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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Arthur Christopher Benson 1862–1925

After Construing


LORD CÆSAR, when you sternly wrote

The story of your grim campaigns,

And watched the ragged smoke-wreath float

Above the burning plains,

Amid the impenetrable wood,

Amid the camp’s incessant hum,

At eve, beside the tumbling flood

In high Avaricum,

You little recked, imperious head,

When shrilled your shattering trumpet’s noise,

Your frigid sections would be read

By bright-eyed English boys.

Ah me! who penetrates to-day

The secret of your deep designs?

Your sovereign visions, as you lay

Amid the sleeping lines?

The Mantuan singer pleading stands;

From century to century

He leans and reaches wistful hands,

And cannot bear to die.

But you are silent, secret, proud,

No smile upon your haggard face,

As when you eyed the murderous crowd

Beside the statue’s base.

I marvel: that Titanic heart

Beats strongly through the arid page,

And we, self-conscious sons of art,

In this bewildering age,

Like dizzy revellers stumbling out

Upon the pure and peaceful night,

Are sobered into troubled doubt,

As swims across our sight

The ray of that sequestered sun,

Far in the illimitable blue,—

The dream of all you left undone,

Of all you dared to do.