Majolic dish - collection Conte Contini of Acossi












Venus complains to Neptune of Juno’s hostility to the Trojans,
and asks for his promise that the Trojans will safely cross the sea to Italy.

“I (Venus) beg you to let the rest sail safely through your seas,

let them reach Laurentine Tiber, if I ask

what is allowed, if the Fates grant them their city.”


Neptune gives his promise, but says that one life
Must be lost so that the others shall be safe.

Then the son of Saturn, the master of the deep oceans,

said this: “You’ve every right to trust in my realms, Cytherea,

from which you draw your own origin. Also I’ve earned it:

I’ve often controlled the rage and fury of sea and sky.

Nor has my concern been less for your Aeneas on land.


Now also my mind remains the same: dispel your fears.

He will reach the harbours of Avernus, safely, as you ask.

There will only be one, lost in the waves, whom you

will look for: one life that will be given for the many.”


The seas are calmed as Neptune rides over them, attended by
his retinue.

When he had soothed the goddess’s heart, she joying at his words,

Father Neptune yoked his wild horses with gold, set the bits

in their foaming mouths, and, with both hands, gave them free rein.

He sped lightly over the ocean in his sea-green chariot,

the waves subsided and the expanse of swollen waters

grew calm under the thunderous axle:

the storm-clouds vanished from the open sky.

Then came his multi-formed followers, great whales,

Glaucus’s aged band, Palaemon Ino’s son,

the swift Tritons, and all of Phorcus’s host:

the left hand taken by Thetis, Melite and virgin Panopea,

Nesaea, and Spio, Thalia, and Cymodoce.


The Trojans proceed on their voyage, Palinurus leading.

At this, soothing joy in turn pervaded father Aeneas’s

anxious mind: he ordered all to raise their masts

quickly, and the sails to be unfurled from the yard-arms.

Together they hauled on the ropes and let out the canvas as one,

now to port and now to starboard: together they swung

the high yards about: benign winds drove the fleet along.

Palinurus, first of them all, led the close convoy:

the rest were ordered to set their course by his.





And now dew-wet Night had just reached her zenith

in the sky: the sailors relaxed their limbs in quiet rest

stretched out on the hard benches beneath the oars:

when Sleep, gliding lightly down from the heavenly stars,

parted the gloomy air, and scattered the shadows,

seeking you, bringing you dark dreams, Palinurus,

though you were innocent: the god settled on the high stern,

appearing as Phorbas, and poured these words from his mouth:

“Palinurus, son of Iasus, the seas themselves steer the fleet,

the breezes blow steadily, this hour is granted for rest.

Lay down your head and rob your weary eyes of labour.

For a little while, I myself will take on your duty for you."

Palinurus, barely lifting his gaze, spoke to him:

“Do you tell me to trust the sea’s placid face,

the calm waves? Shall I set my faith on this monster?

Why should I entrust Aeneas to the deceptive breeze,

I whom a clear sky has deceived so often?”

So he spoke and clinging hard to the tiller

never relaxed his hold, and held his sight on the stars.

Behold, despite his caution, the god shook a branch,

wet with Lethe’s dew, soporific with Styx’s power,

over his brow, and set free his swimming eyes.

The first sudden drowse had barely relaxed his limbs,

when Sleep leant above him and threw him headlong

into the clear waters, tearing away the tiller

and part of the stern, he calling to his friends often, in vain:

while the god raised his wings in flight into the empty air.

The fleet sailed on its way over the sea, as safely as before,

gliding on, unaware, as father Neptune had promised.

And now drawn onwards it was close to the Sirens’s cliffs, tricky

of old, and white with the bones of many men, (now the rocks,

far off, boomed loud with the unending breakers) when the leader

realised his ship was wallowing adrift, her helmsman lost,

and he himself steered her through the midnight waters,

sighing deeply, and shocked at heart by his friend’s fate:

“Oh, far too trustful of the calm sea, and the sky,

you’ll lie naked, Palinurus, on an unknown shore.”





In the underworld Aeneas meets the ghost of his helmsman Palinurus
and hears the story of his death.

Behold, there came the helmsman, Palinurus,

who fell from the stern on the Libyan passage,

flung into the midst of the waves, as he watched the stars.

When Aeneas had recognised him with difficulty

sorrowing among the deep shadows, he spoke first, saying:

‘What god tore you from us, Palinurus, and drowned you

mid-ocean? For in this one prophecy Apollo has misled me,

he whom I never found false before, he said that you would be safe

at sea and reach Ausonia’s shores. Is this the truth of his promise?’

But he replied: ‘Phoebus’s tripod did not fail you, Aeneas,

my captain, nor did a god drown me in the deep.

By chance the helm was torn from me with violence,

as I clung there, on duty as ordered, steering our course,

and I dragged it headlong with me. I swear by the cruel sea

that I feared less for myself than for your ship,

lest robbed of its gear, and cleared of its helmsman,

it might founder among such surging waves.

The Southerly drove me violently through the vast seas

for three stormy nights: high on the crest of a wave,

in the fourth dawn, I could just make out Italy.

Gradually I swam to shore: grasped now at safety,

but as I caught at the sharp tips of the rocks, weighed down

by my water-soaked clothes, the savage people

attacked me with knives, ignorantly thinking me a prize.

Now the waves have me, and the winds roll me along the shore.

Unconquered one, I beg you, by the sweet light and air of heaven,

by your father, and your hopes in Iulus to come,

save me from this evil: either find Velia’s harbour again

(for you can) and sprinkle earth on me, or if there is some way,

if your divine mother shows you one (since you’d not attempt to sail

such waters, and the Stygian marsh, without a god’s will, I think)

then give this wretch your hand and take me with you through the waves

that at least I might rest insome quiet place in death.

’So he spoke, and the priestess began to reply like this:

‘Where does this dire longing of yours come from, O Palinurus?

Can you see the Stygian waters, unburied, or the grim

river of the Furies, Cocytus, or come unasked to the shore?

Cease to hope that divine fate can be tempered by prayer.

But hold my words in your memory, as a comfort in your hardship:

the nearby peoples, from cities far and wide, will be moved

by divine omens to worship your bones, and build a tomb,

and send offerings to the tomb, and the place will have

Palinurus as its everlasting name.’ His anxiety was quelled

by her words, and, for a little while, grief was banished

from his sad heart: he delighted in the land being so named.

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