Book XII

When Turnus sees disgrace and rout
Have Latium’s spirit tamed,
Himself by every eye marked out,
His plighted promise claimed,
With anger unallayed he fires,
And feels the courage pride inspires.
E’en as in Libyan plains athirst
A lion by the hunter pierced
Puts forth at length his might,
Rears on his neck his angry mane,
The shaft that galls him snaps in twain,
And roaring claims the fight;
So Turnus’ wrath infuriate glows,
And, once ablaze, each moment grows.
Then thus Latinus he bespeaks
With flushing brow and kindling cheeks:
‘Not Turnus, trust me, bars the way:
No need the Phrygians should unsay
The words they spoke in face of day,
Their covenant disown:
I meet him now: the victims bring
And seal the treaty, gracious king.
My hand shall lay the Dardan low
Who left his Asia to the foe—
Let Latium sit and see the show,
While I in arms alone
Wash out the blot that stains our pride—
Or let him take the forfeit bride,
Accept the conquered throne!’
He spoke; the aged majesty
Of Latium makes him calm reply:
‘O gallant youth! the more intense
Your generous spirit’s vehemence,
The wiselier should Latinus’ care
For Fortune’s every chance prepare.
Yours is your father Daunus’ reign;
Yours are the towns your sword has ta’en;
And I that speak have stores of gold
And hand that knows not to withhold;
Latium has other maids unwed
And worthy of a royal bed.
Thus let me speak, direct and clear,
Though sharp the pang: now further hear:
I might not give my daughter’s hand
To suitor from her native land:
Gods, prophets, with unfaltering voice
And plain accord forbade the choice:
But kindred sympathies are strong,
And weeping wives can sway to wrong:
Heaven’s ties I snapped; I failed my word;
I drew the inexpiable sword:
Since then what dire result of ill
Has followed me and follows still
Your eyes bear witness: why recall
What Turnus feels the first of all?
We, twice in bloody field o’erthrown,
Scarce in our ramparts hold our own:
Still Tiber reeks from Latium’s veins,
And whitening bone-heaps mound the plains.
Why reel I thus, confused and blind?
What madness mars my sober mind?
If Turnus’ death makes Troy my friend,
E’en while he lives let war have end.
Or what will kin and country say,
If—ward the omen, Heaven, I pray!—
I leave him now his life to lose
While for my daughter’s hand he sues?
O think of war, its change and chance,
How luck may warp the surest lance!
Think of your father old and grey,
Forlornly biding leagues away!’
But Turnus’ wrath no words can tame:
What seemed to slake but feeds the flame:
Soon as impatience found a tongue
With fury into speech he flung:
‘Those anxious bodings, father mine,
For me you keep, for me resign:
Leave me to meet the invader’s claim:
Let death redeem the gage of fame.
I too no feeble dart can throw,
And flesh will bleed that feels my blow.
No goddess mother will be there
To tend him with a woman’s care,
Conceal in mist his recreant flight
And palter with a brave man’s sight.’

But the sad queen, struck wild by fears
Of battle’s new award,
Death swimming in her view, with tears
Holds fast her daughter’s lord:
‘Turnus, by these fond tears I pour,
If still survives the love you bore
To Latium’s hapless queen—
On you our tottering age is staid;
On you a nation’s hopes are laid;
A house dismantled and decayed,
On you is fain to lean—
One boon I crave, but one: forbear
The arbitrament of fight to dare:
For know, whate’er the chance ensue
To Turnus, threats Amata too:
With you I leave this hated life,
Nor see my child my captor’s wife.’
Her mother’s voice Lavinia hears,
And mingles blushes with her tears;
Deep crimson glows the sudden flame,
And dyes her tingling cheek with shame.
So blushes ivory’s Indian grain
When sullied with vermilion stain:
So lilies set in roseate bed
Enkindle with contagious red.
So flushed the maid: with wildering gaze
The passion-blinded youth surveys:
The fiercer for the fight he burns,
And to the queen in brief returns:
‘O let not tears nor omen ill
Attend me to the stubborn fray;
Dear mother, ’tis not Turnus’ will
The hour of destiny can stay.
Go, Idmon, to you Phrygian chief
Bear tidings he will hear with grief:
When first the morrow fires the air
With glowing chariot, let him spare
To lead his Teucrians on:
Let Rutule arms and Teucrian rest;
His life and mine shall brook the test;
Lavinia’s hand, our common quest,
Shall in that field be won.’

So saying, to the stall he speeds,
Bids harness his impetuous steeds,
And pleased their fury sees,
Which Orithyia long ago
On king Pilumnus deigned bestow,
To match the whiteness of the snow,
The swiftness of the breeze.
They bustle round, the menial train,
Comb o’er the neck the graceful mane,
And pat the sounding chest:
In mail his shoulders he arrayed
(Of gold and orichalc ’twas made);
Then dons his shield, his trusty blade,
His helm with ruddy crest;
That blade which to his royal sire
The hand of Vulcan gave,
Brought red from Liparæan fire
And dipped in Stygian wave.
Reposing from its work of blood
His lance beside a column stood,
Auruncan Actor’s prize:
He seized it, shook the quivering wood,
And thus impetuous cries:
‘The hour is come, my spear, my spear,
Thou who hast never failed to hear
Thy master’s proud appeal:
Once Actor bore thee, Turnus now:
Grant that my hand to earth may bow
The Phrygian’s all unmanly brow,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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