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A famous from our database of over 100,000 Poems by famous and some not so famous people.

<< A Brilliant Poem by : Virgil >>

The Eleventh Book of Aeneis Part 1 by Virgil

THE ARGUMENT.-- AEneas erects a trophy of the spoils of Mezen-
tius, grants a truce for burying the dead, and sends home the
body of Pallas with great solemnity. Latinus calls a council, to
propose offers of peace to AEneas; which occasions great animosity
betwixt Turnus and Drances. In the mean time there is a sharp
engagement of the horse; wherein Camilla signalizes herself; is
kill'd; and the Latine troops are entirely defeated.

SCARCE had the rosy Morning rais'd her head
Above the waves, and left her wat'ry bed;
The pious chief, whom double cares attend
For his unburied soldiers and his friend,
Yet first to Heav'n perform'd a victor's vows:
He bar'd an ancient oak of all her boughs;
Then on a rising ground the trunk he plac'd,
Which with the spoils of his dead foe he grac'd.
The coat of arms by proud Mezentius worn,
Now on a naked snag in triumph borne,
Was hung on high, and glitter'd from afar,
A trophy sacred to the God of War.
Above his arms, fix'd on the leafless wood,
Appear'd his plumy crest, besmear'd with blood:
His brazen buckler on the left was seen;
Truncheons of shiver'd lances hung between;
And on the right was placed his corslet, bor'd;
And to the neck was tied his unavailing sword.
A crowd of chiefs inclose the godlike man,
Who thus, conspicuous in the midst, began:
'Our toils, my friends, are crown'd with sure success;
The greater part perform'd, achieve the less.
Now follow cheerful to the trembling town;
Press but an entrance, and presume it won.
Fear is no more, for fierce Mezentius lies,
As the first fruits of war, a sacrifice.
Turnus shall fall extended on the plain,
And, in this omen, is already slain.
Prepar'd in arms, pursue your happy chance;
That none unwarn'd may plead his ignorance,
And I, at Heav'n's appointed hour, may find
Your warlike ensigns waving in the wind.
Meantime the rites and fun'ral pomps prepare,
Due to your dead companions of the war:
The last respect the living can bestow,
To shield their shadows from contempt below.
That conquer'd earth be theirs, for which they fought,
And which for us with their own blood they bought;
But first the corpse of our unhappy friend
To the sad city of Evander send,
Who, not inglorious, in his age's bloom,
Was hurried hence by too severe a doom.'
Thus, weeping while he spoke, he took his way,
Where, new in death, lamented Pallas lay.
Acoetes watch'd the corpse; whose youth deserv'd
The father's trust; and now the son he serv'd
With equal faith, but less auspicious care.
Th' attendants of the slain his sorrow share.
A troop of Trojans mix'd with these appear,
And mourning matrons with dishevel'd hair.
Soon as the prince appears, they raise a cry;
All beat their breasts, and echoes rend the sky.
They rear his drooping forehead from the ground;
But, when AEneas view'd the grisly wound
Which Pallas in his manly bosom bore,
And the fair flesh distain'd with purple gore;
First, melting into tears, the pious man
Deplor'd so sad a sight, then thus began:
'Unhappy youth! when Fortune gave the rest
Of my full wishes, she refus'd the best!
She came; but brought not thee along, to bless
My longing eyes, and share in my success:
She grudg'd thy safe return, the triumphs due
To prosp'rous valor, in the public view.
Not thus I promis'd, when thy father lent
Thy needless succor with a sad consent;
Embrac'd me, parting for th' Etrurian land,
And sent me to possess a large command.
He warn'd, and from his own experience told,
Our foes were warlike, disciplin'd, and bold.
And now perhaps, in hopes of thy return,
Rich odors on his loaded altars burn,
While we, with vain officious pomp, prepare
To send him back his portion of the war,
A bloody breathless body, which can owe
No farther debt, but to the pow'rs below.
The wretched father, ere his race is run,
Shall view the fun'ral honors of his son.
These are my triumphs of the Latian war,
Fruits of my plighted faith and boasted care!
And yet, unhappy sire, thou shalt not see
A son whose death disgrac'd his ancestry;
Thou shalt not blush, old man, however griev'd:
Thy Pallas no dishonest wound receiv'd.
He died no death to make thee wish, too late,
Thou hadst not liv'd to see his shameful fate:
But what a champion has th' Ausonian coast,
And what a friend hast thou, Ascanius, lost!'
Thus having mourn'd, he gave the word around,
To raise the breathless body from the ground;
And chose a thousand horse, the flow'r of all
His warlike troops, to wait the funeral,
To bear him back and share Evander's grief:
A well-becoming, but a weak relief.
Of oaken twigs they twist an easy bier,
Then on their shoulders the sad burden rear.
The body on this rural hearse is borne:
Strew'd leaves and funeral greens the bier adorn.
All pale he lies, and looks a lovely flow'r,
New cropp'd by virgin hands, to dress the bow'r:
Unfaded yet, but yet unfed below,
No more to mother earth or the green stem shall owe.
Then two fair vests, of wondrous work and cost,
Of purple woven, and with gold emboss'd,
For ornament the Trojan hero brought,
Which with her hands Sidonian Dido wrought.
One vest array'd the corpse; and one they spread
O'er his clos'd eyes, and wrapp'd around his head,
That, when the yellow hair in flame should fall,
The catching fire might burn the golden caul.
Besides, the spoils of foes in battle slain,
When he descended on the Latian plain;
Arms, trappings, horses, by the hearse are led
In long array--th' achievements of the dead.
Then, pinion'd with their hands behind, appear
Th' unhappy captives, marching in the rear,
Appointed off'rings in the victor's name,
To sprinkle with their blood the fun'ral flame.
Inferior trophies by the chiefs are borne;
Gauntlets and helms their loaded hands adorn;
And fair inscriptions fix'd, and titles read
Of Latian leaders conquer'd by the dead.
Acoetes on his pupil's corpse attends,
With feeble steps, supported by his friends.
Pausing at ev'ry pace, in sorrow drown'd,
Betwixt their arms he sinks upon the ground;
Where grov'ling while he lies in deep despair,
He beats his breast, and rends his hoary hair.
The champion's chariot next is seen to roll,
Besmear'd with hostile blood, and honorably foul.
To close the pomp, AEthon, the steed of state,
Is led, the fun'rals of his lord to wait.
Stripp'd of his trappings, with a sullen pace
He walks; and the big tears run rolling down his face.
The lance of Pallas, and the crimson crest,
Are borne behind: the victor seiz'd the rest.
The march begins: the trumpets hoarsely sound;
The pikes and lances trail along the ground.
Thus while the Trojan and Arcadian horse
To Pallantean tow'rs direct their course,
In long procession rank'd, the pious chief
Stopp'd in the rear, and gave a vent to grief:
'The public care,' he said, 'which war attends,
Diverts our present woes, at least suspends.
Peace with the manes of great Pallas dwell!
Hail, holy relics! and a last farewell!'
He said no more, but, inly thro' he mourn'd,
Restrain'd his tears, and to the camp return'd.
Now suppliants, from Laurentum sent, demand
A truce, with olive branches in their hand;
Obtest his clemency, and from the plain
Beg leave to draw the bodies of their slain.
They plead, that none those common rites deny
To conquer'd foes that in fair battle die.
All cause of hate was ended in their death;
Nor could he war with bodies void of breath.
A king, they hop'd, would hear a king's request,
Whose son he once was call'd, and once his guest.
Their suit, which was too just to be denied,
The hero grants, and farther thus replied:
'O Latian princes, how severe a fate
In causeless quarrels has involv'd your state,
And arm'd against an unoffending man,
Who sought your friendship ere the war began!
You beg a truce, which I would gladly give,
Not only for the slain, but those who live.
I came not hither but by Heav'n's command,
And sent by fate to share the Latian land.
Nor wage I wars unjust: your king denied
My proffer'd friendship, and my promis'd bride;
Left me for Turnus. Turnus then should try
His cause in arms, to conquer or to die.
My right and his are in dispute: the slain
Fell without fault, our quarrel to maintain.
In equal arms let us alone contend;
And let him vanquish, whom his fates befriend.
This is the way (so tell him) to possess
The royal virgin, and restore the peace.
Bear this message back, with ample leave,
That your slain friends may fun'ral rites receive.'
Thus having said--th' embassadors, amaz'd,
Stood mute a while, and on each other gaz'd.
Drances, their chief, who harbor'd in his breast
Long hate to Turnus, as his foe profess'd,
Broke silence first, and to the godlike man,
With graceful action bowing, thus began:
'Auspicious prince, in arms a mighty name,
But yet whose actions far transcend your fame;
Would I your justice or your force express,
Thought can but equal; and all words are less.
Your answer we shall thankfully relate,
And favors granted to the Latian state.
If wish'd success our labor shall attend,
Think peace concluded, and the king your friend:
Let Turnus leave the realm to your command,
And seek alliance in some other land:
Build you the city which your fates assign;
We shall be proud in the great work to join.'
Thus Drances; and his words so well persuade
The rest impower'd, that soon a truce is made.
Twelve days the term allow'd: and, during those,
Latians and Trojans, now no longer foes,
Mix'd in the woods, for fun'ral piles prepare
To fell the timber, and forget the war.
Loud axes thro' the groaning groves resound;
Oak, mountain ash, and poplar spread the ground;
First fall from high; and some the trunks receive
In loaden wains; with wedges some they cleave.
And now the fatal news by Fame is blown
Thro' the short circuit of th' Arcadian town,
Of Pallas slain--by Fame, which just before
His triumphs on distended pinions bore.
Rushing from out the gate, the people stand,
Each with a fun'ral flambeau in his hand.
Wildly they stare, distracted with amaze:
The fields are lighten'd with a fiery blaze,
That cast a sullen splendor on their friends,
The marching troop which their dead prince attends.
Both parties meet: they raise a doleful cry;
The matrons from the walls with shrieks reply,
And their mix'd mourning rends the vaulted sky.
The town is fill'd with tumult and with tears,
Till the loud clamors reach Evander's ears:
Forgetful of his state, he runs along,
With a disorder'd pace, and cleaves the throng;
Falls on the corpse; and groaning there he lies,
With silent grief, that speaks but at his eyes.
Short sighs and sobs succeed; till sorrow breaks
A passage, and at once he weeps and speaks:
'O Pallas! thou hast fail'd thy plighted word,
To fight with caution, not to tempt the sword!
I warn'd thee, but in vain; for well I knew
What perils youthful ardor would pursue,
That boiling blood would carry thee too far,
Young as thou wert in dangers, raw to war!
O curst essay of arms, disastrous doom,
Prelude of bloody fields, and fights to come!
Hard elements of unauspicious war,
Vain vows to Heav'n, and unavailing care!
Thrice happy thou, dear partner of my bed,
Whose holy soul the stroke of Fortune fled,
Praescious of ills, and leaving me behind,
To drink the dregs of life by fate assign'd!
Beyond the goal of nature I have gone:
My Pallas late set out, but reach'd too soon.
If, for my league against th' Ausonian state,
Amidst their weapons I had found my fate,
(Deserv'd from them,) then I had been return'd
A breathless victor, and my son had mourn'd.
Yet will I not my Trojan friend upbraid,
Nor grudge th' alliance I so gladly made.
'T was not his fault, my Pallas fell so young,
But my own crime, for having liv'd too long.
Yet, since the gods had destin'd him to die,
At least he led the way to victory:
First for his friends he won the fatal shore,
And sent whole herds of slaughter'd foes before;
A death too great, too glorious to deplore.
Nor will I add new honors to thy grave,
Content with those the Trojan hero gave:
That funeral pomp thy Phrygian friends design'd,
In which the Tuscan chiefs and army join'd.
Great spoils and trophies, gain'd by thee, they bear:
Then let thy own achievements be thy share.
Even thou, O Turnus, hadst a trophy stood,
Whose mighty trunk had better grac'd the wood,
If Pallas had arriv'd, with equal length
Of years, to match thy bulk with equal strength.
But why, unhappy man, dost thou detain
These troops, to view the tears thou shedd'st in vain?
Go, friends, this message to your lord relate:
Tell him, that, if I bear my bitter fate,
And, after Pallas' death, live ling'ring on,
'T is to behold his vengeance for my son.
I stay for Turnus, whose devoted head
Is owing to the living and the dead.
My son and I expect it from his hand;
'T is all that he can give, or we demand.
Joy is no more; but I would gladly go,
To greet my Pallas with such news below.'
The morn had now dispell'd the shades of night,
Restoring toils, when she restor'd the light.
The Trojan king and Tuscan chief command
To raise the piles along the winding strand.
Their friends convey the dead to fun'ral fires;
Black smold'ring smoke from the green wood expires;
The light of heav'n is chok'd, and the new day retires.
Then thrice around the kindled piles they go
(For ancient custom had ordain'd it so);
Thrice horse and foot about the fires are led;
And thrice, with loud laments, they hail the dead.
Tears, trickling down their breasts, bedew the ground,
And drums and trumpets mix their mournful sound.
Amid the blaze, their pious brethren throw
The spoils, in battle taken from the foe:
Helms, bits emboss'd, and swords of shining steel;
One casts a target, one a chariot wheel;
Some to their fellows their own arms restore:
The fauchions which in luckless fight they bore,
Their bucklers pierc'd, their darts bestow'd in vain,
And shiver'd lances gather'd from the plain.
Whole herds of offer'd bulls, about the fire,
And bristled boars, and woolly sheep expire.
Around the piles a careful troop attends,
To watch the wasting flames, and weep their burning friends;
Ling'ring along the shore, till dewy night
New decks the face of heav'n with starry light.
The conquer'd Latians, with like pious care,
Piles without number for their dead prepare.
Part in the places where they fell are laid;
And part are to the neighb'ring fields convey'd.
The corps of kings, and captains of renown,
Borne off in state, are buried in the town;
The rest, unhonor'd, and without a name,
Are cast a common heap to feed the flame.
Trojans and Latians vie with like desires
To make the field of battle shine with fires,
And the promiscuous blaze to heav'n aspires.
Now had the morning thrice renew'd the light,
And thrice dispell'd the shadows of the night,
When those who round the wasted fires remain,
Perform the last sad office to the slain.
They rake the yet warm ashes from below;
These, and the bones unburn'd, in earth bestow;
These relics with their country rites they grace,
And raise a mount of turf to mark the place.
But, in the palace of the king, appears
A scene more solemn, and a pomp of tears.
Maids, matrons, widows, mix their common moans;
Orphans their sires, and sires lament their sons.
All in that universal sorrow share,
And curse the cause of this unhappy war:
A broken league, a bride unjustly sought,
A crown usurp'd, which with their blood is bought!
These are the crimes with which they load the name
Of Turnus, and on him alone exclaim:
'Let him who lords it o'er th' Ausonian land
Engage the Trojan hero hand to hand:
His is the gain; our lot is but to serve;
'T is just, the sway he seeks, he should deserve.'
This Drances aggravates; and adds, with spite:
'His foe expects, and dares him to the fight.'
Nor Turnus wants a party, to support
His cause and credit in the Latian court.
His former acts secure his present fame,
And the queen shades him with her mighty name.
While thus their factious minds with fury burn,
The legates from th' AEtolian prince return:
Sad news they bring, that, after all the cost
And care employ'd, their embassy is lost;
That Diomedes refus'd his aid in war,
Unmov'd with presents, and as deaf to pray'r.
Some new alliance must elsewhere be sought,
Or peace with Troy on hard conditions bought.
Latinus, sunk in sorrow, finds too late,
A foreign son is pointed out by fate;
And, till AEneas shall Lavinia wed,
The wrath of Heav'n is hov'ring o'er his head.
The gods, he saw, espous'd the juster side,
When late their titles in the field were tried:
Witness the fresh laments, and fun'ral tears undried.
Thus, full of anxious thought, he summons all
The Latian senate to the council hall.
The princes come, commanded by their head,
And crowd the paths that to the palace lead.
Supreme in pow'r, and reverenc'd for his years,
He takes the throne, and in the midst appears.
Majestically sad, he sits in state,
And bids his envoys their success relate.
When Venulus began, the murmuring sound
Was hush'd, and sacred silence reign'd around.
'We have,' said he, 'perform'd your high command,
And pass'd with peril a long tract of land:
We reach'd the place desir'd; with wonder fill'd,
The Grecian tents and rising tow'rs beheld.
Great Diomede has compass'd round with walls
The city, which Argyripa he calls,
From his own Argos nam'd. We touch'd, with joy,
The royal hand that raz'd unhappy Troy.
When introduc'd, our presents first we bring,
Then crave an instant audience from the king.
His leave obtain'd, our native soil we name,
And tell th' important cause for which we came.
Attentively he heard us, while we spoke;
Then, with soft accents, and a pleasing look,
Made this return: 'Ausonian race, of old
Renown'd for peace, and for an age of gold,
What madness has your alter'd minds possess'd,
To change for war hereditary rest,
Solicit arms unknown, and tempt the sword,
A needless ill your ancestors abhorr'd?
We--for myself I speak, and all the name
Of Grecians, who to Troy's destruction came,
Omitting those who were in battle slain,
Or borne by rolling Simois to the main--
Not one but suffer'd, and too dearly bought
The prize of honor which in arms he sought;
Some doom'd to death, and some in exile driv'n,
Outcasts, abandon'd by the care of Heav'n;
So worn, so wretched, so despis'd a crew,
As ev'n old Priam might with pity view.
Witness the vessels by Minerva toss'd
In storms; the vengeful Capharean coast;
Th' Euboean rocks! the prince, whose brother led
Our armies to revenge his injur'd bed,
In Egypt lost! Ulysses with his men
Have seen Charybdis and the Cyclops' den.
Why should I name Idomeneus, in vain
Restor'd to scepters, and expell'd again?
Or young Achilles, by his rival slain?
Ev'n he, the King of Men, the foremost name
Of all the Greeks, and most renown'd by fame,
The proud revenger of another's wife,
Yet by his own adult'ress lost his life;
Fell at his threshold; and the spoils of Troy
The foul polluters of his bed enjoy.

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