Aeneid for Boys and Girls - Alfred J. Church


While Æneas was looking at these pictures, Queen Dido herself came, with a great crowd of youths following her. She was the most beautiful of women. Not Diana herself could be more fair to look at when she dances with the nymphs, by head and shoulders taller than them all. When Dido came to the gate of the temple, she sat down upon a throne to do such things as are the work of a queen, to do justice between man and man, and to give to each his portion of work.

In a short time there was heard a loud shouting and the noise of a crowd of men, and Æneas perceived that a great company was coming to the temple, and when they came nearer, he saw that they were his friends from whom he had been parted by the storm. Right glad was he to see them, for he had feared very much that they had been lost. But they were all there, all, that is, except Orontes the Lycian and his crew. Æneas much wished to come forth and take them by the hand, and greet them, but he thought it better to stay where he was till he should hear their story, and see how the queen would behave to them.

Then the chief man among them, having had leave given him to speak, said: "O queen, we beseech you to receive us kindly, not to hurt our ships, and to let us dwell in peace till we can go away. Jupiter has had pity on you and allowed you to build a city; do you have pity on us. We are not come to this land to lay it waste, or to carry its spoils to our ships. There are men who do such things, but we are not of their kind. No; we have ourselves suffered too much. Our own city has been destroyed, and we are on our way to build another in the land of Italy. But as we were sailing across the sea a great storm sprang up, and scattered our ships, and those whom you now see before you are all that are left. There is no nation so savage but that it is kind to shipwrecked men. Or if there are some who are so wicked as to harm them, them the gods do not forget to punish. We had a king, Æneas by name; never was any one who better did his duty to God and man, or who was a greater warrior. If he be yet alive, then we fear nothing. You will be glad to help such a man as he is. But if he is dead, then we have other friends, as King Acestes of Sicily. Give us leave therefore to lay up our ships in a safe place, to fit them with new timber from the woods, and to make new oars instead of those that have been broken by the storm. If our king and his companions are yet alive, then we will find them, and will travel with them to the land of Italy. But if he is dead and his son Ascanius also, then we go back to Sicily where there is a dwelling ready for us."

Dido said: "Be of good cheer, men of Troy. If we seemed to be unfriendly, it was because, being here in a strange land, we have to keep watch over our coasts. But now that we know who you are, we bid you welcome. Who, indeed, has not heard of Troy, and its valiant sons? Think not that we here in Carthage are so dull or so far away from the world that we do not know these things. Be sure, therefore, that whatever you are minded to do, whether to go to Italy, or to return to Sicily, we will give you all the help that you want. Or if you will settle here and dwell with us, be it so, I will make no difference between man of Troy and man of Tyre. Would that your king were here also! I will send men to seek him through all the land of Africa."

Achates said to Æneas: "Do you hear this? Our comrades are all safe; only they whom we saw drowned before our eyes are absent. Let us go forth."

While he was speaking, the cloud that was round them rolled away, and showed the two men to all the company. As for Æneas, his mother made him more beautiful to look at than he had ever been in all his life before. He stood before the queen and said: "O queen, I am the man whom you are seeking, Æneas of Troy, escaped from the waters of the sea. May the gods reward you for your kindness, because you have felt pity for all the great troubles of Troy, and because you are willing to give us, poor strangers as we are, a share in your city. So long as the rivers run to the sea, and the shadows fall among the hills, so long will your name be famous. I truly, whether I come to the land of Italy or not, shall never forget it." And he shook the hands of his friends, telling them how glad he was to be with them again.

After a while Dido spoke: "What ill fortune has brought you into such troubles? How is it that you have been driven to these savage coasts? I remember well how in the old days one Teucer came to Sidon. He had been banished from his own country, and he sought help from Belus, my grandfather. Much did he tell us about Troy and its chiefs. He praised them much, and said that he was of the same race in the beginning. Come, therefore, to my palace, and I will give you all that you want. I too have suffered much, and have wandered far. I have known many sorrows myself, and I have learnt to help them that are in trouble."

Thus the queen and all her company and Æneas and the Trojans went to the palace. There a great feast was prepared; twenty oxen and a hundred swine and a hundred sheep were made ready. And the seats for the guests were covered with purple, and the great cups of gold and silver were brought forth from the places where they were kept, and the tables were adorned with all kinds of jewels and precious things.

While these things were being done Æneas sent Achates to the ships to fetch the boy Ascanius, and to bring with him some gifts for the queen. There was a mantle, stiff with gold embroidery, which had belonged to the fair Helen. She had had it from Leda her mother. Also there was a sceptre which the eldest of the daughters of King Priam had been wont to carry, and a necklace of pearls, and a crown which had one circle of gold and another circle of precious stones.

Then they sat down to the feast; and when they had eaten enough, Dido called for a great cup from which her grandfather Belus and all the kings before him had been wont to drink, and bade them fill it to the brim. Then she said: "O Jupiter, who art the god of hosts and guests, make this day a day of joy for the men of Troy and the men of Tyre, and grant that their children may remember it for ever." When she had said this, she touched it with her lips, and handed it to Prince Bitias. He drank from it a mighty draught, and all the princes of Tyre and the Trojan chiefs did the same. After this a minstrel sang a great song about the making of men and beasts and of the stars and of the order of day and night and of the year. Also the queen asked many questions about Priam and Troy. At last she turned to Æneas and said: "Tell us now about the taking of Troy, and about the places which you have seen in your wanderings." Æneas answered: "It is a sad story, O queen, and the time is late. Nevertheless, if you will have it so, I will tell the story." So he told his story to the company.

After this Æneas and the Trojans stopped for many days in Carthage. Queen Dido loved him, and she made him her guest, and he lived in such ease and pleasure that he almost forgot all about the land of Italy, and the city which he was to build there.

But this did not please Jupiter. He said, therefore, to Mercury his messenger: "Go now and speak to Æneas these words: 'Thus speaks the king of gods and men. Is this what your mother wished when she saved you twice from the spear of the Greeks? Are you the man who is to build a city in Italy; a city which shall rule the world? If you forget these things, think of your son. Why do you take from him the kingdom that is to be his? What are you doing here? Why are you not looking to Italy? Depart at once.' "

So Mercury put his sandals on his feet, the sandals which have wings wherewith to fly, and he took his wand in his hand, and flew down from heaven. First he came to Mount Atlas, which is in the land of Africa. And from the top of Atlas he shot down, as a hawk shoots down after a bird, and came to Æneas where he stood in the middle of the city of Carthage. He had a cloak of purple, embroidered with gold, round his shoulders, and a great sword in his hand. Mercury gave him the message of Jupiter, and when he had finished it, he vanished.

For a time Æneas stood, not knowing what to do. He knew, indeed, that he was called to Italy, that he might do the will of the gods. And yet he feared to tell the thing to the queen. At last he called his chiefs together and said: "Make ready the ships, and collect the people; but do this as secretly as you may, and say nothing."

When Dido heard it—for such things are not easily hidden—she was wild with anger and love. First she came and spoke to Æneas, telling him what she had done for him and his people, and reproaching him for his ingratitude. Also she tried to keep him by telling him of the dangers of the voyage. "Stay awhile," she said, "till the stormy winds are over, and you can sail across the seas with safety." And when she could not persuade him, then she sent her sister Anna, if perhaps, he would listen to her.

But Æneas stood firm. Jupiter had bidden him go, and go he must. So, when the ships had been made ready for the voyage, he set sail, secretly and by night. And when Dido looked out from the window of her palace in the morning, lo! the ships of the Trojans were gone. Then she made up her mind that she would die. She had prepared a great pile of wood. On this she laid the sword of Æneas, which he had left behind him, and his cloak and other things which had belonged to him, and sundry possessions of her own. To this pile she set fire, and then she mounted to the top, and took the sword of Æneas in her hands, and stabbed herself with it. So she died, and the fire laid hold of the wood and made a great burning, which could be seen far off.