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His spouse, less patient to behold the crime
Than to endure it, filled the airs with cries;
'0, husband, whom my wicked self hath slain!
'That lonely isle apart thy bane hath been
'And stayed thy coming. Caesar to the Nile
'Has won before us; for what other hand
'May do such work? But whosoe'er thou art
'Sent from the gods with power, for Caesar's ire,
'Or thine own sake, to slay, thou dost not know
'Where lies the heart of Magnus. Thou dost haste
To deal the blow as he would have it fall.
'Let me die first, and let him seeing bear
'An agony no less than death can bring.
'No freedom mine from blame of war. Alone
Of Roman wives, through oceans and through camps,
Fearing no fates, I followed him afield;
And in defeat when even monarchs feared
Received my husband. Did I then deserve
Thus to be left of thee, and didst thou seek
To spare me? And when rushing on thine end
Was I to live? Without the monarch's help
Death shall be mine, either by headlong leap
Beneath the waters; or some sailor's hand
Shall bind around this neck the fatal cord;
Or else some comrade, worthy of his chief,
Drive to my heart his blade for Magnus' sake,
And claim the service done to Caesar's arms.
What! does your cruelty withhold my fate?
Ah! still he lives, nor is it mine as yet
To win this freedom; they forbid me death,
Kept for the victor's triumph.' Thus she spake,
While friendly hands upheld her fainting form;
And sped the trembling vessel from the shore.
Men say that Magnus, when the deadly blows
Fell thick upon him, lost nor form divine,
Nor venerated mien; and as they gazed
Upon his lacerated head they marked
Still on his features anger with the gods.
For fierce Septimius in the very blow
Made yet more black his crime-unwound the folds
That swathed the face, and seized the noble head
And drooping neck ere yet was fled the life:
Then placed upon the bench; and with his blade
Slow at its hideous task, and blows unskilled
Hacked through the flesh and brake the knotted bone;
For yet man had not learned by swoop of sword
Deftly to lop the neck. Achillas claimed
The gory head dissevered. What! shalt thou
A Roman soldier, while thy blade yet reeks
From Magnus' slaughter, play the second part
To this base varlet of the Pharian king?
Nor bear thyself the bleeding trophy home?
Then, that the impious boy (ah! shameful fate)
Might know the features of the hero slain,
Seized by the locks, the dread of kings, which waved
Upon his stately front, on Pharian pike
The head was lifted; while almost the life
Gave to the tongue its accents, and the eyes
Were yet scarce glazed: that head at whose command
Was peace or war, that tongue whose eloquent tones
Would move assemblies, and that noble brow
On which were showered the rewards of Rome.
Nor to the tyrant did the sight suffice
To prove the murder done. The perishing flesh,
The tissues, and the brain he bids remove
By art nefarious: the shrivelled skin
Draws tight upon the bone; and poisonous juice
Gives to the face its lineaments in death.
Last of thy race, thou base degenerate boy,
About to perish1 soon, and yield the throne
To thine incestuous sister; while the Prince
From Macedon here in consecrated vault
Now rests, and ashes of the kings are closed
In mighty pyramids, and lofty tombs
Of thine unworthy fathers mark the graves;
Shall Magnus' body hither and thither borne
Be battered, headless, by the ocean wave?
Too much it troubled thee to guard the corse
Unmutilated, for his kinsman's eye
To witness! Such the fate which Fortune kept
With prosperous Pompeius to the end.
'Twas not for him in evil days some ray
Of light to hope for. Shattered from the height
Of power in one short moment to his death!
Years of unbroken victories balanced down
By one day's carnage! In his happy time
Heaven did not harass him, nor did she spare
In misery. Long Fortune held the hand
That dashed him down. Now beaten by the sands,
Torn upon rocks, the sport of ocean's waves
Poured through its wounds, his headless carcase lies,
Save by the lacerated trunk unknown.
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