The Death of Lausus

The Death of Lausus

Virgil. Aeneid lib x.  [1] 
Long had the war with equal fury burn'd,
Success alternate to each party turn'd,
To no fix'd side was favo'ring Fortune join'd
But now to this, and now to that inclin'd.
From the imperial seats of mighty Jove5
The pitying Gods behold how mortals strove,
Saw each brave chief in useless blood engage
And the pale Furies thro' the battle rage.
Compassion touch'd their breast to see how vain
They labour'd all their life in idle pain.10
But chief Mezentius shook aloft his spear,
March'd thro' th'ensanguin'd field devoid of fear.
As when Orion bids the waves obey
And cuts thro' opening lakes his mighty way,
Or with a pine from some huge mountain ruin15
Walks on the earth, and hides his brow in heav'n.
So seem'd Mezentius, whom Aeneas spies,
And ardent for the fight to meet him flies;
He unappall'd beheld his foe advance,
Resolv'd to await this day's important chance;20
And now, the distance measuring with his eye,
He bids his missle dart securely fly;
"Let but my arm," he cried "assist my will"
"My well pois'd weapon own its master's skill"
"To thee my Lausus I devote this prey"25
"The trophy snatch'd from yon proud foe today."
He said, and hurl'd the spear with utmost force,
The shield oppos'd its well directed course,
Turn'd from its aim, constrain'd its flight to bend,
It struck, Alcides, thy illustrious friend!30
The noble Antor, who from Argive lands
Had sought Evander's roof, & join'd his bands,
His beauteous form now falls on foreign ground,
Doom'd thus to death by an unbidden round,
He looks towards Heav'n, his breath reluctant yields,35
And dying thinks, sweet Argos, on thy fields!
The Trojan hero then with better chance
Drove thro' the triple brass his sounding lance.
Deep was the wound, and thro' the folded hide
The issuing blood gush'd purple from his side,40
The exulting foe to closer combat flew,
And the bright weapon from the scabbard drew;
Then Lausus saw the danger of his Sire,
Then glow'd his bosom with a sacred fire,
And other fears his filial terrors chace45
And gushing tears o'erspread his manly face.
Oh noble youth! at least thy hopeless fate
The mindful Muse shall faithfully relate.
Posterity shall hear the wondrous tale,
And honour thee 'till truth herself shall fail!50
Trembling he view'd his father's shield appear
Nail'd to the body by the hostile spear,
Saw the rais'd sword, the meditated blow
And boldly rush'd before the threat'ning foe,
His shield opposing met the harmless stroke55
And all the vigour of its fury broke;
Protected by the Son the Sire withdraws,
While shouts proclaim the armies' loud applause:
At once they rush, the glitt'ring javelins fly
And the quick lance obscures the darkning sky;60
Yet stood Aeneas firm behind his shield
And inly rag'd, and scorn'd to quit the field;
As when the lowering heav'ns tempestuous frown
And bursting clouds with storms rush headlong down,
Loud roaring winds th'affrighted woods assail65
And fiercely drive the ratt'ling showers of hail,
Quick to his shelt'ring shed the labourer flies
And seeks for refuge from the inclement skies.
In some close cave the traveller secure
Stays while the beating rains & storms endure;70
Hastes from the blasted heath & open plains
And safe within the hollow'd rock remains.
'Till all the violence is spent at last,
The floods exhausted, and appeas'd the blast.
'Till the bright Sun looks forth with smiling ray,75
Then once more labours in the sight of day.
So stood Aeneas, till the rage of war
Already ceas'd to thunder from afar;
Loudly he threatens thus the pious son,
"Incautious youth! what fury drives thee on?"80
"Cease madly thus unequal war to wage"
"Nor dare with such superior force engage."
The gallant youth did not avoid his sight
But rous'd his courage, & provok'd the fight,
The cruel fates forbad the glorious strife85
Drew the last thread of his unhappy life,
Ah! what defence can that light armour yield?
Or what alas! awaits thy polish'd shield?
Thro' the soft tunic which in many a fold
His mother fondly wrought with docile gold,90
The Trojan sword too surely finds its way
And in his tender side deep buried lay;
O'er his soft bosom flows the vital blood,
Life's source exhausted in the purple flood,
The spirit quits the sad forsaken day95
Melts into air and vanishes away.
But when the beauteous youth extended lies,
His face all pallid, and extinct his eyes,
With pity touch'd the Trojan hero mourn'd,
The image of his own lov'd Sire return'd,100
His generous sighs the soft compassion prove
For that pure victim of a filial love,
Deeply he groan'd, with late relenting grief
Stretch'd his right hand, & offer'd vain relief;
"Ah what rewards regretted, honour'd shade"105
"To thee by just Aeneas shall be paid?"
"If ought below departed souls can please,"
"Or funeral rites the sorrowing dead appease,"
"These thou shalt have, and to thy Sire restor'd"
"Thy sacred ashes, and thy well-us'd sword,"110
"Still shall thy arms by mourning friends be kept,"
"For ever honour'd, and for ever wept."
"And this atone for thine untimely fate"
"The blow was noble, & the foe was great!"
Mean while Mezentius lay with anxious mind115
Near Tiber's stream against a tree reclin'd;
Spent and exhausted there his limbs he laid,
And wash'd his wounds - while, from the friendly shade,
His brazen helmet hangs suspended high,
And all his glitt'ring arms around him lie,120
Panting and sick, oppress'd with grief & pain,
Amid the youth he lay a chosen train,
And anxious oft for Lausus he enquir'd,
And oft impatient his return requir'd,
By many a message with paternal care125
Forbad him longer in the fight to dare;
Forbad in vain -- already from the field
They bear the hero breathless on his shield,
The following mourners raise the funeral cries,
And fill with loud laments the distant skies;130
The wretched father hears from far the groans,
The cause his heart too true presaging owns,
Father no more! in fix'd despair he stands,
Then lifts towards Heav'n his miserable hands,
Clung to his corpse, embrac'd the fatal wound,135
Tore his white hair, and sunk upon the ground.
"Hast thou thus purchas'd for thy wretched Sire"
"Detested life? must thou for this expire?"
"Have I so covetous of living seem'd?"
"Forlorn old age so greedily esteem'd?"140
"That thus for life, my pride, my joy, my hope?"
"My child, my Lausus I must yield thee up?"
"Shall I thus live to misery reserv'd?"
"Live by thy death, & by thy wounds preserv'd?"
"An exile long, long banish'd from my throne,"145
"Ah now at length I feel myself undone!"
"Now deep indeed the cruel wound is given,"
"Ev'n to my heart the fatal stroke is driven!"
"Alas my Son! must thy sad father's shame"
"Stain the pure glory of thy spotless name?"150
"Torn from thy native sceptre's regal state,"
"Too pious follower of thy father's fate!"
"To me, to me, the punishments are due,"
"Justly let death my aged steps pursue,"
"The guilt was mine, let me endure the pain:"155
"My subjects hatred! and my country's bane!"
"And yet I live -- yet loathing view the light!"
"But long I bear not, Man, thy hated sight!"
He spoke, while springing furious from the ground,
Tho' weak, and suffering from so late a wound,160
Eager for vengeance he demands his horse,
With soul undaunted, tho' diminish'd force,
His favorite steed, accustom'd to his sway,
His lov'd companion many a well-fought day,
On him well us'd victorious arms to wield,165
Oft borne triumphant from the conquer'd field;
Sooth'd by his touch, with gentle hand caress'd,
He now with mournful accents thus address'd,
"Oh Rhoebus! we have liv'd & suffer'd long,"
"If ere this may be said by mortal tongue,"170
"This day decides with thine, thy master's fate."
"This day thou must return with trophies great,"
"Force the proud Trojan to resign his breath,"
"And pay just vengeance for my Lausus' death,"
"Or if the cruel fates no way afford"175
"To the last aim of my avenging sword,"
"Then let us die, Oh bravest of thy kind!"
"And fall together to one doom resign'd."
"For, in thy noble spirit well secure,"
"I know another Lord thou never wilt endure."180
Thus while he spoke, he seiz'd with ardent speed
His weighty arms, and mounts the willing steed,
Aloft in air his splendid brow he rais'd,
The plumage nodded, and the helmet blaz'd.
Stung by the furies, anguish, love, & shame185
Despair and rage, ran kindling thro' his frame,
While conscious courage, unsubdued by pain,
Thrill'd thro' his nerves, and madden'd in his brain;
He urg'd th'impatient courser to the war,
And thrice he call'd Aeneas from afar,190
Thro' the thick ranks with rushing force he flies,
Rage in his voice, & frenzy in his eyes;
With joy the glorious call Aeneas hears,
Owns the great summons, nor the danger fears.
"Assist, Oh father of the Gods!" he cried,195
"And thou, Apollo, o'er this arm preside!"
Thus far Mezentius heard with angry glance,
And thus defied the terrors of his lance.
"Wretch! dost thou think by threats or cruel arms,"
"Thou now canst shake my soul with weak alarms,"200
"Now, my Son lies murder'd in the fight!"
"That only way thou couldst Mezentius fright,"
"I fear not Death, nor dread a mortal stroke"
"No friendly God with trembling hope invoke,"
"Death, death, I seek, to death resolv'd I go,"205
"But send thee first this gift, Detested foe!"
He said, & now the lowering javelin flings,
Quick thro' the parted air it useless sings,
The following darts in dark succession rain,
Thrice round the chief he rides the circled plain,210
And thrice, his rapid courser as he wheel'd,
The Trojan hero turn'd the opposing shield.
Th'immortal shield's impenetrable power
Sustains with horrent orb the iron shower,
'Till wearied thus by frequent darts from far,215
Harass'd on foot by this unequal war,
Doubting Aeneas stood, resolv'd at length [2] 
Mid the high temples of the fiery horse,
He hurl'd th'unerring spear with steady force;
Erect the courser starts, in anguish reels,220
Expiring beats the air with quivring heels,
Cast headlong down his vanquish'd Lord he prest,
And heaps with pondrous load his struggling breast,
Tumultuous shouts from either army sent
The echoing vault of Heav'n with clamour rent,225
Aeneas now with conquering triumph flew
And as aloft the flashing sword he drew
"Where now the fury of thy vaunts," he cried,
"Where now Mezentius thy disdainful pride?"
The fallen chief recovering from the stroke230
Once more beheld the light, and gasping spoke.
"Cease bitter foe, thine insults vain forbear,"
"In death is no disgrace, and death I did not fear!"
"From thy detested hand no life is sought,"
"With no such shameful league my Lausus fought"235
"Only one boon, a suppliant foe I crave,"
"Protect my body with a sheltering grave,"
"I know the cruel hate my subjects bear,"
"Heap then the sacred earth with generous care,"
"Hide from unhallow'd hands my quiet breast,"240
"And let my ashes with my Lausus rest!"
He spoke; the sword no weak resistance found
And the free soul rush'd willing from the wound.

Notes

[1] EDITOR'S NOTE: "The Death of Lausus" does not appear in Psyche, with Other Poems or Mary (or Collected Poems and Journals). It presents a verse translation of Virgil's Aeneid 10.755-908, and is dated "Glamorganshire November 1796" in the illustration. "Virgil. Aeneid lib. X." is written in blue ink in the manuscript. Tighe was taking Latin lessons from her husband in November 1796. BACK

[2] EDITOR'S NOTE: The only unrhymed line in the poem. BACK

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