Herein is told of the Great Love of Dido, Queen of Carthage, and the woeful ending of her.
Meanwhile the Queen, long smitten sore with sting of all desire,
With very heart’s blood feeds the wound and wastes with hidden fire.
And still there runneth in her mind the hero’s valiancy,
And glorious stock; his words, his face, fast in her heart they lie:
Nor may she give her body peace amid that restless pain.
But when the next day Phoebus’ lamp lit up the lands again,
And now Aurora from the heavens had rent the mist apart,
Sick-souled her sister she bespeaks, the sharer of her heart:
“Sister, O me, this sleepless pain that fears me with unrest!
O me, within our house and home this new-come wondrous guest! 10
Ah, what a countenance and mien! in arms and heart how strong!
Surely to trow him of the Gods it doth no wisdom wrong;
For fear it is shows base-born souls. Woe’s me! how tossed about
By fortune was he! how he showed war’s utter wearing out!
And, but my heart for ever now were set immovably
Never to let me long again the wedding bond to tie,
Since love betrayed me first of all with him my darling dead,
And were I not all weary-sick of torch and bridal bed,
This sin alone of all belike my falling heart might trap;
For, Anna, I confess it thee, since poor Sychæus’ hap, 20
My husband dead, my hearth acold through murderous brother’s deed,
This one alone hath touched the quick; this one my heart may lead
Unto its fall: I feel the signs of fire of long agone.
And yet I pray the deeps of earth beneath my feet may yawn,
I pray the Father send me down bolt-smitten to the shades,
The pallid shades of Erebus, the night that never fades,
Before, O Shame, I shame thy face, or loose what thou hast tied!
He took away the love from me, who bound me to his side
That first of times. Ah, in the tomb let love be with him still!”
The tears arisen as she spake did all her bosom fill. 30
But Anna saith: “Dearer to me than very light of day,
Must thou alone and sorrowing wear all thy youth away,
Nor see sweet sons, nor know the joys that gentle Venus brings?
Deem’st thou dead ash or buried ghosts have heed of such-like things?
So be it that thy sickened soul no man to yield hath brought
In Libya as in Tyre; let be Iarbas set at nought,
And other lords, whom Africa, the rich in battle’s bliss,
Hath nursed: but now, with love beloved — must thou be foe to this?
Yea, hast thou not within thy mind amidst whose bounds we are?
Here the Gætulian cities fierce, a folk unmatched in war, 40
And hard Numidia’s bitless folk, and Syrtes’ guestless sand
Lie round thee: there Barcæans wild, the rovers of the land,
Desert for thirst: what need to tell of wars new-born in Tyre,
And of thy murderous brother’s threats?
Meseems by very will of Gods, by Juno’s loving mind,
The Ilian keels run down their course before the following wind.
Ah, what a city shalt thou see! how shall the lordship wax
With such a spouse! with Teucrian arms our brothers at our backs
Unto what glory of great deeds the Punic realm may reach!
But thou, go seek the grace of Gods, with sacrifice beseech; 50
Then take thy fill of guest-serving; weave web of all delays:
The wintry raging of the sea, Orion’s watery ways,
The way-worn ships, the heavens unmeet for playing seaman’s part.”
So saying, she blew the flame of love within her kindled heart,
And gave her doubtful soul a hope and loosed the girth of shame.
Then straight they fare unto the shrines, by every altar’s flame
Praying for peace; and hosts they slay, chosen as custom would,
To Phoebus, Ceres wise of law, Father Lyæus good,
But chiefest unto Juno’s might, that wedlock hath in care.
There bowl in hand stands Dido forth, most excellently fair, 60
And pours between the sleek cow’s horns; or to and fro doth pace
Before the altars fat with prayer, ‘neath very godhead’s face,
And halloweth in the day with gifts, and, gazing eagerly
Amid the host’s yet beating heart, for answering rede must try.
— Woe’s me! the idle mind of priests! what prayer, what shrine avails
The wild with love! — and all the while the smooth flame never fails
To eat her heart: the silent wound lives on within her breast:
Unhappy Dido burneth up, and, wild with all unrest,
For ever strays the city through: as arrow-smitten doe,
Unwary, whom some herd from far hath drawn upon with bow 70
Amid the Cretan woods, and left the swift steel in the sore,
Unknowing: far in flight she strays the woods and thickets o’er,
‘Neath Dictæ‘s heights; but in her flank still bears the deadly reed.
Now midmost of the city-walls Æneas doth she lead,
And shows him the Sidonian wealth, the city’s guarded ways;
And now she falls to speech, and now amidst a word she stays.
Then at the dying of the day the feast she dights again,
And, witless, once again will hear the tale of Ilium’s pain;
And once more hangeth on the lips that tell the tale aloud.
But after they were gone their ways, and the dusk moon did shroud 80
Her light in turn, and setting stars bade all to sleep away,
Lone in the empty house she mourns, broods over where he lay,
Hears him and sees him, she apart from him that is apart
Or, by his father’s image smit, Ascanius to her heart
She taketh, if her utter love she may thereby beguile.
No longer rise the walls begun, nor play the youth this while
In arms, or fashion havens forth, or ramparts of the war:
Broken is all that handicraft and mastery; idle are
The mighty threatenings of the walls and engines wrought heaven high.
Now when the holy wife of Jove beheld her utterly 90
Held by that plague, whose madness now not e’en her fame might stay,
Then unto Venus, Saturn’s seed began such words to say:
“Most glorious praise ye carry off, meseems, most wealthy spoil,
Thou and thy Boy; wondrous the might, and long to tell the toil,
Whereas two Gods by dint of craft one woman have o’erthrown.
But well I wot, that through your fear of walls I call mine own,
In welcome of proud Carthage doors your hearts may never trow.
But what shall be the end hereof? where wends our contest now?
What if a peace that shall endure, and wedlock surely bound, 99
We fashion? That which all thine heart was set on thou hast found.
For Dido burns: bone of her bone thy madness is today:
So let us rule these folks as one beneath an equal sway:
Let the doom be that she shall take a Phrygian man for lord,
And to thine hand for dowry due her Tyrian folk award.”
But Venus felt that Juno’s guile within the word did live,
Who lordship due to Italy to Libya fain would give,
So thus she answered her again: “Who were so overbold
To gainsay this? or who would wish war against thee to hold,
If only this may come to pass, and fate the deed may seal?
But doubtful drifts my mind of fate, if one same town and weal 110
Jove giveth to the Tyrian folk and those from Troy outcast,
If he will have those folks to blend and bind the treaty fast
Thou art his wife: by prayer mayst thou prove all his purpose weighed.
Set forth, I follow.”
Juno then took up the word and said:
“Yea, that shall be my very work: how that which presseth now
May be encompassed, hearken ye, in few words will I show:
Æneas and the hapless queen are minded forth to fare
For hunting to the thicket-side, when Titan first shall bear
Tomorrow’s light aloft, and all the glittering world unveil:
On them a darkening cloud of rain, blended with drift of hail, 120
Will I pour down, while for the hunt the feathered snare-lines shake,
And toils about the thicket go: all heaven will I awake
With thunder, and their scattered folk the mid-mirk shall enwrap:
Then Dido and the Trojan lord on one same cave shall hap;
I will be there, and if to me thy heart be stable grown,
In wedlock will I join the two and deem her all his own:
And there shall be their bridal God.”
Then Venus nought gainsaid,
But, nodding yea, she smiled upon the snare before her laid.
Meanwhile Aurora risen up had left the ocean stream,
And gateward throng the chosen youth in first of morning’s beam, 130
And wide-meshed nets, and cordage-toils and broad-steeled spears abound,
Massylian riders go their ways with many a scenting hound.
The lords of Carthage by the door bide till the tarrying queen
Shall leave her chamber: there, with gold and purple well beseen,
The mettled courser stands, and champs the bit that bids him bide.
At last she cometh forth to them with many a man beside:
A cloak of Sidon wrapped her round with pictured border wrought,
Her quiver was of fashioned gold, and gold her tresses caught;
The gathering of her purple gown a golden buckle had.
Then come the Phrygian fellows forth; comes forth Iulus glad; 140
Yea and Æneas’ very self is of their fellowship,
And joins their band: in goodliness all those did he outstrip:
E’en such as when Apollo leaves the wintry Lycian shore,
And Xanthus’ stream, and Delos sees, his mother’s isle once more;
And halloweth in the dance anew, while round the altars shout
The Cretans and the Dryopes, and painted Scythian rout:
He steps it o’er the Cynthus’ ridge, and leafy crown to hold
His flowing tresses doth he weave, and intertwines the gold,
And on his shoulders clang the shafts. Nor duller now passed on
Æneas, from his noble face such wondrous glory shone. 150
So come they to the mountain-side and pathless deer-fed ground,
And lo, from hill-tops driven adown, how swift the wild goats bound
Along the ridges: otherwhere across the open lea
Run hart and hind, and gathering up their hornèd host to flee,
Amid a whirling cloud of dust they leave the mountain-sides.
But here the boy Ascanius the midmost valley rides,
And glad, swift-horsed, now these he leaves, now those he flees before,
And fain were he mid deedless herds to meet a foaming boar,
Or see some yellow lion come the mountain-slopes adown. 159
Meanwhile with mighty murmuring sound confused the heavens are grown,
And thereupon the drift of rain and hail upon them broke;
Therewith the scattered Trojan youth, the Tyrian fellow-folk,
The son of Venus’ Dardan son, scared through the meadows fly
To diverse shelter, while the streams rush from the mountains high.
Then Dido and the Trojan lord meet in the self-same cave;
Then Earth, first-born of everything, and wedding Juno gave
The token; then the wildfires flashed, and air beheld them wed,
And o’er their bridal wailed the nymphs in hill-tops overhead.
That day began the tide of death; that day the evil came;
No more she heedeth eyes of men; no more she heedeth fame; 170
No more hath Dido any thought a stolen love to win,
But calls it wedlock: yea, e’en so she weaveth up the sin.
Straight through the mighty Libyan folks is Rumour on the wing —
Rumour, of whom nought swifter is of any evil thing:
She gathereth strength by going on, and bloometh shifting oft!
A little thing, afraid at first, she springeth soon aloft;
Her feet are on the worldly soil, her head the clouds o’erlay.
Earth, spurred by anger ‘gainst the Gods, begot her as they say,
Of Coeus and Enceladus the latest sister-birth.
Swift are her wings to cleave the air, swift-foot she treads the earth: 180
A monster dread and huge, on whom so many as there lie
The feathers, under each there lurks, O strange! a watchful eye;
And there wag tongues, and babble mouths, and hearkening ears upstand
As many: all a-dusk by night she flies ‘twixt sky and land
Loud clattering, never shutting eye in rest of slumber sweet.
By day she keepeth watch high-set on houses of the street,
Or on the towers aloft she sits for mighty cities’ fear!
And lies and ill she loves no less than sooth which she must bear.
She now, rejoicing, filled the folk with babble many-voiced,
And matters true and false alike sang forth as she rejoiced: 190
How here was come Æneas now, from Trojan blood sprung forth,
Whom beauteous Dido deemed indeed a man to mate her worth:
How winter-long betwixt them there the sweets of sloth they nursed,
Unmindful of their kingdoms’ weal, by ill desire accursed.
This in the mouth of every man the loathly Goddess lays,
And thence to King Iarbas straight she wendeth on her ways,
To set his mind on fire with words, and high his wrath to lead.
He, sprung from Garamantian nymph and very Ammon’s seed,
An hundred mighty fanes to Jove, an hundred altars fair,
Had builded in his wide domain, and set the watch-fire there, 200
The everlasting guard of God: there fat the soil was grown
With blood of beasts; the threshold bloomed with garlands diverse blown.
He, saith the tale, all mad at heart, and fired with bitter fame,
Amidmost of the might of God before the altars came,
And prayed a many things to Jove with suppliant hands outspread:
“O Jupiter, almighty lord, to whom from painted bed
The banqueting Maurusian folk Lenæan joy pours forth,
Dost thou behold? O Father, is our dread of nothing worth
When thou art thundering? Yea, forsooth, a blind fire of the clouds,
An idle hubbub of the sky, our souls with terror loads! 210
A woman wandering on our shore, who set her up e’en now
A little money-cheapened town, to whom a field to plough
And lordship of the place we gave, hath thrust away my word
Of wedlock, and hath taken in Æneas for her lord:
And now this Paris, hedged around with all his gelding rout,
Mæonian mitre tied to chin, and wet hair done about,
Sits on the prey while to thine house a many gifts we bear,
Still cherishing an idle tale who our begetters were.”
The Almighty heard him as he prayed holding the altar-horns,
And to the war-walls of the Queen his eyes therewith he turns, 220
And sees the lovers heeding nought the glory of their lives;
Then Mercury he calls to him, and such a bidding gives:
“Go forth, O Son, the Zephyrs call, and glide upon the wing
Unto the duke of Dardan men in Carthage tarrying,
Who hath no eyes to see the walls that fate to him hath given:
Speak to him, Son, and bear my words down the swift air of heaven:
His fairest mother promised us no such a man at need,
Nor claimed him twice from Greekish sword to live for such a deed.
But Italy, the fierce in war, the big with empire’s brood,
Was he to rule; to get for us from glorious Teucer’s blood 230
That folk of folks, and all the world beneath his laws to lay.
But if such glory of great deeds nought stirreth him today,
Nor for his own fame hath he heart the toil to overcome,
Yet shall the father grudge the son the towered heights of Rome?
What doth he? tarrying for what hope among the enemy?
And hath no eyes Ausonian sons, Lavinian land to see?
Let him to ship! this is the doom; this word I bid thee bear.”
He spake: his mighty father’s will straight did the God prepare
To compass, and his golden shoes first bindeth on his feet,
E’en those which o’er the ocean plain aloft on feathers fleet, 240
Or over earth swift bear him on before the following gale:
And then his rod he takes, wherewith he calleth spirits pale
From Orcus, or those others sends sad Tartarus beneath,
And giveth sleep and takes away, and openeth eyes to death;
The rod that sways the ocean-winds and rules the cloudy rack.
Now winging way he comes in sight of peak and steepy back
Of flinty Atlas, on whose head all heaven is set adown —
Of Atlas with the piny head, and never-failing crown
Of mirky cloud, beat on with rain and all the winds that blow: 249
A snow-cloak o’er his shoulders falls, and headlong streams overflow
His ancient chin; his bristling beard with plenteous ice is done.
There hovering on his poisèd wings stayed that Cyllenian one,
And all his gathered body thence sent headlong toward the waves;
Then like a bird the shores about, about the fishy caves,
Skims low adown upon the wing the sea-plain’s face anigh,
Not otherwise ‘twixt heaven and earth Cyllene’s God did fly;
And now, his mother’s father great a long way left behind,
Unto the sandy Libya’s shore he clave the driving wind.
But when the cot-built place of earth he felt beneath his feet,
He saw Æneas founding towers and raising houses meet: 260
Starred was the sword about him girt with yellow jasper stone,
The cloak that from his shoulders streamed with Tyrian purple shone:
Fair things that wealthy Dido’s hand had given him for a gift,
Who with the gleam of thready gold the purple web did shift.
Then brake the God on him: “Forsooth, tall Carthage wilt thou found,
O lover, and a city fair raise up from out the ground?
Woe’s me! thy lordship and thy deeds hast thou forgotten quite?
The very ruler of the Gods down from Olympus bright
Hath sent me, he whose majesty the earth and heavens obey;
This was the word he bade me bear adown the windy way. 270
What dost thou? hoping for what hope in Libya dost thou wear
Thy days? if glorious fated things thine own soul may not stir,
And heart thou lackest for thy fame the coming toil to wed,
Think on Ascanius’ dawn of days and hope inherited,
To whom is due the Italian realm and all the world of Rome!”
But when from out Cyllenius’ mouth such word as this had come,
Amidst his speech he left the sight of men that die from day,
And mid thin air from eyes of folk he faded far away.
But sore the sight Æneas feared, and wit from out him drave;
His hair stood up, amidst his jaws the voice within him clave. 280
Bewildered by that warning word, and by that God’s command,
He yearneth to depart and flee, and leave the lovely land.
Ah, what to do? and with what word may he be bold to win
Peace of the Queen all mad with love? what wise shall he begin?
Hither and thither now he sends his mind all eager-swift,
And bears it diversely away and runs o’er every shift:
At last, as many things he weighed, this seemed the better rede.
Mnestheus, Sergestus, straight he calls, Sergestus stout at need,
And bids them dight ship silently and bring their folk to shore,
And dight their gear, and cause thereof with lying cover o’er; 290
While he himself, since of all this kind Dido knoweth nought,
Nor of the ending of such love may ever have a thought,
Will seek to draw anigh the Queen, seek time wherein the word
May softliest be said to her, the matter lightliest stirred.
So all they glad his bidding do, and get them to the work.
But who may hoodwink loving eyes? She felt the treason lurk
About her life, and from the first saw all that was to be;
Fearing indeed where no fear was. That Rumour wickedly
Told her wild soul of ship-host armed and ready to set out;
The heart died in her; all aflame she raves the town about, 300
E’en as a Thyad, who, soul-smit by holy turmoil, hears
The voice of Bacchus on the day that crowns the triple years,
And mirk Cithæron through the night hath called her clamorous.
Unto Æneas at the last herself she speaketh thus:
“O thou forsworn! and hast thou hoped with lies to cover o’er
Such wickedness, and silently to get thee from my shore?
Our love, it hath not held thee back? nor right hand given in faith
Awhile agone? nor Dido doomed to die a bitter death?
Yea, e’en beneath the winter heavens thy fleet thou gatherest
In haste to fare across the main amid the north’s unrest 310
O cruel! What if land unknown and stranger field and fold
Thou sought’st not; if the ancient Troy stood as in days of old;
Wouldst thou not still be seeking Troy across the wavy brine?
— Yea, me thou fleest. O by these tears, by that right hand of thine,
Since I myself have left myself unhappy nought but this,
And by our bridal of that day and early wedding bliss,
If ever I were worthy thanks, if sweet in aught I were,
Pity a falling house! If yet be left a space for prayer,
O then I pray thee put away this mind of evil things!
Because of thee the Libyan folks, and those Numidian kings, 320
Hate me, and Tyrians are my foes: yea, and because of thee
My shame is gone, and that which was my heavenward road to be.
My early glory. — Guest, to whom leav’st thou thy dying friend?
Since of my husband nought but this is left me in the end.
Why bide I till Pygmalion comes to lay my walls alow,
Till taken by Getulian kings, Iarbas’ slave I go?
Ah! if at least ere thou wert gone some child of thee I had!
If yet Æneas in mine house might play a little lad,
E’en but to bring aback the face of that beloved one,
Then were I never vanquished quite, nor utterly undone.” 330
She spake: he, warned by Jove’s command, his eyes still steadfast held,
And, striving, thrust his sorrow back, howso his heart-strings swelled:
At last he answered shortly thus:
“O Queen, though words may fail
To tell thy lovingkindness, ne’er my heart belies the tale:
Still shall it be a joy to think of sweet Elissa’s days
While of myself I yet may think, while breath my body sways.
Few words about the deed in hand: ne’er in my mind it came
As flees a thief to flee from thee; never the bridal flame
Did I hold forth, or plight my troth such matters to fulfil.
If fate would let me lead a life according to my will, 340
Might I such wise as pleaseth me my troubles lay to rest,
By Troy-town surely would I bide among the ashes blest
Of my beloved, and Priam’s house once more aloft should stand;
New Pergamus for vanquished men should rise beneath my hand.
But now Grynean Phoebus bids toward Italy the great
To reach my hand; to Italy biddeth the Lycian fate:
There is my love, there is my land. If Carthage braveries
And lovely look of Libyan walls hold fast thy Tyrian eyes,
Why wilt thou grudge the Teucrian men Ausonian dwelling-place?
If we too seek the outland realm, for us too be there grace! 350
Father Anchises, whensoever night covereth up the earth
With dewy dark, and whensoe’er the bright stars come to birth,
His troubled image midst of sleep brings warning word and fear.
Ascanius weigheth on my heart with wrong of head so dear,
Whom I beguile of fateful fields and realm of Italy.
Yea, even now God’s messenger sent from the Jove on high,
(Bear witness either head of us!) bore doom of God adown
The eager wind: I saw the God enter the fair-walled town
In simple light: I drank his voice, yea with these ears of mine.
Cease then to burn up with thy wail my burdened heart and thine! 360
Perforce I follow Italy.”
But now this long while, as he spake, athwart and wild she gazed,
And here and there her eyeballs rolled, and strayed with silent look
His body o’er; and at the last with heart of fire outbroke:
“Traitor! no Goddess brought thee forth, nor Dardanus was first
Of thine ill race; but Caucasus on spiky crags accurst
Begot thee; and Hyrcanian dugs of tigers suckled thee.
Why hide it now? why hold me back lest greater evil be?
For did he sigh the while I wept? his eyes — what were they moved?
Hath he been vanquished unto tears, or pitied her that loved? 370
— Ah, is aught better now than aught, when Juno utter great,
Yea and the Father on all this with evil eyen wait?
All faith is gone! I took him in a stranded outcast, bare:
Yea in my very throne and land, ah fool! I gave him share.
His missing fleet I brought aback; from death I brought his friends.
— Woe! how the furies burn me up! — Now seer Apollo sends,
Now bidding send the Lycian lots; now sendeth Jove on high
His messenger to bear a curse adown the windy sky!
Such is the toil of Gods aloft; such are the cares that rack
Their souls serene. — I hold thee not, nor cast thy words aback. 380
Go down the wind to Italy! seek lordship o’er the sea!
Only I hope amid the rocks, if any God there be,
Thou shalt drink in thy punishment and call on Dido’s name
Full oft: and I, though gone away, will follow with black flame;
And when cold death from out my limbs my soul hath won away,
I will be with thee everywhere; O wretch, and thou shalt pay.
Ah, I shall hear; the tale of all shall reach me midst the dead.”
Therewith she brake her speech athwart, and sick at heart she fled
The outer air, and turned away, and gat her from his eyes;
Leaving him dallying with his fear, and turning many wise 390
The words to say. Her serving-maids the fainting body weak,
Bear back unto the marble room and on the pillows streak.
But god-fearing Æneas now, however fain he were
To soothe her grief and with soft speech assuage her weary care,
Much groaning, and the heart of him shaken with loving pain.
Yet went about the God’s command and reached his ships again.
Then fall the Teucrians on indeed, and over all the shore
Roll the tall ships; the pitchy keel swims in the sea once more:
They bear the oars still leaf-bearing: they bring the might of wood,
Unwrought, so fain of flight they are, 400
Lo now their flitting! how they run from all the town in haste!
E’en as the ants, the winter-wise, are gathered whiles to waste
A heap of corn, and toil that same beneath their roof to lay,
Forth goes the black troop mid the mead, and carries forth the prey
Over the grass in narrow line: some strive with shoulder-might
And push along a grain o’ergreat, some drive the line aright,
Or scourge the loiterers: hot the work fares all along the road.
Ah Dido, when thou sawest all what heart in thee abode!
What groans thou gavest when thou saw’st from tower-top the long strand
A-boil with men all up and down; the sea on every hand 410
Before thine eyes by stir of men torn into all unrest!
O evil Love, where wilt thou not drive on a mortal breast?
Lo, she is driven to weep again and pray him to be kind,
And suppliant, in the bonds of love her lofty heart to bind,
Lest she should leave some way untried and die at last for nought.
“Anna, thou seest the strand astir, the men together brought
From every side, the canvas spread calling the breezes down.
While joyful on the quarter-deck the sea-folk lay the crown.
Sister, since I had might to think that such a thing could be,
I shall have might to bear it now: yet do one thing for me, 420
Poor wretch, O Anna: for to thee alone would he be kind,
That traitor, and would trust to thee the inmost of his mind;
And thou alone his softening ways and melting times dost know.
O sister, speak a suppliant word to that high-hearted foe:
I never swore at Aulis there to pluck up root and branch
The Trojan folk; for Pergamus no war-ship did I launch:
Anchises’ buried ghost from tomb I never tore away:
Why will his ears be ever deaf to any word I say?
Where hurrieth he? O let him give his wretched love one gift;
Let him but wait soft sailing-tide, when fair the breezes shift. 430
No longer for the wedding past, undone, I make my prayer,
Nor that he cast his lordship by, and promised Latium fair.
For empty time, for rest and stay of madness now I ask,
Till Fortune teach the overthrown to learn her weary task.
Sister, I pray this latest grace; O pity me today,
And manifold when I am dead the gift will I repay.”
So prayed she: such unhappy words of weeping Anna bears,
And bears again and o’er again: but him no weeping stirs,
Nor any voice he hearkeneth now may turn him from his road:
God shut the hero’s steadfast ears; fate in the way abode. 440
As when against a mighty oak, strong growth of many a year,
On this side and on that the blasts of Alpine Boreas bear,
Contending which shall root it up: forth goes the roar, deep lie
The driven leaves upon the earth from shaken bole on high.
But fast it clingeth to the crag, and high as goes its head
To heaven aloft, so deep adown to hell its roots are spread.
E’en so by ceaseless drift of words the hero every wise
Is battered, and the heavy care deep in his bosom lies;
Steadfast the will abides in him; the tears fall down for nought.
Ah, and unhappy Dido then the very death besought, 450
Outworn by fate: the hollow heaven has grown a sight to grieve.
And for the helping of her will, that she the light may leave,
She seeth, when mid the frankincense her offering she would lay,
The holy water blackening there, O horrible to say!
The wine poured forth turned into blood all loathly as it fell.
Which sight to none, not e’en unto her sister, would she tell.
Moreover, to her first-wed lord there stood amidst the house
A marble shrine, the which she loved with worship marvellous,
And bound it was with snowy wool and leafage of delight; 459
Thence heard she, when the earth was held in mirky hand of night,
Strange sounds come forth, and words as if her husband called his own.
And o’er and o’er his funeral song the screech-owl wailed alone,
And long his lamentable tale from high aloft was rolled.
And many a saying furthermore of god-loved seers of old
Fears her with dreadful memory: all wild amid her dreams
Cruel Æneas drives her on, and evermore she seems
Left all alone; and evermore a road that never ends,
Mateless, and seeking through the waste her Tyrian folk, she wends.
As raving Pentheus saw the rout of that Well-willing Folk,
When twofold sun and twofold Thebes upon his eyes outbroke: 470
Or like as Agamemnon’s son is driven across the stage,
Fleeing his mother’s fiery hand that bears the serpent’s rage,
While there the avenging Dreadful Ones upon the threshold sit.
But when she gave the horror birth, and, grief-worn, cherished it,
And doomed her death, then with herself she planned its time and guise,
And to her sister sorrowing sore spake word in such a wise,
Covering her end with cheerful face and calm and hopeful brow:
“Kinswoman, I have found a way, (joy with thy sister now!)
Whereby to bring him back to me or let me loose from him.
Adown beside the setting sun, hard on the ocean’s rim, 480
Lies the last world of Æthiops, where Atlas mightiest grown
Upon his shoulder turns the pole with burning stars bestrown.
A priestess thence I met erewhile, come of Massylian seed,
The warden of the West-maid’s fane, and wont the worm to feed,
Mingling for him the honey-juice with poppies bearing sleep,
Whereby she maketh shift on tree the hallowed bough to keep.
She by enchantment takes in hand to loose what hearts she will,
But other ones at need will she with heavy sorrows fill;
And she hath craft to turn the stars and back the waters beat,
Call up the ghosts that fare by night, make earth beneath thy feet 490
Cry out, and ancient ash-trees draw the mountain-side adown.
Dear heart, I swear upon the Gods, I swear on thee, mine own
And thy dear head, that I am loath with magic craft to play.
But privily amid the house a bale for burning lay
‘Neath the bare heaven, and pile on it the arms that evil one
Left in the chamber: all he wore, the bridal bed whereon
My days were lost: for so ’tis good: the priestess showeth me
All tokens of the wicked man must perish utterly.”
No more she spake, but with the word her face grew deadly white.
But Anna sees not how she veiled her death with new-found rite, 500
Nor any thought of such a deed her heart encompasseth;
Nor fears she heavier things to come than at Sychæus’ death.
Wherefore she takes the charge in hand.
But now the Queen, that bale being built amid the inner house
‘Neath the bare heavens, piled high with fir and cloven oak enow,
Hangeth the garlands round the place, and crowns the bale with bough
That dead men use: the weed he wore, his very effigy,
His sword, she lays upon the bed, well knowing what shall be.
There stand the altars, there the maid, wild with her scattered hair,
Calls Chaos, Erebus, and those three hundred godheads there, 510
And Hecate triply fashionèd to maiden Dian’s look;
Water she scattered, would-be wave of dark Avernus’ brook;
And herbs she brought, by brazen shears ‘neath moonlight harvested,
All downy-young, though inky milk of venomed ill they shed.
She brings the love-charm snatched away from brow of new-born foal
Ere yet the mother snatcheth it.
Dido herself the altars nigh, meal in her hallowed hands,
With one foot of its bindings bare, and ungirt raiment stands,
And dying calls upon the Gods, and stars that fateful fare;
And then if any godhead is, mindful and just to care 520
For unloved lovers, unto that she sendeth up the prayer.
Now night it was, and everything on earth had won the grace
Of quiet sleep: the woods had rest, the wildered waters’ face:
It was the tide when stars roll on amid their courses due,
And all the tilth is hushed, and beasts, and birds of many a hue;
And all that is in waters wide, and what the waste doth keep
In thicket rough, amid the hush of night-tide lay asleep,
And slipping off the load of care forgat their toilsome part.
But ne’er might that Phoenician Queen, that most unhappy heart,
Sink into sleep, or take the night unto her eyes and breast: 530
Her sorrows grow, and love again swells up with all unrest,
And ever midst her troubled wrath rolls on a mighty tide;
And thus she broods and turns it o’er and o’er on every side.
“Ah, whither now? Shall I bemocked my early lovers try,
And go Numidian wedlock now on bended knee to buy:
I, who so often scorned to take their bridal-bearing hands?
Or shall I, following Ilian ships, bear uttermost commands
Of Teucrian men, because my help their lightened hearts makes kind;
Because the thank for deed I did lies ever on their mind?
But if I would, who giveth leave, or takes on scornful keel 540
The hated thing? Thou knowest not, lost wretch, thou may’st not feel,
What treason of Laomedon that folk for ever bears.
What then? and shall I follow lone the joyous mariners?
Or, hedged with all my Tyrian host, upon them shall I bear,
Driving again across the sea those whom I scarce might tear
From Sidon’s city, forcing them to spread their sails abroad?
Nay, stay thy grief with steel, and die, and reap thy due reward!
Thou, sister, conquered by my tears, wert first this bane to lay
On my mad soul, and cast my heart in that destroyer’s way.
Why was I not allowed to live without the bridal bed, 550
Sackless and free as beasts afield, with no woes wearièd?
Why kept I not the faith of old to my Sychæus sworn?”
Such wailing of unhappy words from out her breast was torn.
Æneas on the lofty deck meanwhile, assured of flight,
Was winning sleep, since every need of his was duly dight;
When lo! amid the dreams of sleep that shape of God come back,
Seemed once again to warn him thus: nor yet the face did lack
Nor anything of Mercury; both voice and hue was there,
And loveliness of youthful limbs and length of yellow hair: 559
“O Goddess-born, and canst thou sleep through such a tide as this?
And seest thou not how round about the peril gathered is?
And, witless, hear’st not Zephyr blow with gentle, happy wind?
For treason now and dreadful deed she turneth in her mind,
Assured of death; and diversely the tide of wrath sets in.
Why fleest thou not in haste away, while haste is yet to win?
Thou shalt behold the sea beat up with oar-blade, and the brand
Gleam dire against thee, and one flame shall run adown the strand,
If thee tomorrow’s dawn shall take still lingering on this shore.
Up! tarry not! for woman’s heart is shifting evermore.”
So saying, amid the mirk of night he mingled and was lost. 570
And therewithal Æneas, feared by sudden-flitting ghost,
Snatching his body forth from sleep, stirs up his folk at need:
“Wake ye, and hurry now, O men! get to the thwarts with speed,
And bustle to unfurl the sails! here sent from heaven again
A God hath spurred us on to flight, and biddeth hew atwain
The hempen twine. O holy God, we follow on thy way,
Whatso thou art; and glad once more thy bidding we obey.
O be with us! give gracious aid; set stars the heaven about
To bless our ways!”
And from the sheath his lightning sword flew out
E’en as he spake: with naked blade he smote the hawser through, 580
And all are kindled at his flame; they hurry and they do.
The shore is left, with crowd of keels the sight of sea is dim;
Eager they whirl the spray aloft, as o’er the blue they skim.
And now Aurora left alone Tithonus’ saffron bed,
And first light of another day across the world she shed.
But when the Queen from tower aloft beheld the dawn grow white,
And saw the ships upon their way with fair sails trimmed aright,
And all the haven shipless left, and reach of empty strand,
Then thrice and o’er again she smote her fair breast with her hand,
And rent her yellow hair, and cried, “Ah, Jove! and is he gone? 590
And shall a very stranger mock the lordship I have won?
Why arm they not? Why gather not from all the town in chase?
Ho ye! why run ye not the ships down from their standing-place?
Quick, bring the fire! shake out the sails! hard on the oars to sea!
— What words are these, or where am I? What madness changeth me?
Unhappy Dido! now at last thine evil deed strikes home.
Ah, better when thou mad’st him lord — lo whereunto are come
His faith and troth who erst, they say, his country’s house-gods held
The while he took upon his back his father spent with eld? 599
Why! might I not have shred him up, and scattered him piecemeal
About the sea, and slain his friends, his very son, with steel,
Ascanius on his father’s board for dainty meat to lay?
But doubtful, say ye, were the fate of battle? Yea, O yea!
What might I fear, who was to die? — if I had borne the fire
Among their camp, and filled his decks with flame, and son and sire
Quenched with their whole folk, and myself had cast upon it all!
— O Sun, whose flames on every deed earth doeth ever fall,
O Juno, setter-forth and seer of these our many woes,
Hecate, whose name howled out a-nights o’er city crossway goes,
Avenging Dread Ones, Gods that guard Elissa perishing, 610
O hearken! turn your might most meet against the evil thing!
O hearken these our prayers! and if the doom must surely stand,
And he, the wicked head, must gain the port and swim aland,
If Jove demand such fixèd fate and every change doth bar,
Yet let him faint mid weapon-strife and hardy folk of war!
And let him, exiled from his house, torn from Iulus, wend,
Beseeching help mid wretched death of many and many a friend.
And when at last he yieldeth him to pact of grinding peace,
Then short-lived let his lordship be, and lovèd life’s increase.
And let him fall before his day, unburied on the shore! 620
Lo this I pray, this last of words forth with my blood I pour.
And ye, O Tyrians, ‘gainst his race that is, and is to be,
Feed full your hate! When I am dead send down this gift to me:
No love betwixt the peoples twain, no troth for anything!
And thou, Avenger of my wrongs, from my dead bones outspring,
To bear the fire and the sword o’er Dardan-peopled earth
Now or hereafter; whensoe’er the day brings might to birth.
I pray the shore against the shore, the sea against the sea,
The sword ‘gainst sword — fight ye that are, and ye that are to be!”
So sayeth she, and everywise she turns about her mind 630
How ending of the loathèd light she speediest now may find.
And few words unto Barce spake, Sychæus’ nurse of yore;
For the black ashes held her own upon the ancient shore:
“Dear nurse, my sister Anna now bring hither to my need,
And bid her for my sprinkling-tide the running water speed;
And bid her have the hosts with her, and due atoning things:
So let her come; but thou, thine head bind with the holy strings;
For I am minded now to end what I have set afoot,
And worship duly Stygian Jove and all my cares uproot;
Setting the flame beneath the bale of that Dardanian head.” 640
She spake; with hurrying of eld the nurse her footsteps sped.
But Dido, trembling, wild at heart with her most dread intent,
Rolling her blood-shot eyes about, her quivering cheeks besprent
With burning flecks, and otherwhere dead white with death drawn nigh
Burst through the inner doorways there and clomb the bale on high,
Fulfilled with utter madness now, and bared the Dardan blade,
Gift given not for such a work, for no such ending made.
There, when upon the Ilian gear her eyen had been set,
And bed well known, ‘twixt tears and thoughts awhile she lingered yet;
Then brooding low upon the bed her latest word she spake: 650
“O raiment dear to me while Gods and fate allowed, now take
This soul of mine and let me loose from all my woes at last!
I, I have lived, and down the way fate showed to me have passed;
And now a mighty shade of me shall go beneath the earth!
A glorious city have I raised, and brought my walls to birth,
Avenged my husband, made my foe, my brother, pay the pain:
Happy, ah, happy overmuch were all my life-days’ gain,
If never those Dardanian keels had drawn our shores anigh.”
She spake: her lips lay on the bed: “Ah, unavenged to die!
But let me die! Thus, thus ’tis good to go into the night! 660
Now let the cruel Dardan eyes drink in the bale-fire’s light,
And bear for sign across the sea this token of my death.”
Her speech had end: but on the steel, amid the last word’s breath,
They see her fallen; along the blade they see her blood foam out,
And all her hands besprent therewith: wild fly the shrieks about
The lofty halls, and Rumour runs mad through the smitten town.
The houses sound with women’s wails and lamentable groan;
The mighty clamour of their grief rings through the upper skies.
’Twas e’en as if all Carthage fell mid flood of enemies,
Or mighty Tyre of ancient days — as if the wildfire ran 670
Rolling about the roof of God and dwelling-place of man.
Half dead her sister heard, and rushed distraught and trembling there,
With nail and fist befouling all her face and bosom fair:
She thrust amidst them, and by name called on the dying Queen:
“O was it this my sister, then! guile in thy word hath been!
And this was what the bale, the fire, the altars wrought for me!
Where shall I turn so left alone? Ah, scorned was I to be
For death-fellow! thou shouldst have called me too thy way to wend.
One sword-pang should have been for both, one hour to make an end.
Built I with hands, on Father–Gods with crying did I cry 680
To be away, a cruel heart, from thee laid down to die?
O sister, me and thee, thy folk, the fathers of the land,
Thy city hast thou slain —— O give, give water to my hand,
And let me wash the wound, and if some last breath linger there,
Let my mouth catch it!”
Saying so she reached the topmost stair,
And to her breast the dying one she fondled, groaning sore,
And with her raiment strove to staunch the black and flowing gore.
Then Dido strove her heavy lids to lift, but back again
They sank, and deep within her breast whispered the deadly bane:
Three times on elbow struggling up a little did she rise, 690
And thrice fell back upon the bed, and sought with wandering eyes
The light of heaven aloft, and moaned when it was found at last.
Then on her long-drawn agony did Juno pity cast,
Her hard departing; Iris then she sent from heaven on high,
And bade her from the knitted limbs the struggling soul untie.
For since by fate she perished not, nor waited death-doom given,
But hapless died before her day by sudden fury driven,
Not yet the tress of yellow hair had Proserpine off-shred,
Nor unto Stygian Orcus yet had doomed her wandering head.
So Iris ran adown the sky on wings of saffron dew, 700
And colours shifting thousandfold against the sun she drew,
And overhead she hung: “So bid, from off thee this I bear,
Hallowed to Dis, and charge thee now from out thy body fare.”
She spake and sheared the tress away; then failed the life-heat spent
And forth away upon the wind the spirit of her went.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58