Aeneid/V. The Funeral Games

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IV. The Tragedy of Dido Aeneid
V. The Funeral Games
written by Virgil, translated by A. S. Kline
VI. The Visit to the Underworld


Meanwhile Aeneas with the fleet was holding a fixed course
now in the midst of the sea, cutting the waves, dark in a northerly
wind, looking back at the city walls that were glowing now with
unhappy Dido’s funeral flames. The reason that such a fire had
been lit was unknown: but the cruel pain when a great love is
profaned, and the knowledge of what a frenzied woman might do,
drove the minds of the Trojans to sombre forebodings.
When the ships reached deep water and land was no longer
in sight, but everywhere was sea, and sky was everywhere,
then a dark-blue rain cloud hung overhead, bringing
night and storm, and the waves bristled with shadows.
Palinurus the helmsman himself from the high stern cried:
‘Ah! Why have such storm clouds shrouded the sky?
What do you intend, father Neptune?’ So saying, next
he ordered them to shorten sail, and bend to the heavy oars,
then tacked against the wind, and spoke as follows:
‘Brave Aeneas, I would not expect to make Italy
with this sky, though guardian Jupiter promised it.
The winds, rising from the darkened west, have shifted
and roar across our path, and the air thickens for a storm.
We cannot stand against it, or labour enough to weather it.
Since Fortune overcomes us, let’s go with her,
and set our course wherever she calls. I think your brother Eryx’s
friendly shores are not far off, and the harbours of Sicily,
if I only remember the stars I observed rightly.’
Then virtuous Aeneas replied: ‘For my part I’ve seen for some time
that the winds required it, and you’re steering into them in vain.
Alter the course we sail. Is any land more welcome to me,
any to which I’d prefer to steer my weary fleet,
than that which protects my Trojan friend Acestes,
and holds the bones of my father Anchises to its breast?”
Having said this they searched out the port, and following winds
filled their sails: the ships sailed swiftly on the flood,
and they turned at last in delight towards known shores.
But Acestes, on a high hill in the distance, wondered at the arrival
of friendly vessels, and met them, armed with javelins,
in his Libyan she-bear’s pelt: he whom a Trojan
mother bore, conceived of the river-god Crinisius.
Not neglectful of his ancient lineage he rejoiced
at their return, entertained them gladly with his rural riches,
and comforted the weary with the assistance of a friend.
When, in the following Dawn, bright day had put the stars
to flight, Aeneas called his companions together,
from the whole shore, and spoke from a high mound:
“Noble Trojans, people of the high lineage of the gods,
the year’s cycle is complete to the very month
when we laid the bones, all that was left of my divine father,
in the earth, and dedicated the sad altars. And now
the day is here (that the gods willed) if I am not wrong,
which I will always hold as bitter, always honoured.
If I were keeping it, exiled in Gaetulian Syrtes,
or caught on the Argive seas, or in Mycenae’s city,
I’d still conduct the yearly rite, and line of solemn
procession, and heap up the due offerings on the altar.
Now we even stand by the ashes and bones of my father
(not for my part I think without the will and power of the gods)
and carried to this place we have entered a friendly harbour.
So come and let us all celebrate the sacrifice with joy:
let us pray for a wind, and may he will me to offer these rites
each year when my city is founded, in temples that are his.
Acestes, a Trojan born, gives you two head of oxen
for every ship: Invite the household gods to our feast,
our own and those whom Acestes our host worships.
Also, when the ninth Dawn raises high the kindly light
for mortal men, and reveals the world in her rays,
I will declare a Trojan Games: first a race between the swift ships:
then those with ability in running, and those, daring in strength,
who step forward, who are superior with javelin and slight arrows,
or trust themselves to fight with rawhide gloves:
let everyone be there and hope for the prize of a well-deserved
palm branch. All be silent now, and wreathe your brows.”
So saying he veiled his forehead with his mother’s myrtle.
Helymus did likewise, Acestes of mature years, the boy
Ascanius, and the rest of the people followed.
Then he went with many thousands, from the gathering
to the grave-mound, in the midst of the vast accompanying throng.
Here with due offering he poured two bowls of pure wine
onto the ground, two of fresh milk, two of sacrificial blood,
and, scattering bright petals, he spoke as follows:
“Once more, hail, my sacred father: hail, spirit,
ghost, ashes of my father, whom I rescued in vain.
I was not allowed to search, with you, for Italy’s borders,
our destined fields, or Ausonia’s Tiber, wherever it might be.”
He had just finished speaking when a shining snake unwound
each of its seven coils from the base of the shrine,
in seven large loops, placidly encircling the mound, and gliding
among the altars, its back mottled with blue-green markings,
and its scales burning with a golden sheen, as a rainbow forms
a thousand varied colours in clouds opposite the sun.
Aeneas was stunned by the sight. Finally, with a long glide
among the bowls and polished drinking cups, the serpent
tasted the food, and, having fed, departed the altar,
retreating harmlessly again into the depths of the tomb.
Aeneas returned more eagerly to the tribute to his father,
uncertain whether to treat the snake as the guardian of the place,
or as his father’s attendant spirit: he killed two sheep as customary,
two pigs, and as many black-backed heifers:
and poured wine from the bowls, and called on the spirit
and shadow of great Anchises, released from Acheron.
And his companions as well, brought gifts gladly, of which
each had a store, piling high the altars, sacrificing bullocks:
others set out rows of cauldrons, and scattered among the grass,
placed live coals under the spits, and roasted the meat.
The eagerly-awaited day had arrived, and now
Phaethon’s horses brought a ninth dawn of cloudless light,
and Acestes’s name and reputation had roused the countryside:
they thronged the shore, a joyous crowd,
some to see Aeneas and his men, others to compete.
First the prizes were set out for them to see in the centre
of the circuit, sacred tripods, green crowns and palms,
rewards for the winners, armour, and clothes dyed with purple,
and talents of silver and gold: and a trumpet sang out,
from a central mound, that the games had begun.
Four well-matched ships with heavy oars
were chosen from the fleet for the first event.
Mnesthus, soon to be Mnesthus of Italy from whom
the Memmian people are named, captains the Sea-Serpent,
with its eager crew: Gyas, the vast Chimaera of huge bulk,
a floating city, rowed by the Trojan men
on three decks, with the oars raised in triple rows:
Sergestus, from whom the house of Sergia gets its name,
sails in the great Centaur, and Cloanthus from whom
your family derives, Cluentius of Rome, in the sea-green Scylla.
There’s a rock far out at sea opposite the foaming shore,
which, lashed by the swollen waves, is sometimes drowned,
when wintry north-westerlies hide the stars:
it is quiet in calm weather and flat ground is raised above
the motionless water, a welcome haunt for sun-loving sea-birds.
Here our ancestor Aeneas set up a leafy oak-trunk
as a mark, as a sign for the sailors to know where
to turn back, and circle round the long course.
Then they chose places by lot, and the captains themselves, on
the sterns, gleamed from a distance, resplendent in purple and gold:
the rest of the men were crowned with poplar leaves,
and their naked shoulders glistened, shining with oil.
They manned the benches, arms ready at the oars:
readied for action they waited for the signal, and pounding fear,
and the desire aroused for glory, devoured their leaping hearts.
Then when the clear trumpet gave the signal, all immediately
shot forward from the starting line, the sailor’s shouts
struck the heavens, as arms were plied the waters turned to foam.
they cut the furrows together, and the whole surface
gaped wide, ploughed by the oars and the three-pronged beaks.
The speed is not as great when the two horse chariots
hit the field in their race, shooting from their stalls:
and the charioteers shake the rippling reins over their
galloping team, straining forward to the lash.
So the whole woodland echoes with applause, the shouts
of men, and the partisanship of their supporters,
the sheltered beach concentrates the sound
and the hills, reverberating, return the clamour.
Gyas runs before the pack, and glides forward on the waves,
amongst the noise and confusion: Cloanthus follows next,
his ship better manned, but held back by its weight.
After them separated equally the Sea-Serpent
and the Centaur strain to win a lead:
now the Sea-Serpent has it, now the huge Centaur wins in front,
now both sweep on together their bows level,
their long keels ploughing the salt sea.
Now they near the rock and are close to the marker,
when Gyas, the leader, winning at the half-way point,
calls out loudly to his pilot Menoetes:
“Why so far adrift to starboard? Steer her course this way:
hug the shore and graze the crags to port, oars raised:
let others keep to deep water.” He spoke, but Menoetes
fearing unseen reefs wrenched the prow towards the open sea.
“Why so far adrift?” again, “Head for the rocks, Menoetes!”
he shouts to him forcefully, and behold, he sees Cloanthus
right at his back and taking the riskier course.
He squeezed a path between Gyas’s ship and the booming rocks
inside to starboard, suddenly passing the leader,
and, leaving the marker behind, reached safe water.
Then indeed great indignation burned in the young man’s marrow,
and there were tears on his cheeks, and forgetting his own pride
and his crew’s safety he heaved the timid Menoetes
headlong into the sea from the high stern:
he stood to the helm, himself captain and steersman,
urged on his men, and turned for the shore.
But when Menoetes old as he was, clawed his way back heavily
and with difficulty at last from the sea floor, he climbed to the top
of the crag and sat down on the dry rock dripping, in his wet
clothing. The Trojans laughed as he fell, and swam
and laughed as he vomited the seawater from his chest.
At this a joyful hope of passing Gyas, as he stalled,
is aroused in Sergestus and Mnestheus, the two behind,
Sergestus takes the leading place and nears the rock,
still he’s not a full ship’s length in front, only part:
the rival Sea-Serpent closes on him with her prow.
Then, Mnesthus walking among his crew amidships
exhorted them: “Now, now rise to the oars, comrades
of Hector, you whom I chose as companions at Troy’s
last fatal hour: now, exert all that strength,
that spirit you showed in the Gaetulian shoals,
the Ionian Sea, and Cape Malea’s pursuing waves.
Now I, Mnesthus, do not seek to be first or try to win –
let those conquer whom you have granted to do so, Neptune –
but oh, it would be shameful to return last: achieve this for us,
countrymen, and prevent our disgrace.” They bend to it
with fierce rivalry: the bronze stern shudders at their powerful
strokes: and the sea-floor drops away beneath them:
then shallow breathing makes limbs and parched lips quiver.
and their sweat runs down in streams.
Chance brings the men the glory that they long for.
When Segestus, his spirit raging, forces his bows,
on the inside, towards the rocks, and enters
dangerous water, unhappily he strikes the jutting reef.
The cliff shakes, the oars jam against them, and snap
on the sharp edges of stone, and the prow hangs there, snagged.
The sailors leap up, and, shouting aloud at the delay,
gather iron-tipped poles and sharply-pointed boathooks,
and rescue their smashed oars from the water.
But Mnesthus, delighted, and made eager by his success,
with a swift play of oars, and a prayer to the winds.
heads for home waters and courses the open sea,
as a dove, whose nest and sweet chicks are hidden
among the rocks, suddenly startled from some hollow,
takes flight for the fields, frightened from her cover,
and beats her wings loudly, but soon gliding in still air
skims her clear path, barely moving her swift pinions:
in this way Mnestheus and the Sea-Dragon herself furrow
the final stretch of water in flight, and her impetus
alone, carries her on her winged path. Firstly
he leaves Segestus behind struggling on the raised rock
then in shoal water, calling vainly for help,
and learning how to race with shattered oars.
Then he overhauls Gyas and the Chimaera’s huge bulk:
which, deprived of her helmsman now, gives way.
Now Cloanthus alone is left ahead, near to the finish,
Mnestheus heads for him and chases closely
exerting all his powers. Then indeed the shouts redouble,
and together all enthusiastically urge on the pursuer.
The former crew are unhappy lest they fail to keep
the honour that is theirs and the glory already
in their possession, and would sell their lives for fame.
the latter feed on success: they can because they think they can.
And with their prow alongside they might have snatched the prize,
if Cleanthus had not stretched out his hands over the sea
and poured out his prayers, and called to the gods in longing.
“Gods, whose empire is the ocean, whose waters I course,
On shore, I will gladly set a snow-white bull
before your altars, in payment of my vows,
throw the entrailsinto the saltwater, and pour out pure wine.”
He spoke, and all the Nereids, Phorcus’s choir, and virgin Panopea,
heard him in the wave’s depths, and father Portunus drove him
on his track, with his great hand: the ship ran to shore, swifter
than south wind or flying arrow, and plunged into the deep harbour.
Then Anchises’s son, calling them all together as is fitting,
by the herald’s loud cry declares Cloanthus the winner,
and wreathes his forehead with green laurel, and tells him
to choose three bullocks, and wine, and a large talent of silver
as gifts for the ships. He adds special honours for the captains:
a cloak worked in gold for the victor, edged
with Meliboean deep purple in a double meandering line,
Ganymede the boy-prince woven on it, as if breathless
with eagerness, running with his javelin, chasing the swift stags
on leafy Ida: whom Jupiter’s eagle, carrier of the lightning-bolt,
has now snatched up into the air, from Ida, with taloned feet:
his aged guards stretch their hands to the sky in vain,
and the barking dogs snap at the air. He gives to the warrior,
who took second place by his prowess, a coat of mail for his own,
with polished hooks, in triple woven gold, a beautiful thing
and a defence in battle, that he himself as victor had taken
from Demoleos, by the swift Simois, below the heights of Ilium.
Phegeus and Sagaris, his servants, can barely carry its folds,
on straining shoulders: though, wearing it, Demoleus
used to drive the scattered Trojans at a run.
He grants the third prize of a pair of bronze cauldrons
and bowls made of silver with designs in bold relief.
Now they have all received their gifts and are walking off,
foreheads tied with scarlet ribbons, proud of their new wealth,
when Segestus, who showing much skill has with difficulty
got clear of the cruel rock, oars missing and one tier useless,
brings in his boat, to mockery and no glory.
As a snake, that a bronze-rimmed wheel has crossed obliquely,
is often caught on the curb of a road, or like one that a passer-by
has crushed with a heavy blow from a stone and left half-dead,
writhes its long coils, trying in vain to escape, part aggressive,
with blazing eyes, and hissing, its neck raised high in the air,
part held back by the constraint of its wounds, struggling
to follow with its coils, and twining back on its own length:
so the ship moves slowly on with wrecked oars:
nevertheless she makes sail, and under full sail reaches harbour.
Aeneas presents Sergestus with the reward he promised,
happy that the ship is saved, and the crew rescued.
He is granted a Cretan born slave-girl, Pholoe, not unskilled
in the arts of Minerva, nursing twin boys at her breast.
Once this race was done Aeneas headed for a grassy space,
circled round about by curving wooded hillsides,
forming an amphitheatre at the valley’s centre:
the hero took himself there in the midst of the throng
many thousands strong, and occupied a raised throne.
Here if any by chance wanted to compete in the footrace
he tempted their minds with the reward, and set the prizes.
Trojans and Sicilians gathered together from all sides,
Nisus and Euryalus the foremost among them,
Euryalus famed for his beauty, and in the flower of youth,
Nisus famed for his devoted affection for the lad: next
came princely Diores, of Priam’s royal blood,
then Salius and Patron together, one an Arcanian,
the other of Arcadian blood and Tegean race:
then two young Sicilians, Helymus and Panopes,
used to the forests, companions of old Acestes:
and many others too, whose fame is lost in obscurity.
Then Aeneas amongst them spoke as follows:
“Take these words to heart, and give pleasurable attention.
None of your number will go away without a reward from me.
I’ll give two Cretan arrows, shining with polished steel,
for each man, to take away, and a double-headed axe chased
with silver: all who are present will receive the same honour.
The first three will share prizes, and their heads will be crowned
with pale-green olive: let the first as winner take a horse
decorated with trappings: the second an Amazonian quiver,
filled with Thracian arrows, looped with a broad belt of gold
and fastened by a clasp with a polished gem:
let the third leave content with this Argive helmet.”
When he had finished they took their places and, suddenly,
on hearing the signal, they left the barrier and shot onto the course,
streaming out like a storm cloud, gaze fixed on the goal.
Nisus was off first, and darted away, ahead of all the others,
faster than the wind or the winged lightning-bolt:
Salius followed behind him, but a long way behind:
then after a space Euryalus was third: Helymus
pursued Euryalus, and there was Diores speeding near him,
now touching foot to foot, leaning at his shoulder:
if the course had been longer he’d have
slipped past him, and left the outcome in doubt.
Now, wearied, almost at the end of the track,
they neared the winning post itself, when the unlucky Nisus
fell in some slippery blood, which when the bullocks were killed
had chanced to drench the ground and the green grass.
Here the youth, already rejoicing at winning, failed to keep
his sliding feet on the ground, but fell flat,
straight in the slimy dirt and sacred blood.
But he didn’t forget Euryalus even then, nor his love:
but, picking himself up out of the wet, obstructed Salius,
who fell head over heels onto the thick sand.
Euryalus sped by and, darting onwards to applause and the shouts
of his supporters, took first place, winning with his friend’s help.
Helymus came in behind him, then Diores, now in third place.
At this Salius filled the whole vast amphitheatre, and the faces
of the foremost elders, with his loud clamour,
demanding to be given the prize stolen from him by a trick.
His popularity protects Euryalus, and fitting tears,
and ability is more pleasing in a beautiful body.
Diores encourages him, and protests in a loud voice,
having reached the palm, but claiming the last prize in vain,
if the highest honour goes to Salius.
Then Aeneas the leader said, “Your prizes are still yours,
lads, and no one is altering the order of attainment:
but allow me to take pity on an unfortunate friend’s fate.”
So saying he gives Salius the huge pelt of a Gaetulian lion,
heavy with shaggy fur, its claws gilded.
At this Nisus comments: “If these are the prizes for losing,
and you pity the fallen, what fitting gift will you grant to Nisus,
who would have earned first place through merit
if ill luck had not dogged me, as it did Salius?”
And with that he shows his face and limbs drenched
with foul mud. The best of leaders smiles at him,
and orders a shield to be brought, the work of Didymaon,
once unpinned by the Greeks from Neptune’s sacred threshold:
this outstanding prize he gives to the noble youth.
When the races were done and the gifts allotted,
Aeneas cried: “Now, he who has skill and courage in his heart,
let him stand here and raise his arms, his fists bound in hide.”
So saying he set out the double prize for the boxing,
a bullock for the winner, dressed with gold and sacred ribbons,
and a sword and a noble helmet to console the defeated.
Without delay Dares, hugely strong, raised his face
and rose, to a great murmur from the crowd,
he who alone used to compete with Paris,
and by that same mound where mighty Hector lies
he struck the victorious Butes, borne of the Bebrycian
race of Amycus, as he came forward, vast in bulk,
and stretched him dying on the yellow sand.
Such was Dares who lifted his head up for the bout at once,
showed his broad shoulders, stretched his arms out, sparring
to right and left, and threw punches at the air.
A contestant was sought for him, but no one from all that crowd
dared face the man, or pull the gloves on his hands.
So, cheerfully thinking they had all conceded the prize, he stands
before Aeneas, and without more delay holds the bullock’s horn
in his left hand and says: “Son of the goddess, if no one dare
commit himself to fight, when will my standing here end?
How long is it right for me to be kept waiting? Order me to lead
your gift away.” All the Trojans together shout their approval,
and demand that what was promised be granted him.
At this Entellus upbraids Acestes, sitting next to him
on a stretch of green grass, with grave words:
“Entellus, once the bravest of heroes, was it all in vain,
will you let so great a prize be carried off without a struggle,
and so tamely? Where’s our divine master, Eryx, now,
famous to no purpose? Where’s your name throughout Sicily,
and why are those spoils of battle hanging in your house?”
To this Entellus replies: “It’s not that quelled by fear, pride or love
of fame has died: but my chill blood is dull with age’s sluggishness,
and the vigour in my body is lifeless and exhausted.
If I had what I once had, which that boaster enjoys
and relies on, if that youthfulness were mine now,
then I’d certainly have stepped forward, but not seduced
by prizes or handsome bullocks: I don’t care about gifts.”
Having spoken he throws a pair of gloves of immense weight
which fierce Eryx, binding the tough hide onto his hands,
used to fight in, into the middle of the ring. Their minds
are stunned: huge pieces of hide from seven massive oxen
are stiff with the iron and lead sewn into them. Above all
Dares himself is astonished, and declines the bout from a distance,
and Anchises’s noble son turns the huge volume
and weight of the gloves backwards and forwards.
Then the older man speaks like this, from his heart:
“What if you’d seen the arms and gloves of Hercules
himself, and the fierce fight on this very shore?
Your brother Eryx once wore these (you see that
they’re still stained with blood and brain matter)
He faced great Hercules in them: I used to fight in them
when more vigorous blood granted me strength,
and envious age had not yet sprinkled my brow with snow.
But if a Trojan, Dares, shrinks from these gloves of ours,
and good Aeneas accepts it, and Acestes my sponsor agrees,
let’s level the odds. I’ll forgo the gloves of Eryx
(banish your fears): you, throw off your Trojan ones.”
So speaking he flings his double-sided cloak from his shoulders,
baring the massive muscles of his limbs, his thighs
with their huge bones, and stands, a giant, in the centre of the arena.
Then our ancestor, Anchises’s son, lifts up a like pair of gloves,
and protects the hands of both contestants equally.
Immediately each takes up his stance, poised on his toes,
and fearlessly raises his arms high in front of him.
Keeping their heads up and well away from the blows
they begin to spar, fist to fist, and provoke a battle,
the one better at moving his feet, relying on his youth,
the other powerful in limbs and bulk: but his slower legs quiver,
his knees are unsteady, and painful gasps shake his huge body.
They throw many hard punches at each other but in vain,
they land many on their curved flanks, or their chests
are thumped loudly, gloves often stray to ears
and brows, and jaws rattle under the harsh blows.
Entellus stands solidly, not moving, in the same stance,
avoiding the blows with his watchful eyes and body alone.
Dares, like someone who lays siege to a towering city,
or surrounds a mountain fortress with weapons,
tries this opening and that, seeking everywhere, with his art,
and presses hard with varied but useless assaults.
Then Entellus standing up to him, extends his raised right:
the other, foreseeing the downward angle of the imminent blow,
slides his nimble body aside, and retreats:
Entellus wastes his effort on the air and the heavy man
falls to the ground heavily, with his whole weight,
as a hollow pine-tree, torn up by its roots, sometimes falls
on Mount Erymanthus or mighty Mount Ida.
The Trojans and the Sicilan youths leap up eagerly:
a shout lifts to the sky, and Acestes is the first to run forward
and with sympathy raises his old friend from the ground.
But that hero, not slowed or deterred by his fall,
returns more eagerly to the fight, and generates power from anger.
Then shame and knowledge of his own ability revive his strength,
and he drives Dares in fury headlong across the whole arena,
doubling his punches now, to right and left. No pause, or rest:
like the storm clouds rattling their dense hailstones on the roof,
as heavy are the blows from either hand, as the hero
continually batters at Dares and destroys him.
Then Aeneas, their leader, would not allow the wrath to continue
longer, nor Entellus to rage with such bitterness of spirit,
but put an end to the contest, and rescued the weary Dares,
speaking gently to him with these words:
“Unlucky man, why let such savagery depress your spirits?
Don’t you see another has the power: the gods have changed sides?
Yield to the gods.” He spoke and, speaking, broke up the fight.
But Dare’s loyal friends led him away to the ships,
his weakened knees collapsing, his head swaying from side to side,
spitting out clots of blood from his mouth, teeth amongst them.
Called back they accept the helmet and sword,
leaving the winner’s palm and the bullock for Entellus.
At this the victor exultant in spirit and glorying in the bullock,
said: “Son of the Goddess, and all you Trojans,
know now what physical strength I had in my youth,
and from what fate you’ve recalled and rescued Dares.”
He spoke and planted himself opposite the bullock,
still standing there as prize for the bout, then, drawing back
his right fist, aimed the hard glove between the horns
and broke its skull scattering the brains: the ox
fell quivering to the ground, stretched out lifeless.
Standing over it he poured these words from his chest:
“Eryx, I offer you this, the better animal, for Dares’s life:
the winner here, I relinquish the gloves and my art.”
Immediately Aeneas invites together all who might wish
to compete with their swift arrows, and sets out the prizes.
With a large company he raises a mast from Serestus’s ship,
and ties a fluttering dove, at which they can aim
their shafts, to a cord piercing the high mast.
The men gather and a bronze helmet receives the lots
tossed into it: the first of them all to be drawn,
to cheers of support, is Hippocoon son of Hyrtaces,
followed by Mnestheus, the winner of the boat race
a while ago: Mnestheus crowned with green olive.
Eurytion’s the third, your brother, O famous Pandorus,
who, ordered to wreck the treaty, in the past,
was the first to hurl his spear amongst the Greeks.
Acestes is the last name out from the depths of the helmet,
daring to try his own hand at the youthful contest.
Then they take arrows from their quivers, and, each man
for himself, with vigorous strength, bends the bow into an arc,
and first through the air from the twanging string
the son of Hyrcanus’s shaft, cutting the swift breeze,
reaches the mark, and strikes deep into the mast.
The mast quivered, the bird fluttered its wings in fear,
and there was loud applause from all sides.
Then Mnestheus eagerly took his stand with bent bow,
aiming high, his arrow notched level with his eyes.
But to his dismay he was not able to hit the bird
herself with the shaft, but broke the knots of hemp cord
that tied her foot as it hung from the mast:
she fled to the north wind and the dark clouds, in flight.
Then Eurytion who had been holding his bow ready, with drawn
arrow for some time, called on his brother to note his vow,
quickly eyed the dove, enjoying the freedom of the skies,
and transfixed her, as she beat her wings beneath a dark cloud.
She dropped lifeless, leaving her spirit with the starry heavens,
and, falling, brought back to earth the shaft that pierced her.
Acestes alone remained: the prize was lost:
yet he still shot his arrow high into the air,
showing an older man’s skill, the bow twanging. Then
a sudden wonder appeared before their eyes, destined to be
of great meaning: the time to come unveiled its crucial outcome,
and great seers of the future celebrated it as an omen.
The arrow, flying through the passing clouds, caught fire
marked out its path with flames, then vanished into thin air,
as shooting stars, loosed from heaven often transit
the sky, drawing their tresses after them. Astonished,
the Trinacrians and Trojans stood rooted to the spot,
praying to the gods: nor did their great leader Aeneas
reject the sign, but embracing the joyful Acestes,
loaded him with handsome gifts and spoke as follows:
“Take these, old man: since the high king of Olympus shows,
by these omens, that he wishes you to take extraordinary honours.
You shall have this gift, owned by aged Anchises himself,
a bowl engraved with figures, that Cisseus of Thrace
once long ago gave Anchises my father as a memento
of himself, and as a pledge of his friendship.”
So saying he wreathed his brow with green laurel
and proclaimed Acestes the highest victor among them all.
Nor did good Eurytion begrudge the special prize,
though he alone brought the bird down from the sky.
Next he who cut the cord stepped forward for his reward,
and lastly he who’s swift shaft had transfixed the mast.
But before the match is complete Aeneas the leader
calls Epytides to him, companion and guardian
of young Iulus, and speaks into his loyal ear:
“Off! Go! Tell Ascanius, if he has his troop of boys
ready with him, and is prepared for the horse-riding
to show himself with his weapons, and lead them out
in honour of his grandfather.” He himself orders the whole
crowd of people to leave the lengthy circuit, emptying the field.
The boys arrive, and glitter together on their bridled horses
under their fathers’ gaze, and the men of Troy
and Sicily murmur in admiration as they go by.
They all have their hair properly circled by a cut garland:
they each carry two cornel-wood spears tipped with steel,
some have shining quivers on their shoulders: a flexible
torque of twisted gold sits high on their chests around the neck.
The troops of horse are three in number, and three leaders
ride ahead: two groups of six boys follow each,
commanded alike and set out in gleaming ranks.
One line of youths is led joyfully by little Priam,
recalling his grandfather’s name, your noble child,
Polites, seed of the Italians: whom a piebald
Thracian horse carries, showing white pasterns
as it steps, and a high white forehead.
Next is Atys, from whom the Latin Atii trace their line,
little Atys, a boy loved by the boy Iulus.
Last, and most handsome of all in appearance,
Iulus himself rides a Sidonian horse, that radiant Dido
had given him as a remembrance of herself,
and a token of her love. The rest of the youths
ride the Sicilian horses of old Acestes.
The Trojans greet the shy lads with applause, and delight
in gazing at them, seeing their ancient families in their faces.
When they have ridden happily round the whole assembly
under the eyes of their kin, Epytides with a prolonged cry
gives the agreed signal and cracks his whip.
They gallop apart in two equal detachments, the three
groups parting company, and dissolving their columns,
then, recalled, they wheel round, and charge with level lances.
Then they perform other figures and counter-figures
in opposing ranks, and weave in circles inside counter-circles,
and perform a simulated battle with weapons.
Now their backs are exposed in flight, now they turn
their spears to charge, now ride side by side in peace.
Like the Labyrinth in mountainous Crete, they say,
that contained a path winding between blind walls,
wandering with guile through a thousand turnings,
so that undetected and irretraceable errors
might foil any guidelines that might be followed:
so the Trojan children twine their steps in just such a pattern,
weaving battle and flight, in their display, like dolphins
swimming through the ocean streams, cutting the Carpathian
and Lybian waters, and playing among the waves.
Ascanius first revived this kind of riding, and this contest,
when he encircled Alba Longa with walls, and taught the Early
Latins to celebrate it in the way he and the Trojan youth
had done together: the Albans taught their children: mighty Rome
received it from them in turn, and preserved the ancestral rite:
and today the boys are called ‘Troy’ and their procession ‘Trojan’.
So the games are completed celebrating Aeneas’s sacred father.
Here Fortune first alters, switching loyalties. While they,
with their various games, are paying due honours to the tomb,
Saturnian Juno sends Iris down from the sky to the Trojan fleet,
breathing out a breeze for her passage, thinking deeply
about her ancient grievance which is yet unsatisfied.
Iris, hurrying on her way along a rainbow’s thousand colours
speeds swiftly down her track, a girl unseen.
She views the great crowd, and scans the shore,
sees the harbour deserted, and the ships abandoned.
But far away on the lonely sands the Trojan women
are weeping Anchises’s loss, and all, weeping, gaze
at the deep ocean. “Ah, what waves and seas are still left
for weary folk!” They are all of one voice. They pray for
a city: they tire of enduring suffering on the waves.
So Iris, not ignorant of mischief, darts among them,
setting aside the appearance and robes of a goddess:
becoming Beroe, the old wife of Tmarian Doryclus,
who had once had family, sons, and a famous name.
and as such moves among the Trojan mothers, saying:
“O wretched ones, whom Greek hands failed to drag
to death in the war beneath our native walls!
O unhappy people what fate does Fortune reserve for you?
The seventh summer is on the turn since Troy’s destruction,
and we endure the crossing of every sea and shore, so many inhospitable stones and stars, while we chase over the vast sea
after an Italy that flees from us, tossing upon the waves.
Here are the borders of our brother Eryx and our host Acestes:
what stops us building walls and granting our citizens a city?
O fatherland, O gods of our houses, rescued from the enemy
in vain, will no city now be called Troy? Shall I see
nowhere a Xanthus or a Simois, Hector’s rivers?
Come now, and burn these accursed ships with me.
For the ghost of Cassandra, the prophetess, seemed to hand me
burning torches in dream: ‘Seek Troy here: here is
your home’ she said. Now is the time for deeds,
not delay, given such portents. See, four altars to Neptune:
the god himself lends us fire and the courage.”
So saying she first of all firmly seizes the dangerous flame
and, straining to lift it high, brandishes it, and hurls it.
The minds of the Trojan women are startled, and their wits
stunned. Here, one of the crowd, Pyrgo, the eldest,
the royal nurse of so many of Priam’s sons, says:
“This is not Beroe, you women, this is no wife
of Rhoetitian Doryclus: look at the signs of divine beauty
and the burning eyes, the spirit she possesses,
her form, the sound of her voice, her footsteps as she moves.
Just now I myself left Beroe, sick and unhappy, that she alone
was missing so important a rite and could not pay Anchises
the offerings due to him.” So she speaks. At first the women
gaze in uncertainty at the ships, with angry glances,
torn between a wretched yearning for the land
they have reached, and the kingdom fate calls them to,
when the goddess, climbs the sky on soaring wings,
cutting a giant rainbow in her flight through the clouds.
Then truly amazed at the wonder, and driven by madness,
they cry out and some snatch fire from the innermost hearths,
others strip the altars, and throw on leaves and twigs
and burning brands. Fire rages unchecked among
the benches, and oars, and the hulls of painted pine.
Eumelus carries the news of the burning ships to Anchises’s tomb
and the ranks of the ampitheatre, and looking behind them
they themselves see dark ash floating upwards in a cloud.
Ascanius is first to turn his horse eagerly towards the troubled
encampment, as joyfully as he led his galloping troop,
and his breathless guardians cannot reign him back.
“What new madness is this? He cries. “What now, what do you
aim at, wretched women? You’re burning your own hopes
not the enemy, nor a hostile Greek camp. See I am
your Ascanius!” And he flung his empty helmet in front of his feet,
that he’d worn as he’d inspired his pretence of battle in play.
Aeneas hurries there too, and the Trojan companies.
But the women scatter in fear here and there along the shore,
and stealthily head for the woods and any cavernous rocks:
they hate what they’ve done and the light, with sober minds
they recognise their kin, and Juno is driven from their hearts.
But the roaring flames don’t lose their indomitable fury
just for that: the pitch is alight under the wet timbers,
slowly belching smoke, the keel is gradually burned,
and the pestilence sinks through a whole hull,
nor are heroic strength or floods of water any use.
Then virtuous Aeneas tears the clothes from his chest,
and calls on the gods for help, lifting his hands:
“All-powerful Jupiter, if you don’t hate the Trojans
to a man, if your former affection has regard
for human suffering, let the fleet escape the flames now,
Father, and save our slender Trojan hopes from ruin:
or if I deserve this, send what is left of us to death with your
angry lightning-bolt, and overwhelm us with your hand.”
He had barely spoken, when a dark storm with pouring rain
rages without check and the high hills and plains
quake with thunder: a murky downpour falls
from the whole sky, the blackest of heavy southerlies,
and the ships are brimming, the half-burnt timbers soaked,
until all the heat is quenched, and all the hulls
except four, are saved from the pestilence.
But Aeneas, the leader, stunned by the bitter blow,
pondered his great worries, turning them this way
and that in his mind. Should he settle in Sicily’s fields,
forgetting his destiny, or strike out for Italian shores?
Then old Nautes, whom alone Tritonian Pallas had taught,
and rendered famous for his great skill (she gave him
answers, telling what the great gods’ anger portended,
or what the course of destiny demanded),
began to solace Aeneas with these words:
“Son of the Goddess, let us follow wherever fate ebbs or flows,
whatever comes, every fortune may be conquered by endurance.
You have Trojan Acestes of the line of the gods:
let him share your decisions and be a willing partner,
entrust to him those who remain from the lost ships,
and those tired of your great venture and your affairs:
Select also aged men and women exhausted by the sea,
and anyone with you who is frail, or afraid of danger,
and let the weary have their city in this land:
and if agreed they will call it by Acestes’s name.”
Then roused by such words from an aged friend,
Aeneas’s heart was truly torn between so many cares.
And now black Night in her chariot, borne upwards,
occupied the heavens: and the likeness of his father Anchises
seemed to glide down from the sky, and speak so:
“Son, dearer to me than life, when life remained,
my son, troubled by Troy’s fate, I come here
at Jove’s command, he who drove the fire from the ships,
and at last takes pity on you from high heaven.
Follow the handsome advice that old Nautus gives:
take chosen youth, and the bravest hearts, to Italy.
In Latium you must subdue a tough race, harshly trained.
Yet, first, go to the infernal halls of Dis, and in deep
Avernus seek a meeting with me, my son. For impious
Tartarus, with its sad shades, does not hold me,
I live in Elysium, and the lovely gatherings of the blessed.
Here the chaste Sibyl will bring you, with much blood of
black sheep. Then you’ll learn all about your race,
and the city granted you. Now: farewell. Dew-wet Night
turns mid-course, and cruel Morning, with panting steeds,
breathes on me.” He spoke and fled like smoke into thin air.
“Where are you rushing to? Aeneas cried, “Where are you
hurrying? Who do you flee? Who bars you from my embrace?”
So saying he revived the embers of the slumbering fires, and
paid reverence, humbly, with sacred grain and a full censer,
to the Trojan Lar, and the inner shrine of white-haired Vesta.
Immediately he summoned his companions, Acestes first of all,
and told them of Jove’s command, and his dear father’s counsel,
and the decision he had reached in his mind. There was little delay
in their discussions, and Acestes did not refuse to accept his orders.
They transferred the women to the new city’s roll, and settled
there those who wished, spirits with no desire for great glory.
They themselves, thinned in their numbers, but with manhood
fully alive to war, renewed the rowing benches, and replaced
the timbers of the ships burnt by fire, and fitted oars and rigging.
Meanwhile Aeneas marked out the city limits with a plough
and allocated houses: he declared that this was Ilium
and this place Troy. Acestes the Trojan revelled in his kingdom,
appointed a court, and gave out laws to the assembled senate.
Then a shrine of Venus of Idalia was dedicated,
close to the stars, on the tip of Eryx, and they added
a stretch of sacred grove, and a priest, to Anchises’s tomb.
When all the people had feasted for nine days, and offerings
had been made at the altars, gentle winds calmed the waves
and a strong Southerly called them again to sea.
A great weeping rose along the curving shore:
a day and a night they clung together in delay.
Now the women themselves, to whom the face of the ocean
had once seemed cruel, and its name intolerable,
wish to go and suffer all the toils of exile.
Good Aeneas comforts them with kind words
and commends them to his kinsman Acestes with tears.
Then he orders three calves to be sacrificed to Eryx,
a lamb to the Storm-gods, and for the hawsers to be duly freed.
He himself, standing some way off on the prow, his brow
wreathed with leaves of cut olive, holds a cup, throws the entrails
into the salt waves, and pours out the clear wine.
A wind, rising astern, follows their departure: his friends
in rivalry, strike the waves, and sweep the waters.
But meanwhile Venus, tormented by anxiety speaks
to Neptune, and pours out her complaints in this manner:
“O Neptune, Juno’s heavy anger, and her implacable
heart, force me to descend to every kind of prayer,
she whom no length of time nor any piety can move,
nor does she rest, unwearied by fate or Jove’s commands.
It’s not enough that in her wicked hatred she’s consumed a city,
at the heart of Phrygia, and dragged the survivors of Troy
through extremes of punishment: she pursues the bones and ashes
of the slaughtered. She alone knows the reason for such fury.
You yourself are witness to the trouble she stirred lately
in Libyan waters: she confused the whole sea
with the sky, daring to do this within your realm,
relying vainly on Aeolus’s violent storm-winds.
See, how, rousing the Trojan women, in her wickedness,
and disgracefully, she has burnt their fleet, and, with ships lost,
to leave their friends behind on an unknown shore.
I beg you to let the rest sail safely through your seas,
let them reach Laurentine Tiber, if I ask
what is allowed, if the Fates grant them their city.”
Then the son of Saturn, the master of the deep oceans,
said this: “You’ve every right to trust in my realms, Cytherea,
from which you draw your own origin. Also I’ve earned it:
I’ve often controlled the rage and fury of sea and sky.
Nor has my concern been less for your Aeneas on land
(I call Xanthus and Simois as witnesses). When Achilles
chased the Trojan ranks, in their panic, forcing them to the wall,
and sent many thousands to death, and the rivers choked and
groaned, and Xanthus could not find his course
or roll down to the sea, then it was I who caught up Aeneas
in a thick mist, as he met that brave son of Peleus,
when neither the gods nor his own strength favoured him,
though I longed to destroy the walls of lying Troy,
that my hands had built, from the ground up.
Now also my mind remains the same: dispel your fears.
He will reach the harbours of Avernus, safely, as you ask.
There will only be one, lost in the waves, whom you
will look for: one life that will be given for the many.”
When he had soothed the goddess’s heart, she joying at his words,
Father Neptune yoked his wild horses with gold, set the bits
in their foaming mouths, and, with both hands, gave them free rein.
He sped lightly over the ocean in his sea-green chariot,
the waves subsided and the expanse of swollen waters
grew calm under the thunderous axle:
the storm-clouds vanished from the open sky.
Then came his multi-formed followers, great whales,
Glaucus’s aged band, Palaemon Ino’s son,
the swift Tritons, and all of Phorcus’s host:
the left hand taken by Thetis, Melite and virgin Panopea,
Nesaea, and Spio, Thalia, and Cymodoce.
At this, soothing joy in turn pervaded father Aeneas’s
anxious mind: he ordered all to raise their masts
quickly, and the sails to be unfurled from the yard-arms.
Together they hauled on the ropes and let out the canvas as one,
now to port and now to starboard: together they swung
the high yards about: benign winds drove the fleet along.
Palinurus, first of them all, led the close convoy:
the rest were ordered to set their course by his.
And now dew-wet Night had just reached her zenith
in the sky: the sailors relaxed their limbs in quiet rest
stretched out on the hard benches beneath the oars:
when Sleep, gliding lightly down from the heavenly stars,
parted the gloomy air, and scattered the shadows,
seeking you, bringing you dark dreams, Palinurus,
though you were innocent: the god settled on the high stern,
appearing as Phorbas, and poured these words from his mouth:
“Palinurus, son of Iasus, the seas themselves steer the fleet,
the breezes blow steadily, this hour is granted for rest.
Lay down your head and rob your weary eyes of labour.
For a little while, I myself will take on your duty for you.”
Palinurus, barely lifting his gaze, spoke to him:
“Do you tell me to trust the sea’s placid face,
the calm waves? Shall I set my faith on this monster?
Why should I entrust Aeneas to the deceptive breeze,
I whom a clear sky has deceived so often?”
So he spoke and clinging hard to the tiller
never relaxed his hold, and held his sight on the stars.
Behold, despite his caution, the god shook a branch,
wet with Lethe’s dew, soporific with Styx’s power,
over his brow, and set free his swimming eyes.
The first sudden drowse had barely relaxed his limbs,
when Sleep leant above him and threw him headlong
into the clear waters, tearing away the tiller
and part of the stern, he calling to his friends often, in vain:
while the god raised his wings in flight into the empty air.
The fleet sailed on its way over the sea, as safely as before,
gliding on, unaware, as father Neptune had promised.
And now drawn onwards it was close to the Sirens’s cliffs, tricky
of old, and white with the bones of many men, (now the rocks,
far off, boomed loud with the unending breakers) when the leader
realised his ship was wallowing adrift, her helmsman lost,
and he himself steered her through the midnight waters,
sighing deeply, and shocked at heart by his friend’s fate:
“Oh, far too trustful of the calm sea, and the sky,
you’ll lie naked, Palinurus, on an unknown shore.”