The Pharsalia of Lucan

Book ix


Apotheosis of Pompeius, lines 1-26. Cato collects the defeated forces and retreats to Africa, 26-64, and is joined by Cornelia, 61-140. Meeting of Pompeius’ sons, and lamentations of Cornelia and the army, 141-224. Cato’s panegyric of him, 223-263. The Cilicians wish to desert, but are recalled by Cato’s words, 264-354. Cato prepares to join Juba; the Syrtes described, 356-380. The storm, 381-407. The lake of Tritonis, 408-430. Commencement of the march; Cato’s address, 431-482. Libya described, 483-620. A storm of wind bursts on the army, 521-592. The temple of Hammon; Labienus urges Pompeius to consult the oracle, and he refuses, 693-607. The march, 680-725. Origin of serpents in Libya; fable of Medusa, 726-820. Catalogue of serpents, 821-861. Deaths caused by their various bites, 862-981. Complaints of the army, 982-1044. The Psylli come to their aid, 1045-1101. They arrive at Leptis, 1102-1116. Caesar pursues Pompeius. He visits the Troad, 1117-1183, and proceeds to Egypt, 1184-1196. Pompeius’ head is presented to him, 1197-1224. Caesar’s reception of the gift, 1225-1264, and his speech, 1265-1319.

Yet in those ashes on the Pharian shore,

In that small heap of dust, was not confined

So great a shade; but from the limbs half burnt

And narrow cell sprang forth 260 and sought the sky

Where dwells the Thunderer. Black the space of air

Upreaching to the poles that bear on high

The constellations in their nightly round;

There ‘twixt the orbit of the moon and earth

Abide those lofty spirits, half divine,

Who by their blameless lives and fire of soul10

Are fit to tolerate the pure expanse

That bounds the lower ether: there shall dwell,

Where nor the monument encased in gold,

Nor richest incense, shall suffice to bring

The buried dead, in union with the spheres,

Pompeius’ spirit. When with heavenly light

His soul was filled, first on the wandering stars

And fixed orbs he bent his wondering gaze;

Then saw what darkness veils our earthly day

And scorned the insults heaped upon his corse.20

Next o’er Emathian plains he winged his flight,

And ruthless Caesar’s standards, and the fleet

Tossed on the deep: in Brutus’ blameless breast

Tarried awhile, and roused his angered soul

To reap the vengeance; last possessed the mind

Of haughty Cato.

He while yet the scales

Were poised and balanced, nor the war had given

The world its master, hating both the chiefs,

Had followed Magnus for the Senate’s cause30

And for his country: since Pharsalia’s field

Ran red with carnage, now was all his heart

Bound to Pompeius. Rome in him received

Her guardian; a people’s trembling limbs

He cherished with new hope and weapons gave

Back to the craven hands that cast them forth.

Nor yet for empire did he wage the war

Nor fearing slavery: nor in arms achieved

Aught for himself: freedom, since Magnus fell,

The aim of all his host. And lest the foe40

In rapid course triumphant should collect

His scattered bands, he sought Corcyra’s gulfs

Concealed, and thence in ships unnumbered bore

The fragments of the ruin wrought in Thrace.

Who in such mighty armament had thought

A routed army sailed upon the main

Thronging the sea with keels? Round Malea’s cape

And Taenarus open to the shades below

And fair Cythera’s isle, th’ advancing fleet

Sweeps o’er the yielding wave, by northern breeze50

Borne past the Cretan shores. But Phycus dared

Refuse her harbour, and th’ avenging hand

Left her in ruins. Thus with gentle airs

They glide along the main and reach the shore

From Palinurus 261 named; for not alone

On seas Italian, Pilot of the deep,

Hast thou thy monument; and Libya too

Claims that her waters pleased thy soul of yore.

Then in the distance on the main arose

The shining canvas of a stranger fleet,60

Or friend or foe they knew not. Yet they dread

In every keel the presence of that chief

Their fear-compelling conqueror. But in truth

That navy tears and sorrow bore, and woes

To make e’en Cato weep.

For when in vain

Cornelia prayed her stepson and the crew

To stay their flight, lest haply from the shore

Back to the sea might float the headless corse;

And when the flame arising marked the place70

Of that unhallowed rite, “Fortune, didst thou

Judge me unfit,” she cried, “to light the pyre

To cast myself upon the hero dead,

The lock to sever, and compose the limbs

Tossed by the cruel billows of the deep,

To shed a flood of tears upon his wounds,

And from the flickering flame to bear away

And place within the temples of the gods

All that I could, his dust? That pyre bestows

No honour, haply by some Pharian hand80

Piled up in insult to his mighty shade.

Happy the Crassi lying on the waste

Unburied. To the greater shame of heaven

Pompeius has such funeral. And shall this

For ever be my lot? her husbands slain

Cornelia ne’er enclose within the tomb,

Nor shed the tear beside the urn that holds

The ashes of the loved? Yet for my grief

What boots or monument or ordered pomp?

Dost thou not, impious, upon thy heart90

Pompeius’ image, and upon thy soul

Bear ineffaceable? Dust closed in urns

Is for the wife who would survive her lord

Not such as thee, Cornelia! And yet

Yon scanty light that glimmers from afar

Upon the Pharian shore, somewhat of thee

Recalls, Pompeius! Now the flame sinks down

And smoke drifts up across the eastern sky

Bearing thine ashes, and the rising wind

Sighs hateful in the sail. To me no more100

Dearer than this whatever land may yield

Pompeius’ victory, nor the frequent car

That carried him in triumph to the hill;

Gone is that happy husband from my thoughts;

Here did I lose the hero whom I knew;

Here let me stay; his presence shall endear

The sands of Nile where fell the fatal blow.

Thou, Sextus, brave the chances of the war

And bear Pompeius’ standard through the world.

For thus thy father spake within mine ear:110

‘When sounds my fatal hour let both my sons

Urge on the war; nor let some Caesar find

Room for an empire, while shall live on earth

Still one in whom Pompeius’ blood shall run.

This your appointed task; all cities strong

In freedom of their own, all kingdoms urge

To join the combat; for Pompeius calls.

Nor shall a chieftain of that famous name

Ride on the seas and fail to find a fleet.

Urged by his sire’s unconquerable will120

And mindful of his rights, mine heir shall rouse

All nations to the conflict. One alone,

(Should he contend for freedom) may ye serve;

Cato, none else!’ Thus have I kept the faith;

Thy plot 262 prevailed upon me, and I lived

Thy mandate to discharge. Now through the void

Of space, and shades of Hell, if such there be,

I follow; yet how distant be my doom

I know not: first my spirit must endure

The punishment of life, which saw thine end130

And could survive it; sighs shall break my heart,

Tears shall dissolve it: sword nor noose I need

Nor headlong plunge. ’Twere shameful since thy death,

Were aught but grief required to cause my own.”

She seeks the cabin, veiled, in funeral garb,

In tears to find her solace, and to love

Grief in her husband’s room; no prayers were hers

For life, as were the sailors’; nor their shout

Roused by the height of peril, moved her soul,

Nor angered waves: but sorrowing there she lay,140

Resigned to death and welcoming the storm.

First reached they Cyprus on the foamy brine;

Then as the eastern breeze more gently held

The favouring deep, they touched the Libyan shore

Where stood the camp of Cato. Sad as one

Who deep in fear presages ills to come,

Cnaeus beheld his brother and his band

Of patriot comrades. Swift into the wave

He leaps and cries, “Where, brother, is our sire?

Still stands our country mistress of the world,150

Or are we fallen, Rome with Magnus’ death

Rapt to the shades?” Thus he: but Sextus said

“Oh happy thou who by report alone

Hear’st of the deed that chanced on yonder shore!

These eyes that saw, my brother, share the guilt.

Not Caesar wrought the murder of our sire,

Nor any captain worthy in the fray.

He fell beneath the orders of a king

Shameful and base, while trusting to the gods

Who shield the guest; a king who in that land160

By his concession ruled: (this the reward

For favours erst bestowed). Within my sight

Pierced through with wounds our noble father fell:

Yet deeming not the petty prince of Nile

So fell a deed would dare, to Egypt’s strand

I thought great Caesar come. But worse than all,

Worse than the wounds which gaped upon his frame

Struck me with horror to the inmost heart,

Our murdered father’s head, shorn from the trunk

And borne aloft on javelin; this sight,170

As rumour said, the cruel victor asked

To feast his eyes, and prove the bloody deed.

For whether ravenous birds and Pharian dogs

Have torn his corse asunder, or a fire

Consumed it, which with stealthy flame arose

Upon the shore, I know not. For the parts

Devoured by destiny I only blame

The gods: I weep the part preserved by men.”

Thus Sextus spake: and Cnaeus at the words

Flamed into fury for his father’s shame.180

“Sailors, launch forth our navies, by your oars

Forced through the deep though wind and sea oppose:

Captains, lead on: for civil strife ne’er gave

So great a prize; to lay in earth the limbs

Of Magnus, and avenge him with the blood

Of that unmanly tyrant. Shall I spare

Great Alexander’s fort, nor sack the shrine

And plunge his body in the tideless marsh?

Nor drag Amasis from the Pyramids,

And all their ancient Kings, to swim the Nile?190

Torn from his tomb, that god of all mankind

Isis, unburied, shall avenge thy shade;

And veiled Osiris shall I hurl abroad

In mutilated fragments; and the form

Of sacred Apis; 263 and with these their gods

Shall light a furnace, that shall burn the head

They held in insult. Thus their land shall pay

The fullest penalty for the shameful deed.

No husbandman shall live to till the fields

Nor reap the benefit of brimming Nile.200

Thou only, Father, gods and men alike

Fallen and perished, shalt possess the land.”

Such were the words he spake; and soon the fleet

Had dared the angry deep: but Cato’s voice

While praising, calmed the youthful chieftain’s rage.

Meanwhile, when Magnus’ fate was known, the air

Sounded with lamentations which the shore

Re-echoed; never through the ages past,

By history recorded, was it known

That thus a people mourned their ruler’s death.210

Yet more when worn with tears, her pallid cheek

Veiled by her loosened tresses, from the ship

Cornelia came, they wept and beat the breast.

The friendly land once gained, her husband’s garb,

His arms and spoils, embroidered deep in gold,

Thrice worn of old upon the sacred hill 264

She placed upon the flame. Such were for her

The ashes of her spouse: and such the love

Which glowed in every heart, that soon the shore

Blazed with his obsequies. Thus at winter-tide220

By frequent fires th’ Apulian herdsman seeks

To render to the fields their verdant growth;

Till blaze Garganus’ uplands and the meads

Of Vultur, and the pasture of the herds

By warm Matinum.

Yet Pompeius’ shade

Nought else so gratified, not all the blame

The people dared to heap upon the gods,

For him their hero slain, as these few words

From Cato’s noble breast instinct with truth:230

“Gone is a citizen who though no peer 265

Of those who disciplined the state of yore

In due submission to the bounds of right,

Yet in this age irreverent of law

Has played a noble part. Great was his power,

But freedom safe: when all the plebs was prone

To be his slaves, he chose the private gown;

So that the Senate ruled the Roman state,

The Senate’s ruler: nought by right of arms

He e’er demanded: willing took he gifts240

Yet from a willing giver: wealth was his

Vast, yet the coffers of the State he filled

Beyond his own. He seized upon the sword,

Knew when to sheath it; war did he prefer

To arts of peace, yet armed loved peace the more.

Pleased took he power, pleased he laid it down:

Chaste was his home and simple, by his wealth

Untarnished. Mid the peoples great his name 266

And venerated: to his native Rome

He wrought much good. True faith in liberty250

Long since with Marius and Sulla fled:

Now when Pompeius has been reft away

Its counterfeit has perished. Now unshamed

Shall seize the despot on Imperial power,

Unshamed shall cringe the Senate. Happy he

Who with disaster found his latest breath

And met the Pharian sword prepared to slay.

Life might have been his lot, in despot rule,

Prone at his kinsman’s throne. Best gift of all

The knowledge how to die; next, death compelled.260

If cruel Fortune doth reserve for me

An alien conqueror, may Juba be

As Ptolemaeus. So he take my head

My body grace his triumph, if he will.”

More than had Rome resounded with his praise

Words such as these gave honour to the shade

Of that most noble dead.

Meanwhile the crowd

Weary of warfare, since Pompeius’ fall,

Broke into discord, as their ancient chief270

Cilician called them to desert the camp.

But Cato hailed them from the furthest beach:

“Untamed Cilician, is thy course now set

For Ocean theft again; Pompeius gone,

Once more a pirate?” Thus he spake, and gazed

At all the stirring throng; but one whose mind

Was fixed on flight, thus answered, “Pardon, chief,

’Twas love of Magnus, not of civil war,

That led us to the fight: his side was ours:

With him whom all the world preferred to peace,280

Our cause is perished. Let us seek our homes

Long since unseen, our children and our wives.

If nor the rout nor dread Pharsalia’s field

Nor yet Pompeius’ death shall close the war,

Whence comes the end? The vigour of a life

For us is vanished: in our failing years

Give us at least some pious hand to speed

The parting soul, and light the funeral pyre.

Scarce even to its captains civil strife

Concedes due burial. Nor in our defeat290

Does Fortune threaten us with the savage yoke

Of distant nations. In the garb of Rome

And with her rights, I leave thee. Who had been

Second to Magnus living, he shall be

My first hereafter: to that sacred shade

Be the prime honour. Chance of war appoints

My lord but not my leader. Thee alone

I followed, Magnus; after thee the fates.

Nor hope we now for victory, nor wish;

For all our Thracian army is fled300

In Caesar’s victory, whose potent star

Of fortune rules the world, and none but he

Has power to keep or save. That civil war

Which while Pompeius lived was loyalty

Is impious now. If in the public right

Thou, patriot Cato, find’st thy guide, we seek

The standards of the Consul.” Thus he spake

And with him leaped into the ship a throng

Of eager comrades.

Then was Rome undone,310

For all the shore was stirring with a crowd

Athirst for slavery. But burst these words

From Cato’s blameless breast: “Then with like vows

As Caesar’s rival host ye too did seek

A lord and master! not for Rome the fight,

But for Pompeius! For that now no more

Ye fight for tyranny, but for yourselves,

Not for some despot chief, ye live and die;

Since now ’tis safe to conquer and no lord

Shall rob you, victors, of a world subdued —320

Ye flee the war, and on your abject necks

Feel for the absent yoke; nor can endure

Without a despot! Yet to men the prize

Were worth the danger. Magnus might have used

To evil ends your blood; refuse ye now,

With liberty so near, your country’s call?

Now lives one tyrant only of the three;

Thus far in favour of the laws have wrought

The Pharian weapons and the Parthian bow;

Not you, degenerate! Begone, and spurn330

This gift of Ptolemaeus. 267 Who would think

Your hands were stained with blood? The foe will deem

That you upon that dread Thessalian day

First turned your backs. Then flee in safety, flee!

By neither battle nor blockade subdued

Caesar shall give you life! O slaves most base,

Your former master slain, ye seek his heir!

Why doth it please you not yet more to earn

Than life and pardon? Bear across the sea

Metellus’ daughter, Magnus’ weeping spouse,340

And both his sons; outstrip the Pharian gift,

Nor spare this head, which, laid before the feet

Of that detested tyrant, shall deserve

A full reward. Thus, cowards, shall ye learn

In that ye followed me how great your gain.

Quick to your task and purchase thus with blood

Your claim on Caesar. Dastardly is flight

Which crime commends not.”

Cato thus recalled

The parting vessels. So when bees in swarm350

Desert their waxen cells, forget the hive

Ceasing to cling together, and with wings

Untrammelled seek the air, nor slothful light

On thyme to taste its bitterness — then rings

The Phrygian gong — at once they pause aloft

Astonied; and with love of toil resumed

Through all the flowers for their honey store

In ceaseless wanderings search; the shepherd joys,

Sure that th’ Hyblaean mead for him has kept

His cottage store, the riches of his home.360

Now in the active conduct of the war

Were brought to discipline their minds, untaught

To bear repose; first on the sandy shore

Toiling they learned fatigue: then stormed thy walls,

Cyrene; prizeless, for to Cato’s mind

’Twas prize enough to conquer. Juba next

He bids attack, though Nature on the path

Had placed the Syrtes; which his sturdy heart

Aspired to conquer. Either at the first

When Nature gave the universe its form370

She left this region neither land nor sea;

Not wholly shrunk, so that it should receive

The ocean flood; nor firm enough to stand

Against its buffets — all the pathless coast

Lies in uncertain shape; the land by earth

Is parted from the deep; on sandy banks

The seas are broken, and from shoal to shoal

The waves advance to sound upon the shore.

Nature, in spite, thus left her work undone,

Unfashioned to men’s use — Or else of old380

A foaming ocean filled the wide expanse,

But Titan feeding from the briny depths

His burning fires (near to the zone of heat)

Reduced the waters; and the sea still fights

With Phoebus’ beams, which in the length of time

Drank deeper of its fountains.

When the main

Struck by the oars gave passage to the fleet,

Black from the sky rushed down a southern gale

Upon his realm, and from the watery plain390

Drave back th’ invading ships, and from the shoals

Compelled the billows, and in middle sea

Raised up a bank. Forth flew the bellying sails

Beyond the prows, despite the ropes that dared

Resist the tempest’s fury; and for those

Who prescient housed their canvas to the storm,

Bare-masted they were driven from their course.

Best was their lot who gained the open waves

Of ocean; others lightened of their masts

Shook off the tempest; but a sweeping tide400

Hurried them southwards, victor of the gale.

Some freed of shallows on a bank were forced

Which broke the deep: their ship in part was fast,

Part hanging on the sea; their fates in doubt.

Fierce rage the waves till hems 268 them in the land;

Nor Auster’s force in frequent buffets spent

Prevails upon the shore. High from the main

By seas inviolate one bank of sand,

Far from the coast arose; there watched in vain

The storm-tossed mariners, their keel aground,410

No shore descrying. Thus in sea were lost

Some portion, but the major part by helm

And rudder guided, and by pilots’ hands

Who knew the devious channels, safe at length

Floated the marsh of Triton loved (as saith

The fable) by that god, whose sounding shell 269

All seas and shores reecho; and by her,

Pallas, who springing from her father’s head

First lit on Libya, nearest land to heaven,

(As by its heat is proved); here on the brink420

She stood, reflected in the placid wave

And called herself Tritonis. Lethe’s flood

Flows silent near, in fable from a source

Infernal sprung, oblivion in his stream;

Here, too, that garden of the Hesperids

Where once the sleepless dragon held his watch,

Shorn of its leafy wealth. Shame be on him

Who calls upon the poet for the proof

Of that which in the ancient days befell;

But here were golden groves by yellow growth430

Weighed down in richness, here a maiden band

Were guardians; and a serpent, on whose eyes

Sleep never fell, was coiled around the trees,

Whose branches bowed beneath their ruddy load.

But great Alcides stripped the bending boughs,

And bore their shining apples (thus his task

Accomplished) to the court of Argos’ king.

Driven on the Libyan realms, more fruitful here,

Pompeius 270 stayed the fleet, nor further dared

In Garamantian waves. But Cato’s soul440

Leaped in his breast, impatient of delay,

To pass the Syrtes by a landward march,

And trusting to their swords, ‘gainst tribes unknown

To lead his legions. And the storm which closed

The main to navies gave them hope of rain;

Nor biting frosts they feared, in Libyan clime;

Nor suns too scorching in the falling year.

Thus ere they trod the deserts, Cato spake:

“Ye men of Rome, who through mine arms alone

Can find the death ye covet, and shall fall450

With pride unbroken should the fates command,

Meet this your weighty task, your high emprise

With hearts resolved to conquer. For we march

On sterile wastes, burnt regions of the world;

Scarce are the wells, and Titan from the height

Burns pitiless, unclouded; and the slime

Of poisonous serpents fouls the dusty earth.

Yet shall men venture for the love of laws

And country perishing, upon the sands

Of trackless Libya; men who brave in soul460

Rely not on the end, and in attempt

Will risk their all. ’Tis not in Cato’s thoughts

On this our enterprise to lead a band

Blind to the truth, unwitting of the risk.

Nay, give me comrades for the danger’s sake,

Whom I shall see for honour and for Rome

Bear up against the worst. But whose needs

A pledge of safety, to whom life is sweet,

Let him by fairer journey seek his lord.

First be my foot upon the sand; on me470

First strike the burning sun; across my path

The serpent void his venom; by my fate

Know ye your perils. Let him only thirst

Who sees me at the spring: who sees me seek

The shade, alone sink fainting in the heat;

Or whoso sees me ride before the ranks

Plodding their weary march: such be the lot

Of each, who, toiling, finds in me a chief

And not a comrade. Snakes, thirst, burning sand

The brave man welcomes, and the patient breast480

Finds happiness in labour. By its cost

Courage is sweeter; and this Libyan land

Such cloud of ills can furnish as might make

Men flee unshamed.” ’Twas thus that Cato spake,

Kindling the torch of valour and the love

Of toil: then reckless of his fate he strode

The desert path from which was no return:

And Libya ruled his destinies, to shut

His sacred name within a narrow tomb.

One-third of all the world, 271 if fame we trust,490

Is Libya; yet by winds and sky she yields

Some part to Europe; for the shores of Nile

No more than Scythian Tanais are remote

From furthest Gades, where with bending coast,

Yielding a place to Ocean, Europe parts

From Afric shores. Yet falls the larger world

To Asia only. From the former two

Issues the Western wind; but Asia’s right

Touches the Southern limits and her left

The Northern tempest’s home; and of the East500

She’s mistress to the rising of the Sun.

All that is fertile of the Afric lands

Lies to the west, but even here abound

No wells of water: though the Northern wind,

Infrequent, leaving us with skies serene,

Falls there in showers. Not gold nor wealth of brass

It yields the seeker: pure and unalloyed

Down to its lowest depths is Libyan soil.

Yet citron forests to Maurusian tribes

Were riches, had they known; but they, content,510

Lived ‘neath the shady foliage, till gleamed

The axe of Rome amid the virgin grove,

To bring from furthest limits of the world

Our banquet tables and the fruit they bear. 272

But suns excessive and a scorching air

Burn all the glebe beside the shifting sands:

There die the harvests on the crumbling mould;

No root finds sustenance, nor kindly Jove

Makes rich the furrow nor matures the vine.

Sleep binds all nature and the tract of sand520

Lies ever fruitless, save that by the shore

The hardy Nasamon plucks a scanty grass.

Unclothed their race, and living on the woes

Worked by the cruel Syrtes on mankind;

For spoilers are they of the luckless ships

Cast on the shoals: and with the world by wrecks

Their only commerce.

Here at Cato’s word

His soldiers passed, in fancy from the winds

That sweep the sea secure: here on them fell530

Smiting with greater strength upon the shore,

Than on the ocean, Auster’s tempest force,

And yet more fraught with mischief: for no crags

Repelled his strength, nor lofty mountains tamed

His furious onset, nor in sturdy woods

He found a bar; but free from reining hand,

Raged at his will o’er the defenceless earth.

Nor did he mingle dust and clouds of rain

In whirling circles, but the earth was swept

And hung in air suspended, till amazed540

The Nasamon saw his scanty field and home

Reft by the tempest, and the native huts

From roof to base were hurried on the blast.

Not higher, when some all-devouring flame

Has seized upon its prey, in volumes dense

Rolls up the smoke, and darkens all the air.

Then with fresh might he fell upon the host

Of marching Romans, snatching from their feet

The sand they trod. Had Auster been enclosed

In some vast cavernous vault with solid walls550

And mighty barriers, he had moved the world

Upon its ancient base and made the lands

To tremble: but the facile Libyan soil

By not resisting stood, and blasts that whirled

The surface upwards left the depths unmoved.

Helmet and shield and spear were torn away

By his most violent breath, and borne aloft

Through all the regions of the boundless sky;

Perchance a wonder in some distant land,

Where men may fear the weapons from the heaven560

There falling, as the armour of the gods,

Nor deem them ravished from a soldier’s arm.

’Twas thus on Numa by the sacred fire

Those shields descended which our chosen priests 273

Bear on their shoulders; from some warlike race

By tempest rapt, to be the prize of Rome.

Fearing the storm prone fell the host to earth

Winding their garments tight, and with clenched hands

Gripping the earth: for not their weight alone

Withstood the tempest which upon their frames570

Piled mighty heaps, and their recumbent limbs

Buried in sand. At length they struggling rose

Back to their feet, when lo! around them stood,

Forced by the storm, a growing bank of earth

Which held them motionless. And from afar

Where walls lay prostrate, mighty stones were hurled,

Thus piling ills on ills in wondrous form:

No dwellings had they seen, yet at their feet

Beheld the ruins. All the earth was hid

In vast envelopment, nor found they guide580

Save from the stars, which as in middle deep

Flamed o’er them wandering: yet some were hid

Beneath the circle of the Libyan earth

Which tending downwards hid the Northern sky.

When warmth dispersed the tempest-driven air,

And rose upon the earth the flaming day,

Bathed were their limbs in sweat, but parched and dry

Their gaping lips; when to a scanty spring

Far off beheld they came, whose meagre drops

All gathered in the hollow of a helm590

They offered to their chief. Caked were their throats

With dust, and panting; and one little drop

Had made him envied. “Wretch, and dost thou deem

Me wanting in a brave man’s heart?” he cried,

“Me only in this throng? And have I seemed

Tender, unfit to bear the morning heat?

He who would quench his thirst ‘mid such a host,

Doth most deserve its pangs.” Then in his wrath

Dashed down the helmet, and the scanty spring,

Thus by their leader spurned, sufficed for all.600

Now had they reached that temple which possess

Sole in all Libya, th’ untutored tribes

Of Garamantians. Here holds his seat

(So saith the story) a prophetic Jove,

Wielding no thunderbolts, nor like to ours,

The Libyan Hammen of the curved horn.

No wealth adorns his fane by Afric tribes

Bestowed, nor glittering hoard of Eastern gems.

Though rich Arabians, Ind and Ethiop

Know him alone as Jove, still is he poor610

Holding his shrine by riches undefiled

Through time, and god as of the olden days

Spurns all the wealth of Rome. That here some god

Dwells, witnesses the only grove

That buds in Libya — for that which grows

Upon the arid dust which Leptis parts

From Berenice, knows no leaves; alone

Hammon uprears a wood; a fount the cause

Which with its waters binds the crumbling soil.

Yet shall the Sun when poised upon the height620

Strike through the foliage: hardly can the tree

Protect its trunk, and to a little space

His rays draw in the circle of the shade.

Here have men found the spot where that high band

Solstitial divides in middle sky 274

The zodiac stars: not here oblique their course,

Nor Scorpion rises straighter than the Bull,

Nor to the Scales does Ram give back his hours,

Nor does Astraea bid the Fishes sink

More slowly down: but watery Capricorn630

Is equal with the Crab, and with the Twins

The Archer; neither does the Lion rise

Above Aquarius. But the race that dwells

Beyond the fervour of the Libyan fires

Sees to the South that shadow which with us

Falls to the North: slow Cynosure sinks 275

For them below the deep; and, dry with us,

The Wagon plunges; far from either pole,

No star they know that does not seek the main,

But all the constellations in their course640

Whirl to their vision through the middle sky.

Before the doors the Eastern peoples stood

Seeking from horned Jove to know their fates:

Yet to the Roman chief they yielded place,

Whose comrades prayed him to entreat the gods

Famed through the Libyan world, and judge the voice

Renowned from distant ages. First of these

Was Labienus: 276 “Chance,” he said, “to us

The voice and counsel of this mighty god

Has offered as we march; from such a guide650

To know the issues of the war, and learn

To track the Syrtes. For to whom on earth

If not to blameless Cato, shall the gods

Entrust their secrets? Faithful thou at least,

Their follower through all thy life hast been;

Now hast thou liberty to speak with Jove.

Ask impious Caesar’s fates, and learn the laws

That wait our country in the future days:

Whether the people shall be free to use

Their rights and customs, or the civil war660

For us is wasted. To thy sacred breast,

Lover of virtue, take the voice divine;

Demand what virtue is and guide thy steps

By heaven’s high counsellor.”

But Cato, full

Of godlike thoughts borne in his quiet breast,

This answer uttered, worthy of the shrines:

“What, Labienus, dost thou bid me ask?

Whether in arms and freedom I should wish

To perish, rather than endure a king?670

Is longest life worth aught? And doth its term

Make difference? Can violence to the good

Do injury? Do Fortune’s threats avail

Outweighed by virtue? Doth it not suffice

To aim at deeds of bravery? Can fame

Grow by achievement? Nay! No Hammen’s voice

Shall teach us this more surely than we know.

Bound are we to the gods; no voice we need;

They live in all our acts, although the shrine

Be silent: at our birth and once for all680

What may be known the author of our being

Revealed; nor Chose these thirsty sands to chaunt

To few his truth, whelmed in the dusty waste.

God has his dwelling in all things that be,

In earth and air and sea and starry vault,

In virtuous deeds; in all that thou can’st see,

In all thy thoughts contained. Why further, then,

Seek we our deities? Let those who doubt

And halting, tremble for their coming fates,

Go ask the oracles. No mystic words,690

Make sure my heart, but surely-coming Death.

Coward alike and brave, we all must die.

Thus hath Jove spoken: seek to know no more.”

Thus Cato spake, and faithful to his creed

He parted from the temple of the god

And left the oracle of Hammon dumb.

Bearing his javelin, as one of them

Before the troops he marched: no panting slave

With bending neck, no litter bore his form.

He bade them not, but showed them how to toil.700

Spare in his sleep, the last to sip the spring

When at some rivulet to quench their thirst

The eager ranks pressed onward, he alone

Until the humblest follower might drink

Stood motionless. If for the truly good

Is fame, and virtue by the deed itself,

Not by sucoessful issue, should be judged,

Yield, famous ancestors! Fortune, not worth

Gained you your glory. But such name as his

Who ever merited by successful war710

Or slaughtered peoples? Rather would I lead

With him his triumph through the pathless sands

And Libya’s bounds, than in Pompeius’ car

Three times ascend the Capitol, 277 or break

The proud Jugurtha. 278 Rome! in him behold

His country’s father, worthiest of thy vows;

A name by which men shall not blush to swear,

Whom, should’st thou break the fetters from thy neck,

Thou may’st in distant days decree divine.

Now was the heat more dense, and through that clime720

Than which no further on the Southern side

The gods permit, they trod; and scarcer still

The water, till in middle sands they found

One bounteous spring which clustered serpents held

Though scaroe the space sufficed. By thirsting snakes

The fount was thronged and asps pressed on the marge.

But when the chieftain saw that speedy fate

Was on the host, if they should leave the well

Untasted, “Vain,” he cried, “your fear of death.

Drink, nor delay: ’tis from the threatening tooth730

Men draw their deaths, and fatal from the fang

Issues the juice if mingled with the blood;

The cup is harmless.” Then he sipped the fount,

Still doubting, and in all the Libyan waste

There only was he first to touch the stream.

Why fertile thus in death the pestilent air

Of Libya, what poison in her soil

Her several nature mixed, my care to know

Has not availed: but from the days of old

A fabled story has deceived the world.740

Far on her limits, where the burning shore

Admits the ocean fervid from the sun

Plunged in its waters, lay Medusa’s fields

Untilled; nor forests shaded, nor the plough

Furrowed the soil, which by its mistress’ gaze

Was hardened into stone: Phorcus, her sire.

Malevolent nature from her body first

Drew forth these noisome pests; first from her jaws

Issued the sibilant rattle of serpent tongues;

Clustered around her head the poisonous brood750

Like to a woman’s hair, wreathed on her neck

Which gloried in their touch; their glittering heads

Advanced towards her; and her tresses kempt

Dripped down with viper’s venom. This alone

Thou hast, accursed one, which men can see

Unharmed; for who upon that gaping mouth

Looked and could dread? To whom who met her glance,

Was death permitted? Fate delayed no more.

But ere the victim feared had struck him down:

Perished the limbs while living, and the soul760

Grew stiff and stark ere yet it fled the frame.

Men have been frenzied by the Furies’ locks,

Not killed; and Cerberus at Orpheus’ song

Ceased from his hissing, and Alcides saw

The Hydra ere he slew. This monster born

Brought horror with her birth upon her sire

Phorcus, in second order God of Waves,

And upon Ceto and the Gorgon brood, 279

Her sisters. She could threat the sea and sky

With deadly calm unknown, and from the world770

Bid cease the soil. Borne down by instant weight

Fowls fell from air, and beasts were fixed in stone.

Whole Ethiop tribes who tilled the neighbouring lands

Rigid in marble stood. The Gorgon sight

No creature bore and even her serpents turned

Back from her visage. Atlas in his place

Beside the Western columns, by her look

Was turned to rocks; and when on snakes of old

Phlegraean giants stood and frighted heaven,

She made them mountains, and the Gorgon head780

Borne on Athena’s bosom closed the war.

Here born of Danae and the golden shower,

Floating on wings Parrhasian, by the god

Arcadian given, author of the lyre

And wrestling art, came Perseus, down from heaven

Swooping. Cyllenian Harp 280 did he bear

Still crimson from another monster slain,

The guardian of the heifer loved by Jove.

This to her winged brother Pallas lent

Price of the monster’s head: by her command790

Upon the limits of the Libyan land

He sought the rising sun, with flight averse,

Poised o’er Medusa’s realm; a burnished shield

Of yellow brass upon his other arm,

Her gift, he bore: in which she bade him see

The fatal face unscathed. Nor yet in sleep

Lay all the monster, for such total rest

To her were death — so fated: serpent locks

In vigilant watch, some reaching forth defend

Her head, while others lay upon her face800

And slumbering eyes. Then hero Perseus shook

Though turned averse; trembled his dexter hand:

But Pallas held, and the descending blade

Shore the broad neck whence sprang the viper brood.

What visage bore the Gorgon as the steel

Thus reft her life! what poison from her throat

Breathed! from her eyes what venom of death distilled!

The goddess dared not look, and Perseus’ face

Had frozen, averse, had not Athena veiled

With coils of writhing snakes the features dead.810

Then with the Gorgon head the hero flew

Uplifted on his wings and sought the sky.

Shorter had been his voyage through the midst

Of Europe’s cities; but Athena bade

To spare her peoples and their fruitful lands;

For who when such an airy courser passed

Had not looked up to heaven? Western winds

Now sped his pinions, and he took his course

O’er Libya’s regions, from the stars and suns

Veiled by no culture. Phoebus’ nearer track820

There burns the soil, and loftiest on the sky 281

There fails the night, to shade the wandering moon,

If o’er forgetful of her course oblique,

Straight through the stars, nor bending to the North

Nor to the South, she hastens. Yet that earth,

In nothing fertile, void of fruitful yield,

Drank in the poison of Medusa’s blood,

Dripping in dreadful dews upon the soil,

And in the crumbling sands by heat matured.

First from the dust was raised a gory clot 282830

In guise of Asp, sleep-bringing, swollen of neck:

Full was the blood and thick the poison drop

That were its making; in no other snake

More copious held. Greedy of warmth it seeks

No frozen world itself, nor haunts the sands

Beyond the Nile; yet has our thirst of gain

No shame nor limit, and this Libyan death,

This fatal pest we purchase for our own.

Haemorrhois huge spreads out his scaly coils,

Who suffers not his hapless victims’ blood840

To stay within their veins. Chersydros sprang

To life, to dwell within the doubtful marsh

Where land nor sea prevails. A cloud of spray

Marked fell Chelyder’s track: and Cenchris rose

Straight gliding to his prey, his belly tinged

With various spots unnumbered, more than those

Which paint the Theban 283 marble; horned snakes

With spines contorted: like to torrid sand

Ammodytes, of hue invisible:

Sole of all serpents Scytale to shed850

In vernal frosts his slough; and thirsty Dipsas;

Dread Amphisbaena with his double head

Tapering; and Natrix who in bubbling fount

Fuses his venom. Greedy Prester swells

His foaming jaws; Pareas, head erect

Furrows with tail alone his sandy path;

Swift Jaculus there, and Seps 284 whose poisonous juice

Makes putrid flesh and frame: and there upreared

His regal head, and frighted from his track

With sibilant terror all the subject swam,860

Baneful ere darts his poison, Basilisk 285

In sands deserted king. Ye serpents too

Who in all other regions harmless glide

Adored as gods, and bright with golden scales,

In those hot wastes are deadly; poised in air

Whole herds of kine ye follow, and with coils

Encircling close, crush in the mighty bull.

Nor does the elephant in his giant bulk,

Nor aught, find safety; and ye need no fang

Nor poison, to compel the fatal end.870

Amid these pests undaunted Cato urged

His desert journey on. His hardy troops

Beneath his eyes, pricked by a scanty wound,

In strangest forms of death unnumbered fall.

Tyrrhenian Aulus, bearer of a flag,

Trod on a Dipsas; quick with head reversed

The serpent struck; no mark betrayed the tooth:

The aspect of the wound nor threatened death,

Nor any evil; but the poison germ

In silence working as consuming fire880

Absorbed the moisture of his inward frame,

Draining the natural juices that were spread

Around his vitals; in his arid jaws

Set flame upon his tongue: his wearied limbs

No sweat bedewed; dried up, the fount of tears

Fled from his eyelids. Tortured by the fire

Nor Cato’s sternness, nor of his sacred charge

The honour could withhold him; but he dared

To dash his standard down, and through the plains

Raging, to seek for water that might slake890

The fatal venom thirsting at his heart.

Plunge him in Tanais, in Rhone and Po,

Pour on his burning tongue the flood of Nile,

Yet were the fire unquenched. So fell the fang

Of Dipsas in the torrid Libyan lands;

In other climes less fatal. Next he seeks

Amid the sands, all barren to the depths,

For moisture: then returning to the shoals

Laps them with greed — in vain — the briny draught

Scarce quenched the thirst it made. Nor knowing yet900

The poison in his frame, he steels himself

To rip his swollen veins and drink the gore.

Cato bids lift the standard, lest his troops

May find in thirst a pardon for the deed.

But on Sabellus’ yet more piteous death

Their eyes were fastened. Clinging to his skin

A Seps with curving tooth, of little size,

He seized and tore away, and to the sands

Pierced with his javelin. Small the serpent’s bulk;

None deals a death more horrible in form.910

For swift the flesh dissolving round the wound

Bared the pale bone; swam all his limbs in blood;

Wasted the tissue of his calves and knees:

And all the muscles of his thighs were thawed

In black distilment, and file membrane sheath

Parted, that bound his vitals, which abroad

Flowed upon earth: yet seemed it not that all

His frame was loosed, for by the venomous drop

Were all the bands that held his muscles drawn

Down to a juice; the framework of his chest920

Was bare, its cavity, and all the parts

Hid by the organs of life, that make the man.

So by unholy death there stood revealed

His inmost nature. Head and stalwart arms,

And neck and shoulders, from their solid mass

Melt in corruption. Not more swiftly flows

Wax at the sun’s command, nor snow compelled

By southern breezes. Yet not all is said:

For so to noxious humours fire consumes

Our fleshly frame; but on the funeral pyre930

What bones have perished? These dissolve no less

Than did the mouldered tissues, nor of death

Thus swift is left a trace. Of Afric pests

Thou bear’st the palm for hurtfulness: the life

They snatch away, thou only with the life

The clay that held it.

Lo! a different fate,

Not this by melting! for a Prester’s fang

Nasidius struck, who erst in Marsian fields

Guided the ploughshare. Burned upon his face940

A redness as of flame: swollen the skin,

His features hidden, swollen all his limbs

Till more than human: and his definite frame

One tumour huge concealed. A ghastly gore

Is puffed from inwards as the virulent juice

Courses through all his body; which, thus grown,

His corselet holds not. Not in caldron so

Boils up to mountainous height the steaming wave;

Nor in such bellying curves does canvas bend

To Eastern tempests. Now the ponderous bulk950

Rejects the limbs, and as a shapeless trunk

Burdens the earth: and there, to beasts and birds

A fatal feast, his comrades left the corse

Nor dared to place, yet swelling, in the tomb.

But for their eyes the Libyan pests prepared

More dreadful sights. On Tullus great in heart,

And bound to Cato with admiring soul,

A fierce Haemorrhois fixed. From every limb, 286

(As from a statue saffron spray is showered

In every part) there spouted forth for blood960

A sable poison: from the natural pores

Of moisture, gore profuse; his mouth was filled

And gaping nostrils, and his tears were blood.

Brimmed full his veins; his very sweat was red;

All was one wound.

Then piteous Levus next

In sleep was victim, for around his heart

Stood still the blood congealed: no pain he felt

Of venomous tooth, but swift upon him fell

Death, and he sought the shades; more swift to kill970

No draught in poisonous cups from ripened plants

Of direst growth Sabaean wizards brew.

Lo! Upon branchless trunk a serpent, named

By Libyans Jaculus, rose in coils to dart

His venom from afar. Through Paullus’ brain

It rushed, nor stayed; for in the wound itself

Was death. Then did they know how slowly flies,

Flung from a sling, the stone; how gently speed

Through air the shafts of Scythia.

What availed,980

Murrus, the lance by which thou didst transfix

A Basilisk? Swift through the weapon ran

The poison to his hand: he draws his sword

And severs arm and shoulder at a blow:

Then gazed secure upon his severed hand

Which perished as he looked. So had’st thou died,

And such had been thy fate!

Whoe’er had thought

A scorpion had strength o’er death or fate?

Yet with his threatening coils and barb erect990

He won the glory of Orion 287 slain;

So bear the stars their witness. And who would fear

Thy haunts, Salpuga? 288 Yet the Stygian Maids

Have given thee power to snap the fatal threads.

Thus nor the day with brightness, nor the night

With darkness gave them peace. The very earth

On which they lay they feared; nor leaves nor straw

They piled for couches, but upon the ground

Unshielded from the fates they laid their limbs,

Cherished beneath whose warmth in chill of night1000

The frozen pests found shelter; in whose jaws

Harmless the while, the lurking venom slept.

Nor did they know the measure of their march

Accomplished, nor their path; the stars in heaven

Their only guide. “Return, ye gods,” they cried,

In frequent wail, “the arms from which we fled.

Give back Thessalia. Sworn to meet the sword

Why, lingering, fall we thus? In Caesar’s place

The thirsty Dipsas and the horned snake

Now wage the warfare. Rather let us seek1010

That region by the horses of the sun

Scorched, and the zone most torrid: let us fall

Slain by some heavenly cause, and from the sky

Descend our fate! Not, Africa, of thee

Complain we, nor of Nature. From mankind

Cut off, this quarter, teeming thus with pests

She gave to snakes, and to the barren fields

Denied the husbandman, nor wished that men

Should perish by their venom. To the realms

Of serpents have we come. Hater of men,1020

Receive thy vengeance, whoso of the gods

Severed this region upon either hand,

With death in middle space. Our march is set

Through thy sequestered kingdom, and the host

Which knows thy secret seeks the furthest world.

Perchance some greater wonders on our path

May still await us; in the waves be plunged

Heaven’s constellations, and the lofty pole

Stoop from its height. By further space removed

No land, than Juba’s realm; by rumour’s voice1030

Drear, mournful. Haply for this serpent land

There may we long, where yet some living thing

Gives consolation. Not my native land

Nor European fields I hope for now

Lit by far other suns, nor Asia’s plains.

But in what land, what region of the sky,

Where left we Africa? But now with frosts

Cyrene stiffened: have we changed the laws

Which rule the seasons, in this little space?

Cast from the world we know, ‘neath other skies1040

And stars we tread; behind our backs the home

Of southern tempests: Rome herself perchance

Now lies beneath our feet. Yet for our fates

This solace pray we, that on this our track

Pursuing Caesar with his host may come.”

Thus was their stubborn patience of its plaints

Disburdened. But the bravery of their chief

Forced them to bear their toils. Upon the sand,

All bare, he lies and dares at every hour

Fortune to strike: he only at the fate1050

Of each is present, flies to every call;

And greatest boon of all, greater than life,

Brought strength to die. To groan in death was shame

In such a presence. What power had all the ills

Possessed upon him? In another’s breast

He conquers misery, teaching by his mien

That pain is powerless.

Hardly aid at length

Did Fortune, wearied of their perils, grant.

Alone unharmed of all who till the earth,1060

By deadly serpents, dwells the Psyllian race.

Potent as herbs their song; safe is their blood,

Nor gives admission to the poison germ

E’en when the chant has ceased. Their home itself

Placed in such venomous tract and serpent-thronged

Gained them this vantage, and a truce with death,

Else could they not have lived. Such is their trust

In purity of blood, that newly born

Each babe they prove by test of deadly asp

For foreign lineage. So the bird of Jove1070

Turns his new fledglings to the rising sun

And such as gaze upon the beams of day

With eves unwavering, for the use of heaven

He rears; but such as blink at Phoebus’ rays

Casts from the nest. Thus of unmixed descent

The babe who, dreading not the serpent touch,

Plays in his cradle with the deadly snake.

Nor with their own immunity from harm

Contented do they rest, but watch for guests

Who need their help against the noisome plague.1080

Now to the Roman standards are they come,

And when the chieftain bade the tents be fixed,

First all the sandy space within the lines

With song they purify and magic words

From which all serpents flee: next round the camp

In widest circuit from a kindled fire

Rise aromatic odours: danewort burns,

And juice distils from Syrian galbanum;

Then tamarisk and costum, Eastern herbs,

Strong panacea mixt with centaury1090

From Thrace, and leaves of fennel feed the flames,

And thapsus brought from Eryx: and they burn

Larch, southern-wood and antlers of a deer

Which lived afar. From these in densest fumes,

Deadly to snakes, a pungent smoke arose;

And thus in safety passed the night away.

But should some victim feel the fatal fang

Upon the march, then of this magic race

Were seen the wonders, for a mighty strife

Rose ‘twixt the Psyllian and the poison germ.1100

First with saliva they anoint the limbs

That held the venomous juice within the wound;

Nor suffer it to spread. From foaming mouth

Next with continuous cadence would they pour

Unceasing chants — nor breathing space nor pause —

Else spreads the poison: nor does fate permit

A moment’s silence. Oft from the black flesh

Flies forth the pest beneath the magic song:

But should it linger nor obey the voice,

Repugmant to the summons, on the wound1110

Prostrate they lay their lips and from the depths

Now paling draw the venom. In their mouths,

Sucked from the freezing flesh, they hold the death,

Then spew it forth; and from the taste shall know

The snake they conquer.

Aided thus at length

Wanders the Roman host in better guise

Upon the barren fields in lengthy march. 289

Twice veiled the moon her light and twice renewed;

Yet still, with waning or with growing orb1120

Saw Cato’s steps upon the sandy waste.

But more and more beneath their feet the dust

Began to harden, till the Libyan tracts

Once more were earth, and in the distance rose

Some groves of scanty foliage, and huts

Of plastered straw unfashioned: and their hearts

Leaped at the prospect of a better land.

How fled their sorrow! how with growing joy

They met the savage lion in the path!

In tranquil Leptis first they found retreat:1130

And passed a winter free from heat and rain. 290

When Caesar sated with Emathia’s slain

Forsook the battlefield, all other cares

Neglected, he pursued his kinsman fled,

On him alone intent: by land his steps

He traced in vain; then, rumour for his guide,

He crossed the sea and reached the Thracian strait

For love renowned; where on the mournful shore

Rose Hero’s tower, and Helle born of cloud 291

Took from the rolling waves their former name.1140

Nowhere with shorter space the sea divides

Europe from Asia; though Pontus parts

By scant division from Byzantium’s hold

Chalcedon oyster-rich: and small the strait

Through which Propontis pours the Euxine wave.

Then marvelling at their ancient fame, he seeks

Sigeum’s sandy beach and Simois’ stream,

Rhoeteum noble for its Grecian tomb,

And all the hero’s shades, the theme of song.

Next by the town of Troy burnt down of old1150

Now but a memorable name, he turns

His steps, and searches for the mighty stones

Relics of Phoebus’ wall. But bare with age

Forests of trees and hollow mouldering trunks

Pressed down Assaracus’ palace, and with roots

Wearied, possessed the temples of the gods.

All Pergamus with densest brake was veiled

And even her stones were perished. He beheld

Thy rock, Hesione; the hidden grove,

Anchises’ nuptial chamber; and the cave1160

Where sat the arbiter; the spot from which

Was snatched the beauteous youth; the mountain lawn

Where played Oenone. Not a stone but told

The story of the past. A little stream

Scarce trickling through the arid plain he passed,

Nor knew ’twas Xanthus: deep in grass he placed,

Careless, his footstep; but the herdsman cried

“Thou tread’st the dust of Hector.” Stones confused

Lay at his feet in sacred shape no more:

“Look on the altar of Jove,” thus spake the guide,1170

“God of the household, guardian of the home.”

O sacred task of poets, toil supreme,

Which rescuing all things from allotted fate

Dost give eternity to mortal men!

Grudge not the glory, Caesar, of such fame.

For if the Latian Muse may promise aught,

Long as the heroes of the Trojan time

Shall live upon the page of Smyrna’s bard,

So long shall future races read of thee

In this my poem; and Pharsalia’s song1180

Live unforgotten in the age to come.

When by the ancient grandeur of the place

The chieftain’s sight was filled, of gathered turf

Altars he raised: and as the sacred flame

Cast forth its odours, these not idle vows

Gave to the gods, “Ye deities of the dead,

Who watch o’er Phrygian ruins: ye who now

Lavinia’s homes inhabit, and Alba’s height:

Gods of my sire Aeneas, in whose fanes

The Trojan fire still burns: pledge of the past1190

Mysterious Pallas, 292 of the inmost shrine,

Unseen of men! here in your ancient seat,

Most famous offspring of Iulus’ race,

I call upon you and with pious hand

Burn frequent offerings. To my emprise

Give prosperous ending! Here shall I replace

The Phrygian peoples, here with glad return

Italia’s sons shall build another Troy,

Here rise a Roman Pergamus.”

This said,1200

He seeks his fleet, and eager to regain

Time spent at Ilium, to the favouring breeze

Spreads all his canvas. Past rich Asia borne,

Rhodes soon he left while foamed the sparkling main

Beneath his keels; nor ceased the wind to stretch

His bending sails, till on the seventh night

The Pharian beam proclaimed Egyptian shores.

But day arose, and veiled the nightly lamp

Ere rode his barks on waters safe from storm.

Then Caesar saw that tumult held the shore,1210

And mingled voices of uncertain sound

Struck on his ear: and trusting not himself

To doubtful kingdoms, of uncertain troth,

He kept his ships from land.

But from the king

Came his vile minion forth upon the wave,

Bearing his dreadful gift, Pompeius’ head,

Wrapped in a covering of Pharian wool.

First took he speech and thus in shameless words

Commends the murder: “Conqueror of the world,1220

First of the Roman race, and, what as yet

Thou dost not know, safe by thy kinsman slain;

This gift receive from the Pellaean king,

Sole trophy absent from the Thracian field,

To crown thy toils on lands and on the deep.

Here in thine absence have we placed for thee

An end upon the war. Here Magnus came

To mend his fallen fortunes; on our swords

Here met his death. With such a pledge of faith

Here have we bought thee, Caesar; with his blood1230

Seal we this treaty. Take the Pharian realm

Sought by no bloodshed, take the rule of Nile,

Take all that thou would’st give for Magnus’ life:

And hold him vassal worthy of thy camp

To whom the fates against thy son-in-law

Such power entrusted; nor hold thou the deed

Lightly accomplished by the swordsman’s stroke,

And so the merit. Guest ancestral he

Who was its victim; who, his sire expelled,

Gave back to him the sceptre. For a deed1240

So great, thou’lt find a name — or ask the world.

If ’twas a crime, thou must confess the debt

To us the greater, for that from thy hand

We took the doing.”

Then he held and showed

Unveiled the head. Now had the hand of death

Passed with its changing touch upon the face:

Nor at first sight did Caesar on the gift

Pass condemnation; nor avert his gaze,

But dwelt upon the features till he knew1250

The crime accomplished. Then when truth was sure

The loving father rose, and tears he shed

Which flowed at his command, and glad in heart

Forced from his breast a groan: thus by the flow

Of feigned tears and grief he hoped to hide

His joy else manifest: and the ghastly boon

Sent by the king disparaging, professed

Rather to mourn his son’s dissevered head,

Than count it for a debt. For thee alone,

Magnus, he durst not fail to find a tear:1260

He, Caesar, who with mien unaltered spurned

The Roman Senate, and with eyes undimmed

Looked on Pharsalia’s field. O fate most hard!

Didst thou with impious war pursue the man

Whom ’twas thy lot to mourn? No kindred ties

No memory of thy daughter and her son

Touch on thy heart. Didst think perchance that grief

Might help thy cause ‘mid lovers of his name?

Or haply, moved by envy of the king,

Griev’st that to other hands than thine was given1270

To shed the captive’s life-blood? and complain’st

Thy vengeance perished and the conquered chief

Snatched from thy haughty hand? Whate’er the cause

That urged thy grief, ’twas far removed from love.

Was this forsooth the object of thy toil

O’er lands and oceans, that without thy ken

He should not perish? Nay! but well was reft

From thine arbitrament his fate. What crime

Did cruel Fortune spare, what depth of shame

To Roman honour! since she suffered not,1280

Perfidious traitor, while yet Magnus lived,

That thou should’st pity him!

Thus by words he dared,

To gain their credence in his sembled grief:

“Hence from my sight with thy detested gift,

Thou minion, to thy King. Worse does your crime

Deserve from Caesar than from Magnus’ hands.

The only prize that civil war affords

Thus have we lost — to bid the conquered live.

If but the sister of this Pharian king1290

Were not by him detested, by the head

Of Cleopatra had I paid this gift.

Such were the fit return. Why did he draw

His separate sword, and in the toil that’s ours

Mingle his weapons? In Thessalia’s field

Gave we such right to the Pellaean blade?

Magnus as partner in the rule of Rome

I had not brooked; and shall I tolerate

Thee, Ptolemaeus? In vain with civil wars

Thus have we roused the nations, if there be1300

Now any might but Caesar’s. If one land

Yet owned two masters, I had turned from yours

The prows of Latium; but fame forbids,

Lest men should whisper that I did not damn

This deed of blood, but feared the Pharian land.

Nor think ye to deceive; victorious here

I stand: else had my welcome at your hands

Been that of Magnus; and that neck were mine

But for Pharsalia’s chance. At greater risk

So seems it, than we dreamed of, took we arms;1310

Exile, and Magnus’ threats, and Rome I knew,

Not Ptolemaeus. But we spare the boy:

Pass by the murder. Let the princeling know

We give no more than pardon for his crime.

And now in honour of the mighty dead,

Not merely that the earth may hide your guilt,

Lay ye the chieftain’s head within the tomb;

With proper sepulture appease his shade

And place his scattered ashes in an urn.

Thus may he know my coming, and may hear1320

Affection’s accents, and my fond complaints.

Me sought he not, but rather, for his life,

This Pharian vassal; snatching from mankind

The happy morning which had shown the world

A peace between us. But my prayers to heaven

No favouring answer found; that arms laid down

In happy victory, Magnus, once again

I might embrace thee, begging thee to grant

Thine ancient love to Caesar, and thy life.

Thus for my labours with a worthy prize1330

Content, thine equal, bound in faithful peace,

I might have brought thee to forgive the gods

For thy disaster; thou had’st gained for me

From Rome forgiveness.”

Thus he spake, but found

No comrade in his tears; nor did the host

Give credit to his grief. Deep in their breasts

They hide their groans, and gaze with joyful front

(O famous Freedom!) on the deed of blood:

And dare to laugh when mighty Caesar wept.1340

260 This was the Stoic theory. The perfect of men passed after death into a region between our atmosphere and the heavens, where they remained until the day of general conflagration, (see Book VII. line 949), with their senses amplified and rendered akin to divine.

261 A promontory in Africa was so called, as well as that in Italy.

262 Meaning that her husband gave her this commission in order to prevent her from committing suicide.

263 See Book VIII., line 547.

264 See line 709.

265 This passage is described by Lord Macaulay as “a pure gem of rhetoric without one flaw, and, in my opinion, not very far from historical truth” (Trevelyan’s “Life and Letters”, vol. i., page 462.)


“ . . . Clarum et venembile nomen

Gentibus, et multum nostrae quod profuit urbi,”

quoted by Mr. Burke, and applied to Lord Chatham, in his Speech on American taxation.

267 That is, liberty, which by the murder of Pompeius they had obtained.

268 Reading “saepit”, Hosius. The passage seems to be corrupt.

269 “Scaly Triton’s winding shell”, (Comus, 878). He was Neptune’s son and trumpeter. That Pallas sprang armed from the head of Jupiter is well known.

270 Cnaeus.

271 Compare Herodotus, ii., 16: “For they all say that the earth is divided into three parts, Europe, Asia and Libya.” (And see Bunbury’s “Ancient Geography”, i., 145, 146, for a discussion of this subject.)

272 Citron tables were in much request at Rome. (Comp. “Paradise Regained”, Book iv., 115; and see Book X., line 177.)

273 Alluding to the shield of Mars which fell from heaven on Numa at sacrifice. Eleven others were made to match it (“Dict. Antiq.”) While Horace speaks of them as chief objects of a patriot Roman’s affection (“Odes” iii., 5, 9), Lucan discovers for them a ridiculous origin. They were in the custody of the priests of Mars. (See Book I., 666.)

274 I.e. Where the equinoctial circle cuts the zodiac in its centre. — Haskins.

275 Compare Book III., 288.

276 See Book V., 400.

277 1st. For his victories in Sicily and Africa, B.C. 81; 2nd. For the conquest of Sertorius, B.C. 71; 3rd. For his Eastern triumphs, B.C. 61. (Compare Book II., 684, &c.)

278 Over whom Marius triumphed.

279 Phoreus and Ceto were the parents of the Gorgons — Stheno, Euryale. and Medusa, of whom the latter alone was mortal, (Hesiod. “Theogony”, 276.) Phorcus was a son of Pontus and Gaia (sea and land), ibid, 287.

280 The scimitar lent by Hermes (or Mercury) to Perseus for the purpose; with which had been slain Argus the guardian of Io (Conf. “Prometheus vinctus”, 579.) Hermes was born in a cave in Mount Cyllene in Arcadia.

281 The idea seems to be that the earth, bulging at the equator, casts its shadow highest on the sky: and that the moon becomes eclipsed by it whenever she follows a straight path instead of an oblique one, which may happen from her forgetfulness (Mr. Haskins’ note).

282 This catalogue of snakes is alluded to in Dante’s “Inferno”, 24.

“I saw a crowd within

Of serpents terrible, so strange of shape

And hideous that remembrance in my veins

Yet shrinks the vital current. Of her sands

Let Libya vaunt no more: if Jaculus,

Pareas, and Chelyder be her brood,

Cenchris and Amphisbaena, plagues so dire

Or in such numbers swarming ne’er she showed.”

— Carey.

(See also Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, Book X., 520–530.)

283 The Egyptian Thebes.

284 “ . . . All my being

Like him whom the Numidian Seps did thaw

Into a dew with poison, is dissolved,

Sinking through its foundations.”

— Shelley, “Prometheus Unbound”, Act iii, Scene 1.

285 The glance of the eye of the basilisk or cockatrice, was supposed to be deadly. (See “King Richard III”, Act i., Scene 2:—

Gloucester: Thine eyes, sweet lady, have infected mine.

Anne: Would they were basilisks, to strike thee dead!)

The word is also used for a big cannon. (“1 King Henry IV”, Act ii., Scene 3.)

286 See Book III., 706.

287 According to one story Orion, for his assault on Diana, was killed by the Scorpion, who received his reward by being made into a constellation.

288 A sort of venomous ant.

289 No other author gives any details of this march; and those given by Lucan are unreliable. The temple of Hammon is far from any possible line of route taken from the Lesser Syrtes to Leptis. Dean Merivale states that the inhospitable sands extended for seven days’ journey, and ranks the march as one of the greatest exploits in Roman military history. Described by the names known to modern geography, it was from the Gulf of Cabes to Cape Africa. Pope, in a letter to Henry Cromwell, dated November 11, 1710, makes some caustic remarks on the geography of this book. (See “Pope’s Works”, Vol. vi., 109; by Elwin & Courthope.)

290 See Line 444.

291 See Book IV., 65.

292 The “Palladium” or image of Pallas, preserved in the temple of Vesta. (See Book I., 659.)

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57