Astyages's Weblog

December 6, 2010

Virgil’s Aeneid, #15

Filed under: Uncategorized,Virgil's Aeneid, #15 — astyages @ 8:59 pm
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by

DL Rowlands

(Part 15)  

 

Southern gales invited us to put to sea...

 

BOOK III

When Heaven had overturned the Trojan state and Priam’s throne; when ruined Troy became the Grecian’s prey and Ilium’s lofty towers lay in ashes, warned by celestial omens we retreat to seek safety in foreign lands. Near old Antandros at the foot of Mount Ida we cut the timber of the sacred groves and build our fleet, uncertain yet that we would find that place which the gods had allotted for our repose. Friends flocked to us daily and the kindly spring had scarcely begun to clothe the ground and encouraged the birds to sing, when old Anchises summoned all to sea:

“The crew obey my father and the Fates. With sighs and tears I leave my native shore and the empty fields where Ilium had once stood. My sire, my son, our greater and lesser gods now all cleave the briny sea in the same ship.

Along our coast appeared a spacious land, once commanded by the fierce Lycurgus (Thrace is its name; it’s people are bold in war; they are tillers of the soil with vast fields) a hospitable realm while Fate was kind, and joined to Troy in both friendship and religion. Though the omens were inauspicious, we landed and sacrificed to their gods. Then, drawing a line along the shore, I laid the foundations of a wall, naming the city Aenos, after myself. To Dionaean Venus and to all the powers that aid rising labours, we paid vows and laid a bull on Jove’s imperial altar.

Not far off a hillock rose into view; sharp myrtles and pines grew on its sides. There, while I went to crop these sylvan scenes, to shade our altar with their leaves, I pulled a plant – with horror I observed a strange and fateful prodigy. The rooted fibers rose, and from the wound dropped black bloody drops upon the ground. Mute and amazed my hair stood on end in terror, while fear shrunk my sinews and congealed my blood. With renewed courage I try another plant: it gushed with the same sanguine dye as the other. I atoned with prayers and vows to the Dryads, with all the sisters of the woods and most of all with the God of Arms, who ruled the Thracian coast, that they, or he, would avert these omens, release our fears and impart some betters signs. Cleared, so I thought, and determined at length to learn the cause, I tugged with all my strength, bending my knees against the ground; once again the violated myrtle ran with blood.

I hardly dare tell you the sequel: from the womb of the wounded earth came a groan, as of a troubled ghost, renewing my fright; and then these awful words followed: ‘Why does thou thus rend my buried body? Oh, spare the corpse of thy unhappy friend! Spare thyself from polluting thy pious hands with blood! The tears fall not from the wounded tree, but every drop this living tree contains is kindred blood and ran in Trojan veins. Oh, fly from this inhospitable shore! Be warned by my fate, for I am Polydore! Here loads of lances, imbued in my blood, again shoot up, renewed by that very blood.

My faltering tongue and shivering limbs declare my horror, and my hair rose in bristles. When Troy was closely surrounded by Grecian arms, old Priam, fearful of the war’s outcome, sent this Polydore to Thracia: Loaded with gold, he sent his darling, far from noise and tumults, and the destruction of war, committing him to the faithless tyrant’s care; who, when he saw the power of Troy decline, forsook the weaker, and joined with the strong; broke every bond of nature and of truth, and murdered the royal youth for his wealth. Oh! Sacred hunger of pernicious gold! What bands of faith can impious lucre hold? Now, when my soul had shaken off her fears, I call my father and the Trojan lords, relate the prodigies of Heaven, asking what he commands, and seeking his advice.

All vote to leave that execrable land, polluted as it was with the blood of Polydore; but before we sail we prepare his funeral rites, then rear an altar and a tomb to honour his ghost. In mournful ceremony the matrons walk the round, their heads crowned with baleful cypress and blue fillets; with dejected eyes and their hair unbound. Then we poured out bowls of tepid milk and blood, thrice invoking the soul of Polydore.

Now, when the raging storms had ceased, and southern gales were inviting us to put to sea, we launched our ships and left the cities and the shores behind.”

*****       *******     *****

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