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For Cyprus then
They shaped their course, whose altars more than all
The goddess loves who from the Paphian wave
Sprang, mindful of her birth, if such be truth,
And gods have origin. Past the craggy isle
Pompeius sailing, left at length astern
Its southern cape, and struck across the main
With winds transverse and tides; nor reached the mount
Grateful to sailors for its nightly gleam:
But to the bounds of Egypt hardly won
With battling canvas, where divided Nile
Pours through the shallows his Pelusian stream.1
Now was the season when the heavenly scale
Most nearly balances the varying hours,
Once only equal; for the wintry day
Repays to night her losses of the spring;
And Magnus learning that th' Egyptian king
Lay by Mount Casius, ere the sun was set
Or flagged his canvas, thither steered his ship.
Already had a horseman from the shore
In rapid gallop to the trembling court
Brought news their guest was come. Short was the time
For counsel given; but in haste were met
All who advised the base Pellaean king,
Monsters, inhuman; there Achoreus sat
Less harsh in failing years, in Memphis born
Of empty rites, and guardian of the rise 2
Of fertilising Nile. While he was priest
Not only once had Apis 3 lived the space
Marked by the crescent on his sacred brow.
First was his voice, for Magnus raised and troth
And for the pledges of the king deceased:
But, skilled in counsel meet for shameless minds
And tyrant hearts, Pothinus, dared to claim
Judgment of death on Magnus. ' Laws and right
' Make many guilty, Ptolemaeus king.
' And faith thus lauded 4 brings its punishment
' When it supports the fallen. To the fates
' Yield thee, and to the gods; the wretched shun
' But seek the happy. As the stars from earth
' Differ, and fire from ocean, so from right
'Expedience.5 The tyrant's shorn of strength
'Who ponders justice; and regard for right
'Brings ruin on a throne. The power to sin,
'Swords drawn at will, the tyrant king protect;
'And savage deeds find safety when they're done.
'Who would be righteous, let him flee the throne,
'For right's the bane of rule. He lives in dread
'Who shrinks from cruelty. Nor let this chief
'Unpunished scorn thy youth, who thinks that thou
'Not even the conquered from our shore canst bar.
'Nor to a stranger, if thou wouldst not reign,
'Resign thy sceptre, for the ties of blood
'Speak for thy banished sister. Let her rule
'O'er Nile and Pharos: we shall at the least
'Preserve our Egypt from the Latian arms.
'What Magnus owned not ere the war was done,
No more shall Caesar. Driven from all the world,
'Trusting no more to Fortune, now he seeks
'Some foreign nation which may share his fate.
'Shades of the slaughtered in the civil war
'Compel him: nor from Caesar's arms alone
'But from the Senate also does he fly,
'Whose blood outpoured has gorged Thessalian fowl;
'Monarchs he fears whose all he has destroyed,
'And nations piled in one ensanguined heap,
'By him deserted. Victim of the blow
'Thessalia dealt, refused in every land,
' He asks for help from ours not yet betrayed.
' But none than Egypt with this chief from Rome
' Has juster quarrel; who has sought with arms
' To stain our Pharos, distant from the strife
'And peaceful ever, and to make our realm
'Suspected by his victor. Why alone
'Should this our country please thee in thy fall?
' Why bring'st thou here the burden of thy fates,
' Pharsalia's curse? In Caesar's eyes long since
'We have offence which by the sword alone
' Can find its condonation, in that we
'By thy persuasion from the Senate gained
'This our dominion. By our prayers we helped
' If not by arms thy cause. This sword, which fate
' Bids us make ready, not for thee I hold
' Prepared, but for the vanquished; and thy heart
'(I had preferred thy kinsman's) shall I pierce:
' For to his side, as all things, are we borne.
' And dost thou doubt, since thou art in my power,
'Thou art my victim? By what trust in us
'Cam'st thou, unhappy? Scarce our people tills
' The fields, though softened by the refluent Nile:
' Know well our strength, and know we can no more.
'Rome 'neath the ruin of Pompeius lies:
'Shalt thou, O king, uphold him? Shalt thou dare
' To stir Pharsalia's ashes and to call
' War to thy kingdom? Ere the fight was fought
' We joined not either army-shall we now
' Make Magnus friend whom all the world deserts?
'And fling a challenge to the conquering chief
'And all his proud successes? Fair is help
'Lent in disaster, yet reserved for those
'Whom fortune favours. Faith her friends selects
'Not from the wretched.'
3 Comp. Herodotus, Book III., 27. Apis was a god who appeared at intervals in the shape of a calf with a white mark on his brow. His appearance was the occasion of general rejoicing. Cambyses slew the Apis which came in his time, and for this cause became mad, as the Egyptians said.
4 That is, by Achoreus, who had just spoken.
5 Compare Ben Jonson's 'Sejanus,' Act ii., Scene 2:
“The prince who shames a tyrant's name to bear
Shall never dare do anything, but fear;
All the command of sceptres quite doth perish
If it begin religious thoughts to cherish;
Whole empires fall, swayed by these nice respects,
It is the licence of dark deeds protects
E'en states most hated, when no laws resist
The sword, but that it acteth what it list.
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