Aeger in adversis animus sapientis, et aegre
consulit ipse sibi cum duro tempore primis
diffidit rebus et spes languescit inermis.
nam quid agat Darius? quo se regat ordine demens?
cui nec tuta fuga est, nec si velit ipse morari,
inveniet socios. nam de tot milibus ante
quos sibi crediderat, bello vix mille supersunt
qui stent pro patria. pudor et reverentia famae
ne fugiant prohibent, contra timor anxius urget.
dumque vacillanti stupefactus pectore nutat,
dum dubitat rapiatne fugam vitamne perosus
se sinat ipse capi, Persae velut agmine facto
mandant terga fugae rapiuntque per arva relicto
rege gradum. laxis tunc demum invitus habenis
nactus equum Darius rorantia caede suorum
retrogrado fugit arva gradu. quo tendis inertem,
rex periture, fugam? nescis, heu perdite, nescis
quem fugias! hostes incurris dum fugis hostem.
incidis in Scyllam cupiens vitare Charybdim.
Bessus, Narbazanes, rerum pars magna tuarum,
quos inter proceres humili de plebe locasti,
non veriti temerare fidem capitisque verendi
perdere canitiem, spreto moderamine iuris,
proh pudor, in domini coniurant fata clientes.
(Walter of Châtillon, Alexandreis 5.283-306)
Adversity left faint the wise man’s spirit;
faint counsel could he offer to himself,
while hope languished defenseless, and remorse
for earlier undertakings now consumed him.
Which way should Darius turn? Amidst his madness
how should he rule himself, when flight’s not safe,
nor may he find companions, if he tarries?
Of many thousands whom he’d earlier trusted,
scarcely a thousand had survived the war
to shield their country. Shame and reputation
forbade his flight, yet trepidation urged it.
But while his wavering breast still trembled, dumbstruck,
while yet he half resolved to take his flight,
or else, in hatred of his life, to welcome
his captor’s chains, the Persians turned their backs
almost as one, as though still in formation,
and rushed across the fields, leaving their king.
Unwillingly, at last he loosed the reins
upon the horse he’d seized, and so retreated
through lands bedewed with slaughter of his men.
Doomed king, where will your aimless flight direct you?
You know not, lost man, whom you flee, you know not,
but run to meet your foe while foe you flee.
You fall to Scylla while you shun Charybdis.
Bessus, Narbazanes, your wealth’s great sharers,
feel no dread breaking fealty, though you raised
them both to princely rank from lowly station;
but spurning all the governance of law,
in their lord’s death—great shame!—these slaves conspire.
(tr. David Townsend)