Astyages's Weblog

May 24, 2011

Virgil’s Aeneid, Part 23

Virgil’s Aeneid

by

DL Rowlands

(Part 23)

Sick with desire and seeking him she loves, the raving Dido roams from
street to street; as when a stricken hind, carelessly wounded by some
watchful shepherd’s random shaft, distracted with her pain, flees the
woods and bounds over lawns, seeking the silent river with fruitless
care; for the fatal dart still sticks in her side and rankles in her
heart.

And now she leads the Trojan chief along the lofty walls, amidst the busy
crowd, displaying her Tyrian wealth and her rising town, which love,
without any effort on his part, makes his own. This pomp she shows
him, to tempt her wandering guest but her faltering tongue forbids
her to speak of what is in her heart. When day declines and feasts
renew the night, she still feeds her famished eyes on the sight of
his face, longing to hear the prince again relate his own adventures
and the fate of Troy. He tells it over and over, but Dido is not
satisfied and still she begs to hear it once again, the hearer
hanging onto every word from the speaker’s lips; and thus his tragic
story never ends.

Then, when they part, when Phoebe’s paler light withdraws and falling stars
invite  sleep, she stays behind, when every guest is gone, sits alone
on the bed his warmth had pressed and sighs. In his absence the hero
sees and hears, as if the image of young Ascanius, which she bears in
her bosom, now seeks the father’s image in the child, her love now
beguiled by the likeness. In the meantime, all work on the rising
towers comes to a standstill; the youthful band perform no drills or
exercises at arms; the city is left unfinished to the foe; the mounds
and walls lie neglected, short of their promised height, that once
seemed to threaten the very sky.

But when imperial Juno, from the heavens, saw Dido thus fettered in the
chains of love, hot with the venom in her veins and unrestrained by
any sense of shame or modesty, she spoke these soothing words to
Venus:

You have won high praise, endless honors and mighty trophies, together
with your worthy son. Two gods have undone a silly woman! Nor am I
ignorant of your suspicions about this rising city, which my hands
erect… But will celestial discord never end? It’s much better to
make a lasting peace. You stand now possessed of all your soul
desired: Poor Dido is fired with an all-consuming love. Let us join
your Trojan with my Tyrian; so Dido shall be yours, and Aeneas mine;
sharing one common kingdom with their line united. Eliza shall obey a
Dardan lord, and lofty Carthage shall be her dowry.”

Then Venus, who secretly sought to misguide the scepter of the world to
Libyan shores, thus artfully replied:

Who but a fool would choose to go to war against Juno; or refuse such an
alliance, or such gifts, if Fortune complies with our joint desires?
The doubt is all from Jove and Destiny; lest his absolute command
forbid this mixing of the Trojan and the Tyrian line… but you, the
partner of his bed and his throne, may move his mind; my wishes are
the same as yours.”

The responsibility then, shall be mine,” said imperial Juno, “but
time is pressing now, to perfect this affair: Listen to my advice and
keep my secret. When next the Sun displays his rising light, and
gilds the world below with purple rays, the Queen, Aeneas and the
Tyrian court shall venture into the shady woods for some sport.
There, while the huntsmen busy themselves with the hunt, and cheerful
horns resound from one side of the wood to the other, a dark cloud
shall cover the whole plain with hail and thunder and a tempestuous
rain; the fearful train shall speedily take flight, dispersing
through the gloom; one cave shall afford a grateful shelter to the
fair princess and the Trojan lord. I myself will prepare a bridal
bed, if you will be there to bless the nuptials. So shall their loves
be crowned with every blessing and Hymen shall be present at the
rites.”

The Queen of Love consents, and smiles to herself at her vain project and
discovered wiles.

*****    *******     *****

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