The Queen Weds a Poor Stranger

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Aeneas recounts the Trojan war to Dido

Vergil (70 B.C.–19 B.C.). Æneid.
Vol. 13, pp. 152-162 of The Harvard Classics

Æneas and Dido, world-famous lovers, while hunting in the forest, were trapped in a cave by a furious storm. There the marriage between the proud African queen and the homeless wanderer was completed.


The Fourth Book of the Æneis

THE ARGUMENT.—Dido discovers to her sister her passion for Æneas, and her thoughts of marrying him. She prepares a hunting match for his entertainment. Juno, by Venus’s consent, raises a storm, which separates the hunters, and drives Æneas and Dido into the same cave, where their marriage is suppos’d to be completed. Jupiter dispatches Mercury to Æneas, to warn him from Carthage. Æneas secretly prepares for his voyage. Dido finds out his design, and, to put a stop to it, makes use of her own and her sister’s entreaties, and discovers all the variety of passions that are incident to a neglected lover. When nothing would prevail upon him, she contrives her own death, with which this book concludes.


BUT anxious cares already seiz’d the queen:
She fed within her veins a flame unseen;
The hero’s valor, acts, and birth inspire
Her soul with love, and fan the secret fire.
His words, his looks, imprinted in her heart,
Improve the passion, and increase the smart.
Now, when the purple morn had chas’d away
The dewy shadows, and restor’d the day,
Her sister first with early care she sought,
And thus in mournful accents eas’d her thought:
  “My dearest Anna, what new dreams affright
My lab’ring soul! what visions of the night
Disturb my quiet, and distract my breast
With strange ideas of our Trojan guest!
His worth, his actions, and majestic air,
A man descended from the gods declare.
Fear ever argues a degenerate kind;
His birth is well asserted by his mind.
Then, what he suffer’d, when by Fate betray’d!
What brave attempts for falling Troy he made!
Such were his looks, so gracefully he spoke,
That, were I not resolv’d against the yoke
Of hapless marriage, never to be curst
With second love, so fatal was my first,
To this one error I might yield again;
For, since Sichæus was untimely slain,
This only man is able to subvert
The fix’d foundations of my stubborn heart.
And, to confess my frailty, to my shame,
Somewhat I find within, if not the same,
Too like the sparkles of my former flame.
But first let yawning earth a passage rend,
And let me thro’ the dark abyss descend;
First let avenging Jove, with flames from high,
Drive down this body to the nether sky,
Condemn’d with ghosts in endless night to lie,
Before I break the plighted faith I gave!
No! he who had my vows shall ever have;
For, whom I lov’d on earth, I worship in the grave.”
  She said: the tears ran gushing from her eyes,
And stopp’d her speech. Her sister thus replies:
“O dearer than the vital air I breathe,
Will you to grief your blooming years bequeath,
Condemn’d to waste in woes your lonely life,
Without the joys of mother or of wife?
Think you these tears, this pompous train of woe,
Are known or valued by the ghosts below?
I grant that, while your sorrows yet were green,
It well became a woman, and a queen,
The vows of Tyrian princes to neglect,
To scorn Hyarbas, and his love reject,
With all the Libyan lords of mighty name;
But will you fight against a pleasing flame!
This little spot of land, which Heav’n bestows,
On ev’ry side is hemm’d with warlike foes;
Gætulian cities here are spread around,
And fierce Numidians there your frontiers bound;
Here lies a barren waste of thirsty land,
And there the Syrtes raise the moving sand;
Barcæan troops besiege the narrow shore,
And from the sea Pygmalion threatens more.
Propitious Heav’n, and gracious Juno, lead
This wand’ring navy to your needful aid:
How will your empire spread, your city rise,
From such a union, and with such allies?
Implore the favor of the pow’rs above,
And leave the conduct of the rest to love.
Continue still your hospitable way,
And still invent occasions of their stay,
Till storms and winter winds shall cease to threat,
And planks and oars repair their shatter’d fleet.”
  These words, which from a friend and sister came,
With ease resolv’d the scruples of her fame,
And added fury to the kindled flame.
Inspir’d with hope, the project they pursue;
On ev’ry altar sacrifice renew:
A chosen ewe of two years old they pay
To Ceres, Bacchus, and the God of Day;
Preferring Juno’s pow’r, for Juno ties
The nuptial knot and makes the marriage joys.
The beauteous queen before her altar stands,
And holds the golden goblet in her hands.
A milk-white heifer she with flow’rs adorns,
And pours the ruddy wine betwixt her horns;
And, while the priests with pray’r the gods invoke,
She feeds their altars with Sabæan smoke,
With hourly care the sacrifice renews,
And anxiously the panting entrails views.
What priestly rites, alas! what pious art,
What vows avail to cure a bleeding heart!
A gentle fire she feeds within her veins,
Where the soft god secure in silence reigns.
  Sick with desire, and seeking him she loves,
From street to street the raving Dido roves.
So when the watchful shepherd, from the blind,
Wounds with a random shaft the careless hind,
Distracted with her pain she flies the woods,
Bounds o’er the lawn, and seeks the silent floods,
With fruitless care; for still the fatal dart
Sticks in her side, and rankles in her heart.
And now she leads the Trojan chief along
The lofty walls, amidst the busy throng;
Displays her Tyrian wealth, and rising town,
Which love, without his labor, makes his own.
This pomp she shows, to tempt her wand’ring guest;
Her falt’ring tongue forbids to speak the rest.
When day declines, and feasts renew the night,
Still on his face she feeds her famish’d sight;
She longs again to hear the prince relate
His own adventures and the Trojan fate.
He tells it o’er and o’er; but still in vain,
For still she begs to hear it once again.
The hearer on the speaker’s mouth depends,
And thus the tragic story never ends.
  Then, when they part, when Phœbe’s paler light
Withdraws, and falling stars to sleep invite,
She last remains, when ev’ry guest is gone,
Sits on the bed he press’d, and sighs alone;
Absent, her absent hero sees and hears;
Or in her bosom young Ascanius bears,
And seeks the father’s image in the child,
If love by likeness might be so beguil’d.
  Meantime the rising tow’rs are at a stand;
No labors exercise the youthful band,
Nor use of arts, nor toils of arms they know;
The mole is left unfinish’d to the foe;
The mounds, the works, the walls, neglected lie,
Short of their promis’d heighth, that seem’d to threat the sky,
  But when imperial Juno, from above,
Saw Dido fetter’d in the chains of love,
Hot with the venom which her veins inflam’d,
And by no sense of shame to be reclaim’d,
With soothing words to Venus she begun:
“High praises, endless honors, you have won,
And mighty trophies, with your worthy son!
Two gods a silly woman have undone!
Nor am I ignorant, you both suspect
This rising city, which my hands erect:
But shall celestial discord never cease?
’T is better ended in a lasting peace.
You stand possess’d of all your soul desir’d:
Poor Dido with consuming love is fir’d.
Your Trojan with my Tyrian let us join;
So Dido shall be yours, Æneas mine:
One common kingdom, one united line.
Eliza shall a Dardan lord obey,
And lofty Carthage for a dow’r convey.”
Then Venus, who her hidden fraud descried,
Which would the scepter of the world misguide
To Libyan shores, thus artfully replied:
“Who, but a fool, would wars with Juno choose,
And such alliance and such gifts refuse,
If Fortune with our joint desires comply?
The doubt is all from Jove and destiny;
Lest he forbid, with absolute command,
To mix the people in one common land—
Or will the Trojan and the Tyrian line
In lasting leagues and sure succession join?
But you, the partner of his bed and throne,
May move his mind; my wishes are your own.”
  “Mine,” said imperial Juno, “be the care;
Time urges, now, to perfect this affair:
Attend my counsel, and the secret share.
When next the Sun his rising light displays,
And gilds the world below with purple rays,
The queen, Æneas, and the Tyrian court
Shall to the shady woods, for sylvan game, resort.
There, while the huntsmen pitch their toils around,
And cheerful horns from side to side resound,
A pitchy cloud shall cover all the plain
With hail, and thunder, and tempestuous rain;
The fearful train shall take their speedy flight,
Dispers’d, and all involv’d in gloomy night;
One cave a grateful shelter shall afford
To the fair princess and the Trojan lord.
I will myself the bridal bed prepare,
If you, to bless the nuptials, will be there:
So shall their loves be crown’d with due delights,
And Hymen shall be present at the rites.”
The Queen of Love consents, and closely smiles
At her vain project, and discover’d wiles.
  The rosy morn was risen from the main,
And horns and hounds awake the princely train:
They issue early thro’ the city gate,
Where the more wakeful huntsmen ready wait,
With nets, and toils, and darts, beside the force
Of Spartan dogs, and swift Massylian horse.
The Tyrian peers and officers of state
For the slow queen in antechambers wait;
Her lofty courser, in the court below,
Who his majestic rider seems to know,
Proud of his purple trappings, paws the ground,
And champs the golden bit, and spreads the foam around.
The queen at length appears; on either hand
The brawny guards in martial order stand.
A flow’r’d simar with golden fringe she wore,
And at her back a golden quiver bore;
Her flowing hair a golden caul restrains,
A golden clasp the Tyrian robe sustains.
Then young Ascanius, with a sprightly grace,
Leads on the Trojan youth to view the chase.
But far above the rest in beauty shines
The great Æneas, when the troop he joins;
Like fair Apollo, when he leaves the frost
Of wint’ry Xanthus, and the Lycian coast,
When to his native Delos he resorts,
Ordains the dances, and renews the sports;
Where painted Scythians, mix’d with Cretan bands,
Before the joyful altars join their hands:
Himself, on Cynthus walking, sees below
The merry madness of the sacred show.
Green wreaths of bays his length of hair inclose;
A golden fillet binds his awful brows;
His quiver sounds: not less the prince is seen
In manly presence, or in lofty mien.
  Now had they reach’d the hills, and storm’d the seat
Of salvage beasts, in dens, their last retreat.
The cry pursues the mountain goats: they bound
From rock to rock, and keep the craggy ground;
Quite otherwise the stags, a trembling train,
In herds unsingled, scour the dusty plain,
And a long chase in open view maintain.
The glad Ascanius, as his courser guides,
Spurs thro’ the vale, and these and those outrides.
His horse’s flanks and sides are forc’d to feel
The clanking lash, and goring of the steel.
Impatiently he views the feeble prey,
Wishing some nobler beast to cross his way,
And rather would the tusky boar attend,
Or see the tawny lion downward bend.
  Meantime, the gath’ring clouds obscure the skies:
From pole to pole the forky lightning flies;
The rattling thunders roll; and Juno pours
A wintry deluge down, and sounding show’rs.
The company, dispers’d, to converts ride,
And seek the homely cots, or mountain’s hollow side.
The rapid rains, descending from the hills,
To rolling torrents raise the creeping rills.
The queen and prince, as love or fortune guides,
One common cavern in her bosom hides.
Then first the trembling earth the signal gave,
And flashing fires enlighten all the cave;
Hell from below, and Juno from above,
And howling nymphs, were conscious of their love.
From this ill-omen’d hour in time arose
Debate and death, and all succeeding woes.
  The queen, whom sense of honor could not move,
No longer made a secret of her love,
But call’d it marriage, by that specious name
To veil the crime and sanctify the shame.
  The loud report thro’ Libyan cities goes.
Fame, the great ill, from small beginnings grows:
Swift from the first; and ev’ry moment brings
New vigor to her flights, new pinions to her wings.
Soon grows the pigmy to gigantic size;
Her feet on earth, her forehead in the skies.
Inrag’d against the gods, revengeful Earth
Produc’d her last of the Titanian birth.
Swift is her walk, more swift her winged haste:
A monstrous phantom, horrible and vast.
As many plumes as raise her lofty flight,
So many piercing eyes inlarge her sight;
Millions of opening mouths to Fame belong,
And ev’ry mouth is furnish’d with a tongue,
And round with list’ning ears the flying plague is hung.
She fills the peaceful universe with cries;
No slumbers ever close her wakeful eyes;
By day, from lofty tow’rs her head she shews,
And spreads thro’ trembling crowds disastrous news;
With court informers haunts, and royal spies;
Things done relates, not done she feigns, and mingles truth with lies.
Talk is her business, and her chief delight
To tell of prodigies and cause affright.
She fills the people’s ears with Dido’s name,
Who, lost to honor and the sense of shame,
Admits into her throne and nuptial bed
A wand’ring guest, who from his country fled:
Whole days with him she passes in delights,
And wastes in luxury long winter nights,
Forgetful of her fame and royal trust,
Dissolv’d in ease, abandon’d to her lust.
  The goddess widely spreads the loud report,
And flies at length to King Hyarba’s court.
When first possess’d with this unwelcome news
Whom did he not of men and gods accuse?
This prince, from ravish’d Garamantis born,
A hundred temples did with spoils adorn,
In Ammon’s honor, his celestial sire;
A hundred altars fed with wakeful fire;
And, thro’ his vast dominions, priests ordain’d,
Whose watchful care these holy rites maintain’d.
The gates and columns were with garlands crown’d,
And blood of victim beasts enrich’d the ground.
  He, when he heard a fugitive could move
The Tyrian princess, who disdain’d his love,
His breast with fury burn’d, his eyes with fire,
Mad with despair, impatient with desire;
Then on the sacred altars pouring wine,
He thus with pray’rs implor’d his sire divine:
“Great Jove! propitious to the Moorish race,
Who feast on painted beds, with off’rings grace
Thy temples, and adore thy pow’r divine
With blood of victims, and with sparkling wine,
Seest thou not this? or do we fear in vain
Thy boasted thunder, and thy thoughtless reign?
Do thy broad hands the forky lightnings lance?
Thine are the bolts, or the blind work of chance?
A wand’ring woman builds, within our state,
A little town, bought at an easy rate;
She pays me homage, and my grants allow
A narrow space of Libyan lands to plow;
Yet, scorning me, by passion blindly led,
Admits a banish’d Trojan to her bed!
And now this other Paris, with his train
Of conquer’d cowards, must in Afric reign!
(Whom, what they are, their looks and garb confess,
Their locks with oil perfum’d, their Lydian dress.)
He takes the spoil, enjoys the princely dame;
And I, rejected I, adore an empty name.”
  His vows, in haughty terms, he thus preferr’d,
And held his altar’s horns. The mighty Thund’rer heard;
Then cast his eyes on Carthage, where he found
The lustful pair in lawless pleasure drown’d,
Lost in their loves, insensible of shame,
And both forgetful of their better fame.
He calls Cyllenius, and the god attends,
By whom his menacing command he sends:
“Go, mount the western winds, and cleave the sky;
Then, with a swift descent, to Carthage fly:
There find the Trojan chief, who wastes his days
In slothful riot and inglorious ease,
Nor minds the future city, giv’n by fate.
To him this message from my mouth relate:
‘Not so fair Venus hop’d, when twice she won
Thy life with pray’rs, nor promis’d such a son.
Hers was a hero, destin’d to command
A martial race, and rule the Latian land,
Who should his ancient line from Teucer draw,
And on the conquer’d world impose the law.’
If glory cannot move a mind so mean,
Nor future praise from fading pleasure wean,
Yet why should he defraud his son of fame,
And grudge the Romans their immortal name!
What are his vain designs! what hopes he more
From his long ling’ring on a hostile shore,
Regardless to redeem his honor lost,
And for his race to gain th’ Ausonian coast!
Bid him with speed the Tyrian court forsake;
With this command the slumb’ring warrior wake.”
  Hermes obeys; with golden pinions binds
His flying feet, and mounts the western winds:
And, whether o’er the seas or earth he flies,
With rapid force they bear him down the skies.
But first he grasps within his awful hand
The mark of sov’reign pow’r, his magic wand;
With this he draws the ghosts from hollow graves;
With this he drives them down the Stygian waves;
With this he seals in sleep the wakeful sight,
And eyes, tho’ clos’d in death, restores to light.
Thus arm’d, the god begins his airy race,
And drives the racking clouds along the liquid space;
Now sees the tops of Atlas, as he flies,
Whose brawny back supports the starry skies;
Atlas, whose head, with piny forests crown’d,
Is beaten by the winds, with foggy vapors bound.
Snows hide his shoulders; from beneath his chin
The founts of rolling streams their race begin;
A beard of ice on his large breast depends.
Here, pois’d upon his wings, the god descends:
Then, rested thus, he from the tow’ring height
Plung’d downward, with precipitated flight,
Lights on the seas, and skims along the flood.
As waterfowl, who seek their fishy food,
Less, and yet less, to distant prospect show;
By turns they dance aloft, and dive below:
Like these, the steerage of his wings he plies,
And near the surface of the water flies,
Till, having pass’d the seas, and cross’d the sands,
He clos’d his wings, and stoop’d on Libyan lands:
Where shepherds once were hous’d in homely sheds,
Now tow’rs within the clouds advance their heads.
Arriving there, he found the Trojan prince
New ramparts raising for the town’s defense.
A purple scarf, with gold embroider’d o’er,
(Queen Dido’s gift,) about his waist he wore;
A sword, with glitt’ring gems diversified,
For ornament, not use, hung idly by his side.
  Then thus, with winged words, the god began,
Resuming his own shape: “Degenerate man,
Thou woman’s property, what mak’st thou here,
These foreign walls and Tyrian tow’rs to rear,
Forgetful of thy own? All-pow’rful Jove,
Who sways the world below and heav’n above,
Has sent me down with this severe command:
What means thy ling’ring in the Libyan land?
If glory cannot move a mind so mean,
Nor future praise from flitting pleasure wean,
Regard the fortunes of thy rising heir:
The promis’d crown let young Ascanius wear,
To whom th’ Ausonian scepter, and the state
Of Rome’s imperial name is ow’d by fate.”
So spoke the god; and, speaking, took his flight,
Involv’d in clouds, and vanish’d out of sight.
  The pious prince was seiz’d with sudden fear;
Mute was his tongue, and upright stood his hair.
Revolving in his mind the stern command,
He longs to fly, and loathes the charming land.
What should he say? or how should he begin?
What course, alas! remains to steer between
Th’ offended lover and the pow’rful queen?
This way and that he turns his anxious mind,
And all expedients tries, and none can find.
Fix’d on the deed, but doubtful of the means,
After long thought, to this advice he leans:
Three chiefs he calls, commands them to repair
The fleet, and ship their men with silent care;
Some plausible pretense he bids them find,
To color what in secret he design’d.



 

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