Astyages's Weblog

June 2, 2012

Virgil’s Aeneid, Part 34

Filed under: Uncategorized — astyages @ 10:15 pm
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Virgil's Aeneid
Part 34: 

Before the games were wholly finished the chief called Periphantes, who was his son’s tutor, to him and whispered this, “Find Ascanius quickly, and if his youthful troop is ready, let him make his grandfather proud by riding out on horseback, leading his equals in full fighting array.”

Then he called out to clear the circus. When the crowd had thus withdrawn an open plain now appears; and now the noble youths, of divine form, advance before their fathers in a line; the riders adding grace to their steeds and their steeds shining with glory.

Thus marching on in military splendor as shouts of applause resound from the crowd on either side, their helmets adorned with laurel wreaths and each brandishing aloft a cornel spear. Some bore gilded quivers at their backs; their chains of burnished gold hanging down in front. Three graceful troops they formed upon the green; each with a graceful leader at its head. Twelve riders followed each leader and there was a gap between the three troops.

The first troop was led by young Priam; a lovely boy, whose grandfather was the unhappy Trojan King of the same name. The descendants of this lad would, in after times be very famous, and add new honors to the Latian name; and how well his Thracian steed became the royal boy: The fetlocks of his fore-feet were white and on his front he bore a snow-white star.

Then came the beautiful Atys, who had also been brought up by Iulus and was of a similar age, leading the second squadron. Last in order, but first in nobility and in the beauty of his face, rode the fair Ascanius on a fiery Tyrian steed which had been given to him by Queen Dido; and the king ordains that the rest of his troop too, shall have such coursers, adorned with golden bits and purple reins.

The happy spectators renew their shouts of applause and all the parents see their own form in their children; their own motions and their own sprightly grace now reflected in these youths as their faces alternately reflect their hopes and fears.

The unfledged commanders and their martial following first make a circuit of the sandy plain around their sires and, when the appointed signal was given, draw up in beautiful order and form a line. A second signal sounds and the troop divides once again into its three separate parts with three separate leaders; again they close and once again separate, this time into two lines of opposing troops; they meet and wheel and throw their darts as far as they could in well-mimicked war.

Then the bodies run flying in a circle, each runner trying to avoid being caught by the runner following him; then they break again and rally once more into new military formations. Finally the join together in no particular order and march together in a friendly line, then their weary feet are involved in ways as wandering as the Cretan labyrinth of old, and with as many twists and turns and without rest, as the Trojan boys now fought each other in warlike play; either side taking turns to be turned back, only to return once more with a different approach; just as dolphins in the deep chase each other in circles.

So this game, these carousels, were taught by Ascanius, who brought them to the Latins whilst building Alba; and the Latin fathers then taught the graceful art to their sons and so it was that Imperial Rome received the game which her youths now call the Trojan Troop.

*****     *******     *****


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