The Aeneid, Book 8, lines 416 - 463

Vulcan’s forge

by Virgil

In time past, Vulcan the fire-God has made armour for Achilles, the greatest fighter of all, at the request of his Mother, Thetis. Now, as Aeneas slumbers in Pallanteum, the town now occupying the future site of Rome, Vulcan’s wife and Aeneas’s mother, Venus, uses her charms to persuade him to do the same for her son. It is a distinction that will mark out Aeneas beyond other mortal warriors. After a night of love, Vulcan wakes early and sets off for his forge beneath Mount Etna, where he finds his Cyclops-blacksmiths hard at work on one of a batch of thunderbolts for Jupiter.

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insula Sicanium iuxta latus Aeoliamque
erigitur Liparen fumantibus ardua saxis,
quam subter specus et Cyclopum exesa caminis
antra Aetnaea tonant, validique incudibus ictus
auditi referunt gemitus, striduntque cavernis
stricturae Chalybum et fornacibus ignis anhelat,
Volcani domus et Volcania nomine tellus.
huc tunc ignipotens caelo descendit ab alto.
ferrum exercebant vasto Cyclopes in antro,
Brontesque Steropesque et nudus membra Pyragmon.
his informatum manibus iam parte polita
fulmen erat, toto genitor quae plurima caelo
deicit in terras, pars imperfecta manebat.
tris imbris torti radios, tris nubis aquosae
addiderant, rutuli tris ignis et alitis Austri.
fulgores nunc terrificos sonitumque metumque
miscebant operi flammisque sequacibus iras.
parte alia Marti currumque rotasque volucris
instabant, quibus ille viros, quibus excitat urbes;
aegidaque horriferam, turbatae Palladis arma,
certatim squamis serpentum auroque polibant
conexosque anguis ipsamque in pectore divae
Gorgona desecto vertentem lumina collo.
‘tollite cuncta’ inquit ‘coeptosque auferte labores,
Aetnaei Cyclopes, et huc advertite mentem:
arma acri facienda viro. nunc viribus usus,
nunc manibus rapidis, omni nunc arte magistra.
praecipitate moras.’ nec plura effatus, at illi
ocius incubuere omnes pariterque laborem
sortiti. fluit aes rivis aurique metallum
vulnificusque chalybs vasta fornace liquescit.
ingentem clipeum informant, unum omnia contra
tela Latinorum, septenosque orbibus orbis
impediunt. alii ventosis follibus auras
accipiunt redduntque, alii stridentia tingunt
aera lacu; gemit impositis incudibus antrum;
illi inter sese multa vi bracchia tollunt
in numerum, versantque tenaci forcipe massam.

Between the Sicilian coast and Aeolian Lipare
towers an island of smoking rocks, under which
a cavern and chambers hollowed by the forges
of the Cylopes resound, the boom of mighty blows
on anvils echoes back with the hiss of smelting
iron and the fire roars in the furnaces. It is
Vulcan’s home, Volcania is the island’s name,
and the fire-Lord stooped to it from high heaven.
Cyclopes were working iron in the vast cave, Brontes
and Steropes, and Pyragmon, naked as he worked.
They had in hand, part done, part unfinished, one
of the many thunderbolts that the Father hurls
to earth from all over the heavens. They had put in
three rings of pelting hail, three of soaking cloud,
and three each of ruddy fire and racing South-wind.
Now they were adding fearful flashes and crashes,
and wrath backed up with blazing fire. Elsewhere
they were building Mars a chariot on swift wheels,
such as he uses to rouse up men and cities;
and working hard to adorn the panic-breathing aegis,
Minerva’s weapon when angered, with serpent-scales
and gold, and Medusa herself and her knotted snakes
on the goddess’s breast, neck severed and eyes lolling.
“Set your work aside and put it all away, Cyclopes
of Etna, and pay careful attention,” Vulcan said,
“there are arms to be made for a fierce warrior. We need
strength, deft hands and all our skill to guide us.
No delay!” Straight away, the Cyclopes divided the work
equally between them, and bent to their tasks more keenly
than ever. Bronze and gold flow in streams,
and wounding steel melts in the vast furnace. They shape
a mighty shield, one to bear all that the Latins can throw,
fastening seven circles one on top of another. Some
draw drafts of air into the windy bellows and blast them
out again, others quench the shrieking bronze; the cave
groans under its freight of anvils; others lift their arms
with all their might, keeping rhythm between them
and striking as the tongs grip and turn the glowing metal.


More Poems by Virgil

  1. Aeneas’s vision of Augustus
  2. The farmer’s starry calendar
  3. Virgil’s poetic temple to Caesar
  4. The journey to Hades begins
  5. The Syrian hostess
  6. Mercury’s journey to Carthage
  7. The death of Euryalus and Nisus
  8. More from Virgil’s farming Utopia
  9. Hector visits Aeneas in a dream
  10. Aeneas reaches the Elysian Fields
  11. The infant Camilla
  12. Aeneas arrives in Italy
  13. Storm at sea!
  14. New allies for Aeneas
  15. Souls awaiting punishment in Tartarus, and the crimes that brought them there.
  16. The death of Priam
  17. The Trojans reach Carthage
  18. King Latinus grants the Trojans’ request
  19. The Trojans prepare to set sail from Carthage
  20. King Mezentius meets his match
  21. Dido falls in love
  22. Aeneas finds Dido among the shades
  23. A Fury rouses Turnus to war
  24. The Harpy’s prophecy
  25. The Aeneid begins
  26. Help for Father Aeneas from Father Tiber
  27. Aeneas joins the fray
  28. Juno throws open the gates of war
  29. Juno is reconciled
  30. Palinurus the helmsman is lost
  31. Virgil begins the Georgics
  32. Aristaeus’s bees
  33. Laocoon warns against the Trojan horse
  34. Rumour
  35. Omens for Princess Lavinia
  36. Aeneas sees Marcellus, Augustus’s tragic heir
  37. The portals of sleep
  38. Dido and Aeneas: Hell hath no fury …
  39. Mourning for Pallas
  40. The Trojan Horse enters the city
  41. Jupiter’s prophecy
  42. Sea-nymphs
  43. Dido’s release
  44. In King Latinus’s hall
  45. Aeneas prepares to tell Dido his story
  46. The death of Dido.
  47. Aeneas’s ships are transformed
  48. How Aeneas will know the site of his city
  49. The farmer’s happy lot
  50. Turnus the wolf
  51. Fire strikes Aeneas’s fleet
  52. Anchises’s ghost invites Aeneas to visit the underworld
  53. Aeneas is wounded
  54. Signs of bad weather
  55. Rites for the allies’ dead
  56. Aeneas learns the way to the underworld
  57. Catastrophe for Rome?
  58. Laocoon and the snakes
  59. Virgil predicts a forthcoming birth and a new golden age
  60. The natural history of bees
  61. Aeneas’s oath
  62. Aeneas comes to the Hell of Tartarus
  63. Turnus is lured away from battle
  64. Turnus at bay
  65. Aeneas rescues his Father Anchises
  66. Love is the same for all
  67. The death of Pallas
  68. The Fury Allecto blows the alarm
  69. Aeneas tours the site of Rome
  70. Charon, the ferryman
  71. Dido and Aeneas: royal hunt and royal affair
  72. Virgil’s perils on the sea
  73. Aeneas saves his son and father, but at a cost