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the doom of Bessus, the murderer of Darius, who is delivered by Alexander to the brother of his victim. Then comes the expedition to Scythia. The Macedonian, on the banks of the Tanaïs, receives an embassy. The ambassador fails to delay him; he crosses the river, and reduces the deserts and mountains of Scythia. And here the poet likens this people, which, after resisting so many powerful nations, now falls under the yoke, to a lofty, star-seeking Alpine fir, "astra petens abies," 1 which, after resisting for ages all the winds of the East, of the West, and of the South, falls under the blows of Boreas. The name of the conqueror becomes a terror, and other nations in this distant region submit voluntarily, without a blow.
The ninth book commences with a mild allusion to the murder of Clitus, and other incidents, teaching that the friendships of kings are not perennial:
"Etenim testatur eorum Finis amicitias regum non esse perennes." 2
Here comes the march upon India. submit. Porus alone dares to resist. With a numerous army he awaits the Macedonian on the Hydaspes. The two armies stand face to face on the opposite banks. Then occurs the episode of two youthful Greeks, Nicanor and Symmachus, born the same day, and attached like Nisus and Euryalus. Their perilous expedition fails, under pressure of numbers, and the two friends, cut off and wounded, after prodigies of valor, at last embrace, and die in each other's arms. Then comes the great battle. Porus, vanquished, wounded, and a prisoner, is brought before Alexander. His noble spirit touches the generous heart of the conqueror, who re
1 Lib. VIII. 493.
2 Lib. IX. 17, 18.
stores his dominions, increases them, and places him in the number of friends:
"Odium clementia vicit."1
The gates of the East are now open. has the terror of thunder breaking in the middle of the night,
'Quem sequitur fragor, et fractæ collisio nubis." 2
A single city arrests the triumphant march. Alexander besieges it, and himself mounts the first to the assault. His men are driven back. Then from the top of the ladder, instead of leaping back, he throws himself into the city, and alone encounters the foe. Surrounded, belabored, wounded, he is about to perish, when his men, learning his peril, redouble their efforts, burst open the gates, inundate the place, and massacre the inhabitants. After a painful operation, Alexander is restored to his army and to his great plans of conquest. The joy of the soldiers, succeeding sorrow, is likened to that of sailors, who, after seeing the pilot overboard, and ready to be ingulfed by the raging floods, as Boreas plays the Bacchanal, "Borea bacchante," 3 at last behold him rescued from the abyss and again at the helm. But the army is disturbed by preparation for distant maritime expeditions. Alexander avows that the world is too small for him; that, when it is all conquered, he will push on to subjugate another universe; that he will lead them to the Antipodes, and to another Nature; and that, if they refuse to accompany him, he will go forth alone, and offer himself as chief to other people. The army is on fire with this answer, and vow again never to abandon their king.
The tenth book is the last. Nature, indignant that a
1 Lib. IX. 303.
2 Ibid., 848.
3 Ibid., 503.
mortal should venture to penetrate her hidden places, suspends unfinished works, and descends to the lower world for succor against the conqueror. Before the gates of Erebus, under the walls of the Stygian city, — "Ante fores Erebi, Stygiæ sub moenibus urbis,'
are sisters, monsters of the earth, representing every vice, thirst of gold, drunkenness, gluttony, treachery, detraction, envy, hypocrisy, adulation. In a distant recess is a perpetual furnace, where crimes are punished, but not with equal flames, as some are tormented more lightly and others more severely. Leviathan is in the midst of his furnace; but he drops his serpent form, and assumes the divine aspect he had worn when wishing to share the high Olympus,
"Cum sidere solis Clarior intumuit, tantamque superbia mentem Extulit, ut summum partiri vellet Olympum."2
To him the stranger appeals against the projects of Alexander, which extend on one side to the unknown sources of the Nile and the Garden of Paradise, and on the other to the Antipodes and ancient Chaos. The infernal monarch convenes his assembly on the plains where agonize the souls of the wicked in undying torments,
1 Lib. X. 41.
2 Ibid., 89-91.
Est non posse mori,'
and where, as in the Inferno of Dante, ice and snow, as well as fire, are punishments. The satraps of Styx are collected, and the ancient Serpent addresses sibilations from his hoarse throat:
"Hic ubi collecti satrapæ Stygis et tenebrarum,
3 Ibid., 123, 124.
4 Ibid., 131-133.
He commands the death of the Macedonian king before his plans can be executed. Treason rises and proposes poison. All Hell applauds; and Treason, in disguise, fares forth to instruct the agent. The whole scene suggests sometimes Dante and sometimes Milton. Each was doubtless familiar with it. Meanwhile Alexander returns to Babylon. The universe is in suspense, not knowing to which side he will direct his arms. From all quarters ambassadors come to his feet. In the pride of power he is universal lord. At a feast, surrounded by friends, he drinks the fatal cup. His end approaches, showing to the last grandeur and courage. The poet closes, as he began, with salutation to his patron.
Such is the sketch of a curiosity of literature. It is interesting to look upon this little book, which for a time played so considerable a part; to imagine the youthful students once nurtured by it; to recognize its relations to an age when darkness was slowly yielding to light; to note its possible suggestions to great poets who followed, especially to Dante; and to behold it lost from human knowledge, and absolutely forgotten, until saved by a single verse, which, from its completeness of form and its proverbial character, must live as long as the Latin language. The verse does not occupy much room; but it is a sure fee-simple for the poet. And are we not told by an ancient, that it is something, in whatsoever place or corner, to have made one's self master of a spot big enough for a single lizard?
"Est aliquid, quocumque loco, quocumque recessu,
1 Juvenal, Sat III. 230, 231.
A poem of ten books shrinks to a very petty space. There is a balm of a thousand flowers, and here a single hexameter is the express essence of many times a thousand verses. It was the jest of Hamlet, conversing with Horatio in the churchyard, that the noble Alexander, returning to dust and loam, had stopped a bung-hole. But the memorable poem celebrating him, while reduced as much, may be put to far higher and more enduring use.
Ar the conclusion of a fable there is a moral, or, as sometimes called, the application. There is a moral now, or, if you please, the application. And, believe me, in these serious days, I should have little heart for literary diversion, if I did not hope to make it help those just principles which are essential to the well-being, if not the safety, of the Republic. To this end I have written. This article is only a long whip with a snapper.
Two verses rescued from the wreck of a once popular poem have become proverbs, and one of these is very famous. They inculcate clemency, and the common sense found in not running upon one danger to avoid another. Never was the lesson more needed than now, when, in the name of clemency to belligerent traitors, the National Government is preparing to abandon the freedman, to whom it is bound by the most sacred. ties, is preparing to abandon the national creditor also, with whose security the national welfare is indissolubly associated, and is even preparing, without probation or trial, to invest belligerent traitors, who for four bloody years have murdered our fellow-citizens,