Now the sunset glow is fading,
And the evening shadows creep
O’er the ashen face of Caesar,
As he lies in seeming sleep;
But he slumbers not; for, faithful
To his duties, small and great,
He is not alone the sovereign,
But the servant of the State.
Unrebuked, then, his Centurion,
As the sun-god sinks from sight,
Makes his wonted way to Caesar
For the password of the night;
And great Antonine, though conscious
That ere dawn his soul must pass,
As his last, imperial watchword,
O thou noblest of the Caesars,
Whose transcendent virtues shine,
Like a glorious constellation,
O’er the blood-stained Palatine,
When the latest sands are running
From my life’s exhausted glass,
May I have thy calm and courage,
And thine Aequanimitas!
I watched to-day a butterfly,
With gorgeous wings of golden sheen,
Flit lightly ’neath a sapphire sky
Amid the springtime’s tender green;—
A creature so divinely fair,
So frail, so wraithlike to the sight,
I feared to see it melt in air,
As clouds dissolve in morning light.
With sudden swoop, a brutal boy
Caught in his cap its fans of gold,
And forced them down with savage joy
Upon the path’s defiling mould;
Then cautiously, the ground well scanned,
He clutched his darkened, helpless prey,
And, pinched within his grimy hand,
Withdrew it to the light of day.
Alas! its fragile bloom was gone,
Its gracile frame was sorely hurt,
Its silken pinions drooped forlorn,
Disfigured by the dust and dirt;
Its life, a moment since so gay,
So joyous in its dainty flight,
Was slowly ebbing now away,—
Its too-brief day eclipsed by night.
Meantime, the vandal, face aflame,
Surveyed it dying in his grasp,
Yet knew no grief nor sense of shame
In watching for its final gasp.
At last its sails of gold and brown,
Of texture fine and colors rare,
Came, death-struck, slowly fluttering down,
No more to cleave the sunlit air;
One happy, harmless being less,
To bid us dream the world is sweet!
Gone like a gleam of happiness,
A glimpse of rapture ... incomplete!
Yet who shall say this creature fair
In God’s sight had a smaller worth
Than that dull lout who watched it there,
And in its death found cause for mirth?
For what, in truth, are we who claim
An endless life beyond the grave,
But insects of a larger frame,
Whose souls may be too small to save?
Since far-off times, when Cave Men fought
Like famished brutes for bloody food,
And through unnumbered centuries sought
To rear their naked, whelp-like brood,
How many million men have died,
From pole to pole through every clime,—
An awful, never-ending tide
Swept deathward on the shores of Time!