Aeneid Book 4, lines 362 - 393

Dido and Aeneas: Hell hath no fury …

by Virgil

Mercury, the messenger of the Gods, has been sent to tell Aeneas in the starkest terms that he must leave Carthage and Dido and fulfil his mission for the foundation of Rome. Concerned about how Dido will react, he begins to prepare his fleet without telling her, but she finds out. Confronted, he has just told her about Mercury’s message and assured her, not too convincingly, that he did not intend to deceive her about leaving. Not very tactfully, he has added that he never proposed marriage and, unlike her, did not regard their affair as one. Here is Dido’s reply.

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Talia dicentem iamdudum aversa tuetur
huc illuc volvens oculos totumque pererrat
luminibus tacitis et sic accensa profatur:
‘nec tibi diva parens generis nec Dardanus auctor,
perfide, sed duris genuit te cautibus horrens
Caucasus Hyrcanaeque admorunt ubera tigres.
nam quid dissimulo aut quae me ad maiora reservo?
num fletu ingemuit nostro? num lumina flexit?
num lacrimas victus dedit aut miseratus amantem est?
quae quibus anteferam? iam iam nec maxima Iuno
nec Saturnius haec oculis pater aspicit aequis.
nusquam tuta fides. eiectum litore, egentem
excepi et regni demens in parte locavi.
amissam classem, socios a morte reduxi
(heu furiis incensa feror!): nunc augur Apollo,
nunc Lyciae sortes, nunc et Iove missus ab ipso
interpres divum fert horrida iussa per auras.
scilicet is superis labor est, ea cura quietos
sollicitat. neque te teneo neque dicta refello:
i, sequere Italiam ventis, pete regna per undas.
spero equidem mediis, si quid pia numina possunt,
supplicia hausurum scopulis et nomine Dido
saepe vocaturum. sequar atris ignibus absens
et, cum frigida mors anima seduxerit artus,
omnibus umbra locis adero. dabis, improbe, poenas.
audiam et haec Manis veniet mihi fama sub imos.’
his medium dictis sermonem abrumpit et auras
aegra fugit seque ex oculis avertit et aufert,
linquens multa metu cunctantem et multa parantem
dicere. suscipiunt famulae conlapsaque membra
marmoreo referunt thalamo stratisque reponunt.

She watches him sidelong as he speaks, her eyes darting
to and fro, looks him up and down in silence,
and, livid, bursts out: “you traitor, no goddess was
your mother, nor was it Dardanus who founded your line:
bleak Caucasus bore you among its jagged rocks
and Hyrcanaean tigers suckled you. Why should I pretend?
What worse outrages should I wait for? Didn’t he sigh
in sympathy when I wept? Didn’t he turn his gaze to me?
Wasn’t he overcome by tears? Didn’t he pity me, see how
I loved him? Where to begin? Neither great Juno, nor
Father Jupiter can see this happen unmoved. Loyalty
can’t be trusted anywhere. I rescued him, washed up,
bereft, and in my madness set him to share my kingdom.
I brought his lost ships, his comrades back from death!
I am ablaze, driven by furies! Now Apollo the prophet,
Lycian oracles and Mercury, divine messenger of Jove,
bring these dreadful biddings through the air. So that’s
Gods’ will, what spoils their calm! I’ll not detain you,
question their word! Follow Italy on the winds, seek
your realm across the sea! I hope you will
know torture amidst the rocks, if just gods have power,
call again and again on Dido’s name!
From far, I’ll chase you with black fury’s
fire, when cold death has torn limbs from spirit,
my ghost will dog you everywhere. You’ll pay, wretch!
Word will reach me, I’ll hear it in the pit of Hades!”
She breaks off half-way, frenzied, shuns the open air,
turns, flees out of sight, leaving him with much
he meant to say, but in his shock leaving it unsaid.
Her maids support her, carry her in collapse
to her marble bedchamber and lay her on the couch.


More Poems by Virgil

  1. The Trojans reach Carthage
  2. The natural history of bees
  3. Mourning for Pallas
  4. Signs of bad weather
  5. Charon, the ferryman
  6. Aeneas’s vision of Augustus
  7. The Syrian hostess
  8. Palinurus the helmsman is lost
  9. Fire strikes Aeneas’s fleet
  10. The farmer’s happy lot
  11. Anchises’s ghost invites Aeneas to visit the underworld
  12. In King Latinus’s hall
  13. Rumour
  14. Sea-nymphs
  15. Aeneas finds Dido among the shades
  16. The portals of sleep
  17. Mercury’s journey to Carthage
  18. Love is the same for all
  19. Storm at sea!
  20. The Harpy’s prophecy
  21. Aristaeus’s bees
  22. Turnus at bay
  23. Help for Father Aeneas from Father Tiber
  24. Jupiter’s prophecy
  25. Aeneas’s oath
  26. Aeneas tours the site of Rome
  27. Dido falls in love
  28. Hector visits Aeneas in a dream
  29. Laocoon and the snakes
  30. Aeneas’s ships are transformed
  31. The Aeneid begins
  32. Turnus the wolf
  33. Dido and Aeneas: royal hunt and royal affair
  34. King Mezentius meets his match
  35. Aeneas learns the way to the underworld
  36. Aeneas prepares to tell Dido his story
  37. The Fury Allecto blows the alarm
  38. The death of Pallas
  39. King Latinus grants the Trojans’ request
  40. Souls awaiting punishment in Tartarus, and the crimes that brought them there.
  41. Virgil’s perils on the sea
  42. Laocoon warns against the Trojan horse
  43. The death of Dido.
  44. Catastrophe for Rome?
  45. Virgil predicts a forthcoming birth and a new golden age
  46. The death of Euryalus and Nisus
  47. The journey to Hades begins
  48. Aeneas is wounded
  49. More from Virgil’s farming Utopia
  50. Turnus is lured away from battle
  51. Aeneas arrives in Italy
  52. A Fury rouses Turnus to war
  53. The Trojan Horse enters the city
  54. Aeneas comes to the Hell of Tartarus
  55. Vulcan’s forge
  56. Virgil begins the Georgics
  57. Rites for the allies’ dead
  58. How Aeneas will know the site of his city
  59. Aeneas joins the fray
  60. Virgil’s poetic temple to Caesar
  61. The Trojans prepare to set sail from Carthage
  62. The death of Priam
  63. Omens for Princess Lavinia
  64. The farmer’s starry calendar
  65. Juno throws open the gates of war
  66. Dido’s release
  67. Aeneas saves his son and father, but at a cost
  68. Aeneas sees Marcellus, Augustus’s tragic heir
  69. Aeneas rescues his Father Anchises
  70. Aeneas reaches the Elysian Fields
  71. Juno is reconciled
  72. The infant Camilla
  73. New allies for Aeneas