From Robert Pinsky's Poet's Choice in The Washington Post, July 1, 2007.
Pundits and politicians sometimes call on ancient, partly forgotten echoes in order to sound wise or authoritative. Instead of saying an outcome might be good or bad, they say it "augurs well" or "augurs ill." The word "augur" harks back to both religion and empire : the Roman augur was a religious official who determined divine favor or disfavor by making a faith-based survey of the number, direction and location of birds in the sky.
Rhetoric deploys such ghostly, buried roots and invisible shadows of meaning for effect.
Augurs well or augurs ill -- the augur asked the birds