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The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 20, No. 570, October 13, 1832 online

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whilst a crowd of other birds were seen to hang upon its flight in
close pursuit. What might be the object of the chase, whether the
little king himself, or a sprig of laurel which he bore in his mouth,
could not be determined. The whole train, pursuers and pursued,
continued their flight towards Pompey's hall. Flight and pursuit were
there alike arrested; the little king was overtaken by his enemies,
who fell upon him as so many conspirators, and tore him limb from
limb.

If this anecdote were reported to Caesar, which is not at all
improbable, considering the earnestness with which his friends
laboured to dissuade him from his purpose of meeting the senate on the
approaching Ides of March, it is very little to be doubted that it had
a considerable effect upon his feelings, and that, in fact, his own
dream grew out of the impression which it had made. This way of
linking the two anecdotes, as cause and effect, would also bring a
third anecdote under the same _nexus_. We are told that Calpurnia, the
last wife of Caesar, dreamed on the same night, and to the same
ominous result. The circumstances of _her_ dream are less striking,
because less figurative; but on that account its import was less open
to doubt: she dreamed, in fact, that after the roof of their mansion
had fallen in, her husband was stabbed in her bosom. Laying all these
omens together, Caesar would have been more or less than human had he
continued utterly undepressed by them. And if so much superstition as
even this implies, must be taken to argue some little weakness, on the
other hand let it not be forgotten, that this very weakness does but
the more illustrate the unusual force of mind, and the heroic will,
which obstinately laid aside these _concurring_ prefigurations of
impending destruction; concurring, we say, amongst themselves - and
concurring also with a prophecy of older date, which was totally
independent of them all.

There is another and somewhat sublime story of the same class, which
belongs to the most interesting moment of Caesar's life; and those who
are disposed to explain all such tales upon physiological principles,
will find an easy solution of this, in particular, in the exhaustion
of body, and the intense anxiety which must have debilitated even
Caesar under the whole circumstances of the case. On the
ever-memorable night when he had resolved to take the first step (and
in such a case the first step, as regarded the power of retreating,
was also the final step) which placed him in arms against the state,
it happened that his head-quarters were at some distance from the
little river Rubicon, which formed the boundary of his province. With
his usual caution, that no news of his motions might run before
himself, on this night Caesar gave an entertainment to his friends, in
the midst of which he slipped away unobserved, and with a small
retinue proceeded through the woods to the point of the river at which
he designed to cross. The night was stormy, and by the violence of the
wind all the torches of his escort were blown out, so that the whole
party lost their road, having probably at first intentionally deviated
from the main route, and wandered about through the whole night, until
the early dawn enabled them to recover their true course. The light
was still grey and uncertain, as Caesar and his retinue rode down upon
the banks of the fatal river - to cross which with arms in his hands,
since the further bank lay within the territory of the Republic, _ipso
facto_ proclaimed any Roman a rebel and a traitor. No man, the firmest
or the most obtuse, could be otherwise than deeply agitated, when
looking down upon this little brook - so insignificant in itself, but
invested by law with a sanctity so awful, and so dire a consecration.
The whole course of future history, and the fate of every nation,
would necessarily be determined by the irretrievable act of the next
half hour.

In these moments, and with this spectacle before him, and
contemplating these immeasurable consequences consciously for the last
time that could allow him a retreat, - impressed also by the solemnity
and deep tranquillity of the silent dawn, whilst the exhaustion of his
night wanderings predisposed him to nervous irritation, - Caesar, we
may be sure, was profoundly agitated. The whole elements of the scene
were almost scenically disposed; the law of antagonism having perhaps
never been employed with so much effect: the little quiet brook
presenting a direct antithesis to its grand political character; and
the innocent dawn, with its pure untroubled repose, contrasting
potently, to a man of any intellectual sensibility, with the long
chaos of bloodshed, darkness, and anarchy, which was to take its rise
from the apparently trifling acts of this one morning. So prepared, we
need not much wonder at what followed. Caesar was yet lingering on the
hither bank, when suddenly, at a point not far distant from himself,
an apparition was descried in a sitting posture, and holding in its
hand what seemed a flute. This phantom was of unusual size, and of
beauty more than human, so far as its lineaments could be traced in
the early dawn. What is singular, however, in the story, on any
hypothesis which would explain it out of Caesar's individual
condition, is, that others saw it as well as he; both pastoral
labourers (who were present, probably, in the character of guides) and
some of the sentinels stationed at the passage of the river. These men
fancied even that a strain of music issued from this aerial flute. And
some, both of the shepherds and the Roman soldiers, who were bolder
than the rest, advanced towards the figure. Amongst this party, it
happened that there were a few Roman trumpeters. From one of these,
the phantom, rising as they advanced nearer, suddenly caught a
trumpet, and blowing through it a blast of superhuman strength,
plunged into the Rubicon - passed to the other bank - and disappeared in
the dusky twilight of the dawn. Upon which Caesar exclaimed: - "It is
finished: the die is cast: let us follow whither the guiding portents
from heaven, and the malice of our enemy alike summon us to go." So
saying, he crossed the river with impetuosity; and in a sudden rapture
of passionate and vindictive ambition, placed himself and his retinue
upon the Italian soil; and as if by inspiration from Heaven, in one
moment involved himself and his followers in treason, raised the
standard of revolt, put his foot upon the neck of the invincible
republic which had humbled all the kings of the earth, and founded an
empire which was to last for a thousand and half a thousand years. In
what manner this spectral appearance was managed - whether Caesar were
its author, or its dupe, will remain unknown forever. But undoubtedly
this was the first time that the advanced guard of a victorious army
was headed by an apparition; and we may conjecture that it will be the
last.

According to Suetonius, the circumstances of this memorable night were
as follows: - As soon as the decisive intelligence was received, that
the intrigues of his enemies had prevailed at Rome, and that the
interposition of the popular magistrates (the tribunes) was set aside,
Caesar sent forward the troops, who were then at his head-quarters,
but in as private a manner as possible. He himself, by way of masque,
(_per dissimulationem_) attended a public spectacle, gave an audience
to an architect who wished to lay before him a plan for a school of
gladiators which Caesar designed to build, and finally presented
himself at a banquet, which was very numerously attended. From this,
about sunset, he set forward in a carriage, drawn by mules, and with a
small escort (_modico comitatu_.) Losing his road, which was the most
private he could find (_occultissimum_), he quitted his carriage and
proceeded on foot. At dawn he met with a guide; after which followed
the above incidents.

* * * * *



THE GATHERER.

* * * * *

Matthew Lansberg used to say, "If you wish to have a shoe made of
durable materials, you should make the upper leather of the mouth of a
hard drinker, for that never lets in _water_."

* * * * *

_National Bull._ - In the "printed directions respecting the
reading-room of the British Museum," we find the following sapient
veto put upon the readers: - "Readers will be allowed to take one or
more extracts from any printed book or manuscript; but no whole, or
_greater part_ (oh! poor Euclid!) of a manuscript is to be transcribed
without," &c. - _Morning Chronicle._

* * * * *

_Twins._ - Lamerton Church, in Devonshire, is remarkable for having the
effigies of Nicholas and Andrew Tremaine, twins, who were so like each
other, that they could not be distinguished but by some outward mark.
The most singular part of their history, as it is told, is, that when
asunder, if one was merry, the other was so, and the contrary. And as
they could not endure to be separate in their lifetime, so neither at
their deaths; for, in 1564, they both served at Newhaven, when the one
being slain, the other stepped instantly into his place, and was slain
also.

T. GILL.

* * * * *



THE LATE SIR WALTER SCOTT, BART.

* * * * *

With the present Number, price Twopence,
AN ILLUSTRATED SUPPLEMENT,
Containing a MEMOIR of the LIFE & WRITINGS
of the late
SIR WALTER SCOTT, BART.
With Five Engravings.

* * * * *



_Printed and published by J. LIMBIRD, 143, Strand, (near Somerset
House,) London; sold by ERNEST FLEISCHER, 626, New Market, Leipsic;
G.G. BENNIS, 55, Rue Neuve, St. Augustin, Paris; and by all Newsmen
and Booksellers._



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Online LibraryVariousThe Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 20, No. 570, October 13, 1832 → online text (page 4 of 4)