With such spoken from the inner sanctum, the Cumaean
Sibyll sang horrid mysteries and bellowed within the cave,
wrapping truths in obscurities: she shook her reins by
raging, and Apollo turned his goads under her heart.
As soon as the fury departed and the raging mouths quieted,
the hero Aeneas began: “Not any new or unexpected
appearance of labours rises for me, o maiden;
I have forseen all and in my mind endured all before it fell.
I ask one thing: since the door of the infernal king here is said
to be, and the the gloomy swamp with the Acheron poured back,
might it befall me to go to the sight and speech of my dear father;
would that you might you teach me the way and open the sacred doors.
I have carried him through flames and a thousand seeking spears
with these shoulders and have taken him from the enemy’s midst;
he has attended my journey through all seas and he did endure
with me all of the seas and the threats of heaven,
feeble, beyond the strength and lot of old age.
In fact, he, entreating this, did give me his charges that I might seek
you as a suppliant and go to your thresholds. Pity both the son and
father, I entreat you, kindly one (for you can do all, nor did Hecate in
vain place you in the charge of the Avernian groves),
if Orpheus was able to summon the shade of his wife
to Thrace, relying on his lyre and musical strings,
if Pollux did redeem his brother from the other’s death and he
goes along the path as many times as he returns. What of Theseus,
what memory of great Hercules? And my kind is from greatest Jove!”
He entreated her with such words, and held her altars, when the
prophetess having begun spoke thus: “Begotten from the blood of the
gods; Trojan from Anchises, the descent from Avernus is easy:
the door of black Dis lies open days and nights;
but to recall your step and to escape through lofty winds,
this is your work, your labour. Few, whom equal Jupiter
has loved or whom burning youth has carried through the skies,
are able to be born from death.
and the Cocytus, falling, encircles the black bay.
But, if such love and if such desire is in your mind,
to twice navigate the Stygian lakes, to twice see black
Tartarus, and it pleases you to indulge in this mad work,
firstly accept what must be accomplished. A gold branch with a
pliant stem and with leaves lies hidden in a grove.
said to be sacred to the infernal queen; the whole grove protects
this and shadows enclose the grove in the dark valleys.
But it is not before it is given that the golden-haired youths, any who
will have plucked it from the tree, go to the hidden places of the earth
Beautiful Proserpina has ordained that this gift of hers be brought
to her. With this having been firstly torn off, another golden branch
will not lack, and a twig will sprout of similar metal.
Therefore search loftily with your eyes and pursue properly the found
way by hand; for, yourself wishing, an easier time follows,
if the fates call you; otherwise you will not be able to excel
among any other men, nor to uproot yourself from hard iron.
Further, the lifeless body of the friend to you lies (alas that
you are unknowing) and it defiles your whole fleet with its death,
as long as you seek oracles and hang at our threshold.
Return this before your seat and construct it a sepulchre.
Lead black cows; let these be your first expiations.
Thus, at last, you might behold the groves of the Styx and the pathless
kingdoms with the living.” She spoke, and hushed, with her mouth controlled.
Aeneas, having cast down his eyes from his gloomy face,
stepped forth, leaving the cave, and he turned over the blind outcomes
outcomes in his mind. Faithful Achates goes to him as a
companion, and with equal worries fixes his tracks.
They discuss much in varied conversation among themselves,
of which lifeless companion, what interring corpse, the seer
did speak. And they see, as they come, Misenus,
ruined in unmerited death, upon that dry shore,
Aeolian Misenus, than whom no other is more excellent
with the trumpet to rally men and to arouse Mars by song.
This ally was of great Hector, and he did enter battles
near to Hector, marked in respect to trumpet and spear.
After the victor Achilles robbed Hector of life,
the strong hero added himself as a companion
to Dardanian Aeneas, not following those lesser.
But then, by chance, as he made the seas resound by his hollow conch,
foolish, and calls the gods into contest with respect to song,
Jealous Triton, if his dignity is to be believed, immersed the
received man in the foamy water among the rocks.
Therefore, all around lament with a great murmur,
especially loyal Aeneas. Then he, weeping, hastens, hardly
a delay, the decrees of the Sibyl, and strives to heap up
altars in the woods and to raise tombs to the sky.
It goes into the ancient forest, to the great dens of wild things;
the pines fall, the oak sounds, having been smitten by axes
and ashen timbres and easily-cut oak are cut
into seats; they roll great ash trees from the mountains.
Nor does Aeneas not firstly encourage his men among such
works, and gird himself with equal armaments.
And he himself turns these things with his sad heart,
looking out at the great forest, and speaks thus with a voice:
“If now that golden branch from the tree would display itself
in such a grove! For truly, Misenus, the oracle
has spoken (alas, in excess) all things about you.”
Scarcely were these things spoken, when by chance twin doves
flying from the sky came to the very sight of the man,
and sat on the green earth. Then the greatest hero
recognizes the maternal birds and speaks, joyous:
“Be leaders, o you, if there is any road, and a way, lead us
through the airs to the groves where the rich branch overhangs
the fertile ground. And you, o godly parent, do not fail with
wavering fortunes.” Thus having expounded, he presses his steps,
observing what signs they bear, how they proceed to press on.
Feeding, they advance so far by flying, as much as they
are able to keep with sharp gaze in respect to following.
When they came thence to the jaws of heavily-smelling Avernus,
they bear themselves quickly, and they settle above the double tree,
having laboured through the airs with seats having been sought,
whence many colours of gold shine through the branches from gold.
In such frigid winter, mistletow is accustomed in the forests
to grow with new foliage, which does not bear its own trees,
and gives smooth trunks to its yellow offspring,
such is the appearance of the leafy gold from the dark
oak tree, thus a thin sheet rattles in a light wind.
Aeneas snatches it at once, and, eager, breaks it, hesitating,
off, and carries it under the roofs of the prophetess Sibyll.