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the wrath of Hercules in frenzy blaze
from his exasperate heart. His arms he seized,
his club of knotted oak, and climbed full-speed
the wind-swept hill. Now first our people saw
Cacus in fear, with panic in his eyes.
Swift to the black cave like a gale he flew,
his feet by terror winged. Scarce had he passed
the cavern door, and broken the big chains,
and dropped the huge rock which was pendent there
by Vulcan's well-wrought steel; scarce blocked and barred
the guarded gate: when there Tirynthius stood,
with heart aflame, surveying each approach,
rolling this way and that his wrathful eyes,
gnashing his teeth. Three times his ire surveyed
the slope of Aventine; three times he stormed
the rock-built gate in vain; and thrice withdrew
to rest him in the vale. But high above
a pointed peak arose, sheer face of rock
on every side, which towered into view
from the long ridge above the vaulted cave,
fit haunt for birds of evil-boding wing.
This peak, which leftward toward the river leaned,
he smote upon its right—his utmost blow —
breaking its bases Ioose; then suddenly
thrust at it: as he thrust, the thunder-sound
filled all the arching sky, the river's banks
asunder leaped, and Tiber in alarm
reversed his flowing wave. So Cacus' lair
lay shelterless, and naked to the day
the gloomy caverns of his vast abode
stood open, deeply yawning, just as if
the riven earth should crack, and open wide
th' infernal world and fearful kingdoms pale,
which gods abhor; and to the realms on high
the measureless abyss should be laid bare,
and pale ghosts shrink before the entering sun.
Now upon Cacus, startled by the glare,
caged in the rocks and howling horribly,
Alcides hurled his weapons, raining down
all sorts of deadly missiles—trunks of trees,
and monstrous boulders from the mountain torn.
But when the giant from his mortal strait
no refuge knew, he blew from his foul jaws
a storm of smoke—incredible to tell —
and with thick darkness blinding every eye,
concealed his cave, uprolling from below
one pitch-black night of mingled gloom and fire.
This would Alcides not endure, but leaped
headlong across the flames, where densest hung
the rolling smoke, and through the cavern surged
a drifting and impenetrable cloud.
With Cacus, who breathed unavailing flame,
he grappled in the dark, locked limb with limb,
and strangled him, till o'er the bloodless throat
the starting eyeballs stared.
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