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The Aeneid for Boys and Girls by  Alfred J, Church


 

 

IN ITALY

[147] WHILE Æneas and his people were at Cumæ, Caiēta his old nurse, who had gone with him in all his wanderings, died. He called a great cliff that there was close by after her name, and it is so called to this day. After this they set sail, the south wind blowing softly and carrying them on to the place which they sought. As they went, they passed by the island where Circé lived—Circé, who was said to be a daughter of the Sun, and who was a great witch. She used to sit all day and weave on her loom wonderful work with pictures on it, and as she sat she sang with a very sweet voice. And if any traveller went in to see who it was that sang so sweetly, she would give him a cup of wine. But this wine was poisoned, and when the man had drunk it, Circé would wave a wand over his head, and he became a beast—a lion, [148] or a bear, or a wolf, or, it may be, a pig. The Trojans, as they sailed by, heard these creatures growling or roaring. But Neptune made the wind blow more strongly, so that they passed very quickly by, for he was afraid that they might come to some harm.

After a little time they came to a place where there was a great wood along the shore, and in the midst of the wood a river, the name of which was the Tiber. This was the place where it flowed into the sea. And they saw that the water of the river was very yellow. It has always been called the "Yellow Tiber." Here they brought their ships to land. And Æneas and his son Ascanius and some of the princes got out on to the shore and sat down under one of the trees to have their dinner. They made plates of dough, and on these they put such fruits as they could find. It was but a scanty meal, and when they had eaten all the fruits they were still hungry. Then they began to break up their platters of dough and to eat them. And the boy Ascanius said, laughing: "What! do we even eat our tables?" When Æneas heard these words, [149] he was very glad, and he caught the boy in his arms and kissed him, saying, "Now this is a good word that you have said, my son! Long ago that dreadful creature the Harpy said that some day we should be so pressed by hunger that we should eat our tables. My father also prophesied that when we did this we might know that we had indeed come to the land where we were to have a home. And now this has come to pass. This is our home, and as for the hunger which I feared, lo! we have endured it and are yet alive!" Then the chiefs told the story to all the people, and all rejoiced together.

And now it must be told what this country was to which they had come. The name of it was Latium, and the name of the king was Latinus. He was the son of Faunus, who was the son of Picus, and Picus was the son of Saturn. The story that was told about Saturn was this, that when his son Jupiter turned him out of his throne in heaven, for he had been king of gods and men, he fled away to Italy, and set up a kingdom there, and reigned in great peace and happiness. Now King Latinus had no son, but only a daughter, [150] Lavinia by name, who was now of an age to be married. Many chiefs of Italy desired to have her for a wife, but the one whom the queen her mother liked beyond all the others was a certain Turnus. He was a very tall and handsome young man, and a great soldier, and was also the son of a king. Nor was King Latinus himself unwilling that Turnus should be his son-in-law, but the wise men, the priests and the prophets, told him that it must not be, because the gods would not have it so. And one of the signs by which the prophets knew that this was so, was this. There was in the middle of the palace a great bay tree. It was growing there when the king built the palace; and he made it sacred to the god Apollo and built an altar under its branches. One day a swarm of bees came flying into the court where the bay tree was, and settled on it, and hung down from one of the branches, in the shape of a cluster, as is the way of bees when they swarm. Then the prophets said: "As the bees have come to your palace, O king, so there shall come a strange people from far away to this land, and their king shall be the [151] husband of your daughter." Not many days after this as Lavinia was standing by her father's side, and lighted the fire on the altar, a flame leapt from the altar on to her hair, and burnt the ornaments that she wore on her head, and spread with much smoke, and fire over the whole palace. But the girl herself was not burnt. The prophets, when they knew this, said: "This maiden shall be famous and great; but a dreadful war shall come upon her people, and many shall perish." Then the king himself, wishing to know for certain what he ought to do, went to a temple that was near to his palace, being the temple of his father Faunus. Of this temple he was himself the priest. The custom was that if the priest wished to inquire of the god, he sacrificed sheep, and lay down to sleep on their skins. This the king did. He made a sacrifice of a hundred sheep, and lay down to sleep upon the skins. And lo! before he fell asleep there came a voice from out the inner part of the temple: "My son, seek not to marry thy daughter to a prince of this land. There shall come a son-in-law from over the sea. Give thy [152] daughter to him. He shall make this land to be the greatest under the whole heaven." The king did not keep this to himself, but told it to every one.

It came to pass, therefore, that Æneas, asking questions of some people of the country whom he met on the day after his coming, heard about these things. So he said to himself: "I will send an embassy to this King Latinus, and beg of him that there may be peace between his people and my people. But lest by chance either he or any one of the princes hereabouts should seek to do us harm, I will provide a place of defence." So he chose a hundred men who should be ambassadors for him, and put crowns of olive on their heads, and sent them with gifts in their hands to the king. When these had set out, he marked out a place for a camp, and he commanded the people to work as hard as they could, making it strong with a mound and a ditch.

The ambassadors, going on their way to the city, came to a great plain where the young men of the place were amusing themselves with contests and games. Some raced [153] against each other, riding on horses or driving chariots. Some shot with bows and arrows; others threw javelins, or ran races on foot, or boxed or wrestled. As soon as the Trojans were seen, one of the horsemen rode as fast as he could to the city, and told the king, saying: "Some men in strange clothes have come, desiring to see you." Latinus said: "Bring them before me." And he put on his king's robes, and sat on his throne.

A very noble place was the king's palace. Picus had built it on a hill in the middle of the city, with a sacred wood all round it. It had a hundred pillars, fifty on one side and fifty on the other; among the pillars were statues of kings of old time. On the walls were hung spoils taken in war, battle-axes, and spears, and helmets, and the beaks of ships, and the yokes of chariots. In this hall the kings of the country of Latium were crowned; and the princes met in it to take counsel together, and great feasts were held in it.

King Latinus said: "Men of Troy, for, indeed, I know who you are, tell me why [154] you have come to this land. Are you seeking something, or have you come by chance? Have storms driven you out of your course?—for this, I know, is a thing which often happens to men who sail over the sea. Be sure that, whatever be the cause of your coming, you are welcome. In this land we walk in the way of the good King Saturn, and do the thing that is right, not by constraint but of our own will. Know also that we are of the same blood, for Dardănus, who was the first founder of Troy, came from a certain city in this land."

Then the chief of the ambassadors answered: "O king, we have not wandered out of our way, nor have storms driven us upon this coast. We have come hither on purpose. I doubt not, O king, that you know how we were driven out of our own country. Who, indeed, is there on the whole face of the earth who does not know what a great destroying storm came out from the land of Greece and laid the great city of Troy even with the ground? What we ask of you, O king, is a parcel of ground on which we [155] may build a city to dwell in; also that we may breathe the air and drink the water of this land. Be sure, O king, that we shall do no harm to this thy country, and that you will not be sorry for having received us. Of a truth, many nations have desired that we should join ourselves to them. But the gods laid a command upon us that we should come to this land of Italy. For, as you have yourself said, it was from this land that Dardănus, our first father, came forth, and hither, by the will of the gods, his children's children must come back. So we heard from Apollo himself. And now we pray you, O king, to receive these gifts which our lord Æneas sends by our hands. This is the sceptre which King Priam was used to hold in his hand when he did justice among his people. These garments the ladies of Troy worked with their own hands."

For a while the king sat silent, thinking over these things in his heart. For he said to himself: "Is this man whom they call Æneas, he of whom my father Faunus spoke? Is he, perchance, the son-in-law who, the prophets said, should come from some strange [156] land to be the husband of my daughter Lavinia?" At the last he spoke, saying: "May the gods grant that there be peace and friendship between us and you. We grant, men of Troy, the things for which you ask—a parcel of ground, and air and water. We also thank your king for his gifts. Be sure that in this land there are such riches as shall match even the riches of Troy. As for your king, Æneas, if he wishes to be our friend, let him come and look upon us, face to face. Take also this message to him: 'I have a daughter, whom the gods forbid me to marry to any prince of this land. For they say that there shall come a stranger from over the sea to be my son-in-law, and that from him shall come a race which shall raise the name of Italy even to the stars of heaven.' "

Then Latinus said to his people: "Bring forth horses for these men." Now there stood in the king's stable three hundred horses, the swiftest of their kind: of these the servants brought forth a hundred, one for every Trojan. All of them had trappings of purple and bits of gold. To Æneas [157] himself the king sent a chariot drawn by two horses, which were of the breed of the horses of the Sun. So the ambassadors went back to the camp with noble gifts and a message of peace.


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