23 May 2016

Poem of the Week 2016/21

Dido & Aeneas meet again

Along with these, still nursing her raw wound,
Dido of Carthage strayed in the great forest.
As soon as the Trojan came close and made out
Her dimly wavering form among the shadows,
He was like one who sees or imagines he has seen
A new moon rising up among the clouds
On the first day of the month; there and then
He wept and spoke these loving, tender words:
"Unhappy Dido! So the news I got was true,
That you had left the world, had taken a sword
And bade your last farewell. Was I, O was I to blame
For your death? I swear by the stars, by the powers
Above and by any truth there may be under earth,
I embarked from your shore, my queen, unwillingly.
Orders from the gods, which compel me now
To travel among shades in this mouldering world,
This bottomless pit of night, dictated
Obedience then as well. How could I believe
My going would devastate you with such grief?
Stay a moment, don't slip out of our sight.
Is there someone you are trying to avoid?
These words I'm saying to you are the last
Fate will permit me, ever."
                                             Pleading like this,
Tears welling up inside him, Aeneas tried
To placate her fiery spirit and soften
Her fierce gaze; but she, averting her face,
Her eyes fixed steadily on the ground, turned
And showed no sign of having heard, no more
Than if her features had been carved in flint
Or Parian marble. At length she swept away
And fled, implacable, into the dappling shadows
Of the grove, where Sychaeus, her husband
In another earlier time, feels for her pain
And reciprocates the love she bears him still;
While Aeneas, no less stricken by the injustice
Of her fate, gazes into the distance after her,
Gazes through tears, and pities her as she goes.

Then he braces himself for the journey still to come
And soon they arrive in the farthest outlying fields, . . .

Virgil, Aeneid, Book VI, ll 604 - 643, translated by Seamus Heaney

This is from the newly published translation of Book VI of Virgil's Aeneid by the late Seamus Heaney. Book VI describes the visit of the wandering Aeneas (the Trojan in the third line of this excerpt) to the Underworld. There, among others of the dead, he encounters Dido, whom he loved and (at the command of the gods, who wanted Rome to be founded) left. She killed herself as his ships sailed off.

This dignified translation can be read as an addendum to Poem of the Week 2015/23, which gives the Latin for this passage as well as several other English versions (H R Fairclough for Loeb, Google Translate, Sarah Ruden, Robert Fagles, Robert Fitzgerald, C Day Lewis, and Dryden).

No comments: