The Aeneid, Book I, [Arms and the man I sing]

Virgil
Arms and the man I sing, who, forced by fate
And haughty Juno's unrelenting hate,
Expelled and exiled, left the Trojan shore.
Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore;
And in the doubtful war, before he won
The Latin realm and built the destined town,
His banished gods restored to rights divine,
And settled sure succession in his line;
From whence the race of Alban fathers come,
And the long glories of majestic Rome.
     O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate,—
What goddess was provok'd, and whence her hate;
For what offense the Queen of Heav'n began
To persecute so brave, so just a man;
Involv'd his anxious life in endless cares,
Expos'd to wants, and hurried into wars!
Can heav'nly minds such high resentment show,
Or exercise their spite in human woe?
     Against the Tiber's mouth, but far away,
An ancient town was seated on the sea,—
A Tyrian colony; the people made
Stout for the war, and studious of their trade:
Carthage the name; belov'd by Juno more
Than her own Argos, or the Samian shore.
Here stood her chariot; here, if Heav'n were kind,
The seat of awful empire she design'd.
Yet she had heard an ancient rumor fly,
(Long cited by the people of the sky,)
That times to come should see the Trojan race
Her Carthage ruin, and her tow'rs deface;
Nor thus confin'd, the yoke of sov'reign sway
Should on the necks of all the nations lay.
She ponder'd this, and fear'd it was in fate;
Nor could forget the war she wag'd of late
For conqu'ring Greece against the Trojan state.
Besides, long causes working in her mind,
And secret seeds of envy, lay behind;
Deep graven in her heart the doom remain'd
Of partial Paris, and her form disdain'd;
The grace bestow'd on ravish'd Ganymed,
Electra's glories, and her injur'd bed.
Each was a cause alone; and all combin'd
To kindle vengeance in her haughty mind.
For this, far distant from the Latian coast
She drove the remnants of the Trojan host;
And sev'n long years th' unhappy wand'ring train
Were toss'd by storms, and scatter'd thro' the main.
Such time, such toil, requir'd the Roman name,
Such length of labor for so vast a frame.
     Now scarce the Trojan fleet with sails and oars
Had left behind the fair Sicilian shores,
Entering with cheerful shouts the watery reign,
And plowing frothy furrows in the main,
When, laboring still, with endless discontent
The Queen of Heaven did thus her fury vent:—
     "Then am I vanquished? must I yield?" said she,
"And must the Trojans reign in Italy?"
So Fate will have it, and Jove adds his force;
Nor can my power divert their happy course.
Could angry Pallas, with revengeful spleen,
The Grecian navy burn and drown the men?
She, for the fault of one offending foe,
The bolts of Jove himself presumed to throw;
With whirlwinds from beneath she tossed the ship
And bare exposed the bosom of the deep:
Then, as an eagle gripes the trembling game,
The wretch , yet hissing with her father's flame,
She strongly seized, and with a burning wound,
Transfixed and naked, on a rock she bound.
But I, who walked in awful state above,
The majesty of heaven, the sister-wife of Jove,
For length of years my fruitless force employ
Against the thin remains of ruined Troy.
What nations now to Juno's power will pray,
Or offerings on  my slighted altars lay?"

More by Virgil

First Georgic [excerpt]

When spring begins and the ice-locked streams begin
To flow down from the snowy hills above
And the clods begin to crumble in the breeze,
The time has come for my groaning ox to drag
My heavy plow across the fields, so that 
The plow blade shines as the furrow rubs against it.
Not till the earth has been twice plowed, so twice
Exposed to sun and twice to coolness will
It yield what the farmer prays for; then will the barn
Be full to bursting with the gathered grain,
And yet if the field's unknown and new to us,
Before our plow breaks open the soil at all,
It's necessary to study the ways of the winds
And the changing ways of the skies, and also to know
The history of the planting in that ground,
What crops will prosper there and what will not.
In one place grain grows best, in another, vines;
Another's good for the cultivation of trees;
In still another the grain turns green unbidden.

The Aeneid, Book VI, [First, the sky and the earth]

                                                              "First,
the sky and the earth and the flowing fields of the sea,
the shining orb of the moon and the Titan sun, the stars:
an inner spirit feeds them, coursing through all their limbs,
mind stirs the mass and their fusion brings the world to birth.
From their union springs the human race and the wild beasts,
the winged lives of birds and the wondrous monsters bred
below the glistening surface of the sea. The seeds of life—
fiery is their force, divine their birth, but they
are weighed down by the bodies' ills or dulled
by earthly limbs and flesh that's born for death.
That is the source of all men's fears and longings,
joys and sorrows, nor can they see the heavens' light,
shut up in the body's tomb, a prison dark and deep.
                                                              "True,
but even on that last day, when the light of life departs,
the wretches are not completely purged of all the taints,
nor are they wholly freed of all the body's plagues.
Down deep they harden fast—they must, so long engrained
in the flesh—in strange, uncanny ways. And so the souls
are drilled in punishments, they must pay for their old offenses.
Some are hung splayed out, exposed to the empty winds,
some are plunged in the rushing floods—their stains,
their crimes scoured off or scorched away by fire.
Each of us must suffer his own demanding ghost.
Then we are sent to Elysium's broad expanse,
a few of us even hold these fields of joy
till the long days, a cycle of time seen through,
cleanse our hard, inveterate stains and leave us clear
ethereal sense, the eternal breath of fire purged and pure.
But all the rest, once they have turned the wheel of time
for a thousand years: God calls them forth to the Lethe,
great armies of souls, their memories blank so that
they may revisit the overarching world once more
and begin to long to return to bodies yet again."

The Aeneid, Book IV, [So, you traitor]

"So, you traitor, you really believed you'd keep
this a secret, this great outrage? Steal away
in silence from my shores? Can nothing hold you back?
Not our love? Not the pledge once sealed with our right hands?
Not even the thought of Dido doomed to a cruel death?
Why labor to rig your fleet when the winter's raw,
to risk the deep when the Northwind's closing in?
You cruel, heartless—Even if you were not
pursuing alien fields and unknown homes,
even if ancient Troy were standing, still,
who'd sail for Troy across such heaving seas?
You're running away—from me? Oh, I pray you
by these tears, by the faith in your right hand—
what else have I left myself in all my pain?—
by our wedding vows, the marriage we began,
if I deserve some decency from you now,
if anything mine has ever won your heart,
pity a great house about to fall I pray you,
if prayers have any place—reject this scheme of yours!
Thanks to you, the African tribes, Numidian warlords
hate me, even my own Tyrians rise against me.
Thanks to you, my sense of honor is gone,
my one and only pathway to the stars,
the renown I once held dear. In whose hands,
my guest, do you leave me here to meet my death?
'Guest'—that's all that remains of 'husband' now.
But why do I linger on? Until my brother Pygmalion
batters down my walls? Or Iarbas drags me off, his slave?
If only you'd left a baby in my arms—our child—
before you deserted me! Some little Aeneas
playing about our halls, whose features at least
would bring you back to me in spite of all,
I would not feel so totally devastated,
so destroyed."

                          The queen stopped but he,
warned by Jupiter now, his gaze held steady,
fought to master the torment in his heart. At last
he ventured a few words: "I. . . you have done me
so many kindnesses, and you could count them all.
I shall never deny what you deserve, my queen,
never regret my memories of Dido, not while I
can recall myself and draw the breath of life.
I'll state my case in a few words. I never dreamed
I'd keep my flight a secret. Don't imagine that.
Nor did I once extend a bridegroom's torch
or enter into a marriage pact with you.
If the Fates had left me free to live my life,
to arrange my own affairs of my own free will,
Troy is the city, first of all, that I'd safeguard,
Troy and all that's left of my people whom I cherish.
The grand palace of Priam would stand once more,
with my own hands I would fortify a second Troy
to house my Trojans in defeat. But not now.
Grynean Apollo's oracle says that I must seize
on Italy's noble land, his Lycian lots say 'Italy!'
There lies my love, there lies my homeland now.
If you, a Phoenician, fix your eyes on Carthage,
a Libyan stronghold, tell me, why do you grudge
the Trojans their new homes on Italian soil?
What is the crime if we seek far-off kingdoms too?

       "My father, Anchises, whenever the darkness shrouds
the earth in its dank shadows, whenever the stars
go flaming up the sky, my father's anxious ghost
warns me in dreams and fills my heart with fear.
My son Ascanius . . . I feel the wrong I do
to one so dear, robbing him of his kingdom,
lands in the West, his fields decreed by Fate.
And now the messenger of the gods—I swear it,
by your life and mine—dispatched by Jove himself
has brought me firm commands through the racing winds.
With my own eyes I saw him, clear, in broad daylight,
moving through your gates. With my own ears I drank
his message in. Come, stop inflaming us both
with your appeals. I set sail for Italy—
all against my will."

                                     Even from the start
of his declaration, she has glared at him askance,
her eyes roving over him, head to foot, with a look
of stony silence. . . till abruptly she cries out
in a blaze of fury: "No goddess was your mother!
No Dardanus sired your line, you traitor, liar, no,
Mount Caucasus fathered you on its flinty, rugged flanks
and the tigers of Hyrcania gave you their dugs to suck!
Why hide it? Why hold back? To suffer greater blows?
Did he groan when I wept? Even look at me? Never!
Surrender a tear? Pity the one who loves him?
What can I say first? So much to say. Now—
neither mighty Juno nor Saturn's son, the Father,
gazes down on this with just, impartial eyes.
There's no faith left on earth!
He was washed up on my shores, helpless, and I,
I took him in, like a maniac let him share my kingdom,
salvaged his lost fleet, plucked his crews from death.
Oh I am swept by the Furies, gales of fire! Now
it's Apollo the Prophet, Apollo's Lycian oracles:
they're his masters now, and now, to top it off.
the messenger of the gods, dispatched by Jove himself.
comes rushing down the winds with his grim-set commands.
Really! What work for the gods who live on high,
what a concern to ruffle their repose!
I won't hold you, I won't even refute you—go!—
strike out for Italy on the winds, your realm across the sea.
I hope, I pray, if the just gods still have any power,
wrecked on the rocks mid-sea you'll drink your bowl
of pain to the dregs, crying out the name of Dido
over and over, and worlds away I'll hound you then
with pitch-black flames, and when icy death has severed
my body from its breath, then my ghost will stalk you
through the world! You'll pay, you shameless, ruthless—
and I will hear of it, yes, the report will reach me
even among the deepest shades of Death!"

Related Poems

The Aeneid, Book IV, [So, you traitor]

"So, you traitor, you really believed you'd keep
this a secret, this great outrage? Steal away
in silence from my shores? Can nothing hold you back?
Not our love? Not the pledge once sealed with our right hands?
Not even the thought of Dido doomed to a cruel death?
Why labor to rig your fleet when the winter's raw,
to risk the deep when the Northwind's closing in?
You cruel, heartless—Even if you were not
pursuing alien fields and unknown homes,
even if ancient Troy were standing, still,
who'd sail for Troy across such heaving seas?
You're running away—from me? Oh, I pray you
by these tears, by the faith in your right hand—
what else have I left myself in all my pain?—
by our wedding vows, the marriage we began,
if I deserve some decency from you now,
if anything mine has ever won your heart,
pity a great house about to fall I pray you,
if prayers have any place—reject this scheme of yours!
Thanks to you, the African tribes, Numidian warlords
hate me, even my own Tyrians rise against me.
Thanks to you, my sense of honor is gone,
my one and only pathway to the stars,
the renown I once held dear. In whose hands,
my guest, do you leave me here to meet my death?
'Guest'—that's all that remains of 'husband' now.
But why do I linger on? Until my brother Pygmalion
batters down my walls? Or Iarbas drags me off, his slave?
If only you'd left a baby in my arms—our child—
before you deserted me! Some little Aeneas
playing about our halls, whose features at least
would bring you back to me in spite of all,
I would not feel so totally devastated,
so destroyed."

                          The queen stopped but he,
warned by Jupiter now, his gaze held steady,
fought to master the torment in his heart. At last
he ventured a few words: "I. . . you have done me
so many kindnesses, and you could count them all.
I shall never deny what you deserve, my queen,
never regret my memories of Dido, not while I
can recall myself and draw the breath of life.
I'll state my case in a few words. I never dreamed
I'd keep my flight a secret. Don't imagine that.
Nor did I once extend a bridegroom's torch
or enter into a marriage pact with you.
If the Fates had left me free to live my life,
to arrange my own affairs of my own free will,
Troy is the city, first of all, that I'd safeguard,
Troy and all that's left of my people whom I cherish.
The grand palace of Priam would stand once more,
with my own hands I would fortify a second Troy
to house my Trojans in defeat. But not now.
Grynean Apollo's oracle says that I must seize
on Italy's noble land, his Lycian lots say 'Italy!'
There lies my love, there lies my homeland now.
If you, a Phoenician, fix your eyes on Carthage,
a Libyan stronghold, tell me, why do you grudge
the Trojans their new homes on Italian soil?
What is the crime if we seek far-off kingdoms too?

       "My father, Anchises, whenever the darkness shrouds
the earth in its dank shadows, whenever the stars
go flaming up the sky, my father's anxious ghost
warns me in dreams and fills my heart with fear.
My son Ascanius . . . I feel the wrong I do
to one so dear, robbing him of his kingdom,
lands in the West, his fields decreed by Fate.
And now the messenger of the gods—I swear it,
by your life and mine—dispatched by Jove himself
has brought me firm commands through the racing winds.
With my own eyes I saw him, clear, in broad daylight,
moving through your gates. With my own ears I drank
his message in. Come, stop inflaming us both
with your appeals. I set sail for Italy—
all against my will."

                                     Even from the start
of his declaration, she has glared at him askance,
her eyes roving over him, head to foot, with a look
of stony silence. . . till abruptly she cries out
in a blaze of fury: "No goddess was your mother!
No Dardanus sired your line, you traitor, liar, no,
Mount Caucasus fathered you on its flinty, rugged flanks
and the tigers of Hyrcania gave you their dugs to suck!
Why hide it? Why hold back? To suffer greater blows?
Did he groan when I wept? Even look at me? Never!
Surrender a tear? Pity the one who loves him?
What can I say first? So much to say. Now—
neither mighty Juno nor Saturn's son, the Father,
gazes down on this with just, impartial eyes.
There's no faith left on earth!
He was washed up on my shores, helpless, and I,
I took him in, like a maniac let him share my kingdom,
salvaged his lost fleet, plucked his crews from death.
Oh I am swept by the Furies, gales of fire! Now
it's Apollo the Prophet, Apollo's Lycian oracles:
they're his masters now, and now, to top it off.
the messenger of the gods, dispatched by Jove himself.
comes rushing down the winds with his grim-set commands.
Really! What work for the gods who live on high,
what a concern to ruffle their repose!
I won't hold you, I won't even refute you—go!—
strike out for Italy on the winds, your realm across the sea.
I hope, I pray, if the just gods still have any power,
wrecked on the rocks mid-sea you'll drink your bowl
of pain to the dregs, crying out the name of Dido
over and over, and worlds away I'll hound you then
with pitch-black flames, and when icy death has severed
my body from its breath, then my ghost will stalk you
through the world! You'll pay, you shameless, ruthless—
and I will hear of it, yes, the report will reach me
even among the deepest shades of Death!"