Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pretiosa Fames

Once again I have the excellent Dr. Gilleland to thank for drawing my attention to a lovely passage of Latin to savour (and dissect!): a Martial poem in which he revisits the often tawdry Roman theme of nostalgia for a rural birthplace.

The longing for a simple country life which so many Roman authors evince often comes across as hypocritical, and Horace of course poked fun at such dreamy pining in his well-known Alfius poem. But it does provide scope for some fine imagery, and Martial rises above his usual glib standards when comparing his beloved Bilbilis to imperial Rome.

illa placet tellus in qua res parva beatum
me facit et tenues luxuriantur opes:
pascitur hic, ibi pascit ager; tepet igne maligno
hic focus, ingenti lumine lucet ibi;
hic pretiosa fames conturbatorque macellus,
mensa ibi divitiis ruris operta sui;
quattuor hic aestate togae pluresve teruntur,
autumnis ibi me quattuor una tegit.
i, cole nunc reges, quidquid non praestat amicus
cum praestare tibi possit, Avite, locus.

(Martial, 10.96, 5-14)

"I like that country, in which a small property makes me rich, and a few possessions spoil me. The land is fed here [in Rome], but there [in Bilbilis] it feeds you: here a fireplace is warm with a grudging flame, there it gleams with a grand light; here, hunger costs plenty and the market sends you broke; there, your table is filled with the wealth of its own soil. Here, in the summer four or more togas get worn out, there one is enough to cover me in four autumns. Go on then, Avitus, pay court to your patrons, when a place can provide you with whatever a "friend" doesn't provide."

Martial uses language very cleverly:

Line 5: We see the first of a number of cute juxtapositions in "parva beatum", the second word reminding one of the opening of the aforementioned Horace poem ("beatus ille...")! The idea that satisfaction with the gifts of one's own soil constitutes real "wealth" was, by this time, a commonplace in Latin literature.
6: another oxymoron: "tenues luxuriantur opes". luxuriantur goes beyond the idea of satisfaction, however (the metrically convenient sufficiunt might have been used otherwise), stating that Martial can even make a pig of himself on his hometown estate.
7: a classic example of that staple of classical poetry, chiasmus. The subtlety here lies in the use of "pascitur", which is typically used in a deponent sense, "feeds on". But with the active "pascit" mirroring it, the meaning is more likely to be a straight passive, "the land is fed" (delaying "ager" until the end of the phrase also enhances the effect, in my view). The "middle" sense of pascitur lingers, however, with the dark implication that the big city Rome "feeds on" its inhabitants. A similarly menacing note is struck by the unexpected (and emphatically-placed) "maligno" at the end of the line. Of course, this could simply mean that the fire is meagre and hard to maintain, but the sense of "ill-wishing" is also clear.
8: the rhyming "lumine lucet" is reminiscent of Ovid, and creates a sharp contrast with the previous line.
9: another nicely-chosen oxymoron to begin the line. The phrase "pretiosa fames" captures with admirable succinctness the idea that in Rome, even basic necessities are ludicrously over-priced, and that it is necessary to work tirelessly to "earn your poverty", as the saying goes. The tongue-in-cheek phrase "conturbator(que) macellus" completes the depiction, with its playful suggestion that even the local market (supermarket?) can send you bankrupt. Anyone who has lived in Sydney for any length of time will know exactly what Martial is talking about here!
11-12: a nice study in extended chiasmus and judicious word order. "quattuor...aestate" is balanced by "autumnis...quattuor", but in the first case it is four togas in one summer, in the second it is...four autumns, four years in other words, for one toga (a point which is further enhanced by the juxtaposition "quattuor una" in line 12). This element of the country/big city dichotomy, the need to wear (out) uncomfortable formal clothing in an urban setting, is also mentioned elsewhere, notably in Juvenal's third satire where he states baldly that in many parts of Italy, "nemo togam sumit nisi mortuus".
13-14: the word "reges" carries a double meaning here, as it often does when applied to the patron-client relationship. The title rex was generally given to a rich patron, but Juvenal (among others) makes use of this title to hint at the regal airs adopted by the more self-indulgent patroni. The word "cole" is similarly rich in connotation, with its quasi-religious tone perhaps mocking the assiduousness with which ambitious clientes courted their patrons. The word "amicus" is placed emphatically at the end (shades of Juvenal again!) and the sly dig at the patrons' generosity (or lack thereof) is compared to the "generosity" of the country soil in the next line, with the key word "locus", again, delayed until the end.

Personally I would love to move to the country (as would my wife, who was raised on a farm), but there aren't many jobs for Latin teachers in the bush. That's my excuse, anyway.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vitai Claustra

One of the abiding mysteries of Latin literature concerns the conclusion to Lucretius's De Rerum Natura. A work with an avowedly positive message, expounding a philosophy which purports to free mortals from the harrowing fear of death, ends with a relentlessly grim and depressing description of the plague in Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Why should the poet have chosen to finish on such an unpleasant note?

Perhaps to remind his readers that death was, after all, inevitable. Perhaps to give a particularly confronting depiction of Epicurean (or Democritean) physics in action, as it were. Or perhaps - and I incline to this view - the work was unrevised at the time of the poet's death, and the passage was not intended to round off the De Rerum Natura at all. A similar theory has often been advanced to explain the jarring, paradoxical conclusion to Virgil's Aeneid.

Whatever the reason for the placement of the passage dealing with the Athenian epidemic, the poetry is compelling. Particularly notable is the following excerpt, describing the onset of the disease which gripped the city. Although the details are (naturally enough) taken straight from Thucydides, the Latin verse rivals the Greek prose in descriptive power:

principio caput incensum fervore gerebant
et duplicis oculos suffusa luce rubentes.
sudabant etiam fauces intrinsecus atrae
sanguine et ulceribus vocis via saepta coibat
atque animi interpres manabat lingua cruore
debilitata malis, motu gravis, aspera tactu.
inde ubi per fauces pectus complerat et ipsum
morbida vis in cor maestum confluxerat aegris,
omnia tum vero vitai claustra lababant.

(Lucretius, De Rerum Natura VI, 1145-1153)

"At first, they found their heads burning with fever, and both their eyes blazing red with light coming from below. Even their throats, black within, were sweating blood, and the path of their voices was blocked up and squashed together with ulcers, and the mind's translator, the tongue, was worn down by the pains and was dripping blood, heavy to move and chafing to the touch. Then, when it [the disease] had filled their chest through the throat and the sickening force had flowed into the sad hearts of the sufferers, then in fact all the bolts of life began to shake."

The talking points:

Line 1145: "gerebant" is an interesting word choice. The extra sense of "carrying" their heads is very appropriate here, given the impression of weight one gets when brimful with fever.
1146: the superbly effective assonance of the "u" sound in this line underlines the theme of pain, and the cleverly-chosen word "suffusa" suggests the reddening of the eyes due to the blood surging (fundo) up from underneath (sub-), a sinister and disturbing image.
1147-8: the personification of the parts of the body begins, with "sudabant" in emphatic position applied to the throat, followed by another important emphatic placement in the next line: "sanguine", bringing before our eyes the grim symptom of blood-coughing. An interesting point at the end of the line: "via saepta" is a phrase that would have been familiar in a different context, referring to an enclosed or protected street. Its application here to the vocal cords is original and striking.
1149-50: more personification with "animi interpres", a pleasing description of the tongue which was subsequently used elsewhere. Line 1150 is a masterpiece of extended chiasmus, with "debilitata" adding to the personification and the prevalence of "a" and "r" sounds creating an atmosphere of harshness and dryness, which fits the subject matter perfectly.
1152: the adjective-noun combination "morbida vis" is both haunting, given the additional meaning of "violence" which often accompanies vis, and deeply Epicurean in outlook. Even in small matters, Lucretius was true to his philosophical tenets. And the personification isn't finished! The "cor", which could presumably mean either "heart" or "head" here, is "maestum" - this is the pathetic fallacy put to excellent use.
1153: the passage ends with more "painful" assonance, and a memorable phrase in "vitai claustra" (for those unfamiliar with Lucretian Latin, vitai is an archaic 1st declension genitive singular form which he uses frequently). The Epicurean view of an atomic structure of both body and soul is nicely encapsulated here, with the engines of life depicted as the interlocking bolts of a complex wooden structure. And the word "lababant", which would often be used in reference to (for instance) a jerry-built block of flats, creates another memorable image of the web of atoms holding life together rocking and threatening to collapse.

Even a Stoic would have found plenty to savour in that disturbing passage...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Anni Fragiles

The last month has seen me very busy with family and work matters in the frantic lead-up to Christmas, so apologies for the lack of recent posts. In fact, it is the work of a fellow blogger, the endlessly engaging Michael Gilleland of Laudator Temporis Acti, which has sparked me back into life.

Recently, Dr. Gilleland posted a set of excerpts from Ovid's Tristia, one of the two works the poet wrote during his grim exile at Tomis on the Black Sea (for the record, the Epistulae Ex Ponto is the other). Although the heavy air of self-pity which pervades the Tristia makes it, in my opinion, a little less appealing than Ovid's other work, there are still plenty of opportunities for him to display his usual masterly touch. One passage which Dr. Gilleland quoted was one I hadn't read before, but very much enjoyed. As a statement of the desires of the middle-aged for their dotage, it is beautifully universal:

iam subeunt anni fragiles et inertior aetas,
iamque parum firmo me mihi ferre grave est.
nunc erat, ut posito deberem fine laborum
vivere cor nullo sollicitante metu,
quaeque meae semper placuerunt otia menti
carpere et in studiis molliter esse meis,
et parvam celebrare domum veteresque Penates
et quae nunc domino rura paterna carent,
inque sinu dominae carisque sodalibus inque
securus patria consenuisse mea.

(Ovid, Tristia 4.8.3-12)

"Now the fragile years and that ever more sluggish time of life are creeping up on me, and now it is an ordeal for me to carry myself, in my all too feeble state. Now was the time when I ought to be living with no fear assailing my heart, with my troubles at a fixed end. And now was the time to devour that leisure which always delighted my soul, and to get comfortable in my pursuits, and to hang around a small house and the old household spirits and my father's lands, which now miss their master. And it was the time to grow old without worries, in my lady's embrace, amongst my dear friends, and in my own country."

As always, Ovid proves a master at deft word choice and subtle semantic tricks:

Line 3: the word "subeunt" has overtones of secrecy and even malice, as if the spectre of old age were sneaking up behind the poet unseen. And the verb's twin subjects are two nicely-chosen adjective-noun phrases: the "anni" - as always, a metonym for life-span or even a time of life, but hold that thought for a moment - are "fragiles". I've tried to think of a better English translation than the straight derivation (my students will know how much I abhor such a cop-out), but I'm afraid "fragile" will have to do, as no other word captures the sense of the Latin so well. And although the basic idea is that Ovid is fragile, the imagery of "fragile years" is striking. Perhaps the additional message is "I could go at any time" (with apologies to Neil Finn - what a beautiful, haunting song that is. Ovid would have loved it.) And then, of course, the comparative "inertior" applied to the predictable "aetas". Why the comparative? iners venit aetas would have been a metrically acceptable and perfectly reasonable end to the line (venit being present tense, of course, with a short initial syllable). I tend to think that the idea is: every day I feel a little bit more feeble, more sluggish.
4: the understated "parum firmo" is followed by the clever juxtaposition of "me mihi ferre" - an action which should be automatic has become a chore. And the choice of "grave" at the end is quite intentional: he is feeling that his very own body has become too heavy.
5: another careful choice: "laborum" is used rather than dolorum or some other such word for suffering, I think because the extra idea of an end of work is obviously suitable for a man of advanced age.
7-8: Ovid, like no-one else, knew the value of "otia" and how to celebrate it. The verb "carpere" here is highly reminiscent, of course, of Horace's carpe diem, but this is a slightly different sentiment: once one has all the time in the world, that above all is the time (pardon the pun) to make the most of it. The simple, unpretentious "molliter esse" is telling: his desires are only to feel comfortable in what he is doing, almost as if resting on a favourite cushion (mollis, of course, can mean "soft" in a purely physical sense).
9: again, we are drawn to a slightly unusual word choice, in this case "celebrare". And again, there are metrically possible alternatives in, for instance, habitare or gaudere (in the latter case, the object would change to "parva...domo", but the metre would be unaffected). But the imagery inherent in celebrare is irresistible: he flits about the house almost like a visitor, enjoying each old nook of the house anew.
10: the word "nunc" briefly jolts us back into the present (rather than the "possible present" represented by most of the passage), just to remind us that all this is merely a fond, and now unfulfillable, wish.
11: yet another deft choice in "sinu". Although the word can, of course, mean "embrace" (although complexus or amplexus are rather more common), there is the extra connotation of a fold, even a pocket: something where things are kept for safety, away from the ravages of the world. The implication is clear.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2011 to all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Frigida Inguina

In a recent post I made brief mention of my father, whose lifelong passion has been sailing, and offshore racing in particular. Like most devoted yachties, he often affects an airy disregard for the vagaries of the weather, believing that even the most doom-laden sky presages nothing worse than a "passing shower". Not surprisingly, I was reminded forcibly of him when reading the following passage, from Juvenal's fourteenth satire.

Like most of Juvenal's satires, the fourteenth has a putative theme, namely the bad example that some parents set for their children. As always, however, he is inclined to ramble; the excerpt below occurs during a long digression on the topic of avarice, and at this point he is imagining a merchant undertaking a risky but potentially hugely profitable sea-journey. A disaster is looming, and Juvenal tells the hypothetical story with grim relish:

occurrunt nubes et fulgura: 'solvite funem!'
frumenti dominus clamat piperisve coempti,
'nil color hic caeli, nil fascia nigra minatur;
aestivum tonat.' infelix hac forsitan ipsa
nocte cadet fractis trabibus fluctuque premetur
obrutus et zonam laeva morsuque tenebit.
sed cuius votis modo non suffecerat aurum
quod Tagus et rutila volvit Pactolus harena,
frigida sufficient velantes inguina panni
exiguusque cibus, mersa rate naufragus assem
dum rogat et picta se tempestate tuetur.

"Clouds and thunder appear: 'Let out the sails!' cries the owner of the corn and pepper acquired. 'This dark sky means nothing, this black covering of cloud isn't threatening anything; it's just a summer storm!'. And perhaps the wretch will fall from his wrecked ship this very night; he'll be buried by the waves and pushed under, and he'll be desperately hanging on to his money-belt with his left hand, or maybe his teeth. But for this fellow, who just now wasn't content with all the gold swirling in the Tagus or the red sand of Pactolus, some rags to cover his freezing balls and some scraps of food will have to do. Meanwhile, he asks for a coin, this drowned rat from a sunken ship, and supports himself with a drawing of a storm."

(Juvenal, Satire XIV, 292-302)

Ah, the perils of the sea...

Line 292: the blithely confident "solvite funem!", placed in the last two feet of the hexameter to make a bucolic diaeresis, makes a mordantly effective beginning to the story, especially given what has come before, with the menacing "u" sounds filling up the first four feet.
294-5: the assertive anaphora of "nil" adds to the already clear depiction of the merchant's swashbuckling confidence: nothing will prevent me from making my fortune! "aestivum", emphatically placed at the beginning of line 295, is a timeless rationalisation of the danger; I can almost hear my father saying "it's OK, it's just a passing shower!" as my brother and I cowered below deck. The word "infelix", coming immediately after the merchant's cries, marks a sudden and effective change of mood, as well as a jump forward in time: the worst has clearly happened.
296-7: the harsh "a" sounds at the beginning of the line give a sense of the panic of the shipwreck, while the end of line 297 gives a nice insight into the merchant's character; he is not concerned for his comrades, he is threatened with imminent death himself, but holds on to his precious money-belt with his one free hand (the other, presumably, grasping a spar), and even tries to bite it ("morsu") to hold on if necessary! The theme of avarice is now at the forefront of the narrative.
298: "aurum" is left until the end of the line for emphasis, and the well-chosen word "votis" refers not only to the merchant's wishes, but perhaps also his dearest prayers for wealth.
300: a very clever line. The initial words "frigida sufficient" might suggest that the eventual sense will be "cold _____ will be enough", with a word referring to food or lodgings filling the syntactical gap. But wait: "frigida" ends up agreeing with the object of the sentence, and it is the unexpectedly intimate "inguina". Here, anyone who has been "dumped" during a day out on the water, especially during the winter, will grin ruefully: one never feels the cold more acutely than in one's, erm, private areas. The "panni", along with the emphatically-placed "exiguus(que)" at the beginning of the next line, demonstrate his swift riches-to-rags conversion nicely.
302: a well-considered ending to the tale. That the merchant has to "tuetur" himself with a drawing ("picta") of the shipwreck suggests that he is in a foreign land, unable to make himself understood except by a crude illustration of his fate. Finally, the repeated "t" sounds at the end of the line suggest that inevitable companion of an archetypal "drowned rat" - perpetually chattering teeth!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sparsa Miracula, Part II

Phaethon's doomed voyage across the sky continues:

quid faciat? multum caeli post terga relictum,
ante oculos plus est: animo metitur utrumque
et modo, quos illi fatum contingere non est,
prospicit occasus, interdum respicit ortus,
quidque agat ignarus stupet et nec frena remittit
nec retinere valet nec nomina novit equorum.
sparsa quoque in vario passim miracula caelo
vastarumque videt trepidus simulacra ferarum.

"What is he to do? He has left a good deal of the sky behind him, but there is more before his eyes: he measures each portion in his mind, and sometimes he looks forward to the western horizon, which he is fated not to reach, and then again looks back at the east. He gapes, unaware of what to do, and he can neither loosen the reins, nor does he have the strength to tighten them, and can't remember the names of the horses. And then, all around the different regions of the sky, he sees scattered wonders, and in his terror he sees the shapes of giant beasts."

(Ovid, Metamporphoses II, 187-194)

Once again, there is plenty to chew over:

Line 187: the immediate deliberative subjunctive "faciat" shows just how helpless Phaethon is. The rest of the line is a little more hopeful, showing that he has made it part of the way safely. But...
188: carefully placed before the caesura, we have Phaethon's problem, in a nutshell: there is much further to go. Again, we have a mention of his eyes - he is facing the ultimate visible danger - and then a very human aside showing him desperately trying to work out how far he has to go, and perhaps fooling himself into thinking that he has covered more ground than he really has. A sensation familiar to any novice skier, swimmer, or sky-diver; the furtive look back to see how far you've gone, in the vain hope of comfort. This is made particularly poignant in line 190 below:
190: the clear balance of "prospicit...respicit" and "occasus...ortus", with "interdum" in the middle, cleverly depicts not only Phaethon's indecision and desperation, but also his fate to come; "occasus", with its connection with the verb cado, anticipates the spectacular "fall" that Phaethon is to endure very shortly. In other words, Phaethon is not only looking ahead to "the west", but to his doom.
191-192: "quid(que) agat" echoes the sentiment at the beginning of line 187, and the following words, especially "stupet", show that Phaethon has absolutely no answer to the (rhetorical) question. The triple anaphora of "nec" that follows shows that he has been rendered quite numb ("stupet" makes an effective introduction in this respect, of course), and the use of "valet" in line 192 instead of the equally metrically acceptable potest is quite deliberate: he lacks the strength to do anything. Perhaps I am giving way to fancy in supposing that the alliteration of "n" sounds at the end is almost like an echoing "non...non...non..."; Phaethon wailing pathetically at his predicament.
193-194: a truly beautiful couple of lines which perfectly portray an important aspect of human fear. The first line is redolent of open-eyed amazement, and the well-chosen pairing "sparsa...miracula" gives the sense of wonders scattered almost carelessly across the heavens for mortals to admire. The juxtaposition of "vario passim" adds to this impression; Phaethon is surrounded by heavenly delights. Three words into line 194, however, the mood changes. In Phaethon's terror ("trepidus"), all he sees are the "simulacra ferarum"; images of wild beasts ready to tear him apart. An eternal truth masterfully conveyed: when we are in fear of our lives, the wonders of nature suddenly become terrifying.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sparsa Miracula, Part I

Following on from Rhaebus, another tale involving horses, but of a different kind; this time, it is the steeds of Apollo's sun-chariot who feature in the tragic tale of Phaethon, brilliantly told by Ovid in the second book of the Metamorphoses.

The plot, in condensed form: Phaethon, confused about his heritage, seeks out his putative father Apollo. The sun-god greets the youth warmly, and confirms that yes, he is indeed his father. To prove his parentage (or at least affection), he grants Phaethon any wish of his choice, swearing the most binding of all oaths to commit himself. Phaethon asks to be given the reins of Apollo's sun-chariot, and immediately the god regrets his promise. Trying in vain to dissuade Phaethon, he finally realises that all entreaties will be wasted, and Phaethon sets out on his fatal voyage across the sky. But he has no idea how to steer the chariot or temper the fiery horses, and we pick up the story with Phaethon mid-journey, the horses utterly beyond his control:

ut vero summo despexit ab aethere terras
infelix Phaethon penitus penitusque iacentes,
palluit et subito genua intremuere timore
suntque oculis tenebrae per tantum lumen obortae,
et iam mallet equos numquam tetigisse paternos,
iam cognosse genus piget et valuisse rogando,
iam Meropis dici cupiens ita fertur, ut acta
praecipiti pinus borea, cui victa remisit
frena suus rector, quam dis votisque reliquit.

"And as poor Phaethon looked down from the apex of heaven to the earth, lying deep, deep down below him, he went pale, and his knees shook with sudden terror, and darkness arose in his eyes through all that light. And now he would have preferred never to have touched his father's horses, now he regretted finding out his ancestry and getting an answer to his questions, now he wanted to be called Merops' son. And he was carried along like a pine-wood ship battered by a raging north wind, whose helmsman has let go of the defeated rudder, and left his ship to the gods and his prayers."

(Ovid, Metamorphoses II, 178-186)

A wonderful passage of Latin, in which:

Line 178: the spondaic beginning already gives a sense of Phaethon's wide-eyed horror, and the juxtapositions "summo despexit" (looking down from the very top!) and "aethere terras" depict with grim force the sudden vertigo which is overcoming our young hero.
179: another superbly effective line, with the repetition of "penitus" not only reinforcing the idea of the terrifying drop below Phaethon, but creating a brutal alliteration of the forceful "p" sound in conjunction with "Phaethon" just beforehand...and the nicely enjambed "palluit" in the following line.
181: the first three words, arranged before the caesura, give the basic information; Phaethon, in modern terms, blacked out. But the real force of the line comes with the play on the double meaning of "lumen" (Ovid, as always, proving a master at manipulating the semantic subtleties of Latin); there is the blazing light of the day that Phaethon is flying through, but "lumen" is also, of course, used as a synonym for "oculus", and "tantum lumen" suggests a paradoxical image: although his eyes are wide with fear, all he can see is darkness.
182-4: the anaphora of "iam" to demonstrate Phaethon's regret is reminiscent of Pentheus's similar self-reproach, and the word "valuisse" is particularly ironic here, given that Phaethon has been proved an utter weakling when it comes to dealing with a god's job. Ovid and those double meanings again! Merops, incidentally, was the name of Phaethon's "mortal father".
185-6: the simile of a ship being tossed by the violent winds is appropriate, of course, but several small details make it particularly memorable here. Again, we have the rough "p" alliteration at the beginning of line 185. Incidentally, why "pinus", instead of perhaps puppis, a metrically acceptable and rather more common metonym for "ship"? Because, I think, the idea of the ship being just "a pine" shows that the storm has reduced the complex machinery of the vessel to just its basic components; in the face of nature, it's just a chunk of wood. "victa...frena" is a well-judged adjective-noun pairing; my father, a lifelong sailor, could certainly identify with the idea of a defeated rudder. Finally, the classic zeugma "dis votisque reliquit" provides a nice irony in relation to the main story: Phaethon would love to call on the gods to assist him, but Apollo isn't there.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Diu Viximus

Continuing the theme of human-animal relationships from the last post, I very much enjoyed teaching the tenth book of Virgil's Aeneid to my HSC class this last year, and one of the passages that appealed to both me and the students the most was the battle-speech-cum-farewell of the warrior-king Mezentius, addressed to his faithful steed Rhaebus.

Mezentius is one of the more interesting characters in the Aeneid. In the eighth book he is depicted in a brief aside as a thoroughly evil and sadistic tyrant, and while he shows some of these qualities in the course of his violent aristeia in the tenth book, he is invested with a certain dignity and honour in his death-scene. After his son Lausus has died to protect him, it is almost as if Mezentius is imbued with some of his son's heroism as he prepares to fight Aeneas; certainly, the sentiments he addresses to Rhaebus are very much in the style of a Homeric hero, and his sense of solidarity with Rhaebus is actually quite touching:

haud deiectus equum duci iubet. hoc decus illi,
hoc solamen erat, bellis hoc victor abibat
omnibus. adloquitur maerentem et talibus infit:
'Rhaebe, diu, res si qua diu mortalibus ulla est,
viximus. aut hodie victor spolia illa cruenti
et caput Aeneae referes Lausique dolorum
ultor eris mecum, aut, aperit si nulla viam vis,
occumbes pariter; neque enim, fortissime, credo,
iussa aliena pati et dominos dignabere Teucros.'

"By no means dismayed, he [Mezentius] ordered his horse to be brought. This was his glory, this his solace, on this steed he had departed all his battles in triumph. He addressed it as it grieved and started off with such words as these: "Rhaebus, we have lived a long time, if anything is a long time for we who must die. Today, you will either bring back those spoils and the head from the bloodied body of Aeneas, and you will be the avenger of Lausus' sad fate along with me, or if no force can find a way through, you will fall together with me; after all, my bravest one, I don't believe that you would accept the orders of another and consider the Trojans worthy to be your masters."

(Virgil, Aeneid X, 858-866)

Some observations:

Line 858: the opening phrase, "haud deiectus", immediately suggests Mezentius' heroic qualities; although grieved by the news of his son's death and riven with guilt at his own part in it, the great warrior refuses to sink into lethargy. Bloody but unbowed, as it were. The anaphora of "hoc" in this and the succeeding line give the strongest indication possible of the close relationship between man and horse, and the shared experiences that have created such a bond.
860: the little detail of the horse "maerentem" suggests both human feelings (Virgil's anthropomorphism at work again, just as in the Georgics), and a foreboding of Mezentius' fate at the hands of a greater warrior.
861-2: the ruthless tyrant here becomes a philosopher for a moment, and it is interesting that he implicitly includes Rhaebus in the term "mortalibus", hence my choice of "we who must die" rather than "human beings/mortals" in my translation above. The sentiment is a Homeric one: our lives are short, but our glory lives on. Here, Mezentius faces death with courage and equanimity, and the finality of his situation is emphasised by the enjambment of "viximus". Cicero's laconic "vixerunt" comment on the Catilinarian conspirators comes to mind...
864: "ultor eris mecum" comes before the caesura in enjambment, and as so often in Virgil, that indicates a significant statement. Mezentius's mind is set on vengeance, but Rhaebus is to share in that vengeance...and that achievement. The rare, striking monosyllabic ending to the line, along with the alliteration of the forceful "v" sound, perhaps suggest that Mezentius (and Rhaebus) will exhaust all their "vis" in their attempt. The bond between man and horse is delineated even more strongly in the next line with another enjambed phrase before the caesura, with the key word "pariter" suggesting that both deaths have, so to speak, equal weight.
866: a nice way to finish, hinting that Rhaebus, like his master, is made of noble and uncompromising stuff. The alliteration of "d" sounds is effective, but "dignabere" is the key word: Rhaebus is a "dignus equus", and in Mezentius' eyes, the Trojans are beneath him!

The irony, of course, is that it is Rhaebus who ultimately causes Mezentius' death, falling on top of him after Aeneas has landed a spear on the horse's forehead. Pariter occubuerunt.