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

  1. Over the storm-tossed waves, the Argonauts
  2. had sailed in Argo, their long ship to where
  3. King Phineus, needy in his old age, reigned—
  4. deprived of sight and feeble. When the sons
  5. of Boreas had landed on the shore,
  6. and seen the Harpies snatching from the king
  7. his nourishment, befouling it with beaks
  8. obscene, they drove those human-vultures thence.
  9. And having suffered hardships and great toils,
  10. after the day they rescued the sad king
  11. from the vile Harpies, those twin valiant youths,
  12. Zetes and Calais came with their chief,
  13. the mighty Jason, where the Phasis flows.
  14. From the green margin of that river, all
  15. the crew of Argonauts, by Jason led,
  16. went to the king Aeetes and required
  17. the Golden Fleece, that he received from Phryxus.
  18. When they had bargained with him, full of wiles
  19. he offered to restore the Golden Fleece
  20. only to those who might to him return,
  21. victorious from hard labors of great risk.
  22. Medea, the king's daughter, near his throne,
  23. saw Jason, leader of the Argonauts,
  24. as he was pressing to secure a prize—
  25. and loved at sight with a consuming flame.
  26. Although she struggled to suppress her love,
  27. unable to restrain herself, she said,
  28. “In vain I've striven to subdue my heart:
  29. some god it must be, which I cannot tell,
  30. is working to destroy my hapless life;
  31. or else it is the burning flame of love
  32. that in me rages. If it is not love,
  33. why do the mandates of my father seem
  34. too harsh? They surely are too harsh. Why do
  35. I fear that he may perish whom I have
  36. seen only once? What is the secret cause
  37. that I am agitated by such fears?—
  38. It is no other than the god of Love.
  39. “Thrust from your virgin breast such burning flames
  40. and overcome their hot unhappiness—
  41. if I could do so, I should be myself:
  42. but some deluding power is holding me
  43. helpless against my will. Desire persuades
  44. me one way, but my reason still persuades
  45. another way. I see a better course
  46. and I approve, but follow its defeat. —
  47. “O royal maiden, why are you consumed
  48. with love for this strange man, and why are you
  49. so willing to be carried by the nuptial ties
  50. so far from your own country, where, indeed,
  51. are many brave men worthy of your love?
  52. “Whether for life or death his numbered hours
  53. are in the mercy of the living Gods,
  54. and that he may not suffer risk of death,
  55. too well foreseen, now let my prayers prevail—
  56. righteously uttered of a generous heart
  57. without the stress of love. What wicked thing
  58. has Jason done? His handsome person, youth,
  59. and noble ways, would move a heart of stone.
  60. “Have I a heart of flint, or was I born
  61. a tigress to deny him timely aid?—
  62. Unless I interpose, he will be slain
  63. by the hot breath of brazen-footed bulls,
  64. or will be slaughtered by the warriors, sprung
  65. miraculous from earth, or will be given
  66. to satisfy the ravenous appetite
  67. of a huge dragon.
  68. “Let my gloating eyes
  69. be satiate with his dying agonies!
  70. Let me incite the fury of these bulls!
  71. Stir to their blood-lust mad-born sons of Earth!
  72. Rouse up the never-sleeping dragon's rage!—
  73. “Avert it Gods!—
  74. “But why should I cry out
  75. upon the Gods to save him from such wrong,
  76. when, by my actions and my power, myself
  77. may shield him from all evils?
  78. “Such a course
  79. would wreck the kingdom of my father—and by me
  80. the wily stranger would escape from him;
  81. and spreading to the wind his ready sails
  82. he would forget and leave me to my fate.—
  83. Oh, if he should forget my sacrifice,
  84. and so prefer those who neglected him,
  85. let him then perish in his treachery.—
  86. “But these are idle thoughts: his countenance,
  87. reveals innate nobility and grace,
  88. that should dispel all fear of treachery,
  89. and guarantee his ever-faithful heart.
  90. The Gods will witness our united souls,
  91. and he shall pledge his faith. Secure of it
  92. my fear will be removed. Be ready, then—
  93. and make a virtue of necessity:
  94. your Jason owes himself to you; and he
  95. must join you in true wedlock. Then you shall
  96. be celebrated through the land of Greece,
  97. by throngs of women, for the man you saved.
  98. “Shall I then sail away, and so forsake
  99. my sister, brother, father, Gods, and land
  100. that gave me birth? My father is indeed
  101. a stern man, and my native land is all
  102. too barbarous; my brother is a child,—
  103. my sister's goodwill is good help for me;
  104. and heaven's supreme god is within my breast.
  105. “I shall not so be leaving valued hopes,
  106. but will be going surely to great things.
  107. And I should gain applause from all the world,
  108. as having saved the threatened Argonauts,
  109. most noble of the Greeks; and in their land,
  110. which certainly is better than my own,
  111. become the bride of Jason, for whose love
  112. I should not hesitate to give the world—
  113. and in whose love the living Gods rejoice
  114. so greatly; for his sake they would bestow
  115. their favors on my head, and make the stars
  116. my habitation.
  117. “Should I hesitate
  118. because the wreck-strewn mountains bar the way,
  119. and clash together in the Euxine waves;
  120. or fear Charybdis, fatal to large ships,
  121. that sucks the deep sea in its whirling gulf
  122. and spouts far upward, with alternate force,
  123. or Scylla, circled with infuriate hounds
  124. howling in rage from deep Sicilian waves?
  125. “Safe in the shielding arms of him I love,
  126. on Jason's bosom leaning, I shall be
  127. borne safely over wide and hostile seas;
  128. and in his dear embrace forget my fears—
  129. or if for anything I suffer dread,
  130. it will be only for the one I love.—
  131. “Alas, Medea, this vain argument
  132. has only furnished plausible excuse
  133. for criminal desires, and desecrates
  134. the marriage rite. It is a wicked thing
  135. to think upon. Before it is too late
  136. forget your passion and deny this guilt.”
  137. And after she had said these words, her eyes
  138. were opened to the prize of modesty,
  139. chaste virtue, and a pure affection:
  140. and Cupid, vanquished, turned away and fled.
  141. Then, to an ancient altar of the goddess named
  142. Hecate, Perse's daughter took her way
  143. in the deep shadows of a forest. She
  144. was strong of purpose now, and all the flames
  145. of vanquished passion had died down; but when
  146. she saw the son of Aeson, dying flames
  147. leaped up again. Her cheeks grew red, then all
  148. her face went pale again; as a small spark
  149. when hid beneath the ashes, if fed by
  150. a breath of wind grows and regains its strength,
  151. as it is fanned to life; so now her love
  152. that had been smoldering, and which you would
  153. have thought was almost dead, when she had see
  154. again his manly youth, blazed up once more.
  155. For on that day his graceful person seemed
  156. as glorious as a God;—and as she gazed,
  157. and fixed her eyes upon his countenance,
  158. her frenzy so prevailed, she was convinced
  159. that he was not a mortal. And her eyes
  160. were fascinated; and she could not turn
  161. away from him. But when he spoke to her,
  162. and promised marriage, grasping her right hand:
  163. she answered, as her eyes suffused with tears;
  164. “I see what I will do, and ignorance
  165. of truth will not be my undoing now,
  166. but love itself. By my assistance you
  167. shall be preserved; but when preserved fulfill
  168. your promise.”
  169. He swore that she could trust in him.
  170. Then by the goddess of the triple form,
  171. Diana, Trivia, or Luna called,
  172. and by her sacred groves and fanes, he vowed,
  173. and by the hallowed Sun that sees all things,
  174. and by his own adventures, and his life,—
  175. on these the youthful Jason took his oath.—
  176. With this she was assured and quickly gave
  177. to him the magic herbs: he learnt their use
  178. and full of joy withdrew into his house.
  179. Now when the dawn had dimmed the glittering stars,
  180. the people hastened to the sacred field
  181. of Mars, and on the hills expectant stood.—
  182. Arrayed in purple, and in majesty
  183. distinguished by his ivory sceptre, sat
  184. the king, surrounded by a multitude.
  185. Below them on the visioned Field of Mars,
  186. huge brazen-footed bulls were breathing forth
  187. from adamantine nostrils living flames,
  188. blasting the verdant herbage in their path!
  189. As forges glowing with hot flames resound,
  190. or as much quick-lime, burnt in earthen kilns,
  191. crackles and hisses as if mad with rage,
  192. sprinkled with water, liberating heat;
  193. so their hot throats and triple-heated sides,
  194. resounding told of pent-up fires within.
  195. The son of Aeson went to meet them. As
  196. he came to meet them the fierce animals
  197. turned on him faces terrible, and sharp
  198. horns tipped with iron, and they pawed
  199. the dusty earth with cloven feet, and filled
  200. the place with fiery bellowings. The Minyans
  201. were stark with fear; he went up to the bulls
  202. not feeling their hot breath at all, so great
  203. the power of his charmed drugs; and while he
  204. was stroking their down-hanging dewlaps with
  205. a fearless hand, he placed the yoke down on
  206. their necks and made them draw the heavy plow,
  207. and cut through fields that never felt the steel
  208. before. The Colchians were amazed and silent;
  209. but the loud shouting of the Minyans
  210. increased their hero's courage. Taking then
  211. the serpent's teeth out of a brazen helmet
  212. he sowed them broadcast in the new-plowed field.
  213. The moist earth softened these seeds that were steeped
  214. in virulent poison and the teeth swelled up
  215. and took new forms. And just as in its mother
  216. an infant gradually assumes the form
  217. of man, and is perfected through all parts
  218. within, and does not come forth to the light
  219. till fully formed; so, when the forms of men
  220. had been completed in the womb of earth
  221. made pregnant, they rose up from it,
  222. and what is yet more wonderful, each one
  223. clashed weapons that had been brought forth with him.
  224. When his companions saw the warriors turn
  225. as if with one accord, to hurl their spears,
  226. sharp-pointed, at the head of Jason, fear
  227. unnerved the boldest and their courage failed.
  228. So, too, the maid whose sorcery had saved
  229. him from much danger, when she saw the youth
  230. encompassed by those raging enemies,
  231. and he alone against so many—struck
  232. with sudden panic, she turned ashen white,
  233. her bloodless cheeks were blanched; and chilled with fear
  234. she wilted to the ground; and lest the herbs,
  235. so lately given him, might fail his need
  236. she added incantations and invoked
  237. mysterious arts. While she protected him
  238. He seized upon a heavy stone, and hurled
  239. it in the midst of his new enemies—
  240. distracted by this cast, and murderous,
  241. they turned from him, and clashing their new arms,
  242. those earth-born brothers fought among themselves
  243. till all were slaughtered in blood-thirsty strife.
  244. Gladly the Greeks acclaimed him conqueror,
  245. and pressed around him for the first embrace.
  246. Then, too, Medea, barbarous Colchian maid,
  247. although her modesty restrained her heart,
  248. eagerly longed to fold him in her arms,
  249. but careful of her good name, held aloof,—
  250. rejoicing in deep, silent love; and she
  251. acknowledged to the Gods her mighty gift
  252. of incantations.
  253. But the dragon, still
  254. alert,—magnificent and terrible
  255. with gorgeous crest and triple tongue, and fangs
  256. barbed as a javelin, guards the Golden Fleece:
  257. and Jason can obtain that quest only
  258. if slumber may seal up the monster's eyes.—
  259. Jason, successful, sprinkled on his crest
  260. Lethean juices of a magic herb,
  261. and then recited thrice the words which bring
  262. deep slumber, potent words which would becalm
  263. the storm-tossed ocean, and would stop the flow
  264. of the most rapid rivers of our earth:
  265. and slowly slumber sealed the dragon's eyes.
  266. While that great monster slept, the hero took
  267. the Golden Fleece; and proudly sailed away
  268. bearing his treasure and the willing maid,
  269. (whose aid had saved him) to his native port
  270. Iolcus—victorious with the Argonauts.
  1. Now when the valiant Argonauts returned
  2. to Thessaly, their happy relatives,
  3. fathers and mothers, praised the living Gods;
  4. and with their hallowed gifts enhanced the flames
  5. with precious incense; and they offered Jove
  6. a sacred bullock, rich with gilded horns.
  7. But Jason's father, Aeson, came not down
  8. rejoicing to behold his son, for now
  9. worn out with many years, he waited death.
  10. And Jason to Medea grieving said:
  11. “Dearest, to whom my life and love are due,
  12. although your kindness has been great to me,
  13. and you have granted more than I should ask,
  14. yet one thing more I beg of you; if your
  15. enchantments can accomplish my desire,
  16. take from my life some years that I should live
  17. and add them to my father's ending days.”—
  18. And as he spoke he could not check his tears.
  19. Medea, moved by his affection, thought
  20. how much less she had grieved for her loved sire:
  21. and she replied:—“A wicked thing you ask!
  22. Can I be capable of using you
  23. in such a manner as to take your life
  24. and give it to another? Ask not me
  25. a thing so dreadful! May the Gods forbid!—
  26. I will endeavor to perform for you
  27. a task much greater. By the powers of Night
  28. I will most certainly return to him
  29. the lost years of your father, but must not
  30. deprive you of your own. — Oh grant the power,
  31. great goddess of the triple form, that I
  32. may fail not to accomplish this great deed!”
  33. Three nights were wanting for the moon to join
  34. her circling horns and form a perfect orb.
  35. When these were passed, the rounded light shone full
  36. and bright upon the earth.—Through the still night
  37. alone, Medea stole forth from the house
  38. with feet bare, and in flowing garment clothed—
  39. her long hair unadorned and not confined.
  40. Deep slumber has relaxed the world, and all
  41. that's living, animals and birds and men,
  42. and even the hedges and the breathing leaves
  43. are still—and motionless the laden air.
  44. Only the stars are twinkling, and to them
  45. she looks and beckons with imploring hands.
  46. Now thrice around she paces, and three times
  47. besprinkles her long hair with water dipt
  48. from crystal streams, which having done
  49. she kneels a moment on the cold, bare ground,
  50. and screaming three times calls upon the Night,—
  51. “O faithful Night, regard my mysteries!
  52. O golden-lighted Stars! O softly-moving Moon—
  53. genial, your fire succeeds the heated day!
  54. O Hecate! grave three-faced queen of these
  55. charms of enchanters and enchanters, arts!
  56. O fruitful Earth, giver of potent herbs!
  57. O gentle Breezes and destructive Winds!
  58. You Mountains, Rivers, Lakes and sacred Groves,
  59. and every dreaded god of silent Night!
  60. Attend upon me!—
  61. “When my power commands,
  62. the rivers turn from their accustomed ways
  63. and roll far backward to their secret springs!
  64. I speak—and the wild, troubled sea is calm,
  65. and I command the waters to arise!
  66. The clouds I scatter—and I bring the clouds;
  67. I smooth the winds and ruffle up their rage;
  68. I weave my spells and I recite my charms;
  69. I pluck the fangs of serpents, and I move
  70. the living rocks and twist the rooted oaks;
  71. I blast the forests. Mountains at my word
  72. tremble and quake; and from her granite tombs
  73. the liberated ghosts arise as Earth
  74. astonished groans! From your appointed ways,
  75. O wonder-working Moon, I draw you down
  76. against the magic-making sound of gongs
  77. and brazen vessels of Temesa's ore;
  78. I cast my spells and veil the jeweled rays
  79. of Phoebus' wain, and quench Aurora's fires.
  80. “At my command you tamed the flaming bulls
  81. which long disdained to bend beneath the yoke,
  82. until they pressed their necks against the plows;
  83. and, subject to my will, you raised up war
  84. till the strong company of dragon-birth
  85. were slaughtered as they fought amongst themselves;
  86. and, last, you lulled asleep the warden's eyes—
  87. guards of the Golden Fleece—till then awake
  88. and sleeping never—so, deceiving him,
  89. you sent the treasure to the Grecian cities!
  90. “Witness my need of super-natured herbs,
  91. elixirs potent to renew the years of age,
  92. giving the bloom of youth.—You shall not fail
  93. to grant me this; for not in vain the stars
  94. are flashing confirmation; not in vain
  95. the flying dragons, harnessed by their necks,
  96. from skies descending bring my chariot down.”
  97. A chariot, sent from heaven, came to her—
  98. and soon as she had stroked the dragons' necks,
  99. and shaken in her hands the guiding reins—
  100. as soon as she had mounted, she was borne
  101. quickly above, through unresisting air.
  102. And, sailing over Thessaly, she saw
  103. the vale of Tempe, where the level soil
  104. is widely covered with a crumbling chalk—
  105. she turned her dragons towards new regions there:
  106. and she observed the herbs by Ossa born,
  107. the weeds on lofty Pelion, Othrys, Pindus
  108. and vast Olympus—and from here she plucked
  109. the needed roots, or there, the blossoms clipped
  110. all with a moon-curved sickle made of brass—
  111. many the wild weeds by Apidanus,
  112. as well as blue Amphrysus' banks, she chose,
  113. and not escaped Enipeus from her search;
  114. Peneian stretches and Spercheian banks
  115. all yielded what she chose:—and Boebe's shore
  116. where sway the rushes; and she plucked up grass,
  117. a secret grass, from fair Euboean fields
  118. life-giving virtues in their waving blades,
  119. as yet unknown for transformation wrought
  120. on Glaucus.
  121. All those fields she visited,
  122. with ceaseless diligence in quest of charms,
  123. nine days and nine nights sought strong herbs,
  124. and the swift dragons with their active wings,
  125. failed not to guide the chariot where she willed—
  126. until they reached her home. The dragons then
  127. had not been even touched by anything,
  128. except the odor of surrounding herbs,
  129. and yet they sloughed their skins, the growth of years.
  1. She would not cross the threshold of her home
  2. nor pass its gates; but, standing in the field,
  3. alone beneath the canopy of Heaven,
  4. she shunned all contact with her husband, while
  5. she built up from the ever-living turf
  6. two altars, one of which upon the right
  7. to Hecate was given, but the one
  8. upon the left was sacred then to you,
  9. O Hebe, goddess of eternal youth!
  10. Festooning woodland boughs and sweet vervain
  11. adorned these altars, near by which she dug
  12. as many trenches. Then, when all was done,
  13. she slaughtered a black ram, and sprinkled with blood
  14. the thirsty trenches; after which she poured
  15. from rich carchesian goblets generous wine
  16. and warm milk, grateful to propitious Gods—
  17. the Deities of earth on whom she called—
  18. entreating, as she did so, Pluto, lord
  19. of ghostly shades, and ravished Proserpine,
  20. that they should not, in undue haste,
  21. deprive her patient's aged limbs of life.
  22. When certain she compelled the God's regard,
  23. assured her incantations and long prayers
  24. were both approved and heard, she bade her people
  25. bring out the body of her father-in-law—
  26. old Aeson's worn out body—and when she
  27. had buried him in a deep slumber by
  28. her spells, as if he were a dead man, she
  29. then stretched him out upon a bed of herbs.
  30. She ordered Jason and his servants thence,
  31. and warned them not to spy upon her rites,
  32. with eyes profane. As soon as they retired,
  33. Medea, with disheveled hair and wild
  34. abandon, as a Bacchanalian, paced
  35. times three around the blazing altars, while
  36. she dipped her torches, splintered at the top,
  37. into the trenches, dark: with blood, and lit
  38. the dipt ends in the sacred altar flames.
  39. Times three she purified the ancient man
  40. with flames, and thrice with water, and three times
  41. with sulphur,—as the boiling mixture seethed
  42. and bubbled in the brazen cauldron near.
  43. And into this, acerbic juices, roots,
  44. and flowers and seeds—from vales Hemonian—
  45. and mixed elixirs, into which she cast
  46. stones of strange virtue from the Orient,
  47. and sifted sands of ebbing ocean's tide;
  48. white hoar-frost, gathered when the moon was full,
  49. the nauseating flesh and luckless wings
  50. of the uncanny screech-owl, and the entrails
  51. from a mysterious animal that changed
  52. from wolf to man, from man to wolf again;
  53. the scaly sloughing of a water-snake,
  54. the medic liver of a long-lived stag,
  55. and the hard beak and head of an old crow
  56. which was alive nine centuries before;
  57. these, and a thousand nameless things
  58. the foreign sorceress prepared and mixed,
  59. and blended all together with a branch
  60. of peaceful olive, old and dry with years. —
  61. And while she stirred the withered olive branch
  62. in the hot mixture, it began to change
  63. from brown to green; and presently put forth
  64. new leaves, and soon was heavy with a wealth
  65. of luscious olives.—As the ever-rising fire
  66. threw bubbling froth beyond the cauldron's rim,
  67. the ground was covered with fresh verdure — flowers
  68. and all luxuriant grasses, and green plants.
  69. Medea, when she saw this wonder took
  70. her unsheathed knife and cut the old man's throat;
  71. then, letting all his old blood out of him
  72. she filled his ancient veins with rich elixir.
  73. As he received it through his lips or wound,
  74. his beard and hair no longer white with age,
  75. turned quickly to their natural vigor, dark
  76. and lustrous; and his wasted form renewed,
  77. appeared in all the vigor of bright youth,
  78. no longer lean and sallow, for new blood
  79. coursed in his well-filled veins.—Astonished, when
  80. released from his deep sleep, and strong in youth,
  81. his memory assured him, such he was
  82. years four times ten before that day!—
  83. Bacchus, from his celestial vantage saw
  84. this marvel, and convinced his nurses might
  85. then all regain their former vigor, he
  86. pled with Medea to restore their youth.
  87. The Colchian woman granted his request.
  1. but so her malice might be satisfied
  2. Medea feigned she had a quarrel with
  3. her husband, and for safety she had fled
  4. to Pelias. There, since the king himself
  5. was heavy with old age, his daughters gave
  6. her generous reception. And these girls
  7. the shrewd Medea in a short time won,
  8. by her false show of friendliness; and while
  9. among the most remarkable of her
  10. achievements she was telling how she had
  11. rejuvenated Aeson, and she dwelt
  12. particularly, on that strange event,
  13. these daughters were induced to hope that by
  14. some skill like this their father might regain
  15. his lost youth also. And they begged of her
  16. this boon, persuading her to name the price;
  17. no matter if it was large. She did not
  18. reply at once and seemed to hesitate,
  19. and so she held their fond minds in a deep
  20. suspense by her feigned meditation. When
  21. she had at length declared she would restore
  22. his youth, she said to them: “That you may have
  23. strong confidence in this my promised boon,
  24. the oldest leader of your flock of sheep shall be
  25. changed to a lamb again by my prized drugs.”
  26. Straightway a wooly ram, worn out with length
  27. of untold years was brought, his great horns curved
  28. around his hollow temples. After she
  29. had cut his scrawny throat with her sharp knife
  30. Thessalian, barely staining it with his
  31. thin blood, Medea plunged his carcass in
  32. a bronze-made kettle, throwing in it at
  33. the same time juices of great potency.
  34. These made his body shrink and burnt away
  35. his two horns, and with horns his years. And now
  36. thin bleating was heard from within the pot;
  37. and even while they wondered at the sound,
  38. a lamb jumped out and frisking, ran away
  39. to find some udder with its needed milk.
  40. Amazed the daughters looked on and, now that
  41. these promises had been performed, they urged
  42. more eagerly their first request. Three times
  43. Phoebus unyoked his steeds after their plunge
  44. in Ebro's stream, and on the fourth night stars
  45. shown brilliant on the dark foil of the sky,
  46. and then the treacherous daughter of Aeetes
  47. set some clear water over a hot fire
  48. and put in it herbs of no potency.
  49. And now a death-like sleep held the king down,
  50. his body all relaxed, and with the king
  51. his guards, a sleep which incantations with
  52. the potency of magic words had given.
  53. The sad king's daughters, as they had been bid,
  54. were in his room, and with Medea stood
  55. around his bed. “Why do you hesitate,”
  56. Medea said. “You laggards, come and draw
  57. your swords; let out his old blood that
  58. I may refill his empty veins again
  59. with young blood. In your hands your father's life
  60. and youth are resting. You, his daughters, must
  61. have love for him, and if the hopes you have
  62. are not all vain, come, do your duty by
  63. your father; drive out old age at the point
  64. of your good weapons; and let out his blood
  65. enfeebled—cure him with the stroke of iron.”
  66. Spurred on by these words, as each one of them
  67. was filial she became the leader in
  68. the most unfilial act, and that she might
  69. not be most wicked did the wicked deed.
  70. Not one could bear to see her own blows, so
  71. they turned their eyes away; and every face
  72. averted so, they blindly struck him with
  73. their cruel hands. The old man streaming with
  74. his blood, still raised himself on elbow, and
  75. half mangled tried to get up from his bed;
  76. with all those swords around him, he stretched out
  77. his pale arms and he cried: “What will you do,
  78. my daughters? What has armed you to the death
  79. of your loved father?” Their wrong courage left
  80. them, and their hands fell. When he would have said
  81. still more, Medea cut his throat and plunged
  82. his mangled body into boiling water.
  1. Only because her winged dragons sailed
  2. swiftly with her up to the lofty sky,
  3. escaped Medea punishment for this
  4. unheard of crime.
  5. Her chariot sailed above
  6. embowered Pelion — long the lofty home
  7. of Chiron—over Othrys, and the vale
  8. made famous where Cerambus met his fate.
  9. Cerambus, by the aid of nymphs, from there
  10. was wafted through the air on wings, when earth
  11. was covered by the overwhelming sea—
  12. and so escaped Deucalion's flood, uncrowned.
  13. She passed by Pittane upon the left,
  14. with its huge serpent-image of hard stone,
  15. and also passed the grove called Ida's, where
  16. the stolen bull was changed by Bacchus' power
  17. into a hunted stag—in that same vale
  18. Paris lies buried in the sand; and over fields
  19. where Mera warning harked, Medea flew;
  20. over the city of Eurypylus
  21. upon the Isle of Cos, whose women wore
  22. the horns of cattle when from there had gone
  23. the herd of Hercules; and over Rhodes
  24. beloved of Phoebus, where Telchinian tribes
  25. dwelt, whose bad eyes corrupting power shot forth;—
  26. Jove, utterly despising, thrust them deep
  27. beneath his brother's waves; over the walls
  28. of old Carthaea, where Alcidamas
  29. had seen with wonder a tame dove arise
  30. from his own daughter's body.
  31. And she saw
  32. the lakes of Hyrie in Teumesia's Vale,
  33. by swans frequented—There to satisfy
  34. his love for Cycnus, Phyllius gave
  35. two living vultures: shell for him subdued
  36. a lion, and delivered it to him;
  37. and mastered a great bull, at his command;
  38. but when the wearied Phyllius refused
  39. to render to his friend the valued bull.
  40. Indignant, the youth said, “You shall regret
  41. your hasty words;” which having said, he leaped
  42. from a high precipice, as if to death;
  43. but gliding through the air, on snow-white wings,
  44. was changed into a swan—Dissolved in tears,
  45. his mother Hyrie knew not he was saved;
  46. and weeping, formed the lake that bears her name.
  47. And over Pleuron, where on trembling wings
  48. escaped the mother Combe from her sons,
  49. Medea flew; and over the far isle
  50. Calauria, sacred to Latona.—She
  51. beheld the conscious fields whose lawful king,
  52. together with his queen were changed to birds.
  53. Upon her right Cyllene could be seen;
  54. there Menephon, degraded as a beast,
  55. outraged his mother. In the distance, she
  56. beheld Cephisius, who lamented long
  57. his hapless grandson, by Apollo changed
  58. into a bloated sea-calf. And she saw
  59. the house where king Eumelus mourned the death
  60. of his aspiring son.—Borne on the wings
  61. of her enchanted dragons, she arrived
  62. at Corinth, whose inhabitants, 'tis said,
  63. from many mushrooms, watered by the rain
  64. sprang into being.
  65. There she spent some years.
  66. But after the new wife had been burnt by
  67. the Colchian witchcraft and two seas
  68. had seen the king's own palace all aflame,
  69. then, savagely she drew her sword, and bathed
  70. it in the blood of her own infant sons;
  71. by which atrocious act she was revenged;
  72. and she, a wife and mother, fled the sword
  73. of her own husband, Jason.
  74. On the wings
  75. of her enchanted Titan Dragons borne,
  76. she made escape, securely, nor delayed
  77. until she entered the defended walls
  78. of great Minerva's city, at the hour
  79. when aged Periphas — transformed by Jove,
  80. together with his queen, on eagle wings
  81. flew over its encircling walls: with whom
  82. the guilty Halcyone, skimming seas
  83. safely escaped, upon her balanced wings.
  84. And after these events, Medea went
  85. to Aegeus, king of Athens, where she found
  86. protection from her enemies for all
  87. this evil done. With added wickedness
  88. Aegeus, after that, united her
  89. to him in marriage.—
  1. All unknown to him
  2. came Theseus to his kingly court.—Before
  3. the time his valor had established peace
  4. on all the isthmus, raved by dual seas.
  5. Medea, seeking his destruction, brewed
  6. the juice of aconite, infesting shores
  7. of Scythia, where, 'tis fabled, the plant grew
  8. on soil infected by Cerberian teeth.
  9. There is a gloomy entrance to a cave,
  10. that follows a declivitous descent:
  11. there Hercules with chains of adamant
  12. dragged from the dreary edge of Tartarus
  13. that monster-watch-dog, Cerberus, which, vain
  14. opposing, turned his eyes aslant from light—
  15. from dazzling day. Delirious, enraged,
  16. that monster shook the air with triple howls;
  17. and, frothing, sprinkled as it raved, the fields,
  18. once green—with spewing of white poison-foam.
  19. And this, converted into plants, sucked up
  20. a deadly venom with the nourishment
  21. of former soils,—from which productive grew
  22. upon the rock, thus formed, the noxious plant;
  23. by rustics, from that cause, named aconite.
  24. Medea worked on Aegeus to present
  25. his own son, Theseus, with a deadly cup
  26. of aconite; prevailing by her art
  27. so that he deemed his son an enemy.
  28. Theseus unwittingly received the cup,
  29. but just before he touched it to his lips,
  30. his father recognized the sword he wore,
  31. for, graven on its ivory hilt was wrought
  32. a known device—the token of his race.
  33. Astonished, Aegeus struck the poison-cup
  34. from his devoted son's confiding lips.
  35. Medea suddenly escaped from death,
  36. in a dark whirlwind her witch-singing raised.
  37. Recoiling from such utter wickedness,
  38. rejoicing that his son escaped from death,
  39. the grateful father kindled altar-fires,
  40. and gave rich treasure to the living Gods. —
  41. He slaughtered scores of oxen, decked with flowers
  42. and gilded horns. The sun has never shone
  43. upon a day more famous in that land,
  44. for all the elders and the common folk
  45. united in festivities,—with wine
  46. inspiring wit and song;—“O you,” they sang,
  47. “Immortal Theseus, victory was yours!
  48. Did you not slaughter the huge bull of Crete?
  49. “Yes, you did slay the boar of Cromyon —
  50. where now the peasant unmolested plows;
  51. “And Periphetes, wielder of the club,
  52. was worsted when he struggled with your strength;
  53. “And fierce Procrustes, matched with you
  54. beside the rapid river, met his death;
  55. “And even Cercyon, in Eleusis lost
  56. his wicked life—inferior to your might;
  57. “And Sinis, a monstrosity of strength,
  58. who bent the trunks of trees, and used his might
  59. “Against the world for everything that's wrong.
  60. For evil, he would force down to the earth,
  61. “Pine tops to shoot men's bodies through the air.
  62. Even the road to Megara is safe,
  63. “For you did hurl the robber Scyron,—sheer—
  64. over the cliff. Both land and sea denied
  65. “His bones a resting place—as tossed about
  66. they changed into the cliffs that bear his name.
  67. “How can we tell the number of your deeds,—
  68. deeds glorious, that now exceed your years!
  69. “For you, brave hero, we give public thanks
  70. and prayers; to you we drain our cups of wine!”
  71. And all the palace rings with happy songs,
  72. and with the grateful prayers of all the people.
  73. And sorrow in that city is not known.—
  1. But pleasure always is alloyed with grief,
  2. and sorrow mingles in the joyous hour.
  3. While the king Aegeus and his son rejoiced,
  4. Minos prepared for war. He was invincible
  5. in men and ships—and stronger in his rage
  6. to wreak due vengeance on the king who slew
  7. his son Androgeus. But first he sought
  8. some friends to aid his warfare; and he scoured
  9. the sea with a swift fleet—which was his strength.
  10. Anaphe and Astypalaea, both
  11. agreed to join his cause—the first one moved
  12. by promises, the second by his threats.
  13. Level Myconus and the chalky fields
  14. of Cimolus agreed to aid, and Syros
  15. covered with wild thyme, level Seriphos,
  16. Paros of marble cliffs, and that place which
  17. Arne the impious Siphnian had betrayed,
  18. who having got the gold which in her greed
  19. she had demanded, was changed to a bird
  20. which ever since that day imagines gold
  21. its chief delight—a black-foot black-winged daw.
  22. But Oliarus, Didymae, and Tenos,
  23. Gyaros, Andros, and Peparethos
  24. rich in its glossy olives, gave no aid
  25. to the strong Cretan fleet. Sailing from them
  26. Minos went to Oenopia, known realm
  27. of the Aeacidae.—Men of old time
  28. had called the place Oenopia; but Aeacus
  29. styled it Aegina from his mother's name.
  30. At his approach an eager rabble rushed
  31. resolved to see and know so great a man.
  32. Telamon met him, and his brother,
  33. younger than Telamon, and Phocus who
  34. was third in age. Even Aeacus appeared,
  35. slow with the weight of years, and asked him what
  36. could be a reason for his coming there.
  37. The ruler of a hundred cities, sighed,
  38. as he beheld the sons of Aeacus,
  39. for they reminded him of his lost son;—
  40. and heavy with his sorrow, he replied:
  41. “I come imploring you to take up arms,
  42. and aid me in the war against my foes;
  43. for I must give that comfort to the shade
  44. of my misfortuned son—whose blood they shed.”
  45. But Aeacus replied to Minos, “Nay,
  46. it is a vain request you make, for we
  47. are bound in strict alliance to the land
  48. and people of Cecropia.”
  49. Full of rage,
  50. because he was denied, the king of Crete,
  51. Minos, as he departed from their shores
  52. replied, “Let such a treaty be your bane.”
  53. And he departed with his crafty threat,
  54. believing it expedient not to waste
  55. his power in wars until the proper time.
  56. Before the ships of Crete had disappeared,
  57. before the mist and blue of waves concealed
  58. their fading outlines from the anxious throng
  59. which gathered on Oenopian shores, a ship
  60. of Athens covered with wide sails appeared,
  61. and anchored safely by their friendly shore;
  62. and, presently, the mighty Cephalus,
  63. well known through all that nation for his deeds,
  64. addressed them as he landed, and declared
  65. the good will of his people. Him the sons
  66. of Aeacus remembered well, although
  67. they had not seen him for some untold years.
  68. They led him to their father's welcome home;
  69. and with him, also, his two comrades went,
  70. Clytus and Butes.
  71. Center of all eyes,
  72. the hero still retained his charm,
  73. the customary greetings were exchanged,
  74. the graceful hero, bearing in his hands
  75. a branch of olive from his native soil,
  76. delivered the Athenian message, which
  77. requested aid and offered for their thought
  78. the treaty and the ancestral league between
  79. their nations. And he added, Minos sought
  80. not only conquest of the Athenian state
  81. but sovereignty of all the states of Greece.
  82. And when this eloquence had shown his cause;
  83. with left hand on his gleaming sceptre's hilt,
  84. King Aeacus exclaimed: “Ask not our aid,
  85. but take it, Athens; and count boldly yours
  86. all of the force this island holds, and all
  87. things which the state of my affairs supplies.
  88. My strength for this war is not light, and I
  89. have many soldiers for myself and for
  90. my enemy. Thanks to the Gods! the times
  91. are happy, giving no excuse for my
  92. refusal.” “May it prove so,” Cephalus
  93. replied, “and may your city multiply
  94. in men: just now as I was landing, I
  95. rejoiced to meet youths, fair and matched in age.
  96. And yet I miss among them many whom
  97. I saw before when last I visited
  98. your city.” Aeacus then groaned and with
  99. sad voice replied: “With weeping we began,
  100. but better fortune followed. Would that I
  101. could tell the last of it, and not the first!
  102. Giving my heart command that simple words
  103. and briefly spoken may not long detain.
  104. Those happy youths who waited at your need,
  105. who smiled upon you and for whom you ask,
  106. because their absence grieves your noble mind,
  107. they've perished! and their bleaching bones
  108. or scattered ashes, only may remain,
  109. sad remnants, impotent, of vanished power,
  110. so recently my hope and my resource.
  111. “Because this island bears a rival's name,
  112. a deadly pestilence was visited
  113. on my confiding people, through the rage
  114. of jealous Juno flaming for revenge.
  115. This great calamity at first appeared
  116. a natural disease—but soon its power
  117. baffled our utmost efforts. Medicines
  118. availing not, a reign of terror swept
  119. from shore to shore and fearful havoc raged.
  120. “Thick darkness, gathered from descending skies,
  121. enveloped our devoted land with heat
  122. and languid sickness, for the space of full
  123. four moons.—Four times the Moon increased her size.
  124. Hot south winds blew with pestilential breath
  125. upon us. At the same time the diseased
  126. infection reached our needed springs and pools,
  127. thousands of serpents crawling over our
  128. deserted fields, defiled our rivers with
  129. their poison. The swift power of the disease
  130. at first was limited to death of dogs
  131. and birds and cattle, or among wild beasts.
  132. The luckless plowman marvels when he sees
  133. his strong bulls fall while at their task
  134. and sink down in the furrow. Woolly flocks
  135. bleat feebly while their wool falls off without
  136. a cause, and while their bodies pine away.
  137. The prized horse of high courage, and of great
  138. renown when on the race-course, has now lost
  139. victorious spirit, and forgetting his
  140. remembered glory groans in his shut stall,
  141. doomed for inglorious death. The boar forgets
  142. to rage, the stag to trust his speed; and even
  143. the famished bear to fight the stronger herd.
  144. “Death seizes on the vitals of all life;
  145. and in the woods, and in the fields and roads
  146. the loathsome bodies of the dead corrupt
  147. the heavy-hanging air. Even the dogs,
  148. the vultures and the wolves refuse to touch
  149. the putrid flesh, there in the sultry sun
  150. rotting upon the earth; emitting steams,
  151. and exhalations, with a baneful sweep
  152. increasing the dread contagion's wide extent.
  1. So spreading, with renewed destruction gained
  2. from its own poison, the fierce pestilence
  3. appeared to leap from moulding carcases
  4. of all the brute creation, till it struck
  5. the wretched tillers of the soil, and then
  6. extended its dominion over all
  7. this mighty city.
  8. “Always it began
  9. as if the patient's bowels were scorched with flames;
  10. red blotches on the body next appeared,
  11. and sharp pains in the lungs prevented breath.
  12. The swollen tongue would presently loll out,
  13. rough and discolored from the gaping mouth,
  14. wide-gasping to inhale the noxious air—
  15. and show red throbbing veins. The softest bed.
  16. And richest covering gave to none relief;
  17. but rather, the diseased would bare himself
  18. to cool his burning breast upon the ground,
  19. only to heat the earth—and no relief
  20. returned. And no physician could be found;
  21. for those who ministered among the sick
  22. were first to suffer from the dread disease—
  23. the cruel malady broke out upon
  24. the very ones who offered remedies.
  25. The hallowed art of medicine became
  26. a deadly snare to those who knew it best.
  27. “The only safety was in flight; and those
  28. who were the nearest to the stricken ones,
  29. and who most faithfully observed their wants,
  30. were always first to suffer as their wards.
  31. “And many, certain of approaching death,
  32. indulged their wicked passions—recklessly
  33. abandoned and without the sense of shame,
  34. promiscuously huddled by the wells,
  35. and rivers and cool fountains; but their thirst
  36. no water could assuage, and death alone
  37. was able to extinguish their desire.
  38. Too weak to rise, they die in water they
  39. pollute, while others drink its death.
  40. “A madness seizing on them made their beds
  41. become most irksome to their tortured nerves.
  42. Demented they could not endure the pain,
  43. and leaped insanely forth. Or if too weak,
  44. the wretches rolled their bodies on the ground,
  45. insistent to escape from hated homes—
  46. imagined sources of calamity;
  47. for, since the cause was hidden and unknown,
  48. the horrible locality was blamed.
  49. Suspicion seizes on each frail presence
  50. as proof of what can never be resolved.
  51. “And many half-dead wretches staggered out
  52. on sultry roads as long as they could stand;
  53. and others weeping, stretched out on the ground,
  54. died in convulsions, as their rolling eyes
  55. gazed upwards at the overhanging clouds;
  56. under the sad stars they breathed out their souls.
  57. “And oh, the deep despair that seized on me,
  58. the sovereign of that wretched people! I
  59. was tortured with a passionate desire
  60. to die the same death—And I hated life.
  61. “No matter where my shrinking eyes were turned,
  62. I saw a multitude of gruesome forms
  63. in ghastly attitudes bestrew the ground,
  64. scattered as rotten apples that have dropped
  65. from moving branches, or as acorns thick
  66. around a gnarled oak.
  67. “Lift up your eyes!
  68. Behold that holy temple! unto Jove
  69. long dedicated!—What availed the prayers
  70. of frightened multitudes, or incense burned
  71. on those devoted altars?—In the midst
  72. of his most fervent supplications,
  73. the husband as he pled for his dear wife,
  74. or the fond father for his stricken son,
  75. would suddenly, before a word prevailed,
  76. die clutching at the altars of his Gods,
  77. while holding in his stiffened hand, a spray
  78. of frankincense still waiting for the fire.
  79. How often sacrificial bulls have been
  80. brought to those temples, and while white-robed priest
  81. was pouring offered wine between their horns,
  82. have fallen without waiting for the stroke.
  83. “While I prepared a sacrifice to Jove,
  84. for my behalf, my country and three sons,
  85. the victim, ever moaning dismal sounds,
  86. before a blow was struck, fell suddenly
  87. beside the altar; and his scanty blood
  88. ran thinly from the knives that slaughtered him.
  89. His entrails, wanting all the marks of truth
  90. were so diseased, the warnings of the Gods
  91. could not be read—the baneful malady
  92. had penetrated to the heart of life.
  93. “And I have seen the carcases of men
  94. lie rotting at the sacred temple gates,
  95. or by the very altars, where they fell,
  96. making death odious to the living Gods.
  97. And often I have seen some desperate man
  98. end life by his own halter, and so cheat
  99. by voluntary death his fear of death,
  100. in mad haste to outrun approaching fate.
  101. “The bodies of the dead, indecently
  102. were cast forth, lacking sacred funeral rites
  103. as hitherto the custom. All the gates
  104. were crowded with processions of the dead.
  105. Unburied, they might lie upon the ground,
  106. or else, deserted, on their lofty pyres
  107. with no one to lament their dismal end,
  108. dissolve in their dishonored ashes. All
  109. restraint forgotten, a mad rabble fought
  110. and took possession of the burning pyres,
  111. and even the dead were ravished of their rest.—
  112. And who should mourn them wanting, all the souls
  113. of sons and husbands, and of old and young,
  114. must wander unlamented: and the land
  115. sufficed not for the crowded sepulchers:
  116. and the dense forest was denuded of all trees.
  117. “Heart-broken at the sight of this great woe,
  118. I wailed, ‘O Jupiter! if truth were told
  119. of your sweet comfort in Aegina's arms,
  120. if you were not ashamed of me, your son,
  121. restore my people, or entomb my corpse,
  122. that I may suffer as the ones I love.’—
  123. Great lightning flashed around me, and the sound
  124. of thunder proved that my complaint was heard.
  125. Accepting it, I cried, ‘Let these, Great Jove,
  126. the happy signs of your assent, be shown
  127. good omens given as a sacred pledge.’
  128. “Near by, a sacred oak tree grown from seed
  129. brought thither from Dodona, spread abroad
  130. its branches thinly covered with green leaves;
  131. and creeping as an army, on the tree
  132. we saw a train of ants that carried grain,
  133. half-hidden in the deep and wrinkled bark.
  134. And while I wondered at the endless line
  135. I said, ‘Good father, give me citizens
  136. of equal number for my empty walls.’
  137. Soon as I said those words, though not a wind
  138. was moving nor a breeze,—the lofty tree
  139. began to tremble, and I heard a sound
  140. of motion in its branches. Wonder not
  141. that sudden fear possessed me; and my hair
  142. began to rise; and I could hardly stand
  143. for so my weak knees tottered!—As I made
  144. obeisance to the soil and sacred tree,
  145. perhaps I cherished in my heart a thought,
  146. that, not acknowledged, cheered me with some hope.
  1. “At night I lay exhausted by such thoughts,
  2. a deep sleep seized my body, but the tree
  3. seemed always present—to my gaze distinct
  4. with all its branches—I could even see
  5. the birds among its leaves; and from its boughs,
  6. that trembled in the still air, moving ants
  7. were scattered to the ground in troops below;
  8. and ever, as they touched the soil, they grew
  9. larger and larger.—As they raised themselves,
  10. they stood with upright bodies, and put off
  11. their lean shapes; and absorbed their many feet:
  12. and even as their dark brown color changed,
  13. their rounded forms took on a human shape.
  14. “When my strange dream departed, I awoke,
  15. the vision vanished, I complained to Heaven
  16. against the idle comfort of such dreams;
  17. but as I voiced my own lament, I heard
  18. a mighty murmur echoing through the halls
  19. of my deserted palace, and a multitude
  20. of voices in confusion; where the sound
  21. of scarce an echo had disturbed the still
  22. deserted chambers for so many days.
  23. “All this I thought the fancy of my dream,
  24. until my brave son Telamon, in haste
  25. threw open the closed doorway, as he called,
  26. ‘Come quickly father, and behold a sight
  27. beyond the utmost of your fondest dreams!’
  28. I did go out, and there I saw such men
  29. each in his turn, as I had seen transformed
  30. in that weird vision of the moving ants.
  31. “They all advanced, and hailed me as their king.
  32. So soon as I had offered vows to Jove,
  33. I subdivided the deserted farms,
  34. and dwellings in the cities to these men
  35. miraculously raised —which now are called
  36. my Myrmidons, —the living evidence
  37. of my strange vision. You have seen these men;
  38. and since that day, their name has been declared,
  39. ‘Decisive evidence.’ They have retained
  40. the well-known customs of the days before
  41. their transformation. Patiently they toil;
  42. they store the profits of their labor; which
  43. they guard with valiant skill. They'll follow you
  44. to any war, well matched in years and courage,
  45. and I do promise, when this east wind turns,
  46. this wind that favored you and brought you here,
  47. and when a south wind favors our design,
  48. then my brave Myrmidons will go with you.”
  1. This narrative and many other tales
  2. had occupied the day. As twilight fell,
  3. festivities were blended in the night—
  4. the night, in turn, afforded sweet repose.
  5. Soon as the golden Sun had shown his light,
  6. the east wind blowing still, the ships were stayed
  7. from sailing home. The sons of Pallas came
  8. to Cephalus, who was the elder called;
  9. and Cephalus together with the sons
  10. of Pallas, went to see the king. Deep sleep
  11. still held the king; and Phocus who was son
  12. of Aeacus, received them at the gate,
  13. instead of Telamon and Peleus who
  14. were marshalling the men for war. Into
  15. the inner court and beautiful apartments
  16. Phocus conducted the Athenians,
  17. and they sat down together. Phocus then
  18. observed that Cephalus held in his hand
  19. a curious javelin with golden head,
  20. and shaft of some rare wood. And as they talked,
  21. he said; “It is my pleasure to explore
  22. the forest in the chase of startled game,
  23. and so I've learned the nature of rare woods,
  24. but never have I seen the match of this
  25. from which was fashioned this good javelin;
  26. it lacks the yellow tint of forest ash,
  27. it is not knotted like all corner-wood;
  28. although I cannot name the kind of wood,
  29. my eyes have never seen a javelin-shaft
  30. so beautiful as this.”
  31. To him replied
  32. a friend of Cephalus; “But you will find
  33. its beauty is not equal to its worth,
  34. for whatsoever it is aimed against,
  35. its flight is always certain to the mark,
  36. nor is it subject to the shift of chance;
  37. and after it has struck, although no hand
  38. may cast it back, it certainly returns,
  39. bloodstained with every victim.”
  40. Then indeed,
  41. was Phocus anxious to be told, whence came
  42. and who had given such a precious gift.
  43. And Cephalus appeared to tell him all;
  44. but craftily was silent on one strange
  45. condition of the fatal gift. As he
  46. recalled the mournful fate of his dear wife,
  47. his eyes filled up with tears. “Ah, pity me,”
  48. he said, “If Fate should grant me many years,
  49. I must weep every time that I regard
  50. this weapon which has been my cause of tears;
  51. the unforgiven death of my dear wife—
  52. ah, would that I had never handled it!
  53. “My sweet wife, Procris!—if you could compare
  54. her beauty with her sister's—Orithyia's,
  55. (ravished by the blustering Boreas)
  56. you would declare my wife more beautiful.
  57. “'Tis she her sire Erectheus joined to me,
  58. 'Tis she the god Love also joined to me.
  59. They called me happy, and in truth I was,
  60. and all pronounced us so until the Gods
  61. decreed it otherwise. Two joyful months
  62. of our united love were almost passed,
  63. when, as the grey light of the dawn dispelled,
  64. upon the summit of Hymettus green,
  65. Aurora, glorious in her golden robes,
  66. observed me busy with encircling nets,
  67. trapping the antlered deer.
  68. “Against my will
  69. incited by desire, she carried me
  70. away with her. Oh, let me not increase
  71. her anger, for I tell you what is true,
  72. I found no comfort in her lovely face!
  73. And, though she is the very queen of light,
  74. and reigns upon the edge of shadowy space
  75. where she is nourished on rich nectar-wine,
  76. adding delight to beauty, I could give
  77. no heed to her entreaties, for the thought
  78. of my beloved Procris intervened;
  79. and only her sweet name was on my lips.
  80. “I told Aurora of our wedding joys
  81. and all refreshing joys of love — and my
  82. first union of my couch deserted now:
  83. “Enraged against me, then the goddess said:
  84. ‘Keep to your Procris, I but trouble you,
  85. ungrateful clown! but, if you can be warned,
  86. you will no longer wish for her!’ And so,
  87. in anger, she returned me to my wife.
  88. “Alas, as I retraced the weary way,
  89. long-brooding over all Aurora said,
  90. suspicion made me doubtful of my wife,
  91. so faithful and so fair.—But many things
  92. reminding me of steadfast virtue, I
  93. suppressed all doubts; until the dreadful thought
  94. of my long absence filled my jealous mind:
  95. from which I argued to the criminal
  96. advances of Aurora; for if she,
  97. so lovely in appearance, did conceal
  98. such passion in the garb of innocence
  99. until the moment of temptation, how
  100. could I be certain of the purity
  101. of even the strongest when the best are frail?
  102. “So brooding—every effort I devised
  103. to cause my own undoing. By the means
  104. of bribing presents, favored by disguise,
  105. I sought to win her guarded chastity.
  106. Aurora had disguised me, and her guile
  107. determined me to work in subtle snares.
  108. “Unknown to all my friends, I paced the streets
  109. of sacred Athens till I reached my home.
  110. I hoped to search out evidence of guilt:
  111. but everything seemed waiting my return;
  112. and all the household breathed an air of grief.
  113. “With difficulty I, disguised, obtained
  114. an entrance to her presence by the use
  115. of artifices many: and when I
  116. there saw her, silent in her grief,—amazed,
  117. my heart no longer prompted me to test
  118. such constant love. An infinite desire
  119. took hold upon me. I could scarce restrain
  120. an impulse to caress and kiss her. Pale
  121. with grief that I was gone, her lovely face
  122. in sorrow was more beautiful—the world
  123. has not another so divinely fair.
  124. “Ah, Phocus, it is wonderful to think
  125. of beauty so surpassing fair it seems
  126. more lovable in sorrow! Why relate
  127. to you how often she repulsed my feigned
  128. attempts upon her virtue? To each plea
  129. she said: ‘I serve one man: no matter where
  130. he may be I will keep my love for one.’
  131. “Who but a man insane with jealousy,
  132. would doubt the virtue of a loving wife,
  133. when tempted by the most insidious wiles,
  134. whose hallowed honor was her husband's love?
  135. But I, not satisfied with proof complete,
  136. would not abandon my depraved desire
  137. to poison the pure fountain I should guard;—
  138. increasing my temptations, I caused her
  139. to hesitate, and covet a rich gift.
  140. “Then, angered at my own success I said,
  141. discarding all disguise, ‘Behold the man
  142. whose lavish promise has established proof,
  143. the witness of your shameful treachery;
  144. your absent husband has returned to this!’
  145. “Unable to endure a ruined home,
  146. where desecration held her sin to view,
  147. despairing and in silent shame she fled;
  148. and I, the author of that wickedness
  149. ran after: but enraged at my deceit
  150. and hating all mankind, she wandered far
  151. in wildest mountains; hunting the wild game.
  152. “I grieved at her desertion; and the fires
  153. of my neglected love consumed my health;
  154. with greater violence my love increased,
  155. until unable to endure such pain,
  156. I begged forgiveness and acknowledged fault:
  157. nor hesitated to declare that I
  158. might yield, the same way tempted, if such great
  159. gifts had been offered to me. When I had made
  160. abject confession and she had avenged
  161. her outraged feelings, she came back to me
  162. and we spent golden years in harmony.
  163. “She gave to me the hound she fondly loved,
  164. the very one Diana gave to her
  165. when lovingly the goddess had declared,
  166. ‘This hound all others shall excel in speed.’
  167. Nor was that gift the only one was given
  168. by kind Diana when my wife was hers,
  169. as you may guess—this javelin I hold forth,
  170. no other but a goddess could bestow.
  171. “Would you be told the story of both gifts
  172. attend my words and you shall be amazed,
  173. for never such another sad event
  174. has added sorrow to the grieving world.
  1. “After the son of Laius,—Oedipus,—
  2. had solved the riddle of the monster-sphinx,
  3. so often baffling to the wits of men,
  4. and after she had fallen from her hill,
  5. mangled, forgetful of her riddling craft;
  6. not unrevenged the mighty Themis brooked
  7. her loss. Without delay that goddess raised
  8. another savage beast to ravage Thebes,
  9. by which the farmer's cattle were devoured,
  10. the land was ruined and its people slain.
  11. “Then all the valiant young men of the realm,
  12. with whom I also went, enclosed the field
  13. (where lurked the monster) in a mesh
  14. of many tangled nets: but not a strand
  15. could stay its onrush, and it leaped the crest
  16. of every barrier where the toils were set.
  17. “Already they had urged their eager dogs,
  18. which swiftly as a bird it left behind,
  19. eluding all the hunters as it fled.
  20. “At last all begged me to let slip the leash
  21. of straining Tempest; such I called the hound,
  22. my dear wife's present. As he tugged and pulled
  23. upon the tightened cords, I let them slip:
  24. no sooner done, then he was lost to sight;
  25. although, wherever struck his rapid feet
  26. the hot dust whirled. Not swifter flies the spear,
  27. nor whizzing bullet from the twisted sling,
  28. nor feathered arrow from the twanging bow!
  29. “A high hill jutted from a rolling plain,
  30. on which I mounted to enjoy the sight
  31. of that unequalled chase. One moment caught,
  32. the next as surely free, the wild beast seemed
  33. now here now there, elusive in its flight;
  34. swiftly sped onward, or with sudden turn
  35. doubled in circles to deceive or gain.
  36. With equal speed pursuing at each turn,
  37. the rapid hound could neither gain nor lose.
  38. Now springing forward and now doubling back,
  39. his great speed foiled, he snapped at empty air.
  40. “I then turned to my javelin's aid; and while
  41. I poised it in my right hand, turned away
  42. my gaze a moment as I sought to twine
  43. my practiced fingers in the guiding thongs;
  44. but when again I lifted up my eyes,
  45. to cast the javelin where the monster sped,
  46. I saw two marble statues standing there,
  47. transformed upon the plain. One statue seemed
  48. to strain in attitude of rapid flight,
  49. the other with wide-open jaws was changed,
  50. just in the act of barking and pursuit.
  51. Surely some God—if any god controls—
  52. decreed both equal, neither could succeed.”
  53. Now after these miraculous events,
  54. it seemed he wished to stop, but Phocus said.
  55. “What charge have you against the javelin?”
  56. And Cephalus rejoined; “I must relate
  57. my sorrows last; for I would tell you first
  58. the story of my joys—'Tis sweet to think,
  59. upon the gliding tide of those few years
  60. of married life, when my dear wife and I
  61. were happy in our love and confidence.
  62. No woman could allure me then from her;
  63. and even Venus could not tempt my love;
  64. all my great passion for my dearest wife
  65. was equalled by the passion she returned.
  66. “As early as the sun, when golden rays
  67. first glittered on the mountains, I would rise
  68. in youthful ardor, to explore the fields
  69. in search of game. With no companions, hounds,
  70. nor steeds nor nets, this javelin was alone
  71. my safety and companion in my sport.
  72. “And often when my right hand felt its weight,
  73. a-wearied of the slaughter it had caused,
  74. I would come back to rest in the cool shade,
  75. and breezes from cool vales—the breeze I wooed,
  76. blowing so gently on me in the heat;
  77. the breeze I waited for; she was my rest
  78. from labor. I remember, ‘Aura come,’
  79. I used to say, ‘Come soothe me, come into
  80. my breast most welcome one, and yes indeed,
  81. you do relieve the heat with which I burn.’
  82. “And as I felt the sweet breeze of the morn,
  83. as if in answer to my song, my fate impelled
  84. me further to declare my joy in song;
  85. “ ‘You are my comfort, you are my delight!
  86. Refresh me, cherish me, breathe on my face!
  87. I love you child of lonely haunts and trees!’
  88. “Such words I once was singing, not aware
  89. of some one spying on me from the trees,
  90. who thought I sang to some beloved Nymph,
  91. or goddess by the name of Aura—so
  92. I always called the breeze.—Unhappy man!
  93. The meddling tell-tale went to Procris with
  94. a story of supposed unfaithfulness,
  95. and slyly told in whispers all he heard.
  96. True love is credulous; (and as I heard
  97. the story) Procris in a swoon fell down.
  98. When she awakened from her bitter swoon,
  99. she ceased not wailing her unhappy fate,
  100. and, wretched, moaned for an imagined woe.
  101. “So she lamented what was never done!
  102. Her woe incited by a whispered tale,
  103. she feared the fiction of a harmless name!
  104. But hope returning soothed her wretched state;
  105. and now, no longer willing to believe
  106. such wrong, unless her own eyes saw it, she
  107. refused to think her husband sinned.
  108. “When dawn
  109. had banished night, and I, rejoicing, ranged
  110. the breathing woods, victorious in the hunt
  111. paused and said, ‘Come Aura—lovely breeze—
  112. relieve my panting breast!’ It seemed I heard
  113. the smothered moans of sorrow as I spoke:
  114. but not conceiving harm, I said again;
  115. “ ‘Come here, oh my delight!’ And as those words
  116. fell from my lips, I thought I heard a soft
  117. sound in the thicket, as of moving leaves;
  118. and thinking surely 'twas a hidden beast,
  119. I threw this winged javelin at the spot.—
  120. “It was my own wife, Procris, and the shaft
  121. was buried in her breast—‘Ah, wretched me!’
  122. She cried; and when I heard her well-known voice,
  123. distracted I ran towards her,—only to find
  124. her bathed in blood, and dying from the wound
  125. of that same javelin she had given to me:
  126. and in her agony she drew it forth,—
  127. ah me! alas! from her dear tender side.
  128. “I lifted her limp body to my own,
  129. in these blood-guilty arms, and wrapped the wound
  130. with fragments of my tunic, that I tore
  131. in haste to staunch her blood; and all the while
  132. I moaned, ‘Oh, do not now forsake me—slain
  133. by these accursed hands!’
  134. “Weak with the loss
  135. of blood, and dying, she compelled herself
  136. to utter these few words, ‘It is my death;
  137. but let my eyes not close upon this life
  138. before I plead with you! — By the dear ties
  139. of sacred marriage; by your god and mine;
  140. and if my love for you can move your heart;
  141. and even by the cause of my sad death,—
  142. my love for you increasing as I die,—
  143. ah, put away that Aura you have called,
  144. that she may never separate your soul,—
  145. your love from me.’
  146. “So, by those dying words
  147. I knew that she had heard me call the name
  148. of Aura, when I wished the cooling breeze,
  149. and thought I called a goddess,—cause of all
  150. her jealous sorrow and my bitter woe
  151. “Alas, too late, I told her the sad truth;
  152. but she was sinking, and her little strength
  153. swiftly was ebbing with her flowing blood.
  154. As long as life remained her loving gaze
  155. was fixed on mine; and her unhappy life
  156. at last was breathed out on my grieving face.
  157. It seemed to me a look of sweet content
  158. was in her face, as if she feared not death.”
  159. In tears he folds these things; and, as they wept
  160. in came the aged monarch, Aeacus,
  161. and with the monarch his two valiant sons,
  162. and troops, new-levied, trained to glorious arms.