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‘At the Wind’s Will’
The Aeneid of Virgil, Book 1, Part 17
[the petitioners continue]
Not to drive into your land is our aim
Nor do we seek plunder and fame
To such the vanquished dare not aspire
Our prows the land of old Hesperia
The soil good and its men bold
The Cenotrians held it once we are told
Now called Italia after its king
Thence were we journeying
When wind and wrack taught us fear
Those few you see escaped here
.
What inhuman race
What savage customs of the place
Would deny harbor to drowning men
And drive us to the cruel seas again
.
Aeneas was our lord
An excellent bearer of the sword
His regard for the Word pious
If he lives he will uphold your laws
.
If our anchorage you permit
From your woods planks to refit
That if our lord lives we may continue
Our destined course and Italy pursue
.
But if the sea drank Aeneas
Please from consideration dismiss us
Back we will go to mourn
He to whom we are sworn
.
[so spoke Ilioneus]
The Trojan crews
Seconded his sober news
End 17
Notes
In the second stanza of the crew’s petition to Dido, and earlier in the descriptions of her just rule over uncivilized indigenes, there is an inference that Punic and Trojan folk have a common culture not shared with the native tribes of North Africa. Indeed, their language is mutually intelligible and the assertion that Aeneas abides by the sanctity of the word indicates a shared metaphysics and cultural combability between folk describes as being of different races. The idea of race in premodern times is closer to the postmodern idea of ethnicity. Do note, though, that the various folk are not defined as being as biologically diverse as the Indian band of Memnon at Troy, who would have been of Aryan lineage. This argues for a shared sense of a related cultural diaspora by men of Vergil’s age. Vergil lived from 70 to 19 B.C. He stands as far in our past as the emergence of his Aryan forefathers into Europe and the Middle East stood in his past.
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