The Journey Back, Day 3: The Epiphany

The Trojans would have kept standing, fascinated

By all on display, except that just then Achates,

Who’d been sent on ahead, came back accompanied

By the Sibyl, Deiphobe, daughter of Glaucus, priestess

Of Diana and Phoebus. Who addressed the prince:

“This is no time to be standing staring here.

It would be better now to pick out for sacrifice

Seven bullocks from a herd that has not been yoked,

And an equal number of properly chosen ewes.”

Having spoken these words to Aeneas (whose men

Are quick to obey her instructions) the priestess

Summons the Trojans into her high inner sanctum.

At Cumae, behind the broad cliff, an enormous cave

Has been quarried: a hundred entrances, a hundred

Wide-open mouths lead in, and out of them scramble

A hundred echoing voices, the Sibyl’s responses.

They arrived at that threshold and the vestal cried, “Now!

Now you must ask what your fate is. The god

Is here with us! Apollo!” Her countenance suddenly

Paled and convulsed, hair got dishevelled,

Breast was aheave, heart beating wilder and wilder.

Before their eyes she grows tall, something not mortal

Enters, she is changed by the breath of the god

Breathing through her. “Aeneas of Troy,” she demands,

“Your vows and your prayers, why do you wait? Pray,

For until you have prayed, the jaws of this cavern

Won’t echo or open.” And there she fell silent.

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