This week I read Book VIII and listened to Lecture 7. It has been a positive pleasure to read Homer’s two epics followed by Vergil’s over the past 9 months. I am more convinced than ever of the benefit of reading the ancient epics in close succession. I have enjoyed and grasped so much more in Homer’s and Vergil’s poems this time through. I remind my high school students over and over that this first reading is the hardest, and that our goal is that it will truly be the FIRST reading.
There, the Lord of Fire
Knowing the prophets, knowing the age to come,
Had wrought the future story of Italy,
The triumphs of the Romans, there one found
The generations of Ascanius’ heirs,
The wars they fought, each one . . .
All these images on Vulcan’s shield,
His mother’s gift, were wonders to Aeneas.
Knowing nothing of the events themselves,
He felt joy in their pictures, taking up
Upon his shoulder all the destined acts
And fame of his descendants. ~ VIII.848-853, 987-993
Beautiful picture! The physical act of taking up the shield represened the figurative act of taking up all the events that would come, both of which represented Aeneas’ pietas and his acceptance of fatum. This points forward, yes, but also backwards, reminding the reader of Aeneas’ taking his father upon his shoulder – and in essence, all who had gone before – leaving the city to seek the fate prepared for him.
These woodland places
Once were homes of local fauns and nymphs
Together with a race of men that came
From tree trunks, from hard oak. ~ VIII.415-418
This sounds positively Narnian. Evander’s narration of the customs and history of his home was a lovely interlude before the fighting began.
It was fun seeing the similarities and differences between the shields of Achilleus and Aeneas. Both were intricately wrought by the master smith at the behest of the hero’s goddess mother. The shield envisioned by Homer for Achilleus was replete with scenes of everyday life, things that ARE now, this day – weddings, parties, feasts, with a few wrestling matches, chariots, and swords thrown in. The shield Vergil envisioned for Aeneas, on the other hand, was a stirring tribute to what would be if Aeneas in fact obeyed his fate. Both visions of the world are good and have elements of truth. As Christians, we live between promise and fulfilment. Here and now, like the shield of Achilleus, we should enjoy and celebrate and savor every minute and every good thing that God has given us, parties, and feasts, and all. At the same time, like the shield of Aeneas, we are to honor and cherish and long for the day when the great and true city will dawn as Jesus returns for His bride.
Swiftly night came on
To fold her dusky wings about the earth. ~ VIII.489-490
Vergil’s Aeneid Via Roman Roads – Previous Week’s Posts