Excerpt from The Aeneid of Virgil

Here is an excerpt from The Aeneid of Virgil (from the translation into English by E. Fairfax-Taylor) that caught my eye recently:

It is from book 1, verses XII and XIII:

XII. So spake the God and with her hest complied,
And turned the massive sceptre in his hand
And pushed the hollow mountain on its side.
Out rushed the winds, like soldiers in a band,
In wedged array, and, whirling, scour the land.
East, West and squally South-west, with a roar,
Swoop down on Ocean, and the surf and sand
Mix in dark eddies, and the watery floor
Heave from its depths, and roll huge billows to the shore.

XIII. Then came the creak of cables and the cries
Of seamen. Clouds the darkened heavens have drowned,
And snatched the daylight from the Trojans’ eyes.
Black night broods on the waters; all around
From pole to pole the rattling peals resound
And frequent flashes light the lurid air.
All nature, big with instant ruin, frowned
Destruction. Then Aeneus’ limbs with fear
Were loosened, and he groaned and stretched his hands in prayer:


Mm. This evocative pair of verses makes me think of two things. Firstly, some poem by P Larkin which sounds equally ominous and full of foreboding; and secondly, it reminds me of something I once wrote about an imagined storm quite a long time ago before I had read anything.

As someone who has grown up by the sea and spent many a day watching storms being whipped up into a frenzy out of seemingly nowhere, I find this short excerpt really captures my imagination. This is a very visual passage full of vivid descriptions of cause and effect; for that reason I like it. The drama and potential violence of a storm is at once fearful and exciting – well, at least it is to me! Here nature in all its fury can be seen wreaking chaos and fear on the human lives so dependent upon its various moods.

In this translation, creak is a great word, it sounds quite scary and sinister. – Creak itself is quite a quiet sound, yet it usually doesn’t bode well when we hear one, does it? Then we get cables and cries and darkened and drowned and pole and peals, frequent flashes and lurid. This is stormy language and it has a powerful ‘designed to be read aloud’ sound. And – ‘frowned Destruction’ – what an interesting way of putting it!

Good passage, I enjoyed this.

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