Exploring The Waste Land
An allusion page linked from The Waste Land's epigraph


The Sibyl

Deiphobe, the Sibyl of Cumae was an oracle. She was granted long life by Apollo, as many years as grains of sand she held in her hand, but she had forgotten to ask to retain her youth. With her aging she withered away and she was suspended in a bottle in the temple of Hercules at Cumae (near Naples).

The Satyricon

The epigraph to The Waste Land comes from The Satyricon written in Latin by Petronius Arbiter. One of the translations at this site was done by Alfred R. Allinson who wrote in the introduction to his book:

"The longest and most important section [of The Satyricon] is generally known as the Supper of Trimalchio, presenting us with a detailed and very amusing account of a fantastic banquet, such as the most luxurious and extravagant gourmands of the empire were wont to exhibit on their tables."

Although reading the section of The Satyricon where this quote came from is not useful to novice readers of The Waste Land (it was just an off-hand remark) you can, if you wish, read section 48 of The Satyricon at this site.

The Aeneid

In Virgil's Aeneid the hero, Aeneas, meets the Sibyl and uses her as a guide in a trip to the underworld to meet the shade of his dead father. In Virgil's account he was previously told how the Sibyl wrote Apollo's oracles on leaves which the wind could scatter. The Sibyl gave no help in reconstituting the oracle. Thus, just as in The Waste Land, assembling the fragments to mean something has the work of the reader. Aeneas, not wanting to have to piece together Apollo's oracle, asked the Sibyl to tell it to him orally.

Bulfinch's Mythology

This site has several sections from Bulfinch's Mythology which contain synopsis of parts of The Aeneid concerning Aeneas and the Sybil. Here they are:

Chapter 31 - Palinurus
The death of a shipmate of Aeneas. Aeneas meets the Sibyl and is instructed to fetch a golden bough to be able to visit the underworld. Sir James George Frazer's The Golden Bough mentioned by Eliot in his first note to the poem has a tiny bit more about this golden bough.
Chapter 32 - The Infernal Regions
Aeneas descends into the Roman underworld with the Sibyl as his guide. There he meets Queen Dido (see the allusion for line 92 of the poem. or view the synopsis for Aeneas and Dido from Bulfinch's Mythology.)
Chapter 32 - Elysium
Nothing on the Sibyl here but having this section completes Chapter 32.
Chapter 32 - The Sibyl
Describes her withering away and her writing of oracles on leaves. Another legend of the Sibyl is told here.

This site has more about the Sibyl of Cumae

External Links (shown in AUXILARY window):
Hints for using external links are available in the either the DEFINTIONS frame or this frame.


T 113 - Sibyl
T 25 - Cumae
T 95 - Petronius Arbiter, Gaius
T 2 - Aeneas
T 90 - oracle

Exploring The Waste Land
File name: aqe01.html
File date: Sunday, September 29, 2002
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