Alaric Alexander Watts

(1797-1864 / England)

The Death Of Pompey The Great - Poem by Alaric Alexander Watts

States vanish, ages fly;
But leave one task unchanged—to suffer and to die. ~ HEMANS.

Not when his golden eagles flew,
In sun-bright splendour o'er him,
When he came, and saw, and overthrew,
And kings bent down before him;
Not in his hour of regal pride,
When his navies darkening Egypt's tide,
To fame and conquest bore him,—
Did ever Pompey's laurelled brow,
To one fond heart seem bright as now.
When a monarch, ay, almost a god,
Rome's fickle legions crowned him;
When nations waited on his nod,
And myriads thronged around him;
Cornelia sat beside his throne,
His fame, wealth, honours, all her own,
Her's the sole chains that bound him;
But never did her lips avow
Such deep, devoted love as now.
Forlorn, deserted and betrayed,
An exile on the wave,
Doomed of the satraps he had made
Life's paltry boon to crave;
Of wealth, fame, power, even hope bereft,
Spurned by his summer friends, and left
No refuge but the grave,—
What lifts his soul his fate above,
What but Cornelia's changeless love!
She looks upon Pelugium's strand,
Fierce hosts are gathering there;
And she numbers each succeeding band,
With a wild and troubled air;
Proud ships are dancing in the bay;
“Is it their homage thus they pay,”
She asks, “or but a snare,
“Some dark device of Cæsar's hate,
“To seal my royal Pompey's fate?”
A boat comes tilting through the spray,
To bear him to the shore;
One kiss, and then away, away!
One word—and all is o'er!
Vain her entreaties; vainer now,
The bodings wild that cloud the brow
Her lips may press no more;
Bright prows are stirring in the bay;
The die is cast, away—away!
A shriek is on that noon-tide wave,
Despairing, loud, and shrill;
Oh, that her love had power to save
The blood they rush to spill!
It may not be; he looks his last,—
One moment—and the struggle's past;
Even now his heart grows chill;
He draws his mantle o'er his eyes,
And as he lived, great Pompey dies!
And shouts of triumph rend the air
From the slaves who mark his fall;
But the thrilling voice of that deep despair
Is heard above them all!
'Tis the requiem wild of Woman's love,
The cry of blood to heaven above,—
May vengeance note the call;—
And yon dastard traitors' cheeks grow pale
At the dooming tones of that fearful wail.
'Tis eve; those savage shouts are o'er,
That shriek hath died away;
And far from Egypt's fatal shore,
Her bark pursues its way;—
What is to her the fitful breeze,
The conflict stern of the skies and seas,
To the calm of yonder bay!
She'd rather seek the whirlpool's breast,
Than on those blood-stained waters rest.
What recks it where the casket lies,
When the gem it shrined is gone,—
Who bids the funeral pile arise,
When the deathless soul is flown!
And yet, might honours duly paid,
Truth's tears, appease a warrior's shade,
For a martyr's wrongs atone;
Fall'n chief, those offerings, half divine,
That incense of the heart, is thine!
Though of all the minions of thy power,
Who once meet homage paid thee;
Who fawned on thee in fortune's hour,
And when it waned betrayed thee;
Not one court-parasite is near,
To mourn above the bloody bier,
Where traitor hands have laid thee;
Two humble friends, with duteous love,
Now bend thy mangled form above.
And gathering from the grasping wave,
The relics of a bark
Wrecked, like the glories of the brave
When fortune's clouds grow dark;
They spread them for thy funeral pile,
Then breathing vengeance deep the while,
Kindle the glowing spark;
And flames, as bright as Truth, arise,
To grace great Pompey's obsequies!

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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