Aeneid/III. Aeneas's Wanderings

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The Fall of Troy Aeneid
Book III. Aeneas's Wanderings
written by Virgil, translated by A. S. Kline
The Tragedy of Dido



After the gods had seen fit to destroy Asia’s power
and Priam’s innocent people, and proud Ilium had fallen,
and all of Neptune’s Troy breathed smoke from the soil,
we were driven by the gods’ prophecies to search out
distant exile, and deserted lands, and we built a fleet
below Antandros and the peaks of Phrygian Ida, unsure
where fate would carry us, or where we’d be allowed to settle,
and we gathered our forces together. Summer had barely begun,
when Anchises, my father, ordered us to set sail with destiny:
I left my native shore with tears, the harbour and the fields
where Troy once stood. I travelled the deep, an exile,
with my friends and my son, and the great gods of our house.
Far off is a land of vast plains where Mars is worshipped
(worked by the Thracians) once ruled by fierce Lycurgus,
a friend of Troy in the past, and with gods who were allies,
while fortune lasted. I went there, and founded my first city
named Aeneadae from my name, on the shore
in the curving bay, beginning it despite fate’s adversity.
I was making a sacrifice to the gods, and my mother Venus,
Dione’s daughter, with auspices for the work begun, and had killed
a fine bull on the shore, for the supreme king of the sky-lords.
By chance, there was a mound nearby, crowned with cornel
bushes, and bristling with dense spikes of myrtle.
I went near, and trying to tear up green wood from the soil
to decorate the altar with leafy branches, I saw
a wonder, dreadful and marvellous to tell of.
From the first bush, its broken roots torn from the ground,
drops of dark blood dripped, and stained the earth with fluid.
An icy shiver gripped my limbs, and my blood chilled with terror.
Again I went on to pluck a stubborn shoot from another,
probing the hidden cause within: and dark blood
flowed from the bark of the second. Troubled greatly
in spirit, I prayed to the Nymphs of the wild,
and father Gradivus, who rules the Thracian fields,
to look with due kindness on this vision, and lessen
its significance. But when I attacked the third
with greater effort, straining with my knees against the sand
(to speak or be silent?), a mournful groan was audible
from deep in the mound, and a voice came to my ears:
“Why do you wound a poor wretch, Aeneas? Spare me now
in my tomb, don’t stain your virtuous hands, Troy bore me,
who am no stranger to you, nor does this blood flow from
some dull block. Oh, leave this cruel land: leave this shore
of greed. For I am Polydorus. Here a crop of iron spears
carpeted my transfixed corpse, and has ripened into sharp spines.”
Then truly I was stunned, my mind crushed by anxious dread,
my hair stood up on end, and my voice stuck in my throat.
Priam, the unfortunate, seeing the city encircled by the siege,
and despairing of Trojan arms, once sent this Polydorus, secretly,
with a great weight of gold, to be raised, by the Thracian king.
When the power of Troy was broken, and her fortunes ebbed,
the Thracian broke every divine law, to follow Agamemnon’s
cause, and his victorious army, murders Polydorus, and takes
the gold by force. Accursed hunger for gold, to what do you
not drive human hearts! When terror had left my bones
I referred this divine vision to the people’s appointed leaders,
my father above all, and asked them what they thought.
All were of one mind, to leave this wicked land, and depart
a place of hospitality defiled, and sail our fleet before the wind.
So we renewed the funeral rites for Polydorus, and piled
the earth high on his barrow: sad altars were raised
to the Shades, with dark sacred ribbons and black cypress,
the Trojan women around, hair streaming,
as is the custom: we offered foaming bowls of warm milk,
and dishes of sacrificial blood, and bound the spirit
to its tomb, and raised a loud shout of farewell.
Then as soon as we’ve confidence in the waves, and the winds
grant us calm seas, and the soft whispering breeze calls to the deep,
my companions float the ships and crowd to the shore.
We set out from harbour, and lands and cities recede.
In the depths of the sea lies a sacred island, dearest of all
to the mother of the Nereids, and Aegean Neptune,
that wandered by coasts and shores, until Apollo,
affectionately, tied it to high Myconos, and Gyaros,
making it fixed and inhabitable, scorning the storms.
I sail there: it welcomes us peacefully, weary as we are,
to its safe harbour. Landing, we do homage to Apollo’s city.
King Anius, both king of the people and high-priest of Apollo,
his forehead crowned with the sacred headband and holy laurel,
meets us, and recognises an old friend in Anchises:
we clasp hands in greeting and enter his house.
I paid homage to the god’s temple of ancient stone:
“Grant us a true home, Apollo, grant a weary people walls,
and a race, and a city that will endure: protect this second
citadel of Troy, that survives the Greeks and pitiless Achilles.
Whom should we follow? Where do you command us to go?
Where should we settle? Grant us an omen, father, to stir our hearts.
I had scarcely spoken: suddenly everything seemed to tremble,
the god’s thresholds and his laurel crowns, and the whole hill
round us moved, and the tripod groaned as the shrine split open.
Humbly we seek the earth, and a voice comes to our ears:
“Enduring Trojans, the land which first bore you from its
parent stock, that same shall welcome you, restored, to its
fertile breast. Search out your ancient mother.
There the house of Aeneas shall rule all shores,
his children’s children, and those that are born to them.”
So Phoebus spoke: and there was a great shout of joy mixed
with confusion, and all asked what walls those were, and where
it is Phoebus calls the wanderers to, commanding them to return.
Then my father, thinking of the records of the ancients, said:
“Listen, O princes, and learn what you may hope for.
Crete lies in the midst of the sea, the island of mighty Jove,
where Mount Ida is, the cradle of our race.
They inhabit a hundred great cities, in the richest of kingdoms,
from which our earliest ancestor, Teucer, if I remember the tale
rightly, first sailed to Trojan shores, and chose a site
for his royal capital. Until then Ilium and the towers of the citadel
did not stand there: men lived in the depths of the valleys.
The Mother who inhabits Cybele is Cretan, and the cymbals
of the Corybantes, and the grove of Ida: from Crete came
the faithful silence of her rites, and the yoked lions
drawing the lady’s chariot. So come, and let us follow
where the god’s command may lead, let us placate
the winds, and seek out the Cretan kingdom.
It is no long journey away: if only Jupiter is with us,
the third dawn will find our fleet on the Cretan shores.”
So saying, he sacrificed the due offerings at the altars,
a bull to Neptune, a bull to you, glorious Apollo, a black sheep
to the Storm god, a white to the auspicious Westerlies.
A rumour spread that Prince Idomeneus had been driven
from his father’s kingdom, and the Cretan shores were deserted,
her houses emptied of enemies, and the abandoned homes
waiting for us. We left Ortygia’s harbour, and sped over the sea,
threading the foaming straits thick with islands, Naxos
with its Bacchic worship in the hills, green Donysa, Olearos,
snow-white Paros, and the Cyclades, scattered over the waters.
The sailors’ cries rose, as they competed in their various tasks:
the crew shouted: “We’re headed for Crete, and our ancestors.”
A wind rising astern sent us on our way, and at last
we glided by the ancient shores of the Curetes.
Then I worked eagerly on the walls of our chosen city, and called
it Pergamum, and exhorted my people, delighting in the name,
to show love for their homes, and build a covered fortress.
Now the ships were usually beached on the dry sand:
the young men were busy with weddings and their fresh fields:
I was deciding on laws and homesteads: suddenly,
from some infected region of the sky, came a wretched plague,
corrupting bodies, trees, and crops, and a season of death.
They relinquished sweet life, or dragged their sick limbs
around: then Sirius blazed over barren fields:
the grass withered, and the sickly harvest denied its fruits.
My father urged us to retrace the waves, and revisit
the oracle of Apollo at Delos, and beg for protection,
ask where the end might be to our weary fate, where he commands
that we seek help for our trouble, where to set our course.
It was night, and sleep had charge of earth’s creatures:
The sacred statues of the gods, the Phrygian Penates,
that I had carried with me from Troy, out of the burning city,
seemed to stand there before my eyes, as I lay in sleep,
perfectly clear in the light, where the full moon
streamed through the window casements: then they spoke
to me and with their words dispelled my cares:
“Apollo speaks here what he would say to you, on reaching Delos,
and sends us besides, as you see, to your threshold.
When Try burned we followed you and your weapons,
we crossed the swelling seas with you on your ships,
we too shall raise your descendants yet to be, to the stars,
and grant empire to your city. Build great walls for the great,
and do not shrink from the long labour of exile.
Change your country. These are not the shores that Delian
Apollo urged on you, he did not order you to settle in Crete.
There is a place the Greeks call Hesperia by name,
an ancient land powerful in arms and in richness of the soil:
There the Oenotrians lived: now the rumour is that
a younger race has named it Italy after their leader.
That is our true home, Dardanus and father Iasius,
from whom our race first came, sprang from there.
Come, bear these words of truth joyfully to your old father,
that he might seek Corythus and Ausonia’s lands:
Jupiter denies the fields of Dicte to you.”
Amazed by such a vision, and the voices of the gods,
(it was not a dream, but I seemed to recognise their expression,
before me, their wreathed hair, their living faces:
then a cold sweat bathed all my limbs)
my body leapt from the bed, and I lifted my voice
and upturned palms to heaven, and offered pure
gifts on the hearth-fire. The rite completed, with joy
I told Anchises of this revelation, revealing it all in order.
He understood about the ambiguity in our origins, and the dual
descent, and that he had been deceived by a fresh error,
about our ancient country. Then he spoke: “My son, troubled
by Troy’s fate, Only Cassandra prophesied such an outcome.
Now I remember her foretelling that this was destined for our race,
and often spoke of Hesperia, and the Italian kingdom.
Who’d believe that Trojans would travel to Hesperia’s shores?
Who’d have been moved by Cassandra, the prophetess, then?
Let’s trust to Apollo, and, warned by him, take the better course.”
So he spoke, and we were delighted to obey his every word.
We departed this home as well, and, leaving some people behind,
set sail, and ran through the vast ocean in our hollow ships.
When the fleet had reached the high seas and the land
was no longer seen, sky and ocean on all sides, then
a dark-blue rain cloud settled overhead, bringing
night and storm, and the waves bristled with shadows.
Immediately the winds rolled over the water and great seas rose:
we were scattered here and there in the vast abyss.
Storm-clouds shrouded the day, and the night mists
hid the sky: lightning flashed again from the torn clouds.
We were thrown off course, and wandered the blind waves.
Palinurus himself was unable to tell night from day in the sky,
and could not determine his path among the waves.
So for three days, and as many starless nights,
we wandered uncertainly, in a dark fog, over the sea.
At last, on the fourth day, land was first seen to rise,
revealing far off mountains and rolling smoke.
The sails fell, we stood to the oars: without pause, the sailors,
at full stretch, churned the foam, and swept the blue sea.
Free of the waves I’m welcomed first by the shores
of the Strophades, the Clashing Islands. The Strophades
are fixed now in the great Ionian Sea, but are called
by the Greek name. There dread Celaeno and the rest
of the Harpies live, since Phineus’s house was denied them,
and they left his tables where they fed, in fear.
No worse monsters than these, no crueller plague,
ever rose from the waters of Styx, at the gods’ anger.
These birds have the faces of virgin girls,
foulest excrement flowing from their bellies,
clawed hands, and faces always thin with hunger.
Now when, arriving here, we enter port,
we see fat herds of cattle scattered over the plains,
and flocks of goats, unguarded, in the meadows.
We rush at them with our swords, calling on Jove himself
and the gods to join us in our plunder: then we build
seats on the curving beach, and feast on the rich meats.
But suddenly the Harpies arrive, in a fearsome swoop
from the hills, flapping their wings with a huge noise,
snatching at the food, and fouling everything with their
filthy touch: then there’s a deadly shriek amongst the foul stench.
We set out the tables again, and relight the altar fires,
in a deep recess under an overhanging rock,
closed off by trees and trembling shadows:
again from another part of the sky, some hidden lair,
the noisy crowd hovers, with taloned feet around their prey,
polluting the food with their mouths. Then I order my friends
to take up their weapons and make war on that dreadful race.
They do exactly that, obeying orders, placing hidden swords
in the grass, and burying their shields out of sight.
Then when the birds swoop, screaming, along the curved beach,
Misenus, from his high lookout, gives the signal on hollow bronze.
My friends charge, and, in a new kind of battle, attempt
to wound these foul ocean birds with their swords.
But they don’t register the blows to their plumage, or the wounds
to their backs, they flee quickly, soaring beneath the heavens,
leaving behind half-eaten food, and the traces of their filth.
Only Celaeno, ominous prophetess, settles on a high cliff,
and bursts out with this sound from her breast:
“Are you ready to bring war to us, sons of Laomedon, is it war,
for the cows you killed, the bullocks you slaughtered,
driving the innocent Harpies from their father’s country?
Take these words of mine to your hearts then, and set them there.
I, the eldest of the Furies, reveal to you what the all-powerful
Father prophesied to Apollo, and Phoebus Apollo to me.
Italy is the path you take, and, invoking the winds,
you shall go to Italy, and enter her harbours freely:
but you will not surround the city granted you with walls
until dire hunger, and the sin of striking at us, force you
to consume your very tables with devouring jaws.”
She spoke, and fled back to the forest borne by her wings.
But my companions’ chill blood froze with sudden fear:
their courage dropped, and they told me to beg for peace,
with vows and prayers, forgoing weapons,
no matter if these were goddesses or fatal, vile birds.
And my father Anchises, with outstretched hands, on the shore,
called to the great gods and declared the due sacrifice:
“Gods, avert these threats, gods, prevent these acts,
and, in peace, protect the virtuous!” Then he ordered us
to haul in the cables from the shore, unfurl and spread the sails.
South winds stretched the canvas: we coursed over foaming seas,
wherever the winds and the helmsman dictated our course.
Now wooded Zacynthus appeared amongst the waves,
Dulichium, Same and Neritos’s steep cliffs.
We ran past Laertes’s kingdom, Ithacas’s reefs,
and cursed the land that reared cruel Ulysses.
Soon the cloudy heights of Mount Leucata were revealed,
as well, and Apollo’s headland, feared by sailors.
We headed wearily for it, and approached the little town:
the anchor was thrown from the prow, the stern rested on the beach.
So, beyond hope, achieving land at last, we purify
ourselves for Jove, and light offerings on the altars,
and celebrate Trojan games on the shore of Actium.
My naked companions, slippery with oil,
indulge in the wrestling-bouts of their homeland:
it’s good to have slipped past so many Greek cities
and held our course in flight through the midst of the enemy.
Meanwhile the sun rolls through the long year
and icy winter stirs the waves with northerly gales:
I fix a shield of hollow bronze, once carried by mighty Abas,
on the entrance pillars, and mark the event with a verse:
AENEAS OFFERS THIS ARMOUR FROM CONQUERING GREEKS
then I order them to man the benches and leave harbour:
in rivalry, my friends strike the sea and sweep the waves.
We soon leave behind the windblown heights of Phaeacia,
pass the shores of Epirus, enter Chaonia’s harbour
and approach the lofty city of Buthrotum.
Here a rumour of something unbelievable greeted our ears:
Priam’s son, Helenus, reigning over Greek cities,
having won the wife and kingdom of Pyrrhus, Aeacus’s scion,
Andromache being given again to a husband of her race.
I was astounded, and my heart burned with an amazing passion
to speak to the man, and learn of such events.
I walked from the harbour, leaving the fleet and the shore,
when, by chance, in a sacred grove near the city, by a false Simois,
Andromache was making an annual offering, sad gifts,
to Hector’s ashes, and calling his spirit to the tomb,
an empty mound of green turf, and twin altars, she had sanctified,
a place for tears. When she saw me approaching and recognised,
with amazement, Trojan weapons round her, she froze as she gazed,
terrified by these great wonders, and the heat left her limbs.
She half-fell and after a long while, scarcely able to, said:
“Are you a real person, a real messenger come here to me,
son of the goddess? Are you alive? Or if the kindly light has faded,
where then is Hector?” She spoke, and poured out her tears,
and filled the whole place with her weeping. Given her frenzy,
I barely replied with a few words, and, moved, I spoke disjointedly:
“Surely, I live, and lead a life full of extremes: don’t be unsure,
for you see truly. Ah! What fate has overtaken you, fallen
from so great a husband? Or has good fortune worthy enough
for Hector’s Andromache, visited you again? Are you still
Pyrrhus’s wife?” She lowered her eyes and spoke quietly:
“O happy beyond all others was that virgin daughter
of Priam, commanded to die beside an enemy tomb,
under Troy’s high walls, who never suffered fate’s lottery,
or, as a prisoner, reached her victorious master’s bed!
Carried over distant seas, my country set afire, I endured
the scorn of Achilles’s son, and his youthful arrogance,
giving birth as a slave: he, who then, pursuing Hermione,
Helen’s daughter, and a Spartan marriage, transferred me
to Helenus’s keeping, a servant to a servant.
But Orestes, inflamed by great love for his stolen bride,
and driven by the Furies for his crime, caught him,
unawares, and killed him by his father’s altar.
At Pyrrhus’s death a part of the kingdom passed, by right
to Helenus, who named the Chaonian fields, and all
Chaonia, after Chaon of Troy, and built a Pergamus,
and this fortress of Ilium, on the mountain ridge.
But what winds, what fates, set your course for you?
Or what god drives you, unknowingly, to our shores?
What of the child, Ascanius? Does he live, and graze on air,
he whom Creusa bore to you in vanished Troy?
Has he any love still for his lost mother?
Have his father Aeneas and his uncle Hector roused
in him any of their ancient courage or virile spirit?”
Weeping, she poured out these words, and was starting
a long vain lament, when heroic Helenus, Priam’s son,
approached from the city, with a large retinue,
and recognised us as his own, and lead us, joyfully,
to the gates, and poured out tears freely at every word.
I walked on, and saw a little Troy, and a copy of the great
citadel, and a dry stream, named after the Xanthus,
and embraced the doorposts of a Scaean Gate.
My Trojans enjoyed the friendly city with me no less.
The king received them in a broad colonnade:
they poured out cups of wine in the centre of a courtyard,
and held out their dishes while food was served on gold.
Now day after day has gone by, and the breezes call
to the sails, and the canvas swells with a rising Southerly:
I go to Helenus, the seer, with these words and ask:
“Trojan-born, agent of the gods, you who know Apollo’s will,
the tripods, the laurels at Claros, the stars, the language
of birds, and the omens of their wings in flight,
come, speak (since a favourable oracle told me
all my route, and all the gods in their divinity urged me
to seek Italy, and explore the furthest lands:
only the Harpy, Celaeno, predicts fresh portents,
evil to tell of, and threatens bitter anger
and vile famine) first, what dangers shall I avoid?
Following what course can I overcome such troubles?”
Helenus, first sacrificing bullocks according to the ritual,
obtained the gods’ grace, then loosened the headband
from his holy brow, and led me, anxious at so much
divine power, with his own hand, to your threshold Apollo,
and then the priest prophesied this, from the divine mouth:
“Son of the goddess, since the truth is clear, that you sail
the deep blessed by the higher powers (so the king of the gods
allots our fates, and rolls the changes, so the order alters),
I’ll explain a few things of many, in my words to you,
so you may travel foreign seas more safely, and can find
rest in an Italian haven: for the Fates forbid Helenus
to know further, and Saturnian Juno denies him speech.
Firstly, a long pathless path, by long coastlines, separates
you from that far-off Italy, whose neighbouring port
you intend to enter, unknowingly thinking it nearby.
Before you can build your city in a safe land,
you must bend the oar in Sicilian waters,
and pass the levels of the Italian seas, in your ships,
the infernal lakes, and Aeaean Circe’s island.
I’ll tell you of signs: keep them stored in your memory.
When, in your distress, you find a huge sow lying on the shore,
by the waters of a remote river, under the oak trees,
that has farrowed a litter of thirty young, a white sow,
lying on the ground, with white piglets round her teats,
that place shall be your city, there’s true rest from your labours.
And do not dread that gnawing of tables, in your future:
the fates will find a way, Apollo will be there at your call.
But avoid these lands, and this nearer coastline
of the Italian shore, washed by our own
ocean tide: hostile Greeks inhabit every town.
The Narycian Locri have built a city here,
and Lyctian Idomeneus has filled the plain
with soldiers: here is that little Petelia, of Philoctetes,
leader of the Meliboeans, relying on its walls.
Then when your fleet has crossed the sea, and anchored
and the altars are raised for your offerings on the shore,
veil your hair, clothed in your purple robes, so that
in worshipping the gods no hostile face may intrude
among the sacred flames, and disturb the omens.
Let your friends adopt this mode of sacrifice, and yourself:
and let your descendants remain pure in this religion.
But when the wind carries you, on leaving, to the Sicilian shore,
and the barriers of narrow Pelorus open ahead,
make for the seas and land to port, in a long circuit:
avoid the shore and waters on the starboard side.
They say, when the two were one continuous stretch of land,
they one day broke apart, torn by the force of a vast upheaval
(time’s remote antiquity enables such great changes).
The sea flowed between them with force, and severed
the Italian from the Sicilian coast, and a narrow tideway
washes the cities and fields on separate shores.
Scylla holds the right side, implacable Charybdis the left,
who, in the depths of the abyss, swallows the vast flood
three times into the downward gulf and alternately lifts
it to the air, and lashes the heavens with her waves.
But a cave surrounds Scylla with dark hiding-places,
and she thrusts her mouths out, and drags ships onto the rocks.
Above she has human shape, and is a girl, with lovely breasts,
a girl, down to her sex, below it she is a sea-monster of huge size,
with dolphins’ tails joined to a belly formed of wolves.
It is better to round the point of Pachynus,
lingering, and circling Sicily on a long course,
than to once catch sight of hideous Scylla in her vast cave
and the rocks that echo to her sea-dark hounds.
Beyond this, if Helenus has any knowledge, if the seer
can be believed, if Apollo fills his spirit with truth,
son of the goddess, I will say this one thing, this one thing
that is worth all, and I’ll repeat the warning again and again,
honour great Juno’s divinity above all, with prayer, and recite
your vows to Juno freely, and win over that powerful lady
with humble gifts: so at last you’ll leave Sicily behind
and reach the coast of Italy, victorious.
Once brought there, approach the city of Cumae,
the ghostly lakes, and Avernus, with its whispering groves,
gaze on the raving prophetess, who sings the fates
deep in the rock, and commits names and signs to leaves.
Whatever verses the virgin writes on the leaves,
she arranges in order, and stores them high up in her cave.
They stay in place, motionless, and keep in rank:
but once a light breeze ruffles them, at the turn of a hinge,
and the opening door disturbs the delicate leaves, she never
thinks to retrieve them, as they flutter through the rocky cave,
or to return them to their places, or reconstitute the prophecies:
men go away unanswered, and detest the Sibyl’s lair.
Though your friends complain, and though your course
calls your sails urgently to the deep, and a following wind
might fill the canvas, don’t overvalue the loss in any delay,
but visit the prophetess, and beg her with prayers to speak
the oracle herself, and loose her voice through willing lips.
She will rehearse the peoples of Italy, the wars to come,
and how you might evade or endure each trial,
and, shown respect, she’ll grant you a favourable journey.
These are the things you can be warned of by my voice.
Go now, and by your actions raise great Troy to the stars.”
After the seer had spoken these words with benign lips,
he ordered heavy gifts of gold and carved ivory
to be carried to our ships, and stored massive silverware
in the holds, cauldrons from Dodona, a hooked breastplate
woven with triple-linked gold, and a fine conical helmet
with a crest of horse-hair, Pyrrhus’s armour.
There were gifts of his own for my father too.
Helenus added horses and sea-pilots: he manned
our oars: he also equipped my friends with weapons.
Meanwhile Anchises ordered us to rig sails on the ships,
so the rushing wind would not be lost, by our delay.
Apollo’s agent spoke to him with great respect:
“Anchises, worthy of proud marriage with Venus,
cared for by the gods, twice saved from the ruins of Troy,
behold your land of Italy: sail and take it.
But still you must slide past it on the seas:
the part of Italy that Apollo named is far away.
Go onward, happy in your son’s love. Why should I say more,
and delay your catching the rising wind?”
Andromache also, grieved at this final parting, brought robes
embroidered with gold weave, and a Phrygian cloak
for Ascanius, nor did she fail to honour him,
and loaded him down with gifts of cloth, and said:
“Take these as well, my child, remembrances for you
from my hand, and witness of the lasting love of Andromache,
Hector’s wife. Take these last gifts from your kin,
O you, the sole image left to me of my Astyanax.
He had the same eyes, the same hands, the same lips:
and now he would be growing up like you, equal in age.”
My tears welled as I spoke these parting words:
“Live happily, you whose fortunes are already determined:
we are summoned onwards from destiny to destiny.
For you, peace is achieved: you’ve no need to plough the levels
of the sea, you’ve no need to seek Italy’s ever-receding fields.
I wish that you might gaze at your likeness of Xanthus,
and a Troy built by your own hands, under happier auspices,
one which might be less exposed to the Greeks.
If I ever reach the Tiber, and the Tiber’s neighbouring fields,
and gaze on city walls granted to my people, we’ll one day
make one Troy, in spirit, from each of our kindred cities
and allied peoples, in Epirus, in Italy, who have the same Dardanus
for ancestor, the same history: let it be left to our descendants care.”
We sail on over the sea, close to the Ceraunian cliffs nearby,
on course for Italy, and the shortest path over the waves.
Meanwhile the sun is setting and the darkened hills are in shadow.
Having shared oars, we stretch out, near the waves, on the surface
of the long-desired land, and, scattered across the dry beach,
we rest our bodies: sleep refreshes our weary limbs.
Night, lead by the Hours, is not yet in mid-course:
Palinurus rises alertly from his couch, tests all
the winds, and listens to the breeze: he notes
all the stars gliding through the silent sky,
Arcturus, the rainy Pleiades, both the Bears,
and surveys Orion, armed with gold. When he sees
that all tallies, and the sky is calm, he sounds
a loud call from the ship’s stern: we break camp,
attempt our route, and spread the winged sails.
And now Dawn blushes as she puts the stars to flight,
when we see, far off, dark hills and low-lying Italy.
First Achates proclaims Italy, then my companions
hail Italy with a joyful shout. Then my father Anchises
took up a large bowl, filled it with wine,
and standing in the high stern, called to the heavens:
“You gods, lords of the sea and earth and storms, carry us
onward on a gentle breeze, and breathe on us with kindness!”
The wind we longed-for rises, now as we near, a harbour opens,
and a temple is visible on Minerva’s Height.
My companions furl the sails and turn the prows to shore.
The harbour is carved in an arc by the eastern tides:
its jutting rocks boil with salt spray, so that it itself is hidden:
towering cliffs extend their arms in a twin wall,
and the temple lies back from the shore.
Here I see four horses in the long grass, white as snow,
grazing widely over the plain, our first omen.
And my father Anchises cries: “O foreign land, you bring us war:
horses are armed for war, war is what this herd threatens.
Yet those same creatures one day can be yoked to a chariot,
and once yoked will suffer the bridle in harmony:
there’s also hope of peace.” Then we pray to the sacred power
of Pallas, of the clashing weapons, first to receive our cheers,
and clothed in Phrygian robes we veiled our heads before the altar,
and following the urgent command Helenus had given,
we duly made burnt offerings to Argive Juno as ordered.
Without delay, as soon as our vows are fully paid,
we haul on the ends of our canvas-shrouded yard-arms,
and leave the home of the Greek race, and the fields we mistrust.
Then Tarentum’s bay is seen, Hercules’s city if the tale is true:
Lacinian Juno’s temple rises against it, Caulon’s fortress,
and Scylaceum’s shore of shipwreck.
Then far off Sicilian Etna appears from the waves,
and we hear the loud roar of the sea, and the distant
tremor of the rocks, and the broken murmurs of the shore,
the shallows boil, and sand mixes with the flood.
Then my father, Anchises, said: “This must be Charybdis:
these are the cliffs, these are the horrendous rocks Helenus foretold.
Pull away, O comrades, and stand to the oars together.”
They do no less than they’re asked, and Palinurus is the first
to heave his groaning ship into the portside waves:
all our company seek port with oars and sail.
We climb to heaven on the curving flood, and again
sink down with the withdrawing waves to the depths of Hades.
The cliffs boom three times in their rocky caves,
three times we see the spray burst, and the dripping stars.
Then the wind and sunlight desert weary men,
and not knowing the way we drift to the Cyclopes’s shore.
There’s a harbour, itself large and untroubled by the passing winds,
but Etna rumbles nearby with fearsome avalanches,
now it spews black clouds into the sky, smoking,
with pitch-black turbulence, and glowing ashes,
and throws up balls of flame, licking the stars:
now it hurls high the rocks it vomits, and the mountain’s
torn entrails, and gathers molten lava together in the air
with a roar, boiling from its lowest depths.
The tale is that Enceladus’s body, scorched by the lightning-bolt,
is buried by that mass, and piled above him, mighty Etna
breathes flames from its riven furnaces,
and as often as he turns his weary flank, all Sicily
quakes and rumbles, and clouds the sky with smoke.
That night we hide in the woods, enduring the dreadful shocks,
unable to see what the cause of the sound is,
since there are no heavenly fires, no bright pole
in the starry firmament, but clouds in a darkened sky,
and the dead of night holds the moon in shroud.
Now the next day was breaking with the first light of dawn,
and Aurora had dispersed the moist shadows from the sky,
when suddenly the strange form of an unknown man came out
of the woods, exhausted by the last pangs of hunger,
pitifully dressed, and stretched his hands in supplication
towards the shore. We looked back. Vile with filth, his beard uncut,
his clothing fastened together with thorns: but otherwise a Greek,
once sent to Troy in his country’s armour.
When he saw the Dardan clothes and Trojan weapons, far off,
he hesitated a moment, frightened at the sight,
and checked his steps: then ran headlong to the beach,
with tears and prayers: “The stars be my witness,
the gods, the light in the life-giving sky, Trojans,
take me with you: carry me to any country whatsoever,
that will be fine by me. I know I’m from one of the Greek ships,
and I confess that I made war against Trojan gods,
if my crime is so great an injury to you, scatter me
over the waves for it, or drown me in the vast ocean:
if I die I’ll delight in dying at the hands of men.”
He spoke and clung to my knees, embracing them
and grovelling there. We urged him to say who he was,
born of what blood, then to say what fate pursued him.
Without much delay, my father Anchises himself gave
the young man his hand, lifting his spirits by this ready trust.
At last he set his fears aside and told us:
“I’m from the land of Ithaca, a companion of unlucky Ulysses,
Achaemenides by name, and, my father Adamastus being poor,
(I wish fate had kept me so!) I set out for Troy.
My comrades left me here in the Cyclops’ vast cave,
forgetting me, as they hurriedly left that grim
threshold. It’s a house of blood and gory feasts,
vast and dark inside. He himself is gigantic, striking against
the high stars – gods, remove plagues like that from the earth! –
not pleasant to look at, affable to no one.
He eats the dark blood and flesh of wretched men.
I saw myself how he seized two of our number in his huge hands,
and reclining in the centre of the cave, broke them
on the rock, so the threshold, drenched, swam with blood:
I saw how he gnawed their limbs, dripping with dark clots
of gore, and the still-warm bodies quivered in his jaws.
Yet he did not go unpunished: Ulysses didn’t suffer it,
nor did the Ithacan forget himself in a crisis.
As soon as the Cyclops, full of flesh and sated with wine,
relaxed his neck, and lay, huge in size, across the cave,
drooling gore and blood and wine-drenched fragments
in his sleep, we prayed to the great gods, and our roles fixed,
surrounded him on all sides, and stabbed his one huge eye,
solitary, and half-hidden under his savage brow,
like a round Greek shield, or the sun-disc of Phoebus,
with a sharpened stake: and so we joyfully avenged
the spirits of our friends. But fly from here, wretched men,
and cut your mooring ropes. Since, like Polyphemus, who pens
woolly flocks in the rocky cave, and milks their udders, there are
a hundred other appalling Cyclopes, the same in shape and size,
everywhere inhabiting the curved bay, and wandering the hills.
The moon’s horns have filled with light three times now, while I
have been dragging my life out in the woods, among the lairs
and secret haunts of wild creatures, watching the huge Cyclopes
from the cliffs, trembling at their voices and the sound of their feet.
The branches yield a miserable supply of fruits and stony cornelian
cherries, and the grasses, torn up by their roots, feed me.
Watching for everything, I saw, for the first time, this fleet
approaching shore. Whatever might happen, I surrendered myself
to you: it’s enough for me to have escaped that wicked people.
I’d rather you took this life of mine by any death whatsoever.”
He’d barely spoken, when we saw the shepherd Polyphemus
himself, moving his mountainous bulk on the hillside
among the flocks, and heading for the familiar shore,
a fearful monster, vast and shapeless, robbed of the light.
A lopped pine-trunk in his hand steadied and guided
his steps: his fleecy sheep accompanied him:
his sole delight and the solace for his evils.
As soon as he came to the sea and reached the deep water,
he washed away the blood oozing from the gouged eye-socket,
groaning and gnashing his teeth. Then he walked through
the depths of the waves, without the tide wetting his vast thighs.
Anxiously we hurried our departure from there, accepting
the worthy suppliant on board, and cutting the cable in silence:
then leaning into our oars, we vied in sweeping the sea.
He heard, and bent his course towards the sound of splashing.
But when he was denied the power to set hands on us,
and unable to counter the force of the Ionian waves, in pursuit,
he raised a mighty shout, at which the sea and all the waves
shook, and the land of Italy was frightened far inland,
and Etna bellowed from its winding caverns, but the tribe
of Cyclopes, roused from their woods and high mountains,
rushed to the harbour, and crowded the shore.
We saw them standing there, impotently, wild-eyed,
the Aetnean brotherhood, heads towering into the sky,
a fearsome gathering: like tall oaks rooted on a summit,
or cone-bearing cypresses, in Jove’s high wood or Diana’s grove.
Acute fear drove us on to pay out the ropes on whatever tack
and spread our sails to any favourable wind.
Helenus’s orders warned against taking a course between
Scylla and Charybdis, a hair’s breadth from death
on either side: we decided to beat back again.
When, behold, a northerly arrived from the narrow
headland of Pelorus: I sailed past the natural rock mouth
of the Pantagias, Megara’s bay, and low-lying Thapsus.
Such were the shores Achaemenides, the friend of unlucky Ulysses,
showed me, sailing his wandering journey again, in reverse.
An island lies over against wave-washed Plemyrium,
stretched across a Sicilian bay: named Ortygia by men of old.
The story goes that Alpheus, a river of Elis, forced
a hidden path here under the sea, and merges
with the Sicilian waters of your fountain Arethusa.
As commanded we worshipped the great gods of this land,
and from there I passed marshy Helorus’s marvellously rich soil.
Next we passed the tall reefs and jutting rocks of Pachynus,
and Camerina appeared in the distance, granted
immoveable, by prophecy, and the Geloan plains,
and Gela named after its savage river.
Then steep Acragas, once the breeder of brave horses,
showed its mighty ramparts in the distance:
and granted the wind, I left palmy Selinus, and passed
the tricky shallows of Lilybaeum with their blind reefs.
Next the harbour of Drepanum, and its joyless shore,
received me. Here, alas, I lost my father, Anchises,
my comfort in every trouble and misfortune, I, who’d
been driven by so many ocean storms: here you left me,
weary, best of fathers, saved from so many dangers in vain!
Helenus, the seer, did not prophesy this grief of mine,
when he warned me of many horrors, nor did grim Celaeno.
This was my last trouble, this the end of my long journey:
leaving there, the god drove me to your shores.’
So our ancestor Aeneas, as all listened to one man,
recounted divine fate, and described his journey.
At last he stopped, and making an end here, rested.