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The Legend of Dido

(modernized by Míceál F. Vaughan)

Line Index

925-Be to your name! And I shall, as I can
965-And him of all his fellowship he chose 
1005-That formerly was the wife of Sichaeus 
1045-Has suddenly brought in so new a chance 
1095-And with the wine she began them to present 
1135-The presenting, and to the queen it take. 
1175-And therewith so much good he can 
1215-That I might once meet him with this spear? 
1255-Full of pity, of troth, and conscience 
1295-"Certainly," said he, "this night my father's ghost
1335-When that he stole away to his navy
 

 
Here begins the legend of Dido, martyr, Queen of Carthage.  
Glory and honor, Virgil of Mantua,  
Be to your name! And I shall, as I can,  925
Follow your lantern, as you go before,  
How Aeneas to Dido was forsworn.  
In your Aeneid and Ovid will I take  
The tenor, and the great effects make.  
When Troy brought was to destruction  930
By Greeksí sleight, and namely by Sinon,  
Feigning the horse offered unto Minerva,  
Through which that many a Trojan must perish;  
And Hector had, after his death, appeared;  
And fire, so wild it might not been steered,  935
In all the noble towers of Ilium,  
That of the city was the chief dungeon;  
And all the country was so low brought,  
And Priam the king defeated and naught;  
And Aeneas was charged by Venus  940
To flee away, he took Ascanius,  
That was his son, in his right hand, and fled;  
And on his back he bore and with him led,  
His old father called Anchises,  
And by the way his wife Creusa he lost.  945
And much sorrow had he in his mind,  
Or that he could his fellowship find.  
But at the last, when he had them found,  
He made him ready in a certain place,  
And to the sea full fast he began him hasten,  950
Toward Italy, as would his destiny.  
But of his adventures in the sea  
Is not to purpose for to speak of here,  
For it accords not to my matter.  955
But, as I said, of him and of Dido  
Shall be my tale, till that I have done.  
So long he sailed in the salty sea  
Till in Libya barely arrived he,  
With ships seven and with no more navy;  960
And glad was he to land for to hasten,  
So was he with the tempest all shaken to bits.  
And when that he the haven had taken,  
He had a knight, was called Achates,  
And him of all his fellowship he chose  965
To go with him, the country for to espy.  
He took with him no more company,  
But forth they went, and left his ships ride,  
His companion and he, without any guide.  
So long he walks in this wilderness,  970
Till at the last he met an huntress.  
A bow in hand and arrows had she;  
Hire clothes cut were unto the knee.  
But she was yet the fairest creature  
That ever was formed by Nature; 975
And Aeneas and Achates she greeted,  
And thus she to them spoke, when she them met:  
"Saw you," said she, "as you have walked widely,  
Any of my sisters walk you beside  
With any wild boar or other best,  980
That they have hunted to, in this forest,  
Tucked up, with arrows in their case?"  
"Nay, truly, lady," said this Aeneas;  
"But by your beauty, as it seems to me,  
You might never earthly woman be,  985
But Phebusís sister art thow, as I guess.  
And, if so be that you be a goddess,  
Have mercy on our labor and our woe."  
"I am no goddess, truly," said she then;  
"For maidens walk in this country here,  990
With arrows and with bow, in this manner.  
This is the reign of Libya, where you are,  
Of which that Dido lady is and queen"-  
And shortly told him all the occasion  
Why Dido cam into that region,  995
Of which as now me pleases not to rhyme;  
It needs not, it were but loss of time.  
For this is all and some, it was Venus,  
His own mother, that spoke with him thus,  
And to Carthage she bade he should him direct,  1000
And vanished anon out of his sight.  
I could follow, word for word, Virgil,  
But it would last all to long while.  
This noble queen, that called was Dido,  
That formerly was the wife of Sichaeus,  1005
That fairer was than is the bright sun,  
This noble town of Carthage has begun;  
In which she reigns in so great honor,  
That she was held of all queens flower,  
Of gentleness, of freedom, of beauty;  1010
That well was him that might her once see;  
Of kings and of lords so desired,  
That all the world her beauty had set afire;  
She stood so well in every personís grace.  
When Aeneas was come unto that place,  1015
Unto the chief temple of all the town,  
There Dido was in her devotion,  
Full privily his way then has he taken.  
When he was in the large temple come,  
I can not say if that it be possible,  1020
But Venus had him made invisible -  
Thus says the book, without any lie.  
And what this Aeneas and Achates  
Had in this temple been overall,  
Then found they, depicted on a wall,  1025
How Troy and all the land destroyed was.  
"Alas, that I was born!" said Aeneas;  
"Throughout the world our shame is displayed so wide,  
Now it is painted upon every side.  
We, that were in prosperity,  1030
Are now slandered, and in such degree,  
No longer for to live I do not keep."  
And with that word he burst out for to weep  
So tenderly that pity it was to see.  
This fresh lady, of the city queen,  1035
Stood in the temple, in her estate royal,  
So richly and also so fair withal,  
So young, so lusty, with her eyes glad,  
That, if that God, that heaven and earth made,  
Would have a love, for beauty and goodness,  1040
And womanhood, and troth, and seemliness,  
Whom should he love but this lady sweet?  
There is no woman to him half so meet.  
Fortune, that has the world in governance,  
Has suddenly brought in so new a chance  1045
That never was there yet so strange a case.  
For all the company of Aeneas,  
Which that he thought had lost in the sea,  
Arrived is not far from that city;  
For which, some of the greatest of his lords  1050
By adventure be to the city come,  
Unto that same temple, for to seek  
The queen, and of her succor to beseech,  
Such renown was there sprung of her goodness.  
And when they had told all their distress,  1055
And all their tempest and their hard case,  
Unto the queen appeared Aeneas,  
And openly recognized that it was he.  
Who had joy then but his followers,  
That had found their lord, their governor?  1060
The queen saw that they did him such honor,  
And had herd often of Aeneas before then,  
And in her heart she had pity and woe  
That ever such a noble man as he  
Shall be disinherited in such degree;  1065
And saw the man, that he was like a knight,  
And sufficient of person and of might,  
And like to been a true gentle man;  
And well his words he beset can,  
And had a noble visage for the nonce,  1070
And formed well of brawn and of bones.  
For after Venus had he such fairness  
That no man might be half so fair, I guess;  
And well a lord he seemed for to be.  
And, for he was a stranger, somewhat she  1075
Liked him the better, as, God help me,  
To some folk often new thing is sweet.  
Anon her heart has pity of his woe,  
And with that pity love come in also;  
And thus, for pity and for gentleness 1080
Refreshed must he been of his distress.  
She said, certainly, that she sorry was  
That he has had such peril and such chance;  
And, in her friendly speech, in this manner  
She to him spoke, and said as you may hear:  1085
"Be you not Venusís son and Anchisesís?  
In good faith, all the worship and increase  
That I may goodly do you, you shall have.  
Your ships and you followers shall I save."  
And many a gentle word she spoke him to,  1090
And commanded her messengers to go  
The same day, without any fail,  
His ships for to seek, and them supply.  
Full many a beast she to the ships sent,  
And with the wine she began them to present,  1095
And to her royal palace she her sped,  
And Aeneas always with her she led.  
What needs you the feast to describe?  
He never better at ease was in his life.  
Full was the feast of dainties and riches,  1100
Of instruments, of song, and of gladness,  
Of many an amorous looking and device.  
This Aeneas is come to paradise  
Out of the mouth of hell, and thus in joy  
Remembers him of his estate in Troy.  1105
To dancing chambers full of tapestries,  
Of rich beds, and of ornaments,  
This Aeneas is led, after the meat.  
And with the queen, when that he had sat,  
And spices departed, and the wine gone,  1110
Unto his chambers was he led anon  
To take his ease and for to have his rest,  
With all his folk, to do what so them pleased.  
There was no courser well bridled none,  
Nor steed, for the jousting well to go,  1115
Nor large palfrey, easy for the nonce,  
Nor jewel, fretted full of rich stones,  
Nor sacks full of gold, of large weight,  
Nor ruby none, that shined by night,  
Nor gentle proud falcon heroner,  1120
Nor hound for hart or wild boar or deer,  
Nor cup of gold, with florins new minted,  
That in the land of Libya may be gotten,  
That Dido does not have it Aeneas sent;  
And all is paid, what that he has spent,  1125
Thus can this queen honorable her guests call,  
As she that can in freedom surpass all.  
Aeneas truly also, without lying,  
Had sent unto his ship, by Achates,  
After his son, and after rich things,  1130
Both scepter, clothes, brooches, and also rings,  
Some for to wear, and some for to present  
To her, that all these noble things him sent;  
And bade his son how that he should make  
The presenting, and to the queen it take.  1135
Returned is this Achates again,  
And Aeneas full blissful is and fain  
To see his young son Ascanius.  
But nevertheless, our author tells us,  
That Cupid, that is the god of love,  1140
At prayer of his mother high above,  
Had the likeness of the child taken,  
This noble queen enamored to make  
Of Aeneas; but, as of that scripture,  
Be as be may, I take of it no care.  1145
But true is this, the queen has made such cheer  
Unto this child, that wonder is to hear;  
And of the present that his father sent  
She thanked him full often, in good intent.  
Thus is this queen in pleasance and in joy,  1150
With all these new lusty folk of Troy.  
And of the deeds has she more inquired  
Of Aeneas, and all the story learned  
Of Troy, and all the long day they two  
Intent on speaking and on playing;  1155
Of which there began to breed such a fire,  
That silly Dido has now such desire  
With Aeneas, her new guest, to deal,  
That she has lost her hue, and also her health.  
Now to the effect, now to the fruit of all,  1160
Why I have told this story, and tell shall.  
Thus I begin: it fell upon a night,  
When that the moon up raised had his light,  
This noble queen unto her rest went.  
She sighs sore, and began herself torment;  1165
She lies awake, and tosses about and turns,  
As do these lovers, as I have heard said.  
And at the last, unto her sister Anne  
She made her moan, and right thus spoke she then:  
"Now, dear sister mine, what may it be  1170
That me aghasts in my dream?" said she.  
"This new Trojan is so in my thought,  
For that me seems he is so well wrought,  
And also so likely for to be a man,  
And therewith so much good he can,  1175
That all my love and life lies in his care.  
Have yet not heard him tell his adventure?  
Now certainly, Anne, if that you advise it me,  
I would fain to him wedded be;  
This is the effect; what should I more say?  1180
In him lies all, to do me live or die."  
Her sister Anne, as she that could her good,  
Said as her thought, and somewhat it withstood.  
But hereof was so long a sermoning,  
It were to long to make rehearsing,  1185
But finally, it may not be withstood:  
Love will love, for nothing will it cease.  
The dawning up-rose out of the sea.  
This amorous queen charges her followers  
The nets dress, and spears broad and keen;  1190
A-hunting will this lusty fresh queen,  
So pricks her this new jolly woe.  
To horse is all her lusty folk gone;  
Into the court the hounds been brought;  
And upon coursers, swift as any thought,  1195
Her young knights hover all about,  
And of her women also a huge route.  
Upon a thick palfrey, paper-white,  
With saddle red, embroidered with delight,  
Of gold the bars up embossed high,  1200
Sits Dido, all in gold and pearls woven;  
And she as fair as is the bright morning,  
That heals sick folk of nightís sorrow.  
Upon a courser startling as the fire -  
Men might turn him with a little wire -  1205
Sits Aeneas, like Phebus to devise,  
So was he fresh arrayed in his wise.  
The foamy bridle with the bit of gold  
Governs he, right as himself has willed.  
And forth this noble queen thus let I ride  1210
A-hunting, with this Trojan by her side.  
The herd of harts found is anon,  
With "Hay! Hurry up! Spur on! let go, let go!  
Why will not the lion come, or the bear,  
That I might once meet him with this spear?"  1215
Thus say these young folk, and up they kill  
These beasts wild, and have them at their will.  
Among all this to rumble began the heaven;  
The thunder roared with a grisly voice;  
Down cam the rain, with hail and sleet, so fast,  1220
With heavenís fire, that it so sore aghasts  
This noble queen, and also her followers,  
That each of them was glad away to flee.  
And shortly, from the tempest her to save,  
She fled herself into a little cave,  1225
And with her went this Aeneas also.  
I do not know, with them if there went any more;  
The author makes of it no mention.  
And here began the deep affection  
Between them two; this was the first morning  1230
Of their (?her) gladness, and beginning of her (?their) sorrow.  
For there has Aeneas knelt so,  
And told her all his heart and all his woe,  
And swore so deep to her to be true,  
For well or woe, and change her for no new,  1235
And as a false lover so well can complain,  
That silly Dido rued on his pain,  
And took him for husband, and become his wife  
For evermore, while that them lasts life.  
And after this, when that the tempest stopped,  1240
With mirth out as they come, home they went.  
The wicked fame uprose, and that anon,  
How Aeneas has with the queen gone  
Into the cave, and deemed as them pleased.  
And when the king, that Yarbas named, it knew,  1245
As he that had her loved ever his life,  
And wooed her, to have her to his wife,  
Such sorrow as he has made, and such cheer,  
It is a grief and pity for to hear.  
But, as in love, daily it happens so,  1250
That one shall laugh at anotherís woe.  
Now laughs Aeneas, and is in joy  
And more riches than ever he was in Troy.  
O silly women, full of innocence,  
Full of pity, of troth, and conscience,  1255
What makes you to men to trust so?  
Have you such pity upon their feigned woe,  
And have such old examples you before?  
See you not all how they be forsworn?  
Where see you one, that he has not left his love,  1260
Or been unkind, or done her some mischief,  
Or robbed her, or boasted of his deed?  
You may as well it see, as you may read.  
Take heed now of this great gentleman,  
This Trojan, that so well her please can,  1265
That feigns him so true and obedient,  
So gentle, and so privy of his doing,  
And can so well do all his obeisances  
And waits upon her at feasts and at dances,  
And when she goes to temple and home again,  1270
And fast till he has his lady seen,  
And bears in his devices, for her sake,  
I do not know what; and songs would he make,  
Joust, and do of arms many things,  
Send her letters, tokens, brooches, rings -  1275
Now harken how he shall his lady serve!  
Thereas he was in peril for to die  
For hunger, and for mischief in the sea,  
And desolate, and fled from his country,  
And all his folk with tempest all driven about,  1280
She has her body and also her realm given  
Into his hand, there as she might have been  
Of other land than of Cartage a queen,  
And lived in joy enough; what want you more?  
This Aeneas, that has so deeply sworn,  1285
Is weary of his craft within a throw;  
The hot earnest is all overblown.  
And privily he does his ships prepare,  
And plans him to steal away by night.  
This Dido has suspicion of this,  1290
And thought well that it was all amiss.  
For in his bed she lies a-night and sighs;  
She asks him anon what him displeases-  
"My dear heart, which that I love most?"  
"Certainly," said he, "this night my fatherís ghost  1295
Has in my sleep so sorely me tormented,  
And also Mercury his message has presented,  
That necessarily to the conquest of Italy  
My destiny is soon for to sail;  
For which, it seems to me, burst is my heart!"  1300
Therewith his false tears out they started,  
And takes her within his arms two.  
"Is that in earnest?" said she, "will you so?  
Have you not sworn to wife me to take"  
Alas! what woman will you of me make?  1305
I am a gentle woman and a queen.  
You will not from your wife thus foully flee?  
That I was born, alas! What shall I do?"  
To tell in short, this noble queen Dido,  
She seeks out shrines and does sacrifice;  1310
She kneels, cries, that pity is to devise;  
Conjures him, and proffers him to be  
His thrall, his servant in the least degree;  
She falls at his foot and swoons there,  
Dishevelled, with her bright gilt her,  1315
And says, "Have mercy! let me with you ride!  
These lords, which that dwell me beside,  
Will me destroy only for your sake.  
And, so you will me now to wife take,  
As you have sworn, then will I give you leave  1320
To slay me with your sword now soon at eve!  
For then yet shall I die as your wife.  
I am with child, and give my child his life!  
Mercy, lord! have pity in your thought!"  
But all this thing avails her right nought,  1325
For on a night, sleeping, he let her lie,  
And stole away unto his company.  
And as a traitor forth he began to sail  
Toward the large country of Italy.  
Thus he has left Dido in woe and pain,  1330
And wedded there a lady, called Lavinia.  
A cloth he left, and also his sword standing,  
When he from Dido stole in her sleeping,  
Right at her bedís head, so began he hasten,  
When that he stole away to his navy;  1335
Which cloth, when silly Dido began awake,  
She has it kissed full often for his sake,  
And said, "O sweet cloth, while Jupiter it pleases,  
Take now my soul, unbind me of this unrest!  
I have fulfilled of fortune all the course."  1340
And thus, alas! without his soccour,  
Twenty times swooned has she then.  
And when that she unto her sister Anne  
Complained had - of which I may not write,  
So great a pity I have it for to endite -  1345
And bade her nurse and her sister go  
To fetch fire and other things anon,  
And said that she would sacrifice, -  
And when she might her time well espy,  
Upon the fire of sacrifice she started,  1350
And with his sword she pierced herself to the heart.  
But, as mine author says, yet thus she said;  
Before she was hurt, or before she died,  
She wrote a letter anon that thus began:  
"Right so," said she, "as that the white swan  1355
Against his death begins for to sing,  
Right so to you make I my complaining.  
Not that I believe to get you again,  
For well I know that it is all in vain,  
Since that the gods are contrary to me. 1360
But since my name is lost through you," said she,  
"I may well loose on you a word or letter,  
All be it that I shall be never the better;  
For that same wind that blew your ship away,  
The same wind has blown away your faith."  
But who will all this letter have in mind,  1365
Read Ovid, and in him he shall it find.  
Here ends the legend of Dido, martyr, Queen of Carthage.  

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