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Figulus, to whom
For knowledge of the secret depths of space
And laws harmonious that guide the stars
Memphis could find no peer, then spake at large:
' Either,' he said, ' the world and countless orbs
' Throughout the ages wander at their will;
' Or, if the fates control them, ruin huge
' Hangs o'er this city and o'er all mankind.
' Shall Earth yawn open and engulph the towns?
' Shall scorching heat usurp the temperate air
' And fields refuse their timely fruit? The streams
' Flow mixed with poison? In what plague, ye gods,
'In what destruction shall ye wreak your ire?
'Whate'er the truth, the days in which we live
' Shall find a doom for many. Had the star
' Of baleful Saturn, frigid in the height,
' Kindled his lurid fires, the sky had poured
'Its torrents forth as in Deucalion's time,
' And whelmed the world in waters. Or if thou,
' Phoebus, beside the Nemean lion fierce
' Wert driving now thy chariot, flames should seize
'The universe and set the air ablaze.
' These are at peace; but, Mars, why art thou bent
' On kindling thus the Scorpion, his tail
' Portending evil and his claws aflame?
' Deep sunk is kindly Jupiter, and dull
' Sweet Venus' star, and rapid Mercury
' Stays on his course: Mars only holds the sky.
'Why does Orion's sword too brightly shine?
' Why planets leave their paths and through the void
'Thus journey on obscure? Tis war that comes,
' Fierce rabid war: the sword shall bear the rule
' Confounding justice; hateful crime usurp
' The name of virtue; and the havoc spread
' Through many a year. But why entreat the gods?
' The end Rome longs for and the final peace
'Comes with a despot. Draw thou out thy chain
'Of lengthening slaughter, and (for such thy fate)
' Make good thy liberty through civil war.'
The frightened people heard, and as they heard
His words prophetic made them fear the more.
But worse remained; for as on Pindus' slopes
Possessed with fury from the Theban god
Speeds some Bacchante, thus in Roman streets
Behold a matron run, who, in her trance,
Relieves her bosom of the god within.
' Where dost thou snatch me, Paean, to what shore
'Through airy regions borne? I see the snows
'Of Thracian mountains; and Philippi's plains
'Lie broad beneath. But why these battle lines,
'No foe to vanquish-Rome on either hand?
'Again I wander 'neath the rosy hues
'That paint thine eastern skies, where regal Nile
'Meets with his flowing wave the rising tide.
'Known to mine eyes that mutilated trunk
' That lies upon the sand! Across the seas
'By changing whirlpools to the burning climes
'Of Libya borne, again I see the hosts
'From Thracia brought by fate's command. And now
'Thou bear'st me o'er the cloud-compelling Alps
'And Pyrenean summits; next to Rome.
'There in mid-Senate see the closing scene
'Of this foul war in foulest murder done.
'Again the factions rise; through all the world
Once more I pass; but give me some new land,
'Some other region, Phoebus, to behold
'Washed by the Pontic billows! for these eyes
'Already once have seen Philippi's plains! '1
The frenzy left her and she speechless fell.
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