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Romulus et Hersilia.


At Proca's death unjust Amulius
seized with his troops the whole Ausonian wealth.
And yet old Numitor, obtaining aid
from his two grandsons, won the land again
which he had lost; and on the festival
of Pales were the city walls begun.
King Tatius with his Sabines went to war;
Tarpeia, who betrayed the citadel,
died justly underneath the weight of arms.

Then troops from Cures crept, like silent wolves,
without a word toward men subdued by sleep
and tried the gates that Ilia's son had barred.
Then Saturn's daughter opened wide a gate,
turning the silent hinge. Venus alone
perceived the bars of that gate falling down.
She surely would have closed it, were it not
impossible for any deity
to countervail the acts of other gods.

The Naiads of Ausonia occupied
a spring that welled up close to Janus' fane.
To them she prayed for aid. The fountain-nymphs
could not resist the prayer of Venus, when
she made her worthy plea and they released
all waters under ground. Till then the path
by Janus' fane was open, never yet had floods
risen to impede the way. But now they laid
hot sulphur of a faint blue light beneath
the streaming fountain and with care applied
fire to the hallowed ways with smoking pitch.

By these and many other violent means
hot vapors penetrated to the source
of the good fountain.—Only think of it!
Those waters which had rivalled the cold Alps,
now rivalled with their heat the flames themselves!
And, while each gate post steamed with boiling spray,
the gate, which had been opened (but in vain)
to hardy Sabines just outside, was made
impassable by the heated fountain's flood,
till Roman soldiers had regained their arms.

After brave Romulus had led them forth
and covered Roman ground with Sabines dead
and its own people; and the accursed sword
shed blood of father-in-law and son-in-law,
with peace they chose at last to end the war,
rather than fight on to the bitter end:
Tatius and Romulus divide the throne.

Tatius had fallen, and you, O Romulus,
were giving laws to peoples now made one,
when Mars put off his helmet and addressed
the father of gods and men in words like these:
“The time has come, for now the Roman state
has been established on a strong foundation
and no more must rely on one man's strength
the time has come for you to give the prize,
promised to me and your deserving grandson,
to raise him from the earth and grant him here
a fitting place in heaven. One day you said
to me before a council of the gods,
(for I recall now with a grateful mind
how I took note of your most gracious speech)
‘Him you shall lift up to the blue of heaven.’
Now let all know the meaning of your words!”

The god all-powerful nodded his assent,
and he obscured the air with heavy clouds
and on a trembling world he sent below
harsh thunder and bright lightning. Mars at once
perceived it was a signal plainly given
for promised change—so, leaning on a spear,
he mounted boldly into his chariot,
and over bloodstained yoke and eager steeds
he swung and cracked the loud-resounding lash.

Descending through steep air, he halted on
the wooded summit of the Palatine
and there, while Ilia's son was giving laws—
needing no pomp and circumstance of kings,
Mars caught him up. His mortal flesh dissolved
into thin air, as when a ball of lead
shot up from a broad sling melts all away
and soon is lost in heaven. A nobler shape
was given him, one more fitted to adorn
rich couches in high heaven, the shape divine
of Quirinus clad in the trabea.

His queen, Hersilia, wept continually,
regarding him as lost, till regal Juno
commanded Iris to glide down along
her curving bow and bring to her these words:

“O matron, glory of the Latin race
and of the Sabines, worthy to have been
the consort chosen by so great a man
and now to be his partner as the god
Quirinus, weep no more. If you desire
to see your husband, let me guide you up
to a grove that crowns the hill of Quirinus,
shading a temple of the Roman king.”

Iris obeyed her will, and, gliding down
to earth along her tinted bow, conveyed
the message to Hersilia; who replied,
with modest look and hardly lifted eye,
“Goddess (although it is not in my power
to say your name, I am quite certain you
must be a goddess), lead me, O lead me
until you show to me the hallowed form
of my beloved husband. If the Fates
will but permit me once again to see
his features, I will say I have won heaven.”

At once Hersilia and the virgin child
of Thaumas, went together up the hill
of Romulus. Descending through thin air
there came a star, and then Hersilia
her tresses glowing fiery in the light,
rose with that star, as it returned through air.
And her the founder of the Roman state
received with dear, familiar hands. He changed
her old time form and with the form her name.
He called her Hora and let her become
a goddess, now the mate of Quirinus.

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load focus Notes (Charles Simmons, 1899)
load focus Latin (Hugo Magnus, 1892)
load focus English (Arthur Golding, 1567)
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