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The Aeneid for Boys and Girls by  Alfred J, Church


 

 

THE COUNCIL

[249] THE next day Æneas made a great offering to Mars, the god of war. He took a young oak tree, and lopped off all the boughs, and set it on the top of a mound. On this he hung the arms of King Mezentius, the helmet with its crest red with blood, and the spears with their heads broken off, and the coat of mail pierced in twelve places. On the left one branch remained; on this he hung the shield, and on the trunk itself he hung by its belt the sword with its ivory hilt. This done, he called the chiefs about him, and said: "We have done much: this is all that is left of the great Mezentius. But there is more to do. Let us go against the city of King Latinus. This will we do to-morrow. But now let us pay due honour to the dead. We owe very much to them; for have they not bought a country for us with their own blood? And first among the [250] dead is Pallas. His body we will send back to his father."

So he went to the tent where the body had been laid. Old Acœtes, who had been armour-bearer to King Evander, sat watching by the head, and the Trojan women sat on the ground, and wailed and wept. And when Æneas saw the head lying as if in sleep, and the great wound in the breast, he wept. When he could speak, he said: "Surely I hoped that you would see me established in my kingdom, and go back with gifts and honour to your father. But this was not to be. And he may be even now praying for your safe return. Well, at least he will see that you bear your wound in front. But, O Italy! what a son dost thou lose; and you, Ascanius, what a friend!"

So they made a bier of arbutus and oak, and laid the body on it, covered with branches of trees. Like a flower it lay—a violet or a hyacinth which some girl has picked. It has colour and beauty still, but it must fade, for the earth does not nourish it any more. Æneas wrapped one purple robe woven with threads of gold round the body, and [251] another round the head. Some carried the arms which Pallas had won in battle; another carried his helmet and shield—the other arms Turnus had taken; and yet another led his charger. It walked with its head to the ground, and the great tears rolled down its cheeks. Behind these, again, followed the whole company, Trojans and Tuscans, whom Æneas sent to follow the dead. They walked holding their swords and shields with their points to the ground. Æneas said: "The cares and sorrows of war call me: good-bye, my Pallas, good-bye for ever!"

And now there came ambassadors from the city with crowns of olive on their heads, praying for truce, that they might bury the dead. Æneas answered: "You ask for peace for the dead: I would gladly give it to the living. I have come to this land by the will of the gods. Once your King was glad to see me; if now he has changed and would have Turnus for his friend, the fault is not mine. If Turnus is not pleased, let him come forth, and meet me in fight, man to man. When he will, I am ready. [252] But now let there be truce: bury your dead."

So a truce was made for twelve days. And the Trojans and the Latins went up into the woods which were upon the hills, and worked side by side, cutting down trees—cedars and pines and mountain ashes. The Trojans built up great piles of wood upon the sea-shore, and laid on them the bodies of their comrades who had been killed, and on the bodies they put the arms which they had borne in life. The Latins did the same; only they built the piles near to the city. While they were doing this, those who had been chosen to carry the body of Pallas took it to the city of Evander, and there a great mourning was made for him.

When the burning of the dead was finished, there was a great tumult in the city. Many had lost husbands, and many sons, and many brothers. All these cried out against the war: "It is an evil war," they said; "why should we suffer because Turnus wishes to marry the king's daughter? Why does he not fight for her with Æneas, man to man, and so make an end of these troubles?" [253] While they were saying these things the ambassadors who had been sent to King Diomed, to ask for his help, came back. And this was the story which they told, when King Latinus had called the chiefs together, and bade them speak: "We came to Arpi, to the city of King Diomed. The man received us, and asked us why we had come and what we wanted. And when we told him that we wanted him to help us against Æneas and the Trojans, he said: 'Men of Italy, why do you fight against the gods? Do you not know that all of us who fought against Troy have suffered many things? Ajax was struck by a thunderbolt, and Menelaüs was driven to the end of the earth, and Ulysses lost all his comrades and was left alone, and Agamemnon was murdered in his own home! And you see how I am an exile here, for I never saw wife or home again. Fight no more against the men of Troy. You have brought gifts for me; take them back, and give them to Æneas. I have fought with him, and know what he is, with what strength he rises to the stroke of his sword and casts [254] his spear. I tell you this: if there had been in the army of Troy two others as good as he, the Trojans would have come to the very gates of Argos, and Greece would have suffered what she wrought. These two men, Hector and Æneas, bore up against us for ten years, and Æneas is the dearer to the gods, ay, and he is a goddess' son. Make peace with him while you may.' "

So spoke the chief of the ambassadors, and sat down; and there was a murmur in the council, some saying one thing and some another. Then King Latinus stood up and spoke: "This is not a good time for taking counsel; the enemy is outside our walls. Yet hear my sentence. King Diomed will not help us, and you know that twice we have been beaten in battle. We will offer peace. If these Trojans wish to stay in this land, they shall have my kingdom. If they choose to depart, we will build ships for them as many as they want. And now we will send ambassadors with gifts—gold, and ivory, and royal robes, and a throne such as a king might sit on. And Æneas shall choose whether he will go or stay."

Then stood up Drances. He was but feeble in fight, but he was a great speaker and wise in counsel. "You do well, O King, to offer peace. But there is yet something else; all men know what it is, but they dare not say it. Turnus is the man whose pride and self-will are bringing us to ruin. It is he who does not suffer us to speak the truth. But I will speak it though I die for it. Give Æneas these gifts of yours, but add to them another. Give him your daughter, and make peace sure for ever. And you, Turnus, yield this thing. We beg it of you—I, whom you count your enemy, yes, I beg it of you. But if you will not, if your heart is still hard, if you put a royal wife before your country's good, then at the least do this. Do not call on us to die for you and your marriage; meet Æneas face to face."

Then Turnus sprang up from his place in a mighty rage. "You are always full of words, O Drances; when the senators are called together, you are always the first to come and the first to speak. But what have you done in battle? Come, show your [256] courage now. The enemy is close at hand. Let us go and meet him. You hang back, and yet you doubt my courage! Have you not heard of Pallas whom I slew, and of the two brothers who kept the Trojans' gate, and all of whom I laid low when they shut me within their walls? And now, let me say a word to you, my king and father. If you think that it is enough to have been once defeated, if you have no hope that fortune may yet change—be it so: let us pray for peace. Happy the man—that is all that I can say—who shall have died before seeing such foul disgrace. But if we have some strength still left to us; if there are cities and nations who yet will help us; if these Trojans have bought their victory dear, why do we lose courage? Why do we faint before the trumpet sound? Diomed will not help us; but there are princes of Italy as good as he who will fight for us. Even now the great Camilla, with her maiden warriors, is at hand. And for myself—if it please you that I should fight, hand to hand, with this man, let it be so; I do not refuse. Let him be the son of a goddess, and wear [257] the arms which a god has made, I am ready; my life is for my country and my king."

And now, while they were still speaking, there came a messenger with the news that the Trojans were marching from their camp. Great was the uproar. Some cried out for arms, and some cried out for peace. As for Turnus, he shouted: "Call your councils, and talk of peace if you will. The enemy is at the gates, and I go to meet him." And he rushed out of the senate-house.


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