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Virgil, Aeneid 12.908-952

The final lines of the poem. After his many trials, including twice sailing away from the women he loved (who were dead or dying in distant plumes of smoke) Aeneas reaches Italy. Here he has to overcome Italian resistance and with the help of the gods defeats Turnus in combat. Turnus was due to inherit kingship and to take the daughter of King Latinus as his wife.

     Translation by kind permission of David West. [The Aeneid, Penguin Classics: ISBN 0140 449329].

           Recording © by The LATIN QVARTER, 2012

ac velut in somnis, oculos ubi languida pressit

nocte quies, nequiquam avidos extendere cursus

velle videmur et in mediis conatibus aegri

succidimus—non lingua valet, non corpore notae

sufficiunt vires, nec vox aut verba sequuntur:

sic Turno, quacumque viam virtute petivit,

successum dea dira negat. tum pectore sensus

vertuntur varii. Rutulos aspectat et urbem

cunctaturque metu letumque instare tremescit;

nec quo se eripiat, nec qua vi tendat in hostem,

nec currus usquam videt aurigamve sororem.

cunctanti telum Aeneas fatale coruscat,

sortitus fortunam oculis, et corpore toto

eminus intorquet. murali concita numquam

tormento sic saxa fremunt, nec fulmine tanti

dissultant crepitus. volat atri turbinis instar

exitium dirum hasta ferens orasque recludit

loricae et clipei extremos septemplicis orbis:

per medium stridens transit femur. incidit ictus

ingens ad terram duplicato poplite Turnus.

consurgunt gemitu Rutuli totusque remugit

mons circum et vocem late nemora alta remittunt.

Just as when we are asleep, when in the weariness of night rest lies heavy on our eyes, we dream we are trying desperately to run further and not succeeding, till we fall exhausted in the middle of our efforts; the tongue is useless; the strength we know we have fails our body; we have no voice, no words to obey our will – so it was with Turnus. Wherever his courage sought a way, the dread goddess barred his progress. During these moments, the thoughts whirled in his brain. He gazed at the Rutulians and the city. He faltered with fear. He began to tremble at the death that was upon him. He could see nowhere to run, no way to come at his enemy, no chariot anywhere, no sister to drive it.

     As he faltered the deadly spear of Aeneas flashed. His eyes had picked the spot and he threw from long range with all his weight behind the throw. Stones hurled by siege artillery never roar like this. The crash of the bursting thunderbolt is not so loud. Like a dark whirlwind it flew carrying death and destruction with it. Piercing the outer rings of the sevenfold shield and laying open the lower rim of the breastplate, it went whistling through the middle of the thigh. When the blow struck, down went great Turnus, bending his knee to the ground. The Rutulians rose with a groan which echoed round the whole mountain, and far and wide the high forests sent back the sound of their voices.

ille humilis supplexque oculos dextramque precantem

protendens, ‘equidem merui nec deprecor,’ inquit:

‘utere sorte tua. miseri te si qua parentis

tangere cura potest, oro (fuit et tibi talis

Anchises genitor) Dauni miserere senectae

et me, seu corpus spoliatum lumine mavis,

redde meis. vicisti et victum tendere palmas

Ausonii videre; tua est Lavinia coniunx,

ulterius ne tende odiis.’ stetit acer in armis

Aeneas, volvens oculos, dextramque repressit;

et iam iamque magis cunctantem flectere sermo

coeperat, infelix umero cum apparuit alto

balteus et notis fulserunt cingula bullis

Pallantis pueri, victum quem vulnere Turnus

straverat atque umeris inimicum insigne gerebat.

ille, oculis postquam saevi monimenta doloris

exuviasque hausit, furiis accensus et ira

terribilis: ‘tune hinc spoliis indute meorum

eripiare mihi? Pallas te hoc vulnere, Pallas

immolat et poenam scelerato ex sanguine sumit,’

hoc dicens ferrum adverso sub pectore condit

fervidus. ast illi solvuntur frigore membra

vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras.

He lowered his eyes and stretched out his right hand to beg as a suppliant. ‘I have brought this upon myself,’ he said, ‘and for myself I ask nothing. Make use of what Fortune has given you, but if any thought of my unhappy father can touch you, I beg of you – and you too had such a father in Anchises – take pity on the old age of Daunus, and give me back to my people, or if you prefer it, give them back my dead body. You have defeated me, and the men of Ausonia have seen me defeated and stretching out my hands to you. Lavinia is yours. Do not carry your hatred any further.’

There stood Aeneas, deadly in his armour, rolling his eyes, but he checked his hand, hesitating more and more as the words of Turnus began to move him, when suddenly his eyes caught the fatal baldric of the boy Pallas high on Turnus’ shoulder with the glittering studs he knew so well. Turnus had defeated and wounded him and then killed him, and now he was wearing his belt on his shoulder as a battle honour taken from an enemy. Aeneas feasted his eyes on the sight of this spoil, this reminder of his own wild grief, then, burning with mad passion and terrible in his wrath, he cried: ‘Are you to escape me now, wearing the spoils stripped from the body of those I loved? By this wound which I now give, it is Pallas who makes sacrifice of you. It is Pallas who exacts the penalty in your guilty blood.’ Blazing with rage, he plunged the steel full into his enemy’s breast. The limbs of Turnus dissolved in cold and his life left him with a groan, fleeing in anger down to the shades.

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