Virgil Aeneid VI

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GCSE Latin Verse Set Text (2009)

Virgil, Aeneid V1.295-332, 384-439, 637-655, 703-718, 791-807, 817-823, 826-835, 847-53: Translation


From here goes the road which leads to the waves of Acheron of Tartarus. 295

Here, thick with mud and in a vast abyss, a whirlpool

seethes and throws up all its sand into the Cocytus.

A horrid ferryman guards these waters and rivers

in terrible squalor, Charon, on whose chin stands

a great deal of unkempt grey hair; his eyes stare with flame, 300

a filthy cloak hangs down from his shoulders by a knot.

He himself pushes along his boat with a pole, and attends to the sails

and carries the bodies in his rust-coloured boat,

already rather old, but a god’s old age is fresh and green.

The whole crowd poured out and was rushing here to the banks, 305

mothers and husbands and the bodies, finished with life,

of great-spirited heroes, boys and unmarried girls,

and young men placed on funeral pyres before the eyes of their parents:

as many as the leaves that slip and fall in the woods

in the first cold of autumn, or as many as the birds that flock 310

to the earth from the deep sea, when the cold time of year

drives them across the sea and sends them to sunny lands.

They were standing begging to be the first to make the crossing,

and stretching out their hands in their love of the further bank.

But the sad sailor accepts now these, now those, 315

but others he moves far away and keeps from the sand.

Aeneas, for he was amazed and moved by the confusion,

said, ‘Tell me, maiden, what does the gathering at the river want?

Or what do the souls seek? Or by what distinction do these

leave the banks, and those sweep the lead-dark shallows with oars?’ 320

To him the aged priestess spoke briefly in this way:

‘Son of Anchises, most certain offspring of the gods,

you see the deep pools of the Cocytus and the Stygian marsh,

the divine power of which the gods fear to swear by and deceive.

All this crowd which you see is the poor and unburied; 325

that ferryman is Charon; these whom the waves carry are the buried.

Nor is it permitted to carry them across the horrid and noisy

streams before their bones rest in their graves.

They wander and flit around these shores for a hundred years;

then at last they are admitted and return to the longed for pools.’ 330

The son of Anchises stood still, and checked his footsteps,

thinking many thoughts and pitying their unfair fate in his soul.


Therefore they continued the journey they had begun and approached the river.

Already then, when the sailor from the Stygian water saw them 385

going through the silent grove and turning their step to the bank,

he challenged them first with words and rebuked them of his own accord:

‘Whoever you are, who


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