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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

A Wife’s Influence

By George Croly (1780–1860)

From ‘Catiline’

AURELIA—One hope there is, worth all the rest—Revenge!

The time is harassed, poor, and discontent;

Your spirit practiced, keen, and desperate,—

The Senate full of feuds,—the city vext

With petty tyranny—the legions wronged—

Catiline[scornfully]—Yet who has stirred? Woman, you paint the air

With Passion’s pencil.
Aurelia—Were my will a sword!

Catiline—Hear me, bold heart! The whole gross blood of Rome

Could not atone my wrongs! I’m soul-shrunk, sick,

Weary of man! And now my mind is fixed

For Sylla: there to make companionship

Rather of bear and tiger—of the snake—

The lion in his hunger—than of man!

Aurelia—I had a father once, who would have plunged

Rome in the Tiber for an angry look!

You saw our entrance from the Gaulish war,

When Sylla fled?
Catiline—My legion was in Spain.

Aurelia—We crept through Italy, a flood of fire,

A living lava, rolling straight on Rome.

For days, before we reached it, the whole road

Was thronged with suppliants—tribunes, consulars;

The mightiest names o’ the State. Could gold have bribed,

We might have pitched our tents, and slept on gold;

But we had work to do! Our swords were thirsty.

We entered Rome as conquerors, in arms;

I by my father’s side, cuirassed and helmed,

Bellona beside Mars.
Catiline[with coldness]—The world was yours!

Aurelia—Rome was all eyes; the ancient tottered forth;

The cripple propped his limbs beside the wall;

The dying left his bed to look, and die.

The way before us was a sea of heads;

The way behind a torrent of brown spears:

So, on we rode, in fierce and funeral pomp,

Through the long living streets, that sunk in gloom,

As we, like Pluto and Proserpina,

Enthroned, rode on—like twofold destiny!

Catiline[sternly, interrupting her]—Those triumphs are but gewgaws. All the earth,—

What is it? Dust and smoke. I’ve done with life!

Aurelia[coming closer and looking steadily upon him]—Before that eve, one hundred senators

And fifteen hundred knights had paid in blood

The price of taunts, and treachery, and rebellion!

Were my tongue thunder, I would cry—Revenge!

Catiline[in sudden wildness]—No more of this! In to your chamber, wife!

There is a whirling lightness in my brain,

That will not now bear questioning.—Away![Aurelia moves slowly towards the door.

Where are our veterans now? Look on these walls;

I cannot turn their tissues into life.

Where are our revenues—our chosen friends?

Are we not beggars? Where have beggars friends?

I see no swords and bucklers on these floors!

I shake the State! I—what have I on earth

But these two hands? Must I not dig or starve?—

Come back! I had forgot. My memory dies,

I think, by the hour. Who sups with us to-night?

Let all be of the rarest,—spare no cost.

If ’tis our last,—it may be,—let us sink

In sumptuous ruin, with wonderers round us, wife!

One funeral pile shall send up amber smoke!

We’ll burn in myrrh, or—blood![She goes.

I feel a nameless pressure on my brow,

As if the heavens were thick with sudden gloom;

A shapeless consciousness, as if some blow

Were hanging o’er my head. They say such thoughts

Partake of prophecy.[He stands at the casement.

The air is living sweetness. Golden sun,

Shall I be like thee yet? The clouds have passed—

And, like some mighty victor, he returns

To his red city in the west, that now

Spreads all her gates, and lights her torches up

In triumph for her glowing conqueror.