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Evander spoke: “This votive holiday,
yon tables spread and altar so divine,
are not some superstition dark and vain,
that knows not the old gods, O Trojan King!
But as men saved from danger and great fear
this thankful sacrifice we pay. Behold,
yon huge rock, beetling from the mountain wall,
hung from the cliff above. How lone and bare
the hollowed mountain looks! How crag on crag
tumbled and tossed in huge confusion lie!
A cavern once it was, which ran deep down
into the darkness. There th' half-human shape
of Cacus made its hideous den, concealed
from sunlight and the day. The ground was wet
at all times with fresh gore; the portal grim
was hung about with heads of slaughtered men,
bloody and pale—a fearsome sight to see.
Vulcan begat this monster, which spewed forth
dark-fuming flames from his infernal throat,
and vast his stature seemed. But time and tide
brought to our prayers the advent of a god
to help us at our need. For Hercules,
divine avenger, came from laying low
three-bodied Geryon, whose spoils he wore
exultant, and with hands victorious drove
the herd of monster bulls, which pastured free
along our river-valley. Cacus gazed
in a brute frenzy, and left not untried
aught of bold crime or stratagem, but stole
four fine bulls as they fed, and heifers four,
all matchless; but, lest hoof-tracks point his way,
he dragged them cave-wards by the tails, confusing
the natural trail, and hid the stolen herd
in his dark den; and not a mark or sign
could guide the herdsmen to that cavern-door.
But after, when Amphitryon's famous son,
preparing to depart, would from the meads
goad forth the full-fed herd, his lingering bulls
roared loud, and by their lamentable cry
filled grove and hills with clamor of farewell:
one heifer from the mountain-cave lowed back
in answer, so from her close-guarded stall
foiling the monster's will.
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