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translated by Theodore C. Williams
Book VIII Chapter 11: The tale of Hercules and Cacus (cont.)
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Then hadst thou seen |
the wrath of Hercules in frenzy blaze
from his exasperate heart. His arms he seized,
his club of knotted oak, and climbed full-speed
the wind-swept hill. Now first our people saw
Cacus in fear, with panic in his eyes.
Swift to the black cave like a gale he flew,
his feet by terror winged. Scarce had he passed
the cavern door, and broken the big chains,
and dropped the huge rock which was pendent there
by Vulcan's well-wrought steel; scarce blocked and barred
the guarded gate: when there Tirynthius stood,
with heart aflame, surveying each approach,
rolling this way and that his wrathful eyes,
gnashing his teeth. Three times his ire surveyed
the slope of Aventine; three times he stormed
the rock-built gate in vain; and thrice withdrew
to rest him in the vale. But high above
a pointed peak arose, sheer face of rock
on every side, which towered into view
from the long ridge above the vaulted cave,
fit haunt for birds of evil-boding wing.
This peak, which leftward toward the river leaned,
he smote upon its right -- his utmost blow --
breaking its bases loose; then suddenly
thrust at it: as he thrust, the thunder-sound
filled all the arching sky, the river's banks
asunder leaped, and Tiber in alarm
reversed his flowing wave. So Cacus' lair
lay shelterless, and naked to the day
the gloomy caverns of his vast abode
stood open, deeply yawning, just as if
the riven earth should crack, and open wide
th' infernal world and fearful kingdoms pale,
which gods abhor; and to the realms on high
the measureless abyss should be laid bare,
and pale ghosts shrink before the entering sun.
Now upon Cacus, startled by the glare,
caged in the rocks and howling horribly,
Alcides hurled his weapons, raining down
all sorts of deadly missiles -- trunks of trees,
and monstrous boulders from the mountain torn.
But when the giant from his mortal strait
no refuge knew, he blew from his foul jaws
a storm of smoke -- incredible to tell --
and with thick darkness blinding every eye,
concealed his cave, uprolling from below
one pitch-black night of mingled gloom and fire.
This would Alcides not endure, but leaped
headlong across the flames, where densest hung
the rolling smoke, and through the cavern surged
a drifting and impenetrable cloud.
With Cacus, who breathed unavailing flame,
he grappled in the dark, locked limb with limb,
and strangled him, till o'er the bloodless throat
the starting eyeballs stared.
Event: Heracles and Cacus
hic uero Alcidae furiis exarserat atro
felle dolor: rapit arma manu nodisque grauatum
robur, et aerii cursu petit ardua montis.
tum primum nostri Cacum uidere timentem
turbatumque oculis; fugit ilicet ocior Euro
speluncamque petit, pedibus timor addidit alas.
ut sese inclusit ruptisque immane catenis
deiecit saxum, ferro quod et arte paterna
pendebat, fultosque emuniit obice postis,
ecce furens animis aderat Tirynthius omnemque
accessum lustrans huc ora ferebat et illuc,
dentibus infrendens. ter totum feruidus ira
lustrat Auentini montem, ter saxea temptat
limina nequiquam, ter fessus ualle resedit.
stabat acuta silex praecisis undique saxis
speluncae dorso insurgens, altissima uisu,
dirarum nidis domus opportuna uolucrum.
hanc, ut prona iugo laeuum incumbebat ad amnem,
dexter in aduersum nitens concussit et imis
auulsam soluit radicibus, inde repente
impulit; impulsu quo maximus intonat aether,
dissultant ripae refluitque exterritus amnis.
at specus et Caci detecta apparuit ingens
regia, et umbrosae penitus patuere cauernae,
non secus ac si qua penitus ui terra dehiscens
infernas reseret sedes et regna recludat
pallida, dis inuisa, superque immane barathrum
cernatur, trepident immisso lumine Manes.
ergo insperata deprensum luce repente
inclusumque cauo saxo atque insueta rudentem
desuper Alcides telis premit, omniaque arma
aduocat et ramis uastisque molaribus instat.
ille autem, neque enim fuga iam super ulla pericli,
faucibus ingentem fumum (mirabile dictu)
euomit inuoluitque domum caligine caeca
prospectum eripiens oculis, glomeratque sub antro
fumiferam noctem commixtis igne tenebris.
non tulit Alcides animis, seque ipse per ignem
praecipiti iecit saltu, qua plurimus undam
fumus agit nebulaque ingens specus aestuat atra.
hic Cacum in tenebris incendia uana uomentem
corripit in nodum complexus, et angit inhaerens
elisos oculos et siccum sanguine guttur.