Antony and Cleopatra
by William Haines Lytle, 1826–1863
I AM dying, Egypt, dying!
Ebbs the crimson life-tide fast,
And the dark Plutonian shadows
Gather on the evening blast;
Let thine arm, O Queen, enfold me,
Hush thy sobs and bow thine ear,
Listen to the great heart secrets
Thou, and thou alone, must hear.
Though my scarred and veteran legions
Bear their eagles high no more,
And my wrecked and scattered galleys
Strew dark Actium’s fatal shore;
Though no glittering guards surround me,
Prompt to do their master’s will,
I must perish like a Roman,
Die the great Triumvir still.
Let not Cæsar’s servile minions
Mock the lion thus laid low;
‘T was no foeman’s arm that felled him,
‘T was his own that struck the blow:
His who, pillowed on thy bosom,
Turned aside from glory’s ray—
His who, drunk with thy caresses,
Madly threw the world away.
Should the base plebeian rabble
Dare assail my name at Rome,
Where the noble spouse Octavia
Weeps within her widowed home,
Seek her; say the gods bear witness,—
Altars, augurs, circling wings,—
That her blood, with mine commingled,
Yet shall mount the throne of kings.
And for thee, star-eyed Egyptian—
Glorious sorceress of the Nile!
Light the path to Stygian horrors,
With the splendor of thy smile;
Give the Cæsar crowns and arches,
Let his brow the laurel twine:
I can scorn the senate’s triumphs,
Triumphing in love like thine.
I am dying, Egypt, dying!
Hark! the insulting foeman’s cry;
They are coming—quick, my falchion!
Let me front them ere I die.
Ah, no more amid the battle
Shall my heart exulting swell;
Isis and Osiris guard thee—