January 28, 2011
IN VIRGIL’S epic poem The Aeneid, the hero Aeneas leaves the smoking ruins of Troy with his aged father on his back and his young son by his hand. His destiny is to found a second home for his remnant people in Italy and to give birth to a new civilization. Not long after the Trojan armada embarks, Aeneas’ father, Anchises, dies and is buried in Sicily. A year later, after a sojourn in Carthage, Aeneas returns to the shores of Sicily and there observes the anniversary of his father’s death.
Ever conscious of his place in the chain of generations, bidden to undertake a dangerous and daunting task, Aeneas finds beauty and meaning in his duty toward the dead.
He is not a mere warrior or adventurer. As he stoops to his father’s grave, he pledges to remember forever. The Trojans have lost everything. They have only their will to survive and their few ships. Even so, a new world will be founded on the old, intermingled with the past as spring earth with the dust of the dead.
Here is the scene from Book V of the Robert Fagles translation:
When, in the following Dawn, bright day had put the stars
to flight, Aeneas called his companions together,
from the whole shore, and spoke from a high mound:
“Noble Trojans, people of the high lineage of the gods,
the year’s cycle is complete to the very month
when we laid the bones, all that was left of my divine father,
in the earth, and dedicated the sad altars. And now
the day is here (that the gods willed) if I am not wrong,
which I will always hold as bitter, always honoured. Read More »