This side the Styx




Naked and shivering, how the oozy tide
Affrights me waiting! Yonder boatman there
Is dull and moveless as the very stones
That fringe the infernal river. Woe is me!
All that I had, departed, and this state
Of aimless wandering on the farther shore
Is scarcely better than the life of forms
I see around me. Huge deformèd toads
Yellow and dripping monsters, loathsome plants,
Dropping their blotched leaves in the reeking slime.
This is the land of death, in very truth.
The imprisoned air bears not my trembling voice
To shapes, my comrades in the upper life,
To those that sate and laughed with me of old,
Alas, how altered! Tullius Quaestor there
Stands solitary, he that lovèd mirth,
And drank the unmixed wine till morning came
With me how often! Is that Poetus
Mine ancient enemy? O Gods, he comes!
Beating the dead air with his outstretched palms
In silent supplication. Now his mouth
Is shaping words, and yet there comes no sound;
And now he passes in the drifting mist
A shadow amid shadows. I alone
Retain a lasting form, or seem to do.
Claudius Herminius, once a trusty friend,
Is fleeting like the others. Is there none
To stay and give me peace? Ixion now
Had eased me, for he beareth greater pain,
But all alone, among these crumbling banks,
False as the world I left, how shall I be
Or rather cease from being? Could I lose
My soul, sensation, all that makes me I,
Oblivion were thrice blessèd. Lo, the boat
Is moving toward me—now at least is change.
Slowly, oh! slowly, parts the stagnant flood,
And slow as is repentance, Charon rows!