Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Ovid’s Epistles: Dido to Æneas
  Æneas, the Son of Venus and Anchises, having, at the Destruction of Troy, sav’d his Gods, his Father, and son Ascanius, from the Fire, put to Sea with twenty Sail of Ships: and, having been long tost with Tempests, was at last cast upon the shore of Lybia, where queen Dido (flying from the cruelty of Pygmalion, her Brother, who had kill’d her Husband Sichæus) had lately built Carthage. She entertain’d Æneas and his Fleet with great civility, fell passionately in Love with him, and in the end denied him not the last Favours. But Mercury admonishing Æneas to go in search of Italy, (a Kingdom promis’d him by the Gods) he readily prepar’d to Obey him. Dido soon perceiv’d it, and having in vain try’d all other means to ingage him to stay, at last in Despair writes to him as follows.

SO, on Mæander’s banks, when death is nigh,
The Mournful Swan sings her own Elegie.
Not that I hope (for, oh, that hope were vain!)
By words your lost affection to regain:
But having lost what ere was worth my care,        5
Why shou’d I fear to lose a dying pray’r?
’Tis then resolv’d poor Dido must be left,
Of Life, of Honour, and of Love bereft!
While you, with loosen’d Sails, & Vows, prepare
To seek a Land that flies the Searchers care.        10
Nor can my rising Tow’rs your flight restrain,
Nor my new Empire, offer’d you in vain.
Built Walls you shun, unbuilt you seek; that Land
Is yet to Conquer; but you this Command.
Suppose you Landed where your wish design’d,        15
Think what Reception Forreiners would find.
What People is so void of common sence,
To Vote Succession from a Native Prince?
Yet there new Scepters and new Loves you seek;
New Vows to plight, and plighted Vows to break.        20
When will your Tow’rs the height of Carthage know?
Or when, your Eyes discern such Crowds below?
If such a Town and Subjects you cou’d see,
Still wou’d you want a Wife who lov’d like me.
For, oh, I burn, like Fires with Incense bright:        25
Not holy Tapers flame with purer Light:
Æneas is my Thoughts perpetual Theme;
Their daily Longing, and their nightly Dream.
Yet he ungrateful and obdurate still:
Fool that I am to place my Heart so ill!        30
My self I cannot to my self restore;
Still I complain, and still I love him more.
Have pity, Cupid, on my bleeding Heart,
And pierce thy Brothers with an equal Dart.
I rave: nor canst thou Venus’ offspring be,        35
Love’s Mother could not bear a Son like thee.
From harden’d Oak, or from a Rocks cold Womb,
At least thou art from some fierce Tygress come;
Or, on rough Seas, from their Foundation torn,
Got by the Winds, and in a Tempest born:        40
Like that, which now thy trembling Sailors fear;
Like that, whose Rage should still detain thee here.
Behold how high the Foamy Billows ride!
The Winds and Waves are on the juster side.
To Winter Weather, and a stormy Sea        45
I’ll owe, what rather I wou’d owe to thee.
Death thou deserv’st from Heav’ns avenging Laws;
But I’m unwilling to become the Cause.
To shun my Love, if thou wilt seek thy Fate,
’Tis a dear Purchase, and a costly Hate.        50
Stay but a little, ’till the Tempest cease,
And the loud Winds are lull’d into a Peace.
May all thy Rage, like theirs, unconstant prove!
And so it will, if there be Pow’r in Love.
Know’st thou not yet what dangers Ships sustain?        55
So often wrack’d, how dar’st thou tempt the Main?
Which were it smooth, were ev’ry Wave asleep,
Ten thousand forms of Death are in the Deep.
In that abyss the Gods their Vengeance store,
For broken Vows of those who falsely swore.        60
There winged Storms on Sea-born Venus wait,
To vindicate the Justice of her State.
Thus, I to thee the means of Safety show;
And, lost my self, would still preserve my Foe.
False as thou art, I not thy Death design:        65
O rather live, to be the Cause of mine!
Shou’d some avenging Storm thy Vessel tear,
(But Heav’n forbid my words shou’d Omen bear)
Then in thy Face thy perjur’d Vows would fly;
And my wrong’d Ghost be present to thy Eye.        70
With threatning looks think thou behold’st me stare,
Gasping my Mouth, and clotted all my Hair.
Then shou’d fork’d Lightning and red Thunder fall,
What cou’dst thou say, but, I deserv’d ’em all.
Lest this shou’d happen, make not hast away;        75
To shun the Danger will be worth thy Stay.
Have pity on thy Son, if not on me:
My Death alone is Guilt enough for thee.
What has his Youth, what have thy Gods deserv’d,
To sink in Seas, who were from fires preserv’d?        80
But neither Gods nor Parent didst thou bear;
(Smooth stories all, to please a Womans ear,)
False was the tale of thy Romantick life;
Nor yet am I thy first deluded Wife.
Left to pursuing Foes Creüsa stai’d,        85
By thee, base Man, forsaken and betray’d.
This, when thou told’st me, struck my tender Heart,
That such Requital follow’d such Desert.
Nor doubt I but the Gods, for Crimes like these,
Sev’n Winters kept thee wandring on the Seas.        90
Thy starv’d Companions, cast ashore, I fed,
Thy self admitted to my Crown and Bed.
To harbour Strangers, succour the distrest,
Was kind enough; but oh too kind the rest!
Curst be the Cave which first my Ruin brought,        95
Where, from the Storm, we common shelter sought!
A dreadful howling eccho’d round the place:
The Mountain Nymphs, thought I, my Nuptials grace.
I thought so then, but now too late I know
The Furies yell’d my Funerals from below.        100
O Chastity and violated Fame,
Exact your dues to my dead Husband’s name!
By Death redeem my reputation lost,
And to his Arms restore my guilty Ghost.
Close by my Pallace, in a Gloomy Grove,        105
Is rais’d a Chappel to my Murder’d Love;
There, wreath’d with boughs and wool his Statue stands
The pious Monument of Artful hands.
Last Night, me thought, he call’d me from the dome
And thrice, with hollow Voice, cry’d, Dido, come.        110
She comes; thy Wife thy lawful Summons hears;
But comes more slowly, clogg’d with conscious Fears.
Forgive the wrong I offer’d to thy Bed;
Strong were his Charms, who my weak Faith misled.
His Goddess Mother, and his aged Sire,        115
Born on his Back, did to my Fall conspire.
Oh such he was, and is, that were he true,
without a Blush I might his Love pursue.
But cruel Stars my Birth day did attend;
And as my Fortune open’d, it must end.        120
My plighted Lord was at the Altar slain,
Whose Wealth was made my bloody Brothers gain.
Friendless, and follow’d by the Murd’rer’s Hate,
To forein Countreys I remov’d my Fate;
And here, a Suppliant, from the Natives hands        125
I bought the Ground on which my City stands,
With all the Coast that stretches to the Sea;
Ev’n to the friendly Port that sheltred Thee:
Then rais’d these Walls, which mount into the Air,
At once my Neighbours wonder, and their fear.        130
For now they Arm; and round me Leagues are made,
My scarce Establisht Empire to invade.
To Man my new built walls I must prepare,
An helpless Woman, and unskill’d in War.
Yet thousand Rivals to my Love pretend;        135
And for my Person, would my Crown defend:
Whose jarring Votes in one complaint agree,
That each unjustly is disdain’d for thee.
To proud Hyarbas give me up a prey;
(For that must follow, if thou go’st away:)        140
Or to my Husbands Murd’rer leave my life,
That to the Husband he may add the Wife.
Go then, since no Complaints can move thy Mind:
Go, perjur’d Man, but leave thy Gods behind.
Touch not those Gods, by whom thou art forsworn,        145
Who will in impious Hands no more be born.
Thy Sacrilegious worship they disdain,
And rather wou’d the Grecian fires sustain.
Perhaps my greatest Shame is still to come;
And part of thee lies hid within my Womb.        150
The Babe unborn must perish by thy Hate,
And perish guiltless in his Mothers Fate.
Some God, thou say’st, thy Voyage does command;
Wou’d the same God had barr’d thee from my Land!
The same, I doubt not, thy departure Steers,        155
Who kept thee out at Sea so many Years;
While thy long Labours were a Price so great,
As thou to purchase Troy wouldst not repeat.
But Tyber now thou seek’st; to be at best,
When there arriv’d, a poor precarious Ghest.        160
Yet it deludes thy Search: Perhaps it will
To thy Old Age lie undiscover’d still.
A ready Crown and Wealth in Dower I bring,
And, without Conqu’ring, here thou art a King.
Here thou to Carthage may’st transfer thy Troy:        165
Here young Ascanius may his Arms imploy;
And, while we live secure in soft Repose,
Bring many Laurells home from Conquer’d Foes.
By Cupids Arrows, I adjure thee stay;
By all the Gods, Companions of thy way.        170
So may thy Trojans, who are yet alive
Live still, and with no future Fortune strive;
So may thy Youthful Son old Age attain,
And thy dead Fathers Bones in Peace remain;
As thou hast Pity on unhappy me,        175
Who knew no Crime, but too much Love of thee.
I am not born from fierce Achilles Line,
Nor did my Parents against Troy combine.
To be thy Wife if I unworthy prove,
By some inferiour Name admit my Love.        180
To be secur’d of still possessing thee,
What wou’d I do, and what wou’d I not be!
Our Lybian Coasts their certain Seasons know,
When free from Tempests Passengers may go:
But now with Northern Blasts the Billows roar,        185
And drive the floating Sea-weed to the Shore.
Leave to my care the time to Sail away;
When safe, I will not suffer thee to stay.
Thy weary Men wou’d be with ease content;
Their Sails are tatter’d, and their Masts are spent.        190
If by no Merit I thy Mind can move,
What thou deny’st my Merit, give my Love.
Stay, till I learn my Loss to undergo;
And give me time to struggle with my Woe.
If not; Know this, I will not suffer long;        195
My Life’s too loathsome, and my Love too strong.
Death holds my Pen, and dictates what I say,
While cross my Lap Thy Trojan Sword I lay.
My Tears flow down; the sharp Edge cuts their Flood,
And drinks my Sorrows, that must drink my bloud.        200
How well thy Gift does with my Fate agree!
My Funeral Pomp is cheaply made by thee.
To no new Wounds my Bosom I display:
The Sword but enters where Love made the way.
But thou, dear Sister, and yet dearer friend,        205
Shalt my cold Ashes to their Urn attend.
Sichæus Wife let not the Marble boast,
I lost that Title, when my Fame I lost.
This short Inscription only let it bear:
Unhappy Dido lies in quiet here.        210
The cause of death, & Sword by which she dy’d,
Æneas gave: the rest her arm supply’d.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.