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The Sibyl thus replied : “Offspring of Heaven,
Anchises' son, the downward path to death
Is easy; all the livelong night and day
Dark Pluto's door stands open for a guest.
But 0! remounting to the world of light,
This is a task indeed, a strife supreme.
Few, very few, whom righteous Jove did bless,
Or quenchless virtue carried to the stars,
Children of gods, have such a victory won.
Grim forests stop the way, and, gliding slow,
Cocytus circles through the sightless gloom.
But if it be thy dream and fond desire
Twice o'er the Stygian gulf to travel, twice
On glooms of Tartarus to set thine eyes,
If such mad quest be now thy pleasure—hear
What must be first fulfilled . A certain tree
Hides in obscurest shade a golden bough,
Of pliant stems and many a leaf of gold,
Sacred to Proserpine, infernal Queen.
Far in the grove it hides; in sunless vale
Deep shadows keep it in captivity.
No pilgrim to that underworld can pass
But he who plucks this burgeoned, leafy gold;
For this hath beauteous Proserpine ordained
Her chosen gift to be. Whene'er it is culled,
A branch out-leafing in like golden gleam,
A second wonder-stem, fails not to spring.
Therefore go seek it with uplifted eyes!
And when by will of Heaven thou findest it,
Reach forth and pluck; for at a touch it yields,
A free and willing gift, if Fate ordain;
But otherwise no mortal strength avails,
Nor strong, sharp steel, to rend it from the tree.
Another task awaits; thy friend's cold clay
Lies unentombed. Alas! thou art not ware
(While in my house thou lingerest, seeking light)
That all thy ships are by his death defiled.
Unto his resting-place and sepulchre,
Go, carry him! And sable victims bring,
In expiation, to his mournful shade.
So at the last on yonder Stygian groves,
And realms to things that breathe impassable,
Thine eye shall gaze.” So closed her lips inspired.
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