Elegy XIII: Of Juno's Feast.My wife, a native of Phaliscan plains,
Where the rich soils enrich the lab'ring swains,
Where purple grapes and golden apples grow,
A conquest we to great Camillus owe.
When once to Juno's feast she thither went,
My mind to know the secret rites was bent:
The pious priests the solemn sports prepare,
And purify the fane with holy care.
A heifer of the place they sacrifice,
But ne'er to men expose their mysteries,
I mark'd the hidden way my consort went,
And follow'd down the deep and dark descent.
To an old wood at last I came, whose shade
Impress'd a horror on the gloom it made,
And ev'ry step with trembling feet I trod,
Profan'd, I thought, the dwelling of a god.
An altar there was rais'd by hands divine,
And fragrant incense flam'd around the shrine.
Chaste matrons there their vow'd oblations pay,
And celebrate with joyful hymns the day.
Soon as the fife the signal gives, they move
In long procession through the sacred grove
Branches and flow'rs are with devotion spread
O'er all the way, and priestly vestments laid.
Next after these, through loud acclaims, they lead
A cow milk white, and of Phaliscan breed;
Then a young steer, whose forehead ne'er had borne
The crooked honours of the butting horn.
The least of all the victims was a swine,
And then a ram whose horns around his temples twine.
A goat, whom most the goddess hates, comes last;
The present feels her vengeance for the past.
When in a wood to hide herself she tried,
She by the bleating of a goat was spied;
For this the beast is by the boys pursu'd;
For this she's ever greedy of its blood,
And he, who first the letcher wounds in play,
Claims by her law, and hears the prize away.
The tender youth, and tim'rous virgin strow
With robes the ground the goddess is to go.
The virgins' locks with golden fillets bound,
And sparkling diamonds glitt'ring all around;
Buskins embroider'd on their feet they wear,
And spreading trains with pride uneasy bear.
Here, as in Greece the custom was of old,
The image of the goddess we behold
Borne on the heads of maidens, and behind
The priestesses in beauteous rank you find.
An awful silence reigns : the goddess last
Approaches, and with her the pomp is past.
The dress was Greek, and such Halesus wore,
When in a fright he fled the Grecian shore;
His father kill'd, an Argive ship he fraught,
And to this coast the royal treasure brought.
Much peril had he past, much labour known,
O'er lands and seas, before he reach'd our own,
And landing built, with happy hand, the town,
Where first he did this festival revive,
And its Greek rules to the Phaliscans give;
The rites and sacrifices first he show'd,
As practis'd now within this ancient wood.
Ah, may these rites to all propitious be,
No more to those that serv'd them than to me.