A league from Epidamnum had we sailed
Before the always-wind-obeying deep
Gave any tragic instance of our harm;
65But longer did we not retain much hope;
For what obscured light the heavens did grant
Did but convey unto our fearful minds
A doubtful warrant of immediate death,
Which though myself would gladly have embraced,
70Yet the incessant weepings of my wife,
Weeping before for what she saw must come,
And piteous plainings of the pretty babes,
That mourned for fashion, ignorant what to fear,
Forced me to seek delays for them and me.
75And this it was, for other means was none:
The sailors sought for safety by our boat
And left the ship, then sinking-ripe, to us.
My wife, more careful for the latter-born,
Had fastened him unto a small spare mast,
80Such as seafaring men provide for storms.
To him one of the other twins was bound,
Whilst I had been like heedful of the other.
The children thus disposed, my wife and I,
Fixing our eyes on whom our care was fixed,
85Fastened ourselves at either end the mast
And, floating straight, obedient to the stream,
Was carried towards Corinth, as we thought.
At length the sun, gazing upon the earth,
Dispersed those vapors that offended us,
90And by the benefit of his wished light
The seas waxed calm, and we discoverèd
Two ships from far, making amain to us,
Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this.
But ere they came,–O, let me say no more!
95Gather the sequel by that went before.
We had sailed a
league = about three milesleague away from Epidamnum before the sea, which always obeys the winds' commands, gave any indication of danger.
We didn’t stay hopeful much longer: soon, the sky grew so dark that we were convinced we were going to die immediately. I could have accepted that, but I was forced by my wife’s incessant weeping–she wept in advance for the things that she saw ahead–and the piteous complaints of the sweet infants–who cried in imitation of the adults, without understanding why–to find a way to save us. Here’s the best I could do: the crew of our ship had fled for safety in the lifeboats and left us to sink with the ship. My wife, who was very concerned about the younger of our twins, tied him to a spare mast–the kind that sailors use for just such a purpose. She tied one of the other twins to him. I did the same with the remaining two boys. With the children taken care of, my wife and I tied ourselves to opposite ends of the mast and floated off, obedient to the current. It carried us toward Corinth–or so we thought. Eventually the sun, looking down upon the earth, burned off the threatening storm clouds. By the power of the sun’s wished-for light, the seas became calm. We saw two ships sailing toward us, one from Corinth, the other from Epidaurus. But before they reached us–let me say no more! You’ll have to imagine what came next, based on what had already happened.