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Medieval and Classical Library

(aka "The Civil War")

The Flight of Pompeius

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #16b

     This was made plain the anger of the gods;
     The universe gave signs Nature reversed
     In monstrous tumult fraught with prodigies
     Her laws, and prescient spake the coming guilt.

     How seemed it just to thee, Olympus' king,
     That suffering mortals at thy doom should know
     By omens dire the massacre to come?
     Or did the primal parent of the world
     When first the flames gave way and yielding left
10   Matter unformed to his subduing hand,
     And realms unbalanced, fix by stern decree'
     Unalterable laws to bind the whole
     (Himself, too, bound by law), so that for aye
     All Nature moves within its fated bounds?
     Or, is Chance sovereign over all, and we
     The sport of Fortune and her turning wheel?
     Whate'er be truth, keep thou the future veiled
     From mortal vision, and amid their fears
     May men still hope.

                         Thus known how great the woes
20   The world should suffer, from the truth divine,
     A solemn fast was called, the courts were closed,
     All men in private garb; no purple hem
     Adorned the togas of the chiefs of Rome;
     No plaints were uttered, and a voiceless grief
     Lay deep in every bosom: as when death
     Knocks at some door but enters not as yet,
     Before the mother calls the name aloud
     Or bids her grieving maidens beat the breast,
     While still she marks the glazing eye, and soothes
30   The stiffening limbs and gazes on the face,
     In nameless dread, not sorrow, and in awe
     Of death approaching: and with mind distraught
     Clings to the dying in a last embrace.

     The matrons laid aside their wonted garb:
     Crowds filled the temples -- on the unpitying stones
     Some dashed their bosoms; others bathed with tears
     The statues of the gods; some tore their hair
     Upon the holy threshold, and with shrieks
     And vows unceasing called upon the names
40   Of those whom mortals supplicate.  Nor all
     Lay in the Thunderer's fane: at every shrine
     Some prayers are offered which refused shall bring
     Reproach on heaven.  One whose livid arms
     Were dark with blows, whose cheeks with tears bedewed
     And riven, cried, "Beat, mothers, beat the breast,
     Tear now the lock; while doubtful in the scales
     Still fortune hangs, nor yet the fight is won,
     You still may grieve: when either wins rejoice."
     Thus sorrow stirs itself.

                              Meanwhile the men
50   Seeking the camp and setting forth to war,
     Address the cruel gods in just complaint.
     "Happy the youths who born in Punic days
     On Cannae's uplands or by Trebia's stream
     Fought and were slain!  What wretched lot is ours!
     No peace we ask for: let the nations rage;
     Rouse fiercest cities!  may the world find arms
     To wage a war with Rome: let Parthian hosts
     Rush forth from Susa; Scythian Ister curb
     No more the Massagete: unconquered Rhine
60   Let loose from furthest North her fair-haired tribes:
     Elbe, pour thy Suevians forth!  Let us be foes
     Of all the peoples.  May the Getan press
     Here, and the Dacian there; Pompeius meet
     The Eastern archers, Caesar in the West
     Confront th' Iberian.  Leave to Rome no hand
     To raise against herself in civil strife.
     Or, if Italia by the gods be doomed,
     Let all the sky, fierce Parent, be dissolved
     And falling on the earth in flaming bolts,
70   Their hands still bloodless, strike both leaders down,
     With both their hosts!  Why plunge in novel crime
     To settle which of them shall rule in Rome?
     Scarce were it worth the price of civil war
     To hinder either."  Thus the patriot voice
     Still found an utterance, soon to speak no more.

     Meantime, the aged fathers o'er their fates
     In anguish grieved, detesting life prolonged
     That brought with it another civil war.
     And thus spake one, to justify his fears:
80   "No other deeds the fates laid up in store
     When Marius (1), victor over Teuton hosts,
     Afric's high conqueror, cast out from Rome,
     Lay hid in marshy ooze, at thy behest,
     O Fortune!  by the yielding soil concealed
     And waving rushes; but ere long the chains
     Of prison wore his weak and aged frame,
     And lengthened squalor: thus he paid for crime
     His punishment beforehand; doomed to die
     Consul in triumph over wasted Rome.
90   Death oft refused him; and the very foe,
     In act to murder, shuddered in the stroke
     And dropped the weapon from his nerveless hand.
     For through the prison gloom a flame of light
     He saw; the deities of crime abhorred;
     The Marius to come.  A voice proclaimed
     Mysterious, `Hold!  the fates permit thee not
     That neck to sever.  Many a death he owes
     To time's predestined laws ere his shall come;
     Cease from thy madness.  If ye seek revenge
100  For all the blood shed by your slaughtered tribes to
     Let this man, Cimbrians, live out all his days.'
     Not as their darling did the gods protect
     The man of blood, but for his ruthless hand
     Fit to prepare that sacrifice of gore
     Which fate demanded.  By the sea's despite
     Borne to our foes, Jugurtha's wasted realm
     He saw, now conquered; there in squalid huts
     Awhile he lay, and trod the hostile dust
     Of Carthage, and his ruin matched with hers:
110  Each from the other's fate some solace drew,
     And prostrate, pardoned heaven.  On Libyan soil (2)
     Fresh fury gathering (3), next, when Fortune smiled
     The prisons he threw wide and freed the slaves.
     Forth rushed the murderous bands, their melted chains
     Forged into weapons for his ruffian needs.
     No charge he gave to mere recruits in guilt
     Who brought not to the camp some proof of crime.
     How dread that day when conquering Marius seized
     The city's ramparts!  with what fated speed
120  Death strode upon his victims!  plebs alike
     And nobles perished; far and near the sword
     Struck at his pleasure, till the temple floors
     Ran wet with slaughter and the crimson stream
     Befouled with slippery gore the holy walls.
     No age found pity men of failing years,
     Just tottering to the grave, were hurled to death;
     From infants, in their being's earliest dawn (4),
     The growing life was severed.  For what crime?
     Twas cause enough for death that they could die.
130  The fury grew: soon 'twas a sluggard's part
     To seek the guilty: hundreds died to swell
     The tale of victims.  Shamed by empty hands,
     The bloodstained conqueror snatched a reeking head
     From neck unknown.  One way of life remained,
     To kiss with shuddering lips the red right hand (5).
     Degenerate people!  Had ye hearts of men,
     Though ye were threatened by a thousand swords,
     Far rather death than centuries of life
     Bought at such price; much more that breathing space
140  Till Sulla comes again (6).  But time would fail
     In weeping for the deaths of all who fell.
     Encircled by innumerable bands
     Fell Baebius, his limbs asunder torn,
     His vitals dragged abroad.  Antonius too,
     Prophet of ill, whose hoary head (7) was placed,
     Dripping with blood, upon the festal board.
     There headless fell the Crassi; mangled frames
     'Neath Fimbria's falchion: and the prison cells
     Were wet with tribunes' blood.  Hard by the fane
150  Where dwells the goddess and the sacred fire,
     Fell aged Scaevola, though that gory hand (8)
     Had spared him, but the feeble tide of blood
     Still left the flame alive upon the hearth.
     That selfsame year the seventh time restored (9)
     The Consul's rods; that year to Marius brought
     The end of life, when he at Fortune's hands
     All ills had suffered; all her goods enjoyed.

     "And what of those who at the Sacriport (10)
     And Colline gate were slain, then, when the rule
160  Of Earth and all her nations almost left
     This city for another, and the chiefs
     Who led the Samnite hoped that Rome might bleed
     More than at Caudium's Forks she bled of old?
     Then came great Sulla to avenge the dead,
     And all the blood still left within her frame
     Drew from the city; for the surgeon knife
     Which shore the cancerous limbs cut in too deep,
     And shed the life stream from still healthy veins.
     True that the guilty fell, but not before
170  All else had perished.  Hatred had free course
     And anger reigned unbridled by the law.
     The victor's voice spake once; but each man struck
     Just as he wished or willed.  The fatal steel
     Urged by the servant laid the master low.
     Sons dripped with gore of sires; and brothers fought
     For the foul trophy of a father slain,
     Or slew each other for the price of blood.
     Men sought the tombs and, mingling with the dead,
     Hoped for escape; the wild beasts' dens were full.
180  One strangled died; another from the height
     Fell headlong down upon the unpitying earth,
     And from the encrimsoned victor snatched his death:
     One built his funeral pyre and oped his veins,
     And sealed the furnace ere his blood was gone.
     Borne through the trembling town the leaders' heads
     Were piled in middle forum: hence men knew
     Of murders else unpublished.  Not on gates
     Of Diomedes (11), tyrant king of Thrace,
     Nor of Antaeus, Libya's giant brood,
190  Were hung such horrors; nor in Pisa's hall
     Were seen and wept for when the suitors died.
     Decay had touched the features of the slain
     When round the mouldering heap, with trembling steps
     The grief-struck parents sought and stole their dead.
     I, too, the body of my brother slain
     Thought to remove, my victim to the peace
     Which Sulla made, and place his loved remains
     On the forbidden pyre.  The head I found,
     But not the butchered corse.

                                   "Why now renew
200  The tale of Catulus's shade appeased?
     And those dread tortures which the living frame
     Of Marius (12) suffered at the tomb of him
     Who haply wished them not?  Pierced, mangled, torn --
     Nor speech nor grasp was left: his every limb
     Maimed, hacked and riven; yet the fatal blow
     The murderers with savage purpose spared.
     'Twere scarce believed that one poor mortal frame
     Such agonies could bear e'er death should come.
     Thus crushed beneath some ruin lie the dead;
210  Thus shapeless from the deep are borne the drowned.
     Why spoil delight by mutilating thus,
     The head of Marius?  To please Sulla's heart
     That mangled visage must be known to all.
     Fortune, high goddess of Praeneste's fane,
     Saw all her townsmen hurried to their deaths
     In one fell instant.  All the hope of Rome,
     The flower of Latium, stained with blood the field
     Where once the peaceful tribes their votes declared.
     Famine and Sword, the raging sky and sea,
220  And Earth upheaved, have laid such numbers low:
     But ne'er one man's revenge.  Between the slain
     And living victims there was space no more,
     Death thus let slip, to deal the fatal blow.
     Hardly when struck they fell; the severed head
     Scarce toppled from the shoulders; but the slain
     Blent in a weighty pile of massacre
     Pressed out the life and helped the murderer's arm.
     Secure from stain upon his lofty throne,
     Unshuddering sat the author of the whole,
230  Nor feared that at his word such thousands fell.
     At length the Tuscan flood received the dead
     The first upon his waves; the last on those
     That lay beneath them; vessels in their course
     Were stayed, and while the lower current flowed
     Still to the sea, the upper stood on high
     Dammed back by carnage.  Through the streets meanwhile
     In headlong torrents ran a tide of blood,
     Which furrowing its path through town and field
     Forced the slow river on.  But now his banks
240  No longer held him, and the dead were thrown
     Back on the fields above.  With labour huge
     At length he struggled to his goal and stretched
     In crimson streak across the Tuscan Sea.

     "For deeds like these, shall Sulla now be styled
     `Darling of Fortune', `Saviour of the State'?
     For these, a tomb in middle field of Mars
     Record his fame?  Like horrors now return
     For us to suffer; and the civil war
     Thus shall be waged again and thus shall end.
250  Yet worse disasters may our fears suggest,
     For now with greater carnage of mankind
     The rival hosts in weightier battle meet.
     To exiled Marius, successful strife
     Was Rome regained; triumphant Sulla knew
     No greater joy than on his hated foes
     To wreak his vengeance with unsparing sword.
     But these more powerful rivals Fortune calls
     To worse ambitions; nor would either chief
     For such reward as Sulla's wage the war."
260  Thus, mindful of his youth, the aged man
     Wept for the past, but feared the coming days.

     Such terrors found in haughty Brutus' breast
     No home.  When others sat them down to fear
     He did not so, but in the dewy night
     When the great wain was turning round the pole
     He sought his kinsman Cato's humble home.
     Him sleepless did he find, not for himself
     Fearing, but pondering the fates of Rome,
     And deep in public cares.  And thus he spake:
270  "O thou in whom that virtue, which of yore
     Took flight from earth, now finds its only home,
     Outcast to all besides, but safe with thee:
     Vouchsafe thy counsel to my wavering soul
     And make my weakness strength.  While Caesar some,
     Pompeius others, follow in the fight,
     Cato is Brutus' guide.  Art thou for peace,
     Holding thy footsteps in a tottering world
     Unshaken?  Or wilt thou with the leaders' crimes
     And with the people's fury take thy part,
280  And by thy presence purge the war of guilt?
     In impious battles men unsheath the sword;
     But each by cause impelled: the household crime;
     Laws feared in peace; want by the sword removed;
     And broken credit, that its ruin hides
     In general ruin.  Drawn by hope of gain,
     And not by thirst for blood, they seek the camp.
     Shall Cato for war's sake make war alone?
     What profits it through all these wicked years
     That thou hast lived untainted?  This were all
290  Thy meed of virtue, that the wars which find
     Guilt in all else, shall make thee guilty too.
     Ye gods, permit not that this fatal strife
     Should stir those hands to action!  When the clouds
     Of flying javelins hiss upon the air,
     Let not a dart be thine; nor spent in vain
     Such virtue!  All the fury of the war
     Shall launch itself on thee, for who, when faint
     And wounded, would not rush upon thy sword,
     Take thence his death, and make the murder thine?
300  Do thou live on thy peaceful life apart
     As on their paths the stars unshaken roll.
     The lower air that verges on the earth
     Gives flame and fury to the levin bolt;
     The deeps below the world engulph the winds
     And tracts of flaming fire.  By Jove's decree
     Olympus rears his summit o'er the clouds:
     In lowlier valleys storms and winds contend,
     But peace eternal reigns upon the heights.
     What joy for Caesar, if the tidings come
310  That such a citizen has joined the war?
     Glad would he see thee e'en in Magnus' tents;
     For Cato's conduct shall approve his own.
     Pompeius, with the Consul in his ranks,
     And half the Senate and the other chiefs,
     Vexes my spirit; and should Cato too
     Bend to a master's yoke, in all the world
     The one man free is Caesar.  But if thou
     For freedom and thy country's laws alone
     Be pleased to raise the sword, nor Magnus then
320  Nor Caesar shall in Brutus find a foe.
     Not till the fight is fought shall Brutus strike,
     Then strike the victor."

                              Brutus thus; but spake
     Cato from inmost breast these sacred words:
     "Chief in all wickedness is civil war,
     Yet virtue in the paths marked out by fate
     Treads on securely.  Heaven's will be the crime
     To have made even Cato guilty.  Who has strength
     To gaze unawed upon a toppling world?
     When stars and sky fall headlong, and when earth
330  Slips from her base, who sits with folded hands?
     Shall unknown nations, touched by western strife,
     And monarchs born beneath another clime
     Brave the dividing seas to join the war?
     Shall Scythian tribes desert their distant north,
     And Getae haste to view the fall of Rome,
     And I look idly on?  As some fond sire,
     Reft of his sons, compelled by grief, himself
     Marshals the long procession to the tomb,
     Thrusts his own hand within the funeral flames,
340  Soothing his heart, and, as the lofty pyre
     Rises on high, applies the kindled torch:
     Nought, Rome, shall tear thee from me, till I hold
     Thy form in death embraced; and Freedom's name,
     Shade though it be, I'll follow to the grave.
     Yea!  let the cruel gods exact in full
     Rome's expiation: of no drop of blood
     The war be robbed.  I would that, to the gods
     Of heaven and hell devoted, this my life
     Might satisfy their vengeance.  Decius fell,
350  Crushed by the hostile ranks.  When Cato falls
     Let Rhine's fierce barbarous hordes and both the hosts
     Thrust through my frame their darts!  May I alone
     Receive in death the wounds of all the war!
     Thus may the people be redeemed, and thus
     Rome for her guilt pay the atonement due.
     Why should men die who wish to bear the yoke
     And shrink not from the tyranny to come?
     Strike me, and me alone, of laws and rights
     In vain the guardian: this vicarious life
360  Shall give Hesperia peace and end her toils.
     Who then will reign shall find no need for war.
     You ask, `Why follow Magnus?  If he wins (13)
     He too will claim the Empire of the world.'
     Then let him, conquering with my service, learn
     Not for himself to conquer."  Thus he spoke
     And stirred the blood that ran in Brutus' veins
     Moving the youth to action in the war.

     Soon as the sun dispelled the chilly night,
     The sounding doors flew wide, and from the tomb
370  Of dead Hortensius grieving Marcia came (14).
     First joined in wedlock to a greater man
     Three children did she bear to grace his home:
     Then Cato to Hortensius gave the dame
     To be a fruitful mother of his sons
     And join their houses in a closer tie.
     And now the last sad offices were done
     She came with hair dishevelled, beaten breast,
     And ashes on her brow, and features worn
     With grief; thus only pleasing to the man.
380  "When youth was in me and maternal power
     I did thy bidding, Cato, and received
     A second husband: now in years grown old
     Ne'er to be parted I return to thee.
     Renew our former pledges undefiled:
     Give back the name of wife: upon my tomb
     Let `Marcia, spouse to Cato,' be engraved.
     Nor let men question in the time to come,
     Did'st thou compel, or did I willing leave
     My first espousals.  Not in happy times,
390  Partner of joys, I come; but days of care
     And labour shall be mine to share with thee.
     Nor leave me here, but take me to the camp,
     Thy fond companion: why should Magnus' wife
     Be nearer, Cato, to the wars than thine?"

     Although the times were warlike and the fates
     Called to the fray, he lent a willing ear.
     Yet must they plight their faith in simple form
     Of law; their witnesses the gods alone.
     No festal wreath of flowers crowned the gate
400  Nor glittering fillet on each post entwined;
     No flaming torch was there, nor ivory steps,
     No couch with robes of broidered gold adorned;
     No comely matron placed upon her brow
     The bridal garland, or forbad the foot (15)
     To touch the threshold stone; no saffron veil
     Concealed the timid blushes of the bride;
     No jewelled belt confined her flowing robe (16)
     Nor modest circle bound her neck; no scarf
     Hung lightly on the snowy shoulder's edge
410  Around the naked arm. Just as she came,
     Wearing the garb of sorrow, while the wool
     Covered the purple border of her robe,
     Thus was she wedded.  As she greets her sons
     So doth she greet her husband.  Festal games
     Graced not their nuptials, nor were friends and kin
     As by the Sabines bidden: silent both
     They joined in marriage, yet content, unseen
     By any save by Brutus.  Sad and stern
     On Cato's lineaments the marks of grief
420  Were still unsoftened, and the hoary hair
     Hung o'er his reverend visage; for since first
     Men flew to arms, his locks were left unkempt
     To stream upon his brow, and on his chin
     His beard untended grew.  'Twas his alone
     Who hated not, nor loved, for all mankind
     To mourn alike.  Nor did their former couch
     Again receive them, for his lofty soul
     E'en lawful love resisted.  'Twas his rule
     Inflexible, to keep the middle path
430  Marked out and bounded; to observe the laws
     Of natural right; and for his country's sake
     To risk his life, his all, as not for self
     Brought into being, but for all the world:
     Such was his creed.  To him a sumptuous feast
     Was hunger conquered, and the lowly hut,
     Which scarce kept out the winter, was a home
     Equal to palaces: a robe of price
     Such hairy garments as were worn of old:
     The end of marriage, offspring.  To the State
440  Father alike and husband, right and law
     He ever followed with unswerving step:
     No thought of selfish pleasure turned the scale
     In Cato's acts, or swayed his upright soul.

     Meanwhile Pompeius led his trembling host
     To fields Campanian, and held the walls
     First founded by the chief of Trojan race (17).
     These chose he for the central seat of war,
     Some troops despatching who might meet the foe
     Where shady Apennine lifts up the ridge
450  Of mid Italia; nearest to the sky
     Upsoaring, with the seas on either hand,
     The upper and the lower.  Pisa's sands
     Breaking the margin of the Tuscan deep,
     Here bound his mountains: there Ancona's towers
     Laved by Dalmatian waves.  Rivers immense,
     In his recesses born, pass on their course,
     To either sea diverging.  To the left
     Metaurus, and Crustumium's torrent, fall
     And Sena's streams and Aufidus who bursts
460  On Adrian billows; and that mighty flood
     Which, more than all the rivers of the earth,
     Sweeps down the soil and tears the woods away
     And drains Hesperia's springs.  In fabled lore
     His banks were first by poplar shade enclosed: (18)
     And when by Phaethon the waning day
     Was drawn in path transverse, and all the heaven
     Blazed with his car aflame, and from the depths
     Of inmost earth were rapt all other floods,
     Padus still rolled in pride of stream along.
470  Nile were no larger, but that o'er the sand
     Of level Egypt he spreads out his waves;
     Nor Ister, if he sought the Scythian main
     Unhelped upon his journey through the world
     By tributary waters not his own.
     But on the right hand Tiber has his source,
     Deep-flowing Rutuba, Vulturnus swift,
     And Sarnus breathing vapours of the night
     Rise there, and Liris with Vestinian wave
     Still gliding through Marica's shady grove,
480  And Siler flowing through Salernian meads:
     And Macra's swift unnavigable stream
     By Luna lost in Ocean.  On the Alps
     Whose spurs strike plainwards, and on fields of Gaul
     The cloudy heights of Apennine look down
     In further distance: on his nearer slopes
     The Sabine turns the ploughshare; Umbrian kine
     And Marsian fatten; with his pineclad rocks
     He girds the tribes of Latium, nor leaves
     Hesperia's soil until the waves that beat
490  On Scylla's cave compel.  His southern spurs
     Extend to Juno's temple, and of old
     Stretched further than Italia, till the main
     O'erstepped his limits and the lands repelled.
     But, when the seas were joined, Pelorus claimed
     His latest summits for Sicilia's isle.

     Caesar, in rage for war, rejoicing found
     Foes in Italia; no bloodless steps
     Nor vacant homes had pleased him (19); so his march
     Were wasted: now the coming war was joined
500  Unbroken to the past; to force the gates
     Not find them open, fire and sword to bring
     Upon the harvests, not through fields unharmed
     To pass his legions -- this was Caesar's joy;
     In peaceful guise to march, this was his shame.
     Italia's cities, doubtful in their choice,
     Though to the earliest onset of the war
     About to yield, strengthened their walls with mounds
     And deepest trench encircling: massive stones
     And bolts of war to hurl upon the foe
510  They place upon the turrets.  Magnus most
     The people's favour held, yet faith with fear
     Fought in their breasts.  As when, with strident blast,
     A southern tempest has possessed the main
     And all the billows follow in its track:
     Then, by the Storm-king smitten, should the earth
     Set Eurus free upon the swollen deep,
     It shall not yield to him, though cloud and sky
     Confess his strength; but in the former wind
     Still find its master.  But their fears prevailed,
520  And Caesar's fortune, o'er their wavering faith.
     For Libo fled Etruria; Umbria lost
     Her freedom, driving Thermus (20) from her bounds;
     Great Sulla's son, unworthy of his sire,
     Feared at the name of Caesar: Varus sought
     The caves and woods, when smote the hostile horse
     The gates of Auximon; and Spinther driven
     From Asculum, the victor on his track,
     Fled with his standards, soldierless; and thou,
     Scipio, did'st leave Nuceria's citadel
530  Deserted, though by bravest legions held
     Sent home by Caesar for the Parthian war (21);
     Whom Magnus earlier, to his kinsman gave
     A loan of Roman blood, to fight the Gaul.

     But brave Domitius held firm his post (22)
     Behind Corfinium's ramparts; his the troops
     Who newly levied kept the judgment hall
     At Milo's trial (23).  When from far the plain
     Rolled up a dusty cloud, beneath whose veil
     The sheen of armour glistening in the sun,
540  Revealed a marching host.  "Dash down," he cried,
     Swift; as ye can, the bridge that spans the stream;
     And thou, O river, from thy mountain source
     With all thy torrents rushing, planks and beams
     Ruined and broken on thy foaming breast
     Bear onward to the sea.  The war shall stop
     Here, to our triumph; for this headlong chief
     Here first at our firm bidding shall be stayed."
     He bade his squadrons, speeding from the walls,
     Charge on the bridge: in vain: for Caesar saw
550  They sought to free the river from his chains (24)
     And bar his march; and roused to ire, he cried:
     "Were not the walls sufficient to protect
     Your coward souls?  Seek ye by barricades
     And streams to keep me back?  What though the flood
     Of swollen Ganges were across my path?
     Now Rubicon is passed, no stream on earth
     Shall hinder Caesar!  Forward, horse and foot,
     And ere it totters rush upon the bridge."
     Urged in their swiftest gallop to the front
560  Dashed the light horse across the sounding plain;
     And suddenly, as storm in summer, flew
     A cloud of javelins forth, by sinewy arms
     Hurled at the foe; the guard is put to flight,
     And conquering Caesar, seizing on the bridge,
     Compels the enemy to keep the walls.
     Now do the mighty engines, soon to hurl
     Gigantic stones, press forward, and the ram
     Creeps 'neath the ramparts; when the gates fly back,
     And lo! the traitor troops, foul crime in war,
570  Yield up their leader.  Him they place before

     His proud compatriot; yet with upright form,
     And scornful features and with noble mien,
     He asks his death.  But Caesar knew his wish
     Was punishment, and pardon was his fear:
     "Live though thou would'st not," so the chieftain spake,
     "And by my gift, unwilling, see the day:
     Be to my conquered foes the cause of hope,
     Proof of my clemency -- or if thou wilt
     Take arms again -- and should'st thou conquer, count
580  This pardon nothing."  Thus he spake, and bade
     Let loose the bands and set the captive free.
     Ah!  better had he died, and fortune spared
     The Roman's last dishonour, whose worse doom
     It is, that he who joined his country's camp
     And fought with Magnus for the Senate's cause
     Should gain for this -- a pardon!  Yet he curbed
     His anger, thinking, "Wilt thou then to Rome
     And peaceful scenes, degenerate?  Rather war,
     The furious battle and the certain end!
590  Break with life's ties: be Caesar's gift in vain."

     Pompeius, ignorant that his captain thus
     Was taken, armed his levies newly raised
     To give his legions strength; and as he thought
     To sound his trumpets with the coming dawn,
     To test his soldiers ere he moved his camp
     Thus in majestic tones their ranks addressed:
     "Soldiers of Rome!  Avengers of her laws!
     To whom the Senate gives no private arms,
     Ask by your voices for the battle sign.
600  Fierce falls the pillage on Hesperian fields,
     And Gallia's fury o'er the snowy Alps (25)
     Is poured upon us.  Caesar's swords at last
     Are red with Roman blood.  But with the wound
     We gain the better cause; the crime is theirs.
     No war is this, but for offended Rome
     We wreak the vengeance; as when Catiline
     Lifted against her roofs the flaming brand
     And, partner in his fury, Lentulus,
     And mad Cethegus (26) with his naked arm.
610  Is such thy madness, Caesar?  when the Fates
     With great Camillus' and Metellus' names
     Might place thine own, dost thou prefer to rank
     With Marius and Cinna?  Swift shall be
     Thy fall: as Lepidus before the sword
     Of Catulus; or who my axes felt,
     Carbo (27), now buried in Sicanian tomb;
     Or who, in exile, roused Iberia's hordes,
     Sertorius -- yet, witness Heaven, with these
     I hate to rank thee; hate the task that Rome
620  Has laid upon me, to oppose thy rage.
     Would that in safety from the Parthian war
     And Scythian steppes had conquering Crassus come!
     Then haply had'st thou fallen by the hand
     That smote vile Spartacus the robber foe.
     But if among my triumphs fate has said
     Thy conquest shall be written, know this heart
     Still sends the life blood coursing: and this arm (28)
     Still vigorously flings the dart afield.
     He deems me slothful.  Caesar, thou shalt learn
630  We brook not peace because we lag in war.
     Old, does he call me?  Fear not ye mine age.
     Let me be elder, if his soldiers are.
     The highest point a citizen can reach
     And leave his people free, is mine: a throne
     Alone were higher; whoso would surpass
     Pompeius, aims at that.  Both Consuls stand
     Here; here for battle stand your lawful chiefs:
     And shall this Caesar drag the Senate down?
     Not with such blindness, not so lost to shame
640  Does Fortune rule.  Does he take heart from Gaul:
     For years on years rebellious, and a life
     Spent there in labour?  or because he fled
     Rhine's icy torrent and the shifting pools
     He calls an ocean?  or unchallenged sought
     Britannia's cliffs; then turned his back in flight?
     Or does he boast because his citizens
     Were driven in arms to leave their hearths and homes?
     Ah, vain delusion!  not from thee they fled:
     My steps they follow -- mine, whose conquering signs
650  Swept all the ocean (29), and who, ere the moon
     Twice filled her orb and waned, compelled to flight
     The pirate, shrinking from the open sea,
     And humbly begging for a narrow home
     In some poor nook on shore.  'Twas I again
     Who, happier far than Sulla, drave to death (30)
     That king who, exiled to the deep recess
     Of Scythian Pontus, held the fates of Rome
     Still in the balances.  Where is the land
     That hath not seen my trophies?  Icy waves
660  Of northern Phasis, hot Egyptian shores,
     And where Syene 'neath its noontide sun
     Knows shade on neither hand (31): all these have learned
     To fear Pompeius: and far Baetis' (32) stream,
     Last of all floods to join the refluent sea.
     Arabia and the warlike hordes that dwell
     Beside the Euxine wave: the famous land
     That lost the golden fleece; Cilician wastes,
     And Cappadocian, and the Jews who pray
     Before an unknown God; Sophene soft --
670  All felt my yoke.  What conquests now remain,
     What wars not civil can my kinsman wage?"

     No loud acclaim received his words, nor shout
     Asked for the promised battle: and the chief
     Drew back the standards, for the soldier's fears
     Were in his soul alike; nor dared he trust
     An army, vanquished by the fame alone
     Of Caesar's powers, to fight for such a prize.
     And as some bull, his early combat lost,
     Forth driven from the herd, in exile roams
680  Through lonely plains or secret forest depths,
     Whets on opposing trunks his growing horn,
     And proves himself for battle, till his neck
     Is ribbed afresh with muscle: then returns,
     Defiant of the hind, and victor now
     Leads wheresoe'er he will his lowing bands:
     Thus Magnus, yielding to a stronger foe,
     Gave up Italia, and sought in flight
     Brundusium's sheltering battlements.

                                        Here of old
     Fled Cretan settlers when the dusky sail (33)
690  Spread the false message of the hero dead;
     Here, where Hesperia, curving as a bow,
     Draws back her coast, a little tongue of land
     Shuts in with bending horns the sounding main.
     Yet insecure the spot, unsafe in storm,
     Were it not sheltered by an isle on which
     The Adriatic billows dash and fall,
     And tempests lose their strength: on either hand
     A craggy cliff opposing breaks the gale
     That beats upon them, while the ships within
700  Held by their trembling cables ride secure.
     Hence to the mariner the boundless deep
     Lies open, whether for Corcyra's port
     He shapes his sails, or for Illyria's shore,
     And Epidamnus facing to the main
     Ionian.  Here, when raging in his might
     Fierce Adria whelms in foam Calabria's coast,
     When clouds tempestuous veil Ceraunus' height,
     The sailor finds a haven.

                              When the chief
     Could find no hope in battle on the soil
710  He now was quitting, and the lofty Alps
     Forbad Iberia, to his son he spake,
     The eldest scion of that noble stock:
     "Search out the far recesses of the earth,
     Nile and Euphrates, wheresoe'er the fame
     Of Magnus lives, where, through thy father's deeds,
     The people tremble at the name of Rome.
     Lead to the sea again the pirate bands;
     Rouse Egypt's kings; Tigranes, wholly mine,
     And Pharnaces and all the vagrant tribes
720  Of both Armenias; and the Pontic hordes,
     Warlike and fierce; the dwellers on the hills
     Rhipaean, and by that dead northern marsh
     Whose frozen surface bears the loaded wain.
     Why further stay thee?  Let the eastern world
     Sound with the war, all cities of the earth
     Conquered by me, as vassals, to my camp
     Send all their levied hosts.  And you whose names
     Within the Latian book recorded stand,
     Strike for Epirus with the northern wind;
730  And thence in Greece and Macedonian tracts,
     (While winter gives us peace) new strength acquire
     For coming conflicts."  They obey his words
     And loose their ships and launch upon the main.

     But Caesar's might, intolerant of peace
     Or lengthy armistice, lest now perchance
     The fates might change their edicts, swift pursued
     The footsteps of his foe.  To other men,
     So many cities taken at a blow,
     So many strongholds captured, might suffice;
740  And Rome herself, the mistress of the world,
     Lay at his feet, the greatest prize of all.
     Not so with Caesar: instant on the goal
     He fiercely presses; thinking nothing done
     While aught remained to do.  Now in his grasp
     Lay all Italia; -- but while Magnus stayed
     Upon the utmost shore, his grieving soul
     Deemed all was shared with him.  Yet he essayed
     Escape to hinder, and with labour vain
     Piled in the greedy main gigantic rocks:
750  Mountains of earth down to the sandy depths
     Were swallowed by the vortex of the sea;
     Just as if Eryx and its lofty top
     Were cast into the deep, yet not a speck
     Should mark the watery plain; or Gaurus huge
     Split from his summit to his base, were plunged
     In fathomless Avernus' stagnant pool.
     The billows thus unstemmed, 'twas Caesar's will
     To hew the stately forests and with trees
     Enchained to form a rampart.  Thus of old
760  (If fame be true) the boastful Persian king
     Prepared a way across the rapid strait
     'Twixt Sestos and Abydos, and made one
     The European and the Trojan shores;
     And marched upon the waters, wind and storm
     Counting as nought, but trusting his emprise
     To one frail bridge, so that his ships might pass
     Through middle Athos.  Thus a mighty mole
     Of fallen forests grew upon the waves,
     Free until then, and lofty turrets rose,
770  And land usurped the entrance to the main.

     This when Pompeius saw, with anxious care
     His soul was filled; yet hoping to regain
     The exit lost, and win a wider world
     Wherein to wage the war, on chosen ships
     He hoists the sails; these, driven by the wind
     And drawn by cables fastened to their prows,
     Scattered the beams asunder; and at night
     Not seldom engines, worked by stalwart arms,
     Flung flaming torches forth.  But when the time
780  For secret flight was come, no sailor shout
     Rang on the shore, no trumpet marked the hour,
     No bugle called the armament to sea.
     Already shone the Virgin in the sky
     Leading the Scorpion in her course, whose claws
     Foretell the rising Sun, when noiseless all
     They cast the vessels loose; no song was heard
     To greet the anchor wrenched from stubborn sand;
     No captain's order, when the lofty mast
     Was raised, or yards were bent; a silent crew
790  Drew down the sails which hung upon the ropes,
     Nor shook the mighty cables, lest the wind
     Should sound upon them.  But the chief, in prayer,
     Thus spake to Fortune: "Thou whose high decree
     Has made us exiles from Italia's shores,
     Grant us at least to leave them."  Yet the fates
     Hardly permitted, for a murmur vast
     Came from the ocean, as the countless keels
     Furrowed the waters, and with ceaseless splash
     The parted billows rose again and fell.
800  Then were the gates thrown wide; for with the fates
     The city turned to Caesar: and the foe,
     Seizing the town, rushed onward by the pier
     That circled in the harbour; then they knew
     With shame and sorrow that the fleet was gone
     And held the open: and Pompeius' flight
     Gave a poor triumph.

                              Yet was narrower far
     The channel which gave access to the sea
     Than that Euboean strait (34) whose waters lave
     The shore by Chalcis.  Here two ships stuck fast
810  Alone, of all the fleet; the fatal hook
     Grappled their decks and drew them to the land,
     And the first bloodshed of the civil war
     Here left a blush upon the ocean wave.
     As when the famous ship (36) sought Phasis' stream
     The rocky gates closed in and hardly gripped
     Her flying stern; then from the empty sea
     The cliffs rebounding to their ancient seat
     Were fixed to move no more.  But now the steps
     Of morn approaching tinged the eastern sky
820  With roseate hues: the Pleiades were dim,
     The wagon of the Charioteer grew pale,
     The planets faded, and the silvery star
     Which ushers in the day, was lost in light.

     Then Magnus, hold'st the deep; yet not the same
     Now are thy fates, as when from every sea
     Thy fleet triumphant swept the pirate pest.
     Tired of thy conquests, Fortune now no more
     Shall smile upon thee.  With thy spouse and sons,
     Thy household gods, and peoples in thy train,
830  Still great in exile, in a distant land
     Thou seek'st thy fated fall; not that the gods,
     Wishing to rob thee of a Roman grave,
     Decreed the strands of Egypt for thy tomb:
     'Twas Italy they spared, that far away
     Fortune on shores remote might hide her crime,
     And Roman soil be pure of Magnus' blood.

(1)  When dragged from his hiding place in the marsh, Marius was
     sent by the magistrates of Minturnae to the house of a woman
     named Fannia, and there locked up in a dark apartment.  It
     does not appear that he was there long.  A Gallic soldier
     was sent to kill him; "and the eyes of Marius appeared to
     him to dart a strong flame, and a loud voice issued from the
     gloom, `Man, do you dare to kill Caius Marius?'"  He rushed
     out exclaiming, "I cannot kill Caius Marius." (Plutarch,
     "Marius", 38.)
(2)  The Governor of Libya sent an officer to Marius, who had
     landed in the neighbourhood of Carthage.  The officer
     delivered his message, and Marius replied, "Tell the
     Governor you have seen Caius Marius, a fugitive sitting on
     the ruins of Carthage," a reply in which he not inaptly
     compared the fate of that city and his own changed fortune.
     (Plutarch, "Marius", 40.)
(3)  In the "gathering of fresh fury on Libyan soil", there
     appears to be an allusion to the story of Antruns, in Book
(4)  See Ben Jonson's "Catiline", Act i., scene 1, speaking of
     the Sullan massacre.
          Cethegus: Not infants in the porch of life were free.
          Catiline: 'Twas crime enough that they had lives: to
          strike but only those that could do hurt was dull and
          poor: some fell to make the number as some the prey.
(5)  Whenever he did not salute a man, or return his salute, this
     was a signal for massacre. (Plutarch, "Marius", 49.)
(6)  The Marian massacre was in B.C. 87-86; the Sullan in 82-81.
(7)  The head of Antonius was struck off and brought to Marius at
     supper.  He was the grandfather of the triumvir.
(8)  Scaevola, it would appear, was put to death after Marius the
     elder died, by the younger Marius.  He was Pontifex Maximus,
     and slain by the altar of Vesta.
(9)  B.C. 86, Marius and Cinna were Consuls.  Marius died
     seventeen days afterwards, in the seventieth year of his
(10) The Battle of Sacriportus was fought between Marius the
     younger and the Sullan army in B.C. 82.  Marius was defeated
     with great loss, and fled to Praeneste, a town which
     afterwards submitted to Sulla, who put all the inhabitants
     to death (line 216).  At the Colline gate was fought the
     decisive battle between Sulla and the Saranires, who, after
     a furious contest, were defeated.
(11) Diomedes was said to feed his horses on human flesh. (For
     Antaeus see Book IV., 660.)  Enomaus was king of Pisa in
     Elis.  Those who came to sue for his daughter's hand had to
     compete with him in a chariot race, and if defeated were put
     to death.
(12) The brother of the Consul.
(13) So Cicero: "Our Cnaeus is wonderfully anxious for such a
     royalty as Sulla's.  I who tell you know it." ("Ep. ad
     Att.", ix. 7.)
(14) Marcia was first married to Cato, and bore him three sons;
     he then yielded her to Hortensius.  On his death she
     returned to Cato. (Plutarch, "Cato", 25, 52.)  It was in
     reference to this that Caesar charged him with making a
     traffic of his marriage; but Plutarch says "to accuse Cato
     of filthy lucre is like upbraiding Hercules with cowardice." 
     After the marriage Marcia remained at Rome while Cato
     hurried after Pompeius.
(15) The bride was carried over the threshold of her new home,
     for to stumble on it would be of evil omen.  Plutarch
     ("Romulus") refers this custom to the rape of the Sabine
     women, who were "so lift up and carried away by force."
     (North, volume i., p. 88, Edition by Windham.)  I have read
     "vetuit" in this passage, though "vitat" appears to be a
     better variation according to the manuscripts.
(16) The bride was dressed in a long white robe, bound round the
     waist with a girdle.  She had a veil of bright yellow
     colour. ("Dict. Antiq.")
(17) Capua, supposed to be founded by Capys, the Trojan hero.
     (Virgil, "Aeneid", x., 145.)
(18) Phaethon's sisters, who yoked the horses of the Sun to the
     chariot for their brother, were turned into poplars.
     Phaethon was flung by Jupiter into the river Po.
(19) See the note to Book I., 164.  In reality Caesar found
     little resistance, and did not ravage the country.
(20) Thermus. to whom Iguvium had been entrusted by the Senate,
     was compelled to quit it owing to the disaffection of the
     inhabitants. (Merivale, chapter xiv.)  Auximon in a similar
     way rose against Varus.
(21) After Caesar's campaign with the Nervii, Pompeius had lent
     him a legion.  When the Parthian war broke out and the
     Senate required each of the two leaders to supply a legion
     for it, Pompeius demanded the return of the legion which he
     had sent to Gaul; and Caesar returned it, together with one
     of his own.  They were, however, retained in Italy.
(22) See Book VII., 695.
(23) See Book I., 368.
(24) That is to say, by the breaking of the bridge, the river
     would become a serious obstacle to Caesar.
(25) See line 497.
(26) This family is also alluded to by Horace ("Ars Poetica,") as
     having worn a garment of ancient fashion leaving their arms
     bare. (See also Book VI., 945.)
(27) In B.C. 77, after the death of Sulla, Carbo had been
     defeated by Pompeius in 81 B.C., in which occasion Pompeius
     had, at the early age of twenty-five, demanded and obtained
     his first triumph.  The war with Sertorius lasted till 71
     B.C., when Pompeius and Metellus triumphed in respect of his
(28) See Book I., line 369.
(29) In B.C. 67, Pompeius swept the pirates off the seas.  The
     whole campaign did not last three months.
(30) From B.C. 66 to B.C. 63, Pompeius conquered Mithridates,
     Syria and the East, except Parthia.
(31) Being (as was supposed) exactly under the Equator.  Syene
     (the modern Assouan) is the town mentioned by the priest of
     Sais, who told Herodotus that "between Syene and Elephantine
     are two hills with conical tops.  The name of one of them is
     Crophi, and of the other, Mophi.  Midway between them are
     the fountains of the Nile." (Herod., II., chapter 28.)  And
     see "Paradise Regained," IV., 70: --
          "Syene, and where the shadow both way falls,
          "Meroe, Nilotick isle;..."
(32) Baetis is the Guadalquivir.
(33) Theseus, on returning from his successful exploit in Crete,
     hoisted by mistake black sails instead of white, thus
     spreading false intelligence of disaster.
(34) It seems that the Euripus was bridged over. (Mr. Haskins'
(35) The "Argo".