Classical Influences on English Poetry

By J. A. K. Thomson | Go to book overview
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1. Which of them assumed arms with the greater right, we may not know: each has a great judge on his side; the victorious cause pleased the gods; the lost cause, Cato. Nor were they equally matched. Pompey, declining into the vale of years and grown more pacific by long wearing of the civilian's gown, has at last been taught by peace to forget the general and, a candidate for popularity, to lavish gifts upon the multitude, to give his sails wholly to the breeze of public favour and to take delight in the applause accorded him in the theatre he had built; he would not seek fresh sources of strength, but trusted largely to the good fortune that had hitherto been his. Abides the shadow of a mighty name. So an oak standing lofty in a fruitful field, laden with the trophies of an ancient folk and the dedicated offerings of their captains, no longer clinging to the earth with strong roots is held in place by its own weight, and stretching out its branches through the air makes a shadow not with its foliage but its bole; yet though it totters ready to fall at the first blast of the storm, while round it so many trees uprear themselves in their strength, it alone is worshipped. Caesar on the other hand had no such fame or reputation as a captain, but a moral force that would not rest, the mere feeling that it was inglorious to win by any means but war. This was a man of passionate and indomitable will to force his way wherever ambition and resentment called, to press on and on, to exploit the favour of fortune, bearing down whatever stood in his way as he sought the heights, and glorying to open a path by destruction.
2. What question, Labienus, do you say should be put? Whether I should resolve to fall a free man in arms or to look upon tyranny? Whether it makes no difference if life be short or long? If it be true that no violence can hurt the good man, that Fortune wastes her threats when virtue fronts her, that it is enough to will that which is righteous, that the honourable is never the successful? This we know, and Ammon will not plant the knowledge more deeply in our hearts. All we but hold of the powers above, and even when the oracle is dumb we do nothing without the will of God; neither does the deity need any utterance of words, but at our birth our creator has said once and for all what it is lawful for us to know. Did he choose the barren sands that he might prophesy to a few and bury the truth in this dust? And is the seat of God aught but earth and sea and air and heaven and virtue? What more do we ask of the divine? God is all that you see, all that you feel.
3. O great and greatest husband! O thou too noble for my bed, was Fortune permitted power over so great a head? Why did I wed thee


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Classical Influences on English Poetry


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