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A favorite passage from Virgil’s AENEID, Book 8: The Shield of Aeneas

But the goddess Venus
Lustrous among the cloudbanks, bearing her gifts,
Approached and when she spotted her son alone,
Off in a glade’s recess by the frigid stream,
She hailed him, suddenly there before him: ‘Look,
Just forged to perfection by all my husband’s skill;
The gifts I promised! There’s no need now, my son,
To flinch from fighting swaggering Latin ranks
Or challenging savage Turnus to a duel!’

With that, Venus reached to embrace her son
And set the brilliant armor down before him
Under a nearby oak.

Aeneas takes delight
In the goddess’ gifts and the honor of it all
As he runs his eyes across them piece by piece.
He cannot get enough of them, filled with wonder,
Turning them over, now with his hands, now his arms,
The terrible crested helmet plumed and shooting fire,
The sword-blade honed to kill, the breastplate, solid bronze,
Blood-red and immense, like a dark blue cloud enflamed
By the sun’s rays and gleaming through the heavens.
Then the burnished greaves of electrum, smelted gold,
The spear and the shield, the workmanship of the shield,
No words can tell the power. . .

There is the story of Italy,
Rome in all her triumphs. There the fire-god forged them,
Well aware of the seers and schooled in times to come,
All in order the generations born of Ascanius’ stock
And all the wages they waged.

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1 reply to this post
  1. Ascanius' stock of course, being a reference to the Julian family.
    For a second I thought you were talking about Auden's insulting version, where he equates soldiers to common criminals.
    When Achilles takes his shield to battle, he's taking his entire civilization with him. American soldiers carry american guns, uniforms, kevlar, the products of their civilization as well as the fears and hopes of their citizens. You know, just like a street criminal.
    Yes, murder is senseless and immoral. That is why soldiers need the Shield of Achilles. As in the Iliad, when the shield is held aloft, the Trojans knew the war was lost and the Greeks saw its reflected light and knew victory was at hand.

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