Aeneid translation notes, Book I, lines 157-209
February 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
Defessi Aeneadae, quae proxima litora, cursu
contendunt petere, et Libyae vertuntur ad oras.
Est in secessu longo locus: insula portum
efficit obiectu laterum, quibus omnis ab alto
frangitur inque sinus scindit sese unda reductos.
Hinc atque hinc vastae rupes geminique minantur
in caelum scopuli, quorum sub vertice late
aequora tuta silent; tum silvis scaena coruscis
desuper horrentique atrum nemus imminet umbra.
Fronte sub adversa scopulis pendentibus antrum,
intus aquae dulces vivoque sedilia saxo,
nympharum domus: hic fessas non vincula navis
ulla tenent, unco non alligat ancora morsu.
Huc septem Aeneas collectis navibus omni
ex numero subit; ac magno telluris amore
egressi optata potiuntur Troes harena,
et sale tabentis artus in litore ponunt.
Ac primum silici scintillam excudit Achates,
succepitque ignem foliis, atque arida circum
nutrimenta dedit, rapuitque in fomite flammam.
Tum Cererem corruptam undis Cerealiaque arma
expediunt fessi rerum, frugesque receptas
et torrere parant flammis et frangere saxo.
Aeneas’ tired followers, seeking the nearest land, hastened their course and to the mouth of Libya they turned. There is a place in a long recess: an island makes this place an harbor by the projection of its side on which all of the water from the deep is broken in the bay and it divides itself in two in the withdrawn bay. On this side and that are enormous cliffs and twin rocks tower in the sky, where under whose summit far and wide the protected waters are silent; then the shimmering trees up above are a backdrop with its shimmering shadow the dark grove looms; opposite of in front there is a cave made of projecting rocks within which there is fresh water and seats made from the living rock, the home of nymphs. Here the weary ships are not held by chains, an anchor is not needed to hold them. Here Aeneas docks with seven ships gathered from the whole number and the men then jumped off the ship and they placed their limbs dripping with salt on the shore. And Achates strikes the first spark, the leaves catch fire, and he places fuel around and the fire awhirls in flame. Then they prepared the grain of Ceres corrupted by the seawater and the utensils of Ceres, and weary of their troubles, they prepared to roast the recovered grain over the fire and to crush it on the rocks.
Even though some of the lines read oddly due to me being so literal with the translation back in 1994, there are some wonderful images here that would lose some of their import if they were rendered in a less poetic translation-English. One thing that I’ve noticed through the first 200 lines of the poem is Vergil’s descriptions of rock and sea; each feels more vibrant than when he describes the characters themselves.
Aeneas scopulum interea conscendit, et omnem
prospectum late pelago petit, Anthea si quem
iactatum vento videat Phrygiasque biremis,
aut Capyn, aut celsis in puppibus arma Caici.
Navem in conspectu nullam, tris litore cervos
prospicit errantis; hos tota armenta sequuntur
a tergo, et longum per vallis pascitur agmen.
Constitit hic, arcumque manu celerisque sagittas
corripuit, fidus quae tela gerebat Achates;
ductoresque ipsos primum, capita alta ferentis
cornibus arboreis, sternit, tum volgus, et omnem
miscet agens telis nemora inter frondea turbam;
nec prius absistit, quam septem ingentia victor
corpora fundat humi, et numerum cum navibus aequet.
Hinc portum petit, et socios partitur in omnes.
Vina bonus quae deinde cadis onerarat Acestes
litore Trinacrio dederatque abeuntibus heros,
dividit, et dictis maerentia pectora mulcet:
Meanwhile, Aeneas climbed a rock and the entire view he sought far and wide over the sea, if he should see Antheus and the Phygian biremes, which the winds tossed about or Capys or the lofty ships bearing Caicus’ arms. No ship being in sight, Aeneas saw three stags wandering by the shore; behind these from the rear followed the entire herd and they were grazing in a long line in the valley. He stopped here and he snatched his bow and swift arrows into his hand, which were being carried by the faithful Achates, and the leaders themselves bearing their heads high with branching antlers he first laid low, and then he confused the entire herd, driving the mob with his weapons amongst the leafy grove, not stopping before as victor seven enormous carcasses he had laid low on the ground and when the number equaled that of the ships. He sought the harbor and he divided the kill amongst all of his comrades. Then the wine, which good Acestes had loaded in jars on the Sicilian shore and which that hero had given to the departing Trojans was divided and Aeneas with these words soothed the mournful hearts of his comrades:
After this heroic hunting act, Aeneas seeks to address the grief that is now befalling his comrades:
‘O socii—neque enim ignari sumus ante malorum—
O passi graviora, dabit deus his quoque finem.
Vos et Scyllaeam rabiem penitusque sonantis
accestis scopulos, vos et Cyclopea saxa
experti: revocate animos, maestumque timorem
mittite: forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
Per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum
tendimus in Latium; sedes ubi fata quietas
ostendunt; illic fas regna resurgere Troiae.
Durate, et vosmet rebus servate secundis.’
Talia voce refert, curisque ingentibus aeger
spem voltu simulat, premit altum corde dolorem.
“Oh comrades – for we are not ignorant before of such evil – having suffered greater evils, God will also give an end to these troubles. And you have approached the fury of Scylla and within the roar of the rocks, and you have experienced the rocks of the Cyclops. Restore your sad spirits and dismiss fear; perhaps at some time we shall be glad to remember even these things. Through diverse fortunes, so many hazardous things we are heading to, toward Latium, where the Fates showed a peaceful place; there it is the divine will for the Trojan realm there to rise again. Endure, save yourselves for favorable times.”
With his voice he said such things, sick with these enormous concerns, he pretends optimism on his face, he represses the deep grief in his heart.
When I think of action/adventure/hero movies that seek to capture the rah-rah spirit of passages such as this, I am reminded here, yet once again, that grief, briefly unmasked, adds much more to such heroic quests than any stirring words. Here Aeneas is his most vulnerable and human. It is a fitting place to pause for now.