01 December 2010

Dido's End, from the Aeneid (Williams trans.)

'Moriemur inultae,
sed moriamur' ait. 'sic, sic iuuat ire sub umbras.
hauriat hunc oculis ignem crudelis ab alto
Dardanus, et nostrae secum ferat omina mortis.'
dixerat, atque illam media inter talia ferro
conlapsam aspiciunt comites, ensemque cruore
spumantem sparsasque manus. it clamor ad alta
atria: concussam bacchatur Fama per urbem.
lamentis gemituque et femineo ululatu
tecta fremunt, resonat magnis plangoribus aether,
non aliter quam si immissis ruat hostibus omnis
Karthago aut antiqua Tyros, flammaeque furentes
culmina perque hominum uoluantur perque deorum.
audiit exanimis trepidoque exterrita cursu
unguibus ora soror foedans et pectora pugnis
per medios ruit, ac morientem nomine clamat:

'hoc illud, germana, fuit? me fraude petebas?
hoc rogus iste mihi, hoc ignes araeque parabant?
quid primum deserta querar? comitemne sororem
spreuisti moriens? eadem me ad fata uocasses,
idem ambas ferro dolor atque eadem hora tulisset.
his etiam struxi manibus patriosque uocaui
uoce deos, sic te ut posita, crudelis, abessem?
exstinxti te meque, soror, populumque patresque
Sidonios urbemque tuam. date, uulnera lymphis
abluam et, extremus si quis super halitus errat,
ore legam.' sic fata gradus euaserat altos,
semianimemque sinu germanam amplexa fouebat
cum gemitu atque atros siccabat ueste cruores.
illa grauis oculos conata attollere rursus
deficit; infixum stridit sub pectore uulnus.
ter sese attollens cubitoque adnixa leuauit,
ter reuoluta toro est oculisque errantibus alto
quaesiuit caelo lucem ingemuitque reperta.

Tum Iuno omnipotens longum miserata dolorem
difficilisque obitus Irim demisit Olympo
quae luctantem animam nexosque resolueret artus.
nam quia nec fato merita nec morte peribat,
sed misera ante diem subitoque accensa furore,
nondum illi flauum Proserpina uertice crinem
abstulerat Stygioque caput damnauerat Orco.
ergo Iris croceis per caelum roscida pennis
mille trahens uarios aduerso sole colores
deuolat et supra caput astitit. 'hunc ego Diti
sacrum iussa fero teque isto corpore soluo':
sic ait et dextra crinem secat, omnis et una
dilapsus calor atque in uentos uita recessit.

“Though for my death
no vengeance fall, O, give me death!” she cried.
“O thus! O thus! it is my will to take
the journey to the dark. From yonder sea
may his cold Trojan eyes discern the flames
that make me ashes! Be this cruel death
his omen as he sails!” She spoke no more.
But almost ere she ceased, her maidens all
thronged to obey her cry, and found their Queen
prone fallen on the sword, the reeking steel
still in her bloody hands. Shrill clamor flew
along the lofty halls; wild rumor spread
through the whole smitten city: Ioud lament,
groans and the wail of women echoed on
from roof to roof, and to the dome of air
the noise of mourning rose. Such were the cry
if a besieging host should break the walls
of Carthage or old Tyre, and wrathful flames
o'er towers of kings and worshipped altars roll.
Her sister heard. Half in a swoon, she ran
with trembling steps, where thickest was the throng,
beating her breast, while with a desperate hand
she tore at her own face, and called aloud
upon the dying Queen.

“Was it for this
my own true sister used me with such guile?
O, was this horrid deed the dire intent
of altars, Iofty couch, and funeral fires?
What shall I tell for chiefest of my woes?
Lost that I am! Why, though in death, cast off
thy sister from thy heart? Why not invite
one mortal stroke for both, a single sword,
one agony together? But these hands
built up thy pyre; and my voice implored
the blessing of our gods, who granted me
that thou shouldst perish thus—and I not know!
In thy self-slaughter, sister, thou hast slain
myself, thy people, the grave counsellors
of Sidon, and yon city thou didst build
to be thy throne!—Go, fetch me water, there!
That I may bathe those gashes! If there be
one hovering breath that stays, let my fond lips
discover and receive!” So saying, she sprang up
from stair to stair, and, clasping to her breast
her sister's dying form, moaned grievously,
and staunched the dark blood with her garment's fold.
Vainly would Dido lift her sinking eyes,
but backward fell, while at her heart the wound
opened afresh; three times with straining arm
she rose; three times dropped helpless, her dimmed eyes
turned skyward, seeking the sweet light of day, —
which when she saw, she groaned.

Great Juno then
looked down in mercy on that lingering pain
and labor to depart: from realms divine
she sent the goddess of the rainbow wing,
Iris, to set the struggling spirit free
and loose its fleshly coil. For since the end
came not by destiny, nor was the doom
of guilty deed, but of a hapless wight
to sudden madness stung, ere ripe to die,
therefore the Queen of Hades had not shorn
the fair tress from her forehead, nor assigned
that soul to Stygian dark. So Iris came
on dewy, saffron pinions down from heaven,
a thousand colors on her radiant way,
from the opposing sun. She stayed her flight
above that pallid brow: “I come with power
to make this gift to Death. I set thee free
from thy frail body's bound.” With her right hand
she cut the tress: then through its every limb
the sinking form grew cold; the vital breath
fled forth, departing on the viewless air.

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