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AS my wife was born at fruitful Falisci, we went to visit those walls which long ago were conquered, Camillus, by thee. The priestesses were making ready to celebrate the festival of the chaste Juno by holding solemn games and by the sacrifice of a heifer native to the place. It was a strong motive for

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lingering there awhile, to witness the rite, though full steep is the path that leads to the scene of its performance.

It is an immemorial grove, and so dense is the foliage there that the daylight cannot penetrate the gloom. One needs but to behold it, to realise that it is the abode of a divinity. An altar receives the prayers and incense offered by the faithful, a rough-hewn altar made by the artless folk of olden days. From this spot, once a year, as soon as the trumpet has given forth its solemn note, the procession sets out and makes its way along the carpeted paths. Snow-white heifers are led along amid the plaudits of the throng, heifers nourished by the grass of their native fields, and calves whose brows are not yet armed with threatening horns, and the humble pig, a lowlier victim, and the leader of the herd with horns curved back over his stubborn head. The goat alone is hateful to the lady goddess, ever since the day when by a goat her presence was betrayed in a deep wood and she was forced to abandon her flight. And so, even now, the boys pursue her with their darts and she is given as a prize to the one that brings her low.

All along the way the goddess is to pass, boys and shy maidens strew the paths with carpets. Gold and gems sparkle in their virgin hair and the proud mantle hides their gold-decked feet. In the Grecian manner of their ancestors they pass on, Clad in white, and on their head they bear the sacred vessels entrusted to their care. Peep silence holds the people while the stately procession is passing by, and after her priestesses, follows the goddess herself.

The whole procession tells of Greece. After the murder of Agamemnon, Halesus fled the scene of his crime and the rich lands of his forefathers. It was only after many adventures, both by land and sea, that with auspicious hands he reared a high-walled city. ’Twas he that taught the Falisci to celebrate the rites of Juno. May they to me, and to her own people, ever be propitious.


Cum mihi pomiferis coniunx foret orta Faliscis,
    moenia contigimus victa, Camille, tibi.
casta sacerdotes Iunoni festa parabant
    et celebres ludos indigenamque bovem;
grande morae pretium ritus cognoscere, quamvis
    difficilis clivis huc via praebet iter.
Stat vetus et densa praenubilus arbore lucus;
    adspice--concedas numen inesse loco.
accipit ara preces votivaque tura piorum--
    ara per antiquas facta sine arte manus.
hinc, ubi praesonuit sollemni tibia cantu,
    it per velatas annua pompa vias;
ducuntur niveae populo plaudente iuvencae,
    quas aluit campis herba Falisca suis,
et vituli nondum metuenda fronte minaces,
    et minor ex humili victima porcus hara,
duxque gregis cornu per tempora dura recurvo.
    invisa est dominae sola capella deae;
illius indicio silvis inventa sub altis
    dicitur inceptam destituisse fugam.
nunc quoque per pueros iaculis incessitur index
    et pretium auctori vulneris ipsa datur.
Qua ventura dea est, iuvenes timidaeque puellae
    praeverrunt latas veste iacente vias.
virginei crines auro gemmaque premuntur,
    et tegit auratos palla superba pedes;
more patrum Graio velatae vestibus albis
    tradita supposito vertice sacra ferunt.
ora favent populi tum cum venit aurea pompa,
    ipsa sacerdotes subsequiturque suas.
Argiva est pompae facies; Agamemnone caeso
    et scelus et patrias fugit Halaesus opes
iamque pererratis profugus terraque fretoque
    moenia felici condidit alta manu.
ille suos docuit Iunonia sacra Faliscos.
    sint mihi, sint populo semper amica suo!

Next: Elegy XIV: To His Mistress.