Arachne and Minerva
All this Minerva heard; and she approved
their songs and their resentment; but her heart
was brooding thus, "It is an easy thing
to praise another, I should do as they:
no creature of the earth should ever slight
the majesty that dwells in me, -- without
just retribution." -- So her thought was turned
upon the fortune of Arachne -- proud,
who would not ever yield to her the praise
won by the art of deftly weaving wool,
a girl who had not fame for place of birth,
nor fame for birth, but only fame for skill!
For it was well known that her father dwelt
in Colophon; where, at his humble trade,
he dyed in Phocean purples, fleecy wool.
Her mother, also of the lower class,
had died. Arachne in a mountain town
by skill had grown so famous in the Land
of Lydia, that unnumbered curious nymphs
eager to witness her dexterity,
deserted the lush vineyards of Timolus;
or even left the cool and flowing streams
of bright Pactolus, to admire the cloth,
or to observe her deftly spinning wool.
So graceful was her motion then, -- if she
was twisting the coarse wool in little balls,
or if she teased it with her finger-tips,
or if she softened the fine fleece, drawn forth
in misty films, or if she twirled the smooth
round spindle with her energetic thumb,
or if with needle she embroidered cloth; --
in all her motions one might well perceive
how much Minerva had instructed her:
but this she ever would deny, displeased
to share her fame; and said, "Let her contend
in art with me; and if her skill prevails,
I then will forfeit all!"
I then will forfeit all!" Minerva heard,
and came to her, disguised with long grey hair,
and with a staff to steady her weak limbs.
She seemed a feeble woman, very old,
and quavered as she said, "Old age is not
the cause of every ill; experience comes
with lengthened years; and, therefore, you should not
despise my words. It is no harm in you
to long for praise of mortals, when
your nimble hands are spinning the soft wool, --
but you should not deny Minerva's art --
and you should pray that she may pardon you,
for she will grant you pardon if you ask."
Arachne, scowling with an evil face.
Looked at the goddess, as she dropped her thread.
She hardly could restrain her threatening hand,
and, trembling in her anger, she replied
to you, disguised Minerva:
to you, disguised Minerva: "Silly fool, --
worn out and witless in your palsied age,
a great age is your great misfortune! -- Let
your daughter and your son's wife -- if the Gods
have blessed you -- let them profit by your words;
within myself, my knowledge is contained
sufficient; you need not believe that your
advice does any good; for I am quite
unchanged in my opinion. Get you gone, --
advise your goddess to come here herself,
and not avoid the contest!"
and not avoid the contest!" Instantly,
the goddess said, "Minerva comes to you!"
And with those brief words, put aside the shape
of the old woman, and revealed herself,
Minerva, goddess. All the other Nymphs
and matrons of Mygdonia worshiped her;
but not Arachne, who defiant stood; --
although at first she flushed up -- then went pale --
then blushed again, reluctant. -- So, at first,
the sky suffuses, as Aurora moves,
and, quickly when the glorious sun comes up,
pales into white.
pales into white. She even rushed upon
her own destruction, for she would not give
from her desire to gain the victory.
Nor did the daughter of almighty Jove
decline: disdaining to delay with words,
she hesitated not.
she hesitated not. And both, at once,
selected their positions, stretched their webs
with finest warp, and separated warp with sley.
The woof was next inserted in the web
by means of the sharp shuttles, which
their nimble fingers pushed along, so drawn
within the warp, and so the teeth notched in
the moving sley might strike them. -- Both, in haste,
girded their garments to their breasts and moved
their skilful arms, beguiling their fatigue
in eager action.
in eager action. Myriad tints appeared
besides the Tyrian purple -- royal dye,
extracted in brass vessels. -- As the bow,
that spans new glory in the curving sky,
its glittering rays reflected in the rain,
spreads out a multitude of blended tints,
in scintillating beauty to the sight
of all who gaze upon it; -- so the threads,
inwoven, mingled in a thousand tints,
harmonious and contrasting; shot with gold:
and there, depicted in those shining webs,
were shown the histories of ancient days: --
Minerva worked the Athenian Hill of Mars,
where ancient Cecrops built his citadel,
and showed the old contention for the name
it should be given. -- Twelve celestial Gods
surrounded Jupiter, on lofty thrones;
and all their features were so nicely drawn,
that each could be distinguished. -- Jupiter
appeared as monarch of those judging Gods.
There Neptune, guardian of the sea, was shown
contending with Minerva. As he struck
the Rock with his long trident, a wild horse
sprang forth which he bequeathed to man. He claimed
his right to name the city for that gift.
And then she wove a portrait of herself,
bearing a shield, and in her hand a lance,
sharp-pointed, and a helmet on her head --
her breast well-guarded by her Aegis: there
she struck her spear into the fertile earth,
from which a branch of olive seemed to sprout,
pale with new clustered fruits. -- And those twelve Gods,
appeared to judge, that olive as a gift
surpassed the horse which Neptune gave to man.
And, so Arachne, rival of her fame,
might learn the folly of her mad attempt,
from the great deeds of ancient histories,
and what award presumption must expect,
Minerva wove four corners with life scenes
of contest, brightly colored, but of size
diminutive. In one of these was shown
the snow-clad mountains, Rhodope,
and Haemus, which for punishment were changed
from human beings to those rigid forms,
when they aspired to rival the high Gods.
And in another corner she described
that Pygmy, whom the angry Juno changed
from queen-ship to a crane; because she thought
herself an equal of the living Gods,
she was commanded to wage cruel wars
upon her former subjects. In the third,
she wove the story of Antigone,
who dared compare herself to Juno, queen
of Jupiter, and showed her as she was
transformed into a silly chattering stork,
that praised her beauty, with her ugly beak. --
Despite the powers of Ilion and her sire
Laomedon, her shoulders fledged white wings.
And so, the third part finished, there was left
one corner, where Minerva deftly worked
the story of the father, Cinyras; --
as he was weeping on the temple steps,
which once had been his daughter's living limbs.
And she adorned the border with designs
of peaceful olive -- her devoted tree --
which having shown, she made an end of work.
Arachne, of Maeonia, wove, at first
the story of Europa, as the bull
deceived her, and so perfect was her art,
it seemed a real bull in real waves.
Europa seemed to look back towards the land
which she had left; and call in her alarm
to her companions -- and as if she feared
the touch of dashing waters, to draw up
her timid feet, while she was sitting on
the bull's back.
the bull's back. And she wove Asteria seized
by the assaulting eagle; and beneath the swan's
white wings showed Leda lying by the stream:
and showed Jove dancing as a Satyr, when
he sought the beautiful Antiope,
to whom was given twins; and how he seemed
Amphitryon when he deceived Alcmena;
and how he courted lovely Danae
luring her as a gleaming shower of gold;
and poor Aegina, hidden in his flame,
jove as a shepherd with Mnemosyne;
and beautiful Proserpina, involved
by him, apparent as a spotted snake.
And in her web, Arachne wove the scenes
of Neptune: -- who was shown first as a bull,
when he was deep in love with virgin Arne
then as Enipeus when the giant twins,
Aloidae, were begot; and as the ram
that gambolled with Bisaltis; as a horse
loved by the fruitful Ceres, golden haired,
all-bounteous mother of the yellow grain;
and as the bird that hovered round snake-haired
Medusa, mother of the winged horse;
and as the dolphin, sporting with the Nymph,
Melantho. -- All of these were woven true
to life, in proper shades.
to life, in proper shades. And there she showed
Apollo, when disguised in various forms:
as when he seemed a rustic; and as when
he wore hawk-wings, and then the tawny skin
of a great lion; and once more when he
deluded Isse, as a shepherd lad.
And there was Bacchus, when he was disguised
as a large cluster of fictitious grapes;
deluding by that wile the beautiful
Erigone; -- and Saturn, as a steed,
begetter of the dual-natured Chiron.
And then Arachne, to complete her work,
wove all around the web a patterned edge
of interlacing flowers and ivy leaves.
Minerva could not find a fleck or flaw --
even Envy can not censure perfect art --
enraged because Arachne had such skill
she ripped the web, and ruined all the scenes
that showed those wicked actions of the Gods;
and with her boxwood shuttle in her hand,
struck the unhappy mortal on her head, --
struck sharply thrice, and even once again.
Arachne's spirit, deigning not to brook
such insult, brooded on it, till she tied
a cord around her neck, and hung herself.
Minerva, moved to pity at the sight,
sustained and saved her from that bitter death;
but, angry still, pronounced another doom:
"Although I grant you life, most wicked one,
your fate shall be to dangle on a cord,
and your posterity forever shall
take your example, that your punishment
may last forever!" Even as she spoke,
before withdrawing from her victim's sight,
she sprinkled her with juice -- extract of herbs
of Hecate. At once all hair fell off,
her nose and ears remained not, and her head
shrunk rapidly in size, as well as all
her body, leaving her diminutive. --
Her slender fingers gathered to her sides
as long thin legs; and all her other parts
were fast absorbed in her abdomen -- whence
she vented a fine thread; -- and ever since,
Arachne, as a spider, weaves her web.
All Lydia was astonished at her fate
the Rumor spread to Phrygia, soon the world
was filled with fear and wonder. Niobe
had known her long before, -- when in Maeonia
near to Mount Sipylus; but the sad fate
which overtook Arachne, lost on her,
she never ceased her boasting and refused
to honor the great Gods.
to honor the great Gods. So many things
increased her pride: She loved to boast
her husband's skill, their noble family,
the rising grandeur of their kingdom. Such
felicities were great delights to her;
but nothing could exceed the haughty way
she boasted of her children: and, in truth,
Niobe might have been adjudged on earth,
the happiest mother of mankind, if pride
had not destroyed her wit.
had not destroyed her wit. It happened then,
that Manto, daughter of Tiresias,
who told the future; when she felt the fire
of prophecy descend upon her, rushed
upon the street and shouted in the midst:
"You women of Ismenus! go and give
to high Latona and her children, twain,
incense and prayer. Go, and with laurel wreathe
your hair in garlands, as your sacred prayers
arise to heaven. Give heed, for by my speech
Latona has ordained these holy rites."
At once, the Theban women wreathe their brows
with laurel, and they cast in hallowed flame
the grateful incense, while they supplicate
all favors of the ever-living Gods.
And while they worship, Niobe comes there,
surrounded with a troup that follow her,
and most conspicuous in her purple robe,
bright with inwoven threads of yellow gold.
Beautiful in her anger, she tosses back
her graceful head. The glory of her hair
shines on her shoulders. Standing forth,
she looks upon them with her haughty eyes,
and taunts them, "Madness has prevailed on you
to worship some imagined Gods of Heaven,
which you have only heard of; but the Gods
that truly are on earth, and can be seen,
are all neglected! Come, explain to me,
why is Latona worshiped and adored,
and frankincense not offered unto me?
For my divinity is known to you.
"Tantalus was my father, who alone
approached the tables of the Gods in heaven;
my mother, sister of the Pleiades,
was daughter of huge Atlas, who supports
the world upon his shoulders; I can boast
of Jupiter as father of my sire,
I count him also as my father-in-law.
The peoples of my Phrygia dread my power,
and I am mistress of the palace built
by Cadmus. By my husband, I am queen
of those great walls that reared themselves
to the sweet music of his sounding lyre.
We rule together all the people they
encompass and defend. And everywhere
my gaze is turned, an evidence of wealth
is witnessed. "In my features you can see
the beauty of a goddess, but above
that majesty is all the glory due
to me, the mother of my seven sons
and daughters seven. And the time will come
when by their marriage they will magnify
the circle of my power invincible.
"All must acknowledge my just cause of pride
and must no longer worship, in despite
of my superior birth, this deity,
a daughter of ignoble Coeus, whom
one time the great Earth would not even grant
sufficient space for travail: whom the Heavens,
the Land, the Sea together once compelled
to wander, hopeless on all hostile shores!
Throughout the world she found herself rebuffed,
till Delos, sorry for the vagrant, said,
'Homeless you roam the lands, and I the seas!'
And even her refuge always was adrift.
"And there she bore two children, who, compared
with mine, are but as one to seven. Who
denies my fortunate condition? -- Who
can doubt my future? -- I am surely safe.
"The wealth of my abundance is too strong
for Fortune to assail me. Let her rage
despoil me of large substance; yet so much
would still be mine, for I have risen above
the blight of apprehension. But, suppose
a few of my fair children should be taken!
Even so deprived, I could not be reduced
to only two, as this Latona, who,
might quite as well be childless. -- Get you gone
from this insensate sacrifice. Make haste!
Cast off the wreathing laurels from your brows!"
They plucked the garlands from their hair, and left
the sacrifice, obedient to her will,
although in gentle murmurs they adored
the goddess Niobe had so defamed.
Latona, furious when she heard the speech,
flew swiftly to the utmost peak of Cynthus,
and spoke to her two children in these words:
"Behold your mother, proud of having borne
such glorious children! I will yield
prestige before no goddess -- save alone
immortal Juno! I have been debased,
and driven for all ages from my own --
my altars, unto me devoted long,
and so must languish through eternity,
unless by you sustained. Nor is this all;.
That daughter of Tantalus, bold Niobe,
has added curses to her evil deeds,
and with a tongue as wicked as her sire's,
has raised her base-born children over mine.
Has even called me childless! A sad fate
more surely should be hers! Oh, I entreat" --
But Phoebus answered her, "No more complaint
is necessary, for it only serves
to hinder the swift sequel of her doom."
And with the same words Phoebe answered her.
And having spoken, they descended through
the shielding shadows of surrounding clouds,
and hovered on the citadel of Cadmus.
There, far below them, was a level plain
which swept around those walls; where trampling steeds,
with horny hoofs, and multitudinous wheels,
had beaten a wide track. And on the field
the older sons of Niobe on steeds
emblazoned with bright dyes and harness rich
with studded gold were circling. -- One of these,
Ismenus, first-born of his mother, while
controlling his fleet courser's foaming mouth,
cried out, "Ah wretched me!" A shaft had pierced
the middle of his breast; and as the reins
dropped slowly on the rapid courser's neck,
his drooping form fell forward to the ground.
Not far from him, his brother, Sipylus,
could hear the whistling of a fatal shaft,
and in his fright urged on the plunging steed:
as when the watchful pilot, sensible
of storms approaching, crowds on sail,
hoping to catch a momentary breeze,
so fled he, urging an impetuous flight;
but, while he fled the shaft, unerring, flew;
transfixed him with its quivering death; struck where
the neck supports the head and the sharp point
protruded from his throat. In his swift flight,
as he was leaning forward, he was struck;
and, rolling over the wild horse's neck
pitched to the ground, and stained it with his blood.
Unhappy Phaedimus, and Tantalus,
(So named from his maternal grandsire) now
had finished coursing on the track, and smooth.
Shining with oil, were wrestling in the field;
and while those brothers struggled -- breast to breast --
another arrow, hurtling from the sky,
pierced them together, just as they were clinched.
The mingled sound that issued from two throats
was like a single groan. Convulsed with pain,
the wrestlers fell together on the ground,
where, stricken with a double agony,
rolling their eyeballs, they sobbed out their lives.
Alphenor saw them die -- beating his breast
in agony -- ran to lift in his arms
their lifeless bodies cold -- while doing this
he fell upon them. Phoebus struck him so,
piercing his midriff in a vital part,
with fatal shot, which, when he pulled it forth,
dragged with its barb a torn clot of his lung --
his blood and life poured out upon the air.
The youthful Damasicthon next was struck,
not only once; an arrow pierced his leg
just where the sinews of the thigh begin,
and as he turned and stooped to pluck it out,
another keen shaft shot into his neck,
up to the fletching. -- The blood drove it out,
and spouted after it in crimson jets.
Then, Ilioneus, last of seven sons,
lifted his unavailing arms in prayer,
and cried, "O Universal Deities,
gods of eternal heaven, spare my life!" --
Besought too late, Apollo of the Bow,
could not prevail against the deadly shaft,
already on its way: and yet his will,
compellant, acted to retard its flight,
so that it cut no deeper than his heart.
The rumors of an awful tragedy, --
the wailings of sad Niobe's loved friends, --
the terror of her grieving relatives, --
all gave some knowledge of her sudden loss:
but so bewildered and enraged her mind,
that she could hardly realize the Gods
had privilege to dare against her might.
Nor would she, till her lord, Amphion, thrust
his sword deep in his breast, by which his life
and anguish both were ended in dark night.
Alas, proud Niobe, once haughty queen!
Proud Niobe who but so lately drove
her people from Latona's altars, while,
moving majestic through the midst, she hears
their plaudits, now so bitterly debased,
her meanest enemy may pity her! --
She fell upon the bodies of her sons,
and in a frenzy of maternal grief,
kissed their unfeeling lips. Then unto Heaven
with arms accusing, railed upon her foe:
"Glut your revenge! Latona, glut your rage!
Yea, let my lamentations be your joy!
Go -- satiate your flinty heart with death!
Are not my seven sons all dead? Am I
not waiting to be carried to my grave? --
exult and triumph, my victorious foe!
Victorious? Nay! -- Much more remains to me
in all my utmost sorrow, than to you,
you gloater upon vengeance -- Undismayed,
I stand victorious in my Field of Woe!"
no sooner had she spoken, than the cord
twanged from the ever-ready bow; and all
who heard the fatal sound, again were filled
with fear, -- save Niobe, in misery bold, --
defiant in misfortune. -- Clothed in black,
the sisters of the stricken brothers stood,
with hair disheveled, by the funeral biers.
And one while plucking from her brother's heart
a shaft, swooned unto death, fell on her face --
on her dear brother's corpse. Another girl,
while she consoled her mother, suddenly,
was stricken with an unseen, deadly wound;
and doubled in convulsions, closed her lips,
tight held them, till both breath and life were lost.
Another, vainly rushed away from death --
she met it, and pitched head-first to the ground;
and still another died upon her corse,
another vainly sought a secret death,
and, then another slipped beyond's life's edge.
So, altogether, six of seven died --
each victim, strickened in a different way.
One child remained. Then in a frenzy-fear
the mother, as she covered her with all
her garments and her body, wailed -- "Oh, leave
me this one child! the youngest of them all!
My darling daughter -- only leave me one!"
But even while she was entreating for its life --
the life was taken from her only child.
Childless -- she crouched beside her slaughtered sons,
her lifeless daughters, and her husband's corpse.
The breeze not even moved her fallen hair,
a chill of marble spread upon her flesh,
beneath her pale, set brows, her eyes moved not,
her bitter tongue turned stiff in her hard jaws,
her lovely veins congealed, and her stiff neck
and rigid hands could neither bend nor move. --
her limbs and body, all were changed to stone.
Yet ever would she weep: and as her tears
were falling she was carried from the place,
enveloped in a storm and mighty wind,
far, to her native land, where fixed upon
a mountain summit she dissolves in tears, --
and to this day the marble drips with tears.
Rustics changed to frogs
All men and women, after this event,
feared to incur Latona's fateful wrath,
and worshiped with more zeal the Deity,
mother of twins. -- And, as it is the way
of men to talk of many other things
after a strong occurrence, they recalled
what other deeds the goddess had performed; --
and one of them recited this event:
'Twas in the ancient days of long-ago, --
some rustics, in the fertile fields of Lycia,
heedless, insulted the goddess to their harm: --
perhaps you've never heard of this event,
because those country clowns were little known.
The event was wonderful, but I can vouch
the truth of it. I visited the place
and I have seen the pool of water, where
happened the miracle I now relate.
My good old father, then advanced in years,
incapable of travel, ordered me
to fetch some cattle -- thoroughbreds -- from there,
and had secured a Lycian for my guide,
as I traversed the pastures, with the man,
it chanced, I saw an ancient altar, -- grimed
with sacrificial ashes -- in the midst
of a large pool, with sedge and reeds around,
a-quiver in the breeze. And there my guide
stood on the marge, and with an awe-struck voice
began to whisper, "Be propitious, hear
my supplications, and forget not me!"
And I, observing him, echoed the words,
"Forget not me!" which, having done, I turned
to him and said, "Whose altar can this be?
Perhaps a sacred altar of the Fauns,
or of the Naiads, or a native God?"
To which my guide replied, "Young man, such Gods
may not be worshiped at this altar. She
whom once the royal Juno drove away
to wander a harsh world, alone permits
this altar to be used: that goddess whom
the wandering Isle of Delos, at the time
it drifted as the foam, almost refused
a refuge. There Latona, as she leaned
against a palm-tree -- and against the tree
most sacred to Minerva, brought forth twins,
although their harsh step-mother, Juno, strove
to interfere. -- And from the island forced
to fly by jealous Juno, on her breast
she bore her children, twin Divinities.
At last, outwearied with the toil, and parched
with thirst -- long-wandering in those heated days
over the arid land of Lycia, where
was bred the dire Chimaera -- at the time
her parching breasts were drained, she saw this pool
of crystal water, shimmering in the vale.
Some countrymen were there to gather reeds,
and useful osiers, and the bulrush, found
with sedge in fenny pools. To them approached
Latona, and she knelt upon the merge
to cool her thirst, with some refreshing water.
But those clowns forbade her and the goddess cried,
as they so wickedly opposed her need:
"Why do you so resist my bitter thirst?
The use of water is the sacred right
of all mankind, for Nature has not made
the sun and air and water, for the sole
estate of any creature; and to Her
kind bounty I appeal, although of you
I humbly beg the use of it. Not here
do I intend to bathe my wearied limbs.
I only wish to quench an urgent thirst,
for, even as I speak, my cracking lips
and mouth so parched, almost deny me words.
A drink of water will be like a draught
of nectar, giving life; and I shall owe
to you the bounty and my life renewed. --
ah, let these tender infants, whose weak arms
implore you from my bosom, but incline
your hearts to pity!" And just as she spoke,
it chanced the children did stretch out their arms
and who would not be touched to hear such words,
as spoken by this goddess, and refuse?
But still those clowns persisted in their wrong
against the goddess; for they hindered her,
and threatened with their foul, abusive tongues
to frighten her away -- and, worse than all,
they even muddied with their hands and feet
the clear pool; forcing the vile, slimy dregs
up from the bottom, in a spiteful way,
by jumping up and down. -- Enraged at this,
she felt no further thirst, nor would she deign
to supplicate again; but, feeling all
the outraged majesty of her high state,
she raised her hands to Heaven, and exclaimed,
"Forever may you live in that mud-pool!"
The curse as soon as uttered took effect,
and every one of them began to swim
beneath the water, and to leap and plunge
deep in the pool. -- Now, up they raise their heads,
now swim upon the surface, now they squat
themselves around the marshy margent, now
they plump again down to the chilly deeps.
And, ever and again, with croaking throats,
indulge offensive strife upon the banks,
or even under water, boom abuse.
Their ugly voices cause their bloated necks
to puff out; and their widened jaws are made
still wider in the venting of their spleen.
Their backs, so closely fastened to their heads,
make them appear as if their shrunken necks
have been cut off. Their backbones are dark green;
white are their bellies, now their largest part. --
Forever since that time, the foolish frogs
muddy their own pools, where they leap and dive.
So he related how the clowns were changed
to leaping frogs; and after he was through,
another told the tale of Marsyas, in these words:
The Satyr Marsyas, when he played the flute
in rivalry against Apollo's lyre,
lost that audacious contest and, alas!
His life was forfeit; for, they had agreed
the one who lost should be the victor's prey.
And, as Apollo punished him, he cried,
"Ah-h-h! why are you now tearing me apart?
A flute has not the value of my life!"
Even as he shrieked out in his agony,
his living skin was ripped off from his limbs,
till his whole body was a flaming wound,
with nerves and veins and viscera exposed.
But all the weeping people of that land,
and all the Fauns and Sylvan Deities,
and all the Satyrs, and Olympus, his
loved pupil -- even then renowned in song,
and all the Nymphs, lamented his sad fate;
and all the shepherds, roaming on the hills,
lamented as they tended fleecy flocks.
And all those falling tears, on fruitful Earth,
descended to her deepest veins, as drip
the moistening dews, -- and, gathering as a fount,
turned upward from her secret-winding caves,
to issue, sparkling, in the sun-kissed air,
the clearest river in the land of Phrygia, --
through which it swiftly flows between steep banks
down to the sea: and, therefore, from his name,
'Tis called "The Marsyas" to this very day.
And after this was told, the people turned
and wept for Niobe's loved children dead,
and also, mourned Amphion, sorrow-slain.
The Theban people hated Niobe,
but Pelops, her own brother, mourned her death;
and as he rent his garment, and laid bare
his white left shoulder, you could see the part
composed of ivory. -- At his birth 'twas all
of healthy flesh; but when his father cut
his limbs asunder, and the Gods restored
his life, all parts were rightly joined, except
part of one shoulder, which was wanting; so
to serve the purpose of the missing flesh,
a piece of ivory was inserted there,
making his body by such means complete.
Tereus and Philomena
The lords of many cities that were near,
now met together and implored their kings
to mourn with Pelops those unhappy deeds. --
The lords of Argos; Sparta and Mycenae;
and Calydon, before it had incurred
the hatred of Diana, goddess of the chase;
fertile Orchomenus and Corinth, great
in wealth of brass; Patrae and fierce Messena;
Cleone, small; and Pylus and Troezen,
not ruled by Pittheus then, -- and also, all
the other cities which are shut off by
the Isthmus there dividing by its two seas,
and all the cities which are seen from there.
What seemed most wonderful, of all those towns
Athens alone was wanting, for a war
had gathered from the distant seas, a host
of savage warriors had alarmed her walls,
and hindered her from mourning for the dead.
Now Tereus, then the mighty king of Thrace,
came to the aid of Athens as defense
from that fierce horde; and there by his great deeds
achieved a glorious fame. Since his descent
was boasted from the mighty Gradivus,
and he was gifted with enormous wealth,
Pandion, king of Athens, gave to him
in sacred wedlock his dear daughter, Procne.
But Juno, guardian of the sacred rites
attended not, nor Hymenaeus, nor
the Graces. But the Furies snatched up brands
from burning funeral pyres, and brandished them
as torches. They prepared the nuptial couch, --
a boding owl flew over the bride's room,
and then sat silently upon the roof.
With such bad omens Tereus married her,
sad Procne, and those omens cast a gloom
on all the household till the fateful birth
of their first born. All Thrace went wild with joy --
and even they, rejoicing, blessed the Gods,
when he, the little Itys, saw the light;
and they ordained each year their wedding day,
and every year the birthday of their child,
should be observed with festival and song:
so the sad veil of fate conceals from us
our future woes.
our future woes. Now Titan had drawn forth
the changing seasons through five autumns, when,
in gentle accents, Procne spoke these words:
"My dearest husband, if you love me, let
me visit my dear sister, or consent
that she may come to us and promise her
that she may soon return. If you will but
permit me to enjoy her company
my heart will bless you as I bless the Gods."
At once the monarch ordered his long ships
to launch upon the sea; and driven by sail,
and hastened by the swiftly sweeping oars,
they entered the deep port of Athens, where
he made fair landing on the fortified
Piraeus. There, when time was opportune
to greet his father-in-law and shake his hand,
they both exchanged their wishes for good health,
and Tereus told the reason why he came.
He was relating all his wife's desire.
Promising Philomela's safe return
from a brief visit, when Philomela appeared
rich in her costly raiment, yet more rich
in charm and beauty, just as if a fair
Dryad or Naiad should be so attired,
appearing radiant, from dark solitudes.
As if someone should kindle whitening corn
or the dry leaves, or hay piled in a stack;
so Tereus, when he saw the beautiful
and blushing virgin, was consumed with love.
Her modest beauty was a worthy cause
of worthy love; but by his heritage,
derived from a debasing clime, his love
was base; and fires unholy burned within
from his own lawless nature, just as fierce
as are the habits of his evil race.
In the wild frenzy of his wicked heart,
he thought he would corrupt her trusted maid,
her tried attendants, and corrupt even
her virtue with large presents: he would waste
his kingdom in the effort. -- He prepared
to seize her at the risk of cruel war.
And he would do or dare all things to feed
his raging flame. -- He could not brook delay.
With most impassioned words he begged for her,
pretending he gave voice to Procne's hopes. --
his own desire made him wax eloquent,
as often as his words exceeded bounds,
he pleaded he was uttering Procne's words.
His hypocritic eyes were filled with tears,
as though they represented her desire --
and, O you Gods above, what devious ways
are harbored in the hearts of mortals! Through
his villainous desire he gathered praise,
and many lauded him for the great love
he bore his wife.
he bore his wife. And even Philomela
desires her own undoing; and with fond
embraces nestles to her father, while
she pleads for his consent, that she may go
to visit her dear sister. -- Tereus viewed
her pretty pleading, and in his hot heart,
imagined he was then embracing her;
and as he saw her kiss her father's lips,
her arms around his neck, it seemed that each
caress was his; and so his fire increased.
He even wished he were her father; though,
if it were so, his passion would no less
be impious. -- Overcome at last by these
entreaties, her kind father gave consent.
Greatly she joyed and thanked him for her own
misfortune. She imagined a success,
instead of all the sorrow that would come.
The day declining, little of his toil
remained for Phoebus. Now his flaming steeds
were beating with their hoofs the downward slope
of high Olympus; and the regal feast
was set before the guests, and flashing wine
was poured in golden vessels, and the feast
went merrily, until the satisfied
assembly sought in gentle sleep their rest.
Not so, the love-hot Tereus, king of Thrace,
who, sleepless, imaged in his doting mind
the form of Philomela, recalled the shape
of her fair hands, and in his memory
reviewed her movements. And his flaming heart
pictured her beauties yet unseen. -- He fed
his frenzy on itself, and could not sleep.
Fair broke the day; and now the ancient king,
Pandion, took his son-in-law's right hand
to bid farewell; and, as he wept,
commended his dear daughter, Philomela,
unto his guarding care. "And in your care,
my son-in-law, I trust my daughter's health.
Good reason, grounded on my love, compels
my sad approval. You have begged for her,
and both my daughters have persuaded me.
Wherefore, I do entreat you and implore
your honor, as I call upon the Gods,
that you will ever shield her with the love
of a kind father and return her safe,
as soon as may be -- my last comfort given
to bless my doting age. And all delay
will agitate and vex my failing heart.
"And, O my dearest daughter, Philomela,
if you have any love for me, return
without too long delay and comfort me,
lest I may grieve; for it is quite enough
that I should suffer while your sister stays away."
The old king made them promise, and he kissed
his daughter, while he wept. Then did he join
their hands in pledge of their fidelity,
and, as he gave his blessing, cautioned them
to kiss his absent daughter and her son
for his dear sake. Then as he spoke a last
farewell, his trembling voice was filled with sobs.
And he could hardly speak; -- for a great fear
from some vague intuition of his mind,
surged over him, and he was left forlorn.
So soon as Philomela was safe aboard
the painted ship and as the sailors urged
the swiftly gliding keel across the deep
and the dim land fast-faded from their view,
then Tereus, in exultant humor, thought,
"Now all is well, the object of my love
sails with me while the sailors ply the oars.",
He scarcely could control his barbarous
desire -- with difficulty stayed his lust,
he followed all her actions with hot eyes. --
So, when the ravenous bird of Jupiter
has caught with crooked talons the poor hare,
and dropped it -- ruthless, -- in his lofty nest,
where there is no escape, his cruel eyes
gloat on the victim he anticipates.
And now, as Tereus reached his journey's end,
they landed from the travel-wearied ship,
safe on the shores of his own kingdom. Then
he hastened with the frightened Philomela
into most wild and silent solitudes
of an old forest; where, concealed among
deep thickets a forbidding old house stood:
there he immured the pale and trembling maid,
who, vainly in her fright, began to call
upon her absent sister, -- and her tears
implored his pity. His obdurate mind
could not be softened by such piteous cries;
but even while her agonizing screams
implored her sister's and her father's aid,
and while she vainly called upon the Gods,
he overmastered her with brutal force. --
The poor child trembled as a frightened lamb,
which, just delivered from the frothing jaws
of a gaunt wolf, dreads every moving twig.
She trembled as a timid injured dove,
(her feathers dripping with her own life-blood)
that dreads the ravening talons of a hawk
from which some fortune has delivered her.
But presently, as consciousness returned,
she tore her streaming hair and beat her arms,
and, stretching forth her hands in frenzied grief,
cried out, "Oh, barbarous and brutal wretch!
Unnatural monster of abhorrent deeds!
Could not my anxious father's parting words,
nor his foreboding tears restrain your lust?
Have you no slight regard for your chaste wife,
my dearest sister, and are you without
all honor, so to spoil virginity
now making me invade my sister's claim,
you have befouled the sacred fount of life, --
you are a lawless bond of double sin!
"Oh, this dark punishment was not my due!
Come, finish with my murder your black deed,
so nothing wicked may remain undone.
But oh, if you had only slaughtered me
before your criminal embrace befouled
my purity, I should have had a shade
entirely pure, and free from any stain!
Oh, if there is a Majesty in Heaven,
and if my ruin has not wrecked the world,
then, you shall suffer for this grievous wrong
and time shall hasten to avenge my wreck.
"I shall declare your sin before the world,
and publish my own shame to punish you!
And if I'm prisoned in the solitudes,
my voice will wake the echoes in the wood
and move the conscious rocks. Hear me, O Heaven!
And let my imprecations rouse the Gods --
ah-h-h, if there can be a god in Heaven!"
Her cries aroused the dastard tyrant's wrath,
and frightened him, lest ever his foul deed
might shock his kingdom: and, roused at once
by rage and guilty fear; he seized her hair,
forced her weak arms against her back, and bound
them fast with brazen chains, then drew his sword.
When she first saw his sword above her head.
Flashing and sharp, she wished only for death,
and offered her bare throat: but while she screamed,
and, struggling, called upon her father's name,
he caught her tongue with pincers, pitiless,
And cut it with his sword. -- The mangled root
still quivered, but the bleeding tongue itself,
fell murmuring on the blood-stained floor. As the tail
of a slain snake still writhes upon the ground,
so did the throbbing tongue; and, while it died,
moved up to her, as if to seek her feet. --
And, it is said that after this foul crime,
the monster violated her again.
And after these vile deeds, that wicked king
returned to Procne, who, when she first met
her brutal husband, anxiously inquired
for tidings of her sister; but with sighs
and tears, he told a false tale of her death,
and with such woe that all believed it true.
Then Procne, full of lamentation, took
her royal robe, bordered with purest gold,
and putting it away, assumed instead
garments of sable mourning; and she built
a noble sepulchre, and offered there
her pious gifts to an imagined shade; --
lamenting the sad death of her who lived.
A year had passed by since that awful date --
the sun had coursed the Zodiac's twelve signs.
But what could Philomela hope or do?
For like a jail the strong walls of the house
were built of massive stone, and guards around
prevented flight; and mutilated, she
could not communicate with anyone
to tell her injuries and tragic woe.
But even in despair and utmost grief,
there is an ingenuity which gives
inventive genius to protect from harm:
and now, the grief-distracted Philomela
wove in a warp with purple marks and white,
a story of the crime; and when 'twas done
she gave it to her one attendant there
and begged her by appropriate signs to take
it secretly to Procne. She took the web,
she carried it to Procne, with no thought
of words or messages by art conveyed.
The wife of that inhuman tyrant took
the cloth, and after she unwrapped it saw
and understood the mournful record sent.
She pondered it in silence and her tongue
could find no words to utter her despair; --
her grief and frenzy were too great for tears. --
In a mad rage her rapid mind counfounded
the right and wrong -- intent upon revenge.
Since it was now the time of festival,
when all the Thracian matrons celebrate
the rites of Bacchus -- every third year thus --
night then was in their secret; and at night
the slopes of Rhodope resounded loud
with clashing of shrill cymbals. So, at night
the frantic queen of Tereus left her home
and, clothed according to the well known rites
of Bacchus, hurried to the wilderness.
Her head was covered with the green vine leaves;
and from her left side native deer skin hung;
and on her shoulder rested a light spear. --
so fashioned, the revengeful Procne rushed
through the dark woods, attended by a host
of screaming followers, and wild with rage,
pretended it was Bacchus urged her forth.
At last she reached the lonely building, where
her sister, Philomela, was immured;
and as she howled and shouted "Ee-woh-ee-e!",
She forced the massive doors; and having seized
her sister, instantly concealed her face
in ivy leaves, arrayed her in the trappings
of Bacchanalian rites. When this was done,
they rushed from there, demented, to the house
where as the Queen of Tereus, Procne dwelt.
When Philomela knew she had arrived
at that accursed house, her countenance,
though pale with grief, took on a ghastlier hue:
and, wretched in her misery and fright,
she shuddered in convulsions. -- Procne took
the symbols, Bacchanalian, from her then,
and as she held her in a strict embrace
unveiled her downcast head. But she refused
to lift her eyes, and fixing her sad gaze
on vacant space, she raised her hand, instead;
as if in oath she called upon the Gods
to witness truly she had done no wrong,
but suffered a disgrace of violence. --
Lo, Procne, wild with a consuming rage,
cut short her sister's terror in these words,
"This is no time for weeping! awful deeds
demand a great revenge -- take up the sword,
and any weapon fiercer than its edge!
My breast is hardened to the worst of crime
make haste with me! together let us put
this palace to the torch!
this palace to the torch! "Come, let us maim,
the beastly Tereus with revenging iron,
cut out his tongue, and quench his cruel eyes,
and hurl and burn him writhing in the flames!
Or, shall we pierce him with a grisly blade,
and let his black soul issue from deep wounds
a thousand. -- Slaughter him with every death
imagined in the misery of hate!"
While Procne still was raving out such words,
Itys, her son, was hastening to his mother;
and when she saw him, her revengeful eyes
conceiving a dark punishment, she said,
"Aha! here comes the image of his father!"
She gave no other warning, but prepared
to execute a horrible revenge.
But when the tender child came up to her,
and called her "mother", put his little arms
around her neck, and when he smiled and kissed
her often, gracious in his cunning ways, --
again the instinct of true motherhood
pulsed in her veins, and moved to pity, she
began to weep in spite of her resolve.
Feeling the tender impulse of her love
unnerving her, she turned her eyes from him
and looked upon her sister, and from her
glanced at her darling boy again. And so,
while she was looking at them both, by turns,
she said, "Why does the little one prevail
with pretty words, while Philomela stands
in silence always, with her tongue torn out?
She cannot call her sister, whom he calls
his mother! Oh, you daughter of Pandion,
consider what a wretch your husband is!
The wife of such a monster must be flint;
compassion in her heart is but a crime."
No more she hesitated, but as swift
as the fierce tigress of the Ganges leaps,
seizes the suckling offspring of the hind,
and drags it through the forest to its lair;
so, Procne seized and dragged the frightened boy
to a most lonely section of the house;
and there she put him to the cruel sword,
while he, aware of his sad fate, stretched forth
his little hands, and cried, "Ah, mother, -- ah! -- "
And clung to her -- clung to her, while she struck --
her fixed eyes, maddened, glaring horribly --
struck wildly, lopping off his tender limbs.
But Philomela cut through his tender throat.
Then they together, mangled his remains,
still quivering with the remnant of his life,
and boiled a part of him in steaming pots,
that bubbled over with the dead child's blood,
and roasted other parts on hissing spits.
And, after all was ready, Procne bade
her husband, Tereus, to the loathsome feast,
and with a false pretense of sacred rites,
according to the custom of her land,
by which, but one man may partake of it,
she sent the servants from the banquet hall. --
Tereus, majestic on his ancient throne
high in imagined state, devoured his son,
and gorged himself with flesh of his own flesh --
and in his rage of gluttony called out
for Itys to attend and share the feast!
Curst with a joy she could conceal no more,
and eager to gloat over his distress,
Procne cried out,
Procne cried out, "Inside yourself, you have
the thing that you are asking for!" -- Amazed,
he looked around and called his son again: --
that instant, Philomela sprang forth -- her hair
disordered, and all stained with blood of murder,
unable then to speak, she hurled the head
of Itys in his father's fear-struck face,
and more than ever longed for fitting words.
The Thracian Tereus overturned the table,
and howling, called up from the Stygian pit,
the viperous sisters. Tearing at his breast,
in miserable efforts to disgorge
the half-digested gobbets of his son,
he called himself his own child's sepulchre,
and wept the hot tears of a frenzied man.
Then with his sword he rushed at the two sisters.
Fleeing from him, they seemed to rise on wings,
and it was true, for they had changed to birds.
Then Philomela, flitting to the woods,
found refuge in the leaves: but Procne flew
straight to the sheltering gables of a roof --
and always, if you look, you can observe
the brand of murder on the swallow's breast --
red feathers from that day. And Tereus, swift
in his great agitation, and his will
to wreak a fierce revenge, himself is turned
into a crested bird. His long, sharp beak
is given him instead of a long sword,
and so, because his beak is long and sharp,
he rightly bears the name of Hoopoe.
Before the number of his years was told,
Pandion with the shades of Tartarus,
because of this, has wandered in sad dooms.
Orithyia and Boreas
Erectheus, next in line, with mighty sway
and justice, ruled all Athens on the throne
left vacant by the good Pandion's death.
Four daughters and four sons were granted him;
and of his daughters, two were beautiful,
and one of these was wed to Cephalus,
grandson of Aeolus. -- But mighty Boreas
desired the hand of Orithyia, fair
and lovable. -- King Tereus and the Thracians
were then such obstacles to Boreas
the god was long kept from his dear beloved.
Although the great king (who compels the cold
north-wind) had sought with prayers to win her hand,
and urged his love in gentleness, not force.
When quite aware his wishes were disdained,
he roughly said, with customary rage
and violence: "Away with sentimental talk!
My prayers and kind intentions are despised,
but I should blame nobody but myself;
then why should I, despising my great strength,
debase myself to weakness and soft prayers? --
might is my right, and violence my strength! --
by force I drive the force of gloomy clouds.
"Tremendous actions are the wine of life! --
monarch of Violence, rolling on clouds,
I toss wide waters, and I fell huge trees --
knotted old oaks -- and whirled upon ice-wings,
I scatter the light snow, and pelt the Earth
with sleet and hail! I rush through boundless voids.
My thunders rumble in the hollow clouds --
and crash upon my brothers -- fire to fire!
"Possessed of daemon-rage, I penetrate,
sheer to the utmost caverns of old Earth;
and straining, up from those unfathomed deeps,
scatter the terror-stricken shades of hell;
and hurl death-dealing earthquakes through the world!
"Such are the fateful powers I should use,
and never trust entreaties to prevail,
or win my bride -- Force is the law of life!"
And now impetuous Boreas, having howled
resounding words, unrolled his rustling wings --
that fan the earth and ruffle the wide sea --
and, swiftly wrapping untrod mountain peaks
in whirling mantles of far-woven dust,
thence downward hovered to the darkened world;
and, canopied in artificial night
of swarthy overshadowing wings, caught up
the trembling Orithyia to his breast:
nor did he hesitate in airy course
until his huge wings fanned the chilling winds
around Ciconian Walls.
around Ciconian Walls. There, she was pledged
the wife of that cold, northern king of storms;
and unto him she gave those hero twins,
endowed with wings of their immortal sire,
and graceful in their mother's form and face.
Their bird-like wings were not fledged at their birth
and those twin boys, Zetes and Calais,
at first were void of feathers and soft down.
But when their golden hair and beards were grown,
wings like an eagle's came; -- and feather-down
grew golden on their cheeks: and when from youth
they entered manhood, quick they were to join
the Argonauts, who for the Golden Fleece,
sought in that first ship, ventured on the sea.