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‘On Our Shores’
The Aeneid of Virgil, Book 1, Part 20
Dido obsessed upon his face,
Ravished with his grace
Admired the Fortune fraught man
Regained poise and began
.
Son of the Love Goddess
What cruel power brought you to us
It recalls my memory as a child
When Teucer of Salamis was exiled
Begged my father Belus to be restored
My father with fire and sword
Conquered Cyprus in war
.
Father told me of the siege of Troy
Spoke of the Greek chiefs
Your Dardan valor praised
His own ancestry from Trojans raised [1]
My honored guest you shall find
Our welcome poor but kind
I too have been distressed
Till Heaven gave me this place of rest
An alien in a land not my own
I pity woes so like my own
.
Having spoken with grace
She turned at a stately pace
Offered rare incense
And proclaimed a feast.
Twenty fat oxen to the ships she sends
A hundred boars a hundred lambs
Skins of milk and jars of wine
Fruit of the living vine
With spacious drinking bowls
She gives, to cheer the sailors' souls
.
Purple cloth draped the palace walls [2]
Feasts are made in splendid halls
On Tyrian carpets they dine [3]
With plates the sideboards shine
Antique vases all of gold embossed
The gold itself inferior to the cost
Here on the bowl sides were seen
Fights and figures of illustrious men
From their first founder to the present queen. [4]
End 20
Notes
-1. The Trojans were known as the Dardans, after the Dardanelles, the narrow straits commanded by their city, sacked various times in various ages, as it was a natural trade center. As with the Dan, or Dannites and Denyen and Philistines, who are variously credited in ancient sources as being Sea Peoples from the central and west Middle Sea, attacking and even coexisting with empires and tribes of the Middle East, this passage suggests a period of general migratory desperation and political chaos.
-2. The land of Phoenicia, where is Tyre, Didos’ home, was famous for purple dye-making, fashioning the very clothes of kings and judges, marking the Punic culture as the leading commercial force in the Middle Sea, with even Hellenic ceremonies said to have been conducted according to their customs.
-3. Eating on carpets suggest a close kindship to terrestrial nomadism rather than the culture of couches, benches and stools of forested central, western and northern Europe. The ancient Greeks even had folding stools for outdoors events.
-4. Existing evidence of ancient Minoan and Hellenic ritual and athletic [one in the same prior to our age] life are to be found primarily on such decorative drinking vessels and plates.
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