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Dido: The Tragedy of a Woman

Enter a world of myth and men whose lives elicit fear and pity and catharsis.

Once more adopting the style I used in The Tragedy of King Lewis the Sixteenth, I have composed Dido: The Tragedy of a Woman, in traditional blank verse and the traditional language of poetry virtually universal from the time of Homer to the early twentieth century. I invoke once more the words of Gilbert Murray on the Classic tradition in poetry: “The magic of Memory [is] at work . . . the ‘waker of longing,’ the enchantress who turns the common to the heavenly and fills men’s eyes with tears because the things that are now past were so beautiful . . . . [T]hey [the dancers of Dionysus] liked to cling to the old words that had always been used in these songs instead of the clearer and commoner modern words, and liked them perhaps all the better when people were not quite sure of their exact meaning but only felt the atmosphere and the fragrance, and of course the actual magic, that clung about them . . . . [S]urely such words were better worth using than those which were used every day and carried no virtue.”

“Dipping into the Western tradition in both subject and form, David Lane in Dido: The Tragedy of a Woman weaves another thread into one of the most essential stories in Western Civilization: the tragic love of Dido for the Trojan Aeneas. Mr. Lane’s command of the emotional life of his characters is triumphantly polished, as at the same time he maintains a finely tuned pathos. In Dido Mr. Lane demonstrates a mastery of blank verse, building upon a keen musical sense developed in his equally delightful Tragedy of King Lewis the Sixteenth. Dido: The Tragedy of a Woman is a rare work of civilized poetry.”

—Dr. Jesse Russell, Department of English, University of Mary; Publisher, RCGENTLEMANSCHOLAR blog

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The Tragedy of King Lewis the Sixteenth

The King is dead; long live the King!

In a well-known passage of the New Testament, St. Paul writes that, “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” To some men, including the unhappy King Louis XVI of France, these words seem particularly applicable. The play that has given its name to this volume of collected poetry presents the true tale of the only King of France who was tried and put to death by a revolutionary government, one that, at least in the world of the play, served as the unwitting scourge of God.

In the latter years of the seventeenth century, France gradually edged away from its allegiance to Christianity. The Enlightenment of the eighteenth century was animated by a rationalist Skepticism that in France especially militated against the Catholic Church. A devout French nun named Margaret Mary Alacoque claimed to have been visited on June 17, 1689, by Jesus Christ, Who among other things instructed her to tell the King of France, Louis XIV, that, to avert a future catastrophe in the realm, he must consecrate France to the Saviour’s Sacred Heart. In return for this act of humility, He promised to shower France with manifold graces and blessings. Louis XIV and the monarchs who followed him delayed in making the consecration until, finally, on June 17, 1789, one hundred years later to the day, King Louis XVI was challenged by the self-styled National Assembly, initiating the French Revolution. He was later stripped of his powers and sent to the guillotine to be put to death like a criminal; France became engulfed in the horrors of the Revolutionary Terror, which has inspired similar events throughout the world to this day.

“Acquire this work. Read it well. Teach it to your children. Recite it aloud together with them as the play it was written to be. Use it in your home school as a tool for the rediscovery and preservation of noble diction and high themes in an age of appalling linguistic brutishness. This work belongs on your shelf of classics, somewhere near the works of Shakespeare, as a most unexpected and quite wonderful contemporary revival of a literary tradition that was buried along with Christendom itself.

“Mr. Lane has seemingly come out of nowhere with this immensely impressive achievement. We owe it to him, we owe it to our fellow Catholics, we owe it to the English language, to read, promote and make better known The Tragedy of King Lewis the Sixteenth.”

—Christopher A. Ferrara, Esq, Journalist and President of the American Catholic Lawyers Association, review in The Latin Mass magazine, Winter Issue, 2012

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