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translated by Theodore C. Williams
Book IX Chapter 8: Nisus has a plan
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Nisus kept sentry at the gate: a youth |
of eager heart for noble deeds, the son
of Hyrtacus, whom in Aeneas' train
Ida the huntress sent; swift could he speed
the spear or light-winged arrow to its aim.
Beside him was Euryalus, his friend:
of all th' Aeneadae no youth more fair
wore Trojan arms; upon his cheek unshorn
the tender bloom of boyhood lingered still.
Their loving hearts were one, and oft in war
they battled side by side, as in that hour
a common sentry at the gate they shared.
Said Nisus: Is it gods above that breathe
this fever in my soul, Euryalus?
or is the tyrant passion of each breast
the god it serves? Me now my urgent mind
to battles or some mighty deed impels,
and will not give me rest. Look yonder, where
the Rutuli in dull security
the siege maintain. Yet are their lights but few.
They are asleep or drunk, and in their line
is many a silent space. O, hear my thought,
and what my heart is pondering. To recall
Aeneas is the dearest wish to-night
of all, both high and low. They need true men
to find him and bring tidings. If our chiefs
but grant me leave to do the thing I ask
(Claiming no reward save what honor gives),
methinks I could search out by yonder hill
a path to Pallanteum. The amazed
Euryalus, flushed warm with eager love
for deeds of glory, instantly replied
to his high-hearted friend: Dost thou refuse,
my Nisus, to go with me hand in hand
when mighty deeds are done? Could I behold
thee venturing alone on danger? Nay!
Not thus my sire Opheltes, schooled in war,
taught me his true child, 'mid the woes of Troy
and Argive terrors reared; not thus with thee
have I proved craven, since we twain were leal
to great Aeneas, sharing all his doom.
In this breast also is a heart which knows
contempt of life, and deems such deeds, such praise,
well worth a glorious death. Nisus to him:
I have not doubted thee, nor e'er could have
one thought disloyal. May almighty Jove,
or whatsoe'er good power my purpose sees,
bring me triumphant to thy arms once more!
But if, as oft in doubtful deeds befalls,
some stroke of chance, or will divine, should turn
to adverse, t is my fondest prayer that thou
shouldst live the longer of us twain. Thy years
suit better with more life. Oh! let there be
one mourner true to carry to its grave
my corpse, recaptured in the desperate fray,
or ransomed for a price. Or if this boon
should be -- t is Fortune's common way -- refused,
then pay the debt of grief and loyal woe
unto my far-off dust, and garlands leave
upon an empty tomb. No grief I give
to any sorrowing mother; one alone,
of many Trojan mothers, had the heart
to follow thee, her child, and would not stay
in great Acestes' land. His friend replied:
Thou weavest but a web of empty words
and reasons vain, nor dost thou shake at all
my heart's resolve. Come, let us haste away!
He answered so, and summoned to the gate
a neighboring watch, who, bringing prompt relief,
the sentry-station took; then quitted he
his post assigned; at Nisus' side he strode,
and both impatient sped them to the king.
Event: Sortie of Nisus and Euryalis
Nisus erat portae custos, acerrimus armis,
Hyrtacides, comitem Aeneae quem miserat Ida
uenatrix iaculo celerem leuibusque sagittis,
et iuxta comes Euryalus, quo pulchrior alter
non fuit Aeneadum Troiana neque induit arma,
ora puer prima signans intonsa iuuenta.
his amor unus erat pariterque in bella ruebant;
tum quoque communi portam statione tenebant.
Nisus ait: 'dine hunc ardorem mentibus addunt,
Euryale, an sua cuique deus fit dira cupido?
aut pugnam aut aliquid iamdudum inuadere magnum
mens agitat mihi, nec placida contenta quiete est.
cernis quae Rutulos habeat fiducia rerum:
lumina rara micant, somno uinoque soluti
procubuere, silent late loca. percipe porro
quid dubitem et quae nunc animo sententia surgat.
Aenean acciri omnes, populusque patresque,
exposcunt, mittique uiros qui certa reportent.
si tibi quae posco promittunt (nam mihi facti
fama sat est), tumulo uideor reperire sub illo
posse uiam ad muros et moenia Pallantea.'
obstipuit magno laudum percussus amore
Euryalus, simul his ardentem adfatur amicum:
'mene igitur socium summis adiungere rebus,
Nise, fugis? solum te in tanta pericula mittam?
non ita me genitor, bellis adsuetus Opheltes,
Argolicum terrorem inter Troiaeque labores
sublatum erudiit, nec tecum talia gessi
magnanimum Aenean et fata extrema secutus:
est hic, est animus lucis contemptor et istum
qui uita bene credat emi, quo tendis, honorem.'
Nisus ad haec: 'equidem de te nil tale uerebar,
nec fas; non ita me referat tibi magnus ouantem
Iuppiter aut quicumque oculis haec aspicit aequis.
sed si quis (quae multa uides discrimine tali)
si quis in aduersum rapiat casusue deusue,
te superesse uelim, tua uita dignior aetas.
sit qui me raptum pugna pretioue redemptum
mandet humo, solita aut si qua id Fortuna uetabit,
absenti ferat inferias decoretque sepulcro.
neu matri miserae tanti sim causa doloris,
quae te sola, puer, multis e matribus ausa
persequitur, magni nec moenia curat Acestae.'
ille autem: 'causas nequiquam nectis inanis
nec mea iam mutata loco sententia cedit.
acceleremus' ait, uigiles simul excitat. illi
succedunt seruantque uices; statione relicta
ipse comes Niso graditur regemque requirunt.