From Specimens of the Poets and Poetry of Greece and Rome by Various Translators, edited by William Peter, A. M. of Christ-church, Oxford; Philadelphia: Carey and Hart; 1847; pp. 504, 513.
[Born 39, — Died 66, A. D.]
MARCUS ANNÆUS LUCANUS was the son of Marcus Annæus Mela, a Roman knight, and of Caia Acilia, a daughter of the orator Acilius Lucanus. He was born at Corduba, in Spain, but was brought, when an infant, to Rome, and there educated under the most distinguished amsters of the day. He was early introduced at courts, and partly through his own merits, and partly, in all probability, through the interest of his uncle Seneca, rose to the office of questor, and gained admission into the college of Augurs, even before he had attained the age requisite for those offices. But the tide of court favour soon turned. Having ventured to dispute with his master, Nero, the prize of poetry, he was prohibited from pleading at the bar, or reciting verses in public; and being afterwards implicated in Piso’s conspiracy, he received judgment of death, with the privilege of himself selecting the mode of it. He chose to have the arteries of his arms and legs opened in a warm bath; and having taken a calm farewell of his friends, expired, repeating, from the Pharsalia, some verses descriptive of his own fate.*
It has been said that Lucan, in order to screen himself, had, when detected, endeavoured to throw the guilt upon his mother Acilia; but, as such conduct is no less at variance with the tenor of his life, than the manner of his death, and, as none of the many fragments of his life, which yet exist, have ever mentioned it, we may fairly doubt the truth of the relation.
Lucan died in his twenty-seventh year, leaving his poem unfinished, which was revised and published by his wife Polla Argentaria, a lady praised by Statius for her accomplishments and ingenuous manners.
* Elton quotes some lines from the third book, as the passage recited on the occasion; others incline towards a passage in the ninth book: but see Rowe’s Lucan, book iii. — 995, and book ix. — 1378.
FROM LUCAN‘S PHARSALIA.
Translated by Rowe
ALEXANDER THE GREAT.
HERE the vain youth, who made the world his prize,
That prosperous robber, Alexander lies:
When pitying death, at length, had freed mankind,
To sacred rest his bones were here consign’d’;
His bones, that better had been toss’d and hurl’d,
With just contempt, around the injur’d world.
But fortune spar’d the dead; and partial fate,
For ages, fix’d his Pharian empire’s date.
If e’er our long-lost liberty return,
That carcass is reserv’d for public scorn:
Now, it remains a monument confest,
How one proud man could lord it o’er the rest.
To Macedon, a corner of the earth,
The vast ambitious spoiler ow’d his birth:
There, soon, he scorn’d his father’s humblest reign,
And view’d his vanquish’d Athens with disdain.
Driven headlong on, by fate’s resistless force,
Through Asia’s realms he took his dreadful course:
His ruthless sword laid human nature waste,
And desolation follow’d where he pass’d.
Red Ganges blush’d, and fam’d Euphrates’ flood,
With Persian this, and that with Indian blood.
Such is the bolt which angry Jove employs,
When, undistinguishing, his wrath destroys:
Such to mankind, portentous meteors rise,
When, undistinguishing his wrath destroys:
Such to mankind, portentous meteors rise,
Trouble the gazing earth, and blast the skies.
Nor flame, nor flood, his restless rage withstand,
Nor Syrts unfaithful, nor the Libyan sand:
O’er waves unknown he meditates his way,
And seeks the boundless empire of the sea;
E’en to the utmost west he would have gone,
Where Tethys’ lap receives the setting sun;
Around each pole his circuit would have made,
And drunk from secret Nile’s remotest head,
When Nature’s hand his wild ambition stay’d;
With him, that power his pride had lov’d so well,
His monstrous, universal empire, fell:
No heir, no just successor left behind,
Eternal wars he to his friends assign’d,
To tear the world, and scramble for mankind.
* From the first Ptolemy who succeeded Alexander, to the worthless prince, who murdered Pompey, about two hundred and eighty years.
** Our Milton entertained a like reverence for “great conquerors.” See Par. Lost, xi. — 691, &c., and Par. Reg. iii. 71, &c.