On this day in 106BC Roman Statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero was born. The surname Cicero means ‘chickpea’, probably his family were dry food merchants and naming people in this way was the custom: for example, the well-known names Fabius, Lentulus, and Piso are the Latin names for bean, lentil and pea. An active politician, he was assassinated during the violent end of the Roman Republic. Today’s poem by Walt Whitman, was written after another assassination – that of President Lincoln in 1865. Though neatly two thousand years after Cicero’s death, the despair and sadness that it evokes were probably the same in both cases:
Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! Heart! Heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
….My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.”
Today I will try to understand that great things can come out of terrible disasters; we must not allow the bad deeds of others to prevail.