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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.

Rome, Hills of

Mount Aventine

By Virgil (70–19 B.C.)

(From Æneid, Book VIII)
Translated by C. P. Cranch

FIRST look upon yon craggy pile, on stones

Suspended; scattered far and wide, the rocks

Are strewn; how lonely and deserted stands

That mountain-fortress; with what ruin wild

The cliffs are dragged and toppled from above!

That was the cave hewn in a vast recess

Where dwelt the terrible half-human form

Of Cacus; where no sunbeams found their way;

And ever with fresh slaughter smoked the ground.

On the proud portals fixed hung heads of men,

Pallid and ghastly in their clotted gore.

This monster’s sire was Vulcan; his the flames

And smoke that issued from his mouth. His boast

Was in his mighty bulk. But time at length

Brought aid long wished, and the advent of a god.

Alcides came, the great avenger, proud

From triple Geryon’s slaughter and his spoils,

And hither drove his captured bulls, which filled

The river and the vale. But Cacus, fired

With fury, left untried no stratagem

Or crime; took from their stalls four comely bulls,

And heifers four, of beauty unsurpassed;

And, lest their hoof-prints should betray the theft,

He dragged them backwards, with the tracks reversed,

And hid them in his gloomy cave. No signs

The seeker found to lead him to the place.

Meanwhile, when now Amphitryon’s son prepared

To move his full-fed herd, and to depart,

The cattle, as they left, began to low,

And filled the woods and hills with their complaints.

When, from the cave, one of the cows returned

The sound; and thus, though guarded close, betrayed

The hope of Cacus.