James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

August 30

The Death of Cleopatra

By Horace (65 B.C.–8 B.C.)

Translated by Sir Stephen E. De Vere


(Died August 30, 30 B.C.)

DRINK, comrades, drink; give loose to mirth!

With joyous footstep beat the earth,

And spread before the War-God’s shrine

The Salian feast, the sacrificial wine.

Bring forth from each ancestral hoard,

Strong draughts of Cæcuban long stored,

Till now forbidden. Fill the bowl!

For she is fallen, that great Egyptian Queen,

With all her crew contaminate and obscene,

Who, mad with triumph, in her pride,

The manly might of Rome defied,

And vowed destruction to the Capitol.

As the swift falcon swooping from above

With beak unerring strikes the dove,

Or as the hunter tracks the deer

Over Hæmonian plains of snow,

Thus Cæsar came. Then on her royal state

With Mareotic fumes inebriate,

A shadow fell of fate and fear,

And thro’ the lurid glow

From all her burning galleys shed

She turned her last surviving bark and fled.

She sought no refuge on a foreign shore.

She sought her doom: far nobler ’twas to die

Than like a panther caged in Roman bonds to lie.

The sword she feared not. In her realm once more,

Serene among deserted fanes,

Unmoved mid vacant halls she stood;

Then to the aspic gave her darkening veins,

And sucked the death into her blood.

Deliberately she died: fiercely disdained

To bow her haughty head to Roman scorn,

Discrowned, and yet a Queen; a captive chained;

A woman desolate and forlorn.