380 THE DEATH OF CLEOPATRA.
My triumph incomplete ! I had borne her else,
The proudest trophy of a myriad spoil,
In royal state to Rome. Give me to know
The manner of her death.
DOLABELLA. By her own hands!
That, conscious still, commended to her breast
The fatal kiss of Nile's envenom'd asp ;
That subtle adder, which, from slime and heat,
Receives a gift of poison, whose least touch
Is a sure stoppage of the living tides.
AUGUSTUS. Her death commends her more than all her life!
'Twas like a queen—fit finish to a state,
That, in its worst excess, passionate and wild,
Had still a pomp of majesty, too proud
For mortal subjugation ! She had lusts
Most profligate of harm—but with a soul
That, under laws of more restraint, had raised
Her passions into powers, which might have borne
Best fruits for the possessor. They have wrought
Much evil to her nature ; but her heart
Cherish'd within a yearning sense of love
That did not always fail ; and. where she set
The eye of her affections, her fast faith
Kept the close bond of obligation sure.
This still should serve, when censure grows most free,
To sanctify her fault. In common things
Majestic, as in matters of more state,
She had, besides, the feminine arts to make
Her very lusts seem noble ; and, with charms
That mock'd all mortal rivalry, she knew
To dress the profligate graces in her gift—
Generous to very wantonness, and free
Of bounty, where Desert might nothing claim--
That Virtue's self might doubt of her own shape,