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