This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Of Acheron, whose torrent fierce and foul
Disgorges in Cocytus all its sands.
A ferryman of gruesome guise keeps ward
Upon these waters,—Charon, foully garbed,
With unkempt, thick gray beard upon his chin,
And staring eyes of flame; a mantle coarse,
All stained and knotted, from his shoulder falls,
As with a pole he guides his craft, tends sail,
And in the black boat ferries o'er his dead;—
Old, but a god's old age looks fresh and strong.
To those dim shores the multitude streams on—
Husbands and wives, and pale, unbreathing forms
Of high-souled heroes, boys and virgins fair,
And strong youth at whose graves fond parents mourned.
As numberless the throng as leaves that fall
When autumn's early frost is on the grove;
Or like vast flocks of birds by winter's chill
Sent flying o'er wide seas to lands of flowers.
All stood beseeching to begin their voyage
Across that river, and reached out pale hands,
In passionate yearning for its distant shore.
But the grim boatman takes now these, now those,
Or thrusts unpitying from the stream away.
Aeneas, moved to wonder and deep awe,
Beheld the tumult; “Virgin seer!” he cried, .
“Why move the thronging ghosts toward yonder stream?
What seek they there? Or what election holds
That these unwilling linger, while their peers
Sweep forward yonder o'er the leaden waves?”
To him, in few, the aged Sibyl spoke :
“Son of Anchises, offspring of the gods,
Yon are Cocytus and the Stygian stream,
By whose dread power the gods themselves do fear
To take an oath in vain. Here far and wide
Thou seest the hapless throng that hath no grave.
That boatman Charon bears across the deep
Such as be sepulchred with holy care.
But over that loud flood and dreadful shore
No trav'ler may be borne, until in peace
His gathered ashes rest. A hundred years
Round this dark borderland some haunt and roam,
Then win late passage o'er the longed-for wave.”
Aeneas lingered for a little space,
Revolving in his soul with pitying prayer
Fate's partial way. But presently he sees
Leucaspis and the Lycian navy's lord,
Orontes; both of melancholy brow,
Both hapless and unhonored after death,
Whom, while from Troy they crossed the wind-swept seas,
A whirling tempest wrecked with ship and crew.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.