This week we read aloud Book V: Games and a Conflagration. Heather Barnes alerted me to a ten-line poetic summary of each book of the Aeneid, written by Ovid. As a bonus, each summary is introduced by a one-line precis of that book. Here is the precis and summary for Book V:
The fifth has games, and fire assails the ships.
Aeneas sailed: he was brought to Sicilian shores.
Here he honoured his father’s shade, together with Acestes his friend.
They held games for the barrow, set up contests.
A fallen burning arrow was a prodigy for all.
Iris, imitating the old woman Beroe in elderly guise,
Set fire to the ships, which an unexpected rainfall rescued.
In dreams father Anchises revealed what wars must be waged,
With what guide Aeneas could descend to the shades.
He transferred mothers to the city, and willing people,
And Aeneas sought for gentle Palinurus in the waves.
The translation is by Carla Schodde, a classics student at University of Melbourne. Visit Carla’s blog Found In Antiquity for a fascinating article about this translation. Scroll down to the bottom for the link to a pdf with the original Latin on the left and her translation on the right.
The arrow flying in thin cloud caught fire
And left a track of flame until, burnt out,
It vanished in the wind—as shooting stars
Will often slip away across the sky. ~ Vergil, Aeneid V, lines 676-679
I didn’t go back and count, but it seemed like there are more similes in this book than in previous ones. Many, like the simile above, are comparisons with something in nature: a snake’s mottled back with a rainbow (115-119), Mnestheus and his boat with the flight of a dove (274-283), Sergestus’ boat with an injured and enraged snake (355-365), runners with a rack of storm clouds (403-407), the fall of a competitor in the field with the uprooting of a hollow pine (577-579), and Trojan boys to dolphins (768-769). Did I miss any?
Speaking of figures of speech, I loved this metaphor:
And age had not won out as yet or scattered
Snow on my brows . . . ~ Vergil, Aeneid V, lines 539-540
and the personification in this one:
. . . Down she plummeted
And left her life in the upper air of stars ~ Vergil, Aeneid V, lines 665-666
. . . Juno had plans afoot
Her ancient rancor not yet satisfied.
Juno’s furor is not quelled; she sends Iris to stir up the foolish, miserable Trojan women to destroy the ships with fire.
The fatum of Aeneas is revealed in the spectacular sign of the dove (lines 660-679), which will be “far in the future fabled with awe” by poets. Trinacrians and Trojans alike immediately recognize it as an omen; in his pietas, Aeneas’ “great soul embraced the sign” (line 684).
Nautes affirms the fatum of Aeneas (lines 920 ff), then instructs and encourages his pietas. The counsel of Nautes to Aeneas is seconded by the image of Anchises (lines 940 ff). Aeneas “stood decided in his mind” (line 976) and so wisely executes the counsel of Nautes in a further display of his pietas.
The “poor miserable women” had suffered greatly and this had left them desperately longing for hearth and home—a very good thing, but not the best thing for them at this time. Discontentment made them easy prey for the conniving Juno, just as it often makes me easy prey for the Enemy of my soul.
Pondering this, I perused my commonplace book and came across these words from Wendell Berry—clearly with a little inspiration from Scripture:
“You mustn’t wish for another life.You mustn’t want to be somebody else.What you must do is this:“Rejoice evermore.Pray without ceasing.In everything give thanks.”I am not all the way capable of so much,but those are the right instructions.” ~ Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter
The seamen as one man hauled on the sheets
Now port, now starboard, set the bellying canvas
Evenly to the wind, and took the braces,
Veering, this way and that, yard arms aloft
Until the freshening stern-wind filled the sails
And bore then onward. ~ Vergil, Aeneid V, lines 1085-1090