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lost one, you do not know whom you flee.
"Quo tendis inerti,
Rex periture, fuga? Nescis, heu! perdite, nescis
The Persian monarch finds safety at last in Media, and Alexander enters Babylon in triumph, surpassing all other triumphs, even those of ancient Rome: and this is merited, so sings the poet, for his exploits are above those of the most celebrated warriors, whether sung by Lucan in magnificent style, or by Claudian in pompous verse. The poet closes the book by referring to the condition of Christianity in his own age, exclaiming, that, if God, touched by the groans and the longings of his people, would accord to the French such a king, the true faith would soon shine throughout the universe. Had he witnessed either Bonaparte on the throne of France, it is doubtful if he would not have regretted his supplicatory prophecy, or rejected them as unworthy of Alexander.
The sixth book glows with the luxury of Alexander at Babylon, the capture of Susa, the pillage of Persepolis. Here the poet forgets the recorded excesses of his hero, with Thaïs by his side, and the final orgy, when the celebrated city was handed to the flames at the bidding of a courtesan; but he dwells on an incident of his own invention, calculated to excite emotions of honor rather than of condemnation. Alexander meets three thousand Greek prisoners, wretchedly mutilated by
1 Lib. V. 308-311. Some of the expressions of this passage may be compared with other writers. See Burmanni Anthologia Veterum Latinorum Epigrammatum et Poematum, Lib. I. Ep. CLXXVIII. 44, 199, Tom. I. pp. 152, 163; Ovidii Metam., Lib. I. 514, 515.
the Persians, and delivers them. He leaves to them the choice of returning to Greece, or of fixing themselves in the country there on lands he promises to distribute. Some propose to go back. Others insist, that, in their hideous condition, they cannot return to the eyes of their families and friends, when an orator declares that it is always pleasant to see again one's country, that there is nothing shameful in the condition caused by a barbarous enemy, and that it is unjust to those who love them to think that they will not be glad to see them. A few follow the orator; but the larger part remain behind, and receive from their liberator the land he had promised, also money, flocks, and whatever was necessary for farmers.
In the seventh book we meet the treason of Bessus substantially as in Quintus Curtius. Darius, with chains of gold on his feet, is carried in a closed vehicle to be delivered up. Alexander, who was still in pursuit of his enemy, is horror-struck. With more rapidity he moves to deliver or to avenge the Persian monarch than he ever moved to his defeat. He is aroused against the criminals, like Jupiter pursuing the Giants with his thunder. Darius is found in his carriage covered with wounds and bathed in his blood. With the little breath that remains, and yet struggling on the last confines of life, he makes a long speech, which the poet follows with bitter exclamations against his own age, beginning with venal Simon and his followers, and ending with the assassins of Thomas à Becket:
"Non adeo ambiret cathedræ venalis honorem
1 Lib. VII. 327-329.
Thus here again the poet precedes Dante, whose terrible condemnation of Simon has a kindred bitterness:
"O Simon mago, o miseri seguaci,
Che le cose di Dio, che di bontate
These ejaculations are closed by an address to the manes of Darius, and a promise to immortalize him in the verse of the poet. The grief of Alexander for the Persian queen is renewed for the sovereign. The Hebrew Apelles is charged to erect in his honor a lofty pyramid in white marble, with sculptures in gold. Four columns of silver, with base and capital of gold, support with admirable art a concave vault, where are represented the three continents of the terrestrial globe, with their rivers, forests, mountains, cities, and people. In the characteristic description of each nation, France has soldiers and Italy wine:
"Francia militibus, celebri Campania Bacco." 2
From funeral the poet passes to festival, and portrays the banquets and indulgence to which Alexander now invites his army. Sedition ensues. The soldiers ask return to their country. Alexander harangues and awakens the love of glory. They swear to confront all dangers, following him to the end of the world. The eighth book chronicles the march into Hyrcania; the visit of Talestris, queen of the Amazons, and her Amazonian life, with one breast burnt so as to accommodate the bent bow; then the voluntary sacrifice of all the immense booty of the conqueror, as an example for the troops; then the conspiracy against Alexander in his own camp, with the examination and torture of the son of Parmenio, suspected of complicity; and then
1 Inferno, Canto XIX. 1-4.
2 Lib. VII 420.
the doom of Bessus, the murderer of Darius, who is delivered by Alexander to the brother of his victim. Then comes the expedition to Scythia. The Macedonian, on the banks of the Tanaïs, receives an embassy. The ambassador fails to delay him; he crosses the river, and reduces the deserts and mountains of Scythia. And here the poet likens this people, which, after resisting so many powerful nations, now falls under the yoke, to a lofty, star-seeking Alpine fir, “astra petens abies," 1 which, after resisting for ages all the winds of the East, of the West, and of the South, falls under the blows of Boreas. The name of the conqueror becomes a terror, and other nations in this distant region submit voluntarily, without a blow.
The ninth book commences with a mild allusion to the murder of Clitus, and other incidents, teaching that the friendships of kings are not perennial:
Here comes the march upon India. submit. Porus alone dares to resist. With a numerous army he awaits the Macedonian on the Hydaspes. The two armies stand face to face on the opposite banks. Then occurs the episode of two youthful Greeks, Nicanor and Symmachus, born the same day, and attached like Nisus and Euryalus. Their perilous expedition fails, under pressure of numbers, and the two friends, cut off and wounded, after prodigies of valor, at last embrace, and die in each other's arms. Then comes the great battle. Porus, vanquished, wounded, and a prisoner, is brought before Alexander. His noble spirit. touches the generous heart of the conqueror, who re
1 Lib. VIII. 493.
2 Lib. IX. 17, 18.
stores his dominions, increases them, and places him in the number of friends:
"Odium clementia vicit." 1
The gates of the East are now open. His movement has the terror of thunder breaking in the middle of the night,
"Quem sequitur fragor, et fractæ collisio nubis." 2
A single city arrests the triumphant march. Alexander besieges it, and himself mounts the first to the assault. His men are driven back. Then from the top of the ladder, instead of leaping back, he throws himself into the city, and alone encounters the foe. Surrounded, belabored, wounded, he is about to perish, when his men, learning his peril, redouble their efforts, burst open the gates, inundate the place, and massacre the inhabitants. After a painful operation, Alexander is restored to his army and to his great plans of conquest. The joy of the soldiers, succeeding sorrow, is likened to that of sailors, who, after seeing the pilot overboard, and ready to be ingulfed by the raging floods, as Boreas plays the Bacchanal, "Borea bacchante," at last behold him rescued from the abyss and again at the helm. But the army is disturbed by preparation for distant maritime expeditions. Alexander avows that the world is too small for him; that, when it is all conquered, he will push on to subjugate another universe; that he will lead them to the Antipodes, and to another Nature; and that, if they refuse to accompany him, he will go forth alone, and offer himself as chief to other people. The army is on fire with this answer, and vow again never to abandon their king.
The tenth book is the last. Nature, indignant that a
1 Lib. IX. 303.
2 Ibid., 348.
8 Ibid., 503.