"Victory or Death!" began Then, first, the Roman chief; and Herrman spake Not, but home-struck: the eagles fluttered—brake. So sped the second day.
And the third came...the cry was "Flight or Death!" Flight left they not for them whom make them slaves— Men who stab children! flight for them!. . .no! graves! "Twas their last day."
Yet spared they messengers: they came to Rome— How drooped the plume—the lance was left to trail Down in the dust behind—their cheek was pale— So came the messengers to Rome.
High in his hall the imperator sat— Octavius Caesar Augustus sat. They filled up wine-cups, wine-cups filled they up For him the highest—wine-cups filled they up For him the highest, Jove of all their state.
The flutes of Lydia hushed before their voice, Before the messengers—the"Highest" sprung- The god* against the marble pillars, wrung By the dread words, striking his brow, and thrice Cried he aloud in anguish, "Varus! Varus! Give back my legions, Varus!"
And now the world-wide conquerors shrunk and feared For fatherland and home, The lance to raise; and 'mongst those false to Rome The death-lot rolled,† and still they shrunk and feared; "For she her face hath turned The victor goddess," cried those cowards—(for aye Be it!)—"from Rome and Romans, and her day Is done"—and still be mourned, And cried aloud in anguish, "Varus! Varus! Give back my legions. Varus!"‡
- Augustus was worshiped as a deity in his lifetime,
† See supra p. 139.
‡ I have taken this translation from an anonymous writer in "Frazer," two years ago.