Aeneid Book 1, Lines 588 to 610

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Briefly annotated by Tom Jenkins.

Read by Professor Wendell Clausen,

Pope Professor of the Latin Language and Literature
Professor of Comparative Literature, Emeritus

Dryden read by Professor Kathleen Coleman

Aeneid Book 1, Lines 588 to 610
Vix ea fatus erat, cum circumfusa repente
scindit se nubes et in aethera purgat apertum.
Restitit Aeneas claraque in luce refulsit,
os umerosque deo similis; namque ipsa decoram
caesariem nato genetrix lumenque iuventae
purpureum et laetos oculis adflarat honores:
quale manus addunt ebori decus, aut ubi flavo
argentum Pariusve lapis circumdatur auro.
Tum sic reginam adloquitur, cunctisque repente
improvisus ait: `Coram, quem quaeritis, adsum,
Troius Aeneas, Lybicis ereptus ab undis.
O sola infandos Troiae miserata labores,
quae nos, reliquias Danaum, terraeque marisque
omnibus exhaustos iam casibus, omnium egenos,
urbe, domo, socias, grates persolvere dignas
non opis est nostrae, Dido, nec quicquid ubique est
gentis Dardaniae, magnum quae sparsa per orbem.
Di tibi, si qua pios respectant numina, si quid
usquam iustitia est et mens sibi conscia recti,
praemia digna ferant. Quae te tam laeta tulerunt
saecula? Qui tanti talem genuere parentes?
In freta dum fluvii current, dum montibus umbrae
lustrabunt convexa, polus dum sidera pascet,
semper honos nomenque tuum laudesque manebunt,
quae me cumque vocant terrae.'

Dryden's translation
Scarce had he spoken, when the cloud gave way,
The mists flew upward and dissolv'd in day.
The Trojan chief appear'd in open sight,
August in visage, and serenely bright.
His mother goddess, with her hands divine,
Had form'd his curling locks, and made his temples shine,
And giv'n his rolling eyes a sparkling grace,
And breath'd a youthful vigor on his face;
Like polish'd ivory, beauteous to behold,
Or Parian marble, when enchas'd in gold:
Thus radiant from the circling cloud he broke,
And thus with manly modesty he spoke:

"He whom you seek am I; by tempests toss'd,
And sav'd from shipwreck on your Libyan coast;
Presenting, gracious queen, before your throne,
A prince that owes his life to you alone.
Fair majesty, the refuge and redress
Of those whom fate pursues, and wants oppress,
You, who your pious offices employ
To save the relics of abandon'd Troy;
Receive the shipwreck'd on your friendly shore,
With hospitable rites relieve the poor;
Associate in your town a wand'ring train,
And strangers in your palace entertain:
What thanks can wretched fugitives return,
Who, scatter'd thro' the world, in exile mourn?
The gods, if gods to goodness are inclin'd;
If acts of mercy touch their heav'nly mind,
And, more than all the gods, your gen'rous heart
Conscious of worth, requite its own desert!
In you this age is happy, and this earth,
And parents more than mortal gave you birth.
While rolling rivers into seas shall run,
And round the space of heav'n the radiant sun;
While trees the mountain tops with shades supply,
Your honor, name, and praise shall never die.
Whate'er abode my fortune has assign'd,
Your image shall be present in my mind."

Book One introduces the enigmatic and tragic figure of Dido [also known as Elissa], a woman so ripe for artistic recreation that portraits, paintings, and poems celebrating her doomed loved comprise a rich European tradition. (Compare Purcell's sympathetic portrayal in his opera Dido and Aeneas, in which the first-billed Dido is definitely the protagonist!) Having infiltrated Carthage in a magical cloud, Aeneas and his companion Achates finally break out of their mist to address the queen of Carthage, and to thank her for her earlier promise to spare the Trojan ships from fire. As Aeneas speaks to Dido, Vergil notes how extraordinarily handsome Venus had made him through her charms-- or is it that Vergil is giving us a vision of Aeneas focalized through Dido's love-struck eyes? Aeneas's last utterance is eerily prophetic of his eventual desertion of Dido: Aeneas is perfectly content to link together his name with Dido's, even if promise of a new land summons him away....