The Nacreous Oughts

07 August 2008

    Aeneid VI. 125-136

Gentle is the journey down to Hades
(by night and day the door of dark Dis gapes);
but to take back your stepping and escape
to the upper breezes, that's the work--this task.
A few whom jovial Jupiter had loved,
or ardent courage lifted to the skies,
god-born, could.
            Gliding Cocytus circles
a gloomy valley, and every kind of forest
occupies the middle.
            But if you have
so much love of heart, if so much lust
twice to sail on Stygian lakes, to see
midnight Tartarus--twice, and with outrageous
hardship, it's any use to yield,

accept what harrowings precede.

--Publius Vergilius Maro (my tr)

"Son of Anchises, born of blood divine,"
The priestess thus began, "easy the way
Down to Avernus: night and day the gates
Of Dis stand open. But to retrace thy steps
And reach the upper air, --here lies the task,
The difficulty here. A few by Jove,
Beloved, or to ethereal heights upborne
By virtue's force, sons of the gods,
The labor have achieved. Midway thick woods
The passage bar, and, winding all about,
Cocytus' black and sinuous river glides.
But if such strong desire be thine, to float
Twice o'er the Stygian lake; if the mad task
Delights thee, twice to see the gloomy realms
Of Tartarus--then learn what must first be done."

--(tr C P Cranch)

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