Virgil: The Aeneid

7. BOOK VII (continued)

Now, Erato, thy poet's mind inspire,
And fill his soul with thy celestial fire!
Relate what Latium was; her ancient kings;
Declare the past and state of things,
When first the Trojan fleet Ausonia sought,
And how the rivals lov'd, and how they fought.
These are my theme, and how the war began,
And how concluded by the godlike man:
For I shall sing of battles, blood, and rage,
Which princes and their people did engage;
And haughty souls, that, mov'd with mutual hate,
In fighting fields pursued and found their fate;
That rous'd the Tyrrhene realm with loud alarms,
And peaceful Italy involv'd in arms.
A larger scene of action is display'd;
And, rising hence, a greater work is weigh'd.

Latinus, old and mild, had long possess'd
The Latin scepter, and his people blest:
His father Faunus; a Laurentian dame
His mother; fair Marica was her name.
But Faunus came from Picus: Picus drew
His birth from Saturn, if records be true.
Thus King Latinus, in the third degree,
Had Saturn author of his family.
But this old peaceful prince, as Heav'n decreed,
Was blest with no male issue to succeed:
His sons in blooming youth were snatch'd by fate;
One only daughter heir'd the royal state.
Fir'd with her love, and with ambition led,
The neighb'ring princes court her nuptial bed.
Among the crowd, but far above the rest,
Young Turnus to the beauteous maid address'd.
Turnus, for high descent and graceful mien,
Was first, and favor'd by the Latian queen;
With him she strove to join Lavinia's hand,
But dire portents the purpos'd match withstand.

Deep in the palace, of long growth, there stood
A laurel's trunk, a venerable wood;
Where rites divine were paid; whose holy hair
Was kept and cut with superstitious care.
This plant Latinus, when his town he wall'd,
Then found, and from the tree Laurentum call'd;
And last, in honor of his new abode,
He vow'd the laurel to the laurel's god.
It happen'd once (a boding prodigy!)
A swarm of bees, that cut the liquid sky,
(Unknown from whence they took their airy flight,)
Upon the topmost branch in clouds alight;
There with their clasping feet together clung,
And a long cluster from the laurel hung.
An ancient augur prophesied from hence:
"Behold on Latian shores a foreign prince!
From the same parts of heav'n his navy stands,
To the same parts on earth; his army lands;
The town he conquers, and the tow'r commands."

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