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SPARTACUS TO THE GLADIATORS.
IT had been a day of triumph at Capua. Lentulus, returning with victorious eagles, had amused the populace with the sports of the amphitheatre to an extent hitherto unknown, even in that luxurious city. The shouts of revelry had died away; the roar of the lion had ceased; the last loiterers had retired from the banquet; and the lights in the palace of the victor were extinguished. The moon, piercing the tissue of fleecy clouds, silvered the dew-drops on the cofslet of the Roman sentinel and tipped the dark waters of Vulturnus with a wavy, tremulous light.
No sound was heard save the last sob of some retiring wave, telling its story to the smooth pebbles of the beach; and then all was still as the breast when the spirit has departed. In the deep recesses of the amphitheatre, a band of gladiators assembled; their muscles still knotted with the agony of conflict, the foam upon their lips, the scowl of battle yet lingering on their brows; when Spartacus, starting forth from amid the throng, thus addressed them :—“ Ye call me chief, and ye do well to call him chief who, for twelve long years, has met upon the arena every shape of man or beast the broad empire of Rome could furnish, and who never yet lowered his arm. If there be one among you who can say that ever, in public fight or private brawl, my actions did belie my tongue, let him stand forth and say it. If there be three in all your company dare face me on the bloody sands, let them come on. And yet I was not always thus,- -a hired butcher, a savage chief of still more savage men! My ancestors came from old Sparta, and settled among the vine-clad rocks and citron groves of Syrasella. My early life ran quiet as the brooks by which I sported; and when at noon I gathered the sheep beneath the shade, and played upon the shepherd's flute, there was a friend, the son of a neighbor, to join me in the pastime. We led
our flocks to the same pasture, and partook together our rustic meal. One evening, after the sheep were folded, and we were all seated beneath the myrtle which shaded our cottage, my grandsire, an old man, was telling of Marathon and Leuctra; and how, in ancient times, a little band of Spartans, in a defile of the mountains, had withstood a whole army. I did not then know what war was; but my cheeks burned, I knew not why; and I clasped the knees of that venerable man, until my mother, parting the hair from off my forehead, kissed my throbbing temples, and bade me go to rest, and think no more of those old tales and savage wars. That very night the Romans landed on our coast. I saw the breast that had nourished me, trampled by the hoof of the war-horse; the bleeding body of my father flung amidst the blazing rafters of our dwelling! To-day I killed a man in the arena; and when I broke his helmet clasps, behold it was my friend. He knew me, smiled faintly, gasped, and died; the same sweet smile upon his lips that I had marked, when, in adventurous boyhood, we scaled the lofty cliff to pluck the first ripe grapes, and bear them home in childish triumph. I told the prætor that the dead man had been my friend, generous and brave, and I begged that I might bear away the body, to burn it on a funeral pile, and mourn over its ashes. Ay! upon my knees, amid the dust and blood of the arena, I begged that poor boon, while all the assembled maids and matrons, and the holy virgins they call vestals, and the rabble shouted in derision; deeming it rare sport, forsooth, to see Rome's fiercest gladiator turn pale and tremble at the sight of that piece of bleeding clay!
SPARTACUS TO THE GLADIATORS.
And the prætor drew back as if I were pollution, and sternly said :—Let the carrion rot; there are no noble men but Romans! And so, fellow-gladiators, must you, and so must I, die like dogs. Oh, Rome, Rome! thou hast been a tender nurse to me; ay, thou hast given to that poor, gentle, timid shepherd lad, who never knew a harsher tone than a flute note, muscles of iron and a heart of flint; taught him to
drive the sword through plated mail and links of rugged brass, and warm it in the marrow of his foe; to gaze into the glaring eyeballs of the fierce Numidian lion, even as a boy upon a laughing girl! And he shall pay thee back, until the yellow Tiber is red as frothing wine, and in its deepest ooze, thy life blood lies curdled!
Ye stand here now like giants, as ye are. The strength of brass is in your toughened sinews; but to-morrow some Roman Adonis, breathing sweet perfume from his curly locks, shall with his lily fingers pat your red brawn and bet his sesterces upon your blood. Hark! hear ye yon lion roaring in his den? 'Tis three days since he tasted flesh; but tomorrow he shall break his fast upon yours, and a dainty meal for him ye will be! If ye are beasts then stand here like fat oxen, waiting for the butcher's knife! If ye are men follow me! Strike down your guard, gain the mountain passes, and there do bloody work, as did your sires at old Thermopyla! Is Sparta dead? Is the old Grecian spirit frozen in your veins, that you do crouch and cower like a belabored hound beneath his master's lash? Oh, comrades! warriors, Thracians! If we must fight, let us fight for ourselves! If we must slaughter, let us slaughter our oppressors! If we must die, let it be under the clear sky, by the bright waters, in noble, honorable battle!"
SOLILOQUY OF THE DYING ALCHEMIST.
THE night wind with a desolate moan swept by;
SOLILOQUY OF THE DYING ALCHEMIST.
The fire beneath his crucible was low;
The silent room,
I did not think to die
Till I had finished what I had to do:
I thought to pierce the eternal secret through
I felt, O God! It seemeth even now
This cannot be the death-dew on my brow
And yet it is,-I feel,
Of this dull sickness at my heart, afraid;
And in my eyes the death-sparks flash and fade:
Over my bosom like a frozen hand,
And this is death! But why Feel I this wild recoil? It cannot be
The immortal spirit shuddereth to be free:
Like a chained eaglet at its parents call?
Yet thus to pass away!—
To live but for a hope that mocks at last,-
To waste the light of day,
Night's better beauty, feeling, fancy, thought,
Grant me another year,
God of my spirit!--but a day,—to win
I would know something here!
Vain-vain!-my brain is turning
With a swift dizziness, and my heart grows sick,
Dying! O God! if I might only live!
O, but for time to track
The upper stars into the pathless sky,-
And more, much more,—for Low