Aeneid translation notes, Book I, lines 372-440

March 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

In my last post, I paused just before Aeneas responds to his disguised mother, Venus, about his travails.  These lines cover not just his response to her, but also his initial trip into the newly-founded city of Carthage.  Near the end of this section is one of Vergil’s most famous lines, a metaphor concerning the habits of summer bees.  I remember well my professor spending a lot of time one class session on this and hopefully it will resonate with some readers here as well.
‘O dea, si prima repetens ab origine pergam,
et vacet annalis nostrorum audire laborum,
ante diem clauso componat Vesper Olympo.
Nos Troia antiqua, si vestras forte per auris
Troiae nomen iit, diversa per aequora vectos
forte sua Libycis tempestas adpulit oris.
Sum pius Aeneas, raptos qui ex hoste Penates
classe veho mecum, fama super aethera notus.
Italiam quaero patriam et genus ab Iove summo.
Bis denis Phrygium conscendi navibus aequor,
matre dea monstrante viam, data fata secutus;
vix septem convolsae undis Euroque supersunt.
Ipse ignotus, egens, Libyae deserta peragro,
Europa atque Asia pulsus.’ Nec plura querentem
passa Venus medio sic interfata dolore est: 

“O goddess, if first I repeat from the beginning our tale and if you have the leisure to listen to our hardships, sooner would Vester end the day with the doors of Olympus closed.  We come from the ancient city of Troy, if you per chance have heard of the name of Troy, and a storm has pushed us to the shores of Libya.  I am pious Aeneas, who carried my Penates snatched from my enemies and bore them with me via ship, known by reputation beyond the sky.  I am hunting for the Italian homeland and the race of people descended from Jupiter.  I set sail of the sea near Troy with twenty ships, my goddess mother pointing the way, following the given fates; barely seven survived, beaten down by the winds and sun.  I myself unknown, in need, wandering through the desert of Libya, driven from Europe and Asia.”  Venus enduring his complaining no more interrupted him in the middle of his complaining.

Outside of changing the wording slightly to correct a few careless manuscript errors, this is the same as what I wrote twenty years ago.

‘Quisquis es, haud, credo, invisus caelestibus auras
vitalis carpis, Tyriam qui adveneris urbem.
Perge modo, atque hinc te reginae ad limina perfer,
Namque tibi reduces socios classemque relatam
nuntio, et in tutum versis aquilonibus actam,
ni frustra augurium vani docuere parentes.
Aspice bis senos laetantis agmine cycnos,
aetheria quos lapsa plaga Iovis ales aperto
turbabat caelo; nunc terras ordine longo
aut capere, aut captas iam despectare videntur:
ut reduces illi ludunt stridentibus alis,
et coetu cinxere polum, cantusque dedere,
haud aliter puppesque tuae pubesque tuorum
aut portum tenet aut pleno subit ostia velo.
Perge modo, et, qua te ducit via, dirige gressum.’


“Whoever you are, by no means, I believe, that the gods hate you as you still breathe, you who are approaching the Tyrian city.  Take yourself from here to the threshold of the queen.  For I announce to you that your comrades are brought back and your fleet restored, driven into safety by the reversed winds unless in my vain my proud parents taught me augury.  Look over there, twelve swans rejoicing as a flock, whom the bird of Jupiter having swooped down in the heavens was throwing into confusion in the open sky; now in a long line they are seen either to seize the land or to look down now on the lands once seen:  as the restored swans mock the rustling birds and a company encircles the sky and gives song, not otherwise both your ships and your young men either are in port or have entered the harbor under sail.  Now proceed and, where the road leads you, guide your step.”

 If I were even more literal, I would have said “twice six swans,” but as it stands, I like the avian metaphor employed here.

Dixit, et avertens rosea cervice refulsit,
ambrosiaeque comae divinum vertice odorem
spiravere, pedes vestis defluxit ad imos,
et vera incessu patuit dea. Ille ubi matrem
adgnovit, tali fugientem est voce secutus:
‘Quid natum totiens, crudelis tu quoque, falsis
ludis imaginibus? Cur dextrae iungere dextram
non datur, ac veras audire et reddere voces?’ 

Talibus incusat, gressumque ad moenia tendit:
at Venus obscuro gradientes aere saepsit,
et multo nebulae circum dea fudit amictu,
cernere ne quis eos, neu quis contingere posset,
molirive moram, aut veniendi poscere causas.
Ipsa Paphum sublimis abit, sedesque revisit
laeta suas, ubi templum illi, centumque Sabaeo
ture calent arae, sertisque recentibus halant.


Venus said this and turning aside her rosy neck shined, her hair on her head exhaling the ambrosial perfume; the robe flowed down to bellow at her feet; and laid open the true walk of a goddess.  Aeneas when he recognized his mother was fleeing said the following words:  “Why do you so often tease your son with false disguises?  Why is it not allowed for us to join hands and hear and tell the truth?”  Aeneas said this chiding his mother but to the walls of Carthage he went.  However Venus inclosed the walking Aeneas and Achates in a dark mist, and the goddess surrounded them in a robe of many clouds by her supernatural power, so that no one could discern them or touch them or make delay or to demand the reasons of their coming.  Venus herself went aloft to Paphos and revisited the happy seat of hers, where her temple was, and one hundred altars burning Sabean incense breathed forth fresh garlands.

While my old translation lacks elegance at times, there are times that I wish I could see those who have pretensions of writing “epic fantasy” would at least learn to use some of the rhetoric that Vergil employs here.  The mist isn’t quite as clichéd as I would have thought based on encountering it elsewhere.  Maybe it’s just because it is kept to just a few descriptive lines and isn’t laborious described over multiple sentences.

Corripuere viam interea, qua semita monstrat.
Iamque ascendebant collem, qui plurimus urbi
imminet, adversasque adspectat desuper arces.
Miratur molem Aeneas, magalia quondam,
miratur portas strepitumque et strata viarum.
Instant ardentes Tyrii pars ducere muros,
molirique arcem et manibus subvolvere saxa,
pars optare locum tecto et concludere sulco.
[Iura magistratusque legunt sanctumque senatum;]
hic portus alii effodiunt; hic alta theatris
fundamenta locant alii, immanisque columnas
rupibus excidunt, scaenis decora alta futuris.
Qualis apes aestate nova per florea rura
exercet sub sole labor, cum gentis adultos
educunt fetus, aut cum liquentia mella
stipant et dulci distendunt nectare cellas,
aut onera accipiunt venientum, aut agmine facto
ignavom fucos pecus a praesepibus arcent:
fervet opus, redolentque thymo fragrantia mella.
‘O fortunati, quorum iam moenia surgunt!’
Aeneas ait, et fastigia suspicit urbis.
Infert se saeptus nebula, mirabile dictu,
per medios, miscetque viris, neque cernitur ulli.


Meanwhile Aeneas and Achates hurried along their way, which a path pointed out.  Now they were ascending the hill, part of which overhangs the city, and from above the towers faced opposite.  Aeneas admiring the structure of the city, formerly huts, admiring the gates and pavement and the din of the street.  Eagerly the Tyrians pressed on; part to extend the walls and by their hands rolling up the stones to make the citadel, part to choose the laws, and they chose magistrates and the revered Senate.  Here some were digging the harbor; there others established the deep foundations of a theater, a high beauty for the future stage.  Just as hard work occupies bees in the beginning of summer under the sun in the flowery fields, when the adults lead forth their swarm, or stuff the cells with liquid honey and sweet nectar they distend them, or they receive the loads of those coming in or in battle formation made they prevent the lazy drones from the hive:  the work glows and the honey smells of fragrent thyme.  “O fortunate ones, who now raise their walls!”  Aeneas went and looked up at the top of the city.  The inclosing cloud surrounding him, marvelous to say, through the midst of men, and he mingles with them, not seen by any.

 Sometimes I am saddened by the realization that such extended metaphors and similes are held in low esteem in contemporary writing, because as I typed out (and edited for clarity) the bee section, I found myself visualizing the bustling new town rising up in a montage of movement.  Yet beyond visualizing this, I could smell the honey and feel the movements to and fro.  This is simply a very vividly described comparison and it is something that makes me enjoy Vergil’s poetry beyond whatever is being described in its plot.

The next passage, to be posted either tomorrow or sometime during the week, will shift to a retelling of key scenes from the Trojan War.  The next 50 lines or so should be of interest to those who (infelix!) are not as inclined as I am to enjoy passages such as the one translated above.  And with this post, I’ve now posted a rough prose translation (over 80% being directly taken from my 1994 course notes and the rest either edits or filling in the gaps of those notes) of a little over half of Book I and its 756 lines.  At this rate, I might finish before month’s end and if I’m insane, I’ll do a fresh translation (the course didn’t involve translating much beyond sections of Books IV and VI) of the other books over a period of years.  Might as well showcase a hobby of mine, no?
  
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