Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Aug 29, 1809 - Oct 7, 1894


The Dying Seneca

by Oliver Wendell Holmes

He died not as the martyr dies,
Wrapped in his living shroud of flame;
He fell not as the warrior falls,
Gasping upon the field of fame;
A gentler passage to the grave,
The murderer's softened fury gave.

Rome's slaughtered sons and blazing piles
Had tracked the purple demon's path,
And yet another victim lived
To fill the fiery scroll of wrath;
Could not imperial vengeance spare
His furrowed brow and silver hair?

The field was sown with noble blood,
The harvest reaped in burning tears,
When, rolling up its crimson flood.
Broke the long-gathering tide of years;
His diadem was rent away,
And beggars trampled on his clay.

None wept, -- none pitied; -- they who knelt
At morning by the despot's throne,
At evening dashed the laurelled bust,
And spurned the wreaths themselves had strewn;
The shout of triumph echoed wide,
The self-stung reptile writhed and died!


Copyright 1861
Boston: Ticknor And Fields