Marius Amongst the Ruins of Carthage/Marius Amongst the Ruins of Carthage
MARIUS AMONGST THE RUINS OF CARTHAGE.
[Marius, during the time of his exile, seeking refuge in Africa, had landed at Carthage; when an officer, sent by the Roman Governor of Africa, came, and thus addressed him—"Marius, I come from the Prætor Sextilius, to tell you, that he forbids you to set foot in Africa. If you obey not, he will support the Senate's decree, and treat you as a public enemy." Marius, upon hearing this, was struck dumb with grief and indignation. He uttered not a word for some time, but regarded the officer with a menacing aspect. At length, the officer inquired what answer he should carry to the Governor? "Go and tell him," said the unfortunate man, with a sigh, "that thou hast seen the exiled Marius sitting on the ruins of Carthage."]See Plutarch.
'Twas noon—and Afric's dazzling sun on high,
With fierce resplendence fill'd th' unclouded sky;
No zephyr wav'd the palm's majestic head,
And smooth alike the seas and deserts spread;
While, desolate, beneath a blaze of light,
Silent and lonely, as at dead of night,
The wreck of Carthage lay—her prostrate Fanes
Had strew'd their precious marble o'er the plains;
Dark weeds and grass the column had o'ergrown,
The lizard bask’d upon the altar-stone;
'Whelm'd by the ruins of their own abodes
Had sunk the forms of heroes and of gods;
While near—dread offspring of the burning day—
Coil'd, 'midst forsaken halls, the serpent lay.
There came an exile, long by fate pursued,
To shelter in that awful solitude.
Well did that wanderer's high, yet faded mien,
Suit the sad grandeur of the desert scene:
Shadow’d, not veil'd, by locks of wintry snow,
Pride sat, still mighty, on his furrow'd brow;
Time had not quench'd the terrors of his eye,
Nor tam'd his glance of fierce ascendancy;
While the deep meaning of his features told, )
Ages of thought had o'er his spirit roll'd, >
Nor dim'd the fire that might not be controll'd;)
And still did power invest his stately form,
Shatter'd, but yet unconquer'd, by the storm.
But slow his step—and where, not yet o'erthrown,
Still tower'd a pillar, 'midst the waste alone;
Faint with long toil, his weary limbs he laid,
To slumber in its solitary shade.
He slept—and darkly, on his brief repose,
Th’ indignant genius of the scene arose.
Clouds robed his dim, unearthly form, and spread
Mysterious gloom around his crownless head—
Crownless, but regal still—With stern disdain,
The kingly shadow seem'd to lift his chain,
Gaz'd on the palm, his ancient sceptre torn,
And his eye kindl'd with immortal scorn!
"And sleep'st thou, Roman?" cried his voice austere;
"Shall son of Latium find a refuge here?
Awake! arise! to speed the hour of fate,
When Rome shall fall, as Carthage, desolate!
Go! with her children's flower, the free, the brave,
People the silent chambers of the grave;
So shall the course of ages yet to be,
More swiftly waft the day, avenging me!
"Yes! from the awful gulph of years to come,
I hear a voice that prophecies her doom;
I see the trophies of her pride decay,
And her long line of triumphs pass away,
Lost in the depths of time—while sinks the star
That led her march of heroes from afar!
"Lo! from the frozen forests of the North,
The sons of slaughter pour in myriads forth!
Who shall awake the mighty?—will thy woe,
City of thrones! disturb the realms below?
Call on the dead to hear thee! let thy cries
Summon their shadowy legions to arise,
Array the ghosts of conquerors on thy walls!
—Barbarians revel in their ancient halls!
And their lost children bend the subject-knee,
'Midst the proud tombs and trophies of the free!
"Bird of the sun! dread eagle! born on high,
A creature of the empyreal—Thou, whose eye
Was light'ning to the earth—whose pinion wav'd,
In haughty triumph, o'er a world enslav’d;
Sink from thy heav'ns! for glory's noon is o'er,
And rushing storms shall bear thee on no more!
Clos'd is thy regal course—thy crest is torn,
And thy plume banish'd from the realms of morn.
The shaft hath reach'd thee!—rest with chiefs and kings,
Who conquer'd in the shadow of thy wings!
Sleep! while thy foes exult around their prey,
And share thy glorious heritage of day!
"But darker years shall mingle with the past,
And deeper vengeance shall be mine at last.
O'er the seven hills I see destruction spread,
And empire's widow veils with dust her head!
Her gods forsake each desolated shrine,
Her temples moulder to the earth, like mine;
'Midst fallen palaces she sits alone,
Calling heroic shades from ages gone,
Or bids the nations, 'midst her Desarts wait,
To learn the fearful Oracles of Fate.
"Still sleep'st thou, Roman? son of victory! rise!
Wake to obey th' avenging destinies!
Shed by thy mandate, soon thy country's blood
Shall swell and darken Tiber's yellow flood.
My Children's Manes call—awake! prepare
The feast they claim—exult in Rome's despair!
He thine ear clos'd against her suppliant cries;
Bid thy soul triumph in her agonies!
Let Carnage revel e'en her shrines among!
Spare not the valiant! pity not the young!
Haste! o'er her hills the sword’s libation shed,
And wreak the curse of Carthage on her head!"
The vision flies—a mortal step is near,
Whose echoes vibrate on the slumberer's ear:
He starts, he wakes to woe—before him stands
Th' unwelcome messenger of harsh commands,
Whose falt'ring accents bid the exil'd chief
Seek, far on other shores, a home for grief.
Silent the wanderer sat—but on his cheek
The burning glow, far more than words might speak;
And, from the kindling of his eye, there broke
Language, where all th’ indignant soul awoke,
Till his deep thought found voice—then, calmly stern,
And sov’reign in despair, he cried, "Return!
Tell him who sent thee hither, thou hast seen
Marius the Exile rest where Carthage once hath been!"