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From Virgil’s Works, The Aeneid, Eclogues, Georgics translated by J. W. Mackail, Introduction by Charles L. Durham, Ph.D., New York: the Modern Library; 1934; pp. 63-81.

Color photograph of a statue of a Trojan Horse made out of Brass and other metal by Serena Thirkell, great granddaughter of J. W. Mackail, used with permission.

Trojan Horse
Mixed Metal Sculpture by Serena Thirkell
© Serena Thirkell
(Image used with permission).



By Publius Vergilius Maro





[1-31] BUT the Queen, long ere now pierced sore with passion, feeds the wound with her life-blood, and wastes in a hidden fire. Again and again his own valiance and his line’s renown flood back upon her spirit; look and accent cling fast in her bosom, and the pain allows not her limbs rest or calm. The morrow’s dawn bore the torch of Phoebus across the earth, and had rolled away the dewy darkness from the sky, when, scarce herself, she thus addresses the sister of her heart:

‘Anna, my sister, such dreams of terror thrill me through! What great unknown is this who has entered our dwelling? How high his mien! how great in heart as in arms! I believe it well, with no vain assurance, his blood is divine. Fear proves the vulgar spirit. Alas, by what destinies is he driven! of what wars fought out he told! Were my mind not planted, fixed and immovable, to ally myself to none in wedlock since my first love of old played me false in death; were I not sick to the heart of bridal torch and chamber, to this temptation alone I might haply yield. Anna, I will confess it; since Sychaeus mine husband met his piteous doom, and our household was shattered by a brother’s murder, he only has touched mine heart and shaken my soul from its balance. I know the prints of the ancient flame. But rather, I pray, may earth first yawn deep for me, or the Lord omnipotent hurl me with his thunderbolt into gloom, the pallid gloom and profound night of Erebus, ere I soil thee, mine honour, or undo thy laws. He took my love away who made me one with him at first; he shall keep it with him, and guard it in the tomb.’ She spoke, and filled her bosom with welling tears.

Anna replies, ‘O dearer than the daylight to thy sister, wilt thou waste, sad and alone, all thy length of youth, and know 64[32-71] not the sweetness of motherhood, nor love’s bounty? Deemest thou the ashes care for that, or the ghost within the tomb? Be it so: in days gone by no wooers bent thy sorrow, not in Libya, not ere then in Tyre; Iarbas was slighted, and other princes nurtured by the triumphal land of Africa; wilt thou contend even with a love to thy liking? nor does it cross thy mind whose are these fields about thy dwelling? On this side are the Gaetulian towns, a race unconquerable in war; the reinless Numidian riders and the grim Syrtis hem thee in; on this lies a thirsty tract of desert, swept by the raiders of Barca. Why speak of the war gathering from Tyre, and thy brother’s menaces? . . . Under gods control to my thinking, and with Juno’s favour, has the Ilian fleet held on hither before the gale. What a city wilt thou discern here, O sister! what a realm will rise on such a union! the arms of Troy ranged with ours, what glory will exalt the Punic state! Do thou only, asking divine favour with peace-offerings, be bounteous in welcome and multiply reasons for delay, while the storm rages out at sea and Orion is rainy, and his ships are shattered and the sky unvoyageable.’ With these words she fired her spirit with resolved love, put hope in her wavering soul, and undid her shame.

First they visit the shrines, and desire grace from altar to altar; they sacrifice sheep fitly chosen to Ceres the Lawgiver, to Phoebus and lord Lyaeus, to Juno before all, guardian of the marriage bond. Dido herself, excellent in beauty, holds the milk-white cow, or moves in state to the rich altars before the gods’ presences, day by day renewing her gifts, and plunges her gaze into the breasts of cattle laid open to take counsel from the throbbing entrails. Ah, witless souls of soothsayers! how may vow or shrines help her madness? all the while the subtle flame consumes her inly, and deep in her breast the wound is silent and alive. Stung to misery, Dido wanders in frenzy all down the city, even as an arrow-stricken deer, whom, far and heedless amid the Cretan woodland, a shepherd archer has pierced and left the flying steel in her unaware; 65[71-112] she ranges in flight the Dictaean forest lawns; fast in her side clings the deadly reed. Now she leads Aeneas with her through the town, and displays her Sidonian treasure, and ordered city; she essays to speak, and breaks of half-way in utterance. Now, as day wanes, she seeks the repeated banquet, and again in her madness pleads to hear the agonies of Ilium, and again hangs on the teller’s lips. Thereafter, when all are gone their ways, and the dim moon in turn quenches her light, and the setting stars counsel to sleep, alone in the empty house she mourns, and flings herself on the couch he left: distant she hears and sees him in the distance; or enthralled by some look of his father, she holds Ascanius on her lap, if so she may steal her love unuttered. No more do the unfinished towers rise, no more do the people exercise in arms, nor work for safety in war on harbour or bastion; the works hang broken off, vast looming walls and engines towering into the sky.

So soon as she perceives her thus fast in the toils, and madly careless of her name, Jove’s beloved wife, daughter of Saturn, accosts Venus thus:

‘Noble indeed is the fame and splendid the spoils you win, thou and that boy of thine, and mighty the renown of your deity, if two gods have vanquished one woman by treachery. Nor am I so blind to thy terror of our town, thine old jealousy of the high house of Carthage. But what shall be the end? or why all this contest now? Nay, rather let us work an enduring peace and a bridal compact. Thou hast what all thy soul desired; Dido is on fire with love, and has caught the madness through and through. Then rule we this people jointly in equal lordship; allow her to be a Phrygian husband’s slave, and to lay her Tyrians for dowry in thine hand.’

To her — for she knew the dissembled purpose in her words, to turn the kingdom of Italy away to the coasts of Libya — Venus thus began in answer: ‘Who so mad as to reject these terms, or choose rather to try the fortune of war with thee? if only when done, as thou sayest, fortune follow. But I move uncertain of Jove’s ordinance, whether he will that Tyrians and wanderers from Troy be one city, or approve the mingling 66[113-151] of peoples or the treaty of union. Thou art his wife, and thy prayers may put his mind to proof. Go on; I will follow.’

Then Queen Juno thus rejoined: ‘That task shall be mine. Now, by what means the present need may be fulfilled, attend and I will explain in brief. Aeneas and lovelorn Dido are to go hunting together in the woodland when to-morrow’s rising sun goes forth and his rays unveil the world. On them, while the beaters run up and down, and encircle the lawns with toils, will I pour down a blackening rain-cloud mingled with hail, and wake all the sky with thunder. Their company will scatter for shelter in the dim darkness; Dido and the Trojan captain will take covert in some cavern. I will be there, and if thy goodwill is assured me, I will unite them in wedlock, and make her wholly his; here shall Hymen be present.’ The Cytherean gave ready assent to her request, and laughed at the guileful device.

Meanwhile Dawn has arisen forth of ocean. A chosen company issue from the gates while the morning star is high; they pour forth with meshed nets, toils, broad-headed hunting spears, Massylian horsemen and hounds of scent. At her doorway the Punic princes await their queen, who yet lingers in her chamber, and her horse stands splendid in gold and purple with clattering feet and jaws champing on the foamy bit. At last she comes forth amid a great thronging train, girt in a Sidonian mantle, broidered with needlework; her quiver is of gold, her tresses gathered into gold, a golden buckle clasps up her crimson gown. Therewithal the Phrygian train advances with joyous Iülus. Himself first and foremost of all, Aeneas joins her company and mingles his train with hers: even as Apollo, when he leaves wintry Lycia and the streams of Xanthus to visit his mother’s Delos, and renews the dance, while Cretans and Dryopes and painted Agathyrsians mingle clamorous about his altar: himself he treads the Cynthian ridges, and plaits his flowing hair with soft heavy sprays and entwines it with gold; the arrows rattle on his shoulder: as lightly as he went Aeneas; such glow of beauty is on his princely face. When they are come to the mountain heights and pathless 67[152-193] coverts, lo, wild goats driven from the cliff-tops run down the ridge; in another quarter stags speed over the open plain and gather their flying column in a cloud of dust as they leave the hills. But the boy Ascanius is in the valleys, exultant on his fiery horse, and gallops past one and another, praying that among the unwarlike herds a foaming boar may issue or a tawny lion descend the hill.

Meanwhile the sky begins to thicken and roar aloud. A rain-cloud comes down mingled with hail; the Tyrian train and the men of Troy, and Venus’ Dardanian grandchild, scatter in fear and seek shelter far over the fields. Streams pour from the hills. Dido and the Trojan captain take covert in the same cavern. Primeval Earth and Juno the bridesmaid give the sign; fires flash out high in air, witnessing the union, and Nymphs cry aloud on the mountain-top. That day opened the gate of death and the springs of ill. For now Dido recks not of eye or tongue, nor sets her heat on love in secret: she calls it marriage, and with this word shrouds her blame.

Straightway Rumour runs through the great cities of Libya, — Rumour, than whom none other is more swift to mischief; she thrives on restlessness and gains strength by going: at first small and timorous; soon she lifts herself on high and paces the ground with head hidden among the clouds. Her, as they tell, Mother Earth, when stung by wrath against the gods, bore last sister to Coeus and Enceladus, fleet-footed and swift of wing, ominous and awful, vast; for every feather on her body is a waking eye beneath, wonderful to tell, and a tongue, and as many loud lips and straining ears. By night she flits between sky and land, shrilling through the dusk, and droops not her lids in sweet slumber; in daylight she sits on guard upon tall towers or the ridge of the house-roof, and makes great cities afraid; obstinate in perverseness and forgery no less than messenger of truth. She then exultingly filled the countries with manifold talk, and blazoned alike what was done and undone: one Aeneas is come, born of Trojan blood; on him beautiful Dido thinks no shame to fling herself; now they pass the long winter-tide together in revelry, regardless of their 68[194-233] realms and enthralled by dishonouring passion. This the pestilent goddess spreads abroad in the mouths of men, and bends her course right on to King Iarbas, and with her words fires his spirit and swells his wrath.

He, the seed of Ammon by a ravished Garamantian Nymph, had built to Jove in his wide realms an hundred great temples, an hundred altars, and consecrated the wakeful fire that keeps watch by night before the gods perpetually, where the soil is fat with blood of beasts and the courts blossom with pied garlands. And he, distraught at heart and on fire at the bitter tidings, before his altars, amid the divine presences often, it is said, bowed in prayer to Jove with uplifted hands:

‘Jupiter omnipotent, to whom from the broidered cushions of their banqueting halls the Maurusian people now pour offering of the wine-vat, lookest thou on this? or do we shudder vainly when our father hurls the thunderbolt, and do blind fires in the clouds and idle rumblings appal our soul? The woman wanderer who in our coasts planted a small town on purchased ground, to whom we gave fields by the shore and laws of settlement, has spurned our alliance and taken Aeneas for lord of her realm. And now that Paris, with his effeminate crew, his chin and oozy hair swathed in the turban of Maeonia, takes and keeps her; since to thy temples we bear oblation, and hallow an empty name.’

In such words he pleaded, clasping the altars; the Lord omnipotent heard, and cast his eye on the royal city and the lovers forgetful of their fairer fame. Then he addresses this charge to Mercury:

‘Up and away, O son! call the breezes and slide down them on thy wings: accost the Dardanian captain who now loiters in Tyrian Carthage and casts not a look on the cities destined for him; carry down my words through the fleet air. Not such an one did his mother most beautiful vouch him to us, nor for this twice rescue him from Grecian arms; but he was to rule an Italy teeming with empire and loud with war, to transmit the line of Teucer’s royal blood, and lay all the world beneath his law. If such glories kindle him in no wise, and he 69[234-277] take no trouble for his own honour, does a father grudge his Ascanius the towers of Rome? with what device or in what hope loiters he among a hostile race, and casts not a glance on his Ausonian children and the fields of Lavinium? Let him set sail: this is the sum: thereof be thou our messenger.’

He ended: the other made ready to obey his father’s high command. And first he laces to his feet the shoes of gold that bear him winging high over seas or land as fleet as the blast; then takes the rod wherewith he calls wan souls forth of Orcus, or sends them again to the sad depth of hell, gives sleep and takes it away and unseals dead eyes; in whose strength he courses the winds and swims though the tossing clouds. And now in flight he descries the peak and steep sides of toiling Atlas, whose crest sustains the sky; Atlas, whose pine-clad head is girt alway with black clouds and beaten by wind and rain; snow is shed over his shoulders for covering; rivers tumble over his aged chin; and his rough beard is stiff with ice. Here the Cyllenian, poised evenly on his wings, first checked his flight; hence he shot himself sheer to the water. Like a bird that flies low, skirting the sea about the craggy shores of its fishery, even thus the brood of Cyllene left his mother’s father, and flew, cutting the winds between sky and land, toward the sandy Libyan shore. So soon as his winged feet touched at the hut-villages, he espies Aeneas founding towers and ordering new dwellings; his sword twinkled with yellow jasper, and a cloak hung from his shoulders ablaze with Tyrian sea-purple, a gift that Dido had made costly and shot the warp with threads of gold. Straightway he breaks in: ‘Layest thou now the foundations of high Carthage, and buildest up a fair city in dalliance? ah, forgetful of thine own kingdom and state! From bright Olympus I descend to thee at express command of heaven’s sovereign, whose deity sways sky and earth; expressly he bids me carry this charge through the fleet air: with what device or in what hope dost thou loiter idly on Libyan lands? if such glories kindle thee in no wise, yet cast an eye on growing Ascanius, on Iülus thine hope and heir, to whom the kingdom of Italy and the Roman land is 71[276-314] due.’ As these words left his lips the Cyllenian, yet speaking, quitted mortal sight and vanished into thin air away out of his eyes.

But Aeneas in truth gazed in dumb amazement, his hair thrilled up, and the voice choked in his throat. He burns to flee away and leave the pleasant land, aghast at the high warning and divine ordinance. Alas, what shall he do? how venture now to smooth the tale to the frenzied queen? what prologue shall he find? and this way and that he rapidly throws his mind, and turns it on all hands in swift change of thought. In his perplexity this seemed the better counsel; he calls Mnestheus and Sergestus, and brave Serestus, and bids them silently equip the fleet, gather their crews to the shore, and prepare their armament, keeping the cause of the commotion hid; himself meanwhile, since Dido in her kindness knows not and looks not for severance to so strong a love, will essay to approach her when she may be told most gently, and the way for it be fair. All at once gladly do as bidden, and obey his command.

But the Queen — who may delude a lover? — foreknew his devices, and at once caught the presaging stir, fearing even where no fear was. To her likewise had evil rumour borne the maddening news of the fleet in equipment and the voyage prepared. Helpless at heart, she reels aflame with rage throughout the city, even as the scarred Thyiad in her frenzied triennial orgies, when the holy vessels move forth and the cry of Bacchus re-echoes, and Cithaeron calls her with nightlong din. Thus at last she breaks out upon Aeneas:

‘And thou didst hope, traitor, to mask such infamy, and slip away silently from my land? Our love holds thee not, nor the hand thou once gavest, nor the bitter death that is left for Dido’s portion? Nay, even in winter weather thou labourest on thy fleet, and hastenest to launch into the deep amid northern gales; ah, cruel! Why, were thy quest not of alien fields and unknown dwellings, did thine ancient Troy remain, should Troy be sought in voyages over tempestuous sea? Fliest thou from me? me who by these tears and thine own hand beseech 71[314-354] thee, since naught else, alas! have I kept mine own — by our union and the marriage rites begun; if I have done thee any grace, or aught of mine was once sweet to thee, — pity our sinking house, and if there yet be room for prayers, put off this purpose of thine. For thy sake Libyan tribes and Nomad kings are hostile; my Tyrians are estranged; for thy sake, thine, is mine honour perished, and the former fame, my one title to the skies. How leavest thou me to die, O my guest? since of the name of husband all that is left is this. For what do I wait? till Pygmalion overthrow his sister’s city, or Gatulian Iarbas lead me to captivity? At least if before thy flight a child of thine had been clasped in my arms, if a tiny Aeneas were playing in my hall, whose face might yet image thine, I would not think myself ensnared and deserted utterly.’

She ended; he by counsel of Jove held his gaze unstirred, and kept his anguish hard down in his heart. At last he briefly answers:

‘Never, O Queen, will I deny that thy goodness has gone high as thy words can swell the reckoning; nor will I grudge a memory to Elissa while I remember myself, and breath sways this body. Little will I say where little is to be said. I never hoped to slip away in stealthy flight; fancy not that; nor did I ever hold out the marriage torch or enter thus into alliance. Did fate allow me to guide my life by mine own government, and calm my sorrows as I would, my first duty were to the Trojan city and the dear remnant of my kindred; the high house of Priam should abide, and my hand had set up Troy towers anew for a conquered people. But now for broad Italy has Apollo of Grynos bidden me steer, for Italy the oracles of Lycia. Here is my desire; this is my native country. If thy Phoenician eyes are stayed on the fortress of Carthage and thy Libyan city, what wrong is it, I pray, that we Trojans should find rest on Ausonian land? We too may seek a foreign realm unforbidden. In my sleep, often as the dank shades of night veil the earth, often as the stars lift their fires, the troubled phantom of my father Anchises comes in warning and dread; my boy Ascanius comes and the wrong done to one so dear in 72[355-391] cheating him of an Hesperian kingdom and destined fields. Now even the gods’ interpreter, sent straight from Jove — I call both to witness — has borne down his commands through the fleet air. Myself in broad daylight I saw the deity passing within the walls, and these drank his utterance. Cease to madden me and thyself alike with plaints. Not of my will do I follow Italy. . . .’

Long ere he ended she gazes on him askance, turning her eyes from side to side and perusing him with silent glances; then thus wrathfully speaks:

‘No goddess was thy mother, nor Dardanus founder of thy line, traitor! but rough Caucasus bore thee on his iron crags, and Hyrcanian tigresses gave thee suck. For why do I conceal it? For what further outrage do I wait? Has our weeping cost him a sigh, or a lowered glance? Has he broken into tears, or had pity on his lover? Where, where shall I begin? Now neither doth Queen Juno nor our Saturnian lord regard us with righteous eyes. Nowhere is trust safe. Cast ashore and destitute I welcomed him, and madly gave him place and portion in my kingdom; I found him his lost fleet and drew his comrades from death. Alas, the fire of madness speeds me on. Now prophetic Apollo, now oracles of Lycia, now the very gods’ interpreter sent straight from Jove through the air carries these rude commands! Truly that is work for the gods, that a care to vex their peace! I detain thee not, nor gainsay thy words: go, follow thine Italy down the wind; seek thy realm overseas. Yet midway my hope is, if righteous gods can do aught at all, thou wilt drain the cup of vengeance on the rocks, and re-echo calls on Dido’s name. In murky fires I will follow far away, and when chill death has severed body from soul, my ghost will haunt thee in every region. Wretch, thou shalt repay! I will hear; and the rumour of it shall reach me deep in the under world.’

Even on these words she breaks off her speech unfinished, and, sick at heart, escapes out of the air and sweeps round and away out of sight, leaving him in fear and much hesitance, and with much on his mind to say. Her women catch her in 73[392-435] their arms, and carry her swooning limbs to her marble chamber and lay her on her bed.

But good Aeneas, though he would fain soothe and comfort her grief, and well her passion by speech, with many a sigh, and melted in soul by his great love, yet fulfils the divine commands and returns to his fleet. Then indeed the Teucrians set to work, and haul down their tall ships all along the shore. The hulls are oiled and afloat; they carry from the woodland green boughs for oars and massy logs unhewn, in hot haste to go. . . . One might descry them shifting their quarters and pouring out of all the town: even as ants, mindful of winter, plunder a great heap of wheat and store it in their house; a black column advances on the plain as they carry home their spoil on a narrow track through the grass. Some shove and strain with their shoulders at big grains, some marshal the ranks and chastise delay; all the path is aswarm with work. What then were thy thoughts, O Dido, as thou sawest it? What sighs didst thou utter, viewing from the fortress roof the broad beach aswarm, and seeing before thine eyes the whole sea stirred with their noisy din? Injurious Love, to what doest thou not compel mortal hearts! Again she must needs break into tears, again essay entreaty, and bow her spirit down to love, not to leave aught untried and go to death in vain.

‘Anna, thou seest the bustle that fills the circle of the shore. They have gathered from every quarter; already their canvas woos the breezes, and the joyous sailors have garlanded the sterns. This great pain, my sister, I shall have strength to bear, as I have had strength to foresee. Yet this one thing, Anna, for love and pity’s sake — for of thee alone was the traitor fain, to thee even his secret thoughts were confided, alone thou knewest his moods and tender fits — go, my sister, and humbly accost the haughty stranger: I did not take the Grecian oath in Aulis to root out the race of Troy; I sent no fleet against her fortresses, neither have I disentombed his father Anchises’ ashes and ghost. Why does he refuse my words entrance to his stubborn ears? Whither does he run? let him grant this grace — alas, the last! — to his lover, and 74[436-479] await fair winds and an easy passage. No more do I pray for the old delusive marriage, nor that he give up fair Latium and abandon a kingdom. A breathing-space I ask, to give my madness rest and room, till my very fortune teach my grief submission. This last grace I implore — sister, be pitiful — let him but grant me this and I will repay it weighted with my death.’

So she pleaded, and so her sister carries and recarries the piteous tale of weeping. But by no weeping is he stirred, and no words that he hears may bend him. Fate withstands, and lays divine bars on unmoved mortal ears. Even as when the eddying blasts of northern Alpine winds are emulous to uproot the secular strength of a mighty oak, it wails on, and the trunk quivers and the high foliage strews the ground; the tree clings fast on the rocks, and high as her top soars into the aëry sky, so deep strike her roots to hell; even thus is the hero buffeted with changeful perpetual accents, and distress thrills his mighty breast, while his purpose stays unstirred, and her tears are shed in vain.

Then indeed, hapless and dismayed by doom, Dido prays for death, and is weary of looking on the arch of heaven. The more to make her fulfil her purpose and quit the light, she saw, when she laid her gifts on the altars alight with incense, awful to tell, the holy streams blacken, and the wine turn as it poured into ghastly blood. Of this sight she spoke to none — no, not to her sister. Likewise there was within the house a marble temple of her ancient lord, kept of her in marvellous honour, and fastened with snowy fleeces and festal boughs. Forth of it she seemed to hear her husband’s voice crying and calling when night was dim upon earth, and alone on the house-tops the screech-owl often made moan with funeral note and long-drawn sobbing cry. Therewithal many a warning of wizards of old terrifies her with appalling presage. In her sleep fierce Aeneas drives her wildly, and ever she seems being left by herself alone, ever going uncompanioned on a weary way, and seeking her Tyrians in a solitary land: even as frantic Pentheus sees the arrayed Furies and a double sun, and Thebes 75[471-509] shows herself twofold to his eyes: or Agamemnonian Orestes driven over the stage, when his mother pursues him armed with torches and dark serpents, and the Fatal Sisters crouch avenging in the doorway.

So when, overcome by her pangs, she has caught the madness and resolved to die, she works out secretly the time and fashion, and accosts her sorrowing sister with mien hiding her design and hope calm on her brow.

‘I have found a way, mine own — wish me joy, sisterlike — to restore him to me or release me of my love for him. Hard by the ocean limit and the set of sun is the extreme Aethiopian land, where ancient Atlas turns on his shoulders the starred burning axletree of heaven. Out of it has been shown to me a priestess of Massylian race, warder of the temple of the Hesperides, even she who gave the dragon his food, and kept the holy boughs on the tree, sprinkling clammy honey and slumberous poppy-seed. She vouches with her spells to relax the purposes of whom she will, but on others to bring passion and pain; to stay the river-waters and turn the stars backward: she calls up ghosts by night; thou shalt see earth moaning under foot and mountain-ashes descending from the hills. I take heaven, sweet, to witness, and thee, mine own darling sister, I do not willingly arm myself with the arts of magic. O thou secretly raise a pyre in the inner court, and lay upon it the arms of the man that he cruelly left hanging in our chamber, and all the dress he wore, and the bridal bed where I fell. It is good to wipe out all traces of the accursed one, and the priestess orders thus.’ So speaks she, and is silent, while pallor overruns her face. Yet Anna deems not her sister drapes death in these strange rites, and grasps not her wild purpose, nor fears aught deeper than at Sychaeus’ death. So she makes ready as bidden. . . .

But the Queen, when the pyre is built up of piled faggots and left ilex in the inmost of her dwelling, hangs the room with chaplets and garlands it with funeral boughs: on the pillow she lays the dress he wore, the sword he left, and an image of him, knowing what was to come. Altars are reared around, 76[510-528] and the priestess, with hair undone, thrice peals from her lips the hundred gods of Erebus and Chaos, and the triform Hecate, the triple-faced maidenhood of Diana. Likewise she had sprinkled pretended waters of Avernus’ spring, and rank herbs are sought mown by moonlight with brazen sickles, dark with milky venom, and sought is the tailsman torn from a horse’s forehead at birth ere the dam could snatch it. . . . Herself, the holy cake in her pure hands, hard by the altars, with one foot unshod and garments flowing loose, she invokes the gods ere she die, and the stars that know of doom; then prays to whatsoever deity looks in righteousness and remembrance on lovers ill allied.

Night fell; weary creatures took quiet slumber all over earth, and woodland and wild waters had sunk to rest; now the stars wheel midway on their gliding path, now all the country is silent, and beasts and gay birds that haunt liquid levels of lake or thorny rustic thicket lay couched asleep under the still night. But not so the distressed Phoenician, nor does she ever sink asleep or take the night upon eyes or breast; her pain redoubles, and her love swells to renewed madness, as she tosses on the strong tide of wrath. Even so she begins, and thus revolves with her heart alone:

‘Lo, what do I? Shall I again make trail of mine old wooers that will scorn me? and stoop to sue for a Numidian marriage among those whom already over and over I have disdained for husbands? Then shall I follow the Ilian fleets and the uttermost bidding of the Teucrians? because they are glad to have been once raised up by my succour, or the grace of mine old kindness is fresh in their remembrance? And who will permit me, if I would? or take a hated woman on their proud fleet? art thou ignorant, ah me, even in ruin, and knowest not yet the forsworn race of Laomedon? And then? shall I accompany the triumphant sailors, a lonely fugitive? or plunge forth girt with all my Tyrian train? so hardly severed from Sidon city, shall I again drive them seaward, and bid them spread their sails to the tempest? Nay die thou, as thou deservest, and let the steel end thy pain. With thee it began; overborne 77[548-586] by my tears, thou, O my sister, dost load me with this madness and agony, and cast me to the enemy. It was not mine to spend a wild life without stain, far from a bridal chamber, and untouched by this passion. O faith ill kept, that was plighted to Sychaeus’ ashes!’ Thus her heart broke in long lamentation.

Now Aeneas was fixed to go, and now, with all set duly in order, was taking hasty sleep on his high quarterdeck. To him as he slept the god appeared once again in the same fashion of countenance, and thus seemed to renew his warning, in all points like to Mercury, voice and hue and golden hair and limbs gracious in youth. ‘Goddess-born, canst thou sleep on in such danger? and seest not the coming perils that hem thee in, madman! nor hearest the breezes blowing fair? She, fixed on death, is revolving craft and crime grimly in her bosom, and swells the changing surge of wrath. Fliest thou not hence headlong, while headlong flight is yet possible? Even now wilt thou see ocean weltering with broken timbers, see the fierce glare of torches and the beach in a riot of flame, if dawn break on thee yet dallying in this land. Up, ho! linger no more! Woman is ever a fickle and changing thing.’ So spoke he, and melted in the black night.

Then indeed Aeneas, startled by the sudden phantom, leaps out of slumber and bestirs his crew to headlong haste. ‘Awake, O men, and sit down to the thwarts; shake out sail speedily. A god sent from heaven, lo! again spurs us to speed our flight and cut the twisted cables. We follow thee, holy one of heaven, whoso thou art, and again joyfully obey thy command. O be favourable: give gracious aid and bring the fair sky and weather.’ He spoke, and snatching his sword like lightning from the sheath, strikes at the hawser with the drawn steel. The same zeal catches all at once; rushing and tearing they quit the shore; the sea is hidden under their fleets: strongly they toss up the foam and sweep the blue water.

And now Dawn broke, and, leaving the saffron bed of Tithonus, shed her radiance anew over the world; when the Queen saw from her watch-tower the first light whitening, and 78[587-625] the fleet standing out under squared sail, and discerned shore and haven empty of all their oarsmen. Thrice and four times she struck her hand on her lovely breast and rent her yellow hair: ‘God!’ she cries, ‘shall he go? shall an alien make mock of our realm? Will they not issue in armed pursuit from all the city, and some launch ships from the dockyards? Go; bring fire in haste, serve out weapons, ply the oars! What do I talk? or where am I? what mad change is on my purpose? Alas, Dido! now evil deeds touch thee; that had been fitting once, when thou gavest away thy crown. Behold the faith and hand of him! who, they say, carries his household’s ancestral gods about with him! who stooped his shoulders to a father outworn with age! Could I not have riven his body in sunder and strewn it on the waves? and slain with the sword his comrades and his dear Ascanius, and served him for the banquet at his father’s table? But the chance of battle had been dubious. If it had! whom did I fear in the death-agony? I should have borne firebrands into his camp and filled his decks with flame, blotted out father and son and race together, and flung myself atop of all. Sun, whose fires lighten all the works of the world, and thou, Juno, mediatress and witness of these my distresses, and Hecate, cried on by night in crossways of cities, and you, fatal avenging sisters and gods of dying Elissa, hear me now; bend your just deity to my woes, and listen to our prayers. If it must needs be that the accursed one touch his haven and float up to land, if thus Jove’s decrees demand, and this is the appointed term, — yet, distressed in war by an armed and gallant nation, driven homeless from his borders, rent from Iülus’ embrace, let him sue for succour and see death on death untimely on his people; nor when he has yielded him to the terms of a harsh peace, may he have joy of his kingdom or the pleasant light; but let him fall before his day and without burial amid its soil. This I pray; this and my blood with it I pour for the last utterance. Then do you, O Tyrians, pursue his seed with your hatred for all ages to come; send this guerdon to our ashes. Let no kindness nor truce be between the nations. Arise, some avenger, out of our dust, to follow 79[626-662] the Dardanian settlers with firebrand and steel. Now, then, whensoever strength shall be given, I invoke the enmity of shore to shore, wave to water, sword to sword; let their battles go down to their children’s children.’

So speaks she as she kept turning her mind round about, seeking how soonest to break away from the hateful light. Thereon she speaks briefly to Barce, nurse of Sychaeus; for a heap of dusky ashes held her own, in her country of long ago:

‘Sweet nurse, bring Anna my sister hither to me. Bid her haste and sprinkle river water over her body, and bring with her the beasts ordained for expiation: so let her come: and thou likewise veil thy brows with a pure chaplet. I would fulfil the rites of Stygian Jove that I have fitly ordered and begun, so to set the limit to my distresses and give over to flame the pyre of the Dardanian chief.’

So speaks she; the old woman went eagerly with quickened pace. But Dido, panting and fierce in her awful purpose, with bloodshot restless gaze, and spots on her quivering cheeks burning through the pallor of imminent death, bursts into the inner courts of the house, and mounts in madness the lofty stairs, and unsheathes the sword of Dardania, a gift sought for other use than this. Then after her eyes fell on the Ilian raiment and the bed she knew, dallying a little with her purpose through her tears, she sank on the pillow and spoke the last words of all:

‘Dress he wore, sweet while doom and deity allowed! receive my spirit now, an release me from my distresses. I have lived and fulfilled Fortune’s allotted course; and now shall I go a queenly phantom under the earth. I have built a renowned city; I have seen my ramparts rise; by my brother’s punishment I have avenged my husband of his enemy; happy, ah me! and over happy, had but the keels of Dardania never touched our shores!’ She spoke; and burying her face in the pillow, ‘Death it will be,’ she cries, ‘and unavenged; but death be it. Thus, thus is it good to pass into the dark. Let the pitiless Dardanian’s gaze drink in this fire out at sea, and my death be the omen he carry on his way.’


She ceased; and even as she spoke her people see her sunk on the steel, and blood reeking on the sword and spattered on her hands. A cry rises in the high halls; Rumour riots down the quaking city. The house resounds with lamentation and sobbing and bitter crying of women; heaven echoes their loud wails; even as though all Carthage or ancient Tyre went down as the foe poured in, and the flames rolled furious over the roofs of house and temple. Death-stricken her sister heard, and in swift hurrying dismay, with torn face and smitten bosom, darts through them all, and calls the dying woman by her name. ‘Was it this, mine own? Was my summons a snare? Was it this thy pyre, ah me, this thine altar fires meant? How shall I begin my desolate moan? Didst thou distain a sister’s company in death? Thou shouldst have called me to share thy doom; in the self-same hour, the self-same pang of steel had been our portion. Did these very hands build it, did my voice call on our father’s gods, that with thee lying thus I should be away, O merciless? Thou hast destroyed thyself and me together, O my sister, and the Sidonian lords and people, and this thy city. Give her wounds water: I will bathe them and catch on my lips the last breath that haply yet lingers.’ So speaking she had climbed the high steps, and, wailing, clasped and caressed her half-lifeless sister in her bosom, and stanched the dark streams of blood with her own. She, essaying to lift her heavy eyes, swoons back; the deep-driven wound gurgles in her breast. Thrice she rose, and strained to lift herself on her elbow; thrice she rolled back on the pillow, and with wandering eyes sought the light of high heaven, and moaned as she found it.

Then Juno omnipotent, pitying her long pain and difficult decease, sent Iris down from heaven to unloose the struggling life from the body where it clung. For since neither by fate did she perish, nor as one who had earned her death, but woefully before her day, and fired by sudden madness, not yet had Proserpine taken her tress from the golden head, nor sentenced her to the nether Stygian world. So Iris on dewy saffron pinions flits down through the sky athwart the sun 81[702-705] in a trail of a thousand changing dyes, and stopping over her head: ‘This lock, sacred to Dis, I take as bidden, and release thee from that body of thine,’ So speaks she, and cuts it with her hand. And therewith all the warmth ebbed forth from her, and the life passed away upon the winds.

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by Elfinspell