Ovid, Heroides VII

Dido to Aeneas

(translated by Míceál F. Vaughan [1999])


Receive, Dardanian, the song of dying Elissa;  
What you read from me are the final words I have read.  
As, when the fates call, cast down among damp plants,  
The white swan sings on the streams of the Maeander,  
And not that I hope to move you by my prayer, 5
So do I speak: I have said these things, even though God is contrary.  
But since I have undeservedly lost my good name  
And my body and my chaste soul, it is nothing to lose words.  
But you are determined to go and to leave behind an unhappy Dido,  
And the same wind that blew your ship away, also blew away your faith. 10
You are determined, Aeneas, to untie your ships along with you promises  
And to pursue some Italian kingdom, you know not where.  
And neither a new Carthage nor its rising battlements  
Nor the supreme power handed over to your command moves you.  
You flee what's done, you seek out what is to be done. Throughout the world 15
You go to find one land, another you have already found.  
Suppose you find this land: who will give it over to you that you might have it?  
Who will give over their fields to be controlled by nobodies?  
Another love is to be held by you, and another Dido  
Whom you will again betray, with another promise. 20
When will you build a city as good as Carthage  
And when will you look down on your people from a high citadel?  
Suppose all these things happen and the gods do not hinder your prayers,  
Where will there be a wife for you who will love you as I do?  
I burn like wax-covered torches covered in sulfur; 25
Like holy incense added to smoky funeral pyres. 25a
Aeneas will always be firmly fixed in the eyes of her who watches for him, 25b
Both night and day bring back Aeneas to her mind.  
But he, ingrate and deaf to my gifts  
And one whom I would wish to be without--if I were not a fool.  
Yet I do not hate Aeneas, although he has wicked intentions,  
But I complain against his infidelity and, having complained, I love him more. 30
Venus, have pity on your daughter-in-law and, brother Amor, embrace  
Your hardhearted brother; let him fight in your army.  
But he whom I began to love -- for I do not deny it --  
Supplies the cause for my grief.  
I deceive myself and that image beats back and forth before my deceived eyes: 35
He diverges from the natural inclination of his mother.  
Rock and mountains and oaktrees native to high cliffs,  
Fierce wild beasts gave you birth,  
Or the sea, such as you now see beaten, like yourself, by the winds:  
Where are you preparing to go against opposing waves? 40
Where are you fleeing to? Stormy weather blocks the way. May the friendship of the storm do me good!  
Notice how Eurus whips up the turbulent waters.  
What I would have preferred for you, you rush to obtain without me.  
Wind and waves are more just than your spirit.  
I am not so important, that you will not leave off, traitor, 45
So that you perish, while you flee from me across the broad seas.  
You occupy yourself with a too costly and unchanging hatred  
If, while you are away from me, dying is of no worth to you.  
Now that the winds and the waves, made uniformly smooth, are dying down  
Triton rides through the sea on his sea-green horses. 50
Would that you also might be as changeable as the winds,  
And you will be -- unless you exceed the oak in hardness.  
What if you were not to know what the raging sea can do?  
Do you so little trust the waters you have so often experienced?  
Suppose, at the sea's persuasion, you even loosen the cables -- 55
Many sorrows still does the wide sea contain.  
There is no advantage for those testing the sea to have broken faith:  
That place exacts penalties for perfidy,  
Especially when love has been hurt, because the mother of Love  
Was said to have been born naked from the waters of Cythera. 60
Lost, I fear that I may lose, or injure him who injures me,  
And not that my enemy, shipwrecked, will drink the waters of the sea.  
Live, I pray! It is better that I lose you in that way than by your death,--  
May you rather be thought the cause of my death.  
Imagine, do!, that you are caught by a sudden whirlwind-- 65
May there be no power in the omen -- what will be in your mind?  
The perjuries of your lying tongue will immediately rush forward  
And Dido will be forced to die by Phrygian deceit;  
The image of your deceived wife will stand before your eyes  
Sad and bloodstained, with scattered locks. 70
Whatever it is, "This much," you may say, "I have deserved depart!"  
And the thunderbolts which strike you will think have been sent against you!  
Give a brief space to the sea's madness--and your own;  
A safe path will be the grand prize for your delay.  
And have no anxiety about me; cease for the sake of you son Julus! 75
It is enough that you can claim credit for my death.  
What does you son Ascanius, what do the Penate gods deserve?  
Will waves drown gods that were snatched from the flames?  
But you do not carry them with you nor do the sacred objects and your father  
Weigh down your shoulders, as you, liar, boasted to me. 80
You lied about everything; for your tongue does not begin to deceive,  
Deceiving us, and I am not the first to be afflicted:  
If you ask where the mother of lovely Julus may be --  
She died, left behind, alone, by her stony-hearted husband.  
You told me these things, but to move me to sadness. 85
Therefore your punishment will not be as much as your guilt deserves.  
There is no doubt in my mind that your own gods damn you:  
Over sea, over lands a seventh winter hurls you.  
I received you, cast up by the waves, into a safe harbor  
And, barely having heard your name, I handed over my kingdom. 90
Yet I wish that I had been content with these services  
And that the report of my sleeping with you had been buried!  
That was a harmful day, in which a dark storm,  
With its sudden downpour, forced us into the sloping cave.  
I had heard voices, I thought nymphs were warbling. 95
The Furies marked the signposts for my fate.  
Exact penalties, betrayed modesty!, and do not let the violated vows  
Of the marriage bed nor my reputation be preserved for my ashes!  
And you, my own angels, and the spirits and ashes of Sychaeus,  
To whom I go full of shame and misery. 100
Sychaeus was honored as sacred by me in a noble sanctuary;  
Intertwined Branches and white fleeces cover it.  
Here I felt myself summoned four times by a familiar voice;  
It spoke in a quiet tone: "Elissa, come!"  
There is no delay; I am coming, I am coming, your own devoted wife, -- 105
But I am yet held back by my lost modesty!  
Pardon my fault; its capable author deceived me;  
He removes the ill-will due for my offense.  
His goddess mother and aged father, the pious burden of a son,  
Gave me hope of a husband who would stay with me. 110
If there had to be fall into error, it was an error that had honorable causes.  
Add to it only faithfulness, and there would not have been any need for regrets.  
The curse of fate, which existed before, lasts to the end  
And accompanies the final events of my life:  
As my slaughtered spouse falls at the Tyrian altars 115
And my brother receives the reward for his great crime,  
I am driven off, an exile, and I leave the ashes of my husband and my homeland,  
And I am driven along hard paths with enemies at my heels;  
I am brought to unknown peoples, having escaped both my brother and the sea;  
I gain the shore, which I gave you, traitor. 120
I built a city and erected walls spreading out far and near,  
Walls raising the envy of its neighbors.  
Wars are ready to break out. A stranger and a woman, I am threatened by wars,  
And am scarcely able to prepare the rough gates of my city and my weapons.  
I have pleased a thousand wooers, who have joined together in their complaints 125
That I have preferred I know no whom to their marriage beds.  
Why do you hesitate to hand me over in chains to the Gaetulian Iarbas?  
I would surrender my arms to your crime.  
There is also my brother, whose impious hand, stained  
With the blood of my husband, demands also to be spattered with mine. 130
Put down your gods and those sacred objects which you profane by touching!  
Your impious right hand does not rightly reverence the heavenly gods.  
If you were about to become a priest of those who escaped the fire,  
The gods would regret having escaped the fires.  
Perhaps also, you criminal, you leave Dido pregnant 135
And part of you lies hidden, shut up in my body.  
A wretched infant will emulate the fate of its wretched mother,  
And you will cause the death of one not yet born.  
And along with his mother the brother of Iulus will die,  
And one torment will carry two away joined together. 140
"But a god orders me to go!" I wish he had forbidden you to come  
And the Punic earth had not been trod upon by Trojans.  
At this god's command, I'm sure, you are being battered by wicked winds  
And you wear away the slowly passing time in a rushing sea.  
Pergama (the Trojan citadel) would scarcely have had to be sought out again by you 145
With such great labor if it had been as great while Hector was alive.  
You do not look for your native Simois, but for the Tiber's waves;  
Suppose you arrive where you wish, you will be nothing but a stranger.  
And since a safe path lies concealed from your ships,  
The land you seek will hardly be achieved by the time you're an old man. 150
So, without any ambiguity about the terms, accept as my dowry this people  
And the wealth of Pygmalion carried off (by me).  
Convert Ilion into a Tyre, a more blessed city  
And hold the place you already rule and its sacred scepter!  
If your mind is set on war, if Iulus seeks, 155
Where he might go triumphing, begotten by his own Mars,  
One whom he might conquer, we will find an enemy so that nothing may be wanting;  
Here the laws of peace, this place embraces the weapons of war.  
??? If only it had been you -- because of your mother and your brother's shafts, his arrows,  
And because of the companions of your flight, the Dardanian holy objects, the gods! -- 160
Thus they might win victory, those whatevers you are bringing back from your people,  
Fierce Mars may also set the limit to the damage you do  
And Ascanius may live out his years in happiness  
And the old bones of Anchises rest softly! --  
Spare, I beg, the home which gives itself up to be possessed by you! 165
What crime have I committed except to have loved?  
I am not a Phthian and descended from great Mycenis (i.e., Iphigenia),  
Nor have both my husband and father stood against you.  
If you are ashamed of me as a wife let me not be called spouse but house-guest;  
While Dido is yours, she will bear to be anything at all. 170
The seas which beat against the African shore are known to me;  
At times they offer, and at times refuse, passage:  
When the breezes will offer passage, you will surrender your sails to the winds;  
Now slippery seaweed holds your vessel, thrown up on the shore.  
Leave it to me, that I might watch for the right time: you will go more confidently 175
And I myself will not allow you to remain, if you wish it.  
And your companions demand rest and your tattered fleet,  
Half-repaired, requires a short respite.  
We will be indebted to you for what we deserve, and if at all more,  
I beg a little time because there was some hope of marriage. 180
When the seas grow calm and when love balances the lessons of experience,  
I will learn to be able to suffer sorrows bravely.  
If that doesn't happen, I am determined to pour out my life;  
You will not for long be able to be cruel toward me.  
I wish that you could see how the one who writes this appears; 185
I am writing with your Trojan sword lying in my lap;  
And from my cheeks the tears drip down upon the drawn sword,  
Which soon will be stained with blood instead of tears.  
How well your gifts are fashioned for my fate!  
You adorn my sepulchre at very little expense. 190
And my breast is not now being pierced for the first time by a weapon of yours:  
That place already bears the wound of your fierce love.  
Anna my sister, my sister Anna, sad confidante of my sin,  
Soon you will give to my ashes their final gifts,  
And, consumed by the funeral pyre, I will not be accounted "Elissa, wife of Sychaeus." 195
Yet this song will be on the marble of my tomb:  
"Aeneas provided both the reason for my death, and the sword.  
Dido fell, struck down by her own hand."