from the AENEID - Book X, ll.1-37
Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) tr. J.P.Nosbaum
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iamque fere mediam caeli Nox umida metam
contigerat, placida laxabant membra quiete
sub remis fusi per dura sedilia nautae,
cum leuis aetheriis delapsus Somnus ab astris
aera dimouit tenebrosum et dispulit umbras,
te, Palinure, petens, tibi somnia tristia portans
insonti; puppique deus consedit in alta
Phorbanti similis funditque has ore loquelas:
'Iaside Palinure, ferunt ipsa aequora classem,
aequatae spirant aurae, datur hora quieti.
pone caput fessosque oculos furare labori.
ipse ego paulisper pro te tua munera inibo.'
cui uix attollens Palinurus lumina fatur:
'mene salis placidi uultum fluctusque quietos
ignorare iubes? mene huic confidere monstro?
Aenean credam (quid enim?) fallacibus auris
et caeli totiens deceptus fraude sereni?'
talia dicta dabat, clauumque adfixus et haerens
nusquam amittebat oculosque sub astra tenebat.
ecce deus ramum Lethaeo rore madentem
uique soporatum Stygia super utraque quassat
tempora, cunctantique natantia lumina soluit.
uix primos inopina quies laxauerat artus,
et super incumbens cum puppis parte reuulsa
cumque gubernaclo liquidas proiecit in undas
praecipitem ac socios nequiquam saepe uocantem;
ipse uolans tenuis se sustulit ales ad auras.
currit iter tutum non setius aequore classis
promissisque patris Neptuni interrita fertur.

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Then down came Sleep from Heaven, adrift
on the night, like a passing breeze in search of peace:
so Sleep sought Palinurus, almost playful; and
the demigod sat upon the deck, spoke
to the guiltless helmsman, saying "Father, this sea
is a mirror in the dark, smooth, unbroken
even by reflection, and the night is clear
as might the Lord of Heaven grant Himself
were we to be so honoured, please -" and raised
his hand for the tiller, but Palinurus
did not stir, his eyes did not turn from the fore,
his grip never lessened, and so again,
"Father, hear me: Sleepís hour has arrived.
Lay your head upon the deck and close
your eyes, Iíll guide the fleet till dawn -"
but Palinurus neither stirred, nor did
he shift his grip, his eyes remaining wide
and fixed upon the sea before them, so that
inwardly, the god seethed: for he was Sleep
and like Hunger, Death, no man denied him,
but smooth and youthful was the face that smiled
as Palinurusí second rose, and dove,
a dolphin now, into the sea, pulling Palinurus
to his feet to peer down at the god
glistening in the dark, whose eyes engulfed
the peerless helmsman so that he fell
(though it felt like rising) into the water,
and the sea was soon a mirror and the night
a bell, vast above him as he breathed
his last, and the fleet bore onward, guided
by the sea, Neptune mindful of his promise.

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Click here 2 for another translation of this poem.

Copyright © J.P.Nosbaum 2006


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