The Pharsalia of Lucan

Book ii

The Flight of Pompeius

Remonstrance with the gods for allowing the future to be foretold, lines 1-18. Terror at Rome, 18-74. Relation of the massacres perpetrated by Marius and Sulla, 75-261. Interview between Brutus and Cato, 262-365. Marriage of Cato and Marcia, 366-426. Character of Cato, 427-442. Pompeius marches to Capua, 443. Geography of Italy, 450-494. Caesar overruns Northern Italy, 496-533. Episode of Domitius at Corfinium, 584-590. Pompeius’s speech to his army, 591-673. He retires to Brundisium, 674-690. The town described, 690-709. Cnaeus is sent to the East, 709-733. Caesar tries to block the harbour, 735-772. Pompeius escapes to Epirus, 773-837.

This was made plain the anger of the gods;

The universe gave signs Nature reversed

In monstrous tumult fraught with prodigies

Her laws, and prescient spake the coming guilt.

How seemed it just to thee, Olympus’ king,

That suffering mortals at thy doom should know

By omens dire the massacre to come?

Or did the primal parent of the world

When first the flames gave way and yielding left

Matter unformed to his subduing hand,10

And realms unbalanced, fix by stern decree’

Unalterable laws to bind the whole

(Himself, too, bound by law), so that for aye

All Nature moves within its fated bounds?

Or, is Chance sovereign over all, and we

The sport of Fortune and her turning wheel?

Whate’er be truth, keep thou the future veiled

From mortal vision, and amid their fears

May men still hope.

Thus known how great the woes20

The world should suffer, from the truth divine,

A solemn fast was called, the courts were closed,

All men in private garb; no purple hem

Adorned the togas of the chiefs of Rome;

No plaints were uttered, and a voiceless grief

Lay deep in every bosom: as when death

Knocks at some door but enters not as yet,

Before the mother calls the name aloud

Or bids her grieving maidens beat the breast,

While still she marks the glazing eye, and soothes30

The stiffening limbs and gazes on the face,

In nameless dread, not sorrow, and in awe

Of death approaching: and with mind distraught

Clings to the dying in a last embrace.

The matrons laid aside their wonted garb:

Crowds filled the temples — on the unpitying stones

Some dashed their bosoms; others bathed with tears

The statues of the gods; some tore their hair

Upon the holy threshold, and with shrieks

And vows unceasing called upon the names40

Of those whom mortals supplicate. Nor all

Lay in the Thunderer’s fane: at every shrine

Some prayers are offered which refused shall bring

Reproach on heaven. One whose livid arms

Were dark with blows, whose cheeks with tears bedewed

And riven, cried, “Beat, mothers, beat the breast,

Tear now the lock; while doubtful in the scales

Still fortune hangs, nor yet the fight is won,

You still may grieve: when either wins rejoice.”

Thus sorrow stirs itself.50

Meanwhile the men

Seeking the camp and setting forth to war,

Address the cruel gods in just complaint.

“Happy the youths who born in Punic days

On Cannae’s uplands or by Trebia’s stream

Fought and were slain! What wretched lot is ours!

No peace we ask for: let the nations rage;

Rouse fiercest cities! may the world find arms

To wage a war with Rome: let Parthian hosts

Rush forth from Susa; Scythian Ister curb60

No more the Massagete: unconquered Rhine

Let loose from furthest North her fair-haired tribes:

Elbe, pour thy Suevians forth! Let us be foes

Of all the peoples. May the Getan press

Here, and the Dacian there; Pompeius meet

The Eastern archers, Caesar in the West

Confront th’ Iberian. Leave to Rome no hand

To raise against herself in civil strife.

Or, if Italia by the gods be doomed,

Let all the sky, fierce Parent, be dissolved70

And falling on the earth in flaming bolts,

Their hands still bloodless, strike both leaders down,

With both their hosts! Why plunge in novel crime

To settle which of them shall rule in Rome?

Scarce were it worth the price of civil war

To hinder either.” Thus the patriot voice

Still found an utterance, soon to speak no more.

Meantime, the aged fathers o’er their fates

In anguish grieved, detesting life prolonged

That brought with it another civil war.80

And thus spake one, to justify his fears:

“No other deeds the fates laid up in store

When Marius 29, victor over Teuton hosts,

Afric’s high conqueror, cast out from Rome,

Lay hid in marshy ooze, at thy behest,

O Fortune! by the yielding soil concealed

And waving rushes; but ere long the chains

Of prison wore his weak and aged frame,

And lengthened squalor: thus he paid for crime

His punishment beforehand; doomed to die90

Consul in triumph over wasted Rome.

Death oft refused him; and the very foe,

In act to murder, shuddered in the stroke

And dropped the weapon from his nerveless hand.

For through the prison gloom a flame of light

He saw; the deities of crime abhorred;

The Marius to come. A voice proclaimed

Mysterious, ‘Hold! the fates permit thee not

That neck to sever. Many a death he owes

To time’s predestined laws ere his shall come;100

Cease from thy madness. If ye seek revenge

For all the blood shed by your slaughtered tribes to

Let this man, Cimbrians, live out all his days.’

Not as their darling did the gods protect

The man of blood, but for his ruthless hand

Fit to prepare that sacrifice of gore

Which fate demanded. By the sea’s despite

Borne to our foes, Jugurtha’s wasted realm

He saw, now conquered; there in squalid huts

Awhile he lay, and trod the hostile dust110

Of Carthage, and his ruin matched with hers:

Each from the other’s fate some solace drew,

And prostrate, pardoned heaven. On Libyan soil 30

Fresh fury gathering 31, next, when Fortune smiled

The prisons he threw wide and freed the slaves.

Forth rushed the murderous bands, their melted chains

Forged into weapons for his ruffian needs.

No charge he gave to mere recruits in guilt

Who brought not to the camp some proof of crime.

How dread that day when conquering Marius seized120

The city’s ramparts! with what fated speed

Death strode upon his victims! plebs alike

And nobles perished; far and near the sword

Struck at his pleasure, till the temple floors

Ran wet with slaughter and the crimson stream

Befouled with slippery gore the holy walls.

No age found pity men of failing years,

Just tottering to the grave, were hurled to death;

From infants, in their being’s earliest dawn 32,

The growing life was severed. For what crime?130

Twas cause enough for death that they could die.

The fury grew: soon ’twas a sluggard’s part

To seek the guilty: hundreds died to swell

The tale of victims. Shamed by empty hands,

The bloodstained conqueror snatched a reeking head

From neck unknown. One way of life remained,

To kiss with shuddering lips the red right hand 33.

Degenerate people! Had ye hearts of men,

Though ye were threatened by a thousand swords,

Far rather death than centuries of life140

Bought at such price; much more that breathing space

Till Sulla comes again 34. But time would fail

In weeping for the deaths of all who fell.

Encircled by innumerable bands

Fell Baebius, his limbs asunder torn,

His vitals dragged abroad. Antonius too,

Prophet of ill, whose hoary head 35 was placed,

Dripping with blood, upon the festal board.

There headless fell the Crassi; mangled frames

‘Neath Fimbria’s falchion: and the prison cells150

Were wet with tribunes’ blood. Hard by the fane

Where dwells the goddess and the sacred fire,

Fell aged Scaevola, though that gory hand 36

Had spared him, but the feeble tide of blood

Still left the flame alive upon the hearth.

That selfsame year the seventh time restored 37

The Consul’s rods; that year to Marius brought

The end of life, when he at Fortune’s hands

All ills had suffered; all her goods enjoyed.

“And what of those who at the Sacriport 38160

And Colline gate were slain, then, when the rule

Of Earth and all her nations almost left

This city for another, and the chiefs

Who led the Samnite hoped that Rome might bleed

More than at Caudium’s Forks she bled of old?

Then came great Sulla to avenge the dead,

And all the blood still left within her frame

Drew from the city; for the surgeon knife

Which shore the cancerous limbs cut in too deep,

And shed the life stream from still healthy veins.170

True that the guilty fell, but not before

All else had perished. Hatred had free course

And anger reigned unbridled by the law.

The victor’s voice spake once; but each man struck

Just as he wished or willed. The fatal steel

Urged by the servant laid the master low.

Sons dripped with gore of sires; and brothers fought

For the foul trophy of a father slain,

Or slew each other for the price of blood.

Men sought the tombs and, mingling with the dead,180

Hoped for escape; the wild beasts’ dens were full.

One strangled died; another from the height

Fell headlong down upon the unpitying earth,

And from the encrimsoned victor snatched his death:

One built his funeral pyre and oped his veins,

And sealed the furnace ere his blood was gone.

Borne through the trembling town the leaders’ heads

Were piled in middle forum: hence men knew

Of murders else unpublished. Not on gates

Of Diomedes 39, tyrant king of Thrace,190

Nor of Antaeus, Libya’s giant brood,

Were hung such horrors; nor in Pisa’s hall

Were seen and wept for when the suitors died.

Decay had touched the features of the slain

When round the mouldering heap, with trembling steps

The grief-struck parents sought and stole their dead.

I, too, the body of my brother slain

Thought to remove, my victim to the peace

Which Sulla made, and place his loved remains

On the forbidden pyre. The head I found,200

But not the butchered corse.

“Why now renew

The tale of Catulus’s shade appeased?

And those dread tortures which the living frame

Of Marius 40 suffered at the tomb of him

Who haply wished them not? Pierced, mangled, torn —

Nor speech nor grasp was left: his every limb

Maimed, hacked and riven; yet the fatal blow

The murderers with savage purpose spared.

’Twere scarce believed that one poor mortal frame210

Such agonies could bear e’er death should come.

Thus crushed beneath some ruin lie the dead;

Thus shapeless from the deep are borne the drowned.

Why spoil delight by mutilating thus,

The head of Marius? To please Sulla’s heart

That mangled visage must be known to all.

Fortune, high goddess of Praeneste’s fane,

Saw all her townsmen hurried to their deaths

In one fell instant. All the hope of Rome,

The flower of Latium, stained with blood the field220

Where once the peaceful tribes their votes declared.

Famine and Sword, the raging sky and sea,

And Earth upheaved, have laid such numbers low:

But ne’er one man’s revenge. Between the slain

And living victims there was space no more,

Death thus let slip, to deal the fatal blow.

Hardly when struck they fell; the severed head

Scarce toppled from the shoulders; but the slain

Blent in a weighty pile of massacre

Pressed out the life and helped the murderer’s arm.230

Secure from stain upon his lofty throne,

Unshuddering sat the author of the whole,

Nor feared that at his word such thousands fell.

At length the Tuscan flood received the dead

The first upon his waves; the last on those

That lay beneath them; vessels in their course

Were stayed, and while the lower current flowed

Still to the sea, the upper stood on high

Dammed back by carnage. Through the streets meanwhile

In headlong torrents ran a tide of blood,240

Which furrowing its path through town and field

Forced the slow river on. But now his banks

No longer held him, and the dead were thrown

Back on the fields above. With labour huge

At length he struggled to his goal and stretched

In crimson streak across the Tuscan Sea.

“For deeds like these, shall Sulla now be styled

‘Darling of Fortune’, ‘Saviour of the State’?

For these, a tomb in middle field of Mars

Record his fame? Like horrors now return250

For us to suffer; and the civil war

Thus shall be waged again and thus shall end.

Yet worse disasters may our fears suggest,

For now with greater carnage of mankind

The rival hosts in weightier battle meet.

To exiled Marius, successful strife

Was Rome regained; triumphant Sulla knew

No greater joy than on his hated foes

To wreak his vengeance with unsparing sword.

But these more powerful rivals Fortune calls260

To worse ambitions; nor would either chief

For such reward as Sulla’s wage the war.”

Thus, mindful of his youth, the aged man

Wept for the past, but feared the coming days.

Such terrors found in haughty Brutus’ breast

No home. When others sat them down to fear

He did not so, but in the dewy night

When the great wain was turning round the pole

He sought his kinsman Cato’s humble home.

Him sleepless did he find, not for himself270

Fearing, but pondering the fates of Rome,

And deep in public cares. And thus he spake:

“O thou in whom that virtue, which of yore

Took flight from earth, now finds its only home,

Outcast to all besides, but safe with thee:

Vouchsafe thy counsel to my wavering soul

And make my weakness strength. While Caesar some,

Pompeius others, follow in the fight,

Cato is Brutus’ guide. Art thou for peace,

Holding thy footsteps in a tottering world280

Unshaken? Or wilt thou with the leaders’ crimes

And with the people’s fury take thy part,

And by thy presence purge the war of guilt?

In impious battles men unsheath the sword;

But each by cause impelled: the household crime;

Laws feared in peace; want by the sword removed;

And broken credit, that its ruin hides

In general ruin. Drawn by hope of gain,

And not by thirst for blood, they seek the camp.

Shall Cato for war’s sake make war alone?290

What profits it through all these wicked years

That thou hast lived untainted? This were all

Thy meed of virtue, that the wars which find

Guilt in all else, shall make thee guilty too.

Ye gods, permit not that this fatal strife

Should stir those hands to action! When the clouds

Of flying javelins hiss upon the air,

Let not a dart be thine; nor spent in vain

Such virtue! All the fury of the war

Shall launch itself on thee, for who, when faint300

And wounded, would not rush upon thy sword,

Take thence his death, and make the murder thine?

Do thou live on thy peaceful life apart

As on their paths the stars unshaken roll.

The lower air that verges on the earth

Gives flame and fury to the levin bolt;

The deeps below the world engulph the winds

And tracts of flaming fire. By Jove’s decree

Olympus rears his summit o’er the clouds:

In lowlier valleys storms and winds contend,310

But peace eternal reigns upon the heights.

What joy for Caesar, if the tidings come

That such a citizen has joined the war?

Glad would he see thee e’en in Magnus’ tents;

For Cato’s conduct shall approve his own.

Pompeius, with the Consul in his ranks,

And half the Senate and the other chiefs,

Vexes my spirit; and should Cato too

Bend to a master’s yoke, in all the world

The one man free is Caesar. But if thou320

For freedom and thy country’s laws alone

Be pleased to raise the sword, nor Magnus then

Nor Caesar shall in Brutus find a foe.

Not till the fight is fought shall Brutus strike,

Then strike the victor.”

Brutus thus; but spake

Cato from inmost breast these sacred words:

“Chief in all wickedness is civil war,

Yet virtue in the paths marked out by fate

Treads on securely. Heaven’s will be the crime330

To have made even Cato guilty. Who has strength

To gaze unawed upon a toppling world?

When stars and sky fall headlong, and when earth

Slips from her base, who sits with folded hands?

Shall unknown nations, touched by western strife,

And monarchs born beneath another clime

Brave the dividing seas to join the war?

Shall Scythian tribes desert their distant north,

And Getae haste to view the fall of Rome,

And I look idly on? As some fond sire,340

Reft of his sons, compelled by grief, himself

Marshals the long procession to the tomb,

Thrusts his own hand within the funeral flames,

Soothing his heart, and, as the lofty pyre

Rises on high, applies the kindled torch:

Nought, Rome, shall tear thee from me, till I hold

Thy form in death embraced; and Freedom’s name,

Shade though it be, I’ll follow to the grave.

Yea! let the cruel gods exact in full

Rome’s expiation: of no drop of blood350

The war be robbed. I would that, to the gods

Of heaven and hell devoted, this my life

Might satisfy their vengeance. Decius fell,

Crushed by the hostile ranks. When Cato falls

Let Rhine’s fierce barbarous hordes and both the hosts

Thrust through my frame their darts! May I alone

Receive in death the wounds of all the war!

Thus may the people be redeemed, and thus

Rome for her guilt pay the atonement due.

Why should men die who wish to bear the yoke360

And shrink not from the tyranny to come?

Strike me, and me alone, of laws and rights

In vain the guardian: this vicarious life

Shall give Hesperia peace and end her toils.

Who then will reign shall find no need for war.

You ask, ‘Why follow Magnus? If he wins 41

He too will claim the Empire of the world.’

Then let him, conquering with my service, learn

Not for himself to conquer.” Thus he spoke

And stirred the blood that ran in Brutus’ veins370

Moving the youth to action in the war.

Soon as the sun dispelled the chilly night,

The sounding doors flew wide, and from the tomb

Of dead Hortensius grieving Marcia came 42.

First joined in wedlock to a greater man

Three children did she bear to grace his home:

Then Cato to Hortensius gave the dame

To be a fruitful mother of his sons

And join their houses in a closer tie.

And now the last sad offices were done380

She came with hair dishevelled, beaten breast,

And ashes on her brow, and features worn

With grief; thus only pleasing to the man.

“When youth was in me and maternal power

I did thy bidding, Cato, and received

A second husband: now in years grown old

Ne’er to be parted I return to thee.

Renew our former pledges undefiled:

Give back the name of wife: upon my tomb

Let ‘Marcia, spouse to Cato,’ be engraved.390

Nor let men question in the time to come,

Did’st thou compel, or did I willing leave

My first espousals. Not in happy times,

Partner of joys, I come; but days of care

And labour shall be mine to share with thee.

Nor leave me here, but take me to the camp,

Thy fond companion: why should Magnus’ wife

Be nearer, Cato, to the wars than thine?”

Although the times were warlike and the fates

Called to the fray, he lent a willing ear.400

Yet must they plight their faith in simple form

Of law; their witnesses the gods alone.

No festal wreath of flowers crowned the gate

Nor glittering fillet on each post entwined;

No flaming torch was there, nor ivory steps,

No couch with robes of broidered gold adorned;

No comely matron placed upon her brow

The bridal garland, or forbad the foot 43

To touch the threshold stone; no saffron veil

Concealed the timid blushes of the bride;410

No jewelled belt confined her flowing robe 44

Nor modest circle bound her neck; no scarf

Hung lightly on the snowy shoulder’s edge

Around the naked arm. Just as she came,

Wearing the garb of sorrow, while the wool

Covered the purple border of her robe,

Thus was she wedded. As she greets her sons

So doth she greet her husband. Festal games

Graced not their nuptials, nor were friends and kin

As by the Sabines bidden: silent both420

They joined in marriage, yet content, unseen

By any save by Brutus. Sad and stern

On Cato’s lineaments the marks of grief

Were still unsoftened, and the hoary hair

Hung o’er his reverend visage; for since first

Men flew to arms, his locks were left unkempt

To stream upon his brow, and on his chin

His beard untended grew. ’Twas his alone

Who hated not, nor loved, for all mankind

To mourn alike. Nor did their former couch430

Again receive them, for his lofty soul

E’en lawful love resisted. ’Twas his rule

Inflexible, to keep the middle path

Marked out and bounded; to observe the laws

Of natural right; and for his country’s sake

To risk his life, his all, as not for self

Brought into being, but for all the world:

Such was his creed. To him a sumptuous feast

Was hunger conquered, and the lowly hut,

Which scarce kept out the winter, was a home440

Equal to palaces: a robe of price

Such hairy garments as were worn of old:

The end of marriage, offspring. To the State

Father alike and husband, right and law

He ever followed with unswerving step:

No thought of selfish pleasure turned the scale

In Cato’s acts, or swayed his upright soul.

Meanwhile Pompeius led his trembling host

To fields Campanian, and held the walls

First founded by the chief of Trojan race 45.450

These chose he for the central seat of war,

Some troops despatching who might meet the foe

Where shady Apennine lifts up the ridge

Of mid Italia; nearest to the sky

Upsoaring, with the seas on either hand,

The upper and the lower. Pisa’s sands

Breaking the margin of the Tuscan deep,

Here bound his mountains: there Ancona’s towers

Laved by Dalmatian waves. Rivers immense,

In his recesses born, pass on their course,460

To either sea diverging. To the left

Metaurus, and Crustumium’s torrent, fall

And Sena’s streams and Aufidus who bursts

On Adrian billows; and that mighty flood

Which, more than all the rivers of the earth,

Sweeps down the soil and tears the woods away

And drains Hesperia’s springs. In fabled lore

His banks were first by poplar shade enclosed: 46

And when by Phaethon the waning day

Was drawn in path transverse, and all the heaven470

Blazed with his car aflame, and from the depths

Of inmost earth were rapt all other floods,

Padus still rolled in pride of stream along.

Nile were no larger, but that o’er the sand

Of level Egypt he spreads out his waves;

Nor Ister, if he sought the Scythian main

Unhelped upon his journey through the world

By tributary waters not his own.

But on the right hand Tiber has his source,

Deep-flowing Rutuba, Vulturnus swift,480

And Sarnus breathing vapours of the night

Rise there, and Liris with Vestinian wave

Still gliding through Marica’s shady grove,

And Siler flowing through Salernian meads:

And Macra’s swift unnavigable stream

By Luna lost in Ocean. On the Alps

Whose spurs strike plainwards, and on fields of Gaul

The cloudy heights of Apennine look down

In further distance: on his nearer slopes

The Sabine turns the ploughshare; Umbrian kine490

And Marsian fatten; with his pineclad rocks

He girds the tribes of Latium, nor leaves

Hesperia’s soil until the waves that beat

On Scylla’s cave compel. His southern spurs

Extend to Juno’s temple, and of old

Stretched further than Italia, till the main

O’erstepped his limits and the lands repelled.

But, when the seas were joined, Pelorus claimed

His latest summits for Sicilia’s isle.

Caesar, in rage for war, rejoicing found500

Foes in Italia; no bloodless steps

Nor vacant homes had pleased him 47; so his march

Were wasted: now the coming war was joined

Unbroken to the past; to force the gates

Not find them open, fire and sword to bring

Upon the harvests, not through fields unharmed

To pass his legions — this was Caesar’s joy;

In peaceful guise to march, this was his shame.

Italia’s cities, doubtful in their choice,

Though to the earliest onset of the war510

About to yield, strengthened their walls with mounds

And deepest trench encircling: massive stones

And bolts of war to hurl upon the foe

They place upon the turrets. Magnus most

The people’s favour held, yet faith with fear

Fought in their breasts. As when, with strident blast,

A southern tempest has possessed the main

And all the billows follow in its track:

Then, by the Storm-king smitten, should the earth

Set Eurus free upon the swollen deep,520

It shall not yield to him, though cloud and sky

Confess his strength; but in the former wind

Still find its master. But their fears prevailed,

And Caesar’s fortune, o’er their wavering faith.

For Libo fled Etruria; Umbria lost

Her freedom, driving Thermus 48 from her bounds;

Great Sulla’s son, unworthy of his sire,

Feared at the name of Caesar: Varus sought

The caves and woods, when smote the hostile horse

The gates of Auximon; and Spinther driven530

From Asculum, the victor on his track,

Fled with his standards, soldierless; and thou,

Scipio, did’st leave Nuceria’s citadel

Deserted, though by bravest legions held

Sent home by Caesar for the Parthian war 49;

Whom Magnus earlier, to his kinsman gave

A loan of Roman blood, to fight the Gaul.

But brave Domitius held firm his post 50

Behind Corfinium’s ramparts; his the troops

Who newly levied kept the judgment hall540

At Milo’s trial 51. When from far the plain

Rolled up a dusty cloud, beneath whose veil

The sheen of armour glistening in the sun,

Revealed a marching host. “Dash down,” he cried,

Swift; as ye can, the bridge that spans the stream;

And thou, O river, from thy mountain source

With all thy torrents rushing, planks and beams

Ruined and broken on thy foaming breast

Bear onward to the sea. The war shall stop

Here, to our triumph; for this headlong chief550

Here first at our firm bidding shall be stayed.”

He bade his squadrons, speeding from the walls,

Charge on the bridge: in vain: for Caesar saw

They sought to free the river from his chains 52

And bar his march; and roused to ire, he cried:

“Were not the walls sufficient to protect

Your coward souls? Seek ye by barricades

And streams to keep me back? What though the flood

Of swollen Ganges were across my path?

Now Rubicon is passed, no stream on earth560

Shall hinder Caesar! Forward, horse and foot,

And ere it totters rush upon the bridge.”

Urged in their swiftest gallop to the front

Dashed the light horse across the sounding plain;

And suddenly, as storm in summer, flew

A cloud of javelins forth, by sinewy arms

Hurled at the foe; the guard is put to flight,

And conquering Caesar, seizing on the bridge,

Compels the enemy to keep the walls.

Now do the mighty engines, soon to hurl570

Gigantic stones, press forward, and the ram

Creeps ‘neath the ramparts; when the gates fly back,

And lo! the traitor troops, foul crime in war,

Yield up their leader. Him they place before

His proud compatriot; yet with upright form,

And scornful features and with noble mien,

He asks his death. But Caesar knew his wish

Was punishment, and pardon was his fear:

“Live though thou would’st not,” so the chieftain spake,

“And by my gift, unwilling, see the day:580

Be to my conquered foes the cause of hope,

Proof of my clemency — or if thou wilt

Take arms again — and should’st thou conquer, count

This pardon nothing.” Thus he spake, and bade

Let loose the bands and set the captive free.

Ah! better had he died, and fortune spared

The Roman’s last dishonour, whose worse doom

It is, that he who joined his country’s camp

And fought with Magnus for the Senate’s cause

Should gain for this — a pardon! Yet he curbed590

His anger, thinking, “Wilt thou then to Rome

And peaceful scenes, degenerate? Rather war,

The furious battle and the certain end!

Break with life’s ties: be Caesar’s gift in vain.”

Pompeius, ignorant that his captain thus

Was taken, armed his levies newly raised

To give his legions strength; and as he thought

To sound his trumpets with the coming dawn,

To test his soldiers ere he moved his camp

Thus in majestic tones their ranks addressed:600

“Soldiers of Rome! Avengers of her laws!

To whom the Senate gives no private arms,

Ask by your voices for the battle sign.

Fierce falls the pillage on Hesperian fields,

And Gallia’s fury o’er the snowy Alps 53

Is poured upon us. Caesar’s swords at last

Are red with Roman blood. But with the wound

We gain the better cause; the crime is theirs.

No war is this, but for offended Rome

We wreak the vengeance; as when Catiline610

Lifted against her roofs the flaming brand

And, partner in his fury, Lentulus,

And mad Cethegus 54 with his naked arm.

Is such thy madness, Caesar? when the Fates

With great Camillus’ and Metellus’ names

Might place thine own, dost thou prefer to rank

With Marius and Cinna? Swift shall be

Thy fall: as Lepidus before the sword

Of Catulus; or who my axes felt,

Carbo 55, now buried in Sicanian tomb;620

Or who, in exile, roused Iberia’s hordes,

Sertorius — yet, witness Heaven, with these

I hate to rank thee; hate the task that Rome

Has laid upon me, to oppose thy rage.

Would that in safety from the Parthian war

And Scythian steppes had conquering Crassus come!

Then haply had’st thou fallen by the hand

That smote vile Spartacus the robber foe.

But if among my triumphs fate has said

Thy conquest shall be written, know this heart630

Still sends the life blood coursing: and this arm 56

Still vigorously flings the dart afield.

He deems me slothful. Caesar, thou shalt learn

We brook not peace because we lag in war.

Old, does he call me? Fear not ye mine age.

Let me be elder, if his soldiers are.

The highest point a citizen can reach

And leave his people free, is mine: a throne

Alone were higher; whoso would surpass

Pompeius, aims at that. Both Consuls stand640

Here; here for battle stand your lawful chiefs:

And shall this Caesar drag the Senate down?

Not with such blindness, not so lost to shame

Does Fortune rule. Does he take heart from Gaul:

For years on years rebellious, and a life

Spent there in labour? or because he fled

Rhine’s icy torrent and the shifting pools

He calls an ocean? or unchallenged sought

Britannia’s cliffs; then turned his back in flight?

Or does he boast because his citizens650

Were driven in arms to leave their hearths and homes?

Ah, vain delusion! not from thee they fled:

My steps they follow — mine, whose conquering signs

Swept all the ocean 57, and who, ere the moon

Twice filled her orb and waned, compelled to flight

The pirate, shrinking from the open sea,

And humbly begging for a narrow home

In some poor nook on shore. ’Twas I again

Who, happier far than Sulla, drave to death 58

That king who, exiled to the deep recess660

Of Scythian Pontus, held the fates of Rome

Still in the balances. Where is the land

That hath not seen my trophies? Icy waves

Of northern Phasis, hot Egyptian shores,

And where Syene ‘neath its noontide sun

Knows shade on neither hand 59: all these have learned

To fear Pompeius: and far Baetis’ 60 stream,

Last of all floods to join the refluent sea.

Arabia and the warlike hordes that dwell

Beside the Euxine wave: the famous land670

That lost the golden fleece; Cilician wastes,

And Cappadocian, and the Jews who pray

Before an unknown God; Sophene soft —

All felt my yoke. What conquests now remain,

What wars not civil can my kinsman wage?”

No loud acclaim received his words, nor shout

Asked for the promised battle: and the chief

Drew back the standards, for the soldier’s fears

Were in his soul alike; nor dared he trust

An army, vanquished by the fame alone680

Of Caesar’s powers, to fight for such a prize.

And as some bull, his early combat lost,

Forth driven from the herd, in exile roams

Through lonely plains or secret forest depths,

Whets on opposing trunks his growing horn,

And proves himself for battle, till his neck

Is ribbed afresh with muscle: then returns,

Defiant of the hind, and victor now

Leads wheresoe’er he will his lowing bands:

Thus Magnus, yielding to a stronger foe,690

Gave up Italia, and sought in flight

Brundusium’s sheltering battlements.

Here of old

Fled Cretan settlers when the dusky sail 61

Spread the false message of the hero dead;

Here, where Hesperia, curving as a bow,

Draws back her coast, a little tongue of land

Shuts in with bending horns the sounding main.

Yet insecure the spot, unsafe in storm,

Were it not sheltered by an isle on which700

The Adriatic billows dash and fall,

And tempests lose their strength: on either hand

A craggy cliff opposing breaks the gale

That beats upon them, while the ships within

Held by their trembling cables ride secure.

Hence to the mariner the boundless deep

Lies open, whether for Corcyra’s port

He shapes his sails, or for Illyria’s shore,

And Epidamnus facing to the main

Ionian. Here, when raging in his might710

Fierce Adria whelms in foam Calabria’s coast,

When clouds tempestuous veil Ceraunus’ height,

The sailor finds a haven.

When the chief

Could find no hope in battle on the soil

He now was quitting, and the lofty Alps

Forbad Iberia, to his son he spake,

The eldest scion of that noble stock:

“Search out the far recesses of the earth,

Nile and Euphrates, wheresoe’er the fame720

Of Magnus lives, where, through thy father’s deeds,

The people tremble at the name of Rome.

Lead to the sea again the pirate bands;

Rouse Egypt’s kings; Tigranes, wholly mine,

And Pharnaces and all the vagrant tribes

Of both Armenias; and the Pontic hordes,

Warlike and fierce; the dwellers on the hills

Rhipaean, and by that dead northern marsh

Whose frozen surface bears the loaded wain.

Why further stay thee? Let the eastern world730

Sound with the war, all cities of the earth

Conquered by me, as vassals, to my camp

Send all their levied hosts. And you whose names

Within the Latian book recorded stand,

Strike for Epirus with the northern wind;

And thence in Greece and Macedonian tracts,

(While winter gives us peace) new strength acquire

For coming conflicts.” They obey his words

And loose their ships and launch upon the main.

But Caesar’s might, intolerant of peace740

Or lengthy armistice, lest now perchance

The fates might change their edicts, swift pursued

The footsteps of his foe. To other men,

So many cities taken at a blow,

So many strongholds captured, might suffice;

And Rome herself, the mistress of the world,

Lay at his feet, the greatest prize of all.

Not so with Caesar: instant on the goal

He fiercely presses; thinking nothing done

While aught remained to do. Now in his grasp750

Lay all Italia; — but while Magnus stayed

Upon the utmost shore, his grieving soul

Deemed all was shared with him. Yet he essayed

Escape to hinder, and with labour vain

Piled in the greedy main gigantic rocks:

Mountains of earth down to the sandy depths

Were swallowed by the vortex of the sea;

Just as if Eryx and its lofty top

Were cast into the deep, yet not a speck

Should mark the watery plain; or Gaurus huge760

Split from his summit to his base, were plunged

In fathomless Avernus’ stagnant pool.

The billows thus unstemmed, ’twas Caesar’s will

To hew the stately forests and with trees

Enchained to form a rampart. Thus of old

(If fame be true) the boastful Persian king

Prepared a way across the rapid strait

‘Twixt Sestos and Abydos, and made one

The European and the Trojan shores;

And marched upon the waters, wind and storm770

Counting as nought, but trusting his emprise

To one frail bridge, so that his ships might pass

Through middle Athos. Thus a mighty mole

Of fallen forests grew upon the waves,

Free until then, and lofty turrets rose,

And land usurped the entrance to the main.

This when Pompeius saw, with anxious care

His soul was filled; yet hoping to regain

The exit lost, and win a wider world

Wherein to wage the war, on chosen ships780

He hoists the sails; these, driven by the wind

And drawn by cables fastened to their prows,

Scattered the beams asunder; and at night

Not seldom engines, worked by stalwart arms,

Flung flaming torches forth. But when the time

For secret flight was come, no sailor shout

Rang on the shore, no trumpet marked the hour,

No bugle called the armament to sea.

Already shone the Virgin in the sky

Leading the Scorpion in her course, whose claws790

Foretell the rising Sun, when noiseless all

They cast the vessels loose; no song was heard

To greet the anchor wrenched from stubborn sand;

No captain’s order, when the lofty mast

Was raised, or yards were bent; a silent crew

Drew down the sails which hung upon the ropes,

Nor shook the mighty cables, lest the wind

Should sound upon them. But the chief, in prayer,

Thus spake to Fortune: “Thou whose high decree

Has made us exiles from Italia’s shores,800

Grant us at least to leave them.” Yet the fates

Hardly permitted, for a murmur vast

Came from the ocean, as the countless keels

Furrowed the waters, and with ceaseless splash

The parted billows rose again and fell.

Then were the gates thrown wide; for with the fates

The city turned to Caesar: and the foe,

Seizing the town, rushed onward by the pier

That circled in the harbour; then they knew

With shame and sorrow that the fleet was gone810

And held the open: and Pompeius’ flight

Gave a poor triumph.

Yet was narrower far

The channel which gave access to the sea

Than that Euboean strait 62 whose waters lave

The shore by Chalcis. Here two ships stuck fast

Alone, of all the fleet; the fatal hook

Grappled their decks and drew them to the land,

And the first bloodshed of the civil war

Here left a blush upon the ocean wave.820

As when the famous ship 63 sought Phasis’ stream

The rocky gates closed in and hardly gripped

Her flying stern; then from the empty sea

The cliffs rebounding to their ancient seat

Were fixed to move no more. But now the steps

Of morn approaching tinged the eastern sky

With roseate hues: the Pleiades were dim,

The wagon of the Charioteer grew pale,

The planets faded, and the silvery star

Which ushers in the day, was lost in light.830

Then Magnus, hold’st the deep; yet not the same

Now are thy fates, as when from every sea

Thy fleet triumphant swept the pirate pest.

Tired of thy conquests, Fortune now no more

Shall smile upon thee. With thy spouse and sons,

Thy household gods, and peoples in thy train,

Still great in exile, in a distant land

Thou seek’st thy fated fall; not that the gods,

Wishing to rob thee of a Roman grave,

Decreed the strands of Egypt for thy tomb:840

’Twas Italy they spared, that far away

Fortune on shores remote might hide her crime,

And Roman soil be pure of Magnus’ blood.

29 When dragged from his hiding place in the marsh, Marius was sent by the magistrates of Minturnae to the house of a woman named Fannia, and there locked up in a dark apartment. It does not appear that he was there long. A Gallic soldier was sent to kill him; “and the eyes of Marius appeared to him to dart a strong flame, and a loud voice issued from the gloom, ‘Man, do you dare to kill Caius Marius?’” He rushed out exclaiming, “I cannot kill Caius Marius.” (Plutarch, “Marius”, 38.)

30 The Governor of Libya sent an officer to Marius, who had landed in the neighbourhood of Carthage. The officer delivered his message, and Marius replied, “Tell the Governor you have seen Caius Marius, a fugitive sitting on the ruins of Carthage,” a reply in which he not inaptly compared the fate of that city and his own changed fortune. (Plutarch, “Marius”, 40.)

31 In the “gathering of fresh fury on Libyan soil”, there appears to be an allusion to the story of Antruns, in Book IV.

32 See Ben Jonson’s “Catiline”, Act i., scene 1, speaking of the Sullan massacre.

Cethegus: Not infants in the porch of life were free.

. . . .

Catiline: ’Twas crime enough that they had lives: to strike but only those that could do hurt was dull and poor: some fell to make the number as some the prey.

33 Whenever he did not salute a man, or return his salute, this was a signal for massacre. (Plutarch, “Marius”, 49.)

34 The Marian massacre was in B.C. 87–86; the Sullan in 82–81.

35 The head of Antonius was struck off and brought to Marius at supper. He was the grandfather of the triumvir.

36 Scaevola, it would appear, was put to death after Marius the elder died, by the younger Marius. He was Pontifex Maximus, and slain by the altar of Vesta.

37 B.C. 86, Marius and Cinna were Consuls. Marius died seventeen days afterwards, in the seventieth year of his age.

38 The Battle of Sacriportus was fought between Marius the younger and the Sullan army in B.C. 82. Marius was defeated with great loss, and fled to Praeneste, a town which afterwards submitted to Sulla, who put all the inhabitants to death (line 216). At the Colline gate was fought the decisive battle between Sulla and the Saranires, who, after a furious contest, were defeated.

39 Diomedes was said to feed his horses on human flesh. (For Antaeus see Book IV., 660.) Enomaus was king of Pisa in Elis. Those who came to sue for his daughter’s hand had to compete with him in a chariot race, and if defeated were put to death.

40 The brother of the Consul.

41 So Cicero: “Our Cnaeus is wonderfully anxious for such a royalty as Sulla’s. I who tell you know it.” (“Ep. ad Att.”, ix. 7.)

42 Marcia was first married to Cato, and bore him three sons; he then yielded her to Hortensius. On his death she returned to Cato. (Plutarch, “Cato”, 25, 52.) It was in reference to this that Caesar charged him with making a traffic of his marriage; but Plutarch says “to accuse Cato of filthy lucre is like upbraiding Hercules with cowardice.” After the marriage Marcia remained at Rome while Cato hurried after Pompeius.

43 The bride was carried over the threshold of her new home, for to stumble on it would be of evil omen. Plutarch (“Romulus”) refers this custom to the rape of the Sabine women, who were “so lift up and carried away by force.” (North, volume i., p. 88, Edition by Windham.) I have read “vetuit” in this passage, though “vitat” appears to be a better variation according to the manuscripts.

44 The bride was dressed in a long white robe, bound round the waist with a girdle. She had a veil of bright yellow colour. (“Dict. Antiq.”)

45 Capua, supposed to be founded by Capys, the Trojan hero. (Virgil, “Aeneid”, x., 145.)

46 Phaethon’s sisters, who yoked the horses of the Sun to the chariot for their brother, were turned into poplars. Phaethon was flung by Jupiter into the river Po.

47 See the note to Book I., 164. In reality Caesar found little resistance, and did not ravage the country.

48 Thermus. to whom Iguvium had been entrusted by the Senate, was compelled to quit it owing to the disaffection of the inhabitants. (Merivale, chapter xiv.) Auximon in a similar way rose against Varus.

49 After Caesar’s campaign with the Nervii, Pompeius had lent him a legion. When the Parthian war broke out and the Senate required each of the two leaders to supply a legion for it, Pompeius demanded the return of the legion which he had sent to Gaul; and Caesar returned it, together with one of his own. They were, however, retained in Italy.

50 See Book VII., 695.

51 See Book I., 368.

52 That is to say, by the breaking of the bridge, the river would become a serious obstacle to Caesar.

53 See line 497.

54 This family is also alluded to by Horace (“Ars Poetica,”) as having worn a garment of ancient fashion leaving their arms bare. (See also Book VI., 945.)

55 In B.C. 77, after the death of Sulla, Carbo had been defeated by Pompeius in 81 B.C., in which occasion Pompeius had, at the early age of twenty-five, demanded and obtained his first triumph. The war with Sertorius lasted till 71 B.C., when Pompeius and Metellus triumphed in respect of his overthrow.

56 See Book I., line 369.

57 In B.C. 67, Pompeius swept the pirates off the seas. The whole campaign did not last three months.

58 From B.C. 66 to B.C. 63, Pompeius conquered Mithridates, Syria and the East, except Parthia.

59 Being (as was supposed) exactly under the Equator. Syene (the modern Assouan) is the town mentioned by the priest of Sais, who told Herodotus that “between Syene and Elephantine are two hills with conical tops. The name of one of them is Crophi, and of the other, Mophi. Midway between them are the fountains of the Nile.” (Herod., II., chapter 28.) And see “Paradise Regained,” IV., 70:—

“Syene, and where the shadow both way falls,

“Meroe, Nilotick isle; . . . ”

60 Baetis is the Guadalquivir.

61 Theseus, on returning from his successful exploit in Crete, hoisted by mistake black sails instead of white, thus spreading false intelligence of disaster.

62 It seems that the Euripus was bridged over. (Mr. Haskins’ note.)

63 The “Argo”.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 22:36