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on the wall were calculated to astonish Publius, what must have been his bewilderment when the wall itself seemed to move! He rubbed his eyes to make sure that he was not dreaming, and looked again. Again it moved! He was in a revolving chamber! Looking at the floor, which he feared would open beneath him, he saw at his feet a sarcophagus. It was half full of earth, and beside it was a basket of plants and two large braziers for burning incense.
"My hour is come,' said Virgil faintly. Place me in the sarcophagus, and cover me with the magic herbs. Light the braziers and stand them at my head and feet. Then leave me. Seal the door, as I commanded, and expect me on the Ides of March. A sudden tremor ran through his frame, and he sank back in the arms of his friend.
He was placed in the sarcophagus and covered with the plants, and the braziers were lighted. * Vale! Virgil, vale !' said Publius, and retreated from the chamber. In the laboratory he found a jar of wax, with which he sealed the door. He stamped the seal with his signet-ring, and retraced his steps, starting from his own shadow which the dying taper threw on the wall. At last he reached the library, and, to distract his mind from what he had heard and seen, he took the manuscript epic and began to read it. He fell asleep in the sixth book, leaving Æneas in the infernal regions, and wandered in a labyrinth of dreams. Now he was in the Chamber of the Zodiac, lying in state in the sarcophagus, drenched with the dew, and stifled with the smoke of the incense; anon he was a ghost in the awful world of the dead. He stood on the farther bank of the Styx beseeching Charon to carry him back to the earth, but the grim old ferryman was inexorable. He was awakened in the morning by the sparrows. The bird that was dead is singing,' he said ; and the rose, I see, is living. There is hope for Virgil.'
On the third of the nones there came a message for Virgil from the Emperor. The messenger was admitted into the atrium, where Publius received him. The poet,' he said, cannot be seen.' He was followed by a second messenger, and then Augustus came.
How is this,' he demanded, that Virgil denies himself? 'Be not angry, Cæsar, it was I who dismissed thy messenger. I told the truth. Virgil cannot be seen till the Ides of March.'
“But where is he? and why do I find thee here in his stead ?'
Then Publius related to the Emperor all that had happened ; Virgil's conversation in the Corinthian room; the marvels that he performed in the library; and his immolation of himself in the Chamber of the Zodiac.
This is a strange tale,' said Augustus thoughtfully. Where is the room in which you say he lies ? '
'I dare not show it, Cæsar, for I have sealed the door for nine days.
‘Show me the room; I must see him.'
'He will appear on the Ides of March.'
“Slaves ! shouted Augustus to the domestics of Virgil, who came hurrying at his call, lead me to the laboratory of your master. I am the Emperor.'
The terrified slaves obeyed him. He tore the wax from the door, and not finding the spring which opened it, he bade them break it down. They battered it with beams until it gave way, and drew back for the Emperor to enter. He found the chamber as the knight had described it: there were the signs of the Zodiac on the wall, and there the braziers and the sarcophagus. The Zodiac, however, had ceased to revolve, and one of the braziers was overturned. The sarcophagus was empty! He is not here, after all,' he thonght.
• It must be that Publius hath murdered him.'
But now one of the slaves drew his attention to a pile of withered plants on the farther side of the chamber. He ordered him to scatter it that he might see if there was any thing beneath ; but before he could do so, he was suddenly confronted by the figure of a naked child. It stamped its feet, and tore its hair, and shrieking, 'Lost ! Lost !' disappeared. At that moment the wall fell in. The Emperor sprang through the door and escaped, but the slave was crushed in the ruins.
When Augustus returned to the library of Virgil he found Publius burning a roll of parchment. 'I am obeying the last wishes of the dead, he said sternly, 'as thou shouldst have done. Hadst thou but hearkened to me, the dead would soon have been living, and Rome would not now deplore her poet. But it is too late, and I have burned his manuscripts.'
• Madman! thou hast not destroyed them all ?
“No! I could not destroy this, it was so beautiful,' and he held out the cedar scrinum.
It contained the Æneid.
Some bards collect and give the world their verse,
So middling bad 't were better if 't were worse ;
But, puffed in papers by their private clique,
The first edition scarcely lasts a week;
A second's called for – and so, out it comes
With a new rattle of admiring drums.
Then certain honest persons, green and good,
Go buy the book, because they 're told they should :
But that is all - it were too much indeed
To ask that any should both buy and read.
The bard, elated, elevates his nose
At common persons, who converse in prose;
Looks wild, abstracted, wanders through the town,
And, à la Byron, wears his collar down
Lets his beard grow and never combs his hair,
Talks to himself and gestures to the air,
Till sober lovers of the public peace
Esteem him mad and summon the police.
Mistaken men! who never learned the rule
By which to tell a maniac from a fool!
Of fools the shallowest, idiots most complete,
Wiser than wisest in his own conceit,
Victim of puffs and dupe of partial praise,
Like some vain hen, he cackles o'er his lays ;
Till Time has addled his poetic eggs,
Pulled off his wings and set him on his legs.
Convinced at last that poets are not made,
He rails at letters like a new Jack CADE;
Or if perverse, he still keeps twisting prose
Into loose lines like onions strung in rows;
Makes songs for prizes, candy-curing rhyme,
Mottoes for kisses, which with 'blisses' chime;
• Breeze' follows trees,' and ever after 'love,'
Comes the soft cooing of the plaintive • dove.'
Ah! luckless bard! had he not known 'the Muse,'
He might have furnished valuable shoes,
And, when his days of usefulness had passed,
Still proudly turned and pointed to his last.
Plato, the golden-minded, in his youth,
Loved trifles better than pursuit of truth :
He wrote two tragedies and several songs
Full of such nonsense as to verse belongs ;
But when on wisdom he resolved to bend
His mind, and con our being's aim and end,
He broke in pieces his poetic lyre,
And wisely threw his verses in the fire.
Oh! that small poets in our modern times,
Would make a bonfire of their early rhymes,
To serious tasks their faculties compose,
Study philosophy and write in prose !
No age in literature was ever known
One-fiftieth part so 'gifted' as our own:
At least you 'll think so, if you but believe
The journals critical, that ne'er deceive.
One that with care I've conned these six years past,
(Long may it flourish! ever may it last!)
Precept on precept, line succeeding line,
Has told its readers every book was ine.
The latest volume was the very best,
Until one more exceeded all the rest.
O brilliant era! in so long a time,
Not to produce the least poor prose or rhyme !
'Tis surely golden, not a bit of brass,
And wholly lighted by the sun, not gas!
Not only authors, but our statesmen, too,
Are splendid fellows, and they 're not a few.'
Each country village does the most it can
To have its one remarkable, great man.
Ah! there he goes! the wonder of his age!
Tremendous talents! yes — he's all the rage!'
Strong with the pen and stronger at the bar,
Of biggest magnitude -- a first-rate star!
See what profundity his looks express !
Of manners heedless, sloven in his dress,
Wears his slouched hat upon his hinder head,
Seeming just risen ready clothed from bed:
Went once to Congress; there he won renown,
Bullied the speaker, knocked a member down;
Now he's reposing on his laurels here –
"We're going to make him Governor next year!'
Another portrait, now my hand is in,
Here will I draw before the paint grows thin;
Should it lack coloring to the common eye,
Who knows the sketch can all the hues supply.
Some folk there are by Nature doomed to prove
That man was born incessantly to move.
Such is that biped, rather tall and slim,
Who deems few places good enough for him ;
No spot contents him but a year or 80:
Ask where he is, you ’re answered, “On the go.'
Where he was raised,' and dwelt some years at least,
Is that queer country which is called down East ;'
Thence on a shingle' was he known to glide,
A human waif on Time's resistless tide.
First through Connecticut his way he took,
Retailing something which he named “a book'-
A book, half bound, with lines that looked like ruts,
And illustrated with distressing cuts ;'
Serious and stupid, moral, mean, and mild,
With useful reading for the littlest child.
Ask next what occupies his busy brain:
He goes conductor of a railway train.
But soon, grown weary of the rushing car,
He hires' at taverns and attends the bar.
Ere twelve-month passes he resumes his wings,
Scorning to mix perpetual punch and slings.
The next you hear, he's settled calm and cool,
Pursuing physic while he teaches school,
After some lapse again he stirs his stumps
Through various cities, lecturing on bumps,
Or hydropathy, or some other cure,
All very different, but very sure.
At length comes out ‘New Work by Dr. SNOOKS!'
Begins with peddling ; ends with making books.
A self-taught genius!' cries the weekly press ;
• His book on babies meets with vast success ;
The regular faculty are much perplexed;
His life and portrait will adorn our next!
By every person be his notice read
On our last page : No HUMBUG!' at its head.'
Immortal Humbug! at thy call arise
Shapes without number, forms of every size :
Produced by thee in denser throngs they sweep
Than e'er were summoned from the vasty deep.'
The very mention of thy name invokes
The puff, the brag, the falsehood, and the hoax;
Each a Pandora with a jar in hand,
To scatter worse than evils through the land :
Notorious nostrums, candies, drops, and pills,
(Take them, O friends! but first indite your wills ;)
New creeds, new codes, new systems of expense,
(Adopt them all, and say “farewell’to sense.)
How dolts and dunces love transparent lies !
They trust assertion sooner than their eyes ;
To them one promise is worth twenty acts ;
Imagination takes the place of facts;
Folly their pleasure, nonsense their delight,
To those they dedicate each day and night.
Where they abide, Truth's lamp is never lit;
• The curfew tolls the knell of parting' wit ;
Reason, disgusted, flies where Humbug rules,
"And leaves the world to darkness and to fools.
Yet things like these have long ceased to amaze ;
No more astonishment can Falsehood raise ;
'T is grown too common; Truth were much more strange,
If it were only for the sake of change.
Few marvels now the busy mind engage
In this gold-seeking, gold-discovering age,
Where Love himself forsakes his bowers for mines,
And all our fire-sides turn to MAMMON's shrines.
I used to wonder at the strife for wealth,
The reckless sacrifice of peace and health,
The tireless treading of the daily mill,
Incessant work, and all of it up hill.
But that was when my years were young and green,
And through a glass mankind were darkly seen ;
Since older grown, distincter views I trace,
And see my fellow-sinners face to face.
This truth I've learned — a truth of sternest stuff,
There lives no man, who ever had enough ;
Enough — the horizon that forever flies,
Recedes in distance as you near the skies ;
Enough— the rainbow, whose alluring hues
Fade as man gazes, melt while he pursues.