CHAPTER VIII
INTERPRETATION OF LIFE. -- I. DIDO

Strong and fierce in the heart, Dear,
With -- more than a will -- what seems a power
To pounce on my prey, love outbroke here
In flame devouring and to devour.
Such love has laboured its best and worst
To win me a lover; yet, last as first,
I have not quickened his pulse one beat,
Fixed a moment's fancy, bitter or sweet:
Yet the strong fierce heart's love's labour's due,
Utterly lost, was -- you! -- BROWNING.

OVID tells us that no part of the Aeneid was so popular as the episode of Dido1. Though he makes this statement in self-defence we may well believe him in view of the abiding attraction of the story. Macrobius says that for centuries painters, sculptors, and workers in embroidery had turned to Dido, as if the only subject in which beauty was to be found, while the very actors had never ceased to tell her sorrows in dance and songs2. Augustine himself confesses that he wept to read of Dido and 'how she slew herself for love,' and he links her story with ipsius umbra Creusae3. And to-day there are still those who maintain that 'what touch of human interest the Aeneid can claim it gains from the romance of Dido4.' That Dido has ruined the character of Aeneas with nine-tenths of his readers is the admission of one of Virgil's most sympathetic critics, who proceeds to ask the pertinent question whether the poet failed to see what his readers have seen, and why,

____________________
1
Ovid, Tristia, ii. 533.
2
Macrobius, Sat. v. 17. 5-6 tanquam unico argumento decoris.
3
Augustine, Conf. i. 13. 21.
4
Bernard Bosanquet, History of Aesthetic, p. 88.

-160-

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