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Caesar, in rage for war, rejoicing finds
Foes in Italia; no bloodless steps
Nor vacant homes had pleased him;1 so his march
Were wasted: now the coming war was joined
Unbroken to the past; to force the gates,
Not find them open, fire and sword to bring
Upon the harvests, not through fields unharmed
To pass his legions-this was Caesar's joy;
In peaceful guise to march, this was his shame.
Italia's cities, doubtful in their choice,
Though to the earliest onset of the war
About to yield, strengthen their walls with mounds
And deepest trench encircling: massive stones
And bolts of war to hurl upon the foe
They place upon the turrets. Magnus most
The people's favour held, yet faith with fear
Fought in their breasts. As when, with strident blast,
A southern tempest has possessed the main
And all the billows follow in its track:
Then, by the Storm-king smitten, should the earth
Set Eurus free upon the swollen deep,
It shall not yield to him, though cloud and sky
Confess his strength; but in the former wind
Still find its master. But their fears prevailed,
And Caesar's fortune, o'er their wavering faith.
For Libo fled Etruria; Umbria lost
Her freedom, driving Thermus 2 from her bounds;
Great Sulla's son, unworthy of his sire,
Feared at the name of Caesar: Varus sought
The caves and woods, when smote the hostile horse
The gates of Auximon; and Spinther driven
From Asculum, the victor on his track,
Fled with his standards, soldierless; and thou,
Scipio, didst leave Nuceria's citadel
Deserted, though by bravest legions held
Sent home by Caesar for the Parthian war; 3
Whom Magnus earlier, to his kinsman gave
A loan of Roman blood, to fight the Gaul.
But brave Domitius held firm his post 4
Behind Corfinium's ramparts; his the troops
Who newly levied kept the judgment hall
At Milo's trial.5 When from far the plain
Rolled up a dusty cloud, beneath whose veil
The sheen of armour glistening in the sun,
Revealed a marching host. ' Dash down,' he cried,
Swift as ye can, the bridge that spans the stream;
And thou, O river, from thy mountain source
With all thy torrents rushing, planks and beams
Ruined and broken on thy foaming breast
Bear onward to the sea. The war shall pause
Here, at these bounds : here shall this headlong chief
Await in idleness our victory.'
He bade his squadrons, speeding from the walls,
Charge on the bridge: in vain: for Caesar saw
They sought to free the river from his chains 6
And bar his march; and roused to ire, he cried:
Were not the walls sufficient to protect
Your coward souls? Seek ye by barricades
And streams to keep me back? What though the flood
Of swollen Ganges were across my path?
Now Rubicon is passed, no stream on earth
Shall hinder Caesar! Forward, horse and foot,
And ere it totters rush upon the bridge.'
Urged in their swiftest gallop to the front
Dashed the light horse across the sounding plain;
And suddenly, as storm in summer, flew
A cloud of javelins forth, by sinewy arms
Hurled at the foe; the guard is put to flight,
And conquering Caesar, seizing on the bridge,
Compels the enemy to keep the walls.
Now do the mighty engines, soon to hurl
Gigantic stones, press forward, and the ram
Creeps 'neath the ramparts; when the gates fly back,
And lo! the traitor troops (foul crime in war)
Yield up their leader. Him they place before
His proud compatriot; yet with upright form,
And scornful features and with noble mien,
He asks his death. But Caesar knew his wish
Was punishment, and pardon was his fear:
Live though thou wouldst not,' so the chieftain spake,
And by my gift, unwilling, see the day:
Be to my conquered foes the cause of hope,
Proof of my clemency-or if thou wilt
Take arms again-and should'st thou conquer, count
This pardon nothing.' Thus he spake, and bade
Let loose the bands and set the captive free.
Ah! better had he died, and fortune spared
The Roman's last dishonour, whose worse doom
It is, that he who joined his country's camp
And fought with Magnus for the Senate's cause
Should gain for this-a pardon! Yet he curbed
His anger, thinking, ' Wilt thou then to Rome
' And peaceful scenes, degenerate? Rather war,
The furious battle and the certain end!
Break with life's ties : be Caesar's gift in vain.'
1 See the note to Book I., 165. In reality Caesar found little resistance, and did not ravage the country.
2 Thermus, to whom Iguvium had been entrusted by the Senate, was compelled to quit it owing to the disaffection of the inhabitants. (Merivale, chapter xiv.) Auximon in a similar way rose against Varus.
3 After Caesar's campaign with the Nervii, Pompeius had lent him a legion. When the Parthian war broke out and the Senate required each of the two leaders to supply a legion for it, Pompeius demanded the return of the legion which he had sent to Gaul; and Caesar returned it, together with one of his own. They were, however, retained in Italy.
4 See Book VII., 695.
5 Book I., 370.
6 That is to say, by the breaking of the bridge, the river would become a serious obstacle to Caesar.
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