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The Meadow of Asphodel

Said Circe of the lovely hair,
The goddess with the tresses fair:
“Odysseus, go and set sail,
For in your quest you must not fail.

I will provide a strong north breeze
That will propel you o’er the seas
To where a land is bathed in mist;
That Dawn’s soft rays have never kissed;

Where dreadful Night has spread her cloak.
Cimmerians, unhappy folk,
Live there, close to the gates of Hell.
A meadow clothed in asphodel,

A grove of slender poplar trees,
(They are august Persephone’s)
Two rivers mingle in a gyre –
The Lamentation, Flaming Fire.

The first has waters of the Styx.
Around a towering rock they mix,
And with a thundering are gone –
They pour into the Acheron.

So when this mournful land you reach,
And on its shore your boat you beach,
Then dig a trench a cubit broad,
A cubit long, with your fine sword.

Around the trench pour offerings,
To all the dead, to slaves and kings,
Then barley, white, all over spread,
And say your prayers to the dead:

At Ithaca, when you return,
A heifer you will kill and burn,
And treasure heap upon the pyre,
So all will be consumed by fire.

And to Teiresias the seer,
The blind, the ghost who dwells quite near,
You’ll sacrifice the finest sheep,
So that the sage in peace may sleep.

When prayers are done, call to your crew
That they must bring a ram and ewe,
Jet-black, no others will suffice –
Two victims for the sacrifice.

To Erebus then turn each head,
But look away till they are bled.
And when the trench is filled with blood;
When death has staunched the surging flood,

From Erebus there’ll come a swarm
Of all the souls in ghostly form;
But take your sword, and let none pass
Till you speak with Teiresias.”

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