Aeneid IV & VI: Section 1


4.279-295

Aeneas, alarmed by the god’s message, orders his men to prepare to leave Carthage.

At vero Aeneas aspectu obmutuit amens,
arrectaeque horrore comae et vox faucibus haesit.280
ardet abire fuga dulcesque relinquere terras,
attonitus tanto monitu imperioque deorum.
heu quid agat? quo nunc reginam ambire furentem
audeat adfatu? quae prima exordia sumat?
atque animum nunc huc celerem nunc dividit illuc285
in partesque rapit varias perque omnia versat.
haec alternanti potior sententia visa est:
Mnesthea Sergestumque vocat fortemque Serestum,
classem aptent taciti sociosque ad litora cogant,
arma parent et quae rebus sit causa novandis290
dissimulent; sese interea, quando optima Dido
nesciat et tantos rumpi non speret amores,
temptaturum aditus et quae mollissima fandi
tempora, quis rebus dexter modus. ocius omnes
imperio laeti parent et iussa facessunt.295

At vero Aeneas aspectu obmutuit amens,
arrectaeque horrore comae et vox faucibus haesit.280
ardet abire fuga dulcesque relinquere terras,
attonitus tanto monitu imperioque deorum.
heu quid agat? quo nunc reginam ambire furentem
audeat adfatu? quae prima exordia sumat?
atque animum nunc huc celerem nunc dividit illuc285
in partesque rapit varias perque omnia versat.
haec alternanti potior sententia visa est:
Mnesthea Sergestumque vocat fortemque Serestum,
classem aptent taciti sociosque ad litora cogant,
arma parent et quae rebus sit causa novandis290
dissimulent; sese interea, quando optima Dido
nesciat et tantos rumpi non speret amores,
temptaturum aditus et quae mollissima fandi
tempora, quis rebus dexter modus. ocius omnes
imperio laeti parent et iussa facessunt.295

But At indeed vero Aeneas Aeneas, greatly excited amens by the vision aspectu, was dumbstruck obmutuit, and -que his hair comae stood on end arrectae in terror horrore and et his voice vox stuck haesit in his throat faucibus. He longed ardet to go away abire in flight fuga and -que to leave behind relinquere the sweet dulces lands terras, astonished attonitus by such a great tanto warning monitu and -que by the power imperio of the gods deorum. Alas heu, what to do quid agat? With what quo address adfatu now nunc to dare audeat to approach ambire the seething furentem queen reginam? What quae opening words exordia to choose sumat first prima?

At vero Aeneas aspectu obmutuit amens,
arrectaeque horrore comae et vox faucibus haesit.280
ardet abire fuga dulcesque relinquere terras,
attonitus tanto monitu imperioque deorum.
heu quid agat? quo nunc reginam ambire furentem
audeat adfatu? quae prima exordia sumat?
atque animum nunc huc celerem nunc dividit illuc285
in partesque rapit varias perque omnia versat.
haec alternanti potior sententia visa est:
Mnesthea Sergestumque vocat fortemque Serestum,
classem aptent taciti sociosque ad litora cogant,
arma parent et quae rebus sit causa novandis290
dissimulent; sese interea, quando optima Dido
nesciat et tantos rumpi non speret amores,
temptaturum aditus et quae mollissima fandi
tempora, quis rebus dexter modus. ocius omnes
imperio laeti parent et iussa facessunt.295

At vero – “but indeed.” at marks a strong change in focus, reinforced by vero.

aspectu – “at the sight.” Aeneas has just seen Mercury, who was sent by Jupiter to tell Aeneas to continue his quest to found a new city.
Mercury Appearing to Aeneas (Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - 1757)
obmutuit amens – “he was speechless (and) frantic.” The juxtaposition of these two evocative words convey Aeneas’ shock at the visitation of the god.

At vero Aeneas aspectu obmutuit amens – the repeated “a” sound (assonance) both in this line and in the first words of the next few lines is striking and mirrors Aeneas’ breathless panic.

arrectae … haesit – the symmetrical (chiastic) arrangement of words in this line highlights Aeneas’ physiological reaction to the god’s presence and message.

ardet abire fuga – “he longs to leave in flight.” ardeo (lit. “I burn”) is a powerful word to describe Aeneas’ desire to move on from Carthage, reinforced by its position at the start of the line. Note that here, and in the next few lines, the reader is given special access to Aeneas’ innermost thoughts.

dulces terras – “sweet land,” i.e. Carthage. The land is sweet to Aeneas because Dido and the Carthaginians have been hospitable to him and his fellow Trojans. The plural form of nouns can be used freely in Latin poetry, even when their real sense is singular. This is called the poetic plural. Translate as singular.

quid agat? – “what should he do?” This and the following two questions are deliberative. They give a very intimate view of Aeneas’ train of thought: his confusion and panic.

quo…adfatu? – “with what address?” These two words are separated by the rest of the sentence (hyperbaton), indicating Aeneas’ distress.

ambire – “to approach.” Literally “to skirt around.” The word is associated with candidates canvassing voters for political office and shows the diplomacy now required of Aeneas.

furentem – “raging.” furor (“madness”) is a key theme in the Aeneid. It is frequently portrayed as a destructive, un-Roman quality. Dido is suffering from it because of her passion for Aeneas. Note its position at the end of the line, emphasising the crisis facing Aeneas.

prima exordia – “first opening words.” A pleonasm. The exordium is the technical term for the first part of a formal speech. Aeneas’ rational approach to the situation contrasts sharply with Dido’s emotions.

in partesque rapit varias – lit. “he takes (his mind) into different parts.”

At vero Aeneas aspectu obmutuit amens,
arrectaeque horrore comae et vox faucibus haesit.280
ardet abire fuga dulcesque relinquere terras,
attonitus tanto monitu imperioque deorum.
heu quid agat? quo nunc reginam ambire furentem
audeat adfatu? quae prima exordia sumat?
atque animum nunc huc celerem nunc dividit illuc285
in partesque rapit varias perque omnia versat.
haec alternanti potior sententia visa est:
Mnesthea Sergestumque vocat fortemque Serestum,
classem aptent taciti sociosque ad litora cogant,
arma parent et quae rebus sit causa novandis290
dissimulent; sese interea, quando optima Dido
nesciat et tantos rumpi non speret amores,
temptaturum aditus et quae mollissima fandi
tempora, quis rebus dexter modus. ocius omnes
imperio laeti parent et iussa facessunt.295

279
at: but;
aspectus, -us (4): sight, vision;
obmutesco, -ere (3): be dumbstruck;
amens, -tis: insane, excited
280
arrectus, -a, -um: upright, on end;
horror: bristling, terror;
coma, -ae (1): hair;
fauces (3): jaws;
haero, -ere (3): stick
281
ardeo, -ere (2): burn, desire;
282
attonitus, -a, -um: surprised, amazed;
monitus, -us (4): warning;
283
heu!: alas!;
ambeo, -ire (ambo + eo, ire): go around, canvass;
furens, -ntis: raging;
284
adfatus, -us (4): approach, address;
exordia, -orum (pl) (2): opening words;
sumo, -ere: assume, take;