Aeneid Book 4, lines 642 – 668

The death of Dido.

by Virgil

Dido has had a great bonfire prepared, ostensibly to burn everything that Aeneas has left behind when his fleet sailed: in fact, she knows that it is her own funeral pyre.

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at trepida et coeptis immanibus effera Dido
sanguineam volvens aciem, maculisque trementis
interfusa genas et pallida morte futura,
interiora domus inrumpit limina et altos
conscendit furibunda rogos ensemque recludit
Dardanium, non hos quaesitum munus in usus.
hic, postquam Iliacas vestis notumque cubile
conspexit, paulum lacrimis et mente morata
incubuitque toro dixitque novissima verba:
‘dulces exuviae, dum fata deusque sinebat,
accipite hanc animam meque his exsolvite curis.
vixi et quem dederat cursum Fortuna peregi,
et nunc magna mei sub terras ibit imago.
urbem praeclaram statui, mea moenia vidi,
ulta virum poenas inimico a fratre recepi,
felix, heu nimium felix, si litora tantum
numquam Dardaniae tetigissent nostra carinae.’
dixit, et os impressa toro ‘moriemur inultae,
sed moriamur’ ait. ‘sic, sic iuvat 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.

Dido, borne up by her agitation, her deadly purpose
begun, rolling bloodshot eyes, her trembling cheeks
mottled, blenching at her approaching death, bursts
through the inner threshold of her house, raging,
mounts the heaped-up pyre and draws the Trojan
sword, a gift not sought with this use in mind.
Here, after she had looked on the Trojan robes and
familiar bed, pausing a moment in thoughts and tears,
she lies on the couch and utters her dying words:
“Relics that were sweet when fate and God allowed,
receive this soul and free me from these cares.
I have lived, and run the course that Fortune gave me,
and now my mighty ghost will pass under the earth.
I have founded a great city, seen my own walls rise,
avenged my husband on my enemy brother,
happy, too happy alas, if only Trojan ships
had never touched my shores.” She paused,
then, lips pressed to the couch, “I die unavenged”,
she said, “but let me die! I joy, joy to enter the shades!
Let the cruel Trojan see this fire from the sea, and take
omens from my death with him! As she concluded,
her train saw her fall on the blade, the blood welling
round the sword, spattering her hands. In the lofty halls
the cry goes up: Rumour runs amok
through the dumbstruck city.
The roof quakes with lamenting, groans and the shriek
of women and the sky shakes with the mighty din.


More Poems by Virgil

  1. Aeneas is wounded
  2. Aeneas’s vision of Augustus
  3. The death of Pallas
  4. The journey to Hades begins
  5. Help for Father Aeneas from Father Tiber
  6. Aeneas rescues his Father Anchises
  7. Aeneas finds Dido among the shades
  8. A Fury rouses Turnus to war
  9. King Latinus grants the Trojans’ request
  10. The death of Priam
  11. Virgil’s perils on the sea
  12. The portals of sleep
  13. Dido and Aeneas: royal hunt and royal affair
  14. The Trojans reach Carthage
  15. Laocoon warns against the Trojan horse
  16. Rumour
  17. Love is the same for all
  18. Juno is reconciled
  19. Dido falls in love
  20. Virgil begins the Georgics
  21. Dido and Aeneas: Hell hath no fury …
  22. Turnus is lured away from battle
  23. In King Latinus’s hall
  24. The farmer’s starry calendar
  25. Storm at sea!
  26. How Aeneas will know the site of his city
  27. Aeneas comes to the Hell of Tartarus
  28. Aristaeus’s bees
  29. The Fury Allecto blows the alarm
  30. The Harpy’s prophecy
  31. Aeneas learns the way to the underworld
  32. The Syrian hostess
  33. Omens for Princess Lavinia
  34. Laocoon and the snakes
  35. Mourning for Pallas
  36. Jupiter’s prophecy
  37. The infant Camilla
  38. Souls awaiting punishment in Tartarus, and the crimes that brought them there.
  39. Aeneas saves his son and father, but at a cost
  40. Fire strikes Aeneas’s fleet
  41. The death of Euryalus and Nisus
  42. The farmer’s happy lot
  43. Aeneas arrives in Italy
  44. Aeneas prepares to tell Dido his story
  45. Sea-nymphs
  46. Aeneas’s ships are transformed
  47. Aeneas sees Marcellus, Augustus’s tragic heir
  48. Rites for the allies’ dead
  49. Virgil predicts a forthcoming birth and a new golden age
  50. King Mezentius meets his match
  51. The natural history of bees
  52. Hector visits Aeneas in a dream
  53. Catastrophe for Rome?
  54. Virgil’s poetic temple to Caesar
  55. Mercury’s journey to Carthage
  56. Juno throws open the gates of war
  57. The Trojans prepare to set sail from Carthage
  58. Dido’s release
  59. Vulcan’s forge
  60. Anchises’s ghost invites Aeneas to visit the underworld
  61. Aeneas’s oath
  62. The Trojan Horse enters the city
  63. Turnus the wolf
  64. New allies for Aeneas
  65. Charon, the ferryman
  66. Aeneas reaches the Elysian Fields
  67. Aeneas joins the fray
  68. More from Virgil’s farming Utopia
  69. Turnus at bay
  70. Signs of bad weather
  71. The Aeneid begins
  72. Aeneas tours the site of Rome
  73. Palinurus the helmsman is lost