Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/57

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47
THE READING-CLUB.

Before thee for the lives of thousands, rich
In all that makes life precious to the brave;
Who perish not alone, but in their fall
Break the far-spreading tendrils that they feed,
And leave them nurtureless. If thou wilt hear me
For them, I am content to speak no more.
Ad. Thou hast thy wish, then.—Crythes! till yon dial
Casts its thin shadow on the approaching hour,
I hear this gallant traitor. On the instant,
Come without word, and lead him to his doom.
Now leave us.
Cry. What, alone ?
Ad. Yes, slave, alone:
He is no assassin! [Exit Crythes.
Tell me who thou art.
What generous source owns that heroic blood,
Which holds its course thus bravely? What great wars
Have nursed the courage that can look on death—
Certain and speedy death—with placid eye?
Ion. I am a simple youth who never bore
The weight of armor ; one who may not boast
Of noble birth, or valor of his own.
Deem not the powers which nerve me thus to speak
In thy great presence, and have made my heart,
Upon the verge of bloody death, as calm,
As equal in its beatings, as when sleep
Approached me nestling from the sportive toils
Of thoughtless childhood, and celestial forms
Began to glimmer through the deepening shadows
Of soft oblivion,—to belong to me!
These are the strengths of Heaven; to thee they speak,
Bid thee to hearken to thy people's cry,
Or warn thee that thy hour must shortly come!
Ad. I know it must ; so mayst thou spare thy warnings.
The envious gods in me have doomed a race,
Whose glories stream from the same cloud-girt founts
Whence their own dawn upon the infant world;
And I shall sit on my ancestral throne
To meet their vengeance ; but till then I rule
As I have ever ruled, and thou wilt feel.
Ion. I will not further urge thy safety to thee;
It may be, as thou sayest, too late; nor seek
To make thee tremble at the gathering curse