Virgil (P. Vergilius Maro)trans. K. R. Mackenzie
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.
In fine, what evening brings, what wind will clear
The sky, and what the south wind has in store,
The sun will tell. For who would dare to call
The sun a liar? Often too, he warns
Of risings, secret plots and threatening wars.
He pitied Rome, when Caesar was snuffed out,
And veiled his shining head in rust-red gloom;
A godless age feared everlasting night.
In that hour, too, the earth and Ocean's plains
And howling dogs and inauspicious birds
Gave signs. How oft we saw Mount Etna burst
Her furnaces and flood the Cyclops' fields,
And whirl her balls of flame and molten rocks.
The skies of Germany were loud with arms,
And with unwonted tremors quaked the Alps.
Amid the silence of the groves men heard
A mighty voice. Strange shapes of pallid ghosts
Were seen by night and - fearful prodigy -
Beasts spoke as men. Earth gaped and rivers stopped,
The images of bronze and ivory wept.
Swirling across the plains with furious flood,
The river Po, the monarch of the streams,
Washed woods away and cattle, byres and all.
And in those days the victims' entrails showed
Ill-omened veins, and blood ran in the springs;
High cities rang with nightly howl of wolves.
So many bolts from clear sky never fell,
Nor fearful comets had so often blazed.
So once again Philippi saw the clash
Of Roman armies matched with Roman arms;
Nor were the gods displeased that Roman blood
Enriched the plains of Macedonia twice.
The day will surely come when in those fields
The farmer, toiling with his curving plough,
Will turn up spears devoured by flaking rust,
Or strike an empty helmet with his hoe,
And pause to wonder at heroic bones.

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Transl. copyright © The Folio Society Ltd. 1969

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