by Virgil

19 BC


jump to Evander's account of ancient Rome
jump to the description of Aeneas' shield

When Turnus from Laurentum's bastion proud
published the war, and roused the dreadful note
of the harsh trumpet's song; when on swift steeds
the lash he laid and clashed his sounding arms;
then woke each warrior soul; all Latium stirred
with tumult and alarm; and martial rage
enkindled youth's hot blood. The chieftains proud,
Messapus, Ufens, and that foe of Heaven,
Mezentius, compel from far and wide
their loyal hosts, and strip the field and farm
of husbandmen. To seek auxiliar arms
they send to glorious Diomed's domain
the herald Venulus, and bid him cry:
"Troy is to Latium come; Aeneas' fleet
has come to land. He brings his vanquished gods,
and gives himself to be our destined King.
Cities not few accept him, and his name
through Latium waxes large. But what the foe
by such attempt intends, what victory
is his presumptuous hope, if Fortune smile,
Aetolia's lord will not less wisely fear
than royal Turnus or our Latin King."
Thus Latium's cause moved on. Meanwhile the heir
of great Laomedon, who knew full well
the whole wide land astir, was vexed and tossed
in troubled seas of care. This way and that
his swift thoughts flew, and scanned with like dismay
each partial peril or the general storm.
Thus the vexed waters at a fountain's brim,
smitten by sunshine or the silver sphere
of a reflected moon, send forth a beam
of flickering light that leaps from wall to wall,
or, skyward lifted in ethereal flight,
glances along some rich-wrought, vaulted dome.
Now night had fallen, and all weary things,
all shapes of beast or bird, the wide world o'er,
lay deep in slumber. So beneath the arch
of a cold sky Aeneas laid him down
upon the river-bank, his heart sore tried
by so much war and sorrow, and gave o'er
his body to its Iong-delayed repose.
There, 'twixt the poplars by the gentle stream,
the River-Father, genius of that place,
oId Tiberinus visibly uprose;
a cloak of gray-green lawn he wore, his hair
o'erhung with wreath of reeds. In soothing words
thus, to console Aeneas' cares, he spoke:
"Seed of the gods! who bringest to my shore
thy Trojan city wrested from her foe,
a stronghold everlasting, Latium's plain
and fair Laurentum long have looked for thee.
Here truly is thy home. Turn not away.
Here the true guardians of thy hearth shall be.
Fear not the gathering war. The wrath of Heaven
has stilled its swollen wave. A sign I tell:
Lest thou shouldst deem this message of thy sleep
a vain, deluding dream, thou soon shalt find
in the oak-copses on my margent green,
a huge sow, with her newly-littered brood
of thirty young; along the ground she lies,
snow-white, and round her udders her white young.
There shall thy city stand, and there thy toil
shall find untroubled rest. After the lapse
of thrice ten rolling years, Ascanius
shall found a city there of noble name,
White-City, Alba; 't is no dream I sing!
But I instruct thee now by what wise way
th' impending wars may bring thee victory:
receive the counsel, though the words be few:
within this land are men of Arcady,
of Pallas' line, who, following in the train
of King Evander and his men-at-arms,
built them a city in the hills, and chose
(honoring Pallas, their Pelasgian sire),
the name of Pallanteum. They make war
incessant with the Latins. Therefore call
this people to thy side and bind them close
in federated power. My channel fair
and shaded shore shall guide thee where they dwell,
and thy strong oarsmen on my waters borne
shall mount my falling stream. Rise, goddess-born,
and ere the starlight fade give honor due
to Juno, and with supplicating vow
avert her wrath and frown. But unto me
make offering in thy victorious hour,
in time to come. I am the copious flood
which thou beholdest chafing at yon shores
and parting fruitful fields: cerulean stream
of Tiber, favored greatly of high Heaven.
here shall arise my house magnificent,
a city of all cities chief and crown."
So spake the river-god, and sank from view
down to his deepest cave; then night and sleep
together from Aeneas fled away.
He rose, and to the orient beams of morn
his forehead gave; in both his hollowed palms
he held the sacred waters of the stream,
and called aloud: "O ye Laurentian nymphs,
whence flowing rills be born, and chiefly thou,
O Father Tiber, worshipped stream divine,
accept Aeneas, and from peril save!
If in some hallowed lake or haunted spring
thy power, pitying my woes, abides,
or wheresoe'er the blessed place be found
whence first thy beauty flows, there evermore
my hands shall bring thee gift and sacrifice.
O chief and sovereign of Hesperian streams,
O river-god that hold'st the plenteous horn,
protect us, and confirm thy words divine!"
He spoke; then chose twin biremes from the fleet,
gave them good gear and armed their loyal crews.
But, lo! a sudden wonder met his eyes:
white gleaming through the grove, with all her brood
white like herself, on the green bank the Sow
stretched prone. The good Aeneas slew her there,
Great Juno, for a sacrifice to thee,
himself the priest, and with the sucklings all
beside shine altar stood. So that whole night
the god of Tiber calmed his swollen wave,
ebbing or lingering in silent flow,
till like some gentle lake or sleeping pool
his even waters lay, and strove no more
against the oarsmen's toil. Upon their way
they speed with joyful sound; the well-oiled wood
slips through the watery floor; the wondering waves,
and all the virgin forests wondering,
behold the warriors in far-shining arms
their painted galleys up the current drive.
O'er the long reaches of the winding flood
their sturdy oars outweary the slow course
of night and day. Fair groves of changeful green
arch o'er their passage, and they seem to cleave
green forests in the tranquil wave below.
Now had the flaming sun attained his way
to the mid-sphere of heaven, when they discerned
walls and a citadel in distant view,
with houses few and far between; 't was there,
where sovran Rome to-day has rivalled Heaven,
Evander's realm its slender strength displayed:
swiftly they turned their prows and neared the town.
It chanced th' Arcadian King had come that day
to honor Hercules, Amphitryon's son,
and to the powers divine pay worship due
in groves outside the wall. Beside him stood
Pallas his son, his noblest men-at-arms,
and frugal senators, who at the shrines
burnt incense, while warm blood of victims flowed.
But when they saw the tall ships in the shade
of that dark forest pIying noiseless oars,
the sudden sight alarmed, and all the throng
sprang to its feet and left the feast divine.
But dauntless Pallas bade them give not o'er
the sacred festival, and spear in hand
flew forward to a bit of rising ground,
and cried from far: "Hail, warriors! what cause
drives you to lands unknown, and whither bound?
Your kin, your country? Bring ye peace or war?"
Father Aeneas then held forth a bough
of peaceful olive from the lofty ship,
thus answering : "Men Trojan-born are we,
foes of the Latins, who have driven us forth
with insolent assault. We fain would see
Evander. Pray, deliver this, and say
that chosen princes of Dardania
sue for his help in arms." So wonder fell
on Pallas, awestruck at such mighty name.
O, come, whoe'er thou art," he said, "and speak
in presence of my father. Enter here,
guest of our hearth and altar." He put forth
his right hand in true welcome, and they stood
with lingering clasp; then hand in hand advanced
up the steep woodland, leaving Tiber's wave.
Aeneas to Evander speaking fair,
these words essayed: "O best of Grecian-born!
whom Fortune's power now bids me seek and sue,
lifting this olive-branch with fillets bound,
I have not feared thee, though I know thou art
a Greek, and an Arcadian king, allied
to the two sons of Atreus. For behold,
my conscious worth, great oracles from Heaven,
the kinship of our sires, thy own renown
spread through the world--all knit my cause with thine,
all make me glad my fates have so decreed.
The sire and builder of the Trojan town
was Dardanus; but he, Electra's child,
came over sea to Teucria; the sire
of fair Electra was great Atlas, he
whose shoulder carries the vast orb of heaven.
But thy progenitor was Mercury,
and him conceiving, Maia, that white maid,
on hoar Cyllene's frosty summit bore.
But Maia's sire, if aught of truth be told,
was Atlas also, Atlas who sustains
the weight of starry skies. Thus both our tribes
are one divided stem. Secure in this,
no envoys have I sent, nor tried thy mind
with artful first approaches, but myself,
risking my person and my life, have come
a suppliant here. For both on me and thee
the house of Daunus hurls insulting war.
If us they quell, they doubt not to obtain
lordship of all Hesperia, and subdue
alike the northern and the southern sea.
Accept good faith, and give! Behold, our hearts
quail not in battle; souls of fire are we,
and warriors proved in many an action brave."
Aeneas ceased. The other long had scanned
the hero's face, his eyes, and wondering viewed
his form and mien divine; in answer now
he briefly spoke: "With hospitable heart,
O bravest warrior of all Trojan-born,
I know and welcome thee. I well recall
thy sire Anchises, how he looked and spake.
For I remember Priam, when he came
to greet his sister, Queen Hesione,
in Salamis, and thence pursued his way
to our cool uplands of Arcadia.
The bloom of tender boyhood then was mine,
and with a wide-eyed wonder I did view
those Teucrian lords, Laomedon's great heir,
and, towering highest in their goodly throng,
Anchises, whom my warm young heart desired
to speak with and to clasp his hand in mine.
So I approached, and joyful led him home
to Pheneus' oIden wall. He gave me gifts
the day he bade adieu; a quiver rare
filled with good Lycian arrows, a rich cloak
inwove with thread of gold, and bridle reins
all golden, now to youthful Pallas given.
Therefore thy plea is granted, and my hand
here clasps in loyal amity with thine.
To-morrow at the sunrise thou shalt have
my tribute for the war, and go thy way
my glad ally. But now this festival,
whose solemn rite 't were impious to delay,
I pray thee celebrate, and bring with thee
well-omened looks and words. Allies we are!
Use this our sacred feast as if your own."
So saying, he bade his followers renew
th' abandoned feast and wine; and placed each guest
on turf-built couch of green, most honoring
Aeneas by a throne of maple fair
decked with a lion's pelt and flowing mane.
Then high-born pages, with the altar's priest,
bring on the roasted beeves and load the board
with baskets of fine bread; and wine they bring --
of Ceres and of Bacchus gift and toil.
While good Aeneas and his Trojans share
the long whole ox and meats of sacrifice.
When hunger and its eager edge were gone,
Evander spoke: "This votive holiday,
yon tables spread and altar so divine,
are not some superstition dark and vain,
that knows not the old gods, O Trojan King!
But as men saved from danger and great fear
this thankful sacrifice we pay. Behold,
yon huge rock, beetling from the mountain wall,
hung from the cliff above. How lone and bare
the hollowed mountain looks! How crag on crag
tumbled and tossed in huge confusion lie!
A cavern once it was, which ran deep down
into the darkness. There th' half-human shape
of Cacus made its hideous den, concealed
from sunlight and the day. The ground was wet
at all times with fresh gore; the portal grim
was hung about with heads of slaughtered men,
bIoody and pale--a fearsome sight to see.
Vulcan begat this monster, which spewed forth
dark-fuming flames from his infernal throat,
and vast his stature seemed. But time and tide
brought to our prayers the advent of a god
to help us at our need. For Hercules,
divine avenger, came from laying low
three-bodied Geryon, whose spoils he wore
exultant, and with hands victorious drove
the herd of monster bulls, which pastured free
along our river-valley. Cacus gazed
in a brute frenzy, and left not untried
aught of bold crime or stratagem, but stole
four fine bulls as they fed, and heifers four,
all matchless; but, lest hoof-tracks point his way,
he dragged them cave-wards by the tails, confusing
the natural trail, and hid the stolen herd
in his dark den; and not a mark or sign
could guide the herdsmen to that cavern-door.
But after, when Amphitryon's famous son,
preparing to depart, would from the meads
goad forth the full-fed herd, his lingering bulls
roared loud, and by their lamentable cry
filled grove and hills with clamor of farewell:
one heifer from the mountain-cave lowed back
in answer, so from her close-guarded stall
foiling the monster's will.
Then hadst thou seen
the wrath of Hercules in frenzy blaze
from his exasperate heart. His arms he seized,
his club of knotted oak, and climbed full-speed
the wind-swept hill. Now first our people saw
Cacus in fear, with panic in his eyes.
Swift to the black cave like a gale he flew,
his feet by terror winged. Scarce had he passed
the cavern door, and broken the big chains,
and dropped the huge rock which was pendent there
by Vulcan's well-wrought steel; scarce blocked and barred
the guarded gate: when there Tirynthius stood,
with heart aflame, surveying each approach,
rolling this way and that his wrathful eyes,
gnashing his teeth. Three times his ire surveyed
the slope of Aventine; three times he stormed
the rock-built gate in vain; and thrice withdrew
to rest him in the vale. But high above
a pointed peak arose, sheer face of rock
on every side, which towered into view
from the long ridge above the vaulted cave,
fit haunt for birds of evil-boding wing.
This peak, which leftward toward the river leaned,
he smote upon its right--his utmost blow --
breaking its bases Ioose; then suddenly
thrust at it: as he thrust, the thunder-sound
filled all the arching sky, the river's banks
asunder leaped, and Tiber in alarm
reversed his flowing wave. So Cacus' lair
lay shelterless, and naked to the day
the gloomy caverns of his vast abode
stood open, deeply yawning, just as if
the riven earth should crack, and open wide
th' infernal world and fearful kingdoms pale,
which gods abhor; and to the realms on high
the measureless abyss should be laid bare,
and pale ghosts shrink before the entering sun.
Now upon Cacus, startled by the glare,
caged in the rocks and howling horribly,
Alcides hurled his weapons, raining down
all sorts of deadly missiles--trunks of trees,
and monstrous boulders from the mountain torn.
But when the giant from his mortal strait
no refuge knew, he blew from his foul jaws
a storm of smoke--incredible to tell --
and with thick darkness blinding every eye,
concealed his cave, uprolling from below
one pitch-black night of mingled gloom and fire.
This would Alcides not endure, but leaped
headlong across the flames, where densest hung
the rolling smoke, and through the cavern surged
a drifting and impenetrable cloud.
With Cacus, who breathed unavailing flame,
he grappled in the dark, locked limb with limb,
and strangled him, till o'er the bloodless throat
the starting eyeballs stared.
Then Hercules
burst wide the doorway of the sooty den,
and unto Heaven and all the people showed
the stolen cattle and the robber's crimes,
and dragged forth by the feet the shapeless corpse
of the foul monster slain. The people gazed
insatiate on the grewsome eyes, the breast
of bristling shag, the face both beast and man,
and that fire-blasted throat whence breathed no more
the extinguished flame. 'T is since that famous day
we celebrate this feast, and glad of heart
each generation keeps the holy time.
Potitius began the worship due,
and our Pinarian house is vowed to guard
the rites of Hercules. An altar fair
within this wood they raised; 't is called 'the Great,'
and Ara Maxima its name shall be.
Come now, my warriors, and bind your brows
with garlands worthy of the gift of Heaven.
Lift high the cup in every thankful hand,
and praise our people's god with plenteous wine."

He spoke; and of the poplar's changeful sheen,
sacred to Hercules, wove him a wreath
to shade his silvered brow. The sacred cup
he raised in his right hand, while all the rest
called on the gods and pure libation poured.
Soon from the travelling heavens the western star
glowed nearer, and Potitius led forth
the priest-procession, girt in ancient guise
with skins of beasts and carrying burning brands.
new feasts are spread, and altars heaped anew
with gifts and laden chargers. Then with song
the Salian choir surrounds the blazing shrine,
their foreheads wreathed with poplar. Here the youth,
the elders yonder, in proud anthem sing
the glory and the deeds of Hercules:
how first he strangled with strong infant hand
two serpents, Juno's plague; what cities proud,
Troy and Oechalia, his famous war
in pieces broke; what labors numberless
as King Eurystheus' bondman he endured,
by cruel Juno's will. "Thou, unsubdued,
didst strike the twy-formed, cloud-bred centaurs down,
Pholus and tall Hylaeus. Thou hast slain
the Cretan horror, and the lion huge
beneath the Nemean crag. At sight of thee
the Stygian region quailed, and Cerberus,
crouching o'er half-picked bones in gory cave.
Nothing could bid thee fear. Typhoeus towered
in his colossal Titan-panoply
o'er thee in vain; nor did thy cunning fail
when Lema's wonder-serpent round thee drew
its multudinous head. Hail, Jove's true son!
New glory to the gods above, come down,
and these thine altars and thy people bless!"
Such hymns they chanted, telling oft the tale
of Cacus' cave and blasting breath of fire:
while hills and sacred grove the note prolong.
Such worship o'er, all take the homeward way
back to the town. The hospitable King,
though bowed with weight of years, kept at his side
Aeneas and his son, and as they fared,
with various discourse beguiled the way.
Aeneas scanned with quick-admiring eyes
the region wide, and lingered with delight
now here, now there, inquiring eagerly
of each proud monument of heroes gone.

Then King Evander, he who builded first
On Palatine, spoke thus: "These groves erewhile
their native nymphs and fauns enjoyed, with men
from trees engendered and stout heart of oak.
Nor laws nor arts they knew; nor how to tame
burls to the yoke, nor fill great barns with store
and hoard the gathered grain; but rudely fared
on wild fruits and such food as hunters find.
Then Saturn from Olympian realms came down,
in flight from Jove's dread arms, his sceptre lost,
and he an exiled King. That savage race
he gathered from the mountain slopes; and gave
wise laws and statutes; so that latent land
was Latium, 'hid land', where he hid so long.
The golden centuries by legends told
were under that good King, whose equal sway
untroubled peace to all his peoples gave.
But after slow decline arrived an age
degenerate and of a darker hue,
prone to insensate war and greed of gain.
Then came Sicanian and Ausonian tribes,
and oft the land of Saturn lost its name.
New chieftains rose, and Thybris, giant King
and violent, from whom th' Italians named
the flooding Tiber, which was called no more
the Albula, its true and ancient style.
Myself, in exile from my fatherland
sailing uncharted seas, was guided here
by all-disposing Chance and iron laws
of Destiny. With prophecy severe
Carmentis, my nymph-mother, thrust me on,
warned by Apollo's word."
He scarce had said,
when near their path he showed an altar fair
and the Carmental gate, where Romans see
memorial of Carmentis, nymph divine,
the prophetess of fate, who first foretold
what honors on Aeneas' sons should fall
and lordly Pallanteum, where they dwell.
Next the vast grove was seen, where Romulus
ordained inviolable sanctuary;
then the Lupercal under its cold crag,
Wolf-hill, where old Arcadians revered
their wolf-god, the Lycaean Pan. Here too
the grove of Argiletum, sacred name,
where good Evander told the crime and death
of Argus, his false guest. From this they climbed
the steep Tarpeian hill, the Capitol,
all gold to-day, but then a tangled wild
of thorny woodland. Even then the place
woke in the rustics a religious awe,
and bade them fear and tremble at the view
of that dread rock and grove. "This leafy wood,
which crowns the hill-top, is the favored seat
of some great god," said he, "but of his name
we know not surely. The Arcadians say
jove's dread right hand here visibly appears
to shake his aegis in the darkening storm,
the clouds compelling. Yonder rise in view
two strongholds with dismantled walls, which now
are but a memory of great heroes gone:
one father Janus built, and Saturn one;
their names, Saturnia and Janiculum."
'Mid such good parley to the house they came
of King Evander, unadorned and plain,
whence herds of browsing cattle could be seen
ranging the Forum, and loud-bellowing
in proud Carinae. As they entered there,
"Behold," said he, "the threshold that received
Alcides in his triumph! This abode
he made his own. Dare, O illustrious guest,
to scorn the pomp of power. Shape thy soul
to be a god's fit follower. Enter here,
and free from pride our frugal welcome share."
So saying, 'neath his roof-tree scant and low
he led the great Aeneas, offering him
a couch of leaves with Libyan bear-skin spread.
Now night drew near, enfolding the wide world
in shadowy wings.
But Venus, sore disturbed,
vexed not unwisely her maternal breast,
fearing Laurentum's menace and wild stir
of obstinate revolt, and made her plea
to Vulcan in their nuptial bower of gold,
outbreathing in the music of her words
celestial love: "When warring Argive kings
brought ruin on Troy's sacred citadel
and ramparts soon to sink in hostile flames,
I asked not thee to help that hopeless woe,
nor craved thy craft and power. For, dearest lord,
I would not tax in vain shine arduous toil,
though much to Priam's children I was bound,
and oft to see Aeneas burdened sore
I could but weep. But now by will of Jove
he has found foothold in Rutulian lands.
Therefore I come at last with lowly suit
before a godhead I adore, and pray
for gift of arms,--a mother for her son.
Thou wert not unrelenting to the tears
of Nereus' daughter or Tithonus' bride.
Behold what tribes conspire, what cities strong
behind barred gates now make the falchion keen
to ruin and blot out both me and mine!"
So spake the goddess, as her arms of snow
around her hesitating spouse she threw
in tender, close embrace. He suddenly
knew the familiar fire, and o'er his frame
its wonted ardor unresisted ran,
swift as the glittering shaft of thunder cleaves
the darkened air and on from cloud to cloud
the rift of lightning runs. She, joyful wife;
felt what her beauty and her guile could do;
as, thralled by love unquenchable, her spouse
thus answered fair: "Why wilt thou labor so
with far-fetched pleas? my goddess, hast thou lost
thy faith in me? Had such a prayer been shine,
I could have armed the Teucrians. Neither Jove
nor Destiny had grudged ten added years
of life to Troy and Priam. If to-day
thou hast a war in hand, and if thy heart
determine so, I willingly engage
to lend thee all my cunning; whatsoever
molten alloy or welded iron can,
whate'er my roaring forge and flames achieve,
I offer thee. No more in anxious prayer
distrust thy beauty's power." So saying, he gave
embrace of mutual desire, and found
deep, peaceful sleep, on her fond heart reclined.
Night's course half run, soon as the first repose
had banished sleep,--what time some careful wife
whose distaff and Minerva's humble toil
must earn her bread, rekindling her warm hearth,
adds a night-burden to her laboring day,
and by the torch-light cheers her maidens on
to their long tasks; that so her husband's bed
she may in honor keep, and train to power
her dear men-children--at such prime of morn,
with not less eager mind the Lord of Fire
fled his soft couch and to his forges tried.
An island near Aeolian Lipara
not far from a Sicilian headland lies,
where smoking rocks precipitously tower
above a vast vault, which the Cyclops' skill
outhollowed large as Aetna's thunderous caves.
There ring the smitten anvils, and the roof
re-echoes, roaring loud. Chalybian ores
hiss in the gloom, and from the furnace mouths
puff the hot-panting fires. 'T is Vulcan's seat,
and all that island is Vulcania.
Thither descended now the god of fire
from height of heaven.
At their task were found
the Cyclops in vast cavern forging steel,
naked Pyracmon and gigantic-limbed
Brontes and Steropes; beneath their blows
a lightning-shaft, half-shaped, half-burnished lay,
such as the Thunderer is wont to fling
in numbers from the sky, but formless still.
Three strands of whirling storm they wove with three
of bursting cloud, and three did interfuse
of ruddy-gleaming fires and winged winds;
then fearful lightnings on the skilful forge
they welded with loud horror, and with flames
that bear swift wrath from Jove. Elsewhere a crew
toiled at the chariot and winged wheel
wherewith the war-god wakens from repose
heroes and peopled cities. Others wrought
the awful Aegis, herald of dismay,
by angry Pallas worn; they burnished bright
the golden serpent-scales and wreathing snakes,
till from the corselet of the goddess glared
the Gorgon's severed head and rolling eyes.
"Cyclops of Aetna," Vulcan cried, "have done!
Leave ev'ry task unfinished, and receive
my new command! Good armor must be forged
for warrior brave. For this I need to use
your utmost sinew and your swiftest hand,
with all your master skill. No lingering now!"
Swift the command, and swiftly they divide
to each his portion, and united urge
the common task. Forth flowed the molten streams
of brass and gold, and, melted in fierce flame,
the deeply-wounding steel like liquid flows.
A mighty shield took shape, its single orb
sufficient to withstand the gathered shock
of all the Latin arms; for seven times
they welded ring with ring. Some deftly ply
the windy bellows, which receive and give
the roaring blasts; some plunge in cooling pond
the hissing metal, while the smithy floor
groans with the anvil's weight, as side by side
they lift their giant arms in numbered blows
and roll with gripe of tongs the ponderous bars.
While thus the Lemnian god his labor sped
in far Aeolian isle, the cheerful morn
with voice of swallows round his lowly eaves
summoned Evander. From his couch arose
the royal sire, and o'er his aged frame
a tunic threw, tying beneath his feet
the Tuscan sandals: an Arcadian sword,
girt at his left, was over one shoulder slung,
his cloak of panther trailing from behind.
A pair of watch-dogs from the lofty door
ran close, their lord attending, as he sought
his guest Aeneas; for his princely soul
remembered faithfully his former word,
and promised gift. Aeneas with like mind
was stirring early. King Evander's son
Pallas was at his side; Achates too
accompanied his friend. All these conjoin
in hand-clasp and good-morrow, taking seats
in midcourt of the house, and give the hour
to converse unrestrained. First spoke the King:
"Great leader of the Teucrians, while thy life
in safety stands, I call not Trojan power
vanquished or fallen. But to help thy war
my small means match not thy redoubled name.
Yon Tuscan river is my bound. That way
Rutulia thrusts us hard and chafes our wall
with loud, besieging arms. But I propose
to league with thee a numerous array
of kings and mighty tribes, which fortune strange
now brings to thy defence. Thou comest here
because the Fates intend. Not far from ours
a city on an ancient rock is seen,
Agylla, which a warlike Lydian clan
built on the Tuscan hills. It prospered well
for many a year, then under the proud yoke
of King Mezentius it came and bore
his cruel sway. Why tell the loathsome deeds
and crimes unspeakable the despot wrought?
May Heaven requite them on his impious head
and on his children! For he used to chain
dead men to living, hand on hand was laid
and face on face,--torment incredible!
Till, locked in blood-stained, horrible embrace,
a lingering death they found. But at the last
his people rose in furious despair,
and while he blasphemously raged, assailed
his life and throne, cut down his guards
and fired his regal dwellings; he, the while,
escaped immediate death and fied away
to the Rutulian land, to find defence
in Turnus hospitality. To-day
Etruria, to righteous anger stirred,
demands with urgent arms her guilty King.
To their large host, Aeneas, I will give
an added strength, thyself. For yonder shores
re-echo with the tumult and the cry
of ships in close array; their eager lords
are clamoring for battle. But the song
of the gray omen-giver thus declares
their destiny: 'O goodly princes born
of old Maeonian lineage! Ye that are
the bloom and glory of an ancient race,
whom just occasions now and noble rage
enflame against Mezentius your foe,
it is decreed that yonder nation proud
shall never submit to chiefs Italian-born.
Seek ye a king from far!' So in the field
inert and fearful lies Etruria's force,
disarmed by oracles. Their Tarchon sent
envoys who bore a sceptre and a crown
even to me, and prayed I should assume
the sacred emblems of Etruria's king,
and lead their host to war. But unto me
cold, sluggish age, now barren and outworn,
denies new kingdoms, and my slow-paced powers
run to brave deeds no more. Nor could I urge
my son, who by his Sabine mother's line
is half Italian-born. Thyself art he,
whose birth illustrious and manly prime
fate favors and celestial powers approve.
Therefore go forth, O bravest chief and King
of Troy and Italy! To thee I give
the hope and consolation of our throne,
pallas, my son, and bid him find in thee
a master and example, while he learns
the soldier's arduous toil. With thy brave deeds
let him familiar grow, and reverence thee
with youthful love and honor. In his train
two hundred horsemen of Arcadia,
our choicest men-at-arms, shall ride; and he
in his own name an equal band shall bring
to follow only thee."
Such the discourse.
With meditative brows and downcast eyes
Aeneas and Achates, sad at heart,
mused on unnumbered perils yet to come.
But out of cloudless sky Cythera's Queen
gave sudden signal: from th' ethereal dome
a thunder-peal and flash of quivering fire
tumultuous broke, as if the world would fall,
and bellowing Tuscan trumpets shook the air.
All eyes look up. Again and yet again
crashed the terrible din, and where the sky
looked clearest hung a visionary cloud,
whence through the brightness blazed resounding arms.
All hearts stood still. But Troy's heroic son
knew that his mother in the skies redeemed
her pledge in sound of thunder: so he cried,
"Seek not, my friend, seek not thyself to read
the meaning of the omen. 'T is to me
Olympus calls. My goddess-mother gave
long since her promise of a heavenly sign
if war should burst; and that her power would bring
a panoply from Vulcan through the air,
to help us at our need. Alas, what deaths
over Laurentum's ill-starred host impend!
O Turnus, what a reckoning thou shalt pay
to me in arms! O Tiber, in thy wave
what helms and shields and mighty soldiers slain
shall in confusion roll! Yea, let them lead
their lines to battle, and our league abjure!"
He said: and from the lofty throne uprose.
Straightway he roused anew the slumbering fire
sacred to Hercules, and glad at heart
adored, as yesterday, the household gods
revered by good Evander, at whose side
the Trojan company made sacrifice
of chosen lambs, with fitting rites and true.
Then to his ships he tried him, and rejoined
his trusty followers, of whom he took
the best for valor known, to lend him aid
in deeds of war. Others he bade return
down stream in easy course, and tidings bear
to young Ascanius of the new event,
and of his father. Horses then were brought
for all the Teucrians to Etruria bound;
and for Aeneas one of rarest breed,
o'er whom a tawny robe descended low,
of lion-skin, with claws of gleaming gold.
Noised swiftly through the little town it flies
that to the precinct of the Tuscan King
armed horsemen speed. Pale mothers in great fear
unceasing pray; for panic closely runs
in danger's steps; the war-god drawing nigh
looms larger; and good sire Evander now
clings to the hand of his departing son
and, weeping without stay, makes sad farewell:
"O, that great Jove would give me once again
my vanished years! O, if such man I were,
as when beneath Praeneste's wall I slew
the front ranks of her sons, and burned for spoil
their gathered shields on my triumph day;
or when this right hand hurled king Erulus
to shades below, though--terrible to tell --
Feronia bore him with three lives, that thrice
he might arise from deadly strife o'erthrown,
and thrice be slain--yet all these lives took I,
and of his arms despoiled him o'er and o'er:
not now, sweet son (if such lost might were mine),
should I from thy beloved embrace be torn;
nor could Mezentius with insulting sword
do murder in my sight and make my land
depopulate and forlorn. O gods in Heaven,
and chiefly thou whom all the gods obey,
have pity, Jove, upon Arcadia's King,
and hear a father's prayer: if your intent
be for my Pallas a defence secure,
if it be writ that long as I shall live,
my eyes may see him, and my arms enfold,
I pray for life, and all its ills I bear.
But if some curse, too dark to tell, impend
from thee, O Fortune blind! I pray thee break
my thread of miserable life to-day;
to-day, while fear still doubts and hope still smiles
on the unknown to-morrow, as I hold
thee to my bosom, dearest child, who art
my last and only joy; to-day, before
th' intolerable tidings smite my ears."
Such grief the royal father's heart outpoured
at this last parting; the strong arms of slaves
lifted him, fallen in swoon, and bore him home.
Now forth beneath the wide-swung city-gates
the mounted squadron poured; Aeneas rode,
companioned of Achates, in the van;
then other lords of Troy. There Pallas shone
conspicuous in the midmost line, with cloak
and blazoned arms, as when the Morning-star
(To Venus dearest of all orbs that burn),
out of his lucent bath in ocean wave
lifts to the skies his countenance divine,
and melts the shadows of the night away.
Upon the ramparts trembling matrons stand
and follow with dimmed eyes the dusty cloud
whence gleam the brazen arms. The warriors ride
straight on through brake and fell, the nearest way;
loud ring the war-cries, and in martial line
the pounding hoof-beats shake the crumbling ground.
By Caere's cold flood lies an ample grove
revered from age to age. The hollowing hills
enclasp it in wide circles of dark fir,
and the Pelasgians, so the legends tell,
primaeval settlers of the Latin plains,
called it the haunt of Silvan, kindly god
of flocks and fields, and honoring the grove
gave it a festal day. Hard by this spot
had Tarchon with the Tuscans fortified
his bivouac, and from the heights afar
his legions could be seen in wide array
outstretching through the plain. To meet them there
Aeneas and his veteran chivalry
made sure advance, and found repose at eve
for warrior travel-worn and fainting steed.
But now athwart the darkening air of heaven
came Venus gleaming bright, to bring her son
the gifts divine. In deep, sequestered vale
she found him by a cooling rill retired,
and hailed him thus: "Behold the promised gift,
by craft and power of my Olympian spouse
made perfect, that my son need never fear
Laurentum's haughty host, nor to provoke
fierce Turnus to the fray." Cythera's Queen
so saying, embraced her son, and hung the arms,
all glittering, on an oak that stood thereby.
The hero, with exultant heart and proud,
gazing unwearied at his mother's gift,
surveys them close, and poises in his hands
the helmet's dreadful crest and glancing flame,
the sword death-dealing, and the corselet strong,
impenetrable brass, blood-red and large,
like some dark-lowering, purple cloud that gleams
beneath the smiting sun and flashes far
its answering ray; and burnished greaves were there,
fine gold and amber; then the spear and shield --
the shield--of which the blazonry divine
exceeds all power to tell. Thereon were seen
Italia's story and triumphant Rome,
wrought by the Lord of Fire, who was not blind
to lore inspired and prophesying song,
fore-reading things to come. He pictured there
Iulus' destined line of glorious sons
marshalled for many a war.
In cavern green,
haunt of the war-god, lay the mother-wolf;
the twin boy-sucklings at her udders played,
nor feared such nurse; with long neck backward thrown
she fondled each, and shaped with busy tongue
their bodies fair. Near these were pictured well
the walls of Rome and ravished Sabine wives
in the thronged theatre violently seized,
when the great games were done; then, sudden war
of Romulus against the Cures grim
and hoary Tatius; next, the end of strife
between the rival kings, who stood in arms
before Jove's sacred altar, cup in hand,
and swore a compact o'er the slaughtered swine.
Hard by, behold, the whirling chariots tore
Mettus asunder (would thou hadst been true,
false Alban, to thy vow!); and Tullus trailed
the traitor's mangled corse along the hills,
the wild thorn dripping gore. Porsenna, next,
sent to revolted Rome his proud command
to take her Tarquin back, and with strong siege
assailed the city's wall; while unsubdued
Aeneas' sons took arms in freedom's name.
there too the semblance of the frustrate King,
a semblance of his wrath and menace vain,
when Cocles broke the bridge, and Cloelia burst
her captive bonds and swam the Tiber's wave.
Lo, on the steep Tarpeian citadel
stood Manlius at the sacred doors of Jove,
holding the capitol, whereon was seen
the fresh-thatched house of Romulus the King.
There, too, all silver, through arcade of gold
fluttered the goose, whose monitory call
revealed the foeman at the gate: outside
besieging Gauls the thorny pathway climbed,
ambushed in shadow and the friendly dark
of night without a star; their flowing hair
was golden, and their every vesture gold;
their cloaks were glittering plaid; each milk-white neck
bore circlet of bright gold; in each man's hand
two Alpine javelins gleamed, and for defence
long shields the wild northern warriors bore.
There, graven cunningly, the Salian choir
went leaping, and in Lupercalian feast
the naked striplings ran; while others, crowned
with peaked cap, bore shields that fell from heaven;
and, bearing into Rome their emblems old,
chaste priestesses on soft-strewn litters passed.
But far from these th' artificer divine
had wrought a Tartarus, the dreadful doors
of Pluto, and the chastisements of sin;
swung o'er a threatening precipice, was seen
thy trembling form, O Catiline, in fear
of fury-faces nigh: and distant far
th' assemblies of the righteous, in whose midst
was Cato, giving judgment and decree.
Encircled by these pictures ran the waves
of vast, unrestful seas in flowing gold,
where seemed along the azure crests to fly
the hoary foam, and in a silver ring
the tails of swift, emerging dolphins lashed
the waters bright, and clove the tumbling brine.
For the shield's central glory could be seen
great fleets of brazen galleys, and the fight
at Actium; where, ablaze with war's array,
Leucate's peak glowed o'er the golden tide.
Caesar Augustus led Italia's sons
to battle: at his side concordant moved
Senate and Roman People, with their gods
of hearth and home, and all Olympian Powers.
Uplifted on his ship he stands; his brows
beneath a double glory smile, and bright
over his forehead beams the Julian star.
in neighboring region great Agrippa leads,
by favor of fair winds and friendly Heaven,
his squadron forth: upon his brows he wears
the peerless emblem of his rostral crown.
Opposing, in barbaric splendor shine
the arms of Antony: in victor's garb
from nations in the land of morn he rides,
and from the Red Sea, bringing in his train
Egypt and Syria, utmost Bactria's horde,
and last--O shameless!--his Egyptian spouse.
All to the fight make haste; the slanted oars
and triple beaks of brass uptear the waves
to angry foam, as to the deep they speed
like hills on hill-tops hurled, or Cyclades
drifting and clashing in the sea: so vast
that shock of castled ships and mighty men!
Swift, arrowy steel and balls of blazing tow
rain o'er the waters, till the sea-god's world
flows red with slaughter. In the midst, the Queen,
sounding her native timbrel, wildly calls
her minions to the fight, nor yet can see
two fatal asps behind. Her monster-gods,
barking Anubis, and his mongrel crew,
on Neptune, Venus, and Minerva fling
their impious arms; the face of angry Mars,
carved out of iron, in the centre frowns,
grim Furies fill the air; Discordia strides
in rent robe, mad with joy; and at her side,
bellona waves her sanguinary scourge.
There Actian Apollo watched the war,
and o'er it stretched his bow; which when they knew,
Egyptian, Arab, and swart Indian slave,
and all the sons of Saba fled away
in terror of his arm. The vanquished Queen
made prayer to all the winds, and more and more
flung out the swelling sail: on wind-swept wave
she fled through dead and dying; her white brow
the Lord of Fire had cunningly portrayed
blanched with approaching doom. Beyond her lay
the large-limbed picture of the mournful Nile,
who from his bosom spread his garments wide,
and offered refuge in his sheltering streams
and broad, blue breast, to all her fallen power.
But Caesar in his triple triumph passed
the gates of Rome, and gave Italia's gods,
for grateful offering and immortal praise,
three hundred temples; all the city streets
with game and revel and applauding song
rang loud; in all the temples altars burned
and Roman matrons prayed; the slaughtered herds
strewed well the sacred ground. The hero, throned
at snow-white marble threshold of the fane
to radiant Phoebus, views the gift and spoil
the nations bring, and on the portals proud
hangs a perpetual garland: in long file
the vanquished peoples pass, of alien tongues,
of arms and vesture strange. Here Vulcan showed
ungirdled Afric chiefs and Nomads bold,
Gelonian bowmen, men of Caria,
and Leleges. Euphrates seemed to flow
with humbler wave; the world's remotest men,
Morini came, with double-horned Rhine,
and Dahae, little wont to bend the knee,
and swift Araxes, for a bridge too proud.
Such was the blazoned shield his mother gave
from Vulcan's forge; which with astonished eyes
Aeneas viewed, and scanned with joyful mind
such shadows of an unknown age to be;
then on his shoulder for a burden bore
the destined mighty deeds of all his sons.

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Adapted from Perseus: This text is based on the following book: Vergil. Aeneid. Theodore C. Williams. trans. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1910.