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ACT V, SCENE i
A MAID, SERVING AS MESSENGER
Oh, what a plague tortues the queen’s mind! What a dire pestilence consumes her! How it clings to her inmost marrow! No peace remains for her, no hope of peace, neither by day nor by night does she find repose. Pacing about, out of her mind, she groans, hisses, rages, as no time for anything but complaints. She often recalls his flight in her memory, giving voice to such speech: “See, I am hopeless, helpless, abandoned. What shall I do? Pursue the same old suitors, to my derision? Shall I humbly seek a Nomad husband, although previously I scorned them? Or shall I share the Trojans’ ultimate destiny, whom I have helped with my resources? Who will permit me — would that this would happen! — onto the Phyrgians’ proud ships? Dido, you have already experienced their perfidious wiles. Rather, die as you deserve, use the steel to end your deep grief.” With such outbursts she drags out her nights and days. Now she gives orders for there to be built a pyre and bier, for her baldric, sword, robe, diadem, scepter, whatever Aeneas the refugee has given her, to be heaped together. She is preparing to ease her mind with magic rituals. For she says that an Ethiopian from the region which feels the radiance of the nearby sun, a Massilan prophetess, has taught her this way of restraining her love. We believe her, build the pyre, and put on it whatever she has commanded. And now see, the frenzied woman rushes outside. [Exit. Enter Dido from the palace, accompanied by Barce and priests. As they talk, an altar is set up on the stage.]
ACTUS V, SCENA ii
DIDO, BARCE NUTRIX
DI. Darling Barce, who often held my husband in your embrace, I swear by the gods and your sweet head, and by this altar, what you see is not being done of my volition. Sorrow rules me, it is always seeking a safe outlet. I hope my grief can thus be assuaged.
BAR. Oh that it could, for I am hesitant whether I should think this is possible or deny it. Let madness give you back to yourself and to us, and I pray that it lose all its powers.
DI. Then hasten yourself to some remote place. Let me alone for my incantations. Seer, begin your strange chant for the ritual. Use your outlandish gait and dress, such as they say is customary for the Colchians.
Crew of still Erebus, you silent race, fearful shades, and you, wild spirit of gloomy Styx, abductor of your own wife , and three-headed Cerebrus with your ghastly grin, shades of deepest night, triform Hecate, never sufficiently invoked, infinite Chaos, you shapeless mass, and you Diana whom men call triform, a partner of night and judge of evil, be you present. Baleful night owls, dire screech owls, Hydra, whose multiple neck Heracles snapped long ago, and you, Python, foul bane among serpents, scarce overcome by a god’s hands, be present. You who inhabit heaven’s palaces, wherever you have fled, be present, summoned to these rites. Mountains, rivers, winds, lakes, torrents, valleys, oceans, all manner of plants fiourishing with death-dealing flowers, be present also. My incantation requires your handiwork. Love is to be banished. Bring me your aid, remove my heavy cares, put an end to my complaints.
BAR. Indeed, I pray they make an end. Let this wavering anguish cease, may your mind set aside its passion, your mind untrained to bear such a weight of woes.
DI. Lo, now a roaring strikes my ears, stupor siezes my mind. Chill dread grips my breast, I tremble with horror. Thus rage tigresses in their bereavement. Now the oarsmen are spreading their sails, cleaving the sea, leaving bare the Tyrian coastline, and Aeneas flees. Oh holy, holy Jupiter, whom one cannot invoke overmuch, will this foreigner mock my realm? Will he thus depart? Is a squadron hand-picked from the whole city pursuing, smashing his wicked ships, killing his captains? Go — why are you hesitating? Abandon your delay, bring fire, fly at full speed, ply your oars.
But why am I speaking in my rage? Where am I? What madness overcomes me, oppressing my heart? Oh Dido, Dido, piteous for your harsh fate! Now your destiny touches you, it should have touched you long ago. See his pious trust and loyalty: he carried with him his ancestral gods, he bore his aged father on his ungrateful shoulders! I was foolish — was I unable to cut his body into a hundred pieces, sink his hateful head in the sea? Could I not have ripped apart his shipmates with my own hands, served up Iulus as a novel dish at his father’s table? But war’s outcome would have been doubtful. Let it be so. On the brink of death, surely I would not have been afraid? I would have filled his camp and its center with my torches. By those torches would have perished father, son, the whole race. And I would have offered myself as the final victim.
BAR. Calm your burning ardor, stifle your groans. Let the deceiver go where he wishes Let him depart Tyre. Is this the power of your magic, that you lose your mind all the worse? Persevere, I beg you, restrain your wrath.
DI. Let it be so. Summon my sister Anna to the rite. Tell her to bathe her body, produce the cattle, place a fillet on her hair. You accompany her as escort. I shall now make offering to the god of the Styx.
BAR. Queen, Anna will heed your command, and Barce will be present. (Exit Barce.)
DI. Did I speak of Jupiter’s rites? The rites I am performing can never be atoned for, when the earth, the sea, the sky hear of them, when the home of Dis hears, when all that exists is seized with loathing for my crime. Oh sun, borne on your flaming chariot, golden Titan, and you, accomplice in my undertaking, at once Jupiter’s sister and wife, and Hecate, to whom men howl at crossroads, wild Eumenides, and you gods who are avengers of pious Elisa, hear me. Dying, I utter my final prayers.
Hear me. Let him hang from a sharp cliff, dripping blood into the ocean. Let our Trojan guest drip gore before setting foot on the shore he seeks. But if Jupiter’s decree dictates that this unspeakable man float to the land, then let him, buffeted by fighting, an exile from his homeland, and, Iulus, torn from your embrace, seek foreign help. Let him see the death, the slaughter of his race and, having obtained peace, let him again be exiled from his kingdom. Let him lie, despoiled of life, shivering as he spews, let all the sands refuse him a tomb as he lies unburied. Elisa resolutely casts these words into the insubstantial wind, drawing on her breath that will soon cease.
And then, you progeny of Tyre, out of care for me you must harry his future stock, the race of Aeneas. Let there be no end to wars and hatred. I pray that you consecrate these sacrifices honoring the dead to my funeral, my ashes. Let there be no love or pact between our peoples. Let these bones find me an avenger whose torches and swords will exterminate the Dardanian race. I pray that wave will clash with wave, weapons with weapons, that shore will strike against shore. Let our descendants always attack theirs, I bid them attack down through eternity.
Relics, sweet to me in former times (as long as my destiny forestalled misfortune), receive my soul, worn out by sad evils, grant me freedom from cares. I have lived, I have lived out my appointed span, and now my shade will journey beneath the earth.
I have founded a high city, the splendid glory of walls, I have avenged my husband and wreaked punishment on my brother. I would have been happy, alas, if those ships had never grounded on our shore, guided by Phrygian hands. So am I to die unavenged? But nevertheless thus I die. Thus I crave to join the wan shades. Let the Dardanian see this fire with his disloyal eyes, taking with him a sign of the death of a native woman. [She stabs herself. Enter Anna, Barce, escorted by serving-women carrying materials for the sacrifice.]
ACTUS V, SCENA iii
ANNA, BARCE, SACRIFICING HANDMAIDS
BAR. Ah, what deed do my eyes see? The queen is dying, she has wickedly done violence to herself.
AN. Is she dying?
BAR. She lies, drained of blood.
AN. Oh, miserable misfortune, miserable sister, miserable rites of the gods. Go, go spread the story among the people, let Rumor circulate everywhere. Let the hall resound with noise, with news of the royal death, let shrieking fill the entire city. Let our houses roar with laments, the heaven with our plaint. Oh Dido, glory of the Sidonians, my sister Dido! Consider your sister. Were you assailing me with deceit? Was this what the pyre was for? The altar, turf, torches, firebrands? Being abandoned, what should I say first, what should I bemoan? Could you lack a comrade? Could you not have shared your fate? How better the same grief, the same hour could have killed two companions! Did I therefore build your funeral pyre myself with these hands, offering up my prayers to the gods, thus to be apart from you? Sister, I worked great harm to you, our city, myself, our native forefathers. [To the maids.] Bring me water, I shall carefully wash her face, gathering with my lips whatever breath may linger.
BAR. Oh empty hopes, all our work is done in vain. See, she lifts her head, she drops it. She tries to raise herself on her elbow, but collapses, raises her wandering eyes, then closes them. Where is old-fashioned virtue? Our ancient majesty? The city’s former honor? It is banished, and there is no hope for its return. Dido conferred it, Dido took it away. See how I am reduced to tears for your sake, I shall never cease my weeping. My grief finds no worthier object to spend itself on, it will often make me cry.
AN. Oh, if Juno, responsible for this marriage, had taken pity, she would have allowed her a speedy death. Oh gods, may she die quickly! [Enter Iris.]
ACTUS V, SCENA iv
IR. [Descending from heaven.] Daughter of king Thaumas, I come as agent of the goddess. I am commanded to fulfil your destiny, to end the delay of your impending death. See how, bidden, I dedicate these hairs, consecrated to Pluto, and release you from your body. [She cuts off a lock of Dido’s hair. Dido dies and Iris exits.]
AN. Elisa, unless I am calling on you in vain, farewell for the last time, sister, farewell for eternity. Anna is trying to rouse a dead woman. Farewell, Dido, never to return. Where should I betake my tears, my laments? The gods tire of them, I myself grow ashamed, and it is a trifling thing to be numb with constant tears. My sister’s funeral demands something more. Oh household gods, our poor household gods, shall I cleave to you, bereft of my companion? Or, left behind, should I seek a marriage? Shall I enjoy the sky, the sight of daylight, when left alone? Everything is horrible, loathsome, damnable. Do you hesitate, Anna? Hasten, and dedicate the sacrifices honoring the dead — not just the lesser ones. Let your life be payed out. Cut your throat with this sword. See, your sister has already plunged it into her guts and rent her entrails. Go, run, follow. Let this last service gratify the one who inspires it. This last dutiful act is for the best. [Stabs herself and dies.]
What Fates oppress the Tyrian race? What catastrophe pursues it? How great a calamity! Our city’s glory is vanished, and the entire royal family has grown to hate its own life. Dido is the death of Anna, the Dardanian exile is the death of Dido. The both of them brought a sad day to the mothers of Tyre by their sudden deaths.
Oh, damnable ship which brought the Phrygian stranger to these shores, but even more savage the ship which returned the disloyal man to the sea. And yet more worthy of all dire things is that false faith which destroyed the royal marriage.
Before now the Punic nation feared the Getuli, then thinking them to be the greatest evil of all. Now a greater suffering has banished this fear. Hope for salvation, when abandoned, fears nothing greatly.
Thus destiny decided, thus some god, whoever he was, decreed. The destruction of nations stands graven in adamantine letters.
What our grief has left to us, we shall bestow upon our dead queen. Our lament will be constant, no day will see our cheeks unbathed by tears.
Now Dido has had its conclusion. Would that it had been the one we would have chosen! But it took the ending it could. Let the speed with which it had to be prepared excuse its text and our performance.
Now let each spectator reckon up what good is to be derived from this play. Venus forbids us to trust an ancient foe, she is always inventing schemes to that an enemy will be favorable, setting snares so that Juno will be kind to the Trojans. It is royal to give trust and aid to the wretched, and hospitality ennobles a great house. But whoever remains dependent on charity is diminished in stature, ceasing to be a free man. Let him be ever so grateful, he will acquire the reputation of an ingrate. The storm, evilly raised by Juno, shows what faith is henceforth to be placed in Prometheuses, nor can anyone imitate Jupiter’s lightning. We must heed the god’s admonitions, and any delay in doing so, even a brief one, is too great. Pliable women are moved by tears, but the strong one must stop her ears. If the favors done you stand in the way of greater goods, no matter what they were, they oblige nobody. Foreign marriages rarely turn out well. Love’s power is great. A greater fire affects women, a lighter one kindles men. But our times have produced few Didos, and I imagine our women have grown more prudent. I doubt any woman will die of a broken heart.
But, Dido, one woman surpasses you by far: our virgin queen. In her piety, how many reversals has she endured! What kingdoms has she founded! To what foreigners has she plighted her trust! But she has not condescended to marry any Sychaeus, and may no Aeneas sway her affections! But behold, here is a guest greater than Aeneas. To this man, Dido, your words would better apply: “What new guest has come to our home? How handsome his face! How brave with his deep chest, distinguished in battle! I believe he is descended from the gods, and this is no empty belief.”
Tyrian Elisa came to a piteous end. But I pray our Eliza lives, will continue living, so that as she reigns she will long see such guests. Queens of Sheba and great dukes hail her on all sides. You should give your applause for this Elisa.