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Among coral grottoes, o'er sands snow-white,
Chorus of Nymphs.
“O happy are we,
“The palace where the Sea Nymph dwells
“No storm sweeps over our watery sky,
“O happy are we,
Slow died away upon the ocean-gale This song of wild, unearthly melody. Again I listened—nothing save the wail Of gulls and sea-mews crying mournfully, And the deep murmur of the heaving sea, Fell on my ear—the enchanting strains were gone. But as the wind again came sweeping by, The expiring notes revived—the breeze pass'd on— I stood upon the shore, deserted and alone.
The violent oppression with which the Christians had been afflicted during the reign of Nero and Domitian, had long since terminated. The reign of Nerva had been marked by a cessation from the severe proceedings of his predecessors, and the mildness that attended the accession of Trajan to the empire, promised to their troubled minds a degree of tranquillity which they had never yet experienced; and they fondly hoped for a long continuation of it. But it would seem as though hatred towards the early espousers of the Christian faith was deeply ingrafted in every Roman breast, for ere long the Emperor relaxed from the show of lenity which he had at first manifested towards them, and persecution again drove them from more open communication with their friends, to seek the wild groves on the banks of the Tiber, and the dreary retirements which the outskirts of the city afforded them, to offer up their simple devotions to the God of their trust.
It was on a mild and beautiful eve, that succeeded a day which had been uncommonly oppressive, when two soldiers wandered from their station to enjoy the cool breeze which the more elevated banks of the Tiber afforded. A refreshing shower had cooled the sultriness of the air, and moistened the herbage, which diffused around a sweet and pleasant fragrance. Its duration, however, had been but transient, for the clouds soon passed away, giving place to
The rays of the orb of day,
whose chariot had retired in all the loveliness of an Italian sunset. Its radiant beams were yet visible in the western sky, although the moon was now shining resplendently, high in the heavens. “A lovely evening this, my comrade l’” said a large and sturdy son of Mars, whose person plainly indicated the effects of many a toilsome campaign.” “It is, indeed, beautiful,” replied his companion, “and methinks your gods have thus far looked with peculiar favor on the reign of our noble Trajan. Yet I doubt not but that he will see more troublous times, if, as I am informed, he holds to his determination of sweeping from his empire the much oppressed Christians.” “Ha! Cesario, dost thou again express thyself as a stranger to our gods. I had thought that these foolish notions of yours had long since been driven from your breast. I tell thee, though our friendship has been strong, I’ll hold no communication with a Christian.” “It was unintentional, Marcus! yet why should I not make known my feelings, since I am determined never again to yield obedience
to your will. Accursed be the day when first I consented to bow before the vile images of your heathen gods.” “Come, friend! spurn from thee these rash thoughts, and thou wilt rejoice ere long at having done so, should fortune throw some one of these Christian dogs into our power to make an example of at the amphitheatre.” “O ! Marcus! my heart revolts at the very thought of seeing a fellow being coolly sacrificed in his own blood by an infuriated beast. Although in battle my heart quails not at the sight of death, and my feelings have been inured to danger, yet to see one die thus defenseless and unpitied, is more than I can endure.” “Away with these saint-hearted expressions, Cesario. I hope myself to enjoy it much. Our parties are out this evening in search of some of these lurking Christians, whom, in case they should not recant, our Emperor's mildness will certainly not spare from gracing this brilliant spectacle. But the hour of my watch draws near. Wilt thou return with me?” “I would sain remain a little longer, Marcus, to enjoy the solitude which reigns here. My thoughts agree not with the noise and bustle of the soldiery, and the loud shouts of their midnight revelings. Good evening.” The voice of the last speaker betokened him to be yet in the flower of youth. His commanding person, dignified mien, and open countenance, showed that he possessed all the high-souled qualities of a generous man. The father of Cesario—who was of Roman origin—had been called, shortly after the birth of his son, to reside at Antioch, for the more successful prosecution of his business. The effects of the great Apostle's labors there were at that time marked by the large numbers that espoused his faith. Among these were many of Cesario's friends. His father, with Roman firmness, continued obstinate to all their persuasive appeals, but yet allowed them privately to visit his house. Owing to his close attention to his affairs, he had no opportunity of observing the secret influence which their conversation had on the mind of his son. But yet Cesario avowed it not openly, nor gave his father reason to suspect his alienation from his country’s gods; but obeyed him in all things consistent with his filial duty towards him. His father early observing the quickness of his ‘parts,’ and his native strength of mind, gave him as liberal an education as his means could afford, and Cesario added to his outward graces those studied acquirements which nature never imparts. A sudden reverse of fortune about this time, made a wreck of the ‘little all' which the father possessed, and forced him to leave Antioch, once more to make Rome his residence. The parting from his friends was a trial to the young man as severe as it was unexpected. It was with difficulty that they finally released him, after many warnings against the numerous attractions and vices of the capital. Cesario however anticipated no wol. II. 88
danger. For him, the noise and bustle of the metropolis as yet held out no attractions. He looked not forward with pleasure to the time when he would be a sharer in its confusion, or with delight, when he might behold the gorgeous decorations of the temples of its gods. A stranger alike to each and all of these, he parted from his friends notwithstanding all their warnings, with a resolution not sufficiently fortified against their seductive influences. Soon after his arrival at Rome, he joined the army. Here he was to move in a far different sphere from that to which he had been accustomed. His amiable disposition gained him many friends; whose acquaintance, however, owing to his religious feelings, he did not at first cultivate. The circumstances peculiar to a soldier's life, together with the taunts of the few who sought intimacy with him, soon dissipated from his mind all his former impressions. He had been successful in his military career and owing to the services which he had rendered the Emperor, whose life he had once saved, he had been of fered the day before this conversation with Marcus, a high rank in the army. On the evening of that day, however, as he was strolling forth on a solitary walk, meditating upon his success, and the aid which he would be able to afford his father, he encountered one of his old friends from Antioch. The old man chided him much upon the abandonment of his faith and recalled to the mind of Cesario all his former feelings. He now resolved to decline the station tendered to him by the Emperor, and meet with the Christians at their obscure places of worship, as often as was in his power. He had appointed the evening of his walk with Marcus as the time to visit, with the Christian Julius, one of these meetings, and tarried after the departure of Marcus for that purpose. He had not, however, to wait long, for Julius had been for some time near them in concealment, and had overheard a part of their conversation. As soon the soldier's retiring footstep was no longer to be heard, he appeared before Cesario. His hoary locks, that trembled in the evening breeze, his tottering footstep, and thin attenuated hand, which he stretched forth to greet his friend, plainly indicated the lapse of threescore years and ten. His lofty brow and firmly compressed lips marked the independence as well as decision of his character. The difficulties through which he had passed, the dangers which he had experienced, in endeavoring to offer his worship unknown to the myrmidons of power, had imparted to the expression of his features a degree of care, and you might mark the hurried glance of his eye, as he cast a look this side and that, to see if all was quiet before he addressed his friend. Satisfied that there were no intruders near, he relaxed his features to a more mild expression, and looking upon Cesario with an air of satisfaction, first broke silence.
“God bless thee, young man, for that just reply of thine to thy fierce companion. He thought to deter you from your resolution by showing the dangers against which we Christians are obliged to contend. But it is not fitting for a man to become a servant of Christ, unless he is willing to encounter difficulties. “His company was not agreeable to me, Father,” replied the young man, “but having sought mine and being an old friend, I could not shake him off.” “Well, Cesario ! I rejoice that he is gone, but the time of our assembling is approaching and we must hasten. We meet in a grove beyond the cemeteries of the nobles.” Cesario immediately rose from the bank on which he was reclining, and drawing the old man's arm within his own, assisted him in his progress towards the place of rendezvous. They proceeded onward for some time, in silence; when the old man anxiously inquired— “Are you unwell, Cesario? You were not wont to be in such a mood, when at Antioch.” “No, Father but I can no longer claim that buoyancy of feeling, which was then a source of pleasure to my friends as well as of gratification to myself. The renunciation of my allegiance—that thought, has ever gnawed like a canker worm in my breast. The excitement of battle has for the time driven it away, but the calm moments of subsequent reflection have been attended with pangs of remorse, that seem to cause my life blood gradually to ooze away. My comrades and superiors ascribed to the favor of the gods their victories, and honored him, as under their especial eye and inspiration, who fought the bravest there. I then thought of the nothingness of their views—of the little power their gods could have to preserve their lives in times of danger, and then too came the thoughts of my injured Savior, than whom none else could have saved my life. And now, (pointing to a huge monument of an ancient patrician family, ornamented with statues and busts of the gods,) now, when I look at the splendid mausoleums of the departed great, and think that equally with the humble Christian, whose carcass they throw to the dogs, their bodies moulder there to dust, it levels these distinctions. Such thoughts as these make me sad, Julius, and have robbed me of my youthful gaiety.” The old man sighed, but made no reply. They now approached the place of meeting. It was situated amid some old ruins, the walls of which in addition to the obstruction which the trees afforded, effectually obscured the glimmering of the lamps. There was but a single entrance, at which the old man now softly knocked. He was evidently expected, for on his making the reply of “a brother,” to the demand of “Who's there,” the door was without any hesitation opened. The aspect of the inmates presented a novel scene to Cesario. Around an elevation in the center of the apartment, on which was spread a sup