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translated by Theodore C. Williams
Book IX Chapter 11: The sortie starts
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Forth through the moat they climb, and steal away |
through midnight shades, to where their foemen lie
encamped in arms; of whom, before these fall,
a host shall die. Along the turf were seen,
laid low in heavy slumber and much wine,
a prostrate troop; the horseless chariots
stood tilted on the shore, 'twixt rein and wheel
the drivers dozed, wine-cups and idle swords
strewn round them without heed. The first to speak
was Nisus. Look, Euryalus, he cried,
Now boldly strike. The hour to do the deed
is here, the path this way. Keep wide-eyed watch
that no man smite behind us. I myself
will mow the mighty field, and lead thee on
in a wide swath of slaughter. With this word
he shut his lips; and hurled him with his sword
on haughty Rhamnes, who lay propped at ease
on pillows huge, and from his heaving breast
poured slumber loud: of royal stem was he
and honored of king Turnus for his skill
in augury; yet could no augur's charm
that bloody stroke forefend. And Nisus slew
three slaves near by, that lay in reckless sleep
upon their spears; then him that bore the shield
of Remus, then the driver of his car
close to the horses caught; his sword cut through
their prostrate necks; then their great master's head
he lifted high, and left decapitate
the huge corpse spilling forth its crimson gore
o'er couch and ground. Like stroke on Lamus fell
and Lamyrus, with young Serranus, who
had gamed the midnight through and sleeping lay,
his fair young body to the wine-god given;
but happier now had that long-revelling night
been merry till the dawn! Thus round full folds
of sheep a famished lion fiercely prowls;
mad hunger moves him; he devours and rends
with bloody, roaring mouth, the feeble flock
that trembles and is dumb. Nor was the sword
of fair Euryalus less fatal found;
but fiercely raging on his path of death,
he pressed on through a base and nameless throng,
Rhoetus, Herbesus, Fadus, Abaris;
surprising all save Rhoetus, who awake
saw every stroke, and crouched in craven fear
behind a mighty wine-bowl; but not less
clean through his bare breast as he started forth
the youth thrust home his sword, then drew it back
death-dripping, while the bursting purple stream
of life outflowed, with mingling blood and wine.
Then, flushed with stealthy slaughter, he crept near
the followers of Messapus, where he saw
their camp-fire dying down, and tethered steeds
upon the meadow feeding. Nisus then
knew the hot lust of slaughter had swept on
too far, and cried, Hold off! For, lo,
the monitory dawn is nigh. Revenge
has fed us to the full. We have achieved
clean passage through the foe. Full many a prize
was left untaken: princely suits of mail
enwrought with silver pure, huge drinking-bowls,
and broideries fair. Yet grasped Euryalus
the blazonry at Rhamnes' corselet hung,
and belt adorned with gold: which were a gift
to Remulus of Tibur from the store
of opulent Caedicus, who sued from far
to be a friend; and these in death he gave
to his son's son, who slain in battle fell,
and proud Rutulians seized them with the spoil.
Euryalus about his shoulder strong
this booty slung -- unprofitable gain! --
and fitted on a gorgeous, crested helm
which once Messapus wore. So from the camp,
escaping danger, the two champions ran.
Event: Sortie of Nisus and Euryalis
Egressi superant fossas noctisque per umbram
castra inimica petunt, multis tamen ante futuri
exitio. passim somno uinoque per herbam
corpora fusa uident, arrectos litore currus,
inter lora rotasque uiros, simul arma iacere,
uina simul. prior Hyrtacides sic ore locutus:
'Euryale, audendum dextra: nunc ipsa uocat res.
hac iter est. tu, ne qua manus se attollere nobis
a tergo possit, custodi et consule longe;
haec ego uasta dabo et lato te limite ducam.'
sic memorat uocemque premit, simul ense superbum
Rhamnetem adgreditur, qui forte tapetibus altis
exstructus toto proflabat pectore somnum,
rex idem et regi Turno gratissimus augur,
sed non augurio potuit depellere pestem.
tris iuxta famulos temere inter tela iacentis
armigerumque Remi premit aurigamque sub ipsis
nactus equis ferroque secat pendentia colla.
tum caput ipsi aufert domino truncumque relinquit
sanguine singultantem; atro tepefacta cruore
terra torique madent. nec non Lamyrumque Lamumque
et iuuenem Serranum, illa qui plurima nocte
luserat, insignis facie, multoque iacebat
membra deo uictus—felix, si protinus illum
aequasset nocti ludum in lucemque tulisset:
impastus ceu plena leo per ouilia turbans
(suadet enim uesana fames) manditque trahitque
molle pecus mutumque metu, fremit ore cruento.
nec minor Euryali caedes; incensus et ipse
perfurit ac multam in medio sine nomine plebem,
Fadumque Herbesumque subit Rhoetumque Abarimque
ignaros; Rhoetum uigilantem et cuncta uidentem,
sed magnum metuens se post cratera tegebat.
pectore in aduerso totum cui comminus ensem
condidit adsurgenti et multa morte recepit.
purpuream uomit ille animam et cum sanguine mixta
uina refert moriens, hic furto feruidus instat.
iamque ad Messapi socios tendebat; ibi ignem
deficere extremum et religatos rite uidebat
carpere gramen equos, breuiter cum talia Nisus
(sensit enim nimia caede atque cupidine ferri)
'absistamus' ait, 'nam lux inimica propinquat.
poenarum exhaustum satis est, uia facta per hostis.'
multa uirum solido argento perfecta relinquunt
armaque craterasque simul pulchrosque tapetas.
Euryalus phaleras Rhamnetis et aurea bullis
cingula, Tiburti Remulo ditissimus olim
quae mittit dona, hospitio cum iungeret absens,
Caedicus; ille suo moriens dat habere nepoti;
post mortem bello Rutuli pugnaque potiti:
haec rapit atque umeris nequiquam fortibus aptat.
tum galeam Messapi habilem cristisque decoram
induit. excedunt castris et tuta capessunt.