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Por. Scarce had I left my father, but I met him
Borne on the shields of his surviving soldiers,
Breathless and pale, and cover'd o'er with wounds.
Long, at the head of his few faithful friends,
He stood the shock of a whole host of foes,
Till obstinately brave, and bent on death,
Oppress'd with multitudes, he greatly fell.
Cato. I'm satisfy'd.
Por. Nor did he fall before
His sword had pierc'd through the false heart of
Yonder he lies. I saw the hoary traitor
Grin in the pangs of death, and bite the ground.
Cato. Thanks to the gods, my boy has done his duty. --Portius, when I am dead, be sure you place His urn near mine.
Por. Long may they keep asunder!
Luc. Oh, Cato, arm thy soul with all its patience; See where the corpse of thy dead son approaches! The citizens and senators, alarm’d, Have gather'd round it, and attend it weeping.
CATO, meeting the corpse.
Cato. Welcome, my son! Here lay him down, my
friends, Full in my sight, that I may view at leisure The bloody corse, and count those glorious wounds. -How beautiful is death, when earn'd by virtue ! Who would not be that youth? What pity is it That we can die but once to serve our country! -Why sits this sadness on your brows, my friends ?
I should have blush'd if Cato's house had stood
Secure, and flourish'd in a civil war.
Portius, behold thy brother, and remember
Thy life is not thy own, when Rome demands it.
Jub. Was ever man like this!
Cato. Alas, my friends,
Why mourn you thus! let not a private loss
Aflict your hearts. 'Tis Rome requires our tears,
The mistress of the world, the seat of empire,
The nurse of heroes, the delight of gods,
That humbled the proud tyrants of the earth,
And set the nations free, Rome is no more.
Oh, liberty! Oh, virtųe! Oh, my country!
Jub. Behold that upright man! Rome fills his eyes With tears that flow'd not o'er his own dead son.
[ Aside. Caro. Whate'er the Roman virtue has subdu'd, The sun's whole course, the day and year are Cæsar's: For him the self-devoted Decii dy'd, The Fabii fell, and the great Scipios conquer'd; Ev’n Pompey fought for Cæsar. Oh, my friends, How is the toil of fate, the work of ages, The Roman empire, fall'n! Oh, curst ambition! Fall'n into Cæsar's hand! Our great forefathers Had left him nought to conquer but his country.
Jub. While Cato lives Cæsar will blush to see Mankind inslav’d, and be asham’d of empire.
Cato. Cæsar asham’d! has he not seen Pharsalia!
Luc. Cato, 'tis time thou save thyself and us. - Cato. Lose not a thought on me, I'm out of danger, Heav'n will not leave me in the victor's hand.
Cæsar shall never say he conquer'd Cato.
But, oh, my friends! your safety fills my heart ."
With anxious thoughts: a thousand secret terrors
Rise in my soul. How shall I save my friends?
'Tis now, O Cæsar, I begin to fear theel
Luc. Cæsar has mercy if we ask it of him.
Cato. Then ask it, I conjure you! let him know
Whate'er was done against him, Cato did it.
Add, if you please, that I request it of him,
“ That I myself, with tears, request it of him,".
The virtue of my friends may pass unpunish’d.
Juba, my heart is troubled for thy sake.
Shou'd I advise thee to regain Numidia,
Or seek the conqueror ?
Jub. If I forsake thee
Whilst I have life, may Heav'n abandon Juba !
Cato. Thy virtues, prince, if I foresee aright,
Will one day make thee great; at Rome hereafter,
'Twill be no crime to have been Cato's friend.
Portius, draw near: my son, thou oft hast seen
Thy sire engag'd in a corrupted state,
Wrestling with vice and faction : now thou see'st me
Spent, overpower'd, despairing of success;
Let me advise thee to retreat betimes
To thy paternal seat, the Sabine field.
Where the great Censor toild with his own hands,
And all our frugal ancestors were bless'd
In humble virtues, and a rural life ;
There live retir'd, pray for the peace of Rome ;
Content thyself to be obscurely good.
When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway,
The post of honour is a private station.
Por. I hope my father does not recommend
A life to Portius that he scorns himself.
Cato. Farewell, my friends! If there be any of you Who dare not trust the victor's clemency, Know there are ships prepar'd by my command (Their sails already op'ning to the winds), That shall convey you to the wish'd-for port. Is there aught else, my friends, I can do for you ? The conqueror draws near. Once more farewell! If e'er we meet hereafter, we shall meet In happier climes, and on a safer shore, Where Cæsar never shall approach us more.
[Pointing to kis dead son. There, the brave youth, with love of virtue fir'd, Who greatly in his country's cause expir'd, Shall know he conquerid. The firm partiot there, Who made the welfare of mankind his care, Though still by faction, vice, and fortune crost, Shall find the gen'rous labour was not lost. [Exeunt.
Cato solus, sitting in a thoughtful posture: in his hand
Plato's book on the Immortality of the Soul.
A drawn sword on the table by him.
It must be so-Plato, thou reason'st well-
Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire,
This longing after immortality?
Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror,
Of falling into nought ? Why shrinks the soul
Back on herself, and startles at destruction ?
'Tis the divinity that stirs within us;
'Tis Heav'n itself that points out an hereafter,
And intimates eternity to man.
Eternity! thou pleasing, dreadful thought !
Through what variety of untry'd being,
Through what new scenes and changes must we pass ?
The wide, the unbounded prospect lies before me;
But shadows, clouds, and darkness rest upon it.
Here will I hold. If there's a Power above
(And that there is all nature cries aloud,
Through all her works) he must delight in virtue ;
And that which he delights in must be happy.
But when! or where this world was made for Cæsar.
I'm weary of conjectures--this must end 'em.
i [Laying his hand on his sword.
Thus am I doubly arm’d: my death and life,
My bane and antidote, are both before me.
This in a moment brings me to an end;
But this informs me. I shall never die. ,
The soul, secur'd in her existence, smiles
At the drawn dagger, and defies its point.
The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years,
But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,
Unhurt amidst the war of elements,
The wreck of matter, and the crush of worlds...