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Thus did they pass, as though in peace profound,
The nightly watches. But Pothinus' mind,
Once with accursed butchery imbued,
Was frenzied still; since great Pompeius fell
No deed to him was crime; his rabid soul
Th' avenging goddesses and Magnus' shade
Stirred to fresh horrors; and a Pharian hand
No less was worthy, as he deemed, to shed
That blood which Fortune purposed should bedew
The conquered fathers: and the fell revenge
Due to the senate for the civil war
This hireling almost snatched. Avert, ye fates,
Far hence the shame that not by Brutus' hand
This blow be struck! Shall thus the tyrant's fall,
Just at our hands, become a Pharian crime.
Reft of example? To prepare a plan
(Fated to fail) he dares; nor veils in fraud
A plot for murder, but with open war
Attacks th' unconquered chieftain : from his crimes
He gained such courage as to send command
To lop the head of Caesar, and to join
In death the kinsmen chiefs. These words by night
His faithful servants to Achillas bear,
His foul associate, whom the boy had made
Chief of his armies, and who ruled alone
O'er Egypt's land and o'er himself her king:
' Now lay thy limbs upon the sumptuous couch
' And sleep in luxury, for the Queen hath seized
'The palace; nor alone by her betrayed,
' But Caesar's gift, is Pharos. Dost delay
' Nor hasten to the chamber of thy Queen?
' Thou only? Married to the Latian chief,
'The impious sister now her brother weds
' And hurrying from rival spouse to spouse
' Hath Egypt won, and plays the bawd for Rome.
' By amorous potions she has won the man:
' Then trust the boy! Yet give him but a night
' In her enfondling arms, and drunk with love
' Thy life and mine he'll barter for a kiss.
' We for his sister's charms by cross and flame
' Shall pay the penalty: nor hope of aid;
' Here stands adulterous Caesar, here the King
' Her spouse: how hope we from so stern a judge
' To gain acquittal? Shall she not condemn
'Those who ne'er sought her favours? By the deed
We dared together and lost, by Magnus' blood
' Which wrought the bond between us, be thou swift
' With hasty tumult to arouse the war:
' Dash in with nightly band, and mar with death
' Their shameless nuptials: on the very bed
With either lover smite the ruthless Queen.
' Nor let the fortunes of the Western chief
' Make pause our enterprise. We share with him
' The glory of his empire o'er the world.
' Pompeius fallen makes us too sublime,
There lies the shore that bids us hope success:
Ask of our power from the polluted wave,
And gaze upon the scanty tomb which holds
Not all Pompeius' ashes. Peer to him
Was he whom now thou fearest. Noble blood,
' True, is not ours: what boots it? Nor are realms
' Nor wealth of peoples given to our command.
'Yet have we risen to a height of power
For deeds of blood, and Fortune to our hands
Attracts her victims. Lo! a nobler now
Lies in our compass, and a second death
Hesperia shall appease; for Caesar's blood,
Shed by these hands, shall give us this, that Rome
Shall love us, guilty of Pompeius' fall.
Why fear these titles, why this chieftain's strength?
For shorn of these, before your swords he lies
A common soldier. To the civil war
This night shall bring completion, and shall give
To peoples slain fit offerings, and send
That life the world demands beneath the shades.
Rise then in all your hardihood and smite
This Caesar down, and let the Roman youths
Strike for themselves, and Lagos for its King.
No do thou tarry: full of wine and feast
Thou'lt fall upon him in the lists of love;
Then dare the venture, and the heavenly gods
Shall grant of Cato's and of Brutus' prayers
To thee fulfilment.'
Nor was Achillas slow
To hear the voice that counselled him to crime.
No sounding clarion summoned, as is wont,
His troops to arms; nor trumpet blare betrayed
Their nightly march: but rapidly he seized
All needed instruments of blood and war.
Of Latian race the most part of his train,
Yet to barbarian customs were their minds
By long forgetfulness of Rome debased:
Else had it shamed to serve the Pharian King;
But now his vassal and his minion's word
Compel obedience. Those who serve in camps
Lose faith and love of kin: their pittance earned1
Makes just the deed: and for their sordid pay,
Not for themselves, they threaten Caesar's life.
Where finds the piteous destiny of the realm
Rome with herself at peace? The host withdrawn
From dread Thessalia raves on Nilus' banks
As all the race of Rome. What more had dared,
With Magnus welcomed, the Lagean house?
Each hand must render to the gods their due,
Nor son of Rome may cease from civil war;
By Heaven's command our state was rent in twain;
Nor love for husband nor regard for sire
Parted our peoples. 'Twas a slave who stirred
Afresh the conflict, and Achillas grasped
In turn the sword of Rome: nay more, had won,
Had not the fates adverse restrained his hand
From Caesar's slaughter.
For the murderous pair
Ripe for their plot were met; the spacious hall
Still busied with the feast. So might have flowed
Into the kingly cups a stream of gore,
And in mid banquet fallen Caesar's head.
Yet did they fear lest in the nightly strife
(The fates permitting) some incautious hand-
So did they trust the sword-might slay the King.
Thus stayed the deed, for in the minds of slaves
The chance of doing Caesar to the death
Might bear postponement: when the day arose
Then should he suffer; and a night of life
Thus by Pothinus was to Caesar given.

1 Reading “'ibi fas ubi proxima merces,'” with Hosius and Francken.

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