Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The Poet Trumps the Historians: Archaeologists May Prove

Reports from two years ago suggesting that Cleopatra’s reputation as an irresistible beauty had been greatly exaggerated by the likes of Shakespeare (to say nothing of Elizabeth Taylor) now appear to be refuted. Good. It is cheering to know that sometimes that which ought to be true turns out actually to be true--not only in the highest sense but also in the earthly sense of things. Poetry sometimes ought to slap the debunkers among the historians and it is doubly amusing to see the scientists facilitating the hit. Let Cleopatra forever remain as Enobarbus described her:

I will tell you.

The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,

Burn’d on the water: the poop was beaten gold;

Purple the sails, and so perfumed that

The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,

Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made

The water which they beat to follow faster,

As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,

It beggar’d all description: she did lie

In her pavilion--cloth-of-gold of tissue--

O’er-picturing that Venus where we see

The fancy outwork nature: on each side her

Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,

With divers-colour’d fans, whose wind did seem

To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,

And what they undid did.

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