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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

On an Antique Gem Bearing the Heads of Pericles and Aspasia

George Croly (1780–1860)

THIS was the ruler of the land,

When Athens was the land of fame;

This was the light that led the band,

When each was like a living flame;

The centre of earth’s noblest ring—

Of more than men the more than king!

Yet not by fetter, nor by spear,

His sovereignty was held or won:

Feared—but alone as freemen fear,

Loved—but as freemen love alone,

He waved the sceptre o’er his kind

By nature’s first great title—mind!

Resistless words were on his tongue,

Then eloquence first flashed below;

Full armed to life the portent sprung—

Minerva from the Thunderer’s brow!

And his the sole, the sacred hand

That shook her ægis o’er the land.

And throned immortal by his side,

A woman sits with eye sublime,—

Aspasia, all his spirit’s bride;

But, if their solemn love were crime,

Pity the Beauty and the Sage—

Their crime was in their darkened age.

He perished, but his wreath was won—

He perished in his height of fame;

Then sunk the cloud on Athens’ sun,

Yet still she conquered in his name.

Filled with his soul, she could not die;

Her conquest was posterity.