This week we read Book VI and I listened to Lecture 6. Also, I got a sneak peek at the streaming version of Old Western Culture at Roman Roads. Very nicely done!
In Book VI, Aeneas descends into the Underworld where he is shown Vergil’s version of the vision glorious—the City to come.
Gods who rule the ghosts, all silent shades,
And Chaos and infernal Fiery Stream
And regions of the wide night without a sound,
May it be right for me to tell what I have heard,
May it be right, and fitting, by your will,
That I describe the deep world sunk in darkness
Under the earth. ~ Aeneid VI, 353-369
Vergil invokes the Muse again through the words of Aeneas just before he enters the cave with the Sibyl. Among the shades, he encounters Dido
. . . her fatal wound still fresh . . .
He wept and spoke tenderly to her,
She refuses to speak to him, but as Mr. C. pointed out, maybe she had a happy ending of sorts, as her husband Sychaeus
Joined her sorrows and returned her love. ~ Aeneid 611 ff
As Odysseus meets his mother in Homer’s parallel Underworld narrative, Aeneas also meets his father; also as Odysseus, his three attempts to embrace his dear one are in vain.
Thoughts of Dante crept into our minds often as we read Book VI. As Dante intended? Rather, his intention was probably more that his Comedy would recall images of Vergil’s Aeneid. But it seems that the Great Conversation works both ways in time.
Roman, remember by your strength to rule
Earth’s peoples—for your arts are to be these:
To pacify, to impose the rule of law,
To spare the conquered, battle down the proud.” ~ Aeneid VI, 1151-1154
Anchises does later speak to his son to give him this charge, a vision not only for Aeneas, but by extension, for Rome. There are several other instances of fatum, which will be contingent on the pietas of Aeneas, but furor is not so prominent in this book, barring a few lines here and there in the midst of the prophecies.
And nowhere from the pursuit of the Teucrians
Will Juno stray . . . ~Aeneid VI, 137-138
As Mr. C. mentioned, Vergil’s Roman version of Who’s Who, or maybe more accurately Who’ll Be Who? is a departure from Homer’s vision of the Underworld, where no men of the future were mentioned, only those who had already lived and died.
. . . no pure soul may cross the sill of evil . . .
This realm is under the Cretan Rhadamanthus’
Iron rule. He sentences. He listens
And makes souls confess their crooked ways,
How they put off atonements in the world
With foolish satisfaction, thieves of time,
Until too late, until the hour of death. ~ Aeneid VI,758 ff
When Aeneas and the Sibyl reach the entrance to Tartarus, she tells him he cannot enter, but she does describe the place and its inhabitants to him.
Here come those who as long as life remained
Held brothers hateful, beat their parents, cheated
Poor men dependent on them; also those
Who hugged their newfound riches to themselves
And put nothing aside for relatives . . .
then men killed for adultery,
Men who took arms in war against the right,
Not scrupling to betray their lords. All these
Are hemmed in here, awaiting punishment. ~ Aeneid VI, 823 ff
This brought two passages to mind. First, the light of truth in Vergil’s epic pointing to the fountain of truth:
God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. ~ Romans 1:28-30, NKJV
Second, I wonder if Charles Dickens had this passage from the Aeneid in mind when he wrote the familiar and chilling lines below? I can say with more confidence that he probably did have Romans 1 or a similar passage of Scripture in mind. Nevertherless, the connection presented itself to me as I read the Vergil’s lines above:
I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. ~ A Christmas Carol
. . . Around it
Souls of a thousand nations filled the air,
As bees in meadows at the height of summer
Hover and hone on flowers and thickly swarm
On snow-white lilies, and the countryside
Is loud with humming. ~ Aeneid VI, 948-952
Vergil’s Aeneid Via Roman Roads – Previous Week’s Posts