THE ARGUMENT.-- AEneas, setting sail from Afric, is driven by a
storm on the coasts of Sicily, where he is hospitably receiv'd by his
friend Acestes, king of part of the island, and born of Trojan
parentage. He applies himself to celebrate the memory of his father
with divine honors, and accordingly institutes funeral games, and
appoints prizes for those who should conquer in them. While the
ceremonies were performing, Juno sends Iris to persuade the Trojan
women to burn the ships, who, upon her instigation, set fire to them;
which burnt four, and would have consum'd the rest, had not Jupi-
ter, by a miraculous shower, extinguish'd it. Upon this, AEneas, by
the advice of one of his generals, and a vision of his father, builds
a city for the women, old men, and others, who were either unfit for
war, or weary of the voyage, and sails for Italy. Venus procures
of Neptune a safe voyage for him and all his men, excepting only
his pilot Palinurus, who is unfortunately lost.
MEANTIME the Trojan cuts his wat'ry way,
Fix'd on his voyage, thro' the curling sea;
Then, casting back his eyes, with dire amaze,
Sees on the Punic shore the mounting blaze.
The cause unknown; yet his presaging mind
The fate of Dido from the fire divin'd;
He knew the stormy souls of womankind,
What secret springs their eager passions move,
How capable of death for injur'd love.
Dire auguries from hence the Trojans draw;
Till neither fires nor shining shores they saw.
Now seas and skies their prospect only bound;
An empty space above, a floating field around.
But soon the heav'ns with shadows were o'erspread;
A swelling cloud hung hov'ring o'er their head:
Livid it look'd, the threat'ning of a storm:
Then night and horror ocean's face deform.
The pilot, Palinurus, cried aloud:
'What gusts of weather from that gath'ring cloud
My thoughts presage! Ere yet the tempest roars,
Stand to your tackle, mates, and stretch your oars;
Contract your swelling sails, and luff to wind.'
The frighted crew perform the task assign'd.
Then, to his fearless chief: 'Not Heav'n,' said he,
'Tho' Jove himself should promise Italy,
Can stem the torrent of this raging sea.
Mark how the shifting winds from west arise,
And what collected night involves the skies!
Nor can our shaken vessels live at sea,
Much less against the tempest force their way.
'T is fate diverts our course, and fate we must obey.
Not far from hence, if I observ'd aright
The southing of the stars, and polar light,
Sicilia lies, whose hospitable shores
In safety we may reach with struggling oars.'
AEneas then replied: 'Too sure I find
We strive in vain against the seas and wind:
Now shift your sails; what place can please me more
Than what you promise, the Sicilian shore,
Whose hallow'd earth Anchises' bones contains,
And where a prince of Trojan lineage reigns?'
The course resolv'd, before the western wind
They scud amain, and make the port assign'd.
Meantime Acestes, from a lofty stand,
Beheld the fleet descending on the land;
And, not unmindful of his ancient race,
Down from the cliff he ran with eager pace,
And held the hero in a strict embrace.
Of a rough Libyan bear the spoils he wore,
And either hand a pointed jav'lin bore.
His mother was a dame of Dardan blood;
His sire Crinisus, a Sicilian flood.
He welcomes his returning friends ashore
With plenteous country cates and homely store.
Now, when the following morn had chas'd away
The flying stars, and light restor'd the day,
AEneas call'd the Trojan troops around,
And thus bespoke them from a rising ground:
'Offspring of heav'n, divine Dardanian race!
The sun, revolving thro' th' ethereal space,
The shining circle of the year has fill'd,
Since first this isle my father's ashes held:
And now the rising day renews the year;
A day for ever sad, for ever dear.
This would I celebrate with annual games,
With gifts on altars pil'd, and holy flames,
Tho' banish'd to Gaetulia's barren sands,
Caught on the Grecian seas, or hostile lands:
But since this happy storm our fleet has driv'n
(Not, as I deem, without the will of Heav'n)
Upon these friendly shores and flow'ry plains,
Which hide Anchises and his blest remains,
Let us with joy perform his honors due,
And pray for prosp'rous winds, our voyage to renew;
Pray, that in towns and temples of our own,
The name of great Anchises may be known,
And yearly games may spread the gods' renown.
Our sports Acestes, of the Trojan race,
With royal gifts ordain'd, is pleas'd to grace:
Two steers on ev'ry ship the king bestows;
His gods and ours shall share your equal vows.
Besides, if, nine days hence, the rosy morn
Shall with unclouded light the skies adorn,
That day with solemn sports I mean to grace:
Light galleys on the seas shall run a wat'ry race;
Some shall in swiftness for the goal contend,
And others try the twanging bow to bend;
The strong, with iron gauntlets arm'd, shall stand
Oppos'd in combat on the yellow sand.
Let all be present at the games prepar'd,
And joyful victors wait the just reward.
But now assist the rites, with garlands crown'd.'
He said, and first his brows with myrtle bound.
Then Helymus, by his example led,
And old Acestes, each adorn'd his head;
Thus young Ascanius, with a sprightly grace,
His temples tied, and all the Trojan race.
AEneas then advanc'd amidst the train,
By thousands follow'd thro' the flow'ry plain,
To great Anchises' tomb; which when he found,
He pour'd to Bacchus, on the hallow'd ground,
Two bowls of sparkling wine, of milk two more,
And two (from offer'd bulls) of purple gore,
With roses then the sepulcher he strow'd
And thus his father's ghost bespoke aloud:
'Hail, O ye holy manes! hail again,
Paternal ashes, now review'd in vain!
The gods permitted not, that you, with me,
Should reach the promis'd shores of Italy,
Or Tiber's flood, what flood soe'er it be.'
Scarce had he finish'd, when, with speckled pride,
A serpent from the tomb began to glide;
His hugy bulk on sev'n high volumes roll'd;
Blue was his breadth of back, but streak'd with scaly gold: