The Pharsalia of Lucan

Translated by Sir Edward Ridley

The text of this edition is from “The Pharsalia of Lucan”, translated by Sir Edward Ridley (Longmans, Green, and Co., London, 1896).

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Table of Contents

  1. The Crossing of the Rubicon
  2. The Flight of Pompeius
  3. Massilia
  4. Caesar in Spain. War in the Adriatic Sea. Death of Curio.
  5. The Oracle. The Mutiny. The Storm
  6. The Fight Near Dyrrhachium. Scaeva’s Exploits. The Witch of Thessalia
  7. The Battle
  8. Death of Pompeius.
  9. Cato
  10. Caesar in Egypt


The poet Lucan was born in a.d. 39 at Corduba (Cordova), which was then the capital of the Roman province of Baetica or Southern Spain. He was of a distinguished family, and one of his uncles was Seneca the philosopher. In the year after his birth his father migrated to Rome with his family, and there the young Lucan, as he grew up, received his education. Comutus, a Stoic, was one of his teachers; and the doctrines of that school are strongly marked in the work of the poet. Very early in life Lucan began to write poems, which he declaimed to the applause of his listeners; and when Nero ascended the throne in 54 a.d. he and the poet were on friendly terms. The Emperor, however, was also a composer of verse, and the two having been rivals at a public contest, the prize was adjudged to Lucan, the result of which was that he was forbidden to publish or recite any more of his compositions. This seems to have happened about 64 a.d.; and shortly afterwards the conspiracy of Piso was formed, in which Lucan took part. The plot was discovered, and the poet begged for his life, but received the order to die. After the fashion of the times, he opened his veins and expired in a hot bath, a.d. 65, at the early age of twenty-six, ‘inheritor of unfulfilled renown.’ For in these years he had written the ‘Pharsalia;’ and it seems probable that he composed the whole of it between his twenty-first and twenty-sixth year.

The poem comprises the events of about two years, from the beginning of 49 B.C. to near the close of 48 B.C., and therefore describes a historic action which took place rather more than a hundred years before the time at which it was written. The struggle between Caesar and Pompeius for the rule of Some was then entering into its final phase. Crassus, the third of the Triumvirs, had been defeated and slain by the Parthians about four years before; Julia, Caesar’s daughter and Pompeius’ wife, had died in 54 B.C.; Caesar had completed his conquest of Gaul; and the two great rivals were face to face.

The events of the two years in question may be shortly stated thus:

The poem, as is well known, ends abruptly, and is unfinished. To what point in the civil war Lucan proposed to carry it, must be a matter of conjecture only. It might have ended either with the murder of Caesar, or, possibly, with the battle of Philippi: but there are also indications in the existing poem which point to the battle of Actium as the intended closing scene. This was the battle which left Octavius sole victor; and from some passages which need not be particularly mentioned, it might be inferred that the poet would not have been content until he had depicted the whole of the struggle which left Caesar’s house in possession of the Empire.

On the other hand, in the first book, Munda is called the final battle (line 47), by which must be meant the battle which terminated the conflict between the forces of Pompeius and Caesar: and in a similar way, at line 766 of the same book, the murder of Caesar is treated as the close of the war.

Pompeius is in a sense its hero. He was, to Lucan, the champion of liberty and the Senate; of that Senate which had conquered Italy and triumphed over Hannibal, and which to the poet represented the force whereby the old republican order might have been preserved, with its Consuls, its Tribunes, its suffrages, and all the institutions that to his mind were the tokens and fortresses of freedom. It escaped him that the power which had in the past achieved these triumphs failed, when the moment came, to define the wider boundaries required by the increased strength and population of the Roman dominion. Opposed to the Senate stood Caesar, who despised the ancient forms and offices which were no longer the symbols of living force. In him Lucan saw only the upstart, who wished to cast aside the forms of law because, and only because, they obstructed his path to empire. He did not see, and perhaps in his day it was not possible to see, that in Cesar’s time the old order of Rome had become powerless, and that in Caesar only and in the party which he led was to be found a renewal of life such as could resist the vigour of the barbarian nations. Lucan was a patriot, and the baseness of the age in which he lived inflamed his imagination the more by its contrast with the historic liberties of his country. These were represented (as he thought) in the Senate and Consuls; and Pompeius, their general, was to that extent his hero.

And yet he knew the superiority of Caesar. Even in the characters given in the First Book this appears. What can the mind that finds a dreamy enjoyment in the triumphs of the past, or in popular applause, avail against the impetuous, insatiable energy of its rival? We know before the struggle begins that Caesar must be the conqueror. But throughout the poem Lucan appeals to his reader on behalf of Pompeius: when he leaves Italy for the last time; on the morning of the fatal battle; at its close; in the flight to Egypt, and at the last moment he calls for our sympathy for him. But while we grant it, our reason speaks for Caesar. In a similar way Lucan frequently pictures Caesar as a despoiler of Italian cities, nay, as the would-be despoiler of Rome herself; and he is not ashamed to put this accusation in the mouth of Pompeius (Book II. line 600). But the sentence quoted from Cicero at Book I. line 164, which describes the great general as moderate in victory, is in accordance with history. Nor had the brutality ascribed by the poet to Caesar in his description of the battle of Pharsalia any foundation in fact.

It is in the speeches, which form the main feature of the poem, that we find the difference between the champions most strikingly accentuated. On these Lucan has expended all his eloquence, all his pungency and epigrammatic power. Of one of them (the character of Pompeius spoken by Cato in Book IX.) Lord Macaulay said, ‘It is a pure gem of rhetoric without one flaw,’ and there are many others which nearly reach the same standard. Caesar’s speeches to his troops (Book I. 340, Book VII. 292) are, for example, full of conscious power. They are the words of a victorious general who claims victory as his right; who speaks to his soldiers as comrades, and demands of them the defence of their common country. Chivalrous to a Roman foe, he despises all else and calls upon his army to do the same. Pompeius’ first speech, on the other hand (Book II. 597), is boastful and pretentious; and that in Book VII. 407, though in much better strain than the former one, fails to convince or persuade. When in Book VIII. he advocates an alliance with Parthia, the badness of his cause is not compensated by the logic with which he supports it.

Next in importance to the two opposing champions is Cato. Introduced to us in Book II. as the stem and rigid patriot, in Book IX. he embodies his principles in action. He is at once the unflinching commander, the philosopher who in peril and temptation loftily proclaims the tenets of his school, the inspired leader who some day shall receive divine honours, the captain who shares the lot of the meanest soldier, the statesman who upholds, amid disaster and defeat, the cause of public freedom.

The poem has, of course, all the blemishes that might be expected from the youth of its author. There are passages which offend against our sense of justice; we are asked to admire what is morally not admirable. There are many mistakes, specially in geography; there is obscurity, specially in astronomical matters; there are ghastly details of horrors, lengthy episodes not connected with the plot, and frequent exaggerations, as in the description of Caesar’s exploits. There are also details of which the reader wearies, as in the sea fight in Book III. But a spirited and patriotic apostrophe, or the vigorous eloquence of Cato or Caesar, or a powerful and dramatic description combine to give the poem force, and to maintain its power and interest; and impart to it a fascination under the glamour of which its faults are forgotten.

Very contrary opinions have been expressed as to the merits of the poem as a whole. Niebuhr (‘Lectures on the History of Rome,’ iii. 193) says, ‘Lucan belongs to the time of Nero, and his poetry proceeded from the school of Seneca. His example shows us how much more intolerable its tendency is in poetry than in prose. Bemardin de St. Pierre and Chateaubriand are the offspring of a similar school. . . . It would be more bearable if it did not venture upon anything but sentimental moralising, as in the case of the former; but Chateaubriand is a perfect pendant to the bad poet Lucan. This is not yet generally recognised, indeed, but the opinion which now prevails in regard to his merits cannot continue.’

Here we have an unfair and incomplete criticism, and an unfulfilled prophecy. In spite of what Niebuhr says, the ‘Pharsalia’ has qualities which must always continue to excite the interest of mankind.

To turn to the opposite extreme, Shelley, in a letter dated September 1815, says, ‘I have also read the four first books of Lucan’s “Pharsalia,” a poem, as it appears to me, of wonderful genius and transcending Virgil.’ [Forman’s Edition, vol. vii. p. 3i8.]

I should have supposed that no admirer of Lucan would care to rest his reputation on Books II., III., or IV., and it would be interesting to know whether Shelley retained the opinion he expressed in his letter.

Lord Macaulay (Trevelyan’s ‘Life and Letters,’ i. 462) calls Lucan an excellent writer. I have already mentioned his opinion of the speech of Cato in Book IX. He also selected for special praise the dream of Pompey in Book VII., and the enumeration of his exploits in Book VIII. ‘When I consider,’ he says, ‘that Lucan died at twenty-six, I cannot help ranking him among the most extraordinary men that ever lived.’ But before the days of Macaulay, Dante gave a place to Lucan along with Homer, Horace, and Ovid, ‘foin — mighty spirits.’ Virgil appears as the fifth, and Dante adds:

Greater honour still

They gave me, for they made me of their tribe,

And I was sixth among so learned a band.

Inferno, iv. 95 (Carey’s translation).

Probably the criticisms of Dean Merivale are founded on a more intimate knowledge of the ‘Pharsalia’ than are those of any other writer. The historian returned again and again to his favourite author, and constantly quoted him in illustration of his own subject. He points, however, to the want of imagination which, in his opinion, was one of Lucan’s characteristics, and says, with some justice, that he had not really pictured to himself the scene of the great battle which was the centrepiece of his poem; he criticises truly the vague and uncertain philosophy of the poet, strongly stoical and yet undefined, and the frequent errors in his encyclopedic knowledge. One sentence may be quoted in which he says: ‘His wit and cleverness, considering his years, are preternatural: the trumpet tones of his scorn or admiration, after more than thirty years’ familiarity, still thunder in my ears with startling intensity.’ For the rest I must content myself with referring to the close of the fifty-sixth and the opening of the sixty-fourth chapters of his ‘History of the Romans during the Empire.’

A few words are necessary with regard to the translation of this great poem which I have been bold enough to offer to the public. And, first, the great difficulty of the task makes me hope for an indulgent criticism. Mr. Heitland, indeed, says in his introduction to the Cambridge edition that a Dryden is required to give us in English an idea of the strength and vigour of the original poem. I am fully conscious of the truth of this, although I may be allowed to think that Ben Jonson’s powerful blank verse might possibly have given us a more adequate rendering of the terse and pointed style of Lucan than even Dryden’s heroics. But the fact remains that there is no good English version of the work.

Marlowe’s translation of Book I. has dignity and force; but the movement is slow, and it wants dash. The Elizabethan poet seems to have thought it necessary to limit the number of his lines by those of the original; the result is that some of the ideas are not reproduced. Among many powerful lines there are weak ones, and he does not always rise to the level of the stronger passages. The famous line

Victrix causa Deis plaouit, sed victa Catoni,

has not yet been well translated, and perhaps never will be; but when Marlowe wrote

Caesar’s cause

The gods abetted, Cato liked the other,

he was hardly equal either to Lucan or himself. I quote a short passage as a fair specimen of the whole:

So thunder, which the wind tears from the clouds,

With crack of riven air and hideous sound,

Filling the world, leaps out and throws forth fire,

Affrights poor fearful men, and blasts their eyes

With overthwarting flames, and raging shoots

Alongst the air, and not resisting it

Falls and returns and shivers where it lights.

Lines 151–157.

Sir Thomas May’s translation (published about 1631) is in the heroic metre. It contains passages of some merit but it is extremely unequal and is disfigured by diction frequently obscure, and by a fashion of rhyming which to modem readers is uncouth and almost repulsive. He keeps, generally speaking, fairly close to the original, yet shrinks from some of the passages, particularly from those which are harder and more abstruse. I will give some short extracts illustrative of my meaning:

There filled with true light, with wond’ring eyes

The wand’ring planets and first stars he sees.

He sees our day involv’d in midst of night,

And laughs at his tome trunk’s ridiculous plight.

Book IX. line 12.

The ponderous earth out of her center tost.

Her middle place in the world’s orbe has lost;

So great a weight strooke by that voice was stirr’d

And on both sides the face of heaven appeared.

Book VI. line 481.

But his version of Cato’s speech at the oracle of Hammon, Book IX. lines 566–584 (659–684 in this translation), will probably find admirers, and is as follows:

What, Labienus, should I seeke to know?

If I had rather dye in armes, than bow

Unto a Lord? if life be nought at all?

No difference betwixt long life and small?

If any force can hurt men vertuous?

If fortune loose, when vertue doth oppose

Her threats, if good desires be happinesse

And vertue grow not greater by successe?

Thus much we know, nor deeper can the skill

Of Ammon teach. The gods are with us still;

And though their oracles should silent be,

Nought can we doe without the gods decree;

Nor needs he voices; what was fit to know

The great Creator at our births did show.

Nor did he choose these barren sands to shew

(Hiding it heere) his trueth but to a few.

Is there a seate of God, save earth, and sea,

Aire, heaven, and vertue? Why for God should we

Seeke further 1 What ere moves, what ere is scene

Is Jove. For oracles let doubtful! men

Fearef ull of future chances troubled be;

Sure death, not oracles, ascertaine me.

The coward and the valiant man must fall,

This is enough for Jove to speake to all.

Nicholas Rowe’s translation is referred to in terms of praise by Pope, in a letter written by him to H. Cromwell (see the edition of Pope by Courthope and Elwin, vi. 110). But it has this defect, which must outbalance all the merits which it may possess as a poem, that it does not in style or manner reproduce the ‘Pharsalia.’

In modern times we have had from Professor Goldwin Smith, in his ‘Bay Leaves,’ renderings of some chosen passages. But these give no idea of the poem. Also the late Professor Proude published in his article entitled ‘Divus Caesar’ a blank verse version of the apotheosis of Nero in Book I.

I have endeavoured to write a translation which shall reproduce the spirit of the original, and at the same time shall be fairly acceptable to English readers. Without pretending to have rendered every phrase precisely, I have striven to give the meaning of each passage. Other duties have prevented me from giving all the time to this object which would be required to satisfy the critical scholar who has made a study of the difficulties which abound in the ‘Pharsalia;’ but I have consulted the notes of Mr. Haskins in the Cambridge edition of 1887; the text of Hosius; and the text and notes of Prancken on the first five books, published at Leyden early in the present year; and, where authorities differ, 1 hope that in each case some may be found to favour the rendering which has been adopted. I have not shrunk from translating directly extravagant epithets, similes, or descriptions; and I have, with few exceptions, followed the details without abbreviating the text. The particulars of the Marian and SuUan massacres, however, have been to some extent shortened, and the catalogue in Book I. has been lightly passed over. But the description of the serpents in Book IX. has been rendered at full length. The speeches especially have been carefully studied, with a view of giving its full weight to each expression. They form, as has been said, one of the chief features in the poem. With regard to proper names, I have in some instances, as in the Gallic catalogue, given the modern equivalent, but in most cases I have adhered to the ancient word; preferring Pompeius to Pompey, Ptolemasus to Ptolemy, Britannia to Britain, Athena or Athenee to Athens. Similarly I have written Gaul or Gallia, and not France, though Marlowe spoke of the Rubicon as

Dividing just

The bounds of Italy from Cisalpine France.

Book I, line 218.

But if he had written Gaul it would have been better. After all, it is the Roman who speaks. I hope I may at all events successfully contend that no precise or definite rule exists upon this subject; and that, within limits, a discretion is allowed to the translator.

There are some Latin words which I have not always translated, such as Quirites, Im/pemtor, rostra, fasces, plebs, the meaning of which no English word exactly conveys. But, despite the authority of Lord Macaulay, pilum has been rendered as ‘spear.’

With reference to the notes, they are intended to assist, but do not aim at explaining everything.

I have, finally, to acknowledge the assistance of many friends: especially that of the Rev. Henry Furneaux, of Corpus Christi College, Oxford; and of my old schoolfellow W. J. Courthope, Esq., O.B., Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford, to whom I am deeply indebted for his most valuable and weighty aid and criticism.

I have to thank Miss Christabel Marshall, of 21 Great College Street, Westminster, for the preparation of the Index.

In conclusion, I shall be more than satisfied if I am found by this translation to have done anything to render the ‘Pharsalia’ in language, manner, and thought more accessible than it has hitherto been to English readers.

E. R.

October 1896.

Book i

The Crossing of the Rubicon

Introduction, lines 1-50. Address to Nero, 51-75. Causes of the Civil War, 76-135. Character of Pompeius, 136-159; of Caesar, 160-176. Corruption of the times, 177-207. Caesar crosses the Rubicon, 208-257; and advances to Ariminum, 258-293. The Tribunes meet him and Curio addresses him, 294-334. Caesar’s speech to his soldiers, 335-402. The reply of Laelius, 403-449. The Roman forces are summoned from Gaul, 450-523. Terror at Rome and flight of Citizens and Senators, 524-579. Prodigies related, 580-641. Aruns the Seer is summoned to aid the nation, and makes an expiatory sacrifice, 642-705. Figulus prophesies the coming disasters, 706-743; and so does a frenzied nation, 751-772.

Wars worse than civil on Emathian 1 plains,

And crime let loose we sing; how Rome’s high race

Plunged in her vitals her victorious sword;

Armies akin embattled, with the force

Of all the shaken earth bent on the fray;

And burst asunder, to the common guilt,

A kingdom’s compact; eagle with eagle met,

Standard to standard, spear opposed to spear.

Whence, citizens, this rage, this boundless lust

To sate barbarians with the blood of Rome?10

Did not the shade of Crassus, wandering still, 2

Cry for his vengeance? Could ye not have spoiled,

To deck your trophies, haughty Babylon?

Why wage campaigns that send no laurels home?

What lands, what oceans might have been the prize

Of all the blood thus shed in civil strife!

Where Titan rises, where night hides the stars,

‘Neath southern noons all quivering with heat,

Or where keen frost that never yields to spring

In icy fetters binds the Scythian main:20

Long since barbarians by the Eastern sea

And far Araxes’ stream, and those who know

(If any such there be) the birth of Nile

Had felt our yoke. Then, Rome, upon thyself

With all the world beneath thee, if thou must,

Wage this nefarious war, but not till then.

Now view the houses with half-ruined walls

Throughout Italian cities; stone from stone

Has slipped and lies at length; within the home

No guard is found, and in the ancient streets so30

Scarce seen the passer by. The fields in vain,

Rugged with brambles and unploughed for years,

Ask for the hand of man; for man is not.

Nor savage Pyrrhus nor the Punic horde

E’er caused such havoc: to no foe was given

To strike thus deep; but civil strife alone

Dealt the fell wound and left the death behind.

Yet if the fates could find no other way 3

For Nero coming, nor the gods with ease

Gain thrones in heaven; and if the Thunderer40

Prevailed not till the giant’s war was done,

Complaint is silent. For this boon supreme

Welcome, ye gods, be wickedness and crime;

Thronged with our dead be dire Pharsalia’s fields,

Be Punic ghosts avenged by Roman blood;

Add to these ills the toils of Mutina;

Perusia’s dearth; on Munda’s final field

The shock of battle joined; let Leucas’ Cape

Shatter the routed navies; servile hands

Unsheath the sword on fiery Etna’s slopes:50

Still Rome is gainer by the civil war.

Thou, Caesar, art her prize. When thou shalt choose,

Thy watch relieved, to seek divine abodes,

All heaven rejoicing; and shalt hold a throne,

Or else elect to govern Phoebus’ car

And light a subject world that shall not dread

To owe her brightness to a different Sun;

All shall concede thy right: do what thou wilt,

Select thy Godhead, and the central clime

Whence thou shalt rule the world with power divine.60

And yet the Northern or the Southern Pole

We pray thee, choose not; but in rays direct

Vouchsafe thy radiance to thy city Rome.

Press thou on either side, the universe

Should lose its equipoise: take thou the midst,

And weight the scales, and let that part of heaven

Where Caesar sits, be evermore serene

And smile upon us with unclouded blue.

Then may all men lay down their arms, and peace

Through all the nations reign, and shut the gates70

That close the temple of the God of War.

Be thou my help, to me e’en now divine!

Let Delphi’s steep her own Apollo guard,

And Nysa keep her Bacchus, uninvoked.

Rome is my subject and my muse art thou!

First of such deeds I purpose to unfold

The causes — task immense — what drove to arms

A maddened nation, and from all the world

Struck peace away.

By envious fate’s decrees80

Abide not long the mightiest lords of earth;

Beneath too heavy a burden great the fall.

Thus Rome o’ergrew her strength. So when that hour,

The last in all the centuries, shall sound

The world’s disruption, all things shall revert

To that primaeval chaos, stars on stars

Shall crash; and fiery meteors from the sky

Plunge in the ocean. Earth shall then no more

Front with her bulwark the encroaching sea:

The moon, indignant at her path oblique,90

Shall drive her chariot ‘gainst her brother Sun

And claim the day for hers; and discord huge

Shall rend the spheres asunder.

On themselves

Great powers are dashed: such bounds the gods have placed

Upon the prosperous; nor doth Fortune lend

To any nations, so that they may strike

The sovereign power that rules the earth and sea,

The weapons of her envy. Triple reign

And baleful compact for divided power —100

Ne’er without peril separate before —

Made Rome their victim. Oh! Ambition blind,

That stirred the leaders so to join their strength

In peace that ended ill, their prize the world!

For while the Sea on Earth and Earth on Air

Lean for support: while Titan runs his course,

And night with day divides an equal sphere,

No king shall brook his fellow, nor shall power

Endure a rival. Search no foreign lands:

These walls are proof that in their infant days110

A hamlet, not the world, was prize enough

To cause the shedding of a brother’s blood.

Concord, on discord based, brief time endured,

Unwelcome to the rivals; and alone

Crassus delayed the advent of the war.

Like to the slender neck that separates

The seas of Graecia: should it be engulfed

Then would th’ Ionian and Aegean mains 4

Break each on other: thus when Crassus fell,

Who held apart the chiefs, in piteous death,120

And stained Assyria’s plains with Latian blood,

Defeat in Parthia loosed the war in Rome.

More in that victory than ye thought was won,

Ye sons of Arsaces; your conquered foes

Took at your hands the rage of civil strife.

The mighty realm that earth and sea contained,

To which all peoples bowed, split by the sword,

Could not find space for two 5. For Julia bore,

Cut off by fate unpitying6, the bond

Of that ill-omened marriage, and the pledge130

Of blood united, to the shades below.

Had’st thou but longer stayed, it had been thine

To keep the husband and the sire apart,

And, as the Sabine women did of old,

Dash down the threatening swords and join the hands.

With thee all trust was buried, and the chiefs

Could give their courage vent, and rushed to war.

Lest newer glories triumphs past obscure,

Late conquered Gaul the bays from pirates won,

This, Magnus, was thy fear; thy roll of fame,140

Of glorious deeds accomplished for the state

Allows no equal; nor will Caesar’s pride

A prior rival in his triumphs brook;

Which had the right ’twere impious to enquire;

Each for his cause can vouch a judge supreme;

The victor, heaven: the vanquished, Cato, thee. 7

Nor were they like to like: the one in years

Now verging towards decay, in times of peace

Had unlearned war; but thirsting for applause

Had given the people much, and proud of fame150

His former glory cared not to renew,

But joyed in plaudits of the theatre, 8

His gift to Rome: his triumphs in the past,

Himself the shadow of a mighty name.

As when some oak, in fruitful field sublime,

Adorned with venerable spoils, and gifts

Of bygone leaders, by its weight to earth

With feeble roots still clings; its naked arms

And hollow trunk, though leafless, give a shade;

And though condemned beneath the tempest’s shock160

To speedy fall, amid the sturdier trees

In sacred grandeur rules the forest still.

No such repute had Ceesar won, nor fame;

But energy was his that could not rest —

The only shame he knew was not to win.

Keen and unvanquished 9, where revenge or hope

Might call, resistless would he strike the blow

With sword unpitying: every victory won

Reaped to the full; the favour of the gods

Pressed to the utmost; all that stayed his course170

Aimed at the summit of power, was thrust aside:

Triumph his joy, though ruin marked his track.

As parts the clouds a bolt by winds compelled,

With crack of riven air and crash of worlds,

And veils the light of day, and on mankind,

Blasting their vision with its flames oblique,

Sheds deadly fright; then turning to its home, ’

Nought but the air opposing, through its path

Spreads havoc, and collects its scattered fires.

Such were the hidden motives of the chiefs;180

But in the public life the seeds of war

Their hold had taken, such as are the doom

Of potent nations: and when fortune poured

Through Roman gates the booty of a world,

The curse of luxury, chief bane of states,

Fell on her sons. Farewell the ancient ways!

Behold the pomp profuse, the houses decked

With ornament; their hunger loathed the food

Of former days; men wore attire for dames

Scarce fitly fashioned; poverty was scorned,190

Fruitful of warriors; and from all the world

Came that which ruins nations; while the fields

Furrowed of yore by great Camillus’ plough,

Or by the mattock which a Curius held,

Lost their once narrow bounds, and widening tracts

By hinds unknown were tilled. No nation this

To sheathe the sword, with tranquil peace content

And with her liberties; but prone to ire;

Crime holding light as though by want compelled:

And great the glory in the minds of men,200

Ambition lawful even at point of sword,

To rise above their country: might their law:

Decrees are forced from Senate and from Plebs:

Consul and Tribune break the laws alike:

Bought are the fasces, and the people sell

For gain their favour: bribery’s fatal curse

Corrupts the annual contests of the Field.

Then covetous usury rose, and interest

Was greedier ever as the seasons came;

Faith tottered; thousands saw their gain in war.210

Caesar has crossed the Alps, his mighty soul

Great tumults pondering and the coming shock.

Now on the marge of Rubicon, he saw,

In face most sorrowful and ghostly guise,

His trembling country’s image; huge it seemed

Through mists of night obscure; and hoary hair

Streamed from the lofty front with turrets crowned:

Torn were her locks and naked were her arms.

Then thus, with broken sighs the Vision spake:

“What seek ye, men of Rome? and whither hence220

Bear ye my standards? If by right ye come,

My citizens, stay here; these are the bounds;

No further dare.” But Caesar’s hair was stiff

With horror as he gazed, and ghastly dread

Restrained his footsteps on the further bank.

Then spake he, “Thunderer, who from the rock

Tarpeian seest the wall of mighty Rome;

Gods of my race who watched o’er Troy of old;

Thou Jove of Alba’s height, and Vestal fires,

And rites of Romulus erst rapt to heaven,230

And God-like Rome; be friendly to my quest.

Not with offence or hostfie arms I come,

Thy Caesar, conqueror by land and sea,

Thy soldier here and wheresoe’er thou wilt:

No other’s; his, his only be the guilt

Whose acts make me thy foe.’ He gives the word

And bids his standards cross the swollen stream.

So in the wastes of Afric’s burning clime

The lion crouches as his foes draw near,

Feeding his wrath the while, his lashing tail240

Provokes his fury; stiff upon his neck

Bristles his mane: deep from his gaping jaws

Resounds a muttered growl, and should a lance

Or javelin reach him from the hunter’s ring,

Scorning the puny scratch he bounds afield.

From modest fountain blood-red Rubicon

In summer’s heat flows on; his pigmy tide

Creeps through the valleys and with slender marge

Divides the Italian peasant from the Gaul.

Then winter gave him strength, and fraught with rain250

The third day’s crescent moon; while Eastern winds

Thawed from the Alpine slopes the yielding snow.

The cavalry first form across the stream ’

To break the torrent’s force; the rest with ease

Beneath their shelter gain the further bank.

When Csesar crossed and trod beneath his feet

The soil of Italy’s forbidden fields,

“Here,” spake he, “peace, here broken laws be left;

Farewell to treaties. Fortune, lead me on;

War is our judge, and in the fates our trust.”260

Then in the shades of night he leads the troops

Swifter than Balearic sling or shaft

Winged by retreating Parthian, to the walls

Of threatened Rimini, while fled the stars,

Save Lucifer, before the coming sun,

Whose fires were veiled in clouds, by south wind driven,

Or else at heaven’s command: and thus drew on

The first dark morning of the civil war.

Now stand the troops within the captured town,

Their standards planted; and the trumpet clang270

Rings forth in harsh alarums, giving note

Of impious strife: roused from their sleep the men

Rush to the hall and snatch the ancient arms

Long hanging through the years of peace; the shield

With crumbling frame; dark with the tooth of rust

Their swords 10; and javelins with blunted point.

But when the well-known signs and eagles shone,

And Caesar towering o’er the throng was seen,

They shook for terror, fear possessed their limbs,

And thoughts unuttered stirred within their souls.280

“O miserable those to whom their home

Denies the peace that all men else enjoy!

Placed as we are beside the Northern bounds

And scarce a footstep from the restless Gaul,

We fall the first; would that our lot had been

Beneath the Eastern sky, or frozen North,

To lead a wandering life, rather than keep

The gates of Latium. Brennus sacked the town

And Hannibal, and all the Teuton hosts.

For when the fate of Rome is in the scale290

By this path war advances.” Thus they moan

Their fears but speak them not; no sound is heard

Giving their anguish utterance: as when

In depth of winter all the fields are still,

The birds are voiceless and no sound is heard

To break the silence of the central sea.

But when the day had broken through the shades

Of chilly darkness, lo! the torch of war!

For by the hand of Fate is swift dispersed

All Caesar’s shame of battle, and his mind300

Scarce doubted more; and Fortune toiled to make

His action just and give him cause for arms.

For while Rome doubted and the tongues of men

Spoke of the chiefs who won them rights of yore,

The hostile Senate, in contempt of right,

Drove out the Tribunes. They to Caesar’s camp

With Curio hasten, who of venal tongue,

Bold, prompt, persuasive, had been wont to preach

Of Freedom to the people, and to call

Upon the chiefs to lay their weapons down 11.310

And when he saw how deeply Caesar mused,

“While from the rostrum I had power,” he said,

To call the populace to aid thy cause,

By this my voice against the Senate’s will

Was thy command prolonged. But silenced now

Are laws in war: we driven from our homes;

Yet is our exile willing; for thine arms

Shall make us citizens of Rome again.

Strike; for no strength as yet the foe hath gained.

Occasion calls, delay shall mar it soon:320

Like risk, like labour, thou hast known before,

But never such reward. Could Gallia hold

Thine armies ten long years ere victory came,

That little nook of earth? One paltry fight

Or twain, fought out by thy resistless hand,

And Rome for thee shall have subdued the world:

’Tis true no triumph now would bring thee home;

No captive tribes would grace thy chariot wheels

Winding in pomp around the ancient hill.

Spite gnaws the factions; for thy conquests won330

Scarce shalt thou be unpunished. Yet ’tis fate

Thou should’st subdue thy kinsman: share the world

With him thou canst not; rule thou canst, alone.”

As when at Elis’ festival a horse

In stable pent gnaws at his prison bars

Impatient, and should clamour from without

Strike on his ear, bounds furious at restraint,

So then was Caesar, eager for the fight,

Stirred by the words of Curio. To the ranks

He bids his soldiers; with majestic mien340

And hand commanding silence as they come.

“Comrades,” he cried, “victorious returned,

Who by my side for ten long years have faced,

‘Mid Alpine winters and on Arctic shores,

The thousand dangers of the battle-field —

Is this our country’s welcome, this her prize

For death and wounds and Roman blood outpoured?

Rome arms her choicest sons; the sturdy oaks

Are felled to make a fleet; — what could she more

If from the Alps fierce Hannibal were come350

With all his Punic host? By land and sea

Caesar shall fly! Fly? Though in adverse war

Our best had fallen, and the savage Gaul

Were hard upon our track, we would not fly.

And now, when fortune smiles and kindly gods

Beckon us on to glory! — Let him come

Fresh from his years of peace, with all his crowd

Of conscript burgesses, Marcellus’ tongue 12

And Cato’s empty name! We will not fly.

Shall Eastern hordes and greedy hirelings keep360

Their loved Pompeius ever at the helm?

Shall chariots of triumph be for him

Though youth and law forbad them? Shall he seize

On Rome’s chief honours ne’er to be resigned?

And what of harvests 13 blighted through the world

And ghastly famine made to serve his ends?

Who hath forgotten how Pompeius’ bands

Seized on the forum, and with glittering arms

Made outraged justice tremble, while their swords

Hemmed in the judgment-seat where Milo 14 stood?370

And now when worn and old and ripe for rest 15,

Greedy of power, the impious sword again

He draws. As tigers in Hyrcanian woods

Wandering, or in the caves that saw their birth,

Once having lapped the blood of slaughtered kine,

Shall never cease from rage; e’en so this whelp

Of cruel Sulla, nursed in civil war,

Outstrips his master; and the tongue which licked

That reeking weapon ever thirsts for more.

Stain once the lips with blood, no other meal380

They shall enjoy. And shall there be no end

Of these long years of power and of crime?

Nay, this one lesson, e’er it be too late,

Learn of thy gentle Sulla — to retire!

Of old his victory o’er Cilician thieves

And Pontus’ weary monarch gave him fame,

By poison scarce attained. His latest prize

Shall I be, Caesar, I, who would not quit

My conquering eagles at his proud command?

Nay, if no triumph is reserved for me,390

Let these at least of long and toilsome war

‘Neath other leaders the rewards enjoy.

Where shall the weary soldier find his rest?

What cottage homes their joys, what fields their fruit

Shall to our veterans yield? Will Magnus say

That pirates only till the fields alight?

Unfurl your standards; victory gilds them yet,

As through those glorious years. Deny our rights!

He that denies them makes our quarrel just.

Nay! use the strength that we have made our own.400

No booty seek we, nor imperial power.

This would-be ruler of subservient Rome

We force to quit his grasp; and Heaven shall smile

On those who seek to drag the tyrant down.”

Thus Caesar spake; but doubtful murmurs ran

Throughout the listening crowd, this way and that

Their wishes urging them; the thoughts of home

And household gods and kindred gave them pause:

But fear of Caesar and the pride of war

Their doubts resolved. Then Laelius, who wore410

The well-earned crown for Roman life preserved,

The foremost Captain of the army, spake:

“O greatest leader of the Roman name,

If ’tis thy wish the very truth to hear

’Tis mine to speak it; we complain of this,

That gifted with such strength thou did’st refrain

From using it. Had’st thou no trust in us?

While the hot life-blood fills these glowing veins,

While these strong arms avail to hurl the lance,

Wilt thou make peace and bear the Senate’s rule?420

Is civil conquest then so base and vile?

Lead us through Scythian deserts, lead us where

The inhospitable Syrtes line the shore

Of Afric’s burning sands, or where thou wilt:

This hand, to leave a conquered world behind,

Held firm the oar that tamed the Northern Sea

And Rhine’s swift torrent foaming to the main.

To follow thee fate gives me now the power:

The will was mine before. No citizen

I count the man ‘gainst whom thy trumpets sound.430

By ten campaigns of victory, I swear,

By all thy world-wide triumphs, though with hand

Unwilling, should’st thou now demand the life

Of sire or brother or of faithful spouse,

Caesar, the life were thine. To spoil the gods

And sack great Juno’s temple on the hill,

To plant our arms o’er Tiber’s yellow stream,

To measure out the camp, against the wall

To drive the fatal ram, and raze the town,

This arm shall not refuse, though Rome the prize.”440

His comrades swore consent with lifted hands

And vowed to follow wheresoe’er he led.

And such a clamour rent the sky as when

Some Thracian blast on Ossa’s pine-clad rocks

Falls headlong, and the loud reechoing woods,

Or bending, or rebounding from the stroke,

In sounding chorus lift the roar on high.

When Csesar saw them welcome thus the war

And Fortune leading on, and favouring fates,

He seized the moment, called his troops from Gaul,450

And breaking up his camp set on for Rome.

The tents are vacant by Lake Leman’s side;

The camps upon the beetling crags of Vosges

No longer hold the warlike Lingon down,

Fierce in his painted arms; Isere is left,

Who past his shallows gliding, flows at last

Into the current of more famous Rhone,

To reach the ocean in another name.

The fair-haired people of Cevennes are free:

Soft Aude rejoicing bears no Roman keel,460

Nor pleasant Var, since then Italia’s bound;

The harbour sacred to Alcides’ name

Where hollow crags encroach upon the sea,

Is left in freedom: there nor Zephyr gains

Nor Caurus access, but the Circian blast 16

Forbids the roadstead by Monaecus’ hold.

And others left the doubtful shore, which sea

And land alternate claim, whene’er the tide

Pours in amain or when the wave rolls back —

Be it the wind which thus compels the deep470

From furthest pole, and leaves it at the flood;

Or else the moon that makes the tide to swell,

Or else, in search of fuel 17 for his fires,

The sun draws heavenward the ocean wave; —

Whate’er the cause that may control the main

I leave to others; let the gods for me

Lock in their breasts the secrets of the world.

Those who kept watch beside the western shore

Have moved their standards home; the happy Gaul

Rejoices in their absence; fair Garonne480

Through peaceful meads glides onward to the sea.

And where the river broadens, neath the cape

Her quiet harbour sleeps. No outstretched arm

Except in mimic war now hurls the lance.

No skilful warrior of Seine directs

The scythed chariot ‘gainst his country’s foe.

Now rest the Belgians, and the Arvernian race

That boasts our kinship by descent from Troy;

And those brave rebels whose undaunted hands

Were dipped in Cotta’s blood, and those who wear490

Sarmatian garb. Batavia’s warriors fierce

No longer listen for the bugle call,

Nor those who dwell where Rhone’s swift eddies sweep

Saone to the ocean; nor the mountain tribes

Who dwell about its source. Thou, too, oh Treves,

Rejoicest that the war has left thy bounds.

Ligurian tribes, now shorn, in ancient days

First of the long-haired nations, on whose necks

Once flowed the auburn locks in pride supreme;

And those who pacify with blood accursed500

Savage Teutates, Hesus’ horrid shrines,

And Taranis’ altars cruel as were those

Loved by Diana 18, goddess of the north;

All these now rest in peace. And you, ye Bards,

Whose martial lays send down to distant times

The fame of valorous deeds in battle done,

Pour forth in safety more abundant song.

While you, ye Druids 19, when the war was done,

To mysteries strange and hateful rites returned:

To you alone ’tis given the gods and stars510

To know or not to know; secluded groves

Your dwelling-place, and forests far remote.

If what ye sing be true, the shades of men

Seek not the dismal homes of Erebus

Or death’s pale kingdoms; but the breath of life

Still rules these bodies in another age —

Life on this hand and that, and death between.

Happy the peoples ‘neath the Northern Star

In this their false belief; for them no fear

Of that which frights all others: they with hands520

And hearts undaunted rush upon the foe

And scorn to spare the life that shall return.

Ye too depart who kept the banks of Rhine

Safe from the foe, and leave the Teuton tribes

Free at their will to march upon the world.

Caesar, with strength increased and gathered troops

New efforts daring, spreads his bands afar

Through Italy, and fills the neighbouring towns.

Then empty rumour to well-grounded fear

Gave strength, and heralding the coming war530

In hundred voices ‘midst the people spread.

One cries in terror, “Swift the squadrons come

Where Nar with Tiber joins: and where, in meads

By oxen loved, Mevania spreads her walls,

Fierce Caesar hurries his barbarian horse.

Eagles and standards wave above his head,

And broad the march that sweeps across the land.”

Nor is he pictured truly; greater far

More fierce and pitiless — from conquered foes

Advancing; in his rear the peoples march.540

Snatched from their homes between the Rhine and Alps,

To pillage Rome while Roman chiefs look on.

Thus each man’s panic thought swells rumour’s lie:

They fear the phantoms they themselves create.

Nor does the terror seize the crowd alone:

But fled the Fathers, to the Consuls 20 first

Issuing their hated order, as for war;

And doubting of their safety, doubting too

Where lay the peril, through the choking gates,

Each where he would, rushed all the people forth.550

Thou would’st believe that blazing to the torch

Were men’s abodes, or nodding to their fall.

So streamed they onwards, frenzied with affright,

As though in exile only could they find

Hope for their country. So, when southern blasts

From Libyan whirlpools drive the boundless main,

And mast and sail crash down upon a ship

With ponderous weight, but still the frame is sound,

Her crew and captain leap into the sea,

Each making shipwreck for himself. ’Twas thus560

They passed the city gates and fled to war.

No aged parent now could stay his son;

Nor wife her spouse, nor did they pray the gods

To grant the safety of their fatherland.

None linger on the threshold for a look

Of their loved city, though perchance the last.

Ye gods, who lavish priceless gifts on men,

Nor care to guard them, see victorious Rome

Teeming with life, chief city of the world,

With ample walls that all mankind might hold,570

To coming Caesar left an easy prey.

The Roman soldier, when in foreign lands

Pressed by the enemy, in narrow trench

And hurried mound finds guard enough to make

His slumber safe; but thou, imperial Rome,

Alone on rumour of advancing foes

Art left a desert, and thy battlements

They trust not for one night. Yet for their fear

This one excuse was left; Pompeius fled.

Nor found they room for hope; for nature gave580

Unerring portents of worse ills to come.

The angry gods filled earth and air and sea

With frequent prodigies; in darkest nights

Strange constellations sparkled through the gloom:

The pole was all afire, and torches flew

Across the depths of heaven; with horrid hair

A blazing comet stretched from east to west

And threatened change to kingdoms. From the blue

Pale lightning flashed, and in the murky air

The fire took divers shapes; a lance afar590

Would seem to quiver or a misty torch;

A noiseless thunderbolt from cloudless sky

Rushed down, and drawing fire in northern parts

Plunged on the summit of the Alban mount.

The stars that run their courses in the night

Shone in full daylight; and the orbed moon,

Hid by the shade of earth, grew pale and wan.

The sun himself, when poised in mid career,

Shrouded his burning car in blackest gloom

And plunged the world in darkness, so that men600

Despaired of day — like as he veiled his light

From that fell banquet which Mycenae saw 21.

The jaws of Etna were agape with flame

That rose not heavenwards, but headlong fell

In smoking stream upon the Italian flank.

Then black Charybdis, from her boundless depth,

Threw up a gory sea. In piteous tones

Howled the wild dogs; the Vestal fire was snatched

From off the altar; and the flame that crowned

The Latin festival was split in twain,610

As on the Theban pyre 22, in ancient days;

Earth tottered on its base: the mighty Alps

From off their summits shook th’ eternal snow 23.

In huge upheaval Ocean raised his waves

O’er Calpe’s rock and Atlas’ hoary head.

The native gods shed tears, and holy sweat

Dropped from the idols; gifts in temples fell:

Foul birds defiled the day; beasts left the woods

And made their lair among the streets of Rome.

All this we hear; nay more: dumb oxen spake;620

Monsters were brought to birth and mothers shrieked

At their own offspring; words of dire import

From Cumae’s prophetess were noised abroad.

Bellona’s priests with bleeding arms, and slaves

Of Cybele’s worship, with ensanguined hair,

Howled chants of havoc and of woe to men.

Arms clashed; and sounding in the pathless woods

Were heard strange voices; spirits walked the earth:

And dead men’s ashes muttered from the urn.

Those who live near the walls desert their homes,630

For lo! with hissing serpents in her hair,

Waving in downward whirl a blazing pine,

A fiend patrols the town, like that which erst

At Thebes urged on Agave 24, or which hurled

Lycurgus’ bolts, or that which as he came

From Hades seen, at haughty Juno’s word,

Brought terror to the soul of Hercules.

Trumpets like those that summon armies forth

Were heard reechoing in the silent night:

And from the earth arising Sulla’s 25 ghost640

Sang gloomy oracles, and by Anio’s wave

All fled the homesteads, frighted by the shade

Of Marius waking from his broken tomb.

In such dismay they summon, as of yore,

The Tuscan sages to the nation’s aid.

Aruns, the eldest, leaving his abode

In desolate Luca, came, well versed in all

The lore of omens; knowing what may mean

The flight of hovering bird, the pulse that beats

In offered victims, and the levin bolt.650

All monsters first, by most unnatural birth

Brought into being, in accursd flames

He bids consume 26. Then round the walls of Rome

Each trembling citizen in turn proceeds.

The priests, chief guardians of the public faith,

With holy sprinkling purge the open space

That borders on the wall; in sacred garb

Follows the lesser crowd: the Vestals come

By priestess led with laurel crown bedecked,

To whom alone is given the right to see660

Minerva’s effigy that came from Troy 27.

Next come the keepers of the sacred books

And fate’s predictions; who from Almo’s brook

Bring back Cybebe laved; the augur too

Taught to observe sinister flight of birds;

And those who serve the banquets to the gods;

And Titian brethren; and the priest of Mars,

Proud of the buckler that adorns his neck;

By him the Flamen, on his noble head

The cap of office. While they tread the path670

That winds around the walls, the aged seer

Collects the thunderbolts that fell from heaven,

And lays them deep in earth, with muttered words

Naming the spot accursed. Next a steer,

Picked for his swelling neck and beauteous form,

He leads to the altar, and with slanting knife

Spreads on his brow the meal, and pours the wine.

The victim’s struggles prove the gods averse;

But when the servers press upon his horns

He bends the knee and yields him to the blow.680

No crimson torrent issued at the stroke,

But from the wound a dark empoisoned stream

Ebbed slowly downward. Aruns at the sight

Aghast, upon the entrails of the beast

Essayed to read the anger of the gods.

Their very colour terrified the seer;

Spotted they were and pale, with sable streaks

Of lukewarm gore bespread; the liver damp

With foul disease, and on the hostile part

The angry veins defiant; of the lungs690

The fibre hid, and through the vital parts

The membrane small; the heart had ceased to throb;

Blood oozes through the ducts; the caul is split:

And, fatal omen of impending ill,

One lobe o’ergrows the other; of the twain

The one lies flat and sick, the other beats

And keeps the pulse in rapid strokes astir.

Disaster’s near approach thus learned, he cries —

“Whate’er may be the purpose of the gods,

’Tis not for me to tell; this offered beast700

Not Jove possesses, but the gods below.

We dare not speak our fears, yet fear doth make

The future worse than fact. May all the gods

Prosper the tokens, and the sacrifice

Be void of truth, and Tages (famous seer)

Have vainly taught these mysteries.” Such his words

Involved, mysterious. Figulus, to whom

For knowledge of the secret depths of space

And laws harmonious that guide the stars,

Memphis could find no peer, then spake at large:710

“Either,” he said, “the world and countless orbs

Throughout the ages wander at their will;

Or, if the fates control them, ruin huge

Hangs o’er this city and o’er all mankind.

Shall Earth yawn open and engulph the towns?

Shall scorching heat usurp the temperate air

And fields refuse their timely fruit? The streams

Flow mixed with poison? In what plague, ye gods,

In what destruction shall ye wreak your ire?

Whate’er the truth, the days in which we live720

Shall find a doom for many. Had the star

Of baleful Saturn, frigid in the height,

Kindled his lurid fires, the sky had poured

Its torrents forth as in Deucalion’s time,

And whelmed the world in waters. Or if thou,

Phoebus, beside the Nemean lion fierce

Wert driving now thy chariot, flames should seize

The universe and set the air ablaze.

These are at peace; but, Mars, why art thou bent

On kindling thus the Scorpion, his tail730

Portending evil and his claws aflame?

Deep sunk is kindly Jupiter, and dull

Sweet Venus’ star, and rapid Mercury

Stays on his course: Mars only holds the sky.

Why does Orion’s sword too brightly shine?

Why planets leave their paths and through the void

Thus journey on obscure? ’Tis war that comes,

Fierce rabid war: the sword shall bear the rule

Confounding justice; hateful crime usurp

The name of virtue; and the havoc spread740

Through many a year. But why entreat the gods?

The end Rome longs for and the final peace

Comes with a despot. Draw thou out thy chain

Of lengthening slaughter, and (for such thy fate)

Make good thy liberty through civil war.”

The frightened people heard, and as they heard

His words prophetic made them fear the more.

But worse remained; for as on Pindus’ slopes

Possessed with fury from the Theban god

Speeds some Bacchante, thus in Roman streets750

Behold a matron run, who, in her trance,

Relieves her bosom of the god within.

“Where dost thou snatch me, Paean, to what shore

Through airy regions borne? I see the snows

Of Thracian mountains; and Philippi’s plains

Lie broad beneath. But why these battle lines,

No foe to vanquish — Rome on either hand?

Again I wander ‘neath the rosy hues

That paint thine eastern skies, where regal Nile

Meets with his flowing wave the rising tide.760

Known to mine eyes that mutilated trunk

That lies upon the sand! Across the seas

By changing whirlpools to the burning climes

Of Libya borne, again I see the hosts

From Thracia brought by fate’s command. And now

Thou bear’st me o’er the cloud-compelling Alps

And Pyrenean summits; next to Rome.

There in mid-Senate see the closing scene

Of this foul war in foulest murder done.

Again the factions rise; through all the world770

Once more I pass; but give me some new land,

Some other region, Phoebus, to behold!

Washed by the Pontic billows! for these eyes

Already once have seen Philippi’s plains!” 28

The frenzy left her and she speechless fell.

1 ‘The great Emathian conqueror’ (Milton’s sonnet). Emathia was part of Macedonia, but the word is used loosely for Thessaly or Macedonia.

2 Crassus had been defeated and slain by the Parthians in B.C. 53, four years before this period.

3 Mr. Froude in his essay entitled “Divus Caesar” hints that these famous lines may have been written in mockery. Probably the five years known as the Golden Era of Nero had passed when they were written: yet the text itself does not aid such a suggestion; and the view generally taken, namely that Lucan was in earnest, appears preferable. There were many who dreamed at the time that the disasters of the Civil War were being compensated by the wealth and prosperity of the empire under Nero; and the assurance of universal peace, then almost realised, which is expressed in lines 69–81, seems inconsistent with the idea that this passage was written in irony. (See Lecky’s “European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne”, vol. i.p.240, who describes these latter verses as Written with all the fervour of a Christian poet. See also Merivale’s “Roman Empire,” chapter liv.)

4 See a similar passage in the final scene of Ben Jonson’s “Catiline”. The cutting of the Isthmus of Corinth was proposed in Nero’s reign, and actually commenced in his presence; but abandoned because it was asserted that the level of the water in the Corinthian Gulf was higher than that in the Saronic Gulf, so that, if the canal were cut, the island of Aegina would be submerged. Merivale’s “Roman Empire”, chapter iv.

5 Compare:

“Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere;

Nor can one England brook a double reign

Of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales.”

— “1 Henry IV”, Act v., Scene 4.

6 This had taken place in B.C.54, about five years before the action of the poem opens.

7 This famous line was quoted by Lamartine when addressing the French Assembly in 1848. He was advocating, against the interests of his own party (which in the Assembly was all-powerful), that the President of the Republic should be chosen by the nation, and not by the Assembly; and he ended by saying that if the course he advocated was disastrous to himself, ‘Victrix causa Diis placuit, sed victa Catoni.’

8 ‘Plausuque sui gaudere theatri.’ Quoted by Mr. Pitt, in his speech on the address in 1783, on the occasion of peace being made with France, Spain, and America; in allusion to Mr. Sheridan. The latter replied, ‘If ever I again engage in the compositions he alludes to, I may be tempted to an act of presumption — to attempt an improvement on one of Ben Jonson’s best characters — the character of the Angry Boy in the “Alchymist.”’

9 Cicero wrote thus of Caesar: 1Have you ever read or heard of a man more vigorous in action or more moderate in the use of victory than our Caesar?’ — Epp. ad Diversos,’ viii. 15.

10 Marlowe has it:

“ . . . And swords

With ugly teeth of black rust foully scarred.”

11 In the Senate, Curio had proposed and carried a resolution that Pompeius and Caesar should lay their arms down simultaneously; but this was resisted by the Oligarchal party, who endeavoured, though unsuccessfully, to expel Curio from the Senate, and who placed Pompeius in command of the legions at Capua. This was in effect a declaration of war; and Curio, after a last attempt at resistance, left the city, and betook himself to Caesar. (See the close of Book IV.)

12 Marcus Marcellus, Consul in B.C. 51.

13 Plutarch, “Pomp.”, 49. The harbours and places of trade were placed under his control in order that he might find a remedy for the scarcity of grain. But his enemies said that he had caused the scarcity in order to get the power.

14 Milo was brought to trial for the murder of Clodius in B.C.52, about three years before this. Pompeius, then sole Consul, had surrounded the tribunal with soldiers, who at one time charged the crowd. Milo was sent into exile at Massilia.

15 See Book II., 630.

16 The north-west wind. Circius was a violent wind from about the same quarter, but peculiar to the district.

17 This idea that the sun found fuel in the clouds appears again in Book VII., line 7; Book IX., line 379; and Book X., line 317.

18 This Diana was worshipped by the Tauri, a people who dwelt in the Crimea; and, according to legend, was propitiated by human sacrifices. Orestes on his return from his expiatory wanderings brought her image to Greece, and the Greeks identified her with their Artemis. (Compare Book VI., 93.)

19 The horror of the Druidical groves is again alluded to in Book III., lines 462–489. Dean Merivale remarks (chapter li.) on this passage, that in the despair of another life which pervaded Paganism at the time, the Roman was exasperated at the Druids’ assertion of the transmigration of souls. But the passage seems also to betray a lingering suspicion that the doctrine may in some shape be true, however horrible were the rites and sacrifices. The reality of a future life was a part of Lucan’s belief, as a state of reward for heroes. (See the passage at the beginning of Book IX.; and also Book VI., line 933). But all was vague and uncertain, and he appears to have viewed the Druidical transmigration rather with doubt and unbelief, as a possible form of future or recurring life, than with scorn as an absurdity.

20 Plutarch says the Consuls fled without making the sacrifices usual before wars. (“Pomp.” 61.)

21 Compare Ben Jonson’s “Catiline,” I. 1:—

Lecca: The day goes back,
Or else my senses.

Curius: As at Atreus’ feast.

22 When the Theban brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, were being burned on the same pyre, the flame shot up in two separate tongues, indicating that even in death they could not be reconciled. (Mr. Haskins’ note, citing Statius, “Thebiad”)

23 “Shook the old snow from off their trembling laps.” (Marlowe.) The Latin word is “jugis”.

24 Book VI., 420.

25 Sulla was buried in the Campus Martius. (Plutarch, “Sulla,”.) The corpse of Marius was dragged from his tomb by Sulla’s order, and thrown into the Anio.

26 Such a ceremonial took place in A.D. 56 under Nero, after the temples of Jupiter and Minerva had been struck by lightning, and was probably witnessed by Lucan himself. (See Merivale’s “History of the Roman Empire,” chapter lii.)

27 See Book IX., 1178.

28 The confusion between the site of the battle of Philippi and that of the battle of Pharsalia is common among the Roman writers. (See the note to Merivale, chapter xxvi.)

Book ii

The Flight of Pompeius

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

This was made plain the anger of the gods;

The universe gave signs Nature reversed

In monstrous tumult fraught with prodigies

Her laws, and prescient spake the coming guilt.

How seemed it just to thee, Olympus’ king,

That suffering mortals at thy doom should know

By omens dire the massacre to come?

Or did the primal parent of the world

When first the flames gave way and yielding left

Matter unformed to his subduing hand,10

And realms unbalanced, fix by stern decree’

Unalterable laws to bind the whole

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

All Nature moves within its fated bounds?

Or, is Chance sovereign over all, and we

The sport of Fortune and her turning wheel?

Whate’er be truth, keep thou the future veiled

From mortal vision, and amid their fears

May men still hope.

Thus known how great the woes20

The world should suffer, from the truth divine,

A solemn fast was called, the courts were closed,

All men in private garb; no purple hem

Adorned the togas of the chiefs of Rome;

No plaints were uttered, and a voiceless grief

Lay deep in every bosom: as when death

Knocks at some door but enters not as yet,

Before the mother calls the name aloud

Or bids her grieving maidens beat the breast,

While still she marks the glazing eye, and soothes30

The stiffening limbs and gazes on the face,

In nameless dread, not sorrow, and in awe

Of death approaching: and with mind distraught

Clings to the dying in a last embrace.

The matrons laid aside their wonted garb:

Crowds filled the temples — on the unpitying stones

Some dashed their bosoms; others bathed with tears

The statues of the gods; some tore their hair

Upon the holy threshold, and with shrieks

And vows unceasing called upon the names40

Of those whom mortals supplicate. Nor all

Lay in the Thunderer’s fane: at every shrine

Some prayers are offered which refused shall bring

Reproach on heaven. One whose livid arms

Were dark with blows, whose cheeks with tears bedewed

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

Tear now the lock; while doubtful in the scales

Still fortune hangs, nor yet the fight is won,

You still may grieve: when either wins rejoice.”

Thus sorrow stirs itself.50

Meanwhile the men

Seeking the camp and setting forth to war,

Address the cruel gods in just complaint.

“Happy the youths who born in Punic days

On Cannae’s uplands or by Trebia’s stream

Fought and were slain! What wretched lot is ours!

No peace we ask for: let the nations rage;

Rouse fiercest cities! may the world find arms

To wage a war with Rome: let Parthian hosts

Rush forth from Susa; Scythian Ister curb60

No more the Massagete: unconquered Rhine

Let loose from furthest North her fair-haired tribes:

Elbe, pour thy Suevians forth! Let us be foes

Of all the peoples. May the Getan press

Here, and the Dacian there; Pompeius meet

The Eastern archers, Caesar in the West

Confront th’ Iberian. Leave to Rome no hand

To raise against herself in civil strife.

Or, if Italia by the gods be doomed,

Let all the sky, fierce Parent, be dissolved70

And falling on the earth in flaming bolts,

Their hands still bloodless, strike both leaders down,

With both their hosts! Why plunge in novel crime

To settle which of them shall rule in Rome?

Scarce were it worth the price of civil war

To hinder either.” Thus the patriot voice

Still found an utterance, soon to speak no more.

Meantime, the aged fathers o’er their fates

In anguish grieved, detesting life prolonged

That brought with it another civil war.80

And thus spake one, to justify his fears:

“No other deeds the fates laid up in store

When Marius 29, victor over Teuton hosts,

Afric’s high conqueror, cast out from Rome,

Lay hid in marshy ooze, at thy behest,

O Fortune! by the yielding soil concealed

And waving rushes; but ere long the chains

Of prison wore his weak and aged frame,

And lengthened squalor: thus he paid for crime

His punishment beforehand; doomed to die90

Consul in triumph over wasted Rome.

Death oft refused him; and the very foe,

In act to murder, shuddered in the stroke

And dropped the weapon from his nerveless hand.

For through the prison gloom a flame of light

He saw; the deities of crime abhorred;

The Marius to come. A voice proclaimed

Mysterious, ‘Hold! the fates permit thee not

That neck to sever. Many a death he owes

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

Cease from thy madness. If ye seek revenge

For all the blood shed by your slaughtered tribes to

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

Not as their darling did the gods protect

The man of blood, but for his ruthless hand

Fit to prepare that sacrifice of gore

Which fate demanded. By the sea’s despite

Borne to our foes, Jugurtha’s wasted realm

He saw, now conquered; there in squalid huts

Awhile he lay, and trod the hostile dust110

Of Carthage, and his ruin matched with hers:

Each from the other’s fate some solace drew,

And prostrate, pardoned heaven. On Libyan soil 30

Fresh fury gathering 31, next, when Fortune smiled

The prisons he threw wide and freed the slaves.

Forth rushed the murderous bands, their melted chains

Forged into weapons for his ruffian needs.

No charge he gave to mere recruits in guilt

Who brought not to the camp some proof of crime.

How dread that day when conquering Marius seized120

The city’s ramparts! with what fated speed

Death strode upon his victims! plebs alike

And nobles perished; far and near the sword

Struck at his pleasure, till the temple floors

Ran wet with slaughter and the crimson stream

Befouled with slippery gore the holy walls.

No age found pity men of failing years,

Just tottering to the grave, were hurled to death;

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

The growing life was severed. For what crime?130

Twas cause enough for death that they could die.

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

To seek the guilty: hundreds died to swell

The tale of victims. Shamed by empty hands,

The bloodstained conqueror snatched a reeking head

From neck unknown. One way of life remained,

To kiss with shuddering lips the red right hand 33.

Degenerate people! Had ye hearts of men,

Though ye were threatened by a thousand swords,

Far rather death than centuries of life140

Bought at such price; much more that breathing space

Till Sulla comes again 34. But time would fail

In weeping for the deaths of all who fell.

Encircled by innumerable bands

Fell Baebius, his limbs asunder torn,

His vitals dragged abroad. Antonius too,

Prophet of ill, whose hoary head 35 was placed,

Dripping with blood, upon the festal board.

There headless fell the Crassi; mangled frames

‘Neath Fimbria’s falchion: and the prison cells150

Were wet with tribunes’ blood. Hard by the fane

Where dwells the goddess and the sacred fire,

Fell aged Scaevola, though that gory hand 36

Had spared him, but the feeble tide of blood

Still left the flame alive upon the hearth.

That selfsame year the seventh time restored 37

The Consul’s rods; that year to Marius brought

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

All ills had suffered; all her goods enjoyed.

“And what of those who at the Sacriport 38160

And Colline gate were slain, then, when the rule

Of Earth and all her nations almost left

This city for another, and the chiefs

Who led the Samnite hoped that Rome might bleed

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

Then came great Sulla to avenge the dead,

And all the blood still left within her frame

Drew from the city; for the surgeon knife

Which shore the cancerous limbs cut in too deep,

And shed the life stream from still healthy veins.170

True that the guilty fell, but not before

All else had perished. Hatred had free course

And anger reigned unbridled by the law.

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

Just as he wished or willed. The fatal steel

Urged by the servant laid the master low.

Sons dripped with gore of sires; and brothers fought

For the foul trophy of a father slain,

Or slew each other for the price of blood.

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

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

One strangled died; another from the height

Fell headlong down upon the unpitying earth,

And from the encrimsoned victor snatched his death:

One built his funeral pyre and oped his veins,

And sealed the furnace ere his blood was gone.

Borne through the trembling town the leaders’ heads

Were piled in middle forum: hence men knew

Of murders else unpublished. Not on gates

Of Diomedes 39, tyrant king of Thrace,190

Nor of Antaeus, Libya’s giant brood,

Were hung such horrors; nor in Pisa’s hall

Were seen and wept for when the suitors died.

Decay had touched the features of the slain

When round the mouldering heap, with trembling steps

The grief-struck parents sought and stole their dead.

I, too, the body of my brother slain

Thought to remove, my victim to the peace

Which Sulla made, and place his loved remains

On the forbidden pyre. The head I found,200

But not the butchered corse.

“Why now renew

The tale of Catulus’s shade appeased?

And those dread tortures which the living frame

Of Marius 40 suffered at the tomb of him

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

Nor speech nor grasp was left: his every limb

Maimed, hacked and riven; yet the fatal blow

The murderers with savage purpose spared.

’Twere scarce believed that one poor mortal frame210

Such agonies could bear e’er death should come.

Thus crushed beneath some ruin lie the dead;

Thus shapeless from the deep are borne the drowned.

Why spoil delight by mutilating thus,

The head of Marius? To please Sulla’s heart

That mangled visage must be known to all.

Fortune, high goddess of Praeneste’s fane,

Saw all her townsmen hurried to their deaths

In one fell instant. All the hope of Rome,

The flower of Latium, stained with blood the field220

Where once the peaceful tribes their votes declared.

Famine and Sword, the raging sky and sea,

And Earth upheaved, have laid such numbers low:

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

And living victims there was space no more,

Death thus let slip, to deal the fatal blow.

Hardly when struck they fell; the severed head

Scarce toppled from the shoulders; but the slain

Blent in a weighty pile of massacre

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

Secure from stain upon his lofty throne,

Unshuddering sat the author of the whole,

Nor feared that at his word such thousands fell.

At length the Tuscan flood received the dead

The first upon his waves; the last on those

That lay beneath them; vessels in their course

Were stayed, and while the lower current flowed

Still to the sea, the upper stood on high

Dammed back by carnage. Through the streets meanwhile

In headlong torrents ran a tide of blood,240

Which furrowing its path through town and field

Forced the slow river on. But now his banks

No longer held him, and the dead were thrown

Back on the fields above. With labour huge

At length he struggled to his goal and stretched

In crimson streak across the Tuscan Sea.

“For deeds like these, shall Sulla now be styled

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

For these, a tomb in middle field of Mars

Record his fame? Like horrors now return250

For us to suffer; and the civil war

Thus shall be waged again and thus shall end.

Yet worse disasters may our fears suggest,

For now with greater carnage of mankind

The rival hosts in weightier battle meet.

To exiled Marius, successful strife

Was Rome regained; triumphant Sulla knew

No greater joy than on his hated foes

To wreak his vengeance with unsparing sword.

But these more powerful rivals Fortune calls260

To worse ambitions; nor would either chief

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

Thus, mindful of his youth, the aged man

Wept for the past, but feared the coming days.

Such terrors found in haughty Brutus’ breast

No home. When others sat them down to fear

He did not so, but in the dewy night

When the great wain was turning round the pole

He sought his kinsman Cato’s humble home.

Him sleepless did he find, not for himself270

Fearing, but pondering the fates of Rome,

And deep in public cares. And thus he spake:

“O thou in whom that virtue, which of yore

Took flight from earth, now finds its only home,

Outcast to all besides, but safe with thee:

Vouchsafe thy counsel to my wavering soul

And make my weakness strength. While Caesar some,

Pompeius others, follow in the fight,

Cato is Brutus’ guide. Art thou for peace,

Holding thy footsteps in a tottering world280

Unshaken? Or wilt thou with the leaders’ crimes

And with the people’s fury take thy part,

And by thy presence purge the war of guilt?

In impious battles men unsheath the sword;

But each by cause impelled: the household crime;

Laws feared in peace; want by the sword removed;

And broken credit, that its ruin hides

In general ruin. Drawn by hope of gain,

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

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

What profits it through all these wicked years

That thou hast lived untainted? This were all

Thy meed of virtue, that the wars which find

Guilt in all else, shall make thee guilty too.

Ye gods, permit not that this fatal strife

Should stir those hands to action! When the clouds

Of flying javelins hiss upon the air,

Let not a dart be thine; nor spent in vain

Such virtue! All the fury of the war

Shall launch itself on thee, for who, when faint300

And wounded, would not rush upon thy sword,

Take thence his death, and make the murder thine?

Do thou live on thy peaceful life apart

As on their paths the stars unshaken roll.

The lower air that verges on the earth

Gives flame and fury to the levin bolt;

The deeps below the world engulph the winds

And tracts of flaming fire. By Jove’s decree

Olympus rears his summit o’er the clouds:

In lowlier valleys storms and winds contend,310

But peace eternal reigns upon the heights.

What joy for Caesar, if the tidings come

That such a citizen has joined the war?

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

For Cato’s conduct shall approve his own.

Pompeius, with the Consul in his ranks,

And half the Senate and the other chiefs,

Vexes my spirit; and should Cato too

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

The one man free is Caesar. But if thou320

For freedom and thy country’s laws alone

Be pleased to raise the sword, nor Magnus then

Nor Caesar shall in Brutus find a foe.

Not till the fight is fought shall Brutus strike,

Then strike the victor.”

Brutus thus; but spake

Cato from inmost breast these sacred words:

“Chief in all wickedness is civil war,

Yet virtue in the paths marked out by fate

Treads on securely. Heaven’s will be the crime330

To have made even Cato guilty. Who has strength

To gaze unawed upon a toppling world?

When stars and sky fall headlong, and when earth

Slips from her base, who sits with folded hands?

Shall unknown nations, touched by western strife,

And monarchs born beneath another clime

Brave the dividing seas to join the war?

Shall Scythian tribes desert their distant north,

And Getae haste to view the fall of Rome,

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

Reft of his sons, compelled by grief, himself

Marshals the long procession to the tomb,

Thrusts his own hand within the funeral flames,

Soothing his heart, and, as the lofty pyre

Rises on high, applies the kindled torch:

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

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

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

Yea! let the cruel gods exact in full

Rome’s expiation: of no drop of blood350

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

Of heaven and hell devoted, this my life

Might satisfy their vengeance. Decius fell,

Crushed by the hostile ranks. When Cato falls

Let Rhine’s fierce barbarous hordes and both the hosts

Thrust through my frame their darts! May I alone

Receive in death the wounds of all the war!

Thus may the people be redeemed, and thus

Rome for her guilt pay the atonement due.

Why should men die who wish to bear the yoke360

And shrink not from the tyranny to come?

Strike me, and me alone, of laws and rights

In vain the guardian: this vicarious life

Shall give Hesperia peace and end her toils.

Who then will reign shall find no need for war.

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

He too will claim the Empire of the world.’

Then let him, conquering with my service, learn

Not for himself to conquer.” Thus he spoke

And stirred the blood that ran in Brutus’ veins370

Moving the youth to action in the war.

Soon as the sun dispelled the chilly night,

The sounding doors flew wide, and from the tomb

Of dead Hortensius grieving Marcia came 42.

First joined in wedlock to a greater man

Three children did she bear to grace his home:

Then Cato to Hortensius gave the dame

To be a fruitful mother of his sons

And join their houses in a closer tie.

And now the last sad offices were done380

She came with hair dishevelled, beaten breast,

And ashes on her brow, and features worn

With grief; thus only pleasing to the man.

“When youth was in me and maternal power

I did thy bidding, Cato, and received

A second husband: now in years grown old

Ne’er to be parted I return to thee.

Renew our former pledges undefiled:

Give back the name of wife: upon my tomb

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

Nor let men question in the time to come,

Did’st thou compel, or did I willing leave

My first espousals. Not in happy times,

Partner of joys, I come; but days of care

And labour shall be mine to share with thee.

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

Thy fond companion: why should Magnus’ wife

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

Although the times were warlike and the fates

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

Yet must they plight their faith in simple form

Of law; their witnesses the gods alone.

No festal wreath of flowers crowned the gate

Nor glittering fillet on each post entwined;

No flaming torch was there, nor ivory steps,

No couch with robes of broidered gold adorned;

No comely matron placed upon her brow

The bridal garland, or forbad the foot 43

To touch the threshold stone; no saffron veil

Concealed the timid blushes of the bride;410

No jewelled belt confined her flowing robe 44

Nor modest circle bound her neck; no scarf

Hung lightly on the snowy shoulder’s edge

Around the naked arm. Just as she came,

Wearing the garb of sorrow, while the wool

Covered the purple border of her robe,

Thus was she wedded. As she greets her sons

So doth she greet her husband. Festal games

Graced not their nuptials, nor were friends and kin

As by the Sabines bidden: silent both420

They joined in marriage, yet content, unseen

By any save by Brutus. Sad and stern

On Cato’s lineaments the marks of grief

Were still unsoftened, and the hoary hair

Hung o’er his reverend visage; for since first

Men flew to arms, his locks were left unkempt

To stream upon his brow, and on his chin

His beard untended grew. ’Twas his alone

Who hated not, nor loved, for all mankind

To mourn alike. Nor did their former couch430

Again receive them, for his lofty soul

E’en lawful love resisted. ’Twas his rule

Inflexible, to keep the middle path

Marked out and bounded; to observe the laws

Of natural right; and for his country’s sake

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

Brought into being, but for all the world:

Such was his creed. To him a sumptuous feast

Was hunger conquered, and the lowly hut,

Which scarce kept out the winter, was a home440

Equal to palaces: a robe of price

Such hairy garments as were worn of old:

The end of marriage, offspring. To the State

Father alike and husband, right and law

He ever followed with unswerving step:

No thought of selfish pleasure turned the scale

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

Meanwhile Pompeius led his trembling host

To fields Campanian, and held the walls

First founded by the chief of Trojan race 45.450

These chose he for the central seat of war,

Some troops despatching who might meet the foe

Where shady Apennine lifts up the ridge

Of mid Italia; nearest to the sky

Upsoaring, with the seas on either hand,

The upper and the lower. Pisa’s sands

Breaking the margin of the Tuscan deep,

Here bound his mountains: there Ancona’s towers

Laved by Dalmatian waves. Rivers immense,

In his recesses born, pass on their course,460

To either sea diverging. To the left

Metaurus, and Crustumium’s torrent, fall

And Sena’s streams and Aufidus who bursts

On Adrian billows; and that mighty flood

Which, more than all the rivers of the earth,

Sweeps down the soil and tears the woods away

And drains Hesperia’s springs. In fabled lore

His banks were first by poplar shade enclosed: 46

And when by Phaethon the waning day

Was drawn in path transverse, and all the heaven470

Blazed with his car aflame, and from the depths

Of inmost earth were rapt all other floods,

Padus still rolled in pride of stream along.

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

Of level Egypt he spreads out his waves;

Nor Ister, if he sought the Scythian main

Unhelped upon his journey through the world

By tributary waters not his own.

But on the right hand Tiber has his source,

Deep-flowing Rutuba, Vulturnus swift,480

And Sarnus breathing vapours of the night

Rise there, and Liris with Vestinian wave

Still gliding through Marica’s shady grove,

And Siler flowing through Salernian meads:

And Macra’s swift unnavigable stream

By Luna lost in Ocean. On the Alps

Whose spurs strike plainwards, and on fields of Gaul

The cloudy heights of Apennine look down

In further distance: on his nearer slopes

The Sabine turns the ploughshare; Umbrian kine490

And Marsian fatten; with his pineclad rocks

He girds the tribes of Latium, nor leaves

Hesperia’s soil until the waves that beat

On Scylla’s cave compel. His southern spurs

Extend to Juno’s temple, and of old

Stretched further than Italia, till the main

O’erstepped his limits and the lands repelled.

But, when the seas were joined, Pelorus claimed

His latest summits for Sicilia’s isle.

Caesar, in rage for war, rejoicing found500

Foes in Italia; no bloodless steps

Nor vacant homes had pleased him 47; so his march

Were wasted: now the coming war was joined

Unbroken to the past; to force the gates

Not find them open, fire and sword to bring

Upon the harvests, not through fields unharmed

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

In peaceful guise to march, this was his shame.

Italia’s cities, doubtful in their choice,

Though to the earliest onset of the war510

About to yield, strengthened their walls with mounds

And deepest trench encircling: massive stones

And bolts of war to hurl upon the foe

They place upon the turrets. Magnus most

The people’s favour held, yet faith with fear

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

A southern tempest has possessed the main

And all the billows follow in its track:

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

Set Eurus free upon the swollen deep,520

It shall not yield to him, though cloud and sky

Confess his strength; but in the former wind

Still find its master. But their fears prevailed,

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

For Libo fled Etruria; Umbria lost

Her freedom, driving Thermus 48 from her bounds;

Great Sulla’s son, unworthy of his sire,

Feared at the name of Caesar: Varus sought

The caves and woods, when smote the hostile horse

The gates of Auximon; and Spinther driven530

From Asculum, the victor on his track,

Fled with his standards, soldierless; and thou,

Scipio, did’st leave Nuceria’s citadel

Deserted, though by bravest legions held

Sent home by Caesar for the Parthian war 49;

Whom Magnus earlier, to his kinsman gave

A loan of Roman blood, to fight the Gaul.

But brave Domitius held firm his post 50

Behind Corfinium’s ramparts; his the troops

Who newly levied kept the judgment hall540

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

Rolled up a dusty cloud, beneath whose veil

The sheen of armour glistening in the sun,

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

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

And thou, O river, from thy mountain source

With all thy torrents rushing, planks and beams

Ruined and broken on thy foaming breast

Bear onward to the sea. The war shall stop

Here, to our triumph; for this headlong chief550

Here first at our firm bidding shall be stayed.”

He bade his squadrons, speeding from the walls,

Charge on the bridge: in vain: for Caesar saw

They sought to free the river from his chains 52

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

“Were not the walls sufficient to protect

Your coward souls? Seek ye by barricades

And streams to keep me back? What though the flood

Of swollen Ganges were across my path?

Now Rubicon is passed, no stream on earth560

Shall hinder Caesar! Forward, horse and foot,

And ere it totters rush upon the bridge.”

Urged in their swiftest gallop to the front

Dashed the light horse across the sounding plain;

And suddenly, as storm in summer, flew

A cloud of javelins forth, by sinewy arms

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

And conquering Caesar, seizing on the bridge,

Compels the enemy to keep the walls.

Now do the mighty engines, soon to hurl570

Gigantic stones, press forward, and the ram

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

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

Yield up their leader. Him they place before

His proud compatriot; yet with upright form,

And scornful features and with noble mien,

He asks his death. But Caesar knew his wish

Was punishment, and pardon was his fear:

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

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

Be to my conquered foes the cause of hope,

Proof of my clemency — or if thou wilt

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

This pardon nothing.” Thus he spake, and bade

Let loose the bands and set the captive free.

Ah! better had he died, and fortune spared

The Roman’s last dishonour, whose worse doom

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

And fought with Magnus for the Senate’s cause

Should gain for this — a pardon! Yet he curbed590

His anger, thinking, “Wilt thou then to Rome

And peaceful scenes, degenerate? Rather war,

The furious battle and the certain end!

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

Pompeius, ignorant that his captain thus

Was taken, armed his levies newly raised

To give his legions strength; and as he thought

To sound his trumpets with the coming dawn,

To test his soldiers ere he moved his camp

Thus in majestic tones their ranks addressed:600

“Soldiers of Rome! Avengers of her laws!

To whom the Senate gives no private arms,

Ask by your voices for the battle sign.

Fierce falls the pillage on Hesperian fields,

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

Is poured upon us. Caesar’s swords at last

Are red with Roman blood. But with the wound

We gain the better cause; the crime is theirs.

No war is this, but for offended Rome

We wreak the vengeance; as when Catiline610

Lifted against her roofs the flaming brand

And, partner in his fury, Lentulus,

And mad Cethegus 54 with his naked arm.

Is such thy madness, Caesar? when the Fates

With great Camillus’ and Metellus’ names

Might place thine own, dost thou prefer to rank

With Marius and Cinna? Swift shall be

Thy fall: as Lepidus before the sword

Of Catulus; or who my axes felt,

Carbo 55, now buried in Sicanian tomb;620

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

Sertorius — yet, witness Heaven, with these

I hate to rank thee; hate the task that Rome

Has laid upon me, to oppose thy rage.

Would that in safety from the Parthian war

And Scythian steppes had conquering Crassus come!

Then haply had’st thou fallen by the hand

That smote vile Spartacus the robber foe.

But if among my triumphs fate has said

Thy conquest shall be written, know this heart630

Still sends the life blood coursing: and this arm 56

Still vigorously flings the dart afield.

He deems me slothful. Caesar, thou shalt learn

We brook not peace because we lag in war.

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

Let me be elder, if his soldiers are.

The highest point a citizen can reach

And leave his people free, is mine: a throne

Alone were higher; whoso would surpass

Pompeius, aims at that. Both Consuls stand640

Here; here for battle stand your lawful chiefs:

And shall this Caesar drag the Senate down?

Not with such blindness, not so lost to shame

Does Fortune rule. Does he take heart from Gaul:

For years on years rebellious, and a life

Spent there in labour? or because he fled

Rhine’s icy torrent and the shifting pools

He calls an ocean? or unchallenged sought

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

Or does he boast because his citizens650

Were driven in arms to leave their hearths and homes?

Ah, vain delusion! not from thee they fled:

My steps they follow — mine, whose conquering signs

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

Twice filled her orb and waned, compelled to flight

The pirate, shrinking from the open sea,

And humbly begging for a narrow home

In some poor nook on shore. ’Twas I again

Who, happier far than Sulla, drave to death 58

That king who, exiled to the deep recess660

Of Scythian Pontus, held the fates of Rome

Still in the balances. Where is the land

That hath not seen my trophies? Icy waves

Of northern Phasis, hot Egyptian shores,

And where Syene ‘neath its noontide sun

Knows shade on neither hand 59: all these have learned

To fear Pompeius: and far Baetis’ 60 stream,

Last of all floods to join the refluent sea.

Arabia and the warlike hordes that dwell

Beside the Euxine wave: the famous land670

That lost the golden fleece; Cilician wastes,

And Cappadocian, and the Jews who pray

Before an unknown God; Sophene soft —

All felt my yoke. What conquests now remain,

What wars not civil can my kinsman wage?”

No loud acclaim received his words, nor shout

Asked for the promised battle: and the chief

Drew back the standards, for the soldier’s fears

Were in his soul alike; nor dared he trust

An army, vanquished by the fame alone680

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

And as some bull, his early combat lost,

Forth driven from the herd, in exile roams

Through lonely plains or secret forest depths,

Whets on opposing trunks his growing horn,

And proves himself for battle, till his neck

Is ribbed afresh with muscle: then returns,

Defiant of the hind, and victor now

Leads wheresoe’er he will his lowing bands:

Thus Magnus, yielding to a stronger foe,690

Gave up Italia, and sought in flight

Brundusium’s sheltering battlements.

Here of old

Fled Cretan settlers when the dusky sail 61

Spread the false message of the hero dead;

Here, where Hesperia, curving as a bow,

Draws back her coast, a little tongue of land

Shuts in with bending horns the sounding main.

Yet insecure the spot, unsafe in storm,

Were it not sheltered by an isle on which700

The Adriatic billows dash and fall,

And tempests lose their strength: on either hand

A craggy cliff opposing breaks the gale

That beats upon them, while the ships within

Held by their trembling cables ride secure.

Hence to the mariner the boundless deep

Lies open, whether for Corcyra’s port

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

And Epidamnus facing to the main

Ionian. Here, when raging in his might710

Fierce Adria whelms in foam Calabria’s coast,

When clouds tempestuous veil Ceraunus’ height,

The sailor finds a haven.

When the chief

Could find no hope in battle on the soil

He now was quitting, and the lofty Alps

Forbad Iberia, to his son he spake,

The eldest scion of that noble stock:

“Search out the far recesses of the earth,

Nile and Euphrates, wheresoe’er the fame720

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

The people tremble at the name of Rome.

Lead to the sea again the pirate bands;

Rouse Egypt’s kings; Tigranes, wholly mine,

And Pharnaces and all the vagrant tribes

Of both Armenias; and the Pontic hordes,

Warlike and fierce; the dwellers on the hills

Rhipaean, and by that dead northern marsh

Whose frozen surface bears the loaded wain.

Why further stay thee? Let the eastern world730

Sound with the war, all cities of the earth

Conquered by me, as vassals, to my camp

Send all their levied hosts. And you whose names

Within the Latian book recorded stand,

Strike for Epirus with the northern wind;

And thence in Greece and Macedonian tracts,

(While winter gives us peace) new strength acquire

For coming conflicts.” They obey his words

And loose their ships and launch upon the main.

But Caesar’s might, intolerant of peace740

Or lengthy armistice, lest now perchance

The fates might change their edicts, swift pursued

The footsteps of his foe. To other men,

So many cities taken at a blow,

So many strongholds captured, might suffice;

And Rome herself, the mistress of the world,

Lay at his feet, the greatest prize of all.

Not so with Caesar: instant on the goal

He fiercely presses; thinking nothing done

While aught remained to do. Now in his grasp750

Lay all Italia; — but while Magnus stayed

Upon the utmost shore, his grieving soul

Deemed all was shared with him. Yet he essayed

Escape to hinder, and with labour vain

Piled in the greedy main gigantic rocks:

Mountains of earth down to the sandy depths

Were swallowed by the vortex of the sea;

Just as if Eryx and its lofty top

Were cast into the deep, yet not a speck

Should mark the watery plain; or Gaurus huge760

Split from his summit to his base, were plunged

In fathomless Avernus’ stagnant pool.

The billows thus unstemmed, ’twas Caesar’s will

To hew the stately forests and with trees

Enchained to form a rampart. Thus of old

(If fame be true) the boastful Persian king

Prepared a way across the rapid strait

‘Twixt Sestos and Abydos, and made one

The European and the Trojan shores;

And marched upon the waters, wind and storm770

Counting as nought, but trusting his emprise

To one frail bridge, so that his ships might pass

Through middle Athos. Thus a mighty mole

Of fallen forests grew upon the waves,

Free until then, and lofty turrets rose,

And land usurped the entrance to the main.

This when Pompeius saw, with anxious care

His soul was filled; yet hoping to regain

The exit lost, and win a wider world

Wherein to wage the war, on chosen ships780

He hoists the sails; these, driven by the wind

And drawn by cables fastened to their prows,

Scattered the beams asunder; and at night

Not seldom engines, worked by stalwart arms,

Flung flaming torches forth. But when the time

For secret flight was come, no sailor shout

Rang on the shore, no trumpet marked the hour,

No bugle called the armament to sea.

Already shone the Virgin in the sky

Leading the Scorpion in her course, whose claws790

Foretell the rising Sun, when noiseless all

They cast the vessels loose; no song was heard

To greet the anchor wrenched from stubborn sand;

No captain’s order, when the lofty mast

Was raised, or yards were bent; a silent crew

Drew down the sails which hung upon the ropes,

Nor shook the mighty cables, lest the wind

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

Thus spake to Fortune: “Thou whose high decree

Has made us exiles from Italia’s shores,800

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

Hardly permitted, for a murmur vast

Came from the ocean, as the countless keels

Furrowed the waters, and with ceaseless splash

The parted billows rose again and fell.

Then were the gates thrown wide; for with the fates

The city turned to Caesar: and the foe,

Seizing the town, rushed onward by the pier

That circled in the harbour; then they knew

With shame and sorrow that the fleet was gone810

And held the open: and Pompeius’ flight

Gave a poor triumph.

Yet was narrower far

The channel which gave access to the sea

Than that Euboean strait 62 whose waters lave

The shore by Chalcis. Here two ships stuck fast

Alone, of all the fleet; the fatal hook

Grappled their decks and drew them to the land,

And the first bloodshed of the civil war

Here left a blush upon the ocean wave.820

As when the famous ship 63 sought Phasis’ stream

The rocky gates closed in and hardly gripped

Her flying stern; then from the empty sea

The cliffs rebounding to their ancient seat

Were fixed to move no more. But now the steps

Of morn approaching tinged the eastern sky

With roseate hues: the Pleiades were dim,

The wagon of the Charioteer grew pale,

The planets faded, and the silvery star

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

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

Now are thy fates, as when from every sea

Thy fleet triumphant swept the pirate pest.

Tired of thy conquests, Fortune now no more

Shall smile upon thee. With thy spouse and sons,

Thy household gods, and peoples in thy train,

Still great in exile, in a distant land

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

Wishing to rob thee of a Roman grave,

Decreed the strands of Egypt for thy tomb:840

’Twas Italy they spared, that far away

Fortune on shores remote might hide her crime,

And Roman soil be pure of Magnus’ blood.

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

40 The brother of the Consul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

50 See Book VII., 695.

51 See Book I., 368.

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

53 See line 497.

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

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

56 See Book I., line 369.

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

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

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

“Syene, and where the shadow both way falls,

“Meroe, Nilotick isle; . . . ”

60 Baetis is the Guadalquivir.

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

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

63 The “Argo”.

Book iii


Julia appears to Pompeius in a vision, lines 1-45. Caesar sends Curio to Sicily and Sardinia, and proceeds to Rome, 46-128. The tribune Metellus endeavours to prevent him from seizing the treasure in the Temple of Saturn, 128-193. Catalogue of Pompeius’ forces, 194-342. Caesar marches on Massilia; speech of the citizens, and his reply, 342-424. He blockades the town, 429-460; and cuts down the Grove of the Druids, 460-514. Caesar leaves for Spain, 510. The fight in the trenches, 511-574. Naval battle; various episodes; victory of Decimus Brutus, 569-838.

With canvas yielding to the western wind

The navy sailed the deep, and every eye

Gazed on Ionian billows. But the chief

Turned not his vision from his native shore

Now left for ever, while the morning mists

Drew down upon the mountains, and the cliffs

Faded in distance till his aching sight

No longer knew them. Then his wearied frame

Sank in the arms of sleep. But Julia’s shape,

In mournful guise, dread horror on her brow,10

Rose through the gaping earth, and from her tomb

Erect 64, in form as of a Fury spake:

“Driven from Elysian fields and from the plains

The blest inhabit, when the war began,

I dwell in Stygian darkness where abide

The souls of all the guilty. There I saw

Th’ Eumenides with torches in their hands

Prepared against thy battles; and the fleets 65

Which by the ferryman of the flaming stream

Were made to bear thy dead: while Hell itself20

Relaxed its punishments; the sisters three

With busy fingers all their needful task

Could scarce accomplish, and the threads of fate

Dropped from their weary hands. With me thy wife,

Thou, Magnus, leddest happy triumphs home:

New wedlock brings new luck. Thy concubine,

Whose star brings all her mighty husbands ill,

Cornelia, weds in thee a breathing tomb. 66

Through wars and oceans let her cling to thee

So long as I may break thy nightly rest:30

No moment left thee for her love, but all

By night to me, by day to Caesar given.

Me not the oblivious banks of Lethe’s stream

Have made forgetful; and the kings of death

Have suffered me to join thee; in mid fight

I will be with thee, and my haunting ghost

Remind thee Caesar’s daughter was thy spouse.

Thy sword kills not our pledges; civil war

Shall make thee wholly mine.” She spake and fled.

But he, though heaven and hell thus bode defeat,40

More bent on war, with mind assured of ill,

“Why dread vain phantoms of a dreaming brain?

Or nought of sense and feeling to the soul

Is left by death; or death itself is nought.”

Now fiery Titan in declining path

Dipped to the waves, his bright circumference

So much diminished as a growing moon

Not yet full circled, or when past the full;

When to the fleet a hospitable coast

Gave access, and the ropes in order laid,50

The sailors struck the masts and rowed ashore.

When Caesar saw the fleet escape his grasp

And hidden from his view by lengthening seas,

Left without rival on Hesperian soil,

He found no joy in triumph; rather grieved

That thus in safety Magnus’ flight was sped.

Not any gifts of Fortune now sufficed

His fiery spirit; and no victory won,

Unless the war was finished with the stroke.

Then arms he laid aside, in guise of peace60

Seeking the people’s favour; skilled to know

How to arouse their ire, and how to gain

The popular love by corn in plenty given.

For famine only makes a city free;

By gifts of food the tyrant buys a crowd

To cringe before him: but a people starved

Is fearless ever.

Curio he bids

Cross over to Sicilian cities, where

Or ocean by a sudden rise o’erwhelmed70

The land, or split the isthmus right in twain,

Leaving a path for seas. Unceasing tides

There labour hugely lest again should meet

The mountains rent asunder. Nor were left

Sardinian shores unvisited: each isle

Is blest with noble harvests which have filled

More than all else the granaries of Rome,

And poured their plenty on Hesperia’s shores.

Not even Libya, with its fertile soil,

Their yield surpasses, when the southern wind80

Gives way to northern and permits the clouds

To drop their moisture on the teeming earth.

This ordered, Caesar leads his legions on,

Not armed for war, but as in time of peace

Returning to his home. Ah! had he come

With only Gallia conquered and the North 67,

What long array of triumph had he brought!

What pictured scenes of battle! how had Rhine

And Ocean borne his chains! How noble Gaul,

And Britain’s fair-haired chiefs his lofty car90

Had followed! Such a triumph had he lost

By further conquest. Now in silent fear

They watched his marching troops, nor joyful towns

Poured out their crowds to welcome his return.

Yet did the conqueror’s proud soul rejoice,

Far more than at their love, at such a fear.

Now Anxur’s hold was passed, the oozy road

That separates the marsh, the grove sublime 68

Where reigns the Scythian goddess, and the path

By which men bear the fasces to the feast100

On Alba’s summit. From the height afar —

Gazing in awe upon the walls of Rome

His native city, since the Northern war

Unseen, unvisited — thus Caesar spake:

“Who would not fight for such a god-like town?

And have they left thee, Rome, without a blow?

Thank the high gods no eastern hosts are here

To wreak their fury; nor Sarmatian horde

With northern tribes conjoined; by Fortune’s gift

This war is civil: else this coward chief110

Had been thy ruin.”

Trembling at his feet

He found the city: deadly fire and flame,

As from a conqueror, gods and fanes dispersed;

Such was the measure of their fear, as though

His power and wish were one. No festal shout

Greeted his march, no feigned acclaim of joy.

Scarce had they time for hate. In Phoebus’ hall

Their hiding places left, a crowd appeared

Of Senators, uncalled, for none could call.120

No Consul there the sacred shrine adorned

Nor Praetor next in rank, and every seat

Placed for the officers of state was void:

Caesar was all; and to his private voice 69

All else were listeners. The fathers sat

Ready to grant a temple or a throne,

If such his wish; and for themselves to vote

Or death or exile. Well it was for Rome

That Caesar blushed to order what they feared.

Yet in one breast the spirit of freedom rose130

Indignant for the laws; for when the gates

Of Saturn’s temple hot Metellus saw,

Were yielding to the shock, he clove the ranks

Of Caesar’s troops, and stood before the doors

As yet unopened. ’Tis the love of gold

Alone that fears not death; no hand is raised

For perished laws or violated rights:

But for this dross, the vilest cause of all,

Men fight and die. Thus did the Tribune bar

The victor’s road to rapine, and with voice140

Clear ringing spake: “Save o’er Metellus dead

This temple opens not; my sacred blood

Shall flow, thou robber, ere the gold be thine.

And surely shall the Tribune’s power defied

Find an avenging god; this Crassus knew 70,

Who, followed by our curses, sought the war

And met disaster on the Parthian plains.

Draw then thy sword, nor fear the crowd that gapes

To view thy crimes: the citizens are gone.

Not from our treasury reward for guilt150

Thy hosts shall ravish: other towns are left,

And other nations; wage the war on them —

Drain not Rome’s peace for spoil.” The victor then,

Incensed to ire: “Vain is thy hope to fall

In noble death, as guardian of the right;

With all thine honours, thou of Caesar’s rage

Art little worthy: never shall thy blood

Defile his hand. Time lowest things with high

Confounds not yet so much that, if thy voice

Could save the laws, it were not better far160

They fell by Caesar.” Such his lofty words.

But as the Tribune yielded not, his rage

Rose yet the more, and at his soldiers’ swords

One look he cast, forgetting for the time

What robe he wore; but soon Metellus heard

These words from Cotta: “When men bow to power

Freedom of speech is only Freedom’s bane 71,

Whose shade at least survives, if with free will

Thou dost whate’er is bidden thee. For us

Some pardon may be found: a host of ills170

Compelled submission, and the shame is less

That to have done which could not be refused.

Yield, then, this wealth, the seeds of direful war.

A nation’s anger is by losses stirred,

When laws protect it; but the hungry slave

Brings danger to his master, not himself.”

At this Metellus yielded from the path;

And as the gates rolled backward, echoed loud

The rock Tarpeian, and the temple’s depths

Gave up the treasure which for centuries180

No hand had touched: all that the Punic foe

And Perses and Philippus conquered gave,

And all the gold which Pyrrhus panic-struck

Left when he fled: that gold 72, the price of Rome,

Which yet Fabricius sold not, and the hoard

Laid up by saving sires; the tribute sent

By Asia’s richest nations; and the wealth

Which conquering Metellus brought from Crete,

And Cato 73 bore from distant Cyprus home;

And last, the riches torn from captive kings190

And borne before Pompeius when he came

In frequent triumph. Thus was robbed the shrine,

And Caesar first brought poverty to Rome.

Meanwhile all nations of the earth were moved

To share in Magnus’ fortunes and the war,

And in his fated ruin. Graecia sent,

Nearest of all, her succours to the host.

From Cirrha and Parnassus’ double peak

And from Amphissa, Phocis sent her youth:

Boeotian leaders muster in the meads200

By Dirce laved, and where Cephisus rolls

Gifted with fateful power his stream along:

And where Alpheus, who beyond the sea 74

In fount Sicilian seeks the day again.

Pisa deserted stands, and Oeta, loved

By Hercules of old; Dodona’s oaks

Are left to silence by the sacred train,

And all Epirus rushes to the war.

And proud Athena, mistress of the seas,

Sends three poor ships (alas! her all) to prove210

Her ancient victory o’er the Persian King.

Next seek the battle Creta’s hundred tribes

Beloved of Jove and rivalling the east

In skill to wing the arrow from the bow.

The walls of Dardan Oricum, the woods

Where Athamanians wander, and the banks

Of swift Absyrtus foaming to the main

Are left forsaken. Enchelaean tribes

Whose king was Cadmus, and whose name records

His transformation 75, join the host; and those220

Who till Penean fields and turn the share

Above Iolcos in Thessalian lands.”

There first men steeled their hearts to dare the waves 76

And ‘gainst the rage of ocean and the storm

To match their strength, when the rude Argo sailed

Upon that distant quest, and spurned the shore,

Joining remotest nations in her flight,

And gave the fates another form of death.

Left too was Pholoe; pretended home

Where dwelt the fabled race of double form 77;230

Arcadian Maenalus; the Thracian mount

Named Haemus; Strymon whence, as autumn falls,

Winged squadrons seek the banks of warmer Nile;

And all the isles the mouths of Ister bathe

Mixed with the tidal wave; the land through which

The cooling eddies of Caicus flow

Idalian; and Arisbe bare of glebe.

The hinds of Pitane, and those who till

Celaenae’s fields which mourned of yore the gift

Of Pallas 78, and the vengeance of the god,240

All draw the sword; and those from Marsyas’ flood

First swift, then doubling backwards with the stream

Of sinuous Meander: and from where

Pactolus leaves his golden source and leaps

From Earth permitting; and with rival wealth

Rich Hermus parts the meads. Nor stayed the bands

Of Troy, but (doomed as in old time) they joined

Pompeius’ fated camp: nor held them back

The fabled past, nor Caesar’s claimed descent

From their Iulus. Syrian peoples came250

From palmy Idumea and the walls

Of Ninus great of yore; from windy plains

Of far Damascus and from Gaza’s hold,

From Sidon’s courts enriched with purple dye,

And Tyre oft trembling with the shaken earth.

All these led on by Cynosura’s light 79

Furrow their certain path to reach the war.

Phoenicians first (if story be believed)

Dared to record in characters; for yet

Papyrus was not fashioned, and the priests260

Of Memphis, carving symbols upon walls

Of mystic sense (in shape of beast or fowl)

Preserved the secrets of their magic art.

Next Persean Tarsus and high Taurus’ groves

Are left deserted, and Corycium’s cave;

And all Cilicia’s ports, pirate no more,

Resound with preparation. Nor the East

Refused the call, where furthest Ganges dares,

Alone of rivers, to discharge his stream

Against the sun opposing; on this shore 80270

The Macedonian conqueror stayed his foot

And found the world his victor; here too rolls

Indus his torrent with Hydaspes joined

Yet hardly feels it; here from luscious reed

Men draw sweet liquor; here they dye their locks

With tints of saffron, and with coloured gems

Bind down their flowing garments; here are they,

Who satiate of life and proud to die,

Ascend the blazing pyre, and conquering fate,

Scorn to live longer; but triumphant give280

The remnant of their days in flame to heaven. 81

Nor fails to join the host a hardy band

Of Cappadocians, tilling now the soil,

Once pirates of the main: nor those who dwell

Where steep Niphates hurls the avalanche,

And where on Median Coatra’s sides

The giant forest rises to the sky.

And you, Arabians, from your distant home

Came to a world unknown, and wondering saw

The shadows fall no longer to the left. 82290

Then fired with ardour for the Roman war

Oretas came, and far Carmania’s chiefs,

Whose clime lies southward, yet men thence descry

Low down the Pole star, and Bootes runs

Hasting to set, part seen, his nightly course;

And Ethiopians from that southern land

Which lies without the circuit of the stars,

Did not the Bull with curving hoof advanced

O’erstep the limit. From that mountain zone

They come, where rising from a common fount300

Euphrates flows and Tigris, and did earth

Permit, were joined with either name; but now

While like th’ Egyptian flood Euphrates spreads

His fertilising water, Tigris first

Drawn down by earth in covered depths is plunged

And holds a secret course; then born again

Flows on unhindered to the Persian sea.

But warlike Parthia wavered ‘twixt the chiefs,

Content to have made them two 83; while Scythia’s hordes

Dipped fresh their darts in poison, whom the stream310

Of Bactros bounds and vast Hyrcanian woods.

Hence springs that rugged nation swift and fierce,

Descended from the Twins’ great charioteer. 84

Nor failed Sarmatia, nor the tribes that dwell

By richest Phasis, and on Halys’ banks,

Which sealed the doom of Croesus’ king; nor where

From far Rhipaean ranges Tanais flows,

On either hand a quarter of the world,

Asia and Europe, and in winding course

Carves out a continent; nor where the strait320

In boiling surge pours to the Pontic deep

Maeotis’ waters, rivalling the pride

Of those Herculean pillar-gates that guard

The entrance to an ocean. Thence with hair

In golden fillets, Arimaspians came,

And fierce Massagetae, who quaff the blood

Of the brave steed on which they fight and flee.

Not when great Cyrus on Memnonian realms

His warriors poured; nor when, their weapons piled, 85

The Persian told the number of his host;330

Nor when th’ avenger 86 of a brother’s shame

Loaded the billows with his mighty fleet,

Beneath one chief so many kings made war;

Nor e’er met nations varied thus in garb

And thus in language. To Pompeius’ death

Thus Fortune called them: and a world in arms

Witnessed his ruin. From where Afric’s god,

Two-horned Ammon, rears his temple, came

All Libya ceaseless, from the wastes that touch

The bounds of Egypt to the shore that meets340

The Western Ocean. Thus, to award the prize

Of Empire at one blow, Pharsalia brought

‘Neath Caesar’s conquering hand the banded world.

Now Caesar left the walls of trembling Rome

And swift across the cloudy Alpine tops

He winged his march; but while all others fled

Far from his path, in terror of his name,

Phocaea’s 87 manhood with unGrecian faith

Held to their pledged obedience, and dared

To follow right not fate; but first of all350

With olive boughs of truce before them borne

The chieftain they approach, with peaceful words

In hope to alter his unbending will

And tame his fury. “Search the ancient books

Which chronicle the deeds of Latian fame;

Thou’lt ever find, when foreign foes pressed hard,

Massilia’s prowess on the side of Rome.

And now, if triumphs in an unknown world

Thou seekest, Caesar, here our arms and swords

Accept in aid: but if, in impious strife360

Of civil discord, with a Roman foe

Thou seek’st to join in battle, weeping then

We hold aloof: no stranger hand may touch

Celestial wounds. Should all Olympus’ hosts

Have rushed to war, or should the giant brood

Assault the stars, yet men would not presume

Or by their prayers or arms to help the gods:

And, ignorant of the fortunes of the sky,

Taught by the thunderbolts alone, would know

That Jupiter supreme still held the throne.370

Add that unnumbered nations join the fray:

Nor shrinks the world so much from taint of crime

That civil wars reluctant swords require.

But grant that strangers shun thy destinies

And only Romans fight — shall not the son

Shrink ere he strike his father? on both sides

Brothers forbid the weapon to be hurled?

The world’s end comes when other hands are armed 88

Than those which custom and the gods allow.

For us, this is our prayer: Leave, Caesar, here380

Thy dreadful eagles, keep thy hostile signs

Back from our gates, but enter thou in peace

Massilia’s ramparts; let our city rest

Withdrawn from crime, to Magnus and to thee

Safe: and should favouring fate preserve our walls

Inviolate, when both shall wish for peace

Here meet unarmed. Why hither turn’st thou now

Thy rapid march? Nor weight nor power have we

To sway the mighty conflicts of the world.

We boast no victories since our fatherland390

We left in exile: when Phocaea’s fort

Perished in flames, we sought another here;

And here on foreign shores, in narrow bounds

Confined and safe, our boast is sturdy faith;

Nought else. But if our city to blockade

Is now thy mind — to force the gates, and hurl

Javelin and blazing torch upon our homes —

Do what thou wilt: cut off the source that fills

Our foaming river, force us, prone in thirst,

To dig the earth and lap the scanty pool;400

Seize on our corn and leave us food abhorred:

Nor shall this people shun, for freedom’s sake,

The ills Saguntum bore in Punic siege; 89

Torn, vainly clinging, from the shrunken breast

The starving babe shall perish in the flames.

Wives at their husbands’ hands shall pray their fate,

And brothers’ weapons deal a mutual death.

Such be our civil war; not, Caesar, thine.”

But Caesar’s visage stern betrayed his ire

Which thus broke forth in words: “Vain is the hope410

Ye rest upon my march: speed though I may

Towards my western goal, time still remains

To blot Massilia out. Rejoice, my troops!

Unsought the war ye longed for meets you now:

The fates concede it. As the tempests lose

Their strength by sturdy forests unopposed,

And as the fire that finds no fuel dies,

Even so to find no foe is Caesar’s ill.

When those who may be conquered will not fight

That is defeat. Degenerate, disarmed420

Their gates admit me! Not content, forsooth,

With shutting Caesar out they shut him in!

They shun the taint of war! Such prayer for peace

Brings with it chastisement. In Caesar’s age

Learn that not peace, but war within his ranks

Alone can make you safe.”

Fearless he turns

His march upon the city, and beholds

Fast barred the gate-ways, while in arms the youths

Stand on the battlements. Hard by the walls430

A hillock rose, upon the further side

Expanding in a plain of gentle slope,

Fit (as he deemed it) for a camp with ditch

And mound encircling. To a lofty height

The nearest portion of the city rose,

While intervening valleys lay between.

These summits with a mighty trench to bind

The chief resolves, gigantic though the toil.

But first, from furthest boundaries of his camp,

Enclosing streams and meadows, to the sea440

To draw a rampart, upon either hand

Heaved up with earthy sod; with lofty towers

Crowned; and to shut Massilia from the land.

Then did the Grecian city win renown

Eternal, deathless, for that uncompelled

Nor fearing for herself, but free to act

She made the conqueror pause: and he who seized

All in resistless course found here delay:

And Fortune, hastening to lay the world

Low at her favourite’s feet, was forced to stay450

For these few moments her impatient hand.

Now fell the forests far and wide, despoiled

Of all their giant trunks: for as the mound

On earth and brushwood stood, a timber frame

Held firm the soil, lest pressed beneath its towers

The mass might topple down. There stood a grove

Which from the earliest time no hand of man

Had dared to violate; hidden from the sun 90

Its chill recesses; matted boughs entwined

Prisoned the air within. No sylvan nymphs460

Here found a home, nor Pan, but savage rites

And barbarous worship, altars horrible

On massive stones upreared; sacred with blood

Of men was every tree. If faith be given

To ancient myth, no fowl has ever dared

To rest upon those branches, and no beast

Has made his lair beneath: no tempest falls,

Nor lightnings flash upon it from the cloud.

Stagnant the air, unmoving, yet the leaves

Filled with mysterious trembling; dripped the streams470

From coal-black fountains; effigies of gods

Rude, scarcely fashioned from some fallen trunk

Held the mid space: and, pallid with decay,

Their rotting shapes struck terror. Thus do men

Dread most the god unknown. ’Twas said that caves

Rumbled with earthquakes, that the prostrate yew

Rose up again; that fiery tongues of flame

Gleamed in the forest depths, yet were the trees

Unkindled; and that snakes in frequent folds

Were coiled around the trunks. Men flee the spot480

Nor dare to worship near: and e’en the priest

Or when bright Phoebus holds the height, or when

Dark night controls the heavens, in anxious dread

Draws near the grove and fears to find its lord.

Spared in the former war, still dense it rose

Where all the hills were bare, and Caesar now

Its fall commanded. But the brawny arms

Which swayed the axes trembled, and the men,

Awed by the sacred grove’s dark majesty,

Held back the blow they thought would be returned.490

This Caesar saw, and swift within his grasp

Uprose a ponderous axe, which downward fell

Cleaving a mighty oak that towered to heaven,

While thus he spake: “Henceforth let no man dread

To fell this forest: all the crime is mine.

This be your creed.” He spake, and all obeyed,

For Caesar’s ire weighed down the wrath of Heaven.

Yet ceased they not to fear. Then first the oak,

Dodona’s ancient boast; the knotty holm;

The cypress, witness of patrician grief,500

The buoyant alder, laid their foliage low

Admitting day; though scarcely through the stems

Their fall found passage. At the sight the Gauls

Grieved; but the garrison within the walls

Rejoiced: for thus shall men insult the gods

And find no punishment? Yet fortune oft

Protects the guilty; on the poor alone

The gods can vent their ire. Enough hewn down,

They seize the country wagons; and the hind,

His oxen gone which else had drawn the plough,510

Mourns for his harvest.

But the eager chief

Impatient of the combat by the walls

Carries the warfare to the furthest west.

Meanwhile a giant mound, on star-shaped wheels

Concealed, they fashion, crowned with double towers

High as the battlements, by cause unseen

Slow creeping onwards; while amazed the foe,

Beheld, and thought some subterranean gust

Had burst the caverns of the earth and forced520

The nodding pile aloft, and wondered sore

Their walls should stand unshaken. From its height

Hissed clown the weapons; but the Grecian bolts

With greater force were on the Romans hurled;

Nor by the arm unaided, for the lance

Urged by the catapult resistless rushed

Through arms and shield and flesh, and left a death

Behind, nor stayed its course: and massive stones

Cast by the beams of mighty engines fell;

As from the mountain top some time-worn rock530

At length by winds dislodged, in all its track

Spreads ruin vast: nor crushed the life alone

Forth from the body, but dispersed the limbs

In fragments undistinguished and in blood.

But as protected by the armour shield

The might of Rome drew nigh beneath the wall

(The front rank with their bucklers interlaced

And held above their helms), the missiles fell

Behind their backs, nor could the toiling Greeks

Deflect their engines, throwing still the bolts540

Far into space; but from the rampart top

Flung ponderous masses down. Long as the shields

Held firm together, like to hail that falls

Harmless upon a roof, so long the stones

Crushed down innocuous; but as the blows

Rained fierce and ceaseless and the Romans tired,

Some here and there sank fainting. Next the roof

Advanced with earth besprinkled: underneath

The ram conceals his head, which, poised and swung,

They dash with mighty force upon the wall,550

Covered themselves with mantlets. Though the head

Light on the lower stones, yet as the shock

Falls and refalls, from battlement to base

The rampart soon shall topple. But by balks

And rocky fragments overwhelmed, and flames,

The roof at length gave way; and worn with toil

All spent in vain, the wearied troops withdrew

And sought the shelter of their tents again.

Thus far to hold their battlements was all

The Greeks had hoped; now, venturing attack,560

With glittering torches for their arms, by night

Fearless they sallied forth: nor lance they bear

Nor deadly bow, nor shaft; for fire alone

Is now their weapon. Through the Roman works

Driven by the wind the conflagration spread:

Nor did the newness of the wood make pause

The fury of the flames, which, fed afresh

By living torches, ‘neath a smoky pall

Leaped on in fiery tongues. Not wood alone

But stones gigantic crumbling into dust570

Dissolved beneath the heat; the mighty mound

Lay prone, yet in its ruin larger seemed.

Next, conquered on the land, upon the main

They try their fortunes. On their simple craft

No painted figure-head adorned the bows

Nor claimed protection from the gods; but rude,

Just as they fell upon their mountain homes,

The trees were knit together, and the deck

Gave steady foot-hold for an ocean fight.

Meantime had Caesar’s squadron kept the isles580

Named Stoechades 91, and Brutus 92 turret ship

Mastered the Rhone. Nor less the Grecian host —

Boys not yet grown to war, and aged men,

Armed for the conflict, with their all at stake.

Nor only did they marshal for the fight

Ships meet for service; but their ancient keels

Brought from the dockyards. When the morning rays

Broke from the waters, and the sky was clear,

And all the winds were still upon the deep,

Smoothed for the battle, swift on either part590

The fleets essay the open; and the ships

Tremble beneath the oars that urge them on,

By sinewy arms impelled. Upon the wings

That bound the Roman fleet, the larger craft

With triple and quadruple banks of oars

Gird in the lesser: so they front the sea;

While in their rear, shaped as a crescent moon,

Liburnian galleys follow. Over all

Towers Brutus’ deck praetorian. Oars on oars

Propel the bulky vessel through the main,600

Six ranks; the topmost strike the waves afar.

When such a space remained between the fleets

As could be covered by a single stroke,

Innumerable voices rose in air

Drowning with resonant din the beat of oars

And note of trumpet summoning: and all

Sat on the benches and with mighty stroke

Swept o’er the sea and gained the space between.

Then crashed the prows together, and the keels

Rebounded backwards, and unnumbered darts610

Or darkened all the sky or, in their fall,

The vacant ocean. As the wings grew wide,

Less densely packed the fleet, some Grecian ships

Pressed in between; as when with west and east

The tide contends, this way the waves are driven

And that the sea; so as they plough the deep

In various lines converging, what the prow

Throws up advancing, from the foemen’s oars

Falls back repelled. But soon the Grecian fleet

Was handier found in battle, and in flight620

Pretended, and in shorter curves could round;

More deftly governed by the guiding helm:

While on the Roman side their steadier keels

Gave vantage, as to men who fight on land.

Then Brutus to the pilot of his ship:

“Dost suffer them to range the wider deep,

Contending with the foe in naval skill?

Draw close the war and drive us on the prows

Of these Phocaeans.” Him the pilot heard;

And turned his vessel slantwise to the foe.630

Then was the sea all covered with the war:

Then Grecian ships attacking Brutus found

Their ruin in the stroke, and vanquished lay

Beside his bulwarks; while with grappling hooks

Others laid fast the foe, themselves by oars

Held back the while. And now no outstretched arm

Hurls forth the javelin, but hand to hand

With swords they wage the fight: each from his ship

Leans forward to the stroke, and falls when slain

Upon a foeman’s deck. Deep flows the stream640

Of purple slaughter to the foamy main:

By piles of floating corpses are the sides,

Though grappled, kept asunder. Some, half dead,

Plunge in the ocean, gulping down the brine

Encrimsoned with their blood; some lingering still

Draw their last struggling breath amid the wreck

Of broken navies: weapons which have missed

Find yet their victims, and the falling steel

Fails not in middle deep to deal the wound.

One vessel circled by Phocaean keels650

Divides her strength, and on the right and left

On either side with equal war contends;

On whose high poop while Tagus fighting gripped

The stern Phocaean, pierced his back and breast

Two fatal weapons; in the midst the steel

Meets, and the blood, uncertain whence to flow,

Stands still, arrested, till with double course

Forth by a sudden gush it drives each dart,

And sends the life abroad through either wound.

Here fated Telon also steered his ship:660

No pilot’s hand upon an angry sea

More deftly ruled a vessel. Well he knew,

Or by the sun or crescent moon, how best

To set his canvas fitted for the breeze

To-morrow’s light would bring. His rushing stem

Shattered a Roman vessel: but a dart

Hurled at the moment quivers in his breast.

He falls, and in the fall his dying hand

Diverts the prow. Then Gyareus, in act

To climb the friendly deck, by javelin pierced,670

Still as he hung, by the retaining steel

Fast to the side was nailed.

Twin brethren stand

A fruitful mother’s pride; with different fates,

But ne’er distinguished till death’s savage hand

Struck once, and ended error: he that lived,

Cause of fresh anguish to their sorrowing souls,

Called ever to the weeping parents back

The image of the lost: who, as the oars

Grecian and Roman mixed their teeth oblique,680

Grasped with his dexter hand the Roman ship;

When fell a blow that shore his arm away.

So died, upon the side it held, the hand,

Nor loosed its grasp in death. Yet with the wound

His noble courage rose, and maimed he dared

Renew the fray, and stretched across the sea

To grasp the lost — in vain! another blow

Lopped arm and hand alike. Nor shield nor sword

Henceforth are his. Yet even now he seeks

No sheltering hold, but with his chest advanced690

Before his brother armed, he claims the fight,

And holding in his breast the darts which else

Had slain his comrades, pierced with countless spears,

He fails in death well earned; yet ere his end

Collects his parting life, and all his strength

Strains to the utmost and with failing limbs

Leaps on the foeman’s deck; by weight alone

Injurious; for streaming down with gore

And piled on high with corpses, while her sides

Sounded to ceaseless blows, the fated ship700

Let in the greedy brine until her ways

Were level with the waters — then she plunged

In whirling eddies downwards — and the main

First parted, then closed in upon its prey.

Full many wondrous deaths, with fates diverse,

Upon the sea in that day’s fight befell.

Caught by a grappling-hook that missed the side,

Had Lysidas been whelmed in middle deep;

But by his feet his comrades dragged him back,

And rent in twain he hung; nor slowly flowed710

As from a wound the blood; but all his veins 93

Were torn asunder and the stream of life

Gushed o’er his limbs till lost amid the deep.

From no man dying has the vital breath

Rushed by so wide a path; the lower trunk

Succumbed to death, but with the lungs and heart

Long strove the fates, and hardly won the whole.

While, bent upon the fight, an eager crew

Were gathered to the margin of their deck

(Leaving the upper side as bare of foes),720

Their ship was overset. Beneath the keel

Which floated upwards, prisoned in the sea,

And powerless by spread of arms to float

The main, they perished. One who haply swam

Amid the battle, chanced upon a death

Strange and unheard of; for two meeting prows

Transfixed his body. At the double stroke

Wide yawned his chest; blood issued from his mouth

With flesh commingled; and the brazen beaks

Resounding clashed together, by the bones730

Unhindered: now they part and through the gap

Swift pours the sea and drags the corse below.

Next, of a shipwrecked crew, the larger part

Struggling with death upon the waters, reached

A comrade bark; but when with elbows raised do

They seized upon the bulwarks and the ship

Rolled, nor could bear their weight, the ruthless crew

Hacked off their straining arms; then maimed they sank

Below the seething waves, to rise no more.

Now every dart was hurled and every spear,740

The soldier weaponless; yet their rage found arms:

One hurls an oar; another’s brawny arm

Tugs at the twisted stern; or from the seats

The oarsmen driving, swings a bench in air.

The ships are broken for the fight. They seize

The fallen dead and snatch the sword that slew.

Nay, many from their wounds, frenzied for arms,

Pluck forth the deadly steel, and pressing still

Upon their yawning sides, hurl forth the spear

Back to the hostile ranks from which it came;750

Then ebbs their life blood forth.

But deadlier yet

Was that fell force most hostile to the sea;

For, thrown in torches and in sulphurous bolts

Fire all-consuming ran among the ships,

Whose oily timbers soaked in pitch and wax

Inflammable, gave welcome to the flames.

Nor could the waves prevail against the blaze

Which claimed as for its own the fragments borne

Upon the waters. Lo! on burning plank760

One hardly ‘scapes destruction; one to save

His flaming ship, gives entrance to the main.

Of all the forms of death each fears the one

That brings immediate dying: yet quails not

Their heart in shipwreck: from the waves they pluck

The fallen darts and furnishing the ship

Essay the feeble stroke; and should that hope

Still fail their hand, they call the sea to aid

And seizing in their grasp some floating foe

Drag him to mutual death.770

But on that day

Phoceus above all others proved his skill.

Well trained was he to dive beneath the main

And search the waters with unfailing eye;

And should an anchor ‘gainst the straining rope

Too firmly bite the sands, to wrench it free.

Oft in his fatal grasp he seized a foe

Nor loosed his grip until the life was gone.

Such was his frequent deed; but this his fate:

For rising, victor (as he thought), to air,780

Full on a keel he struck and found his death.

Some, drowning, seized a hostile oar and checked

The flying vessel; not to die in vain,

Their single care; some on their vessel’s side

Hanging, in death, with wounded frame essayed

To check the charging prow.

Tyrrhenus high

Upon the bulwarks of his ship was struck

By leaden bolt from Balearic sling

Of Lygdamus; straight through his temples passed790

The fated missile; and in streams of blood

Forced from their seats his trembling eyeballs fell.

Plunged in a darkness as of night, he thought

That life had left him; yet ere long he knew

The living rigour of his limbs; and cried,

“Place me, O friends, as some machine of war

Straight facing towards the foe; then shall my darts

Strike as of old; and thou, Tyrrhenus, spend

Thy latest breath, still left, upon the fight:

So shalt thou play, not wholly dead, the part800

That fits a soldier, and the spear that strikes

Thy frame, shall miss the living.” Thus he spake,

And hurled his javelin, blind, but not in vain;

For Argus, generous youth of noble blood,

Below the middle waist received the spear

And failing drave it home. His aged sire

From furthest portion of the conquered ship

Beheld; than whom in prime of manhood none,

More brave in battle: now no more he fought,

Yet did the memory of his prowess stir810

Phocaean youths to emulate his fame.

Oft stumbling o’er the benches the old man hastes

To reach his boy, and finds him breathing still.

No tear bedewed his cheek, nor on his breast

One blow he struck, but o’er his eyes there fell

A dark impenetrable veil of mist

That blotted out the day; nor could he more

Discern his luckless Argus. He, who saw

His parent, raising up his drooping head

With parted lips and silent features asks820

A father’s latest kiss, a father’s hand

To close his dying eyes. But soon his sire,

Recovering from his swoon, when ruthless grief

Possessed his spirit, “This short space,” he cried,

“I lose not, which the cruel gods have given,

But die before thee. Grant thy sorrowing sire

Forgiveness that he fled thy last embrace.

Not yet has passed thy life blood from the wound

Nor yet is death upon thee — still thou may’st 94

Outlive thy parent.” Thus he spake, and seized830

The reeking sword and drave it to the hilt,

Then plunged into the deep, with headlong bound,

To anticipate his son: for this he feared

A single form of death should not suffice.

Now gave the fates their judgment, and in doubt

No longer was the war: the Grecian fleet

In most part sunk; — some ships by Romans oared

Conveyed the victors home: in headlong flight

Some sought the yards for shelter. On the strand

What tears of parents for their offspring slain,840

How wept the mothers! ‘Mid the pile confused

Ofttimes the wife sought madly for her spouse

And chose for her last kiss some Roman slain;

While wretched fathers by the blazing pyres

Fought for the dead. But Brutus thus at sea

First gained a triumph for great Caesar’s arms. 95

64 Reading adscenso, as Francken (Leyden, 1896).

65 So:

“The rugged Charon fainted,

And asked a navy, rather than a boat,

To ferry over the sad world that came.”

(Ben Jonson, “Catiline”, Act i., scene 1.)

66 I take “tepido busto” as the dative case; and, as referring to Pompeius, doomed, like Cornelia’s former husband, to defeat and death.

67 It may be remarked that, in B.C. 46, Caesar, after the battle of Thapsus, celebrated four triumphs: for his victories over the Gauls, Ptolemaeus, Pharnaces, and Juba.

68 Near Aricia. (See Book VI., 92.)

69 He held no office at the time.

70 The tribune Ateius met Crassus as he was setting out from Rome and denounced him with mysterious and ancient curses. (Plutarch, “Crassus”, 16.)

71 That is, the liberty remaining to the people is destroyed by speaking freely to the tyrant.

72 That is, the gold offered by Pyrrhus, and refused by Fabricius, which, after the final defeat of Pyrrhus, came into the possession of the victors.

73 See Plutarch, “Cato”, 34, 39.

74 It was generally believed that the river Alpheus of the Peloponnesus passed under the sea and reappeared in the fountain of Arethusa at Syracuse. A goblet was said to have been thrown into the river in Greece, and to have reappeared in the Sicilian fountain. See the note in Grote’s “History of Greece”, Edition 1863, vol. ii., p. 8.)

75 As a serpent. XXXXX is the Greek word for serpent.

76 Conf. Book VI., 473.

77 The Centaurs.

78 Probably the flute thrown away by Pallas, which Marsyas picked up and then challenged Apollo to a musical contest. For his presumption the god had him flayed alive.

79 That is, the Little Bear, by which the Phoenicians steered, while the Greeks steered by the Great Bear. (See Sir G. Lewis’s “Astronomy of the Ancients”, p. 447.) In Book VI., line 193, the pilot declares that he steers by the pole star itself, which is much nearer to the Little than to the Great Bear, and is (I believe) reckoned as one of the stars forming the group known by that name. He may have been a Phoenician.

80 He did not in fact reach the Ganges, as is well known.

81 Perhaps in allusion to the embassy from India to Augustus in B.C. 19, when Zarmanochanus, an Indian sage, declaring that he had lived in happiness and would not risk the chance of a reverse, burnt himself publicly. (Merivale, chapter xxxiv.)

82 That is to say, looking towards the west; meaning that they came from the other side of the equator. (See Book IX., 630.)

83 See Book I., 117.

84 A race called Heniochi, said to be descended from the charioteer of Castor and Pollux.

85 “Effusis telis”. I have so taken this difficult expression. Herodotus (7, 60) says the men were numbered in ten thousands by being packed close together and having a circle drawn round them. After the first ten thousand had been so measured a fence was put where the circle had been, and the subsequent ten thousands were driven into the enclosure. It is not unlikely that they piled their weapons before being so measured, and Lucan’s account would then be made to agree with that of Herodotus. Francken, on the other hand, quotes a Scholiast, who says that each hundredth man shot off an arrow.

86 Agamemnon.

87 Massilia (Marseilles) was founded from Phocaea in Asia Minor about 600 B.C. Lucan (line 393) appears to think that the founders were fugitives from their city when it was stormed by the Persians sixty years later. See Thucydides I. 13; Grote, “History of Greece”, chapter xxii.

88 A difficult passage, of which this seems to be the meaning least free from objection.

89 Murviedro of the present day. Its gallant defence against Hannibal has been compared to that of Saragossa against the French.

90 See note to Book I., 506.

91 Three islands off the coast near Toulon, now called the Isles d’Hyeres.

92 This was Decimus Brutus, an able and trusted lieutenant of Caesar, who made him one of his heirs in the second degree. He, however, joined the conspiracy, and it was he who on the day of the murder induced Caesar to go to the Senate House. Less than two years later, after the siege of Perasia, he was deserted by his army, taken and put to death.

93 According to some these were the lines which Lucan recited while bleeding to death; according to others, those at Book ix., line 952.

94 It was regarded as the greatest of misfortunes if a child died before his parent.

95 It was Brutus who gained the naval victory over the Veneti some seven years before; the first naval fight, that we know of, fought in the Atlantic Ocean.

Book iv

Caesar in Spain. War in the Adriatic Sea. Death of Curio.

War in Spain; battle at Ilerda between Caesar and Pompeius’ generals, Afranius and Petreius, lines 1-52. Moods and famine, 52-130. At length Caesar crosses the Sicoris and intercepts the retreat of the Pompeians, 131-188. The troops hold friendly converse, 188-234, but Petreius stops it and massacres the soldiers of Caesar, 234-290. Caesar cuts his enemy off from the river, 290-378. Afranius submits, and is dismissed with his troops, 379-453. Antonius is besieged by the Pompeians in Illyria, and tries to escape on three rafts, 454-510, one of which is stopped by a chain, 510-529. The soldiers on board, persuaded by their captain, Volteius, slay each other, 530-648. Curio goes to Africa and lands near Zama, 649. Legend of Antaeus and Hercules, 656-748. Curio defeats Varus, 749-817, but is defeated and slain by Juba, 818-900. His character, 901-933.

But in the distant regions of the earth

Fierce Caesar warring, though in fight he dealt

No baneful slaughter, hastened on the doom

To swift fulfillment. There on Magnus’ side

Afranius and Petreius 96 held command,

Who ruled alternate, and the rampart guard

Obeyed the standard of each chief in turn.

There with the Romans in the camp were joined

Asturians 97 swift, and Vettons lightly armed,

And Celts who, exiled from their ancient home,10

Had joined “Iberus” to their former name.

Where the rich soil in gentle slope ascends

And forms a modest hill, Ilerda 98 stands,

Founded in ancient days; beside her glides

Not least of western rivers, Sicoris

Of placid current, by a mighty arch

Of stone o’erspanned, which not the winter floods

Shall overwhelm. Upon a rock hard by

Was Magnus’ camp; but Caesar’s on a hill,

Rivalling the first; and in the midst a stream.20

Here boundless plains are spread beyond the range

Of human vision; Cinga girds them in

With greedy waves; forbidden to contend

With tides of ocean; for that larger flood

Who names the land, Iberus, sweeps along

The lesser stream commingled with his own.

Guiltless of war, the first day saw the hosts

In long array confronted; standard rose

Opposing standard, numberless; yet none

Essayed attack, in shame of impious strife.30

One day they gave their country and her laws.

But Caesar, when from heaven fell the night,

Drew round a hasty trench; his foremost rank

With close array concealing those who wrought.

Then with the morn he bids them seize the hill

Which parted from the camp Ilerda’s walls,

And gave them safety. But in fear and shame

On rushed the foe and seized the vantage ground,

First in the onset. From the height they held

Their hopes of conquest; but to Caesar’s men40

Their hearts by courage stirred, and their good swords

Promised the victory. Burdened up the ridge

The soldier climbed, and from the opposing steep

But for his comrade’s shield had fallen back;

None had the space to hurl the quivering lance

Upon the foeman: spear and pike made sure

The failing foothold, and the falchion’s edge

Hewed out their upward path. But Caesar saw

Ruin impending, and he bade his horse

By circuit to the left, with shielded flank,50

Hold back the foe. Thus gained his troops retreat,

For none pressed on them; and the victor chiefs,

Forced to withdrawal, gained the day in vain.

Henceforth the fitful changes of the year

Governed the fates and fashioned out the war.

For stubborn frost still lay upon the land,

And northern winds, controlling all the sky,

Prisoned the rain in clouds; the hills were nipped

With snow unmelted, and the lower plains

By frosts that fled before the rising sun;60

And all the lands that stretched towards the sky

Which whelms the sinking stars, ‘neath wintry heavens

Were parched and arid. But when Titan neared

The Ram, who, backward gazing on the stars,

Bore perished Helle, 99 and the hours were held

In juster balance, and the day prevailed,

The earliest faded moon which in the vault

Hung with uncertain horn, from eastern winds

Received a fiery radiance; whose blasts

Forced Boreas back: and breaking on the mists70

Within his regions, to the Occident

Drave all that shroud Arabia and the land

Of Ganges; all that or by Caurus 100 borne

Bedim the Orient sky, or rising suns

Permit to gather; pitiless flamed the day

Behind them, while in front the wide expanse

Was driven; nor on mid earth sank the clouds

Though weighed with vapour. North and south alike

Were showerless, for on Calpe’s rock alone

All moisture gathered; here at last, forbidden80

To pass that sea by Zephyr’s bounds contained,

And by the furthest belt 101 of heaven, they pause,

In masses huge convolved; the widest breadth

Of murky air scarce holds them, which divides

Earth from the heavens; till pressed by weight of sky

In densest volume to the earth they pour

Their cataracts; no lightning could endure

Such storm unquenched: though oft athwart the gloom

Gleamed its pale fire. Meanwhile a watery arch

Scarce touched with colour, in imperfect shape90

Embraced the sky and drank the ocean waves,

So rendering to the clouds their flood outpoured.

And now were thawed the Pyrenaean snows

Which Titan had not conquered; all the rocks

Were wet with melting ice; accustomed springs

Found not discharge; and from the very banks

Each stream received a torrent. Caesar’s arms

Are shipwrecked on the field, his tottering camp

Swims on the rising flood; the trench is filled

With whirling waters; and the plain no more100

Yields corn or kine; for those who forage seek,

Err from the hidden furrow. Famine knocks

(First herald of o’erwhelming ills to come),

Fierce at the door; and while no foe blockades

The soldier hungers; fortunes buy not now

The meanest measure; yet, alas! is found

The fasting peasant, who, in gain of gold,

Will sell his little all! And now the hills

Are seen no more; and rivers whelmed in one;

Beasts with their homes sweep downwards; and the tide110

Repels the foaming torrent. Nor did night

Acknowledge Phoebus’ rise, for all the sky

Felt her dominion and obscured its face,

And darkness joined with darkness. Thus doth lie

The lowest earth beneath the snowy zone

And never-ending winters, where the sky

Is starless ever, and no growth of herb

Sprouts from the frozen earth; but standing ice

Tempers 102 the stars which in the middle zone

Kindle their flames. Thus, Father of the world,120

And thou, trident-god who rul’st the sea

Second in place, Neptunus, load the air

With clouds continual; forbid the tide,

Once risen, to return: forced by thy waves

Let rivers backward run in different course,

Thy shores no longer reaching; and the earth,

Shaken, make way for floods. Let Rhine o’erflow

And Rhone their banks; let torrents spread afield

Unmeasured waters: melt Rhipaean snows:

Spread lakes upon the land, and seas profound,130

And snatch the groaning world from civil war.

Thus for a little moment Fortune tried

Her darling son; then smiling to his part

Returned; and gained her pardon for the past

By greater gifts to come. For now the air

Had grown more clear, and Phoebus’ warmer rays

Coped with the flood and scattered all the clouds

In fleecy masses; and the reddening east

Proclaimed the coming day; the land resumed

Its ancient marks; no more in middle air140

The moisture hung, but from about the stars

Sank to the depths; the forest glad upreared

Its foliage; hills again emerged to view

And ‘neath the warmth of day the plains grew firm.

When Sicoris kept his banks, the shallop light

Of hoary willow bark they build, which bent

On hides of oxen, bore the weight of man

And swam the torrent. Thus on sluggish Po

Venetians float; and on th’ encircling sea 103

Are borne Britannia’s nations; and when Nile150

Fills all the land, are Memphis’ thirsty reeds

Shaped into fragile boats that swim his waves.

The further bank thus gained, they haste to curve

The fallen forest, and to form the arch

By which imperious Sicoris shall be spanned.

Yet fearing he might rise in wrath anew,

Not on the nearest marge they placed the beams,

But in mid-field. Thus the presumptuous stream

They tame with chastisement, parting his flood

In devious channels out; and curb his pride.160

Petreius, when he saw that Caesar’s fates

Swept all before them, left Ilerda’s steep,

His trust no longer in the Roman world;

And sought for strength amid those distant tribes,

Who, loving death, rush in upon the foe, 104

And win their conquests at the point of sword.

But in the dawn, when Caesar saw the camp

Stand empty on the hill, “To arms!” he cried:

“Seek not the bridge nor ford: plunge in the stream

And breast the foaming torrent.” Then did hope170

Of coming battle find for them a way

Which they had shunned in flight.

Their arms regained,

Their streaming limbs they cherished till the blood

Coursed in their veins; until the shadows fell

Short on the sward, and day was at the height.

Then dashed the horsemen on, and held the foe

‘Twixt flight and battle. In the plain arose

Two rocky heights: from each a loftier ridge

Of hills ranged onwards, sheltering in their midst180

A hollow vale, whose deep and winding paths

Were safe from warfare; which, when Caesar saw:

That if Petreius held, the war must pass

To lands remote by savage tribes possessed;

“Speed on,” he cried, “and meet their flight in front;

Fierce be your frown and battle in your glance:

No coward’s death be theirs; but as they flee

Plunge in their breasts the sword.” They seize the pass

And place their camp. Short was the span between

Th’ opposing sentinels; with eager eyes190

Undimmed by space, they gazed on brothers, sons,

Or friends and fathers; and within their souls

They grasped the impious horror of the war.

Yet for a little while no voice was heard,

For fear restrained; by waving blade alone

Or gesture, spake they; but their passion grew,

And broke all discipline; and soon they leaped

The hostile rampart; every hand outstretched 105

Embraced the hand of foeman, palm in palm;

One calls by name his neighhour, one his host,200

Another with his schoolmate talks again

Of olden studies: he who in the camp

Found not a comrade, was no son of Rome.

Wet are their arms with tears, and sobs break in

Upon their kisses; each, unstained by blood,

Dreads what he might have done. Why beat thy breast?

Why, madman, weep? The guilt is thine alone

To do or to abstain. Dost fear the man

Who takes his title to be feared from thee?

When Caesar’s trumpets sound the call to arms210

Heed not the summons; when thou seest advance

His standards, halt. The civil Fury thus

Shall fold her wings; and in a private robe

Caesar shall love his kinsman.

Holy Peace

That sway’st the world; thou whose eternal bands

Sustain the order of material things,

Come, gentle Concord! 106 these our times do now

For good or evil destiny control

The coming centuries! Ah, cruel fate!220

Now have the people lost their cloak for crime:

Their hope of pardon. They have known their kin.

Woe for the respite given by the gods

Making more black the hideous guilt to come!

Now all was peaceful, and in either camp

Sweet converse held the soldiers; on the grass

They place the meal; on altars built of turf

Pour out libations from the mingled cup;

On mutual couch with stories of their fights,

They wile the sleepless hours in talk away;230

“Where stood the ranks arrayed, from whose right hand

The quivering lance was sped:” and while they boast

Or challenge, deeds of prowess in the war,

Faith was renewed and trust. Thus made the fates

Their doom complete, and all the crimes to be;

Grew with their love.

For when Petreius knew

The treaties made; himself and all his camp

Sold to the foe; he stirs his guard to work

An impious slaughter: the defenceless foe240

Flings headlong forth: and parts the fond embrace

By stroke of weapon and in streams of blood.

And thus in words of wrath, to stir the war:

“Of Rome forgetful, to your faith forsworn!

And could ye not with victory gained return,

Restorers of her liberty, to Rome?

Lose then! but losing call not Caesar lord.

While still your swords are yours, with blood to shed

In doubtful battle, while the fates are hid,

Will you like cravens to your master bear250

Doomed eagles? Will you ask upon your knees

That Caesar deign to treat his slaves alike,

And spare, forsooth, like yours, your leaders’ lives? 107

Nay! never shall our safety be the price

Of base betrayal! Not for boon of life

We wage a civil war. This name of peace

Drags us to slavery. Ne’er from depths of earth,

Fain to withdraw her wealth, should toiling men

Draw store of iron; ne’er entrench a town;

Ne’er should the war-horse dash into the fray260

Nor fleet with turret bulwarks breast the main,

If freedom for dishonourable peace

Could thus be bought. The foe are pledged to fight

By their own guilt. But you, who still might hope

For pardon if defeated — what can match

Your deep dishonour? Shame upon your peace.

Thou callest, Magnus, ignorant of fate,

From all the world thy powers, and dost entreat

Monarchs of distant realms, while haply here

We in our treaties bargain for thy life!”270

Thus did he stir their minds and rouse anew

The love of impious battle. So when beasts

Grown strange to forests, long confined in dens,

Their fierceness lose, and learn to bear with man;

Once should they taste of blood, their thirsty jaws

Swell at the touch, and all the ancient rage

Comes back upon them till they hardly spare

Their keeper. Thus they rush on every crime:

And blows which dealt at chance, and in the night

Of battle, had brought hatred on the gods,280

Though blindly struck, their recent vows of love

Made monstrous, horrid. Where they lately spread

The mutual couch and banquet, and embraced

Some new-found friend, now falls the fatal blow

Upon the self-same breast; and though at first

Groaning at the fell chance, they drew the sword;

Hate rises as they strike, the murderous arm

Confirms the doubtful will: with monstrous joy

Through the wild camp they smite their kinsmen down;

And carnage raged unchecked; and each man strove,290

Proud of his crime, before his leader’s face

To prove his shamelessness of guilt.

But thou,

Caesar, though losing of thy best, dost know

The gods do favour thee. Thessalian fields

Gave thee no better fortune, nor the waves

That lave Massilia; nor on Pharos’ main

Didst thou so triumph. By this crime alone

Thou from this moment of the better cause

Shalt be the Captain.300

Since the troops were stained

With foulest slaughter thus, their leaders shunned

All camps with Caesar’s joined, and sought again

Ilerda’s lofty walls; but Caesar’s horse

Seized on the plain and forced them to the hills

Reluctant. There by steepest trench shut in,

He cuts them from the river, nor permits

Their circling ramparts to enclose a spring.

By this dread path Death trapped his captive prey.

Which when they knew, fierce anger filled their souls,310

And took the place of fear. They slew the steeds

Now useless grown, and rushed upon their fate;

Hopeless of life and flight. But Caesar cried:

“Hold back your weapons, soldiers, from the foe,

Strike not the breast advancing; let the war

Cost me no blood; he falls not without price

Who with his life-blood challenges the fray.

Scorning their own base lives and hating light,

To Caesar’s loss they rush upon their death,

Nor heed our blows. But let this frenzy pass,320

This madman onset; let the wish for death

Die in their souls.” Thus to its embers shrank

The fire within when battle was denied,

And fainter grew their rage until the night

Drew down her starry veil and sank the sun.

Thus keener fights the gladiator whose wound

Is recent, while the blood within the veins

Still gives the sinews motion, ere the skin

Shrinks on the bones: but as the victor stands

His fatal thrust achieved, and points the blade330

Unfaltering, watching for the end, there creeps

Torpor upon the limbs, the blood congeals

About the gash, more faintly throbs the heart,

And slowly fading, ebbs the life away.

Raving for water now they dig the plains

Seeking for hidden fountains, not with spade

And mattock only searching out the depths,

But with the sword; they hack the stony heights,

In shafts that reach the level of the plain.

No further flees from light the pallid wretch340

Who tears the bowels of the earth for gold.

Yet neither riven stones revealed a spring,

Nor streamlet whispered from its hidden source;

To water trickled on the gravel bed,

Nor dripped within the cavern. Worn at length

With labour huge, they crawl to light again,

After such toil to fall to thirst and heat

The readier victims: this was all they won.

All food they loathe; and ‘gainst their deadly thirst

Call famine to their aid. Damp clods of earth350

They squeeze upon their mouths with straining hands.

Where’er on foulest mud some stagnant slime

Or moisture lies, though doomed to die they lap

With greedy tongues the draught their lips had loathed

Had life been theirs to choose. Beast-like they drain

The swollen udder, and where milk was not,

They sucked the life-blood forth. From herbs and boughs

Dripping with dew, from tender shoots they pressed,

Say, from the pith of trees, the juice within.

Happy the host that onward marching finds360

Its savage enemy has fouled the wells

With murderous venom; had’st thou, Caesar, cast

The reeking filth of shambles in the stream,

And henbane dire and all the poisonous herbs

That lurk on Cretan slopes, still had they drunk

The fatal waters, rather than endure

Such lingering agony. Their bowels racked

With torments as of flame; the swollen tongue

And jaws now parched and rigid, and the veins;

Each laboured breath with anguish from the lungs370

Enfeebled, moistureless, was scarcely drawn,

And scarce again returned; and yet agape,

Their panting mouths sucked in the nightly dew;

They watch for showers from heaven, and in despair

Gaze on the clouds, whence lately poured a flood.

Nor were their tortures less that Meroe

Saw not their sufferings, nor Cancer’s zone,

Nor where the Garamantian turns the soil;

But Sicoris and Iberus at their feet,

Two mighty floods, but far beyond their reach,380

Rolled down in measureless volume to the main.

But now their leaders yield; Afranius,

Vanquished, throws down his arms, and leads his troops,

Now hardly living, to the hostile camp

Before the victor’s feet, and sues for peace.

Proud was his bearing, and despite of ills,

His mien majestic, of his triumphs past

Still mindful in disaster — thus he stood,

Though suppliant for grace, a leader yet;

From fearless heart thus speaking: “Had the fates390

Thrown me before some base ignoble foe,

Not, Caesar, thee; still had this arm fought on

And snatched my death. Now if I suppliant ask,

’Tis that I value still the boon of life

Given by a worthy hand. No party ties

Roused us to arms against thee; when the war,

This civil war, broke out, it found us chiefs;

And with our former cause we kept the faith,

So long as brave men should. The fates’ decree

No longer we withstand. Unto thy will400

We yield the western tribes: the east is thine

And all the world lies open to thy march.

Be generous! blood nor sword nor wearied arm

Thy conquests bought. Thou hast not to forgive

Aught but thy victory won. Nor ask we much.

Give us repose; to lead in peace the life

Thou shalt bestow; suppose these armed lines

Are corpses prostrate on the field of war

Ne’er were it meet that thy victorious ranks

Should mix with ours, the vanquished. Destiny410

Has run for us its course: one boon I beg;

Bid not the conquered conquer in thy train.”

Such were his words, and Caesar’s gracious smile

Granted his prayer, remitting rights that war

Gives to the victor. To th’ unguarded stream

The soldiers speed: prone on the bank they lie

And lap the flood or foul the crowded waves.

In many a burning throat the sudden draught

Poured in too copious, filled the empty veins

And choked the breath within: yet left unquenched420

The burning pest which though their frames were full

Craved water for itself. Then, nerved once more,

Their strength returned. Oh, lavish luxury,

Contented never with the frugal meal!

Oh greed that searchest over land and sea

To furnish forth the banquet! Pride that joy’st

In sumptuous tables! learn what life requires,

How little nature needs! No ruddy juice

Pressed from the vintage in some famous year,

Whose consuls are forgotten, served in cups430

With gold and jewels wrought restores the spark,

The failing spark, of life; but water pure

And simplest fruits of earth. The flood, the field

Suffice for nature. Ah! the weary lot

Of those who war! But these, their amour laid

Low at the victor’s feet, with lightened breast,

Secure themselves, no longer dealing death,

Beset by care no more, seek out their homes.

What priceless gift in peace had they secured!

How grieved it now their souls to have poised the dart440

With arm outstretched; to have felt their raving thirst;

And prayed the gods for victory in vain!

Nay, hard they think the victor’s lot, for whom

A thousand risks and battles still remain;

If fortune never is to leave his side,

How often must he triumph! and how oft

Pour out his blood where’er great Caesar leads!

Happy, thrice happy, he who, when the world

Is nodding to its ruin, knows the spot

Where he himself shall, though in ruin, lie!450

No trumpet call shall break his sleep again:

But in his humble home with faithful spouse

And sons unlettered Fortune leaves him free

From rage of party; for if life he owes

To Caesar, Magnus sometime was his lord.

Thus happy they alone live on apart,

Nor hope nor dread the event of civil war.

Not thus did Fortune upon Caesar smile

In all the parts of earth; 108 but ‘gainst his arms

Dared somewhat, where Salona’s lengthy waste460

Opposes Hadria, and Iadar warm

Meets with his waves the breezes of the west.

There brave Curectae dwell, whose island home

Is girded by the main; on whom relied

Antonius; and beleaguered by the foe,

Upon the furthest margin of the shore,

(Safe from all ills but famine) placed his camp.

But for his steeds the earth no forage gave,

Nor golden Ceres harvest; but his troops

Gnawed the dry herbage of the scanty turf470

Within their rampart lines. But when they knew

That Baslus was on th’ opposing shore

With friendly force, by novel mode of flight

They aim to reach him. Not the accustomed keel

They lay, nor build the ship, but shapeless rafts

Of timbers knit together, strong to bear

All ponderous weight; on empty casks beneath

By tightened chains made firm, in double rows

Supported; nor upon the deck were placed

The oarsmen, to the hostile dart exposed,480

But in a hidden space, by beams concealed.

And thus the eye amazed beheld the mass

Move silent on its path across the sea,

By neither sail nor stalwart arm propelled.

They watch the main until the refluent waves

Ebb from the growing sands; then, on the tide

Receding, launch their vessel; thus she floats

With twin companions: over each uprose

With quivering battlements a lofty tower.

Octavius, guardian of Illyrian seas,490

Restrained his swifter keels, and left the rafts

Free from attack, in hope of larger spoil

From fresh adventures; for the peaceful sea

May tempt them, and their goal in safety reached,

To dare a second voyage. Round the stag

Thus will the cunning hunter draw a line

Of tainted feathers poisoning the air;

Or spread the mesh, and muzzle in his grasp

The straining jaws of the Molossian hound,

And leash the Spartan pack; nor is the brake500

Trusted to any dog but such as tracks

The scent with lowered nostrils, and refrains

From giving tongue the while; content to mark

By shaking leash the covert of the prey.

Ere long they manned the rafts in eager wish

To quit the island, when the latest glow

Still parted day from night. But Magnus’ troops,

Cilician once, taught by their ancient art,

In fraudulent deceit had left the sea

To view unguarded; but with chains unseen510

Fast to Illyrian shores, and hanging loose,

They blocked the outlet in the waves beneath.

The leading rafts passed safely, but the third

Hung in mid passage, and by ropes was hauled

Below o’ershadowing rocks. These hollowed out

In ponderous masses overhung the main,

And nodding seemed to fall: shadowed by trees

Dark lay the waves beneath. Hither the tide

Brings wreck and corpse, and, burying with the flow,

Restores them with the ebb: and when the caves520

Belch forth the ocean, swirling billows fall

In boisterous surges back, as boils the tide

In that famed whirlpool on Sicilian shores.

Here, with Venetian settlers for its load,

Stood motionless the raft. Octavius’ ships

Gathered around, while foemen on the land

Filled all the shore. But well the captain knew,

Volteius, how the secret fraud was planned,

And tried in vain with sword and steel to burst

The bands that held them; without hope he fights,530

Uncertain where to avoid or front the foe.

Caught in this strait they strove as brave men should

Against opposing hosts; nor long the fight,

For fallen darkness brought a truce to arms.

Then to his men disheartened and in fear

Of coming fate Volteius, great of soul,

Thus spake in tones commanding: “Free no more,

Save for this little night, consult ye now

In this last moment, soldiers, how to face

Your final fortunes. No man’s life is short540

Who can take thought for death, nor is your fame

Less than a conqueror’s, if with breast advanced

Ye meet your destined doom. None know how long

The life that waits them. Summon your own fate,

And equal is your praise, whether the hand

Quench the last flicker of departing light,

Or shear the hope of years. But choice to die

Is thrust not on the mind — we cannot flee;

See at our throats, e’en now, our kinsmen’s swords.

Then choose for death; desire what fate decrees.550

At least in war’s blind cloud we shall not fall;

Nor when the flying weapons hide the day,

And slaughtered heaps of foemen load the field,

And death is common, and the brave man sinks

Unknown, inglorious. Us within this ship,

Seen of both friends and foes, the gods have placed;

Both land and sea and island cliffs shall bear,

From either shore, their witness to our death,

In which some great and memorable fame

Thou, Fortune, dost prepare. What glorious deeds560

Of warlike heroism, of noble faith,

Time’s annals show! All these shall we surpass.

True, Caesar, that to fall upon our swords

For thee is little; yet beleaguered thus,

With neither sons nor parents at our sides,

Shorn of the glory that we might have earned,

We give thee here the only pledge we may.

Yet let these hostile thousands fear the souls

That rage for battle and that welcome death,

And know us for invincible, and joy570

That no more rafts were stayed. They’ll offer terms

And tempt us with a base unhonoured life.

Would that, to give that death which shall be ours

The greater glory, they may bid us hope

For pardon and for life! lest when our swords

Are reeking with our hearts’-blood, they may say

This was despair of living. Great must be

The prowess of our end, if in the hosts

That fight his battles, Caesar is to mourn

This little handful lost. For me, should fate580

Grant us retreat, — myself would scorn to shun

The coming onset. Life I cast away,

The frenzy of the death that comes apace

Controls my being. Those alone whose end

Inspires them, know the happiness of death,

Which the high gods, that men may bear to live,

Keep hid from others.” Thus his noble words

Warmed his brave comrades’ hearts; and who with fear

And tearful eyes had looked upon the Wain,

Turning his nightly course, now hoped for day,590

Such precepts deep within them. Nor delayed

The sky to dip the stars below the main;

For Phoebus in the Twins his chariot drave

At noon near Cancer; and the hours of night 109

Were shortened by the Archer.

When day broke,

Lo! on the rocks the Istrians; while the sea

Swarmed with the galleys and their Grecian fleet

All armed for fight: but first the war was stayed

And terms proposed: life to the foe they thought600

Would seem the sweeter, by delay of death

Thus granted. But the band devoted stood,

Proud of their promised end, and life forsworn,

And careless of the battle: no debate

Could shake their high resolve. 110 In numbers few

‘Gainst foemen numberless by land and sea,

They wage the desperate fight; then satiate

Turn from the foe. And first demanding death

Volteius bared his throat. “What youth,” he cries,

“Dares strike me down, and through his captain’s wounds610

Attest his love for death?” Then through his side

Plunge blades uncounted on the moment drawn.

He praises all: but him who struck the first

Grateful, with dying strength, he does to death.

They rush together, and without a foe

Work all the guilt of battle. Thus of yore,

Rose up the glittering Dircaean band

From seed by Cadmus sown, and fought and died,

Dire omen for the brother kings of Thebes.

And so in Phasis’ fields the sons of earth,620

Born of the sleepless dragon, all inflamed

By magic incantations, with their blood

Deluged the monstrous furrow, while the Queen

Feared at the spells she wrought. Devoted thus

To death, they fall, yet in their death itself

Less valour show than in the fatal wounds

They take and give; for e’en the dying hand

Missed not a blow — nor did the stroke alone

Inflict the wound, but rushing on the sword

Their throat or breast received it to the hilt;630

And when by fatal chance or sire with son,

Or brothers met, yet with unfaltering weight

Down flashed the pitiless sword: this proved their love,

To give no second blow. Half living now

They dragged their mangled bodies to the side,

Whence flowed into the sea a crimson stream

Of slaughter. ’Twas their pleasure yet to see

The light they scorned; with haughty looks to scan

The faces of their victors, and to feel

The death approaching. But the raft was now640

Piled up with dead; which, when the foemen saw,

Wondering at such a chief and such a deed,

They gave them burial. Never through the world

Of any brave achievement was the fame

More widely blazed. Yet meaner men, untaught

By such examples, see not that the hand

Which frees from slavery needs no valiant mind

To guide the stroke. But tyranny is feared

As dealing death; and Freedom’s self is galled

By ruthless arms; and knows not that the sword650

Was given for this, that none need live a slave.

Ah Death! would’st thou but let the coward live

And grant the brave alone the prize to die!

Nor less were Libyan fields ablaze with war.

For Curio rash from Lilybaean 111 coast

Sailed with his fleet, and borne by gentle winds

Betwixt half-ruined Carthage, mighty once,

And Clupea’s cliff, upon the well-known shore

His anchors dropped. First from the hoary sea

Remote, where Bagra slowly ploughs the sand,660

He placed his camp: then sought the further hills

And mazy passages of cavernous rocks,

Antaeus’ kingdom called. From ancient days

This name was given; and thus a swain retold

The story handed down from sire to son:

“Not yet exhausted by the giant brood,

Earth still another monster brought to birth,

In Libya’s caverns: huger far was he,

More justly far her pride, than Briareus

With all his hundred hands, or Typhon fierce,670

Or Tityos: ’twas in mercy to the gods

That not in Phlegra’s 112 fields Antaeus grew,

But here in Libya; to her offspring’s strength,

Unmeasured, vast, she added yet this boon,

That when in weariness and labour spent

He touched his parent, fresh from her embrace

Renewed in rigour he should rise again.

In yonder cave he dwelt, ‘neath yonder rock

He made his feast on lions slain in chase:

There slept he; not on skins of beasts, or leaves,680

But fed his strength upon the naked earth.

Perished the Libyan hinds and those who came,

Brought here in ships, until he scorned at length

The earth that gave him strength, and on his feet

Invincible and with unaided might

Made all his victims. Last to Afric shores,

Drawn by the rumour of such carnage, came

Magnanimous Alcides, he who freed

Both land and sea of monsters. Down on earth

He threw his mantle of the lion’s skin690

Slain in Cleone; nor Antaeus less

Cast down the hide he wore. With shining oil,

As one who wrestles at Olympia’s feast,

The hero rubs his limbs: the giant feared

Lest standing only on his parent earth

His strength might fail; and cast o’er all his bulk

Hot sand in handfuls. Thus with arms entwined

And grappling hands each seizes on his foe;

With hardened muscles straining at the neck

Long time in vain; for firm the sinewy throat700

Stood column-like, nor yielded; so that each

Wondered to find his peer. Nor at the first

Divine Alcides put forth all his strength,

By lengthy struggle wearing out his foe,

Till chilly drops stood on Antaeas’ limbs,

And toppled to its fall the stately throat,

And smitten by the hero’s blows, the legs

Began to totter. Breast to breast they strive

To gain the vantage, till the victor’s arms

Gird in the giant’s yielding back and sides,710

And squeeze his middle part: next ‘twixt the thighs

He puts his feet, and forcing them apart,

Lays low the mighty monster limb by limb.

The dry earth drank his sweat, while in his veins

Warm ran the life-blood, and with strength refreshed,

The muscle swelled and all the joints grew firm,

And with his might restored, he breaks his bonds

And rives the arms of Hercules away.

Amazed the hero stood at such a strength.

Not thus he feared, though then unused to war,720

That hydra fierce, which smitten in the marsh

Of Inachus, renewed its severed heads.

Again they join in fight, one with the powers

Which earth bestowed, the other with his own:

Nor did the hatred of his step-dame 113 find

In all his conflicts greater room for hope.

She sees bedewed in sweat the neck and limbs

Which once had borne the mountain of the gods

Nor knew the toil: and when Antaeus felt

His foeman’s arms close round him once again,730

He flung his wearying limbs upon the sand

To rise with strength renewed; all that the earth,

Though labouring sore, could breathe into her son

She gave his frame. But Hercules at last

Saw how his parent gave the giant strength.

‘Stand thou,’ he cried; ‘no more upon the ground

Thou liest at thy will — here must thou stay

Within mine arms constrained; against this breast,

Antaeus, shalt thou fall.’ He lifted up

And held by middle girth the giant form,740

Still struggling for the earth: but she no more

Could give her offspring rigour. Slowly came

The chill of death upon him, and ’twas long

Before the hero, of his victory sure,

Trusted the earth and laid the giant down.

Hence hoar antiquity that loves to prate

And wonders at herself 114, this region called

Antaeus’ kingdom. But a greater name

It gained from Scipio, when he recalled

From Roman citadels the Punic chief.750

Here was his camp; here can’st thou see the trace

Of that most famous rampart 115 whence at length

Issued the Eagles of triumphant Rome.”

But Curio rejoiced, as though for him

The fortunes of the spot must hold in store

The fates of former chiefs: and on the place

Of happy augury placed his tents ill-starred,

Took from the hills their omens; and with force

Unequal, challenged his barbarian foe.

All Africa that bore the Roman yoke760

Then lay ‘neath Varus. He, though placing first

Trust in his Latian troops, from every side

And furthest regions, summons to his aid

The nations who confessed King Juba’s rule.

Not any monarch over wider tracts

Held the dominion. From the western belt 116

Near Gades, Atlas parts their furthest bounds;

But from the southern, Hammon girds them in

Hard by the whirlpools; and their burning plains

Stretch forth unending ‘neath the torrid zone,770

In breadth its equal, till they reach at length

The shore of ocean upon either hand.

From all these regions tribes unnumbered flock

To Juba’s standard: Moors of swarthy hue

As though from Ind; Numidian nomads there

And Nasamon’s needy hordes; and those whose darts

Equal the flying arrows of the Mede:

Dark Garamantians leave their fervid home;

And those whose coursers unrestrained by bit

Or saddle, yet obey the rider’s hand780

Which wields the guiding switch: the hunter, too,

Who wanders forth, his home a fragile hut,

And blinds with flowing robe (if spear should fail)

The angry lion, monarch of the steppe.

Not eagerness alone to save the state

Stirred Juba’s spirit: private hatred too

Roused him to war. For in the former year,

When Curio 117 all things human and the gods

Polluted, he by tribune law essayed

To ravish Libya from the tyrant’s sway,790

And drive the monarch from his father’s throne,

While giving Rome a king. To Juba thus,

Still smarting at the insult, came the war,

A welcome harvest for his crown retained.

These rumours Curio feared: nor had his troops

(Ta’en in Corfinium’s hold) 118 in waves of Rhine

Been tested, nor to Caesar in the wars

Had learned devotion: wavering in their faith,

Their second chief they doubt, their first betrayed.

Yet when the general saw the spirit of fear800

Creep through his camp, and discipline to fail,

And sentinels desert their guard at night,

Thus in his fear he spake: “By daring much

Fear is disguised; let me be first in arms,

And bid my soldiers to the plain descend,

While still my soldiers. Idle days breed doubt.

By fight forestall the plot 119. Soon as the thirst

Of bloodshed fills the mind, and eager hands

Grip firm the sword, and pressed upon the brow

The helm brings valour to the failing heart —810

Who cares to measure leaders’ merits then?

Who weighs the cause? With whom the soldier stands,

For him he fights; as at the fatal show

No ancient grudge the gladiator’s arm

Nerves for the combat, yet as he shall strike

He hates his rival.” Thinking thus he leads

His troops in battle order to the plain.

Then victory on his arms deceptive shone

Hiding the ills to come: for from the field

Driving the hostile host with sword and spear,820

He smote them till their camp opposed his way.

But after Varus’ rout, unseen till then,

All eager for the glory to be his,

By stealth came Juba: silent was his march;

His only fear lest rumour should forestall

His coming victory. In pretended war

He sends Sabura forth with scanty force

To tempt the enemy, while in hollow vale

He holds the armies of his realm unseen.

Thus doth the sly ichneumon 120 with his tail830

Waving, allure the serpent of the Nile

Drawn to the moving shadow: he, with head

Turned sideways, watches till the victim glides

Within his reach, then seizes by the throat

Behind the deadly fangs: forth from its seat

Balked of its purpose, through the brimming jaws

Gushes a tide of poison. Fortune smiled

On Juba’s stratagem; for Curio

(The hidden forces of the foe unknown)

Sent forth his horse by night without the camp840

To scour more distant regions. He himself

At earliest peep of dawn bids carry forth

His standards; heeding not his captains’ prayer

Urged on his ears: “Beware of Punic fraud,

The craft that taints a Carthaginian war.”

Hung over him the doom of coming death

And gave the youth to fate; and civil strife

Dragged down its author.

On the lofty tops

Where broke the hills abruptly to their fall850

He ranks his troops and sees the foe afar:

Who still deceiving, simulated flight,

Till from the height in loose unordered lines

The Roman forces streamed upon the plain,

In thought that Juba fled. Then first was known

The treacherous fraud: for swift Numidian horse

On every side surround them: leader, men —

All see their fate in one dread moment come.

No coward flees, no warrior bravely strides

To meet the battle: nay, the trumpet call860

Stirs not the charger with resounding hoof

To spurn the rock, nor galling bit compels

To champ in eagerness; nor toss his mane

And prick the ear, nor prancing with his feet

To claim his share of combat. Tired, the neck

Droops downwards: smoking sweat bedews the limbs:

Dry from the squalid mouth protrudes the tongue,

Hoarse, raucous panting issues from their chests;

Their flanks distend: and every curb is dry

With bloody foam; the ruthless sword alone870

Could move them onward, powerless even then

To charge; but giving to the hostile dart

A nearer victim. But when the Afric horse

First made their onset, loud beneath their hoofs

Rang the wide plain, and rose the dust in air

As by some Thracian whirlwind stirred; and veiled

The heavens in darkness. When on Curio’s host

The tempest burst, each footman in the rank

Stood there to meet his fate — no doubtful end

Hung in the balance: destiny proclaimed880

Death to them all. No conflict hand to hand

Was granted them, by lances thrown from far

And sidelong sword-thrusts slain: nor wounds alone,

But clouds of weapons falling from the air

By weight of iron o’erwhelmed them. Still drew in

The straightening circle, for the first pressed back

On those behind; did any shun the foe,

Seeking the inner safety of the ring,

He needs must perish by his comrades’ swords.

And as the front rank fell, still narrower grew890

The close crushed phalanx, till to raise their swords

Space was denied. Still close and closer forced

The armed breasts against each other driven

Pressed out the life. Thus not upon a scene

Such as their fortune promised, gazed the foe.

No tide of blood was there to glut their eyes,

No members lopped asunder, though the earth so

Was piled with corpses; for each Roman stood

In death upright against his comrade dead.

Let cruel Carthage rouse her hated ghosts900

By this fell offering; let the Punic shades,

And bloody Hannibal, from this defeat

Receive atonement: yet ’twas shame, ye gods,

That Libya gained not for herself the day;

And that our Romans on that field should die

To save Pompeius and the Senate’s cause.

Now was the dust laid low by streams of blood,

And Curio, knowing that his host was slain.

Chose not to live; and, as a brave man should.

He rushed upon the heap, and fighting fell.910

In vain with turbid speech hast thou profaned

The pulpit of the forum: waved in vain

From that proud 121 citadel the tribune flag:

And armed the people, and the Senate’s rights

Betraying, hast compelled this impious war

Betwixt the rival kinsmen. Low thou liest

Before Pharsalus’ fight, and from thine eyes

Is hid the war. ’Tis thus to suffering Rome,

For arms seditious and for civil strife

Ye mighty make atonement with your blood.920

Happy were Rome and all her sons indeed,

Did but the gods as rigidly protect

As they avenge, her violated laws!

There Curio lies; untombed his noble corpse,

Torn by the vultures of the Libyan wastes.

Yet shall we, since such merit, though unsung,

Lives by its own imperishable fame,

Give thee thy meed of praise. Rome never bore

Another son, who, had he right pursued,

Had so adorned her laws; but soon the times,930

Their luxury, corruption, and the curse

Of too abundant wealth, in transverse stream

Swept o’er his wavering mind: and Curio changed,

Turned with his change the scale of human things.

True, mighty Sulla, cruel Marius,

And bloody Cinna, and the long descent

Of Caesar and of Caesar’s house became

Lords of our lives. But who had power like him?

All others bought the state: he sold alone. 122

96 Both of these generals were able and distinguished officers. Afranius was slain by Caesar’s soldiers after the battle of Thapsus. Petreius, after the same battle, escaped along with Juba; and failing to find a refuge, they challenged each other to fight. Petreius was killed, and Juba, the survivor, put an end to himself.

97 These are the names of Spanish tribes. The Celtiberi dwelt on the Ebro.

98 Lerida, on the river Segre, above its junction with the Ebro. Cinga is the modern Cinca, which falls into the Segre (Sicoris).

99 Phrixus and Helle, the children of Nephele, were to be sacrificed to Zeus: but Nephele rescued them, and they rode away through the air on the Ram with the golden fleece. But Helle fell into the sea, which from her was named the Hellespont. (See Book IX., 1126.) The sun enters Aries about March 20. The Ram is pictured among the constellations with his head averse.

100 See Book I., 463.

101 See Mr. Heitland’s introduction, upon the meaning of the word “cardo”. The word “belt” seems fairly to answer to the two great circles or four meridians which he describes. The word occurs again at line 760; Book V., 80; Book VII., 452.

102 The idea is that the cold of the poles tempers the heat of the equator.

103 Fuso: either spacious, outspread; or, poured into the land (referring to the estuaries) as Mr. Haskins prefers; or, poured round the island. Portable leathern skiffs seem to have been in common use in Caesar’s time in the English Channel. These were the rowing boats of the Gauls. (Mommsen, vol. iv., 219.)

104 Compare Book I., 519.

105 Compare the passage in Tacitus, “Histories”, ii., 45, in which the historian describes how the troops of Otho and Vitellius wept over each other after the battle and deplored the miseries of a civil war. “Victi victoresque in lacrumas effusi, sortem civilium armorum misera laetitia detestantes.”

106 “Saecula nostra” may refer either to Lucan’s own time or to the moment arrived at in the poem; or it may, as Francken suggests, have a more general meaning.

107 “Petenda est”? — “is it fit that you should beg for the lives of your leaders?” Mr. Haskins says, “shall you have to beg for them?” But it means that to do so is the height of disgrace.

108 The scene is the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic. Here was Diocletian’s palace. (Described in the 13th chapter of Gibbon.)

109 That is, night was at its shortest.

110 On the following passage see Dean Merivale’s remarks, “History of the Roman Empire”, chapter xvi.

111 That is, Sicilian.

112 For Phlegra, the scene of the battle between the giants and the gods, see Book VII., 170, and Book IX., 774. Ben Jonson (“Sejanus”, Act v., scene 10) says of Sejanus:—

“Phlegra, the field where all the sons of earth

Mustered against the gods, did ne’er acknowledge

So proud and huge a monster.”

113 Juno.

114 That is, extols ancient deeds.

115 Referring to the battle of Zama.

116 See line 82.

117 Curio was tribune in B.C. 50. His earlier years are stated to have been stained with vice.

118 See Book II., 537.

119 Preferring the reading “praeripe”, with Francken.

120 Bewick (“Quadrupeds,” p. 238) tells the following anecdote of a tame ichneumon which had never seen a serpent, and to which he brought a small one. “Its first emotion seemed to be astonishment mixed with anger; its hair became erect; in an instant it slipped behind the reptile, and with remarkable swiftness and agility leaped upon its head, seized it and crushed it with its teeth.”

121 Reading “arce”, not “arte”. The word “signifer” seems to favour the reading I have preferred; and Dean Merivale and Hosius adopted it.

122 For the character and career of Curio, see Merivale’s “History of the Roman Empire”, chapter xvi. He was of profligate character, but a friend and pupil of Cicero; at first a rabid partisan of the oligarchy, he had, about the period of his tribuneship (B.C. 50–49), become a supporter of Caesar. How far Gaulish gold was the cause of this conversion we cannot tell. It is in allusion to this change that he was termed the prime mover of the civil war. His arrival in Caesar’s camp is described in Book I., line 303. He became Caesar’s chief lieutenant in place of the deserter Labienus; and, as described in Book III., was sent to Sardinia and Sicily, whence he expelled the senatorial forces. His final expedition to Africa, defeat and death, form the subject of the latter part of this book. Mommsen describes him as a man of talent, and finds a resemblance between him and Caesar. (Vol. iv., p. 393.)

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.

Book vi

The Fight Near Dyrrhachium. Scaeva’s Exploits. The Witch of Thessalia

Description of Dyrrhachium, which Caesar attempts to capture, 1-33. He builds a wall round Pompeius’ camp, 34-79. Pestilence in his camp and famine in Caesar’s, 80-142. Pompeius attacks Caesar’s works, but is repulsed by Scaeva, a centurion, 142-304. He breaks through at another point, 305-365. Caesar marches into Thessaly, and is followed by Pompeius, 366-389. Description of Thessaly, 390-488. Account of the Haemonian witches, 489-603, and of Erichtho, whom Sextus Pompeius determines to consult, 604-697. Enquiries of Sextus, and her answer, 698-741. She raises from the dead a corpse who answers her questions and dies again, 742-989.

Now that the chiefs with minds intent on fight

Had drawn their armies near upon the hills

And all the gods beheld their chosen pair,

Caesar, the Grecian towns despising, scorned

To reap the glory of successful war

Save at his kinsman’s cost. In all his prayers

He seeks that moment, fatal to the world,

When shall be cast the die, to win or lose,

And all his fortune hang upon the throw.

Thrice he drew out his troops, his eagles thrice,10

Demanding battle; thus to increase the woe

Of Latium, prompt as ever: but his foes,

Proof against every art, refused to leave

The rampart of their camp. Then marching swift

By hidden path between the wooded fields

He seeks, and hopes to seize, Dyrrhachium’s 158 fort;

But Magnus, speeding by the ocean marge,

First camped on Petra’s slopes, a rocky hill

Thus by the natives named. From thence he keeps

Watch o’er the fortress of Corinthian birth20

Which by its towers alone without a guard

Was safe against a siege. No hand of man

In ancient days built up her lofty wall,

No hammer rang upon her massive stones:

Not all the works of war, nor Time himself

Shall undermine her. Nature’s hand has raised

Her adamantine rocks and hedged her in

With bulwarks girded by the foamy main:

And but for one short bridge of narrow earth

Dyrrhachium were an island. Steep and fierce,30

Dreaded of sailors, are the cliffs that bear

Her walls; and tempests, howling from the west,

Toss up the raging main upon the roofs;

And homes and temples tremble at the shock.

Thirsting for battle and with hopes inflamed

Here Caesar hastes, with distant rampart lines

Seeking unseen to coop his foe within,

Though spread in spacious camp upon the hills.

With eagle eye he measures out the land

Meet to be compassed, nor content with turf40

Fit for a hasty mound, he bids his troops

Tear from the quarries many a giant rock:

And spoils the dwellings of the Greeks, and drags

Their walls asunder for his own. Thus rose

A mighty barrier which no ram could burst

Nor any ponderous machine of war.

Mountains are cleft, and level through the hills

The work of Caesar strides: wide yawns the moat,

Forts show their towers rising on the heights,

And in vast circle forests are enclosed50

And groves and spacious lands, and beasts of prey,

As in a line of toils. Pompeius lacked

Nor field nor forage in th’ encircled span

Nor room to move his camp; nay, rivers rose

Within, and ran their course and reached the sea;

And Caesar wearied ere he saw the whole,

And daylight failed him. Let the ancient tale

Attribute to the labours of the gods

The walls of Ilium: let the fragile bricks

Which compass in great Babylon, amaze60

The fleeting Parthian. Here a larger space

Than those great cities which Orontes swift

And Tigris’ stream enclose, or that which boasts

In Eastern climes, the lordly palaces

Fit for Assyria’s kings, is closed by walls

Amid the haste and tumult of a war

Forced to completion. Yet this labour huge

Was spent in vain. So many hands had joined

Or Sestos with Abydos, or had tamed

With mighty mole the Hellespontine wave,70

Or Corinth from the realm of Pelops’ king

Had rent asunder, or had spared each ship

Her voyage round the long Malean cape,

Or had done anything most hard, to change

The world’s created surface. Here the war

Was prisoned: blood predestinate to flow

In all the parts of earth; the host foredoomed

To fall in Libya or in Thessaly

Was here: in such small amphitheatre

The tide of civil passion rose and fell.80

At first Pompeius knew not: so the hind

Who peaceful tills the mid-Sicilian fields

Hears not Pelorous 159 sounding to the storm;

So billows thunder on Rutupian shores 160,

Unheard by distant Caledonia’s tribes.

But when he saw the mighty barrier stretch

O’er hill and valley, and enclose the land,

He bade his columns leave their rocky hold

And seize on posts of vantage in the plain;

Thus forcing Caesar to extend his troops90

On wider lines; and holding for his own

Such space encompassed as divides from Rome

Aricia, 161 sacred to that goddess chaste

Of old Mycenae; or as Tiber holds

From Rome’s high ramparts to the Tuscan sea,

Unless he deviate. No bugle call

Commands an onset, and the darts that fly

Fly though forbidden; but the arm that flings

For proof the lance, at random, here and there

Deals impious slaughter. Weighty care compelled100

Each leader to withhold his troops from fight;

For there the weary earth of produce failed

Pressed by Pompeius’ steeds, whose horny hoofs

Rang in their gallop on the grassy fields

And killed the succulence. They strengthless lay

Upon the mown expanse, nor pile of straw,

Brought from full barns in place of living grass,

Relieved their craving; shook their panting flanks,

And as they wheeled Death struck his victim down.

Then foul contagion filled the murky air110

Whose poisonous weight pressed on them in a cloud

Pestiferous; as in Nesis’ isle 162 the breath

Of Styx rolls upwards from the mist-clad rocks;

Or that fell vapour which the caves exhale

From Typhon 163 raging in the depths below.

Then died the soldiers, for the streams they drank

Held yet more poison than the air: the skin

Was dark and rigid, and the fiery plague

Made hard their vitals, and with pitiless tooth

Gnawed at their wasted features, while their eyes120

Started from out their sockets, and the head

Drooped for sheer weariness. So the disease

Grew swifter in its strides till scarce was room,

‘Twixt life and death, for sickness, and the pest

Slew as it struck its victim, and the dead

Thrust from the tents (such all their burial) lay

Blent with the living. Yet their camp was pitched

Hard by the breezy sea by which might come

All nations’ harvests, and the northern wind

Not seldom rolled the murky air away.130

Their foe, not vexed with pestilential air

Nor stagnant waters, ample range enjoyed

Upon the spacious uplands: yet as though

In leaguer, famine seized them for its prey.

Scarce were the crops half grown when Caesar saw

How prone they seized upon the food of beasts,

And stripped of leaves the bushes and the groves,

And dragged from roots unknown the doubtful herb.

Thus ate they, starving, all that teeth may bite

Or fire might soften, or might pass their throats140

Dry, parched, abraded; food unknown before

Nor placed on tables: while the leaguered foe

Was blessed with plenty.

When Pompeius first

Was pleased to break his bonds and be at large,

No sudden dash he makes on sleeping foe

Unarmed in shade of night; his mighty soul

Scorns such a path to victory. ’Twas his aim,

To lay the turrets low; to mark his track,

By ruin spread afar; and with the sword150

To hew a path between his slaughtered foes.

Minucius’ 164 turret was the chosen spot

Where groves of trees and thickets gave approach

Safe, unbetrayed by dust.

Up from the fields

Flashed all at once his eagles into sight

And all his trumpets blared. But ere the sword

Could win the battle, on the hostile ranks

Dread panic fell; prone as in death they lay

Where else upright they should withstand the foe;160

Nor more availed their valour, and in vain

The cloud of weapons flew, with none to slay.

Then blazing torches rolling pitchy flame

Are hurled, and shaken nod the lofty towers

And threaten ruin, and the bastions groan

Struck by the frequent engine, and the troops

Of Magnus by triumphant eagles led

Stride o’er the rampart, in their front the world.

Yet now that passage which not Caesar’s self

Nor thousand valiant squadrons had availed170

To rescue from their grasp, one man in arms

Steadfast till death refused them; Scaeva named

This hero soldier: long he served in fight

Waged ‘gainst the savage on the banks of Rhone;

And now centurion made, through deeds of blood,

He bore the staff before the marshalled line.

Prone to all wickedness, he little recked

How valourous deeds in civil war may be

Greatest of crimes; and when he saw how turned

His comrades from the war and sought in flight180

A refuge, 165 “Whence,” he cried, “this impious fear

Unknown to Caesar’s armies? Do ye turn

Your backs on death, and are ye not ashamed

Not to be found where slaughtered heroes lie?

Is loyalty too weak? Yet love of fight

Might bid you stand. We are the chosen few

Through whom the foe would break. Unbought by blood

This day shall not be theirs. ‘Neath Caesar’s eye,

True, death would be more happy; but this boon

Fortune denies: at least my fall shall be190

Praised by Pompeius. Break ye with your breasts

Their weapons; blunt the edges of their swords

With throats unyielding. In the distant lines

The dust is seen already, and the sound

Of tumult and of ruin finds the ear

Of Caesar: strike; the victory is ours:

For he shall come who while his soldiers die

Shall make the fortress his.” His voice called forth

The courage that the trumpets failed to rouse

When first they rang: his comrades mustering come200

To watch his deeds; and, wondering at the man,

To test if valour thus by foes oppressed,

In narrow space, could hope for aught but death.

But Scaeva standing on the tottering bank

Heaves from the brimming turret on the foe

The corpses of the fallen; the ruined mass

Furnishing weapons to his hands; with beams,

And ponderous stones, nay, with his body threats

His enemies; with poles and stakes he thrusts

The breasts advancing; when they grasp the wall210

He lops the arm: rocks crush the foeman’s skull

And rive the scalp asunder: fiery bolts

Dashed at another set his hair aflame,

Till rolls the greedy blaze about his eyes

With hideous crackle. As the pile of slain

Rose to the summit of the wall he sprang,

Swift as across the nets a hunted pard,

Above the swords upraised, till in mid throng

Of foes he stood, hemmed in by densest ranks

And ramparted by war; in front and rear,220

Where’er he struck, the victor. Now his sword

Blunted with gore congealed no more could wound,

But brake the stricken limb; while every hand

Flung every quivering dart at him alone;

Nor missed their aim, for rang against his shield

Dart after dart unerring, and his helm

In broken fragments pressed upon his brow;

His vital parts were safeguarded by spears

That bristled in his body. Fortune saw

Thus waged a novel combat, for there warred230

Against one man an army. Why with darts,

Madmen, assail him and with slender shafts,

‘Gainst which his life is proof? Or ponderous stones

This warrior chief shall overwhelm, or bolts

Flung by the twisted thongs of mighty slings.

Let steelshod ram or catapult remove

This champion of the gate. No fragile wall

Stands here for Caesar, blocking with its bulk

Pompeius’ way to freedom. Now he trusts

His shield no more, lest his sinister hand,240

Idle, give life by shame; and on his breast

Bearing a forest of spears, though spent with toil

And worn with onset, falls upon his foe

And braves alone the wounds of all the war.

Thus may an elephant in Afric wastes,

Oppressed by frequent darts, break those that fall

Rebounding from his horny hide, and shake

Those that find lodgment, while his life within

Lies safe, protected, nor doth spear avail

To reach the fount of blood. Unnumbered wounds250

By arrow dealt, or lance, thus fail to slay

This single warrior. But lo! from far

A Cretan archer’s shaft, more sure of aim

Than vows could hope for, strikes on Scaeva’s brow

To light within his eye: the hero tugs

Intrepid, bursts the nerves, and tears the shaft

Forth with the eyeball, and with dauntless heel

Treads them to dust. Not otherwise a bear

Pannonian, fiercer for the wound received,

Maddened by dart from Libyan thong propelled,260

Turns circling on her wound, and still pursues

The weapon fleeing as she whirls around.

Thus, in his rage destroyed, his shapeless face

Stood foul with crimson flow. The victors’ shout

Glad to the sky arose; no greater joy

A little blood could give them had they seen

That Caesar’s self was wounded. Down he pressed

Deep in his soul the anguish, and, with mien,

No longer bent on fight, submissive cried,

“Spare me, ye citizens; remove the war270

Far hence: no weapons now can haste my death;

Draw from my breast the darts, but add no more.

Yet raise me up to place me in the camp

Of Magnus, living: this your gift to him;

No brave man’s death my title to renown,

But Caesar’s flag deserted.” So he spake.

Unhappy Aulus thought his words were true,

Nor saw within his hand the pointed sword;

And leaping forth in haste to make his own

The prisoner and his arms, in middle throat280

Received the lightning blade. By this one death

Rose Scaeva’s valour again; and thus he cried,

Such be the punishment of all who thought

Great Scaeva vanquished; if Pompeius seeks

Peace from this reeking sword, low let him lay

At Caesar’s feet his standards. Me do ye think

Such as yourselves, and slow to meet the fates?

Your love for Magnus and the Senate’s cause

Is less than mine for death.” These were his words;

And dust in columns proved that Caesar came.290

Thus was Pompeius’ glory spared the stain

Of flight compelled by Scaeva. He, when ceased

The battle, fell, no more by rage of fight,

Or sight of blood out-pouring from his wounds,

Roused to the combat. Fainting there he lay

Upon the shoulders of his comrades borne,

Who him adoring (as though deity

Dwelt in his bosom) for his matchless deeds,

Plucked forth the gory shafts and took his arms

To deck the gods and shield the breast of Mars.300

Thrice happy thou with such a name achieved,

Had but the fierce Iberian from thy sword,

Or heavy shielded Teuton, or had fled

The light Cantabrian: with no spoils shalt thou

Adorn the Thunderer’s temple, nor upraise

The shout of triumph in the ways of Rome.

For all thy prowess, all thy deeds of pride

Do but prepare her lord.

Nor on this hand

Repulsed, Pompeius idly ceased from war,310

Content within his bars; but as the sea

Tireless, which tempests force upon the crag

That breaks it, or which gnaws a mountain side

Some day to fall in ruin on itself;

He sought the turrets nearest to the main,

On double onset bent; nor closely kept

His troops in hand, but on the spacious plain

Spread forth his camp. They joyful leave the tents

And wander at their will. Thus Padus flows

In brimming flood, and foaming at his bounds,320

Making whole districts quake; and should the bank

Fail ‘neath his swollen waters, all his stream

Breaks forth in swirling eddies over fields

Not his before; some lands are lost, the rest

Gain from his bounty.

Hardly from his tower

Had Caesar seen the fire or known the fight:

And coming found the rampart overthrown,

The dust no longer stirred, the rains cold

As from a battle done. The peace that reigned330

There and on Magnus’ side, as though men slept,

Their victory won, aroused his angry soul.

Quick he prepares, so that he end their joy

Careless of slaughter or defeat, to rush

With threatening columns on Torquatus’ post.

But swift as sailor, by his trembling mast

Warned of Circeian tempest, furls his sails,

So swift Torquatus saw, and prompt to wage

The war more closely, he withdrew his men

Within a narrower wall.340

Now past the trench

Were Caesar’s companies, when from the hills

Pompeius hurled his host upon their ranks

Shut in, and hampered. Not so much o’erwhelmed

As Caesar’s soldiers is the hind who dwells

On Etna’s slopes, when blows the southern wind,

And all the mountain pours its cauldrons forth

Upon the vale; and huge Enceladus 166

Writhing beneath his load spouts o’er the plains

A blazing torrent.350

Blinded by the dust,

Encircled, vanquished, ere the fight, they fled

In cloud of terror on their rearward foe,

So rushing on their fates. Thus had the war

Shed its last drop of blood and peace ensued,

But Magnus suffered not, and held his troops.

Back from the battle.

Thou, oh Rome, had’st been

Free, happy, mistress of thy laws and rights

Were Sulla here. Now shalt thou ever grieve360

That in his crowning crime, to have met in fight

A pious kinsman, Caesar’s vantage lay.

Oh tragic destiny! Nor Munda’s fight

Hispania had wept, nor Libya mourned

Encrimsoned Utica, nor Nilus’ stream,

With blood unspeakable polluted, borne

A nobler corse than her Egyptian kings:

Nor Juba 167 lain unburied on the sands,

Nor Scipio with his blood outpoured appeased

The ghosts of Carthage; nor the blameless life370

Of Cato ended: and Pharsalia’s name

Had then been blotted from the book of fate.

But Caesar left the region where his arms

Had found the deities averse, and marched

His shattered columns to Thessalian lands.

Then to Pompeius came (whose mind was bent

To follow Caesar wheresoe’er he fled)

His captains, striving to persuade their chief

To seek Ausonia, his native land,

Now freed from foes. “Ne’er will I pass,” he said,380

“My country’s limit, nor revisit Rome

Like Caesar, at the head of banded hosts.

Hesperia when the war began was mine;

Mine, had I chosen in our country’s shrines, 168

In midmost forum of her capital,

To join the battle. So that banished far

Be war from Rome, I’ll cross the torrid zone

Or those for ever frozen Scythian shores.

What! shall my victory rob thee of the peace

I gave thee by my flight? Rather than thou390

Should’st feel the evils of this impious war,

Let Caesar deem thee his.” Thus said, his course

He turned towards the rising of the sun,

And following devious paths, through forests wide,

Made for Emathia, the land by fate

Foredoomed to see the issue.

Thessalia on that side where Titan first

Raises the wintry day, by Ossa’s rocks

Is prisoned in: but in th’ advancing year

When higher in the vault his chariot rides400

’Tis Pelion that meets the morning rays.

And when beside the Lion’s flames he drives

The middle course, Othrys with woody top

Screens his chief ardour. On the hither side

Pindus receives the breezes of the west

And as the evening falls brings darkness in.

There too Olympus, at whose foot who dwells

Nor fears the north nor sees the shining bear.

Between these mountains hemmed, in ancient time

The fields were marsh, for Tempe’s pass not yet410

Was cleft, to give an exit to the streams

That filled the plain: but when Alcides’ hand

Smote Ossa from Olympus at a blow, 169

And Nereus wondered at the sudden flood

Of waters to the main, then on the shore

(Would it had slept for ever ‘neath the deep)

Seaborn Achilles’ home Pharsalus rose;

And Phylace 170 whence sailed that ship of old

Whose keel first touched upon the beach of Troy;

And Dorion mournful for the Muses’ ire420

On Thamyris 171 vanquished: Trachis; Melibe

Strong in the shafts 172 of Hercules, the price

Of that most awful torch; Larissa’s hold

Potent of yore; and Argos, 173 famous erst,

O’er which men pass the ploughshare: and the spot

Fabled as Echionian Thebes, 174 where once

Agave bore in exile to the pyre

(Grieving ’twas all she had) the head and neck

Of Pentheus massacred. The lake set free

Flowed forth in many rivers: to the west430

Aeas, 175 a gentle stream; nor stronger flows

The sire of Isis ravished from his arms;

And Achelous, rival for the hand

Of Oeneus’ daughter, rolls his earthy flood 176

To silt the shore beside the neighbouring isles.

Evenus 177 purpled by the Centaur’s blood

Wanders through Calydon: in the Malian Gulf

Thy rapids fall, Spercheius: pure the wave

With which Amphrysos 178 irrigates the meads

Where once Apollo served: Anaurus 179 flows440

Breathing no vapour forth; no humid air

Ripples his face: and whatever stream,

Nameless itself, to Ocean gives its waves

Through thee, Peneus: 180 whirled in eddies foams

Apidanus; Enipeus lingers on

Swift only when fresh streams his volume swell:

And thus Asopus takes his ordered course,

Phoenix and Melas; but Eurotas keeps

His stream aloof from that with which he flows,

Peneus, gliding on his top as though450

Upon the channel. Fable says that, sprung

From darkest pools of Styx, with common floods

He scorns to mingle, mindful of his source,

So that the gods above may fear him still.

Soon as were sped the rivers, Boebian ploughs

Dark with its riches broke the virgin soil;

Then came Lelegians to press the share,

And Dolopes and sons of Oeolus

By whom the glebe was furrowed. Steed-renowned

Magnetians dwelt there, and the Minyan race460

Who smote the sounding billows with the oar.

There in the cavern from the pregnant cloud

Ixion’s sons found birth, the Centaur brood

Half beast, half human: Monychus who broke

The stubborn rocks of Pholoe, Rhoetus fierce

Hurling from Oeta’s top gigantic elms

Which northern storms could hardly overturn;

Pholus, Alcides’ host: Nessus who bore

The Queen across Evenus’ 181 waves, to feel

The deadly arrow for his shameful deed;470

And aged Chiron 182 who with wintry star

Against the huger Scorpion draws his bow.

Here sparkled on the land the warrior seed; 183

Here leaped the charger from Thessalian rocks 184

Struck by the trident of the Ocean King,

Omen of dreadful war; here first he learned,

Champing the bit and foaming at the curb,

Yet to obey his lord. From yonder shore

The keel of pine first floated, 185 and bore men

To dare the perilous chance of seas unknown:480

And here Ionus ruler of the land

First from the furnace molten masses drew

Of iron and brass; here first the hammer fell

To weld them, shapeless; here in glowing stream

Ran silver forth and gold, soon to receive

The minting stamp. ’Twas thus that money came

Whereby men count their riches, cause accursed

Of warfare. Hence came down that Python huge

On Cirrha: hence the laurel wreath which crowns

The Pythian victor: here Aloeus’ sons490

Gigantic rose against the gods, what time

Pelion had almost touched the stars supreme,

And Ossa’s loftier peak amid the sky

Opposing, barred the constellations’ way.

When in this fated land the chiefs had placed

Their several camps, foreboding of the end

Now fast approaching, all men’s thoughts were turned

Upon the final issue of the war.

And as the hour drew near, the coward minds

Trembling beneath the shadow of the fate500

Now hanging o’er them, deemed disaster near:

While some took heart; yet doubted what might fall,

In hope and fear alternate. ‘Mid the throng

Sextus, unworthy son of worthy sire

Who soon upon the waves that Scylla guards, 186

Sicilian pirate, exile from his home,

Stained by his deeds of shame the fights he won,

Could bear delay no more; his feeble soul,

Sick of uncertain fate, by fear compelled,

Forecast the future: yet consulted not510

The shrine of Delos nor the Pythian caves;

Nor was he satisfied to learn the sound

Of Jove’s brass cauldron, ‘mid Dodona’s oaks,

By her primaeval fruits the nurse of men:

Nor sought he sages who by flight of birds,

Or watching with Assyrian care the stars

And fires of heaven, or by victims slain,

May know the fates to come; nor any source

Lawful though secret. For to him was known

That which excites the hate of gods above;520

Magicians’ lore, the savage creed of Dis

And all the shades; and sad with gloomy rites

Mysterious altars. For his frenzied soul

Heaven knew too little. And the spot itself

Kindled his madness, for hard by there dwelt

The brood of Haemon 187 whom no storied witch

Of fiction e’er transcended; all their art

In things most strange and most incredible;

There were Thessalian rocks with deadly herbs

Thick planted, sensible to magic chants,530

Funereal, secret: and the land was full

Of violence to the gods: the Queenly guest 188

From Colchis gathered here the fatal roots

That were not in her store: hence vain to heaven

Rise impious incantations, all unheard;

For deaf the ears divine: save for one voice

Which penetrates the furthest depths of airs

Compelling e’en th’ unwilling deities

To hearken to its accents. Not the care

Of the revolving sky or starry pole540

Can call them from it ever. Once the sound

Of those dread tones unspeakable has reached

The constellations, then nor Babylon

Nor secret Memphis, though they open wide

The shrines of ancient magic and entreat

The gods, could draw them from the fires that smoke

Upon the altars of far Thessaly.

To hearts of flint those incantations bring

Love, strange, unnatural; the old man’s breast

Burns with illicit fire. Nor lies the power550

In harmful cup nor in the juicy pledge

Of love maternal from the forehead drawn; 189

Charmed forth by spells alone the mind decays,

By poisonous drugs unharmed. With woven threads

Crossed in mysterious fashion do they bind

Those whom no passion born of beauteous form

Or loving couch unites. All things on earth

Change at their bidding; night usurps the day;

The heavens disobey their wonted laws;

At that dread hymn the Universe stands still;560

And Jove while urging the revolving wheels

Wonders they move not. Torrents are outpoured

Beneath a burning sun; and thunder roars

Uncaused by Jupiter. From their flowing locks

Vapours immense shall issue at their call;

When falls the tempest seas shall rise and foam 190

Moved by their spell; though powerless the breeze

To raise the billows. Ships against the wind

With bellying sails move onward. From the rock

Hangs motionless the torrent: rivers run570

Uphill; the summer heat no longer swells

Nile in his course; Maeander’s stream is straight;

Slow Rhone is quickened by the rush of Saone;

Hills dip their heads and topple to the plain;

Olympus sees his clouds drift overhead;

And sunless Scythia’s sempiternal snows

Melt in mid-winter; the inflowing tides

Driven onward by the moon, at that dread chant

Ebb from their course; earth’s axes, else unmoved,

Have trembled, and the force centripetal580

Has tottered, and the earth’s compacted frame

Struck by their voice has gaped, 191 till through the void

Men saw the moving sky. All beasts most fierce

And savage fear them, yet with deadly aid

Furnish the witches’ arts. Tigers athirst

For blood, and noble lions on them fawn

With bland caresses: serpents at their word

Uncoil their circles, and extended glide

Along the surface of the frosty field;

The viper’s severed body joins anew;590

And dies the snake by human venom slain.

Whence comes this labour on the gods, compelled

To hearken to the magic chant and spells,

Nor daring to despise them? Doth some bond

Control the deities? Is their pleasure so,

Or must they listen? and have silent threats

Prevailed, or piety unseen received

So great a guerdon? Against all the gods

Is this their influence, or on one alone

Who to his will constrains the universe,600

Himself constrained? Stars most in yonder clime

Shoot headlong from the zenith; and the moon

Gliding serene upon her nightly course

Is shorn of lustre by their poisonous chant,

Dimmed by dark earthly fires, as though our orb

Shadowed her brother’s radiance and barred

The light bestowed by heaven; nor freshly shines

Until descending nearer to the earth

She sheds her baneful drops upon the mead.

These sinful rites and these her sister’s songs610

Abhorred Erichtho, fiercest of the race,

Spurned for their piety, and yet viler art

Practised in novel form. To her no home

Beneath a sheltering roof her direful head

Thus to lay down were crime: deserted tombs

Her dwelling-place, from which, darling of hell,

She dragged the dead. Nor life nor gods forbad

But that she knew the secret homes of Styx

And learned to hear the whispered voice of ghosts

At dread mysterious meetings. 192 Never sun620

Shed his pure light upon that haggard cheek

Pale with the pallor of the shades, nor looked

Upon those locks unkempt that crowned her brow.

In starless nights of tempest crept the hag

Out from her tomb to seize the levin bolt;

Treading the harvest with accursed foot

She burned the fruitful growth, and with her breath

Poisoned the air else pure. No prayer she breathed

Nor supplication to the gods for help

Nor knew the pulse of entrails as do men630

Who worship. Funeral pyres she loves to light

And snatch the incense from the flaming tomb.

The gods at her first utterance grant her prayer

For things unlawful, lest they hear again

Its fearful accents: men whose limbs were quick

With vital power she thrust within the grave

Despite the fates who owed them years to come:

The funeral reversed brought from the tomb

Those who were dead no longer; and the pyre

Yields to her shameless clutch still smoking dust640

And bones enkindled, and the torch which held

Some grieving sire but now, with fragments mixed

In sable smoke and ceremental cloths

Singed with the redolent fire that burned the dead.

But those who lie within a stony cell

Untouched by fire, whose dried and mummied frames

No longer know corruption, limb by limb

Venting her rage she tears, the bloodless eyes

Drags from their cavities, and mauls the nail

Upon the withered hand: she gnaws the noose650

By which some wretch has died, and from the tree

Drags down a pendent corpse, its members torn

Asunder to the winds: forth from the palms

Wrenches the iron, and from the unbending bond

Hangs by her teeth, and with her hands collects

The slimy gore which drips upon the limbs.

Where lay a corpse upon the naked earth

On ravening birds and beasts of prey the hag

Kept watch, nor marred by knife or hand her spoil,

Till on his victim seized some nightly wolf; 193660

Then dragged the morsel from his thirsty fangs;

Nor fears she murder, if her rites demand

Blood from the living, or some banquet fell

Requires the panting entrail. Pregnant wombs

Yield to her knife the infant to be placed

On flaming altars: and whene’er she needs

Some fierce undaunted ghost, he fails not her

Who has all deaths in use. Her hand has chased

From smiling cheeks the rosy bloom of life;

And with sinister hand from dying youth670

Has shorn the fatal lock: and holding oft

In foul embraces some departed friend

Severed the head, and through the ghastly lips,

Held by her own apart, some impious tale

Dark with mysterious horror hath conveyed

Down to the Stygian shades.

When rumour brought

Her name to Sextus, in the depth of night,

While Titan’s chariot beneath our earth

Wheeled on his middle course, he took his way680

Through fields deserted; while a faithful band,

His wonted ministers in deeds of guilt,

Seeking the hag ‘mid broken sepulchres,

Beheld her seated on the crags afar

Where Haemus falls towards Pharsalia’s plain. 194

There was she proving for her gods and priests

Words still unknown, and framing numbered chants

Of dire and novel purpose: for she feared

Lest Mars might stray into another world,

And spare Thessalian soil the blood ere long690

To flow in torrents; and she thus forbade

Philippi’s field, polluted with her song,

Thick with her poisonous distilments sown,

To let the war pass by. Such deaths, she hopes,

Soon shall be hers! the blood of all the world

Shed for her use! to her it shall be given

To sever from their trunks the heads of kings,

Plunder the ashes of the noble dead,

Italia’s bravest, and in triumph add

The mightiest warriors to her host of shades.700

And now what spoils from Magnus’ tombless corse

Her hand may snatch, on which of Caesar’s limbs

She soon may pounce, she makes her foul forecast

And eager gloats.

To whom the coward son

Of Magnus thus: “Thou greatest ornament

Of Haemon’s daughters, in whose power it lies

Or to reveal the fates, or from its course

To turn the future, be it mine to know

By thy sure utterance to what final end710

Fortune now guides the issue. Not the least

Of all the Roman host on yonder plain

Am I, but Magnus’ most illustrious son,

Lord of the world or heir to death and doom.

The unknown affrights me: I can firmly face

The certain terror. Bid my destiny

Yield to thy power the dark and hidden end,

And let me fall foreknowing. From the gods

Extort the truth, or, if thou spare the gods,

Force it from hell itself. Fling back the gates720

That bar th’ Elysian fields; let Death confess

Whom from our ranks he seeks. No humble task

I bring, but worthy of Erichtho’s skill

Of such a struggle fought for such a prize

To search and tell the issue.”

Then the witch

Pleased that her impious fame was noised abroad

Thus made her answer: “If some lesser fates

Thy wish had been to change, against their wish

It had been easy to compel the gods730

To its accomplishment. My art has power

When of one man the constellations press

The speedy death, to compass a delay;

And mine it is, though every star decrees

A ripe old age, by mystic herbs to shear

The life midway. But should some purpose set

From the beginning of the universe,

And all the labouring fortunes of mankind,

Be brought in question, then Thessalian art

Bows to the power supreme. But if thou be740

Content to know the issue preordained,

That shall be swiftly thine; for earth and air

And sea and space and Rhodopaean crags

Shall speak the future. Yet it easiest seems

Where death in these Thessalian fields abounds

To raise a single corpse. From dead men’s lips

Scarce cold, in fuller accents falls the voice;

Not from some mummied flame in accents shrill

Uncertain to the ear.”

Thus spake the hag750

And through redoubled night, a squalid veil

Swathing her pallid features, stole among

Unburied carcases. Fast fled the wolves,

The carrion birds with maw unsatisfied

Relaxed their talons, as with creeping step

She sought her prophet. Firm must be the flesh

As yet, though cold in death, and firm the lungs

Untouched by wound. Now in the balance hung

The fates of slain unnumbered; had she striven

Armies to raise and order back to life760

Whole ranks of warriors, the laws had failed

Of Erebus; and, summoned up from Styx,

Its ghostly tenants had obeyed her call,

And rising fought once more. At length the witch

Picks out her victim with pierced throat agape

Fit for her purpose. Gripped by pitiless hook

O’er rocks she drags him to the mountain cave

Accursed by her fell rites, that shall restore

The dead man’s life.

Close to the hidden brink770

The land that girds the precipice of hell

Sinks towards the depths: with ever falling leaves

A wood o’ershadows, and a spreading yew

Casts shade impenetrable. Foul decay

Fills all the space, and in the deep recess

Darkness unbroken, save by chanted spells,

Reigns ever. Not where gape the misty jaws

Of caverned Taenarus, the gloomy bound

Of either world, through which the nether kings

Permit the passage of the dead to earth,780

So poisonous, mephitic, hangs the air.

Nay, though the witch had power to call the shades

Forth from the depths, ’twas doubtful if the cave

Were not a part of hell. Discordant hues

Flamed on her garb as by a fury worn;

Bare was her visage, and upon her brow

Dread vipers hissed, beneath her streaming locks

In sable coils entwined. But when she saw

The youth’s companions trembling, and himself

With eyes cast down, with visage as of death,790

Thus spake the witch: “Forbid your craven souls

These fears to cherish: soon returning life

This frame shall quicken, and in tones which reach

Even the timorous ear shall speak the man.

If I have power the Stygian lakes to show,

The bank that sounds with fire, the fury band,

And giants lettered, and the hound that shakes

Bristling with heads of snakes his triple head,

What fear is this that cringes at the sight

Of timid shivering shades?”800

Then to her prayer.

First through his gaping bosom blood she pours

Still fervent, washing from his wounds the gore.

Then copious poisons from the moon distils

Mixed with all monstrous things which Nature’s pangs

Bring to untimely birth; the froth from dogs

Stricken with madness, foaming at the stream;

A lynx’s entrails: and the knot that grows

Upon the fell hyaena; flesh of stags

Fed upon serpents; and the sucking fish810

Which holds the vessel back 195 though eastern winds

Make bend the canvas; dragon’s eyes; and stones

That sound beneath the brooding eagle’s wings.

Nor Araby’s viper, nor the ocean snake

Who in the Red Sea waters guards the shell,

Are wanting; nor the slough on Libyan sands

By horned reptile cast; nor ashes fail

Snatched from an altar where the Phoenix died.

And viler poisons many, which herself

Has made, she adds, whereto no name is given:820

Pestiferous leaves pregnant with magic chants

And blades of grass which in their primal growth

Her cursed mouth had slimed. Last came her voice

More potent than all herbs to charm the gods

Who rule in Lethe. Dissonant murmurs first

And sounds discordant from the tongues of men

She utters, scarce articulate: the bay

Of wolves, and barking as of dogs, were mixed

With that fell chant; the screech of nightly owl

Raising her hoarse complaint; the howl of beast830

And sibilant hiss of snake — all these were there;

And more — the waft of waters on the rock,

The sound of forests and the thunder peal.

Such was her voice; but soon in clearer tones

Reaching to Tartarus, she raised her song:

“Ye awful goddesses, avenging power

Of Hell upon the damned, and Chaos huge

Who striv’st to mix innumerable worlds,

And Pluto, king of earth, whose weary soul

Grieves at his godhead; Styx; and plains of bliss840

We may not enter: and thou, Proserpine,

Hating thy mother and the skies above,

My patron goddess, last and lowest form 196

Of Hecate through whom the shades and I

Hold silent converse; warder of the gate

Who castest human offal to the dog:

Ye sisters who shall spin the threads again; 197

And thou, O boatman of the burning wave,

Now wearied of the shades from hell to me

Returning, hear me if with voice I cry850

Abhorred, polluted; if the flesh of man

Hath ne’er been absent from my proffered song,

Flesh washed with brains still quivering; if the child

Whose severed head I placed upon the dish

But for this hand had lived — a listening ear

Lend to my supplication! From the caves

Hid in the innermost recess of hell

I claim no soul long banished from the light.

For one but now departed, lingering still

Upon the brink of Orcus, is my prayer.860

Grant (for ye may) that listening to the spell

Once more he seek his dust; and let the shade

Of this our soldier perished (if the war

Well at your hands has merited), proclaim

The destiny of Magnus to his son.”

Such prayers she uttered; then, her foaming lips

And head uplifting, present saw the ghost.

Hard by he stood, beside the hated corpse

His ancient prison, and loathed to enter in.

There was the yawning chest where fell the blow870

That was his death; and yet the gift supreme

Of death, his right, (Ah, wretch!) was reft away.

Angered at Death the witch, and at the pause

Conceded by the fates, with living snake

Scourges the moveless corse; and on the dead

She barks through fissures gaping to her song,

Breaking the silence of their gloomy home:

“Tisiphone, Megaera, heed ye not?

Flies not this wretched soul before your whips

The void of Erebus? By your very names,880

She-dogs of hell, I’ll call you to the day,

Not to return; through sepulchres and death

Your gaoler: from funereal urns and tombs

I’ll chase you forth. And thou, too, Hecate,

Who to the gods in comely shape and mien,

Not that of Erebus, appearst, henceforth

Wasted and pallid as thou art in hell

At my command shalt come. I’ll noise abroad

The banquet that beneath the solid earth

Holds thee, thou maid of Enna; by what bond890

Thou lov’st night’s King, by what mysterious stain

Infected, so that Ceres fears from hell

To call her daughter. And for thee, base king,

Titan shall pierce thy caverns with his rays

And sudden day shall smite thee. Do ye hear?

Or shall I summon to mine aid that god

At whose dread name earth trembles; who can look

Unflinching on the Gorgon’s head, and drive

The Furies with his scourge, who holds the depths

Ye cannot fathom, and above whose haunts900

Ye dwell supernal; who by waves of Styx

Forswears himself unpunished?”

Then the blood

Grew warm and liquid, and with softening touch

Cherished the stiffened wounds and filled the veins,

Till throbbed once more the slow returning pulse

And every fibre trembled, as with death

Life was commingled. Then, not limb by limb,

With toil and strain, but rising at a bound

Leaped from the earth erect the living man.910

Fierce glared his eyes uncovered, and the life

Was dim, and still upon his face remained

The pallid hues of hardly parted death.

Amazement seized upon him, to the earth

Brought back again: but from his lips tight drawn

No murmur issued; he had power alone

When questioned to reply. “Speak,” quoth the hag,

“As I shall bid thee; great shall be thy gain

If but thou answerest truly, freed for aye

From all Haemonian art. Such burial place920

Shall now be thine, and on thy funeral pyre

Such fatal woods shall burn, such chant shall sound,

That to thy ghost no more or magic song

Or spell shall reach, and thy Lethaean sleep

Shall never more be broken in a death

From me received anew: for such reward

Think not this second life enforced in vain.

Obscure may be the answers of the gods

By priestess spoken at the holy shrine;

But whose braves the oracles of death930

In search of truth, should gain a sure response.

Then speak, I pray thee. Let the hidden fates

Tell through thy voice the mysteries to come.”

Thus spake she, and her words by mystic force

Gave him his answer; but with gloomy mien,

And tears swift flowing, thus he made reply:

“Called from the margin of the silent stream

I saw no fateful sisters spin the threads.

Yet know I this, that ‘mid the Roman shades

Reigns fiercest discord; and this impious war940

Destroys the peace that ruled the fields of death.

Elysian meads and deeps of Tartarus

In paths diverse the Roman chieftains leave

And thus disclose the fates. The blissful ghosts

Bear visages of sorrow. Sire and son

The Decii, who gave themselves to death

In expiation of their country’s doom,

And great Camillus, wept; and Sulla’s shade

Complained of fortune. Scipio bewailed

The scion of his race about to fall950

In sands of Libya: Cato, greatest foe

To Carthage, grieves for that indignant soul

Which shall disdain to serve. Brutus alone

In all the happy ranks I smiling saw,

First consul when the kings were thrust from Rome.

The chains were fallen from boastful Catiline.

Him too I saw rejoicing, and the pair

Of Marii, and Cethegus’ naked arm. 198

The Drusi, heroes of the people, joyed,

In laws immoderate; and the famous pair 199960

Of greatly daring brothers: guilty bands

By bars eternal shut within the doors

That close the prison of hell, applaud the fates,

Claiming the plains Elysian: and the King

Throws wide his pallid halls, makes hard the points

Of craggy rocks, and forges iron chains,

The victor’s punishment. But take with thee

This comfort, youth, that there a calm abode,

And peaceful, waits thy father and his house.

Nor let the glory of a little span970

Disturb thy boding heart: the hour shall come

When all the chiefs shall meet. Shrink not from death,

But glowing in the greatness of your souls,

E’en from your humble sepulchres descend,

And tread beneath your feet, in pride of place,

The wandering phantoms of the gods of Rome. 200

Which of the chiefs by Tiber’s yellow stream,

And which by Nile shall rest (the leaders’ fate)

This fight decides, no more. Nor seek to know

From me thy fortunes: for the fates in time980

Shall give thee all thy due; and thy great sire, 201

A surer prophet, in Sicilian fields

Shall speak thy future — doubting even he

What regions of the world thou should’st avoid

And what should’st seek. O miserable race!

Europe and Asia and Libya’s plains, 202

Which saw your conquests, now shall hold alike

Your burial-place — nor has the earth for you

A happier land than this.”

His task performed,990

He stands in mournful guise, with silent look

Asking for death again; yet could not die

Till mystic herb and magic chant prevailed.

For nature’s law, once used, had power no more

To slay the corpse and set the spirit free.

With plenteous wood she builds the funeral pyre

To which the dead man comes: then as the flames

Seized on his form outstretched, the youth and witch

Together sought the camp; and as the dawn

Now streaked the heavens, by the hag’s command1000

The day was stayed till Sextus reached his tent,

And mist and darkness veiled his safe return.

158 Dyrrhachium (or Epidamnus) was a Corcyraean colony, but its founder was of Corinth, the metropolis of Corcyra. It stood some sixty miles north of the Ceraunian promontory (Book V., 747). About the year 1100 it was stormed and taken by Robert the Guiscard, after furious battles with the troops of the Emperor Alexius. Its modern name is Durazzo. It may be observed that, according to Caesar’s account, he succeeded in getting between Pompey and Dyrrhachium, B.C. 3, 41, 42.

159 C. del Faro, the N.E. point of Sicily.

160 The shores of Kent.

161 Aricia was situated on the Via Appia, about sixteen miles from Rome. There was a temple of Diana close to it, among some woods on a small lake. Aricia was Horace’s first halting place on his journey to Brundisium (“Satires”, i. 5). As to Diana, see Book I., line 501.

162 An island in the Bay of Puteoli.

163 Typhon, the hundred-headed giant, was buried under Mount Etna.

164 This was Scaeva’s name.

165 The vinewood staff was the badge of the centurion’s office.

166 This giant, like Typhon, was buried under Mount Etna.

167 Juba and Petreius killed each other after the battle of Thepsus to avoid falling into Caesar’s hands. See Book IV., line 5.

168 So Cicero: “Shall I, who have been called saviour of the city and father of my country, bring into it an army of Getae Armenians and Colchians?” (“Ep. ad Atticum,” ix., 10.)

169 See Book VIII., line 3.

170 Protesilaus, from this place, first landed at Troy.

171 Thamyris challenged the Muses to a musical contest, and being vanquished, was by them deprived of sight.

172 The arrows given to Philoctetes by Hercules as a reward for kindling his funeral pyre.

173 This is the Pelasgic, not the historical, Argos.

174 Book I., line 632; Book VII., line 904. Agave was a daughter of Cadmus, and mother of Pentheus, king of the Boeotian Thebes. He was opposed to the mysterious worship of Dionysus, which his mother celebrated, and which he had watched from a tree. She tore him to pieces, being urged into a frenzy and mistaking him for a wild beast. She then retired to another Thebes, in Phthiotis, in triumph, with his head and shoulders. By another legend she did not leave the Boeotian Thebes. (See Grote, vol. i., p. 220. Edit. 1862.)

175 Aeas was a river flowing from the boundary of Thessaly through Epirus to the Ionian Sea. The sire of Isis, or Io, was Inachus; but the river of that name is usually placed in the Argive territory.

176 A river rising in Mount Pindus and flowing into the Ionian Sea nearly opposite to Ithaca. At its mouth the sea has been largely silted up.

177 The god of this river fought with Hercules for the hand of Deianira. After Hercules had been married to Deianira, and when they were on a journey, they came to the River Evenus. Here Nessus, a Centaur, acted as ferryman, and Hercules bade him carry Deianira across. In doing so he insulted her, and Hercules shot him with an arrow.

178 Admetus was King of Pherae in Thessaly, and sued for Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, who promised her to him if he should come in a chariot drawn by lions and boars. With the assistance of Apollo, Admetus performed this. Apollo, for the slaughter of the Cyclops, was condemned to serve a mortal, and accordingly he tended the flocks of Admetus for nine years. The River Amphrysos is marked as flowing into the Pagasaean Gulf at a short distance below Pherae.

179 Anaurus was a small river passing into the Pagasaean Gulf past Iolcos. In this river Jason is said to have lost one of his slippers.

180 The River Peneus flowed into the sea through the pass of Tempe, cloven by Hercules between Olympus and Ossa (see line 406); and carried with it Asopus, Phoenix, Melas, Enipeus, Apidanus, and Titaresus (or Eurotas). The Styx is generally placed in Arcadia, but Lucan says that Eurotas rises from the Stygian pools, and that, mindful of this mysterious source, he refuses to mingle his streams with that of Peneus, in order that the gods may still fear to break an oath sworn upon his waters.

181 See on line 429.

182 Chiron, the aged Centaur, instructor of Peleus, Achilles, and others. He was killed by one of the poisoned arrows of Hercules, but placed by Zeus among the stars as the Archer, from which position he appears to be aiming at the Scorpion. His constellation appears in winter.

183 The teeth of the dragon slain by Cadmus; though this took place in Boeotia.

184 Poseidon and Athena disputed as to which of them should name the capital of Attica. The gods gave the reward to that one of them who should produce the thing most useful to man; whereupon Athena produced an olive tree, and Poseidon a horse. Homer also places the scene of this event in Thessaly. (“Iliad”, xxiii., 247.)

185 The Argo. Conf. Book III., 223.

186 See Book VII., 1022.

187 Son of Pelasgus. From him was derived the ancient name of Thessaly, Haemonia.

188 Medea.

189 It was supposed that there was on the forehead of the new-born foal an excrescence, which was bitten off and eaten by the mother. If she did not do this she had no affection for the foal. (Virgil, “Aeneid”, iv., 515.)

190 “When the boisterous sea,

Without a breath of wind, hath knocked the sky.”

— Ben Jonson, “Masque of Queens”.

191 The sky was supposed to move round, but to be restrained in its course by the planets. (See Book X., line 244.)

192 “Coatus audire silentum.” To be present at the meetings of the dead and hear their voices. So, in the sixth Aeneid, the dead Greek warriors in feeble tones endeavour to express their fright at the appearance of the Trojan hero (lines 492, 493).

193 “As if that piece were sweeter which the wolf had bitten.” Note to “The Masque of Queens”, in which the first hag says:

“I have been all day, looking after

A raven feeding on a quarter,

And soon as she turned her beak to the south

I snatched this morsel out of her mouth.”

— Ben Jonson, “Masque of Queens”.

But more probably the meaning is that the wolf’s bite gave the flesh magical efficacy.

194 Confusing Pharsalia with Philippi. (See line 684.)

195 One of the miraculous stories to be found in Pliny’s “Natural History”. See Lecky’s “Augustus to Charlemagne”, vol. i., p. 370.

196 The mysterious goddess Hecate was identified with Luna in heaven, Diana on earth, and Proserpine in the lower regions. The text is doubtful.

197 That is, for the second life of her victim.

198 See Book II., 609.

199 The Gracchi, the younger of whom aimed at being a perpetual tribune, and was in some sort a forerunner of the Emperors.

200 That is, the Caesars, who will be in Tartarus.

201 Referring probably to an episode intended to be introduced in a later book, in which the shade of Pompeius was to foretell his fate to Sextus.

202 Cnaeus was killed in Spain after the battle of Munda; Sextus at Miletus; Pompeius himself, of course, in Egypt.

Book vii

The Battle

The eve of the battle of Pharsalia and the dream of Pompeius, lines 1-52. The soldiers demand a battle, and are supported by Cicero in a speech, 53-101. Pompeius yields; his speech, 101-145. Prodigies, 146-247. Pompeius’ order of battle, 248-272. Caesar rejoices and addresses his troops, 272-399. Pompeius’ speech, 400-457. Reflections on the result of the battle, 456-545. Defeat of Pompeius, 546-644. Caesar in the fight, 645-678. Address to Brutus, 678-689. Death of Domitius, 690-716. Lament over the battle, 716-752. Pompeius flies, 753-850. Caesar occupies Pompeius’ camp and leaves the dead unburied, 851-967, which are devoured by birds and beasts, 968-992. Apostrophe to Thessaly, 993-1023.

Ne’er to the summons of the Eternal laws

More slowly Titan rose, 203 nor drave his steeds,

Forced by the sky revolving, 204 up the heaven,

With gloomier presage; wishing to endure

The pangs of ravished light, and dark eclipse;

And drew the mists up, not to feed his flames, 205

But lest his light upon Thessalian earth

Might fall undimmed.

Pompeius on that morn,

To him the latest day of happy life,10

In troubled sleep an empty dream conceived.

For in the watches of the night he heard

Innumerable Romans shout his name

Within his theatre; the benches vied

To raise his fame and place him with the gods;

As once in youth, when victory was won

O’er conquered tribes where swift Iberus flows, 206

And where Sertorius’ armies fought and fled,

The west subdued, with no less majesty

Than if the purple toga graced the car,20

He sat triumphant in his pure white gown

A Roman knight, and heard the Senate’s cheer.

Perhaps, as ills drew near, his anxious soul,

Shunning the future wooed the happy past;

Or, as is wont, prophetic slumber showed

That which was not to be, by doubtful forms

Misleading; or as envious Fate forbade

Return to Italy, this glimpse of Rome

Kind Fortune gave. Break not his latest sleep,

Ye sentinels; let not the trumpet call30

Strike on his ear: for on the morrow’s night

Shapes of the battle lost, of death and war

Shall crowd his rest with terrors. Whence shalt thou

The poor man’s happiness of sleep regain?

Happy if even in dreams thy Rome could see

Once more her captain! Would the gods had given

To thee and to thy country one day yet

To reap the latest fruit of such a love:

Though sure of fate to come! Thou marchest on

As though by heaven ordained in Rome to die;40

She, conscious ever of her prayers for thee

Heard by the gods, deemed not the fates decreed

Such evil destiny, that she should lose

The last sad solace of her Magnus’ tomb.

Then young and old had blent their tears for thee,

And child unbidden; women torn their hair

And struck their bosoms as for Brutus dead.

But now no public woe shall greet thy death

As erst thy praise was heard: but men shall grieve

In silent sorrow, though the victor’s voice50

Amid the clash of arms proclaims thy fall;

Though incense smoke before the Thunderer’s shrine,

And shouts of welcome bid great Caesar hail.

The stars had fled before the growing morn,

When eager voices (as the fates drew on

The world to ruin) round Pompeius’ tent

Demand the battle signal. What! by those

So soon to perish, shall the sign be asked,

Their own, their country’s doom? Ah! fatal rage

That hastens on the hour; no other sun60

Upon this living host shall rise again.

“Pompeius fears!” they cry. “He’s slow to act;

Too ‘kind to Caesar; and he fondly rules

A world of subject peoples; but with peace

Such rule were ended.” Eastern kings no less,

And peoples, eager for their distant homes,

Already murmured at the lengthy war.

Thus hath it pleased the gods, when woe impends

On guilty men, to make them seem its cause.

We court disaster, crave the fatal sword.70

Of Magnus’ camp Pharsalia was the prayer;

For Tullius, of all the sons of Rome

Chief orator, beneath whose civil rule

Fierce Catiline at the peace-compelling axe

Trembled and fled, arose, to Magnus’ ear

Bearing the voice of all. To him was war

Grown hateful, and he longed once more to hear

The Senate’s plaudits; and with eloquent lips

He lent persuasion to the weaker cause.

“Fortune, Pompeius, for her gifts to thee80

Asks this one boon, that thou should’st use her now.

Here at thy feet thy leading captains lie;

And here thy monarchs, and a suppliant world

Entreats thee prostrate for thy kinsman’s fall.

So long shall Caesar plunge the world in war?

Swift was thy tread when these proud nations fell;

How deep their shame, and justly, should delay

Now mar thy conquests! Where thy trust in Fate,

Thy fervour where? Ingrate! Dost dread the gods,

Or think they favour not the Senate’s cause?90

Thy troops unbidden shall the standards seize

And conquer; thou in shame be forced to win.

If at the Senate’s orders and for us

The war is waged, then give to us the right

To choose the battle-field. Why dost thou keep

From Caesar’s throat the swords of all the world?

The weapon quivers in the eager hand:

Scarce one awaits the signal. Strike at once,

Or without thee the trumpets sound the fray.

Art thou the Senate’s comrade or her lord?100

We wait your answer.”

But Pompeius groaned;

His mind was adverse, but he felt the fates

Opposed his wish, and knew the hand divine.

“Since all desire it, and the fates prevail,

So let it be; your leader now no more,

I share the labours of the battle-field.

Let Fortune roll the nations of the earth

In one red ruin; myriads of mankind

See their last sun today. Yet, Rome, I swear,110

This day of blood was forced upon thy son.

Without a wound, the prizes of the war

Might have been thine, and he who broke the peace

In peace forgotten. Whence this lust for crime?

Shall bloodless victories in civil war

Be shunned, not sought? We’ve ravished from our foe

All boundless seas, and land; his starving troops

Have snatched earth’s crop half-grown, in vain attempt

Their hunger to appease; they prayed for death,

Sought for the sword-thrust, and within our ranks120

Were fain to mix their life-blood with your own.

Much of the war is done: the conscript youth

Whose heart beats high, who burns to join the fray

(Though men fight hard in terror of defeat),

The shock of onset need no longer fear.

Bravest is he who promptly meets the ill

When fate commands it and the moment comes,

Yet brooks delay, in prudence; and shall we,

Our happy state enjoying, risk it all?

Trust to the sword the fortunes of the world?130

Not victory, but battle, ye demand.

Do thou, O Fortune, of the Roman state

Who mad’st Pompeius guardian, from his hands

Take back the charge grown weightier, and thyself

Commit its safety to the chance of war.

Nor blame nor glory shall be mine today.

Thy prayers unjustly, Caesar, have prevailed:

We fight! What wickedness, what woes on men,

Destruction on what realms this dawn shall bring!

Crimson with Roman blood yon stream shall run.140

Would that (without the ruin of our cause)

The first fell bolt hurled on this cursed day

Might strike me lifeless! Else, this battle brings

A name of pity or a name of hate.

The loser bears the burden of defeat;

The victor wins, but conquest is a crime.”

Thus to the soldiers, burning for the fray,

He yields, forbidding, and throws down the reins.

So may a sailor give the winds control

Upon his barque, which, driven by the seas,150

Bears him an idle burden. Now the camp

Hums with impatience, and the brave man’s heart

With beats tumultuous throbs against his breast;

And all the host had standing in their looks 207

The paleness of the death that was to come.

On that day’s fight ’twas manifest that Rome

And all the future destinies of man

Hung trembling; and by weightier dread possessed,

They knew not danger. Who would fear for self

Should ocean rise and whelm the mountain tops,160

And sun and sky descend upon the earth

In universal chaos? Every mind

Is bent upon Pompeius, and on Rome.

They trust no sword until its deadly point

Glows on the sharpening stone; no lance will serve

Till straightened for the fray; each bow is strung

Anew, and arrows chosen for their work

Fill all the quivers; horsemen try the curb

And fit the bridle rein and whet the spur.

If toils divine with human may compare,170

’Twas thus, when Phlegra bore the giant crew, 208

In Etna’s furnace glowed the sword of Mars,

Neptunus’ trident felt the flame once more;

And great Apollo after Python slain

Sharpened his darts afresh: on Pallas’ shield

Was spread anew the dread Medusa’s hair;

And broad Sicilia trembled at the blows

Of Vulcan forging thunderbolts for Jove.

Yet Fortune failed not, as they sought the field,

In various presage of the ills to come;180

All heaven opposed their march: portentous fire

In columns filled the plain, and torches blazed:

And thirsty whirlwinds mixed with meteor bolts

Smote on them as they strode, whose sulphurous flames

Perplexed the vision. Crests were struck from helms;

The melted sword-blade flowed upon the hilt:

The spear ran liquid, and the hurtful steel

Smoked with a sulphur that had come from heaven.

Nay, more, the standards, hid by swarms of bees

Innumerable, weighed the bearer down,190

Scarce lifted from the earth; bedewed with tears;

No more of Rome the standards, 209 or her state.

And from the altar fled the frantic bull

To fields afar; nor was a victim found

To grace the sacrifice of coming doom.

But thou, Caesar, to what gods of ill

Didst thou appeal? What furies didst thou call,

What powers of madness and what Stygian Kings

Whelmed in th’ abyss of hell? Didst favour gain

By sacrifice in this thine impious war?200

Strange sights were seen; or caused by hands divine

Or due to fearful fancy. Haemus’ top

Plunged headlong in the valley, Pindus met

With high Olympus, while at Ossa’s feet

Red ran Baebeis, 210 and Pharsalia’s field

Gave warlike voices forth in depth of night.

Now darkness came upon their wondering gaze,

Now daylight pale and wan, their helmets wreathed

In pallid mist; the spirits of their sires

Hovered in air, and shades of kindred dead210

Passed flitting through the gloom. Yet to the host

Conscious of guilty prayers which sought to shed

The blood of sires and brothers, earth and air

Distraught, and horrors seething in their hearts

Gave happy omen of the end to come.

Was’t strange that peoples whom their latest day

Of happy life awaited (if their minds

Foreknew the doom) should tremble with affright?

Romans who dwelt by far Araxes’ stream,

And Tyrian Gades, 211 in whatever clime,220

‘Neath every sky, struck by mysterious dread

Were plunged in sorrow — yet rebuked the tear,

For yet they knew not of the fatal day.

Thus on Euganean hills 212 where sulphurous fumes

Disclose the rise of Aponus 213 from earth,

And where Timavus broadens in the meads,

An augur spake: “This day the fight is fought,

The arms of Caesar and Pompeius meet

To end the impious conflict.” Or he saw

The bolts of Jupiter, predicting ill;230

Or else the sky discordant o’er the space

Of heaven, from pole to pole; or else perchance

The sun was sad and misty in the height

And told the battle by his wasted beams.

By Nature’s fiat that Thessalian day

Passed not as others; if the gifted sense

Of reading portents had been given to all,

All men had known Pharsalia. Gods of heaven!

How do ye mark the great ones of the earth!

The world gives tokens of their weal or woe;240

The sky records their fates: in distant climes

To future races shall their tale be told,

Or by the fame alone of mighty deeds

Had in remembrance, or by this my care

Borne through the centuries: and men shall read

In hope and fear the story of the war

And breathless pray, as though it were to come,

For that long since accomplished; and for thee

Thus far, Pompeius, shall that prayer be given.

Reflected from their arms, th’ opposing sun250

Filled all the slope with radiance as they marched

In ordered ranks to that ill-fated fight,

And stood arranged for battle. On the left

Thou, Lentulus, had’st charge; two legions there,

The fourth, and bravest of them all, the first:

While on the right, Domitius, ever stanch,

Though fates be adverse, stood: in middle line

The hardy soldiers from Cilician lands,

In Scipio’s care; their chief in Libyan days,

To-day their comrade. By Enipeus’ pools260

And by the rivulets, the mountain troops

Of Cappadocia, and loose of rein

Thy squadrons, Pontus: on the firmer ground

Galatia’s tetrarchs and the greater kings;

And all the purple-robed, the slaves of Rome.

Numidian hordes were there from Afric shores,

There Creta’s host and Ituraeans found

Full space to wing their arrows; there the tribes

From brave Iberia clashed their shields, and there

Gaul stood arrayed against her ancient foe.270

Let all the nations be the victor’s prize,

None grace in future a triumphal car;

This fight demands the slaughter of a world.

Caesar that day to send his troops for spoil

Had left his tent, when on the further hill

Behold! his foe descending to the plain.

The moment asked for by a thousand prayers

Is come, which puts his fortune on the risk

Of imminent war, to win or lose it all.

For burning with desire of kingly power280

His eager soul ill brooked the small delay

This civil war compelled: each instant lost

Robbed from his due! But when at length he knew

The last great conflict come, the fight supreme,

Whose prize the leadership of all the world:

And felt the ruin nodding to its fall:

Swiftest to strike, yet for a little space

His rage for battle failed; the spirit bold

To pledge itself the issue, wavered now:

For Magnus’ fortunes gave no room for hope,290

Though Caesar’s none for fear. Deep in his soul

Such doubt was hidden, as with mien and speech

That augured victory, thus the chief began:

“Ye conquerors of a world, my hope in all,

Prayed for so oft, the dawn of fight is come.

No more entreat the gods: with sword in hand

Seize on our fates; and Caesar in your deeds

This day is great or little. This the day

For which I hold since Rubicon was passed

Your promise given: for this we flew to arms: 214300

For this deferred the triumphs we had won,

And which the foe refused: this gives you back

Your homes and kindred, and the peaceful farm,

Your prize for years of service in the field.

And by the fates’ command this day shall prove

Whose quarrel juster: for defeat is guilt

To him on whom it falls. If in my cause

With fire and sword ye did your country wrong,

Strike for acquittal! Should another judge

This war, not Caesar, none were blameless found.310

Not for my sake this battle, but for you,

To give you, soldiers, liberty and law

‘Gainst all the world. Wishful myself for life

Apart from public cares, and for the gown

That robes the private citizen, I refuse

To yield from office till the law allows

Your right in all things. On my shoulders rest

All blame; all power be yours. Nor deep the blood

Between yourselves and conquest. Grecian schools

Of exercise and wrestling 215 send us here320

Their chosen darlings to await your swords;

And scarcely armed for war, a dissonant crowd

Barbaric, that will start to hear our trump,

Nay, their own clamour. Not in civil strife

Your blows shall fall — the battle of today

Sweeps from the earth the enemies of Rome.

Dash through these cowards and their vaunted kings:

One stroke of sword and all the world is yours.

Make plain to all men that the crowds who decked

Pompeius’ hundred pageants scarce were fit330

For one poor triumph. Shall Armenia care

Who leads her masters, or barbarians shed

One drop of blood to make Pompeius chief

O’er our Italia? Rome, ’tis Rome they hate

And all her children; yet they hate the most

Those whom they know. My fate is in the hands

Of you, mine own true soldiers, proved in all

The wars we fought in Gallia. When the sword

Of each of you shall strike, I know the hand:

The javelin’s flight to me betrays the arm340

That launched it hurtling: and today once more

I see the faces stern, the threatening eyes,

Unfailing proofs of victory to come.

E’en now the battle rushes on my sight;

Kings trodden down and scattered senators

Fill all th’ ensanguined plain, and peoples float

Unnumbered on the crimson tide of death.

Enough of words — I but delay the fates;

And you who burn to dash into the fray,

Forgive the pause. I tremble with the hopes 216350

Thus finding utterance. I ne’er have seen

The mighty gods so near; this little field

Alone dividing us; their hands are full

Of my predestined honours: for ’tis I

Who when this war is done shall have the power

O’er all that peoples, all that kings enjoy

To shower it where I will. But has the pole

Been moved, or in its nightly course some star

Turned backwards, that such mighty deeds should pass

Here on Thessalian earth? To-day we reap360

Of all our wars the harvest or the doom.

Think of the cross that threats us, and the chain,

Limbs hacked asunder, Caesar’s head displayed

Upon the rostra; and that narrow field

Piled up with slaughter: for this hostile chief

Is savage Sulla’s pupil. ’Tis for you,

If conquered, that I grieve: my lot apart

Is cast long since. This sword, should one of you

Turn from the battle ere the foe be fled,

Shall rob the life of Caesar. O ye gods,370

Drawn down from heaven by the throes of Rome,

May he be conqueror who shall not draw

Against the vanquished an inhuman sword,

Nor count it as a crime if men of Rome

Preferred another’s standard to his own.

Pompeius’ sword drank deep Italian blood

When cabined in yon space the brave man’s arm

No more found room to strike. But you, I pray,

Touch not the foe who turns him from the fight,

A fellow citizen, a foe no more.380

But while the gleaming weapons threaten still,

Let no fond memories unnerve the arm, 217

No pious thought of father or of kin;

But full in face of brother or of sire,

Drive home the blade. Unless the slain be known

Your foes account his slaughter as a crime;

Spare not our camp, but lay the rampart low

And fill the fosse with ruin; not a man

But holds his post within the ranks today.

And yonder tents, deserted by the foe,390

Shall give us shelter when the rout is done.”

Scarce had he paused; they snatch the hasty meal,

And seize their armour and with swift acclaim

Welcome the chief’s predictions of the day,

Tread low their camp when rushing to the fight;

And take their post: nor word nor order given,

In fate they put their trust. Nor, had’st thou placed

All Caesars there, all striving for the throne

Of Rome their city, had their serried ranks

With speedier tread dashed down upon the foe.400

But when Pompeius saw the hostile troops

Move forth in order and demand the fight,

And knew the gods’ approval of the day,

He stood astonied, while a deadly chill

Struck to his heart — omen itself of woe,

That such a chief should at the call to arms,

Thus dread the issue: but with fear repressed,

Borne on his noble steed along the line

Of all his forces, thus he spake: “The day

Your bravery demands, that final end410

Of civil war ye asked for, is at hand.

Put forth your strength, your all; the sword today

Does its last work. One crowded hour is charged

With nations’ destinies. Whoe’er of you

Longs for his land and home, his wife and child,

Seek them with sword. Here in mid battle-field,

The gods place all at stake. Our better right

Bids us expect their favour; they shall dip

Your brands in Caesar’s blood, and thus shall give

Another sanction to the laws of Rome,420

Our cause of battle. If for him were meant

An empire o’er the world, had they not put

An end to Magnus’ life? That I am chief

Of all these mingled peoples and of Rome

Disproves an angry heaven. See here combined

All means of victory. Noble men have sought

Unasked the risks of war. Our soldiers boast

Ancestral statues. If to us were given

A Curius, if Camillus were returned,

Or patriot Decius to devote his life,430

Here would they take their stand. From furthest east

All nations gathered, cities as the sand

Unnumbered, give their aid: a world complete

Serves ‘neath our standards. North and south and all

Who have their being ‘neath the starry vault,

Here meet in arms conjoined: And shall we not

Crush with our closing wings this paltry foe?

Few shall find room to strike; the rest with voice

Must be content to aid: for Caesar’s ranks

Suffice not for us. Think from Rome’s high walls440

The matrons watch you with their hair unbound;

Think that the Senate hoar, too old for arms,

With snowy locks outspread; and Rome herself,

The world’s high mistress, fearing now, alas!

A despot — all exhort you to the fight.

Think that the people that is and that shall be

Joins in the prayer — in freedom to be born,

In freedom die, their wish. If ‘mid these vows

Be still found place for mine, with wife and child,

So far as Imperator may, I bend450

Before you suppliant — unless this fight

Be won, behold me exile, your disgrace,

My kinsman’s scorn. From this, ’tis yours to save.

Then save! Nor in the latest stage of life,

Let Magnus be a slave.”

Then burned their souls

At these his words, indignant at the thought,

And Rome rose up within them, and to die

Was welcome.

Thus alike with hearts aflame460

Moved either host to battle, one in fear

And one in hope of empire. These hands shall do

Such work as not the rolling centuries

Not all mankind though free from sword and war

Shall e’er make good. Nations that were to live

This fight shall crush, and peoples preordained

To make the history of the coming world

Shall come not to the birth. The Latin names

Shall sound as fables in the ears of men,

And ruins loaded with the dust of years470

Shall hardly mark her cities. Alba’s hill,

Home of our gods, no human foot shall tread,

Save of some Senator at the ancient feast

By Numa’s orders founded — he compelled

Serves his high office. 218 Void and desolate

Are Veii, Cora and Laurentum’s hold;

Yet not the tooth of envious time destroyed

These storied monuments — ’twas civil war

That rased their citadels. Where now hath fled

The teeming life that once Italia knew?480

Not all the earth can furnish her with men:

Untenanted her dwellings and her fields:

Slaves till her soil: one city holds us all:

Crumbling to ruin, the ancestral roof

Finds none on whom to fall; and Rome herself,

Void of her citizens, draws within her gates

The dregs of all the world. That none might wage

A civil war again, thus deeply drank

Pharsalia’s fight the life-blood of her sons.

Dark in the calendar of Rome for aye,490

The days when Allia and Cannae fell:

And shall Pharsalus’ morn, darkest of all,

Stand on the page unmarked? Alas, the fates!

Not plague nor pestilence nor famine’s rage,

Not cities given to the flames, nor towns

Trembling at shock of earthquake shall weigh down

Such heroes lost, when Fortune’s ruthless hand

Lops at one blow the gift of centuries,

Leaders and men embattled. How great art thou,

Rome, in thy fall! Stretched to the widest bounds500

War upon war laid nations at thy feet

Till flaming Titan nigh to either pole

Beheld thine empire; and the furthest east

Was almost thine, till day and night and sky

For thee revolved, and all the stars could see

Throughout their course was Roman. But the fates

In one dread day of slaughter and despair

Turned back the centuries and spoke thy doom.

And now the Indian fears the axe no more

Once emblem of thy power, now no more510

The girded Consul curbs the Getan horde,

Or in Sarmatian furrows guides the share: 219

Still Parthia boasts her triumphs unavenged:

Foul is the public life; and Freedom, fled

To furthest Earth beyond the Tigris’ stream,

And Rhine’s broad river, wandering at her will

‘Mid Teuton hordes and Scythian, though by sword

Sought, yet returns not. Would that from the day

When Romulus, aided by the vulture’s flight,

Ill-omened, raised within that hateful grove520

Rome’s earliest walls, down to the crimsoned field

In dire Thessalia fought, she ne’er had known

Italia’s peoples! Did the Bruti strike

In vain for liberty? Why laws and rights

Sanctioned by all the annals designate

With consular titles? Happier far the Medes

And blest Arabia, and the Eastern lands

Held by a kindlier fate in despot rule!

That nation serves the worst which serves with shame.

No guardian gods watch over us from heaven:530

Jove 220 is no king; let ages whirl along

In blind confusion: from his throne supreme

Shall he behold such carnage and restrain

His thunderbolts? On Mimas shall he hurl

His fires, on Rhodope and Oeta’s woods

Unmeriting such chastisement, and leave

This life to Cassius’ hand? On Argos fell

At grim Thyestes’ feast 221 untimely night

By him thus hastened; shall Thessalia’s land

Receive full daylight, wielding kindred swords540

In fathers’ hands and brothers’? Careless of men

Are all the gods. Yet for this day of doom

Such vengeance have we reaped as deities

May give to mortals; for these wars shall raise

Our parted Caesars to the gods; and Rome

Shall deck their effigies with thunderbolts,

And stars and rays, and in the very fanes

Swear by the shades of men.

With swift advance

They seize the space that yet delays the fates550

Till short the span dividing. Then they gaze

For one short moment where may fall the spear,

What hand may deal their death, what monstrous task

Soon shall be theirs; and all in arms they see,

In reach of stroke, their brothers and their sires

With front opposing; yet to yield their ground

It pleased them not. But all the host was dumb

With horror; cold upon each loving heart,

Awe-struck, the life-blood pressed; and all men held

With arms outstretched their javelins for a time,560

Poised yet unthrown. Now may th’ avenging gods

Allot thee, Crastinus, 222 not such a death

As all men else do suffer! In the tomb

May’st thou have feeling and remembrance still!

For thine the hand that first flung forth the dart,

Which stained with Roman blood Thessalia’s earth.

Madman! To speed thy lance when Caesar’s self

Still held his hand! Then from the clarions broke

The strident summons, and the trumpets blared

Responsive signal. Upward to the vault570

The sound reechoes where nor clouds may reach

Nor thunder penetrate; and Haemus’ slopes 223

Reverberate to Pelion the din;

Pindus reechoes; Oeta’s lofty rocks

Groan, and Pangaean cliffs, till at their rage

Borne back from all the earth they shook for fear.

Unnumbered darts they hurl, with prayers diverse;

Some hope to wound: others, in secret, yearn

For hands still innocent. Chance rules supreme,

And wayward Fortune upon whom she wills580

Makes fall the guilt. Yet for the hatred bred

By civil war suffices spear nor lance,

Urged on their flight afar: the hand must grip

The sword and drive it to the foeman’s heart.

But while Pompeius’ ranks, shield wedged to shield,

Were ranged in dense array, and scarce had space

To draw the blade, came rushing at the charge

Full on the central column Caesar’s host,

Mad for the battle. Man nor arms could stay

The crash of onset, and the furious sword590

Clove through the stubborn panoply to the flesh,

There only stayed. One army struck — their foes

Struck not in answer; Magnus’ swords were cold,

But Caesar’s reeked with slaughter and with guilt.

Nor Fortune lingered, but decreed the doom

Which swept the ruins of a world away.

Soon as withdrawn from all the spacious plain,

Pompeius’ horse was ranged upon the flanks;

Passed through the outer files, the lighter armed

Of all the nations joined the central strife,600

With divers weapons armed, but all for blood

Of Rome athirst: then blazing torches flew,

Arrows and stones. and ponderous balls of lead

Molten by speed of passage through the air.

There Ituraean archers and the Mede

Winged forth their countless shafts till all the sky

Grew dark with missiles hurled; and from the night

Brooding above, Death struck his victims down,

Guiltless such blow, while all the crime was heaped

Upon the Roman spear. In line oblique610

Behind the standards Caesar in reserve

Had placed some companies of foot, in fear

The foremost ranks might waver. These at his word,

No trumpet sounding, break upon the ranks

Of Magnus’ horsemen where they rode at large

Flanking the battle. They, unshamed of fear

And careless of the fray, when first a steed

Pierced through by javelin spurned with sounding hoof

The temples of his rider, turned the rein,

And through their comrades spurring from the field620

In panic, proved that not with warring Rome

Barbarians may grapple. Then arose

Immeasurable carnage: here the sword,

There stood the victim, and the victor’s arm

Wearied of slaughter. Oh, that to thy plains,

Pharsalia, might suffice the crimson stream

From hosts barbarian, nor other blood

Pollute thy fountains’ sources! these alone

Shall clothe thy pastures with the bones of men!

Or if thy fields must run with Roman blood630

Then spare the nations who in times to come

Must be her peoples!

Now the terror spread

Through all the army, and the favouring fates

Decreed for Caesar’s triumph: and the war

Ceased in the wider plain, though still ablaze

Where stood the chosen of Pompeius’ force,

Upholding yet the fight. Not here allies

Begged from some distant king to wield the sword:

Here were the Roman sons, the sires of Rome,640

Here the last frenzy and the last despair:

Here, Caesar, was thy crime: and here shall stay

My Muse repelled: no poesy of mine

Shall tell the horrors of the final strife,

Nor for the coming ages paint the deeds

Which civil war permits. Be all obscured

In deepest darkness! Spare the useless tear

And vain lament, and let the deeds that fell

In that last fight of Rome remain unsung.

But Caesar adding fury to the breasts650

Already flaming with the rage of war,

That each might bear his portion of the guilt

Which stained the host, unflinching through the ranks

Passed at his will. He looked upon the brands,

These reddened only at the point, and those

Streaming with blood and gory, to the hilt:

He marks the hand which trembling grasped the sword,

Or held it idle, and the cheek that grew

Pale at the blow, and that which at his words

Glowed with the joy of battle: midst the dead660

He treads the plain and on each gaping wound

Presses his hand to keep the life within.

Thus Caesar passed: and where his footsteps fell

As when Bellona shakes her crimson lash,

Or Mavors scourges on the Thracian mares 224

When shunning the dread face on Pallas’ shield,

He drives his chariot, there arose a night

Dark with huge slaughter and with crime, and groans

As of a voice immense, and sound of alms

As fell the wearer, and of sword on sword670

Crashed into fragments. With a ready hand

Caesar supplies the weapon and bids strike

Full at the visage; and with lance reversed

Urges the flagging ranks and stirs the fight.

Where flows the nation’s blood, where beats the heart,

Knowing, he bids them spare the common herd,

But seek the senators — thus Rome he strikes,

Thus the last hold of Freedom. In the fray,

Then fell the nobles with their mighty names

Of ancient prowess; there Metellus’ sons,680

Corvini, Lepidi, Torquati too,

Not once nor twice the conquerors of kings,

First of all men, Pompeius’ name except,

Lay dead upon the field.

But, Brutus, where,

Where was thy sword? 225 “Veiled by a common helm

Unknown thou wanderest. Thy country’s pride,

Hope of the Senate, thou (for none besides);

Thou latest scion of that race of pride,

Whose fearless deeds the centuries record,690

Tempt not the battle, nor provoke the doom!

Awaits thee on Philippi’s fated field

Thy Thessaly. Not here shalt thou prevail

‘Gainst Caesar’s life. Not yet hath he surpassed

The height of power and deserved a death

Noble at Brutus’ hands — then let him live,

Thy fated victim!

There upon the field

Lay all the honour of Rome; no common stream

Mixed with the purple tide. And yet of all700

Who noble fell, one only now I sing,

Thee, brave Domitius. 226 Whene’er the day

Was adverse to the fortunes of thy chief

Thine was the arm which vainly stayed the fight.

Vanquished so oft by Caesar, now ’twas thine

Yet free to perish. By a thousand wounds

Came welcome death, nor had thy conqueror power

Again to pardon. Caesar stood and saw

The dark blood welling forth and death at hand,

And thus in words of scorn: “And dost thou lie,710

Domitius, there? And did Pompeius name

Thee his successor, thee? Why leavest thou then

His standards helpless?” But the parting life

Still faintly throbbed within Domitius’ breast,

Thus finding utterance: “Yet thou hast not won

Thy hateful prize, for doubtful are the fates;

Nor thou the master, Caesar; free as yet,

With great Pompeius for my leader still,

Warring no more, I seek the silent shades,

Yet with this hope in death, that thou subdued720

To Magnus and to me in grievous guise

May’st pay atonement.” So he spake: no more;

Then closed his eyes in death.

’Twere shame to shed,

When thus a world was perishing, the tear

Meet for each fate, or sing the wound that reft

Each life away. Through forehead and through throat

The pitiless weapon clove its deadly path,

Or forced the entrails forth: one fell to earth

Prone at the stroke; one stood though shorn of limb;730

Glanced from this breast unharmed the quivering spear;

That it transfixed to earth. Here from the veins

Spouted the life-blood, till the foeman’s arms

Were crimsoned. One his brother slew, nor dared

To spoil the corse, till severed from the neck

He flung the head afar. Another dashed

Full in his father’s teeth the fatal sword,

By murderous frenzy striving to disprove

His kinship with the slain. Yet for each death

We find no separate dirge, nor weep for men740

When peoples fell. Thus, Rome, thy doom was wrought

At dread Pharsalus. Not, as in other fields,

By soldiers slain, or captains; here were swept

Whole nations to the death; Assyria here,

Achaia, Pontus; and the blood of Rome

Gushing in torrents forth, forbade the rest

To stagnate on the plain. Nor life was reft,

Nor safety only then; but reeled the world

And all her manifold peoples at the blow

In that day’s battle dealt; nor only then750

Felt, but in all the times that were to come.

Those swords gave servitude to every age

That shall be slavish; by our sires was shaped

For us our destiny, the despot yoke.

Yet have we trembled not, nor feared to bare

Our throats to slaughter, nor to face the foe:

We bear the penalty for others’ shame.

Such be our doom; yet, Fortune, sharing not

In that last battle, ’twas our right to strike

One blow for freedom ere we served our lord.760

Now saw Pompeius, grieving, that the gods

Had left his side, and knew the fates of Rome

Passed from his governance; yet all the blood

That filled the field scarce brought him to confess

His fortunes fled. A little hill he sought

Whence to descry the battle raging still

Upon the plain, which when he nearer stood

The warring ranks concealed. Thence did the chief

Gaze on unnumbered swords that flashed in air

And sought his ruin; and the tide of blood770

In which his host had perished. Yet not as those

Who, prostrate fallen, would drag nations down

To share their evil fate, Pompeius did.

Still were the gods thought worthy of his prayers

To give him solace, in that after him

Might live his Romans. “Spare, ye gods,” he said,

“Nor lay whole peoples low; my fall attained,

The world and Rome may stand. And if ye need

More bloodshed, here on me, my wife, and sons

Wreak out your vengeance — pledges to the fates780

Such have we given. Too little for the war

Is our destruction? Doth the carnage fail,

The world escaping? Magnus’ fortunes lost,

Why doom all else beside him?” Thus he cried,

And passed amid his standards, and recalled

His vanquished host that rushed on fate declared.

Not for his sake such carnage should be wrought.

So thought Pompeius; nor the foeman’s sword

He feared, nor death; but lest upon his fall

To quit their chief his soldiers might refuse,790

And o’er his prostrate corpse a world in arms

Might find its ruin: or perchance he wished

From Caesar’s eager eyes to veil his death.

In vain, unhappy! for the fates decree

He shall behold, shorn from the bleeding trunk,

Again thy visage. And thou, too, his spouse,

Beloved Cornelia, didst cause his flight;

Thy longed-for features; yet he shall not die

When thou art present. 227

Then upon his steed,800

Though fearing not the weapons at his back,

Pompeius fled, his mighty soul prepared

To meet his destinies. No groan nor tear,

But solemn grief as for the fates of Rome,

Was in his visage, and with mien unchanged

He saw Pharsalia’s woes, above the frowns

Or smiles of Fortune; in triumphant days

And in his fall, her master. The burden laid

Of thine impending fate, thou partest free

To muse upon the happy days of yore.810

Hope now has fled; but in the fleeting past

How wast thou great! Seek thou the wars no more,

And call the gods to witness that for thee

Henceforth dies no man. In the fights to come

On Afric’s mournful shore, by Pharos’ stream

And fateful Munda; in the final scene

Of dire Pharsalia’s battle, not thy name

Doth stir the war and urge the foeman’s arm,

But those great rivals biding with us yet,

Caesar and Liberty; and not for thee820

But for itself the dying Senate fought,

When thou had’st fled the combat.

Find’st thou not

Some solace thus in parting from the fight

Nor seeing all the horrors of its close?

Look back upon the dead that load the plain,

The rivers turbid with a crimson stream;

Then pity thou thy victor. How shall he

Enter the city, who on such a field

Finds happiness? Trust thou in Fortune yet,830

Her favourite ever; and whate’er, alone

In lands unknown, an exile, be thy lot,

Whate’er thy sufferings ‘neath the Pharian king,

’Twere worse to conquer. Then forbid the tear,

Cease, sounds of woe, and lamentation cease,

And let the world adore thee in defeat,

As in thy triumphs. With unfaltering gaze,

Look on the suppliant kings, thy subjects still;

Search out the realms and cities which they hold,

Thy gift, Pompeius; and a fitting place840

Choose for thy death.

First witness of thy fall,

And of thy noble bearing in defeat,

Larissa. Weeping, yet with gifts of price

Fit for a victor, from her teeming gates

Poured forth her citizens, their homes and fanes

Flung open; wishing it had been their lot

With thee to share disaster. Of thy name

Still much survives, unto thy former self

Alone inferior, still could’st thou to arms850

All nations call and challenge fate again.

But thus he spake: “To cities nor to men

Avails the conquered aught; then pledge your faith

To him who has the victory.” Caesar trod

Pharsalia’s slaughter, while his daughter’s spouse

Thus gave him kingdoms; but Pompeius fled

‘Mid sobs and groans and blaming of the gods

For this their fierce commandment; and he fled

Full of the fruits and knowledge of the love

The peoples bore him, which he knew not his860

In times of happiness.

When Italian blood

Flowed deep enough upon the fatal field,

Caesar bade halt, and gave their lives to those

Whose death had been no gain. But that their camp

Might not recall the foe, nor calm of night

Banish their fears, he bids his cohorts dash,

While Fortune glowed and terror filled the plain,

Straight on the ramparts of the conquered foe.

Light was the task to urge them to the spoil;870

“Soldiers,” he said, “the victory is ours,

Full and triumphant: there doth lie the prize

Which you have won, not Caesar; at your feet

Behold the booty of the hostile camp.

Snatched from Hesperian nations ruddy gold,

And all the riches of the Orient world,

Are piled within the tents. The wealth of kings

And of Pompeius here awaits its lords.

Haste, soldiers, and outstrip the flying foe;

E’en now the vanquished of Pharsalia’s field880

Anticipate your spoils.” No more he said,

But drave them, blind with frenzy for the gold,

To spurn the bodies of their fallen sires,

And trample chiefs in dashing on their prey.

What rampart had restrained them as they rushed

To seize the prize for wickedness and war

And learn the price of guilt? And though they found

In ponderous masses heaped for need of war

The trophies of a world, yet were their minds

Unsatisfied, that asked for all. Whate’er890

Iberian mines or Tagus bring to day,

Or Arimaspians from golden sands

May gather, had they seized; still had they thought

Their guilt too cheaply sold. When pledged to them

Was the Tarpeian rock, for victory won,

And all the spoils of Rome, by Caesar’s word,

Shall camps suffice them?

Then plebeian limbs

On senators’ turf took rest, on kingly couch

The meanest soldier; and the murderer lay900

Where yesternight his brother or his sire.

In raving dreams within their waking brains

Yet raged the battle, and the guilty hand

Still wrought its deeds of blood, and restless sought

The absent sword-hilt. Thou had’st said that groans

Issued from all the plain, that parted souls

Had breathed a life into the guilty soil,

That earthly darkness teemed with gibbering ghosts

And Stygian terrors. Victory foully won

Thus claimed its punishment. The slumbering sense910

Already heard the hiss of vengeful flames

As from the depths of Acheron. One saw

Deep in the trances of the night his sire

And one his brother slain. But all the dead

In long array were visioned to the eyes

Of Caesar dreaming. Not in other guise

Orestes saw the Furies ere he fled

To purge his sin within the Scythian bounds;

Nor in more fierce convulsions raged the soul

Of Pentheus raving; nor Agave’s 228 mind920

When she had known her son. Before his gaze

Flashed all the javelins which Pharsalia saw,

Or that avenging day when drew their blades

The Roman senators; and on his couch,

Infernal monsters from the depths of hell

Scourged him in slumber. Thus his guilty mind

Brought retribution. Ere his rival died

The terrors that enfold the Stygian stream

And black Avernus, and the ghostly slain

Broke on his sleep.930

Yet when the golden sun

Unveiled the butchery of Pharsalia’s field 229

He shrank not from its horror, nor withdrew

His feasting gaze. There rolled the streams in flood

With crimson carnage; there a seething heap

Rose shrouding all the plain, now in decay

Slow settling down; there numbered he the host

Of Magnus slain; and for the morn’s repast

That spot he chose whence he might watch the dead,

And feast his eyes upon Emathia’s field940

Concealed by corpses; of the bloody sight

Insatiate, he forbad the funeral pyre,

And cast Emathia in the face of heaven.

Nor by the Punic victor was he taught,

Who at the close of Cannae’s fatal fight

Laid in the earth the Roman consul dead,

To find fit burial for his fallen foes;

For these were all his countrymen, nor yet

His ire by blood appeased. Yet ask we not

For separate pyres or sepulchres apart950

Wherein to lay the ashes of the fallen:

Burn in one holocaust the nations slain;

Or should it please thy soul to torture more

Thy kinsman, pile on high from Oeta’s slopes

And Pindus’ top the woods: thus shall he see

While fugitive on the deep the blaze that marks

Thessalia. Yet by this idle rage

Nought dost thou profit; for these corporal frames

Bearing innate from birth the certain germs

Of dissolution, whether by decay960

Or fire consumed, shall fall into the lap

Of all-embracing nature. Thus if now

Thou should’st deny the pyre, still in that flame

When all shall crumble, 230 earth and rolling seas

And stars commingled with the bones of men,

These too shall perish. Where thy soul shall go

These shall companion thee; no higher flight

In airy realms is thine, nor smoother couch

Beneath the Stygian darkness; for the dead

No fortune favours, and our Mother Earth970

All that is born from her receives again,

And he whose bones no tomb or urn protects

Yet sleeps beneath the canopy of heaven.

And thou, proud conqueror, who would’st deny

The rites of burial to thousands slain,

Why flee thy field of triumph? Why desert

This reeking plain? Drink, Caesar, of the streams,

Drink if thou can’st, and should it be thy wish

Breathe the Thessalian air; but from thy grasp

The earth is ravished, and th’ unburied host,980

Routing their victor, hold Pharsalia’s field.

Then to the ghastly harvest of the war

Came all the beasts of earth whose facile sense

Of odour tracks the bodies of the slain.

Sped from his northern home the Thracian wolf;

Bears left their dens and lions from afar

Scenting the carnage; dogs obscene and foul

Their homes deserted: all the air was full

Of gathering fowl, who in their flight had long

Pursued the armies. Cranes 231 who yearly change990

The frosts of Thracia for the banks of Nile,

This year delayed their voyage. As ne’er before

The air grew dark with vultures’ hovering wings,

Innumerable, for every grove and wood

Sent forth its denizens; on every tree

Dripped from their crimsoned beaks a gory dew.

Oft on the conquerors and their impious arms

Or purple rain of blood, or mouldering flesh

Fell from the lofty heaven; or limbs of men

From weary talons dropped. Yet even so1000

The peoples passed not all into the maw

Of ravening beast or fowl; the inmost flesh

Scarce did they touch, nor limbs — thus lay the dead

Scorned by the spoiler; and the Roman host

By sun and length of days, and rain from heaven,

At length was mingled with Emathia’s plain.

Ill-starred Thessalia! By what hateful crime

Didst thou offend that thus on thee alone

Was laid such carnage? By what length of years

Shalt thou be cleansed from the curse of war?1010

When shall the harvest of thy fields arise

Free from their purple stain? And when the share

Cease to upturn the slaughtered hosts of Rome?

First shall the battle onset sound again,

Again shall flow upon thy fated earth

A crimson torrent. Thus may be o’erthrown

Our sires’ memorials; those erected last,

Or those which pierced by ancient roots have spread

Through broken stones their sacred urns abroad.

Thus shall the ploughman of Haemonia gaze1020

On more abundant ashes, and the rake

Pass o’er more frequent bones. Wert, Thracia, thou.

Our only battlefield, no sailor’s hand

Upon thy shore should make his cable fast;

No spade should turn, the husbandman should flee

Thy fields, the resting-place of Roman dead;

No lowing kine should graze, nor shepherd dare

To leave his fleecy charge to browse at will

On fields made fertile by our mouldering dust;

All bare and unexplored thy soil should lie,1030

As past man’s footsteps, parched by cruel suns,

Or palled by snows unmelting! But, ye gods,

Give us to hate the lands which bear the guilt;

Let not all earth be cursed, though not all

Be blameless found.

’Twas thus that Munda’s fight

And blood of Mutina, and Leucas’ cape,

And sad Pachynus, 232 made Philippi pure.

203 “It is, methinks, a morning full of fate!

It riseth slowly, as her sullen car

Had all the weight of sleep and death hung at it!”

. . .

And her sick head is bound about with clouds

As if she threatened night ere noon of day.”

— Ben Jonson, “Catiline”, i., 1.

204 See Book VI., 577.

205 As to the sun finding fuel in the clouds, see Book I., line 471.

206 Pompeius triumphed first in 81 B.C. for his victories in Sicily and Africa, at the age of twenty-four. Sulla at first objected, but finally yielded and said, “Let him triumph then in God’s name.” The triumph for the defeat of Sertorius was not till 71 B.C., in which year Pompeius was elected Consul along with Crassus. (Compare Book IX., 709.)

207 These two lines are taken from Ben Jonson’s “Catiline”, act v., scene 6.

208 The volcanic district of Campania, scene of the fabled battle of the giants. (See Book IV., 666.)

209 Henceforth to be the standards of the Emperor.

210 A lake at the foot of Mount Ossa. Pindus, Ossa, Olympus, and, above all, Haemus (the Balkans) were at a long distance from Pharsalia. Comp. Book VI., 677.

211 Gades (Cadiz) is stated to have been founded by the Phoenicians about 1000 B.C.

212 This alludes to the story told by Plutarch (“Caesar”, 47) that, at Patavium, Caius Cornelius, a man reputed for skill in divination, and a friend of Livy the historian, was sitting to watch the birds that day. “And first of all (as Livius says) he discovered the time of the battle, and he said to those present that the affair was now deciding and the men were going into action. Looking again, and observing the signs, he sprang up with enthusiasm and called out, ‘You conquer, Caesar.’” (Long’s translation.)

213 The Fontes Aponi were warm springs near Padua. An altar, inscribed to Apollo Aponus, was found at Ribchester, and is now at St. John’s College, Cambridge. (Wright, “Celt, Roman, and Saxon”, p. 320.)

214 See Book I., 411, and following lines.

215 For the contempt here expressed for the Greek gymnastic schools, see also Tacitus, “Annals”, 14, 21. It is well known that Nero instituted games called Neronia which were borrowed from the Greeks; and that many of the Roman citizens despised them as foreign and profligate. Merivale, chapter liii., cites this passage.

216 Thus paraphrased by Dean Stanley:

“I tremble not with terror, but with hope,

As the great day reveals its coming scope;

Never in earlier days, our hearts to cheer,

Have such bright gifts of Heaven been brought so near,

Nor ever has been kept the aspiring soul

By space so narrow from so grand a goal.”

Inaugural address at St. Andrews. 1873, on the “Study of Greatness”.

217 That such were Caesar’s orders is also attested by Appian.

218 See Book V., 463.

219 That is, marked out the new colony with a plough-share. This was regarded as a religious ceremony, and therefore performed by the Consul with his toga worn in ancient fashion.

220 “Hath Jove no thunder?” — Ben Jonson, “Catiline”, iii., 2.

221 Compare Book I., line 600.

222 This act of Crastinus is recorded by Plutarch (“Pompeius”, 71), and by Caesar, “Civil War”, Book III., 91. Caesar called him by name and said: “Well, Crastinus, shall we win today?” “We shall win with glory, Caesar,” he replied in a loud voice, “and today you will praise me, living or dead.” — Durny, “History of Rome”, vol. iii., 312. He was placed in a special tomb after the battle.

223 See on line 203.

224 That is, lashes on his team terrified by the Gorgon shield in the ranks of the enemy.

225 Plutarch states that Brutus after the battle escaped and made his way to Larissa, whence he wrote to Caesar. Caesar, pleased that he was alive, asked him to come to him; and it was on Brutus’ opinion that Caesar determined to hurry to Egypt as the most probable refuge of Pompeius. Caesar entrusted Brutus with the command of Cisalpine Gaul when he was in Africa.

226 “He perished, after a career of furious partisanship, disgraced with cruelty and treachery, on the field of Pharsalia” (Merivale, “Hist. Romans under the Empire”, chapter lii.). Unless this man had been an ancestor of Nero it is impossible to suppose that Lucan would have thus singled him out. But he appears to have been the only leader who fell. (Compare Book II, lines 534–590, for his conduct at Corfinium.)

227 This appears to be the only possible meaning of the text. But in truth, although Cornelia was not by her husband’s side at his murder, she was present at the scene.

228 See Book VI., 420.

229 The whole of this passage is foreign to Caesar’s character, and unfounded in fact. Pompeians perished on the field, and were taken prisoners. When Caesar passed over the field he is recorded to have said in pity, “They would have it so; after all my exploits I should have been condemned to death had I not thrown myself upon the protection of my soldiers.” — Plutarch, “Caesar”; Durny, “History of Rome”, vol. iii., p. 311.

230 Alluding to the general conflagration in which (by the Stoic doctrines) all the universe would one day perish.

231 Wrongly supposed by Lucan to feed on carrion.

232 Alluding to the naval war waged by Sextus Pompeius after Caesar’s death. He took possession of Sicily, and had command of the seas, but was ultimately defeated by the fleet of Octavius under Agrippa in B.C. 36. Pachynus was the S.E. promontory of the island, but is used in the sense of Sicily, for this battle took place on the north coast.

Book viii

Death of Pompeius.

Pompeius flies to Lesbos, lines 1-74, and consoles his wife, 75-97. Her reply, 99-124. He declines shelter at Lesbos, 125-168. He sails to Asia Minor and sends Deiotarus to rouse the East, 168-272. He addresses his captains at Phaselis, 277-372. Reply of Lentulus, 374-515. Pompeius proceeds to Egypt, 515-537. The council of Ptolemaeus and speech of Pothinus. 537-622. Apostrophe to Egypt, 625-652. The murder of Pompeius and laments of Cornelia, 653-771. The head of Pompeius is cut off and embalmed, 773-831. Cordus buries the body, 830-963. Apostrophe to Egypt, 964-1025.

Now through Alcides’233 pass and Tempe’s groves

Pompeius, aiming for Haemonian glens

And forests lone, urged on his wearied steed

Scarce heeding now the spur; by devious tracks

Seeking to veil the footsteps of his flight:

The rustle of the foliage, and the noise

Of following comrades filled his anxious soul

With terrors, as he fancied at his side

Some ambushed enemy. Fallen from the height

Of former fortunes, still the chieftain knew10

His life not worthless; mindful of the fates:

And ‘gainst the price he set on Caesar’s head,

He measures Caesar’s value of his own.

Yet, as he rode, the features of the chief

Made known his ruin. Many as they sought

The camp Pharsalian, ere yet was spread

News of the battle, met the chief, amazed,

And wondered at the whirl of human things:

Nor held disaster sure, though Magnus’ self

Told of his ruin. Every witness seen20

Brought peril on his flight: ’twere better far

Safe in a name obscure, through all the world

To wander; but his ancient fame forbad.

Too long had great Pompeius from the height

Of human greatness, envied of mankind,

Looked on all others; nor for him henceforth

Could life be lowly. The honours of his youth

Too early thrust upon him, and the deeds

Which brought him triumph in the Sullan days,

His conquering navy and the Pontic war,30

Made heavier now the burden of defeat,

And crushed his pondering soul. So length of days

Drags down the haughty spirit, and life prolonged

When power has perished. Fortune’s latest hour,

Be the last hour of life! Nor let the wretch

Live on disgraced by memories of fame!

But for the boon of death, who’d dare the sea

Of prosperous chance?

Upon the ocean marge

By red Peneus blushing from the fray,40

Borne in a sloop, to lightest wind and wave

Scarce equal, he, whose countless oars yet smote

Upon Coreyra’s isle and Leucas point,

Lord of Cilicia and Liburnian lands,

Crept trembling to the sea. He bids them steer

For the sequestered shores of Lesbos isle;

For there wert thou, sharer of all his griefs,

Cornelia! Sadder far thy life apart

Than wert thou present in Thessalia’s fields.

Racked is thy heart with presages of ill;50

Pharsalia fills thy dreams; and when the shades

Give place to coming dawn, with hasty step

Thou tread’st some cliff sea-beaten, and with eyes

Gazing afar art first to mark the sail

Of each approaching bark: yet dar’st not ask

Aught of thy husband’s fate.

Behold the boat

Whose bending canvas bears her to the shore:

She brings (unknown as yet) thy chiefest dread,

Rumour of evil, herald of defeat,60

Magnus, thy conquered spouse. Fear then no more,

But give to grief thy moments. From the ship

He leaps to land; she marks the cruel doom

Wrought by the gods upon him: pale and wan

His weary features, by the hoary locks

Shaded; the dust of travel on his garb.

Dark on her soul a night of anguish fell;

Her trembling limbs no longer bore her frame:

Scarce throbbed her heart, and prone on earth she lay

Deceived in hope of death. The boat made fast,70

Pompeius treading the lone waste of sand

Drew near; whom when Cornelia’s maidens saw,

They stayed their weeping, yet with sighs subdued,

Reproached the fates; and tried in vain to raise

Their mistress’ form, till Magnus to his breast

Drew her with cherishing arms; and at the touch

Of soothing hands the life-blood to her veins

Returned once more, and she could bear to look

Upon his features. He forbad despair,

Chiding her grief. “Not at the earliest blow80

By Fortune dealt, inheritress of fame

Bequeathed by noble fathers, should thy strength

Thus fail and yield: renown shall yet be thine,

To last through ages; not of laws decreed

Nor conquests won; a gentler path to thee

As to thy sex, is given; thy husband’s woe.

Let thine affection struggle with the fates,

And in his misery love thy lord the more.

I bring thee greater glory, for that gone

Is all the pomp of power and all the crowd90

Of faithful senators and suppliant kings;

Now first Pompeius for himself alone

Tis thine to love. Curb this unbounded grief,

While yet I breathe, unseemly. O’er my tomb

Weep out thy full, the final pledge of faith.

Thou hast no loss, nor has the war destroyed

Aught save my fortune. If for that thy grief

That was thy love.”

Roused by her husband’s words,

Yet scarcely could she raise her trembling limbs,100

Thus speaking through her sobs: “Would I had sought

Detested Caesar’s couch, ill-omened wife

Of spouse unhappy; at my nuptials twice

A Fury has been bridesmaid, and the ghosts

Of slaughtered Crassi, with avenging shades

Brought by my wedlock to the doomed camp

The Parthian massacre. Twice my star has cursed

The world, and peoples have been hurled to death

In one red moment; and the gods through me

Have left the better cause. O, hero mine,110

mightiest husband, wedded to a wife

Unworthy! ’Twas through her that Fortune gained

The right to strike thee. Wherefore did I wed

To bring thee misery? Mine, mine the guilt,

Mine be the penalty. And that the wave

May bear thee gently onwards, and the kings

May keep their faith to thee, and all the earth

Be ready to thy rule, me from thy side

Cast to the billows. Rather had I died

To bring thee victory; thy disasters thus,120

Thus expiate. And, cruel Julia, thee,

Who by this war hast vengeance on our vows,

From thine abode I call: atonement find

In this thy rival’s death, and spare at least

Thy Magnus.” Then upon his breast she fell,

While all the concourse wept — e’en Magnus’ self,

Who saw Thessalia’s field without a tear.

But now upon the shore a numerous band

From Mitylene thus approached the chief:

“If ’tis our greatest glory to have kept130

The pledge with us by such a husband placed,

Do thou one night within these friendly walls

We pray thee, stay; thus honouring the homes

Long since devoted, Magnus, to thy cause.

This spot in days to come the guest from Rome

For thee shall honour. Nowhere shalt thou find

A surer refuge in defeat. All else

May court the victor’s favour; we long since

Have earned his chastisement. And though our isle

Rides on the deep, girt by the ocean wave,140

No ships has Caesar: and to us shall come,

Be sure, thy captains, to our trusted shore,

The war renewing. Take, for all is thine,

The treasures of our temples and the gold,

Take all our youth by land or on the sea

To do thy bidding: Lesbos only asks

This from the chief who sought her in his pride,

Not in his fall to leave her.” Pleased in soul

At such a love, and joyed that in the world

Some faith still lingered, thus Pompeius said:150

“Earth has for me no dearer land than this.

Did I not trust it with so sweet a pledge

And find it faithful? Here was Rome for me,

Country and household gods. This shore I sought

Home of my wife, this Lesbos, which for her

Had merited remorseless Caesar’s ire:

Nor was afraid to trust you with the means

To gain his mercy. But enough — through me

Your guilt was caused — I part, throughout the world

To prove my fate. Farewell thou happiest land!160

Famous for ever, whether taught by thee

Some other kings and peoples may be pleased

To give me shelter; or should’st thou alone

Be faithful. And now seek I in what lands

Right may be found or wrong. My latest prayer

Receive, O deity, if still with me

Thou bidest, thus. May it be mine again,

Conquered, with hostile Caesar on my tracks

To find a Lesbos where to enter in

And whence to part, unhindered.”170

In the boat

He placed his spouse: while from the shore arose

Such lamentation, and such hands were raised

In ire against the gods, that thou had’st deemed

All left their kin for exile, and their homes.

And though for Magnus grieving in his fall

Yet for Cornelia chiefly did they mourn

Long since their gentle guest. For her had wept

The Lesbian matrons had she left to join

A victor husband: for she won their love,180

By kindly modesty and gracious mien,

Ere yet her lord was conquered, while as yet

Their fortunes stood.

Now slowly to the deep

Sank fiery Titan; but not yet to those

He sought (if such there be), was shown his orb,

Though veiled from those he quitted. Magnus’ mind,

Anxious with waking cares, sought through the kings

His subjects, and the cities leagued with Rome

In faith, and through the pathless tracts that lie190

Beyond the southern bounds: until the toil

Of sorrowing thought upon the past, and dread

Of that which might be, made him cast afar

His wavering doubts, and from the captain seek

Some counsel on the heavens; how by the sky

He marked his track upon the deep; what star

Guided the path to Syria, and what points

Found in the Wain would pilot him aright

To shores of Libya. But thus replied

The well-skilled watcher of the silent skies:200

“Not by the constellations moving ever

Across the heavens do we guide our barks;

For that were perilous; but by that star 234

Which never sinks nor dips below the wave,

Girt by the glittering groups men call the Bears.

When stands the pole-star clear before the mast,

Then to the Bosphorus look we, and the main

Which carves the coast of Scythia. But the more

Bootes dips, and nearer to the sea

Is Cynosura seen, so much the ship210

Towards Syria tends, till bright Canopus 235 shines,

In southern skies content to hold his course;

With him upon the left past Pharos borne

Straight for the Syrtes shalt thou plough the deep.

But whither now dost bid me shape the yards

And set the canvas?”

Magnus, doubting still;

“This only be thy care: from Thracia steer

The vessel onward; shun with all thy skill

Italia’s distant shore: and for the rest220

Trust to the winds for guidance. When I sought,

Pledged with the Lesbians, my spouse beloved,

My course was sure: now, Fortune, where thou wilt

Give me a refuge.” These his answering words.

The pilot, as they hung from level yards

Shifted the sails; and hauling to the stern

One sheet, he slacked the other, to the left

Steering, where Samian rocks and Chian marred

The stillness of the waters; while the sea

Sent up in answer to the changing keel230

A different murmur. Not so deftly turns

Curbing his steeds, his wain the Charioteer,

While glows his dexter wheel, and with the left

He almost touches, yet avoids the goal.

Now Titan veiled the stars and showed the shore;

When, following Magnus, came a scattered band

Saved from the Thracian storm. From Lesbos’ port

His son; 236 next, captains who preserved their faith;

For at his side, though vanquished in the field,

Cast down by fate, in exile, still there stood,240

Lords of the earth and all her Orient realms,

The Kings, his ministers.

To the furthest lands

He bids 237 Deiotarus: “O faithful friend,

Since in Emathia’s battle-field was lost

The world, so far as Roman, it remains

To test the faith of peoples of the East

Who drink of Tigris and Euphrates’ stream,

Secure as yet from Caesar. Be it thine

Far as the rising of the sun to trace250

The fates that favour Magnus: to the courts

Of Median palaces, to Scythian steppes;

And to the son of haughty Arsaces,

To bear my message, ‘Hold ye to the faith,

Pledged by your priests and by the Thunderer’s name

Of Latium sworn? Then fill your quivers full,

Draw to its fullest span th’ Armenian bow;

And, Getan archers, wing the fatal shaft.

And you, ye Parthians, if when I sought

The Caspian gates, and on th’ Alaunian tribes 238260

Fierce, ever-warring, pressed, I suffered you

In Persian tracts to wander, nor compelled

To seek for shelter Babylonian walls;

If beyond Cyrus’ kingdom 239 and the bounds

Of wide Chaldaea, where from Nysa’s top

Pours down Hydaspes, and the Ganges flood

Foams to the ocean, nearer far I stood

Than Persia’s bounds to Phoebus’ rising fires;

If by my sufferance, Parthians, you alone

Decked not my triumphs, but in equal state270

Sole of all Eastern princes, face to face

Met Magnus in his pride, nor only once

Through me were saved; (for after that dread day

Who but Pompeius soothed the kindling fires

Of Latium’s anger?) — by my service paid

Come forth to victory: burst the ancient bounds

By Macedon’s hero set: in Magnus’ cause

March, Parthians, to Rome’s conquest. Rome herself

Prays to be conquered.’”

Hard the task imposed;280

Yet doffed his robe, and swift obeyed, the king

Wrapped in a servant’s mantle. If a Prince

For safety play the boor, then happier, sure,

The peasant’s lot than lordship of the world.

The king thus parted, past Icaria’s rocks

Pompeius’ vessel skirts the foamy crags

Of little Samos: Colophon’s tranquil sea

And Ephesus lay behind him, and the air

Breathed freely on him from the Coan shore.

Cuidos he shunned, and, famous for its sun,290

Rhodos, and steering for the middle deep

Escaped the windings of Telmessus’ bay;

Till rose Pamphylian coasts before the bark,

And first the fallen chieftain dared to find

In small Phaseils shelter; for therein

Scarce was the husbandman, and empty homes

Forbad to fear. Next Taurus’ heights he saw

And Dipsus falling from his lofty sides:

So sailed he onward.

Did Pompeius hope,300

Thus severed by the billows from the foe,

To make his safety sure? His little boat

Flies unmolested past Cilician shores;

But to their exiled lord in chiefest part

The senate of Rome was drawn. Celendrae there

Received their fleet, where fair Selinus’ stream

In spacious bay gives refuge from the main;

And to the gathered chiefs in mournful words

At length Pompeius thus resolved his thoughts:

“O faithful comrades mine in war and flight!310

To me, my country! Though this barren shore

Our place of meeting, and no gathered host

Surrounds us, yet upon our changed estate

I seek your counsel. Rouse ye as of yore

With hearts of courage! Magnus on the field

Not all is perished, nor do fates forbid

But that I rise afresh with living hope

Of future victories, and spurn defeat.

From Libyan ruins did not Marius rise

Again recorded Consul on the page320

Full of his honours? shall a lighter blow

Keep Magnus down, whose thousand chiefs and ships

Still plough the billows; by defeat his strength

Not whelmed but scattered? And the fame alone

Of our great deeds of glory in the past

Shall now protect us, and the world unchanged

Still love its hero.

“Weigh upon the scales

Ye chiefs, which best may help the needs of Rome,

In faith and armies; or the Parthian realm330

Egypt or Libya. For myself, ye chiefs,

I veil no secret thoughts, but thus advise.

Place no reliance on the Pharian king;

His age forbids: nor on the cunning Moor,

Who vain of Punic ancestors, and vain

Of Carthaginian memories and descent 240

Supposed from Hannibal, and swollen with pride

At Varus’ supplication, sees in thought

Rome lie beneath him. Wherefore, comrades, seek

At speed, the Eastern world. Those mighty realms340

Disjoins from us Euphrates, and the gates

Called Caspian; on another sky than ours

There day and night revolve; another sea

Of different hue is severed from our own. 241

Rule is their wish, nought else: and in their plains

Taller the war-horse, stronger twangs the bow;

There fails nor youth nor age to wing the shaft

Fatal in flight. Their archers first subdued

The lance of Macedon and Baetra’s 242 walls,

Home of the Mede; and haughty Babylon350

With all her storied towers: nor shall they dread

The Roman onset; trusting to the shafts

By which the host of fated Crassus fell.

Nor trust they only to the javelin blade

Untipped with poison: from the rancorous edge

The slightest wound deals death.

“Would that my lot

Forced me not thus to trust that savage race

Of Arsaces! 243 Yet now their emulous fate

Contends with Roman destinies: the gods360

Smile favouring on their nation. Thence I’ll pour

On Caesar peoples from another earth

And all the Orient ravished from its home.

But should the East and barbarous treaties fail,

Fate, bear our shipwrecked fortunes past the bounds

Of earth, as known to men. The kings I made

I supplicate not, but in death shall take

To other spheres this solace: chief of all;

His hands, my kinsman’s, never shed my blood

Nor soothed me dying. Yet as my mind in turn370

The varying fortunes of my life recalls,

How was I glorious in that Eastern world!

How great my name by far Maeotis marsh

And where swift Tanais flows! No other land

Has so resounded with my conquests won,

So sent me home triumphant. Rome, do thou

Approve my enterprise! What happier chance

Could favouring gods afford thee? Parthian hosts

Shall fight the civil wars of Rome, and share

Her ills, and fall enfeebled. When the arms380

Of Caesar meet with Parthian in the fray,

Then must kind Fortune vindicate my lot

Or Crassus be avenged.”

But murmurs rose,

And Magnus speaking knew his words condemned.

Then Lentulas 244 answered, with indignant soul,

Foremost to rouse their valour, thus in words

Worthy a Consul: “Have Thessalian woes

Broken thy spirit so? One day’s defeat

Condemned the world to ruin? Is the cause390

Lost in one battle and beyond recall?

Find we no cure for wounds? Does Fortune drive

Thee, Magnus, to the Parthians’ feet alone?

And dost thou, fugitive, spurn the lands and skies

Known heretofore, and seek for other poles

And constellations, and Chaldaean gods,

And rites barbarian, servant of the realm Of

Parthia? But why then took we arms

For love of liberty? If thou canst slave

Thou hast deceived the world! Shall Parthia see400

Thee at whose name, ruler of mighty Rome,

She trembled, at whose feet she captive saw

Hyrcanian kings and Indian princes kneel,

Now humbly suppliant, victim of the fates;

And at thy prayer her puny strength extol

In mad contention with the Western world?

Nor think, Pompeius, thou shalt plead thy cause

In that proud tongue unknown to Parthian ears

Of which thy fame is worthy; sobs and tears

He shall demand of thee. And has our shame410

Brought us to this, that some barbarian foe

Shall venge Hesperia’s wrongs ere Rome her own?

Thou wert our leader for the civil war:

Mid Scythia’s peoples dost thou bruit abroad

Wounds and disasters which are ours alone?

Rome until now, though subject to the yoke

Of civic despots, yet within her walls

Has brooked no foreign lord. And art thou pleased

From all the world to summon to her gates

These savage peoples, while the standards lost420

By far Euphrates when the Crassi fell

Shall lead thy columns? Shall the only king

Who failed Emathia, while the fates yet hid

Their favouring voices, brave the victor’s power,

And join with thine his fortune? Nay, not so

This nation trusts itself. Each race that claims

A northern birth, unconquered in the fray

Claims but the warrior’s death; but as the sky

Slopes towards the eastern tracts and gentler climes

So are the nations. There in flowing robes430

And garments delicate are men arrayed.

True that the Parthian in Sarmatia’s plains,

Where Tigris spreads across the level meads,

Contends invincible; for flight is his

Unbounded; but should uplands bar his path

He scales them not; nor through the night of war

Shall his weak bow uncertain in its aim

Repel the foeman; nor his strength of arm

The torrent stem; nor all a summer’s day

In dust and blood bear up against the foe.440

They fill no hostile trench, nor in their hands

Shall battering engine or machine of war

Dash down the rampart; and whate’er avails

To stop their arrows, battles like a wall. 245

Wide sweep their horsemen, fleeting in attack

And light in onset, and their troops shall yield

A camp, not take it: poisoned are their shafts;

Nor do they dare a combat hand to hand;

But as the winds may suffer, from afar

They draw their bows at venture. Brave men love450

The sword which, wielded by a stalwart arm,

Drives home the blow and makes the battle sure.

Not such their weapons; and the first assault

Shall force the flying Mede with coward hand

And empty quiver from the field. His faith

In poisoned blades is placed; but trustest thou

Those who without such aid refuse the war?

For such alliance wilt thou risk a death,

With all the world between thee and thy home?

Shall some barbarian earth or lowly grave460

Enclose thee perishing? E’en that were shame

While Crassus seeks a sepulchre in vain.

Thy lot is happy; death, unfeared by men,

Is thy worst doom, Pompeius; but no death

Awaits Cornelia — such a fate for her

This king shall not reserve; for know not we

The hateful secrets of barbarian love,

Which, blind as that of beasts, the marriage bed

Pollutes with wives unnumbered? Nor the laws

By nature made respect they, nor of kin.470

In ancient days the fable of the crime

By tyrant Oedipus unwitting wrought,

Brought hate upon his city; but how oft

Sits on the throne of Arsaces a prince

Of birth incestuous? This gracious dame

Born of Metellus, noblest blood of Rome,

Shall share the couch of the barbarian king

With thousand others: yet in savage joy,

Proud of her former husbands, he may grant

Some larger share of favour; and the fates480

May seem to smile on Parthia; for the spouse

Of Crassus, captive, shall to him be brought

As spoil of former conquest. If the wound

Dealt in that fell defeat in eastern lands

Still stirs thy heart, then double is the shame

First to have waged the war upon ourselves,

Then ask the foe for succour. For what blame

Can rest on thee or Caesar, worse than this

That in the clash of conflict ye forgot

For Crassus’ slaughtered troops the vengeance due?490

First should united Rome upon the Mede

Have poured her captains, and the troops who guard

The northern frontier from the Dacian hordes;

And all her legions should have left the Rhine

Free to the Teuton, till the Parthian dead

Were piled in heaps upon the sands that hide

Our heroes slain; and haughty Babylon

Lay at her victor’s feet. To this foul peace

We pray an end; and if Thessalia’s day

Has closed our warfare, let the conqueror march500

Straight on our Parthian foe. Then should this heart,

Then only, leap at Caesar’s triumph won.

Go thou and pass Araxes’ chilly stream

On this thine errand; and the fleeting ghost

Pierced by the Scythian shaft shall greet thee thus:

‘Art thou not he to whom our wandering shades

Looked for their vengeance in the guise of war?

And dost thou sue for peace?’ There shalt thou meet

Memorials of the dead. Red is yon wall

Where passed their headless trunks: Euphrates here510

Engulfed them slain, or Tigris’ winding stream

Cast on the shore to perish. Gaze on this,

And thou canst supplicate at Caesar’s feet

In mid Thessalia seated. Nay, thy glance

Turn on the Roman world, and if thou fear’st

King Juba faithless and the southern realms,

Then seek we Pharos. Egypt on the west

Girt by the trackless Syrtes forces back

By sevenfold stream the ocean; rich in glebe

And gold and merchandise; and proud of Nile520

Asks for no rain from heaven. Now holds this boy

Her sceptre, owed to thee; his guardian thou:

And who shall fear this shadow of a name?

Hope not from monarchs old, whose shame is fled,

Or laws or troth or honour of the gods:

New kings bring mildest sway.” 246

His words prevailed

Upon his hearers. With what freedom speaks,

When states are trembling, patriot despair!

Pompeius’ voice was quelled.530

They hoist their sails

For Cyprus shaped, whose altars more than all

The goddess loves who from the Paphian wave

Sprang, mindful of her birth, if such be truth,

And gods have origin. Past the craggy isle

Pompeius sailing, left at length astern

Its southern cape, and struck across the main

With winds transverse and tides; nor reached the mount

Grateful to sailors for its nightly gleam:

But to the bounds of Egypt hardly won540

With battling canvas, where divided Nile

Pours through the shallows his Pelusian stream. 247

Now was the season when the heavenly scale

Most nearly balances the varying hours,

Once only equal; for the wintry day

Repays to night her losses of the spring;

And Magnus learning that th’ Egyptian king

Lay by Mount Casius, ere the sun was set

Or flagged his canvas, thither steered his ship.

Already had a horseman from the shore550

In rapid gallop to the trembling court

Brought news their guest was come. Short was the time

For counsel given; but in haste were met

All who advised the base Pellaean king,

Monsters, inhuman; there Achoreus sat

Less harsh in failing years, in Memphis born

Of empty rites, and guardian of the rise 248

Of fertilising Nile. While he was priest

Not only once had Apis 249 lived the space

Marked by the crescent on his sacred brow.560

First was his voice, for Magnus raised and troth

And for the pledges of the king deceased:

But, skilled in counsel meet for shameless minds

And tyrant hearts, Pothinus, dared to claim

Judgment of death on Magnus. “Laws and right

Make many guilty, Ptolemmus king.

And faith thus lauded 250 brings its punishment

When it supports the fallen. To the fates

Yield thee, and to the gods; the wretched shun

But seek the happy. As the stars from earth570

Differ, and fire from ocean, so from right

Expedience. 251 The tyrant’s shorn of strength

Who ponders justice; and regard for right

Bring’s ruin on a throne. For lawless power

The best defence is crime, and cruel deeds

Find safety but in doing. He that aims

At piety must flee the regal hall;

Virtue’s the bane of rule; he lives in dread

Who shrinks from cruelty. Nor let this chief

Unpunished scorn thy youth, who thinks that thou580

Not even the conquered from our shore can’st bar.

Nor to a stranger, if thou would’st not reign,

Resign thy sceptre, for the ties of blood

Speak for thy banished sister. Let her rule

O’er Nile and Pharos: we shall at the least

Preserve our Egypt from the Latian arms.

What Magnus owned not ere the war was done,

No more shall Caesar. Driven from all the world,

Trusting no more to Fortune, now he seeks

Some foreign nation which may share his fate.590

Shades of the slaughtered in the civil war

Compel him: nor from Caesar’s arms alone

But from the Senate also does he fly,

Whose blood outpoured has gorged Thessalian fowl;

Monarchs he fears whose all he hath destroyed,

And nations piled in one ensanguined heap,

By him deserted. Victim of the blow

Thessalia dealt, refused in every land,

He asks for help from ours not yet betrayed.

But none than Egypt with this chief from Rome600

Has juster quarrel; who has sought with arms

To stain our Pharos, distant from the strife

And peaceful ever, and to make our realm

Suspected by his victor. Why alone

Should this our country please thee in thy fall?

Why bringst thou here the burden of thy fates,

Pharsalia’s curse? In Caesar’s eyes long since

We have offence which by the sword alone

Can find its condonation, in that we

By thy persuasion from the Senate gained610

This our dominion. By our prayers we helped

If not by arms thy cause. This sword, which fate

Bids us make ready, not for thee I hold

Prepared, but for the vanquished; and on thee

(Would it had been on Caesar) falls the stroke;

For we are borne. as all things, to his side.

And dost thou doubt, since thou art in my power,

Thou art my victim? By what trust in us

Cam’st thou, unhappy? Scarce our people tills

The fields, though softened by the refluent Nile:620

Know well our strength, and know we can no more.

Rome ‘neath the ruin of Pompeius lies:

Shalt thou, king, uphold him? Shalt thou dare

To stir Pharsalia’s ashes and to call

War to thy kingdom? Ere the fight was fought

We joined not either army — shall we now

Make Magnus friend whom all the world deserts?

And fling a challenge to the conquering chief

And all his proud successes? Fair is help

Lent in disaster, yet reserved for those630

Whom fortune favours. Faith her friends selects

Not from the wretched.”

They decree the crime:

Proud is the boyish tyrant that so soon

His slaves permit him to so great a deed

To give his favouring voice; and for the work

They choose Achillas.

Where the treacherous shore

Runs out in sand below the Casian mount

And where the shallow waters of the sea640

Attest the Syrtes near, in little boat

Achillas and his partners in the crime

With swords embark. Ye gods! and shall the Nile

And barbarous Memphis and th’ effeminate crew

That throngs Pelusian Canopus raise

Its thoughts to such an enterprise? Do thus

Our fates press on the world? Is Rome thus fallen

That in our civil frays the Phaxian sword

Finds place, or Egypt? O, may civil war

Be thus far faithful that the hand which strikes650

Be of our kindred; and the foreign fiend

Held worlds apart! Pompeius, great in soul,

Noble in spirit, had deserved a death

From Caesar’s self. And, king, hast thou no fear

At such a ruin of so great a name?

And dost thou dare when heaven’s high thunder rolls,

Thou, puny boy, to mingle with its tones

Thine impure utterance? Had he not won

A world by arms, and thrice in triumph scaled

The sacred Capitol, and vanquished kings,660

And championed the Roman Senate’s cause;

He, kinsman of the victor? ’Twas enough

To cause forbearance in a Pharian king,

That he was Roman. Wherefore with thy sword

Dost stab our breasts? Thou know’st not, impious boy,

How stand thy fortunes; now no more by right

Hast thou the sceptre of the land of Nile;

For prostrate, vanquished in the civil wars

Is he who gave it.

Furling now his sails,670

Magnus with oars approached th’ accursed land,

When in their little boat the murderous crew

Drew nigh, and feigning from th’ Egyptian court

A ready welcome, blamed the double tides

Broken by shallows, and their scanty beach

Unfit for fleets; and bade him to their craft

Leaving his loftier ship. Had not the fates’

Eternal and unalterable laws

Called for their victim and decreed his end

Now near at hand, his comrades’ warning voice680

Yet might have stayed his course: for if the court

To Magnus, who bestowed the Pharian crown,

In truth were open, should not king and fleet

In pomp have come to greet him? But he yields:

The fates compel. Welcome to him was death

Rather than fear. But, rushing to the side,

His spouse would follow, for she dared not stay,

Fearing the guile. Then he, “Abide, my wife,

And son, I pray you; from the shore afar

Await my fortunes; mine shall be the life690

To test their honour.” But Cornelia still

Withstood his bidding, and with arms outspread

Frenzied she cried: “And whither without me,

Cruel, departest? Thou forbad’st me share

Thy risks Thessalian; dost again command

That I should part from thee? No happy star

Breaks on our sorrow. If from every land

Thou dost debar me, why didst turn aside

In flight to Lesbos? On the waves alone

Am I thy fit companion?” Thus in vain,700

Leaning upon the bulwark, dazed with dread;

Nor could she turn her straining gaze aside,

Nor see her parting husband. All the fleet

Stood silent, anxious, waiting for the end:

Not that they feared the murder which befell,

But lest their leader might with humble prayer

Kneel to the king he made.

As Magnus passed,

A Roman soldier from the Pharian boat,

Septimius, salutes him. Gods of heaven!710

There stood he, minion to a barbarous king,

Nor bearing still the javelin of Rome;

But vile in all his arms; giant in form

Fierce, brutal, thirsting as a beast may thirst

For carnage. Didst thou, Fortune, for the sake

Of nations, spare to dread Pharsalus field

This savage monster’s blows? Or dost thou place

Throughout the world, for thy mysterious ends,

Some ministering swords for civil war?

Thus, to the shame of victors and of gods,720

This story shall be told in days to come:

A Roman swordsman, once within thy ranks,

Slave to the orders of a puny prince,

Severed Pompeius’ neck. And what shall be

Septimius’ fame hereafter? By what name

This deed be called, if Brutus wrought a crime?

Now came the end, the latest hour of all:

Rapt to the boat was Magnus, of himself

No longer master, and the miscreant crew

Unsheathed their swords; which when the chieftain saw730

He swathed his visage, for he scorned unveiled

To yield his life to fortune; closed his eyes

And held his breath within him, lest some word,

Or sob escaped, might mar the deathless fame

His deeds had won. And when within his side

Achillas plunged his blade, nor sound nor cry

He gave, but calm consented to the blow

And proved himself in dying; in his breast

These thoughts revolving: “In the years to come

Men shall make mention of our Roman toils,740

Gaze on this boat, ponder the Pharian faith;

And think upon thy fame and all the years

While fortune smiled: but for the ills of life

How thou could’st bear them, this men shall not know

Save by thy death. Then weigh thou not the shame

That waits on thine undoing. Whose strikes,

The blow is Caesar’s. Men may tear this frame

And cast it mangled to the winds of heaven;

Yet have I prospered, nor can all the gods

Call back my triumphs. Life may bring defeat,750

But death no misery. If my spouse and son

Behold me murdered, silently the more

I suffer: admiration at my death

Shall prove their love.” Thus did Pompeius die,

Guarding his thoughts.

But now Cornelia filled

The air with lamentations at the sight;

“O, husband, whom my wicked self hath slain!

That lonely isle apart thy bane hath been

And stayed thy coming. Caesar to the Nile760

Has won before us; for what other hand

May do such work? But whosoe’er thou art

Sent from the gods with power, for Caesar’s ire,

Or thine own sake, to slay, thou dost not know

Where lies the heart of Magnus. Haste and do!

Such were his prayer — no other punishment

Befits the conquered. Yet let him ere his end

See mine, Cornelia’s. On me the blame

Of all these wars, who sole of Roman wives

Followed my spouse afield nor feared the fates;770

And in disaster, when the kings refused,

Received and cherished him. Did I deserve

Thus to be left of thee, and didst thou seek

To spare me? And when rushing on thine end

Was I to live? Without the monarch’s help

Death shall be mine, either by headlong leap

Beneath the waters; or some sailor’s hand

Shall bind around this neck the fatal cord;

Or else some comrade, worthy of his chief,

Drive to my heart his blade for Magnus’ sake,780

And claim the service done to Ceasar’s arms.

What! does your cruelty withhold my fate?

Ah! still he lives, nor is it mine as yet

To win this freedom; they forbid me death,

Kept for the victor’s triumph.” Thus she spake,

While friendly hands upheld her fainting form;

And sped the trembling vessel from the shore.

Men say that Magnus, when the deadly blows

Fell thick upon him, lost nor form divine,

Nor venerated mien; and as they gazed790

Upon his lacerated head they marked

Still on his features anger with the gods.

Nor death could change his visage — for in act

Of striking, fierce Septimius’ murderous hand

(Thus making worse his crime) severed the folds

That swathed the face, and seized the noble head

And drooping neck ere yet was fled the life:

Then placed upon the bench; and with his blade

Slow at its hideous task, and blows unskilled

Hacked through the flesh and brake the knotted bone:800

For yet man had not learned by swoop of sword

Deftly to lop the neck. Achillas claimed

The gory head dissevered. What! shalt thou

A Roman soldier, while thy blade yet reeks

From Magnus’ slaughter, play the second part

To this base varlet of the Pharian king?

Nor bear thyself the bleeding trophy home?

Then, that the impious boy (ah! shameful fate)

Might know the features of the hero slain,

Seized by the locks, the dread of kings, which waved810

Upon his stately front, on Pharian pike

The head was lifted; while almost the life

Gave to the tongue its accents, and the eyes

Were yet scarce glazed: that head at whose command

Was peace or war, that tongue whose eloquent tones

Would move assemblies, and that noble brow

On which were showered the rewards of Rome.

Nor to the tyrant did the sight suffice

To prove the murder done. The perishing flesh,

The tissues, and the brain he bids remove820

By art nefarious: the shrivelled skin

Draws tight upon the bone; and poisonous juice

Gives to the face its lineaments in death.

Last of thy race, thou base degenerate boy,

About to perish 252 soon, and yield the throne

To thine incestuous sister; while the Prince

From Macedon here in consecrated vault

Now rests, and ashes of the kings are closed

In mighty pyramids, and lofty tombs

Of thine unworthy fathers mark the graves;830

Shall Magnus’ body hither and thither borne

Be battered, headless, by the ocean wave?

Too much it troubled thee to guard the corse

Unmutilated, for his kinsman’s eye

To witness! Such the faith which Fortune kept

With prosperous Pompeius to the end.

’Twas not for him in evil days some ray

Of light to hope for. Shattered from the height

Of power in one short moment to his death!

Years of unbroken victories balanced down840

By one day’s carnage! In his happy time

Heaven did not harass him, nor did she spare

In misery. Long Fortune held the hand

That dashed him down. Now beaten by the sands,

Torn upon rocks, the sport of ocean’s waves

Poured through its wounds, his headless carcase lies,

Save by the lacerated trunk unknown.

Yet ere the victor touched the Pharian sands

Some scanty rites to Magnus Fortune gave,

Lest he should want all burial. Pale with fear850

Came Cordus, hasting from his hiding place;

Quaestor, he joined Pompeius on thy shore,

Idalian Cyprus, bringing in his train

A cloud of evils. Through the darkening shades

Love for the dead compelled his trembling steps,

Hard by the marin of the deep to search

And drag to land his master. Through the clouds

The moon shone sadly, and her rays were dim;

But by its hue upon the hoary main

He knew the body. In a fast embrace860

He holds it, wrestling with the greedy sea,

And deftly watching for a refluent wave

Gains help to bring his burden to the land.

Then clinging to the loved remains, the wounds

Washed with his tears, thus to the gods he speaks,

And misty stars obscure: “Here, Fortune, lies

Pompeius, thine: no costly incense rare

Or pomp of funeral he dares to ask;

Nor that the smoke rise heavenward from his pyre

With eastern odours rich; nor that the necks870

Of pious Romans bear him to the tomb,

Their parent; while the forums shall resound

With dirges; nor that triumphs won of yore

Be borne before him; nor for sorrowing hosts

To cast their weapons forth. Some little shell

He begs as for the meanest, laid in which

His mutilated corse may reach the flame.

Grudge not his misery the pile of wood

Lit by this menial hand. Is’t not enough

That his Cornelia with dishevelled hair880

Weeps not beside him at his obsequies,

Nor with a last embrace shall place the torch

Beneath her husband dead, but on the deep

Hard by still wanders?”

Burning from afar

He sees the pyre of some ignoble youth

Deserted of his own, with none to guard:

And quickly drawing from beneath the limbs

Some glowing logs, “Whoe’er thou art,” he said

“Neglected shade, uncared for, dear to none,890

Yet happier than Pompeius in thy death,

Pardon I ask that this my stranger hand

Should violate thy tomb. Yet if to shades

Be sense or memory, gladly shalt thou yield

This from thy pyre to Magnus. ’Twere thy shame,

Blessed with due burial, if his remains

Were homeless.” Speaking thus, the wood aflame

Back to the headless trunk at speed he bore,

Which hanging on the margin of the deep,

Almost the sea had won. In sandy trench900

The gathered fragments of a broken boat,

Trembling, he placed around the noble limbs.

No pile above the corpse nor under lay,

Nor was the fire beneath. Then as he crouched

Beside the blaze, “O, greatest chief,” he cried,

Majestic champion of Hesperia’s name,

If to be tossed unburied on the deep

Rather than these poor rites thy shade prefer,

From these mine offices thy mighty soul

Withdraw, Pompeius. Injuries dealt by fate910

Command this duty, lest some bird or beast

Or ocean monster, or fierce Caesar’s wrath

Should venture aught upon thee. Take the fire;

All that thou canst; by Roman hand at least

Enkindled. And should Fortune grant return

To loved Hesperia’s land, not here shall rest

Thy sacred ashes; but within an urn

Cornelia, from this humble hand received,

Shall place them. Here upon a meagre stone

We draw the characters to mark thy tomb.920

These letters reading may some kindly friend

Bring back thine head, dissevered, and may grant

Full funeral honours to thine earthly frame.”

Then did he cherish the enfeebled fire

Till Magnus’ body mingled with its flames.

But now the harbinger of coming dawn

Had paled the constellations: he in fear

Seeks for his hiding place. Whom dost thou dread,

Madman, what punishment for such a crime,

For which thy fame by rumour trumpet-tongued930

Has been sent down to ages? Praise is thine

For this thy work, at impious Caesar’s hands;

Sure of a pardon, go; confess thy task,

And beg the head dissevered. But his work

Was still unfinished, and with pious hand

(Fearing some foe) he seizes on the bones

Now half consumed, and sinews; and the wave

Pours in upon them, and in shallow trench

Commits them to the earth; and lest some breeze

Might bear away the ashes, or by chance940

Some sailor’s anchor might disturb the tomb,

A stone he places, and with stick half burned

Traces the sacred name: HERE MAGNUS LIES.

And art thou, Fortune, pleased that such a spot

Should be his tomb which even Caesar’s self

Had chosen, rather than permit his corse

To rest unburied? Why, with thoughtless hand

Confine his shade within the narrow bounds

Of this poor sepulchre? Where the furthest sand

Hangs on the margin of the baffled deep950

Cabined he lies; yet where the Roman name

Is known, and Empire, such in truth shall be

The boundless measure of his resting-place.

Blot out this stone, this proof against the gods!

Oeta finds room for Hercules alone,

And Nysa’s mountain for the Bromian god; 253

Not all the lands of Egypt should suffice

For Magnus dead: and shall one Pharian stone

Mark his remains? Yet should no turf disclose

His title, peoples of the earth would fear960

To spurn his ashes, and the sands of Nile

No foot would tread. But if the stone deserves

So great a name, then add his mighty deeds:

Write Lepidus conquered and the Alpine war,

And fierce Sertorius by his aiding arm

O’erthrown; the chariots which as knight he drove; 254

Cilician pirates driven from the main,

And Commerce safe to nations; Eastern kings

Defeated and the barbarous Northern tribes;

Write that from arms he ever sought the robe;970

Write that content upon the Capitol

Thrice only triumphed he, nor asked his due.

What mausoleum were for such a chief

A fitting monument? This paltry stone

Records no syllable of the lengthy tale

Of honours: and the name which men have read

Upon the sacred temples of the gods,

And lofty arches built of hostile spoils,

On desolate sands here marks his lowly grave

With characters uncouth, such as the glance980

Of passing traveller or Roman guest

Might pass unnoticed.

Thou Egyptian land

By destiny foredoomed to bear a part

In civil warfare, not unreasoning sang

High Cumae’s prophetess, when she forbad 255

The stream Pelusian to the Roman arms,

And all the banks which in the summer-tide

Are covered by his flood. What grievous fate

Shall I call down upon thee? May the Nile990

Turn back his water to his source, thy fields

Want for the winter rain, and all the land

Crumble to desert wastes! We in our fanes

Have known thine Isis and thy hideous gods,

Half hounds, half human, and the drum that bids

To sorrow, and Osiris, whom thy dirge 256

Proclaims for man. Thou, Egypt, in thy sand

Our dead containest. Nor, though her temples now

Serve a proud master, yet has Rome required

Pompeius’ ashes: in a foreign land1000

Still lies her chief. But though men feared at first

The victor’s vengeance, now at length receive

Thy Magnus’ bones, if still the restless wave

Hath not prevailed upon that hated shore.

Shall men have fear of tombs and dread to move

The dust of those who should be with the gods?

O, may my country place the crime on me,

If crime it be, to violate such a tomb

Of such a hero, and to bear his dust

Home to Ausonia. Happy, happy he1010

Who bears such holy office in his trust! 257

Haply when famine rages in the land

Or burning southern winds, or fires abound

And earthquake shocks, and Rome shall pray an end

From angry heaven — by the gods’ command,

In council given, shalt thou be transferred

To thine own city, and the priest shall bear

Thy sacred ashes to their last abode.

Who now may seek beneath the raging Crab

Or hot Syene’s waste, or Thebes athirst1020

Under the rainy Pleiades, to gaze

On Nile’s broad stream; or whose may exchange

On the Red Sea or in Arabian ports

Some Eastern merchandise, shall turn in awe

To view the venerable stone that marks

Thy grave, Pompeius; and shall worship more

Thy dust commingled with the arid sand,

Thy shade though exiled, than the fane upreared 258

On Casius’ mount to Jove! In temples shrined

And gold, thy memory were viler deemed:1030

Fortune lies with thee in thy lowly tomb

And makes thee rival of Olympus’ king.

More awful is that stone by Libyan seas

Lashed, than are Conquerors’ altars. There in earth

A deity rests to whom all men shall bow

More than to gods Tarpeian: and his name

Shall shine the brighter in the days to come

For that no marble tomb about him stands

Nor lofty monument. That little dust

Time shall soon scatter and the tomb shall fall1040

And all the proofs shall perish of his death.

And happier days shall come when men shall gaze

Upon the stone, nor yet believe the tale:

And Egypt’s fable, that she holds the grave

Of great Pompeius, be believed no more

Than Crete’s which boasts the sepulchre of Jove. 259

233 Comp. Book VI., line 407.

234 Comp. Book III., line 256.

235 Canopus is a star in Argo, invisible in Italy. (Haskins.)

236 Sextus.

237 Tetrarch of Galatia. He was always friendly to Rome, and in the civil war sided with Pompeius. He was at Pharsalia.

238 A Scythian people.

239 Pompeius seems to have induced the Roman public to believe that he had led his armies to such extreme distances, but he never in fact did so. — Mommsen, vol. iv. p. 147.

240 Juba was of supposed collateral descent from Hannibal. (Haskins, quoting “The Scholiast.”)

241 Confusing the Red Sea with the Persian Gulf.

242 Balkh of modern times. Bactria was one of the kingdoms established by the successors of Alexander the Great. It was, however, subdued by the Parthians about the middle of the third century B.C.

243 Dion could not believe it possible that Pompeius ever contemplated taking refuge in Parthia, but Plutarch states it as a fact; and says that it was Theophanes of Lesbos who dissuaded him from doing so. (“Pompeius”, 76). Mommsen (vol. iv., pp. 421–423) discusses the subject, and says that from Parthia only could Pompeius have attempted to seek support, and that such an attempt, putting the objections to it aside, would probably have failed. Lucan’s sympathies were probably with Lentulus.

244 Probably Lucius Lentulus Crus, who had been Consul, for B.C. 49, along with Caius Marcellus. (See Book V., 9.) He was murdered in Egypt by Ptolemy’s ministers.

245 That is, be as easily defended.

246 Thus rendered by Sir Thomas May, of the Long Parliament:

“Men used to sceptres are ashamed of nought:

The mildest governement a kingdome finds

Under new kings.”

247 That is, he reached the most eastern mouth of the Nile instead of the western.

248 At Memphis was the well in which the rise and fall of the water acted as a Nilometer (Mr. Haskins’s note).

249 Comp. Herodotus, Book iii. 27. Apis was a god who appeared at intervals in the shape of a calf with a white mark on his brow. His appearance was the occasion of general rejoicing. Cambyses slew the Apis which came in his time, and for this cause became mad, as the Egyptians said.

250 That is, by Achoreus, who had just spoken.

251 Compare Ben Jonson’s “Sejanus”, Act ii., Scene 2:—

The prince who shames a tyrant’s name to bear

Shall never dare do anything, but fear;

All the command of sceptres quite doth perish

If it begin religious thoughts to cherish;

Whole empires fall, swayed by these nice respects,

It is the licence of dark deeds protects

E’en states most hated, when no laws resist

The sword, but that it acteth what it list.”

252 He was drowned in attempting to escape in the battle on the Nile in the following autumn.

253 Dionysus. But this god, though brought up by the nymphs of Mount Nysa, was not supposed to have been buried there.

254 See Book VII., line 20.

255 This warning of the Sibyl is also alluded to by Cicero in a letter to P. Lentulus, Proconsul of Cilicia. (Mr. Haskins’ note. See also Mommsen, vol. iv., p. 305.) It seems to have been discovered in the Sibylline books at the time when it was desired to prevent Pompeius from interfering in the affairs of Egypt, in B.C. 57.

256 That is, by their weeping for Iris departure they treated him as a mortal and not as a god. Osiris was the soul of Apis (see on line 537), and when that animal grew old and unfit for the residence of Osiris the latter was thought to quit it. Then began the weeping. which continued until a new Apis appeared, selected, of course, by Osiris for his dwelling-place. Then they called out “We have found him, let us rejoice.” For a discussion on the Egyptian conception of Osiris, and Iris place in the theogony of that nation, see Hegel’s “Lectures on the Philosophy of History”: Chapter on Egypt.

257 It may be noted that the Emperor Hadrian raised a monument on the spot to the memory of Pompeius some sixty years after this was written (Durny’s ‘History of Rome,’ iii., 319). Plutarch states that Cornelia had the remains taken to Rome and interred in a mausoleum. Lucan, it may be supposed, knew nothing of this.

258 There was a temple to Jupiter on “Mount Casius old”.

259 The legend that Jove was buried in Crete is also mentioned by Cicero: “De Natura Deorum”, iii., 21.

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.)

Book x

Caesar in Egypt

Caesar visits the tomb of Alexander, 1-62. Cleopatra comes to Caesar and asks for protection, 63-131. Banquet, 132-205. Caesar questions Achoreus, 206-230. His reply upon the stars, the source of the Nile, and its course, 231-400. Pothinus stirs up Achillas to murder Caesar, 401-483. The troops are collected and Caesar is besieged in the palace, 484-612. Caesar occupies Pharos, 613-664; and the poem ends.

When Caesar, following those who bore the head,

First trod the shore accursed, with Egypt’s fates

His fortunes battled, whether Rome should pass

In crimson conquest o’er the guilty land,

Or Memphis’ arms should ravish from the world

Victor and vanquished: and the warning shade

Of Magnus saved his kinsman from the sword.

First, by the crime assured, his standards borne

Before, he marched upon the Pharian town;

But when the people, jealous of their laws,10

Murmured against the fasces, Caesar knew

Their minds were adverse, and that not for him

Was Magnus’ murder wrought. And yet with brow

Dissembling fear, intrepid, through the shrines

Of Egypt’s gods he strode, and round the fane

Of ancient Isis; bearing witness all

To Macedon’s vigour in the days of old.

Yet did nor gold nor ornament restrain

His hasting steps, nor worship of the gods,

Nor city ramparts: but in greed of gain20

He sought the cave dug out amid the tombs. 293

The madman offspring there of Philip lies

The famed Pellaean robber, fortune’s friend,

Snatched off by fate, avenging so the world.

In sacred sepulchre the hero’s limbs,

Which should be scattered o’er the earth, repose,

Still spared by Fortune to these tyrant days:

For in a world to freedom once recalled,

All men had mocked the dust of him who set

The baneful lesson that so many lands30

Can serve one master. Macedon he left

His home obscure; Athena he despised

The conquest of his sire, and spurred by fate

Through Asia rushed with havoc of mankind,

Plunging his sword through peoples; streams unknown

Ran red with Persian and with Indian blood.

Curse of all earth and thunderbolt of ill

To every nation! On the outer sea 294

He launched his fleet to sail the ocean wave:

Nor flame nor flood nor sterile Libyan sands40

Stayed back his course, nor Hammon’s pathless shoals;

Far to the west, where downward slopes the world

He would have led his armies, and the poles

Had compassed, and had drunk the fount of Nile:

But came his latest day; such end alone

Could nature place upon the madman king,

Who jealous in death as when he won the world

His empire with him took, nor left an heir.

Thus every city to the spoiler’s hand

Was victim made: Yet in his fall was his50

Babylon; and Parthia feared him. Shame on us

That eastern nations dreaded more the lance

Of Macedon than now the Roman spear.

True that we rule beyond where takes its rise

The burning southern breeze, beyond the homes

Of western winds, and to the northern star;

But towards the rising of the sun, we yield

To him who kept the Arsacids in awe;

And puny Pella held as province sure

The Parthia fatal to our Roman arms.60

Now from the stream Pelusian of the Nile,

Was come the boyish king, taming the rage

Of his effeminate people: pledge of peace;

And Caesar safely trod Pellaean halls;

When Cleopatra bribed her guard to break

The harbour chains, and borne in little boat

Within the Macedonian palace gates,

Caesar unknowing, entered: Egypt’s shame;

Fury of Latium; to the bane of Rome

Unchaste. For as the Spartan queen of yore70

By fatal beauty Argos urged to strife

And Ilium’s homes, so Cleopatra roused

Italia’s frenzy. By her drum 295 she called

Down on the Capitol terror (if to speak

Such word be lawful); mixed with Roman arms

Coward Canopus, hoping she might lead

A Pharian triumph, Caesar in her train;

And ’twas in doubt upon Leucadian 296 waves

Whether a woman, not of Roman blood,

Should hold the world in awe. Such lofty thoughts80

Seized on her soul upon that night in which

The wanton daughter of Pellaean kings

First shared our leaders’ couches. Who shall blame

Antonius for the madness of his love,

When Caesar’s haughty breast drew in the flame?

Who red with carnage, ‘mid the clash of arms,

In palace haunted by Pompeius’ shade,

Gave place to love; and in adulterous bed,

Magnus forgotten, from the Queen impure,

To Julia gave a brother: on the bounds,90

Of furthest Libya permitting thus

His foe to gather: he in dalliance base

Waited upon his mistress, and to her

Pharos would give, for her would conquer all.

Then Cleopatra, trusting to her charms,

Tearless approached him, though in form of grief;

Her tresses loose as though in sorrow torn,

So best becoming her; and thus began:

“If, mighty Caesar, aught to noble birth

Be due, give ear. Of Lagian race am I100

Offspring illustrious; from my father’s throne

Cast forth to banishment; unless thy hand

Restore to me the sceptre: then a Queen

Falls at thy feet embracing. To our race

Bright star of justice thou! Nor first shall I

As woman rule the cities of the Nile;

For, neither sex preferring, Pharos bows

To queenly governance. Of my parted sire

Read the last words, by which ’tis mine to share

With equal rights the kingdom and the bed.110

And loves the boy his sister, were he free;

But his affections and his sword alike

Pothinus orders. Nor wish I myself

To wield my father’s power; but this my prayer:

Save from this foul disgrace our royal house,

Bid that the king shall reign, and from the court

Remove this hateful varlet, and his arms.

How swells his bosom for that his the hand

That shore Pompeius’ head! And now he threats

Thee, Caesar, also; which the Fates avert!120

’Twas shame enough upon the earth and thee

That of Pothinus Magnus should have been

The guilt or merit.”

Caesar’s ears in vain

Had she implored, but aided by her charms

The wanton’s prayers prevailed, and by a night

Of shame ineffable, passed with her judge,

She won his favour.

When between the pair 297

Caesar had made a peace, by costliest gifts130

Purchased, a banquet of such glad event

Made fit memorial; and with pomp the Queen

Displayed her luxuries, as yet unknown

To Roman fashions. First uprose the hall

Like to a fane which this corrupted age

Could scarcely rear: the lofty ceiling shone

With richest tracery, the beams were bound

In golden coverings; no scant veneer

Lay on its walls, but built in solid blocks

Of marble, gleamed the palace. Agate stood140

In sturdy columns, bearing up the roof;

Onyx and porphyry on the spacious floor

Were trodden ‘neath the foot; the mighty gates

Of Maroe’s throughout were formed,

He mere adornment; ivory clothed the hall,

And fixed upon the doors with labour rare

Shells of the tortoise gleamed, from Indian seas,

With frequent emeralds studded. Gems of price

And yellow jasper on the couches shone.

Lustrous the coverlets; the major part150

Dipped more than once within the vats of Tyre

Had drunk their juice: part feathered as with gold;

Part crimson dyed, in manner as are passed

Through Pharian leash the threads. There waited slaves

In number as a people, some in ranks

By different blood distinguished, some by age;

This band with Libyan, that with auburn hair

Red so that Caesar on the banks of Rhine

None such had witnessed; some with features scorched

By torrid suns, their locks in twisted coils160

Drawn from their foreheads. Eunuchs too were there,

Unhappy race; and on the other side

Men of full age whose cheeks with growth of hair

Were hardly darkened.

Upon either hand

Lay kings, and Caesar in the midst supreme.

There in her fatal beauty lay the Queen

Thick daubed with unguents, nor with throne content

Nor with her brother spouse; laden she lay

On neck and hair with all the Red Sea spoils,170

And faint beneath the weight of gems and gold.

Her snowy breast shone through Sidonian lawn

Which woven close by shuttles of the east

The art of Nile had loosened. Ivory feet

Bore citron tables brought from woods that wave 298

On Atlas, such as Caesar never saw

When Juba was his captive. Blind in soul

By madness of ambition, thus to fire

By such profusion of her wealth, the mind

Of Caesar armed, her guest in civil war!180

Not though he aimed with pitiless hand to grasp

The riches of a world; not though were here

Those ancient leaders of the simple age,

Fabricius or Curius stern of soul,

Or he who, Consul, left in sordid garb

His Tuscan plough, could all their several hopes

Have risen to such spoil. On plates of gold

They piled the banquet sought in earth and air

And from the deepest seas and Nilus’ waves,

Through all the world; in craving for display,190

No hunger urging. Frequent birds and beasts,

Egypt’s high gods, they placed upon the board:

In crystal goblets water of the Nile

They handed, and in massive cups of price

Was poured the wine; no juice of Mareot grape 299

But noble vintage of Falernian growth

Which in few years in Meroe’s vats had foamed,

(For such the clime) to ripeness. On their brows

Chaplets were placed of roses ever young

With glistening nard entwined; and in their locks200

Was cinnamon infused, not yet in air

Its fragrance perished, nor in foreign climes;

And rich amomum from the neighbouring fields.

Thus Caesar learned the booty of a world

To lavish, and his breast was shamed of war

Waged with his son-in-law for meagre spoil,

And with the Pharian realm he longed to find

A cause of battle.

When of wine and feast

They wearied and their pleasure found an end,210

Caesar drew out in colloquy the night

Thus with Achoreus, on the highest couch

With linen ephod as a priest begirt:

“O thou devoted to all sacred rites,

Loved by the gods, as proves thy length of days,

Tell, if thou wilt, whence sprang the Pharian race;

How lie their lands, the manners of their tribes,

The form and worship of their deities.

Expound the sculptures on your ancient fanes:

Reveal your gods if willing to be known:220

If to th’ Athenian sage your fathers taught

Their mysteries, who worthier than I

To bear in trust the secrets of the world?

True, by the rumour of my kinsman’s flight

Here was I drawn; yet also by your fame:

And even in the midst of war’s alarms

The stars and heavenly spaces have I conned;

Nor shall Eudoxus’ year 300 excel mine own.

But though such ardour burns within my breast,

Such zeal to know the truth, yet my chief wish230

To learn the source of your mysterious flood

Through ages hidden: give me certain hope

To see the fount of Nile — and civil war

Then shall I leave.”

He spake, and then the priest:

“The secrets, Caesar, of our mighty sires 301

Kept from the common people until now

I hold it right to utter. Some may deem

That silence on these wonders of the earth

Were greater piety. But to the gods240

I hold it grateful that their handiwork

And sacred edicts should be known to men.

“A different power by the primal law,

Each star possesses: 302 these alone control

The movement of the sky, with adverse force

Opposing: while the sun divides the year,

And day from night, and by his potent rays

Forbids the stars to pass their stated course.

The moon by her alternate phases sets

The varying limits of the sea and shore.250

‘Neath Saturn’s sway the zone of ice and snow

Has passed; while Mars in lightning’s fitful flames

And winds abounds’ beneath high Jupiter

Unvexed by storms abides a temperate air;

And fruitful Venus’ star contains the seeds

Of all things. Ruler of the boundless deep

The god 303 Cyllenian: whene’er he holds

That part of heaven where the Lion dwells

With neighbouring Cancer joined, and Sirius star

Flames in its fury; where the circular path260

(Which marks the changes of the varying year)

Gives to hot Cancer and to Capricorn

Their several stations, under which doth lie

The fount of Nile, he, master of the waves,

Strikes with his beam the waters. Forth the stream

Brims from his fount, as Ocean when the moon

Commands an increase; nor shall curb his flow

Till night wins back her losses from the sun. 304

“Vain is the ancient faith that Ethiop snows 305

Send Nile abundant forth upon the lands.270

Those mountains know nor northern wind nor star.

Of this are proof the breezes of the South,

Fraught with warm vapours, and the people’s hue

Burned dark by suns: and ’tis in time of spring,

When first are thawed the snows, that ice-fed streams

In swollen torrents tumble; but the Nile

Nor lifts his wave before the Dog star burns;

Nor seeks again his banks, until the sun

In equal balance measures night and day.

Nor are the laws that govern other streams280

Obeyed by Nile. For in the wintry year

Were he in flood, when distant far the sun,

His waters lacked their office; but he leaves

His channel when the summer is at height,

Tempering the torrid heat of Egypt’s clime.

Such is the task of Nile; thus in the world

He finds his purpose, lest exceeding heat

Consume the lands: and rising thus to meet

Enkindled Lion, to Syene’s prayers

By Cancer burnt gives ear; nor curbs his wave290

Till the slant sun and Meroe’s lengthening shades

Proclaim the autumn. Who shall give the cause?

’Twas Parent Nature’s self which gave command

Thus for the needs of earth should flow the Nile.

“Vain too the fable that the western winds 306

Control his current, in continuous course

At stated seasons governing the air;

Or hurrying from Occident to South

Clouds without number which in misty folds

Press on the waters; or by constant blast,300

Forcing his current back whose several mouths

Burst on the sea; — so, forced by seas and wind,

Men say, his billows pour upon the land.

Some speak of hollow caverns, breathing holes

Deep in the earth, within whose mighty jaws

Waters in noiseless current underneath

From northern cold to southern climes are drawn:

And when hot Meroe pants beneath the sun,

Then, say they, Ganges through the silent depths

And Padus pass: and from a single fount310

The Nile arising not in single streams

Pours all the rivers forth. And rumour says

That when the sea which girdles in the world 307

O’erflows, thence rushes Nile, by lengthy course,

Softening his saltness. More, if it be true

That ocean feeds the sun and heavenly fires,

Then Phoebus journeying by the burning Crab

Sucks from its waters more than air can hold

Upon his passage — this the cool of night

Pours on the Nile.320

“If, Caesar, ’tis my part

To judge such difference, ‘twould seem that since

Creation’s age has passed, earth’s veins by chance

Some waters hold, and shaken cast them forth:

But others took when first the globe was formed

A sure abode; by Him who framed the world

Fixed with the Universe.

“And, Roman, thou,

In thirsting thus to know the source of Nile

Dost as the Pharian and Persian kings330

And those of Macedon; nor any age

Refused the secret, but the place prevailed

Remote by nature. Greatest of the kings

By Memphis worshipped, Alexander grudged 308

To Nile its mystery, and to furthest earth

Sent chosen Ethiops whom the crimson zone

Stayed in their further march, while flowed his stream

Warm at their feet. Sesostris 309 westward far

Reached, to the ends of earth; and necks of kings

Bent ‘neath his chariot yoke: but of the springs340

Which fill your rivers, Rhone and Po, he drank.

Not of the fount of Nile. Cambyses king

In madman quest led forth his host to where

The long-lived races dwell: then famine struck,

Ate of his dead 310 and, Nile unknown, returned.

No lying rumour of thy hidden source

Has e’er made mention; wheresoe’er thou art

Yet art thou sought, nor yet has nation claimed

In pride of place thy river as its own.

Yet shall I tell, so far as has the god,350

Who veils thy fountain, given me to know.

Thy progress. Daring to upraise thy banks

‘Gainst fiery Cancer’s heat, thou tak’st thy rise

Beneath the zenith: straight towards the north

And mid Bootes flowing; to the couch

Bending, or to the risings, of the sun

In sinuous bends alternate; just alike

To Araby’s peoples and to Libyan sands.

By Seres 311 first beheld, yet know they not

Whence art thou come; and with no native stream360

Strik’st thou the Ethiop fields. Nor knows the world

To whom it owes thee. Nature ne’er revealed

Thy secret origin, removed afar.

Nor did she wish thee to be seen of men

While still a tiny rivulet, but preferred

Their wonder to their knowledge. Where the sun

Stays at his limit, dost thou rise in flood

Untimely; such try right: to other lands

Bearing try winter: and by both the poles

Thou only wanderest. Here men ask thy rise370

And there thine ending. Meroe rich in soil

And tilled by swarthy husbandmen divides

Thy broad expanse, rejoicing in the leaves

Of groves of ebony, which though spreading far

Their branching foliage, by no breadth of shade

Soften the summer sun — whose rays direct

Pass from the Lion to the fervid earth. 312

Next dost thou journey onwards past the realm

Of burning Phoebus, and the sterile sands,

With equal volume; now with all thy strength380

Gathered in one, and now in devious streams

Parting the bank that crumbles at thy touch.

Then by our kingdom’s gates, where Philae parts

Arabian peoples from Egyptian fields

The sluggish bosom of thy flood recalls

Try wandering currents, which through desert wastes

Flow gently on to where the merchant track

Divides the Red Sea waters from our own.

Who, gazing, Nile, upon thy tranquil flow,

Could picture how in wild array of foam390

(Where shelves the earth) thy billows shall be plunged

Down the steep cataracts, in fuming wrath

That rocks should bar the passage of thy stream

Free from its source? For whirled on high the spray

Aims at the stars, and trembles all the air

With rush of waters; and with sounding roar

The foaming mass down from the summit pours

In hoary waves victorious. Next an isle

In all our ancient lore “untrodden” named

Stems firm thy torrent; and the rocks we call400

Springs of the river, for that here are marked

The earliest tokens of the coming flood.

With mountain shores now nature hems thee in

And shuts thy waves from Libya; in the midst

Hence do thy waters run, till Memphis first

Forbids the barrier placed upon thy stream

And gives thee access to the open fields.”

Thus did they pass, as though in peace profound,

The nightly watches. But Pothinus’ mind,

Once with accursed butchery imbued,410

Was frenzied still; since great Pompeius fell

No deed to him was crime; his rabid soul

Th’ avenging goddesses and Magnus’ shade

Stirred to fresh horrors; and a Pharian hand

No less was worthy, as he deemed, to shed

That blood which Fortune purposed should bedew

The conquered fathers: and the fell revenge

Due to the senate for the civil war

This hireling almost snatched. Avert, ye fates,

Far hence the shame that not by Brutus’ hand420

This blow be struck! Shall thus the tyrant’s fall

Just at our hands, become a Pharian crime,

Reft of example? To prepare a plan

(Fated to fail) he dares; nor veils in fraud

A plot for murder, but with open war

Attacks th’ unconquered chieftain: from his crimes

He gained such courage as to send command

To lop the head of Caesar, and to join

In death the kinsmen chiefs.

These words by night430

His faithful servants to Achillas bear,

His foul associate, whom the boy had made

Chief of his armies, and who ruled alone

O’er Egypt’s land and o’er himself her king:

“Now lay thy limbs upon the sumptuous couch

And sleep in luxury, for the Queen hath seized

The palace; nor alone by her betrayed,

But Caesar’s gift, is Pharos. Dost delay

Nor hasten to the chamber of thy Queen?

Thou only? Married to the Latian chief,440

The impious sister now her brother weds

And hurrying from rival spouse to spouse

Hath Egypt won, and plays the bawd for Rome.

By amorous potions she has won the man:

Then trust the boy! Yet give him but a night

In her enfondling arms, and drunk with love

Thy life and mine he’ll barter for a kiss.

We for his sister’s charms by cross and flame

Shall pay the penalty: nor hope of aid;

Here stands adulterous Caesar, here the King450

Her spouse: how hope we from so stern a judge

To gain acquittal? Shall she not condemn

Those who ne’er sought her favours? By the deed

We dared together and lost, by Magnus’ blood

Which wrought the bond between us, be thou swift

With hasty tumult to arouse the war:

Dash in with nightly band, and mar with death

Their shameless nuptials: on the very bed

With either lover smite the ruthless Queen.

Nor let the fortunes of the Western chief460

Make pause our enterprise. We share with him

The glory of his empire o’er the world.

Pompeius fallen makes us too sublime.

There lies the shore that bids us hope success:

Ask of our power from the polluted wave,

And gaze upon the scanty tomb which holds

Not all Pompeius’ ashes. Peer to him

Was he whom now thou fearest. Noble blood

True, is not ours: what boots it? Nor are realms

Nor wealth of peoples given to our command.470

Yet have we risen to a height of power

For deeds of blood, and Fortune to our hands

Attracts her victims. Lo! a nobler now

Lies in our compass, and a second death

Hesperia shall appease; for Caesar’s blood,

Shed by these hands, shall give us this, that Rome

Shall love us, guilty of Pompeius’ fall.

Why fear these titles, why this chieftain’s strength?

For shorn of these, before your swords he lies

A common soldier. To the civil war480

This night shall bring completion, and shall give

To peoples slain fit offerings, and send

That life the world demands beneath the shades.

Rise then in all your hardihood and smite

This Caesar down, and let the Roman youths

Strike for themselves, and Lagos for its King.

Nor do thou tarry: full of wine and feast

Thou’lt fall upon him in the lists of love;

Then dare the venture, and the heavenly gods

Shall grant of Cato’s and of Brutus’ prayers490

To thee fulfilment.”

Nor was Achillas slow

To hear the voice that counselled him to crime.

No sounding clarion summoned, as is wont,

His troops to arms; nor trumpet blare betrayed

Their nightly march: but rapidly he seized

All needed instruments of blood and war.

Of Latian race the most part of his train,

Yet to barbarian customs were their minds

By long forgetfulness of Rome debased:500

Else had it shamed to serve the Pharian King;

But now his vassal and his minion’s word

Compel obedience. Those who serve in camps

Lose faith and love of kin: their pittance earned 313

Makes just the deed: and for their sordid pay,

Not for themselves, they threaten Caesar’s life.

Where finds the piteous destiny of the realm

Rome with herself at peace? The host withdrawn

From dread Thessalia raves on Nilus’ banks

As all the race of Rome. What more had dared,510

With Magnus welcomed, the Lagean house?

Each hand must render to the gods their due,

Nor son of Rome may cease from civil war;

By Heaven’s command our state was rent in twain;

Nor love for husband nor regard for sire

Parted our peoples. ’Twas a slave who stirred

Afresh the conflict, and Achillas grasped

In turn the sword of Rome: nay more, had won,

Had not the fates adverse restrained his hand

From Caesar’s slaughter.520

For the murderous pair

Ripe for their plot were met; the spacious hall

Still busied with the feast. So might have flowed

Into the kingly cups a stream of gore,

And in mid banquet fallen Caesar’s head.

Yet did they fear lest in the nightly strife

(The fates permitting) some incautious hand —

So did they trust the sword — might slay the King.

Thus stayed the deed, for in the minds of slaves

The chance of doing Caesar to the death530

Might bear postponement: when the day arose

Then should he suffer; and a night of life

Thus by Pothinus was to Caesar given.

Now from the Casian rock looked forth the Sun

Flooding the land of Egypt with a day

Warm from its earliest dawn, when from the walls

Not wandering in disorder are they seen,

But drown in close array, as though to meet

A foe opposing; ready to receive

Or give the battle. Caesar, in the town540

Placing no trust, within the palace courts

Lay in ignoble hiding place, the gates

Close barred: nor all the kingly rooms possessed,

But in the narrowest portion of the space

He drew his band together. There in arms

They stood, with dread and fury in their souls.

He feared attack, indignant at his fear.

Thus will a noble beast in little cage

Imprisoned, fume, and break upon the bars

His teeth in frenzied wrath; nor more would rage550

The flames of Vulcan in Sicilian depths

Should Etna’s top be closed. He who but now

By Haemus’ mount against Pompeius chief,

Italia’s leaders and the Senate line,

His cause forbidding hope, looked at the fates

He knew were hostile, with unfaltering gaze,

Now fears before the crime of hireling slaves,

And in mid palace trembles at the blow:

He whom nor Scythian nor Alaun 314 had dared

To violate, nor the Moor who aims the dart560

Upon his victim slain, to prove his skill.

The Roman world but now did not suffice

To hold him, nor the realms from furthest Ind

To Tyrian Gades. Now, as puny boy,

Or woman, trembling when a town is sacked,

Within the narrow corners of a house

He seeks for safety; on the portals closed

His hope of life; and with uncertain gait

He treads the hails; yet not without the King;

In purpose, Ptolemaeus, that thy life570

For his shall give atonement; and to hurl

Thy severed head among the servant throng

Should darts and torches fail. So story tells

The Colchian princess 315 with sword in hand,

And with her brother’s neck bared to the blow,

Waited her sire, avenger of his realm

Despoiled, and of her flight. In the imminent risk

Caesar, in hopes of peace, an envoy sent

To the fierce vassals, from their absent lord

Bearing a message, thus: “At whose command580

Wage ye the war?” But not the laws which bind

All nations upon earth, nor sacred rights,

Availed to save or messenger of peace,

Or King’s ambassador; or thee from crime

Such as befitted thee, thou land of Nile

Fruitful in monstrous deeds: not Juba’s realm

Vast though it be, nor Pontus, nor the land

Thessalian, nor the arms of Pharnaces,

Nor yet the tracts which chill Iberus girds,

Nor Libyan coasts such wickedness have dared,590

As thou, with all thy luxuries. Closer now

War hemmed them in, and weapons in the courts,

Shaking the innermost recesses, fell.

Yet did no ram, fatal with single stroke,

Assail the portal, nor machine of war;

Nor flame they called in aid; but blind of plan

They wander purposeless, in separate bands

Around the circuit, nor at any spot

With strength combined attempt to breach the wall.

The fates forbad, and Fortune from their hands600

Held fast the palace as a battlement.

Nor failed they to attack from ships of war

The regal dwelling, where its frontage bold

Made stand apart the waters of the deep:

There, too, was Caesar’s all-protecting arm;

For these at point of sword, and those with fire 316

He forces back, and though besieged he dares

To storm th’ assailants: and as lay the ships

Joined rank to rank, bids drop upon their sides

Lamps drenched with reeking tar. Nor slow the fire610

To seize the hempen cables and the decks

Oozing with melting pitch; the oarsman’s bench

All in one moment, and the topmost yards

Burst into flame: half merged the vessels lay

While swam the foemen, all in arms, the wave;

Nor fell the blaze upon the ships alone,

But seized with writhing tongues the neighbouring homes,

And fanned to fury by the Southern breeze

Tempestuous, it leaped from roof to roof;

Not otherwise than on its heavenly track,620

Unfed by matter, glides the ball of light,

By air alone aflame.

This pest recalled

Some of the forces to the city’s aid

From the besieged halls. Nor Caesar gave

To sleep its season; swifter than all else

To seize the crucial moment of the war.

Quick in the darkest watches of the night

He leaped upon his ships, and Pharos 317 seized,

Gate of the main; an island in the days630

Of Proteus seer, now bordering the walls

Of Alexander’s city. Thus he gained

A double vantage, for his foes were pent

Within the narrow entrance, which for him

And for his aids gave access to the sea.

Nor longer was Pothinus’ doom delayed,

Yet not with cross or flame, nor with the wrath

His crime demanded; nor by savage beasts

Torn, did he suffer; but by Magnus’ death,

Alas the shame! he fell; his head by sword640

Hacked from his shoulders. Next by frauds prepared

By Ganymede her base attendant, fled

Arsinoe 318 from the Court to Caesar’s foes;

There in the absence of the King she ruled

As of Lagean blood: there at her hands,

The savage minion of the tyrant boy,

Achillas, fell by just avenging sword.

Thus did another victim to thy shade

Atone, Pompeius; but the gods forbid

That this be all thy vengeance! Not the king650

Nor all the stock of Lagos for thy death

Would make fit sacrifice! So Fortune deemed;

And not till patriot swords shall drink the blood

Of Caesar, Magnus, shalt thou be appeased.

Still, though was slain the author of the strife,

Sank not their rage: with Ganymede for chief

Again they rush to arms; in deeds of fight

Again they conquer. So might that one day

Have witnessed Caesar’s fate; so might its fame

Have lived through ages.660

As the Roman Chief,

Crushed on the narrow surface of the mole,

Prepared to throw his troops upon the ships,

Sudden upon him the surrounding foes

With all their terrors came. In dense array

Their navy lined the shores, while on the rear

The footmen ceaseless charged. No hope was left,

For flight was not, nor could the brave man’s arm

Achieve or safety or a glorious death.

Not now were needed for great Caesar’s fall,670

Caught in the toils of nature, routed host

Or mighty heaps of slain: his only doubt

To fear or hope for death: while on his brain

Brave Scaeva’s image flashed, now vainly sought,

Who on the wall by Epidamnus’ fields

Earned fame immortal, and with single arm

Drove back Pompeius as he trod the breach. . . .

293 The body of Alexander was embalmed, and the mummy placed in a glass case. The sarcophagus which enclosed them is stated to be now in the British Museum.

294 See Book III., 268.

295 The kettledrum used in the worship of Isis. (See Book VIII, line 974.)

296 At the Battle of Actium. The island of Leucas, close to the promontory of Actium, is always named by Lucan when he refers to this battle. (See also Virgil, “Aeneid”, viii., 677.)

297 Between Cleopatra and her brother.

298 See Book IX., 507.

299 Yet the Mareot grape was greatly celebrated. (See Professor Rawlinson’s note to Herodotus. ii., 18.)

300 The calendar introduced by Caesar, in B.C. 45, was founded on the Egyptian or solar year. (See Herodotus, ii., 4.) Eudoxus seems to have dealt with this year and to have corrected it. He is probably alluded to by Virgil, “Eclogue” iii., 41.

301 Herodotus was less fortunate. For he says “Concerning the nature of the river I was not able to gain any information either from the priests or others.” (ii., 19.)

302 It was supposed that the Sun and Moon and the planets (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Venus) were points which restrained the motion of the sky in its revolution. (See Book VI., 576.)

303 Mercury. (See Book IX., 777.)

304 That is, at the autumnal equinox. The priest states that the planet Mercury causes the rise of the Nile. The passage is difficult to follow; but the idea would seem to be that this god, who controlled the rise and fall of the waves of the sea, also when he was placed directly over the Nile caused the rise of that river.

305 So also Herodotus, Book ii., 22. Yet modern discoveries have proved the snows.

306 So, too, Herodotus, Book ii., 20, who attributes the theory to Greeks who wish to get a reputation for cleverness.

307 See on Book V., 709. Herodotus mentions this theory also, to dismiss it.

308 The historians state that Alexander made an expedition to the temple of Jupiter Hammon and consulted the oracle. Jupiter assisted his march, and an army of crows pointed out the path (Plutarch). It is, however stated, in a note in Langhorne’s edition, that Maximus Tyrius informs us that the object of the journey was the discovery of the sources of the Nile.

309 Sesostris, the great king, does not appear to have pushed his conquests to the west of Europe.

310 See Herodotus, iii., 17. These Ethiopian races were supposed to live to the age of 120 years, drinking milk, and eating boiled flesh. On Cambyses’s march his starving troops cast lots by tens for the one man who was to be eaten.

311 The Seres are, of course, the Chinese. The ancients seem to have thought that the Nile came from the east. But it is possible that there was another tribe of this name dwelling in Africa.

312 A passage of difficulty. I understand it to mean that at this spot the summer sun (in Leo) strikes the earth with direct rays.

313 Reading “ibi fas ubi proxima merees”, with Hosius.

314 See Book VIII., 253.

315 Medea, who fled from Colchis with her brother, Absyrtus. Pursued by her father Aeetes, she killed her brother and strewed the parts of his body into the sea. The king paused to collect them.

316 It was in this conflagration that a large part of the library of the Ptolemies was destroyed. 400,000 volumes are stated to have perished.

317 The island of Pharos, which lay over against the port of Alexandria, had been connected with the mainland in the middle by a narrow causeway. On it stood the lighthouse. (See Book IX, 1191.) Proteus, the old man of the sea, kept here his flock of seals, according to the Homeric story. (“Odyssey”, Book IV, 400.)

318 Younger sister of Cleopatra.

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