previous next

'Have Thessalian woes
' Broken thy spirit so? One day's defeat
' Condemned the world to ruin? Is the cause
' Lost in one battle and beyond recall?
' Find we no cure for wounds? Does Fortune drive
' Thee, Magnus, to the Parthians' feet alone?
' And dost thou, fugitive, spurn the lands and skies
' Known heretofore, and seek for other poles
' And constellations, and Chaldean gods,
' And rites barbarian, servant of the realm
' Of Parthia? But why then took we arms
' For love of liberty? If thou canst slave
' Thou hast deceived the world! Shall Parthia see
' Thee at whose name, ruler of mighty Rome,
' She trembled, at whose feet she captive saw
' Hyrcanian kings and Indian princes kneel,
' Now humbly suppliant, victim of the fates;
' And at thy prayer her puny strength extol
' In mad contention with the Western world?
' Nor think, Pompeius, thou shalt plead thy cause
' In that proud tongue unknown to Parthian ears
' Of which thy fame is worthy; sobs and tears
' He shall demand of thee. And has our shame
' Brought us to this, that some barbarian foe
' Shall venge Hesperia's wrongs ere Rome her own?
' Thou wert our leader for the civil war:
' Mid Scythia's peoples dost thou bruit abroad
' Wounds and disasters which are ours alone?
' Rome until now, though subject to the yoke
' Of civic despots, yet within her walls
' Has brooked no foreign lord. And art thou pleased
' From all the world to summon to her gates
' These savage peoples, while the standards lost
' By far Euphrates when the Crassi fell
' Shall lead thy columns? Shall the only king
' Who failed Emathia, while the fates yet hid
'Their favouring voices, brave the victor's power,
' And join with thine his fortune? Nay, not so
'This nation trusts itself. Each race that claims
' A northern birth, unconquered in the fray
' Claims but the warrior's death; but as the sky
' Slopes towards the eastern tracts and gentler climes
' So are the nations. There in flowing robes
' And garments delicate are men arrayed.
'True that the Parthian in Sarmatia's plains,
' Where Tigris spreads across the level meads,
' Contends invincible; for flight is his
' Unbounded; but should uplands bar his path
' He scales them not; nor through the night of war
' Shall his weak bow uncertain in its aim
' Repel the foeman; nor his strength of arm
' The torrent stem; nor all a summer's day
' In dust and blood bear up against the foe.
' They fill no hostile trench, nor in their hands
' Shall battering engine or machine of war
' Dash down the rampart; and whate'er avails
' To stop their arrows, battles like a wall.1
' Wide sweep their horsemen, fleeting in attack
' And light in onset, and their troops shall yield
' A camp, not take it: poisoned are their shafts;
' Nor do they dare a combat hand to hand;
' But as the winds may suffer, from afar
' They draw their bows at venture. Brave men love
' The sword which, wielded by a stalwart arm,
' Drives home the blow and makes the battle sure.
' Not such their weapons; and the first assault
' Shall force the flying Mede with coward hand
'And empty quiver from the field. His faith
' In poisoned blades is placed; but trustest thou
' Those who without such aid refuse the war?
' For such alliance wilt thou risk a death,
' With all the world between thee and thy home?
' Shall some barbarian earth or lowly grave
' Enclose thee perishing? E'en that were shame
' While Crassus seeks a sepulchre in vain.
' Thy lot is happy; death, unfeared by men,
' Is thy worst doom, Pompeius; but no death
' Awaits Cornelia-such a fate for her
' This king shall not reserve; for know not we
' The hateful secrets of barbarian love,
' Blind as of savage beasts? That palace knows
' No laws of kin: the royal bed is foul
' With concubines. The tale of that one crime
' Of old by OEdipus unwitting wrought
' Made nations shudder at the name of Thebes:
' How many an offspring of such foul embrace
Has held the Parthian throne? Where incest's right
'What shall be wickedness? This gracious dame
'Born of Metellus, noblest blood of Rome,
'Shall share the couch of the barbarian king
' With thousand others: yet in savage joy,
'Proud of her former husbands, he may grant
'Some larger share of favour; and the fates
May seem to smile on Parthia; for the spouse
' Of Crassus, captive, shall to him be brought
' As spoil of former conquest. If the wound
' Dealt in that fell defeat in eastern lands
' Still stirs thy heart, then double is the shame
'First to have waged the war upon ourselves,
' Then ask the foe for succour. For what blame
' Can rest on thee or Caesar worse than this,
'That in the clash of conflict ye forgot
' For Crassus' slaughtered troops the vengeance due?
'First should united Rome upon the Mede
'Have poured her captains, and the troops who guard
'The northern frontier from the Dacian hordes;
'And all her legions should have left the Rhine
'Free to the Teuton, till the Parthian dead
' Were piled in heaps upon the sands that hide
' Our heroes slain; and haughty Babylon
'Lay at her victor's feet. To this foul peace
'We pray an end; and if Thessalia's day
'Has closed our warfare, let the conqueror march
'Straight on our Parthian foe. Then should this heart,
'Then only, leap at Caesar's triumph won.
'Go thou and pass Araxes' chilly stream
'On this thine errand; and the mournful ghost
'Pierced by the Scythian shaft shall greet thee thus:
' "Dost thou, to whom our wandering shades have looked
'" For vengeance and for war, seek from the foe
'"A treaty and a peace? " And there profuse
Shall meet thee sad memorials of the rout:
'Red is yon wall where passed their headless trunks;
'Euphrates here engulfed them, Tigris there
' Cast up to perish. Gaze on such array,
'And thou canst supplicate at Caesar's feet
' In mid Thessalia seated. Nay, thy glance
' Turn on the Roman world, and if thou fear'st
King Juba faithless and the southern realms,
Then seek we Pharos. Egypt on the west
Girt by the trackless Syrtes forces back
By sevenfold stream the ocean; rich in glebe
And gold and merchandise; and proud of Nile
Asks for no rain from heaven. Now holds this boy
Her sceptre, owed to thee; his guardian thou :
And who shall fear this shadow of a name?
Hope not from monarchs old, whose shame is fled,
Or laws or troth or honour of the gods:
New kings bring mildest sway.'2 His words prevailed
Upon his hearers. With what freedom speaks,
When states are trembling, patriot despair!
Pompeius' voice was quelled.

1 That is, can be as easily defended.

2 Thus rendered by Thomas May, of the Long Parliament: “Men used to sceptres are ashamed of nought:
The mildest governement a kingdome finds
Under new kings.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Thessaly (Greece) (2)
Mede (Italy) (2)
Euphrates (2)
Tigris (1)
Thebes (Greece) (1)
Sarmatia (1)
Rhine (1)
Parthia (Iran) (1)
Nile (1)
Emathia (Greece) (1)
Egypt (Egypt) (1)
Babylon (Iraq) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (2):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: