8 December 65 BC – 27 November 8 BC / Italy

Bki:Xxxvii Cleopatra

Now’s the time for drinking deep, and now’s the time
to beat the earth with unfettered feet, the time
to set out the gods’ sacred couches,
my friends, and prepare a Salian feast.

It would have been wrong, before today, to broach
the Caecuban wines from out the ancient bins,
while a maddened queen was still plotting
the Capitol’s and the empire’s ruin,

with her crowd of deeply-corrupted creatures
sick with turpitude, she, violent with hope
of all kinds, and intoxicated
by Fortune’s favour. But it calmed her frenzy

that scarcely a single ship escaped the flames,
and Caesar reduced the distracted thoughts, bred
by Mareotic wine, to true fear,
pursuing her close as she fled from Rome,

out to capture that deadly monster, bind her,
as the sparrow-hawk follows the gentle dove
or the swift hunter chases the hare,
over the snowy plains of Thessaly.

But she, intending to perish more nobly,
showed no sign of womanish fear at the sword,
nor did she even attempt to win
with her speedy ships to some hidden shore.

And she dared to gaze at her fallen kingdom
with a calm face, and touch the poisonous asps
with courage, so that she might drink down
their dark venom, to the depths of her heart,
growing fiercer still, and resolving to die:
scorning to be taken by hostile galleys,
and, no ordinary woman, yet queen
no longer, be led along in proud triumph.
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