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Encircled by these pictures ran the waves
of vast, unrestful seas in flowing gold,
where seemed along the azure crests to fly
the hoary foam, and in a silver ring
the tails of swift, emerging dolphins lashed
the waters bright, and clove the tumbling brine.
For the shield's central glory could be seen
great fleets of brazen galleys, and the fight
at Actium; where, ablaze with war's array,
Leucate's peak glowed o'er the golden tide.
Caesar Augustus led Italia's sons
to battle: at his side concordant moved
Senate and Roman People, with their gods
of hearth and home, and all Olympian Powers.
Uplifted on his ship he stands; his brows
beneath a double glory smile, and bright
over his forehead beams the Julian star.
in neighboring region great Agrippa leads,
by favor of fair winds and friendly Heaven,
his squadron forth: upon his brows he wears
the peerless emblem of his rostral crown.
Opposing, in barbaric splendor shine
the arms of Antony: in victor's garb
from nations in the land of morn he rides,
and from the Red Sea, bringing in his train
Egypt and Syria, utmost Bactria's horde,
and last—O shameless!—his Egyptian spouse.
All to the fight make haste; the slanted oars
and triple beaks of brass uptear the waves
to angry foam, as to the deep they speed
like hills on hill-tops hurled, or Cyclades
drifting and clashing in the sea: so vast
that shock of castled ships and mighty men!
Swift, arrowy steel and balls of blazing tow
rain o'er the waters, till the sea-god's world
flows red with slaughter. In the midst, the Queen,
sounding her native timbrel, wildly calls
her minions to the fight, nor yet can see
two fatal asps behind. Her monster-gods,
barking Anubis, and his mongrel crew,
on Neptune, Venus, and Minerva fling
their impious arms; the face of angry Mars,
carved out of iron, in the centre frowns,
grim Furies fill the air; Discordia strides
in rent robe, mad with joy; and at her side,
bellona waves her sanguinary scourge.
There Actian Apollo watched the war,
and o'er it stretched his bow; which when they knew,
Egyptian, Arab, and swart Indian slave,
and all the sons of Saba fled away
in terror of his arm. The vanquished Queen
made prayer to all the winds, and more and more
flung out the swelling sail: on wind-swept wave
she fled through dead and dying; her white brow
the Lord of Fire had cunningly portrayed
blanched with approaching doom. Beyond her lay
the large-limbed picture of the mournful Nile,
who from his bosom spread his garments wide,
and offered refuge in his sheltering streams
and broad, blue breast, to all her fallen power.
But Caesar in his triple triumph passed
the gates of Rome, and gave Italia's gods,
for grateful offering and immortal praise,
three hundred temples; all the city streets
with game and revel and applauding song
rang loud; in all the temples altars burned
and Roman matrons prayed; the slaughtered herds
strewed well the sacred ground. The hero, throned
at snow-white marble threshold of the fane
to radiant Phoebus, views the gift and spoil
the nations bring, and on the portals proud
hangs a perpetual garland: in long file
the vanquished peoples pass, of alien tongues,
of arms and vesture strange. Here Vulcan showed
ungirdled Afric chiefs and Nomads bold,
Gelonian bowmen, men of Caria,
and Leleges. Euphrates seemed to flow
with humbler wave; the world's remotest men,
Morini came, with double-horned Rhine,
and Dahae, little wont to bend the knee,
and swift Araxes, for a bridge too proud.

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load focus Notes (Georgius Thilo, 1881)
load focus Notes (John Conington, 1876)
load focus Latin (J. B. Greenough, 1900)
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