Seize the Sky: A Novel (Son of the Plains)

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Perseus Under Philologic: Luc.

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Many of the Canadian ebooks listed below were originally created for these two sites, which have kindly made them available to us. Petreius, seeing that all things gave way To Caesar's destiny, leaves Ilerda 's steep, His trust no longer in the Roman world; And seeks for strength amid those distant tribes, Who, loving death, rush in upon the foe, [Note] And win their conquests at the point of sword.

But in the dawn, when Caesar saw the camp Stand empty on the hill, ' To arms! Their arms regained, they race until the blood Throbs in their veins anew, and their wet limbs Are warm again.


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At length the shadows fall Short on the sward, and day is at the height. Then dash the horsemen on, and hold the foe 'Twixt flight and battle.

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In the plain arose Two rocky heights: from each a loftier ridge Of hills ranged onwards, sheltering in their midst A hollow vale, whose deep and winding paths Were safe from warfare; which, when Caesar saw That if Petreius held, the war must pass To lands remote by savage tribes possessed; 'Speed on,' he cries, ' and meet their flight in front; 'Fierce be your frown and battle in your glance: ' No coward's death be theirs; but as they flee 'Plunge in their breasts the sword.

Short was the span between Th' opposing sentinels; with eager eyes Undimmed by space, they gazed on brothers, sons, Or friends and fathers; and within their souls They grasped the impious horror of the war. Wet are their arms with tears, and sobs break in Upon their kisses; each, unstained by blood, Dreads what he might have done.

Why beat thy breast? Why, madman, weep?


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The guilt is thine alone To do or to abstain. Dost fear the man Who takes his title to be feared from thee? When Caesar's trumpets sound the call to arms Heed not the summons; when thou seest advance His standards, halt. The civil Fury thus Shall fold her wings; and in a private robe Caesar shall love his kinsman. Holy Love Who sway'st the universe, whose firm embrace Binds the compacted fabric of the world; Come, gentle Concord! Ah, cruel fate! Now have the people lost their cloak for crime: Their hope of pardon.

They have known their kin. Woe for the respite given by the gods Making more black the hideous guilt to come! Now all was peaceful, and in either camp Sweet converse held the soldiers; on the grass They place the meal, and pour the mingled cup; Bright glows the turf upon the friendly fire; On mutual couch with stories of their fights, They while the sleepless hours in talk away; 'Where stood the ranks arrayed, from whose right hand The quivering lance was sped:' and while they boast, Or challenge, deeds of prowess in the war, Faith is renewed and trust.

Thus envious fate Made worse their doom, and all the crimes to be Grew with their love. For when Petreius knew The treaties made, himself and all his camp Sold to the foe, he stirred his guard to work An impious slaughter: the defenceless foe Flung headlong forth: and parted fond embrace By stroke of weapon and in streams of blood.

And thus in words of wrath, to stir the war: 'Of Rome forgetful, to your faith forsworn! Will you ask upon your knees 'That Caesar deign to treat his slaves alike, 'And spare, forsooth, like yours, your leaders' lives? Not for boon of life 'We wage a civil war. This name of peace 'Drags us to slavery. Ne'er from depths of earth, 'Fain to withdraw her wealth, should toiling men 'Draw store of iron; ne'er entrench a town; 'Ne'er should the war-horse dash into the fray 'Nor fleet with turret bulwarks breast the main, If freedom ever could for peace be sold, And fame unsoiled: 'tis true our foes are sworn To cursed crime; should you whose cause is just, And who may hope for pardon in defeat, Hold cheap your honour?

Shame upon your peace!

Terry C. Johnston

Thou callest, Magnus, ignorant of fate, From all the world thy powers, and dost entreat Monarchs of distant realms, while haply here We in our treaties bargain for thy-life! So when beasts Grown strange to forests, long confined in dens, Their fierceness lose, and learn to bear with man; Once should they taste of blood, their thirsty jaws Swell at the touch, and all the ancient rage Comes back upon them till they hardly spare Their keeper. Thus they rush on every crime: And blows which dealt in blindness of affray Might seem the crimes of chance, or of the gods Wreaking their hate, such recent vows of love Made monstrous, horrid.

Where they lately spread The mutual couch and banquet, and embraced Some new-found friend, now falls the fatal blow Upon the self-same breast; and though at first Groaning at the fell chance, they drew the sword; Hate rises as they strike, the murderous arm Confirms the doubtful will: in dreadful joy Through the wild camp they smote their kinsmen down; And carnage raged unchecked; and each man strove, Proud of his crime, before his leader's face To prove his shamelessness of guilt.

Thessalian fields Gave thee no better fortune, nor the waves That lave Massilia ; nor on Pharos' main Didst thou so triumph. By this crime alone Thou from this moment of the better cause Shalt be the Captain. Since the troops were stained With foulest slaughter thus, their leaders shunned All camps with Caesar's joined, and sought again Ilerda 's lofty walls; but Caesar's horse Seized on the plain and forced them to the hills Reluctant. There by steepest trench shut in, He cuts them from the river, nor permits Their circling ramparts to enclose a spring.

By this dread path Death trapped his captive prey. Which when they knew, fierce anger filled their souls, And took the place of fear.

Seize the Sky

They slew the steeds Now useless grown, and rushed upon their fate; Hopeless of life and flight. But Caesar cried: Hold back your weapons, soldiers, from the foe, Strike not the breast advancing; let the war ' Cost me no blood; he falls not without price ' Who with his life-blood challenges the fray. Scorning their own base lives and hating light, To Caesar's loss they rush upon their death, Nor heed our blows. But let this frenzy pass, This madman onset; let the wish for death Die in their souls. Thus keener fights the gladiator whose wound Is recent, while the blood within the veins Still gives the sinews motion, ere the skin Shrinks on the bones: but as the victor stands His fatal thrust achieved, and points the blade Unfaltering, watching for the end, there creeps Torpor upon the limbs, the blood congeals About the gash, more faintly throbs the heart, And slowly fading, ebbs the life away.

Raving for water now they dig the plain Seeking for hidden fountains, not with spade And mattock only searching out the depths, But with the sword; they hack the stony heights, In shafts that reach the level of the plain. No further flees from light the pallid wretch Who tears the bowels of the earth for gold. Yet neither riven stones revealed a spring, Nor streamlet whispered from its hidden source; No water trickled on the gravel bed, Nor dripped within the cavern.

Worn at length With labour huge, they crawl to light again, After such toil to fall to thirst and heat The readier victims: this was all they won. All food they loathe; and 'gainst their deadly thirst Call famine to their aid.

Damp clods of earth They squeeze upon their mouths with straining hands. Wherever on foulest mud some stagnant slime Or moisture lies, each dying soldier strives With dying comrade first to lap the draught, Loathsome had life been his. Like beasts they drain The swollen udder, and where milk was not, They suck the life-blood forth. From herbs and boughs Dripping with dew, from tender shoots they press, Nay, from the pith of trees, the juice within. Happy the host that onward marching finds Its savage enemy has fouled the wells With murderous venom; hadst thou, Caesar, cast The reeking filth of shambles in the stream, And henbane dire and all the poisonous herbs That lurk on Cretan slopes, still had they drunk The fatal waters, rather than endure Such lingering agony.

Their bowels racked With torments as of flame; the swollen tongue And jaws now parched and rigid, and the veins; Each laboured breath with anguish from the lungs Enfeebled, moistureless, is scarcely drawn, And scarce again returned; and yet agape, Their panting mouths suck in the nightly dew; They watch for showers from heaven, and in despair Gaze on the clouds, whence lately poured a flood.

Nor were their tortures less that Meroe Saw not their sufferings, nor Cancer's zone, Nor where the Garamantian turns the soil; But Sicoris and Iberus at their feet, Two mighty floods, but far beyond their reach, Rolled down in measureless volume to the main. Proud is his bearing, and despite of ills, His mien majestic, of his triumphs past Still mindful in disaster thus he stands, Though suppliant for grace, a leader yet; From fearless heart thus speaking: 'Had the fates Thrown me before some base ignoble foe, Not, Caesar, thee; still had this arm fought on And snatched my death.

Now if I suppliant ask, 'Tis that I value still the boon of life Given by a worthy hand. No party ties 'Roused us to arms against thee; when the war, 'This civil war, broke out, it found us chiefs; And with our former cause we kept the faith, So long as brave men should. The fates' decree 'No longer we withstand.

Unto thy will We yield the western tribes: the east is thine 'And all the world lies open to thy march. Thou hast not to forgive Aught but thy victory won. Nor ask we much.

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