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, Rose through the gaping earth, and from her tomb Erect, 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 Which by the ferryman of the flaming stream Were made to bear thy dead: while Hell itself 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. Through wars and oceans let her cling to thee So long as I may break thy nightly rest: 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, 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, 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 peace 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'erwhelmed 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 wind 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, 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 car 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 Where reigns the Scythian goddess, and the path By which men bear the fasces to the feast 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 chief 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. 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 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 rose 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 voice 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, 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 guilt 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 far 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, 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 ills 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 centuries 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, 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 bore from distant Cyprus home; And last, the riches torn from captive kings 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 meads By Dirce laved, and where Cephisus rolls Gifted with fateful power his stream along: And where Alpheus, who beyond the sea 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 prove 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, join the host; and those Who till Penean fields and turn the share Above Iolcos in Thessalian lands.' There first men steeled their hearts to dare the waves 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; 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, and the vengeance of the god, 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 came 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 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 priests 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 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 give The remnant of their days in flame to heaven.
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. 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 fount 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; while Scythia's hordes Dipped fresh their darts in poison, whom the stream Of Bactros bounds and vast Hyrcanian woods. Hence springs that rugged nation swift and fierce, Descended from the Twins' great charioteer. 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 strait 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, The Persian told the number of his host; Nor when th' avenger 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 meets 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 manhood with un-Grecian faith Held to their pledged obedience, and dared To follow right not fate; but first of all 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 strife 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. 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 Than those which custom and the gods allow. For us, this is our prayer: Leave, Caesar, here 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 fatherland 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; 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; 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 hope 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, disarmed 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 walls 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 sea 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 stay 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 Its chill recesses; matted boughs entwined Prisoned the air within. No sylvan nymphs 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 streams 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 spot 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. 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, 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, 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 forced 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 rock 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 bolts 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, 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, 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 dust 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 isles Named Stoechades, and Brutus 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 part 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, 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 darts 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 flight 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. 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 stream 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 keels 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: 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, 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, 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 advanced 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 ship 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 flowed As from a wound the blood; but all his veins 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), 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 bones 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, 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; 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 plank 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.
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, 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 passed 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 part 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 stir 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 asks 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 Outlive thy parent.' Thus he spake, and seized 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, 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.
Pharsalia - Book IX: Cato
- by Marcus Annaeus Lucanus35
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 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 soul 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. 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 cause 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 foe 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 breeze 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 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, 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 place 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 hand 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 heart 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 more 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: '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 will 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 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 end 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, 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, 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 land 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, 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. '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? 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; 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. 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. 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 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-tide 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: 'Gone is a citizen who though no peer 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 gifts 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 And venerated: to his native Rome He wrought much good. True faith in liberty 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. 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 chief 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, 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 defeat 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 fled 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, 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 -- 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 spurn This gift of Ptolemaeus. 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, 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 swarm 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.
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 form 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 old 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 plain 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 tide 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 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, 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 All seas and shores re-echo; 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 brink 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 growth 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 stayed the fleet, nor further dared In Garamantian waves. But Cato's soul 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 fall 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 soul 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 me 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 breast 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, if fame we trust, 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 East 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, 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. 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 sand 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 fell 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 amazed 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 walls 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 heaven 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 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 frames 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 guide 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 helm 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.
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 poor 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 height 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 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 Capricorn 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 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 course 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: 'Chance,' he said, 'to us The voice and counsel of this mighty god Has offered as we march; from such a guide 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 war 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? 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 all 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, 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. 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 war 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, or break The proud Jugurtha. 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 clime 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 tooth 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.
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 brood 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 soul 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, Her sisters. She could threat the sea and sky With deadly calm unknown, and from the world 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 head 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 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 command 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 face 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. 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 track There burns the soil, and loftiest on the sky 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 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' blood 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 marble; horned snakes With spines contorted: like to torrid sand Ammodytes, of hue invisible: Sole of all serpents Scytale to shed 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 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, Baneful ere darts his poison, Basilisk 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.
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 fire 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 slake 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 yet 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. 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 chest 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 pyre 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 face 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 bulk 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, (As from a statue saffron spray is showered In every part) there spouted forth for blood 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 kill 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, 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 erect He won the glory of Orion slain; So bear the stars their witness. And who would fear Thy haunts, Salpuga? 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 night 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 seek 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, 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 voice 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 skies 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 fate 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, 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 Jove 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.
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 centaury 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. 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 wound 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. Twice veiled the moon her light and twice renewed; Yet still, with waning or with growing orb 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: And passed a winter free from heat and rain.
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 Took from the rolling waves their former name. 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 old 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 cave 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, '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 song 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 past Mysterious Pallas, 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, 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, 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, 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 blood 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 deed 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 knew 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: 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 given 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, 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 king 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 be 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; 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 hear 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 prize 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.
Poems by Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, Marcus Annaeus Lucanus's poems collection. Marcus Annaeus Lucanus is a classical and famous poet (39 - 65 / Italy). Share all poems of Marcus Annaeus Lucanus.