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Tages. Cipus.


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.

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