Perseus:bib:oclc,24965574, Ovid. Metamorphoses. Brookes More. Boston. Cornhill Publishing Co. 1922.

  1. While Perseus, the brave son of Jupiter,
  2. surrounded at the feast by Cepheus' lords,
  3. narrated this, a raging multitude
  4. with sudden outcry filled the royal courts—
  5. not with the clamours of a wedding feast
  6. but boisterous rage, portentous of dread war.
  7. As when the fury of a great wind strikes
  8. a tranquil sea, tempestuous billows roll
  9. across the peaceful bosom of the deep;
  10. so were the pleasures at the banquet changed
  11. to sudden tumult.
  12. Foremost of that throng,
  13. the rash ring-leader, Phineus, shook his spear,
  14. brass-tipped of ash, and shouted, “Ha, 'tis I!
  15. I come avenger of my ravished bride!
  16. Let now your flittering wings deliver you,
  17. or even Jupiter, dissolved in showers
  18. of imitation gold.” So boasted he,
  19. aiming his spear at Perseus.
  20. Thus to him
  21. cried Cepheus: “Hold your hand, and strike him not!
  22. What strange delusions, O my brother, have
  23. compelled you to this crime? Is it the just
  24. requital of heroic worth? A fair
  25. reguerdon for the life of her you loved?
  26. “If truth were known, not Perseus ravished her
  27. from you; but, either 'twas the awful God
  28. that rules the Nereides; or Ammon, crowned
  29. with crescent horns; or that monstrosity
  30. of Ocean's vast abyss, which came to glut
  31. his famine on the issue of my loins.
  32. Nor was your suit abandoned till the time
  33. when she must perish and be lost to you.
  34. So cruel are you, seeking my daughter's death,
  35. rejoicing lightly in our deep despair.—
  36. “And was it not enough for you to stand
  37. supinely by, while she was bound in chains,
  38. and offer no assistance, though you were
  39. her lover and betrothed? And will you grieve
  40. that she was rescued from a dreadful fate,
  41. and spoil her champion of his just rewards?
  42. Rewards that now may seem magnificent,
  43. but not denied to you if you had won
  44. and saved, when she was fettered to the rock.
  45. “Let him, whose strength to my declining years
  46. restored my child, receive the merit due
  47. his words and deeds; and know his suit was not
  48. preferred to yours, but granted to prevent
  49. her certain death.”
  50. not deigning to reply,
  51. against them Phineus stood; and glancing back
  52. from him to Perseus, with alternate looks,
  53. as doubtful which should feel his first attack,
  54. made brief delay. Then vain at Perseus hurled
  55. his spear, with all the force that rage inspired,
  56. but, missing him it quivered in a couch.
  57. Provoked beyond endurance Perseus leaped
  58. forth from the cushioned seats, and fiercely sent
  59. that outwrenched weapon back. It would have pierced
  60. his hostile breast had not the miscreant crouched
  61. behind the altars. Oh perverted good,
  62. that thus an altar should abet the wrong!
  63. But, though the craven Phineus escaped,
  64. not vainly flew the whizzing point, but struck
  65. in Rhoetus' forehead. As the barb was torn
  66. out of the bone, the victim's heels began
  67. to kick upon the floor, and spouting blood
  68. defiled the festal board. Then truly flame
  69. in uncontrolled rage the vulgar crowd,
  70. and hurl their harmful darts.
  71. And there are some
  72. who hold that Cepheus and his son-in-law
  73. deserved to die; but Cepheus had passed forth
  74. the threshold of his palace: having called
  75. on all the Gods of Hospitality
  76. and Truth and Justice to attest, he gave
  77. no comfort to the enemies of Peace.
  78. Unconquered Pallas is at hand and holds
  79. her Aegis to protect her brother's life;
  80. she lends him dauntless courage. At the feast
  81. was one from India's distant shores, whose name
  82. was Athis. It was said that Limnate,
  83. the daughter of the River Ganges, him
  84. in vitreous caverns bright had brought to birth;
  85. and now at sixteen summers in his prime,
  86. the handsome youth was clad in costly robes.
  87. A purple mantle with a golden fringe
  88. covered his shoulders, and a necklace, carved
  89. of gold, enhanced the beauty of his throat.
  90. His hair encompassed with a coronal,
  91. delighted with sweet myrrh. Well taught was he
  92. to hurl the javelin at a distant mark,
  93. and none with better skill could stretch the bow.
  94. No sooner had he bent the pliant horns
  95. than Perseus, with a smoking billet, seized
  96. from the mid-altar, struck him on the face,
  97. and smashed his features in his broken skull.
  98. And when Assyrian Lycabas had seen
  99. his dear companion, whom he truly loved,
  100. beating his handsome countenance in blood.
  101. And when he had bewailed his lost life,
  102. that ebbed away from that unpiteous wound,
  103. he snatched the bow that Athis used, and said;
  104. “Let us in single combat seek revenge;
  105. not long will you rejoice the stripling's fate;
  106. a deed most worthy shame.” So speaking, forth
  107. the piercing arrow bounded from the cord,
  108. which, though avoided, struck the hero's cloak
  109. and fastened in its folds.—
  110. Then Perseus turned
  111. upon him, with the trusted curving sword,
  112. cause of Medusa's death, and drove the blade
  113. deep in his breast. The dying victim's eyes,
  114. now swimming in a shadowous night, looked 'round
  115. for Athis, whom, beholding, he reclined
  116. upon, and ushered to the other world,—
  117. sad consolation of united death.
  1. And Phorbas the descendant of Methion.
  2. Who hailed from far Syene, with his friend
  3. Amphimedon of Libya, in their haste
  4. to join the battle, slipped up in the blood
  5. and fell together: just as they arose
  6. that glittering sword was driven through the throat
  7. of Phorbas into the ribs of his companion.
  8. But Erithus, the son of Actor, swung
  9. a battle-ax, so weighty, Perseus chose
  10. not combat with his curving blade. He seized
  11. in his two hands a huge bowl, wrought around
  12. with large design, outstanding from its mass.
  13. This, lifting up, he dashes on his foe,
  14. who vomits crimson blood, and falling back
  15. beats on the hard floor with his dying head.
  16. And next he slew Caucasian Abaris,
  17. and Polydaemon—from Semiramis
  18. nobly descended—and Sperchius, son,
  19. Lycetus, long-haired Elyces, unshorn,
  20. Clytus and Phlegias, the hero slew;—
  21. and trampled on the dying heaped around.
  22. Not daring to engage his enemy
  23. in open contest, Phineus held aloof,
  24. and hurled his javelin. Badly aimed—by some
  25. mischance or turned—it wounded Idas, who
  26. had followed neither side; vain-hoping thus
  27. to shun the conflict.
  28. Idas, filled with rage,
  29. on Phineus gazed with futile hate, and said,
  30. “Since I am forced unwilling to such deeds,
  31. behold, whom you have made your enemy,
  32. O savage Phineus! Let your recompense
  33. be stroke for stroke.” So speaking, from the wound
  34. he drew the steel, but, faint from loss of blood,
  35. before his arm could hurl the weapon back,
  36. he sank upon his knees.
  37. Here, also, lies
  38. Odytes,—noblest of the Cephenes,
  39. save Cepheus only,—slaughtered by the sword
  40. of Clymenus. And Prothoenor lies
  41. the victim of Hypseus; by his side
  42. Hypseus slaughtered by Lyncidas falls.
  43. And in the midst of this destruction stood
  44. Emathion, now an aged man, revered,
  45. who feared the Gods, and stood for upright deeds.
  46. And, since his years denied him strength for war,
  47. he battled with his tongue, and railed, and cursed
  48. their impious weapons. As that aged man
  49. clings to the altar with his trembling hands,
  50. Chromis with ruthless sword cuts off his head,
  51. which straightway falls upon the altar, whence
  52. his dying tongue denounces them in words
  53. of execration: and his soul expires
  54. amid the altar flames.
  55. Then Broteas
  56. and Ammon, his twin brother, who not knew
  57. their equals at the cestus, by the hand
  58. of Phineus fell; for what avails in deed
  59. the cestus as a weapon matched with swords.
  60. Ampycus by the same hand fell,—the priest
  61. of Ceres, with his temples wreathed in white.
  62. And O, Iapetides not for this
  63. did you attend the feast! Your voice attuned
  64. melodious to the harp, was in request
  65. to celebrate the wedding-day with song,—
  66. a work of peace; as you did stand aside,
  67. holding the peaceful plectrum in your hand,
  68. the mocking Pettalus in ridicule said,
  69. “Go sing your ditties to the Stygian shades.”
  70. And, mocking thus, he drove his pointed sword
  71. in your right temple. As your limbs gave way,
  72. your dying fingers swept the tuneful strings:
  73. and falling you did chant a mournful dirge.—
  74. You to avenge enraged Lycormas tore
  75. a huge bar from the door-post, on the right,
  76. and dashing it against the mocker crushed
  77. his neck-bones: as a slaughtered bullock falls—
  78. he tumbled to the ground.
  79. Then on the left.
  80. Cinyphian Pelates began to wrench
  81. an oak plank from the door-post, but the spear
  82. of Corythus, the son of Marmarus,
  83. pinioned his right hand to the wooden post;
  84. and while he struggled Abas pierced his side.—
  85. He fell not to the floor, but dying hung
  86. suspended from the door-post by his hand.
  87. And of the friends of Perseus, Melaneus
  88. was slain, and Dorylas whose wealth was large
  89. in Nasamonian land. No other lord,
  90. as Dorylas, such vast estates possessed;
  91. no other owned so many heaps of corn.
  92. The missile steel stood fastened in his groin,
  93. obliquely fixed,—a fatal spot—and when
  94. the author of his wound, Halcyoneus
  95. the Bactrian, beheld his victim thus,
  96. rolling his eyes and sobbing forth his soul,
  97. he railed; “Keep for yourself of all your lands
  98. as much as you can cover.” And he left
  99. the bleeding corpse.
  100. But Perseus in revenge
  101. hurled after him a spear, which, in his need,
  102. he ripped out from the wound, yet warm, and struck
  103. the boaster on the middle of his nose.
  104. The piercing steel, passed through his nose and neck,—
  105. remained projecting from the front and back.
  106. And while good fortune helped his hand, he slew
  107. Clanis and Clytius, of one mother born,
  108. but with a different wound he slaughtered each:
  109. for, leveled by a mighty arm, his ashen spear
  110. drove through the thighs of Clytius, right and left,
  111. and Clanis bit the javelin with his teeth.
  112. And by his might, Mendesian Celadon
  113. and Atreus fell, his mother of the tribes
  114. of Palestine, his father was unknown.
  115. Aethion, also, who could well foresee
  116. the things to come, but was at last deceived
  117. by some false omen. And Thoactes fell,
  118. the armour-bearer of the king; and, next,
  119. the infamous Agyrtes who had slain
  120. his father. These he slew; and though his strength
  121. was nearly spent, so many more remained:
  122. for now the multitude with one accord
  123. conspired to slaughter him. From every side
  124. the raging troops assailed the better cause.
  125. In vain the pious father and the bride,
  126. together with her mother, fill the halls
  127. with lamentations; for the clash of arms,
  128. the groans of fallen heroes drown their cries.—
  129. Bellona in a sea of blood has drenched
  130. their Household Gods, polluted by these deeds,
  131. and she endeavours to renew the strife.
  132. Perseus, alone against that raging throng,
  133. is now surrounded by a myriad men,
  134. led on by Phineus; and their flying darts,
  135. as thick as wintry tail, are showered around
  136. on every side, grazing his eyes and ears.—
  137. Quickly he fixed his shoulder firm against
  138. the rock of a great pillar, which secured
  139. his back from danger, and he faced his foes,
  140. and baffled their attack.
  141. Upon his left
  142. Chaonian Molpeus pressed, and on his right
  143. a Nabathe an called Ethemon pressed.—
  144. As when a tiger from a valley hears
  145. the lowing of two herds, in separate fields,
  146. though hunger urges he not knows on which
  147. to spring, but rages equally for each;
  148. so, Perseus doubtful which may first attack
  149. his left or right, knows not on which to turn,
  150. but stands attentive witness to the flight
  151. of Molpeus, whom he wounded in the leg.
  152. Nor could he choose—Ethemon, full of rage,
  153. pressed on him to inflict a fatal wound,
  154. deep in his neck; but with incautious force
  155. struck the stone pillar with his ringing sword
  156. and shattered the metal blade, close to the hilt;
  157. the flying fragment pierced its owner's neck,
  158. but not with mortal wound. In vain he pled
  159. for mercy, stretching forth his helpless arms:
  160. perseus transfixed him with his glittering blade,
  161. Cyllenian.
  1. But when he saw his strength
  2. was yielding to the multitude, he said,
  3. “Since you have forced disaster on yourselves,
  4. why should I hesitate to save myself?—
  5. O friends, avert your faces if ye stand
  6. before me!” And he raised Medusa,s head.
  7. Thescelus answered him; “Seek other dupes
  8. to chase with wonders!” Just as he prepared
  9. to hurl the deadly javelin from his hand,
  10. he stood, unmoving in that attitude,
  11. a marble statue.
  12. Ampyx, close to him,
  13. exulting in a mighty spirit, made
  14. a lunge to pierce Lyncides in the breast;
  15. but, as his sword was flashing in the air,
  16. his right arm grew so rigid, there he stood
  17. unable to draw back or thrust it forth.
  18. But Nileus, who had feigned himself begot
  19. by seven-fold Nile, and carved his shield with gold
  20. and silver streams, alternate seven, shouted;
  21. “Look, look! O Perseus, him from whom I sprung!
  22. And you shall carry to the silent shades
  23. a mighty consolation in your death,
  24. that you were slain by such a one as I.”
  25. But in the midst of boasting, the last words
  26. were silenced; and his open mouth, although
  27. incapable of motion, seemed intent
  28. to utter speech.
  29. Then Eryx, chiding says;
  30. “Your craven spirits have benumbed you, not
  31. Medusa's poison.—Come with me and strike
  32. this youthful mover of magician charms
  33. down to the ground.”—He started with a rush;
  34. the earth detained his steps; it held him fast;
  35. he could not speak; he stood, complete with arms,
  36. a statue.
  37. Such a penalty was theirs,
  38. and justly earned; but near by there was one,
  39. aconteus, who defending Perseus, saw
  40. medusa as he fought; and at the sight
  41. the soldier hardened to an upright stone.—
  42. Assured he was alive, Astyages
  43. now struck him with his long sword, but the blade
  44. resounded with a ringing note; and there,
  45. astonished at the sound, Astyages,
  46. himself, assumed that nature; and remained
  47. with wonder pictured on his marble face.
  48. And not to weary with the names of men,
  49. sprung from the middle classes, there remained
  50. two hundred warriors eager for the fight—
  51. as soon as they could see Medusa's face,
  52. two hundred warriors stiffened into stone.
  53. At last, repentant, Phineus dreads the war,
  54. unjust, for in a helpless fright he sees
  55. the statues standing in strange attitudes;
  56. and, recognizing his adherents, calls
  57. on each by name to rescue from that death.
  58. Still unbelieving he begins to touch
  59. the bodies, nearest to himself, and all
  60. are hard stone.
  61. Having turned his eyes away,
  62. he stretched his hands and arms obliquely back
  63. to Perseus, and confessed his wicked deeds;
  64. and thus imploring spoke;
  65. “Remove, I pray,
  66. O Perseus, thou invincible, remove
  67. from me that dreadful Gorgon: take away
  68. the stone-creating countenance of thy
  69. unspeakable Medusa! For we warred
  70. not out of hatred, nor to gain a throne,
  71. but clashed our weapons for a woman's sake.—
  72. “Thy merit proved thy valid claim, and time
  73. gave argument for mine. It grieves me not
  74. to yield, O bravest, only give me life,
  75. and all the rest be thine.” Such words implored
  76. the craven, never daring to address
  77. his eyes to whom he spoke.
  78. And thus returned
  79. the valiant Perseus; “I will grant to you,
  80. O timid-hearted Phineus! as behoves
  81. your conduct; and it should appear a gift,
  82. magnanimous, to one who fears to move.—
  83. Take courage, for no steel shall violate
  84. your carcase; and, moreover, you shall be
  85. a monument, that ages may record
  86. your unforgotten name. You shall be seen
  87. thus always, in the palace where resides
  88. my father-in-law, that my surrendered spouse
  89. may soften her great grief when she but sees
  90. the darling image of her first betrothed.”
  91. He spoke, and moved Medusa to that side
  92. where Phineus had turned his trembling face:
  93. and as he struggled to avert his gaze
  94. his neck grew stiff; the moisture of his eyes
  95. was hardened into stone.—And since that day
  96. his timid face and coward eyes and hands,
  97. forever shall be guilty as in life.
  98. After such deeds, victorious Perseus turned,
  99. and sought the confines of his native land;
  100. together with his bride; which, having reached,
  101. he punished Proetus—who by force of arms
  102. had routed his own brother from the throne
  103. of Argos. By his aid Acrisius,
  104. although his undeserving parent, gained
  105. his citadels once more: for Proetus failed,
  106. with all his arms and towers unjustly held,
  107. to quell the grim-eyed monster, snake-begin.
  108. Yet not the valour of the youth, upheld
  109. by many labours, nor his grievous wrongs
  110. have softened you, O Polydectes! king
  111. of Little Seriphus; but bitter hate
  112. ungoverned, rankles in your hardened heart—
  113. there is no limit to your unjust rage.
  114. Even his praises are defamed by you
  115. and all your arguments are given to prove
  116. Medusa's death a fraud.—Perseus rejoined;
  117. “By this we give our true pledge of the truth,
  118. avert your eyes!” And by Medusa's face
  119. he made the features of that impious king
  120. a bloodless stone.
  1. Through all these mighty deeds
  2. Pallas, Minerva, had availed to guide
  3. her gold-begotten brother. Now she sped,
  4. surrounded in a cloud, from Seriphus,
  5. while Cynthus on the right, and Gyarus
  6. far faded from her view. And where a path,
  7. high over the deep sea, leads the near way,
  8. she winged the air for Thebes, and Helicon
  9. haunt of the Virgin Nine.
  10. High on that mount
  11. she stayed her flight, and with these words bespoke
  12. those well-taught sisters; “Fame has given to me
  13. the knowledge of a new-made fountain—gift
  14. of Pegasus, that fleet steed, from the blood
  15. of dread Medusa sprung—it opened when
  16. his hard hoof struck the ground.—It is the cause
  17. that brought me.—For my longing to have seen
  18. this fount, miraculous and wonderful,
  19. grows not the less in that myself did see
  20. the swift steed, nascent from maternal blood.”
  21. To which Urania thus; “Whatever the cause
  22. that brings thee to our habitation, thou,
  23. O goddess, art to us the greatest joy.
  24. And now, to answer thee, reports are true;
  25. this fountain is the work of Pegasus,”
  26. And having said these words, she gladly thence
  27. conducted Pallas to the sacred streams.
  28. And Pallas, after she had long admired
  29. that fountain, flowing where the hoof had struck,
  30. turned round to view the groves of ancient trees;
  31. the grottoes and the grass bespangled, rich
  32. with flowers unnumbered—all so beautiful
  33. she deemed the charm of that locality
  34. a fair surrounding for the studious days
  35. of those Mnemonian Maids.
  36. But one of them
  37. addressed her thus; “O thou whose valour gave
  38. thy mind to greater deeds! if thou hadst stooped
  39. to us, Minerva, we had welcomed thee
  40. most worthy of our choir! Thy words are true;
  41. and well hast thou approved the joys of art,
  42. and this retreat. Most happy would we be
  43. if only we were safe; but wickedness
  44. admits of no restraint, and everything
  45. affrights our virgin minds; and everywhere
  46. the dreadful Pyrenaeus haunts our sight;—
  47. scarcely have we recovered from the shock.
  48. “That savage, with his troops of Thrace. had seized
  49. the lands of Daulis and of Phocis, where
  50. he ruled in tyranny; and when we sought
  51. the Temples of Parnassus, he observed
  52. us on our way;—and knowing our estate,
  53. pretending to revere our sacred lives,
  54. he said; ‘O Muses, I beseech you pause!
  55. Choose now the shelter of my roof and shun
  56. the heavy stars that teem with pouring rain;
  57. nor hesitate, for often the glorious Gods
  58. have entered humbler homes.’
  59. “Moved by his words,
  60. and by the growing storm, we gave assent,
  61. and entered his first house. But presently
  62. the storm abated, and the southern wind
  63. was conquered by the north; the black clouds fled,
  64. and soon the skies were clear.
  65. “At once we sought
  66. to quit the house, but Pyrenaeus closed
  67. all means of exit,—and prepared to force
  68. our virtue. Instantly we spread our wings,
  69. and so escaped; but on a lofty tower
  70. he stood, as if to follow, and exclaimed;
  71. ‘A path for you marks out a way for me.,
  72. and quite insane, he leaped down from the top
  73. of that high tower.—Falling on his face,
  74. the bones were crushed, and as his life ebbed out
  75. the ground was crimsoned with his wicked blood.”
  76. So spoke the Muse. And now was heard the sound
  77. of pennons in the air, and voices, too,
  78. gave salutations from the lofty trees.
  79. Minerva, thinking they were human tongues,
  80. looked up in question whence the perfect words;
  81. but on the boughs, nine ugly magpies perched,
  82. those mockers of all sounds, which now complained
  83. their hapless fate. And as she wondering stood,
  84. Urania, goddess of the Muse, rejoined;—
  85. “Look, those but lately worsted in dispute
  86. augment the number of unnumbered birds.—
  87. Pierus was their father, very rich
  88. in lands of Pella; and their mother (called
  89. Evippe of Paeonia) when she brought
  90. them forth, nine times evoked, in labours nine,
  91. Lucina's aid.—Unduly puffed with pride,
  92. because it chanced their number equalled ours,
  93. these stupid sisters, hither to engage
  94. in wordy contest, fared through many towns;—
  95. through all Haemonia and Achaia came
  96. to us, and said;—
  97. ‘Oh, cease your empty songs,
  98. attuned to dulcet numbers, that deceive
  99. the vulgar, untaught throng. If aught is yours
  100. of confidence, O Thespian Deities
  101. contend with us: our number equals yours.
  102. We will not be defeated by your arts;
  103. nor shall your songs prevail.—Then, conquered, give
  104. Hyantean Aganippe; yield to us
  105. the Medusean Fount;—and should we fail,
  106. we grant Emathia's plains, to where uprise
  107. Paeonia's peaks of snow.—Let chosen Nymphs
  108. award the prize—.’ 'Twas shameful to contend;
  109. it seemed more shameful to submit. At once,
  110. the chosen Nymphs swore justice by their streams,
  111. and sat in judgment on their thrones of rock.
  112. “At once, although the lot had not been cast,
  113. the leading sister hastened to begin.—
  114. She chanted of celestial wars; she gave
  115. the Giants false renown; she gave the Gods
  116. small credit for great deeds.—She droned out, ‘Forth,
  117. those deepest realms of earth, Typhoeus came,
  118. and filled the Gods with fear. They turned their backs
  119. in flight to Egypt; and the wearied rout,
  120. where Great Nile spreads his seven-channeled mouth,
  121. were there received.—Thither the earth-begot
  122. Typhoeus hastened: but the Gods of Heaven
  123. deceptive shapes assumed.—Lo, Jupiter,
  124. (As Libyan Ammon's crooked horns attest)
  125. was hidden in the leader of a flock;
  126. Apollo in a crow; Bacchus in a goat;
  127. Diana in a cat; Venus in a fish;
  128. Saturnian Juno in a snow-white cow;
  129. Cyllenian Hermes in an Ibis' wings.’—
  130. Such stuff she droned out from her noisy mouth:
  131. and then they summoned us; but, haply, time
  132. permits thee not, nor leisure thee permits,
  133. that thou shouldst hearken to our melodies.”
  134. “Nay doubt it not,” quoth Pallas, “but relate
  135. your melodies in order.” And she sat
  136. beneath the pleasant shadows of the grove.
  137. And thus again Urania; “On our side
  138. we trusted all to one.” Which having said,
  139. Calliope arose. Her glorious hair
  140. was bound with ivy. She attuned the chords,
  141. and chanted as she struck the sounding strings:—
  1. “First Ceres broke with crooked plow the glebe;
  2. first gave to earth its fruit and wholesome food;
  3. first gave the laws;—all things of Ceres came;
  4. of her I sing; and oh, that I could tell
  5. her worth in verse; in verse her worth is due.
  6. “Because he dared to covet heavenly thrones
  7. Typhoeus, giant limbs are weighted down
  8. beneath Sicilia's Isle—vast in extent—
  9. how often thence he strains and strives to rise?
  10. But his right hand Pachynus holds; his legs are pressed
  11. by Lilybaeus, Aetna weights his head.
  12. Beneath that ponderous mass Typhoeus lies,
  13. flat on his back; and spues the sands on high;
  14. and vomits flames from his ferocious mouth.
  15. He often strives to push the earth away,
  16. the cities and the mountains from his limbs—
  17. by which the lands are shaken. Even the king,
  18. that rules the silent shades is made to quake,
  19. for fear the earth may open and the ground,
  20. cleft in wide chasms, letting in the day,
  21. may terrify the trembling ghosts. Afraid
  22. of this disaster, that dark despot left
  23. his gloomy habitation; carried forth
  24. by soot-black horses, in his gloomy car.
  25. “He circumspectly viewed Sicilia's vast
  26. foundations.—Having well explored and proved
  27. no part was shattered; having laid aside
  28. his careful fears, he wandered in those parts.
  29. “Him, Venus, Erycina, in her mount
  30. thus witnessed, and embraced her winged son,
  31. and said, ‘O Cupid! thou who art my son—
  32. my arms, my hand, my strength; take up those arms,
  33. by which thou art victorious over all,
  34. and aim thy keenest arrow at the heart
  35. of that divinity whom fortune gave
  36. the last award, what time the triple realm,
  37. by lot was portioned out.
  38. ‘The Gods of Heaven
  39. are overcome by thee; and Jupiter,
  40. and all the Deities that swim the deep,
  41. and the great ruler of the Water-Gods:
  42. why, then, should Tartarus escape our sway—
  43. the third part of the universe at stake—
  44. by which thy mother's empire and thy own
  45. may be enlarged according to great need.
  46. ‘How shameful is our present lot in Heaven,
  47. the powers of love and I alike despised;
  48. for, mark how Pallas has renounced my sway,
  49. besides Diana, javelin-hurler—so
  50. will Ceres' daughter choose virginity,
  51. if we permit,—that way her hopes incline.
  52. Do thou this goddess Proserpine, unite
  53. in marriage to her uncle. Venus spoke;—
  54. “Cupid then loosed his quiver, and of all
  55. its many arrows, by his mother's aid,
  56. selected one; the keenest of them all;
  57. the least uncertain, surest from the string:
  58. and having fixed his knee against the bow,
  59. bent back the flexile horn.—The flying shaft
  60. struck Pluto in the breast.
  61. “There is a lake
  62. of greatest depth, not far from Henna's walls,
  63. long since called Pergus; and the songs of swans,
  64. that wake Cayster, rival not the notes
  65. of swans melodious on its gliding waves:
  66. a fringe of trees, encircling as a wreath
  67. its compassed waters, with a leafy veil
  68. denies the heat of noon; cool breezes blow
  69. beneath the boughs; the humid ground is sprent
  70. with purpling flowers, and spring eternal reigns.
  71. “While Proserpine once dallied in that grove,
  72. plucking white lilies and sweet violets,
  73. and while she heaped her basket, while she filled
  74. her bosom, in a pretty zeal to strive
  75. beyond all others; she was seen, beloved,
  76. and carried off by Pluto—such the haste
  77. of sudden love.
  78. “The goddess, in great fear,
  79. called on her mother and on all her friends;
  80. and, in her frenzy, as her robe was rent,
  81. down from the upper edge, her gathered flowers
  82. fell from her loosened tunic.—This mishap,
  83. so perfect was her childish innocence,
  84. increased her virgin grief.—
  85. “The ravisher
  86. urged on his chariot, and inspired his steeds;
  87. called each by name, and on their necks and manes
  88. shook the black-rusted reins. They hastened through
  89. deep lakes, and through the pools of Palici,
  90. which boiling upward from the ruptured earth
  91. smell of strong sulphur. And they bore him thence
  92. to where the sons of Bacchus, who had sailed
  93. from twin-sea Corinth, long ago had built
  94. a city's walls between unequal ports.
  1. “Midway between the streams of Cyane
  2. and Arethusa lies a moon-like pool,
  3. of silvered narrow horns. There stood the Nymph,
  4. revered above all others in that land,
  5. whose name was Cyane. From her that pond
  6. was always called. And as she stood, concealed
  7. in middle waves that circled her white thighs,
  8. she recognized the God, and said; ‘O thou
  9. shalt go no further, Pluto, thou shalt not
  10. by force alone become the son-in-law
  11. of Ceres. It is better to beseech
  12. a mother's aid than drag her child away!
  13. And this sustains my word, if I may thus
  14. compare great things with small, Anapis loved
  15. me also; but he wooed and married me
  16. by kind endearments; not by fear, as thou
  17. hast terrified this girl.’ So did she speak;
  18. and stretching out her arms on either side
  19. opposed his way.
  20. “The son of Saturn blazed
  21. with uncontrolled rage; and urged his steeds,
  22. and hurled his royal scepter in the pool.
  23. Cast with a mighty arm it pierced the deeps.
  24. The smitten earth made way to Tartarus;—
  25. it opened a wide basin and received
  26. the plunging chariot in the midst.—But now
  27. the mournful Cyane began to grieve,
  28. because from her against her fountain-rights
  29. the goddess had been torn. The deepening wound
  30. still rankled in her breast, and she dissolved
  31. in many tears, and wasted in those waves
  32. which lately were submissive to her rule.
  33. “So you could see her members waste away:
  34. her hones begin to bend; her nails get soft;
  35. her azure hair, her fingers, legs and feet,
  36. and every slender part melt in the pool:
  37. so brief the time in which her tender limbs
  38. were changed to flowing waves; and after them
  39. her back and shoulders, and her sides and breasts
  40. dissolved and vanished into rivulets:
  41. and while she changed, the water slowly filled
  42. her faulty veins instead of living blood—
  43. and nothing that a hand could hold remained.
  44. “Now it befell when Proserpine was lost,
  45. her anxious mother sought through every land
  46. and every sea in vain. She rested not.
  47. Aurora, when she came with ruddy locks,
  48. might never know, nor even Hesperus,
  49. if she might deign to rest.—She lit two pines
  50. from Aetna's flames and held one in each hand,
  51. and restless bore them through the frosty glooms:
  52. and when serene the day had dimmed the stars
  53. she sought her daughter by the rising sun;
  54. and when the sun declined she rested not.
  55. “Wearied with labour she began to thirst,
  56. for all this while no streams had cooled her lips;
  57. when, as by chance, a cottage thatched with straw
  58. gladdened her sight. Thither the goddess went,
  59. and, after knocking at the humble door,
  60. waited until an ancient woman came;
  61. who, when she saw the goddess and had heard
  62. her plea for water, gave her a sweet drink,
  63. but lately brewed of parched barley-meal;
  64. and while the goddess quaffed this drink a boy,
  65. of bold and hard appearance, stood before
  66. and laughed and called her greedy. While he spoke
  67. the angry goddess sprinkled him with meal,
  68. mixed with the liquid which had not been drunk.
  69. “His face grew spotted where the mixture struck,
  70. and legs appeared where he had arms before,
  71. a tail was added to his changing trunk;
  72. and lest his former strength might cause great harm,
  73. all parts contracted till he measured less
  74. than common lizards. While the ancient dame
  75. wondered and wept and strove for one caress,
  76. the reptile fled and sought a lurking place.—
  77. His very name describes him to the eye,
  78. a body starred with many coloured spots.
  79. “What lands, what oceans Ceres wandered then,
  80. would weary to relate. The bounded world
  81. was narrow for the search. Again she passed
  82. through Sicily; again observed all signs;
  83. and as she wandered came to Cyane,
  84. who strove to tell where Proserpine had gone,
  85. but since her change, had neither mouth nor tongue,
  86. and so was mute. And yet the Nymph made plain
  87. by certain signs what she desired to say:
  88. for on the surface of the waves she showed
  89. a well-known girdle Proserpine had lost,
  90. by chance had dropped it in that sacred pool;
  91. which when the goddess recognized, at last,
  92. convinced her daughter had been forced from her,
  93. she tore her streaming locks, and frenzied struck
  94. her bosom with her palms. And in her rage,
  95. although she wist not where her daughter was,
  96. she blamed all countries and cried out against
  97. their base ingratitude; and she declared
  98. the world unworthy of the gift of corn:
  99. but Sicily before all other lands,
  100. for there was found the token of her loss.
  101. “For that she broke with savage hand the plows,
  102. which there had turned the soil, and full of wrath
  103. leveled in equal death the peasant and his ox—
  104. both tillers of the soil—and made decree
  105. that land should prove deceptive to the seed,
  106. and rot all planted germs.—That fertile isle,
  107. so noted through the world, becomes a waste;
  108. the corn is blighted in the early blade;
  109. excessive heat, excessive rain destroys;
  110. the winds destroy, the constellations harm;
  111. the greedy birds devour the scattered seeds;
  112. thistles and tares and tough weeds choke the wheat.
  1. “For this the Nymph, Alpheian, raised her head
  2. above Elean waves; and having first
  3. pushed back her dripping tresses from her brows,
  4. back to her ears, she thus began to speak;
  5. ‘O mother of the virgin, sought throughout
  6. the globe! O mother of nutritious fruits!
  7. Let these tremendous labours have an end;
  8. do not increase the violence of thy wrath
  9. against the Earth, devoted to thy sway,
  10. and not deserving blame; for only force
  11. compelled the Earth to open for that wrong.
  12. Think not my supplication is to aid
  13. my native country; hither I am come
  14. an alien: Pisa is my native land,
  15. and Elis gave me birth. Though I sojourn
  16. a stranger in this isle of Sicily
  17. it yet delights me more than all the world.
  18. ‘I, Arethusa, claim this isle my home,
  19. and do implore thee keep my throne secure,
  20. O greatest of the Gods! A better hour,
  21. when thou art lightened of thy cares, will come,
  22. and when thy countenance again is kind;
  23. and then may I declare what cause removed
  24. me from my native place—and through the waves
  25. of such a mighty ocean guided me
  26. to find Ortygia.
  27. ‘Through the porous earth
  28. by deepest caverns, I uplift my head
  29. and see unwonted stars. Now it befell,
  30. as I was gliding far beneath the world,
  31. where flow dark Stygian streams, I saw
  32. thy Proserpine. Although her countenance
  33. betrayed anxiety and grief, a queen She reigned
  34. supremely great in that opacous world
  35. queen consort mighty to the King of Hell.’
  36. “Astonished and amazed, as thunderstruck,
  37. when Proserpina's mother heard these words,
  38. long while she stood till great bewilderment
  39. gave way to heavy grief. Then to the skies,
  40. ethereal, she mounted in her car
  41. and with beclouded face and streaming hair
  42. stood fronting Jove, opprobrious. ‘I have come
  43. O Jupiter, a suppliant to thee,
  44. both for my own offspring as well as thine.
  45. If thy hard heart deny a mother grace,
  46. yet haply as a father thou canst feel
  47. some pity for thy daughter; and I pray
  48. thy care for her may not be valued less
  49. because my groaning travail brought her forth.—
  50. My long-sought daughter has at last been found,
  51. if one can call it, found, when certain loss
  52. more certain has been proved; or so may deem
  53. the knowledge of her state.—But I may bear
  54. his rude ways, if again he bring her back.
  55. ‘Thy worthy child should not be forced to wed
  56. a bandit-chief, nor should my daughter's charms
  57. reward his crime.’ She spoke;—and Jupiter
  58. took up the word; ‘This daughter is a care,
  59. a sacred pledge to me as well as thee;
  60. but if it please us to acknowledge truth,
  61. this is a deed of love and injures not.
  62. And if, O goddess, thou wilt not oppose,
  63. such law-son cannot compass our disgrace:
  64. for though all else were wanting, naught can need
  65. Jove's brother, who in fortune yields to none
  66. save me. But if thy fixed desire compel
  67. dissent, let Proserpine return to Heaven;
  68. however, subject to the binding law,
  69. if there her tongue have never tasted food—
  70. a sure condition, by the Fates decreed.’
  71. he spoke; but Ceres was no less resolved
  72. to lead her daughter thence.
  73. “Not so the Fates
  74. permit.—The virgin, thoughtless while she strayed
  75. among the cultivated Stygian fields,
  76. had broken fast. While there she plucked the fruit
  77. by bending a pomegranate tree, and plucked,
  78. and chewed seven grains, picked from the pallid rind;
  79. and none had seen except Ascalaphus—
  80. him Orphne, famed of all Avernian Nymphs,
  81. had brought to birth in some infernal cave,
  82. days long ago, from Acheron's embrace—
  83. he saw it, and with cruel lips debarred
  84. young Proserpine's return. Heaving a sigh,
  85. the Queen of Erebus, indignant changed
  86. that witness to an evil bird: she turned
  87. his head, with sprinkled Phlegethonian lymph,
  88. into a beak, and feathers, and great eyes;
  89. his head grew larger and his shape, deformed,
  90. was cased in tawny wings; his lengthened nails
  91. bent inward;—and his sluggish arms
  92. as wings can hardly move. So he became
  93. the vilest bird; a messenger of grief;
  94. the lazy owl; sad omen to mankind.
  95. “The telltale's punishment was only just;
  96. O Siren Maids, but wherefore thus have ye
  97. the feet and plumes of birds, although remain
  98. your virgin features? Is it from the day
  99. when Proserpina gathered vernal flowers;
  100. because ye mingled with her chosen friends?
  101. And after she was lost, in vain ye sought
  102. through all the world; and wished for wings to waft
  103. you over the great deep, that soon the sea
  104. might feel your great concern.—The Gods were kind:
  105. ye saw your limbs grow yellow, with a growth
  106. of sudden-sprouting feathers; but because
  107. your melodies that gently charm the ear,
  108. besides the glory of your speech, might lose
  109. the blessing, of a tongue, your virgin face
  110. and human voice remained.
  111. “But Jupiter,
  112. the mediator of these rival claims,
  113. urged by his brother and his grieving sister,
  114. divided the long year in equal parts.
  115. Now Proserpina, as a Deity,
  116. of equal merit, in two kingdoms reigns:—
  117. for six months with her mother she abides,
  118. and six months with her husband.—Both her mind
  119. and her appearance quickly were transformed;
  120. for she who seemed so sad in Pluto's eyes,
  121. now as a goddess beams in joyful smiles;
  122. so, when the sun obscured by watery mist
  123. conquers the clouds, it shines in splendour forth.
  1. “And genial Ceres, full of joy, that now
  2. her daughter was regained, began to speak;
  3. ‘Declare the reason of thy wanderings,
  4. O Arethusa! tell me wherefore thou
  5. wert made a sacred stream.’ The waters gave
  6. no sound; but soon that goddess raised her head
  7. from the deep springs; and after sue had dried
  8. her green hair with her hand, with fair address
  9. she told the ancient amours of that stream
  10. which flows through Elis.—‘I was one among
  11. the Nymphs of old Achaia,’—so she said—
  12. ‘And none of them more eager sped than I,
  13. along the tangled pathways; and I fixed
  14. the hunting-nets with zealous care.—Although
  15. I strove not for the praise that beauty gives,
  16. and though my form was something stout for grace,
  17. it had the name of being beautiful.
  18. ‘So worthless seemed the praise, I took no joy
  19. in my appearance—as a country lass
  20. I blushed at those endowments which would give
  21. delight to others—even the power to please
  22. seemed criminal.—And I remember when
  23. returning weary from Stymphal fan woods,
  24. and hot with toil, that made the glowing sun
  25. seem twice as hot, I chanced upon a stream,
  26. that flowed without a ripple or a sound
  27. so smoothly on, I hardly thought it moved.
  28. ‘The water was so clear that one could see
  29. and count the pebbles in the deepest parts,
  30. and silver willows and tall poplar trees,
  31. nourished by flowing waters, spread their shade
  32. over the shelving banks. So I approached,
  33. and shrinkingly touched the cool stream with my feet;
  34. and then I ventured deeper to my knees;
  35. and not contented doffed my fleecy robes,
  36. and laid them on a bending willow tree.
  37. Then, naked, I plunged deeply in the stream,
  38. and while I smote the water with my hands,
  39. and drew it towards me, striking boldly forth,
  40. moving my body in a thousand ways,
  41. I thought I heard a most unusual sound,
  42. a murmuring noise beneath the middle stream.
  43. ‘Alarmed, I hastened to the nearest bank,
  44. and as I stood upon its edge, these words
  45. hoarsely Alpheus uttered from his waves;
  46. ‘Oh, whither dost thou hasten?’ and again,
  47. ‘Oh, whither dost thou hasten?’ said the voice.
  48. ‘Just as I was, I fled without my clothes,
  49. for I had left them on the other bank;
  50. which, when he saw, so much the more inflamed,
  51. more swiftly he pursued: my nakedness
  52. was tempting to his gaze. And thus I ran;
  53. and thus relentlessly he pressed my steps:
  54. so from the hawk the dove with trembling wings;
  55. and so, the hawk pursues the frightened dove.
  56. ‘Swiftly and long I fled, with winding course,
  57. to Orchamenus, Psophis and Cyllene,
  58. and Maenalus and Erymanthus cold,
  59. and Elis. Neither could he gain by speed,
  60. although his greater strength must soon prevail,
  61. for I not longer could endure the strain.
  62. ‘Still I sped onward through the fields and woods,
  63. by tangled wilds and over rocks and crags;
  64. and as I hastened from the setting sun,
  65. I thought I saw a growing shadow move
  66. beyond my feet; it may have been my fear
  67. imagined it, but surely now I heard
  68. the sound of footsteps: I could even feel
  69. his breathing on the loose ends of my hair;
  70. and I was terrified. At last, worn out
  71. by all my efforts to escape, I cried;
  72. ‘Oh, help me—thou whose bow and quivered darts
  73. I oft have borne—thy armour-bearer calls—
  74. O chaste Diana help,—or I am lost.’
  75. ‘It moved the goddess, and she gathered up
  76. a dense cloud, and encompassed me about.—
  77. The baffled River circled round and round,
  78. seeking to find me, hidden in that cloud—
  79. twice went the River round, and twice cried out,
  80. ‘Ho, Arethusa! Arethusa, Ho!’
  81. ‘What were my wretched feelings then? Could I
  82. be braver than the Iamb that hears the wolves,
  83. howling around the high-protecting fold?
  84. Or than the hare, which lurking in the bush
  85. knows of the snarling hounds and dares not move?
  86. And yet, Alpheus thence would not depart,
  87. for he could find no footprints of my flight.
  88. ‘He watched the cloud and spot, and thus besieged,
  89. a cold sweat gathered on my trembling limbs.
  90. The clear-blue drops, distilled from every pore,
  91. made pools of water where I moved my feet,
  92. and dripping moisture trickled from my hair.—
  93. Much quicker than my story could be told,
  94. my body was dissolved to flowing streams.—
  95. But still the River recognized the waves,
  96. and for the love of me transformed his shape
  97. from human features to his proper streams,
  98. that so his waters might encompass mine.
  99. ‘Diana, therefore, opened up the ground,
  100. in which I plunged, and thence through gloomy caves
  101. was carried to Ortygia—blessed isle!
  102. To which my chosen goddess gave her name!
  103. Where first I rose amid the upper air!’
  104. “Thus Arethusa made an end of speech:
  105. and presently the fertile goddess yoked
  106. two dragons to her chariot: she curbed
  107. their mouths with bits: they bore her through the air,
  108. in her light car betwixt the earth and skies,
  109. to the Tritonian citadel, and to
  110. Triptolemus, to whom she furnished seed,
  111. that he might scatter it in wasted lands,
  112. and in the fallow fields; which, after long
  113. neglect, again were given to the plow.
  114. “After he had traveled through uncharted skies,
  115. over wide Europe and vast Asian lands,
  116. he lit upon the coast of Scythia, where
  117. a king called Lyncus reigned. And there, at once
  118. he sought the palace of that king, who said;
  119. ‘Whence come you, stranger, wherefore in this land?
  120. Come, tell to me your nation and your name.’
  121. “And after he was questioned thus, he said,
  122. ‘I came from far-famed Athens and they call
  123. my name Triptolemus. I neither came
  124. by ship through waves, nor over the dry land;
  125. for me the yielding atmosphere makes way.—
  126. I bear the gifts of Ceres to your land,
  127. which scattered over your wide realm may yield
  128. an ample harvest of nutritious food.’
  129. “The envious Lyncus, wishing to appear
  130. the gracious author of all benefits,
  131. received the unsuspecting youth with smiles;
  132. but when he fell into a heavy sleep
  133. that savage king attacked him with a sword—
  134. but while attempting to transfix his guest,
  135. the goddess Ceres changed him to a lynx:—
  136. and once again she sent her favoured youth
  137. to drive her sacred dragons through the clouds.
  138. “The greatest of our number ended thus
  139. her learned songs; and with concordant voice
  140. the chosen Nymphs adjudged the Deities,
  141. on Helicon who dwell, should be proclaimed
  142. the victors.
  143. “But the vanquished nine began
  144. to scatter their abuse; to whom rejoined
  145. the goddess; ‘Since it seems a trifling thing
  146. that you should suffer a deserved defeat,
  147. and you must add unmerited abuse
  148. to heighten your offence, and since by this
  149. appears the end of our endurance, we
  150. shall certainly proceed to punish you
  151. according to the limit of our wrath.’
  152. “But these Emathian sisters laughed to scorn
  153. our threatening words; and as they tried to speak,
  154. and made great clamour, and with shameless hands
  155. made threatening gestures, suddenly stiff quills
  156. sprouted from out their finger-nails, and plumes
  157. spread over their stretched arms; and they could see
  158. the mouth of each companion growing out
  159. into a rigid beak.—And thus new birds
  160. were added to the forest.—While they made
  161. complaint, these Magpies that defile our groves,
  162. moving their stretched-out arms, began to float,
  163. suspended in the air. And since that time
  164. their ancient eloquence, their screaming notes,
  165. their tiresome zeal of speech have all remained.”