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Reflected from their arms, th' opposing sun
Filled all the slope with radiance as they marched
In ordered ranks to that ill-fated fight,
And stood arranged for battle. On the left
Thou, Lentulus, hadst charge; two legions there,
The fourth, and bravest of them all, the first:
While on the right, Domitius, ever stanch,
Though fates be adverse, stood: in middle line
The hardy soldiers from Cilician lands,
In Scipio's care; their chief in Libyan days,
To-day their comrade. By Enipeus' pools
And by the rivulets, the mountain troops
Of Cappadocia, and loose of rein
Thy squadrons, Pontus: on the firmer ground
Galatia's tetrarchs and the greater kings;
And all the purple-robed, the slaves of Rome.
Numidian hordes were there from Afric shores,
There Creta's host and Ituraeans found
Full space to wing their arrows; there the tribes
From brave Iberia clashed their shields, and there
Gaul stood arrayed against her ancient foe.
Let all the nations be the victor's prize,
None grace in future a triumphal car;
This fight demands the slaughter of a world.
Caesar that day to send his troops for spoil
Had left his tent, when on the further hill
Behold! his foe descending to the plain.
The moment asked for by a thousand prayers
Is come, which puts his fortune on the risk
Of imminent war, to win or lose it all.
For burning with desire of kingly power
His eager soul ill brooked the small delay
This civil war compelled: each instant lost
Robbed from his due! But when at length he knew
The last great conflict come, the fight supreme,
Whose prize the leadership of all the world:
And felt the ruin nodding to its fall:
Swiftest to strike, yet for a little space
His rage for battle failed; the spirit bold
To pledge itself the issue, wavered now:
For Magnus' fortunes gave no room for hope,
Though Caesar's none for fear. Deep in his soul
Such doubt was hidden, as to rouse the throng
He spake of victory: ' Ye men of Rome
' Who made my fortunes, host that won the world!
'Prayed for so oft, the dawn of fight is come.
'No more entreat the gods: with sword in hand
'Seize on our fates; and Caesar in your deeds
This day is great or little. This the day
'For which I hold since Rubicon was passed
Your promise given: for this we flew to arms:1
'For this deferred the triumphs which we won,
'And which the foe forbad : this gives you back
' Your homes and kindred, and the peaceful farm,
' Your prize for years of service in the field.
' And by the fates' command this day shall prove
' Whose quarrel juster: for defeat is guilt2
' To him on whom it falls. If in my cause
' With fire and sword ye did your country wrong,
' Strike for acquittal! Should another judge
' This war, not Caesar, none were blameless found.
' Not for my sake this battle, but for you,
' To give you, soldiers, liberty and law
'Gainst all the world. Wishful myself for life
' Apart from public cares, and for the gown
' That robes the private citizen, I refuse
' To yield from office till the law allows
' Your right in all things. On my shoulders rest
' All blame; all power be yours. Nor deep the blood
' Between yourselves and conquest. Grecian schools
' Of exercise and wrestling 3 send us here
' Their chosen darlings to await your swords;
' And scarcely armed for war, a dissonant crowd
' Barbaric, that will start to hear our trump,
' Nay, their own clamour. Not in civil strife
' Your blows shall fall-the battle of to-day
' Sweeps from the earth the enemies of Rome.
' Dash through these cowards and their vaunted kings:
' One stroke of sword and all the world is yours.
' Make plain to all men that the crowds who decked
'Pompeius' hundred pageants scarce were fit
'For one poor triumph. Shall Armenia care
'Who leads her masters, or barbarians shed
'One drop of blood to make Pompeius chief
'O'er our Italia? Rome, 'tis Rome they hate,
'Their lord and master: yet they hate the most
'Those whom they know. My fate is in the hands
'Of you, mine own true soldiers, proved in all
'The wars we fought in Gallia. When the sword
'Of each of you shall strike, I know the hand:
'The javelin's flight to me betrays the arm
'That launched it hurtling: and to-day once more
'I see the faces stern, the threatening eyes,
'Unfailing proofs of victory to come.
'E'en now the battle rushes on my sight;
'Kings trodden down and scattered senators
'Fill all th' ensanguined plain, and peoples float
'Unnumbered on the crimson tide of death.
'Enough of words-I but delay the fates;
'And you who burn to dash into the fray,
'Forgive the pause. I tremble with the hope4
'Thus finding utterance. I ne'er have seen
'The mighty gods so near; this little field
'Alone dividing us; their hands are full
'Of my predestined honours: for 'tis I
'Who when this war is done shall have the power
'O'er all that peoples, all that kings enjoy
'To shower it where I will. But has the sky
'Swerved from its course, has some high star of heaven
'Turned backwards, that such mighty deeds should pass
'Here on Thessalian earth? To-day we reap
' Of all our wars the harvest or the doom.
' Think of the cross that threats us, and the chain,
' Limbs hacked asunder, Caesar's head displayed
' Upon the rostra; and that narrow field
' Piled up with slaughter: for this hostile chief
' Is savage Sulla's pupil. 'Tis for you,
' If conquered, that I grieve: my lot apart
' Is cast long since. This sword, should one of you
' Turn from the battle ere the foe be fled,
' Shall rob the life of Caesar. O ye gods,
' Drawn down from heaven by the throes of Rome,
' May he be conqueror who shall not draw
' Against the vanquished an inhuman sword,
' Nor count it as a crime if men of Rome
' Preferred another's standard to his own.
' Pompeius' sword drank deep Italian blood
'When cabined in yon space the brave man's arm
' No more found room to strike. But you, I pray,
' Touch not the foe who turns him from the fight,
' A fellow citizen, a foe no more.
' But while the gleaming weapons threaten still,
' Let no fond memories unnerve the arm,5
' No pious thought of father or of kin;
' But full in face of brother or of sire,
' Drive home the blade: of victims e'en unknown
' Your foes account the slaughter as a crime.
' Spare not our camp, but lay the rampart low
' And fill the fosse with ruin; not a man
' But holds his post within the ranks to-day.
' And yonder tents, deserted by the foe,
' Shall give us shelter when the rout is done.'
Scarce had he paused; they snatch the hasty meal,
And seize their armour and with swift acclaim
Welcome the chief's predictions of the day,
Tread low their camp when rushing to the fight;
And take their post: nor word nor order given,
In fate they put their trust. Nor, hadst thou placed
All Caesars there, all striving for the throne
Of Rome their city, had their serried ranks
With speedier tread dashed down upon the foe.
1 See Book I., 412 and following lines.
2 Quoted by the Attorney-General in his speech at the trial of Harrison the regicide. 'Now they speak plainly, and call this blessed king, this glorious saint, the Grand Delinquent. “Hac acies victum factura nocentem est”.' 'State Trials,' v. 1014.
3 For the contempt here expressed for the Greek gymnastic schools, see also Tacitus, 'Annals,' 14, 21. It is well known that Nero instituted games called Neronia which were borrowed from the Greeks; and that many ofthe Roman citizens despised them as foreign and profligate. Merivale, chapter liii., cites this passage.
4 Thus paraphrased by Dean Stanley:
“I tremble not with terror, but with hope,
As the great day reveals its coming scope;
Never in earlier days, our hearts to cheer,
Have such bright gifts of Heaven been brought so near,
Nor ever has been kept the aspiring soul
By space so narrow from so grand a goal.
” Inaugural address at St. Andrews, 1873, on the 'Study of Greatness.'
5 That such were Caesar's orders is attested by Appian.
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