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February 25, 2012

Virgil’s Aeneid, by Astyages

Filed under: Virgil's Aeneid 31 — astyages @ 4:54 pm
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Virgil’s Aeneid
by
DL Rowlands

(Part 31)

From there the Trojan hero made his way into the neighboring plain, whose mountainous perimeter’s sides were shaded with surrounding woods. Right in the middle of this plain stood a natural amphitheater, which, rising slowly by small degrees, overlooked the ground below. High on a silver throne sat the leader, attended in solemn state by a numerous train. Here was both the start and the finishing line of the race; the goal for all those who loved to race and whose desire of honor and renown had prompted them to contend for the prize and who now entered in no particular order; Trojans mixed in with Sicilians:

First Nisus appears, with Euryalus; a boy of blossoming years, who was gifted with a sprightly grace and crowned with equal beauty. Diores, from Priam’s proud race, was next, then Salius, together with Patron, took their places; Patron’s birthplace was in Arcadia and Salius was an Acharnanian. Then came two Sicilian youths, the swift Helymus and the lovely Panopes by name; both jolly huntsmen who were bred in the forest and claimed old Acestes as their head; along with many others of less renown, whom time had not yet given over to fame.

To these, in words which gained general approbation, the hero thus explained his thoughts:

“One common largesse is designed for all: (the vanquished and the victor shall be joined). Two darts of polished steel with Gnosian wood and a silver-studded axe were to be bestowed on each of the first three winners along with an olive-wreath, though the first of these also wins a stately steed, adorned with all the trappings. The runner-up would be given the quiver of an Amazonian dame, well supplied with Thracian arrows, and a golden belt to gird his manly side, to which a sparkling diamond was sown. “The third will have to be content with a Grecian helmet,” he said.

The runners took their appointed places, to await the expected sign with beating hearts, as, all starting at once, they leave the barrier, spreading out, they flew as if on the wings of the wind to seize the distant goal their greedy eyes pursued. Shooting out from the crowd swift Nisus surpassed all; neither storms nor thunder could equal half his speed! Next, though following at a distance, came Salius, with Euryalus behind him. Then came Helymus, who vied for position with young Diores, who paced him step for step and almost side by side, their shoulders almost touching; leaving little or nothing to choose between them.

Now, spent, they approach the goal at last, when the over-eager Nisus, hapless in his haste, first slipped, then, slipping, fell down upon the plain; a loser despite being covered in the blood of newly-sacrificed oxen. The careless would-be victor had not marked his way and, treading in a treacherous puddle, his heels flew up and he fell on the grassy ground, besmeared now with filth as well as the holy gore. Not mindless of this then, nor of the sacred bonds of friendship, Euryalus strove to cross his immediate rival’s hope and caught Salius’ foot as he rose so that Salius too now lay stretched out upon the plain, as Euryalus, leaving the crowd behind him, springs into the lead to seize the prize; and as he leaves the crowd further and further behind him, loud peals of applause attend him as the victor finally reaches the goal, his rival vanquished by his friend. Next came Helymus, and then Diores, made third in fame by these two misfortunes. But Salius enters the prince’s presence, and loudly calling for justice, deafens and disturbs the crowd, urging that his cause be heard in the court, he pleads that the prize was wrongfully conferred. The crowd, however, favor Euryalus, some say on account of his blossoming beauty and his tender years, with which he had bribed the judges for the promised prize. Beside Salius, Diores fills the court with loud cries, reaching in vain for the prize that would be his if first place were to be awarded to Salius.

Finally the prince intervened: “Let there be no dispute! I shall award the prize where Fortune has placed it! But give me leave to mend Fortune’s errors and allow me to show some pity to my deserving friend!” As he said this he drew from among the spoils a lions hide, with a ponderous shaggy mane and huge golden paws and gives it to Salius. Nisus, seeing this gift, is envious and grieves, “If falling is to rise by you, then what prize may Nisus claim of your bounty, who merited the fame and rewards of the first-place winner? In falling we were both equally tasked by Fortune… would Fortune provide so well for my fall?” With this he pointed to his face and showed his hands and his clothes, all smeared with sacrificial blood.

The father of the people smiled indulgently and had an ample shield brought, of wondrous art and wrought by Didymaon, and long-since brought in triumph from Neptune’s bars. After giving this to Nisus, he divides the rest, expressing equal justice in all his gifts.

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

November 4, 2011

Virgil’s Aeneid, Part 30

Filed under: Virgil's Aeneid 30 — astyages @ 11:26 pm
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Virgil’s Aeneid

by

DL Rowlands

(Part 30)

Now came the desired day! The skies were bright with the rosy luster of the rising sun: the neighboring people, roused by the local gossip of Trojan feasts and the name of the great Acestes, fill the crowded shore with their acclamations, partly to behold, and partly to prove their skill. First they place their gifts on public display: green laurel wreaths and palms to grace the victors. Within the circle lie arms and tripods, ingots of gold and silver, piled in heaps and vests embroidered with Tyrian dye. The trumpets’ clangor then proclaims the feast and all prepare for their appointed games. First four galleys carrying an equal number of rowers appear, advancing in the watery lists. The speedy Dolphin, that outstrips the wind, bore Mnestheus, father of the Memnian line. Gyas commands the vast bulk of the Chimaera, which stands like a floating city with its rising towers, with three Trojans tugging at every oar, in three degrees and three banks the sailors bore the roar of the billows beneath the sturdy strokes of their oars.

Sergesthus, who began the Sergian race took the leading place in the great Centaur, while Cloanthus, who draws his Trojan blood from Cluentius, stood on the sea-green Scylla. Standing out to see, against the foaming shore, there stands a rock; covered by the waves in storms, but when it is clear even its lower parts are visible. In peace below the gentle waters flow, while the cormorants above lie basking in the sun. On this the hero fixed an oak in his sight, as a landmark to guide his mariners while to bear with this the seamen stretch their oars. Then they steer round the rock to return to their starting-point. The places among the crew were decided by lot. Resplendent above all the others were the leaders of each ship, in his Tyrian vestments. The common crew crowned their temples with wreaths made from poplar branches to shade their sweaty brows: Their naked shoulders shine, besmeared with oil. All take their seats and await the starting signal. They grip their oars and every panting breast is alternately raised by hopes and depressed with fears.

The clangor of the trumpet gives the signal and at once they start, advancing in a line: the sailors rend the starry skies with their shouts; lashed by their oars the smoky billows rise as the briny main sparkles and the vexed ocean fries. Exactly in time they row, with equal strokes; at once the brushing oars and the brazen prow dash up the sandy waves and open the depths below. No fiery courser in any chariot race invaded the field with half so swift a speed; no fierce driver lends the lash with more fury, and before the blow descends, bends his pliant body low to the wheels.

The crowd choose their pick from among the contestants and noisily discuss their hopes and fears; aiding their favored side with their eager shouts as their cries, murmurs and clamors mixed into a noisy hum which resounded from the woods to the hills. Amist the loud applause from the shore the race started: Gyas, outstripping the rest, gained an early lead, while Cloanthus, better manned, pursued him fast, but the size of the galley, with its numerous masts, checked his haste. The Centaur and the Dolphin advance in a line abreast as their sailors brush the sea with equal oars; now the mighty Centaur seems to lead and now the speedy Dolphin gets ahead; now, board to board the rival vessels row as the billows wash the skies and the ocean groans beneath. They reach the mark! Proud Gyas and his team ride in triumph; the victors of the main; but, steering round, he orders his pilot to stand more close to shore, skimming along the beach.

Menoetes heard the order, “Let others bear to sea!” but he feared this shore’s secret rocky shelves, and in his caution he sought the deep and still steered aloof. With louder cries the captain calls once more: “Bear to the rocky shore and shun the main!” As he spoke he saw the bold Cloanthus astern, draw near the shelvings. Betwixt the mark and him stood the Scylla, plowing the flood in a tighter turn as he passed the mark and, wheeling hard about, gained the lead. Gyas blasphemed the gods, devoutly swore, cried out for anger and tore his hair. Mindless of others’ lives, such was his rising rage, and careless of his own, he threw the trembling dotard to the deck, then he hoisted him up and threw him overboard as he seized the helm while his fellows cheered as he turned short, madly steering upon the shelves. With only his head visible above the waves, the plunging pilot, clogged with his clothes and cumbered with his years swims ashore and, now dripping wet, painfully climbs the cliff as the crowd that saw him fall and float again shout from the distant shore and laugh aloud to see his heaving breast disgorge the briny draught.

The crews of the following Centaur and Dolphin renew their vanished hopes of victory; while Gyas lags, they rekindle the race to reach the mark. Sergestheus takes the place as Mnestheus pursues, and as they turn around the mark, comes up not half his galley’s length behind. Then on deck he appears amidst his mates, cheering their drooping courage: “My friends, and before that, Hector’s followers, exert your vigor; tug the laboring oar; stretch to your strokes, my still unconquered crew, whom I drew from the flaming walls of Troy. Let me find in this, our common interest, that same strength of hand, that same courage of mind as when you stemmed the strong Malean flood and rowed over the Syrtes’ broken billows! I seek not to gain the foremost palm… Ah! No! That is hopeless; let those whom the gods ordain enjoy it! But to be last… the lags of all the race! At least you can redeem yourselves and me from that disgrace.”

Now, one and all, they tug against the sea; they row at the full stretch and shake the brazen prow. The sea beneath them sinks; their laboring sides are swelled, and sweat runs guttering down in tides. Chance aids their daring with an unhoped-for success; Sergesthus, eager to push his beak between the rival galley and the rock, locks in the unwieldy Centaur. The vessel struck and with the dreadful shock shivered her oars and broke her head. The trembling rowers arise from their banks and, anxious for themselves, renounce the prize. With iron poles they heave her off the shores and gather their floating oars from the sea. The crew of Mnestheus, with elated minds urge their success and call the willing winds as they ply their oars and cut their liquid way in larger compass on the roomy sea. As when the dove, roused in fright, forsakes her rocky hold and shakes her sounding wings, the cavern rings with clattering as she flies out, leaving her troubles behind her as she cleaves the skies: At first she flutters but at length she springs to smoother flight and shoots upon her wings: So Mnestheus cuts the sea in the Dolphin; and, flying with a momentum that assists his way, they soon pass Sergesthus in the Centaur, wedged in the rocky shoals and stuck fast, vainly imploring the victor’s aid as he tries to row with shattered oars.

Then Mnestheus bears down on Gyas and outstrips him; the ship, without a pilot, yields the prize. Unvanquished, Scylla now remains alone ahead of him and her he pursues, straining with all his strength as shouts arise from the favoring multitude to which applauding Echo replies. Shouts, wishes and applause run rattling through the skies. These clamors the Scylla hears with disdain, for they begrudge their competitors’ this praise and even more so the possibility of being robbed of their reward: Resolved to hold their own, they mend their pace; all obstinate to win the race or die in the attempt. Its morale lifted with their success, the Dolphin ran swiftly, for they can conquer, who believe they can. Both urge their oars and fortune supplies them both; and perhaps both would have shared an equal prize, but then Cloanthus stretches his hands out over the sea and demands succor from the watery powers: “Gods of the liquid realms on which I row! If you grant me the victor’s laurels I shall sacrifice a snow-white bull on your shore and his entrails, cast as an offering into the sea along with ruddy wine, thrown from golden goblets, shall return my gratitude for your gift.” The choir of nymphs, and Phorcus, with the virgin Panopea, heard his vow from below; and old Portunus, with his broad hand, gave the galley a mighty push which sped it, swift as a shaft or a winged wind, towards the land and, darting to the port, obtains the prize.

The herald summons all and then declares Cloanthus the winner of the naval games. The prince crowns the victor’s head with laurel and three fat steers are led to his vessel; the ship’s reward, with generous wine besides, along with sums of silver, which the crew divide amongst themselves. The leaders are distinguished from the crew; the victor is honored with a noble vestment, in which gold and purple each strive to outdo the other in the costliness of its needlework; there Ganymede is wrought with living art, chasing a trembling deer through Ida’s groves; breathless he seems, yet eager for the hunt, when in open view, the bird of Jove, diving on his prey, carries the boy off in his crooked talons. In vain, with gazing eyes and uplifted hands, his guards behold him soaring through the skies as barking dogs vainly pursue his flight.

Mnestheus was declared the second victor and shared the second prize: A coat of mail, once worn by the brave Demoleus, until the braver Aeneas tore it from his shoulders in single combat on the Trojan shore. This was ordained for Mnestheus to possess, for his defense in war and for ornament in peace. The gift was rich and glorious to behold, but it was so heavy due to the weight of its golden plates that two servants could scarce sustain the weight between them. Yet, even thus loaded, Demoleus had pursued and lightly seized the Trojan train. The third reward consisted of two goodly bowls of massy silver, richly wrought with prominent figures; and two brass caldrons brought from Dodona.

Thus rewarded by the hero, they all bind their conquering temples with purple bands. And now Sergesthus, clearing from the rock, brings back his shock-shattered galley. Forlorn she looked, without oars as, with encouragement shouted by the crowd, she made to shore; as when a snake, surprised upon the road has her body crushed by the load of the heavy wheels; or with a mortal wound, her belly is bruised and trodden into the ground, she crawls along in vain, with loosened coils; still fierce above, she brandishes her tongue; glares with her eyes and bristles with her scales, but trails her unsound parts grovelling behind her in the dust: So the Centaur tends slowly towards the port. But what she lacks in oars is amended by sails. Yet the prince, happy that his galley has been saved, rewards the unhappy chief with the beautiful Cretan slave, Pholoe, and her equally lovely twins.

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

October 12, 2011

Virgil’s Aeneid, Part 29

Virgil’s Aeneid

by

DL Rowlands

(Part 29)

 

BOOK V

Meanwhile, the Trojan cuts his watery way, fixed on his voyage through the curling sea; then, casting his eyes backward, he was astonished to see on the Punic shore the mounting blaze. The cause was unknown, yet his mind quickly divined the fate of Dido from the fire. He understood the stormy souls of women and the secret springs which move their eager passions; how capable they were of dying for an injured love.

The Trojans draw dire auguries from this until the fires and the shores could no longer be seen and only the seas and skies filled their horizons; an empty space above, a floating field around them. But soon the heavens were overcast with shadows; a swelling cloud hung hovering overhead, livid it looked, as if threatening a storm; then night and horror deformed the ocean’s face. The pilot, Palinurus cried aloud, “Those gathering clouds presage terrible weather ahead; already the tempest roars! Stand to your tackle, mates, and stretch your oars; furl your swelling sails, and luff to the wind!”

The frightened crew do as they are ordered. Then, to his fearless chief he said, “Though Jove himself has promised that we shall reach Italy, Heaven itself could not stem the torrent of this raging sea. Mark how the shifting winds are rising from the west, and how dark the sky has become! Our shaken vessels cannot withstand such a pounding, let alone make headway against such a tempest. ‘Tis fate itself that diverts our course, and we must obey. Not far from here, if I observe the stars aright, lies the coast of Sicilia, which we might reach with our oars.” Aeneas then replied, “It’s true we strive in vain against the seas and the wind; shift your sails; I’ll be content to make the shores of Sicilia, whose hallowed earth contains the bones of Anchises, and where a prince of Trojan lineage reigns!” The course now resolved, they scud along before the western wind to reach the assigned port.

Meanwhile, Acestes, from a lofty vantage point, beheld the fleet descending on the land; and, not unmindful of his ancient race, he eagerly ran down the cliff to embrace the hero, clad in rough Libyan vestments and carrying a pointed javelin in either hand. His mother was a dame of Dardan blood; his father a Sicilian by the name of Crisinius; he welcomes his returning friends with a feast from his homely stores.

Now, when the following morn had chased the flying stars away and light had restored the day, Aeneas called the Trojan troops around and spoke to them from a small rise: “Offspring of heaven, divine Dardanian race! It has been a full year to the day since this isle has held my father’s ashes; a day forever sad, forever dear. Even if we had been banished to barren Gaetulia, or caught on the Grecian seas or hostile lands I would celebrate this day with annual games; with gifts piled high on altars, and holy fires: But since this happy storm has driven our fleet, (not, I think without the will of Heaven) upon these friendly shores, which hide Anchises’ blessed remains, let us joyfully perform the honors that are his due, and pray for prosperous winds to renew our voyage. Pray that we might soon celebrate the name of great Anchises in towns and temples of our own with yearly games which may spread the renown of our gods with the sports of our race. Acestes is pleased to grace our celebrations with royal gifts: two steers the king bestows on every ship; his gods and ours shall equally share your vows. Besides this, in nine days’ time, provided the weather is good, I intend to grace the day with solemn sports: Light galleys shall run a watery race on the seas; while others shall run a footrace to see who is the swiftest; and others still shall contend with their twanging bows. The strong, armed with iron gauntlets, shall stand in combat on the beach. Let all be present at the games we have prepared and joyful victors shall earn a just reward. But now we shall crown ourselves with garlands to assist the rites.” He said, and, by way of example, bound his brows with myrtle.

Then Helymus and old Acestes, led by his example, each adorned his head. Thus young Ascanius, with a sprightly grace, tied his temples and all the Trojans did likewise. Aeneas then advanced amidst the crowd, which followed him by thousands through the flowery plain, to the tomb of Anchises; and when they reached it he poured two bowls of sparkling wine, two bowls of milk and two bowls of blood from sacrificed bulls onto the sacred ground as an offering to Bacchus. And thus, to his father’s ghost, he spoke aloud: “Hail, oh ye holy manes! Hail once more, paternal ashes, now reviewed in vain! The gods did not permit that you should reach the promised shores of Italy, or Tiber’s flood, wherever it is, with me!”

Scarce had he finished his prayer when a speckled serpent began to glide from the tomb; his huge bulk rolled on seven high coils; blue was the breadth of his back, streaked with scaly gold: Thus, riding on his coils, he seemed to move along like a rolling fire, which singed the grass. Through his body ran more various colors than Iris’s bow as it drinks the sun. Between and around the rising altars, the sacred monster shot along the ground: Playing harmlessly amidst the bowls, he tasted the holy food with his flickering tongue, and thus fed, the wondrous guest retired to rest within the tomb.

The pious prince, surprised at what he saw, renewed the funeral honors with much more zeal, doubting not that this was a spirit and guardian of his father’s sepulcher. According to the rites, he slew five sheep and as many swine and sable steers. New wine he generously poured from the goblets, invoking the presence of his father’s ghost. The glad attendants come in a long procession, offering their gifts at the tomb of the great Anchises: some add more oxen to the sacrifice, from which others divide the meat; some sacrifice horses on the grass while others blow on fires to broil their entrails.

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

August 31, 2011

Virgil’s Aeneid, Part 27

Virgil’s Aeneid

by

DL Rowlands

(Part 27)

‘It was dead of night, when the eyes of weary bodies are closed in balmy sleep; the winds no longer whispering through the woods and even the tides are too still to make the murmuring of waves. The stars move around in their silent order and Peace covers the earth with her soft and downy wings. The flocks and herds and the multicolored fowl which haunt the woods or swim in the weedy pools lay stretched securely on the quiet earth, forgetting the labors of the past day. All else partake of natures common gift, but the furious Dido alone is awake; unable to find neither sleep nor ease. Sleep flees her eyes as quiet flees her heart; despair, and rage, and love divide her heart; despair and rage holding some of it, but love the greater portion. Thus she said in her secret mind:

What shall I do? What succor is there for me? Become a suppliant to Hyarba’s pride? And take my turn, to court and be spurned? Shall I go with this ungrateful Trojan, forsaking an empire to serve a foe? I gave him refuge, and relieved his train, ’tis true, but am I sure to be received? Does gratitude have any place in Trojan souls? Laomedon still lives in all his race! Then, should I seek this churlish crew alone, or pursue their flying sails with my fleet? The only forces I have are those who I recently drew reluctantly from their native shore; will they embark again for my sake to endure the seas once more, quitting this, their second Tyre? Rather invade thy guilty breast with steel and take the fortune though thyself hast made. Your pity, sister, first seduced my mind, or seconded too well what I had planned. Had I never known these dearly-bought pleasures; had I continued free, and still my own person, avoiding love, I would not have found despair, but shared the common air with savage beasts; like them, I might have led a lonely life, not mourned by the living, nor disturbing the dead.”

On these thoughts she brooded in her anxious breast, whilst on board his ship, the Trojan found rest easier to come by. Having made his decision to sail and made everything ready for his early departure, he passed the night in sleep, in which the winged god once more appeared to him, in the same youthful guise as before, invading his ears with this new alarm:

Are you sleeping, oh goddess-born? And can you forget your needful cares so near a hostile town, beset with foes? Do you not hear the western gales which invite your passage and fill your sails? She harbors a furious hatred in her breast, and you shall discover the dire effects too late; she is fixed on revenge and determined to die… You must make haste to flee from here, while you still have the power to do so! The sea will soon be covered with ships and the shore will be kindled with blazing firebrands. You must prevent her rage, while dark of night still obscures the skies; and sail before morning’s first light appears. Who knows what hazards your delay might bring? A woman’s mind is various and very changeable!” Then, in the dream, Hermes once again took flight aloft in the invisible air, disappearing into the darkness of the night.

Warned a second time by the celestial messenger, the pious prince hastily arose in fear, then immediately roused his drowsy crew: “Haste to your oars! Weigh your crooked anchors and spread your flying sails! Stand to sea! A god commands us: he stood before my eyes and urged us once again to speedy flight! Oh, sacred power, whatsoever power you are! To your blessed orders I resign my heart. Lead the way; protect thy Trojan followers, and prosper the design thy will commands!”

As he said this, he drew forth his flaming sword and divided the anchor-rope with his thundering arm, inspiring in his crew an emulating zeal: They run; they snatch and headlong they rush into the main in their haste to leave behind the deserted beach as they brush the liquid seas with laboring oars.

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

Now Aurora had left her saffron bed, and beams early of light were spreading across the heavens, when the queen’s wakeful eyes watched the dawn from a tower. She looked seaward and saw that the sea was empty; the last of the ships barely visible now as they disappeared over the horizon. Stung with despite and furious with despair she struck her trembling breast and tore her hair,

And shall the ungrateful traitor go, forsaking my land and betraying my love?” she said, “Shall we not arm ourselves? Not rush from every street in the city to follow him… to sink and burn his perjured fleet? Haste! Haul my galleys out and pursue the foe! Bring flaming torches! Set sail and row swiftly! What have I said? Where am I? Fury turns my brain and burns my distempered bosom. Then, when I gave my person and my throne would have been a better time to have shown this hatred and this rage! See now the promised faith, the vaunted name, the pious man who rushed through the fires to preserve his gods and carry the burden of his feeble father to the Phrygian shore! I should have torn him limb from limb and thrown the pieces in the sea; or left his remains exposed in the woods. I should have destroyed his friends and set the boy on a fire to burn before his father’s eyes! Events are doubtful, which wait on battles, yet where’s the doubt to souls secure of their fate? My Tyrians, at their injured queen’s command would have tossed their fires amid the Trojans and at once extinguished all the faithless; and I myself, in the vengeance of my shame, should have fallen upon the funeral pyre to feed its flames.

Thou, Sun, who sees everything at once in the world beneath; thou, Juno, guardian of the nuptial vows; and thou, Hecate, hearken from your dark abodes! Ye furies, fiends and violated gods, all you powers, invoked with Dido’s dying breath, listen to her curses and avenge her death! If, as Jove commands and the Fates ordain, the ungrateful wretch should find the Latian lands, let a race of untamed and haughty foes oppose his peaceful entrance with dire arms! Oppressed by numbers in an unequal field, let his men be discouraged and himself expelled; let him run from place to place seeking succor, torn from his subjects and his son’s embrace! But first let him see his friends slain in battle and lament their untimely fate in vain; and when at length the cruel war shall end, let him buy his peace under hard conditions; and do not even then let him enjoy his kingship, but let him fall untimely by some hostile hand, to lie unburied on the barren earth.

These are my prayers and this is my dying will; and you, my Tyrians, fulfill every curse! Proclaim perpetual hatred and mortal war against the prince, the people and the Trojan name! These grateful offerings bestow on my grave; let the hostile nation know neither fellowship nor love! Now and henceforward in every future age, when rage excites your arms and strength supplies it, let some avenger of our Libyan blood arise with fire and sword to pursue their perjured breed; let our arms, our seas, our shores be opposed to them; and let the same hate descend on all our heirs!”

This said, she weighs within her anxious mind, the means of cutting short her odious days. Then, to Sichaeus’ nurse (for her own was dead when she had left her country) she said, “Go, Barce, call my sister, and let her prepare the solemn rites of sacrifice; bring the sheep and the atoning offerings, sprinkle her body with living drops from the crystal spring; then let her come and with sacred fillets bind thy hoary brow. Thus will I pay my vows to Stygian Jove and end the cares of my disastrous love; then cast the Trojan’s image on the fire and as that burns, so too shall my passions also die.”

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

July 7, 2011

Virgil’s Aeneid, Part 25

Virgil’s Aeneid

by

DL Rowlands

(Part 25)

(With apologies for the unexpected break in postings to my regular readers; frankly I’ve been a bit depressed lately and needed to take a break. Anyway let’s get back into the swing of things with a bumper edition ‘Virgil’s Aeneid’ which takes off from where the last episode leaves off… and I hope to have another episode of ‘Hell Hospital’ by the end of next week; wish me luck!)

Hermes obeys, and, with the golden wings of his flying feet, mounts the western winds; and whether flying over the seas or the earth, they bear him down the skies with rapid force. But first he grasps within his hands the mark of his sovereign power, the caduceus. With this he draws the ghosts from hollow graves; with this he drives them down the waters of the Styx; with this he seals the wakeful eyesight in sleep and eyes though closed in death, he restores to the light. Thus armed the god begins his airy race, driving the racking clouds along before him; now he sees the tops of Atlas, whose brawny back supports the skies; Atlas, whose head is crowned with piny forests, is beaten by the winds and bound with foggy vapors. Snows hide his shoulders and from beneath his chin the founts of rolling streams begin their downward race and a beard of ice hangs down his large breast. Here, poised upon his wings, the god descends: Then, thus rested, he plunged downward with precipitous flight, lighting on the seas and skimming along their flood like a waterfowl who seeks their fishy food, by turns dancing aloft and then diving below; like these he plies the steerage of his wings, flying near the surface of the water, ’til, having passed the seas and crossed the sands, he closed his wings and stooped on Libya, where once were shepherds housed in homely sheds, now were towers, rising up to the very clouds above their heads.

Arriving there he found the Trojan prince raising new ramparts for the town’s defense. He wore about his waist a purple scarf, embroidered over with gold, a gift from Queen Dido, from which depended a sword, glittering with various gems – for ornament, not for use – which hung idly by his side. Then the god resumed his own shape and with winged words, began:

Degenerate man, thou woman’s property! What are you doing here, helping to rear these Tyrian towers and forgetting about your own? All-powerful Jove, who moves the world below and the heavens above, has sent me down with this severe command: Why are you lingering here in Libya? If glory cannot move a mind so mean, nor wean it from fleeting pleasure, think about the fate of your son and rising heir… Let young Ascanius wear the promised crown, for to him is owed by Fate the Ausonian scepter and the state of Rome’s imperial name…”

So spoke the god and, having spoken, he took to flight, vanishing swiftly among the clouds. The pious prince was seized with sudden fear; he was dumbstruck and his hair stood on end, turning the stern command over in his mind, now loathing this charming land and longing to fly; knowing what must be done but doubtful of the means. What should he say? And where should he begin?

After long thought, he calls his three chiefs and commands them to repair the fleet and have the men silently board ship upon some plausible pretext or other; meanwhile, he would try to find the gentlest moment and means to tell his love-sick lady and move her tender mind gently to accept what Zeus had ordained.

But alas, what course should he steer between the offended lover and the powerful monarch? Finally deciding that Jove would inspire him with the words, he gives his orders as his chiefs listened with pleasure then hurried to obey.

But the queen quickly sees through the thin disguise, for who could blind the eyes of a jealous woman? She was the first to discover the secret, before the fatal news was blazed abroad, for Love hears the first motions of the lover; it is quick to presage and fears even when safe. But the Trojans could not hide the fact that the ships were being repaired, nor the men boarding them, evidently planning to forsake the Tyrian court.

Frantic with fear, impatient of the wound yet impotent of mind, Dido roves round the city; the Bacchanalian dames, when they hear from afar their nightly god and howl about the hills, shaking their wreathed spears, appear less wild than she. At length she finds the dear perfidious man; preventing his rehearsed excuse before he even had a chance to begin it, she interrupted him thus, “Base and ungrateful wretch! Did you think you could plan to leave here without me knowing it? Could neither my kindness, nor our plighted vows nor the deeper bands of love, move your compassion? I’ll kill myself if you leave; is it not my death worth preventing? Then stay! Even the wintry winds command you to stay, for if you put to sea you will dare the tempests and defy Neptune. False as you are, suppose you were not bound to unknown lands to explore foreign coasts, if Troy were restored and Priam still its king, would you dare risk the raging main, even for Troy? Look at what you’re fleeing from… am I the enemy to be thus shunned?

Now, by these holy vows, so recently sworn, by this right hand, since all I have to challenge you with is the faith you gave earlier, I beg you by these tears, and by the pleasures of our nuptial bed, if ever Dido, when you were kindest to me, was pleasing in your eyes? Or if she ever touched your mind? By these my prayers, if there is still room enough for prayer, have pity on our falling race… For you I have provoked the hatred of a tyrant and incensed both the Tyrian and the Libyan states! For you alone my reputation suffers, I am bereft of honor and exposed to shame. Whom have I now to trust, ungrateful guest? What have I left? Where can I go? Must I wait for Pygmalion’s cruelty or till Hyarba shall lead in triumph, a queen who proudly scorned his proffered bed? Had you deferred your hasty flight, at least, and left behind some pledge of our love, some babe to bless the mother’s mournful sight.. a young Aeneas, to take your place so I may at least be reminded of his father’s features in his face; then I would not complain about living bereft of my husband and living all alone…”

Here the queen paused, but unmoved, Aeneas holds her eyes, refusing to allow love to rise though it heaved in his heart. At length he replies: “Fair queen you can never repeat enough your boundless favors; nor I the debt I owe you; nor while I still live and breath can my mind forget your name, but let me say just this in my defense: I never wanted a secret flight from hence, much less pretended to the lawful claim of sacred nuptials, nor the title of husband. For, if it were not for Fate’s decree, my choice would be to return to Troy to gaze upon her relics and adore their dust, to restore the ruined palace of Priam. But now the Delphian oracle commands me and Fate invites me to the Latian lands. That is the promised place to which I steer, and where all my vows will be terminated. You Tyrians have already found your place on a foreign shore and now adorn Libya’s plains with your towers and city walls. Why may we not accomplish the same? Every night after dark, when the twinkling stars arise, Anchises angry ghost appears to me in dreams, chides my delay and fills my soul with fears; and young Ascanius may justly complain of being deprived of the crown he was destined to wear. Just now the herald of the gods appeared; even awake I saw him and heard his message, commissioned by Jove himself. He entered these walls and expressed those words… Fair queen do not oppose what the gods command; it is because I am forced by Fate that I must leave your happy land.”

Dido could no longer tolerate these outrageous threats; with sparkling eyes she surveyed Aeneas’ guilty person from head to foot as she interrupted him, “You are false! And more than false, foresworn! Not sprung from noble blood, nor born of any goddess, but hewn from the hardened entrails of a rock! You were suckled by Hyrcanian tigers! Why should fawn on you? What worse fate can happen to me? Did you ever look kindly on me? Or lend listen to my sighs and sobs? Or shed a single kindly tear? All symptoms of a base and ungrateful mind, a mind so foul it would be hard to imagine a worse one. But why should I complain of man’s injustice? The gods, even Jove himself can clearly see this triumphant treason, yet no thunder flies; nor will Juno look on my ‘wrongs’ any differently: the Earth and the Skies are both faithless and justice is fled! Truth is now no more! I have saved the shipwrecked sailor who was cast upon my shore as an exile, fed him and his needy Trojans… I even took him to my bed and offered him a throne; fool that I was! Little point in repeating the rest… I restored and rigged his ruined fleet… but I rave! I rave! He pleads a god’s command? And makes heaven accessory to his deeds! He has employed Lycian gods, the Delian god and even Hermes in his guise as messenger of Jove to warn him to leave this land; as if the peace of the heavens is the least bit disturbed by any human fate! But go! I can detain your flight no longer. Go and seek your promised land across the sea; yet if the heavens will hear my pious vow, the waves, themselves faithless, but not half so much as you, covering the sands of some far-off seabed shall prove to be the final resting place of your proud vessels… and their perjured lord! Then shall you call on Dido’s name and Dido shall come… in a black and sulphurous fire! After death has once dissolved her mortal frame, she shall smile to see the traitor weep in vain; her angry ghost, arising from the deep shall haunt you by day and not let you rest at night. At least my shade shall know your punishment, when Fame spreads the pleasant news even into the Underworld.”

She stopped here and turned away abruptly. With loathing in her eyes, she shuns the light of day. Aeneas stood amazed, turning over in his mind how to frame his speech… how to find some excuse, as Dido’s maids, fearful for their mistress, who was on the point of fainting, laid her softly on her ivory bed. But good Aeneas, though he was much moved to give her the pity which her grief required, and much though he mourned the love he was losing, resolves at length to obey the will of Jove and leaves to review his forces as they unmoor their vessels and prepare to put to sea.

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

June 14, 2011

Virgil’s Aeneid, Part 24

 

Virgil’s Aeneid

by

DL Rowlands

(Part 24)

 

The rosy morn was risen from the sea when horns and hounds awoke the princely train; they issue early through the city gate where the more wakeful huntsment already waited, with nets and traps and darts, as well as a pack of Spartan dogs and swift Massylian horses. The Tyrian lords and officers of state waited for the slow queen in the antechambers while her lofty courser waited in the court below and seemed to know his majestic rider. Proud of his purple trappings he paws the ground and champs the golden bit, spreading foam around it. At length the queen appears; on either hand the brawny guards stand to attention. A flowered cloak she wore, with a golden fringe, and at her back was slung a golden quiver; her golden hair restrained by a golden caul while a golden clasp kept her Tyrian robe in place.

 

Then the graceful young Ascanius leads on the young Trojans to view the chase. But above all the rest of them in beauty shines the great Aeneas, who joins the troop like fair Apollo, when he leaves the frost of wintry Xanthus and the coast of Lycia to resort to his native Delos to order the dances and renews the sports; where painted Scythians mixed with bands of Cretans join hands joyfully before the altars; himself, walking on Cynthus sees below him the merry madness of the sacred show; wreathes of green laurels enclose his lengthy hair while a golden filet binds his awful brows as he checks his quiver: the prince is no less in manly presence, or in lofty manner.

 

Now they had reached the hills and stormed the seat of the savage beasts in their dens; their final retreat. The cry pursues the mountain goats: they bound from rock to rock, keeping to the crags. The stags on the other hand, scoured the dusty plain in vast herds providing for the huntsmen a long chase in open view. The glad Ascanius guides his courser, spurring it through the vale to outrace them; his horse’s flanks feeling the sting of the lash and the goading of the steel. Impatiently he views this feeble prey, looking for some nobler quarry; he would rather tackle a tusky boar or brave the tawny lion.

 

Meanwhile, the gathering clouds obscure the skies and forked lightning flies from pole to pole; the rattling thunders roll and Juno pours down a wintry deluge, showering the whole company. The company disperses to seek shelter in homely huntsmens’ cottagess, or in hollow caves in the mountain’s side. The rapid rains descend from the hills in rolling torrents and the rivers rise. The queen and prince are guided, by love or fortune, into the same cavern where they hide from the weather as the earth trembles and flashing fires light up the whole cave; Hell from below and Juno from the heavens and the howling nymphs were conscious of their love. Debate and death, and all succeeding woes arose in time from this ill-omened hour. The queen, whose sense of honor was immovable, no longer made a secret of her love, but called it marriage, and by that specious name veiled the crime and sanctified the shame.

 

Reports of their love soon spread through the Lybyan cities. Fame, that great evil, grows from small beginnings; swift from the start and every moment brings new vigor to her flights; new vigor to her wings. Soon the pygmy grows to gigantic size; her feet on the earth and her head in the clouds. Enraged against the gods, revengeful Earth produced her last of the whole Titan race; swift is her walk and she is more swift still when she takes flight; a monstrous phantom, horrible and vast. As many plumes as raise her lofty flight, so many piercing eyes enlarge on what they see; Fame has millions of opening mouths and every mouth is furnished with a tongue, and this flying plague is hung all round with listening ears. She fills the peaceful universe with laments; no slumbers ever close her wakeful eyes. By day, from lofty towers she shows her head, and spreads disastrous news through trembling crowds; with court informers and royal spies relates things done and feigns things undone; mingling truth in among the lies.

 

Talk is her business and her chief delight is to tell of prodigies and cause fear. She fills the people’s ears with Dido’s name, who, now lost to honor or to any sense of shame, admits into her nuptial bed a wandering guest, who had fled from his country. Whole days she passes with him in delights, wasting the long wintery nights in luxury, forgetful of her fame and royal duties, dissolved in ease and abandoned to her lust.

 

The goddess widely spreads the loud report, which at length even reaches the court of King Hyarba. When first possessed of this unwelcome news he raved, accusing men and gods. This prince, born of the ravished Garamantis, adorned a hundred temples with sacrificial spoils, in honor of his celestial father, Ammon; a hundred altars, fed with wakeful fire; and, throughout his vast dominions ordained priests whose watchful care maintained these holy rites. The gates and columns were crowned with garlands, while the blood of the victims enriched the ground.

 

He, when he heard that a fugitive had moved the heart of the Tyrian princess, who had disdained his love, his breast burned with fury and his eyes with fire. Mad with despair and impatient with unquenched desire he pours wine on the sacred altars and thus implores his divine sire with prayers:

 

Great Jove! Propitious to the Moorish race, who feast on painted beds and who grace thy temples with offerings and adore thy divine power with the blood of victims and with sparkling wine, see you not this? Or do we fear your boasted thunder and thy thoughtless rule in vain? Do thy broad hands lance the forked lightings? Are the bolts thine? Or the blind work of chance? A wandering woman builds, within our state, a little town, purchased very cheaply; she payse me homage and by my grant, is allowed to plough a narrow space of Libyan land; yet, scorning me, and out of blind passion she allows a banished Trojan into her bed. And now, must this other Paris, with his train of conquered cowards reign in Africa? (Whose looks and garb proclaim what they are? Their locks perfumed with oil; their Lydian dress). He takes the prize and enjoys the princess, while I, rejected, adore an empty name.”

 

In haughty terms he thus proffers his vows, and held his altars horns. The mighty Thunderder heard; then cast his eyes on Carthage, where he found the lustful pair, drowned in lawless pleasure; lost in their loves, insensible of shame; and both forgetful of their positions and their reputations. He calls Cyllenious, and the god attends and through him sends his menacing command:

 

Go, mount the western winds and cleave the sky; then, fly swiftly down to Carthage; there find the Trojan chief who wastes his days in slothful and inglorious ease, with no thought for his future city or his destiny, and give him this message from my mouth: ‘This is not what fair Venus hoped for, when twice she won thy life with prayers; nor was she promised such a son! Hers was a hero, destined to lead a martial race and rule the Latian land, who should draw his ancient line from Teucer and who would impose law on the conquered world.’ If glory cannot move so mean a mind, nor future praise wean him from pleasure, yet why should he defraud his son of his birthright and begrudge the Romans their immortal name! What are his vain designs! What does he hope for from his long lingering on a hostile shore; careless to redeem his lost honor and for his race to gain Ausonian coast! Bid him forsake the Tyrian court with speed! Wake the slumbering warrior with this command!”

 

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

May 24, 2011

Virgil’s Aeneid, Part 23

Virgil’s Aeneid

by

DL Rowlands

(Part 23)

Sick with desire and seeking him she loves, the raving Dido roams from
street to street; as when a stricken hind, carelessly wounded by some
watchful shepherd’s random shaft, distracted with her pain, flees the
woods and bounds over lawns, seeking the silent river with fruitless
care; for the fatal dart still sticks in her side and rankles in her
heart.

And now she leads the Trojan chief along the lofty walls, amidst the busy
crowd, displaying her Tyrian wealth and her rising town, which love,
without any effort on his part, makes his own. This pomp she shows
him, to tempt her wandering guest but her faltering tongue forbids
her to speak of what is in her heart. When day declines and feasts
renew the night, she still feeds her famished eyes on the sight of
his face, longing to hear the prince again relate his own adventures
and the fate of Troy. He tells it over and over, but Dido is not
satisfied and still she begs to hear it once again, the hearer
hanging onto every word from the speaker’s lips; and thus his tragic
story never ends.

Then, when they part, when Phoebe’s paler light withdraws and falling stars
invite  sleep, she stays behind, when every guest is gone, sits alone
on the bed his warmth had pressed and sighs. In his absence the hero
sees and hears, as if the image of young Ascanius, which she bears in
her bosom, now seeks the father’s image in the child, her love now
beguiled by the likeness. In the meantime, all work on the rising
towers comes to a standstill; the youthful band perform no drills or
exercises at arms; the city is left unfinished to the foe; the mounds
and walls lie neglected, short of their promised height, that once
seemed to threaten the very sky.

But when imperial Juno, from the heavens, saw Dido thus fettered in the
chains of love, hot with the venom in her veins and unrestrained by
any sense of shame or modesty, she spoke these soothing words to
Venus:

You have won high praise, endless honors and mighty trophies, together
with your worthy son. Two gods have undone a silly woman! Nor am I
ignorant of your suspicions about this rising city, which my hands
erect… But will celestial discord never end? It’s much better to
make a lasting peace. You stand now possessed of all your soul
desired: Poor Dido is fired with an all-consuming love. Let us join
your Trojan with my Tyrian; so Dido shall be yours, and Aeneas mine;
sharing one common kingdom with their line united. Eliza shall obey a
Dardan lord, and lofty Carthage shall be her dowry.”

Then Venus, who secretly sought to misguide the scepter of the world to
Libyan shores, thus artfully replied:

Who but a fool would choose to go to war against Juno; or refuse such an
alliance, or such gifts, if Fortune complies with our joint desires?
The doubt is all from Jove and Destiny; lest his absolute command
forbid this mixing of the Trojan and the Tyrian line… but you, the
partner of his bed and his throne, may move his mind; my wishes are
the same as yours.”

The responsibility then, shall be mine,” said imperial Juno, “but
time is pressing now, to perfect this affair: Listen to my advice and
keep my secret. When next the Sun displays his rising light, and
gilds the world below with purple rays, the Queen, Aeneas and the
Tyrian court shall venture into the shady woods for some sport.
There, while the huntsmen busy themselves with the hunt, and cheerful
horns resound from one side of the wood to the other, a dark cloud
shall cover the whole plain with hail and thunder and a tempestuous
rain; the fearful train shall speedily take flight, dispersing
through the gloom; one cave shall afford a grateful shelter to the
fair princess and the Trojan lord. I myself will prepare a bridal
bed, if you will be there to bless the nuptials. So shall their loves
be crowned with every blessing and Hymen shall be present at the
rites.”

The Queen of Love consents, and smiles to herself at her vain project and
discovered wiles.

*****    *******     *****

May 15, 2011

Virgil’s Aeneid, part 22

by

David L Rowlands

BOOK IV:

But anxious cares had already seized the queen; she fed an unseen flame within her veins; the heroes valor, his deeds and his noble birth inspired her soul with love and fanned this secret fire. His words, his looks, imprinted on her heart, fed this passion, increasing its sting. Now, when the purple morn had chased away the shadows and the day was full, she first sought her sister and thus, in mournful accents eased her mind:

“My dearest Anna, what new dreams frighten my laboring soul! What visions of the night disturb my quiet and distract my mind with strange ideas of our Trojan guest. His worth, his actions and his air of majesty; I declare he must be descended from the gods! Fearful men are degenerate, but his birth is well asserted by his mind. Then… what he suffered, when betrayed by Fate! What brave attempts he made to save Troy from falling… Such were his looks and so gracefully he spoke, that, were I not so hurt by my first disastrous marriage that I have resolved never to risk a second… yet to this one error I may yield again; for, ever since Sichaeus was untimely slain, no man but this one has ever been able to stir the fixed foundation of my stubborn heart. And, to confess my frailty, to my shame, I find within myself the same stirrings I felt for my former love. But let the earth open up and swallow me; let me descend into the abyss; first let avenging Jove, with flames from on high strike down this body and fling my soul into the nether regions, condemned to lie in endless night with the ghosts, before I break the vow I swore. No! He who had my vows shall keep them forever; for whom I loved on earth I worship in his grave.”

And saying this, the tears gushed from her eyes and stopped her speech. Her sister replied thus:

“Oh, sister, dearer to me than the vital air I breathe, will you bequeath your blossoming years to grief? Condemn yourself to waste your lonely life in woes, without the joys of being a mother or a wife? Do you think these tears, this pompous train of woe, are of any value whatsoever to the dead? I grant that, while your sorrows were still fresh, it well became a woman and a queen to neglect the vows of Tyrian princes, to scorn Hyarbas and reject his love, together with that of all the Lybyan lords with mighty names… But will you fight against pleasure? This little spot of land, bestowed on us by Heaven, is hemmed in on every side with warlike foes; Gaetulian cities here; fierce Numidians right on your frontiers; even in the deserts there are the Syrtes, while Barcaean troops besiege the narrow coast… and from the seas Pygmalion threatens to send more. Propitions Heaven, and gracious Juno, lead this wandering navy to your needful aid: How will your empire spread, your city raise, from such a union, and with such allies? Pray for the favor of the gods and leave the conduct of the rest to love. Continue your hospitality towards the Trojan, and try to think of reasons for them to stay, at least until these storms and winter winds shall cease to threaten, and until they have repaired their shattered fleet.”

These words, coming from a sister and a friend, easily dissolved her famous scruples, and her passion burned with a new fury. Inspired with hope, they pursued their project, sacrificing a chosen ewe of two years old to Ceres, Bacchus, and the God of Day; with a special preference for Juno’s power, for Juno ties the nuptial knot and makes the marriage joys. The beauteous queen stands before her altar, and holds the golden goblet in her hands, a milk-white heifer she adorns with flowers, and pours the ruddy wine betwixt her horns, and, while the priests invoke the gods with prayer, she feeds their altars with Sabaean incense, renewing the sacrifice every hour, anxiously viewing the entrails. But what priestly rites, what pious rite, or what vows can avail to cure a bleeding heart? A gentle fire she feeds within her veins, where the soft god reigns secure, in silence.

*****     *******     *****

April 25, 2011

Virgil’s Aeneid, Part 21

 

Virgil’s Aeneid

by

DL Rowlands

 

(Part 21)

Scarce had the day revealed the rising sun, scarce had his heat dispelled the pearly dews, when from the woods there bolts, before our very eyes, a creature somewhere between a mortal and a sprite. So thin, so ghastly meager and so pale; so bare of flesh that the scarcely resembled a man. This think, a tattered, seemed to implore our pious aid from the distance, pointing to the shore. We look behind, then view his shaggy beard; his clothes tagged with thorns and his limbs besmeared with filth. The rest, in mien, in habit and in face, appeared Greek, and such indeed he was. From a distance, when he saw that we were Trojans and he knew us as foes, he cast on us a fearful look, paused and stood still; then all at once began to stretch his limbs, trembling as he ran. As soon as he approached, he fell to his knees and thus, with tears and sighs, calls for pity.

‘Now, by the powers above, and by what we share of Nature’s common gift, this vital breath, oh Trojans, take me away from here! I beg no more; just take me far from this unhappy place. It is true I am a Greek, and I further admit that I was among your foes who besieged Troy… If my death is due for such demerits, then I’ll plead for this abandoned life no more, but let my tears obtain only one favor; that you throw me headlong into the swelling sea, since my crime demands nothing more than death; I shall die content to die by human hands…”

Speaking thus on his knees, he embraced my knees: I bade him boldly to tell us his story, how he came to be in his present state, his lineage and his name, what it was that he was so afraid of, and where he came from. The good Anchises raised him with his hand, and thus encouraged, he answered our questions:

‘I came from Ithaca; my native soil; to Troy. Achaemenides is my name. My poor father sent me with Ulysses… (Oh, how I wish that I’d stayed at home, content in my poverty!) But, fearful for themselves, my companions left me forsaken as a sacrifice in the Cyclops’ den. The cave, though large, was dark; the dismal floor was paved with mangled limbs and putrid gore. Our monstrous host, an immense beast, lifts his head and stares at the skies. His voice bellows and horrid is his hue; ye gods! Remove this plague from mortal sight! The joints of slaughtered wretches are his food and his wine is their streaming blood. These very eyes saw when with his huge hand he seized two captives from our Grecian band, and, stretched on his back, he dashed their broken bodies against the rocks to crush their bones. The pavements swims with the purple of their spouting blood as the dire glutton grinds their trembling limbs.

‘Ulysses could not bear such a fate unrevenged; nor was he thoughtless about his own unhappy situation; for, gorged on flesh and drunk with human wine, the giant now lay supine, fast asleep, snoring aloud and belching indigested foam and gobbets of meat from his maw. We pray, then cast lots and surround the monstrous body that was stretched along the ground. Each as he could approach him, lends a hand to bore out his eyeball with a flaming branch. Beneath his frowning forehead lay his eye, for the gods had given him only one, but that was a globe so large that it filled his face, like the sun’s disc, or like a Grecian shield. The stroke succeeds; and down the pupil bends: this was the vengeance we obtained for our slaughtered companions.

‘But haste, oh unhappy wretches, make haste to fly! Cut your cables and lean on your oars! As vast as Polyphemus appears, this hated island bears a hundred more of his kind. Like him they shut their woolly sheep in caves; like him they keep their herds on the tops of the mountains; and like him they stalk from mountainside to mountainside… It has been three months since, hiding in the wilderness, I have dragged my loathsome days with mortal fear, lodging in deserted caverns at night. Often from the rocks I see the dreadful prospect of the huge Cyclops, like a walking tree; and from afar I hear his thundering voice resound; his trampling feet shaking the solid earth. Cornels and salvage berries of the wood, along with roots and herbs, have been my meager food, as I searched all around for some means of escape. Finally I saw your happy ships appear and on those I fixed my hopes; I ran to these and it is all I ask, that you shun this cruel race; and that whatever death you see fitting for me, you bestow upon me yourselves.’

Scarce had he said this, when we saw the giant shepherd stalking on the mountain’s brow; leading his flock down to the shore: A monstrous bulk, blind and deformed, his staff a trunk of pine to guide his steps; his ponderous whistle dangling from his neck. His flock attend their lord closely; this the only comfort allowed to him by his hard fortune. As soon as he reached the shore and touched the waves, he washes the guttering blood from his hollowed eye, gnashes his teeth and groans and then strides forward through the seas; their topmost billows scarcely reaching his waist.

Seized with a sudden fear, we run to sea, cut our cables and haste silently away, bringing the well-deserving stranger with us. Then, buckling to the work, we divide the seas with our oars. The giant heard the splashing, however, and when he found our vessels beyond his reach he strode onward, vainly essaying the Ionian deep, but daring to wade no further. With that he roared aloud: the dreadful cry shakes earth, and air, and seas; the billows fly before the bellowing noise to distant Italy. The neighboring Aetna trembled; its winding caverns echoing the sound. His brother Cyclops hear the yelling and rushing down the mountains now crowd the shore. We saw their stern, distorted visages from a distance; the one-eyed glance that vainly threatened war. A dreadful council they made, their heads so lofty that the misty clouds fly about their foreheads; higher even than the towering tree of Jove, or Diana’s tallest cypresses.

New pangs of mortal fear assail our minds; we tug at every oar and hoist up every sail to take advantage of the friendly winds. Forewarned by Helenus, we strive to avoid Charybdis’ gulf on the one side and Scylla on the other; an equal fate appearing on either side. Tacking to the left we free ourselves from fear, for, from Pelorus’ point the north wind arose, driving us back past the rocky mouth of the swift Pantagias. From there we make our way by Thapsus and the winding bays of Megara; this passage shown to us by Achaemenides, retracing the course he had already run.

Right over against Plemmyrium’s watery strand, there lies an island once named Ortygia. Ancient legends report that, led by Love, Alpheus found there a secret underground passage from Greece, which led to the bedchamber of the beauteous Arethusa and, mingling here, they roll in the same sacred bed. As Helenus had advised us, we next adored Diana’s sacred name, as protector of the island. With prosperous winds we pass the quiet sounds of still and fruitful land of Elorus; then, doubling Cape Pachynus, from whose rocky shore, extending to the sea, we survey the town of Camarine in the distance; her fenny lake undrained by Fate’s decree.

We pass in sight of the Geloan fields, and see the walls where mighty Gela was; then Agragas, crowned with lofty summits, long renowned for its race of warlike steeds; we pass the palmy land of Selinus but widely avoid the shores of Lilybaea, whose coast is unsafe because of secret rocks and shifting sands. At length the weary fleet arrived on shore, where we were received at Drepanum’s unhappy port. Here, after endless hardships, having been tossed by raging storms and driven from every coast, spent with age, I lost my dear, dear father: the ease of my cares and the solace of my grief… saved through a thousand toils, but saved in vain. The prophet who had revealed my future woes to me had kept this one, the greatest and worst of them, concealed; and dire Celaeno, whose foreboding skill denounced all else, was silent on this matter. This was my last labor; some friendly god conveyed us from there to your blessed abode.”

Thus the royal guest told the intently-listening queen of all his toils and wanderings and, concluding here, he retired to rest.

*****     *******     *****

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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