John Denham Poems >>
The Passion Of Dido For Aeneas

Having at large declared Jove's embassy,
Cyllenius from Aeneas straight doth fly;
He, loth to disobey the god's command,
Nor willing to forsake this pleasant land,
Ashamed the kind Eliza to deceive,
But more afraid to take a solemn leave,
He many ways his lab'ring thoughts revolves;
But fear o'ercoming shame, at last resolves
(Instructed by the god of thieves) to steal
Himself away, and his escape conceal.                
He calls his captains, bids them rig the fleet,
That at the port they privately should meet;
And some dissembled colour to project,
That Dido should not their design suspect;
But all in vain he did his plot disguise;
No art a watchful lover can surprise.
She the first motion finds; love though most sure,
Yet always to itself seems unsecure.
That wicked fame which their first love proclaim'd,
Foretells the end: the queen with rage inflamed,           
Thus greets him: 'Thou dissembler! would'st thou fly
Out of my arms by stealth perfidiously?
Could not the hand I plighted, nor the love,
Nor thee the fate of dying Dido move?
And in the depth of winter, in the night,
Dark as thy black designs to take thy flight,
To plough the raging seas to coasts unknown,
The kingdom thou pretend'st to not thine own!
Were Troy restored, thou shouldst mistrust a wind
False as thy vows, and as thy heart unkind.             
Fly'st thou from me? By these dear drops of brine
I thee adjure, by that right hand of thine,
By our espousals, by our marriage-bed,
If all my kindness ought have merited;
If ever I stood fair in thy esteem,
From ruin me and my lost house redeem.
Cannot my prayers a free acceptance find?
Nor my tears soften an obdurate mind?
My fame of chastity, by which the skies
I reached before, by thee extinguish'd dies.             
Into my borders now Iarbas falls,
And my revengeful brother scales my walls;
The wild Numidians will advantage take;
For thee both Tyre and Carthage me forsake.
Hadst thou before thy flight but left with me
A young Aeneas who, resembling thee,
Might in my sight have sported, I had then
Not wholly lost, nor quite deserted been;
By thee, no more my husband, but my guest,
Betray'd to mischiefs, of which death's the least.'         

With fixed looks he stands, and in his breast
By Jove's command his struggling care suppress'd.
'Great queen! your favours and deserts so great,
Though numberless, I never shall forget;
No time, until myself I have forgot,
Out of my heart Eliza's name shall blot:
But my unwilling flight the gods enforce,
And that must justify our sad divorce.
Since I must you forsake, would Fate permit,
To my desires I might my fortune fit;                
Troy to her ancient splendour I would raise,
And where I first began, would end my days.
But since the Lycian lots, and Delphic god
Have destined Italy for our abode;
Since you proud Carthage (fled from Tyre) enjoy,
Why should not Latium us receive from Troy?
As for my son, my father's angry ghost
Tells me his hopes by my delays are cross'd,
And mighty Jove's ambassador appear'd
With the same message, whom I saw and heard;             
We both are grieved when you or I complain,
But much the more when all complaints are vain;
I call to witness all the gods, and thy
Beloved head, the coast of Italy
Against my will I seek.'

Whilst thus he speaks, she rolls her sparkling eyes,
Surveys him round, and thus incensed replies;
'Thy mother was no goddess, nor thy stock
From Dardanus, but in some horrid rock,
Perfidious wretch! rough Caucasus thee bred,             
And with their milk Hyrcanian tigers fed.
Dissimulation I shall now forget,
And my reserves of rage in order set,
Could all my prayers and soft entreaties force
Sighs from his breast, or from his look remorse.
Where shall I first complain? can mighty Jove
Or Juno such impieties approve?
The just Astraea sure is fled to hell;
Nor more in earth, nor heaven itself will dwell.
Oh, Faith! him on my coasts by tempest cast,             
Receiving madly, on my throne I placed;
His men from famine, and his fleet from fire
I rescued: now the Lycian lots conspire
With Phoebus; now Jove's envoy through the air
Brings dismal tidings; as if such low care
Could reach their thoughts, or their repose disturb!
Thou art a false impostor, and a fourbe;
Go, go, pursue thy kingdom through the main;             
I hope, if Heaven her justice still retain,
Thou shalt be wreck'd, or cast upon some rock,
Where thou the name of Dido shalt invoke;
I'll follow thee in fun'ral flames; when dead
My ghost shall thee attend at board and bed,
And when the gods on thee their vengeance show,
That welcome news shall comfort me below.'

This saying, from his hated sight she fled;
Conducted by her damsels to her bed;
Yet restless she arose, and looking out,
Beholds the fleet, and hears the seamen shout
When great Aeneas pass'd before the guard,             
To make a view how all things were prepared.
Ah, cruel Love! to what dost thou enforce
Poor mortal breasts! Again she hath recourse
To tears and prayers, again she feels the smart
Of a fresh wound from his tyrannic dart.
That she no ways nor means may leave untried,
Thus to her sister she herself applied:
'Dear sister, my resentment had not been
So moving, if this fate I had foreseen:
Therefore to me this last kind office do,              
Thou hast some int'rest in our scornful foe;
He trusts to thee the counsels of his mind,
Thou his soft hours, and free access canst find;
Tell him I sent not to the Ilian coast
My fleet to aid the Greeks; his father's ghost
I never did disturb; ask him to lend
To this, the last request that I shall send,
A gentle ear; I wish that he may find
A happy passage, and a prosp'rous wind.
The contract I don't plead, which he betray'd,           
Nor that his promised conquest be delay'd;
All that I ask is but a short reprieve,
Till I forget to love, and learn to grieve;
Some pause and respite only I require,
Till with my tears I shall have quench'd my fire.
If thy address can but obtain one day
Or two, my death that service shall repay.'
Thus she entreats; such messages with tears
Condoling Anne to him, and from him bears:
But him no prayers, no arguments can move;             
The Fates resist, his ears are stopp'd by Jove.
As when fierce northern blasts from th'Alps descend,
From his firm roots with struggling gusts to rend
An aged sturdy oak, the rattling sound
Grows loud, with leaves and scatter'd arms the ground
Is overlaid; yet he stands fixed; as high
As his proud head is raised towards the sky,
So low t'wards hell his roots descend. With prayers
And tears the hero thus assail'd, great cares
He smothers in his breast, yet keeps his post,           
All their addresses and their labour lost.
Then she deceives her sister with a smile:
'Anne, in the inner court erect a pile;
Thereon his arms and once-loved portrait lay,
Thither our fatal marriage-bed convey;
All cursed monuments of him with fire
We must abolish (so the gods require).'
She gives her credit for no worse effect
Than from Sichaeus' death she did suspect,
And her commands obeys.                       
Aurora now had left Tithonus' bed,
And o'er the world her blushing rays did spread;
The Queen beheld, as soon as day appear'd,
The navy under sail, the haven clear'd;
Thrice with her hand her naked breast she knocks,
And from her forehead tears her golden locks;
'O Jove!' she cried, 'and shall he thus delude
Me and my realm? why is he not pursued?
Arm, arm,' she cried, 'and let our Tyrians board
With ours his fleet, and carry fire and sword;           
Leave nothing unattempted to destroy
That perjured race, then let us die with joy.
What if th'event of war uncertain were?
Nor death, nor danger, can the desp'rate fear.
But oh, too late! this thing I should have done,
When first I placed the traitor on my throne.
Behold the faith of him who saved from fire
His honour'd household gods, his aged sire
His pious shoulders from Troy's flames did bear;
Why did I not his carcase piecemeal tear,              
And cast it in the sea? why not destroy
All his companions, and beloved boy
Ascanius? and his tender limbs have dress'd,
And made the father on the son to feast?
Thou Sun! whose lustre all things here below
Surveys; and Juno! conscious of my woe;
Revengeful Furies! and Queen Hecate!
Receive and grant my prayer! If he the sea
Must needs escape, and reach th'Ausonian land,
If Jove decree it, Jove's decree must stand;            
When landed, may he be with arms oppress'd
By his rebelling people, be distress'd
By exile from his country, be divorced
From young Ascanius' sight, and be enforced
To implore foreign aids, and lose his friends
By violent and undeserved ends!
When to conditions of unequal peace
He shall submit, then may he not possess
Kingdom nor life, and find his funeral               
I' th'sands, when he before his day shall fall!
And ye, O Tyrians! with immortal hate
Pursue this race, this service dedicate
To my deplored ashes; let there be
'Twixt us and them no league nor amity.
May from my bones a new Achilles rise,
That shall infest the Trojan colonies
With fire, and sword, and famine, when at length
Time to our great attempts contributes strength;
Our seas, our shores, our armies theirs oppose,
And may our children be for ever foes!'               
A ghastly paleness death's approach portends,
Then trembling she the fatal pile ascends;
Viewing the Trojan relics, she unsheath'd
Aeneas' sword, not for that use bequeath'd:
Then on the guilty bed she gently lays
Herself, and softly thus lamenting prays;
'Dear relics! whilst that Gods and Fates give leave,
Free me from cares and my glad soul receive.
That date which Fortune gave, I now must end,
And to the shades a noble ghost descend.              
Sichaeus' blood, by his false brother spilt,
I have revenged, and a proud city built;
Happy, alas! too happy, I had lived,
Had not the Trojan on my coast arrived.
But shall I die without revenge? yet die
Thus, thus with joy to thy Sichaeus fly.
My conscious foe my funeral fire shall view
From sea, and may that omen him pursue!'
Her fainting hand let fall the sword besmear'd
With blood, and then the mortal wound appear'd;           
Through all the court the fright and clamours rise,
Which the whole city fills with fears and cries,
As loud as if her Carthage, or old Tyre
The foe had enter'd, and had set on fire.
Amazed Anne with speed ascends the stairs,
And in her arms her dying sister rears;
'Did you for this yourself and me beguile?
For such an end did I erect this pile?
Did you so much despise me, in this fate
Myself with you not to associate?                  
Yourself and me, alas! this fatal wound,
The senate, and the people, doth confound.
I'll wash her wound with tears, and at her death,
My lips from hers shall draw her parting breath.'
Then with her vest the wound she wipes and dries;
Thrice with her arm the Queen attempts to rise,
But her strength failing, falls into a swound,
Life's last efforts yet striving with her wound;
Thrice on her bed she turns, with wand'ring sight
Seeking, she groans when she beholds the light.           
Then Juno, pitying her disastrous fate,
Sends Iris down, her pangs to mitigate.
(Since if we fall before th'appointed day,
Nature and death continue long their fray.)
Iris descends; 'This fatal lock' (says she)
'To Pluto I bequeath, and set thee free;'
Then clips her hair: cold numbness strait bereaves
Her corpse of sense, and th'air her soul receives.