Andrew Marvell's "The Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Fawn" and Virgil's Aeneid VII
The sentimentality of Marvell's poem masks, for modern readers, a crucial classical allusion that links it directly to the Virgilian project of making humans aware of war's pathos. In this passage, Turnus, the headstrong ally of the Latins who opposes Aeneas and the Trojan colonists, has been struck by a Fury and tries to rouse the Latins to combat. Meanwhile, the Fury plants the seeds of war in an unlikely scene, the hunt, that privilege of the aristocracy which makes a game out of bloodshed, but which the Fury's action will turn all too real. The hunters will be hunted, and the harvesters mowed down by their own scythes. The boldface portion of the passage is the most directly relevant to the context of Marvell's poem. (This English translation is John Dryden's which has been in public domain in electronic form since 1993 courtesy of U. Penn. If you wish to read more in this poem, click here to see the M.I.T. Classics Department's online edition.)
While Turnus urges thus his enterprise,
The Stygian Fury to the Trojans flies;
New frauds invents, and takes a steepy stand,
Which overlooks the vale with wide command;
Where fair Ascanius and his youthful train,
With horns and hounds, a hunting match ordain,
And pitch their toils around the shady plain.
The Fury fires the pack; they snuff, they vent,
And feed their hungry nostrils with the scent.
'Twas of a well-grown stag, whose antlers rise
High o'er his front; his beams invade the skies.
>From this light cause th' infernal maid prepares
The country churls to mischief, hate, and wars.
The stately beast the two Tyrrhidae bred,
Snatch'd from his dams, and the tame youngling fed.
Their father Tyrrheus did his fodder bring,
Tyrrheus, chief ranger to the Latian king:
Their sister Silvia cherish'd with her care
The little wanton, and did wreaths prepare
To hang his budding horns, with ribbons tied
His tender neck, and comb'd his silken hide,
And bath'd his body. Patient of command
In time he grew, and, growing us'd to hand,
He waited at his master's board for food;
Then sought his salvage kindred in the wood,
Where grazing all the day, at night he came
To his known lodgings, and his country dame.
This household beast, that us'd the woodland grounds,
Was view'd at first by the young hero's hounds,
As down the stream he swam, to seek retreat
In the cool waters, and to quench his heat.
Ascanius young, and eager of his game,
Soon bent his bow, uncertain in his aim;
But the dire fiend the fatal arrow guides,
Which pierc'd his bowels thro' his panting sides.
The bleeding creature issues from the floods,
Possess'd with fear, and seeks his known abodes,
His old familiar hearth and household gods.
He falls; he fills the house with heavy groans,
Implores their pity, and his pain bemoans.
Young Silvia beats her breast, and cries aloud
For succor from the clownish neighborhood:
The churls assemble; for the fiend, who lay
In the close woody covert, urg'd their way.
One with a brand yet burning from the flame,
Arm'd with a knotty club another came:
Whate'er they catch or find, without their care,
Their fury makes an instrument of war.
Tyrrheus, the foster father of the beast,
Then clench'd a hatchet in his horny fist,
But held his hand from the descending stroke,
And left his wedge within the cloven oak,
To whet their courage and their rage provoke.
And now the goddess, exercis'd in ill,
Who watch'd an hour to work her impious will,
Ascends the roof, and to her crooked horn,
Such as was then by Latian shepherds borne,
Adds all her breath: the rocks and woods around,
And mountains, tremble at th' infernal sound.
The sacred lake of Trivia from afar,
The Veline fountains, and sulphureous Nar,
Shake at the baleful blast, the signal of the war.
Young mothers wildly stare, with fear possess'd,
And strain their helpless infants to their breast.
The clowns, a boist'rous, rude, ungovern'd crew,
With furious haste to the loud summons flew.
The pow'rs of Troy, then issuing on the plain,
With fresh recruits their youthful chief sustain:
Not theirs a raw and unexperienc'd train,
But a firm body of embattled men.
At first, while fortune favor'd neither side,
The fight with clubs and burning brands was tried;
But now, both parties reinforc'd, the fields
Are bright with flaming swords and brazen shields.
A shining harvest either host displays,
And shoots against the sun with equal rays.
Thus, when a black-brow'd gust begins to rise,
White foam at first on the curl'd ocean fries;
Then roars the main, the billows mount the skies;
Till, by the fury of the storm full blown,
The muddy bottom o'er the clouds is thrown.
First Almon falls, old Tyrrheus' eldest care,
Pierc'd with an arrow from the distant war:
Fix'd in his throat the flying weapon stood,
And stopp'd his breath, and drank his vital blood
Huge heaps of slain around the body rise:
Among the rest, the rich Galesus lies;
A good old man, while peace he preach'd in vain,
Amidst the madness of th' unruly train:
Five herds, five bleating flocks, his pastures fill'd;
His lands a hundred yoke of oxen till'd.