From Virgil’s Works, The Aeneid, Eclogues, Georgics translated by J. W. Mackail, Introduction by Charles L. Durham, Ph.D., New York: the Modern Library; 1934; pp. 23-43.
Mixed Metal Sculpture by Serena Thirkell
© Serena Thirkell
(Image used with permission).
[1-31]ALL were hushed, and sate with steadfast countenance; thereon, from his cushioned high seat, lord Aeneas thus began:
‘Dreadful, O Queen, is the woe thou bid me recall, how the Grecians pitiably overthrew the wealth and lordship of Troy; and I myself saw these things in all their horror, and I bore great part in them. What Myrmidon or Dolopian, or soldier of stern Ulysses, could in such a tale restrain his tears! and now night falls dewy from the steep of heaven, and the setting stars counsel to slumber. Yet if thy desire be such to know our calamities, and briefly to hear Troy’s last agony, though my spirit shudders at the remembrance and recoils in pain, I will essay.
‘Broken in war, beaten back by fate, and so many years now slid away, the Grecian captains build by Pallas’ divine craft a horse of mountain bulk, and frame its ribs with sawn fir; they feign it vowed for their return, and this rumour goes about. Within the blind sides they stealthily imprison chosen men picked out one by one, and fill the vast cavern of its womb with armed soldiery.
‘There lies in sight an island well known in fame, Tenedos, rich of store while the realm of Priam endured, now but a bay and roadstead treacherous to ships. Hither they launch forth, and hide on the solitary shore: we fancied they were gone, and had run down the wind for Mycenae. So all the Teucrian land put her long grief away. The gates are flung open; men go rejoicingly to see the Doric camp, the deserted stations and abandoned shore. Here the Dolopian troops were tented, here cruel Achilles; here their squadrons lay; here they were wont to meet in battle-line. Some gaze astonished at the deadly 24[32-79] gift of Minerva the Virgin, and wonder at the horse’s bulk; and Thymoetes begins to advise that it be drawn within our walls and set in the citadel, whether in guile, or that the doom of Troy was even now setting thus. But Capys, and they whose mind was of better counsel, bid us either hurl sheer into the sea the guileful and sinister gift of Greece, and heap flames beneath to consume it, or pierce and explore the hollow hiding-place of its womb. The wavering crowd is torn apart in eager dispute.
‘At that, foremost of all and with a great throng about him, Laocoön afire runs down from the fortress height, and cries from far: “Ah, wretched citizens, what height of madness is this? Believe you the foe is gone? or think you any Grecian gift is free of treachery? is it thus we know Ulysses? Either Achaeans are hid in this cage of wood, or the engine is fashioned against our walls to overlook the houses and descend upon the city; or some delusion lurks in it; trust not the horse, O Trojans. Be it what it may, I fear the Grecians even when they offer gifts.” Thus speaking, he hurled his huge spear with mighty strength at the creature’s side and the curved framework of the belly: the spear stood quivering, and the jarred cavern of the womb sounded hollow and uttered a groan. And had divine ordinance been thus and our soul not infatuate he had moved us to lay violent steel on the Argolic hiding place; and Troy would now stand, and you, tall towers of Priam, yet abide.
‘Lo, Dardanian shepherds meanwhile dragged clamorously before the King a man with hands tied behind his back, who to compass this very thing, to lay Troy open to the Achaeans, had gone to meet their ignorant approach, confident of his courage, and doubly prepared to spin his snares or to meet assured death. From all sides, in eagerness to see, the people of Troy run streaming in, and vie in jeers at their prisoner. Know now the treachery of the Grecians, and from a single crime learn them all. . . . For as he stood amid our gaze confounded, disarmed, and cast his eyes around the Phrygian columns, “Alas!” he cried, “what land now, what seas may 15[70-108] receive me? or what is the last doom that yet awaits a wretch like me? who have neither any place among the Grecians, and likewise the Dardanians clamour in wrath for the forfeit of my blood.” At that lament our spirit was changed, and all assault stayed: we encourage him to speak, and tell of what blood he is sprung, or what assurance he brings his captors.
‘ “In all things assuredly,” says he, “O King, befall what may, I will confess to thee the truth; nor will I deny myself of Argolic birth — this first — nor, if Fortune has made Sinon unhappy, shall her malice mould him to a cheat and a liar. If the tale of the name of Palamedes, son of Belus, has haply reached thine ears, and of his glorious rumour and renown; whom under false evidence the Pelasgians, because he forbade the war, sent innocent to death by wicked witness; now they bewail him when his light is quenched; — in his company, being near of blood, my father, poor as he was, sent me hither to arms from mine earliest years. While he stood unshaken in royalty and potent in the councils of the kings, we too wore a name and honour. When by subtle Ulysses’ malice (no unknown tale do I tell) he left the upper regions, my shattered life crept on in darkness and grief, inly indignant at the fate of my innocent friend. Nor in my madness was I silent: and, should any chance offer, did I ever return a conqueror to my native Argos, I vowed myself his avenger, and with my words I stirred bitter hatred. From this came the first taint of ill; from this did Ulysses ever threaten me with fresh charges, from this flung dark sayings among the crowd and sought confederate arms. Nay, nor did he rest, till by Calchas’ service — but yet why do I vainly unroll the unavailing tale, or why hold you in delay? If all Achaeans are ranked together in your mind, and it is enough that I bear the name, take your vengeance none too soon; this the Ithacan would desire, and the sons of Atreus buy at a great ransom.”
‘Then indeed we press on to ask and inquire the cause, witless of wickedness so great and Pelasgian craft. Tremblingly the false-hearted one pursues his speech:
‘ “Often would the Grecians have taken to flight, leaving 26[109-147] Troy behind, and disbanded in weariness of the long war; and would God they had! as often the fierce sea-tempest barred their way, and the south wind frightened them from going. Most of all when this horse already stood framed with beams of maple, storm-clouds roared over all the sky. In perplexity we send Eurypylus to inquire of Phoebus’ oracle; and he brings back from the sanctuary these words of terror: With blood of a slain maiden, O Grecians, you appeased the winds when first you came to the Ilian coasts; with blood must you seek your return, and an Argive life be the accepted sacrifice. When that utterance reached the ears of the crowd, their hearts stood still, and a cold shudder ran through their inmost sense: for whom is doom purposed? whom does Apollo demand? At this the Ithacan with loud clamour drags Calchas the soothsayer forth amidst them, and demands of him what is this the gods signify. And now many an one foretold me the villain’s craft and cruelty, and silently saw what was to come. Twice five days he is speechless in his tent, and will not have any one denounced by his lips, or given up to death. Scarcely at last, at the loud urgence of the Ithacan, he breaks into speech as was planned, and appoints me for the altar. All consented; and each one’s particular fear was turned, ah me! to my single destruction. And now the dreadful day was at hand; the rites were being ordered for me, the salted corn, and the chaplets to wreathe my temples. I broke away, I confess it, from death; I burst my bonds, and lurked all night darkling in the sedge of the marshy pool, till they might set their sails, if haply they should set them. Nor have I any hope more of seeing my old home nor my darling children and the father whom I desire. Of them will they even haply claim vengeance for my flight, and wash away this crime in their wretched death. By the heavenly powers I beseech thee, the deities to whom truth is known, by all the faith yet unsullied that is anywhere left among mortals, pity woes so great, pity a soul that bears intolerable wrong.”
‘At these his tears we grant him life, and accord our pity. Priam himself at once commands his shackles and strait bonds 27[148-183] to be undone, and thus speaks with kindly words: “Whoso thou art, now and henceforth dismiss and forget the Greeks: thou shalt be ours. And unfold the truth to this my question: wherefore have they reared the bulk of this monstrous steed? who is their counsellor? or what their aim? what propitiation, or what engine of war is this?” He ended; the other, stored with the treacherous craft of Pelasgia, lifts to heaven his freed hands. “You, everlasting fires,” he cries, “and your inviolable sanctity be my witness; you, O altars and accursed swords I fled, and chaplets of the gods I wore as victim! unblamed may I break the oath of Greek allegiance, unblamed hate them and bring all to light that they conceal; nor am I bound by any laws of country. Do thou only keep by thy promise, O Troy, and preserve faith with thy preserver, as my news shall be true, as my recompense ample.
‘ “All the hope of Greece, and the confidence in which the war began, ever centred in Pallas’ aid. But since the wicked son of Tydeus, and Ulysses, forger of crime, made bold to tear the fated Palladium from her sanctuary, and cut down the sentries on the towered height; since they grasped the holy image, and dared with bloody hands to touch the maiden chaplets of the goddess; since then the hope of Greece ebbed and slid away backwards, their strength was broken, and the mind of the goddess estranged. Whereof the Tritonian gave token by no uncertain signs. Scarcely was the image set in the camp; flame shot sparkling from its lifted eyes, and salt sweat started over its body; thrice, wonderful to tell, it leapt from the ground with shield and spear quivering. Immediately Calchas prophesies that the seas must be explored in flight, nor may Troy towers be overthrown by Argive weapons, except they repeat their auspices at Argos, and bring back that divine presence they have borne away with them in the curved ships overseas. And now they have run down the wind for their native Mycenae, to gather arms and gods to attend them; they will remeasure ocean and be on you unawares. So Calchas expounds the omens. This image at his warning they reared in recompense for the Palladium and 28[184-224] the injured deity, to expiate the horror of sacrilege. Yet Calchas bade them raise it to this vast size with oaken crossbeams, and build it up to heaven, that it might not find entry at the gates nor be drawn within the city, nor protect your people beneath the consecration of old. For if hand of yours should violate Minerva’s offering, then utter destruction (the gods turn rather on himself his augury!) should be upon Priam’s empire and the Phrygian people. But if under your hands it climbed into your city, Asia should advance in mighty war to the walls of Pelops, and a like fate awaited our children’s children.”
‘So by Sinon’s wiles and craft and perjury the thing gained belief; and we were ensnared by treachery and forced tears, we whom neither the son of Tydeus nor Achilles of Larissa, whom not ten years nor a thousand ships brought down.
‘Hereon another sight, greater, alas! and far more terrible meets us, and alarms our thoughtless senses. Laocoön, allotted priest for Neptune, was slaying a great bull at the accustomed altars. And lo! from Tenedos, over the placid depths (I shudder as I recall) two snakes in enormous coils press down the sea and advance together to the shore; their breasts rise through the surge, and their blood-red crests overtop the waves; the rest tails through the main behind and wreathes back in voluminous curves; the brine gurgles and foams. And now they gained the fields, while their bloodshot eyes blazed with fire, and their tongues lapped and flickered in their hissing mouths. We scatter, blanched at the sight. They in unfaltering train make towards Laocoön. And first the serpents twine in their double embrace his two little children, and bite deep in their wretched limbs; then him likewise, as he comes up to help with arms in his hand, they seize and fasten in their enormous coils; and now twice clasping his waist, twice encircling his neck with their scaly bodies, they tower head and neck above him. He at once strains his hands to tear their knots apart, his fillets spattered with foul black venom; at once raises to heaven awful cries; as when, bellowing, a bull shakes the wavering axe from his neck and rushes 29[225-265] wounded from the altar. But the two snakes glide away to the high sanctuary and seek the fierce Tritonian’s citadel, and take shelter under the goddess’ feet beneath the circle of her shield. Then indeed a strange terror thrills in all our amazed breasts; and Laocoön, men say, has fulfilled his crime’s desert, in piercing the consecrated wood and hurling his guilty spear into its body. All cry out that the image must be drawn to its home and supplication made to her deity. . . . We breach the walls, and lay open the ramparts of the city. All set to the work; they fix sliding rollers under its feet, and tie hempen bands on its neck. The fated engine climbs our walls, big with arms. Around it boys and unwedded girls chant hymns and joyfully lay their hand on the rope. It moves up, and glides menacing into the middle of the town. O native land! O Ilium, house of gods, and Dardanian ramparts renowned in war! four times in the very gateway did it come to a stand, and four times armour rang in its womb. Yet we urge it on, mindless and infatuate, and plant the ill-omened portent in our hallowed citadel. Even then Cassandra opens her lips to the coming doom, lips at a god’s bidding never believed by the Trojans. We, the wretched people to whom that day was our last, hang the shrines of the gods with festal boughs throughout the city. Meanwhile the heavens wheel on, and night rises from the sea, wrapping in her vast shadow earth and sky and the wiles of the Myrmidons; about the town the Teucrians are stretched in silence; slumber laps their tired limbs.
‘And now the Argive squadron was sailing in order from Tenedos, and in the favoring stillness of the quiet moon sought the shores it knew; when the royal galley ran out a flame, and, protected by the gods’ malign decrees, Sinon stealthily lets loose the imprisoned Grecians from their barriers of pine; the horse opens and restores them to the air; and joyfully issuing from the hollow wood, Thessander and Sthenelus the captains, and terrible Ulysses, slide down the dangling rope, with Acamas and Thoas and Neoptolemus son of Peleus, and Machaon first of all, and Menelaus, and Epeüs himself the artificer of the snare. They rush upon a city buried 30[266-305] in drunken sleep; the watchmen are cut down, and at the open gates they welcome all their comrades, and unite their confederate bands.
‘It was the time when by the gift of God rest comes stealing first and sweetest on unhappy men. In slumber, lo! before mine eyes Hector seemed to stand by, deep in grief and shedding abundant tears; torn by the chariot, as once of old, and black with gory dust, his swoln feet pierced with the thongs. Ah me! in what guise was he! how changed from the Hector who returns from putting on Achilles’ spoils, or launching the fires of Phrygia on the Grecian ships! with ragged beard and tresses clotted with blood, and all the many wounds upon him that he received around his ancestral walls. Myself too weeping I seemed to accost him ere he spoke, and utter forth mournful accents: “O light of Dardania, O surest hope of the Trojans, what long delays have withheld thee? from what borders comest thou, Hector our desire? with what weary eyes we see thee, after many deaths of thy kin, after divers woes of people and city! What indignity has marred thy serene visage? or why discern I these wounds?” He replies naught, nor regards my idle questioning; but heavily drawing a heart-deep groan, “Ah, fly, goddess-born,” he says, “and rescue thyself from these flames. The foe holds our walls; from her high ridges Troy is toppling down. Thy country and Priam ask no more. If our towers might be defended by strength of hand, this hand too had been their defence. Troy commends to thee her holy things and household gods; take them to accompany thy fate; seek for them a city, which, after all the seas have known thy wanderings, thou shalt at last establish in might.” So speaks he, and carries forth in his hand from their inner shrine the chaplets and strength of Vesta, and the everlasting fire.
‘Meanwhile the city is stirred with mingled agony; and more and more, though my father Anchises’ house lay deep withdrawn and screened by trees, the noises grow clearer and the clash of armour swells. I shake myself from sleep and mount over the sloping roof, and stand there with ears attent: even as when flame catches a corn-field while south winds are 31[306-342] furious, or the raining torrent of a mountain stream sweeps the fields, sweeps the smiling crops and labours of the oxen, and hurls the forest with it headlong; the shepherd in ignorant amaze hears the roar from the cliff-top. Then indeed proof is clear, and the treachery of the Grecians opens out. Already the house of Deïphobus has crashed down in wide ruin amid the overpowering flames; already Ucalegon is ablaze hard by: the broad Sigean bay it lit with the fire. Cries of men and blare of trumpets rise up. Madly I seize my arms, nor is there much purpose in arms; but my spirit is on fire to gather a band for fighting and charge for the citadel with my comrades. Fury and wrath drive me headlong and I think how noble is death in arms.
‘And lo! Panthus, eluding the Achaean weapons, Panthus son of Othrys, priest of Phoebus in the citadel, comes hurrying with the sacred vessels and conquered gods and his little grandchild in his hand, and runs distractedly towards my gates. “How stands the state, O Panthus? what stronghold are we to occupy?” Scarcely had I said so, when groaning he thus returns: “The crowning day is come, the irreversible time of the Dardanian land. No more are we a Trojan people; Ilium and the great glory of the Teucrians is no more. Angry Jupiter has cast all into the scale of Argos. The Grecians are lords of the burning town. The horse, standing high amid the city, pours forth armed men, and Sinon scatters fire, insolent in victory. Some are at the wide-flung gates, all the thousands that ever came from populous Mycenae. Others have beset the narrow streets with lowered weapons; edge and glittering point of steel stand drawn, ready for the slaughter; scarcely at the entry do the guards of the gates essay battle, and hold out in the blind fight.”
‘Heaven’s will thus declared by the son of Othrys drives me amid flames and arms, where the baleful Fury calls, and tumult of shouting rises up. Rhipeus and Egyptus, most mighty in arms, join company with me; Hypanis and Dymas meet us in the moonlight and attach themselves to our side, and young Coroebus son of Mygdon. In those days it was he had 32[343-383] come to Troy, fired with mad passion for Cassandra, and bore a son’s aid to Priam and the Phrygians: hapless, that he listened not to his raving bride’s counsels. . . . Seeing them close-ranked and daring for battle, I therewith began thus: “Men, hearts of supreme and useless bravery, if your desire be fixed to follow in daring the utmost; you see what is the fortune of our state: all the gods by whom this empire was upheld have gone forth, abandoning shrine and altar; your aid comes to a burning city. Let us die, and rush on their encircling weapons. The conquered have one safety, to hope for none.”
‘So their spirit is heightened to fury. Then, like wolves ravening in a black fog, whom mad malice of hunger has driven blindly forth, and their cubs left behind await with throats unslaked, through the weapons of the enemy we march to certain death, and hold our way straight into the town. Night’s hollow shadow flits dark around us. Who may unfold in speech that night’s horror and death-agony, or measure its woes in weeping? The ancient city falls with her long years of sovereignty; corpses lie stretched stiff all about the streets and houses and awful courts of the gods. Nor do Teucrians alone pay forfeit of their blood; once and again valour returns even in conquered hearts, and the victorious Grecians fall. Everywhere is cruel agony, everywhere terror, and the multiplied sight of death.
‘First, with a great troop of Grecians attending him, Androgeos meets us, taking us in ignorance for an allied band, and opens on us with friendly words: ‘Hasten, my men; why idly linger so late? others plunder and harry the burning citadel; are you but now on your march from the tall ships?” He spoke, and immediately (for no answer of any assurance was offered) knew he was fallen among the foe. In amazement, he checked foot and voice; even as one who struggling through rough briers has trodden a snake on the ground unwarned, and suddenly starts back in affright as it rises in anger and puffs its dark-green throat out; even thus Androgeos drew away, terror-struck at the sight. We rush in and encircle them 33[384-423] with serried arms, and cut them down dispersedly in their ignorance of the ground and seizure of panic. Fortune speeds our first labour. And hereat Coroebus, flushed with success and spirit, cries: “O comrades, follow me where fortune points before us the path of safety, and shews her favour. Let us exchange shields, and accoutre ourselves in Grecian suits; whether craft or courage, who will ask of an enemy? the foe shall arm our hands.” Thus speaking, he next dons the plumed helmet and beautifully blazoned shield of Androgeos, and fits the Argive sword to his side. So does Rhipeus, so Dymas in like wise, and all our men in delight arm themselves one by one in the fresh spoils. We advance, mingling with the Grecians under a protection not our own, and join many a battle with those we meet amid the blind night; many a Greek we send down to hell. Some scatter to the ships and run for the safety of the shore; some in craven fear again climb the huge horse, and hide in the belly they knew.
‘Alas that none may trust at all to estranged gods! Lo! Cassandra, maiden daughter of Priam, was being dragged with disordered tresses from the temple and sanctuary of Minerva, straining to heaven her blazing eyes in vain; her eyes, for fetters confined her delicate hands. At this sight Coroebus burst forth infuriate, and flung himself on death amid their columns. We all follow him up, and charge with massed arms. Here first from the high temple roof we are overwhelmed with our own people’s weapons, and most pitiful slaughter begins through the fashion of our armour and the mistaken Greek crests; then the Grecians, with angry cries at the maiden’s rescue, gather from every side and fall on us; Ajax in all his valour, and the two sons of Atreus, and the whole Dolopian army: as oft when bursting in whirlwind West and South clash with adverse blasts, and the East wind exultant on the coursers of the Dawn; the forests cry, and fierce in foam Nereus with his trident stirs the seas from their lowest depth. Those too appear, whom our stratagem routed through the darkness of dim night and drove all about the town; at once they know the shields and lying weapons, and mark the alien tone on 34[424-460] our lips. We go down, overwhelmed by numbers. First Coroebus is stretched by Penelaus’ hand at the altar of the goddess armipotent; and Rhipeus falls, the one man who was most righteous and steadfast in justice among the Teucrians: the gods’ ways are not as ours. Hypanis and Dymas perish, pierced by friendly hands; nor did all thy goodness, O Panthus, nor Apollo’s fillet protect thy fall. O ashes of Ilium and death-flames of my people! you I call to witness that in your ruin I shunned no weapon or encounter, and earned my fall at a Grecian hand, had destiny been thus. We tear ourselves away, I and Iphitus and Pelias, Iphitus now stricken in age, Pelias halting too under the wound of Ulysses, called forward by the clamour to Priam’s house.
‘Here indeed the fight is fiercest, as if all the rest of the warfare were nowhere, and no slaughter but here throughout the city, so do we descry the battle in full fury, the Grecians rushing on the building, and their shielded column driving up against the beleaguered threshold. Ladders cling to the walls; and hard by the doors and planted on the rungs they hold up their shields in the left hand to ward off our weapons, and with their right clutch the battlements. The Dardanians tear down turrets and whole pinnacles of the palace against them; with these for weapons, since they see the end is come, they prepare to defend themselves even in death’s extremity: and hurl down gilded beams, the stately decorations of their fathers of old. Others with drawn swords have beset the doorway below and keep it in crowded column. We renew our courage, to aid the royal dwelling, to support them with our succour, and swell the force of the conquered.
‘There was a blind doorway giving passage through the range of Priam’s halls by a solitary postern, whereby, while our realm endured, hapless Andromache would often and often glide unattended to her father-in-law’s house, and carry the boy Astyanax to his grandsire. I issue out on the sloping height of the ridge, whence wretched Teucrian hands were hurling their ineffectual weapons. A tower stood on the sheer brink, its roof ascending high into heaven, whence was wont 35[461-500] to be seen all Troy and the Grecian ships and Achaean camp: attacking it with iron round about, where the joints of the lofty flooring yielded, we wrench it from its high foundations and shake it free; it gives way, and suddenly falls thundering in ruin, crashing wide over the Grecian ranks. But others swarm up; nor meanwhile do stones nor any sort of missile slacken. . . . Right before the vestibule and in the front doorway Pyrrhus moves rejoicingly in the sparkle of arms and gleaming brass: like as when a snake fed on poisonous herbs, whom chill winter kept hid and swollen underground, now fresh from his weeds outworn and shining in youth wreathes his slippery body into the daylight, his upreared breast meets the sun, and his triple-cloven tongue flickers in his mouth. With him huge Periphas, and Automedon the armour-bearer, driver of Achilles’ horses, with him all his Scyrian men climb the roof and hurl flames on the housetop. Himself among the foremost he grasps a poleaxe, bursts through the hard doorway, and wrenches the brazen-plated doors from the hinge; and now he has cut out a plank from the solid oak and pierced a vast gaping hole. The house within is open to sight, and the long halls lie plain; open to sight are the secret chambers of Priam and the kings of old, and they see armed men standing in front of the doorway.
‘But the inner house is stirred with shrieks and misery and confusion, and the court echoes deep with women’s wailing; the din strikes up to the golden stars. Affrighted mothers stray about the vast house, and cling fast to the doors and print them with kisses. With his father’s might Pyrrhus presses on; nor guards nor barriers can hold out. The gate totters under the hard-driven ram, and the doors fall flat, rent from the hinge. The passage is forced; the Greeks burst through the entrance and pour in, slaughtering the foremost, and filling the space with a wide stream of soldiers. Not so furiously when a foaming river bursts his banks and overflows, beating down the opposing dykes with whirling water, is he borne mounded over the fields, and sweeps herds and pens all about the plains. Myself I saw in the gateway Neoptolemus mad 36[501-539] with carnage, and the two sons of Atreus, saw Hecuba and the hundred daughters of her house, and Priam polluting with his blood the altar fires of his own consecration. The fifty bridal chambers, the abundant hope of his children’s children, their doors magnificent with spoils of barbaric gold, have sunk in ruin; where the fire fails the Greeks are in possession.
‘Perchance too thou mayest inquire what was Priam’s fate. When he saw the ruin of his captured city, the gates of his house burst open, and the enemy amid his innermost chambers, the old man idly fastens round his aged trembling shoulders his long disused armour, girds on the unavailing sword, and advances on his death among the thronging foe.
‘Within the palace and under the bare cope of sky was a massive altar, and hard on the altar an ancient bay tree leaned clasping the household gods in its shadow. Here Hecuba and her daughters crowded vainly about the altar-stones, like doves driven headlong by a black tempest, and crouched clasping the gods’ images. And when she saw Priam her lord with the armour of youth on him, “What spirit of madness, my poor husband,” she cries, “has moved thee to gird on these weapons? or whither dost thou run? Not such the succour nor these the defenders the time requires: no, were mine own Hector now beside us. Retire, I beseech thee, hither; this altar will protect us all, or thou wilt share our death.” With these words on her lips she drew the aged man to her, and set him on the holy seat.
‘And lo, escaped from slaughtering Pyrrhus through the weapons of the enemy, Polites, one of Priam’s children, flies wounded down the long colonnades and circles the empty halls. Pyrrhus pursues him fiercely with aimed wound, just catching at him, and follows hard on him with his spear. As at last he issued before his parents’ eyes and faces, he fell, and shed his life in a pool of blood. At this Priam, although even now fast in the toils of death, yet withheld not nor spared a wrathful cry: “Ah, for thy crime, for this thy hardihood, may the gods, if there is goodness in heaven to care for aught such, pay thee in full thy worthy meed, and return thee the reward 37[540-577] that is due! who hast made me look face to face on my child’s murder, and polluted a father’s countenance with death. Ah, not such to a foe was the Achilles whose parentage thou beliest; but he revered a suppliant’s right and trust, restored to the tomb Hector’s blood-drained corpse, and sent me back to my own realm.” Thus the old man spoke, and launched his weak and unwounding spear, which, recoiling straight from the jarring brass, hung idly from his shield above the boss. Thereat Pyrrhus: “Thou then shalt tell this, and go with the message to my sire the son of Peleus: remember to tell him of my baleful deeds, and the degeneracy of Neoptolemus. Now die.” So saying, he drew him quivering to the very altar, slipping in the pool of his child’s blood, and wound his hair in the left hand, while in the right the sword flashed out and plunged to the hilt in his side. This was the end of Priam’s fortunes; thus did allotted fate find him, with burning Troy and her sunken towers before his eyes, once magnificent lord over so many peoples and lands of Asia. The great corpse lies along the shore, a head severed from the shoulders and a body without a name.
But then an awful terror began to encircle me; I stood in amaze; there rose before me the sight of my loved father, as I saw the king, old as he, sobbing out his life under the ghastly wound; there rose Creüsa forlorn, my plundered house, and little Iülus’ peril. I look back and survey what force is around me. All, outwearied, have given up and leapt headlong to the ground, or flung themselves wretchedly into the fire.
‘Yes, and now I only was left; when I espy the daughter of Tyndarus close in the courts of Vesta, crouching silently in the fane’s recesses; the bright glow of the fires lights my wandering, as my eyes stray all about. Fearing Teucrian anger for the overthrown towers of Troy, and the Grecians’ vengeance and the wrath of the husband she had abandoned, she, the common Fury of Troy and her native country, had hidden herself and cowered unseen by the altars. My spirit kindles to fire, and rises in wrath to avenge my dying land and take repayment for her crimes. Shall she verily see Sparta 38[578-615] and her native Mycenae unscathed, and depart a queen and triumphant? Shall she see her spousal and her father’s house and children, attended by a crowd of Trojan women and Phrygians to serve her? and Priam have fallen under the sword? Troy blazed in fire? the shore of Dardania so often soaked with blood? Not so. For though there is no name or fame in a woman’s punishment, nor honour in the victory, yet shall I have praise in quenching a guilty life and exacting a just recompense; and it will be good to fill my soul with the flame of vengeance, and satisfy the ashes of my people. Thus broke I forth, and advanced infuriate; when my mother came visibly before me, clear to sight as never till then, and shone forth in pure radiance through the night, gracious, evident in godhead, in shape and stature such as she is wont to appear to the heavenly people; she caught me by the hand and stayed me, and pursued thus with roseate lips:
‘Son, what overmastering pain thus wakes thy wrath? Why ravest thou? or whither is they care for us fled? Wilt thou not first look to it, where thou hast left Anchises, thine aged worn father; or if Creüsa thy wife and the child Ascanius survive? round about whom all the Greek battalions range; and without my preventing care, the flames ere this had consumed them, and the hostile sword drunk their blood. Not the hated face of the Laconian woman, Tyndarus’ daughter; not Paris is to blame; the gods, the gods in anger overturn this magnificence, and make Troy topple down. Look, for all the cloud that now veils thy gaze and dulls mortal vision with damp encircling mist, I will rend from before thee. Fear thou no commands of thy mother, nor refuse to obey her counsels. Here, where thou seest sundered piles of masonry and rocks violently torn from rocks, and smoke eddying mixed with dust, Neptune with his great trident shakes wall and foundation out of their places, and upturns all the city from her base. Here Juno in all her terror holds the Scaean gates at the entry, and, girt with steel, calls her allied army furiously from their ships. . . . Even now on the citadel’s height, look back! Tritonian Pallas is planted with glittering bordure and awful 39[616-653] Gorgon head. Their lord himself pours courage and prosperous strength on the Grecians, himself stirs the gods against the arms of Dardania. Haste away, O son, and put an end to the struggle. Nowhere will I desert thee; I will set thee safe in the courts of thy father’s house.”
‘She ended, and plunged in the dense blackness of the night. Awful faces shine forth, and, set against Troy, divine majesties. . . .
‘Then indeed I saw all Ilium sinking in flame, and Neptunian Troy uprooted from her base: even as an ancient ash on the mountain heights, hacked all about with steel and fast-glancing axes, when husbandmen emulously strain to cut it down: it nods to the fall, with shaken top and quivering tresses asway; till gradually overmastered with wounds, it utters one last groan, and rending itself away, falls in ruin along the ridge. I descend, and under a god’s guidance clear my way between foe and flame; weapons give ground before me, and flames retire.
‘And now, when I have reached the courts of my ancestral dwelling, our home of old, my father, whom it was my first desire to carry high into the hills, and whom first I sought, refuses wholly, now Troy is rooted out, to prolong his life through the pains of exile.
‘ “Ah, you,” he cries, “whose blood is at the prime, whose strength stands firm in native vigour, do you take your flight. . . . Had the lords of heaven willed to prolong life for me, they should have preserved this my home. Enough and more is the one desolation we have seen, survivors of a captured city. Thus, oh thus salute me and depart, as a body laid out for burial. Mine own hand shall find me death: the foe will be merciful and seek my spoils: light is the loss of a tomb. This long time hated of heaven, I uselessly delay the years, since the father of gods and king of men blasted me with wind of thunder and scathe of flame.”
‘Thus held he on in utterance, and remained unstirred. We press him, dissolved in tears, my wife Creüsa, Ascanius, all our household, that our father involve us not all in his ruin, 40[654-788] and add his weight to the sinking scale of doom. He refuses, and keeps seated steadfast in his purpose. Again I rush to battle, and choose death in my misery. For what had counsel or chance yet to give? Thoughtest thou my feet, O father, could retire and abandon thee? and fell so unnatural words from a parent’s lips? “If heaven wills that naught be left of our mighty city, if this be thy planted purpose, thy pleasure to cast in thyself and thine to the doom of Troy; for this death indeed the gate is wide, and even now Pyrrhus will be here newly bathed in Priam’s blood, Pyrrhus who slaughters the son before the father’s face, the father at his altars. For this was it, bountiful mother, that thou snatchest me from amid fire and sword, to see the foe in my inmost chambers, and Ascanius and my father, Creüsa by their side, butchered in one another’s blood? To arms, my men, to arms! the last day calls on the conquered. Return me to the Greeks; let me revisit and renew the fight. Never to-day shall we all perish unavenged.”
‘Thereat I again gird on my sword, and fitting my left arm into the clasps of the shield, strode forth of the palace. But lo! my wife clung round my feet on the threshold, and held little Iülus up to his father’s sight. “If thou goest to die, let us too hurry with thee to the end. But if thou knowest any hope to place in arms, be this household thy first defence. To what is little Iülus and thy father, to what am I left who once was called thy wife?”
‘So she shrieked, and filled all the house with her weeping; when a sign arises sudden and marvellous to tell. For, between the hands and before the faces of his sorrowing parents, lo! above Iülus’ head there seemed to stream a light luminous cone, and a flame whose touch hurt not to flicker in his soft hair and play round his brows. We in hurrying affright shook out the blazing hair and quenched the holy fires with spring water. But lord Anchises joyfully upraised his eyes; and stretching his hands to heaven: “Jupiter omnipotent,” he cries, “if thou dost relent at any prayers, look on us this once alone; 41[789-729] and if our goodness deserve it, give a sign hereafter, O lord, and confirm this thine omen.”
‘Scarcely had the aged man spoken thus, when with sudden crash it thundered on the left, and a star gliding through the dusk shot from heaven drawing a bright trail of light. We watch it slide over the palace roof, leaving the mark of its pathway, and bury its brilliance in the wood of Ida; the long-drawn track shines, and the region all about reeks with sulphur. Then conquered indeed my father rises to address the gods and worship the holy star. “Now, now delay is done with: I follow, and where you lead, I come, gods of my fathers; save my house, save my grandchild. Yours is this omen, and in your deity Troy stands. I yield, O my son, and refuse not to pass forth beside thee.”
‘He ended; and now more loudly the fire roars along the city, and nearer roll the burning tides. “Up then, beloved father, and place thyself on my neck; these shoulders of mine will sustain thee, nor will a burden so dear weigh me down. Howsoever fortune fall, one and undivided shall be our peril, one the escape of us twain. Little Iülus shall go along with me, and my wife follow our steps afar. You of my household, give heed to what I say. On a mound as you leave the city an ancient temple of Ceres stands lonely, and hard by an aged cypress, guarded many years in ancestral observance: to this gathering-place we will come from diverse quarters. Thou, O father, take the sacred things and the household gods of our ancestors in thine hand. For me, just parted from the desperate battle, with slaughter fresh upon me, to handle them were guilt, until I have washed me in a living stream. . . . ” So spoke I, and spread over my neck and broad shoulders a tawny lion-skin for covering, and stoop to my burden. Little Iülus, with his hand fast in mine, keeps uneven pace after his father. Behind my wife follows. We pass on in the shadows. And I, lately moved by no weapons launched against me, nor by the thronging bands of my Grecian foes, am now terrified at every breath, startled by every noise, thrilling with fear alike for my companion and my burden.42[730769-28]
‘And now I was nearing the gates, and thought I had outsped all the way; when suddenly the crowded trampling of feet came to our ears, and my father, looking forth into the darkness, cries: “My son, my son, fly; they draw near. I espy gleaming shields and the flicker of brass.” At this, in my flurry and confusion, some hostile god bereft me of my senses. For while I plunge down byways, and swerve from where the familiar streets ran, Creüsa, alas! whether, torn by fate from her unhappy husband, she stood still, or did she mistake the way, or sink down outwearied? I know not; and never again was she given back to our eyes; nor did I turn to look for my lost one, or cast back a thought, ere we were come to ancient Ceres’ mound and hallowed seat; here at last, when all gathered, one was missing, vanished from her child’s and her husband’s company. What man or god did I spare in frantic reproaches? or what crueller sight did I see in our city’s overthrow? I charge my comrades with Ascanius and lord Anchises, and the gods of Teucria, hiding them in the winding vale. Myself I regain the city, girding on my shining armour; fixed to renew every danger, to retrace my way throughout Troy, and fling myself again on its perils. First of all I regain the walls and the dim gateway whence my steps had issued; I scan and follow back my footprints with searching gaze in the night. Everywhere my spirit shudders, dismayed at the very silence. Thence I pass on home, if haply her feet (if haply!) had led her thither. The Grecians had poured in, and filled the palace. The devouring fire goes rolling before the wind high as the roof; the flames tower over it; and the heat surges up into the air. I move on, and revisit the citadel and Priam’s dwelling; where now in the spacious porticoes of Juno’s sanctuary Phoenix and accursed Ulysses, chosen sentries, were guarding the spoil. Hither from all quarters is flung in masses the treasure of Troy torn from burning shrines, tables of the gods, bowls of solid gold, and captive raiment. Boys and cowering mothers in long file stand round. . . . Yes, and I dared to cry abroad through the darkness; I filled the streets with calling, and again and yet again 43[770-804] with vain reiterance cried piteously on Creüsa. As I sought her and rushed endlessly among the houses of the town, there rose before mine eyes a melancholy phantom, the ghost of very Creüsa, in likeness larger than her wont. I was motionless; my very hair stood up, and the voice choked in my throat. Then she thus addressed me, and with this speech allayed my distresses: “What help is there in this mad passion of grief, sweet my husband? not without divine influence does this come to pass: nor may it be, nor does the high lord of Olympus allow, that thou shouldest carry Creüsa hence in thy company. Long shall be thine exile, and weary spaces of sea must thou plough; yet thou shalt come to the land Hesperia, where Lydian Tiber flows with soft current through rich and populous fields. There prosperity awaits thee, and a kingdom, and a king’s daughter for thy wife. Dispel these tears for thy beloved Creüsa. Never will I look on the proud homes of the Myrmidons or Dolopians, or go to be the slave of Greek matrons, I a daughter of Dardania, a daughter-in-law of Venus the goddess. . . . But the mighty mother of the gods keeps me in these her borders. And now, farewell, and still love thy child and mine.” This speech uttered, while I wept and would have said many a thing, she left me and retreated into thin air. Thrice there was I fain to lay mine arms round her neck; thrice the vision I vainly clasped fled out of my hands, even as the light breezes, or most like to fluttering sleep. So at last, when night is spent, I revisit my comrades.
‘And here I find a marvellous great company, newly flocked in, mothers and men, a people gathered for exile, a pitiable crowd. From all quarters they are assembled, ready in heart and fortune, to whatsoever land I will conduct them overseas. And now the morning star rose over the high ridges of Ida, and led on the day; and the Grecians held the gateways in leaguer, nor was any hope of help given. I withdrew, and raising my father up, I sought the mountains.’
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