Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
From Coriolanus
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
 
(See full text.)

  Cominius.—I shall lack voice; the deeds of Coriolanus
Should not be uttered feebly.—It is held,
That valor is the chiefest virtue, and
Most dignifies the haver: if it be,
The man I speak of cannot in the world        5
Be singly counterpoised. At sixteen years,
When Tarquin made a head for Rome, he fought
Beyond the mark of others: our then dictator,
Whom with all praise I point at, saw him fight
When with his Amazonian chin he drove        10
The bristled lips before him: he bestrid
An o’erpressed Roman, and in the consul’s view
Slew three opposers: Tarquin’s self he met,
And struck him on his knee: in that day’s feats,
When he might act the woman in the scene,        15
He proved best man of the field, and for his meed
Was brow-bound with the oak. His pupil age
Man-entered thus, he waxèd like a sea;
And, in the brunt of seventeen battles since,
He lurched all swords o’ the garland.        20
For this last,
Before and in Corioli, let me say,
I cannot speak him home. He stopped the fliers;
And, by his rare example, made the coward
Turn terror into sport: as waves before        25
A vessel under sail, so men obeyed,
And fell below his stem: his sword (death’s stamp).
Where it did mark it took; from face to foot
He was a thing of blood, whose every motion
Was timed with dying cries; alone he entered        30
The mortal gate o’ the city, which he painted
With shunless destiny, aidless came off,
And with a sudden re-enforcement struck
Corioli, like a planet: now all’s his:
When by and by the din of war ’gan pierce        35
His ready sense: then straight his doubled spirit
Re-quickened what in flesh was fatigate,
And to the battle came he; where he did
Run reeking o’er the lives of men, as if
’Twere a perpetual spoil; and till we called        40
Both field and city ours, he never stood
To ease his breast with panting.
            Our spoils he kicked at,
And looked upon things precious, as they were
The common muck o’ the world; he covets less        45
Than misery itself would give; rewards
His deeds with doing them; and is content
To spend the time to end it.
  His nature is too noble for the world:
He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,        50
Or Jove for his power to thunder. His heart’s his mouth:
What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent;
And, being angry, does forget that ever
He heard the name of death.
 
 
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