Aeneid Book 10, lines 215 - 248

Sea-nymphs

by Virgil

As Book 10 of the Aeneid begins, Jupiter calls a council in the hope of resolving conflict between the Gods who support Aeneas and those who oppose him. After further unresolved argument between Aeneas’s mother, Venus, and Juno, the partisan of his enemy Turnus, the Chief of the Rutulians, Jupiter closes the discussion and swears to remain neutral. Meanwhile, the battle continues to rage around the Trojan camp, and Aeneas, unaware even that it has broken out, is sailing back from his successful diplomatic mission to seek new allies.

The English is taken from the classic translation by the 17th-century Poet-Laureate John Dryden.

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Iamque dies caelo concesserat almaque curru
noctivago Phoebe medium pulsabat Olympum:
Aeneas (neque enim membris dat cura quietem)
ipse sedens clavumque regit velisque ministrat.
atque illi medio in spatio chorus, ecce, suarum
occurrit comitum: nymphae, quas alma Cybebe
numen habere maris nymphasque e navibus esse
iusserat, innabant pariter fluctusque secabant,
quot prius aeratae steterant ad litora prorae.
agnoscunt longe regem lustrantque choreis;
quarum quae fandi doctissima Cymodocea
pone sequens dextra puppim tenet ipsaque dorso
eminet ac laeva tacitis subremigat undis.
tum sic ignarum adloquitur: ‘vigilasne, deum gens,
Aenea? vigila et velis immitte rudentis.
nos sumus, Idaeae sacro de vertice pinus
nunc pelagi nymphae, classis tua. perfidus ut nos
praecipitis ferro Rutulus flammaque premebat,
rupimus invitae tua vincula teque per aequor
quaerimus. hanc genetrix faciem miserata refecit
et dedit esse deas aevumque agitare sub undis.
at puer Ascanius muro fossisque tenetur
tela inter media atque horrentis Marte Latinos.
iam loca iussa tenent forti permixtus Etrusco
Arcas eques; medias illis opponere turmas,
ne castris iungant, certa est sententia Turno.
surge age et Aurora socios veniente vocari
primus in arma iube, et clipeum cape quem dedit ipse
invictum ignipotens atque oras ambiit auro.
crastina lux, mea si non inrita dicta putaris,
ingentis Rutulae spectabit caedis acervos.’
dixerat et dextra discedens impulit altam
haud ignara modi puppim: fugit illa per undas
ocior et iaculo et ventos aequante sagitta.

Now was the world forsaken by the sun,
And Phœbe half her nightly race had run.
The careful chief, who never clos’d his eyes,
Himself the rudder holds, the sails supplies.
A choir of Nereids meet him on the flood,
Once his own galleys, hewn from Ida’s wood;
But now, as many nymphs, the sea they sweep,
As rode, before, tall vessels on the deep.
They know him from afar; and in a ring
Inclose the ship that bore the Trojan king.
Cymodoce, whose voice excell’d the rest,
Above the waves advanc’d her snowy breast;
Her right hand stops the stern; her left divides
The curling ocean, and corrects the tides.
She spoke for all the choir, and thus began
With pleasing words to warn th’ unknowing man:
“Sleeps our lov’d lord? O goddess-born, awake!
Spread ev’ry sail, pursue your wat’ry track,
And haste your course. Your navy once were we,
From Ida’s height descending to the sea;
Till Turnus, as at anchor fix’d we stood,
Presum’d to violate our holy wood
Then, loos’d from shore, we fled his fires profane
(Unwillingly we broke our master’s chain),
And since have sought you thro’ the Tuscan main.
The mighty Mother chang’d our forms to these,
And gave us life immortal in the seas.
But young Ascanius, in his camp distress’d,
By your insulting foes is hardly press’d.
Th’ Arcadian horsemen, and Etrurian host,
Advance in order on the Latian coast:
To cut their way the Daunian chief designs,
Before their troops can reach the Trojan lines.
Thou, when the rosy morn restores the light,
First arm thy soldiers for th’ ensuing fight:
Thyself the fated sword of Vulcan wield,
And bear aloft th’ impenetrable shield.
To-morrow’s sun, unless my skill be vain,
Shall see huge heaps of foes in battle slain.”
Parting, she spoke; and with immortal force
Push’d on the vessel in her wat’ry course;
For well she knew the way. Impell’d behind,
The ship flew forward, and outstripp’d the wind.

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