It is a circumstance connected with the history of Nero, that every spring and summer, for many years after his death, fresh and beautiful flowers were nightly scattered upon his grave by some unknown hand.
Tradition relates that it was done by a young maiden of Corinth, named Acle, whom Nero had brought to Rome from her native city, whither he had gone in the disguise of an artist, to contend in the Nemean, Isthinian, and Floral games, celebrated there; and whence he returned conqueror in the Palaestra, the chariot race, and the song; bearing with him, like Jason of old, a second Medea, divine in form and feature as the first, and who like her had left father, friends, and country, to follow a stranger.
Even the worse than savage barbarity of this sanguinary tyrant, had not cut him off from all human affection; and those flowers were doubtless the tribute of that young girl's holy and enduring love!
Whose name is on yon lettered stone? whose ashes rest beneath?
That thus you come with flowers to deck the mournful home of death;
And thou - why darkens so thy brow with grief's untimely gloom?
Thou art fitter for a bride than for a watcher by the tomb!
"It is the name of one whose deeds made men grow pale with fear,
And Nero's, stranger, is the dust that lies sepulchred here;
That name may be a word of harsh and boding sound to thee,
But oh! it has a more than mortal melody for me!
"And I, - my heart has grown to age in girlhood's fleeting years,
And has one only task - to bathe its buried love in tears;
The all of life that yet remains to me is but its breath;
Then tell me, is it meet that I should seek the bridal wreath?"
But maiden, he of whom you speak was of a savage mood,
That took its joy alone in scenes, of carnage, tears and blood;
His dark, wild spirit bore the stain of crime's most loathsome hue,
And love is for the high of soul - the gentle and the true.
"The voice that taught an abject world to tremble at its words,
To me was mild and musical, and mellow as a bird's -
A bird's - that couched among the green, broad branches of the date,
Tells, in its silvery songs, its gushing gladness to its mate.
"I saw him first beside the sea; near to ray father's home,
When like an ocean deity he bounded from the foam;
Ev'n then a glory seemed to breathe around him as he trod,
And my haughty soul was bowed, as in the presence of a God.
I knew not, till my heart was his, the darkness of his own,
Nor dreamed that he who knelt to me was master of a throne!
And when the fearful knowledge came, its coming was in vain, -
I had forsaken all for him, and would do so again."
Is love the offspring of the will? or is it, like a flower,
So frail that it may fade and be forgotten in an hour?
No, no! it springs unbidden where the heart's deep fountains play,
And cherished by their hallowed dew, it cannot pass away!