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Divus Iulius.

JULIUS CAESAR, TRANSFORMED TO A STAR

Apollo's son came to us from abroad,
but Caesar is a god in his own land.
The first in war and peace, he rose by wars,
which closed in triumphs, and by civic deeds
to glory quickly won, and even more
his offspring's love exalted him as a new,
a heavenly, sign and brightly flaming star.
Of all the achievements of great Julius Caesar
not one is more ennobling to his fame
than being father of his glorious son.

Was it more glorious for him to subdue
the Britons guarded by their sheltering sea
or lead his fleet victorious up the stream
seven mouthed of the papyrus hearing Nile;
to bring beneath the Roman people s rule
rebel Numidia, Libyan Juba, and
strong Pontus, proud of Mithridates' fame;
to have some triumphs and deserve far more;
than to be father of so great a man,
with whom as ruler of the human race,
O gods, you bless us past all reckoning?

And, lest that son should come from mortal seed,
Julius Caesar must change and be a god.
When the golden mother of Aeneas was
aware of this and saw a grievous end
plotted against her high priest, saw the armed
conspiracy preparing for his death,
with pallid face she met each god and said:

“Look with what might this plot prepares itself
against my cause; with how much guile it dooms
the head which is the last that I have left
from old-time Iulus, prince and heir of Troy.
Shall I alone be harassed through all time
by fear well grounded? First the son of Tydeus
must wound me with his Calydonian spear;
and then I tremble at the tottering walls
of ill defended Troy; I watch my son
driven in long wanderings, tossed upon the sea,
descending to the realm of silent shades,
and waging war with Turnus—or, if I should speak
the truth, with Juno! Why do I recall
disasters of my race from long ago?
The present dread forbids my looking back
at ills now past. See how the wicked swords
are whetted for the crime! Forbid it now,
I pray you, and prevent the deed,
let not the priest's warm blood quench vestal fires!”

Such words as these, full of her anxious thoughts,
Venus proclaimed through all the heavens, in vain.
The gods were moved, and, since they could not break
the ancient sisters' iron decree, they gave
instead clear portents of approaching woe.

It is declared, resounding arms heard from
the black clouds and unearthly trumpet blasts
and clarions heard through all the highest heavens,
forewarned men of the crime. The sad sun's face
gave to the frightened world a livid light;
and in the night-time torches seemed to burn
amid the stars, and often drops of blood
fell in rain-showers. Then Lucifer shone blue
with all his visage stained by darksome rust.
The chariot of the moon was sprinkled with
red blood. The Stygian owl gave to the world
ill omens. In a thousand places, tears
were shed by the ivory statues. Dirges, too,
are said to have been heard, and threatening words
by unknown speakers in the sacred groves.

No victim gave an omen of good life:
the fibers showed great tumults imminent,
the liver's cut-off edge was found among
the entrails. In the Forum, it is said,
and round men's homes and temples of the gods
dogs howled all through the night, and silent shades
wandered abroad, and earthquakes shook the city.

But portents of the gods could not avert
the plots of men and stay approaching fate.
Into a temple naked swords were brought—
into the Senate House. No other place
in all our city was considered fit
for perpetrating such a dreadful crime!
With both hands Cytherea beat her breast,
and in a cloud she strove to hide the last
of great Aeneas' line, as in times past
she had hid Paris from fierce Menelaus
Aeneas from the blade of Diomed.

But Jove, her father, cautioned her and said,
“Do you my daughter, without aid, alone,
attempt to change the fixed decrees of Fate?
Unaided you may enter the abode
of the three sisters and can witness there
a register of deeds the future brings.
These, wrought of brass and solid iron with
vast labor, are unchangeable through all
eternity; and have no weakening fears
of thunder-shocks from heaven, nor from the rage
of lightnings they are perfectly secure
from all destruction. You will surely find
the destinies of your descendants there,
engraved in everlasting adamant.
'Tis certain. I myself, have read them there:
and I, with care have marked them in my mind.
I will repeat them so that you may have
unerring knowledge of those future days.

Venus, the man on whose behalf you are
so anxious, already has completed his
alloted time. The years are ended which
he owed to life on earth. You with his son,
who now as heir to his estate must bear
the burden of that government, will cause
him, as a deity, to reach the heavens,
and to be worshipped in the temples here.

“The valiant son will plan revenge on those
who killed his father and will have our aid
in all his battles. The defeated walls
of scarred Mutina, which he will besiege,
shall sue for peace. Pharsalia's plain will dread
his power and Macedonian Philippi
be drenched with blood a second time, the name
of one acclaimed as ‘Great’ shall be subdued
in the Sicilian waves. Then Egypt's queen,
wife of the Roman general, Antony,
shall fall, while vainly trusting in his word,
while vainly threatening that our Capitol
must be submissive to Canopus' power.
“Why should I mention all the barbarous lands
and nations east and west by ocean's rim?
Whatever habitable earth contains
shall bow to him, the sea shall serve his will!

“With peace established over all the lands,
he then will turn his mind to civil rule
and as a prudent legislator will
enact wise laws. And he will regulate
the manners of his people by his own
example. Looking forward to the days
of future time and of posterity,
he will command the offspring born of his
devoted wife, to assume the imperial name
and the burden of his cares. Nor till his age
shall equal Nestor's years will he ascend
to heavenly dwellings and his kindred stars.
Meanwhile transform the soul, which shall be reft
from this doomed body, to a starry light,
that always god-like Julius may look down
in future from his heavenly residence
upon our Forum and our Capitol.”

Jupiter hardly had pronounced these words,
when kindly Venus, although seen by none,
stood in the middle of the Senate-house,
and caught from the dying limbs and trunk
of her own Caesar his departing soul.
She did not give it time so that it could
dissolve in air, but bore it quickly up,
toward all the stars of heaven; and on the way,
she saw it gleam and blaze and set it free.
Above the moon it mounted into heaven,
leaving behind a long and fiery trail,
and as a star it glittered in the sky.

There, wondering at the younger Caesar's deeds,
Julius confessed they were superior
to all of his, and he rejoiced because
his son was greater even than himself.
Although the son forbade men to regard
his own deeds as the: mightier! Fame, that moves
free and untrammelled by the laws of men,
preferred him even against his own desire
and in that one point disobeyed his will.

And so great Atreus yields to greater fame
of Agamemnon, Aegeus yields to Theseus,
and Peleus to Achilles, or, to name
a parallel befitting these two gods,
so Saturn yields to Jove. Now Jupiter
rules in high heavens and is the suzerain
over the waters and the world of shades,
and now Augustus rules in all the lands—
so each is both a father and a god.

Gods who once guarded our Aeneas, when
both swords and fire gave way, and native gods
of Italy, and Father Quirinus—
patron of Rome, and you Gradivus too—
the sire of Quirinus the invincible,
and Vesta hallowed among Caesar's gods,
and Phoebus ever worshipped at his hearth,
and Jupiter who rules the citadel
high on Tarpeia's cliff, and other gods—
all gods to whom a poet rightfully
and with all piety may make appeal;
far be that day—postponed beyond our time,
when great Augustus shall foresake the earth
which he now governs, and mount up to heaven,
from that far height to hear his people's prayers!

And now, I have completed a great work,
which not Jove's anger, and not fire nor steel,
nor fast-consuming time can sweep away.
Whenever it will, let the day come, which has
dominion only over this mortal frame,
and end for me the uncertain course of life.
Yet in my better part I shall be borne
immortal, far above the stars on high,
and mine shall be a name indelible.
Wherever Roman power extends her sway
over the conquered lands, I shall be read
by lips of men. If Poets' prophecies
have any truth, through all the coming years
of future ages, I shall live in fame.

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