Canto the Ninth

So long as he was engaged
In drawing up his men
Or riding about to give orders
Or directions
Or to view them
He spared Bucephalus
Who was now growing old
And made use of another horse
But when he was actually to fight
He sent for him again
And as soon as he was mounted
Commenced the attack.

He made the longest address
That day
To the Thessalians and other Greeks
Who answered him with
Loud shouts
Desiring him to lead them on
Against the barbarians
Upon which he shifted his javelin
Into his left hand
And with his right lifted up
Towards heaven
Besought the gods
That if he was of a truth the son of Jupiter
They would be pleased to assist
And strengthen
The Grecians.

At the same time the augur Aristander
Who had a white mantle about him
And a crown of gold on his head
Rode by and showed them an eagle
That soared just over Alexander
And directed his flight towards the enemy
Which so animated the beholders
That after mutual encouragements
And exhortations
The horse charged at full speed
And were followed in a mass
By the whole phalanx
Of the foot.

But before they could well come to blows with the first ranks
The barbarians shrunk back
And were hotly pursued by Alexander
Who drove those that fled before him
Into the middle of the battle
Where Darius himself was in person
Whom he saw from a distance over
The foremost ranks
Conspicuous in the midst of his life-guard
A tall and fine-looking man
Drawn in a lofty chariot
Defended by an abundance of the best horse
Who stood close in order about it
Ready to receive
The enemy.

But Alexander's approach was so terrible
Forcing those who gave back
Upon those who yet maintained their ground
That he beat down and dispersed them
Almost all
Only a few of the bravest and valiantest
Opposed the pursuit
Who were slain in their king's presence
Falling in heaps upon one another
And in the very pangs of death
Striving to catch hold of
The horses.

© 2004 by Michael J. Farrand

Story taken from the life of Alexander found in Plutarch's Lives, written originally as Parallel Lives by the Greek historian Plutarch, who lived roughly 50-125 A.D.

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