Accompanied by you, my goddess,
Hope, sole comfort
of afflicted mortals, now have I reached
these mournful and dark realms
where the sun’s rays never reach.
You, my companion and guide,
on paths so strange and unknown
have controlled my feeble, trembling steps,
where today I still hope
to see again those blessed lights
that alone to my eyes bring day.
Here is the black marsh, here the boatman
who takes naked spirits to the other bank,
where Pluto has his vast kingdom of shades.
Beyond that dark pool, beyond that river,
in those fields of weeping and grief,
cruel destiny hides your beloved.
Now you need a stout heart and a fine song.
I have brought you here, but further I may not
come with you, for harsh law forbids it,
a law written with iron on hard rock
at the terrible entrance to the kingdom below,
that in these words expresses its haughty meaning:
ABANDON HOPE, ALL YOU WHO ENTER.
Then, if your heart is firm
to set foot in the city of grief,
I must flee from you and return
to my customary dwelling.
Where, ah, where are you going,
sole sweet comfort of my heart?
Since not a long way away
the end of my long journey appears,
why do you leave and abandon me, ah, alas,
in my perilous path?
What help remains for me now,
if you fly from me, sweetest Hope?
O you who before death to these shores
in rashness come, halt your steps;
to plough these waves is not granted to mortal man,
nor can he who lives have dwelling with the dead.
What? Would you then, an enemy to my Lord,
drag Cerberus from the Tartarean gates?
Or do you want to seize his dear consort,
your heart on fire with shameless desire?
Rein in your rash folly, for into my boat
shall nevermore living body enter,
for still in my soul of ancient wrongs
I keep bitter memory and just anger.
Powerful spirit and fear-inspiring god,
without whom to take passage to the other bank
a soul, freed from the body, presumes in vain,
I do not live, no, since when, deprived of life,
was my dear bride, my heart was no longer with me,
and without a heart how can it be that I live?
To her I have made my way through the dark air,
not yet to Hades, for wherever there is
such beauty there is paradise with it.
Orpheus am I, that to Eurydice my paces
bend over these dark sands,
where never mortal man has gone.
O serene light of my eyes,
if one look of yours can return me to life,
ah, who refuses comfort to my pains?
You alone, noble God, can give me aid,
nor should fear, since on a golden lyre
only with sweet strings are my fingers armed,
against which the harshest spirit seeks in vain.
In part it charms me,
delighting my heart,
your plaint and your song.
But far, ah, far from this breast
let pity be, a feeling unworthy of my courage.
Ah, unlucky lover,
then may I not hope
that the citizens of Avernus may hear my prayers?
Then must I like a wandering shade
of an unhappy, unburied body,
be reft of Heaven and of Hades?
So does wicked fate desire
that in this horror of death
far, my heart, from you,
I should call your name in vain,
and praying and weeping waste myself away?
Give me back my love, Spirits of Tartarus.
He sleeps and my lyre,
if it cannot bring pity
to that hardened heart, at least sleep
his eyes cannot escape at my song.
Up, then, why longer wait?
It is time now to land on the other shore,
if there is none to deny it.
Let valour prevail if my prayers are in vain.
A passing flower of time is
opportunity that must be plucked at the time.
While these eyes pour forth bitter streams of tears,
give me back my love, Spirits of Tartarus.
(He enters the boat and crosses over, singing to the sound of the wood-organ)
Chorus of Spirits
No undertaking by man is tried in vain,
nor against him can Nature further arm herself.
The uneven plain’s watery fields he has ploughed
and scattered the seed of his labours,
whence he has gathered golden harvests.
Wherefore, so that memory
may live of his glory,
Fame, to speak of him, has loosed her tongue,
who controlled the sea with fragile craft,
who cast scorn on the anger of the South and North Winds.