Aeneae naves. Ardea.When the ambassadors returned and told
their tale about Aetolian arms refused,
the bold Rutulians carried on the war
without those forces, and much blood was shed.
Then Turnus with a greedy torch drew near
the Trojan fleet, well built of close-knit pine.
What had escaped the waves, now feared the flame.
Soon Mulciber was burning pitch and wax
and other food of fire, up the high masts
he ran and fed upon the tight furled sails,
and even the benches in the curved hull smoked.
When the holy mother of the gods, recalling
how those same pines were felled on Ida's crest,
filled the wind with a sound of cymbals clashed
and trill of boxwood flutes. Borne through light air
by her famed lion yoke, she came and said,
“In vain you cast the fire with impious hand,
Turnus, for I will save this burning fleet.
I will not let the greedy flame consume
trees that were part and members of my grove.”
It thundered while she spoke, and heavy clouds,
following the thunder, brought a storm
of bounding hail. The Astraean brothers filled
both air and swollen waters with their rage
and rushed to battle. With the aid of one
of them the kindly mother broke the ropes
which held the Phrygian ships, and, drawing all
prow foremost, plunged them underneath the wave.
Softening quickly in the waters quiet depth,
their wood was changed to flesh, the curving prows
were metamorphosed into human heads,
blades of the oars made feet, the looms were changed
to swimming legs, the sides turned human flanks,
each keel below the middle of a ship
transformed became a spine, the cordage changed
to soft hair, and the sail yards changed to arms.
The azure color of the ships remained.
As sea-nymphs in the water they began
to agitate with virgin sports the waves,
which they had always dreaded. Natives of
the rugged mountains they are now so changed,
they swim and dwell in the soft flowing sea,
with every influence of birth forgot.
Never forgetful of the myriad risks
they have endured among the boisterous waves,
they often give a helping hand to ships
tossed in the power of storms—unless, of course,
the ship might carry men of Grecian race.
Never forgetful of the Phrygians and
catastrophe, their hatred was so great
of all Pelasgians, that they looked with joy
upon the fragments of Ulysses' ship;
and were delighted when they saw the ship
of King Alcinous growing hard upon
the breakers, as its wood was turned to stone.
Many were hopeful that a fleet which had
received life strangely in the forms of nymphs
would cause the chieftain of the Rutuli
to feel such awe that he would end their strife.
But he continued fighting, and each side
had its own gods, and each had courage too,
which often can be as potent as the gods.
Now they forgot the kingdom as a dower,
forgot the scepter of a father-in-law,
and even forgot the pure Lavinia:
their one thought was to conquer, and they waged
war to prevent the shame of a defeat.
But Venus finally beheld the arms
of her victorious son; for Turnus fell,
and Ardea fell, a town which, while he lived,
was counted strong. The Trojan swords
destroyed it.—All its houses burned and sank
down in the heated embers: and a bird
not known before that time, flew upward from
a wrecked heap, beating the dead ashes with
its flapping wings. The voice, the lean pale look,
the sorrows of a captured city, even
the name of the ruined city, all these things
remain in that bird—Ardea's fallen walls
are beaten in lamentation by his wings.