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Coriolanus   


laying down their arms they might obtain all they could in reason
desire.
The reply of Marcius was, that he should make no answer to this as
general of the Volscians, but, in the quality still of a Roman citizen,
he would advise and exhort them, as the case stood, not to carry it
so high, but think rather of just compliance, and return to him, before
three days were at an end, with a ratification of his previous demands;
otherwise, they must understand that they could not have any further
freedom of passing through his camp upon idle errands.
When the ambassadors were come back, and had acquainted the senate
with the answer, seeing the whole state now threatened as it were
by a tempest, and the waves ready to overwhelm them, they were forced,
as we say in extreme perils, to let down the sacred anchor. A decree
was made, that the whole order of their priests, those who initiated
in the mysteries or had the custody of them, and those who, according
to the ancient practice of the country, divined from birds, should
all and every one of them go in full procession to Marcius with their
pontifical array, and the dress and habit which they respectively
used in their several functions, and should urge him, as before, to
withdraw his forces, and then treat with his countrymen in favour
of the Volscians. He consented so far, indeed, as to give the deputation
an admittance into his camp, but granted nothing at all, nor so much
as expressed himself more mildly; but without capitulating or receding,
bade them once for all choose whether they would yield or fight, since
the old terms were the only terms of peace. When this solemn application
proved ineffectual, the priests, too, returning unsuccessful, they
determined to sit still within the city and keep watch about their
walls, intending only to repulse the enemy, should he offer to attack
them, and placing their hopes chiefly in time and in extraordinary
accidents of fortune; as to themselves, they felt incapable of doing
anything for their own deliverance; mere confusion and terror and
ill-boding reports possessed the whole city; till at last a thing
happened not unlike what we so often find represented, without, however,
being accepted as true by people in general, in Homer. On some great
and unusual occasion we find him say-
"But him the blue-eyed goddess did inspire; and elsewhere-
"But some immortal turned my mind away,
To think what others of the deed would say;" and again-
"Were't his own thought or were't a god's command?" People are apt,
in such passages, to censure and disregard the poet as if, by the
introduction of mere impossibilities and idle fictions, he were denying
the action of a man's own deliberate thought and free choice; which
is not, in the least, the case in Homer's representation, where the
ordinary, probable, and habitual conclusions that common reason leads
to are continually ascribed to our own direct agency. He certainly
says frequently enough-
"But I consulted with my own great soul;" or, as in another passage-
"He spoke. Achilles, with quick pain possessed,
Resolved two purposes in his strong breast; and in a third
"-Yet never to her wishes won
The just mind of the brave Bellerophon."
But where the act is something out of the way and extraordinary, and
seems in a manner to demand some impulse of divine possession and
sudden inspiration to account for it, here he does introduce divine
agency, not to destroy, but to prompt the human will; not to create
in us another agency, but offering images to stimulate our own; images
that in no sort or kind make our action involuntary, but give occasion
rather to spontaneous action, aided and sustained by feelings of confidence
and hope. For either we must totally dismiss and exclude divine influences
from every kind of causality and origination in what we do, or else
what other way can we conceive in which divine aid and cooperation
can act? Certainly we cannot suppose that the divine beings actually
and literally turn our bodies and direct our hands and our feet this
way or that, to do what is right: it is obvious that they must actuate

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