‘Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art. It would be μóρφωσις, not ποίησις. The rules of the IMAGINATION are themselves the very powers of growth and production. The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths.’ [Coleridge, Biographia ch. 18]

‘ποίησις’ (poiēsis) means ‘a making, a creation, a production’ and is used of poetry in Aristotle and Plato. ‘μóρφωσις’ (morphōsis) in essence means the same thing: ‘a shaping, a bringing into shape.’ But Coleridge has in mind the New Testament use of the word as ‘semblance’ or ‘outward appearance’, which the KJV translates as ‘form’: ‘An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [μóρφωσις] of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ [Romans 2:20]; ‘Having a form [μóρφωσις] of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ [2 Timothy 3:5]. I trust that's clear.

There is much more on Coleridge at my other, Coleridgean blog.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Aeneid 13



[This is a translation of Maffeo Vegio's once-celebrated continuation of Vergil's epic. The original Latin is here. Vegio (1407-58) was born near Milan, studied law at the University of Pavia and then tried to recruit the Duke of Milan as patron by writing him flattering poems. When that didn't work he used his contacts to obtain a position under Pope Eugenius IV, first as a papal abbreviator and later canon of the Basilica of San Pietro. His Aeneid XIII, sometimes called the Supplement, was an early production—Vegio wrote it in 1428, and went on to write more than fifty other things. It proved extremely popular, and its popularity endured for many centuries. Indeed, it was often included in Renaissance editions of the Aeneid as if integral to the poem. 

The 630-line poem picks up the story directly from the end of Aeneid 12: the Trojan prince Aeneas has escaped the destruction of Troy and brought his people, and his penates or household gods, through many dangers to make a new home in Italy. King Latinus, a native ruler, welcomes him: a peace-treaty is signed and Latinus offers his daughter Lavinia to Aeneas as bride. Other inhabitants of Italy, though, are hostile; and one, the Rutulian prince Turnus, breaks the peace-treaty and makes war on the Trojans. He was engaged to Lavinia before the Trojans arrived, and resents his future-bride being taken from him. If books 1-6 of the Aeneid, detailing the Trojans journey from Troy to Italy, are Vergil's Odyssey, then books 7-12 are his Iliad: mostly given over to lengthy accounts of fighting and killing.

In standard epic style, Vergil gives his characters epithets; and the one that most particularly attaches to Aeneas is pius: a descriptor poorly rendered by the English word ‘pious’—although that is its etymological descendent in our tongue. For a Roman pietas was a complex of religious fidelity, duty (especially duty to one's family), virtue and compassionate respect for others. One of the adventures Aeneas has on his journey to Italy is a descent into the Underworld during which he meets the ghost of his father Anchises, who offers him a glimpse of Rome's future glory. ‘Your task, Roman,’ Anchises tells him, ‘and do not forget it, will be to govern the peoples of the world in your empire. These will be your arts—to impose a settled pattern upon peace, to spare the defeated and war down the proud’ [this is David West's translation of Aeneid 6:851-3]. In the climax to the poem Aeneas and Turnus fight in single combat, and Aeneas wins. Turnus surrenders, but then Aeneas kills him anyway in a sudden access of rage. Notionally he does this because he catches sight, on Turnus' kneeling body, of a trophy the Rutulian took when he killed an Italian youth called Pallas; but this seems a thin motivation. Unlike the Homeric prototype for this scene, when Achilles pitilessly cuts-down Hector because Hector had killed his lover Patroclus, Aeneas barely knew Pallas. At any rate this apparent violation of his duty as a Roman to spare the defeated, this act of Aeneas's so seemingly opposed to his pietas, has troubled many generations of readers and commentators. It seems an oddly jarring note on which to end the poem, and it especially bugged Renaissance readers, who wanted to take Aeneas as a flawless model for kingship in the world. It's this problematic, really, that Vegio's supplement to Vergil addresses.

I first read Aeneid 13 in Michael C. J. Putnam's handy prose translation (it's in his Maffeo Vegio: Short Epics, a volume in the I Tatti Renaissance Library, Harvard University Press 2004), but I don't think there's been a modern verse translation. At any rate I wanted to know the poem better, and the best way to really get to know a poem is by translating it. What follows is, pretty much, a line-by-line rendering, and I've tried to respect Vegio's frequent enjambments (something he copies from Vergil, who also does it a lot), although since I naturally wanted to avoid weird or archaic word-order inversions, and since the Latin word-order would, in many cases, look merely jumbled if translated directly into English, I've had to undertake some shifting about. Nonetheless, I think this is a pretty close rendering. All except for the reference in line 107 of course. But otherwise.]



As Turnus, fallen in the war's last battle,
gushed out his life, the victor stood with his men:
magnaminous Aeneas, triumphant hero;
and all the astonished Latins groaned aloud
bitter sorrow from the very core of their beings,
their minds collapsed, like a huge, leaf-fringed
grove of trees flattened by north wind's tumult.
They drive their spears into the earth, lean on swords,
slough shields from shoulders and curse war
the madness of their infatuation with Mars:                      [10]
they can't refuse prisoners' chains and neck-yokes,
and only pray now for peace and an end to evil.
It's like when two great bulls in bitter enmity
charge at one another, colliding in a mess of gore,
and each herd supports their champion, until
one wins, and the cattle who backed the loser
now willingly offer obedience to the victor,
they, though sorrow gouge their minds, submit.
That was the Rutulians now: as huge sadness
hurts their hearts, and their lord's death terrifies them,       [20]
they bend to the strength of Phrygian Aeneas, treat
for peace, and hope for a final end to war.

Standing over Turnus's corpse, his voice calm,
Aeneas speaks: “What madness hatched in you?
What Troy-hatred? We are sent by the Great
Thunderer himself! Why, people of Daunus,
expel us from Italy, our promised home?
Learn to honour Jove and follow gods' commands!
Jove's lasting anger won't forget such evil:
it incites the judgment of the gods. This end                     [30]
you brought on yourself, consequence of your mad
treaty-breach, of forcing hardship onto us.
Be advised: your days will serve as lesson
in times to come; it is insane to scorn Jove,
and set the world on fire with war's arid frenzy.
What joy in your weapons now? Ah, noble corpse,
dead Turnus: Lavinia won't lightly be yours;
No shame in falling to Aeneas' strong right hand!
Rutulians, take your lord, armour and body,
much honoured in the sad doom of his death.                   [40]
Take everything but Pallas' heavy belt, which
I will send to Evander as a solace,
to celebrate his great foe Turnus's death.
Ausonians, take from this one lesson:
war needs better causes! I swear on the stars,
I never wanted war, to send in troops:
but, driven by your fury, I had to defend
the integrity of my Trojan people.”

Having spoken Aeneas joyfully turned
presented himself to the tall Trojan city.                            [50]
A mass of younger Teucrians rush out
flowed joyfully towards him, spurring their
fast horses, hurling sharp words at the Latins
mocking them as cowards. Applause fills the sky.
And though unburied bodies require rites,
and setting funeral pyres pressed on his mind,
Aeneas knew a higher duty, and ordered
honours paid first at the gods' own altars.
By ancient custom they sacrifice fat bulls
at the temples, and pigs and pure white sheep,                  [60]
spilling the beasts' red blood upon the ground.
They pull out entrails, cut carcasses in chunks, spit
the meat and thrust it in the flowing flames.
They fill bowls with wine, Lyaeus-Bacchus' gift,
heap offerings; replete, to do right homage.
Incense burns in the fire. The laden altar smokes.
Praise thrums the houses: the Great Thunderer
is hymned; Venus too; and you Saturnian Juno,
—such high praise summons a serener glory—
and Mars exalted too, and all the gods                               [70]
are raised to the heights, summoned with voices
to the pearl-hued heavens.

                                               Gentlest of them all,
Aeneas, raised his hands skyward, palms up;
and embracing his young son Iulus, said:
“Son, you've been my one hope through all the trials
the complexities of fate I've brought us through.
Here is our resting place, misfortune's end,
our most yearned-for and our ever-welcome,
this looked-for day. When I waged hard war,
I knew the gods ensured our future: how                           [80]
could I forget! Now, when tomorrow's dawn
glows red, you'll go in glory to the Rutulian walls.”
Then turning a kind eye on the massed Trojans
he sent serene words out from his broad chest:
“O comrades, you've passed hard and deadly dangers,
come through fire and the doubled madness of war,
through many winters, and all the bitterness,
shocking hardship, oppression and iniquity.
Turn your minds away from cruel misfortunes
to today! The happy end! What we build here                    [90]
will last: we'll ally with the Latin peoples
in peace; my wife Lavinia will prove
haven from harsh war, Italian blood mixed
with that of Troy, and so passed to eternity.
Friends I ask one thing: treat the Ausonians fair,
unify, respect our father-in-law, Latinus.
He will wield the mighty scepter: it's my will
and decree. More, in my excellence of arms
and piety learn to follow me. What glory
we've accrued! I call sky and stars to witness                     [100]
I, who rescued all of you from nests of evils,
will lead you potently on, to greater gains.”

As he spoke his mind recalled the dangers
now behind them all, and the peace they'd won,
and he flared up with a blazing love for
his Trojans, joyous they were free at last
from danger: as when, falling stukha-swift
to seize the tiny nestlings a kite swoops
shrieking greedily and spreading havoc:
mother-bird, her feathered heart shaking fear,                    [110]
rises to defend her poor chicks from this terror
sharpens her beak as best she can—attacks,
forcing his retreat at last by her sheer verve;
then, clucking with worry, she searches, scared
for her panicked chicks, her little darlings,
glad of their survival, now rescued from danger.
Just so Anchises' son soothed his Trojans,
with friendly words, revisiting old fears
once heart-anxieties, now joys brought forth
at last from evil, taking pleasure now                                 [120]
in what had been a trial. Tallest among men
powerfully-built, most brilliant Aeneas
renowned for virtue, he offers prayers to gods,
extolling most of all the highest Jove.

Meanwhile, the Rutulian funeral march
carried their lifeless leader to their city:
all minds were gripped by sorrow, rainy tears
showering from eyes. The wailing reached Latinus
age-worn and grizzled, brooding many dangers:
he was overwhelmed by their high keening,                        [130]
and when he looked on Turnus, saw his wound—
he wept aloud before the procession,
and called for silence with his hand and words.
As a boar spurts foaming blood when bitten
by the lead hound that has seized it, and the rest
of the dog-pack, excited by the beast's fate
run in frantic circles barking at their keeper,
greeting the spurting blood with clamoured shouts,
until, responsive to the trainer's hand and word
the whole pack settles, stops its noise, controlled.               [140]
So the Ardean Rutulians settle at his voice.

Heartfelt tears still falling, the Latin king
began: “how frail the scepter's transient pride;
How crazily does fate swing us around
whirlwinds the lives of men! Desire for power,
where do you blindly lead us? Where, glory, with such
danger, do you take our swaggering minds?
How many traps, how many snares, what evil
takes us? what arms, how many swords were there              [150]
that we were blind to? Oh sweet poison, dire
devotion to the world! Alas, sad throne
so costly to be held, the heaviness
of rulership which can never pledge peace,
and never bring tranquillity! Ach, bitter lot
of piteous royalty in a world of fears
that swarm at kings never to be denied!
Why, Turnus, did you bring this grief to Italy,
compel Aeneas' people to hard war?
What pleasure is there in defying sacred                               [160]
treaties? What huge impatience gripped your spirit
to battle a god's son, whom the Thunderer
himself summoned,—to chase him from our homes?
Outrage the promised pledge of my daughter
as Aeneas' wife? flaunt my express command
and raise your hand in war? What madness webbed
your mind? Why were you moved by savage Mars
on horseback in radiant armour, leading men,
though my anxiety rebuked you, urged restraint,
and called you back again to our threshold?                          [170]
How badly that played out our cities show,
half-wrecked, our wide fields glinting with white bones
and Latium deprived of rightful strength, a huge
ruin, rivers running red with human blood
these long, trembling terrors, this hard labour
which we city elders have so often endured.
Now, Turnus, there you lie! where's your youth now?
your glory, your once-famous mental sharpness?
Your honour? The imago of your decency?
Ach! such bitter tears does Daunus shed for you,                  [180]
Turnus! a river of them flows from Ardea!
And though our town won't see this cruel wound
it will at least have this bare comfort: that
your death came from the sword of Trojan Aeneas.”

He spoke as tears poured out and drenched his cheeks.
Facing the crowd, he ordered the wretched body
lifted up and borne into the bleak city,
charging it be done with all proper honours.
Quickly a surrounding crowd of Rutulians
moved the young corpse onto a hefty bier,                            [190]
piled with spoils previously taken from Trojans:
helmets and horses, swords and other weapons.
Chariots still slick with Phrygian blood follow;
weeping Metiscus slowly leads the horse
wet with the flow of its own tears, that once
carried raging Turnus to attack his foes.
Others come, their weapons held inverted; youths
trudging, wailing, wetting their breasts with tears.
And now they plod exhausted through night's silence
beating their breasts; and with slow step, Latinus                 [200]
makes towards the palace, thoughts desolate.
All the mothers weep, the young boys and old men
agitated and sad, fill the city with their groans.

But Daunus, ignorant of the pain to come,
not knowing war had deleted his son
was led by the sound of weeping to the walls,
already anxious with other cares and troubles.
For as the Latins were off being defeated
and Turnus soiled the ground with his hot blood
a fire had gashed through the high walls of the city;             [210]
Ardea was smoking, the father's palace ruined
reduced to clouds of ash and starbright embers
swirling upwards, no hope of salvation.
It was the gods' will—or maybe Turnus'
fate foreshadowed itself here, cut down by war.
Distraught, minds crushed, the anguished citizens
battered their chests in grief at this iniquity
this disaster. Mothers in their long dresses,
hurrying out, fleeing the hungry flames.
When ants, in black cohorts, struggle at a task                      [220]
beneath a tall tree, home-making in its root,
until a sharp axe breaks into their labour,
sundering and smashing-up their tiny
homes cruelly, at once they vie with each other
running out and around in desperate panic;
—or a tortoise upended, feeling fire's heat
on its flesh, wildly kicking its struggling feet,
thrashing its tail in panic, jerking its head,
trying over and again to escape as it burns;
in just that way the wretched citizenry                                  [230]
scattered confusedly in tumult of mind.

Before his people Daunus raised his voice,
an old man complaining to the gods above.
An omen was seen: from the midst of the flames,
a bird beat its wings and flew up into air,
the city's very name—Ardea means heron.
That which once stood as walls and soaring towers
changes, streaming on with outspread wings.
All stood stunned by this divine miracle
shoulders drooped and faces were perplexed,                       [240]
and Daunus, with ardent love of his country,
suppressed the spasm of his suffering heart.
The crowd heard that some marching men were coming—
Rumour herself flew down to panic hearts.
A soldier's death-march was approaching;
Turnus was dead, overwhelmed by a great wound.
A troubled crowd assembled, carrying black-shaft
torches according to custom: fields alight,
glistening with fire, joined with those who came.
After the mothers saw the advancing column                       [250]
they clapped their hands and sent shrieks to the stars.

Daunus saw his son's funeral procession ,
stood, seized with an immense and wrenching grief,
then suddenly cast himself amongst that company
clasped Turnus's corpse tight on the ground and
as soon as grief permitted speech, he said:
“Son, a father's pain, a tired and sad old age
all calm now shattered: dragged by those same dangers
which you drew to you, crushed by force of arms!
What has your outstanding spirit brought me?                      [260]
Is this the prize of virtue, power's glory?
This empire's magnificence? these the triumphs;
won by my son? Is this the balm you promised me
for my afflictions, the longed-for end of labours?
Oh! misery. Precipitous is the fall
that the fast-revolving ages bring about!
You, famous claimant to the highest honours,
Latium's right hand, whose armed strength the Trojans,
found so punishing, time and time again;
now, my Turnus, you lie dead, too sadly so;                         [270]
your once-sweet voice silenced; none handsomer
in the whole of Ausonia, none more graceful
or eloquent, nor more impressive when armed.
My son, where is your beauty's radiance, your brow's
fine shape, your eyes' tender glance, your long
neck's proud height? Did the glory of Mars
require such offering as this? You prepared
for war so eagerly and to this end?
Ach, hateful death, you who blunt the lifted
vengeance-weapons of our collective spirit                          [280]
you rule all nations, your contract never fails;
You level both the great and lowly man, the brave
and cowardly, captain and crew, old, young.
Obliterating death, for what gross cause
have you withdrawn my son from me, pierced with
this wound? Ah, lucky Amata, rejoice
that you are dead, my wife: these huge sorrows,
this endless pain-mnemonic, are things spared.
to you. How else torment a heartsick father,
you gods above? My son dead, Ardea burning                       [290]
overturned, consumed to ash, its wings batter
the sky. Oh my son, bloodsoaked Turnus!
Your old father's life still waits its end.
a pitiable creature whom the savage gods,
incensed by violent hatred, hound and torture
until he is destroyed. So fate turns the world.”
He finished speaking, and his drenching tears
covered his cheek, hard sorrow from his heart:
As if Jove's eagle seized with strong talons
a small fawn, ripped and sprayed its blood,                          [300]
whilst mother-deer looked on her baby's death.

Broad daylit brightness filled the world anew.
Father Latinus could see the doom Mars
inflicted on the faltering Italians, and
that fate favoured Aeneas. The storm of battle
preyed on his mind, and his duty to the pact:
to marriage and his daughter's plighted troth.
He calls forth men to represent their city,
chosen for their excellence, and sends
a thousand envoys to the Trojan chief
that worthiest commander. He adds togaed                           [310]
speakers to the deputation, with precise
orders—“since the gods' own auspices command
that Trojan and Italian blood be mixed
so both can share their destinies in peace:
invite Aeneas' folk inside the city.”

He takes his broken nation and his people,
shores them up, adds courage to their spirits;
pledges that enduring peace will come.
decrees a triumph soon will be paraded,
and decorates the royal palace with tributes;                        [320]
Cheerfully he urges them to unity—
to greet his son-in-law wholeheartedly
receive the Trojan people with acclaim, and
sing out in joy at peace's restoration.

His cohort now approached the Trojan camp,
Hair tied and olive-sprigged, suing for peace.
Aeneas orders them brought to his quarters
and cheerfully he asks why they have come.

Then aged Drances, obviously happy
at Turnus' death, began his heartfelt                                     [330]
speech: “Oh, famous ruler of the Trojans;
Phrygia's hope and glory, whose piety
and strength surpasses all: we testify
before all deities with what reluctance
Latinus watched Latium ignore him,
to break its treaty: he respected Phrygians.
and since the powers above decreed his daughter
should marry you, he embraced that union.
What has been wrought by chaotic hot war,
the furious effort of the work, its trials—                             [340]
was all just Turnus' mad hunger for the fight,
his headstrong fury. All against our will
he consigned the Latin people to the fray.
The army all beseeched him with the plea
to yield and keep the treaty, that Anchises'
mighty son might marry; and, though old,
Latinus clutched his shaking hands in prayer
begged him, although on fire with Mars's fury.
But neither our impassioned prayers, nor omens
of the gods could change his stubborn spirit.                       [350]
His mouth spewed fire, a wild beast for battle.
At least his violence finds its proper end,
stretched before you now, his vanquisher, biting
black soil. Now in the deepest depths of
Tartarus let him explore the possibilities
of other battleplans, of other marriages.
May you, the better man, accept Laurentian suit.
You are the hope of tired Latinus' house;
Italians see you soar beyond the golden
stars, armed by gods, revered for might in war.                   [360]
Their celebration marks a simple truth.
We are yours: the solemn throng of fathers
the worn-out men, the happy youths are yours;
the eager mothers, single boys and girls;
unanimous in relief that Turnus fell
to the force of your arms. We entreat you,
all Italy exalts you with its praise;
All eyes are fixed on you. Father Latinus
has now just one task left in his long life
to join his daughter to you, and ensure                                [370]
the mix of Trojan and Italian blood.
Therefore, come great leader of the Teucrians
Come in, and take the honours promised you.”

He ended: and all clamoured their approval.
Good Aeneas, turning to those who cheered
returned their greeting with choice words of friendship:
“I don't blame you, or Latinus who I know
wants peace. The wrath of this unbalanced Turnus
is to blame—together with his glory-lust
surely brought about this chain of events.                           [380]
Ausonians, I do not refuse the pact
the marriage and the sacred peace ensured
by this new union. My father-in-law
will remain king, my Trojans build for me
a new city, named after your daughter, home
to our household gods. Our legacy will be
a harmony of laws, and great hearts one in love.
Meanwhile, let's build pyres for the pitiable
bodies of the dead, whom war's insanity
have snatched away. Then, with tomorrow's clear              [390]
dawn light, let us rebuild Laurentian homes.”

He finished speaking and the whole crowd gazed
in awe at such an august instance of
his celebrated pietas; they heaped huge beams
for funeral pyres, and set the fires
cremating fallen countrymen. Smoke drifts high
and the sky above becomes a murky darkness,
countless sheep are sacrificed, black-headed
cattle slaughtered, and placed on these pyres.
The wide fields are blasted by the burning.                       [400]
A storm of lamentation fills the air.

Now, Phoebus's clear gold light had raised the day;
Teucrian and Ausonian men in battle gear
mounted their horses and rode straight to
that high-walled city, upright Laurentium
led by dutiful Aeneas and Drances
the old man recalling many memories; next came
Ascanius; and great-souled old Aletes;
llioneus, Mnestheusque, sharp Serestus
Sergestus, strong Gyas, Cloanthus as strong.                      [410]
Mingled Italians-Teucrians followed behind.

Hurrying citizens streamed along the walls,
nobility jostling with ordinary civilians
in eagerness to see the coming Trojans.
And, all his worries put to rest, Latinus
with a large crowd gladly received them all.
When he saw in the coming procession
Dardanian Aeneas, his true image
far surpassing all report, tall and fine
radiating a prince's charisma from eyes                              [420]
as bright as stars. Soon it was time for talk
after they clasped hands to welcome one another,
a meeting long anticipated. Latinus begins:
“At last you've come; we are not disappointed
of our hearts' hope, light of the Trojan nation,
you who, following the mighty gods' orders
settle in Italy, under our own roofs:
though inhuman chaos sought furiously.
to derange law and invite a divine wrath;
endangering even me against my will,                                [430]
forcing me to endure the rush of Mars.
We paid no small price for this; heaven's lawful
angry powers punished us dreadfully.
But, Trojan leader, since the source, the author
of rebellion is no more; let us proceed to
marriage, to union, and the promised wedding.
Though I have kingdoms, other towns with walls:
my daughter is my one hope for old age;
I embrace you, son and son-in-law combined.”

Then good Aeneas said: “Great king, I don't                      [440]
blame you for our conflict. No one believes
your love for sacred peace could lead to tumult;
Banish worry from your mind, dear father, please.
Now, here, I gladly claim you as both father-in-law
and father; a mighty vision rises up—
Anchises! I burn anew with love for a father.”

Joined to one another they entered the royal
palace; mothers and girls streamed out to greet them;
fathers and squads of youths, eager to gaze
on the handsome bodies of the Trojan men.                        [450]
Above all, they want to see the great Aeneas,
high-spirited, his heritage and his fine brow,
to praise this time of peace, long-coveted
gift of calm. As, when lengthy downpour
ceaseless rain holds farmer's plow long idle
until at last the Titan sends his horses
over the golden sky's broad path with brightness;
and happy peasants rush out filled with joy,
Just so the Ausonians greet this happy time                        [460]
of calm spirits. Now noble King Latinus
had entered the regal hallways, walking with
the great Aeneas, handsome Iulus following;
Italians and Phrygians behind. The bright
palace was filled with the happy group's applause.
To this procession a troop of mothers
and daughters brought in the virgin Lavinia,
her shining eyes cast down. When the Trojan
hero saw her beauty, mirabile dictu,
he stopped, enchanted by the sight, and inside                   [470]
sorrowed for the sufferings of Turnus who
moved by an ambition too great for his zeal
had levied soldiery, inflamed by arms.
So the eternal marriage bond is made,
and all are singing the praises of union;
applause and acclamation fills the air,
sounds of joy ring through the royal place.

Then Aeneas asks the faithful Achates
for the gifts Andromache once gave him, garments
woven with gold thread that had adorned her                     [480]
whilst Troy still stood; and a circling collar
of gold and gorgeous jewels that graced her neck;
and also a fine mixing bowl, in which Priam
had pledged his love for Anchises, long ago.
At once Achates brings these lovely gifts.
Latinus takes the great bowl as his son-in-law's
present; graceful Lavinia accepts the garments
and jewels as wife. Then they take friendship's
refreshment, and fill the hours with conversation.

And now the slow declining light marked time                  [490]
for the banquet; a royal convivial table
heaped high with fine food and palace settings.
All were invited to Tyrian-dyed couches,
to share in the delicious feast. They washed
their hands in cups of crystal glass; on the table
blond Ceres' bread; a corps of smiling servants
bustled round attending to all needs:
refresh the plates with food and mix the wine
refill cups and bowls. Circling now here, now there,
a medley of services within those halls.                              [500]

Father Latinus gazed at young Iulus
marvelling at his eyes and lovely face,
at the sophistication of his speech
a mind mature beyond its years; he asked him
many things, conversed and kissed him
sweetly, clinging to him in a fond embrace;
happy the gods would offer such a gift
as offspring, good fortune to Aeneas.

With their hunger satisfied by the meal
conversation cheats the long hours of night:                       [510]
recalling Troy's hard loss to the Achaeans,
and then remembering Laurentine war:
where the battle lines were drawn; which weapons
were hurled and struck; who charged the foe
wetting his sword with the hot blood of horses.
Trojan Aeneas and aged Latinus,
spoke of heroes, the power of the Latins,
of how, to escape the pursuit of his armed son
Saturn himself hid on latent Latin shores;
bringing order to the mountain-dwellers                             [520]
teaching them the law guaranteeing rights,
how to grow food and vines; and afterwards,
Jove came to his father's house; Atlas' daughter Electra,
bore Dardanus, who went to Ida's Phrygia,
with his followers, leaving Cortona behind;
taking the eagle his emblem: Jove's pride;
the blazon of Hector's race, and the founder of
the famous Trojan stock and all its honours.

With such and other chatter they filled up
the time. Now yells of joy roll through the courts              [530]
echoing beneath the mighty palace roofs.
Torches give light, flashing forth wide brightness.
The Phrygians jump to their feet, and as the guitar
is struck the Ausonians join then, clapping all together
and banging their feet in rhythm of the joyful dance.

Festivities had lasted nine luxurious
splendid days, when that great hero-ruler
Aeneas scored out the curved line of his city,
with a plough: houses, trenches, an embankment.
Then: a wonder! An undiminishing flame                          [540]
huge and bright, twisting up into the clouds,
appeared for pour from off Lavinia's head!
Father Aeneas, astonished, stretched his
hands to the sky and spoke: “If ever, Jupiter,
the Trojans heeded you on land and sea
willingly respected and obeyed your commands
if I, you high powers, ever revered your altars:
what does this omen mean? May it be happy
the felicity of peace, an end to our sufferings.”

At this heartfelt outcry, his golden mother,                          [550]
Venus herself, embraced him and spoke kindly:
“Son, banish your anxiety, accept these better
omens from the gods, rejoice, your future's good.
Now peace is won, your sufferings are over;
now history accepts your covenant of peace.
Don't fear the flame that carries to the heavens
from your dear wife's head; only stand firm and true.
Yes, she will be the one to raise your bloodline
and exhalt the Trojan race to the stars!
She will beget you many high-souled offspring                   [560]
great descendants whom the whole world will praise,
who'll use their strength and power to bring that world
under their yoke. Their glorious empire
will surpass the Ocean and over-top Olympus;
And what will lift them, after ardent deeds
beyond the sky, to godhead's source, is: virtue.
This flame heralds the signal achievement,
of your nation; the Almighty himself
has sent this sign down from his starry home.
Give your city you are founding your wife's name.              [570]
Establish there your sacred household gods
the ones you snatched from burning Troy; pay them
the honours they deserve, now and all time.
I'll tell you an amazing thing: your love
is so great that, even displaced, Lavinium
will draw them, they'll return of their own will.
O lucky man, greatness is yours! In peace
you'll rule the Trojans. When your father-in-law
drained by age, departs for Elysian shadows;
You will take the throne, and bring Italian law                     [580]
and Trojan into harmony. And then
ascend to heaven! The omen means all this.”
Then she flew away, borne on the light air.

Aeneas, though stupefied by what he'd heard,
carried out the commands of his divine parent;
And so he reigned, brought peace's blessings to
the Dardanians; and, when old Latinus died
dutiful Aeneas succeeded, and the whole
of Italy came under his great sway.
Union between the Phrygians and Italians                            [590]
grew stronger, an alliance of great love,
shared customs and the harmony of laws.
Then Venus came to the midst of Olympus
knelt before Jove and clasped his feet, saying:
“Mighty Father, you from the sky's summit
guide all things and observe the affairs of men.
When malign fate gripped the Trojans, I recall
you promised they'd be safe and to end their strife.
Your pledge, father, never has deceived me!
we have all seen the whole of Italy celebrate                        [600]
three years of serene peace, unbroken;
A pathway to the astral heights of heaven
for Aeneas you promised that, to make his worth
known to the stars. What does your heart say now?
Aeneas's virtue earns celestial zenith.”

The father of men and gods kissed her, and
spoke from the heart: “Cythera, my words tell you
how much I've loved Aeneas and his folk
enduring all they did on land and sea,
I grieved for them, touched by your love, my daughter,        [610]
until at last I won Juno's agreement
to end their woes. I stand by my decree,
the Phrygian leader will ascend the lofty
heavens: my will is firm; the gods' council
will accept him. You must erase what mortal
parts of him remain, so he can reach the stars.
And others with his virtue, those whose praise
is universal, whose deeds resound world-wide
those too will I convey beyond the Aether.”
The gods assented, not even royal Juno                                 [620]
demurred; she knew Aeneas deserved
to enter heaven, and became his friend.

Then Venus slides down aerial breezes, looking
for Laurentum: where the Numicius winds its
flow through reeds and runs-on to the sea,
she tells its waves to wash from her son's body
all that is mortal. Joyous, she conducts
the fresh and blessed soul above the air:
and stars Aeneas there. His Julian clan calls him
Indiges, and honours him in temples.                         [630]

3 comments:

  1. A brief footnote: Vegio takes much of the detail of his poem from Ovid's Metamorphoses XIV:566-608. The name of the city Ardea does mean heron, as at line 236; and a local legend suggested that this type of bird was originally born from Ardea’s ruins. The name of the constellation mentioned at the end, Indiges means ‘native’, or at a stretch, ‘native god’. Here is A S Kline's translation of the relevant bit of Ovid:

    "At length Turnus fell, and Venus saw her son’s weapons victorious. Ardea fell, spoken of as a power while Turnus lived. After the savage fires had destroyed it, and warm ashes buried its houses, a bird flew from the ruins, one now seen for the first time, and beat at the embers with flapping wings. Its cry, its leanness, its pallor, everything that fitted the captured city, even its name, ardea, the heron, survived in the bird: and in the beating of its wings, Ardea mourns itself.

    Aeneas’s virtues had compelled all the gods, even Juno herself, to bring to an end their ancient feud, and since his young son Julus’s fortunes were firmly founded, Cytherea’s heroic son was ripe for heaven. Venus had sought the opinion of the gods, and throwing her arms round her father’s neck, had said ‘You have never been harsh to me, father, now be kindest of all, I beg you. Grant my Aeneas, who claims you as his grandfather through my bloodline, some divinity, however little -- you choose -- so long as you grant him something! It is enough that he once gazed on the hateful kingdom, once crossed the steams of Styx.’ The gods agreed, and Juno, the royal consort, did not display her severe expression, but consented peacefully. Then Jupiter said: ‘You are worthy of this divine gift, you who ask, as is he for whom you ask it: my daughter, possess what you desire!’

    The word was spoken: with joy she thanked her father, and drawn by her team of doves through the clear air, she came to the coast of Laurentum, where the waters of the River Numicius, hidden by reeds, wind down to the neighbouring sea. She ordered the river-god to cleanse Aeneas, of whatever was subject to death, and bear it away, in his silent course, into the depths of the ocean. The horned god executed Venus’s orders, and purged Aeneas of whatever was mortal, and dispersed it on the water: what was best in him remained. Once purified, his mother anointed his body with divine perfume, touched his lips with a mixture of sweet nectar and ambrosia, and made him a god, whom the Romans named Indiges, admitting him to their temples and altars." [Ovid, Metamorphoses XIV:566-608]

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  2. Thank you. I'd never heard of this, and I was extremely interested to read it, even if it does seem a bit superfluous. I like the part where flames shoot out of Lavinia's head; that's a very strange image. I wonder how she felt about it.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! I agree with you that it's a little inconsequential, especially compared with some of the actual Vergilian books. But I grew to like it more, as I translated it.

      The flame coming off Lavinia's head is very odd, I agree. Odder, it's a retread: Aeneid 7:73f describes an earlier mystic flame burning on (the then virgin) Lavinia's head: her Da goes to an augur who interprets the sign as meaning she must not be allowed to marry any Italian prince, because Fate had reserved her for a notable foreigner.

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