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Unto the river's edge. The Ferryman,
Who watched them through still groves approach his shore,
Hailed them, at distance, from the Stygian wave,
And with reproachful summons thus began:
“Whoe'er thou art that in this warrior guise
Unto my river comest,—quickly tell
Thine errand! Stay thee where thou standest now!
This is ghosts' land, for sleep and slumbrous dark.
That flesh and blood my Stygian ship should bear
Were lawless wrong. Unwillingly I took
Alcides, Theseus, and Pirithous,
Though sons of gods, too mighty to be quelled.
One bound in chains yon warder of Hell's door,
And dragged him trembling from our monarch's throne:
The others, impious, would steal away
Out of her bride-bed Pluto's ravished Queen.”
Briefly th' Amphrysian priestess made reply:
“Not ours, such guile: Fear not! This warrior's arms
Are innocent. Let Cerberus from his cave
Bay ceaselessly, the bloodless shades to scare;
Let Proserpine immaculately keep
The house and honor of her kinsman King.
Trojan Aeneas, famed for faithful prayer
And victory in arms, descends to seek
His father in this gloomy deep of death.
If loyal goodness move not such as thee,
This branch at least” (she drew it from her breast)
“Thou knowest well.”
Then cooled his wrathful heart;
With silent lips he looked and wondering eyes
Upon that fateful, venerable wand,
Seen only once an age. Shoreward he turned,
And pushed their way his boat of leaden hue.
The rows of crouching ghosts along the thwarts
He scattered, cleared a passage, and gave room
To great Aeneas. The light shallop groaned
Beneath his weight, and, straining at each seam,
Took in the foul flood with unstinted flow.
At last the hero and his priestess-guide
Came safe across the river, and were moored
'mid sea-green sedges in the formless mire.
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