World Poetry Day – a dip into Poetry’s lucky-bag

It’s World Poetry Day!


Time is not my friend today, so I thought I’d just pull something out of the poetic lucky bag, so to speak.

And here’s what I chose.  Virgil’s Aeneid.

Nope – not the recent posthumous translation of Book VI from Seamus Heaney. (I have my copy, but the Underworld has to wait for Easter, when I can get away from ‘work’ writing.)

During my Classics years at NUI Galway, I had great teachers. Amanda and Mark worked with us on The Aeneid. The translation I have is by Robert Fagles. His work on it, and The Iliad, has brought tears to my eyes; he never loses sight of the Masters’ poetry.

Aeneas leaving Dido by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli
Aeneas leaving Dido
by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli

Here are a few lines from BOOK IV – for all you star-crossed lovers out there:
But Aeneas
is driven by duty now. Strongly as he longs
to ease and allay her sorrow, speak to her,
turn away her anguish with reassurance, still,
moaning deeply, heart shattered by his great love,
in spite of all he obeys the gods’ commands
and back he goes to his ships.


Then Juno in all her power, filled with pity
for Dido’s agonizing death, her labor long and hard,
sped Iris down from Olympus to release her spirit
wrestling now in a deathlock with her limbs.
Since she was dying a death not fated or deserved,
no, tormented, before her day, in a blaze of passion –
Proserpine had yet to pluck a golden lock from her head
and commit her life to the Styx and the dark world below.
So Iris, glistening dew, comes shimmering down from the sky
on gilded wings, trailing showers of iridescence shimmering
into the sun, and hovering over Dido’s head, declares:
“So commanded, I take a lock as a sacred gift
to the God of Death, and I release you from your body.”

With that, she cut the lock with her hand, and all at once
the warmth slipped away, the life dissolved in the winds.