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More than had Rome resounded with his praise
Words such as these gave honour to the shade
Of that most noble dead. Meanwhile the crowd
Weary of warfare, since Pompeius' fall,
Broke into discord, as their ancient chief
Cilician called them to desert the camp.
They seize upon their ships and float the wave;
But Cato hailed them from the nearest shore;
' Untamed Cilician, is thy course now set
' For Ocean theft again; Pompeius gone,
' Pirate art thou once more? ' Then all the air
Hummed with the murmur of the throng; and one
Resolved on flight thus answered, ' Pardon, chief,
' Twas love of Magnus, not of civil war,
' That led us to the fight: his side was ours:
' With him whom all the world preferred to peace,
' Our cause is perished. Let us seek our homes
' Long since unseen, our children and our wives.
If nor the rout on dread Pharsalia's field
Nor yet Pompeius' death shall close the war,
Whence comes the end? Our span of life is fled:
Give death safe haven, give old age his pyre.
Scarce even to its captains civil strife
Concedes due burial. Nor in our defeat
Does Fortune threaten us with the savage yoke
Of distant nations. In the garb of Rome
And with her rights, I leave thee. Who had been
Second to Magnus living, he shall be
My first hereafter: to that sacred shade
Be the prime honour. Chance of war appoints
My lord but not my leader. Thee alone
I followed, Magnus; after thee the fates.
'Nor have I right to hope for victory now,
Nor wish: our Thracian array is fled
'In Caesar's triumph, whose all-potent star
Of fortune rules the world; and none but he
Has power to keep or save. That civil war
Which while Pompeius lived was loyalty
Is impious now. Let country lead thee on,
'Cato, and public right; but let us seek
' The standards of the Consul.' Thus he spake
And with him leaped into the ship a throng
Of eager comrades.
Then was Rome undone,
For all the shore was stirring with a crowd
Athirst for slavery. But burst these words
From Cato's blameless breast: ' Then with like vows
' As Caesar's rival host ye too did seek
' A lord and master! not for Rome the fight,
But for Pompeius! For that now no more
'Ye fight for tyranny, but for yourselves,
'Not for some despot chief, ye live and die;
' Since now 'tis safe to conquer and no lord
' Shall rob you, victors, of a world subdued-
' Ye flee the war, and on your abject necks
'Feel for the absent yoke; nor can endure
' Without a despot! Yet to men the prize
' Were worth the danger. Magnus might have used
' To evil ends your blood; refuse ye now,
' With liberty so near, your country's call?
' Now lives one tyrant only of the three;
' Thus far in favour of the laws have wrought
' The Pharian weapons and the Parthian bow;
' Not you, degenerate! Begone, and spurn
' This gift of Ptolemaeus.1 Who would think
' Your hands were stained with blood? The foe will deem
' That you upon that dread Thessalian day
' First turned your backs. Then flee in safety, flee!
' By neither battle nor blockade subdued
' Caesar shall give you life! 0 slaves most base,
' Your former master slain, ye seek his heir!
' Why doth it please you not yet more to earn
'Than life and pardon? Bear across the sea
' Metellus' daughter, Magnus' weeping spouse,
' And both his sons; outstrip the Pharian gift.
' Nor spare this head, which, laid before the feet
' Of that detested tyrant, shall deserve
'A full reward. Thus, cowards, shall ye learn
' In that ye followed me how great your gain.
' Quick to your task and purchase thus with blood
'Your claim on Caesar. 'Tis a dastard crime;
' Flight without slaughter!'
Cato thus recalled
The parting vessels. So when bees in swarm
Desert their empty comb, forget the hive,
Ceasing to cling together, and with wings
Untrammelled seek the air, nor slothful light
On thyme to taste its bitterness-then rings
The Phrygian gong-at once they pause aloft
Astonied; and with love of toil resumed
Through all the flowers for their honey store
In ceaseless wanderings search; the shepherd joys,
Sure that th' Hyblaean mead for him has kept
His cottage store, the riches of his home.
Now in the active conduct of the war
Were brought to discipline their minds, untaught
To bear repose; first on the sandy shore
Toiling they learned fatigue: then stormed thy walls,
Cyrene; prizeless, for to Cato's mind
'Twas prize enough to conquer. Juba next
He bids approach, though Nature on the path
Had placed the Syrtes; which his sturdy heart
Aspired to conquer. Either at the first
When Nature gave the universe its form
She left this region neither land nor sea;
Not wholly shrunk, so that it should receive
The ocean flood; nor firm enough to stand
Against its buffets-all the pathless coast
Lies in uncertain shape; earth by the deep
Is parted from the land; on sandy banks
The seas are broken, and from shoal to shoal
The waves advance to sound upon the shore.
Nature, in spite, thus left her work undone,
Unfashioned to men's use-Or else of old
A foaming ocean filled the wide expanse,
But Titan feeding from the briny depths
His burning fires (near to the zone of heat)
Reduced the waters. Still the main contends;
But in long time the Sun's destructive rays
Shall make the Syrtes land, and shallow pools
E'en now proclaim the sea's defeat to come.

1 That is, liberty, which by the murder of Pompeius they had obtained.

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    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), SYRTIS MAJOR
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