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To her that gave it being, her that arm'd
This painted Jove, and taught his novice hand
To aim the forked bolt ; while he stood trembling,
Scared at the sound, and dazzled with its brightness ?
'Tis like, thou hast forgot, when yet a stranger
To adoration, to the grateful steam
Of flattery's incense, and obsequious vows
From voluntary realms, a puny boy,
Deck'd with no other lustre than the blood
Of Agrippina's race, he lived unknown
To fame, or fortune; haply eyed at distance
Some edileship, ambitious of the power
To judge of weights and measures; scarcely dared
On expectation's strongest wing to soar
High as the consulate, that empty shade
Of long-forgotten liberty : when I
Oped his young eye to bear the blaze of greatness ;
Showd him where empire tower'd, and bade him strike
The noble quarry. Gods ! then was the time
To shrink from danger; fear might then have worn
The mask of prudence; but a heart like mine,
A heart that glows with the pure Julian fire,
If bright ambition from her
craggy seat Display the radiant prize, will mount undaunted, Gain the rough heights, and grasp the dangerous
ACER. Through various life I have pursued your
Have seen your soul, and wonder'd at its daring:
Hence rise my fears. Nor am I yet to learn
How vast the debt of gratitude which Nero
To such a mother owes ; the world, you gave him,
Suffices not to pay the obligation.
I well remember too (for I was present)
When in a secret and dead hour of night,
Due sacrifice perform’d with barb'rous rites
Of mutter'd charms, and solemn invocation,
You bade the Magi call the dreadful powers,
That read futurity, to know the fate
Impending o'er your son : their answer was,
If the son reign, the mother perishes.
Perish (you cried) the mother ! reign the son !
He reigns, the rest is heaven's ; who oft has bade,
Ev’n when its will seem'd wrote in lines of blood,
Th' unthought event disclose a whiter meaning.
Think too how oft in weak and sickly minds
The sweets of kindness lavishly indulged
Rankle to gall; and benefits too great
To be repaid, sit heavy on the soul,
As unrequited wrongs. The willing homage
Of prostrate Rome, the senate's joint applause,
The riches of the earth, the train of pleasures
That wait on youth, and arbitrary sway :
These were your gist, and with them you bestow'd
The very power he has to be ungrateful.
AGRIP. Thus ever grave and undisturb'd reflection Pours its cool dictates in the madding ear Of rage, and thinks to quench the fire it feels not. Say'st thou I must be cautious, must be silent, And tremble at the phantom I have raised ? Carry to him thy timid counsels. He Perchance
heed 'em : tell him too, that one Who had such liberal power to give, may still With equal power resume that gift, and raise A tempest that shall shake her own creation To its original atoms—tell me! say, This mighty emperor, this dreaded hero, Has he beheld the glittering front of war? Knows his soft ear the trumpet's thrilling voice, And outcry of the battle ? Have his limbs Sweat under iron harness? Is he not The silken son of dalliance, nursed in ease And pleasure's flow'ry lap ?—Rubellius lives, And Sylla has his friends, though school'd by fear To bow the supple knee, and court the times Which shows of fair obeisance; and a call, Like mine, might serve belike to wake pretensions
Drowsier than theirs, who boast the genuine blood Of our imperial house.
ACER. Did I not wish to check this dangerous
passion, I might remind my mistress that her nod Can rouse eight hardy legions, wont to stem With stubborn nerves the tide, and face the rigour Of bleak Germania's snows. Four, not less brave, That in Armenia quell the Parthian force Under the warlike Corbulo, by you Mark'd for their leader: these, by ties confirm’d, Of old respect and gratitude, are yours. Surely the Masians too, and those of Egypt, Have not forgot your sire: the eye of Rome And the Prætorian camp have long revered With custom'd awe, the daughter, sister, wife, And mother of their Cæsars.
Ha! by Juno,
It bears a noble semblance. On this base
My great revenge shall rise; or say we sound
The trump of liberty; there will not want,
Even in the servile senate, ears to own
Her spiritistirring voice ; Soranus there,
And Cassius ; Vetus too, and Thrasea,
Minds of the antique cast, rough, stubborn souls,
That struggle with the yoke. How shall the spark
Unquenchable, that glows within their breasts,
Blaze into freedom, when the idle herd
(Slaves from the womb, created but to stare,
And bellow in the Circus) yet will start,
And shake 'em at the name of liberty,
Stung by a senseless word, a vain tradition,
As there were magic in it ? Wrinkled beldams
Teach it their grandchildren, as somewhat rare
That anciently appear’d; but when, extends
Beyond their chronicle-oh ! 'tis a cause
To arm the hand of childhood, and rebrace
The slacken'd sinews of time-wearied age.
Yes, we may meet, ungrateful boy, we may !
Again the buried Genius of old Rome
Shall from the dust uprear his reverend head,
Roused by the shout of millions : there before
His high tribunal thou and I appear.
Let majesty sit on thy awful brow,
And lighten from thy eye : around thee call
The gilded swarm that wantons in the sunshine
Of thy full favour ; Seneca be there
In gorgeous phrase of labour'd eloquence
To dress thy plea, and Burrhus strengthen it
With his plain soldier's oath, and honest seeming.