Death of Orpheus
While with his songs, Orpheus, the bard of Thrace,
allured the trees, the savage animals,
and even the insensate rocks, to follow him;
Ciconian matrons, with their raving breasts
concealed in skins of forest animals,
from the summit of a hill observed him there,
attuning love songs to a sounding harp.
One of those women, as her tangled hair
was tossed upon the light breeze shouted, "See!
Here is the poet who has scorned our love!"
Then hurled her spear at the melodious mouth
of great Apollo's bard: but the spear's point,
trailing in flight a garland of fresh leaves,
made but a harmless bruise and wounded not.
The weapon of another was a stone,
which in the very air was overpowered
by the true harmony of his voice and lyre,
and so disabled lay before his feet,
as asking pardon for that vain attempt.
The madness of such warfare then increased.
All moderation is entirely lost,
and a wild Fury overcomes the right. --
although their weapons would have lost all force,
subjected to the power of Orpheus' harp,
the clamorous discord of their boxwood pipes,
the blaring of their horns, their tambourines
and clapping hands and Bacchanalian yells,
with hideous discords drowned his voice and harp. --
at last the stones that heard his song no more
fell crimson with the Thracian poet's blood.
Before his life was taken, the maenads turned
their threatening hands upon the many birds,
which still were charmed by Orpheus as he sang,
the serpents, and the company of beasts --
fabulous audience of that worshipped bard.
And then they turned on him their blood-stained hands:
and flocked together swiftly, as wild birds,
which, by some chance, may see the bird of night
beneath the sun. And as the savage dogs
rush on the doomed stag, loosed some bright fore-noon,
on blood-sand of the amphitheatre;
they rushed against the bard, with swift
hurled thyrsi which, adorned with emerald leaves
had not till then been used for cruelty.
And some threw clods, and others branches torn
from trees; and others threw flint stones at him,
and, that no lack of weapons might restrain
their savage fury then, not far from there
by chance they found some oxen which turned up
the soil with ploughshares, and in fields nearby
were strong-armed peasants, who with eager sweat
worked for the harvest as they dug hard fields;
and all those peasants, when they saw the troop
of frantic women, ran away and left
their implements of labor strown upon
deserted fields -- harrows and heavy rakes
and their long spades
and their long spades after the savage mob
had seized upon those implements, and torn
to pieces oxen armed with threatening horns,
they hastened to destroy the harmless bard,
devoted Orpheus; and with impious hate,
murdered him, while his out-stretched hands implored
their mercy -- the first and only time his voice
had no persuasion. O great Jupiter!
Through those same lips which had controlled the rocks
and which had overcome ferocious beasts,
his life breathed forth, departed in the air.
The mournful birds, the stricken animals,
the hard stones and the weeping woods, all these
that often had followed your inspiring voice,
bewailed your death; while trees dropped their green leaves,
mourning for you, as if they tore their hair.
They say sad rivers swelled with their own tears --
naiads and dryads with dishevelled hair
wore garments of dark color.
wore garments of dark color. His torn limbs
were scattered in strange places. Hebrus then
received his head and harp -- and, wonderful!
While his loved harp was floating down the stream,
it mourned for him beyond my power to tell.
His tongue though lifeless, uttered a mournful sound
and mournfully the river's banks replied:
onward borne by the river to the sea
they left their native stream and reached the shore
of Lesbos at Methymna. Instantly,
a furious serpent rose to attack the head
of Orpheus, cast up on that foreign sand --
the hair still wet with spray. Phoebus at last
appeared and saved the head from that attack:
before the serpent could inflict a sting,
he drove it off, and hardened its wide jaws
to rigid stone.
to rigid stone. Meanwhile the fleeting shade
of Orpheus had descended under earth:
remembering now those regions that he saw
when there before, he sought Eurydice
through fields frequented by the blest; and when
he found her, folded her in eager arms.
Then lovingly they wandered side by side,
or he would follow when she chose to lead,
or at another time he walked in front,
looking back, safely, -- at Eurydice.
Bacchus would not permit the wickedness
of those who slaughtered Orpheus to remain
unpunished. Grieving for the loss of his
loved bard of sacred rites, at once he bound
with twisted roots the feet of everyone
of those Edonian women who had caused
the crime of Orpheus' death.
the crime of Orpheus' death. Their toes grew long.
He thrust the sharp points in the solid earth.
As when a bird entangled in a snare,
hid by the cunning fowler, knows too late
that it is held, then vainly beats its wings,
and fluttering only makes more tight the noose
with every struggle; so each woman-fiend
whose feet were sinking in the soil, when she
attempted flight, was held by deepening roots.
And while she looks down where her toes and nails
and feet should be, she sees wood growing up
from them and covering all her graceful legs.
Full of delirious grief, endeavoring
to smite with right hand on her changing thigh,
she strikes on solid oak. Her tender breast
and shoulders are transformed to rigid oak.
You would declare that her extended arms
are real branches of a forest tree,
and such a thought would be the very truth.
Bacchus and Midas
And not content with this, Bacchus resolved
to leave that land, and with a worthier train
went to the vineyards of his own Tmolus
and to Pactolus, though the river was
not golden, nor admired for precious sands.
His usual throng of Satyrs and of Bacchanals
surrounded him; but not Silenus, who
was then detained from him. The Phrygian folk
had captured him, as he was staggering, faint
with palsied age and wine. And after they
bound him in garlands, they led him to their king
Midas, to whom with the Cecropian
Eumolpus, Thracian Orpheus had shown all
the Bacchic rites. When Midas recognized
his old time friend Silenus, who had been
so often his companion in the rites
of Bacchus, he kept joyful festival,
with his old comrade, twice five days and nights.
Upon the eleventh day, when Lucifer
had dimmed the lofty multitude of stars,
King Midas and Silenus went from there
joyful together to the Lydian lands.
There Midas put Silenus carefully
under the care of his loved foster-child,
young Bacchus. He with great delight, because
he had his foster-father once again,
allowed the king to choose his own reward --
a welcome offer, but it led to harm.
And Midas made this ill-advised reply:
"Cause whatsoever I shall touch to change
at once to yellow gold." Bacchus agreed
to his unfortunate request, with grief
that Midas chose for harm and not for good.
The Berecynthian hero, king of Phrygia,
with joy at his misfortune went away,
and instantly began to test the worth
of Bacchus' word by touching everything.
Doubtful himself of his new power, he pulled
a twig down from a holm-oak, growing on
a low hung branch. The twig was turned to gold.
He lifted up a dark stone from the ground
and it turned pale with gold. He touched a clod
and by his potent touch the clod became
a mass of shining gold. He plucked some ripe,
dry spears of grain, and all that wheat he touched
was golden. Then he held an apple which
he gathered from a tree, and you would think
that the Hesperides had given it.
If he but touched a lofty door, at once
each door-post seemed to glisten. When he washed
his hands in liquid streams, the lustrous drops
upon his hands might have been those which once
astonished Danae. He could not now
conceive his large hopes in his grasping mind,
as he imagined everything of gold.
And, while he was rejoicing in great wealth,
his servants set a table for his meal,
with many dainties and with needful bread:
but when he touched the gift of Ceres with
his right hand, instantly the gift of Ceres
stiffened to gold; or if he tried to bite
with hungry teeth a tender bit of meat,
the dainty, as his teeth but touched it, shone
at once with yellow shreds and flakes of gold.
And wine, another gift of Bacchus, when
he mixed it in pure water, can be seen
in his astonished mouth as liquid gold.
Confounded by his strange misfortune -- rich
and wretched -- he was anxious to escape
from his unhappy wealth. He hated all
he had so lately longed for. Plenty could
not lessen hunger and no remedy
relieved his dry, parched throat. The hated gold
tormented him no more than he deserved.
Lifting his hands and shining arms to heaven,
he moaned. "Oh pardon me, father Lenaeus!
I have done wrong, but pity me, I pray,
and save me from this curse that looked so fair."
How patient are the gods! Bacchus forthwith,
because King Midas had confessed his fault,
restored him and annulled the promise given,
annulled the favor granted, and he said:
"That you may not be always cased in gold,
which you unhappily desired, depart
to the stream that flows by that great town of Sardis
and upward trace its waters, as they glide
past Lydian heights, until you find their source.
Then, where the spring leaps out from mountain rock,
plunge head and body in the snowy foam.
At once the flood will take away your curse."
King Midas did as he was told and plunged
beneath the water at the river's source.
And the gold virtue granted by the god,
as it departed from his body, tinged
the stream with gold. And even to this hour
adjoining fields, touched by this ancient vein
of gold, are hardened where the river flows
and colored with the gold that Midas left.
The musical contest of Pan and Apollo
Abhorring riches he inhabited
the woods and fields, and followed Pan who dwells
always in mountain-caves: but still obtuse
remained, from which his foolish mind again,
by an absurd decision, harmed his life.
He followed Pan up to the lofty mount
Tmolus, which from its great height looks far
across the sea. Steep and erect it stands
between great Sardis and the small Hypaepa.
While Pan was boasting there to mountain nymphs
of his great skill in music, and while he
was warbling a gay tune upon the reeds,
cemented with soft wax, in his conceit
he dared to boast to them how he despised
Apollo's music when compared with his -- .
At last to prove it, he agreed to stand
against Apollo in a contest which
it was agreed should be decided by
Tmolus as their umpire.
Tmolus as their umpire. This old god
sat down on his own mountain, and first eased
his ears of many mountain growing trees,
oak leaves were wreathed upon his azure hair
and acorns from his hollow temples hung.
First to the Shepherd-god Tmolus spoke:
"My judgment shall be yours with no delay.
Pan made some rustic sounds on his rough reeds,
delighting Midas with his uncouth notes;
for Midas chanced to be there when he played.
When Pan had ceased, divine Tmolus turned
to Phoebus, and the forest likewise turned
just as he moved. Apollo's golden locks
were richly wreathed with fresh Parnassian laurel;
his robe of Tyrian purple swept the ground;
his left hand held his lyre, adorned with gems
and Indian ivory. His right hand held
the plectrum -- as an artist he stood there
before Tmolus, while his skilful thumb
touching the strings made charming melody.
Delighted with Apollo's artful touch,
Tmolus ordered Pan to hold his reeds
excelled by beauty of Apollo's lyre.
That judgment of the sacred mountain god
pleased all those present, all but Midas, who
blaming Tmolus called the award unjust.
The Delian god forbids his stupid ears
to hold their native human shape;
and, drawing them out to a hideous length,
he fills them with gray hairs, and makes them both
unsteady, wagging at the lower part:
still human, only this one part condemned,
Midas had ears of a slow-moving ass.
Midas, careful to hide his long ears, wore
a purple turban over both, which hid
his foul disgrace from laughter. But one day
a servant, who was chosen to cut his hair
with steel, when it was long, saw his disgrace.
He did not dare reveal what he had seen,
but eager, to disclose the secret, dug
a shallow hole, and in a low voice told
what kind of ears were on his master's head.
All this he whispered in the hollow earth
he dug, and then he buried all he said
by throwing back the loose earth in the hole
so everything was silent when he left.
A grove thick set with quivering reeds
began to grow there, and when it matured,
about twelve months after that servant left,
the grove betrayed its planter. For, moved by
a gentle South Wind, it repeated all
the words which he had whispered, and disclosed
from earth the secret of his master's ears.
His vengence now complete, Latona's son
borne through the liquid air, departed from
Tmolus, and then rested on the land
of Laomedon, this side the narrow sea
dividing Phrygia from the land of Thrace.
The promontory of Sigaeum right
and on the left Rhoetaeum loftily arose;
and at that place an ancient altar had
been dedicated to great Jove, the god
Panomphaean. And near that place he saw
Laomedon, beginning then to build
the walls of famous Troy. He was convinced
the task exceeded all the power of man,
requiring great resource. Together with
the trident-bearing father of the deep,
he assumed a mortal form: and those two gods
agreed to labor for a sum of gold
and built the mighty wall. But that false king
refused all payment, adding perjury
to his false bargaining. Neptune, enraged,
said, "You shall not escape your punishment."
And he drove all his waters high upon
the shores of Troy -- built there through perfidy.
The sad land seemed a sea: the hard-earned wealth
of all its farmers was destroyed
and overwhelmed by furious waves.
This awful punishment was not enough.
The daughter of the king was soon required
as food for a sea-monster -- . Hesione
was chained to rugged rocks. But Hercules
delivered from all harm the royal maid
and justly he demanded of the king,
her father, payment of the promised steeds;
but that perfidious king refused to keep
his promise. Hercules enraged, because
all payment was denied to him for his
great service, captured the twice-perjured walls
of conquered Troy. And as a fair reward,
he gave to Telamon, who fought for him,
Hesione, loved daughter of that king.
For Peleus had a goddess as his bride
and he was prouder of his father-in-law
than of his grandsire. Since not he alone
was grandson of great Jove, but he alone
was honored with a goddess for a wife.
Peleus and Thetis -- birth of Achilles
To Thetis, aged Proteus once had said,
"Oh goddess of the waves, you shall conceive,
and you shall be the mother of a youth
who by heroic actions will surpass
the deeds of his own father, and your son
shall be superior to his father's power."
So Jupiter, although the flame of love
for Thetis burned his breast, would not embrace
the lovely daughter of the sea, and urged
his grandson Peleus, son of Aeacus,
to wed the green haired maid without delay.
There is a curved bay of Haemonia,
where like an arch, two bending arms
project out in the waves, as if to form
a harbor; but the water is not deep --
although enough to hide a shoal of sand.
It has a firm shore which will not retain
a foot's impression, nor delay the step --
no seaweeds grow in that vicinity.
There is a grove of myrtle near that place
thick-hung with berries, blended of twin shades.
A cave within the middle of that grove
is found, and whether it was formed by art
or nature is not known, although it seems
a work of art. There Thetis often went,
quite naked, seated on her dolphin, which
was harnessed. Peleus seized her there when she
was fast asleep: and after he had tried
to win her by entreaties, while she long
continued to resist him, he resolved
to conquer her by violence, and seized
her neck with both arms. She resorted then
to all her usual art, and often changed:
her shape as it was known, so that he failed
in his attempt. At first she was a bird,
but while she seemed a bird he held her fast;
and then she changed herself to a large tree,
and Peleus clung with ardor to the tree;
her third disguise was as a spotted tigress,
which frightened him so that he lost his hold.
Then, as he poured wine on the heaving sea,
he prayed unto the sea green gods and gave
them sacrifice of sheep entrails, and smoke
of frankincense. He ceased not, till at last
the prophet of Carpathia, as he rose
up from a deep wave, said, "Hark unto me,
O son of Aeacus! and you shall have
the bride your heart desires: when she at rest
lies sleeping in the cool wave, you must bind
her while she is unwary, with strong cords
and complicated bonds, And never let
her arts deceive you when she imitates
a hundred varied forms, but hold her fast,
whatever she may seem, until she shall
at length assume the shape she had at first."
So Proteus cautioned him, and hid his face
beneath the waves as his last words were said.
Now Titan was descending and the pole
of his bright chariot as it downward bent
illuminated the Hesperian main;
and at that time the lovely Nereid,
Thetis, departing from her ocean wave,
entered the cavern for desired repose.
Peleus was waiting there. Immediately,
just as he seized upon the virgin's limbs,
she changed her shape and perservered
until convinced she could not overcome
his hold -- for her two arms were forced apart --
she groaned and said, "You could not overcome
me in this way, but some divinity
has given you the power." Then she appeared
as Thetis: and, when Peleus saw her now
deprived of all deceptions, he embraced
her and was father of the great Achilles.
Daedalion changed to a hawk
Great Peleus' heart was filled with happiness;
because of his great son and Thetis his
dear wife: he was blest in everything, except
in killing Phocus. The Trachinian land
received him guilty of his brother's blood;
when he fled, banished from his native home.
There Ceyx, who had the fine countenance
of Lucifer his father, reigned as king,
without the cost of violence or blood.
Before this time his days had always given
him joy and comfort, but all now was changed,
for he was mourning a loved brother's death.
Peleus, outwearied with his journey's length.
Left his fine flock of sheep and all the herds
he had brought with him, not far from the walls
of that city, where Ceyx long had reigned.
He entered with an olive branch all swathed
in woolen fillets, symbol of good will,
and with a suppliant hand disclosed his name.
He told the monarch who he was, also
his father's name. But he concealed his crime,
giving untruthful reasons for his flight:
and begged a refuge either in town or field.
The king of Trachyn answered with kind words:
"Ah, Peleus, even the lowest ranks enjoy
our bounties and our hospitality,
and you bring with you powers which compell
attention and respect. Your name is so
illustrious, and is not Jupiter
your grandsire? Do not lose your time by such
entreaties. Everything you may desire
is yours as soon as known, and all you see
is partly yours, but in how sad a state!"
And then he wept. When Peleus and his friends
asked him the reason of his grief he said,
"Perchance you deem that bird which lives on prey,
which is the terror of all other birds,
had always feathered wings? It was a man.
And now the vigor of its courage is
as great as when well known by his man's name,
Daedalion, bold in wars and strong and harsh,
and not afraid to hazard violence.
His father was unequalled Lucifer,
star of the Morning, who at dawn brings forth
Aurora, and withdraws the last of all
the shining stars of heaven. -- My brother named
daedalion, son of that great star, was fond
of cruel warfare, while I cherished peace
and loved the quiet of my married life.
This brother, powerful in the art of war,
subdued strong kings and nations. -- And 'tis he
transformed from manhood, now a bird of prey,
that so relentlessly pursues the doves,
known as the pride of Thisbe's citizens.
"My brother had a daughter Chione
so beautiful she pleased a thousand men,
when she had reached the marriageable age
of twice seven years. It happened by some chance
that Phoebus and the son of Maia, who
returned -- one from his Delphi, the other from
Cyllene's heights -- beheld this lovely maid
both at the same time, and were both inflamed
with passion. Phoebus waited till the night.
Hermes could not endure delay and with
the magic of his wand, that causes sleep,
he touched the virgin's face; and instantly,
as if entranced, she lay there fast asleep,
and suffered violence from the ardent god.
When night bespangled the wide heaven with stars,
Phoebus became an aged crone and gained
the joy he had deferred until that hour.
"When her mature womb had completed time
Autolycus was born, a crafty son,
who certainly inherited the skill
of wingfoot Mereury, his artful sire,
notorious now; for every kind of theft.
In fact, Autolycus with Mercury's craft,
loved to make white of black, and black of white.
"But Phoebus' child, for Chione bore twins,
was named Philammon, like his sire, well known.
To all men for the beauty of his song.
And famous for his handling of the lyre.
"What benefit in life did she obtain
because she pleased! two gods and bore such twins?
Was she blest by good fortune then because
she was the daughter of a valiant father,
and even the grandchild of the Morning Star?
Can glory be a curse? Often it is.
"And surely it was so for Chione.
It was a prejudice that harmed her days
because she vaunted that she did surpass
Diana's beauty and decried her charms:
the goddess in hot anger answered her,
sarcastically, 'If my face cannot
give satisfaction, let me try my deeds.'
"Without delay Diana bent her bow,
and from the string an arrow swiftly flew,
and pierced the vaunting tongue of Chione.
Her tongue was silenced, and she tried in vain
to speak or make a sound, and while she tried
her life departed with the flowing blood.
"Embracing her, I shared her father's grief.
I spoke consoling words to my dear brother,
he heard them as a cliff might hear the sea.
And he lamented bitterly the loss
of his dear daughter, snatched away from him.
"Ah! when he saw her burning, he was filled
with such an uncontrolled despair, he rushed
four times to leap upon the blazing pyre;
and after he had been four times repulsed,
he turned and rushed away in headlong flight
through trackless country, as a bullock flees,
his swollen neck pierced with sharp hornet-stings,
it seemed to me he ran beyond the speed
of any human being. You would think
his feet had taken wings, he left us far
behind and swift in his desire for death
he stood at last upon Parnassus' height.
"Apollo pitied him. -- And when Daedalion
leaped over the steep cliff, Apollo's power
transformed him to a bird; supported him
while he was hovering in the air upon
uncertain wings, of such a sudden growth.
Apollo, also, gave him a curved beak,
and to his slender toes gave crooked claws.
His former courage still remains, with strength
greater than usual in birds. He changed
to a fierce hawk; cruel to all, he vents
his rage on other birds. Grieving himself
he is a cause of grief to all his kind."
Peleus and the wolf
While Ceyx, the royal son of Lucifer,
told these great wonders of his brother's life;
Onetor, who had watched the while those herds
which Peleus had assigned to him, ran up
with panting speed; and cried out as he ran,
"Peleus, Peleus! I bring you dreadful news!"
Peleus asked him to tell what had gone wrong
and with King Ceyx he listened in suspense.
"I drove the weary bullocks to the shore,"
Onetor then began, "About the time
when the high burning Sun in middle course,
could look back on as much as might be seen
remaining: and some cattle had then bent
their knees on yellow sand; and as they lay
might view the expanse of water stretched beyond.
Some with slow steps were wandering here and there,
and others swimming, stretched their lofty necks
above the waves. A temple near that sea
was fair to view, although 'twas not adorned
with gold nor marble. It was richly made
of beams, and shaded with an ancient grove.
"A sailor, while he dried his nets upon
the shore nearby, declared that aged Nereus
possessed it with his Nereids, as the gods
who ruled the neighboring waters. Very near
it is a marsh, made by the encroaching waves,
all thickly covered with low willow trees.
"From there a loud uncanny crashing sound
alarms the neighborhood. A monster-wolf!
All stained with mud he breaks forth from the marsh,
his thundering jaws thick-covered with vile foam
and clotted blood -- his fierce eyes flashing flames
of crimson: and though he was raging, both
with fury and with hunger, the true cause
of his fierce passions was Ferocity.
"He never paused to sate his ravenous hunger
with the first cattle that he fell upon,
but mangled the whole herd, as if at war.
And some of us, while we defended them,
were wounded with his fatal bite and killed. --
the shore and nearest waves were red with blood,
and marshy fens were filled with mournful sounds --
the longings of our cattle. -- This delay
is dangerous. We must not hesitate.
We must unite before all is destroyed!
Take up your arms. Arm! and unite, I say!
And bear our weapons for the cause of Right!"
So spoke the countryman, and yet the loss
had no effect on Peleus, though severe,
for he, remembering his red crime, believed
the Nereid had given him that loss --
a just misfortune, as an offering
to the departed Phocus. After this,
King Ceyx, while he put his armor on,
ordered his men to arm themselves with their
best weapons, and to follow his command.
But his fond wife, Halcyone, aroused
by such a tumult, ran to him in haste;
in such haste that her hair was still unfinished,
and such as had been done, she threw
in wild disorder. -- Clinging to the neck
of her loved husband, she entreated him
with words and tears, to send his men along.
But keep himself at home and so to save
two lives in one.
two lives in one. But Peleus said "O queen,
'Tis sweet and commendable in you to fear
but needless. Though you promise generous aid,
my hope lies not in fighting with the beast,
I must appease a goddess of the sea.
And the divinity of ocean must
be properly adored."
be properly adored." A lofty tower
is near there, and upon its extreme height
a signal-fire is burning night and day,
known to the grateful ships. They all went there;
and from its summit they beheld with sighs,
the mangled cattle scattered on the shore,
and saw the ravager among the herd,
his blood-stained jaws and long hair dripping blood.
Then Peleus stretched his arms out towards the sea,
and he implored the azure Psamathe
to lay aside her wrath and give him aid.
But she was deaf to any word of Peleus
entreating her, and would not offer aid,
till Thetis, interceding on behalf
of her afflicted husband, moved her will.
The monster-wolf persisted in his rage,
even when the sea nymph bade him turn aside.
His keen ferocity increased by taste
of new sweet blood; till Psamathe, while he
was seizing the last mangled heifer's neck,
transformed him to hard marble. Every part
of that ferocious monster's shape remained
but it was changed to marble colored stone,
which showed the monster was no more a wolf,
and should no longer be a cause of fear.
But still, the guiding Fates did not permit
the banished Peleus to continue there,
in this land governed by the friendly king.
A wandering exile, he proceeded north
into Magnesia; and was purified
of guilt by King Acastus of that land.
Ceyx and Halcyone
King Ceyx, disturbed by his loved brother's fate
and prodigies which happened since that time,
prepared to venture to the Clarian god,
that he might there consult the oracle,
so sanctified to consolation of distress:
for then the way to Delphi was unsafe
because of Phorbas and his Phlegyans.
Before he went he told his faithful queen,
his dear Halcyone. She felt at once
terror creep through the marrow of her bones,
pallor of boxwood overspread her face,
and her two cheeks were wet with gushing tears.
Three times she tried to speak while tears and sobs
delayed her voice, until at last she said: --
"What fault of mine, my dearest, has so changed
your usual thoughts? Where is that care for me
that always has stood first? Can you leave me
for this long journey with no anxious fear --
Halcyone, forsaken in these halls?
Will this long journey be a pleasant change
because far from you I should be more dear?
Perhaps you think you will go there by land,
and I shall only grieve, and shall not fear
the sea affrights me with its tragic face.
Just lately I observed some broken planks
upon our seashore, and I've read and read
the names of seamen on their empty tombs!
"Oh, let no false assurance fill your mind
because your father-in-law is Aeolus.
Who in a dungeon shuts the stormful winds
and smoothes at will the troubled ocean waves
soon as the winds get freedom from his power,
they take entire possession of the deep,
and nothing is forbidden their attack;
and all the rights of every land and sea
are disregarded by them. They insult
even the clouds of heaven and their wild
concussions urge the lightnings to strike fires.
The more I know of them, for I knew
them in my childhood and I often saw
them from my father's home, the more I fear.
"But, O dear husband! if this new resolve
can not be altered by my prayers and fears,
and if you are determined, take me, too:
some comfort may be gained, if in the storms
we may be tossed together. I shall fear
only the ills that really come to us,
together we can certainly endure
discomforts till we gain that distant land."
Such words and tears of the daughter of Aeolus
gave Ceyx, famed son of the Morning Star,
much thought and sorrow; for the flame of love
burned in his heart as strongly as in hers.
Reluctant to give up the voyage, even more
to make Halcyone his partner on
the dangerous sea, he answered her complaints
in many ways to pacify her breast,
but could not comfort her until at last
he said, "This separation from your love
will be most sorrowful; and so I swear
to you, as witnessed by the sacred fire
of my Star-father, if the fates permit
my safe return, I will come back to you
before the moon has rounded twice her orb."
These promises gave hope of his return.
Without delay he ordered a ship should
be drawn forth from the dock, launched in the sea,
and properly supplied against the needs
of travel. -- Seeing this, Halcyone,
as if aware of future woe, shuddered,
wept, and embraced him, and in extreme woe
said with a sad voice, "Ah -- Farewell!" and then,
her nerveless body sank down to the ground.
While Ceyx longed for some pretext to delay,
the youthful oarsmen, chosen for their strength,
in double rows began to draw the oars
back towards their hardy breasts, cutting the waves
with equal strokes. She raised her weeping eyes
and saw her husband on the high-curved stern.
He by his waving hand made signs to her,
and she returned his signals. Then the ship
moved farther from the shore until her eyes
could not distinguish his loved countenance.
Still, while she could, she followed with her gaze
the fading hull; and, when that too was lost
far in the distance, she remained and gazed
at the white topsails, waving from the mast.
But, when she could no longer see the sails,
with anxious heart she sought her lonely couch
and laid herself upon it. Couch and room
renewed her sorrow and reminded her
how much of life was absent on the sea.
The ship had left the harbor, and the breeze
shook the taut rigging. Now the captain bade
the idle oars be drawn up to the sides.
They ran the pointed sailyards up the mast
and with spread canvas caught the coming breeze.
Perhaps the ship had not sailed half her course,
on every side the land was out of sight
in fact at a great distance, when, towards dark
the sea grew white with its increasing waves,
while boisterous east winds blew with violence. --
prompt in his duty, the captain warns his crew,
"Lower the top sails -- quick -- furl all the sails
tight to the yards!" -- He ordered, but the storm
bore all his words away, his voice could not
be heard above the roaring of the sea.
But of their own accord some sailors rushed
to draw the oars in, others to secure
the sides from danger, and some strove to pull
the sails down from the wind. One pumps the waves
up from the hold, and pours the rushing sea
again into the sea; another takes
the yards off. -- While such things are being done
without command or order, the wild storm
increases, and on every side fierce winds
wage a destructive warfare, which stirs up
the furious waters to their utmost power.
Even the captain, terrified, confessed
he did not know the status of the ship,
and could not order nor forbid the men --
so great the storm, so far beyond his skill.
Then he gave up control, while frightened men
shouted above the rattled cordage shocks,
and heavy waves were dashed against huge waves,
and ail the sky reverberated with
terrific thunders. The deep sea upturned
tremendous billows, which appeared to reach
so near the heaven they touched the heavy clouds
with foam of their tossed waters. -- At one time,
while the great billows churned up yellow sand
from off the bottom, the wild rolling waves
were of that color. At another time
they were more black than water of the Styx.
Sometimes they levelled, white with lashing foam.
The ship was tossed about in the wild storm:
aloft as from a mountain peak it seemed
to look down on the valley and the depth
of Acheron; and, when sunk down in a trough
of waves engulfing, it appeared to look
up at the zenith from infernal seas.
Often the waves fell on the sides with crash
as terrible as when a flying stone
or iron ram shatters a citadel.
As lions, mustering up their strength anew,
might hurl their breasts against the spears
and outstretched arms of huntsmen, so the waves,
upon the rising of the winds, rushed forth
against the battered sides of the tossed ship
and rose much higher than the slanting masts.
The ship-bolts lost their grip, the loosened planks,
despoiled of covering wax, gave open seams,
through which streamed water of the fatal waves. --
vast sheets of rain pour from dissolving clouds,
so suddenly, it seemed that all the heavens
were flung into the deep, while swelling seas
ascended to the emptied fields of heaven!
The sails are drenched with rain, the salt sea waves
are mingled with the waters of the skies.
The firmament is black without a star,
and night is doubly dark with its own gloom
and blackness of the storm. Quick lightning makes
the black skies glitter, and the waves are fired
with flames of thunder-bolts. Now floods leap up
into the very middle of the ship.
Just as a soldier, more courageous than
the rest of his brave fellows, after he
has often charged against the embattled walls
of a defended city, gains at length
the place which he has fought for; all inflamed
with his desire of glory, scales the wall
and stands alone among a thousand foes;
so, when destructive waves have beat against
the ship's high sides, the tenth wave with known power,
rushes more furious than the nine before,
nor ceases to attack the failing ship,
until dashed high above the captured walls
it surges in the hold. Part of the sea
is still attempting to get in the ship,
and part is in it. All are panic stricken,
like men within a doomed and shaken town;
who see some foes attack the walls without,
and others hold possession of the walls
within the city. Every art has failed,
their courage sinks. With every coming wave
another death seems rushing in upon them.
One sailor yields in tears; another falls
down, stupefied; another calls those blest
whom funeral rites await; another prays,
addressing trusted gods, lifting his hands
up to that heaven unseen, as vainly he
implores some aid divine, and one in fright
recalls his brothers and his parent, while
another names his children and his home:
each frightened sailor thinks of all he left.
King Ceyx thinks only of Halcyone,
no other name is on his lips but hers:
and though he longs for her, yet he is glad
that she is safe at home. Ah, how he tried
to look back to the shore of his loved land,
to turn his last gaze towards his wife and home.
But he has lost direction. -- The tossed sea
is raging in a hurricane so vast,
and all the sky is hidden by the gloom
of thickened storm-clouds, doubled in pitch-black.
The mast is shattered by the violence
of drenching tempests, and the useless helm
is broken. One undaunted giant wave
stands over wreck and spoil, and looks down like
a conqueror upon the other waves:
then falls as heavily as if some god
should hurl Mount Athos or Mount Pindus, torn
from rock foundations, into that wide sea:
so, with down-rushing weight and violence
it struck and plunged the ship to the lowest deeps.
And as the ship sank, many of the crew
sank overwhelmed in deep surrounding waves,
never to rise from suffocating death:
but some in desperation, clung for life
to broken timbers and escaped that fate.
King Ceyx clung to a fragment of the wreck
with that majestic hand which often before
had proudly swayed the sceptre. And in vain,
alas, he called upon his father's name,
alas, he begged his father-in-law's support.
But, while he swam, his lips most frequently
pronounced that dearest name, "Halcyone!"
He longs to have his body carried by waves
to her dear gaze and have at last,
entombment by the hands of his loved friends.
Swimming, he called Halcyone -- far off,
as often as the billows would allow
his lips to open, and among the waves
his darling's name was murmured, till at last
a night-black arch of water swept above
the highest waves and buried him beneath
engulfing billows. Lucifer was dim
past recognition when the dawn appeared
and, since he never could depart from heaven,
soon hid his grieving countenance in clouds.
Meanwhile, Halcyone, all unaware
of his sad wreck, counts off the passing nights
and hastens to prepare for him his clothes
that he may wear as soon as he returns to her;
and she is choosing what to wear herself,
and vainly promises his safe return --
all this indeed, while she in hallowed prayer
is giving frankincense to please the gods:
and first of loving adorations, she
paid at the shrine of Juno. There she prayed
for Ceyx -- after he had suffered death,
that he might journey safely and return
and might love her above all other women,
this one last prayer alone was granted to her
but Juno could not long accept as hers
these supplications on behalf of one
then dead; and that she might persuade Halcyone
to turn her death-polluted hands away
from hallowed altars, Juno said in haste,
"O, Iris, best of all my messengers,
go quickly to the dreadful court of Sleep,
and in my name command him to despatch
a dream in the shape of Ceyx, who is dead,
and tell Halcyone the woeful truth."
So she commanded. -- Iris instantly
assumed a garment of a thousand tints;
and as she marked the high skies with her arch,
went swiftly thence as ordered, to the place
where Sleep was then concealed beneath a rock.
Near the Cimmerian Land there is a cave,
with a long entrance, in a hallowed mountain,
the home of slothful Sleep. To that dark cave
the Sun, when rising or in middle skies,
or setting, never can approach with light.
There dense fogs, mingled with the dark, exhale
darkness from the black soil -- and all that place
is shadowed in a deep mysterious gloom.
No wakeful bird with visage crested high
calls forth the morning's beauty in clear notes;
nor do the watchful dogs, more watchful geese,
nor wild beasts, cattle, nor the waving trees,
make sound or whisper; and the human voice
is never heard there -- silent Rest is there.
But, from the bottom of a rock beneath,
Lethean waters of a stream ooze forth,
sounds of a rivulet, which trickle with
soft murmuring amid the pebbles and
invite soft sleep. Before the cavern doors
most fertile poppies and a wealth of herbs
bloom in abundance, from the juice of which
the humid night-hours gather sleep and spread
it over darkened Earth. No door is in
that cavern-home and not a hinge's noise
nor guarding porter's voice disturbs the calm.
But in the middle is a resting-couch,
raised high on night-black ebony and soft
with feathered cushions, all jet black, concealed
by a rich coverlet as dark as night,
on which the god of sleep, dissolved in sloth
lies with unmoving limbs. Around him there
in all directions, unsubstantial dreams
recline in imitation of all shapes --
as many as the uncounted ears of corn
at harvest -- as the myriad leaves of trees --
or tiny sand grains spread upon the shore.
As soon as Iris entered that dread gloom,
she pushed aside the visions in her way
with her fair glowing hands; and instantly,
that sacred cavern of the god of Sleep
was all illuminated with the glow
and splendor of her garment. -- Out of himself
the god with difficulty lifted up
his lanquid eyes. From this small sign of life
relapsing many times to languid sloth,
while nodding, with his chin he struck his breast
again and again. At last he roused himself
from gloom and slumber; and, while raised upon
his elbow, he enquired of Iris why
she came to him. -- He knew her by her name.
She answered him, "O, Sleep, divine repose
of all things! Gentlest of the deities!
Peace to the troubled mind, from which you drive
the cares of life, restorer of men's strength
when wearied with the toils of day, command
a vision that shall seem the actual form
of royal Ceyx to visit Trachin famed
for Hercules and tell Halcyone
his death by shipwreck. It is Juno's wish."
Iris departed after this was said.
For she no longer could endure the effect
of slumber-vapor; and as soon as she
knew sleep was creeping over her tired limbs
she flew from there -- and she departed by
the rainbow, over which she came before.
Out of the multitude -- his thousand sons --
the god of sleep raised Morpheus by his power.
Most skillful of his sons, who had the art
of imitating any human shape;
and dexterously could imitate in men
the gait and countenance, and every mode
of speaking. He could simulate the dress
and customary words of any man
he chose to represent -- but he could not
assume the form of anything but man.
Such was his art. Another of Sleep's sons
could imitate all kinds of animals;
such as a wild beast or a flying bird,
or even a serpent with its twisted shape;
and that son, by the gods above was called
Icelos -- but the inhabitants of earth
called him Phobetor -- and a third son, named
Phantasos, cleverly could change himself
into the forms of earth that have no life;
into a statue, water, or a tree.
It was the habit of these three to show
themselves at night to kings and generals;
and other sons would frequently appear
among the people of the common class.
All such the aged god of Sleep passed by.
Selecting only Morpheus from among
the many brothers to accomplish this,
and execute what Iris had desired.
And after all that work, he dropped his head,
and sank again in languid drowsiness,
shrinking to sloth within his lofty couch.
Morpheus at once flew through the night
of darkness, on his wings that make no sound,
and in brief space of intervening time,
arrived at the Haemonian city walls;
and there he laid aside his wings, and took
the face and form of Ceyx. In that form
as one deprived of life, devoid of clothes,
wan and ghastly, he stood beside the bed
of the sad wife. The hero's beard seemed dripping,
sea water streamed down from his drenching hair.
Then leaning on the bed, while dropping tears
were running down his cheeks, he said these words:
"Most wretched wife, can you still recognize
your own loved Ceyx, or have my looks changed:
so much with death you can not? -- Look at me,
and you will be assured I am your own:
but here instead of your dear husband, you
will find only his ghost. Your faithful prayers
did not avail, Halcyone, and I
have perished. Give up all deluding hopes
of my return. The stormy Southwind caught
my ship while sailing the Aegean sea;
and there, tossed by the mighty wind, my ship
was dashed to pieces. While I vainly called
upon your name, the angry waters closed
above my drowning head and it is no
uncertain messenger that tells you this
and nothing from vague rumors has been told.
But it is I myself, come from the wreck,
now telling you my fate. Come then, arise
shed tears, and put on mourning; do not send
me unlamented, down to Tartarus."
And Morpheus added to these words a voice
which she would certainly believe was her
beloved husband's; and he seemed to be
shedding fond human tears; and even his hands
were moved in gestures that Ceyx often used.
Halcyone shed tears and groaned aloud,
and, as she moved her arms and caught at his
dear body, she embraced the vacant air
she cried out loudly, "Stay, oh stay with me!
Why do you hurry from me? We will go
together!" Agitated by her own
excited voice; and by what seemed to be
her own dear husband, she awoke from sleep.
And first looked all about her to persuade
herself that he whom she had lately seen
must yet be with her, for she had aroused
the servants who in haste brought lights desired.
When she could find him nowhere, in despair
she struck her face and tore her garment from
her breast and beat her breast with mourning hands.
She did not wait to loosen her long hair;
but tore it with her hands and to her nurse,
who asked the cause of her wild grief, she cried:
"Alas, Halcyone is no more! no more!
with her own Ceyx she is dead! is dead!
Away with words of comfort, he is lost
by shipwreck! I have seen him, and I knew
him surely -- as a ghost he came to me;
and when desirous to detain him, I
stretched forth my arms to him, his ghost left me --
it vanished from me; but it surely was
the ghost of my dead husband. If you ask
description of it, I must truly say
he did not have his well known features -- he
was not so cheerful as he was in life!
Alas, I saw him pale and naked, with
his hair still dripping -- his ghost from the waves
stood on this very spot:" and while she moaned
she sought his footprints on the floor. "Alas,
this was my fear, and this is what my mind
shuddered to think of, when I begged that you
would not desert me for the wind's control.
But how I wish, since you were sailing forth
to perish, that you had but taken me
with you. If I had gone with you, it would
have been advantage to me, for I should
have shared the whole course of my life with you
and you would not have met a separate death.
I linger here but I have met my death,
I toss on waves, and drift upon the sea.
"My heart would be more cruel than the waves,
if it should ask me to endure this life --
if I should struggle to survive such grief.
I will not strive nor leave you so forlorn,
at least I'll follow you to death. If not
the urn at least the lettered stone
shall keep us still together. If your bones
are not united with my bones, 'tis sure
our names must be united."Overcome
with grief, she could not say another word --
but she continued wailing, and her groans
were heaved up from her sorrow-stricken breast.
At early dawn, she went from her abode
down to the seashore, where most wretchedly,
she stood upon the spot from which he sailed,
and sadly said; "He lingered here while he
was loosening the cables, and he kissed
me on this seashore when he left me here."
And while she called to recollection all
that she had seen when standing there, and while
she looked far out on flowing waves from there,
she noticed floating on the distant sea --
what shall I say? At first even she could not
be sure of what she saw. But presently
although still distant -- it was certainly
a floating corpse. She could not see what man
he might be, but because it seemed to her
it surely was a shipwrecked body, she
was moved as at an omen and began
to weep; and, moaning as she stood there, said: --
"Ah wretched one, whoever it may be,
ah, wretched is the wife whom you have left!"
As driven by the waves the body came
still nearer to her, she was less and less
the mistress of herself, the more she looked
upon it; and, when it was close enough
for her to see its features, she beheld
her husband. "It is he," she cried and then
she tore her face, her hair, her royal robe
and then, extending both her trembling hands
towards Ceyx, "So dearest one! So do you come
to me again?" She cried, "O luckless mate."
A mole, made by the craft of man, adjoins
the sea and breaks the shoreward rush of waves.
To this she leaped -- it seemed impossible --
and then, while beating the light air with wings
that instant formed upon her, she flew on,
a mourning bird, and skimmed above the waves.
And while she lightly flew across the sea
her clacking mouth with its long slender bill,
full of complaining, uttered moaning sounds:
but when she touched the still and pallied form,
embracing his dear limbs with her new wings,
she gave cold kisses with her hardened bill.
All those who saw it doubted whether Ceyx
could feel her kisses; and it seemed to them
the moving waves had raised his countenance.
But he was truly conscious of her grief;
and through the pity of the gods above,
at last they both were changed to flying birds,
together in their fate. Their love lived on,
nor in these birds were marriage bonds dissolved,
and they soon coupled and were parent birds.
Each winter during seven full days of calm
Halcyone broods on her floating nest --
her nest that sails upon a halcyon sea:
the passage of the deep is free from storms,
throughout those seven full days; and Aeolus
restraining harmful winds, within their cave,
for his descendants' sake gives halcyon seas.
Hesperia and Aesacus
An old man saw the two birds fly across
the wide extended sea and praised their love,
undying to the end. His old friend who
stood near him, said, "There is another bird,
which you can see skimming above the waves
with folded legs drawn up;" and as he spoke,
he pointed at a divedapper, which had
a long throat, and continued, "It was first
the son of a great king, as Ceyx, was:
and if you wish to know his ancestry,
I can assure you he descended from
Ilus, Assaracus, and Ganymede --
taken by Jupiter, and old Laomedon,
and Priam, ruler at the fall of Troy.
"Aesacus was the brother of the great
illustrious Hector; and, if he had not
been victimized by a strange fate in youth,
he would have equalled Hector's glorious fame,
Hector was child of Hecuba, who was
daughter of Dymas. Alexirhoe,
the daughter of the two-horned Granicus,
so rumor has it, secretly brought forth
Aesacus, hidden under Ida's shade.
"He loathed the city and away from court,
frequented lonely mountains and the fields
of unambitious peasants. Rarely he
was seen among the throngs of Ilium. --
yet, neither churlish nor impregnable
to love's appeal, he saw Hesperia,
the daughter of Cebrenus, while she was
once resting on the velvet-shaded banks
of her sire's cherished stream. Aesacus had
so often sought for her throughout the woods.
"Just when he saw her, while she rested there,
her hair spread on her shoulders to the sun,
she saw him, and without delay she fled,
even as the frightened deer runs from the wolf
or as the water-duck, when she has left
her favored stream, surprised, flies from the hawk.
Aesacus followed her, as swift with love
as she was swift with fear. But in the grass
a lurking snake struck at her rosy heel
and left its venom in her flesh. -- And so,
her flight was ended by untimely death.
"Oh, frantic, he embraced her breathless form,
and cried: 'Alas, alas, that I pursued!
I did not dream of such a dreadful fate!
Success was not worth such a price
I and the snake together caused your death --
the serpent gave the wound, I was the cause.
Mine is the greater guilt, and by my death
I'll give you consolation for your death!' "
"He said those words and leaped on a high rock,
which years of sounding waves had undermined,
and hurled himself into the sea below.
"Tethys was moved with pity for his fall,
received him softly, and then covered him
with feathers, as he swam among the waves.
The death he sought for was not granted him.
At this the lover was wroth. Against his will,
he was obliged to live in his distress,
with opposition to his spirit that desired
departure from the wretched pain of life.
"As he assumed upon his shoulders wings
newformed, he flew aloft and from that height
again he plunged his body in the waves
his feathers broke all danger of that fall --
and this new bird, Aesacus, plunged headlong
into the deep, and tried incessantly
that method of destruction. His great love
unsatisfied, made his sad body lean,
till even the spaces fixed between the joints
of his legs have grown long; his neck is long;
so that his head is far away from his
lean body. Still he hunts the sea
and takes his name from diving in the waves.