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Latinus, then
an aged king, held long-accepted sway
o'er tranquil vales and towns. He was the son
of Faunus, so the legend tells, who wed
the nymph Marica of Laurentian stem.
Picus was Faunus' father, whence the line
to Saturn's Ioins ascends. O heavenly sire,
from thee the stem began! But Fate had given
to King Latinus' body no heirs male:
for taken in the dawning of his day
his only son had been; and now his home
and spacious palace one sole daughter kept,
who was grown ripe to wed and of full age
to take a husband. Many suitors tried
from all Ausonia and Latium's bounds;
but comeliest in all their princely throng
came Turnus, of a line of mighty sires.
Him the queen mother chiefly loved, and yearned
to call him soon her son. But omens dire
and menaces from Heaven withstood her will.
A laurel-tree grew in the royal close,
of sacred leaf and venerated age,
which, when he builded there his wall and tower,
Father Latinus found, and hallowed it
to Phoebus' grace and power, wherefrom the name
Laurentian, which his realm and people bear.
Unto this tree-top, wonderful to tell,
came hosts of bees, with audible acclaim
voyaging the stream of air, and seized a place
on the proud, pointing crest, where the swift swarm,
with interlacement of close-clinging feet,
swung from the leafy bough. “Behold, there comes,”
the prophet cried, “a husband from afar!
To the same region by the self-same path
behold an arm'd host taking lordly sway
upon our city's crown!” Soon after this,
when, coming to the shrine with torches pure,
Lavinia kindled at her father's side
the sacrifice, swift seemed the flame to burn
along her flowing hair—O sight of woe!
Over her broidered snood it sparkling flew,
lighting her queenly tresses and her crown
of jewels rare: then, wrapt in flaming cloud,
from hall to hall the fire-god's gift she flung.
This omen dread and wonder terrible
was rumored far: for prophet-voices told
bright honors on the virgin's head to fall
by Fate's decree, but on her people, war.

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  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), LAURENTUM
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