A reading of lines from
Virgil, Aeneid 4
After his escape from Troy, Aeneas is shipwrecked on the north African coast where he is looked after by Dido, queen of Carthage. There they fall in love, encouraged by the gods. Soon the gods are keen for Aeneas to move on. He prepares to go, and she hears about the impending departure—but not from him.
Translation by kind permission of David West. [The Aeneid, Penguin Classics: ISBN 0140 449329].
‘Anna, fatebor enim, miseri post fata Sychaei
coniugis et sparsos fraterna caede penatis,
solus hic inflexit sensus, animumque labantem
impulit: agnosco veteris vestigia flammae.’
at regina dolos (quis fallere possit amantem?)
praesensit, motusque excepit prima futuros
omnia tuta timens. eadem impia Fama furenti
detulit armari classem cursumque parari.
‘dissimulare etiam sperasti, perfide, tantum
posse nefas tacitusque mea decedere terra?
nec te noster amor nec te data dextera quondam
nec moritura tenet crudeli funere Dido?
quin etiam hiberno moliris sidere classem,
et mediis properas Aquilonibus ire per altum?
mene fugis? per ego has lacrimas dextramque tuam te
(quando aliud mihi iam miserae nihil ipsa reliqui)
per conubia nostra, per inceptos hymenaeos,
si bene quid de te merui, fuit aut tibi quicquam
dulce meum, miserere domus labentis et istam,
oro, si quis adhuc precibus locus, exue mentem.’
I will admit it, Anna, ever since the death of my poor husband Sychaeus, since my own brother spilt his blood and polluted the gods of our home, this is the only man who has stirred my feelings and moved my mind to waver: I sense the return of the old fires.
But the queen – who can deceive a lover? – knew in advance some scheme was afoot. Afraid where there was nothing to fear, she was the first to catch wind of their plans to leave, and while she was already in a frenzy, that same wicked Rumour brought word that the Trojans were fitting out their fleet and perparing to sail away.
‘You traitor, did you imagine you could slip away from this land of mine and say nothing? Does our love have no claim on you? Or the pledge your right hand once gave me? Or the prospect of Dido dying a cruel death? Why must you move your fleet in these winter storms and rush across the high seas into the teeth of the north wind?
‘Is it me you are running away from? I beg you, by these tears, by the pledge you gave me with your own right hand – I have nothing else left me now in my misery – I beg you by our union, by the marriage we have begun – if I have deserved any kindness from you, if you have ever loved anything about me, pity my house that is falling around me, and I implore you, if it is not too late for prayers, give up this plan of yours.’
‘ego te, quae plurima fando
enumerare vales, numquam, regina, negabo
promeritam; nec me meminisse pigebit Elissae,
dum memor ipse mei, dum spiritus hos regit artus.
pro re pauca loquar. neque ego hanc abscondere furto
speravi (ne finge) fugam, nec coniugis umquam
praetendi taedas aut haec in foedera veni.’
‘nunc etiam interpres divum Iove missus ab ipso
(testor utrumque caput) celeris mandata per auras
detulit: ipse deum manifesto in lumine vidi
intrantem muros vocemque his auribus hausi.
desine meque tuis incendere teque querelis;
Italiam non sponte sequor.’
‘nusquam tuta fides. eiectum litore, egentem
excepi et regni demens in parte locavi.
amissam classem, socios a morte reduxi.
i, sequere Italiam ventis, pete regna per undas.’
‘I know, O queen, you can list a multitude of kindnesses you have done me. I shall never deny them and never be sorry to remember Dido while I remember myself, while my spirit still governs this body. Much could be said. I shall say only a little. It was never my intention to be deceitful or run away without your knowing, and do not pretend that it was. Nor have I ever offered you marriage or entered into that contract with you.
And now even the messenger of the gods has come down through the swift winds – I swear it by the lives of both of us – and brought commands from Jupiter himself. With my own eyes I have seen the god in the clear light of day coming within the walls of your city. With my own ears I have listened to his voice. Do not go on causing distress to yourself and to me by these complaints. It is not by my own will that I search for Italy.
‘Is there nothing we can trust in this life? He was thrown helpless on my shores and I took him in and like a fool settled him as partner in my kingdom. He had lost his fleet and I found it and brought his companions back from the dead.
‘Away you go. Keep on searching for your Italy with the winds to help you. Look for your kingdom over the waves.’