Saturday, October 3, 2009

Day 6: From Jefferson to Truman

Sailed through the night of Day Five and into the morning of Day Six: calm and clear, moon a little past full. Light wind from the southwest. This seems to be the phase of the trip -- there always is one -- when bits of poems start running through my head. Aeneid vii:

... postquam alta quierunt
aequora, tendit iter velis portumque relinquit.
Adspirant aurae in noctem nec candida cursus
Luna negat, splendet tremulo sub lumine pontus.
Proxima Circaeae raduntur litora terrae,
dives inaccessos ubi Solis filia lucos
adsiduo resonat cantu tectisque superbis
urit odoratam nocturna in lumina cedrum,
arguto tenuis percurrens pectine telas.
Hinc exaudiri gemitus iraeque leonum
vincla recusantum et sera sub nocte rudentum,
saetigerique sues atque in praesaepibus ursi
saevire ac formae magnorum ululare luporum,
quos hominum ex facie dea saeva potentibus herbis
induerat Circe in voltus ac terga ferarum.
Quae ne monstra pii paterentur talia Troes
delati in portus neu litora dira subirent,
Neptunus ventis implevit vela secundis
atque fugam dedit et praeter vada fervida vexit.

* * *

Usually I like to translate stuff myself, but it's pretty hard to improve on Dryden:

He plow'd the Tyrrhene seas with sails display'd.
From land a gentle breeze arose by night,
Serenely shone the stars, the moon was bright,
And the sea trembled with her silver light.
Now near the shelves of Circe's shores they run,
(Circe the rich, the daughter of the Sun,)
A dang'rous coast: the goddess wastes her days
In joyous songs; the rocks resound her lays:
In spinning, or the loom, she spends the night,
And cedar brands supply her father's light.
From hence were heard, rebellowing to the main,
The roars of lions that refuse the chain,
The grunts of bristled boars, and groans of bears,
And herds of howling wolves that stun the sailors' ears.
These from their caverns, at the close of night,
Fill the sad isle with horror and affright.
Darkling they mourn their fate, whom Circe's pow'r,
(That watch'd the moon and planetary hour,)
With words and wicked herbs from humankind
Had alter'd, and in brutal shapes confin'd.
Which monsters lest the Trojans' pious host
Should bear, or touch upon th' inchanted coast,
Propitious Neptune steer'd their course by night
With rising gales that sped their happy flight.
Supplied with these, they skim the sounding shore,
And hear the swelling surges vainly roar.

* * *

Splendet tremulo sub lumine pontus

... may be my very favorite tag in all of Latin verse, but

And the sea trembled with her silver light

... hits the bulls-eye, doesn't it? It's partly the "her" that does it.

Oh and by the way, how great are those odd Alexandrines that old Johnny drops in --

And herds of howling wolves that stun the sailors' ears!

At any rate I kept well clear of Circe's enchanted shore and her herds(*) of wolfish beast-men on Long Island, until the late afternoon. The wind was diminishing and my eyelids sagging and finally, faute de mieux, I anchored in a shallow little bight off the ominously-named Truman Beach, near Orient Point, the jumping-off place of Long Island:

During the night the wind backed way into the north and then west, and Truman Beach, which started out rather quiet, became a roller-coaster. I woke up once or twice during the night and checked the GPS to make sure I wasn't dragging my anchors -- I had put both of 'em down, against just such a turn of events. I wasn't, and so I wedged myself into a corner of my little stuffy vee-berth so I wouldn't roll around too much, and went back to sleep. You can sleep very well when you're really tired.


(*) Do wolves form herds? Maybe under Circe's management they do.


  1. That is a beautiful passage.
    Sounds really good out loud,
    even with my terrible pronunciation.
    (I have to go look up pontus,
    because I thought it meant something else...)

  2. Perhaps you're thinking of 'pons'?

  3. Of course I was; I had forgotten pontus, -i,
    and remembered pons, pontis. It's surprising I remember any words in Latin that aren't plant- related.

    And then there's ponto, -onis, a punt! Who'da guessed?

    I like 'saetiger'!