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The Death of Cleopatra

Poems: Descriptive, Dramatic, Legendary, and Contemplative (New York: Redfield, 1853), Volume II


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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,



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