BkIIIII Dulce Et Decorum Est
Let the boy toughened by military service
learn how to make bitterest hardship his friend,
and as a horseman, with fearful lance,
go to vex the insolent Parthians,
spending his life in the open, in the heart
of dangerous action. And seeing him, from
the enemy’s walls, let the warring
tyrant’s wife, and her grown-up daughter, sigh:
‘Ah, don’t let the inexperienced lover
provoke the lion that’s dangerous to touch,
whom a desire for blood sends raging
so swiftly through the core of destruction.’
It’s sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.
Yet death chases after the soldier who runs,
and it won’t spare the cowardly back
or the limbs, of peace-loving young men.
Virtue, that’s ignorant of sordid defeat,
shines out with its honour unstained, and never
takes up the axes or puts them down
at the request of a changeable mob.
Virtue, that opens the heavens for those who
did not deserve to die, takes a road denied
to others, and scorns the vulgar crowd
and the bloodied earth, on ascending wings.
And there’s a true reward for loyal silence:
I forbid the man who divulged those secret
rites of Ceres, to exist beneath
the same roof as I, or untie with me
the fragile boat: often careless Jupiter
included the innocent with the guilty,
but lame-footed Punishment rarely
forgets the wicked man, despite his start.
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