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For the nymph, his widow, had withdrawn from Rome,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 i
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 man
t 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,
obeyed 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 Caesar'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 comp