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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.

Scylla and Charybdis, the Rocks

Scylla and Charybdis

By Virgil (70–19 B.C.)

(From Æneid, Book III)
Translated by C. P. Cranch

BUT when near the coasts

Of Sicily, Pelorus’ narrow straits

Open to view, then take the land to the left,

And the left sea, with a wide circuit round,

And shun the shore and sea upon the right.

Those lands, ’t is said, by vast convulsions once

Were torn asunder (such the changes wrought

By time), when both united stood as one.

Between them rushed the sea, and with its waves

Cut off the Italian side from Sicily,

And now between their fields and cities flows

With narrow tide. There Scylla guards the right,

Charybdis the implacable the left;

And thrice its whirlpool sucks the vast waves down

Into the lowest depths of its abyss,

And spouts them forth into the air again,

Lashing the stars with waves. But Scylla lurks

Within the blind recesses of a cave,

Stretching her open jaws, and dragging down

The ships upon the rocks. Foremost, a face,

Human, with comely virgin’s breast, she seems,

E’en to the middle; but her lower parts

A hideous monster of the sea, the tails

Of dolphins mingling with the womb of wolves.

Better to voyage, though delaying long,

Around Pachyna’s cape, with circuit wide,

Than once the shapeless Scylla to behold

Under her caverns vast, and hear those rocks

Resounding with her dark blue ocean hounds.