Mother of Rome, delight of Gods and men, Dear Venus that beneath the gliding stars Makest to teem the many-voyaged main And fruitful lands—for all of living things Through thee alone are evermore conceived, Through thee are risen to visit the great sun— Before thee, Goddess, and thy coming on, Flee stormy wind and massy cloud away, For thee the daedal Earth bears scented flowers, For thee waters of the unvexed deep Smile, and the hollows of the serene sky Glow with diffused radiance for thee! For soon as comes the springtime face of day, And procreant gales blow from the West unbarred, First fowls of air, smit to the heart by thee, Foretoken thy approach, O thou Divine, And leap the wild herds round the happy fields Or swim the bounding torrents. Thus amain, Seized with the spell, all creatures follow thee Whithersoever thou walkest forth to lead, And thence through seas and mountains and swift streams, Through leafy homes of birds and greening plains, Kindling the lure of love in every breast, Thou bringest the eternal generations forth, Kind after kind. And since 'tis thou alone Guidest the Cosmos, and without thee naught Is risen to reach the shining shores of light, Nor aught of joyful or of lovely born, Thee do I crave co-partner in that verse Which I presume on Nature to compose For Memmius mine, whom thou hast willed to be Peerless in every grace at every hour— Wherefore indeed, Divine one, give my words Immortal charm. Lull to a timely rest O'er sea and land the savage works of war, For thou alone hast power with public peace To aid mortality; since he who rules The savage works of battle, puissant Mars, How often to thy bosom flings his strength O'ermastered by the eternal wound of love— And there, with eyes and full throat backward thrown, Gazing, my Goddess, open-mouthed at thee, Pastures on love his greedy sight, his breath Hanging upon thy lips. Him thus reclined Fill with thy holy body, round, above! Pour from those lips soft syllables to win Peace for the Romans, glorious Lady, peace! For in a season troublous to the state Neither may I attend this task of mine With thought untroubled, nor mid such events The illustrious scion of the Memmian house Neglect the civic cause. Whilst human kind Throughout the lands lay miserably crushed Before all eyes beneath Religion—who Would show her head along the region skies, Glowering on mortals with her hideous face— A Greek it was who first opposing dared Raise mortal eyes that terror to withstand, Whom nor the fame of Gods nor lightning's stroke Nor threatening thunder of the ominous sky Abashed; but rather chafed to angry zest His dauntless heart to be the first to rend The crossbars at the gates of Nature old. And thus his will and hardy wisdom won; And forward thus he fared afar, beyond The flaming ramparts of the world, until He wandered the unmeasurable All. Whence he to us, a conqueror, reports What things can rise to being, what cannot, And by what law to each its scope prescribed, Its boundary stone that clings so deep in Time. Wherefore Religion now is under foot, And us his victory now exalts to heaven. I know how hard it is in Latian verse To tell the dark discoveries of the Greeks, Chiefly because our pauper-speech must find Strange terms to fit the strangeness of the thing; Yet worth of thine and the expected joy Of thy sweet friendship do persuade me on To bear all toil and wake the clear nights through, Seeking with what of words and what of song I may at last most gloriously uncloud For thee the light beyond, wherewith to view The core of being at the centre hid. And for the rest, summon to judgments true, Unbusied ears and singleness of mind Withdrawn from cares; lest these my gifts, arranged For thee with eager service, thou disdain Before thou comprehendest: since for thee I prove the supreme law of Gods and sky, And the primordial germs of things unfold, Whence Nature all creates, and multiplies And fosters all, and whither she resolves Each in the end when each is overthrown. This ultimate stock we have devised to name Procreant atoms, matter, seeds of things, Or primal bodies, as primal to the world. I fear perhaps thou deemest that we fare An impious road to realms of thought profane; But 'tis that same religion oftener far Hath bred the foul impieties of men: As once at Aulis, the elected chiefs, Foremost of heroes, Danaan counsellors, Defiled Diana's altar, virgin queen, With Agamemnon's daughter, foully slain. She felt the chaplet round her maiden locks And fillets, fluttering down on either cheek, And at the altar marked her grieving sire, The priests beside him who concealed the knife, And all the folk in tears at sight of her. With a dumb terror and a sinking knee She dropped; nor might avail her now that first 'Twas she who gave the king a father's name. They raised her up, they bore the trembling girl On to the altar—hither led not now With solemn rites and hymeneal choir, But sinless woman, sinfully foredone, A parent felled her on her bridal day, Making his child a sacrificial beast To give the ships auspicious winds for Troy: Such are the crimes to which Religion leads. And there shall come the time when even thou, Forced by the soothsayer's terror-tales, shalt seek To break from us. Ah, many a dream even now Can they concoct to rout thy plans of life, And trouble all thy fortunes with base fears. I own with reason: for, if men but knew Some fixed end to ills, they would be strong By some device unconquered to withstand Religions and the menacings of seers. But now nor skill nor instrument is theirs, Since men must dread eternal pains in death. For what the soul may be they do not know, Whether 'tis born, or enter in at birth, And whether, snatched by death, it die with us, Or visit the shadows and the vasty caves Of Orcus, or by some divine decree Enter the brute herds, as our Ennius sang, Who first from lovely Helicon brought down A laurel wreath of bright perennial leaves, Renowned forever among the Italian clans. Yet Ennius too in everlasting verse Proclaims those vaults of Acheron to be, Though thence, he said, nor souls nor bodies fare, But only phantom figures, strangely wan, And tells how once from out those regions rose Old Homer's ghost to him and shed salt tears And with his words unfolded Nature's source. Then be it ours with steady mind to clasp The purport of the skies—the law behind The wandering courses of the sun and moon; To scan the powers that speed all life below; But most to see with reasonable eyes Of what the mind, of what the soul is made, And what it is so terrible that breaks On us asleep, or waking in disease, Until we seem to mark and hear at hand Dead men whose bones earth bosomed long ago.