When, from his throne
supreme, the Son of Saturn viewed their deeds,
he deeply groaned: and calling to his mind
the loathsome feast Lycaon had prepared,
220 a recent deed not common to report,
his soul conceived great anger --worthy Jove--
and he convened a council. No delay
detained the chosen Gods.
When skies are clear
225 a path is well defined on high, which men,
because so white, have named the Milky Way.
It makes a passage for the deities
and leads to mansions of the Thunder God,
to Jove's imperial home. On either side
230 of its wide way the noble Gods are seen,
inferior Gods in other parts abide,
but there the potent and renowned of Heaven
have fixed their homes.--It is a glorious place,
our most audacious verse might designate
235 the "Palace of High Heaven." When the Gods
were seated, therefore, in its marble halls
the King of all above the throng sat high,
and leaning on his ivory scepter, thrice,
and once again he shook his awful locks,
240 wherewith he moved the earth, and seas and stars,--
and thus indignantly began to speak;
"The time when serpent footed giants strove
to fix their hundred arms on captive Heaven,
not more than this event could cause alarm
245 for my dominion of the universe.
Although it was a savage enemy,
yet warred we with a single source derived
of one. Now must I utterly destroy
this mortal race wherever Nereus roars
250 around the world. Yea, by the Infernal Streams
that glide through Stygian groves beneath the world,
I swear it. Every method has been tried.
The knife must cut immedicable wounds,
lest maladies infect untainted parts.
255 "Beneath my sway are demi gods and fauns,
nymphs, rustic deities, sylvans of the hills,
satyrs;--all these, unworthy Heaven's abodes,
we should at least permit to dwell on earth
which we to them bequeathed. What think ye, Gods,
260 is safety theirs when I, your sovereign lord,
the Thunder-bolt Controller, am ensnared
by fierce Lycaon?" Ardent in their wrath,
the astonished Gods demand revenge overtake
this miscreant; he who dared commit such crimes.
265 'Twas even thus when raged that impious band
to blot the Roman name in sacred blood
of Caesar, sudden apprehensive fears
of ruin absolute astonished man,
and all the world convulsed. Nor is the love
270 thy people bear to thee, Augustus, less
than these displayed to Jupiter whose voice
and gesture all the murmuring host restrained:
and as indignant clamour ceased, suppressed
by regnant majesty, Jove once again
275 broke the deep silence with imperial words;
"Dismiss your cares; he paid the penalty
however all the crime and punishment
now learn from this:--An infamous report
of this unholy age had reached my ears,
280 and wishing it were false, I sloped my course
from high Olympus, and--although a God--
disguised in human form I viewed the world.
It would delay us to recount the crimes
unnumbered, for reports were less than truth.
285 "I traversed Maenalus where fearful dens
abound, over Lycaeus, wintry slopes
of pine tree groves, across Cyllene steep;
and as the twilight warned of night's approach,
I stopped in that Arcadian tyrant's realms
290 and entered his inhospitable home:--
and when I showed his people that a God
had come, the lowly prayed and worshiped me,
but this Lycaon mocked their pious vows
and scoffing said; 'A fair experiment
295 will prove the truth if this be god or man.'
and he prepared to slay me in the night,--
to end my slumbers in the sleep of death.
So made he merry with his impious proof;
but not content with this he cut the throat
300 of a Molossian hostage sent to him,
and partly softened his still quivering limbs
in boiling water, partly roasted them
on fires that burned beneath. And when this flesh
was served to me on tables, I destroyed
305 his dwelling and his worthless Household Gods,
with thunder bolts avenging. Terror struck
he took to flight, and on the silent plains
is howling in his vain attempts to speak;
he raves and rages and his greedy jaws,
310 desiring their accustomed slaughter, turn
against the sheep--still eager for their blood.
His vesture separates in shaggy hair,
his arms are changed to legs; and as a wolf
he has the same grey locks, the same hard face,
315 the same bright eyes, the same ferocious look.
"Thus fell one house, but not one house alone
deserved to perish; over all the earth
ferocious deeds prevail,--all men conspire
in evil. Let them therefore feel the weight
320 of dreadful penalties so justly earned,
for such hath my unchanging will ordained."
with exclamations some approved the words
of Jove and added fuel to his wrath,
while others gave assent: but all deplored
325 and questioned the estate of earth deprived
of mortals. Who could offer frankincense
upon the altars? Would he suffer earth
to be despoiled by hungry beasts of prey?
Such idle questions of the state of man
330 the King of Gods forbade, but granted soon
to people earth with race miraculous,
unlike the first.