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When Italian blood
Flowed deep enough upon the fatal field,
Caesar gave mercy to the meaner crowd
Whose deaths were vain. But that the hostile camp
Might not recall the foe, nor calm of night
Banish their fears, he bids his cohorts dash,
While Fortune glowed and terror filled the plain,
Straight on the ramparts of the conquered foe.
Light was the task to urge them to the spoil
Though worn by battle, wearied with the fray:
Soldiers,' he said, ' the victory is ours,
Full and triumphant: there doth lie the prize
Which you have won, not Caesar; at your feet
Behold the booty of the hostile camp.
Snatched from Hesperian nations ruddy gold,
And all the riches of the Orient world,
Are piled within the tents. The wealth of kings
And of Pompeius here awaits its lords.
Haste, soldiers, and outstrip the flying foe;
E'en now the vanquished of Pharsalia's field
Anticipate your spoils.' No more he said,
But drave them, blind with frenzy for the gold,
To spurn the bodies of their fallen sires,
And trample chiefs in dashing on their prey.
What rampart had restrained them as they rushed
To seize the prize for wickedness and war
And learn the price of guilt? And though they found
In ponderous masses heaped for need of war
The trophies of a world, yet were their minds
Unsatisfied, that asked for all. Whate'er
Iberian mines or Tagus bring to day,
Or Arimaspians from golden sands
May gather, had they seized; still they had thought
Their guilt too cheaply sold. When pledged to them
Was the Tarpeian rock, for victory won,
And all the spoils of Rome, by Caesar's word,
Shall camps suffice them? Then plebeian limbs
On senators' turf took rest, on kingly couch
The soldier wretch; and there the murderer lay
Where yesternight his brother or his sire.
In maddened dreams the fury of the fight
Still raged, and in their sleep the guilty hand
Still wrought its deed, of blood, and restless gripped
The phantom sword-hilt. Thou hadst said that groans
Issued from all the plain, that parted souls
Had breathed a life into the guilty soil,
That earthly darkness teemed with gibbering ghosts
And Stygian terrors. Victory foully won
Thus claimed its punishment. The slumbering sense
Already heard the hiss of vengeful flames:
There troop the ghostly slain: a slaughtered sire
Tortures the breast of one; a brother's shape
There haunts his murderer's couch: each sees the form
Of him whose life he took. But all the dead
In Caesar's dreams were visioned. In such guise
Orestes saw the Furies, ere he fled
To purge his sin within the Scythian bounds;
Such fierce convulsions raged within the soul
Of Pentheus mad; and in Agave's1 mind
When she had known her son. Before his gaze
Flashed all the javelins which Pharsalia saw,
Or that avenging day when drew their blades
The Roman senators; and monstrous shapes
Scourged all his frame. 'Tis thus the wretch shall find
In guilty conscience punishment most dire:
He saw the Styx before his rival died:
And goblin horrors from the depths of Hell
Thronged on his sleep.
Yet when the radiant sun
Unveiled the butchery of Pharsalia's field 2
He shrank not from its horror, nor withdrew
His feasting gaze. There rolled the streams in flood
With crimson carnage; there a seething heap
Rose shrouding all the plain, now in decay
Slow settling down; there numbered he the host
Of Magnus slain; and for the morn's repast
That spot he chose whence he might watch the dead,
And feast his eyes upon Emathia's field
Concealed by corpses; of the bloody sight
Insatiate, he forbad the funeral pyre,
And cast Emathia in the face of heaven.
Nor by the Punic victor was he taught,
Who at the close of Cannae's fatal fight
Laid in the earth the Roman consul dead,
To find fit burial for his fallen foes;
For these were all his countrymen, nor yet
His ire by blood appeased. Yet ask we not
For separate pyres or sepulchres apart
Wherein to lay the ashes of the fallen:
Burn in one holocaust the nations slain;
Or should it please thy soul to torture more
Thy kinsman, pile on high from OEta's slopes
And Pindus' top the woods: thus shall he see
While fugitive on the deep the blaze that marks
Thessalian bounds. Yet by this idle rage
Nought dost thou profit; for these corporal frames
Bearing innate from birth the certain germs
Of dissolution, whether by decay
Or fire consumed, shall fall into the lap
Of all-embracing nature. Thus if now
Thou shouldst deny the pyre, still in that flame
When all shall crumble,3 earth and rolling seas
And stars commingled with the bones of men,
These too shall perish. Where thy soul shall go
These shall companion thee; no higher flight
In airy realms is thine, nor smoother couch
Beneath the Stygian darkness; for the dead
No fortune favours, and our Mother Earth
All that is born from her receives again,
And he whose bones no tomb or urn protects4
Yet sleeps beneath the canopy of heaven.
And thou, proud conqueror, who wouldst deny
The rites of burial to thousands slain,
Why flee thy field of triumph? Why desert
This reeking plain? Drink, Caesar, if thou canst
Of these ensanguined streams, and breathe the air
Of cursed Thessalia: but from thy grasp
The earth is ravished, and th' unburied host,
Routing their victor, hold Pharsalia's field.
Then to the ghastly harvest of the war
Came all the beasts of earth whose facile sense
Of odour tracks the bodies of the slain.
Sped from his northern home the Thracian wolf;
Bears left their dens and lions from afar
Scenting the carnage; dogs obscene and foul
Their homes deserted: all the air was full
Of gathering fowl, who in their flight had long
Pursued the armies. Cranes 5 who yearly change
The frosts of Thracia for the banks of Nile,
This year delayed their voyage. As ne'er before
The air grew dark with vultures' hovering wings,
Innumerable, for every grove and wood
Sent forth its denizens; on every tree
Dripped from their crimsoned beaks a gory dew.
Oft on the conquerors and their impious arms
Or purple rain of blood, or mouldering flesh
Fell from the lofty heaven; or limbs of men
From weary talons dropped. Yet even so
The peoples passed not all into the maw
Of ravening beast or fowl; the inmost flesh
Scarce did they touch, nor limbs-thus lay the dead
Scorned by the spoiler; and the Roman host
By sun and length of days, and rain from heaven,
At length was mingled with Emathia's plain.
Ill-starred Thessalia! By what hateful crime
Didst thou offend that thus on thee alone
Was laid such carnage? By what length of years
Shalt thou be cleansed from the curse of war?
When shall the harvest of thy fields arise
Free from their purple stain? And when the share
Cease to upturn the slaughtered hosts of Rome?
First shall the battle onset sound again,
Again shall flow upon thy fated earth
A crimson torrent. Thus may be o'erthrown
Our sires' memorials; those erected last,
Or those which pierced by ancient roots have spread
Through broken stones their sacred urns abroad.
Thus shall the ploughman of Haemonia gaze
On more abundant ashes, and the rake
Pass o'er more frequent bones. Wert, Thracia, thou,
Our only battlefield, no sailor's hand
Upon thy shore should make his cable fast;
No spade should turn, the husbandman should flee
Thy fields, the resting-place of Roman dead;
No lowing kine should graze, nor shepherd dare
To leave his fleecy charge to browse at will
On fields made fertile by our mouldering dust;
All bare and unexplored thy soil should lie,
As past man's footsteps, parched by cruel suns,
Or palled by snows unmelting! But, ye gods,
Give us to hate the lands which bear the guilt;
Let not all earth be cursed, though not all
Be blameless found.
'Twas thus that Munda's fight
And blood of Mutina, and Leucas' cape,
And sad Pachynus,6 made Philippi pure.
1 Book VI., 420.
2 The whole of this passage is foreign to Caesar's character, and unfounded in fact. 15,000 Pompeians perished on the field, and 24,000 were taken prisoners. When Caesar passed over the field he is recorded to have said in pity, 'They would have it so; after all my exploits I should have been condemned to death had I not thrown myself upon the protection of my soldiers.' - Plutarch, 'Caesar,' 46; Duruy, 'History of Rome,vol. iii., p. 311.
3 Alluding to the general conflagration in which (by the Stoic doctrines)all the universe would one day perish. Comp. Browne, ' Religio Medici,part i., section xlv.
4 Quoted in More's 'Utopia,' Book I., p. 28 (Lupton's edition), and in Browne, 'Religio Medici,' part i., section xl. ' Nor do I altogether allow that Rodomontado of Lucan, “caelo tegitur qui non habet urnam”.'
5 Wrongly supposed by Lucan to feed on carrion.
6 Alluding to the naval war waged by Sextus Pompeius after Caesar's death. He took possession of Sicily, and had command of the seas, but was ultimately defeated by the fleet of Octavius under Agrippa in B.C. 36. Pachynus was the S.E. promontory of the island, but is used in the sense of Sicily, for this battle took place on the north coast.
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