The Odes and Carmen Saeculare/Book 4/Part 4
E'EN as the lightning's minister,
Whom Jove o'er all the feather'd breed
Made sovereign, having proved him sure
Erewhile on auburn Ganymede;
Stirr'd by warm youth and inborn power,
He quits the nest with timorous wing,
For winter's storms have ceased to lower,
And zephyrs of returning spring
Tempt him to launch on unknown skies;
Next on the fold he stoops downright;
Last on resisting serpents flies,
Athirst for foray and for flight:
As tender kidling on the grass
Espies, uplooking from her food,
A lion's whelp, and knows, alas!
Those new-set teeth shall drink her blood:
So look'd the Rætian mountaineers
On Drusus:—whence in every field
They learn' d through immemorial years
The Amazonian axe to wield,
I ask not now: not all of truth
We seekers find: enough to know
The wisdom of the princely youth
Has taught our erst victorious foe
What prowess dwells in boyish hearts
Rear'd in the shrine of a pure home,
What strength Augustus' love imparts
To Hero's seed, the hope of Rome.
Good sons and brave good sires approve:
Strong bullocks, fiery colts, attest
Their fathers' worth, nor weakling dove
Is hatch'd in savage eagle's nest.
But care draws forth the power within,
And cultured minds are strong for good:
Let manners fail, the plague of sin
Taints e'en the course of gentle blood.
How great thy debt to Hero's race,
O Rome, let red Metaurus say,
Slain Hasdrubal, and victory's grace
First granted on that glorious day
Which chased the clouds, and show'd the sun,
When Hannibal o'er Italy
Ran, as swift flames o'er pine-woods run,
Or Eurus o'er Sicilia's sea.
Henceforth, by fortune aiding toil,
Rome's prowess grew: her fanes, laid waste
By Punic sacrilege and spoil,
Beheld at length their gods replaced.
Then the false Libyan own'd his doom:—
"Weak deer, the wolves' predestined prey,
Blindly we rush on foes, from whom
'Twere triumph won to steal away.
That race which, strong from Ilion's fires,
Its gods, on Tuscan waters tost,
Its sons, its venerable sires,
Bore to Ausonia's citied coast;
That race, like oak by axes shorn
On Algidus with dark leaves rife,
Laughs carnage, havoc, all to scorn,
And draws new spirit from the knife.
Hot the lopp'd Hydra task'd so sore
Alcides, chafing at the foil:
No pest so fell was born of yore
From Colchian or from Theban soil.
Plunged in the deep, it mounts to sight
More splendid: grappled, it will quell
Unbroken powers, and fight a fight
Whose story widow'd wives shall tell.
No heralds shall my deeds proclaim
To Carthage now: lost, lost is all:
A nation's hope, a nation's name,
They died with dying Hasdrubal."
What will not Claudian hands achieve?
Jove's favour is their guiding star,
And watchful potencies unweave
For them the tangled paths of war.