GEORGICON - I.461-497THE PORTENTS AT JULIUS CAESAR’S DEATH
Virgil (P. Vergilius Maro)trans. A. S. Kline
denique, quid Vesper serus uehat, unde serenas
uentus agat nubes, quid cogitet umidus Auster,
sol tibi signa dabit. solem quis dicere falsum
audeat? ille etiam caecos instare tumultus
saepe monet fraudemque et operta tumescere bella;
ille etiam exstincto miseratus Caesare Romam,
cum caput obscura nitidum ferrugine texit
impiaque aeternam timuerunt saecula noctem.
tempore quamquam illo tellus quoque et aequora ponti,
obscenaeque canes importunaeque uolucres
signa dabant. quotiens Cyclopum efferuere in agros
uidimus undantem ruptis fornacibus Aetnam,
flammarumque globos liquefactaque uoluere saxa!
armorum sonitum toto Germania caelo
audiit, insolitis tremuerunt motibus Alpes.
uox quoque per lucos uulgo exaudita silentis
ingens, et simulacra modis pallentia miris
uisa sub obscurum noctis, pecudesque locutae
(infandum!); sistunt amnes terraeque dehiscunt,
et maestum inlacrimat templis ebur aeraque sudant.
proluit insano contorquens uertice siluas
fluuiorum rex Eridanus camposque per omnis
cum stabulis armenta tulit. nec tempore eodem
tristibus aut extis fibrae apparere minaces
aut puteis manare cruor cessauit, et altae
per noctem resonare lupis ululantibus urbes.
non alias caelo ceciderunt plura sereno
fulgura nec diri totiens arsere cometae.
ergo inter sese paribus concurrere telis
Romanas acies iterum uidere Philippi;
nec fuit indignum superis bis sanguine nostro
Emathiam et latos Haemi pinguescere campos.
scilicet et tempus ueniet, cum finibus illis
agricola incuruo terram molitus aratro
exesa inueniet scabra robigine pila,
aut grauibus rastris galeas pulsabit inanis
grandiaque effossis mirabitur ossa sepulcris.
So, the sun will give you signs of what late evening brings,
and from where a fair-weather wind blows the clouds,
or what the rain-filled southerly intends. Who dares to say
the sun tricks us? He often warns us that hidden troubles
threaten, that treachery and secret wars are breeding.
He pitied Rome when Caesar was killed,
and hid his shining face in gloomy darkness,
and an impious age feared eternal night.
At that time earth, and the level sea,
troublesome dogs, and fateful birds, gave omens.
How often Etna inundated the Cyclopes’s fields,
streams of lava pouring from her shattered furnace,
hurling gouts of flame and molten rock!
In Germany they heard the clash of weapons,
across the sky, the Alps shook with strange quakes.
A great shout was heard, openly, in the silent groves,
and pale ghosts in strange forms were seen in the dark of night,
and, ah horror, creatures spoke like men.
Rivers stopped, earth split, and sad, the ivories wept
in the temples, and the bronze sweated.
Eridanus, king of the rivers, washed away forests
in the whirl of his maddened vortex, and swept
cattle and stables over the plains. Nor at that time
was there any lack of ominous marks in the dark entrails,
blood flowing in the wells, and mighty cities
echoing at night with the howls of wolves.
Never did greater lightning flash from a clear sky,
never did fatal comets shine more often.
So Philippi again saw Roman armies clash
amongst themselves, with equal weapons:
And the gods thought it not unfitting that Emathia and the broad plain
of Haemus, should twice be enriched with our blood.
And a time will come, when in those lands,
the farmer labouring at the earth with curved plough,
will come upon spears eaten by scabrous rust,
or strike an empty helmet with his heavy hoe,
and wonder at giant bones in the opened grave.

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Trans. Copyright © A. S. Kline 2003


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