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now this, now that effect.
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
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