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Thus for a little moment Fortune tried
Her darling son; then smiling to his part
Returned; and gained her pardon for the past
By greater gifts to come. For now the air
Had grown more clear, and Phoebus' warmer rays
Coped with the flood and scattered all the clouds
In fleecy masses; and the reddening east
Proclaimed the coming day; the land resumed
Its ancient marks; no more in middle air
The moisture hung, but from about the stars
Sank to the depths; the forest glad upreared
Its foliage; hills again emerged to view
And 'neath the warmth of day the plains grew firm.
When Sicoris kept his banks, the shallop light
Of hoary willow bark they build, which bent
On hides of oxen, bears the weight of man
And swims the torrent. Thus on sluggish Po
Venetians float; and on th' encircling sea 1
Are borne Britannia's nations; and when Nile
Fills all the land, are Memphis' thirsty reeds
Shaped into fragile boats that swim his waves.
The further bank thus gained, they haste to curve
The fallen forest, and to form the arch
By which imperious Sicoris shall be spanned.
Yet fearing he might rise in wrath anew,
Not on the nearest marge they place the beams,
But in mid-field. Thus the presumptuous stream
They tame with chastisement, parting his flood
In devious channels out; and curb his pride.
Petreius, seeing that all things gave way
To Caesar's destiny, leaves Ilerda's steep,
His trust no longer in the Roman world;
And seeks for strength amid those distant tribes,
Who, loving death, rush in upon the foe,2
And win their conquests at the point of sword.
But in the dawn, when Caesar saw the camp
Stand empty on the hill, ' To arms! ' he cries:
' No bridge nor ford; but stem with brawny arms
' The foaming river.' Rushing to the fray
They dare the torrent they had feared in flight.
Their arms regained, they race until the blood
Throbs in their veins anew, and their wet limbs
Are warm again. At length the shadows fall
Short on the sward, and day is at the height.
Then dash the horsemen on, and hold the foe
'Twixt flight and battle. In the plain arose
Two rocky heights: from each a loftier ridge
Of hills ranged onwards, sheltering in their midst
A hollow vale, whose deep and winding paths
Were safe from warfare; which, when Caesar saw
That if Petreius held, the war must pass
To lands remote by savage tribes possessed;
'Speed on,' he cries, ' and meet their flight in front;
'Fierce be your frown and battle in your glance:
' No coward's death be theirs; but as they flee
'Plunge in their breasts the sword.' They seize the pass
And place their camp. Short was the span between
Th' opposing sentinels; with eager eyes
Undimmed by space, they gazed on brothers, sons,
Or friends and fathers; and within their souls
They grasped the impious horror of the war.3
Yet for a little while no voice was heard,
For fear restrained; by waving blade alone
Or gesture, spake they; but their passion grew,
And broke all discipline; and soon they leap
The hostile rampart; every hand outstretched
Embraces hand of foeman, palm in palm;
One calls by name his neighbour, one his host,
Another with his schoolmate talks again
Of olden studies: he who in the camp
Found not a comrade, was no son of Rome.
Wet are their arms with tears, and sobs break in
Upon their kisses; each, unstained by blood,
Dreads what he might have done. Why beat thy breast?
Why, madman, weep? The guilt is thine alone
To do or to abstain. Dost fear the man
Who takes his title to be feared from thee?
When Caesar's trumpets sound the call to arms
Heed not the summons; when thou seest advance
His standards, halt. The civil Fury thus
Shall fold her wings; and in a private robe
Caesar shall love his kinsman.
Who sway'st the universe, whose firm embrace
Binds the compacted fabric of the world;
Come, gentle Concord! these our times 4 do now
For good or evil destiny control
The coming centuries! Ah, cruel fate!
Now have the people lost their cloak for crime:
Their hope of pardon. They have known their kin.
Woe for the respite given by the gods
Making more black the hideous guilt to come!
Now all was peaceful, and in either camp
Sweet converse held the soldiers; on the grass
They place the meal, and pour the mingled cup;
Bright glows the turf upon the friendly fire;
On mutual couch with stories of their fights,
They while the sleepless hours in talk away;
'Where stood the ranks arrayed, from whose right hand
The quivering lance was sped:' and while they boast,
Or challenge, deeds of prowess in the war,
Faith is renewed and trust. Thus envious fate
Made worse their doom, and all the crimes to be
Grew with their love. For when Petreius knew
The treaties made, himself and all his camp
Sold to the foe, he stirred his guard to work
An impious slaughter: the defenceless foe
Flung headlong forth: and parted fond embrace
By stroke of weapon and in streams of blood.
And thus in words of wrath, to stir the war:
'Of Rome forgetful, to your faith forsworn!
'And could ye not with victory gained return,
'Restorers of her liberty, to Rome?
'Lose then! but losing call not Caesar lord.
'While still your swords are yours, with blood to shed
'In doubtful battle, while the fates are hid,
'Will you like cravens to your master bear
'Doomed eagles? Will you ask upon your knees
'That Caesar deign to treat his slaves alike,
'And spare, forsooth, like yours, your leaders' lives?5
'Nay! never shall our safety be the price
'Of base betrayal! Not for boon of life
'We wage a civil war. This name of peace
'Drags us to slavery. Ne'er from depths of earth,
'Fain to withdraw her wealth, should toiling men
'Draw store of iron; ne'er entrench a town;
'Ne'er should the war-horse dash into the fray
'Nor fleet with turret bulwarks breast the main,
If freedom ever could for peace be sold,
And fame unsoiled: 'tis true our foes are sworn
To cursed crime; should you whose cause is just,
And who may hope for pardon in defeat,
Hold cheap your honour? Shame upon your peace!
Thou callest, Magnus, ignorant of fate,
From all the world thy powers, and dost entreat
Monarchs of distant realms, while haply here
We in our treaties bargain for thy-life! '
Thus did he stir their minds and rouse anew
The love of impious battle. So when beasts
Grown strange to forests, long confined in dens,
Their fierceness lose, and learn to bear with man;
Once should they taste of blood, their thirsty jaws
Swell at the touch, and all the ancient rage
Comes back upon them till they hardly spare
Their keeper. Thus they rush on every crime:
And blows which dealt in blindness of affray
Might seem the crimes of chance, or of the gods
Wreaking their hate, such recent vows of love
Made monstrous, horrid. Where they lately spread
The mutual couch and banquet, and embraced
Some new-found friend, now falls the fatal blow
Upon the self-same breast; and though at first
Groaning at the fell chance, they drew the sword;
Hate rises as they strike, the murderous arm
Confirms the doubtful will: in dreadful joy
Through the wild camp they smote their kinsmen down;
And carnage raged unchecked; and each man strove,
Proud of his crime, before his leader's face
To prove his shamelessness of guilt.
1 Fuso: either spacious, outspread; or, poured into the land (referring to the estuaries) as Mr. Haskins prefers; or, poured round the island. Portable leathern skiffs seem to have been in common use in Caesar's time in the English Channel. These were the rowing boats of the Gauls.(Mommsen, vol. iv., 219.)
2 Compare Book I., 520.
3 Compare the passage in Tacitus, 'Hist.,' ii., 45, in which the historian describes how the troops of Otho and Vitellius wept over each other after the battle and deplored the miseries of a civil war. “'Victi victoresque in lacrumas effusi, sortem civilium armorum misera latitia detestantes.'”
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