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'Since all desire it, and the fates prevail,
' So let it be; your leader now no more,
' I share the labours of the battle-field.
' Let Fortune roll the nations of the earth
' In one red ruin; myriads of mankind
' See their last sun to-day. Yet, Rome, I swear,
' This day of blood was forced upon thy son.
' Without a wound, the prizes of the war
' Might have been thine, and he who broke the peace
' In peace forgotten. Whence this lust for crime?
' Shall bloodless victories in civil war
' Be shunned, not sought? We've ravished from our foe
All boundless seas, and land; his starving troops
' Have snatched earth's crop half-grown, in vain attempt
' Their hunger to appease; they prayed for death,
' Sought for the sword-thrust, and within our ranks
' Were fain to mix their life-blood with your own.
' Much of the war is done: the conscript youth
' Whose heart beats high, who burns to join the fray
' (Though men fight hard in terror of defeat),
' The shock of onset need no longer fear.
' Bravest is he who promptly meets the ill
' When fate commands it and the moment comes,
Yet brooks delay, in prudence; and shall we,
' Our happy state enjoying, risk it all?
' Trust to the sword the fortunes of the world?
' Not victory, but battle, ye demand.
' Do thou, O Fortune, of the Roman state
' Who mad'st Pompeius guardian, from his hands
' Take back the charge grown weightier, and thyself
' Commit its safety to the chance of war.
· Nor blame nor glory shall be mine to-day.
'Thy prayers unjustly, Caesar, have prevailed:
' We fight! What wickedness, what woes on men,
' Destruction on what realms this dawn shall bring!
' Crimson with Roman blood yon stream shall run.
' Would that (without the ruin of our cause)
' The first fell bolt hurled on this cursed day
' Might strike me lifeless! Victory to me
' Were not more joyful, for this battle brings
' A name of pity or a name of hate.
' The loser bears the burden of defeat;
' The victor wins, but conquest is a crime.'
Thus to the soldiers, burning for the fray,
He yields, forbidding, and throws down the reins.
So may a sailor give the winds control
Upon his barque, which, driven by the seas,
Bears him an idle burden. Now the camp
Hums with impatience, and the brave man's heart
With beats tumultuous throbs against his breast;
And all the host had standing in their looks
The paleness of the death that was to come.1
On that day's fight 'twas manifest that Rome
And all the future destinies of man
Hung trembling; and by weightier dread possessed,
They knew not danger. Who would fear for self
Should ocean rise and whelm the mountain tops,
And sun and sky descend upon the earth
In universal chaos? Every mind
Is bent upon Pompeius, and on Rome.
They trust no sword until its deadly point
Glows on the sharpening stone; no lance will serve
Till straightened for the fray; each bow is strung
Anew, and arrows chosen for their work
Fill all the quivers; horsemen try the curb
And fit the bridle rein and whet the spur.
If toils divine with human may compare,
'Twas thus, when Phlegra bore the giant crew,2
In Etna's furnace glowed the sword of Mars,
Neptunus' trident felt the flame once more;
And great Apollo after Python slain
Sharpened his darts afresh: on Pallas' shield
Was spread anew the dread Medusa's hair;
And for the battle in Pallene's fields
The Cyclops forged new thunderbolts for Jove.
Yet Fortune failed not, as they sought the field,
In various presage of the ills to come;
All heaven opposed their march: portentous fire
In columns filled the plain, and torches blazed:
And thirsty whirlwinds mixed with meteor bolts
Smote on them as they strode, whose sulphurous flames
Perplexed the vision. Crests were struck from helms;
The melted sword-blade flowed upon the hilt:
The spear ran liquid, and the hurtful steel
Smoked with a sulphur that had come from heaven.
Nay, more, the standards, hid by swarms of bees
Innumerable, weighed the bearer down,
Scarce lifted from the earth; bedewed with tears;
No more of Rome the standards,3 or her state.
And from the altar fled the frantic bull
To fields afar; nor was a victim found
To grace the sacrifice of coming doom.
But thou, O Caesar, to what gods of ill
Didst thou appeal? What furies didst thou call,
What powers of madness and what Stygian Kings
Whelmed in th' abyss of hell? Didst favour gain
By sacrifice in this thine impious war?
Strange sights were seen; or caused by hands divine
Or due to fearful fancy. Haemus' top
Plunged headlong in the valley, Pindus met
With high Olympus, while at Ossa's feet
Red ran Boebeis,4 and Pharsalia's field
Gave warlike voices as in depth of night.
Now darkness came upon their wondering gaze,
Now daylight pale and wan, their helmets wreathed
In pallid mist; the spirits of their sires
Hovered in air, and shades of kindred dead
Passed flitting through the gloom. Yet had the host,
Conscious of guilty prayers, and of the hope
To do to death their brothers and their sires,
One solace: that they found in hearts amazed
With horrors, and in earth and air distraught,
A happy omen of the crimes to come.
Was't strange that peoples whom their latest day
Of happy life awaited (if the mind
Of man foreknows) should tremble with affright?
Romans who dwelt by far Araxes' stream,
And Tyrian Gades,5 in whatever clime,
'Neath every sky, struck by mysterious dread
Were plunged in sorrow-yet rebuked the tear,
For yet they knew not of the fatal day.
Thus on Euganean hills 6 where sulphurous fumes
Disclose the rise of Aponus 7 from earth,
And where Timavus broadens in the meads,
An augur spake: 'The last great day is come;
' To-day in battle meet the impious arms
' Of Caesar and of Magnus.' Or he saw
The bolts of Jupiter, predicting ill;
Or else the sky discordant o'er the space
Of heaven, from pole to pole; or else perchance
The sun was sad and misty in the height
And told the battle by his wasted beams.
By Nature's fiat that Thessalian day
Passed not as others; if the gifted sense
Of reading portents had been given to all,
All men had known Pharsalia. Gods of heaven!
How do ye mark the great ones of the earth!
The world gives tokens of their weal or woe;
The sky records their fates: in distant climes
To future races shall their tale be told,
Or by the fame alone of mighty deeds
Had in remembrance, or by this my care
Borne through the centuries: and men shall read
In hope and fear the story of the war
And breathless pray, as though it were to come,
For that long since accomplished; and for thee
E'en then, Pompeius, shall that prayer be given.
1 These two lines are taken from Ben Jonson's 'Catiline,' act v., scene 6.
3 Henceforth to be the standards of the Emperor.
6 This alludes to the story told by Plutarch ('Caesar,' 47), that, at Patavium, Caius Cornelius, a man reputed for skill in divination, and a friend of Livy the historian, was sitting to watch the birds that day. 'And first of all (as Livius says) he discovered the time of the battle, and he said to those present that the affair was now deciding and the men were going into action. Looking again, and observing the signs, he sprang up with enthusiasm and called out, "You conquer, Caesar."' (Long's translation.)
7 The Fontes Aponi were warm springs near Padua. An altar, inscribed to Apollo Aponus, was found at Ribchester, and is now at St. John's College, Cambridge. (Wright, 'Celt, Roman, and Saxon,' p. 320.)
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