previous next

But Caesar's mind though frenzied for the fight
Was forced to pause until Antonius brought
The rearward troops; Antonius even now
Rehearsing Leucas' fight. With prayers and threats
Caesar exhorts him. ' Why delay the fates,
Thou cause of evil to the suffering world?
My speed hath won the major part: from thee
Fortune demands the final stroke alone.
Do Libyan whirlpools with deceitful tides
Uncertain separate us? Is the deep
Untried to which I call? To unknown risks
Art thou commanded? Caesar bids thee come,
Thou sluggard, not to leave him. Long ago
I ran my ships midway through sands and shoals
To harbours held by foes; and dost thou fear
My friendly camp? I mourn the waste of days
'Which fate allotted us. Upon the waves
And winds I call unceasing: hold not back
Thy willing troops, but let them dare the sea;
Here gladly shall they come to join my camp,
Though risking shipwreck: with indignant voice
I call upon thee. Not in equal shares
'The world has fallen between us: thou alone
Dost hold Italia, but Epirus I
And all the lords of Rome.' Twice called and thrice
Antonius lingered still: but Caesar's mind
Was that he failed the gods, not they his cause.
By night he braved the strait which others feared
Though bidden: for he knew that daring deeds
Are safely wrought beneath the smile of heaven:
And thus he hoped in fragile boat to cross
The stormy billows fearful to a fleet.
Now gentle night had brought repose from arms;
And sleep, blest guardian of the poor man's couch,
Restored the weary; and the camp was still.
The hour was come that called the second watch
When mighty Caesar, in the silence vast
With cautious tread advanced to such a deed 1
As slaves should dare not. Fortune for his guide,
Alone he passes on, and o'er the guard
Stretched in repose he leaps, in secret wrath
At such a sleep. Pacing the winding beach,
Fast to a sea-worn rock he finds a boat
On ocean's marge afloat. Hard by on shore
Its master dwelt within his humble home.
No solid front it reared, for sterile rush
And marshy reed enwoven formed the walls,
Propped by a shallop with its bending sides
Turned upwards. Caesar's hand upon the door
Knocks twice and thrice until the fabric shakes.
Amyclas from his couch of soft seaweed
Arising, calls: ' What shipwrecked sailor seeks
'My humble home? Who hopes for aid from me,
' By fates adverse compelled? ' He stirs the heap
Upon the hearth, until a tiny spark
Glows in the darkness, and throws wide the door.
Careless of war, he knew that civil strife
Stoops not to cottages. O! happy life
That poverty affords! great gift of heaven
Too little understood! what mansion wall,
What temple of the gods, would feel no fear
When Caesar called for entrance? Then the chief:
' Enlarge thine hopes and look for better things.
' Do but my bidding, and on yonder shore
' Place me, and thou shalt cease from one poor boat
' To earn thy living; and in years to come
' Look for a rich old age: and trust thy fates
' To those high gods whose wont it is to bless
' The poor with sudden plenty.' So he spake
E'en at such time in accents of command,
For how could Caesar else? Amyclas said,
''Twere dangerous to brave the deep to-night.
' The sun descended not in ruddy clouds
' Or peaceful rays to rest; part of his beams
' Presaged a southern gale, the rest proclaimed
' A northern tempest; and his middle orb,
' Shorn of its strength, permitted human eyes
' To gaze upon his grandeur; and the moon
' Rose not with silver horns upon the night
' Nor pure in middle space; her slender points
'Not drawn aright, but blushing with the track
' Of raging tempests, till her lurid light
'Was sadly veiled within the clouds. Again
' The forest sounds; the surf upon the shore;
' The dolphin's mood, uncertain where to play;
' The sea-mew on the land; the heron used
' To wade among the shallows, borne aloft
' And soaring on his wings-all these alarm;
' The raven, too, who plunged his head in spray,
' As if to anticipate the coming rain,
And trod the margin with unsteady gait.
But if the cause demands, behold me thine.
'Either we reach the bidden shore, or else
'Storm and the deep forbid-we can no more.'
Thus said he loosed the boat and raised the sail.
No sooner done than stars were seen to fall
In flaming furrows from the sky: nay, more;
The pole star trembled in its place on high:
Black horror marked the surging of the sea;
The main was boiling in long tracts of foam,
Uncertain of the wind, yet seized with storm.
Then spake the captain of the trembling bark:
See what remorseless ocean has in store!
Whether from east or west the storm may come
Is still uncertain, for as yet confused
'The billows tumble. Judged by clouds and sky
'A western tempest: by the murmuring deep
'A wild south-eastern gale shall sweep the sea.
'Nor bark nor man shall reach Hesperia's shore
In this wild rage of waters. To return
'Back on our course forbidden by the gods,
'Is our one refuge, and with labouring boat
'To reach the shore ere yet the nearest land
'May be too distant.'
But great Caesar's trust
Was in himself, to make all dangers yield.
And thus he answered: ' Scorn the threatening sea,
Spread out thy canvas to the raging wind;
If for thy pilot thou refusest heaven,
'Me in its stead receive. Alone in thee
One cause of terror just-thou dost not know
'Thy comrade, ne'er deserted by the gods,
'Whom fortune blesses e'en without a prayer.
'Break through the middle storm and trust in me.
'The burden of this fight falls not on us
But on the sky and ocean; and our bark
Shall swim the billows safe in him it bears.
Nor shall the wind rage long: the boat itself
Shall calm the waters. Flee the nearest shore,
Steer for the ocean with unswerving hand:
Then in the deep, when to our ship and us
No other port is given, believe thou hast
'Calabria's harbours. And dost thou not know
'The purpose of such havoc? Fortune seeks
'In all this tumult of the sea and sky
A boon for Caesar.'

1 Caesar himself says nothing of this adventure. But it is mentioned by Dion, Appian and Plutarch ('Caesar,' 38). Dean Merivale thinks the story may have been invented to introduce the apophthegm used by Caesar to the sailor, 'Fear nothing: you carry Caesar and his fortunes' (line 665 post). Mommsen accepts the story, as of an attempt which was only abandoned because no mariner could be induced to undertake it. Lucan colours it with his wildest and most exaggerated hyperbole.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Leucas (Greece) (1)
Italy (Italy) (1)
Epirus (Greece) (1)
Dion (1)
Bruttium (Italy) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: