæsar,
I found it in his closet, - 't is his will!
Let but the commons hear this testament,
Which, pardon me, I do not mean to read, -
And they would go and kiss dead Cæsar's wounds
And dip their napkins in his sacred blood;
Yea, beg a hair of him for memory,
And, dying, mention it within their wills,
Bequeathing it, as a rich legacy,
Unto their issue!

-

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
You all do know this mantle: I remember
The first time ever Cæsar put it on:

'T was on a summer's evening, in his tent, --
That day he overcame the Nervii !
Look! in this place, ran Cassius' dagger through:
See what a rent the envious Casca made!
Through this, the well-belovéd Brutus stabbed!
And, as he plucked his curséd steel away,
Mark how the blood of Cæsar followed it!
As rushing out of doors, to be resolved
If Brutus so unkindly knocked, or no!
For Brutus, as you know, was Cæsar's angel;

« AnteriorContinuar »