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First reached they Cyprus on the foamy brine;
Then as the eastern breeze more gently held
The favouring deep, they touched the Libyan shore
Where stood the camp of Cato. Sad as one
Who deep in fear presages ills to come,
Cnaeus beheld his brother and his band
Of patriot comrades. Swift into the wave
He leaped and cried, ' Where, brother, is our sire?
' Still stands our country mistress of the world,
' Or are we fallen, Rome with Magnus' death
' Rapt to the shades? ' Thus he: but Sextus said
' Oh happy thou who by report alone
' Hear'st of the deed that chanced on yonder shore!
'These eyes that saw, my brother, share the guilt.
' Not Caesar wrought his death, nor any chief
' Worthy to cause the ruin of our sire.
' He fell by order of that shameful king
' Who rules o'er Nilus; trusting to the gods
' Who shield the guest, and to his princely boon
' Of yore-a victim for the realm he gave.
' I saw them pierce our noble father's breast;
' Yet deeming not the petty Pharian prince
' So fell a deed would dare, on Egypt's strand
' I thought great Caesar stood. But worse than all,
' Worse than the wounds which gaped upon his frame
' Struck me with horror to the inmost heart,
' Our murdered father's head, shorn from the trunk
' And borne aloft on javelin; this sight,
' As rumour said, the cruel victor asked
' To feast his eyes, and prove the bloody deed.
' For whether ravenous birds and Pharian dogs
' Have torn his corse asunder, or a fire
' Consumed it, which with stealthy flame arose,
' I know not. For the fates' unjust decree
'Which reft his limbs asunder, I forgive
' The gods: I weep the part preserved by men.'
Thus Sextus spake: but Cnaeus at the tale
Restrained the tear, and for his father's shame
Flamed into fury: ' Launch our navies forth,
' Ye sailors, from the shore, by stalwart arms
' Forced through the deep against opposing winds:
' Captains, lead on: for civil strife ne'er gave
' So great a prize; to lay in earth the limbs
'Of Magnus, and avenge him with the blood
'Of that unmanly tyrant. Shall I spare
Great Alexander's fort, nor sack the shrine
And plunge his body in the tideless marsh?
Nor drag Amasis from the Pyramids,
'And all their ancient kings, to swim the Nile?
'Torn from his tomb, that god of all mankind
'Isis, unburied, shall avenge thy shade;
And veiled Osiris shall I hurl abroad
'And sacred Apis;1 and with these their gods
'I'll light a furnace that shall burn the head
'They held in insult. Thus their land shall pay
'Atonement to the shade of Magnus dead.
No husbandman shall live to till the fields
Nor reap the benefit of brimming Nile.
'Thou only, Father, gods and men alike
'Fallen and perished, shalt possess the land.'
Such were the words he spake; and soon the fleet
Had dared the angry deep: but Cato's voice
While praising, calmed the youthful chieftain's rage.
Meanwhile, when Magnus' fate was known, the air
Sounded with lamentations which the shore
Re-echoed; never through the ages past,
By history recorded, was it known
That thus a people mourned their ruler's death.
Yet more, when worn with tears, her pallid cheek
Veiled by her loosened tresses, from the ship
Cornelia came, they wept and beat the breast.
Soon as she stood upon the friendly land,
Ill-fated Magnus' spoils, his arms of price,
His gold-embroidered robe, three times of old 2
Displayed to Jove upon the hill, she placed
Upon the mournful fire. Such was for her
The dust of Magnus. And her love so touched
The hearts of all, that soon along the shore
Pyres blazed in memory of Pharsalia's dead.
'Tis thus in winter to depastured fields
By frequent fires th' Apulian herdsman seeks
To render verdant growth; and glow with flame
Garganus' slopes, and Vultur, and the meads
Of warm Matinum.
Yet Pompeius' shade
Nought else so gratified, not all the blame
The people dared to heap upon the gods,
For him their hero slain, as these few words
From Cato's noble breast instinct with truth:
'Gone is a citizen who though no peer 3
'Of those who disciplined the state of yore
In due submission to the bounds of right,
'Yet in this age irreverent of law
'Has played a noble part. Great was his power,
'But freedom safe: when all the plebs was prone
'To be his slaves, he chose the private gown;
'So that the Senate ruled the Roman state,
'Its chief was Cato: nought by right of arms
'He e'er demanded: willing took he gifts
'Yet from a willing giver: wealth was his
Vast, yet the coffers of the State he filled
'Beyond his own. He seized upon the sword,
'Knew when to sheath it; war did he prefer
'To arts of peace, yet armed loved peace the more.
'Pleased took he power, pleased he laid it down:
'Chaste was his home and simple, by his wealth
'Untarnished. Mid the peoples great his name 4
And venerated : to his native Rome
He wrought much good. True faith in liberty
Long since with Marius and Sulla fled:
Now when Pompeius has been reft away
'Its counterfeit has perished. Now unshamed
Shall seize the despot on Imperial power,
'Unshamed shall cringe the Senate. Happy he
Who with disaster found his latest breath
'And met the Pharian sword prepared to slay.
Life might have been his lot, in despot rule,
Prone at his kinsman's throne. Best gift of all
'The knowledge how to die; next, death compelled.
If cruel Fortune doth reserve for me
An alien conqueror, may Juba be
As Ptolemaeus. So he take my head
My body grace his triumph, if he will.'
1 See Book VIII., line 545.
2 See line 706.
3 This passage is described by Lord Macaulay as 'a pure gem of rhetoric without one flaw, and, in my opinion, not very far from historical truth' (Trevelyan's 'Life and Letters,' vol. i., page 432).
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