Apollonius Rhodius: Argonautica

Book IV

Translated by Christopher Kelk

© Copyright 2020 Christopher Kelk, All Rights Reserved.
Please direct enquiries for commercial re-use to chriskelk@sympatico.ca.

This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
Conditions and Exceptions apply.

Muse, goddess, daughter of Lord Zeus, now sing

Of Colchian Medea’s suffering

And counsels. As I ponder her, my mind

Is wavering: for was it grief love-blind,

Or shameful flight that caused her to depart

From Colchis? With great anger in his heart

About the hateful contest, Aeëtes

Throughout the night with all his dignitaries

Within his halls devised sheer treachery

But thought without his daughters’ knowledge he 10

Would not accomplish it. But Hera laid

Great fear upon the girl: she was afraid,

Just like a nimble deer spooked by the sounds,

Deep in a copse’s thicket, of the hounds.

She was convinced her succour did not go

Unmarked by him and now her cup of woe

Would be filled up. The facts her handmaids shared

She feared as well. Her eyes with fire flared,

Her ears rang dreadfully and often she

Would clutch her throat and in deep misery 20

Would tear her tresses from their roots. The maid

Would have beguiled her destiny and paid

The final price, tasting the charms, and brought

The strategies of Hera all to nought

Had not that goddess forced her then to flee,

With Phrixus’ sons, though with perplexity

She had been struck, and this consoled anew

Her fluttering soul. Then all her charms she threw

Into the casket; on the bed she placed

A kiss and on the double-doors which faced 30

Each other, stroked the walls, tore her long hair

And for her mother in the chamber there

Left it behind a maiden’s memory.

Then in a tone of utter misery

She said: ‘These lengthy tresses, mother dear,

I leave you as I go; as far from here

I sail, take this farewell; Chalciope,

Farewell, farewell, my home; would that the sea

Had crushed you, stranger, utterly before

You ventured here and reached the Colchian shore.” 40

She spoke and wept huge tears. As from a house

Of wealth a slave-girl creeps just like a mouse,

New-disadvantaged of her home, unused

As yet to grievous toil nor yet abused

With woe, and fearing slavish drudgery,

And suffered a harsh mistress, similarly

The fair maid fled her home. The bolts gave way

And at the magic strains of her swift lay

Leapt back. Barefoot through narrow paths she sped,

With her left hand her robe brought to her head 50

To hide her lovely cheeks, while with her right

She raised her tunic’s hem, fleeing in fright

Away from the wide town’s fortifications

Along the dark track; watchmen at their stations

Missed her as on she hurried, out of view.

She planned to reach the temple – well she knew

The way, for she would many times there roam,

Looking for corpses or some foul rhizome,

As sorceresses do. Her heart with dread

Was quivering. As she, distraught, now fled 60

The Moon, the goddess of the Titans, marked

The maid with fierce enjoyment and remarked

To her own self: “I’m not the only one

To burn with love for fair Endymion

Or stray to the Latmian cave, often expelled

By your sly spells, with thoughts of passion held,

So that you may practise your darkest art

At night, a practice pleasing to your heart.

You too are going through a similar woe:

Some god of torment makes you undergo 70

Great pain by loving Jason. Go, and steel

Yourself, though you are erudite, to feel

A myriad of grief.” When this was said,

The maiden’s feet conveyed her as she sped.

With joy she reached the river-banks, in sight

Of gleaming light beyond them, which all night

The heroes burned, glad at the victory.

Then, through the gloom, across the river she

Called out to Frontis, Phrixus’ youngest son,

Who, both with Jason and with every one 80

Of his brothers, knew her voice. Then silently

His comrades wondered at her presence. She

Called out three times, three times, urged by the men,

He called back to her. All the heroes then

Rowed swiftly out to find her. On that shore

They had not yet tied off the ropes before,

From high up on the scaffold, rapidly

Had Jason leapt to land. Two progeny

Of Phrixus, Phrontis and Argos, then leapt

As well; she then addressed them while she kept 90

Her hands about their knees: “Friends, in my plight

Save me, and save yourselves too, from the might

Of Aeëtes – everything is evident,

Nor is there remedy. It’s time we went

Back to the ship before he goes aboard

His speedy chariot. I will afford

You with the golden fleece once I to sleep

Have lulled the guardian snake; of the vows you keep,

However, stranger, now the gods must know

From you, and do not, now that I must go 100

Far from this place, apportion any blame

To me for lack of kinsmen or bring shame

Upon me.” Thus she spoke in agony,

But Jason’s heart was blithe, and speedily

He raised her up from clinging to his knees,

Embraced her and then put her at her ease:

“Let Zeus himself, and Hera, royal pair,

Be witness to me, lady: hear I swear

That I’ll make you my wife when to the land

Of Greece we make return.” With this, his hand 110

He placed in hers, commanding all the men

To sail to the sacred grove nearby and then

To seize and take the golden fleece, in spite

Of King Aeëtes’ preference, at night.

The men in their impetuosity

Made word and deed as one. Immediately,

Once back on board, the heroes pushed from shore;

There were great shouts as each man thrust his oar

In haste. But, rushing back towards the land,

Medea helplessly held out each hand. 120

But Jason, speaking comfort, held her tight

And curbed her grief. Now when the sleep that night

Affords them huntsmen banish from their eyes

(They always wake before the darkness dies,

Trusting their hounds while shunning morning’s light

Lest it should with its radiant whiteness smite

And thus erase the quarry’s tracks and scent),

The son of Aeson and the maiden went

From Argo to a grassy spot whose name

Is Ram’s Couch (bending weary knees it came 130

With Phrixus on its back). Near to this place

There stood, all smeared with soot, the altar’s base –

Phrixus set up that all-gold prodigy

And to Lord Zeus, the god of sanctuary,

He sacrificed it at the wise behest

Of Hermes, who had met him there. The rest

Of the heroes put the two of them on land,

Who on the path went to the sacred stand

Of trees in search of that immense oak-tree

Where hung the fleece, whose luminosity 140

Was like a cloud at sunset. But, with keen

Unsleeping eyes, that serpent now had seen

Them coming, hissing loudly. All around

The reptile could be heard, an echoing sound

From the long banks and endless grove, which they

Who lived in the land of Colchis far away

From Aia heard (here Lycus meets the sea:

With the Phasis its sacred tributary

It blends when parting from the thundering

Araxes, and, together tumbling, 150

They pour into the Caspian Sea). In fright

Young mothers wake, holding their young ones tight,

Which howl and tremble at that hiss, and then

Hold out their hands in agony. As when

Above a smouldering woodpile there may whirl

Large, sooty wreaths of smoke, a rising swirl,

Which, one by one, ascend into the air

In wavering loops, that monster then and there

Rolled out his endless coils which were inlaid

With hard and horny scales. Then came the maid 160

Before his eyes, invoking mighty Sleep,

The highest god, with honeyed voice to keep

The monster charmed, and to the Queen of Night

Beneath the earth cried out that now she might

Grant her success. Then Jason, too, was there,

Afraid: the serpent, though, by her sweet air

Enraptured, was already loosening

His huge spine’s lengthy ridge and lengthening

Those endless coils, as in a sluggish sea

A dark and silent wave revolves. But he 170

Still raised his grisly head and would have gripped

Them in his fatal jaws, but now she dipped

Pure charms from her concoction with a spray

Of juniper, new-cut, and sang a lay

While sprinkling his eyes. The potent scent

Of the charm put him to sleep, and down he went,

His jaw upon the ground, and far behind

Through the dense wood those massive coils untwined.

Then from the oak-tree, as the maiden bid,

He seized the golden fleece and, as he did, 180

She, standing firm, now rubbed the monster’s crown

With the charm till Jason bid her to go down

To Argo: Ares’ dusky stand of trees

She left. Just as a maiden, when she sees

The glorious moon up in the sky, full-grown,

Which in her lofty bedchamber is shown

Upon her slender robe, and pure delight

Invades her heart at this enchanting sight,

So Jason swelled with happiness when he

Raised up the fleece, and with the radiancy 190

Of woolly flocks a redness like a flame

Upon his auburn cheeks and visage came.

The golden fleece upon its outward side

Possessed the large dimensions of the hide

Of a yearling ox or stag, which rustics call

A brocket. It was thick with wool. And all

Around him, as he walked, the ground would glow.

From neck to foot at one time would it flow

From his left shoulder, then again he’d take

It in his hands, lest god or man should make 200

A theft of it. Dawn spread across the land

As they approached the crew of heroes, and

The youths gasped at the mighty fleece which flashed

Like Zeus’s lightning: each of them now dashed

To touch and hold it. Jason checked them all,

However, and upon it cast a shawl,

New-woven, took and led the maiden to

The stern and seated her, then to the crew

He said: “My friends, you must no more suspend

Your going home. Our task has reached its end 210

So lightly by the maiden’s counselling –

The task for which with grievous travelling

We suffered misery. I’ll take her back

With me to be my wife (I do not lack

Her sanction). Keep her safe – she has set free

All Greece and you, for it’s my theory

The king will come downstream to try to block

Our way. Then, side by side at each oarlock,

Row on by turns while half of you hold out

Your oxhide shields, which are a sure redoubt 220

Against the weapons of an enemy,

And guard our journey. In our hands have we

Our children’s and our aged parents’ end.

For all the Grecian citizens depend

Upon our venture, should egregious fame

Be that which we achieve or lasting shame.”

He spoke and donned his armour. Eagerly

They shouted loudly. From its scabbard he

Drew out his sword and at the Argo’s stern

He slashed the cables, then, armed, stood his turn 230

By the side of Ancaeos, the helmsman, near

The maid; the ship sped as they strove to clear

The river ceaselessly. Medea’s act

And adoration were a well-known fact

By now to Colchis and the lordly king.

They thronged in armour to the gathering

Like waves that rise up from a wintry sea

Or leaves that drop in some dense forestry

In autumn – who could count them all? – just thus

They streamed nonstop with shouts, tumultuous, 240

Along the banks, while over everything

In his fine chariot shone out the king,

His steeds a gift from Helios, so fast

Each bore resemblance to a rapid blast

Of wind, a curving shield in his left hand

And in his right a huge pine-firebrand;

Near, facing him his massive spear was set.

Apsyrtus held the reins. The ship now met

The waves, the sturdy oarsmen hastening

Her on, the mighty river tumbling 250

Along. The king, in grievous agony,

Invoked both Zeus and Helios to see

Such evil, holding up his hands, and tossed

Foul threats at all his folk that at the cost

Of their own lives his rage and vengeance they’d

Find out if they did not arrest the maid

On land or swelling sea and thus appease

His eager soul. These things did Aeëtes

Pronounce. That day the Colchians unmoored

Their ships, got all their tackle safe aboard 260

And that same day set sail. You’d not have said

This was a mighty fleet of ships – instead

It seemed that in great droves an endless host

Of birds was screaming as it left the coast.

A swift wind blew, as Hera always planned,

So that Medea the Pelasgian land,

A bane to Pelias’ house, might reach. Daylight

On the third day would see them binding tight

The cables on the ship’s stern to the beach

Of Paphlagonia at the outreach 270

Of River Halys. Now she bade them land

And, once on shore, together form a band

And in appeasement make to Hecate

A sacrifice. But everything that she

Prepared for this no man may know, nor may

My soul encourage me to sing a lay

About it. Reverence bids me say no more.

That altar that they built upon the shore

Still stands for our descendants all to see.

And once then Jason and his company 280

Thought about Phineus who had said that they,

When leaving there, would go a different way.

This was so unexpected; Argos, though,

Addressed that eager throng: “We must now go

To Orchomenus, for he you met before,

That faultless seer, foretold you of it. For

There is another route which priests made known –

The priests who from Tritonian Thebes were grown.

All the stars that whirl round heaven were not set,

Nor were the holy Danaids known yet. 290

The Apidanean men of Arcady

Were yet the only people known to be

Living upon the earth – they lived, it’s said,

Even before the moon did, and they fed

On acorns in the hills. The progeny

Of Deucalion, that glorious family,

Did not then rule Pelasgis, when the land

Of Egypt, mother of a vigorous band

Of ancestors, was called a flowering

Land of the Morn, and the broad-rippling 300

River Triton fed all of it. No rain

From Zeus bedewed it. Many fields of grain

Sprang up through flooding and, they say, from thence

A king would travel, placing confidence

In his own subjects’ might and bravery,

Through Europe and Asia; wherever he

Would roam, so many cities he would raise,

Some still extant, some not, for countless days

Have passed since then. But Aia stands there yet –

Her settlers’ sons preserve their writings set 310

On pillars – every road and boundary

On sea and land are there for all to see.

There is a river, Ocean’s furthest strait,

Which trading vessels may negotiate,

Both wide and deep; it’s marked as far away

And labelled Ister, and it makes its way

For just a while through boundless fields alone –

One stream – its springs beyond the North Wind’s moan

Cascade out from the mountains of Rhipae

And roar aloud. But when it comes nearby 320

The Scythian and the Thracian hills, it flows

In part into the Ionian Sea but goes

Through a deep bay in equal quantity

Which here retracts into the Trinacrian Sea,

The sea which lies along your native-land –

That is, if we may truly understand

The Achelous flows from thence.” Thus he

Addressed them. Then a happy augury

Was sent by Hera – that this was indeed

The route. On hearing this, they all agreed 330

With shouts. A heavenly shaft of light appeared

And indicated where to pass. Thus cheered,

They left the son of Lykos; after they

Had spread their sails, they pulled out of the bay,

The Paphlagonian hills within their sight.

They did not round Carambis for the light

Of fire from the sky and winds remained

Until the mighty Ister they had gained.

Some Colchians now were searching fruitlessly

Past the Cyanean Rocks and Pontic Sea, 340

While other went, under Apsyrtus’ sway,

To the river, where their leader turned away

And entered Fair Mouth and outstripped his foe

By traversing a neck of land and so

Came to the furthest gulf of the Pontic Sea.

On Ister stood Pine Island, which had three

Sides to it, with its base along the strand

While sharply angled to a river and

Two outfalls cleft in two; the one they call

Narex, the lower Fair Mouth. Through this all 350

The Colchians and Apsyrtus sped. The crew,

However, ventured far away, straight to

The island’s top. In terror of the fleet,

The rustic shepherds beat a swift retreat

From all their pastured sheep, conjecturing

They were sea-dwelling monsters surfacing.

For they had not yet seen a ship before,

Not those who dwelt beyond the Scythian shore

Nor the Graucenians nor Sigynnians

Nor Sindians, who now are Laurians 360

And dwell upon the great desert flatland.

When the Angouran mountains they had spanned

And the Cauliacian rock-face far away,

Round which the River Ister pours this way

And that in two-fold streams into the sea

And the Laurian plain, to stop the enemy

From slipping off, the Colchians then went

Into the Cronian Sea thus to prevent

Their passage, and then the heroic band

Came from behind and passed by, close at hand, 370

The twin islands of Brygia, the care

Of Artemis - a sacred altar there

Had been set up on one: the other, though,

Was where they landed, bypassing the foe

Led by Apsyrtus, for their adoration

Of Zeus’s child had caused the Colchian nation

To leave these out of many just as they

Then stood. The rest obstructed every way

As far as the Salangon and the Nestian land.

The Minyae, a few against a band 380

Of many, would have yielded in grim fight

But that they made a truce so that they might

Avoid a mighty feud; it was agreed

The golden fleece was theirs, as was decreed

By Aeëtes should they in the affray

Prevail, whether they carried it away

By guile or openly and in despite

Of Aeëtes, but that Medea might

Be ward to Leto’s child (for it was she

Who caused the strife) far from the company 390

Till a law-dispensing monarch may decide

She should within her father’s home abide

Or with the chieftains sail to Greece. She weighed

Up all of this while knife-like anguish swayed

Her heart incessantly, then swiftly she

Called Jason out of all his company

To go alone with her, then, far apart

From them, with sobs she poured out all her heart:

“What are you planning, Jason, now for me?

And was amnesia gained through victory? 400

Do you think nothing of the things you said

When up against it? Where have your oaths sped,

The ones you swore by Zeus, your guarantee

With honeyed words? Quite inappropriately

I left my glorious home in shame, my land,

My parents – all that’s dearest to me – and

Alone with mournful seabirds travel far

Because of your afflictions and debar

Your death and save you from that company

Of Earthborns and those oxen. Finally 410

It was my folly caused you then to win

The fleece, once it was known of, and my sin

Is placing on all women foul disgrace.

I go to Greece – I say this to your face –

Your child, wife, sister. Stand by me in all,

Don’t leave me quite forgotten when you call

Upon the kings. Save me, let honesty

And justice triumph – thus did we agree –

Or else pierce through my throat, thus rendering

Me payment for my recklessness. Poor thing, 420

If that crowned head with whom you both avow

Your vicious covenant resolves that now

I’ll be owned by my brother! Will I face

My father nobly? Due to all my base

Actions, what woe shan’t I in agony

Endure, what heavy doom? Can you now see

The safe return you long for? No! I pray

That Hera, queen in whom you glory, may

Not bring that day to pass. Remember me

When you are wearied with calamity; 430

And may the fleece just like a dream recede

In vain to Hell, and may my Furies speed

You from your land at once because of all

Your cruelty brought me. These things must not fall

To earth unsatisfied. A mighty vow

You’ve broken ruthlessly. Not long from now

You’ll fail to mock me, sitting unconcerned,

Despite your pacts.” Her vicious anger burned

Within her as she spoke. To set on fire

The ship and shatter it was her desire, 440

And then herself to sink and disappear

Into the greedy flames. Then half in fear,

Jason said gently: “Lady, pray you, cease:

This does not please me either. No, a peace

Is what we seek: for we, because of you,

Are ringed by enemies. For all those who

Live here would aid Apsyrtus so that they

Could take you to your father, like some prey,

Back to your home and, faced with hateful might,

We’d perish, having closed in deadly fight. 450

More bitter still the pain if thus we leave

You as their booty. This pact, though, will weave

A web of guile to break him. Nor will we

Have hostile locals holding loyalty

To the Colchians because of you – their prince,

Your champion, and your brother too, has since

Gone from them. To the Colchians I’ll not yield:

Should they prevent my journey, in the field

I’ll meet them.” Thus he spoke appeasingly.

With deadly words she said: “Listen to me: 460

Take heed. Base needs need base scenarios:

My error pained me as I fulfilled those

God-sent and vile desires. But you must

Shield me from Colchian spears amid the dust

Of battle. I will with duplicity

Send him to you. In hospitality

Receive him with fine gifts. If I should then

Persuade his heralds that without his men

He should arrive to heed my words, so long

As you approve, kill him or rouse the throng 470

Of Colchians to war – for I care not!”

Thus they agreed to frame a mighty plot

For Apsyrtus – they offer great largess,

Hypsipyle’s dark-purple sacred dress

Included, which in sea-girt Dia was sewed

For Bacchus by the Graces: he bestowed

It later to Thoas, his son, and he

Left it to her. With much more trumpery

She gave this fine guest-gift to Aeson’s son

To drape his frame. You never would be done 480

Gazing upon it or having your fill

Of touching it. There lingered on it still

A holy fragrance, since the Nysian king

Lay on it, wine and nectar rendering

Him tipsy, while the lovely progeny

Of Minos he in sensuality

Embraced and stroked her breast (her love had taken

Her from Cnossos to Theseus who’d forsaken

Her on the Isle of Dia). Then she made

Progress upon the heralds to persuade 490

Her brother to come and, as they had agreed,

She reached the goddess’ temple that a deed

Of guile be planned (it now was darkest night)

To take the mighty golden fleece in flight

Back to Aeëtes – Phrixus’ progeny

Had given to the Argo’s company

Medea by duress to take from there.

With suchlike guile she scattered to the air

Her witching charms, which, from a distant site,

Would still have lured out of the mountain’s height 500

The savage beast. O ruthless Love, great woe,

Great curse to man, what lamentations grow

From you, what groans, what deadly strife! Much more

Affliction troubles man out of your store

Of anguish! Arm yourself, o god, and rise

Against your foe’s issue in similar wise

As in Medea a base infatuation

You placed. For how in evil ruination,

When he had come to her, did the maid slay

Apsyrtus? That’s the next song in my lay. 510

When on the Isle of Artemis by pact

They’d left the maid, each side’s ensuing act

Was mooring separately upon the land.

To wait for Apsyrtus and then his band

Of men was Jason’s aim. But he, beguiled

By dire promises, across the wild

And swelling sea sailed on, in darkest night

Reaching the sacred island that he might

Approach his sister, whom he then assessed

In chat, just as a tender child will test 520

A raging torrent even burly men

Cannot traverse, to see if she could then

Plan for the strangers some devise. So they

Agreed on everything. Then straightaway

From the thick trap the son of Aeson leapt,

Clutching his naked sword. Medea kept

Her veil across her face and turned away

Her eyes lest, when her lover came to slay

Her brother, she’d not see the blood. Then he,

Just like a butcher in his butchery

Of a strong-horned bull, first picked him out, then slew

The man hard by the temple which those who 530

Lived on the facing mainland, the Brygi,

Had built, and down he fell precipitately

Upon his knees inside the porch. At last

The hero, gasping out his life, now passed

While holding up the black blood which was shed

Out of the gaping wound and turning red

His sister’s silvery veil and robe as she

Shrank back. The cruel and potent deity

Of vengeance, swiftly sidelong-glancing, marked

Their treacherous murder. Jason now embarked 540

On cutting the dead man’s extremities,

The blood thrice licking, the impurities

Between his teeth thrice spitting out (that way

A treacherous killer recompense must pay).

The clammy corpse he buried in the ground,

Where even now the empty bones around

The Apsyrtians lie. Seeing the torch’s flame

The maid had raised as signal when they came,

The heroes moored the Argo alongside

The Colchian ship, committing homicide 550

Upon the Colchian host, as hawks will slay

A host of doves, as savage lions prey

Upon a great encompassed flock of sheep

And drive them close together as they leap

Into the fold. None of them could eschew

The slaughter, for upon the entire crew

They rushed and, flame-like, slew them. Jason then

Approached them, eager to assist his men,

Who did not need assistance. But their care

Was for their leader. Therefore then and there 560

They held great counsel as to how they might

Return to Greece. The maid into their sight

Appeared as thus they pondered. Peleus, though,

Was first to speak: “I order you to go

Aboard while it’s still night and row away

From where the foe keeps guard. Once it is day

They’ll see their plight and nothing will prevail

Upon them to pursue us: they’ll turn tail

And scatter in dissension grievously,

Like folk who’ve lost their king.” Then easily 570

Shall we proceed.” He spoke, and their consent

The youths then gave to him. Swiftly they went

Into their ship and rowed without a rest

Till they had reached an island that was blessed,

Electris, highest of them all, close to

The Eridanus. When the Colchians knew

Apsyrtos’ death, the entire Cronian Sea

They longed to troll to make discovery

Of Argo and the Minyans. But they

Were checked by Hera and the fearful ray 580

Of her sky-lightnings. They came finally

To hate their own Cytaean territory

And trembled at Aeëtes’ fearful rage,

And so, when they had put in anchorage,

They put down roots, dispersing here and there.

Some settled on the very islands where

The heroes had sojourned, taking their name

From Apsyrtus, others to a deep, dark river came,

The Illyrian, where they built a citadel

(Harmonia’s and Cadmos’ tomb was there) and dwell 590

Among the Echeleians, Others set

Up home in Thunder Mountains, which all get

Their name from when the bolts of Cronos’ son,

Lord Zeus, one time prevented anyone

From crossing to an island opposite.

The heroes, when it seemed to them that it

Was easy to return, went further and

Tied off their hawsers on the Hylleans’ land.

For countless islands lay there, that could bring

Great danger to a sailor travelling 600

Between. The Hylleans, just as before,

Bore them no grudge but furthered, furthermore,

Their passage and were given, as their pay,

A large tripod of Phoebus, who one day

Have given Jason two tripods to take

Upon the journey that he had to make,

When he had gone to make enquiry

Of holy Pytho for that odyssey.

It was ordained, wherever they would stay,

No foe should ravage them and to this day 610

In pleasant Hyllus in that selfsame land

It’s buried deep that it may not be scanned

By men. They did not find His Majesty

Hyllus alive, whom lovely Melite

Had borne to Heracles, Phaiacia’s king.

For he went to Nausithous’ dwelling

And Makris, Bacchus’ nurse, in compensation

For foul infanticide. But adoration

Of the River Aigaeus’ daughter, Melite,

The naiad, caused his wooing victory 620

Of her. The mighty Hyllus then she bore.

But, grown, he would not stay there anymore

Under Nausithous’ rule. To the Cronian Sea

With some Phaiacians then he went, for he

Was aided by the king. He settled there.

The Mentores, when he was taking care

Of his oxen in the field, killed him. Now say,

Goddesses, how clear songs even today

Are sung of Argo’s mighty tracks that spanned,

Beyond this sea, both the Ausonian land 630

And the Ligystian Isles, called Stoichades.

What were the great constraints, what needfulness

That took them such a distance? What winds blew

Them on? Now Zeus’s anger grew and grew

At Apsyrtus’ murder, so he then decreed,

At Aiaian Circe’s words, that they had need

To wash away the fatal gore and stand

Much woe before returning to their land.

None of the chiefs knew this. But far they pressed

From Hyllus as they left behind the rest 640

Of all the islands that had once been manned

By Colchians – the whole Liburnian land,

Issa, Dysceladus, the ravishing

Pityeia. Next in their wandering

They came to Corfu Island (it was there

Poseidon settled her of the lovely hair,

Asopus’ child, Cercyra, far away

From Phlius, for it was beneath love’s sway

He took her). Sailors, gazing from the sea

At her black form, her gloomy forestry, 650

Called it Black Cercyra. Then they went by

Melite, which basked in warm winds, then the high

And steep Cerossos and, some way away,

Nymphaea, where Calypso made her stay,

Atlas’s child. Though they were dubious,

They thought they might have seen the nebulous

Mountains of Thunder. Hera then was keen

To weigh the counsels and the mighty spleen

Of Zeus about them. She contrived to end

Their voyage and before their ship to send 660

Storm-winds that forced the Argo to go back

To rocky Electra. Then, while on this tack,

There sounded from the beam of the Argo

A human voice (Athena in the bow

Had shaped it of Dodonan oak). A fear

Most dreadful overwhelmed them all to hear

It tell of Zeus’s wrath and enmity.

It said they’d not escape the angry sea

Should holy compensation not be made

By Circe for foul murder. Then it bade 670

Both Polydeuces and Castor to pray

That the immortals might show them a way

Through the Ausonian Sea, where they should see

Circe, Perses’ and Helios’ progeny.

Such statements in that dark the Argo made.

The brothers leapt up, arms outstretched, and prayed

For every boon. The other heroes, though,

Were sad. Now onward speeded the Argo.

Deep in the Eridanus now she pressed,

Where Phaëthon once was wounded in the breast, 680

Struck by a fiery bolt, and, half-burned, sank

In that deep lake, and even now the dank

And heavy mists gush forth (Helios’s car

Had tipped him out). An eagle, spreading far

His airy wings, would have no chance to fly

Across that stream but it would surely die,

Aflutter in the flames. Long poplars hem

Helios’s daughters: pouring out of them

Are pitiful groans; bright amber from their eyes

Drops, which the sun upon the ground then dries, 690

But when the waters of the dark lake splash

Against the shore, wind-driven, then they clash,

A mass of swelling tide, into the flow

Of Eridanus’ waters. The Celts, though,

Have taken up the tale – that they indeed

Are Phoebus’ tears, borne onward by the speed

Of eddies, which he shed abundantly

Before, when he had reached the progeny

Of sacred Hyperborea, exiting

From shining heaven at the lecturing 700

Of his father, angry at his son whom he

On Holy Coronis begat, and she

Gave birth to him at Amyrus’ gateway

In sunny Lacereia, so they say

About these parts. The heroes did not yearn

For food or drink, nor did their fancies turn

To joy, fatigued to fainting all day long

With the foul smell that stream poured out among

Them all of burning Phaëthon, then they

At night-time heard the shrill cries of dismay 710

The Heliads gave. Their tears of sorrow swirled

Like drops of oil, then after that they whirled

Into the River Rhodanus which pours

Into the Eridanus: mighty roars

Accompany their mingling. From the far

Extremes of earth arising, where there are

The gates and homes of Night, it on one side

Spews onto Ocean’s strands, another tide

Emitting into the Ionian Sea.

Elsewhere again there flows a tributary 720

Through seven mouths into the boundless bay

Of the Sardinian Sea. It drives its way

Through wintry lakes, which spread through endless ground

In Celtic country. Here they would have found

Shameful disaster. Into Ocean’s bay

A branch of the stream was taking them away

(They weren’t aware of this), and tribulation

Would have engulfed them. But an ululation

Rang out from Hera out of heaven, who leapt

From the Hercynian Rock. A shudder swept 730

Through all of them, however, one of fright,

For dreadful was the noise in heaven’s height.

She turned them back and then they all discerned

Their homeward route. At last they were returned

By Hera to the shore through raging seas,

Past countless Celt and Ligyan territories,

Unharmed. She cast a dreadful mist all day

As on they sailed, and so, out of harm’s way,

Through Zeus’s progeny they came straight through

The mid mouth of the three and so came to 740

The Stoichades Isles, where many a liturgy

And shrine was kept in perpetuity;

These weren’t the only sailors who obtained

Their help – no, ships in later years attained

Zeus’ aid. Aethalia Island next was seen,

Where wearily they wiped away the sheen

Of sweat with pebbles strewn along the strand,

Skin-coloured; there their wondrous armour and

Their quoits are seen. That harbour gets its name –

Argoan – form their ship. They quickly came 750

Upon the swell to the Tyrrhenian coast

Of Ausonia and then Aeaea’s boast,

Her port, casting their cables close to where

They landed on the beach, and it was there

That they found Circe washing with salt sea

Her head, unsettled with anxiety

About the visions of the night. It seemed

Her chamber and the palace walls all streamed

With blood, and all the charms consumed by flame,

The charms she’d used on any man who came 760

From foreign lands, and she with her own hand

Suppressed the flame with murderous life-blood and

Then drew it up and ceased her deadly fear.

She roused herself just as the dawn drew near

And washed her hair and garments. Wild beasts then,

Unlike wild beasts yet not resembling men,

With limbs all mingled, went in one great throng

Like sheep that from the fold amble along

Behind the shepherd. From primeval clay

The earth produced them, limbs a mixed array, 770

Before she’d been, beneath a rainless sky,

Compressed or from the scorching sun on high

Received a drop of moisture. But, combined

And placed in ranks by time, they went behind

Her, shapeless. Great amazement seized the crew:

Each gazed upon her shape and stared into

Her eyes and swiftly guessed the maid to be

Aeëtes’ sister. From her memory

Erasing fears of visions in the night,

She bade them follow with a subtle sleight 780

Of hand. At Jason’s bidding, the whole crew

Stood firm. The Colchian maid, though, Jason drew

To him and on the self-same path they went

Till reaching Circe’s house. Bewilderment

Seized her at their approach; to them she said

To sit on the brightly-burnished seats. They sped

Straight to the hearth and sat there quietly,

The wont of wretched suppliants. Then she

Over her countenance her two hands laid.

But in the earth he fixed the mighty blade 790

With which he slew Apsyrtus, while their eyes

Weren’t raised; Circe was swift to recognize

The guilt of blood and doom of deportation:

So, holding Zeus’ decree in veneration

(Though great in anger, he applies great might

To ailing killers), she began the rite

Of sacrifice which ruthless slayers make

To wash away their guilt when they betake

Them to the altar. First, as compensation

That must be made for foul assassination, 800

She held aloft the piglet of a sow

Whose teats were swollen still from birthing; now

She cut its neck and on their hands she sprayed

Its blood, then more propitiation made

With offerings of drink, then called on Lord

Zeus, Cleanser and all suppliant slayers’ Ward.

Her naiad maids, who handled everything,

Brought from the palace, each outscouring.

The cakes and other offerings she’d burn

In sober prayerfulness that she might turn 810

The Erinyes’ dreadful spleen away

And that the both of them the Lord Zeus may

Be kindly and propitious, should they be

With foreign blood besmirched in infamy

Or else, as kinsmen, crave his grace. But when

All of the tasks were done, she raised the men

And sat them on the polished seats, while she

Sat just across from them. Immediately

She asked about their needs and where they’d sailed

In detail, and, before they had availed 820

Themselves of her hearth as suppliants, what home

Had they come from to reach across the foam

Her land and palace. Some vile memory

Of dreams assailed her in her reverie.

She longed to hear her kinswoman give sound

To all her thoughts as soon as from the ground

She raised her eyes. For all the Helian race

Are recognizable, as from each face

They flash afar a gleam of gold. Then she

Replied to all her questions placidly 830

And in the Colchian tongue, Medea who

Was grim Aeëtes’ daughter – where the crew

Had travelled, how they’d toiled in each swift test,

How through her sorrowing sister she’d transgressed,

How with the sons of Phrixus she had fled

Afar from him who’d caused appalling dread,

Her father. But she shrank from telling, too,

The murder of Apsyrtus. Circe knew,

However, pitying the weeping maid

Even so. She said: “Poor wretch, the plans you’ve laid 840

Involve a journey terrible and base,

For soon, I reckon, you will have to face

Aeëtes’ heavy wrath, for speedily,

To gain, for murder of his progeny,

Revenge, he’ll go to Greece, for he can’t bear

The deeds that you have done. But since you share

My blood and stand as suppliant to me.

I’ll not harm you. But in the company

Of this stranger you’ve chosen in despite

Of your father, quit my halls. Out of my sight! 850

Do not beseech me – your base exodus

And counsels I shall never favour.” Thus

She spoke. In boundless pain, her robe she cast

About her eyes and groaned until at last

The hero took her by the hand and led

Her from the palace quivering with dread.

And so they left. But they were not unmarked

By Hera: Iris, as they had embarked

Upon their exit, saw them and thus told

That goddess, who had bid her to unfold 860

To her when they should reach the ship. And so

She urged her: “Flying on your light wings, go,

Dear Iris (if you ever have complied

With my behests), raise Thetis from the tide

And bid her hither. I have need of her.

Then to the beaches bid her to bestir

Herself – Hephaestus’ bronze anvils there stand,

Beaten by sturdy hammers. Give command

To him that he must subdue every blast

Of fire till the Argo has gone past. 870

Call Aeolus, who holds the government

Of the winds, born of a clear-blue firmament.

Tell him my mind and bid him to frustrate

All winds and let no breezes agitate

The sea, and let the West Wind blow till they

Have to the Phaeacian island made their way

(Alcinous rules there).” That’s what she said.

That minute Iris from Olympus sped,

Leaping, light wings outspread, and cleft her way.

She plunged in the Aegean Sea, whose sway 880

Belonged to Nereus. First of all she went

To Thetis, telling her Hera’s intent

That she should go to her, then, secondly,

On to Hephaestus whom she speedily

Made cease his iron hammering. The blast

The smoky bellows made was stopped. Then, last,

She came to Aeolus, the famous son

Of Hippotas; when her report was done,

She rested her swift knees. Then from the sea

Came Thetis, seeking out the company 890

Of goddess Hera in Olympus, though

Both Nereus and her sisters did not go

With her. Queen Hera sat her by her side

And said: “To what I’m eager to confide

To you now listen, Lady Thetis. You

Know how I honour Jason, honour, too,

His helpers in the contests and how they

Were saved by me as they sailed on their way

Beside the Wandering Rocks, where cyclones crash

With a most dreadful sound while rollers smash 900

Around the rugged reefs. Their route they see

Beyond Charybdis, belching horribly,

And the great rock of Scylla. You, however,

I reared from babyhood myself and ever

Have loved beyond all others who abide

In the salt sea because you have denied

To share a bed with lusty Zeus. For he

Has always cherished deeds like that – to be

The lover of a goddess or a maid.

But your respect and fear of me has stayed 910

Your going to him. Mightily he vowed

Because of this that you’d not be allowed

A husband from Olympus. Yet he still

Spied on her, though it was against her will,

Till Lady Thetis told him everything –

That it had been foretold that you should bring

Into the world a greater man than he

Who fathered him. Despite his lechery,

Therefore, he let you go, fearing someone

Would rival him and hold dominion 920

Over the gods, so that his power should rest

Always with him. But I gave you the best

Of all the husbands dwelling upon the earth,

That wedded bliss would bring about the birth

Of babes. The gods I summoned, one and all,

To dinner, with the wedding-torch held tall

Within my hand, for all the kindness you

Have shown to me. I’ll tell you something true:

When your son comes to the Elysian plain, although

At Chiron’s house the Nereids help him grow, 930

Still needing mother’s milk, it is his fate

To have Aeëtes’ daughter for his mate;

So said your daughter-in-law, as you should do

Since you’re her mother-in-law; aid Peleus, too.

Why this deep anger? Folly made him blind.

Even the gods have folly. You will find,

I think, Hephaestus will, at my behest,

Temper his fury’s might and let it rest,

And Aeolus will check his swift winds’ speed

But keep the steady West Wind, which they need, 940

Until they reach Pheaecia’s port. Devise

A carefree voyage home. The mighty rise

Of waves, the rocks are now my only fear,

From which with all your sisters you may steer

Them safely. Let them not haplessly fall

Into Charybdis lest she gulp them all,

Nor travel in the foul vicinity

Of cruel Scylla, she whom Hecate,

Night-wanderer, whom they Crataïs name,

To Phorcys bore, lest those of chiefest fame 950

Among the crew she swoops upon to kill

With her abhorrent jaws. But keep them still

Upon their course that they may just squeak through.”

She spoke and Thetis answered: “If it’s true

The ravening flame and vicious storms will end,

I shall, I guarantee, the ship defend

From crashing waves, while the West Wind blows clear.

It’s time my long and measureless path from here

Should start. I’ll see my sisters who’ll provide

Support, then go to where the ship is tied 960

That they may plan their journey at first light.”

She spoke and, dashing on her airy flight,

Fell on the dark-blue eddies of the sea,

Then to her sister Nereids made a plea

For help and, hearing her, they congregated.

Then Hera’s bidding was communicated

By Thetis, when immediately she sent

Them to the Ausonian Sea before she went,

More swiftly than the flashing of an eye

Or the sun’s shafts when he uprises high 970

Above a distant land, across the sea

Until Tyrrhenian nationality

Was reached upon the Aeaean sea-strand.

At archery and quoits she found them and,

Approaching close, she reached out to extend

Her hand that she might brush the fingers’ end

Of Peleus, son of Aeacus, for she

Belonged to him by marriage. None could see

Her plain – to him alone she was descried.

She said: “On the Tyrrhenian shore abide 980

No longer: loose your swift ship at daybreak;

Trust in your helper Hera: for her sake

The Nereids have met to pull away

The Argo, now lashed to the Rocks That Stray.

That is your destined path. Do not show me

To any while I’m in their company,

But keep it secret lest you vex me more

Than recklessly you vexed me once before.”

She spoke and vanished in the depths of the sea,

But great pain struck the man, for previously 990

He’d never seen her come to him from when

She left her bed and chamber, angry then

Because of great Achilles, still a tot.

For nightly she encompassed him with hot

Flame, while his tender flesh she would by day

Anoint to keep repugnant age away,

Thus making him immortal. Peleus leapt,

However, from his bed as fire crept

About his precious son who panted so,

And, seeing this, he vented all his woe 1000

With a cry, the fool. She snatched the child and threw

Him to the ground, then, like a breeze, withdrew,

Dreamlike, and quickly left the palace, then

Plunged hotly in the sea. Never again

Did she return. Then he with helplessness

Was seized; he told his comrades, nonetheless,

All Thetis’ bidding. Then they broke away

And swiftly terminated all their play

To make their beds and cook their food, then, fed,

They, as beforehand, slept the sleep of the dead. 1010

The dawn on heaven’s edge now cast her glare

And when the West Wind fluttered through the air,

They sought their benches, then the anchor drew

With joy out of the deep, in order due

Preparing all the tackle, spreading taut

The yardarm’s sails; the Argo now was caught

Beneath a gentle breeze. Then suddenly

Fair Anthemoesse Island could they see,

Where Achelous’ daughters would ensnare

Whatever sailor dropped his anchor there 1020

With honeyed songs and kill them viciously.

These clear-voiced Sirens fair Terpsichore,

One of the Nine, to Achelous bore.

Demeter’s noble daughter once before

They’d tended while she her virginity

Still kept, and sang to her in harmony,

Sometimes like birds, sometimes like maids, yet they

Were ever watchful from their lovely bay

And often robbed folk of a sweet return,

Consuming many with the wasting burn 1030

Of yearning. Then they sent, out of the blue,

A voice like lilies to the heroes, too,

Who would have cast their ropes upon the land

But that, Bistonian lyre in his hand,

Orpheus, Oiagrus’ Thracian son, now strung

The instrument and out of it was wrung

A hasty tune so that from all around

Their ears would fill up with the twanging sound,

The lyre stifling the maidens’ air;

And now the ship was hurried on from there, 1040

The wind and sounding rollers hastening

Across her stern, those maids continuing

Their endless song. Butes, Teleon’s fine son,

Of all his comrades was the only one

To leap ahead of them into the sea

From the smooth bench, the Sirens’ melody

Melting his heart. He swam through the dark foam,

Poor wretch, until he reached the Sirens’ home.

They would have robbed him, in their usual fashion,

Of reaching Greece right there, but in compassion 1050

Cypris, Eryx’s ruler, from the swell

Now snatched him up, allowing him to dwell

In Lilybea’s heights. In agonies

They left the Sirens, but where the two seas

Converge yet further perils they’d sustain,

Which shatter ships. On one side in the main

Smooth Scylla stood, while on the other side

Charybdis roared and spewed; in that great tide

Elsewhere the Wandering Rocks were crashing, where

Before from rocky heights a blazing flare 1060

Had shot beneath the glowing rock on high;

The air was thick with smoke; none could descry

The sun’s rays. Though Hephaestus had concluded

His toil for now, yet still the sea exuded

A warming vapour. Then from everywhere

The Nereids met them. Thetis laid foursquare

Her hand upon the rudder-blade that she

Might through the Wandering Rocks be company

As guide. As dolphins round a speeding craft

In sunshine sport, now sighted fore, now aft, 1070

Now at the side, the sailors revelling,

So round the Argive ship a compact ring

Of Nereids darted; meanwhile Thetis steered.

Now when the Wandering Rocks the Argo neared,

Above their white knees raising their garments’ hem,

They ran about as the waves broke over them,

Upon the very rocks hither and yon,

Apart from one another; then upon

The ship the current crashed and side to side

She swayed; the furious roller, high and wide, 1080

Broke on the rocks, now way up in the air

Like beetling crags, now in the deepest lair

Of the sea embedded; the fierce undulation

Rushed on them in a massive inundation.

As maids when they are near a sandy bay

Roll to their waists their clothes out of the way

So they may play at ball, tossing it high

Among them, never suffering it to lie

Upon the ground, so they sent her in turn,

One to another, over the rollers’ churn 1090

As from the Wandering Rocks she ever soared

While vicious waves in floods over them poured.

Now Lord Hephaestus on a smooth rock’s crest

Was standing, burly shoulder now at rest

Upon his hammer-handle; Zeus’s mate

From glittering heaven saw him contemplate

The scene; Athene with both hands she grasped

And with great dread at what she witnessed gasped.

A spring-day’s span they laboured as they sent

The ship from the echoing rocks, then forward went 1100

The heroes once again once they had caught

The wind. Thrinacia’s meadow soon was brought

Within their view, where Helios’s cattle fed,

And there the nymphs down to the ocean-bed,

Like water-hens, plunged once they’d satisfied

The wife of Zeus. And now from every side

The noise of bleating sheep filled up the sky,

Their ears assailed by lowing sounds close by.

Phaethousa, Helios’s youngest, in her hand

A silver staff, watched over, in that land 1110

Of dewy leas, her flock, while, with the crook

Of gleaming copper ore, Lampetia took

Care of her herd. Those beasts the company

Saw grazing over plain and watery lea

Beside the river. Not one of their ilk

Was dark in colour, all as white as milk,

Exulting in their golden horns. By day

They passed them, while, when night was on her way,

They cleft a mighty sea-gulf in delight;

Then as they journeyed early Dawn cast light 1120

Upon them. Fronting the Ionian bay

There is an island, well-equipped with clay,

Having two ports, in the Ceraunian Sea,

Beneath which – or so goes the history –

(O Muses, grant me grace – for I impart

This ancient story with a willing heart) –

There lies a sickle with which, so they say,

His father’s manhood Cronus cut away

Inhumanly, though others hold the view

That it’s Demeter’s reaping-hook, she who 1130

Rules Hades. She once dwelt there, educating

The Titans in harvesting, adulating

Macris. Since then Drepane was its name,

The sacred nurse of Phaeacians, who became

Thus from Uranus’ blood his progeny.

Now Argo came through the Trinacrian Sea

(And many toils!), wind-driven; at their advent

Alcinous and his folk with glad consent

And kindly sacrifice received them; they

All whooped for happiness; you might just say 1140

The crew were their own sons. Those men also

Revelled among the crowd: it was as though

They’d stepped into Haemonia. But nigh

Approached the time to make the battle-cry

And arm themselves, for now close by appeared

A mighty host of Colchians who had steered

Between the Wandering Rocks through the gateway

Of Pontus, seeking out the chiefs that they

Might take Medea unexpectedly

Back to her father’s, or most cruelly 1150

They’d raise the dreaded war-cry both then and

When Aeëtes embarked upon that land.

But Lord Alcinous their eagerness

For war restrained. For he longed to repress

The lawless strife of both sides and evade

Warfare. Now often in great fear the maid

Begged Jason’s crew and often clasped the knees

Of Arete, Alcinous’s bride: “Queen, please,

I beg, be gracious, don’t deliver me

To the Colchians and my father, if you be 1160

One of the race of men whose hearts careered

To ruin for light sins. My wisdom veered

Away, not out of wantonness. Pure light

Of Helios, witness, wanderer of the night,

Daughter of Perseus, witness, too – that I

With strangers from my home resolved to fly

Unwillingly. Dread fear forced me to flee

For how I’ve sinned. No other remedy

Exists. Even now my girdle I retain,

As in my father’s halls – it bears no stain. 1170

Have pity, queen; beseech your spouse also,

And may the gods a perfect life bestow

Upon you, and delight and progeny

And an unravaged city’s majesty.”

She wept and clasped Arete’s knees and then

She did the same to each one of the men

In turn. “O mighty chiefs, I am afraid

On your account and through my efforts made

On your behalf. I helped you in the field

To yoke the bulls and reap a deadly yield 1180

Of the earthborn men. To Haemonia you sailed

To fetch the golden fleece, and I availed

In that as well. I’ve lost my family,

My home, my country, life’s felicity;

Your home and country I’ve restored to you;

Your parents will into your happy view

Be brought again; some harsh divinity,

However, of all joy has cheated me;

With strangers an accursed thing I stray.

Both covenants and pacts hold in dismay, 1190

And the requiting Fury, should I be

Aeëtes’ captive and unspeakably

Destroyed. I throw myself down at your feet –

No shrine, no bulwark, no other retreat

I seek. You’re cruel, harsh and pitiless,

With no respect for my unhappiness

As you behold me clasp a foreign queen

About the knees. When you were oh-so-keen

To take the fleece, your spears would then have met

That proud king and the Colchians. You forget 1200

Your valour now they’re cut off and apart.”

This was her prayer. Each man bade her take heart

When she beseeched him, trying to subdue

Her grief. They shook their pointed spears and drew

Their swords. They swore to help if there should be

A wicked judgment. A shared lethargy

Assailed the host when Night, that halts all men

From labour, came upon them. So she then

Lulled all the earth. No sleep assuaged the girl,

However, for her heart was in a whirl 1210

Of woe. Just as a woman all night long

Works at her spindle while her children throng

Around her, moaning, fatherless (for she

Is widowed), and her dreary destiny

She ponders as she weeps, thus did she steep

Her cheeks. Sharp stabs of torment pierced her deep.

Alcinous and his queen were in their room,

Just as before, and pondered in the gloom

About the maid, and thus did Arete

Fiercely address her mate: “My dear, set free 1220

The maid from the Colchians, displaying grace

To the Minyans. Nearby is the Argive race

And Haemonians. Aeëtes is not near:

We do not know him, just his name we hear.

The pain-plagued maid, when she entreated me,

Quite broke my heart. O lord, this is my plea –

Don’t give him to the Colchians to send

Back to her home. She was at her wit’s end

When she gave him the medicine to beguile

The bulls. As in transgressing many a while 1230

Do we, with ill she cured ill when she fled

Her haughty father’s heavy wrath. It’s said,

However, that he strongly vowed that he

Would wed her in his halls. My dear, don’t be

The means of his forswearing. And if you

Can help her, do not let her father do

Him dreadful harm. Too often parents show

Their jealousy against their children. Lo,

How Nycteus planned against Antiope

The Beautiful! See, too, how Danaë 1240

Suffered at sea because of her distract

And raging father. Look, too, at the act

Of Echetus, nearby and recently,

Who transfixed spikes of bronze most cruelly

Into his daughter’s eyes. Day after day

Her grievous destiny’s to waste away

Within a barn’s dim gloom while grinding grains

Of bronze.” Thus she beseeched him and her pains

Were recompensed, for his heart was allayed.

He said: “Arete, I, with arms arrayed, 1250

Could drive away the Colchians for her

And bring the heroes grace. Misgivings stir

Within me, though, for caring not a whit

For Zeus’s righteous judgment, nor is it,

As you say, any better to neglect

Aeëtes: no-one merits more respect

Than he. Though far away, he could bring war

To Greece if he so wished it, and therefore

It’s right to take a stand that seems most wise

To all of you, so I will not disguise 1260

My verdict. Thus: if she remains a maid

She should back to her father be conveyed

But if she shares a husband’s bed, I’ll not

Estrange the two of them. If he’s begot

A child within her womb, no enemy

Shall have her.” Thus he spoke and instantly

Sleep stilled him, and within her heart she kept

His words of wisdom. Then at once she leapt

Up from her couch and through the halls she strayed;

To tend her mistress came each servant maid. 1270

And now she called her herald secretly,

Prudently urging her matrimony

With Jason, telling him he should not plead

With King Alcinous for he indeed,

She said, would go to the Colchians to say,

If she were pure, he’d carry her away

Back to her father, but that if a bed

They shared he would, since now they had been wed,

Not part them from their bliss. He spoke. His feet

Then sped him from the halls that he might greet 1280

Jason with the fair words of Arete

And god-fearing Alcinous’ decree.

He found the men aboard in Hyllus Port,

Near Drepane, armed and wakeful. His report

He gave in full. This news brought happiness

To all. At once, with fitting righteousness,

They mixed a bowl for all the gods and led

Sheep to the altar, then prepared a bed

Within a holy cave that very night

For her after the nuptial day. This site 1290

Was where Macris once dwelt (the progeny

Of him who came upon the industry

Of bees and olives, oleaginous

With labour, honey-lord Aristaeus).

Zeus’s Nysean son was here at first

Within Euboea where she quenched his thirst

With honey after Hermes from the fire

Removed him. Hera saw this and her ire

Caused her to banish her from everywhere

Within the island. Far away from there 1300

Inside a sacred cave she came to live

Within Phaeacia, a great wealth to give

Its people. Then they laid a mighty bed

And on it the bright golden fleece they spread

That so the marriage might be venerated,

A theme for song. The nymphs accumulated

Multi-hued flowers which they thither bore.

A fire-like gleam played all around them, for

The golden tufts reflected such a glow.

Their eyes blazed with a sweet desire. Although 1310

They longed to touch it, reverence all the same

Gripped each of them. Some nymphs went by the name

River Aegaeus’ daughters, while again

Some dwelt round Melitaeus’ peaks; the plain

Was home to some wood-nymphs. Hera, the mate

Of Zeus, had sent them there to venerate

Jason. “Medea’s cave,” so people say

When speaking of this cave even today –

Where they conjoined the couple, having spread

The fine and fragrant linen for their bed. 1320

The men, though, wielded hostile spears in case

An unexpected foe they had to face,

All wreathed in leafy sprays appropriately,

While Orpheus’s harp resoundingly

Rang out while at the chamber’s entrance they

Chanted the wedding-song. His wedding-day

Jason did not intend to celebrate

In Alcinous’ halls. That sacred date

He meant to be observed, when he the foam

Had crossed to Iolcus, in his father’s home. 1330

That was Medea’s mind also. But need

Urged marriage at that time. For we indeed,

We woeful mortals, never go the way

Of joy on fearless feet. But every day

Some bitter pill keeps pace with our delight.

Though melting with sweet love, they still took fright

Lest Alcinous should fulfil his decree.

Dawn came up with ambrosial lambency,

Scattering through the sky the pitchy night.

The island’s beaches laughed out with delight 1340

As did the dewy pathways of the plain

Far off; a din rose up in every lane

As people in the city were astir,

While on Macris’s bounds the Colchians were

Moving about. Alcinous then went,

By reason of his treaty, to give vent

To his intentions concerning the maid.

The golden staff of office he had laid

Within his hand, through which righteous decrees

Were made throughout the city. The grandees 1350

Of Colchis now in order, in a throng

And armed for war, began marching along.

En masse the women left the walls to see

The heroes. At the news the peasantry

Flocked there to meet them, for Hera had sent

A true report. With one of them there went

A chosen ram, a calf that never paced

The furrows with another. Others placed

Some mixing-jars nearby. From far away

The sacrificial smoke rose. In the way 1360

Of women, so the women thither bore

Fine robes, stitched with much toil, and many more

Gold gifts and other things a new-wed bride

Receives as presents. They were stupefied

When they beheld the men, shapely and fair,

Those celebrated heroes gathered there,

Among them Orpheus, son of Oiagrus,

Who to his lyre, most mellifluous,

Sang out a song while beating on the ground

With shining foot. The nymphs all gathered round 1370

And, when he sang of marriage, they let ring

The lovely wedding-song, though, circling,

They sometimes chanted individually,

Hera, for you, who cautioned Arete

To speak Alcinous’ wise words. Once he’d stated

His just decree and it was indicated

The marriage was completed, he made clear

That it be ever firm. No deadly fear

Assailed him, nor was he intimidated

By Aeëtes’ deep wrath: he consolidated 1380

His faultless oath. Now when the Colchians heard

They’d begged in vain and he urged that his word

Be honoured or they keep their ships away,

Far from his harbours, then it was that they,

Fearing their own king’s threats, begged that he may

Take them as comrades. Now for many a day

They’d lived with the Phaeacians there till when

The Bacchiadae, a race of Ephyrian men,

Settled among them. Then they emigrated

To an opposing isle, whence they were fated 1390

To reach the Ceraunian hills that nestled where

The Abantes abided, and from there

The Nestaeans and Oricum. All this, though,

Occurred across a wealth of years. Even so,

The altars there that have been consecrated

To Phoebus, Shepherd-God, and those created

By Medea for the Fates are blessed today

With yearly offerings. When they went away

The Minyans were given much largess

From Alcinous as proof of friendliness, 1400

And from Arete, who subsequently

Gave to the maid, to bear her company,

Twelve handmaids from Phaeacia. They set sail

Upon the seventh day. To their avail

Zeus sent at dawn a powerful breeze, and they,

Relying on its breath, sped on their way.

However, they had not yet been ordained

To reach their homeland until they had strained

Their limbs in furthest Libya. Now they

Had left behind them the Ambracian bay 1410

And the Curetes’ land, their sails outswelled,

And then the narrow islands that were held

By the Echinades; now they could see

The land of Pelops, when relentlessly

A deadly tempest from the north now bore

Them to the Libyan Sea, a squall which wore

Out nine full nights and days, until they sailed

Well into Syrtis (every ship had failed

To extricate itself once driven there).

For in that gulf are sandbanks everywhere 1420

And much seaweed, while on them light foam blows,

And dimly-seen sand lies there. Nothing goes

Upon the ground or flies. The flood then bore

Them suddenly upon the inmost shore –

For many times the tide ebbs from the land,

Then, roaring, surges back onto the strand –

And little of the keel was left below

The waterline. They leapt ashore and lo!

Grief seized them when they saw the mist where there

Were vast stretches of country everywhere, 1430

Extending far. No place for watering,

No path, no farm they saw, and everything

Was deadly calm. Each to another said:

“What land is this? Whither have we been led,

Hurled by the storm? Would that with bravery

And disregarding dreadful horror, we

Had sailed straight through the rocks. Better the will

Of Zeus to spurn and go on to fulfil

A worthy goal, though dying. Now what may

We do, hemmed in by winds and forced to stay, 1440

Though it be brief? There looms on every hand

The furthest part of this relentless land.”

That’s what was said. At their adversity

The helmsman Ancaeus was grieved and he

Addressed them: “We are doomed to dreadful fate –

There’s no escape. We’ll have to tolerate

The cruellest woes since we have landed so

Upon this desolate spot, though breezes blow

From it. Looking around, on every side

I see sea-shoals; this place is well-supplied 1450

With water, though it’s fretted into spray,

Running along the white sands of the bay.

Long past, our holy ship most terribly

Would have been pulverized far out at sea

But that the very flood threw her to land.

Now, rushing back, the foam she can’t withstand,

Just covering the ground, whirls all about;

I think, then, that, cut off, we are without

All hope of sailing and returning. Let

Another show his skill – he must be set 1460

Beside the tiller who desires that we

Be saved. Yet Zeus does not wish us to be

Sent home despite your toils.” That’s what he said

While weeping. With him those who were well-read

In ships agreed. Hearts froze within them all

And over every cheek was cast a pall,

And as like lifeless spectres men will stray

About the city, waiting for the day

When war or else some pestilence takes place,

Or some huge squall that bears away the face 1470

Of hard-worked furrows, or spontaneously

Statues both sweat and bleed, and there can be

Discerned a bellowing in the shrines, or, say,

The sun brings night from heaven at midday

Through all the mist, the stars shine on the land,

So did the chiefs along the endless strand

Go creeping. Then dark evening suddenly

Appeared, and they, all weeping piteously,

Embraced each other, planning then to fall

Upon the sand, apart, and die; they all 1480

Sought out a resting-place. About his head

Each wrapped his cloak and then lay down, unfed,

All night and through the day in readiness

For piteous death. The maids in their distress

All thronged around the daughter of the king,

Aeëtes elsewhere, greatly sorrowing.

In the same way as, falling from a cleft

Within a rock-face, fledglings, all bereft,

Cry shrilly, or as swans upon the edge

Of fair Pactolus sing, the dewy sedge 1490

And pretty streams re-echoing, just so

All through the night they wailed their song of woe,

Their golden tresses trailing in the dust.

The bravest of those men would have been thrust

From life, unnamed, unsung by mortal men,

Their labour unfulfilled, but that, right then,

As they were languishing in misery,

The heroine-nymphs, Libya’s security,

Who found Athena once when from the head

Of her father, armour glistening, she sped, 1500

And by the River Trito washed her clean,

Took pity. The sun’s rays, extremely keen,

Were now at midday scorching all the land

Of Libya, and now they came to stand

By Aeson’s son, removing gingerly

The cloak from off his head. In piety

Towards them, Jason turned his head, and they

Addressed him gently as alone he lay,

Bewildered: “Hapless one, why are you struck

With such despair? We know you aimed to pluck 1510

The golden fleece; your labours, every one,

We know, the mighty deeds that you have done

On land and sea. Lone heroines are we,

Libya’s daughters and security,

Divinities of the land. Don’t wallow, then,

In misery. Rise up and rouse your men

And when Poseidon’s well-wheeled car’s set free

By Amphitrite, pay indemnity

To your mother who had suffered long travail

With you within her womb, and you shall sail 1520

Back home to holy Greece.” With this, from where

They stood, they vanished with their voice, but there

Sat Jason on the ground, looking about.

“Be gracious, desert goddesses. I doubt,”

He said, “if I incontrovertibly

Have grasped your meaning when you said that we

Shall get back home. I’ll gather all the men

And, should we see a chance for this, why, then

I’ll tell them. Counsel’s better when there are

More minds.” He spoke, then rose and called afar 1530

To them as in the dust they lay prostrate,

Begrimed, just as a lion seeks his mate

With roars within a wood, and this deep sound

Causes the glens to tremble all around

Up in the mountains, while the beasts in fear,

And herdsmen too, shudder at what they hear.

This sound, though, of a friend awakening

His comrades did not cause a shuddering

Of fright. With downcast looks they gathered there

But Jason made them, in their grief, sit where 1540

The ship was moored, the women too. Then he

Told everything: “My friends, listen to me:

Three goddesses, while I lay there, distressed,

Stood at my head: in goatskins they were dressed

From neck to back and waist, like maids. They drew

My cloak gently away and urged me to

Get up and call you, paying compensation

To my mother who had borne long tribulation

When she within her womb had carried me,

After Poseidon’s fair car was set free 1550

By Amphitrite. I can’t comprehend

Fully this holy message that they send.

They say they’re heroines, the daughters and

The guardians of all the Libyan land.

They boast that all our labours, every one,

They know, and all the mighty deeds we’ve done

On land and sea. No longer did I see

Them then – some mist or cloud hid them from me.”

He spoke, and what he said would stupefy

Them all. Thereafter to the Minyae 1560

Appeared the strangest sight. A monstrous horse

Out of the sea to shore with bursting force

Now leapt, his golden mane held high. He shook

The ample foam away, then off he took,

Fast as the wind. At once Peleus rejoiced

And to his comrades gathered there he voiced

His thoughts: “Poseidon’s car has been set free,

I think, by his dear wife, and I can see

Our very ship’s our mother, for indeed

She bears within her womb our crew, her seed, 1570

And labours long. We’ll raise the Argo and,

With firm and brawny shoulders, cross the sand

That cloaks this place, where that swift horse has just

Now sped. He’ll not sink through the earth. I trust

His tracks will lead us to some bay located

Above the sea. “ He spoke. All were elated

At this fit strategy. This is a tale

About the Muses. I, bidding all hail

To the Pierides, now sing, for I

Have heard it truly. O, you sons most high 1580

Of kings, with strength and pluck over the shore

Of desert Libya, with all her store,

Bore Argo for twelve days and nights. O, who

Could tell the pain and sorrow that the crew

Then suffered? Surely they were of the race

Of gods, such labours did they all embrace,

Forced by necessity. How far did they

So gladly to Lake Triton’s streams convey

The ship! How they strode on and staunchly brought

Her to the water! Then a spring they sought 1590

Like raging hounds because, with their distress

And pain, they felt a parching thirstiness.

Nor did they roam in vain. The blessed plateau

They found, where till one day ago

Ladon, the serpent that resided there,

Of all the golden apples took great care

In Atlas’ garden; busy all around

Were the Hesperides, a lovely sound

Of song upon their lips. The serpent, though,

Was struck by Heracles and languished low 1600

By the trunk of an apple-tree. The tail alone,

Just at the tip, yet moved, his dark backbone

Up to his head now lifeless. Dessicated

Flies in the festering wounds could be located,

Where the Lernaean hydra’s bitter gall

Out of the arrows lay. Night’s Daughters all,

White hands above their golden heads, wailed high

And shrilly. All the men at once drew nigh

But, at their quick approaching, straightaway

These maids transformed themselves to dust and clay 1610

Right where they stood. This holy augury

Orpheus discerned and for the crew made plea

To them: “Divine, fair, kind ones, lend your grace,

O queens, whether in heaven you take your place

Or on the earth or else prefer to go

By “Solitary Nymphs”, appear and show

To our impatient eyes some rock-face spring

Or yet some sacred current issuing

Out of the earth, goddesses, to allay

Our constant burning thirst, and if we may 1620

Sail back to Greece, we’ll willingly bestow

On you (among the first to whom we owe

Devotion) countless gifts, libations, too,

And banquets.” This he prayed in sonorous rue.

As they stood near, they pitied all their pain

And, first of all, produced upon the plain

A crop of grass, above which now there grew

Tall shoots, then blooming saplings flourished, too,

To a great height. A polar Hespere

Became, Aegle a sacred willow-tree, 1630

Eretheis an elm. Just as before, each shape

Stood out from them, a sight to make one gape.

Aegle spoke gently, for they longed to hear:

“A mighty succour to your toils came near,

That dreadful man who robbed the guardian-snake

Of life, withdrawing, making bold to take

The goddess’ golden apples, though dismay

Was left for us. There came just yesterday

A ruthless man, and terrible to see,

His sullen eyes flashing relentlessly, 1640

A vicious soul. Around his frame we saw

A monstrous lion’s hide, untanned and raw;

He bore a branch of olive and the bow

With which he shot and killed his monstrous foe.

He came like one who travels overland,

Parched; lightning-fast, this area he spanned

For water, nor would it be seen. Now here

There stood a rock near the Tritonian mere:

On purpose or urged by a god, down low

He kicked against it and in copious flow 1650

Water gushed out. His hands and chest he rested

Upon the ground and from the cleft ingested

A massive draught till, bowing down his head,

Beast-like, his mighty maw he’d surfeited.”

She spoke. They gladly hastened to the spring

She showed them and, like ants earth-burrowing

In swarms will round a narrow cleft convene,

Or else as flies, intemperately keen,

May find a tiny honey-drop, just so

The Minyae collected, row on row, 1660

Around the rock-bound spring. Each happily

On moistened lips said: “What an oddity!

To think that Heracles, though far away from here,

Has saved us as we were extremely near

To death from thirst. O would that we could meet

Him on his way as we make our retreat

Over this land.” They spoke and those prepared

To do this task replied. Then they repaired

Upon their separate ways and off they raced

To find him, for the night winds had effaced 1670

His tracks upon the whirling sand. Relying

On their wings, the sons of Boreas went flying,

Speedy Euphemus, Lynceus with his sight

So keen, and Canthus with them. His own might

And holy destiny had sent him out

That he might ascertain without a doubt

From Heracles where he had left the son

Of Eilatus, for every single one

Of all the points about his friend he meant

To ask. Craving a safe return, he went 1680

In search of Argo after settling

In Mysia a city dazzling

In glory. Then he fetched up on the land

Of the sea-girt Chalybes. On that strand

Fate conquered him. His grave, facing the bay,

A lofty poplar marks. But on that day

Lynceus imagined he saw Heracles

Far over the endless land, as one who sees,

Or thinks he does, the moon beneath a cloud

On a new day. He ran back to the crowd 1690

Of men to tell them that they would not see

Another seeking him. Subsequently

They too came back, the speedy Euphemus

And Boreas’ twin sons, all profitless

For all their toil. Canthus, in Libya’s land

The Fates of Death possessed you. You a band

Of grazing sheep encountered. Following,

A shepherd went; while you were conveying

Yours to your needy friends, he, for his flock

Concerned, slew you through casting of a rock - 1700

No weakling, this Gaphaurus, the grandson

Of Lycoreian Phoebus and of one

Acacallis, chaste maid, who once was brought

To Libya, after the god had wrought

His heavy load within her, by him who

Had fathered her, Minos. She had borne to

That god a glorious son called Garamas

And Amphithemis, and it came to pass

That he wed a Tritonian nymph, and she

Bore him Nasamon and Caphaurus, he 1710

Who slew Canthus as he tended his sheep.

But from the chieftains’ hands he could not keep

Secure, when they learned what he’d done. The men,

Those Minyans, heard of the deed and then

Raised up his body, deeply sorrowing,

And buried him, determining to bring

His flock with them. A pitiless fate that day

Took Mopsus, son of Ampycus: no way

Could he avoid a bitter doom, despite

His prophecies, for there are none who might 1720

Avert their deaths. A dreadful snake lay prone

Upon the sand so that the torrid zone

Of midday would not reach him, not inclined

Through his own sluggishness to have a mind

To strike an exposed foe or full-face dart

At one who would shrink back. Into that part

Of men that fecund earth sustains once he

Has shot his dark-black venom there will be

A path to Hades but a cubit’s span,

Yes, even if Paeëon tends the man 1730

(If I may say this) or he’s merely brushed

The skin. When over Libya there rushed

God-like Perseus Eurymedon in flight

(His mother named him thus) so that he might

Give to the king the Gorgon’s head which he

Had newly lopped, there grew a progeny

Of snakes from where the dark-blue blood had dripped

Upon the earth. Now Mopsus merely tripped

With his left foot on the extremity

Of the snake’s spine; it writhed in agony 1740

And through the leg and muscles there it rent

The flesh. Running in fear, Medea went

Away with all her maids. He placed his hand

Upon the fatal wound, for he could stand

Excessive pain. Poor man, upon his frame

Even now a limb-unloosing numbness came

While a thick mist over his eyes there spread.

Helplessly he fell, his limbs like lead.

His friends and Jason flocked around him. He

Would not, though dead, be laid out publicly 1750

Beneath the sun for long. For, deep inside,

His flesh was starting to be putrefied

By the poison and his hair fell in decay

From his body. A deep tomb without delay

They dug with bronze pick-axes hastily.

Both men and maidens tore their hair, then he

Was mourned for all his suffering, and when

He had received due funeral honours, then

The tomb they circled thrice, in armour clad,

Then heaped the earth upon it. When they had 1760

Boarded the ship, as on the sea there blew

The South Wind, they now sought a passage through

Lake Triton: for long no clear plan had they

But merely wandered aimlessly all day,

And as upon its crooked way a snake

Will slither while the sun’s sharp rays all make

Him shrivel as from side to side he’ll turn

His head, while hissing, and his two eyes burn

In rage like sparks of fire until when

He sidles through a cleft into his den, 1770

Just so the Argo, seeking navigation

Out of Lake Triton, for a long duration

Wandered. Orpheus at once told them to bring

Phoebus’ large tripod as an offering

To that land’s gods that they may, safe and sound,

Sail home. They left and placed upon the ground

Apollo’s gift. Mighty Triton came nigh,

In stature like a youth, and lifted high,

As guest-gift for the chiefs, a clod of earth

And said: “Since I have nothing of great worth 1780

To give you here, take this, my friends. If you

Now seek a route across this sea, as do

Men often in a strange land, I will tell

You of it, for I have been tutored well

About this sea by him who fathered me,

Poseidon, and I have supremacy

Over the shore – far in your distant nation

Perhaps you have heard of the appellation

“Eurypylus”, born in the Libyan lands,

That yield wild beasts.” He spoke. With both his hands 1790

Euphemus took the clod most readily,

Replying, “If you know the Minoan Sea

And Apis, tell it us, heroic sir.

We’re here against our will; plagued by the stir

Of heavy storms, we touched the boundary

That hems this land and, burdened grievously,

We raised the Argo high and carried it

Across the mainland hither. Not a whit

About the passage home to Pelops’ land

We know. “ He spoke and, stretching out his hand, 1800

Triton disclosed the sea and deep gateway

Of the lake and said: “That mouth is where you may

Sail on – it’s deep, unmoving, ebony;

On either side white breakers will you see,

Rolling with shining crests, and in between

These rollers will your narrow path be seen.

To Pelops’ holy land the misty main

Stretches past Crete. When from the lake you gain

The swelling sea keep to the right and steer

Close to the shore as long as you still veer 1810

Northward, but when the land starts to decline

The other way, your journey will be fine

If from the jutting cape you sail on straight.

Gladly go on and do not contemplate

Distress that youthful, vigorous limbs should be

In pain.” Thus he addressed them cordially.

Then they embarked, anxious to row away

Out of the lake; then they sped on their way

In eagerness. They all saw Triton take

The great tripod and pass into the lake. 1820

Yet no-one saw him as he disappeared

Nearby with that tripod. But they were cheered

To think a god had met them favourably.

Thus they exhorted Aeson’s son that he

Should sacrifice the choicest sheep and sing

A hymn of praise, so, quickly settling

Upon his choice, over the stern he slew

The beast and, praying, said: “Divine one, you

Who showed yourself to us upon this lake,

Whether the name of Phorcys you should take 1830

Or Triton, that sea-marvel, from the maids

Born of the sea, be gracious, be our aides

And grant to us the pigrimage that we

So crave.” He spoke and, with a litany,

Slaughtered the beast over the lake and then

From stern into the water cast it, when

The god, just as he was, came from the deep.

And as a man a speedy steed will keep

To train for racing, while the shaggy hair

He grasps and makes him docile, in the air 1840

Rearing his proud neck, and the bright bit rings

While, biting on it, side to side he flings

His head, just so the god led to the sea

The hollow Argo’s keel. He seemed to be

A blessed one from head to waist and round

His back, although below his sides they found

A long sea-serpent’s forked tail, with whose spines,

Which split below into two curving tines

Just like the horns of a moon, he beat the sea.

He led the Argo on its course, then he 1850

Sank swiftly through the great abyss, and then,

As they saw this dread portent, all the men

Shouted. There’s evidence of Argo’s stay

Within her harbour even to this day

And altars to Poseidon and Triton

Because that day they lingered. They sped on

At dawn with sails outspread, the desert land

Kept to their right, blown westward. The headland

And inner sea they sighted at cockcrow,

The cape projecting with the sea below. 1860

At once the West Wind ceased. A breeze blew clear

Now to the south. The men rejoiced to hear

The sound it made. The sun set and there rose

The star that gives fatigued shepherds repose

And rules the fold; then when the wind had passed

In darkest night, they took down the tall mast

And furled the sails, all night and through the day

Plying their polished oars, and on their way

Continued through the next night, and were met

By rugged Carpathos, though it was yet 1870

Far off. They were to cross to Crete which rose

Above the other islands. Now Talos,

A man of bronze, breaking the rocks away

From the hard cliff, persuaded them to stay

Their hand from mooring Argo when they’d rowed

To Dicte’s port. The name of bronze he owed

To his ancestors who from ash-trees came:

He was the last one to receive the name

Of demigod. By Father Zeus was he

Entrusted to Europa that he be 1880

The island’s guardian, striding over Crete

Three times a day upon his bronze-clad feet;

Bronze and invulnerable he was elsewhere;

Beneath the sinew by his ankle there

Was a blood-red vessel, which a thin tissue

Covered. Every life and death issue

Was its concern. Though weary, they in fright

Rowed slowly from the land, and now they might

Have travelled far from Crete in wretchedness,

Afflicted with both thirst and dire distress, 1890

Had not Medea, as they turned away,

Addressed them all: “Listen to me, I pray.

It’s I alone, I think, who can defeat

This man, whoever he is, though bronze complete

Holds him, unless he has the destiny

Of everlasting life. He’ll yield to me

If you will hold the ship far from the scope

Of his stones.” She spoke. They kept the ship, in hope

Of what she’d planned, far from the missiles’ aim

And rested on their oars. On deck she came, 1900

On either side her cheeks holding the fold

Of her purple robe. Now Jason moved to hold

Her hand and guide her through the benches, where

She then propitiated with sweet air

The goddesses of ruin who devour

The soul, swift hounds of Hades, with the power

To wander through the air and unawares

Pounce on the living. Three times now with prayers,

Three times with songs, she called, while genuflecting

Upon the goddesses and then, injecting 1910

Her soul with wicked thoughts, bewitched the sight

Of bronze-clad Talos, with the bitter bite

Of wrath within her mouth, and then she sent

Dread phantoms at him, wild and vehement

With rage. O Father Zeus, there now arose

Great wonder in my mind that not by blows

And plague alone dreadful destruction may

Attack us but that yet from far away

We’re tortured. Though of bronze, he abdicated

His might to her who was accommodated 1920

With many poisons. While great rocks he threw

That he might hinder them from sailing to

Their port, he grazed his ankle on a bit

Of pointed rock and now there poured from it

Ichor like molten lead. The beetling

Projection kept him upright, towering,

Not for much longer – now he seemed to be

An imitation of a tall pine-tree

Up in the mountains, which is left half-hewn

By forest woodsmen with sharp axes. Soon 1930

It sways in the night breeze, then at the stump

It snaps and falls down with a mighty thump.

He hovered for a while on tireless feet,

Then, losing all his strength, the ground he beat

With a resounding thud. The heroes lay

That night in Crete and at the break of day

They built a shrine to Athene of Minos,

Drew water, then embarked to row and cross

Past Cape Salmone. But at once that night

They call the Pall of Darkness caused them fright 1940

As they rowed the unfathomable deep

Of Crete. No star, no moon would even peep

Through that dread night. All was black emptiness

In heaven, or some other duskiness

Rose from its hidden depths. They could not tell

If they rowed on the waters or in Hell,

Entrusting their return home to the sea,

In ignorance of their own destiny.

To Phoebus Jason gave a mighty shout,

His hands stretched out, that he might let them out 1950

Of their predicament. His grief was so

He wept. He often promised to Pytho,

Ortygia, Amyclae, that he’d send

Abundant gifts. Leto’s son, swift to lend

An ear, from heaven you came immediately

To the Melantian Rocks that in the sea

Are set. To one twin peak you leapt, your bow

Of gold in your right hand; a dazzling glow

Beamed from that bow. There came into their view

A small isle of the Sporades, close to 1960

Tiny Hippouris. Anchoring, there the night

They spent. The rising dawn soon gave them light;

To Phoebus then, among dark greenery,

A dusky shrine and glorious sanctuary

They built and called it, for the gleam that they

Saw far off, Gleamer, and the sobriquet

They gave that bare isle The Appearing One,

Since Phoebus made it rise for those fordone

With fright. Whatever things that could be got

For sacrifice in such a desert spot 1970

They sacrificed. Medea’s maids, who came

From Phaeacia, now beheld the torches’ flame

Quenched by the water rendered for libation,

Unable to restrain their cacchination

For in Alcinous’ halls they’d see

A wealth of oxen slaughtered. Jokingly

The heroes crudely taunted them: an air

Of merry railing and contention there

Was tossed about. Out of the heroes’ lay

Folks wrangle thus as in appeasement they 1980

Burn offerings to Apollo, Gleaming One,

The warder of Anaphe. When they’d done,

Under a sky of calm tranquillity,

Loosing the ropes, Euphemus’ memory

Recalled a dream which granted true devotion

To Maia’s famous son. He had the notion

That on the holy clod which he had gripped

Within his palm close to his breast there’d dripped

White streams of milk; from it, though it was slight,

A woman like a maid rose in his sight. 1990

He lay with her, held by strong lustfulness;

United with her, then a tenderness

Swept over him for her as though she were

A maid and with his milk he suckled her.

Consoling him, she said: “I, my good friend,

Am Triton’s daughter and it’s I who tend

Your children. I’m no maid. My family,

Are Libya and Triton, who made me.

Take me to Nereus’ daughters – on the main

I’ll dwell near Anaphe and shall come again 2000

To the sun’s light a dwelling to afford

Your progeny.” This memory he stored

And told it Jason, who a prophecy

Of the Far-Darter pondered, so that he

Took in a mighty breath and said: “A great

And glorious renown shall be your fate,

My friend: into the sea this clod you’ll cast,

Which the gods will make an island that will last

To house your children. This guest-gift Triton

Gave you from Libya, yes, he alone 2010

Of all the gods.” He spoke, nor profitless

Was Jason’s answer. Now in happiness

At this prediction, deep into the sea

He threw the clod and up rose Calliste,

Euphemus’ children’s holy nurse (though they

Had lived in Sintian Lemnos); cast away

By the Tyrrhenians, they landed then

As suppliants on Sparta’s shores, and when

They left, they were led by the excellent

Thoas, the son of Authemion, and went 2020

To Calliste, but Theras changed the name

Into the one he went by. All this came

To pass after Euphemius. The wide

And endless sea they swiftly left to abide

Upon Aegina’s shores, and promptly they

Vied in retrieving water, but in play,

Spurred on by both the constant winds and need.

Even today the Myrmidon youths will speed

To lift full-brimming jars in rivalry,

At shoulder-height, to earn the victory. 2030

Be gracious, blessed chiefs! From year to year

May all these songs be sweeter yet to hear!

I’ve reached the glorious end of all your pain,

For from Aegina, traversing the main

No incidents befell you. No, on you

No hurricanes or raging tempests blew.

Past the Cecropian and Aulian land,

You calmly skirted the Euboean strand;

All the Opuntian cities you sailed by

And gladly reached the beach of Pagasae. 2040

The End of the Argonautica