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