Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 165

Such was the state of affairs when AEneas with his Trojans arrived there. Dido received the illustrious exiles with friendliness and hospitality. "Not unacquainted with distress," she said, "I have learned to succor the unfortunate." The queen's hospitality displayed itself in festivities at which games of strength and skill were exhibited. The strangers contended for the palm with her own subjects on equal terms, the queen declaring that whether the victor were "Trojan or Tyrian should make no difference to her." At the feast which followed the games, AEneas gave at her request a recital of the closing events of the Trojan history and his own adventures after the fall of the city. Dido was charmed with his discourse and filled with admiration of his exploits. She conceived an ardent passion for him, and he for his part seemed well content to accept the fortunate chance which appeared to offer him at once a happy termination of his wanderings, a home, a kingdom, and a bride. Months rolled away in the enjoyment of pleasant intercourse, and it seemed as if Italy and the empire destined to be founded on its shores were alike forgotten. Seeing which, Jupiter dispatched Mercury with a message to AEneas recalling him to a sense of his high destiny, and commanding him to resume his voyage.

AEneas, under this divine command, parted from Dido, though she tried every allurement and persuasion to detain him. The blow to her affection and her pride was too much for her to endure, and when she found that he was gone, she mounted a funeral-pile which she had caused to be prepared, and, having stabbed herself, was consumed with the pile. The flames rising over the city were seen by the departing Trojans, and, though the cause was unknown, gave to AEneas some intimation of the fatal event.

We find in "Elegant Extracts" the following epigram:

From the Latin

  "Unhappy, Dido, was thy fate
  In first and second married state!
  One husband caused thy flight by dying,
  Thy death the other caused by flying."

Dr. Johnson was once challenged to make an epigram on the syllables di,do,dum. He immediately replied in these lines:

  "When Dido found Aeneas would not come,
  She wept in silence, and was Dido dumb.


After touching at the island of Sicily, where Acestes, a prince of Trojan lineage, bore sway, who gave them a hospitable reception, the Trojans re-embarked, and held on their course for Italy. Venus now interceded with Neptune to allow her son at last to attain the wished-for goal, and find an end of his perils on the deep. Neptune consented, stipulating only for one life as a ransom for the rest. The victim was Palinurus, the pilot. As he sat watching the stars, with his hand on the helm, Somnus, sent by Neptune, approached in the guise of Phorbas and said, "Palinurus, the breeze is fair, the water smooth, and the ship sails steadily on her course. Lie down a while and take needful rest. I will stand at the helm in your place." Palinurus replied, "Tell me not of smooth seas or favoring winds, me who have seen so much of their treachery. Shall I trust AEneas to the chances of the weather and winds?" And he continued to grasp the helm and to keep his eyes fixed on the stars. But Somnus waved over him a branch moistened with Lethaean dew, and his eyes closed in spite of all his efforts. Then Somnus pushed him overboard and he fell; but keeping his hold upon the helm it came away with him. Neptune was mindful of his promise, and kept the ship on her track without helm or pilot, till Aeneas discovered his loss, and, sorrowing deeply for his faithful steersman, took charge of the ship himself.