Ave, Cæsar !

[See the painting by Gérôme, in the International
Exhibotion, Foreign Gallery, No. 122. It was the
custom, during the times of the Empire, for each suc-
cessive troop of gladiators, before beginning their con-
flict, to advance to the Imperial boxs when the Emperor
was present, and to salute him with the words, “ Ave,
Cæsar Imperator ; morituri te salutant.


When the Emperor lay a-dying1
And an unresisted spell,2
Like a cloud across his eyelids3
From the land of darkness fell ;4
Ave, Cæsar ! ”5
Sounded o’er him like a knell6
Ave, Cæsar ! ”7
From the borderland of hell.8


For a vision rose upon him,9
In the dimness of the night,10
Dark at first, but clear and clearer11
Ere he died at morning light12
Musing, musing,13
All too late, on Wrong and Right ;14
( “ Ave, Cæsar ! ”)15
’Twas a vision of affright.16


Lo ! the storied Coliseum,17
All a-blaze with green and red ;18
Lo ! the elephant and panther19
On the canopy overhead ;20
Sand is strewing21
Where the fighting-men have bled ;22
( “ Ave, Cæsar ! ”)23
Men are dragging off the dead.24


Now a myriad ranks are silent,25
Watching what may next befall ;26
And another troop advances,27
Buckler’d Thracian, sinewy Gaul ; *28
Them the trainer—29
Loud, uncaring, daring all30
Unto Cæsar31
Brings, to greet him ere they fall.32


Ave, Cæsar Imperator !”33
Thus they used to shout of old ;34
Dying men salute thee, Cæsar!”35
Thus the horrid greeting rolled36
In the vision,37
Round and round his bed of gold,38
( “ Ave, Cæsar !” )39
While his limbs were growing cold.40


And they waved their arms before him ;41
Touched the purple one by one ;42
Said, “ The dying greet thee, Cæsar,43
From another world begun,44
(Ave, Cæsar !) ,45
Where our servitude is done ;46
(Ave, Cæsar !)47
Emperor and slave are one.”48

* Most of the gladiators were called by the names of the
nations whose arms they adopted.