Astyages's Weblog

April 5, 2011

Virgil’s Aeneid, Part 20

Filed under: Virgil's Aeneid, 20 — astyages @ 8:36 pm
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Virgil’s Aeneid

by

DL Rowlands

(Part 20)

With tears I took my last adieu, and said, “Happy pair, your fortune is already made, leaving you nothing further to wish for. My situation is different, however, due to a different fate. The gods allow you a quiet seat; you have no shores to search for, and no seas to plow; nor the fields of flying Italy to chase, (though these be but deluded vision which we have embraced vainly!) You see another Simois and enjoy the labor of your hands; another Troy though with better luck than her ancient towers, and less obnoxious to the Greeks. If ever the gods, whom I adore, lead my happy steps to the shores of the Tiber; if ever I ascend the Latian throne and build my own city; as we both derive our birth from Troy, so let our kindred lines live in concord and let both lines strive to outdo each other in acts of equal friendship. Our fortunes, good or bad, shall be the same: The new Troy shall differ from the old in name only; may that which we now begin never end, but descend to a long and late posterity.’

Near the Ceraunian rocks we took our course; the shortest passage to the Italian shore. Now the sun had withdrawn his radiance and the dusky hills were shadowed with the shades of night: We land and find a safe retreat and a bare lodging. We lay close by the shore; the sailors keeping their watches and the rest sleeping securely. In the deepest part of the night, the wakeful Palinurus rose to view the face of heaven; the nocturnal sky, listening to every breath of air; observing the stars, and noting their sliding course. The Pleiades, Hyades and their watery force; he is careful to observe both the Bears, and bright Orion, armed with burnished gold. Then, when he saw no tempest threatening, but a sure promise of a settled sky, he gave the sign to weigh anchor; we break our sleep, forsake the pleasant shore and once more plow the seas.

And now the rising morn adorns the skies with rosy light, her radiance outshining the modest stars, when we descry from afar, like bluish mists, the hills and plains of Italy. Achates first pronounced the joyful word and then, “Italy!” the cheerful crew respond. My sire Anchises crowned a cup with wine, and, offering it to the gods, thus implored the divine powers: ‘Ye gods, who preside over lands and seas; you who appease the raging waves and winds, breath a prosperous wind on our swelling sails and smooth our passage to the assigned port!’ The gentle gales renew their flagging force, and now the harbor comes into view. We can see Minerva’s temple, placed as a landmark, on the mountain’s height. We furl our sails and turn the prows to the shore; the curling waters roar around our galleys, the land lies open to the raging east, then, bending like a bow, compressed with rocks shuts out the storm; the wind and waves complain and vent their malice vainly on the cliffs. The port lies hid within; on either side, two towering rocks divide the narrow mouth; the temple, which, before, we had viewed aloft, flies into the distance and seems to shun the shore. Scarce had we landed, when I beheld the first omens: four white steeds that grazed in the flowery field. ‘War, war is threatened from this foreign ground,’ my father cried, ‘where we find such warlike steeds. Yet, since they submitted to our chariots when we yoked them to them, peacefully champing their bits, peace may follow war.’ We bend our way to Pallas and ascend the sacred hill; there, prostrated to the fierce virago, whose temple was our landmark, we pray. Each veiled his head with a Phrygian mantle, obeying all the commands of Helenus, as we paid pious rites to Grecian Juno. These rites duly performed, we again stretch our sails and stand to sea, forsaking that suspected land.

“From hence, Tarentum’s bay appears in sight, renowned for Hercules, if the stories are true. Just opposite stands Lacinian Juno; the Caulonian towers and the Scylacaean strands, feared for their shipwrecks. From there we spy Mount Aetna, known by the smoky flames which cloud the sky. Far off we hear the waves invade the rocks with surly sound and the rocks groan as they resist the invasion as the billows break upon the sounding strand as the rising tide, impure with sand, rolls in. Then Anchises speaks up, with the wisdom of his age and experience: ”Tis that Charybdis, which the seer foretold! And those are the rocks he promised! Bear off to sea!’

“With haste the frighted mariners obey. First Palinurus veered to the larboard; then all the fleet followed his example as we ride aloft to heaven on ridgy waves, then descend again to hell when they part… Thrice our galleys knocked the stony seabed and thrice the hollow rocks returned the sound and thrice we saw stars ’til the flagging winds forsook us, with the sun; and, wearied, we run ashore on Cyclopian shores. The port was capacious and secure from wind, joined to the foot of thundering Aetna. By turns she rolls on high a pitchy cloud; alternating with hot embers which fly from her entrails, and flakes of mounting flames, that lick the sky. Often massive rocks are thrown from her bowels and, shivered by force, come down piecemeal. Often, liquid lakes of burning sulphur flow fed from the fiery springs which boil underneath. Here Enceladus, they say, transfixed by Jove, came tumbling from above and where he fell, the avenging father drew this flaming hill and threw it on top of his body. As often as he turns his weary sides he shakes the solid isle and smoke hides the heavens.

“In shady woods we pass the tedious night, in which bellowing sounds and groans for which there seemed to be no cause kept our frightened souls awake; for not one star was kindled in the sky and the moon was hidden by the dark and misty clouds; the stars were muffled; and the moon pent.”

***** ********* *****

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