The death of Dido

She said, and struck; deep enter’d in her side
The piercing steel, with reeking purple dyed:
Clogg’d in the wound the cruel weapon stands;
The spouting blood came streaming on her hands.
Her sad attendants saw the deadly stroke,
And with loud cries the sounding palace shook.
Distracted, from the fatal sight they fled,
And thro’ the town the dismal rumor spread.
First from the frighted court the yell began;
Redoubled, thence from house to house it ran:
The groans of men, with shrieks, laments, and cries
Of mixing women, mount the vaulted skies.
Not less the clamor, than if—ancient Tyre,
Or the new Carthage, set by foes on fire—
The rolling ruin, with their lov’d abodes,
Involv’d the blazing temples of their gods.

Her sister hears; and, furious with despair,
She beats her breast, and rends her yellow hair,
And, calling on Eliza’s name aloud,
Runs breathless to the place, and breaks the crowd.
“Was all that pomp of woe for this prepar’d;
These fires, this fun’ral pile, these altars rear’d?
Was all this train of plots contriv’d,” said she,
“All only to deceive unhappy me?
Which is the worst? Didst thou in death pretend
To scorn thy sister, or delude thy friend?
Thy summon’d sister, and thy friend, had come;
One sword had serv’d us both, one common tomb:
Was I to raise the pile, the pow’rs invoke,
Not to be present at the fatal stroke?
At once thou hast destroy’d thyself and me,
Thy town, thy senate, and thy colony!
Bring water; bathe the wound; while I in death
Lay close my lips to hers, and catch the flying breath.”
This said, she mounts the pile with eager haste,
And in her arms the gasping queen embrac’d;
Her temples chaf’d; and her own garments tore,
To stanch the streaming blood, and cleanse the gore.
Thrice Dido tried to raise her drooping head,
And, fainting thrice, fell grov’ling on the bed;
Thrice op’d her heavy eyes, and sought the light,
But, having found it, sicken’d at the sight,
And clos’d her lids at last in endless night.

—P. Vergilius Maro, Aeneid (IV, 663-691), translated by John Dryden

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