Mary Hannay Foott

(1846 - 1918 / Australia)

Ave Caesar! Morituri te salutant


The coup d'etat is blotted out
With fresher blood, with blacker crime,
As midnight horrors put to rout
The vaguer ghosts of twilight-time.

“Greeting from those who are to die!
Hail Caesar!” Draw the curtains round.
In vain! That mournful mocking cry
Pierces the purple with its sound.

And they who raise it enter too,
With spectral looks and noiseless tread,
Unbidden, hold their dread review,
Beside the Emperor's very bed.

They sought in his deserted tent;
They found him in the German camp.
They tarry till the oil be spent
That feeds his life's poor flickering lamp.

The hope of France, the “gilded youth,”
So answering the trumpet's peal
As if revealing how, in sooth,
The gilding oft o'erlies the steel.

Soldiers Algeria's sun has spared;
Heroes from Russia's fire and frost;
Grey veterans, scarred and scanty-haired,
Who wept at word of eagles lost.

Workmen, who leave the rattling looms
To ply, perforce, a deadlier trade;
Students, who quit their cloudy rooms
To step within a heavier shade.

Slow-breaking hearts that suffer long,
Blinded and chilled 'neath love's eclipse;
Singing no more the happy song
By horror frozen on their lips.

From castled cities battle-proof,
They press to the accusing ranks,
From cottage walls, from canvas roof,
Ere passing to the Stygian banks.

The thousands famine yet shall waste,
The holocaust disease will claim,
As to God's Judgment-Bar they haste,
They gaze on him who is to blame.

“Hail Caesar!” While Napoleon's star
From yon horizon beams “Farewell!”
Setting in exile, where, afar,
The children of St. Louis dwell.

Come from the past, once-dreaded ghosts,
Whose number and whose names he knew!
The future plants, at countless posts,
Sentries more terrible than you!

Submitted: Monday, March 01, 2010

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