previous next

As when at Elis' festival a horse
In stable pent gnaws at his prison bars
Impatient, and should clamour from without
Strike on his ear, bounds furious at restraint,
So then was Caesar, eager for the fight,
Stirred by the words of Curio. To the ranks
He bids his soldiers; with majestic mien
And hand commanding silence as they come.
Comrades,' he cried, ' victorious returned,
'Who by my side for ten long years have faced,
'Mid Alpine winters and on Arctic shores,
'The thousand dangers of the battle-field---
Is this our country's welcome, this her prize
' For death and wounds and Roman blood outpoured?
' Rome arms her choicest sons; the sturdy oaks
' Are felled to make a fleet;-what could she more
' If from the Alps fierce Hannibal were come
' With all his Punic host? " By land and sea
' Caesar shall fly!" Fly? Though in adverse war
' Our best had fallen, and the savage Gaul
' Were hard upon our track, we would not fly.
'And now, when fortune smiles and kindly gods
' Beckon us on to glory! -Let him come
' Fresh from his years of peace, with all his crowd
' Of conscript burgesses, Marcellus' tongue 1
' And Cato's empty name! We will not fly.
' Shall Eastern hordes and greedy hirelings keep
' Their loved Pompeius ever at the helm?
' Shall chariots of triumph be for him
'Though youth and law forbad them? Shall he seize
' On Rome's chief honours ne'er to be resigned?
' And what of harvests 2 blighted through the world
' And ghastly famine made to serve his ends?
' Who hath forgotten how Pompeius' bands
' Seized on the forum? the grim sheen of swords
' When outraged justice trembled, and the spears
' Hemmed in the judgment-seat where Milo 3 stood?
' And now when worn and old and ripe for rest,4
' Greedy of power, the impious sword again
' He draws. As tigers in Hyrcanian woods
' Wandering, or in the caves that saw their birth,
' Once having lapped the blood of slaughtered kine,
' Shall never cease from rage; e'en so this whelp
' Of cruel Sulla, nursed in civil war,
' Outstrips his master; and the tongue which licked
' That reeking weapon ever thirsts for more.
' Stain once the lips with blood, no other meal
' They shall enjoy. And shall there be no end
' Of these long years of power and of crime?
' Nay, this one lesson, ere it be too late,
' Learn of thy gentle Sulla-to retire!
' Of old his victory o'er Cilician thieves
' And Pontus' weary monarch gave him fame,
' By poison scarce attained. His latest prize
' Shall I be, Caesar, I, who would not quit
' My conquering eagles at his proud command?
' Nay, if no triumph is reserved for me,
' Let these at least of long and toilsome war
''Neath other leaders the rewards enjoy.
' Where shall the weary soldier find his rest?
' What cottage homes their joys, what fields their fruit
' Shall to our veterans yield? Will Magnus say
' That pirates only till the fields aright?
' Unfurl your standards; victory gilds them yet,
' As through those glorious years. Deny our rights!
' He that denies them makes our quarrel just.
' Nay! use the strength that we have made our own.
' No booty seek we, nor imperial power.
' This would-be ruler of subservient Rome
'We force to quit his grasp; and Heaven shall smile
'On those who seek to drag the tyrant down.'
Thus Caesar spake; but doubtful murmurs ran
Throughout the crowd; their household gods and homes
Made pause their minds though long inured to blood:
But fear of Caesar and the pride of war
Drew them to him. Then Laelius, who wore
The well-earned crown for Roman life preserved,
The foremost Captain of the army, spake:
'O greatest leader of the Roman name,
'If thou dost ask it, and the law permits,
'I tell thee all: our just complaint is this,
'That gifted with such strength thou didst refrain
'From using it. Hadst thou no trust in us?
'While the hot life-blood fills these glowing veins,
' While these strong arms avail to hurl the lance,
'Wilt thou in peace endure the Senate's rule?
'Is civil conquest then so base and vile?
'Lead us through Scythian deserts, lead us where
'The inhospitable Syrtes line the shore
'Of Afric's burning sands, or where thou wilt:
'This hand, to leave a conquered world behind,
'Held firm the oar that tamed the Northern Sea
And Rhine's swift torrent foaming to the main.
'To follow thee fate gives me now the power:
'The will was mine before. No citizen
'I count the man 'gainst whom thy trumpets sound.
'By ten campaigns of victory, I swear,
'By all thy triumphs, bid me plunge the sword
'In sire or brother or in pregnant spouse,
By this unwilling hand the deed were done:
'Bid spoil the gods and set the fanes ablaze,
Great Juno's shrine were kindled with our fires;
'Bid plant our arms o'er Tuscan Tiber's stream,
'Italian land I'll quarter for the camp:
'Bid raze the wall, I'll drive the fatal ram
'And rive the stones asunder, though the prize
' Were Rome herself.' His comrades lift their hands
And vow to follow wheresoever he leads.
And such a clamour rends the sky as when
Some Thracian blast on Ossa's pine-clad rocks
Falls headlong, and the loud re-echoing woods,
Or bending, or rebounding from the stroke,
In sounding chorus lift the roar on high.
When Caesar saw them welcome thus the war
And Fortune leading on, and favouring fates,
He seized the moment, called his troops from Gaul,
And breaking up his camp set on for Rome.

1 Marcus Marcellus, consul in B.C. 51.

2 Plutarch, 'Pomp.,' 49. The harbours and places of trade were placed under his control in order that he might find a remedy for the scarcity of grain. But his enemies said that he had caused the scarcity in order to get the power.

3 Milo was brought to trial for the murder of Clodius in B.C. 52, about three years before this. Pompeius, then sole Consul, had surrounded the tribunal with soldiers, who at one time charged the crowd. Milo was sent into exile at Massilia.

4 See Book II., 631.

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.
Melos (Greece) (2)
Rhine (1)
Milo (Guinea) (1)
Marseilles (France) (1)
Elis (Greece) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
52 BC (1)
51 BC (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: