8 December 65 BC – 27 November 8 BC / Italy

Bkii:I To Pollio, Writing His History Of The Civil Wars

You’re handling the Civil Wars, since Metellus
was Consul, the causes, errors, and stages,
Fortune’s game, and the heavy friendships
of princes, and the un-expiated

stain of blood over various weapons,
a task that’s filled with dangerous pitfalls,
so that you’re walking over embers
hidden under the treacherous ashes.

Don’t let the Muse of dark actions be long away
from the theatre: soon, when you’ve finished writing
public events, reveal your great gifts
again in Athenian tragedy,

you famous defendant of troubled clients,
Pollio, support of the Senate’s councils,
whom the laurel gave lasting glory
in the form of your Dalmatian triumph.

Already you’re striking our ears with the sounds,
the menace of blaring horns, and the trumpets,
already the glitter of weapons
terrifies horses, and riders’ faces.

Now I seem to hear magnificent leaders,
heads darkened, but not with inglorious dust,
and all the lands of earth are subdued,
but not implacable Cato’s spirit.

Juno, and those gods friendly to Africa,
who, powerless to avenge the land, withdrew,
make funeral offerings to Jugurtha,
of the grandchildren of his conquerors.
What fields are not enriched with the blood of Rome,
to bear witness with their graves to this impious
struggle of ours, and the sound, even heard
by the Persians, of Italy’s ruin?

What river or pool is ignorant of these
wretched wars? What sea has Roman slaughter failed
to discolour, and show me the shores
that are, as yet, still unstained by our blood.

But Muse, lest you dare to leave happy themes,
and take up Simonides’ dirges again,
search out a lighter plectrum’s measures,
with me, in some deep cavern of Venus.
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