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.