I mind the day, when thou dist cheat
Those rival dames with answer meet;
When, toiling at the loom,
Unblest with bracelet, ring, or chain,
Thou alone didst dare disdain
To toil in tiring-room.
Merely thou sadist: “At set of sun
My humble taskwork will be done;
And through the twilight street
Come back to view my jewels, when
Pattering through the throng of men
Go merry schoolboys’ feet.”
They came, and sneered: for thou dids’t stand.
The web well finished up, one hand
Laid on my yielding shoulder:
The sternest stripling in the land
Grasped the other, boldly scanned
Their faces, and grew bolder:
And said: “Fair ladies, by your leave
I would exhort you spin and weave
some frugal homely cloth.
I warn you, when I lead the tribes
Law shall strip you; threats nor bribes
Shall blunt the just man’s wrath.”
How strongly, gravely did he speak;
I shivered, hid my tingling cheek
Behind thy marble face;
And prayed the gods to be like him,
Firm in temper, lithe of limb,
Right worthy of our race.
Oh, mother, didst thou bear me brave?
Or was I weak, till from the grave
So early hollowed out,
Tiberius sought me yesternight,
Blood upon his mantle white,
A vision clear of doubt?
What can I fear, oh mother, now?
His dead cold hand is on my brow;
Rest thou thereon thy lips:
His voice is in the night-wind’s breath,
“Do as I did,” still he saith;
With blood his finger drips.