By E.W. GODWIN. (From Lucan.)
When Sextus sought Erichtho he chose his time in the depth of the night, when the sun is at its lowermost distance from the upper sky. He took for companions the associates of his crimes. Wandering among broken graves and crumbling sepulchres, they discovered her, sitting sublime on a ragged rock, where Mount Haemus stretches its roots to the Pharsalic field. She was mumbling charms of the Magi and the magical gods. For she feared that the war might yet be transferred to other than the Emathian fields. The sorceress was busy therefore enchanting the soil of Philippi, and scattering on its surface the juice of potent herbs, that it might be heaped with carcasses of the dead, and saturated with their blood, that Macedon, and not Italy, might receive the bodies of departed kings and the bones of the noble, and might be amply peopled with the shades of men. Her choicest labour was as to the earth where should be deposited the prostrate Pompey, or the limbs of the mighty Caesar.
Sextus approached, and bespoke her thus: “Oh, glory of Haemonia, that hast the power to divulge the fates of men, or canst turn aside fate itself from its prescribed course, I pray thee to exercise thy gift in disclosing events to come. Not the meanest of the Roman race am I, the offspring of an illustrious chieftain, lord of the world in the one case, or in the other the destined heir to my father’s calamity. I stand on a tremendous and giddy height: snatch me from this posture of doubt; let me not blindly rush on, and blindly fall; extort this secret from the gods, or force the dead to confess what they know.”
To whom the Thessalian crone replied: “If you asked to change the fate of an individual, though it were to restore an old man, decrepit with age, to vigorous youth, I could comply; but to break the eternal chain of causes and consequences exceeds even our power. You seek, however, only a foreknowledge of events to come, and you shall be gratified. Meanwhile it were best, where slaughter has afforded so ample a field, to select the body of one newly deceased, and whose flexible organs shall be yet capable of speech, not with lineaments already hardened in the sun.”