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Title: Virgil
Author: Collins, W. Lucas (William Lucas)
Language: English
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                                VIRGIL

                                BY THE
                      REV. W. LUCAS COLLINS, M.A.

                               AUTHOR OF
                ‘ETONIANA,’ ‘THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS,’ ETC.

                      WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS

                         EDINBURGH AND LONDON

                               MDCCCLXX



                               CONTENTS.



                                                          PAGE

INTRODUCTION,                                                1

THE POET,                                                    8

THE PASTORALS,                                              13

THE GEORGICS,                                               28

THE ÆNEID,--

    CHAP. I. THE SHIPWRECK ON THE COAST OF CARTHAGE,        41

     “   II. ÆNEAS RELATES THE FALL OF TROY,                53

     “  III. ÆNEAS CONTINUES HIS NARRATIVE,                 64

     “   IV. DIDO,                                          71

     “    V. THE FUNERAL GAMES,                             85

     “   VI. THE SIBYL AND THE SHADES,                     105

     “  VII. THE TROJANS LAND IN LATIUM,                   128

     “ VIII. THE MUSTER OF THE LATIN TRIBES,               137

     “   IX. ÆNEAS MAKES ALLIANCE WITH EVANDER,            145

     “    X. TURNUS ATTACKS THE TROJAN ENCAMPMENT,         153

     “   XI. THE DEATH OF PALLAS,                          161

     “  XII. THE DEATH OF CAMILLA,                         167

     “ XIII. THE LAST COMBAT,                              171

     “  XIV. CONCLUDING REMARKS,                           180



ADVERTISEMENT.


This volume of the Series was to have been undertaken by the late Mr
Conington. None can be more sensible than the present writer of the loss
which all readers have sustained in the substitution rendered necessary
by his lamented death.

The Editor begs to acknowledge the courteous permission of Mr
Conington’s representatives and publishers to make full extracts from
his admirable version of the Æneid.



INTRODUCTION.


Virgil has always been, for one reason or other, the most popular of all
the old classical writers. His poems were a favourite study with his own
countrymen, even in his own generation; within fifty years of his death
they were admitted to the very questionable honour, which they have
retained ever since, of serving as a text-book for schoolboys. The
little Romans studied their Æneid, from their master’s dictation, as
regularly, and probably with quite as much appreciation of its beauties,
as the fourth form of an English public school, and wrote “declamations”
of some kind upon its heroes. In the middle ages, when Greek literature
had become almost a deserted field, and Homer in the original was a
sealed book even to those who considered themselves and were considered
scholars, Virgil was still the favourite with young and old. The monks
in their chronicles, philosophers in their secular studies, enlivened
their pages with quotations from the one author with whom no man of
letters would venture to confess himself wholly unacquainted. The works
of Virgil had passed through above forty editions in Europe before the
first printed edition of Homer appeared from the Florence press in 1448.
He has been translated, imitated, and parodied in all the chief European
languages. The fate of Dido, of Pallas, and of Euryalus, has drawn tears
from successive generations of which the poet never dreamed.

In the middle ages his fame underwent a singular transformation. From
the magic power of song the transition seems incongruous to the coarser
material agency of the wizard. But so it was; Virgilius the poet became,
in mediæval legends, Virgilius the magician. One of his Eclogues (the
Eighth), in which are introduced the magical charms by which it is
sought to reclaim a wandering lover, is supposed to have given the first
impulse to this superstitious belief. All kinds of marvels were
attributed to his agency. It was said that he built at Rome, for the
Emperor Augustus, a wondrous tower, in which were set up emblematic
figures of all the subject nations which acknowledged the imperial rule,
each with a bell in its hand, which rang out whenever war or revolt
broke out in that particular province, so that Rome knew at once in what
direction to march her legions. In the same building--so the legend
ran--he contrived a magic mirror, in which the enemies of the Empire
could be seen when they appeared in arms; and another--surely the most
terrible agency that was ever imagined in the way of domestic police--in
which the guilt of any Roman citizen could be at once seen and detected.
A fount of perpetual fire, and salt-springs of medicinal virtue, were
said to have been the gifts of the great enchanter to the Roman
populace. At Naples the marvels which were attributed to his agency were
scarcely less; and even now there is scarcely any useful or ornamental
public work of early date, in the neighbourhood of that city, which is
not in some way connected by vulgar tradition with the name of Virgil.
The wondrous powers thus ascribed to him were, according to some
legends, conferred upon him by Chiron the learned centaur--by whom the
great Achilles, and the poet’s own hero, Æneas, were said to have been
educated; by others, with that blending of pagan belief with Christian
which is so commonly found in mediæval writers, they were referred to
direct communication with the Evil One.[1]

French scholars have always had the highest appreciation of the Augustan
poet, and his popularity in England is to this day as great as ever.
Even a practical House of Commons, not always very patient of argument,
and notoriously impatient of some prosaic speakers, will listen to a
quotation from Virgil--especially when pointed against a political
opponent. Those to whom his rolling measure is familiar still quote him
and cheer him so enthusiastically, that others listen with more or less
appreciation. To the many who have almost forgotten what they once knew
of him, his lines awake reminiscences of their youth--which are always
pleasant: while even those to whom he is a sound and nothing more,
listen as with a kind of sacred awe. The debates of our reformed
Parliament will certainly be duller, if ever Virgil comes to be
proscribed as an unknown tongue.

English translators of Virgil have abounded. But the earliest and by no
means the least able of those who presented the Roman poet to our
northern islanders in their own vernacular was a Scotsman, Bishop Gawain
Douglas of Dunkeld, that clerkly son of old Archibald “Bell-the-Cat”
whom Scott names in his ‘Marmion.’ Few modern readers of Virgil are
likely to be proficients in the ancient northern dialect which the
bishop used; but those who can appreciate him maintain that there is
considerable vigour as well as faithfulness in his version. Thomas
Phaer, a Welsh physician, was the next who made the attempt, in the long
verses known as Alexandrine, in 1558. A few years later came forth what
might fairly be called the comic English version, though undertaken in
the most serious earnest by the translator. This was Richard
Stanyhurst, an Irishman, a graduate of Oxford and student of Lincoln’s
Inn. He seems to have been the original prophet of that “pestilent
heresy,” as Lord Derby calls it, the making of English hexameters; for
that was the metre which he chose, and he congratulates himself in his
preface upon “having no English writer before him in this kind of
poetry.” Without going so far as to endorse Lord Derby’s severe
judgment, it may be confessed that Stanyhurst did his best to justify
it. His translation, which he ushered into public with the most profound
self-satisfaction, is quite curious enough to account for its reprint by
the “Edinburgh Printing Society” in 1836. One of the points upon which
he prides himself is the suiting the sound to the sense, which Virgil
himself has done happily enough in some rare passages. So when he has to
translate the line,

    “Exoritur clamorque virum clangorque tubarum,”

he does it as follows:--

    “The townsmen roared, the trump tara-tantara rattled.”

When he has to express the Cyclops forging the thunderbolts, it is

    “With peale meale ramping, with thick thwack sturdily thund’ring;”

and very much more of the same kind.

The Earl of Surrey and James Harrington tried their hand at detached
portions, and although the quaint conceits which were admired in their
day have little charm for the modern reader, there is not wanting,
especially in the former, a spirit and vigour in which, some of those
who came before and after them lamentably failed. The translations by
Vicars and Ogilby, about the middle of the seventeenth century, have
little claim to be remembered except as the first presentations of the
whole Æneid in an English poetical dress. In dull mediocrity they are
about equal.

In 1697, Dryden, at the age of sixty-six, finished and published his
translation; written, as he pathetically says, “in his declining years,
struggling with want, and oppressed with sickness;” yet, whatever be its
shortcomings, a confessedly great work, and showing few traces of these
unfavourable circumstances. His great renown, and the unquestionable
vigour and ability of the versification, insured its popularity at once;
and it was considered, by the critics of his own and some succeeding
generations, as pre-eminently the English Virgil. Dr Johnson said of it
that “it satisfied his friends and silenced his enemies.” It may still
be read with pleasure, but it has grave faults. Independently of its
general looseness and diffuseness, in many passages amounting to the
vaguest paraphrase, there are too many instances in which, not content
with making his author say a good many things which he never did say, he
palpably misinterprets him. There are many passages of much vigour and
beauty; but even of these it has been said, and not unfairly, by a later
translator, Dr Trapp, that “where you most admire Dryden, you see the
least of Virgil.” Dryden had the advantage of consulting in manuscript a
translation by the Earl of Lauderdale (afterwards published), which has
considerable merit, and to which in his preface he confesses obligations
“not inconsiderable.” They were, in fact, so considerable as this, that
besides other hints in the matter of words and phrases, he borrowed
nearly four hundred lines in different places, with scarcely an attempt
at change.

Dryden was followed by various other translators more or less
successful. Pitt and Symmons, the latter especially, might have earned a
greater reputation had they preceded instead of followed the great poet
whose laurels they plainly challenged by adopting his metre. But the
recent admirable translation of the Æneid into the metre of Scott by Mr
Conington will undoubtedly take its place henceforward as by far the
most poetical, as it is also the most faithful and scholarly, rendering
of the original.



THE POET.


Publius Virgilius Maro--such was his full name, though we have
abbreviated the sounding Roman appellatives into the curt English form
of “Virgil”--lived in the age when the great Roman Empire was
culminating to its fall, but as yet showed little symptom of decay. The
emperor under whom he was born was that Octavianus Cæsar, nephew of the
great Julius, whose title of “Augustus” gave a name to his own times
which has since passed into a common term for the golden age of
literature in every nation. In the Augustan age of Rome rose and
flourished, in rapid succession, a large proportion of those great
writers to whose works we have given the name of classics. This
brilliant summer-time of literature was owing to various causes--to the
increase of cultivation and refinement, to the leisure and quiet which
followed after long years of war and civil commotion; but in part also
it was owing to the character of the Roman emperor himself. Both
Augustus and his intimate friend and counsellor Mæcenas were the
professed patrons of letters and of the fine arts. Mæcenas was of the
highest patrician blood of Rome. He claimed descent from the old
Etruscan kings or Lucumos--those ancient territorial chiefs who ruled
Italy while Rome was yet in her infancy, such as Lars Porsena of
Clusium. Clever and accomplished, an able statesman in spite of all his
indolence, Mæcenas had immense influence with Augustus. At his splendid
palace on the Esquiline Hill--the Holland House of the day--met all the
brilliant society of Rome, and his name very soon became a synonym for a
liberal patron of art and literature. To be eminent in any branch of
these accomplishments was to insure the notice of the minister; and to
be a _protégé_ of his was an introduction at once, under the happiest
auspices, to the emperor himself. Such good fortune occurred to Virgil
early in his life.

He was born in the little village of Andes (probably the modern
Pietola), near Mantua, and received a liberal education, as is
sufficiently evident from the many allusions in his poems. When grown to
manhood, he seems to have lived for some years with his father upon his
modest family estate. He suffered, like very many of his countrymen--his
friend and fellow-poet Horace among the number--from the results of the
great civil wars which so long desolated Italy, and which ended in the
fall of the Republic at the battle of Philippi. The district near Mantua
was assigned and parcelled out among the legionaries who had fought for
Antony and young Octavianus against Pompey. Cremona had espoused the
cause of the latter, and Mantua, as Virgil himself tells us, suffered
for the sins of its neighbour. His little estate was confiscated,
amongst others, to reward the veterans who had claims on the gratitude
of Octavianus. But through the intercession of some powerful friend who
had influence with the young emperor--probably Asinius Pollio, hereafter
mentioned, who was prefect of the province--they were soon restored to
him. This obligation Virgil never forgot; and amongst the many of all
ranks who poured their flattery into the ears of Augustus (as Octavianus
must be henceforth called), perhaps that of the young Mantuan poet,
though bestowed with something of a poet’s exaggeration, was amongst the
most sincere. The first of his Pastorals was written to express his
gratitude for the indulgence which had been granted him. If the Cæsar of
the day was susceptible of flattery, at least he liked it good of its
kind. “Stroke him awkwardly,” said Horace, “and he winces like a restive
horse.” But the verse of the Mantuan poet had the ring of poetry as well
as compliment.

These Pastorals (to be more particularly noticed hereafter) were his
earliest work, composed, probably, between his twenty-seventh and
thirty-fourth year, while he was still living a country life on his
newly-recovered farm. They seem to have attracted the favourable
attention of Mæcenas; and soon, among the brilliant crowd of courtiers,
statesmen, artists, poets, and historians who thronged the
audience-chamber of the popular minister, might be seen the tall,
slouching, somewhat plebeian figure of the young country poet.[2] He
soon became a familiar guest there; but although Augustus himself, half
in jest, was said to have spoken of his minister’s literary dinners as a
“table of parasites,” it is certain Virgil never deserved the character.
This intimacy with Mæcenas must have led to frequent and prolonged
visits to Rome; but his chief residence, after he left his Mantuan
estate, seems to have been at Naples. It was at the suggestion of this
patron that he set about the composition of his poem upon Roman
agriculture and stock-breeding--the four books of Georgics. His greatest
and best-known work--the Æneid--was begun in obedience to a hint thrown
out by a still higher authority, though he seems to have long had the
subject in his thoughts, and probably had begun to put it into shape.
Augustus had condescended to ask the poet to undertake some grander
theme than an imaginary pastoral life or the management of the country
farm. The result was the Æneid, modelled upon the two great poems of
Homer--in fact, a Roman Iliad and Odyssey combined in one. It was never
completely finished, for Virgil, whose health was at no time robust,
died before he had put in the finishing touches which his fastidious
taste required. It is even said that in his last illness he would have
burnt the copy, if his friends would have allowed the sacrifice. It is
hardly probable, as a German scholar has ingeniously suggested, that it
was because the cruelties of Augustus’s later years made him repent of
having immortalised a tyrant. He died in his fifty-first year, at
Brundusium, where he had landed in the suite of the emperor, whom he had
met during a visit to Athens, and who brought him back with him to
Italy. He was buried, as was the custom of the Romans, by the side of
the public road leading out of Naples to Puteoli; and the tomb still
shown to travellers, near Posilippo, as the last resting-place of the
poet, may at least mark the real site. He died a comparatively rich man,
possessed of a town-house at Rome, near the palace of Mæcenas, with a
good library. Living, as he did, in the highest society of the capital,
where he was very popular, he never forgot his old friends; and it is
pleasant to read that he sent money to his aged parents regularly every
year. So highly was he esteemed by his own cotemporaries, that on one
occasion when he visited the theatre, the whole audience is said to have
risen in a body and saluted him with the same honours which were paid to
Augustus. He preserved to the last his simple manners and somewhat
rustic appearance; and it is believed that his character, amongst all
the prevalent vices of Rome, remained free from reproach--saving only
that with which he was taunted by the libertines of the capital, the
reproach of personal purity. It is as much to his honour that Caligula
should have ordered all his busts to be banished from the public
libraries, as that St Augustin should have quoted him alone of heathen
authors, in his celebrated ‘Confessions.’



THE PASTORALS.


The earliest written poems of Virgil, as has been said, were his
Pastorals. Of these we have ten remaining, sometimes called
“Bucolics”--_i. e._, Songs of the Herdsmen--and sometimes “Eclogues,” as
being “selections” from a larger number of similar compositions which
the poet either never made public, or which at least are lost to us. The
actual subjects of these poems are various, but they are usually
introduced in the way of imaginary dialogue between Greek shepherds,
keeping their flocks and herds at pasture in some imaginary woodland
country, which the poet peoples with inhabitants and supplies with
scenery at his will; mixing up, as poets only may, the features of his
own Italian landscape with those of Sicily, borrowed, with much besides,
from the Idylls of Theocritus, and with reminiscences of the Greek
Arcadia. That pastoral faery-land, in which shepherds lay all day under
beech-trees, playing on their pipes, either in rivalry for a musical
prize or composing monodies on their lost loves, surely never existed in
fact, however familiar to us in the language of ancient and modern
poets. Such shepherds are as unreal as the satyrs and fauns and
dryad-nymphs with whom a fanciful mythology had peopled the same region,
and who are not unfrequently introduced by the pastoral poets in the
company of their human _dramatis personæ_. The Arcadia of history was a
rich and fertile district, well wooded and watered, and as prosaic as
one of our own midland counties. Like them, if it had any reputation at
all beyond that of being excellent pasture-ground, it was a reputation
for dulness. It was celebrated for its breed of asses, and some of the
qualities of the animal seem to have been shared by the natives
themselves. “A slip of Arcadia” passed into a proverbial nickname for a
boy who was the despair of his schoolmaster. The Arcadia of the poets
and romance-writers, from classical times down to our own Spenser and
Sir Philip Sidney, was, as Mr Conington says, “the poets’ golden land,
in which imagination found a refuge from the harsh prosaic life of the
present.” This literary fancy enjoyed a remarkable popularity from the
early days of authorship down to a very recent date. Thyrsis and
Amaryllis, Daphnis and Corydon, have had a continued poetical existence
of something like fifteen hundred years, and talk very much the same
language in the Pastorals of Pope that they did in the Greek Idylls. It
is curious, also, that when society itself has been most artificial,
this affectation of pastoral simplicity seems to have been most in
vogue. It was the effeminate courtiers of Augustus who lavished their
applause and rewards upon Virgil when he read to them these lays of an
imaginary shepherd-life; how Galatæa was won by a present of a pair of
wood-pigeons or a basket of apples, and how Melibœus thankfully went to
supper with his friend Tityrus on roasted chestnuts and goat-milk
cheese. Society in England had never less of the reality of pastoral
simplicity than in the days when nearly every fine lady chose to be
painted with a lamb or a crook--when the “bucolic cant,” as Warton
contemptuously terms it, was the fashionable folly of the day. So when
aristocratic life in France had reached a phase of corruption which was
only to be purged by a revolution, Queen Marie Antoinette, with her
ladies and gentlemen in waiting, were going about the farm at Trianon
with crooks in their hands, playing at shepherds and shepherdesses, on
the brink of that terrible volcano.

Of the ten Eclogues, the majority take the form of pastoral dialogue.
Frequently it is a singing-match between two rival shepherds--not always
conducted in the most amicable fashion, or with the most scrupulous
delicacy in the matter of repartee, the poetical “Arcadian” being in
this point a pretty faithful copy from nature. Most of the names, as
well as of the subjects and imagery, are taken, as has been said, from
the Greek Idylls of Theocritus. So closely has Virgil copied his model
that he even transplants the natural scenery of Sicily, employed by
Theocritus, to his pastoral dreamland, which otherwise would seem to be
localised on the banks of the Mincio, in the neighbourhood of his native
Mantua. This gives him an opportunity of touching upon subjects of the
day, and introducing, in the name and guise of shepherds, himself and
his friends. Sometimes we can see through the disguise by the help of
contemporary Roman history; more often, probably, the clue is lost to us
through our very imperfect modern knowledge. We know pretty well that
Tityrus,--who in the First Eclogue expresses his gratitude to the
“godlike youth” who has preserved his little farm from the ruthless
hands of the soldier colonists, while his poor neighbour Melibœus has
lost his all,--can be no other than the poet himself, who thus
compliments his powerful protector. So, too, in a later Eclogue, when
the slave Mœris meets his neighbour Lycidas on the road, and tells him
how his master has been dispossessed of his farm by the military
colonists, and has narrowly escaped with his life, we may safely trust
the traditional explanation, that in the master Menalcas we have Virgil
again, troubled a second time by these intruders, and compelled to renew
his application to his great friend at Rome. The traditional story was,
that the poet was obliged to take refuge from the violence of the
soldiers in the shop of a charcoal-burner, who let him out at a
back-door, and eventually had to throw himself into the river Mincio to
escape their pursuit. Lycidas, in the Pastoral, is surprised to hear of
his neighbour’s new trouble.

    “LYC.--I surely heard, that all from where yon hills
           Begin to rise, and gently slope again
           Down to the stream, where the old beech-trees throw
           Their ragged time-worn tops against the sky,[3]
           Your poet-master had redeemed by song.

     MŒR.--You heard, no doubt--and so the story went;
           But song, good Lycidas, avails as much,
           When swords are drawn, as might the trembling dove
           When on Dodona swoops the eagle down.
           Nay--had I not been warned of woes to come--
           Warned by a raven’s croak on my left hand
           From out the hollow oak--why then, my friend,
           You had lost your Mœris and his master too.”

Honest Lycidas expresses his horror at the narrow escape of the
neighbourhood from such a catastrophe. What should they all have done
for a poet, if they had lost Menalcas? who could compose such songs--and
who could sing them? And he breaks out himself into fragmentary
reminiscences which he has picked up by ear from his friend. Then Mœris
too--who, being a poet’s farm-servant, has caught a little of the
inspiration--repeats a few lines of his master’s. “As you hope for any
blessings,” says Lycidas, “let me hear the rest of it.”

    “So may your bees avoid the poisonous yew--
    So may your cows bring full-swoln udders home--
    If canst remember aught, begin at once. I too,
    I am a poet, by the Muses’ grace: some songs
    I have, mine own composing; and the swains
    Call me their bard--but I were weak to heed them.
    I cannot vie with masters of the art
    Like Varius or like Cinna; my poor Muse
    Is but a goose among the tuneful swans.”

Mœris can remember a scrap or two of his master’s verses. There was one
in particular, which Lycidas had heard him singing one moonlight night,
and would much like to hear again;--“I can remember the tune myself,” he
says, “but I have forgotten the words.” Mœris will try. The compliment
to Augustus with which the strain begins sufficiently marks the real
poet who here figures as Menalcas.

    “Why, Daphnis, why dost watch the constellations
       Of the old order, now the new is born?
     Lo! a new star comes forth to glad the nations,
       Star of the Cæsars, filling full the corn.”[4]

But Mœris cannot remember much more. They must both wait, he says, until
his master comes home again. So the pair walk on together towards Rome,
cheating the long journey with singing as they go; and thus closes this
pretty pastoral dialogue, the graceful ease of which, with its subdued
comedy, it would be impossible for any translator to render adequately.

Another of these Eclogues relates the capture of Silenus, one of the old
rural deities of very jovial reputation, by two young shepherds, while
he lay sleeping off the effect of yesterday’s debauch. He is commonly
represented--and he was rather a favourite subject with ancient
artists--as a corpulent bald-headed old man, riding upon an ass, in a
state of evident inebriety, carrying a capacious leather wine-bottle,
and led and followed by a company of Nymphs and Bacchanals. He had the
reputation, like the sea-god Proteus, of knowing the mysteries of nature
and the secrets of the future; and there was a current story, upon which
this Pastoral is founded, of his having been caught while asleep, like
him, by some shepherds in Phrygia, and carried to King Midas, to whom,
as the price of his release, he answered all questions in natural
philosophy and ancient history--just as Proteus unfolded to Menelaus,
under similar compulsion, the secret of his future fate.

The Pastoral into which Virgil introduces this story is addressed to his
friend Varus--a man evidently of high rank--and seems meant as an
apology for not complying with his request to write a poem on his
exploits.

    “I thought to sing how heroes fought and bled,
     But that Apollo pinched my ear, and said--
     ‘Shepherds, friend Tityrus, I would have you know,
     Feed their sheep high, and keep their verses low.’”

Then he goes on to tell his story:--

    “Two shepherd-youths, the story runs, one day
     Came on the cave where old Silenus lay;
     Filled to the skin, as was his wont to be,
     With last night’s wine, and sound asleep was he;
     The garland from his head had fallen aside,
     And his round bottle hanging near they spied.
     Now was their time--both had been cheated long
     By the sly god with promise of a song;
     They tied him fast--fit bonds his garland made--
     And lo! a fair accomplice comes to aid:
     Loveliest of Naiad-nymphs, and merriest too,
     Æglè[5] did what they scarce had dared to do;
     Just as the god unclosed his sleepy eyes,
     She daubed his face with blood of mulberries.
     He saw their joke, and laughed--’Now loose me, lad!
     Enough--you’ve caught me--tying is too bad.
     A song you want?--Here goes. For Æglè, mind,
     I warrant me I’ll pay her out in kind.’
     So he began. The listening Fauns drew near,
     The beasts beat time, the stout oaks danced to hear.
     So joys Parnassus when Apollo sings--
     So through the dancing hills the lyre of Orpheus rings.”

Silenus’s strain is a poetical lecture on natural philosophy. He is as
didactic in his waking soberness as some of his disciples are in their
cups. He describes how the world sprang from the four original elements,
and narrates the old fables of the cosmogonists--the Deluge of
Deucalion, the new race of men who sprang from the stones which he and
Pyrrha cast behind them, the golden reign of Saturn, the theft of fire
by Prometheus, and a long series of other legends, with which he charms
his listeners until the falling shadows warn them to count their flocks,
and the evening-star comes out, as the poet phrases it, “over the
unwilling heights of Olympus”--loath yet to lose the fascinating strain.

Besides this Pastoral addressed to Varus, there are three inscribed to
other friends: one to Cornelius Gallus, and two to Caius Asinius Pollio,
who was among the most eminent men of his day alike as a statesman, an
orator, and a man of letters, and at that time held the high office of
consul at Rome. He had been the friend of the great Julius, as he was
afterwards of his nephew Octavianus (Augustus), and was probably the
person who preserved or restored to the poet his country estate. The
fourth in order of these poems, commonly known as the “Pollio,” is the
most celebrated of the whole series, and has given rise to a great
amount of speculation. Its exact date is known from the record of
Pollio’s consulship--40 before the Christian era. Its subject is the
expected birth of a Child, in whom the golden age of innocence and
happiness should be restored, and who was to be the moral regenerator of
the world. The date of the poem itself, approaching so closely the great
Birth at Bethlehem--the reference to the prophecy of the Cumæan Sibyl,
long supposed to be a voice from heathendom predictive of the Jewish
Messiah--and the remarkable coincidence of the metaphorical terms
employed by the poet with the prophetical language of the Old Testament,
have led many to the pious belief that the Roman poet did but put into
shape those vague expectations of a Great Deliverer which were current
in his day, and which were to have a higher fulfilment than he knew. The
“Pollio” may be familiar to many English readers who are unacquainted
with the original through Pope’s fine imitation of it in his poem of
“The Messiah,” first published anonymously in the ‘Spectator.’[6] But
as the Latin Eclogue itself is short, it may be well to attempt a
translation of it here, before remarking further upon its meaning.

    “Muses of Sicily, lift me for once
     To higher flight; our humble tamarisk groves
     Delight not all; and though the fields and woods
     Still bound my song, give me the skill to make
     Fit music for a Roman consul’s ear.
       “Comes the Last Age, of which the Sibyl sang--
     A new-born cycle of the rolling years;
     Justice returns to earth, the rule returns
     Of good King Saturn;--lo! from the high heavens
     Comes a new seed of men. Lucina chaste,
     Speed the fair infant’s birth, with whom shall end
     Our age of iron, and the golden prime
     Of earth return; thine own Apollo’s reign
     In him begins anew. This glorious age
     Inaugurates, O Pollio, with thee;
     Thy consulship shall date the happy months;
     Under thine auspices the Child shall purge
     Our guilt-stains out, and free the land from dread.
     He with the gods and heroes like the gods
     Shall hold familiar converse, and shall rule
     With his great father’s spirit the peaceful world.
     For thee, O Child, the earth untilled shall pour
     Her early gifts,--the winding ivy’s wreath,
     Smiling acanthus, and all flowers that blow.
     She-goats undriven shall bring full udders home,
     The herds no longer fear the lion’s spring;
     The ground beneath shall cradle thee in flowers,
     The venomed snake shall die, the poisonous herb
     Perish from out thy path, and leave the almond there.
       “But when with growing years the Child shall learn
     The old heroic glories of his race,
     And know what Honour means: then shall the plains
     Glow with the yellow harvest silently,
     The grape hang blushing from the tangled brier,
     And the rough oak drip honey like a dew.
     Yet shall some evil leaven of the old strain
     Lurk still unpurged; still men shall tempt the deep
     With restless oar, gird cities with new walls,
     And cleave the soil with ploughshares; yet again
     Another Argo bear her hero-crew,
     Another Tiphys steer: still wars shall be,
     A new Achilles for a second Troy.
       “So, when the years shall seal thy manhood’s strength,
     The busy merchant shall forsake the seas--
     Barter there shall not need; the soil shall bear
     For all men’s use all products of all climes.
     The glebe shall need no harrow, nor the vine
     The searching knife, the oxen bear no yoke;
     The wool no longer shall be schooled to lie,
     Dyed in false hues; but, colouring as he feeds,
     The ram himself in the rich pasture-lands
     Shall wear a fleece now purple and now gold,
     And the lambs grow in scarlet. So the Fates
     Who know not change have bid their spindles run,
     And weave for this blest age the web of doom.
       “Come, claim thine honours, for the time draws nigh,
     Babe of immortal race, the wondrous seed of Jove!
     Lo, at thy coming how the starry spheres
     Are moved to trembling, and the earth below,
     And widespread seas, and the blue vault of heaven!
     How all things joy to greet the rising Age!
     If but my span of life be stretched to see
     Thy birth, and breath remain to sing thy praise,
     Not Thracian Orpheus should o’ermatch my strain,
     Nor Linus,--though each parent helped the son,
     Phœbus Apollo and the Muse of Song:
     Though in Arcadia Pan my rival stood,
     His own Arcadia should pronounce for me.
     How soon, fair infant, shall thy first smile greet
     Thy happy mother, when the slow months crown
     The heart-sick hopes that waited for thy birth?
     Smile then, O Babe! so shall she smile on thee;
     The child on whom no parent’s smile hath beamed,
     No god shall entertain, nor goddess love.”

It would be out of place here to discuss the various conjectures of the
learned as to who the Child was, to whose birth the poet thus looks
forward. Whether it was a son of the Consul Pollio himself, who died in
his infancy; or the expected offspring of Augustus’s marriage with
Scribonia, which was, after all, a daughter--Julia--whose profligate
life and unhappy death were a sad contradiction of Virgil’s
anticipations; or a child of Octavia, sister of Augustus;--which of
these it was, or whether it was any one of them, neither ancient nor
modern commentators have been able to decide. “It is not certain,” says
Mr. Conington, “that the child ever was born; it is certain that, if
born, he did not become the regenerator of his time.” It is possible,
too, that the whole form of the poem may be strictly imaginary--that the
child had been born already, long ago, and that it was no other than
Octavianus Cæsar--and that Virgil does but use here the licence of
poetry to express his hopes of a golden age that might follow the peace
of Brundusium. And as to how far this very remarkable poem may or may
not be regarded as one of what Archbishop Trench has called “the
unconscious prophecies of heathendom,” would be to open a field of
inquiry of the highest interest indeed, but far too wide for these
pages. Yet it cannot be entirely passed over.

The Sibylline oracles, to which Virgil alludes in his opening lines,
whatever their original form, were so garbled and interpolated, both in
Christian and pre-Christian times, that it is impossible now to know
what they did or did not contain. But they were recognised, in the early
Church--by the Emperor Constantine, who is said to have attributed his
own conversion in great part to their study, and by St. Augustine,
amongst others--as containing distinct prophecies of the Messiah. The
recognition of the Roman Sibyl or Sibyls as bearing their testimony to
the truth of Christianity is still familiar to us in the ancient hymn,
“Dies Iræ,”--so often translated--

    “Teste David cum Sibylla;”

and in an old Latin mystery-play of the eleventh century, when the
witnesses are summoned to give evidence as to the Nativity, there appear
among them, in company with the Hebrew prophets, Virgil and the Sibyl,
who both join in a general “_Benedicamus Domino_” at the end. St.
Augustine quotes twenty-seven Latin verses (which, however, seem very
fragmentary and unconnected) as actual utterances of the Sibyl of
Erythræ, which contain prophecies, more or less clear, of the great
Advent. The original, he says, was in Greek, and the initial letters of
each verse formed a sentence, “Jesus Christ the Son of God the
Saviour.”[7] Whatever truth there may be in any special predictions of
this nature as existing in the heathen world, it is at least certain
that there prevailed very largely, about the date of the Christian era,
a vague expectation of some personal advent which should in some way
regenerate society.

The new “cycle of centuries,” which the poet supposes to begin with the
birth of the Child, refers to the doctrine held by Plato and his
disciples (possibly of Etruscan origin) of an “Annus Magnus,” or Great
Year. It was believed that there were certain recurring periods at long
intervals, in which the history of the world repeated itself.[8] A
curious story in illustration of this belief is told by Plutarch in his
live of Sulla.

     “While the horizon was clear and cloudless, there was heard
     suddenly the sound of a trumpet, shrill, prolonged, and as it were
     wailing, so that all men were startled and awed by its loudness.
     The Etruscan soothsayers declared that it foreboded the coming of a
     new generation and the revolution of the world. For that there were
     eight generations of man in all, differing from each other in
     habits and ways of life, and each had its allotted space of time,
     when heaven brought round again the recurrence of the Great Year,
     and that when the end of one and the rise of another was at hand,
     some wondrous sign appeared in earth or heaven.”--PLUTARCH, Sulla,
     c. 7.

Enough has perhaps been said to give some idea of the genius and
character of Virgil’s pastoral poetry. It laid the foundation of a
taste which was long prevalent in European literature, but which may be
said to have now become obsolete. English poets were at one time
strongly imbued with it. Spenser, Milton, Drayton, Pope, and Ambrose
Phillips,--the last perhaps the most successful,--were all more or less
imitators of Virgil in this line of poetry. But it would seem to require
a more than ordinary revolution in literature ever to bring such a style
into popularity again.



THE GEORGICS.


The Georgics of Virgil, like his Pastorals, are a direct and confessed
imitation from Greek originals. The poem of Hesiod--“Works and
Days”--which has come down to us, though apparently in an incomplete
form, gives a mythological sketch of the early history of the world,
with its five ages of the human race--the gold, the silver, the brazen,
“the age of heroes,” and the present--which last, with the cynicism or
melancholy which seems so inseparable from the poetic temperament,
Hesiod looks upon as hopelessly degenerate, with the prospect of
something even worse to come. To this traditional cosmogony the Greek
poet adds directions as to farm operations in their several seasons, and
notes of lucky and unlucky days. Virgil has borrowed from him largely on
these two latter subjects. He is also considerably indebted to other
Greek writers less known to us, and in whose case, therefore, his
obligations are not so readily traced.

From his own countryman and immediate predecessor, Lucretius, the author
of the great didactic poem “On the Nature of Things,” he drew quite as
largely, but in another field. Virgil is said to have been born on the
very day of Lucretius’s death, and he had an intense admiration for both
his diction and his philosophy. There are passages in Virgil’s writings
which would seem to show that his greatest ambition would have been to
have sung, like Lucretius, of the secrets of nature, rather than either
of heroic legends or of country life. And here and there, throughout
these books of Georgics, wherever he has the opportunity, he forgets the
farmer in the natural philosopher, and breaks off in the midst of some
practical precepts to indulge in speculations on the hidden causes of
nature’s operations, which would have sorely puzzled a Roman country
gentleman or his bailiff, if we could suppose that the work was really
composed with a view to their practical instruction.

He addresses his poem to his noble patron Mæcenas. And amongst the long
list of divine powers whom, as the guardians of fields and flocks, he
invokes to aid his song, he introduces the present Autocrat of Rome.

    “Thou, Cæsar, chief, where’er thy choice ordain,
     To fix ’mid gods thy yet unchosen reign--
     Wilt thou o’er cities stretch thy guardian sway,
     While earth and all her realms thy nod obey?
     The world’s vast orb shall own thy genial power,
     Giver of fruits, fair sun, and favouring shower;
     Before thy altar grateful nations bow,
     And with maternal myrtle wreathe thy brow.
     O’er boundless ocean shall thy power prevail,
     Thee her sole lord the world of waters hail?
     Rule, where the sea remotest Thule laves,
     While Tethys dowers thy bride with all her waves?
     Wilt thou ’mid Scorpius and the Virgin rise,
     And, a new star, illume thy native skies?
     Scorpius, e’en now, each shrinking claw confines,
     And more than half his heaven to thee resigns.
     Where’er thy reign (for not if hell invite
     To wield the sceptre of eternal night,
     Ne’er would such lust of dire dominion move
     Thee, Cæsar, to resign the realm of Jove:
     Though vaunting Greece extol th’ Elysian plain,
     Whence weeping Ceres wooes her child in vain)
     Breathe favouring gales, my course propitious guide,
     O’er the rude swain’s uncertain path preside;
     Now, now invoked, assert thy heavenly birth,
     And learn to hear our prayers, a god on earth.”
           --SOTHEBY.

The first book is devoted to the raising of corn crops. The farmer is
recommended to plough early, to plough deep, and to plough four times
over--advice in the principles of which modern farmers would cordially
agree. The poet also recommends fallows at least every other season, and
not to take two corn crops in successive years. The Roman agriculturist
had his pests of the farm, and complained of them as loudly as his
modern fellows. The geese, and the cranes, and the mice, and the small
birds, vexed him all in turn; and if he knew nothing of that distinctly
English torment, the couch-grass,--squitch, twitch, or quitch, as it is
variously termed, which is said to spring up under the national footstep
wherever it goes, whether at the Cape or in Australia,--he had
indigenous weeds of his own which gave him equal trouble to get rid of.
The Roman plough seems to have been a cumbrous wooden instrument, which
would break the heart alike of man and horse in these days; and its very
elaborate description, in spite of the polished language of the poet,
would shock one of our modern implement-manufacturers. He gives a few
hints as to lucky and unlucky days, and fuller directions for
prognosticating the weather from the various signs to be observed in the
sky, and in the behaviour of the animal world; and he closes this first
division of his poem, as he began it, with an apostrophe to Cæsar as the
hope of Rome and Italy. It is one of the finest passages in the
Georgics, and will bear translation as well as most. Dryden’s version is
spirited enough, and though diffuse, presents the sense fairly to an
English ear:--

      “Ye home-born deities, of mortal birth!
    Thou, father Romulus, and mother Earth,
    Goddess unmoved! whose guardian arms extend
    O’er Tuscan Tiber’s course, and Roman towers defend;
    With youthful Cæsar your joint powers engage,
    Nor hinder him to save the sinking age.
    O! let the blood already spilt atone
    For the past crimes of curst Laomedon!
    Heaven wants thee there; and long the gods, we know,
    Have grudged thee, Cæsar, to the world below;
    Where fraud and rapine right and wrong confound;
    Where impious arms from every part resound,
    And monstrous crimes in every shape are crowned.
    The peaceful peasant to the wars is prest;
    The fields lie fallow in inglorious rest;
    The plain no pasture to the flock affords,
    The crooked scythes are straightened into swords:
    And there Euphrates her soft offspring arms,
    And here the Rhine rebellows with alarms;
    The neighbouring cities range on several sides,
    Perfidious Mars long-plighted leagues divides,
    And o’er the wasted world in triumph rides.
    So four fierce coursers, starting to the race,
    Scour through the plain, and lengthen every pace:
    Nor reins, nor curbs, nor threat’ning cries they fear,
    But force along the trembling charioteer.”

The Second Georgic treats of the orchard and the vineyard, but
especially of the latter. The apple, the pear, the olive, all receive
due notice from the poet; but upon the culture of the vine he dwells
with a hearty enthusiasm, and his precepts have a more practical air
than those which he gives out upon other branches of cultivation. The
soil, the site, the best kinds to choose, the different modes of
propagation, are all discussed with considerable minuteness. It would
seem that in those earlier times, as now, the vintage had a more
poetical aspect than even the harvest-field. The beauty of the crop, the
merriment of the gatherers, the genial effects of the grape when it has
gone through the usual process of conversion, gave, as is still the case
in all wine-producing countries, a holiday character to the whole course
of cultivation. All other important crops contribute in some way to
supply the actual needs of life: the vine alone represents distinctly
its enjoyments. And when, at the beginning of the book, the poet invokes
the god of wine to inspire his song, he does it with a thorough
heartiness of welcome which assures us that, however temperate his own
habits might be, he had not adopted any vow of total abstinence. Some
of the ancient critics are said to have detected in Homer a taste for
joviality, because in his verse he had always a kindly word for “the
dark red wine:” they might have said the same of the writer of the
Georgics. It is a cordial invitation which he gives to the jolly god:--

    “Come, Father Bacchus, come! thy bounty fills
     All things around; for thee the autumn hills,
     Heavy with fruit, blush through their greenery;
     In the full vats the vintage foams for thee:
     Come, Father Bacchus, come! nor yet refuse
     To doff thy buskins, and with noble juice
     To stain thy limbs, and tread the grapes with me.”

But although the poet makes the labours of the gardener and the
vine-dresser the burden of his song, his most brilliant passages, and
those best known and remembered, are the frequent digressions in which
he breaks away from the lower ground of horticultural details into a
higher poetical atmosphere. One of the most beautiful is his apostrophe
to Italy in this second book:--

    “Colchian bulls with fiery nostrils never turned Italian field,
     Seed of hydra’s teeth ne’er sprang in bristling crop of spear and shield;
     But thy slopes with heavy corn-stalks and the Massic vine are clad,
     There the olive-groves are greenest, and the full-fed herds are glad.
     In thy plains is bred the war-horse, tossing high its crest of pride;
     Milk-white herds, O fair Clitumnus, bathe them in thy sacred tide--
     Mighty bulls to crown the altars, or to draw the conqueror’s car
     Up the Sacred Way in triumph when he rideth from the war.
     Here the spring is longest, summer borrows months beyond her own;
     Twice the teeming flocks are fruitful, twice the laden orchards groan.
     In thy plains no tigers wander, nor the lions nurse their young;
     Evil root of treacherous poison doth no wretched gatherer wrong,
     Never serpent rears its crest, or drags its monstrous coils along.
     Lo! where rise thy noble cities, giant works of men of old,
     Towns on beetling crags piled heavenward by the hands of builders bold--
     Antique towers round whose foundations still the grand old rivers glide,
     And the double sea that girds thee like a fence on either side.

           *       *       *       *       *

     Such the land which sent to battle Marsian footmen stout and good,
     Sabine youth, and Volscian spearmen, and Liguria’s hardy brood;
     Hence have sprung our Decii, Marii, mighty names which all men bless,
     Great Camillus, kinsmen Scipios, sternest men in battle’s press!
     Hence hast thou too sprung, great Cæsar, whom the farthest East doth fear,
     So that Mede nor swarthy Indian to our Roman lines come near!
     Hail, thou fair and fruitful mother, land of ancient Saturn, hail!
     Rich in crops and rich in heroes! thus I dare to wake the tale
     Of thine ancient laud and honour, opening founts that slumbered long,
     Rolling through our Roman towns the echoes of old Hesiod’s song.”[9]

The Third Georgic treats of the herd and the stud. The poet’s knowledge
on these points must be strongly suspected of being but
second-hand--rather the result of having studied some of the Roman
“Books of the Farm,” than the experience of a practical stock-breeder.
Such a work was Varro’s ‘On Rural Affairs,’ which Virgil evidently
followed as an authority. From that source he drew, amongst other
precepts, the points of a good cow, which he lays down in this
formula:--

    “An ugly head, a well-fleshed neck,
       Deep dewlaps falling from the chin,
     Long in the flank, broad in the foot,
       Rough hairy ears, and horns bent in.”

Such an animal would hardly win a prize from our modern judges of stock.
But Virgil, be it remembered, is giving instructions for selection with
an eye to breeding purposes exclusively; and an Italian cow of the
present day would not be considered by us a handsome animal. Besides,
the object of the Roman breeder was to obtain animals which would be
“strong to labour,”--good beasts under the yoke; not such as would lay
on the greatest weight of flesh at the least possible cost, for the
purposes of the butcher. His points of a good horse are entirely
different, and approach more nearly our own ideal--“Fine in the head,
short in the barrel, broad on the back, full in the chest.” Bay and
dapple-grey he chooses for colour; white and chestnut he considers the
worst. He had not reached the more catholic philosophy of the modern
horse-dealer, that “no good horse was ever yet of a bad colour.”

The nature of the subject in this Third Georgic allows the poet to
indulge even more frequently in digressions. He gives a picture of
pastoral life under the hot suns of Numidia, where the herdsman or
shepherd drives his charge from pasture to pasture, carrying with him
all he wants, like a Roman soldier in a campaign; and again of his
winter life in some vague northern region which he calls by the general
name of Scythia, but where they seem to have drunk (in imitation of
wine, as the southern poet compassionately phrases it) some kind of beer
or cider. But the most remarkable of these passages is that which closes
the book, and describes the ravages of some terrible pestilence which,
beginning with the flocks and herds, extended at last to the wild beasts
and to the birds, and even to the fish. There is no historical account
of such a visitation in Italy; and it is very probable that Virgil used
his licence as a poet to embellish with imaginary details some ordinary
epidemic, in order to present to his readers a companion picture to that
of the great plague at Athens, which had been so powerfully described by
his favourite model Lucretius.

There is no need to say very much about the Fourth and last of the
Georgics, which treats exclusively of bees. These little creatures were
evidently of more importance in the rural economy of the Romans than
they commonly are in ours. Before the discovery of the sugar-cane, the
sweetening properties of honey would be much more valuable than they are
now; and the inhabitants of a warm climate like Italy make more use of
saccharine matter, as an article of ordinary food, than we do. But the
habits and natural history of the insect commonwealth to which Virgil
devotes this book are so curious and so little understood, that they
would only find an appropriate place in a special treatise. There
appears to have been no want of interest or research upon the subject
among the ancients, for the Greek philosopher Aristomachus is said to
have devoted fifty-eight years to this single branch of zoology. Virgil
certainly would not help us much in a scientific point of view. The bees
were mysteries to him, even more than to us; and, marvellous as they
are, he made them more marvellous still. He was quite aware that they
had some peculiarities in the matter of sex; but he makes the queen bee,
who is really the mother of the swarm, a king, and imagines that they
pick up their young ones from the leaves and flowers. He gives also--and
with an air of as much practical reality as can be expected from a
poet--minute instructions for obtaining a stock of bees at once from the
carcass of a steer, beaten and crushed into a mass, and excluded from
air: evidently a misapplication of what is said to be a fact in natural
history, that bees will take up their quarters occasionally in the dead
body of an animal. The honey he considers to be some kind of dew that
falls from heaven. One rule which he gives for preventing the young
swarms from rising at undue times has staggered some inexperienced
commentators. He advises the owner to pick out the queen bees, and clip
their wings. Such a recipe certainly suggests at first sight the old
preliminary caution--“First _catch_ your bee:” but an experienced
bee-keeper will find no difficulty in performing such an operation, if
needful.[10]

The fine episode with which this book concludes, in which the poet
relates the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, is more attractive than all
his discourse upon bee-keeping.

The Georgics have generally been considered as the poet’s most complete
work, and it is here, undoubtedly, that he shows us most of himself,--of
his habits, his tastes, and his religious opinions. They are poetical
essays on the dignity of labour. Warlike glory was the popular theme of
the day; but Virgil detests war, and he seeks to enthrone labour in its
place. He looks upon tillage as, in some sort, a war in itself, but of a
nobler kind--“a holy war of men against the earth,” as a French writer
expresses it.[11] He compares its details, in more than one passage,
with those of the camp and of the battle-field. But besides this, the
Georgics contain what seems to be a protest against the fashionable
atheism of his age. He sets the worship of the gods in the first place
of all.

    “First, pay all reverence to the Powers of heaven”--

is his instruction to his pupils--“From Jove all things begin.” His
motto might have been that which the Benedictines in their purer days
adopted--“Ora et labora”--“Pray and work.” It has been commonly said
that Virgil was in his creed an Epicurean; that he looked upon the gods
as beings who, in our English poet’s words,

    “Lie beside their nectar, careless of mankind.”

But a study of his writings will go far to show that such is not the
case; that whatever the distinct articles of his creed may have been, he
had a deep individual sense of the personal existence of great powers
which ruled the affairs of men; that Nature was not to him, as to
Lucretius, a mere shrine of hidden mysteries, unlocked to the Epicurean
alone, but that he had an eye and a heart for all its riches and
beauties, as the “skirts” of a divine glory. In all his verse this
feeling shows itself, but nowhere more plainly than in the Georgics.

It is said that this particular work was undertaken by the desire of
Mæcenas, with the hope of turning the minds of the veteran soldiers, to
whom grants of land had been made in return for their services, to a
more peaceful ambition in the quiet cultivation of their farms. Whether
it had that result may well be doubted: the discharged soldier, however
heartily he might take to farming, would scarcely go to a poet as his
instructor. The practical influence of these treatises in any way is
equally doubtful. “It would be absurd to suppose,” says Dean Merivale,
“that Virgil’s verses induced any Roman to put his hand to the plough,
or take from his bailiff the management of his own estates; but they
served undoubtedly to revive some of the simple tastes and sentiments of
the olden time, and perpetuated, amid the vices and corruptions of the
Empire, a pure stream of sober and innocent enjoyment.”[12]



THE ÆNEID.



CHAPTER I.

THE SHIPWRECK ON THE COAST OF CARTHAGE.


The Æneid, like the Iliad and Odyssey, is a Tale of Troy. The
fascination of that remarkable cycle of legend had not weakened after
the lapse of ten centuries. Virgil not only set himself deliberately to
imitate Homer in his method of poetical treatment, but he goes to him
for his subject. He even makes his own poem, in some sort, a sequel to
the Iliad--at least as much so as the Odyssey is. As the subject of this
latter poem is the wanderings and final establishment in his native
country of the Greek hero Ulysses after victory, so Virgil gives us the
story of the escape of a Trojan hero from the ruin of his city, and the
perils by land and sea which he encountered, until his final settlement
in the distant west, in the land which the gods had promised him. Æneas,
like Ulysses, is described as a man of many woes and sufferings; and
like him, though he has the justice and the deliberate counsels of
heaven all on his side, the enmity of one angry deity is permitted to
vex and thwart him for many long years. This Æneas--reputed son of the
goddess Venus by a mortal husband, Anchises--had played no unimportant
part in the defence of Troy. Had we not been told that King Priam had no
less than fifty sons, it might have been said that he stood very near
the throne. For he was the representative of the younger branch of the
house of Dardanus--the family of Assaracus--as Priam was of the elder
branch, that of Ilus.[13] A sort of half-mysterious glory is cast round
him in the Iliad. He is there addressed as “counsellor of the Trojans;”
they honoured him, we are told, “equally with the godlike Hector;” and
Neptune is made to utter a prophecy that Jupiter has rejected the house
of Priam, but that “Æneas, and his sons, and his sons’ sons” should
hereafter reign over the Trojans.”[14] Some Homeric critics have even
fancied that they detected, in some passages of Homer’s poem, a jealousy
between Æneas and the sons of Priam. But this surely arises from reading
Homer by the light of Virgil, and thus anticipating the future turn of
events, when, after the death of Hector and the fall of Priam’s kingdom,
the prince of the house of Assaracus should rebuild the Trojan fortunes
on the far-off shores of Italy.

Like Homer, Virgil dashes at once into the heart of his story. This is
how he introduces his hero:--

    “Arms and the man I sing, who first,
     By fate of Ilian realm amerced,
     To fair Italia onward bore,
     And landed on Lavinium’s shore.”[15]

He tells us nothing, however, for the present, of the escape from Troy
and the embarkation of the fugitives, or of the guiding oracles in
obedience to which they had sailed forth in quest of this new home. He
only shows us Æneas on the sea, having just set sail from Sicily, where
the angry Queen of Heaven catches sight of him. Juno, we must
remember--Virgil, apparently, has no idea that any one could need
reminding of it--Juno has never forgotten or forgiven that scene upon
Mount Ida, where the Trojan Paris preferred the fascinations--or the
bribes--of Venus to her own stately charms. She had persuaded her royal
consort, the king of gods and men, to consent to the downfall of the
accursed race; and she persecutes this unhappy remnant, now on its
voyage, with unrelenting hate. Even the poet, who makes use of her
persecution as one of the mainsprings of his story, professes his
astonishment at its bitterness,--

    “Can such deep hate find place in breasts divine?”[16]

She had another reason, too, for her present jealous feelings. The city
of Carthage, where she was especially honoured, she had hoped to make
the mistress of the world. And now--so the inexorable Fates have woven
it in their web--this new brood from Troy are to destroy it in the years
to come. Rome, and not Carthage, the Roman poet would thus convey to his
readers, is to have this universal empire.

But they have not reached Latium yet, these hateful Trojans. They never
shall. The Queen of Heaven betakes herself to the King of the Winds,
where he sits enthroned in his Homeric island of Æolia, controlling his
boisterous subjects:--

    “They with the rock’s reverberant roar
     Chafe blustering round their prison door:
     He, throned on high, the sceptre sways,
     Controls their moods, their wrath allays.
     Break but that sceptre, sea and land
       And heaven’s ethereal deep
     Before them they would whirl like sand,
       And through the void air sweep.”

At Juno’s request Æolus lets loose his prisoners. Out rush the winds in
mad delight.

    “All in a moment, sun and skies
     Are blotted from the Trojans’ eyes:
     Black night is brooding o’er the deep,
     Sharp thunder peals, live lightnings leap:
     The stoutest warrior holds his breath,
     And looks as on the face of death.
     At once Æneas thrilled with dread;
     Forth from his breast, with hands outspread,
       These groaning words he drew:
     ‘O happy thrice, and yet again,
     Who died at Troy like valiant men,
       E’en in their parents’ view!
     O Diomed, first of Greeks in fray,
     Why passed I not the plain that day,
       Yielding my life to you,
     Where, stretched beneath a Phrygian sky,
     Fierce Hector, tall Sarpedon, lie:
     Where Simois tumbles ’neath his wave
     Shields, helms, and bodies of the brave?’”

The fleet is scattered in all directions: some ships are cast on the
rocks; one goes down with all its crew before their leader’s eyes. But
Neptune, the sea-god, comes to the rescue. Friendly to the Trojans, as
Juno is hostile to them, he resents the interference of the King of the
Winds in his dominions--he knows by whose instance he has dared this
outrage. He summons the offending winds, and chides them with stern
authority:--

    “Back to your master instant flee,
     And tell him, not to him but me
     The imperial trident of the sea
       Fell by the lot’s award;
     His is that prison-house of stone,
     A prison, Eurus, all your own;
     There let him lord it to his mind,
     The jailer-monarch of the wind,
     But keep its portal barred.”

So the tempest is stilled, and Æneas, with seven ships, the survivors of
his fleet of twenty, runs into a land-locked harbour on the coast of
Carthage. The crews light a fire, and grind and parch their corn, while
Æneas goes farther inland to reconnoitre, and kills deer to mend their
meal. Wine they have good store of--the parting gift from King Acestes,
late their host in Sicily. The chief, though in sad anxiety as to the
fate of his absent comrades, speaks to the rest in words of good
cheer:--

    “You that have seen grim Scylla rave,
       And heard her monsters yell,--
     You that have looked upon the cave
       Where savage Cyclops dwell,--
     Come, cheer your souls, your fears forget;
     This suffering may yield us yet
       A pleasant tale to tell.”

Æneas has his advocate, too, in the celestial council. His
goddess-mother Venus pleads with her father Jupiter to have pity on her
offspring. And Jupiter--very open to influence of this kind now, as in
Homer’s story--reveals for her comfort the secrets of fate. Æneas shall
reach Latium safely, and reign there three years. His son Iulus--or
Ascanius, as he is otherwise called--shall succeed him, and transfer the
seat of power from Lavinium to his own new-founded city, Alba Longa.
Three hundred years his race shall rule there, till in due course the
twin-brothers Romulus and Remus shall be born to the war-god Mars, and
the elder brother shall lay the foundations of Rome. To the glories of
this new capital the Father of the gods will assign neither limit nor
end. The wrongs of Troy shall be redressed. The sons of the East, in
their new home, shall avenge themselves on their enemies.

    “So stands my will. There comes a day,
     While Rome’s great ages hold their way,
     When old Assaracus’s sons
     Shall quit them on the Myrmidons,
     O’er Phthia and Mycenæ reign,
     And humble Argos to their chain.
     From Troy’s fair stock shall Cæsar rise,
     The limits of whose victories
     Are ocean, of his fame the skies;
     Great Julius, proud that style to bear,
     In name and blood Iulus’ heir.”

Thus, before he has concluded the first book of his great poem, the poet
has taken us into his counsels as to the purport of the song. It is not
a mere epic romance, in which we are to be charmed with heroic deeds and
exciting adventures; it is, like some of our modern novels, a romance
with a purpose; and the purpose is the claiming for the great house of
Julius the rightful empire of Rome, and the celebration of the glories
of that house in the person of Augustus. And as the Iliad of Homer,
beyond the mere vocation of the poet to arouse and charm a warlike
audience by the recital of deeds of arms, had its own purpose also--the
glorification of the Greek nation--so the Roman poet may be said to have
written a counter-Iliad, to extol the later fortunes of the royal house
of Troy in the descendants, as he is pleased to imagine them, of Iulus.
For any historic foundation of such a genealogy we may look in vain.
King Brute stands upon much the same historical level, as the ancestor
of the Britons, as can be claimed for Iulus of Troy as the founder of
the Julian house and of Rome. But, for the present, we must be content
to assume his existence, and to follow the course of the narrative as
the poet wills. The claim of Trojan descent is not an invention of
Virgil’s, though he may have been the first to work it out so much in
detail. It was a claim in which his countrymen always delighted, and
there were not wanting traditions in its support. Another purpose, also,
Virgil seems to have at heart. He does not care so much, after all, for
the subjugation of Greece and the extension of the imperial rule of
Rome. The empire of Augustus is to be peace. There has been enough, and
more than enough, of war. In the prognostications of the future of his
nation, even here we are reminded of the strains of the “Pollio.” To the
soul of the Roman poet--unlike his master Homer in this--war, and more
especially civil war, is absolutely hateful. He can describe it, when
needed for his purpose, and describe it well; but it is as the scourge
of nations, or at best the terrible remedy for greater evils;--not, as
the Greek poet calls it, “the strife which is the joy of men.”

Venus loses no time in furthering, so far as she may, the counsels of
Jupiter. She puts into the heart of the Queen of Carthage, on whose
shores Æneas and his crews have now been cast, feelings of pity and
compassion towards the shipwrecked strangers. She comes in person, also,
to comfort her son Æneas in his trouble. Attended by his faithful friend
Achates, he is exploring, like a careful leader, the strange coast on
which he finds himself--

    “When in the bosom of the wood
     Before him, lo, his mother stood,
     In mien and gear a Spartan maid,
     Or like Harpalycè arrayed,
     Who tires fleet coursers in the chase,
     And heads the swiftest streams of Thrace.
     Slung from her shoulders hangs a bow;
     Loose to the wind her tresses flow;
     Bare was her knee; her mantle’s fold
     The gathering of a knot controlled.
     And ‘Saw ye, youths,’ she asks them, ‘say,
     One of my sisters here astray;
     A silver quiver at her side,
     And for a scarf a lynx’s hide;
     Or pressing on the wild boar’s track
     With upraised dart and voiceful pack?’”

There is in this description a happy reminiscence of an earlier legend.
In such guise--not with any of the meretricious attractions assigned to
the goddess of Cyprus and of Paphos, but as a simple mountain nymph--had
she won her mortal lover, the Trojan shepherd Anchises, from whom this
her dear son was born. So ran the fable; and it was added that she had
enjoined her lover never to disclose the secret of the child’s birth,
nor to boast of the favour shown him by a goddess, but to bring the boy
up in the forests of Ida, as the offspring of a wood-nymph. Anchises, in
his pride, had neglected or forgotten her warning, and was punished by
premature weakness and a helpless old age.

Professing herself to be but a Tyrian damsel, Venus replies to her son’s
questions as to the inhabitants of the land. They are a colony from
Tyre; their queen, Dido, has fled from the treachery of her false
brother Pygmalion, who, after murdering her husband Sichæus, had
possessed himself of the kingdom. Hither she has escaped with her
husband’s wealth, and is founding a new city on the coast of Africa.
Æneas tells her in return his own sad story, and is comforted by the
assurance that all his fleet, though scattered, are safe--all but one
unhappy vessel and her crew. Then, as she turns to leave him, the
disguised divinity becomes apparent.

    “Ambrosial tresses round her head
     A more than earthly fragrance shed;
     Her falling robe her footsteps swept,
     And showed the goddess as she stept.”

Æneas and his companion mount the crest of the hill, whence they look
down upon the half-finished walls of Carthage, and the swarming bands of
workmen. They are digging out the harbour, planning that most essential
structure in a city of any pretension, an amphitheatre for public
spectacles, and building a magnificent temple to Juno. Girt with a mist
of invisibility which Venus has thrown round them,--like Ulysses in the
court of Phæacia--the strangers enter the brazen gates of the temple.
All is magnificent and wonderful. But, marvel of marvels! both walls and
doors are sculptured with a history which Æneas knows only too well.
Even here is recorded, on this distant and unknown shore, the story of
stories--the Tale of Troy. With eager and tearful eyes the Trojan chief
peruses the several groups, and identifies the various incidents. Here
the Greeks fly to their ships, hard pressed by Hector and the Trojans:
there, again, the terrible Achilles drives the Trojans in slaughter
before him. The death of young Troilus, hurled from his chariot, is
there; and, to match the picture, Hector dragged at Achilles’s
chariot-wheels round the city walls. Memnon the Ethiopian and the
amazon Penthesilea also find a place; and there, amidst the foremost
combatants, Æneas can recognise himself.

While the Trojan chief and his companion Achates are reading this
sculptured history, the queen herself approaches. And while they admire
her majesty and grace, conspicuous amongst all her train, lo! the
missing comrades of Æneas make their appearance before her as
suppliants. They tell the story of their shipwreck on the coast: and
they think Æneas is lost, as he had thought they were. Then the mist in
which Venus had wrapped the hero and his comrade dissolves, and the two
parties recognise and welcome each other. Dido, like all the world, has
heard of the name of Æneas, and the sufferings of the heroes of Troy.
She can pity such sufferings from her own bitter experience:

    “Myself not ignorant of woe,
     Compassion I have learnt to show.”

The sentiment has been adopted by modern writers in all languages. “She
had suffered persecution and learnt mercy,” says Sterne in a like case:
and even in Sterne’s mouth, the sentiment is natural and true.

The strangers are hospitably welcomed, and offered every facility for
refitting their fleet, and preparing for the continuance of their
voyage. Æneas sends down to his ships for presents worthy of so kind a
hostess: and, with a father’s pride, he sends also for his young son to
introduce him to the queen. The evening is devoted to feasting and
revelry. The royal bard--that indispensable figure in all courts, Trojan
or Tyrian or Greek--sings to the assembled guests. It is to be remarked
that his lay is not, as we might expect, of heroes and their deeds: it
is the song of Silenus, in the Pastorals, over again--the favourite
subject of the poet, the wonders of nature and creation.

    “He sings the wanderings of the moon,
     The sun eclipsed in deadly swoon;
     Whence humankind and cattle came,
     And whence the rain-spout and the flame,
     Arcturus and the two bright bears,
     And Hyads weeping showery tears;
     Why winter suns so swiftly go,
     And why the winter nights move slow.”

All the while, during the song and the banquet, the queen is fondling
the fair boy, who sits next to her. Unhappy Dido! it is Cupid, the god
of love, who, at his false mother’s bidding, has assumed the shape of
Æneas’s young son. The true Ascanius lies fast bound in an enchanted
sleep, by Venus’s machinations, in her bower in the far island of
Cythera; and the Tyrian queen is nursing unawares in her bosom the
passion which is to be her ruin. Æneas has already become an object of
tender interest to her. She hangs upon his lips, like Desdemona on
Othello’s:--

    “Much of great Priam asks the dame,
       Much of his greater son;
     Now in what armour Memnon came,
       Now how Achilles shone.”

Above all, she begs of him to tell his own story--his escape and his
seven years’ wanderings. And Æneas begins; and, with an exact imitation
of Homer’s management of his story, like Ulysses in the court of
Alcinous, retraces his adventures from the last fatal night of Troy.



CHAPTER II.

ÆNEAS RELATES THE FALL OF TROY.


It has been said that this poem is a kind of supplement to the Iliad.
Æneas tells us what was not there told by Homer, but what is presupposed
in his Odyssey,--the later history of the siege and capture of Troy. He
relates at length the stratagem of the Wooden Horse, by which the Greeks
at last outwitted their enemies. The fleet, which had seemed to sail for
home, had withdrawn, and lay concealed in the harbour of Tenedos. The
wooden fabric--dedicated to Minerva, as the tale went--was left standing
outside the city. It was suggested to bring it within the walls, when
the priest Laocoon rushed to prevent it--suspecting some such stratagem
as in truth had been contrived. He even hurled his spear against its
side, and might have thus made a beginning of its destruction, when
behold, a prisoner was brought in. It was the treacherous Sinon; a Greek
who had undertaken to play the dangerous part of a double spy. The tale
he told his captors was this: that he, though a Greek, was a fugitive
from Greek vengeance--especially from the hated Ulysses. He had been
fixed upon as a victim to propitiate the offended gods; for there had
come an oracle from Apollo, that as the blood of a virgin had to be shed
to propitiate the gales on the expedition to Troy, so blood--that of a
Greek--must purchase their return. Ulysses had contrived that Sinon
should be the victim, and it was to escape this doom that he had thus
fled.

The Trojans were moved to pity--they spared the traitor’s life; only, in
return, King Priam adjured him to tell them the true intent of the
Horse. Sinon declared that the Greeks had meant to set it up themselves,
an offering to Minerva, within the Trojan citadel when they should have
captured it; it behoved the Trojans now to seize it and drag it within
the walls: for, if this were done, then--so ran the oracles--Asia should
avenge itself upon Europe, and the Greeks in their turn should be
besieged in their homes.[17]

The traitor’s tale was all too easily believed. There came, too, a
fearful omen, which hurried the Trojans to adopt this false counsel. The
priest Laocoon, who had dared to strike the wooden monster, was seized,
while offering sacrifice to Neptune, with his two sons, by two huge
sea-serpents (so old is the belief, false or true, in these apocryphal
monsters), which came sailing in to the beach from the direction of
Tenedos. In the description which the poet gives of their movements at
sea, we seem to be reading a versified extract from the log of some
modern sea-captain:--

    “Amid the waves they rear their breasts,
     And toss on high their sanguined crests;[18]
     The hind-part coils along the deep,
     And undulates with sinuous sweep.”

The two unhappy youths are first caught and strangled--then the father.
The legend is well known to others besides students of the Æneid, from
the marble group of the Laocoon; which, however, does not tell the story
in the same way, or in so probable a shape, as the poet does, since it
represents the reptiles as embracing all three victims at once in their
folds. Then, with glad shouts and songs of youths and maidens, the huge
monster was dragged over a breach made purposely in the walls of Troy.
Yet not without a voice of warning, disregarded, from Cassandra,
daughter of King Priam, who had the gift of prophecy, and whose fate it
was, like so many prophets in their own families, to prophesy in
vain--nor without difficulties which might in themselves have well been
considered presages of evil:--

    “Four times ’twas on the threshold stayed;
     Four times the armour clashed and brayed;
     Yet press we on, with passion blind,
     All forethought blotted from our mind,
     Till the dread monster we install
     Within the temple’s tower-built wall.”

Inside, the fabric is full of armed Greeks. How many there were in
number has been disputed--though possibly, in a legend of this kind, the
question of more or fewer is scarcely relevant. It is a question,
however, which derives some interest from the fact that it was one of
the difficulties which exercised the mind of the first Napoleon during
his exile. Studying the siege of Troy as if it were a mere prosaic
operation in modern warfare, he was struck by the improbability of the
whole stratagem. How “even a single company of the Guard” could be hid
in such a machine, and dragged from some distance inside the city walls,
the French Emperor was unable to conceive, and regarded the story as an
infringement of even a poet’s licence. Napoleon was not much of a Latin
scholar, and, so far as the main point of his criticism went, had
depended too implicitly upon French translators. Segrais, discussing the
question in a note, thought there might be perhaps some two or three
hundred. Indeed most of our English translators have gone out of their
way to exaggerate the number. But Virgil himself, as has been
pertinently remarked by Dr Henry, only makes nine men actually come out
of the horse, all of whom he mentions by name. The poet certainly does
not say in so many words that these were all, but he, at least, is not
answerable for a larger number. Among the nine are the young
Neoptolemus, surnamed Pyrrhus--“Red-haired,”--son of the dead Achilles,
and now his successor in the recognised championship of the force;
Sthenelus, the friend and comrade of Diomed (for whose absence it seems
hard to account); Machaon, the hero-physician, whom one hardly expects
to find selected for such a desperate service; Epeus, the contriver of
the machine; and Ulysses, without whose aid and presence no such
stratagem would seem complete.

At dead of night the traitor Sinon looked out to sea, and saw a light in
the offing. It was the fire-signal from Agamemnon’s vessel; the Greek
fleet had come back under cover of the darkness from its lurking-place
at Tenedos. Then he silently undid the fastenings of the horse, and the
Greek adventurers, as has been said, emerged from their wooden prison.

In the visions of the night Æneas saw the ghastly spectre of the dead
Hector stand before him,--

    “All torn by dragging at the car,
     And black with gory dust of war.

           *       *       *       *       *

     Ah, what a sight was there to view!
     How altered from the man we knew,
     Our Hector, who from day’s long toil
     Comes radiant in Achilles’ spoil,
     Or with that red right hand, which casts
     The fires of Troy on Grecian masts!
     Blood-clotted hung his beard and hair,
     And all those many wounds were there,
     Which on his gracious person fell
     Around the walls he loved so well.”

Virgil seems to have followed the more horrible tradition, which appears
also in some of the Greek dramatists, that Achilles fastened Hector to
his chariot while still alive.

The shade of the dead hero had come to warn Æneas not to throw away his
life in a hopeless resistance. Troy must fall: but to Æneas, as the hope
of his race, the prince of the house of Priam formally intrusts the
national gods of Troy and the sacred fire of Vesta, to be carried into
the new land which he shall colonise. It is a formal transfer of the
kingdom and the priesthood to the younger branch--the line of Assaracus.

Æneas awoke, as he goes on to tell, to hear the war-cries of the Greeks
and the clash of arms within the city. Already the storming-party had
attacked and set fire to the house of Deiphobus,--to whom Helen, willing
or unwilling, had been made over on the death of Paris; and therefore
naturally the first point which Menelaus made for. Æneas himself is
summoned by a comrade, Panthus, to come to the rescue. The first
despairing words of Panthus have a pathos which has made them well
known. No English idiom will express with equal brevity and point the
Latin “_Fuimus_”--“We have been--and are not,” for this is
understood.[19] “_Fuimus Troes_”--Mr Conington’s translation gives the
full sense, but at the expense of its terseness:--

    “We have been Trojans--Troy has been--
     She sat, but sits no more, a queen.”

It was a phrase peculiarly Roman. So they used the word “Vixi”--“I have
lived”--in epitaphs, to express death; though in this, as in so many
cases, the turn of the expression is due to that euphemism, which
refrained from using any words of direct ill omen.

“The father of the gods,” says Panthus, “has transferred all our glory
to Argos.” There was a story (alluded to in one of the lost tragedies of
Sophocles, of which we have but a fragment) that on the night of the
capture of Troy the tutelary deities departed in a body, taking their
images with them. It is a singular parallel to the well-known tradition,
that before the fall of Jerusalem supernatural voices were heard in the
night exclaiming, “Let us depart hence!” The Romans had a regular
formula for the evocation of the gods from an enemy’s city, and inviting
them, with promises of all due honours and sacrifices, to transfer their
seat to Rome; and to attack any city without these solemn preliminaries
was held to bring a curse on the besiegers.[20]

Æneas is anxious to assure his fair listener that, in spite of Hector’s
adjuration to fly, he did all that man might do in defence of his king
and his countrymen. He had rallied a band of brave men, and for a while
made head against the enemy. They were favoured by the mistake made by a
party of Greeks, who took them for friends in the darkness, and whom
they cut to pieces, and having arrayed themselves in their armour, dealt
destruction in the enemy’s very ranks. But all resistance was in vain.
The appearance of Neoptolemus--Pyrrhus--the “Red-haired”--and the
comparison of the young warrior in his strength and beauty to the
serpent who comes forth after casting its winter slough, is fine in the
original, and finely translated:--

      “Full in the gate see Pyrrhus blaze,
    A meteor, shooting steely rays:
    So flames a serpent into light,
      On poisonous herbage fed,
    Which late in subterranean night
      Through winter lay as dead:
    Now from its ancient wounds undressed,
      Invigorate and young,
    Sunward it rears its glittering breast,
      And darts its three-forked tongue.”

And the fate of the unhappy Priam is an equally beautiful picture, of a
different tone:--

    “Perhaps you ask of Priam’s fate:
       He, when he sees his town o’erthrown,
     Greeks bursting through his palace-gate,
       And thronging chambers once his own,
     His ancient armour, long laid by,
       Around his palsied shoulders throws,
     Girds with a useless sword his thigh,
       And totters forth to meet his foes.”

Hecuba, who with her women is clinging to the altar, rebukes her husband
for this mad attempt to match his feeble strength against the enemy.
Still, when Pyrrhus rushes into the hall in pursuit of one of Priam’s
sons, Polites, and slays him full in the father’s sight, the old man
hurls a javelin at the Greek chief, with a taunting curse upon his
cruelty. But it is

    “A feeble dart, no blood that drew;
     The ringing metal turned it back,
     And left it clinging, weak and slack.”

And the ruthless son of Achilles drags the old king to the altar, and
slays him there.

One more episode of that terrible night Æneas relates to his hostess:--

    “I stood alone, when lo! I mark,
     In Vesta’s temple crouching dark,
     The traitress Helen: the broad blaze
     Gives me full light, as round I gaze.
     She, shrinking from the Trojans’ hate,
     Made frantic by their city’s fate,
     Nor dreading less the Danaan sword,
     The vengeance of her injured lord,--
     She, Troy’s and Argos’ common fiend,
     Sat cowering, by the altar screened.
     My blood was fired: fierce passion woke
     To quit Troy’s fall by one sure stroke.”

But his goddess-mother, Venus, stays his hand, and bids him think rather
of saving his wife, and aged father, and infant son. Virgil gives us no
hint of the other story of Helen’s discovery by her angry husband
Menelaus, who was lifting his sword to kill the adulteress, when his arm
fell powerless before the fascination of her beauty.

Obedient to the goddess, says Æneas, he went to seek his father
Anchises, that he might carry him with him in his flight. But the old
man refused to move. He would die, he said, in Troy. Life might be dear
to the young; but for himself, even the tender mercies of the enemy
would give him all he seeks, though they leave his corpse unburied,--

    “He lacks not much that lacks a grave.”

The desperate entreaties of his son were all in vain, until there came
an omen from heaven. While Æneas was threatening--since the old man
would not be saved--to rush himself again into the fight and meet a
warrior’s death, his wife Creusa placed their young son Iulus in his
arms. Lo! on the child’s head there played a lambent light of flame. The
mother and Æneas would have sought to extinguish it, but Anchises
recognised in it a sign from heaven. Virgil reads us no special
interpretation, but surely he meant his Roman readers to understand that
the seal of sovereignty was thus early set upon the founder of the great
house of Julius. Thunder on the left hand--always the best of
auguries--and a meteor flashing across the sky and pointing out their
path to the fugitives, confirm the omen.

So the old man was lifted on his son’s shoulders, Iulus walking by his
side, and Creusa following at some distance. They were to meet outside
the city, at the temple of Ceres. Anchises bore in his hands the little
images of the household gods (like Laban’s teraphim) and the sacred
fire; for Æneas himself, redhanded from the battle, might not touch
them. But soon the steps of their enemies were heard in pursuit; and
Æneas, making his way with his precious burden through by paths to the
place of rendezvous, reached it only to find that though many other
fugitives, men, women, and children, had assembled there, the unhappy
Creusa had not followed him. Cursing men and gods alike in his agony, he
retraced his steps towards Troy, and even penetrated unharmed into the
wreck of Priam’s palace, crying aloud his wife’s name. Suddenly her
shade appeared to him, and bade him not continue so vain a search, or
grieve for a loss which was but the fulfilment of the counsels of
heaven. She is content to know the future glories which are in store for
her husband, and thankful that her own fate has been death (we are left
to suppose, at the hands of the Greeks) rather than captivity and
slavery. Æneas listened, and at once, obedient to the recognised voice
of the gods, whether for good or evil, as is his character throughout,
yielded to his fate, and hid himself with his little band of fugitives
in the forests of Mount Ida. There they had spent the winter months in
building themselves a little fleet of galleys out of the abundant
pine-wood; and with the early summer launched upon the seas, wholly in
ignorance of their destination, but awaiting confidently the guidance of
heaven towards their promised resting-place.



CHAPTER III.

ÆNEAS CONTINUES HIS NARRATIVE.


So, with his father and his infant son, and carrying with him the
national gods and sacred fire of Troy, Æneas and the remnant of the
Trojans had set forth upon their voyage for the unknown shores of
Hesperia--the “Land of the West.” Their first resting-place was on the
friendly coast of Thrace, where Æneas laid the foundations of a city
which was to bear his name. A strange adventure befell him there. While
he was pulling some cornel-twigs which grew out of a mound, he found, to
his horror, that the ends dropped blood. A third time, after prayer to
avert the omen, he plucked a sapling, when a hollow voice from below
warned him to desist from such cruelty. It is the grave of the unhappy
Polydorus, a young son of Priam, whom his father, when Troy became hard
pressed, had sent away with some of his treasures to the safe keeping of
the king of Thrace, who for the sake of these treasures had basely
murdered him. The cornel-wood spears with which he had been transfixed
had taken root, and the blood had flowed from his body.[21] They did
but wait to pay due honours to the shade of Polydorus, and then hastened
from the accursed coast. Landing next on the sacred isle of Delos, they
consulted the oracle there as to their future home. Apollo was as
enigmatical as his wont--he bade them “seek out their ancient mother.”
They understood this to be spoken of the ancient cradle of their race;
Anchises thought the phrase pointed to Crete, the birthplace of their
ancestral hero Teucrus, and where stood the ancient Mount Ida, from
which the mountain in the Troad derived its name. And Idomeneus, the
king of Crete, who had joined the war against Troy, had been driven from
his kingdom, and left a vacant throne.[22] To Crete they sailed, and
there began to build a city, to be called Pergamia, after the citadel of
Troy. But a year of deadly pestilence fell on man and beast; and in a
dream Æneas saw the angry gods of Troy standing by him “in the full
moonlight that streamed through the windows,” and warning him that the
promised land, the ancient home of their race, is not in Crete, but
Hesperia--the “Land of the West”--whence came their forefather Dardanus.
Then Anchises too remembered that such had been the frequent warning of
Cassandra--the prophetess to whom none would listen. They re-embarked
accordingly. After a storm of three days and three nights, when no pilot
could keep the course, they were cast upon the islands of the
Harpies[23]--the monster sisters, half women and half birds, foul and
loathsome, who are hateful to gods and men. With them they had to do
battle for the meal which they had spread; and one of those hags, in her
wrath, prophesied that before they reached their promised Hesperia they
should be forced “to eat their tables.”

The description of the ensuing voyage, in Mr Conington’s tasteful
translation, reads like a passage from the ‘Lord of the Isles,’ yet
presents a fair equivalent, especially in the last fine touch, to the
Latin original:--

    “The south wind freshens in the sail;
       We hurry o’er the tide,
     Where’er the helmsman and the gale
       Conspire our course to guide;
     Now rises o’er the foamy flood
     Zacynthos, with its crown of wood,
     Dulichium, Samè, Neritos,
     Whose rocky sides the waves emboss;
     The crags of Ithaca we flee,
     Laertes’ rugged sovereignty;
     Nor in our flight forget to curse
     The land that was Ulysses’ nurse.”

They landed on the coast of Leucadia, at Actium--the scene, be it
remembered, of Augustus’s great naval victory over Antony and Cleopatra.
Here, the Trojan chief takes care to say, he refreshed his weary crew
with rest, and celebrated national games. Nay, he hung up there,
fugitive as he was, a trophy of defiance--a shield which he had taken
from a Greek hero, and inscribed upon it, “The spoil of Æneas from the
conquering Argives.” So speaks the poet; his Roman audience would
recognise the Actian games, celebrated there every fifth year by order
of Augustus in honour of his great victory; and Æneas’s trophy is not so
out of place as it might seem.

At Buthrotus, in Epirus, the wanderers had met with old friends.
Andromache is settled there, now the wife of Helenus, who, by a strange
vicissitude, has become the successor of Neoptolemus in his Greek
province. There is little of what we call sentiment in these “heroic”
times, especially as concerns “woman and her master.” It grates upon the
feelings of the reader who has in mind the pathetic scene between Hector
and his wife in the Iliad of Homer, to be told here by the poet--told,
too, as an ordinary incident, as in fact it was--that Andromache had
become the property of the conqueror Neoptolemus, and that he, bent
upon a marriage with Hermione, daughter of Helen and Menelaus, had
handed over his Trojan wife--“Hector’s Andromache,” as she still
pathetically calls herself--to her fellow-captive Helenus, Hector’s
brother. She tells her own sad story, not without some sense of its
wretchedness--

    “Ay--I am living; living still
     Through all extremity of ill.”

And she envies the fate of Polyxena, her sister-in-law, slain on the
tomb of Achilles. Still, she has accepted her lot--the lot of so many
women in her day. And Helenus, her present lord, is (if that be any
consolation) a sort of king; for Orestes has killed Neoptolemus, and
Helenus has in some way succeeded him, and built a new “Pergamus” in
Greece. So that here, too, the poet would tell us, Troy has conquered
her conquerors--a son of Priam reigns in the territory of Achilles. But
the impression made upon an English mind as to Andromache’s fate is,
after all, that of degradation, and we gladly turn from the page which
relates it.

Helenus, like his sister Cassandra, has the gift of prophecy; he had
been the great authority on all such matters to his countrymen during
the siege. He now read the omens for Æneas, at his request; all were
favourable. The wanderers should reach the promised Hesperia; but that
western land was further off than they thought, and their voyage would
prove long and weary. When they reached it, they should find under a
holm-oak a white sow with a litter of thirty young ones: there the new
town was to be built--the “Alba Longa” which has already been forenamed
in Jupiter’s promise to Venus. Helenus dismissed them with good wishes
and ample presents; Andromache making special gifts to the boy Ascanius,
whose age and features remind the mother of her own lost Astyanax.
Æneas’s words of farewell are these:--

    “Live, and be blest! ’tis sweet to feel
     Fate’s book is closed and under seal.
     For us, alas! that volume stern
     Has many another page to turn.
     Yours is a rest assured: no more
     Of ocean wave to task the oar;
     No far Ausonia to pursue,
     Still flying, flying from the view.”

They set sail from this friendly shore, and on the following day caught
their first sight of the shores of Italy. But though they landed and
offered sacrifice to Juno, as Helenus had bid them do, they knew that
this was not the spot on which they were to settle, and soon put to sea
again. They passed the bay of Tarentum, escaping the dangers of
Charybdis, and landed under Ætna, on the shore where dwell the
Cyclops--the one-eyed race of giants, who, according to one legend,
labour in their underground forges for Vulcan, the divine smith. Here
the poet introduces us to a direct reminiscence of the wanderings of
Ulysses. He adopts the whole of Homer’s story--the visit of the Greek
chief and his comrades to the cave of the giant Polyphemus, his
cannibal meal, and the vengeance which Ulysses took upon him by burning
out his eye.[24] Æneas relates how he met there with one of Ulysses’
crew, who by some mischance had been left behind, and who had hid
himself three months (so close is the date of the two voyages) from the
clutches of Polyphemus and his fellow-Cyclops. They took the wretched
fugitive on board, and put to sea again just in time to escape the blind
monster, who waded into the sea after them at the sound of the oars.
They skirted the coast of Sicily, and at Drepanum the chief had buried
his father Anchises. It was on casting off from Sicily that he had been
driven by the storm on this unknown coast of Libya, on the spot soon to
be famous enough as the site of Carthage.

    “So king Æneas told his tale,
       While all beside were still--
     Rehearsed the fortunes of his sail,
       And Fate’s mysterious will:
     Then to its close his legend brought,
     And gladly took the rest he sought.”



CHAPTER IV.

DIDO.


The Carthaginian queen has been an eager listener to Æneas’s story. She
is love-stricken--suddenly, and irremediably. The poet has thought it
necessary to explain the fact by the introduction of the god of love
himself, whom, in the shape of the young Ascanius, she has been nursing
on her bosom. The passion itself is looked upon by the poet--and as we
must suppose by his audience--as such a palpable weakness, that even in
a woman (and it is to women almost exclusively, in ancient classical
fiction, that these sudden affections are attributed) it was thought
necessary to account for it by the intervention of some more than human
influence. Either human nature has developed, or our modern poets
understand its workings better. Shakespeare makes the angry Brabantio
accuse the Moor of having stolen his daughter’s love

    “By spells and medicines bought of mountebanks;”

but Othello himself has a far simpler and more natural explanation of
the matter--

    “She loved me for the dangers I had passed;--
     This only is the witchcraft I have used.”

So it has been with Dido. But she is terribly ashamed of her own
feelings. She finds relief in disclosing them to a very natural
confidant--her sister Anna. She confesses her weakness, but avows at the
same time a determination not to yield to it. The stranger has
interested her deeply, after a fashion which has not touched her since
the death of her husband Sichæus.

    “Were not my purpose fixed as fate
     With none in wedlock’s band to mate,--

           *       *       *       *       *

     Were bed and bridal aught but pain,--
     Perchance I had been weak again.”

But her sister--suiting her counsels, as all confidants are apt to do,
to the secret wishes rather than to the professions of Dido--encourages
the passion. Perpetual widowhood has a romantic sound, but is not, in
Anna’s opinion, a desirable estate. Besides, in this newly-planted
colony, surrounded as they are by fierce African tribes, an alliance
with these Trojan strangers will be a tower of strength. The stout arm
of such a husband as Æneas is much needed by a widowed queen. His
visit--so Anna thinks--is nothing less than providential--

    “‘Twas Heaven and Juno’s grace that bore,
     I ween, these Trojans to our shore.”

By all means let them detain their illustrious visitor with them as long
as possible--his ships require refitting and his crews refreshment--and
the result will not be doubtful.

The advice suits with the queen’s new mood too well to be rejected.
Together the sisters offer pious sacrifices to the gods--to Juno
especially, as the goddess of marriage--to give their sanction to the
hoped-for alliance. The restless feelings of the enamoured woman are
described in one of the finest and most admired passages of the poem:--

    “E’en as a deer whom from afar
     A swain, in desultory war,
       Where Cretan woods are thick,
     Has pierced, as ’mid the trees she lies,
     And, all unknowing of his prize,
       Has left the dart to stick:
     She wanders lawn and forest o’er,
     While the fell shaft still drinks her gore.[25]
     Now through the city of her pride
     She walks, Æneas at her side,
     Displays the stores of Sidon’s trade,
     And stately homes already made:
     Begins, but stops she knows not why,
     And lets the imperfect utterance die.
     Now, as the sunlight wears away,
     She seeks the feast of yesterday,
     Inquires once more of Troy’s eclipse,
     And hangs once more upon his lips;
     Then, when the guests have gone their ways,
     And the dim moon withdraws her rays,
     And setting stars to slumber call,
     Alone she mourns in that lone hall,
     Clasps the dear couch where late he lay,
     Beholds him, hears him far away;
     Or keeps Ascanius on her knees,
     And in the son the father sees,
     Might she but steal one peaceful hour
     From love’s ungovernable power.
     No more the growing towers arise,
     No more in martial exercise
     The youth engage, make strong the fort,
     Or shape the basin to a port.”

The powers of Olympus here come again upon the scene. Juno sees, not
without a secret satisfaction, the prospect of an entanglement between
Æneas and Dido, which may detain these hated Trojans in Africa, and so
prevent their settlement and dominion in Italy. So Carthage, and not the
Rome of the future, may yet be the mistress of the world. She addresses
herself at once to the goddess of love--not without a sneer at the
success of her snares in poor Dido’s case; a sorry triumph it is
indeed--two divinities pitted against a weak woman! But come--suppose in
this matter they agree to act in concert; let there be a union between
the two nations, and let Carthage be the seat of their joint power; its
citizens shall pay equal honours to the queen of heaven and the queen of
love. Venus understands perfectly well that Juno’s motive is at any cost
to prevent the foundation of Rome; but, having a clearer vision (we must
presume) than her great rival of the probable results, she agrees to the
terms. There is to be a hunting-party on the morrow, and Juno will take
care that opportunity shall be given for the furtherance of Dido’s
passion. The royal hunt is again a striking picture, almost mediæval in
its rich colouring:--

      “The morn meantime from ocean rose:
    Forth from the gates with daybreak goes
      The silvan regiment:
    Thin nets are there, and spears of steel,
    And there Massylian riders wheel,
      And dogs of keenest scent.
    Before the chamber of her state
    Long time the Punic nobles wait
      The appearing of the queen:
    With gold and purple housings fit
    Stands her proud steed, and champs the bit
      His foaming jaws between.
    At length with long attendant train
    She comes: her scarf of Tyrian grain,[26]
      With broidered border decked:
    Of gold her quiver: knots of gold
    Confine her hair: her vesture’s fold
      By golden clasp is checked.
    The Trojans and Iulus gay
    In glad procession take their way.
    Æneas, comeliest of the throng,
    Joins their proud ranks, and steps along,
    As when from Lycia’s wintry airs
    To Delos’ isle Apollo fares;
    The Agathyrsian, Dryop, Crete,
    In dances round his altar meet:
    He on the heights of Cynthus moves,
      And binds his hair’s loose flow
    With cincture of the leaf he loves:
      Behind him sounds his bow;--
    So firm Æneas’ graceful tread,
    So bright the glories round his head.

           *       *       *       *       *

    But young Ascanius on his steed
      With boyish ardour glows,
    And now in ecstacy of speed
      He passes these, now those:
    For him too peaceful and too tame
    The pleasure of the hunted game:
    He longs to see the foaming boar,
    Or hear the tawny lion’s roar.

    Meantime, loud thunder-peals resound,
    And hail and rain the sky confound:
    And Tyrian chiefs and sons of Troy,
    And Venus’ care, the princely boy,
    Seek each his shelter, winged with dread,
    While torrents from the hills run red.
    Driven haply to the same retreat,
    The Dardan chief and Dido meet.
    Then Earth, the venerable dame,
      And Juno, give the sign:
    Heaven lightens with attesting flame,
      And bids its torches shine,
    And from the summit of the peak
    The nymphs shrill out the nuptial shriek.

    That day she first began to die;
    That day first taught her to defy
    The public tongue, the public eye.
    No secret love is Dido’s aim:
    She calls it marriage now; such name
    She chooses to conceal her shame.”

A rejected suitor of the Carthaginian queen,--Iarbas, king of
Gætulia,--hears the news amongst the rest. He is a reputed son of
Jupiter; and now, furious at seeing this wanderer from Troy--“this
second Paris,” as he calls him--preferred to himself, he appeals for
vengeance to his Olympian parent. The appeal is heard, and Mercury is
despatched to remind Æneas of his high destinies, which he is forgetting
in this dalliance at Carthage. If he has lost all ambition for himself,
let him at least remember the rights of his son Ascanius, which he is
thus sacrificing to the indulgence of his own wayward passions. The
immortal messenger finds the Trojan chief busied in planning the
extension of the walls and streets of the new city which he has already
adopted as his home. He delivers his message briefly and emphatically,
and vanishes. Thus recalled to a full sense of his false position, Æneas
is at first horror-struck and confounded. How to disobey the direct
commands of Heaven, and run counter to the oracles of fate; how, on the
other hand, to break his faith with Dido, and ungratefully betray the
too confiding love of his hostess and benefactress; how even to venture
to hint to her a word of parting, and how to escape the probable
vengeance of the Carthaginian people;--all these considerations crowd
into his mind, and perplex him terribly. On the main point, however, his
resolution is soon taken. He will obey the mandate of the gods, at any
cost. He summons the most trusted of his comrades, and bids them make
secret preparations to set sail once more in quest of their home in
Italy. He promises himself that he will either find or make some
opportunity of breaking the news of his departure to Dido.

This is the turning-point of the poem; and here it is that the interest
to a modern reader, so far as the mere plot of the story is concerned,
is sadly marred by the way in which the hero thus cuts himself off from
all our sympathies. His most ingenious apologists--and he has found
many--appeal to us in vain. Upon the audience or the readers of his own
time, no doubt, the effect might have been different. To the critics of
Augustus’s court, love--or what they understood by it--was a mere
weakness in the hero. The call which Heaven had conveyed to him was to
found the great empire of the future; and because he obeys the call at
the expense of his tenderest feelings, the poet gives him always his
distinctive epithet--the “pious” Æneas. The word “pious,” it must be
remembered, implies in the Latin the recognition of all duties to one’s
country and one’s parents, as well as to the gods. And in all these
senses Æneas would deserve it. But to an English mind, the “piety” which
pleads the will of Heaven as an excuse for treachery to a woman, only
adds a deeper hue of infamy to the transaction. It

    “Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse.”

But our story must not wait for us to discuss too curiously the morals
of the hero. Æneas has thought to make his preparations without the
knowledge of the queen--while she

    “Still dreams her happy dream, nor thinks
     That ought can break those golden links.”

But, as the poet goes on to say, “Who can cheat the eyes of love?” Dido
soon learns his change of purpose, and taxes him openly with his
“baseness and ingratitude. The whole of this fourth book of the
Æneid--“The Passion of Dido,” as it has been called--is of a very high
order of tragic pathos. The queen is by turns furious and pathetic; now
she hurls menaces and curses against her false lover, now she
condescends to pitiable entreaty. The Trojan chief’s defence, such as it
is, is that he had never meant to stay. He is bound, the pilgrim of
Heaven, for Latium. His father Anchises is warning him continually in
the visions of the night not to linger here: and now the messenger of
the gods in person has come to chide this fond delay.

The grand storm of wrath in which the injured queen bursts upon him in
reply has severely taxed the powers of all Virgil’s English translators.
They seem to have felt themselves no more of a match for “the fury of a
woman scorned” than Æneas was. Certainly they all fail, more or less, to
give the fire and bitterness of the original. The heroics of Dryden suit
it better, perhaps, than any other measure:--

    “False as thou art, and more than false, forsworn!
     Not sprung from noble blood, nor goddess-born,
     But hewn from hardened entrails of a rock,
     And rough Hyrcanian tigers gave thee suck!
     Why should I fawn? what have I worse to fear?
     Did he once look, or lend a listening ear,
     Sigh when I sobbed, or shed one kindly tear?
     All symptoms of a base ungrateful mind--
     So foul, that, which is worse, ’tis hard to find.
     Of man’s injustice why should I complain?
     The gods, and Jove himself, behold in vain
     Triumphant treason, yet no thunder flies;
     Nor Juno views my wrongs with equal eyes:
     Faithless is earth, and faithless are the skies!
     Justice is fled, and truth is now no more.
     I saved the shipwrecked exile on my shore:
     With needful food his hungry Trojans fed:
     I took the traitor to my throne and bed:
     Fool that I was!--’tis little to repeat
     The rest--I stored and rigged his ruined fleet.
     I rave, I rave! A god’s command he pleads!
     And makes heaven accessory to his deeds.
     Now Lycian lots; and now the Delian god;
     Now Hermes is employed from Jove’s abode,
     To warn him hence; as if the peaceful state
     Of heavenly powers were touched with human fate!
     But go: thy flight no longer I detain--
     Go seek thy promised kingdom through the main!
     Yet, if the heavens will hear my pious vow,
     The faithless waves, not half so false as thou,
     Or secret sands, shall sepulchres afford
     To thy proud vessels and their perjured lord.
     Then shalt thou call on injured Dido’s name:
     Dido shall come, in a black sulph’ry flame,
     When death has once dissolved her mortal frame,
     Shall smile to see the traitor vainly weep;
     Her angry ghost, arising from the deep,
     Shall haunt thee waking, and disturb thy sleep.
     At least my shade thy punishment shall know;
     And fame shall spread the pleasing news below.”

But in this passage, if nowhere else, a French translator has surpassed
all his English rivals. Possibly the fervid passion of the scene, worked
up as it is almost to exaggeration, is more akin to the genius of the
French language.[27]

We cannot, however, do better than return to Mr Conington’s version for
the sequel:--

    “Her speech half done, she breaks away,
     And sickening shuns the light of day,
       And tears her from his gaze;
     While he, with thousand things to say,
       Still falters and delays:
     Her servants lift the sinking fair,
     And to her marble chamber bear.”

The Trojans prepare to depart; but the enamoured queen makes one more
despairing effort to detain her faithless guest. She sends her sister to
ask at least for some short space of delay--until she shall have
schooled herself to bear his loss. Æneas is obdurate in his “piety.”
Then her last resolve is taken. She cheats her sister into the belief
that she has found some spells potent enough to restrain the truant
lover. Part of the charm is that his armour, and all that had belonged
to him while in her company, must be consumed by fire. So a lofty pile
is built in the palace-court; but it is to be the funeral pile of Dido.
As she looks forth from the turret of her palace at daybreak, she sees
the ships of Æneas already far in the offing; for, warned again by
Mercury that there will be risk of his departure being prevented by
force if he delays, he has already set sail under cover of the night.
For a moment the queen thinks of ordering her seamen to give chase; but
it is a mere passing phase of her despair. She contents herself with
imprecating an eternal enmity between his race and hers--fulfilled, as
the poet means us to bear in mind, in the long and bloody wars between
Rome and Carthage.

    “And, Tyrians, you through time to come
       His seed with deathless hatred chase:
     Be that your gift to Dido’s tomb:
       No love, no league ’twixt race and race.
     Rise from my ashes, scourge of crime,
       Born to pursue the Dardan horde
     To-day, to-morrow, through all time,
       Oft as our hands can wield the sword:
     Fight shore with shore, fight sea with sea,
     Fight all that are, or e’er shall be!”

With a master’s hand the poet enhances the glories of his country by
this prophetic introduction of the terrible Hannibal. The peaceful
empire of Cæsar, before whom East and West bow, is thrown into the
broadest light by reference to those early days when Rome lay almost at
the mercy of her implacable enemy.

    “Then, maddening over crime, the queen
       With bloodshot eyes, and sanguine streaks
       Fresh painted on her quivering cheeks,
     And wanning o’er with death foreseen,
     Through inner portals wildly fares,
       Scales the high pile with swift ascent,
     Takes up the Dardan sword and bares--
       Sad gift, for different uses meant.
     She eyed the robes with wistful look,
       And pausing, thought awhile and wept:
     Then pressed her to the couch and spoke
       Her last good-night or ere she slept.
     ‘Sweet relics of a time of love,
       When fate and heaven were kind,
     Receive my life-blood, and remove
       These torments of the mind.
     My life is lived, and I have played
       The part that Fortune gave,
     And now I pass, a queenly shade,
       Majestic to the grave.
     A glorious city I have built,
       Have seen my walls ascend;
     Chastised for blood of husband spilt,
       A brother, yet no friend:
     Blest lot! yet lacked one blessing more,
     That Troy had never touched my shore!’”

So she mounts the funeral pile, and stabs herself with the Trojan’s
sword, her sister Anna coming upon the scene only in time to receive the
parting breath.



CHAPTER V.

THE FUNERAL GAMES.


Far off at sea, Æneas and his crew see the flames go up from Dido’s
palace.

    “What cause has lit so fierce a flame
     They know not; but the pangs of shame
     From great love wronged, and what despair
     Will make a baffled woman dare,--
     All this they know; and knowing tread
     The paths of presage vague and dread.”

Not yet is their course clear for Italy. A storm comes on, and they make
for refuge towards the friendly coast of Sicily, and run their vessels
into a sheltered bay under Mount Eryx. Their return is gladly welcomed
by their late host, Acestes, who receives the wanderers, as before, with
princely hospitality, still mindful of his own Trojan blood. It chances
that the morrow is the anniversary of the burial of Anchises; and Æneas,
summoning an open-air council of his crews, announces to them his
intention of commemorating his father by a solemn public sacrifice. It
is a day which--wherever his lot may be hereafter cast--he will ever
keep holy; and not without some providential guidance, as he deems, has
this opportunity been afforded him, by his being driven back to Sicily,
of celebrating it on friendly soil under the auspices of his kinsman.
There shall be nine days of sacrifice and prayer; then shall follow
funeral games, with prizes at his own cost.

The sacrificial oxen are duly slain, and the libations poured at the
tomb of Anchises; the bowls of new milk, of wine, and of blood, and the
fresh spring flowers, which were reckoned acceptable offerings to the
dead. Then Æneas lifts his voice in prayer to the shade of the hero, and
a startling omen follows the invocation. A serpent, dappled with green
and gold, glides out of the tomb, tastes of the offerings, and
disappears again. Æneas sees in the creature the tutelary genius of the
spot, or, it may be, the special attendant of his father’s shade. In
either case, he accepts its appearance as a good omen, and joyfully
redoubles his devotions.

In the funeral games which follow, the Roman poet no doubt had two
models in his mind. He was ambitious to reproduce, or perhaps to rival,
in Roman, song, for an audience of his countrymen, the grand description
which his great master Homer had given of the games which Achilles
celebrates in honour of the dead Patroclus. He wished also, there can be
little doubt, to pay a poet’s best compliment to his imperial patron,
and to weave into his song, with such licence of embellishment as is
allowed to all poets, a record of those funeral games which Augustus
had instituted in remembrance of his uncle, the great Dictator Julius.
But Virgil is here very far from being a mere copyist from Homer. In
lieu of the chariot-race, the great feature in the games of the Iliad,
he has given us a galley-race, the incidents of which are quite as
exciting, and to our modern comprehensions more thoroughly intelligible.

The day fixed for the great spectacle has arrived, and the Sicilians
from far and near flock to it, some to take part in the games, and all
to see. First of the various contests comes the galley-race, for which
four of the fastest vessels in the fleet have entered--the Shark, the
Centaur, the Chimæra, and the Scylla; each displaying, no doubt, as its
figure-head, a representation of the monster whose name it bore. Their
captains were men well known. Humouring a genealogical fancy of his
Roman countrymen for tracing their descent to some one of the old Trojan
colonists,--much after the fashion of English houses who try to find an
ancestor on the Roll of Battle Abbey,--the poet tells us that three at
least out of the four gave their names in due time to patrician houses
in Rome. Mnestheus, who commands the Shark, left his name (certainly
with considerable modification) to the _gens_ or clan of Memmius. The
captain of the Centaur, Sergestus, is in like manner the reputed
ancestor of the Sergian clan, as Cloanthus, who sails the Scylla, is of
the Cluentian. Only Gyas, the captain of the Chimæra, a bulky craft, “as
big as a town,” has no such genealogical honours assigned him.

The course lies out in the bay, and the competing vessels are to round a
rock, covered at high tides, on which an oak has been set up, leaves and
all, to serve as a mark for the steersmen. They take up their positions
by lot, and await the signal, to be given by sound of trumpet. The
picture of the start would suit, with wonderfully little alteration, the
description of a modern University boat-race:--

    “And now on rowing-bench they sit,
     Bend to the oar their arms close knit,
     And straining watch the sign to start,
     While generous trembling fills each heart,
       And thirst for victory.
     Then, at the trumpet’s piercing sound,
     All from their stations onward bound:
     Upsoars to heaven the oarsmen’s shout,
     The upturned billows froth and spout.

           *       *       *       *       *

     With plaudits loud and clamorous zeal
       Echoes the woodland round;
     The pent shores roll the thunder-peal,
       The stricken hills resound.”

[Our modern oarsmen would certainly be wiser in this, that they would
reserve their own breath (of which they would find considerable need
towards the end of the race), and leave the whole of the shouting to be
done by enthusiastic spectators.]

    “First Gyas issues from the rout,
       And holds the foremost place:
     Cloanthus next; his oarsmen row
     More featly, but his bark is slow,
       And checks him in the race.
     Behind at equal distance strain
     Centaur and Shark the lead to gain;
     And now the Shark darts forth, and now
     The Centaur has advanced her bow;
     And now the twain move side by side,
     Their long keels trailing through the tide.”

So goes the race, until the galleys near the rock which they have to
round. Gyas sees that his steersman, from over caution, is giving it too
wide a berth, and that there is danger of the Scylla, more venturous,
cutting in between. He shouts an order to keep closer in; but the old
seaman is somewhat obstinate, and it is very soon too late. Cloanthus
has seen his advantage, shot round the rock at very close quarters, and
now leaves Gyas in the Chimæra behind. Burning with fury, Gyas turns on
his steersman, and pitches him into the sea. Happily he can swim, and
the rock is close at hand; he climbs upon it, and sits there dripping,
to the considerable amusement of the spectators, who, like all
lookers-on, seem unmercifully alive to the ludicrous element in any
disaster.

Deprived of her helmsman, the huge Chimæra loses her course for a
moment, and the two galleys in the rear are quick to take advantage of
it. The Shark and Centaur are now rounding the rock almost side by side.
But Sergestus, in his eagerness not to lose an inch of advantage,
emulates the manœuvre of the Scylla too closely, and takes the Centaur
too near. Her broadside of oars touch some of the jutting crags, the
oars are broken, and the boat’s head takes the rock, and hangs there
hard and fast. All efforts of the crew to get her off are unavailing.
Mnestheus makes the dangerous turn safely on the outside of his rival,
and his men, encouraged by success, redouble their efforts. The Chimæra
has no good steersman to replace old Menœtes, who is still drying
himself on the rock, and she is easily passed on the return course
homewards. The struggle becomes now one of intense interest between
Mnestheus and Cloanthus, who is still leading in the Scylla.

    “The cheers redouble from the shore;
     Heaven echoes with the wild uproar;
     Those blush to lose a conquering game,
     And fain would peril life for fame;
     These bring success their zeal to fan--
     They can, because they think they can.”

The Shark has a stern chase, but the Scylla rows heavily, as we have
been told, though she has the best crew, and the distance lessens at
every stroke. Had the course been longer, the Shark would have made at
least a dead heat of it. But as it is, amidst a storm of shouts, the
Scylla wins. The turning-point of victory is one which does not approve
itself to modern readers. The sea-deities interfere. Standing high upon
his quarter-deck, Cloanthus lifts his prayer to the powers of ocean, not
to permit his prize to be snatched from him at the last. He vows an
offering of a milk-white bull and libations of red wine if they will
help him at his need.

    “He said; there heard him ’neath the sea
     The Nereid train and Panope;
     And with his hand divinely strong,
     Portunus[28] pushed the bark along.”

Possibly, after all, the poet only means us to understand that this was
Mnestheus’s explanation of his defeat--that the luck was against
him.[29]

Cloanthus is crowned with bays as the victor of the day, and receives as
his prize an embroidered robe of rare device--one of those miracles of
divers colours of needlework in which the classical age seems to have as
far excelled us as the mediæval ladies certainly did. Each crew receives
three oxen and a supply of wine, while a talent of silver is divided
amongst the men of the victorious Scylla. Mnestheus, as second in the
race, wins a shirt of mail whose scales are of gold, which two of his
attendants bear off with difficulty. The third of the captains has a
pair of brazen caldrons and chased silver bowls. But while the awards
are being distributed, the crippled Centaur has got off the rock, and is
brought into harbour; and a Cretan slave-woman, with her twin children,
is allotted, by the liberality of Æneas, as a consolation to her
captain.

From the shore of the bay the company now move off to a natural
amphitheatre close at hand, where the rest of the games are to be
exhibited. Æneas takes his place high in the midst on an extemporised
throne. For the foot-race, which comes first on the list, a crowd of
competitors enter, both of native Sicilians and of their Trojan guests.
Among the Sicilians are Salius and Patron, of Greek families settled in
the island, and Helymus and Panopes, friends and companions of Acestes.
The favourites among the Trojans are Diores, one of the many sons of
Priam, and Nisus and Euryalus, noted for their romantic friendship, of
which we shall hear more hereafter. The prizes in this contest are a
war-horse with full trappings for the first, an Amazonian quiver for the
second, and a helmet--the spoil of some conquered Greek on the plain of
Troy--for the third. Nisus goes off with a strong lead, and has the race
easily in hand. Next him, but at a long interval, comes Salius, Euryalus
lying third, Helymus and Diores, close together, fourth and fifth. But
when within a short distance of the goal, Nisus slips up in the blood
and filth which has been left uncleared at the spot where the oxen have
been sacrificed, and falls heavily to the ground. Knowing himself to be
out of the race, he determines that his dear Euryalus shall win. So, by
a piece of most unjustifiable jockeyship, which ought to have led to his
being warned off from all such contests for ever after, he rises up at
the moment that Salius is passing, and brings him down upon him.
Euryalus has thus an easy victory, Helymus and Diores coming in second
and third. Very naturally, there is much dispute about the award. Salius
complains loudly of unfair play; but young Euryalus is handsome and
popular, and Diores backs his claim energetically; for it is very
evident that if Salius is adjudged the first prize, Euryalus the second,
and Helymus the third, then he--Diores--will be nowhere. So the result
is accepted by the judges as it stands. But Æneas quiets the reasonable
objections of Salius by the present of a lion’s hide with gilded claws.
Then Nisus makes appeal for compensation, pointing out to the laughing
spectators the blood and dirt which are the very disagreeable evidences
of his mishap, and protesting, with a consummate impudence which suits
with the popular humour, that the whole thing was an accident, and that
he, as the winner that would have been, is the real object of
commiseration. If a fall deserves a prize, who has so good a claim as
the man who fell first? Again the generosity of Æneas answers the
appeal, and Nisus is presented with a shield of the finest workmanship,
another Greek trophy. Successful knavery, if the knave be somewhat of a
humourist withal, always wins a sort of sympathy from the public--in the
Augustan epic as well as in modern comedy.

The prizes of the foot-race having been thus decided, the lists are
cleared for the boxing-match. The boxing-match of the classical ancients
was very different indeed from a modern set-to. The combatants certainly
wore gloves; but these were meant to add weight and force to the blow,
not to deaden it. The stoutest champion of the modern prize-ring might
shrink from encountering an antagonist whose fists were bound round with
strips of hardened ox-hide. But such was the “cæstus” which was worn by
the pugilists of this heroic age. The prizes are displayed by Æneas; for
the conqueror, a bull with gilded horns; a helmet and falchion for the
loser. Up rises the Trojan Dares, whose strength and skill are well
known. The only man whom he acknowledged as his superior in the ring was
one whom we might have least expected--Paris, who certainly bears no
such reputation in Homer. At the great games held in honour of the dead
Hector, of which we have the very briefest note in the Iliad, Dares had
defeated the huge champion Butes, sprung from a race of athletes, and so
mangled him that he died on the spot. No wonder that when he now steps
forth, and goes through some preparatory sparring with the air, no one
is found bold enough to put on the gloves with him. So, after a glance
of triumph round the admiring circle, he advances to where the bull
stands in front of Æneas, lays his hand upon its horns, and claims it as
his rightful property in default of an antagonist.

King Acestes is concerned for the honour of Sicily. There is lying
beside him on the grass a grey-haired chief named Entellus, sometime a
pupil in this art of the great hero Eryx, who gave his name to the
mountain which overhangs the place of assembly. Will he sit tamely by,
Acestes asks, and see this Trojan boaster carry off the prize and the
glory unchallenged? Entellus listens to his friend, and feels the old
fire stir within him. He would willingly enter the ring once more for
the honour of his native island,--

    “But strength is slack in limbs grown old,
     And aged blood runs dull and cold.
     Had I the thing I once possessed,
     Which makes yon braggart rear his crest,
     Had I but youth, no need had been
     Of gifts, to lure me to the green.”

He rises from his seat, however, and throws down in the arena, by way of
challenge, a pair of ancient gloves of a most murderous pattern. Seven
folds of tough bull-hide have knobs of lead and iron sewn inside them.
They are the gloves in which the hero Eryx fought his fatal battle with
Hercules, whom he had rashly challenged, and they still bear the
blood-stains of Eryx’s previous victories. Dares, stout champion as he
is, starts back in dismay when he sees them, and Æneas himself takes
them up and handles them with wonder. Entellus, however, will not insist
on using these; and two pair of less formidable manufacture and of equal
weight are produced, with which the two heroes engage. Virgil’s
description of this ancient prize-fight is highly spirited. It may
remind some readers, who are old enough to remember such things, of the
bulletins of similar encounters between a “light-weight” and a
“heavy-weight,” furnished in past days by sporting writers to our own
newspapers--with the happy omission of the slang of the ring:--

    “Raised on his toes each champion stands,
     And fearless lifts in air his hands.
     Their heads thrown back avoid the stroke;
     Their mighty arms the fight provoke.
     That on elastic youth relies,
     This on vast limbs and giant size;
     But the huge knees with age are slack,
     And fitful gasps the deep chest rack.
     Full many a blow the heroes rain
     Each on the other, still in vain:
     Their hollow sides return the sound,
     Their battered chests the shock rebound:
     ’Mid ears and temples come and go
     The wandering gauntlets to and fro:
     The jarred teeth chatter ’neath the blow.
     Firm stands Entellus in his place,
     A column rooted on its base;
     His watchful eye and shrinking frame
     Alone avoid the gauntlet’s aim.
     Like leaguer who invests a town,
     Or sits before a hill-fort down,
     The younger champion tasks his art
     To find the bulwark’s weakest part;
     This way and that unwearied scans,
     And vainly tries a thousand plans.
     Entellus, rising to the blow,
     Puts forth his hand: the wary foe
     Midway in air the mischief spied,
     And, deftly shifting, slipped aside.
     Entellus’ force on air is spent:
     Heavily down with prone descent
     He falls, as from its roots uprent
     A pine falls hollow, on the side
     Of Erymanth or lofty Ide.”

Acestes rushes in, like an attentive second, to raise his friend; and
Entellus, roused to fury by his fall, renews the fight savagely:--

    “Ablaze with fury he pursues
       The Trojan o’er the green,
     And now his right hand deals the bruise,
       And now his left as keen.
     No pause, no respite: fierce and fast
     As hailstones rattle down the blast
     On sloping roofs, with blow on blow,
     He buffets Dares to and fro.”

The unhappy Dares is borne off by his friends in miserable plight,--with
half his teeth knocked out, blood streaming from his face, and hardly
able to stand. All the savage has been roused in Entellus’s nature by
the fight. He is not half satisfied that his victim has escaped him. He
would gladly have sacrificed him to the memory of his great master
Eryx,--here, on the spot where that hero fought his own last fight. He
lays his hand upon the bull, the prize of battle, and addresses Æneas
and the spectators. Dryden’s version of this passage, though it contains
as much of Dryden as of Virgil, has justly been praised as very noble:--

    “O goddess-born, and ye Dardanian host,
     Mark with attention, and forgive my boast;
     Learn what I was by what remains, and know
     From what impending fate you saved my foe!
     Sternly he spoke, and then confronts the bull;
     And on his ample forehead aiming full,
     The deadly stroke descending pierced the skull.
     Down drops the beast, nor needs a second wound,
     But sprawls in pangs of death, and spurns the ground.
     ‘Then thus, in Dares’ stead, I offer this:
     Eryx, accept a nobler sacrifice;
     Take the last gift my withered arms can yield--
     Thy gauntlets I resign, and here renounce the field.’”

Mr Conington has well remarked that here we have, no doubt, “the veteran
combatant’s feelings as conceived by the veteran poet.” He wrote the
lines in his sixty-second year, and they harmonise pathetically with the
words in his dedication: “What I now offer to your lordship is the
wretched remainder of a sickly age.” We are not obliged to take this
self-depreciation too literally: whatever may be the shortcomings of
Dryden’s translation, the hand of the old poet had no more lost its
vigour than that of Entellus.

The archers are next to try their skill. In this contest Acestes himself
takes part. The other competitors are Mnestheus, whose crew were just
now second in the race; Eurytion, a brother of Pandarus, the great
archer of the Iliad, whose treacherous arrow, launched against Menelaus
during the truce, had wellnigh turned the fate of Troy; and Hippocoon,
of whom we know nothing more. He draws the first lot, and his arrow
strikes the mast on which the mark, a live dove, is perched. Mnestheus
shoots next, and cuts the cord which fetters her; and as she flies away
a shaft from Eurytion’s bow follows and kills her. There is nothing left
for Acestes to do, but to shoot an arrow high in the air to show the
strength of his hand and his bow. To the astonishment of the gazers, the
arrow takes fire, and, leaving a trail of light on its path like a
shooting-star, vanishes in the sky. It is an omen, as Æneas declares; it
must be that the gods, in spite of facts, will him to be the real
victor. So the prize--an embossed bowl, a present from the father of
Hecuba to Anchises--is awarded to the Sicilian prince, even Eurytion,
the actual winner, acquiescing heartily in the arrangement. Yet the
omen, as the poet tells us, really boded disaster; though whether to
Sicily or to the Trojans, or how it was afterwards fulfilled, he does
not stop to explain. Commentators have, as a matter of duty, done so for
him; but it is hardly worth while to vex ourselves with their
conjectures on a point on which Æneas himself was mistaken.

The games are over--at least, so far as the public programme seems to
have gone. But Æneas has a surprise in store for his hosts. He whispers
privately to the governor or tutor of his son Iulus, while he requests
the company once more to clear the amphitheatre. Soon there sweeps into
the ring the young chivalry of Troy--a goodly company of mounted youths,
all of noble blood, who are to play out their play before their
assembled seniors.

    “They enter, glittering side by side,
     And rein their steeds with youthful pride,
     As ’neath their fathers’ eyes they ride,
     While all Trinacria’s host and Troy’s
     With plaudits greet the princely boys.
     Each has his hair by rule confined
     With stripped-off leaves in garland twined:
     Some ride with shapely bows equipped:
     Two cornel spears they bear, steel-tipped:
     And wreaths of twisted gold invest
     The neck, and sparkle on the breast.
     Three are the companies of horse,
     And three the chiefs that scour the course:
     Twelve gallant boys each chief obey,
     And shine in tripartite array.
     Young Priam first, Polites’ heir,
     Well pleased his grandsire’s name to bear,
     Leads his gay troop, himself decreed
     To raise up an Italian seed:
     He prances forth, all dazzling bright,
     On Thracian steed with spots of white:
     White on its fetlock’s front is seen,
     And white the space its brows between.
     Then Atys, next in place, from whom
       The Atian family descend:
     Young Atys, fresh with life’s first bloom,
       The boy Iulus’ sweet boy-friend:
     Iulus last, in form and face
       Pre-eminent his peers above,
     A courser rides of Tyrian race,
       Memorial gift of Dido’s love.
     Sicilian steeds the rest bestride
     From old Acestes’ stalls supplied.
     The Dardanids with mingling cheers
     Relieve the young aspirants’ fears,
     And gaze delighted, as they trace
     A parent’s mien in each fair face.

    “And now, when all from first to last
     Beneath their kinsfolk’s eyes had past,
       Before the assembled crowd,
     Epytides shrills forth from far
     His signal-shout, as if for war,
       And cracks his whip aloud.
     In equal parts the bands divide,
     And gallop off on either side:
     Then wheeling round in full career
     Charge at a call with levelled spear
     Again, again they come and go,
     Through adverse spaces to and fro;
     Circles in circles interlock,
     And, sheathed in arms, the gazers mock
     With mimicry of battle-shock.
     And now they turn their backs in flight,
       Now put their spears in rest,
     And now in amity unite,
       And ride the field abreast.”

Such was the Ludus Trojæ--“The Game of Troy”--introduced, according to
the poet, by Iulus in after-days into his new-built town of Alba, and
borrowed from Alba by the Romans. Whatever its origin may have been, it
was revived at Rome by Augustus, in his zeal for restorations of all
kinds, as “an ancient and honourable institution.” Princes of the
imperial house--young Marcellus, and Tiberius the future emperor--rode,
like Iulus, in the show; the emperor himself took a warm interest in it;
and the eagerness of the young patricians to distinguish themselves in
the various manœuvres before his eyes and those of their friends led to
serious accidents. To one young horseman who was crippled by his fall
Augustus gave a golden torque, and granted to him and his family
permission to bear the name of “Torquatus”--renowned in the early annals
of Rome. But other accidents happened, and led to such loud complaints
that the sport was discontinued.

But while the eyes of Trojans and Sicilians are engaged with this
spectacle, a terrible proceeding has taken place down on the shore. The
ships, as usual, are drawn up there hard and fast upon the sand. The
Trojan matrons are gathered near them, making moan for the good
Anchises--for the games are a spectacle for men. They are looking
wistfully, too, across the sea, thinking how far they have sailed
already, and how far they may yet have to sail. The watchful hate of
Juno sees her opportunity. She despatches Iris down to them in the shape
of one of their number--Beroe. She harangues them eloquently. How long
will they be content to live this wandering life, in search of a distant
home--which possibly has no existence but in deceitful prophecies?

The disguised Iris seizes a brand and rushes towards the ships. While
the rest hesitate, one of their number detects the star-like eyes and
celestial gait. It is not old Beroe--nay, she, to the witness’s own
knowledge, lies at this very moment sick in bed. It is no less than a
visitor from heaven. They hesitate no longer: they snatch the embers
from the altars, and in a moment the deed is done, and the galleys are
in flames. The news is brought to Æneas just as the gay parade of youths
is ending; and Ascanius gallops at once down to the shore, dashes his
helmet on the ground that all may know him, and implores the furious
women to stay their hands. Do they fancy they are burning the war-ships
of the Greeks? His voice recalls them to themselves, and in guilty fear
and shame they fly to hide themselves among the rocks and woods. Æneas
rends his clothes, and appeals to Jupiter. The ruler of the sky hears,
and sends down a thunder-shower which drenches everything on sea and
shore, so that all but four galleys escape with little damage.

But Æneas is troubled at heart. May not this mad instinct of the women
be right, after all? Were it not better to rest here in Sicily, than
wander on again over the weary ocean in quest of this Western Land? He
takes counsel with the Nestor of the fleet--the aged Nautes--to whom the
goddess of wisdom has given an understanding spirit beyond his fellows.
The old seaman’s motto is one of the poet’s noblest utterances[30]--

    “Whate’er betides, he only cures
     The stroke of fortune who endures.”

He bids his chief take counsel, too, with Acestes. In the visions of the
night the shade of his father Anchises once more appears to him, and
gives the same advice as Nautes. It is settled that the women and the
old men, and all that are weary and faint-hearted, shall be left behind
in Sicily, while the picked band of good men and true sail on with their
leader into the west; thus their reduced number of ships will yet
suffice them.[31] The damaged galleys are hastily repaired, and the
foundations of a new town are marked out for the Trojan settlers: it is
to be called Acesta, in honour of their kind host. The parting of the
wanderers from their friends is a fine passage, finely rendered:--

    “With kindliness of gentle speech
     The good Æneas comforts each,
     And to their kinsman prince commends
     With tears his subjects and his friends.
     Three calves to Eryx next he kills;
     A lambkin’s blood to Tempest spills,
       And bids them loose from land:
     With olive-leaves he binds his brow,
     Then takes his station on the prow,
       A charger in his hand,
     Flings out the entrails on the brine,
     And pours a sacred stream of wine.
     Fair winds escort them o’er the deep:
     With emulous stroke the waves they sweep.”



CHAPTER VI.

THE SIBYL AND THE SHADES.


The Sea-god, at Venus’s intercession for her son, sends Æneas and his
crews calm seas and prosperous gales. One victim only the Fates demand;
Palinurus, the pilot of Æneas’s ship, gives way to sleep during the
quiet watches of the night, slips overboard, and is lost. The poet has
clothed the whole story in a transparent mythological allegory, and
which must have been intended to be transparent. Sleep is personified;
Palinurus resists his first temptations; but the god waves over his eyes
a bough steeped in dews of Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, and the
unhappy steersman can hold out no longer. The accident happens near the
shore of the twin Sirens, of whose seductions Homer has told us in the
wanderings of Ulysses:--

    “A perilous neighbourhood of yore
       And white with mounded bones,
     Where the hoarse sea with far-heard roar
       Keeps washing o’er the stones.”

Æneas discovers his loss by the unsteady course of the galley, and
takes the helm himself, until he brings the little fleet safe into the
harbour of Cumæ. The crews disembark, with the joy which these seamen of
old always felt when they touched land again, and proceed at once to
search for water, cut wood, and light fires:--

    “Sage Dædalus--so runs the tale--
       From Minos bent to fly,
     On feathery pinions dared to sail
       Along the untravelled sky;
     Flies northward through the polar heights,
     Nor stays till he on Cumæ lights.
     First landed here, he consecrates
       The wings whereon he flew
     To Phœbus’ power, and dedicates
       A fane of stately view.”

Here Æneas consults the mysterious Sibyl, whose oracular verses are
referred to in Virgil’s Pastoral already noticed. She figures under
various names in classical story--that which she bears here is Deiphobè.
Her dwelling is in a cave in the rock behind the temple, with which it
communicates by a hundred doors. Within sits the prophetess on a tripod,
where she receives the inspiration of the god. When the oracle is
pronounced, the doors all fly open, and the sound comes forth. But there
is one way in which she is wont to give her answers, against which
Helenus has already warned her present visitors. She has a habit of
jotting down her responses in verse upon the leaves of trees--each verse
apparently on a separate leaf--and then piling them one upon another in
her cave. When the doors fly open, the gust of wind whirls the leaves
here and there in all directions; and the ambiguities which are proper
to all oracles are considerably increased in the process of rearranging
the several leaves into anything like coherent order--the Sibyl herself
disdaining all further interference. So that many of her clients go away
without having received any intelligible answer at all, and from that
time forth “hate the very name of the Sibyl.” A modern writer,[32] whose
poetical taste has made him one of the most interesting critics of
Virgil, has thought that the confusion of the prophetic leaves was meant
to symbolise the idea that the will of the gods was made known to
mortals only in disjointed utterances, and under no regular law of
order. Æneas, therefore, in his appeal to the prophetess, begs her
specially to give her answer by word of mouth.

Deiphobè proceeds to the seat of augury, and goes through the terrible
struggle which, according to all legends, invariably accompanied this
form of prophecy. Even when she comes in view of the awful doors, the
influence begins:--

            “Her visage pales its hue,
      Her locks dishevelled fly,
    Her breath comes thick, her wild heart glows;
    Dilating as the madness grows,
    Her form looks larger to the eye,
    Unearthly peals her deep-toned cry,
    As breathing nearer and more near
    The God comes rushing on his seer.”

The paroxysms increase after she has entered the cave, and is in the
agonies of inspiration:--

    “The seer, impatient of control,
       Raves in the cavern vast,
     And madly struggles from her soul
       The incumbent power to cast.
     He, mighty Master, plies the more
     Her foaming mouth, all chafed and sore,
     Tames her wild heart with plastic hand,
     And makes her docile to command.”

At last all the hundred doors fly open at once, and the voice of destiny
comes forth. The wanderers shall reach Latium safely, but they shall
wish they had never reached it.

    “War, dreadful war, and Tiber flood
     I see incarnadined with blood;
     Simois and Xanthus, and the plain
     Where Greece encamped shall rise again;
     A new Achilles, goddess-born,
       The destinies provide,
     And Juno, like a rankling thorn,
       Shall never quit your side.

           *       *       *       *       *

     The old, old cause shall stir the strife--
     A stranger bed, a foreign wife.
     Yet still despond not, but proceed
     Along the path where Fate may lead.”

Æneas hears,--undismayed. He is a true hero so far, that he is always
equal to his fate. One request he makes of the Sibyl,--that he may visit
the shades below, the entrance to which is said to lie here, within the
prophetess’s domain, and there see again the face of his father.
Deiphobè consents, but not without the solemn warning, often quoted to
point a far higher moral than the heathen poet was likely to have
conceived--so often, that the Latin words themselves are probably
familiar even to those who profess but little Latin scholarship:---

            “Facilis descensus Averni;
    Noctes atque dies patet atra janua Ditis;
    Sed revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras,
    Hoc opus, hic labor est.”

Their terseness and pathos are not easy to reproduce in any other
language, but Mr Conington has done it as well, perhaps, as it could be
done:--

    “The journey down to the Abyss
       Is prosperous and light;
     The palace-gates of gloomy Dis
       Stand open day and night;
     But upward to retrace the way,
     And pass into the light of day,--
     There comes the stress of labour--this
       May task a hero’s might.”

Few are they of mortal birth who, by the special grace of the gods, have
achieved that desperate venture with success. Still, if Æneas is
determined to attempt it, she will teach him the secret of the passage.
Deep in the shades of the neighbouring forest there grows a tree which
bears a golden bough, which he must find and carry with him into the
regions of the dead; it is the gift which Proserpine, who reigns there,
claims from all who enter her court.

Accompanied by his faithful Achates, Æneas enters the woods in quest of
the golden bough. The search seems in vain, until two white doves, the
birds of his goddess-mother Venus, make their appearance, and, leading
the way by short successive flights, draw the seekers on to the wondrous
tree, on which they at last alight. The hero makes prize of the golden
branch, with which he returns to the Sibyl. Under her directions he
offers the due sacrifices to the infernal powers--four black bulls, a
barren heifer, and a black ewe-lamb--and then, still under the leading
of the prophetess, with drawn sword in his hand, he enters the mouth of
Hades.

    “Along the illimitable shade
     Darkling and lone their way they made,
     Through the vast kingdom of the dead,
     An empty void, though tenanted.
     So travellers in a forest move
     With but the uncertain moon above,
       Beneath her niggard light,
     When Jupiter has hid from view
     The heaven, and Nature’s every hue
       Is lost in blinding night.

    “At Orcus’ portals hold their lair
     Wild Sorrow and avenging Care;
     And pale Diseases cluster there,
       And pleasureless Decay,
     Foul Penury, and Fears that kill,
     And Hunger, counsellor of ill,
       A ghastly presence they:
     Suffering and Death the threshold keep,
     And with them Death’s blood-brother Sleep:
     Ill Joys with their seducing spells
       And deadly War are at the door;
     The Furies couch in iron cells,
     And Discord maddens and rebels;
       Her snake-locks hiss, her wreaths drip gore.

    “Full in the midst an aged elm
     Broods darkly o’er the shadowy realm:
     There dream-land phantoms rest the wing,
     Men say, and ’neath its foliage cling.
     And many monstrous shapes beside
     Within the infernal gates abide;
     There Centaurs, Scyllas, fish and maid,
     There Briareus’ hundred-handed shade,
       Chimæra armed with flame,
     Gorgons and Harpies make their den,
     With the foul pest of Lerna’s fen,
       And Geryon’s triple frame.”

Then they come in sight of the rivers of Hell--Acheron, Cocytus, and
Styx. The relative physical geography is somewhat confused by the poet,
but it is the Styx on which the Ferryman of the Shades, the surly
Charon,--

    “Grim, squalid, foul, with aspect dire,
     His eyeballs each a globe of fire,”--

plies his office of transporting the dead, performing the duties which
Homer assigns to Mercury. But it is not all who even in death are
allowed to pass the gloomy river. Only those who have received all due
rites of burial can claim to enter the final abode of spirits at once;
those unhappy ones who from any cause lie unburied have to wander,
moaning and shivering, on the other side, for a space of a hundred
years. So the Sibyl explains to Æneas, when he marks with surprise how
the shades all crowd eagerly to the boat-side praying for admission, and
how the grisly ferryman drives some back with his oar. It is a sad
thought to the hero; for amongst the rejected he sees some of his own
companions who had perished in the storm off the coast of Carthage.
Among them, too, he sees the figure of his late pilot Palinurus, who
tells him the story of his unhappy fate; how, after all, he was not
drowned, but, clinging to the piece of rudder which had broken away with
him, had drifted three days and nights upon the waves, and had at last
swam ashore on the fated coast of Italy. There the cruel natives had
attacked and killed him, as he struggled up the cliffs; and now his
corpse lies tossed to and fro amid the breakers in the harbour of Velia.
He prays of his leader either to sail back there and to

    “Give him a little earth for charity;”

or, by his influence with these Powers below, to get the law of
exclusion relaxed in his favour. This last request the Sibyl rebukes at
once, as utterly inorthodox and heretical; but comforts him at the same
time with the assurance that the barbarous natives shall be plagued by
heaven for their abominable deed, nor shall they find deliverance until
they solemnly propitiate his shade by the erection of a mound and the
establishment of funeral honours, and call the spot by the name of
Palinurus--which name, the Sibyl declares, shall endure there for ever.
The oracular voice in this case was not deceitful: the place, or
supposed place, is still called “Punta di Palinuro.” Virgil’s imperial
audience might know it well, for Augustus was very nearly himself
becoming a sacrifice on that very spot to the manes of the ancient
pilot, many of his ships having been cast away on that very headland.

Charon is by no means gracious to the intruders. At first he warns them
off. He has no pleasant recollections of former visitors from upper air,
who, without the proper qualification of being previously dead and duly
burnt or buried, had made their way against all rule into this abode of
shadows. Hercules had come there, and carried off their watchful
guardian Cerberus: Theseus and his friend Pirithous had even tried to do
the same by Proserpine.

    “My laws forbid me to convey
     Substantial forms of breathing clay.
     ’Twas no good hour that made me take
     Alcides o’er the nether lake,
     Nor found I more auspicious freight
     In Theseus and his daring mate;
     Yet all were Heaven’s undoubted heirs,
     And prowess more than man’s was theirs.
     That from our monarch’s footstool dragged
     The infernal watch-dog, bound and gagged;
     These strove to force from Pluto’s side
     Our mistress, his imperial bride.”

The Sibyl bids Charon have no fears of this kind now--Cerberus and
Proserpine are safe from all designs on the part of her companion. This
is Æneas of Troy, known for his “piety” as widely as for his deeds of
arms. He does but seek an interview with his sire Anchises. But, if
Charon be deaf to all such arguments,--she shows the golden bough. The
passport is irresistible. Sullenly, and without a word of reply, the
dark boatman brings his craft to shore, and bids the freight of ghosts
clear the decks and make room for his living passengers. The boat
groans, its seams open and let in the water, as the substantial flesh
and blood steps on board.[33] So, in the Iliad of Homer, the mortal
horses and earthly chariot of Diomed groan and strain under their
immortal burden, when Minerva takes her seat beside the champion.

Cerberus, in spite of Hercules, is at home again, and on the watch. His
three heads and snake-wreathed neck are lifted in fury at the sight of
strangers, and his bark rings through the shades. But the Sibyl has
brought with her a medicated cake, which she throws down to him; he
eats, and falls at once into a heavy sleep.

Then, led by the Sibyl, the Trojan chief passes through the various
regions of the world below. First they hear the cries of those infants
who but just knew life in the world above, and then were snatched away
from its enjoyment.[34] Next them come those who have been condemned to
death by an unjust judgment, and for whom Minos here sits as judge of
appeals. In the next region are those unhappy ones--

    “Who all for loathing of the day
     In madness threw their lives away:
     How gladly now in upper air
     Contempt and beggary would they bear,
       And labour’s sorest pain!
     Fate bars the way: around their keep
     The slow unlovely waters creep,
       And bind with three-fold chain.”

Suicide was no crime in the early pagan creed; but Virgil has to a
certain degree adopted the Platonic notion, that to take away one’s own
life was to desert the post of duty. It is remarkable how thoroughly he
adopts Homer’s view of the incomparable superiority of the life of the
upper world to the best possible estate in the land of shadows. We have
here again the sad lament of Achilles in the Iliad--that the life of a
slave on earth was more to be desired than the colourless existence of
the heroes in Elysium.

Passing from these outer circles, the travellers reach the “Mourning
Fields,” in which the poet places all the victims of love. If there was
any doubt as to his view of the passion--that it was a lower appetite,
excusable enough in man, but in a woman either to be reprobated or
pitied according to circumstances--it would be set at rest by the
characters of those victims with whom he peoples this unlovely region.
Grouped together with such devoted wives as Evadne, who, when her
husband fell in the Trojan war, slew herself for grief upon his funeral
pile, and Laodamia, whose only crime was that by her too urgent prayers
she won back her dead Protesilaus to her embrace for a few fleeting
moments, and died of joy in his arms,[35] we find the treacherous
Eriphyle, who, for the bribe of a golden necklace, persuaded her husband
Amphiarus to go to his predestined death in the same war, and even such
disgraces to their sex as were Phædra and Pasiphae. In these Mourning
Fields Æneas meets one whom he would, it may be conceived, have very
gladly avoided. Half veiled in mist, seen dimly like the moon through a
cloud, Dido stands before him there: and thus, for the first time, he is
made certain of her death. Æneas is ready with regrets, and even tears.

    “She on the ground averted kept
     Hard eyes that neither smiled nor wept;
     Nor bated more of her stern mood,
     Than if a monument she stood.”

At last, without a word, she turns from her false lover, and seeks in
the dim groves the society of her dead husband Sichæus.

The Sibyl leads her companion on to the Field of the Heroes. There he
sees the mighty men of old: the chiefs who fought against Thebes in the
great siege which preceded that of Troy--Tydeus, and Adrastus, and
Parthenopæus. There, too, are the shades of his own companions in arms,
who fell in defence of their city. Among these last is one who has
another tale to tell of the abominable Helen. It is Deiphobus, one of
the many sons of Priam, to whom Helen had been given after the death of
Paris. Æneas is shocked to see the unsubstantial shape of the prince
bearing the marks of barbarous mutilation; his hands lopped, his face
gashed, and his ears and nostrils cut off. (For, even in this shadowy
existence, the ghosts all bear the marks of violent death--Dido’s
self-inflicted wound being specially mentioned.) Æneas asks the history
of this terrible disfigurement, and Deiphobus tells it at some length:
how the double traitoress, who was then his wife, had led Menelaus and
his companion, the accursed Ulysses, to the chamber where he lay sunk in
sleep on the disastrous night of the city’s capture, and how they two
had thus mangled his body.

But the Sibyl warns her companion, who stands absorbed in grief at his
comrade’s fate, that the permitted hours of their visit are fast passing
away. She guides him on to where the path they are treading divides,
leading in one direction to the Elysian Fields, in the other to
Tartarus,--for the district which they have explored already is
represented as of an entirely neutral character. On the left, Æneas
sees rise before him the broad bastions of Tartarus, round which flows
the fiery stream of Phlegethon:--

    “In front a portal stands displayed,
     On adamantine columns stayed;
     Nor mortal nor immortal foe
     Those massy gates could overthrow.
     An iron tower of equal might
       In air uprises steep;
     Tisiphonè, in red robes dight,
     Sits on the threshold day and night,
       With eyes that know not sleep.
     Hark! from within there issue groans,
       The cracking of the thong,
     The clank of iron o’er the stones
       Dragged heavily along.”

Æneas asks of his companion the meaning of these fearful sounds. They
are the outcries of the wicked in torment. They may not be seen by human
eyes; but Deiphobè herself has been shown all the horrible secrets of
their prison-house by Hecate, when intrusted by that goddess with the
charge of the entrance to the Shades. She tells Æneas how Rhadamanthus
sits in judgment there, and forces the wicked to confess their deeds.
Crimes successfully concealed on earth are there made manifest; then the
culprit is handed over to the Furies for punishment. Such punishments
are various as the crimes; strange and horrible in the cases of
extraordinary offenders,--especially against the majesty of the gods. In
the lowest gulf of all,--

    “Where Tartarus, with sheer descent,
       Dips ’neath the ghost-world twice as deep
     As towers above earth’s continent
       The height of heaven’s Olympian steep,”--

lie the twin giants, sons of Aloeus, who sought to storm heaven, and
hurl Jupiter from his throne. There, too, is chained Salmoneus, who,
counterfeiting the thunder and lightning of the Olympian ruler, was
struck down by the force which he profanely imitated. Tityos, son of
Earth, who dared to offer violence to the goddess Latona, lies there
also, suffering the punishment assigned by the Greek mythologists to
Prometheus:--

    “O’er acres nine from end to end
     His vast unmeasured limbs extend;
     A vulture on his liver preys:
     The liver fails not, nor decays:
     Still o’er that flesh which breeds new pangs,
     With crooked beak the torturer hangs,
     Explores its depth with bloody fangs,
       And searches for her food;
     Still haunts the cavern of his breast,
     Nor lets the filaments have rest,
       To endless pain renewed.”

Virgil is here more literally orthodox, and less philosophical in his
creed, than his master Lucretius. For he, too, knew the story of Tityos,
but saw in it only an allegory; “every man is a Tityos,” says the elder
poet, “whose heart is torn and racked perpetually by his own evil lusts
and passions.” Other and various torments has the Sibyl seen; for the
selfish and covetous, for the adulterer, for the betrayer of trust, and
the spoiler of the orphan; the feast ever spread before the hungry eyes
and ever vanishing; the rock overhanging the head of the guilty, ever
ready to fall; the stone that has to be rolled with vast labour up the
hill, only to roll back again for ever; and, most remarkable of all
punishments, the doom of the restless adventurer Theseus for his attempt
on Proserpine--to sit for ever in perpetual inactivity. And amidst them
all rings out the warning voice of Phlegyas (condemned for having set
fire to the temple of Apollo) from his place of torment:--

    “Be warned--learn righteousness--and reverence heaven.”

Here again we have, it may be, a protest against the teaching of
Lucretius: a distinct rejection, on Virgil’s part, of the materialistic
doctrine which would deny a divine Providence and human responsibility.

The whole conception of Virgil’s hell is grand and terrific. Highly
material and sensational, it is hardly more so than mediæval divines and
artists have represented; and indeed it is more than probable that,
consciously or unconsciously, they often adopted pagan notions on the
subject. In its moral teaching, whether the poet intended his
descriptions to be taken in their literal sense or interpreted in the
way of parable, his creed has at least the essential elements of truth.

But now the visitors turn their steps towards the Elysian fields, and
after duly hanging up the golden bough at the gate for Proserpine’s
acceptance, they enter those abodes of the blest:--

    “Green spaces, folded in with trees,
     A paradise of pleasaunces;
     Around the champaign mantles bright
     The fulness of purpureal light;
     Another sun and stars they know,
     That shine like ours, but shine below.”

There are assembled the illustrious dead--warriors who have died for
their country; priests of unstained life; bards who have never perverted
their powers; all who have been benefactors of mankind,--

    “A goodly brotherhood, bedight
     With coronals of virgin white.”

Shadows as they are, all the items of their happiness are material. The
games of the palæstra, the song of the bard, the care of ghostly horses
and ghostly chariots, form the interests of this world of spirits;--the
interests of earth, without earth’s substantial realities. The poet
found his imagination fail him, as it fails us all, when he tries to
paint the details of an incorporeal existence.

Among these happy spirits the hero finds his father Anchises. He
recognises and addresses him. Anchises had expected the visit, and
receives him with such tears of joy as spirits may shed. But when Æneas
strives to embrace him, the conditions of this spiritual world forbid
it:--

    “Thrice strove the son his sire to clasp;
     Thrice the vain phantom mocked his grasp:
     No vision of the drowsy night,
     No airy current, half so light.”

The occupation of Anchises in these regions is much more philosophical
than that which is assigned to the other shades. He is contemplating the
unborn rulers of the Rome that is to be; the spirits, as yet
incorporeal, which are soon to receive a new body, and so go forth into
upper air. Deep in a forest lies the river Lethe, and a countless
multitude of forms are seen thronging its banks, to drink of the water
of forgetfulness. Oblivious of all their past lives, they will thus take
their place once more, in changed bodies, among the inhabitants of
earth. The poet’s adaptation of the Pythagorean doctrine of
transmigration is none of the clearest; but he signifies that, after the
lapse of a thousand years in a kind of Purgatory below, these spirits
are again summoned to play their part, in new bodies, upon earth.
Anchises can read their destinies; and he points out to his son the
shadowy forms, like the kings in ‘Macbeth,’ that are to be the kings and
consuls of the great Roman, nation. First, those who shall reign in
Alba--Silvius, that shall be born to Æneas in his new home, Capys, and
Numitor; young Romulus, son of the war-god (he wears already the
two-crested helmet in right of his birth), who shall transplant the
sceptre to the seven-hilled city, and the kings that shall succeed him
there. He shows him, too, those who shall make the future great names of
the Republic--Brutus, the Decii, Camillus, Fabius, and the Scipios. But
the centre of the picture is reserved for one great house:--

    “Turn hither now your ranging eye:
     Behold a glorious family,
       Your sons and sons of Rome:
     Lo! Cæsar there and all his seed,
     lulus’ progeny, decreed
       To pass ’neath heaven’s high dome.
     This, this is he, so oft the theme
     Of your prophetic fancy’s dream,
       Augustus Cæsar, god by birth;
     Restorer of the age of gold
     In lands where Saturn ruled of old:
     O’er Ind and Garamant extreme
       Shall stretch his reign, that spans the earth.
     Look to that land which lies afar
     Beyond the path of sun or star,
     Where Atlas on his shoulder rears
     The burden of the incumbent spheres.
     Egypt e’en now and Caspia hear
     The muttered voice of many a seer,
     And Nile’s seven mouths, disturbed with fear,
       Their coming conqueror know.”

The future glories of Rome are described in a grand and well-known
passage, to the majestic rhythm of which no English translator seems
able to do full justice. The poet contrasts the warlike genius of his
countrymen with the softer accomplishments of their rivals:--

    “Others with softer hand may mould the brass,
     Or wake to warmer life the marble mass;
     Plead at the bar with more prevailing force,
     Or trace more justly heaven’s revolving course:
     Roman! be thine the sovereign arts of sway,
     To ride, and make the subject world obey;
     Give peace its laws; respect the prostrate foe;
     Abase the lofty, and exalt the low.”
            --SYMMONS.[36]

One personal sketch the poet’s art had reserved to the last. Anchises
points out to his visitor the shade that is to be the great Marcus
Marcellus, five times consul--the “Sword of Rome,” as Fabius was said to
be its Shield, in the long wars with Carthage, and the conqueror of
Syracuse. By his side moves the figure of an armed youth, tall and
beautiful, but whose face is sad, and his eyes fixed on the ground. The
company of shadows crowd round him, murmuring their admiration. Who is
it? Æneas asks. It is the young Marcellus of the Empire, the hope and
promise of Rome--the son of Octavia, sister of Augustus, and destined,
as many thought, to be his successor. Unwillingly Anchises replies to
his son’s question:--

    “Ah son! compel me not to speak
       The sorrows of our race!
     That youth the Fates but just display
     To earth, nor let him longer stay:
     With gifts like these for aye to hold,
     Rome’s heart had e’en been overbold.
     Ah! what a groan from Mars’s plain
       Shall o’er the city sound!
     How wilt thou gaze on that long train,
     Old Tiber, rolling to the main
       Beside his new-raised mound!
     No youth of Ilium’s seed inspires
     With hope as fair his Latian sires:
     Nor Rome shall dandle on her knee
     A nursling so adored as he.
     O piety! O ancient faith!
     O hand untamed in battle scathe!
     No foe had lived before his sword,
       Stemmed he on foot the war’s red tide
     Or with relentless rowel gored
       His foaming charger’s side.
     Dear child of pity! shouldst thou burst
     The dungeon-bars of Fate accurst,
       Our own Marcellus thou!
     Bring lilies here, in handfuls bring:
     Their lustrous blooms I fain would fling:
     Such honour to a grandson’s shade
     By grandsire hands may well be paid:
       Yet O! it ’vails not now!”

He had died not long before, in his twentieth year, intensely lamented
both by his family and the people.

The recital of the passage by the poet before his imperial audience had
a more striking effect than even he himself could have expected. Octavia
swooned away, and had to be removed by her attendants,--sending,
however, magnificent presents afterwards to the poet for his eulogy on
her dead son.[37]

The biographers add, that Augustus commanded Virgil to read no further
on that day, and that the poet replied he had already ended the subject.
He has not much more to say in this Sixth Book. Anchises gives his son
some prophetic intimations as to his future fortunes in Italy, and then
escorts his visitors to the gates of Sleep.

    “Sleep gives his name to portals twain:
       One all of horn, they say,
     Through which authentic spectres gain
       Quick exit into day,
     And one which bright with ivory gleams,
     Whence Pluto sends delusive dreams.
     Conversing still, the sire attends
       The travellers on their road,
     And through the ivory portal sends
       From forth the unseen abode.”

The lines have been taken to mean that this visit to the shades was,
after all, but a dream.



CHAPTER VII.

THE TROJANS LAND IN LATIUM.


It has been said that this poem combines in some degree the characters
both of the Iliad and of the Odyssey. Up to this point we have had the
wanderings and adventures of the Trojan hero: he has been the Ulysses of
his own tale. Henceforth we have a tale of the camp and the
battle-field, of siege and defence, and personal combat; and we are
reminded, in almost every passage, of the stirring scenes of the Iliad.

Æneas, on his ascent into upper air, rejoins his crew, and the fleet,
setting sail from Cumæ, enters the noble harbour of Caieta. Not that the
place had any such name as yet; but there the hero buries his old nurse,
and gives her name to the spot. Once more embarking, they pass the
promontory of Circe, and hear, as they sail by, the roars and yells of
the unhappy prisoners, changed by the spells of the sorceress into the
shape of brutes, whom she holds in bondage there. They listen and
shudder, and bless the favouring gale which bears them away from such
perilous neighbourhood. Then, with the morrow’s dawn, the fleet enters
the mouth of the Tiber. The picture of the galleys going up the stream
is very beautiful:--

    “The sea was reddening with the dawn:
       The queen of morn on high
     Was seen in rosy chariot drawn
       Against a saffron sky,
     When on the bosom of the deep
     The Zephyrs dropped at once to sleep,
     And, struck with calm, the tired oars strain
     Against the smooth unmoving main.
     Now from the deep Æneas sees
     A mighty grove of glancing trees.
     Embowered amid the silvan scene
     Old Tiber winds his banks between,
     And in the lap of ocean pours
     His gulfy stream, his sandy stores.
     Around, gay birds of diverse wing,
     Accustomed there to fly or sing,
     Were fluttering on from spray to spray
     And soothing ether with their lay.
     He bids his comrades turn aside
       And landward set each vessel’s head,
     And enters in triumphant pride
       The river’s shadowy bed.”

War is now the subject, and Homer is the model. Yet the Roman poet never
shows his individual genius more strongly than in his treatment of the
external scenery amidst which his action lies. He is still the
worshipper of Nature, even while he sets himself to sing of battles, as
he was in his Pastorals and Georgics. Homer tells us of the rivers of
the Troad, Simois and Scamander--but it is only as they affect Hector or
Achilles; his heart is all the while with the combatants, not with the
flowing river. Not so Virgil: with him we feel the cool breeze, we see
the glancing shadow of the trees upon the river, we hear the flutter of
the startled birds, and the long plash of the oars in the water: we sail
with Æneas on a party of pleasure, rather than a voyage of conquest.

Latium is reached at last. They moor their galleys under the trees which
fringe the river-banks, and land to make their morning meal. It is but a
scant one. Such wild fruits as they can collect are laid upon the
wheaten cakes which they have brought with them, and when the fruit is
finished they attack the cakes themselves. “Lo!” exclaims Iulus--“we are
eating our tables!” Joyfully Æneas recognises, in the boy’s involuntary
interpretation, the fulfilment of the curse of the Harpies,[38] and of
certain strange words of his father Anchises, that when they were
reduced to “eat their tables,” then they had found their destined home,
and might begin to build their city. This, then, is their promised rest.
He pours libations and offers prayers to the gods of the land, and peals
of thunder from a cloudless sky seem to announce that the invocation is
accepted.

As soon as the moon rises, scouts are sent out to explore the country.
The king of the land is old Latinus, whose palace is near at hand. He
has one only daughter, Lavinia, for whose hand all the neighbouring
princes have long been suitors. Turnus of Ardea, the gallant chief of
the Rutuli, tallest and handsomest of all the rivals, has the goodwill
of the queen-mother; the maiden’s own choice in such a matter being the
last consideration which would enter into the thought of a Roman poet.
When the Trojan chief has thus informed himself in some measure as to
the localities, he sends a formal embassy to King Latinus’s court,
carrying presents in token of goodwill. Meanwhile he busies himself in
hurriedly marking out the boundaries of his new town, and fencing it
round with an earthen rampart and a palisade.

The strangers are ushered into the presence of Latinus, where he sits in
his ancestral palace, surrounded by the cedar statues of the demi-gods
and heroes of his line.

    “There too were spoils of bygone wars
     Hung on the portals,--captive cars,
     Strong city-gates with massive bars,
         And battle-axes keen,
     And plumy cones from helmets shorn,
     And beaks from vanquished vessels torn,
         And darts, and bucklers sheen.”

He knows at once who his visitors are. Strange portents had long
disturbed his court, and had warned him that his daughter must wed with
no prince of Latian race: that a foreign host and a stranger bridegroom
will come to claim her, and that the kings who shall spring from this
union will spread the Latian name from sea to sea. He inquires the
strangers’ errand courteously, and the Trojan Ilioneus, as spokesman of
the embassy, thus makes reply:--

    “We come not to your friendly coast
     By random gale o’er ocean tost,
     Nor land nor star has made us stray
     From our determined line of way:
     Of steady purpose one and all
     We flock beneath your city wall,
     Driven from an empire, greater none
     Within the circuit of the sun.
     Jove is our sire: to Jove’s high race
     We, Dardans born, our lineage trace:
     Jove’s seed, the monarch we obey,
     Æneas, sends us here to-day.
     How fierce a storm from Argos sent
     On Ida’s plains its fury spent,
     How Fate in dire collision hurled
     The eastern and the western world,
     E’en he has heard, whom earth’s last verge
     Just separates from the circling surge,
     And he who, to his kind unknown,
     Dwells midmost ’neath the torrid zone.
     Swept by that deluge o’er the foam
     For our lorn gods we ask a home:
     A belt of sand is all we crave,
     And man’s free birthright, air and wave.
     We shall not shame your Latin crown,
     Nor light shall be your own renown,
     Nor time obliterate the debt,
     Nor Italy the hour regret
     When Troy with outstretched arms she met.
     I swear it by Æneas’ fate,
     By that right hand which makes him great,
     In peace and war approved alike
     A friend to aid, a foe to strike,
     Full oft have mighty nations--nay,
     Disdain not that unsought we pray,
     Nor deem that wreaths and lowly speech
     The grandeur of our name impeach--
     Full oft with zeal and earnest prayers
     Have nations wooed us to be theirs;
     But Heaven’s high fate, with stern command,
     Impelled us still to this your land.
     Here Dardanus was born, and here
       Apollo bids our race return:
     To Tyrrhene Tiber points the seer
       And pure Numicius’ hallowed urn.
     These presents too our hands convey,
     Scant relics of a happier day,
     From burning Ilium snatched away.
     From this bright gold before the shrine
     His sire Anchises poured the wine:
     With these adornments Priam sate
     ’Mid gathering crowds in kingly state,
     The sceptre and the diadem:
     Troy’s women wrought the vesture’s hem.”

The king muses thoughtfully for a while: but he recognises the
fulfilment of the auguries. Let Æneas come--he is welcome. If this be
the bridegroom sent by heaven, he shall be more welcome still. He sends
back the ambassadors in right royal fashion, all mounted on choice
horses from his own stud, and with a chariot of honour to convey their
chief to an interview.

Juno’s relentless hatred is stirred once more. Will neither fire nor
sword kill, nor water drown, these accursed Trojans? Shall she, the
Queen of Heaven, be baffled by a mortal like Æneas? If it be written in
the fates that he is to wed Lavinia, her marriage-dower shall be paid in
Trojan and Latian blood. Venus shall find that she, like Hecuba, has
borne a firebrand--that Æneas, like Paris, shall light a flame that
shall consume his nation. If the powers of heaven will not take her
part, she will seek aid from hell. She summons the Fury Alecto from the
shades below, and bids her sow strife between the people of Latinus and
their foreign visitors.

The Fury, rejoicing in her errand, seeks the chamber of Latinus’s queen,
and darts into her breast one of the living serpents that serve her for
coils of hair. Straightway the queen is seized with madness, and, after
vainly trying to rouse her husband to oppose this foreign marriage, she
rushes like a Bacchanal through the neighbouring villages, and calls
upon the mothers of Latium to avenge her wrongs and rescue her daughter.

Next the Fury instils the same venom into the heart of Turnus, where he
lies in his town of Ardea. He has been the champion of Latium against
their enemies the Tuscans, and this is their gratitude--to give his
promised bride to another! The young chief leaps from his couch, calls
madly for his arms, and orders an instant march upon Latinus’s capital.
He will expel these intruders at once, and demand the princess from her
father by force of arms.

Meanwhile--still at the instigation of Alecto--the seeds of quarrel have
been sown between the men of Latium and their Trojan guests. There is a
tame deer which has been nursed in the house of Tyrrheus, the ranger of
the royal forest,--a pet and favourite with all the country-folk.

    “Fair Sylvia, daughter of the race,
     Its horns with leaves would interlace,
     Comb smooth its shaggy coat, and lave
     Its body in the crystal wave.
     Tame and obedient, it would stray
     Free through the woods a summer’s day,
     And home again at night repair,
     E’en of itself, how late soe’er.”

In evil hour Ascanius, riding out with a hunting-party, gets his hounds
upon the scent, and shoots the poor animal as it floats quietly down the
river in the noon-day heat. It has just strength to carry the Trojan
arrow in its body to its mistress’s door, and die moaning at her
feet.[39] Tyrrheus and his household are mad with rage, and rouse the
whole country-side against this wanton outrage, as they hold it, on the
part of the strangers. The shepherd’s horn sounds out its summons to the
whole neighbourhood; and the angry rustics, when they hear the story,
seize axes, staves, and such rude weapons as come first to hand, and
attack the young prince and his hunting-party. The Trojans come out from
their intrenchment to rescue their friends, and the fray now becomes a
regular battle, no longer fought with stakes and hunting implements, but
with sword and spear. Blood is soon shed; the rustic weapons are no
match for the Trojan steel; and young Almo, the ranger’s son, is carried
home dead, amongst others. Almost a sadder loss is that of the good old
yeoman Galæsus, who yokes a hundred ploughs, and whose character gives
him even more influence than his wealth. He is slain as he stands
between the combatants, vainly pleading for peace.

The bodies are carried through the city streets, as in a modern
revolution, by way of demonstration. There they make their dumb appeal
to the passions of the people--

    “Young Almo in his comely grace,
     And old Galæsus’ mangled face”--

and the appeal is answered by a universal cry for “War!”



CHAPTER VIII.

THE MUSTER OF THE LATIN TRIBES.


Turnus arrives amongst them from Ardea at this critical moment, and
shouts fiercely for instant battle. In vain does King Latinus quote the
oracle, and refuse to fight against the destinies. He will be no party
to a bloody and useless war. But the impetuosity of an angry populace is
too strong for him. Powerless to stem the popular current, he
nevertheless delivers his own soul, and abdicates his sovereignty. The
guilt of the blood that shall be shed must rest on those who stir the
war. He warns Turnus that he may yet live to rue the part he has taken,
when too late: for himself, death will soon put an end to all troubles.

By an old tradition,--handed on, as the poet will have it, from these
old days of Latium to the Rome of Augustus,--the powers of War were held
to be confined within the gates of Janus, the porter of the Immortals,
only to be let loose by solemn act of state authority.

    “Two gates there stand of War--’twas so
     Our fathers named them long ago--
     The war-god’s terrors round them spread
     An atmosphere of sacred dread.
     A hundred bolts the entrance guard,
     And Janus there keeps watch and ward.
     These, when his peers on war decide,
     The consul, all in antique pride
     Of Gabine cincture deftly tied
       And purple-striped attire,
     With grating noise himself unbars,
     And calls aloud on Father Mars:
     The warrior train takes up the cry,
     And horns with brazen symphony
       Their hoarse assent conspire.”

Since Latinus will not do his office, Juno in person--so the poet has
it--descends from heaven, smites upon the barred portals, and “lets slip
the dogs of war.”

    “Ausonia, all inert before,
     Takes fire and blazes to the core:
     And some on foot their march essay,
     Some, mounted, storm along the way;
       To arms! cry one and all:
     With unctuous lard their shields they clean,
     And make their javelins bright and sheen,
     Their axes on the whetstone grind;
     Look how that banner takes the wind!
       Hark to yon trumpet’s call!
     Five mighty towns, with anvils set,
     In emulous haste their weapons whet:
     Crustumium, Tibur the renowned,
     And strong Atina there are found,
     And Ardea, and Antemnæ crowned
       With turrets round her wall.
     Steel caps they frame their brows to fit,
     And osier twigs for bucklers knit:
     Or twist the hauberk’s brazen mail
     And mould them greaves of silver pale:
     To these has passed the homage paid
     Erewhile to ploughshare, scythe, and spade:
     Each brings his father’s battered blade,
       And smelts in fire anew:
     And now the clarions pierce the skies:
     From rank to rank the watchword flies;
     This tears his helmet from the wall,
     That drags his war-horse from the stall,
     Dons three-piled mail and ample shield,
     And girds him for the embattled field
       With falchion tried and true.”

The whole remaining portion of this seventh book is in Virgil’s most
spirited style. And it is here that the harp of our northern minstrel
answers best to Mr Conington’s touch. The gathering of the clans--for it
is nothing else--the rapid sketches of the chiefs as they pass in
succession with their array of followers--the details of costume--the
legendary tale which the poet has to tell of more than one of them as he
passes them in review--even the devices borne on the shields,--are all
features in which Scott delighted as thoroughly as Virgil, and which his
well-known rhythm suits better than any other which a translator could
choose. Some few portions of this stirring warlike diorama must content
the readers of these pages. The first who passes is the terrible chief
of Agylla, who fears neither god nor man, and whose notorious cruelties
have so exasperated his own people against him that he is now a refugee
in the court of Turnus:--

    “Mezentius first from Tyrrhene coast,
     Who mocks at heaven, arrays his host,
       And braves the battle’s storm;
     His son, young Lausus, at his side,
     Excelled by none in beauty’s pride,
       Save Turnus’ comely form:
     Lausus, the tamer of the steed,
     The conqueror of the silvan breed,
     Leads from Agylla’s towers in vain
     A thousand youths, a valiant train:
     Ah happy, had the son been blest
     In hearkening to his sire’s behest,
     Or had the sire from whom he came
     Had other nature, other name!”

In the description of the next leader we have some notice of early
heraldry:--

    “Next drives along the grassy meads
     His palm-crowned car and conquering steeds
     Fair Aventinus, princely heir
     Of Hercules the brave and fair,
     And for his proud escutcheon takes
     His father’s Hydra and her snakes.
     ’Twas he that priestess Rhea bare,
     A stealthy birth, to upper air,
     ’Mid shades of woody Aventine
       Mingling her own with heavenly blood,
     When triumph-flushed from Geryon slain
     Alcides touched the Latian plain,
     And bathed Iberia’s distant kine
       In Tuscan Tiber’s flood.
     Long pikes and poles his bands uprear,
     The shapely blade, the Sabine spear.
     Himself on foot, with lion’s skin,
     Whose long white teeth with ghastly grin
     Clasp like a helmet brow and chin,
     Joins the proud chiefs in rude attire,
     And flaunts the emblem of his sire.”

Coras and Catillus, twin-brothers from the old town of Tibur; Cæculus,
from the neighbouring Præneste--reputed son of Vulcan, because said to
have been found as an infant lying amidst the forge embers--whose
following take the field with slings and javelins, each man with his
left foot bare to give him firmer stepping-hold; Clausus the Sabine,
from whom sprang the great house of the Claudii--some of whom assuredly
were listening to the poet’s recitation; Halæsus, of the seed of
Agamemnon, sworn foe to all who bear the hated name of Trojan; and a
host of chiefs of lesser name and inferior powers, join the march.
Messapus, the “horse-tamer,” brings with him a powerful band of
retainers from many a city, who chant the deeds of their leaders as they
go--

    “Like snow-white swans in liquid air,
     When homeward from their food they fare,
     And far and wide melodious notes
     Come rippling from their slender throats,
     While the broad stream and Asia’s fen
     Reverberate to the sound again.
     Sure none had thought that countless crowd
       A mail-clad company;
     It rather seemed a dusky cloud
     Of migrant fowl, that, hoarse and loud,
       Press landward from the sea.

           *       *       *       *       *

    “Came too from old Marruvia’s realm,
     An olive-garland round his helm,
     Bold Umbro, priest at once and knight,
     By king Archippus sent to fight:
     Who baleful serpents knew to steep
     By hand and voice in charmèd sleep,
     Soothed their fierce wrath with subtlest skill,
     And from their bite drew oft the ill.
     But ah! his medicines could not heal
     The death-wound dealt by Dardan steel;
     His slumberous charms availed him nought,
     Nor herbs on Marsian mountains sought,
       And cropped with magic shears:
     For thee Anguitia’s woody cave,
     For thee the glassy Fucine wave,
       For thee the lake shed tears.”

Nearly last of the warlike array, who all acknowledge him as their
leader, comes the prince of the Rutuli, Æneas’s rival and enemy:--

    “In foremost rank see Turnus move,
     His comely head the rest above:
     On his tall helm with triple cone
     Chimæra in relief is shown;
     The monster’s gaping jaws expire
     Hot volumes of Ætnean fire:
     And still she flames and raves the more
     The deeper floats the field with gore.
     With bristling hide and lifted horns,
     Io, all gold, his shield adorns,
       E’en as in life she stood;
     There too is Argus, warder stern,
     And Inachus from graven urn,
       Her father, pours his flood.”

He brings with him the largest host of all--a cloud of well-armed
footmen of various tribes, whose shields seem to cover the plain.

This pretty picture of Camilla, the Volscian huntress (whom Dryden very
ungallantly terms a “virago”), vowed from her childhood to Diana--the
prototype of Tasso’s Clorinda, but far more attractive--closes at once
the warlike pageant and the book:--

    “Last marches forth for Latium’s sake
       Camilla fair, the Volscian maid,
     A troop of horsemen in her wake
       In pomp of gleaming steel arrayed;
     Stern warrior-queen! those tender hands
       Ne’er plied Minerva’s ministries:
     A virgin in the fight she stands,
       Or wingèd winds in speed outvies;
     Nay, she could fly o’er fields of grain
       Nor crush in flight the tapering wheat,
     Or skim the surface of the main
       Nor let the billows touch her feet.
     Where’er she moves, from house and land
       The youths and ancient matrons throng,
     And fixed in greedy wonder stand,
       Beholding as she speeds along:
     In kingly dye that scarf was dipped:
       ’Tis gold confines those tresses’ flow:
     Her pastoral wand with steel is tipped,
       And Lycian are her shafts and bow.”[40]

The story of Camilla’s infancy, which is given us subsequently, is quite
in accordance with this description. Her father, driven from his
territory, like Mezentius, by an angry people, had carried his infant
daughter with him in his flight. Hard pressed by his pursuers, he came
to the banks of a river. To swim across the stream, though swollen by
winter torrents, were easy for himself: but how to carry his child?
“With brief prayer and vow to the huntress Diana, he tied her to a
spear, and threw her across. The child alighted safely on the other
side, and the father followed. Fed on mares’ milk, and exercised from
infancy in the use of the bow, Camilla had grown up in the forest, vowed
to maidenhood and to Diana.



CHAPTER IX.

ÆNEAS MAKES ALLIANCE WITH EVANDER.


The turn of events gives the Trojan chief much natural disquiet. All
Latium is in arms against his little force of adventurers. He lies down
within his lines to a disturbed and anxious rest, where he has a
remarkable vision. A figure rises, wrapped in a grey mantle, with his
brows crowned with reed. It is “Father Tiber,” the tutelary genius of
the Rome that shall be. He bids his visitor be of good cheer: his coming
has been long looked for. He renews, for his encouragement, the old
oracle of Anchises:--

    “On woody banks before your eye
     A thirty-farrowed sow shall lie,
     Her whole white length on earth stretched out,
     Her young, as white, her teats about,
     Sign that when thirty years come round
     ‘White Alba’ shall Ascanius found.”

He will find allies, too, within reach. A colony from Arcadia have
migrated to Italy under their king Evander, and have founded in the
neighbouring mountains a city called Pallanteum. He will reach the
place by sailing up the stream, and from them, ever at feud with their
Latian neighbours, he will get the aid he requires.

Æneas wakes from sleep, arms the crews of two of his galleys, and begins
his voyage up the course of the friendly Tiber, who purposely calms his
waves and moderates his current. The sow with her thirty young is soon
found, and duly sacrificed, as the river-genius has warned him, to
propitiate the wrath of Juno. Evander, with his son Pallas and all his
people, is keeping high festival to Hercules, when the masts of the
Trojan galleys are suddenly seen among the trees as they turn a bend of
the river. The strangers are hailed by Pallas; and Æneas, bearing in his
hand the olive-bough of a suppliant, is led by the young chief before
his father. In a well-studied speech he claims kindred with the Arcadian
hero, albeit a Trojan and Greek might at first sight seem natural
enemies. Dardanus of Troy traced his descent from Atlas--Evander’s
genealogy goes back to the same great ancestor. Their mutual enmity with
the Latians should be also a bond of union: and lo! Æneas has shown his
goodwill and confidence in thus placing himself fearlessly in Evander’s
power. Evander is the Nestor of the Æneid;--somewhat given to long
stories and reminiscences of his own youth. He had known his present
visitor’s father well, in the years gone by, when the Trojan court had
visited the country of Priam’s sister Hesionè.

    “A boy was I, a stripling lad,
     My cheek with youth’s first blossom clad;
     I gazed at Priam and his train
     Of Trojan lords, and gazed again:
     But great Anchises, princely tall,
     Was more than Priam, more than all.
     With boyish zeal I schemed and planned
     To greet the chief, and grasp his hand.
     I ventured, and with eager zest
     To Pheneus brought my honoured guest.
     A Lycian quiver he bestowed
     At parting, with its arrowy load,
     A gold-wrought scarf, and bridle-reins
     Of gold, which Pallas still retains.”

He tells his visitor also, at very considerable length, the story of
Hercules slaying the monster Cacus, son of Vulcan, half man and half
beast, whose breath was as flames of fire, and whose diet was human
flesh--the prototype of the giants of later fiction. He points out also
to his guest the local features of the country--for they are standing on
the site which is to be Rome, and Pallanteum is to become the Palatine
mount of future history. Whatever of mythical legend the poet mixed up
in his topography, he knew the interest with which his patrician
audience--for antiquarianism was almost as fashionable in the court of
the Cæsars as it is now--would listen while, by the mouth of Evander, he
dwelt on the old historic localities of the imperial city: the Carmental
gate, named after the nymph who was Evander’s mother; the grove where
Romulus in after-days made his first “Asylum” for the motley band whom
he gathered round him; the Tarpeian rock; the hill on which was to
stand the Capitol; the Janiculum, with its Saturnian walls, the key of
Rome’s defences. “Now”--says the poet, speaking in his own person of the
glories of the great city in his own day,--

    “Now all is golden--then ’twas all
     O’ergrown with trees and brushwood tall.
     E’en their rude hinds the spot revered:

           *       *       *       *       *

     Here in this grove, these wooded steeps,
     Some god unknown his mansion keeps;
       Arcadia’s children deem
     Their eyes have looked on Jove’s own form,
     When oft he summons cloud and storm,
       And seen his ægis gleam.”

A league is made between the Trojans and their new friends. King Evander
confesses that his own power is small, but Æneas has arrived at a
fortunate conjuncture. The Etruscans of Agylla, who have just expelled
their tyrant Mezentius for his cruelties, have determined to pursue him
to the death. But they have been warned by their soothsayer to choose a
foreign leader; and here they are at the gates of Pallanteum, come to
beseech Evander to head their expedition. He is himself too old--his son
Pallas too inexperienced; he at once presents to them Æneas as a
heaven-sent leader. The omens are all favourable, and both troops and
commander are well pleased. Æneas selects the best of his crew, whom
Evander furnishes with war-horses; the rest he sends back in the galleys
to bear the tidings of his own movements to his son Iulus, and to
charge him and the Trojans to keep close within their rampart, in case
of attack during his absence. Taking command of his Etruscan allies, and
followed by four hundred Arcadian horse under the young Pallas, whom his
father gladly sends, as the youths of noble houses were sent in the days
of knighthood, to learn the art of war under so great a captain, Æneas
sets out on his march for Turnus’s capital. The old king does not part
from his son without sad misgivings; he has trusted Æneas with more than
his life.

Venus has not been neglectful of her son. She has persuaded Vulcan to
forge for him weapons and armour of such sort as only the immortal smith
can make. The fire-god can never resist her blandishments; and he goes
down to the forge where the Cyclops are ever at work, in the caverns
beneath the Lipari Islands, off the coast of Sicily. There is much
business in hand there already. Some of the one-eyed workmen are forging
bolts for Jupiter, composed of four elements,--

    “Three rays they took of forky hail,
       Of watery cloud three rays,
     Three of the wingèd southern gale,
       Three of the ruddy blaze.”[41]

Some are finishing a war-chariot for Mars; others are shaping an ægis
for Minerva--a shield of dragon’s scales and rings of gold. But their
master bids them put all these tasks aside; War, and Wisdom, and even
Government itself, must be content to come to a standstill, until the
behests of Beauty have been obeyed.

The idea of the Shield of Æneas, which Venus comes and lays before him
while he sleeps, is of course borrowed directly from Homer’s Shield of
Achilles. But the working out of it is quite original. Vulcan’s subject,
in this case, is not, as in the Shield of the Iliad, an epitome of human
life, but a prophetic history of Rome. The whole passage in which it is
elaborately described is of remarkable beauty even to our modern taste,
and upon a Roman’s ear and imagination must have had a wonderful effect.
The story is told in eight (or perhaps nine) compartments, filled with
the leading events in the great city’s existence. The two first contain
the birth of Romulus, and the union of the Romans with the Sabines,
which began with the seizure of the Sabine women:--

    “There too the mother-wolf he made
     In Mars’s cave supinely laid:
     Around her udders undismayed
       The gamesome infants hung,
     While she, her loose neck backward thrown,
     Caressed them fondly, one by one,
       And shaped them with her tongue.
     Hard by, the towers of Rome he drew
     And Sabine maids in public view
       Snatched ’mid the Circus games:
     So ’twixt the fierce Romulean brood
     And Tatius with his Cures rude
       A sudden war upflames.
     And now the kings, their conflict o’er,
     Stand up in arms Jove’s shrine before,
     From goblets pour the sacred wine,
     And make their peace o’er bleeding swine.”

The doom of Mettius the Alban, and the keeping of the Tiber bridge by
Horatius against Lars Porsena, occupy the two next compartments. Next
comes the defence of the Capitol against the Gauls by Manlius:--

    “A silver goose in gilded walls
     With flapping wings announced the Gauls;
     And through the wood the invaders crept,
     And climbed the height while others slept.
     Golden their hair on head and chin:
     Gold collars deck their milk-white skin:
       Short cloaks with colours checked
     Shine on their backs: two spears each wields
     Of Alpine make: and oblong shields
       Their brawny limbs protect.”

In the succeeding compartments are wrought the procession of the Salii
with the sacred shields, and the regions of the world below, where
Catiline lies in torment, while Cato has his portion with the just. And
within the whole, round the _umbo_ or boss of the shield, there runs a
sea of molten gold in which sport silver dolphins, framing the centre
design--the glories of Augustus:--

    “There in the midmost meet the sight
     The embattled fleets, the Actian fight:
     Leucate flames with warlike show,
     And golden-red the billows glow.
     Here Cæsar, leading from their home
     The fathers, people, gods of Rome,
       Stands on the lofty stern:
     The constellation of his sire
     Beams o’er his head, and tongues of fire
       About his temples burn,
     With favouring Gods and winds to speed
       Agrippa forms his line:
     The golden beaks, war’s proudest meed,
       High on his forehead shine.
     There, with barbaric troops increased,
     Antonius, from the vanquished East,
       And distant Red-sea side,
     To battle drags the Bactrian bands
     And Egypt; and behind him stands
       (Foul shame!) the Egyptian bride.”

There the gods of Rome--conspicuous amongst whom is the archer Apollo,
the tutelary deity of the house of Cæsar--put to flight the dog-headed
Anubis, and the other monstrous gods of Egypt. There, too, is blazoned
the “triple triumph” of Augustus, graced by a long procession of
captives of all tribes, from Scythia to the Euphrates.

    “Such legends traced on Vulcan’s shield
       The wondering chief surveys:
     On truth in symbol half revealed
       He feeds his hungry gaze,
     And high upon his shoulders rears
     The fame and fates of unborn years.”



CHAPTER X.

TURNUS ATTACKS THE TROJAN ENCAMPMENT.


Æneas had been right in his forebodings of danger. Turnus has heard of
the chief’s absence, and takes advantage of it to lead his force at once
against the new-built fortification in which the rest of the Trojans
lie. His first attempt is to burn their galleys, where they lie drawn
ashore on the river-bank, close to their lines. But the ships are built
of the sacred pines of Ida, the special favourites of the great goddess
Cybele; and she has endued them, by favour of Jupiter, with the power of
transformation into sea-nymphs when their work is done. No sooner do the
torches of the enemy touch them than they slide off into the water, and
in their new shape float out to sea. Even this portent does not scare
the leader of the Rutuli. “Lo!” he cries--“Heaven takes from our enemies
even their hopes of flight!” He does but draw his leaguer all the closer
round the Trojan lines. Throughout the night the watch-fires blaze at
close intervals, and captains of the guard, each with a hundred men, are
set at their several posts to prevent the escape of the prey before the
general attack which is ordered for the morning.

But the Rutulian chieftains grow weary of a monotonous duty. They have
store of wine in their camp, and they bring it out to cheer their
night-watch. The sounds of noisy revelry soon rise from every station,
until, as the revellers are gradually overpowered by sleep, all is
lulled into unusual silence.

Two Trojan sentinels have watched anxiously every sound and movement in
the enemy’s lines. They are Nisus and his young friend Euryalus,--late
among the competitors in the foot-race--inseparable in peace or war.
Nisus sees, as he thinks, an opportunity for stealing through the
Rutulian guards, and bearing news to Æneas at Pallanteum of the peril in
which his son and his companions lie. He is a keen sportsman, and knows
the forest by-paths well. He confides his design to Euryalus, but has no
notion of taking the youth with him to share the danger. He, on the
other hand, insists upon accompanying his friend. The consent of Iulus
and his elder counsellors is readily obtained. Let them but bring back
Æneas to the rescue, and no rewards and honours shall be too great for
the pair. Turnus’s horse and armour, Latinus’s royal demesne, captives
of price, shall be the guerdon of Nisus: for Euryalus,--the prince will
adopt him henceforth as his personal esquire and companion in arms. One
only request the youth has to make. He has an aged mother in the
camp--the only one of the elder matrons who refused to be left in safety
with Acestes in Sicily, and whom no dangers could separate from her
son. Will the prince promise her solace and protection, should harm
befall Euryalus on the way? The answer of Iulus is given in tears; he
has no mother left, and the mother of Euryalus shall be to him as his
own. He girds the youth with the sword from his own side, and the
friends set out upon their perilous errand, escorted to the gates by the
Trojan captains with prayers and blessings.

The enterprise might have succeeded, had not the two friends been
tempted, by the helpless state in which they found the Rutulian camp, to
slaughter their sleeping enemies as they passed. Rhamnes and
Remus--names to be borne hereafter by more historic actors in the
history of Rome--with a crowd of victims of lesser note, fall by the
swords of Nisus and his companion. Euryalus even stops, with a young
man’s vanity, to put on the glittering belt which he has stripped from
one of his victims, and the helmet of the sleeping Messapus. Thus
precious time is lost, and the moonlight streams upon them as they clear
the Rutulian lines, and take the path, which Nisus knows, for
Pallanteum.

A detachment of the enemy’s cavalry is on the march to join Turnus. The
glimmer of the moonlight on Euryalus’s helmet--his new prize--betrays
the friends as they try to steal by, and they are challenged at once by
Volscens, the commander. They fly to the neighbouring wood; but the
horsemen surround it, and though Nisus escapes them, it is only to find
that his friend has fallen into their hands. He rushes back, and in the
wild hope of effecting a rescue, hides himself in the thicket, whence
he launches two spears with fatal effect upon the party who are dragging
along their prisoner. Enraged at the sudden attack, and seeing no enemy
in the darkness, Volscens lays hold upon Euryalus, and vows revenge.
Nisus rushes from his cover, and implores them to turn their swords on
him, and to spare a youth whose only crime has been his friendship.

    “In vain he spoke: the sword, fierce driven,
     That alabaster breast had riven.
     Down falls Euryalus, and lies
     In death’s enthralling agonies:
     Blood trickles o’er his limbs of snow;
     His head sinks gradually low:
     Thus, severed by the ruthless plough,
       Dim fades a purple flower:
     Their weary necks so poppies bow,
       O’erladen by the shower.
     But Nisus on the midmost flies,
     With Volscens, Volscens in his eyes:
     In clouds the warriors round him rise,
       Thick hailing blow on blow:
     Yet on he bears, no stint, no stay;
     Like thunderbolt his falchion’s sway:
     Till as for aid the Rutule shrieks
     Plunged in his throat the weapon reeks:
     The dying hand has reft away
       The lifeblood of its foe.
     Then, pierced to death, asleep he fell
     On the dead breast he loved so well.”

With the first dawn Turnus leads his forces to the attack--the heads of
Nisus and Euryalus borne in front upon the points of spears, so savage
is the Rutulian at the slaughter made by them amongst his sleeping
comrades. The mother of Euryalus has heard the news, and sees the
ghastly trophies from the ramparts, Iulus performs his promise, and the
frantic woman is, under his personal directions, tenderly removed. He
himself becomes the hero of the day. The archer’s craft, his love of
which had led to the feud with the Latins, is turned to good service in
the defence of the camp. Numanus, a brother-in-law of Turnus, is loudly
taunting the Trojans in front of their lines:--

    “Twice captured Phrygians! to be pent
     Once more in leaguered battlement,
     And plant unblushingly between
     Yourselves and death a stony screen!
     Lo, these the men that draw their swords
     To part our ladies from their lords!
     What god, what madness brings you here
     To taste of our Italian cheer?
     No proud Atridæ leads our vans:
     No false Ulysses talks and plans:
     E’en from the birth a hardy brood,
     We take our infants to the flood,
     And fortify their tender mould
     With icy wave and ruthless cold.
     Early and late our sturdy boys
     Seek through the woods a hunter’s joys:
     Their pastime is to tame the steed,
     To bend the bow and launch the reed.
     Our youth, to scanty fare inured,
     Made strong by labour oft endured,
     Subdue the soil with spade and rake,
     Or city walls with battle shake.
     Through life we grasp our trusty spear:
     It strikes the foe, it goads the steer:
     Age cannot chill our valour: no,
     The helmet sits on locks of snow;
     And still we love to store our prey,
     And eat the fruits our arms purvey.
     You flaunt your robes in all men’s eyes,
     Your saffron and your purple dyes,
     Recline on downy couch, or weave
     The dreamy dance from morn to eve:
     Sleeved tunics guard your tender skins,
     And ribboned mitres prop your chins.
     Phrygians!--nay rather Phrygian fair!
     Hence, to your Dindymus repair!
     Go where the flute’s congenial throat
     Shrieks through two doors its slender note,
     Where pipe and cymbal call the crew;
     These are the instruments for you:
     Leave men, like us, in arms to deal,
     Nor bruise your lily hands with steel.”

Iulus, after brief prayer to Jupiter, sends an arrow through the
boaster’s temples. But Apollo, taking the shape of the boy’s guardian,
Butes, warns him to be content with this first triumph: such weapons,
says he of the silver bow, with that jealousy of mortals common to all
pagan divinities, are not for boys.

Attack and defence are maintained vigorously on either side. Turnus is
everywhere, dealing death where he comes. Mezentius, the infidel, tries
to fire the palisade: Messapus, “the horse-tamer,” calls for ladders to
scale it. A detachment of Volscians form a “tortoise,” by linking their
shields like a penthouse over their heads, and under this cover try to
plant their ladders; but the Trojans hoist a huge rock aloft, and dash
it down with murderous effect upon the roof of shields, crushing the
bearers underneath. A tall wooden flanking-tower is set on fire by
Turnus, and falls over, with its defenders, among the enemy. Two only
survive the fall, one of whom--a slave-born warrior, who bears a blank
shield--flings himself into the Rutulian ranks, and dies there fighting
against overwhelming numbers. The other, Lycus, a swift and active
runner, reaches the rampart of the intrenchment, and nearly succeeds in
climbing over amongst his friends, when Turnus grasps him and bears him
off, in spite of the missiles showered down by his sympathising
comrades.

Pandarus and Bitias, two brothers of gigantic stature, have charge of
one of the gateways of the intrenched camp. They throw the double gates
wide open, and take their stand, one on either side, within. Fast as the
more venturous spirits among the enemy rush through, they are either
felled by the giant warders, or, if they escape these first, are slain
inside by the other Trojans, who even carry the battle outside the
gates. Word comes to Turnus of the increasing boldness of the enemy. He
rushes to the rescue, slays right and left, and brings Bitias to the
ground by hurling at him a huge _falarica_--a spear used in the great
catapults which formed the artillery of those days. His brother Pandarus
by main strength closes the great gates, shutting out some of his
unfortunate friends as well as his enemies, and shutting in, to the
dismay of the Trojans, their terrible enemy. When he sees Turnus,
however, he rushes upon him to avenge his brother’s death; but the
Rutulian cleaves him with his keen falchion down to the chin. Then he
turns on the dismayed defenders, and smites them right and left. Had he
but bethought himself then to open the gates once more, and let his
comrades in, so cowed were the Trojans at the moment that their defeat
was certain. But all his heart is set on slaughter, and the Trojans,
rallied by Mnestheus (the hero of the galley-race), soon find out that
he is alone. Nevertheless he fights his way gallantly towards the river.

    “The Trojans follow, shouting loud,
     And closer still and closer crowd.
     So when the gathering swains assail
     A lion with their brazen hail,
     He, glaring rage, begins to quail,
       And sullenly departs:
     For shame his back he will not turn,
     Yet dares not, howsoe’er he yearn,
       To charge their serried darts:
     So Turnus lingeringly retires,
     And glows with ineffectual fires.
     Twice on the foe e’en then he falls,
     Twice routs and drives them round the walls:
     But from the camp in swarms they pour,
     Nor Juno dares to help him more.

           *       *       *       *       *

     At length, accoutred as he stood,
     Headlong he plunged into the flood.
     The yellow flood the charge received,
     With buoyant tide his weight upheaved,
     And cleansing off the encrusted gore,
     Returned him to his friends once more.”



CHAPTER XI.

THE DEATH OF PALLAS.


The scene changes to Olympus, where Jupiter holds a council of the gods.
He is as much troubled as in the Iliad with the dissensions in his own
court, and holds the balance with difficulty between his queen and his
daughter, each unscrupulous in their partisanship. Venus complains to
him bitterly of the peril in which her son Æneas stands, by reason of
Juno’s machinations. That goddess replies, with considerable show of
reason, that Æneas has brought his troubles upon himself; that Latinus
and Turnus and Lavinia were all going on peacefully before he came; and
that--if the whole history of the Trojans must needs be discussed
again--Venus herself, by her instrument Helen, was the mother of all the
mischief. The king of the gods somewhat loses patience, and swears by
the great river of Styx, with the awful nod which shakes Olympus, that
Trojan and Rutulian shall even fight it out, and the Fates shall decide
the question. So he dissolves the Olympian convocation.

The fight at the Trojan encampment is renewed in the morning as
fiercely as ever. But succours are on their way. The ships of the
Etruscan leader Tarchon--the name which future kings of Rome were to
bear with little alteration--have been sailing all night down the
Tyrrhenian Sea, under their new-found chief Æneas. His galley leads the
van; and with him in the stern--for he takes the helm himself--sits
young Pallas, hearing him tell of the great deeds of old. The poet gives
us something like a muster-roll of the Etruscan chiefs and their
followings; more interesting perhaps to the ear of a Roman, who would
catch up here and there some historical allusion to a place or family
with which he claimed some connection, than to the modern reader, who
can have no such sympathies. He gives us, too, the figure-heads from
which the ships of the most noted captains took their names: the
Tiger--a favourite, it would seem, to our English nautical taste even
down to the present day--the Centaur, the Apollo, the Triton, the
Mincius--the last-named from the river that flowed by Virgil’s own town
of Mantua,--

    “Fair town! her sons of high degree,
       Though not unmixed their blood;
     Three races swell the mingled stream:
       Four states from each derive their birth:
     Herself among them sits supreme,
       Her Tuscan blood her chiefest worth.”

Æneas has a strange rencontre in his night-voyage. Suddenly there rises
round his galley a circle of water-nymphs--they are his own vessels,
thus transformed, and their errand is to warn him of the danger in
which Iulus and his people lie. The sight which meets his eyes as he
enters the Tiber at daybreak confirms their tidings: he sees the camp
surrounded by enemies. Standing high upon his deck, he raises aloft the
wondrous shield. The Trojans recognise in the signal the arrival of the
help they so sorely need, and welcome it with prolonged shouts. Then
their enemies note it also,--and the fight grows fiercer still.
Tarchon--who seems to act as captain of the fleet under Æneas as
admiral--looks out a good place to beach the galleys, bids the men give
way with a will, and runs them well up, the forepart high and dry--all,
except the gallant captain himself, whose vessel breaks her back and
goes to pieces.

Turnus has left the command of the storming-party to his lieutenants,
and gone down himself with a picked force to oppose Æneas’s landing. The
Arcadian contingent, unused to fighting on foot and half in the water,
get into confusion, and turn. Young Pallas gallantly rallies them, for
the honour of his countrymen. He himself wins his spurs, in this his
first field, by deeds which would become Æneas himself. One brief
episode in his exploits is pathetic enough. There are fighting on the
Rutulian side the twin-brothers Thymber and Larides:--

    “So like, the sweet confusion e’en
       Their parents’ eyes betrayed;
     But Pallas twin and twin between
       Has cruel difference made;
     For Thymber’s head the steel has shorn;
     Larides’ severed hand forlorn
       Feels blindly for its lord:
     The quivering fingers, half alive,
     Twitch with convulsive gripe, and strive
       To close upon the sword.”

Young Lausus, the son of the tyrant Mezentius, is leading his men
against Pallas, when a greater soldier interposes between the two young
heroes. Turnus comes, and Pallas meets him eagerly--yet not without full
consciousness of the inequality of the combat. He hurls his spear, so
strongly and truly that it penetrates through Turnus’s shield, and
slightly grazes his body. Then Turnus launches his weapon in return, and
it goes right through the metal plates and tough ox-hide of the shield,
and through the corselet of Pallas, deep into his breast, and the young
prince falls to the ground writhing in his dying agony. Turnus stands
astride of the corpse, and shouts triumphantly to the discomfited
Arcadians. Yet there is something generous, according to the fierce code
of the times, in his treatment of his dead enemy; he neither strips the
armour, nor makes any attempt to prevent the Arcadians from carrying off
the body. He bids them bear it home to King Evander for burial; only
with a warning as to what fate awaits the allies of the foreigner:--

    “Who to Æneas plays the host,
     Must square the glory with the cost.”

One trophy he takes from the person of the dead prince--a belt richly
embroidered in gold with the tale of the daughters of Danaus. He girds
it on over his armour, unconscious of the influence it will have upon
his own fate.

Æneas, in a different quarter of the field, hears of the death of his
young esquire, and furiously hews his way towards Turnus. All who cross
his path, veteran chiefs and young aspirants to glory, alike go down
before him, and no appeal for mercy checks his hand. Eight prisoners he
takes alive; but only with the intent to slay them as victims at the
funeral pile of Pallas. But the rival champions do not meet as yet.
Juno, fearing the issue of an encounter with Æneas in his present mood,
cheats the eyes of Turnus with a phantom in his enemy’s shape. When
Turnus meets it in the fight, the shape turns and flies towards the
ships, pursued by him with bitter taunts on Trojan cowardice. One galley
has her gangway down, and the false Æneas takes refuge on board. Turnus
follows; when the moorings are loosed by an invisible hand, the galley
floats down stream, and the Rutulian, raving and half determined to end
his disgrace by suicide when he finds out how he has been cheated, is
swept along the coast to his own town of Ardea.

Mezentius takes his place, and seconded by his son Lausus, spreads
slaughter amongst the Trojan ranks. But a spear cast by the strong hand
of Æneas lodges in the groin of the father, and the son gallantly rushes
forward to cover his retreat. Æneas warns the youth to stand back--some
thought, it may be, of Pallas makes him unwilling to take the younger
life; but Lausus dares his fate, and the Trojan falchion, driven home
through his light shield and broidered vest--

    “The vest his mother wove with gold”--

reaches the young chief’s heart. Æneas can be generous too. He will not
strip the body; nay, he chides the cowardice of Lausus’s comrades, who
hesitate to lift the dying youth, and himself raises him carefully from
the ground, and gives him what comfort may be gathered from the fact
that he has met his death “at Æneas’s hand.”

Mezentius hears of the death of his son as he lies by the river-bank
bathing his wound. “With a cry of agony the father bewails his own
crimes, which had thus brought death upon his innocent son. Crippled as
he is, he calls for his good horse Rhæbus, who has ever hitherto borne
him home victor from the battle. To-day they two will carry home the
head of Æneas, or fall together. He charges desperately upon the Trojan,
who is right glad to meet him. Thrice he wheels his horse round his wary
enemy, hurling javelin after javelin, which the Vulcanian shield
receives on its broad circumference, and retains until it looks, in the
poet’s language, like a grove of steel. At last Æneas launches a spear
which strikes Mezentius’s horse full in the forehead, and poor Rhæbus
rears, and rolling over in his dying agonies, pins his master to the
ground. Æneas rushes in upon the fallen champion, who, disdaining to ask
quarter, bares his throat to the sword, and dies as fearlessly as he has
lived.



CHAPTER XII.

THE DEATH OF CAMILLA.


Æneas’s first care, after raising a trophy crowned with the arms of the
slain Mezentius, is to send home to Evander the body of his son. A
picked detachment escort it to Laurentum with all honour, wrapped in
robes of gold--embroidered robes, wrought by the hands of the
unfortunate Dido. The youth’s charger, Æthon, is led behind the bier,
and his lance and helm are also borne in the procession; a custom which
we have borrowed from the Romans, and retain to this day in our military
funerals. Æthon weeps copious tears for his dead master; an incident not
so entirely due to a poet’s imagination as it may seem, since the
historian Suetonius tells us that some favourite horses of Julius Cæsar
showed the same tokens of grief, and refused their food, just before his
death. Another feature in the obsequies of Pallas is happily obsolete;
the prisoners whom Æneas had taken alive with this express object follow
behind the corpse, to be sacrificed at the funeral pile. There was
nothing horrible to the polished courtiers of Augustus in such a
thought. Even in that age of refinement and civilisation, the emperor
himself, after the defeat of Antony’s party at Perusia, was said to have
slaughtered three hundred prisoners in honour of the great Julius, to
whom altars were raised as a demi-god. True, the story was probably an
invention of political opponents; but the mere fact that such a story
could be invented and believed, marks strongly the cruel temper of the
age. The old king receives back, in bitter grief, all that remains to
him of the gallant son whom he had so lately sent forth to his first
fatal field: and he charges Æneas, by the mouth of the envoys, to avenge
him on his son’s murderer--for this he only waits to close his own eyes.

A truce of twelve days is agreed upon between the armies for the burial
of their dead. The Latins have meanwhile sent an embassy to ask aid from
Diomed, the hero of the Trojan war, who has come home and settled in
Italy. He is paying the penalty of having wounded Venus in the battle
before Troy, and is not allowed to reach his native Argolis. He warns
the ambassadors that it is not good to war against the race from which
Æneas comes--he, for his part, will have no more of it. At this crisis
the Latins hold a council of war. Their king advises a compromise with
the enemy--a grant of land on which to settle, or a new equipped fleet
to carry the fortunes of Troy yet further on. Then there rises in the
council one Drances, a better orator than warrior, who boldly proposes
to give the princess Lavinia to the bridegroom whom the gods have sent.
Or, let Turnus meet Æneas in single combat--why are the rest to suffer
for his pride? Is all Latium to be steeped in blood that Turnus may have
a princess to wife? Turnus is not slow to reply. He will go forth to
meet the Trojan willingly--will Drances follow him?

Even while they thus debate, Æneas has left his intrenchments by the
Tiber, and is marching on the city. The queen with her daughter and the
terrified women betake themselves to the temples, while Turnus sets
himself to marshal his allies for the defence. While some are left to
guard the walls, the whole force of cavalry ride out to meet the enemy.
His best lieutenant for this service is the huntress Camilla. She leads
her light Volscian horse, supported by Messapus with his heavier Latins,
to meet the cavalry of Æneas, while Turnus with his squadron lays an
ambuscade for him in a wooded valley. Camilla, with her fair staff of
followers, Tulla and Tarpeia--names of ominous sound to Roman
ears--deals slaughter in the enemy’s ranks in no feminine fashion.

    “A Phrygian mother mourned her son
      For every dart that flew.”

But, fierce Amazon as she is, she is tempted by a woman’s love of
ornament. There is a Trojan, one Chlorus, priest as well as man-at-arms,
conspicuous for the brilliant accoutrements of his charger and himself.
His horse is covered with chain-armour clasped with gold; and purple and
saffron, and gold embroidery--the full splendours of Asiatic costume
which he affects--mark him out as a tempting prey. It might have been,
the poet suggests, a desire to deck some of her national temples with
such distinguished spoils,--or it might have been, he admits, only a
woman’s fancy to wear them herself,--but she singles him out and chases
him over the field, regardless of her own safety. Arruns the Tuscan has
long sought his opportunity, and his spear reaches Camilla as she
gallops in headlong pursuit of her gay enemy.

    “In vain she strives with dying hands
       To wrench away the blade:
     Fixed in her ribs the weapon stands,
       Closed by the wound it made.
     Bloodless and faint, she gasps for breath;
     Her heavy eyes sink down in death;
       Her cheek’s bright colours fade.”

So dies Camilla; and the Volscian horse are so disheartened by her loss
that they turn and fly to the city, so closely pursued by the Trojans
that the gates have to be hastily closed, shutting out in many cases
friends as well as foes. Turnus leaves the cover of the wood to attack
Æneas, but night falls on the plain before their forces meet.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE LAST COMBAT.


The spirit of the Latins is wellnigh broken--they feel that their cause
is a failing one. And Turnus sees angry eyes bent upon him, as the cause
of this ill-fated war. He will take all hazards, then, upon himself:
there shall be no more blood shed of Latin or Rutulian--unless it be his
own. He declares his intention to Latinus--he will meet Æneas in single
combat. The old king is reluctant to allow it: Queen Amata, with tears
and prayers, begs him to forego his resolution. Lavinia herself--such is
the entire reticence of the maiden nature in epic story--speaks no word
throughout the whole. But, as modern critics have long discovered, there
is no question but that she has a sentiment for Turnus. She hardly could
have a thought of Æneas, whom she had never seen. When she hears her
mother’s appeal to the Rutulian prince, she does almost more than
speak--she blushes, through her tears.

    “Deep crimson glows the sudden flame,
     And dyes her tingling cheek with shame.
     So blushes ivory’s Indian grain,
     When sullied with vermilion stain:
     So lilies set in roseate bed
     Enkindle with contagious red.”

These last four lines, in Mr Conington’s version, read like a bit of
Waller or Lovelace--and yet they are a fairly close translation of the
original.

The challenge is sent to Æneas, and by him joyfully accepted. There
shall be solemn truce between Trojan and Rutulian, while the rival
champions do battle for the princess and the kingdom. Turnus, too, has
one weapon of Vulcan’s forging--his father’s sword. But now, in his
haste for the combat, he snatches up and girds on a blade of less divine
temper. The lists are set between the two lines, and the oaths duly
sworn. Æneas calls the gods to witness, that if the victory falls to
Turnus, the Trojans on their part shall retire at once to Evander’s
colony, and make war no more on Latium. Or even if he himself be the
conqueror, he will not treat the Latins as a conquered race:--

    “I will not force Italia’s land
       To Teucrian rule to bow;
     I seek no sceptre for my hand,
       No diadem for my brow:
     Let race and race, unquelled and free,
     Join hands in deathless amity.”

But at once, before the rivals meet, by the instigation of Juno the
truce is broken on the part of the Rutulians. They have a strong fear
that their own champion, young and gallant as he is, is no equal match
in arms for the great Æneas: he is but moving to his death. So speaks
the seer Tolumnius, and points to an omen on the river-bank: an eagle
swooping down upon a flock of swans, and bearing one off in his talons,
but put to flight when they turn in a body and pursue him. Æneas is the
bird of prey--they are the unwarlike swans; let them but turn on him,
and he too will fly. The seer is not content with the mere exposition of
auguries; at once he hurls his own javelin into the Trojan ranks, and
brings down his man. The fight speedily becomes general. Æneas, unarmed
and bareheaded, rushes between the ranks, and is wounded by an arrow
while he calls loudly on his own men to keep the truce. None knew, or
cared to know, from whose hand the arrow came: for no man, says the
poet, was ever heard to boast of such a coward’s shot.

Then, while Æneas is led to the camp, faint and bleeding, by his son
lulus and his faithful Achates,--while the aged leech, Iapis, vainly
tries all his skill upon the wound--for the barb will not quit the
flesh,--Turnus spreads slaughter among the Trojan ranks. But only for a
while. Venus drops a healing balsam into the water with which her son’s
wound is being bathed; at once the arrow-head drops out, and the hero
stands up sound and whole. Again he dons the Vulcanian armour, and
re-enters the battle. The Rutulians give way before him, but he scorns
to smite the fugitives, and seeks out only Turnus. And Turnus, pale and
unnerved--for the presage of his fate lies heavy upon his soul--has no
longer any mind to meet him. It is very strange, to our modern notions
of heroism, to see this infirmity of resolution in a tried soldier and
captain like Turnus. But the heroes of these elder days lose heart at
once when they feel their star is no longer in the ascendant. Turnus,
like Hector in the Iliad, shrinks from the fate which he foresees.

Turnus has a sister, Juturna, a river-nymph and demi-goddess, a
favourite of Juno, who has warned her if possible to save her brother.
She now takes the place of his charioteer, and, while she drives rapidly
over the field, takes care to keep him far from Æneas, who is calling
loudly on him to halt and keep his compact of personal duel. At last the
Trojan leader, baffled in this object, throws all his forces suddenly on
the town, which lies almost at his mercy, stripped of its defenders, and
bids his captains bring torches and scaling-ladders. A horseman, sorely
wounded in the face, brings word of this new danger to Turnus as he is
wheeling madly over the battle-field, and implores him to come to the
rescue. He looks round towards the walls, and sees the flames already
mounting. Then he rallies once more the old courage which had so
strangely failed him. He sees his fate as clearly as before, but he will
meet it. He knows his sister now, too late, in his charioteer; but he
will fly no longer--“Is death such great wretchedness, after all?” He
leaps from his chariot, as he knows, to meet it, lifts his hand, and
shouts to his Rutulians to stay their hands, and the ranks of both
armies divide before him as he makes towards the part of the wall where
Æneas is leading the attack.

    “But great Æneas, when he hears
       The challenge of his foe,
     The leaguer of the town forbears,
       Lets town and rampart go,
     Steps high with exultation proud,
     And thunders on his arms aloud;
     Vast as majestic Athos, vast
       As Eryx the divine,
     Or he that roaring with the blast
     Heaves his huge bulk in snow-drifts massed,
       The father Apennine.”

Trojans, Latins, and Rutulians look on in awe and admiration as the two
chiefs advance to try this last ordeal of battle. Each hurl their
spears--without effect; then Turnus draws his sword, and they fight on
hand to hand--

    “Giving and taking wounds alike,
     With furious impact home they strike;
     Shoulder and neck are bathed in gore:
     The forest depths return the roar.
     So, shield on shield, together dash
       Æneas and his Daunian foe;
     The echo of that deafening crash
       Mounts heavenward from below.”

But the faithless sword which Turnus had so carelessly girded on instead
of his father’s good weapon, though it has done him fair service on the
crowd of meaner enemies, breaks in his grasp when he essays it on the
armour of Æneas, and thus helpless, he takes to flight, Æneas hotly
pursuing.

    “Five times they circle round the place,
     Five times the winding course retrace;
     No trivial game is here: the strife
     Is waged for Turnus’ own dear life.”

A dark-plumaged bird is seen to hover round the devoted head of the
Rutulian chief, half blinding him with its flapping wings. It is a Fury
whom the king of the gods has sent in that shape to harass him. At
length, in his flight, he finds a huge stone, which not twelve men of
“to-day’s degenerate sons” could lift.

    “He caught it up, and at his foe
     Discharged it, rising to the throw,
       And straining as he runs.
     But ’wildering fears his mind unman;
     Running, he knew not that he ran,
       Nor throwing that he threw;
     Heavily move his sinking knees;
     The streams of life wax dull and freeze:
     The stone, as through the void it past,
     Failed of the measure of its cast,
       Nor held its purpose true.
     E’en as in dreams, when on the eyes
     The drowsy weight of slumber lies,
     In vain to ply our limbs we think,
     And in the helpless effort sink;
     Tongue, sinews, all, their powers bely,
     And voice and speech our call defy:
     So, labour Turnus as he will,
     The Fury mocks the endeavour still.
     Dim shapes before his senses reel:
       On host and town he turns his sight:
     He quails, he trembles at the steel,
       Nor knows to fly, nor knows to fight:
     Nor to his pleading eyes appear
     The car, the sister charioteer.

    “The deadly dart Æneas shakes:
     His aim with stern precision takes,
       Then hurls with all his frame;
     Less loud from battering-engine cast
     Roars the fierce stone, less loud the blast
       Follows the lightning’s flame.
     On rushes as with whirlwind wings
     The spear that dire destruction brings,
     Makes passage through the corselet’s marge,
     And enters the seven-plated targe
       Where the last ring runs round.
     The keen point pierces through the thigh,
     Down on his bent knee heavily
       Comes Turnus to the ground.”

The Rutulian prince confesses his defeat, and asks his life, in no
craven spirit, for the sake of his aged father--bidding Æneas think of
old Anchises. The conqueror half relents, when his eyes fall upon
something which makes that appeal worse than useless.

    “Rolling his eyes, Æneas stood,
     And checked his sword, athirst for blood.
     Now faltering more and more he felt
     The human heart within him melt,
     When round the shoulder wreathed in pride
     The belt of Pallas he espied,
     And sudden flashed upon his view
     Those golden studs so well he knew,
     Which Turnus in his hour of joy
     Stripped from the newly-slaughtered boy,
     And on his bosom bore, to show
     The triumph of a satiate foe.
     Soon as his eyes at one fell draught
     Remembrance and revenge had quaffed,
     Live fury kindling every vein,
     He cries with terrible disdain:
     ‘What! in my friend’s dear spoils arrayed,
       To me for mercy sue?
     ’Tis Pallas, Pallas guides the blade;
     From your cursed blood his injured shade
       Thus takes the atonement due.’
     Thus as he spoke, his sword he drave
       With fierce and fiery blow
     Through the broad breast before him spread;
     The stalwart limbs grow cold and dead;
     One groan the indignant spirit gave,
       Then sought the shades below.”

       *       *       *       *       *

So closes the Æneid. Does any reader complain that the poet has not
carried the story further? With the death of Turnus the catastrophe is
complete. The princess of Latium is the prize of the victor; and the
loves of Æneas and Lavinia are certainly not of that romantic character
that we need care to follow them. The Trojans are settled in Italy--two
races under one name. For so has Jupiter promised, as some indulgence to
the feelings of his queen, that the old Latin name shall at least not be
merged in the detested name of Trojan, and on such terms has the goddess
reluctantly acquiesced in the settlement of the wanderers on Italian
ground. Latins, not Trojans, are to rule the world. Thus has the poet
combined the indigenous glories of his country with the grand descent of
its rulers from the old mythical heroes of Troy.

Yet there is a singular vein of melancholy to be traced in the words of
Æneas, when he parts with his son before he goes to his last victory.
They are perhaps the noblest words which the poet has put into his
mouth, and they have something of the sadness which more or less affects
all true nobility:--

    “In his mailed arms his child he pressed,
     Kissed through his helm, and thus addressed:
     ‘Learn of your father to be great,
     Of others to be fortunate.’”

The old tradition--well known, no doubt, to Virgil’s audience and first
readers--was that the son, not the father, lived to enjoy the
sovereignty of Latium. The hero of many vicissitudes was not held to
have settled down into the peaceful rest which he looks forward to,
throughout the poet’s story, as the end of all his campaigns and
wanderings. The Rutulians, so said the legends, would not yet bow to the
foreign usurper; and Æneas fought his last battle with them on the banks
of the river Numicius, and then, like so many of the favourite heroes of
a people--disappeared; either carried, living or dead, by some divine
agency, to heaven, or caught away in the arms of the river-god.



CHAPTER XIV.

CONCLUDING REMARKS.


The Æneid has two drawbacks to its popularity as an epic poem amongst
modern readers. One defect is common to all classical fiction--that
there is no love-romance, properly so called, on the part either of the
hero or of any other male character in the poem. Love, as now
understood, has no place either in Virgil or Homer. We find in their
verse none of those finer shades of feeling, that loyal personal
allegiance, that high unselfish devotion, the mysterious sympathy, as
untranslatable by anything but itself as the most perfect wording of the
poet, which, nursed, it has been said, in the lap of Northern chivalry,
but surely of much older birth, has given now for centuries to poet and
to novelist their highest charm and inspiration. Poets had to sing as
they could without it in Virgil’s days. Augustus and Octavia, as they
listened to the courtly _raconteur_, would have opened their eyes wide
with astonishment if he had sung to them of the devotion of Lancelot, as
surely as they would have laughed at the purity of Galahad. They
understood what love was, in their fashion; many ladies of the court
sympathised with Dido, no doubt. They understood well enough “the fury
of a woman scorned.” They had seen a whole love-poem in real life, with
the appropriate tragical _dénouement_, in Antony and Cleopatra. That was
their notion of the grand passion. Probably the more shrewd among them
looked upon Antony as a fool to prefer “love” to empire, and applauded
Æneas’s “piety” in obeying the oracles of the gods, when they pointed to
a new wife whose dowry was a kingdom. There was quite love enough in the
action of the poem to suit their tastes, and at anything better or purer
they would have only shrugged their fair patrician shoulders.

But there is a more serious defect in the interest of the Æneid, when
presented to English readers. It is, that Æneas is no hero. All the
defences and apologies which have been made for him are perfectly just,
and perfectly unnecessary. He was a hero quite good enough for the court
of Augustus, and so far quite suitable for Virgil’s purpose. Le Bossu
was perfectly right when he contended that a hero, to be an object of
legitimate interest, need not be a pattern of moral virtues. He might
have gone further, and said that such paragons, who are plainly superior
to the ordinary weaknesses of human nature, generally make very dull
heroes indeed. Undoubtedly Æneas is a dutiful son, a respectable father,
and, it may even be admitted, in spite of the unfortunate way in which
he lost his wife, an exemplary husband. He spread his palms out to
heaven in the most orthodox fashion on all occasions, and listened
obediently to the message which the gods were always sending him, to
set up his home in Latium at all costs. All these estimable qualities
are enough to furnish forth a dozen heroes. He is also ready to fight on
all proper occasions; and as to the charge that he is equally ready to
weep upon all occasions, which has been brought against him by one set
of critics, and excused by others, both might have spared their pens;
for it is a weakness which may be charged with equal truth upon most of
the heroes, not only of classical fiction, but of classical history. It
is not only that the chiefs of the Iliad weep without fearing any
imputation against their manliness, but if we are to trust the
unsensational chronicles of Cæsar, the whole rank and file of his army,
even the veterans of the tenth legion--the “fighting division”--when
first they heard that they were to be led against the tall and
truculent-looking Germans, “could not restrain their tears,” and set to
work to make their wills forthwith. The thing is unaccountable, except
from some strange difference of temperament; for who can imagine a
company of our veriest raw ploughboy recruits so behaving themselves?
They might shake in their very shoes; they might even very probably run
away: but crying and howling is not our way of expressing emotion, after
childhood is past. But we are accustomed to read of such exhibitions of
feeling in the natives of warmer climates, as, for instance, in the
characters of Scripture; and an occasional burst of tears on Æneas’s
part would not have unheroed him in our estimation one whit. It is his
desertion of Dido which makes an irredeemable poltroon of him in all
honest English eyes. A woman and a queen receives the shipwrecked
wanderer with a more than Oriental hospitality; loves him, “not wisely
but too well”--and he deserts her. And then Mercury is made to remark,
as a reason for Æneas getting away as quickly as possible, that “varium
et mutabile semper _fœmina_!”--that the poor _lady’s_ mood was
changeable, forsooth! The desertion is in obedience to the will of the
gods, no doubt. That explanation satisfied the critics of Augustus’s
day, and he was to them, as Virgil calls him, the “pious” Æneas. To the
modern reader, such an authorisation only makes the treachery more
disgusting. The morality of English romance, ancient or modern, is by no
means immaculate. Tristram and Iseult, still more Lancelot and
Guinevere, are of very frail clay. The Sir Galahads ride alone; then,
now, and always, in fiction as in fact. But a hero who could be false to
a woman, and who was to find in that falsehood the turning-point to fame
and success,--he might befit the loose tale with which the _rybauder_
raised a laugh round the camp-fire, but he was the subject of no lay to
which noble knight or dame would listen. The passion might be only _pars
amours_, but it must be loyal. To keep such faith, once pledged, the
hero might break all other laws, divine or human; but keep it he must.
“_Loyaulté passe tout, et faulsseté honnet tout._” The principle is by
no means the highest, but it is incomparably higher than Virgil’s. And
this makes Lancelot, in spite of his great crime, a hero in one sense,
even to the purest mind, while the calculating piety of Æneas is
revolting.

The apologetic criticisms of some translators, who have felt themselves
bound not only to give a faithful version of their author, but to defend
his conception of a hero, are highly entertaining. Dryden, who was said
by one of his malicious critics to have written “for the court ladies,”
admits candidly that he knows they “will make a numerous party against
him,” and that he “cannot much blame them, for, to say the truth, it is
an ill precedent for their gallants to follow;” winding up with a
satirical suggestion that they would do well at least “to learn
experience at her cost.” But in spite of this special pleading, even
Dryden cannot conceal from himself that his hero makes but a very poor
figure in this part of the story; nor can he resist the humorous remark
that he was more afraid of Dido, after all, than of Jupiter. “For you
may observe,” says he, “that as much intent as he was upon his voyage,
yet he still delayed it until the messenger was obliged to tell him
plainly, that if he weighed not anchor in the night, the queen would be
with him in the morning.” Delille says that Æneas “triumphed over his
passions in order to obey the will of heaven;” and forgets to add, that
the triumph would have been more complete and more creditable if it had
been achieved somewhat earlier in the story. He notices the unfortunate
fate of poor Creusa,--left to follow as she might, and never missed till
the more fortunate survivors met at the rendezvous,--only to say how
necessary it was for the purposes of the story to dispose of her
somehow, if there was a new wife awaiting Æneas in Italy; and how the
account (his own account) of his affectionate search for her (with the
usual tears) must have recommended him to Dido, and excused that poor
lady for falling in love with him instantly! Rousseau has more truth in
his epigram,--what could Dido expect better from a man who left his
lawful wife to be burnt in Troy, and vowed he never missed her? Segrais,
very like a Frenchman of the days of Louis XIV., thinks all would have
been right if Æneas had but thrown a little more sentiment into the
parting, and had bestowed upon Dido a few of those tears which were so
ready upon less pathetic occasions.[42] As to the scene in the Shades,
where the false lover begins at last to make his tardy excuses and
apologies, the French critic fairly throws up his brief for the defence,
and contents himself with the suggestion that this was one of those
passages in the poem with which Virgil himself was dissatisfied, and
which he must certainly have intended to correct. But Æneas has, in
fact, little personal character of any kind. He is only what Keble calls
him, “a shadow with a mighty name;” and that writer even goes so far as
to suggest, that in the curse imprecated upon him by Dido, and her
treatment of him in the Shades, we may see an intimation that the poet
intended the abasement of his hero.[43]

Turnus will always find more favour in the eyes of modern readers than
his rival. Our English sympathies do not run at all with the foreign
adventurer who comes between him and his promised bride, and who claims
both the lady and the kingdom by virtue of a convenient oracle. Mr
Gladstone’s may perhaps be only an ingenious fancy, that Turnus was
really the favourite with the poet himself; that although he made Æneas
victorious, as was required, in order to carry out the complimentary
reference of the Roman origin to Troy, still the young chief of native
Italian blood, maintaining a gallant struggle for his rights against
gods and men, and only conquered at the last by supernatural force and
fraud, was purposely held out to popular admiration. But we must, at
least, feel sympathy with him as utterly over-weighted in the final
struggle by the superior strength and immortal arms of his adversary,
and the flapping of the Fury’s awful wings.

To trace the influence of the Æneid upon modern poetry would require a
separate treatise. Spenser is full of Virgil. Tasso’s great poem is in
many passages the Æneid made Christian, with its heroes transplanted
from the days of Troy to those of the Crusades. Dante borrows less from
him, though with an intenser reverence he takes him for his “master” and
his guide. In his mind, indeed, Virgil seems to have held a place
midway, as it were, between the Pagan and the Christian life. If
Beatrice represents, as has been said, the heavenly “Wisdom,” Virgil is,
in his allegory, the human intellect at its best and purest, which comes
as near heaven as unassisted humanity may; for he is the guide who only
quits the Christian poet when he is close to the gates of Paradise.

The “Sortes Virgilianæ” were long in use, often as a fashionable
pastime, sometimes in graver earnest: the inquirer opened the volume at
random, and took for the answer of fate the first few lines which caught
his eye. In the times of the later Roman emperors, they ranked among the
most popular, and perhaps the least objectionable, of the many
superstitious practices which were then so prevalent. The Emperor
Severus was said to have been encouraged in his boyhood by the very
words which had such an effect on Octavia--“Thou shalt be our
Marcellus!” And when subsequently he showed a taste rather for elegant
accomplishments than for military renown, again the “Sortes,” consulted
for him by his father, gave the well-known lines already quoted,[44] in
which the glory of the Roman is pronounced to be that of the conqueror,
not of the student or the artist. The superstition held its ground,
through the middle ages, down to times very near our own. The story
rests upon no mean authority, that Charles I. once tried the oracle with
a startling result. He was in the Bodleian Library while the Court lay
in Oxford, and was there shown a splendid edition of Virgil. Lord
Falkland suggested to him sportively that he should try the “Sortes.”
The lines upon which the king opened are said to have been these, as
they stand in Mr Conington’s version:--

    “Scourged by a savage enemy,
       An exile from his son’s embrace,
     So let him sue for aid, and see
       His people slain before his face:
     Or when to humbling peace at length
       He stoops, be his or life or land,
     But let him fall in manhood’s strength,
       And welter tombless on the sand.”

It was a gloomy oracle; and Falkland, anxious to remove the impression,
tried his own fortune. He lighted on Evander’s lament over his son
Pallas:--

    “I knew the young blood’s maddening play,
     The charm of battle’s first essay;
     O valour blighted in the flower!
     O first mad drops of war’s full shower!”

A few months afterwards Falkland fell at the battle of Newbury, barely
thirty-four years old.

There has always been a mystical school of classical interpretation, who
see in the Æneid, as in the Iliad and Odyssey, a tissue of allegory from
first to last. Not content with identifying the Trojan chief with
Augustus, they found a double meaning in every character and every
legend in the poem. Bishop Warburton, in his well-known ‘Divine
Legation,’ expended a great amount of learning and research to prove
that in the Descent to the Shades in the sixth book we have a sketch,
scarcely veiled, of the great Eleusinian mysteries. Others saw in Dido
the love-passion and the fate of Cleopatra, Antony in Turnus, the flight
of Marius to the marshes in the person of Sinon, the miserable end of
Pompey in Priam--

    “The head shorn off, the trunk without a name.”

It is impossible to enjoy either Homer or Virgil, if their text is to be
“improved” at every step after this sort. Augustus and Octavia looked to
the poet for a tale of the olden time, and he told it well. No doubt he
threw in graceful compliments to Rome and its ruler; but to have to
guess at some hidden meaning all along would have been far too severe a
tax on the imperial audience, and would certainly not heighten the
enjoyment of modern readers.

One would be glad to know what was the view that was really taken by
that profligate court on the one hand, and by the poet himself on the
other, of the theological machinery of the poem; those powerful and
passionate Genii who pull the wires of the human puppets to gratify
their own preferences and hatreds, and are themselves the slaves of an
awful Fate which overrides them all. Wherever Justice had fled from the
earth, as the legend ran, in those pagan days, she had not found refuge
in heaven. The human virtues which Virgil gives his heroes were no
copies of anything celestial. Such lessons as the “gods” taught were
chiefly perfidy and revenge. For men of intellect and of a pure
life--and such is credibly said to have been Virgil’s--the only
salvation lay in utter unbelief of such a creed; or, at most, a stoical
submission to that Unknown Fate which ruled all things human and divine.
But even when the forms and creeds of religion had become a mockery, the
rule of right, however warped, was recognised--in fiction, if not in
fact: and Virgil, though for some reason he declined to paint the true
hero at full length, has enabled us to pick out his component parts from
his sketches of a dozen characters.


END OF VIRGIL.


PRINTED BY WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS, EDINBURGH.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] One story of this kind is perhaps curious enough for insertion.
Virgil is said to have been startled one day by a voice calling to him
out of a small hole in a cave. It proceeded from an Evil Spirit who had
been conjured into that place of confinement, and who undertook to show
Virgil certain books of necromancy on condition of his release. The
bargain was made, and the condition fulfilled. “He stood before Virgil
like a mighty man, whereof Virgil was afraid; and he marvelled greatly
that so great a man might come out of so little a hole. Then said
Virgil, ‘Should ye well pass through the hole that ye came out of?’ And
he said, ‘Yes.’ ‘I hold the best pledge that I have that ye cannot do
it.’ The devill said, ‘I consent thereto.’ And then the devill wrang
himself into the little hole again. And when he was in, then Virgil
closed him there again, so that he had no power to come out again, but
there abideth still.”--[‘Of the Lyfe of Virgilius and his deth, and the
many marvayles that he dyd.’]

[2] It has been thought that the friend of whom Horace speaks (Sat. I.
3, 31), under whose somewhat slovenly dress and rustic bearing lay hid
so much talent and worth, may have been Virgil.

[3] It is not difficult to believe that in the old time-worn beeches
overhanging the stream we have the actual landscape of the poet’s farm.

[4] Probably the comet which appeared after Julius Cæsar’s death, and
which the poet takes to announce a new era of peace and happiness for
Rome. The English reader may remember that a new star was said to have
appeared at the accession of Charles II., from which equally happy
auguries were drawn--and were equally disappointed.

[5] _Anglicè_, “Bright-eyes.”

[6] No. 378.

[7] ΙΗΣΟΥΕ ΧΡΕΙΣΤΟΣ ΘΕΟΥ ΥΙΟΣ ΣΩΤΗΡ. He also quotes other “Sibylline”
verses from the Greek of Lactantius, referring to the crucifixion.--De
Civ. Dei, xviii. 23.

[8] The duration is variously estimated--from 2489 to 18,000 years. See
Conington’s note.

[9] This fine passage--much of the beauty of which is necessarily lost
in this attempt at a translation--has been often imitated, not least
successfully by Thomson, in the eulogy upon his native island with
which he begins the fifth book of his poem on “Liberty.”

[10] When we find, in a modern manual, even directions “How to tame
vicious bees,” it is hard to say what a master of beecraft can _not_
do.--See Mr Pettigrew’s clever and amusing ‘Handy Book.’

[11] Jules Legris.

[12] ‘Fall of Rome,’ iv. 576.

[13] The following pedigree is mythical--as pedigrees often are:

                    Tros.
                      |
   +------------------+------------------+
 Ilus.                               Assaracus.
   |                                     |
Laomedon.                              Capys.
   |                                     |
 Priam.                               Anchises.
                                         |
                                       Æneas.


[14] Iliad, xx. 306.

[15] The extracts are in all cases (where not otherwise marked) from
Mr Conington’s translation, and are made with the permission of his
representatives and publishers.

[16] Milton has translated the line almost literally:--

    “In heavenly spirits could such perversion dwell?”
             --Par. Lost, vi.


[17] Dante in his Inferno punishes Sinon with an eternal
sweating-sickness: a singular penalty, which is shared only by
Potiphar’s wife.--Inf. xxx.

[18] Nay, the “crests” spoken of seem to have been (as reported of the
modern sea-serpent) of actual hair; since Pindar, as Conington has
noted, calls them “manes.”

[19] The French word “_feu_,” used of a person deceased, is probably
from this Latin use of “_fui_.”

[20] For this reason, says Macrobius, the real name of Rome and of its
guardian deity was always kept a secret.

[21] Horrible as the legend is, Spenser thought it worth adopting. The
Red-Cross Knight, to make a garland for Fidessa, tears branches from
the tree that had once been Fradubio.--’Faery Queen,’ I. ii. 30.

[22] The story of Idomeneus, according to the old annotators upon
Virgil, has a curious similarity to that of Jephthah. He had vowed that
if he escaped from a storm at sea, he would offer in sacrifice the
first thing that met him on landing. It was his son. A plague followed,
and his subjects expelled him.

[23] There is a fine description of these hags in Morris’s ‘Jason,’
where the voyagers

    “Beheld the daughters of the Earth and Sea,
     The dreadful Snatchers, who like women were
     Down to the breast, with scanty close black hair
     About their heads, and dim eyes ringed with red,
     And bestial mouths set round with lips of lead.
     But from their gnarled necks there ’gan to spring
     Half hair, half feathers, and a sweeping wing
     Grew out instead of arm on either side,
     And thick plumes underneath the breast did hide
     The place where joined the fearful natures twain.


[24] See Homer’s Odyssey, p. 69.

[25]

    “To the which place a poor sequestered stag,
     That from the hunter’s aim had ta’en a hurt,
     Had come to languish.”
        --SHAKESPEARE, ‘As you Like it,’ ii. 1.


[26] This was the dye procured from the shell-fish called
murex--especially costly, because each fish contained but a single drop
of the precious tincture.

[27] Delille’s fine translation of this passage is so little known to
English readers that it may well find room in a note:--

    “Non--tu n’es point le fils de la mère d’Amour;
     Au sang de Dardanus tu ne dois point le jour;
     N’impute point aux dieux la naissance d’un traitre--
     Non, du sang d’héros un monstre n’a pu naître;
     Non.--Le Caucase affreux, t’engendrant en fureur,
     De ses plus durs rochers fit ton barbare cœur,
     Et du tigre inhumain la compagne sauvage,
     Cruel! avec son lait t’a fait sucer sa rage.
     Car enfin qui m’arrête? Après ses durs refus,
     Après tant de mépris, qu’attendrais-je de plus?
     S’est-il laissé flechir à mes cris douloureux?
     A-t-il au moins daigné tourner vers moi les yeux
     Prosternée a ses pieds, plaintive, suppliante,
     N’a-t-il pas d’un front calme ecouté son amante?

           *       *       *       *       *

     Sans secours, sans asile, errant de mers en mers,
     Par les flots en courroux jeté dans nos deserts,
     Je l’ai reçu, l’ingrat! des fureurs de l’orage
     J’ai sauvé ses sujets, ses vaisseaux de naufrage,
     Je lui donne mon cœur, mon empire, ma main:
     O fureur, et voilà que ce monstre inhumain
     Ose imputer aux dieux son horrible parjure,
     Me parle et d’Apollon, et d’oracle, et d’augure!
     Pour presser son depart, l’ambassadeur des dieux
     Est descendu vers lui de la voûte des cieux:
     Dignes soins, en effet, de ces maîtres du monde!
     En effet, sa grandeur trouble leur paix profonde!
     --C’en est assez; va, pars; je ne te retiens pas;
     Va chercher loin de moi je ne sais quels états:
     S’il est encore un dieu redoubtable aux ingrats,
     J’espère que bientôt, pour prix d’un si grand crime,
     Brisé contre un écueil, plongé dans un abîme,
     Tu paîras mes malheurs, perfide! et de Didon
     Ta voix, ta voix plaintive invoquera le nom.”


[28] One of the Roman sea-deities.

[29] Such explanations of an unfavourable result are not entirely
unknown in the annals of modern boat-races. Reasons of a very
apocryphal kind, if not so boldly mythological, have been assigned
by modern captains of crews for their having been beaten. When an
unsuccessful oarsman recounts his deeds to a sympathetic audience, and
“tells how fields were” _not_ won, he is apt to complain that, in some
form or other, the river-gods were unjust. The state of the tide, or an
intruding barge, or an imprudent supper on the part of “No. 7,” takes
the place of Panope and Portunus.

[30] “Superanda omnis fortuna ferendo est.”

[31] Virgil himself has no word of reproach for these weaker spirits,
who thus preferred the rest of Sicily to the far-off hopes of Hesperia.
But his impassioned pupil Dante is less merciful: he classes them in
his “Purgatory” with the murmuring Israelites:--

        “First they died, to whom the sea
    Opened, or ever Jordan saw his heirs;
    And they who with Æneas to the end
    Endured not suffering, for their portion chose
    Life without glory.”
            --Purg. xviii. (Cary.)


[32] Keble.

[33] The rickety state of Charon’s boat was always a fertile source of
wit to the freethinkers among the classical satirists. Lucian, in one
of his very amusing dialogues, makes Charon complain of his passengers
bringing luggage with them: “My boat is something rotten, look you, and
lets in a good deal of water at the seams; if you come on board with
all that luggage you may repent it--especially those of you who can’t
swim.”--(Dial. Mort., x.) So in another dialogue Menippus thinks it
hard to be asked to pay for his passage over, when “he helped to bale
the boat all the way.” It maybe observed that the boat is said to be
made of hide, stretched on a wooden frame, like the “coracles” of the
Britons, still in use on some of the Welsh rivers. There may be some
connection with an ancient tradition which would identify the “white
rock” of which Homer speaks (Od., xxiv. 11) as marking the entrance to
the regions of the dead with the cliffs of our own island--“Albion.”
A curious old legend of the coast of France gives some colour to the
interpretation. There was a tribe of fishermen who were exempted from
payment of tribute, on the ground that they ferried over into Britain
the souls of the departed. At nightfall, when they were asleep (so the
legend ran), they would be awakened by a loud knocking at their doors,
and voices calling them, and feel a strange compulsion to go down to
the seashore. There they found boats, not their own, ready launched,
and to all appearance empty. “When they stepped on board and began to
ply their oars they found the boats move as though they were heavily
laden, sinking within a finger’s breadth of the water’s edge; but they
saw no man. Within an hour, as it seemed, they reached the opposite
coast--a voyage which in their own boats they hardly made in a whole
day and night. When they touched the shore of Britain still they saw
no shape, but they heard voices welcoming their ghostly passengers,
and calling each of the dead by name and rank. Then having got rid, as
it seemed, of their invisible freight, they put off again for home,
feeling their boats so sensibly lightened that hardly more than the
keel touched the water.--See Gesner’s Notes on Claudian, iii. 123;
Procopius, De Bell. Goth., iv. 20.

[34] We have here the foundation of the fanciful doctrine of a Limbo
Infantum, held by some doctors of the Romish Church--a kind of
vestibule to the greater Purgatory, in which were placed the souls of
such children as died before they were old enough to be admitted to the
sacraments.

[35]

    “Aloud she shrieked! for Hermes reappears;
     Round the dear shade she would have clung--’tis vain,
     The hours are past--too brief, had they been years;
     And him no mortal effort can detain:
     Swift, toward the realms that know not earthly day,
     He through the portal takes his silent way,
     And on the palace-floor a lifeless corse she lay.

    “By no weak pity might the gods be moved;
     She who thus perished, not without the crime
     Of lovers that in Reason’s spite have loved,
     Was doomed to wear out her appointed time,
     Apart from happy ghosts that gather flowers
     Of blissful quiet ’mid unfading bowers.”
                 --WORDSWORTH’S ‘Laodamia.’


[36] But none of the recognised translations seem to come so near the
spirit of the original as Lord Macaulay’s paraphrase--for of course it
is only a paraphrase--in his lay of “The Prophecy of Capys:”--

    “Leave to the sons of Carthage
       The rudder and the oar;
     Leave to the Greek his marble nymphs
       And scrolls of wordy lore:
     Thine, Roman, is the pilum;
       Roman, the sword is thine;
     The even trench, the bristling mound,
       The legion’s ordered line.”


[37] Virgil is said to have received from her what would amount, in our
money, to above £2000--“a round sum,” remarks Dryden, with something
like professional envy, “for twenty-seven verses.”

[38] See p. 66.

[39] Andrew Marvell most likely borrowed his thought from the Roman
poet in his graceful lines, “The Nymph’s Complaint:”--

    “The wanton troopers, riding by,
     Have shot my fawn, and it will die.
     Ungentle men! they cannot thrive
     Who killed thee. Thou ne’er didst alive
     Them any harm, alas! nor could
     Thy death yet do them any good.”


[40] No doubt the Camilla of the Roman poet is a reminiscence of the
Amazon Penthesilea in Homer, just as the fairy footstep, that left
no trace on sea or land, is borrowed from those wondrous mares of
Ericthonius to whom Homer assigns the same performance. But the copy
far surpasses the original in grace and beauty. Our English poets have
made free use of this fancy of the footsteps of beauty: none more
sweetly than Jonson in his ‘Sad Shepherd,’ where Æglamour laments his
lost Earinè:--

    “Here she was wont to go, and here, and here--
     Just where those daisies, pinks, and violets grow;
     The world may find the spring by following her,
     For other print her airy steps ne’er left.
     Her treading would not bend a blade of grass,
     Or shake the downy blow-bell from his stalk:
     But like the south-west wind she shot along,
     And where she went the flowers took thickest root,
     As she had sowed them with her odorous foot.”
          --The ‘Sad Shepherd,’ Act I. sc. 1.


[41] The thunderbolt is usually represented on ancient coins and
medallions with twelve rays.

[42] Dido has always been a favourite heroine with Frenchmen, and
has been worked up into three or four tragedies. One writer, partly
adopting M. Segrais’s notion of how things ought to have been--that is
to say, how a Frenchman would have behaved himself when such a parting
was inevitable--has made Æneas take at least a civil farewell of the
injured queen:--

    “Helas! si de mon sort j’avais ici mon choix,
     Bornant à vous aimer le bonheur de ma vie,
     Je tiendrais de vos mains un sceptre, une patrie:
     Les dieux m’ont envie le seul de leurs bienfaits,
     Qui pourait réparer tous les maux qu’ils m’ont faits.”

And Dido, mollified by this declaration, far from cursing the fugitive
lover in her last moments, assures him of her unchangeable affection,
rather apologising for having so inconveniently fallen in his way, and
delayed him so improperly from Lavinia and his kingdom:--

    “Et toi, d’ont j’ai troublée la haute destinée,
     Toi, qui ne m’entends plus--adieux, mon cher Ænée!
     Ne crains point ma colere--elle expire avec moi,
     Et mes derniers soupirs sont encore pour toi!”{*}

{*} Le Franc de Pompignan, “Didon.”

[43] Prælect., ii. 724.

[44] P. 124.





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