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Next, conquered on the land, upon the main
They try their fortunes. On their simple craft
No painted figure-head adorned the bows
Nor claimed protection from the gods; but rude,
Just as they fell upon their mountain homes,
The trees were knit together, and the deck
Gave steady foot-hold for an ocean fight.
Meanwhile had Caesar's squadron left the Rhone
And reached with Brutus' 1 turret ship the strait
By Stoechas'2 isles. Nor less the Grecian host-
Boys not yet grown to war, and aged men,
Armed for the conflict, with their all at stake.
Nor only did they marshal for the fight
Ships meet for service; but their ancient keels
Brought from the dockyards. When the morning rays
Broke from the waters, and the sky was clear,
And all the winds were still upon the deep,
Smoothed for the battle, swift on either part
The fleets essay the open; and the ships
Tremble beneath the oars that urge them on,
By sinewy arms impelled. Upon the wings
That bound the Roman fleet, the larger craft
With triple and quadruple banks of oars
Gird in the lesser: so they front the sea;
While in their rear, shaped as a crescent moon,
Liburnian galleys follow. Over all
Towers Brutus' deck praetorian. Oars on oars
Propel the bulky vessel through the main,
Six ranks; the topmost strike the waves afar.
When such a space remained between the fleets
As could be covered by a single stroke,
Innumerable voices rise in air
Drowning with resonant din the beat of oars
And note of trumpet summoning: and all
Sit on the benches and with mighty stroke
Sweep o'er the sea and gain the space between.
Then crashed the prows together, and the keels
Rebounded backwards, and unnumbered darts
Or darkened all the sky or, in their fall,
The vacant ocean. As the wings grew wide,
Less densely packed the fleet, some Grecian ships
Pressed in between; as when with west and east
The tide contends, this way the waves are driven
And that the sea; so as they plough the deep
In various lines converging, what the prow
Throws up advancing, from the foemen's oars
Falls back repelled. But soon the Grecian fleet
Was handier found in battle, and in flight
Pretended, and in shorter curves could round;
More deftly governed by the guiding helm :
While on the Roman side their steadier keels
Gave vantage, as to men who fight on land.
Then Brutus to the pilot of his ship:
' Dost suffer them to range the wider deep,
'Contending with the foe in naval skill?
' Draw close the war and drive us on the prows
'Of these Phocaeans.' Him the pilot heard;
And turned his vessel slantwise to the foe.
Then was the sea all covered with the war:
Then Grecian ships attacking Brutus found
Their ruin in the stroke, and vanquished lay
Beside his bulwarks; with curved hooks and chains
The foe they grapple, by entangled oars
Themselves held back. And now no outstretched arm
Hurls forth the javelin, but sword in hand
They wage a naval fight: each from his ship
Leans forward to the stroke, and falls when slain
Upon a foeman's deck. Deep flows the stream
Of purple slaughter to the foamy main :
By piles of floating corpses are the sides,
Though grappled, kept asunder. Some, half dead,
Plunge in the ocean, gulping down the brine
Encrimsoned with their blood; some lingering still
Draw their last struggling breath amid the wreck
Of broken navies: weapons which have missed
Find yet their victims, and the falling steel
Fails not in middle deep to deal the wound.
One vessel circled by Phocaean keels
Divides her strength, and on the right and left
On either side with equal war contends;
On whose high poop while Tagus fighting gripped
The stern Phocaean, pierced his back and breast
Two fatal weapons; in the midst the steel
Met, and the blood, uncertain whence to flow,
Stood still, arrested, till with double course
Forth by a sudden gush it drove each dart,
And sent the life abroad through either wound.
Here fated Telon also steered his ship:
No pilot's hand upon an angry sea
More deftly ruled a vessel. Well he knew,
Or by the sun or crescent moon, how best
To set his canvas fitted for the breeze
The coming hours would bring. His rushing stem
Shattered a Roman vessel: but a dart
Hurled at the moment quivered in his breast.
He falls, and in the fall his dying hand
Diverts the prow. Then Gyareus, in act
To climb the friendly deck, by javelin pierced,
Still as he hung, by the retaining steel
Fast to the side was nailed.
Twin brethren stand
A fruitful mother's pride; with different fates,
But ne'er distinguished till death's savage hand
Struck once, and ended error: he that lived,
Cause of fresh anguish to their sorrowing souls,
Called ever to the weeping parents back
The image of the lost: who, as the oars
Grecian and Roman mixed their teeth oblique,
Grasped with his dexter hand the Roman ship;
When fell a blow that shore his arm away.
So died, upon the side it held, the hand,
Nor loosed its grasp in death. Yet with the wound
His noble courage rose, and maimed he dared
Renew the fray, and stretched across the sea
To grasp the lost-in vain! another blow
Lopped arm and hand alike. Nor shield nor sword
Henceforth are his. Yet even now he seeks
No sheltering hold, but with his chest advanced
Before his brother armed, he claims the fight,
And holding in his breast the darts which else
Had slain his comrades, pierced with countless spears,
He falls in death well earned; yet ere his end
Collects his parting life, and all his strength
Strains to the utmost and with failing limbs
Leaps on the foeman's deck; by weight alone
Injurious; for streaming down with gore
And piled on high with corpses, while her sides
Sounded to ceaseless blows, the fated ship
Let in the greedy brine until her ways
Were level with the waters-then she plunged
In whirling eddies downwards-and the main
First parted, then closed in upon its prey.
Full many wondrous deaths, with fates diverse,
Upon the sea in that day's fight befell.
1 This was Decimus Brutus, an able and trusted lieutenant of Caesar, who made him one of his heirs in the second degree. He, however, joined the conspiracy, and it was he who on the day of the murder induced Caesar to go to the Senate House. Less than two years later, after the siege of Perusia, he was deserted by his army, taken and put to death.
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