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Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,
Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil,
Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil;
Till they perish and they suffer-some, 'tis whispered-
down in hell
Suffer endless anguish, others in Elysian valleys dwell,
Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel.
Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
Than labor in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
Oh rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.
N the fall of Troy, Æneas with a company
of fellow fugitives sets sail, and after long years
and many adventures reaches Italy, his destination,
and disembarks on the south bank of the Tiber.
Here his followers are still encamped. War has
broken out between Æneas and certain of the sur-
rounding nations, and now, while he is himself gone
to Pallanteum in quest of an ally, his leaderless band
has been attacked by Turnus, king of the Rutuli.
On guard at the gate of the Trojan fortifications
stand the bosom friends Nisus and Euryalus. The
time is night.
The Trojans are sometimes spoken of as the
Teucrians or Dardans. The son of Æneas is named
both lulus and Ascanius. Latinus is king of the
Latins, one of the nations hostile to Æneas.
Nisus, keen warrior, held the gate, the son
Of Hyrtacus, whom in Æneas' train
Ida the huntress sent; quick-handed he
With spear, and light-winged arrows; beside him
Euryalus, than whom no comelier youth
Clave to Æneas, or donned Trojan arms-
Whose smooth boy-face showed faint the budding man.
These had one heart between them: side by side
They wont to rush on battle; and now too
Each with like charge was posted at the gate.
Quoth Nisus: “Is't the gods thus fire our hearts,
Or maketh each his wild desire a god,
Euryalus? My heart's long since afret
On war to launch me, or some great essay,
With stagnant ease ill-satisfied. Thou seest
What confidence in fortune holds the foe:
Few gleam their lights and far; themselves lie prone,
In sleep and wine dissolved; all's hushed around.
Mark further what I muse of, in
What purpose rises. 'Tis the cry of all,
Both folk and fathers, that we summon back
Æneas, send messengers with tidings sure.
If what I ask they promise thee—myself
The deed's own fame suffices—’neath yon mound
my feet would guide me to the walls
And fort of Pallanteum.” Euryalus,
Thrilled and transfixed with mighty love of praise,
Thus at the word his glowing friend bespeaks:
“Nisus, dost shun to knit me to thy side
In high exploit? Or should I let thee go
To face such perils singly? 'Twas not thus
My sire Opheltes, to war's work inured,
'Mid Argive terrors and the woes of Troy
Trained me and reared; nor at thy side have I
So borne me, since I followed to the field
High-souled Æneas and his utmost fate.
Here, here's a soul that scorns the sunlight, deems
That fame thou striv’st for cheaply bought with life.”
Then Nisus: “No such fear of thee had I,
Nor just it were; nay, so may mighty Jove,
Or whoso on these things bends favoring eye,
Restore me to thy side in triumph. But if-
As oft in such adventure thou behold'st-
Some chance or god should hurry me to harm,
I would that thou survive me.
At thine age
It is more meet to live. Oh, be there one
To lay me, snatched or ransomed from the fray,
In earth, or, if some wonted hap forbid,
Pay funeral offerings to my absent dust,
And grace me with a tomb! Nor let me bring
Such grief on that sad mother, who, alone
Of many mothers, dared follow thee, her boy,1
And hath no heart for great Acestes' town.”
But he: “Thou weavest empty pleas in vain,
Nor doth my purpose alter or give way.
Speed we betimes!” He spake, and roused the watch,
Who to their charge succeed, then quits his post,
And, step by step with Nisus, secks the prince.
All creatures else on earth were easing care
With slumber, and their hearts forgot to ache.
The foremost Teucrian lords, their flower of war,
Were kingdom's weal debating—what to do,
Who to Æneas should the tidings bear.
Leaning on their long spears, and shield on arm,
Midmost the camp in a clear space they stood.
Then Nisus and with him Euryalus
In eager haste crave audience: what they urged
Was weighty, and would recompense delay.
Iulus first to their impatient suit
Gave audience, and bade Nisus speak; then thus
The son of Hyrtacus: “O sons of Troy,
Hearken with kindly heed, nor let the worth
Of what we offer by our years be weighed.
Dissolved in wine and sleep, the Rutuli
Keep silence: our own eyes have marked a spot
For stratagem left open, where yon gate
Lets in or out upon the seaward side.
Their line of fires is broken, and black smoke
Goes up to heaven. Let us but use the chance
To seek Æneas and Pallanteum's fort,
Soon will ye see us here at hand with spoils,
After great slaughter done. Nor will the way
We go beguile us: down the valleys dim,
Assiduous in the chase, we have seen gleam
The city, and all the river-windings know.”
Aletes hereupon, with years o'erweighed
And ripe of wisdom, spake: “Gods of our sires,
power divine still watches over Troy, Howbeit, ye think not a full end to make. Of all the Teucrians, in that ye
vouchsafe Our youth such valor and heart-steadfastness.” So saying, the shoulders and right hands of both Embraced he, and bathed all his face with tears. “What guerdon, heroes, of your glorious deeds Can I deem worthy to be paid you? First Heaven and your own hearts will the best bestow; Then good Æneas, what else remains anon Will yield you, and Ascanius, whose fresh youth Service so noble never can forget.” “Nay 1,” breaks in Ascanius, “whose sole hope Of safety hangs upon my sire's return, By the great hearth-gods, Nisus, thee adjure, The guardian spirit of Assaracus,
And hoary Vesta's shrine; whate'er I have
Of faith or fortune in your laps I lay:
Bring back my sire, restore him to my sight:
He here again, grief is not. Goblets twain
Silver-wrought, rough with tracery, will I give,
Ta'en by my sire, what time he smote and quelled
Arisba, and twin tripods, and of gold
Two mighty talents, and a bowl of yore,
Sidonian Dido's gift. But if our lot
Be to take Italy, to win and wield
A conqueror's scepter, and mete out the spoil-
Thou sawest the war-steed whereon Turnus rode
In arms, all golden-none but that, with shield
And ruddy plume, O Nisus, will I pluck
Forth from the lot, thine even from this day.
Matrons twice six beside of choicest form
My sire will give thee, and men-captives eke,
All with their armor, and of land, to boot,
What King Latinus hath for his domain.
But thee, thrice honored youth, whose age my own
Doth in the race press closer, from this hour
To my whole heart I take, betide what may,
And clasp thee for my comrade. Without thee,
For mine own lot no glory shall be wooed;
Come peace or war, to thee, both deed and word,
Be all my heart unbosomed.” Answered then
Euryalus: “From such bold venture me
No time shall prove degenerate, let but Fate
Be kind, not cruel. But all gifts beyond,
One boon I beg: I have a mother sprung
From Priam's ancient race, whom Ilian land
Held not, poor soul, nor king Acestes' town
From faring forth with me. Her now I leave
Unwitting of this peril, whatsoe'er,