The Story of Dido and Aeneas

The Story of Dido and Aeneas

THE STORY OF DIDO AND AENEAS. The Fourth Book of Virgil’s Aeneid. Translated into English Verse by H. S. Salt. London: Watts and Co. Pp. 47. 1s. net.

It is surprising at this time of day to come across a new and fruitful idea for the translation of Virgil; Mr. Salt has achieved the seemingly impossible. It scarcely admits of question that the decasyllable is the only suitable English metre for a long epic, that blank verse, except in the hands of a genius, is drab stuff, and that the heroic couplet is both cramping and monotonous, and quite alien to the varying harmonies of the Virgilian period; this last objection applies equally to any formal stanza, such, e.g., as the Fitzgerald quatrain. Mr. Salt’s solution of the difficulty is to use the decasyllable, but to allow his rhymes the freedom of recurrence characteristic of such lyrics as Lycidas. The gain in effectiveness is hardly to be believed:

‘twas night. Earth’s weary creatures, far and wide,
slumbered: wild woods and waters lay unstirred;
at that still hour when stars serenely glide in their mild course; when all the land hath rest;
and flocks are hushed, and every bright-winged bird,
haunting the limped lake, the bosky plain,
is lulled to sleep beneath the silent spell:
and suffering hearts have respite of their pain.
But not sad Dido. Ne’er can slumber blest soothe her, nor night’s soft balm on eyes and breast
fall welcome still love’s bitter pang renewed torments her, tossed on passion’s stormy swell:
still ceaseless o’er her sorrows must she brood.

This is the authentic Virgilian note.

H. W.

The Guardian, July 13, 1926, p. 9