It is true that the longer one has lived the better one can appreciate a poem which is concerned with life. But the gain that comes to us with the years depends, partly at least, upon the riches we have been willing to extract from literature, which is the experience of men and women written out. In youth's search for this treasure the Aeneid will be at once a fair haven and a port of departure.
As quoted in School and Home Education, Vol. 35 (1916), p. 172
So vast the labor to create
The fabric of the Roman state!
Then should some man of worth appear
Whose stainless virtue all revere,
They hush, they list: his clear voice rules
Their rebel wills, their anger cools.
Comrades and friends! for ours is strength
Has brooked the test of woes;
O worse-scarred hearts! these wounds at length
The Gods will heal, like those.
This suffering will yield us yet
A pleasant tale to tell.
Bear up, and live for happier days.
She turned, and flashed upon their view
Her stately neck's purpureal hue;
Ambrosial tresses round her head
A more than earthly fragrance shed:
Her falling robe her footprints swept,
And showed the goddess as she stept.
'Is there, friend,' he cries, 'a spot
That knows not Troy's unhappy lot?'
E'en here the tear of pity springs,
And hearts are touched by human things.
If men and mortal arms ye slight,
Know there are gods who watch o'er right.
May Heaven, if virtue claim its thought,
If justice yet avail for aught;
Heaven, and the sense of conscious right,
With worthier meed your acts requite!
Myself not ignorant of woe,
Compassion I have learned to show.
She calls it marriage now; such name
She chooses to conceal her shame.
"From me you fly! Ah! let me crave,
By these poor tears, that hand you gave—
Since, parting with my woman's pride,
My madness leaves me nought beside—
By that our wedlock, by the rite
Which, but begun, could yet unite,
If e'er my kindness held you bound,
If e'er in me your joy you found,
Look on this falling house, and still,
If prayer can touch you, change your will."
While memory lasts and pulses beat,
The thought of Dido shall be sweet.
Curst Love! what lengths of tyrant scorn
Wreak'st not on those of woman born?
A woman's will
Is changeful and uncertain still.
My life is lived, and I have played
The part that Fortune gave.
'To die! and unrevenged!' she said,
'Yet let me die.'
War, dreadful war, and Tiber flood
I see incarnadined with blood.
The journey down to the abyss
Is prosperous and light:
The palace gates of gloomy Dis
Stand open day and night:
But upward to retrace the way
And pass into the light of day
There comes the stress of labour; this
May task a hero's might.
Back, ye unhallowed!
Now for a heart that scorns dismay:
Now for a soul prepared.
Along the illimitable shade
Darkling and lone their way they made,
Through the vast kingdom of the dead,
An empty void, though tenanted:
So travellers in a forest move
With but the uncertain moon above,
Beneath her niggard light.
At Orcus' portals hold their lair
Wild Sorrow and avenging Care;
And pale Diseases cluster there,
And pleasureless Decay
Foul Penury, and Fears that kill,
And Hunger, counsellor of ill,
A ghastly presence they:
Suffering and Death the threshold keep,
And with them Death's blood-brother, Sleep.
No longer dream that human prayer
The will of Fate can overbear.
A lethargy of sleep,
Most like to death, so calm, so deep.
This to a tyrant master sold
His native land for cursed gold.
No, had I e'en a hundred tongues,
A hundred mouths, and iron lungs,
Those types of guilt I could not show,
Nor tell the forms of penal woe.
They reach the realms of tranquil bliss.
Green spaces folded in with trees,
A paradise of pleasances.
Here sees he the illustrious dead
Who fighting for their country bled;
Priests who while earthly life remained
Preserved that life unsoiled, unstained;
Blest bards, transparent souls and clear,
Whose song was worthy Phoebus' ear;
Inventors who by arts refined
The common lot of human kind,
With all who grateful memory won
By services to others done:
A goodly brotherhood, bedight
With coronals of virgin white.
Each for himself, we all sustain
The durance of our ghostly pain;
Then to Elysium we repair,
The few, and breathe this blissful air.
But, Roman, thou, do thou control
The nations far and wide
Be this thy genius, to impose
The rule of peace on vanquished foes,
Show pity to the humbled soul,
And crush the sons of pride.
Ah son! compel me not to speak
The sorrows of our race!
That youth the Fates but just display
To earth, nor let him longer stay:
With gifts like these for aye to hold,
Rome's heart had e'en been overbold.
Ah! what a groan from Mars's plain
Shall o'er the city sound!
How wilt thou gaze on that long train,
Old Tiber, rolling to the main
Beside his new-raised mound!
No youth of Ilium's seed inspires
With hope as fair his Latian sires:
Nor Rome shall dandle on her knee
A nursling so adored as he.
O piety! O ancient faith!
O hand untamed in battle scathe!
No foe had lived before his sword,
Stemmed he on foot the war's red tide
Or with relentless rowel gored
His foaming charger's side.
Dear child of pity! shouldst thou burst
The dungeon-bars of Fate accurst,
Our own Marcellus thou!
Sleep gives his name to portals twain;
One all of horn, they say,
Through which authentic spectres gain
Quick exit into day,
And one which bright with ivory gleams,
Whence Pluto sends delusive dreams.
Thou too take courage, wealth despise,
And fit thee to ascend the skies,
Nor be a poor man's courtesies
Rejected or disdained.
Ah! would but Jupiter restore
The strength I had in days of yore!
O ye Gods, and O great Jove,
Have pity on a father's love
And hear Evander's prayer:
If 'tis your purpose to restore
My Pallas to my arms once more;
If living is to see his face,
Then grant me life, of your dear grace:
No toil too hard to bear.
But ah! if Fortune be my foe,
And meditate some crushing blow,
Now, now the thread in mercy break,
While hope sees dim and cares mistake,
While still I clasp thee darling boy,
My latest and my only joy,
Nor let assurance, worse than fear,
With cruel tidings wound my ear.
Me, guilty me, make me your aim,
O Rutules! mine is all the blame;
He did no wrong, nor e'er could do;
That sky, those stars attest 'tis true;
Love for his friend too freely shown,
This was his crime, and this alone.
Thus, severed by the ruthless plough,
Dim fades a purple flower:
Their weary necks so poppies bow,
O'erladen by the shower.
Blest pair! if aught my verse avail,
No day shall make your memory fail
From off the heart of time.
'Tis thus that men to heaven aspire:
Go on and raise your glories higher.
In vain she strives with dying hands
To wrench away the blade:
Fixed in her ribs the weapon stands,
Closed by the wound it made.
Bloodless and faint, she gasps for breath;
Her heavy eyes sink down in death;
Her cheek's bright colors fade.
He who maligns an absent friend's fair fame,
Who says no word for him when others blame,
Who courts a reckless laugh by random hits,
Just for the sake of ranking among wits,
Who feigns what he ne'er saw, a secret blabs,
Beware him, Roman! that man steals or stabs!
Book I, satire iv, p. 18
Then take, good sir, your pleasure while you may;
With life so short 'twere wrong to lose a day.
Book II, satire viii, p. 85
O Fortune, cruellest of heavenly powers,
Why make such game of this poor life of ours?
You lose no time in taking out a fly,
Or straw, it may be, that torments your eye;
Why, when a thing devours your mind, adjourn
Till this day year all thought of the concern?
Come now, have courage to be wise: begin:
You're halfway over when you once plunge in:
He who puts off the time for mending, stands
A clodpoll by the stream with folded hands,
Waiting till all the water be gone past;
But it runs on, and will, while time shall last.
Book I, epistle ii, p. 104
Let hopes and sorrows, fears and angers be,
And think each day that dawns the last you'll see;
For so the hour that greets you unforeseen
Will bring with it enjoyment twice as keen.
Book I, epistle iv, p. 108
Virtue's a mere name,
Or 'tis high venture that achieves high aim.
Book I, epistle xvii, p. 138
For easier 'tis to learn and recollect
What moves derision than what claims respect.