Thus he cries weeping, and gives his fleet the reins, and at last glides up to the shores of Euboean Cumae.
They turn the prows seaward, then with the grip of anchors’ teeth made fast the ships, and the round keels fringe the beach.
In hot haste the youthful band leaps forth on the Hesperian shore; some seek the seeds of flame hidden in veins of flint, some despoil the woods, the thick coverts of game, and point to new-found streams.
Loyal Aeneas seeks the heights, where Apollo sits enthroned, and a vast cavern hard by, hidden haunt of the dread Sibyl, into whom the Delian seer breathes a mighty mind and soul, revealing the future.
Now they pass under the grove of Trivia and the roof of gold.
Daedalus, it is said, when fleeing from Minos’ realm, dared on swift wings to trust himself to the sky; on his unwonted way he floated forth towards the cold North, and at last stood lightly poised above the Chalcidian hill.
Here first restored to earth, he dedicated to thee, Phoebus, the orange of his wings and built a vast temple.
On the doors is the death of Androgeos; then the children of Cecrops, bidden, alas, to pay as yearly tribute seven living sons; there stands the urn, the lots now drawn.
Opposite, rising from the sea, the Cretan land faces this; here is the cruel love of the bull, Pasiphaë craftily mated, and the mongrel breed of the Minotaur, a hybrid offspring, record of a monstrous love; there that house of toil, a maze inextricable; but Daedalus pitying the princess’s great love, himself unwound the deceptive tangle of the palace, guiding blind feet with the thread.
You, too, Icarus, would have large share in such a work, did grief permit: twice had he essayed to fashion your fall in gold; twice sank the father’s hands. Ay, and all the tale throughout would their eyes have scanned, but now came Achates from his errand, and with him the priestess of Phoebus and Trivia, Deiphobe, daughter of Glaucus, who addressed the king:
Not sights like these does this hour demand! Now it were better to sacrifice seven bullocks from the unbroken herd, and as many ewes fitly chosen.
Having thus addressed Aeneas – and not slow are the men to do her sacred bidding – the priestess calls the Teucrians into the lofty fane.
The huge side of the Euboean rock is hew into a cavern, into which lead a hundred wide mouths, a hundred gateways, from which rush as many voices, the answers of the Sibyl.
They had come to the threshold, when the maiden cries:
Tis time to ask the oracles; the god, lo! the god!
As thus she spoke before the doors, suddenly not countenance nor colour was the same, nor stayed her tresses braided; but her bosom heaves, her heart swells with wild frenzy, and she is taller to behold…nor has her voice a mortal ring, since now she feels the nearer breath of deity.
Are you slow to vow and to pray?
Are you slow, Trojan Aeneas?
For till then the mighty mouths of the awestruck house will not gape open.
So she spoke and was mute. A chill shudder ran through the Teucrians’ sturdy frames, and their king pours forth prayers from his inmost heart:
Phoebus, who never failed to pity Troy’s sore agony, who guided the Dardan shaft and hand of Paris against the body of Aeacus’ son, under your guidance did I enter so many seas, skirting mighty lands, the far remote Massylian tribes, and fields the Syrtes fringe; now at last is Italy’s ever receding shore within our grasp; thus far only may Troy’s fortune have followed us!
You, too, many now fitly spare the race of Pergamus, you gods and goddesses all, to whom Troy and Dardania’s great glory were an offence. And you, most holy prophetess, who foreknow the future, grant – I ask no realm unpledged by my fate – that the Teucrians may rest in Latium, with the wandering gods and storm-tossed powers of Troy.
Then to Phoebus and Trivia will I set up a temple of solid marble, and festal days in Phoebus’ name. You also a stately shrine awaits in our realm; for here I will place your oracles and mystic utterances, told to my people, and ordain chosen men, O gracious one. Only trust not your verses to leaves, lest they fly in disorder, the sport of rushing winds; chant them yourself, I pray.
His lips ceased speaking.
The prophetess, not yet brooking the sway of Phoebus, storms wildly in the cavern, if so she may shake the mighty god from her breast; so much the more he tires her raving mouth, tames her wild heart, and moulds her by constraint.
And now the hundred mighty mouths of the house have opened of their own will, and bring through the air the seer’s reply:
O you that have at length survived the great perils of the sea – yet by land more grievous woes lie in wait – into the realm of Lavinium the sons of Dardanus shall come, relieve your heart of this care.
Yet they shall not also rejoice in their coming.
Wars, grim wars I see…and the Tiber foaming with streams of blood. You will not lack a Simois, nor a Xanthus, nor a Doric camp. Even now in Latium a new Achilles has been born, himself a goddess’s son; nor shall Juno anywhere fail to dog the Trojans, while you, a suppliant in your need, what races, what cities of Italy will you not implore!
The cause of all this Trojan woe is again an alien bride, again a foreign marriage! . . .
Yield not to ills, but go forth all the bolder to face them as far as your destiny will allow! The road to safety, little though you think it, shall first issue from a Grecian city.
In these words the Cumaean Sibyl chants from the shrine her dread enigmas and booms from the cavern, wrapping truth in darkness – so does Apollo shake his reins as she rages, and ply the goad beneath her breast.
As soon as the frenzy ceases and the raving lips are hushed, Aeneas the hero begins:
For me no form of toils arises, O maiden, strange or unlooked for; all this have I foreseen and debated in my mind.
One thing I pray: since here is the famed gate of the nether king, and the gloomy marsh from Acheron’s overflow, be it granted me to pass into my dear father’s sight and presence; show the way and open the hallowed portals!
Amid flames and a thousand pursuing spears, I rescued him on these shoulders, and brought him safe from the enemy’s midst.
He, the partner of my journey, endured with me all the seas and all the menace of ocean and sky, weak as he was, beyond the strength and portion of age.
He is who prayed and charged me humbly to seek you and draw near to your threshold.
Pity both son and sire, I beseech you, gracious one; for you are all-powerful, and not in vain did Hecate make you mistress in the groves of Avernus.
If Orpheus availed to summon his wife’s shade, strong in his Thracian lyre and tuneful strings; if Pollux, dying in turn, ransomed his brother and so many times comes and goes his way – why speak of Theseus, why of Hercules the mighty – I, too, have descent from Jove most high!
In such words he prayed and clasped the altar, when thus the prophetess began to speak:
Sprung from blood of gods, son of Trojan Anchises, easy is the descent to Avernus: night and day the door of gloomy Dis stands open; but to recall one’s steps and pass out to the upper air, this is the task, this the toil!
Some few, whom kindly Jupiter has loved, or shining worth uplifted to heaven, sons of the gods, have availed.
In all the mid-space lie woods, and Cocytus girds it, gliding with murky folds.
But if such love is in your heart – if such a yearning, twice to swim the Stygian lake, twice to see black Tartarus – and if you are pleased to give rein to the mad endeavour, hear what must first be done.
There lurks in a shady tree a bough, golden leaf and pliant stem, held consecrate to nether Juno, Proserpine; this all the grove hides, and shadows veil in the dim valleys.
But it is not given to pass beneath earth’s hidden places, before someone has plucked from the tree the golden-tressed fruitage. This has beautiful Proserpine ordained to be borne to her as her own gift.
When the first is torn away, a second fails not, golden too, and the spray bears leaf of the self-same ore.
Search then with eyes aloft and, when found, duly pluck it with your hand; for of itself will it follow you, freely and with ease, if Fate be calling you; else with no force will you avail to win it or rend it with hard steel.
Moreover, there lies the dead body of your friend – ah, you know it not! – and defiles all the fleet with death, while you seek counsel and hover on our threshold.
Bear him first to his own place and hide him in the tomb. Lead black cattle; be these your first peace offerings. Only so will you survey the Stygian groves and realms the living may not tread.
She spoke, and with closed lips was silent.
With sad countenance and downcast eyes, Aeneas wends his way, quitting the cavern, and ponders in his mind the dark issues. At his side goes loyal Achates, and plants his steps under a like load of care. Much varied discourse were they weaving, each with each – of what dead comrade spoke the soothsayer, of what body for burial?
And as they came, they see on the dry beach Misenus, cut off by untimely death – Misenus, son of Aeolus, surpassed by none in stirring men with his bugle’s blare, and in kindling with his clang the god of war.
He had been great Hector’s comrade, at Hector’s side he braved the fray, glorious for clarion and spear alike; but when Achilles, victorious, stripped his chief of life, the valiant hero came into the fellowship of Dardan Aeneas, following no meaner standard.
Yet on that day, while by chance he made the seas ring with his hollow shell – madman – and with his blare calls the gods to contest, jealous Triton, if the tale can win belief, caught and plunged him in the foaming waves amid the rocks.
So, with loud lament, all were mourning round him, good Aeneas foremost. Then, weeping, they quickly carry out the Sibyl’s commands, and toil to pile up trees from the altar of his tomb and rear it to the sky. They pass into the forest primeval, the deep lairs of beasts; down drop the pitchy pines, and the ilex rings to the stroke of the axe; ashen logs and splintering oak are cleft with wedges, and from the mountains they roll down huge ash trees.
No less Aeneas, first amid such toils, cheers his comrades and girds on like weapons. And alone he ponders with his own sad heart, gazing on the boundless forest, and, as it chanced, thus prays:
O if now that golden bough would show itself to us on the tree in the deep wood! For all things truly – ah, too truly – did the seer say of you, Misenus.
Scarce had he said these words when under his very eyes twin doves, as it chanced, came flying from the sky and lit on the green grass. Then the great hero knew them for his mother’s birds, and prays with joy:
Be my guides, if any way there be, and through the air steer a course into the grove, where the rich bough overshades the fruitful ground! And you, goddess-mother, fail not my dark hour!
So speaking, he checked his steps, marking what signs they bring, where they direct their course. As eyes could keep them within sight; then, when they came to the jaws of noisome Avernus, they swiftly rise and, dropping through the unclouded air, perch side by side on their chosen goal – a tree, through whose branches flashed the contrasting glimmer of gold.
As in winter’s cold, amid the woods, the mistletoe, sown of an alien tree, is wont to bloom with strange leafage, and with yellow fruit embrace the shapely stems: such was the vision of the leafy gold on the shadowy ilex, so rustled the foil in the gentle breeze.
Forthwith Aeneas plucks it and greedily breaks off the clinging bough, and carries it beneath the roof of the prophetic Sibyl.
No less meanwhile on the beach the Teucrians were weeping for Misenus and paying the last dues to the thankless dust.
And first they raise a huge pyre, rich with pitchy pine and oaken logs. Its sides they entwine with somber foliage, set in front funereal cypresses, and adorn it above with gleaming arms. Some heat water, setting cauldrons bubbling on the flames, and wash and anoint the cold body.
Loud is the wailing; then, their weeping done, they lay his limbs upon the couch, and over them cast purple robes, the familiar dress. Some shouldered the heavy bier – sad ministry – and in ancestral fashion, with averted eyes, held the torch below.
The gifts were piled up in the blaze – frankincense, viands, and bowls of flowing oil. After the ashes fell in and the flame died away, they washed with wine the remnant of thirsty dust, and Corynaeus, gathering the bones, hid them in a brazen urn.
He, too, with pure water thrice encircled his comrades and cleansed them, sprinkling light dew from a fruitful olive bough, and spoke the words of farewell. But loyal Aeneas heaps over him a massive tomb, with the soldier’s own arms, his oar and trumpet, beneath a lofty hill, which now from him is called Misenus, and keeps from age to age an ever living name.
This done, he fulfills with haste the Sibyl’s behest.
A deep cave there was, yawning wide and vast, of jagged rock, and sheltered by dark lake and woodland gloom, over which no flying creatures could safely wing their way; such a vapour from those black jaws was wafted to the vaulted sky whence the Greeks spoke of Avernus, the Bird-less Place.
Here first the priestess set in line four dark-backed heifers, and pours wine upon their brows; then, plucking the topmost bristles from between the horns, lays them on the sacred fire for first offering, calling aloud on Hecate, supreme both in Heaven and in Hell. Others set knives to the throat and catch the warm blood in bowls.
Aeneas himself slays with the sword a black-fleeced lamb to the mother [Night] of the Eumenides and her great sister [Earth], and to you, Proserpine, a barren heifer.
Then for the Stygian king he inaugurates an altar by night, and lays upon the flames whole carcasses of bulls, pouring fat oil over the blazing entrails.
But just before the rays and dawning of the early sun the ground rumbled underfoot, the wooded ridges began to quiver, and through the gloom dogs seemed to howl as the goddess [Hecate] drew nigh. Shrieks the seer:
Away! away! you that are uninitiated!
Withdraw from all the grove!
And you, rush on the road and unsheathe your sword!
Now, Aeneas, is the hour for courage, now for a dauntless heart!
So much she said, and plunged madly into the opened cave; he, with fearless steps, keeps pace with his advancing guide.
You gods, who hold the domain of spirits! You voiceless shades! You, Chaos, and you, Phlegethon, you broad, hushed tracts of night! Suffer me to tell what I have heard; suffer me of your grace to unfold secrets buried in the depths and darkness of the earth!
On they went dimly, beneath the lonely night amid the gloom, through the empty halls of Dis and his phantom realm, even as under the niggard light of a fitful moon lies a path in the forest, when Jupiter has buried the sky in shade, and black Night has stolen from the world her hues.
Just before the entrance, even within the very jaws of Hell, Grief and avenging Cares have set their bed; there pale Diseases dwell, sad Age, and Fear, and Hunger, temptress to sin, and loathly Want, shapes terrible to view; and Death and Distress; next, Death’s own brother Sleep, and the soul’s Guilty Joys, and, on the threshold opposite, the death-dealing War, and the Furies’ iron cells, and maddening Strife, her snaky locks entwined with bloody ribbons.
In the midst an elm, shadowy and vast, spreads her boughs and aged arms, the whom which, men say, false Dreams hold, clinging under every leaf.
And many monstrous forms besides of various beasts are stalled at the doors, Centaurs and double-shaped Scyllas, and the hundred-fold Briareus, and the beast of Lerna, hissing horribly, and the Chimaera armed with flame, Gorgons and Harpies, and the shape of the three-bodied shade [Geryon].
Here on a sudden, in trembling terror, Aeneas grasps his sword, and turns the naked edge against their coming; and did not his wise companion warn him that these were but faint, bodiless lives, flitting under a hollow semblance of form, he would rush upon them and vainly cleave shadows with steel.
From here a road leads to the waters of Tartarean Acheron. Here, thick with mire and of fathomless flood, a whirlpool seethes and belches into Cocytus all its sand.
A grim ferry man guards these waters and streams, terrible in his squalor – Charon, on whose chin lies a mass of unkempt hoary hair; his eyes are staring orbs of flame; his squalid garb hangs by a knot from his shoulders.
Unaided, he poles the boat, tends the sails, and in his murky craft convoys the dead – now aged, but a god’s old age is hardy and green. Hither rushed all the throng, streaming to the banks; mothers and men and bodies of high-souled heroes, their life now done, boys and unwedded girls, and sons placed on the pyre before their fathers’ eyes; thick as the leaves of the forest that at autumn’s first frost drop and fall, and thick as the birds that from the seething deep flock shoreward, when the chill of the year drives them overseas and sends them into sunny lands.
They stood, pleading to be the first ferried across, and stretched out hands in yearning for the farther shore. But the surly boatman takes now these, now those, while others he thrusts away, back from the brink.
Then aroused and amazed by the disorder, Aeneas cries:
Tell me, maiden, what means the crowding to the river?
What seek the spirits?
By what rule do these leave the banks, and those sweep the lurid stream with oars?
To him thus briefly spoke the aged priestess:
Anchises’ son, true offspring of gods, you are looking at the deep pools of Cocytus and the Stygian marsh, by whose power the gods fear to swear falsely. All this crowd that you see is helpless and graveless; yonder ferryman is Charon; those whom the flood carries are the buried. He may not carry them over the dreadful banks and hoarse-voiced waters until their bones have found a resting place. A hundred years they roam and flit about these shores; then only are they admitted and revisit the longed-for pools.
Anchises’ son paused and stayed his steps, pondering much, and pitying in his heart their unjust lost. There he espies, doleful and reft of death’s honour, Leucaspis and Orontes, captain of the Lycian fleet, whom, while voyaging together from Troy over windy waters, the South Wind overwhelmed, engulfing alike ship and sailors.
Lo! there passed the helmsman, Palinurus, who of late, on the Libyan voyage, while he marked the stars, had fallen from the stern, flung forth in the midst of the waves. Him, when at last amid the deep gloom he knew the sorrowful form, he first accosts thus:
What god, Palinurus, tore you from us and plunged you beneath the open ocean? O tell me! For Apollo, never before found false, with this one answer tricked my soul, for he foretold that you would escape the sea and reach Ausonia’s shores. Is this how he keeps his promise?
But he answered:
Neither did tripod of Phoebus fail you, my captain, Anchises’ son, nor did a god plunge me in the deep. For by chance the helm to which I clung, steering our course, was violently torn from me, and as I fell headlong, I dragged it down with me. By the rough seas I sear that not for myself did I feel such fear as for your ship, lest, stripped of its gear and deprived of its helmsman, it might fail amid such surging waves.
Three stormy nights over the measureless seas the South Wind drove me wildly on the water; scarce on the fourth dawn, aloft on the crest of a wave, I sighted Italy. Little by little I swam shoreward, and even now was grasping at safety, but as, weighted by dripping garb, I caught with bent fingers at the rugged cliff-spurs, the barbarous folk assailed me with the sword, in ignorance deeming me a prize.
Now the wave holds me, and the winds toss me on the beach. Oh, by heaven’s sweet light and air, I beseech you, by your father, by the rising hope of Iulus, snatch me from these woes, unconquered one! Either case earth on me, for that you can, by seeking again the haven of Velia; or if there be a way, if your goddess-mother shows you one – for not without divine favour, I believe, are you trying to sail these great streams and the Stygian mere – give your hand to one so unhappy, and take me with you across the waves, that at last in death I may find a quiet resting place!
So had he spoken, and the soothsayer thus began:
Whence, Palinurus, comes this wild longing of yours?
Are you, unburied, to look upon the Stygian waters and the Furies’ stern river, and unbidden draw near the bank?
Cease to dream that heaven’s decrees may be turned aside by prayer.
But hear and remember my words, to solace your hard lot; for the neighbouring people, in their cities far and wide, shall be driven by celestial portents to appease your dust, and shall build a tomb, and to the tomb pay solemn offerings; and for ever the place shall bear the name of Palinurus.
By these words his cares are dispelled and for a little space grief is driven from his anguished heart; the land rejoiced in the name.
So they pursue the journey begun, and draw near to the river. But when, even from the Stygian wave, the boatman saw them passing through the silent wood and turning their feet towards the bank, he first, unhailed, accosts and rebukes them:
Whoever you are who come to our river in arms, tell me, even from there, why you come, and check your step. This is the land of Shadows, of Sleep and drowsy Night; living bodies I may not carry in the Stygian boat. And in truth it brought me no joy that I took Heracles on his journey over the lake, or Theseus and Pirithoüs, though sons of gods and invincible in valour. The one by force sought to drag into chains, even from the monarch’s throne, the warder of Tartarus, and tore him off trembling; these essayed to carry off our queen from the chamber of Dis.
In answer the Amphyrsian soothsayer spoke briefly:
No such trickery is here; be not troubled; our weapons offer no force; the huge doorkeeper may from his cave with endless howl affright the bloodless shades; Proserpine may in purity keep within her uncle’s threshold. Trojan Aeneas, famous for piety and arms, descends to his father, to the lowest shades of Erebus. If the picture of such piety in no wise moves you, yet know this bough
– and she shows the bough, hidden in her robe. At this his swelling breast subsides from its anger. No more is said; but he, marveling at the dread gift, the fateful wand so long unseen, turns his blue barge and nears the shore.
Then other souls that sat on the long thwarts he routs out, and clears the gangways; at once he takes aboard giant Aeneas. The seamy craft groaned under the weight, and through its chinks took in marshy flood.
At last, across the water, he lands seer and soldier unharmed on the ugly mire and grey sedge.
These realms huge Cerberus makes ring with his triple-throated baying, his monstrous bulk crouching in a cavern opposite.
To him, seeing the snakes now bristling on his necks, the seer flung a morsel drowsy with honey and drugged meal. He, opening his triple throat in ravenous hunger, catches it when thrown and, with monstrous frame relaxed, sinks to earth and stretches his bulk over all the den. The warder buried in sleep, Aeneas wins the entrance, and swiftly leaves the bank of that stream whence none return.
At once are heard voices and wailing sore – the souls of infants weeping, whom, on the very threshold of the sweet life they shared not, torn from the breast, the black day swept off and plunged in bitter death.
Near them were those on false charge condemned to die.
Yet not without lot, not without a judge, are these places given: Minos, presiding, shakes the urn; he it is who calls a conclave of the silent, and learns men’s lives and misdeeds.
The region thereafter is held by those sad souls who in innocence wrought their own death and, loathing the light, flung away their lives.
How gladly now, in the air above, would they bear both want and harsh distress!
Fate withstands; the unlovely mere with its dreary water enchains them and Styx imprisons with his ninefold circles.
Not far from here, outspread on every side, are shown the Mourning Fields; such is the name they bear. Here those whom stern Love has consumed with cruel wasting are hidden in walks withdrawn, embowered in a myrtle grove; even in death the pangs leave them not.
In this region he sees Phaedra and Procris, and sad Eriphyle, pointing to the wounds her cruel son had dealt, and Evadne and Pasiphaë. With them goes Laodamia, and Caeneus, once a youth, now a woman, and again turned back by Fate into her form of old.
Among them, with wound still fresh, Phoenician Dido was wandering in the great forest, and soon as the Trojan hero stood near and knew her, a dim form amid the shadows – even as, in the early month, one sees or fancies he has seen the moon rise amid the clouds – he shed tears, and spoke to her in tender love:
Unhappy Dido! Was the tale true then that came to me, that you were dead and had sought your doom with the sword? Was I, alas! the cause of your death? By the stars I swear, by the world above, and whatever is sacred in the grave below, unwillingly, queen, I parted from your shores.
But the gods’ decrees, which now constrain me to pass through these shades, through lands squalid and forsaken, and through abysmal night, drove me with their behests; nor could I deem my going thence would bring on you distress so deep.
Stay your step and withdraw not from our view. Whom do you flee? This is the last word Fate suffers me to say to you.
With these words amid springing tears Aeneas strove to soothe the wrath of the fiery, fierce-eyed queen.
She, turning away, kept her looks fixed on the ground and no more changes her countenance as he essays to speak than if she were set in hard flint or Marpesian rock.
At length she flung herself away and, still his foe, fled back to the shady grove, where Sychaeus, her lord of former days, responds to her sorrows and gives her love for love.
Yet none the less, stricken by her unjust doom, Aeneas attends her with tears afar and pities her as she goes.
Thence he toils along the way that offered itself. And now they gained the farthest fields [the neutral region, neither Elysium nor Tartarus], where the renowned in war dwell apart. Here Tydeus meets him; here Parthenopaeus, famed in arms, and the pale shade of Adrastus; here, much wept on earth above and fallen in war, the Dardan chiefs; whom as he beheld, all in long array, he moaned – Glaucus and Medon and Thersilochus, the three sons of Antenor, and Polyboetes, priest of Ceres, and Idaeus, still keeping his chariot, still his arms.
Round about, on right and left, stand the souls in throngs. To have seen him once is not enough; they delight to linger, to pace beside him, and to learn the causes of his coming.
But the Danaan princes and Agamemnon’s battalions, soon as they saw the man and his arms flashing amid the glom, trembled with mighty fear; some turn to flee, as of old they sought the ships; some raise a shout – faintly; the cry essayed mocks their gaping mouths.
And here he sees Deiphobus, son of Priam, his whole frame mangled and his face cruelly torn – his face and either hand – his ears wrenched from despoiled temples, and his nostrils lopped by a shameful wound. Scarce, indeed, did he know the quivering form that tried to hide its awful punishment; then, with familiar accents, unhailed, he accosts him:
“Deiphobus, strong in battle, scion of Teucer’s high lineage, who chose to exact so cruel a penalty! Who had power to deal thus with you? Rumour told me that on that last night, weary with endless slaughter of Pelasgians, you had fallen upon a heap of mingled carnage. Then I myself set up a cenotaph upon the Rhoetean shore, and with loud cry called thrice upon your spirit. Your name and arms guard the place; you, my friend, I could not see, nor bury, as I departed, in your native land.”
To this the son of Priam:
Nothing, my friend, have you left undone; all dues you have paid to Deiphobus and the dead man’s shade.
But me my own fate and the Laconian woman’s [Helen’s] death-dealing crime overwhelmed in these woes.
It was she who left these memorials! For how we spent that last night amid deluding joys, you know; and all too well must you remember! When the fateful horse leapt over the heights of Troy, and brought armed infantry to weight its womb, she feigned a solemn dance and around the city led the Phrygian wives, shrieking in their Bacchic rites; she herself in the midst held a mighty torch and called the Danaans from the castle-height.
Care-worn and sunk in slumber, I was then inside our ill-starred bridal chamber, sleep weighing upon me as I lay – sweet and deep, very image of death’s peace.
Meanwhile, this peerless wife takes every weapon from the house – even from under my head she had withdrawn my trusty sword; into the house she calls Menelaus and flings wide the door, hoping, I doubt not, that her lover would find this a great boon, and so the fame of old misdeeds might be blotted out.
Why prolong the story? They burst into my chambers; with them comes their fellow counsellor of sin, the son of Aeolus [Ulysses].
O gods, with like penalties repay the Greeks, if with pious lips I pray for vengeance! But come, tell in turn what chance has brought you here, alive. Have you come here driven by your ocean-wanderings, or at Heaven’s command? Or what doom compels you to visit these sad, sunless dwellings, this land of disorder?
During this interchange of talk, Dawn, with roseate car, had now crossed mid-heaven in her skyey course, and perchance in such wise they would have spent all the allotted time, but the Sibyl beside him gave warning with brief words:
“Night is coming, Aeneas; we waste the hours in weeping. Here is the place, where the road parts: there to the right, as it runs under the walls of great Dis, is our way to Elysium, but the left wreaks the punishment of the wicked, and send them on to pitiless Tartarus.”
In reply Deiphobus said:
Be not angry, great priestess; I will go my way; I will make the count complete and return to the darkness. Go, you who are our glory, go; enjoy a happier fate!
Thus much he said and, as he spoke, turned his steps.
Suddenly Aeneas looks back, and under a cliff on the left sees a broad castle, girt with triple wall and encircled with a rushing flood of torrent flames – Tartarean Phlegethon, that rolls along thundering rocks.
In front stands a huge gate, and pillars of solid adamant, that no might of man, nay, not even the sons of heaven, could uproot in war; there stands an iron tower, soaring high, and Tisiphone, sitting girt with bloody pall, keeps sleepless watch over the portal night and day. From it are heard groans, the sound of the savage lash, the clank of iron and the dragging of chains.
Aeneas stopped, and terrified drank in the tumult.
“What forms of crime are these? Say, O maiden! With what penalties are they scourged? What is this vast wailing on the wind?”
Then the seer thus began to speak:
“Famed chieftain of the Teucrians, no pure soul may tread the accursed threshold; but when Hecate set me over the groves of Avernus, she taught me the gods’ penalties and guided me through all. Cretan Rhadamanthus holds here his iron sway; he chastises, and hears the tale of guilt, exacting confession of crimes, whenever in the world above any man, rejoicing in vain deceit, has put off atonement for sin until death’s late hour. Straightway avenging Tisiphone, girt with the lash, leaps on the guilty to scourge them, and with left hand brandishing her grim snakes, calls on her savage sister band. Then at last, grating on harsh, jarring hinge, the infernal gates open. Do you see what sentry [Tisiphone] sits in the doorway? what shape guards the threshold? The monstrous Hydra, still fiercer, with her fifty black gaping throats, dwells within. Then Tartarus itself yawns sheer down, stretching into the gloom twice as far as is the upward view of the sky toward heavenly Olympus. Here the ancient sons of Earth, the Titan’s brood, hurled down by the thunderbolt, writhe in lowest abyss. Here, too I saw the twin sons of Aloeus, giant in stature, whose hands tried to tear down high Heaven and thrust down Jove from his realm above. Salmoneus, too, I saw, who paid cruel penalty while aping Jove’s fires and the thunders of Olympus. Borne by four horses and brandishing a torch, he rode triumphant through the Greek peoples and his city in the heart of Elis, claiming as his own the homage of deity. Madman, to mimic the storm clouds and inimitable thunder with brass and the tramp of horn-footed horses! But the Father Almighty amid thick clouds launched his bolt – no firebrands he, nor pitch-pines’ smoky glare – and drove him headlong with furious whirlwind. Likewise one might see Tityos, nursling of Earth the mother of all. Over nine full acres his body is stretched, and a monstrous vulture with crooked beak gnaws at his deathless liver and vitals fruitful of anguish; deep within the breast he lodges and gropes for his feast; nor is any respite given to the filaments that grow anew. Why tell of the Lapiths, Ixion and Pirithoüs, and of him [Tantalus] over whom hangs a black crag that seems ready to slip and fall at any moment? High festal couches gleam with backs of gold, and before their eyes is spread a banquet in royal splendour. Reclining hard by, the eldest Fury stays their hands from touch of the table, springing forth with uplifted torch and thunderous cries.
“Here were they who in lifetime hated their brethren, or smote a sire, and entangled a client in wrong; or who brooded in solitude over wealth they had won, nor set aside a portion for their kin – the largest number this; who were slain for adultery; or who followed the standard of treason, and feared not to break allegiance with their lords – all these, immured, await their doom. Seek not to learn that doom, or what form of crime, or fate, overwhelmed them! Some roll a huge stone, or hang outstretched on spokes of wheels; hapless Theseus sits and evermore shall sit, and Phlegyas, most unblest, gives warning to all and with loud voice bears witness amid the gloom: ‘Be warned; learn ye to be just and not to slight the gods!’ This one sold his country for gold, and fastened on her a tyrant lord; he made and unmade laws for a bribe. This forced his daughter’s bed and a marriage forbidden. All dared a monstrous sin, and what they dared attained. Nay, had I a hundred tongues, a hundred mouths, and voice of iron, I could not sum up all the forms of crime, or rehearse all the tale of torments.”
So spoke the aged priestess of Phoebus; then adds:
“But come now, hasten your step and fulfil the task in hand. Let us hasten. I descry the ramparts reared by Cyclopean forges and the gates with fronting arch, where they bid us lay the appointed gifts.”
She ended, and, advancing side by side along the dusky way, they haste over the mid-space and draw near the doors. Aeneas wins the entrance, sprinkles his body with fresh water, and plants the bough full on the threshold.
This at length performed and the task of the goddess fulfilled, they came to a land of joy, the pleasant lawns and happy seats of the Blissful Groves. Here an ampler ether clothes the meads with roseate light, and they know their own sun, and stars of their own.
Some disport their limbs on the grassy wrestling ground, vie in sports, and grapple on the yellow sand; some tread the rhythm of a dance and chant songs.
There, too, the long-robed Thracian priest [Orpheus] matches their measures with the seven clear notes, striking the lyre now with his fingers, now with his ivory quill.
Here is Teucer’s ancient line, family most fair, high-souled heroes born in happier years – Ilus and Assaracus and Dardanus, Troy’s founder.
From afar he marvels at their phantom arms and chariots. Their lances stand fixed in the ground, and their unyoked steeds browse freely over the plain. The same pride in chariot and arms that was theirs in life, the same care in keeping sleek steeds, attends them now that they are hidden beneath the earth.
Others he sees, to right and left, feasting on the sward, and chanting in chorus a joyous paean within a fragrant laurel grove, from where the full flood of the Eridanus rolls upward through the forest.
Here is the band of those who suffered wounds, fighting for their country; those who in lifetime were priests and pure, good bards, whose songs were meet for Phoebus; or they who ennobled life by arts discovered and they who by service have won remembrance among men – the brows of all bound with headbands white as snow.
These, as they streamed round, the Sibyl thus addressed, Musaeus before all; for he is centre of that vast throng that gazes up to him, as with shoulders high he towers aloft:
Say, happy souls, and you, best of bards, what land, what place holds Anchises? For his sake are we come, and have sailed across the great rivers of Erebus.
And to her the hero thus made brief reply:
None has a fixed home. We dwell in shady groves, and live on cushioned riverbanks and in meadows fresh with streams.
But if the wish in your heart so inclines, surmount this ridge, and soon I will set you on an easy path.
He spoke and stepped on before, and from above points out the shining fields. Then they leave the mountaintops.
But deep in a green vale father Anchises was surveying with earnest thought the imprisoned souls that were to pass to the light above and, as it chanced, was counting over the full number of his people and beloved children, their fates and fortunes, their works and ways.
And as he saw Aeneas coming towards him over the sward, he eagerly stretched forth both hands, while tears streamed from his eyes and a cry fell from his lips:
Have you come at last, and has the duty that your father expected vanquished the toilsome way? Is it given me to see your face, my son, and hear and utter familiar tones? Even so I mused and deemed the hour would come, counting the days, nor has my yearning failed me. Over what lands, what wide seas have you journeyed to my welcome! What dangers have beset you, my son! How I feared the realm of Libya might work you harm!
But he answered:
Your shade, father, your sad shade, meeting me repeatedly, drove me to seek these portals. My ships ride the Tuscan sea. Grant me to clasp your hand, grant me, father, and withdraw not from my embrace!
So he spoke, his face wet with flooding tears. Thrice there he strove to throw his arms about his neck; thrice the form, vainly clasped, fled from his hands, even as light winds, and most like a winged dream.
Meanwhile, in a retired vale, Aeneas sees a sequestered grove and rustling forest thickets, and the river Lethe drifting past those peaceful homes.
About it hovered peoples and tribes unnumbered; even as when, in the meadows, in cloudless summertime, bees light on many-hued blossoms and stream round lustrous lilies and all the fields murmur with the humming.
Aeneas is startled by the sudden sight and, knowing not, asks the cause – what is that river yonder, and who are the men thronging the banks in such a host?
Then said father Anchises:
“Spirits they are, to whom second bodies are owed by Fate, and at the water of Lethe’s stream they drink the soothing draught and long forgetfulness. These in truth I have long yearned to tell and show you to your face, yea, to count this, my children’s seed, that so you may rejoice with me the more at finding Italy.”
“But, father, must we think that any souls pass aloft from here to the world above and return a second time to bodily fetters? What mad longing for life possesses their sorry hearts?”
“I will surely tell you, my son, and keep you not in doubt,”
Anchises replies and reveals each truth in order.
First, know that heaven and earth and the watery plains the moon’s bright sphere and Titan’s star, a spirit within sustains; in all the limbs mind moves the mass and mingles with the mighty frame. Thence springs the races of man and beast, the life of winged creatures, and the monsters that ocean bears beneath his marble surface. Fiery is the vigour and divine the source of those seeds of life, so far as harmful bodies clog them not, or earthly limbs and frames born but to die. Hence their fears and desires, their griefs and joys; nor do they discern the heavenly light, penned as they are in the gloom of their dark dungeon. Still more! When life’s last ray has fled, the wretches are not entirely freed from all evil and all the plagues of the body; and it needs must be that many a taint, long ingrained, should in wondrous wise become deeply rooted in their being. Therefore are they schooled with punishments, and pay penance for bygone sins. Some are hung stretched out to the empty winds; from others the stain of guilt is washed away under swirling floods or burned out by fire till length of days, when time’s cycle is complete, has removed the inbred taint and leaves unsoiled the ethereal sense and pure flame of spirit: each of us undergoes his own purgatory. Then we are sent to spacious Elysium, a few of us to possess the blissful fields. All these that you see, when they have rolled time’s wheel through a thousand years, the god summons in vast throng to Lethe’s river, so that, their memories effaced, they may once more revisit the vault above and conceive the desire of return to the body.
Anchises paused, and drew his son and with him the Sibyl into the heart of the assembly and buzzing throng, then chose a mound whence he might scan face to face the whole of the long procession and note their faces as they came.
Now then, the glory henceforth to attend the Trojan race, what children of Italian stock are held in store by fate, glorious souls waiting to inherit our name, this shall I reveal in speech and inform you of your destiny. The youth you see leaning on an untipped spear holds by lot of life the most immediate place: he first shall rise into the upper air with Italian blood in his veins, Silvius of Alban name, last-born of your children, whom late in your old age your wife Lavinia shall rear in the woodlands, a king and father of kings, with whom our race shall hold sway in Alba Longa. He next is Procas, pride of the Trojan nation, then Capys and Numitor and he who will resurrect you by his name, Aeneas Silvius, no less eminent in goodness and in arms, if ever he come to reign over Alba. What fine young men are these! Mark the strength they display and the civic oak that shades their brows! These to your honour will build Nomentum and Gabii and Fidena’s town; these shall crown hills with Collatia’s towers, and Pometii, the Fort of Inuus, Bola and Cora: one day to be famous names, these now are nameless places. Further, a son of Mars shall keep his grandsire company, Romulus, whom his mother Ilia shall bear of Assaracus’ stock. Do you see how twin plumes stand upright on his head and how the Father of the gods stamps him with divine majesty? Lo, under his auspices, my son, shall that glorious Rome extend her empire to earth’s ends, her ambitions to the skies, and shall embrace seven hills with a single city’s wall, blessed in a brood of heroes; even as the Berecyntian mother [Cybele], turret-crowned, rides in her chariot through Phrygian towns, happy in a progeny of gods, clasping a hundred grandsons, all denizens of heaven, all tenants of the celestial heights.
Turn hither now your two-eyed gaze, and behold this nation, the Romans that are yours. Here is Caesar and all the seed of Iulus destined to pass under heaven’s spacious sphere.
And this in truth is he whom you so often hear promised you, Augustus Caesar, son of a god, who will again establish a golden age in Latium amid fields once ruled by Saturn; he will advance his empire beyond the Garamants and Indians to a land which lies beyond our stars, beyond the path of year and sun, where sky-bearing Atlas wheels on his shoulders the blazing star-studded sphere.
Against his coming both Caspian realms and the Maeotic land even now shudder at the oracles of their gods, and the mouths of sevenfold Nile quiver in alarm. Not even Hercules traversed so much of earth’s extent, though he pierced the stag of brazen foot, quieted the woods of Erymanthus, and made Lerna tremble at his bow; nor he either, who guides his car with vine-leaf reins, triumphant Bacchus, driving his tigers down from Nysa’s lofty peaks.
And do we still hesitate to make known our worth by exploits or shrink in fear from settling on Western soil?
but who is he apart, crowned with sprays of live, offering sacrifice?
Ah, I recognize the hoary hair and beard of that king of Rome [Numa] who will make the infant city secure on a basis of laws, called from the needy land of lowly Cures to sovereign might.
Him shall Tullus next succeed, the breaker of his country’s peace, who will rouse to war an inactive folk and armies long unused to triumphs.
Hard on his heels follows over-boastful Ancus, who even now enjoys too much the breeze by popular favour.
Would you also see the Tarquin kings, the proud spirit of Brutus the Avenger, and the fasces regained?
He first shall receive a consul’s power and the cruel axes, and when his sons would stir up revolt, the father will hale them to execution in fair freedom’s name, unhappy man, however later ages will extol that deed; yet shall a patriot’s love prevail and unquenched thirst for fame.
Now behold over there the Decii and the Drusi, Torquatus of the cruel axe, and Camillus bringing the standards home! But they whom you see, resplendent in matching arms, souls now in harmony and as long as they are imprisoned in night, alas, if once they attain the light of life, what mutual strife, what battles and bloodshed will they cause, the bride’s father swooping from Alpine ramparts and Monoeus’ fort, her husband confronting him with forces from the East! Steel not your hearts, my sons, to such wicked war nor vent violent valour on the vitals of your land. And you who draw your lineage from heaven, be you the first to show mercy; cast the sword from your hand, child of my blood! . . .
He yonder [Lucius Mummius], triumphant over Corinth, shall drive a victor’s chariot to the lofty Capitol, famed for Achaeans he has slain. Yon other [Luxius Aemilius Paullus] shall uproot Argos, Agamemnon’s Mycenae, and even an heir of Aeacus, seed of mighty Achilles: he will avenge his Trojan sires and Minerva’s polluted shrine. Who, lordly Cato, could leave you unsung, of you, Cossus; who the Gracchan race or the Scipios twain, two thunderbolts of war and the ruin of Carthage, or Favricius, in penury a prince, or you, Serranus, sowing seed in the soil? Whither, O Fabii, do ye hurry me all breathless? You re he, the mightest [Quinus Fabius Maximus], who could, s no one else, through inaction preserve our state. Others, I doubt not, shall with softer mould beast out the breathing bronze, coax from the marble features to life, plead cases with greater eloquence and with a pointer trace heaven’s motions and predict the risings of the stars: you, Roman, be sure to rule the world (be these your arts), to crown peace with justice, to spare the vanquished and to crush the proud.
Thus Father Anchises, and as they marvel, adds:
Behold how Marcellus advances, graced with the spoils of the chief he slew, and towers triumphant over all!
When the Roman state is reeling under a brutal shock, he will steady it, will ride down Carthaginians and the insurgent Gaul, and offer up to Father Quirinus a third set of spoils.
At this Aeneas said – for by his side he saw a youth of passing beauty in resplendent arms, but with joyless mien and eyes downcast:
Who, father, is he that thus attends the warrior on his way? Is it his son, or some other of his progeny’s heroic line? What a stir among his entourage! What majesty is his! But death’s dark shadow flickers mournfully about his head.
Then, as his tears well up, Father Anchises begins:
My son, seek not to taste the bitter grief of your people; only a glimpse of him will fate give earth nor suffer him to stay long.
Too powerful, O gods above, you deemed the Roman people, had these gifts of yours been lasting.
What sobbing of the brave will the famed Field waft to Mars’ mighty city!
What a cortege will you behold, Father Tiber, as you glide past the new-build tomb!
No youth of Trojan stock will ever raise his Latin ancestry so high in hope nor the land of Romulus ever boast of any son like this.
Alas for his goodness, alas for his chivalrous honour and his sword arm unconquerable in the fight!
In arms none would have faced him unscathed, marched he on foot against his foe or dug with spurs the flanks of his foaming steed.
Child of a nation’s sorrow, could you but shatter the cruel barrier of fate! You are to be Marcellus.
Grant me scatter in handfuls lilies of purple blossom, to heap at least these gifts on my descendant’s shade and perform an unavailing duty.
Thus they wander at large over the whole region in the wide airy plain, taking note of all. After Anchises had led his son over every scene, kindling his soul, with longing for the glory that was to be, he then tells of the wars that the hero next must wage, the Laurentine peoples and Latinus’ town, and how is to face or flee each peril.
Two gates of Sleep there are, whereof the one, they say, is horn and offers a ready exit to true shades, the other shining with the sheen of polished ivory, but delusive dreams issue upward through it from the world below.
Thither Anchises, discoursing thus, escorts his son and with him the Sibyl, and sends them forth by the ivory gate: Aeneas speeds his way to the ships and rejoins his comrades; then straight along the shore he sails for Caieta’s haven.
The anchor is cast from the prow; the sterns stand ranged on the shore.