The Hero Loves As Well
She called it marriage, tell that to your Muse.
Write what you like.
If this had been a script
I must have pissed off some writer somewhere
in his heaven.
Or, I’m cock-blocked by fate: …
About the poem
This poem appeared in the Spring issue of Confingo magazine in May 2017.
This poem was one of a series inspired by the Dido and Aeneas love story in Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid. The poem reflects on the scene when Aeneas leaves Dido to fulfil his destiny elsewhere; the gods block his ears to her pleas and prevent him from speaking any words of consolation.
As with many aspects of Virgil's work, this scene still feels relevant today. Often men lack the vocabulary to articulate their emotional experience. The result is often silence, or frustration reflected in swearing or blunt statements. I wanted to write something that aimed to convey the depth of feeling behind the silence, using a line from Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas - "the hero loves as well as you," - as the title and creating white space between the words to suggest the effort expended on even the briefest explanation.
It's not intended to imply that all men are inarticulate, but rather that matters of the heart are difficult to express. It also considers the futility of words in such situations - even if Aeneas had been allowed to give an eloquent speech of apology, he was still always going to sail away and leave Dido in a precarious situation. Would poetic cursing of the gods had any more effect than uttering his frustration at being cock-blocked by fate? Virgil does not shy away from the fact that fulfilling his destiny takes a physical and emotional toll on Aeneas. This scene is a demonstration of him choosing to put his own wishes aside, but shows that he is no two-dimensional hero and he doesn't do so without a sense of conflict and regret.