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translated by Theodore C. Williams
Book II Chapter 20: Pyrrhus
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Now at the threshold of the outer court |
Pyrrhus triumphant stood, with glittering arms
and helm of burnished brass. He glittered like
some swollen viper, fed on poison-leaves,
whom chilling winter shelters underground,
till, fresh and strong, he sheds his annual scales
and, crawling forth rejuvenate, uncoils
his slimy length; his lifted gorge insults
the sunbeam with three-forked and quivering tongue.
Huge Periphas was there; Automedon,
who drove Achilles' steeds, and bore his arms.
Then Scyros' island-warriors assault
the palaces, and hurl reiterate fire
at wall and tower. Pyrrhus led the van;
seizing an axe he clove the ponderous doors
and rent the hinges from their posts of bronze;
he cut the beams, and through the solid mass
burrowed his way, till like a window huge
the breach yawned wide, and opened to his gaze
a vista of long courts and corridors,
the hearth and home of many an ancient king,
and Priam's own; upon its sacred bourne
the sentry, all in arms, kept watch and ward.
Confusion, groans, and piteous turmoil
were in that dwelling; women shrieked and wailed
from many a dark retreat, and their loud cry
rang to the golden stars. Through those vast halls
the panic-stricken mothers wildly roved,
and clung with frantic kisses and embrace
unto the columns cold. Fierce as his sire,
Pyrrhus moves on; nor bar nor sentinel
may stop his way; down tumbles the great door
beneath the battering beam, and with it fall
hinges and framework violently torn.
Force bursts all bars; th' assailing Greeks break in,
do butchery, and with men-at-arms possess
what place they will. Scarce with an equal rage
a foaming river, when its dykes are down,
o'erwhelms its mounded shores, and through the plain
rolls mountain-high, while from the ravaged farms
its fierce flood sweeps along both flock and fold.
My own eyes looked on Neoptolemus
frenzied with slaughter, and both Atreus' sons
upon the threshold frowning; I [Note 1]beheld
her hundred daughters with old Hecuba;
and Priam, whose own bleeding wounds defiled
the altars where himself had blessed the fires;
there fifty nuptial beds gave promise proud
of princely heirs; but all their brightness now,
of broidered cunning and barbaric gold,
lay strewn and trampled on. The Danaan foe
stood victor, where the raging flame had failed.
Note 1: I = Aeneas
Event: The fall of Troy
Vestibulum ante ipsum primoque in limine Pyrrhus
exsultat telis et luce coruscus aena:
qualis ubi in lucem coluber mala gramina pastus,
frigida sub terra tumidum quem bruma tegebat,
nunc, positis nouus exuuiis nitidusque iuuenta,
lubrica conuoluit sublato pectore terga
arduus ad solem, et linguis micat ore trisulcis.
una ingens Periphas et equorum agitator Achillis,
armiger Automedon, una omnis Scyria pubes
succedunt tecto et flammas ad culmina iactant.
ipse inter primos correpta dura bipenni
limina perrumpit postisque a cardine uellit
aeratos; iamque excisa trabe firma cauauit
robora et ingentem lato dedit ore fenestram.
apparet domus intus et atria longa patescunt;
apparent Priami et ueterum penetralia regum,
armatosque uident stantis in limine primo.
at domus interior gemitu miseroque tumultu
miscetur, penitusque cauae plangoribus aedes
femineis ululant; ferit aurea sidera clamor.
tum pauidae tectis matres ingentibus errant
amplexaeque tenent postis atque oscula figunt.
instat ui patria Pyrrhus; nec claustra nec ipsi
custodes sufferre ualent; labat ariete crebro
ianua, et emoti procumbunt cardine postes.
fit uia ui; rumpunt aditus primosque trucidant
immissi Danai et late loca milite complent.
non sic, aggeribus ruptis cum spumeus amnis
exiit oppositasque euicit gurgite moles,
fertur in arua furens cumulo camposque per omnis
cum stabulis armenta trahit. uidi ipse furentem
caede Neoptolemum geminosque in limine Atridas,
uidi Hecubam centumque nurus Priamumque per aras
sanguine foedantem quos ipse sacrauerat ignis.
quinquaginta illi thalami, spes tanta nepotum,
barbarico postes auro spoliisque superbi
procubuere; tenent Danai qua deficit ignis.