A Martyr’s Victory.

[ When Alaric the Goth was defeated at Pollentia and Verona
(a. d. 403) by Stilicho, the general of Honorius, and so driven for a
time from Italy, the Romans celebrated that event with great re-
joicing and magnificence. A triumphal procession and a conflict
of wild beasts at once dazzled and gratified the multitude. The
shows of gladiators were then for ever brought to an end by Tele-
machus, an Asiatic monk, whom the people stoned to death in the
amphitheatre for attempting to separate the combatants. Hono-
rius was thus reminded of his duty as a Christian emperor, and
soon after put forth an edict forbidding all such exhibitions for the
The streets are thronged in mighty Rome,1
The gleaming ensigns spread,2
While warriors march in triumph home,3
With firm and measured tread :4
For, bowed at last, and forced to yield5
On rough Pollentia’s crimson field,6
Stern Alaric has fled,7
And left his ruthless Gothic powers8
All crushed beneath Verona’s towers.9
Those who once quailed at that dire name10
May now deride their foe,11
And boast as if they shared the fame12
Of glorious Stilicho13
Of him who felt no craven fears14
Rise at the flash of northern spears,15
And struck no feeble blow,16
But matched, with trophies green and high,17
The monuments of days gone by.18
But when the clear Italian sun19
Pours down its noontide fire,20
The trumpet speaks the games begun21
Which idle crowds admire ;22
And soon, from barred and gloomy caves23
Driven howling out by troops of slaves,24
In grim and sullen ire,25
Beasts, the wild brood of many a land,26
Pace with loud rage the level sand.27
Gætulia’s lion, freshly brought28
From scorched and desert plains,29
And ravening tigers newly sought30
On Parthia’s waste domains ;31
Bears from the frozen Oder’s mouth,32
And panthers from the burning south,33
Bred in old Nubian fanes,34
Make there a stern and ghastly fray35
For tribes more savage far than they.36
But hark! the trumpet’s warning peal37
Is sounding as before,38
And bondsmen clear, with staff and steel,39
The red arena’s floor ;40
The fainting brutes are swept away41
This saved to bleed another day,42
That weltering in its gore ;43
And men, of martial frame and race,44
Take with slow step the vacant place.45
Two, chosen from the warlike throng,46
Begin a deadly strife :47
One a gray swordsman, scarred and strong,48
One in the bloom of life ;49
This nursed where snows on Hæmus shine,50
That torn from hills beside the Rhine51
From children, home, and wife ;52
And high-born matrons hold their breath,53
All bent to see the work of death.54
Their toil was fierce, but short ; and now,55
Flung bleeding in the dust,56
The Thracian waits, with pale cold brow,57
The last and mortal thrust ;58
When rushing forth, till then unseen,59
A swarthy pilgrim leaps between,60
Strong in a Christian’s trust,61
And drenched with blood, yet undismayed,62
Stays with fixed grasp the uplifted blade.63
A light smooth cross of cedar wood64
The gentle stranger bore,65
Long worn in holy solitude66
On Syria’s palmy shore :67
Romans,’ he said, ‘ for Him whose birth68
Gave hopes divine of peace on earth,69
Rise, and for evermore,70
Servants of God in act and name,71
Cast off these works of wrong and shame.’72
He ceased ; a scowl like noon’s eclipse73
Spreads fast from seat to seat,74
And fourscore thousand hostile lips75
Loud words of wrath repeat :76
They rave and roar, as groves of pine77
Waked on the Etrurian Apennine78
When storms the tall crags beat,79
Till, heaved and troubled furiously,80
Breaks in one surge that living sea.81
The German leaves his task undone,82
The Thracian creeps aside,83
The swordsmen flee like herds that shun84
Vexed Arno’s foaming tide ;85
But, as a pharos meets the shock86
Of waves on some unsheltered rock87
Where seas are deep and wide,88
Telemachus looked up and trod89
That post of danger true to God.90
And when the stony tempest burst91
On his defenceless head,92
He stood unshrinking as at first,93
As free from doubt or dread :94
With aspect full of peace and love,95
As if he came from worlds above,96
And hands in prayer outspread,97
He laid him down, nor breathed again,98
Whelmed by that host of vengeful men.99
Yet deem thou not the martyr died100
Warring for right in vain ;101
His was the prize for which he sighed,102
And his the eternal gain :103
Fierce Alaric shall yet return,104
And Rome’s fair dwellings blaze and burn,105
Filled with red heaps of slain ;106
But scenes, where man must bleed for mirth,107
Shall blast no more the ransomed earth.108