Monday, February 11, 2013

Dido and Anna, Turnus and Juturna

Some notes from R.D. Williams on Aeneid XII.843f., interspersed with the relevant passages and translations. For more on the links between Dido and Turnus, I quite like this essay: Chaotic Passions; Turnus and Femininity in the Aeneid. It includes a chapter on both Dido and Juturna.

We are powerfully reminded of the scene in Aeneid 4 where Dido, another tragic victim of the events of the poem, visits her dead husband’s grave and is terrified by omens, voices and the hooting of owls by night

XII        postquam acies videt Iliacas atque agmina Turni,
alitis in parvae subitam collecta figuram,
quae quondam in bustis aut culminibus desertis
nocte sedens serum canit importuna per umbras—
hanc versa in faciem Turni se pestis ob ora               865
fertque refertque sonans clipeumque everberat alis.

When she sees the Trojan battle-lines and the troops of Turnus the Fury, changed suddenly into the form of that small bird which, sitting late at night on tombs and deserted buildings, often sings her ill-omened songs through the shadows - changed into this shape the fiend throws herself again and again into the face of Turnus, shrieking and beating upon his shield with her wings. 
IV         praeterea fuit in tectis de marmore templum
coniugis antiqui, miro quod honore colebat,
velleribus niveis et festa fronde revinctum:
hinc exaudirivuoces et verba vocantis                       460
visa viri, nox cum terras obscura teneret,
solaque culminibus ferali carmine bubo
saepe queri et longas in fletum ducere voces;
And furthermore, there was in her palace a marble chapel, sacred to her first husband, which she venerated with utmost love, keeping it decorated with snowy fleeces and festal greenery. Now from this chapel when night held the world in darkness she thought that she distinctly heard cries, as of her husband calling to her. And often on a rooftop a lonely owl would sound her deathly lamentation, drawing out her notes into a long wail.

There are other deliberate reminiscences of the story of Dido; Juturna’s position as a sister who cannot help is similar to that of Anna, and the repetition (871) of the line describing Anna’s grief (4.673) takes the thoughts back to that other tragedy.
XII        At procul ut Dirae stridorem agnovit et alas,
infelix crinis scindit Iuturna solutos                            870
unguibus ora soror foedans et pectora pugnis:

But when ill-fated Juturna, his sister, recognised the sound of the Fury's wings she tore at her untied hair, marring her cheeks with her fingernails and bruising her breast with her fists.
IV         audiit exanimis trepidoque exterrita cursu
unguibus ora soror foedans et pectora pugnis
per medios ruit, ac morientem nomine clamat:
'hoc illud, germana, fuit? me fraude petebas?          675
hoc rogus iste mihi, hoc ignes araeque parabant?
Her sister heard [the sounds of mourning] and the breath left her. Marring her cheeks with her fingernails and bruising her breast with her fists she dashed in frightened haste through the crowds, found Dido at the very point of death, and cried out to her: “O sister, so this was the truth? You planned to deceive me! Was this what your pyre, your altars and the fires were to mean for me?”
The complaint of Juturna that she cannot accompany her brother in death (880-1) recalls Anna’s words to Dido;
XII        quo vitam dedit aeternam? cur mortis adempta est
condicio? possem tantos finire dolores                      880
nunc certe, et misero fratri comes ire per umbras!
immortalis ego? aut quicquam mihi dulce meorum
te sine, frater, erit? o quae satis ima dehiscat
terra mihi, Manisque deam demittat ad imos?'
Why did Jupiter grant me eternal life? Why was the possibility of death stolen from me? Now indeed I would be able to put an end to such great suffering and to accompany my poor brother through the shadows! Why am I immortal? How will any part of my life be sweet without you, my brother? O what earth will gape wide enough to swallow me and to send me down to the deepest Shades?' 
IV         his etiam struxi manibus patriosque vocavi               680
voce deos, sic te ut posita, crudelis, abessem?
exstinxti te meque, soror, populumque patresque
Sidonios urbemque tuam. date, vulnera lymphis
abluam et, extremus si quis super halitus errat,
ore legam.'                                                                 685
“With these hands I built your pyre and cried aloud upon our ancestral gods, only to be cruelly separated from you as you lay in death! Sister you have destroyed my life with your own, and the lives of our people and Sidon’s nobility, and your whole city too. Come, let me see your wounds – I must wash them clean with water, and gather with my own lips any last hovering breath.”
and her wish to be swallowed up in the depths of the earth (883) is reminiscent of Dido’s words in 4.24f.
IV         Anna (fatebor enim) miseri post fata Sychaei           20
coniugis et sparsos fraterna caede penatis
solus hic inflexit sensus animumque labantem
impulit. agnosco veteris vestigia flammae.
sed mihi vel tellus optem prius ima dehiscat
vel pater omnipotens adigat me fulmine ad umbras,25
pallentis umbras Erebo noctemque profundam,
ante, pudor, quam te violo aut tua iura resolvo.
“Yes, Anna, I shall tell you my secret. Ever since the tragic death of my husband Sychaeus, whose sprinkled blood, which my own brother shed, desecrated our home, no one but this stranger ever made an impression on me, or stirred my heart to wavering. I can discern the old fire coming near again. But I could pray that the earth should yawn deep to engulf me, or the Father Almighty blast me to the Shades with a stroke of his thunder, deep down to those pallid Shades in darkest Erebos, before I ever violate my honour or break its laws.”
In the sympathy it evokes, this final tragic death in the poem is thus deliberately made parallel with the death of Dido, the other great opponent of the mission of Aeneas.


Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy said...

I liked your essay 'Chaotic Passion'. But one important person you didn't mention: Diomedes. Several times, from Aeneid 1 on, we are reminded that in Iliad 5 Diomedes nearly killed Aeneas after crushing his knee with a rock. Aeneas had to be rescued ignominiously by his mother. Yet when we finally meet Diomedes in book 11, he is a sober chastened individual: no longer the swashbuckler of the Iliad. How come?

I think the function of Diomedes in the Aeneid is revealed in the final fight between Aeneas and Turnus. Turnus picks up a huge rock, preparing to throw it at Aeneas. Knowing our Iliad, we shudder: Aeneas is about to be incapacitated. But no: Jupiter, through the Dira, has given to Turnus crystal-clear understanding while at the same time paralysing his strength, as in a dream. The Dira finally counteracts Allecto. Just as Diomedes now understands (we are told) that Aeneas is fated to triumph, so Turnus now understands it too. Sadly but calmly, he concedes defeat and tells Aeneas that he can have Lavinia. But now it is Aeneas who is in a frenzy! The roles are reversed. Aeneas, the dutiful servant of Jupiter, acts in the end out of loyalty to an obligation that he has CHOSEN, not one imposed on him: his loyalty to Pallas.

Jupiter has betrayed Aeneas. Will Troy rise again in Italy? No! Jupiter has capitulated to Juno and agree that it will not. So is Aeneas, at the end, a poor sap who has been diddled by an untrustworthy god? No, because he does at the end act on the basis of a CHOSEN loyalty. He even, through Pallas, makes amends in some degree for his abandonment of Dido -- for, by putting a tunic made by the dead Dido on the body of Pallas, he makes her the foster-mother of this foster-son, just as Lausus at his death is wearing a tunic made by his mother and just as Andromache, in 'adopting' Ascanius as a substitute for Astyanax, gives him a tunic.

Anonymous said...

just to be clarify, I didn't write that essay. I just found it online and thought it might be helpful to my students.

I like your thoughts on Diomedes; I'd noticed the parallels with Turnus and the rock, but never thought much about the broader implications.

I'm not sure I follow you on the significance of Aeneas' chosen loyalty, but interesting reflections nonetheless.

Mike Salter said...

Interesting read, JM, many thanks!