Ēn fūsus humī

saeva ferōcī corde volūtat1082bis

somnia — nōndum est

tantī pestis superāta malī —

clāvaeque gravī1085

lassum solitus mandāre caput1085bis

quaerit vacuā pondera dextrā,

mōtū iactāns bracchia vānō.

nec adhūc omnēs expulit aestūs,

sed ut ingentī vexāta notō

servat longōs unda tumultūs1090

et iam ventō cessante tumet.

pelle īnsānōs flūctūs animī;

redeat pietās virtūsque virō.

vel sit potius

mēns vēsānō concita mōtū;1095

error caecus quā coepit eat.

sōlus tē iam praestāre potest

furor īnsontem;1098

proxima pūrīs sors est manibus1098bis

nescīre nefās.

    Hercules moves in his sleep, grabbing for his club. The Chorus infers that his insanity has not left him, comparing his continued mental disturbance to ocean waves that linger after the wind has died down. The Chorus wishes at first for the insanity to leave Hercules, then decides it would be better for him not to regain his sanity, so that he could remain unaware of the crime he has committed.

    1082 ēn: Latin poets like to introduce dramatic developments (and, given Hercules’ actions before he fell asleep, his movements now would have been dramatic) with explicit instructions to look: ēn and ecce are most common.

    fūsus humī: “sprawled on the ground.” humī is locative (AG 426).  

    1082bis–83 saeva ferōcī corde volūtat / somnia: the subject is Hercules, but in English we would probably make saeva … somnia the subject, not the object: “violent dreams are whirling in his fierce heart” (Fitch 1987). saeva ferōcī: as often, word order emphasizes key words: before we know what is happening, we know that it will be both “savage” and “fierce.” ferōcī corde: ablative of place where, without a preposition, is frequent when the noun is modified by an adjective (AG 429).

    1083–84 Prose order: pestis tantī malī nōndum superāta est. The Chorus is referring to Hercules’ madness, which they regard as a “poison” and an “evil.”

    1085–85bis Prose order: et, solitus caput lassum clāvae gravī mandāre… The participle solitus is causal (as if Seneca had written cum solitus sit): “since he was accustomed to…” Ovid had Hercules use his club as a pillow on his pyre before he died (Metamorphoses 9.236), but the idea that this was his usual way of sleeping seems unique to Seneca. mandāre: takes a direct and indirect object. “To entrust his head to his club” is an odd way to describe using a pillow (even a club-pillow), but other poets do use the verb to describe sleepers entrusting their bodies to sleep.

    1086 pondera: i.e., his club (this poetic plural can be translated in the singular, as usual).

    1087 mōtū … vānō: ablative of manner (AG 412)

    1088–93 Usually long similes are explicitly integrated into the main narrative: we would expect a simile like the one in 1089–91 to be followed by something like “in just this way does Hercules’ mind continue to be disturbed.” Instead, the link between the narrative and the simile is suggested by a series of words that can describe both mental disturbance and rough waters: aestūs (“passion” or “waves/tide”), vexāta (“agitated”, either physically or mentally), tumultūs (“physical tumult,” or “mental agitation”), tumet (“to be swollen”, of the sea, or “to be excited”), flūctūs (“waves” of water or of emotion).

    1089 ingentī … notō: notus, –ī is technically the South wind, but Latin poets often name a specific wind without attaching any particular significance to it. %% The proper names for various winds provided poets with a variety of sounds and metrical shapes to increase the musicality of their verse; several of the most important winds may be conveniently remembered with the acronym “BEANZ” (Boreas, “North wind;” Eurus, “East wind;” Auster/Notus, “South wind;” Zephyrus, “West wind”). vexāta: modifies unda in the next line.

    1090 longōs … tumultūs: the “disturbance” of the waves is “long lasting,” but there may be a secondary suggestion that the disturbance is longus spatially: it extends “far and wide.”

    unda: may be translated as a plural or may represent “the sea” by metonymy.

    1091 et iam ventō cessante tumet: the ablative absolute (AG 419) has an adversative sense: “and remains swollen although the wind is now dropping.”

    1092 pelle: this imperative is probably addressed to Hercules, although it is possible that the Chorus is still addressing Somnus. The simple verb pellō, pellere often has the same meaning as the compound expellō, expellere.

    1093 redeat: the singular verb has two subjects (pietās virtūsque); often a list of singular nominatives is followed by a singular verb, because each subject is thought of individually.

     1094–95 The auxiliary verb sit is placed early in the sentence to emphasize the Chorus’s wish: “or rather, may it be the case that your mind is disturbed by an insane agitation” (i.e., that Hercules’ insanity continue). For vel potius as a corrective, = “or rather,” see LS vel I.A.2.a. vēsānō: a synonym for the more common īnsānus, –a –um.  

    1096 Note the chiastic pattern of first letters (e – c – qu – c – e). The Chorus wishes for Hercules’ madness to continue, and uses the metaphorical language of a journey (because error can mean, figuratively, “delusion” and, literally, “wandering”): “may your blind delusion [i.e., “mental wandering”] proceed in the same way/direction as it began.”

    1097–98 sōlus … furor: adjective and noun are widely separated for emphasis (note especially the striking juxtaposition furor īnsontem). tē … praestāre … īnsontem: “make you innocent.” The Chorus does not mean that Hercules will be innocent in a legal sense, but rather that his madness will allow him to feel innocent by hiding the truth from him. %% The verb praestāre here has the meaning “show, display,” so a more exact translation of this phrase would be “show you to be innocent.” It may be compared to phrases like stabilem sē praestāre (“show oneself to be reliable”, i.e., “act/prove to be reliable”).

    1099 nescīre nefās: i.e., to be unaware of the crime that he has committed. The alliteration of “n” emphasizes the Chorus’s point, and provides a link to the next section, which begins with nunc

    ēn or em: Look! Behold!

    ferōx ferōcis: bold; wild

    volūtō volūtāre volūtāvī volūtātus: to roll, turn, twist

    somnium somni(ī) n.: dream

    pestis pestis f.: plague, pestilence; destruction

    clāva –ae f.: a club

    lassus –a –um: tired, weary

    mandō mandāre mandāvī mandātus: to entrust; order

    mōtus mōtūs m.: motion, movement

    iactō iactāre iactāvī iactātus: to throw; throw around; boast

    brachium brachī(ī) n.: arm

    expellō expellere expulī expulsus: to drive out, propel, expel

    aestus aestūs m.: heat; surge, wave; mental/emotional turmoil

    vexō vexāre vexāvī vexātus: to shake, agitate; annoy, injure

    Notus –ī m.: the south wind

    tumultus tumultūs m.: uproar, confusion; commotion, disturbance

    cessō cessāre cessāvī cessātus: to delay; cease; be idle

    tumeō tumēre tumuī: to swell, puff up

    īnsānus –a –um: insane

    potius: rather, more

    vēsānus –a –um: of unsound mind, insane

    concitō concitāre concitāvī concitātus: to arouse, incite

    mōtus mōtūs m.: motion, movement

    īnsōns –sontis: guiltless, innocent

    proximus –a –um: next, nearest

    pūrus –a –um: clean, unsoiled, pure

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