In what ways do both Virgil in the Aeneid and Thomas Moore in his poem "Tabula Cebelis" seem to treat love as a threat to the success of the protagonist on his journey? Specifically looking at...

In what ways do both Virgil in the Aeneid and Thomas Moore in his poem "Tabula Cebelis" seem to treat love as a threat to the success of the protagonist on his journey?

Specifically looking at Aeneas's relationship with Dido in Book 4 of the Aeneid, does he love her? Does he deceive her, or is her love a kind of deception?  In "Tabula Cebelis," why are Pleasure and Desire deceitful? Are they necessarily so?

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Book 4 of the Aeneid, Dido confesses to her sister Anna about her feelings for Aeneas, feelings so strong that she feels tempted to break the personal vow she made to remain faithful to even just her dead husband's memory. When Dido's feelings start driving her crazy to the point that the work of constructing the city of Carthage stops, Juno and Venus plot to bring Dido and Aeneas together. Juno wants to see the couple united out of protection for Carthage, while Venus is only interested in protecting Dido. Nonetheless, Dido and Aeneas find themselves alone together in a cave in the poring rain where Aeneas seduces Dido, and Dido yields to her passions. What's especially interesting is the differences between how Dido and Aeneas interpret the situation. Dido believes herself to now be married to Aeneas, but Aeneas disagrees. Even more tragic, even though Dido believes herself to be married, rumors of her having acted impurely start spreading throughout the city, especially the rumor that she had given up ruling the city to satisfy her lust. However, when Jupiter hears the rumors, he decides to send Aeneas away from Dido in order to protect Aeneas's destiny as ruler over all of Italy. Sadly, Aeneas willingly leaves Dido, refusing to agree with Dido that they had ever been married. We clearly see Aeneas's refusal in his lines:

I never hop'd a secret flight from hence,
Much less pretended to the lawful claim
Of sacred nuptials, or a husband's name. (Bk 4)

Since Aeneas seduced Dido, making her give way to her feelings of lust, but actually had no genuine feelings of love for her, we can say that Aeneas deceived Dido. We can even further say that Dido's feelings of lust for Aeneas deceived her into believing she was in love with him, although those feelings certainly did seem genuine. What's more, evidently, had Aeneas given into Dido and decided to remain, he would not have successfully become ruler over all of Italy as Jupiter had wanted, showing us how love in the form of feelings of lust can interfere with plans.

We see the same type of theme concerning lust and love in Thomas Moore's poem "Tabula Cebelis," also written as "Cebelis Tabula." In this poem, love is influenced by Pleasure and Desire. Moore describes Pleasure as a "blooming boy" who often turns the pages of love's book and seduces the book of love, removing its Innocence. As Moore phrases it:

And so it chanc'd, one luckless night
He let this honey goblet fall
O'er the dear book, so pure, so white.

Hence, just like Aeneas seduces pure Dido, the boy Pleasure seduces pure love, removing love's modesty and innocence. Also, just like Aeneas, Pleasure next flees because pleasure cannot remain a part of love once love's innocence and modesty have been removed, leaving real love to be just a part of memory.

Hence, both Virgil and Moore show that love is not real love when it is influenced by the powers of lust and seduction. What's more, lust and seduction can have damaging affects, just like lust would have impeded Aeneas and just like lust certainly ruined Dido and just like lust in the form of Pleasure damaged the book of love, leaving love to be just a form of memory.

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