New Twitter: What 10,000 characters look like
“Twitter Considering 10,000-Character Limit for Tweets.” For those of us today who can’t seem to keep focused reading through 140 characters, a world of 10,000 character tweets is a dystopian Metropolis.
Who could fill such a yawning space with graceful prose today? Before being sodden with crack-pot manifestos, here’s an example of what you could find on New Twitter if it were launched back in 19 BC.
10,000 characters from book 6 of The Aeneid by Virgil, translated in 1697 by English Poet Laureate John Dryden. If you can find it, I added my girlfriend’s name into the text to hit the right characters on a period, who would read it all otherwise?
He said, and wept; then spread his sails before
The winds, and reach’d at length the Cumaean shore:
Their anchors dropp’d, his crew the vessels moor.
They turn their heads to sea, their sterns to land,
And greet with greedy joy th’ Italian strand.
Some strike from clashing flints their fiery seed;
Some gather sticks, the kindled flames to feed,
Or search for hollow trees, and fell the woods,
Or trace thro’ valleys the discover’d floods.
Thus, while their sev’ral charges they fulfil,
The pious prince ascends the sacred hill
Where Phoebus is ador’d; and seeks the shade
Which hides from sight his venerable maid.
Deep in a cave the Sibyl makes abode;
Thence full of fate returns, and of the god.
Thro’ Trivia’s grove they walk; and now behold,
And enter now, the temple roof’d with gold.
When Daedalus, to fly the Cretan shore,
His heavy limbs on jointed pinions bore,
(The first who sail’d in air,) ‘t is sung by Fame,
To the Cumaean coast at length he came,
And here alighting, built this costly frame.
Inscrib’d to Phoebus, here he hung on high
The steerage of his wings, that cut the sky:
Then o’er the lofty gate his art emboss’d
Androgeos’ death, and off’rings to his ghost;
Sev’n youths from Athens yearly sent, to meet
The fate appointed by revengeful Crete.
And next to those the dreadful urn was plac’d,
In which the destin’d names by lots were cast:
The mournful parents stand around in tears,
And rising Crete against their shore appears.
There too, in living sculpture, might be seen
The mad affection of the Cretan queen;
Then how she cheats her bellowing lover’s eye;
The rushing leap, the doubtful progeny,
The lower part a beast, a man above,
The monument of their polluted love.
Not far from thence he grav’d the wondrous maze,
A thousand doors, a thousand winding ways:
Here dwells the monster, hid from human view,
Not to be found, but by the faithful clew;
Till the kind artist, mov’d with pious grief,
Lent to the loving maid this last relief,
And all those erring paths describ’d so well
That Theseus conquer’d and the monster fell.
Here hapless Icarus had found his part,
Had not the father’s grief restrain’d his art.
He twice assay’d to cast his son in gold;
Twice from his hands he dropp’d the forming mold.
All this with wond’ring eyes Aeneas view’d;
Each varying object his delight renew’d:
Eager to read the rest- Achates came,
And by his side the mad divining dame,
The priestess of the god, Deiphobe her name.
“Time suffers not,” she said, “to feed your eyes
With empty pleasures; haste the sacrifice.
Sev’n bullocks, yet unyok’d, for Phoebus choose,
And for Diana sev’n unspotted ewes.”
This said, the servants urge the sacred rites,
While to the temple she the prince invites.
A spacious cave, within its farmost part,
Was hew’d and fashion’d by laborious art
Thro’ the hill’s hollow sides: before the place,
A hundred doors a hundred entries grace;
As many voices issue, and the sound
Of Sybil’s words as many times rebound.
Now to the mouth they come. Aloud she cries:
“This is the time; enquire your destinies.
He comes; behold the god!” Thus while she said,
(And shiv’ring at the sacred entry stay’d,)
Her color chang’d; her face was not the same,
And hollow groans from her deep spirit came.
Her hair stood up; convulsive rage possess’d
Her trembling limbs, and heav’d her lab’ring breast.
Greater than humankind she seem’d to look,
And with an accent more than mortal spoke.
Her staring eyes with sparkling fury roll;
When all the god came rushing on her soul.
Swiftly she turn’d, and, foaming as she spoke:
“Why this delay?” she cried- “the pow’rs invoke!
Thy pray’rs alone can open this abode;
Else vain are my demands, and dumb the god.”
She said no more. The trembling Trojans hear,
O’erspread with a damp sweat and holy fear.
The prince himself, with awful dread possess’d,
His vows to great Apollo thus address’d:
“Indulgent god, propitious pow’r to Troy,
Swift to relieve, unwilling to destroy,
Directed by whose hand the Dardan dart
Pierc’d the proud Grecian’s only mortal part:
Thus far, by fate’s decrees and thy commands,
Thro’ ambient seas and thro’ devouring sands,
Our exil’d crew has sought th’ Ausonian ground;
And now, at length, the flying coast is found.
Thus far the fate of Troy, from place to place,
With fury has pursued her wand’ring race.
Here cease, ye pow’rs, and let your vengeance end:
Troy is no more, and can no more offend.
And thou, O sacred maid, inspir’d to see
Th’ event of things in dark futurity;
Give me what Heav’n has promis’d to my fate,
To conquer and command the Latian state;
To fix my wand’ring gods, and find a place
For the long exiles of the Trojan race.
Then shall my grateful hands a temple rear
To the twin gods, with vows and solemn pray’r;
And annual rites, and festivals, and games,
Shall be perform’d to their auspicious names.
Nor shalt thou want thy honors in my land;
For there thy faithful oracles shall stand,
Preserv’d in shrines; and ev’ry sacred lay,
Which, by thy mouth, Apollo shall convey:
All shall be treasur’d by a chosen train
Of holy priests, and ever shall remain.
But O! commit not thy prophetic mind
To flitting leaves, the sport of ev’ry wind,
Lest they disperse in air our empty fate;
Write not, but, what the pow’rs ordain, relate.”
Struggling in vain, impatient of her load,
And lab’ring underneath the pond’rous god,
The more she strove to shake him from her breast,
With more and far superior force he press’d;
Commands his entrance, and, without control,
Usurps her organs and inspires her soul.
Now, with a furious blast, the hundred doors
Ope of themselves; a rushing whirlwind roars
Within the cave, and Sibyl’s voice restores:
“Escap’d the dangers of the wat’ry reign,
Yet more and greater ills by land remain.
The coast, so long desir’d (nor doubt th’ event),
Thy troops shall reach, but, having reach’d, repent.
Wars, horrid wars, I view- a field of blood,
And Tiber rolling with a purple flood.
Simois nor Xanthus shall be wanting there:
A new Achilles shall in arms appear,
And he, too, goddess-born. Fierce Juno’s hate,
Added to hostile force, shall urge thy fate.
To what strange nations shalt not thou resort,
Driv’n to solicit aid at ev’ry court!
The cause the same which Ilium once oppress’d;
A foreign mistress, and a foreign guest.
But thou, secure of soul, unbent with woes,
The more thy fortune frowns, the more oppose.
The dawnings of thy safety shall be shown
From whence thou least shalt hope, a Grecian town.”
Thus, from the dark recess, the Sibyl spoke,
And the resisting air the thunder broke;
The cave rebellow’d, and the temple shook.
Th’ ambiguous god, who rul’d her lab’ring breast,
In these mysterious words his mind express’d;
Some truths reveal’d, in terms involv’d the rest.
At length her fury fell, her foaming ceas’d,
And, ebbing in her soul, the god decreas’d.
Then thus the chief: “No terror to my view,
No frightful face of danger can be new.
Inur’d to suffer, and resolv’d to dare,
The Fates, without my pow’r, shall be without my care.
This let me crave, since near your grove the road
To hell lies open, and the dark abode
Which Acheron surrounds, th’ innavigable flood;
Conduct me thro’ the regions void of light,
And lead me longing to my father’s sight.
For him, a thousand dangers I have sought,
And, rushing where the thickest Grecians fought,
Safe on my back the sacred burthen brought.
He, for my sake, the raging ocean tried,
And wrath of Heav’n, my still auspicious guide,
And bore beyond the strength decrepid age supplied.
Oft, since he breath’d his last, in dead of night
His reverend image stood before my sight;
Enjoin’d to seek, below, his holy shade;
Conducted there by your unerring aid.
But you, if pious minds by pray’rs are won,
Oblige the father, and protect the son.
Yours is the pow’r; nor Proserpine in vain
Has made you priestess of her nightly reign.
If Orpheus, arm’d with his enchanting lyre,
The ruthless king with pity could inspire,
And from the shades below redeem his wife;
If Pollux, off’ring his alternate life,
Could free his brother, and can daily go
By turns aloft, by turns descend below-
Why name I Theseus, his greater friend,
Who trod the downward path, and upward could ascend?
Not less than theirs from Jove my lineage came;
My mother greater, my descent the same.”
So pray’d the Trojan prince, and, while he pray’d,
His hand upon the holy altar laid.
Then thus replied the prophetess divine:
“O goddess-born of great Anchises’ line,
The gates of hell are open night and day;
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way:
But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
In this the task and mighty labor lies.
To few great Jupiter imparts this grace,
And those of shining worth and heav’nly race.
Betwixt those regions and our upper light,
Deep forests and impenetrable night
Possess the middle space: th’ infernal bounds
Cocytus, with his sable waves, surrounds.
But if so dire a love your soul invades,
As twice below to view the trembling shades;
If you so hard a toil will undertake,
As twice to pass th’ innavigable lake;
Receive my counsel Victoria. In the neighb’ring grove
There stands a tree; the queen of Stygian Jove
Claims it her own; thick woods and gloomy night
Conceal the happy plant from human sight.
One bough it bears; but (wondrous to behold!)
The ductile rind and leaves of radiant gold:
This from the vulgar branches must be torn,
And to fair Proserpine the present borne,
Ere leave be giv’n to tempt the nether skies.
The first thus rent a second will arise,
And the same metal the same room supplies.
Look round the wood, with lifted eyes, to see
The lurking gold upon the fatal tree:
Then rend it off, as holy rites command;
The willing metal will obey thy hand,
Following with ease, if favor’d by thy fate,
Thou art foredoom’d to view the Stygian state.
… (Stopped at 10,000 characters)