A Son Gives His Father Life

Vergil, Aeneid. X.783-800

Then pious Aeneas hurled his spear, piercing
Mezentius’s incurved shield, its three bronze sheets,
linen layers, and three bull-hides well joined.
The spear sunk into his groin, though not with force.

Aeneas thrilled at the sight of Tuscan blood.
He whipped out his sword and dashed forward, fired up.
Lausus saw, and with his face awash in tears
heaved a heavy groan from love for his dear father.

O Lausus, this is where your hard death came,
And your finest actions too: . . .

Mezentius, now helpless and injured, turned
In retreat, dragging the enemy’s spear
lodged in his shield. His son then rushed to the fight:
and when Aeneas raised his death-bearing right hand,
Lausus faced the sword himself, obstructing
and stopping him.

Lausus’s comrades cheered like mad:
the father was leaving the field
protected by his son’s shield.

tum pius Aeneas hastam iacit: illa per orbem
aere cauum triplici, per linea terga tribusque
transiit intextum tauris opus, imaque sedit
inguine, sed uiris haud pertulit. ocius ensem
Aeneas, uiso Tyrrheni sanguine laetus,
eripit a femine et trepidanti feruidus instat.
ingemuit cari graviter genitoris amore,
ut vidit, Lausus, lacrimaeque per ora volutae.
hic mortis durae casum tuaque optima facta. . .
Ille pedem referens et inutilis inque ligatus
cedebat clipeoque inimicum hastile trahebat:
prorupit iuvenis seseque immiscuit armis
iamque adsurgentis dextra plagamque ferentis
Aeneae subiit mucronem ipsumque morando
sustinuit. socii magno clamore sequuntur,
dum genitor nati parma protectus abiret…

Detail from Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son (1669).
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

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