Astyages's Weblog

June 14, 2011

Virgil’s Aeneid, Part 24


Virgil’s Aeneid


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!”


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