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The Fall of Carthage

Updated: Dec 31, 2023


 

“What use are prayers and shrines to a passionate woman? The flame was eating the soft marrow of her bones and the wound lives quietly under her breast. Dido was on fire with love and wandered all over the city in her misery and madness like a wounded doe.”


Virgil

 

And the rope

Around her neck

Began to twist

And writhe

And slide

Down the valley

Of her breasts

To rest

Beneath her ribs.


Black scales gleamed

With all the poison

Of an oil slick.

Its blind head rose,

Seeking warmth,

And showed

A gaping maw

With a lamprey-

Smile.


It struck!

Sensing blood,

It chewed and bit,

Spitting shards

Of flesh from

Needle teeth,

Blunt head pushing

Through

The gleaming ring

Of flesh.



It pushed

Inside her chest;

Its scales scored

Across the ribs

Like fingernails

And as it moved

It shed,

Left scales

Inside the vein

To spread its poison

To the heart.


Above,

Unknowing

How her heart

Was made corrupt,

The Queen of Carthage

Watched her lover leave

And did not feel the burning,

Deep inside her chest,

As Envy’s foul serpent fed.


Insp. The Death of Dido, Queen of Carthage and lover of Aeneas. When Aeneas came to Carthage she greeted him kindly and - under the influence of his mother Venus - fell in love. When he eventually left, Dido's heart filled with rage and bitterness. She never forgave Aeneas, and killed herself in anger and sorrow.

 

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