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The Online 
Medieval and Classical Library

(aka "The Civil War")

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

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #16b

     But in the distant regions of the earth
     Fierce Caesar warring, though in fight he dealt
     No baneful slaughter, hastened on the doom
     To swift fulfillment.  There on Magnus' side
     Afranius and Petreius (1) held command,
     Who ruled alternate, and the rampart guard
     Obeyed the standard of each chief in turn.
     There with the Romans in the camp were joined
     Asturians (2) swift, and Vettons lightly armed,
10   And Celts who, exiled from their ancient home,
     Had joined "Iberus" to their former name.
     Where the rich soil in gentle slope ascends
     And forms a modest hill, Ilerda (3) stands,
     Founded in ancient days; beside her glides
     Not least of western rivers, Sicoris
     Of placid current, by a mighty arch
     Of stone o'erspanned, which not the winter floods
     Shall overwhelm.  Upon a rock hard by
     Was Magnus' camp; but Caesar's on a hill,
20   Rivalling the first; and in the midst a stream.
     Here boundless plains are spread beyond the range
     Of human vision; Cinga girds them in
     With greedy waves; forbidden to contend
     With tides of ocean; for that larger flood
     Who names the land, Iberus, sweeps along
     The lesser stream commingled with his own.

     Guiltless of war, the first day saw the hosts
     In long array confronted; standard rose
     Opposing standard, numberless; yet none
30   Essayed attack, in shame of impious strife.
     One day they gave their country and her laws.
     But Caesar, when from heaven fell the night,
     Drew round a hasty trench; his foremost rank
     With close array concealing those who wrought.
     Then with the morn he bids them seize the hill
     Which parted from the camp Ilerda's walls,
     And gave them safety.  But in fear and shame
     On rushed the foe and seized the vantage ground,
     First in the onset.  From the height they held
40   Their hopes of conquest; but to Caesar's men
     Their hearts by courage stirred, and their good swords
     Promised the victory.  Burdened up the ridge
     The soldier climbed, and from the opposing steep
     But for his comrade's shield had fallen back;
     None had the space to hurl the quivering lance
     Upon the foeman: spear and pike made sure
     The failing foothold, and the falchion's edge
     Hewed out their upward path.  But Caesar saw
     Ruin impending, and he bade his horse
50   By circuit to the left, with shielded flank,
     Hold back the foe.  Thus gained his troops retreat,
     For none pressed on them; and the victor chiefs,
     Forced to withdrawal, gained the day in vain.

     Henceforth the fitful changes of the year
     Governed the fates and fashioned out the war.
     For stubborn frost still lay upon the land,
     And northern winds, controlling all the sky,
     Prisoned the rain in clouds; the hills were nipped
     With snow unmelted, and the lower plains
60   By frosts that fled before the rising sun;
     And all the lands that stretched towards the sky
     Which whelms the sinking stars, 'neath wintry heavens
     Were parched and arid.  But when Titan neared
     The Ram, who, backward gazing on the stars,
     Bore perished Helle, (4) and the hours were held
     In juster balance, and the day prevailed,
     The earliest faded moon which in the vault
     Hung with uncertain horn, from eastern winds
     Received a fiery radiance; whose blasts
70   Forced Boreas back: and breaking on the mists
     Within his regions, to the Occident
     Drave all that shroud Arabia and the land
     Of Ganges; all that or by Caurus (5) borne
     Bedim the Orient sky, or rising suns
     Permit to gather; pitiless flamed the day
     Behind them, while in front the wide expanse
     Was driven; nor on mid earth sank the clouds
     Though weighed with vapour.  North and south alike
     Were showerless, for on Calpe's rock alone
80   All moisture gathered; here at last, forbidden
     To pass that sea by Zephyr's bounds contained,
     And by the furthest belt (6) of heaven, they pause,
     In masses huge convolved; the widest breadth
     Of murky air scarce holds them, which divides
     Earth from the heavens; till pressed by weight of sky
     In densest volume to the earth they pour
     Their cataracts; no lightning could endure
     Such storm unquenched: though oft athwart the gloom
     Gleamed its pale fire.  Meanwhile a watery arch
90   Scarce touched with colour, in imperfect shape
     Embraced the sky and drank the ocean waves,
     So rendering to the clouds their flood outpoured.

     And now were thawed the Pyrenaean snows
     Which Titan had not conquered; all the rocks
     Were wet with melting ice; accustomed springs
     Found not discharge; and from the very banks
     Each stream received a torrent.  Caesar's arms
     Are shipwrecked on the field, his tottering camp
     Swims on the rising flood; the trench is filled
100  With whirling waters; and the plain no more
     Yields corn or kine; for those who forage seek,
     Err from the hidden furrow.  Famine knocks
     (First herald of o'erwhelming ills to come),
     Fierce at the door; and while no foe blockades
     The soldier hungers; fortunes buy not now
     The meanest measure; yet, alas!  is found
     The fasting peasant, who, in gain of gold,
     Will sell his little all!  And now the hills
     Are seen no more; and rivers whelmed in one;
110  Beasts with their homes sweep downwards; and the tide
     Repels the foaming torrent.  Nor did night
     Acknowledge Phoebus' rise, for all the sky
     Felt her dominion and obscured its face,
     And darkness joined with darkness.  Thus doth lie
     The lowest earth beneath the snowy zone
     And never-ending winters, where the sky
     Is starless ever, and no growth of herb
     Sprouts from the frozen earth; but standing ice
     Tempers (7) the stars which in the middle zone
120  Kindle their flames.  Thus, Father of the world,
     And thou, trident-god who rul'st the sea
     Second in place, Neptunus, load the air
     With clouds continual; forbid the tide,
     Once risen, to return: forced by thy waves
     Let rivers backward run in different course,
     Thy shores no longer reaching; and the earth,
     Shaken, make way for floods.  Let Rhine o'erflow
     And Rhone their banks; let torrents spread afield
     Unmeasured waters: melt Rhipaean snows:
130  Spread lakes upon the land, and seas profound,
     And snatch the groaning world from civil war.

     Thus for a little moment Fortune tried
     Her darling son; then smiling to his part
     Returned; and gained her pardon for the past
     By greater gifts to come.  For now the air
     Had grown more clear, and Phoebus' warmer rays
     Coped with the flood and scattered all the clouds
     In fleecy masses; and the reddening east
     Proclaimed the coming day; the land resumed
140  Its ancient marks; no more in middle air
     The moisture hung, but from about the stars
     Sank to the depths; the forest glad upreared
     Its foliage; hills again emerged to view
     And 'neath the warmth of day the plains grew firm.

     When Sicoris kept his banks, the shallop light
     Of hoary willow bark they build, which bent
     On hides of oxen, bore the weight of man
     And swam the torrent.  Thus on sluggish Po
     Venetians float; and on th' encircling sea (8)
150  Are borne Britannia's nations; and when Nile
     Fills all the land, are Memphis' thirsty reeds
     Shaped into fragile boats that swim his waves.
     The further bank thus gained, they haste to curve
     The fallen forest, and to form the arch
     By which imperious Sicoris shall be spanned.
     Yet fearing he might rise in wrath anew,
     Not on the nearest marge they placed the beams,
     But in mid-field.  Thus the presumptuous stream
     They tame with chastisement, parting his flood
160  In devious channels out; and curb his pride.

     Petreius, when he saw that Caesar's fates
     Swept all before them, left Ilerda's steep,
     His trust no longer in the Roman world;
     And sought for strength amid those distant tribes,
     Who, loving death, rush in upon the foe, (9)
     And win their conquests at the point of sword.
     But in the dawn, when Caesar saw the camp
     Stand empty on the hill, "To arms!" he cried:
     "Seek not the bridge nor ford: plunge in the stream
170  And breast the foaming torrent."  Then did hope
     Of coming battle find for them a way
     Which they had shunned in flight.

                                        Their arms regained,
     Their streaming limbs they cherished till the blood
     Coursed in their veins; until the shadows fell
     Short on the sward, and day was at the height.
     Then dashed the horsemen on, and held the foe
     'Twixt flight and battle.  In the plain arose
     Two rocky heights: from each a loftier ridge
     Of hills ranged onwards, sheltering in their midst
180  A hollow vale, whose deep and winding paths
     Were safe from warfare; which, when Caesar saw:
     That if Petreius held, the war must pass
     To lands remote by savage tribes possessed;
     "Speed on," he cried, "and meet their flight in front;
     Fierce be your frown and battle in your glance:
     No coward's death be theirs; but as they flee
     Plunge in their breasts the sword."  They seize the pass
     And place their camp.  Short was the span between
     Th' opposing sentinels; with eager eyes
190  Undimmed by space, they gazed on brothers, sons,
     Or friends and fathers; and within their souls
     They grasped the impious horror of the war.
     Yet for a little while no voice was heard,
     For fear restrained; by waving blade alone
     Or gesture, spake they; but their passion grew,
     And broke all discipline; and soon they leaped
     The hostile rampart; every hand outstretched (10)
     Embraced the hand of foeman, palm in palm;
     One calls by name his neighhour, one his host,
200  Another with his schoolmate talks again
     Of olden studies: he who in the camp
     Found not a comrade, was no son of Rome.
     Wet are their arms with tears, and sobs break in
     Upon their kisses; each, unstained by blood,
     Dreads what he might have done.  Why beat thy breast?
     Why, madman, weep?  The guilt is thine alone
     To do or to abstain.  Dost fear the man
     Who takes his title to be feared from thee?
     When Caesar's trumpets sound the call to arms
210  Heed not the summons; when thou seest advance
     His standards, halt.  The civil Fury thus
     Shall fold her wings; and in a private robe
     Caesar shall love his kinsman.

                                        Holy Peace
     That sway'st the world; thou whose eternal bands
     Sustain the order of material things,
     Come, gentle Concord! (11) these our times do now
     For good or evil destiny control
     The coming centuries!  Ah, cruel fate!
     Now have the people lost their cloak for crime:
220  Their hope of pardon.  They have known their kin.
     Woe for the respite given by the gods
     Making more black the hideous guilt to come!

     Now all was peaceful, and in either camp
     Sweet converse held the soldiers; on the grass
     They place the meal; on altars built of turf
     Pour out libations from the mingled cup;
     On mutual couch with stories of their fights,
     They wile the sleepless hours in talk away;
     "Where stood the ranks arrayed, from whose right hand
230  The quivering lance was sped:" and while they boast
     Or challenge, deeds of prowess in the war,
     Faith was renewed and trust.  Thus made the fates
     Their doom complete, and all the crimes to be;
     Grew with their love.

                              For when Petreius knew
     The treaties made; himself and all his camp
     Sold to the foe; he stirs his guard to work
     An impious slaughter: the defenceless foe
     Flings headlong forth: and parts the fond embrace
     By stroke of weapon and in streams of blood.
240  And thus in words of wrath, to stir the war:
     "Of Rome forgetful, to your faith forsworn!
     And could ye not with victory gained return,
     Restorers of her liberty, to Rome?
     Lose then!  but losing call not Caesar lord.
     While still your swords are yours, with blood to shed
     In doubtful battle, while the fates are hid,
     Will you like cravens to your master bear
     Doomed eagles?  Will you ask upon your knees
     That Caesar deign to treat his slaves alike,
250  And spare, forsooth, like yours, your leaders' lives? (12)
     Nay!  never shall our safety be the price
     Of base betrayal!  Not for boon of life
     We wage a civil war.  This name of peace
     Drags us to slavery.  Ne'er from depths of earth,
     Fain to withdraw her wealth, should toiling men
     Draw store of iron; ne'er entrench a town;
     Ne'er should the war-horse dash into the fray
     Nor fleet with turret bulwarks breast the main,
     If freedom for dishonourable peace
260  Could thus be bought.  The foe are pledged to fight
     By their own guilt.  But you, who still might hope
     For pardon if defeated -- what can match
     Your deep dishonour?  Shame upon your peace.
     Thou callest, Magnus, ignorant of fate,
     From all the world thy powers, and dost entreat
     Monarchs of distant realms, while haply here
     We in our treaties bargain for thy life!"

     Thus did he stir their minds and rouse anew
     The love of impious battle.  So when beasts
270  Grown strange to forests, long confined in dens,
     Their fierceness lose, and learn to bear with man;
     Once should they taste of blood, their thirsty jaws
     Swell at the touch, and all the ancient rage
     Comes back upon them till they hardly spare
     Their keeper.  Thus they rush on every crime:
     And blows which dealt at chance, and in the night
     Of battle, had brought hatred on the gods,
     Though blindly struck, their recent vows of love
     Made monstrous, horrid.  Where they lately spread
280  The mutual couch and banquet, and embraced
     Some new-found friend, now falls the fatal blow
     Upon the self-same breast; and though at first
     Groaning at the fell chance, they drew the sword;
     Hate rises as they strike, the murderous arm
     Confirms the doubtful will: with monstrous joy
     Through the wild camp they smite their kinsmen down;
     And carnage raged unchecked; and each man strove,
     Proud of his crime, before his leader's face
     To prove his shamelessness of guilt.

                                             But thou,
290  Caesar, though losing of thy best, dost know
     The gods do favour thee.  Thessalian fields
     Gave thee no better fortune, nor the waves
     That lave Massilia; nor on Pharos' main
     Didst thou so triumph.  By this crime alone
     Thou from this moment of the better cause
     Shalt be the Captain.

                              Since the troops were stained
     With foulest slaughter thus, their leaders shunned
     All camps with Caesar's joined, and sought again
     Ilerda's lofty walls; but Caesar's horse
300  Seized on the plain and forced them to the hills
     Reluctant.  There by steepest trench shut in,
     He cuts them from the river, nor permits
     Their circling ramparts to enclose a spring.

     By this dread path Death trapped his captive prey.
     Which when they knew, fierce anger filled their souls,
     And took the place of fear.  They slew the steeds
     Now useless grown, and rushed upon their fate;
     Hopeless of life and flight.  But Caesar cried:
     "Hold back your weapons, soldiers, from the foe,
310  Strike not the breast advancing; let the war
     Cost me no blood; he falls not without price
     Who with his life-blood challenges the fray.
     Scorning their own base lives and hating light,
     To Caesar's loss they rush upon their death,
     Nor heed our blows.  But let this frenzy pass,
     This madman onset; let the wish for death
     Die in their souls."  Thus to its embers shrank
     The fire within when battle was denied,
     And fainter grew their rage until the night
320  Drew down her starry veil and sank the sun.
     Thus keener fights the gladiator whose wound
     Is recent, while the blood within the veins
     Still gives the sinews motion, ere the skin
     Shrinks on the bones: but as the victor stands
     His fatal thrust achieved, and points the blade
     Unfaltering, watching for the end, there creeps
     Torpor upon the limbs, the blood congeals
     About the gash, more faintly throbs the heart,
     And slowly fading, ebbs the life away.

330  Raving for water now they dig the plains
     Seeking for hidden fountains, not with spade
     And mattock only searching out the depths,
     But with the sword; they hack the stony heights,
     In shafts that reach the level of the plain.
     No further flees from light the pallid wretch
     Who tears the bowels of the earth for gold.
     Yet neither riven stones revealed a spring,
     Nor streamlet whispered from its hidden source;
     To water trickled on the gravel bed,
340  Nor dripped within the cavern.  Worn at length
     With labour huge, they crawl to light again,
     After such toil to fall to thirst and heat
     The readier victims: this was all they won.
     All food they loathe; and 'gainst their deadly thirst
     Call famine to their aid.  Damp clods of earth
     They squeeze upon their mouths with straining hands.
     Where'er on foulest mud some stagnant slime
     Or moisture lies, though doomed to die they lap
     With greedy tongues the draught their lips had loathed
350  Had life been theirs to choose.  Beast-like they drain
     The swollen udder, and where milk was not,
     They sucked the life-blood forth.  From herbs and boughs
     Dripping with dew, from tender shoots they pressed,
     Say, from the pith of trees, the juice within.

     Happy the host that onward marching finds
     Its savage enemy has fouled the wells
     With murderous venom; had'st thou, Caesar, cast
     The reeking filth of shambles in the stream,
     And henbane dire and all the poisonous herbs
360  That lurk on Cretan slopes, still had they drunk
     The fatal waters, rather than endure
     Such lingering agony.  Their bowels racked
     With torments as of flame; the swollen tongue
     And jaws now parched and rigid, and the veins;
     Each laboured breath with anguish from the lungs
     Enfeebled, moistureless, was scarcely drawn,
     And scarce again returned; and yet agape,
     Their panting mouths sucked in the nightly dew;
     They watch for showers from heaven, and in despair
370  Gaze on the clouds, whence lately poured a flood.
     Nor were their tortures less that Meroe
     Saw not their sufferings, nor Cancer's zone,
     Nor where the Garamantian turns the soil;
     But Sicoris and Iberus at their feet,
     Two mighty floods, but far beyond their reach,
     Rolled down in measureless volume to the main.

     But now their leaders yield; Afranius,
     Vanquished, throws down his arms, and leads his troops,
     Now hardly living, to the hostile camp
380  Before the victor's feet, and sues for peace.
     Proud was his bearing, and despite of ills,
     His mien majestic, of his triumphs past
     Still mindful in disaster -- thus he stood,
     Though suppliant for grace, a leader yet;
     From fearless heart thus speaking: "Had the fates
     Thrown me before some base ignoble foe,
     Not, Caesar, thee; still had this arm fought on
     And snatched my death.  Now if I suppliant ask,
     'Tis that I value still the boon of life
390  Given by a worthy hand.  No party ties
     Roused us to arms against thee; when the war,
     This civil war, broke out, it found us chiefs;
     And with our former cause we kept the faith,
     So long as brave men should.  The fates' decree
     No longer we withstand.  Unto thy will
     We yield the western tribes: the east is thine
     And all the world lies open to thy march.
     Be generous!  blood nor sword nor wearied arm
     Thy conquests bought.  Thou hast not to forgive
400  Aught but thy victory won.  Nor ask we much.
     Give us repose; to lead in peace the life
     Thou shalt bestow; suppose these armed lines
     Are corpses prostrate on the field of war
     Ne'er were it meet that thy victorious ranks

     Should mix with ours, the vanquished.  Destiny
     Has run for us its course: one boon I beg;
     Bid not the conquered conquer in thy train."

     Such were his words, and Caesar's gracious smile
     Granted his prayer, remitting rights that war
410  Gives to the victor.  To th' unguarded stream
     The soldiers speed: prone on the bank they lie
     And lap the flood or foul the crowded waves.
     In many a burning throat the sudden draught
     Poured in too copious, filled the empty veins
     And choked the breath within: yet left unquenched
     The burning pest which though their frames were full
     Craved water for itself.  Then, nerved once more,
     Their strength returned.  Oh, lavish luxury,
     Contented never with the frugal meal!
420  Oh greed that searchest over land and sea
     To furnish forth the banquet!  Pride that joy'st
     In sumptuous tables!  learn what life requires,
     How little nature needs!  No ruddy juice
     Pressed from the vintage in some famous year,
     Whose consuls are forgotten, served in cups
     With gold and jewels wrought restores the spark,
     The failing spark, of life; but water pure
     And simplest fruits of earth.  The flood, the field
     Suffice for nature.  Ah!  the weary lot
430  Of those who war!  But these, their amour laid
     Low at the victor's feet, with lightened breast,
     Secure themselves, no longer dealing death,
     Beset by care no more, seek out their homes.
     What priceless gift in peace had they secured!
     How grieved it now their souls to have poised the dart
     With arm outstretched; to have felt their raving thirst;
     And prayed the gods for victory in vain!
     Nay, hard they think the victor's lot, for whom
     A thousand risks and battles still remain;
440  If fortune never is to leave his side,
     How often must he triumph!  and how oft
     Pour out his blood where'er great Caesar leads!
     Happy, thrice happy, he who, when the world
     Is nodding to its ruin, knows the spot
     Where he himself shall, though in ruin, lie!
     No trumpet call shall break his sleep again:
     But in his humble home with faithful spouse
     And sons unlettered Fortune leaves him free
     From rage of party; for if life he owes
450  To Caesar, Magnus sometime was his lord.
     Thus happy they alone live on apart,
     Nor hope nor dread the event of civil war.

     Not thus did Fortune upon Caesar smile
     In all the parts of earth; (13) but 'gainst his arms
     Dared somewhat, where Salona's lengthy waste
     Opposes Hadria, and Iadar warm
     Meets with his waves the breezes of the west.
     There brave Curectae dwell, whose island home
     Is girded by the main; on whom relied
460  Antonius; and beleaguered by the foe,
     Upon the furthest margin of the shore,
     (Safe from all ills but famine) placed his camp.
     But for his steeds the earth no forage gave,
     Nor golden Ceres harvest; but his troops
     Gnawed the dry herbage of the scanty turf
     Within their rampart lines.  But when they knew
     That Baslus was on th' opposing shore
     With friendly force, by novel mode of flight
     They aim to reach him.  Not the accustomed keel
470  They lay, nor build the ship, but shapeless rafts
     Of timbers knit together, strong to bear
     All ponderous weight; on empty casks beneath
     By tightened chains made firm, in double rows
     Supported; nor upon the deck were placed
     The oarsmen, to the hostile dart exposed,
     But in a hidden space, by beams concealed.
     And thus the eye amazed beheld the mass
     Move silent on its path across the sea,
     By neither sail nor stalwart arm propelled.

480  They watch the main until the refluent waves
     Ebb from the growing sands; then, on the tide
     Receding, launch their vessel; thus she floats
     With twin companions: over each uprose
     With quivering battlements a lofty tower.
     Octavius, guardian of Illyrian seas,
     Restrained his swifter keels, and left the rafts
     Free from attack, in hope of larger spoil
     From fresh adventures; for the peaceful sea
     May tempt them, and their goal in safety reached,
490  To dare a second voyage.  Round the stag
     Thus will the cunning hunter draw a line
     Of tainted feathers poisoning the air;
     Or spread the mesh, and muzzle in his grasp
     The straining jaws of the Molossian hound,
     And leash the Spartan pack; nor is the brake
     Trusted to any dog but such as tracks
     The scent with lowered nostrils, and refrains
     From giving tongue the while; content to mark
     By shaking leash the covert of the prey.

500  Ere long they manned the rafts in eager wish
     To quit the island, when the latest glow
     Still parted day from night.  But Magnus' troops,
     Cilician once, taught by their ancient art,
     In fraudulent deceit had left the sea
     To view unguarded; but with chains unseen
     Fast to Illyrian shores, and hanging loose,
     They blocked the outlet in the waves beneath.
     The leading rafts passed safely, but the third
     Hung in mid passage, and by ropes was hauled
510  Below o'ershadowing rocks.  These hollowed out
     In ponderous masses overhung the main,
     And nodding seemed to fall: shadowed by trees
     Dark lay the waves beneath.  Hither the tide
     Brings wreck and corpse, and, burying with the flow,
     Restores them with the ebb: and when the caves
     Belch forth the ocean, swirling billows fall
     In boisterous surges back, as boils the tide
     In that famed whirlpool on Sicilian shores.

     Here, with Venetian settlers for its load,
520  Stood motionless the raft.  Octavius' ships
     Gathered around, while foemen on the land
     Filled all the shore.  But well the captain knew,
     Volteius, how the secret fraud was planned,
     And tried in vain with sword and steel to burst
     The bands that held them; without hope he fights,
     Uncertain where to avoid or front the foe.
     Caught in this strait they strove as brave men should
     Against opposing hosts; nor long the fight,
     For fallen darkness brought a truce to arms.

530  Then to his men disheartened and in fear
     Of coming fate Volteius, great of soul,
     Thus spake in tones commanding: "Free no more,
     Save for this little night, consult ye now
     In this last moment, soldiers, how to face
     Your final fortunes.  No man's life is short
     Who can take thought for death, nor is your fame
     Less than a conqueror's, if with breast advanced
     Ye meet your destined doom.  None know how long
     The life that waits them.  Summon your own fate,
540  And equal is your praise, whether the hand
     Quench the last flicker of departing light,
     Or shear the hope of years.  But choice to die
     Is thrust not on the mind -- we cannot flee;
     See at our throats, e'en now, our kinsmen's swords.
     Then choose for death; desire what fate decrees.
     At least in war's blind cloud we shall not fall;
     Nor when the flying weapons hide the day,
     And slaughtered heaps of foemen load the field,
     And death is common, and the brave man sinks
550  Unknown, inglorious.  Us within this ship,
     Seen of both friends and foes, the gods have placed;
     Both land and sea and island cliffs shall bear,
     From either shore, their witness to our death,
     In which some great and memorable fame
     Thou, Fortune, dost prepare.  What glorious deeds
     Of warlike heroism, of noble faith,
     Time's annals show!  All these shall we surpass.
     True, Caesar, that to fall upon our swords
     For thee is little; yet beleaguered thus,
560  With neither sons nor parents at our sides,
     Shorn of the glory that we might have earned,

     We give thee here the only pledge we may.
     Yet let these hostile thousands fear the souls
     That rage for battle and that welcome death,
     And know us for invincible, and joy
     That no more rafts were stayed.  They'll offer terms
     And tempt us with a base unhonoured life.
     Would that, to give that death which shall be ours
     The greater glory, they may bid us hope
570  For pardon and for life!  lest when our swords
     Are reeking with our hearts'-blood, they may say
     This was despair of living.  Great must be
     The prowess of our end, if in the hosts
     That fight his battles, Caesar is to mourn
     This little handful lost.  For me, should fate
     Grant us retreat, -- myself would scorn to shun
     The coming onset.  Life I cast away,
     The frenzy of the death that comes apace
     Controls my being.  Those alone whose end
580  Inspires them, know the happiness of death,
     Which the high gods, that men may bear to live,
     Keep hid from others."  Thus his noble words
     Warmed his brave comrades' hearts; and who with fear
     And tearful eyes had looked upon the Wain,
     Turning his nightly course, now hoped for day,
     Such precepts deep within them.  Nor delayed
     The sky to dip the stars below the main;
     For Phoebus in the Twins his chariot drave
     At noon near Cancer; and the hours of night (14)
590  Were shortened by the Archer.

                                        When day broke,
     Lo!  on the rocks the Istrians; while the sea
     Swarmed with the galleys and their Grecian fleet
     All armed for fight: but first the war was stayed
     And terms proposed: life to the foe they thought
     Would seem the sweeter, by delay of death
     Thus granted.  But the band devoted stood,
     Proud of their promised end, and life forsworn,
     And careless of the battle: no debate
     Could shake their high resolve. (15)  In numbers few
600  'Gainst foemen numberless by land and sea,
     They wage the desperate fight; then satiate
     Turn from the foe.  And first demanding death
     Volteius bared his throat.  "What youth," he cries,
     "Dares strike me down, and through his captain's wounds
     Attest his love for death?"  Then through his side
     Plunge blades uncounted on the moment drawn.
     He praises all: but him who struck the first
     Grateful, with dying strength, he does to death.
     They rush together, and without a foe
610  Work all the guilt of battle.  Thus of yore,
     Rose up the glittering Dircaean band
     From seed by Cadmus sown, and fought and died,
     Dire omen for the brother kings of Thebes.
     And so in Phasis' fields the sons of earth,
     Born of the sleepless dragon, all inflamed
     By magic incantations, with their blood
     Deluged the monstrous furrow, while the Queen
     Feared at the spells she wrought.  Devoted thus
     To death, they fall, yet in their death itself
620  Less valour show than in the fatal wounds
     They take and give; for e'en the dying hand
     Missed not a blow -- nor did the stroke alone
     Inflict the wound, but rushing on the sword
     Their throat or breast received it to the hilt;
     And when by fatal chance or sire with son,
     Or brothers met, yet with unfaltering weight
     Down flashed the pitiless sword: this proved their love,
     To give no second blow.  Half living now
     They dragged their mangled bodies to the side,
630  Whence flowed into the sea a crimson stream
     Of slaughter.  'Twas their pleasure yet to see
     The light they scorned; with haughty looks to scan
     The faces of their victors, and to feel
     The death approaching.  But the raft was now
     Piled up with dead; which, when the foemen saw,
     Wondering at such a chief and such a deed,
     They gave them burial.  Never through the world
     Of any brave achievement was the fame
     More widely blazed.  Yet meaner men, untaught
640  By such examples, see not that the hand
     Which frees from slavery needs no valiant mind
     To guide the stroke.  But tyranny is feared
     As dealing death; and Freedom's self is galled
     By ruthless arms; and knows not that the sword
     Was given for this, that none need live a slave.
     Ah Death!  would'st thou but let the coward live
     And grant the brave alone the prize to die!

     Nor less were Libyan fields ablaze with war.
     For Curio rash from Lilybaean (16) coast
650  Sailed with his fleet, and borne by gentle winds
     Betwixt half-ruined Carthage, mighty once,
     And Clupea's cliff, upon the well-known shore
     His anchors dropped.  First from the hoary sea
     Remote, where Bagra slowly ploughs the sand,
     He placed his camp: then sought the further hills
     And mazy passages of cavernous rocks,
     Antaeus' kingdom called.  From ancient days
     This name was given; and thus a swain retold
     The story handed down from sire to son:
660  "Not yet exhausted by the giant brood,
     Earth still another monster brought to birth,
     In Libya's caverns: huger far was he,
     More justly far her pride, than Briareus
     With all his hundred hands, or Typhon fierce,
     Or Tityos: 'twas in mercy to the gods
     That not in Phlegra's (17) fields Antaeus grew,
     But here in Libya; to her offspring's strength,
     Unmeasured, vast, she added yet this boon,
     That when in weariness and labour spent
670  He touched his parent, fresh from her embrace
     Renewed in rigour he should rise again.
     In yonder cave he dwelt, 'neath yonder rock
     He made his feast on lions slain in chase:
     There slept he; not on skins of beasts, or leaves,
     But fed his strength upon the naked earth.
     Perished the Libyan hinds and those who came,
     Brought here in ships, until he scorned at length
     The earth that gave him strength, and on his feet
     Invincible and with unaided might
680  Made all his victims.  Last to Afric shores,
     Drawn by the rumour of such carnage, came
     Magnanimous Alcides, he who freed
     Both land and sea of monsters.  Down on earth
     He threw his mantle of the lion's skin
     Slain in Cleone; nor Antaeus less
     Cast down the hide he wore.  With shining oil,
     As one who wrestles at Olympia's feast,
     The hero rubs his limbs: the giant feared
     Lest standing only on his parent earth
690  His strength might fail; and cast o'er all his bulk
     Hot sand in handfuls.  Thus with arms entwined
     And grappling hands each seizes on his foe;
     With hardened muscles straining at the neck
     Long time in vain; for firm the sinewy throat
     Stood column-like, nor yielded; so that each
     Wondered to find his peer.  Nor at the first
     Divine Alcides put forth all his strength,
     By lengthy struggle wearing out his foe,
     Till chilly drops stood on Antaeas' limbs,
700  And toppled to its fall the stately throat,
     And smitten by the hero's blows, the legs
     Began to totter.  Breast to breast they strive
     To gain the vantage, till the victor's arms
     Gird in the giant's yielding back and sides,
     And squeeze his middle part: next 'twixt the thighs
     He puts his feet, and forcing them apart,
     Lays low the mighty monster limb by limb.
     The dry earth drank his sweat, while in his veins
     Warm ran the life-blood, and with strength refreshed,
710  The muscle swelled and all the joints grew firm,
     And with his might restored, he breaks his bonds
     And rives the arms of Hercules away.
     Amazed the hero stood at such a strength.
     Not thus he feared, though then unused to war,
     That hydra fierce, which smitten in the marsh
     Of Inachus, renewed its severed heads.
     Again they join in fight, one with the powers
     Which earth bestowed, the other with his own:
     Nor did the hatred of his step-dame (18) find
720  In all his conflicts greater room for hope.
     She sees bedewed in sweat the neck and limbs
     Which once had borne the mountain of the gods
     Nor knew the toil: and when Antaeus felt
     His foeman's arms close round him once again,
     He flung his wearying limbs upon the sand
     To rise with strength renewed; all that the earth,
     Though labouring sore, could breathe into her son
     She gave his frame.  But Hercules at last
     Saw how his parent gave the giant strength.
730  `Stand thou,' he cried; `no more upon the ground
     Thou liest at thy will -- here must thou stay
     Within mine arms constrained; against this breast,
     Antaeus, shalt thou fall.'  He lifted up
     And held by middle girth the giant form,
     Still struggling for the earth: but she no more
     Could give her offspring rigour.  Slowly came
     The chill of death upon him, and 'twas long
     Before the hero, of his victory sure,
     Trusted the earth and laid the giant down.
740  Hence hoar antiquity that loves to prate
     And wonders at herself (19), this region called
     Antaeus' kingdom.  But a greater name
     It gained from Scipio, when he recalled
     From Roman citadels the Punic chief.
     Here was his camp; here can'st thou see the trace
     Of that most famous rampart (20) whence at length
     Issued the Eagles of triumphant Rome."

     But Curio rejoiced, as though for him
     The fortunes of the spot must hold in store
750  The fates of former chiefs: and on the place
     Of happy augury placed his tents ill-starred,
     Took from the hills their omens; and with force
     Unequal, challenged his barbarian foe.

     All Africa that bore the Roman yoke
     Then lay 'neath Varus.  He, though placing first
     Trust in his Latian troops, from every side
     And furthest regions, summons to his aid
     The nations who confessed King Juba's rule.
     Not any monarch over wider tracts
760  Held the dominion.  From the western belt (21)
     Near Gades, Atlas parts their furthest bounds;
     But from the southern, Hammon girds them in
     Hard by the whirlpools; and their burning plains
     Stretch forth unending 'neath the torrid zone,
     In breadth its equal, till they reach at length
     The shore of ocean upon either hand.
     From all these regions tribes unnumbered flock
     To Juba's standard: Moors of swarthy hue
     As though from Ind; Numidian nomads there
770  And Nasamon's needy hordes; and those whose darts
     Equal the flying arrows of the Mede:
     Dark Garamantians leave their fervid home;
     And those whose coursers unrestrained by bit
     Or saddle, yet obey the rider's hand
     Which wields the guiding switch: the hunter, too,
     Who wanders forth, his home a fragile hut,
     And blinds with flowing robe (if spear should fail)
     The angry lion, monarch of the steppe.

     Not eagerness alone to save the state
780  Stirred Juba's spirit: private hatred too
     Roused him to war.  For in the former year,
     When Curio all things human and the gods
     Polluted, he by tribune law essayed
     To ravish Libya from the tyrant's sway,
     And drive the monarch from his father's throne,
     While giving Rome a king.  To Juba thus,
     Still smarting at the insult, came the war,
     A welcome harvest for his crown retained.
     These rumours Curio feared: nor had his troops
790  (Ta'en in Corfinium's hold) (23) in waves of Rhine
     Been tested, nor to Caesar in the wars
     Had learned devotion: wavering in their faith,
     Their second chief they doubt, their first betrayed.

     Yet when the general saw the spirit of fear
     Creep through his camp, and discipline to fail,
     And sentinels desert their guard at night,
     Thus in his fear he spake:  "By daring much
     Fear is disguised; let me be first in arms,
     And bid my soldiers to the plain descend,
800  While still my soldiers.  Idle days breed doubt.
     By fight forestall the plot (24).  Soon as the thirst
     Of bloodshed fills the mind, and eager hands
     Grip firm the sword, and pressed upon the brow
     The helm brings valour to the failing heart --
     Who cares to measure leaders' merits then?
     Who weighs the cause?  With whom the soldier stands,
     For him he fights; as at the fatal show
     No ancient grudge the gladiator's arm
     Nerves for the combat, yet as he shall strike
810  He hates his rival."  Thinking thus he leads
     His troops in battle order to the plain.
     Then victory on his arms deceptive shone
     Hiding the ills to come: for from the field
     Driving the hostile host with sword and spear,
     He smote them till their camp opposed his way.
     But after Varus' rout, unseen till then,
     All eager for the glory to be his,
     By stealth came Juba: silent was his march;
     His only fear lest rumour should forestall
820  His coming victory.  In pretended war
     He sends Sabura forth with scanty force
     To tempt the enemy, while in hollow vale
     He holds the armies of his realm unseen.
     Thus doth the sly ichneumon (25) with his tail
     Waving, allure the serpent of the Nile
     Drawn to the moving shadow: he, with head
     Turned sideways, watches till the victim glides
     Within his reach, then seizes by the throat
     Behind the deadly fangs: forth from its seat
830  Balked of its purpose, through the brimming jaws
     Gushes a tide of poison.  Fortune smiled
     On Juba's stratagem; for Curio
     (The hidden forces of the foe unknown)
     Sent forth his horse by night without the camp
     To scour more distant regions.  He himself
     At earliest peep of dawn bids carry forth
     His standards; heeding not his captains' prayer
     Urged on his ears: "Beware of Punic fraud,
     The craft that taints a Carthaginian war."
840  Hung over him the doom of coming death
     And gave the youth to fate; and civil strife
     Dragged down its author.

                              On the lofty tops
     Where broke the hills abruptly to their fall
     He ranks his troops and sees the foe afar:
     Who still deceiving, simulated flight,
     Till from the height in loose unordered lines
     The Roman forces streamed upon the plain,
     In thought that Juba fled.  Then first was known
     The treacherous fraud: for swift Numidian horse
850  On every side surround them: leader, men --
     All see their fate in one dread moment come.
     No coward flees, no warrior bravely strides
     To meet the battle: nay, the trumpet call
     Stirs not the charger with resounding hoof
     To spurn the rock, nor galling bit compels
     To champ in eagerness; nor toss his mane
     And prick the ear, nor prancing with his feet
     To claim his share of combat.  Tired, the neck
     Droops downwards: smoking sweat bedews the limbs:
860  Dry from the squalid mouth protrudes the tongue,
     Hoarse, raucous panting issues from their chests;
     Their flanks distend: and every curb is dry
     With bloody foam; the ruthless sword alone
     Could move them onward, powerless even then
     To charge; but giving to the hostile dart
     A nearer victim.  But when the Afric horse
     First made their onset, loud beneath their hoofs
     Rang the wide plain, and rose the dust in air
     As by some Thracian whirlwind stirred; and veiled
870  The heavens in darkness.  When on Curio's host
     The tempest burst, each footman in the rank
     Stood there to meet his fate -- no doubtful end
     Hung in the balance: destiny proclaimed
     Death to them all.  No conflict hand to hand
     Was granted them, by lances thrown from far
     And sidelong sword-thrusts slain: nor wounds alone,
     But clouds of weapons falling from the air
     By weight of iron o'erwhelmed them.  Still drew in
     The straightening circle, for the first pressed back
880  On those behind; did any shun the foe,
     Seeking the inner safety of the ring,
     He needs must perish by his comrades' swords.
     And as the front rank fell, still narrower grew
     The close crushed phalanx, till to raise their swords
     Space was denied.  Still close and closer forced
     The armed breasts against each other driven
     Pressed out the life.  Thus not upon a scene
     Such as their fortune promised, gazed the foe.
     No tide of blood was there to glut their eyes,
890  No members lopped asunder, though the earth so
     Was piled with corpses; for each Roman stood
     In death upright against his comrade dead.

     Let cruel Carthage rouse her hated ghosts
     By this fell offering; let the Punic shades,
     And bloody Hannibal, from this defeat
     Receive atonement: yet 'twas shame, ye gods,
     That Libya gained not for herself the day;
     And that our Romans on that field should die
     To save Pompeius and the Senate's cause.

900  Now was the dust laid low by streams of blood,
     And Curio, knowing that his host was slain.
     Chose not to live; and, as a brave man should.
     He rushed upon the heap, and fighting fell.

     In vain with turbid speech hast thou profaned
     The pulpit of the forum: waved in vain
     From that proud (26) citadel the tribune flag:
     And armed the people, and the Senate's rights
     Betraying, hast compelled this impious war
     Betwixt the rival kinsmen.  Low thou liest
910  Before Pharsalus' fight, and from thine eyes
     Is hid the war.  'Tis thus to suffering Rome,
     For arms seditious and for civil strife
     Ye mighty make atonement with your blood.
     Happy were Rome and all her sons indeed,
     Did but the gods as rigidly protect
     As they avenge, her violated laws!
     There Curio lies; untombed his noble corpse,
     Torn by the vultures of the Libyan wastes.
     Yet shall we, since such merit, though unsung,
920  Lives by its own imperishable fame,
     Give thee thy meed of praise.  Rome never bore
     Another son, who, had he right pursued,
     Had so adorned her laws; but soon the times,
     Their luxury, corruption, and the curse
     Of too abundant wealth, in transverse stream
     Swept o'er his wavering mind: and Curio changed,
     Turned with his change the scale of human things.
     True, mighty Sulla, cruel Marius,
     And bloody Cinna, and the long descent
930  Of Caesar and of Caesar's house became
     Lords of our lives.  But who had power like him?
     All others bought the state: he sold alone. (27)

(1)  Both of these generals were able and distinguished officers.
     Afranius was slain by Caesar's soldiers after the battle of
     Thapsus.  Petreius, after the same battle, escaped along
     with Juba; and failing to find a refuge, they challenged
     each other to fight.  Petreius was killed, and Juba, the
     survivor, put an end to himself.
(2)  These are the names of Spanish tribes.  The Celtiberi dwelt
     on the Ebro.
(3)  Lerida, on the river Segre, above its junction with the
     Ebro.  Cinga is the modern Cinca, which falls into the Segre
(4)  Phrixus and Helle, the children of Nephele, were to be
     sacrificed to Zeus: but Nephele rescued them, and they rode
     away through the air on the Ram with the golden fleece.  But
     Helle fell into the sea, which from her was named the
     Hellespont. (See Book IX., 1126.)  The sun enters Aries
     about March 20.  The Ram is pictured among the
     constellations with his head averse.
(5)  See Book I., 463.
(6)  See Mr. Heitland's introduction, upon the meaning of the
     word "cardo".  The word "belt" seems fairly to answer to the
     two great circles or four meridians which he describes.  The
     word occurs again at line 760; Book V., 80; Book VII., 452.
(7)  The idea is that the cold of the poles tempers the heat of
     the equator.
(8)  Fuso: either spacious, outspread; or, poured into the land
     (referring to the estuaries) as Mr. Haskins prefers; or,
     poured round the island.  Portable leathern skiffs seem to
     have been in common use in Caesar's time in the English
     Channel.  These were the rowing boats of the Gauls. 
     (Mommsen, vol. iv., 219.)
(9)  Compare Book I., 519.
(10) Compare the passage in Tacitus, "Histories", ii., 45,
     in which the historian describes how the troops of Otho
     and Vitellius wept over each other after the battle and
     deplored the miseries of a civil war.  "Victi
     victoresque in lacrumas effusi, sortem civilium armorum
     misera laetitia detestantes."
(11) "Saecula nostra" may refer either to Lucan's own time or to
     the moment arrived at in the poem; or it may, as Francken
     suggests, have a more general meaning.
(12) "Petenda est"? -- "is it fit that you should beg for the
     lives of your leaders?"  Mr. Haskins says, "shall you have
     to beg for them?"  But it means that to do so is the height
     of disgrace.
(13) The scene is the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic.  Here was
     Diocletian's palace. (Described in the 13th chapter of
(14) That is, night was at its shortest.
(15) On the following passage see Dean Merivale's remarks,
     "History of the Roman Empire", chapter xvi.
(16) That is, Sicilian.
(17) For Phlegra, the scene of the battle between the giants and
     the gods, see Book VII., 170, and Book IX., 774.  Ben Jonson
     ("Sejanus", Act v., scene 10) says of Sejanus: --
          "Phlegra, the field where all the sons of earth
          Mustered against the gods, did ne'er acknowledge
          So proud and huge a monster."
(18) Juno.
(19) That is, extols ancient deeds.
(20) Referring to the battle of Zama.
(21) See line 82.
(22) Curio was tribune in B.C. 50.  His earlier years are stated
     to have been stained with vice.
(23) See Book II., 537.
(24) Preferring the reading "praeripe", with Francken.
(25) Bewick ("Quadrupeds," p. 238) tells the following anecdote
     of a tame ichneumon which had never seen a serpent, and to
     which he brought a small one.  "Its first emotion seemed to
     be astonishment mixed with anger; its hair became erect; in
     an instant it slipped behind the reptile, and with
     remarkable swiftness and agility leaped upon its head,
     seized it and crushed it with its teeth."
(26) Reading "arce", not "arte".  The word "signifer" seems to
     favour the reading I have preferred; and Dean Merivale and
     Hosius adopted it.
(27) For the character and career of Curio, see Merivale's 
     "History of the Roman Empire", chapter xvi.  He was of
     profligate character, but a friend and pupil of Cicero; at
     first a rabid partisan of the oligarchy, he had, about the
     period of his tribuneship (B.C. 50-49), become a supporter
     of Caesar.  How far Gaulish gold was the cause of this
     conversion we cannot tell. It is in allusion to this change
     that he was termed the prime mover of the civil war.  His
     arrival in Caesar's camp is described in Book I., line 303.
     He became Caesar's chief lieutenant in place of the deserter
     Labienus; and, as described in Book III., was sent to
     Sardinia and Sicily, whence he expelled the senatorial
     forces.  His final expedition to Africa, defeat and death,
     form the subject of the latter part of this book.  Mommsen
     describes him as a man of talent, and finds a resemblance
     between him and Caesar. (Vol. iv., p. 393.)