Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TFBT: Random Notes on Aeneid 5 & 6

 “The crescent waters of a tranquil bay break through the curving line of cliff on either hand. The spot is of Nature's giving: one single beach lies between sea and hill, ending towards the land in overhanging rocks . . . Here would the nimble choir [the Nereides] of Phorcus wish to bathe, and Cymodoce with dripping tresses and sea-green Galatea." Why Phorcys?  In Greek it would be Nereus.   I also found “the flood maiden Panopea heard him, with all Phorcus' choir of Nereids, and lord Portunus with his own mighty hand pushed him on his way.”(Statius, Silvae 2. 2. 14 ff  

“Achates, the companion of his breast, Goes grieving by his side, with equal cares oppress'd.”  “In the AeneidAchates (good, faithful Achates, as he was called) was a close friend of Aeneas; his name became a by-word for an intimate companion.”(Wikipedia). Therapon?

 “Two doves, descending from their airy flight, Secure upon the grassy plain alight.”  Aeneid 6

 For, when the fatal horse, descending down, Pregnant with arms, o'erwhelm'd th' unhappy town” Virgil is maintaining the Greek pun of “animal litter” and “ambush”  The horse that was the instrument of Fate, heavy with the brood of armed men in its belly.”  (Penguin translation.)  

Dark night had risen in her chariot to command the vault of heaven, when suddenly there appeared the form of his father..." but now farewell.  The dewy night is turning her chariot in mis-course.  The cruel sun is beginning to rise in the east and I have felt the brreath of his panting horses."  The ghost of Anchises departing from his dreaming son Aeneas.

(At the entrance to the Isle of the Blest) Aeneas leapt on the threshold sprinkled his body with fresh water and fixed the (golden) bough full in the doorway.”   I have an image in my mind’s-eye, from Book 5 when Sleep the god, shaking over his (Palinarus’) temples a bough dripping with Lethe’s dew and steeped in drowsy might of Styx.”,It also reminded me of the Vedic-god Indira who promised the demon Namuci not to kill him by day or by night, not with what was wet nor what was dry.  But he wretched off his head in the morning twilight by sprinkling over him the foam of the sea. (Bhagavatam 8:11) 

At Aeneid 6:630 when the Sibyl and Aeneas enter the land of the Blest, I recognized the landscape of every movie about Heaven or a Golden Age I have ever seen.  Is this the prototype of the Western concept of Heaven?  

In these words the Cumaean Sibyl chants from the shrine her dread enigmas and booms from the cavern, wrapping truth in darkness.” [6.98]   

Hecate, supreme both in Heaven and in Hell.  Aeneid 6

Scarce had he said these words when under his very eyes twin doves, as it chanced, came flying from the sky and lit on the green grass.”  Aeneid 6  

Aeneid sacrifices “Proserpine, a barren heifer.”  In many traditions Prosepine and Hades never had children.

“Hither rushed all the throng, streaming to the banks; mothers and men and bodies of high-souled heroes, their life now done, boys and unwedded girls, and sons placed on the pyre before their fathers’ eyes; thick as the leaves of the forest that at autumn’s first frost drop and fall,”  (Aeneid 6)  Once more mankind compared to leaves. “thick as the birds that from the seething deep flock shoreward, when the chill of the year drives them overseas and sends them into sunny lands.”  A hint of better things to come for the souls of the dead as Anchises will explain. 

 Oh, it is such a greater world that waits them!  After Aeneas sees the mystic poetic Orpheus and his heroic ancestors, 
 "Others he sees, to right and left, feasting on the grassy field, and chanting in chorus a joyous hymn within a fragrant laurel grove, from where the full flood of the River Eridanus rolls upward through the forest.  Here is the band of those who suffered wounds, fighting for their country; those who in lifetime were priests and pure, good bards, whose songs were meet for Phoebus; or they who ennobled life by arts discovered and they who by service have won remembrance among men – the brows of all bound with headbands white as snow.” 

 Virgil is pointing out that people besides “heroes” make it into the Isle of Blessed, Elysium, Paradise, the Isle of Leuce, whatever you call it.  These are people were poets, priests, artists and people whose good works are still remembered.  

What the poet is not saying is the significance of the reference to Orpheus.  Orpheus represents the Orphic Mysteries.  In the same way that Christians know they will be resurrected; because Christ was, so the Romans and Greeks knew they could escape Hades because Orpheus did.  (Remember?  He was there and back trying to rescue his wife, but made the mistake of looking back instead of concentrating on gazing ahead at their bright new future.)  Likewise Persephone returned so those who attended the Eleusian Mysteries knew they could return. 

The truth that the “little guy”, the ordinary person, women and children will make it to a better world is hidden in most ancient poetry.  The Nordic Sagas sing the praises of the fallen Viking warriors partying it up in Valhalla anxiously awaiting the day when they and the gods take on the forces of evil and chaos.  But when the Universe Tree collapses in flames and sea boils over a new world arises; it is the estate of the god of all good things in Norse Mythology; Balder.  He and his family have lived hidden away all this time in a beautiful corner of Hel’s kingdom.  And when this new world arises there hidden in his forest are the “good people”   


  1. What better things will come for those souls? I opened the text to check, but it is practically unreadable to me :-(.

  2. Maya,

    My response got out of hand so I posted it in the blog-post. I don't know which version of the Aeneid you were reading, but the one I read on-line was lame. I got a copy of the Penguin version which was much better. I waxed poetic as usual. I hope I am not unreadable.