Crossing the Styx

Patinir, Joachim: ‘Landscape with Saint Jerome’ 1516-1517 (Museo Del Prado) – painting reference.


There Charon stirs; – by dreary rocks – 

A God of the Underworld: Crossing the Styx!

Beating his oar upward, fierce and mean;

His beard blows like fire, wild and dirty;

His eyes descend upon me, torn and hollow.


Oh, I, a reluctant Sinner; – enter his boat –

A man of earth: entering the Underworld!

Blessed with Hermes, as psychopomp clean;

But my Soul is weak, destiny is bleak;

My expression doubts the Spring flowing from Lethe. 


Looking to the left; – I see Paradise – 

Christian heaven: the hard road that leads to life!

Where an angel beckons her wings, upright;

Her smile is light, and on the promontory she stands;

In company of repentant souls, righteously abound.


Ah, sinuous tide; – we turn towards Hades –

Cerberus dwells in fire: the Inferno!

Bodies that sting, burnt, wretched flesh;

Hung from the black gates of a castle wreck;

Pierced with the hot rod of vice, trials awaits me. 


Charon roars with the tide; – crashing waves –

Cape Matapan fast approaches: the Peloponnesus!

A giant grey cave ascends towards the furnace;

An enclave leading to the feet of he who Punishes;

But in fear I plead, and hear my Guardian weep. 


The way home is drenched; – oh, cloudy fog –

The angels sigh: Heavens promise I’d forgotten!

Swearing Damnation, fighting Satan with fury;

My bosom startles into shape, singing with praise;

Oh, joy, I bow, smiling in deep arrest;

Whispering where only truth can rest:

“Thanks be to you O Lord Our God”.

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