BETA

Alcibiades.


Note.—Lysander told Pharnabazus that the sacrifice of Alcibiades was necessary
for the safety of that form of government which had recently been established in
Athens. . . . A band of armed Phrygians was sent to surprise and destroy Alcibiades.
Such was the fame of his prowess that these timid assassins durst not attack him in
broad day or by open force. They chose the obscurity of night to surround and set
fire to his house, which, according to the fashion of the country, was chiefly composed
of light and combustible materials. . . . He snatched his sword, and, twisting his
mantle round his left arm, rushed through the flaming edifice, followed by his faithful
Arcadian friend, and by his affectionate mistress Timandra. The cowardice of the
Phrygians declining to meet the fury of his assault covered him with a shower of
javelins. But even those barbarians spared the weakness and the sex of Timandra,
whose tears and entreaties obtained the melancholy consolation of burying her unfor-
tunate lover.—Gillies’ ‘ History of Greece,’ ch. xxiii.
He leans upon her breast, his own, his loving one,1
Timandra !  Twinèd in those arms, forgot2
Alike his cares, his crimes, and the rude din3
Of workday strife ; all for a moment gone,4
And love remains supreme. The kisses rain5
From lip to lip, with mutual ardour fired ;6
The while his form, exposed so oft in fight,7
Half covered or caressed by the fine gold8
That clung in amorous tresses for his joy.9
Love prompts, Love acts, Love blesses. On that breast,10
So white, so full, and all so full of love,11
To yield up life were sweet !  And she upturns12
Her eyes of gray, languid with lustrous fires,13
And eloquent in mute meaning, but to seize,14
But to devour with long and lingering look,15
Her soldier and her lover.16
But hark, the Phrygian band surrounds the house,17
By Pharnabazus sent, in civic wile ;18
With foreheads low, and dirty matted hair,19
And vulgar speech, and souls that crawl in craft20
With cowardice mingled—an ill-favoured set.21
Of all the crew—they were as ten to one—22
No man dare meet the hero face to face ;23
Too well indeed they know the mighty arm24
Of him they come to kill. And wiselier thus25
The treacherous flame shall minister their will,26
For flashing steel is terrible to cowards.27
Fast speed the obedient flames on fatal work !28
The hero wakens, lighted by strange torch29
From dreams of love ; and round his manly arm30
Twisting his mantle, followed by his friend,31
And watched by eyes of love, with rapid stride32
Eager he rushes. Back the hirelings fall :33
Never a one might meet the living glance,34
The eye that spoke, the weapon that struck sure.35
Afar retreating, then the Phrygians hurl36
Their pointed darts of death : and so at last37
The son of Clinias falls—greater in death38
Than e’er in dubious life. Forgot his faults,39
A soldier and a gentleman he died.40
She falls before those rude and brutish men :41
So fair her face, so full of prayers her tears,42
Even they may not deny her sole request—43
’T is only one— ‘ that I with faithful care44
Might bury Alcibiades.’45
A branch with leaves, budding flowers, and small fruits.