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Chapter 6 Justinian. The Roman Eagle. The Empire. Romeo.

  • "After that Constantine the eagle turned
  • Against the course of heaven, which it had followed
  • Behind the ancient who Lavinia took,
  • Two hundred years and more the bird of God
  • In the extreme of Europe held itself,
  • Near to the mountains whence it issued first;
  • And under shadow of the sacred plumes
  • It governed there the world from hand to hand,
  • And, changing thus, upon mine own alighted.
  • Caesar I was, and am Justinian,
  • Who, by the will of primal Love I feel,
  • Took from the laws the useless and redundant;
  • And ere unto the work I was attent,
  • One nature to exist in Christ, not more,
  • Believed, and with such faith was I contented.
  • But blessed Agapetus, he who was
  • The supreme pastor, to the faith sincere
  • Pointed me out the way by words of his.
  • Him I believed, and what was his assertion
  • I now see clearly, even as thou seest
  • Each contradiction to be false and true.
  • As soon as with the Church I moved my feet,
  • God in his grace it pleased with this high task
  • To inspire me, and I gave me wholly to it,
  • And to my Belisarius I commended
  • The arms, to which was heaven's right hand so joined
  • It was a signal that I should repose.
  • Now here to the first question terminates
  • My answer; but the character thereof
  • Constrains me to continue with a sequel,
  • In order that thou see with how great reason
  • Men move against the standard sacrosanct,
  • Both who appropriate and who oppose it.
  • Behold how great a power has made it worthy
  • Of reverence, beginning from the hour
  • When Pallas died to give it sovereignty.
  • Thou knowest it made in Alba its abode
  • Three hundred years and upward, till at last
  • The three to three fought for it yet again.
  • Thou knowest what it achieved from Sabine wrong
  • Down to Lucretia's sorrow, in seven kings
  • O'ercoming round about the neighboring nations;
  • Thou knowest what it achieved, borne by the Romans
  • Illustrious against Brennus, against Pyrrhus,
  • Against the other princes and confederates.
  • Torquatus thence and Quinctius, who from locks
  • Unkempt was named, Decii and Fabii,
  • Received the fame I willingly embalm;
  • It struck to earth the pride of the Arabians,
  • Who, following Hannibal, had passed across
  • The Alpine ridges, Po, from which thou glidest;
  • Beneath it triumphed while they yet were young
  • Pompey and Scipio, and to the hill
  • Beneath which thou wast born it bitter seemed;
  • Then, near unto the time when heaven had willed
  • To bring the whole world to its mood serene,
  • Did Caesar by the will of Rome assume it.
  • What it achieved from Var unto the Rhine,
  • Isere beheld and Saone, beheld the Seine,
  • And every valley whence the Rhone is filled;
  • What it achieved when it had left Ravenna,
  • And leaped the Rubicon, was such a flight
  • That neither tongue nor pen could follow it.
  • Round towards Spain it wheeled its legions; then
  • Towards Durazzo, and Pharsalia smote
  • That to the calid Nile was felt the pain.
  • Antandros and the Simois, whence it started,
  • It saw again, and there where Hector lies,
  • And ill for Ptolemy then roused itself.
  • From thence it came like lightning upon Juba;
  • Then wheeled itself again into your West,
  • Where the Pompeian clarion it heard.
  • From what it wrought with the next standard-bearer
  • Brutus and Cassius howl in Hell together,
  • And Modena and Perugia dolent were;
  • Still doth the mournful Cleopatra weep
  • Because thereof, who, fleeing from before it,
  • Took from the adder sudden and black death.
  • With him it ran even to the Red Sea shore;
  • With him it placed the world in so great peace,
  • That unto Janus was his temple closed.
  • But what the standard that has made me speak
  • Achieved before, and after should achieve
  • Throughout the mortal realm that lies beneath it,
  • Becometh in appearance mean and dim,
  • If in the hand of the third Caesar seen
  • With eye unclouded and affection pure,
  • Because the living Justice that inspires me
  • Granted it, in the hand of him I speak of,
  • The glory of doing vengeance for its wrath.
  • Now here attend to what I answer thee;
  • Later it ran with Titus to do vengeance
  • Upon the vengeance of the ancient sin.
  • And when the tooth of Lombardy had bitten
  • The Holy Church, then underneath its wings
  • Did Charlemagne victorious succor her.
  • Now hast thou power to judge of such as those
  • Whom I accused above, and of their crimes,
  • Which are the cause of all your miseries.
  • To the public standard one the yellow lilies
  • Opposes, the other claims it for a party,
  • So that 'tis hard to see which sins the most.
  • Let, let the Ghibellines ply their handicraft
  • Beneath some other standard; for this ever
  • Ill follows he who it and justice parts.
  • And let not this new Charles e'er strike it down,
  • He and his Guelfs, but let him fear the talons
  • That from a nobler lion stripped the fell.
  • Already oftentimes the sons have wept
  • The father's crime; and let him not believe
  • That God will change His scutcheon for the lilies.
  • This little planet doth adorn itself
  • With the good spirits that have active been,
  • That fame and honour might come after them;
  • And whensoever the desires mount thither,
  • Thus deviating, must perforce the rays
  • Of the true love less vividly mount upward.
  • But in commensuration of our wages
  • With our desert is portion of our joy,
  • Because we see them neither less nor greater.
  • Herein doth living Justice sweeten so
  • Affection in us, that for evermore
  • It cannot warp to any iniquity.
  • Voices diverse make up sweet melodies;
  • So in this life of ours the seats diverse
  • Render sweet harmony among these spheres;
  • And in the compass of this present pearl
  • Shineth the sheen of Romeo, of whom
  • The grand and beauteous work was ill rewarded.
  • But the Provencals who against him wrought,
  • They have not laughed, and therefore ill goes he
  • Who makes his hurt of the good deeds of others.
  • Four daughters, and each one of them a queen,
  • Had Raymond Berenger, and this for him
  • Did Romeo, a poor man and a pilgrim;
  • And then malicious words incited him
  • To summon to a reckoning this just man,
  • Who rendered to him seven and five for ten.
  • Then he departed poor and stricken in years,
  • And if the world could know the heart he had,
  • In begging bit by bit his livelihood,
  • Though much it laud him, it would laud him more."