William Cowper

(26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800 / Hertfordshire)

Translation From Virgil. Æneid, Book Viii. Line 18. - Poem by William Cowper

Thus Italy was moved -- nor did the chief
Æneas in his mind less tumult feel.
On every side his anxious thought he turns,
Restless, unfix'd, not knowing which to choose.
And as a cistern that in brim of brass
Confines the crystal flood, if chance the sun
Smite on it, or the moon's resplendent orb.
The quivering light now flashes on the walls,
Now leaps uncertain to the vaulted roof:
Such were the wavering motions of his mind.
'Twas night -- and weary nature sunk to rest.
The birds, the bleating flocks, were heard no more.
At length, on the cold ground, beneath the damp
And dewy vault fast by the river's brink,
The father of his country sought repose,
When lo! among the spreading poplar boughs,
Forth from his pleasant stream, propitious rose
The god of Tiber: clear transparent gauze
Infolds his loins, his brows with reeds are crown'd:
And these his gracious words to soothe his care:
'Heaven-born, who bring'st our kindred home again,
Rescued, and givest eternity to Troy,
Long have Laurentum and the Latian plains
Expected thee; behold thy fix'd abode.
Fear not the threats of war, the storm is past,
The gods appeased. For proof that what thou hear'st
Is no vain forgery or delusive dream,
Beneath the grove that borders my green bank,
A milk-white swine, with thirty milk-white young
Shall greet thy wondering eyes. Mark well the place;
For 'tis thy place of rest, there and thy toils:
There, twice ten years elapsed, fair Alba's walls
Shall rise, fair Alba, by Ascanius' hand.
Thus shall it be -- now listen, while I teach
The means to accomplish these events at hand
The Arcadians here, a race from Pallas sprung,
Following Evander's standard and his fate,
High on these mountains, a well chosen spot,
Have built a city, for their grandsire's sake
Named Pallenteum. These perpetual war
Wage with the Latians: join'd in faithful league
And arms confederate, and them to your camp.
Myself between my winding banks will speed
Your well oar'd barks to stem the opposing tide.
Rise, goddess born, arise; and with the first
Declining stars seek Juno in thy prayer,
And vanquish all her wrath with suppliant vows
When conquest crowns thee, then remember me
I am the Tiber, whose cærulean stream
Heaven favors; I with copious flood divide
These grassy banks, and cleave the fruitful meads
My mansion, this -- and lofty cities crown
My fountain head.' -- He spoke and sought the deep,
And plunged his form beneath the closing flood.
Æneas at the morning dawn awoke,
And, rising, with uplifted eye beheld
The orient sun, then dipped his palms, and scoop'd
The brimming stream, and thus address'd teh skies:
'Ye nymphs, Laurentian nymphs, who feed the source
Of many a stream, and thou, with thy blest flood,
O Tiber, hear, accept me, and afford,
At length afford, a shelter from my woes.
Where'er in secret cavern under ground
Thy waters sleep, where'er they spring to light,
Since thou hast pity for a wretch like me,
My offerings and my vows shall wait thee still:
Great horned Father of Hesperian floods,
Be gracious now, and ratify thy word.'
He said, and chose two galleys from his fleet,
Fits them with oars, and clothes the crew in arms
When lo! astonishing and pleasing sight,
The milk-white dam, with her unspotted brood,
Lay stretch'd upon the bank, beneath the grove.
To thee, the pious Prince, Juno, to thee
Devotes them all, all on thine altar bleed.
That live-long night old Tiber smooth'd his flood,
And so restrain'd it that it seem'd to stand
Motionless as a pool, or silent lake,
That not a billow might resist their oars.
With cheerful sound of exhortation soon
Their voyage they begin; the pitchy keel
Slides through the gentle deep, the quiet stream
Admires the unwonted burden that it bears,
Well polish'd arms, and vessels painted gay.
Beneath the shade of various trees, between
The umbrageous branches of the spreading groves,
They cut their liquid way, nor day nor night
They slack their course, unwinding as they go
The long meanders of the peaceful tide.
The glowing sun was in meridian height,
When from afar they saw the humble walls,
And the few scatter'd cottages, which now
The Roman power has equall'd with the clouds;
But such was then Evander's scant domain.
They steer to shore, and hasten to the town.
It chanced the Arcadian monarch on that day,
Before the walls, beneath a shady grove,
Was celebrating high, in solemn feast,
Alcides and his tutelary gods.
Pallas, his son, was there, and there the chief
Of all his youth; with these, a worthy tribe,
His poor but venerable senate, burnt
Sweet incense, and their altars smoked with blood.
Soon as they saw the towering masts approach,
Sliding between the trees, while the crew rest
Upon their silent oars, amazed they rose,
Not without fear, and all forsook the feast.
But Pallas undismay'd, his javelin seized,
Rush'd to the bank, and from a rising ground
Forbade them to disturb the sacred rites.
'Ye stranger youth! What prompts you to explore
This untried way? and whither do ye steer?
Whence, and who are you? Bring ye peace or war?'
Æneas from his lofty deck holds forth
The peaceful olive branch, and thus replies:
'Trojans and enemies to the Latian state,
Whom they with unprovoked hostilities
Have driven away, thou seest. We seek Evander
Say this -- and say beside, the Trojan chiefs
Are come, and seek his friendship and his aid.'
Pallas with wonder heard that awful name,
And 'Whosoe'er thou art,' he cried, 'come forth:
Bear thine own tidings to my father's ear,
And be a welcome guest beneath our roof.'
He said, and, press'd the stranger to his breast:
Then led him from the river to the grove,
Where, courteous, thus Æneas greets the king:
'Best of the Grecian race, to whom I bow
(So wills my fortune) suppliant, and stretch forth
In sign of amity this peaceful branch,
I fear'd thee not, although I knew thee well
A Grecian leader, born in Arcady,
And kinsman of the Atridæ. Me my virtue,
That means no wrong to thee -- the Oracles,
Our kindred families allied of old,
And I thy renown diffused through every land,
Have all conspired to bind in friendship to thee,
And send me not unwilling to thy shores.
Dardanas, author of the Trojan state,
(So say the Greeks,) was fair Electra's son;
Electra boasted Atlas for her sire,
Whose shoulders high sustain the ethereal orbs.
Your sire is Mercury, whom Maia bore,
Sweet Maia, on Cylene's hoary top.
Her, if we credit aught tradition old,
Atlas of yore, the self-same Atlas, claim'd
His daughter. Thus united close in blood,
Thy race and ours one common sire confess.
With these credentials fraught, I would not send
Ambassadors with artful phrase to sound
And win thee by degrees -- but came myself --
Me, therefore, me thou seest; my life the stake:
'Tis I, Æneas, who implore thine aid.
Should Daunia, that now aims the blow at thee
Prevail to conquer us, nought then, they think,
Will hinder, but Hesperia must be theirs,
All theirs, from upper to the nether sea.
Take then our friendship, and return us thine.
We too have courage, we have noble minds,
And youth well tried, and exercised arms.'
Thus spoke Æneas. --He with fix'd regard
Survey'd him speaking, features, form, and mien
Then briefly thus -- 'Thou noblest of thy name,
How gladly do I take thee to my heart,
How gladly thus confess thee for a friend!
In thee I trace Anchises; his thy speech,
Thy voice, thy countenance. For I well remember
Many a day since, when Priam journey'd forth
To Salamis, to see the land where dwelt
Hesione, his sister, he push'd on
E'en to Arcadia's frozen bounds. 'Twas then
The bloom of youth was glowing on my cheek;
Much I admired the Trojan chiefs, and much
Their king, the son of great Laomedon,
But most Anchises, towering o'er them all.
A youthful longing seized me to accost
The hero, and embrace him; I drew near,
And gladly led him to the walls of Pheneus.
Departing, he distinguish'd me with gifts,
A costly quiver stored with Lycian darts,
A robe inwove with hold, with gold imboss'd
Two bridles, those which Pallas uses now.
The friendly league thou hast solicited
I give thee, therefore, and to-morrow all
My chosen youth shall wait on your return.
Meanwhile, since thus in friendship ye are come,
Rejoice with us, and join to celebrate
These annual rites, which may not be delay'd,
And be at once familiar at our board.'
He said, and bade replace the feast removed;
Himself upon a grassy bank disposed
The crew; but for Æneas order'd forth
A couch spread with a lion's tawny shag,
And bade him share the honors of his throne.
The appointed youth with glad alacrity
Assist the laboring priest to load the board
With roasted entrails of the slaughter'd beeves
Well kneaded bread and mantling bowls. We pleased,
Æneas and the Trojan youth regale
On the huge length of a well pastured chine.
Hunger appeased, and tables all despatch'd
Thus spake Evander: 'Superstition here,
In this old solemn feasting, has no part.
No, Trojan friend, from utmost danger saved,
In gratitude this worship we renew.
Behold that rock which nods above the vale,
Thos bulks of broken stone dispersed around,
How desolate the shatter'd cave appears,
And what a ruin spreads the incumber'd plain
Within this pile, but far within, was once
The den of Cacus; dire his hateful form
That shunn'd the day, half monster and half man.
Blood newly shed stream'd ever on the ground
Smoking, and many a visage pale and wan
Nail'd at his gate, hung hideous to the sight.
Vulcan begot the brute: vast was his size,
And from his throat he belch'd his father's fires.
But the day came that brought us what we wish'd,
The assistance and the presence of a God.
Flush'd with his victory, and the spoils he won
From triple-form'd Geryon lately slain,
The great avenger, Hercules, appear'd.
Hither he drove his stately bulls, and pour'd
His herds along the vale. But the sly thief
Cacus, that nothing might escape his hand
Of villainy or fraud, drove from the stalls
Four of the lordliest of his bulls, and four
The fairest of his heifers: by the tail
He dragg'd them to his den, that, there conceal'd,
No footsteps might betray the dark abode.
And now, his herd with provender sufficed,
Alcides would be gone: they as they went
Still bellowing loud, made the deep echoing woods
And distant hills resound: when, hark! one ox,
Imprison'd close within the vast recess,
Lows in return, and frustrates all his hope.
Then fury seized Alcides, and his breast
With indignation heaved; grasping his club
Of knotted oak, swift to the mountain top
He ran, he flew. Then first was Cacus seen
To tremble, and his eyes bespoke his fears.
Swift as an eastern blast, he sought his den,
And dread, increasing, wing'd him as he went.
Drawn up in iron slings above the gate,
A rock was hung enormous. Such his haste,
He burst the chains, and dropp'd it at the door,
Then grapplied it with iron work within
Of bolts and bars by Vulcan's art contrived.
Scarce was he fast, when, panting for revenge,
Came Hercules; he gnash'd his teeth with rage,
And quick as lightning glanced his eyes around
In quest of entrance. Fiery rod and stung
With indignation, thrice he wheel'd his course
About the mountain; thrice, but thrice in vain,
He strove to force the quarry at the gate,
And thrice sat down, o'erwearied in the vale.
There stood a pointed rock abrupt and rude,
That high o'erlook'd the rest, close at the back
Of the fell monster's den, when birds obscene
Of ominous note resorted, choughs and daws.
This, as it lean'd obliquely to the left,
Threatening with stream below, he from the right
Push'd with his utmost strength, and to and fro
He shook the mass, loosening its lowest base;
Then shoved it from its seat; down fell the pile;
Sky thunder'd at the fall; the banks give way,
The affrighted stream flows upward to his source.
Behold the kennel of the brute exposed,
The gloomy vault laid open. So, if chance
Earth yawning to the centre should disclose
The mansions, the pale mansions of the dead,
Loathed by the gods, such would the gulf appear,
And the ghosts tremble at the sight of day.
The monster braying with unusual din
Within his hollow lair, and sore amazed
To see such sudden inroads of the light,
Alcides press'd him close with what at hand
Lay readiest, stumps of trees, and fragments huge
Of millstone size. He, (for escape was none),
Wondrous to tell! forth from his gorge discharged
A smoky cloud that darken'd all the den;
Wreath after wreath he vomited again,
The smothering vapor mix'd with fiery sparks
No sight could penetrate the veil obscure.
The hero, more provoked, endured not this,
But with a headlong leap he rush'd to where
The thickest cloud enveloped his abode.
There grasp'd he Cacus, spite of all his fires,
Till, crush'd within his arms, the monster show
His bloodless throat, now dry with panting hard,
And his press'd eyeballs start. Soon he tears down
The barricade of rock, the dark abyss
Lies open; and the imprison'd bulls, the theft
He had with oaths dednied, are brought to light;
By the heels the miscreant carcass is dragg'd forth.
His face, his eyes, all terrible, his breast
Beset with bristles, and his sooty jaws
Are view'd with wonder never to be cloy'd.
Hence the celebrity thou seest, and hence
This festal day Potitius first enjoin'd
Posterity: these solemn rites he first,
With those who bear the great Pinarian name,
To Hercules devoted; in the grove
This altar built, deem'd sacred in the highest
By us, and sacred ever to be deem'd.
Come, then, my friends, and bind your youthful brows
In praise of such deliverance, and hold forth
The brimming cup; your deities and ours
Are now the same, then drink, and freely too.'
So saying, he twisted round his reverend locks
A variegated poplar wreath, and fill'd
His right hand with a consecrated bowl.
At once all pour libations on the board,
All offer prayer. And now, the radiant sphere
Of day descending, eventide drew near.
When first Potitius with the priests advanced,
Begirt with skins, and torches in their hands.
High piled with meats of savory taste, they ranged
The chargers, and renew'd the grateful feast.
Then came the Salii, crown'd with poplar too,
Circling the blazing altars; here the youth
Advanced, a choir harmonious, there were heard
The reverend seers responsive; praise they sung,
Much praise in honor of Alcides' deeds;
How first with infant grip two serpents huge
He strangled, sent from Juno; next they sung
How Troja and Œchalia he destroy'd,
Fair cities both, and many a toilsome task
Beneath Eurystheus (so his stepdame will'd)
Achieved victorious. Thou, the cloud-born pair,
Hylæus fierce and Pholus, monstrous twins,
Thou slew'st the minotaur, the plague of Crete,
And the vast lion of the Nemean rock,
Thee hell, and Cerberus, hell's porter, fear'd,
Stretch'd in his den upon his half-gnaw'd bones.
Thee no abhorred form, not e'en the vast
Typhœus could appal, though clad in arms.
Hail, true-born son of Jove, among the gods
At length enroll'd, nor least illustrious thou,
Haste thee propitious, and approve our songs
Thus hymn'd the chorus; above all they sing
The cave of Cacus, and the flames he breathed
The whole grove echoes, and the hills rebound.
The rites perform'd, all hasten to the town.
The king, bending with age, held as he went
Æneas and his Pallas by the hand,
With much variety of pleasing talk
Shortening the way. Æneas, with a smile,
Looks round him, charm'd with the delightful scene,
And many a question asks, and much he learns
Of heroes far renown'd in ancient times.
Then spake Evander. These extensive groves,
Were once inhabited by fauns and nymphs,
Produced beneath their shades, and a rude race
Of men, the progeny uncouth of elms
And knotted oaks. They no refinement knew
Of laws or manners civilized, to yoke
The steer, with forecast provident to store
The hoarded grain, or manage what they had,
But browsed like beasts upon the leafy boughs,
Or fed voracious on their hunted prey.
An exile from Olympus, and expell'd
His native realm by thunder-bearing Jove,
First Saturn came. He from the mountains drew
This herd of men untractable and fierce,
And gave them laws: and call'd his hiding-place,
This growth of forests, Latium. Such the peace
His land possess'd, the golden age was then,
So famed in story; till by slow degrees
Far other times, and of far different hue,
Succeeded, thirst of gold and thirst of blood.
Then came Ausonian bands, and armed hosts
From Sicily, and Latium often changed
Her master and her name. At length arose
Kings, of whom Tybris of gigantic form
Was chief: and we Italians since have call'd
The river by his name: thus Albula
(So was the country call'd in ancient days)
Was quite forgot. Me from my native land
An exile, through the dangerous ocean driven,
Resistless fortune and relentless fate
Placed where thou seest me. Phoebus, and
The nymph Carmentis, with maternal care
Attendant on my wanderings, fix'd me here.

[Ten lines omitted.]

He said, and show'd him the Tarpeian rock,
And the rude spot where now the Capitol
Stands all magnificent and bright with gold,
Then overgrown with thorns. And yet e'en then
The swains beheld that sacred scene with awe;
The grove, the rock, inspired religious fear.
This grove, he said, that crowns the lofty top
Of this fair hill, some deity, we know,
Inhabits, but what deity we doubt.
The Arcadians speak of Jupiter himself
That they have often seen him, shaking here
His gloomy Ægis, while the thunder storms
Came rolling all around him. Turn thine eyes,
Behold that ruin: those dismantled walls,
Where once two towns, Janiculum----,
By Janus this, and that by Saturn built,
Saturnia. Such discourse brought them beneath
The roof of poor Evander; thence they saw,
Where now the proud and stately forum stands,
The grazing herds wide scatter'd o'er the field.
Soon as he enter'd -- Hercules, he said,
Victorious Hercules, on this threshold trod,
These walls contain'd him, humble as they are.
Dare to despise magnificence, my friend,
Prove thy divine descent by worth divine,
Nor view with haughty scorn this mean abode.
So saying, he led Æneas by the hand,
And placed him on a cushion stuff'd with leaves,
Spread with the skin of a Lybistian bear.

[The episode of Venus and Vulcan omitted.]

While thus in Lemnos Vulcan was employ'd,
Awaken'd by the gentle dawn of day,
And the shrill song of birds benearth the eaves
Of his low mansion, old Evander rose.
His tunic, and the sandals on his feet,
And his good sword well girded to his side,
A panther's skin dependent from his left,
And over his right shoulder thrown aslant,
Thus was he clad. Two mastiffs follow'd him,
His whole retinue and his nightly guard.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010



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