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Then they all decree
The crime's accomplishment. Proud is the boy king
Of such unwonted honour, that his slaves
So soon give power for so great a deed.
They choose Achillas for the work of death;
And where the treacherous shore in Casian sands
Runs out, and shallow waters of the sea
Attest the Syrtes near, in little boat
He and his partners in the monstrous crime
With swords embark. Ye gods! and shall the Nile
And barbarous Memphis and th' effeminate crew
That throngs Pelusian Canopus raise
Its thoughts to such an enterprise? Do thus
Our fates press on the world? Is Rome thus fallen
That in our civil frays the Pharian sword
Finds place, or Egypt? 0, may civil war
Be thus far faithful that the hand which strikes
Be of our kindred; and the foreign fiend
Held worlds apart! Pompeius, great in soul,
Noble in spirit, had deserved a death
From Caesar's self. And, king, hast thou no fear
At such a ruin of so great a name?
And dost thou dare when heaven's high thunder rolls,
Thou, puny boy, to mingle with its tones
Thine impure utterance? Had he not won
A world by arms, and thrice in triumph scaled
The sacred Capitol, and vanquished kings,
And championed the Roman Senate's cause;
He, kinsman of the victor? 'Twas enough
To cause forbearance in a Pharian king,
That he was Roman. Wherefore with thy sword
Dost stab our breasts? Thou know'st not, impious boy,
How stand thy fortunes; now no more by right
Hast thou the sceptre of the land of Nile;
For prostrate, vanquished in the civil wars
Is he who gave it.
Furling now his sails,
Magnus with oars approached th' accursed land,
When in their little boat the murderous crew
Drew nigh. and feigning from th' Egyptian court
A ready welcome, blamed the double tides
Broken by shallows, and their scanty beach
Unfit for fleets; and bade him to their craft
Leaving his loftier ship. Had not the fates'
Eternal and unalterable laws
Called for their victim and decreed his end
Now near at hand, his comrades' warning voice
Yet might have stayed his course: for if the court
To Magnus, who bestowed the Pharian crown,
In truth were open, should not king and fleet
In pomp have come to greet him? But he yields:
The fates compel. Welcome to him was death
Rather than fear. But, rushing to the side,
His spouse would follow, for she dared not stay,
Fearing the guile. Then he, ' Abide, my wife,
And son, I pray you; from the shore afar
' Await my fortunes; mine shall be the life
' To test their honour.' But Cornelia still
Withstood his bidding, and with arms outspread
Frenzied she cried: ' And whither without me,
' Cruel, departest? Thou forbad'st me share
' Thy risks Thessalian; dost again command
' That I should part from thee? No happy star
' Breaks on our sorrow. If from every land
' Thou dost debar me, why didst turn aside
' In flight to Lesbos? On the waves alone
' Am I thy fit companion? ' Thus in vain,
Leaning upon the bulwark, dazed with dread;
Nor could she turn her straining gaze aside,
Nor see her parting husband. All the fleet
Stood silent, anxious, waiting for the end:
Not that they feared the murder which befell,
But lest their leader might with humble prayer
Kneel to the king he made.
As Magnus passed,
A Roman soldier from the Pharian boat,
Septimius, salutes him. Gods of heaven!
There stood he, minion to a barbarous king,
Nor bearing still the javelin of Rome;
But vile in all his arms; giant in form
Fierce, brutal, thirsting as a beast may thirst
For carnage. Didst thou, Fortune, for the sake
Of nations, spare to dread Pharsalus field
This savage monster's blows? Or dost thou place
Throughout the world, for thy mysterious ends,
Some ministering swords for civil war?
Thus, to the shame of victors and of gods,
This story shall be told in days to come:
A Roman swordsman, once within thy ranks,
Slave to the orders of a puny prince,
Severed Pompeius' neck. And what shall be
Septimius' fame hereafter? By what name
This deed be called, if Brutus wrought a crime?
Now came the end, the latest hour of all:
Rapt to the boat was Magnus, of himself
No longer master, and the miscreant crew
Unsheathed their swords; which when the chieftain saw
He swathed his visage, for he scorned unveiled
To yield his life to fortune; closed his eyes
And held his breath within him, lest some word,
Or sob escaped, might mar the deathless fame
His deeds had won. And when within his side
Achillas plunged his blade, nor sound nor cry
He gave, but calm consented to the blow
And proved himself in dying; in his breast
These thoughts revolving: ' In the years to come
' Men shall make mention of our Roman toils,
' Gaze on this boat, ponder the Pharian faith;
' And think upon thy fame and all the years
' While Fortune smiled: but for the ills of life
' How thou couldst bear them, this men shall not know
' Save by thy death. Then weigh thou not the shame
' That waits on thine undoing. Whoso strikes,
' The blow is Caesar's. Men may tear this frame
'And cast it mangled to the winds of heaven;
'Yet have I prospered, nor can all the gods
' Call back my triumphs. Life may bring defeat,
'But death no misery. If my spouse and son
'Behold me murdered, silently the more
' I suffer: admiration at my death
'Shall prove their love.' So did Pompeius die,
And so kept guard upon his thoughts in death.

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Nile (2)
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    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), AEGYPTUS
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