This week we are through Books IX and X and Lecture 8. Mr. C. pointed out many parallels between the Aeneid and the Iliad – so many things I would never see on my own, even after reading it so recently. But it has been fun to see how many my boys are catching as I read aloud.
Pallas, Evander, all
Their history rose before Aeneas’ eyes. ~ Book X.724-725
Vergil gives us a compassionate Aeneas here. As he gazes on the dead boy, the one he has promised to protect, the sorrow and grief pulses from the page.
On the young man’s face in death, a face so pale
As to be awesome, then Anchises’ son
groaned in profound pity. He held out
His hand as filial piety, mirrored here,
Wrung his own heart . . .~ Book X.1148-1154
And here – even as he gazes on Lausus, whom he has just killed. In the words of Robert E. Lee:
It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.
Now what could Nisus do? What strength had he,
What weapons could he dare a rescue with?
Should he then launch himself straight at the foe,
Through many wounds hastening heroic death?
His arm drawn back, hefting his javelin,
He glanced at the high quiet moon and prayed . . . Book IX, 565-570
The excruciating choice required by friendship.
. . . but fortune gave
Neither a homecoming to his native land.
Now, though, the mighty ruler of Olympus
Would not let them encounter one another.
Their fates awaited them, each at the hands
Of a still greater foe. ~ Book X.600-605
This passage speaks of the averted duel between young Lausus, who would die at the hand of Aeneas, and young Pallas, who would die at the hand of Turnus.
Every man’s last day is fixed.
Lifetimes are brief, and not to be regained,
For all mankind. But by their deeds to make
Their fame last: that is labor for the brave.
Below the walls of Troy so many sons
of gods went down, among them, yes, my child,
Sarpedon. Turnus, too, is called by fate.
He stands at the given limit of his years. ~ Book X.650-657
This is Jupiter offering comfort to Hercules, grieving as he watches the encounter between Turnus and Pallas. Jupiter reminds Hercules that he did not save even his son, Sarpedon, from his fate at Troy.
. . . in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:16)
Second, Jupiter allowed Sarpedon to die because he was resigned to fate. The timing of my reading being what it was (close to Holy Week), I also heard the much dimmer echo of a far greater and more glorious truth. The One True God, out of His great love for His people, did not spare even His own Son—not in resignation to blind and capricious fate, but in order to accomplish that which was decreed from the foundation of the world.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:31-39
Certainly, early Christians read Vergil. In the midst of a world ruled by cruel and cold fate, the truth of the gospel is astounding. Then and now.
. . . If in the least my songs
Avail, no future day will ever take you
Out of the record of remembering Time . . . Book IX, 633-635
Vergil’s Aeneid Via Roman Roads – Previous Week’s Posts