— Sed quid hoc? medium diem
cīnxēre tenebrae. Phoebus obscūrō meat940
sine nūbe vultū. quis diem retrō fugat
agitque in ortūs? unde nox ātrum caput
ignōta prōfert? unde tot stēllae polum
implent diurnae? prīmus ēn noster labor
caelī refulget parte nōn minimā Leō945
īrāque tōtus fervet et morsūs parat.
iam rapiet aliquod sīdus: ingentī mināx
stat ōre et ignēs efflat et rutilat, iubam
cervīce iactāns; quidquid autumnus gravis
hiemsque gelidō frīgida spatiō refert950
ūnō impetū trānsiliet, et vernī petet
frangetque Taurī colla.
Hercules claims to see an eclipse that no other character can see. During the eclipse, he sees the constellation Leo seemingly about to attack another constellation and recalls his first Labor.
This vision performs multiple functions in the play:
- It signifies the beginning of Hercules’ psychotic episode.
- It recalls Juno’s actual sight of the constellations in Act 1.
- It is also a traditional motif from mythological stories about violence in the family. An eclipse occurred at Mycenae when Atreus killed his brother Thyestes’ children and fed them to him. Seneca tells this story at Thyestes 789–884.
939 medium diem: midday.
940 cinxēre: pf. 3 pl. = cinxērunt > cingō.
940–941 obscūrō … vultū: ablative of manner (AG 412).
941 sine nūbe: normally the sun could only be obscured by clouds. fugat: > fugō fugāre; do not confuse with fugit (> fugiō fugere).
942 ortūs: accusative plural. The sun’s “rising,” i.e. the East.
944 diurnae: modifying stellae, which don’t usually appear during the day.
prīmus ēn noster labor: Latin poets associated the constellation Leo with that the Nemean Lion: e.g., Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1.68 cum sōl Herculeī terga Leōnis adit (“when the sun approaches the skin of Hercules’ lion”)
945 parte non minimā: locative ablative (AG 421). The Lion is massive, so it appears “in no small part of the sky.”
947–48 ingentī … ōre: ablative of manner (AG 412).
949–52 The Lion seems about to leap over the constellations that appear in different seasons, such as the Bull, which appears in spring. Quidquid … refert accordingly means “whichever stars the autumn and winter bring back around.” Romans could see many more stars at night than we can because their world had much less light pollution. They also used the stars for information, particularly for sailing and astrology, that we now get from other sources.
950 gelidō … spatiō: locative ablative (AG 421).
951–52 ūnō impetū: ablative of manner (AG 412). vernī … Taurī colla: “the spring Bull’s neck.” Colla is a poetic plural.
Phoebus –ī m.: Phoebus, Apollo
obscūrus –a –um: dark, shadowy; obscure
meō meāre meāvī meātus: to go
nūbēs nūbis f.: cloud
ortus ortūs m.: rising, beginning; sunrise, the East
āter atra atrum: black
īgnōtus –a –um: unknown
prōferō prōferre prōtulī prōlātus: to bring forth; extend, prolong; offer; defer; reveal, publish
polus –ī m.: pole, heavens
diurnus –a –um: daily; daytime, during the day
ēn or em: Look! Behold!
refulgeō –ēre –fulsī –fulsus: to flash back; shine forth
minimus –a –um: least, smallest
leō leōnis m.: lion
fervō –ere: to blaze
mināx –ācis: threatening
efflō efflāre efflāvī efflātus: to blow or breathe out
rutilō rutilāre rutilāvī rutilātus: to redden; gleam
iuba –ae f.: the mane of a horse; the crest of a serpent
cervīx cervīcis f.: neck
iactō iactāre iactāvī iactātus: to throw; throw around; boast
autumnus autumnī m.: fall
gelidus –a –um: cold, icy
frīgidus –a –um: cool, cold
trānsiliō –īre –īvī –iī or uī: to leap over; pass over
vernus –a –um: of or belonging to spring, spring-, vernal
taurus taurī m.: bull
collum collī n.: neck