(M. Annaeus Lucanus, Pharsalia, First Book)

Translated by Christopher Marlowe


Wars worse than civil on Thessalian plains,
And outrage strangling law and people strong,
We sing, whose conquering swords their own breasts launched,
Armies allied, the kingdom's league uprooted,
Th' affrighted world's force bent on public spoil,
Trumpets, and drums like deadly threat'ning other,
Eagles alike displayed, darts answering darts.

Romans, what madness, what huge lust of war
Hath made Barbarians drunk with Latin blood?
Now Babylon, (proud through our spoil) should stoop,
While slaughtered Crassus' ghost walks unrevenged.
Will ye wage war, for which you shall not triumph?

Aye me, O what a world of land and sea
Might they have won whom civil broils have slain!
As far as Titan springs where night dims heaven,
Ay, to the Torrid Zone where midday burns,
And where stiff winter whom no spring resolves,
Fetters the Euxine Sea with chains of ice:
Scythia and wild Armenia had been yoked,
And they of Nilus' mouth (if there live any).

Rome, if thou take delight in impious war,
First conquer all the earth, then turn thy force
Against thyself: As yet thou wants not foes.

That now the walls of houses half reared totter,
That rampires fallen down, huge heaps of stone
Lie in our towns, that houses are abandoned,
And few live that behold their ancient seats;
Italy many years hath lain untilled,
And choked with thorns, that greedy earth wants hinds.
Fierce Pyrrhus, neither thou nor Hannibal
Art cause, no foreign foe could so afflict us,
These plagues arise from wreak of civil power.

But if for Nero (then unborn) the Fates
Would find no other means, (and gods not slightly
Purchase immortal thrones; nor Jove joyed heaven
Until the cruel Giants' war was done).
We 'plain not heavens, but gladly bear these evils
For Nero's sake: Pharsalia groan with slaughter,
And Carthage souls be glutted with our bloods;
At Munda let the dreadful battles join;
Add Caesar, to these ills Perusian famine;
The Mutin toils; the fleet at Leuca sunk;
And cruel field near burning Etna fought.

Yet Rome is much bound these civil arms,
Which made thee Emperor, thee (seeing thou being old
Must shine a star) shall heaven (whom thou lovest),
Receive with shouts; where thou wilt reign as king,
Or mount the Sun's flame-bearing chariot,
And with bright restless fire compass the earth,
Undaunted though her former guide be changed.
Nature, and every power shall give thee place,
What god it please thee be, or where sway.

But neither choose the north t' erect thy seat;
Nor yet the adverse reeking southern pole,
Whence thou shouldst view thy Rome with squinting beams.
If any one part of vast heaven thou swayest,
The burdened axes with thy force will bend;
The midst is best; that place is pure, and bright,
There Caesar mayst thou shine and no cloud dim thee;
Then men from war shall 'bide in league, and ease,
Peace through the world from Janus' fane shall fly,
And bolt the brazen gates with bars of iron
Thou Caesar at this instant art my God,
Thee if I invocate, I shall not need
Crave Apollo's aid, or Bacchus' help;
Thy power inspires the Muse that sings this war.
The causes first I purpose to unfold
Of these garboils, whence springs a long discourse,
And what made madding people shake off peace.

The Fates are envious, high seats quickly perish,
Under great burdens falls are ever grievous;
Rome was so great it could not bear itself:
So when this world's compounded union breaks,
Time ends and to old Chaos all things turn;
Confused stars shall meet, celestial fire
Fleet on the floods, the earth shoulder the sea,
Affording it no shore, and Phoebe's wain
Chase Phoebus and enraged affect his place,
And strive to shine by day, and full of strife
Dissolve the engines of the broken world.

All great things crush themselves, such end the gods
Allot the height of honour, men so strong
By land, and sea, no foreign force could ruin:
O Rome thyself art cause of all these evils,
Thyself thus shivered out to three men's shares:
Dire league of partners in a kingdom last not.

O faintly joined friends with ambition blind,
Why join you force share the world betwixt you?
While th' earth the sea, and air the earth sustains;
While Titan strives against the world's swift course;
Or Cynthia, night's Queen, waits upon the day;
Shall never faith be found in fellow kings.
Dominion cannot suffer partnership;
This need no foreign proof, nor far fet story:
Rome's infant walls were steeped in brothers' blood;
Nor then land, or sea, breed such hate,
A town with one poor church set them at odds.

Caesar's, and Pompey's jarring love soon ended,
'Twas peace against their wills; betwixt them both
Stepped Crassus in: even as the slender Isthmus,
Betwixt the Aegean and the Ionian sea,
Keeps each from other, but being worn away
They both burst out, and each encounter other:
So whenas Crassus' wretched death, who stayed them,
Had filled Assyrian Carrha's walls with blood,
His loss made way for Roman outrages.

Parthians y' afflict more than ye suppose,
Being conquered, we are plagued with civil war.
Swords share our empire; Fortune, that made Rome
Govern the earth, the sea, the world itself
Would not admit lords: for Julia
Snatched hence by cruel fates with ominous howls,
Bare down to hell her son, the pledge of peace,
And all bands of that death-presaging alliance.

Julia, had heaven given thee longer life
Thou hadst restrained thy headstrong husband's rage,
Yea, and thy father too, and swords thrown down,
Made all shake hands, as once the Sabines did;
Thy death broke amity and trained to war
These captains emulous of each other's glory.

Thou feared'st (great Pompey) that late deeds would dim
Old triumphs, and that Caesar's conquering France
Would dash the wreath thou wear'st for pirate's wrack.
Thee war's use stirred, and thoughts that always scorned
A second place; Pompey could bide no equal,
Nor Caesar no superior, which of both
Had justest cause unlawful 'tis to judge:
Each side had great partakers; Caesar's cause
The gods abetted; Cato liked the other.
Both differed much, Pompey was strook in years,
And by long rest forgot to manage arms,
And being popular sought by liberal gifts,
To gain the light unstable commons' love,
And joyed hear his Theatre's applause;
He lived secure, boasting his former deeds,
And thought his name sufficient uphold him,
Like a tall oak in a fruitful field,
Bearing old spoils and conquerors' monuments
Who though his root be weak, and his own weight
Keep him within the ground, his arms all bare,
His body (not his boughs) send forth a shade;
Though every blast it nod, and seem fall,
When all the woods about stand bolt upright,
Yet he alone is held in reverence.

Caesar's renown for war less, he restless,
Shaming to strive but where he did subdue,
When ire, or hope provoked, heady, and bold,
At all times charging home, and making havoc;
Urging his fortune, trusting in the gods,
Destroying what withstood his proud desires,
And glad when blood, and ruin made him :
So thunder which the wind tears from the clouds,
With crack of riven air and hideous sound
Filling the world, leaps out and throws forth fire,
Affrights poor fearful men, and blasts their eyes
With overthwarting flames, and raging shoots
Alongst the air and nought resisting it
Falls, and returns, and shivers where it lights.
Such humours stirred them up; but this war's seed
Was even the same that wracks all great dominions.

When Fortune made lords of all, wealth flowed,
And then we grew licentious and rude,
The soldier's prey, and rapine brought in riot,
Men took delight in jewels, houses, plate,
And scorned old sparing diet, and ware robes
Too light for women; poverty (who hatched
Rome's greatest wits) was loathed, and all the world
Ransacked for gold, which breeds the world decay;
And then large limits had their butting lands,
The ground which Curius and Camillus tilled,
Was stretched unto the fields of hinds unknown;
Again, this people could not brook calm peace,
Them freedom without war might not suffice,
Quarrels were rife, greedy desire still poor
Did vilde deeds, then 'twas worth the price of blood
And deemed renown to spoil their native town,
Force mastered right, the strongest governed all.
Hence came it that th' edicts were overruled,
That laws were broke, tribunes with consuls strove,
Sale made of offices, and people's voices
Bought by themselves and sold, and every year
Frauds and corruption in the field of Mars;
Hence interest and devouring usury sprang,
Faith's breach, and hence came war to most men welcome.
Now Caesar overpassed the snowy Alps.
His mind was troubled, and he aimed at war,
And coming the ford of Rubicon,
At night in dreadful vision fearful Rome,
Mourning appeared, whose hoary hairs were torn,
And on her turret-bearing head dispersed,
And arms all naked, who with broken sighs,
And staring, thus bespoke: What mean'st thou Caesar?
Whether goes my standard? Romans if ye be,
And bear true hearts, stay here. this spectacle
Stroke Caesar's heart with fear, his hair stood up,
And faintness numbed his steps there on the brink:
He thus cried out: Thou thunderer that guard'st
Rome's mighty walls, built on Tarpeian rock,
Yet gods of Phrygia and Julus line,
Quirinus' rites and Latian Jove advanced
On Alba hill, O vestal flames, O Rome,
My thoughts' sole goddess, aid mine enterprise.
I hate thee not, to thee my conquests stoop,
Caesar is thine, so please it thee, thy soldier;
He, he afflicts Rome that made me Rome's foe.
This said, he laying aside all lets of war,
Approached the swelling stream with drum and ensign,
Like a lion of scorched desert Afric,
Who seeing hunters pauseth till fell wrath
And kingly rage increase, then having whisked
His tail athwart his back, and crest heaved up,
With jaws wide open ghastly roaring out;
(Albeit the moor's light javelin or his spear
Sticks in his side) yet runs upon the hunter.

In summer time the purple Rubicon,
Which issues from a small spring, is but shallow,
And creeps along the vales, dividing just
The bounds of Italy from Cisalpine France;
But now the winter's wrath and wat'ry moon,
Being three days old, enforced the flood swell,
And frozen Alps thawed with resolving winds.

The thunder hooved horse in a crooked line,
To scape the violence of the stream first waded,
Which being broke, the foot had easy passage.

As soon as Caesar got unto the bank
And bounds of Italy; here, here (saith he)
An end of peace; here end polluted laws;
Hence leagues, and covenants; Fortune, thee I follow,
War and the destinies shall try my cause.

This said, the restless general through the dark
(Swifter than bullets thrown from Spanish slings,
Or darts which Parthians backward shoot) marched on
And then (when Lucifer did shine alone,
And some dim stars) he Arriminum entered:
Day rose and viewed these tumults of the war;
Whether the gods, or blust'ring south were cause
I know not, but the cloudy air did frown;
The soldiers having won the market place,
There spread the colours, with confused noise
Of trumpets clang, shrill cornets, whistling fifes;
The people started; young men left their beds,
And snatched arms near their household gods hung up
Such as peace yields; worm-eaten leathern targets,
Through which the wood peered, headless darts, old swords
With ugly teeth of black rust fouly scarred.

But seeing white eagles, and Rome's flags well known,
And lofty Caesar in the thickest throng,
They shook for fear, and cold benumbed their limbs,
And muttering much, thus themselves complained:
O walls unfortunate too near to france,
Predestinate ruin; all lands else
Have stable peace, here war's rage first begins,
We bide the first brunt; safer might we dwell
Under the frosty bear, or parching east,
Wagons or tents, than in this frontier town.
We first sustained the uproars of the Gauls,
And furious Cimbrians and of Carthage moors,
As oft as Rome was sacked, here 'gan the spoil.

Thus sighing whispered they, and none durst speak
And show their fear, or grief: but as the fields
When birds are silent thorough winter's rage;
Or sea far from the land, so all were whist.

Now light had quite dissolved the misty night,
And Caesar's mind unsettled musing stood;
But gods and Fortune pricked him to this war,
Infringing all excuse of modest shame,
And labouring to approve his quarrel good.

The angry senate urging Gracchus' deeds,
From doubtful Rome wrongly expelled the tribunes
That crossed them; both which now approached the camp,
And with them Curio, sometime tribune too,
One that was fee'd for Caesar, and whose tongue
Could tune the people the nobles' mind.
'Caesar' (said he) 'while eloquence prevailed,
And I might plead, and draw the commons' minds
To favour thee against the Senate's will,
Five years I lengthened thy command in France:
But law being put to silence by the wars,
We from our houses driven, most willingly
Suffered exile: let thy sword bring us home.
Now while their part is weak, and fears, march hence.
Where men are ready, lingering ever hurts:
In ten years wonn'st thou France; Rome may be won
With far less toil, and yet the honour's more;
Few battles fought with prosperous success
May bring her down, and with her all the world.
Nor shalt thou triumph when thou com'st Rome,
Nor capital be adorned with sacred bays;
Envy denies all, with thy blood must thou
Aby thy conquest past: the son decrees
To expel the father; share the world thou canst not;
Enjoy it all thou mayest.' Thus Curio spake,
And therewith Caesar prone enough war,
Was so incensed as are Eleius' steeds
With clamours: who though locked and chained in stalls,
Souse down the walls, and make a passage forth.
Straight summoned he his several companies
Unto the standard: his grave look appeased
The wrestling tumult, and right hand made silence:
And thus he spake: 'You that with me have borne
A thousand brunts, and tried me full ten years,
See how they quit our bloodshed in the north,
Our friends' death, and our wounds, our wintering
Under the Alps; Rome rageth now in arms
As if the Carthage Hannibal were near;
Cornets of horse are mustered for the field;
Woods turned to ships; both land and sea against us.
Had foreign wars ill thrived; or wrathful France
Pursued us hither, how were we bested
When 'coming conqueror Rome afflicts me thus?
Let come their leader whom long peace hath quailed
Raw soldiers lately pressed, and troops of gowns;
Brabbling Marcellus; Cato whom fools reverence;
Must Pompey's followers with strangers' aid,
(Whom from his youth he bribed) needs make him king?
And shall he triumph long before his time,
And having once got head still shall he reign?
What should I talk of men's corn reaped by force,
And by him kept of purpose for a dearth?
Who sees not war sit by the quivering judge;
And sentence given in rings of naked swords,
And laws assailed, and armed men in the Senate?
'Twas his troop hemmed in Milo being accused;
And now, lest age might wane his state, he casts
For civil war, wherein through use he's known
To exceed his master, that arch-traitor Sylla.

As brood of barbarous tigers having lapped
The blood of many a herd, whilst with their dams
They kenneled in Hircania, evermore
Will rage and prey: so, Pompey, thou having licked
Warm gore from Sylla's sword art yet athirst,
Jaws fleshed with blood continue murderous.

Speak, when shall this thy long usurped power end?
What end of mischief? Sylla teaching thee,
At last learn wretch to leave thy monarchy.
What, now Sicilian pirates are suppressed,
And jaded King of Pontus poisoned slain,
Must Pompey as his last foe plume on me,
Because at his command I wound not up
My conquering eagles? Say I merit nought,
Yet for long service done, reward these men,
And so they triumph, be't with whom ye will.
Whither now shall these old bloodless souls repair?
What seats for their deserts? What store of ground
For servitors to till? What colonies
To rest their bones? Say Pompey, are these worse
Than pirates of Sicilia? They had houses.
Spread, spread these flags that ten years' space have conquered,
Let's use our tried force, they that now thwart right
In wars will yield to wrong: the gods are with us.
Neither spoil, nor kingdom seek we by these arms,
But Rome at thralldom's feet to rid from tyrants.

This spoke, none answered, but a murmuring buzz
Th' unstable people made: their household gods
And love Rome (though slaughter steeled their hearts
And minds were prone) restrained them; but war's love
And Caesar's awe dashed all: then Laelius
The chief centurion crowned with oaken leaves,
For saving of a Roman citizen,
Stepped forth and cried: 'Chief leader of Rome's force,
So be I may be bold speak a truth,
We grieve at this thy patience and delay.
What doubt'st thou us? Even now when youthful blood
Pricks forth our lively bodies, and strong arms
Can mainly throw the dart, wilt thou endure
These purple grooms? That Senate's tyranny?
Is conquest got by civil war so heinous?
Well, lead us then Syrtes' desert shore;
Or Scythia; or hot Libya's thirsty sands.
This hand that all behind us might be quailed,
Hath with thee passed the swelling Ocean,
And swept the foaming breast of Arctic Rhine.
Love overrules my will, I must obey thee,
Caesar, he whom I hear thy trumpets charge
I hold no Roman; by these ten blest ensigns
And all thy several triumphs, shouldst thou bid me
Entomb my sword within my brother's bowels;
Or father's throat; or woman's groaning womb;
This hand (albeit unwilling) should perform it;
Or rob the gods; or sacred temples fire:
These troops should soon pull down the church of Jove.
If to encamp on Tuscan Tiber's streams,
I'll boldly quarter out the fields of Rome;
What walls thou wilt be leveled with the ground,
These hands shall thrust the ram, and make them fly,
Albeit the city thou wouldst have so razed
Be Rome itself. here every band applauded,
And with their hands held up , all jointly cried

They'll follow where he please: the shouts rent heaven,
As when against pine-bearing Ossa's rocks
Beats Thracian Boreas; or when trees bow down,
And rustling swing up as the wind fets breath.

When Caesar saw his army prone to war,
And Fates so bent, lest sloth and long delay
Might cross him, he withdrew his troops from France,
And in all quarters musters men for Rome.

They by Lemannus' nook forsook their tents;
They whom the Lingones foiled with painted spears,
Under the rocks by crooked Vogesus;
And many came from shallow Isara
Who, running long, falls in a greater flood,
And ere he sees the sea loseth his name;
The yellow Ruthens left their garrisons;
Mild Atax glad it bears not Roman boats,
And frontier Varus that the camp is far,
Sent aid; so did Alcides port, whose seas
Eat hollow rocks, and where the northwest wind
Nor zephyr rules not, but the north alone
Turmoils the coast, and enterance forbids;
And others came from that uncertain shore,
Which is nor sea, nor land, but ofttimes both,
And changeth as the ocean ebbs and flows:
Whither the sea rolled always from that point,
Whence the wind blows still forced to-and-fro;
Or that the wandering main follow the moon;
Or flaming Titan (feeding on the deep)
Pulls them aloft, and makes the surge kiss heaven,
Philosophers look you, for unto me
Thou cause, whate'er thou be whom God assigns
This great effect, art hid. They came that dwell
By Nemes' fields, and banks of Satirus,
Where Tarbel's winding shores embrace the sea,
The Santons that rejoice in Caesar's love,
Those of Bituriges and light Axon pikes;
And they of Rhine and Leuca, cunning darters,
And Sequana that well could manage steeds;
The Belgians apt to govern British cars;
Th' Averni too, which boldly feign themselves
The Romans' brethren, sprung of Ilian race;
The stubborn Nervians stained with Cotta's blood,
And Vangions who like those of Sarmata,
Wear open slops: and fierce Batavians,
Whom trumpet's clang incites, and those that dwell
By Cinga's stream, and where swift Rhodanus
Drives Araris to sea; they near the hills,
Under whose hoary rocks Gebenna hangs;
And Trevier, thou being glad that wars are past thee;
And you late shorn Ligurians, who were wont
In large spread hair to exceed the rest of France;
And where to Hesus, and fell Mercury
They offer human flesh, and where Jove seems
Bloody like Dian, whom the Scythians serve;
And you, French Bardi, whose immortal pens
Renown the valiant souls slain in your wars,
Sit safe at home and chant sweet poesy.
And Druides you now in peace renew
Your barbarous customs, and sinister rites,
In unfelled woods, and sacred groves you dwell,
And only gods and heavenly powers you know,
Or only know you nothing. for you hold
That souls pass not to silent Erebus
Or Pluto's bloodless kingdom, but elsewhere
Resume a body: so (if truth you sing)
Death brings long life. Doubtless these northern men
Whom death, the greatest of all fears, affright not,
Are blest by such sweet error, this makes them
Run on the sword's point and desire to die,
And shame spare life which being lost is won.
You likewise that repulsed the Caeic foe,
March towards Rome; and you fierce men of Rhine
Leaving your country open to the spoil.

These being come, their huge power made him bold
To manage greater deeds; the bordering towns
He garrisoned; and Italy he filled with soldiers.

Vain fame increased true fear, and did invade
The people's minds, and laid before their eyes
Slaughter to come, and swiftly bringing news
Of present war, made many lies and tales.
One swears his troops of daring horsemen fought
Upon Mevania's plain, where bulls are grazed;
Other that Caesar's barbarous bands were spread
Along Nar flood that into Tiber falls,
And that his own ten ensigns, and the rest
Marched not entirely, and yet hide the ground,
And that he's much changed, looking wild and big,
And far more barbarous than the French (his vassals)
And that he lags behind with them of purpose
Borne twixt the Alps and Rhine, which he hath brought
From out their northern parts, and that Rome,
He looking on, by these men should be sacked.
Thus in his fright did each man strengthen fame,
And without ground, feared what themselves had feigned;
Nor were the commons only strook to heart
With this vain terror; but the Court, the Senate.
The fathers' selves leaped from their seats; and flying
Left hateful war decreed to both the consuls.
Then with their fear and danger all distract,
Their sway of flight carries the heady rout
That in chained troops break forth at every port;
You would have thought their houses had been fired
Or dropping-ripe, ready fall with ruin,
So rushed the inconsiderate multitude
Thorough the city hurried headlong on,
As if the only hope (that did remain
To their afflictions) were t' abandon Rome.

Look how when stormy Auster from the breach
Of Libyan Syrtes rolls a monstrous wave,
Which makes the mainsail fall with hideous sound;
The pilot from the helm leaps in the sea;
And mariners, albeit the keel be sound,
Shipwrack themselves: even so the city left,
All rise in arms; nor could the bedrid parents
Keep back their sons, or women's tears their husbands;
They stayed not either to pray or sacrifice,
Their household gods restrain them not, none lingered,
As loath to leave Rome whom they held so dear:
Th' irrevocable people fly in troops.

O gods, that easy grant men great estates,
But hardly grace to keep them: Rome that flows
With citizens and captives, and would hold
The world (were it together) is by cowards
Left as a prey now Caesar doth approach:
When Romans are besieged by foreign foes,
With slender trench they escape night stratagems,
And sudden rampire raised of turf snatched up
Would make them sleep securely in their tents.
Thou Rome at name of war runn'st from thyself,
And wilt not trust thy city walls one night:
Well might these fear, when Pompey feared and fled.
Now evermore lest some one hope might ease
The commons' jangling minds, apparent signs arose,
Strange sights appeared, the angry threat'ning gods
Filled both the earth and seas with prodigies;
Great store of strange and unknown stars were seen
Wandering about the north, and rings of fire
Fly in the air, and dreadful bearded stars,
And comets that presage the fall of kingdoms.

The flattering sky glittered in often flames,
And sundry fiery meteors blazed in heaven:
Now spearlike, long; now like a spreading torch
Lightning in silence stole forth without clouds,
And from the northern climate snatching fire
Blasted the Capitol. The lesser stars
Which wont run their course through empty night
At noonday mustered; Phoebe having filled
Her meeting horns to match her brother's light,
Strook with th' earth's sudden shadow waxed pale,
Titan himself throned in the midst of heaven,
His burning chariot plunged in sable clouds,
And whelmed the world in darkness, making men
Despair of day, as did Thiestes town
(Mycenae) Phoebus flying through the east:
Fierce Mulciber unbarred Etna's gate,
Which flamed not on high; but headlong pitched
Her burning head on bending Hespery.
Coal-black Charybdis whirled a sea of blood;
Fierce mastiffs hold; the vestal fires went out,
The flame in Alba consecrate to Jove
Parted in twain, and with a double point
Rose like the Theban brothers' funeral fire;
The earth went off her hinges; and the Alps
Shook the old snow from off their trembling laps.
The ocean swelled as high as Spanish Calpe,
Or Atlas' head; their saints and household gods
Sweat tears to show the travails of their city.
Crowns fell from holy statues, ominous birds
Defiled the day, and wilde beasts were seen,
Leaving the woods, lodge in the streets of Rome.
Cattle were seen that muttered human speech:
Prodigous births with more and ugly joints,
Than nature gives, whose sight appalls the mother,
And dismal prophesies were spread abroad:
And they whom fierce Bellona's fury moves
To wound their arms, sing vengeance, Sibyl's priests,
Curling their bloody locks, howl dreadful things,
Souls quiet and appeased sighed from their graves,
Clashing of arms was heard in untrod woods,
Shrill voices shrieked, and ghosts encounter men.
Those that inhabited the suburb fields
Fled, foul Erinnis stalked about the walls,
Shaking her snaky hair and crooked pine
With flaming top, much like that hellish fiend
Which made the stern Lycurgus wound his thigh,
Or fierce Agave mad; or like Megaera
That scared Alcides, when by Juno's task
He had before looked Pluto in the face.
Trumpets were heard sound; and with what noise
An armed battle joins, such and more strange
Black night brought forth in secret: Sylla's ghost
Was seen to walk, singing sad oracles,
And Marius' head above cold Tau'ron peering
(His grave broke open) did affright the boars.
To these ostents (as their old custom was)
They call th' Etrurian augurs, amongst whom
The gravest, Aruns, dwelt in forsaken Luca, [or Luna]
Well skilled in pyromancy; one that knew
The hearts of beasts, and flight of wandering fowls.
First he commands such monsters Nature hatched
Against her kind (the barren mule's loathed issue)
To be cut forth and cast in dismal fires:
Then, that the trembling citizens should walk
About the city; then the sacred priests
That with divine lustration purged the walls,
And went the round, in, and without the town.
Next, an inferior troop in tucked up vestures,
After the Gabine manner: then the nuns
And their veiled matron, who alone might view
Minerva's statue; then they that keep and read
Sibylla's secret works, and wash their saint
In Almo's flood. Next learned augurs follow,
Apollo's soothsayers, and Jove's feasting priests;
The skipping Salii with shields like wedges;
And Flamin's last, with network woolen veils.
While these thus in and out had circled Rome,
Look, what the lightning blasted Aruns takes
And it inters with murmurs dolorous,
And calls the place bidental. On the altar
He lays a ne'er-yoked bull, and pours down wine,
Then crams salt leaven on his crooked knife;
The beast long struggled, as being like to prove
An awkward sacrifice, but by the horns
The quick priest pulled him on his knees and slew him:
No vein sprung out but from the yawning gash,
Instead of red blood wallowed venomous gore.
These direful signs made Aruns stand amazed,
And searching farther for the gods' displeasure,
The very colour scared him; a dead blackness
Ran through the blood, that turned it all jelly,
And stained the bowels with dark loathsome spots;
The liver swelled with filth, and every vein
Did threaten horror from the host of Caesar;
A small thin skin contained the vital parts,
The heart stirred not, and from the gaping liver
Squeezed matter through the caul; the entrails 'peared,
And which (aye me) ever pretendeth ill,
At that bunch where the liver is, appeared
A knob of flesh, whereof one half did look
Dead, and discolored, th' other lean and thin.
By these he seeing what mischiefs must ensue,
Cried out, 'O gods! I tremble to unfold
What you intend: great Jove is now displeased,
And in the breast of this slain bull are crept
Th' infernal powers. My fear transcends my words,
Yet more will happen than I can unfold.
Turn all good, by augury vain, and Tages
Th' arts' master false'. Thus in ambiguous terms,
Involving all, did Aruns darkly sing.
But Figulus, more seen in heavenly mysteries,
Whose like Egyptian Memphis never had
For skill in stars, and tuneful planeting,
In this sort spake: 'The world's swift course is lawless
And casual; all the stars at random rage:
Or if fate rule them, Rome thy citizens
Are near some plague: what mischief shall ensue?
Shall towns be swallowed? Shall the thickened air,
Become intemperate? Shall the earth be barren?
Shall water be congealed and turned to ice?
O gods what death prepare ye? With what plague
Mean ye to rage? The death of many men
Meets in one period. If cold noisome Saturn
Were now exalted, and with blue beams shined,
Then Ganymede would renew Deucalion's flood,
And in the fleeting sea the earth be drenched.
O Phoebus shouldst thou with thy rays now sing
The fell Nemean beast, th' earth would be fired,
And heaven tormented with thy chafing heat,
But thy fire's hurt not; Mars, 'tis thou inflam'st
The threat'ning Scorpion with the burning tail
And fir'st his claws. Why art thou thus enraged?
Kind Jupiter hath low declined himself;
Venus is faint; swift Hermes retrograde;
Mars only rules the heaven: why do the planets
Alter their course and vainly dim their virtue?
Sword-girt Orion's side glisters too bright.
War's rage draws near; and the sword's strong hand
Let all laws yield, sin bear the name of virtue,
Many a year these furious broils let last,
Why should we wish the gods should ever end them?
War only gives peace, O Rome continue
The course of mischief, and stretch out the date
Of slaughter; only civil broils make peace.

These sad presages were enough to scare
The quivering Romans, but worse things affright them.
As Maenus full of wine on Pindus raves,
So runs a matron through th' amazed streets,
Disclosing Phoebus' fury in this sort;
'Paean, whither am I haled? Where shall I fall?
Thus borne aloft I see Pangeus' hill,
With hoary top, and under Haemus' mount
Philippi plains; Phoebus what rage is this?
Why grapples Rome, and makes war, having no foes?
Whither turn I now? Thou lead'st me toward th' east,
Where Nile augmenteth the Pelusian sea:
This headless trunk that lies on Nilus' sand
I know: now throughout the air I fly
To doubtful Syrtes and dry Afric, where
A fury leads the Emathian bands; from thence
To the pine-bearing hills, hence the mounts
Pyrene, and so back to Rome again.
So impious war defiles the Senate house,
I go; O Phoebus, show me Neptune's shore,
And other regions, I have seen Philippi:
This said, being tired with fury she sunk down.


© This edition and HTML version, Peter Farey, 2002
Based upon an e-text from:
The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe. Fredson Bowers, ed.
Cambridge, England: The University Press, 1973

back to Home Page