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A cavern vast is hollowed out amain,
With hundred openings, a hundred mouths,
Whence voices flow, the Sibyl's answering songs.
While at the door they paused, the virgin cried :
“Ask now thy doom!—the god! the god is nigh!”
So saying, from her face its color flew,
Her twisted locks flowed free, the heaving breast
Swelled with her heart's wild blood; her stature seemed
Vaster, her accent more than mortal man,
As all th' oncoming god around her breathed :
“On with thy vows and prayers, 0 Trojan, on!
For only unto prayer this haunted cave
May its vast lips unclose.” She spake no more.
An icy shudder through the marrow ran
Of the bold Trojans; while their sacred King
Poured from his inmost soul this plaint and prayer :
“Phoebus, who ever for the woes of Troy
Hadst pitying eyes! who gavest deadly aim
To Paris when his Dardan shaft he hurled
On great Achilles! Thou hast guided me
Through many an unknown water, where the seas
Break upon kingdoms vast, and to the tribes
Of the remote Massyli, whose wild land
To Syrtes spreads. But now; because at last
I touch Hesperia's ever-fleeting bound,
May Troy's ill fate forsake me from this day!
0 gods and goddesses, beneath whose wrath
Dardania's glory and great Ilium stood,
Spare, for ye may, the remnant of my race!
And thou, most holy prophetess, whose soul
Foreknows events to come, grant to my prayer
(Which asks no kingdom save what Fate decrees)
That I may stablish in the Latin land
My Trojans, my far-wandering household-gods,
And storm-tossed deities of fallen Troy.
Then unto Phoebus and his sister pale
A temple all of marble shall be given,
And festal days to Phoebus evermore.
Thee also in my realms a spacious shrine
Shall honor; thy dark books and holy songs
I there will keep, to be my people's law;
And thee, benignant Sibyl for all time
A company of chosen priests shall serve.
O, not on leaves, light leaves, inscribe thy songs!
Lest, playthings of each breeze, they fly afar
In swift confusion! Sing thyself, I pray.”
So ceased his voice;
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