This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Thou land of Egypt, doomed to bear a part
In civil warfare, not unreasoning sang
High Cumae's prophetess, when she forbad 1
The stream Pelusian to the Roman arms,
And all the banks which in the summer-tide
Are covered by his flood. What grievous curse
Shall I call down upon thee? May the Nile
Turn back his water to his source, thy fields
Want for the winter rain, and all the land
Crumble to desert wastes! We in our fanes
Have known thine Isis and thy hideous gods,
Half hounds, half human, and the drum that bids
To sorrow, and Osiris, whom thy dirge 2
Proclaims for man. Thou, Egypt, in thy sand
Our dead containest. Nor, though her temples now
Serve a proud master, has Rome yet required
Pompeius' ashes: in a foreign land
Still lies her chief. But though men feared at first
The victor's ire, now, Rome, at length receive
Thy Magnus' bones, if still the restless wave
Has not prevailed upon that hated shore.
Shall men have fear of tombs and dread to move
The dust of those who should be with the gods?
0, may my country place the crime on me,
If crime it be, to violate such a tomb
Of such a hero, and to bear his dust
Home to Ausonia. Happy, happy he
Who bears such holy office in his trust! 3
Haply when famine rages in the land
Or burning southern winds, or fires abound
And earthquake shocks, and Rome shall pray an end
From angry heaven-by the gods' command,
In council given, shalt thou be transferred
To thine own city, and the priest shall bear
Thy sacred ashes to their last abode.
Who now may seek beneath the raging Crab
Or hot Syene's waste, or Thebes athirst
Under the rainy Pleiades, to gaze
On Nile's broad stream; or whoso may exchange
On the Red Sea or in Arabian ports
Some Eastern merchandise, shall turn in awe
To view the venerable stone that marks
Thy grave, Pompeius; and shall worship more
Thy dust commingled with the arid sand,
Thy shade though exiled, than the fane upreared 4
On Casius' mount to Jove! In temples shrined
And gold, thy memory were viler deemed:
Fortune lies with thee in thy lowly tomb
And makes thee rival of Olympus' king.
More awful is that stone by Libyan seas
Lashed, than are Conquerors' altars. There a god
Rests in dark earth to whom all men shall bow
More than to gods Tarpeian: and his name
Shall shine the brighter in the days to come
For that no marble tomb about him stands
Nor lofty monument. That little dust
Time soon shall scatter and the tomb shall fall
And all the proofs shall perish of his death.
And happier days shall come when men shall gaze
Upon the stone, nor yet believe the tale:
And Egypt's fable, that she holds the grave
Of great Pompeius, be believed no more
Than Crete's which boasts the sepulchre of Jove.5
1 This warning of the Sibyl is also alluded to by Cicero in a letter to P. Lentulus, Proconsul of Cilicia. (Mr. Haskins's note. See also Mommsen, vol. iv., p. 305.) It seems to have been discovered in the Sibylline books at the time when it was desired to prevent Pompeius from interfering in the affairs of Egypt, in B.C. 57.
2 That is, by their weeping for his departure they treated him as a mortal and not as a god. Osiris was the soul of Apis (see on line 545), and when that animal grew old and unfit for the residence of Osiris the latter was thought to quit it. Then began the weeping, which continued until a new Apis appeared, selected, of course, by Osiris for his dwelling-place. Then they called out 'We have found him, let us rejoice.' For a discussion on the Egyptian conception of Osiris, and his place in the theogony of that nation, see Hegel's 'Lectures on the Philosophy of History,' Chapter on Egypt.
3 It may be noted that the Emperor Hadrian raised a monument on the spot to the memory of Pompeius some sixty years after this was written (Duruy's 'History of Rome,' iii., 319). Plutarch states that Cornelia had the remains taken to Rome and interred in a mausoleum. Lucan, it maybe supposed, knew nothing of this.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.