Aeneid VI.123-132 (Vergil)

Talibus orabat dictis, arasque tenebat,
cum sic orsa loqui vates: “Sate sanguine divom, 124
Tros Anchisiade, facilis descensus Averno;
noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis;
sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
hoc opus, hic labor est. Pauci, quos aequus amavit
Iuppiter, aut ardens evexit ad aethera virtus, 130
dis geniti potuere. Tenent media omnia silvae,
Cocytusque sinu labens circumvenit atro.”

123   talibus … dictis an ablative absolute construction, lit. ‘such things having been spoken,’ i.e. ‘having spoken thus’—orabat (1 ōrō 3sg imperfect active indicative) ‘was praying’—ārās (1 āra) ‘altar,’ a formal plural with singular semantics

124   sic ‘as follows’—orsa (3-i dep. ordior passive participle) lit. ‘having begun,’ but used predicatively, so = ‘she began’—loqui (3 dep. loquor present infinitive) ‘to speak’—vates (3) ‘soothsayer, prophet,’ cf. Old Irish fáithSate (3 serō vocative singular passive participle) lit. ‘sown!’ but here = ‘sprung forth! begotten!’—sanguine (3 sanguis ablative singular) is a “true ablative,” i.e. its semantics are ‘out of, from,’ with no need for a preposition to assist in the meaning—divom (2 deus genitive plural) poetic for deōrum

125   Tros (vocative singular) ‘Trojan!’ from Greek Τρώς—Anchisiade (vocative singular) ‘son of Anchises,’ from Greek Ἀγχισιάδης—facilis is a predicative nominative—Averno (dative singular) ‘the underworld,’ actually a substantivization of an adjective Avernus referring to a volcanic crater lake said to be the entrance to the underworld; the word comes from Greek ἄορνος ‘without birds,’ since the toxic fumes from the lake supposedly felled birds that flew overhead

126   patet (2 pateō) ‘is open’—atri (genitive singular) ‘burnt, coal-black,’ agrees with DitisDitis (3 Dīs genitive singular) ‘the god of the underworld, Pluto’

127   revocare (1 re-vocō) ‘to call back,’ but here = ‘to withdraw, turn back’gradum (4 gradus accusative singular) ‘step’—superas ‘above,’ with aurasevadere (3 ē-vādō) ‘to escape, go out’—

128   aequus ‘favorable,’ cf. Greek ἔοικα

129   ardens (2 ardeō present participle) ‘burning, glowing’—evexit (3 ē-vehō 3sg perfect active indicative) ‘led out, carried forth’ < PIE *weģʰ- ‘transport,’ cf. weigh, wagonaethera ‘upper air’; here not the cosmological aether but simply the air; the form is a Greek accusative singular αἴθερα—virtus ‘bravery,’ related to vir ‘man’; cf. ἀνδρεία

130   dis (2 deus ablative plural), poetic for deīsgeniti (3 gignō passive participle) ‘born’; the root alternation in this verb mirrors that of present γίγνεσθαι (reduplicated) and aorist γενέσθαι (unreduplicated)—potuere (posse 3pl perfect indicative), poetic for potuerunt

131   media omnia are taken together; ‘all the middle parts’—silvae (1 silva nominative plural) ‘forests’

132   Cocytus (2) ‘Cocytus, one of the rivers of the underworld,’ from Greek Κωκυτός < κωκύω ‘shriek, wail’—sinu (4 sinus) ‘coil, bend’—labens (3 lābor present participle) ‘sliding, gliding’—circumvenit (3-i circum-veniō) ‘circles, goes around’; takes an implied direct object

Having said that, he prayed, and grabbed the altar,
when the prophetess began to speak thus: “You, sprung from the blood of the gods, 125
Trojan son of Anchises, the descent to Avernus is easy;
night and day, the door of dark Pluto lies open;
but to go back a step and escape to the upper air,
that is a task, that is work. A few, whom favorable Jupiter
loved, or ones that glowing courage pulled out to the atmosphere, 130
the offspring of gods, were able. Forests hold the middle of it,
and Cocytus glides round it with dark turns.


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