« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
CONSTANTIUS AND THE LION.
grasped the lion's mane, and the furious bounds of the monster could not loose his hold; but his strength was evidently giving way,-he still struck his terrible blows, but each was weaker than the one before; till, collecting his whole force for a last effort, he darted one mighty blow into the lion's throat, and sank. The savage beast yelled, and spouting out blood, fled howling around the arena. But the hand still grasped the mane, and the conqueror was dragged whirling through the dust at his heels. A universal outcry now arose to save him, if he were not already dead. But the lion, though bleeding from every vein, was still too terrible, and all shrank from the hazard. At last the grasp gave way, and the body lay motionless on the ground.
What happened for some moments after, I know not. There was a struggle at the portal ; a female forced her way through the guards, and flung herself upon the victim. The sight of a new prey roused the lion; he tore the ground with his talons; he lashed his streaming sides with his tail; he lifted up his mane and bared his fangs; but his approaching was no longer with a bound; he dreaded the sword, and came snuffing the blood on the sand, and stealing round the body in circuits still diminishing
The confusion in the vast assemblage was now extreme. Voices innumerable called for aid. Women screamed and fainted, men burst into indignant clamors at this prolonged cruelty. Even the hard hearts of the populace, accustomed as they were to the sacrifice of life, were roused to honest curses. The guards grasped their arms, and waited but for a sign from the emperor. But Nero gave no sign.
I looked upon the woman's face; it was Salome! I sprang upon my feet. I called on her name, -called on her, by every feeling of nature, to fly from that place of death, to come to my arms, to think of the agonies of all that loved her.
She had raised the head of Constantius on her knee, and was wiping the pale visage with her hair. At the sound of my voice, she looked up, and, calmly casting back the locks from her forehead, fixed her eyes upon
She still knelt; one hand supported the head, with the other she pointed to it as her only answer. I again adjured her. There was the silence of death among the thousands around me. A fire flashed into her eye,-her cheek burned,-she waved her hand with an air of superb sorrow.
“I am come to die,” she uttered, in a lofty tone." This bleeding body was my husband,--I have no father. The world contains to me but this clay in my arms. Yet," and she kissed the ashy lips before her, "yet, my
Constantius, it was to save that father that your generous heart defied the peril of this hour. It was to redeem him from the hand of evil that you abandoned your quiet home !-Yes, cruel father, here lies the noble being that threw open your dungeon, that led you safe through the conflagration, that, to the last moment of his liberty, only sought how he might serve and protect you. Tears at length fell in floods from her eyes. “But," said she, in a tone of wild power, “he was betrayed, and may the Power whose thunders avenge the cause of his people, pour down just retribution upon the head that dared "
I heard my own condemnation about to be pronounced by the lips of my own child. Wound up to the last degree of suffering, I tore my hair, leaped upon the bars before me, and plunged into the arena by her side, The height stunned me; I tottered a few paces and fell. The lion gave a roar and sprang upon me. I lay helpless under him, I heard the gnashing of his white fangs above.
An exulting shout arose. I saw him reel as if struck,-gore filled his jaws. Another mighty blow was driven to his heart. He sprang high in the air with a howl. He dropped; he was dead. The amphitheatre thundered with acclamations.
With Salome clinging to my bosom, Constantius raised me from the ground. The roar of the lion had roused him from his swoon, and two blows saved me. The falchion had broken in the heart of the monster. The whole multitude stood up, supplicating for our lives in the name of filial piety and heroism. Nero, devil as he was, dared not resist the strength of popular feeling. He waved a signal to the guards; the portal was opened, and my children, sustaining my feeble steps, showered with garlands from innumerable hands, slowly led me from the arena.
A PSALM OF LIFE.
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW.
SELL me not, in mournful numbers, Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Life is but an empty dream! Is our destined end or way;
And things are not what they Find us farther than to-day.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ; Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main, A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again. Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
And thou, who, o'er thy friend's low bier,
Sheddest the bitter drops like rain, Hope that a brighter, happier sphere
Will give him to thy arms again.
Nor let the good man's trust depart,
Though life its common gifts deny,Though with a pierced and bleeding heart,
And spurned of men, he goes to die.
For God hath marked each sorrowing day:
And numbered every secret tear, And heaven's long age of bliss shall pay
For all his children suffer here.
In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead ! Act,---act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
" BLESSED ARE THEY THAT MOURN."
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT.
DEEM not they are blest alone
Whose lives a peaceful tenor keep;
The lids that overflow with tears;
Are promises of happier years.
For every dark and troubled night; And grief may bide an evening guest,
But joy shall come with early light.
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY.
WIFTLY walk over the western wave,
Spirit of Night!
Swift be thy flight!
Wrap thy form in a mantle gray,
Star-inwrought! Blind with thy hair the eyes of day, Kiss her until she be wearied out, Then wander o'er city, and sea, and land, Touching all with thine opiate wand