On his Consulship
Quoted in On divination 1.11-13. Translation by C. D. Yonge (1853)
See how almighty Jove, inflamed and bright,
With heavenly fire fills the spacious world,
And lights up heaven and earth with wondrous rays
Of his divine intelligence and mind;
Which pierces all the inmost sense of men,
And vivifies their souls, held fast within
The boundless caverns of eternal air.
And would you know the high sublimest paths
And ever revolving orbits of the stars,
And in what constellations they abide,—
Stars which the Greeks erratic falsely call,
For certain order and fixed laws direct
Their onward course; then shall you learn that all
Is by divinest wisdom fitly ruled.
For when you ruled the state, a consul wise,
You noted, and with victims due approach'd,
Propitiating the rapid stars, and strange
Concurrence of the fiery constellations.
Then, when you purified the Alban mount,
And celebrated the great Latin feast,
Bringing pure milk, meet offerings for the gods,
You saw fierce comets bright and quivering
With lights unheard of. In the sky you saw
Fierce wars and dread nocturnal massacre;
That Latin feast on mournful days did fall,
When the pale moon with dim and muffled light
Conceal'd her head, and fled, and in the midst
Of starry night became invisible.
Why should I say how Phoebus' fiery beam,
Sure herald of sad war, in mid-day set,
Hastening at undue season to its rest,
Or how a citizen struck with th' awful bolt,
Hurl'd by high Jove from our a cloudless sky,
Left the glad light of life; or how the earth
Quakes with affright and shook in every part?
Then dreadful forms, strange visions stalk'd abroad,
Scarce shrouded by the darkness of the night,
And warn'd the nations and the land of war.
Then many an oracle and augury,
Pregnant with evil fate, the soothsayers
Pour'd from their agitated breasts. And e'en
The Father of the Gods fill'd heaven and earth
With signs, and tokens, sand presages sure
Of all the things which have befallen us since.
So now the year when you are at the helm,
Collects upon itself each omen dire,
Which when Torquatus, with his colleague Cotta,
Sat in the curule chairs, the Lydian seer
Of Tuscan blood breathed to affrighted Rome.
For the great Father of the Gods, whose home
Is on Olympus' height, with glowing hand
Himself attack'd his sacred shrines and temples,
And hurl'd his darts against the Capitol.
Then fell the brazen statue, honour'd long,
Of noble Natta; then fell down the laws
Graved on the sacred tablets; while the bolts
Spared not the images o' the immortal gods.
Here was that noble nurse o' the Roman name,
The Wolf of Mars, who from her kindly breast
Fed the immortal children of her god
With the life-giving dew of sweetest milk.
E'en her the lightning spared not; down she fell.
Bearing the royal babes in her descent,
Leaving her footmarks on the pedestal.
And who, unfolding records of old time
Has found no words of sad prediction
In the dark pasges of Etruscan books?—
All men, all writings, all events combined,
To warn the citizens of freeborn race
To dread impending wars of civil strife,
And wicked bloodshed; when the laws should fall
In one dark rain, trampled and o'erthrown:
Then men were warn'd to save their holy shrines,
The statues of the gods, their city and lands,
From slaughter and destruction, and preserve
Their ancient customs unimpair'd and free.
And this kind hint of safety was subjoin'd,
That when a splendid statue of great Jove,
In godlike beauty, on its base was raised,
With eyes directed to Sol's eastern gate;
Then both the senate and the people's bands,
Duly forewarn'd, should see the secret plots
Of wicked men, and disappoint their spite.
This statue, slowly form'd and long delay'd,
At length by you, when consul, has been placed
Upon its holy pedestal;—'tis now
That the great sceptred Jupiter has graced
His column, on a well-appointed hour:
And at the self-same moment faction's crimes
Were by the loyal Gauls reveal'd and shown
To the astonish'd multitude and senate.
Well then did ancient men, whose monuments
You keep among you,—they who will maintain
Virtue and moderation; by these arts
Ruling the lands and people subject to them:
Well, too, your holy sires, whose spotless faith,
And piety, and deep sagacity
Have far surpass'd the men of other lands,
Worshipp'd in every age the mighty Gods.
They with sagacious care these things foresaw,
Spending in virtuous studies all their leisure,
And in the shady Academic groves,
And fair Lyuceum; where they well pour'd forth
The treasures of their pure and learned hearts.
And, like them, you have been by virtue placed,
To save your country, in the imminent breach;
Still with philosophy you soothe your cares,
With prudent care dividing all your hours
Between the muses and your country's claims.
Quoted in Letters to Atticus 2.3. Translation by Evelyn Shuckburgh.
Meanwhile the tenor of thy youth's first spring,
Which still as consul thou with all thy soul
And all thy manhood heldest, see thou keep,
And swell the chorus of all good men's praise.