Acherusia

Cerberus2

Cerberus et Furiae iam vero et lucis egestas,
Tartarus horriferos eructans faucibus aestus!
* * *
qui neque sunt usquam nec possunt esse profecto.
sed metus in vita poenarum pro male factis
est insignibus insignis, scelerisque luella,
carcer et horribilis de saxo iactu’ deorsum,
verbera carnifices robur pix lammina taedae;
quae tamen etsi absunt, at mens sibi conscia factis
praemetuens adhibet stimulos torretque flagellis,
nec videt interea qui terminus esse malorum
possit nec quae sit poenarum denique finis,
atque eadem metuit magis haec ne in morte gravescant.
hic Acherusia fit stultorum denique vita.
(Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.1011-1023)

Cerberus*, too, the Furies, the Dearth of Light,
Tartarus** retching and vomiting tides of terror
* * *
which nowhere exist, which simply cannot be.
But in life, the fear of penalty for our sins
is great in the greatest: crime and crime’s atonement,
prison, the terrible hurling from the Rock***,
the lash, the hangman, stake, pitch, iron and brand.
And take these away: the heart knows what we’ve done
and plies the goad and lash to make us cowards,
yet never sees where stands the stone that marks
the end of pain, the bounds of punishment,
but fears these may grow heavier still in death.
Hell is right here, the work of foolish men!

* The three-headed dog who guarded the entrance to the underworld. Furies: the goddesses of vengeance, who punish men for their acts of violence. Dearth of Light: the Underworld itself, which is perennially dark and shadowy.
** The Underworld, Hades. After this line, some lines have been lost. They must have embodied a connective clause of some kind,
*** The reference is to the Tarpeian Rock, a cliff at one corner of the Capitoline Hill in Rome, from which convicted traitors were hurled to their death.

(tr. Frank O. Copley, with his notes)

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