Tag Archives Dido

LONGING AND DUTY

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We visited the Vatican the first week

of January so there was only

a short queue for the Sistine Chapel,

and few visitors, once inside, to distract

from possibly Rome’s most famous work of art;

its gaudy magnificence; its lavish

genius; its conspicuous wealth; its

indulgent humanness; its celebration

of beauty, of flesh, and immortality.

 

Michelangelo, painter, architect,

sculptor and poet, spent months on his back

creating The Last Judgement on the ceiling –

a graphic history of prophesy.

One of the polymath’s sonnets ends:

‘…love makes perfect our friends here on earth

but death makes them more so in heaven’.

 

We left the Vatican via the Library

with its seventy thousand volumes.

There was an exhibition of illustrated

manuscript versions of Virgil’s works –

possibly the city’s most famous poet –

each much more than a millennium old,

fragments saved during the papacy’s

many epochs of acquisitiveness.

 

One illustration depicts Dido,

Queen of Carthage, on her funeral pyre.

She had been jilted by Aeneas, who left

to do his god-given duty to found Rome.

She killed herself with her ex-lover’s sword.

The poet has Aeneas – who had carried,

on his back,  his own aged father from Troy’s

burning ruins – watch the funeral pyre’s

receding flames as he sailed, almost due north,

across what would become Mare Nostrum.

 

 

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