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Diomedis socii. Oleaster.


Macareus finished. And Aeneas' nurse,
now buried in a marble urn, had this
brief, strange inscription on her tomb:—
“My foster-child of proven piety,
burned me Caieta here: although
I was at first preserved from Argive fire,
I later burned with fire which was my due.”

The cable loosened from the grassy bank,
they steered a course which kept them well away
from ill famed Circe's wiles and from her home
and sought the groves where Tiber dark with shade,
breaks with his yellow sands into the sea.

Aeneas then fell heir to the home and won
the daughter of Latinus, Faunus' son,
not without war. A people very fierce
made war, and Turnus, their young chief,
indignant fought to hold a promised bride.
With Latium all Etruria was embroiled,
a victory hard to win was sought through war.
By foreign aid each side got further strength:
the camp of Rutuli abounds in men,
and many throng the opposing camp of Troy.
Aeneas did not find Evander's home
in vain. But Venulus with no success
came to the realm of exiled Diomed.
That hero had marked out his mighty walls
with favor of Iapygian Daunus and
held fields that came to him as marriage dower.

When Venulus, by Turnus' orders, made
request for aid, the Aetolian hero said
that he was poor in men: he did not wish
to risk in battle himself nor any troops
belonging to his father-in-law and had
no troops of his that he could arm for battle.
“Lest you should think I feign,” he then went on
“Although my grief must be renewed because
of bitter recollections of the past,
I will endure recital now to you:—

“After the lofty Ilion was burnt
and Pergama had fed the Grecian flames,
and Ajax, the Narycian hero, had
brought from a virgin, for a virgin wronged,
the punishment which he alone deserved
on our whole expedition, we were then
dispersed and driven by violent winds
over the hostile seas; and we, the Greeks,
had to endure in darkness, lightning, rain,
the wrath both of the heavens and of the sea,
and Caphareus, the climax of our woe.
Not to detain you by relating such
unhappy things in order, Greece might then
have seemed to merit even Priam's tears.

“Although well armed Minerva's care preserved
me then and brought me safe through rocks and waves,
from my native Argos I was driven again,
for outraged Venus took her full revenge
remembering still that wound of long ago;
and I endured such hardships on the deep,
and hazards amid armies on the shore,
that often I called those happy whom the storm—
an ill that came on all, or Cephareus had drowned.
I even wished I had been one of them.

“My best companions having now endured
utmost extremities in wars and seas,
lost courage and demanded a swift end
of our long wandering. Acmon, by nature hot,
and much embittered by misfortune, said,
‘What now remains for you, my friends,
that patience can endure? What can be done
by Venus (if she wants to) more than she
already has done? While we have a dread
of greater evils, reason will be found
for patience; but, when fortune brings her worst,
we scorn and trample fear beneath our feet.
Upon the height of woe, why should we care?
Let Venus listen, let her hate Diomed
more than all others—as indeed she does,
we all despise her hate. At a great price
we have bought and won the right to such contempt!’

“With language of this kind Pleuronian Acmon.
Provoking Venus further than before,
revived her former anger. His fierce words
were then approved of by a few, while we
the greater number of his real friends,
rebuked the words of Acmon: and while he
prepared to answer us, his voice, and even
the passage of his voice, were both at once
diminished, his hair changed to feathers, while
his neck took a new form. His breast and back
covered themselves with down, and both his arms
grew longer feathers, and his elbows curved
into light wings, much of each foot was changed
to long toes, and his mouth grew still and hard
with pointed horn.

“Amazed at his swift change
were Lycus, Abas, Nycteus and Rhexenor.
And, while they stared, they took his feathered shape.
The larger portion of my company
flew from their boat, resounding all around
our oars with flapping of new-fashioned wings.
If you should ask the form of these strange birds
they were like snowy swans, though not the same.

“Now as Iapygian Daunus' son-in-law
I scarcely hold this town and arid fields
with my small remnant of trustworthy men.”


So Diomed made answer. Venulus
soon after left the Calydonian realms,
Peucetian bays, and the Messapian fields.
Among those fields he saw a darkened cave
in woods and waving reeds. The halfgoat Pan
now lives there, but in older time the nymphs
possessed it. An Apulian shepherd scared
them from that spot. At first he terrified
them with a sudden fear, but soon in scorn,
as they considered what the intruder was,
they danced before him, moving feet to time.
The shepherd clown abused them, capering,
grotesquely imitating graceful steps,
and railed at them with coarse and foolish words.
He was not silent till a tree's new bark
had closed his mouth for now he is a tree.
And the wild olive's fruit took bitterness
from him. It has the tartness of his tongue.

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