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  • At Regina . . .from Aeneid, Book Four
  • Timothy E. Smith (bio)

And yet,

The queen nourished the wound in her veins.

Smitten with blind passion, Consumed by hidden fire,

She kept thinking about his greatness,

His virtue.

She couldn’t help but dwell on the honor of his family.

His words, his handsome face kept appearing in her mind, in her heart.

Her obsession gave her body no rest.


As she gazed out over her lands, Lit with Phoebus’s morning light, Just after Aurora dawn goddess Had driven moist shadows from the sky,

She confided in her sympathetic sister A mix of infatuated nonsense And true romantic passion.

“Anna my sister, [End Page 84]

What dreams torment me! I lie awake, sleepless, through the whole night!

Who is this strange visitor? Who has come to our homeland?

How nobly he carries himself. What courage in his heart, his chest, His wars.

I truly believe—and it is no empty hope, He is the progeny of the gods.

Fear always reveals a degenerate man, And he has never known fear.

Oh, how he has been tormented by the Fates! What exhausting wars he sang of last night!

If it were not already so settled in my mind, If I were not already so resolved That I would never again seek to join anyone in bonds of marriage, After Love cheated me of my first man, Robbed me of him with his early death; If the very thought of the marriage torch did not so wear me out, Then perhaps I could give in to this, My weakness, My desire for love.

Anna, I confess it truly now, Since the murder of my poor husband Sychaeus, When my brother—that murderer— Spattered the Penates with his blood, He has been the first, The only one to affect my feelings, To make me doubt my resolve.

I recognize the familiar feelings, the trace of an old flame within.

But I would hope that the Earth’s jaws would yawn open, [End Page 85]

Reveal its gaping depths to me first, Or that the omnipotent father would blast me into the shadows, Hurling his thunderbolt down to the bloodless shades of Erebus, Down to the endless night, Before I ever violate you, oh my vows, Before I let go of you, oh my modesty, my honor.

He who first joined me to him, He who stole all of my love, Let him keep it with him. Let him hold it close in his grave.”

And with that, she cried, filling her bosom with tears.

Anna comforted her with this reply: “Are you really going to waste your life all alone? Pining through your self-imposed punishment, Eternal maidenhood? Will you never again know the sons of sweet Venus? Will you never taste her gifts? Do you really believe the ghosts and ashes care for such things?

Let it go!

None of your suitors have ever moved you from mourning, None of the Libyans here, nor those who came from Tyre long ago. You snubbed the African chief Iarbas, All the other kings too, good men, Men whom this rich African land showers with wealth and triumph.

Why do you fight a love that you can actually love?

Don’t you think about who controls these lands you’ve settled? On one side, the camps of the Gaetulians, a race unbeatable in war, Over there, the unbridled Numidians surround us, And then there is the vast, wild quicksand of Syrtis, a barren, desert kingdom, And the raving tribe of the Barca. Don’t forget the wars that might still rise up from our old home, Tyre, The threat of your wicked and greedy brother. [End Page 86]

In fact, I think it was under the auspices of the gods themselves, No—I bet it was Juno’s favor that set their course here, She herself sent the winds to blow Trojan ships to our shore!

What a city you would see, sister, What a kingdom would rise from such a marriage! Punic glory would vaunt itself to the heavens, Oh, if joined with those Trojan arms!

You should pray to the gods for pardon...


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pp. 84-88
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