Taking a break from my regularly scheduled posting to share this excellent article from Dr. Bradley Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative – more connections from Book VIII of the Aeneid and the shield of Aeneas.
The entire article is worth your time. Do go and read it! At the end of the article, he compares this original passage from the Aeneid*
Meantime the mother goddess, crown’d with charms,
Breaks thro’ the clouds, and brings the fated arms.
Within a winding vale she finds her son,
On the cool river’s banks, retir’d alone.
She shews her heav’nly form without disguise,
And gives herself to his desiring eyes.
“Behold,” she said, “perform’d in ev’ry part,
My promise made, and Vulcan’s labor’d art.
Now seek, secure, the Latian enemy,
And haughty Turnus to the field defy.”
She said; and, having first her son embrac’d,
The radiant arms beneath an oak she plac’d,
Proud of the gift, he roll’d his greedy sight
Around the work, and gaz’d with vast delight.
He lifts, he turns, he poises, and admires
The crested helm, that vomits radiant fires:
His hands the fatal sword and corslet hold,
One keen with temper’d steel, one stiff with gold:
Both ample, flaming both, and beamy bright;
So shines a cloud, when edg’d with adverse light.
He shakes the pointed spear, and longs to try
The plated cuishes on his manly thigh;
But most admires the shield’s mysterious mold,
And Roman triumphs rising on the gold . . .
These figures, on the shield divinely wrought,
By Vulcan labor’d, and by Venus brought,
With joy and wonder fill the hero’s thought.
Unknown the names, he yet admires the grace,
And bears aloft the fame and fortune of his race.
with this speech delivered by John Quincy Adams on April 29, 1839:
Would it be an unlicensed trespass of the imagination to conceive that on the night preceding the day of which you now commemorate the fiftieth anniversary—on the night preceding that thirtieth of April, 1789, when from the balcony of your city hall the chancellor of the State of New York administered to George Washington the solemn oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States, and to the best of his ability to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States–that in the visions of the night the guardian angel of the Father of our Country had appeared before him, in the venerated form of his mother, and, to cheer and encourage him in the performance of the momentous and solemn duties that he was about to assume, had delivered to him a suit of celestial armor–a helmet, consisting of the principles of piety, of justice, of honor, of benevolence, with which from his earliest infancy he had hitherto walked through life, in the presence of all his brethren; a spear, studded with the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence; a sword, the same with which he had led the armies of his country through the war of freedom to the summit of the triumphal arch of independence; a corselet…of long experience and habitual intercourse in peace and war with the world of mankind, his contemporaries of the human race, in all their stages of civilization; and, last of all, the Constitution of the United States, a shield, embossed by heavenly hands with the future history of his country?
and this passage from Ephesians 6:
Finally, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of his power. Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace: in all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.
*Dr. Birzer quotes the Fagles translation, but I have substituted Dryden’s. Although Adams was thoroughly familiar with the Aeneid in Latin, he would certainly also have been familiar with Dryden’s 1697 translation.
I’ll be back next week with Books IX and X and Lecture 8. 😀
Vergil’s Aeneid Via Roman Roads – Previous Week’s Posts