Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
III. War
Catiline to the Roman Army
George Croly (1780–1860)
From “Catiline,” Act V. Sc. 2.

SOUND all to arms!  (A flourish of trumpets.)
Call in the captains,—(To an officer.)
                                I would speak with them!
(The officer goes.)
Now, Hope! away,—and welcome gallant Death!
Welcome the clanging shield, the trumpet’s yell,—
Welcome the fever of the mounting blood,        5
That makes wounds light, and battle’s crimson toil
Seem but a sport,—and welcome the cold bed,
Where soldiers with their upturned faces lie,—
And welcome wolf’s and vulture’s hungry throats,
That make their sepulchres! We fight to-night.        10
(The soldiery enter.)
Centurions! all is ruined! I disdain
To hide the truth from you. The die is thrown!
And now, let each that wishes for long life
Put up his sword, and kneel for peace to Rome.
Ye all are free to go. What! no man stirs!        15
Not one! a soldier’s spirit in you all?
Give me your hands! (This moisture in my eyes
Is womanish,—’t will pass.) My noble hearts!
Well have you chosen to die! For, in my mind,
The grave is better than o’erburdened life;        20
Better the quick release of glorious wounds,
Than the eternal taunts of galling tongues;
Better the spear-head quivering in the heart,
Than daily struggle against fortune’s curse;
Better, in manhood’s muscle and high blood,        25
To leap the gulf, than totter to its edge
In poverty, dull pain, and base decay.
Once more, I say,—are ye resolved?  (The soldiers shout, “All! All!”)
Then, each man to his tent, and take the arms
That he would love to die in,—for, this hour,        30
We storm the Consul’s camp. A last farewell!
(He takes their hands.)
When next we meet,—we ’ll have no time to look,
How parting clouds a soldier’s countenance.
Few as we are, we ’ll rouse them with a peal
That shall shake Rome!        35
Now to your cohorts’ heads;—the word ’s—Revenge!

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