IPSE CAVA SOLANS ... ORPHEUS DESCENDS TO THE UNDERWORLD
Virgil - Georgics IV tr. Arthur McHugh


Ipse cava solans aegrum testudine amorem
te, dulcis coniunx, te solo in litore secum,
te veniente die, te decedente canebat.


Taenarias etiam fauces, alta ostia Ditis,
et caligantem nigra formidine lucum
ingressus manesque adiit regemque tremendum
nesciaque humanis precibus mansuescere corda.

At cantu commotae Erebi de sedibus imis
umbrae ibant tenues simulacraque luce carentum,
quam multa in foliis avium se milia condunt
vesper ubi aut hibernus agit de montibus imber,
matres atque viri defunctaque corpora vita
magnanimum heroum, pueri innuptaeque puellae,
impositique rogis iuvenes ante ora parentum,
quos circum limus niger et deformis harundo
Cocyti tardaque palus inamabilis unda
alligat et noviens Styx interfusa coercet.





Quin ipsae stupuere domus atque intima Leti
tartara caeruleosque implexae crinibus angues
Eumenides, tenuitque inhians tria Cerberus ora
atque Ixionii vento rota constitit orbis.




Love-sick, he would comfort himself, alone
with his echoing lyre, singing of you,
his dear wife, singing on the lonely strand,
singing of you as dawn was drawing near,
singing of you at the approach of night.
He entered the very jaws of Hades,
the lofty portals of Dis, that dark grove
haunted by terror; he approached the shades
and their fearsome king, though he did not know
how to soften their hearts with human prayer.
Stirred by his song, shadows without substance
began to emerge from the deep dwellings
of Erebus, together with phantoms
deprived of daylight, multitudinous
as birds that hide themselves among the leaves
at twilight, or when winter rain drives them
from the mountains: husbands, wives, great heroes
now finished with life, boys, unmarried girls,
young men who were laid on funeral pyres
in the presence of their parents, all those
encircled by the black mud and foul reeds
of Cocytus, and by the ghastly swamp
of Styx with its sluggish water winding
nine times round.

...................................Indeed, the very abode
of the dead was silenced, Death's lowest region;
even the Furies, with blue snakes entwined
in their hair, were stunned; and Cerberus held
his three mouths agape, and the circling wheel
of Ixion came to rest in the wind.

Trans. Copyright © Arthur McHugh 2008


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