To sue for chains, and own a conqueror.
Why should Rome fall a moment ere her time?
No—let us draw our term of freedom out
In its full length, and spin it to the last:
So shall we gain still one day’s liberty.
And, let me perish, but, in Cato’s judgment,
A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty,
Is worth a whole eternity of bondage.
CATO, solus, sitting in a thoughtful posture: In his hand Plato’s book on the immortality of the soul. A drawn sword on the table by him.
It must be so—Plato,
thou reason’st well!—
Else, whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire,
This longing after immortality?
Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror,
Of falling into nought? Why shrinks the soul
Back on herself, and startles at destruction?
’Tis the divinity that stirs within us;
’Tis heav’n itself, that points out—an hereafter,
And intimates—eternity to man.
Eternity!—thou pleasing—dreadful thought!
Through what variety of untry’d beings,
Through what new scenes and changes must we pass!
The wide, th’ unbounded prospect lies before me—
But shadows, clouds, and darkness rest upon it.—
Here will I hold. If there’s a pow’r above us,
(And that there is all nature cries aloud
Through all her works) he must delight in virtue;
And that which he delights in must be happy.
But, when! or where! this world—was made for Caesar.
I’m weary of conjectures—this must end ’em.
[Laying his hand on his sword.
Thus am I doubly arm’d;
my death and life,
My bane and antidote are both before me:
This, in a moment, brings me to an end;
But this informs me I shall never die.
The soul, secur’d in her existence, smiles
At the drawn dagger, and defies its point.
The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years;
But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,
Unhurt amid the war of elements,
The wrecks of matter; and the crush of worlds.
What means this heaviness that hangs upon me?
This lethargy that creeps through all my senses?
Nature oppress’d, and harrass’d out with care;
Sinks down to rest. This once I’ll favour her;
That my awaken’d soul may take her flight,
Renew’d in all her strength, and fresh with life;
An offering fit for Heav’n. Let guilt or fear
Disturb man’s rest; Cato knows neither of ’em;
Indiff’rent in his choice, to sleep or die.