AGRIGENTUM, il soggetto del seguente poema, era situata sulla sponda meridionale dell’isola di Sicilia, di fronte all’Africa. Polibio afferma che i suoi primi abitanti erano i Rodi, opinione che Tucidide appoggia nel suo sesto libro, in cui egli riferisce che i Geloi, che erano di origine rhodia, costruirono la città e la chiamarono Acragas da un piccolo torrente di quel nome, che scorreva attraverso il valle. La valle di Agrigentum fu innaffiata dalla Hypsa e dall’Acragas, due piccoli fiumi. Alla bocca di quest’ultimo, era un porto eccellente. Era protetto da un piccolo bilis e da alte pareti rocciose, che presentavano una forte barriera naturale. Questa città, che per il suo commercio e la sua industria aveva assunto una grande opulenza e splendore, eccitò la cupidigia dei Cartaginesi, i quali, senza alcuna provocazione nota, iniziarono una guerra contro gli Agrigentini. Sotto il comando di Annibale, figlio di Gisgo e nipote di Amilcare, i Cartaginesi dispiegarono una flotta e un esercito per la conquista di questa città. L’esercito fu sbarcato, un assedio fu iniziato e realizzato con vigore e risoluzione non comuni; ma siccome era ben fortificato, resistette agli attacchi degli assalitori fino a quando fu costretto a cedere dalla carestia. Durante l’assedio gli Agrigentini hanno mostrato il coraggio e la forza d’animo più eroici.
Spinti dalla carestia, prima della sua cattura, molti degli abitanti fuggirono a Gela, la città più vicina dell’isola, lasciando quelli che erano incapaci di fuggire alla furia dei loro conquistatori. Dopo la cattura, l’esercito dei Cartaginesi fu disposto nella città fino alla primavera successiva, quando, dopo aver saccheggiato tutto ciò che aveva di prezioso e fatto a pezzi, la flotta tornò con il bottino a Cartagine.
THE SIEGE OF AGRIGENTUM.
IN days of yore, where foams the troubled sea, Around the shores of fertile Sicily,
A city stood ; by ancient poets famed ; Acragas once, but now, Girgenti, named ; Within the vale, wide•stretching to the main, Where spring eternal holds her joyous reign, Its temples vast and domes resplendent shone, And massive pylons frown’d in Parian stone ; Columns and arches there majestic rose By the blue deep or where the Hypsa flows ; There circling hills their verdant summits rear’d And further stili Siculian heights appear’d.
From a steep clifft by waving foliage crown’d,
Aloft in air a giant strutture frown’d ;
O’er stream and plain the sable shadow fell
Of Agrigentum’s lofty- citadel.
Within its streets the stranger’s eye might trace
The warrior’s sternness and the scholar’s grace ;
The dauntless Nero and the steed of war,
The laden captive and the rolling car ;
Not such were they, when o’er their verdant plain
The wand’ring shepherds led their fleecy train ;
When harvests ripening on the mountain’s side,
And gods propitious, all their wants supplied.
When first a band in quest of spoil and fame,
From Gela’s2 walls, to Agrigentum carne ;
Here, fabrics reared and walls of massive frame,
And gave to this, Acragas’ ancient name ;
From that bright stream which wanders o’er the plain
And foams and sparkles to the distant main.
But Carthage, then, with jealous eyes surveyed
Its rising towers and men in arms arrayed,
A council call’d and suon in stern debate,
Its chiefs assembled in the halls of state :
When great Imilco, long to conflict bred
(The son of Hanno) to the warriors said :
Far from these shores, beyond the rolling sea, Acragas frowns upon the coast of Sicily ; Far to the east ‘neath verdant hills it lies A city wealthy, and of easy prize.
Himera 3now, a lawful conquest, ours And great Selinus swith its lofty towers ; Why here inactive should our armies stay, And Agrigentum own another’s sway ? Our fleet at anchor in the harbor rides, Its sails hang drooping from its swelling sides. Hence in our ships let us our forces move, Our glory combat, our protection Jove. Let aged Hannibal our ranks review, — Him lead the conquest, — his the glory due. Yes ! he the hero of a hundred fights, The fearless champion of a nation’s rights, Direct our forces to Sicilia’s coast, —The dauntless leader of a dauntless host. Imilco ceas’d ; the hoary chief replied, The prize is worthy — Jove its fate decide ! Though long experience and the will are mine, Thy proffer’d honor prudence bids decine, Full long have I, to fearless conflict bred, Your daring warriors and auxiliars led.
For Carthage oft I ‘ve sought th’ ensanguin’d plain,
And brav’d its dangers nor have brav’d in vain.
But strength to age th’ eternal powers refuse,
And ceaseless toil the fiercest soul subdues.
My feeble limbs no more in strife can bear
The hardy service or the arms of war.
No more can I the lance or jav’lin wield,
Or guide the chariot o’er th’ embattled field.
To thy command her hosts let Afric trust,
Most brave in combat as in council just.
Thus Gisgo’s son : Iarbus then began,
(The warriors gathering round the aged man)
Long ere this arm, refus’d the lance to wield,
Or I, victorious, left Sicilia’s field
In well arm’d galleys from our post we went ;
To Syracuse our fearless course we bent ;
But sable clouds obscur’d our riding fieet,
And sullen blasts carne sounding o’er the deep.
For three long days our barks were rudely toss’d,
Nine rode the storm, but oh ! the tenth was lost.
Secure from harm they cross’d the wat’ry plain,
But mine was destin’d to the raging main.
When to the stern in black despair I clung,
And foaming surges ‘gainst mine armor rung,
With loud acclaim, me, Agrigentines bore,
A helpless captive to Sicania’s shore.
For nine long years Acragas was my home,
(A city rival to aspiring Rome,)
My servile task, begirt with massive chains,
To fill with stone and guide the laden wains ;
To bound the lake 4 where now from side to side
Sail the white swans along its azure tide.
Within its streets, here, lofty temples rose,
Whose portals wide the wealth of realms disclose ;
There, fabrics huge with graven warriors shone
And coursers starting from the polish’d stone ;
And swelling domes a thousand columns hold,
With statues frowning in refulgent gold.
(Our treasures e’en, of arms the lawful gain,
One vase, resplendent, could with ease contain.)
But mighty deeds no more its heroes fire,
Nor glorious combat can its chiefs inspire.
Safe in their walls, in thought secure, they sleep,
Nor foemen fear beyond the rolling deep.
Thither with speed direct your fearless way,
Nor longer here in ease inglorious stay
More noble he who gains a lasting name
And falls in conflict for bis country’s fame,
Than he who distant from the strife is found,
His years with leisure and with fortune crown’d.
Iarbus ceas’d : the son of Hanno cried ;
Myself will lead you o’er the foaming tide.
There first in danger on Acragas’ shore,
Imilco conquers or returns no more.
Dauntless he spoke, with warlike ardor fired,
The warriors listen’d and his words admired.
Forth from the hall they rush’d with loud acclaim,
And Carthage echoed with Imilco’s name.
The clang of arms and shouts of men resound,
And all is tumult in the streets around.
Meanwhile Aurora, glorious from afar,
Flames o’er the deep and guides her rapid car.
Acragas’ towers in radiant splendor blaze,
The Hypsa flashes in her golden rays.
Through the wide streets the Agrigentines haste
With fragrant wreaths and costly vestments grae’d ;
With tribute worthy of the festal day,
To Ceres’ fane they bend their joyful way ;
Majestic there, the tempie vast appear’d,
And high in ah its massive columns rear’d.
Upon its sides in sculpture rare was seen
In flow’ry Enna beauteous Proserpine.
On that sad day when first from Ceres’ care,
She stray’d for violets and Narcissus’ fair.
Behind, unseen, the wary Pluto stands,
With head projecting and with outstretch’d hands,
When he, enchanted, by the virgin staid,
Doubting, yet wishful to surprise the maid.
There, Ceres frantic, to old /Etna carne,
Her torch to kindle at its rising flame.
And here, she wanders with distracted mien,
And vainly calls for stolen Proserpine ;
Stili from the altars of the Goddess rise,
The curling fires of recent sacrifice.
The aged priests around the sacred shrine
Pour rich libations of the choicest wine.
Meanwhile Machaon with enraptur’d eyes
Along the street the moving throng espies.
From the vide entrante of his gilded dome,
He views with joy the long procession come.
Beside his sire the young Alcimas staid,
His youthful head with drooping vines array’d ;
A purple mantle from his shoulders hung,
A silver goblet to his belt was strung.
Machaon viewed him with a father’s pride
And fondly gazing, thus, impatient cried :
Why here Alcimas shouldst thou longer stay,
Hast thou no off’ring for this festal day ?
See ! crown’d with wreaths the joyous throngs appear,
Haste ! join the train nor gaze inattive here !
Some tribute bear to Ceres’ honor’d shrine,
But be it worthy of thy father’s line :
Machaon spoke ; — his words the youth inspir’d
Who from the dome with eager haste retir’d ;
Scarce had he gone, when to Machaon carne
A beauteous maid, Lacecia was her name,
A fragile basket in her arms she bore,
But drooping veils conceal’d its roseate store.
See ! see, she cried, and’ raised its purple screen,
These fragrant flowerets, wreath’d with myrdes green,
Long time I sought them by the mountain’s side,
But found them blushing by Acragas’ tide ;
Ere yet they open’d to Aurora’s light,
Their petals laden with the gems of night.
But ere I bear them to the Goddess’ fane
Thine eyes their beauty must awhile retain.
Thus spoke the maid ; and then display’d her prize
To old Machaon, who enraptur’d eries ;
How can these beauteous to mine eyes appear,
Oh ! fair Lacecia! when thyself art near ?
If thou wert absent, they might claim my care,
Or were they offered by a maid less fair.
But stay awhile beside thine aged sire
And name those chieftains whom I most admire.
Whose son is he, who leads the festive train,
His youthful temples bound with golden grain,
Who onward moves with such a joyful pace
His garments flowing with an easy grate ?
‘T is Archetimus, young Lacecia said ;
The son of Carthon by a Grecian maid.
And who is he, high tow’ring o’er the rest,
With azure mantle and a crimson vest ?
‘T is noble Gallias, quick the fair replied,
Whose val’rous father at Selinus died,
When he, unconscious of his direful fate,
Repell’d th’ invaders at its massive gate.
And now in front Aones’ sons advance
With brave Araxes, skill’d to wield the lance.
See Hyllas now, in vestments rich array’d,
Who pines enamored of a Spartan maid.
Next Cyphon, moving with a measur’d pace,
The last remaining of Philonus’ rate.
Such was Philonus ! old Machaon cried,
When Marcus slew him by Ticinus’ tide.
When we in haste forsook our youthful home,
To oppose the armies of aspiring Rome,
On the throng’d margin of that sable flood,
We urg’d the fight, distained with dust and blood ;
When through their ranks we dauntless forc’d our way,
And ours the vict’ry of the doubtful day ;
With radiant mien, lo ! where Ticinus flow’d
Castor and Polluxs on their chargers rode,
With furious haste their steeds impatient carne
With swelling nostril and with flowing mane :
With glist’ning spears the riders shone afar,
And from their helms, refulgent, flam’d a star.
Behind with shouts the Romans urg’d amain
Their sounding chariots o’er th’ embattled plain ;
With horror chill’d and fill’d with dire dismay,
Conceal’d by night, we silent forc’d our way
To Latium’s toast; where rode our navy free,
And weighing anchor, quick put out to sea.
While thus he speaks, beneath his dome appear
Th’ Acragan maids, who laden baskets bear,
Whose fragrant stores stili bath’d in morning dew,
Are half conceal’d by veils of Tyrian hue.
See ! see they come, the youthful virgin cried,
And smiling, hasten’d from Machaon’s side.
The train she joins, which joyful, moves along,
The spacious street can scarce contain the throng.
Now, as each breast the rites with pleasure fire,
Comes the loud cadente of a sounding lyre.
From Ceres’ dome an aged minstrel sings,
His mien distracted as he sweeps the strings :
A hissing serpent round his waist is bound,
His wrinkled temples are with cypress crown’d ;
Hear Agrigentines, hear ! he cried, your doom,
What fate has woven in her mystic loom ;
Far o’er the sea a mighty city stands,
By Dido founded and Phocnician bands.
A host from thence shall soon besiege your walls,
And gods forsake you as your city falls.
Here Afric’s Iegions shall your town enclose,
And fearless squadrons shall your strength oppose.
Here Archetimus in his youthful pride,
Shall fari in conflict by Araxes’ side,
Aones’ sons shall here by foes expire,
And thou, Alcimas, with thine aged sire.
E’en Gallias too, the champion of your land,
Shall fall dishonor’d by a foreign hand.
No more can prayers or flaming altars movo
The gather’d vengeance of Saturnian Jove.
Awhile the throngs the minstrel’s strains attend,
With wonder fill’d, awhile, their rites suspend :
Unconseious then their sacred task resume,
Nor heed the presage of a certain doom.
Now sable night her dusky mantle threw
O’er arch and tower as Phcebus’ steeds withdrew.
Far in her palace from the festive scene,
Carthia tarried with dejected mien;
Her youthful head was crown’d with garlands fair
And flow’rets fading in her raven pair.
Anon she listen’d as the moving train,
With shouts return’d from Ceres’ distant rane.
Each shad’wy form with anxious gaze she view’d
Which ‘neath her dome its homeward way pursu’d.
Ionia near in mournful silente staid,
With eyes regardful of the Spartan maid.
Why comes not Hyllas ? fair Carthia cried,
Long since has past the hour of eventide.
The moon sails radiant in her azure height,
And stars are gath’ring on the brow of night.
By fiate and wall the lengthen’d shadows sleep,
And veil’d in darkness rolls the troubled deep ;
Each chieftain, wearied, to his home retires,
Each maiden beauteous whom the chief inspires :
When, as she spoke, was gentle Hyllas seen
In haste advancing with celestial mien ;
Through the high courts with rapid stride he sped,
The dome he reach’d, and thus, impatient, said :
Oh ! say Carthia, is it mine to know
A joy unbounded or a lasting woe ?
To urge my cause I hither speed alone,
But plead a rival’s as I plead my own ;
I can but offer at thy beauty’s shrine
11Iy youth, affection, and all riches mine.
But Gallias’ treasure is a priceless name,
Eternal laurels and undying fame.
Thus spoke the boy : the Spartan maid replies,
Thy noble justice as thy love I prize ;
I could but yield to worth so pure as thine,
Oh, gen’rous Hyllas ! were but freedom mine.
When Roman armies to Laconia carne,
And Greeks retreated midst the sword and flame,
bIy youthful home was by the ocean’s side,
With columns rising in Ionic pride :
There clust’ring vines in waving beauty hung
From arch and wall or to the marble clung.
My valiant brothers there in conflict died,
My beauteous sisters, by their brother’s side.
But me alone the fierce invaders bore
A wretched captive to a foreign shore,
My servile task to ply the Tyrian loom
With Latium’s conquests and my country’s doom,
‘Till Marcius claim’d me, as the lawful spoil,
Of daring prowess and successful toil.
To noble Gallias, he Carthia sold
For Thracian coursers and a car of gold ;
My hapless lot with feeling heart endued,
Th’ Acragan hero with compassion view’d,
When Latins scorn’d me as a captive maid
His studious care my rising grief allay’d.
A home of splendor to his grateful slave
Your gen’rous rival with my freedom gave ;
My willing heart would he alone retain,
Oh, gentle Hyllas ! must he love in vain ?
The maiden ceas’d ; with mournful accent he : —
Whom thou hast chosen, is most worthy thee :
No more I seek what justice bids resign,
Nor dare confront me with so proud a line ;
For noble Gallias should no rival claim,
But him, his equal in the ranks of fame.
Hence a sad exile from the joyous light,
I ever wander in a rayless night.
For thou to me hast been the cheering ray, —
The car of Phoebus at the rising day.
I soon shall wander on the Stygian shore,
And thee, another’s I shall meet no more.
May Jove protect thee and the powers above
And Gallias love thee as I fondly love.
Thus Hyllas spoke, and thrice he turn’d away,
And thrice the Spartan, weeping, bade him stay,
To him at length with accents wild, she cried,
May Heav’n forefend that ill to thee betide ;
Let no rash deed thy gentle soul incline,
I live another’s, but my heart is thine.
Thus spoke the maid ; the youth in haste withdrew,
In silente turning from the Spartan’s view.
Oh lov’d lorda, sad Carthia cried,
Yon noble Gallias must my fate decide.
To him alone must I for Hyllas sue,
At once my pleasure and my sorrow too.
Whilst sullen night has clos’d the eye of day,
Haste fair Ionia, where I Iead the way.
Carthia thus : — the Grecian maiden said :
What strange illusion has thy fancy bred.
These idle words to me but plainly show,
A mind distemper’d by excess of woe.
Mock not my ills ! replied the mournful fair ;
Hast thou no sorrow for Carthia’s care ?
Delay no more since grief thy pity calls,
But seek th’ Acragan in his distant halis.
The Argive spoke ; the wond’ring maid complied,
And silent, follow’d by the Spartan’s side ;
Through the long streets with falt’ring steps they pass’d
Where frowning walls their sable shadows cast.
At length they staid, where columns proudly rose,
And arches high the portai wide enclose,
The summoned porter, trembling, there they wait,
Back on its hinges rolls the massy gate :
Before them stood in Cynthia’s silv’ry rays
An aged man, oppress’d with length of days ;
His snowy hair upon his shoulders hung,
And to his belt a heavy key was strung.
Who hither comes ? the hoary porter cried,
Two Spartan dames, in haste the fair replied.
Does noble Gallias in his halis remain,
(The Greek continu’d) or does sleep retain
Your val’rous lord ? ah no ! in regal pride,
The nobles banquet by the hero’s side.
His presence now I would a moment claim,
She trembling said, Carthia is my name.
The gate reclos’d, he led with wond’ring mien
And falt’ring step, the gentle strangers in,
Through the vide courts they pass with measur’d pace
Where swelling urns the marble pavement grate ;
Where sparkling fountains sport in Luna’s ray
And liquid gems in falling radiante play.
The halls they reach’d, where to and fro, remain
The slaves, stili hurrying in an eager train ;
Some, trenchers bore, with many a viand rare,
And goblets wrought with foliage passing fair :
Some, flagons bright, with shining brass o’erlaid,
Where clust’ring gems in beaming lustre play’d.
A spacious dome, at Iength the trio gain’d, –
And silent here the youthful Greeks remain’d ;
Whilst slowly sped their aged guide to cali
The noble Gallias from the festive hall :
Who soon appear’d, in purple vestments dress’d,
With jewels sporting on an azure vest :
But sad his mien and dark his brow with gloom,
His troubled mind presag’d Acragas’ doom.
The strains at morn the aged minstrel sung,
Stili in his ear with direful import rung.
Why comes Carthia, at the hour of night,
The chieftain said, by Cynthia’s waning Tight ?
Thus here alone with aspect pale, ‘t would seem Thou too wert frighted by the prophet’s dream ; Here teli thy sorrows, here thy griefs avow, Oh ! ne’er so beauteous, ne’er so lov’d as now ! As oft to speak essay’d the wretched maid Her stified voice refus’d its wonted aid. To him at length ; no presag’d ili I fear, But present woe, despairing, brings me here. Deem not ungrateful her who freedom owes, With all the joys that wealth or case bestows To thee ; nor score who would resign
The priceless passion of a heart like thine. Imperious Love, whose mandates stern, ordain Or joy to mortals or eternai pain,
Whose subtle power decreed the hapless fate Of royal Dido in her mourning state ;
Of Phthia’s chieftain and Dardanian Troy, Confiding Helen and the Phrygian boy, Controls my passion and my breast inspires, For youthful Hyllas who in turn he fires. For him, alone I seek release of thee,
Nor longer strive with Love and destiny. Thus spoke the maid : the Agrigentine cried, (His brow contracted with offended pride)
Hyanthes’ son, alone, then claims thy care —
That blushing Hyllas with his flowing hair ;
For him, unknown alike to toil or fame
Am I rejected by a Grecian dame ?
What well earn’d laurels round his brows are twin’d,
What lasting honors, say ! have won thy mind ?
Have Gallias’ favors now no charms to please,
Thy freedom given thee with a home of ease ?
Have I, for this, by love presumptuous fired,
To claim thy heart too great a boon requir’d ?
Thus spoke the warrior ; and o’erwhelm’d with woe
The silent maiden vainly strove to go.
To shun his gaze, she trembling turn’d away
Where Aride and anger bore an equal sway,
When o’er his mind return’d the minstrel’s strain,
Of fierce invaders and Acragans slain ;
And mournful turning to the weepin-g maid,
With soften’d mien and gentle accent, said :
Forgive Carthia, oh, forgive the chief,
Whose words have added to excess of grief.
Forgive the love that sways his troubled mind ;
Forget his passion as his thoughts unkind.
Thou hence art free ; be endless pleasure thine
As endless sorrow is forever mine.
But Hyllas first should seek a meet renown, And honor just will noble efforts crown, Nor longer distant from the strife remain, Where life is glory and e’en death a gain.
Now noble Gallias from his hall retires,
Where festive throngs the flowing bowl inspires,
To where old ocean from his cavern roars,
And foaming billows lash the sounding shores.
With grief oppressed, his father oft he calls,
Who died in conflict at Selinus’ walls.
From Stygian shores, (the Agrigentine said)
Oh shade belov’d ! thine helpless offspring aid !
If Gallias’ sorrows in the realms below
Thy pity claim or Agrigentum’s woe
Its fate impending to thy son reveal,
For gods invok’d, may yet avert the ill
If sacred intense from their altars rise,
And flames ascend of solemn sacrifice.
When, as he spoke, an empty shade was seen
Slow moving on with melancholy mien,
Where foani’d the surge awhile it silent stay’d,
Then gliding near, in hollow accents said,
‘T is vain, oh Gallias ! for thy deeds to move, The wrath now bursting of Olympian Jove. No more can chiefs to gods with prayers atone For shrines deserted and for temples lone. By heaven’s decree, Acragas soon musi fall, And thou, unhappy ! ‘neath its ruined wall ! When Phcebus issuing through the gates of day, Flames o’er the deep, thyself in mail array, Fear not thy doom, but rush amidst alarms, And die, my Gallias ! as thy sire, in arms. The mournful shade in silente then withdrew, In darkness fading from the chieftain’s view. With horror chill’d, beside the sable flood, And pallid cheek, awhile the warrior stood, When on the deep his wand’ring eye espied A galley bounding o’er the rolling tide. With swelling sails another met his gaze, A third and fourth in Cynthia’s splendor blaze. And now, emerging from the ocean’s gloom, The hostile ships in long succession come. Each sable prow was toward Acragas turn’d, The dread intent too well the chief discern’d, But ere the shore the hostile fleet had won, To gain the town, he hurried breathless on,
The walls he reach’d ; where moved in haste along
Warriors and menials in promiscuous throng.
Close, dose your gates, with thrilling voice he cried,
The foe is landing on Acragas’ side.
Haste through the town and sound the dread alarms ;
Ere yet they come, to arms ! ye throngs, to arms !
Forth from the chief the Agrigentines fly :
The foe ! the foe ! with accent hoarse they cry.
From street to street the pealing shout resounds,
From dome to dome the rising tumult sounds.
Throughout the town the clamors loud extend,
And prayers and oaths with noise of feet ascend.
Now clanging arms ‘midst piercing cries resound,
And frantic maids affrighted, shriek around,
The crossbows huge, on groaning wains, are borne,
And cragged rocks, from wall and pavement torn.
With clumsy haste, the oxen strive to gain
The ramparts side, amid th’ impelling train.
With massive shields the fearless warriors run,
And jav’lins flashing in the rising sun.
High on the walls a gath’ring host appears,
With brazen helmets and with shining spears.
The huge balistm from the bulwarks frown’d,
And men in arms the dread machines surround.
Meanwhile Araxes in his hall reposed, And gentle sleep the chieftain’s eyelids closed. Fatigued with mirth, in vestments rich array’d, With head reclining, on a couch he laid. And near, the board with many a viand rare, Stood now neglected of the midnight fare. There jasper bowls in gay confusion shone, With foliage drooping from the polish’d stone ; And many a vase and goblet sculptur’d o’er, The fruit of conquest on a foreign shore. And massive cups half fill’d with ruby wine, The gold outvalued by the fair design. When, as he slept, adown the spacious street A noise he board as steps of hurrying feet ; A sound confus’d as shouts and cries of woe, And chariots rolling in the town below. Half from his couch the Acragan raised his head, The cause to learn, with ear intent essay’d ; Awhile he list’ned, when beneath his dome, A voice resounded with, they come ! they come The affrighted menials in the palace hall, Rush through the rooms and to Araxes cali : The fair Urethia, with dishevelled hair, Now seeks her lord to rouse his soul to war ;
Why linger here, oh ever great ! she cried,
A fleet has anchor’d by Acragas’ side ;
Thick from the ships, the hostile legions pour
With direful haste, and massive engines lower.
My arms ! my arms ! the chief impatient calls,
His voice reéchoing through the spacious hal]s.
His purple rnantle from his belt he tore,
And rattling gems in radiance strew the floor.
The slaves around the falling treasures spy,
Seize what they can, and then confus’dly fly.
His ringing mail a Spartan captive brought,
A brazen shield, by Tyrian labor wrought ;
Around its orb a scaly serpent roll’d,
With Titans warring in refulgent gold.
The chieftain now his polished helm assumes,
Its summit hidden by its falling plumes.
With dart in hand, he leaves th’ affrighted throng,
His arms resounding, as he hastes along.
When at his gate, he, young Alcimas meets,
And him, the youth with falt’ring accent greets.
Say, great Araxes ! say, what foes invade ?
Whence comes the host, in shining steel array’d ?
Not far from hence the throngs our coming wait,
May heaven defend us from the presag’d fate !
Thus anxious he ; — the Acragans quick depart, Alcimas hastening with a beating heart. Unskill’d, the boy his father’s armor wore, The same Machaon at Himera, bore. Aones’ sons, in mail now hurry past ; Iarchus first and brave Doxander Iast. Two ponderous bows the brother heroes held, In valor both, as both in skill excell’d. Meanwhile their galleys to Sicania’s shore, With studious care, the Carthaginians moor. Within his ship the stern Imilco stands Encas’d in steel, and gives the train commands. Behold ! he saíd, in tow’ring grandeur frown, Acragas’ structures in the distant town. See temples vast, in stately beauty rise, And swelling domes invade th’ incumbent skies. Within the walls what gems of price untold, What shining brass and stores of radiant gold : What gorgeous vestments are your lawful spoil, Ye sons of Carthage, for successful toil. Eternal Jove from Ida’s sacred height Will mark your valor and decide the fight ; But deem not he, whose gaze o’er all extends To fainting hearts cr aid or glory lends.
The weak and strong his eye impartial views, The humble honors and the proud subdues. Thus Hanno’s son ; — the noble Mago cried, The Agrigentines have our coming spied. By men in arms behold their ramparts crown’d, And noisy clamors to the shore resound. Now let the warriors from the fleet descend, — Each martial band a well-skill’d chief attend. Thus Mago spoke ; the throngs around approve, And fearless archers from the galleys move ; These Hermon leads, who from Numidia bore, His tawny squadrons to Sicilia’s shore. In radiant armor was the chieftain dress’d, With baldric flaming, and a nodding crest. The stern Imilco with a num’rous band, In shining mail, impatient, strives to land. A massive targe the dauritless hero holds, With Centaurs rising from its brazen folds. Next, stately Mago from his ship descends, A long array, his hoarse commànd attends. With polish’d helm he tow’ring takes his way, And corselet flashing in the glorious day. Asdrubal next, his warriors proudly leads, Renown’d for combat and Herculean deeds.
Melanthes follows with a fearless host,
Irnpetuous thronging to the hostile toast.
The son of Gisgo in his ship remains,
Oppress’d with years, and views the spreading plains.
Oft from the deck to those below, he calls,
To hasten onward to Acragas’ walls.
Now oaken planks upon the ships are plac’d,
Which men within adjust with careful haste.
With strength combined, essays the sturdy band
With ropes and cords the battering-ram to land.
Its pond’rous wheels with iron circles bound,
Roll down the planks and thunder o’er the ground ;
Then slowly moving to the sandy shore,
Huge wooden towers they hasten quick to lower •,
Encas’d in skins the frames rush furious down,
Loud whirl the truckles with a rumbling sound.
Descending now, from out the fleet appears
A train proceeding, low misshapen cars :
These fill’d with stones they scarce can drag along,
The slingers following with the hurrying throng.
Imilco orders and the hosts divide,
The bands departing far to either side.
With ploughing wheels the engines move along
Through the vide space, and lead the eager throng.
Meanwhile, Araxes with his wary glance,
Beheld the foe in long array advance.
Then, in the town, he urged the chiefs to fight
For lite and glory and their country’s right.
For Jove, he said, to whom all power belongs,
Will aid your valor and redress your wrongs.
On him rely, on him in conflict cali,
Be brave,— be dauntless and defend the wall.
Along the streets now laden wains appear,
Which straw and beams and weighty missives bear.
With groaning noise the rampart’s side they gain,
In haste unladen by the shouting train.
Then quick returning with a ratt’ling sound,
The oxen bear them o’er the dusty ground.
Within the squares the crackling fires arise,
Whose flame a throng with timber huge supplies ;
The burning wood the hosts impatient draw
To the high towers and wait the coming war.
As when loud sounding, to the, rocky shore,
When tempests rage, the foaming surges roar ;
Thus toward Acragas carne the dauntless foe,
With targets flaming, and with crests of snow.
The engines first and towers encas’d in skins
Roll toward the wall, and now the siege begins.
Now clang of arms and cries and shouts resound,
And huge balistee hurl destruction round.
The fearless archers to the dusty plain,
With hissing noise send down the iron raia ;
And dire the din that sounding armor yields,
And rocks loud thund’ring on a floor of shields.
The Carthaginians high their missives send,
With targets vide the throngs above defend.
The feather’d shafts by either host are sped,
Each urge the conflict o’er the heaps of dead.
For fame and life with more than mortal rage,
The deadly strife the stern battalions wage.
The Agrigentines strive with dreadful ire,
With straw and pitch the battering-ram to fire ;
Loud, on the stones its iron head resounds,
With rumbling noise its massive frame rebounds.
High on the ramparts brave Iarchus stands,
Thick fly the arrows where the chief commands ;
For lov’d Doxander by his ride he fears,
In fame his equal and in all, but years,
Who fearless, now, directs the men to throw
The rocks and timbers on the host below.
Here bring your torches ! bere, Doxander cries,
Where ‘neath the wall the wooden towers arise.
Now in its front the foe has roll’d the frames,
With warriors fill’d, thence toss your darts and flames !
When, as he spoke, from out the structures whirl’d,
A craggy rock, by towering Mago hurl’d,
Full on his head the weighty fragment thrown,
His helmet sunder’d and crush’d in the bone.
A moment there the hero gasping stands,
His target falling from his drooping hands,
A moment reels, then o’er the massive walls,
With features stiff’ning, lo ! Doxander falls,
With ringing noise, his shining arms resound,
His corselet bursting as he meets the ground.
With horror blank, the brave Iarchus spied
His brother reeling on the rarnparts side ;
Furious he runs to catch his fainting form,
Yet, whilst he hastens, sees the hero, gone.
From off the wall, th’ Acragan strives to meet
With rolling eyes beneath the hostile feet,
The lifeless chief, as there in arms he lay,
As when he girt them at the rising day.
His flowing hair was stiff with clotted gore,
His youthful face, his mantle cover’d o’er.
Iarchus saw and fill’d with dreadful ire,
With brow contracted and with eye of fire,
Rush’d from the sight, and call’d to those around,
To fire the frame that dauntless Mago crown’d.
The warriors heard, and o’er the rising tower,
With force combin’d, hurl’d down the fiarning shower.
The wary foes the smoking brands return,
And high in air the crackling missives burn.
Meanwhile Imilco with discerning eye,
Directs the men where best the ram to ply.
Now stones and timbers on the engine fall,
That thunders dreadful ‘gainst the yielding wall.
Within the town, as now Araxes staid,
He view’d the breach its pond’rous head had made.
Here urge your strength ! with accent loud he cried
(To those around) your crowded ranks divide !
Behold ! the foe has forc’d the massive wall,
And fragments huge in quick succession fall.
If in the town their hosts an entrane gaio,
In vain our valor and our prowess vain.
‘T vere easier far to stay the torrent’s flood,
Than Carthage thirsting for Acragan blood.
Thus spoke the chief; the throngs in dire dismay,
A moment gaze, then shouting, urge their way.
The ground upheaving, in the hollow space,
With cautious haste the sharpened stakes they piace.
Then o’er the mound the tireless train essays
A barrier vast of earth and rocks to raise.
The frowning pile, aloft, with speed ascends,
Behind the breach its massive length extends.
Now from the wall the post with joy beholds
The curling smoke, as high in air it rolls
From Mago’s tower— the bursting flames anse,
‘Midst clanging arms, and shouts, and startling cries.
As when the tempest from the Arctic pours,
And ocean, rousing, round Charybdis roars.
Above the rocks with rapid whirls converge
The eddying billows of the sounding surge.
Thus, rush’d the warriors to descend the frame,
Their course impeded by the rising flame ;
The frantic hosts which thick its summit crown,
With fury strive to force a passage down,
Whilst craggy rocks and darts amid them fall,
And missiles thunder from the hostile wall.
Like some tali cedar, towering o’er the wood,
High on the frame the fearless Mago stood.
Before his form, his battered shield he drew,
As round his head a storm of jav’lins flew,
Loud from its height to those below, he cried,
To roll the strutture to the ocean’s side.
The burning pile the train essays to move,
Their targets shielding from the foes above.
High, as they strive, the raging flame ascends,
And wrapt in smoke the frowning strutture bends.
Now, from its top the blacken’d warriors spring,
Or seeking safety, to the timbers cling.
The nodding frame sends forth a groaning sound,
And falling, thunders on the crimson’d ground.
The noble Mago midst the ruin fell,
And sullen, wanders to the shades of hell.
Now old Machaon at his palate gates,
With anxious mind, with fair Lacecia waits.
The aged chief for young Alcimas, fears,
Now fir’d for combat, now dissolv’d in tears.
When, as he stood, with target broken, past
The stately Cyphon, of his rate the last.
To him, the chief ! say, whither dost thou run ;
What tidings hast thou of my darling son?
My heavy mail Alcimas wore away,
Say, hast thou seen him in the dreadful fray ?
Machaon thus ; Philonus’ son replied,
He shines in conflict by Araxes’ side.
Not long, Oethus by his javelin fell,
He too, sent Thorus to the gates of hell.
Thus Cyphon spoke, and eager onward sped ;
And thus, Machaon to Lacecia, said,
Oh ! once like him, I fearless sought the war,
And rode victorious, in a brazen car ;
My foaming steeds I urged o’er heaps of dead,
And frighted warriors from my anger fled.
When, as he spoke, an Agrigentine carne,
In heart a coward, and unknown to fame ;
His vulgar care the laden wains to guide,
And lead the oxen to the rampart’s side.
To him, Machaon — tell me, hast thou seen
A youthful warrior, Mars-like is his mien ?
His name Alcimas and my noble heir ;
If thou hast tidings, to his sire declare.
Thus proudly he, the Agrigentine cried,
Oh dotard ! swelling with an empty pride,
Is mine the care to watch thy coward sons—
To teli who ‘s conquer’d and to mark who runs ?
Not far from hence beneath a shield is seen,
A youth, affrighted, and a dog in mien,
He may perchance, thy martial offspring be,
A man in figure, but in heart like thee.
Thus envious he ; hence villain, from my sight !
Machaon cried, ere yet too late for flight.
And dost thou thus my godlike heir deride, Whose noble brothers at Selinus died ? Whose val’rous father at Himera bled, And squadrons dauntless to the conflict lecr? My javelin bring ! to those around, he cries, Though bent with age, by me the dastard dies. He said : his arms te bring the slaves delay, And slowly moving past the wain away. But Phcebus now his flaming car has roll’d, Where clouds are floating in a sea of gold, Far to the west, and slow his journey wends, Where parting day with dusky evening blends. Back to the ships retir’d in long array The Carthaginians from the dubious fray. The weary chiefs, Imilco call’d to meet, In needful council in the spacious fleet. When to the rest, the son of Gisgo said, (The same who Carthage at Himera, led,) How long will you the doubtful siepe maintain, Oh ! woman warriors on Acragas’ plain ? How many heroes here regardless fall, Ere Afric’s legions force the hostile wall ? Uramus now wi11 urge the fight no more, And Mago wanders on the Stygian spore.
The foe encourag’d for your force prepare,
Whilst you dishearten’d, to your ships repair.
Is this the valor that you boasting, cried
Would brave Sicilia and whole realms beside ?
Are these the squadrone proudly number’d more
Than twice the warriors on Acragas’ shore ?
Are you the heroes ? they luxurious throngs ?
This day decides to whom the name belongs.
But think not Jove will unconcern’dly view
The feeble efforts of your coward crew ;
Or hear entreaties for an easy prize,
When armies given and power within you lies !
Saturnius, yet, his wrath will justly pour
On you, defenceless on a foreign shore.
Who basely thus, neglects his country’s fame,
Should meet destruction and eternal shame.
Thus scornful he ; Asdrubal quick replied,
Whence comes thine anger and thy groundless pride ?
Ill fits it thee to blame our dauntless train,
Whilst thou, inattive, in the ships remain.
Those best may censure who the conflict wage,
Not those who, distant, view the hosts engage.
Say who the coward, who the name deserves,
The idle warrior or the chief, who serves ?
If you the hero, cease our deeds to blarne ;
Gol war for Carthage and restore her farne.
Suppress thine ire, the great Imilco cried,
Nor those disabled from the war deride ;
For base is he, who dares with scornful rage
To offer insult to the woes of age.
And doubly base, who would contumely pour
On him, the champion of a grateful shore,
When life and strength in country’s right are spent,
And quench’d the fire that youth to valor lent.
What course is best, let him our ranks advise.
Imilco ceas’d; the aged chief replies ;
Your needful strength with fruitless toil is spent, —
Your engines useless and your armor bent ;
My-counsel hear, then fearless seek the war,
Or straight your armies from the toast withdraw.
Without the town, where many a hero lies,
Behold the tombs6 in long succession rise ;
Be these demolish’d and in fragments fornì
A massive wall and thence the city storm :
When high it rises o’er the hostile town,
Its frowning height let fearless warriors crown.
Thus Gisgo’s son ; the Iist’ning chiefs approv’d,
And quick their fo:ces from the galleys mov’d,
Where rose the tombs, the hosts in long array, By Meron led, tumultuous, urged their way. Majestic there, the stately structures shone With rnoonlight sleeping on the polish’d stone. Where colutnns rose, the throngs with furious haste, Huge ropes and chains with many a winding plac’d. These, fast secur’d, their length the eager throng, Impatient seiz’d, at distante rang’d along. Within their links each brawny hand is staid — Each willing warrior lends an equal aid. -With head thrown back, the united hosts essay, And muscles strain’d, to tear the shafts away. Now, as they strive, the massive columns groan, In fragments crashing, falls the splinter’d stone. The pillars rock, — the warriors shout around —Loud falls the strutture with a thund’ring sound. Stili tombs on tombs, before th’ invaders fall, The solid basement and the sculptur’d wall. Now, crumbling bones in broken heaps are strown, And skulls grin, orbless, ‘neath the shatter’d stone. They, others seek, whose strength their efforts stay, And vainly strive to rend their joints away. Loud on the sides the clinking irons sound ; Bright fall the sparkles in a shower around.
Brave Meron orders and the eager train,
Hastes back, tumultuous, to the rolling main ; Then slow returning, with unwearied care, With strength combin’d the battering-engines bear. Now loud and louder grows the dreadful sound, With falling tombs the hilis and vales resound. More dire the noise than when the Cyclops press’d Their ceaseless labor in old lEtna’s breast ; When by its flame the frowning monsters struve To forge the thunders of Saturnian Jove.
MEANWHILE, repose the Agrigentines find, And sleep descending soothes each anxious mind, Save Gallias, who oppress’d with sullen gloom, With brave Araxes leaves his gilded dome. Through quiet streets the silent warriors sped, The pavement echoing to their heavy tread ; Their sable shadows shot along the way, In Luna’s light their radiant baldricks play. At length they stood where o’er the rising ground, To Jove ordain’d, a lofty tempie frown’d : The shades of night around the structure hung, Save where the moon her gentle radiance flung. Upon its walls; bere, dread Olympius shone, With giants, warring in the chisel’d stone ; When fearless they on shaggy Pelion trod, And brav’d the vengeance of the angry god. There, Trojan bands with Grecian foes engage, And both the strife in sculptur’d fury wage.
As ‘neath its height the Agrigentines staid, Thus, great Araxes to the warrior said : Why noble Gallias does thine alter’d tone, Bespeak thee wretched and thy pleasure gotte ? Thy gather’d brow betrays some grief conceal’d, Thy sadden’d aspect, sorrow unreveal’d. When late victorious on the rampart’s height, You brav’d proud Carthage with unequaled might, When from thy force her wondering hosts retir’d, And we stood firmly, by thy prowess fir’d ; When heaven propitious, view’d our rightful cause, And sullen fate revers’d her iron laws, Around thy steps each chief exulting press’d, Each father prais’d thee and each mother bless’d ; Till, when respect to adoration greve, E’en Jove was jealous of his lawful due. A sudden gloom thy lofty brow o’erspread, Thine eye roll’d fiercely and thy calmness fled, And, as I mark’d thee ‘mid th’ admiring train, Thy soul seem’d bursting with excess of pain. Why hide the cause ? is there an honor, say ! Or friendly tribute, I have fail’d to pay, Was I not first, with feeling heart, to share Thine early sorrow as thine after care ?
Why dost thou shun thy secret woe to trust,
Have I betray’d thee or have seem’d unjust ?
Araxes ceas’d ; the Agrigentine cried,
Beyond thine influente is the grief I hide !
I cannot glory in a falling state,
Or blindly revel on the brink of fate.
Ere thrice has wheel’d the silv’ry orb of night,
Her starry course in yon cerulean height,
An empty shade, where Stygian waters How,
Shall Gallias wander in the realms below.
At dusky eve alike as rising day,
A hollow voice reproves me for delay.
When night o’er all extends her sable gloom,
A hand invites me to a bloody tomb.
Think not I shun to yield this fleeting breath
Or fear the coming of approaching death,
For all on earth, in equal turn must tread
The shady empire of the silent dead.
I mourn Acragas ; which by heaven’s decree,
Shall fall inglorious, and shall fall with me.
Her sons the captives of a lawless band,
Or homeless wanderers in a foreign land.
Her glory lost, her power an empty name —
Her foes exulting in her lasting shame.
But think not I, while sense and strength remain,
Will tamely view her daring warriors slain ;
When fate demands, I yield this paltry life,
But death shall meet me in the fiercest strife.
When as he spoke, the brave Araxes spied,
In haste descending from the rampart’s side,
An Agrigentine, who had pac’d that night,
With the Ione guard along its spacious height.
Swift through the town with frighted mien he flies,
The tombs ! the tombs ! with accent hoarse he cries.
The chieftains waken’d by the strange alarms,
Spring from their couches and array in arms.
The warriors start and proffering Jove a prayer,
Their javelins seize and gain the open air.
Th’ assembled hosts now mount the massive wall,
And view the tombs in long succession fall.
Some, fill’d with ire, would straight their forces draw
Forth from the town and furious seek the war.
With horror some behold the hostile bands,
The structures raze with sacrilegious hands.
Whilst loud to heaven the throngs for vengeance cali,
The sons of Carthage ‘neath Acragas’ wall
The ground upheave, and tireless each essays
Embankments vast of rocks and earth to raise.
With fury fill’d, the Agrigentines view
The rising bulwark of the hostile crew.
From band to band the thrilling cali extends,
To storco the invaders ere the work ascends.
Now from theìr height the sturdy archers throw
Their whizzing shafts upon the hosts below.
Firm at their toil the tawny myriads stay, —
Full from the town the sounding engines play ;
Thick from their jaws the rocky volleys pour,
And batter’d mail and answering targets roar.
With steady course the frowning pile extends,
And high and higher ‘midst the strife ascends.
Now, from the fleet, impetuous to the plain,
Hastes great Imilco with a dauntless train ;
High o’er the rest with nodding plumes he rose,
As towers Olympus with eternal snows.
The rampart’s top the black battalions gain,
Crests wave o’er crests and helms o’er helmets fiame.
Shields rise o’er shields, and javelins flash afar,
Now comes the fury of the dreadful war ;
Now cross-bows dread, from bulwark, height and tower,
With hissing sound, force down the iron shower.
Huge missiles now by either host are hurl’d,
And craggy rocks high o’er the rampart whirl’d.
‘Midst shrieks and cries, the frantic foes engage, And javelins thick in fiery tempests rage. The engines loud, their dire destruction pour Full on th’ invaders with a sullen roar. The flaming darts with equal ire are toss’d, And whizzing lances by the warring host. The warriors shout, the chiefs to chieftains cali, And ranks on ranks of either phalanx fall. O’er heaps of slain the furious throngs contend, And startling cries with noise of mail ascend. High on the wall, the stately Cyphon strides, Now leads the van and now the foe derider; His singing lance, unerring, oft he sends, A full orb’d shield, the tow’ring chief defends. With sable plumes Araxes shines afar, And helmet nodding in the thickest war. His frequent javelin, from the rampart flies, Where’er he aims a hostile warrior dies. Hamilcar now is doom’d his rage to feel, His corselet sunder’d by the hero’s steel. Deep, in his side, the flying weapon stays, And spouting gore its thirsting point allays. With target wide and crestless, now is seen, The noble Gallias with undaunted mien ;
With baldrick flaming and refulgent arms,
He stands terrific ‘midst the dire alarms.
Thick from his hand the sounding arrows speed,
And shining squadrons by bis valor bleed.
High on the rampart tow’rs Iarchus’ form,
Loud on his shield resound the iron storm,
The hero now the brave Imilco heeds,
Where cas’d in steel the hostile band he leads.
Full at the chief he hurl’d bis burnish’d spear,
By fate propell’d it sounding sped afar,
The wary foe by skilful art upheld,
Quick rais’d his target and the steel repell’d.
A fiery dart the son of Hanno bore,
The gift of Theron on the Tyrian shore ;
The hero this, at grim Iarchus aim’d,
And high in air the singing javelin ilam’d ;
The fatal shaft his yielding breast-plate rent,
And glancing upward, through his shoulder went.
‘Mid shouts and cries the chiefs around essay
To draw the weapon from the wound away ;
But reeling now, to avenging Jove he calls,
And groaning, lifeless on the rancipart falls.
Within the town, meanwhile, confus’d is seen,
Warriors and slaves, and rnaids with anxious mien.
Here, Agrigentines cleave the solid stone,
There, fili the wains or goad the oxen on.
Along the streets some sire distracted runs,
Upbraids the gods or wails his lifeless sons ;
Some wretched mother views the careless throng
Her offspring bear, with life extinct, along.
Pale lamine, too, throughout the town is seen,
And warriors fainting with exhausted mien.
Here, menials offer to the vulgar train,
Goblets and flagons for their stores of grain.
Some, corn and viands for the gold return,
Some, while refusing for the treasure yearn.
Meanwhile Machaon, fair Lacecia leaves,
Who, in his halls for young Alcimas grieves ;
Who weary hours has borne the fiercest toil,
And stood the conflict for Acragas’ soil.
The maid, unseen, with anxious mind assumes
A nodding helmet with depending plumes.
Resolv’d to hasten to the rampart’s height,
And shield the warrior in the dubious fight.
A beamy dart the youthful virgin bore, —
A brazen targe, with gorgons sculptur’d o’er.
Through spacious courts she pass’d with eager haste,
Her armor sounding as she onward pac’d.
The street she gain’d, thence hurrying mov’d along
With fearless aspecr ‘midst the vulgar throng ;
When, as she sped, advancing slow, was seen
A silent group with melancholy mien ;
A warrior’s form upon a shield they bore,
His helmet bent, his mantle stain’d with gore,
His flowing hair upon his corselet hung,
Which, sunder’d, oft with jarring cadente rung.
The maiden saw, in doubt and dire dismay,
She feared to gaze, yet could not turn away.
They nearer come and with averted eyes
And falt’ring accent, thus Lacecia cries ;
What chieftain’s forni, O, Agrigentines, say !
You bear thus lifeless from the dreadful fray,
Say ! has Alcirnas for his country’s right,
By Carthage fallen in the distant fight ?
Thus spoke the maid ; the mournful train replied,
‘T is youthful Hyllas, who by Meron died.
The bleeding boy upon the walls we found,
The red tide flowing from a fatal wound ;
But, as we carne his gentle spirit fled,
Though short the distante and with care, we sped.
And this is Hyllas ! sad Lacecia cries,
This stiffen’d warrior who before me lies, –
This graceful Hyllas ! who so late was seen,
At Ceres’ tempie with celestial mien.
Thou wert more beauteous than Endymion fair,
Or soft Adonis with his flowing hair ;
Yet there is none to wail thy hapless doom;
No friends or kindred to provide a tomb.
She said : and hurried to the rampart’s height,
To mix with heroes in the varying fight.
Behind his shield, afar the maid descried
The brave Alcimas by Araxes’ side.
O’er heaps of slain she fearless urg’d her way,
And join’d the chieftain, in the deadly fray.
Fierce raged the conflict where the virgin stood,
And sounding javelins in a dazzling flood.
Her, ‘midst the throng the grim Asdrubal spies ;
Swift from his bow the pointed arrow flies ;
In vain she strove to shun its fatai force,
Unskill’d the maiden and too true its course.
The thirsting steel her radiant cuirass tore,
Deep sunk the head distain’d with purple gore.
Far from the strife her spirit wing’d its way,
And sought the confines of eterna] day.
As o’er the wood, high towers the mountain pine,
With Boreas struggling in some wintry clime,
Thus, o’er the host the noble Gallias rose, Where black battalions and stern chiefs enclose ; His pond’rous bow, undaunted, oft he drew, And thick the shafts with fiery fury flew. Asdrubal now has sought the hero’s ire, (Opposing fate and shouting throngs inspire,) Secure, in thought, he views the chief a prize, His lance he shakes, and thus, imperious, cries ; See, warriors see ! where, on the rampart stands, The proudest leader of th’ Acragan bands ; He me beholds, and fearful of my might, Has sought concealment ‘mid the ranks of fight. Let deeds like mine the sons of Afric’ fire, Behold my prowess and my skill admire ! Asdrubal thus ; and swift his weapon fled ; Araxes viewed it as it onward sped : Before his friend with shield aloft he sprung, The steel, diverted, on its surface rung. Him, Gallias saw ; thy feeling heart restrain, He mournful cried, for arms and friendship vain. Thou canst not save me from impending fate, Nor quell the fury of Saturnius’ hate. Fear not Asdrubal with his hireling bands, My death I meet not at ignoble hands ;
Not his, the glory of my presag’d doom, —
This steel shall send him to the silent tomb.
The hero thus, and sudden fled his spear,
By wrath propell’d and pierced the chief afar.
Imilco view’d him bleeding from the stroke,
And filled with ire to grim Melanthes spoke.
Shall we see, tamely, brave Asdrubal fall
By yon proud Gallias on the hostile wall,
Shall he imperious boast our ranks his prey,
And Afric’s legions, unresisted, slay ?
Where high he rises o’er the Acragan band,
Let every warrior hurl his burning brand,
Thére fling his lance — his sounding arrow speed,
Our conquest certain if the hero bleed.
Imilco ceas’d : the grim Numidian calls
His tawny warriors to the highest walls.
Their sounding bows the fearless archers drew,
Fierce raged the javelins, thick the missiles flew.
The mighty chief undaunted stood the shock,
Like cedar rooted to the rifted rock ;
His pond’rous shield with iron circlets bound,
Receiv’d the tempest with a roaring sound ;
Refulgent mail encas’d his giant frame,
Far flash’d his baldrick and his helm of fame ;
‘Midst fiery dart and hissing steel, he rose,
Defied Melanthes and infuriate foes.
But frantic now, his shaft Imilco drew,
Swift through the air, with rapid course it flew,
By fate propell’d, by deadly anger aim’d,
It reach’d the chieftain where his corselet flam’d ;
His heavy mail the weapon rent apart,
And glancing upward, pierc’d the warrior’s heart ;
Before his face, his batter’d targe he spread,
And falling, mingled with the silent dead.
Meanwhile, the chariot of the setting sun,
In sable clouds its western course had run.
But scarce had night unfurl’d her dusky pali,
And Carthage hasten’d from the hostile wall,
When ‘mid their hosts appear’d a dire disease,8
Whose pains both beasts and slaves and warriors seize.
From ship to ship the strange infection spread,
living, number’d but one half the dead.
The son of Gisgo, worn with toil and age,
Expir’d a víctim to its fatal rage ;
Far from his home, decreed the hapless doom,
Of death inglorious and a foreign tomb.
The mournful throngs, the sad Imilco calls
With priests and seers, within the navy’s walls,
When thus he speaks ye sons of Carthage hear !
Reply, ye seers — ye sacred priests give ear !
Say what offence the direful plague, the cause,
What heinous deed celestial anger draws.
Three times a day, since first our fleet was-moor’d,
Have we invok’d and thrice the gods ador’d ;
Three times have we our spotless victims slain,
Libations offer’d and have pray’d in vain.
If aught you know, which ye by fear conceal,
The same with candor to your chief reveal.
Imilco ceas’d an aged seer replied ;
No god we ‘ve slighted and no crime we hide.
The aged Hannibal’s, alone, the offence
Which brings from Jove this direful pestilence.
By his command, in dust the warriors spread
The proud inausoleums of the Acragan dead.
The crumbling bones of mighty chiefs were strown,
With kings and warriors ‘neath the shatter’d stone.
These aged orbs at sable night have seen
Their injur’d manes 9 with revengeful mien,
Around their dust in lonely vigils stray,
‘Till crimson clouds foretold approaching day;
For this, has heaven, with anger just decreed
This dire infection for the impious deed ;
For this must ye with worthy offerings pay
A due attonement and its wrath allay.
Amaz’d, they heard — a sudden gloom o’erspread
Each list’ning chief, when thus Imilco said :
We can but offer what the gods require,
A quick compliance may avert their ire ;
‘T were better far a few their wrath appease,
Than thousands perish by a strange disease.
Four victims seek” amid th’ embattled train,
For Neptune, sovereign of the rolling main.
A child, with speed, at Saturn’s altar slay.
The hero ceas’d ; in haste the priests obey.
Within the town, meanwhile, confus’dly rise
Threats and reproaches and discordant cries.
Here, Agrigentines in a famish’d train,
Tumultuous, strive to force the stores of grain.
Some stately palate, there, the throng surround,
And shouts and clamors through the courts resound.
The warriors, wearied, from the fight return,
No more for glory, or for combat, burri.
THE funeral rites, Araxes now had paid,
Of noble Gallias and appeas’d his shade ;
Oppress’d with woe, he mourns th’ Acragan’s fate,
Gods unpropitious and his bleeding state.
With troubled mind throughout the town he calls
The Agrigentines to their council-halls :
When thus he speaks ; O ! far too well, ye know
Our dire misfortunes and extent of woe ;
Our bravest chiefs by fierce invaders slain,
Our strength exhausted as our stores of grain.
In vain our victims smoke our prayers ascend,
Celestial powers no more our cause befriend.
If Afric’ long the doubtful siege maintains,
Or e’en, inattive, ‘neath our wall remains,
To ruthless foes must we our gates unbar,
And galling chains succeed the, ills of war :
Our wives and children for the victors toil,
Our shrines dishonor’d and our wealth their spoil.
Far from the town, where rolls the troubled deep,
Fatigued with fight, the Carthaginians sleep.
Involving night has spread her sable pali,
No vigil marks us from the hostile wall.
Let us in haste, ourselves and slaves array,
And speed to Gela ere the dawn of day.
Araxes ceas’d ;— in rising aecents sound
Throughout the halls the full applauses round.
Forth from their chief, impatient of delay,
The eager throngs, tumultuous, take their way ;
The heaving tide rolls on from street to street,
Loud grows the din and noise of hurrying feet.
Now stifled shouts and wailings fili the air,
And lurid torches cast a fitful giare.
The old and sick amidst the crowds are seen
Imploring succor with distracted mien.
Here, on their backs, the sturdy warriors bear
Their aged sires, oppress’d with years and care.
There, hoary chiefs and counsellors of state,
By children left, bewail their hapless fate.
The ponderous gates, the furious throngs surround,
Back fly the barriers with a thundering sound.
As when the Nile inundates wide its shores,
Forth from the town the host impetuous, pours.
Now, neighing steeds with triple riders grac’d, With youths and maids in dire confusion haste : Now menials speed, who radiant vessels bear, Kindred and friends no longer claiming care. By slaves urg’d on, affrighted, leap and bound The laden mules, with glittering treasures crown’d. Here, fly the priests, who sacred tripods hold, And smoking censers of refulgent gold.
There, stately dames, by foaming coursers borne, With shrieks and cries some absent offspring mourn. Chiefs urge on chiefs, warriors drive warriors on, Chargers press chargers in prorniscuous throng. The stars shine dimly in their azure height, And clouds are struggling with the orb of night; On, on they speed beneath its fitful light, As torrents rolling in resistless might ;
More dire their haste, than when in days of yore The rude Sicanians fled old .rEtna’s roar ;” When, flying, they with groundless terror fraught, The western vales of fair Sicilia sought. Machaon now, the lost Lacecia seeks,
With y-oung Alcimas, through the vacant streets ; Upon his breast descends his snowy hair,
His mantle screens him from the midnight air ;
A broken dart with trembling hand he bears, Now, talks of combat, now, prefers his prayers. His falt’ring steps an aged slave attends, Whose golden Iamp a flickering radiance lends ; Before its flame his withered hand is plac’d, Which dims and brightens with delay or haste. The maid they seek amid th’ appalling gloom, Alike, unconscious of her hapless doom. At every square, at every tuffi they cali, And echoes answer as the accents fall. His aged sire, the youth implores in vain, Himself to save and join the flying train. No more, he cries no more thy flight delay ! Oh ! why my father, shouldst thou longer stay ? With studious care through every street and lane, We ‘ve sought Lacecia, and have sought in vain ; Perchance the maid in doubt and dire dismay, When fled the host, to Gela urg’d her way ; Or fill’d with fear, perchance the outer gates She now has gain’d, and there our coming waits. Upheld by me, thine aged steps retrace, For long the distante and unsure thy pace. Thus spoke the youth ; no more th’ Acragans stay, But toward the wall impatient wend their way.
When down the street, advancing swift, was seen
The pale Carthia with distracted mien ;
Her raven hair a faded garland bound,
And yellow grass the rust’ling chaplet crown’d,
A broken helmet in her arms she boxe, –
Which Hyllas once in deadly conflict wore ;
Stili in the brass the drooping plumes remain,
But soil’d with dust and dark with many a stain.
His waning lamp, as on the Spartan sped,
The menial rais’d above his hoary head.
Oh, gentle maid ! Alcimas cried, relieve
Our troubled minds, a virgin lost, we grieve.
Say ! hast thou seen, but now in youthful grace
Lacecia fair, of old Machaon’s rate ?
If aught ye know, to us with speed relate,
If stili she lives or what her dirgli]. fate.
Alcimas thus ; to him the Grecian cried,
The bridegroom tarrieth, why delay the bride ?
From stream to stream have I, unwearied, sped
To fili this flagon, but the wave is red.
By the valley’s green and the torrent’s spray
I ‘ve sought a wreath fo`r the nuptial day ;
But the vines have droop’d, by Acragas’ tide,
And the flowers are gone from the mountain’s side.
The Argive ceas’d ; then swiftly on she pac’d,
And now, the -lime, their way resume in haste.
The aged chief, oppressed with years and ills,
Upbraids Alcimas for each pain he feels ;
Of each misstep or rising wind, complains,
Now, chides delay, and now, his course restrains.
The gates they reach’d ; and with inquiring eyes,
Machaon gaz’d, and thus excited, cries:
Where now Lacecia, say ! Alcimas, where ?
Oh, son, regardless of a father’s care,
Why hast thou thus, deceiv’d with lying tongue
Thine hapless sire, whose heart with woe is wrung ?
Was it for this I watch’d thine early age,
And wept thine absence in the conflict’s rage ?
Be curst the man who with deceitful wiles,
And cunning words my feeble mind beguiles ;
Whose sun has set in clouds of deepest gloom,
Whose steps are tending to the silent tomb.
Suppress, Alcimas cries, these thoughts, unkind,
Thy safety now, alone, should claim thy mind.
See ! crimson clouds foretell approaching day,
Why wilt thou tarry, when ‘t is death to stay ?
Methinks I hear, where lies the hostile fleet,
A sound confus’d, like steps of hurrying feet.
These willing limbs, with tireless speed and care,
Thine aged form to Gela’s walls will bear.
Delay no more, at morn a certain fate,
Alike awaits us and our fallen state.
Thus urged the youth ; but craz’d with fear and woe,
The chief upbraided and refused to go.
The lost Lacecia, with distracted air,
He loudly called and tore his scatter’d hair.
Alcimas now, his words to heaven address’d
In secret prayer, and thus his thoughts express’d :
Give me, ye gods ! a courage meet to wait
Yon fierce invaders and approaching fate ;
Lest Afric’s legions should my soul o’erawe,
My hand unnerv’d, refuse the biade to draw ;
Enough the glory, if I bravely fall,
A sire defending ‘neath my country’s wall.
Beside the gate a massive arch appear’d,
Where columns huge their sculptur’d summits rear’d ;
And near its base a marble seat was seen,
O’ergrown with moss and dark with foliage green ;
And bere at morn, where droop’d its verdant crown,
The wretched trio sat them sadly down.
Whilst slowly issuing through the gates of day
Comes bright Aurora on her joyous way
Through roseate clouds ; and wide in liquid gold,
With wreaths of foam Old Ocean’s surges roll’d;
The sons of Afric’ in their fleet prepare
Their arms and missiles with unwearied care.
With pious zeal along the winding shore,
The sacred priests their rich libations pour ;
Their victims bleed, their laden altars blaze,
And oft their hands with suppliant cries, they raise ;
With wond’ring eyes they view the distant town,
No martial hosts its rising bulwarks crown.
Imilco orders and the throngs descend,
Along the toast afar their ranks extend.
By council now a chosen band is sent
To view the walls, perchance, the foe’s intent ;
Which soon returning, to the rest reports
Its streets deserted and its empty courts,
The gates thrown open, no Acragans seen,
Save in the square a group with frantic mien.
They thus relate ; and with discerning mind,
Imilco listen’d and the truth divin’d.
And thus he speaks ; ye chiefs and warriors hear !
The Agrigentines forc’d by want and fear,
Have secret fled, and now a worthy prize,
Behold the city in the distante rise.
From Carthage sent, ere yet I touch’d this shore, A trusty spy this information bore ;
Their numbers many, but their stores of grain One half their martial force can ili sustain, Unless supplies from near allies they gain, Their warriors useless and their bulwarks vain. Let now in order toward Acragas move Each steel-clad band and each give thanks to Jove. Imilco said ; and now in long array,
The glittering files irnpetuous wend their way. As rolls the ocean to the rocky shore When sounding tempests from the Artic pour, Thus mov’d the warriors to the distant town, And waving crests a sea of helmets crown. Lance flash’d o’er lance, javelin o’er javelin stood, And spears rose bristling o’er the heaving flood. With steady course the thronging squadrons gain The open gates, and wondering, here remain. ‘Midst cypress green and groves and olive bowers, And waving vines, rose Agrigentum’s towers. Palace o’er palace, arch o’er arch appear’d, Dome rose o’er dome, on giant columns rear’d, Tempie o’er tempie in refulgence frown’d, And pillars huge, with sculptur’d foliage crown’d ;
But silent all, save where in haste is seen Some aged man o’er maid with frenzied mien Like shadows fiitting through the spacious street, Now seen, now hid, to gain a safe retreat. Through the avide gates, impatient of delay, Pours the fierce host ; Imilco leads the way. Stupendous columns rise on either hand, Row after row, in long succession stand. Forests of shafts, with summits huge sustain The stately palate and o’ertowering fane. Here friezes glitter’d, there, in sculpture sbone Th’ Acanthus risine from Mendelion stone. With flutings deep, the wond’ring eye descried Jasper and Porphery in Ionic pride. Along the way, as on the warriors move, In marble sternness frowns Saturnian. Jove ; Beneath his feet the chiseled monsters lay, And o’er his head ambrosiaI ringlets play. Now stately Pallas from her Parian throne, O’erlooks the street, beneath her helm of stone ; A massive shield with serpents fring’d, she holds, Medusa peering from its snaky folds. High in his car, next, dreadful Mars appears, His beaming arm a golden lance uprears ;
Aloft in air its burnish’d point aspires,
Where bright Aurora flings her earliest fires.
Now, spreading squares, their splendors vast, unfold,
Where fountains deep a thousand shafts uphold ;
Whose waters spouting, to the skies ascend,
And gorgeous hues with Phmbus’ radiante blend.
With downcast eyes around their basins stand
The snowy statues in a circling band ;
Whose rising forms celestial grate display
In misty beauty through the falling spray.
Here, waves the olive, and the fragrant lime,
Where clust’ring vines with clasping tendrils climb ;
Beneath whose shade in white and loose attire,
Rests gentle Orpheus with his drooping lyre.
As on they pass, a sudden ambuscade,
Each warrior fears and grasps his shining blade ;
His spear or dart with doubtful mind he bears
Triumphal now, and now, for fight prepares.
Within the town they wheel in long array,
With living beams their arms refulgent play,
As when a lion furious for his prey,
Leaps from his den and scours the plains away ;
Thus, each dispersed, impetuous strives to gain
The far-famed treasures, that the walls contain ;
With savage joy, they shouting, speed along ;
Tempie and court, and dome, alike they throng.
The aged chiefs, whom walls no more conceal,
Their sorrows end beneath th’ invaders’ steel.
Children and maids, promiscuous here expire,
The youthful warrior and the aged sire.
Confus’dly, now, the Carthaginians bear
The plenteous spoil along the open square.
Resplendent urns in dazzling heaps are placed,
And vases by Corinthian chisels chased.
Here goblets gleam with pearls of price untold,
And diamonds flashing in the fretted gold.
Censers and flagons there, with em’ralds green,
Thick studded o’er, with onyx cups are seen.
Chieftains and kings in massive silver wrought,
Together shine, with matchless scuipture fraught.
Refulgent steeds with radiant tripods lie,
And burnish’d helms with vests of Tyrian dye.
Here purple palls and azure mantles thrown,
With fillets vie and many a gorgeous zone.
The glittering wealth now blocks the spacious square,
Yet more and more, the throngs, insatiate, bear.
Trembling and pale, by cords together bound,
The captive maids in silente, weep around ;
And hoary chiefs, from hostile weapons sav’d, Who, firmly, long the storms of life have brav’d, Now of the gods with suppliant cries implore A speedy passage to the Stygian shore. Thus far, unnotic’d by the hostile trains, The old Machaon ‘neath the wall remains ; To sense return’d, he views th’ invaders nigh, Assur’d of danger when too late to fly. The aged man to young Alcimas cries, With frantic gestures and with streaming eyes, Oh, haste my son ! we yet perchance, unseen, May pass the gates and cross the valleys green ; These aged limbs are feeble now no more, They quick can bear me to the Gellian shore. No longer stay, hence let us tireless move ; Fear gives me strength, and ever watchful Jove. Machaon thus ; the youth arose in haste, Within his belt his shining steel he plac’d ; One band around his aged sire he cast, And one, the handle of his falchion grasp’d. The faithful slave dose following sped behind, With falt’ring footstep and uncertain mind. When, as they fled, a hostile warrior view’d Their secret flight, and cross their passage stood ;
His visor up, a grizzly face display’d,
His hands were red, and red his reeking biade :
And think’st thou thus, he cries, our rafie to shun,
Thou pale-fac’d dotard and thy coward son,
Shalt thou alone, our vengeful steel escape ?
No ! wretched man, from me, receive thy fate ;
These threat’ning words, the Afric scarce had said,
When, in his breast, Alcimas plunged his biade :
Forth from the wound the crimson torrent flies,
And cold in death the Carthaginian lies.
His brother near, a man of giant frame,
Beheld the youth, and furious toward him carne ;
His thirsting steei he hurl’d with deadly force,
It graz’d the boy, but fatai stili, its course ;
The hoary chief, with hands uplifted, near,
Full in his neck receiv’d the sounding spear.
His limbs relaxed ; and far from strife and care,
His spirit hasten’d to the realms of air.
Quick round the youth a fierce and lawless crew,
With hideous cries and threat’ning gestures drew.
Above his sire, he brav’d th’ unequal fight,
With dauntless mien, and more than martial might
As stands the lion, when he turns to bay,
So stood Alcimas ‘midst the black array.
With fearless hand his crimson biade he drew,
As o’er his head the singing javelins flew.
O’erpower’d, at Iast by spears transfix’d he dies,
And swift his soul to join Machaon files.
The aged slave, meanwhile, at distante view’d
His direful fate, where fill’d with fright he stood :
Quick from his belt, he drew his shining dart,
And frantic, plunged it in his beating heart.
To raze the town, th’ invaders, fill’d with ire,
Hurl’d burning brands and urged the rising fire.
In volumes dense, the sable smoke ascends,
And o’er the scene its awful shade extends.
From dome to dome the conflagration roll’d
Round ivory shaft and chapiter of gold.
From vaulted roofs, the crimson flames afise,
Shooting and streaming to the murky skies.
Amidst its rafie the battering engines play,
Stupendous walls and basements vast giVe way.
Splint’ring and crashing fall with thundering sound
The nodding palate and the tempie ‘sound.
With crimson light the burning rafters glow,
Tumbling and crackling to the streets below.
Now drooping down, — now spouting fiercely gleams
The fiery torrent through the falling beams.
In volleys bright, the sparkles mount on high,
O’er hill and vale on rising gales they fly.
Whirlwinds of flame above Acragas roar,
Where embers red in fiery columns pour ;
Whilst black and thick the sable clouds aspire,
Of smoke asceuding from a sea of fire.
Thus fell Acragas, fam’d in song of yore,
The proudest city on Sicilia’s shore ;
Where once it stood, Girgenti’s structures rise,
And o’er its site his flock the goatherd drives.
The good Ciantro,12 with unwearied toil,
Now seeks its relics ‘neath her verdant soil ;
The statue fair and medai chas’d, are found,-
The glittering frieze and vase with sculpture crown’d ;
These trophies worthy of Acragas’ pride,
Adorn his villa on Girgenti’s side.
Upon her coast, the traveller stili may trace
A column rising in Ionic gra:ce ;
A broken arch, perchance a tempie lone,
With ivy drooping from its mouldering stone.
Note 1, page 6, line L — From a steep clif
The citadel was situated upon the top of a mountain, eleven hundred feet above the level of the sea.
.11″ote 2, pago 6, line 14. — From Gela’s walls.
Thucydides states that the city of Agrigentum was originally built by the Geloi.
Note 3, page 7, lines 5 and 6.— Himera and Selinas.
Himera and Selinas had heen taken by the Carthaginians three years before the siepe of Agrigentum.
Note 4, page 9, line 7. — To bound the lake.
On one side of the city was a large lake, dug by the Carthagínian captives, and water was conveyed to it from the hills. Díodorus says it was seven furlongs in circuit, and thirty feet deep. Fish were bred in it for public entertainments, and swans were kept, for the amusement of the people.
Note 5, page 14, line 8. — Castor and Pollux.
” Among the ancients, especially among the Romans, there prevailed many reports at different times that Castor and Pollux
had made their appearance to their armies, and mounted on white steeds, had marched at the head of their troops and furiously attacked the enemy. Their surnames were many, and they were generally represented mounted on two white horses, armed with spears and riding side by side, with their heads cov-ered with a bonnet on whose top glittered a star.”— Lempriere.
Note 6, page 42, line 18. — Behold ihe tombs.
According to Rollin, the tombe standing around Acragas were demolished by the command of Hannibal, to farm banks and terraces as high as the walls, from which to storm the city.
Note 7, page 45, line 13. —Here dread Olympius shone.
The tempie Jupiter Olympius is said by Diodorus Sic. 1, XIII. to have been 340 feet long, and 120 feet high; the porticos of which represented in admirable sculpture the battle of the giants and the siepe of Troy.
Note 8, page 57, line 15. — il dire disease,
It is related that after the destruction of the tombe the plague made its appearance in the Carthaginian army, destroying a great number of the soldiers and FIannibal himself. This was interpreted by the Carthaginians as a punishment from the gode for the destructionof the tombe.
Note 9, page 58, line 20.— Their injured manes.
Many of the Carthaginians fancied they had seen the shades of the Acragans whose tombe they had demolished, wandering at night among their ruins with revengeful mien.
Note 10, pago 59, line 9. — Four victims
To appease the anger of the gode, a child was sacrificed to Saturn by the Carthaginians, and many victims were thrown into the sea in honor of Neptune.
Note 11, page 62, line 18. — Fled old .7Etna’s roar.
The Sicanians, it is said, were frightened from their original possessions in the vicinity of Mount JEtna by its roar, and re-tired into the western part of the island.
Xote 12, pago 75, line 11.— The good Ciantro.
” We found some compensation in the acquaintance of a highly respected ecclesiastic, by name Ciantro Panitteri, who is considered as the Meccenas of Girgenti. Ile employs his considerable fortune chiefly upon works of art; a merit which every day becomes more uncommon in Sicily. He has had his fields near the town dug up, and his labors have been repaid by the discovery of several fine statues which adorn his country house but the most valuable fruit of his researches is a splendid col-lection of vases, mostly of preominent beauty.” — Wanderings in &di? and the Levant
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