The Journey Back, Day 5: The Prophecy

Meanwhile, the Sibyl,

Resisting possession, storms through the cavern,

In the throes of her struggle with Phoebus Apollo.

But the more she froths at the mouth

And contorts, the more he controls her, commands her

And makes her his creature. Then of their own accord

Those hundred vast tunnel-mouths gape and give vent

To the prophetess’s responses:

“O you who survived, In the end, the sea’s dangers (though worse still await

On the land), you and your Trojans will come

Into your own in Lavinium: have no fear of that.

But the day is one you will rue. I see wars,

Atrocious wars, and the Tiber surging with blood.

A second Simois river, a second Xanthus,

A second enemy camp lie ahead. And already

In Latium a second Achilles comes forth, he too

The son of a goddess. Nor will Trojans ever be free

Of Juno’s harassments, while you, without allies,

Dependent, will go through Italia petitioning

Cities and peoples. And again the cause of such pain

And disaster for Trojans will be as before: a bride

Culled in a host country, an outlander groom.

But whatever disasters befall, do not flinch.

Go all the bolder to face them, follow your fate

To the limit. A road will open to safety

From the last place you would expect: a city of Greeks.”

Thus from her innermost shrine the Sibyl of Cumae

Chanted menacing riddles and made the cave echo

With sayings where truths and enigmas were twined

Inextricably, while Apollo reined in her spasms

And curbed her, or sank the spurs in her ribs.

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