Aeneid translation notes, Book I, Lines 102-156

February 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

Since it’s been over two weeks since I last posted my old 1994 rough draft translation notes of Vergil’s Aeneid, I’m going to post a much longer bit, from Book I, lines 102-156, that detail not only the devastation unleashed by Aeolus’ winds, but what happens after the torment.  As always, these are very rough notes, written to make sure that I had the gist of the passages, but I think there might be something of interest here for those who are curious about early translation drafts, particularly those that are purposely more “literal” than those that “bend” the lines to fit better into English diction.  
Talia iactanti stridens Aquilone procella
velum adversa ferit, fluctusque ad sidera tollit.
Franguntur remi; tum prora avertit, et undis
dat latus; insequitur cumulo praeruptus aquae mons.    

Hi summo in fluctu pendent; his unda dehiscens
terram inter fluctus aperit; furit aestus harenis.
Tris Notus abreptas in saxa latentia torquet—
saxa vocant Itali mediis quae in fluctibus aras—
dorsum immane mari summo; tris Eurus ab alto 
in brevia et Syrtis urget, miserabile visu,
inliditque vadis atque aggere cingit harenae.
Unam, quae Lycios fidumque vehebat Oronten,
ipsius ante oculos ingens a vertice pontus
in puppim ferit: excutitur pronusque magister
volvitur in caput; ast illam ter fluctus ibidem
torquet agens circum, et rapidus vorat aequore vortex.
Adparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto,
arma virum, tabulaeque, et Troia gaza per undas.
Iam validam Ilionei navem, iam fortis Achati,
et qua vectus Abas, et qua grandaevus Aletes,
vicit hiems; laxis laterum compagibus omnes
accipiunt inimicum imbrem, rimisque fatiscunt. 

Such a blow from the howling north wind strikes the sail directly, bearing the wave up into the stars. The oar is broken, the prow turns and gives its side to the waves and a towering mountain of water falls in a mass.  Some ships hang on the highest waves; for others, the bottom is shown between the waves, boiling with sand.  Three the south wind whirl into hidden rocks (rocks in the middle of the sea that the Italians call the Altars, a vast reef in the high seas), three the east wind drive from the deep sea into the sand bars, piteous to behold.  One ship, which was carrying the Lycians and faithful Orontes, before the Aeneas’s eyes a huge wave from on high strikes:  the pilot is cast out headlong, turned face down; but the sea whirls the ship around three times making a circle in the same place and a whirlpool swallows it up rapidly.  Men here and there appear in the vast abyss, men’s weapons, planks, and Trojan treasure show up under the sea.  Now mighty Ilioneus’s ship, now that of brave Achates, and that carrying Abas, and that of aged Aletes, the winter storm conquers; the seams loosen and split on all of them, letting in the unfriendly seawater.

As was the case earlier, I left a few key lines untranslated back in 1994, likely meaning to go back and work on the structure, so I consulted my dictionary and a recent translation and worked out a rough translation to fit in with what I had written twenty years before.  Although a few of the sentences could be rewritten slightly to allow for a more “native” feel, the descriptions here convey the awe and terror of wind and wave that sailors for millennia have felt.

At this point, Aeneas’ enterprise feels doomed; who can resist the wrath and power of mighty Juno, aided and abetted by the winds under the dominion of Aeolus?  Yet intervention does come, but not from above:

Interea magno misceri murmure pontum,
emissamque hiemem sensit Neptunus, et imis
stagna refusa vadis, graviter commotus; et alto
prospiciens, summa placidum caput extulit unda.
Disiectam Aeneae, toto videt aequore classem,
fluctibus oppressos Troas caelique ruina,
nec latuere doli fratrem Iunonis et irae.
Eurum ad se Zephyrumque vocat, dehinc talia fatur:


Meanwhile Neptune perceives that the murmuring sea was being greatly confused by a storm and pools of water were being pulled up into the shallows, he being greatly disturbed; and looking out over the deep sea, he raises his calm head above the surface.  He sees Aeneas’s fleet scattered all across the sea, the waves and the falling ships threatening ruin on the overwhelmed Trojans.  Juno’s wiles and anger do not escape the notice of her brother.  He calls Eurus and Zephyrus to him, then says these words:

This is a very literal translation; “he being greatly disturbed” would better fit as an appositive phrase immediately after Neptune.  I changed the tense from the 1994 past tense rendering into a present tense one in order to fit better with the sense of immediacy of the passage above; either way is to some degree acceptable in (re)telling the tale.  It is interesting to see how Vergil mixes in description of motive in the midst of narrative action; it is perhaps not the best to read in English these days, but it does work in terms of reading the poem aloud (or “hearing” it when reading it slowly to catch meanings that are at best half-forgotten over the intervening twenty years).

‘Tantane vos generis tenuit fiducia vestri?
Iam caelum terramque meo sine numine, venti,
miscere, et tantas audetis tollere moles?
Quos ego—sed motos praestat componere fluctus.
Post mihi non simili poena commissa luetis.
Maturate fugam, regique haec dicite vestro:
non illi imperium pelagi saevumque tridentem,
sed mihi sorte datum. Tenet ille immania saxa,
vestras, Eure, domos; illa se iactet in aula
Aeolus, et clauso ventorum carcere regnet.’


“Are you sure of the strength of your line?  Now do you dare, winds, to stir up heaven and earth and to destroy masses without my divine authority?  To you I ought to…!  But it would be better to calm the rough sea.  After this you will atone to me with a greater punishment for your crimes.  Hasten your flight and take this message to the King of the Winds:  the power over the sea and the fierce trident were not given by lot to him, but to me.  He holds the huge rocks, which are your home, Eurus; let Aeolus throw himself about in his hall and let him rule the winds inclosed in their prison.”

Not much to change here.

Sic ait, et dicto citius tumida aequora placat,
collectasque fugat nubes, solemque reducit.
Cymothoe simul et Triton adnixus acuto
detrudunt navis scopulo; levat ipse tridenti;
et vastas aperit syrtis, et temperat aequor,
atque rotis summas levibus perlabitur undas.
Ac veluti magno in populo cum saepe coorta est
seditio, saevitque animis ignobile volgus,
iamque faces et saxa volant—furor arma ministrat;
tum, pietate gravem ac meritis si forte virum quem
conspexere, silent, arrectisque auribus adstant;
ille regit dictis animos, et pectora mulcet,—
sic cunctus pelagi cecidit fragor, aequora postquam
prospiciens genitor caeloque invectus aperto
flectit equos, curruque volans dat lora secundo. 

Thus affirmed, he quickly calms the swollen waters more swiftly than a spoken word and he drives away the gathered clouds and he brings back the sun.  Cymothoe and Triton at the same time by leaning against the sharp rock dislodges the ships; Neptune raises his trident and makes a vast opening in the sand bar and he calms the sea and he glides over the surface of the sea in his chariot.  And just as often happens when in a great nation riots arise and the fierce spirit of the ignoble mob; and now torches and rocks they throw, serving in their anger as weapons; then, as if by chance, they have seen some man respected for his piety and good deeds, they become silent and they stand there, their ears pricked up; he controls their passions and soothes their hearts by words, – thus all of the uproar of the sea subsides, after that, the father, looking out over the sea, and carried along underneath the open sky turns his horses and flying along he gives the reins to his obedient chariot.

The beginning of this paragraph is very choppy, but it is interesting to see the epic metaphor of the seas being akin to an unruly mob.  It is passages like this that make epic poetry a delight to read and Vergil displays his mastery of these metaphors here.  This is an appropriate place to pause, as the next section covers the arrival of the battered Trojan fleet to the shores of Carthage.

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