AN ESSAY ON THE SECOND BOOK OF VIRGIL’S AENEIS,
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1636.
The first book speaks of Aeneas’s voyage by sea, and how, being cast by tempest upon the coast of Carthage, he was received by Queen Dido, who, after the feast, desires him to make the relation of the destruction of Troy; which is the argument of this book.
While all with silence and attention wait,
Thus speaks Aeneas from the bed of state:—
Madam, when you command us to review
Our fate, you make our old wounds bleed anew,
And all those sorrows to my sense restore,
Whereof none saw so much, none suffer’d more.
Not the most cruel of our conqu’ring foes
So unconcern’dly can relate our woes,
As not to lend a tear; then how can I
Repress the horror of my thoughts, which fly 10
The sad remembrance? Now th’expiring night
And the declining stars to rest invite;
Yet since ’tis your command, what you so well
Are pleased to hear, I cannot grieve to tell.
By fate repell’d and with repulses tired,
The Greeks, so many lives and years expired,
A fabric like a moving mountain frame, 17
Pretending vows for their return; this Fame
Divulges; then within the beast’s vast womb
The choice and flower of all their troops entomb;
In view the isle of Tenedos, once high,
In fame and wealth, while Troy remain’d, doth lie;
(Now but an unsecure and open bay)
Thither by stealth the Greeks their fleet convey.
We gave them gone, and to Mycenae sail’d,
And Troy reviv’d, her mourning face unveil’d;
All through th’unguarded gates with joy resort
To see the slighted camp, the vacant port;
Here lay Ulysses, there Achilles; here
The battles join’d; the Grecian fleet rode there; 30
But the vast pile th’amazed vulgar views,
Till they their reason in their wonder lose.
And first Thymoetes moves (urged by the power
Of fate, or fraud) to place it in the tower;
But Capys and the graver sort thought fit
The Greeks’ suspected present to commit
To seas or flames, at least to search and bore
The sides, and what that space contains, t’explore.
Th’ uncertain multitude with both engaged,
Divided stands, till from the tower, enraged 40
Laocoon ran, whom all the crowd attends,
Crying, ’What desp’rate frenzy’s this, O friends!
To think them gone? Judge rather their retreat
But a design; their gifts but a deceit;
For our destruction ’twas contrived no doubt,
Or from within by fraud, or from without
By force. Yet know ye not Ulysses’ shifts?
Their swords less danger carry than their gifts.’
(This said) against the horse’s side his spear 49