Storm's Journal

--| The Passions of Dido |--- 

BUT . . . . . . . the queen, pierced long since by love's cruel shaft, is
feeding the wound with her life --- blood, and wasting under a hidden
fire. Many times the hero's own worth comes back to her mind, many times
the glory of his race; his every look remains imprinted on her breast, and
his every word, nor will trouble let soothing sleep have access to her
frame. The dawn-goddess of the morrow was surveying the earth with
Phoebus' torch in her hand, and had already withdrawn the dewy shadow from
the sky, when she, sick of soul, thus bespoke the sister whose heart was
one with her's:

Anna, my sister, what dreams are these that confound and appall me! Who is
this new guest that has entered our door! What a face and carriage! What
strength of breast and shoulders! I do believe --- it is no mere fancy ---
that he has the blood of gods in his veins. An ignoble soul is known by
the coward's brand. Ah! by what fates he has been tossed ! What wars he
was recounting, every pang of them borne by himself! Were it not the
fixed, immovable purpose of my mind never to consent to join myself with
any in wedlock's bonds, since my first love played me false and made me
the dupe of death --- had I not been weary of bridal bed and nuptial
torch, perchance I might have succumbed to this one . . . . sin. Anna ---
for I will own the truth since the fate of Sychaeus, my poor husband ---
since the sprinkling of the gods of my home with the blood my brother
shed, he and he only has touched my heart and shaken my resolution till it
totters. I recognize the tracks of the old flame. But first I would pray
that earth may yawn for me from her foundations, or the all-powerful sire
hurl me thunder-stricken to the shades, to the wan shades of Erebus and
abysmal night, ere I violate Thee, my woman's Honour, or unknit the bonds
thou tiest. He who first wedded me, he has carried off my heart --- let
him keep it all his own, and retain it in his grave.

Thus having said, she deluged her bosom with a burst of tears. Anna
replies: Sweet love, dearer than the light to your sister's eye, are you
to pine and grieve in loneliness through life's long spring, nor know
aught of a mother's joy in her children, nor of the prizes Venus gives?
Think you that dead ashes and ghosts low in the grave take this to heart?
Grant that no husbands have touched your bleeding heart in times gone by,
none now in Libya, none before inTyre; yes, Iarbas has been slighted, and
the other chieftains whom Africa, rich in triumphs, rears as its own ---
but will you fight against a welcome, no less than an unwelcome passion?
Nor does it cross your mind in whose territories you are settled? On one
side the cities of the Gaetulians, a race invincible in war, and the
Numidians surround you, unbridled as their steeds, and the inhospitable
Syrtis on another side, a region unpeopled by drought, and the widespread
barbarism of the nation of Barce. What need to talk of the war-cloud
threatening from Tyre, and the menacesof our brother? It is under Heaven's
auspices, I believe, and by Juno's blessing, that the vessels of Ilion
have made this voyage hither. What a city, my sister, will ours become
before your eyes! what an empire will grow out of a marriage like this!
With the arms of the Teucrians at its back, to what a height will theglory
of Carthage soar! Only be it yours to implore the favour of Heaven, and
having won its acceptance, give free course to hospitality and weave a
chain of pleas for delay, while the tempest is raging its full on the sea
with Orion, the star of rain, while his ships are still battered, and the
rigour of the sky still unyielding.

By these words she added fresh fuel to the fire of love, gave confidence
to Dido's wavering mind, and loosed the ties of woman's honour. First they
approach the temples and enquire for pardon from altar to altar; duly they
slaughter chosen sheep to Ceres the lawgiver, to Phoebus, to father
Lycaeus, and above all to Juno, who makes marriage bonds her care. Dido
herself, in all her beauty, takes a goblet in her hand, and pours it out
full between the horns of a heifer of gleaming white, or moves majestic in
the presence of the gods towards the richly-laden altars, solemnizes the
day with offerings, and gazing greedily on the victims' opened breasts,
consults the entrails yet quivering with life. Alas ! how blind are the
eyes of seers ! What can vows, what can temples do for the madness of love
? All the while a flame is preying on the very marrow of her bones, and
deep in her breast a wound keeps noiselessly alive.

She is on fire, this ill-fated Dido, and in her madness ranges the whole
city through (like a doe from an arrow shot, whom, unguarded in the thick
of the Cretan woods, a shepherd chasing with his darts, has pierced from a
distance, and left the flying steel in the wound, unknowing of his prize;
she at full speed scours the forests and lawns of Dicte; the deadly reed
still sticks in her side) . Now in her mind she leads Aeneas with her
through the heart of the town, and displays the wealth of Sidon, and this
city built to dwell in. She begins to speak, and stops midway in the
utterance. Now, as the day fades, she seeks again the banquet of yesterday
and once more in frenzy asks to hear of the agonies of Troy, and hangs
once more on his lips as he tells the tale. Afterwards, when the guests
are gone, and the dim moon in turn is pressing down her light, and the
setting stars invite to slumber, alone she mourns in the empty hall, and
presses the couch he has just left; him far away she sees and hears,
herself far away; or holds Ascanius long in her lap, spellbound by his
father's image, to cheat, if she can, her ungovernable passion. The towers
that were rising rise no longer; the youth cease to practice arms, or to
make ready harbors and bulwarks for safety in war; construction stops
suspended, the giant frowning of the walls, and the winches level with the

(The Book of DIDO : John Conington's translation (Aeneid IV) l846)


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SUBMIT AN ARTICLE posted: March 8, 2002