« PředchozíPokračovat »
tling his domestic affairs, or leaving any orders about them; without money, without servants, and even without letting us know, to what part of the world he would direct his steps. It is now the fourth year since he went away; and he has never inquired after his family, nor, by letter or messenger, given us the least account of himself; so that it seems as if his mother and his wife were the chief objects of that general hatred which he shows to his country.
- What success then can you expect from our entreaties to a man so implacable? Can two women bend that stubborn heart, which even all the ministers of religion were not able to soften? And indeed what shall I say to him? What can I reasonably desire of him? that he would pardon ungrateful citizens, who have treated him as the vilest criminal? that he would take compassion upon a furious, unjust populace, which had no regard for his innocence? and that he would betray a nation, which has not only opened him an asylum, but has even preferred him to her most illustrious citizens in the command of her armies? With what face can I ask him to abandon such generous protectors, and deliver himself again into the hands of his most bitter enemies? Can a Roman mother, and a Roman wife, with decency, exact, from a son and a husband, compliances which must dishonour him before both gods and men? Mournful circumstance, in which we have not power to hate the most formidable enemy of our country! Leave us therefore to our unhappy destiny; and do not desire us to make it
more unhappy by an action that may cast a blemish upon our virtue.'
The women made no answer but by their tears and entreaties. Some embraced her knees; others beseeched Volumnia to join her prayers to theirs ; all conjured Veturia not to refuse her country this last assistance. Overcome at length by their urgent solicitations, she promised to do as they desired.
The very next day all the most illustrious of the Roman women repaired to Veturia's house. There they presently mounted a number of chariots, which the consuls had ordered to be made ready for them, and, without any guard, took the way to the enemy's camp.
Coriolanus, perceiving from afar that long train of chariots, sent out some horsemen to learn the design of it. They quickly brought him word, that it was his mother, his wife, and a great number of other women, and their children, coming to the camp. He doubtless conjectured what views the Romans had in so extraordiuary a deputation; that this was the last expedient of the senate; and, in his own mind, he determined not to let himself be moved. But he reckoned upon a savage inflexibility that was not in his nature: for, going out with a few attendants to receive the women, he no sooner beheld Veturia attired in mourning, her eyes bathed in tears, and with a countenance and motion that spoke her sinking under a load of sorrow, than he ran hastily to her; and not only calling her, mother, but adding to that word the most tender epithets, embraced
her, wept over her, and held her in his arms to prevent her falling. The like tenderness he presently after expressed to his wife, highly commending her discretion in having constantly stayed with his mother, since his departure from Rome. And then, with the warmest paternal affection, he caressed bis children.
When some time had been allowed to those si. lent tears of joy, which often flow plenteously at the sudden and unexpected meeting of persons dear to each other, Veturia entered upon the business she had undertaken. 'I am not come to solicit thee, my son, to betray a people who have given thee so generous a reception, and even confided their arnis to thy conduct. Nor do I wish that thou shouldest make a separate peace for thyself without the consent of the whole nation. Veturia is incapable of urging her son to any base action. Grant us only a truce for a year, that, in this interval, a solid peace may be negotiated, an alliance that may be firm and durable, and equally advantageous to both nations. You, who are versed in public affairs, can have no difficulty to persuade the Volsci, that a peace, upon such fair conditions as they may now be certain to obtain, is preferable to a war, the final event of which is still uncertain. But if, elated by the success they have had under your guidance, and imagining that fortune must always favour them, they refuse to listen to your remonstrances, what prevents you from publicly resigning your commission of general ? Let all be open; no disguise, no breach of trust, no treachery to your new friends : but then, beware, my son, of impiously continuing an enemy te those, with whom you have a yet more near relation.—Nor let the apprehension of appearing ungrateful to your benefactors restrain you from complying with my request. Have not the Volsci been sufficiently recompensed by the many signal and important services you have done them? Liberty was their sole ambition. You have not only procured them liberty, but have raised them to so high a pitch of prosperity, that they are now considering whether it will be more advisable totally to suppress the Roman power, or to live with us in a state ofequality, the two nations under one and the same government. Can you imagine, that thus benefited, thus exalted by your aid, they will resent, as an injury, your not sacrificing to them your own country, your not inbruing your hands in the blood of
your fellow-citizens ?-You will tell me, perhaps, that you hate your country. But are you not unreasonable in so doing? When the Romans unjustly condemned you to banishment, was Rome in its natural state? Was it governed by the laws of our forefathers? Was not the republic agitated by a violent storm? Were not the members of it distempered? Not all indeed; for they were not all of one mind. It was only the baser and more corrupt part of the citi. zens that voted against you; and they were incited by the pernicious counsels of their leaders, those enemies to all good men. But had it been otherwise, had all the citizens unanimously combined to banish you, as a man dangerous to the state on account of his mischievous politics, would it be therefore allowable for you to revenge yourself in this manner? Many others, whose intertions, in the administration of public affairs, were no less upright than yours, have been as unjustly and hardly treated as you: you will find few good magistrates whose shining merit has not excited envy; and yet those worthy men suffered their disgraces with temper, considered them as in the number of those evils to which, by the condition of humanity, they were inevitably exposed; and, removing into foreign countries, carried thither no resentment, no malice against their own. Who was ever more injuriously treated than Tarquinius Collatinus ? When with an honest zeal, and with all his power, he had assisted in delivering Rome from the tyranny of the Tarquins, he was liimself banished thence, upon a false accusation of plotting to re-establish that tyranny. He retired to Lavinium, and there passed the remainder of his days in tranquillity, without ever attempting any thing that conld give credit to the calumnies so maliciously vented against him.
‘But if you will have it so, I shall suppose that every man who suffers an injury, be it from friends or enemies, his countrymen or strangers, has a right to revenge himself. Have you not sufficiently punished those, who by their unjust usage of you, provoked your anger? Our colonies expelled from their settlements by your arms; the cities of our allies forced and plundered; the Roman lands pillaged and laid waste; Rome itself invested, terrified with the apprehension of famine, and of the whole variety of miseries incident to a city besieged ; how is it, that all this has not been suffi. cient to assuage thy thirst of vengeance? () Marcins, at thy first entering the Roman territory,