Cannae

Save where Garganus, with low--ridgèd bound,
Protects the North, the eye outstretching far
Surveys one sea of gently--swelling ground,
A fitly--moulded ``Orchestra of War.''


Here Aufidus, between his humble banks
With wild thyme plotted, winds along the plain,
A devious path, as when the serried ranks
Passed over it, that passed not back again.


The long--horned herds enjoy the cool delight,
Sleeping half--merged, to shun the deep sun--glow,
Which, that May--morning, dazed the Roman sight,
But fell innocuous on the subtler foe.


We feel the wind upon our bosoms beat,
That whilom dimmed with dust those noble eyes,
And rendered aimless many a gallant feat,
And brought disgrace on many a high emprise.


And close beside us rests the ancient well,
Where at the end of that accursed day,
Apulian peasants to their grandsons tell,
The friend and follower of wise Fabius lay;


Here fainting lay, compelled by fate to share
Shame not his own,--here spurned the scanty time
Still left for flight, lest, living, he might bear
Hard witness to his colleague's generous crime.


I have seen many fields where men have fought
With mightier issues, but not one, I deem,
Where history offers to reflecting thought,
So sharp a check of greatness so supreme.

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