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BUT in the distant regions of the earth
Fierce Caesar warring, though in fight he dealt
No baneful slaughter, hastened on the doom
To swift fulfilment. There on Magnus' side
Afranius and Petreius1 held command,
Who ruled alternate, and the rampart guard
Obeyed the standard of each chief in turn.
There with the Romans in the camp were joined
Asturians 2 swift, and Vettons lightly armed,
And Celts who, exiled from their ancient home,
Had joined 'Iberus' to their former name.
Where the rich soil in gentle slope ascends
And forms a modest hill, Ilerda3 stands,
Founded in ancient days; beside her glides
Not least of western rivers, Sicoris
Of placid current, by a mighty arch
Of stone o'erspanned, which not the winter floods
Shall overwhelm. Upon a rock hard by
Was Magnus' camp; but Caesar's on a hill,
Rivalling the first; and in the midst a stream.
Here boundless plains are spread beyond the range
Of human vision; Cinga girds them in
With greedy waves; forbidden to contend
With tides of ocean; for that larger flood
Who names the land, Iberus, sweeps along
The lesser stream commingled with his own.
Guiltless of war, the first day saw the hosts
In long array confronted; standard rose
Opposing standard, numberless; yet none
Attacked, through shame of strife; one bloodless day
They gave their country and her broken laws.
But Caesar, when from heaven fell the night,
Drew round a hasty trench; his foremost rank
With close array concealing those who wrought.
Then with the morn he bids them seize the hill
Which parted from the camp Ilerda's walls,
And gave them safety. But in fear and shame
On rushed the foe and seized the vantage ground,
First in the onset. From the height they held
Their hopes of conquest; but to Caesar's men
Their hearts by courage stirred, and their good swords
Promised the victory. Burdened up the ridge
The soldier climbed, and from the opposing steep
But for his comrade's shield had fallen back;
None had the space to hurl the quivering lance
Upon the foeman: spear and pike made sure
The failing foothold, and the falchion's edge
Hewed out their upward path. But Caesar saw
Ruin impending, and he bade his horse
By circuit to the left, with shielded flank,
Hold back the foe. Thus gained his troops retreat,
For none pressed on them; and the victor chiefs,
Forced to withdrawal, gained the day in vain.
Henceforth the fitful changes of the year
Governed the fates and fashioned out the war.
For stubborn frost still lay upon the land,
And northern winds, controlling all the sky,
Prisoned the rain in clouds; the hills were nipped
With snow unmelted, and the lower plains
By frosts that fled before the rising sun;
And all the land,4 there nearer to the sky
That whelms the stars, was hard and arid grown
By suns of winter. But when Titan neared
The Ram, who, backward gazing on the stars,
Bore perished Helle,5 and the hours were held
In balance, and the days again prevailed,
The earliest faded moon which in the vault
Hung with uncertain horn, from eastern wind
Received a fiery radiance; whose blast
Forced Boreas back: and breaking on the mists
Within his regions, to the Occident
Drave all that shroud Arabia and the land
Of Ganges; all that or by Caurus6 borne
Bedim the Orient sky, or rising suns
Permit to gather; pitiless flamed the day
Behind them, while in front the wide expanse
Was driven; nor on mid earth sank the clouds
Though weighed with vapour. North and south alike
Were showerless, for on Calpe's rock alone
All moisture gathered; here at last, forbidden
To pass that sea by Zephyr's bounds contained,
And by the furthest belt7 of heaven, they pause,
In masses huge convolved; the widest breadth
Of murky air scarce holds them, which divides
Earth from the heavens; till pressed by weight of sky
In densest volume to the earth they pour
Their cataracts; no lightning could endure
Such storm unquenched: though oft athwart the gloom
Gleamed its pale fire. Meanwhile a watery arch
Scarce touched with colour, in imperfect shape
Embraced the sky and drank the ocean waves,
So rendering to the clouds their flood outpoured.
And now the snows which Titan never yet
Could melt were thawed: the Pyrenaean rocks
Are wet with flowing ice; accustomed springs
Find not discharge; and from the very banks
Each stream receives a torrent. Caesar's arms
Are shipwrecked on the field, his tottering camp
Swims on the rising flood; the trench is filled
With whirling waters; and the plain no more
Yields corn or kine; for those who forage seek,
Err from the hidden furrow. Famine knocks
(First herald of o'erwhelming ills to come)
Fierce at the door; and while no foe blockades
The soldier hungers; fortunes buy not now
The meanest measure; yet, alas! is found
The fasting peasant, who, in gain of gold,
Will sell his little all! And now the hills
Are seen no more; rivers in one vast sea
Of whirlpools overwhelmed; beasts borne away
And sucked beneath the stream; their rocky dens
Sweep onwards; and the torrent's raging force
Bears back the inflowing ocean. Nor does night
Acknowledge Phoebus' rise, for all the sky
Feels her dominion and obscures its face,
And darkness joins with darkness. Thus doth lie
The lowest earth beneath the snowy zone
And never-ending winters, where the sky
Is starless ever, and no growth of herb
Sprouts from the frozen earth; but standing ice
Tempers 8 the stars which in the middle zone
Kindle their flames. Thus, Father of the world,
And thou, O trident-god who rul'st the sea
Second in place, Neptunus, load the air
With clouds continual; forbid the tide,
Once risen, to return : forced by thy waves
Let rivers backward run in different course,
Thy shores no longer reaching; and the earth,
Shaken, make way for floods. Let Rhine o'erflow
And Rhone their banks; let torrents spread afield
Unmeasured waters: melt Rhipaean snows:
Spread lakes upon the land, and seas profound,
And snatch the groaning world from civil war.

1 Both of these generals were able and distinguished officers. Afranius was slain by Caesar's soldiers after the battle of Thapsus. Petreins, after the same battle, escaped along with Juba; and failing to find a refuge, they challenged each other to fight. Petreius was killed, and Juba, the survivor, put an end to himself.

2 These are the names of Spanish tribes. The Celtiberi dwelt on the Ebro.

3 Lerida, on the river Segre, above its junction with the Ebro. Cinga is the modern Cinca, which falls into the Segre (Sicoris).

4 Meaning Spain, lying further to the west than Italy.

5 Phrixus and Helle, the children of Nephele, were to be sacrificed to Zeus; but Nephele rescued them, and they rode away through the air on the Ram with the golden fleece. But Helle fell into the sea, which from her was named the Hellespont. (See Book IX., 1125.) The sun enters Aries about March 20. The Ram is pictured among the constellations with his head averse.

6 See Book I., 464.

7 See Mr. Heitland's introduction, upon the meaning of the word 'cardo.' The word 'belt' seems fairly to answer to the two great circles or four meridians which he describes. The word occurs again at line 762; Book V., 80; Book VII., 453, where it is used as meaning a stage of life.

8 The idea is that the cold of the poles tempers the heat of the equator.

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