THE FLIGHT OF AENEAS FROM TROY
BY F. STORR
Ćneas, standing on the battlements of the palace,
had beheld the heartrending scene of Troy's destruction,
horror-stricken and unable to help. All his
comrades were dead or had fled, and he alone was left.
As he looked on Priam's bleeding corse the face of his
own father Anchises, as old and as defenseless, flashed
across his fancy, and he saw in vision his desolate home,
his wife Creusa, and Iulus clinging to his mother's knees.
He stole out of the palace by the same covered way that
had let him in, and was hurrying home when he passed
the shrine of Vesta, and cowering behind the altar, by the
glare of the conflagration that still raged, he espied
Helen, the prime cause of all their woes. His soul burned
with righteous indignation. "What," he cried to himself,
"shall this cursed woman, the bane both of Greece
and of Troy, shall she alone escape scot-free; shall she
return to Greece a crowned queen with our captive sons
and daughters in her train? No," he cried, as he drew
his sword; "to slay a woman is no knightly deed, but
men will approve me as the minister of God's vengeance."
But of a sudden, effulgent in the heavens like her own
star, he beheld his goddess-mother, and she laid a hand
on his outstretched arm in act to strike, and whispered
in his ear: "My son, why this empty rage? Dost thou
forget thy mother and all her care for thee and thine?
Think of thine aged sire, thy loving wife, thy little son.
But for me they had all perished by the sword and flames.
'Tis not Paris, 'tis not that Spartan woman who hath
wrought this ruin, but the gods who were leagued against
Troy. Lo, I will take the scales from thine eyes, and for
a moment thou shalt behold as one of themselves the immortals
at work. Look yonder, where walls and watch-towers
are crashing down, as though upheaved by an
earthquake, Neptune is up-prizing with his dread trident
the walls that he helped to build. There at the Scćan
gates stands Juno in full mail crying Havoc! and hounding
on the laggard Greeks. Look backward at the citadel;
above it towers Minerva, wrapt in a storm-cloud, and
flashing her Gorgon shield. Nay more, on far Olympus
(but this thou canst not see) the Almighty Father is
heartening those gods who are banded for the ruin of
Troy. Save thyself, my son, while yet there is time.
Let adverse gods rage; I, thy mother, will never leave
thee nor forsake thee."
The goddess vanished, and as by a flash of lightning he
beheld for an instant the grim visages of the Powers of
Under the tutelage of Venus, Ćneas reached his home
without adventure and found all safe, as she had promised.
He was preparing for his flight to the neighboring
hills when an unforeseen impediment arose. No persuasions
would induce Anchises to accompany him.
"Ye are young and lusty," cried his sire, "fly for your
lives and leave me, a poor old man tottering on the
brink of the grave. All I ask is that ye repeat over me
the ritual for the dead. The Greeks, when they find me,
will grant me sepulture."
No prayers or arguments could move the old man from
his obstinate resolution, and Ćneas, in desperation, was
again girding on his armor, choosing to perish with wife
and child in single-handed fight rather than desert his
aged parent, when a sign from heaven was given that
first amazed and then filled all hearts with joy. On the
head of the child Iulus there appeared a tongue of fire
that spread among his curly locks, and played round his
smooth brow, crowning him like the aureole of a saint.
In horror his mother sought to extinguish the flames,
but the water she poured made them only burn the
brighter. But Anchises knew the heavenly sign, and with
uplifted palms he prayed that Jupiter would confirm his
good will by some more certain augury. And straightway
on the left (the lucky side) a clap of thunder was
heard, and from the zenith there fell a meteor that left
a long trail of light as it fell to earth on the pine-clad
slopes of Mount Ida.
Then at last Anchises yielded, and Ćneas, stooping
down, lifted the old man on his shoulder. By his side,
holding his right hand, was Iulus, bravely trying to keep
pace with his father's long strides, and last came Creusa,
with a train of household slaves. As trysting-place, in
case they should get separated in the crowd and confusion,
Ćneas assigned to them a deserted shrine of
Vesta, near to a solitary cypress tree which would serve
them as a landmark. They were well on their way, and
had escaped the worst perils, when Anchises cried out,
"Hist! I hear the tramp of armed men, and see the
glint of armor." And Ćneas, who never before had
quailed in the storm of battle, now trembled like an aspen
leaf, and snatching up the boy he ran for his life, and
never drew breath till he had reached the deserted shrine.
Then he looked back, and to his horror Creusa was nowhere
to be seen. Had she missed the road, or had she
fainted on the way? He questioned his household who
had by now arrived, but none had seen their mistress since
they left the city. Again he donned his arms and rushed
back by the way he had come. Not a trace of his wife
could he find. He re-entered the city by the same gate,
and rethreaded the same dark alleys. He sought his
home, but it was now a mass of smoldering ruins. As
a last desperate hope he sought the Royal Treasure
House, if haply she might there have found a hiding-place,
but at the entrance stood Phœnix and Ulysses,
the captains told off to guard the loot. There lay, piled
in a confused heap, all the wealth of Troy that the
flames had not consumed—purple robes, coverlets
and tapestries, armlets and anklets of wrought gold,
jeweled drinking-bowls, and the sacred vessels from the
Reckless of the risks he ran he shouted from street to
street, "Creusa! Creusa!" when at last a familiar voice
replied, and before him he saw, not, alas! Creusa, but her
ghost, larger than human, gazing down on him with
eyes of infinite pity. "Why," it whispered, "this wild
grief? Nothing, dear lord, is here for tears. 'Twas not
the will of heaven that I should share thy wanderings
and toils. Be of good heart. In the far west, so fate
ordains, where Tiber rolls his yellow tide, thou shalt
found a new empire and espouse a princess of the land.
Nor need'st thou pity my less fortunate lot. I have
known all the joys of married bliss, and my body shall
rest in the soil that gave me birth. No proud Greek will
boast that he bears home in his captive train her who
was the wife of Ćneas, the daughter-in-law of Venus.
And now, fare thee well. Forget not our sweet child,
and her who bore him."
"Thrice he essayed with arms outstretched to clasp
Her shade, and thrice it slipped from his fond grasp,
Like frolic airs that o'er a still lake play,
Or dreams that vanish at the break of day."