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To judge of weights and measures ; scarcely dar'd
On expectation's strongest wing to soar
High as the consulate, that empty shade
Of long-forgotten liberty: When I
Op'd his young eye to bear the blaze of greatness;
Shew'd him where empire tower'd, and bade him
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 ho-
Thro’ various life I have pursued your steps,
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 cry'd) the mother! reign the son !
He reigns, the rest is heav'n'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 indulg'd
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 gift, and with them you bestow'd
The very power he has to be ungrateful.
AGRIPPINA. 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 rais'd ?
Carry to him thy timid counsels. He
Perchance may 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, nurs’d in Ease
And Pleasure's flowery lap?-Rubellius lives,
And Sylla has his friends, tho' school'd by fear
To bow the supple knee, and court the times
With shows of fair obeisance; and a call,
Like mine, might serve belike to wake pretensions
Drowsier than their’s, who boast the genuine blood
Of our imperial house.
ACERONIA. 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 rever'd,
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 spirit-stirring 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,
Rous'd 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 laboured eloquence
To dress thy plea, and Burrhus strengthen it
With his plain soldier's oath, and honest seeming,
Against thee, liberty and Agrippina :
The world the prize; and fair befal the victors.
But soft! why do I waste the fruitless hours In threats unexecuted ? Haste thee, fly These hated walls that seem to mock my shame, And cast me forth in duty to their lord.