Aeneid Book 6, Lines 185 to 204

Click to return home.

Briefly annotated by Tom Jenkins.

Read by Professor Wendell Clausen,

Pope Professor of the Latin Language and Literature
&
Professor of Comparative Literature, Emeritus

Dryden read by Professor Kathleen Coleman




Aeneid Book 6, Lines 185 to 204
Atque haec ipse suo tristi cum corde volutat,
aspectans silvam inmensam, et sic voce precatur:
`Si nunc se nobis ille aureus arbore ramus
ostendat nemore in tanto, quando omnia vere
heu nimium de te vates, Misene, locuta est.'
Vix ea fatus erat, geminae cum forte columbae
ipsa sub ora viri caelo venere volantes,
et viridi sedere solo. Tum maximus heros
maternas agnoscit aves, laetusque precatur:
`Este duces, O, si qua via est, cursumque per auras
dirigite in lucos, ubi pinguem dives opacat
ramus humum. Tuque, O, dubiis ne defice rebus,
diva parens.' Sic effatus vestigia pressit,
observans quae signa ferant, quo tendere pergant.
Pascentes illae tantum prodire volando,
quantum acie possent oculi servare sequentum.
Inde ubi venere ad fauces grave olentis Averni,
tollunt se celeres, liquidumque per aera lapsae
sedibus optatis geminae super arbore sidunt,
discolor unde auri per ramos aura refulsit.

[The computer--eheu!--ate the recording for the Dryden. Food for the soul, indeed.]

Dryden's translation
Thus while he wrought, revolving in his mind
The ways to compass what his wish design'd,
He cast his eyes upon the gloomy grove,
And then with vows implor'd the Queen of Love:
"O may thy pow'r, propitious still to me,
Conduct my steps to find the fatal tree,
In this deep forest; since the Sibyl's breath
Foretold, alas! too true, Misenus' death."
Scarce had he said, when, full before his sight,
Two doves, descending from their airy flight,
Secure upon the grassy plain alight.
He knew his mother's birds; and thus he pray'd:
"Be you my guides, with your auspicious aid,
And lead my footsteps, till the branch be found,
Whose glitt'ring shadow gilds the sacred ground.
And thou, great parent, with celestial care,
In this distress be present to my pray'r!"
Thus having said, he stopp'd with watchful sight,
Observing still the motions of their flight,
What course they took, what happy signs they shew.
They fed, and, flutt'ring, by degrees withdrew
Still farther from the place, but still in view:
Hopping and flying, thus they led him on
To the slow lake, whose baleful stench to shun
They wing'd their flight aloft; then, stooping low,
Perch'd on the double tree that bears the golden bough.


Summary
Aeneas, utterly at a loss how to find the golden bough, intones a prayer, wishing that the sacred object might shine forth in the forest. Happily, Venus sends two doves to the rescue, and Aeneas is able to chase them about the forest until they alight on the tree that harbors the telling gleam of gold. The tale of the bough is itself a curiosity; it appears to have no known literary predecessors [though Ovid will include the detail in his 'retelling' of the Aeneid in the Metamorphoses]. The eminent Vergilian scholar E. Norden suggests that the golden bough was connected to the rites due to the goddess Proserpina [Persephone in Greek traditions]. In addition, this portion of the story fits neatly into the scheme of a folk-tale; the hero needs to perform a seemingly impossible task, and is guided not by other humans, but by the realm of animals and nature [cf. Cinderella who must enlist the aid of birds to help with her impossible tasks before the ball].