Aeneid Book 8, lines 505 - 531

New allies for Aeneas

by Virgil

The God of the Tiber has advised that Aeneas should seek an alliance with an Arcadian people living on the future site of Rome. In this extract, their King, Evander, explains that he can give only limited help: he offers it anyway, and also suggests where Aeneas may be able to find reinforcements on a much bigger scale.

Agyllina, an Etruscan city, has expelled a cruel tyrant, Mezentius, who has taken refuge with Turnus, Aeneas’s bitter enemy. The Etruscans want to continue the battle against Mezentius and are a powerful force, but an oracle has told them that no Italian leader can prevail against Turnus’s Rutulians, and they should seek a foreign general. Evander, who is Greek, has been offered the task, but turned it down because of age and infirmity, and his valiant son, Pallas, is ineligible because his mother was Italian. Aeneas, however, Evander suggests, could be the very man.

The English version is from the translation of Virgil published by John Dryden (1631 – 1700) in 1697. Dryden was appointed Poet Laureate in 1668.

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“ipse oratores ad me regnique coronam
cum sceptro misit mandatque insignia Tarchon,
succedam castris Tyrrhenaque regna capessam.
sed mihi tarda gelu saeclisque effeta senectus
invidet imperium seraeque ad fortia vires.
natum exhortarer, ni mixtus matre Sabella
hinc partem patriae traheret. tu, cuius et annis
et generi fatum indulget, quem numina poscunt,
ingredere, o Teucrum atque Italum fortissime ductor.
hunc tibi praeterea, spes et solacia nostri,
Pallanta adiungam; sub te tolerare magistro
militiam et grave Martis opus, tua cernere facta
adsuescat, primis et te miretur ab annis.
Arcadas huic equites bis centum, robora pubis
lecta dabo, totidemque suo tibi nomine Pallas.’
Vix ea fatus erat, defixique ora tenebant
Aeneas Anchisiades et fidus Achates,
multaque dura suo tristi cum corde putabant,
ni signum caelo Cytherea dedisset aperto.
namque improviso vibratus ab aethere fulgor
cum sonitu venit et ruere omnia visa repente,
Tyrrhenusque tubae mugire per aethera clangor.
suspiciunt, iterum atque iterum fragor increpat ingens.
arma inter nubem caeli in regione serena
per sudum rutilare vident et pulsa tonare.
obstipuere animis alii, sed Troius heros
agnovit sonitum et divae promissa parentis.

“Tarchon, the Tuscan chief, to me has sent
Their crown, and ev’ry regal ornament.
The people join their own with his desire;
And all my conduct, as their king, require
But the chill blood that creeps within my veins,
And age, and listless limbs unfit for pains,
And a soul conscious of its own decay,
Have forc’d me to refuse imperial sway
My Pallas were more fit to mount the throne,
And should, but he’s a Sabine mother’s son,
And half a native; but, in you, combine
A manly vigor, and a foreign line.
Where Fate and smiling Fortune shew the way,
Pursue the ready path to sov’reign sway.
The staff of my declining days, my son,
Shall make your good or ill success his own;
In fighting fields from you shall learn to dare,
And serve the hard apprenticeship of war;
Your matchless courage and your conduct view,
And early shall begin t’ admire and copy you
Besides, two hundred horse he shall command;
Tho’ few, a warlike and well-chosen band.
These in my name are listed, and my son
As many more has added in his own”
Scarce had he said; Achates and his guest,
With downcast eyes, their silent grief express’d;
Who, short of succors, and in deep despair,
Shook at the dismal prospect of the war.
But his bright mother, from a breaking cloud,
To cheer her issue, thunder’d thrice aloud;
Thrice forky lightning flash’d along the sky,
And Tyrrhene trumpets thrice were heard on high.
Then, gazing up, repeated peals they hear,
And, in a heav’n serene, refulgent arms appear:
Redd’ning the skies, and glitt’ring all around.
The temper’d metals clash, and yield a silver sound.
The rest stood trembling, struck with awe divine;
Æneas only, conscious to the sign,
Presag’d th’ event, and joyful view’d, above,
Th’ accomplish’d promise of the Queen of Love.