THE SIBYLLINE ORACLES.
(Some manuscripts of the Sibylline Oracles contain, in addition to Books
I-VIII, Books XI-XIV, which are omitted here.)
BEGINNING with the generation first
Of mortal men down to the very last
I'll prophesy each thing: what erst has been,
And what is now, and what shall yet befall
The world through the impiety of men.
First now God urges on me to relate
Truly how into being came the world.
And thou, shrewd mortal, prudently make known,
Lest ever thou should'st my commands neglect,
The King most high, who brought into existence
The whole world, saying, "Let there be," and there was.
For he the earth established, placing it
Round about Tartarus, and he himself
Gave the sweet light; he raised the heaven on high,
Spread out the gleaming sea, and crowned the sky
With an abundance of bright-shining stars,
And decked the earth with plants, and mingled sea
With rivers, and the air with zephyrs mixed
And watery clouds; and then, another race
Appointing, he gave fishes to the seas
And birds unto the winds, and to the woods
The beasts of shaggy neck, and snakes that crawl,
And all things which now on the earth appear.
These by his word he made, and every thing
Was speedily and with precision done;
For he was self-caused and from heaven looked down
And finished was the world exceeding well.
And then thereafter fashioned he again
A living product, copying a new man
From his own image, beautiful, divine,
And bade him in ambrosial garden dwell,
That labors beautiful might be his care.
But in that fertile field of Paradise
He longed for conversation, being alone,
And prayed that he might see another form
Such as he had. And forthwith, from man's side
Taking a bone, God himself made fair Eve,
A wedded spouse, and in that Paradise
Gave her to dwell with him. And, when he gazed
Upon her, on a sudden filled with joy
Great admiration held his soul, he saw
A pattern so exact; and with wise words
Spontaneous flowing answered he in turn
For God had care for all things. For the mind
They darkened not with passion, nor concealed
Their nakedness, but with hearts far from evil
Even like wild beasts they walked with limbs exposed.
And afterwards delivering them commands
God showed them not to touch a certain tree;
But the dread serpent drew them off by guile
To go away unto the fate of death
And to gain knowledge of both good and evil.
But the wife then first traitress proved to God;
She gave, and urged the unknowing man to sin.
And he, persuaded by the woman's words,
Forgot the immortal Maker utterly,
And treated plain commandments with neglect.
Therefore, instead of good, received they evil
According to their deed. And then the leaves
Of the sweet fig-tree piercing they made clothes
And put them on each other, and concealed
The sexual parts, because they were ashamed.
But on them the Immortal set his wrath
And cast them out of the immortal land.
For their abiding now in mortal land
Was brought to pass, since hearing they kept not
The word of the immortal mighty God.
And straightway they, upon the fruitful soil
Forthgoing, with their tears and groans were wet;
And to them then the immortal God himself
A word more excellent spoke: "Multiply,
Increase, work constantly upon the earth,
That with the sweat of labor ye may have
Sufficient food." Thus he spoke; and he made
The author of deceit to press the ground
On belly and on side, a crawling snake,
Driving him out severely; and he sent
Dire enmity between them and the one
Is on the look-out to preserve his head,
But man his heel; for death is neighbor near
Of evil-plotting vipers and of men.
And then indeed the race was multiplied
As the Almighty himself gave command,
And there grew up one people on another
Innumerable. And houses they adorned
Of all kinds and made cities and their walls
Well and expertly; and to them was given
A day of long time for a life much-loved;
For they did not worn out with troubles die,
But as subdued by sleep; most happy men
Of great heart, whom the immortal Saviour loved,
The King, God. But they also did transgress,
Smitten with folly. For with impudence
They mocked their fathers and their mothers scorned;
Kinsmen they knew not, and they formed intrigues
Against their brothers. And they were impure,
Having defiled themselves with human gore,
And they made wars. And then upon them came
The last calamity sent forth from heaven,
Which snatched the dreadful men away from life;
And Hades then received them; it was called
Hades since Adam, having tasted death,
Went first and earth encompassed him around.
And therefore all men born upon the earth
Are in abodes of Hades called to go.
But even in Hades all these when they came
Had honor, since they were the earliest race.
But when Hades received these, secondly
[Of the surviving and most righteous men]
God formed another very subtile race
That cared for lovely works, and noble toils,
Distinguished reverence and solid wisdom;
And they were trained in arts of every kind,
Finding inventions by their lack of means.
And one devised to till the land with plows,
Another worked in wood, another cared
For sailing, and another watched the stars
And practiced augury with winged fowls;
And use of drugs had interest for one,
While for another magic had a charm;
And others were in every other art
Which men care for instructed, wide awake,
Industrious, worthy of that eponym
Because they had a sleepless mind within
And a huge body; stout with mighty form
They were; but, notwithstanding, down they went
Into Tartarean chamber terrible,
Kept in firm chains to pay full penalty
In Gehenna of strong, furious, quenchless fire.
And after these a third strong-minded race
Appeared, a race of overbearing men
And terrible, who wrought among themselves
Many an evil. And fights, homicides,
And battles did continually destroy
Those men possessed of overweening heart,
And from these afterward another race
Proceeded, late-completed, youngest born,
Blood-stained, perverse in counsel; of men these
Were in the fourth race; much the blood they spilled,
Nor feared they God nor had regard for men,
For maddening wrath and sore impiety
Were sent upon them. And wars, homicides,
And battles sent some into Erebus,
Since they were overweening impious men.
But the rest did the heavenly God himself
In anger afterwards change from his world,
Casting them into mighty Tartarus
Down under the foundation of the earth.
And later yet another race much worse
[Of men he made, to whom no good thereafter]
The Immortal formed, since they wrought many evils.
For they were much more violent than those,
Giants perverse, foul language pouring out.
Single among all men, most just and true,
Was the most faithful Noah, full of care
For noblest works. And to him God himself
From heaven thus spoke: "Noah, be of good cheer
In thyself and to all the people preach
Repentance, so that they may all be saved.
But if, with shameless soul, they heed me not
The whole race I will utterly destroy
With mighty floods of waters. Quickly now
An undecaying house I bid thee frame
Of planks strong and impervious to the wet.
I will put understanding in thy heart,
And subtile skill, and rule of measurement
And order; and for all things will I care
That thou be saved, and all who dwell with thee.
And I am He who is, and in thy heart
Do thou discern. I clothe me with the heaven,
And cast the sea around me, and for me
Earth is a footstool, and the air is poured
Around my body; and on every side
Around me runs the chorus of the stars.
Nine letters have I; of four syllables
I am; discern me. The first three have each
Two letters, the remaining one the rest,
And five are mates; and of the entire sum
The hundreds are twice eight and thrice three tens
Along with seven. Now, knowing who I am,
Be thou not uninitiate in my lore."
Thus he spoke; and great trembling seized on him
At what he heard. And then, within his mind
Having contrived each matter, he besought
The people and began with words like these:
"O men insatiate, smit with madness great,
Whatever things ye practiced they shall not
Escape God's notice; for he knows all things,
Immortal Saviour overseeing all,
Who bade me warn you, that ye perish not.
Be sober, cut off badness, do not fight
Perforce each other with blood-guilty heart,
Nor irrigate much land with human gore.
Revere, O mortals, the supremely great
And fearless heavenly Creator, God
Imperishable, whose dwelling is the sky;
And do ye all entreat him--he is kind--
For life of cities and of all the world,
And of four-footed beasts and flying fowls;
Entreat him to be gracious unto all.
For when the whole unbounded world of men
Shall be destroyed by waters loud ye'll raise
A fearful cry. And suddenly for you
The air shall be disordered, and from heaven
The fury of the mighty God shall come
Upon you. And it certainly shall be
That the immortal Saviour against men
Will send wrath if ye do not placate God
And from this time repent; and nothing more
Fretful and evil lawlessly shall ye
One to another do, but let there be
A guarding of one's self by holy life."
But when they heard him each turned up his nose,
Calling him mad, a frenzy-smitten man.
And then again did Noah sound this strain:
"O men exceeding wretched, base in heart,
Unstable, leaving modesty behind
And loving shamelessness, rapacious lords,
Fierce sinners, false, insatiate, mischievous,
In nothing true, stealthy adulterers,
Flippant in language, pouring forth foul words,
The wrath of God most high not fearing, kept
To the fifth generation to atone!
In no way do ye wail, harsh men, but laugh;
Sardonic smile shall ye laugh, when shall come
That which I speak--God's dire incoming flood,
When Eve's polluted race, in the great earth
Blooming perennial in impervious stem,
Shall, root and branch, in one night disappear,
And cities, men and all, shall the Earth-shaker
From the depths scatter and their walls destroy.
And then the whole world of unnumbered men
Shall die. But how shall I weep, how lament
In wooden house, how mingle tears with waves?
For, if this water bidden of God shall come,
Earth shall float, hills float, and even sky shall float;
Everything shall be water, and all things
Shall be destroyed by waters. And the winds
Shall stand still, and a second age shall come.
O Phrygia, thou shalt from the water's crest
First rise up, and thou first another race
Of men shalt nourish, once again anew
Beginning; and thou shalt be nurse for all."
But when now to the lawless generation
He had thus vainly spoken, the Most High
Appeared, and once more cried aloud and said:
"The time is now come, Noah, to proclaim
Each thing, even all which I that day to thee
Did promise and confirm, and to complete,
Because of a people disobedient,
Throughout the boundless world even all the things
Which generations of a former time
Did practice, evil things innumerable.
But do thou quickly enter with thy sons
And the wives. Call as many as I bid,
Of tribes of beasts and creeping things and birds,
And in as many as I ordain for life
Will I then put a willingness to go."
Thus spoke he; forth went (Noah) and aloud
Cried out and called. And then wife, sons and brides,
Entered the house of wood; then also went
The other things, as many as God willed
To shut in. But when fitting bolt was put
About the lid, and in its polished place
Was fitted sideways, then was brought to pass
Forthwith the purpose of the God of heaven.
And he massed clouds, and bid the sun's bright disk,
And moon, and stars, and circle of the heaven,
Obscuring all things round; he thundered loud,
Terror of mortals, sending lightnings forth;
And all the winds together were aroused,
And all the veins of water were unloosed
By opening of great cataracts from heaven,
And from earth's caverns and the tireless deep
Appeared the myriad waters, and the whole
Illimitable earth was covered o'er.
But on the water swam that wondrous house;
And torn by many furious waves, and struck
By force of winds, it rushed on fearfully;
But with its keel it cut the mass of foam
While the loud-babbling waters dashed around.
But when God deluged all the world with rains
Then also Noah took thought to observe
By counsels of the Immortal; for he now
Had had enough of Nereus. And straightway
The house he opened from the polished wall,
That crosswise was bound fast with skillful stays.
And looking out upon the mighty mass
Of boundless waters Noah on all sides--
And 'twas his fortune with his eyes to see!--
Fear possessed and shook mightily his heart.
And then the air became a little calm,
Since it was weary wetting all the world
Many days; parting, then, it brought to light
How pale and blood-red was the mighty sky
And sun's bright disk awearied; scarcely held
Noah his courage. And then forth afar
Sent he a dove alone, that he might learn
If yet firm land appeared. But with tired wing,
Flying round all things, she again returned;
For not yet had the water ebbed away;
For it was deeply filling every place.
But after resting quietly for days
He sent the dove once more, to learn if yet
Had ceased the many waters. And she flew
And flew on, and went o'er the earth and, resting
Her body lightly on the humid ground,
Again to Noah back she came and bore
An olive branch--of tidings a great sign.
Courage now filled them all, and great delight,
Because they hoped to look upon the land.
But then thereafter yet another bird,
Of black wing, sent he forth as hastily;
Which, trusting to its wings, flew willingly,
And coming to the land continued there.
And Noah knew the land was nearer now.
But when on dashing waves the craft divine
Had here and there o'er ocean's billows swum,
It was made fast upon the narrow strand.
There is in Phrygia on the dark mainland
A steep, tall mountain; Ararat its name,
Because upon it all were to be saved
From death, and there was great desire of heart;
Thence streams of the great river Marsyas spring.
There on a lofty peak the ark abode
When the waters ceased, and then again from heaven
The voice divine of the great God this word
Proclaimed: "O Noah, guarded, faithful, just,
Come boldly forth, with thy sons and thy wife
And the three brides, and fill ye all the earth,
Increasing, multiplying, rendering justice
To one another through all generations,
Until to judgment every race of men
Shall come; for judgment shall be unto all."
Thus spoke the voice divine. Then from his couch
Noah, encouraged, hastened on the land,
And with him went his sons and wife and brides,
And creeping things, and birds and quadrupeds,
And all things else went from the wooden house
Into one place. And then went Noah forth
As eighth, most just of men, when on the waters
He had made full twice twenty days and one
Because of counsels of the mighty God.
Then a new stock of life again arose,
Golden first, which indeed was sixth, and best,
From the time when the first-formed man appeared;
Heavenly its name, because all things to God
Shall be a care. O first race of sixth age!
O mighty joy which I thereafter shared,
When I escaped sheer ruin, by the waves
Much tossed, with husband and with brothers-in-law,
Stepfather and stepmother, and with wives
Of husband's brothers suffering terribly.
Fitting things now will I sing: There shall be
On the fig-tree a many-colored flower,
And afterward the royal power and sway
Shall Cronos have. For three kings of great soul,
Men most just, shall distribute portions then,
And many a year rule, rendering what is just
To men who care for toil and deeds of love.
And earth shall glory in her many fruits
Self-growing, yielding much corn for the race.
And the foster-fathers, ageless all their days,
Shall from diseases chill and dreadful be
Far aloof; they shall die as fallen on sleep,
And unto Acheron in the abodes
Of Hades they shall go away, and there
Shall they have honor, since they were a race
Of blessed ones, fortunate heroes, whom
The Lord of Sabaoth gave a noble mind,
And with whom always he his counsels shared.
But blessed shall they be even when they go
And then afterward again
Oppressive, strong, another second race
Of earth-born men, the Titans. All excel
In figure, stature, growth; and there shall be
One language, as of old from the first race
God in their breasts implanted. But even these,
Having a haughty heart and rushing on
To ruin, shall at last resolve to fight
Against the starry heaven. And then the stream
Of the great ocean shall upon them pour
Its raging waters. But the mighty Lord
Of Sabaoth though enraged shall check his wrath,
Because he promised that again no flood
Should be brought upon men of evil soul.
But when the great high-thundering God shall cause
The boundless swelling of the many waters--
With their waves hither and thither rising high--
To cease from wrath, and into other depths
Of sea their measure lessen, setting bounds
By harbors and rough headlands round the land;
Then also shall a child of the great God
Come, clothed in flesh, to men, and fashioned like
To mortals in the earth; and he doth hear
Four vowels, and two consonants in him
Are twice announced; the whole sum I will name:
For eight ones, and as many tens on these,
And yet eight hundred will reveal the name
To men insatiate; and do thou discern
In thine own understanding that the Christ
Is child of the immortal God most high.
And he shall fulfill God's law, not destroy,
Bearing his very image, and all things
Shall he teach. Unto him shall priests convey
And offer gold, and myrrh, and frankincense;
For all these things he'll also bring to pass.
But when a voice shall through the desert land
Come bearing tidings to men, and to all
Shall call to make straight paths, and from the heart
Cast wickedness out and illuminate
With water all the bodies of mankind,
That being born again they may no more
From what is righteous go at all astray--
And one of barbarous mind, by dances bound,
Cutting that (voice) off shall bestow reward--
Then on a sudden there shall be a sign
To mortals, when, watched over, there shall come
Out of the land of Egypt a fair stone;
And on it shall the Hebrew people stumble;
But by his guiding nations shall be brought
Together; for the God who rules on high
They also shall know through him, and the way
In common light. For unto chosen men
Will he show life eternal, but the fire
Will be for ages on the lawless bring.
And then shall he the sickly heal, and all
Who are blameworthy who shall trust in him.
And then the blind shall see, the lame shall walk,
The deaf shall hearken, and the dumb shall speak.
Demons shall he drive out, and of the dead
There shall be an uprising; on the waves
Shall he walk; also in a desert place
Shall he five thousand satisfy with food
From five loaves and a fish out of the sea,
And with the remnants of them, for the hope
Of peoples, shall he fill twelve baskets full.
And then shall Israel, drunken, not discern,
Nor shall they hear, oppressed with feeble ears.
But when the maddening wrath of the Most High
Shall come upon the Hebrews, and take faith
Away from them, because they slew the Son
Of the heavenly God; then also with foul lips
Shall Israel give him cuffs and spittle drugged.
And gall for food and vinegar unmixed
For drink will they, with evil madness smitten
In bosom and in heart, give impiously,
Not seeing with their eyes, more blind than moles,
More terrible than crawling poisonous beasts,
Fast bound by heavy sleep. But when his hands
He shall spread forth and measure out all things,
And bear the crown of thorns, and they shall pierce
His side with reeds, for which dark monstrous night
Shall be for three hours in the midst of day,
Then also shall the temple of Solomon
Bring to an end a mighty sign for men,
When he shall to the house of Hades go
Proclaiming resurrection to the dead.
But when in three days he shall come again
Unto the light, and show his form to men
And teach all things, ascending in the clouds
Unto the house of heaven shall he go
Leaving the world a Gospel covenant.
And in his name shall blossom a new shoot
From nations that are guided by the law
Of the Mighty One. But also after this
There shall be wise guides, and then afterward
There shall be a cessation of the prophets.
After that, when the Hebrew people reap
Their evil harvest, shall a Roman king
Much gold and silver utterly destroy.
And afterward shall other royal powers
Continuously arise as kingdoms perish,
And they will oppress mortals. But great fall
Shall be for those men, when they shall begin
Unrighteous arrogance. But when the temple
Of Solomon in the holy land shall fall,
Cast down by barbarous men in brazen mail,
And from the land the Hebrews shall be driven
Wandering and wasted, and among the wheat
They shall much darnel mingle, there shall be
Evil contention among all mankind;
And the cities suffering outrage shall bewail
Each other, in their breasts receiving wrath
Of the great God, since they wrought evil work.