Æneas Flees from an Inconsolable Love

Saturday, 11 October 2014


Depiction of Vergil, 3rd Century A.D.

Vergil (70 B.C.–19 B.C.). Æneid.
Vol. 13, pp. 178-188 Of The Harvard Classics

Æneas, mythological founder of the Roman race, leaving Car?thage and its lovely Queen Dido, was driven by a storm to the coast of Sicily. There the hospitality of King Acestes helped him to forget his relinquished love.


The Fifth Book of the Æneis

THE ARGUMENT.—Æneas, setting sail from Afric, is driven by a storm on the coasts of Sicily, where he is hospitably receiv’d by his friend Acestes, king of part of the island, and born of Trojan parentage. He applies himself to celebrate the memory of his father with divine honors, and accordingly institutes funeral games, and appoints prizes for those who should conquer in them. While the ceremonies were performing, Juno sends Iris to persuade the Trojan women to burn the ships, who, upon her instigation, set fire to them; which burnt four, and would have consum’d the rest, had not Jupiter, by a miraculous shower, extinguish’d it. Upon this, Æneas, by the advice of one of his generals, and a vision of his father, builds a city for the women, old men, and others, who were either unfit for war, or weary of the voyage, and sails for Italy. Venus procures of Neptune a safe voyage for him and all his men, excepting only his pilot Palinurus, who is unfortunately lost.


MEANTIME the Trojan cuts his wat’ry way,
Fix’d on his voyage, thro’ the curling sea;
Then, casting back his eyes, with dire amaze,
Sees on the Punic shore the mounting blaze.
The cause unknown; yet his presaging mind
The fate of Dido from the fire divin’d;
He knew the stormy souls of womankind,
What secret springs their eager passions move,
How capable of death for injur’d love.
Dire auguries from hence the Trojans draw;
Till neither fires nor shining shores they saw.
Now seas and skies their prospect only bound;
An empty space above, a floating field around.
But soon the heav’ns with shadows were o’erspread;
A swelling cloud hung hov’ring o’er their head:
Livid it look’d, the threat’ning of a storm:
Then night and horror ocean’s face deform.
The pilot, Palinurus, cried aloud:
“What gusts of weather from that gath’ring cloud
My thoughts presage! Ere yet the tempest roars,
Stand to your tackle, mates, and stretch your oars;
Contract your swelling sails, and luff to wind.”
The frighted crew perform the task assign’d.
Then, to his fearless chief: “Not Heav’n,” said he,
“Tho’ Jove himself should promise Italy,
Can stem the torrent of this raging sea.
Mark how the shifting winds from west arise,
And what collected night involves the skies!
Nor can our shaken vessels live at sea,
Much less against the tempest force their way.
’T is fate diverts our course, and fate we must obey.
Not far from hence, if I observ’d aright
The southing of the stars, and polar light,
Sicilia lies, whose hospitable shores
In safety we may reach with struggling oars.”
Æneas then replied: “Too sure I find
We strive in vain against the seas and wind:
Now shift your sails; what place can please me more
Than what you promise, the Sicilian shore,
Whose hallow’d earth Anchises’ bones contains,
And where a prince of Trojan lineage reigns?”
The course resolv’d, before the western wind
They scud amain, and make the port assign’d.
  Meantime Acestes, from a lofty stand,
Beheld the fleet descending on the land;
And, not unmindful of his ancient race,
Down from the cliff he ran with eager pace,
And held the hero in a strict embrace.
Of a rough Libyan bear the spoils he wore,
And either hand a pointed jav’lin bore.
His mother was a dame of Dardan blood;
His sire Crinisus, a Sicilian flood.
He welcomes his returning friends ashore
With plenteous country cates and homely store.
  Now, when the following morn had chas’d away
The flying stars, and light restor’d the day,
Æneas call’d the Trojan troops around,
And thus bespoke them from a rising ground:
“Offspring of heav’n, divine Dardanian race!
The sun, revolving thro’ th’ ethereal space,
The shining circle of the year has fill’d,
Since first this isle my father’s ashes held:
And now the rising day renews the year;
A day for ever sad, for ever dear.
This would I celebrate with annual games,
With gifts on altars pil’d, and holy flames,
Tho’ banish’d to Gætulia’s barren sands,
Caught on the Grecian seas, or hostile lands:
But since this happy storm our fleet has driv’n
(Not, as I deem, without the will of Heav’n)
Upon these friendly shores and flow’ry plains,
Which hide Anchises and his blest remains,
Let us with joy perform his honors due,
And pray for prosp’rous winds, our voyage to renew;
Pray, that in towns and temples of our own,
The name of great Anchises may be known,
And yearly games may spread the gods’ renown.
Our sports Acestes, of the Trojan race,
With royal gifts ordain’d, is pleas’d to grace:
Two steers on ev’ry ship the king bestows;
His gods and ours shall share your equal vows.
Besides, if, nine days hence, the rosy morn
Shall with unclouded light the skies adorn,
That day with solemn sports I mean to grace:
Light galleys on the seas shall run a wat’ry race;
Some shall in swiftness for the goal contend,
And others try the twanging bow to bend;
The strong, with iron gauntlets arm’d, shall stand
Oppos’d in combat on the yellow sand.
Let all be present at the games prepar’d,
And joyful victors wait the just reward.
But now assist the rites, with garlands crown’d.”
He said, and first his brows with myrtle bound.
Then Helymus, by his example led,
And old Acestes, each adorn’d his head;
Thus young Ascanius, with a sprightly grace,
His temples tied, and all the Trojan race.
  Æneas then advanc’d amidst the train,
By thousands follow’d thro’ the flow’ry plain,
To great Anchises’ tomb; which when he found,
He pour’d to Bacchus, on the hallow’d ground,
Two bowls of sparkling wine, of milk two more,
And two (from offer’d bulls) of purple gore,
With roses then the sepulcher he strow’d
And thus his father’s ghost bespoke aloud:
“Hail, O ye holy manes! hail again,
Paternal ashes, now review’d in vain!
The gods permitted not, that you, with me,
Should reach the promis’d shores of Italy,
Or Tiber’s flood, what flood soe’er it be.”
Scarce had he finish’d, when, with speckled pride,
A serpent from the tomb began to glide;
His hugy bulk on sev’n high volumes roll’d;
Blue was his breadth of back, but streak’d with scaly gold:
Thus riding on his curls, he seem’d to pass
A rolling fire along, and singe the grass.
More various colors thro’ his body run,
Than Iris when her bow imbibes the sun.
Betwixt the rising altars, and around,
The sacred monster shot along the ground;
With harmless play amidst the bowls he pass’d,
And with his lolling tongue assay’d the taste:
Thus fed with holy food, the wondrous guest
Within the hollow tomb retir’d to rest.
The pious prince, surpris’d at what he view’d,
The fun’ral honors with more zeal renew’d,
Doubtful if this place’s genius were,
Or guardian of his father’s sepulcher.
Five sheep, according to the rites, he slew;
As many swine, and steers of sable hue;
New gen’rous wine he from the goblets pour’d.
And call’d his father’s ghost, from hell restor’d.
The glad attendants in long order come,
Off’ring their gifts at great Anchises’ tomb:
Some add more oxen; some divide the spoil;
Some place the chargers on the grassy soil;
Some blow the fires, and offer’d entrails broil.
  Now came the day desir’d. The skies were bright
With rosy luster of the rising light:
The bord’ring people, rous’d by sounding fame
Of Trojan feasts and great Acestes’ name,
The crowded shore with acclamations fill,
Part to behold, and part to prove their skill.
And first the gifts in public view they place,
Green laurel wreaths, and palm, the victors’ grace:
Within the circle, arms and tripods lie,
Ingots of gold and silver, heap’d on high,
And vests embroider’d, of the Tyrian dye.
The trumpet’s clangor then the feast proclaims,
And all prepare for their appointed games.
Four galleys first, which equal rowers bear,
Advancing, in the wat’ry lists appear.
The speedy Dolphin, that outstrips the wind,
Bore Mnestheus, author of the Memmian kind:
Gyas the vast Chimæra’s bulk commands,
Which rising, like a tow’ring city stands;
Three Trojans tug at ev’ry lab’ring oar;
Three banks in three degrees the sailors bore;
Beneath their sturdy strokes the billows roar.
Sergesthus, who began the Sergian race,
In the great Centaur took the leading place;
Cloanthus on the sea-green Scylla stood,
From whom Cluentius draws his Trojan blood.
  Far in the sea, against the foaming shore,
There stands a rock: the raging billows roar
Above his head in storms; but, when ’t is clear,
Uncurl their ridgy backs, and at his foot appear.
In peace below the gentle waters run;
The cormorants above lie basking in the sun.
On this the hero fix’d an oak in sight,
The mark to guide the mariners aright.
To bear with this, the seamen stretch their oars;
Then round the rock they steer, and seek the former shores.
The lots decide their place. Above the rest,
Each leader shining in his Tyrian vest;
The common crew with wreaths of poplar boughs
Their temples crown, and shade their sweaty brows:
Besmear’d with oil, their naked shoulders shine.
All take their seats, and wait the sounding sign:
They gripe their oars; and ev’ry panting breast
Is rais’d by turns with hope, by turns with fear depress’d.
The clangor of the trumpet gives the sign;
At once they start, advancing in a line:
With shouts the sailors rend the starry skies;
Lash’d with their oars, the smoky billows rise;
Sparkles the briny main, and the vex’d ocean fries.
Exact in time, with equal strokes they row:
At once the brushing oars and brazen prow
Dash up the sandy waves, and ope the depths below.
Not fiery coursers, in a chariot race,
Invade the field with half so swift a pace;
Not the fierce driver with more fury lends
The sounding lash, and, ere the stroke descends,
Low to the wheels his pliant body bends.
The partial crowd their hopes and fears divide,
And aid with eager shouts the favor’d side.
Cries, murmurs, clamors, with a mixing sound,
From woods to woods, from hills to hills rebound.
  Amidst the loud applauses of the shore,
Gyas outstripp’d the rest, and sprung before:
Cloanthus, better mann’d, pursued him fast,
But his o’er-masted galley check’d his haste.
The Centaur and the Dolphin brush the brine
With equal oars, advancing in a line;
And now the mighty Centaur seems to lead,
And now the speedy Dolphin gets ahead;
Now board to board the rival vessels row,
The billows lave the skies, and ocean groans below.
They reach’d the mark. Proud Gyas and his train
In triumph rode, the victors of the main;
But, steering round, he charg’d his pilot stand
More close to shore, and skim along the sand—
“Let others bear to sea!” Menoetes heard;
But secret shelves too cautiously he fear’d,
And, fearing, sought the deep; and still aloof he steer’d.
With louder cries the captain call’d again:
“Bear to the rocky shore, and shun the main.”
He spoke, and, speaking, at his stern he saw
The bold Cloanthus near the shelvings draw.
Betwixt the mark and him the Scylla stood,
And in a closer compass plow’d the flood.
He pass’d the mark; and, wheeling, got before:
Gyas blasphem’d the gods, devoutly swore,
Cried out for anger, and his hair he tore.
Mindless of others’ lives (so high was grown
His rising rage) and careless of his own,
The trembling dotard to the deck he drew;
Then hoisted up, and overboard he threw:
This done, he seiz’d the helm; his fellows cheer’d,
Turn’d short upon the shelfs, and madly steer’d.
  Hardly his head the plunging pilot rears,
Clogg’d with his clothes, and cumber’d with his years:
Now dropping wet, he climbs the cliff with pain.
The crowd, that saw him fall and float again,
Shout from the distant shore; and loudly laugh’d,
To see his heaving breast disgorge the briny draught.
The following Centaur, and the Dolphin’s crew,
Their vanish’d hopes of victory renew;
While Gyas lags, they kindle in the race,
To reach the mark. Sergesthus takes the place;
Mnestheus pursues; and while around they wind,
Comes up, not half his galley’s length behind;
Then, on the deck, amidst his mates appear’d,
And thus their drooping courage he cheer’d:
“My friends, and Hector’s followers heretofore,
Exert your vigor; tug the lab’ring oar;
Stretch to your strokes, my still unconquer’d crew,
Whom from the flaming walls of Troy I drew.
In this, our common int’rest, let me find
That strength of hand, that courage of the mind,
As when you stemm’d the strong Malean flood,
And o’er the Syrtes’ broken billows row’d.
I seek not now the foremost palm to gain;
Tho’ yet—but ah! that haughty wish is vain!
Let those enjoy it whom the gods ordain.
But to be last, the lags of all the race!—
Redeem yourselves and me from that disgrace.”
Now, one and all, they tug amain; they row
At the full stretch, and shake the brazen prow.
The sea beneath ’em sinks; their lab’ring sides
Are swell’d, and sweat runs gutt’ring down in tides.
Chance aids their daring with unhop’d success;
Sergesthus, eager with his beak to press
Betwixt the rival galley and the rock,
Shuts up th’ unwieldly Centaur in the lock.
The vessel struck; and, with the dreadful shock,
Her oars she shiver’d, and her head she broke.
The trembling rowers from their banks arise,
And, anxious for themselves, renounce the prize.
With iron poles they heave her off the shores,
And gather from the sea their floating oars.
The crew of Mnestheus, with elated minds,
Urge their success, and call the willing winds;
Then ply their oars, and cut their liquid way
In larger compass on the roomy sea.
As, when the dove her rocky hold forsakes,
Rous’d in a fright, her sounding wings she shakes;
The cavern rings with clatt’ring; out she flies,
And leaves her callow care, and cleaves the skies:
At first she flutters; but at length she springs
To smoother flight, and shoots upon her wings:
So Mnestheus in the Dolphin cuts the sea;
And, flying with a force, that force assists his way.
Sergesthus in the Centaur soon he pass’d,
Wedg’d in the rocky shoals, and sticking fast.
In vain the victor he with cries implores,
And practices to row with shatter’d oars.
Then Mnestheus bears with Gyas, and outflies:
The ship, without a pilot, yields the prize.
Unvanquish’d Scylla now alone remains;
Her he pursues, and all his vigor strains.
Shouts from the fav’ring multitude arise;
Applauding Echo to the shouts replies;
Shouts, wishes, and applause run rattling thro’ the skies.
These clamors with disdain the Scylla heard,
Much grudg’d the praise, but more the robb’d reward:
Resolv’d to hold their own, they mend their pace,
All obstinate to die, or gain the race.
Rais’d with success, the Dolphin swiftly ran;
For they can conquer, who believe they can.
Both urge their oars, and fortune both supplies,
And both perhaps had shar’d an equal prize;
When to the seas Cloanthus holds his hands,
And succor from the wat’ry pow’rs demands:
“Gods of the liquid realms, on which I row!
If, giv’n by you, the laurel bind my brow,
Assist to make me guilty of my vow!
A snow-white bull shall on your shore be slain;
His offer’d entrails cast into the main,
And ruddy wine, from golden goblets thrown,
Your grateful gift and my return shall own.”
The choir of nymphs, and Phorcus, from below,
With virgin Panopea, heard his vow;
And old Portunus, with his breadth of hand,
Push’d on, and sped the galley to the land.
Swift as a shaft, or winged wind, she flies,
And, darting to the port, obtains the prize.
  The herald summons all, and then proclaims
Cloanthus conqu’ror of the naval games.
The prince with laurel crowns the victor’s head,
And three fat steers are to his vessel led,
The ship’s reward; with gen’rous wine beside,
And sums of silver, which the crew divide.
The leaders are distinguish’d from the rest;
The victor honor’d with a nobler vest,
Where gold and purple strive in equal rows,
And needlework its happy cost bestows.
There Ganymede is wrought with living art,
Chasing thro’ Ida’s groves the trembling hart:
Breathless he seems, yet eager to pursue;
When from aloft descends, in open view,
The bird of Jove, and, sousing on his prey,
With crooked talons bears the boy away.
In vain, with lifted hands and gazing eyes,
His guards behold him soaring thro’ the skies,
And dogs pursue his flight with imitated cries.
  Mnestheus the second victor was declar’d;
And, summon’d there, the second prize he shar’d.
A coat of mail, which brave Demoleus bore,
More brave Æneas from his shoulders tore,
In single combat on the Trojan shore:
This was ordain’d for Mnestheus to possess;
In war for his defense, for ornament in peace.
Rich was the gift, and glorious to behold,
But yet so pond’rous with its plates of gold,
That scarce two servants could the weight sustain;
Yet, loaded thus, Demoleus o’er the plain
Pursued and lightly seiz’d the Trojan train.
The third, succeeding to the last reward,
Two goodly bowls of massy silver shar’d,
With figures prominent, and richly wrought,
And two brass caldrons from Dodona brought.
  Thus all, rewarded by the hero’s hands,
Their conqu’ring temples bound with purple bands;
And now Sergesthus, clearing from the rock,
Brought back his galley shatter’d with the shock.
Forlorn she look’d, without an aiding oar,
And, houted by the vulgar, made to shore.
As when a snake, surpris’d upon the road,
Is crush’d athwart her body by the load
Of heavy wheels; or with a mortal wound
Her belly bruis’d, and trodden to the ground:
In vain, with loosen’d curls, she crawls along;
Yet, fierce above, she brandishes her tongue;
Glares with her eyes, and bristles with her scales;
But, groveling in the dust, her parts unsound she trails:
So slowly to the port the Centaur tends,
But, what she wants in oars, with sails amends.
Yet, for his galley sav’d, the grateful prince
Is pleas’d th’ unhappy chief to recompense.
Pholoe, the Cretan slave, rewards his care,
Beauteous herself, with lovely twins as fair.
  From thence his way the Trojan hero bent
Into the neighb’ring plain, with mountains pent,
Whose sides were shaded with surrounding wood.
Full in the midst of this fair valley stood
A native theater, which, rising slow
By just degrees, o’erlook’d the ground below.
High on a sylvan throne the leader sate;
A num’rous train attend in solemn state.
Here those that in the rapid course delight,
Desire of honor and the prize invite.
The rival runners without order stand;
The Trojans mix’d with the Sicilian band.
First Nisus, with Euryalus, appears;
Euryalus a boy of blooming years,
With sprightly grace and equal beauty crown’d;
Nisus, for friendship to the youth renown’d.
Diores next, of Priam’s royal race,
Then Salius joined with Patron, took their place;
(But Patron in Arcadia had his birth,
And Salius his from Arcananian earth;)
Then two Sicilian youths—the names of these,
Swift Helymus, and lovely Panopes:
Both jolly huntsmen, both in forest bred,
And owning old Acestes for their head;
With sev’ral others of ignobler name,
Whom time has not deliver’d o’er to fame.


 

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