The Pharsalia of Lucan

Book v

The Oracle. The Mutiny. The Storm

Meeting of the Senate in Epirus, lines 1-72. Appius consults the Oracle at Delphi. Its history and description, 73-272. Mutiny of Caesar’s troops, 273-300. Speech of the mutineers, 300-340. His reply, 840-430, quelling the mutiny. He returns to Rome, and thence goes to Brundusium, 438-470. And crosses to Epirus, 470-531. He exhorts Antonius to join him, 531-579. He endeavours to cross over in a small boat; the storm, and the return, 580-775. His reception, 776-804. Is joined by Antonius, 804-826, Pompeius parts with Cornelia, whom he sends to Lesbos, 827-932.

Thus had the smiles of Fortune and her frowns

Brought either chief to Macedonian shores

Still equal to his foe. From cooler skies

Sank Atlas’ 123 daughters down, and Haemus’ slopes

Were white with winter, and the day drew nigh

Devoted to the god who leads the months,

And marking with new names the book of Rome,

When came the Fathers from their distant posts

By both the Consuls to Epirus called 124

Ere yet the year was dead: a foreign land10

Obscure received the magistrates of Rome,

And heard their high debate. No warlike camp

This; for the Consul’s and the Praetor’s axe

Proclaimed the Senate-house; and Magnus sat

One among many, and the state was all.

When all were silent, from his lofty seat

Thus Lentulus began, while stern and sad

The Fathers listened: “If your hearts still beat

With Latian blood, and if within your breasts

Still lives your fathers’ vigour, look not now20

On this strange land that holds us, nor enquire

Your distance from the captured city: yours

This proud assembly, yours the high command

In all that comes. Be this your first decree,

Whose truth all peoples and all kings confess;

Be this the Senate. Let the frozen wain

Demand your presence, or the torrid zone

Wherein the day and night with equal tread

For ever march; still follows in your steps

The central power of Imperial Rome.30

When flamed the Capitol with fires of Gaul

When Veii held Camillus, there with him

Was Rome, nor ever though it changed its clime

Your order lost its rights. In Caesar’s hands

Are sorrowing houses and deserted homes,

Laws silent for a space, and forums closed

In public fast. His Senate-house beholds

Those Fathers only whom from Rome it drove,

While Rome was full. Of that high order all

Not here, are exiles. 125 Ignorant of war,40

Its crimes and bloodshed, through long years of peace,

Ye fled its outburst: now in session all

Are here assembled. See ye how the gods

Weigh down Italia’s loss by all the world

Thrown in the other scale? Illyria’s wave

Rolls deep upon our foes: in Libyan wastes

Is fallen their Curio, the weightier part 126

Of Caesar’s senate! Lift your standards, then,

Spur on your fates and prove your hopes to heaven.

Let Fortune, smiling, give you courage now50

As, when ye fled, your cause. The Consuls’ power

Fails with the dying year: not so does yours;

By your commandment for the common weal

Decree Pompeius leader.” With applause

They heard his words, and placed their country’s fates,

Nor less their own, within the chieftain’s hands.

Then did they shower on people and on kings

Honours well earned — Rhodes, Mistress of the Seas,

Was decked with gifts; Athena, old in fame,

Received her praise, and the rude tribes who dwell60

On cold Taygetus; Massilia’s sons

Their own Phocaea’s freedom; on the chiefs

Of Thracian tribes, fit honours were bestowed.

They order Libya by their high decree

To serve King Juba’s sceptre; and, alas!

On Ptolemaeus, of a faithless race

The faithless sovereign, scandal to the gods,

And shame to Fortune, placed the diadem

Of Pella. Boy! thy sword was only sharp

Against thy people. Ah if that were all!70

The fatal gift gave, too, Pompeius’ life;

Bereft thy sister of her sire’s bequest, 127

Half of the kingdom; Caesar of a crime.

Then all to arms.

While soldier thus and chief,

In doubtful sort, against their hidden fate

Devised their counsel, Appius 128 alone

Feared for the chances of the war, and sought

Through Phoebus’ ancient oracle to break

The silence of the gods and know the end.80

Between the western belt and that which bounds 129

The furthest east, midway Parnassus rears

His double summit: to the Bromian god

And Paean consecrate, to whom conjoined

The Theban band leads up the Delphic feast

On each third year. This mountain, when the sea

Poured o’er the earth her billows, rose alone,

By one high peak scarce master of the waves,

Parting the crest of waters from the stars.

There, to avenge his mother, from her home90

Chased by the angered goddess while as yet

She bore him quick within her, Paean came

(When Themis ruled the tripods and the spot) 130

And with unpractised darts the Python slew.

But when he saw how from the yawning cave

A godlike knowledge breathed, and all the air

Was full of voices murmured from the depths,

He took the shrine and filled the deep recess;

Henceforth to prophesy.

Which of the gods100

Has left heaven’s light in this dark cave to hide?

What spirit that knows the secrets of the world

And things to come, here condescends to dwell,

Divine, omnipotent? bear the touch of man,

And at his bidding deigns to lift the veil?

Perchance he sings the fates, perchance his song,

Once sung, is fate. Haply some part of Jove

Sent here to rule the earth with mystic power,

Balanced upon the void immense of air,

Sounds through the caves, and in its flight returns110

To that high home of thunder whence it came.

Caught in a virgin’s breast, this deity

Strikes on the human spirit: then a voice

Sounds from her breast, as when the lofty peak

Of Etna boils, forced by compelling flames,

Or as Typheus on Campania’s shore

Frets ‘neath the pile of huge Inarime. 131

Though free to all that ask, denied to none,

No human passion lurks within the voice

That heralds forth the god; no whispered vow,120

No evil prayer prevails; none favour gain:

Of things unchangeable the song divine;

Yet loves the just. When men have left their homes

To seek another, it hath turned their steps

Aright, as with the Tyrians; 132 and raised

The hearts of nations to confront their foe,

As prove the waves of Salamis: 133 when earth

Hath been unfruitful, or polluted air

Has plagued mankind, this utterance benign

Hath raised their hopes and pointed to the end.130

No gift from heaven’s high gods so great as this

Our centuries have lost, since Delphi’s shrine

Has silent stood, and kings forbade the gods 134

To speak the future, fearing for their fates.

Nor does the priestess sorrow that the voice

Is heard no longer; and the silent fane

To her is happiness; for whatever breast

Contains the deity, its shattered frame

Surges with frenzy, and the soul divine

Shakes the frail breath that with the god receives,140

As prize or punishment, untimely death.

These tripods Appius seeks, unmoved for years

These soundless caverned rocks, in quest to learn

Hesperia’s destinies. At his command

To loose the sacred gateways and permit

The prophetess to enter to the god,

The keeper calls Phemonoe; 135 whose steps

Round the Castalian fount and in the grove

Were wandering careless; her he bids to pass

The portals. But the priestess feared to tread150

The awful threshold, and with vain deceits

Sought to dissuade the chieftain from his zeal

To learn the future. “What this hope,” she cried,

“Roman, that moves thy breast to know the fates?

Long has Parnassus and its silent cleft

Stifled the god; perhaps the breath divine

Has left its ancient gorge and thro’ the world

Wanders in devious paths; or else the fane,

Consumed to ashes by barbarian 136 fire,

Closed up the deep recess and choked the path160

Of Phoebus; or the ancient Sibyl’s books

Disclosed enough of fate, and thus the gods

Decreed to close the oracle; or else

Since wicked steps are banished from the fane,

In this our impious age the god finds none

Whom he may answer.” But the maiden’s guile

Was known, for though she would deny the gods

Her fears approved them. On her front she binds

A twisted fillet, while a shining wreath

Of Phocian laurels crowns the locks that flow170

Upon her shoulders. Hesitating yet

The priest compelled her, and she passed within.

But horror filled her of the holiest depths

From which the mystic oracle proceeds;

And resting near the doors, in breast unmoved

She dares invent the god in words confused,

Which proved no mind possessed with fire divine;

By such false chant less injuring the chief

Than faith in Phoebus and the sacred fane.

No burst of words with tremor in their tones,180

No voice reechoing through the spacious vault

Proclaimed the deity, no bristling locks

Shook off the laurel chaplet; but the grove

Unshaken, and the summits of the shrine,

Gave proof she shunned the god. The Roman knew

The tripods yet were idle, and in rage,

“Wretch,” he exclaimed, “to us and to the gods,

Whose presence thou pretendest, thou shalt pay

For this thy fraud the punishment; unless

Thou enter the recess, and speak no more,190

Of this world-war, this tumult of mankind,

Thine own inventions.” Then by fear compelled,

At length the priestess sought the furthest depths,

And stayed beside the tripods; and there came

Into her unaccustomed breast the god,

Breathed from the living rock for centuries

Untouched; nor ever with a mightier power

Did Paean’s inspiration seize the frame

Of Delphic priestess; his pervading touch

Drove out her former mind, expelled the man,200

And made her wholly his. In maddened trance

She whirls throughout the cave, her locks erect

With horror, and the fillets of the god

Dashed to the ground; her steps unguided turn

To this side and to that; the tripods fall

O’erturned; within her seethes the mighty fire

Of angry Phoebus; nor with whip alone

He urged her onwards, but with curb restrained;

Nor was it given her by the god to speak

All that she knew; for into one vast mass 137210

All time was gathered, and her panting chest

Groaned ‘neath the centuries. In order long

All things lay bare: the future yet unveiled

Struggled for light; each fate required a voice;

The compass of the seas, Creation’s birth,

Creation’s death, the number of the sands,

All these she knew. Thus on a former day

The prophetess upon the Cuman shore, 138

Disdaining that her frenzy should be slave

To other nations, from the boundless threads220

Chose out with pride of hand the fates of Rome.

E’en so Phemonoe, for a time oppressed

With fates unnumbered, laboured ere she found,

Beneath such mighty destinies concealed,

Thine, Appius, who alone had’st sought the god

In land Castalian; then from foaming lips

First rushed the madness forth, and murmurs loud

Uttered with panting breath and blent with groans;

Till through the spacious vault a voice at length

Broke from the virgin conquered by the god:230

“From this great struggle thou, O Roman, free

Escap’st the threats of war: alive, in peace,

Thou shalt possess the hollow in the coast

Of vast Euboea.” Thus she spake, no more.

Ye mystic tripods, guardians of the fates

And Paean, thou, from whom no day is hid

By heaven’s high rulers, Master of the truth,

Why fear’st thou to reveal the deaths of kings,

Rome’s murdered princes, and the latest doom

Of her great Empire tottering to its fall,240

And all the bloodshed of that western land?

Were yet the stars in doubt on Magnus’ fate

Not yet decreed, and did the gods yet shrink

From that, the greatest crime? Or wert thou dumb

That Fortune’s sword for civil strife might wreak

Just vengeance, and a Brutus’ arm once more

Strike down the tyrant?

From the temple doors

Rushed forth the prophetess in frenzy driven,

Not all her knowledge uttered; and her eyes,250

Still troubled by the god who reigned within,

Or filled with wild affright, or fired with rage

Gaze on the wide expanse: still works her face

Convulsive; on her cheeks a crimson blush

With ghastly pallor blent, though not of fear.

Her weary heart throbs ever; and as seas

Boom swollen by northern winds, she finds in sighs,

All inarticulate, relief. But while

She hastes from that dread light in which she saw

The fates, to common day, lo! on her path260

The darkness fell. Then by a Stygian draught

Of the forgetful river, Phoebus snatched

Back from her soul his secrets; and she fell

Yet hardly living.

Nor did Appius dread

Approaching death, but by dark oracles

Baffled, while yet the Empire of the world

Hung in the balance, sought his promised realm

In Chalcis of Euboea. Yet to escape

All ills of earth, the crash of war — what god270

Can give thee such a boon, but death alone?

Far on the solitary shore a grave

Awaits thee, where Carystos’ marble crags 139

Draw in the passage of the sea, and where

The fane of Rhamnus rises to the gods 140

Who hate the proud, and where the ocean strait

Boils in swift whirlpools, and Euripus draws

Deceitful in his tides, a bane to ships,

Chalcidian vessels to bleak Aulis’ shore.

But Caesar carried from the conquered west280

His eagles to another world of war;

When envying his victorious course the gods

Almost turned back the prosperous tide of fate.

Not on the battle-field borne down by arms

But in his tents, within the rampart lines,

The hoped-for prize of this unholy war

Seemed for a moment gone. That faithful host,

His comrades trusted in a hundred fields,

Or that the falchion sheathed had lost its charm;

Or weary of the mournful bugle call290

Scarce ever silent; or replete with blood,

Well nigh betrayed their general and sold

For hope of gain their honour and their cause.

No other perilous shock gave surer proof

How trembled ‘neath his feet the dizzy height

From which great Caesar looked. A moment since

His high behest drew nations to the field:

Now, maimed of all, he sees that swords once drawn

Are weapons for the soldier, not the chief.

From the stern ranks no doubtful murmur rose;300

Not silent anger as when one conspires,

His comrades doubting, feared himself in turn;

Alone (he thinks) indignant at the wrongs

Wrought by the despot. In so great a host

Dread found no place. Where thousands share the guilt

Crime goes unpunished. Thus from dauntless throats

They hurled their menace: “Caesar, give us leave

To quit thy crimes; thou seek’st by land and sea

The sword to slay us; let the fields of Gaul

And far Iberia, and the world proclaim310

How for thy victories our comrades fell.

What boots it us that by an army’s blood

The Rhine and Rhone and all the northern lands

Thou hast subdued? Thou giv’st us civil war

For all these battles; such the prize. When fled

The Senate trembling, and when Rome was ours

What homes or temples did we spoil? Our hands

Reek with offence! Aye, but our poverty

Proclaims our innocence! What end shall be

Of arms and armies? What shall be enough320

If Rome suffice not? and what lies beyond?

Behold these silvered locks, these nerveless hands

And shrunken arms, once stalwart! In thy wars

Gone is the strength of life, gone all its pride!

Dismiss thine aged soldiers to their deaths.

How shameless is our prayer! Not on hard turf

To stretch our dying limbs; nor seek in vain,

When parts the soul, a hand to close our eyes;

Not with the helmet strike the stony clod: 141

Rather to feel the dear one’s last embrace,330

And gain a humble but a separate tomb.

Let nature end old age. And dost thou think

We only know not what degree of crime

Will fetch the highest price? What thou canst dare

These years have proved, or nothing; law divine

Nor human ordinance shall hold thine hand.

Thou wert our leader on the banks of Rhine;

Henceforth our equal; for the stain of crime

Makes all men like to like. Add that we serve

A thankless chief: as fortune’s gift he takes340

The fruits of victory our arms have won.

We are his fortunes, and his fates are ours

To fashion as we will. Boast that the gods

Shall do thy bidding! Nay, thy soldiers’ will

Shall close the war.” With threatening mien and speech

Thus through the camp the troops demand their chief.

When faith and loyalty are fled, and hope

For aught but evil, thus may civil war

In mutiny and discord find its end!

What general had not feared at such revolt?350

But mighty Caesar trusting on the throw,

As was his wont, his fortune, and o’erjoyed

To front their anger raging at its height

Unflinching comes. No temples of the gods,

Not Jove’s high fane on the Tarpeian rock,

Not Rome’s high dames nor maidens had he grudged

To their most savage lust: that they should ask

The worst, his wish, and love the spoils of war.

Nor feared he aught save order at the hands

Of that unconquered host. Art thou not shamed360

That strife should please thee only, now condemned

Even by thy minions? Shall they shrink from blood,

They from the sword recoil? and thou rush on

Heedless of guilt, through right and through unright,

Nor learn that men may lay their arms aside

Yet bear to live? This civil butchery

Escapes thy grasp. Stay thou thy crimes at length;

Nor force thy will on those who will no more.

Upon a turfy mound unmoved he stood

And, since he feared not, worthy to be feared;370

And thus while anger stirred his soul began:

“Thou that with voice and hand didst rage but now

Against thine absent chief, behold me here;

Here strike thy sword into this naked breast,

To stay the war; and flee, if such thy wish.

This mutiny devoid of daring deed

Betrays your coward souls, betrays the youth

Who tires of victories which gild the arms

Of an unconquered chief, and yearns for flight.

Well, leave me then to battle and to fate!380

I cast you forth; for every weapon left,

Fortune shall find a man, to wield it well.

Shall Magnus in his flight with such a fleet

Draw nations in his train; and not to me as

My victories bring hosts, to whom shall fall

The prize of war accomplished, who shall reap

Your laurels scorned, and scathless join the train

That leads my chariot to the sacred hill?

While you, despised in age and worn in war,

Gaze on our triumph from the civic crowd.390

Think you your dastard flight shall give me pause?

If all the rivers that now seek the sea

Were to withdraw their waters, it would fail

By not one inch, no more than by their flow

It rises now. Have then your efforts given

Strength to my cause? Not so: the heavenly gods

Stoop not so low; fate has no time to judge

Your lives and deaths. The fortunes of the world

Follow heroic souls: for the fit few

The many live; and you who terrified400

With me the northern and Iberian worlds,

Would flee when led by Magnus. Strong in arms

For Caesar’s cause was Labienus; 142 now

That vile deserter, with his chief preferred,

Wanders o’er land and sea. Nor were your faith

One whit more firm to me if, neither side

Espoused, you ceased from arms. Who leaves me once,

Though not to fight against me with the foe,

Joins not my ranks again. Surely the gods

Smile on these arms who for so great a war410

Grant me fresh soldiers. From what heavy load

Fortune relieves me! for the hands which aimed

At all, to which the world did not suffice,

I now disarm, and for myself alone

Reserve the conflict. Quit ye, then, my camp,

‘Quirites’, 143 Caesar’s soldiers now no more,

And leave my standards to the grasp of men!

Yet some who led this mad revolt I hold,

Not as their captain now, but as their judge.

Lie, traitors, prone on earth, stretch out the neck420

And take th’ avenging blow. And thou whose strength

Shall now support me, young and yet untaught,

Behold the doom and learn to strike and die.”

Such were his words of ire, and all the host

Drew back and trembled at the voice of him

They would depose, as though their very swords

Would from their scabbards leap at his command

Themselves unwilling; but he only feared

Lest hand and blade to satisfy the doom

Might be denied, till they submitting pledged430

Their lives and swords alike, beyond his hope.

To strike and suffer 144 holds in surest thrall

The heart inured to guilt; and Caesar kept,

By dreadful compact ratified in blood,

Those whom he feared to lose.

He bids them march

Upon Brundusium, and recalls the ships

From soft Calabria’s inlets and the point

Of Leucas, and the Salapinian marsh,

Where sheltered Sipus nestles at the feet440

Of rich Garganus, jutting from the shore

In huge escarpment that divides the waves

Of Hadria; on each hand, his seaward slopes

Buffeted by the winds; or Auster borne

From sweet Apulia, or the sterner blast

Of Boreas rushing from Dalmatian strands.

But Caesar entered trembling Rome unarmed,

Now taught to serve him in the garb of peace.

Dictator named, to grant their prayers, forsooth:

Consul, in honour of the roll of Rome.450

Then first of all the names by which we now

Lie to our masters, men found out the use:

For to preserve his right to wield the sword

He mixed the civil axes with his brands;

With eagles, fasces; with an empty word

Clothing his power; and stamped upon the time

A worthy designation; for what name

Could better mark the dread Pharsalian year

Than “Caesar, Consul”? 145 Now the famous field

Pretends its ancient ceremonies: calls460

The tribes in order and divides the votes

In vain solemnity of empty urns.

Nor do they heed the portents of the sky:

Deaf were the augurs to the thunder roll;

The owl flew on the left; yet were the birds

Propitious sworn. Then was the ancient name

Degraded first; and monthly Consuls, 146

Shorn of their rank, are chosen to mark the years.

And Trojan Alba’s 147 god (since Latium’s fall

Deserving not) beheld the wonted fires470

Blaze from his altars on the festal night.

Then through Apulia’s fallows, that her hinds

Left all untilled, to sluggish weeds a prey

Passed Caesar onward, swifter than the fire

Of heaven, or tigress dam: until he reached

Brundusium’s winding ramparts, built of old

By Cretan colonists. There icy winds

Constrained the billows, and his trembling fleet

Feared for the winter storms nor dared the main.

But Caesar’s soul burned at the moments lost480

For speedy battle, nor could brook delay

Within the port, indignant that the sea

Should give safe passage to his routed foe:

And thus he stirred his troops, in seas unskilled,

With words of courage: “When the winter wind

Has seized on sky and ocean, firm its hold;

But the inconstancy of cloudy spring

Permits no certain breezes to prevail

Upon the billows. Straight shall be our course.

No winding nooks of coast, but open seas490

Struck by the northern wind alone we plough,

And may he bend the spars, and bear us swift

To Grecian cities; else Pompeius’ oars,

Smiting the billows from Phaeacian 148 coasts,

May catch our flagging sails. Cast loose the ropes

From our victorious prows. Too long we waste

Tempests that blow to bear us to our goal.”

Now sank the sun to rest; the evening star

Shone on the darkening heaven, and the moon

Reigned with her paler light, when all the fleet500

Freed from retaining cables seized the main.

With slackened sheet the canvas wooed the breeze,

Which rose and fell and fitful died away,

Till motionless the sails, and all the waves

Were still as deepest pool, where never wind

Ripples the surface. Thus in Scythian climes

Cimmerian Bosphorus restrains the deep

Bound fast in frosty fetters; Ister’s streams 149

No more impel the main, and ships constrained

Stand fast in ice; and while in depths below510

The waves still murmur, loud the charger’s hoof

Sounds on the surface, and the travelling wheel

Furrows a track upon the frozen marsh.

Cruel as tempest was the calm that lay

In stagnant pools upon the mournful deep:

Against the course of nature lay outstretched

A rigid ocean: ’twas as if the sea

Forgat its ancient ways and knew no more

The ceaseless tides, nor any breeze of heaven,

Nor quivered at the image of the sun,520

Mirrored upon its wave. For while the fleet

Hung in mid passage motionless, the foe

Might hurry to attack, with sturdy stroke

Churning the deep; or famine’s deadly grip

Might seize the ships becalmed. For dangers new

New vows they find. “May mighty winds arise

And rouse the ocean, and this sluggish plain

Cast off stagnation and be sea once more.”

Thus did they pray, but cloudless shone the sky,

Unrippled slept the surface of the main;530

Until in misty clouds the moon arose

And stirred the depths, and moved the fleet along

Towards the Ceraunian headland; and the waves

And favouring breezes followed on the ships,

Now speeding faster, till (their goal attained)

They cast their anchors on Palaeste’s 150 shore.

This land first saw the chiefs in neighbouring camps

Confronted, which the streams of Apsus bound

And swifter Genusus; a lengthy course

Is run by neither, but on Apsus’ waves540

Scarce flowing from a marsh, the frequent boat

Finds room to swim; while on the foamy bed

Of Genusus by sun or shower compelled

The melted snows pour seawards. Here were met

(So Fortune ordered it) the mighty pair;

And in its woes the world yet vainly hoped

That brought to nearer touch their crime itself

Might bleed abhorrence: for from either camp

Voices were clearly heard and features seen.

Nor e’er, Pompeius, since that distant day550

When Caesar’s daughter and thy spouse was reft

By pitiless fate away, nor left a pledge,

Did thy loved kinsman (save on sands of Nile)

So nearly look upon thy face again.

But Caesar’s mind though frenzied for the fight

Was forced to pause until Antonius brought

The rearward troops; Antonius even now

Rehearsing Leucas’ fight. With prayers and threats

Caesar exhorts him. “Why delay the fates,

Thou cause of evil to the suffering world?560

My speed hath won the major part: from thee

Fortune demands the final stroke alone.

Do Libyan whirlpools with deceitful tides

Uncertain separate us? Is the deep

Untried to which I call? To unknown risks

Art thou commanded? Caesar bids thee come,

Thou sluggard, not to leave him. Long ago

I ran my ships midway through sands and shoals

To harbours held by foes; and dost thou fear

My friendly camp? I mourn the waste of days570

Which fate allotted us. Upon the waves

And winds I call unceasing: hold not back

Thy willing troops, but let them dare the sea;

Here gladly shall they come to join my camp,

Though risking shipwreck. Not in equal shares

The world has fallen between us: thou alone

Dost hold Italia, but Epirus I

And all the lords of Rome.” Twice called and thrice

Antonius lingered still: but Caesar thought

To reap in full the favour of the gods,580

Not sit supine; and knowing danger yields

To whom heaven favours, he upon the waves

Feared by Antonius’ fleets, in shallow boat

Embarked, and daring sought the further shore.

Now gentle night had brought repose from arms;

And sleep, blest guardian of the poor man’s couch,

Restored the weary; and the camp was still.

The hour was come that called the second watch

When mighty Caesar, in the silence vast

With cautious tread advanced to such a deed 151590

As slaves should dare not. Fortune for his guide,

Alone he passes on, and o’er the guard

Stretched in repose he leaps, in secret wrath

At such a sleep. Pacing the winding beach,

Fast to a sea-worn rock he finds a boat

On ocean’s marge afloat. Hard by on shore

Its master dwelt within his humble home.

No solid front it reared, for sterile rush

And marshy reed enwoven formed the walls,

Propped by a shallop with its bending sides600

Turned upwards. Caesar’s hand upon the door

Knocks twice and thrice until the fabric shook.

Amyclas from his couch of soft seaweed

Arising, calls: “What shipwrecked sailor seeks

My humble home? Who hopes for aid from me,

By fates adverse compelled?” He stirs the heap

Upon the hearth, until a tiny spark

Glows in the darkness, and throws wide the door.

Careless of war, he knew that civil strife

Stoops not to cottages. Oh! happy life610

That poverty affords! great gift of heaven

Too little understood! what mansion wall,

What temple of the gods, would feel no fear

When Caesar called for entrance? Then the chief:

“Enlarge thine hopes and look for better things.

Do but my bidding, and on yonder shore

Place me, and thou shalt cease from one poor boat

To earn thy living; and in years to come

Look for a rich old age: and trust thy fates

To those high gods whose wont it is to bless620

The poor with sudden plenty.” So he spake

E’en at such time in accents of command,

For how could Caesar else? Amyclas said,

“’Twere dangerous to brave the deep to-night.

The sun descended not in ruddy clouds

Or peaceful rays to rest; part of his beams

Presaged a southern gale, the rest proclaimed

A northern tempest; and his middle orb,

Shorn of its strength, permitted human eyes

To gaze upon his grandeur; and the moon630

Rose not with silver horns upon the night

Nor pure in middle space; her slender points

Not drawn aright, but blushing with the track

Of raging tempests, till her lurid light

Was sadly veiled within the clouds. Again

The forest sounds; the surf upon the shore;

The dolphin’s mood, uncertain where to play;

The sea-mew on the land; the heron used

To wade among the shallows, borne aloft

And soaring on his wings — all these alarm;640

The raven, too, who plunged his head in spray,

As if to anticipate the coming rain,

And trod the margin with unsteady gait.

But if the cause demands, behold me thine.

Either we reach the bidden shore, or else

Storm and the deep forbid — we can no more.”

Thus said he loosed the boat and raised the sail.

No sooner done than stars were seen to fall

In flaming furrows from the sky: nay, more;

The pole star trembled in its place on high:650

Black horror marked the surging of the sea;

The main was boiling in long tracts of foam,

Uncertain of the wind, yet seized with storm.

Then spake the captain of the trembling bark:

“See what remorseless ocean has in store!

Whether from east or west the storm may come

Is still uncertain, for as yet confused

The billows tumble. Judged by clouds and sky

A western tempest: by the murmuring deep

A wild south-eastern gale shall sweep the sea.660

Nor bark nor man shall reach Hesperia’s shore

In this wild rage of waters. To return

Back on our course forbidden by the gods,

Is our one refuge, and with labouring boat

To reach the shore ere yet the nearest land

Way be too distant.”

But great Caesar’s trust

Was in himself, to make all dangers yield.

And thus he answered: “Scorn the threatening sea,

Spread out thy canvas to the raging wind;670

If for thy pilot thou refusest heaven,

Me in its stead receive. Alone in thee

One cause of terror just — thou dost not know

Thy comrade, ne’er deserted by the gods,

Whom fortune blesses e’en without a prayer.

Break through the middle storm and trust in me.

The burden of this fight fails not on us

But on the sky and ocean; and our bark

Shall swim the billows safe in him it bears.

Nor shall the wind rage long: the boat itself680

Shall calm the waters. Flee the nearest shore,

Steer for the ocean with unswerving hand:

Then in the deep, when to our ship and us

No other port is given, believe thou hast

Calabria’s harbours. And dost thou not know

The purpose of such havoc? Fortune seeks

In all this tumult of the sea and sky

A boon for Caesar.” Then a hurricane

Swooped on the boat and tore away the sheet:

The fluttering sail fell on the fragile mast:690

And groaned the joints. From all the universe

Commingled perils rush. In Atlas’ seas

First Corus 152 lifts his head, and stirs the depths

To fury, and had forced upon the rocks

Whole seas and oceans; but the chilly north

Drove back the deep that doubted which was lord.

But Scythian Aquilo prevailed, whose blast

Tossed up the main and showed as shallow pools

Each deep abyss; and yet was not the sea

Heaped on the crags, for Corus’ billows met700

The waves of Boreas: such seas had clashed

Even were the winds withdrawn; Eurus enraged

Burst from the cave, and Notus black with rain,

And all the winds from every part of heaven

Strove for their own; and thus the ocean stayed

Within his boundaries. No petty seas

Rapt in the storm are whirled. The Tuscan deep

Invades th’ Aegean; in Ionian gulfs

Sounds wandering Hadria. How long the crags

Which that day fell, the Ocean’s blows had braved!710

What lofty peaks did vanquished earth resign!

And yet on yonder coast such mighty waves

Took not their rise; from distant regions came

Those monster billows, driven on their course

By that great current which surrounds the world. 153

Thus did the King of Heaven, when length of years

Wore out the forces of his thunder, call

His brother’s trident to his help, what time

The earth and sea one second kingdom formed

And ocean knew no limit but the sky.720

Now, too, the sea had risen to the stars

In mighty mass, had not Olympus’ chief

Pressed down its waves with clouds: came not from heaven

That night, as others; but the murky air

Was dim with pallor of the realms below; 154

The sky lay on the deep; within the clouds

The waves received the rain: the lightning flash

Clove through the parted air a path obscured

By mist and darkness: and the heavenly vaults

Re-echoed to the tumult, and the frame730

That holds the sky was shaken. Nature feared

Chaos returned, as though the elements

Had burst their bonds, and night had come to mix

Th’ infernal shades with heaven.

In such turmoil

Not to have perished was their only hope.

Far as from Leucas point the placid main

Spreads to the horizon, from the billow’s crest

They viewed the dashing of th’ infuriate sea;

Thence sinking to the middle trough, their mast740

Scarce topped the watery height on either hand,

Their sails in clouds, their keel upon the ground.

For all the sea was piled into the waves,

And drawn from depths between laid bare the sand.

The master of the boat forgot his art,

For fear o’ercame; he knew not where to yield

Or where to meet the wave: but safety came

From ocean’s self at war: one billow forced

The vessel under, but a huger wave

Repelled it upwards, and she rode the storm750

Through every blast triumphant. Not the shore

Of humble Sason 155, nor Thessalia’s coast

Indented, not Ambracia’s scanty ports

Dismay the sailors, but the giddy tops

Of high Ceraunia’s cliffs.

But Caesar now,

Thinking the peril worthy of his fates:

“Are such the labours of the gods?” exclaimed,

“Bent on my downfall have they sought me thus,

Here in this puny skiff in such a sea?760

If to the deep the glory of my fall

Is due, and not to war, intrepid still

Whatever death they send shall strike me down.

Let fate cut short the deeds that I would do

And hasten on the end: the past is mine.

The northern nations fell beneath my sword;

My dreaded name compels the foe to flee.

Pompeius yields me place; the people’s voice

Gave at my order what the wars denied.

And all the titles which denote the powers770

Known to the Roman state my name shall bear.

Let none know this but thou who hear’st my prayers,

Fortune, that Caesar summoned to the shades,

Dictator, Consul, full of honours, died

Ere his last prize was won. I ask no pomp

Of pyre or funeral; let my body lie

Mangled beneath the waves: I leave a name

That men shall dread in ages yet to come

And all the earth shall honour.” Thus he spake,

When lo! a tenth gigantic billow raised780

The feeble keel, and where between the rocks

A cleft gave safety, placed it on the shore.

Thus in a moment fortune, kingdoms, lands,

Once more were Caesar’s.

But on his return

When daylight came, he entered not the camp

Silent as when he parted; for his friends

Soon pressed around him, and with weeping eyes

In accents welcome to his ears began:

“Whither in reckless daring hast thou gone,790

Unpitying Caesar? Were these humble lives

Left here unguarded while thy limbs were given,

Unsought for, to be scattered by the storm?

When on thy breath so many nations hang

For life and safety, and so great a world

Calls thee its master, to have courted death

Proves want of heart. Was none of all thy friends

Deserving held to join his fate with thine?

When thou wast tossed upon the raging deep

We lay in slumber! Shame upon such sleep!800

And why thyself didst seek Italia’s shores?

’Twere cruel (such thy thought) to speak the word

That bade another dare the furious sea.

All men must bear what chance or fate may bring,

The sudden peril and the stroke of death;

But shall the ruler of the world attempt

The raging ocean? With incessant prayers

Why weary heaven? is it indeed enough

To crown the war, that Fortune and the deep

Have cast thee on our shores? And would’st thou use810

The grace of favouring deities, to gain

Not lordship, not the empire of the world,

But lucky shipwreck!” Night dispersed, and soon

The sun beamed on them, and the wearied deep,

The winds permitting, lulled its waves to rest.

And when Antonius saw a breeze arise

Fresh from a cloudless heaven, to break the sea,

He loosed his ships which, by the pilots’ hands

And by the wind in equal order held,

Swept as a marching host across the main.820

But night unfriendly from the seamen snatched

All governance of sail, parting the ships

In divers paths asunder. Like as cranes

Deserting frozen Strymon for the streams

Of Nile, when winter falls, in casual lines

Of wedge-like figures 156 first ascend the sky;

But when in loftier heaven the southern breeze

Strikes on their pinions tense, in loose array

Dispersed at large, in flight irregular,

They wing their journey onwards. Stronger winds830

With day returning blew the navy on,

Past Lissus’ shelter which they vainly sought,

Till bare to northern blasts, Nymphaeum’s port,

But safe in southern, gave the fleet repose,

For favouring winds came on.

When Magnus knew

That Caesar’s troops were gathered in their strength

And that the war for quick decision called

Before his camp, Cornelia he resolved

To send to Lesbos’ shore, from rage of fight840

Safe and apart: so lifting from his soul

The weight that burdened it. Thus, lawful Love.

Thus art thou tyrant o’er the mightiest mind!

His spouse was the one cause why Magnus stayed

Nor met his fortunes, though he staked the world

And all the destinies of Rome. The word

He speaks not though resolved; so sweet it seemed,

When on the future pondering, to gain

A pause from Fate! But at the close of night,

When drowsy sleep had fled, Cornelia sought850

To soothe the anxious bosom of her lord

And win his kisses. Then amazed she saw

His cheek was tearful, and with boding soul

She shrank instinctive from the hidden wound,

Nor dared to rouse him weeping. But he spake:

“Dearer to me than life itself, when life

Is happy (not at moments such as these);

The day of sorrow comes, too long delayed,

Nor long enough! With Caesar at our gates

With all his forces, a secure retreat860

Shall Lesbos give thee. Try me not with prayers.

This fatal boon I have denied myself.

Thou wilt not long be absent from thy lord.

Disasters hasten, and things highest fall

With speediest ruin. ’Tis enough for thee

To hear of Magnus’ peril; and thy love 157

Deceives thee with the thought that thou canst gaze

Unmoved on civil strife. It shames my soul

On the eve of war to slumber at thy side,

And rise from thy dear breast when trumpets call870

A woeful world to misery and arms.

I fear in civil war to feel no loss

To Magnus. Meantime safer than a king

Lie hid, nor let the fortune of thy lord

Whelm thee with all its weight. If unkind heaven

Our armies rout, still let my choicest part

Survive in thee; if fated is my flight,

Still leave me that whereto I fain would flee.”

Hardly at first her senses grasped the words

In their full misery; then her mind amazed880

Could scarce find utterance for the grief that pressed.

“Nought, Magnus, now is left wherewith to upbraid

The gods and fates of marriage; ’tis not death

That parts our love, nor yet the funeral pyre,

Nor that dread torch which marks the end of all.

I share the ignoble lot of vulgar lives:

My spouse rejects me. Yes, the foe is come!

Break we our bonds and Julia’s sire appease! —

Is this thy consort, Magnus, this thy faith

In her fond loving heart? Can danger fright890

Her and not thee? Long since our mutual fates

Hang by one chain; and dost thou bid me now

The thunder-bolts of ruin to withstand

Without thee? Is it well that I should die

Even while you pray for fortune? And suppose

I flee from evil and with death self-sought

Follow thy footsteps to the realms below —

Am I to live till to that distant isle

Some tardy rumour of thy fall may come?

Add that thou fain by use would’st give me strength900

To bear such sorrow and my doom. Forgive

Thy wife confessing that she fears the power.

And if my prayers shall bring the victory,

The joyful tale shall come to me the last

In that lone isle of rocks. When all are glad,

My heart shall throb with anguish, and the sail

Which brings the message I shall see with fear,

Not safe e’en then: for Caesar in his flight

Might seize me there, abandoned and alone

To be his hostage. If thou place me there,910

The spouse of Magnus, shall not all the world

Well know the secret Mitylene holds?

This my last prayer: if all is lost but flight,

And thou shalt seek the ocean, to my shores

Turn not thy keel, ill-fated one: for there,

There will they seek thee.” Thus she spoke distraught,

Leaped from the couch and rushed upon her fate;

No stop nor stay: she clung not to his neck

Nor threw her arms about him; both forego

The last caress, the last fond pledge of love,920

And grief rushed in unchecked upon their souls;

Still gazing as they part no final words

Could either utter, and the sweet Farewell

Remained unspoken. This the saddest day

Of all their lives: for other woes that came

More gently struck on hearts inured to grief.

Borne to the shore with failing limbs she fell

And grasped the sands, embracing, till at last

Her maidens placed her senseless in the ship.

Not in such grief she left her country’s shores930

When Caesar’s host drew near; for now she leaves,

Though faithful to her lord, his side in flight

And flees her spouse. All that next night she waked;

Then first what means a widowed couch she knew,

Its cold, its solitude. When slumber found

Her eyelids, and forgetfulness her soul,

Seeking with outstretched arms the form beloved,

She grasps but air. Though tossed by restless love,

She leaves a place beside her as for him

Returning. Yet she feared Pompeius lost940

To her for ever. But the gods ordained

Worse than her fears, and in the hour of woe

Gave her to look upon his face again.

123 The Pleiades, said to be daughters of Atlas.

124 These were the Consuls for the expiring year, B.C. 49 — Caius Marcellus and L. Lentulus Crus.

125 That is to say, Caesar’s Senate at Rome could boast of those Senators only whom it had, before Pompeius’ flight, declared public enemies. But they were to be regarded as exiles, having lost their rights, rather than the Senators in Epirus, who were in full possession of theirs.

126 Dean Merivale says that probably Caesar’s Senate was not less numerous than his rival’s. Duruy says there were senators in Pompeius’ camp, out of a total of between 500 and 600. Mommsen says, “they were veritably emigrants. This Roman Coblentz presented a pitiful spectacle of the high pretensions and paltry performances of the grandees of Rome.” (Vol. iv., p. 397.) Almost all the Consulars were with Pompeius.

127 By the will of Ptolemy Auletes, Cleopatra had been appointed joint sovereign of Egypt with her young brother. Lucan means that Caesar would have killed Pompeius if young Ptolemy had not done so. She lost her hare of the kingdom, and Caesar was clear of the crime.

128 Appius was Proconsul, and in command of Achaia, for the Senate.

129 See Book IV., 82.

130 Themis, the goddess of law, was in possession of the Delphic oracle, previous to Apollo. (Aesch., “Eumenides”, line 2.)

131 The modern isle of Ischia, off the Bay of Naples.

132 The Tyrians consulted the oracle in consequence of the earthquakes which vexed their country (Book III., line 225), and were told to found colonies.

133 See Herodotus, Book VII., 140–143. The reference is to the answer given by the oracle to the Athenians that their wooden walls would keep them safe; which Themistocles interpreted as meaning their fleet.

134 Cicero, on the contrary, suggests that the reason why the oracles ceased was this, that men became less credulous. (“De Div.”, ii., 57) Lecky, “History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne”, vol. i., p. 368.

135 This name is one of those given to the Cumaean Sibyl mentioned at line 210. She was said to have been the daughter of Apollo.

136 Probably by the Gauls under Brennus, B.C. 279.

137 These lines form the Latin motto prefixed to Shelley’s poem, “The Demon of the World”.

138 Referring to the visit of Aeneas to the Sibyl. (Virgil, “Aeneid”, vi., 70, &c.)

139 Appius was seized with fever as soon as he reached the spot; and there he died and was buried, thus fulfilling the oracle.

140 That is, Nemesis.

141 Reading “galeam”, with Francken; not “glebam”.

142 Labienus left Caesar’s ranks after the Rubicon was crossed, and joined his rival. In his mouth Lucan puts the speech made at the oracle of Hammon in Book IX. He was slain at Munda, B.C. 45.

143 That is, civilians; no longer soldiers. This one contemptuous expression is said to have shocked and abashed the army. (Tacitus, “Annals”, I., 42.)

144 Reading “tenet”, with Hosius and Francken; not “timet”, as Haskins. The prospect of inflicting punishment attracted, while the suffering of it subdued, the mutineers.

145 Caesar was named Dictator while at Massilia. Entering Rome, he held the office for eleven days only, but was elected Consul for the incoming year, B.C. 48, along with Servilius Isauricus. (Caesar, “De Bello Civili”, iii., 1; Merivale, chapter xvi.)

146 In the time of the Empire, the degraded Consulship, preserved only as a name, was frequently transferred monthly, or even shorter, intervals from one favourite to another.

147 Caesar performed the solemn rites of the great Latin festival on the Alban Mount during his Dictatorship. (Compare Book VII., line 471.)

148 Dyrrhachium was founded by the Corcyreams, with whom the Homeric Phaeacians have been identified.

149 Apparently making the Danube discharge into the Sea of Azov. See Mr. Heitland’s Introduction, p. 53.

150 At the foot of the Acroceraunian range.

151 Caesar himself says nothing of this adventure. But it is mentioned by Dion, Appian and Plutarch (“Caesar”, 38). Dean Merivale thinks the story may have been invented to introduce the apophthegm used by Caesar to the sailor, “Fear nothing: you carry Caesar and his fortunes” (lines 662–665). Mommsen accepts the story, as of an attempt which was only abandoned because no mariner could be induced to undertake it. Lucan colours it with his wildest and most exaggerated hyperbole.

152 See Book I., 463.

153 The ocean current, which, according to Hecataeus, surrounded the world. But Herodotus of this theory says, “For my part I know of no river called Ocean, and I think that Homer or one of the earlier poets invented the name and introduced it into his poetry.” (Book II., 23, and Book IV., 36.) In “Oceanus” Aeschylus seems to have intended to personify the great surrounding stream. (“Prom. Vinc.”, lines 291, 308.)

154 Comp. VI., 615.

155 Sason is a small island just off the Ceraunian rocks, the point of which is now called Cape Linguetta, and is nearly opposite to Brindisi.

156 Compare “Paradise Lost”, VII., 425.

157 Reading “Teque tuus decepit amor”, as preferred by Hosius.

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