AENEAS AND DIDO

BY V. C. TURNBULL

Hardly less renowned than the wanderings of crafty Ulysses, after the fall of Troy, are those of pious Æneas, the Trojan. Many were his adventures and heavy his losses, for he was pursued evermore by the hatred of Juno, who detested all Trojans, and but for the protecting care of his mother Venus he must have perished.

On the Sicilian shore he had lost his aged father, Anchises, and Æneas mourned his good old sire, whom he had carried on his shoulders from burning Troy.

Thence he set sail with his son Iulus to Italy. But when they had put forth to sea, Juno smote them with a terrible storm, so that Æneas lost all but seven ships of his fleet and not a few of his comrades perished. He himself, with his son Iulus and his friend Achates, was driven out of his course and carried to the shores of Libya. Here the Trojans disembarked and thankfully rested their brine-drenched limbs on the beach. And when they had feasted off the grain brought from their ships, and the venison procured for them by their captain's bow, Æneas, taking with him only Achates, set forth to survey this unexplored country.

On their way through a forest they met a fair maid in the garb of a huntress, and of her they inquired what land this might be and who dwelt therein. She told them they had come to the land and city of Carthage, over which ruled the Tyrian Queen Dido. She told them, moreover, that the Queen had once ruled in Tyre, the consort of Sichæus, a Phœnician prince, and that when her lord had been murdered by his cruel brother Pygmalion, she had fled to Libya, where even now she was rearing the stately city of Carthage. And she bade them seek the Queen and throw themselves on her protection. Æneas had gazed in wonder and admiration at the maiden, deeming her some nymph of Dian's train, and he was about, on bended knee, to give her thanks when she turned on him a parting glance. And lo! the goddess stood revealed, radiant in celestial beauty; and as he recognized his mother, she had vanished from his sight.

Cheered by this vision, Æneas and Achates pressed forward, and, that none might molest them, Venus wrapped them in a thick mist. Emerging from the forest they climbed a hill overlooking the city of Carthage, where skilled workmen were on all sides busied rearing stately buildings. In the midst of the city, with a flight of marble stairs and surrounded by a grove of trees, stood a temple to Juno, its gates of brass glittering in the morning sun. And Æneas, drawing near, marveled to find the walls of this temple painted with pictures of the Trojan War—aye, and himself he saw portrayed fighting against the Grecian leaders.

Whilst Æneas and Achates were still gazing, Queen Dido drew near with a great retinue of maidens and youths. She seated herself on a throne under the dome of the temple, for here it was her custom to deal justice and apportion work to her subjects, urging forward with cheerful words the building of her city. Among the first to appear before the Queen, Æneas and Achates saw with astonishment certain of their own friends—Ilioneus, Antheus, Sergestus, and Cloanthus, whom they had supposed to have been drowned in the storm. These, coming before Dido, told her of their sufferings and entreated her protection in that strange country.

"We had for our king Æneas," said Ilioneus, the spokesman, "than whom none was more pious and brave. If he yet lives we shall not despair, neither shalt thou, O Queen, repent thee of thy hospitality."

Queen Dido answered the Trojans graciously, promising them all they asked and more.

"And would," she added, "that your prince Æneas too were here! But my messengers shall search the Libyan coasts, and if he has been cast ashore he shall be found."

Even as she spoke, the mist that hid Æneas and Achates suddenly parted, and Æneas stood forth in the bright light like a god; and, joyfully embracing his friends, poured out his gratitude to Dido.

The voice of the Queen was even gentler than before as she replied: "I too have been tossed by fortune on the high seas; I too came to these shores a stranger. What sorrow was myself have known, and learnt to melt at others' woe."

Then Dido bade Æneas and Achates to a feast in her palace, and to their followers on the shore she sent bulls, lambs, and wine to provide a banquet. Æneas also despatched Achates to the beach to bring therefrom the young Iulus, and with him presents for the Queen—a mantle stiff with gold, a scepter, a necklace of pearls, and a crown set with double rows of gems and gold.

The gifts made and his son embraced, Æneas was led into the great hall of the palace, where the guests reclined on purple couches. In the midst Queen Dido reclined on a golden couch under a rich canopy, and beside her lay the boy Iulus. So they feasted and were merry, and after the banquet Dido pledged her guest in a loving cup and invited him to tell her all that had befallen him since the fall of Troy.

And he told her the long tale of his perils by land and sea, and of the shipwreck which had landed him upon the hospitable shores of Carthage.

And, as Queen Dido listened, the memory of her dead husband Sichæus was no longer first in her thoughts, for a great love sprang up for this princely stranger who had endured so much and had followed his star, true to his country and his country's gods. Far into the night the Queen sat listening to the tale, and in the night watches the image of the hero haunted her fevered sleep. At the first dawn she sought her sister Anna, and poured into sympathetic ears the trouble of her heart, confessing with shame her fears lest she should prove faithless to the memory of her dead lord.

But Anna bade her mourn no more for the unheeding dead, wasting her youth and beauty.

"Surely," said she, "it was Juno who sent the Trojans to this shore. Think, sister, how your city will flourish, how your kingdom will wax great from such an alliance! How will the Carthaginian glory be advanced by Trojan arms!"

That day she invited her guest to view all the wonders of Carthage. She showed him her rising quays and forts, her palace and its treasures; but even as they conversed her voice would falter, and her silence and blushes were tell-tales and betrayed her growing love. When the evening feast was ended she asked again to hear the tale of Troy, and hung again on his lips.

For the next day, to divert her guest, the Queen ordered a great hunt, and an army of beaters was sent to scour the hills and drive in the game. At dawn a gallant company—all the proud lords of Carthage and the comrades of Æneas—gathered at the palace gates and waited for the Queen. At length she descended from her chamber, robed in gold and purple, and the long cavalcade rode forth headed by Dido and Æneas. When they reached the hills they scattered far and wide in the ardor of the chase, and the royal pair found themselves alone. On a sudden the heavens were darkened and the rain descended in torrents, and Dido and Æneas betook themselves for shelter to a mountain cave. Thus had Juno planned it, for she hated the Trojans and would have kept Æneas in Carthage. There, in the dark cavern, the Trojan plighted his troth to the Carthaginian Queen. That day the tide of death set in. The heavens thundered and the mountain nymphs wailed over their bridal.

But the triumph of Juno was short-lived, for Jupiter, from his throne on Olympus, beheld the founder of the Roman race forgetful of his destiny and sunk in soft dalliance. He called to him his son Mercury, and bade him bind on his winged sandals, and bear to Carthage this stern reproof: "Shame on thee, degenerate hero, false to thy mother and thy son, thus sunk in luxury and ease! Set sail and leave this fatal shore."

The heart of the hero, when he heard this message, was torn in twain. How could he disobey the voice of the god? How could he bring himself to desert the Queen whose heart he had won, and break his troth?

But what were the closest of human ties when the god had spoken? So he called to him his comrades and bade them in secret make ready the ships for departure. But lovers' ears are keen, and rumors of the preparation reached the Queen in her palace. She raved like a madwoman, and called down curses on the perjured traitor. Grown calmer, she sought Æneas and, with mingled reproaches and appeals to his pity, besought him at least to delay his departure. The lover's heart was touched, but the hero was unmoved; and with the gentlest words he could frame, he told the Queen that he had no choice but to follow his weird as Heaven ordained. He could never forget her lovingkindness, and would cherish her memory to his dying day.

Then the Queen knew that she was betrayed, and flatteries and soft words served but to rekindle her rage. She bade the perjured wretch begone; she cursed his false gods and their lying message, and swore that she would pursue him with black flames, and that after death her ghost would haunt him in every place. This said, she turned and left him, and he saw her nevermore.

Æneas would fain have stayed to calm her grief and soothe her rage, but duty bade him go, and he urged on his men to equip the fleet for departure. They, nothing loath, set to, and the harbor was like an ant-hill, with the sailors shaping new oars and loading the beached vessels. Soon the black keels rode the waters all along the shore. Dido, perceiving this from her tower, sent her sister Anna with a last message imploring Æneas yet a little to delay. But Æneas, steadfast as a rock, turned to her a deaf ear, and into the heart of the unhappy Dido came despair and thoughts of death.

To death, indeed, dark omens turned her mind. For when she offered sacrifice, the wine which she poured upon the smoking incense turned to blood; and at night, when kneeling before the shrine of her dead husband, she heard his voice bidding her arise and come to him.

So the Queen, interpreting these dark signs as her sick heart dictated, made ready to die.

Calling her sister Anna, she declared that she would now make use of a magic charm given to her by a priestess to bring back faithless lovers or make the love-sick whole. To work this spell it was necessary to collect and burn all tokens of the light of love.

"Do you, therefore," said Dido to Anna, "gather together the arms and garments which Æneas in his haste to be gone has left behind him, and lay these upon a vast funeral pile, which I beseech you to erect secretly in the inner court of the palace, under the open sky."

As she spoke, a deadly pallor overspread the face of Dido. But her sister Anna, suspecting nothing, made haste to obey the Queen. The great pile was quickly erected, with torches and fagots of oak, and crowned with funeral boughs. On it were placed the weapons and raiment of Æneas, while the Queen offered sacrifices, and herbs cut by moonlight with brazen sickles.

Next morning, before daybreak, Æneas called upon his comrades to set sail. With his own sword he cut the hawsers, and his men, pushing off, smote the sounding waves with their oars, and the wind filling their unfurled sails, they swept out into the open sea as the sun rose over the waters.

From the tower of her palace Queen Dido saw them depart. And lifting up her voice she laid a curse upon them, prophesying that for ages to come dire enmity should rage between the race of Æneas and the Carthaginian people.

Then, very pale, she entered the inner court and mounted the funeral pile. A little while she paused, musing and shedding her last tears.

Anon she spoke, and bade farewell to the light of the sun: "I have lived my life; I have finished the course ordained to me by Fate. I have raised a glorious city. I descend illustrious to the shades below."

She paused, and her voice fell to a low wail as she added: "Happy, ah, too happy, my lot had the Trojan ships never touched my shores!"

Then, unsheathing the sword, she plunged it into her bosom and fell down upon the pyre.

Her handmaidens, seeing her fall, rent the air with their cries. And Anna, rushing in, raised her dying sister in her arms, striving in vain to stanch the flowing blood, and crying with tears: "Oh, sister, was it for this that you bade me raise the pyre? Ah, would that you had let me be your companion in death!"

But the last words of Dido, Queen of Carthage, had been spoken.


Far out at sea, Æneas saw a great smoke rising from Carthage, as it were from a funeral pyre. And a sore pang smote him, and bitterly he divined what had passed. But he held upon his destined way, nor looked he back again, but turned his eyes towards the promised land of Latium.