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Here is the opening of Venus’ speech to Aeneas when she is disguised as a Tyrian huntress:
- Tum Venus: ‘Haud equidem tali me dignor honore;
- virginibus Tyriis mos est gestare pharetram,
- purpureoque alte suras vincire cothurno.
Venus says that it is the custom for Tyrian maidens to wear high boots–or, more properly, to bind or tie them on. The word-order in 337 perfectly illustrates the sense: the adjective “purpureo” and the noun “cothurno” surround the word for “legs” (“suras”), so that the reader gets a word-picture of her putting the crimson boots on.
A couple of other notes: Venus toys with Aeneas in her deception by picking up his vocabulary. Aeneas believes that the figure before him is divine: namque haud tibi vultus/mortalis, nec vox hominem sonat (327-8). At the beginning of her speech, Venus says that “by no means” (haud) is she worthy of such an honor.
Dido is also assimilated (cruelly, in retrospect) to the disguised goddess. Aeneas addresses Venus as “virgo,” and Venus, Artemis-like, takes up this word and uses it of herself (“virginibus”). Shortly afterwards, Dido is described at the time of her marriage to Sychaeus as “intactam.” But the reader later learns how Venus sports with Dido vis-a-vis marriage to Aeneas. This one who appears to Aeneas as an innocent maiden proves to be anything but that, and the formerly “untouched” Dido becomes the plaything of the goddess of love.
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At A. 1.297 Mercury is dispatched to instruct Dido to welcome the Trojans to Carthage. His flight is described thus in 300-301:
…Volat ille per aera magnum
remigio alarum ac Libyae citus astitit oris.
The end of 300 is entirely dactylic (save, obviously, the sixth foot), and it reflects well the initial verb “volat.” Things slow down in 301, but the double elision is effective in spite of the heavier rhythm, for one gets a sense of Mercury gliding through the air on the easy carriage of his wings. As he “rows” with his wings, it’s all smooth sailing. The tempo then picks up again with a dactylic ending, drawing attention rhythmically to the meaning of the adverb “citus.” From Olympus to the shores of Libya, just like that. “Oris” as the endpoint of his journey and as the end of the line is a nice touch.
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A couple of examples of sound reinforcing sense in the Aeneid. I’m nearly certain that none of these are original, but I’m just jotting them down as I read through.
So, to begin, two examples that have to do with water. First, when Neptune becomes aware of the storm caused by Aeolus at Juno’s behest:
Interea magno misceri murmure pontum
emissamque hiemem sensit Neptunus… (A. 1.124-5)
The alliteration of the letter “m” gives a sense of the heaviness of the storm, reinforced in the first line by the slow rhythm of “magno misceri mur-” and the onomatopoeic “murmure” and by the heavy line-initial “emissam.” The main verb (sensit) and subject (Neptunus) are delayed, so that the reader is made to perceive the storm from this angle along with Neptune, or even before him, but from his perspective.
“Murmure” is picked up again later in Venus’ complaint to Jupiter about the fate of Aeneas and his men:
Antenor potuit mediis elapsus Achivis
Illyricos penetrare sinus atque intima tutus
regna Liburnorum et fontem superare Timavi,
unde per ora novem vasto cum murmure montis
it mare proruptum et pelago premit arva sonanti. (A. 1.242-6)
Again, the alliteration of “m” is effective, and the line-ending “murmure montis” is particularly striking. The alliteration is transferred to “p” in the final line, which contributes to the quick pace of the line and points us to the swiftness of the water. Indeed, the line’s only heavy segment is “proruptum et,” and these two (elided) words slow the line just a touch before the words “pelago premit” rush forward on the page and the river rushes forward onto the land.