The Aeneid, Book IV, [So, you traitor]
"So, you traitor, you really believed you'd keep this a secret, this great outrage? Steal away in silence from my shores? Can nothing hold you back? Not our love? Not the pledge once sealed with our right hands? Not even the thought of Dido doomed to a cruel death? Why labor to rig your fleet when the winter's raw, to risk the deep when the Northwind's closing in? You cruel, heartless—Even if you were not pursuing alien fields and unknown homes, even if ancient Troy were standing, still, who'd sail for Troy across such heaving seas? You're running away—from me? Oh, I pray you by these tears, by the faith in your right hand— what else have I left myself in all my pain?— by our wedding vows, the marriage we began, if I deserve some decency from you now, if anything mine has ever won your heart, pity a great house about to fall I pray you, if prayers have any place—reject this scheme of yours! Thanks to you, the African tribes, Numidian warlords hate me, even my own Tyrians rise against me. Thanks to you, my sense of honor is gone, my one and only pathway to the stars, the renown I once held dear. In whose hands, my guest, do you leave me here to meet my death? 'Guest'—that's all that remains of 'husband' now. But why do I linger on? Until my brother Pygmalion batters down my walls? Or Iarbas drags me off, his slave? If only you'd left a baby in my arms—our child— before you deserted me! Some little Aeneas playing about our halls, whose features at least would bring you back to me in spite of all, I would not feel so totally devastated, so destroyed." The queen stopped but he, warned by Jupiter now, his gaze held steady, fought to master the torment in his heart. At last he ventured a few words: "I. . . you have done me so many kindnesses, and you could count them all. I shall never deny what you deserve, my queen, never regret my memories of Dido, not while I can recall myself and draw the breath of life. I'll state my case in a few words. I never dreamed I'd keep my flight a secret. Don't imagine that. Nor did I once extend a bridegroom's torch or enter into a marriage pact with you. If the Fates had left me free to live my life, to arrange my own affairs of my own free will, Troy is the city, first of all, that I'd safeguard, Troy and all that's left of my people whom I cherish. The grand palace of Priam would stand once more, with my own hands I would fortify a second Troy to house my Trojans in defeat. But not now. Grynean Apollo's oracle says that I must seize on Italy's noble land, his Lycian lots say 'Italy!' There lies my love, there lies my homeland now. If you, a Phoenician, fix your eyes on Carthage, a Libyan stronghold, tell me, why do you grudge the Trojans their new homes on Italian soil? What is the crime if we seek far-off kingdoms too? "My father, Anchises, whenever the darkness shrouds the earth in its dank shadows, whenever the stars go flaming up the sky, my father's anxious ghost warns me in dreams and fills my heart with fear. My son Ascanius . . . I feel the wrong I do to one so dear, robbing him of his kingdom, lands in the West, his fields decreed by Fate. And now the messenger of the gods—I swear it, by your life and mine—dispatched by Jove himself has brought me firm commands through the racing winds. With my own eyes I saw him, clear, in broad daylight, moving through your gates. With my own ears I drank his message in. Come, stop inflaming us both with your appeals. I set sail for Italy— all against my will." Even from the start of his declaration, she has glared at him askance, her eyes roving over him, head to foot, with a look of stony silence. . . till abruptly she cries out in a blaze of fury: "No goddess was your mother! No Dardanus sired your line, you traitor, liar, no, Mount Caucasus fathered you on its flinty, rugged flanks and the tigers of Hyrcania gave you their dugs to suck! Why hide it? Why hold back? To suffer greater blows? Did he groan when I wept? Even look at me? Never! Surrender a tear? Pity the one who loves him? What can I say first? So much to say. Now— neither mighty Juno nor Saturn's son, the Father, gazes down on this with just, impartial eyes. There's no faith left on earth! He was washed up on my shores, helpless, and I, I took him in, like a maniac let him share my kingdom, salvaged his lost fleet, plucked his crews from death. Oh I am swept by the Furies, gales of fire! Now it's Apollo the Prophet, Apollo's Lycian oracles: they're his masters now, and now, to top it off. the messenger of the gods, dispatched by Jove himself. comes rushing down the winds with his grim-set commands. Really! What work for the gods who live on high, what a concern to ruffle their repose! I won't hold you, I won't even refute you—go!— strike out for Italy on the winds, your realm across the sea. I hope, I pray, if the just gods still have any power, wrecked on the rocks mid-sea you'll drink your bowl of pain to the dregs, crying out the name of Dido over and over, and worlds away I'll hound you then with pitch-black flames, and when icy death has severed my body from its breath, then my ghost will stalk you through the world! You'll pay, you shameless, ruthless— and I will hear of it, yes, the report will reach me even among the deepest shades of Death!"
Lines 379-486 from "Book Four: The Tragic Queen of Carthage," from Virgil: The Aeneid by Virgil, translated by Robert Fagles, copyright © 2006 by Robert Fagles. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Date Published: 2006-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/aeneid-book-iv-so-you-traitor