Tale of a Fateful Trip

“Once more the storm is howling . . .”
-W.B. Yeats, ‘A Prayer for My Daughter’

Ovid. Tristia.Book I.II.13-36.

I, a wretched man, squander unavailing words.
Hostile waters lash my very mouth as I speak,
And the awful South Wind scatters my words
And stops my prayers reaching any of the gods.
I’m not wounded in just one way: the same winds
Carry our prayers, and sails, I don’t know where.

Wretched me! What mountains of water are whipped up!
Now, now you’d think they went all the way to the highest stars.
What hollows there are when the waters part!
Now, now you’d think they went all the way to black Tartarus.

Wherever I look there’s nothing but sea and sky
–This sea swell, that cloud menace–
And between them the savage winds roar and growl.

The wave doesn’t know which god to obey,
For now, from the scarlet east, Eurus gathers strength;
Now Zephyr, sent out from late evening, appears;
Now, from the dry Arctic, the cold North Wind rages;
And now the South Wind joins the battle head on.

The pilot vacillates. What to seek, what to flee
He’s unsure. His art wavers and stuns itself with frets.
Surely we’ll perish. There’s no hope of safety.
A wave blots out my face as I’m speaking.
The swells will crush my soul, and as we pray in vain
Our mouth will take in the killing waters.

verba miser frustra non proficientia perdo.
ipsa graves spargunt ora loquentis aquae,
terribilisque Notus iactat mea dicta, precesque
ad quos mittuntur, non sinit ire deos.
ergo idem venti, ne causa laedar in una,
velaque nescio quo votaque nostra ferunt,
me miserum, quanti montes volvuntur aquarum!
iam iam tacturos sidera summa putes.
quantae diducto subsidunt aequore valles!
iam iam tacturas Tartara nigra putes.
quocumque aspicio, nihil est, nisi pontus et aer,
fluctibus hic tumidus, nubibus ille minax.
inter utrumque fremunt inmani murmure venti.
nescit, cui domino pareat, unda maris.
nam modo purpureo vires capit Eurus ab ortu.
nunc Zephyrus sero vespere missus adest,
nunc sicca gelidus Boreas bacchatur ab Arcto,
nunc Notus adversa proelia fronte gerit.
rector in incerto est nec quid fugiatve petatve
invenit: ambiguis ars stupet ipsa malis.
scilicet occidimus, nec spes est ulla salutis,
dumque loquor, vultus obruit unda meos.
opprimet hanc animam fluctus, frustraque precanti
ore necaturas accipiemus aquas.

Were they bound for Tomis?

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