Myscelus builds the city of Crotona
While this was happening, they began to seek
for one who could endure the weight of such
a task and could succeed a king so great;
and Fame, the harbinger of truth, destined
illustrious Numa for the sovereign power.
It did not satisfy his heart to know
only the Sabine ceremonials,
and he conceived in his expansive mind
much greater views, examining the depth
and cause of things. His country and his cares
forgotten, this desire led him to visit
the city that once welcomed Hercules.
Numa desired to know what founder built
a Grecian city on Italian shores.
One of the old inhabitants, who was well
acquainted with past history, replied:
"Rich in Iberian herds, the son of Jove
turned from the ocean and with favoring wind
'Tis said he landed on Lacinian shores.
And, while the herd strayed in the tender grass,
he visited the house, the friendly home,
of far-famed Croton. There he rested from
his arduous labors. At the time of his
departure, he said, 'Here in future days
shall be a city of your numerous race.'
The passing years have proved the promise true,
for Myscelus, choosing that site, marked out
a city's walls. Argive Alemon's son,
of all men in his generation, he
was most acceptable to the heavenly gods.
Bending over him once at dawn, while he
was overwhelmed with drowsiness of sleep,
the huge club-bearer Hercules addressed
him thus: 'Come now, desert your native shores.
Go quickly to the pebbly flowing stream
of distant Aesar.' And he threatened ill
in fearful words, unless he should obey.
"Sleep and the god departed instantly.
Alemon's son, arising from his couch,
pondered his recent vision thoughtfully,
with his conclusions at cross purposes. --
the god commanded him to quit that land,
the laws forbade departure, threatening death
to all who sought to leave their native land.
"The brilliant Sun had hidden in the sea
his shining head, and darkest Night had then
put forth her starry face; and at that time
it seemed as if the same god Hercules
was present and repeating his commands,
threatening still more and graver penalties,
if he should fail to obey. Now sore afraid
he set about to move his household gods
to a new settlement, but rumors then
followed him through the city, and he was
accused of holding statutes in contempt.
"The accusation hardly had been made
when his offense was evidently proved,
even without a witness. Then he raised
his face and hands up to the gods above
and suppliant in neglected garb, exclaimed,
'Oh mighty Hercules, for whom alone
the twice six labors gave the privilege
of heavenly residence, give me your aid,
for you were the true cause of my offence.'
"It was an ancient custom of that land
to vote with chosen pebbles, white and black.
The white absolved, the black condemned the man.
And so that day the fateful votes were given -- :
all cast into the cruel urn were black!
Soon as that urn inverted poured forth all
the pebbles to be counted, every one
was changed completely from its black to white,
and so the vote adjudged him innocent.
By that most fortunate aid of Hercules
he was exempted from the country's law.
"Myscelus, breathing thanks to Hercules,
with favoring wind sailed on the Ionian sea,
past Sallentine Neretum, Sybaris,
Spartan Tarentum, and the Sirine Bay,
Crimisa, and on beyond the Iapygian fields.
Then, skirting shores which face these lands, he found
the place foretold the river Aesar's mouth,
and found not far away a burial mound
which covered with its soil the hallowed bones
of Croton. -- There, upon the appointed land,
he built up walls -- and he conferred the name
of Croton, who was there entombed, on his
new city, which has ever since been called
Crotona." By tradition it is known
such strange deeds caused that city to be built,
by men of Greece upon the Italian coast.
Pythagoras teaches his philosophy
Here lived a man, by birth a Samian.
He had fled from Samos and the ruling class,
a voluntary exile, for his hate
against all tyranny. He had the gift
of holding mental converse with the gods,
who live far distant in the highth of heaven;
and all that Nature has denied to man
and human vision, he reviewed with eyes
of his enlightened soul. And, when he had
examined all things in his careful mind
with watchful study, he released his thoughts
to knowledge of the public.
to knowledge of the public. He would speak
to crowds of people, silent and amazed,
while he revealed to them the origin
of this vast universe, the cause of things,
what is nature, what a god, whence came the snow,
the cause of lightning -- was it Jupiter
or did the winds, that thundered when the cloud
was rent asunder, cause the lightning flash?
What shook the earth, what laws controlled the stars
as they were moved -- and every hidden thing
he was the first man to forbid the use
of any animal's flesh as human food,
he was the first to speak with learned lips,
though not believed in this, exhorting them. --
"No, mortals," he would say, "Do not permit
pollution of your bodies with such food,
for there are grain and good fruits which bear down
the branches by their weight, and ripened grapes
upon the vines, and herbs -- those sweet by nature
and those which will grow tender and mellow with
a fire, and flowing milk is not denied,
nor honey, redolent of blossoming thyme.
"The lavish Earth yields rich and healthful food
affording dainties without slaughter, death,
and bloodshed. Dull beasts delight to satisfy
their hunger with torn flesh; and yet not all:
horses and sheep and cattle live on grass.
But all the savage animals -- the fierce
Armenian tigers and ferocious lions,
and bears, together with the roving wolves --
delight in viands reeking with warm blood.
"Oh, ponder a moment such a monstrous crime --
vitals in vitals gorged, one greedy body
fattening with plunder of another's flesh,
a living being fed on another's life!
In that abundance, which our Earth, the best
of mothers, will afford have you no joy,
unless your savage teeth can gnaw
the piteous flesh of some flayed animal
to reenact the Cyclopean crime?
And can you not appease the hungry void --
the perverted craving of a stomach's greed,
unless you first destroy another life?
"That age of old time which is given the name
of 'Golden,' was so blest in fruit of trees,
and in the good herbs which the earth produced
that it never would pollute the mouth with blood.
The birds then safely moved their wings in air,
the timid hares would wander in the fields
with no fear, and their own credulity
had not suspended fishes from the hook.
All life was safe from treacherous wiles,
fearing no injury, a peaceful world.
"After that time some one of ill advice
(it does not matter who it might have been)
envied the ways of lions and gulped into
his greedy paunch stuff from a carcass vile.
He opened the foul paths of wickedness.
It may be that in killing beasts of prey
our steel was for the first time warmed with blood.
And that could be defended, for I hold
that predatory creatures which attempt
destruction of mankind, are put to death
without evasion of the sacred laws:
but, though with justice they are put to death,
that cannot be a cause for eating them.
"This wickedness went further; and the sow
was thought to have deserved death as the first
of victims, for with her long turned-up snout
she spoiled the good hope of a harvest year.
The ravenous goat, that gnawed a sprouting vine,
was led for slaughter to the altar fires
of angry Bacchus. It was their own fault
that surely caused the ruin of those two.
"But why have sheep deserved sad destiny,
harmless and useful for the good of man
with nectar in full udders? Their soft wool
affords the warmest coverings for our use,
their life and not their death would help us more.
Why have the oxen of the field deserved
a sad end -- innocent, without deceit,
and harmless, without guile, born to endure
hard labor? Without gratitude is he,
unworthy of the gift of harvest fields,
who, after he relieved his worker from
weight of the curving plow could butcher him,
could sever with an axe that toil worn neck,
by which so often with hard work the ground
had been turned up, so many harvests reared.
For some, even crimes like these are not enough,
they have imputed to the gods themselves
abomination -- they believe a god
in heaven above, rejoices at the death
of a laborious ox.
of a laborious ox. "A victim free
of blemish and most beautiful in form
(perfection brings destruction) is adorned
with garlands and with gilded horns before
the altar. In his ignorance he hears
one praying, and he sees the very grain
he labored to produce, fixed on his head
between the horns, and felled, he stains with blood
the knife which just before he may have seen
reflected in clear water. Instantly
they snatch out entrails from his throbbing form,
and seek in them intentions of the gods.
Then, in your lust for a forbidden food
you will presume to batten on his flesh,
O race of mortals! Do not eat such food!
Give your attention to my serious words;
and, when you next present the slaughtered flesh
of oxen to your palates, know and feel
that you gnaw your fellow tillers of the soil.
"And, since a god impels me to speak out,
I will obey the god who urges me,
and will disclose to you the heavens above,
and I will even reveal the oracles
of the Divine Will. I will sing to you
of things most wonderful, which never were
investigated by the intellects
of ancient times and things which have been long
concealed from man. In fancy I delight
to float among the stars or take my stand
on mighty Atlas' shoulders, and to look
afar down on men wandering here and there --
afraid in life yet dreading unknown death,
and in these words exhort them and reveal
the sequence of events ordained by fate!
"O sad humanity! Why do you fear
alarms of icy death, afraid of Styx,
fearful of moving shadows and empty names --
of subjects harped on by the poets' tales,
the fabled perils of a fancied life?
Whether the funeral pile consumes your flesh
with hot flames, or old age dissolves it with
a gradual wasting power, be well assured
the body cannot meet with further ill.
And souls are all exempt from power of death.
When they have left their first corporeal home,
they always find and live in newer homes.
"I can declare, for I remember well,
that in the days of the great Trojan War,
I was Euphorbus, son of Panthous.
In my opposing breast was planted then
the heavy spear-point of the younger son
of Atreus. Not long past I recognised
the shield, once burden of my left arm, where
it hung in Juno's temple at ancient Argos,
the realm of Abas. Everything must change:
but nothing perishes. The moving soul
may wander, coming from that spot to this,
from this to that -- in changed possession live
in any limbs whatever. It may pass
from beasts to human bodies, and again
to those of beasts. The soul will never die,
in the long lapse of time. As pliant wax
is moulded to new forms and does not stay
as it has been nor keep the self same form
yet is the selfsame wax, be well assured
the soul is always the same spirit, though
it passes into different forms. Therefore,
that natural love may not be vanquished by
unnatural craving of the appetite,
I warn you, stop expelling kindred souls
by deeds abhorrent as cold murder. -- Let
not blood be nourished with its kindred blood!
"Since I am launched into the open sea
and I have given my full sails to the wind,
nothing in all the world remains unchanged.
All things are in a state of flux, all shapes
receive a changing nature. Time itself
glides on with constant motion, ever as
a flowing river. Neither river nor
the fleeting hour can stop its constant course.
But, as each wave drives on a wave, as each
is pressed by that which follows, and must press
on that before it, so the moments fly,
and others follow, so they are renewed.
The moment which moved on before is past,
and that which was not, now exists in Time,
and every one comes, goes, and is replaced.
"You see how night glides by and then proceeds
on to the dawn, then brilliant light of day
succeeds the dark night. There is not the same
appearance in the heavens,: when all things
for weariness are resting in vast night,
as when bright Lucifer rides his white steed.
And only think of that most glorious change,
when loved Aurora, Pallas' daughter, comes
before the day and tints the world, almost
delivered to bright Phoebus. Even the disk
of that god, rising from beneath the earth,
is of a ruddy color in the dawn
and ruddy when concealed beneath the world.
When highest, it is a most brilliant white,
for there the ether is quite purified,
and far away avoids infection from
impurities of earth. Diana's form
at night remains not equal nor the same!
'Tis less today than it will be tomorrow,
if she is waxing; greater, if she wanes.
"Yes, do you not see how the year moves through
four seasons, imitating human life:
in early Spring it has a nursling's ways
resembling infancy, for at that time
the blade is shooting and devoid of strength.
Its flaccid substance swelling gives delight,
to every watching husbandman, alive
in expectation. Then all things are rich
in blossom, and the genial meadow smiles
with tints of blooming flowers; but not as yet
is there a sign of vigor in the leaves.
"The year now waxing stronger, after Spring
it passes into Summer, and its youth
becomes robust. Indeed of all the year
the Summer is most vigorous and most
abounds with glowing and life-giving warmth.
"Autumn then follows, and, the vim of life
removed, that ripe and mellow time succeeds
between youth and old age, and a few white hairs
are sprinkled here and there upon his brow.
"Then aged Winter with his tremulous step
follows, repulsive, strips of graceful locks
or white with those he has retained so long.
"Our bodies also, always change unceasingly:
we are not now what we were yesterday
or we shall be tomorrow. And there was
a time when we were only seeds of man,
mere hopes that lived within a mother's womb.
But Nature changed us with her skilfull touch,
determined that our bodies should not be
held in such narrow room, below the entrails
in our distended parent; and in time
she brought us forth into the vacant air.
"Brought into light, the helpless infant lies.
Then on all fours he lifts his body up,
feeling his way, like any young wild beast,
and then by slow degrees he stands upright,
weak-kneed and trembling, steadied by support
of some convenient prop. And soon more strong
and swift he passes through the hours of youth,
and, when the years of middle age are past,
slides down the steep path of declining age.
"This undermines him and destroys the strength
of former years: and Milon, now grown old,
weeps, when he sees his arms, which once were firm
with muscles big as those of Hercules,
hang flabby at his side: and Helen weeps,
when in the glass she sees her wrinkled face,
and wonders why two heroes fell in love
and carried her away. -- O Time,
devourer of all things, and envious Age,
together you destroy all that exists
and, slowly gnawing, bring on lingering death.
"Yes, even things which we call elements,
do not endure. Now listen well to me,
and I will show the ways in which they change.
"The everlasting universe contains
four elemental parts. And two of these
are heavy -- earth and water -- and are borne
downwards by weight. The other two devoid
of weight, are air and -- even lighter -- fire:
and, if these two are not constrained, they seek
the higher regions. These four elements,
though far apart in space, are all derived
from one another. Earth dissolves
as flowing water! Water, thinned still more,
departs as wind and air; and the light air,
still losing weight, sparkles on high as fire.
But they return, along their former way:
the fire, assuming weight, is changed to air;
and then, more dense, that air is changed again
to water; and that water, still more dense,
compacts itself again as primal earth.
"Nothing retains the form that seems its own,
and Nature, the renewer of all things,
continually changes every form
into some other shape. Believe my word,
in all this universe of vast extent,
not one thing ever perished. All have changed
appearance. Men say a certain thing is born,
if it takes a different form from what it had;
and yet they say, that certain thing has died,
if it no longer keeps the self same shape.
Though distant things move near, and near things far,
always the sum of all things is unchanged.
"For my part, I cannot believe a thing
remains long under the same form unchanged.
Look at the change of times from gold to iron,:
look at the change in places. I have seen
what had been solid earth become salt waves,
and I have seen dry land made from the deep;
and, far away from ocean, sea-shells strewn,
and on the mountain-tops old anchors found.
Water has made that which was once a plain
into a valley, and the mountain has
been levelled by the floods down to a plain.
A former marshland is now parched dry sand,
and places which endured severest drought
are wet with standing pools. Here Nature has
opened fresh springs, but there has shut them up;
rivers aroused by ancient earthquakes have
rushed out or vanished, as they lost their depth.
"So, when the Lycus has been swallowed by
a chasm in the earth, it rushes forth
at a distance and is reborn a different stream.
The Erasinus now flows down into a cave,
now runs beneath the ground a darkened course,
then rises lordly in the Argolic fields.
They say the Mysus, wearied of his spring
and of his former banks, appears elsewhere
and takes another name, the Caicus.
"The Amenanus in Sicilian sands
now smoothly rolling, at another time
is quenched, because its fountain springs are dry.
The water of the Anigros formerly
was used for drinking, but it pours out now
foul water which you would decline to touch,
because (unless all credit is denied
to poets) long ago the Centaurs, those
strange mortals double-limbed, bathed in the stream
wounds which club-bearing Hercules had made
with his strong bow. -- Yes, does not Hypanis
descending fresh from mountains of Sarmatia,
become embittered with the taste of salt?
"Antissa, Pharos, and Phoenician Tyre,
were once surrounded by the wavy sea:
they are not islands now. Long years ago
Leucas was mainland, if we can believe
what the old timers there will tell, but now
the waves sweep round it. Zancle was a part
of Italy, until the sea cut off
the neighboring land with strong waves in between.
Should you seek Helice and Buris, those
two cities of Achaea, you will find
them underneath the waves, where sailors point
to sloping roofs and streets in the clear deep.
"Near Pittheaan Troezen a steep, high hill,
quite bare of trees, was once a level plain,
but now is a hill, for (dreadful even to tell)
the raging power of winds, long pent in deep,
dark caverns, tried to find a proper vent,
long struggling to attain free sky.
Finding no opening from the prison-caves,
imperious to their force, they raised the earth,
exactly as pent air breathed from the mouth
inflates a bladder, or the bottle-hides
stripped off the two-horned goats. The swollen earth
remained on that spot and has ever since
appearance of a high hill hardened by
the flight of time.
the flight of time. "Of many strange events
that I have heard and known, I will add a few.
Why, does not water give and take strange forms?
Your wave, O horned Ammon, will turn cold
at mid-day, but is always mild and warm
at sun-rise and at sun-set. I have heard
that Athamanians kindle wood, if they
pour water on it, when the waning moon
has shrunk away into her smallest orb.
The people of Ciconia have a stream
which turns the drinker's entrails into stone,
which changes into marble all it raves.
The Achaean Crathis and the Sybaris,
which flow not far from here, will turn the hair
to something like clear amber or bright gold.
"What is more wonderful, there are some waters
which change not only bodies but the minds:
who has no knowledge of the Salmacis
and of its ill famed waves? Who has not
heard of the lakes of Aethiopia:
how those who drink of them go raving mad
or fall in a deep sleep, most wonderful
in heaviness. Whoever quenches thirst
from the Clitorian spring will hate all wine,
and soberly secure great pleasure from
pure water. Either that spring has a power
the opposite of wine-heat, or perhaps
as natives tell us, after the famed son
of Amythaon by his charms and herbs,
delivered from their base insanity
the stricken Proetides, he threw the rest
of his mind healing herbs into the spring,
where hatred of all wine has since remained.
Unlike in nature flows another stream
of the country, called Lyncestius: everyone
who drinks of it, even with most temperate care,
will reel, as if he had drunk unmixed wine.
In Arcadia is a place, called Pheneos
by men of old, which is mistrusted for
the twofold nature of its waters. Stand
in dread of them at night; if drunk at night,
they harm you, but in daytime they will do
no harm at all.
no harm at all. So lakes and rivers have
now this, now that effect.
now this, now that effect. "Ortygia once
moved like a ship that drifts among the waves.
Now it is fixed. The Argo was in dread
of the Symplegades, which moved apart
with waves in-rushing. Now immovable
they stand, resisting the attack of winds.
"Aetna, which burns with sulphur furnaces,
will not be always concentrated fire,
nor was it always fiery. If the earth
is like an animal and is alive
and breathes out flame at many openings,
then it can change these many passages
used for its breathing and, when it is moved,
may close these caverns as it opens up
some others. Or if rushing winds are penned
in deepest caverns, and they drive great stones
against the rock, and substances which have
the properties of flame and fire are made
by those concussions; when the winds are calmed
the caverns will, of course, be cool again.
"Or if some black bitumen catches fire
or yellow sulphur burns with little smoke,
then surely, when the ground no longer gives
such food and oily nutriment for flames
and they in time have ravined all their store,
their greedy nature soon will pine with death --
it will not bear such famine but depart
and, when deserted, will desert the place.
"'Tis said that Hyperboreans of Pallene
can cover all their bodies with light plumes
by plunging nine times in Minerva's marsh.
But I cannot believe another tale:
that Scythian women get a like result
by having poison sprinkled on their limbs.
"If we give any credit to the things
proved by experience, we can surely know
whatever bodies are decayed by time
or by dissolving heat are by such means
changed into tiny animals -- Come now,
bury choice bullocks killed for sacrifice,
and it is well known by experience
that the flower-gathering bees are so produced,
miraculous, from entrails putrefied.
These, like the faithful animals from which
they were produced, inhabit the green fields,
delight in toil, and labor for reward.
"The warlike steed, when buried in the ground,
is a known source of hornets. If you cut
the bending claws off from the sea-shore crab
and bury the remainder in the earth,
a scorpion will come forth from the dead crab
buried there, threatening with its crooked tail.
"The worms which cover leaves with their white threads,
a thing observable by husbandmen,
will change themselves to funeral butterflies.
Mud holds the seeds that generate green frogs,
at first producing tadpoles with no feet,
and soon it gives them legs adapted for
their swimming, and, so they may be as well
adapted to good leaping, their hind legs
are longer than the fore-legs. The mother bear
does not bring forth a cub but a limp mass
of flesh that hardly can be called alive.
By licking it the mother forms the limbs,
and brings it to a shape just like her own.
"Do not the offspring of the honey bees,
concealed in cells hexagonal, at first
get life with no limbs, and assume in time
both feet and wings? Unless the fact were known,
could anyone suppose it possible
that Juno's bird, whose tail is bright with stars;
the eagle, armor-bearer of high Jove;
the doves of Cytherea; and all birds
emerge from the middle part of eggs?
And some believe the human marrow turns
into a serpent when the spine at length
has putrefied in the closed sepulchre.
"Now these I named derive their origin
from other living forms. There is one bird
which reproduces and renews itself:
the Assyrians gave this bird his name -- the Phoenix.
He does not live either on grain or herbs,
but only on small drops of frankincense
and juices of amomum. When this bird
completes a full five centuries of life
straightway with talons and with shining beak
he builds a nest among palm branches, where
they join to form the palm tree's waving top.
"As soon as he has strewn in this new nest
the cassia bark and ears of sweet spikenard,
and some bruised cinnamon with yellow myrrh,
he lies down on it and refuses life
among those dreamful odors. -- And they say
that from the body of the dying bird
is reproduced a little Phoenix which
is destined to live just as many years.
"When time has given to him sufficient strength
and he is able to sustain the weight,
he lifts the nest up from the lofty tree
and dutifully carries from that place
his cradle and the parent's sepulchre.
As soon as he has reached through yielding air
the city of Hyperion, he will lay
the burden just before the sacred doors
within the temple of Hyperion.
"But, if we wonder at strange things like these,
we ought to wonder also, when we learn
that a hyena has a change of sex:
the female, quitting her embracing male,
herself becomes a male. -- That animal
which feeds upon the winds and air, at once
assumes with contact any color touched.
"Conquered India gave to the vine crowned Bacchus
lynxes, whose urine turns, they say to stones,
hardening in air. So coral, too, as soon
as it has risen above the sea, turns hard.
Below the waves it was a tender plant.
"The day will fail me; Phoebus will have bathed
his panting horses in the deep sea waves,
before I can include in my discourse
the myriad things transforming to new shapes.
In lapse of time we see the nations change;
some grow in power, some wane. Troy was once great
in riches and in men -- so great she could
for ten unequalled years afford much blood;
now she lies low and offers to our gaze
but ancient ruins and, instead of wealth,
ancestral tombs. Sparta was famous once
and great Mycenae was most flourishing.
And Cecrops' citadel and Amphion's shone
in ancient power. Sparta is nothing now
save barren ground, the proud Mycenae fell,
what is the Thebes of storied Oedipus
except a name? And of Pandion's Athens
what now remains beyond the name?
"Reports come to me that Dardanian Rome
is rising, and beside the Tiber's waves,
whose springs are high in the Apennines, is laying
her deep foundations. So in her growth
her form is changing, and one day she will
be the sole mistress of the boundless world.
"They say that soothsayers and that oracles,
revealers of our destiny, declare
this fate, and, if I recollect it right,
Helenus, son of Priam, prophesied
unto Aeneas, when he was in doubt
of safety and lamenting for the state
of Troy, about to fall, 'O, son of a goddess,
if you yourself, will fully understand
this prophecy now surging in my mind
Troy shall not, while you are preserved to life
fall utterly. Flames and the sword shall give
you passage. You shall go and bear away
Pergama, ruined; till a foreign soil,
more friendly to you than your native land,
shall be the lot of Troy and of yourself.
"Even now I know it is decreed by Fate
that our posterity, born far from Troy,
will build a city greater than exists,
or ever will exist, or ever has
been seen in former times. Through a long lapse
of ages other noted men shall make
it strong, but one of the race of Iulus;
shall make it the great mistress of the world.
After the earth has thoroughly enjoyed
his glorious life, aetherial abodes
shall gain him, and immortal heaven shall be
his destiny.' Such was the prophesy
of Helenus, when great Aeneas took
away his guardian deities, and I
rejoice to see my kindred walls rise high
and realize how much the Trojans won
by that resounding victory of the Greeks!
"But, that we may not range afar with steeds
forgetful of the goal, the heavens and all
beneath them and the earth and everything
upon it change in form. We likewise change,
who are a portion of the universe,
and, since we are not only things of flesh
but winged souls as well, we may be doomed
to enter into beasts as our abode;
and even to be hidden in the breasts
of cattle. Therefore, should we not allow
these bodies to be safe which may contain
the souls of parents, brothers, or of those
allied to us by kinship or of men
at least, who should be saved from every harm?
Let us not gorge down a Thyestean feast!
"How greatly does a man disgrace himself,
how impiously does he prepare himself
for shedding human blood, who with a knife
cuts the calf's throat and offers a deaf ear
to its death-longings! who can kill the kid
while it is sending forth heart rending cries
like those of a dear child; or who can feed
upon the bird which he has given food.
How little do such deeds as these fall short
of actual murder? Yes, where will they lead?
"Let the ox plough, or let him owe his death
to weight of years; and let the sheep give us
defence against the cold of Boreas;
and let the well-fed she-goats give to man
their udders for the pressure of kind hands.
"Away with cruel nets and springs and snares
and fraudulent contrivances: deceive
not birds with bird-limed twigs: do not deceive
the trusting deer with dreaded feather foils:
do not conceal barbed hooks with treacherous bait:
if any beast is harmful, take his life,
but, even so, let killing be enough.
Taste not his flesh, but look for harmless food!"
Egeria changed into a fountain
They say that Numa with a mind well taught
by these and other precepts traveled back
to his own land and, being urged again,
assumed the guidance of the Latin state.
Blest with a nymph as consort, blest also with
the Muses for his guides, he taught the rites
of sacrifice and trained in arts of peace
a race accustomed long to savage war.
When, ripe in years, he ended reign and life,
the Latin matrons, the fathers of the state,
and all the people wept for Numa's death.
For the nymph, his widow, had withdrawn from Rome,
concealed within the thick groves of the vale
Aricia, where with groans and wailing she
disturbed the holy rites of Cynthia,
established by Orestes. Ah! how often
nymphs of the grove and lake entreated her
to cease and offered her consoling words.
How often the son of Theseus said to her
"Control your sorrow; surely your sad lot
is not the only one; consider now
the like calamities by others borne,
and you can bear your sorrow. To my grief
my own disaster was far worse than yours.
At least it can afford you comfort now.
"Is it not true, discourse has reached yours ears
that one Hippolytus met with his death
through the credulity of his loved sire,
deceived by a stepmother's wicked art?
It will amaze you much, and I may fail
to prove what I declare, but I am he!
Long since the daughter of Pasiphae
tempted me to defile my father's bed
and, failing, feigned that I had wished to do
what she herself had wished. Perverting truth --
either through fear of some discovery
or else through spite at her deserved repulse --
she charged me with attempting the foul crime.
"Though I was guiltless of all wrong,
my father banished me and, while I was
departing, laid on me a mortal curse.
Towards Pittheus and Troezen I fled aghast,
guiding the swift chariot near the shore
of the Corinthian Gulf, when all at once
the sea rose up and seemed to arch itself
and lift high as a white topped mountain height,
make bellowings, and open at the crest.
Then through the parting waves a horned bull
emerged with head and breast into the wind,
spouting white foam from his nostrils and his mouth.
"The hearts of my attendants quailed with fear,
yet I unfrightened thought but of my exile.
Then my fierce horses turned their necks to face
the waters, and with ears erect they quaked
before the monster shape, they dashed in flight
along the rock strewn ground below the cliff.
I struggled, but with unavailing hand,
to use the reins now covered with white foam;
and throwing myself back, pulled on the thongs
with weight and strength. Such effort might have checked
the madness of my steeds, had not a wheel,
striking the hub on a projecting stump,
been shattered and hurled in fragments from the axle.
"I was thrown forward from my chariot
and with the reins entwined about my legs.
My palpitating entrails could be seen
dragged on, my sinews fastened on a stump.
My torn legs followed, but a part
remained behind me, caught by various snags.
The breaking bones gave out a crackling noise,
my tortured spirit soon had fled away,
no part of the torn body could be known --
all that was left was only one crushed wound --
how can, how dare you, nymph, compare your ills
to my disaster?
to my disaster? "I saw the Lower World
deprived of light: and I have bathed my flesh,
so tortured, in the waves of Phlegethon.
Life could not have been given again to me,
but through the remedies Apollo's son
applied to me. After my life returned --
by potent herbs and the Paeonian aid,
despite the will of Pluto -- Cynthia then
threw heavy clouds around that I might not
be seen and cause men envy by new life:
and that she might be sure my life was safe
she made me seem an old man; and she changed
me so that I could not be recognized.
"A long time she debated whether she
would give me Crete or Delos for my home.
Delos and Crete abandoned, she then brought
me here, and at the same time ordered me
to lay aside my former name -- one which
when mentioned would remind me of my steeds.
She said to me, 'You were Hippolytus,
but now instead you shall be Virbius.'
And from that time I have inhabited
this grove; and, as one of the lesser gods,
I live concealed and numbered in her train."
The grief of others could not ease the woe
of sad Egeria, and she laid herself
down at a mountain's foot, dissolved in tears,
till moved by pity for her faithful sorrow,
Diana changed her body to a spring,
her limbs into a clear continual stream.
Cippus with horns
This wonderful event surprised the nymphs,
and filled Hippolytus with wonder, just
as great as when the Etrurian ploughman saw
a fate-revealing clod move of its own
accord among the fields, while not a hand
was touching it, till finally it took
a human form, without the quality
of clodded earth, and opened its new mouth
and spoke, revealing future destinies.
The natives called him Tages. He was the first
who taught Etrurians to foretell events.
They were astonished even as Romulus,
when he observed the spear, which once had grown
high on the Palatine, put out new leaves
and stand with roots -- not with the iron point
which he had driven in. Not as a spear
it then stood there, but as a rooted tree
with limber twigs for many to admire
while resting under that surprising shade.
Or, as when Cippus first observed his horns
in the clear stream (he truly saw them there).
Believing he had seen a falsity,
he often touched his forehead with his hand
and, so returning, touched the thing he saw.
Assured at last that he could trust his eyes,
he stood entranced, as if he had returned
victorious from the conquest of his foes:
and, raising eyes and hands toward heaven, he cried,
"You gods above! Whatever is foretold
by this great prodigy, if it means good,
then let it be auspicious to my land
and to the inhabitants of Quirinus, --
if ill, let that misfortune fall on me."
He made an offering at new altars, built
of grassy thick green turf, with fragrant fires,
presenting wine in bowls. And he took note
of panting entrails from new-slaughtered sheep,
to learn the meaning of the event for him.
When an Etruscan seer examined them,
he found the evidence of great events,
as yet obscure, and, when he raised keen eyes
up from the entrails to the horns of Cippus,
"O king, all hail!" he cried, "For in future time
this country and the Latin towers will live
in homage to you, Cippus, and your horns.
But you must promptly put aside delay;
hasten to enter the wide open gates --
the fates command you. Once received within
the city, you shall be its chosen king
and safely shall enjoy a lasting reign."
Cippus retreated, and he turned his grave
eyes from the city's walls and said, "O far,
O far away, the righteous gods should drive
such omens from me! Better it would be
that I should pass my life in exile than
be seen a king throned in the capitol."
Such words he spoke and forthwith he convoked
the people and the grave and honored Senate.
But first he veiled his horns with laurel, which
betokens peace. Then, standing on a mound
raised by the valiant troops, he made a prayer
after the ancient mode, and then he said,
"There is one here who will be king, if you
do not expel him from your city -- I
will show him to you surely by a sign;
although I will not tell his name. He wears
horns on his head. The augur prophecies
that, if he enters this your city, he
will give you laws as if you were his slaves.
"He might have forced his way within your gates,
for they stand open, but I have hindered him,
although nobody is to him so close
as I myself. Good Romans, then, forbid
your city to this man; or, if you find
that he deserves still worse, then bind him fast
with heavy fetters; or else end your fears
by knowledge of the destined tyrant's death."
As murmurs which arise among the groves
of pine trees thick above us, when the fierce
east wind is whistling in them, or as sound
produced by breaking waves, when it is heard
afar off, such the noise made by the crowd.
But in that angry stirring of the throng
one cry could be distinguished, "Which is he?"
And they examined foreheads, and they sought
predicted horns. Cippus then spoke again:
"The man whom you demand," he said, "is here!"
And, fearless of the people, he threw back
the chaplet from his forehead, so that all
could see his temples plainly, wonderful
for their two horns. All then turned down their eyes
and uttered groans and (was it possible?)
they looked unwillingly upon that head
famed for its merit. They could not permit
him to remain there long, deprived
of honors, and they placed upon his head
the festive chaplet. And the Senate gave
you, Cippus, since you nevermore must come
within the walls, a proof of their esteem --
so much land as your oxen and their plow
could circle round from dawn to setting sun.
Moreover they engraved the shapely horns
on the bronze pillars of the city gate,
which for long ages kept his name revered.
Aesculapius brought to Rome
Relate, O Muses, guardian deities
of poets (for you know, and the remote
antiquity conceals it not from you),
the reason why an island, which the deep stream
of Tiber closed about, has introduced
Coronis' child among the deities
guarding the city of famed Romulus.
A dire contagion had infested long
the Latin air, and men's pale bodies were
deformed by a consumption that dried up
the blood. When, frightened by so many deaths,
they found all mortal efforts could avail
them nothing, and physicians' skill had no
effect, they sought the aid of heaven. They sent
envoys to Delphi center of the world,
and they entreated Phoebus to give aid
in their distress, and by response renew
their wasting lives and end a city's woe.
While ground, and laurels and the quivers which
the god hung there all shook, the tripod gave
this answer from the deep recesses hid
within the shrine, and stirred with trembling their
astonished hearts --
astonished hearts -- "What you are seeking here,
O Romans, you should seek for nearer you.
Then seek it nearer, for you do not need
Apollo to relieve your wasting plague,
you need Apollo's son. Go then to him
with a good omen and invite his aid."
After the prudent Senate had received
Phoebus Apollo's words, they took much pains
to learn what town the son of Phoebus might
inhabit. They despatched ambassadors
under full sail to the coast of Epidaurus.
When the curved ships had touched the shore, these men
in haste went to the Grecian elders there
and prayed that Rome might have the deity
whose presence would drive out the mortal ill
from their Ausonian nation; for they knew
response unerring had directed them.
The councillors dismayed, could not agree
on their reply: some thought that aid ought not
to be refused, but many more held back,
declaring it was wise to keep the god
for their own safety and not give away
a guardian deity. And, while they talked,
discussing it, the twilight had expelled
the waning day, and darkness on the earth
spread a thick mantle over the wide world.
Then in your sleep, the healing deity
appeared, O Roman leader, by your couch,
as in his temple he is used to stand,
holding in his left hand a rustic staff.
Stroking his long beard with his right, he seemed
to utter from his kindly breast these words:
"Forget your fears; for I will come to you,
and leave my altar. But now look well at
the serpent with its binding folds entwined
around this staff, and accurately mark
it with your eyes that you may recognize it.
I will transform myself into this shape
but of a greater size, I will appear
enlarged and of a magnitude to which
a heavenly being ought to be transformed."
The god departed, when he said those words;
and sleep went, when the god and words were gone;
and genial light came, when the sleep had left.
The morning then dispersed fire-given stars.
The envoys met together in much doubt
within the temple of the long sought god.
They prayed the god to indicate for them,
by clear celestial tokens, in what spot
he wished to dwell.
he wished to dwell. Scarce had they ceased the prayer
for guidance, when the god all glittering
with gold and as a serpent, crest erect,
sent forth a hissing as to notify
a quick approach -- and in his coming shook
his statue and the altars and the doors,
the marble pavement and the gilded roof.
Then up to his breast the serpent stood erect
within the temple. He gazed on all with eyes
that sparkled fire. The waiting multitude
was frightened; but the priest, his chaste hair bound
with a white fillet, knew the deity.
"Behold the god!" he cried, "It is the god.
Think holy thoughts and walk in reverent silence,
all who are present. Oh, most Beautiful,
let us behold you to our benefit,
and give aid to this people that performs
your sacred rites."
your sacred rites." All present then adored
the deity as bidden by the priest.
The multitude repeated his good words,
and the descendants of Aeneas gave
good omen, with their feelings and their speech.
Nodding well pleased and moving his great crest,
the god at once assured them of his favor
and hissed repeatedly with darting tongue.
And then he glided down the polished steps;
turned back his head; and, ready to depart,
gazed on the altars he had known for so long --
a last salute to the temple of his love.
While all the people strewed his way with flowers,
the great snake wound in sinuous course along
and, passing through the middle of their town,
came to the harbor and its curving wall.
He stopped there, and it seemed that he dismissed
his train and dutiful attendant crowd,
and with a placid countenance he placed
his mighty body in the Ausonian ship,
which plainly showed the great weight of the god.
The glad descendants of Aeneas all
rejoiced, and they sacrificed a bull beside
the harbor, wreathed the ship with flowers, and loosed
the twisted hawsers from the shore. As a soft breeze
impelled the ship, within her curving stern
the god reclined, his coils uprising high,
and gazed down on the blue Ionian waves.
So wafted by the favoring winds, they came
in six days to the shores of Italy.
There he was borne past the Lacinian Cape,
ennobled by the goddess Juno's shrine,
and Scylacean coasts. He left behind
Iapygia; then he shunned Amphrysian rocks
upon the left and on the other side
escaped Cocinthian crags. He passed, near by,
Romechium and Caulon and Naricia;
crossed the Sicilian sea; went through the strait;
sailed by Pelorus and the island home
of Aeolus and by the copper mines
of Temesa. He turned then toward Leucosia
and toward mild Paestum, famous for the rose.
He coasted by Capreae and around
Minerva's promontory and the hills
ennobled with Surrentine vines, from there
to Herculaneum and Stabiae
and then Parthenope built for soft ease.
He sailed near the Cumaean Sibyl's temple.
He passed the Warm Springs and Linternum, where
the mastick trees grow, and the river called
Volturnus, where thick sand whirls in the stream,
over to Sinuessa's snow-white doves;
and then to Antium and its rocky coast.
When with all sails full spread the ship came in
the harbor there (for now the seas grew rough),
the god uncoiled his folds, and, gliding out
with sinuous curves and all his mighty length,
entered the temple of his parent, where
it skirts that yellow shore. But, when the sea
was calm again, the Epidaurian god
departing from his father's shrine, where he
a while had shared the sacred residence
reared to a kindred deity, furrowed
the sandy shore with weight of crackling scales,
again he climbed into the lofty stern
and near the rudder laid his head at rest.
There he remained until the vessel passed
by Castrum and Lavinium's sacred homes
to where the Tiber flows into the sea
there all the people of Rome came rushing out --
mothers and fathers and even those who tend
your sacred fire, O Trojan goddess Vesta --
and joyous shouted welcome to the god.
Wherever the swift ship steered through the tide,
they built up many altars in a line,
so that perfuming frankincense with smoke
crackled along the banks on either hand,
and victims made the keen knives hot with blood.
The serpent-deity has entered Rome,
the world's new capital and, lifting up
his head above the summit of the mast,
looked far and near for a congenial home.
The river there, dividing, flows about
a place known as the Island, on both sides
an equal stream glides past dry middle ground.
And here the serpent child of Phoebus left
the Roman ship, took his own heavenly form,
and brought the mourning city health once more
Julius Cæsar, transformed to a star
Apollo's son came to us from abroad,
but Cæsar is a god in his own land.
The first in war and peace, he rose by wars,
which closed in triumphs, and by civic deeds
to glory quickly won, and even more
his offspring's love exalted him as a new,
a heavenly, sign and brightly flaming star.
Of all the achievements of great Julius Cæsar
not one is more ennobling to his fame
than being father of his glorious son.
Was it more glorious for him to subdue
the Britons guarded by their sheltering sea
or lead his fleet victorious up the stream
seven mouthed of the papyrus hearing Nile;
to bring beneath the Roman people's rule
rebel Numidia, Libyan Juba, and
strong Pontus, proud of Mithridates' fame;
to have some triumphs and deserve far more;
than to be father of so great a man,
with whom as ruler of the human race,
O gods, you bless us past all reckoning?
And, lest that son should come from mortal seed,
Julius Cæsar must change and be a god.
When the golden mother of Aeneas was
aware of this and saw a grievous end
plotted against her high priest, saw the armed
conspiracy preparing for his death,
with pallid face she met each god and said:
"Look with what might this plot prepares itself
against my cause; with how much guile it dooms
the head which is the last that I have left
from old-time Iulus, prince and heir of Troy.
Shall I alone be harassed through all time
by fear well grounded? First the son of Tydeus
must wound me with his Calydonian spear;
and then I tremble at the tottering walls
of ill defended Troy; I watch my son
driven in long wanderings, tossed upon the sea,
descending to the realm of silent shades,
and waging war with Turnus -- or, if I should speak
the truth, with Juno! Why do I recall
disasters of my race from long ago?
The present dread forbids my looking back
at ills now past. See how the wicked swords
are whetted for the crime! Forbid it now,
I pray you, and prevent the deed,
let not the priest's warm blood quench vestal fires!"
Such words as these, full of her anxious thoughts,
Venus proclaimed through all the heavens, in vain.
The gods were moved, and, since they could not break
the ancient sisters' iron decree, they gave
instead clear portents of approaching woe.
It is declared, resounding arms heard from
the black clouds and unearthly trumpet blasts
and clarions heard through all the highest heavens,
forewarned men of the crime. The sad sun's face
gave to the frightened world a livid light;
and in the night-time torches seemed to burn
amid the stars, and often drops of blood
fell in rain-showers. Then Lucifer shone blue
with all his visage stained by darksome rust.
The chariot of the moon was sprinkled with
red blood. The Stygian owl gave to the world
ill omens. In a thousand places, tears
were shed by the ivory statues. Dirges, too,
are said to have been heard, and threatening words
by unknown speakers in the sacred groves.
No victim gave an omen of good life:
the fibers showed great tumults imminent,
the liver's cut-off edge was found among
the entrails. In the Forum, it is said,
and round men's homes and temples of the gods
dogs howled all through the night, and silent shades
wandered abroad, and earthquakes shook the city.
But portents of the gods could not avert
the plots of men and stay approaching fate.
Into a temple naked swords were brought --
into the Senate House. No other place
in all our city was considered fit
for perpetrating such a dreadful crime!
With both hands Cytherea beat her breast,
and in a cloud she strove to hide the last
of great Aeneas' line, as in times past
she had hid Paris from fierce Menelaus
Aeneas from the blade of Diomed.
But Jove, her father, cautioned her and said,
"Do you my daughter, without aid, alone,
attempt to change the fixed decrees of Fate?
Unaided you may enter the abode
of the three sisters and can witness there
a register of deeds the future brings.
These, wrought of brass and solid iron with
vast labor, are unchangeable through all
eternity; and have no weakening fears
of thunder-shocks from heaven, nor from the rage
of lightnings they are perfectly secure
from all destruction. You will surely find
the destinies of your descendants there,
engraved in everlasting adamant.
'Tis certain. I myself, have read them there:
and I, with care have marked them in my mind.
I will repeat them so that you may have
unerring knowledge of those future days.
"Venus, the man on whose behalf you are
so anxious, already has completed his
alloted time. The years are ended which
he owed to life on earth. You with his son,
who now as heir to his estate must bear
the burden of that government, will cause
him, as a deity, to reach the heavens,
and to be worshipped in the temples here.
"The valiant son will plan revenge on those
who killed his father and will have our aid
in all his battles. The defeated walls
of scarred Mutina, which he will besiege,
shall sue for peace. Pharsalia's plain will dread
his power and Macedonian Philippi
be drenched with blood a second time, the name
of one acclaimed as 'Great' shall be subdued
in the Sicilian waves. Then Egypt's queen,
wife of the Roman general, Antony,
shall fall, while vainly trusting in his word,
while vainly threatening that our Capitol
must be submissive to Canopus' power.
"Why should I mention all the barbarous lands
and nations east and west by ocean's rim?
Whatever habitable earth contains
shall bow to him, the sea shall serve his will!
"With peace established over all the lands,
he then will turn his mind to civil rule
and as a prudent legislator will
enact wise laws. And he will regulate
the manners of his people by his own
example. Looking forward to the days
of future time and of posterity,
he will command the offspring born of his
devoted wife, to assume the imperial name
and the burden of his cares. Nor till his age
shall equal Nestor's years will he ascend
to heavenly dwellings and his kindred stars.
Meanwhile transform the soul, which shall be reft
from this doomed body, to a starry light,
that always god-like Julius may look down
in future from his heavenly residence
upon our Forum and our Capitol."
Jupiter hardly had pronounced these words,
when kindly Venus, although seen by none,
stood in the middle of the Senate-house,
and caught from the dying limbs and trunk
of her own Cæsar his departing soul.
She did not give it time so that it could
dissolve in air, but bore it quickly up,
toward all the stars of heaven; and on the way,
she saw it gleam and blaze and set it free.
Above the moon it mounted into heaven,
leaving behind a long and fiery trail,
and as a star it glittered in the sky.
There, wondering at the younger Cæsar's deeds,
Julius confessed they were superior
to all of his, and he rejoiced because
his son was greater even than himself.
Although the son forbade men to regard
his own deeds as the: mightier! Fame, that moves
free and untrammelled by the laws of men,
preferred him even against his own desire
and in that one point disobeyed his will.
And so great Atreus yields to greater fame
of Agamemnon, Aegeus yields to Theseus,
and Peleus to Achilles, or, to name
a parallel befitting these two gods,
so Saturn yields to Jove. Now Jupiter
rules in high heavens and is the suzerain
over the waters and the world of shades,
and now Augustus rules in all the lands --
so each is both a father and a god.
Gods who once guarded our Aeneas, when
both swords and fire gave way, and native gods
of Italy, and Father Quirinus --
patron of Rome, and you Gradivus too --
the sire of Quirinus the invincible,
and Vesta hallowed among Cæsar's gods,
and Phoebus ever worshipped at his hearth,
and Jupiter who rules the citadel
high on Tarpeia's cliff, and other gods --
all gods to whom a poet rightfully
and with all piety may make appeal;
far be that day -- postponed beyond our time,
when great Augustus shall foresake the earth
which he now governs, and mount up to heaven,
from that far height to hear his people's prayers!
And now, I have completed a great work,
which not Jove's anger, and not fire nor steel,
nor fast-consuming time can sweep away.
Whenever it will, let the day come, which has
dominion only over this mortal frame,
and end for me the uncertain course of life.
Yet in my better part I shall be borne
immortal, far above the stars on high,
and mine shall be a name indelible.
Wherever Roman power extends her sway
over the conquered lands, I shall be read
by lips of men. If Poets' prophecies
have any truth, through all the coming years
of future ages, I shall live in fame.