Prologue: The Sybil

The Janid

Historia Sacra Janarum

[The performance was given by group of Gianae, who were called “The Daughters of Calliope” (Kalliopedes).  They sat on the raised mound, facing the audience, who surrounded them on three sides.  The Giana called Luscinia (Nightingale), a lovely soprano, stood at the front and sang.]

              PROLOGUE:  THE SIBYL

Thou gracious Muse, Calliope, inspire
My epic song, and set my words afire,
To tell the noble tale of parents brave
That came before, but now are in the grave,
But start with those that to this isle had come
Two generations ere the Greeks razed Illium.*     [*i.e., c. 1250 BCE]

In Lycian land across the eastern sea,
In good King Hatys' land, a people lived,
And Rasna was the name they called themselves.
Full eighteen years the drought had parched the soil,
And famine brought the mighty kingdom down.
Though long he waited for the rains to come,
At last King Hatys knew with heavy heart
The land could not support but half the folk.
And so he gave Tyrrhenus, faithful son,
The task of leading half the people forth
To start in some far land a colony,
And ne'er again to see the motherland.
Tyrrhenus picked the strongest men he knew,
And fearless women, too -- and one young girl,
Symmachia, Hippotensis' daughter dear,
Who was a Sibyl, wise in many ways.
And to Erythrae on the coast they came,
And launched their many ships into the sea.
Along the way they met a Daedalus,
A clever craftsman skilled in many arts,
And he came too, in flight from tyranny.
Their journey brought them to this very isle,
Fair Sardo*, lo! those many years ago.      [*Sardinia]
They mixed their seed with us, the Janae race,
And Sibyl told the future of our isle,
Before they went to the Cumaean land.
A thriving colony they started there,
And Aplus'* temple built that Daedalus.      [*Apollo]
The Sibyl led a band not far away,
To Baiae, where they found Avernus Lake,*
    [*mod. Lago Averno, a water-filled volcanic crater]
Exhaling hellish airs in gloomy woods,
A lake whose roots reach down to Tartarus.
A giant cavern, Orcus' maw, they took
As their abode, a dark and sunless realm.
The people, called Cimmerians, put therein
Their smithies, forging famous wares of bronze,
And orgullae* they named their buried homes.
    [*an obscure word that may refer to earthen or clay pots]
Where flow the vapors and the waters black
From Aita*, there the Sibyl placed her shrine,      [*Hades]
Delivering oracles with raving mouth.
Aeneas and Odysseus, wandering each
From Illium, saw the crone, much shrunk with age*.
    [*c. 1175 BCE; she would have been in her 80's]

But when she told her prophecy to us,
The holy nymph* was hale in face and limb.
    [*most likely "young woman" in this context]
With heaving breast and wailing words she spoke!

    [Luscinia tousled her hair and pulled it forward so that it
    hung over her face and down to her knees.  After a moment of
    silence she parted her hair and stared out at us with wild

              THE PROPHECY

"In Italy when many years have passed
Ariseth a destructive leader there,
Who will deny the Ancient Gods their due.
And when no one is left who loves the Gods:
Oh Curnos*!  Sardo!  Then with savage storms      [*Corsica]
Of winter cold and blast of angry Gods,
Beneath the waves ye sink; the people drown.
Aeee!  How many virgins Aita weds!
How many beardless boys now sink below!
Aeee!  The infant babes are crushed by brine!
Though, Sardo, thou art happy yet, the time
Will come in ages ten when thou art not
An island, but to ashes art reduced.
In vain will sailors seek beneath the waves
For thee, fair Sardo, thee who will not be,
And Halcyons shedding tears will mourn thy end!

"But if ye Janae would this fate forestall,
Forget ye not the Sacred Gods of Yore!

"The truth I sing!  If this be so, then let
Me chew unharmed the sacred laurel yet,
And stay a virgin pure, nor e'er beget!"

    [Luscinia then fell to her knees, her hair covering her face.
    Two other Gianae stood and sang.]

And though the world without hath scorned the Gods,
Still here the Janae and Silvani hold
The Rites and give the Ancient Gods their due.
And so remember we our parents' Gods.

[continue to Canto I]

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Last updated: Sat April 21, 2012