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translated by Theodore C. Williams
Book IX Chapter 3: Turnus leads the attack
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Turnus, at full speed, had outridden far |
his laggard host, and, leading in his train
a score of chosen knights, dashed into view
hard by the walls. A barb of Thracian breed
dappled with white he rode; a crimson plume
flamed over his golden helmet. Who, he cries,
Is foremost at the foe? Who follows me?
Behold! And, with the word, he hurled in air
a javelin, provoking instant war:
and, towering from his horse, charged o'er the field.
With answering shout his men-at-arms pursue,
and war-cries terrible. They laugh to scorn
the craven hearts of Troy, that cannot give
fair, equal vantage, matching man to man,
but cuddle into camp. This way and that
Turnus careers, and stormily surveys
the frowning rampart, and where way is none
some entering breach would find: so prowls a wolf
nigh the full sheepfold, and through wind and rain
stands howling at the postern all night long;
beneath the ewes their bleating lambs lie safe;
but he, with undesisting fury, more
rages from far, made frantic for his prey
by hunger of long hours, his foaming jaws
athirst for blood: not less the envy burned
of the Rutulian, as he scanned in vain
the stronghold of his foe. Indignant scorn
thrilled all his iron frame. But how contrive
to storm the fortress or by force expel
the Trojans from the rampart, and disperse
along the plain? Straightway he spied the ships,
in hiding near the camp, defended well
by mounded river-bank and fleeting wave.
On these he fell; while his exultant crew
brought firebrands, and he with heart aflame
grasped with a vengeful hand the blazing pine.
To the wild work his followers sped; for who
could prove him craven under Turnus' eye?
The whole troop for the weapon of their rage
seized smoking coals, of many a hearth the spoil;
red glare of fuming torches burned abroad,
and Vulcan starward flung a sparkling cloud.
Turnus, ut ante uolans tardum praecesserat agmen
uiginti lectis equitum comitatus et urbi
improuisus adest, maculis quem Thracius albis
portat equus cristaque tegit galea aurea rubra,
'ecquis erit mecum, iuuenes, qui primus in hostem—?
en,' ait et iaculum attorquens emittit in auras,
principium pugnae, et campo sese arduus infert.
clamorem excipiunt socii fremituque sequuntur
horrisono; Teucrum mirantur inertia corda,
non aequo dare se campo, non obuia ferre
arma uiros, sed castra fouere. huc turbidus atque huc
lustrat equo muros aditumque per auia quaerit.
ac ueluti pleno lupus insidiatus ouili
cum fremit ad caulas uentos perpessus et imbris
nocte super media; tuti sub matribus agni
balatum exercent, ille asper et improbus ira
saeuit in absentis; collecta fatigat edendi
ex longo rabies et siccae sanguine fauces:
haud aliter Rutulo muros et castra tuenti
ignescunt irae, duris dolor ossibus ardet.
qua temptet ratione aditus, et quae uia clausos
excutiat Teucros uallo atque effundat in aequum?
classem, quae lateri castrorum adiuncta latebat,
aggeribus saeptam circum et fluuialibus undis,
inuadit sociosque incendia poscit ouantis
atque manum pinu flagranti feruidus implet.
Tum uero incumbunt (urget praesentia Turni),
atque omnis facibus pubes accingitur atris.
diripuere focos: piceum fert fumida lumen
taeda et commixtam Volcanus ad astra fauillam.