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First trod the shore accursed, with Egypt's fates
His fortunes battled, whether Rome should pass
In crimson conquest o'er the guilty land,
Or Memphis' arms should ravish from the world
Victor and vanquished: and the warning shade
Of Magnus saved his kinsman from the sword.
By that dread crime assured, his standards borne
Before, he marched upon the Pharian town;
But when the people, jealous of their laws,
Murmured against the fasces, Caesar knew
Their minds were adverse, and that not for him
Was Magnus' murder wrought. And yet with brow
Dissembling fear, intrepid, through the shrines
Of Egypt's gods he strode, and round the fane
Of ancient Isis; bearing witness all
To Macedon's vigour in the days of old.
Yet did nor gold nor ornament restrain
His hasting steps, nor worship of the gods,
Nor city ramparts: but in greed of gain
He sought the cave dug out amid the tombs.1
The madman offspring there of Philip lies,
The famed Pellaean robber, Fortune's friend,
Snatched off by fate, in vengeance for the world.
In sacred sepulchre the hero's limbs,
Which should be scattered o'er the earth, repose,
Still spared by Fortune to these tyrant days:
For in a world to freedom once recalled,
All men had mocked the dust of him who set
The baneful lesson that so many lands
Can serve one master. Macedon he left
His home obscure; Athena he despised,
The conquest of his sire, and spurred by fate
Through Asia rushed with havoc of mankind,
Plunging his sword through peoples; red with blood
Unknown2 to them Euphrates, Ganges ran.
Curse of all earth, fell star of evil fate
To every nation! On the outer sea
He launched his fleet to sail the ocean wave:
Nor flame nor flood nor sterile Libyan sands
Stayed back his course, nor Hammon's pathless shoals;
Far to the west, where downward slopes the world
He would have led his armies, and the poles
Had compassed, and had drunk the fount of Nile:
But came his latest day; such end alone
Could nature place upon the madman king,
Who jealous in death as when he won the world
His empire with him took, nor left an heir.
Thus every city to the spoiler's hand
Was victim made. Yet in his fall was his
Babylon; and Parthia feared him. Shame on us
That Eastern nations dreaded more the lance
Of Macedon than now the Roman spear.
True that we rule beyond where takes its rise
The burning southern breeze, beyond the homes
Of western winds, and to the northern star;
But towards the rising of the sun, we yield
To him who kept the Arsacids in awe;
And puny Pella held as province sure
The Parthia fatal to our Roman arms.
Now from the stream Pelusian of the Nile,
Was come the boyish king, taming the rage
Of his effeminate people: pledge of peace;
And Caesar safely trod Pellean halls;
When Cleopatra bribed her guard to break
The harbour chains, and borne in little boat
Within the Macedonian palace gates,
Caesar unknowing, entered: Egypt's shame;
Fury of Latium; to the bane of Rome
Unchaste. For as the Spartan queen of yore
By fatal beauty Argos urged to strife
And Ilium's homes, so Cleopatra roused
Italia's frenzy. By her drum 3 she called
Down on the Capitol terror (if to speak
Such word be lawful); mixed with Roman arms
Coward Canopus, hoping she might lead
A Pharian triumph, Caesar in her train;
And 'twas in doubt upon Leucadian 4 waves
Whether a woman, not of Roman blood,
Should hold the world in awe. Such lofty thoughts
Seized on her soul upon that night in which
The wanton daughter of Pellean kings
First shared our leaders' couches. Who shall blame
Antonius for the madness of his love,
When Caesar's haughty breast drew in the flame?
Who red with carnage, 'mid the clash of arms,
In palace haunted by Pompeius' shade,
Gave place to love; and in adulterous bed,
Magnus forgotten, from the Queen impure,
To Julia gave a brother: on the bounds
Of furthest Libya permitting thus
His foe to gather: while in dalliance base
He waited on his mistress, and to her
Pharos would give; for her would conquer all.
Then Cleopatra, trusting to her charms,
Tearless approached him, though in form of grief;
Her tresses loose as though in sorrow torn,
So best becoming her; and thus began:
'If, mighty Caesar, aught to noble birth
' Be due, give ear. Of Lagian race am I
' Offspring illustrious; from my father's throne
'Cast forth to banishment; unless thy hand
'Restore to me the sceptre: then a Queen
' Falls at thy feet embracing. To our race
' Bright star of justice thou Nor first shall I
' As woman rule the cities of the Nile;
' For, neither sex preferring, Pharos bows
'To queenly governance. Of my parted sire
' Read the last words, by which 'tis mine to share
' With equal rights the kingdom and the bed.
'And the boy loves his sister, were he free;
' But his affections and his sword alike
' Pothinus orders. Nor wish I myself
' To wield my father's power; but this my prayer:
' Save from this foul disgrace our royal house,
' Bid that the king shall reign, and from the court
'Remove this hateful varlet, and his arms.
'How swells his bosom for that his the hand
'That shore Pompeius' head! And now he threats
Thee, Caesar, also; which the Fates avert!
Shame on the earth and thee that Magnus' death
Should be Pothinus' triumph or his guilt.'
Her words were nothing to his stubborn ear;
Her face achieved the prayer, her wanton smile,
The long voluptuous night of shame untold:
So did she bribe her judge; so Caesar fell.
1 The body of Alexander was embalmed, and the mummy placed in a glass case. The sarcophagus which enclosed them is stated to be now in the British Museum.
3 The kettledrum used in the worship of Isis. (See Book VIII., line 975.)
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