Astyages's Weblog

February 22, 2011

Virgil’s Aeneid, Part 18

Filed under: Virgil's Aeneid, #18 — astyages @ 8:40 pm

Virgil’s Aeneid


DL Rowlands

Old Anchises sacrifices to the greater gods...

(Part 18)

We leave the ports of Delos and put to sea, making our way past Naxos, famed for its wines and on past the green island of Donysa, sailing in sight of Paros isle, with its white marble quarries. We pass the scattered isles of the Cyclades, and the shouts of the sailors double near the shores of the islands; they stretch their canvas and ply their oars. ‘All hands aloft! For Crete! For Crete!’ they cry, and our ships fly swiftly through the foamy billows. At length we came to the promised land and joyfully we descended onto the Cretan shore. With eager haste I design a rising town which I named after the Trojan, Pergamus: The name itself was grateful; I exhort the men to build their houses and erect a fort. Our ships are hauled up onto the beach and our youth begin to till the cultivated soil and I myself promoted new marriages, give laws and divide dwellings by lot, when rising vapors choke the wholesome air and the blasts of noisome winds corrupt the harvests; the trees burned by devouring caterpillars; the grass parched and the corn blighted. Nor do the beasts escape, for Sirius infested the sky with a pestilential heat; some of my men die and the rest are burning up with fever. Again my father bids me seek the sacred shores of Delos and implore the god to reveal to us what end we might expect to our woes, and to which country we should direct our weary course.

‘T’was night, when every creature shares the balmy gift of slumber, void of all care. The statues of my gods (for such the seemed) which I had rescued from the burning city of Troy stood before me, majestically bright from Phoebus’ dawning beams; then they spoke, and eased my troubled mind: ‘We, the companions of thy fate, who were brought by you from the burning town, who followed your fortune and wrought your safety, shall tell you what you wish to know from the Delian god, speaking in his stead. Through land and sea, as we attend your steps, so shall our care befriend your glorious race. Thy fates ordain an ample realm for thee; a town that will reign over the conquered world. Thou, build mighty walls for a mighty nation, but change thy capital, for neither the Delian god nor we have given you Crete for our abode. There is a land, called Hesperia in ancient times, (the soil is fruitful, and the natives bold. The Oenotrians held it once) but now called Italia, from their leader’s name. Iasius and Dardanus were both born there; from thence we came and thither must we return. Rise, and greet thy sire with these glad tidings. Search Italy; for Jove denies thee Crete.’

Astonished at their voices and by the sight they made, (nor were they dreams, but visions of the night; I saw and knew their faces; descried each in perfect view, their hair tied with fillets). I started up from my couch; a clammy sweat on all my limbs; my body shivering; I lift my hands with pious haste to heaven and cast sacred incense into the flames. Thus with their due perfect honor done to the gods, more cheerfully I return to my good old sire and tell him the pleasing news. After a few moments, he found his error of the double race; not from Crete, as he had earlier thought. No more deluded by their doubtful seat, he said, ‘O son, turmoiled in Trojan fate! Cassandra spoke of such things as these. This day revives in my mind what she fortetold of Troy being renewed in Italy and Latian lands; but who could then have thought that Phrygian gods would ever be brought to Latium? Or who could have believed what mad Cassandra taught? Now let us go where Phoebus leads us!’

With glad consent, we obey, forsake the seat and, leaving few behind, we spread our sails before the willing wind. Now our galleys move beyond sight of land, with only the sea all around us, and the sky above.

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