EGERIA CHANGED INTO A FOUNTAINThey say that Numa with a mind well taught
by these and other precepts traveled back
to his own land and, being urged again,
assumed the guidance of the Latin state.
Blest with a nymph as consort, blest also with
the Muses for his guides, he taught the rites
of sacrifice and trained in arts of peace
a race accustomed long to savage war.
When, ripe in years, he ended reign and life,
the Latin matrons, the fathers of the state,
and all the people wept for Numa's death.
For the nymph, his widow, had withdrawn from Rome,
concealed within the thick groves of the vale
Aricia, where with groans and wailing she
disturbed the holy rites of Cynthia,
established by Orestes. Ah! how often
nymphs of the grove and lake entreated her
to cease and offered her consoling words.
How often the son of Theseus said to her
“Control your sorrow; surely your sad lot
is not the only one; consider now
the like calamities by others borne,
and you can bear your sorrow. To my grief
my own disaster was far worse than yours.
At least it can afford you comfort now.
“Is it not true, discourse has reached yours ears
that one Hippolytus met with his death
through the credulity of his loved sire,
deceived by a stepmother's wicked art?
It will amaze you much, and I may fail
to prove what I declare, but I am he!
Long since the daughter of Pasiphae
tempted me to defile my father's bed
and, failing, feigned that I had wished to do
what she herself had wished. Perverting truth—
either through fear of some discovery
or else through spite at her deserved repulse—
she charged me with attempting the foul crime.
“Though I was guiltless of all wrong,
my father banished me and, while I was
departing, laid on me a mortal curse.
Towards Pittheus and Troezen I fled aghast,
guiding the swift chariot near the shore
of the Corinthian Gulf, when all at once
the sea rose up and seemed to arch itself
and lift high as a white topped mountain height,
make bellowings, and open at the crest.
Then through the parting waves a horned bull
emerged with head and breast into the wind,
spouting white foam from his nostrils and his mouth.
“The hearts of my attendants quailed with fear,
yet I unfrightened thought but of my exile.
Then my fierce horses turned their necks to face
the waters, and with ears erect they quaked
before the monster shape, they dashed in flight
along the rock strewn ground below the cliff.
I struggled, but with unavailing hand,
to use the reins now covered with white foam;
and throwing myself back, pulled on the thongs
with weight and strength. Such effort might have checked
the madness of my steeds, had not a wheel,
striking the hub on a projecting stump,
been shattered and hurled in fragments from the axle.
“I was thrown forward from my chariot
and with the reins entwined about my legs.
My palpitating entrails could be seen
dragged on, my sinews fastened on a stump.
My torn legs followed, but a part
remained behind me, caught by various snags.
The breaking bones gave out a crackling noise,
my tortured spirit soon had fled away,
no part of the torn body could be known—
all that was left was only one crushed wound—
how can, how dare you, nymph, compare your ills
to my disaster?
“I saw the Lower World
deprived of light: and I have bathed my flesh,
so tortured, in the waves of Phlegethon.
Life could not have been given again to me,
but through the remedies Apollo's son
applied to me. After my life returned—
by potent herbs and the Paeonian aid,
despite the will of Pluto—Cynthia then
threw heavy clouds around that I might not
be seen and cause men envy by new life:
and that she might be sure my life was safe
she made me seem an old man; and she changed
me so that I could not be recognized.
“A long time she debated whether she
would give me Crete or Delos for my home.
Delos and Crete abandoned, she then brought
me here, and at the same time ordered me
to lay aside my former name—one which
when mentioned would remind me of my steeds.
She said to me, ‘You were Hippolytus,
but now instead you shall be Virbius.’
And from that time I have inhabited
this grove; and, as one of the lesser gods,
I live concealed and numbered in her train.”
The grief of others could not ease the woe
of sad Egeria, and she laid herself
down at a mountain's foot, dissolved in tears,
till moved by pity for her faithful sorrow,
Diana changed her body to a spring,
her limbs into a clear continual stream.