Aeneid Book 6, lines 450 - 476

Aeneas finds Dido among the shades

by Virgil

On his journey in the underworld, Aeneas finds his lost steersman, Palinurus, among the unburied souls who are unable to cross over the river Styx. Aeneas’s guide, the Sibyl, comforts him by prophesying that he will soon be given a splendid tomb and be allowed to make the voyage. Persuading an initially reluctant Charon to ferry them across, Aeneas and the Sibyl sneak past Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog, by giving him a drugged titbit and press on to the Fields of Mourning, the home of those who have suffered from sorrow in love.

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inter quas Phoenissa recens a vulnere Dido
errabat silva in magna; quam Troius heros
ut primum iuxta stetit agnovitque per umbras
obscuram, qualem primo qui surgere mense
aut videt aut vidisse putat per nubila lunam,
demisit lacrimas dulcique adfatus amore est:
‘infelix Dido, verus mihi nuntius ergo
venerat exstinctam ferroque extrema secutam?
funeris heu tibi causa fui? per sidera iuro,
per superos et si qua fides tellure sub ima est,
inuitus, regina, tuo de litore cessi.
sed me iussa deum, quae nunc has ire per umbras,
per loca senta situ cogunt noctemque profundam,
imperiis egere suis; nec credere quivi
hunc tantum tibi me discessu ferre dolorem.
siste gradum teque aspectu ne subtrahe nostro.
quem fugis? extremum fato quod te adloquor hoc est.’
talibus Aeneas ardentem et torva tuentem
lenibat dictis animum lacrimasque ciebat.
illa solo fixos oculos aversa tenebat
nec magis incepto vultum sermone movetur
quam si dura silex aut stet Marpesia cautes.
tandem corripuit sese atque inimica refugit
in nemus umbriferum, coniunx ubi pristinus illi
respondet curis aequatque Sychaeus amorem.
nec minus Aeneas casu percussus iniquo
prosequitur lacrimis longe et miseratur euntem.

Among them Phoenician Dido was wandering in
the great wood, fresh from her death-wound, whom
Aeneas, as he stopped nearby, recognised dimly in
the dark, as one at the start of the month sees, or thinks
he has seen the moon rise through the clouds.
He shed tears and spoke to her in tender love:
“unhappy Dido, so the news was true that you
were no more and had met your end by the sword?
Was I, alas, the cause of your death? By the stars
and Gods I swear, if any trust exists here in the depths
of earth, unwillingly, my Queen, I left your shores.
Orders from the Gods, which force me now to fare
through this shadow, wilderness and darkest night,
made me obey their power, nor could I have thought
that I would bring you such great pain by leaving.
Stop, and do not avoid my sight. Who do you run from?
Fate decrees that what I say to you now will be the last.”
So Aeneas tried to soothe her mind, as she looked askance,
burning in anger, and his tears began to flow.
She, turned away, kept her eyes fixed on the ground, nor
was her expression more changed by what he said than
if she had stood there hard flint or Marpesian stone.
Finally she tore herself away and, still in enmity, fled
into the dark grove, where her first husband, Sychaeus,
responds to her cares and gives her mutual love.
All the same, Aeneas, struck by her unjust fate,
follows her afar with tears and pities her as she goes.

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