Apollonius Rhodius: Argonautica

Book II

Translated by Christopher Kelk

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Here were the stables and the smallholding

Of Amycos, the Bebrycians’ arrogant king,

Whom the Bithynian nymph named Melie

Had to Poseidon borne - indeed she lay

With him, who was the most presumptuous

Of men for a decree contemptuous

For even strangers, who could not depart

Till they have tried the pugilistic art

Against him. Many locals had he slain.

He now approached the ship but did not deign 10

To ask who they were or what was their quest;

Instead immediately he thus addressed

Them all: “Give heed to what you all must know,

Seafarers. A newcomer may not go

From here until he’s tried his hand with me

In boxing, so pick from your company

Your finest man and put him to the test.

If you refuse, trampling on my behest,

It shall go hard with you.” Thus haughtily

He spoke; wild anger seized the company. 20

Now this struck Polydeuces most of all

And, standing forth, he said: “Contain your gall,

Whoever you are; your rules we will obey,

For I propose myself for this affray.”

Bluntly he spoke; the other, glowering,

Rolled up his eyes just as, when in a ring

The hunters hem him, a struck lion glares –

Though circled, for the crowd he has no cares

But on the man who, though he did not slay

But wounded him, fixates. Then straightaway 30

The son of Tyndareus his mantle doffed,

A closely-woven cloak and very soft,

Which, as a pledge of hospitality,

A maid from the Lemnos community

Had given him. The king threw down his dark

And closely-buckled mantle and the stark

Staff that he bore, cut from the olive-tree

And mountain-grown. On the locality

They looked and chose a satisfying space,

Then bade their comrades all take up their place 40

Apart from them and sit upon the shore.

In form and stature they could not be more

Dissimilar. Of baleful Typhoeus

One seemed to be the child prodigious

And of Gaia herself, such as in spleen

At Zeus she bore before; one had the sheen

Of heavenly stars whose brightest beams appear

At night-time just as eventide is near.

So, with his downy cheeks and glittering eyes,

Appeared the son of Zeus, yet still the size 50

Of his strength was a beast’s: he verified

His hands could, as before, be well applied

To boxing, not heavy from handling

The oars. Amycos, though, did no such thing.

Silent, he stood apart and fixed his eyes

Upon his foe; he felt his spirit rise

While hungering to scatter from his frame

His life’s blood. In between them then there came

His servant Lycoreus who placed beside

Them both four thongs of dry, raw leather-hide. 60

And then the king addressed them haughtily:

“If these you want, I’ll give them willingly

Lest you should blame me. Place them both about

Your hands so you may say without a doubt

To others how adept I am at slashing

The desiccated ox-hides and at splashing

Men’s cheeks with blood.” He spoke; no barbed reply

Was made, just a swift smile; with what lay by

His feet he clothed himself quite silently.

Great Talaos, Bias’s progeny, 70

And Castor quickly came to fasten tight

The thongs while urging him to show his might.

Aretos and Oryntos did likewise

And bound the king but did not realize,

Poor fools, that they would never do this more.

Standing apart, equipped, they held before

Themselves their heavy hands and set to fight

Each other: as a violent billow might

Attack a swift ship, though for a little she

Escapes it through pilot ability, 80

While it spurts up the sides, thus did the king

Go after Polydeuces, essaying

To daunt him and not give him any rest,

But he, with not a scratch and being blessed

With skill, fought off his charge. The brutal sweep

Of fists he noted so that he might keep

An eye on where he showed his skills and where

His weaknesses, so, ever standing there,

He parried blow for blow. As woodsmen strike

A vessel’s beams that they may meet each spike, 90

Each blow resounding, cheeks and jawbones clashed

On either side, and noisily teeth gnashed,

Nor did they cease till laboured gasps won out.

Standing apart a little, every gout

Of ample sweat they wiped away as they

Tried hard to catch their breath. Then straightaway

They re-engaged, as bulls in rivalry

Fight wildly for a heifer. Suddenly

Amycos, stretching himself, rose on tiptoe,

As one who slays an ox, and on his foe 100

Brought down his heavy hands. He turned his head

And took the blow on his shoulders instead,

A minor one; he then advanced his knee

Beyond that of the king and fleetingly

Smote him above the ear, thus shattering

The bones, and he fell to his knees. A ring

Of cheers went up among the Argo’s men.

His life’s blood issued from him there and then.

His folk did not neglect him as they caught

Up in their hands rough clubs and spears and sought 110

Polydeuces. His companions went up to

These men as they their pointed daggers drew.

One of them Castor struck upon the head

As he approached him and it plummeted

To earth each side of him, for it was slashed

In two. Huge Itymoneus and Minas crashed

In the dust – one Polydeuces speedily

Kicked in the chest, the other one, while he

Was running straight at him, with his right hand

Struck his left eyebrow, took the lid off and 120

Exposed the eyeball. Now the insolent

Oreides, the king’s henchman, made a rent

In Bias’ son Talaos’ side, although

He was not slain but merely grazed below

The belt – the bronze did not disturb his skin.

Then with his seasoned club there waded in

Arctos, beating the brave progeny

Of Eurytos, Iphitos, his destiny

Of death still unfulfilled  - soon Klytios

Would pierce him with his sword. Bold Ancaios, 130

Lycourgos’ son, large, dark axe in one hand,

A bear’s hide in the other, took a stand

Against the foe and leapt into the fray

Impatiently with, joining the melée,

The Aiacidai and, starting out as well,

The warlike Jason. As grey wolves, pell-mell,

On winter days rush down and terrorize

A flock of countless sheep, beyond the eyes

Of the keen-scented hounds and those who keep

An eye on them, determining which sheep 140

To take first, often glancing all around;

The huddled sheep are falling on the ground

Over each other; thus the violent

Heroes now terrorized the insolent

Bebrycians and, just as those men who tend

A flock and those who keep a hive will send

Thick smoke into a rock, thus dislodging

A bee-swarm, still with buzz-like murmuring

Packed tightly – they at last, quite stupefied

By all that smoke, unable to abide 150

For longer, flee the rock – thus, staying there

No longer, through Bebrycia everywhere,

Announcing their king’s death. They did not know,

Poor fools, that there was further unseen woe:

For Lycos and the Mariandyni

Were ravaging the whole vicinity –

Each vineyard and each village – now the king

Was gone, for there was constant squabbling

In that iron-bearing land, so now these men

Destroyed each farm and stable while, again, 160

Hither and yon the heroes drove away

Their countless sheep. One to his friends would say:

“Pray tell me, what would these faint-hearted men

Have done if a god had brought to us again

Our Herakles? With him here, I suppose,

There would have been no test of trading blows

With fists. No, when he came to us to tell

His rules, those rules and his hauteur as well

Would quite have fled his mind when Herakles

Had plied his club. Instead we sailed the seas 170

And left him callously. We all shall see

Our fatal folly now he’s gone.” Thus he

Addressed them. But by Zeus’ will everything

Was fulfilled. They remained that night to bring

Assistance to the wounded. Then they made

Their sacrifices to the gods and laid

A goodly spread. No slumber overcame

One man beside the sacrificial flame

And bowl. They interwove their golden hair

With laurel growing on the shoreline, where 180

Their hawsers had been bound; melodiously

They sweetly sang a hymn in harmony

With Orpheus’s lute, the windless shore

Enchanted by their singing, which was for

Polydeuces. Now the sun from far away

Shone on the dewy hills; to greet the day

It roused the shepherds, and they now unmoored

Their cables from the bay tree while on board

They stored essentials. Now they steered straight through

The eddying Bosporus while fair winds blew. 190

And then a breaker they could see appear

Assailant-like before them, mountain-sheer,

Ever upheaved above the clouds. You’d say

That death was certain, for it hung midway

Above the ship, cloud-like and angrily,

And yet it settles in tranquillity

When meeting a good helmsman. They were taken

From harm by Tiphys’ skill, rescued but shaken.

Next day they roped their hawsers in the land

Of Bithynia, where Phineus lived, on the strand, 200

Agenor’s son, who in his misery

Bore more woes, for the gift of prophecy

From Phoebus, than did other men. He cared

For Zeus himself no whit, for he declared

His holy will to all unerringly.

So Zeus a long-drawn-out senility

Afforded him and took the pleasing light

From his eyes and wouldn’t let him take delight

In boundless food the neighbours, as they sought

Predictions, brought to them, for Harpies caught 210

It in their jaws and wrenched it all away

Out of his hands and mouth, so quickly they

Rushed at him through the clouds – now not a thing,

No, just a scrap so that his suffering

Might carry on, they left him – and they spewed

A loathsome stench. None dared to bring him food

Or even stand far off, so foul a smell

Those kitchen-scraps gave off. But he knew well

The voices and the tramping of the crew

Who would ensure his feasting would ensue 220

(So Zeus allowed): he rose from where he lay,

Just like a lifeless dream, and made his way

Towards the door on withered feet while bent

Over his staff and feeling, as he went,

The walls; his body trembled, frail and old;

His skin, quite parched with dirt, was, truth be told,

The only thing that held his bones. He left

The house and on the threshold sat, bereft

Of vigour. A dark stupor wrapped around

Him and it seemed to him the very ground 230

Wavered beneath him. Speechless, there he lay,

Both weak and in a coma, and, when they

Saw him, they gathered round, amazed. But he

With laboured breath pronounced this prophecy:

“Hear, mighty Greeks, if it be truly you,

Whom by a ruthless king’s decree pursue,

Upon the Argo under Jason’s sway,

The fleece. It’s you indeed. My mind still may

Know every prophecy. I thank you, king,

Son of Leto, though plunged in suffering. 240

Zeus, god of suppliants, to sinful folk

The sternest punisher, you I invoke

For Phoebus and for Hera, through whose aid

Especially you come; help me evade

This torment in my misery. Don’t go

And mercilessly leave me full of woe

Like this. Upon my eyes a Fury set

Her foot that I might pay an endless debt

Through many weary years; not only thus:

There hangs above me the most onerous 250

Of woes: the Harpies snatch my food from me

As, from some fatal place no-one can see,

They swoop down. I am helpless. With more ease

Might I escape my very thoughts than these,

When I crave sustenance, so rapidly

They fly, and if they have some scraps for me,

The mouldy smell is just too great to bear:

Though adamantine-hearted, none would dare

Come close. Force, sharp and hard to tolerate,

However, makes me stay and satiate 260

My wretched belly. They, the gods decree,

Shall be restricted by the progeny

Of Boreas. No foreign aid are these

If I am Phineus, once in prophecies

And riches famed, Agenor’s son; when Thrace

Was in my governance, I brought, to grace

My home, their sister Cleopatra.” So

Spoke out Agenor’s son, and each hero

Was filled with formidable misery,

The sons of Boreas especially. 270

Then when they had their tears all brushed aside,

They came to him and now Zetes replied,

Taking the wretched old man’s hand in his:

“Unhappy one, I do not think there is

A man more cursed. Why is such misery

Laid on you? Did some fell insanity

Within you cause you, by your readiness

In everything prophetic, to transgress

Against the gods? Did this stir their great spleen?

Our hearts, though, are dismayed, though we are keen 280

To aid you, if a god to both of us

Indeed bestows this due, for obvious

To men are their reproofs. For you we care,

But we won’t stop the Harpies till you swear

The pantheon of the gods won’t take away

Their favour. “ That is what he had to say.

The old man opened eyes that could not see

And raised them, saying, “Silence. Child, let be

Such thoughts. Let Phoebus, who in kindliness

Taught me to prophesy, be my witness; 290

Be witness, also, the portentous doom

That holds me in its grip, the murky gloom

About my eyes, the gods below – may I

Receive their curse if I should perjured die –

No anger from the gods shall come to you

Because you aid me.” With their oath those two

Now yearned to give him help. The younger men

Made ready for the old man there and then

A dinner, for the Harpies a last prey.

Close by they stood that with their swords they may 300

Pierce them in flight. The old man touched the fare

And instantly the Harpies through the air

Came flying, like harsh squalls or lightning,

And through the clouds with sudden clamouring

They yelled their lust for food. When they’d been spied,

The heroes shouted loud on every side;

But, gulping all, the Harpies crossed the sea

In flight, but an oppressive pungency

Remained. The Boreads, with daggers drawn,

Pursued them: Zeus had given quenchless brawn 310

To them, for they could not have held their quest

Without Zeus, for in swiftness they could best

The West Wind’s squalls whenever they came or went.

Like hounds that are proficient in the scent

In wooded valleys or sniff out the deer

Or hornèd goats as onward they career

And, straining from behind a little way,

They gnash their teeth in irritation, they,

Zetes and Calaïs, so close behind,

In vain their fingertips they’d always find 320

Just scraping at the Harpies, who’d have rent

Them quite apart against the gods’ consent

When on the Floating Isles they met, had there

Not been swift Iris watching: through the air

She sped from heaven, checking them. Thus she

Spoke up: “O Boreads, illicitly

You chase with swords the Harpies, for they are

Great Zeus’s hounds. I’ll give you oaths to bar

Them from your path,” and, saying this, she swore

By Styx’s waters – there is nothing more 330

Awful and dread to all the gods – that they

To Phineus’ house would never make their way

Again (thus Fate decreed), and to this oath

They yielded, turning from the ships, the both

Of them. Therefore this place has come to be

‘The Turning Isles’, though mortals previously

Called them ‘The Floating Isles’. The Harpies and

Iris then parted: in the Cretan land

They entered their den; to Olympus she

Went flying up with great velocity. 340

The chiefs then washed the old man’s squalid flesh

So thoroughly that it now shone afresh,

Then sacrificing sheep which carefully

They chose and was the looted property

Of Amycos. They cooked a mammoth feast

Within the hall, then dined; not with the least

Gusto did Phineus eat; his heart was glad

As in a dream. When everyone had had

Sufficient food and drink, they watched all night

For both the Boreads. By firelight 350

The old man sat among them, telling how

Their quest would be concluded. “Listen now:

You may not know all things undoubtedly,

But what the gods allow you’ll hear from me.

From first to last I foretold Zeus’s mind –

A foolish act, for he would give mankind

Unfinished details, that they still will need

Some knowledge of his will. You first will heed

The twin Kyanean Rocks upon the sea

Once you have left me on your odyssey: 360

No-one has ever made escape betwixt

Those two, for they are not rootedly fixed

But at one point they clatter constantly

Together while, above them violently,

Salt-water spumes and on the rigid beach

Comes crashing down. Attend to what I teach

If you respect the gods and wisely go

Your way nor bring about your overthrow

Through foolishness and hold no certainty

In youth’s advice. When you are back at sea, 370

Firstly release a dove, and should it dart

Safe through those rocks, then afterwards depart

No longer from your path; row sturdily

And with your oars drive through the narrow sea,

For safety’s light is not so much in prayer

As in your strength, and therefore have no care

For aught but labouring with might and main.

Till then, however, I will not restrain

Your prayers. But if in flight between those two

She dies, then turn around – much better you 380

Yield to the gods. Those two rocks would entail

Your doom though flint the ship in which you sail.

Unlucky ones, my warnings do not dare

Transgress, even though you think the gods might bear

A thricefold hatred to me, or yet more

Than that. Don’t dare to sail beyond the shore

In spite of my predictions. All shall be

As it shall be. Should you unscathedly

Avoid the clashing rocks and sail into

The Black Sea, then Bithynia see that you 390

Keep on your right until you skirt around

Swift Rhodas and the black beach, finding ground

In Thynias Island’s port. Some little space

Sail back and moor your vessel where the race

Of Mariandyni abide. Close by

A way to Hades lies, while up on high

Acherusia’s headland stretches. Far below

The waters of the eddying Acheron flow

Even through the headland through a huge ravine.

Nearby, as you sail on, there will be seen 400

The many Paphlagonian hills – their king

First was Enetian Pelops, from whom spring

Those folk, they boast, while opposite the bear

Called Helice there is a headland where

Approach is steep on every side. They call

It Carambis: there is a constant squall

Of north winds splitting round her head. Thus she

Looms high above and turns towards the sea.

Beyond lies broad Aigialos. Past here

Upon a jutting piece of coast appear 410

The streams of River Halys, on a shore

That bulges out, which, with a dreadful roar,

Spurts forth; then Iris, nearby rippling,

Though smaller, rolls to sea, white-eddying;

And then projecting forward from the land,

There stands a promontory, massive and grand;

Then Thermodon into a quiet bay

At Themiscyra’s headland makes its way

From thrusting through a sweeping countryside.

Here is Doias’s plain; close by abide 420

The Amazons in their three conurbations,

And then the wretchedest of all the nations,

The Chalybes, who ply a rugged soil,

Unyielding, working iron with much toil.

The Tibareni, rich in flocks, dwell near

Beyond the Genetaian headland, dear

 To Zeus the god of hospitality.

The next in order, the Mossynici,

Dwell in the forests and declivities –

Their homes they built from towers made of trees, 430

Which they call Mossyni: their soubriquet

Derives from them. When you have made your way

Beyond them, moor your ship on a smooth isle

When you have driven off, with endless guile,

The birds of prey, which are a multitude

And dwell upon this island solitude.

It’s here Otrere and Antiope,

The Amazon queens, once built a sanctuary

Of stone to Ares when they marched away

To war. With kindly heart I bid you stay 440

Since you will win from the astringent sea

Unutterable aid. Why must I be

A sinner once again since I forecast

Your total venture? On the mainland past

This island and across from it reside

The Philyri; the Macrones abide

Above them, while, beyond, the massive race

Of Becheiri is found. The next in place

Are the Sapeiri, following hard fast

The Byzeres; beyond these tribes, at last 450

The warlike Colchi live. Your odyssey

Keep up until you reach the innermost sea.

There on the Cytaiian mainland, far away

From the mountains and the plateau of Circe

The eddying Phasis casts its ample flow

Into the sea; into that river go:

Cytaiian Aeetes’ towers you will see

And Ares’ shady grove: on an oak-tree

And guarded by a snake, dire to the sight,

Eyes darting, is the spread-out fleece: nor night 460

Nor day does sleep his wicked eyelids quell.”

He spoke, and fear upon his listeners fell.

For some time they were hit with speechlessness

But finally, dismayed by their distress,

The hero, son of Aeson, spoke: “You now

Have reached our journey’s end and made your vow,

Old man, which we believe will take us through

The dreaded rocks to Pontus. But from you

I’d gladly learn if, having shunned them, we

May then return to Greece. How can it be, 470

How could I sail so far, unqualified,

My comrades likewise? On the utmost side

Of earth lies Aian Colchos.” In reply

The old man said: “Child, when you have passed by

Those dreaded rocks, fear not. Another track

A god will show you. Thence you will not lack

For guides. Take thought, friends, of the cunning aid

Of Aphrodite. Your hopes must be laid

On her in your endeavours. Ask no more

Of me.” Thus spoke the son of Agenor. 480

The twins of Thracian Boreas through the air

Came darting down, their swift feet brought to bear

Upon the threshold. Then from every seat

Each hero, seeing them, got to his feet.

Zetes, still breathing hard from his travail,

Then told the eager throng how long a trail

They made to rout the Harpies far and wide,

How Iris banned their slaughter and supplied

Them, in her grace, with oaths, and how in fear

The Harpies crept away to disappear 490

Into their massive cave within the peak

Of Dicte. Then, when they had heard him speak

These words, the heroes all were jubilant,

And Phineus, too. Then a benevolent

Jason said: “Phineus, indubitably

A god grieved for your great adversity

And sent us from afar so that you might

Be helped by Boreas’s sons. If sight

Were given you again, a joy so vast

As if I were returning home at last 500

Would girdle me.” He spoke, but with an air

Of sadness, Phineus said: “It’s past repair,

Jason; there’ll be no cure. Deprived of sight,

My eyes are blasted. Would a god may smite

Me now instead with death that I may be

In perfect bliss.” In suchlike colloquy

They traded words, and early morning light

Soon broke upon their converse, shining bright.

The neighbours, who beforehand had amassed

Each day to give a share of their repast 510

To Phineus, gathered now. To each one he,

Indifferent to any penury,

Gave forecasts freely, with each revelation

Releasing many from their tribulation:

For this they came to him and lavished care

Upon him. With them came a friend most rare

To him  - Paraibios. He was delighted

To see them there, for long he had recited

The story of the Greek heroic band

Destined to moor their ship in Thynian land 520

As they sailed on to reach Aeëtes’ port,

Who by the will of Zeus would also thwart

The Harpies’ rout. He sent upon their way

The rest with kind, wise words but urged to stay

Only Paraibios with those who led

The expedition. And to him he said

That he should bring to him immediately

The choicest sheep and then, as soon as he

Had left the hall, he graciously addressed

The gathered oarsmen: “It must be confessed, 530

My friends, not all men are imperious

Or lacking kindness. This man came to us,

Though loyal, keen to know his destiny:

Despite his constant toil, his penury

Chafed at him: more abject from day to day,

He saw no rest. But he was doomed to pay

The price of his own father’s wicked deed:

Alone, while felling trees, he failed to heed

A hamadryad’s plea. For clamorously,

In grief, she begged him not to fell a tree 540

Coeval with herself (a mighty span

Of years she had lived in it). Foolish man,

He cut it down with youthful loftiness.

The nymph ordained perpetual distress

Both to the man and to his progeny.

At his arrival, that iniquity

I recognized and bade him build to her

An altar and request that she defer

Forevermore his father’s destiny.

Ever since he dodged this god-sent misery, 550

He’s not forgotten me, for in regard

He holds me. Now it goes extremely hard

To send him off, unwilling, since he’s so

Desirous to be with me in my woe.”

Thus spoke Agenor’s son. Immediately

His friend came back with two sheep from the lea.

The Boreads and Jason then arose

At the old man’s command and, at the close

Of day, called on the god of divination,

Phoebus, and at the hearth made an oblation. 560

The young ones made a satisfying spread:

When it was eaten, some men made their bed

Alongside Argo’s cables, others lay

Within the house in crowds. At break of day

Rushed periodic winds, over the land

Evenly blowing by Zeus’s command.

Cyrene, it is said, would formerly

Tend to her sheep by the Peneian lea.

For maidenhood and an unspotted bed

Were dear to her. However, as she fed 570

Her flock beside the river, far away

From her Haimonia she was one day

Snatched by Phoebus Apollo and amid

The nymphs who haunt the earth deposited

(By high Myrtosios their habitation

They had established in the Libyan nation).

To Phoebus she bore Aristaeus there

(Although her corn-rich folk gave her a pair

Of names, Hunter and Shepherd: tenderness

Had caused Apollo to make timelessness 580

And hunting her especial care: he sent

The boy to Chiron’s cave that time be spent

In nurturing his youth, and then when he

Was grown, the Muses taught him prophecy

And healing, giving him a bride, and made

Him keeper of the flocks of sheep that they’d

Been tending on Adamas’s plateau

In Phthia round the Apidanos’ flow,

That holy river, and the well-protected

Othys. Minos’s islands were reflected 590

By Sirius and scorched – no remedy

Was there for those in the vicinity

Until, at last, at Hecate’s command,

They called for him to banish from the land

This plague. His father bade him go away

From Phthia: in Ceos he made his stay

And gathered the Parrasians (of the strain

Of Lycaon), to Zeus the god of rain

Built a large altar and established rites

Of sacrifice to Sirius in the heights 600

As well as Zeus, who sent to cool the land

For his sake periodic winds which spanned

Twice twenty days. In Ceos now as well

Before the Dog-Star’s rising, priests, they tell,

Make sacrifice. The chiefs were urged to stay:

The Thynians, sending great gifts every day,

Paid Phineus honour. To the twelve gods they made

An altar on the shore and on it laid

Their offerings. They embarked on swift Argo,

Remembering, as they set out to row, 610

A timid dove. It trembled with dismay

As Euphemos grasped it. They then made away,

Loosing the double hawsers, not unmarked

By Queen Athene, who with speed embarked

Upon an airy cloud, which rapidly,

Despite her strength, would carry her. For she

Sped seawards to the oarsmen’s service. Just

As one leaves home, smitten with wanderlust,

As hardy souls as we roam far and near,

No land too far and every pathway clear, 620

He seems to see his home, his odyssey

Over both sea and land quite plain to see,

Ardently thinking, striving here and there

To find it, so, posthaste, upon the bare

And inhospitable Thynian strand,

The progeny of Zeus now came to land.

When they came to the narrow, winding sound,

Hemmed with harsh cliffs, there eddied all around

The ship a surge from underneath the sea

As they advanced with great anxiety, 630

The sound of clashing rocks a never-ending

Hubbub upon their ears, the sea-cliffs sending

Out roars, then Euphemos began to climb

The prow, grasping the dove; at the same time,

At Tiphys’, son of Hagnias, decree,

They helped by rowing, in their certainty

Of their own strength, so they might drive straight past

The rocks. Then straightaway they saw at last

The rocks all gaping open after they

Had rowed around the winding passageway. 640

Their hearts melted; Euphemos sent the dove

A-winging; then all cast their eyes above,

Raising their heads, as through them all she soared:

The rocks, clashing together, loudly roared.

A deal of brine spumed up, just like a cloud,

The sea let forth a noise, dreadful and loud,

The mighty heavens crashed, within the spume

That surged beneath the harsh crags came a boom

From hollow caves, and in the air there hissed

Above the cliffs the bubbling wave’s white mist. 650

Then round the ship the deluge pressed. Above

The rocks clipped the tail-feathers of the dove

As she flew back unscathed. A mighty shout

Came from the oarsmen. Tiphys now yelled out

For strenuous rowing, for the rocks again

Were opening. Now trembling racked the men

As on they rowed until the very tide,

Receding, raised them up and back inside

The rocks. Now all were struck with extreme fear:

Up high inexorable death was near. 660

The broad Black Sea was seen from left to right,

But unforeseen there rose up in their sight

A mighty curving wave resembling

A sheer hilltop, and when they saw this thing

They bowed their heads – it seemed about to flip

Upon them and spread over the whole ship.

But Tiphys swiftly slackened her as she

Was fretting in her oars, and utterly

It rolled beneath her keel: from stern to prow

It drew her up far from the rocks, and now 670

It bore her high. Through the entire crew

Euphemos went and yelled that they must do

Their utmost at the oars, so with a roar

They struck the waves. But what ground every oar

Achieved was in reversing halved. Each blade

Was bent just like a bow as each man made

Heroic effort. Then immediately

A vaulted wave surged at the ship, and she,

Cylinder-like, rode on that violent sweep,

Rushed down and forward through the hollow deep. 680

She was contained in the Symplegades

By this vortex. They made a noise like bees

And shook. The Argo’s timbers had been jammed.

And then with her left hand Athene rammed

The stout rocks far apart and with her right

Pushed Argo through the middle. In her flight

She was a winged arrow. All the same,

The rocks, forever clashing as she came,

Grazed off the top of Argo’s ornament.

Athene rose and to Olympus went, 690

Once they’d escaped unscathed. The rocks, however,

Were quickly rooted in one spot forever

By heavenly decree that, sailing by,

A man might live. At last they breathed a sigh,

No longer chilled with fear, as on the sea

And sky spread out in their immensity

They looked. They felt they had escaped from Hell.

Tiphys spoke first: “I hope this ugly spell

Is now behind us, ship and all. Alone

Athene, since her heavenly strength was blown 700

Upon our ship as Argos riveted her

With nails, must now be called our saviour.

She can’t be caught. Jason, no longer dread

Your king’s command -  a holy one has led

Us through the rocks. Phineus said there’s no doubt

That all our labours will from hereon out

Be easy.” Thus he spoke and through the sea

Drove Argo past Bithynian land. But he

Heard Jason answer him with gentleness:

“Phineus, why comfort me in my distress? 710

I sinned and acted unforgivably.

I should, when Pelias gave me his decree,

Have flatly turned it down, though doomed to die

Deplorably, hacked limb from limb. Here I,

Beset with worries too extreme to bear

And copious fears, hate each dread thoroughfare

We must endure on shipboard, dread, also,

The mainland, hostile everywhere you go.

I’ve suffered sleepless nights since, for my sake,

You gathered for the first time, while I rake 720

Over everything. You speak with easiness,

Concerned for self alone, yet all my stress

Is for this man and for all of my men

Lest I do not deliver you again

To Greece.” Thus did he test his chiefs, and they

Yelled cheerfully, succeeding to allay

His fears. He then addressed them openly:

“My friends, the courage that you show to me

Shall swell my confidence. Be I conveyed

To Hades’ depths, I will not be afraid 730

Since, faced with dreadful terrors, you stay true

And steadfast. Since we now have sailed straight through

And circumvented the Symplegades,

I think no bogeyman will rival these

As long as we attend the admonition

Of Phineus as upon our expedition

We go.” He spoke, and they immediately

Broke off all talk, and constant industry

Was plied in rowing. Then they passed beside

Colone’s crag and the swift-flowing tide 740

Of Rhebas and then the Black Promontory

Nearby, when where the Phyllis meets the sea

And where into his dwelling Dipsacos

Received, when he had fled Orchomenos,

The son of Adamas who with his ram

Arrived; a meadow-nymph had been his dam.

Devoid of insolence, he willingly

Lived with his mother, feeding by the sea

His flock nearby his father’s stream. They spied

His shrine while swiftly sailing alongside, 750

The broad shores of the river, and the plain,

And deep Calpe, but then with might and main

They laboured at their oars all day and night

When everything was calm. As oxen fight

To cleave the land while down their neck and sides

A constant source of perspiration slides,

And underneath the yoke they glance around,

Their fiery breath making a roaring sound

Nonstop, and with their hooves in weariness

They delve all day, the heroes did no less 760

Lean on their oars. Before the holy light

Yet when it was no longer wholly night,

Some little specks now flickering through the dark,

Which risers call the dawn, they moored their barque

On Thynia, an uninhabited

Island, and disembarked with heavy tread.

The son of Leto came into their view,

Who’d come from Lycia and was passing through

En route to the great Hyperborean nation.

His clustered locks hung in proliferation 770

About his cheeks. He held in his left hand

A silver bow; meanwhile a quiver spanned

His back and shoulders. Underneath his feet

The island shook. The waves crashed as they beat

The shoreline. Nonplussed incredulity

Struck them and none had the temerity

To look him in the eye. They all stood there

With eyes cast down. But he flew through the air

Across the sea. Then Orpheus, when he’d gone,

Said to his chieftains: “Let us, every one, 780

Give nomination to this holy isle

Of “Dawn’s Apollo” since at Dawn’s first smile

He showed himself to us. We’ll do what we

Must do and build a shrine next to the sea.

But if at last we make a safe return

To our Haemonia, we’ll surely burn

A sacrifice of goats. I advocate

That you with wine and meat propitiate

The god right now. Show your benignity,

O lord.” He spoke, and they immediately 790

With pebbles built an altar. Then around

The isle they roamed to see if could be found

Some deer or else some goats which often feed

Deep in the wood, and then that very need

Was granted them by Leto’s son. They greased

The thighs in fat and piously they placed

Them on the holy altar’s holy flame

While calling out Apollo’s holy name,

‘Eoios’. Around the offering

They organized a spacious dancing-ring 800

And sang, “All praise, healing divinity.”

Along with them a clear-toned melody

Was started up on the Bistonian lyre

By good Orpheus (Oiagros was his sire)  -

How once beneath Parnassus Mountain he

Slew with his bow the monster Delphyne

While yet a beardless youth and while his hair

Was still unshorn. O grant our fortune fair!

Be unshorn ever, lord! Lord, may you be

(For it is right) secure from injury! 810

Your tresses are by Leto’s kindly hand

Alone caressed. The Corykaean band

Of nymphs, Pleistos’s daughters, words of cheer

Addressed to you while shouting, “Healer, hear!”

Thus came this lovely Phoebus-hymn to be.

After this music and terpsichory,

They carried out an undefiled libation

And made a promise of cooperation

Between them for eternity, while they

All touched the sacrifice. Even today 820

There lies the shrine of joyful Harmony

Which they provided by their industry

For their great goddess. Then on the third day

They left the precipitous island, on their way

Under the strong west wind. Then on they sped

Beyond where the Sangarios River fed

Into the sea, beyond the fertile land

The Mariandyni inhabit, and

The Lycian streams, Anthemoseisis Lake…

The wind they sailed before made all thing shake - 830

The ropes, the tackle – then during the night

The wind calmed and, at dawn, with great delight

They reached the harbour set beneath the crest

Of Acherousia. She makes her nest

Amid steep slopes and looks upon the sea

Of Bithynia; sea-smoothed rocks appear to be

Deep-rooted there; the water round about

Rolls, loudly roaring; at the peak there sprout

Huge plane-trees, while from it, stretching away

Towards the mainland, deep-indented, lay 840

A hollow glen where, overarched with wood

And piles of rocks, a cave of Hades stood,

Whence chilly blasts of vapour endlessly

Would emanate from their foul cavity,

Congealing white frost which the noonday sun

Would melt away. The noise was never done

On this grim peak. Beneath the roaring sea

The groans continued, while the greenery

Shook from the blasts within. The Acheron

Emerged from them, disgorging straight upon 850

The Eastern sea down from the mountain’s peak,

Within a hollow gorge. About to seek

A home among the Mariandynian nation,

The Megarans gave it the appellation,

Much later, “Sailor-Saver” -  a bad squall

Had threatened them, and it had saved them all,

Their ships as well. The crew immediately

Went through the Acherousian promontory,

The wind now ceasing, as they reached the strand.

Unmarked by Lycos, ruler of that land 860

And the Mariandyni – they, who had slain

Amycos, as they’d heard, a dreadful stain –

They soon made out a compact for their sin,

And as from all sides they came flocking in

They welcomed Polydeuces as though he

Had been a god – for an eternity

The proud Bebrycians and themselves had clashed;

That very day to Lycos they now dashed

And in the royal halls in amity

Prepared a banquet and with jollity 870

Conversed. The very names and families

Of all his comrades, Pelias’ decrees,

The Lemnian women’s entertainment and

What in Cyzikos, Dolionian land,

Had happened, how Mysia and Cios

They visited, the unintended loss

Of Herakles, left there, the divination

Of Glaucos and their own extermination

Of Amycos and the community

Of the Bebrycians, Phineus’ prophecy 880

And woe, and how they managed to evade

The Clashing Rocks, how on the isle they made

Acquaintance with Apollo, he related.

At all these stories Lycos was elated,

Though grieved they had abandoned Herakles.

To all he said, “Friends, though to Aeetes

You travel, from a great man’s aid you’ve strayed.

For well I know I saw him when he stayed

As Dascylos my father’s guest: he went

On foot straight through the Asian continent, 890

Holding the girdle of Hippolyte,

The lover of all war: he found in me

A downy-cheeked young lad. That hero, when

My brother Priolas was by the men

Of Mysia slaughtered (whom we even yet

Lament with mournful songs), in contest met

Great Titias, a man who quite transcended

All youths in beauty and in strength, and ended

His life, his teeth smashed out. My father held

Command when all the Phrygians were quelled 900

By Herakles and the Mysians, whose land

Is next to ours; of each Bithynian band

He gained possession with its property

As far as to the peak of Colone

And Rhebas’ mouth. The Paphlagonian men

Of Pelops yielded to them there and then,

Whom Billaios’ dark water roars among.

But the Bebrycians and Amycos’ wrong,

With Herakles far away, have cheated me.

For they’ve been chipping off my property 1000

For so long now that they can draw the line

At deep Hypios’s meadows; yet the fine

They’ve paid is due to you; and that this day

He battled the Bebrycians, I must say,

Is with the gods’ will – it’s of him I tell,

Tyndareus, who sent that man to Hell.

What I can pay you in remuneration

I gladly shall pay. When cooperation

Begins from stronger men, it is the due

Of weaker ones. I urge that all of you 1010

Should take my son, Dascylos: if he goes,

You’ll meet across the seaway only those

Who show true amity as far away

As Thermodon pours out into the bay.

And I shall raise to the Tyndaridae

A lofty altar reaching to the sky

Upon the Acherousian elevation

So that from far away propitiation

Is made by every sailor to the sea.

As for the gods, so for the community 1020

Upon the well-ploughed plain I will dispense

Rich fields. “ All day they feasted well but thence

At dawn sped to the ship, and with them went

Lycos with countless gifts; he also sent

His son out of the palace. Destiny

Then took a man unmatched in prophecy,

Idmon, Abantios’s son, whose skill

Did not avail him, for by heavenly will

He was destroyed. A white-toothed boar there lay,

Cooling his flanks and large gut in the clay, 1030

A dreadful monster (even the nymphs of the fen

Were greatly terrified), beyond the ken

Of every man, and here he fed alone.

Along this muddy river’s banks Idmon

Was walking when out of the reeds this boar

With unexpected speed began to roar,

Then ran straight at him, fastening on the thigh,

Sinew and bone ripped through; with a sharp cry

He fell to earth. All yelled in unity

At this. Seeing the rabid animal flee, 1040

Peleus then launched a javelin, but then

The beast now turned around and charged again.

But Idas pierced it: with a roaring sound

It fell around the swift spear. On the ground

They left it. Then the men, in misery,

Conveyed him back towards the ship as he

Gasped out his last, and in their arms he died.

They then delayed departure as they cried

Their grief around his body. Three whole days

They mourned him, then upon the next, with praise 1050

Aplenty, they interred him. Everyone,

King Lycos too, mourned him in unison.

They slaughtered countless sheep, a ritual

Due to the dead, then a memorial

Was built for him in that locality,

That future generations all might see.

The trunk of an olive-tree, of which are made

Our ships, stands as a token in the shade

Of Acherousia’s cliff and blossoming.

If at the Muses’ bidding I must sing

Of this, Phoebus Apollo stringently 1060

To Boeotia and Nysos gave his decree

To worship Idmon and authenticate

Him as their guardian and to fabricate

The city round the trunk of this old tree,

Yet Agamestor is the honouree

Today, not that devout Aeolian.

Who was the next to die? Now they began

Again to build a tomb to glorify

A dead comrade: two tombs will meet your eye

Even yet. The son of Hagnias, it’s said,

Tiphys, expired. Two heroes lay dead, 1070

Their sailing done. A short-lived malady

Now granted him ceaseless tranquillity,

After the crew had paid due accolade

To Idmon’s corpse. This cruel grief dismayed

Them all with an unsufferable pain.

Besides the seer, fulfilling once again

The funeral rites, they sagged down on the shore

In helplessness, with little longing for

Both food and drink, their spirits bleak and black,

Since there was now no hope of sailing back. 1080

They would have stayed there in their misery

Had Hera not imposed great bravery

Upon Ancaios (where the waters run

On Imbrasos was he, Poseidon’s son,

Born to Astypalaia). Masterly

In steersmanship especially, eagerly

He spoke to Peleus: “Son of Aeacus,

How can it be appropriate for us

To give up toil amidst a foreign race?

Jason has not allotted me a space 1090

Upon the Argo the fleece to possess,

Far from Parthenia, for my skilfulness

In war but for my naval qualities.

So let there be no fear upon the seas.

The others are as are all men of skill

Not one of whom will cause us any ill,

Whoever guides us. Quickly tell them all

I’ve said and boldly urge them not to fall

From toil.” Peleus’s heart with gaiety

Was stirred at this, and he immediately 1100

Addressed the men: “What idle grief, my friends,

Is this which grips us? These two met the ends

Ordained for them, but here among the men

Are pilots, and a host of them. So then,

Let’s not delay our task. Let misery

Be cast out, turn instead to industry.”

Jason with helpless words replied: “So, these

Steersmen you speak about, Aiacides,

Where are they? Those in whom we would invest

Our trust in former days are more depressed 1110

Than I am now. So for them I foresee

The fate the dead were meted, if it be

Cruel Aeëtes’ city is denied

To us or if beyond the rocks the tide

Won’t take us back to Greece and in this place

A wretched fate will veil us in disgrace

As we grow old in idleness.” He spoke;

Ancaios eagerly put on the yoke

Of steering the swift ship – the impetus

Of Hera stirred him. Up leapt Erginos, 1120

Euphemos and Nauplios eagerly,

Agog to steer. Some of the company,

However, held them back, and of the crew

A number gave to Ancaius the due

Of steering. When daybreak on the twelfth day

Arrived, they boarded ship to sail away –

A strong west wind was blowing. Hurriedly

They rowed through Acheron and now shook free

The sails, their confidence placed upon the breeze.

With sails spread wide, they ploughed on through the seas 1130

In tranquil weather. Soon they came upon

Callichorus’s mouth, where Zeus’s son,

Bacchus, they say, when he in Thebes once dwelled,

Leaving the Indian tribes, where he then held

Revels and dances near a cave where he

Spent holy, smileless nights: accordingly

The neighbours call the stream Callichorus,

The grotto Aulion. Then Sthenelus’

Barrow they saw, the son of Actor, who,

Returning from the valorous set-to 1140

Against the Amazons – for Heracles

Accompanied him in those hostilities –

Was wounded with an arrow, on the shore

To perish. They then stayed a little, for

Persephone had sent his soul, mush-rued,

To beg, even for a short-lived interlude,

Like-minded men to see him. Just as he

Was when he fought, to the periphery

Of his own tomb he climbed and looked upon

The ship. Around his head a fair helm shone, 1150

Four-peaked with blood-red crest. Then back he went

Into the giant gloom. Astonishment

Assailed them as they looked. But then the son

Of Ampykus, Mopsus, urged everyone,

In prophecy, to go ashore and then

Appease him with libations. So the men

Drew in the sail and cast the cables out

Upon the shore, and then they set about

The tomb; the water poured, they purified

Some sheep as sacrifices and, beside 1160

The water, to Phoebus, the island’s aid,

They built an altar; in the fire they laid

The victim’s thighs. Then Orpheus dedicated

His lyre – hence this place was designated

Lyra. They boarded ship immediately

Because the wind was blowing fervently.

The sail was now stretched to each corner tightly;

The ship was carried forward, yare and spritely.

Just as a swift hawk, airborne in the sky,

Entrusts his wings to breezes way up high, 1170

Not swerving in his flight but floating through

A clear sky on untroubled wings. Then too,

They passed Parthenius flowing to the sea,

The gentlest of streams – the progeny

Of Leto, when ascending through the air

After her hunting, cools her body there

In pleasant water. Then all through the night

They sped past Erythini, great in height,

As well as Sesamos, Krobalios,

Past Kromna, too, and wooded Cytoros. 1180

At rising of the sun they curved around

Carambis, then beyond Aegialus sound

All day and through the night. Immediately

They beached on Assyrian land, where Sinope,

Asopos’ child, was granted maidenhead

And an abode by Zeus, who was misled

By his own oaths. For he had sorely needed

Her ardour and therefore he had acceded

To grant her anything she craved, so she,

In cunning, asked him for virginity. 1190

Apollo, too, she cozened just like this,

Who lusted after her by the Halys;

No man had ever in his fond embrace

Possessed her. There resided in that place

The three sons of Trikkan Deimachus -

That is Deïleon, Autolycus

And Phlogius – ever since they strayed away

From Heracles. When they discerned that day

The crew, they made known their identity

When meeting them; they did not wish to be 1200

In that land any longer, so, when blew

The North-West wind, they went and joined the crew

On board. Together they left the Halys,

Borne on a swift breeze, left, too, the Iris

That flowed nearby, and then the delta-land

Of Assyria and then the far headland

Of the Amazons, that guards their port, that day

They rounded. Once, when going on her way,

Was Melanippe, Ares’ daughter, caught

By Heracles. Hippolyte then brought 1210

To him her glittering girdle that would pay

To save her sister. He sent her away

And she returned unharmed. Then in the bay,

Where Thermodon pours out, they made their stay,

For as they came the sea was turbulent.

No river is like this: none yet has sent

Such mighty streams upon the land. If you

Should count them all, you’d lack but two times two

Out of a hundred. Yet there’s one real spring.

It cascades to the flatland, tumbling 1220

From lofty mountain-peaks which, people say,

Are called the Amazons, then makes its way

Inland through higher country and from there,

This way and that, the streams flow anywhere

They may reach lower ground, an endless flow,

One far, one nearer. Many we do not know

By name, where they are drained off. With a few

Mixed in, however, one bursts out to spew

Its arching crest into the Pontic Sea,

Which hates all ships. In this vicinity 1230

They would have stayed to tangle in a fray

With the Amazons (for whom a bloodless day

Would not have passed) – they weren’t a peaceful clan

But lawless, who on the Doeantian

Flatland resided; fierce pomposity

And war were all their care; their family tree

Grew from the nymph Harmonia and Ares,

Who, through the sexual intimacies

In Acmon’s woods and valleys, bred a strain

Of warlike maids – except there came again 1240

From Zeus the North-West currents: with a breeze

Behind they left the rounded beach, where these

Themiscyrean Amazons prepared

For battle: for their dwelling was not shared

In just one town, but, scattered through the land,

They lived in three tribes: under the command

Of Hippolyte, the Themiskureans

Were one, another the Lycastrians,

Then the Chadesians, who plied the spear.

A day and night of rowing brought them near 1250

The Chalybes, who did not care to till

Their soil nor yet with honeyed fruit to fill

Their stores, no flocks of sheep are to be found

In dewy pastures; no, they cleave the ground

That’s hard and iron-bearing, and their pay

They use to purchase victuals day by day;

No dawn appears without some dire distress;

Amid black smoke they bear great heaviness.

They soon arrived at Father Zeus’s cape

And safely passed the Tibarenes’ landscape. 1260

Whenever there’s a woman of this clan

Who has produced a child, it is the man

Who lies in bed and groans, his head bound fast,

While it’s his wife who brings him his repast

And gives him child-birth baths. Then next to see

Was the sacred mount where the Massynnoici

Reside in mountain-huts (they got their name

From μασσυν). Laws and customs aren’t the same

As ours are here. Those things the laws permit

In public places, these they all commit 1270

Within their homes, while all the acts that we

Perform indoors they do quite openly

Out in the streets without reproof; the act

Of love they don’t respect – not even racked

With shame at others’ presence they, like swine

That feed in herds, will on the ground entwine

In intercourse. Above them all, their king

Dispenses upright judgments, wretched thing.

For if he errs in his decrees, that day

They lock him up and starve him. After they 1280

Had passed this place, their oars sliced through the seas

All day past Ares’ isle, for the light breeze

Abandoned them at dusk. Then they perceived

At last a bird of Ares as it cleaved

The air in flight (they all frequent this isle).

It shook its wings upon the ship, meanwhile

Dropping a knife-sharp feather vertically;

It fell on pure Oileus’ left shoulder: he

Then dropped his oar; then all were stupefied

At this plumed bolt. Then sitting by his side, 1290

Erybotes pulled out the thing to wrap

The wound up tight, having released the strap

Suspended from his scabbard. Now there flew

Another, swooping down above the crew:

Klytius, Eurytus’ son, a champion,

Now took his curving bow, drawing upon

The bird: that winged arrow reached its mark,

Which whirled and fell beside the speedy bark.

Amphidamas, Aleus’ progeny,

Now spoke: “We see in close proximity 1300

Ares’ isle. You yourselves must know this, too,

Seeing these birds. But arrows will not do,

I think, to aid us here. We must explore

Some other method if to go ashore

Is your intent. Even Heracles, when he

Came to Arcadia, would fruitlessly

Aim at the birds that on Lake Stymphalis

Would swim. I was an eye-witness to this.

But, on the lofty hilltop brandishing

A rattle of bronze, he made the whole cliff ring. 1310

The birds fled far and screamed in frantic dread.

Likewise let’s plan anew. What’s in my head,

Once I have pondered, I will let you know.

Put on your high-plumed helmets: half then row

In turns, the others fence the ship about

With polished spears and shields; raise a loud shout

Together that the unaccustomed sound,

The nodding plumes, the high spears all around

May frighten them. If we should reach the land,

With vigour clash your shields.” What he had planned 1320

Much pleased them. Their bronze helms that starkly glowed

They donned; the crimson crests shook. Then half rowed

By turns; with spears and shields the other men

Surrounded the whole vessel, just as when

A man may tile his roof to beautify

His house while from the rain he keeps it dry,

One tile into another dovetailing,

Just so about the ship they made a ring

Of shields. Just like the din of warrior-men

As they sweep on to meet in battle, then 1330

A din rose from the ship. As yet they spied

No birds, but after they came alongside

The isle and clashed their shields, into the air

There flew a giant flock: we may compare

A time when the son of Cronus has flung down

A massive storm of hail upon a town

And all its houses, while the folk below

Can hear the din upon their roofs, although

They sit in silence, since they are aware

Of rain-storm season and have taken care 1340

To fortify their homes, these birds then sent

Thick showers of feathers as in flight they went

To the opposing peaks across the sea.

What then did Phineus have in mind when he

Bade this heroic band to go ashore

Upon this isle? What help was there in store?

The sons of Phrixus were upon the seas

From Aea and Cytaian Aieëtes,

En route to Orchomenos, under the mast

Of a Colchian ship, that they might take the vast 1350

Resources of their father who, when he

Was dying, urged them to this odyssey.

That ship was near the isle that day, but lo!

Zeuas gave the North Wind strength that it might blow,

Marking with rain Arctourus’ moistened way,

And shook the mountain-leaves throughout the day

And gently breathed on tree-tops. But at night

He rampaged seaward and, with all his might,

With screaming winds, he roused the surge. A mist

Of darkness screened the sky; no bright star kissed 1360

The heavens through the clouds, dark gloominess

Loomed all around. Grave apprehensiveness

Assailed the sons of Phrixus as the ship

Bore them, quite drenched. They saw the mainsail rip,

Snatched by the winds’ great strength which cleft in two

The bark herself which shuddered through and through,

Smashed by the surge. These four the gods induced

To grab a huge beam (with the ship reduced

To smithereens such things lay all around,

Held by sharp bolts). Upon the isle they found 1370

Themselves, near-dead and in great misery,

Borne by the waves and wind. Immediately

A mighty rain burst from the skies to fall

Upon the sea, the isle, indeed on all

The land that lay across from it. the home

Of the scornful Massynoici. Swelling foam

Cast Phrixus’ sons upon the island’s shore

On that huge beam, in murky night. The store

Of endless water Zeus at the first trace

Of dawn left off. Soon after, face-to-face 1380

The two bands met. Argos spoke first: “Our plea,

By Watchful Zeus, whoever you may be,

Is that with grace you’ll succour our distress.

Upon the sea, with dreadful fiendishness,

Cascaded tempests, scattering far and wide

The poor ship’s boards, on which we had relied,

On business bound. Therefore, if you will heed

Our prayer, we beg that you will serve our need

For clothes and for our plight show clemency –

For you are all of the same age as we. 1390

Strangers and suppliants for Zeus’s sake

(Who loves them both) you deference should take.

To Zeus belong them all and, I may guess,

He looks on us as well.” With canniness

The son of Aeson questioned him, convinced

That Phineus’ prophecies would be evinced:

“We’ll gladly do all this immediately,

But tell me where you live and why the sea

Compelled you hither, your line of descent

And your great names.” Then Argos, impotent 1400

In his distress, said: “You heard previously,

I’m sure, a certain Phrixus crossed the sea

From his Aeolia in Greece and beached

On Aea’s mainland – Phrixus, who then reached

Aeëtes’ town astride a ram of gold

(The work of Hermes). Still you may behold

Its fleece today. Then, by its own advice,

To Lord Zeus he made it a sacrifice –

To Zeus, the son of Cronus, above all

The god of fugitives. Into his hall 1410

Aeëtes welcomed him. Chalciope,

His daughter, he in magnanimity

Gave him in marriage, asking no payment.

From both of these we reckon our descent.

Within those halls, bowed with senility,

Phrixus now died, and, heeding his decree,

We promptly for Orchomenus set sail,

Of Athamas’s assets to avail

Ourselves. If you would know our names, Argos

You may call me, this is Kytissorus, 1420

This Phrontis, this Melas. He spoke and they,

The chiefs, rejoiced at what he had to say.

Then Jason made rejoinder fittingly:

“You who would have us salve your misery

Are doubtless kin upon my father’s side.

Cretheus and Athamas were unified

In brotherhood and I am the grandson

Of Cretheus. These, my comrades every one,

And I have come from Greece upon our way

To Aeëtes’ city. But another day 1430

We’ll speak of this. But first put on some wear.

The gods, I think, gave you unto my care.

He spoke and gave them clothes for them to don

Out of the ship. Together they went on

To Ares’ shrine that they might sacrifice

Some sheep. Around the altar in a trice

They gathered – built of pebbles, close beside

The roofless temple, there it stood; inside

A massive, sacred stone had been made fast,

To which all Amazons had in the past 1440

Prayed. When they had arrived from opposite

This land, to offer ox or sheep to it

Was not allowed by law. Horses that they

Nurtured in great abundance they would slay.

The sacrificing and the feasting done,

There then began a speech by Aeson’s son:

“Zeus can see all: his gaze we cannot flee,

We honest men. As Zeus once chose to free

Your father from the sanguinary guile

Of a stepmother, vouchsafing, too, a pile 1450

Of treasure, so from that ferocious gale

He saved you, too. On Argo you may sail

Here, there, indeed wherever your intent –

To Aea or the sacred, opulent

Orchomenus. For it was on the tip

Of Pelion that through her craftsmanship

Athene with her bronze axe felled each tree

That built this ship, and Argos’ industry

Assisted her. But yours the vicious shocks

Of foam has crushed before you reached those rocks 1460

Which all day clash together in the sound.

But come and help our cause, for we are bound

To bring the golden fleece back to our nation;

Guide us for I intend an expiation

For Phrixus’ plans for sacrifice (for these

Caused Zeus’s wrath at the Aeolides).”

His words were soothing, yet a horror shook

The hearers for Aeëtes would not look

With kindliness on them, they thought, if they

Intended to steal the ram’s fleece away, 1470

So Argos, vexed at such a strategy,

Said: “Friends, what little strength we have will be

Forever yours in need. But Aeëtes

Is dread and ruthless; thus to sail these seas

I dread. He boasts that he’s the progeny

Of Helios; in that vicinity

Dwell tribes of Colchians. His fierce war-shout

And massive strength would parallel, no doubt,

Those traits in Ares. It is no small chore

To take the fleece from him, and, what is more, 1480

A deathless, sleepless serpent guards it; Earth

Herself in the Caucasian vales gave birth

To it, by the rock of Typhaon: it’s said

That beast by Zeus’s bolt was buffeted

When he opposed him sturdily: there gushed

Hot lifeblood from his head, and thus he rushed

To the Nysaean mountains and plateau,

Where still he lies beneath the water’s flow

In the Serbonian lake.” He spoke. There grew

On many cheeks a pallor now they knew 1490

The venture’s aim. Peleus immediately

Encouraged him: “Do not excessively

Take fright, dear friend. We are not lacking might

So much that we can’t match the man in fight.

We go there skilled, I think, in strategy.

If he won’t give to us in amity

The golden fleece, the Colchians I doubt

Will be of use to him.” Thus, turn about,

They spoke till, feasted, they took their repose.

At dawn a gentle breeze, as they arose, 1500

Was blowing, so they raised the sails which strained,

Stretched by its force, and, with the speed they gained,

Soon left that island, reaching, at nightfall,

The isle of Philyris, where the god of all

The Titans, Cronus, son of Ouranus,

Wooed Philyra, an act duplicitous

To Rhea, while, in a Cretan cave somewhere,

The Idaean Kyretes were taking care

Of infant Zeus. Then Rhea found those two

Entwined in dalliance, so Zeus then flew 1510

From bed, adopting the anatomy

Of a long-maned steed; the maid, the progeny

Of Ocean, left in shame and went to stay

In Pelasgia’s long mountains where one day

She bore to Zeus huge Cheiron, half a horse,

Half god. From there they fetched up, in due course,

Near the Macrones and the boundless land

Of the Becheiri, then sailed beyond the strand

Of the proud Sapeires, then the Byzeres.

Forever moving on, they cleft the seas, 1520

Borne by the gentle breeze. As on they sailed

A nook appeared before them which availed

Them of the sight of steep crags rising high

Above the land of Caucasos. Nearby

Prometheus, to the harsh rocks tightly tied

With manacles forged out of bronze, supplied

With is own liver an eagle which, each day,

Came rushing back to reattack its prey.

At evening near the clouds they saw it fly,

Its wings a-whirring, high up in the sky, 1530

Yet with its wings, which made a buzzing sound,

Shaking their sails, though it did not, they found,

Look like a bird, its wings like polished oars

Poised in the air. They heard the dreadful roars,

The poor man’s liver being torn away.

The air rang till that savage bird of prey

Was seen to leave the peak, its path of flight

The same as ever. Then, during the night,

They reached broad River Phasis, courtesy

Of Argos, and the sea’s extremity. 1540

They let down sails and yard-arm and then packed

The mast and laid it flat, and then they hurled

The ship into that mighty stream, which swirled

While giving way. Steep Caucasus they spied,

Cytaian Aea also on that side;

Upon the other side from those there stood

The plain of Ares and his sacred wood:

Here was the fleece, hung on an oak’s green bough,

By a serpent watched and closely guarded. Now 1550

From a gold cup pouring sweet wine, undiluted,

Into the stream, Jason thus executed

Libations to all the divinities

Near there, to Earth and to the essences

Of the dead heroes, offering up a plea

That they would give them help indulgently

And greet with grace the hawsers. This oration

Came from Ancaius: “We have reached the nation

Of Colchis and Phasis. The time is nigh

To hatch a plan of action: should we try 1560

Aeëtes with soft words or should there be

A somewhat different approach? Thus he

Spoke out. Then Jason bade them take away

The ship to anchor in some secret bay,

At Argus’s advice. This was nearby

Where they encamped all night; and the sunrise

Soon showed itself to their expectant eyes.