Table of Contents

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."