"A Fickle Thing And Changeful Is Woman Always"
Context: A true epic is a natural, gradual evolution, about whose author little or nothing is known. So the Aeneid (i.e., a poem about Aeneas) is a literary epic, being the result of conscious artistic efforts by Publius Vergilius Maro, product of Rome's Golden Age and friend of its Emperor Augustus. Aeneas, fleeing from burning Troy spends the winter with Queen Dido of Carthage, enjoying her passionate love. Finally details of his delay reach Jove, who has destined Aeneas to found Rome, and he sends his son, Mercury, to order Aeneas to depart. When Queen Dido and her sister Anna beg the Trojan to remain, Mercury again visits him in a vision, to warn him falsely that fickle Dido and her sister are planning to play on his affections and even destroy his ships to prevent his departure. The Greeks are not the only people to have a word for the fickleness of woman. Francis I of France (1494–1547) is supposed to have written with his diamond ring on a window of the Château of Chambord: "Woman often changes; foolish the man who trusts her." The Duke in Verdi's Rigoletto sings: "La donna è mobile (Woman is changeable)." As Virgil tells the story:
. . . a vision . . . visited his dreams . . . in all things like to Mercury, voice and color, yellow locks, and the graceful limbs of youth: . . . "Madman, seest not the after-dangers that beset thee? Resolved on death, she is pondering in her heart fell villainy and treachery, and rousing the swirling tide of passion: . . . Anon, thou wilt see the brine a turmoil of shattered timbers, see torches flashing fierce and the strand fervent with fire, if the rays of dawn discover thee tarrying in the land. Up and go!–truce to delay. A fickle thing and changeful is woman always!" Thus he said, and mingled with the shadows of night.