The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Junior Classics, Volume 3: Tales from Greece and Rome, by Various, Edited by William Patten

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Title: The Junior Classics, Volume 3: Tales from Greece and Rome

Author: Various

Editor: William Patten

Release Date: April 1, 2018 [eBook #56887]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8



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The Junior Classics, Volume 3: Tales from Greece and Rome

(illustrated title page)



P·F·Collier·&·Son Corporation
New York


—page 347

From the painting by Maxfield Parrish


Junior Classics





Tales from Greece
and Rome

(decorative image)



Copyright, 1912

Copyright, 1918

Acknowledgments of permission given by authors and
publishers for the use of copyright material
appear in Volume 10





Preface 9
Table of Latin and Greek Gods 12
Old Greek Tales
How Theseus Slays the Minotaur Nathaniel Hawthorne 15
Pegasus, the Winged Horse Nathaniel Hawthorne 51
The Heroes Sail Away in Search of the Golden Fleece Charles Kingsley 80
How Jason Lost His Sandal Charles Kingsley 88
How They Built the Ship Argo Charles Kingsley 98
How the Argonauts Sailed to Colchis Charles Kingsley 102
Hunting the Calydonian Boar Elsie F. Buckley 128
The Winning of Atalanta Elsie F. Buckley 148
Turning Everything into Gold Nathaniel Hawthorne 172
The Pomegranate Seeds Nathaniel Hawthorne 193
Tales of the Trojan War—From Homer
The Trojan War Thomas Bulfinch 237
The Quarrel of the Chiefs Alfred J. Church 240
The Fight Between Paris and Menelaus Alfred J. Church 251
The Duel Between Hector and Ajax Alfred J. Church 257
[4]The Deeds and Death of Patroclus Alfred J. Church 265
The Death of Hector Alfred J. Church 272
The Ransoming of Hector Alfred J. Church 283
The Wooden Horse Grace Bigelow Patten 295
The Homeward Voyage of the Greek Hero, Ulysses—From Homer
The Lotus-Eaters Sir George W. Cox 301
Ulysses and the Cyclops Sir George W. Cox 305
Circe’s Palace Nathaniel Hawthorne 315
Ulysses and the Sirens Sir George W. Cox 353
Nausicaa Rescues Ulysses Alfred J. Church 357
Ulysses and the Swineherd Alfred J. Church 368
The Return of Telemachus Alfred J. Church 373
Ulysses in His Home Alfred J. Church 377
The Trial of the Bow Alfred J. Church 384
The Vengeance of Ulysses Alfred J. Church 389
The Wanderings of Æneas—From Virgil
The Remnant of the Defeated Army Seeks a New Home Thomas Bulfinch and Alfred J. Church 397
The Adventure with the Harpies H. L. Havell 403
Pursued by the Cyclops H. L. Havell 406
Venus Sends Æneas to Queen Dido Alfred J. Church 412
Queen Dido Welcomes Æneas Alfred J. Church 418
The Love and Death of Queen Dido Alfred J. Church 425
The Race of the Four Galleys H. L. Havell 437
The Foot Race H. L. Havell 443
The Boxing Match H. L. Havell 445
The Contest of the Archers H. L. Havell 448
[5]The Sibyl Speaks to Æneas Alfred J. Church 450
The Dwellings of the Dead Alfred J. Church 455
The Oracle Foretells the Coming of Æneas H. L. Havell 467
Æneas and His Companions Eat Their Tables H. L. Havell 469
The Fight Between Æneas and Turnus H. L. Havell 473
The Death of Turnus H. L. Havell 480
Stories from Roman History—From Livy
The Story of Romulus and of Numa Alfred J. Church 489
The Story of Alba Alfred J. Church 500




The Wine was mingled with the most potent Enchantments
Circe’s Palace
Frontispiece illustration in color from the painting by Maxfield Parrish
The Quest of the Golden Fleece
The Heroes Sail Away in Search of the Golden Fleece
From the painting by Maxfield Parrish
On the Bank of Anauros sat a Woman, all wrinkled, gray, and old
How Jason Lost His Sandal
From the painting by T. H. Robinson
Jason and the Talking Oak
How They Built the Ship Argo
From the painting by Maxfield Parrish
Chiron, the Centaur
How the Argonauts Sailed to Colchis
From the painting by Maxfield Parrish[8]
Paris carried her to Troy
The Trojan War
From the painting by R. von Deutsch
Then Automedon yoked the Horses to the Chariot
The Deeds and Death of Patroclus
From the painting by H. Regnault



Homer, that king of story-tellers, traveller and well-loved school teacher, is supposed to have lived in Greece about three thousand years ago.

Trained story-tellers or bards, with extraordinary memories, were not rare in that simple age. Many argue that writing for literary purposes was not used by the Greeks at that time, and that Homer recited his tales to groups of friends, to his school children, and at the great yearly festivals. It is amazing what memories people had in the days when there were no books, when there were not a thousand and one things to distract them; yet we have proof that such memories are possible in our time. About fifty years ago, poor, uneducated Blind Jamie was a well-known character in the town of Stirling, in Scotland. He could recite the Bible from beginning to end, without mistake, and could even repeat any verse from any part of the Bible.

From the mass of old folk tales that he gathered on his travels, Homer, the inspired minstrel, wove one continuous story, the greatest epic poems of all time, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Later, one of the Greek chroniclers tells us, Pisistratus edited them with taste and care, “in the order in which we have them.”

Although the world we visit in Homer’s pages is[10] a Greek world, it is singularly like our own in many respects. His men and women face the same problems of war and peace, of triumph and defeat, of pleasure and pain, as we do. His soldiers and sailors in the spirit-stirring war might be men of to-day. And best of all, he makes us see, feel, hope, fear, laugh and cry through these marvellous pages, over which, for hundreds of years, boys and girls of all countries have lingered, entranced.

The Iliad is the account of the Trojan War. The Odyssey tells of the Grecian hero, Ulysses, and of his years of wandering and adventure, after the fall of Troy, before he finally reaches his home and wife and son, in Ithaca.

Later, Virgil, greatest of Roman poets, in his desire to do for the Latin nation what Homer did for the Greeks, wrote the Æneid. In this he describes the adventures of the Trojan hero, Æneas. As you will see, his book is modelled after Homer’s, even in small details.

Homer and Sir Thomas Malory may be said to have each performed for his native country a somewhat similar task, each, of course, in his own way. Each retold the current folk tales in such a superior manner that his became the accepted version, to the practical exclusion of all others, and it is thus in a very real sense that we are indebted to Homer for Ulysses and to Malory for King Arthur.

The old Greek tales at the beginning of the book are from Ovid (43 B. C.), Apollodorus (140 B. C.) and Pindar (522 B. C.), and they have been retold in delightful fashion by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Kingsley and Miss Buckley.


As the stories from Homer and Virgil, in the versions here given, can only be looked upon as introductory to more extended reading, and are, consequently, something with which scholarship can have little if any quarrel, it has seemed desirable to make them as simple and clear as possible. For this reason the Latin names for the gods and goddesses of the Greek mythology have been used throughout. These names have been handed down to us in the works of Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, and many others, and usage has made them familiar. Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Diana and Neptune, are old friends whose attributes are recognized at once, while to many the Grecian Zeus, Hera, Ares, Artemis and Poseidon are strangers whose names might have to be looked up in the classical dictionary. With the exception of a word here and there, there has been no editing of the stories, but occasional passages that delayed the movement of a story have been omitted.

William Patten.



Latin Greek
Cybele The Great Mother of the Gods, Mother of Jupiter and Juno. Rhea
Saturn Father of Jupiter (the greatest Olympian God), of Pluto, and of Neptune. The world was divided between the three brothers; Pluto was given the lower world, Neptune the sea, and Jupiter the heavens and upper regions of the air. Cronus
Pluto Son of Saturn and Cybele, king of the lower world. Metals and all the productions of the earth are his gifts. Aïdoneus
or Hades
Proserpina Daughter of Jupiter and Ceres, wife of Pluto and queen of the lower world. Persephone
Jupiter The greatest of all, king of heaven. Zeus
Juno Wife of Jupiter and queen of heaven, goddess of love, marriage, and births. Hera
Mars Son of Jupiter and Juno, god of war. Ares
Vulcan Son of Jupiter and Juno, god of fire. Hephaestus
Mercury Son of Jupiter and Maia (daughter of Atlas), the messenger of the gods. Hermes
Neptune Son of Saturn and Cybele, god of the sea. Poseidon
Minerva Daughter of Jupiter and Metis, protectress of the state, and of all useful arts. A friend of the Greeks in the Trojan War. Athene
Diana Daughter of Jupiter and Latona, sister of Apollo, generally represented as a huntress. Artemis
Apollo Twin brother of Diana, god of prophecy, of song and music; the god who gives help and turns away evil. Apollo
Vesta Daughter of Saturn and Rhea, goddess of the hearth. Hestia
Ceres Daughter of Saturn and Rhea, goddess of the earth. Demeter
Venus Daughter of Jupiter and Diöne, though some say she sprang from the foam of the sea; the goddess of love. Aphrodite






By Nathaniel Hawthorne

In the old city of Trœzene, at the foot of a lofty mountain, there lived, a very long time ago, a little boy named Theseus. His grandfather, King Pittheus, was the sovereign of that country, and was reckoned a very wise man; so that Theseus, being brought up in the royal palace, and being naturally a bright lad, could hardly fail of profiting by the old king’s instructions. His mother’s name was Æthra. As for his father, the boy had never seen him. But, from his earliest remembrance, Æthra used to go with little Theseus into a wood, and sit down upon a moss-grown rock, which was deeply sunken into the earth. Here she often talked with her son about his father, and said that he was called Ægeus, and that he was a great king, and ruled over Attica, and dwelt at Athens, which was as famous a city as any in the world. Theseus was very fond of hearing about King Ægeus, and often asked his good mother Æthra why he did not come and live with them at Trœzene.

“Ah, my dear son,” answered Æthra, with a sigh, “a monarch has his people to take care of. The men and women over whom he rules are in the place of children to him; and he can seldom spare time to love his own children as other parents do. Your[16] father will never be able to leave his kingdom for the sake of seeing his little boy.”

“Well, but, dear mother,” asked the boy, “why cannot I go to this famous city of Athens, and tell King Ægeus that I am his son?”

“That may happen by-and-by,” said Æthra. “Be patient, and we shall see. You are not yet big and strong enough to set out on such an errand.”

“And how soon shall I be strong enough?” Theseus persisted in inquiring.

“You are but a tiny boy as yet,” replied his mother. “See if you can lift this rock on which we are sitting.”

The little fellow had a great opinion of his own strength. So, grasping the rough protuberances of the rock, he tugged and toiled amain, and got himself quite out of breath, without being able to stir the heavy stone. It seemed to be rooted into the ground. No wonder he could not move it; for it would have taken all the force of a very strong man to lift it out of its earthy bed.

His mother stood looking on, with a sad kind of a smile on her lips and in her eyes, to see the zealous and yet puny efforts of her little boy. She could not help being sorrowful at finding him already so impatient to begin his adventures in the world.

“You see how it is, my dear Theseus,” said she, “you must possess far more strength than now before I can trust you to go to Athens, and tell King Ægeus that you are his son. But when you can lift this rock, and show me what is hidden beneath it, I promise you my permission to depart.”

Often and often, after this, did Theseus ask his[17] mother, whether it was yet time for him to go to Athens; and still his mother pointed to the rock, and told him that, for years to come, he could not be strong enough to move it. And again and again the rosy-cheeked and curly-headed boy would tug and strain at the huge mass of stone, striving, child as he was, to do what a giant could hardly have done without taking both of his great hands to the task. Meanwhile the rock seemed to be sinking farther and farther into the ground. The moss grew over it thicker and thicker, until at last it looked almost like a soft green seat, with only a few gray knobs of granite peeping out. The overhanging trees, also, shed their brown leaves upon it, as often as the autumn came; and at its base grew ferns and wild flowers, some of which crept quite over its surface. To all appearance, the rock was as firmly fastened as any other portion of the earth’s substance.

But, difficult as the matter looked, Theseus was now growing up to be such a vigorous youth, that, in his own opinion, the time would quickly come when he might hope to get the upper hand of this ponderous lump of stone.

“Mother, I do believe it has started!” cried he, after one of his attempts. “The earth around it is certainly a little cracked!”

“No, no, child!” his mother hastily answered. “It is not possible you can have moved it, such a boy as you still are.”

Nor would she be convinced, although Theseus showed her the place where he fancied that the stem of a flower had been partly uprooted by the movement[18] of the rock. But Æthra sighed and looked disquieted; for, no doubt, she began to be conscious that her son was no longer a child, and that, in a little while hence, she must send him forth among the perils and troubles of the world.

It was not more than a year afterwards when they were again sitting on the moss-covered stone. Æthra had once more told him the oft-repeated story of his father, and how gladly he would receive Theseus at his stately palace, and how he would present him to his courtiers and the people, and tell them that here was the heir of his dominions. The eyes of Theseus glowed with enthusiasm, and he would hardly sit still to hear his mother speak.

“Dear mother Æthra,” he exclaimed, “I never felt half so strong as now! I am no longer a child, nor a boy, nor a mere youth! I feel myself a man! It is now time to make one earnest trial to remove the stone.”

“Ah, my dearest Theseus,” replied his mother, “not yet! not yet!”

“Yes, mother,” said he, resolutely, “the time has come!”

Then Theseus bent himself in good earnest to the task, and strained every sinew, with manly strength and resolution. He put his whole brave heart into the effort. He wrestled with the big and sluggish stone, as if it had been a living enemy. He heaved, he lifted, he resolved now to succeed, or else to perish there, and let the rock be his monument for ever! Æthra stood gazing at him, and clasped her hands, partly with a mother’s pride,[19] and partly with a mother’s sorrow. The great rock stirred! Yes, it was raised slowly from the bedded moss and earth, uprooting the shrubs and flowers along with it, and was turned upon its side. Theseus had conquered!

While taking breath, he looked joyfully at his mother, and she smiled upon him through her tears.

“Yes, Theseus,” she said, “the time has come, and you must stay no longer at my side! See what King Ægeus, your royal father, left for you, beneath the stone, when he lifted it in his mighty arms, and laid it on the spot whence you have now removed it.”

Theseus looked, and saw that the rock had been placed over another slab of stone, containing a cavity within it; so that it somewhat resembled a roughly-made chest or coffer, of which the upper mass had served as the lid. Within the cavity lay a sword, with a golden hilt, and a pair of sandals.

“That was your father’s sword,” said Æthra, “and those were his sandals. When he went to be King of Athens, he bade me treat you as a child until you should prove yourself a man by lifting this heavy stone. That task being accomplished, you are to put on his sandals, in order to follow in your father’s footsteps, and to gird on his sword, so that you may fight giants and dragons, as King Ægeus did in his youth.”

“I will set out for Athens this very day!” cried Theseus.

But his mother persuaded him to stay a day or two longer, while she got ready some necessary articles for his journey. When his grandfather,[20] the wise King Pittheus, heard that Theseus intended to present himself at his father’s palace, he earnestly advised him to get on board of a vessel, and go by sea; because he might thus arrive within fifteen miles of Athens, without either fatigue or danger.

“The roads are very bad by land,” quoth the venerable king; “and they are terribly infested with robbers and monsters. A mere lad, like Theseus, is not fit to be trusted on such a perilous journey, all by himself. No, no; let him go by sea!”

But when Theseus heard of robbers and monsters, he pricked up his ears, and was so much the more eager to take the road along which they were to be met with. On the third day, therefore, he bade a respectful farewell to his grandfather, thanking him for all his kindness, and, after affectionately embracing his mother, he set forth, with a good many of her tears glistening on his cheeks, and some, if the truth must be told, that had gushed out of his own eyes. But he let the sun and wind dry them, and walked stoutly on, playing with the golden hilt of his sword, and taking very manly strides in his father’s sandals.

I cannot stop to tell you hardly any of the adventures that befell Theseus on the road to Athens. It is enough to say, that he quite cleared that part of the country of the robbers, about whom King Pittheus had been so much alarmed. One of these bad people was named Procrustes; and he was indeed a terrible fellow, and had an ugly way of making fun of the poor travellers who happened[21] to fall into his clutches. In his cavern he had a bed, on which, with great pretence of hospitality, he invited his guests to lie down; but if they happened to be shorter than the bed, this wicked villain stretched them out by main force; or, if they were too tall, he lopped off their heads or feet, and laughed at what he had done, as an excellent joke. Thus, however weary a man might be, he never liked to lie in the bed of Procrustes. Another of these robbers, named Scinis, must likewise have been a very great scoundrel. He was in the habit of flinging his victims off a high cliff into the sea; and, in order to give him exactly his deserts, Theseus tossed him off the very same place. But, if you will believe me, the sea would not pollute itself by receiving such a bad person into its bosom; neither would the earth, having once got rid of him, consent to take him back; so that, between the cliff and the sea, Scinis stuck fast in the air, which was forced to bear the burden of his naughtiness.

After these memorable deeds, Theseus heard of an enormous sow, which ran wild, and was the terror of all the farmers round about; and, as he did not consider himself above doing any good thing that came in his way, he killed this monstrous creature, and gave the carcass to the poor people for bacon. The great sow had been an awful beast, while ramping about the woods and fields, but was a pleasant object enough when cut up into joints, and smoking on I know not how many dinner tables.

Thus, by the time he reached his journey’s end Theseus had done many valiant feats with his[22] father’s golden-hilted sword, and had gained the renown of being one of the bravest young men of the day. His fame travelled faster than he did, and reached Athens before him. As he entered the city, he heard the inhabitants talking at the street comers and saying that Hercules was brave, and Jason too, and Castor and Pollux likewise, but that Theseus, the son of their own king, would turn out as great a hero as the best of them. Theseus took longer strides on hearing this, and fancied himself sure of a magnificent reception at his father’s court, since he came thither with Fame to blow her trumpet before him, and cry to King Ægeus, “Behold your son!”

He little suspected, innocent youth that he was, that here in this very Athens, where his father reigned, a greater danger awaited him than any which he had encountered on the road. Yet this was the truth. You must understand that the father of Theseus, though not very old in years, was almost worn out with the cares of government, and had thus grown aged before his time. His nephews, not expecting him to live a very great while, intended to get all the power of the kingdom into their own hands. But when they heard that Theseus had arrived in Athens, and learned what a gallant young man he was, they saw that he would not be at all the kind of person to let them steal away his father’s crown and scepter, which ought to be his own by right of inheritance. Thus these bad-hearted nephews of King Ægeus, who were the own cousins of Theseus, at once became his enemies. A still more dangerous enemy was Medea,[23] the wicked enchantress; for she was now the king’s wife, and wanted to give the kingdom to her son Medus, instead of letting it be given to the son of Æthra, whom she hated.

It so happened that the king’s nephews met Theseus, and found out who he was, just as he reached the entrance of the royal palace. With all their evil designs against him, they pretended to be their cousin’s best friends and expressed great joy at making his acquaintance. They proposed to him that he should come into the king’s presence as a stranger, in order to try whether Ægeus would discover in the young man’s features any likeness either to himself or his mother Æthra, and thus recognize him for a son. Theseus consented; for he fancied that his father would know him in a moment, by the love that was in his heart. But, while he waited at the door, the nephews ran and told King Ægeus that a young man had arrived in Athens, who, to their certain knowledge intended to put him to death, and get possession of his royal crown.

“And he is now waiting for admission to your majesty’s presence,” added they.

“Aha!” cried the old king, on hearing this. “Why, he must be a very wicked young fellow indeed! Pray, what would you advise me to do with him?”

In reply to this question, the wicked Medea put in her word. As I have already told you, she was a famous enchantress. According to some stories, she was in the habit of boiling old people in a large caldron, under pretence of making them young[24] again; but King Ægeus, I suppose, did not fancy such an uncomfortable way of growing young, or perhaps was contented to be old, and therefore would never let himself be popped into the caldron. If there were time to spare from more important matters, I should be glad to tell you of Medea’s fiery chariot, drawn by winged dragons, in which the enchantress used often to take an airing among the clouds. This chariot, in fact, was the vehicle that first brought her to Athens, where she had done nothing but mischief ever since her arrival. But these and many other wonders must be left untold; and it is enough to say that Medea, amongst a thousand other bad things, knew how to prepare a poison that was instantly fatal to whomsoever might so much as touch it with his lips.

So when the king asked what he should do with Theseus, this naughty woman had an answer ready at her tongue’s end.

“Leave that to me, please your majesty,” she replied. “Only admit this evil-minded young man to your presence, treat him civilly, and invite him to drink a goblet of wine. Your majesty is well aware that I sometimes amuse myself with distilling very powerful medicines. Here is one of them in this small phial. As to what it is made of, that is one of my secrets of state. Do but let me put a single drop into the goblet and let the young man taste it, and I shall answer for it, he shall quite lay aside the bad designs with which he comes hither.”

As she said this, Medea smiled; but, for all her smiling face, she meant nothing less than to poison the poor innocent Theseus, before his father’s eyes.[25] And King Ægeus, like most other kings, thought any punishment mild enough for a person who was accused of plotting against his life. He therefore made little or no objection to Medea’s scheme, and as soon as the poisonous wine was ready, gave orders that the young stranger should be admitted into his presence. The goblet was set on a table beside the king’s throne; and a fly, meaning just to sip a little from the brim, immediately tumbled into it, dead. Observing this, Medea looked round at the nephews and smiled again.

When Theseus was ushered into the royal apartment, the only object that he seemed to behold was the white-bearded old king. There he sat on his magnificent throne, a dazzling crown on his head, and a scepter in his hand. His aspect was stately and majestic, although his years and infirmities weighed heavily upon him, as if each year were a lump of lead, and each infirmity a ponderous stone, and all were bundled up together, and laid upon his weary shoulders. The tears both of joy and sorrow sprang into the young man’s eyes; for he thought how sad it was to see his dear father so infirm, and how sweet it would be to support him with his own youthful strength, and to cheer him up with the alacrity of his loving spirit. When a son takes his father into his warm heart, it renews the old man’s youth in a better way than by the heat of Medea’s magic caldron. And this was what Theseus resolved to do. He could scarcely wait to see whether King Ægeus would recognize him, so eager was he to throw himself into his arms.

Advancing to the foot of the throne, he attempted[26] to make a little speech, which he had been thinking about, as he came up the stairs. But he was almost choked by a great many tender feelings that gushed out of his heart and swelled into his throat, all struggling to find utterance together. And therefore, unless he could have laid his full, over-brimming heart into the king’s hand, poor Theseus knew not what to do or say. The cunning Medea observed what was passing in the young man’s mind. She was more wicked at that moment than ever she had been before; for (and it makes me tremble to tell you of it) she did her worst to turn all this unspeakable love with which Theseus was agitated, to his own ruin and destruction.

“Does your majesty see his confusion?” she whispered in the king’s ear. “He is so conscious of guilt, that he trembles and cannot speak. The wretch lives too long! Quick! offer him the wine!”

Now King Ægeus had been gazing earnestly at the young stranger, as he drew near the throne. There was something, he knew not what, either in his white brow, or in the fine expression of his mouth, or in his beautiful and tender eyes, that made him indistinctly feel as if he had seen this youth before; as if, indeed, he had trotted him on his knee when a baby, and had beheld him growing to be a stalwart man, while he himself grew old. But Medea guessed how the king felt, and would not suffer him to yield to these natural sensibilities; although they were the voice of his deepest heart, telling him, as plainly as it could speak, that here was our dear son, and Æthra’s son, coming to claim him for a father. The enchantress again whispered[27] in the king’s ear, and compelled him, by her witchcraft, to see everything under a false aspect.

He made up his mind, therefore, to let Theseus drink off the poisoned wine.

“Young man,” said he, “you are welcome! I am proud to show hospitality to so heroic a youth. Do me the favor to drink the contents of this goblet. It is brimming over, as you see, with delicious wine, such as I bestow only on those who are worthy of it! None is more worthy to quaff it than yourself!”

So saying, King Ægeus took the golden goblet from the table, and was about to offer it to Theseus. But, partly through his infirmities, and partly because it seemed so sad a thing to take away this young man’s life, however wicked he might be, and partly, no doubt, because his heart was wiser than his head, and quaked within him at the thought of what he was going to do—for all these reasons, the king’s hand trembled so much that a great deal of the wine slopped over. In order to strengthen his purpose, and fearing lest the whole of the precious poison should be wasted, one of his nephews now whispered to him—

“Has your majesty any doubt of this stranger’s guilt? There is the very sword with which he meant to slay you. How sharp, and bright, and terrible it is. Quick!—let him taste the wine; or perhaps he may do the deed even yet.”

At these words, Ægeus drove every thought and feeling out of his breast, except the one idea how justly the young man deserved to be put to death. He sat erect on his throne, and held out the goblet of wine with a steady hand, and bent on Theseus a[28] frown of kingly severity; for, after all, he had too noble a spirit to murder even a treacherous enemy with a deceitful smile upon his face.

“Drink!” said he, in the stern tone with which he was wont to condemn a criminal to be beheaded. “You have well deserved of me such wine as this!”

Theseus held out his hand to take the wine. But, before he touched it, King Ægeus trembled again. His eyes had fallen on the gold-hilted sword that hung at the young man’s side. He drew back the goblet.

“That sword!” he exclaimed; “how came you by it?”

“It was my father’s sword,” replied Theseus, with a tremulous voice. “These were his sandals. My dear mother (her name is Æthra) told me his story while I was yet a little child. But it is only a month since I grew strong enough to lift the heavy stone, and take the sword and sandals from beneath it, and come to Athens to seek my father.”

“My son! my son!” cried King Ægeus, flinging away the fatal goblet, and tottering down from the throne to fall into the arms of Theseus. “Yes, these are Æthra’s eyes. It is my son.”

I have quite forgotten what became of the king’s nephews. But when the wicked Medea saw this new turn of affairs, she hurried out of the room, and going to her private chamber, lost no time in setting her enchantments at work. In a few moments she heard a great noise of hissing snakes outside of the chamber window; and, behold! there was her fiery chariot, and four huge winged serpents, wriggling and twisting in the air, flourishing[29] their tails higher than the top of the palace, and all ready to set off on an aërial journey. Medea stayed only long enough to take her son with her, and to steal the crown jewels, together with the king’s best robes, and whatever other valuable things she could lay her hands on; and getting into the chariot, she whipped up the snakes, and ascended high over the city.

The king, hearing the hiss of the serpents, scrambled as fast as he could to the window, and bawled out to the abominable enchantress never to come back. The whole people of Athens, too, who had run out of doors to see this wonderful spectacle, set up a shout of joy at the prospect of getting rid of her. Medea, almost bursting with rage, uttered precisely such a hiss as one of her own snakes, only ten times more venomous and spiteful; and glaring fiercely out of the blaze of the chariot, she shook her hands over the multitude below, as if she were scattering a million of curses among them. In so doing, however, she unintentionally let fall about five hundred diamonds of the first water, together with a thousand great pearls, and two thousand emeralds, rubies, sapphires, opals, and topazes, to which she had helped herself out of the king’s strong-box. All these came pelting down, like a shower of many-colored hailstones, upon the heads of grown people and children, who forthwith gathered them up, and carried them back to the palace. But King Ægeus told them that they were welcome to the whole, and to twice as many more, if he had them, for the sake of his delight at finding his son, and losing the wicked Medea. And, indeed,[30] if you had seen how hateful was her last look, as the flaming chariot flew upward, you would not have wondered that both king and people should think her departure a good riddance.

And now Prince Theseus was taken into great favor by his royal father. The old king was never weary of having him sit beside him on his throne, (which was quite wide enough for two), and of hearing him tell about his dear mother, and his childhood, and his many boyish efforts to lift the ponderous stone. Theseus, however, was much too brave and active a young man to be willing to spend all his time in relating things which had already happened. His ambition was to perform other and more heroic deeds, which should be better worth telling in prose and verse. Nor had he been long in Athens before he caught and chained a terrible mad bull, and made a public show of him, greatly to the wonder and admiration of good King Ægeus and his subjects. But pretty soon he undertook an affair that made all his foregone adventures seem like mere boy’s play. The occasion of it was as follows:—

One morning, when Prince Theseus awoke, he fancied that he must have had a very sorrowful dream, and that it was still running in his mind, even now that his eyes were open. For it appeared as if the air was full of a melancholy wail; and when he listened more attentively, he could hear sobs, and groans, and screams of woe, mingled with deep, quiet sighs, which came from the king’s palace, and from the streets, and from the temples, and from every habitation in the city. And all[31] these mournful noises, issuing out of thousands of separate hearts, united themselves into the one great sound of affliction, which had startled Theseus from slumber. He put on his clothes as quickly as he could (not forgetting his sandals and gold-hilted sword), and hastening to the king, inquired what it all meant.

“Alas! my son,” quoth King Ægeus, heaving a long sigh, “here is a very lamentable matter in hand. This is the woefulest anniversary in the whole year. It is the day when we annually draw lots to see which of the youths and maidens of Athens shall go to be devoured by the horrible Minotaur!”

“The Minotaur!” exclaimed Prince Theseus; and like a brave young prince as he was, he put his hand to the hilt of his sword. “What kind of a monster may that be? Is it not possible, at the risk of one’s life, to slay him?”

But King Ægeus shook his venerable head, and to convince Theseus that it was quite a hopeless case, he gave him an explanation of the whole affair. It seems that in the island of Crete there lived a certain dreadful monster, called a Minotaur, which was shaped partly like a man and partly like a bull, and was altogether such a hideous sort of a creature that it is really disagreeable to think of him. If he were suffered to exist at all, it should have been on some desert island, or in the duskiness of some deep cavern, where nobody would ever be tormented by his abominable aspect. But King Minos, who reigned over Crete, laid out a vast deal of money in building a habitation for the Minotaur, and took great care of his health and comfort, merely for[32] mischief’s sake. A few years before this time, there had been a war between the city of Athens and the island of Crete, in which the Athenians were beaten and compelled to beg for peace. No peace could they obtain, however, except on condition that they should send seven young men and seven maidens, every year, to be devoured by the pet monster of the cruel King Minos. For three years past, this grievous calamity had been borne. And the sobs, and groans, and shrieks, with which the city was now filled, were caused by the people’s woe, because the fatal day had come again, when the fourteen victims were to be chosen by lot, and the old people feared lest their sons or daughters might be taken, and the youths and damsels dreaded lest they themselves might be destined to glut the ravenous maw of that detestable man-brute.

But when Theseus heard the story, he straightened himself up, so that he seemed taller than ever before; and as for his face, it was indignant, despiteful, bold, tender, and compassionate, all in one look.

“Let the people of Athens, this year, draw lots for only six young men, instead of seven,” said he. “I will myself be the seventh; and let the Minotaur devour me, if he can!”

“O my dear son,” cried King Ægeus, “why should you expose yourself to this horrible fate? You are a royal prince, and have a right to hold yourself above the destinies of common men.”

“It is because I am a prince, your son, and the rightful heir of your kingdom, that I freely take upon me the calamity of your subjects,” answered Theseus. “And you, my father, being king over[33] this people, and answerable to heaven for their welfare, are bound to sacrifice what is dearest to you, rather than that the son or daughter of the poorest citizen should come to any harm.”

The old king shed tears, and besought Theseus not to leave him desolate in his old age, more especially as he had but just begun to know the happiness of possessing a good and valiant son. Theseus, however, felt that he was in the right, and therefore would not give up his resolution. But he assured his father that he did not intend to be eaten up, unresistingly, like a sheep, and that, if the Minotaur devoured him, it should not be without a battle for his dinner. And finally, since he could not help it, King Ægeus consented to let him go. So a vessel was got ready, and rigged with black sails; and Theseus, with six other young men, and seven tender and beautiful damsels, came down to the harbor to embark. A sorrowful multitude accompanied them to the shore. There was the poor old king, too, leaning on his son’s arm, and looking as if his single heart held all the grief of Athens.

Just as Prince Theseus was going on board, his father bethought himself of one last word to say.

“My beloved son,” said he, grasping the prince’s hand, “you observe that the sails of this vessel are black; as indeed they ought to be, since it goes upon a voyage of sorrow and despair. Now, being weighed down with infirmities, I know not whether I can survive till the vessel shall return. But, as long is I do live, I shall creep daily to the top of yonder cliff, to watch if there be a sail upon the sea. And, dearest Theseus, if, by some happy[34] chance, you should escape the jaws of the Minotaur, then tear down those dismal sails, and hoist others that shall be bright as the sunshine. Beholding them on the horizon, myself and all the people will know that you are coming back victorious, and will welcome you with such a festal uproar as Athens never heard before.”

Theseus promised that he would do so. Then, going on board, the mariners trimmed the vessel’s black sails to the wind, which blew faintly off the shore, being pretty much made up of the sighs that everybody kept pouring forth on this melancholy occasion. But by-and-by, when they had got fairly out to sea, there came a stiff breeze from the north-west, and drove them along as merrily over the white-capped waves as if they had been going on the most delightful errand imaginable. And though it was a sad business enough, I rather question whether fourteen young people, without any old persons to keep them in order, could continue to spend the whole time of the voyage in being miserable. There had been some few dances upon the undulating deck, I suspect, and some hearty bursts of laughter, and other such unseasonable merriment among the victims, before the high blue mountains of Crete began to show themselves among the far-off clouds. That sight, to be sure, made them all very grave again.

Theseus stood among the sailors gazing eagerly towards the land; although, as yet, it seemed hardly more substantial than the clouds, amidst which the mountains were looming up. Once or twice he fancied that he saw a glare of some bright object, a[35] long way off, flinging a gleam across the waves. “Did you see that flash of light?” he inquired of the master of the vessel.

“No, prince; but I have seen it before,” answered the master. “It came from Talus, I suppose.”

As the breeze came fresher just then, the master was busy with trimming his sails, and had no more time to answer questions. But while the vessel flew faster and faster towards Crete, Theseus was astonished to behold a human figure, gigantic in size, which appeared to be striding, with a measured movement, along the margin of the island. It stepped from cliff to cliff, and sometimes from one headland to another, while the sea foamed and thundered on the shore beneath, and dashed its jets of spray over the giant’s feet. What was still more remarkable, whenever the sun shone on this huge figure, it flickered and glimmered; its vast countenance, too, had a metallic luster, and threw great flashes of splendor through the air. The folds of its garments, moreover, instead of waving in the wind, fell heavily over its limbs, as if woven of some kind of metal.

The nigher the vessel came, the more Theseus wondered what this immense giant could be, and whether it actually had life or no. For, though it walked, and made other life-like motions, there yet was a kind of jerk in its gait, which, together with its brazen aspect, caused the young prince to suspect that it was no true giant, but only a wonderful piece of machinery. The figure looked all the more terrible because it carried an enormous brass club on its shoulder.


“What is this wonder?” Theseus asked of the master of the vessel, who was now at leisure to answer him.

“It is Talus, the Man of Brass,” said the master.

“And is he a live giant, or a brazen image?” asked Theseus.

“That, truly,” replied the master, “is the point which has always perplexed me. Some say, indeed, that this Talus was hammered out for King Minos by Vulcan himself, the skilfulest of all workers in metal. But who ever saw a brazen image that had sense enough to walk round an island three times a day, as this giant walks round the island of Crete, challenging every vessel that comes nigh the shore? And, on the other hand, what living thing, unless his sinews were made of brass, would not be weary of marching eighteen hundred miles in the twenty-four hours, as Talus does, without ever sitting down to rest? He is a puzzler, take him how you will.”

Still the vessel went bounding onward; and now Theseus could hear the brazen clangor of the giant’s footsteps, as he trod heavily upon the sea-beaten rocks, some of which were seen to crack and crumble into the foamy waves beneath his weight. As they approached the entrance of the port the giant straddled clear across it, with a foot firmly planted on each headland, and uplifting his club to such a height that its butt-end was hidden in a cloud, he stood in that formidable posture, with the sun gleaming all over his metallic surface. There seemed nothing else to be expected but that, the next moment, he would fetch his great club down, slam bang, and smash the vessel into a thousand[37] pieces, without heeding how many innocent people he might destroy; for there is seldom any mercy in a giant, you know, and quite as little in a piece of brass clockwork. But just when Theseus and his companions thought the blow was coming, the brazen lips unclosed themselves, and the figure spoke.

“Whence come you, strangers?”

And when the ringing voice ceased, there was just such a reverberation as you may have heard within a great church bell, for a moment or two after the stroke of the hammer.

“From Athens!” shouted the master in reply.

“On what errand?” thundered the Man of Brass.

And he whirled his club aloft more threateningly than ever, as if he were about to smite them with a thunderstroke right amidships, because Athens, so little while ago, had been at war with Crete.

“We bring the seven youths and the seven maidens,” answered the master, “to be devoured by the Minotaur!”

“Pass!” cried the brazen giant.

That one loud word rolled all about the sky, while again there was a booming reverberation within the figure’s breast. The vessel glided between the headlands of the port, and the giant resumed his march. In a few moments, this wondrous sentinel was far away, flashing in the distant sunshine, and revolving with immense strides around the island of Crete, as it was his never-ceasing task to do.

No sooner had they entered the harbor than a party of the guards of King Minos came down to the water side, and took charge of the fourteen[38] young men and damsels. Surrounded by these armed warriors, Prince Theseus and his companions were led to the king’s palace, and ushered into his presence. Now, Minos was a stern and pitiless king. If the figure that guarded Crete was made of brass, then the monarch, who ruled over it, might be thought to have a still harder metal in his breast, and might have been called a man of iron. He bent his shaggy brows upon the poor Athenian victims. Any other mortal, beholding their fresh and tender beauty, and their innocent looks, would have felt himself sitting on thorns until he had made every soul of them happy, by bidding them go free as the summer wind. But this immitigable Minos cared only to examine whether they were plump enough to satisfy the Minotaur’s appetite. For my part, I wish he himself had been the only victim; and the monster would have found him a pretty tough one.

One after another, King Minos called these pale frightened youths and sobbing maidens to his footstool, gave them each a poke in the ribs with his scepter (to try whether they were in good flesh or no), and dismissed them with a nod to his guards. But when his eyes rested on Theseus, the king looked at him more attentively, because his face was calm and brave.

“Young man,” asked he, with his stern voice, “are you not appalled at the certainty of being devoured by this terrible Minotaur?”

“I have offered my life in a good cause,” answered Theseus, “and therefore I give it freely and gladly. But thou, King Minos, art thou not[39] thyself appalled, who, year after year, hast perpetrated this dreadful wrong, by giving seven innocent youths and as many maidens to be devoured by a monster? Dost thou not tremble, wicked king, to turn thine eyes inward on thine own heart? Sitting there on thy golden throne, and in thy robes of majesty, I tell thee to thy face, King Minos, thou art a more hideous monster than the Minotaur himself!”

“Aha! do you think me so?” cried the king, laughing in his cruel way. “To-morrow, at breakfast time, you shall have an opportunity of judging which is the greater monster, the Minotaur or the king! Take them away, guards; and let this free-spoken youth be the Minotaur’s first morsel!”

Near the king’s throne (though I had no time to tell you so before) stood his daughter Ariadne. She was a beautiful and tender-hearted maiden, and looked at these poor doomed captives with very different feelings from those of the iron-breasted King Minos. She really wept, indeed, at the idea of how much human happiness would be needlessly thrown away, by giving so many young people, in the first bloom and rose blossom of their lives, to be eaten up by a creature who, no doubt, would have preferred a fat ox, or even a large pig, to the plumpest of them. And when she beheld the brave, spirited figure of Prince Theseus bearing himself so calmly in his terrible peril, she grew a hundred times more pitiful than before. As the guards were taking him away, she flung herself at the king’s feet, and besought him to set all the captives free, and especially this one young man.


“Peace, foolish girl!” answered King Minos. “What hast thou to do with an affair like this? It is a matter of state policy, and therefore quite beyond thy weak comprehension. Go water thy flowers, and think no more of these Athenian caitiffs, whom the Minotaur shall as certainly eat up for breakfast as I will eat a partridge for my supper.”

So saying, the king looked cruel enough to devour Theseus and all the rest of the captives, himself, had there been no Minotaur to save him the trouble. As he would hear not another word in their favor, the prisoners were now led away, and clapped into a dungeon, where the jailer advised to go to sleep as soon as possible, because the Minotaur was in the habit of calling for breakfast early. The seven maidens and six of the young men soon sobbed themselves to slumber. But Theseus was not like them. He felt conscious that he was wiser, and braver, and stronger than his companions, and that therefore he had the responsibility of all their lives upon him, and must consider whether there was no way to save them, even in this last extremity. So he kept himself awake, and paced to and fro across the gloomy dungeon in which they were shut up.

Just before midnight, the door was softly unbarred, and the gentle Ariadne showed herself, with a torch in her hand.

“Are you awake, Prince Theseus?” she whispered.

“Yes,” answered Theseus. “With so little time to live, I do not choose to waste any of it in sleep.”


“Then follow me,” said Ariadne, “and tread softly.”

What had become of the jailer and the guards, Theseus never knew. But, however that might be, Ariadne opened all the doors, and led him forth from the darksome prison into the pleasant moonlight.

“Theseus,” said the maiden, “you can now get on board your vessel, and sail away for Athens.”

“No,” answered the young man; “I will never leave Crete unless I can first slay the Minotaur, and save my poor companions, and deliver Athens from this cruel tribute.”

“I knew that this would be your resolution,” said Ariadne. “Come, then, with me, brave Theseus. Here is your own sword, which the guards deprived you of. You will need it; and pray Heaven you may use it well.”

Then she led Theseus along by the hand until they came to a dark, shadowy grove, where the moonlight wasted itself on the tops of the trees, without shedding hardly so much as a glimmering beam upon their pathway. After going a good way through this obscurity, they reached a high marble wall, which was overgrown with creeping plants, that made it shaggy with their verdure. The wall seemed to have no door, nor any windows, but rose up, lofty, and massive, and mysterious, and was neither to be clambered over, nor, so far as Theseus could perceive, to be passed through. Nevertheless, Ariadne did but press one of her soft little fingers against a particular block of marble, and, though it looked as solid as any other[42] part of the wall, it yielded to her touch, disclosing an entrance just wide enough to admit them. They crept through, and the marble stone swung back into its place.

“We are now,” said Ariadne, “in the famous labyrinth which Dædalus built before he made himself a pair of wings, and flew away from our island like a bird. That Dædalus was a very cunning workman; but of all his artful contrivances, this labyrinth is the most wondrous. Were we to take but a few steps from the doorway, we might wander about all our lifetime, and never find it again. Yet in the very center of this labyrinth is the Minotaur and, Theseus, you must go thither to seek him.”

“But how shall I ever find him,” asked Theseus, “if the labyrinth so bewilders me as you say it will?”

Just as he spoke, they heard a rough and very disagreeable roar, which greatly resembled the lowing of a fierce bull, but yet had some sort of sound like the human voice. Theseus even fancied a rude articulation in it, as if the creature that uttered it were trying to shape his hoarse breath into words. It was at some distance, however, and he really could not tell whether it sounded most like a bull’s roar or a man’s harsh voice.

“That is the Minotaur’s noise,” whispered Ariadne, closely grasping the hand of Theseus, and pressing one of her own hands to her heart, which was all in a tremble. “You must follow that sound through the windings of the labyrinth, and, by and by, you will find him. Stay! take the end of this[43] silken string, I will hold the other end; and then, if you win the victory, it will lead you again to this spot. Farewell, brave Theseus.”

So the young man took the end of the silken string in his left hand, and his gold-hilted sword, ready drawn from its scabbard, in the other, and trod boldly into the inscrutable labyrinth. How this labyrinth was built is more than I can tell you, but so cunningly contrived a mizmaze was never seen in the world, before nor since. There can be nothing else so intricate, unless it were the brain of a man like Dædalus, who planned it, or the heart of any ordinary man; which last, to be sure, is ten times as great a mystery as the labyrinth of Crete. Theseus had not taken five steps before he lost sight of Ariadne and in five more his head was growing dizzy. But still he went on, now creeping through a low arch, now ascending a flight of steps, now in one crooked passage, and now in another, with here a door opening before him, and there one hanging behind, until it really seemed as if the walls spun round, and whirled him round along with them. And all the while, through these hollow avenues, now nearer, now farther off again, resounded the cry of the Minotaur; and the sound was so fierce, so cruel, so ugly, so like a bull’s roar, and withal so like a human voice, and yet like neither of them, that the brave heart of Theseus grew sterner and angrier at every step; for he felt it an insult to the moon and sky, and to our affectionate and simple Mother Earth, that such a monster should have the audacity to exist.

As he passed onward, the clouds gathered over[44] the moon, and the labyrinth grew so dusky that Theseus could no longer discern the bewilderment through which he was passing. He would have felt quite lost, and utterly hopeless of ever again walking in a straight path, if, every little while, he had not been conscious of a gentle twitch at the silken cord. Then he knew that the tender-hearted Ariadne was still holding the other end, and that she was fearing for him, and hoping for him, and giving him just as much of her sympathy as if she were close by his side. Oh, indeed, I can assure you, there, was a vast deal of human sympathy running along that slender thread of silk. But still he followed the dreadful roar of the Minotaur, which now grew louder and louder, and finally so very loud that Theseus fully expected to come close upon him, at every new zigzag and wriggle of the path. And at last, in an open space, at the very center of the labyrinth, he did discern the hideous creature.

Sure enough, what an ugly monster it was! Only his horned head belonged to a bull; and yet, somehow or other, he looked like a bull all over, preposterously waddling on his hind legs; or, if you happened to view him in another way, he seemed wholly a man, and all the more monstrous for being so. And there he was, the wretched thing, with no society, no companion, no kind of a mate, living only to do mischief, and incapable of knowing what affection means. Theseus hated him, and shuddered at him, and yet could not but be sensible of some sort of pity; and all the more, the uglier and more detestable the creature was.[45] For he kept striding to and fro, in a solitary frenzy of rage, continually emitting a hoarse roar, which was oddly mixed up with half-shaped words; and, after listening a while, Theseus understood that the Minotaur was saying to himself how miserable he was, and how hungry, and how he hated everybody, and how he longed to eat up the human race alive.

Ah, the bull-headed villain! And oh, my good little people, you will perhaps see, one of these days, as I do now, that every human being who suffers anything evil to get into his nature, or to remain there, is a kind of Minotaur, an enemy of his fellow-creatures, and separated from all good companionship, as this poor monster was.

Was Theseus afraid? By no means, my dear auditors. What! a hero like Theseus afraid! Not had the Minotaur had twenty bull heads instead of one. Bold as he was, however, I rather fancy that it strengthened his valiant heart, just at this crisis, to feel a tremulous twitch at the silken cord, which he was still holding in his left hand. It was as if Ariadne were giving him all her might and courage; and, much as he already had, and little as she had to give, it made his own seem twice as much. And to confess the honest truth, he needed the whole, for now the Minotaur, turning suddenly about, caught sight of Theseus, and instantly lowered his horribly sharp horns, exactly as a mad bull does when he means to rush against an enemy. At the same time, he belched forth a tremendous roar, in which there was something like the words of human language, but all disjointed and shaken[46] to pieces by passing through the gullet of a miserably enraged brute.

Theseus could only guess what the creature intended to say, and that rather by his gestures than his words, for the Minotaur’s horns were sharper than his wits, and of a great deal more service to him than his tongue. But probably this was the sense of what he uttered:

“Ah, wretch of a human being! I’ll stick my horns through you, and toss you fifty feet high, and eat you up the moment you come down.”

“Come on, then, and try it!” was all that Theseus deigned to reply; for he was far too magnanimous to assault his enemy with insolent language.

Without more words on either side, there ensued the most awful fight between Theseus and the Minotaur that ever happened beneath the sun or moon. I really know not how it might have turned out, if the monster, in his first headlong rush against Theseus, had not missed him, by a hair’s breadth, and broken one of his horns short off against the stone wall. On this mishap he bellowed so intolerably that a part of the labyrinth tumbled down, and all the inhabitants of Crete mistook the noise for an uncommonly heavy thunder-storm. Smarting with the pain, he galloped around the open space in so ridiculous a way that Theseus laughed at it, long afterwards, though not precisely at the moment. After this, the two antagonists stood valiantly up to one another, and fought sword to horn, for a long while. At last, the Minotaur made a run at Theseus, grazed his left side with[47] his horn, and flung him down; and thinking that he had stabbed him to the heart, he cut a great caper in the air, opened his bull mouth from ear to ear, and prepared to snap his head off. But Theseus by this time had leaped up, and caught the monster off his guard. Fetching a sword stroke at him with all his force, he hit him fair upon the neck, and made his bull head skip six yards from his human body, which fell down flat upon the ground.

So now the battle was ended. Immediately the moon shone out as brightly as if all the troubles of the world, and all the wickedness and the ugliness that infest human life, were past and gone forever. And Theseus, as he leaned on his sword taking breath, felt another twitch of the silken cord; for all through the terrible encounter, he had held it fast in his left hand. Eager to let Ariadne know of his success, he followed the guidance of the thread, and soon found himself at the entrance of the labyrinth.

“Thou hast slain the monster,” cried Ariadne, clasping her hands.

“Thanks to thee, dear Ariadne,” answered Theseus, “I return victorious.”

“Then,” said Ariadne, “we must quickly summon thy friends, and get them and thyself on board the vessel before dawn. If morning finds thee here, my father will avenge the Minotaur.”

To make my story short, the poor captives were awakened, and, hardly knowing whether it was not a joyful dream, were told of what Theseus had done, and that they must set sail for Athens before daybreak. Hastening down to the vessel, they all[48] clambered on board, except Prince Theseus, who lingered behind them on the strand, holding Ariadne’s hand clasped in his own.

“Dear maiden,” said he, “thou wilt surely go with us. Thou art too gentle and sweet a child for such an iron-hearted father as King Minos. He cares no more for thee than a granite rock cares for the little flower that grows in one of its crevices. But my father King Ægeus, and my dear mother, Æthra, and all the fathers and mothers in Athens, and all the sons and daughters too, will love and honor thee as their benefactress. Come with us, then; for King Minos will be very angry when he knows what thou hast done.”

Now, some low-minded people, who pretend to tell the story of Theseus and Ariadne, have the face to say that this royal and honorable maiden did really flee away, under cover of the night, with the young stranger whose life she had preserved. They say, too, that Prince Theseus (who could have died sooner than wrong the meanest creature in the world) ungratefully deserted Ariadne on a solitary island, where the vessel touched on its voyage to Athens. But, had the noble Theseus heard these falsehoods, he would have served their slanderous authors as he served the Minotaur! Here is what Ariadne answered, when the brave Prince of Athens besought her to accompany him:

“No, Theseus,” the maiden said, pressing his hand, and then drawing back a step or two, “I cannot go with you. My father is old, and has nobody but myself to love him. Hard as you think his heart is, it would break to lose me. At first, King[49] Minos will be angry; but he will soon forgive his only child; and, by and by, he will rejoice, I know, that no more youths and maidens must come from Athens to be devoured by the Minotaur. I have saved you, Theseus, as much for my father’s sake as for your own. Farewell! Heaven bless you!”

All this was so true, and so maiden-like, and was spoken with so sweet a dignity, that Theseus would have blushed to urge her any longer. Nothing remained for him, therefore, but to bid Ariadne an affectionate farewell, and to go on board the vessel, and set sail.

In a few moments the white foam was boiling up before their prow, as Prince Theseus and his companions sailed out of the harbor, with a whistling breeze behind them. Talus, the brazen giant, on his never-ceasing sentinel’s march, happened to be approaching that part of the coast; and they saw him, by the glimmering of the moonbeams on his polished surface, while he was yet a great way off. As the figure moved like clockwork, however, and could neither hasten his enormous strides nor retard them, he arrived at the port when they were just beyond the reach of his club. Nevertheless, straddling from headland to headland, as his custom was, Talus attempted to strike a blow at the vessel, and, overreaching himself, tumbled at full length into the sea, which splashed high over his gigantic shape, as when an iceberg turns a somerset. There he lies yet; and whoever desires to enrich himself by means of brass had better go thither with a diving bell, and fish up Talus.

On the homeward voyage, the fourteen youths[50] and damsels were in excellent spirits, as you will easily suppose. They spent most of their time in dancing, unless when the sidelong breeze made the deck slope too much. In due season, they came within sight of the coast of Attica, which was their native country. But here, I am grieved to tell you, happened a sad misfortune.

You will remember (what Theseus unfortunately forgot) that his father, King Ægeus, had enjoined it upon him to hoist sunshiny sails, instead of black ones, in case he should overcome the Minotaur, and return victorious. In the joy of their success, however, and amidst the sports, dancing, and other merriment, with which these young folks wore away the time, they never once thought whether their sails were black, white, or rainbow colored, and, indeed, left it entirely to the mariners whether they had any sails at all. Thus the vessel returned, like a raven, with the same sable wings that had wafted her away. But poor King Ægeus, day after day, infirm as he was, had clambered to the summit of a cliff that overhung the sea, and there sat watching for Prince Theseus, homeward bound; and no sooner did he behold the fatal blackness of the sails, than he concluded that his dear son, whom he loved so much, and felt so proud of, had been eaten by the Minotaur. He could not bear the thought of living any longer; so, first flinging his crown and scepter into the sea (useless baubles that they were to him now!) King Ægeus merely stooped forward, and fell headlong over the cliff, and was drowned, poor soul, in the waves that foamed at its base!


This was melancholy news for Prince Theseus, who when he stepped ashore, found himself king of all the country, whether he would or no; and such a turn of fortune was enough to make any young man feel very much out of spirits. However, he sent for his dear mother to Athens, and, by taking her advice in matters of state, became a very excellent monarch, and was greatly beloved by his people.


By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Once, in the old, old times a fountain gushed out of a hill-side, in the marvellous land of Greece. And, for aught I know, after so many thousand years, it is still gushing out of the very selfsame spot. At any rate, there was the pleasant fountain, welling freshly forth and sparkling adown the hill-side, in the golden sunset, when a handsome young man named Bellerophon drew near its margin. In his hand he held a bridle, studded with brilliant gems, and adorned with a golden bit. Seeing an old man, and another of middle age, and a little boy, near the fountain, and likewise a maiden, who was dipping up some of the water in a pitcher, he paused, and begged that he might refresh himself with a draught.

“This is very delicious water,” he said to the maiden as he rinsed and filled her pitcher, after drinking out of it. “Will you be kind enough to tell me whether the fountain has any name?”


“Yes; it is called the Fountain of Pirene,” answered the maiden; and then she added, “My grandmother has told me that this clear fountain was once a beautiful woman; and when her son was killed by the arrows of the huntress Diana, she melted all away into tears. And so the water, which you find so cool and sweet, is the sorrow of that poor mother’s heart!”

“I should not have dreamed,” observed the young stranger, “that so clear a well-spring with its gush and gurgle, and its cheery dance out of the shade into the sunlight, had so much as one tear-drop in its bosom! And this, then, is Pirene? I thank you, pretty maiden, for telling me its name. I have come from a far-away country to find this very spot.”

A middle-aged country fellow (he had driven his cow to drink out of the spring) stared hard at young Bellerophon, and at the handsome bridle which he carried in his hand.

“The water-courses must be getting low, friend, in your part of the world,” remarked he, “if you come so far only to find the Fountain of Pirene. But, pray, have you lost a horse? I see you carry the bridle in your hand; and a very pretty one it is with that double row of bright stones upon it. If the horse was as fine as the bridle, you are much to be pitied for losing him.”

“I have lost no horse,” said Bellerophon, with a smile. “But I happen to be seeking a very famous one, which, as wise people have informed me, must be found hereabouts, if anywhere. Do you know whether the winged horse Pegasus still haunts the[53] Fountain of Pirene, as he used to do in your forefathers’ days?”

But then the country fellow laughed.

Some of you, my little friends, have probably heard that this Pegasus was a snow-white steed, with beautiful silvery wings, who spent most of his time on the summit of Mount Helicon. He was as wild, and as swift, and as buoyant, in his flight through the air, as any eagle that ever soared into the clouds. There was nothing else like him in the world. He had no mate; he never had been backed or bridled by a master; and, for many a long year, he led a solitary and a happy life.

Oh, how fine a thing it is to be a winged horse! Sleeping at night, as he did, on a lofty mountain-top, and passing the greater part of the day in the air, Pegasus seemed hardly to be a creature of the earth. Whenever he was seen, up very high above people’s heads, with the sunshine on his silvery wings, you would have thought that he belonged to the sky, and that, skimming a little too low, he had got astray among our mists and vapors, and was seeking his way back again. It was very pretty to behold him plunge into the fleecy bosom of a bright cloud, and be lost in it, for a moment or two, and then break forth from the other side. Or, in a sullen rainstorm, when there was a gray pavement of clouds over the whole sky, it would sometimes happen that the winged horse descended right through it, and the glad light of the upper region would gleam after him. In another instant, it is true, both Pegasus and the pleasant light would be gone away together. But any one that was[54] fortunate enough to see this wondrous spectacle felt cheerful the whole day afterward, and as much longer as the storm lasted.

In the summer-time and in the beautifulest of weather, Pegasus often alighted on the solid earth, and, closing his silvery wings, would gallop over hill and dale for pastime as fleetly as the wind. Oftener than in any other place, he had been seen near the Fountain of Pirene, drinking the delicious water, or rolling himself upon the soft grass of the margin. Sometimes, too (but Pegasus was very dainty in his food), he would crop a few of the clover-blossoms that happened to be sweetest.

To the Fountain of Pirene, therefore, people’s great-grandfathers had been in the habit of going (as long as they were youthful, and retained their faith in winged horses), in hopes of getting a glimpse at the beautiful Pegasus. But, of late years, he had been very seldom seen. Indeed, there were many of the country folks, dwelling within half an hour’s walk of the fountain, who had never beheld Pegasus, and did not believe that there was any such creature in existence. The country fellow to whom Bellerophon was speaking chanced to be one of those incredulous persons.

And that was the reason why he laughed.

“Pegasus, indeed!” cried he, turning up his nose as high as such a flat nose could be turned up—“Pegasus, indeed! A winged horse, truly! Why, friend, are you in your senses? Of what use would wings be to a horse? Could he drag the plow so well, think you? To be sure, there might be a little saving in the expense of shoes; but then, how would[55] a man like to see his horse flying out of the stable window?—yes, or whisking him up above the clouds, when he only wanted to ride to the mill? No, no! I don’t believe in Pegasus. There never was such a ridiculous kind of a horse-fowl made!”

“I have some reason to think otherwise,” said Bellerophon, quietly.

And then he turned to an old gray man, who was leaning on a staff, and listening very attentively, with his head stretched forward, and one hand at his ear, because, for the last twenty years, he had been getting rather deaf.

“And what say you, venerable sir?” inquired he. “In your younger days, I should imagine, you must frequently have seen the winged steed!”

“Ah, young stranger, my memory is very poor!” said the aged man. “When I was a lad, if I remember rightly, I used to believe there was such a horse, and so did everybody else. But nowadays, I hardly know what to think, and very seldom think about the winged horse at all. If I ever saw the creature, it was a long, long while ago; and, to tell you the truth, I doubt whether I ever did see him. One day, to be sure, when I was quite a youth, I remember seeing some hoof-tramps round about the brink of the fountain. Pegasus might have made those hoof-marks; and so might some other horse.”

“And have you never seen him, my fair maiden?” asked Bellerophon of the girl, who stood with the pitcher on her head, while this talk went on. “You certainly could see Pegasus, if anybody can, for your eyes are very bright.”

“Once I thought I saw him,” replied the maiden,[56] with a smile and a blush. “It was either Pegasus, or a large white bird, a very great way up in the air. And one other time, as I was coming to the fountain with my pitcher, I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. But it startled me, nevertheless; so that I ran home without filling my pitcher.”

“That was truly a pity!” said Bellerophon.

And he turned to the child, whom I mentioned at the beginning of the story, and who was gazing at him, as children are apt to gaze at strangers, with his rosy mouth wide open.

“Well, my little fellow,” cried Bellerophon, playfully pulling one of his curls, “I suppose you have often seen the winged horse.”

“That I have,” answered the child, very readily. “I saw him yesterday, and many times before.”

“You are a fine little man!” said Bellerophon, drawing the child closer to him. “Come, tell me all about it.”

“Why,” replied the child, “I often come here to sail little boats in the fountain, and to gather pretty pebbles out of its basin. And sometimes, when I look down into the water, I see the image of the winged horse, in the picture of the sky that is there. I wish he would come down, and take me on his back, and let me ride him up to the moon! But, if I so much as stir to look at him, he flies far away out of sight.”

And Bellerophon put his faith in the child, who had seen the image of Pegasus in the water, and in the maiden, who had heard him neigh so melodiously,[57] rather than in the middle-aged clown, who believed only in cart-horses, or in the old man who had forgotten the beautiful things of his youth.

Therefore, he haunted about the Fountain of Pirene for a great many days afterward. He kept continually on the watch, looking upward at the sky, or else down into the water, hoping forever that he should see either the reflected image of the winged horse, or the marvellous reality. He held the bridle, with its bright gems and golden bit, always ready in his hand. The rustic people, who dwelt in the neighborhood, and drove their cattle to the fountain to drink, would often laugh at poor Bellerophon, and sometimes take him pretty severely to task. They told him that an able-bodied young man, like himself, ought to have better business than to be wasting his time in such an idle pursuit. They offered to sell him a horse, if he wanted one; and when Bellerophon declined the purchase, they tried to drive a bargain with him for his fine bridle.

Even the country boys thought him so very foolish, that they used to have a great deal of sport about him, and were rude enough not to care a fig, although Bellerophon saw and heard it. One little urchin, for example, would play Pegasus, and cut the oddest imaginable capers, by way of flying; while one of his school-fellows would scamper after him, holding forth a twist of bulrushes, which was intended to represent Bellerophon’s ornamental bridle. But the gentle child, who had seen the picture of Pegasus in the water, comforted the[58] young stranger more than all the naughty boys could torment him. The dear little fellow, in his play-hours, often sat down beside him, and, without speaking a word, would look down into the fountain and up toward the sky, with so innocent a faith, that Bellerophon could not help feeling encouraged.

Now you will, perhaps, wish to be told why it was that Bellerophon had undertaken to catch the winged horse. And we shall find no better opportunity to speak about this matter than while he is waiting for Pegasus to appear.

If I were to relate the whole of Bellerophon’s previous adventures, they might easily grow into a very long story. It will be quite enough to say, that, in a certain country in Asia, a terrible monster, called a Chimæra, had made its appearance, and was doing more mischief than could be talked about between now and sunset. According to the best accounts which I have been able to obtain, this Chimæra was nearly, if not quite the ugliest and most poisonous creature, and the strangest and unaccountablest, and the hardest to fight with, and the most difficult to run away from, that ever came out of the earth’s inside. It had a tail like a boa-constrictor; its body was like I do not care what; and it had three separate heads, one of which was a lion’s, the second a goat’s, and the third an abominably great snake’s. And a hot blast of fire came flaming out of each of its three mouths! Being an earthly monster, I doubt whether it had any wings; but, wings or no, it ran like a goat and a lion, and wriggled along like a serpent, and thus[59] contrived to make about as much speed as all the three together.

Oh, the mischief, and mischief, and mischief that this naughty creature did! With its flaming breath, it could set a forest on fire, or burn up a field of grain, or, for that matter, a village, with all its fences and houses. It laid waste the whole country round about, and used to eat up people and animals alive, and cook them afterward in the burning oven of its stomach. Mercy on us, little children, I hope neither you nor I will ever happen to meet a Chimæra!

While the hateful beast (if a beast we can anywise call it) was doing all these horrible things, it so chanced that Bellerophon came to that part of the world, on a visit to the king. The king’s name was Iobates, and Lycia was the country which he ruled over. Bellerophon was one of the bravest youths in the world, and desired nothing so much as to do some valiant and beneficent deed, such as would make all mankind admire and love him. In those days, the only way for a young man to distinguish himself was by fighting battles, either with the enemies of his country, or with wicked giants, or with troublesome dragons, or with wild beasts, when he could find nothing more dangerous to encounter.

King Iobates perceiving the courage of his youthful visitor, proposed to him to go and fight the Chimæra, which everybody else was afraid of, and which, unless it should be soon killed, was likely to convert Lycia into a desert. Bellerophon hesitated not a moment, but assured the king that[60] he would either slay this dreaded Chimæra, or perish in the attempt.

But, in the first place, as the monster was so prodigiously swift, he bethought himself that he should never win the victory by fighting on foot. The wisest thing he could do, therefore, was to get the very best and fleetest horse that could anywhere be found. And what other horse, in all the world, was half so fleet as the marvellous horse Pegasus, who had wings as well as legs, and was even more active in the air than on the earth? To be sure, a great many people denied that there was any such horse with wings, and said that the stories about him were all poetry and nonsense. But, wonderful as it appeared, Bellerophon believed that Pegasus was a real steed, and hoped that he himself might be fortunate enough to find him; and, once fairly mounted on his back, he would be able to fight the Chimæra at better advantage.

And this was the purpose with which he had travelled from Lycia to Greece, and had brought the beautifully ornamental bridle in his hand. It was an enchanted bridle. If he could only succeed in putting the golden bit into the mouth of Pegasus, the winged horse would be submissive, and would own Bellerophon for his master, and fly whithersoever he might choose to turn the rein.

But, indeed, it was a weary and anxious time, while Bellerophon waited and waited for Pegasus, in hopes that he would come and drink at the Fountain of Pirene. He was afraid lest King Iobates should imagine that he had fled from the Chimæra. It pained him, too, to think how much[61] mischief the monster was doing, while he himself, instead of fighting with it, was compelled to sit idly poring over the bright waters of Pirene, as they gushed out of the sparkling sand. And as Pegasus came thither so seldom in these latter years, and scarcely alighted there more than once in a lifetime, Bellerophon feared that he might grow an old man, and have no strength left in his arms nor courage in his heart, before the winged horse would appear. Oh, how heavily passes the time, while an adventurous youth is yearning to do his part in life and to gather in the harvest of his renown! How hard a lesson it is to wait! Our life is brief, and how much of it is spent in teaching us only this!

Well was it for Bellerophon that the gentle child had grown so fond of him, and was never weary of keeping him company. Every morning the child gave him a new hope to put in his bosom, instead of yesterday’s withered one.

“Dear Bellerophon,” he would cry, looking up hopefully into his face, “I think we shall see Pegasus to-day!”

And, at length, if it had not been for the little boy’s unwavering faith, Bellerophon would have given up all hope, and would have gone back to Lycia, and have done his best to slay the Chimæra without the help of the winged horse. And in that case poor Bellerophon would at least have been terribly scorched by the creature’s breath, and would most probably have been killed and devoured. Nobody should ever try to fight an earth-born[62] Chimæra, unless he can first get upon the back of an aërial steed.

One morning the child spoke to Bellerophon even more hopefully than usual.

“Dear, dear Bellerophon,” cried he, “I know not why it is, but I feel as if we should certainly see Pegasus to-day!”

And all that day he would not stir a step from Bellerophon’s side; so they ate a crust of bread together and drank some of the water of the fountain. In the afternoon, there they sat, and Bellerophon had thrown his arm around the child, who likewise had put one of his little hands into Bellerophon’s.

The latter was lost in his own thoughts, and was fixing his eyes vacantly on the trunks of the trees that overshadowed the fountain, and on the grapevines that clambered up among their branches. But the gentle child was gazing down into the water; he was grieved, for Bellerophon’s sake, that the hope of another day should be deceived, like so many before it; and two or three quiet tear-drops fell from his eyes, and mingled with what were said to be the many tears of Pirene, when she wept for her slain children.

But, when he least thought of it, Bellerophon felt the pressure of the child’s little hand, and heard a soft, almost breathless, whisper.

“See there, dear Bellerophon! There is an image in the water!”

The young man looked down into the dimpling mirror of the fountain, and saw what he took to be the reflection of a bird which seemed to be flying[63] at a great height in the air, with a gleam of sunshine on its snowy or silvery wings.

“What a splendid bird it must be!” said he. “And how very large it looks, though it must really be flying higher than the clouds!”

“It makes me tremble!” whispered the child. “I am afraid to look up into the air! It is very beautiful, and yet I dare only look at its image in the water. Dear Bellerophon, do you not see that it is no bird? It is the winged horse Pegasus!”

Bellerophon’s heart began to throb! He gazed keenly upward, but could not see the winged creature, whether bird or horse; because, just then, it had plunged into the fleecy depths of a summer cloud. It was but a moment, however, before the object reappeared, sinking lightly down out of the cloud, although still at a vast distance from the earth.

Bellerophon caught the child in his arms, and shrank back with him, so that they were both hidden among the thick shrubbery which grew all around the fountain. Not that he was afraid of any harm, but he dreaded lest, if Pegasus caught a glimpse of them, he would fly far away, and alight in some inaccessible mountain-top. For it was really the winged horse. After they had expected him so long, he was coming to quench his thirst with the water of Pirene.

Nearer and nearer came the aërial wonder, flying in great circles, as you may have seen a dove when about to alight. Downward came Pegasus, in those wide, sweeping circles, which grew narrower, and narrower still, as he gradually approached the[64] earth. The nigher the view of him, the more beautiful he was, and the more marvellous the sweep of his silvery wings. At last, with so light a pressure as hardly to bend the grass about the fountain, or imprint a hoof-tramp in the sand of its margin, he alighted, and, stooping his wild head, began to drink. He drew in the water, with long and pleasant sighs, and tranquil pauses of enjoyment; and then another draught, and another, and another. For, nowhere in the world, or up among the clouds, did Pegasus love any water as he loved this of Pirene. And when his thirst was slaked, he cropped a few of the honey-blossoms of the clover, delicately tasting them, but not caring to make a hearty meal, because the herbage, just beneath the clouds, on the lofty sides of Mount Helicon, suited his palate better than this ordinary grass.

After thus drinking to his heart’s content, and in his dainty fashion, condescending to take a little food, the winged horse began to caper to and fro, and dance as it were, out of mere idleness and sport. There never was a more playful creature made than this very Pegasus. So there he frisked, in a way that it delights me to think about, fluttering his great wings as lightly as ever did a linnet, and running little races, half on earth and half in the air, and which I know not whether to call a flight or a gallop. When a creature is perfectly able to fly, he sometimes chooses to run, just for the pastime of the thing; and so did Pegasus, although it cost him some little trouble to keep his hoofs so near the ground. Bellerophon, meanwhile, holding the child’s hand, peeped forth from the shrubbery,[65] and thought that never was any sight so beautiful as this, nor ever a horse’s eyes so wild and spirited as those of Pegasus. It seemed a sin to think of bridling him and riding on his back.

Once or twice Pegasus stopped, and snuffed the air, pricking up his ears, tossing his head, and turning it on all sides, as if he partly suspected some mischief or other. Seeing nothing, however, and hearing no sound, he soon began his antics again.

At length—not that he was weary, but only idle and luxurious—Pegasus folded his wings, and lay down on the soft green turf. But, being too full of aërial life to remain quiet for many moments together, he soon rolled over on his back, with his four slender legs in the air. It was beautiful to see him, this one solitary creature, whose mate had never been created, but who needed no companion, and, living a great many hundred years, was as happy as the centuries were long. The more he did such things as mortal horses are accustomed to do, the less earthly and the more wonderful he seemed. Bellerophon and the child almost held their breath, partly from a delightful awe, but still more because they dreaded lest the slightest stir or murmur should send him up, with the speed of an arrow-flight, into the furthest blue of the sky.

Finally, when he had enough of rolling over and over, Pegasus turned himself about, and, indolently, like any other horse, put out his fore legs, in order to rise from the ground; and Bellerophon, who had guessed that he would do so, darted suddenly from the thicket, and leaped astride of his back.


Yes, there he sat, on the back of the winged horse!

But what a bound did Pegasus make, when for the first time, he felt the weight of a mortal man upon his loins! A bound, indeed! Before he had time to draw a breath, Bellerophon found himself five hundred feet aloft, and still shooting upward, while the winged horse snorted and trembled with terror and anger. Upward he went, up, up, up, until he plunged into the cold misty bosom of a cloud, at which, only a little while before, Bellerophon had been gazing, and fancying it a very pleasant spot. Then again, out of the heart of the cloud, Pegasus shot down like a thunderbolt, as if he meant to dash both himself and his rider headlong against a rock. Then he went through about a thousand of the wildest caprioles that had ever been performed either by a bird or a horse.


—page 80

From the painting by Maxfield Parrish

I cannot tell you half that he did. He skimmed straight forward, and sidewise, and backward. He reared himself erect, with his fore legs on a wreath of mist, and his hind legs on nothing at all. He flung out his heels behind, and put down his head between his legs, with his wings pointing right upward. At about two miles’ height above the earth, he turned a somerset, so that Bellerophon’s heels were where his head should have been, and he seemed to look down into the sky instead of up. He twisted his head about, and, looking Bellerophon in the face, with fire flashing from his eyes, made a terrible attempt to bite him. He fluttered his pinions so wildly that one of the silver feathers was shaken out, and floating earthward, was picked[67] up by the child, who kept it as long as he lived, in memory of Pegasus and Bellerophon.

But the latter (who, as you may judge, was as good a horseman as ever galloped) had been watching his opportunity, and at last clapped the golden bit of the enchanted bridle between the winged steed’s jaws. No sooner was this done, than Pegasus became as manageable as if he had taken food, all his life, out of Bellerophon’s hand. To speak what I really feel, it was almost a sadness to see so wild a creature grow suddenly so tame. And Pegasus seemed to feel it so, likewise. He looked round to Bellerophon, with the tears in his beautiful eyes, instead of the fire that so recently flashed from them. But when Bellerophon patted his head, and spoke a few authoritative, yet kind and soothing words, another look came into the eyes of Pegasus; for he was glad at heart, after so many lonely centuries, to have found a companion and a master.

Thus it always is with winged horses, and with all such wild and solitary creatures. If you can catch and overcome them, it is the surest way to win their love.

While Pegasus had been doing his utmost to shake Bellerophon off his back, he had flown a very long distance; and they had come within sight of a lofty mountain by the time the bit was in his mouth. Bellerophon had seen this mountain before, and knew it to be Helicon, on the summit of which was the winged horse’s abode. Thither (after looking gently into the rider’s face, as if to ask leave) Pegasus now flew, and, alighting, waited patiently until Bellerophon should please to dismount.[68] The young man, accordingly, leaped from his steed’s back, but still held him fast by the bridle. Meeting his eyes, however, he was so affected by the gentleness of his aspect, and by the thought of the free life which Pegasus had heretofore lived, that he could not bear to keep him a prisoner, if he really desired his liberty.

Obeying this generous impulse he slipped the enchanted bridle off the head of Pegasus, and took the bit from his mouth.

“Leave me, Pegasus!” said he. “Either leave me, or love me.”

In an instant the winged horse shot almost out of sight, soaring straight upward from the summit of Mount Helicon. Being long after sunset, it was now twilight on the mountain-top, and dusky evening over all the country round about. But Pegasus flew so high that he overtook the departed day, and was bathed in the upper radiance of the sun. Ascending higher and higher, he looked a bright speck, and, at last, could no longer be seen in the hollow waste of the sky. And Bellerophon was afraid that he should never behold him more. But, while he was lamenting his own folly, the bright speck reappeared, and drew nearer and nearer, until it descended lower than the sunshine; and, behold, Pegasus had come back! After this trial there was no more fear of the winged horse’s making his escape. He and Bellerophon were friends, and put loving faith in one another.

That night they lay down and slept together, with Bellerophon’s arm about the neck of Pegasus, not as a caution, but for kindness. And they awoke[69] at peep of day, and bade one another good morning, each in his own language.

In this manner, Bellerophon and the wondrous steed spent several days, and grew better acquainted and fonder of each other all the time. They went on long aërial journeys, and sometimes ascended so high that the earth looked hardly bigger than—the moon. They visited distant countries, and amazed the inhabitants, who thought that the beautiful young man, on the back of the winged horse, must have come down out of the sky. A thousand miles a day was no more than an easy space for the fleet Pegasus to pass over. Bellerophon was delighted with this kind of life, and would have liked nothing better than to live always in the same way, aloft in the clear atmosphere; for it was always sunny weather up there, however cheerless and rainy it might be in the lower region. But he could not forget the horrible Chimæra, which he had promised King Iobates to slay. So, at last, when he had become well accustomed to feats of horsemanship in the air, and could manage Pegasus with the least motion of his hand, and had taught him to obey his voice, he determined to attempt the performance of this perilous adventure.

At daybreak, therefore, as soon as he unclosed his eyes, he gently pinched the winged horse’s ear, in order to arouse him. Pegasus immediately started from the ground, and pranced about a quarter of a mile aloft, and made a grand sweep around the mountain-top, by way of showing that he was wide awake, and ready for any kind of an excursion.[70] During the whole of this little flight, he uttered a loud, brisk, and melodious neigh, and finally came down at Bellerophon’s side, as lightly as ever you saw a sparrow hop upon a twig.

“Well done, dear Pegasus! well done, my sky-skimmer!” cried Bellerophon, fondly stroking the horse’s neck. “And now, my fleet and beautiful friend, we must break our fast. To-day we are to fight the terrible Chimæra.”

As soon as they had eaten their morning meal, and drank some sparkling water from a spring called Hippocrene, Pegasus held out his head, of his own accord, so that his master might put on the bridle. Then with a great many playful leaps and airy caperings, he showed his impatience to be gone; while Bellerophon was girding on his sword, and hanging his shield about his neck, and preparing himself for battle. When everything was ready, the rider mounted, and (as was his custom, when going a long distance) ascended five miles perpendicularly, so as the better to see whither he was directing his course. He then turned the head of Pegasus toward the east, and set out for Lycia. In their flight they overtook an eagle, and came so nigh him, before he could get out of their way, that Bellerophon might easily have caught him by the leg. Hastening onward at this rate, it was still early in the forenoon when they beheld the lofty mountains of Lycia, with their deep and shaggy valleys. If Bellerophon had been told truly, it was in one of those dismal valleys that the hideous Chimæra had taken up its abode.

Being now so near their journey’s end, the winged[71] horse gradually descended with his rider; and they took advantage of some clouds that were floating over the mountain-tops, in order to conceal themselves. Hovering on the upper surface of a cloud, and peeping over its edge, Bellerophon had a pretty distinct view of the mountainous part of Lycia, and could look into all its shadowy vales at once. At first there appeared to be nothing remarkable. It was a wild, savage, and rocky tract of high and precipitous hills. In the more level part of the country, there were the ruins of houses that had been burned, and, here and there, the carcasses of dead cattle, strewn about the pastures where they had been feeding.

“The Chimæra must have done this mischief,” thought Bellerophon. “But where can the monster be?”

As I have already said, there was nothing remarkable to be detected, at first sight, in any of the valleys and dells that lay among the precipitous heights of the mountains. Nothing at all; unless, indeed, it were three spires of black smoke, which issued from what seemed to be the mouth of a cavern, and clambered sullenly into the atmosphere. Before reaching the mountain-top, these three black smoke-wreaths mingled themselves into one. The cavern was almost directly beneath the winged horse and his rider, at the distance of about a thousand feet. The smoke, as it crept heavily upward, had an ugly, sulphurous, stifling scent, which caused Pegasus to snort and Bellerophon to sneeze. So disagreeable was it to the marvellous steed (who was accustomed to breathe only the purest air), that he waved his[72] wings, and shot half a mile out of the range of this offensive vapor.

But, on looking behind him, Bellerophon saw something that induced him first to draw the bridle, and then to turn Pegasus about. He made a sign, which the winged horse understood, and sunk slowly through the air, until his hoofs were scarcely more than a man’s height above the rocky bottom of the valley. In front, as far off as you could throw a stone, was the cavern’s mouth, with the three smoke-wreaths oozing out of it. And what else did Bellerophon behold there?

There seemed to be a heap of strange and terrible creatures curled up within the cavern. Their bodies lay so close together, that Bellerophon could not distinguish them apart; but, judging by their heads, one of these creatures was a huge snake, the second a fierce lion, and the third an ugly goat. The lion and the goat were asleep; the snake was broad awake, and kept staring around him with a great pair of fiery eyes. But—and this was the most wonderful part of the matter—the three spires of smoke evidently issued from the nostrils of these three heads! So strange was the spectacle, that, though Bellerophon had been all along expecting it, the truth did not immediately occur to him, that here was the terrible three-headed Chimæra. He had found out the Chimæra’s cavern. The snake, the lion, and the goat, as he supposed them to be, were not three separate creatures, but one monster!

The wicked, hateful thing! Slumbering as two-thirds of it were, it still held, in its abominable claws, the remnant of an unfortunate lamb—or possibly[73] (but I hate to think so) it was a dear little boy—which its three mouths had been gnawing, before two of them fell asleep!

All at once, Bellerophon started as from a dream, and knew it to be the Chimæra. Pegasus seemed to know it, at the same instant, and sent forth a neigh, that sounded like the call of a trumpet to battle. At this sound the three heads reared themselves erect, and belched out great flashes of flame. Before Bellerophon had time to consider what to do next, the monster flung itself out of the cavern and sprang straight toward him, with its immense claws extended, and its snaky tail twisting itself venomously behind. If Pegasus had not been as nimble as a bird, both he and his rider would have been overthrown by the Chimæra’s headlong rush, and thus the battle have been ended before it was well begun. But the winged horse was not to be caught so. In the twinkling of an eye he was up and aloft, half-way to the clouds, snorting with anger. He shuddered, too, not with affright, but with utter disgust at the loathsomeness of this poisonous thing with three heads.

The Chimæra, on the other hand, raised itself up so as to stand absolutely on the tip-end of its tail, with its talons pawing fiercely in the air, and its three heads spluttering fire at Pegasus and his rider. My stars, how it roared, and hissed and bellowed! Bellerophon, meanwhile, was fitting his shield on his arm, and drawing his sword.

“Now, my beloved Pegasus,” he whispered in the winged horse’s ear, “thou must help me to slay this insufferable monster; or else thou shalt fly[74] back to thy solitary mountain-peak without thy friend Bellerophon. For either the Chimæra dies, or its three mouths shall gnaw this head of mine, which has slumbered upon thy neck!”

Pegasus whinnied, and, turning back his head, rubbed his nose tenderly against his rider’s cheek. It was his way of telling him that, though he had wings and was an immortal horse, yet he would perish, if it were possible for immortality to perish, rather than leave Bellerophon behind.

“I thank you, Pegasus,” answered Bellerophon. “Now, then, let us make a dash at the monster!”

Uttering these words, he shook the bridle; and Pegasus darted down aslant, as swift as the flight of an arrow, right toward the Chimæra’s threefold head, which, all this time, was poking itself as high as it could into the air. As he came within arm’s-length, Bellerophon made a cut at the monster, but was carried onward by his steed, before he could see whether the blow had been successful. Pegasus continued his course, but soon wheeled round, at about the same distance from the Chimæra as before. Bellerophon then perceived that he had cut the goat’s head of the monster almost off, so that it dangled downward by the skin, and seemed quite dead.

But, to make amends, the snake’s head and the lion’s head had taken all the fierceness of the dead one into themselves, and spit flame, and hissed, and roared, with a vast deal more fury than before.

“Never mind, my brave Pegasus!” cried Bellerophon.[75] “With another stroke like that, we will stop either its hissing or its roaring.”

And again he shook the bridle. Dashing aslantwise, as before, the winged horse made another arrow-flight toward the Chimæra, and Bellerophon aimed another downright stroke at one of the two remaining heads, as he shot by. But this time, neither he nor Pegasus escaped so well as at first. With one of its claws, the Chimæra had given the young man a deep scratch in his shoulder, and had slightly damaged the left wing of the flying steed with the other. On his part, Bellerophon had mortally wounded the lion’s head of the monster, insomuch that it now hung downward, with its fire almost extinguished, and sending out gasps of thick black smoke. The snake’s head, however (which was the only one now left), was twice as fierce and venomous as ever before. It belched forth shoots of fire five hundred yards long, and emitted hisses so loud, so harsh, and so ear-piercing, that King Iobates heard them, fifty miles off, and trembled till the throne shook under him.

“Well-a-day!” thought the poor king; “the Chimæra is certainly coming to devour me!”

Meanwhile Pegasus had again paused in the air, and neighed angrily, while sparkles of a pure crystal flame darted out of his eyes. How unlike the lurid fire of the Chimæra! The aërial steed’s spirit was all aroused, and so was that of Bellerophon.

“Dost thou bleed, my immortal horse?” cried the young man, caring less for his own hurt than for the anguish of this glorious creature, that ought[76] never to have tasted pain. “The execrable Chimæra shall pay for this mischief with his last head!”

Then he shook the bridle, shouted loudly, and guided Pegasus, not aslantwise as before, but straight at the monster’s hideous front. So rapid was the onset, that it seemed but a dazzle and a flash before Bellerophon was at close gripes with his enemy.

The Chimæra, by this time, after losing its second head, had got into a red-hot passion of pain and rampant rage. It so flounced about, half on earth and partly in the air, that it was impossible to say which element it rested upon. It opened its snake-jaws to such an abominable width, that Pegasus might almost, I was going to say, have flown right down its throat, wings outspread, rider and all! At their approach it shot out a tremendous blast of its fiery breath, and enveloped Bellerophon and his steed in a perfect atmosphere of flame, singeing the wings of Pegasus, scorching off one whole side of the young man’s golden ringlets, and making them both far hotter than was comfortable, from head to foot.

But this was nothing to what followed.

When the airy rush of the winged horse had brought him within the distance of one hundred yards, the Chimæra gave a spring, and flung its huge, awkward, venomous, and utterly detestable carcass right upon poor Pegasus, clung around him with might and main, and tied up its snaky tail into a knot! Up flew the aërial steed, higher, higher, higher, above the mountain-peaks, above the clouds, and almost out of sight of the solid[77] earth. But still the earth-born monster kept its hold, and was borne upward, along with the creature of light and air. Bellerophon, meanwhile, turning about, found himself face to face with the ugly grimness of the Chimæra’s visage, and could only avoid being scorched to death, or bitten right in twain, by holding up his shield. Over the upper edge of the shield, he looked sternly into the savage eyes of the monster.

But the Chimæra was so mad and wild with pain, that it did not guard itself so well as might else have been the case. Perhaps, after all, the best way to fight a Chimæra is by getting as close to it as you can. In its efforts to stick its horrible iron claws into its enemy, the creature left its own breast quite exposed; and perceiving this, Bellerophon thrust his sword up to the hilt into its cruel heart. Immediately the snaky tail untied its knot. The monster let go its hold of Pegasus, and fell from that vast height downward; while the fire within its bosom, instead of being put out, burned fiercer than ever, and quickly began to consume the dead carcass. Thus it fell out of the sky, all aflame, and (it being nightfall before it reached the earth) was mistaken for a shooting star or a comet. But, at early sunrise, some cottagers were going to their day’s labor, and saw, to their astonishment, that several acres of ground were strewn with black ashes. In the middle of a field, there was a heap of whitened bones, a great deal higher than a haystack. Nothing else was ever seen of the dreadful Chimæra!

And when Bellerophon had won the victory, he[78] bent forward and kissed Pegasus, while the tears stood in his eyes.

“Back now, my beloved steed!” said he. “Back to the Fountain of Pirene!”

Pegasus skimmed through the air, quicker than ever he did before, and reached the fountain in a very short time. And there he found the old man leaning on his staff, and the country fellow watering his cow, and the pretty maiden filling her pitcher.

“I remember now,” quoth the old man, “I saw this winged horse once before, when I was quite a lad. But he was ten times handsomer in those days.”

“I own a cart-horse, worth three of him!” said the country fellow. “If this pony were mine, the first thing I should do would be to clip his wings!”

But the poor maiden said nothing, for she had always the luck to be afraid at the wrong time. So she ran away, and let her pitcher tumble down, and broke it.

“Where is the gentle child,” asked Bellerophon, “who used to keep me company, and never lost his faith, and never was weary of gazing into the fountain?”

“Here am I, dear Bellerophon!” said the child, softly.

For the little boy had spent day after day, on the margin of Pirene, waiting for his friend to come back; but when he perceived Bellerophon descending through the clouds, mounted on the winged horse, he had shrunk back into the shrubbery. He was a delicate and tender child, and[79] dreaded lest the old man and the country fellow should see the tears gushing from his eyes.

“Thou hast won the victory,” said he, joyfully, running to the knee of Bellerophon, who still sat on the back of Pegasus. “I knew thou wouldst.”

“Yes, dear child!” replied Bellerophon, alighting from the winged horse. “But if thy faith had not helped me, I should never have waited for Pegasus, and never have gone up above the clouds, and never have conquered the terrible Chimæra. Thou, my beloved little friend, hast done it all. And now let us give Pegasus his liberty.”

So he slipped off the enchanted bridle from the head of the marvellous steed.

“Be free, for evermore, my Pegasus!” cried he, with a shade of sadness in his tone. “Be as free as thou art fleet!”

But Pegasus rested his head on Bellerophon’s shoulder, and would not be persuaded to take flight.

“Well then,” said Bellerophon, caressing the airy horse, “thou shalt be with me, as long as thou wilt; and we will go together, forthwith, and tell King Iobates that the Chimæra is destroyed.”

Then Bellerophon embraced the gentle child, and promised to come to him again, and departed. But, in after years, that child took higher flights upon the aërial steed than ever did Bellerophon, and achieved more honorable deeds than his friend’s victory over the Chimæra. For, gentle and tender as he was, he grew to be a mighty poet!


By Charles Kingsley

This is a tale of heroes who sailed away into a distant land to win themselves renown forever, in the adventure of the Golden Fleece. Whither they sailed, my children, I cannot clearly tell. It all happened long ago; so long that it has all grown dim, like a dream which you dreamed last year. And why they went I cannot tell: some say that it was to win gold. It may be so; but the noblest deeds which have been done on earth have not been done for gold.

The Spartans looked for no reward in money when they fought and died at Thermopylæ; and Socrates the wise asked no pay from his countrymen, but lived poor and barefoot all his days, only caring to make men good. And there are heroes in our days also, who do noble deeds, but not for gold. Our discoverers did not go to make themselves rich when they sailed out one after another into the dreary frozen seas.

Therefore we will believe—why should we not?—of these same Argonauts of old, that they too were noble men, who planned and did a noble deed; and that therefore their fame has lived, and been told in story and in song, mixed up, no doubt, with dreams and fables, and yet true and right at heart. So we will honor these old Argonauts, and listen to their story as it stands; and we will try to be like them, each of us in our place; for each of us has[81] a Golden Fleece to seek, and a wild sea to sail over ere we reach it, and dragons to fight ere it be ours.

And what was that first Golden Fleece? I do not know, nor care. The old Greeks said that it hung in Colchis, which we call the Circassian coast, nailed to a beech-tree in the War-god’s wood; and that it was the fleece of the wondrous ram who bore Phrixus and Helle across the Black Sea. For Phrixus and Helle were the children of the cloud-nymph, and of Athamas the Minuan king. And when a famine came upon the land, their cruel stepmother Ino wished to kill them, that her own children might reign, and said that they must be sacrificed on an altar, to turn away the anger of the gods. So the poor children were brought to the altar, and the priest stood ready with his knife, when out of the clouds came the Golden Ram, and took them on his back, and vanished. Then madness came upon that foolish king, Athamas, and ruin upon Ino and her children. For Athamas killed one of them in his fury; and Ino fled from him with the other in her arms, and leaped from a cliff into the sea, and was changed into a dolphin, such as you have seen, which wanders over the waves forever sighing, with its little one clasped to its breast.

But the people drove out King Athamas, because he had killed his child; and he roamed about in his misery, till he came to the Oracle in Delphi. And the Oracle told him that he must wander for his sin, till the wild beasts should feast him as their guest. So he went on in hunger and sorrow for many a weary day, till he saw a pack of wolves. The wolves were tearing a sheep; but when they[82] saw Athamas they fled, and left the sheep for him, and he ate of it; and then he knew that the oracle was fulfilled at last. So he wandered no more; but settled, and built a town, and became a king again.

But the ram carried the two children far away over land and sea, till he came to the Thracian Chersonese, and there Helle fell into the sea. So those narrow straits are called “Hellespont,” after her; and they bear that name until this day.

Then the ram flew on with Phrixus to the north-east across the sea which we call the Black Sea now; but the Greeks call it Euxine. And at last, they say, he stopped at Colchis, on the steep Circassian coast; and there Phrixus married Chaleiope, the daughter of Aietes the king; and offered the ram in sacrifice; and Aietes nailed the ram’s fleece to a beech, in the grove of Mars the War-god.

After a while Phrixus died, and was buried, but his spirit had no rest; for he was buried far from his native land, and the pleasant hills of Greece. So he came in dreams to the heroes of the Minuai, and called sadly by their beds, “Come and set my spirit free, that I may go home to my fathers and to my kinsfolk, and the pleasant Minuan land.”

And they asked, “How shall we set your spirit free?”

“You must sail over the sea to Colchis, and bring home the Golden Fleece; and then my spirit will come back with it, and I shall sleep with my fathers and have rest.”


—page 90

From the painting by T. H. Robinson

Often he came thus, and called to them, but when[83] they awoke they looked at each other, and said, “Who dare sail to Colchis, or bring home the Golden Fleece?” And in all the country none was brave enough to try it; for the man and the time were not come.

Phrixus had a cousin called Æson, who was king in Iolcos by the sea. There he ruled over the rich Minuan heroes, as Athamas his uncle ruled in Bœotia; and, like Athamas, he was an unhappy man. For he had a stepbrother named Pelias, of whom some said that he was a nymph’s son, and there were dark and sad tales about his birth. When he was a babe he was cast out on the mountains, and a wild mare came by and kicked him. But a shepherd passing found the baby, with its face all blackened by the blow; and took him home, and called him Pelias, because his face was bruised and black. And he grew up fierce and lawless, and did many a fearful deed; and at last he drove out Æson his stepbrother, and then his own brother Neleus, and took the kingdom to himself, and ruled over the rich Minuan heroes, in Iolcos by the sea.

And Æson, when he was driven out, went sadly away out of the town, leading his little son by the hand; and he said to himself, “I must hide the child in the mountains; or Pelias will surely kill him, because he is the heir.”

So he went up from the sea across the valley, through the vineyards and the olive groves, and across the torrent of Anauros, toward Pelion, the ancient mountain, whose brows are white with snow.


He went up and up into the mountain, over marsh, and crag, and down, till the boy was tired and footsore, and Æson had to bear him in his arms, till he came to the mouth of a lonely cave, at the foot of a mighty cliff.

Above the cliff the snow-wreaths hung, dripping and cracking in the sun; but at its foot around the cave’s mouth grew all fair flowers and herbs, as if in a garden, ranged in order, each sort by itself. There they grew gaily in the sunshine, and the spray of the torrent from above; while from the cave came the sound of music, and a man’s voice singing to the harp.

Then Æson put down the lad, and whispered: “Fear not, but go in, and whomsoever you shall find, lay your hands upon his knees and say, ‘In the name of Jupiter, the father of gods and men, I am your guest from this day forth.’”

Then the lad went in without trembling, for he too was a hero’s son; but when he was within, he stopped in wonder to listen to that magic song.

And there he saw the singer lying upon bear-skins and fragrant boughs: Chiron, the ancient Centaur, the wisest of all things beneath the sky. Down to the waist he was a man, but below he was a noble horse; his white hair rolled down over his broad shoulders, and his white beard over his broad brown chest; and his eyes were wise and mild, and his forehead like a mountain wall.

And in his hands he held a harp of gold, and struck it with a golden key; and as he struck, he sang till his eyes glittered, and filled all the cave with light.


And he sang of the birth of Time, and of the heavens and the dancing stars; of the ocean, and the ether, and the fire, and the shaping of the wondrous earth. And he sang of the treasures of the hills, and the hidden jewels of the mine, and the veins of fire and metal, and the virtues of all healing herbs, and of the speech of birds, and of prophecy, and of hidden things to come.

Then he sang of health, and strength, and manhood, and a valiant heart; and of music, and hunting, and wrestling, and all the games which heroes love; and of travel, and wars, and sieges, and a noble death in fight; and then he sang of peace and plenty, and of equal justice in the land; and as he sang the boy listened wide-eyed, and forgot his errand in the song.

And at the last old Chiron was silent, and called the lad with a soft voice. And the lad ran trembling to him, and would have laid his hands upon his knees; but Chiron smiled, and said, “Call hither your father Æson, for I know you, and all that has befallen, and saw you both afar in the valley, even before you left the town.”

Then Æson came in sadly, and Chiron asked him, “Why camest you not yourself to me, Æson the Æolid?”

And Æson said: “I thought, Chiron will pity the lad if he sees him come alone; and I wished to try whether he was fearless, and dare venture like a hero’s son. But now I entreat you by Father Jupiter, let the boy be your guest till better times, and train him among the sons of the heroes, that he may avenge his father’s house.”


Then Chiron smiled, and drew the lad to him, and laid his hand upon his golden locks, and said, “Are you afraid of my horse’s hoofs, fair boy, or will you be my pupil from this day?”

“I would gladly have horse’s hoofs like you, if I could sing such songs as yours.”

And Chiron laughed, and said, “Sit here by me till sundown, when your playfellows will come home, and you shall learn like them to be a king, worthy to rule over gallant men.”

Then he turned to Æson, and said, “Go back in peace, and bend before the storm like a prudent man. This boy shall not cross the Anauros again, till he has become a glory to you and to the house of Æolus.”

And Æson wept over his son and went away; but the boy did not weep, so full was his fancy of that strange cave, and the Centaur, and his song, and the playfellows whom he was to see.

Then Chiron put the lyre into his hands, and taught him how to play it, till the sun sank low behind the cliff, and a shout was heard outside.

And then in came the sons of the heroes, Æneas, and Hercules, and Peleus, and many another mighty name. And great Chiron leaped up joyfully, and his hoofs made the cave resound, as they shouted, “Come out, Father Chiron; come out and see our game.” And one cried, “I have killed two deer”; and another, “I took a wildcat among the crags”; and Hercules dragged a wild goat after him by its horns, for he was as huge as a mountain crag; and Cœneus carried a bear-cub under each arm, and laughed when they scratched and bit, for[87] neither tooth nor steel could wound him. And Chiron praised them all, each according to his deserts.

Only one walked apart and silent, Æsculapius, the too-wise child, carrying herbs and flowers, and round his wrist a spotted snake; he came with downcast eyes to Chiron, and whispered how he had watched the snake cast its old skin, and grow young again before his eyes, and how he had gone down into a village in the vale, and cured a dying man with a herb which he had seen a sick goat eat.

And Chiron smiled, and said, “To each Minerva and Apollo gave some gift, and each is worthy in his place; but to this child they have given an honor beyond all honors, to cure while others kill.”

Then the lads brought in wood and split it, and lighted a blazing fire; and others skinned the deer and quartered them, and set them to roast before the fire; and while the venison was cooking they bathed in the snow torrent, and washed away the dust and sweat.

And then all ate till they could eat no more (for they had tasted nothing since the dawn), and drank of the clear spring water. And when the remnants were put away, they all lay down upon the skins and leaves about the fire, and each took the lyre in turn, and sang and played with all his heart.

After a while they all went out to a plot of grass at the cave’s mouth, and there they boxed, and ran, and wrestled, and laughed till the stones fell from the cliffs.

Then Chiron took his lyre, and all the lads joined hands; and as he played, they danced to his[88] measure, in and out, and round and round. There they danced hand in hand, till the night fell over land and sea, while the black glen shone with their broad white limbs and the gleam of their golden hair.

And the lad danced with them, delighted, and then slept a wholesome sleep, upon fragrant leaves of bay, and myrtle, and marjoram, and flowers of thyme; and rose at the dawn, and bathed in the torrent, and became a school-fellow to the heroes’ sons, and forgot Iolcos, and his father, and all his former life. But he grew strong, and brave, and cunning, upon the pleasant downs of Pelion, in the keen hungry mountain air. And he learned to wrestle, and to box, and to hunt, and to play upon the harp; and next he learned to ride, for old Chiron used to mount him on his back; and he learned the virtues of all herbs, and how to cure all wounds; and Chiron called him Jason the healer, and that is his name until this day.


By Charles Kingsley

Ten years came and went, and Jason was grown to be a mighty man. Some of his fellows were gone, and some were growing up by his side. Æsculapius was gone into Peloponnesus to work his wondrous cures on men; and some say he used to raise the dead to life. And Hercules was gone to Thebes to fulfil those famous labors which[89] have become a proverb among men. Peleus had married a sea-nymph, and his wedding is famous to this day. And Æneas was gone home to Troy, and many a noble tale you will read of him, and of all the other gallant heroes, the scholars of Chiron the just.

Now it happened on a day that Jason stood on the mountain, and looked north and south and east and west; and Chiron stood by him and watched him, for he knew that the time was come. And Jason looked and saw the plains of Thessaly, where the Lapithæ breed their horses; and the lake of Boibé, and the stream which runs northward to Peneus and Tempe; and he looked north, and saw the mountain wall which guards the Magnesian shore; Olympus, the seat of the Immortals, and Ossa, and Pelion, where he stood. Then he looked east and saw the bright blue sea, which stretched away forever toward the dawn. Then he looked south, and saw a pleasant land, with white-walled towns and farms, nestling along the shore of a land-locked bay, while the smoke rose blue among the trees; and he knew it for the bay of Pagasai, and the rich lowlands of Hæmonia, and Iolcos by the sea.

Then he sighed, and asked, “Is it true what the heroes tell me—that I am heir of that fair land?”

“And what good would it be to you, Jason, if you were heir of that fair land?”

“I would take it and keep it.”

“A strong man has taken it and kept it long. Are you stronger than Pelias the terrible?”


“I can try my strength with his,” said Jason; but Chiron sighed, and said:

“You have many a danger to go through before you rule in Iolcos by the sea: many a danger and many a woe; and strange troubles in strange lands, such as man never saw before.”

“The happier I,” said Jason, “to see what man never saw before.”

And Chiron sighed again, and said, “The eaglet must leave the nest when it is fledged. Will you go to Iolcos by the sea? Then promise me two things before you go.” Jason promised, and Chiron answered, “Speak harshly to no soul whom you may meet, and stand by the word which you shall speak.”

Jason wondered why Chiron asked this of him; but he knew that the Centaur was a prophet, and saw things long before they came. So he promised, and leaped down the mountain, to take his fortune like a man. He went down through the arbutus thickets, and across the downs of thyme, till he came to the vineyard walls, and the pomegranates and the olives in the glen; and among the olives roared Anauros, all foaming with a summer flood.

And on the bank of Anauros sat a woman, all wrinkled, gray, and old, her head shook palsied on her breast, and her hands shook palsied on her knees; and when she saw Jason, she spoke whining, “Who will carry me across the flood?”

Jason was bold and hasty, and was just going to leap into the flood: and yet he thought twice before he leaped, so loud roared the torrent down, all brown from the mountain rains, and silver-veined with melting snow; while underneath he could hear[91] the bowlders rumbling like the tramp of horsemen or the roll of wheels, as they ground along the narrow channel, and shook the rocks on which he stood.

But the old woman whined all the more, “I am weak and old, fair youth. For Juno’s sake, carry me over the torrent.”

And Jason was going to answer her scornfully, when Chiron’s words came to his mind. So he said, “For Juno’s sake, the Queen of the Immortals on Olympus, I will carry you over the torrent, unless we both are drowned midway.”

Then the old dame leaped upon his back, as nimbly as a goat; and Jason staggered in, wondering; and the first step was up to his knees. The first step was up to his knees, and the second step was up to his waist; and the stones rolled about his feet, and his feet slipped about the stones; so he went on staggering and panting, while the old woman cried from off his back: “Fool, you have wet my mantle! Do you make game of poor old souls like me?”

Jason had half a mind to drop her, and let her get through the torrent by herself; but Chiron’s words were in his mind, and he said only, “Patience, mother; the best horse may stumble some day.”

At last he staggered to the shore, and set her down upon the bank; and a strong man he needed to have been or that wild water he never would have crossed.

He lay panting awhile upon the bank, and then leaped up to go upon his journey; but he cast one look at the old woman, for he thought, “She should thank me once at least.” And as he looked, she[92] grew fairer than all women, and taller than all men on earth; and her garments shone like the summer sea, and her jewels like the stars of heaven; and over her forehead was a veil, woven of the golden clouds of sunset; and through the veil she looked down on him, with great soft heifer’s eyes; with great eyes, mild and awful, which filled all the glen with light. And Jason fell upon his knees, and hid his face between his hands.

And she spoke, “I am the Queen of Olympus, Juno the wife of Jupiter. As thou hast done to me, so will I do to thee. Call on me in the hour of need, and try if the Immortals can forget.”

And when Jason looked up, she rose from off the earth, like a pillar of tall white cloud, and floated away across the mountain peaks toward Olympus, the holy hill.

Then a great fear fell on Jason: but after a while he grew light of heart; and he blessed old Chiron, and said, “Surely the Centaur is a prophet, and guessed what would come to pass, when he bade me speak harshly to no soul whom I might meet.”

Then he went down toward Iolcos; and as he walked he found that he had lost one of his sandals in the flood. And as he went through the streets, the people came out to look at him, so tall and fair was he; but some of the elders whispered together; and at last one of them stopped Jason, and called to him, “Fair lad, who are you, and whence come you; and what is your errand in the town?”

“My name, good father, is Jason, and I come from Pelion up above; and my errand is to Pelias your king; tell me then where his palace is.”


But the old man started, and grew pale, and said, “Do you not know the oracle, my son, that you go so boldly through the town with but one sandal on?”

“I am a stranger here and know of no oracle; but what of my one sandal? I lost the other in Anauros, while I was struggling with the flood.”

Then the old man looked back to his companions: and one sighed, and another smiled; at last he said, “I will tell you, lest you rush upon your ruin unawares. The oracle in Delphi has said that a man wearing one sandal should take the kingdom from Pelias, and keep it for himself. Therefore beware how you go up to his palace, for he is the fiercest and most cunning of all kings.”

Then Jason laughed a great laugh, like a war-horse in his pride. “Good news, good father, both for you and me. For that very end I came into the town.” Then he strode on toward the palace of Pelias, while all the people wondered at his bearing.

And he stood in the doorway and cried, “Come out, come out, Pelias the valiant, and fight for your kingdom like a man.”

Pelias came out wondering, and “Who are you, bold youth?” he cried.

“I am Jason, the son of Æson, the heir of all this land.”

Then Pelias lifted up his hands and eyes, and wept, or seemed to weep; and blessed the heavens which had brought his nephew to him, never to leave him more. “For,” said he, “I have but three daughters, and no son to be my heir. You shall be my heir then, and rule the kingdom after me, and marry whichsoever of my daughters you shall choose;[94] though a sad kingdom you will find it, and whosoever rules it a miserable man. But come in, come in, and feast.”

So he drew Jason in, whether he would or not, and spoke to him so lovingly and feasted him so well, that Jason’s anger passed; and after supper his three cousins came into the hall, and Jason thought that he should like well enough to have one of them for his wife.

But at last he said to Pelias, “Why do you look so sad, my uncle? And what did you mean just now when you said that this was a doleful kingdom, and its ruler a miserable man?”

Pelias sighed heavily again and again and again, like a man who had to tell some dreadful story, and was afraid to begin; but at last—“For seven long years and more have I never known a quiet night; and no more will he who comes after me, till the Golden Fleece be brought home.” Then he told Jason the story of Phrixus, and of the Golden Fleece; and told him, too, which was a lie, that Phrixus’ spirit tormented him, calling to him day and night. And his daughters came, and told the same tale (for their father had taught them their parts), and wept, and said, “Oh who will bring home the Golden Fleece, that our uncle’s spirit may rest; and that we may have rest also, whom he never lets sleep in peace?”

Jason sat awhile, sad and silent; for he had often heard of that Golden Fleece; but he looked on it as a thing hopeless and impossible for any mortal man to win.

But when Pelias saw him silent, he began to talk[95] of other things, and courted Jason more and more, speaking to him as if he was certain to be his heir, and asking his advice about the kingdom; till Jason, who was young and simple, could not help saying to himself, “Surely he is not the dark man whom people call him. Yet why did he drive my father out?”

And he asked Pelias boldly, “Men say that you are terrible, and a man of blood; but I find you a kind and hospitable man; and as you are to me, so will I be to you. Yet why did you drive my father out?”

Pelias smiled, and sighed. “Men have slandered me in that, as in all things. Your father was growing old and weary, and he gave the kingdom up to me of his own will. You shall see him to-morrow, and ask him; and he will tell you the same.”

Jason’s heart leaped in him when he heard that he was to see his father; and he believed all that Pelias said, forgetting that his father might not dare to tell the truth.

“One thing more there is,” said Pelias, “on which I need your advice; for, though you are young, I see in you wisdom beyond your years. There is one neighbor of mine, whom I dread more than all men on earth. I am stronger than he now, and can command him; but I know that if he stay among us, he will work my ruin in the end. Can you give me a plan, Jason, by which I can rid myself of that man?”

After a while Jason answered, half laughing, “Were I you, I would send him to fetch that same Golden Fleece; for if he once set forth after it you would never be troubled with him more.”


A bitter smile came across Pelias’ lips, and a flash of wicked joy into his eyes; and Jason saw it, and started; and over his mind came the warning of the old man, and his own one sandal, and the oracle, and he saw that he was taken in a trap. But Pelias only answered gently, “My son, he shall be sent forthwith.”

“You mean me?” cried Jason, starting up, “because I came here with one sandal?” And he lifted his fist angrily, while Pelias stood up to him like a wolf at bay; and whether of the two was the stronger and the fiercer it would be hard to tell.

But after a moment Pelias spoke gently, “Why then so rash, my son? You, and not I, have said what is said; why blame me for what I have not done? Had you bid me love the man of whom I spoke, and make him my son-in-law and heir, I would have obeyed you; and what if I obey you now, and send the man to win himself immortal fame? I have not harmed you, or him. One thing at least I know, that he will go, and that gladly; for he has a hero’s heart within him, loving glory, and scorning to break the word which he has given.”

Jason saw that he was entrapped; but his second promise to Chiron came into his mind, and he thought, “What if the Centaur were a prophet in that also, and meant that I should win the fleece!” Then he cried aloud: “You have well spoken, cunning uncle of mine! I love glory, and I dare keep to my word. I will go and fetch this Golden Fleece. Promise me but this in return, and keep your word as I keep mine. Treat my father lovingly while[97] I am gone, for the sake of all-seeing Jupiter, and give me up the kingdom for my own on the day that I bring back the Golden Fleece.”

Then Pelias looked at him and almost loved him, in the midst of all his hate; and said, “I promise, and I will perform. It will be no shame to give up my kingdom to the man who wins that fleece.”

Then they swore a great oath between them, and afterward both went in, and lay down to sleep.

But Jason could not sleep for thinking of his mighty oath, and how he was to fulfil it, all alone, and without wealth or friends. So he tossed a long time upon his bed, and thought of this plan and of that; and sometimes Phrixus seemed to call him, in a thin voice, faint and low, as if it came from far across the sea, “Let me come home to my fathers and have rest.” And sometimes he seemed to see the eyes of Juno, and to hear her words again—“Call on me in the hour of need, and see if the Immortals can forget.”

And on the morrow he went to Pelias, and said, “Give me a victim, that I may sacrifice to Juno.” So he went up, and offered his sacrifice; and as he stood by the altar Juno sent a thought into his mind; and he went back to Pelias, and said:

“If you are indeed in earnest, give me two heralds, that they may go round to all the princes of the Minuai, who were pupils of the Centaur with me, that we may fit out a ship together, and take what shall befall.”

At that Pelias praised his wisdom, and hastened[98] to send the heralds out; for he said in his heart, “Let all the princes go with him, and, like him, never return; for so I shall be lord of all the Minuai, and the greatest king in Greece.”


By Charles Kingsley

So the heralds went out, and cried to all the heroes of the Minuai, “Who dare come to the adventure of the Golden Fleece?”

And Juno stirred the hearts of all the princes, and they came from all their valleys to the yellow sands of Pagasai. And first came Hercules, the mighty, with his lion’s skin and club, and behind him Hylas his young squire, who bore his arrows and his bow; and Tiphys, the skilful steersman; and Butes, the fairest of all men; and Castor and Pollux the twins, the sons of the magic swan; and Cæneus, the strongest of mortals; and thither came Zetes and Calais, the winged sons of the North Wind; and Peleus, the father of Achilles, whose bride was silver-footed Thetis, the goddess of the Sea. And thither came Telamon and Oileus, the fathers of the two Aiantes, who fought upon the plains of Troy; and Mopsus, the wise soothsayer, who knew the speech of birds; and Idmon, to whom Phœbus gave a tongue to prophesy of things to come; and Ancaios, who could read the stars; and Argus, the famed shipbuilder, and many a hero more, in helmets of brass and gold with tall dyed[99] horsehair crests, and embroidered shirts of linen beneath their coats of mail, and greaves of polished tin to guard their knees in fight; with each man his shield upon his shoulder, of many a fold of tough bull’s hide, and his sword of tempered bronze in his silver-studded belt; and in his right hand a pair of lances, of the heavy white ash-staves.


—page 101

From the painting by Maxfield Parrish

So they came down to Iolcos, and all the city came out to meet them, and were never tired with looking at their height, and their beauty, and their gallant bearing, and the glitter of their inlaid arms. And some said, “Never was such a gathering of the heroes since the Greeks conquered the land.” But the women sighed over them, and whispered, “Alas! they are all going to their death!”

Then they felled the pines on Pelion, and shaped them with the axe, and Argus taught them to build a galley, the first long ship which ever sailed the seas. They pierced her for fifty oars—an oar for each hero of the crew—and pitched her with coal-black pitch, and painted her bows with vermilion; and they named her Argo after Argus, and worked at her all day long. And at night Pelias feasted them like a king, and they slept in his palace-porch.

But Jason went away to the northward, and into the land of Thrace, till he found Orpheus, the prince of minstrels, where he dwelt in his cave under Rhodope, among the savage Cicon tribes. And he asked him, “Will you leave your mountains, Orpheus, my fellow-scholar in old times, and cross Strymon once more with me, to sail with the heroes of the Minuai, and bring home the Golden Fleece,[100] and charm for us all men and all monsters with your magic harp and song?”

Then Orpheus sighed, “Have I not had enough of toil and of weary wandering far and wide since I lived in Chiron’s cave, above Iolcos by the sea? In vain is the skill and the voice which my goddess mother gave me; in vain have I sung and labored; in vain I went down to the dead, and charmed all the kings of Hades, to win back Eurydice my bride. For I won her, my beloved, and lost her again the same day, and wandered away in my madness, even to Egypt and the Libyan sands, and the isles of all the seas, driven on by the terrible gadfly, while I charmed in vain the hearts of men, and the savage forest beasts, and the trees, and the lifeless stones, with my magic harp and song, giving rest, but finding none. But at last Calliope, my mother, delivered me and brought me home in peace; and I dwell here in the cave alone, among the savage Cicon tribes, softening their wild hearts with music and the gentle laws of Jupiter. And now I must go out again to the ends of all the earth, far away into the misty darkness, to the last wave of the Eastern sea. But what is doomed must be, and a friend’s demand obeyed; for prayers are the daughters of Jupiter, and who honors them honors him.”

Then Orpheus rose up sighing, and took his harp, and went over Strymon. And he led Jason to the southwest, up the banks of Haliacmon and over the spurs of Pindus, to Dodona the town of Jupiter, where it stood by the side of the sacred lake, and the fountain which breathed out fire, in[101] the darkness of the ancient oak-wood, beneath the mountain of the hundred springs. And he led them to the Talking Oak, where the black dove settled in old times, and was changed into the priestess of Jupiter, and gave oracles to all nations round. And he bade him cut down a bough, and sacrifice to Juno and to Jupiter, and they took the bough and came to Iolcos, and nailed it to the beakhead of the ship.

At last the ship was finished and they tried to launch her down the beach; but she was too heavy for them to move her, and her keel sank deep into the sand. Then all the heroes looked at each other blushing; but Jason spoke and said, “Let us ask the magic bough; perhaps it can help us in our need.”

Then a voice came from the bough, and Jason heard the words it said, and bade Orpheus play upon the harp, while the heroes waited round, holding the pine-trunk rollers, to help her toward the sea.

So Orpheus took his harp, and began his magic song: “How sweet it is to ride upon the surges, and to leap from wave to wave, while the wind sings cheerful in the cordage, and the oars flash fast among the foam! How sweet it is to roam across the ocean, and see new towns and wondrous lands, and to come home laden with treasure, and to win undying fame!”

And the good ship Argo heard him, and longed to be away and out at sea; till she stirred in every timber, and heaved from stem to stern, and leaped up from the sand upon the rollers, and plunged[102] onward like a gallant horse; and the heroes fed her path with pine-trunks, till she rushed into the whispering sea.

Then they stored her well with food and water, and pulled the ladder up on board, and settled themselves each man to his oar, and kept time to Orpheus’ harp; and away across the bay they rowed southward, while the people lined the cliffs; and the women wept, while the men shouted, at the starting of that gallant crew.


By Charles Kingsley

What happened next, my children, whether it be true or not, stands written in ancient songs, which you shall read for yourselves some day. And grand old songs they are, written in grand old rolling verse; and they call them the Songs of Orpheus, or the Orphics, to this day. They tell how the heroes came to Aphetai, across the bay, and waited for the southwest wind, and chose themselves a captain from their crew: and how all called for Hercules, because he was the strongest and most huge; but Hercules refused, and called for Jason, because he was the wisest of them all. So Jason was chosen captain; and Orpheus heaped a pile of wood, and slew a bull, and offered it to Juno, and called all the heroes to stand round, each man’s head crowned with olive,[103] and to strike their swords into the bull. Then he filled a golden goblet with the bull’s blood, and with wheaten flour, and honey, and wine, and the bitter salt-sea water, and bade the heroes taste. So each tasted the goblet, and passed it round, and vowed an awful vow: and they vowed before the sun, and the night, and the blue-haired sea who shakes the land, to stand by Jason faithfully in the adventure of the Golden Fleece; and whosoever shrank back, or disobeyed, or turned traitor to his vow, then justice should minister against him, and the Fates who track guilty men.

Then Jason lighted the pile, and burned the carcass of the bull; and they went to their ship and sailed eastward, like men who have a work to do; and the place from which they went was called Aphetai, the sailing-place from that day forth. Three thousand years and more ago they sailed away, into the unknown Eastern seas, and great nations have come and gone since then, and many a storm has swept the earth; many a mighty armament, to which Argo would be but one small boat, English and French, Turkish and Russian, have sailed those waters since, yet the fame of that small Argo lives forever, and her name is become a proverb among men.

So they sailed past the Isle of Sciathos, with the Cape of Sepius on their left, and turned to the northward toward Pelion, up the long Magnesian shore. On their right hand was the open sea, and on their left old Pelion rose, while the clouds crawled round his dark pine-forests, and his caps of summer snow. And their hearts yearned for[104] the dear old mountain, as they thought of pleasant days gone by, and of the sports of their boyhood, their hunting, and their schooling in the cave beneath the cliff. At last Peleus spoke, “Let us land here, friends, and climb the dear old hill once more. We are going on a fearful journey; who knows if we shall see Pelion again? Let us go up to Chiron our master, and ask his blessing ere we start. And I have a boy, too, with him, whom he trains as he trained me once—the son whom Thetis brought me, the silver-footed lady of the sea, whom I caught in the cave, and tamed her, though she changed her shape seven times. For she changed, as I held her, into water, and to vapor, and to burning flame, and to a rock, and to a black-maned lion, and to a tall and stately tree. But I held her and held her ever, till she took her own shape again, and led her to my father’s house, and won her for my bride. And all the rulers of Olympus came to our wedding, and the heavens and the earth rejoiced together, when an Immortal wedded a mortal man. And now let me see my son; for it is not often I shall see him upon earth: famous he will be, but short-lived, and die in the flower of youth.”

So Tiphys the helmsman steered them to the shore under the crag of Pelion; and they went up through the dark pine-forests toward the Centaur’s cave.

As they came into the misty hall, beneath the snow-crowned crag, they saw the great Centaur lying, with his huge limbs spread upon the rocks; and beside him stood Achilles, the child whom no[105] steel could wound, and played upon his harp right sweetly, while Chiron watched and smiled.

Then Chiron leaped up and welcomed them, and kissed them every one, and set a feast before them of swine’s flesh, and venison, and good wine; and young Achilles served them, and carried the golden goblet round. And after supper all the heroes clapped their hands, and called on Orpheus to sing; but he refused, and said, “How can I, who am the younger, sing before our ancient host?” So they called on Chiron to sing, and Achilles brought him his harp; and he began a wondrous song, a famous story of old time, of the fight between the Centaurs and the Lapithai, which you may still see carved in stone. He sang how his brothers came to ruin by their folly, when they were mad with wine; and how they and the heroes fought, with fists, and teeth, and the goblets from which they drank; and how they tore up the pine-trees in their fury, and hurled great crags of stone, while the mountains thundered with the battle, and the land was wasted far and wide; till the Lapithai drove them from their home in the rich Thessalian plains to the lonely glens of Pindus, leaving Chiron all alone. And the heroes praised his song right heartily; for some of them had helped in that great fight.

Then Orpheus took the lyre, and sang of Chaos, and the making of the wondrous World, and how all things sprang from Love, who could not live alone in the Abyss. And as he sang, his voice rose from the cave, above the crags, and through the tree-tops, and the glens of oak and pine. And the trees bowed their heads when they heard it, and the[106] gray rocks cracked and rang, and the forest beasts crept near to listen, and the birds forsook their nests and hovered round. And old Chiron clapped his hands together, and beat his hoofs upon the ground, for wonder at that magic song.

Then Peleus kissed his boy, and wept over him, and they went down to the ship; and Chiron came down with them, weeping, and kissed them one by one, and blessed them, and promised to them great renown. And the heroes wept when they left him, till their great hearts could weep no more; for he was kind and just and pious, and wiser than all beasts and men. Then he went up to a cliff, and prayed for them, that they might come home safe and well; while the heroes rowed away, and watched him standing on his cliff above the sea, with his great hands raised toward heaven, and his white locks waving in the wind; and they strained their eyes to watch him to the last, for they felt that they should look on him no more.

So they rowed on over the long swell of the sea, past Olympus, the seat of the Immortals, and past the wooded bays of Athos, and Samothrace the sacred isle; and they came past Lemnos to the Hellespont, and through the narrow strait of Abydos, and so on into the Propontis, which we call Marmora now. And there they met with Cyzicus, ruling in Asia over the Dolions, who, the songs say, was the son of Æneas, of whom you will hear many a tale some day. For Homer tells us how he fought at Troy, and Virgil how he sailed away and founded Rome. Now Cyzicus, the songs say, welcomed the heroes, for his father had been[107] one of Chiron’s scholars; so he welcomed them, and feasted them, and stored their ship with corn and wine, and cloaks and rugs, the songs say, and shirts, of which no doubt they stood in need.

But at night, while they lay sleeping, came down on them terrible men, who lived with the bears in the mountains, like Titans or giants in shape; for each of them had six arms, and they fought with young firs and pines. But Hercules killed them all before morn with his deadly poisoned arrows; but among them, in the darkness, he slew Cyzicus the kindly prince.

Then they got to their ship and to their oars, and Tiphys bade them cast off the hawsers and go to sea. But as he spoke a whirlwind came, and spun the Argo round, and twisted the hawsers together, so that no man could loose them. Then Tiphys dropped the rudder from his hand, and cried, “This comes from the gods above.” But Jason went forward, and asked counsel of the magic bough.

Then the magic bough spoke, and answered, “This is because you have slain Cyzicus your friend. You must appease his soul, or you will never leave this shore.”

Jason went back sadly, and told the heroes what he had heard. And they leaped on shore, and searched till dawn; and at dawn they found the body, all rolled in dust and blood, among the corpses of those monstrous beasts. And they wept over their kind host, and laid him on a fair bed, and heaped a huge mound over him, and offered black sheep at his tomb, and Orpheus sang a magic song to him, that his spirit might have rest. And[108] then they held games at the tomb, after the custom of those times, and Jason gave prizes to each winner. To Ancæus he gave a golden cup, for he wrestled best of all; and to Hercules, a silver one, for he was the strongest of all; and to Castor, who rode best, a golden crest; and Pollux the boxer had a rich carpet, and to Orpheus for his song a sandal with golden wings. But Jason himself was the best of all the archers, and the Minuai crowned him with an olive crown; and so, the songs say, the soul of good Cyzicus was appeased and the heroes went on their way in peace.

But when Cyzicus’ wife heard that he was dead she died likewise of grief; and her tears became a fountain of clear water, which flows the whole year round.

Then they rowed away, the songs say, along the Mysian shore, and past the mouth of Rhindacus, till they found a pleasant bay, sheltered by the long ridges of Arganthus, and by high walls of basalt rock. There they ran the ship ashore upon the yellow sand, and furled the sail, and took the mast down, and lashed it in its crutch. And next they let down the ladder, and went ashore to sport and rest.

There Hercules went away into the woods, bow in hand, to hunt wild deer; and Hylas the fair boy slipped away after him, and followed him by stealth, until he lost himself among the glens, and sat down weary to rest himself by the side of a lake; and there the water nymphs came up to look at him, and loved him, and carried him down under the lake to be their playfellow, forever happy and[109] young. And Hercules sought for him in vain, shouting his name till all the mountains rang; but Hylas never heard him, far down under the sparkling lake. So while Hercules wandered searching for him, a fair breeze sprang up, and Hercules was nowhere to be found; and the Argo sailed away, and Hercules was left behind, and never saw the noble Phasian stream.

Then the Minuai came to a doleful land, where Amycus the giant ruled, and cared nothing for the laws of Jupiter, but challenged all strangers to box with him, and those whom he conquered he slew. But Pollux the boxer struck him a harder blow than he ever felt before, and slew him; and the Minuai went on up the Bosphorus, till they came to the city of Phineus, the fierce Bithynian king; for Zetes and Calais bade Jason land there, because they had a work to do.

They went up from the shore toward the city, through forests white with snow; and Phineus came out to meet them with a lean and woeful face, and said, “Welcome, gallant heroes, to the land of bitter blasts, the land of cold and misery; yet I will feast you as best I can.” And he led them in, and set meat before them; but before they could put their hands to their mouths, down came two fearful monsters, the like of whom man never saw; for they had the faces and the hair of fair maidens, but the wings and claws of hawks; and they snatched the meat from off the table, and flew shrieking out above the roofs.

Then Phineus beat his breast and cried, “These are the Harpies, whose names are the Whirlwind[110] and the Swift, the daughters of Wonder and of the Amber-nymph, and they rob us night and day. They carried off the daughters of Pandareus, whom all the gods had blessed; for Venus fed them on Olympus with honey and milk and wine; and Juno gave them beauty and wisdom, and Minerva skill in all the arts; but when they came to their wedding, the Harpies snatched them both away, and gave them to be slaves to the Fates and live in horror all their days. And now they haunt me, and my people, and the Bosphorus, with fearful storms and sweep away our food from off our tables, so that we starve in spite of all our wealth.”

Then up rose Zetes and Calais, the winged sons of the North Wind, and said, “Do you not know us, Phineus, and these wings which grow upon our backs?” And Phineus hid his face in terror; but he answered not a word.

“Because you have been a traitor, Phineus, the Harpies haunt you night and day. Where is Cleopatra our sister, your wife, whom you keep in prison? and where are her two children, whom you blinded in your rage, at the bidding of an evil woman, and cast them out upon the rocks? Swear to us that you will right our sister, and cast out that wicked woman; and then we will free you from your plague, and drive the whirlwind maidens to the south; but if not, we will put out your eyes, as you put out the eyes of your own sons.”

Then Phineus swore an oath to them, and drove out the wicked woman; and Jason took those two poor children, and cured their eyes with magic herbs.


But Zetes and Calais rose up sadly and said, “Farewell now, heroes all; farewell, our dear companions, with whom we played on Pelion in old times; for a fate is laid upon us, and our day is come at last, in which we must hunt the whirlwinds over land and sea forever; and if we catch them they die, and if not, we die ourselves.”

At that all the heroes wept; but the two young men sprang aloft into the air after the Harpies, and the battle of the winds began. The heroes trembled in silence as they heard the shrieking of the blasts; while the palace rocked and all the city, and great stones were torn from the crags, and the forest pines were hurled earthward, north and south and east and west, and the Bosphorus boiled white with foam, and the clouds were dashed against the cliffs.

But at last the battle ended, and the Harpies fled screaming toward the south, and the sons of the North Wind rushed after them, and brought clear sunshine where they passed. For many a league they followed them, over all the isles of the Cyclades, and away to the southwest across Hellas, till they came to the Ionian Sea, and there they fell upon the Echinades, at the mouth of the Achelous; and those isles were called the Whirlwind Isles for many a hundred years. But what became of Zetes and Calais I know not, for the heroes never saw them again: and some say that Hercules met them, and quarrelled with them, and slew them with his arrows; and some say that they fell down from weariness and the heat of the summer sun, and that the Sun-god buried them among the Cyclades, in[112] the pleasant Isle of Tenos; and for many hundred years their grave was shown there, and over it a pillar, which turned to every wind. But those dark storms and whirlwinds haunt the Bosphorus until this day.

But the Argonauts went eastward, and out into the open sea, which we now call the Black Sea, but it was called the Euxine then. No Greek had ever crossed it, and all feared that dreadful sea, and its rocks, and shoals, and fogs, and bitter freezing storms; and they told strange stories of it, some false and some half true, how it stretched northward to the ends of the earth, and the sluggish Putrid Sea, and the everlasting night, and the regions of the dead. So the heroes trembled, for all their courage, as they came into that wild Black Sea, and saw it stretching out before them, without a shore, as far as eye could see.

And first Orpheus spoke, and warned them, “We shall come now to the wandering blue rocks; my mother warned me of them, Calliope, the immortal muse.”

Soon they saw the blue rocks shining like spires and castles of gray glass, while an ice-cold wind blew from them and chilled the heroes’ hearts. As they neared they could see them heaving, as they rolled upon the long set waves, crashing and grinding together, till the roar went up to heaven. The sea sprang up in spouts between them, and swept round them in white sheets of foam; but their heads swung nodding high in air, while the wind whistled shrill among the crags.

The heroes’ hearts sank within them, and they[113] lay upon their oars in fear; but Orpheus called to Tiphys the helmsman, “Between them we must pass; so look ahead for an opening, and be brave, for Juno is with us.” But Tiphys the cunning helmsman stood silent, clenching his teeth, till he saw a heron come flying mast-high toward the rocks, and hover a while before them, as if looking for a passage through. Then he cried, “Juno has sent us a pilot; let us follow the cunning bird.”

Then the heron flapped to and fro a moment, till he saw a hidden gap, and into it he rushed like an arrow, while the heroes watched what would befall. And the blue rocks clashed together as the bird flew swiftly through; but they struck but a feather from his tail, and then rebounded apart at the shock.

Then Tiphys cheered the heroes, and they shouted; and the oars bent like withes beneath their strokes as they rushed between those toppling ice-crags and the cold blue lips of death. And ere the rocks could meet again they had passed them, and were safe out in the open sea.

After that they sailed on wearily along the Asian coast, by the Black Cape and Thyneis, where the hot stream of Thymbris falls into the sea, and Sangarius, whose waters float on the Euxine, till they came to Wolf the river, and to Wolf the kindly king. And there died two brave heroes, Idmon and Tiphys the wise helmsman; one died of an evil sickness, and one a wild boar slew. So the heroes heaped a mound above them, and set upon it an oar on high, and left them there to sleep together, on the far-off Lycian shore. But Idas killed the boar, and avenged Tiphys; and Ancaios[114] took the rudder and was helmsman, and steered them on toward the east.

And they went on past Sinope, and many a mighty river’s mouth, and past many a barbarous tribe, and the cities of the Amazons, the warlike women of the East, till all night they heard the clank of anvils and roar of furnace-blasts, and the forge-fires shone like sparks through the darkness in the mountain glens aloft; for they were come to the shores of the Chalybes, the smiths who never tire, but serve Mars the cruel War-god, forging weapons day and night.

At day-dawn they looked eastward, and midway between the sea and the sky they saw white snow-peaks hanging, glittering sharp and bright above the clouds. And they knew that they were come to Caucasus, at the end of all the earth: Caucasus the highest of all mountains, the father of the rivers of the East. On this peak lies chained the Titan, while a vulture tears his heart; and at his feet are piled dark forests round the magic Colchian land.

And they rowed three days to the eastward, while Caucasus rose higher hour by hour, till they saw the dark stream of Phasis rushing headlong to the sea, and, shining above the tree-tops, the golden roofs of King Aietes, the child of the Sun. Then out spoke Ancaios the helmsman, “We are come to our goal at last, for there are the roofs of Aietes, and the woods where all poisons grow; but who can tell us where among them is hid the Golden Fleece? Many a toil must we bear ere we find it, and bring it home to Greece.”

But Jason cheered the heroes, for his heart was[115] high and bold; and he said, “I will go alone up to Aietes, though he be the child of the Sun, and win him with soft words. Better so than to go all together, and to come to blows at once.” But the Minuai would not stay behind, so they rowed boldly up the stream.

And a dream came to Aietes, and filled his heart with fear. He thought he saw a shining star, which fell into his daughter’s lap; and that Medea his daughter took it gladly, and carried it to the river-side, and cast it in, and there the whirling river bore it down, and out into the Black Sea. Then he leaped up in fear, and bade his servants bring his chariot, that he might go down to the river-side and appease the nymphs, and the heroes whose spirits haunt the bank. So he went down in his golden chariot, and his daughters by his side, Medea the fair witch-maiden, and Chalciope, who had been Phrixus’ wife, and behind him a crowd of servants and soldiers, for he was a rich and mighty prince.

As he drove down by the reedy river he saw Argo sliding up beneath the bank, and many a hero in her, like Immortals for beauty and for strength, as their weapons glittered round them in the level morning sunlight, through the white mist of the stream. But Jason was the noblest of all; for Juno, who loved him, gave him beauty and tallness and vigorous manhood.

And when they came near together and looked into each other’s eyes the heroes were awed before Aietes as he shone in his chariot, like his father the glorious Sun; for his robes were of rich gold tissue, and the rays of his diadem flashed fire, and in his[116] hand he bore a jewelled scepter, which glittered like the stars; and sternly he looked at them under his brows, and sternly he spoke and loud: “Who are you, and what want you here, that you come to the shore of Cutaia? Do you take no account of my rule, nor of my people the Colchians who serve me, who never tired yet in the battle, and know well how to face an invader?”

And the heroes sat silent before the face of that ancient king. But Juno the awful goddess put courage into Jason’s heart, and he rose and shouted loudly in answer, “We are no pirates nor lawless men. We come not to plunder and to ravage, or carry away slaves from your land; but my uncle the son of Neptune, Pelias the Minuan king, he it is who has set me on a quest to bring home the Golden Fleece. And these, too, my bold comrades, are no nameless men; for some are the sons of Immortals, and some of heroes far renowned. And we, too, never tire in battle, and know well how to give blows and to take: yet we wish to be guests at your table: it will be better so for both.”

Then Aietes’ rage rushed up like a whirlwind, and his eyes flashed fire as he heard; but he crushed his anger down in his breast, and spoke mildly a cunning speech:

“If you will fight for the fleece with my Colchians, then many a man must die. But do you indeed expect to win from me the fleece in fight? So few you are that if you be worsted I can load your ship with your corpses. But if you will be ruled by me, you will find it better far to choose the best man among you, and let him fulfil the labors[117] which I demand. Then I will give him the Golden Fleece for a prize and a glory to you all.”

So saying, he turned his horses and drove back in silence to the town. And the Minuai sat silent with sorrow, and longed for Hercules and his strength; for there was no facing the thousands of the Colchians and the fearful chance of war.

But Chalciope, Phrixus’ widow, went weeping to the town; for she remembered her Minuan husband, and all the pleasures of her youth, while she watched the fair faces of his kinsmen, and their long locks of golden hair. And she whispered to Medea, her sister, “Why should all these brave men die? why does not my father give them up the fleece, that my husband’s spirit may have rest?”

And Medea’s heart pitied the heroes, and Jason most of all; and she answered, “Our father is stern and terrible, and who can win the Golden Fleece?” But Chalciope said, “These men are not like our men; there is nothing which they cannot dare nor do.”

And Medea thought of Jason and his brave countenance, and said, “If there was one among them who knew no fear, I could show him how to win the fleece.”

So in the dusk of evening they went down to the river-side, Chalciope and Medea the witch-maiden, and Argus, Phrixus’ son. And Argus the boy crept forward, among the beds of reeds, till he came where the heroes were sleeping, on the thwarts of the ship, beneath the bank, while Jason kept ward on shore, and leaned upon his lance full of thought. And the boy came to Jason, and said:[118] “I am the son of Phrixus, your cousin; and Chalciope my mother waits for you, to talk about the Golden Fleece.”

Then Jason went boldly with the boy, and found the two princesses standing; and when Chalciope saw him she wept, and took his hands, and cried: “O cousin of my beloved, go home before you die!”

“It would be base to go home now, fair princess, and to have sailed all these seas in vain.” Then both the princesses besought him; but Jason said, “It is too late.”

“But you know not,” said Medea, “what he must do who would win the fleece. He must tame the two brazen-footed bulls, who breathe devouring flame; and with them he must plow ere nightfall four acres in the field of Mars; and he must sow them with serpents’ teeth, of which each tooth springs up into an armed man. Then he must fight with all those warriors; and little will it profit him to conquer them, for the fleece is guarded by a serpent, more huge than any mountain pine; and over his body you must step if you would reach the Golden Fleece.”

Then Jason laughed bitterly. “Unjustly is that fleece kept here, and by an unjust and lawless king; and unjustly shall I die in my youth, for I will attempt it ere another sun be set.”

Then Medea trembled, and said, “No mortal man can reach that fleece unless I guide him through. For round it, beyond the river, is a wall full nine ells high, with lofty towers and buttresses, and mighty gates of threefold brass; and over the gates the wall is arched, with golden battlements[119] above. And over the gateway sits Brimo, the wild witch-huntress of the woods, brandishing a pine-torch in her hands, while her mad hounds howl around. No man dare meet her or look on her, but only I her priestess, and she watches far and wide lest any stranger should come near.”

“No wall so high but it may be climbed at last, and no wood so thick but it may be crawled through; no serpent so wary but he may be charmed, or witch-queen so fierce but spells may soothe her; and I may yet win the Golden Fleece, if a wise maiden help bold men.”

And he looked at Medea cunningly, and held her with his glittering eye, till she blushed and trembled, and said: “Who can face the fire of the bull’s breath, and fight ten thousand armed men?”

“He whom you help,” said Jason, flattering her, “for your fame is spread over all the earth. Are you not the queen of all enchantresses, wiser even than your sister Circe, in her fairy island in the West?”

“Would that I were with my sister Circe in her fairy island in the West, far away from sore temptation and thoughts which tear the heart! But if it must be so—for why should you die?—I have an ointment here; I made it from the magic ice-flower which sprang from Prometheus’ wound, above the clouds on Caucasus, in the dreary fields of snow. Anoint yourself with that, and you shall have in you seven men’s strength; and anoint your shield with it, and neither fire nor sword can harm you. But what you begin you must end before sunset, for its virtue lasts only one day. And anoint your[120] helmet with it before you sow the serpents’ teeth; and when the sons of earth spring up, cast your helmet among their ranks, and the deadly crop of the War-god’s field will mow itself, and perish.”

Then Jason fell on his knees before her, and thanked her and kissed her hands; and she gave him the vase of ointment, and fled trembling through the reeds. And Jason told his comrades what had happened, and showed them the box of ointment; and all rejoiced but Idas, and he grew mad with envy.

At sunrise Jason went and bathed, and anointed himself from head to foot, and his shield, and his helmet, and his weapons, and bade his comrades try the spell. So they tried to bend his lance, but it stood like an iron bar; and Idas in spite hewed at it with his sword, but the blade flew to splinters in his face. Then they hurled their lances at his shield, but the spear-points turned like lead; and Caineus tried to throw him, but he never stirred a foot; and Pollux struck him with his fist a blow which would have killed an ox, but Jason only smiled, and the heroes danced about him with delight; and he leaped, and ran, and shouted in the joy of that enormous strength, till the sun rose, and it was time to go and claim Aietes’ promise.

So he sent up Telamon and Aithalides to tell Aietes that he was ready for the fight; and they went up among the marble walls and beneath the roofs of gold, and stood in Aietes’ hall while he grew pale with rage.

“Fulfil your promise to us, child of the blazing Sun. Give us the serpents’ teeth, and let loose the[121] fiery bulls; for we have found a champion among us who can win the Golden Fleece.”

And Aietes bit his lips, for he fancied that they had fled away by night; but he could not go back from his promise; so he gave them the serpents’ teeth. Then he called for his chariot and his horses, and sent heralds through all the town; and all the people went out with him to the dreadful War-god’s field.

And there Aietes sat upon his throne, with his warriors on each hand, thousands and tens of thousands, clothed from head to foot in steel chain-mail. And the people and the women crowded to every window and bank and wall; while the Minuai stood together, a mere handful in the midst of that great host. Chalciope was there and Argus, trembling, and Medea, wrapped closely in her veil; but Aietes did not know that she was muttering cunning spells between her lips.

Then Jason cried, “Fulfil your promise, and let your fiery bulls come forth.”

Then Aietes bade open the gates, and the magic bulls leaped out. Their brazen hoofs rang upon the ground, and their nostrils sent out sheets of flame, as they rushed with lowered heads upon Jason; but he never flinched a step. The flame of their breath swept round him, but it singed not a hair of his head; and the bulls stopped short and trembled when Medea began her spell.

Then Jason sprang upon the nearest and seized him by the horn; and up and down they wrestled, till the bull fell grovelling on his knees; for the heart of the brute died within him; and his mighty[122] limbs were loosed, beneath the steadfast eye of that dark witch-maiden and the magic whisper of her lips.

So both the bulls were tamed and yoked; and Jason bound them to the plow, and goaded them onward with his lance till he had plowed the sacred field.

And all the Minuai shouted; but Aietes bit his lips with rage for the half of Jason’s work was over, and the sun was yet high in heaven.

Then he took the serpents’ teeth and sowed them, and waited what would befall. But Medea looked at him and at his helmet, lest he should forget the lesson she had taught.

Every furrow heaved and bubbled, and out of every clod arose a man. Out of the earth they rose by thousands, each clad from head to foot in steel, and drew their swords and rushed on Jason, where he stood in the midst alone. Then the Minuai grew pale with fear for him; but Aietes laughed a bitter laugh. “See! if I had not warriors enough already round me, I could call them out of the bosom of the earth.”

But Jason snatched off his helmet, and hurled it into the thickest of the throng. And blind madness came upon them, suspicion, hate, and fear; and one cried to his fellow, “Thou didst strike me!” and another, “Thou art Jason; thou shalt die!” So fury seized those earth-born phantoms, and each turned his hand against the rest; and they fought and were never weary, till they all lay dead upon the ground. Then the magic furrows opened, and the kind earth took them home into her breast;[123] and the grass grew up all green again above them, and Jason’s work was done.

Then the Minuai rose and shouted, till Prometheus heard them from his crag. And Jason cried, “Lead me to the fleece this moment, before the sun goes down.”

But Aietes thought, “He has conquered the bulls, and sown and reaped the deadly crop. Who is this who is proof against all magic? He may kill the serpent yet.” So he delayed, and sat taking counsel with his princes till the sun went down and all was dark. Then he bade a herald cry, “Every man to his home for to-night. To-morrow we will meet these heroes, and speak about the Golden Fleece.” Then he turned and looked at Medea. “This is your doing, false witch-maid! You have helped these yellow-haired strangers, and brought shame upon your father and yourself!”

Medea shrank and trembled, and her face grew pale with fear; and Aietes knew that she was guilty, and whispered, “If they win the fleece, you die!”

But the Minuai marched toward their ship, growling like lions cheated of their prey; for they saw that Aietes meant to mock them, and to cheat them out of all their toil. And Oileus said, “Let us go to the grove together, and take the fleece by force.”

And Idas the rash cried, “Let us draw lots who shall go in first; for, while the dragon is devouring one, the rest can slay him and carry off the fleece in peace.” But Jason held them back, though he praised them; for he hoped for Medea’s help.[124] And after a while Medea came trembling, and wept a long while before she spoke. And at last: “My end is come, and I must die; for my father has found out that I have helped you. You he would kill if he dared; but he will not harm you, because you have been his guests. Go, then, go, and remember poor Medea when you are far away across the sea.” But all the heroes cried:

“If you die, we die with you; for without you we cannot win the fleece, and home we will not go without it, but fall here fighting to the last man.”

“You need not die,” said Jason. “Flee home with us across the sea. Show us first how to win the fleece; for you can do it. Why else are you the priestess of the grove? Show us but how to win the fleece, and come with us, and you shall be my queen, and rule over the rich princes of the Minuai, in Iolcos by the sea.” And all the heroes pressed round, and vowed to her that she should be their queen.

Medea wept, and shuddered, and hid her face in her hands; for her heart yearned after her sisters and her playfellows, and the home where she was brought up as a child. But at last she looked up at Jason, and spoke between her sobs: “Must I leave my home and my people, to wander with strangers across the sea? The lot is cast, and I must endure it. I will show you how to win the Golden Fleece. Bring up your ship to the wood-side, and moor her there against the bank; and let Jason come up at midnight, and one brave comrade with him, and meet me beneath the wall.”

Then all the heroes cried together, “I will go!”[125] “and I!” “and I!” And Idas the rash grew mad with envy; for he longed to be foremost in all things. But Medea calmed them, and said, “Orpheus shall go with Jason, and bring his magic harp; for I hear of him that he is the king of all minstrels, and can charm all things on earth.”

And Orpheus laughed for joy, and clapped his hands, because the choice had fallen on him; for in those days poets and singers were as bold warriors as the best.

So at midnight they went up the bank, and found Medea; and besides came Absyrtus her young brother, leading a yearling lamb.

Then Medea brought them to a thicket beside the War-god’s gate; and there she bade Jason dig a ditch, and kill the lamb, and leave it there, and strew on it magic herbs and honey from the honeycomb.

Then sprang up through the earth, with the red fire flashing before her, Brimo the wild witch-huntress, while her mad hounds howled around. She had one head like a horse’s, and another like a ravening hound’s, and another like a hissing snake’s and a sword in either hand. And she leaped into the ditch with her hounds, and they ate and drank their fill, while Jason and Orpheus trembled, and Medea hid her eyes. And at last the witch-queen vanished, and fled with her hounds into the woods; and the bars of the gates fell down, and the brazen doors flew wide, and Medea and the heroes ran forward and hurried through the poison wood, among the dark stems of the mighty beeches, guided by the gleam of the Golden Fleece, until[126] they saw it hanging on one vast tree in the midst. And Jason would have sprung to seize it; but Medea held him back, and pointed, shuddering, to the tree-foot, where the mighty serpent lay, coiled in and out among the roots, with a body like a mountain pine. His coils stretched many a fathom, spangled with bronze and gold; and half of him they could see, but no more, for the rest lay in the darkness beyond.

And when he saw them coming he lifted up his head, and watched them with his small bright eyes, and flashed his forked tongue, and roared like the fire among the woodlands, till the forest tossed and groaned. For his cries shook the trees from leaf to root, and swept over the long reaches of the river, and over Aietes’ hall, and woke the sleepers in the city, till mothers clasped their children in their fear.

But Medea called gently to him, and he stretched out his long spotted neck, and licked her hand, and looked up in her face, as if to ask for food. Then she made a sign to Orpheus, and he began his magic song.

And as he sung, the forest grew calm again, and the leaves on every tree hung still; and the serpent’s head sank down, and his brazen coils grew limp, and his glittering eyes closed lazily, till he breathed as gently as a child, while Orpheus called to pleasant Slumber, who gives peace to men, and beasts, and waves.

Then Jason leaped forward warily, and stepped across that mighty snake, and tore the fleece from off the tree-trunk; and the four rushed down the garden, to the bank where the Argo lay.


There was a silence for a moment, while Jason held the Golden Fleece on high. Then he cried, “Go now, good Argo, swift and steady, if ever you would see Pelion more.” And she went, as the heroes drove her, grim and silent all, with muffled oars, till the pinewood bent like willow in their hands, and stout Argo groaned beneath their strokes.

On and on, beneath the dewy darkness, they fled swiftly down the swirling stream; underneath black walls, and temples, and the castles of the princes of the East; past sluice-mouths, and fragrant gardens, and groves of all strange fruits; past marshes where fat kine lay sleeping, and long beds of whispering reeds; till they heard the merry music of the surge upon the bar, as it tumbled in the moonlight all alone.

Into the surge they rushed, and Argo leaped the breakers like a horse; for she knew the time was come to show her mettle, and win honor for the heroes and herself. Into the surge they rushed, and Argo leaped the breakers like a horse, till the heroes stopped all panting, each man upon his oar, as she slid into the still broad sea.

Then Orpheus took his harp and sang a pæan, till the heroes’ hearts rose high again; and they rowed on stoutly and steadfastly, away into the darkness of the West.



By Elsie Finnimore Buckley

In the city of Calydon long ago there were great rejoicings because the queen Althæa had given birth to a son, her first-born, who, if he grew to years of manhood, would in time sit upon the throne of his father Œneus, and rule the land. Some seven days after the child was born it chanced that the queen was lying in her chamber, with the babe upon her breast.

As she lay she watched the shadows playing up and down upon the walls, and to her eyes they took strange forms of men and beasts. Now it was a great fight she saw, with horses and chariots rushing over a plain, and mighty warriors meeting face to face in battle; now it was a hunt, with winding of horns and dogs straining at the leash, and a white-tusked boar breaking through a thicket. But whether it was a hunt or whether it was a battle, everywhere there was one figure of a man she watched—a man tall and fair and brave, who stood out conspicuous among his fellows—such a hero as her son might grow to be if he lived till years of manhood. And she prayed that her vision might come true, and her son grow up to be a hero—a man mighty in sport and mighty in battle. In time the flames died down, and the fire burned clear and still upon the hearth. The queen’s eyes grew heavy, and she was about to turn on her side to sleep when a strange thing happened, which took from her all desire for rest. The wall of the room in front of[129] her, which had glowed bright and cheery in the firelight, grew gray and misty and seemed to vanish before her eyes, and through the opening there came towards her the forms of three strange women, taller and more terrible than any women of earth. The first one carried in her hand a skein of thread, the second a spindle, and the third a pair of great sharp shears. The queen lay still and motionless with terror as they came forward slowly arm in arm and stood beside the couch, looking down upon the child at her breast. At length the first one spoke.

“I give to thy child, Althæa, a thread of life exceeding bright and fair.”

“And I,” said the second, “will weave that thread into dark places, where it will shine the brighter for the darkness round about, and bring him honor and great renown.”

The third one said never a word, but walked slowly round the couch till she stood before the fire on the hearth. A great brand had fallen from the grate, and lay smouldering on the stones. Bending down, she took it in her hand, and thrust it deep into the red-hot heart of the fire, and stood watching it till it was well alight, and the tongues of flame shot crackling upwards. Then she turned towards the queen.

“As soon as that brand upon the fire is consumed,” she said, “I will cut the shining thread with my shears, and his life shall be as ashes cast forth upon the wind.”

With a cry of terror the queen sprang up from her couch, rushed across the room, and, drawing[130] forth the blazing brand from the fire, she smothered it in her gown, and crushed it beneath her bare feet, till not a live spark remained about it. Then she hid it in a secret place where she alone could find it, and cast herself upon her couch and knew no more.

For many a long day she lay between life and death, but at last the gods had mercy, and her strength came slowly back to her. But when anyone asked her the cause of her burning, she would shudder and mutter some strange tale of a brand which fell from the fire, and would have burnt out the life of her child. What she meant no one ever knew, but they thought that the gods had stricken her with a sudden fever, and that, not knowing what she did, she had burnt herself in the fire. But of the half-burnt brand and of the word of the Fates they knew nothing, for Althæa had said in her heart:


—page 105

From the painting by Maxfield Parrish

“The Fates have spoken, and their word shall surely come to pass. A fine and fair thread of life has Lachesis given to my son, and Clotho will weave it into dark places, where it shall shine exceeding bright. The gifts they have given are good. The hand of Atropos alone is against him, and she has measured his life by the life of a frail piece of wood. But so long as the gods shall give me strength no careless hand shall place that brand upon the flames, and no man shall know the secret of his life, for grief or madness may turn even the heart of a friend. On me, and on me alone, shall my son’s life rest; for well do I know that neither prayer nor sacrifice can avail to turn the heart of Atropos, the Unswerving One.” So she kept the[131] brand securely hidden where she alone could find it. Many other fair children did she bear to Œneus the king, but best of them all she loved Meleager, her first-born; for the word that the Fates had spoken came true. He grew to be a great warrior and a mighty man, and was feared by his foes and loved by his friends through the length and breadth of the land. In all the country-side there was no man who could hurl the javelin with such force and skill as he, and whenever he went forth to battle the victory lay with the men of Calydon, and he was called the savior and protector of his city.

When he was in the flower of his manhood, the call of Jason came from far Iolcos for all the heroes of Greece to join him in his search for the Golden Fleece. Amongst them sailed Meleager in the good ship Argo, and came to the land of the dusky Colchians on the shores of the Black Sea. He played his part like a man, and came back to Calydon with a fair name for courage and endurance. Then was he hoisted on the shoulders of his countrymen and carried through the streets of the city, and feasted right royally in his father’s house.

Soon after his return it chanced that the harvest was more plentiful than it had ever been within the memory of man. Wherefore Œneus the king ordered a great thanksgiving to be held throughout the land in honor of Bacchus and Ceres and Minerva, who had given such good gifts to men. At every shrine and temple the altars smoked with sacrifice, and glad bands of youths and maidens with garlands on their heads danced hand in hand around, singing the song of the harvest.


When Diana, the huntress, saw that everywhere the altars smoked in honor of Ceres and Bacchus and Minerva, but that never a single stone was raised to her, she was filled with jealousy and wrath. One night, when all the land lay sleeping, she left the mountains, where she loved to hunt, and came down to Calydon. The arrows in her quiver rattled as she strode along in her wrath, and the flash of her eyes was as the flash of summer lightning across the sky. With great swinging strides she came and stood over Œneus as he slept.

“O king,” she said, “too long have I been patient and waited for my dues; but I will suffer thine ingratitude no more. When the young corn stands green upon the plain, and the vine-leaves are shooting, and the trees cast once more their shade upon the bare hill-side, then shalt thou have cause to know my power. Broad and dark are the forests, and many a wild beast lurks therein that is tame at my word alone. One of these will I let loose upon thy land. Many a fair field shall be trodden underfoot, and many a vineyard and olive-grove laid waste—yea, and red blood shall flow, ere my wrath be assuaged, and I take away the pests from your midst. I have spoken, and no sacrifice shall turn me from my word.”

Thus did she speak, saying the words in his ear, and turned and left the room by the way she had come. With a start he awoke from his sleep and looked around him, but no one could he see. Only a sudden storm of wind lashed the branches of the trees against each other, and a dark cloud hid the face of the moon.


“The sad winter-time is coming,” he thought, “with its storms and its darkened days. Yet, lest there be aught in my dream, I will remember Diana to-morrow, and her altars, too, shall smoke with sacrifice.”

So on the morrow a great festival was held in honor of Diana, the maiden huntress, and Œneus laid aside all thought of his dream. But when the spring-time came and the early summer, he had cause to remember it with sorrow, for out of the forests there came a great boar which laid waste all the country, right and left. In size he was more huge than an ox of Epirus, whose oxen are the largest in the world, and the bristles on his neck stood up like spikes. His breath was as a flame of fire that burned up all that stood in his way, and his cruel little eyes gleamed red with blood. Over the cornfields he raged, and trampled the green blades beneath his hoofs, and with his strong, white tusks he tore down the vine-branches and broke the overhanging boughs of the olive, so that the young berries and fruit lay spoilt upon the ground. Not only did he lay waste the fields, but the flocks and herds on the pasture-land were not safe from his attack, and neither shepherds nor dogs could protect them from his fury. Through all the country-side the people fled in terror for their lives, and hid within the city walls, only now and again a band of the bravest would go forth and lay nets and snares for him; but so great was the strength of the beast that he broke through every trap they could devise, and, killing any man who stood in his path, he would return, with greater[134] fury than before, to his attack upon the fields and cattle. At length things came to such a pass that, unless the monster could be checked, famine would ere long stare the people in the face. When Meleager saw that neither prayer nor sacrifice would turn the heart of Diana, nor any ordinary hunting put an end to the boar, he determined to gather around him a band of heroes who, for the sake of glory, would come together for the hunt, and either kill the beast or perish themselves in the attempt. So he sent a proclamation far and wide through all the kingdoms of Greece.

“O men of Greece,” he said, “the fair plains of Calydon lie trodden underfoot by a grievous monster, and her people are fallen upon evil days. Come hither and help us, all ye who love adventure, and fear not risk nor peril, ye seasoned warriors whose spirit is not dead within you, and ye young men who have yet your name to win. Come hither to us, and we will give you fair sport and good cheer withal.”

In answer to his call there flocked from far and wide to Calydon a great host of brave men, and mighty was the muster which gathered beneath the roof of Œneus for the hunting of the boar. Jason himself came, the leader of the Argonauts, and Castor and Pollux, the great twin brethren, whose stars are in the sky. There was Theseus, too, who slew the Minotaur, and Peirithous his friend, who went down with him to Hades, and tried to carry off Proserpine from the King of the Dead. And swift-footed Idas came, and Lynceus, his brother, whose eyes were so sharp that they could see into[135] the center of the earth. Others were there besides, whose names are too many to tell, and Toxeus and Plexippus, the brothers of Althæa the queen, whom she loved as she loved her own son Meleager. In the great hall a sumptuous feast was spread, and loud was the laughter and bright were the faces, as one friend met another he had not seen for many a long day. The feast was well under way when one of the attendants whispered in the ear of the king that yet another guest had come for the hunting of the boar.

“Who is he?” asked the king.

“My lord, I know not,” the man replied.

“Well, keep him not standing without, at all events,” said Œneus, “but show him in here, and we will make him welcome with the rest.”

In a few moments the man returned, and held back the curtain of the great doorway for the newcomer to enter. All eyes were turned eagerly that way to see who it might be, and a murmur of surprise ran round the hall; for they saw upon the threshold no stalwart warrior, as they had expected, but a maiden young and beautiful. She was clad in a hunter’s tunic, which fell to her knee, and her legs were strapped about with leathern thongs. Crosswise about her body she wore a girdle, from which hung a quiver full of arrows, and with her right hand she leant on a great ashen bow like a staff. Her shining hair fell back in waves from her forehead, and was gathered up in a coil behind, and she held her head up proudly and gazed round on the company unabashed. The glow of her cheek and the spring of her step told of life in the open,[136] and of health-giving sport over hill and dale, so that she might have been Diana herself come down from her hunting on the mountains.

She looked round the hall till her eyes fell on Œneus, the host, in the place of honor, and in no wise troubled by the silence which her coming had caused, she said: “Sire, for my late-coming I crave thy pardon. Doubtless some of thy guests have come from more distant lands than I, but, as ill-luck would have it, I chose to come by way of the sea instead of by the isthmus. For a whole day I ate out my heart with waiting till the wind fell, and I could cross over in safety.”

Concealing his surprise as best he could, Œneus answered: “Maiden, we thank thee for thy coming, and make thee right welcome in our halls. Yet we would know thy name who, a woman all alone, hast crossed barren tracts of land and stormy seas unflinching, and come to take part in a hunt which is no mere child’s sport, but a perilous venture, in which strong men might hesitate to risk their lives and limbs.”

As she listened to his words she smiled. “O king,” she said, “thou hidest thy surprise but ill. Yet am I not offended, nor will I make a mystery of who I am. My name is Atalanta, and I come from the mountains of Arcadia, where all day long I hunt with the nymphs over hill and over dale, and through the dark forests, following in the footsteps of her we serve, great Diana the huntress. At her command I stand before thee now, for she said to me, ‘Atalanta, the land of Calydon lies groaning beneath the curse, wherewith I cursed them because[137] they forgot me, and gave me not my dues. But do thou go and help them, and for thy sake I will lay aside my wrath, and let them slay the monster that I sent against them. Yet without thee shall they not accomplish it, but the glory of the hunt shall be thine.’ Thus did she speak, and in obedience to her word am I come.”

When she had spoken, a murmur ran round the hall, and each man, determined in his mind that no mere woman should surpass him in courage and strength. The sons of Thestius, the queen’s brothers, especially looked askance at her, and their hearts were filled with jealousy and wrath; for there seemed no reason why she should not be a match for any man among them, in a trial where swiftness of foot and sureness of eye would avail as much as brute force. When Meleager saw their dark looks he was very angry that they should so far forget their good breeding as to fail in welcoming a guest, and he rose from his seat and went towards her.

“O maiden,” he said, “we make thee right welcome to our halls, and we thank thee because thou hast heard our appeal, and art come to help us in the day of our trouble. Come, now, and sit thee down, and make glad thy heart with meat and wine, for thou must need it sorely after thy long journeying.”

As he spoke, he took her by the hand and set her in a place of honor between his father and himself, and saw that she had her fill of the good fare on the board. As he sat beside her and talked with her, his heart was kindled with love, for she[138] was exceeding fair to look upon; and the more he thought upon the morrow’s hunting, the more loath was he that she should risk her life in it. At length he said:

“Atalanta, surely thou knowest not what manner of beast it is that we are gathered together to destroy. Thou hast hunted the swift-footed stag, perchance, through the greenwood, but never a monster so fierce as this boar that Diana has sent against us. I tell thee, it will be no child’s play, but a matter of death to some of us. Hast thou no mother or father to mourn thee if any evil chance befall, or any lover who is longing for thy return? Think well ere it be too late.”

But she laughed aloud at his words. “Thou takest me for some drooping damsel that sits at home and spins, and faints if she see but a drop of blood. I tell thee, I know neither father, nor mother, nor husband, nor brother, and I love but little the lot of womenkind. Never have I lived within four walls, and the first roof that covered me was the forest-trees of Mount Parthenius. Whence I came or how I got to Parthenius no one can tell, and I have no wish to find out. As for savage beasts, had I not the eyes of a hawk and the feet of a deer, I had not been safe ten seconds on the uplands of Arcadia. For there dwells a fierce tribe of centaurs—monsters half human and half horse—who have the passions of men and the strength of beasts. These pursued me over hill and dale, and I fled like the wind before them; but ever and anon I found time to turn and let fly from my bow a dart which fell but seldom short of the mark.[139] So that after a time they gave up in despair, and molested me no more. So talk not to me of fierce beasts or of danger.”

And nothing that Meleager could say would turn her from her purpose. But across the board he saw the eyes of Toxeus and Plexippus, his mother’s brothers, fixed upon him, and their brows were dark and lowering as they frowned upon him and Atalanta. So he said no more, lest they should discover his secret and taunt him. As for Atalanta, a stone would have returned his love as readily as she. For a companion in the hunt she liked him full well, but to give up her maiden life for his sake was as far from her thoughts as the east is from the west.

When the morrow dawned, great was the bustle and confusion in the court of the palace, where all were to meet together for the hunting of the boar. Attendants ran this way and that to fetch and carry for their masters, and, as the huntsman blew his horn, the hounds barked impatiently, and strained, whining, at their leashes. At length, when all was ready, Althæa with her maidens came forth into the portico, and bade farewell to her guests, her husband, her brothers, and to Meleager, her son. “God speed thee, my son,” she said, as she looked proudly on him, “and good luck to thy hunting.”

Then she stood on the step and waved to them with a smile as they turned to look back at her before the curve of the roadway hid them from sight. But though a smile was on her lips, her eyes were full of tears, and her heart within her was dark[140] with a dim foreshadowing of evil. With a heavy step, she turned and went into the house, and as she passed the altar by the hearth she stopped and bowed her head. “Great Diana,” she prayed, “have mercy and bring my loved ones safely back to me this day.”

Then she went to her chamber and drew forth from its hiding-place the half-burnt brand on which her son’s life depended. “His life, at any rate, is safe,” she thought, “so long as this brand is in my keeping.” And she hid it away again where she knew no one could find it, and set to work restlessly, to while away the hours as best she could, till the hunters should come home.

They, meanwhile, had gone their way up the steep path which led into the mountains and deep into the heart of the forest, where they knew their prey was lurking. Soon they came upon the track of his hoofs leading to the dry bed of a stream, where the rushes and reeds grew high in the marsh-land, and the bending willows cast their shadow over the spot he had chosen for his lair. Here they spread the nets cautiously about, and stationed themselves at every point of vantage, and, when all was ready, let loose the hounds, and waited for the boar to come forth from his hiding-place. Not long did they have to wait. With a snort of rage he rushed out. The breath from his nostrils came forth like steam, and the white foam flew from his mouth and covered his bristly sides and neck. Quick as lightning, he made for the first man he could see, and the tramp of his hoofs re-echoed through the woods like thunder as he[141] came upon the hard ground. As soon as he rushed out, a shower of missiles fell towards him from every side, but some were aimed awry or fell too far or too short of him, and those that touched him slipped aside on his tough hide; and he broke through the nets that had been spread to catch him, and galloped away unharmed, whilst two of the hunters, who stood in his path, and had not been able to rush aside in time, lay groaning on the ground with the iron mark of his hoof upon them. When the rest saw that he had escaped they gave chase with all speed, headed by Castor and Pollux, on their white horses, and Atalanta close beside them, running swiftly as the wind. Ahead of them the woodland track gave a sudden turn to the left, and the boar, rushing blindly forward, would have plunged into the undergrowth and bushes, and escaped beyond range of their darts. But Atalanta, seeing what must happen, stopped short in the chase. Quick as thought, she put an arrow to the string, and let fly at the great beast ahead; and Diana, true to her word, guided the arrow so that it pierced him in the vital part behind the ear. With a snort of pain and fury, he turned round upon the hunters and charged down towards them as they came up from behind, and great would have been the havoc he had wrought among them but for Meleager. As the brute bore down, he leaped lightly to one side, and, gathering together all his strength, buried the spear deep into the beast’s black shoulder, and felled him to the earth with the force of his blow. Immediately the others gathered round, and helped to finish the work that Meleager[142] had begun, and soon the monster lay dead upon the ground.

Then Meleager, with his foot upon the boar’s head, spoke to the hunters. “My friends,” he said, “I thank you all for the courage and devotion you have shown this day. My land can once more raise her head in joy, for the monster that wrought such havoc in her fields lies dead here at my feet. Yet the price of his death has not been light, my friends.” And they bowed their heads in silence, as they remembered the two whom the boar had struck in his rush, one of whom was now dead. “Yet those who have suffered, have suffered gloriously, giving up themselves, as brave men must, for the sake of others, and their names shall surely not be unremembered by us all. Once more, my trusty comrades, I thank you, every man of you. As for thee, lady,” he continued, turning to Atalanta, “while all have played their part, yet the glory of the hunt is thine. But for thy sure hand and eye the beast might yet be lurking in the forest. Wherefore, as a token of our gratitude, I will give to thee the boar’s head as a trophy to do with as thou wilt.”

At his words a murmur of applause went round the ring of them that listened. Only the voices of Toxeus and Plexippus were not heard, for they were mad with jealousy and wrath, and as soon as there was silence they spoke.

“By what right,” asked Toxeus, “shall one bear off the trophy of a hunt in which each one of us has played his part?”

The insolence of his words and looks roused the[143] anger of Meleager to boiling-point. All through the hunt the brothers had shown scant courtesy to Atalanta, and now their rudeness was past bearing.

“By the same right as the best man bears off the prize in any contest,” he answered quietly, though he was pale with rage.

“Happy is that one who has first won the heart of the judge, then,” said Plexippus with a sneer, as he looked at Atalanta.

By the truth and the falsehood of his words Meleager was maddened past all bearing. Scarce knowing what he did, he sprang upon him, and before anyone knew what he was about, he had buried his hunting-knife in the heart of Plexippus. When Toxeus saw his brother fall back upon the grass, he sprang upon Meleager, and for a moment they swung backwards and forwards, held each in the other’s deadly grip. But Meleager was the younger and the stronger of the two, and soon Toxeus too lay stretched upon the ground beside his brother, and a cry of horror went through the crowd of those who stood by. Pale and trembling, Meleager turned towards them.

“My friends,” he said, “farewell. You shall look upon my face no more. Whether I slew them justly or no, the curse of Heaven is upon me, and I know that night and day the Furies will haunt my steps, because my hand is red with the blood of my kinsmen. O fair fields of Calydon, that I have loved and served all my days, farewell for ever. Never more shall I look upon you, nor my home on the steep hill-side, nor the face of the[144] queen, my mother; but I must hide my head in shame far from the haunts of men. As for thee, lady,” he said, turning to Atalanta, “their taunt was false, yet true. Right honorably didst thou win the trophy, as all these here will testify;” and he pointed to the hunters standing round. “Yet my soul leapt with joy when I found that into thine hand and none other’s I might give the prize of the hunt. Wherefore, think kindly on my memory, lady, when I am far away, for a brave man’s heart is in thy keeping. Farewell.”

And he turned and went away by the forest-path. So surprised were all the company that no man moved hand or foot to stop him. The first to speak was Atalanta. “Comrades,” she said, “do you bear home the dead and break the news as gently as may be to the queen, and I will follow him, if perchance I can comfort him, for the hand of Heaven is heavy upon him.”

The rumor had reached the city that the boar had been killed, but not without loss among the gallant band that had gone out against him, and with a heavy heart Althæa was waiting to know who it was that had fallen. In time she saw them returning home, and in their midst four litters carried on the shoulders of some. When she saw them, her heart stood still with fear, and as they came up and laid down the litters before the doorway she was as one turned to marble, and moved neither hand nor foot. When Œneus the king saw her, he took her gently by the hand. “Come within, lady,” he said; “the hunting of the boar has cost us dear.”


“Ah! tell me the worst at once,” she cried. “I can bear it better so. The suspense is maddening me.”

“Two of those who lie before thee are strangers who have given themselves for us,” he said. “One of them is sore wounded, and the other is gone beyond recovery. The other two, Althæa, are very near and dear to us—Toxeus and Plexippus, thy brothers.”

And he pointed to two of the bodies which lay side by side before her, with their faces covered. With a cry she drew back the coverings, and gazed upon the faces that she loved so well. As she looked, she saw the wounds that had killed them, and she knew now that it was no wild beast that had slain them, but the hand of man. Drawing herself up to her full height, she looked round on those who stood by, and the gleam of her eyes was terrible to see. “Deceive me no more,” she said, “but tell me how these two came to fall by the hand of man.”

“Lady,” said Œneus, “they sought a quarrel with one of our company, and in anger he slew them both.”

For a moment she was silent, then in a low voice, yet one that all could hear, she spoke. “My curse be upon him, whosoe’er he be. O Daughters of Destruction, wingless Furies, I bid you track his footsteps night and day. May no roof cover his head nor any man give him food or drink, but let him be a vagabond on the face of the earth till just vengeance overtake him. On thee, Œneus, do I lay this charge, and on my son Meleager, to avenge[146] the death of these my kinsmen, who have been foully slain.”

In vain did Œneus try to stop her. She was as one deaf to his entreaties. When she had finished, she looked round for Meleager, and when she could not see him, she cried—“where is my son?”

“Lady,” said Œneus, “even now the wingless bearers of thy curse are hunting him through the forest.”

For a moment she swayed to and fro as though she would fall. “Ye gods, what have I done?” she muttered.

Then with a cry she turned and rushed through the doorway, across the deserted palace to her own chamber, and barring the door behind her, she took from its hiding-place the brand she had kept jealously so long. As on the day when the Fates had come to her, a bright fire was burning on the hearth, and deep into the heart of it she pushed the log with both her hands.

“O my son, my son!” she cried; “to think that I should come to this! But though the flame that devours thy life burns out my heart within me, yet must I do it. Thus only can I save thee from my curse. For the word, once spoken, never dies, and the Furies, once aroused, sleep never, night nor day. Wherefore Death alone can give thee peace, O Meleager, my first-born and my dearest.”

Œneus meanwhile had followed her, and stood without, asking her to open to him. But she cried out to him:

“All is well. I beg thee leave me. I would be alone.”


So he left her; and she stood watching the flames slowly eat the wood away, and at last, when the log fell apart in ashes, she sank down upon the floor, and with her son’s life hers too went out for grief.

Meleager meanwhile had gone blindly forward along the forest track, and from afar Atalanta followed him. For a time he went onward, straight as an arrow, never stopping, never turning. But when his mother’s curse was spoken, faster than the whirlwind the Furies flew from the realms of endless night, and came and crouched before his feet. With a cry he turned aside, and tried to flee from them, but wherever he looked they were there before him, and he reeled backward and forward like a drunken man. But soon his strength seemed to give way, and he fell forward on the grass, and Atalanta ran forward and took his head upon her knee. To her eyes they two were alone in the heart of the forest, for the foul shapes of the Furies he alone had seen. But now he lay with his eyes closed, faint and weak, and she thought that some time in the hunt he must have strained himself, and lay dying of some inward hurt that no man could heal, for on his body she could see not a scratch. So she sat in the gathering gloom with his head upon her lap. There was naught else she could do. At last, when his heart beat so faint that she thought it had stopped once for all, he opened his eyes and looked up at her, and when he saw her the fear and the madness died out of his face, and he smiled.

“The gods are kind,” he said. Once more he[148] closed his eyes, and Atalanta knew that he would open them never again. Gently she laid him with his head on the moss-covered roots of a tree, and sped away to the city to bear the news of his death. In the darkness of night they bore him through the forest, and all the people gathered together and watched from the walls the torchlit procession as it came slowly up the hill. By the side of his mother they laid him, and burned above them the torches of the dead, and the mourners, with heads bowed in grief, stood around.

Thus did it come to pass that the hunting of the boar ended in grief for the land of Calydon, and Atalanta went back to the Arcadian woodlands with a sore place in her heart for Meleager, who had died happy because his head was resting on her knee.


By Elsie Finnimore Buckley

Once upon a time there ruled in Arcadian Tegea a proud-hearted king named Schœnus. A tamer of horses was he, and a man mighty in the hunt and in battle. Above every other thing he loved danger and sport and all kinds of manly exercise. Indeed, these things were the passion of his life, and he despised all womenkind because they could take no part nor lot in them. And he wedded Clymene, a fair princess of a royal house, because he wished to raise up noble sons in his halls, who should ride and hunt with him, and carry on his[149] name when he was dead. On his wedding-day he swore a great oath, and called upon all the gods to witness it.

“Never,” he swore in his pride, “shall a maid child live in my halls. If a maid is born to me, she shall die ere her eyes see the light, and the honor of my house shall rest upon my sons alone.”

For many a long year no child was born to him, and when at last he had hopes of an heir, the babe that was born was a maid. When he saw the child his heart was cut in two, and the pride of a father and the pride of his oath did battle within him for victory.

The pride of his oath conquered, for he was afraid to break his word in the face of all his people. He hardened his heart, and gave orders that the child should be cast out upon the mountains to die of hunger and cold. So the babe was given to a servant, who bore it forth and left it on the slope of bleak Parthenium.

When Diana, the maiden goddess, saw the child cast forth to die, she was filled with anger against Schœnus, and swore that it should live. Wherefore she sent a she-bear to the place where the child lay, and softened the heart of the beast, so that she lifted it gently in her mouth and bore it to the cave where her own cubs lay hid. There she suckled it with her own young ones, and tended it night and day, till it grew strong and could walk, and the cave rang with its laughter as it played and gambolled with the young bears. When Diana knew that the child was old enough to live without its foster-mother, she sent her nymphs to fetch it away,[150] and when they bore it to her she was well pleased to find it fair and strong.

“Her name shall be Atalanta,” she said to them. “She shall dwell on the mountains and in the woods of Arcadia, and be one of my band with you. A mighty huntress shall she be, and the swiftest of all mortals upon earth; and in time she shall return to her own folk and bring joy and sorrow to their hearts.”

Thus it came to pass that Atalanta lived with the nymphs in the woodlands of Arcadia. They taught her to run and to hunt, and to shoot with bow and arrows, till soon the day came when she could do these things as well as any of their band. Diana loved her, and delighted to do her honor; and when the land of Calydon cried to her for mercy, because of the boar she had sent to ravage it in her wrath, she decreed that none but Atalanta should have the glory of that hunt. The tale of how she came to Calydon, and how the boar was slain at last through her, I have told you before; and of how death came to Meleager, because he loved her, and would not let any man insult her while he stood idly by. By the fame of that hunt her name was carried far and wide through Greece, so that when she came to the funeral games of Pelias there was no need to ask who she was. She ran in the foot race against the swiftest in the land, and won the prize so easily that when she reached the goal the first man had scarce passed the turning-point, though he was no sluggard to make a mock of. When the games were over, she went back to Arcadia without a tear or a sigh, but her face and her memory lived[151] in the heart of many a man whose very name she had not known.

The tale of how Atalanta went back to her own folk, and of how she was wooed and won, is as follows:

One day, when King Schœnus held a great hunt in the forest on the edge of his domain, it chanced that Atalanta had come to those parts; and when she heard the blare of the bugles and the barking of the hounds her heart leapt with joy. Full often had she joined in a hunt on the uplands of Arcadia, and run with the hounds.

So now she joined in the chase as the stag broke loose from cover, and her white feet flashed in the sunlight as she followed the hounds across the open moorland. King Schœnus, when he saw her, was glad.

“It is Atalanta, the maiden huntress,” he cried. “See that she be treated with due courtesy, for she is the only woman on earth who is fit to look a man in the face.”

And he rode eagerly after her. But the best horse in all that company was no match for Atalanta. Far ahead of them all she shot, like an arrow from the bow, and when at last the stag turned at bay in a pool, she was the first to reach him. When the rest had come up, and the huntsman had slain the stag, the king turned to her.

“Atalanta,” he said, “the trophy of this chase is thine, and my huntsman shall bear the head of the stag whithersoever thou shalt bid him. In token of our esteem, I beg thee to accept this ring. When thou lookest upon it, think kindly of an old man[152] whose heart is lonely, and who would fain have a daughter like thee.”

As he spoke he drew off a gold ring from his finger and held it towards her; the tears stood in his eyes and his hand shook as he looked on her fair young form, and remembered the babe he had cast out on the mountains to die. If she had lived she would have been at an age with Atalanta, and perchance as fair and as strong as she; and his heart was bitter against himself for the folly of his oath.

When Atalanta heard his words, she had a mind at first to refuse his gift. Many a man before had offered her gifts, and she had refused them every one; for she had no wish to be beholden to any man. But when she saw the eyes of the old king dim with tears, and how his hand shook as he held out the ring, her heart was softened, and yearned with a strange yearning towards him. Coming forward, she knelt at his feet and took the ring, and held his hand and kissed it.

“May the gods grant the prayer of thy heart, sire,” she said, “and give thee a daughter like unto me, but fairer and more wise than I!”

As he looked down on the hand that held his own the old king trembled more violently than before, for above the wrist was a birthmark like the birthmark above the wrist of the babe he had cast forth to die. And he knew that he made no mistake, for that mark had lived in his mind as though it had been branded with red-hot steel.

“Atalanta,” he said, “the gods have heard thy prayer. This is not the first time thy fingers have closed about mine.”


“What meanest thou, sire?” she asked.

“As many years ago as the span of thy young life,” he said, “I held in my arms a new-born babe, the child that the gods had given me, and its little hand with a birthmark above the wrist closed about my finger trustfully. But because of my foolish pride I hardened my heart. I cast away the gift of the gods and sent the child to die upon the mountains. But the birthmark on its wrist was branded on my brain so that I could not forget it. Never till this day have I seen that mark again, and now I see it on thy wrist, my child.”

He bowed his head as he spoke, and the tears from his eyes fell upon her hand, which lay in his as she knelt before him.

“Oh, my father!” she cried, and bent forward and kissed his hand.

When he found that she did not turn from him, though she knew what he had done, he was more deeply moved than before. “Atalanta,” he said, “when I cast thee forth to die, I gave back to the gods the life they had given me, and now I have no right to claim it again. Yet would thy presence be as sunshine in my halls if thou wert to come back to me, my child.”

Thus did the call come to Atalanta to return to her own folk, and the choice lay before her. On the one side was her free life in the forest, with Diana and her nymphs, the hunt, the fresh air, and all the things that she loved; on the other was life within the walls of a city, and the need to bow her head to the customs and the ways of men. Her heart misgave her when she thought of it.


“My lord,” she said, “will a young lion step into the cage of his own free will, think you?”

The old king bowed his head at her words. “Alas! what other answer could I look for?” he said. “I thank the gods that they have shown me thy fair face this day. Perchance, when we hunt again in these parts, thou wilt join us for love of the chase. Till then, my child, farewell.”

With trembling hands he raised her from her knees, and kissed her on the forehead. Then he signed to his men to lead forward his horse, and mounted and rode sadly home through the forest with his company. When they had gone, she sighed, and turned and went upon her way. But her eyes were blind and her ears were deaf to the sights and sounds she loved so well, and that night she tossed restlessly upon her couch of moss. For before her eyes was the figure of an old man bowed with sorrow, and in her ear his voice pleaded, trembling with longing and love.

In the early dawn she rose up from her couch, and bathed in a stream close by, and gathered up her shining hair in a coil about her head. Then she put on her sandals and a fresh white tunic, slung her quiver about her shoulders, and bow in hand went forth through the forest. Looking neither to the right nor to the left, she went on her way till she came to the white road that led to the city. Then she turned and looked back at the forest.

“Dear trees and woods,” she said, “farewell, and ye nymphs that dwell in the streams and dance on the green sward of the mountains. When I have trodden the white road and gone up to the city, I[155] can live with you no more. As for thee, great Diana, who saved me in the beginning, I will be thy servant for ever, and dwell a maiden all my days, and a lover of the hunt.” So saying she stepped out bravely on the white highway, and went up into the city, till she came to the gate of the palace. When she had entered the hall, she stopped and looked about her. At first all seemed silent and deserted for the folk had gone their several ways for the work of the day; but at length she spied an old man sitting on a carved chair in one of the alcoves between the pillars. It was the king, her father. He sat with his head upon his hand and his eyes downcast upon the floor, and his face was sad and full of longing. And she went and knelt at his feet. The old man gazed for a moment in her face, as though he did not see her; then he started from his chair and laid his hand upon her shoulder. “Atalanta!” he cried.

“My father,” she said, “I have come back to thee.”

Then he gathered her up in his arms. “Oh, my child, my child!” he said. “The gods are kind beyond my desert.”

“Thy voice cried out to me in the night-time,” she said, “and I could not shut my heart to thy pleading. The call of the free earth was strong, but the call of my blood was stronger.”

Thus did Atalanta come back to her own folk, and bring joy to the heart of her father and the mother who had never held her in her arms. A great feast was held in the palace in her honor, and through all the city the people rejoiced because of[156] her. Suitors flocked from far and wide to seek her hand in marriage. But she treated them one and all with scorn, and vowed that she would never wed. At first her father smiled upon her, and looked on her refusal to wed as the sign of a noble nature, that was not to be won for the asking of the first chance-comers. So he gathered about him the noblest princes in the land in the hope that among them all there would be one who could win her heart. But the months passed by, and still she vowed that she would never wed. All her delight was in running and hunting, and to ride by her father’s side. At length the king grew anxious.

“Surely, my child,” he said, “among all these princes there is one whom thou couldst love?”

“I shall never love any man but thee, my father,” she replied.

Nothing that he could say would persuade her to go back from her resolve. But still he reasoned with her night and day, till at length she grew so wearied of the matter that she bethought of a plan that would rid her of all her suitors.

“My father,” she said, “I will wed any man who shall ask for my hand, if he will fulfill one condition.”

“My child,” cried her father, “I knew that in the end thou wouldst listen to reason. Tell me thy condition, that I may spread it abroad among those who are suing for thy hand.”

“Tell them,” she said, “that I will wed the first man among them who will run a race with me. If he win, I will be his bride, but if he lose, he must die.”


The king’s face fell when he heard her words. “Surely thou speakest in mockery, Atalanta,” he said. “No man in all the world can run as swiftly as thou canst, and they know it. Thou wilt drive thy suitors from thee; or if any be foolhardy enough to run with thee, they will run to a certain death.”

“No man will run to a certain death, my father,” she answered. “When they know that to sigh for me is to sigh for death, they will go back to their own folk, and I shall be troubled with suitors no more.”

So he published abroad among the suitors the condition she had made. When they heard it there was great consternation among them, and they consulted together as to what they should do, and some sent a deputation to her to find out the meaning of her words.

“Lady,” they asked, “when thou speakest of death thou speakest perchance in parables. Those who run in the race with thee and are outstripped must give up all hope of thee, and look upon thy face no more. And this would be death indeed to them that love thee.”

But she laughed in their faces. “He who courts death may race with me at daybreak, and at sunset he shall drink the poison-cup without fail, and look neither on my face again nor the face of any living thing. Have I spoken plainly now?”

The next day there was great confusion in the halls of King Schœnus. There was shouting and bustling, and attendants ran this way and that. Chariots clattered through the gateway and drew up in the court, and baggage was piled high behind[158] the horses. And Atalanta laughed aloud at the success of her scheme; for suitor after suitor came and kissed her hand and bade her farewell.

That night the gathering about the board was scantier than it had been for many a long day. Yet a few of the suitors remained, and seemed in no haste to be gone.

“They are waiting for thee to fulfil thy condition,” said the king.

Then Atalanta herself went and pleaded with them.

But they replied, “Lady, thou hast given the condition of thy marrying, and we are waiting to fulfil it.”

Thus was she forced to keep her word, and the lists were made ready for the race, and the lots were cast among the suitors as to which of them should be the first to run against her. In the early morning, before the sun was strong, the race was run, and all the city crowded to the course to watch it. The man ran well and bravely, but his speed was as child’s play to Atalanta. She put forth her strength like a greyhound that is content to run for a while before the horses, but when he scents a hare, can leave them far behind. Even so did Atalanta run, and came in cool and fresh at the goal, whilst her rival ran in hot and panting behind her.

Thus did it come to pass that the first man drank the poison cup because of his love for Atalanta. With a smiling face did he drink it, as a man drinks at a feast.

And now a time of darkness and mourning fell[159] upon the land, and many a day in the year the city was hung with black for the sake of some noble suitor who had chosen death rather than life without Atalanta. And Atalanta’s heart was sore within her, because of the rash condition she had made in her ignorance. When she would fain have recalled her words it was too late, for the suitors bound her to her promise.

“Either give thyself of thine own free will to one of us, or else let us take our chance of winning thee or death,” they said.

And she was forced to run with them. For in her heart she knew that even death was happier for a man than to win her without her love.

Thus were the words of Diana fulfilled when she said, “In time she shall return to her own folk, and bring joy and sorrow to their hearts.”

One day it chanced that a stranger came to the city on a morning that a race was to be run. The night before he had slept in a village near by, and the people had told him the tale of Atalanta, and how on the morrow another suitor was to run to his death. But he scoffed at their words.

“No man would run to certain death,” he said, “were the maid as fair as Venus.”

“Go and see for thyself,” they replied. “Soon we shall hear that thou too wilt run in the race.”

“Never,” he said; “no woman can cheat my life from me.”

But they shook their heads unconvinced. “Many before thee have spoken likewise,” said they, “and yet they have run.”

“If I run, I will run to win,” he answered.


“Can a snail outstrip a deer?” they asked.

“It might so chance,” said he.

“Thou art mad,” they cried.

“Better to be mad on earth than sane in Hades,” he replied.

But they shook their heads the more, and tapped wisely with their fingers on their foreheads, to show that he was mad and spoke at random.

“Well, well,” he said, with a laugh, “we shall see what we shall see.”

The next morning he set forth early for the city, and, mingling with the crowd, he made his way to the race-course, and found for himself a place where he could watch the whole sight with ease. The race was run, and ended as it always ended; and once again the city was hung with black. But in the mind of the stranger an image remained which had not been there before—the image of a maid whose white feet flashed in the sunlight and her tunic swung to and fro as a flag swings in the breeze.

“Great Hercules!” he thought within himself, “to run shoulder to shoulder with her for a moment, even in a race for death, might be worth the while after all. I will make myself known at the palace, and see what the gods will give me.”

For some days he lay hid in the city, till he thought the time was ripe for him to go up to the palace of the king. Then he went for a walk along the highway, and when he was covered with dust and grime, he returned to the city and made his way at once to the palace.

When Atalanta saw a stranger at the board her[161] heart sank within her, and she kept her eyes turned away, as though she had not seen him, for she made sure that he too had come to run in the race with her. It chanced that night that the company was scanty, and no man talked in private to his neighbor, but the conversation leapt from one end of the board to the other, as each one took his share in it and said his say. The stranger, too, took his part with the rest of them, in nowise abashed; and so shrewd were his words, and so full of wit, that soon he had a smile upon the face of each one at the table. For many a long day the talk had not been so merry nor the laughter so loud at the table of King Schœnus. Atalanta, too, forgot her constraint, and talked and laughed freely with the stranger; and he answered her back, as though it had been man to man, and showed no more deference to her than to the others of the company.

When the meal was over, the king approached the stranger, and Atalanta stood beside him.

“Sir,” said the king, “thy name and thy country are still hid from us, but we are grateful for thy coming, and would be fain for thee to stay as long as it shall please thee.”

“I thank thee, sire,” said the stranger, “but I am bound by a strange vow. I may not reveal my name, nor accept hospitality for more than one night from any man, till I come to a house where none other than the king’s daughter shall promise me her hand in marriage. From the tales I have heard in the neighboring country, I have learnt that I may not hope to end my vow beneath this roof—though indeed,” he said, turning to Atalanta,[162] “I would fain press my suit if there were any chance of success.”

But Atalanta threw back her head at his words. “Thou hast doubtless heard the condition,” she said, “by the fulfilment of which alone a man may win my hand.”

“Alas, sir!” said the king, “I would press no man to try his luck in that venture.”

“Since that is so,” said the stranger, “I will go forth once more upon my journey at break of day, and see what luck the gods will give me. I thank thee for thy kindly hospitality this night, and beg thee to excuse me. I have travelled far, and would fain rest now, as I must go a long distance ere I can rest again.”

Thereupon he took his leave of King Schœnus and his daughter. But she, for all her pride, could not forget the man who seemed to bid her farewell with so light a heart.

It was her custom to rise early in the morning, before the rest of the household was stirring, and to go forth alone into the woods; and it was the lot of one of the slaves to rouse himself betimes to give her food ere she went, so that when she appeared, as was her wont, he thought nothing of it. The stranger had risen even earlier than she, and the slave was waiting upon him.

“Good-morrow, sir,” she said. “It is not often I have a companion when I break my fast.” Then she turned to the slave, “Thou mayest get thee back to thy bed,” she said, “and sleep out thy sleep in peace. I will see to the wants of our guest and speed him on his way.”


Thereupon Atalanta sat down at the board beside the stranger, and they fell to with all the appetite of youth and health; and as they ate they laughed and joked, and talked of strange lands they both had seen and adventures that had befallen them. In the space of one-half hour they were as good friends as though they had known each other all their lives.

When they had finished their meal the stranger rose. “I must bid thee farewell, lady,” he said.

“Nay, not yet,” she replied; “I will set thee on thy way, and show thee a road through the forest that will bring thee to the city thou seekest. I know every track and path as well as the wild deer know them.”

He tried to dissuade her, but she would not listen, and led him out from the palace by a side gate, which she unbarred with her own hands. Down through the sleeping streets they went, where the shadows of the houses lay long upon the ground, and out across the open downs into the shade of the forest. At length they came to a broad track that crossed the path they were in, and Atalanta stopped short and pointed to the right.

“From here,” she said, “thou canst not miss thy way. Follow the track till it lead thee to the highroad, and when thou strikest the highroad, turn to the left, and thou wilt come to the city thou seekest.”

Then she held out her hand to him. “I must bid thee farewell,” she said, “and good luck to the ending of thy vow.”

“Lady,” he said, and took her hand in his, “if[164] thou wilt, thou canst release me now from my vow.”

But she drew her hand away sharply and tossed back her head. “Many kings have daughters besides King Schœnus,” she said, “and any one of them could release thee from thy vow as well as I.”

“Atalanta,” he said, “no king’s daughter save thee shall ever release me from my vow. From the first moment that I saw thee I loved thee.”

“Thou knowest how thou mayest win me. Art thou willing to run in the race?”

“Much good will my love do me if I had to drink the poison cup. Nay, nay,” he said; “I love thee too well to put my death at thy door. When I have some chance of winning the race, I will come back and claim thee. In the meantime, lady, farewell.”

And, bowing to her, he turned and went his way, without so much as looking back at her, as she stood trembling with astonishment and anger.

Day after day passed by, and he came not. “He is a man of his word,” she thought at last. “Till he has some chance of winning he will not come back. And he is no fool. He knows he can never run as I can run. He will never come back.”

Yet for all this she watched for him. When she went forth into the road, or into the forest, she looked for his form at every turn of the way. The weeks and months passed by, and still he returned not; winter came and went, and once again the dewdrops shone in the summer sunlight as Atalanta walked in the forest at break of day. When by[165] chance she raised her eyes, there at the parting of the ways, he stood, as though in answer to her thoughts.

“I have come back, lady,” he said.

“Oh!” she cried from her heart, “I am glad thou hast come back.”

Then he bent and kissed her hand. So once more they walked in silence side by side along the path they had walked before. As they drew near to the edge of the forest, Atalanta was the first to speak.

“And thy vow,” she asked—“hast thou found release from it?”

“Not yet,” he answered. “I am come back to run the race, that I may win release.”

Once again the spirit of perversity came upon her. “Where hast thou learnt to run like the wind?” she asked.

“I have not learnt to run like the wind,” he replied. “I have learnt something better than that.”

“Few things are better in a race than swiftness,” she said.

“True,” he answered; “yet I have found the one thing better.”

“What is this strange thing?” she asked.

“When we have run the race, thou wilt know,” he said.

“I have grown no sluggard,” she said, with a toss of her head, as though to warn him that her speed was not a thing to be despised. So they came to the palace, and from the lowest to the highest the inmates greeted the stranger with joy. For he had won the hearts of them all by his wit and his genial[166] smile. But they sighed when they heard that he too had come to run in the fatal race.

“Alas!” said the old king, shaking his head, “I had rather not have looked upon thy face again than see thee back on such an errand.”

The young man laughed. “He who runs with a fair hope of winning runs swiftly,” he said. “The others were dragged down by the shackles of their own despair.”

“Thou dost not know my daughter,” said the king.

“Mayhap I know her better than thou thinkest, and better than thou knowest her thyself,” said the stranger.

No arguments or entreaties would turn him from his purpose. “I must win release from my vow,” he said. “I cannot live all my life a nameless wanderer. Yet will I not wed any woman I love not, for the sake of my release. Atalanta alone can save me, for I love none other.”

So the lists once again were prepared, and the course made smooth for the race. The folk were gathered together round the course, and Atalanta and the stranger stood ready and waiting for the word to be given. She had made it a condition of the race that her rivals should have a good start of her, and she stood with her eyes upon the stranger’s back, as he waited many paces before her. All too soon the word was given, and he sprang forward from his place, like a dog which has been straining at his leash springs forward when the hook is unloosed. And Atalanta, too, sprang forward; but whereas the man ran like a hunted thing that[167] strains every muscle to save its life, she ran with the swinging grace of a wild deer that, far away from the hunters and hounds, crosses the springing turf of the lonely moor, fearless and proud, as he throws back his antlers in the breeze. Thus did Atalanta run, as though she had no thought of the race, or of the man who ran for his life. Yet, though she seemed to make no effort, she gained upon her rival at every step, and now she was running close behind him, and now she was almost shoulder to shoulder, and out of the corner of his eye he could see the gleam of her tunic. Then for a moment he slackened his pace, and it seemed that she would pass him, and on every side the people shouted out to him, “Run, run! Faster, faster! She will pass thee.”

But he put his hand into the opening of his tunic, and drew forth something from his breast. Then his hand swung up above his head, and from it there flashed a dazzling fiery apple. Up and down through the air it flashed like a meteor, and rolled along the grass, till it stopped far away in the center of the course, and lay shining like a jewel in the rays of the sun. Every eye was turned from the race to watch its gleaming flight, and Atalanta stopped short and watched it too. When she saw it stop still in the middle of the course, flashing and sparkling in the grass, a great desire sprang up in her heart to have it—a desire that she could not resist. And she darted aside out of the path of the race and went and picked up the shining golden apple and put it in the bosom of her tunic. Meanwhile the stranger had lost no time, and when[168] Atalanta came back to the spot she had left, he was far ahead upon the course, and she had to run with a will if she wished to overtake him. But once again she gained upon him, and the space between them grew less and less, till they were running well nigh shoulder to shoulder. And once again he saw the gleam of her tunic beside him; and again he slackened his speed for a moment, and sent a second gleaming apple into the air. Once more the desire sprang up in Atalanta’s heart, and, leaving the course, she picked up the second apple and put it in the bosom of her tunic beside the first. By the time she had returned to the path the stranger had rounded the turning-point and was well on his way towards the goal, and she put forth all her strength to overtake him. But the ease of her running was gone. She ran as one who runs bearing a burden, yet she would not cast away the golden apples in her bosom; for though they hampered her, she gained upon her rival, and for the third time they were running almost shoulder to shoulder. And again, the third time, the same thing happened, and Atalanta left the course to pick up the shining fruit. This time when she returned to her place the stranger was close upon the goal, and all around the people were shouting and waving their hands. With all the strength that was left in her she made a great spurt to overtake him. If she would cast away the golden apples, she might yet win the race; but the same mad desire which had spurred her to pick them up forbade her now to let them go. As she ran they seemed to grow heavier and heavier in her bosom;[169] yet she struggled and panted on, and step by step did she gain upon him, though her eyes were darkened to all but his form and the goal ahead. On every side the people shouted louder than before, for they knew not now which of them would win. As they drew near to the goal they were again almost shoulder to shoulder, and the stranger saw once more the flash of Atalanta’s tunic beside him, while there were yet some paces to run. Then he gave a great spurt forward, and leapt away from her side. She tried to do likewise, but her strength was gone. She had made her last effort before. Thus did it come to pass that the stranger ran in first to the goal, and, running close upon his heels, Atalanta fell breathless into his arms as he turned to catch her. She had run twice as far as he, but what matter if he had not outsped her. He had won the race. The tears shone in her eyes, but he knew they were not tears of grief; and in the face of all the people he kissed her.

Thus was Atalanta, the swiftest of all mortals, beaten in the race by the stranger, and learnt from his lips what it was that he had found on his travels that had made speed of no avail in the race.

For after they had come back to the city, surrounded by the joyous folk, and had passed hand in hand beneath the gateway; after he had revealed to them all that he was Milanion, the son of Amphidamas, and the old king had fallen on his neck and given him his blessing, because he proved to be the son of his own boyhood’s friend, and the man of all others he would have chosen for his son-in-law—after[170] all this, when the speeches and the merrymaking were over, they two walked on the moonlit court of the palace.

“Tell me their secret,” she said, and held out the fruit in her hands.

“Their secret lies in thy heart, Atalanta,” he answered.

“What meanest thou?” she asked.

“When I left thee at the parting of the ways,” he said, “I travelled many a weary league by land, and on the road I passed many a shrine of Venus. But I never passed them by without lifting up my hands in prayer to the goddess, for I knew that she could help me if she would, and I knew that to them that love truly she is ever kind in the end. But I wandered till I was footsore and weary, and yet I had no sign. At length I came to the seashore, and took ship for the pleasant isle of Cyprus, which is her home. There at last she came to me, walking on the waves of the sea. As I lay on the shore in the night-time, I saw her as a great light afar, and she drew near to me with the foam playing white about her feet. In her hand she bore three shining golden apples.

“‘Fear not, Milanion,’ she said; ‘I have heard the cry of thy heart. Here are three apples from mine own apple-tree. If she whom thou lovest loves thee in return, she cannot resist the spell of their golden brightness. When thou runnest against her, cast them one by one into the middle of the course. If she love thee she will turn aside to pick them up. For her they will be heavy as the gold they seem made of. For thee they will[171] be light as the fruit whose form they wear. Farewell and good luck to thy race.’

“Thereupon darkness came over my eyes, and I could find no words to thank her. When I awoke I thought it had been a dream, but lo! by my side upon the sand lay the apples, shining in the sunlight.”

“And thy vow?” asked Atalanta. “How camest thou to make such a vow?”

He laughed at her words. “Long ago in my father’s house I heard of thee and how thou couldst cast such a spell upon the hearts of men that for thy sake they would fling away their lives. And a great desire came upon me to see this thing for myself, for I could scarce believe it. So I set forth alone to find thee, and hid my name from all men as I journeyed, for thus could I be more free to act as seemed best in mine own eyes. And I saw thee run in a race, and that glimpse was enough to tell me that I too one day must run with thee. Yet was I more wary than my rivals. I knew that to come as a suitor was the way to turn thy heart to stone. Wherefore I pretended to be bound by a vow, which would bring me as a passing stranger before thee. Deep in my heart I felt that when a man desires one thing on earth above every other—when he loves that thing better than life itself, he is likely to win it in the end, if he walk patiently step by step in faith. He will win that thing, or death, in his struggle for it; and he is content that so it should be.”



By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Once upon a time, there lived a very rich man, and a king besides, whose name was Midas; and he had a little daughter, whom nobody but myself ever heard of, and whose name I either never knew, or have entirely forgotten. So, because I love odd names for little girls, I choose to call her Marygold.

This King Midas was fonder of gold than of anything else in the world. He valued his royal crown chiefly because it was composed of that precious metal. If he loved anything better, or half so well, it was the one little maiden who played so merrily around her father’s footstool. But the more Midas loved his daughter, the more did he desire and seek for wealth. He thought, foolish man! that the best thing he could possibly do for this dear child would be to bequeath her the immensest pile of yellow, glistening coin that had ever been heaped together since the world was made. Thus, he gave all his thoughts and all his time to this one purpose. If ever he happened to gaze for an instant at the gold-tinted clouds of sunset, he wished that they were real gold, and that they could be squeezed safely into his strong box. When little Marygold ran to meet him, with a bunch of buttercups and dandelions, he used to say, “Poh, poh, child! If these flowers were as golden as they look, they would be worth the plucking!”


And yet, in his earlier days, before he was so entirely possessed of this insane desire for riches, King Midas had shown a great taste for flowers. He had planted a garden, in which grew the biggest and beautifulest and sweetest roses that any mortal ever saw or smelt. These roses were still growing in the garden, as large, as lovely, and as fragrant, as when Midas used to pass whole hours in gazing at them, and inhaling their perfume. But now, if he looked at them at all, it was only to calculate how much the garden would be worth if each of the innumerable rose petals were a thin plate of gold. And though he once was fond of music (in spite of an idle story about his ears, which were said to resemble those of an ass), the only music for poor Midas, now, was the chink of one coin against another.

At length (as people always grow more and more foolish, unless they take care to grow wiser and wiser), Midas had got to be so exceedingly unreasonable that he could scarcely bear to see or touch any object that was not gold. He made it his custom, therefore, to pass a large portion of every day in a dark and dreary apartment, under ground, at the basement of his palace. It was here that he kept his wealth. To this dismal hole—for it was little better than a dungeon—Midas betook himself whenever he wanted to be particularly happy. Here, after carefully locking the door, he would take a bag of gold coin, or a gold cup as big as a washbowl, or a heavy golden bar, or a peck-measure of gold-dust, and bring them from the obscure corners of the room into the one[174] bright and narrow sunbeam that fell from the dungeon-like window. He valued the sunbeam for no other reason but that his treasure would not shine without its help. And then would he reckon over the coins in the bag; toss up the bar, and catch it as it came down; sift the gold-dust through his fingers; look at the funny image of his own face, as reflected in the burnished circumference of the cup; and whisper to himself, “O Midas, rich King Midas, what a happy man art thou!” But it was laughable to see how the image of his face kept grinning at him, out of the polished surface of the cup. It seemed to be aware of his foolish behavior, and to have a naughty inclination to make fun of him.

Midas called himself a happy man, but felt that he was not yet quite so happy as he might be. The very tiptop of enjoyment would never be reached, unless the whole world were to become his treasure-room, and be filled with yellow metal which should be all his own.

Now, I need hardly remind such wise little people as you are, that in the old, old times, when King Midas was alive, a great many things came to pass which we should consider wonderful if they were to happen in our own day and country. And, on the other hand, a great many things take place nowadays, which seem not only wonderful to us, but at which the people of old times would have stared their eyes out. On the whole, I regard our own times as the strangest of the two; but, however that may be, I must go on with my story.

Midas was enjoying himself in his treasure-room,[175] one day, as usual, when he perceived a shadow fall over the heaps of gold, and, looking suddenly up, what should he behold but the figure of a stranger, standing in the bright and narrow sunbeam! It was a young man, with a cheerful and ruddy face. Whether it was that the imagination of King Midas threw a yellow tinge over everything, or whatever the cause might be, he could not help fancying that the smile with which the stranger regarded him had a kind of golden radiance in it. Certainly, although his figure intercepted the sunshine, there was now a brighter gleam upon all the piled-up treasures than before. Even the remotest corners had their share of it, and were lighted up, when the stranger smiled, as with tips of flame and sparkles of fire.

As Midas knew that he had carefully turned the key in the lock, and that no mortal strength could possibly break into his treasure-room, he, of course, concluded that his visitor must be something more than mortal. It is no matter about telling you who he was. In those days, when the earth was comparatively a new affair, it was supposed to be often the resort of beings endowed with supernatural power, and who used to interest themselves in the joys and sorrows of men, women, and children, half playfully and half seriously. Midas had met such beings before now, and was not sorry to meet one of them again. The stranger’s aspect, indeed, was so good-humored and kindly, if not beneficent, that it would have been unreasonable to suspect him of intending any mischief. It was far more probable that he came to do Midas a favor. And[176] what could that favor be, unless to multiply his heaps of treasure?

The stranger gazed about the room; and when his lustrous smile had glistened upon all the golden objects that were there, he turned again to Midas.

“You are a wealthy man, friend Midas!” he observed. “I doubt whether any other four walls, on earth, contain so much gold as you have contrived to pile up in this room.”

“I have done pretty well—pretty well,” answered Midas in a discontented tone. “But, after all, it is but a trifle, when you consider that it has taken me my whole life to get it together. If one could live a thousand years, he might have time to grow rich!”

“What!” exclaimed the stranger. “Then you are not satisfied?”

Midas shook his head.

“And pray what would satisfy you?” asked the stranger. “Merely for the curiosity of the thing, I should be glad to know.”

Midas paused and meditated. He felt a presentiment that this stranger, with such a golden luster in his good-humored smile, had come hither with both the power and the purpose of gratifying his utmost wishes. Now, therefore, was the fortunate moment, when he had but to speak, and obtain whatever possible, or seemingly impossible thing, it might come into his head to ask. So he thought, and thought, and thought, and heaped up one golden mountain upon another, in his imagination, without being able to imagine them big enough. At last, a bright idea occurred to King[177] Midas. It seemed really as bright as the glistening metal which he loved so much.

Raising his head, he looked the lustrous stranger in the face.

“Well, Midas,” observed his visitor, “I see that you have at length hit upon something that will satisfy you. Tell me your wish.”

“It is only this,” replied Midas. “I am weary of collecting my treasures with so much trouble, and beholding the heap so diminutive, after I have done my best. I wish everything that I touch to be changed to gold!”

The stranger’s smile grew so very broad, that it seemed to fill the room like an outburst of the sun, gleaming into a shadowy dell, where the yellow autumnal leaves—for so looked the lumps and particles of gold—lie strewn in the glow of light.

“The Golden Touch!” exclaimed he. “You certainly deserve credit, friend Midas, for striking out so brilliant a conception. But are you quite sure that this will satisfy you?”

“How could it fail?” said Midas.

“And will you never regret the possession of it?”

“What could induce me?” asked Midas. “I ask nothing else, to render me perfectly happy.”

“Be it as you wish, then,” replied the stranger, waving his hand in token of farewell. “To-morrow at sunrise, you will find yourself gifted with the Golden Touch.”

The figure of the stranger then became exceedingly bright, and Midas involuntarily closed his[178] eyes. On opening them again, he beheld only one yellow sunbeam in the room, and, all around him, the glistening of the precious metal which he had spent his life in hoarding up.

Whether Midas slept as usual that night, the story does not say. Asleep or awake, however, his mind was probably in the state of a child’s, to whom a beautiful new plaything has been promised in the morning. At any rate, day had hardly peeped over the hills, when King Midas was broad awake, and, stretching his arms out of bed, began to touch the objects that were within reach. He was anxious to prove whether the Golden Touch had really come, according to the stranger’s promise. So he laid his finger on a chair by the bedside, and on various other things, but was grievously disappointed to perceive that they remained of exactly the same substance as before. Indeed, he felt very much afraid that he had only dreamed about the lustrous stranger, or else that the latter had been making game of him. And what a miserable affair would it be, if, after all his hopes, Midas must content himself with what little gold he could scrape together by ordinary means, instead of creating it by a touch!

All this while, it was only the gray of the morning, with but a streak of brightness along the edge of the sky, where Midas could not see it. He lay in a very disconsolate mood, regretting the downfall of his hopes, and kept growing sadder and sadder, until the earliest sunbeam shone through the window, and gilded the ceiling over his head. It seemed to Midas that this bright yellow sunbeam[179] was reflected in rather a singular way on the white covering of the bed. Looking more closely, what was his astonishment and delight, when he found that his linen fabric had been transmuted to what seemed a woven texture of the purest and brightest gold! The Golden Touch had come to him with the first sunbeam!

Midas started up, in a kind of joyful frenzy, and ran about the room, grasping at everything that happened to be in his way. He seized one of the bed-posts, and it became immediately a fluted golden pillar. He pulled aside a window curtain, in order to admit a clear spectacle of the wonders which he was performing; and the tassel grew heavy in his hand—a mass of gold. He took up a book from the table. At his first touch, it assumed the appearance of such a splendidly bound and gilt-edged volume as one often meets with nowadays; but, on running his fingers through the leaves, behold! it was a bundle of thin golden plates, in which all the wisdom of the book had grown illegible. He hurriedly put on his clothes, and was enraptured to see himself in a magnificent suit of gold cloth, which retained its flexibility and softness, although it burdened him a little with its weight. He drew out his handkerchief, which little Marygold had hemmed for him. That was likewise gold, with the dear child’s neat and pretty stitches running all along the border, in gold thread!

Somehow or other, this last transformation did not quite please King Midas. He would rather that his little daughter’s handiwork should have[180] remained just the same as when she climbed his knee and put it into his hand.

But it was not worth while to vex himself about a trifle. Midas now took his spectacles from his pocket, and put them on his nose, in order that he might see more distinctly what he was about. In those days, spectacles for common people had not been invented, but were already worn by kings; else, how could Midas have had any? To his great perplexity, however, excellent as the glasses were, he discovered that he could not possibly see through them. But this was the most natural thing in the world; for, on taking them off, the transparent crystals turned out to be plates of yellow metal, and, of course, were worthless as spectacles, though valuable as gold. It struck Midas as rather inconvenient that, with all his wealth, he could never again be rich enough to own a pair of serviceable spectacles.

“It is no great matter, nevertheless,” said he to himself, very philosophically. “We cannot expect any great good, without its being accompanied with some small inconvenience. The Golden Touch is worth the sacrifice of a pair of spectacles, at least, if not of one’s very eyesight. My own eyes will serve for ordinary purposes, and little Marygold will soon be old enough to read to me.”

Wise King Midas was so exalted by his good fortune, that the palace seemed not sufficiently spacious to contain him. He therefore went down stairs, and smiled, on observing that the balustrade of the staircase became a bar of burnished gold, as his hand passed over it, in his descent. He lifted[181] the door-latch (it was brass only a moment ago, but golden when his fingers quitted it), and emerged into the garden. Here, as it happened, he found a great number of beautiful roses in full bloom, and others in all the stages of lovely bud and blossom. Very delicious was their fragrance in the morning breeze. Their delicate blush was one of the fairest sights in the world; so gentle, so modest, and so full of sweet tranquillity, did these roses seem to be.

But Midas knew a way to make them far more precious, according to his way of thinking, than roses had ever been before. So he took great pains in going from bush to bush, and exercised his magic touch most indefatigably; until every individual flower and bud, and even the worms at the heart of some of them, were changed to gold. By the time this good work was completed, King Midas was summoned to breakfast; and as the morning air had given him an excellent appetite, he made haste back to the palace.

What was usually a king’s breakfast in the days of Midas, I really do not know, and cannot stop now to investigate. To the best of my belief, however, on this particular morning, the breakfast consisted of hot cakes, some nice little brook trout, roasted potatoes, fresh boiled eggs, and coffee, for King Midas himself, and a bowl of bread and milk for his daughter Marygold. At all events, this is a breakfast fit to set before a king; and, whether he had it or not, King Midas could not have had a better.

Little Marygold had not yet made her appearance. Her father ordered her to be called, and,[182] seating himself at table, awaited the child’s coming, in order to begin his own breakfast. To do Midas justice, he really loved his daughter, and loved her so much the more this morning, on account of the good fortune which had befallen him. It was not a great while before he heard her coming along the passageway crying bitterly. This circumstance surprised him, because Marygold was one of the cheerfullest little people whom you would see in a summer’s day, and hardly shed a thimbleful of tears in a twelvemonth. When Midas heard her sobs, he determined to put little Marygold into better spirits, by an agreeable surprise; so, leaning across the table, he touched his daughter’s bowl (which was a china one, with pretty figures all around it), and transmuted it to gleaming gold.

Meanwhile, Marygold slowly and disconsolately opened the door, and showed herself with her apron at her eyes, still sobbing as if her heart would break.

“How now, my little lady!” cried Midas. “Pray what is the matter with you, this bright morning?”

Marygold, without taking the apron from her eyes, held out her hand, in which was one of the roses which Midas had so recently transmuted.

“Beautiful!” exclaimed her father. “And what is there in this magnificent golden rose to make you cry?”

“Ah, dear father!” answered the child, as well as her sobs would let her; “it is not beautiful, but the ugliest flower that ever grew! As soon as I was dressed I ran into the garden to gather some[183] roses for you; because I know you like them, and like them the better when gathered by your little daughter. But, oh dear, dear me! What do you think has happened? Such a misfortune! All the beautiful roses, that smelled so sweetly and had so many lovely blushes, are blighted and spoilt! They are grown quite yellow, as you see this one, and have no longer any fragrance! What can have been the matter with them?”

“Poh, my dear little girl—pray don’t cry about it!” said Midas, who was ashamed to confess that he himself had wrought the change which so greatly afflicted her. “Sit down and eat your bread and milk! You will find it easy enough to exchange a golden rose like that (which will last hundreds of years) for an ordinary one which would wither in a day.”

“I don’t care for such roses as this!” cried Marygold, tossing it contemptuously away. “It has no smell, and the hard petals prick my nose!”

The child now sat down to table, but was so occupied with her grief for the blighted roses that she did not even notice the wonderful transmutation of her china bowl. Perhaps this was all the better; for Marygold was accustomed to take pleasure in looking at the queer figures, and strange trees and houses, that were painted on the circumference of the bowl; and these ornaments were now entirely lost in the yellow hue of the metal.

Midas, meanwhile, had poured out a cup of coffee, and, as a matter of course, the coffee-pot, whatever metal it may have been when he took it up, was gold when he set it down. He thought[184] to himself, that it was rather an extravagant style of splendor, in a king of his simple habits, to breakfast off a service of gold, and began to be puzzled with the difficulty of keeping his treasures safe. The cupboard and the kitchen would no longer be a secure place of deposit for articles so valuable as golden bowls and coffee-pots.

Amid these thoughts, he lifted a spoonful of coffee to his lips, and, sipping it, was astonished to perceive that, the instant his lips touched the liquid, it became molten gold, and, the next moment hardened into a lump!

“Ha!” exclaimed Midas, rather aghast.

“What is the matter, father?” asked little Marygold, gazing at him, with the tears still standing in her eyes.

“Nothing, child, nothing!” said Midas. “Eat your milk, before it gets quite cold.”

He took one of the nice little trouts on his plate, and, by way of experiment, touched its tail with his finger. To his horror, it was immediately transmuted from an admirably fried brook-trout into a gold-fish, though not one of those gold-fishes which people often keep in glass globes, as ornaments for the parlor. No; but it was really a metallic fish, and looked as if it had been very cunningly made by the nicest goldsmith in the world. Its little bones were now golden wires; its fins and tail were thin plates of gold; and there were the marks of the fork in it, and all the delicate, frothy appearance of a nicely fried fish, exactly imitated in metal. A very pretty piece of work, as you may suppose; only King Midas, just at that moment, would much[185] rather have had a real trout in his dish than this elaborate and valuable imitation of one.

“I don’t quite see,” thought he to himself, “how I am to get any breakfast!”

He took one of the smoking-hot cakes, and had scarcely broken it, when, to his cruel mortification, though, a moment before, it had been of the whitest wheat, it assumed the yellow hue of Indian meal. To say the truth, if it had really been a hot Indian cake, Midas would have prized it a good deal more than he now did, when its solidity and increased weight made him too bitterly sensible that it was gold. Almost in despair, he helped himself to a boiled egg, which immediately underwent a change similar to those of the trout and the cake. The egg, indeed, might have been mistaken for one of those which the famous goose, in the story-book, was in the habit of laying; but King Midas was the only goose that had had anything to do with the matter.

“Well, this is a quandary!” thought he, leaning back in his chair, and looking quite enviously at little Marygold, who was not eating her bread and milk with great satisfaction. “Such a costly breakfast before me, and nothing that can be eaten!”

Hoping that, by dint of great dispatch, he might avoid what he now felt to be a considerable inconvenience, King Midas next snatched a hot potato, and attempted to cram it into his mouth, and swallow it in a hurry. But the Golden Touch was too nimble for him. He found his mouth full, not of mealy potato, but of solid metal, which so burnt his tongue that he roared aloud, and, jumping up[186] from the table, began to dance and stamp about the room both with pain and affright.

“Father, dear father!” cried little Marygold, who was a very affectionate child, “pray what is the matter? Have you burnt your mouth?”

“Ah, dear child,” groaned Midas, dolefully, “I don’t know what is to become of your poor father!”

And, truly, my dear little folks, did you ever hear of such a pitiable case in all your lives? Here was literally the richest breakfast that could be set before a king, and its very richness made it absolutely good for nothing. The poorest laborer, sitting down to his crust of bread and cup of water, was far better off than King Midas, whose delicate food was really worth its weight in gold. And what was to be done? Already, at breakfast, Midas was excessively hungry. Would he be less so by dinner-time? And how ravenous would be his appetite for supper, which must undoubtedly consist of the same sort of indigestible dishes as those now before him! How many days, think you, would he survive a continuance of this rich fare?

These reflections so troubled wise King Midas, that he began to doubt whether, after all, riches are the one desirable thing in the world, or even the most desirable. But this was only a passing thought. So fascinated was Midas with the glitter of the yellow metal, that he would still have refused to give up the Golden Touch for so paltry a consideration as a breakfast. Just imagine what a price for one meal’s victuals. It would have been the same as paying millions and millions of money (and as many millions more as would take forever[187] to reckon up) for some fried trout, an egg, a potato, a hot cake, and a cup of coffee!

“It would be quite too dear,” thought Midas.

Nevertheless, so great was his hunger, and the perplexity of his situation, that he again groaned aloud, and very grievously, too. Our pretty Marygold could endure it no longer. She sat, a moment, gazing at her father, and trying, with all the might of her little wits, to find out what was the matter with him. Then, with a sweet and sorrowful impulse to comfort him, she started from her chair, and, running to Midas, threw her arms affectionately about his knees. He bent down and kissed her. He felt that his little daughter’s love was worth a thousand times more than he had gained by the Golden Touch.

“My precious, precious Marygold!” cried he.

But Marygold made no answer.

Alas, what had he done? How fatal was the gift which the stranger bestowed! The moment the lips of Midas touched Marygold’s forehead, a change had taken place. Her sweet, rosy face, so full of affection as it had been, assumed a glittering yellow color, with yellow tear-drops, congealing on her cheeks. Her beautiful brown ringlets took the same tint. Her soft and tender little form grew hard and inflexible within her father’s encircling arms. Oh, terrible misfortune! The victim of his insatiable desire for wealth, little Marygold was a human child no longer, but a golden statue!

Yes, there she was, with the questioning look of love, grief, and pity, hardened into her face. It was the prettiest and most woeful sight that ever[188] mortal saw. All the features and tokens of Marygold were there; even the beloved little dimple remained in her gold chin. But, the more perfect was the resemblance, the greater was the father’s agony at beholding this golden image, which was all that was left him of a daughter. It had been a favorite phrase of Midas, whenever he felt particularly fond of the child, to say that she was worth her weight in gold. And now the phrase had become literally true. And now, at last, when it was too late, he felt how infinitely a warm and tender heart that loved him, exceeded in value all the wealth that could be piled up betwixt the earth and sky!

It would be too sad a story, if I were to tell you how Midas, in the fulness of all his gratified desires, began to wring his hands and bemoan himself; and how he could neither bear to look at Marygold, nor yet to look away from her. Except when his eyes were fixed on the image, he could not possibly believe that she was changed to gold. But, stealing another glance, there was the precious little figure, with a yellow tear-drop on its yellow cheek, and a look so piteous and tender, that it seemed as if that very expression must needs soften the gold and make it flesh again. This, however, could not be. So Midas had only to wring his hands, and to wish that he were the poorest man in the wide world, if the loss of all his wealth might bring back the faintest rose-color to his dear child’s face.

While he was in this tumult of despair, he suddenly beheld a stranger standing near the door. Midas bent down his head, without speaking; for[189] he recognized the same figure which had appeared to him, the day before, in the treasure-room, and had bestowed on him this disastrous faculty of the Golden Touch. The stranger’s countenance still wore a smile, which seemed to shed a yellow luster all about the room, and gleamed on little Marygold’s image, and on the other objects that had been transmuted by the touch of Midas.

“Well, friend Midas,” said the stranger, “pray how do you succeed with the Golden Touch?”

Midas shook his head.

“I am very miserable,” said he.

“Very miserable, indeed!” exclaimed the stranger. “And how happens that? Have I not faithfully kept my promise with you? Have you not everything that your heart desired?”

“Gold is not everything,” answered Midas. “And I have lost all that my heart really cared for.”

“Ah! So you have made a discovery, since yesterday?” observed the stranger. “Let us see, then. Which of these two things do you think is really worth the most—the gift of the Golden Touch, or one cup of clear cold water?”

“O blessed water!” exclaimed Midas. “It will never moisten my parched throat again!”

“The Golden Touch,” continued the stranger, “or a crust of bread?”

“A piece of bread,” answered Midas, “is worth all the gold on earth!”

“The Golden Touch,” asked the stranger, “or your own little Marygold, warm, soft and loving as she was an hour ago?”


“Oh my child, my dear child!” cried poor Midas, wringing his hands. “I would not have given that one small dimple in her chin for the power of changing this whole big earth into a solid lump of gold!”

“You are wiser than you were, King Midas!” said the stranger, looking seriously at him. “Your own heart, I perceive, has not been entirely changed from flesh to gold. Were it so, your case would indeed be desperate. But you appear to be still capable of understanding that the commonest things, such as lie within everybody’s grasp, are more valuable than the riches which so many mortals sigh and struggle after. Tell me, now, do you sincerely desire to rid yourself of this Golden Touch?”

“It is hateful to me!” replied Midas.

A fly settled on his nose, but immediately fell to the floor; for it, too, had become gold. Midas shuddered.

“Go, then,” said the stranger, “and plunge into the river that glides past the bottom of your garden. Take likewise a vase of the same water, and sprinkle it over any object that you may desire to change back again from gold into its former substance. If you do this in earnestness and sincerity, it may possibly repair the mischief which your avarice has occasioned.”

King Midas bowed low; and when he lifted his head, the lustrous stranger had vanished.

You will easily believe that Midas lost no time in snatching up a great earthen pitcher (but, alas me! it was no longer earthen after he touched it),[191] and hastening to the river-side. As he scampered along, and forced his way through the shrubbery, it was positively marvellous to see how the foliage turned yellow behind him, as if the autumn had been there, and nowhere else. On reaching the river’s brink, he plunged headlong in, without waiting so much as to pull off his shoes.

“Poof! poof! poof!” snorted King Midas, as his head emerged out of the water. “Well; this is really a refreshing bath, and I think it must have quite washed away the Golden Touch. And now for filling my pitcher!”

As he dipped the pitcher into the water, it gladdened his very heart to see it change from gold into the same good, honest earthen vessel which it had been before he touched it. He was conscious, also, of a change within himself. A cold, hard, and heavy weight seemed to have gone out of his bosom. No doubt, his heart had been gradually losing its human substance, and transmuting itself into insensible metal, but had now softened back again into flesh. Perceiving a violet, that grew on the bank of the river, Midas touched it with his finger, and was overjoyed to find that the delicate flower retained its purple hue, instead of undergoing a yellow blight. The curse of the Golden Touch had, therefore, really been removed from him.

King Midas hastened back to the palace; and, I suppose, the servants knew not what to make of it when they saw their royal master so carefully bringing home an earthen pitcher of water. But that water, which was to undo all the mischief that his folly had wrought, was more precious to Midas[192] than an ocean of molten gold could have been. The first thing he did, as you need hardly be told, was to sprinkle it by handfuls over the golden figure of little Marygold.

No sooner did it fall on her than you would have laughed to see how the rosy color came back to the dear child’s cheek! and how she began to sneeze and sputter!—and how astonished she was to find herself dripping wet, and her father still throwing more water over her!

“Pray do not, dear father!” cried she. “See how you have wet my nice frock, which I put on only this morning!”

For Marygold did not know that she had been a little golden statue; nor could she remember anything that had happened since the moment when she ran with outstretched arms to comfort poor King Midas.

Her father did not think it necessary to tell his beloved child how very foolish he had been, but contented himself with showing how much wiser he had now grown. For this purpose, he led little Marygold into the garden, where he sprinkled all the remainder of the water over the rose-bushes, and with such good effect that above five thousand roses recovered their beautiful bloom. There were two circumstances, however, which, as long as he lived, used to put King Midas in mind of the Golden Touch. One was, that the sands of the river sparkled like gold; the other, that little Marygold’s hair had now a golden tinge, which he had never observed in it before she had been transmuted by the effect of his kiss. This change of[193] hue was really an improvement, and made Marygold’s hair richer than in her babyhood.

When King Midas had grown quite an old man and used to trot Marygold’s children on his knee he was fond of telling them this marvellous story, pretty much as I have told it to you. And then would he stroke their glossy ringlets, and tell them that their hair, likewise, had a rich shade of gold, which they had inherited from their mother.

“And to tell you the truth, my precious little folks,” quoth King Midas, diligently trotting the children all the while, “ever since that morning, I have hated the very sight of all other gold, save this!”


By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Mother Ceres was exceedingly fond of her daughter Proserpina, and seldom let her go alone into the fields. But, just at the time when my story begins, the good lady was very busy, because she had the care of the wheat, and the Indian corn, and the rye and barley, and, in short, of the crops of every kind, all over the earth; and as the season had thus far been uncommonly backward, it was necessary to make the harvest ripen more speedily than usual. So she put on her turban, made of poppies (a kind of flower which she was always noted for wearing), and got into her car, drawn by a pair of winged dragons, and was just ready to set off.


“Dear mother,” said Proserpina, “I shall be very lonely while you are away. May I not run down to the shore, and ask some of the sea-nymphs to come up out of the waves and play with me?”

“Yes, child,” answered Mother Ceres. “The sea-nymphs are good creatures, and will never lead you into any harm. But you must take care not to stray away from them, nor go wandering about the fields by yourself. Young girls, without their mothers to take care of them, are very apt to get into mischief.”

The child promised to be as prudent as if she were a grown-up woman, and, by the time the winged dragons had whirled the car out of sight, she was already on the shore, calling to the sea-nymphs to come and play with her. They knew Proserpina’s voice, and were not long in showing their glistening faces and sea-green hair above the water, at the bottom of which was their home. They brought along with them a great many beautiful shells; and, sitting down on the moist sand, where the surf wave broke over them, they busied themselves in making a necklace, which they hung around Proserpina’s neck. By way of showing her gratitude, the child besought them to go with her a little way into the field, so that they might gather abundance of flowers, with which she would make each of her kind playmates a wreath.

“Oh no, dear Proserpina,” cried the sea-nymphs; “we dare not go with you upon the dry land. We are apt to grow faint, unless at every breath we can snuff up the salt breeze of the ocean. And don’t you see how careful we are to let the surf[195] wave break over us every moment or two, so as to keep ourselves comfortably moist? If it were not for that, we should soon look like bunches of uprooted sea-weed dried in the sun.”

“It is a great pity,” said Proserpina. “But do you wait for me here, and I will run and gather my apron full of flowers, and be back again before the surf wave has broken ten times over you. I long to make you some wreaths that shall be as lovely as this necklace of many-colored shells.”

“We will wait, then,” answered the sea-nymphs. “But while you are gone, we may as well lie down on a bank of soft sponge, under the water. The air to-day is a little too dry for our comfort. But we will pop up our heads every few minutes to see if you are coming.”

The young Proserpina ran quickly to a spot where, only the day before, she had seen a great many flowers. These, however, were now a little past their bloom; and wishing to give her friends the freshest and loveliest blossoms, she strayed farther into the fields, and found some that made her scream with delight. Never had she met with such exquisite flowers before—violets, so large and fragrant—roses, with so rich and delicate a blush—such superb hyacinths and such aromatic pinks—and many others, some of which seemed to be of new shapes and colors. Two or three times, moreover, she could not help thinking that a tuft of most splendid flowers had suddenly sprouted out of the earth before her very eyes, as if on purpose to tempt her a few steps farther. Proserpina’s apron was soon filled and brimming[196] over with delightful blossoms. She was on the point of turning back in order to rejoin the sea-nymphs, and sit with them on the moist sands, all twining wreaths together. But, a little farther on, what should she behold? It was a large shrub, completely covered with the most magnificent flowers in the world.

“The darlings!” cried Proserpina; and then she thought to herself, “I was looking at that spot only a moment ago. How strange it is that I did not see the flowers!”

The nearer she approached the shrub, the more attractive it looked, until she came quite close to it; and then, although its beauty was richer than words can tell, she hardly knew whether to like it or not. It bore above a hundred flowers of the most brilliant hues, and each different from the others, but all having a kind of resemblance among themselves, which showed them to be sister blossoms. But there was a deep, glossy luster on the leaves of the shrub, and on the petals of the flowers, that made Proserpina doubt whether they might not be poisonous. To tell you the truth, foolish as it may seem, she was half inclined to turn round and run away.

“What a silly child I am!” thought she, taking courage. “It is really the most beautiful shrub that ever sprang out of the earth. I will pull it up by the roots, and carry it home, and plant it in my mother’s garden.”

Holding up her apron full of flowers with her left hand, Proserpina seized the large shrub with the other, and pulled and pulled, but was hardly able to loosen the soil about its roots. What a deep-rooted[197] plant it was! Again the girl pulled with all her might, and observed that the earth began to stir and crack to some distance around the stem. She gave another pull, but relaxed her hold, fancying that there was a rumbling sound right beneath her feet. Did the roots extend down into some enchanted cavern? Then, laughing at herself for so childish a notion, she made another effort; up came the shrub, and Proserpina staggered back, holding the stem triumphantly in her hand, and gazing at the deep hole which its roots had left in the soil.

Much to her astonishment, this hole kept spreading wider and wider, and growing deeper and deeper, until it really seemed to have no bottom; and all the while, there came a rumbling noise out of its depths, louder and louder, and nearer and nearer, and sounding like the tramp of horses’ hoofs and the rattling of wheels. Too much frightened to run away, she stood straining her eyes into this wonderful cavity, and soon saw a team of four sable horses snorting smoke out of their nostrils, and tearing their way out of the earth with a splendid golden chariot whirling at their heels. They leaped out of the bottomless hole, chariot and all; and there they were, tossing their black manes, flourishing their black tails, and curvetting with every one of their hoofs off the ground at once, close by the spot where Proserpina stood. In the chariot sat the figure of a man, richly dressed, with a crown on his head, all flaming with diamonds. He was of a noble aspect, and rather handsome, but looked sullen and discontented; and he kept rubbing his eyes and shading them with his hand,[198] as if he did not live enough in the sunshine to be very fond of its light.

As soon as this personage saw the affrighted Proserpina, he beckoned her to come a little nearer.

“Do not be afraid,” said he, with as cheerful a smile as he knew how to put on. “Come! Will not you like to ride a little way with me, in my beautiful chariot?”

But Proserpina was so alarmed, that she wished for nothing but to get out of his reach. And no wonder. The stranger did not look remarkably good-natured, in spite of his smile; and as for his voice, its tones were deep and stern, and sounded as much like the rumbling of an earthquake under ground as anything else. As is always the case with children in trouble, Proserpina’s first thought was to call for her mother.

“Mother, Mother Ceres!” cried she, all in a tremble. “Come quickly and save me.”

But her voice was too faint for her mother to hear. Indeed, it is most probable that Ceres was then a thousand miles off, making the corn grow in some far-distant country. Nor could it have availed her poor daughter, even had she been within hearing; for no sooner did Proserpina begin to cry out, than the stranger leaped to the ground, caught the child in his arms, and again mounting the chariot, shook the reins, and shouted to the four black horses to set off. They immediately broke into so swift a gallop that it seemed rather like flying through the air than running along the earth. In a moment, Proserpina lost sight of the pleasant vale of Enna, in[199] which she had always dwelt. Another instant and even the summit of Mount Ætna had become so blue in the distance, that she could scarcely distinguish it from the smoke that gushed out of its crater. But still the poor child screamed, and scattered her apron full of flowers along the way, and left a long cry trailing behind the chariot; and many mothers, to whose ears it came, ran quickly to see if any mischief had befallen their children. But Mother Ceres was a great way off, and could not hear the cry.

As they rode on, the stranger did his best to soothe her.

“Why should you be so frightened, my pretty child,” said he, trying to soften his rough voice. “I promise not to do you any harm. What! You have been gathering flowers? Wait till we come to my palace, and I will give you a garden full of prettier flowers than those, all made of pearls, and diamonds, and rubies. Can you guess who I am? They call my name Pluto, and I am the king of diamonds and all other precious stones. Every atom of the gold and silver that lies under the earth belongs to me, to say nothing of the copper and iron, and of the coal-mines, which supply me with abundance of fuel. Do you see this splendid crown upon my head? You may have it for a plaything. Oh, we shall be very good friends, and you will find me more agreeable than you expect, when once we get out of this troublesome sunshine.”

“Let me go home!” cried Proserpina—“let me go home!”

“My home is better than your mother’s,”[200] answered King Pluto. “It is a palace, all made of gold, and crystal windows; and because there is little or no sunshine thereabouts, the apartments are illuminated with diamond lamps. You never saw anything half so magnificent as my throne. If you like, you may sit down on it, and be my little queen, and I will sit on the footstool.”

“I don’t care for golden palaces and thrones,” sobbed Proserpina. “Oh, my mother, my mother! Carry me back to my mother!”

But King Pluto, as he called himself, only shouted to his steeds to go faster.

“Pray do not be foolish, Proserpina,” said he, in rather a sullen tone. “I offer you my palace and my crown, and all the riches that are under the earth, and you treat me as if I were doing you an injury. The one thing which my palace needs is a merry little maid, to run upstairs and down, and cheer up the rooms with her smile. And this is what you must do for King Pluto.”

“Never!” answered Proserpina, looking as miserable as she could. “I shall never smile again till you set me down at my mother’s door.”

But she might just as well have talked to the wind that whistled past them; for Pluto urged on his horses, and went faster than ever. Proserpina continued to cry out, and screamed so long and so loudly that her poor little voice was almost screamed away; and when it was nothing but a whisper, she happened to cast her eyes over a great, broad field of waving grain—and whom do you think she saw? Who, but Mother Ceres, making the corn grow, and too busy to notice the golden[201] chariot as it went rattling along. The child mustered all her strength, and gave one more scream, but was out of sight before Ceres had time to turn her head.

King Pluto had taken a road which now began to grow excessively gloomy. It was bordered on each side with rocks and precipices, between which the rumbling of the chariot-wheels was reverberated with a noise like rolling thunder. The trees and bushes that grew in the crevices of the rocks had very dismal foliage; and by and by, although it was hardly noon, the air became obscured with a gray twilight. The black horses had rushed along so swiftly, that they were already beyond the limits of the sunshine. But the duskier it grew, the more did Pluto’s visage assume an air of satisfaction. After all, he was not an ill-looking person, especially when he left off twisting his features into a smile that did not belong to them. Proserpina peeped at his face through the gathering dusk, and hoped that he might not be so very wicked as she at first thought him.

“Ah, this twilight is truly refreshing,” said King Pluto, “after being so tormented with that ugly and impertinent glare of the sun. How much more agreeable is lamplight or torchlight, more particularly when reflected from diamonds! It will be a magnificent sight when we get to my palace.”

“Is it much farther?” asked Proserpina. “And will you carry me back when I have seen it?”

“We will talk of that by and by,” answered Pluto. “We are just entering my dominions.[202] Do you see that tall gateway before us? When we pass those gates, we are at home. And there lies my faithful mastiff at the threshold. Cerberus! Cerberus! Come hither, my good dog!”

So saying, Pluto pulled at the reins, and stopped the chariot right between the tall, massive pillars of the gateway. The mastiff of which he had spoken got up from the threshold, and stood on his hinder legs, so as to put his forepaws on the chariot-wheel. But, my stars, what a strange dog it was! Why, he was a big, rough, ugly-looking monster, with three separate heads, and each of them fiercer than the two others; but, fierce as they were, King Pluto patted them all. He seemed as fond of his three-headed dog as if it had been a sweet little spaniel, with silken ears and curly hair. Cerberus, on the other hand, was evidently rejoiced to see his master, and expressed his attachment, as other dogs do, by wagging his tail at a great rate. Proserpina’s eyes being drawn to it by its brisk motion, she saw that this tail was neither more nor less than a live dragon, with fiery eyes, and fangs that had a very poisonous aspect. And while the three-headed Cerberus was fawning so lovingly on King Pluto, there was the dragon tail wagging against its will, and looking as cross and ill-natured as you can imagine, on its own separate account.

“Will the dog bite me?” asked Proserpina, shrinking closer to Pluto. “What an ugly creature he is!”

“Oh, never fear,” answered her companion. “He never harms people, unless they try to enter[203] my dominions without being sent for, or to get away when I wish to keep them here. Down, Cerberus! Now, my pretty Proserpina, we will drive on.”

On went the chariot, and King Pluto seemed greatly pleased to find himself once more in his own kingdom. He drew Proserpina’s attention to the rich veins of gold that were to be seen among the rocks, and pointed to several places where one stroke of a pick-axe would loosen a bushel of diamonds. All along the road, indeed, there were sparkling gems, which would have been of inestimable value above ground, but which were here reckoned of the meaner sort, and hardly worth a beggar’s stooping for.

Not far from the gateway, they came to a bridge, which seemed to be built of iron. Pluto stopped the chariot, and bade Proserpina look at the stream which was gliding so lazily beneath it. Never in her life had she beheld so torpid, so black, so muddy-looking a stream: its waters reflected no images of anything that was on the banks, and it moved as sluggishly as if it had quite forgotten which way it ought to flow, and had rather stagnate than flow either one way or the other.

“This is the river Lethe,” observed King Pluto. “Is it not a very pleasant stream?”

“I think it a very dismal one,” said Proserpina.

“It suits my taste, however,” answered Pluto, who was apt to be sullen when anybody disagreed with him. “At all events, its water has one very excellent quality; for a single draught of it makes people forget every care and sorrow that has hitherto[204] tormented them. Only sip a little of it, my dear Proserpina, and you will instantly cease to grieve for your mother, and will have nothing in your memory that can prevent your being perfectly happy in my palace. I will send for some, in a golden goblet, the moment we arrive.”

“Oh, no, no, no!” cried Proserpina, weeping afresh. “I had a thousand times rather be miserable with remembering my mother, than be happy in forgetting her. That dear, dear mother! I never, never will forget her.”

“We shall see,” said King Pluto. “You do not know what fine times we will have in my palace. Here we are just at the portal. These pillars are solid gold, I assure you.”

He alighted from the chariot, and taking Proserpina in his arms, carried her up a lofty flight of steps into the great hall of the palace. It was splendidly illuminated by means of large precious stones, of various hues, which seemed to burn like so many lamps, and glowed with a hundredfold radiance all through the vast apartment. And yet there was a kind of gloom in the midst of this enchanted light; nor was there a single object in the hall that was really agreeable to behold, except the little Proserpina herself, a lovely child, with one earthly flower which she had not let fall from her hand. It is my opinion that even King Pluto had never been happy in his palace, and that this was the true reason why he had stolen away Proserpina, in order that he might have something to love, instead of cheating his heart any longer with this tiresome magnificence. And, though he[205] pretended to dislike the sunshine of the upper world, yet the effect of the child’s presence, bedimmed as she was by her tears, was as if a faint and watery sunbeam had somehow or other found its way into the enchanted hall.

Pluto now summoned his domestics, and bade them lose no time in preparing a most sumptuous banquet, and above all things, not to fail of setting a golden beaker of the water of Lethe by Proserpina’s plate.

“I will neither drink that nor anything else,” said Proserpina. “Nor will I taste a morsel of food, even if you keep me forever in your palace.”

“I should be sorry for that,” replied King Pluto, patting her cheek; for he really wished to be kind, if he had only known how. “You are a spoiled child, I perceive, my little Proserpina; but when you see the nice things which my cook will make for you, your appetite will quickly come again.”

Then, sending for the head cook, he gave strict orders that all sorts of delicacies, such as young people are usually fond of, should be set before Proserpina. He had a secret motive in this; for, you are to understand, it is a fixed law, that, when persons are carried off to the land of magic, if they once taste any food there, they can never get back to their friends. Now, if King Pluto had been cunning enough to offer Proserpina some fruit, or bread and milk (which was the simple fare to which the child had always been accustomed), it is very probable that she would soon have been tempted to eat it. But he left the matter entirely to his cook, who, like all other cooks, considered nothing[206] fit to eat unless it were rich pastry, or highly seasoned meat, or spiced sweet cakes—things which Proserpina’s mother had never given her, and the smell of which quite took away her appetite, instead of sharpening it.

But my story must now clamber out of King Pluto’s dominions, and see what Mother Ceres has been about, since she was bereft of her daughter. We had a glimpse of her, as you remember, half hidden among the waving grain, while the four black steeds were swiftly whirling along the chariot in which her beloved Proserpina was so unwillingly borne away. You recollect, too, the loud scream which Proserpina gave, just when the chariot was out of sight.

Of all the child’s outcries, this last shriek was the only one that reached the ears of Mother Ceres. She had mistaken the rumbling of the chariot-wheels for a peal of thunder, and imagined that a shower was coming up, and that it would assist her in making the corn grow. But, at the sound of Proserpina’s shriek, she started, and looked about in every direction, not knowing whence it came, but feeling almost certain that it was her daughter’s voice. It seemed so unaccountable, however, that the girl should have strayed over so many lands and seas (which she herself could not have traversed without the aid of her winged dragons), that the good Ceres tried to believe that it must be the child of some other parent, and not her own darling Proserpina, who had uttered this lamentable cry. Nevertheless, it troubled her with a vast many tender fears, such as are ready[207] to bestir themselves in every mother’s heart, when she finds it necessary to go away from her dear children without leaving them under the care of some maiden aunt, or other such faithful guardian.

So she quickly left the field in which she had been so busy; and, as her work was not half done, the grain looked, next day, as if it needed both sun and rain, and as if it were blighted in the ear, and had something the matter with its roots.

The pair of dragons must have had very nimble wings; for, in less than an hour, Mother Ceres had alighted at the door of her home, and found it empty. Knowing, however, that the child was fond of sporting on the seashore, she hastened thither as fast as she could, and there beheld the wet faces of the poor sea-nymphs peeping over a wave. All this while, the good creatures had been waiting on the bank of sponge, and, once every half-minute or so, had popped up their four heads above water, to see if their playmate were yet coming back. When they saw Mother Ceres, they sat down on the crest of the surf wave, and let it toss them ashore at her feet.

“Where is Proserpina?” cried Ceres. “Where is my child? Tell me, you naughty sea-nymphs, have you enticed her under the sea?”

“Oh, no, good Mother Ceres,” said the innocent sea-nymphs, tossing back their green ringlets, and looking her in the face. “We never should dream of such a thing. Proserpina has been at play with us, it is true; but she left us a long while ago, meaning only to run a little way upon the dry land,[208] and gather some flowers for a wreath. This was early in the day, and we have seen nothing of her since.”

Ceres scarcely waited to hear what the nymphs had to say, before she hurried off to make inquiries all through the neighborhood. But nobody told her anything that could enable the poor mother to guess what had become of Proserpina. A fisherman, it is true, had noticed her little footprints in the sand, as he went homeward along the beach with a basket of fish; a rustic had seen the child stooping to gather flowers; several persons had heard either the rattling of chariot-wheels, or the rumbling of distant thunder; and one old woman, while plucking vervain and catnip, had heard a scream, but supposed it to be some childish nonsense, and therefore did not take the trouble to look up. The stupid people! It took them such a tedious while to tell the nothing that they knew, that it was dark night before Mother Ceres found out that she must seek her daughter elsewhere. So she lighted a torch, and set forth, resolving never to come back until Proserpina was discovered.

In her haste and trouble of mind, she quite forgot her car and the winged dragons; or, it may be, she thought that she could follow up the search more thoroughly on foot. At all events, this was the way in which she began her sorrowful journey, holding her torch before her, and looking carefully at every object along the path. And as it happened, she had not gone far before she found one of the magnificent flowers[209] which grew on the shrub that Proserpina had pulled up.

“Ha!” thought Mother Ceres, examining it by torchlight. “Here is mischief in this flower! The earth did not produce it by any help of mine, nor of its own accord. It is the work of enchantment, and is therefore poisonous; and perhaps it has poisoned my poor child.”

But she put the poisonous flower in her bosom, not knowing whether she might ever find any other memorial of Proserpina.

All night long, at the door of every cottage and farmhouse, Ceres knocked, and called up the weary laborers to inquire if they had seen her child; and they stood, gaping and half asleep, at the threshold, and answered her pityingly, and besought her to come in and rest. At the portal of every palace, too, she made so loud a summons that the menials hurried to throw open the gate, thinking that it must be some great king or queen, who would demand a banquet for supper and a stately chamber to repose in. And when they saw only a sad and anxious woman, with a torch in her hand and a wreath of withered poppies on her head, they spoke rudely, and sometimes threatened to set the dogs upon her. But nobody had seen Proserpina, nor could give Mother Ceres the least hint which way to seek her. Thus passed the night; and still she continued her search without sitting down to rest, or stopping to take food, or even remembering to put out the torch; although first the rosy dawn, and then the glad light of the morning sun, made its red flame[210] look thin and pale. But I wonder what sort of stuff this torch was made of; for it burned dimly through the day, and, at night, was as bright as ever, and never was extinguished by the rain or wind, in all the weary days and nights while Ceres was seeking for Proserpina.

It was not merely of human beings that she asked tidings of her daughter. In the woods and by the streams, she met creatures of another nature, who used, in those old times, to haunt the pleasant and solitary places, and were very sociable with persons who understood their language and customs, as Mother Ceres did. Sometimes, for instance, she tapped with her finger against the knotted trunk of a majestic oak; and immediately its rude bark would cleave asunder, and forth would step a beautiful maiden, who was the hamadryad of the oak, dwelling inside of it, and sharing its long life, and rejoicing when its green leaves sported with the breeze. But not one of these leafy damsels had seen Proserpina. Then, going a little farther, Ceres would, perhaps, come to a fountain, gushing out of a pebbly hollow in the earth, and would dabble with her hand in the water. Behold, up through its sandy and pebbly bed, along with the fountain’s gush, a young woman with dripping hair would arise, and stand gazing at Mother Ceres, half out of the water, and undulating up and down with its ever-restless motion. But when the mother asked whether her poor lost child had stopped to drink out of the fountain, the naiad, with weeping eyes (for these water-nymphs had tears to spare for everybody’s[211] grief), would answer, “No!” in a murmuring voice, which was just like the murmur of the stream.

Often, likewise, she encountered fauns, who looked like sunburnt country people, except that they had hairy ears, and little horns upon their foreheads, and the hinder legs of goats, on which they gambolled merrily about the woods and fields. They were a frolicsome kind of creature, but grew as sad as their cheerful dispositions would allow when Ceres inquired for her daughter, and they had no good news to tell. But sometimes she came suddenly upon a rude gang of satyrs, who had faces like monkeys and horses’ tails behind them, and who were generally dancing in a very boisterous manner, with shouts of noisy laughter. When she stopped to question them, they would only laugh the louder, and make new merriment out of the lone woman’s distress. How unkind of those ugly satyrs. And once, while crossing a solitary sheep-pasture, she saw a personage named Pan, seated at the foot of a tall rock, and making music on a shepherd’s flute. He, too, had horns, and hairy ears, and goat’s feet; but, being acquainted with Mother Ceres, he answered her question as civilly as he knew how, and invited her to taste some milk and honey out of a wooden bowl. But neither could Pan tell her what had become of Proserpina, any better than the rest of these wild peoples.

And thus Mother Ceres went wandering about for nine long days and nights, finding no trace of Proserpina, unless it were now and then a withered flower; and these she picked up and put in[212] her bosom, because she fancied that they might have fallen from her poor child’s hand. All day she travelled onward through the hot sun; and at night, again, the flame of the torch would redden and gleam along the pathway, and she continued her search by its light, without ever sitting down to rest.

On the tenth day, she chanced to espy the mouth of a cavern, within which (though it was bright noon everywhere else) there would have been only a dusky twilight; but it so happened that a torch was burning there. It flickered, and struggled with the duskiness, but could not half light up the gloomy cavern with all its melancholy glimmer. Ceres was resolved to leave no spot without a search; so she peeped into the entrance of the cave, and lighted it up a little more, by holding her own torch before her. In so doing, she caught a glimpse of what seemed to be a woman, sitting on the brown leaves of the last autumn, a great heap of which had been swept into the cave by the wind. This woman (if woman it were) was by no means so beautiful as many of her sex; for her head, they tell me, was shaped very much like a dog’s, and, by way of ornament, she wore a wreath of snakes around it.

But Mother Ceres, the moment she saw her, knew that this was an odd kind of a person, who put all her enjoyment in being miserable, and never would have a word to say to other people, unless they were as melancholy and wretched as she herself delighted to be.

“I am wretched enough now,” thought poor[213] Ceres, “to talk with this melancholy Hecate, were she ten times sadder than ever she was yet.”

So she stepped into the cave, and sat down on the withered leaves by the dog-headed woman’s side. In all the world, since her daughter’s loss, she had found no other companion.

“O Hecate,” said she, “if ever you lose a daughter, you will know what sorrow is. Tell me, for pity’s sake, have you seen my poor child Proserpina pass by the mouth of your cavern?”

“No,” answered Hecate, in a cracked voice, and sighing betwixt every word or two—“no, Mother Ceres, I have seen nothing of your daughter. But my ears, you must know, are made in such a way that all cries of distress and affright, all over the world, are pretty sure to find their way to them; and nine days ago, as I sat in my cave, making myself very miserable, I heard the voice of a young girl, shrieking as if in great distress. Something terrible has happened to the child, you may rest assured. As well as I could judge, a dragon, or some other cruel monster, was carrying her away.”

“You kill me by saying so,” cried Ceres, almost ready to faint. “Where was the sound, and which way did it seem to go?”

“It passed very swiftly along,” said Hecate, “and, at the same time, there was a heavy rumbling of wheels towards the eastward. I can tell you nothing more, except that, in my honest opinion, you will never see your daughter again. The best advice I can give you is, to take up your abode in this cavern, where we will be the two most wretched women in the world.”


“Not yet, dark Hecate,” replied Ceres. “But do you first come with your torch, and help me to seek for my lost child. And when there shall be no more hope of finding her (if that black day is ordained to come), then, if you will give me room to fling myself down, either on these withered leaves or on the naked rock, I will show you what it is to be miserable. But, until I know that she has perished from the face of the earth, I will not allow myself space even to grieve.”

The dismal Hecate did not much like the idea of going abroad into the sunny world. But then she reflected that the sorrow of the disconsolate Ceres would be like a gloomy twilight round about them both, let the sun shine ever so brightly, and that therefore she might enjoy her bad spirits, quite as well as if she were to stay in the cave. So she finally consented to go, and they set out together, both carrying torches, although it was broad daylight and clear sunshine. The torchlight seemed to make a gloom; so that the people whom they met along the road could not very distinctly see their figures; and, indeed, if they once caught a glimpse of Hecate, with the wreath of snakes round her forehead, they generally thought it prudent to run away, without waiting for a second glance.

As the pair travelled along in this woe-begone manner, a thought struck Ceres.

“There is one person,” she exclaimed, “who must have seen my poor child, and can doubtless tell what has become of her. Why did not I think of him before? It is Phœbus.”

“What,” said Hecate, “the young man that[215] always sits in the sunshine? Oh, pray do not think of going near him. He is a gay, light, frivolous young fellow, and will only smile in your face. And besides, there is such a glare of the sun about him, that he will quite blind my poor eyes, which I have almost wept away already.”

“You have promised to be my companion,” answered Ceres. “Come, let us make haste, or the sunshine will be gone, and Phœbus along with it.”

Accordingly, they went along in quest of Phœbus, both of them sighing grievously, and Hecate, to say the truth, making a great deal worse lamentation than Ceres; for all the pleasure she had, you know, lay in being miserable, and therefore she made the most of it. By and by, after a pretty long journey, they arrived at the sunniest spot in the whole world. There they beheld a beautiful young man, with long, curling ringlets, which seemed to be made of golden sunbeams; his garments were like light summer clouds; and the expression of his face was so exceedingly vivid, that Hecate held her hands before her eyes, muttering that he ought to wear a black veil. Phœbus (for this was the very person whom they were seeking) had a lyre in his hands, and was making its chords tremble with sweet music; at the same time singing a most exquisite song, which he had recently composed. For, besides a great many other accomplishments, this young man was renowned for his admirable poetry.

As Ceres and her dismal companion approached him, Phœbus smiled on them so cheerfully that Hecate’s wreath of snakes gave a spiteful hiss, and[216] Hecate heartily wished herself back in her cave. But as for Ceres, she was too earnest in her grief either to know or care whether Phœbus smiled or frowned.

“Phœbus,” exclaimed she, “I am in great trouble, and have come to you for assistance. Can you tell me what has become of my dear child Proserpina?”

“Proserpina! Proserpina, did you call her name?” answered Phœbus, endeavoring to recollect; for there was such a continual flow of pleasant ideas in his mind that he was apt to forget what had happened no longer ago than yesterday. “Ah, yes, I remember her now. A very lovely child, indeed. I am happy to tell you, my dear madam, that I did see the little Proserpina not many days ago. You may make yourself perfectly easy about her. She is safe, and in excellent hands.”

“Oh, where is my dear child?” cried Ceres, clasping her hands and flinging herself at his feet.

“Why,” said Phœbus—and as he spoke, he kept touching his lyre so as to make a thread of music run in and out among his words—“as the little damsel was gathering flowers (and she has really a very exquisite taste for flowers) she was suddenly snatched up by King Pluto, and carried off to his dominions. I have never been in that part of the universe; but the royal palace, I am told, is built in a very noble style of architecture, and of the most splendid and costly materials. Gold, diamonds, pearls, and all manner of precious stones will be your daughter’s ordinary playthings. I recommend to you, my dear lady, to give yourself no uneasiness. Proserpina’s sense of beauty will be duly gratified,[217] and, even in spite of the lack of sunshine, she will lead a very enviable life.”

“Hush! Say not such a word!” answered Ceres, indignantly. “What is there to gratify her heart? What are all the splendors you speak of, without affection? I must have her back again. Will you go with me, Phœbus, to demand my daughter of this wicked Pluto?”

“Pray excuse me,” replied Phœbus, with an elegant obeisance. “I certainly wish you success, and regret that my own affairs are so immediately pressing that I cannot have the pleasure of attending you. Besides, I am not upon the best of terms with King Pluto. To tell you the truth, his three-headed mastiff would never let me pass the gateway; for I should be compelled to take a sheaf of sunbeams along with me, and those, you know, are forbidden things in Pluto’s kingdom.”

“Ah, Phœbus,” said Ceres, with bitter meaning in her words, “you have a harp instead of a heart. Farewell.”

“Will not you stay a moment,” asked Phœbus, “and hear me turn the pretty and touching story of Proserpina into extemporary verses?”

But Ceres shook her head, and hastened away, along with Hecate. Phœbus (who, as I have told you, was an exquisite poet) forthwith began to make an ode about the poor mother’s grief; and, if we were to judge of his sensibility by this beautiful production, he must have been endowed with a very tender heart. But when a poet gets into the habit of using his heart strings to make chords for his lyre, he may thrum upon them as much as he will,[218] without any great pain to himself. Accordingly, though Phœbus sang a very sad song, he was as merry all the while as were the sunbeams amid which he dwelt.

Poor Mother Ceres had now found out what had become of her daughter, but was not a whit happier than before. Her case, on the contrary, looked more desperate than ever. As long as Proserpina was above ground there might have been hopes of regaining her. But now that the poor child was shut up within the iron gates of the king of the mines, at the threshold of which lay the three-headed Cerberus, there seemed no possibility of her ever making her escape. The dismal Hecate, who loved to take the darkest view of things, told Ceres that she had better come with her to the cavern, and spend the rest of her life in being miserable. Ceres answered that Hecate was welcome to go back thither herself, but that, for her part, she would wander about the earth in quest of the entrance to King Pluto’s dominions. And Hecate took her at her word, and hurried back to her beloved cave, frightening a great many little children with a glimpse of her dog’s face, as she went.

Poor Mother Ceres! It is melancholy to think of her pursuing her toilsome way all alone, and holding up that never-dying torch, the flame of which seemed an emblem of the grief and hope that burned together in her heart. So much did she suffer, that, though her aspect had been quite youthful when her troubles began, she grew to look like an elderly person in a very brief time. She cared not how she was dressed, nor had she ever[219] thought of flinging away the wreath of withered poppies, which she put on the very morning of Proserpina’s disappearance. She roamed about in so wild a way, and with her hair so dishevelled, that people took her for some distracted creature, and never dreamed that this was Mother Ceres, who had the oversight of every seed which the husbandman planted. Nowadays, she gave herself no trouble about seed-time nor harvest, but left the farmers to take care of their own affairs, and the crops to fade or flourish, as the case might be. There was nothing, now, in which Ceres seemed to feel an interest unless when she saw children at play, or gathering flowers along the wayside. Then, indeed, she would stand and gaze at them with tears in her eyes. The children, too, appeared to have a sympathy with her grief, and would cluster themselves in a little group about her knees, and look up wistfully in her face; and Ceres, after giving them a kiss all round, would lead them to their homes, and advise their mothers never to let them stray out of sight.

“For if they do,” said she, “it may happen to you, as it has to me, that the iron-hearted King Pluto will take a liking to your darlings, and snatch them up in his chariot, and carry them away.”

One day, during her pilgrimage in quest of the entrance to Pluto’s kingdom, she came to the palace of King Celeus, who reigned at Eleusis. Ascending a lofty flight of steps, she entered the portal, and found the royal household in very great alarm about the queen’s baby. The infant, it seems, was sickly (being troubled with its teeth, I suppose), and would take no food, and was all the time moaning[220] with pain. The queen—her name was Metanira—was desirous of finding a nurse; and when she beheld a woman of matronly aspect coming up the palace steps, she thought, in her own mind, that here was the very person whom she needed. So Queen Metanira ran to the door, with the poor wailing baby in her arms, and besought Ceres to take charge of it, or, at least, to tell her what would do it good.

“Will you trust the child entirely to me?” asked Ceres.

“Yes, and gladly, too,” answered the queen, “if you will devote all your time to him. For I can see that you have been a mother.”

“You are right,” said Ceres. “I once had a child of my own. Well; I will be the nurse of this poor, sickly boy. But beware, I warn you, that you do not interfere with any kind of treatment which I may judge proper for him. If you do so, the poor infant must suffer for his mother’s folly.”

Then she kissed the child, and it seemed to do him good; for he smiled and nestled closely into her bosom.

So Mother Ceres set her torch in a corner (where it kept burning all the while), and took up her abode in the palace of King Celeus, as nurse to the little Prince Demophoön. She treated him as if he were her own child, and allowed neither the king nor the queen to say whether he should be bathed in warm or cold water, or what he should eat, or how often he should take the air, or when he should be put to bed. You would hardly believe me, if I were to tell how quickly the baby prince got rid of his[221] ailments, and grew fat, and rosy, and strong, and how he had two rows of ivory teeth in less time than any other little fellow, before or since. Instead of the palest, and wretchedest, and puniest imp in the world (as his own mother confessed him to be when Ceres first took him in charge), he was now a strapping baby, crowing, laughing, kicking up his heels, and rolling from one end of the room to the other. All the good women of the neighborhood crowded to the palace, and held up their hands, in unutterable amazement, at the beauty and wholesomeness of this darling little prince. Their wonder was the greater, because he was never seen to taste any food; not even so much as a cup of milk.

“Pray, nurse,” the queen kept saying, “how is it that you make the child thrive so?”

“I was a mother once,” Ceres always replied; “and having nursed my own child, I know what other children need.”

But Queen Metanira, as was very natural, had a great curiosity to know precisely what the nurse did to her child. One night, therefore, she hid herself in the chamber where Ceres and the little prince were accustomed to sleep. There was a fire in the chimney, and it had now crumbled into great coals and embers, which lay glowing on the hearth, with a blaze flickering up now and then, and flinging a warm and ruddy light upon the walls. Ceres sat before the hearth with the child in her lap, and the firelight making her shadow dance upon the ceiling overhead. She undressed the little prince, and bathed him all over with some fragrant liquid out of a vase. The next thing she did was to rake back[222] the red embers, and make a hollow place among them, just where the backlog had been. At last, while the baby was crowing, and clapping its fat little hands, and laughing in the nurse’s face (just as you may have seen your little brother or sister do before going into its warm bath), Ceres suddenly laid him, all naked as he was, in the hollow among the red-hot embers. She then raked the ashes over him, and turned quietly away.

You may imagine, if you can, how Queen Metanira shrieked, thinking nothing less than that her dear child would be burned to a cinder. She burst forth from her hiding-place, and running to the hearth, raked open the fire, and snatched up poor little Prince Demophoön out of his bed of live coals, one of which he was gripping in each of his fists. He immediately set up a grievous cry, as babies are apt to do when rudely startled out of a sound sleep. To the queen’s astonishment and joy, she could perceive no token of the child’s being injured by the hot fire in which he had lain. She now turned to Mother Ceres, and asked her to explain the mystery.

“Foolish woman,” answered Ceres, “did you not promise to intrust this poor infant entirely to me? You little know the mischief you have done him. Had you left him to my care, he would have grown up like a child of celestial birth, endowed with superhuman strength and intelligence, and would have lived forever. Do you imagine that earthly children are to become immortal without being tempered to it in the fiercest heat of the fire? But you have ruined your own son. For though he will be[223] a strong man and a hero in his day, yet, on account of your folly, he will grow old, and finally die, like the sons of other women. The weak tenderness of his mother has cost the poor boy an immortality. Farewell.”

Saying these words, she kissed the little prince, Demophoön, and sighed to think what he had lost, and took her departure without heeding Queen Metanira, who entreated her to remain, and cover up the child among the hot embers as often as she pleased. Poor baby! He never slept so warmly again.

While she dwelt in the king’s palace, Mother Ceres had been so continually occupied with taking care of the young prince, that her heart was a little lightened of its grief for Proserpina. But now, having nothing else to busy herself about, she became just as wretched as before. At length, in her despair, she came to the dreadful resolution that not a stalk of grain, nor a blade of grass, not a potato, nor a turnip, nor any other vegetable that was good for man or beast to eat, should be suffered to grow until her daughter were restored. She even forbade the flowers to bloom, lest somebody’s heart should be cheered by their beauty.

Now, as not so much as a head of asparagus ever presumed to poke itself out of the ground, without the especial permission of Ceres, you may conceive what a terrible calamity had here fallen upon the earth. The husbandmen ploughed and planted as usual; but there lay the rich black furrows, all as barren as a desert of sand. The pastures looked as brown in the sweet month of June as ever they did[224] in chill November. The rich man’s broad acres and the cottager’s small garden-patch were equally blighted. Every little girl’s flower-bed showed nothing but dry stalks. The old people shook their white heads, and said that the earth had grown aged like themselves, and was no longer capable of wearing the warm smile of summer on its face. It was really piteous to see the poor, starving cattle and sheep, how they followed behind Ceres, lowing and bleating, as if their instinct taught them to expect help from her; and everybody that was acquainted with her power besought her to have mercy on the human race, and, at all events, to let the grass grow. But Mother Ceres, though naturally of an affectionate disposition, was now inexorable.

“Never,” said she. “If the earth is ever again to see any verdure, it must first grow along the path which my daughter will tread in coming back to me.”

Finally, as there seemed to be no other remedy, our old friend Quicksilver was sent post haste to King Pluto, in hopes that he might be persuaded to undo the mischief he had done, and to set everything right again, by giving up Proserpina. Quicksilver accordingly made the best of his way to the great gate, took a flying leap right over the three-headed mastiff, and stood at the door of the palace in an inconceivably short time. The servants knew him both by his face and garb; for his short cloak, and his winged cap and shoes, and his snaky staff had often been seen thereabouts in times gone by. He requested to be shown immediately into the king’s presence; and Pluto, who heard his voice from the[225] top of the stairs, and who loved to recreate himself with Quicksilver’s merry talk, called out to him to come up. And while they settle their business together, we must inquire what Proserpina has been doing ever since we saw her last.

The child had declared, as you may remember, that she would not taste a mouthful of food as long as she should be compelled to remain in King Pluto’s palace. How she contrived to maintain her resolution, and at the same time to keep herself tolerably plump and rosy, is more than I can explain; but some young ladies, I am given to understand, possess the faculty of living on air, and Proserpina seems to have possessed it, too. At any rate, it was now six months since she left the outside of the earth; and not a morsel, so far as the attendants were able to testify, had yet passed between her teeth. This was the more creditable to Proserpina, inasmuch as King Pluto had caused her to be tempted, day after day, with all manner of sweetmeats, and richly preserved fruits, and delicacies of every sort, such as young people are generally most fond of. But her good mother had often told her of the hurtfulness of these things; and for that reason alone, if there had been no other, she would have resolutely refused to taste them.

All this time, being of a cheerful and active disposition, the little damsel was not quite so unhappy as you may have supposed. The immense palace had a thousand rooms, and was full of beautiful and wonderful objects. There was a never-ceasing gloom, it is true, which half hid itself among the innumerable pillars, gliding before the child as[226] she wandered among them, and treading stealthily behind her in the echo of her footsteps. Neither was all the dazzle of the precious stones, which flamed with their own light, worth one gleam of natural sunshine; nor could the most brilliant of the many-colored gems, which Proserpina had for playthings, vie with the simple beauty of the flowers she used to gather. But, still wherever the girl went, among those gilded halls and chambers, it seemed as if she carried nature and sunshine along with her, and as if she scattered dewy blossoms on her right hand and on her left. After Proserpina came, the palace was no longer the same abode of stately artifice and dismal magnificence that it had before been. The inhabitants all felt this, and King Pluto more than any of them.

“My own little Proserpina,” he used to say, “I wish you could like me a little better. We gloomy and cloudy-natured persons have often as warm hearts at bottom, as those of a more cheerful character. If you would only stay with me of your own accord, it would make me happier than the possession of a hundred such palaces as this.”

“Ah,” said Proserpina, “you should have tried to make me like you before carrying me off. And the best thing you can do now is, to let me go again. Then I might remember you sometimes, and think that you were as kind as you knew how to be. Perhaps, too, one day or other, I might come back, and pay you a visit.”


—page 238

From the painting by R. von Deutsch

“No, no,” answered Pluto, with his gloomy smile, “I will not trust you for that. You are too fond of living in the broad daylight, and gathering flowers.[227] What an idle and childish taste that is! Are not these gems, which I have ordered to be dug for you, and which are richer than any in my crown—are they not prettier than a violet?”

“Not half so pretty,” said Proserpina, snatching the gems from Pluto’s hand, and flinging them to the other end of the hall. “Oh my sweet violets, shall I never see you again?”

And then she burst into tears. But young people’s tears have very little saltness or acidity in them, and do not inflame the eyes so much as those of grown persons; so that it is not to be wondered at if, a few moments afterwards, Proserpina was sporting through the hall almost as merrily as she and the four sea-nymphs had sported along the edge of the surf wave. King Pluto gazed after her, and wished that he, too, was a child. And little Proserpina, when she turned about, and beheld this great king standing in his splendid hall, and looking so grand, and so melancholy, and so lonesome, was smitten with a kind of pity. She ran back to him, and, for the first time in all her life, put her small soft hand in his.

“I love you a little,” whispered she, looking up in his face.

“Do you, indeed, my dear child!” cried Pluto, bending his dark face down to kiss her; but Proserpina shrank away from the kiss, for though his features were noble, they were very dusky and grim. “Well, I have not deserved it of you, after keeping you a prisoner for so many months, and starving you besides. Are you not terribly hungry? Is there nothing which I can get you to eat?”


In asking this question, the king of the mines had a very cunning purpose; for, you will recollect, if Proserpina tasted a morsel of food in his dominions, she would never afterwards be at liberty to quit them.

“No, indeed,” said Proserpina. “Your head cook is always baking, and stewing, and roasting, and rolling out paste, and contriving one dish or another, which he imagines may be to my liking. But he might just as well save himself the trouble, poor, fat little man that he is. I have no appetite for anything in the world, unless it were a slice of bread of my mother’s own baking, or a little fruit out of her garden.”

When Pluto heard this, he began to see that he had mistaken the best method of tempting Proserpina to eat. The cook’s made dishes and artificial dainties were not half so delicious, in the good child’s opinion, as the simple fare to which Mother Ceres had accustomed her. Wondering that he had never thought of it before, the king now sent one of his trusty attendants, with a large basket, to get some of the finest and juiciest pears, peaches, and plums which could anywhere be found in the upper world. Unfortunately, however, this was during the time when Ceres had forbidden any fruits or vegetables to grow; and, after seeking all over the earth, King Pluto’s servant found only a single pomegranate, and that so dried up as to be not worth eating. Nevertheless, since there was no better to be had, he brought this dry, old withered pomegranate home to the palace, put it on a magnificent golden salver, and carried it up to Proserpina. Now it happened,[229] curiously enough, that, just as the servant was bringing the pomegranate into the back door of the palace, our friend Quicksilver had gone up the front steps, on his errand to get Proserpina away from King Pluto.

As soon as Proserpina saw the pomegranate on the golden salver, she told the servant he had better take it away again.

“I shall not touch it, I assure you,” said she. “If I were ever so hungry, I should never think of eating such a miserable, dry pomegranate as that.”

“It is the only one in the world,” said the servant.

He set down the golden salver, with the wizened pomegranate upon it, and left the room. When he was gone, Proserpina could not help coming close to the table, and looking at this poor specimen of dried fruit with a great deal of eagerness; for, to say the truth, on seeing something that suited her taste, she felt all the six months’ appetite taking possession of her at once. To be sure, it was a very wretched-looking pomegranate, and seemed to have no more juice in it than an oyster-shell. But there was no choice of such things in King Pluto’s palace. This was the first fruit she had seen there, and the last she was ever likely to see; and unless she ate it up immediately, it would grow drier than it already was, and be wholly unfit to eat.

“At least, I may smell it,” thought Proserpina. So she took up the pomegranate, and applied it to her nose; and, somehow or other, being in such close neighborhood to her mouth, the fruit found its way into that little red cave. Dear me! what an everlasting pity! Before Proserpina knew what she was[230] about, her teeth had actually bitten it, of their own accord. Just as this fatal deed was done, the door of the apartment opened, and in came King Pluto, followed by Quicksilver, who had been urging him to let his little prisoner go. At the first noise of their entrance, Proserpina withdrew the pomegranate from her mouth. But Quicksilver (whose eyes were very keen, and his wits the sharpest that ever anybody had) perceived that the child was a little confused; and seeing the empty salver, he suspected that she had been taking a sly nibble of something or other. As for honest Pluto, he never guessed at the secret.

“My little Proserpina,” said the king, sitting down, and affectionately drawing her between his knees, “here is Quicksilver, who tells me that a great many misfortunes have befallen innocent people on account of my detaining you in my dominions. To confess the truth, I myself had already reflected that it was an unjustifiable act to take you away from your good mother. But, then, you must consider, my dear child, that this vast palace is apt to be gloomy (although the precious stones certainly shine very bright), and that I am not of the most cheerful disposition, and that therefore it was a natural thing enough to seek for the society of some merrier creature than myself. I hoped you would take my crown for a plaything, and me—ah, you laugh, naughty Proserpina—me, grim as I am, for a playmate. It was a silly expectation.”

“Not so extremely silly,” whispered Proserpina. “You have really amused me very much, sometimes.”


“Thank you,” said King Pluto, rather dryly. “But I can see, plainly enough, that you think my palace a dusky prison, and me the iron-hearted keeper of it. And an iron heart I should surely have, if I could detain you here any longer, my poor child, when it is now six months since you tasted food. I give you your liberty. Go with Quicksilver. Hasten home to your dear mother.”

Now, although you may not have supposed it, Proserpina found it impossible to take leave of poor King Pluto without some regrets, and a good ideal of compunction for not telling him about the pomegranate. She even shed a tear or two, thinking how lonely and cheerless the great palace would seem to him, with all its ugly glare of artificial light, after she herself—his one little ray of natural sunshine, whom he had stolen, to be sure, but only because he valued her so much—after she should have departed. I know not how many kind things she might have said to the disconsolate king of the mines, had not Quicksilver hurried her away.

“Come along quickly,” whispered he in her ear, “or his Majesty may change his royal mind. And take care, above all things, that you say nothing of what was brought you on the golden salver.”

In a very short time, they had passed the great gateway (leaving the three-headed Cerberus barking, and yelping, and growling, with threefold din, behind them), and emerged upon the surface of the earth. It was delightful to behold, as Proserpina hastened along, how the path grew verdant behind and on either side of her. Wherever[232] she set her blessed foot, there was at once a dewy flower. The violets gushed up along the wayside. The grass and the grain began to sprout with tenfold vigor and luxuriance, to make up for the dreary months that had been wasted in barrenness. The starved cattle immediately set to work grazing, after their long fast, and ate enormously all day, and got up at midnight to eat more. But I can assure you it was a busy time of year with the farmers, when they found the summer coming upon them with such a rush. Nor must I forget to say that all the birds in the whole world hopped about upon the newly blossoming trees, and sang together in a prodigious ecstasy of joy.

Mother Ceres had returned to her deserted home, and was sitting disconsolately on the doorstep, with her torch burning in her hand. She had been idly watching the flame for some moments past, when, all at once, it flickered and went out.

“What does this mean?” thought she. “It was an enchanted torch, and should have kept burning till my child came back.”

Lifting her eyes, she was surprised to see a sudden verdure flashing over the brown and barren fields, exactly as you may have observed a golden hue gleaming far and wide across the landscape, from the just risen sun.

“Does the earth disobey me?” exclaimed Mother Ceres, indignantly. “Does it presume to be green, when I have bidden it be barren, until my daughter shall be restored to my arms?”

“Then open your arms, dear mother,” cried a[233] well-known voice, “and take your little daughter into them.”

And Proserpina came running, and flung herself upon her mother’s bosom. Their mutual transport is not to be described. The grief of their separation had caused both of them to shed a great many tears; and now they shed a great many more, because their joy could not so well express itself in any other way.

When their hearts had grown a little more quiet, Mother Ceres looked anxiously at Proserpina.

“My child,” said she, “did you taste any food while you were in King Pluto’s palace?”

“Dearest mother,” answered Proserpina, “I will tell you the whole truth. Until this very morning, not a morsel of food had passed my lips. But to-day, they brought me a pomegranate (a very dry one it was, and all shrivelled up, till there was little left of it but seeds and skin), and having seen no fruit for so long a time, and being faint with hunger, I was tempted just to bite it. The instant I tasted it, King Pluto and Quicksilver came into the room. I had not swallowed a morsel; but—dear mother, I hope it was no harm—but six of the pomegranate seeds, I am afraid, remained in my mouth.”

“Ah, unfortunate child, and miserable me!” exclaimed Ceres. “For each of those six pomegranate seeds you must spend one month of every year in King Pluto’s palace. You are but half restored to your mother. Only six months with me, and six with that good-for-nothing King of Darkness!”

“Do not speak so harshly of poor King Pluto,”[234] said Proserpina, kissing her mother. “He has some very good qualities; and I really think I can bear to spend six months in his palace, if he will only let me spend the other six with you. He certainly did very wrong to carry me off; but then, as he says, it was but a dismal sort of life for him, to live in that great gloomy place, all alone; and it has made a wonderful change in his spirits to have a little girl to run up stairs and down. There is some comfort in making him so happy; and so, upon the whole, dearest mother, let us be thankful that he is not to keep me the whole year round.”







By Thomas Bulfinch

Minerva was the goddess of Wisdom, but on one occasion she did a very foolish thing; she entered into competition with Juno and Venus for the prize of beauty.

At the marriage of Peleus and Thetis all the gods and goddesses were invited with the exception of Eris, or Discord. Enraged at her exclusion, the goddess threw a golden apple among the guests, with the inscription, “For the fairest,” Thereupon Juno, Venus, and Minerva each claimed the apple.

Jupiter, not willing to decide in so delicate a matter, sent the goddesses to Mount Ida, where the beautiful shepherd Paris was tending his flocks, and to him was committed the decision. The goddesses accordingly appeared before him. Juno promised him power and riches, Minerva glory and renown in war, and Venus the fairest of women for his wife, each attempting to bias his decision in her own favor.

Paris decided in favor of Venus and gave her the golden apple, thus making the two other goddesses his enemies. Under the protection of Venus, Paris sailed to Greece, and was hospitably received by Menelaus, King of Sparta.

Now Helen, the wife of Menelaus, was the very woman whom Venus had destined for Paris, the[238] most beautiful woman in the world. She had been sought as a bride by numerous suitors, and before her decision was made known, they all, at the suggestion of Ulysses, one of their number, took an oath that they would defend her from all injury and avenge her cause if necessary. She chose Menelaus, and was living with him happily when Paris became their guest. Paris, aided by Venus, persuaded her to elope with him, and carried her to Troy, whence arose the famous Trojan war, the subject of the greatest poems of antiquity, those of Homer and Virgil.

Menelaus called upon his brother chieftains of Greece to fulfil their pledge, and join him in his efforts to recover his wife. Most of them came forward, but Ulysses, who had married Penelope, and was very happy with his wife and child, had no wish to embark in such a troublesome affair. He therefore hung back and Palamedes was sent to urge him. When Palamedes arrived at Ithaca Ulysses pretended to be mad. He yoked an ass and an ox together to the plough and began to sow salt. Palamedes, to try him, placed the infant Telemachus before the plough, whereupon the father turned the plough aside, showing plainly that he was no madman, and after that could no longer refuse to fulfil his promise.

Being now gained for the undertaking, he lent his aid to bring in other chiefs, especially Achilles. This hero was the son of that Thetis at whose marriage the apple of Discord had been thrown among the goddesses. Thetis was herself one of the Immortals, a sea-nymph, and knowing that her son[239] was fated to perish before Troy if he went on the expedition, she endeavored to prevent his going. She sent him away to the court of King Lycomedes, and induced him to conceal himself in the disguise of a maiden among the daughters of the king. Ulysses, hearing he was there, went disguised as a merchant to the palace and offered for sale female ornaments, among which he had placed some arms. While the king’s daughters were engrossed with the other contents of the merchant’s pack, Achilles handled the weapons and thereby betrayed himself to the keen eye of Ulysses, who found no great difficulty in persuading him to disregard his mother’s prudent counsels and join his countrymen in the war.

Priam was King of Troy, and Paris, the shepherd, was his son. Paris had been brought up in obscurity, because there were certain ominous forebodings connected with him from his infancy that he would be the ruin of the state. These forebodings seemed at length likely to be realized, for the Grecian armament now in preparation was the greatest that had ever been fitted out.

Agamemnon, King of Mycenæ, and brother of the injured Menelaus, was chosen commander-in-chief. Achilles was their most illustrious warrior. After him ranked Ajax, gigantic in size and of great courage, but dull of intellect; Diomede, second only to Achilles in all the qualities of a hero; Ulysses, famous for his sagacity; and Nestor, the oldest of the Grecian chiefs, and one to whom they all looked up for counsel.

But Troy was no feeble enemy. Priam, the[240] king, was now old, but he had been a wise prince and had strengthened his state by good government at home and numerous alliances with his neighbors. But the principal stay and support of his throne was his son Hector, one of the noblest characters painted by heathen antiquity. He felt, from the first, presentiment of the fall of his country, but still persevered in his heroic resistance, yet by no means justified the wrong which brought this danger upon her. He was united in marriage with Andromaché, and as a husband and father his character was not less admirable than as a warrior. The principal leaders on the side of the Trojans, besides Hector, were Æneas and Deïphobus, Glaucus, and Sarpedon.


By Alfred J. Church

For nine years and more the Greeks besieged the city of Troy. Being many in number, and having strong and valiant chiefs, they pressed the men of the city very hard, so that these durst not go outside the walls. They might have taken it without further loss but that there arose a deadly strife between two of the chiefs, Agamemnon, King of Mycenæ, who was sovereign lord of all the host; and Achilles, who was the bravest and most valiant man therein.

The Greeks, having been away from home many years, were in great want of many things, so it[241] was their custom to leave a part of the army to watch the city, and to send a part to plunder such towns in the country round about as they knew to be friendly to the men of Troy, or as they thought to contain good store of provision or treasure. “Are not all these,” they were wont to say, “towns of the barbarians, and therefore lawful prey to men that are Greeks?” Now among the towns with which they dealt in this fashion was Chrysa, which was sacred to Apollo, who had a great temple therein and a priest. Fearing the anger of the gods, the Greeks had not harmed the temple or the priest; but they had carried off with other prisoners the priest’s daughter, Chryseïs by name. These and the rest of the spoil they divided among the kings, of whom there were many in the army, each ruling his own people. Now King Agamemnon, as being sovereign lord, went not with the army at such times, but stayed behind, having charge of the siege that it should not be neglected. Yet he always received, as was fitting, a share of the spoil. This time the Greeks gave him, with other things, the maiden Chryseïs. Next day there came to the camp the priest Chryses, wishing to ransom his daughter. Much gold he brought, and he had on his head the priest’s crown, that men might reverence him the more. He went to all the chiefs, making his prayer that they would take the gold and give him back his daughter. They all spake him fair, and would have done what he wished, except Agamemnon.

“Get thee out, greybeard!” he cried in great wrath. “Let me not find thee lingering now by[242] the ships, neither coming hither again, or it shall be the worse for thee, for all thy priesthood. And as for thy daughter, I shall carry her away to Argos, when I shall have taken this city of Troy.”

Then the old man went out hastily in great fear and trouble, and he walked in his sorrow by the shore of the sounding sea, and prayed to his god Apollo. “Hear me, god of the silver bow. If I have built thee a temple, and offered thee the fat of many bullocks and rams, hear me, and avenge me on these Greeks!”

And Apollo heard him. He was angry that men had so dishonored his priest, and came down from the top of Olympus, where he dwelt. Dreadful was the rattle of his arrows as he advanced, and his presence was as the night coming over the sky.

He shot the arrows of death, first at the dogs and the mules, and then at the men; and soon all along the shore rolled the black smoke from the piles of wood on which they burnt the bodies of the dead.

On the tenth day Achilles, who was the bravest and strongest of all the Greeks, called the people to an assembly. When they were gathered together he stood up among them and spake to Agamemnon. “Surely it were better to return home than that we should all perish here by the plague. Come, let us ask some prophet, or priest, or dreamer of dreams, why it is that Apollo is so wroth with us.”

Then stood up Calchas, best of seers, who knew what had been, and what was, and what was to[243] come, and spake. “Achilles, thou biddest me tell the people why Apollo is wroth with them. Lo! I tell thee, but thou must first swear to stand by me, for I know that what I shall say will anger King Agamemnon, and it goes ill with common men when kings are angry.”

“Speak out, thou wise man!” cried Achilles; “for I swear by Apollo that while I live no one shall lay hands on thee, no, not Agamemnon, though he be sovereign lord of the Greeks.”

Then the prophet took heart and spake. “It is on behalf of his priest that Apollo is wroth, for he came to ransom his daughter, but Agamemnon would not let the maiden go. Now, then, ye must send her back to Chrysa without ransom, and with her a hundred beasts for sacrifice, so that the plague may be stayed.”

Then Agamemnon stood up in a fury, his eyes blazing like fire. “Never,” he cried, “hast thou spoken good concerning me, ill prophet that thou art, and now thou tellest me to give up this maiden! I will do it, for I would not that the people should perish. Only take care, ye Greeks, that there be a share of the spoil for me, for it would ill beseem the lord of all the host that he alone should be without his share.”

“Nay, my lord Agamemnon,” cried Achilles, “thou art too eager for gain. We have no treasures out of which we may make up thy loss, for what we got out of the towns we have either sold or divided; nor would it be fitting that the people should give back what has been given to them. Give up the maiden, then, without conditions, and[244] when we shall have taken this city of Troy, we will repay thee three and four fold.”

“Nay, great Achilles,” said Agamemnon, “thou shalt not cheat me thus. If the Greeks will give me such a share as I should have, well and good. But if not, I will take one for myself, whether it be from thee, or from Ajax, or from Ulysses; for my share I will have. But of this hereafter. Now let us see that this maiden be sent back. Let them get ready a ship, and put her therein, and with her a hundred victims, and let some chief go with the ship, and see that all things be rightly done.”

Then cried Achilles, and his face was black as a thunder-storm, “Surely thou art altogether shameless and greedy, and, in truth, an ill ruler of men. No quarrel have I with the Trojans. They never harried oxen or sheep of mine. But I have been fighting in thy cause, and that of thy brother Menelaus. Naught carest thou for that. Thou leavest me to fight, and sittest in thy tent at ease. But when the spoil is divided, thine is always the lion’s share. Small indeed is my part—‘a little thing, but dear.’ And this, forsooth, thou wilt take away! Now am I resolved to go home. Small booty wilt thou get then, methinks!”

And King Agamemnon answered, “Go and thy Myrmidons with thee! I have other chieftains as good as thou art, and ready, as thou art not, to pay me due respect. I hate thee, with thy savage, bloodthirsty ways. And as for the matter of the spoil, know that I will take thy share, the girl Briseïs, and fetch her myself, if need be, that all[245] may know that I am sovereign lord here in the hosts of the Greeks.”

Then Achilles was mad with anger, and he thought in his heart, “Shall I arise and slay this caitiff, or shall I keep down the wrath in my breast?” And as he thought he laid his hand on his sword-hilt, and had half drawn his sword from the scabbard, when lo! the goddess Minerva stood behind him (for Juno who loved both this chieftain and that, had sent her), and caught him by the long locks of his yellow hair. But Achilles marvelled much to feel the mighty grasp, and turned, and looked, and knew the goddess, but no one else in the assembly might see her. Then his eyes flashed with fire, and he cried, “Art thou come, child of Jupiter, to see the insolence of Agamemnon? Of a truth, I think that he will perish for his folly.”

But Minerva said, “Nay, but I am come to stay thy wrath. Use bitter words, if thou wilt, but put up thy sword in its sheath, and strike him not. Of a truth, I tell thee that for this insolence of to-day he will bring thee hereafter splendid gifts, threefold and fourfold for all that he may take away.”

Then Achilles answered, “I shall abide by thy command, for it is ever better for a man to obey the immortal gods.” And as he spake he laid his heavy hand upon the hilt, and thrust back the sword into the scabbard, and Minerva went her way to Olympus.

Then he turned him to King Agamemnon, and spake again. “Drunkard, with the eyes of a dog and the heart of a deer! never fighting in the front[246] of the battle, nor daring to lie in the ambush! ’Tis a puny race thou rulest, or this had been thy last wrong. And as for me, here is this scepter: once it was the branch of a tree, but a cunning craftsman bound it with bronze to be the sign of the lordship which Jupiter gives to kings; as surely as it shall never again have bark or leaves or shoot, so surely shall the Greeks one day miss Achilles, when they fall in heaps before the dreadful Hector, and thou shalt eat thy heart to think that thou hast wronged the bravest of thy host.”

And as he spake he dashed his scepter on the ground and sat down. And on the other side Agamemnon sat in furious anger. Then Nestor rose, an old man of a hundred years and more, and counselled peace. Let them listen, he said, to his counsel. Great chiefs in the old days, with whom no man now alive would dare to fight, had listened. Let not Agamemnon take away from the bravest of the Greeks the prize of war; let not Achilles, though he was mightier in battle than all other men, contend with Agamemnon, who was sovereign lord of all the hosts of Greece. But he spake in vain. For Agamemnon answered—“Nestor, thou speakest well, and peace is good. But this fellow would lord it over all, and he must be taught that there is one here, at least, who is better than he.”

And Achilles said, “I were a slave and a coward if I owned thee as my lord. Not so: play the master over others, but think not to master me. As for the prize which the Greeks gave me, let them do as they will. They gave it; let them take[247] it away. But if thou darest to touch aught that is mine own, that hour thy life-blood shall redden on my spear.”

Then the assembly was dismissed. Chryseïs was sent to her home with due offerings to the god, the wise Ulysses going with her. And all the people purified themselves, and the plague was stayed.

But King Agamemnon would not go back from his purpose. So he called to him the heralds, Talthybius and Eurybates, and said, “Heralds, go to the tents of Achilles and fetch the maiden Briseïs. But if he will not let her go, say that I will come myself with many others to fetch her; so will it be the worse for him.”

Sorely against their will the heralds went. Along the seashore they walked, till they came to the tents of Achilles. There they found him sitting, but stood silent in awe and fear.

Achilles spied them, and cried aloud, “Come near, ye heralds, messengers of gods and men. ’Tis no fault of yours that ye are come on such an errand.”

Then he turned to Patroclus, his dearest friend, and said, “Bring the maiden from her tent, and let the heralds lead her away. But let them be witnesses, before gods and men, and before this evil-minded king, against the day when he shall have sore need of me to save his host from destruction. Fool that he is, who thinks not of the past nor of the future, that his people may be safe!”

Then Patroclus brought forth the maiden from her tent and gave her to the heralds. And they[248] led her away, but it was sorely against her will that she went. Achilles went apart from his comrades and sat upon the seashore, falling into a great passion of tears, and stretching out his hands with loud prayer to his mother, who indeed was a goddess of the sea, Thetis by name. She heard him where she sat in the depths by her father, the old god of the sea, and rose—you would have thought it a mist rising—from the waves, and came to where he sat weeping, and stroked him with her hand, and called him by his name.

“What ails thee, my son?” she said.

Then he told her the story of his wrong, and when he had ended he said—

“Go, I pray thee, to the top of Olympus, to the palace of Jupiter. Often have I heard thee boast how, long ago, thou didst help him when the other gods would have bound him, fetching Briareus of the hundred hands, who sat by him, so that the gods feared to touch him. Go now and call these things to his mind, and pray him that he help the sons of Troy and give them victory in the battle, so that the Greeks, as they flee before them, may have joy of this king of theirs, who has done such wrong to the bravest of his host.”

And his mother answered him, “Surely thine is an evil lot, my son! Thy life is short, and it should of right be without tears and full of joy; but now it seems to me to be both short and sad. I will go as thou sayest to Olympus, to the palace of Jupiter, but not now, for he has gone, and the other gods with him, to a twelve days’ feast with the pious Ethiopians. But when he comes back I will entreat[249] and persuade him. And do thou sit still, nor go forth to battle.”

When the twelve days were past, Thetis went to the top of Olympus, to the palace of Jupiter and made her prayer to him. He was loath to grant it, for he knew that it would anger his wife, Juno, who loved the Greeks and hated the sons of Troy. Yet he could not refuse her, and promised that it should be as she wished. And to make his word the surer, he nodded his awful head, and with the nod all Olympus was shaken.

That night Jupiter took counsel with himself how he might best work his will. He called to him a dream, and said, “Dream, go to the tent of Agamemnon, and tell him to set his army in array against Troy, for the gods are now of one mind, and the day of doom is come for the city; so he shall take it, and gain eternal glory for himself.”

So the dream went to the tent of Agamemnon, and it took the shape of Nestor, the old chief whom the king honored more than all beside.

Then the false Nestor spake: “Sleepest thou, Agamemnon? It is not for kings to sleep all through the night, for they must take thought for many, and have many cares. Listen now to the words of Jupiter: ‘Set the battle in array against Troy, for the gods are now of one mind, and the day of doom is come for the city, and thou shalt take it, and gain eternal glory for thyself.”

And Agamemnon believed the dream, and knew not the purpose of Jupiter in bidding him go forth to battle. So he rose from his bed and donned his tunic, and over it a great cloak, fastened the[250] sandals on his feet, hung from his shoulders his mighty silver-studded sword, and took in his right hand the great scepter of his house, which was the token of his sovereignty over all the Greeks. Then he went forth, and first took counsel with the chiefs, and afterwards called the people to the assembly. After the assembly the shrill-voiced heralds called the host to the battle. As is the flare of a great fire when a wood is burning on a hill-top, so was the flash of their arms and their armor as they thronged to the field. And as the countless flocks of wild geese or cranes or swans now wheel and now settle in the great Asian marsh by the stream of Cayster, or as the bees swarm in the spring, when the milk-pails are full, so thick the Greeks thronged to the battle in the great plain by the banks of the Scamander. Many nations were there, and many chiefs, and the bravest and strongest of all was Ajax, son of Telamon, and the best horses were the horses of Eumelus; but there was none that could compare with Achilles and the horses of Achilles, bravest man and swiftest steeds. Only Achilles sat apart, and would not go to the battle.

And on the other side the sons of Troy and their allies came forth from the gates of the city with the most famous of their chiefs.

So the battle was set in array, and the two hosts stood over against each other.



By Alfred J. Church

They were now about to fight, when from the ranks of the Trojans Paris rushed forth. He had a panther’s skin over his shoulders, and a bow and a sword, and in either hand a spear, and he called aloud to the Greeks that they should send forth their bravest to fight with them.

When Menelaus saw him he was glad, for he said that now he should avenge himself on the man who had done him such wrong. So a lion is glad when, being sorely hungered, he finds a stag or a wild goat; he devours it, and will not be driven from it by dogs or hunters.

He leapt from his chariot and rushed to meet his enemy; but Paris, having done evil, and being therefore a coward in his heart, was afraid when he saw Menelaus, and fled back into the ranks of his comrades, just as a man steps back in haste when, unawares, he comes upon a snake. Hector saw him and rebuked him. “Fair art thou to look upon, Paris, but nothing worth. Surely the Greeks will scorn us if they think that thou art our bravest warrior, because thou art of stately presence. Thou art a coward; and yet thou daredst to go across the sea and carry off the fair Helen. Why dost thou not stand and abide the onset of her husband, and see what manner of man he is? Little would thy harp and thy long locks and thy fair face avail when thou wert lying in the dust! A craven race[252] are the sons of Troy, or they would have stoned thee ere this.”

Then Paris answered, “Thou speakest well, Hector, and thy rebuke is just. As for thee, thy heart is like iron, ever set on battle; yet are beauty and love also the gifts of the gods, and not to be despised. But now set Menelaus and me in the midst, and let us fight, man to man, for the fair Helen and for all her possessions. And if he prevail over me, let him take her and them and depart, and the Greeks with him, but ye shall dwell in peace; but if I prevail they shall depart without her.”

Then Hector was glad, and going before the Trojan ranks, holding his spear by the middle, he kept them back. The Greeks would have thrown spears and stones at him, only Agamemnon cried aloud and said, “Hold: Hector has somewhat to say to us.”

Then Hector said, “Hear, Trojans and Greeks, what Paris saith: Let all besides lay their arms upon the ground, and let Menelaus and me fight for the fair Helen and all her wealth. And let him that is the better keep her and them, but the rest shall dwell in peace.”

Then Menelaus said, “The word pleaseth me well; let us fight together, and let us make agreement with oath and sacrifice. And because the sons of Priam are men of fraud and violence, let Priam himself come.”

So they sent a herald to King Priam, but he sat on the wall with the old men. And as they talked the fair Helen came near, and they said, “What wonder that men should suffer much for[253] such a woman, for indeed she is divinely fair. Yet let her depart in the ships, nor bring a curse on us and our children.”

But Priam called to her, “Come near, my daughter; tell me about these old friends of thine. For ’tis not thou, ’tis the gods who have brought about all this trouble. But tell me, who is this warrior that I see, so fair and strong? There are others even a head taller than he, but none of such majesty.”

And Helen answered, “Ah, my father! would that I had died before I left husband and child to follow thy son. But as for this warrior, he is Agamemnon, a good king and brave soldier and my brother-in-law in the old days.”

“Happy Agamemnon,” said Priam, “to rule over so many! Never saw I such an army gathered together, not even when I went to help the Phrygians when they were assembled on the banks of the Sangarus against the Amazons. But who is this that I see, not so tall as Agamemnon, but of broader shoulders? His arms lie upon the ground, and he is walking through the ranks of his men just as some great ram walks through a flock of sheep.”

“This,” said Helen, “is Ulysses of Ithaca, who is better in craft and counsel than all other men.”

“’Tis well spoken, lady,” said Antenor. “Well I remember Ulysses when he came hither on an embassy about thee with the brave Menelaus. My guests they were, and I knew them well. And I remember how, in the assembly of the Trojans, when both were standing, Menelaus was the taller, but when they sat, Ulysses was the more majestic[254] to behold. And when they rose to speak, Menelaus said few words, but said them wisely and well; and Ulysses—you had thought him a fool, so stiffly he held his scepter and so downcast were his eyes; but as soon as he began, oh! the mighty voice, and the words thick as the falling snow!”

Then Priam said, “Who is that stalwart hero, so tall and strong, overtopping all by head and shoulders?”

“That,” said Helen, “is mighty Ajax, the bulwark of the Greeks. And next to him is Idomeneus. Often has Menelaus had him as his guest in the old days, when he came from Crete. As for the other chiefs, I see and could name them all. But I miss my own dear brothers, Castor, tamer of horses, and Pollux, the mighty boxer. Either they came not from Sparta, or having come, shun the meeting of men for shame of me” (she knew not that they were sleeping their last sleep far away in their dear fatherland).

And when they had ended talking, the heralds came and told King Priam that the armies called for him. So he went, and Antenor with him. And he on the one side, for the Trojans, and King Agamemnon for the Greeks, made a covenant with sacrifice that Paris and Menelaus should fight together, and that the fair Helen, with all her treasures, should go with him who should win. Hector and Ulysses marked out a space for the fight, and Hector shook two pebbles in a helmet, looking away as he shook them, that he whose pebble leapt forth the first should be the first to throw his spear. And it so befell that the lot of Paris leapt[255] forth first. The two warriors armed themselves and came forth into the space, and stood over against each other, brandishing their spears, with hate in their eyes. Then Paris threw his spear. It struck the shield of Menelaus, but pierced it not, for the spear point was bent back. Then Menelaus prayed to Jupiter, “Grant, Father Jupiter, that I may avenge myself on Paris, who has done me this wrong; so shall men in after time fear to do wrong to their host.” So speaking, he cast his long-shafted spear. It struck the shield of Paris and pierced it through, and passed through the corslet, and through the tunic close to the loin; but Paris shrank aside and the spear wounded him not. Then Menelaus drew his silver-studded sword and struck a mighty blow on the top of the helmet of Paris, but the sword broke in four pieces in his hand. Then he cried in his wrath, “O Jupiter, most mischief-loving of the gods, my spear I cast in vain, and now my sword is broken.” Then he rushed forward and seized Paris by the helmet, and dragged him towards the host of the Greeks. And truly he had taken him, but Venus loosed the strap that was beneath his chin, and the helmet came off in his hand. And Menelaus whirled it among the Greeks and charged with another spear in his hand. But Venus snatched Paris away, covering him with a mist, and put him down in his chamber in Troy. Then Menelaus looked for him everywhere, but no one could tell him where he might be. No son of Troy would have hidden him out of kindness, for all hated him as death.

Then King Agamemnon said, “Now, ye sons of[256] Troy, it is for you to give back the fair Helen and her wealth, and to pay me besides so much as may be fitting for all my cost and trouble.”

But it was not the will of the gods that the sons of Troy should do this thing. So Minerva took upon herself the shape of Laodocus, son of Antenor, and went to Pandarus, son of Lycaon, where he stood among his men. Then the false Laodocus said, “Pandarus, darest thou aim an arrow at Menelaus? Truly the Trojans would love thee well, and Paris best of all, if they could see Menelaus slain by an arrow from thy bow. Aim then, but first pray to Apollo, and vow that thou wilt offer a hundred beasts when thou returnest to thy city, Zeleia.” Now Pandarus had a bow made of the horns of a wild goat which he had slain; sixteen palms long they were, and a cunning workman had made them smooth, and put a tip of gold whereon to fasten the bow-string. And Pandarus strung his bow, his comrades hiding him with their shields. Then he took an arrow from his quiver, and laid it on the bow-string, and drew the string to his breast, till the arrow-head touched the bow, and let fly. Right well aimed was the dart, but it was not the will of heaven that it should slay Menelaus. It struck him, indeed, and passed through the belt and through the corslet and through the girdle, and pierced the skin.

Sore dismayed was King Agamemnon to see the blood; sore dismayed also was the brave Menelaus, till he spied the barb of the arrow, and knew that the wound was not deep. But Agamemnon cried—

“It was in an evil hour for thee, my brother, that[257] I made a covenant with these false sons of Troy. Right well, indeed, I know that oath and sacrifice are not in vain, but will have vengeance at the last. Troy shall fall; but woe is me if thou shouldst die, Menelaus. For the Greeks will straight go back to their fatherland, and the fair Helen will be left a boast to the sons of Troy, and I shall have great shame when one of them shall say, as he leaps on the tomb of the brave Menelaus, ‘Surely the great Agamemnon has avenged himself well; for he brought an army hither, but now is gone back to his home, but left Menelaus here.’ May the earth swallow me up before that day!”

“Nay,” said Menelaus, “fear not, for the arrow has but grazed the skin.”

Then King Agamemnon bade fetch the physician. So the herald fetched Machaon, the physician. And Machaon came, and drew forth the arrow, and when he had wiped away the blood he put healing drugs upon the wound, which Chiron, the wise healer, had given to his father.


By Alfred J. Church

The Greeks went forward to the battle, as the waves that curl themselves and then dash upon the shore, throwing high the foam. In order they went after their chiefs; you had thought them dumb, so silent were they. But the Trojans were[258] like a flock of ewes which wait to be milked, and bleat hearing the voice of their lambs, so confused a cry went out from their army, for there were men of many tongues gathered together. And on either side the gods urged them on, but chiefly Minerva the Greeks and Mars the sons of Troy. Then, as two streams in flood meet in some chasm, so the armies dashed together, shield on shield and spear on spear.

Now when Minerva saw that the Greeks were perishing by the hand of Hector and his companions, it grieved her sore. So she came down from the heights of Olympus, if happily she might help them. And Apollo met her and said, “Art thou come, Minerva, to help the Greeks whom thou lovest? Well, let us stay the battle for this day; hereafter they shall fight till the doom of Troy be accomplished.”

But Minerva answered, “How shall we stay it?”

And Apollo said, “We will set on Hector to challenge the bravest of the Greeks to fight with him, man to man.”

So they two put the matter into the mind of Helenus the seer. Then Helenus went near to Hector, “Listen to me, for I am thy brother. Cause the rest of the sons of Troy and of the Greeks to sit down, and do thou challenge the bravest of the Greeks to fight with thee, man to man. And be sure thou shalt not fall in the battle, for the will of the immortal gods is so.”

Copyright, 1907 by Braun, Clement & Co.


—page 267

From the painting by H. Regnault

Then Hector greatly rejoiced, and passed to the front of the army, holding his spear by the middle, and kept back the sons of Troy; and King[259] Agamemnon did likewise with his own people. Then Hector spake—

“Hear me, sons of Troy, and ye men of Greece. The covenant that we made one with another hath been broken, for Jupiter would have it so, purposing evil to both, till either you shall take our high-walled city or we shall conquer you by your ships. But let one of you who call yourselves champions of the Greeks come forth and fight with me, man to man. And let it be so that if he vanquish me he shall spoil me of my arms but give my body to my people, that they may burn it with fire; and if I vanquish him, I will spoil him of his arms but give his body to the Greeks, that they may bury him and raise a great mound above him by the broad salt river of Hellespont. And so men of after days shall see it, sailing by, and say, ‘This is the tomb of the bravest of the Greeks, whom Hector slew.’ So shall my name live forever.”

But all the Greeks kept silence, fearing to meet him in battle, but shamed to hold back. Then at last Menelaus leapt forward and spake, “Surely now ye are women and not men. Foul shame it were should there be no man to stand up against this Hector. Lo! I will fight with him my own self, for the issues of battle are with the immortal gods.”

So he spake in his rage rashly, courting death, for Hector was much stronger than he. Then King Agamemnon answered, “Nay, but this is folly, my brother. Seek not in thy anger to fight with one that is stronger than thou; for as for this Hector, even Achilles was loth to meet him. Sit thou[260] down among thy comrades, and the Greeks will find some champion who shall fight with him.”

And Menelaus hearkened to his brother’s words, and sat down. Then Nestor rose in the midst and spake—

“Woe is me to-day for Greece! How would the old Peleus grieve to hear such a tale! Well I remember how he rejoiced when I told him of the house and lineage of all chieftains of the Greeks, and now he would hear that they cower before Hector, and are sore afraid when he calls them to the battle. Surely he would pray this day that he might die! O that I were such as I was in the old days, when the men of Pylos fought with the Arcadians! I, who was the youngest of all, stood forth, and Minerva gave me glory that day, for I slew their leader, though he was the strongest and tallest among the sons of men. Would that I were such to-day! Right soon would I meet this mighty Hector.”

Then rose up nine chiefs of fame. First of all, King Agamemnon, lord of many nations, and next to him Diomed, and Ajax the Greater and Ajax the Less, and then Idomeneus and Meriones, and Eurypylus, and Thoas, son of Andræmon, and the wise Ulysses.

Then Nestor said, “Let us cast lots who shall do battle with the mighty Hector.”

So they threw the lots into the helmet of King Agamemnon, a lot for each. And the people prayed, “Grant, ye gods, that the lot of Ajax the Greater may leap forth, or the lot of Diomed, or the lot of King Agamemnon.” Then Nestor shook[261] the lots in the helmet, and the one which they most wished leapt forth. For the herald took it through the ranks and showed it to the chiefs, but none knew it for his own till he came to where Ajax the Greater stood among his comrades. But Ajax had marked it with his mark, and put forth his hand for it, and claimed it, right glad at heart. On the ground by his feet he threw it, and said—

“Mine is the lot, my friends, and right glad I am, for I think that I shall prevail over the mighty Hector, but come, let me don my arms; and pray ye to Jupiter, but silently, lest the Trojans hear, or aloud, if ye will, for no fear have we. Not by force or craft shall any one vanquish me, for not such are the men whom Salamis breeds.”

So he armed himself and moved forwards, smiling with grim face. With mighty strides he came, brandishing his long-shafted spear. The Greeks were glad to behold him, but the knees of the Trojans were loosened with fear and great Hector’s heart beat fast; but he trembled not, nor gave place, seeing that he had himself called him to battle. So Ajax came near, holding before the great shield, like a wall, which Tychius, best of craftsmen, had made for him. Seven folds of bull’s hide it had, and an eighth of bronze. Threateningly he spake—

“Now shalt thou know, Hector, what manner of men there are yet among our chiefs, though Achilles the lion-hearted is far away, sitting idly in his tent, in great wrath with King Agamemnon. Do thou, then, begin the battle.”

“Speak not to me, Jupiter-descended Ajax,”[262] said Hector, “as though I were a woman or a child knowing nothing of war. Well I know all the arts of battle, to ply my shield this way and that, to guide my car through the tumult of steeds, and to stand fighting hand to hand. But I would not smite so stout a foe by stealth, but openly.”

As he spake he hurled his long-shafted spear, and smote the great shield on the rim of the eighth fold, that was of bronze. Through six folds it passed, but in the seventh it was stayed. Then Ajax hurled his spear, striking Hector’s shield. Through shield it passed and corslet, and cut the tunic close against the loin; but Hector shrank away and escaped the doom of death. Then, each with a fresh spear, they rushed together like lions or wild boars of the wood. First Hector smote the middle of the shield of Ajax, but pierced it not, for the spear-point was bent back; then Ajax, with a great bound, drove his spear at Hector’s shield and pierced it, forcing him back, and grazing his neck so that the blood welled out. Yet did not Hector cease from the combat. He caught up a great stone from the ground, and hurled it at the boss of the sevenfold shield. Loud rang the bronze, but the shield broke not. Then Ajax took a stone heavier by far, and threw it with all his might. It broke the shield of Hector, and bore him backwards, so that he fell at length with his shield above him. But Apollo raised him up. Then did both draw their swords; but ere they could join in close battle the heralds came and held their scepters between them, and Idæus, the herald of Troy, spake—


“Fight no more, my sons; Jupiter loves you both; and ye are both mighty warriors. That we all know right well. But now the night bids you cease, and it is well to heed its bidding.”

Then said Ajax, “Nay, Idæus, but it is for Hector to speak, for he called the bravest of the Greeks to battle. And as he wills it, so will I.”

And Hector said, “O Ajax, the gods have given thee stature and strength and skill, nor is there any better warrior among the Greeks. Let us cease then from the battle; we may yet meet again, till the gods give the victory to me or thee. And now let us give gifts the one to the other, so that Trojans and Greeks may say—Hector and Ajax met in fierce fight and parted in friendship.”

So Hector gave to Ajax a silver-studded sword with the scabbard and the sword-belt, and Ajax gave to Hector a buckler splendid with purple. So they parted. Right glad were the sons of Troy when they saw Hector returning safe. Glad also were the Greeks, as they led Ajax rejoicing in his victory to King Agamemnon. Whereupon the king called the chiefs to banquet together, and bade slay an ox of five years old, and Ajax he honored most of all. When the feast was ended Nestor said—

“It were well that we should cease awhile from war and burn the dead, for many, in truth, are fallen. And we will build a great wall and dig a trench about it, and we will make wide gates that a chariot may pass through, so that our ships may be safe, if the sons of Troy should press us hard.”

But the next morning came a herald from Troy[264] to the chiefs as they sat in council by the ship of King Agamemnon, and said—

“This is the word of Priam and the men of Troy; Paris will give back all the treasures of the fair Helen, and many more besides; but the fair Helen herself he will not give. But if this please you not, grant us a truce, that we may bury our dead.”

Then Diomed spake, “Nay, we will not take the fair Helen’s self, for a man may know even though he be a fool, that the doom of Troy is come.”

And King Agamemnon said, “Herald, thou hast heard the word of the Greeks, but as for the truce, be it as you will.”

So the next day they burnt their dead, and the Greeks made a wall with gates and dug a trench about it. And when it was finished, even at sunset, they made ready a meal, and lo! there came ships from Lemnos bringing wine, and Greeks bought thereof, some with bronze, and some with iron, and some with shields of ox hide. All night they feasted right joyously. The sons of Troy also feasted in their city. But the dreadful thunder rolled through the night, for Jupiter was counselling evil against them.



By Alfred J. Church

Patroclus stood by Achilles, weeping bitterly. Then said Achilles, “What ails thee, Patroclus, that thou weepest like a girl-child that runs along by her mother’s side and would be taken up, holding her gown, and looking at her with tearful eyes till she lift her in her arms? Hast thou heard evil news from Phthia? Menœtius yet lives, they say, and Peleus. Or art thou weeping for the Greeks, because they perish for their folly?”

Then said Patroclus, “Be not wroth with me, great Achilles, for indeed the Greeks are in grievous straits, and all their bravest are wounded, and still thou cherishest thy wrath. If thou goest not to the battle, fearing some warning from the gods, let me go, and thy Myrmidons with me. And let me put thy armor on me; so shall the Greeks have breathing space from the war.”

So he spake, entreating, nor knew that for his own doom he entreated. And Achilles made reply—

“It is no warning that I heed, that I keep back from the war. But these men took from me my prize, which I won with my own hands. But let the past be past. I said that I would not rise up till the battle should come nigh to my own ships. But thou mayest put my armor upon thee, and lead my Myrmidons to the fight. For in truth the men of Troy are gathered as a dark cloud about the[266] ships, and the Greeks have scarce standing-ground between them and the sea. For they see not the gleam of my helmet. And Diomed is not there with his spear; nor do I hear the voice of Agamemnon, but only the voice of Hector, as he calls the men of Troy to the battle. Go, therefore, Patroclus, and drive the fire from the ships. And then come thou back, nor fight any more with the Trojans, lest thou take my glory from me. And go not near, in the delight of battle, to the walls of Troy, lest one of the gods meet thee to thy hurt; and, of a truth, the keen archer Apollo loves them well.”

But as they talked the one to the other, Ajax could hold out no longer. For swords and javelins came thick upon him, and clattered on his helmet, and his shoulder was weary with the great shield which he held; and he breathed heavily and hard, and the great drops of sweat fell upon the ground. Then at the last Hector came near and smote his spear with a great sword, so that the head fell off. Then was Ajax sore afraid, and gave way, and the men of Troy set torches to the ship’s stem, and a great flame shot up to the sky. And Achilles saw it, and smote his thigh and spake—

“Haste thee, Patroclus, for I see the fire rising up from the ships. Put thou on the armor, and I will call my people to the war.”

So Patroclus put on the armor—corslet and shield and helmet—and bound upon his shoulder the silver-studded sword, and took a mighty spear in his hand. But the great Pelian spear he took not, for that no man but Achilles might wield.[267] Then Automedon yoked the horses to the chariot, Bayard and Piebald, and with them in the side harness, Pedasus; and they two were deathless steeds, but he was mortal.

Meanwhile Achilles had called the Myrmidons to battle. Fifty ships had he brought to Troy, and in each there were fifty men.

Five leaders they had, and the bravest of the five was Pisander.

Then Achilles said, “Forget not, ye Myrmidons, the bold words that ye spake against the men of Troy during the days of my wrath, making complaint that I kept you from the battle against your will. Now, therefore, ye have that which you desired.”

So the Myrmidons went to the battle in close array, helmet to helmet and shield to shield, close as the stones with which a builder builds a wall. And in front went Patroclus, and Automedon in the chariot beside him. Then Achilles went to his tent and took a great cup from the chest which Thetis his mother had given him. Now no man drank of that cup but he only, nor did he pour out of it libations to any of the gods but only to Jupiter. This first he cleansed with sulphur, and then with water from the spring. And after this he washed his hands, and stood in the midst of the space before his tent, and poured out of it to Jupiter, saying—

“O Jupiter, I send my comrade to this battle; make him strong and bold, and give him glory, and bring him home safe to the ships and my people with him.”


So he prayed, and Father Jupiter heard him, and part he granted and part denied.

But now Patroclus with the Myrmidons had come to where the battle was raging about the ship of Protesilaus, and when the men of Troy beheld him, they thought that Achilles had forgotten his wrath, and was come forth to the war. And first Patroclus slew Pyræchmes, who was the chief of the Pæonians who live on the banks of the broad Axius. Then the men of Troy turned to flee, and many chiefs of fame fell by the spears of the Greeks. So the battle rolled back to the trench, and in the trench many chariots of the Trojans were broken, but the horses of Achilles went across it at a stride, so nimble were they and strong. And the heart of Patroclus was set to slay Hector; but he could not overtake him, so swift were his horses. Then did Patroclus turn his chariot and keep back those that fled, that they should not go to the city, and rushed hither and thither, still slaying as he went.

Then did Patroclus forget the word which Achilles had spoken to him, that he should not go near to Troy, for he pursued the men of the city even to the wall. Thrice he mounted on the angle of the wall, and thrice Apollo himself drove him back, pushing his shining shield. But the fourth time the god said, “Go thou back, Patroclus. It is not for thee to take the city of Troy; no, nor for Achilles, who is far better than thou art.”

So Patroclus went back, fearing the wrath of the archer-god. Then Apollo stirred up the spirit of Hector, that he should go against Patroclus.[269] Therefore he went, with his brother Cebriones for driver of his chariot. But when they came near, Patroclus cast a great stone which he had in his hand, and smote Cebriones on the forehead, crushing it in, so that he fell headlong from the chariot. And Patroclus mocked him, saying—

“How nimble is this man! how lightly he dives! What spoil he would take of oysters, diving from a ship, even in a stormy sea! Who would have thought that there were such skilful divers in Troy!”

Then again the battle waxed hot about the body of Cebriones, and this too, at the last, the Greeks drew unto themselves, and spoiled it of the arms. And this being accomplished, Patroclus rushed against the men of Troy. Thrice he rushed, and each time he slew nine chiefs of fame. But the fourth time Apollo stood behind him and struck him on the head and shoulders, so that his eyes were darkened. And the helmet fell from off his head, so that the horsehair plumes were soiled with dust. Never before had it touched the ground, for it was the helmet of Achilles. And also the god brake the spear in his hand, and struck the shield from his arms, and loosed his corslet. All amazed he stood, and then Euphorbus, son of Panthoüs, smote him on the back with his spear, but slew him not. Then Patroclus sought to flee to the ranks of his comrades. But Hector saw him, and thrust at him with his spear, smiting him in the groin, so that he fell. And when the Greeks saw him fall, they sent up a terrible cry. Then Hector stood over him and cried—


“Didst thou think to spoil our city, Patroclus, and to carry away our wives and daughters in the ships? But lo! I have slain thee, and the fowls of the air shall eat thy flesh; nor shall the great Achilles help thee at all—Achilles, who bade thee, I trow, strip the tunic from my breast, and thou thoughtest in thy folly to do it.”

But Patroclus answered, “Thou boasteth much, Hector. Yet thou didst not slay me, but Apollo, who took from me my arms, for had twenty such as thou met me, I had slain them all. And mark thou this: death and fate are close to thee by the hand of the great Achilles.”

And Hector answered (but Patroclus was dead already), “Why dost thou prophesy death to me? May be the great Achilles himself shall fall by my hand.” Then he drew his spear from the wound, and went after Automedon, to slay him, but the swift horses of Achilles carried him away.

Fierce was the fight about the body of Patroclus, and many heroes fell, both on this side and on that, and first of them all Euphorbus, who, indeed, had wounded him. For as he came near to strip the dead man of his arms, Menelaus slew him with his spear. He slew him, but took not his arms, for Hector came through the battle; nor did Menelaus dare to abide his coming, but went back into the ranks of his own people. Then did Hector strip off the arms of Patroclus, the arms which the great Achilles had given him to wear. He laid hold of the body, and would have dragged it into the host of the Trojans, but Ajax Telamon came forth, and put his broad shield before it, as a lion stands[271] before its cubs when the hunters meet it in the woods, drawing down over its eyes its shaggy brows.

And all the while the battle raged about the dead Patroclus. At last Ajax said to Menelaus (now these two had borne themselves more bravely in the fight than all others), “See if thou canst find Antilochus, Nestor’s son, that he may carry the tidings to Achilles, how that Patroclus is dead.”

So Menelaus went and found Antilochus on the left of the battle, and said to him, “I have ill news for thee. Thou seest that the men of Troy have the victory to-day. And also Patroclus lies dead. Run, therefore, to Achilles, and tell him, if haply he may save the body; but as for the arms, Hector has them already.”

Sore dismayed was Antilochus to hear such tidings, and his eyes were filled with tears and his voice was choked. Yet did he give heed to the words of Menelaus, and ran to tell Achilles of what had chanced.

Antilochus came near to Achilles, who, indeed, seeing that the Greeks fled and the men of Troy pursued, was already sore afraid. And he said, weeping as he spake, “I bring ill news—Patroclus lies low. The Greeks fight for his body, but Hector has his arms.”

Then Achilles took of the dust of the plain in his hands, and poured it on his head, and lay at his length upon the ground, and tore his hair. And all the women wailed. And Antilochus sat weeping; but ever he held the hands of Achilles, lest he should slay himself in his great grief.


Then came his mother, hearing his cry, from where she sat in the depths of the sea, and laid her hand on him and said, “Why weepest thou, my son? Hide not the matter from me, but tell me.”

And Achilles answered, “All that Jupiter promised thee for me he hath fulfilled. But what profit have I, for lo! my friend Patroclus is dead, and Hector has the arms which I gave him to wear. And as for me, I care not to live, except I can avenge me upon him.”


By Alfred J. Church

Priam stood on a tower of the wall and saw the people flying before the attacks of Achilles, so he hastened down to the gates and said to the keepers, “Keep the wicket-gates open, that the people may enter in.”

So the keepers held the gates open, and the people hastened in, wearied with toil and thirst and covered with dust, and Achilles followed close upon them. At that hour the Greeks would have taken the city of Troy, but that Apollo saved it by putting courage into the heart of Antenor’s son Agenor, and by standing by him that he should not be slain.

Agenor stood thinking within himself—“Shall I flee with these others? Achilles will take me and slay me, and I shall die as a coward dies. What if I stand to meet him before the gates? He, too, is a[273] mortal man and his flesh may be pierced by the spear.”

When Achilles came near he cast his spear, striking the leg below the knee, but the armor was so strong it turned off the spear. But when Achilles would have slain him, lo! Apollo lifted him up and set him within the city, and that the men of Troy might have space to enter, he took upon him Agenor’s shape. The false Agenor fled, and Achilles pursued him.

In the meanwhile the men of Troy flocked into the city, without stopping to ask who was safe and who was dead. Only Hector remained outside the walls, standing in front of the great Scæan gates. But all the while Achilles was fiercely pursuing the false Agenor, till at last Apollo turned and spake to him—

“Why dost thou pursue me, swift-footed Achilles? Hast thus not yet found out that I am a god, and that all thy fury is in vain? All the sons of Troy are safe in their city, and thou art here, far out of the way, seeking to slay me, who cannot die.”

In great wrath Achilles answered him, “Thou hast done me wrong in so drawing me away from the wall, great archer, most mischief-loving of all the gods. Had it not been for this, many a Trojan more had bitten the ground. Thou hast robbed me of great glory, and saved thy favorites. O that I had the power to take vengeance on thee! Thou hadst paid dearly for thy cheat!”

Then he turned and rushed towards the city, swift as a racehorse whirls a chariot across the plain. Old Priam spied him from the walls, with his glittering[274] armor, bright as that brightest of the stars—men call it Orion’s dog—which shines at vintage-time, a baleful light, bringing the fevers of autumn to men. And the old man groaned aloud when he saw him, and stretching out his hands, cried to his son Hector, where he stood before the gates, eager to do battle with this dread warrior—

“Wait not for this man, dear son, wait not for him, lest thou die beneath his hand, for indeed he is stronger than thou. Wretch that he is! I would that the gods bare such love to him as I bare! Right soon would the dogs and vultures eat him. Of many brave sons has he bereaved me. Two I miss to-day—Polydorus and Lycaon. May be they are yet alive in the host of the Greeks, and I shall buy them back with gold, of which I have yet great store in my house. And if they are dead, sore grief will it be to me and to the mother who bare them; but little will care the other sons of Troy, so that thou fall not beneath the hand of Achilles. Come within the walls, dear child; come to save the sons and daughters of Troy; come in pity for me, thy father, for whom, in my old age, an evil fate is in store, to see sons slain with the sword, and daughters carried into captivity, and babes dashed upon the ground. Ay, and last of all, the dogs which I have reared in my palace will devour me as I lie on the threshold of my home. That a young man should fall in battle and suffer such lot as happens to the slain, this is to be borne; but that such dishonor should be done to the white hair and white beard of the old, mortal eyes can see no fouler sight than this.”


Thus old Priam spake, but could not turn the heart of his son. And from the wall on the other side of the gate his mother called to him, weeping sore, and said—

“Pity me, my son; think of how in the old days I stilled thy cries. Come within the walls; wait not for this man, nor stand in battle against him. If he slay thee, neither I, nor thy wife, shall pay thee the last honors of the dead, but far away by the ships of the Greeks the dogs and vultures will devour thee.”

So father and mother besought their son, but all in vain. He was still minded to abide the coming of Achilles. Just as in the mountains a great snake at its hole abides the coming of a man: fierce glare its eyes, and it coils its tail: so Hector waited for Achilles; and as he waited he thought thus within himself—“Woe is me if I go within the walls; Polydamas will be the first to reproach me, for he advised me to bring back the sons of Troy to the city before the night when Achilles roused himself to war. But I would not listen to him. Would that I had! it had been much better for us; but now I have destroyed the people by my folly. I fear the sons and daughters of Troy, what they may say; I fear lest some coward reproach me: ‘Hector trusted in his strength, and lo! he has destroyed the people.’ Better were it for me either to slay Achilles or to fall by his hand with honor here before the walls. Or, stay: shall I put down my shield, and lay aside my helmet, and lean my spear against the wall and go to meet the great Achilles, and promise that we will give back the fair Helen, and all the[276] wealth that Paris carried off with her; ay, and render up all the wealth that there is in the city, that the Greeks may divide it among themselves, binding the sons of Troy with an oath that they keep nothing back? But this is idle talk: he will have no shame or pity, but will slay me while I stand without arms or armor before him. It is not for us to talk as a youth and a maiden talk together. It is better to meet in arms, and see whether the ruler of Olympus will give victory to him or to me.” Thus he thought in his heart.

Achilles came near, brandishing over his right shoulder the great Pelian spear, and the flash of his arms was as the flame of fire, or as the rising sun. And Hector trembled when he saw him, nor dared to abide his coming. Fast he fled from the gates, and fast Achilles pursued him, as a hawk, fastest of all the birds of air, pursues a dove upon the mountains. Past the watch-tower they ran, past the wind-blown fig-tree, along the wagon-road which went about the walls, and they came to the fair-flowing fountain where from two springs rises the stream of eddying Scamander. Hot is one spring, and a steam ever goes up from it, as from a burning fire; and cold is the other, cold, even in the summer heats, as hail or snow or ice. There are fair basins of stone, where the wives and fair daughters of Troy were wont to wash their garments, but that was in the old days of peace, before the Greeks came to the land. Past the springs they ran, one flying, the other pursuing: brave was he that fled, braver he that pursued: it was no sheep for sacrifice or shield of ox-hide for which they ran, but for the[277] life of Hector, the tamer of horses. Thrice they ran round the city, and all the gods looked on.

And Jupiter said, “This is a piteous sight that I behold. My heart is grieved for Hector—Hector, who has ever worshipped me with sacrifice, sometimes on the heights of Ida, and sometimes in the citadel of Troy; and now the great Achilles is pursuing him round the city of Priam. Come, ye gods, let us take counsel together. Shall we save him from death, or let him fall beneath the hand of Achilles?”

Then Minerva said, “What is this that thou sayest, great sire?—to rescue a man whom fate has appointed to die? Do it, if it be thy will; but we, the other gods, approve it not.”

Jupiter answered her, “My heart is unwilling; yet I would do thee pleasure. Be it as thou wilt.”

Then Minerva came down in haste from the top of Olympus, and still Hector fled and Achilles pursued, just as a dog pursues a fawn upon the hills. And ever Hector made for the gates, to get shelter beneath the towers, if haply those that stood upon them might defend him with their spears; and ever Achilles would get before him, and drive him towards the plain. So they ran, one making for the city, and the other driving him to the plain. Just as in a dream, when one seems to fly and another seems to pursue, and the one cannot escape and the other cannot overtake, so these two ran together. But as for Hector, Apollo even yet helped him, and gave him strength and nimble knees, else could he not have held out against Achilles, who was swiftest of foot among the sons of men.


Now Achilles had beckoned to the Greeks that no man should throw his spear at Hector, lest, perchance, he should be robbed of his glory. And when the two came in their running for the fourth time to the springs of Scamander, Jupiter held out the great balance of doom, and in one scale he put the fate of Achilles, and in the other the fate of Hector; and lo! the scale of Hector sank down to the realms of death, and Apollo left him.

Then Minerva lighted down from the air close to Achilles and said, “This, great Achilles, is our day of glory, for we shall slay Hector, mighty warrior though he be. For it is his doom to die and Apollo shall not save him. But stand thou still and take breath, and I will give this man heart to meet thee in battle.”

So Achilles stood, leaning upon his spear. And Minerva took the shape of Deïphobus, and came near to Hector and said—

“Achilles presses thee hard, my brother, pursuing thee thus round the city of Priam. Come, let us make a stand and encounter him.”

Then Hector answered him, “Deïphobus, I always loved thee best of all my brothers; but now I love thee yet more, for that thou alone, while all others remained within, hast ventured forth to stand by my side.”

But the false Deïphobus said, “Much did father and mother and all my comrades beseech me to remain. But my heart was sore troubled for thee, and I could not stay. Let us stand and fight this man, not stinting our spears, and see whether he shall[279] carry our spoil to the ships or we shall slay him here.”

Then the two chiefs came near to each other, and Hector with a waving plume spake first and said, “Thrice, great Achilles, hast thou pursued me round the walls of Troy, and I dared not stand up against thee; but now I fear thee no more. Only let us make this covenant between us: if Jupiter give me the victory, I will do no dishonor to thy body; thy arms and armor will I take, and give back thy body to the Greeks; and do thou promise to do likewise.”

But Achilles scowled at him and said, “Hector, talk not of covenants to me. Men and lions make no oaths between each other, neither is there any agreement between wolves and sheep. So there shall be no covenant between me and thee. One of us two shall fall; and now is the time for thee to show thyself a warrior, for of a truth Minerva will slay thee by my spear, and thou shalt pay the penalty for all my comrades whom thou hast slain.”

Then he threw the mighty spear, but Hector saw it coming and avoided it, crouching on the ground, so that the mighty spear flew above his head and fixed itself in the earth. But Minerva snatched it from the ground and gave it back to Achilles, Hector not perceiving.

Then Hector spake to Achilles, “Thou hast missed thy aim, great Achilles. It was no word of Jupiter that thou spakest, prophesying my doom, but thou soughtest to cheat me, terrifying me by thy words. Thou shalt not drive thy steel into my back, but here into my breast, if the gods will it so.[280] But now look out for my spear. Would it might bury itself in thy flesh. The battle would be easier for the men of Troy were thou only out of the way.”

And as he spake he threw his long-shafted spear. True aim he took, for the spear struck the very middle of Achilles’ shield. It struck, but pierced it not, but bounded far away, for the shield was not of mortal make. And Hector stood dismayed, for he had not another spear, and when he called to Deïphobus that he should give him another, lo! Deïphobus was gone. Then Hector knew that his end was come, and he said to himself, “Now have the gods called me to my doom. I thought that Deïphobus was near; but he is within the walls, and the help which he promised me was but a cheat with which Minerva cheated me. Jupiter and Apollo are with me no more; but, if I must die, let me at least die in such a deed as men of after time may hear of.”

So he spake, and drew the mighty sword that hung by his side: then, as an eagle rushes through the clouds to pounce on a hare or a lamb, rushed on the great Achilles. But he dealt never a blow; for Achilles charged to meet him, his shield before his breast, his helmet bent forward as he ran, with the long plumes streaming behind, and the gleam of his spear-point was as the gleam of the evening star, which is the fairest of all the stars in heaven. One moment he thought where he should drive it home, for the armor which Hector had won from Patroclus guarded him well; but one spot there was, where by the collar-bone the neck joins the shoulder (and nowhere is the stroke of sword or[281] spear more deadly). There he drave in the spear, and the point stood out behind the neck, and Hector fell in the dust.

Then Achilles cried aloud, “Hector, thou thoughtest in the day when thou didst spoil Patroclus of his arms that thou wouldst be safe from vengeance, taking, forsooth, no account of me. And lo! thou art fallen before me.”

But Hector, growing faint, spake to him: “Take the ransom, gold and bronze, that my father and mother shall pay thee, and let the sons and daughters of Troy give me burial rites.”

But Achilles scowled at him, and cried, “Dog, seek not to entreat me! No ransom, though it were ten times told, should buy thee back; no, not though Priam should offer thy weight in gold.”

Then Hector, who was now at the point to die, spake to him: “I know thee well, what manner of man thou art, that the heart in thy breast is iron only. Only beware lest some vengeance from the gods come upon thee in the day when Paris and Apollo shall slay thee, for all thy valor, by the Scæan gates.”

So speaking, he died. But Achilles said, “Die, hound; but my fate I meet when Jupiter and the other gods decree.”

The Greeks came about the dead man, marvelling at his stature and beauty. And one would say to another, “Surely this Hector is less dreadful now than in the day when he would burn our ships with fire.”

Then Achilles devised a ruthless thing in his heart. He bound the body with thongs of ox-hide[282] to the chariot, letting the head drag behind, and thus he dragged Hector to the ships. Priam saw him from the walls, and scarce could his sons keep him back, but that he should go forth and beg the body of his dear son from him who had slain him. And Hecuba his mother also bewailed him, but his wife Andromaché knew not at yet of what had befallen him. For she sat in her dwelling, wearing a great purple mantle broidered with flowers. And she bade her maidens make ready a bath for Hector, when he should come back from the battle, nor knew that he should never need it more. But the voice of wailing from the town came to her, and she rose up hastily in great fear, and dropped the shuttle from her hand and called to her maidens—

“Come with me, ye maidens, that I may see what has befallen, for I heard the voice of Queen Hecuba, and I fear me much that some evil has come to the children of Priam. For it may be that Achilles has run between Hector and the city, and is pursuing him to the plain, for never will Hector abide with the army, but will fight in the front, so bold is he.”

Then she hasted through the city as if she were mad. And when she came to the wall she stood and looked; and lo! the horses of Achilles were dragging Hector to the ships. Then did darkness come on her, and she fell back fainting, and from her fair head dropped the net and the wreath and the diadem which golden Venus gave her on the day when Hector of the waving plume took her from the house of Eëtion to be his wife.



By Alfred J. Church

After a while, at the bidding of Jupiter, Thetis went to Achilles and found him weeping softly for his dead friend, for the strength of his sorrow was now spent, and she said to him, “It is the will of the gods that thou give up the body of Hector, and take in exchange the ransom of gold and precious things which his father will give thee for him.”

And her son answered, “Be it so, if the gods will have it.”

Then Jupiter sent Iris, who was his messenger, to King Priam, where he sat with his face wrapped in his mantle, and his sons weeping about him, and his daughters wailing through the chambers of his palace.

Then Iris spake. “Be of good cheer, Priam; Jupiter has sent me to thee. Go, taking with thee such gifts as may best please the heart of Achilles, and bring back the body of thy dear son Hector. Go without fear of death or harm, and go alone. Only let an aged herald be with thee, to help thee when thou bringest back the body of the dead.”

Then Priam rose with joy, and bade his sons bring forth his chariot; but first he went to his chamber, and called to Hecuba, his wife, and told her of his purpose, nor heeded when she sought to turn him from it, but said, “Seek not to hold me back, nor be a bird of evil omen in my house. If any prophet or seer had bidden me do this thing,[284] I should have held it a deceit; but now have I heard the very voice of the messenger of Jupiter. Wherefore, I shall go. And if I die, what care I? Let Achilles slay me, so that I embrace once more the body of my son.”

Then he bade them put into a wagon shawls and mantles that had never been washed, and rugs and cloaks and tunics, twelve of each, and ten talents of gold, and two bright three-footed caldrons, and four basins, and a cup of great beauty which the Thracians had given him. The old man spared nothing that he had, if only he might buy back his son. None of the Trojans would he suffer to come near him. “Begone,” he cried, “ye cowards! Have ye nothing to wail for at home, that ye come to wail with me? Surely, an easy prey will ye be to the Greeks, now that Hector is dead.”

Then he cried with like angry words to his sons, Paris, and Agathon, and Deïphobus, and the others—there were nine of them in all—“Make haste, ye evil brood. Would that ye all had died instead of Hector. Surely an ill-fated father am I. Many a brave son I had, as Mestor, and Troïlus, and Hector, who was fairer than any of the sons of men. But all these are gone, and only the cowards are left, masters of lying words, and skilful in the dance, and mighty to drink wine. But go, yoke the mules to the wagon.”

So they yoked the mules to the wagon. But the horses for his chariot Priam, with the herald, yoked himself.

Then Hecuba came near, and bade a woman-servant[285] come and pour water on his hands. And when she had poured, King Priam took a great cup from the hands of his wife, and made a libation to Jupiter, and prayed—“Hear me, Father Jupiter, and grant that Achilles may pity me. And do thou send me now a lucky sign, that I may go with a good heart to the ships of the Greeks.”

And Jupiter heard him, and sent an eagle, a mighty bird, whose wings spread out on either side as wide as is the door of some spacious chamber in a rich man’s house. On his right hand it flew high above the city, and all rejoiced when they saw the sign.

Then the old man mounted his chariot in haste, and drove forth from the palace. Before him the mules drew the four-wheeled wagon, and these the herald Idæus guided. But his chariot the old king drove himself. And all his kinsfolk went with him, weeping as for one who was going to his death. But when they came down from the city to the plain, Priam and the herald went towards the ships of the Greeks, but all the others returned to Troy.

Jupiter saw him depart, and said to Mercury, “Mercury, go, guide King Priam to the ships of the Greeks, so that no man see him before he comes to the tents of Achilles.”

Then Mercury fastened on his feet the fair sandals of gold with which he flies, fast as the wind, over sea and land, and in his hand he took the rod with which he opens and closes, as he wills, the eyes of men. And he flew down and lighted on the plain of Troy, taking on him the likeness of a fair youth.


When they had driven past the great tomb of Ilus, they stopped the horses and the mules, to let them drink of the river. And darkness came over the land; and then the herald spied Mercury, and said—“Consider, my lord, what we shall do. I see a man, and I am sore afraid lest he slay us. Shall we flee on the chariot, or shall we go near and entreat him, that he may have pity upon us?”

Then the old man was sore troubled, and his hair stood up with fear. But Mercury came near and took him by the hand and said—“Whither goest thou, old man, with thy horses and mules through the darkness? Hast thou no fear of these fierce Greeks, who are close at hand? If any one should see thee with all this wealth, what then? And thou art not young, nor is thy attendant young, that ye should defend yourselves against an enemy. But I will not harm thee, nor suffer any other, for thou art like my own dear father.”

“It is well, my son,” said the old man. “Surely one of the blessed gods is with me, in causing me to meet such an one as thou, so fair and so wise. Happy the parents of such a son!”

And Mercury said, “Come, tell me true, old man. Are you sending away all these treasures that they may be kept safe for you far away? Or are all the men of Troy leaving the city, seeing now that Hector, who was their bravest warrior, is dead?”

Then Priam answered, “Who art thou, my son, and what thy race, that thou speakest so truly about my hapless son?”

“Often,” said Mercury, “have I seen Hector in the battle, both at other times, and when he drove[287] the Greeks before him at the ships. We, indeed, stood and watched and marvelled at him, for Achilles would not suffer us to fight, being angry with King Agamemnon. Now, I am a follower of Achilles, coming from Greece in the same ship with him. One of the Myrmidons I am, son of Polyctor, an old man such as thou art. Six other sons he has, and when we drew lots who should come to the war, it fell to me. But know that with the morning the Greeks will set their battle in array against the city, for they are weary of their sojourn, and the kings cannot keep them back.”

Then said Priam, “If they art an attendant of Achilles, tell me true, is my son yet by the ships, or have the dogs devoured him?”

And Mercury answered, “Nor dogs nor vultures have devoured him. Still he lies by the ships of Achilles; and though this is the twelfth day since he was slain, no decay has touched him. Nay, though Achilles drags him round the tomb of his dear Patroclus, yet even so does no unseemliness come to him. All fresh he lies, and the blood is washed from him, and all his wounds are closed—and many spear-points pierced him. The blessed gods love him well, dead man though he be.”

This King Priam was well pleased to hear. “It is well,” he said, “for a man to honor the gods; for indeed, as my son never forgot the dwellers on Olympus, so have they not forgotten him, even in death. But do thou take this fair cup and do kindness to him, and lead me to the tent of Achilles.”

“Nay,” answered Mercury, “thou speakest this[288] in vain. No gift would I take from thy hand unknown to Achilles; for I honor him much, and fear to rob him, lest some evil happen to me afterwards. But thee I will guide to Argos itself, if thou wilt, whether by land or sea, and no one shall blame my guiding.”

Then he leapt into the chariot of the king and caught the reins in his hand, and gave the horses and the mules a strength that was not their own. And when they came to the ditch and the trench that guarded the ships, lo! the guards were busy with their meals; but Mercury made sleep descend upon them, and opened the gates and brought in Priam with his treasures. And when they came to the tent of Achilles, Mercury lighted down from the chariot and said—

“Lo! I am Mercury, whom my father Jupiter hath sent to be thy guide. And now I shall depart, for I would not that Achilles should see me. But go thou in, and clasp his knees, and beseech him by his father and his mother and his child. So shalt thou move his heart with pity.”

So Mercury departed to Olympus, and King Priam leapt down from the chariot, leaving the herald to care for the horses and the mules, and went to the tent. There he found Achilles sitting; his comrades sat apart, but two waited on him, for he had but newly ended his meal, and the table was yet at his hand. But no man saw King Priam till he was close to Achilles, and he caught his knees and kissed his hands, the dreadful murderous hands that had slain so many of his sons. As a man who slays another by mishap flies to some[289] stranger land, to some rich man’s home, and all wonder to see him, so Achilles wondered to see King Priam, and his comrades wondered, looking one at another. Then King Priam spake—

“Think of thy father, godlike Achilles, and pity me. He is old, as I am, and, it may be, his neighbors trouble him, seeing that he has no defender; yet so long as he knows that thou art alive, it is well with him, for every day he hopes to see his dear son return from Troy. But as for me, I am altogether wretched. Many a valiant son I had—nineteen born to me of one mother—and most of them are dead, and he that was the best of all, who kept our city safe, he has been slain by thee. He it is whom I have come to ransom. Have pity on him and on me, thinking of thy father. Never, surely, was lot so sad as this, to kiss the hands that slew a son.”

The words so stirred the heart of Achilles that he wept, thinking now of Patroclus, and now of his old father at home; and Priam wept, thinking of his dead Hector. But at last Achilles stood up from his seat and raised King Priam, having pity on his white hair and his white beard, and spake—

“How didst thou dare to come to the ships of the Greeks, to the man who slew thy sons? Surely thou must have a heart of iron. But sit thou down: let our sorrows rest in our hearts, for there is no profit in lamentation. It is the will of the gods that men should suffer woe, but they are themselves free from care. Two chests are set by the side of Father Jupiter, one of good and one of evil gifts, and he mixes the lot of men, taking out of both.[290] Many noble gifts did the gods give to King Peleus, my father; wealth and bliss beyond that of other men, and kingship over the Myrmidons. Ay! and they gave him a goddess to be his wife. But they gave also this evil, that he had no stock of stalwart children in his house, but one son only, and I cannot help him at all in his old age, for I tarry here far away in Troy. Thou, too, old man, hadst wealth and power of old, and lordship over all that lies between Lesbos and Phrygia and the stream of Hellespont. And to thee the gods have given this ill, that there is ever battle and slaughter about thy city walls. But as for thy son, wail not for him, for thou canst not raise him up.”

But Priam answered, “Make me not to sit, great Achilles, while Hector lies unhonored. Let me ransom him, and look upon him with my eyes, and do thou take the gifts. And the gods grant thee to return safe to thy fatherland.”

But Achilles frowned and said, “Vex me not; I am minded myself to give thee back thy Hector. My mother came from the sea, bearing the bidding of Jupiter and thou, methinks, hast not come hither without some guidance from the gods. But trouble me no more, lest I do thee some hurt.”

And King Priam feared and held his peace. Then Achilles hastened from his tent, and two comrades with him. First they loosed the horses from the chariot and the mules from the wagon; then they brought in the herald Idæus, and took the gifts. Only they left of them two cloaks and a tunic, wherein they might wrap the dead. And Achilles bade the women wash and anoint the body,[291] but away from the tent, lest perchance Priam should see his son and cry aloud, and so awaken the fury in his heart. But when it was washed and anointed, Achilles himself lifted it in his arms and put it on the litter, and his comrades lifted the litter on the wagon.

And when all was finished, Achilles groaned and cried to his dead friend, saying—

“Be not wroth, Patroclus, if thou shouldst hear in the unknown land that I have ransomed Hector to his father: a noble ransom hath he paid me, and of this, too, thou shalt have thy share.”

Then he went back to his tent, and set himself down opposite Priam, and spake: “Thy son is ransomed, old man, and to-morrow shalt thou see him and take him back to Troy. But now let us eat. Did not Niobe eat when she lost her twelve children, six daughters and six sons, whom Apollo and Diana slew because she likened herself to the fair Latona? So let us eat, old man. To-morrow shalt thou weep for Hector; many tears, I trow, shall be shed for him.”

So they ate and drank. And when the meal was ended, Achilles sat and marvelled at King Priam’s noble look, and King Priam marvelled at Achilles, so strong he was and fair.

Then Priam said, “Let me sleep, great Achilles. I have not slept since my son fell by thy hand. Now I have eaten and drunk, and my eyes are heavy.”

So the comrades of Achilles made him a bed outside, where no one might see him, should it chance that any of the chiefs should come to the[292] tent of Achilles to take counsel, and should espy him, and tell it to King Agamemnon.

But before he slept King Priam said, “If thou art minded to let me bury Hector, let there be a truce between my people and the Greeks. For nine days let us mourn for Hector, and on the tenth will we bury him and feast the people, and on the eleventh raise a great tomb above him, and on the twelfth we will fight again, if fight we must.”

And Achilles answered, “Be it so: I will stay the war for so long.”

But while Priam slept there came to him Mercury, the messenger of Jupiter, and said: “Sleepest thou, Priam, among thy foes? Achilles has taken ransom for thy Hector; but thy sons that are left would pay thrice as much for thee should Agamemnon hear that thou wert among the ships.”

The old man heard and trembled, and roused the herald, and the two yoked the horses and the mules. So they passed through the army, and no man knew. And when they came to the river, Mercury departed to Olympus, and the morning shone over all the earth. Wailing and weeping, they carried the body to the city.

It was Cassandra who first espied them as they came. Her father she saw, and the herald, and then the dead body on the litter, and she cried, “Sons and daughters of Troy, go to meet Hector, if ever ye have met him, with joy as he came back from the battle.”

And straightway there was not man or woman left in the city. They met the wagon when it was[293] close to the gates; his wife led the way, and his mother and all the multitude followed. And in truth they would have kept it thus till evening, weeping and wailing, but King Priam spake—“Let us pass; ye shall have enough of wailing when we have taken him to his home.”

So they took him to his home and laid him on his bed. And the minstrels lamented, and the women wailed.

Then first of all came Andromaché, his wife, and cried—“O my husband, thou hast perished in thy youth, and I am left in widowhood, and our child, thy child and mine, is but an infant. I fear me he will not grow to manhood. Ere that day this city will fall, for thou art gone who wast its defender. Soon will they carry us away, mothers and children, in the ships, and thou, my son, perchance wilt be with us, and serve the stranger in unseemly bondage; or, it may be, some Greek will slay thee, seizing thee and dashing thee from the wall; some Greek whose brother, or father, or son, Hector has slain in the battle. Many a Greek did Hector slay; no gentle hand was his in the fray. Therefore do the people wail for him to-day. Sore is thy parents’ grief, O Hector, but sorest mine. Thou didst stretch no hands of farewell to me from thy bed, nor speak any word of comfort for me to muse on while I weep night and day.”

Next spake Hecuba, his mother. “Dear wast thou, my son, in life to the immortal gods, and dear in death. Achilles dragged thee about the tomb of his dear Patroclus, but could not bring him back, and now thou liest fresh and fair as one whom[294] the god of the silver bow has slain with sudden stroke.”

And last of all came Helen, and cried, “Many a year has passed since I came to Troy—would that I had died before! And never have I heard from thy lips one bitter word, and if ever husband’s sister, or sister-in-law, or mother-in-law—for Priam was ever gentle as a father—spake harshly to me, thou wouldst check them with thy grace and gracious words. Therefore I weep for thee; no one is left to be my friend in all the broad streets of Troy. All shun and hate me now.”

And all the people wailed reply.

Then Priam spake. “Go, my people, gather wood for the burial, and fear not any ambush of the Greeks, for Achilles promised that he would stay the war until the twelfth day should come.”

So for nine days the people gathered much wood, and on the tenth they laid Hector upon the pile, and lit fire beneath it. And when it was burnt they quenched the embers with wine. Then his brethren and comrades gathered together the white bones, and laid them in a chest of gold; and this they covered with purple robes and put in a great coffin, and laid upon it stones many and great. And over all they raised a mighty mound; and all the while the watchers watched, lest the Greeks should arise and slay them. Last of all was a great feast held in the palace of King Priam.

So they buried Hector, the tamer of horses.



By Grace Bigelow Patten

For nine long years the Greeks besieged Troy, but for all their plans and manœuvres the city held out against them. They pillaged and overran the neighboring towns but Troy stood fast.

Never were brave men pitted against a braver enemy. The lives of many heroes were sacrificed, Hector’s, the greatest of the Trojan champions, and the valiant Achilles among them, at whose loss the Greeks almost despaired. Force had failed. Their leader had fallen. They must outwit their enemy. With the aid of Ulysses they worked out an admirable plan.

Down came the tents of the main body of the army, there was clatter and jangle of departure and the Greeks swept down the slope to the sea and their ships, as though homeward bound. Afloat, they soon sailed out of sight behind a neighboring island and came to anchor.

The remainder of the army set to work with a will to build a gigantic wooden horse, his sides planked with pine, a huge, hollow horse, as full of peek holes as a colander and with ample room for a band of men to lie hidden within. When it was finished, Ulysses, Menelaus, Pyrrhus and a company of armed warriors entered the horse by means of a secret door and the remainder of the Grecian army sailed away.

On seeing them depart, the Trojans believed the Greeks had at last lost heart, and, with victorious,[296] headlong delight they burst through the gates and swarmed over the plain into the abandoned camp. Looming down on them stood the great horse. Approaching it first with caution, they soon grew bolder and youths and maidens joined hands and danced around it. Many urged that it be drawn into the city. Others were afraid and said, “Burn it, sink it into the sea.” The priest Laocoön begged them to have nothing to do with it. “Are you mad? Have you not learned enough of Grecian fraud to be on your guard against it? For my part, I fear the Greeks even when they offer gifts.” With that he threw his great spear at the horse’s side, which gave forth a hollow sound.

At that moment there was an outcry, as some herdsmen brought before the chiefs a miserable, sullen-looking man whose hands were bound behind his back. He seemed to be the sole survivor of the Grecian army. With the assurance that his life would be spared if he spoke the truth, he tremblingly told them of his sufferings; that he was Sinon, a Greek, who, because of some grudge of Ulysses had been condemned to die as a sacrifice to the gods, of his escape and of his having hidden all night in a weedy lake and until his people were well at sea. All hearts warmed to him. The king ordered his hands unbound and bade him forget the Greeks and “be one of us.” “But tell me,” said the king, “why did you build this great horse?” The treacherous Sinon replied, “That is an offering to Minerva and made so huge to prevent its being carried into the city, for Calchas, the prophet, told us that if the Trojans took possession[297] of it they would surely triumph over the Greeks.” Hearing this, the people were overjoyed, and, in spite of Laocoön’s pleading, began to plan how they might drag the horse into the city. Suddenly a shudder went through the crowd. Out from the surf tumbling along the beach, appeared two immense serpents; breast to breast, on they came, with heads reared high, hissing jaws and blazing blood-red eyes. Many fled in terror. Some were transfixed and stood with haggard faces as the great creatures swept up to Laocoön and his two young sons, enfolded them in their hideous coils, crushed them to earth, devoured them, then glided on to the citadel of Minerva and slipped beneath the feet of the goddess. Here was their omen! “The priest Laocoön has been judged according to his deeds!” they said, “for he cast his spear against this holy thing, and now the gods have slain him!” They at once began making a great opening in the wall. Hoisting levers were adjusted, wheels fastened to the great feet, and after wreathing the horse with green branches and flowers they began tugging and pushing it over the plain and into the city.

The day was given over to merrymaking and feasting; so secure did they feel that the great gates were left unguarded and that night while they slept deeply, care free for the first time in ten years, Sinon, the spy, unlocked the hidden door of the great horse. Cautiously, Ulysses, Menelaus and their men crept out, opened the gates of the city and gave the signal to their army. Silently the ships drew up and anchored and an armed multitude[298] poured out into the night. Spears clashed, torches flared as the Greeks went plunging through the city in a hot frenzy of triumph. King Priam and many of his followers fell by the sword. Houses were ransacked of their jewels, golden bowls taken from the altars. The city was stripped of its treasures and then burned to its foundations. Sinon with his tale of suffering and false tears had touched the hearts of the Trojans and accomplished by strategy what a thousand ships and ten years’ siege had failed to do.







By Sir George W. Cox

Among the chiefs of the Greeks who fought before the walls of Troy, there was none who gained for himself a greater glory than Ulysses the son of Laertes.

Brave he was in battle, and steadfast in danger; but most of all did the Greeks seek his aid and counsel, when great things must be weighed and fixed. In every peril where there was need of the wise heart and the ready tongue, all hastened to Ulysses, and men felt that he did more to throw down the kingdom of Priam than the mightiest chieftains who fought only with sword and spear.

Yet, in the midst of all his toil and all his great exploits, the heart of Ulysses was far away in rocky Ithaca, where his wife Penelope dwelt with his young son Telemachus. Many a time, as the weary years of the war rolled on, he said within himself, “Ah, when will the strife be ended, and when shall we spread our sails to the breeze, and speed on our way homewards?”

At last the doom of Paris was accomplished, and the hosts of Agamemnon gave the city of Troy to fire and sword. Then Ulysses hastened to gather his men together, that they might go to their home in Ithaca; and they dragged the ships down to the[302] sea from the trenches where they had so long lain idle.

But before they sat down to row the ship out to the deep water, Ulysses spake to them and said, “O friends, think now, each one of you, of his home, of his wife, and of his children. Ten times have summer and winter passed over us since we left them with cheerful hearts, thinking that in but a little time we should come back to them laden with glory and booty. Ten years have they mourned for us at home; and we, who set out for Troy in the vigor of our manhood, go back now with gray hairs, or bowed down with weary labor. Yet faint not, O friends, neither be dismayed. Think how they wait and long for you still at home, as we go from land to land in our voyage to rocky Ithaca, let not weariness weigh down your hearts, or things fair and beautiful lead you to seek for rest, till our ships are moored in the haven which we left ten years ago.”

With shouts of joy they sat down to their long oars; and when they had rowed the ships out into the open sea, they spread the white sails to the breeze, and watched the Ilian land as it faded away from their sight in the far distance.

For many a day they went towards the land of the setting sun, until a mighty wind from the north drove them to a strange country far out of their course to Ithaca. Fair it was and peaceful beyond all lands which they had seen. The sun looked down out of the cloudless heaven on fruits and flowers which covered the laughing earth. Far away beyond the lotus plains the blue hills glimmered[303] in a dreamy haze. The trees bowed their heads in a peaceful slumber; and the lagging waves sank lazily to sleep upon the seashore. The summer breeze breathed its gentle whisper through the air, and the birds sang listlessly of their loves from the waving groves. Then said the men of Ulysses to one another, “Would that our wives and our children were here! Truly Ithaca is but a rough and barren land, and a sore grief it is to leave this happy shore to go home, and there find, it may be, that our children remember us no more.”

And Ulysses said within himself, “Surely some strange spell is on this fair land; almost might I long to sit down and sleep on the shore for ever; but Penelope waits for me in my home, and I cannot rest till I see her face once more.”

Then he bade three of his men go forth and ask the name of the land and of the men who lived in it. So they went slowly from the beach where the waves sang their lulling song to the sleepy flowers; and they wandered along the winding stream which came from the glimmering hills far away, till, deep down in a glen where the sun shed but half its light, they saw men and maidens under the shade of pleasant palm-trees. Before them was spread a banquet of rich and rosy fruit, and some were eating, and others lay asleep.

The men of Ulysses went up to them, and sat down by their side, for they feared them not, as men are wont to fear the people of a strange land. They asked not their name, for they remembered not the bidding of Ulysses; but they drank the dark wine and ate of the rosy fruit which the fair[304] maidens held out to them. “Eat,” they said, “O strangers, of the fruit which kills all pain: surely ye are weary and your hearts are faint with sorrow, and your eyes are dim as with many tears. Eat of our fruit and forget your labors; for all who eat of it remember no more weary toil and strife and war.” So they ate of the fruit, and then over their senses stole softly a strange and wondrous sleep, so that they saw and heard and spake even while they slumbered. On their ears fell the echo of a dreamy music, and forms of maidens, fair as Venus when she rose from the sea foam, passed before their eyes; and they said one to another, “Here let us sit, and feast, and dream for ever.”

Long time Ulysses waited on the seashore, and less and less he marvelled that they came not back, for he felt that over his own heart the strange spell was falling: and he said, “Ah, Penelope, dearer to me than aught else on the wide earth, the gods envy me thy love; else would they not seek to beguile me thus in this strange land of dreams and slumber.”

He rose up, as one rises to go forth to battle, and went quickly on the path by which his men had gone before him. Presently he saw them in the deep dell, and the rich fruit of the lotus was in their hand. They called to Ulysses and said, “We have come to the land of the Lotus-eaters; sit thou down with us and eat of their fruit, and forget all thy cares for ever.”

But Ulysses answered not; and hastening back, he bade the others come with him and bind the three men, and carry them to the ship. “Heed not the people of the land,” he said, “nor touch their rosy[305] fruit. It were a shame for men who have fought at Troy to slumber here like swine fattening for the slaughter.”

So they hastened and bound the three men who sat at the banquet of the Lotus-eaters; and they heeded not their words as they besought them to taste of the fruit and forget all their misery and trouble. And Ulysses hurried them back to the shore and made them drag down the ships into the sea and sit down to their long oars. “Hasten, friends, hasten,” he said, “from this land of dreams. Hither come the Lotus-eaters, and their soft voices will beguile our hearts if we tarry longer. They will tempt us to taste of their fruit; and then we shall seek no more to go back again to the land of toiling men.”

The dash of their oars broke the calm of the still air, and roused the waters from their slumber, as they toiled on their weary way.


By Sir George W. Cox

When the blue hills of the Lotus-land had faded away in the far distance, the ships of Ulysses went on merrily with a fresh breeze: and the men thought that they would soon come to rocky Ithaca, where their homes were. But Minerva was angry with Ulysses, and she asked Neptune, the lord of the sea, to send a great storm and scatter his ships. So the wind arose, and the waters[306] of the sea began to heave and swell, and the sky was black with clouds and rain.

Many days and many nights the storm raged fiercely; and when it was over, Ulysses could only see four or five of all the ships which had sailed with him from Troy. The ships were drenched with the waves which had broken over them, and the men were wet and cold and tired; and they were glad indeed when they saw an island far away. So they sat down on the benches, and took the great oars and rowed the ships towards the shore; and as they came near, they saw that the island was very beautiful with cliffs and rocks, and bays for ships to take shelter from the sea.

They rowed into one of these quiet bays, where the water was always calm, and where there was no need to let down an anchor, or to tie the ship by ropes to the seashore, for the ship lay there quite still of itself. At the head of the bay a stream of fresh water trickled down from the cliffs, and ran close to the opening of a large cave, and near the cave some willow trees drooped their branches over the stream which ran down towards the sea.

So they made haste to go on shore; and when they had landed, they saw fine large plains on which corn might grow, but no one had taken the trouble to sow the seed; and sloping hills for the grapes to ripen on the vines, but none were planted on them. Ulysses marvelled at the people who lived there, because they had no corn and no vines, and he could see no houses, but only sheep and goats feeding on the hill-sides. So he took his bows and arrows, and shot many of the goats, and he and[307] his men lay down on the ground and had a merry meal. When they had finished they fell asleep, and did not wake up till the morning showed its rosy light in the eastern sky.

Then Ulysses said that he would take some of his men and go to see who lived on the island, while the others remained in the ship close to the seashore. So they set out, and at last they came to the mouth of a great cave, where many sheep and goats were penned up in large folds. They could see no one in the cave or anywhere near it; and they waited a long while, but no one came. They lit a fire, and made themselves merry, as they ate the cheese and drank the milk which was stored up round the sides of the cave.

Suddenly they heard a great noise of heavy feet stamping on the ground. They were so frightened that they ran inside the cave, and crouched down at the end of it. Nearer and nearer came the Cyclops, and his tread almost made the earth shake. In he came, with many dry logs of wood on his back; and in came all the sheep, which he milked every evening; but the rams and the goats stayed outside. But if Ulysses and his men were afraid when they saw Polyphemus the Cyclops come in, they were much more afraid when he took up a great stone, which was almost as big as the mouth of the cave, and set it up against it for a door.

Then the men whispered to Ulysses and said, “Did we not beg and pray you not to come into the cave? But you would not listen to us; and now how are we to get out again? Why, two-and-twenty wagons would not be able to take away[308] that huge stone from the mouth of the cave.” They were shut in now, and there was no use in thinking of their folly for coming in.

So there they lay, crouching in the corner of the cave, and trembling with fear lest Polyphemus should see them. But the Cyclops went on milking the sheep, then he put the milk into the bowls round the sides of the cave, and lit the fire to cook his meal. As the flames shot up from the burning wood to the roof of the cave, it showed him the forms of Ulysses and his companions, where they lay huddled together in the corner. He cried out to them with a loud voice, “Who are you that dare to come into the cave of Polyphemus? Are you come to rob me of my sheep, or my cheese and milk that I keep here?”

Then Ulysses said, “No; we are not come to do you harm: we are Greeks, who have been fighting at Troy to bring back Helen whom Paris stole away from Sparta, and we went there with the great king Agamemnon, whom everybody knows. We are on our way home to Ithaca; but Neptune sent a great storm, because Minerva was angry with me; and almost all our ships have been sunk in the sea, or broken to pieces on the rocks.”

When he had finished speaking, Polyphemus frowned savagely and said, “I know nothing of Agamemnon, or Paris, or Helen;” and he seized two of the men, and broke their heads against the stones, and cooked them for his dinner.

That day Polyphemus ate a huge meal, and drank several bowls full of milk; and after that he fell fast asleep. As he lay there snoring in his[309] heavy sleep, Ulysses thought how easy it would be to plunge the sword into his breast, and kill him. He was just going to do it, when he thought of the great stone which Polyphemus had placed at the mouth of the cave; and he knew that if Polyphemus were killed no one else could move away the stone, and so they would all die shut up in that dismal place.

So the hours of the night went wearily on. Neither Ulysses nor his friends could sleep, for they thought of the men whom Polyphemus had eaten, and how they would very likely be eaten up themselves. At last they could tell, from the dim light which came in between the top of the stone and the roof of the cave, that the morning was come. Soon Polyphemus awoke and milked all the sheep again. When he had done this, he went to the end of the cave, and took up two more men and killed and ate them. Then he took down the great stone from the mouth of the cave, and drove all the cattle out to graze on the soft grass on the hills; and Ulysses began to hope that they might be able to get away before Polyphemus came back. But the Cyclops was not so silly as to let them go, for, as soon as the cattle were gone out, he took up the huge stone again as easily as if it had been a pebble, and put it up against the mouth of the cave; and there were Ulysses and his friends shut up again as fast as ever.

Then Ulysses began to think more and more how they were to get away, for if they stayed there they would soon be all killed, if Polyphemus went on eating four of them every day. At last, near the[310] sheepfold, he saw a club which Polyphemus was going to use as a walking-stick. It was the whole trunk of an olive-tree, fresh and green, for he had only just cut it and left it to dry, that he might carry it about when it was fit for use. There it lay like the mast of a ship, which twenty men could hardly have lifted. Ulysses cut off a bit from the end, as much as a man could carry, and told the men to bring it to a very sharp point; and when they had done this he hardened it in the fire, and then hid it away till Polyphemus should come home.

By and by, when the sun was sinking, they heard the terrible tramp of his feet and felt the earth shake beneath his tread. The great stone was taken away from the mouth of the cave, and in he came, driving the sheep and goats and the rams also before him, for this time he let nothing stay outside. He milked the sheep and the goats, as he had done the day before; and then killed two more men, and began to eat them for his supper.

Then Ulysses went towards him with a bottle full of wine, and said, “Drink this wine, Polyphemus; it will make your supper taste much nicer; I have brought it to you because I want you to do me some kindness in return.” So the Cyclops stretched out his hand to take the wine, and he drank it off greedily and asked for more. “Give me more of this honey-sweet wine,” he said; “surely no grapes on this earth could ever give such wine as this: tell me your name, for I should like to do you a kindness for giving me such wine as this.” Then Ulysses said, “O Cyclops, I hope you will[311] not forget to give me what you have promised: my name is Nobody.” And Polyphemus said, “Very well, I shall eat up Nobody last of all, when I have eaten up all his companions; and this is the kindness which I mean to do for him.” By this time he was so stupid with all he had been eating and drinking, that he could say no more, but fell on his back fast asleep; and his heavy snoring sounded through the whole of the cave.

Then Ulysses cried to his friends, “Now is the time; come and help me, and we will punish this Cyclops for all that he has done.” So he took the piece of the olive-tree, which had been made sharp, and put it into the fire, till it almost burst into a flame, and he and two of his men went and stood over Polyphemus, and pushed the burning wood into his great eye as hard and as far down as they could. It was a terrible sight to see; but the Cyclops was so stupid and heavy in sleep that at first he could scarcely stir. Presently he gave a great groan, so that Ulysses and his people started back in a fright, and crouched down at the end of the cave: and then the Cyclops put out his hand, drew the burning wood from his eye, and threw it from him in a rage, and roared out for help to his friends, who lived on the hills round about.

His roar was as deep and loud as the roar of twenty lions; and the other Cyclopes wondered when they heard him shouting out so loud, and they said, “What can be the matter with Polyphemus? We never heard him make such a noise before: let us go and see if he wants any help.” So they went to the cave, and stood outside the great stone which[312] shut it in, listening to his terrible bellowings; and when they did not stop they shouted to him, and asked him what was the matter. “Why have you waked us up in the middle of the night with all this noise, when we were sleeping comfortably? Is any one taking away your sheep and goats, or killing you by craft and force?”

And Polyphemus said, “Nobody, my friends, is killing me by craft and force.”

When the others heard this they were angry, and said, “Well, then, if nobody is killing you, why do you roar so? If you are ill, you must bear it as best you can, and ask our father Neptune to make you well again;” and then they walked off to their beds, and left Polyphemus to make as much noise as he pleased.

It was of no use that he went on shouting. No one came to him any more; and Ulysses laughed because he had tricked him so cunningly by calling himself Nobody. Polyphemus got up at last, moaning and groaning with the dreadful pain, and groped his way with his hands against the sides of the cave until he came to the door. Then he took down the great stone, and sat with his arms stretched out wide; and he said to himself, “Now I shall be sure to catch them, for no one can get out without passing me.”

But Ulysses was too clever for him yet; for he went quietly, and fastened the great rams of Polyphemus together with long bands of willow. He tied them together by threes, and under the stomach of the middle one he tied one of his men, until he had fastened them all up safely. Then he went and[313] caught hold of the largest ram of all, and clung on with his hands to the thick wool underneath his stomach; and so they waited in a great fright, lest after all the giant might catch and kill them.

At last the pale light of the morning came into the eastern sky, and very soon the sheep and the goats began to go out of the cave. Polyphemus passed his hands over the backs of all the sheep as they went by, but he did not feel the willow bands, because their wool was long and thick, and he never thought that any one would be tied up underneath their stomachs. Last of all came the great ram to which Ulysses was clinging. When Polyphemus passed his hand over his back, he stroked him gently and said, “Is there something the matter with you too, as there is with your master? You were always the first to go out of the cave, and now to-day for the first time you are the last. I am sure that that horrible Nobody is at the bottom of all this. Ah, old ram, perhaps it is that you are sorry for your master, whose eye Nobody has put out. I wish you could speak like a man, and tell me where he is. If I could but catch him, I would take care that he never got away again, and then I should have some comfort for all the evil which Nobody has done me.” So he sent the ram on; and when he had gone a little way from the cave, Ulysses got up from under the ram, and went and untied all his friends, and very glad they were to be free once more, although they could not help grieving, when they thought of the men whom Polyphemus had killed. But Ulysses told them to make haste and drive as many of the sheep and goats as they could to the ships.[314] So they drove them down to the shore and hurried them into the ships, and began to row away; and soon they would have been out of the reach of the Cyclops, if Ulysses could only have held his tongue.

He was so angry himself, that he thought he would like to make Polyphemus still more angry; so he shouted to him, “Cruel Cyclops, did you think that you would not be punished for eating up my friends? Is this the way in which you receive strangers who have been tossed about by many storms upon the sea?”

Then Polyphemus was more furious than ever, and he broke off a great rock from the mountain, and hurled it at Ulysses. On it came whizzing through the air, and fell just in front of his ship, and the water was dashed up all over it; and there was a great heaving of the sea, which almost carried them back to the land. They began to row again with all their might; but still, when they had got about twice as far as they were before, Ulysses could not help shouting out a few more words to Polyphemus. So he said, “If any one asks you how you lost your eye, remember, mighty Cyclops, to say that you were made blind by Ulysses, the plunderer of cities, the son of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.”

Terrible indeed was the fury of Polyphemus when he heard this, and he said: “Now I remember how the wise Telemus used to tell me that a man would come here named Ulysses, who would put my eye out. But I thought he would have been some great strong man, almost as big as myself; and this is a miserable little wretch, whom I could[315] almost hold in my hand if I caught him. But stay, and I will show you how I thank you for your kindness, and I will ask my father Neptune to send you a pleasant storm to toss you about upon the dark sea.”

Then Polyphemus took up a bigger rock than ever, and hurled it high into the air with all his might. But this time it fell just behind the ship of Ulysses: up rose the water and drenched Ulysses and all his people, and almost sank the ship under the sea. But it only sent them further out of the reach of the Cyclops; and though he hurled more rocks after them, they now fell far behind in the sea, and did them no harm.

Even when they had rowed a long way, they could still see Polyphemus standing on the high cliff, and shaking his hands at them in rage and pain. But no one came to help him for all his shouting because he had told his friends that Nobody was doing him harm.


By Nathaniel Hawthorne

At one time in the course of his weary voyage, Ulysses arrived at an island that looked very green and pleasant, but the name of which was unknown to him. For, only a little while before he came thither, he had met with a terrible hurricane, or rather a great many hurricanes at once, which drove his fleet of vessels into a strange part of the[316] sea, where neither himself nor any of his mariners had ever sailed.

This misfortune was entirely owing to the foolish curiosity of his shipmates, who, while Ulysses lay asleep, had untied some very bulky leathern bags, in which they supposed a valuable treasure to be concealed. But in each of these stout bags, King Æolus, the ruler of the winds, had tied up a tempest and had given it to Ulysses to keep, in order that he might be sure of a favorable passage homeward to Ithaca; and when the strings were loosened, forth rushed the whistling blasts, like air out of a blown bladder, whitening the sea with foam, and scattering the vessels nobody could tell whither.

Immediately after escaping from this peril, a still greater one had befallen him. Scudding before the hurricane, he reached a place, which, as he afterwards found, was called Læstrygonia, where some monstrous giants had eaten up many of his companions and had sunk every one of his vessels, except that in which he himself sailed, by flinging great masses of rock at them from the cliffs along the shore. After going through such troubles as these, you cannot wonder that King Ulysses was glad to moor his tempest-beaten bark in a quiet cove of the green island, which I began with telling you about. But he had encountered so many dangers from giants, and one-eyed Cyclopes, and monsters of the sea and land, that he could not help dreading some mischief, even in this pleasant and seemingly solitary spot. For two days, therefore, the poor weather-worn voyagers kept quiet, and either stayed on board of their vessel, or merely[317] crept along under the cliffs that bordered the shore; and to keep themselves alive, they dug shell-fish out of the sand, and sought for any little rill of fresh water that might be running towards the sea.

Before the two days were spent, they grew very weary of this kind of life; for the followers of King Ulysses, as you will find it important to remember, were great eaters, and pretty sure to grumble if they missed their regular meals, and their irregular ones besides. Their stock of provisions was quite exhausted, and even the shell-fish began to get scarce, so that they had now to choose between starving to death or venturing into the interior of the island, where perhaps some huge three-headed dragon, or other horrible monster, had his den. Such misshapen creatures were very numerous in those days; and nobody ever expected to make a voyage, or take a journey, without running more or less risk of being devoured by them.

But King Ulysses was a bold man as well as a prudent one; and on the third morning he determined to discover what sort of a place the island was, and whether it were possible to obtain a supply of food for the hungry mouths of his companions. So, taking a spear in his hand, he clambered to the summit of a cliff, and gazed round about him. At a distance, towards the center of the island, he beheld the stately towers of what seemed to be a palace, built of snow-white marble, and rising in the midst of a grove of lofty trees. The thick branches of these trees stretched across the front of the edifice, and more than half concealed it, although from the portion which he saw, Ulysses[318] judged it to be spacious and exceedingly beautiful, and probably the residence of some great nobleman or prince. A blue smoke went curling up from the chimney, and was almost the pleasantest part of the spectacle to Ulysses. For, from the abundance of this smoke, it was reasonable to conclude that there was a good fire in the kitchen, and that, at dinner-time, a plentiful banquet would be served up to the inhabitants of the palace, and to whatever guests might happen to drop in.

With so agreeable a prospect before him, Ulysses fancied that he could not do better than to go straight to the palace gate, and tell the master of it that there was a crew of poor shipwrecked mariners, not far off, who had eaten nothing for a day or two, save a few clams and oysters, and would therefore be thankful for a little food. And the prince or nobleman must be a very stingy curmudgeon, to be sure, if at least, when his own dinner was over, he would not bid them welcome to the broken victuals from the table.

Pleasing himself with this idea, King Ulysses had made a few steps in the direction of the palace, when there was a great twittering and chirping from the branch of a neighboring tree. A moment afterwards, a bird came flying towards him, and hovered in the air, so as almost to brush his face with its wings. It was a very pretty little bird, with purple wings and body, and yellow legs, and a circle of golden feathers round his neck, and on its head a golden tuft, which looked like a king’s crown in miniature. Ulysses tried to catch the bird. But it fluttered nimbly out of his reach, still chirping[319] in a piteous tone, as if it could have told a lamentable story, had it only been gifted with human language. And when he attempted to drive it away, the bird flew no farther than the bough of the next tree, and again came fluttering about his head, with its doleful chirp, as soon as he showed a purpose of going forward.

“Have you anything to tell me, little bird?” asked Ulysses.

And he was ready to listen attentively to whatever the bird might communicate; for, at the siege of Troy, and elsewhere, he had known such odd things to happen, that he would not have considered it much out of the common run had this little feathered creature talked as plainly as himself.

“Peep!” said the bird, “peep, peep, pe—weep!” And nothing else would it say, but only, “Peep, peep, pe—weep!” in a melancholy cadence, and over and over and over again. As often as Ulysses moved forward, however, the bird showed the greatest alarm, and did its best to drive him back, with the anxious flutter of its purple wings. Its unaccountable behavior made him conclude, at last, that the bird knew of some danger that awaited him, and which must needs be very terrible, beyond all question, since it moved even a little fowl to feel compassion for a human being. So he resolved, for the present, to return to the vessel, and tell his companions what he had seen.

This appeared to satisfy the bird. As soon as Ulysses turned back, it ran up the trunk of a tree, and began to pick insects out of the bark with its long, sharp bill; for it was a kind of woodpecker,[320] you must know, and had to get its living in the same manner as other birds of that species. But every little while, as it pecked at the bark of the tree, the purple bird bethought itself of some secret sorrow, and repeated its plaintive note of “Peep, peep, pe—weep!”

On his way to the shore, Ulysses had the good luck to kill a large stag by thrusting his spear into its back. Taking it on his shoulders (for he was a remarkably strong man), he lugged it along with him and flung it down before his hungry companions. I have already hinted to you what gormandisers some of the comrades of King Ulysses were. From what is related of them, I reckon that their favorite diet was pork, and that they had lived upon it until a good part of their physical substance was swine’s flesh, and their tempers and dispositions were very much akin to the hog. A dish of venison, however, was no unacceptable meal to them, especially after feeding so long on oysters and clams. So, beholding the dead stag, they felt of its ribs, in a knowing way, and lost no time in kindling a fire of driftwood to cook it. The rest of the day was spent in feasting; and if these enormous eaters got up from table at sunset, it was only because they could not scrape another morsel off the poor animal’s bones.

The next morning their appetites were as sharp as ever. They looked at Ulysses, as if they expected him to clamber up the cliff again, and come back with another fat deer upon his shoulders. Instead of setting out, however, he summoned the whole crew together, and told them it was in vain[321] to hope that he could kill a stag every day for their dinner, and therefore it was advisable to think of some other mode of satisfying their hunger.

“Now,” said he, “when I was on the cliff, yesterday, I discovered that this island is inhabited. At a considerable distance from the shore stood a marble palace, which appeared to be very spacious, and had a great deal of smoke curling out of one of its chimneys.”

“Aha!” muttered some of his companions, smacking their lips. “That smoke must have come from the kitchen fire. There was a good dinner on the spit; and no doubt there will be as good a one to-day.”

“But,” continued the wise Ulysses, “you must remember, my good friends, our misadventure in the cavern of one-eyed Polyphemus, the Cyclops! Instead of his ordinary milk diet, did he not eat up two of our comrades for his supper, and a couple more for breakfast, and two at his supper again? Methinks I see him yet, the hideous monster, scanning us with that great red eye, in the middle of his forehead, to single out the fattest. And then, again, only a few days ago did we not fall into the hands of the King of the Læstrygons, and those other horrible giants, his subjects, who devoured a great many more of us than are now left? To tell you the truth, if we go to yonder palace, there can be no question that we shall make our appearance at the dinner table; but whether seated as guests, or served up as food, is a point to be seriously considered.”

“Either way,” murmured some of the hungriest[322] of the crew, “it will be better than starvation; particularly if one could be sure of being well fattened beforehand, and daintily cooked afterwards.”

“That is a matter of taste,” said King Ulysses, “and, for my own part, neither the most careful fattening nor the daintiest of cookery would reconcile me to being dished at last. My proposal is, therefore, that we divide ourselves into two equal parties, and ascertain, by drawing lots, which of the two shall go to the palace, and beg for food and assistance. If these can be obtained, all is well. If not, and if the inhabitants prove as inhospitable as Polyphemus, or the Læstrygons, then there will but half of us perish, and the remainder may set sail and escape.”

As nobody objected to this scheme, Ulysses proceeded to count the whole band, and found that there were forty-six men, including himself. He then numbered off twenty-two of them, and put Eurylochus (who was one of his chief officers, and second only to himself in sagacity) at their head. Ulysses took command of the remaining twenty-two men, in person. Then, taking off his helmet, he put two shells into it, on one of which was written “Go,” and on the other, “Stay.” Another person now held the helmet, while Ulysses and Eurylochus drew out each a shell; and the word “Go,” was found written on that which Eurylochus had drawn. In this manner, it was decided that Ulysses and his twenty-two men were to remain at the seaside until the other party should have found out what sort of treatment they might expect at the mysterious palace. As there was no help[323] for it, Eurylochus immediately set forth at the head of his twenty-two followers, who went off in a very melancholy state of mind, leaving their friends in hardly better spirits than themselves.

No sooner had they clambered up the cliff, than they discerned the tall marble towers of the palace, ascending, as white as snow, out of the lovely green shadow of the trees which surrounded it. A gush of smoke came from a chimney in the rear of the edifice. This vapor rose high in the air, and meeting with a breeze, was wafted seaward and made to pass over the heads of the hungry mariners. When people’s appetites are keen, they have a very quick scent for anything savory in the wind.

“That smoke comes from the kitchen!” cried one of them, turning up his nose as high as he could, and snuffing eagerly. “And, as sure as I’m a half-starved vagabond, I smell roast meat in it.”

“Pig, roast pig!” said another. “Ah, the dainty little porker! My mouth waters for him.”

“Let us make haste,” cried the others, “or we shall be too late for the good cheer!”

But scarcely had they made half a dozen steps from the edge of the cliff, when a bird came fluttering to meet them. It was the same pretty little bird, with the purple wings and body, the yellow legs, the golden collar round its neck, and the crown-like tuft upon its head, whose behavior had so much surprised Ulysses. It hovered about Eurylochus, and almost brushed his face with its wings.

“Peep, peep, pe—weep!” chirped the bird.

So plaintively intelligent was the sound, that it[324] seemed as if the little creature were going to break its heart with some mighty secret that it had to tell, and only this one poor note to tell it with.

“My pretty bird,” said Eurylochus—for he was a wary person, and let no token of harm escape his notice—“my pretty bird, who sent you hither? And what is the message which you bring?”

“Peep, peep, pe—weep!” replied the bird, very sorrowfully.

Then it flew towards the edge of the cliff, and looked round at them, as if exceedingly anxious that they should return whence they came. Eurylochus and a few of the others were inclined to turn back.

They could not help suspecting that the purple bird must be aware of something mischievous that would befall them at the palace, and the knowledge of which affected its airy spirit with a human sympathy and sorrow. But the rest of the voyagers, snuffing up the smoke from the palace kitchen, ridiculed the idea of returning to the vessel. One of them (more brutal than his fellows, and the most notorious gormandiser in the whole crew) said such a cruel and wicked thing, that I wonder the mere thought did not turn him into a wild beast, in shape, as he already was in his nature.

“This troublesome and impertinent little fowl,” said he, “would make a delicate titbit to begin dinner with. Just one plump morsel, melting away between the teeth. If he comes within my reach, I’ll catch him, and give him to the palace cook to be roasted on a skewer.”

The words were hardly out of his mouth, before[325] the purple bird flew away, crying, “Peep, peep, pe—weep,” more dolorously than ever.

“That bird,” remarked Eurylochus, “knows more than we do about what awaits us at the palace.”

“Come on, then,” cried his comrades, “and we’ll soon know as much as he does.”

The party, accordingly, went onward through the green and pleasant wood. Every little while they caught new glimpses of the marble palace, which looked more and more beautiful the nearer they approached it. They soon entered a broad pathway, which seemed to be very neatly kept, and which went winding along, with streaks of sunshine falling across it, and specks of light quivering among the deepest shadows that fell from the lofty trees.

It was bordered, too, with a great many sweet-smelling flowers, such as the mariners had never seen before. So rich and beautiful they were, that if the shrubs grew wild here, and were native in the soil, then this island was surely the flower garden of the whole earth; or, if transplanted from some other clime, it must have been from the happy islands that lay towards the golden sunset.

“There has been a great deal of pains foolishly wasted on these flowers,” observed one of the company; and I tell you what he said, that you may keep in mind what gormandisers they were. “For my part, if I were the owner of the palace, I would bid my gardener cultivate nothing but savory pot herbs to make a stuffing for roast meat, or to flavor a stew with.”

“Well said!” cried the others. “But I’ll warrant[326] you there’s a kitchen garden in the rear of the palace.”

At one place they came to a crystal spring, and paused to drink at it for want of liquor which they liked better. Looking into its bosom, they beheld their own faces dimly reflected, but so extravagantly distorted by the gush and motion of the water, that each one of them appeared to be laughing at himself and all his companions. So ridiculous were these images of themselves, indeed, that they did really laugh aloud, and could hardly be grave again as soon as they wished. And after they had drank, they grew still merrier than before.

“It has a twang of the wine cask in it,” said one, smacking his lips.

“Make haste!” cried his fellows; “we’ll find the wine cask itself at the palace; and that will be better than a hundred crystal fountains.”

They then quickened their pace, and capered for joy at the thought of the savory banquet at which they hoped to be guests. But Eurylochus told them that he felt as if he were walking in a dream.

“If I am really awake,” continued he, “then, in my opinion, we are on the point of meeting with some stranger adventure than any that befell us in the cave of Polyphemus, or among the gigantic man-eating Læstrygons, or in the windy palace of King Æolus, which stands on a brazen-walled island. This kind of dreamy feeling always comes over me before any wonderful occurrence. If you take my advice, you will turn back.”

“No, no,” answered his comrades, snuffing the air, in which the scent from the palace kitchen was[327] now very perceptible. “We would not turn back, though we were certain that the King of the Læstrygons, as big as a mountain, would sit at the head of the table, and huge Polyphemus, the one-eyed Cyclops, at its foot.”

At length they came within full sight of the palace, which proved to be very large and lofty, with a great number of airy pinnacles upon its roof. Though it was now midday, and the sun shone brightly over the marble front, yet its snowy whiteness and its fantastic style of architecture made it look unreal, like the frostwork on a window pane, or like the shapes of castles which one sees among the clouds by moonlight. But, just then, a puff of wind brought down the smoke of the kitchen chimney among them, and caused each man to smell the odor of the dish that he liked best; and, after scenting it, they thought everything else moonshine and nothing real save this palace, and save the banquet that was evidently ready to be served up in it.

So they hastened their steps towards the portal, but had not got half-way across the wide lawn when a pack of lions, tigers, and wolves came bounding to meet them. The terrified mariners started back, expecting no better fate than to be torn to pieces and devoured. To their surprise and joy, however, these wild beasts merely capered around them, wagging their tails, offering their heads to be stroked and patted, and behaving just like so many well-bred house dogs, when they wish to express their delight at meeting their master or their master’s friends. The biggest lion licked the feet[328] of Eurylochus; and every other lion, and every wolf and tiger, singled out one of his two and twenty followers, whom the beast fondled as if he loved him better than a beef bone.

But, for all that, Eurylochus imagined that he saw something fierce and savage in their eyes; nor would he have been surprised, at any moment, to feel the big lion’s terrible claws, or to see each of the tigers make a deadly spring, or each wolf leap at the throat of the man whom he had fondled. Their mildness seemed unreal and a mere freak; but their savage nature was as true as their teeth and claws.

Nevertheless, the men went safely across the lawn with the wild beasts frisking about them and doing no manner of harm; although, as they mounted the steps of the palace, you might possibly have heard a low growl, particularly from the wolves; as if they thought it a pity, after all, to let the strangers pass without so much as tasting what they were made of.

Eurylochus and his followers now passed under a lofty portal, and looked through the open doorway into the interior of the palace. The first thing that they saw was a spacious hall, and a fountain in the middle of it gushing up towards the ceiling out of a marble basin, and falling back into it with a continual plash. The water of this fountain, as it spouted upward, was constantly taking new shapes, not very distinctly but plainly enough for a nimble fancy to recognize what they were. Now it was the shape of a man in a long robe, the fleecy whiteness of which was made out of the fountain’s[329] spray; now it was a lion, or a tiger, or a wolf, or an ass, or, as often as anything else, a hog, wallowing in the marble basin as if it were his sty. It was either magic or some very curious machinery that caused the gushing waterspout to assume all these forms. But, before the strangers had time to look closely at this wonderful sight, their attention was drawn off by a very sweet and agreeable sound. A woman’s voice was singing melodiously in another room of the palace, and with her voice was mingled the noise of a loom, at which she was probably seated, weaving a rich texture of cloth, and intertwining the high and low sweetness of her voice into a rich tissue of harmony.

By and by, the song came to an end; and then, all at once, there were several feminine voices talking airily and cheerfully, with now and then a merry burst of laughter such as you may always hear when three or four young women sit at work together.

“Just listen to the pleasant voices of those maidens, and that buzz of the loom, as the shuttle passes to and fro,” said another comrade. “What a domestic, household, home-like sound it is! Ah before that weary siege of Troy, I used to hear the buzzing loom and the women’s voices under my own roof. Shall I never hear them again? nor taste those nice little savory dishes which my dearest wife knew how to serve up?”

“Tush! we shall fare better here,” said another. “But how innocently those women are babbling together, without guessing that we overhear them! And mark that richest voice of all, so pleasant and[330] familiar, but which yet seems to have the authority of a mistress among them. Let us show ourselves at once. What harm can the lady of the palace and her maidens do to mariners and warriors like us?”

“Remember,” said Eurylochus, “that it was a young maiden who beguiled three of our friends into the palace of the King of the Læstrygons, who ate up one of them in the twinkling of an eye.”

No warning or persuasion, however, had any effect on his companions. They went up to a pair of folding doors at the farther end of the hall, and throwing them wide open, passed into the next room. Eurylochus, meanwhile, had stepped behind a pillar. In a short moment while the folding doors opened and closed again, he caught a glimpse of a very beautiful woman rising from the loom, and coming to meet the poor weather-beaten wanderers, with a hospitable smile, and her hand stretched out in welcome. There were four other young women, who joined their hands and danced merrily forward, making gestures of obeisance to the strangers. They were only less beautiful than the lady who seemed to be their mistress. Yet Eurylochus fancied that one of them had sea-green hair, and that the close-fitting bodice of a second looked like the hark of a tree, and that both the others had something odd in their aspect, although he could not quite determine what it was, in the little while that he had to examine them.

The folding doors swung quickly back, and left him standing behind the pillar, in the solitude of the outer hall. There Eurylochus waited until he[331] was quite weary, and listened eagerly to every sound, but without hearing anything that could help him to guess what had become of his friends. Footsteps, it is true, seemed to be passing and repassing in other parts of the palace. Then there was a clatter of silver dishes, or golden ones, which made him imagine a rich feast in a splendid banqueting hall. But by and by he heard a tremendous grunting and squealing, and then a sudden scampering like that of small hard hoofs over a marble floor, while the voices of the mistress and her four hand-maidens were screaming all together, in tones of anger and derision. Eurylochus could not conceive what had happened, unless a drove of swine had broken into the palace, attracted by the smell of the feast. Chancing to cast his eyes at the fountain, he saw that it did not shift its shape as formerly, nor looked either like a long-robed man, or a lion, a tiger, a wolf, or an ass. It looked like nothing but a hog, which lay wallowing in the marble basin, and filled it from brim to brim.

But we must leave the prudent Eurylochus waiting in the outer hall, and follow his friends into the inner secrecy of the palace. As soon as the beautiful woman saw them, she arose from the loom, as I have told you, and came forward, smiling, and stretching out her hand. She took the hand of the foremost among them, and bade him and the whole party welcome.

“You have been long expected, my good friends,” said she. “I and my maidens are well acquainted with you, although you do not appear to recognize us. Look at this piece of tapestry, and[332] judge if your faces must not have been familiar to us.”

So the voyagers examined the web of cloth which the beautiful woman had been weaving in her loom; and, to their vast astonishment, they saw their own figures perfectly represented in different colored threads. It was a life-like picture of their recent adventures, showing them in the cave of Polyphemus, and how they had put out his one great moon-eye; while in another part of the tapestry they were untying the leathern bags, puffed out with contrary winds; and farther on, they beheld themselves scampering away from the gigantic King of the Læstrygons, who had caught one of them by the leg. Lastly, there they were, sitting on the desolate shore of this very island, hungry and downcast, and looking ruefully at the bare bones of the stag which they devoured yesterday. This was as far as the work had yet proceeded; but when the beautiful woman should again sit down at her loom, she would probably make a picture of what had since happened to the strangers, and of what was now going to happen.

“You see,” she said, “that I know all about your troubles; and you cannot doubt that I desire to make you happy for as long a time as you may remain with me. For this purpose, my honored guests, I have ordered a banquet to be prepared. Fish, fowl, and flesh, roasted and in luscious stews, and seasoned, I trust, to all your tastes, are ready to be served up. If your appetites tell you it is dinner-time, then come with me to the festal saloon.”


At this kind invitation, the hungry mariners were quite overjoyed; and one of them, taking upon himself to be spokesman, assured their hospitable hostess that any hour of the day was dinner-time with them, whenever they could get flesh to put in the pot, and fire to boil it with. So the beautiful woman led the way; and the four maidens (one of them had sea-green hair, another a bodice of oak-bark, a third sprinkled a shower of water drops from her fingers’ ends, and the fourth had some other oddity, which I have forgotten), all these followed behind, and hurried the guests along, until they entered a magnificent saloon. It was built in a perfect oval, and lighted from a crystal dome above. Around the walls were ranged two and twenty thrones, overhung by canopies of crimson and gold, and provided with the softest of cushions which were tasselled and fringed with gold cord. Each of the strangers was invited to sit down; and there they were, two and twenty storm-beaten mariners in worn and tattered garb, sitting on two and twenty cushioned and canopied thrones, so rich and gorgeous that the proudest monarch had nothing more splendid in his stateliest hall.

Then you might have seen the guests nodding, winking with one eye, and leaning from one throne to another, to communicate their satisfaction in hoarse whispers.

“Our good hostess has made kings of us all,” said one. “Ha! do you smell the feast? I’ll engage it will be fit to set before two and twenty kings.”

“I hope,” said another, “it will be mainly good[334] substantial joints, sirloins, spareribs, and hinder quarters, without too many kickshaws. If I thought the good lady would not take it amiss, I should call for a fat slice of dried bacon to begin with.”

Ah, the gluttons and gormandisers! You see how it was with them. In the loftiest seats of dignity, on royal thrones, they could think of nothing but their greedy appetite, which was the portion of their nature that they shared with wolves and swine; so that they resembled those vilest of animals far more than they did kings—if, indeed, kings were what they ought to be.

But the beautiful woman now clapped her hands; and immediately there entered a train of two and twenty serving men, bringing dishes of the richest food, all hot from the kitchen fire, and sending up such a steam that it hung like a cloud below the crystal dome of the saloon. An equal number of attendants brought great flagons of wine, of various kinds, some of which sparkled as it was poured out, and went bubbling down the throat; while, of other sorts, the purple liquor was so clear that you could see the wrought figures at the bottom of the goblet. While the servants supplied the two and twenty guests with food and drink, the hostess and her four maidens went from one throne to another, exhorting them to eat their fill, and to quaff wine abundantly, and thus to recompense themselves, at this one banquet, for the many days when they had gone without a dinner. But, whenever the mariners were not looking at them (which was pretty often, as they looked chiefly into the basins and platters),[335] the beautiful woman and her damsels turned aside, and laughed. Even the servants, as they knelt down to present the dishes, might be seen to grin and sneer, while the guests were helping themselves to the offered dainties.

And, once in a while, the strangers seemed to taste something that they did not like.

“Here is an odd kind of a spice in this dish,” said one. “I can’t say it quite suits my palate. Down it goes, however.”

“Send a good draught of wine down your throat,” said his comrade on the next throne. “That is the stuff to make this sort of cookery relish well. Though I must needs say, the wine has a queer taste, too. But the more I drink of it, the better I like the flavor.”

Whatever little fault they might find with the dishes, they sat at dinner a prodigiously long while; and it would really have made you ashamed to see how they swilled down the liquor and gobbled up the food.

They sat on golden thrones, to be sure, but they behaved like pigs in a sty; and, if they had had their wits about them, they might have guessed that this was the opinion of their beautiful hostess and her maidens. It brings a blush into my face to reckon up, in my own mind, what mountains of meat and pudding, and what gallons of wine these two and twenty guzzlers and gormandisers ate and drank. They forgot all about their homes and their wives and children, and all about Ulysses, and everything else, except this banquet at which they wanted to keep feasting for ever. But at[336] length they began to give over from mere incapacity to hold any more.

“That last bit of fat is too much for me,” said one.

“And I have not room for another morsel,” said his next neighbor, heaving a sigh. “What a pity! My appetite is as sharp as ever.”

In short, they all left off eating and leaned back on their thrones, with such a stupid and helpless aspect, as made them ridiculous to behold. When their hostess saw this, she laughed aloud; so did her four damsels; so did the two and twenty serving men that bore the dishes, and their two and twenty fellows that poured out the wine. And the louder they all laughed, the more stupid and helpless did the two and twenty gormandisers look. Then the beautiful woman took her stand in the middle of the saloon, and stretching out a slender rod (it had been all the while in her hand, although they never noticed it till this moment), she turned it from one guest to another, until each had felt it pointed at himself. Beautiful as her face was, and though there was a smile on it, it looked just as wicked and mischievous as the ugliest serpent that ever was seen; and fat-witted as the voyagers had made themselves, they began to suspect that they had fallen into the power of an evil-minded enchantress.

“Wretches,” cried she, “you have abused a lady’s hospitality; and in this princely saloon your behavior has been suited to a hog-pen. You are already swine in everything but the human form, which you disgrace, and which I myself should be[337] ashamed to keep a moment longer were you to share it with me. But it will require only the slightest exercise of magic to make the exterior conform to the hoggish disposition. Assume your proper shapes, gormandisers, and begone to the sty!”

Uttering these last words, she waved her wand; and stamping her foot imperiously, each of the guests was struck aghast at beholding, instead of his comrades in human shape, one and twenty hogs sitting on the same number of golden thrones. Each man (as he still supposed himself to be) essayed to give a cry of surprise but found that he could merely grunt, and that, in a word, he was just such another beast as his companions. It looked so intolerably absurd to see hogs on cushioned thrones, that they made haste to wallow down upon all fours like other swine. They tried to groan and beg for mercy, but forthwith emitted the most awful grunting and squealing that ever came out of swinish throats. They would have wrung their hands in despair, but, attempting to do so, grew all the more desperate for seeing themselves squatted on their hams and pawing the air with their fore-trotters. Dear me! what pendulous ears they had! what little red eyes, half buried in fat! and what long snouts, instead of Grecian noses!

But brutes as they certainly were, they yet had enough of human nature in them to be shocked at their own hideousness; and, still intending to groan, they uttered a viler grunt and squeal than before. So harsh and ear-piercing it was, that you would have fancied a butcher was sticking his knife into[338] each of their throats, or, at the very least, that somebody was pulling every hog by his funny little twist of a tail.

“Begone to your sty!” cried the enchantress, giving them some smart strokes with her wand; and then she turned to the serving men—“Drive out these swine, and throw down some acorns for them to eat.”

The door of the saloon being flung open, the drove of hogs ran in all directions save the right one, in accordance with their hoggish perversity, but were finally driven into the back yard of the palace. It was a sight to bring tears into one’s eyes (and I hope none of you will be cruel enough to laugh at it), to see the poor creatures go snuffing along, picking up here a cabbage-leaf, and there a turnip-top, and rooting their noses in the earth for whatever they could find. In their sty, moreover, they behaved more piggishly than the pigs that had been born so; for they bit and snorted at one another, put their feet in the trough, and gobbled up their victuals in a ridiculous hurry; and, when there was nothing more to be had, they made a great pile of themselves among some unclean straw, and fell fast asleep. If they had any human reason left, it was just enough to keep them wondering when they should be slaughtered, and what quality of bacon they should make.

Meantime, as I told you before, Eurylochus had waited, and waited, and waited in the entrance hall of the palace, without being able to comprehend what had befallen his friends. At last, when the swinish uproar resounded through the palace, and[339] when he saw the image of a hog in the marble basin, he thought it best to hasten back to the vessel, and inform the wise Ulysses of these marvellous occurrences.

So he ran as fast as he could down the steps, and never stopped to draw breath till he reached the shore.

“Why do you come alone?” asked King Ulysses as soon as he saw him. “Where are your two and twenty comrades?”

At these questions, Eurylochus burst into tears.

“Alas!” cried he, “I greatly fear that we shall never see one of their faces again.”

Then he told Ulysses all that had happened, as far as he knew it, and added that he suspected the beautiful woman to be a vile enchantress, and the marble palace, magnificent as it looked, to be only a dismal cavern in reality. As for his companions, he could not imagine what had become of them, unless they had been given to the swine to be devoured alive. At this intelligence, all the voyagers were greatly affrighted. But Ulysses lost no time in girding on his sword, and hanging his bow and quiver over his shoulders, and taking a spear in his right hand. When his followers saw their wise leader making these preparations, they inquired whither he was going, and earnestly besought him not to leave them.

“You are our king,” cried they; “and what is more, you are the wisest man in the whole world, and nothing but your wisdom and courage can get us out of this danger. If you desert us, and go to the enchanted palace, you will suffer the same fate[340] as our poor companions, and not a soul of us will ever see our dear Ithaca again.”

“As I am your king,” answered Ulysses, “and wiser than any of you, it is therefore the more my duty to see what has befallen our comrades, and whether anything can yet be done to rescue them. Wait for me here until to-morrow. If I do not then return, you must hoist sail, and endeavor to find your way to our native land. For my part, I am answerable for the fate of these poor mariners, who have stood by my side in battle, and been so often drenched to the skin, along with me, by the same tempestuous surges. I will either bring them back with me, or perish.”

Had his followers dared, they would have detained him by force. But King Ulysses frowned sternly on them, and shook his spear, and bade them stop him at their peril.

Seeing him so determined, they let him go, and sat down on the sand, as disconsolate a set of people as could be, waiting and praying for his return.

It happened to Ulysses, just as before, that, when he had gone a few steps from the edge of the cliff, the purple bird came fluttering towards him, crying, “Peep, peep, pe—weep!” and using all the art it could to persuade him to go no farther.

“What mean you, little bird?” cried Ulysses. “You are arrayed like a king in purple and gold, and wear a golden crown upon your head. Is it because I, too, am a king, that you desire so earnestly to speak with me? If you can talk in human language, say what you would have me do.”


“Peep!” answered the purple bird, very dolorously. “Peep, peep, pe—we—ep!”

Certainly there lay some heavy anguish at the little bird’s heart; and it was a sorrowful predicament that he could not, at least, have the consolation of telling what it was. But Ulysses had no time to waste in trying to get at the mystery. He therefore quickened his pace, and had gone a good way along the pleasant wood path, when there met him a young man of very brisk and intelligent aspect, and clad in a rather singular garb. He wore a short cloak, and a sort of cap that seemed to be furnished with a pair of wings; and from the lightness of his step, you would have supposed that there might likewise be wings on his feet. To enable him to walk still better (for he was always on one journey or another), he carried a winged staff, around which two serpents were wriggling and twisting.

In short, I have said enough to make you guess that it was Quicksilver; and Ulysses (who knew him of old, and had learned a great deal of his wisdom from him) recognized him in a moment.

“Whither are you going in such a hurry, wise Ulysses?” asked Quicksilver. “Do you not know that this island is enchanted? The wicked enchantress (whose name is Circe, the sister of King Æetes) dwells in the marble palace which you see yonder among the trees. By her magic arts, she changes every human being into the brute beast or fowl whom he happens most to resemble.”

“That little bird, which met me at the edge of[342] the cliff,” exclaimed Ulysses, “was he a human being once?”

“Yes,” answered Quicksilver. “He was once a king, named Picus, and a pretty good sort of a king, too, only rather too proud of his purple robe, and his crown, and the golden chain about his neck; so he was forced to take the shape of a gaudy feathered bird. The lions, and wolves, and tigers, who will come running to meet you, in front of the palace, were formerly fierce and cruel men, resembling in their disposition the wild beasts whose forms they now rightfully wear.”

“And my poor companions,” said Ulysses. “Have they undergone a similar change, through the arts of this wicked Circe?”

“You well know what gormandisers they were,” replied Quicksilver; and, rogue that he was, he could not help laughing at the joke. “So you will not be surprised to hear that they have all taken the shapes of swine! If Circe had never done anything worse, I really should not think her so very much to blame.”

“But can I do nothing to help them?” inquired Ulysses.

“It will require all your wisdom,” said Quicksilver, “and a little of my own into the bargain, to keep your royal and sagacious self from being transformed into a fox. But do as I bid you; and the matter may end better than it has begun.”

While he was speaking, Quicksilver seemed to be in search of something; he went stooping along the ground, and soon laid his hand on a little plant with a snow-white flower, which he plucked and smelt[343] of. Ulysses had been looking at that very spot only just before; and it appeared to him that the plant had burst into full flower the instant when Quicksilver touched it with his fingers.

“Take this flower, King Ulysses,” said he. “Guard it as you do your eyesight; for I can assure you it is exceedingly rare and precious, and you might seek the whole earth over without ever finding another like it. Keep it in your hand, and smell of it frequently after you enter the palace, and while you are talking with the enchantress. Especially when she offers you food or a draught of wine out of her goblet, be careful to fill your nostrils with the flower’s fragrance. Follow these directions, and you may defy her magic arts to change you into a fox.”

Quicksilver then gave him some further advice how to behave, and bidding him be bold and prudent, again assured him that, powerful as Circe was, he would have a fair prospect of coming safely out of her enchanted palace. After listening attentively, Ulysses thanked his good friend, and resumed his way. But he had taken only a few steps, when, recollecting some other questions which he wished to ask, he turned round again, and beheld nobody on the spot where Quicksilver had stood; for that winged cap of his, and those winged shoes, with the help of the winged staff, had carried him quickly out of sight.

When Ulysses reached the lawn, in front of the palace, the lions and other savage animals came bounding to meet him, and would have fawned upon him and licked his feet. But the wise king[344] struck at them with his long spear, and sternly bade them begone out of his path; for he knew that they had once been bloodthirsty men, and would now tear him limb from limb, instead of fawning upon him, could they do the mischief that was in their hearts. The wild beasts yelped and glared at him, and stood at a distance, while he ascended the palace steps.

On entering the hall, Ulysses saw the magic fountain in the center of it. The up-gushing water had now again taken the shape of a man in a long, white fleecy robe, who appeared to be making gestures of welcome. The king likewise heard the noise of the shuttle in the loom, and the sweet melody of the beautiful woman’s song, and then the pleasant voices of herself and the four maidens talking together, with peals of merry laughter intermixed. But Ulysses did not waste much time in listening to the laughter or the song. He leaned his spear against one of the pillars of the hall, and then, after loosening his sword in the scabbard, stepped boldly forward, and threw the folding doors wide open. The moment she beheld his stately figure standing in the doorway, the beautiful woman rose from the loom, and ran to meet him with a glad smile throwing its sunshine over her face, and both her hands extended.

“Welcome, brave stranger!” cried she. “We were expecting you.”

And the nymph with the sea-green hair made a curtsey down to the ground, and likewise bade him welcome; so did her sister with the bodice of oaken bark, and she that sprinkled dewdrops from her[345] fingers’ ends, and the fourth one with some oddity which I cannot remember. And Circe, as the beautiful enchantress was called (who had deluded so many persons that she did not doubt of being able to delude Ulysses, not imagining how wise he was), again addressed him:—

“Your companions,” said she, “have already been received into my palace, and have enjoyed the hospitable treatment to which the propriety of their behavior so well entitles them. If such be your pleasure, you shall first take some refreshment, and then join them in the elegant apartments which they now occupy. See, I and my maidens have been weaving their figures into this piece of tapestry.”

She pointed to the web of beautifully woven cloth in the loom. Circe and the four nymphs must have been very diligently at work since the arrival of the mariners; for a great many yards of tapestry had now been wrought, in addition to what I have before described. In this new part, Ulysses saw his two and twenty friends represented as sitting on cushioned and canopied thrones, greedily devouring dainties, and quaffing deep draughts of wine. The work had not yet gone any further. O, no indeed. The enchantress was far too cunning to let Ulysses see the mischief which her magic arts had since brought upon the gormandisers.

“As for yourself, valiant sir,” said Circe, “judging by the dignity of your aspect, I take you to be nothing less than a king. Deign to follow me, and you shall be treated as befits your rank.”

So Ulysses followed her into the oval saloon,[346] where his two and twenty comrades had devoured the banquet, which ended so disastrously for themselves, but all this while, he had held the snow-white flower in his hand, and had constantly smelt of it while Circe was speaking; and as he crossed the threshold of the saloon, he took good care to inhale several long and deep snuffs of its fragrance. Instead of two and twenty thrones which had before been ranged around the wall, there was now only a single throne, in the center of the apartment. But this was surely the most magnificent seat that ever a king or an emperor reposed himself upon, all made of chased gold, studded with precious stones, with a cushion that looked like a soft heap of living roses, and overhung by a canopy of sunlight which Circe knew how to weave into drapery. The enchantress took Ulysses by the hand, and made him sit down upon this dazzling throne.

Then clapping her hands, she summoned the chief butler.

“Bring hither,” said she, “the goblet that is set apart for kings to drink out of. And fill it with the same delicious wine which my royal brother, King Æetes, praised so highly, when he last visited me with my fair daughter Medea. That good and amiable child! Were she now here, it would delight her to see me offering this wine to my honored guest.”

But Ulysses, while the butler was gone for the wine, held the snow-white flower to his nose.

“Is it a wholesome wine?” he asked.

At this the four maidens tittered; whereupon the[347] enchantress looked round at them with an aspect of severity.

“It is the wholesomest juice that ever was squeezed out of the grape,” said she; “for, instead of disguising a man, as other liquor is apt to do, it brings him to his true self, and shows him as he ought to be.”

The chief butler liked nothing better than to see people turned into swine, or making any kind of a beast of themselves; so he made haste to bring the royal goblet, filled with a liquid as bright as gold, and which kept sparkling upward, and throwing a sunny spray over the brim. But, delightfully as the wine looked, it was mingled with the most potent enchantments that Circe knew how to concoct. For every drop of the pure grape juice there were two drops of the pure mischief; and the danger of the thing was, that the mischief made it taste all the better. The mere smell of the bubbles, which effervesced at the brim, was enough to turn a man’s beard into pig’s bristles, or make a lion’s claws grow out of his fingers or a fox’s brush behind him.

“Drink, my noble guest,” said Circe, smiling as she presented him with the goblet. “You will find in this draught a solace for all your troubles.”

King Ulysses took the goblet with his right hand, while with his left he held the snow-white flower to his nostrils, and drew in so long a breath that his lungs were quite filled with its pure and simple fragrance. Then, drinking off all the wine, he looked the enchantress calmly in the face.

“Wretch,” cried Circe, giving him a smart stroke with her wand, “how dare you keep your human[348] shape a moment longer? Take the form of the brute whom you most resemble. If a hog, go join your fellow-swine in the sty; if a lion, a wolf, a tiger, go howl with the wild beasts on the lawn; if a fox, go exercise your craft in stealing poultry. Thou hast quaffed off my wine, and canst be man no longer.”

But, such was the virtue of the snow-white flower, instead of wallowing down from his throne in swinish shape, or taking any other brutal form, Ulysses looked even more manly and king-like than before. He gave the magic goblet a toss, and sent it clashing over the marble floor, to the farther end of the saloon. Then, drawing his sword, he seized the enchantress by her beautiful ringlets, and made a gesture as if he meant to strike off her head at one blow.

“Wicked Circe,” cried he, in a terrible voice, “this sword shall put an end to thy enchantments. Thou shalt die, vile witch, and do no more mischief in the world, by tempting human beings into the vices which make beasts of them.”

The tone and countenance of Ulysses were so awful, and his sword gleamed so brightly, and seemed to have so intolerably keen an edge, that Circe was almost killed by the mere fright, without waiting for a blow. The chief butler scrambled out of the saloon, picking up the golden goblet as he went; and the enchantress and the four maidens fell on their knees, wringing their hands, and screaming for mercy.

“Spare me!” cried Circe. “Spare me, royal and wise Ulysses. For now I know that thou art he of[349] whom Quicksilver forewarned me, the most prudent of mortals, against whom no enchantments can prevail. Thou only couldst have conquered Circe. Spare me, wisest of men. I will show thee true hospitality, and even give myself to be thy slave, and this magnificent palace to be henceforth thy home.”

The four nymphs, meanwhile, were making a most piteous ado; and especially the ocean nymph with the sea-green hair, wept a great deal of salt-water, and the fountain nymph, besides scattering dewdrops from her fingers’ ends, nearly melted away into tears. But Ulysses would not be pacified until Circe had taken a solemn oath to change back his companions, and as many others as he should direct, from their present forms of beast or bird into their former shapes of men.

“On these conditions,” said he, “I consent to spare your life. Otherwise you must die upon the spot.”

With a drawn sword hanging over her, the enchantress would readily have consented to do as much good as she had hitherto done mischief, however little she might like such employment. She therefore led Ulysses out of the back entrance of the palace, and showed him the swine in their sty. There were about fifty of these unclean beasts in the whole herd; and though the greater part were hogs by birth and education, there was wonderfully little difference to be seen betwixt them and their new brethren, who had so recently worn the human shape. To speak critically, indeed, the latter rather carried the thing to excess, and seemed to make it[350] a point to wallow in the miriest part of the sty, and otherwise to outdo the original swine in their own natural vocation. When men once turn to brutes, the trifle of man’s wit that remains in them adds tenfold to their brutality.

The comrades of Ulysses, however, had not quite lost the remembrance of having formerly stood erect. When he approached the sty, two and twenty enormous swine separated themselves from the herd, and scampered towards him, with such a chorus of horrible squealing as made him clap both hands to his ears. And yet they did not seem to know what they wanted, nor whether they were merely hungry, or miserable from some other cause. It was curious, in the midst of their distress, to observe them thrusting their noses into the mire, in quest of something to eat. The nymph with the bodice of oaken bark (she was the hamadryad of an oak) threw a handful of acorns among them; and the two and twenty hogs scrambled and fought for the prize, as if they had tasted not so much as a noggin of sour milk for a twelvemonth.

“These must certainly be my comrades,” said Ulysses. “I recognize their dispositions. They are hardly worth the trouble of changing them into the human form again. Nevertheless, we will have it done, lest their bad example should corrupt the other hogs. Let them take their original shapes, therefore, Dame Circe, if your skill is equal to the task. It will require greater magic, I trow, than it did to make swine of them.”

So Circe waved her wand again, and repeated a few magic words, at the sound of which the two and[351] twenty hogs pricked up their pendulous ears. It was a wonder to behold how their snouts grew shorter and shorter, and their mouths (which they seemed to be sorry for, because they could not gobble so expeditiously) smaller and smaller, and how one and another began to stand upon his hind legs, and scratch his nose with his fore trotters. At first the spectators hardly knew whether to call them hogs or men, but by and by came to the conclusion that they rather resembled the latter. Finally, there stood the twenty-two comrades of Ulysses, looking pretty much the same as when they left the vessel.

You must not imagine, however, that the swinish quality had entirely gone out of them. When once it fastens itself into a person’s character, it is very difficult getting rid of it. This was proved by the hamadryad, who, being exceedingly fond of mischief, threw another handful of acorns before the twenty-two newly restored people; whereupon down they wallowed, in a moment, and gobbled them up in a very shameful way.

Then, recollecting themselves, they scrambled to their feet, and looked more than commonly foolish.

“Thanks, noble Ulysses!” they cried. “From brute beasts you have restored us to the condition of men again.”

“Do not put yourselves to the trouble of thanking me,” said the wise king. “I fear I have done but little for you.”

To say the truth, there was a suspicious kind of a grunt in their voices, and, for a long time afterwards,[352] they spoke gruffly, and were apt to set up a squeal.

“It must depend upon your own future behavior,” added Ulysses, “whether you do not find your way back to the sty.”

At this moment, the note of a bird sounded from the branch of a neighboring tree.

“Peep, peep, pe—wee—ep!”

It was the purple bird, who, all this while, had been sitting over their heads, watching what was going forward, and hoping that Ulysses would remember how he had done his utmost to keep him and his followers out of harm’s way. Ulysses ordered Circe instantly to make a king of this good little fowl and leave him exactly as she found him. Hardly were the words spoken, and before the bird had time to utter another “pe—weep,” King Picus leaped down from the bough of the tree, as majestic a sovereign as any in the world, dressed in a long purple robe and gorgeous yellow stockings, with a splendidly wrought collar about his neck, and a golden crown upon his head. He and King Ulysses exchanged with one another the courtesies which belong to their elevated rank. But from that time forth, King Picus was no longer proud of his crown and his trappings of royalty, nor of the fact of his being a king; he felt himself merely the upper servant of his people, and that it must be his life-long labor to make them better and happier.

As for the lions, tigers, and wolves (though Circe would have restored them to their former shapes at his slightest word), Ulysses thought it advisable[353] that they should remain as they now were, and thus give warning of their cruel dispositions, instead of going about under the guise of men, and pretending to human sympathies, while their hearts had the bloodthirstiness of wild beasts. So he let them howl as much as they liked, but never troubled his head about them. And, when everything was settled according to his pleasure, he sent to summon the remainder of his comrades, whom he had left at the seashore. These being arrived, with the prudent Eurylochus at their head, they all made themselves comfortable in Circe’s enchanted palace, until quite rested and refreshed from the toils and hardships of their voyage.


By Sir George W. Cox

When Ulysses and his men had left the island of the lady Circe, a fresh breeze carried them merrily for several days over the sea. But after that the wind sank down, and there was a calm. The sails flapped against the mast, and they had to take them down and to row the ship on with their long oars. The sun was shining hot and fierce, and the men were very tired. There was not even a ripple upon the sea, and not a breath of air to cool their burning faces.

Ulysses remembered how the lady Circe had told him that he would have to pass near the Sirens’ island where the sea was always calm, and how she[354] said that he must take care not to listen to the Sirens’ song, if he did not wish his ship to be dashed to pieces on the rocks. For, all day long, the Sirens lay on the seashore, or swam about in the calm water, singing so sweetly that no one who heard them could ever pass on without going to them: and whoever went to them was killed upon the rocks, for the Sirens were very beautiful and cruel, and they sang their soft enticing song, to draw the sailors into the shallow water, that their ships might be broken on the terrible reefs which lay hidden beneath the calm sea. When Circe told Ulysses of the Sirens’ rocks, she said that he must fill his sailors’ ears with wax, that they might not hear the song and be drawn in upon those terrible reefs. So, as the sun shone down fiercely on their heads, Ulysses thought they must be coming near to the island of the Sirens; and he took a large lump of wax and pressed it in his fingers till the hot sun made it soft and sticky. Then he called the men and told them he must fill their ears with wax, so they would not hear the song of the beautiful and cruel Sirens. But Ulysses was a very strange man, and liked to hear and see everything; so he said that he must hear the song himself, and that they must tie him to the mast for fear he should leap into the sea to swim to the Sirens’ land.

Then he filled the sailors’ ears with wax so that they could hear nothing; and they took a large rope and put it two or three times round the arms and waist of Ulysses; and then they sat down again on their benches, and began to row the ship on as quickly as they could.


Presently through the breathless air, and over the still and sleeping sea, there came a sound so sweet and soothing that Ulysses thought that he could no longer be living on the earth. Softer and sweeter it swelled upon the ear, and it seemed to speak to him of rest and peace, although he could hear no words; and he felt as if he could give up everything if only he might hear those sweet sounds for ever. So he made signs to the sailors to row on quicker; but presently the song rose in the sultry air, more sweet and gentle and enticing; and it seemed to say:

“O tired and weary sailors, why do you toil so hard to row your ship under this fierce hot sun? Come to us, and sit among these cool rocks: come and rest—come and rest.”

But he did not yet hear the words, for they were still too far from the Sirens’ rocks. Still, nearer and nearer the sailors rowed; and now he heard the words of their song, and he knew that they were speaking to himself, for they said:

“O, Ulysses, man of many toils and long wanderings, great glory of the Greeks, come to us and listen to our song. Every one who passes over the sea near our island stays to hear it, and forgets all his labor and all his trouble, and then goes away peaceful and happy. Come and rest, Ulysses, come and rest. We know all the great deeds you have done at Troy, and how you have been tossed by many storms, and suffered many sorrows sailing on the wide sea. But here the sea is always calm, and the sun cannot scorch you in the cool and pleasant caves where you shall hear us sing.”


Then Ulysses cried out to the sailors, “Let me go, let me go, they are calling me; do you not hear?” And he struggled with all his might to break the cords that bound him; but when they saw him trying to get free, they went and tied stronger cords round his arms and waist, and rowed on quicker than ever. And still Ulysses prayed them to set him free, that he might leap into the sea and swim to the Sirens’ caves. “I cannot stay,” he said; “they are calling me by my name; their song rises sweeter and clearer than ever; let us go, let us go.” And again he heard them singing.

“O man of many toils, we are waiting for you and will sing you to sleep, and charm all your cares away for ever.”

But quicker and quicker the sailors rowed on, till at last they had passed the island. And the Sirens saw that Ulysses was going away; but yet again they sang.

“Come back, Ulysses, come back and rest in our cool green caves, O man of many griefs and wanderings.” But the sound of their sweet song was now faint before it reached the ship of Ulysses, and he could only just hear them say:

“Will you leave us, will you leave us? Ah, Ulysses, you do not know what you are losing. Come to our cool green caves; we are waiting—we are waiting.”

But the power of the Sirens’ song grew weaker as the ship went further away; and Ulysses began to think how foolish and silly he had been. He could not hear any more the words of the song, as they called him by his name; but still he half wished[357] to go back to the Sirens’ land, while yet he heard the sound of their singing, as it came faint and weak through the hot and breathless air. Soon it was all ended. The sky was still; the waves were all asleep; the clouds looked down drowsily on the water; and Ulysses thought that he could die, he was so tired and spent with struggling.

So when the sailors saw that Ulysses did not struggle any more, they went and set him free, and took the wax out of their ears. And Ulysses said, “O friends, it is better not to hear the Sirens’ song; for if but two or three of us had heard it, we should have gone to them, and our ship would have been sunk in their green caves.”

And they said, “It is indeed better not to hear it. You were so busy listening to their song that you could not see what we saw. All the way as we passed by the island, logs of wood and bits of masts were floating on the water; and these must have been pieces from ships which have been broken on the rocks, because the sailors heard the Sirens’ song.”


By Alfred J. Church

The King of Phæacia was Alcinoüs, and he had five sons and one daughter, Nausicaa. To her, where she slept with her two maidens by her, the goddess Minerva went, taking the shape of her friend, the daughter of Dymas, and said—

“Why hath thy mother so idle a daughter,[358] Nausicaa? Lo! thy garments lie unwashed, and thy wedding must be near, seeing that many nobles in the land are suitors to thee. Ask then thy father that he give thee the wagon with the mules, for the laundries are far from the city, and I will go with thee.”

And when the morning was come, Nausicaa awoke, marvelling at the dream, and went seeking her parents. Her mother she found busy with her maidens at the loom, and her father she met as he was going to the council with the chiefs of the land. Then she said, “Give me, father, the wagon with the mules, that I may take the garments to the river to wash them. Thou shouldst always have clean robes when thou goest to the council; and there are my five brothers also, who love to have newly washed garments at the dance.”

But of her own marriage she said nothing. And her father, knowing her thoughts, said, “It is well. The men shall harness the wagon for thee.”

So they put the clothing into the wagon. And her mother put also food and wine, and olive oil also, wherewith she and her maidens might anoint themselves after the bath. So they climbed into the wagon and went to the river. And then they washed the clothing, and spread it out to dry on the rocks by the sea. And after that they had bathed and anointed themselves, they sat down to eat and drink by the river side; and after the meal they played at ball, singing as they played, and Nausicaa led the song. But when they had nearly ended their play, the princess, throwing the ball to one of her maidens, cast it so wide that it fell into[359] the river. Whereupon they all cried aloud, and Ulysses awoke. And he said to himself, “What is this land to which I have come? Are they that dwell therein fierce or kind to strangers? Just now I seemed to hear the voice of nymphs, or am I near the dwellings of men?”

Then he twisted leaves about his loins, and rose up and went towards the maidens, who indeed were frighted to see him (for he was wild of aspect), and fled hither and thither. But Nausicaa stood and fled not. Then Ulysses thought within himself, should he go near and clasp her knees, or, lest haply this should anger her, should he stand and speak? And this he did, saying—

“I am thy suppliant, O queen. Whether thou art a goddess, I know not. But if thou art a mortal, happy thy father and mother, and happy thy brothers, and happiest of all he who shall win thee in marriage. Never have I seen man or woman so fair. Thou art like a young palm-tree that but lately I saw in Delos, springing by the temple of the god. But as for me, I have been cast on this shore, having come from the island Ogygia. Pity me, then, and lead me to the city, and give me something, a wrapper of this linen, maybe, to put about me. So may the gods give thee all blessings!”

And Nausicaa made answer, “Thou seemest, stranger, to be neither evil nor foolish; and as for thy plight, the gods give good fortune or bad, as they will. Thou shalt not lack clothing or food, or anything that a suppliant should have. And I will take thee to the city. Know also that this land[360] is Phæacia, and that I am daughter to Alcinoüs, who is king thereof.”

Then she called to her maidens, “What mean ye, to flee when ye see a man? No enemy comes hither to harm us, for we are dear to the gods; but if one cometh here overborne by trouble, it is well to succor him. Give this man, therefore, food and drink, and let him wash himself in the river, where there is shelter from the wind.”

So they brought him down to the river, and gave him a tunic and a cloak to clothe himself, and also oil-olive in a flask of gold. Then, at his bidding, they departed a little space, and he washed the salt from his skin and out of his hair, and anointed himself, and put on the clothing. And Minerva made him taller and fairer to see, and caused the hair to be thick on his head, in color as a hyacinth. Then he sat down on the seashore, right beautiful to behold, and the maiden said—

“Not without some bidding of the gods comes this man to our land. Before, indeed, I deemed him uncomely, but now he seems like to the gods. I should be well content to have such a man for a husband, and maybe he might be willing to abide in this land. Give him, ye maidens, food and drink.”

So they gave him, and he ate ravenously, having fasted long. Then Nausicaa bade yoke the mules, and said to Ulysses—

“Follow thou with the maidens, and I will lead the way in the wagon. For I would not that the people should speak lightly of me. I doubt not that were thou with me some one of the baser sort[361] would say, ‘Who is this stranger, tall and fair, that cometh with Nausicaa? Will he be her husband? Perchance it is some god, or a man from far away; for of us men of Phæacia she thinks scorn.’ It would be shame that such words should be spoken. Do thou, then, follow behind, and when we are come to the city, tarry in a poplar grove that thou shalt see (’tis the grove of Minerva) till I shall have come to my father’s house. Then follow; and for the house, that any one, even a child, can show thee, for the other Phæacians dwell not in such. And when thou art come within the doors, pass quickly through the hall to where my mother sits. Close to the hearth is her seat, and my father’s hard by, where he sits with the wine cup in his hand, as a god. Pass him by and lay hold of her knees, and pray her that she give thee safe return to thy country.”

It was evening when they came to the city. And Nausicaa drove the wagon to the palace. Her brothers came out to her, and loosed the mules and carried in the clothing. Then she went to her chamber, where Eurymedusa, who was her nurse, lighted a fire and prepared a meal. Meanwhile Ulysses came from the grove, and lest any one should see him, Minerva spread a mist about him, and when he had now reached the city, she took the shape of a young maiden carrying a pitcher, and met him.

Then Ulysses asked her, “My child, canst thou tell me where dwells Alcinoüs? for I am a stranger in this place.”

And she answered, “I will show thee, for indeed[362] he dwells nigh to my own father. But be thou silent, for we Phæacians love not strangers over much.”

Then she led him to the palace. A wondrous place it was, with walls of brass and doors of gold, hanging on posts of silver; and on either side of the door were dogs of gold and silver, the work of Vulcan, and against the wall, all along from the threshold to the inner chamber, were set seats, on which sat the chiefs of the Phæacians, feasting; and youths wrought in gold stood holding torches in their hands, to give light in the darkness. Fifty women were in the house grinding corn and weaving robes, for the women of the land are no less skilled to weave than are the men to sail the sea. And round about the house were gardens beautiful with orchards of fig, and apple, and pear, and pomegranate, and olive. Drought hurts them not, nor frost, and harvest comes after harvest without ceasing. Also there was a vineyard; and some of the grapes were parching in the sun, and some were being gathered, and some again were but just turning red. And there were beds of all manner of flowers; and in the midst of all were two fountains which never failed.

These things Ulysses regarded for a space and then passed into the hall. Quickly he passed and put his hands on the knees of Areté and said—and as he spake the mist cleared from about him, and all that were in the hall beheld him—“I am a suppliant to thee, and to thy husband and to thy guests. The gods bless thee and them, and grant you to live in peace, and that your children should[363] come peacefully after you. Only, do you send me home to my native country.”

And he sat down in the ashes of the hearth. Then for a space all were silent, but at the last spake Echeneüs, who was the oldest man in the land—“King Alcinoüs, this ill becomes you that this man should sit in the ashes of the hearth. Raise him and bid him sit upon a seat, and let us pour out to Father Jupiter, who is the friend of suppliants, and let the keeper of the house give him meat and drink.”

And Alcinoüs did so, bidding his eldest born, Laodamas, rise from his seat. And an attendant poured water on his hands, and the keeper of the house gave him meat and drink. Then, when all had poured out to Father Jupiter, King Alcinoüs said that they would take counsel on the morrow about sending this stranger to his home. And they answered that it should be so, and each went to his home.

Only Ulysses was left in the hall, and Alcinoüs and Areté with him. And Areté saw his cloak and tunic, that she and her maidens had made them, and said—“Whence art thou, stranger? and who gave thee these garments?”

So Ulysses told her how he had come from the island of Calypso, and what he had suffered, and how Nausicaa had found him on the shore, and had guided him to the city.

But Alcinoüs blamed the maiden that she had not herself brought him to the house. “For thou wast her suppliant,” he said.

“Nay,” said Ulysses; “she would have brought[364] me, but I would not, fearing thy wrath.” For he would not have the maiden blamed.

Then said Alcinoüs, “I am not one to be angered for such cause. Gladly would I have such a one as thou art to be my son-in-law, and I would give him house and wealth. But no one would I stay against his will. And as for sending thee to thy home, that is easy; for thou shalt sleep, and they shall take thee meanwhile.”

And after this they slept. And the next day the king called the chiefs to an assembly, and told them of his purpose, that he would send this stranger to his home, for that it was their wont to show such kindness to such as needed it. And he bade fifty and two of the younger men make ready a ship, and that the elders should come to his house, and bring Demodocus, the minstrel, with them, for he was minded to make a great feast for this stranger before he departed. So the youths made ready the ship. And afterwards there were gathered together a great multitude, so that the palace was filled from the one end to the other.

And Alcinoüs slew for them twelve sheep and eight swine and two oxen. And when they had feasted to the full, the minstrel sang to them of how Achilles and Ulysses had striven together with fierce words at a feast, and how King Agamemnon was glad, seeing that so the prophecy of Apollo was fulfilled, saying that when valor and counsel should fall out, the end of Troy should come. But when Ulysses heard the song, he wept, holding his mantle before his face.


This Alcinoüs perceived, and said to the chiefs, “Now that we have feasted and delighted ourselves with song, let us go forth, that the stranger may see that we are skilful in boxing and wrestling and running.”

So they went forth, a herald leading Demodocus by the hand, for the minstrel was blind. Then stood up many Phæacian youths, and the fairest and strongest of them all was Laodamas, eldest son to the king, and after them Euryalus. And next they ran a race, and Clytoneus was the swiftest. And among the wrestlers Euryalus was the best, and of the boxers, Laodamas. And in throwing the quoit Elatrius excelled, and in leaping at the bar, Amphialus.

Then Laodamas said to Ulysses, “Father, wilt thou not try thy skill in some game, and put away the trouble from thy heart?”

But Ulysses answered, “Why askest thou this? I think of my troubles rather than of sport and sit among you, caring only that I may see again my home.”

Then said Euryalus, “And in very truth, stranger, thou hast not the look of a wrestler or boxer. Rather would one judge thee to be some trader, who sails over the sea for gain.”

“Nay,” answered Ulysses, “this is ill said. So true is it that the gods give not all gifts to all men, beauty to one and sweet speech to another. Fair of form art thou, no god could better thee; but thou speakest idle words. I am not unskilled in these things, but stood among the first in the old days; but since have I suffered much in battle[366] and shipwreck. Yet will I make trial of my strength, for thy words have angered me.”

Whereupon he took a quoit, heavier far than such as the Phæacians were wont to throw, and sent it with a whirl. It hurtled through the air, so that the brave Phæacians crouched to the ground in fear, and fell far beyond all the rest.

Then said Ulysses, “Come now, I will contend in wrestling or boxing, or even in the race, with any man in Phæacia, save Laodamas only, for he is my friend. I can shoot with the bow, and only Philoctetes could surpass me; and I can cast a spear as far as other men can shoot an arrow. But as for the race, it may be that some one might outrun me, for I have suffered much on the sea.”

But they all were silent, till the king stood up and said, “Thou hast spoken well. But we men of Phæacia are not mighty to wrestle or to box; only we are swift of foot, and skilful to sail upon the sea. And we love feasts, and dances, and the harp, and gay clothing, and the bath. In these things no man may surpass us.”

Then the king bade Demodocus the minstrel sing again. And when he had done so, the king’s two sons, Alius and Laodamas, danced together; and afterwards they played with the ball, throwing it into the air, cloud high, and catching it right skilfully.

And afterwards the king said, “Let us each give this stranger a mantle and a tunic and a talent of gold, and let Euryalus make his peace with words and with a gift.”

And they all said that it should be so; also[367] Euryalus gave Ulysses a sword with a hilt of silver and a scabbard of ivory. And after this Ulysses went to the bath, and then they all sat down to the feast. But as he went to the hall, Nausicaa, fair as a goddess, met him and said—“Hail, stranger; thou wilt remember me in thy native country, for thou owest me thanks for thy life.”

And he answered, “Every day in my native country will I remember thee, for indeed, fair maiden, thou didst save my life.”

And when they were set down to the feast, Ulysses sent a portion of the meat which the king had caused to be set before him to the minstrel Demodocus, with a message that he should sing to them of the horse of wood which Epeius made, Minerva helping him, and how Ulysses brought it into Troy, full of men of war who should destroy the city.

Then the minstrel sang how that some of the Greeks sailed away, having set fire to their tents, and some hid themselves in the horse with Ulysses, and how the men of Troy sat around, taking counsel what they should do with it, and some judged that they should rip it open, and some that they should throw it from the hill-top, and others again that they should leave it to be a peace-offering to the gods; and how the Greeks issued forth from their lurking-place and spoiled the city, and how Ulysses and Menelaus went to the house of Deïphobus.

So he sang, and Ulysses wept to hear the tale. And when Alcinoüs perceived that he wept, he bade Demodocus cease from his song, for some[368] that were there liked it not. And to Ulysses he said that he should tell them who was his father and his mother, and from what land he came, and what was his name. All these things Ulysses told them, and all that he had done and suffered, down to the time when the Princess Nausicaa found him on the river shore. And when he had ended, King Alcinoüs bade that the princess should give Ulysses yet other gifts; and after that they went each man to his house to sleep.

The next day King Alcinoüs put all the gifts into the ship. And when the evening was come Ulysses bade farewell to the king and to the queen, and departed.


By Alfred J. Church

Now Ulysses slept while the ship was sailing to Ithaca. And when it was come to the shore he yet slept. Wherefore the men lifted him out, and put him on the shore with all his goods, and so left him. After a while he awoke, and knew not the land, for there was a great mist about him, Minerva having contrived that it should be so, for good ends, as will be seen. Very wroth was he with the men of Phæacia, thinking that they had cheated him; nor did it comfort him when he counted his goods to find that of these he had lost nothing.

But as he walked by the sea, lamenting his fate, Minerva met him, having the shape of a young[369] shepherd; and Ulysses, when he saw him, was glad, and asked him how men called the country wherein he was.

And the false shepherd said, “Thou art foolish, or, may be, hast come from very far, not to know this country. Rocky it is, not fit for horses; nor is it very broad; but it is fertile land, and full of wine; nor does it want for rain, and a good pasture it is for oxen and goats; and men call it Ithaca. Even in Troy, which is very far, they say, from this land of Greece, men have heard of Ithaca.”

This Ulysses was right glad to hear. Yet he was not minded to say who he was, but rather to make up a tale.

So he said, “Yes, of a truth, I heard of this Ithaca in Crete, from which I am newly come with all this wealth, leaving also as much behind for my children. I made covenant with certain Phæacians that they should take me to Pylos or to Elis; which thing indeed they were minded to do, only the wind drove them hither, and while I slept they put me upon the shore and departed to Sidon.”

This pleased Minerva much, and she changed her shape, becoming like a woman, tall and fair, and said to Ulysses—“Right cunning would he be who could cheat thee. Even now in thy native country ceasest thou not from cunning words and deceits! But let these things be; for thou art the wisest of mortal men, and I excel among the gods in counsel. I am Minerva, daughter of Jupiter, who am ever wont to stand by thee and help thee. And now we will hide these possessions of thine; and thou must be silent, nor tell to any one who[370] thou art, and endure many things, so that thou mayest come to thine own again.”

But still Ulysses doubted, and would have the goddess tell him whether of a truth he had come back to his native land. And she, commending his prudence, scattered the mist that was about him. Then Ulysses knew the land, and kissed the ground, and prayed to the nymphs that they would be favorable to him. And after this, Minerva guiding him, he hid away his possessions in a cave, and put a great stone on the mouth. Then the two took counsel together.

And Minerva said, “Think, man of many devices, how thou wilt lay hands on these men, suitors of thy wife, who for three years have sat in thy house devouring thy substance. She hath answered them craftily, making many promises, but still hoping for thy coming.”

Then Ulysses said, “Truly I had perished, even as Agamemnon perished, but for thee. But do thou help me, as of old in Troy, for with thee at my side I would fight with three hundred men.”

Then said Minerva, “Lo! I will cause that no man shall know thee. The suitors shall take no account of thee, neither shall thy wife nor thy son know thee. But go to the swineherd Eumæus, where he dwells by the fountain of Arethusa, for he is faithful to thee and to thy house. And I will hasten to Sparta, to the house of Menelaus, to fetch Telemachus, thy son, for he went thither, seeking news of thee.”

Then Minerva changed him into the shape of a beggar-man. She caused his skin to wither, and[371] his hair to fall off, and his eyes to grow dim, and put on him filthy rags, with a great stag’s hide about his shoulders, and in his hand a staff, and a wallet on his shoulder, fastened by a rope.

Then she departed, and Ulysses went to the house of Eumæus, the swineherd. A great courtyard there was, and twelve sties for the sows, and four watchdogs, big as wild beasts, for such did the swineherd breed. He himself was shaping sandals, and of his men three were with the swine in the fields, and one was driving a fat beast to the city, to be meat for the suitors. When Ulysses came near, the dogs ran upon him, but the swineherd ran forth and drove away the dogs, and brought the old man in, and gave him a seat of brushwood, with a great goat-skin over it.

The two talked of matters in Ithaca, and Eumæus told how the suitors of the queen were devouring the substance of Ulysses. Then the false beggar asked him of the king, saying that perchance, having travelled far, he might know such an one.

But Eumæus said, “Nay, old man, thus do all wayfarers talk, yet we hear no truth from them. Not a vagabond fellow comes to this island but our queen must see him, and ask him many things, weeping the while. And thou, I doubt not, for a cloak or a tunic, would tell a wondrous tale. But Ulysses, I know, is dead, and either the fowls of the air devour him or the fishes of the sea.”

And when the false beggar would have comforted him, saying he knew of a truth that Ulysses would yet return, he hearkened not.[372] Moreover, he prophesied evil for Telemachus also, who had gone to seek news of his father, but would surely be slain by the suitors, who were even now lying in wait for him as he should return. And after this he asked the stranger who he was and whence he had come. Then Ulysses answered him craftily, inventing another story.

After this they talked much, and when the swineherd’s men were returned they all feasted together. And the night being cold, and there being much rain, Ulysses was minded to see whether one would lend him a cloak; wherefore he told this tale—

“Once upon a time there was laid an ambush near to the city of Troy. And Menelaus and Ulysses and I were the leaders of it. In the reeds we sat and the night was cold and the snow lay upon our shields. Now all the others had cloaks, but I had left mine behind at the ships. So when the night was three parts spent I spake to Ulysses, ‘Here am I without a cloak; soon, methinks, shall I perish with the cold.’ Soon did he bethink him of a remedy, for he was ever ready with counsel. Therefore to me he said, ‘Hush, lest some one hear thee,’ and to the others, ‘I have been warned in a dream. We are very far from the ships, and in peril. Wherefore let some one run to the ships to King Agamemnon, that he send more men to help.’ Then Thoas, son of Andræmon, rose up and ran, casting off his cloak, and this I took, and slept warmly therein. Were I this night such as then I was, I should not lack such kindness even now.”

Then said Eumæus, “This is well spoken, old[373] man. Thou shalt have a cloak to cover thee. But in the morning, thou must put on thy own rags again. Yet perchance, when the son of Ulysses shall come, he will give thee new garments.”

After this they slept, but Eumæus tarried without, keeping watch over the swine.


By Alfred J. Church

Now all this time Telemachus tarried in Sparta with King Menelaus. To him went Minerva and warned him that he should return to his home. Also she warned him that the suitors had laid an ambush to slay him in the strait between Samos and Ithaca, and that he should keep clear of the island; and as soon as ever he came near to Ithaca he should land and go to the swineherd Eumæus, and send him to his mother, with tidings of his being safely arrived.

Then they departed. And when they were come to Ithaca, Telemachus bade the men take the ship to the city, saying that he was minded to see his farms, but that in the evening he would come to the city, but Telemachus went to the dwelling of the swineherd Eumæus. And Ulysses heard the steps of a man, and, as the dogs barked not, said to Eumæus, “Lo! there comes some comrade or friend, for the dogs bark not.”

And as he spake, Telemachus stood in the doorway, and the swineherd let fall from his hand the[374] bowl in which he was mixing wine, and ran to him and kissed his head and his eyes and his hands. As a father kisses his only son coming back to him from a far country after ten years, so did the swineherd kiss Telemachus. And when Telemachus came in, the false beggar rose, and would have given place to him; but Telemachus suffered him not.

And when they had eaten and drunk, Telemachus asked of the swineherd who this stranger might be.

Then the swineherd told him as he had heard, and afterwards said, “I hand him to thee; he is thy suppliant: do as thou wilt.”

But Telemachus answered, “Nay, Eumæus. For am I master in my house? Do not the suitors devour it? I will give this stranger, indeed, food and clothing and a sword, and will send him whithersoever he will, but I would not that he should go among the suitors, so haughty are they and violent.”

Then said Ulysses, “But why dost thou bear with these men? Do the people hate thee, that thou canst not avenge thyself on them? and hast thou not kinsmen to help thee? As for me, I would rather die than see such shameful things done in house of mine.”

And Telemachus answered, “My people hate me not; but as for kinsmen, I have none, for Ulysses had no other son but me. Therefore do these men spoil my substance, and, it may be, will take my life also. These things, however, the gods will order. But do thou, Eumæus, go to Penelope, and tell her that I am returned, but let no man[375] know thereof, for there are that counsel evil against me; but I will stay here meanwhile.”

So Eumæus departed. But when he had gone Minerva came, like a woman tall and fair; but Telemachus saw her not, for it is not given to all to see the immortal gods; but Ulysses saw her, and the dogs saw her, and whimpered for fear. She signed to Ulysses, and he went forth, and she said—

“Hide not the matter from thy son, but plan with him how ye may slay the suitors, and lo! I am with you.”

Then she made his garments white and fair and his body lusty and strong, and his face swarthy, and his cheeks full, and his beard black. And when he was returned to the house, Telemachus marvelled to see him, and said—

“Thou art not what thou wast. Surely thou art some god from heaven.”

But Ulysses made reply, “No god am I, only thy father, whom thou hast so desired to see.”

And when Telemachus yet doubted, Ulysses told him how Minerva had so changed him. Then Telemachus threw his arms about him, weeping, and both wept together for a while. And afterwards Telemachus asked him of his coming back. And Ulysses, when he had told him of this, asked him how many were the suitors, and whether they two could fight with them alone.

Then said Telemachus, “Thou art, I know, a great warrior, my father, and a wise, but this thing we cannot do; for these men are not ten, no, nor twice ten, but from Dulichium come fifty and two,[376] and from Samos four and twenty, and from Zacynthus twenty, and from Ithaca twelve; and they have Medon the herald, and a minstrel also, and attendants.”

Then said Ulysses, “Go thou home in the morning and mingle with the suitors, and I will come as an old beggar; and if they treat me shamefully, endure it, yea, if they drag me to the door. Heed this also: when I give thee the token, take all the arms from the dwelling and hide them in thy chamber. And when they shall ask thee why thou doest thus, say thou takest them out of the smoke, for they are not such as Ulysses left behind him when he went to Troy, but that the smoke had soiled them. But keep two swords and two spears and two shields—these shall be for thee and me. Only let no one know of my coming back—not Laertes, nor the swineherd, no, nor Penelope herself.”

After a while the swineherd came back from the city, having carried his tidings to the queen. And this she also had heard from the sailors of the ships. And the suitors were in great wrath and fear, because their purpose had failed, and also because Penelope the queen knew what they had been minded to do, and hated them because of it.



By Alfred J. Church

The next day Telemachus went to the city. Before he went he said to Eumæus that he should bring the beggar-man to the city, for that it was better to beg in the city than in the country. The false beggar also said that he wished this. And Telemachus went to the palace and greeted the nurse Euryclea and his mother Penelope, who was right glad to see him, but to whom he told nought of what had happened.

Now in the meanwhile Eumæus and the false beggar were coming to the city. And when they were now near to it, by the fountain which Ithacus and his brethren had made, where was also an altar of the nymphs, Melanthius the goatherd met them, and spake evil to Eumæus, rebuking him that he brought this beggar to the city. And he came near and smote Ulysses with his foot on the thigh, but moved him not from the path. And Ulysses thought a while, should he smite him with his club and slay him, or dash him on the ground? But it seemed to him better to endure.

So they went on to the palace. And at the door of the court there lay the dog Argus, whom in the old days Ulysses had reared with his own hand. But ere the dog grew to his full, Ulysses had sailed to Troy. And, while he was strong, men used him in the chase, hunting wild goats and roe-deer and hares. But now he was old and lay neglected in a corner. Well he knew his master, and, though he[378] could not come near him, he wagged his tail and drooped his ears.

And Ulysses, when he saw him, wiped away a tear, and said, “Surely this is strange, Eumæus, that such a dog, being of so fine a breed, should lie here uncared for.”

And Eumæus made reply, “He belongeth to a master who died far away. For indeed when Ulysses had him of old, he was the strongest and swiftest of dogs; but now my dear lord has perished far away, and the careless women tend him not.” And as he spake the dog Argus died. Twenty years had he waited, and he saw his master at the last.

After this the two entered the hall. And Telemachus, when he saw them, took from the basket bread and meat, as much as his hands could hold, and bade carry them to the beggar, and also to tell him that he might go round among the suitors, asking alms. So he went, stretching out his hand, as though he were wont to beg; and some gave, having compassion upon him and marvelling at him, and some asked who he was. But of all, Antinoüs was the most shameless. For when Ulysses came to him and told him how he had had much riches and power in former days, and how he had gone to Egypt, and had been sold a slave into Cyprus, Antinoüs mocked him, saying—

“Get thee from my table, or thou shalt find a worse Egypt and a harder Cyprus than before.”

Then Ulysses said, “Surely thy soul is evil though thy body is fair; for though thou sittest at another man’s feast, yet wilt thou give me nothing.”


But Antinoüs, in great wrath, took the stool on which he sat and cast it at him, smiting his right shoulder. Ulysses stirred not, but stood as a rock. But in his heart he thought on revenge. So he went and sat down at the door. And being there, he said, “Hear me, suitors of the queen! There is no wrath if a man be smitten fighting for that which is his own, but Antinoüs has smitten me because I am poor. May the curse of the hungry light on him therefore, ere he come to his marriage day.”

And the other suitors blamed him that he had dealt so cruelly with this stranger, and the queen was wroth when she heard it, as she sat in the upper chamber with her maidens about her.

But as the day passed on there came a beggar from the city, huge of bulk, mighty to eat and drink, but his strength was not according to his size. Arnæus was his name, but the young men called him Irus, because he was their messenger, after Iris, the messenger of Jupiter. He spake to Ulysses, “Give space, old man, lest I drag thee forth. The young men would even now have it so, but I think it shame to strike such an one as thee.”

Then said Ulysses, “There is room for thee and for me; get what thou canst, for I do not grudge thee aught, but beware lest thou anger me, lest I harm thee, old though I am.” But Irus would not hear words of peace, and still challenged him to fight.

When Antinoüs saw this he was glad, and said, “This is the goodliest sport that I have seen in this house. These two beggars would fight; let us haste and match them.”


And the saying pleased them; and Antinoüs spake again: “Hear me, ye suitors of the queen! We have put aside these paunches of the goats for our supper. Let us agree that whosoever of these two shall win, have choice of these, that which pleaseth him best, and shall hereafter eat with us, and that no one else shall sit in his place.”

Then said Ulysses, “It is hard for an old man to fight with a young. Yet will I do it. Only do ye swear to me that no one shall strike me a foul blow while I fight with this man.”

Then Telemachus said that this should be so, and they all consented to his words. Then Ulysses girded himself for the fight. All that were there saw his thighs, how great and strong they were, and his shoulders, how broad, and his arms, how mighty. And they said one to another, “There will be little of Irus left, so stalwart seems this beggar-man.” Irus would have slunk out of sight, but they compelled him to come forth.

Then said the Prince Antinoüs, “How is this, thou braggart, that thou fearest this old man, all woe-begone as he is? Hearken thou to this. If this man prevails against thee, thou shalt be cast into a ship and taken to the land of King Echetus, who will cut off thy ears and thy nose.”

So the two came together. And Ulysses thought whether he should strike the fellow and slay him out of hand, or fell him to the ground. And this last seemed the better of the two. So when Irus had dealt his blow, he smote him on the jaw, so that he fell howling on the ground.

Then all the suitors laughed aloud. But Ulysses[381] dragged him out of the hall, and propped him by the wall of the courtyard, putting a staff in his hand and saying, “Sit there, and keep dogs and swine from the door, but dare not hereafter to lord it over men, lest some worse thing befall thee.”

Then Antinoüs gave him a great paunch, and Amphinomus gave two loaves, and pledged him in a cup, saying, “Good luck to thee, father, hereafter, though now thou seemest to have evil fortune.”

And Ulysses made reply, “O Amphinomus, thou hast much wisdom, methinks, and thy father I know, is wise. Take heed, therefore. There is nought feebler upon earth than man. For in the days of his prosperity he thinketh nothing of trouble, but when the gods send evil to him there is no help in him. I also trusted once in myself and my kinsmen, and now—behold me what I am! Let no man, therefore, do violence and wrong, for Jupiter shall punish such deeds at the last. These suitors of the queen are working evil to him who is absent. Yet will he return some day and slay his enemies. Fly thou, therefore, while yet there is time, nor meet him when he comes.”

So he spake, with kindly thought.

That evening, the suitors having departed to their own dwellings, Ulysses and Telemachus took the arms from the hall, as they had planned to do. And while they did so Telemachus said, “See, my father, this marvellous brightness that is on the pillars and the ceiling. Surely some god is with us.”

And Ulysses made reply, “I know it: be silent. And now go to thy chamber and sleep, and leave[382] me here, for I have somewhat to say to thy mother and her maidens.”

When the queen and her maidens came into the hall (for it was their work to cleanse it and make it ready for the morrow) Penelope asked him of his family and his country. At first he made as though he would not answer, fearing lest he should trouble her with the story of that which he had suffered. But afterwards, for she urged him, telling him what she herself had suffered, her husband being lost and her suitors troubling her without ceasing, he made up a tale that should satisfy her. He told her that he was a man of Crete, a brother of King Idomeneus, and how he had given hospitality to Ulysses when he was sailing to Troy with the sons of Atreus.

And when the queen, seeking to know whether he spake the truth, asked him of Ulysses what manner of man he was, and with what clothing he was clothed, he answered her rightly, saying, “I remember me that he had a mantle, twofold, woolen, of sea-purple, clasped with a brooch of gold, whereon was a dog that held a fawn by the throat; marvellously wrought they were, so hard held the one, so strove the other to be free. Also he had a tunic, white and smooth, which the women much admired. But whether some one had given him these things I know not, for indeed many gave him gifts. Also he had a herald with him, one Eurybates, older than him, dark-skinned, round in the shoulders, with curly hair.”

And Penelope, knowing these things to be true, wept aloud, crying that she should see her husband[383] no more. The false beggar comforted her, saying that Ulysses was in the land of Thresprotians, having much wealth with him, only that he had lost his ships and comrades, yet nevertheless would speedily return.

Then Penelope bade her servants make ready a bed for the stranger of soft mats and blankets, and prepare a bath for him. But the mats and blankets he would not have, saying that he would sleep as before. Wherefore the queen bade Euryclea, the keeper of the house, do this thing for him, saying that he had been the comrade of her lord, and was marvellously like to him in feet and hands.

And this the old woman was right willing to do, for love of her master, “for never,” she said, “of all strangers that had come to the land, had come one so like to him.”

When she had prepared the bath for his feet, Ulysses sat by the fire, but as far in the shadow as he could, lest the old woman should see a great scar that was upon his leg, and know him thereby.

By this scar the old nurse knew that it was Ulysses himself, and said, “O Ulysses, O my child, to think that I knew thee not!”

And she looked towards the queen, meaning to tell the thing to her. But Ulysses laid his hand on her throat, “Mother, wouldst thou kill me? I am returned after twenty years; and none must know till I shall be ready to take vengeance.”

And the old woman held her peace. And after this Penelope talked with him again, telling him her dreams, how she had seen a flock of geese in[384] her palace, and how that an eagle had slain them, and when she mourned for these geese, lo! a voice said, “These geese are thy suitors, and the eagle thy husband.”

And Ulysses said that the dream was well. Then she said that on the morrow she must make her choice, for she had promised to bring forth the great bow that was Ulysses’, and whosoever should draw it most easily, and shoot an arrow best at a mark, should be her husband.

And Ulysses made answer to her, “It is well, lady. Put not off this trial of the bow, for before one of them shall draw the string the great Ulysses shall come and duly shoot at the mark that shall be set.”

After this Penelope slept, but Ulysses watched.


By Alfred J. Church

The next day many things cheered Ulysses for that which he had to do; for first the goddess Minerva had told him that she would stand at his side, and next he heard the thunder of Jupiter in a clear sky, and at last it chanced that a woman who sat at the mill grinding corn, being sore weary of her task, and hating the suitors, said, “Grant Father Jupiter, that this be the last meal which these men shall eat in the house of Ulysses!”

After a while the suitors came and sat down, as was their wont, to the feast, and the servants bare[385] to Ulysses, as Telemachus had bidden, a full share with the others. When Ctesippus, a prince of Samos, saw this, he said, “Is it well that this fellow should fare even as we? Look now at the gift that I shall give him.” Whereupon he took a bullock’s foot out of the basket wherein it lay, and cast it at Ulysses.

But he moved his head to the left and shunned it, and it flew on, marking the wall. And Telemachus cried in great wrath, “It is well for thee, Ctesippus, that thou didst not strike this stranger. For surely, hadst thou done this thing, my spear had pierced thee through, and thy father had made good cheer, not for thy marriage, but for thy burial.”

Then said Agelaus, “This is well said. Telemachus should not be wronged, no, nor this stranger. But, on the other hand, he must bid his mother choose out of the suitors whom she will, and marry him, nor waste our time any more.”

And Telemachus said, “It is well. She may marry whom she will. But from my house I will never send her against her will.” And the suitors laughed, and scoffed at Telemachus, but he heeded them not, and sat waiting till his father should give the sign.

Alter this Penelope went to fetch the great bow of Ulysses. From the peg on which it hung she took it with its sheath, and sitting down, she laid it on her knees and wept over it, and after this rose up and went to where the suitors sat feasting in the hall. The bow she brought, and also the quiver full of arrows, and standing by the pillar of the dome, spake thus—


“Ye suitors who devour this house, making pretence that ye wish to wed me, lo! here is a proof of your skill. Here is the bow of the great Ulysses. Whoso shall bend it easiest in his hands, and shoot an arrow most easily through the helve-holes of the twelve axes that Telemachus shall set up, him will I follow, leaving this house, which I shall remember only in my dreams.”

Then she bade Eumæus bear the bow and the arrows to the suitors. And the good swineherd wept to see his master’s bow, and Philætius, the herdsman of the kine, wept also, for he was a good man, and loved the house of Ulysses. Then Telemachus planted in due order the axes wherein were the helve-holes.

Then first Leiodes, the priest, who alone among the suitors hated their evil ways, made trial of the bow. But he moved it not. It wearied his hands, for they were tender, and unwont to toil. And he said, “I cannot bend this bow; let some other try.”

Antinoüs was wroth to hear such words, and bade Melanthius bring forth from the stores a roll of fat, that they might anoint the string and soften it. So they softened the string with fat, but could not bend it, and they tried all of them in vain, till only Antinoüs and Eurymachus were left, who indeed were the bravest and the strongest of them all.

Now the swineherd and the herdsman of the kine had gone out of the yard, and Ulysses came behind them and said, “What would ye do if Ulysses were to come back to his home? Would ye fight for him, or for the suitors?”

And both said that they would fight for him.


And Ulysses said, “It is even I who am come back in the twentieth year, and ye, I know, are glad at heart that I am come; nor know I of any one besides. And if ye will help me as brave men to-day, wives shall ye have, and possessions and houses near to mine own. And ye shall be brothers and comrades to Telemachus. And for a sign, behold this scar, which the wild boar made when I hunted with my father Autolycus.”

Then they wept for joy and kissed Ulysses, and he also kissed them. And he said to Eumæus that he should bring the bow to him when the suitors had tried their fortune; also that he should bid the women keep within doors, not stir out if they should hear the noise of battle. And Philætius he bade lock the doors of the hall and fasten them with a rope.

After this he came back to the hall, and Eurymachus had the bow in his hands, and sought to warm it at the fire. Then he essayed to draw it, but could not.

And he groaned aloud, saying, “Woe is me! not for loss of this marriage only, for there are other women to be wooed in Greece, but that we are so much weaker than the great Ulysses. This is indeed a shame to tell.”

Then said Antinoüs, “Not so; to-day is a holy day of the God of Archers; therefore we could not draw the bow. But to-morrow will we try once more, after due sacrifice to Apollo.”

And this saying pleased them all; but Ulysses said, “Let me try this bow, for I would fain know whether I have such strength as I had in former[388] days.” At this all the suitors were wroth, and chiefly Antinoüs, but Penelope said that it should be so, and promised the man great gifts if he could draw his bow.

But Telemachus spake thus, “Mother, the bow is mine to give or to refuse. And no man shall say me nay, if I will that this stranger make trial of it. But do thou go to thy chamber with thy maidens, and let men take thought for these things.”

This he said, for he would have her depart from the hall, knowing what would happen therein. She marvelled to hear him speak with such authority, and answered not, but departed. And when Eumæus would have carried the bow to Ulysses, the suitors spake roughly to him, but Telemachus constrained him to go. Therefore he took the bow and gave it to his master. Then went he to Euryclea, and bade her shut the door of the women’s chambers and keep them within, whatsoever they might hear. Philætius shut the doors of the hall, and fastened with a rope.

Then Ulysses handled the great bow, trying it. When he found it to be without flaw, just as a minstrel fastens a string upon his harp and strains it to the pitch, so he strung the bow without toil; and holding the string in his right hand, he tried its tone, and the tone was sweet as the voice of a swallow. Then he took an arrow from the quiver, and laid the notch upon the string and drew it, sitting as he was, and the arrow passed through every ring, and stood in the wall beyond. Then he said to Telemachus—


“There is yet a feast to be held before the sun go down.”

And he nodded the sign to Telemachus. And forthwith the young man stood by him, armed with spear and helmet and shield.


By Alfred J. Church

Then spake he to the suitors, “This labor has been accomplished. Let me try at yet another mark.”

And he aimed his arrow at Antinoüs. The man was just raising a cup to his lips, thinking not of death, for who thought that any man, though mightiest of mortals, would venture on such a deed, being one among many? Right through the neck passed the arrow-head, and he dropped the cup and fell from the table.

The suitors, when they saw him fall, leapt from their seats; but when they looked, there was neither spear nor shield upon the wall. And they knew not whether it was by chance or of set purpose that the stranger had smitten him. Ulysses then declared who he was, saying—

“Dogs, ye thought that I would never come back. Therefore have ye devoured my house, and made suit to my wife while I yet lived, and feared not the gods nor regarded men. Therefore a sudden destruction is come upon you all.”

Then when all the others trembled for fear,[390] Eurymachus said, “If thou be indeed Ulysses of Ithaca, thou hast said well. Foul wrong has been done to thee in the house and in the field. But lo! he who was the mover of it all lies here, even Antinoüs. Nor was it so much this marriage that he sought as to be king of this land, having destroyed thy house. But we will pay thee back for all that we have devoured, even twenty times as much.”

But Ulysses said, “Speak not of paying back. My hands shall not cease from slaying till I have taken vengeance on you all.”

Then said Eurymachus to his comrades, “This man will not stay his hands. He will smite us all with his arrows where he stands. Let us win the door, and raise a cry in the city; then will this archer have shot his last.”

And he rushed on, with his two-edged knife in his hand. But as he rushed, Ulysses smote him on the breast with an arrow, and he fell forwards. And when Amphinomus came on, Telemachus slew him with his spear, but drew not the spear from the body, lest some one should smite him unawares.

Then he ran to his father and said, “Shall I fetch arms for us and our helpers?”

“Yea,” said he, “and tarry not, lest my arrows be spent.”

So he fetched from the armory four shields and four helmets and eight spears. And he and the servants, Eumæus and Philætius, armed themselves. Ulysses also, when his arrows were spent, donned helmet and shield and took a mighty[391] spear in each hand. Melanthius, the goatherd, crept up to the armory and brought down therefrom twelve helmets and shields and spears. And when Ulysses saw that the suitors were arming themselves, he feared greatly, and said to his son—

“There is treachery here. It is one of the women, or, it may be, Melanthius, the goatherd.”

And Telemachus said, “This fault is mine, my father, for I left the door of the chamber unfastened.”

Soon Eumæus spied Melanthius stealing up to the chamber again, and followed him, and Philætius with him.

There they caught him, as he took a helmet in one hand and a shield in the other, and bound his feet and hands.

Then these two went back to the hall, and there also came Minerva, having the shape of Mentor. Still, for she would yet further try the courage of Ulysses and his son, she helped them not as yet, but changing her shape, sat on the roof-beam like unto a swallow.

And then cried Agelaus, “Friends, Mentor is gone, and helps them not. Let us not cast our spears at random, but let six come on together, if perchance we may prevail against them.”

Then they cast their spears, but Minerva turned them aside, one to the pillar and another to the door and another to the wall. But Ulysses and Telemachus and the two herdsmen slew each his man; and yet again they did so, and again. And all the while Minerva waved her flaming shield[392] from above, and the suitors fell as birds are scattered and torn by eagles.

Then Leiodes, the priest, made supplication to Ulysses, saying, “I never wrought evil in this house, and would have kept others from it, but they would not. Naught have I done save serve at the altar; wherefore slay me not.”

And Ulysses made reply, “That thou hast served at the altar of these men is enough, and also that thou wouldst wed my wife.” So he slew him; but Phemius, the minstrel, he spared, for he had sung among the suitors in the hall, of compulsion, and not of good will; and also Medon, the herald, bidding them go into the yard. There they sat, holding by the altar and looking fearfully every way, for yet they feared that they should die.

And now Ulysses bade cleanse the hall and wash the benches and the tables with water, and purify them with sulphur; and when this was done, that Euryclea, the nurse, should go to Penelope and tell her that her husband was indeed returned. So Euryclea went to her chamber and found the queen newly awoke from slumber, and told her that her husband was returned, and how he had slain the suitors, and how she had known him by the scar where the wild boar had wounded him.

And yet the queen doubted, and said, “Let me go down and see my son, and these men that are slain, and the man who slew them.”

So she went, and sat in the twilight by the other wall, and Ulysses sat by the pillar, with eyes cast down, waiting till his wife should speak to him. She was sore perplexed; for now she seemed to[393] know him, and now she knew him not, for he had not suffered that the women should put new robes upon him.

And Telemachus said, “Mother, sittest thou apart from my father, and speakest not to him? Surely thy heart is harder than a stone.”

But Ulysses said, “Let be, Telemachus. Thy mother will know that which is true in good time. But now let us hide this slaughter for a while, lest the friends of these men seek vengeance against us. Wherefore let there be music and dancing in the hall, so that men shall say, ‘This is the wedding of the queen, and there is joy in the palace,’ and know not of the truth.”

So the minstrel played and women danced. And meanwhile Ulysses went to the bath, and clothed himself in bright apparel, and came back to the hall, and Minerva made him fair and young to see. Then he sat him down as before, near his wife, and said—

“Surely, O lady, the gods have made thee harder of heart than all women besides. Would other wife have kept away from her husband, coming back now after twenty years?”

And when she doubted yet, he spake again. “Hear thou this, Penelope, and know that it is I myself, and not another. Dost thou remember how I built up the bed in our chamber? In the court there grew an olive tree, stout as a pillar, and round it I built a chamber of stone, and spanned the chamber with a roof; and I hung also a door, and then I cut off the leaves of the olive, and planed the trunk, to be smooth and round; and[394] the bed I inlaid with ivory and silver and gold, and stretched upon it an ox-hide that was ornamented with silver.”

Then Penelope knew that he was her husband indeed, and ran to him, and threw her arms about him and kissed him, saying, “Pardon me, my lord, if I was slow to know thee; for I feared, so many wiles have men, that some one would deceive me, saying that he was my husband. But now I know this, that thou art he and not another.”

And they wept over each other and kissed each other. So did Ulysses come back to his home after twenty years.







By Thomas Bulfinch and Alfred J. Church

We have followed one of the Grecian heroes, Ulysses, in his wanderings on his return home from Troy, and now we propose to share the fortunes of the remnant of the conquered people, under their chief Æneas, in their search for a new home, after the ruin of their native city.

On that fatal night when the wooden horse disgorged its contents of armed men, and the capture and conflagration of the city were the result, Æneas beheld these things, but could not help them, being one against many. But when he saw King Priam lying dead before him, and Troy in flames, he bethought him of his father Anchises, and his wife Creüsa, and of his little son Ascanius, and how he had left them without defense at home. But as he turned to seek them, the night being now, by reason of many fires, as clear as the day, he espied Helen sitting in the temple of Vesta, where she had sought sanctuary; for she feared the men of Troy, to whom she had brought ruin and destruction, and not less her own husband, whom she had deceived.

Then was his wrath kindled, and he spake to himself, “Shall this evil woman return safe to Sparta? Shall she see again her home and her children, with Trojan women to be her hand-maidens? Shall Troy be burnt and King Priam be slain, and she take no harm? Not so; for though there be no glory to be won from such a deed, yet shall I satisfy[398] myself, taking vengeance upon her for my kinsmen and my countrymen.” But while he thought these things in his heart, lo! there appeared unto him Venus, his mother, as fair and as tall as the dwellers in heaven behold her. Then Venus spake thus, “What meaneth all this rage, my son? Hast thou no care for me? Hast thou forgotten thy father Anchises, and thy wife, and thy little son? Of a surety the fire and the sword had consumed them long since, but that I cared for them and saved them. It is not Helen; no, nor Paris, that hath laid low this great city of Troy, but the wrath of the gods. See now, for I will take away the mist that covers thine eyes; see how Neptune with his trident is overthrowing the walls and rooting up the city from its foundations; and how Juno stands with spear and shield in the Scæan Gate, and calls fresh hosts from the ships; and how Pallas sits on the height with the storm-cloud about her and her Gorgon shield; and how Father Jupiter himself stirs up the enemy against Troy. Fly, therefore, my son. I will not leave thee till thou shalt reach thy father’s house.” And as she spake she vanished in the darkness.

Then did Æneas see dreadful forms and gods who were the enemies of Troy, and before his eyes the whole city seemed to sink down into the fire. Even as a mountain oak upon the hills on which the woodmen ply their axes bows its head while all its boughs shake about it, till at last, as blow comes after blow, with a mighty groan it falls crashing down from the height, even so the city seemed to fall. Then did Æneas pass on his way, the goddess[399] leading him, and the flames gave place to him, and the javelins harmed him not.

But when he was come to his house he bethought him first of the old man his father; but when he would have carried him to the hills, Anchises would not, being loath to live in some strange country when Troy had perished. “Nay,” said he, “fly ye who are strong and in the flower of your days. But as for me, if the gods had willed that I should live, they had saved this dwelling for me. Enough it is, yea, and more than enough, that once I have seen this city taken, and lived. Bid me, then, farewell as though I were dead. Death will I find for myself. And truly I have long lingered here a useless stock and hated of the gods since Jupiter smote me with the blast of his thunder.”

Nor could the old man be moved from his purpose, though his son and his son’s wife, and even the child Ascanius, besought him with many tears that he should not make yet heavier the doom that was upon them. Then was Æneas minded to go back to the battle and die. For what hope was left? “Thoughtest thou, my father,” he cried, “that I should flee and leave thee behind? What evil word is this that has fallen from thy lips? If the gods will have it that naught of Troy should be left, and thou be minded that thou and thine should perish with the city, be it so. The way is easy; soon will Pyrrhus be here; Pyrrhus, red with Priam’s blood; Pyrrhus, who slays the son before the face of the father, and the father at the altar. Was it for this, kind Mother Venus, that thou broughtest me safe through fire and sword, to see the enemy in my[400] home, and my father and my wife and my son lying slaughtered together? Comrades, give me my arms, and take me back to the battle. At the least I will die avenged.”

But as he girded on his arms and would have departed from the house, his wife Creüsa caught his feet upon the threshold, staying him, and held out the little Ascanius, saying, “If thou goest to thy death, take wife and child with thee; but if thou hopest aught from arms, guard first the house where thou hast father and wife and child.”

And lo! as she spake there befell a mighty marvel, for before the face of father and mother there was seen to shine a light on the head of the boy Ascanius, and to play upon his waving hair and glitter on his temples. And when they feared to see this thing, and would have stifled the flame or quenched it with water, the old man Anchises in great joy raised his eyes to heaven, and cried aloud, “O Father Jupiter, if prayer move thee at all, give thine aid and make this omen sure.” And even as he spake the thunder rolled on his left hand, and a star shot through the skies, leaving a long trail of light behind, and passed over the house-tops till it was hidden in the woods of Ida. Then the old man lifted himself up and did obeisance to the star, and said, “I delay no more: whithersoever ye lead I will follow. Gods of my country, save my house and my grandson! This omen is of you. And now, my son, I refuse not to go.”

Then said Æneas, and as he spake the fire came nearer and the light was clearer to see, and the heat more fierce, “Climb, dear father, on my shoulders;[401] I will bear thee, nor grow weary with the weight. We will be saved or perish together. The little Ascanius shall go with me, and my wife follow behind, not over near. And ye, servants of my house, hearken to me; ye mind how that to one who passes out of the city there is a tomb and a temple of Ceres in a lonely place, and an ancient cypress tree hard by. There will we gather by divers ways. And do thou, my father, take the holy images in thy hands, for as for me, who have but newly come from battle, I may not touch them till I have washed me in the running stream.”

And as he spake he put a cloak of lion’s skin upon his shoulders, and the old man sat thereon. Ascanius also laid hold of his hand, and Creüsa followed behind. So he went in much dread and trembling. For, indeed, before sword and spear of the enemy he had not feared, but now he feared for them that were with him. But when he was come nigh unto the gates, and the journey was well-nigh finished, there befell a grievous mischance, for there was heard a sound as of many feet through the darkness; and the old man cried to him, “Fly, my son, fly; they are coming. I see the flashing of shields and swords.” But as Æneas hasted to go, Creüsa his wife was severed from him. But whether she wandered from the way or sat down in weariness, no man may say. Only he saw her no more, nor knew her to be lost till, all his company being met at the temple of Ceres, she only was found wanting. Very grievous did the thing seem to him, nor did he cease to cry out in his wrath against gods and men. Also he bade his[402] comrades have a care of his father and his son, and of the household gods, and girded him again with arms, and so passed into the city. And first he went to the wall and to the gate by which he had come forth, and then to his house, if haply she had returned thither. But there, indeed, the men of Greece were come, and the fire had well-nigh mastered it. And after that he went to the citadel and to the palace of King Priam. And lo! in the porch of Juno’s temple, Phœnix and Ulysses were keeping guard over the spoil, even the treasure of the temples, tables of the gods, and solid cups of gold, and raiment, and a long array of them that had been taken captive, children and women. But not the less did he seek his wife through all the streets of the city, yea, and called her aloud by name. But lo! as he called, the image of her whom he sought seemed to stand before him, only greater than she had been while she was yet alive. And the spirit spake, saying, “Why art thou vainly troubled? These things have not befallen us against the pleasure of the gods. The ruler of Olympus willeth not that Creüsa should bear thee company in thy journey. For thou hast a long journey to take, and many seas to cross, till thou come to the Hesperian shore, where Lydian Tiber flows softly through a good land and a fertile. There shalt thou have great prosperity, and take to thyself a wife of royal race. Weep not then for Creüsa, whom thou lovest, nor think that I shall be carried away to be a bond-slave to some Grecian woman. Such fate befits not a daughter of Dardanus and daughter-in-law of Venus. The mighty[403] Mother of the Gods keepeth me in this land to serve her. And now, farewell, and love the young Ascanius, even thy son and mine.”

So spake the spirit, and when Æneas wept and would have spoken, vanished out of his sight. Thrice he would have cast his arms about her neck, and thrice the image mocked him, being thin as air and fleeting as a dream. Then, the night being now spent, he sought his comrades, and found with much joy and wonder that a great company of men and women were gathered together, and were willing, all of them, to follow him whithersoever he went.

And now the morning star rose over Mount Ida, and Æneas, seeing that the Greeks held the city, and that there was no longer any hope of succor, went his way to the mountains, taking his father with him.


By H. L. Havell

It was the first dawn of summer, and the green herb was already beginning to shoot among the blackened ruins of Troy, when the little fleet, bearing that shattered remnant of a mighty nation, put out into the deep. Tears dimmed the eyes of Æneas and his men as they saw their native shores fade away into the distance behind them. The past was all sorrow and the future was veiled in mystery and terror; but Heaven’s eternal eye was[404] watching them, and a divine hand was held over them.

The mountains of Crete have sunk beneath the horizon, and nothing appears but sea and sky, now black with clouds and lowering with impending storm. Down comes the wind, with sheets of rain, blotting out the view, so that the helmsmen lose their bearings, and drive at random before the tempest. Three days and three nights they are thus hurled along at the mercy of the gale; and when the weather begins to clear Æneas finds himself under the lee of a rocky island, one of the group called Strophades, in the Ionian Sea. One by one his vessels come struggling in, sorely battered by the heavy weather; and at length they all cast anchor in a sheltered inlet, and the weary multitude seeks repose and refreshment in the green meadows which run down to the beach, while the more active beat the bushes in search of game.

Soon the welcome sound of lowing and bleating is heard, and a herd of fat oxen and a flock of goats are seen feeding near at hand. The choicest of the herd are speedily hemmed in and slaughtered, providing the materials for a joyful feast. But in the midst of the banquet all the air grows loud with the sound of whirring wings, and three monstrous creatures, with the bodies of birds and the faces of women, swoop down from the mountains, uttering discordant cries. The presence of these hideous beings brings pollution to all around them, and the very meat which the Trojans are eating grows tainted in their mouths; for these[405] are the foul Harpies, who once dwelt on the shores of Thrace and tormented the unhappy Phineus, but being driven away by the sons of Boreas, when the Argonauts passed that way on their voyage, they had taken up their abode on this lonely island.

Æneas and his company gave way before these revolting assailants, and resumed their interrupted meal in a spot sheltered by rocks and trees; but again the Harpies came down upon them, and turned their meat into carrion. They drew their swords, and strove to beat off these importunate guests; but their blows fell harmless, as if they had struck upon mail of proof; and the Harpies took wing again, and were seen towering, like vultures, high in air—all but one, who alighted on a neighboring rock, and shrieked at the discomfited Trojans with a voice as frightful as her face.

“Accursed breed of an ancestor accursed, would ye add violence to robbery, and drive the Harpies from their home? Then hear this oracle, which I heard from Apollo, and he from Jupiter: Your voyage is to Italy, and to Italy shall ye come; but, ere ever ye shall found a city there, dire hunger shall compel you to devour your tables, in vengeance for the wrong which ye have wrought upon me and my sisters.”

With prayer and sacrifice they sought to avert the evil foretold them; and when these were ended they went on board their ships, and the south wind bore them from that inhospitable shore. Then Ithaca looms in view, the rugged nurse of cruel Ulysses, and many a brow is bent, and many a curse is muttered, at the mention of that hated[406] name. At last a cloud-capped peak appears, and, sweeping through a rocky and perilous channel, they cast anchor beneath the shadow of Apollo’s temple in the bay of Actium.

Winter is now approaching, and for some time their travels are at an end. The winter was passed in rest and recreation. At the first dawn of spring they broke up their camp, and skirting the coast of Epirus, put into the harbor of Buthrotum, on the mainland, opposite the blue mountains of Corfu.


By H. L. Havell

Laden with rich gifts, and pursued by their kind hosts with blessings and tears, the children of destiny launch their ships, and at the fall of evening anchor under the towering headland which juts out into the Adriatic to meet the opposite cliffs of Italy. Here they intend to pass the night and cross the narrow waters next day. But at midnight Palinurus, the captain of Æneas’s vessel, wakes suddenly, and, seeing that the night is calm and the wind fair, gives the signal to start. With level sails they bound swiftly over the softly heaving, starlit waters, and every heart beats high as they draw nearer and nearer to the land of their adoption. And now the stars grew pale, and dawn flushed rosy red on the Acroceraunian heights, while before them, in the west, appeared a low line of misty hills. “Italy!” cried Achates,[407] the trusty squire of Æneas; and all the fleet took up the cry, till the air rang with the magic name of Italy. Then Anchises filled a golden goblet with wine, and, standing high on the after-deck of the vessel, poured a drink-offering to the powers of land and sea, praying for a prosperous voyage and a safe landing. The wind blew stronger, in answer to his prayer, and speedily they saw before them an opening in the rock-bound coast, leading by a narrow channel into a land-locked basin. On a lofty height, commanding the haven, stood the columned temple of Minerva, and on a meadow near the shore four snow-white steeds were grazing. “It is a message of war,” said Anchises; for the horse is a warlike beast.

Here they may not linger, for all the coast bristles with foes. But before they turn their prows southward they veil their faces, as is the fashion of the Trojans, and with bowed knee and suppliant hands breathe the dreaded names of Juno and Minerva.

The shores of Italy begin to fade, and far away, on the southern horizon, rises the fiery crest of Ætna. To the right they hear an angry, moaning sound, which warns them that they are on the threshold of the dreaded Sicilian strait, the abode of Scylla and Charybdis. Even at this distance the billows rise to a gigantic height, threatening to swamp their vessels. Palinurus calls to his men to take to their oars; the rest of the fleet follow his example, and, borne forward by oars and sails, they are soon out of the reach of danger. With sunset the wind dropped, and after hours of[408] weary toil they landed in the darkness beneath the black shadow of Ætna, where the giant Enceladus lies chained on his uneasy couch. For after the defeat of the Titans, the enormous brood of Earth, who had risen up in revolt against Jove, Enceladus, the most violent of these fierce rebels, was confined in a subterranean dungeon, and the huge mass of Ætna was flung upon his bruised limbs to keep him fast; and whenever he stirs in that living grave the whole mountain quakes and trembles, and fire and smoke and molten rocks are belched up through the throat of the furnace.

Fevered was the sleep and troubled the dreams of the Trojans while their fleet lay moored in that fearful neighborhood. The night was black and starless, and the air was full of strange sounds, as if some vast, primeval monster were groaning and gasping for breath. The day dawned red and threatening, and Æneas had given the order to embark, when out of the woods which clothe the lower slopes of Ætna a man came slowly limping, whose appearance showed him to be in the last extremity of want and misery. He was covered with mire, and clothed in rags, scarce held together with thorns, and his face was almost hidden by a matted growth of hair and beard. In such guise he came on with feeble steps, holding out his hands like one imploring pity and protection. When he recognized the Trojan arms and dress he halted suddenly, and seemed to hesitate; then, summoning resolution, he came on again with quickened steps, and flung himself at the knees of Æneas, who had advanced to meet him. “Save me,” he[409] cried, speaking in the Greek language, with sobs and tears; “only take me from this horrible place, and then use me as ye will. I am a Greek, as ye hear, and I fought with the other Greeks against Troy. If that is a crime past forgiveness let me suffer for it; tear me limb from limb, and fling the fragments on the waves—it will be something to be slaughtered by human hands.”

Touched to the heart by that speaking image of wretchedness and despair Æneas raised the poor outcast from the ground, comforted him with gentle words, and encouraged him to tell his story. Reassured by this kind reception he informed them that he was one of the comrades of Ulysses, left behind in their hasty flight from the cave of the Cyclops Polyphemus. For the hardy Ithacan had visited this island in his wanderings, and had put out the single eye of Polyphemus, which flamed like the sun in the center of his forehead, in revenge for the murder of his comrades, whom the cannibal monster had slain and devoured. For three months the unhappy castaway had skulked in the woods, supporting life on berries and roots, and affrighted by the ponderous tread of Polyphemus and his brethren, and their mighty voices, which rumbled like thunder over his head. Then, catching sight of the Trojan vessels, he had crept from his hiding-place, determined to trust himself to the mercy of the new-comers, whoever they might be.

He had just finished his story when a sound of crashing boughs was heard, as if some great beast were advancing through the jungle; and in a[410] moment the giant shepherd came into view, supporting his footsteps on the trunk of a tall pine. Slowly he felt his way towards the sea, that monster horrible, misshapen, huge, and sightless; and when he reached the margin of the bay he knelt down, and washed the oozing gore from the gaping pit in his brow, while groans, as of some wounded leviathan, made the very waters tremble.

In wild panic the people of Æneas fled to their ships, and the hollow cliffs resounded to the beat of a thousand oars as they made haste to reach the open sea. Polyphemus heard, and waded out into deep water in the direction of the sound, with arms outstretched, to seize one of the flying vessels. But, finding himself outpaced, he lifted up his voice, and sent forth a colossal shout, which was bellowed back from the caverns of Ætna, and reached the far-off shores of Italy. Roused by that tremendous signal his brethren came rushing from the woods, and gathered in dread conclave, filling all the beach. Like towering oaks they stood, or tall cypress-trees, glaring with orbs of fire at the Trojan fleet and the dashing oars. But the wind blew fair, and soon that tall cohort dwindled to pigmy size in the distance, and the rugged outlines of Ætna grew fainter and fainter.

Along the eastern and southern shore of Sicily they fly, where the blue waters lap softly round the feet of gently sloping hills, one day to be the site of many a famous city—Syracuse and Agrigentum and Gela. Having rounded the western cape of the island they come to anchor in the harbor of Drepanum.


Here a great sorrow fell upon Æneas; his aged father, Anchises, who had followed him through all his wanderings, and cheerfully endured many perils and privations, passed gently away, worn out with years and sorrows; and his bones were laid in foreign soil, far from the land of his birth.

So far the Trojan emigrants have been suffered to proceed, slowly and by winding ways, but without any direct hindrance, towards their destined goal. But now a new power appears on the scene, and a hostile influence begins to work against them, which will henceforth dog their footsteps for many years. That power is Juno, who had ever been Troy’s bitterest and most implacable enemy.

Many causes concurred to keep alive her hatred against that devoted race—the judgment of Paris, who had given the prize of beauty to her rival, Venus; the high favor shown to Ganymede, a lovely Trojan boy, whom Jupiter had made immortal, and exalted to be his cup-bearer; and the ten long years of hope deferred and anxious toil when the Greeks were fighting against Troy. Besides all these bitter memories, a new and pressing occasion had lately arisen to fan the smouldering embers of her resentment into a blaze. On the northern coast of Africa, fronting the shores of Sicily, a colony from Tyre had recently founded the city of Carthage, and the capricious Queen of Heaven had centered all her affections on the Tyrian settlement, forgetting the ancient ties which bound her to the Grecian states. And now she had heard a prophecy, foretelling that a great[412] nation was fated to spring from the blood of the Trojan exiles which should one day level the towers of Carthage with the dust and found a new empire upon her ruins.

Seated on her heavenly car the goddess was speeding on her way from Carthage, full of ambitious schemes for the rising city, when, turning her eyes earthward, she saw the fleet of Æneas putting out from the shore of Sicily and heading for the Italian coast. At this unwelcome sight she checked the flight of her airy steeds, and communed thus with her heart: “There goes the Prince of Troy, the child of fortune, and thinks to thwart my purpose, and bring all my plans to naught. Powers less august than I can work their will, and vindicate their insulted majesty; Ajax blasphemed against Pallas, and in the midst of his boastings was blasted by Jove’s fiery bolt—and I, the high Queen of Heaven, the consort of heaven’s king, must war in vain for years against this broken remnant of a ruined race.”


By Alfred J. Church

Not many days after Æneas and his companions set sail. But scarce were they out of sight of the land of Sicily when Juno had espied them. Very wroth was she that they should be now drawing near to the end of their journey,[413] and she smote the ship with the thunderbolts of Jupiter.…

Then Æneas and his companions, being sore wearied with the storm, made for the nearest shore, even Africa, where they found a haven running far into land, into which the waves come not till their force be spent.…

Now it came to pass on the next day that Æneas, having first hidden his ships in a bay that was well covered with trees, went forth to spy out the new land whither he was come, and Achates only went with him. And Æneas had in each hand a broad-pointed spear. And as he went there met him in the middle of the wood his mother, but habited as a Spartan virgin, for she had hung a bow from her shoulders after the fashion of a huntress, and her hair was loose, and her tunic short to the knees, and her garments gathered in a knot upon her breast. Then first the false huntress spake, “If perchance ye have seen one of my sisters wandering hereabouts, make known to me the place. She is girded with a quiver, and is clothed with the skin of a spotted lynx, or, may be, she hunts a wild boar with horn and hound.”

To whom Æneas, “I have not seen nor heard sister of thine, O virgin—for what shall I call thee? for, of a surety, neither is thy look as of a mortal woman, nor yet thy voice. A goddess certainly thou art, sister of Phœbus, or, haply, one of the nymphs. But whosoever thou art, look favorably upon us and help us. Tell us in what land we be, for the winds have driven us hither, and we know not aught of place or people.”


And Venus said, “Nay, stranger I am not such as ye think. We virgins of Tyre are wont to carry a quiver and to wear a buskin of purple. For indeed it is a Tyrian city that is hard by, though the land be Libya. And of this city Dido is queen, having come hither from Tyre, flying from the wrong-doing of her brother. And indeed the story of the thing is long, but I will recount the chief matter thereof to thee. The husband of this Dido was one Sichæus, richest among all the men of Phœnicia, and greatly beloved of his wife. Now the brother of this Sichæus was Pygmalion, the king of the country, and he exceeded all men in wickedness. And when there arose a quarrel between them, the king, being exceedingly mad after gold, took him unaware, even as he did sacrifice at the altar, and slew him. And the king hid the matter many days from Dido, and cheated her with false hopes. But at the last there came to her in her dreams the likeness of the dead man, baring his wounds and showing the wickedness which had been done. Also he bade her make haste and fly from that land, and, that she might do this the more easily, told her of great treasure, gold and silver, that was hidden in the earth. And Dido, being much moved by these things, made ready for flight; also she sought for companions, and there came together to her all as many as hated the king or feared him. Then did they seize ships that chanced to be ready and laded them with gold, even the treasure of King Pygmalion, and so fled across the sea. And in all this was a woman the leader. Then came they to this place, where thou seest the[415] walls and citadel of Carthage, and bought so much land as they could cover with a bull’s hide. And now do ye answer me this, Whence come ye, and whither do ye go?”

Then answered Æneas, “Should I tell the whole story of our wanderings, and thou have leisure to hear, evening would come ere I could make an end. We are men of Troy, who, having journeyed over many seas, have now been driven by storms to this shore of Libya. And as for me, men call me Prince Æneas. The land I seek is Italy, and my race is from Jupiter himself. With twenty ships did I set sail, going in the way whereof the gods sent me. And of these scarce seven are left. And now, seeing that Europe and Asia endure me not, I wander over the desert places of Africa.”

But Venus suffered him not to speak more, but said, “Whoever thou art, stranger, that art come to this Tyrian city, thou art surely beloved by the gods. And now go, show thyself to the queen. And as for thy ships and thy companions, I tell thee that they are safe in the haven, if I have not learnt augury in vain. See those twenty swans, how joyously they fly! And now there cometh an eagle swooping down from the sky, putting them to confusion, but now again they move in due order, and some are settling on the earth and some are preparing to settle. Even so doth it fare with thy ships, for either are they already in the haven or enter thereinto with sails full set.”

And as she spake she turned away, and there shone a rosy light from her neck, also there came from her hair a sweet savor as of ambrosia, and[416] her garments grew under her feet; and Æneas perceived that she was his mother and cried aloud—

“O my mother, why dost thou mock me so often with false shows, nor sufferest me to join my hand onto thy hand, and to speak with thee face to face?”

And he went towards the walls of the city. But Venus covered him and his companions with a mist, that no man might see them, or hinder them, or inquire of their business, and then departed to Paphos, where was her temple and also many altars of incense. Then the men hastened on their way, and mounting a hill which hung over the city, marveled to behold it, for indeed it was very great and noble, with mighty gates and streets, and a multitude that walked therein. For some built the walls and the citadel, rolling great stones with their hands, and others marked out places for houses. Also they chose those that should give judgment and bear rule in the city. Some, too, digged out harbors, and others laid the foundations of a theatre, and cut out great pillars of stone. Like to bees they were, when, the summer being newly come, the young swarms go forth, or when they labor filling the cells with honey, and some receive the burdens of those that return from the fields, and others keep off the drones from the hive. Even so labored the men of Tyre. And when Æneas beheld them he cried: “Happy ye, who even now have a city to dwell in!” And being yet hidden by the mist, he went in at the gate and mingled with the men, being seen of none.

Now, in the midst of the city was a wood, very thick with trees, and here the men of Carthage, first[417] come to the land from their voyage, had digged out of the ground that which Juno had said should be a sign to them, even a horse’s head; for that, finding this, their city would be mighty in war, and full of riches. Here, then, Dido was building a temple to Juno, very splendid, with threshold of bronze, and many steps thereunto; of bronze also were the doorposts and the gates. And here befell a thing which gave much comfort and courage to Æneas; for, as he stood and regarded the place, waiting also for the queen, he saw set forth in order upon the walls the battles that had been fought at Troy, the sons of Atreus also, and King Priam, and fierce Achilles. Then said he, not without tears, “Is there any land, O Achates, that is not filled with our sorrows? Seest thou Priam? Yet withal there is a reward for virtue here also, and tears and pity for the troubles of men. Fear not, therefore. Surely the fame of these things shall profit us.”

Then he looked, satisfying his soul with the paintings on the walls. For there was the city of Troy. In this part of the field the Greeks fled and the youth of Troy pursued them, and in that the men of Troy fled, and Achilles followed hard upon them in his chariot. Also he saw the white tents of Rhesus, King of Thrace, whom the fierce Diomed slew in his sleep, when he was newly come to Troy, and drave his horses to the camp before they ate of the grass of the fields of Troy or drank the waters of Xanthus. There also Troïlus was pictured, ill-matched in battle with the great Achilles. His horses bare him along; but he lay on his back in the chariot, yet holding the reins, and his neck[418] and head were dragged upon the earth, and the spear-point made a trail in the dust. And in another place the women of Troy went suppliant-wise to the temple of Minerva, bearing a great and beautiful robe, sad and beating their breasts, and with hair unbound; but the goddess regarded them not. Also Achilles dragged the body of Hector three times round the walls of Troy, and was selling it for gold. And Æneas groaned when he saw the man whom he loved, and the old man Priam reaching out helpless hands. Also he knew himself, fighting in the midst of the Grecian chiefs; black Memnon also he knew, and the hosts of the East; and Penthesilea leading the army of the Amazons with shields shaped as the moon. Fierce she was to see, with one breast bared for battle, and a golden girdle beneath it, a damsel daring to fight with men.


By Alfred J. Church

But while Æneas marvelled to see these things, lo! there came, with a great throng of youths behind her, Dido, most beautiful of women, fair as Diana, when, on the banks of Eurotas or on the hills of Cynthus, she leads the dance with a thousand nymphs of the mountains about her. On her shoulder she bears a quiver, and overtops them all, and her mother, even Latona, silently rejoices to behold her. So fair and seemly to see was Dido as she bare herself right nobly in the midst, being busy[419] in the work of her kingdom. Then she sat herself down on a lofty throne in the gate of the temple, with many armed men about her. And she did justice between man and man; also she divided the work of the city, sharing it equally or parting it by lot.

Then of a sudden Æneas heard a great clamor, and saw a company of men come quickly to the place, among whom were Antheus and Sergestus and Cloanthus, and others of the men of Troy that had been parted from him in the storm. Right glad was he to behold them, yet was not without fear; and though he would fain have come forth and caught them by the hand, yet did he tarry, waiting to hear how the men had fared, where they had left their ships, and wherefore they were come.

Then Ilioneus, leave being now given that he should speak, thus began: “O queen, whom Jupiter permits to build a new city in these lands, we men of Troy, whom the winds have carried over many seas, pray thee that thou save our ships from fire, and spare a people that serveth the gods. For, indeed, we are not come to waste the dwellings of this land, or to carry off spoils to our ships. For, of a truth, they who have suffered so much think not of such deeds. There is a land which the Greeks call Hesperia, but the people themselves Italy, after the name of their chief; an ancient land, mighty in arms and fertile of corn. Hither we were journeying, when a storm arising scattered our ships, and only these few that thou seest escaped to the land. And can there be nation so savage that it receiveth not shipwrecked men on its[420] shore, but beareth arms against them, and forbiddeth them to land? Nay, but if ye care not for men, yet regard the gods, who forget neither them that do righteously nor them that transgress. We had a king, Æneas, than whom there lived not a man more dutiful to gods and men, and greater in war. If indeed he be yet alive, then we fear not at all. For of a truth it will not repent thee to have helped us. And if not, other friends have we, as Acestes of Sicily. Grant us, therefore, to shelter our ships from the wind; also to fit them with fresh timber from the woods, and to make ready oars for rowing, so that, finding again our king and our companions, we may gain the land of Italy. But if he be dead, and Ascanius his son lost also, then there is a dwelling ready for us in the land of Sicily, with Acestes, who is our friend.”

Then Dido, her eyes bent on the ground, thus spake: “Fear not, men of Troy. If we have seemed to deal harshly with you, pardon us, seeing that, being newly settled in this land, we must keep watch and ward over our coasts. But as for the men of Troy, and their deeds in arms, who knows them not? Think not that we in Carthage are so dull of heart, or dwell so remote from man, that we are ignorant of these things. Whether, therefore, ye will journey to Italy, or rather return to Sicily and King Acestes, know that I will give you all help, and protect you; or, if ye will, settle in this land of ours. Yours is this city which I am building. I will make no difference between man of Troy and man of Tyre. Would that your king also were here! Surely I will send those that seek[421] him in all parts of Libya, lest haply he should be gone astray in any forest or strange city of the land.”

And when Æneas and Achates heard these things they were glad, and would have come forth from the cloud, and Achates said, “What thinkest thou? Lo, thy comrades are safe, saving him whom we saw with our own eyes drowned in the waves; and all other things are according as thy mother said.”

And even as he spake the cloud parted from about them, and Æneas stood forth, very bright to behold, with face and breast as of a god, for his mother had given to him hair beautiful to see, and cast about him the purple light of youth, even as a workman sets ivory in some fair ornament, or compasseth about silver or marble of Paros with gold. Then spake he to the queen, “Lo! I am he whom ye seek, even Æneas of Troy, scarcely saved from the waters of the sea. And as for thee, O queen, seeing that thou only hast been found to pity the unspeakable sorrows of Troy, and biddest us, though we be but poor exiles and lacking all things, to share thy city and thy home, may the gods do so to thee as thou deservest. And, of a truth, so long as the rivers run to the seas, and the shadows fall on the hollows of the hills, so long will thy name and thy glory survive, whatever be the land to which the gods shall bring me.” Then gave he his right hand to Ilioneus, and his left hand to Sergestus, and greeted them with great joy.

And Dido, hearing these things, was silent for a while, but at the last she spake: “What ill fortune[422] brings thee into perils so great? What power drave thee to these savage shores? Well do I mind me how in days gone by there came to Sidon one Teucer, who, having been banished from his country, sought help from Belus that he might find a kingdom for himself. And it chanced that in those days Belus, my father, had newly conquered the land of Cyprus. From that day did I know the tale of Troy, and thy name also, and the chiefs of Greece. Also I remember that Teucer spake honorably of the men of Troy, saying that he was himself sprung of the old Teucrian stock. Come ye, therefore, to my palace. I, too, have wandered far, even as you, and so have come to this land, and having suffered much have learnt to succor them that suffer.”

So saying she led Æneas into her palace; also she sent to his companions in the ships great store of provisions, even twenty oxen and a hundred bristly swine and a hundred ewe sheep with their lambs. But in the palace a great feast was set forth, couches covered with broidered purple, and silver vessels without end, and cups of gold, whereon were embossed the mighty deeds of the men of old time.

And in the meantime Æneas sent Achates in haste to the ships, that he might fetch Ascanius to the feast. Also he bade that the boy should bring with him gifts of such things as they had saved from the ruins of Troy, a mantle stiff with broidery of gold and a veil bordered with yellow acanthus, which the fair Helen had taken with her, flying from her home; but Leda, her mother, had given them to Helen; a scepter likewise which Ilione,[423] first-born of the daughters of Priam, had carried, and a necklace of pearls and a double crown of jewels and gold.

But Venus was troubled in heart, fearing evil to her son should the men of Tyre be treacherous, after their wont, and Juno remember her wrath. Wherefore, taking counsel with herself, she called to the winged boy, even Love, that was her son, and spake, “My son, who art all my power and strength, who laughest at the thunders of Jupiter, thou knowest how Juno, being exceedingly wroth against thy brother Æneas, causeth him to wander out of the way over all lands. This day Dido hath him in her palace, and speaketh him fair; but I fear me much how these things may end. Wherefore hear thou that which I purpose. Thy brother hath even now sent for the boy Ascanius, that he may come to the palace, bringing with him gifts of such things as they saved from the ruins of Troy. Him will I cause to fall into a deep sleep, and hide in Cythera or Idalium, and do thou for one night take upon thee his likeness. And when Queen Dido at the feast shall hold thee in her lap, and kiss and embrace thee, do thou breathe by stealth thy fire into her heart.”

Then did Love as his mother bade him, and put off his wings, and took upon him the shape of Ascanius, but on the boy Venus caused there to fall a deep sleep, and carried him to the woods of Idalium, and lapped him in sweet-smelling flowers. And in his stead Love carried the gifts to the queen. And when he was come they sat down to the feast, the queen being in the midst under a[424] canopy. Æneas also and the men of Troy lay on coverlets of purple, to whom serving-men brought water and bread in baskets and napkins; and within fifty handmaids were ready to replenish the store of victuals and to fan the fire; and a hundred others, with pages as many, loaded the tables with dishes and drinking-cups. Many men of Tyre also were bidden to the feast. Much they marvelled at the gifts of Æneas, and much at the false Ascanius. Dido also could not satisfy herself with looking on him, nor knew what trouble he was preparing for her in the time to come. And he, having first embraced the father who was not his father, and clung about his neck, addressed himself to Queen Dido, and she ever followed him with her eyes, and sometimes would hold him on her lap. And still he worked upon her that she should forget the dead Sichæus and conceive a new love in her heart.

But when they first paused from the feast, lo! men set great bowls upon the table and filled them to the brim with wine. Then did the queen call for a great vessel of gold, with many jewels upon it, from which Belus, and all the kings from Belus, had drunk, and called for wine, and having filled it she cried, “O Jupiter, whom they call the god of hosts and guests, cause that this be a day of joy for the men of Troy, and for them of Tyre, and that our children remember it forever. Also Bacchus, giver of joy, be present, and kindly Juno.” And when she had touched the wine with her lips, she handed the great cup to Prince Bitias, who drank thereout a mighty draught, and the other princes after him. Then the minstrel Iopas, whom Atlas[425] himself had taught, sang to the harp, of the moon, how she goes on her way, and of the sun, how his light is darkened. He sang also of men, and of the beasts of the field, whence they come; and of the stars, Arcturus, and the Greater Bear and the Less, and the Hyades; and of the winter sun, why he hastens to dip himself in the ocean; and of the winter nights, why they tarry so long. The queen also talked much of the story of Troy, of Priam, and of Hector, asking many things, as of the arms of Memnon, and of the horses of Diomed, and of Achilles, how great he was. And at last she said to Æneas, “Tell us now thy story, how Troy was taken, and thy wanderings over land and sea.” And Æneas made answer, “Nay, O queen, but thou biddest me renew a sorrow unspeakable. Yet, if thou art minded to hear these things, hearken.” And he told her all that had befallen him, even to the day when his father Anchises died.


By Alfred J. Church

Much was Queen Dido moved by the story, and much did she marvel at him that told it, and scarce could sleep for thinking of him. And the next day she spake to Anna, her sister, “O my sister, I have been troubled this night with ill dreams, and my heart is disquieted within me. What a man is this stranger that hath come to our[426] shores! How noble of mien! How bold in war! Sure I am that he is of the sons of the gods. What fortunes have been his! Of what wars he told us! Surely were I not steadfastly purposed that I would not yoke me again in marriage, this were the man to whom I might yield. Only he—for I will tell thee the truth, my sister—only he, since the day when Sichæus died by his brother’s hand, hath moved my heart. But may the earth swallow me up, or the Almighty Father strike me with lightning, ere I stoop to such baseness. The husband of my youth hath carried with him my love, and he shall keep it in the grave.”

So she spake, with many tears. And her sister made answer, “Why wilt thou waste thy youth in sorrow, without child or husband? Thinkest thou that there is care or remembrance of such things in the grave? No suitors, indeed, have pleased thee here or in Tyre, but wilt thou also contend with a love that is after thine own heart? Think too of the nations among whom thou dwellest, how fierce they are, and of thy brother at Tyre, what he threatens against thee. Surely it was by the will of the gods, and of Juno chiefly, that the ships of Troy came hither. And this city, which thou buildest, to what greatness will it grow if only thou wilt make for thyself such alliance! How great will be the glory of Carthage if the strength of Troy be joined unto her! Only do thou pray to the gods and offer sacrifices; and, for the present, seeing that the time of sailing is now past, make excuse that these strangers tarry with thee a while.”

Thus did Anna comfort her sister and encourage[427] her. And first the two offered sacrifice to the gods, chiefly to Juno, who careth for the bond of marriage.

Also, examining the entrails of slain beasts, they sought to learn the things that should happen thereafter. And ever Dido would company with Æneas, leading him about the walls of the city which she builded. And often she would begin to speak and stay in the midst of her words. And when even was come, she would hear again and again at the banquet the tale of Troy, and while others slept would watch, and while he was far away would seem to see him and to hear him. Ascanius, too, she would embrace for love of his father, if so she might cheat her own heart. But the work of the city was stayed meanwhile; nor did the towers rise in their places, nor the youth practice themselves in arms.

Then Juno, seeing how it fared with the queen, spake to Venus, “Are ye satisfied with your victory, thou and thy son, that ye have vanquished the two of you one woman? Well I knew that thou fearedst lest this Carthage should harm thy favorite. But why should there be war between us? Thou hast what thou seekedst. Let us make alliance. Let Dido obey a Phrygian husband, and bring the men of Tyre as her dowry.”

But Venus knew that she spake with ill intent, to the end that the men of Troy should not reign in the land of Italy. Nevertheless she dissembled with her tongue, and spake, “Who would not rather have peace with thee than war? Only I doubt whether this thing shall be to the pleasure of Jupiter.[428] This thou must learn, seeing that thou art his wife, and where thou leadest I will follow.”

So the two, taking counsel together, ordered things in this wise. The next day a great hunting was prepared. For as soon as ever the sun was risen upon the earth, the youth of the city assembled with nets and hunting spears and dogs that ran by scent. And the princes of Carthage waited for the queen at the palace door, where her horse stood champing the bit, with trappings of purple and gold. And after a while she came forth, with many following her. And she had upon her a Sidonian mantle, with a border wrought with divers colors; of gold was her quiver, and of gold the knot of her hair, and of gold the clasp to her mantle. Æneas likewise came forth, beautiful as is Apollo when he leaveth Lydia and the stream of Xanthus, coming to Delos, and hath about his hair a wreath of bay-leaves and a circlet of gold. So fair was Æneas to see. And when the hunters came to the hills they found great store of goats and stags, which they chased. And of all the company Ascanius was the foremost, thinking scorn of such hunting, and wishing that a wild boar or a lion out of the hills should come forth to be his prey.

And now befell a great storm, with much thunder and hail, from which the hunters sought shelter.

But Æneas and the queen, being left of all their company, came together to the same cave. And there they plighted their troth one to another. Nor did the queen after that make secret of her love, but called Æneas her husband.


Straightway went Rumor and told these things through the cities of Libya. Now Rumor, men say, is the youngest daughter of Earth, a marvellous creature, moving very swiftly with feet and wings, and having many feathers upon her, and under every feather an eye and a tongue and a mouth and an ear. In the night she flieth between heaven and earth, and sleepeth not; and in the day she sitteth on some housetop or lofty tower, or spreadeth fear over mighty cities; and she loveth that which is false even as she loveth that which is true. So now she went telling through Libya how Æneas of Troy was come, and Dido was wedded to him, and how they lived careless and at ease, and thinking not of the work to which they were called.

And first of all she went to Prince Iarbas, who himself had sought Dido in marriage. And Iarbas was very wroth when he heard it, and, coming to the temple of Jupiter, spread his grief before the god, how that he had given a place on his coasts to this Dido, and would have taken her to wife, but that she had married a stranger from Phrygia, another Paris, whose dress and adornments were of a woman rather than of a man.

And Jupiter saw that this was so, and he said to Mercury, who was his messenger, “Go speak to Æneas these words: ‘Thus saith the King of Gods and Men. Is this what thy mother promised of thee, twice saving thee from the spear of the Greeks? Art thou he that shall rule Italy and its mighty men of war, and spread thy dominion to the ends of the world? If thou thyself forgettest these things, dost thou grudge to thy son the citadels of[430] Rome? What doest thou here? Why, lookest thou not to Italy? Depart and tarry not.’”

Then Mercury fitted the winged sandals to his feet, and took the wand with which he driveth the spirits of the dead, and came right soon to Mount Atlas, which standeth bearing the heaven on his head, and having always clouds about his top, and snow upon his shoulders, and a beard that is stiff with ice. There Mercury stood a while; then, as a bird which seeks its prey in the sea, shot headlong down, and came to Æneas where he stood with a yellow jasper in his sword-hilt, and a cloak of purple shot with gold about his shoulders, and spake: “Buildest thou Carthage, forgetting thine own work? The Almighty Father saith to thee, ‘What meanest thou? Why tarriest thou here? If thou carest not for thyself, yet think of thy son, and that the Fates have given to him Italy and Rome.’”

And Æneas saw him no more. And he stood stricken with fear and doubt. Fain would he obey the voice, and go as the gods commanded. But how should he tell this purpose to the queen? But at the last it seemed good to him to call certain of the chiefs, as Mnestheus, and Sergestus, and Antheus, and bid them make ready the ships in silence, and gather together the people, but dissemble the cause, and he himself would watch a fitting time to speak and unfold the matter to the queen.

Yet was not Dido deceived, for love is keen of sight. Rumor also told her that they made ready the ships for sailing. Then, flying through the city, even as one on whom has come the frenzy of Bacchus[431] flies by night over Mount Cithæron, she came upon Æneas, and spake: “Thoughtest thou to hide thy crime, and to depart in silence from this land? Carest thou not for her whom thou leavest to die? And hast thou no fear of winter storms that vex the sea? By all that I have done for thee and given thee, if there be yet any place for repentance, repent thee of this purpose. For thy sake I suffer the wrath of the princes of Libya and of my own people; and if thou leavest me, for what should I live?—till my brother overthrow my city, or Iarbas carry me away captive? If but I had a little Æneas to play in my halls, I should not seem so altogether desolate.”

But Æneas, fearing the words of Jupiter, stood with eyes that relented not. At the last he spake: “I deny not, O queen, the benefits that thou hast done unto me, nor ever, while I live, shall I forget Dido. I sought not to fly by stealth; yet did I never promise that I would abide in this place. Could I have chosen according to my will I had built again the city of Troy where it stood; but the gods command that I should seek Italy. Thou hast thy Carthage; why dost thou grudge Italy to us? Nor may I tarry. Night after night have I seen my father Anchises warning me in dreams. Also even now the messenger of Jupiter came to me—with these ears I heard him—and bade me depart.”

Then, in great wrath, with eyes askance, did Dido break forth upon him: “Surely no goddess was thy mother, nor art thou come of the race of Dardanus. The rocks of Caucasus brought thee forth, and an Hyrcanian tigress fed thee. For why[432] should I dissemble? Was he moved at all my tears? Did he pity my love? Nay, the very gods are against me. This man I took to myself when he was shipwrecked and ready to perish. I brought back his ships, his companions from destruction. And now, forsooth, comes the messenger of Jupiter with dreadful commands from the gods. As for thee, I keep thee not. Go, seek thy Italy across the seas: only, if there is any vengeance in heaven, thou wilt pay the penalty for this wrong, being wrecked on some rock in their midst. Then wilt thou call on Dido in vain. Aye, and wherever thou shalt go I will haunt thee, and rejoice in the dwellings below to hear thy doom.”

Then she turned, and hastened to go into the house. But her spirit left her, so that her maidens bare her to her chamber and laid her on her bed.

Then Æneas, though indeed he was much troubled in heart, and would fain have comforted the queen, was obedient to the heavenly word, and departed to his ships. And the men of Troy busied themselves in making them ready for the voyage. Even as the ants spoil a great heap of corn and store it in their dwellings against winter, moving in a black line across the field, and some carry the great grains, and some chide those that linger, even so did the Trojans swarm along the ways and labor at the work.

But when Dido saw it she called to Anna her sister, and said, “Seest thou how they hasten the work along the shore? Even now the sails are ready for the winds, and the sailors have wreathed the ships with garlands, as if for departure. Go[433] thou—the deceiver always trusted thee, and thou knowest how best to move him—go and entreat him. I harmed not him nor his people; let him then grant me this only. Let him wait for a fairer time for his journey. I ask not that he give up his purpose; only that he grant me a short breathing space, till I may learn how to bear this sorrow.”

And Anna hearkened to her sister, and took the message to Æneas, yet profited nothing, for the gods shut his ears that he should not hear. Even as an oak stands firm when the north wind would root it up from the earth—its leaves are scattered all round, yet doth it remain firm, for its roots go down to the regions below, even as far as its branches reach to heaven—so stood Æneas firm, and, though he wept many tears, changed not his purpose.

Then did Dido grow weary of her life. For when she did sacrifice, the pure water would grow black, and the wine be changed into blood. Also from the shrine of her husband, which was in the midst of her palace, was heard a voice calling her, and the owl cried aloud from the housetop. And in her dreams the cruel Æneas seemed to drive her before him; or she seemed to be going a long way with none to bear her company, and be seeking her own people in a land that was desert. Therefore, hiding the thing that was in her heart, she spake to her sister, saying, “I have found a way, my sister, that shall bring him back to me, or set me free from him. Near the shore of the great sea, where the Æthiopians dwell, is a priestess, who guards the temple of the daughters of Hesperus, being wont[434] to feed the dragons that kept the apples of gold. She is able by her charms to loose the heart from care or to bind it, and to stay rivers also, and to turn the courses of the stars, and to call up the spirits of the dead. Do thou, therefore—for this is what the priestess commands—build a pile in the open court, and put thereon the sword which he left hanging in our chamber, and the garments he wore, and the couch on which he lay, even all that was his, so that they may perish together.”

And when these things were done—for Anna knew not of her purpose—and also an image of Æneas was laid upon the pile, the priestess, with her hair unbound, called upon all the gods that dwell below, sprinkling thereon water that was drawn, she said, from the lake of Avernus, and scattering evil herbs, that had been cut at the full moon with a sickle of bronze. Dido also, with one foot bare and her garments loosened, threw meal upon the fire and called upon the gods, if haply there be any, that look upon those that love and suffer wrong.

And now it was morning, and Queen Dido, from her watch-tower, saw the ships upon the sea. Then she smote upon her breast and tore her hair, and cried: “Shall this stranger mock us thus? Hasten to follow him. Bring down the ships from the docks, make ready sword and fire. And this was the man who bare upon his shoulders his aged father! Why did I not tear him to pieces, and slay his companions with the sword, and serve up the young Ascanius at his meal? And if I had perished, what then? for I die to-day. O Sun, that regardest all[435] the earth, and Juno, that carest for marriage bonds, and Hecate, Queen of the Dead, and ye Furies that take vengeance on evil doers, hear me! If it be ordered that he reach this land, yet grant that he suffer many things from his enemies, and be driven from his city, and beg for help from strangers, and see his people cruelly slain with the sword; and, when he shall have made peace on ill conditions, that he enjoy not long his kingdom, but die before his day, and lie unburied on the plain. And ye, men of Tyre, hate his children and his people forever. Let there be no love or peace between you. And may some avenger arise from my grave who shall persecute the race of Dardanus with fire and sword. So shall there be war forever between him and me.”

Then she spake to old Barcé, who had been nurse to her husband Sichæus: “Bid my sister bathe herself in water, and bring with her beasts for sacrifice. And do thou also put a garland about thy head, for I am minded to finish this sacrifice which I have begun, and to burn the image of the man of Troy.”

And when the old woman made haste to do her bidding, Queen Dido ran to the court where the pile was made for the burning, and mounted on the pile, and drew the sword of Æneas from the scabbard. Then did she throw herself upon the bed, and cry: “Now do I yield up my life. I have finished my course. I have built a mighty city. I have avenged my husband on him that slew him. Happy had I been—yea, too happy! had the ships of Troy never come to this land.” Then she kissed the bed and cried: “Shall I die unavenged? Nevertheless let me die. The man of Troy shall see this fire from the[436] sea whereon he journeys, and carry with him an augury of death.”

And when her maidens looked, lo! she had fallen upon the sword, and the blood was upon her hands. And a great cry went up through the palace, exceeding loud and bitter, even as if the enemy had taken Carthage or ancient Tyre, and the fire were mounting over the dwellings of men and of gods. And Anna, her sister, heard it, and rushing through the midst called her by name: “O my sister, was this thy purpose? Were the pile and the sword and the fire for this? Why wouldst thou not suffer that I should die with thee? For surely, my sister, thou hast slain thyself, and me, and thy people, and thy city. But give me water, ye maidens, that I may wash her wounds, and if there be any breath left in her, we may yet stay it.”

Then she climbed on to the pile, and caught her sister in her arms, and sought to staunch the blood with her garments. Three times did Dido strive to raise her eyes; three times did her spirit leave her. Three times she would have raised herself upon her elbow; three times she fell back upon the bed, looking with wandering eyes for the light, and groaning that she yet beheld it.

Then Juno, looking down from heaven, saw that her pain was long, and pitied her, and sent down Iris her messenger, that she might loose the soul that struggled to be free. For, seeing that she died, not by nature, nor yet by the hand of man, but before her time, and of her own madness, Queen Proserpine had not shred the ringlet from her head which she shreds from them that die. Wherefore[437] Iris, flying down with dewy wings from heaven, with a thousand colors about her from the light of the sun, stood above her head and said: “I give thee to death, even as I am bidden, and loose thee from thy body.” Then she shred the lock, and Queen Dido gave up the ghost.


By H. L. Havell

On the night when Dido was keeping her last sorrowful vigil Æneas lay sleeping on the deck of his galley, having made all things ready for a start next day. But in his dreams he saw the youthful form of Mercury standing by him, perfect in grace and beauty, and heard these warning words: “Canst thou sleep, Æneas, on the very brink of peril? Away, fly from this coast, before thy path is beset with sword and brand. A woman’s heart is a fickle and slippery thing.”

Æneas started from his couch in affright, and cried to his men: “Up, comrades; take your oars, and let us be gone. A second time I have heard the voice of a god, and again the word is Fly!” And, drawing his sword, he cut the rope which moored his vessel to the shore. Swiftly the benches were manned, the calm waters eddied and roared under their sturdy strokes, and the whole fleet, urged by one impulse, swept out to sea.

The wind blew fair, and the towers of Carthage were already sinking beneath the horizon, when[438] a great column of smoke shot up from the direction of Carthage, checkered by tongues of fire. It was the funeral pyre on which Dido’s body was burning; but the Trojans knew not this, and thinking that perhaps it was a signal to summon the Tyrian fleet for pursuit they redoubled their efforts, until the smoke column dwindled to a speck, and vanished, and nothing remained in view but sea and sky.

Meanwhile the wind had shifted to the north, the sky became overcast, and the waves grew black and threatening. Palinurus, the captain of the royal vessel, after anxiously scrutinizing the signs of the weather, came to Æneas, and said: “My lord, if Jupiter himself were my warrant, I could not hope to reach Italy in this wind. Everything forebodes a storm, and my counsel is that we run for shelter to the friendly harbor of Eryx, on the north coast of Sicily, where we are sure of a brotherly welcome. It is close at hand, unless my seamanship is at fault.”

Æneas was well disposed on all accounts to take the advice of his pilot; for Eryx was a Trojan settlement, which they had already visited on their voyage from Epirus; and here too his father Anchises had found his last resting place. Accordingly the order was given, and, running before the wind, they soon reached the shelter of the high cliffs which guarded the harbor of Eryx.

As they approached the shore they saw a stalwart warrior standing ready to receive them, grimly attired in a bearskin, and bristling with weapons. “It is my old friend Acestes,” said Æneas, with a smile, “whose heart is as kind as his aspect is threatening.” True to this description of his character, Acestes[439] hails his wandering countrymen with a hearty greeting, and entertains them with princely hospitality.

Next day was the anniversary of the death of Anchises, which was celebrated by Æneas and his men with splendid pomp, and offerings of blood and wine and milk at the tomb. When all rites had been duly paid Æneas made proclamation of a great series of games, to be held on the ninth day following, and invited all the subjects of Acestes to take part with the Trojans in the friendly contest.

On the day appointed a vast multitude assembled, and took their station on the cliffs to witness the first event, in which four of the Trojan galleys were to race to a rocky island, some distance from the shore, and back again to the mainland. The crews of the vessels—the Pristis, the Chimæra, the Centaur, and the Scylla—were mustered in their places; and the captains, brave in their purple uniforms, stood conspicuous on the after-decks, glancing critically at their brawny crews, who sat, stripped to the waist, grasping their oars, and waiting for the signal.

There was a breathless pause, then a loud blast from a trumpet rang out for the start, and the four galleys darted out with level prows for the open sea, while a tremendous roar went up from the host of spectators who thronged the cliffs. “She leads—the Chimæra has the lead!” is the cry; and, in fact, the Chimæra, under her captain, Gyas, is forging ahead. She is a galley of the largest size, and built for speed. Next comes the Scylla, with her crew rowing powerfully and splendidly together; but she is broad in the beam, and a slow traveller. The[440] third place is keenly contested between the Pristis[1] and the Centaur, whose figureheads may be seen alternately passing and repassing each other, and then again racing neck and neck.

The rocky island draws nearer and nearer, and they can see the green bough of ilex, placed there by order of Æneas, waving in the wind. The Chimæra is still leading, and Gyas, her captain, calls to his helmsman. “Keep closer,” he orders; “you are steering too wide; let the oars graze the rocks on the port side.” But the cautious old seaman shakes his head, and steers in a wide curve, fearing the shoal water near the island. Close behind looms the tall prow of the Scylla, and they can hear the water hissing and foaming round her cutwater. “They are gaining!” shouts Gyas; and even as he speaks the huge galley, steered by a bold and skilful hand, takes the inside place, sweeps round the island, and gaining deep water, rushes triumphantly forward, bound for the shore. This was too much for the excitable Gyas; with tears of rage and grief he sprang upon the helmsman, and, snatching the tiller from his hand, with one vigorous thrust he flung the too cautious veteran into the sea. Presently a gray head emerged from the water, and the old man was seen swimming slowly towards the rocks, which he reached not without difficulty, and sat down with dripping garments and rueful countenance, gasping, and spitting out the brine. “Now give way, my men,” cried Gyas, putting the helm hard down, as so to bring the galley round to the very edge of the rocks.


Meanwhile Mnestheus in the Pristis, and Sergestus in the Centaur, were still rowing a keen race, and as they neared the turning point the Centaur was leading by half a length. Seeing the wild steering of the Chimæra, which was yawing and losing way under the unskilful hand of Gyas, Mnestheus strode up and down the gangway, calling loudly to his crew: “Now show your mettle, my braves! Ye who have fought at Hector’s side, and defied a thousand perils on land and sea, save your captain from the dishonor of coming in last.” His men respond gallantly to the call; the huge hull of the Pristis trembles under their mighty strokes, and the white wake boils and foams behind them. And as they strain and tug at their ponderous oars, with parched throats and heaving chests, suddenly a loud crash announces that fortune has come to their aid; for the Centaur, taking the curve too short, has stuck fast on a projecting ridge, and hangs, with shattered prow and broken oars, on the rocks. While the crew are busy with long poles, trying to get her off, the rival Pristis sweeps triumphantly past her, clears the dangerous shallows, and enters deep water again, homeward bound. And first she passes the Chimæra, who has lost her helmsman, and cannot keep a straight course; then hard after the Scylla she flies, and seems gaining on her with every stroke.

Nearer and nearer creeps the Pristis; louder and louder grow the shouts of the waiting multitude on the shore, whose feelings have been wound up to the wildest excitement by the sudden changes of fortune and the startling incidents of this memorable[442] race. Already the prow of the Pristis is overlapping the stern of the Scylla, when a sudden fury seems to enter into the crew of the leading vessel, and, as if thrust forward from below by a giant’s hand, she makes a great bound in advance of her pursuer, and gains the harbor.

The race was over, and the victorious captains, crowned with laurel, were flaunting their honors proudly before their admiring comrades. Cloanthus, the captain of the Scylla, received as first prize a rich mantle, with a double waving border of Tyrian purple, on which was embroidered the story of the rape of Ganymede—a living picture, showing the lovely boy, seized in the midst of his woodland sports, and borne skyward in the talons of a gigantic eagle; while below him were seen his dogs, leaping and baying in wild excitement, and a group of aged attendants, with hands uplifted, and lips parted in speechless dismay.

A hundred eyes were curiously scanning this rare device when a loud laugh from the crowd on the shore announced the return of the unlucky Centaur. Like a wounded snake, crushed by the wheel of a passing wagon, she came crawling slowly through the harbor mouth, and landed her crestfallen crew, among whom was Menœtes, the Chimæra’s helmsman, still damp from his involuntary bath.

[1] Shark.



By H. L. Havell

Æneas now led the way to a level, grassy plain, surrounded by hills, and displayed the prizes for the next event, which was the foot race. Every competitor was to receive two arrows, the choice workmanship of Cretan armorers, and a battle-axe chased with silver; and besides these three special prizes were offered—a war horse, splendidly caparisoned, for the first; a quiver of Thracian arrows, with a rich baldric of gold work fastened by a jewelled buckle, for the second; and for the third a helmet won in battle from the Greeks.

Quite a crowd of runners assembled at the starting-place; and conspicuous among them was seen Euryalus, a boy of great beauty, and Nisus, his friend, who loved him as a father. The long line was brought level, the signal was given, and away they went, Nisus taking the lead, followed at a long interval by Salius, a youth of Greek descent; Euryalus, again at some distance, held the third place; and after him came Helymus, a Sicilian, hotly pursued by Diores, a Trojan of the royal race of Priam.

Nisus, still keeping the lead, was already within sight of the goal, when he unwarily trod on a muddy place, wet with the blood of oxen which had been offered in the late sacrifice. He stumbled, reeled, recovered himself, and then fell headlong in the mire. But even at that moment he did not forget his friend Euryalus, but, staggering to[444] his feet, flung himself in the way of Salius as he came up, and both rolled together on the ground. The field was thus left open for Euryalus, who flew past the winning-post an easy victor, amidst a thunder of applause, for his youth and beauty had won all hearts. Helymus came in second, and Diores third.

Æneas was engaged in bestowing the prizes on the three winners, as the custom was, at the conclusion of the race, when Salius came up, and began to stun the ears of the judges with his complaints. “The first prize is mine,” he protested, laying his hand on the bridle of the horse, in spite of the tearful remonstrances of Euryalus and the loud clamor of Diores, who saw himself threatened with the loss of his prize. The dispute was stopped by the authority of Æneas, and the ruffled Salius was soothed by the gift of a magnificent lion-skin with gilded claws. Hereupon Nisus came limping up, daubed from head to foot with mud. “If you pity the fallen,” said he to Æneas, “what am I to have as a consolation prize?” Æneas smiled graciously at the rueful figure of Nisus, and presented him with a shield, richly chased by a Grecian artist; and thus both winners and losers were sent away happy and satisfied.



By H. L. Havell

A young bull, with gilded horns, and a fine sword and helmet, were next displayed, as prizes for the boxing match. This was a terrible and murderous struggle, fraught with peril to life and limb; for the boxers fought with their hands encased in gloves of hard leather, often weighted with iron and lead, called the cæstus. One champion alone appeared ready to bear his part in this heroic sport; he was a Trojan named Dares, and the son of the famous boxer Amycus, who had been killed by Pollux during the voyage of the Argonauts. The fame of Dares was well known among his comrades, and no one seemed inclined to dispute his supremacy in the ring. Accordingly Dares, who had been showing off his muscle before the crowd, and dealing tremendous buffets to an imaginary antagonist, strutted up to Æneas, and, laying his hand on the bull, claimed him as his lawful prize.

But he was not to be allowed to triumph so easily. Among the spectators there stood a man already advanced in years, but of gigantic stature and massive build. Acestes, who was standing near him, now addressed him in terms of reproach: “Entellus, wilt thou suffer this braggart to carry off the prize without a blow? Hast thou forgotten thy divine master, Eryx? Or fearest thou the face of this blustering bully?” “I fear no man,” answered Entellus; “but I am old, and my joints are stiff, while that fellow is young and lusty. The greedy[446] knave, he cares for nothing but the prize! What do you think of these?” he cried, stepping into the ring, and flinging down a ponderous pair of cæstus of tough bull’s hide, stiffened with lead and iron. Dares recoiled at the sight of these frightful weapons, and refused to face an opponent armed in such fashion. “What would you have thought if you had seen the gauntlets with which Hercules fought?” asked Entellus, turning to Æneas, who had picked up the formidable gloves, and was examining them with amazement. “These which you see were worn by your brother Eryx when he stood up against Hercules. But I will take no advantage; lend me another pair, and we will fight with equal weapons.”

The change was made, Entellus stripped, and took up his station in the middle of the arena confronting Dares, who, powerful as he was, looked a mere stripling as he faced the athletic veteran. Then the boxers raised themselves to their full height, with heads drawn back, and the battle began. Dares was far superior in speed and agility, while Entellus, who could have crushed him in his arms, was slow on his feet, and short of wind. There was a rapid interchange of blows, and the air rang with the clatter of the hard gauntlets, as Dares manœuvred nimbly round his huge antagonist, who stood rooted like an oak in his place, parrying the blows. Suddenly Entellus saw an opening, and put in a heavy stroke, with all the force of his ponderous right arm. Dares stepped lightly aside, and Entellus, carried forward by the impetus of his own blow, lost his balance, and came down with a sounding[447] thud on the turf. A shout of mingled triumph and dismay greeted the fall of the Sicilian champion, and his friends rushed forward to help him to his feet.

But, neither dulled nor dismayed by his fall, that mighty man returns keener to the battle, and kindles strength with rage. All the vigor of his youth comes back to him, and he chases Dares headlong round and round the ring, now with his right hand raining blows, now with his giant left. No rest, no pause; like hailstones rattling on the roof, so shower the strokes of those iron hands on the head of the hapless Dares. At last Æneas interposed, and stopped the unequal combat. Dares was borne, shattered and fainting, from the ring, and Entellus, crowned with the victor’s wreath, took possession of the bull. “Now mark,” he said, “Æneas, and learn, ye Trojans, what force was in this arm in the days of my prime, and what death Dares has escaped.” Saying this, he planted himself firmly in front of the bull, and slowly drawing back his gauntleted fist poised it like a club, and dashed it with all his force between the horns of the beast. The skull was splintered as if by a sledge-hammer, and prostrate, lifeless, quivering, on earth lay the bull. “That was the blow which I designed for Dares,” said the giant, “but the bull is a worthier sacrifice to the shade of my master Eryx. I have fought my last round, and now I will hang up my gauntlets in his shrine.”



By H. L. Havell

“Now, gallant archers, try your skill,” said Æneas, pointing to a tall mast, which had been set up in the middle of the plain, with a dove fluttering above it fastened by the leg with a slender cord. Lots were drawn to determine the order of shooting, and the archers, among whom were Mnestheus, winner of the third prize in the boat race, Eurytion, brother of the famous Pandarus, and the aged Acestes, took up their stations. The first arrow struck the mast. Then Mnestheus, who had drawn the second place, took steady aim, but, missing the bird, chanced to sever the cord which bound her to the mast; up flew the dove, and remained hovering in the air above their heads. Eurytion now raised his bow high above his head, and, calling on his brother’s name, sent an arrow straight into the air, and brought down the bird, just as she was preparing for a distant flight.

“You have left me no mark to aim at,” said Acestes; “but see, there is vigor left still in these old arms of mine.” And he drew his arrow to the head, and sent an arrow whizzing towards the cloud. Then followed a strange portent, which kept all the prophets busy for many a day; for as they watched the flying shaft, it burst into flames, and, shooting across the sky with a trail of light, burnt away, and vanished from view like a meteor in the nights of winter. “Hail, fiery messenger of Heaven’s will!” cried Acestes joyfully. “And hail to thee, father[449] and friend!” repeated Æneas, grasping his hand. “Thine was the best shot of all, and I will bestow on thee a gift of honor, since by thy hand was wrought this wonder, and Jove himself has blessed thine archery.” And he gave him a silver goblet, embossed with choice designs, which was a treasured heirloom in his family.

The great multitude now stood hushed in expectation, for the most brilliant event of the day was reserved to the last. As soon as the arena was cleared Æneas gave a sign to Epytides, the faithful guardian and companion of the young Iulus; and presently a murmur arose on the outskirts of the crowd, swelling to a great shout, as a troop of youthful horsemen rode into the arena in three divisions. In each division were twelve boys, all armed with javelins, all crowned with olive wreaths, and all wearing chains of gold. At the head of each band rode its boyish captain. First was seen the son of Polites, named after his grandsire Priam, mounted on a brave chestnut with white markings on forehead and fore-hoof; then followed the second line, led by Atys, whose name descended to a noble Roman house—little Atys, loved in his boyhood by the young Iulus; and last and fairest of all came Iulus himself, riding a gallant steed of Arab race, which he had received as a gift from the fair hand of Dido.

Loud was the applause among the Trojans as they watched that pretty pageant of childish chivalry and traced their fathers’ likeness on the blushing faces of the happy boys. Having ridden slowly round the arena they drew up in a body, facing the[450] spot where Æneas and the Trojan nobles were seated round their host. Then Eyptides gave the signal with a loud crack of his whip, and, parting again into three separate troops, they couched their weapons, and made a mimic charge, but, avoiding the shock at the moment of meeting, rank passed through rank, wheeled again, and returned to the encounter. And so they threaded all the mazes of a warlike dance, in which attack and retreat, rally, and hand-to-hand assault, were pictured in living colors on the level green.


By Alfred J. Church

Æneas finally came to the land of Italy, nigh unto Cumæ, which was the dwelling-place of the Sibyl. The men turned the forepart of the ships to the sea, and made them fast with anchors. Then they leapt forth upon the shore, and kindled a fire; and some cut wood in the forest, or fetched water from the stream. But Æneas went up to the great cave of the Sibyl, where, by the inspiration of Apollo, she foretelleth things to come.

Now the temple was a marvellous place to look upon. On the doors thereof was set forth, graven in stone, the death of Androgeos, and the men of Attica choosing by lot seven of their children who should be given as a ransom yearly; and, rising from the sea upon the other side, the land of Crete.[451] Likewise the Labyrinth was there and its winding ways; but Icarus they saw not, for when his father would have wrought the manner of his death in gold his hands failed him: twice he strove, and twice they failed. And when Æneas would have looked further, the priestess said, “Linger not with these things, but slay forthwith seven bullocks from the herd, and seven sheep duly chosen out of the flock.” And when they came to the cave—now there are a hundred doors, and a voice cometh forth from each—the Sibyl cried, “It is time. Lo! the god, the god!” And even as she spake her look was changed and the color of her face; also her hair was loosened, and her breast panted, and she waxed greater than is the stature of a man. Then she cried, “Delayest thou to pray, Æneas of Troy? delayest thou? for the doors open not but to prayer.” Nor said she more. Then Æneas prayed, saying, “O Phœbus, who didst always pity the sorrows of Troy, and didst guide the arrow of Paris that it slew the great Achilles, I have followed thy bidding, journeying over many lands, and now I lay hold on this shore of Italy, which ever seemed to fly before me. Grant thou that our ill fortune follow us no more. And all ye gods and goddesses who loved not Troy, be merciful to us. And thou, O prophetess, give, if it may be, such answer as I would hear. So will I and my people honor thee forever. And write it not, I pray thee, upon leaves, lest the winds carry them away, but speak with thy voice.”

And for a while the prophetess strove against the spirit; but at the last it mastered her, and the[452] doors flew open, and she spake, saying, “The perils of the sea thou hast escaped, but there await thee yet worse perils upon the land. The men of Troy shall come to the kingdom of Lavinium. Fear not for that; yet will they fain not have come. I see battles, and the Tiber foaming with blood, and a new Xanthus and Simoïs, and another Achilles, himself also goddess-born. Juno also shall be ever against thee. And thou shalt be a suppliant to many cities. And the cause of all these woes shall be again a woman. Only yield not thou, but go ever more boldly when occasion shall serve. Little thinkest thou that thy first succor shall be from a city of the Greeks.”

And when she had ended these words, Æneas made answer: “O lady, no toil or peril shall take me unawares; for I have thought over all things in my heart. But one thing I ask of thee. Here is the door of the dwellings of the dead. Fain would I pass thereby, that I may visit my father. I carried him on my shoulders out of the fires of Troy, and with me he endured many things by land and sea, more than befitted his old age. Likewise he bade me ask this boon of thee. Do thou therefore pity both father and son, for thou hast the power, if only thou wilt. Did not Orpheus bring back his wife from the dead, having his harp only? Also Pollux goeth many times this same path, redeeming his brother from death. And why should I tell of Theseus and Hercules? And I also am of the lineage of Jupiter.”

Then the Sibyl spake, saying, “Son of Anchises, it is easy to go down to hell. The door is open day[453] and night. But to return, and struggle to the upper air, that is the labor. Few only have done it, and these of the lineage of the gods and dear to Jupiter. Yet if thou wilt attempt it, hearken unto me. There lieth hid in the forest a bough of gold which is sacred to the Queen of Hell. Nor may any man go on this journey till he have plucked it, for the queen will have it as a gift for herself. And when the bough is plucked, there ever groweth another; and if it be the pleasure of the gods that thou go, it will yield to thy hand. But know that one of thy companions lieth dead upon the shore. First must thou bury him and after offer due sacrifice, even black sheep. So shalt thou approach the dwellings of the dead.”

Then Æneas departed from the cave, and Achates went with him, and much they wondered who it might be that was dead. And when they came to the shore, lo! Misenus lay there, than whom no man was more skilful to call men to battle with the voice of the trumpet. Hector’s companion he had been in old time and then followed Æneas. And now, blowing his trumpet on the shore, he had challenged the gods of the sea to compare with him; wherefore a Triton caught him and plunged him into the sea, so that he died. Then did Æneas and his companions prepare for the burial, cutting ilex and oak and mountain-ash from the wood. But when Æneas beheld the forest, how vast it was, he said, “Now, may the gods grant that in this great forest the bough of gold discover itself.” And as he spake, lo! two doves flew before his face, and settled on the grass, and he knew them to be the[454] birds of his mother, and cried saying, “Guide me now to the bough of gold, and thou my mother help me as before.” Then the birds flew so that he could still see them with his eyes, and he followed after them.

But when they came to the mouth of Avernus, they sat both of them on the tree. And lo! the bough of gold glittered among the branches and rustled in the wind. Right gladly did Æneas break it off, and carry it to the dwelling of the Sibyl.

In the meantime the men of Troy made a great burial for Misenus on the shore, building a pile of wood, and washing and anointing the body. Also they laid the body on a bier, and on it the garments which he had worn being yet alive. Then others, with faces turned away, held a torch to the wood, whereon also were burnt incense and offerings of oil. And when the burning was ended they quenched the ashes with wine. And Corynæus gathered the bones into an urn of bronze, and purified the people, sprinkling them with water with a bough of an olive-tree. Then Æneas made a great mound, and put thereon the trumpet of the man and his bow; and the mountain is called Misenus, after him, to this day.

But when the burial was ended he did as the Sibyl had commanded. A great cavern there is, from which cometh so evil a stench that no bird may fly across. There they brought four black oxen, and the priestess poured wine upon their heads and cut hairs from between the horns. And when they had burned these they slew the oxen, holding dishes for the blood. And Æneas offered a black lamb to[455] the Furies and a barren heifer to the Queen of Hell, smiting them with his sword. Then they burned the entrails with fire, pouring oil upon them. Then did the ground give a hollow sound beneath them, and the dogs howled, for the goddess was at hand. And the priestess cried, “Go ye who may not take part in this matter. And thou, Æneas, draw thy sword from its sheath and follow. Now hast thou need of all thy strength and courage.” Then she plunged into the cave, and Æneas went with her.


By Alfred J. Church

So they went together through the land of shadows, like unto men who walk through a wood in a doubtful light, when the moon indeed hath risen, but there are clouds over the sky. And first they came to where, in front of the gates of hell, dwell Sorrow and Remorse, and pale Disease and Fear, and Hunger that tempteth men to sin, and Want, and Death, and Toil, and Slumber, that is Death’s kinsman, and deadly War; also they saw the chambers of the Furies, and Discord, whose hair is of snakes that drip with blood. And in this region there is an ancient elm, in the boughs whereof dwell all manner of dreams, and shapes of evil monsters, as many as have been, such as were the centaurs, half man, half horse, and Briareus with the hundred hands, and others also. These Æneas, when he saw them, sought to slay, rushing[456] upon them with the sword, but his guide warned him that they were shadows only.

After this they came to the river of hell, whereon plies the boatman Charon. A long white beard hath he and unkempt; and his eyes are fixed in a fiery stare, and a scarf is knotted upon his shoulder, as is a pilot’s wont. An old man he seemeth to be, but hale and ruddy. Now there was ever rushing to the bank a great crowd, wives and mothers, and valiant men of war, boys and girls dead before they were given in marriage, and young men laid on the funeral pile before their parents’ eyes. Thick they were as the leaves that fall to the earth at the first frost of autumn, or as the swallows, when they gather themselves together, making ready to fly across the sea to the lands of the sun. And of these Charon would take some into his boat; but others he would forbid, and drive from the shore. This when Æneas saw, he marvelled, and said: “O lady, what meaneth this concourse at the river? What seek these souls? Why be some driven from the bank and some ferried across?”

And the Sibyl made answer: “This river that thou seest is the Styx, by which the gods in heaven swear, and fear to break their oath. Those whom thou seest to be driven from the bank are such as have lacked burial, but those who are ferried across have been buried duly; for none pass this stream till their bodies have been laid in the grave, otherwise they wander for a hundred years, and so at last may cross over.”

Much did Æneas pity their ill fortune, and the more when he beheld Orontes and his Lycians whom[457] the sea had swallowed up alive before his eyes. Here likewise there met him his pilot Palinurus, to whom, when he knew him, for indeed he scarce could see him in the darkness, he said: “What god took thee from us and drowned thee in the sea? Surely, in this one matter, Apollo hath deceived me, saying that thou shouldst escape the sea and come to the land of Italy.”

Then answered Palinurus: “Not so, great Æneas. For indeed to the land of Italy I came. Three nights the south wind carried me over the sea, and on the fourth day I saw the land of Italy from the top of a wave. And when I swam to the shore, and was now clinging to the rocks, my garments being heavy with water, the savage people came upon me, and took me for a prey, and slew me. And now the winds and waves bear me about as they will. Wherefore I pray thee, by thy father, and Iulus, the hope of thy house, that thou deliver me from these woes. Go, therefore, I beseech thee, to the haven of Velia, and cast earth upon me for burial; or give me now thy hand, and take me with thee across this river.”

Then said the priestess: “O Palinurus, what madness is this? Wilt thou without due burial cross the river, and look upon the awful faces of the Furies? Think not that the Fates can be changed by prayers. Yet hear this, and be comforted. They that slew thee, being sore troubled by many plagues, shall make due expiation to thee, and build a tomb, and make offerings thereon year by year; and the place where they slew thee shall be called after thy name.”


Then he took comfort and departed. But when they came near to the river, the boatman beheld them, and cried: “Stay thou, whoever thou art, that comest armed to this river, and tell me what thou seekest. This is the land of Shadows, of Sleep, and of Night. The living may not be ferried in this boat. An evil day it was when I carried Hercules, and Theseus, and Pirithoüs, though they were children of the gods. For Hercules chained the watch-dog of hell, and dragged him trembling from his master’s seat. And Theseus and his friend sought to carry away the queen even from the chamber of her husband.”

Then the Sibyl made answer: “Be not troubled. We come not hither with evil thoughts. Let the watch-dog of hell make the pale ghosts afraid; let your queen abide in her husband’s palace; we will not harm them. Æneas of Troy cometh down to hell that he may speak with his father. And if thou takest no account of such piety, yet thou wilt know this token.”

And she showed him the bough of gold. And when he saw it he laid aside his anger, rejoicing to behold, now after many years, the marvellous gift. Then he brought near his boat to the bank, and drave out the souls that were therein, and took on board Æneas and the priestess. Much did it groan with the weight, and the water poured apace through the seams thereof. Yet did they come safe across.

Then they saw Cerberus, the watch-dog, in his cave. And to him the Sibyl gave a cake of honey and poppy-seed, causing sleep. And this he swallowed,[459] opening wide his three ravenous mouths, and straightway stretched himself out asleep across the cave.

After this they heard a great wailing of infants, even the voices of such as are taken away before they have had lot or part in life. And near to these were such as have died by false accusation; yet lack they not justice, for Minos trieth their cause. And yet beyond, they that, being guiltless, have laid hands upon themselves. Fain would they now endure hardships, being yet alive, but may not, for the river keeps them in with his unlovely stream as in a prison. Not far from these are the Mourning Fields, where dwell the souls of those that have died of love, as Procris, whom Cephalus slew in error, and Laodamia, who died of grief for her husband. And among these was Dido, fresh from the wound wherewith she slew herself. And when Æneas saw her darkly through the shadows, even as one who sees, or thinketh that he sees, the new moon lately risen, he wept, and said: “O Dido, it was truth, then, that they told me, saying that thou hadst slain thyself with the sword. Tell me, was I the cause of thy death? Loath was I, O queen—I swear it by all that is most holy in heaven or hell—to leave thy land. But the gods, at whose bidding I come hither this day, constrained me; nor did I think that thou wouldst take such sorrow from my departure. But stay; depart not; for never again may I speak to thee but this once only.”

So he spake, and would fain have appeased her wrath. But she cast her eyes to the ground, and[460] her heart was hard against him, even as a rock. And she departed into a grove that was hard by, wherein was her first husband, Sichæus, who loved her even as he was loved. After this they came to the land where the heroes dwell. And there they saw Tydeus, who died before Thebes; and Adrastus, and also many men of Troy, as the three sons of Antenor, and Idæus, who was the armor-bearer of King Priam, and bare the arms and drave the chariot yet. All these gathered about him and would fain know wherefore he had come. But when the hosts of Agamemnon saw his shining arms through the darkness, they fled, as in old days they had fled to the ships; and some would have cried aloud, but could not, so thin are the voices of the dead.

Among these he saw Deïphobus, son of Priam. Cruelly mangled was he, for his hands had been cut off, and his ears and his nostrils likewise. Scarce did Æneas know him, and he himself in shame would have hidden his wounds; but the son of Anchises spake to him, saying: “Who hath dealt so foully with thee, great Deïphobus? Men told me that on the last night of Troy thou didst fall dead on a heap of Greeks whom thou hadst slain. Wherefore I built thee a tomb by the sea, and thrice called aloud thy name. But thee I found not, that I might lay thee therein.”

Then Deïphobus made answer: “Thou hast left nothing undone, but hast paid me all due honor. But my ill fate and the accursed wickedness of the Spartan woman have destroyed me. How we spent that last night in idle rejoicings thou knowest. And[461] she, while the women of Troy danced before the gods, stood holding a torch on the citadel, as though she were their leader, yet in truth she called therewith the Greeks from Tenedos. But I lay overcome with weariness in my chamber. Then did she, a noble wife, forsooth! take all the arms out of the house, and my trusty sword also from under my head; and after brought thereunto Menelaus, so hoping to do away her sin against him; and Ulysses also, always ready with evil counsels. What need of more? May the gods do so and more also to them. But tell me why hast thou came hither?”

And it was now past noonday, and the two had spent in talk all the allotted time. Therefore the Sibyl spake: “Night cometh, Æneas, and we waste the day in tears. Lo! here are two roads. This on the right hand leadeth to the palace of Pluto and to the Elysian plains; and that on the left to Tartarus, the abode of the wicked.” And Deïphobus answered: “Be not wroth, great priestess; I depart to my own place. Do thou, my friend, go on and prosper.”

But as Æneas looked round he saw a great building, and a threefold wall about it, and round the wall a river of fire. Great gates there were, and a tower of brass, and the Fury Tisiphone sat as warder. Also he heard the sounds of those that smote upon an anvil, and the clanking of chains. And he stood, and said: “What mean these things that I see and hear?” Then the Sibyl made answer: “The foot of the righteous may not pass that threshold. But when the Queen of Hell gave me this office she herself led me through the place and[462] told me all. There sitteth Rhadamanthus, the Cretan, and judgeth the dead. And them that he condemned Tisiphone taketh, and the gate which thou seest openeth to receive them. And within is a great pit, and the depth thereof is as the height of heaven. Herein lie the Titans, the sons of Earth, whom Jupiter smote with the thunder; and herein the sons of Alœus, who strove to thrust the gods from heaven; and Salmoneus, who would have mocked the thunder of Jupiter, riding in his chariot through the cities of Elis, and shaking a torch, and giving himself out to be a god. But the lightning smote him in his pride. Also I saw Tityos, spread over nine acres of ground, and the vulture feeding on his heart. And over some hangs a great stone ready to fall; and some sit at the banquet, but when they would eat the Fury at their side forbids, and rises and shakes her torch and thunders in their ears. These are they who while they were yet alive hated their brothers, or struck father or mother, or deceived one that trusted to them, or kept their riches for themselves nor cared for those of their own household (a great multitude are they), or stirred up civil strife. And of these some roll a great stone and cease not, and some are bound to wheels, and some sit forever crying: ‘Learn to do righteousness and to fear the gods.’”

And when the priestess had finished these words they hastened on their way. And, after a while, she said: “Lo! here is the palace which the Cyclopes built for Pluto and the Queen of Hell. Here must we offer the gift of the bough of gold.” And this being accomplished, they came to the dwellings of[463] the righteous. Here are green spaces, with woods about them; and the light of their heaven is fuller and brighter than that which men behold. Another sun they have and other stars. Some of them contend together in wrestling and running; and some dance in measure, singing the while a pleasant song; and Orpheus, clad in a long robe, makes music, touching his harp, now with his fingers and now with an ivory bow. Here did Æneas marvel to see the mighty men of old, such as were Ilus, and Dardanus, builder of Troy. Their spears stood fixed in the earth, and their horses fed about the plain; for they love spear and chariot and horses; even as they loved them upon earth. And others sat and feasted, sitting on the grass in a sweet-smelling grove of bay, whence flows the river which men upon the earth call the Po. Here were they who had died for their country, and holy priests, and poets who had uttered nothing base, and such as had found out witty inventions, or had done great good to men. All these had snow-white garlands on their heads. Then spake the Sibyl to Musæus, who stood in the midst, surpassing them all in stature: “Tell me, happy souls, where shall we find Anchises.” And Musæus answered: “We have no certain dwelling place; but climb this hill, and ye can see the whole plain below, and doubtless him whom ye seek.”

Then they beheld Anchises, where he sat in a green valley, regarding the spirits of those who should be born in after-time of his race. And when he beheld Æneas coming, he stretched out his hands and cried: “Comest thou, my son? Hast thou won[464] thy way hither to me? Even so I thought that it would be, and lo! my hope hath not failed me.”

And Æneas made answer: “Yea, I have come a long way to see thee, even as thy spirit bade me. And now let me embrace thee with my arms.”

But when he would have embraced him it was as if he clasped the air.

Then Æneas looked and beheld a river, and a great company of souls thereby, thick as the bees on a calm summer day in a garden of lilies. And when he would know the meaning of the concourse, Anchises said: “These are souls which have yet to live again in a mortal body, and they are constrained to drink of the water of forgetfulness.” And Æneas said: “Nay, my father, can any desire to take again upon them the body of death?” Then Anchises made reply: “Listen, my son, and I will tell thee all. There is one soul in heaven and earth and the stars and the shining orb of the moon and the great sun himself; from which soul also cometh the life of man and of beast, and of the birds of the air, and of the fishes of the sea. And this soul is of a divine nature, but the mortal body maketh it slow and dull. Hence come fear and desire, and grief and joy, so that, being as it were shut in a prison, the spirit beholdeth not any more the light that is without. And when the mortal life is ended yet are not men quit of all the evils of the body, seeing that these must needs be put away in many marvellous ways. For some are hung up to the winds, and with some their wickedness is washed out by water, or burnt out with fire. But a ghostly pain we all endure. Then we that are found worthy are sent[465] unto Elysium and the plains of the blest. And when, after many days, the soul is wholly pure, it is called to the river of forgetfulness, that it may drink thereof, and so return to the world that is above.”

Then he led Æneas and the Sibyl to a hill whence they could see the whole company, and regard their faces as they came; and he said: “Come, and I will show thee them that shall come after thee. That youth who leans upon a pointless spear is Silvius, thy youngest child, whom Lavinia shall bear to thee in thy old age. He shall reign in Alba, and shall be the father of kings. And many other kings are there who shall build cities great and famous. Lo! there is Romulus, whom Ilia shall bear to Mars. He shall build Rome, whose empire shall reach to the ends of the earth and its glory to the heaven. Seest thou him with the olive crown about his head and the white beard? That is he who shall first give laws to Rome. And next to him is Tullus, the warrior. And there are the Tarquins; and Brutus, who shall set the people free, aye, and shall slay his own sons when they would be false to their country. See also the Decii; and Torquatus with the cruel axe; and Camillus winning back the standards of Rome. There standeth one who shall subdue Corinth; and there another who shall avenge the blood of Troy upon the race of Achilles. There, too, thou mayest see the Scipios, thunderbolts of war, whom the land of Africa shall fear; and there Regulus, busy in the furrows; and there the Fabii, chiefly him, greatest of the name, who shall save thy country by wise delay. Such, my son, shall be thy children’s[466] children. Others with softer touch shall carve the face of man in marble or mould the bronze; some more skilfully shall plead, or map the skies, or tell the rising of the stars. ’Tis time, man of Rome, to subdue the world. This is thy work, to set the rule of peace over the vanquished, to spare the humble, and to subdue the proud.”

Then he spake again: “Regard him who is the first of all the company of conquerors. He is Marcellus; he shall save the state in the day of trouble, and put to flight Carthaginian and Gaul.”

Then said Æneas, for he chanced to see by his side a youth clad in shining armor, and very fair to look upon, but sad, and with downcast eyes: “Tell me, father, who is this? How noble is he! What a company is about him! But there is a shadow of darkness round his head.”

And Anchises made answer: “O my son, seek not to know the greatest sorrow that shall befall thy children after thee. This youth the Fates shall only show for a brief space to man. Rome would seem too mighty to the gods should he but live! What mourning shall there be for him! What a funeral shalt thou see, O river of Tiber, as thou flowest by the new-made tomb! No youth of the race of Troy shall promise so much as he. Alas! for his righteousness, and truth and valor unsurpassed! O luckless boy, if thou canst haply break thy evil doom thou shalt be a Marcellus. Give handfuls of lilies. I will scatter the bright flowers and pay the idle honors to my grandson’s shade.”

Thus did Anchises show his son things to be, and kindled his soul with desire of glory. Also he[467] showed him what wars he must wage, and how he should endure, or, if it might be, avoid the evils to come.

There are two gates of Sleep, of horn the one, by which true dreams go forth; of ivory the other, by which the false. Then did Anchises send forth his son and the Sibyl by the ivory gate. And Æneas returned to the ships, and making sail came to the cape which was afterwards called Caieta.


By H. L. Havell

While Æneas is on his way from Cumæ to the mouth of Tiber we will take a brief glance at the state of things in Latium, and see what sort of reception is awaiting him there. The King of Latium at this time was Latinus, who drew his descent from Saturn, an ancient pastoral deity of Italy. His daughter, and only child, Lavinia, was betrothed to Turnus, and the match was strongly favored by Amata, queen and wife of Latinus, whose heart had been won by the princely form and high ancestry of the youthful suitor. But just before the arrival of the Trojans strange portents had occurred, which seemed to forbid the union of Lavinia and Turnus. In the central courtyard of the royal palace there was an ancient laurel-tree, found growing on the spot by Latinus when he began to build the city, which was named[468] from this circumstance Laurentum. One morning the whole courtyard was besieged by a buzzing swarm of bees, which settled on the laurel, and hung in a dense cluster from its topmost bough. “A stranger is coming,” declared the seers, “from the same quarter whence flew the bees, and he shall hold sway in this royal citadel.” Another time, when Lavinia was taking part in the sacrifice which was offered at her betrothal, the flame caught her long hair, and in a moment she was wrapped from head to foot in a mysterious fire, which smoked and blazed and roared, but did her no harm. “O king,” proclaimed the seer again, “thy daughter is destined to high renown, but she shall bring on this people a wide-wasting war.”

Alarmed by these portents Latinus went to consult the oracle of Faunus, his father, in the sacred grotto near the burning spring of Albunea, which is the Delphi of Latium. Wrapped in the skins of sheep which had been offered in sacrifice (for so the custom was) he lay all night at the mouth of the cavern. “In the dead vast and middle of the night” he heard a voice which said: “Seek not in Latium a bridegroom for thy daughter; from a distant land there cometh one who shall mingle his blood with thine, and out of that union a race shall arise before which all peoples of the earth shall bow the knee.”

This answer of the oracle was soon noised abroad, and caused throughout Latium a fever of expectation at the moment when the ships of Æneas were first sighted off the coast.



By H. L. Havell

The distant crests of the Apennines are tipped with crimson light; every wind is hushed to rest, and land and sea lie sleeping in the hallowed stillness of the dawn. But hark! the silence is broken by the measured beat of a thousand oars, and into the mouth of Tiber sweeps the Trojan fleet. As if they had been waiting for that signal, a multitude of birds at the same moment burst into song, and all the woods by the river-side ring with melody. Æneas is the first to leap ashore; and soon all his fleet lies moored on the yellow sand.

Under the spreading boughs of an ancient oak sat Æneas with the young Iulus and those next to him in rank. Before them was spread a rustic feast of fruits plucked from the neighboring trees; and flat cakes, hastily prepared with meal and eggs and cheese, served them for dishes. When all their fruit was consumed they finished their meal by devouring the flat squares of cake. “Behold, we are eating our tables!” cried Iulus, laughing; and before he could add another word Æneas laid a warning finger on his lips. “No more, my child,” he said. “Thy words have a deeper meaning than thou deemest. Long ago I heard an oracle from my father, foretelling that in the place where hunger compelled us to devour our tables we should find a settled home and an abiding city. Here, then, our wanderings are at an end.” And thus the prophecy[470] of Celæno, uttered in malice, was brought to a happy fulfilment, and turned into a matter of light jesting by an innocent child.

On the day following Æneas chose out a hundred men from all his company, and sent them as envoys to the court of Latinus. Crowned with olive wreaths, to show that they came in peace, they set forth on their mission, and soon reached the open plain which lies before the gates of Laurentum, where the youth of Latium were assembled for the practice of archery, horsemanship, and other warlike exercises. Here they halted, and sent forward a messenger to announce their coming to the king. Permission being granted, they entered the gates under an escort, and were conducted to the royal palace, which stood on a hill, commanding the city, and surrounded by a hallowed grove. Here they were first ushered into an ante-chamber filled with warlike trophies—chariots and the beaked prows of ships, battle-axes, helmets, shields, and spears; while round the walls were ranged statues of the ancient kings and warriors of Latium. From here, with all due ceremony, they were brought into the presence of the king.

Benign was the face of the venerable Latinus, and gracious were his words, as he gave welcome to his guests. “Children of Dardanus,” he said, “I know both your name and your fame, and ye come not hither as strangers. Whether ye come to this land of set purpose, or driven by adverse winds, I regard you as friends, and in some wise as kinsmen. Was not Dardanus, your ancestor, whose seat is now in heaven, a son of Italy?”


Ilioneus, the leader of the embassy, replied: “Illustrious son of Saturn, it was no accident of wind or weather which brought us to thy shores. Thou knowest—as who doth not, dwell he never so remote from the paths of men?—thou knowest the tempest which gathered at Mycenæ and swept over the plains of Asia. Saved from that deluge and the havoc of our homes we have passed the wide waste of waters, following the voice of Apollo, which called us to the Tuscan Tiber and the cradle of our race. We ask but a little gift—a small plot of earth for our country’s gods to dwell in, and the common boon of water and air. And despise us not, nor think that we come as beggars and outcasts; many are the nations who would have given us an honorable portion in their land and received us as friends and allies, but fate suffered it not. Receive us, then, and take these gifts from the hands of Æneas, a hand never stained by treachery or cowardice. This is the golden goblet from which his sire Anchises was wont to pour the drink-offering; here is the royal robe and the scepter and tiara of Priam; and these vestments were wrought by the hands of noble Trojan dames.”

For a while Latinus sat silent, pondering on the strange event, which seemed to fulfil the oracle of ancient Faunus. This, thought he, is the foreign bridegroom of which the oracle spoke. Presently he raised his head, and answered, with a look of glad assurance: “Trojan, thou hast thy wish; and may the gods speed our designs! I have a daughter who, by many sure tokens, is destined to wed a stranger from a distant country,[472] and, unless my mind deceives me, your King Æneas is called by fate to be her husband. Bid him seek my presence with all speed, and doubt not of his welcome.”

Such was the reply of Latinus; and his actions were as kind as his words.…

Finding that Latinus was not to be shaken in his resolve, Amata gave the reins to her frenzy, and going forth into the city, sped from house to house and poured her tale of wrong into the ears of all whom she met.…

Thus what had begun as a petty brawl soon grew into a regular battle, in which the whole Trojan force found itself confronted by a strong muster from the field of Latium.…

Æneas received an embassy sent by Latinus to ask a truce for the burial of the slain. The envoys were courteously received, and after granting their request Æneas addressed them in terms of grave and dignified remonstrance. “Why,” he asked, “has your king broken faith with me thus, and brought on Trojans and Latins this lamentable war? If Turnus complains that I am robbing him of his promised bride, let him make good his right in single combat, and not sacrifice the lives of thousands in a private quarrel. Tell him that I am ready to meet him when and where he will.”



By H. L. Havell

Turnus had declared himself ready to decide the struggle in single combat with Æneas. The time had now come for him to redeem his pledge. The Latins were beaten and discouraged, and all eyes were fixed upon him as the author and cause of the war. The fiery spirit of the young Rutulian rose under this trial; he sought an interview with Latinus, and bade him send a herald to demand a truce and arrange the preliminaries of his duel with Æneas.

Latinus strove in vain to deter him from his purpose; in vain Amata besought him with tears and prayers not to drive matters to so desperate an issue. Turnus fixed his eyes on the lovely form and blushing features of Lavinia, who was standing a silent witness of the scene, and, carried away by passion, he answered in excited tones: “Urge me no further, dear lady! The die is cast; I have given my word, and cannot draw back now.” Then he called an officer, and sent him with a flag of truce to the Trojan camp, appointing the next day for the encounter which was to settle his claim to the hand of Lavinia and the scepter of Latium.

The fatal day is come, and with the first gleam of light Turnus leaps from his couch and prepares himself for battle. Every tone and gesture of the turbulent Rutulian betray wild exaltation of spirits.[474] “Come,” he cries, seizing a ponderous lance, which quivered like a reed in his powerful grasp, “come, good spear, that hast never failed me yet! To-day thou shalt drink deep of a coward’s blood, and the curled darling of Venus shall stain his scented locks in the dust of Latium.”

On the other side Æneas armed himself with calm confidence, secure in the sense of his lofty mission. The lists were measured, and altars of turf erected for the customary sacrifice. On either side of the field the Trojans and Latins were drawn up in battle array, and the walls of Laurentum were thronged with women and old men, the passive spectators of the approaching combat.

A loud shout from the ranks of the Latins announces that the king is at hand, and soon Latinus appears in the center of the arena, seated in a four-horse car, and wearing his royal crown. Turnus follows close behind, sheathed in complete armor, and drawn by two snow-white steeds. Æneas stands ready to receive them; the victims are brought, the salted meal is sprinkled, and the sacred forelock cut off from the forehead of the victims. Then Æneas lifts up his hands, and makes a solemn appeal to Jupiter and Juno and Mars, and all the powers of earth and sky and sea: “Witness, all ye eternal gods, and hear my vow: if Turnus gains the mastery to-day the Trojans shall go back to Evander’s city, and never bear arms against this realm again; but if, as I hope and believe, Heaven favors my sword, I claim not the sovereignty of Latium, nor seek aught for myself and my people but the right to dwell here in peace as a[475] friend and ally of the old inhabitants.” The oath was solemnly repeated by Latinus and ratified by sacrifice and prayer.

But the combat was not to proceed without interruption. On a lofty hill, known in after days as the Alban Mount, sat Juno, watching the scene with jealous eyes. She observed with pity the pale and downcast face of Turnus, whose courage began to fail him as the fatal moment drew near; and, resolved to make one more effort on his behalf, she went in search of Juturna, a sister of Turnus, who had been raised to divine honors by the special favor of Jove, and made a presiding deity over the fountains and rivers of Latium. “Up, Juturna,” said the goddess, when she had found her sitting pensively by a dear fountain-head; “go help thy brother in his dire need. I can do no more.”

Starting up at the summons Juturna made haste to obey, and a moment after she was standing invisible among the Rutulians who fought under Turnus. By their looks and words she soon perceived that they were ripe for mischief; and putting on the likeness of Camers, a brave warrior, and friend of Turnus, she gave voice to the general sentiment thus: “Are ye not ashamed, Rutulians, that one man should give his life for you all? Shall we, who outnumber the enemy by two to one, sit idly by and see our leader slain and a chain forged for our own necks?”

The words were caught up, and passed from rank to rank; threatening murmurs arose among the Rutulians, and even the Latins began to regret that they had left their fate to be decided by the[476] sword of Turnus. In the midst of this excitement a flight of wild swans was seen passing overhead, pursued by an eagle, who swooped suddenly on one of the finest of the birds, and began to bear him off in his talons. Hereupon the whole troop rallied to the rescue of their comrade, and so belabored and buffeted the robber with their powerful wings that he was compelled to drop his prey and seek safety in flight. “Hear me,” cried Tolumnius, a famous augur, “while I read you the omen. The eagle is Æneas, and the swans who beat him off are ourselves, the free sons of Italy, who will forthwith drive this marauder across the sea again.”

Suiting the action to the word he ran forward, and flung his spear. It flew hissing across the open space which separated the two armies, and struck a tall Arcadian, one of nine brothers, in the side. He fell, mortally wounded, and his brethren, with a cry of rage and grief, seized their weapons, and rushed to avenge him. A general advance now began on both sides; thick and fast flew the javelins; and Latinus left the field in haste to escape from that iron shower.

Æneas made desperate efforts to check the furious passions which were raging around him. Bareheaded and unarmed he flung himself into the thick of the combatants, crying: “Are ye mad, good people? Drop your weapons, and leave me to seal the treaty with the blood of Turnus; his life is now forfeited to me.” While thus he pleaded and protested there came an arrow, shot by an unknown hand, and struck him in the hip.[477] Grievously hurt Æneas was compelled to seek shelter behind a friendly shield, and retired to the rear, leaving the field open to Turnus.

Great was the joy of the fierce Rutulian when he saw his enemy disabled and the bravest of the Trojan leaders withdrawn from the conflict, in anxious attendance on their injured chief. Mounting his car he lashed his coursers to a gallop, and scoured the plain, ravaging the ranks of the Trojans and trampling them down by scores.

Meanwhile Æneas had retreated to the camp, and was standing, surrounded by his friends, with the arrow still planted deep in his flesh. The most skilful leech in the Trojan army was a certain Iapis, whom Apollo had loved in his youth, and offered to endow with his own gifts as archer, harper, and seer; but he, that he might prolong the life of his father, who was sick unto death, chose rather to learn the virtues of healing herbs and all the physician’s lore. He now arrived, in answer to a hasty summons, and employed all his skill to draw the barbed arrow from the wound. But all his efforts were in vain; the arrow clung fast, and refused to stir. Louder and louder grew the roar of battle; nearer and nearer came the dense columns of the enemy, and their javelins began to fall thick in the very center of the camp.

Venus saw her son’s dire strait, and came to his aid, bearing in her hand a bunch of dittany, a plant of wondrous healing powers, with downy leaves and purple flower, often cropped by the wild goats when they are wounded by the hunter’s shaft. Unseen of any Venus drew near, and[478] dropped the magic herb into the vessel containing the water with which Iapis was bathing the wound. The leech, all unknowing, continued his ministrations; and instantly, at the first touch of that powerful remedy, all pain departed, the flow of blood was stanched, and the arrow dropped harmless to the ground. “This is no work of my skill,” said Iapis in a voice full of awe; “the hand of a god has been here.” Completely healed, with all his pristine vigor restored, Æneas resumed his armor, and kissing Iulus, who was standing near, he seized his spear, and charged into the thickest of the fight, followed close by the other Trojan chiefs.

Juturna saw him coming, and, trembling for her brother’s life, she approached the car of Turnus, and flinging Metiscus, his charioteer, in the dust, herself put on his likeness, and seized the reins. Driven now by no mortal hand, the car flew hither and thither with miraculous speed, wheeling and darting in giddy circles, like a swallow pursuing her tiny prey. Æneas panted in pursuit, scorning every other foe, with eye and foot and hand all directed against Turnus, and Turnus alone; now he seemed to be gaining, and pressed forward, calling on his enemy to stand; and the next moment his prey was snatched from his grasp, like a hare doubling to avoid the fangs of a hound. Messapus, seeing him absorbed in the chase, and thinking to catch him unawares, flung a javelin, and struck off the plumes from his helmet. Then at last Æneas gave reins to his anger, and, abandoning the pursuit of Turnus, fell upon the foes who[479] were nearest, and strewed the field with indiscriminate carnage.

Thus fate for the moment kept the two rivals apart, and they fought in different parts of the field, like devastating fires which fall upon a forest from opposite quarters, wasting the timber, till with a roar they meet. At length Æneas paused from the work of destruction, and, glancing backward at the city, saw the walls feebly manned and the path to the gates lying open. Such an opportunity was not to be neglected. Hastily summoning those next to himself in command he pointed to the walls, and said: “There is the point at which we must strike, and that speedily. If the Latins will not confess themselves beaten, this day I will raze their city to the ground. Gather your men, and prepare to carry the place by storm.”

Wild was the dismay among the inhabitants of Laurentum when they saw the Trojans and Tuscans advancing in full force, with scaling ladders, battering-rams, and torches, to the assault. Some rushed to the battlements, determined to resist to the last; others cried that the gates must be opened to the enemy; and a third party broke into the palace, and dragged the unhappy Latinus into the streets, vowing that they would hand him over to the vengeance of Æneas. All was panic, confusion, and uproar, as in a nest of wild bees smoked to death by a shepherd who seeks to rifle their store. In the midst of this disorder an event occurred which gave the last blow to those who still favored the cause of Turnus. When the queen saw the approaching attack on[480] the city she at once concluded that Turnus had fallen, and, full of remorse for the part which she had played, she went and hanged herself from a high beam in her chamber.


By H. L. Havell

Turnus, whose car was still driven by the disguised Juturna, had been carried in pursuit of some straggling Trojans to the farthest verge of the plain. Suddenly his ears were caught by a wild, tumultuous cry from the distant city, and, laying his hand on the reins, he brought the chariot to a stand. “Why haltest thou?” asked the pretended Metiscus. “Leave thy comrades to defend the walls, and continue the work of slaughter here, where there is none to oppose thee.” Turnus answered: “Sister, I knew thee from the first, and recognized thy hand in all the wild havoc of this day. But vain are all thy labors; Heaven is against me, and I must bow to the will of fate. I have seen all the noblest of my comrades slain before my eyes; shall I suffer this royal city to be given up to fire and slaughter for my sake? Shall I play coward, and make my name a byword for Drances and his crew? No, if Heaven is against me, be ye at least with me, ye noble spirits of the dead! Prepare to receive me, a stainless soul, worthy to be numbered among the mightiest of my line.”


Scarcely had he spoken when a Rutulian horseman, wounded in the face by an arrow, came galloping towards him, shouting: “Turnus, what doest thou here? Thou art our last hope and refuge; the city is beset, Amata has died by her own hand; but few of thy friends remain to keep up a desperate defence. Come quickly, for dire is the need.” As if to give point to his words, at this very moment the flames were seen leaping from a huge wooden tower built on a projection of the walls. For a while Turnus stood as if stupefied, overcome by the conflicting passions which surged within him. Then, collecting himself with a strong effort, he said: “’Tis enough; my fate calls me, and I obey. Let me strike one good blow first, and then let death take his due.” Thereupon he sprang from the chariot, and, running at full speed, broke his way through the fighting lines, like a great boulder sapped in its foundations by the winter rains and toppled from a mountain’s crest. “Make way,” he cried; “drop your weapons, ye Rutulians and Latins. This is my quarrel, not yours, and I am come to pay the price.”

Both sides fell back, and left an open space for the final encounter between the two great champions. “At last!” murmured Æneas as he came towering on, and took his stand, “like Teneriffe or Atlas unremoved,” face to face with his giant foe. First they flung their spears, and, these not taking effect, they drew their swords, and engaged hand to hand. Loud clashed the steel, and a stream of lightning seemed to play about[482] their heads, so fast and furious were the strokes. Like two bulls fighting for the sovereignty of the herd, while the kine stand lowing near, so strove the Italian and the Trojan for the mastery, foot to foot and shield to shield. At length Turnus lifted high his sword, and, coming down with the whole weight of his body, discharged a tremendous blow at the crest of Æneas. The weapon belonged to Metiscus, his charioteer, and he had snatched it up in mistake for his own good blade, which had been tempered by the hand of Vulcan himself. And now the faithless sword proved its mortal temper, and was shivered to the hilt like glass. With a bitter curse the Rutulian turned his back, and fled, and Æneas followed close, though still somewhat disabled by his recent wound. Hither and thither they sped, pursuer and pursued, as a keen hound chases the flying deer, brought to bay by a high rocky mountain-side; the stag wheels and doubles, and the hound’s jaws close with a snap, as his quarry eludes him again.

Turnus shouted to his comrades, imploring them to bring his sword, but Æneas warned them off with threatening gestures; and so the race went on, which was run for no common stake, but for the very life blood of Turnus.

When Æneas flung his spear at the beginning of the duel the weapon had sunk deep into the stump of an olive-tree; the tree itself, which was sacred to Faunus, had been felled by the Trojans, and rolled out of the way, on the morning before the battle. Catching sight of the spear as he ran past in pursuit of Turnus, Æneas paused, and[483] strove to tear it out. In wild terror Turnus watched his efforts, and cried: “Faunus, god of my fathers, hold the weapon fast, and preserve thy worshiper!” Faunus heard his prayer, and kept the iron point close pinned in the knotted roots of his sacred tree; and while Æneas was still tugging and straining at the shaft, Juturna, again disguised as Metiscus, ran up to Turnus, and gave him back his sword. Thereupon Venus, angered by the presumption of the nymph, drew near in her turn, wrenched out the lance, and handed it to her son. Their weapons thus restored the champions stood face to face once more, prepared to renew the battle.

But the end was now at hand. Jove sat watching the rival warriors, and weary that the inevitable issue should be so long delayed he thus addressed his haughty consort: “Juno, how long must I suffer thee to thwart my high purpose? Thou knowest that it is in vain. Surely thy hate should now be satisfied, after so many years in which thy malice has ranged unchecked and strewn the path of Æneas with death and disaster. The word must now be spoken: Cease; I forbid thee to go further.” Juno answered humbly: “Be it so! I also am weary of the fray, and will resist no more. One thing only I ask, which fate forbids thee not to grant: when the two peoples have united into one, let the language and the dress and the customs of Italy survive, and let the whole nation be called the Latins. Troy has perished; let her name perish also.” Jove smiled indulgently as he replied: “True daughter of Saturn, still unappeasable[484] in thine ire, it shall be as thou sayest. Latins they shall be called, and they shall be thy people, mighty in word and deed, and laud and honor thy name for ever.”

The old quarrel thus happily concluded, Jove prepared to end the conflict between Æneas and Turnus. Close by his throne two hideous warders lie couched day and night, sisters of the Furies, and armed with the same attributes of terror, with serpent tresses, and windy wings. One of these the monarch of heaven sent to warn Juturna that she must leave her brother’s side. Like a poisoned arrow shot from a Parthian’s bow the daughter of Night sped down to earth, and as she came in sight of the Trojan and Latin armies, she took the shape of that ill-omened bird who sits among tombs and ruined towers, and sends her moaning cry through the darkness. In such shape the fiend dashed herself against the face of Turnus, and buffeted his shield with her wings.

Turnus was paralyzed with horror; his hair bristled, and the passage of his voice was choked. But when Juturna heard the beating of those fatal pinions she tore her hair, and beat her breast, knowing that her brother’s hour was come. “Turnus, I can do no more,” she cried. “Would that I might die with thee! But, alas! Jove has made me immortal, and doomed me to eternal sorrow.” Then, veiling her face in her azure mantle, the nymph left the battlefield, and sat rocking herself in anguish by the river-side.

Æneas came on, brandishing his massy spear, and crying: “Now at last thou art delivered into[485] my hands, unless thou canst fly up to heaven or dig thee a burrow in the earth.” “Thy words have no terrors for me,” replied Turnus, “but much I fear that Heaven is against me.” And without more words he looked round him, and saw a huge ancient stone, set up long ago as a boundary mark. Stooping he caught up the ponderous mass, which scarce twelve men could lift, as men are in our times; with one hand he heaved it above his head, and poised and flung it, running at full speed. It was his last effort, and he felt as he made it that his powers were failing. The stone fell short, and Turnus stood gazing, struck with a strange impotence, like one in a trance; the whole scene swam before his eyes, woods, hills, and city walls, and the faces of his friends, like visions in a fevered dream.

While thus he faltered Æneas poised his lance, took steady aim and flung. Like some vast missile hurled by a siege engine the giant spear rushed to its mark, pierced through the lower edge of the sevenfold shield, and, rending the border of the corslet with a grating sound, transfixed the middle of his thigh. A deep groan went up from the ranks of the Rutulians when they saw their young hero lying, helpless and bleeding, on the sand.

With hands outstretched and eyes imploring mercy Turnus uttered this humble prayer: “Thou hast conquered; Lavinia is thine; now pity my father’s gray hairs, and give him back his son, or if thou must have my life at least restore my body to him for burial.” Æneas paused, lowering[486] his sword and rolling his eyes, in doubt whether to strike or spare; and pity began to prevail more and more in his heart when his gaze fastened on the fatal belt, which Turnus had won from the youthful Pallas, and was wearing on his shoulder. Then grief and anger blazed up in his soul, and he cried in a terrible voice: “Wretch, dost thou ask for mercy with that emblem of sorrow on thy breast? Pallas, Pallas claims thee as his victim, and cries aloud for thy guilty blood.”

The avenging steel was lifted, and flashed, and fell; and that mighty frame lay shuddering in death, while his soul, indignant, fled moaning to the shades.







By Alfred J. Church

Æneas of Troy, coming to the land of Italy, took to wife Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus, and built him a city, which he called Lavinium, after the name of his wife. And, after thirty years, his son Ascanius went forth from Lavinium with much people, and built him a new city, which he called Alba. In this city reigned kings of the house and lineage of Æneas for twelve generations. Of these kings the eleventh in descent was one Procas, who, having two sons, Numitor and Amulius, left his kingdom, according to the custom, to Numitor, the elder. But Amulius drave out his brother, and reigned in his stead. Nor was he content with this wickedness, but slew all the male children of his brother. And the daughter of his brother, that was named Rhea Silvia, he chose to be a priestess of Vesta, making as though he would do the maiden honor, but his thought was that the name of his brother should perish, for they that serve Vesta are vowed to perpetual virginity.

But it came to pass that Rhea bare twin sons, whose father, it was said, was the god Mars. Very wroth was Amulius when he heard this thing; Rhea he made fast in prison, and the children he gave to certain of his servants that they should cast them[490] into the river. Now it chanced that at this season Tiber had overflowed his banks, neither could the servants come near to the stream of the river; nevertheless they did not doubt that the children would perish, for all that the overflowing of the water was neither deep nor of a swift current. Thinking then that they had duly performed the commandment of the king, they set down the babes in the flood and departed. But after a while the flood abated, and left the basket wherein the children had been laid on dry ground. And a she-wolf, coming down from the hill to drink at the river (for the country in those days was desert and abounding in wild beasts), heard the crying of the children and ran to them. Nor did she devour them, but gave them suck; nay, so gentle was she that Faustulus, the king’s shepherd, chancing to go by, saw that she licked them with her tongue. This Faustulus took the children and gave them to his wife to rear; and these, when they were of age to go by themselves, were not willing to abide with the flocks and herds, but were hunters, wandering through the forests that were in those parts. And afterward, being now come to full strength, they were not content to slay wild beasts only, but would assail troops of robbers, as these were returning laden with their booty, and would divide the spoils among the shepherds. Now there was held in those days, on the hill that is now called the Palatine, a yearly festival to the god Pan. This festival King Evander first ordained, having come from Arcadia, in which land, being a land of shepherds, Pan that is the god of shepherds is greatly honored. And[491] when the young men and their company (for they had gathered a great company of shepherds about them, and led them in all matters both of business and of sport) were busy with the festival, there came upon them certain robbers that had made an ambush in the place, being very wroth by reason of the booty which they had lost. These laid hands on Remus, but Romulus they could not take, so fiercely did he fight against them. Remus, therefore, they delivered up to King Amulius, accusing him of many things and chiefly of this, that he and his companions had invaded the land of Numitor, dealing with them in the fashion of an enemy and carrying off much spoil. To Numitor, therefore, did the king deliver Remus, that he might put him to death. Now Faustulus had believed from the beginning that the children were of the royal house, for he knew that the babes had been cast into the river by the king’s command, and the time also of his finding them agreed thereto. Nevertheless he had not judged it expedient to open the matter before due time, but waited till occasion or necessity should arise. But now, there being such necessity, he opened the matter to Romulus. Numitor also, when he had the young man Remus in his custody, knowing that he and his brother were twins, and that the time agreed, and seeing that they were of a high spirit, bethought him of his grandsons; and, indeed, having asked many questions of Remus, was come nigh to knowing of what race he was. And now also Romulus was ready to help his brother. To come openly with his whole company he dared not, for he was not a match for[492] the power of King Amulius; but he bade sundry shepherds make their way to the palace, each as best he could, appointing to them a time at which they should meet. And now came Remus also, with a troop of youths gathered together from the household of Numitor. Then did Romulus and Remus slay King Amulius. In the meanwhile Numitor gathered the youth of Alba to the citadel, crying out that they must make the place safe, for that the enemy was upon them; but when he perceived that the young men had done the deed, forthwith he called an assembly of the citizens, and set forth to them the wickedness which his brother had wrought against him, and how his grandsons had been born and bred and made known to him, and then, in order, how the tyrant had been slain, himself having counselled the deed. When he had so spoken the young men came with their company into the midst of the assembly, and saluted him as King; to which thing the whole multitude agreeing with one consent, Numitor was established upon the throne.

After this Romulus and his brother conceived this purpose, that, leaving their grandfather to be king at Alba, they should build for themselves a new city in the place where, having been at the first left to die, they had been brought up by Faustulus the shepherd. And to this purpose many agreed both of the men of Alba and of the Latins, and also of the shepherds that had followed them from the first, holding it for certain all of them that Alba and Lavinium would be of small account in comparison of this new city which they should build[493] together. But while the brothers were busy with these things, there sprang up afresh the same evil thing which had before wrought such trouble in their house, even the lust of power. For though the beginnings of the strife between them were peaceful, yet did it end in great wickedness. The matter fell out in this wise. Seeing that the brothers were twins, and that neither could claim to have the preference to the other in respect of his age, it was agreed between them that the gods that were the guardians of that country should make known by means of augury which of the two they chose to give his name to the new city. Then Romulus stood on the Palatine hill, and when there had been marked out for him a certain region of the sky, watched therein for a sign; and Remus watched in like manner, standing on the Aventine. And to Remus first came a sign, six vultures; but so soon as the sign had been proclaimed there came another to Romulus, even twelve vultures. Then they that favored Remus clamored that the gods had chosen him for king, because he had first seen the birds; and they that favored Romulus answered that he was to be preferred because he had seen more in number. This dispute waxed so hot that they fell to fighting; and in the fight it chanced that Remus was slain. But some say that when Romulus had marked out the borders of the town which he would build, and had caused them to build a wall round it, Remus leapt over the wall, scorning it because it was mean and low; and that Romulus slew him, crying out, “Thus shall every man perish that shall dare to leap over my walls.” Only others will have[494] it that though he perished for this cause Romulus slew him not, but a certain Celer. This much is certain, that Romulus gained the whole kingdom for himself and called the city after his own name.

After this the people bethought themselves how they should get for themselves wives, for there were no women in the place. Wherefore Romulus sent ambassadors to the nations round about, praying that they should give their daughters to his people for wives. “Cities,” he said, “have humble beginnings even as all other things. Nevertheless they that have the gods and their own valor to help become great. Now that the gods are with us, as ye know, be assured also that valor shall not be wanting.” But the nations round about would not hearken to him, thinking scorn of this gathering of robbers and slaves and runaways, so that they said, “Why do ye not open a sanctuary for women also that so ye may find fit wives for your people?” Also they feared for themselves and their children what this new city might grow to. Now when the ambassadors brought back this answer the Romans were greatly wroth, and would take by force that which their neighbors would not give of their free will. And to the end that they might do this more easily, King Romulus appointed certain days whereon he and his people would hold a festival with games to Neptune; and to this festival he called all them that dwelt in the cities round about. But when many were gathered together (for they were fain to see what this new city might be), and were now wholly bent on the spectacle of the games, the young men of the Romans ran in upon[495] them, and carried off all such as were unwedded among the women. To these King Romulus spake kindly, saying, “The fault is not with us but with your fathers, who dealt proudly with us, and would not give you to us in marriage. But now ye shall be held in all honor as our wives, and shall have your portion of all that we possess. Put away therefore your anger, for ye shall find us so much the better husbands than other men, as we must be to you not for husbands only but parents also and native country.”

After this, King Tatius and the Sabines came up against Rome with a great army. And first of all they gained the citadel by treachery in this manner. One Tarpeius was governor of the citadel, whose daughter, Tarpeia by name, going forth from the walls to fetch water for a sacrifice, took money from the king that she should receive certain of the soldiers within the citadel; but when they had been so received, the men cast their shields upon her, slaying her with the weight of them. This they did either that they might be thought to have taken the place by force, or that they judged it to be well that no faith should be kept with traitors. Some also tell this tale, that the Sabines wore great bracelets of gold on their left arms, and on their left hands fair rings with precious stones therein, and that when the maiden covenanted with them that she should have for a reward that which they carried in their left hands, they cast their shields upon her. And others say that she asked for their shields, having the purpose to betray them, and for this cause was slain.


Thus the Sabines had possession of the citadel; and the next day King Romulus set the battle in array on the plain that lay between the hill of the Capitol and the hill of the Palatine. And first the Romans were very eager to recover the citadel, a certain Hostilius being their leader. But when this man, fighting in the forefront of the battle, was slain, the Romans turned their backs and fled before the Sabines, even unto the gate of the Palatine. Then King Romulus (for he himself had been carried away by the crowd of them that fled) held up his sword and his spear to the heavens, and cried aloud, “O Jupiter, here in the Palatine didst thou first, by the tokens which thou sentest me, lay the foundations of my city. And lo! the Sabines have taken the citadel by wicked craft, and have crossed the valley, and are come up even hither. But if thou sufferest them so far, do thou at the least defend this place against them, and stay this shameful flight of my people. So will I build a temple for thee in this place, even a temple of Jupiter the Stayer, that may be a memorial to after generations of how thou didst this day save this city.” And when he had so spoken, even as though he knew that the prayer had been heard, he cried, “Ye men of Rome, Jupiter bids you stand fast in this place and renew the battle.” And when the men of Rome heard these words, it was as if a voice from heaven had spoken to them, and they stood fast, and the king himself went forward and stood among the foremost. Now the leader of the Sabines was one Curtius. This man, as he drave the Romans before him, cried out to his comrades, “See,[497] we have conquered these men, false hosts and feeble foes that they are! Surely now they know that it is one thing to carry off maidens and another to fight with men.” But whilst he boasted himself thus, King Romulus and a company of the youth rushed upon him. Now Curtius was fighting on horseback, and being thus assailed he fled, plunging into a certain pool which lay between the Palatine hill and the Capitol. Thus did he barely escape with his life, and the lake was called thereafter Curtius’ pool. And now the Sabines began to give way to the Romans, when suddenly the women for whose sake they fought, having their hair loosened and their garments rent, ran in between them that fought, crying out, “Shed ye not each other’s blood ye that are fathers-in-law and sons-in-law to each other. But if ye break this bond that is between you, slay us that are the cause of this trouble. And surely it were better for us to die than to live if we be bereaved of our fathers or of our husbands.” With these words they stirred the hearts both of the chiefs and of the people, so that there was suddenly made a great silence. And afterward the leaders came forth to make a covenant; and these indeed so ordered matters that there was not peace only, but one state where there had been two. For the Sabines came to Rome and dwelt there; and King Romulus and King Tatius reigned together. Only, after a while, certain men of Lanuvium slew King Tatius as he was sacrificing to the gods at Lavinium; and thereafter Romulus only was king as before.

When he had reigned thirty and seven years[498] there befell the thing that shall now be told. On a certain day he called the people together on the field of Mars, and held a review of his army. But while he did this there arose suddenly a great storm with loud thunderings and very thick clouds, so that the king was hidden away from the eyes of all the people. Nor indeed was he ever again seen upon the earth.

And now it was needful that another king should be chosen. No man in those days was more renowned for his righteousness and piety than a certain Numa Pompilius that dwelt at Cures in the land of the Sabines. Now it seemed at first to the Senate that the Sabines would be too powerful in the state if the king should be chosen from among them, nevertheless because they could not agree upon any other man, at last with one consent they decreed that the kingdom should be offered to him. And Numa was willing to receive it if only the gods consented. And the consent of the gods was asked in this fashion. Being led by the augur into the citadel, he sat down on a stone with his face looking toward the south, and on his left hand sat the augur, having his head covered and in his hand an augur’s staff, which is a wand bent at the end and having no knot. Then looking toward the city and the country round about, he offered prayers to the gods and marked out the region of the sky from the sunrising to the sunsetting; the parts toward the south he called the right; and the parts toward the north he called the left; and he set a boundary before as far as his eye could reach. After this he took his staff in his left hand and laid[499] his right on the head of Numa, praying in these words: “Father Jupiter, if it be thy will that this Numa Pompilius, whose head I hold, should be King of Rome, show us, I pray thee, clear tokens of this thy will within the space which I have marked out.” He then named the tokens which he desired, and when they had been shown, Numa was declared to be king.

Many other things did King Numa set in order for his people. First he divided the year into twelve months, each month being according to the course of the moon, and in every twenty-fourth year another month, that the year might so agree with the course of the sun. Also he appointed certain lawful days for business, and other days on which nothing might be done. He made priests also, of whom the chief was the priest of Jupiter, to whom he gave splendid apparel and a chair of ivory. Two other priests he made, one of Mars, and the other of Quirinus, that is to say, of Romulus the god. And he chose virgins for the service of Vesta, who should keep alive the sacred fire, and twelve priests of Mars, whom he called the Salii, to be keepers of the sacred shield. (This shield, men said, fell down from heaven, and that it might be kept the more safely, King Numa commanded that they should make eleven other shields like unto it.) This shield and its fellows the Salii were to carry through the city, having on flowered tunics and breastplates of brass, and dancing and singing hymns. And many other things as to the worship of the gods, and the interpreting of signs, and the dealing with marvels and portents, King Numa[500] set in order. And that the people might regard these laws and customs with the more reverence, he gave out that he had not devised them of his own wit, but that he had learnt them from a certain goddess whose name was Egeria, whom he was wont to meet in a grove that was hard by the city.

King Numa died, having reigned forty and three years; and the people chose in his room one Tullus Hostilius.


By Alfred J. Church

King Tullus Hostilius, being newly come to the throne, looked about for an occasion of war; for the Romans had now for a long time been at peace. Now it chanced that in those days the men of Rome and the men of Alba had a quarrel, the one against the other, the country folk being wont to cross the border and to plunder their neighbors; and that ambassadors were sent from either city to seek restitution of such things as had been carried off. King Tullus said to his ambassador, “Delay not to do your business so soon as ye shall be come to Alba”; knowing that the men of Alba would certainly refuse to deliver up the things, and thinking that he could thus with a good conscience proclaim war against them. As for the ambassadors of Alba, when they were come to Rome, they made no haste about their business, but ate and drank, the king entertaining them with much courtesy and kindness. While therefore they[501] feasted with him, there came back the ambassadors of Rome telling the king how they had made demand for the things carried off, and when the men of Alba had refused to deliver them, had declared war within the space of thirty days. Which when the king heard, he called to him the ambassadors of Alba, and said to them, “Wherefore are ye come to Rome? Set forth now your mission.” Then the men, not knowing what had befallen, began to make excuse, saying, “We would not willingly say aught that should displease the king, but we are constrained by them that have sent us thither. We are come to ask for the things that your country folk have carried off. And, if ye will not deliver them up, we are bidden to declare war against you.” To this Tullus made answer, “Now do I call to the gods to witness that ye men of Alba first refused to repair the thing that has been done amiss, and I pray them that they will bring all the blood of this war upon your heads.” And with this message the men of Alba went home.

After this the two cities made great preparations for war. And because the men of Troy had built Lavinium, from which some going forth had set up the city of Alba, and from the royal house of Alba had come the founder of Rome, it was as though the children would fight against their fathers. Yet it came not to this, the matter being finished without a battle. The men of Alba first marched into the land of the Romans, having with them a very great army, and pitched their camp five miles from the city, digging about it a deep ditch. But while they lay in this camp their King[502] Cluilius died, and a certain Mettus was made dictator in his room. Which when King Tullus heard, he became very bold, saying that the gods had smitten Cluilius for his wrong-doing, and would smite also the whole people of Alba. Whereupon he marched into the land of the Albans, leaving the enemy’s camp to one side. And when these also had come forth against him, and the two armies were now drawn up in battle array, the one against the other, there came a messenger to King Tullus, saying that Mettus of Alba desired to have speech with him, having that to say to him which concerned the Romans not less than the men of Alba. Nor did King Tullus refuse to hear him, though indeed battle had pleased him better than speech. So when the king and certain nobles with him had gone forth into the open space that was between the two armies, and Mettus also with his companions had come to the same place, this last spake, saving, “I have heard King Cluilius that is dead affirm that your wrong-doing, ye men of Rome, in that ye would not deliver up the things that had been carried off, was the cause of this war; nor do I doubt but that thou, King Tullus, hast the same quarrel against us. Yet if we would speak that which is true rather than that which has a fair show, we should, I doubt not, confess that we, though we be both kinsmen and neighbors, are driven into this war by the lust of power. Now I say not whether this be just or no. Let others look to this; for I am not king of Alba, but captain of the host only. Yet there is a matter which I would fain call to thy mind, king. Thou knowest the Etruscans,[503] how mighty they are both by land and sea; for indeed they are nearer by far to thee at Rome than to us at Alba. Bethink thee, therefore, how, when thou shalt give the signal of battle between thy army and our army, the same Etruscans will look on, rejoicing to see us fight together; and how, when the battle is ended, they will fall upon us, having us at disadvantage; for of a truth, whether ye or we prevail, we shall have but little strength remaining to us. If therefore we be not content with the freedom that we have, but must needs set on the chance of a die whether we shall be masters or servants, let us devise some way by which the one may win dominion over the other without great loss and shedding of blood.” Now King Tullus was a great warrior, and would willingly have fought, being confident that he and his people would prevail; nevertheless the thing that Mettus of Alba had said pleased him. And when they came to consider the matter, there seemed by good fortune to be a way ready to their hands. There were in the army of Alba three brothers that had been born at one birth, whose name was Curiatius. And in the army of the Romans there were other three and these born likewise at one birth, whose name was Horatius. Nor was there much difference in respect either of age or of strength between the brothers of Alba and the brothers of Rome. Then King Tullus and Mettus of Alba called for the brothers, and inquired of them whether they were willing to fight each three for their own country, agreement being first made that that people should bear rule forever whose champions should prevail in the[504] battle. And as the young men were willing, a place was appointed for the battle and a time also. But first there was made a treaty in this fashion, for the fashion of making treaties is the same always, though their conditions be different. The herald said, “Wilt thou, King Tullus, that I make a treaty with the minister of the people of Alba?” And when the king answered “Yea,” the herald said, “I will that thou give me the sacred herbs.” Then the king made reply, “Take them, and see that they be clean.” So the herald took them clean from the hill of the citadel. Having done this, he said to the king, “Dost thou appoint me to do the pleasure of the people of Rome, me and my implements and my attendants with me?” And the king answered, “So that it be without damage to the people of Rome.” Then the herald appointed one Spurius to be minister that he should take the oath, and touched his hair with the sacred herbs. And when Spurius had taken the oath, and the conditions of the treaty had been read aloud, he spake, saying, “Hear thou, Jupiter, and thou also, minister of the people of Alba, and ye men of Alba; as these conditions have been duly read aloud this day from the beginning even to the end from these tables, and after the interpretation by which they may be the most easily understood, even so shall the Roman people abide by them. And if this people, acting by common consent, shall falsely depart from them, then do thou, O Jupiter, smite the Roman people, even as I shall smite this swine to-day. And smite them by so much the more strongly as thou art stronger than I.” And when he had said this he[505] smote the swine with a knife of stone. The men of Alba also took the oath, and confirmed it after their own fashion. These things having been thus ordered, the champions made them ready for battle. And first their fellows exhorted them severally in many words, saying that the gods of their country, their countrymen also and kinsfolk, whether they tarried at home or stood in the field, regarded their arms that day; and afterward they went forth into the space that lay between the two armies. And these sat and watched them before their camps, being quit indeed of the peril of battle, but full of care how the matter should end, seeing that so great things, even sovereignty and freedom, should be decided by the valor and good luck of so few men. Then the signal of battle being given, the three met the three with such courage and fierceness as though there were a whole army on either side. And as their swords rang against each other and flashed, all men trembled to see, and could scarcely speak or breathe for fear of what should happen. And for a while, in so narrow a space did the men fight, nought could be seen but how they swayed to and fro, and how the blood ran down upon the ground. But afterward it was plain to see that of the three Romans two were fallen dead upon the ground, and that of the three champions of Alba each man was wounded. At this sight the Alban host shouted for joy, but the men of Rome had no more any hope but only fear to think what should befall their one champion that had now three enemies against him. Now, by good luck, it had so fallen out that this one had received no wound,[506] so that, though he was no match for the three together, he did not doubt but that he should prevail over them severally one by one. Wherefore, that he might so meet them, dividing them the one from the other, he made a feint to fly, thinking that they would follow him each as quickly as his wound might suffer him. And so it fell out. For when he had fled now no small space from the ground where they had fought at the first, he saw, looking behind him, that the three were following him at a great distance one from the other, and that one was very near to himself. Then he turned himself and ran fiercely upon the man; and behold even while the men of Alba cried aloud to the two that they should help their brother, he had slain him, and was now running toward the second. And when the men of Rome saw what had befallen, they set up a great shout, as men are wont when they have good luck beyond their hopes; and their champion made such haste to do his part that or ever the third of the Alban three could come up, though indeed he was close at hand, he had slain the second also. And now, seeing that there remained one only on either side, there was in some sort an equality, yet were the two not equal either in hope or in strength. For the champion of Rome had suffered no wound, and having overcome his foes now once and again was full of courage; but the champion of Alba being now spent with his wound, and wearied also with running, was as it were vanquished already. Nor indeed was there a battle between the two; for the Roman cried, “One and another of my foes I have offered to the spirits of my brothers; but this[507] third will I offer to the cause for which we have fought this day, even that Rome may have the dominion over Alba.” And when the champion of Alba could now scarce bear up his shield, he stood over and ran his sword downward into his throat. Afterward as the man lay dead upon the ground, he spoiled him of his arms. Then did the men of Rome receive their champion with much rejoicing, having all the more gladness because they had been in so great fear. Afterward each host set themselves to bury their dead, whose tombs remain to this day, each in the spot where he fell, for the two Romans are buried in one sepulcher nearer to Alba, and the three champions of Alba as you go toward Rome, but with somewhat of space between them, even as they fought.

And now the men of Rome went back to the city, and Horatius went before them, carrying the spoils of the three whom he had slain. But at the Capene gate there met him his sister, who was betrothed to one of the champions of Alba; and when the maiden saw upon his shoulders the cloak of her betrothed (and indeed she had wrought it with her own hands) she tore her hair and cried to the dead man by name with a lamentable voice. But Horatius was wroth to hear the words of mourning on the day when he had won so great a victory and the people rejoiced; and he drew his sword and slew the maiden, crying, “Depart hence to thy lover with the love that thou cherishest out of season; thou that forgettest thy brethren that are dead, and thy brother that is yet alive, and thine own people also. So perish whosoever shall make lamentations[508] for an enemy of Rome.” And when the fathers and the commons saw what was done, they thought it a wicked deed, but remembered what great service the man had newly rendered to Rome. Nevertheless they laid hands on him and took him to the king that he should judge him. But the king being loath to judge such a matter, or to give sentence against the man, said, “I appoint two men as the law commands, who shall judge Horatius for murder.” Now the law was this: “If a man do murder, two men shall judge him; if he appeal against the two, let the appeal be tried; if their sentence be confirmed, ye shall cover his head and scourge him within the walls or without the walls, and hang him by a rope upon the gallows.” Then there were appointed two men according to the law, who affirmed that they could not let the man go free, whether his guilt was small or great, seeing that he had manifestly done the deed. Therefore said one of them, “Publius Horatius, we adjudge thee to be guilty of murder. Go, lictor, bind his hands.” But when the lictor came and was now ready to cast the rope about him, Horatius cried, “I appeal to the people;” for the king himself, being mercifully disposed to him, bade him do so. Then was there a trial before the people, in which that which most wrought upon the hearts of men was that the father of Horatius constantly affirmed that his daughter had been rightly slain. “Nay,” said he, “verily, if the young man had not slain her, I had used against him my right as a father, and had condemned him to die.” Then again he besought them that they should not leave him desolate and[509] bereaved of his children, he who but the day before had had so fair a stock. Afterward, throwing his arms about the young man, he stretched out his hands to the spoils of the Curiatii, crying, “Will ye endure, men of Rome, to see him bound under the gallows and beaten with stripes whom ye beheld but yesterday adorned with these spoils and rejoicing in his victory? Not so. Surely the men of Alba themselves had not borne to see such a sight. Go, lictor, bind his hands, though but yesterday they won so great a dominion for the people of Rome. Go, cover the head of him that made this people free; hang him upon the accursed tree; scourge him, whether within the walls, so that thou do it among the spoils of them that he slew, or without the walls, so that it be near to the sepulchers of the champions of Alba. Whither can ye take this youth that the memorials of his valor shall not save him from so foul a punishment?” And when the people saw the tears of the old man, and bethought them also what great courage the youth had shown in danger, they could not endure to condemn him; but regarding his valor rather than the goodness of his cause, let him go free. Only, because the deed had been so manifest, a command was laid upon the father that he should make a trespass offering for his son at the public charge. Then the father, having made certain sacrifices of expiation—which are performed to this day in the house of Horatius—set up a beam across the way and covered his son’s head, and led him beneath it. As for the maiden, they built her tomb of hewn stone in the place where she was slain.


Now the men of Alba were wroth to think that the fortunes of the whole people had been thus trusted to the hands of three soldiers; and Mettus, being of an unstable mind, was led away to evil in his desire to do them a pleasure. And as before he had sought for peace when others were desirous of war, so now he desired war when others were minded to be at peace. But because he knew that the men of Alba were not able of their own strength to do that which they desired, he stirred up certain others of the nations round about, that they should make war openly against Rome. As for himself and his people, he purposed that they should seem indeed to be friends and allies, but should be ready for treachery when occasion served. Thereupon the men of Fidenæ, being colonists from Rome, and the men of Veii promised that they would make war, and Mettus on his part promised that he would come over to them with his army in the battle. First the men of Fidenæ rebelled, and King Tullus marched against them, bidding Mettus come also with his army, and having crossed the river Anio, pitched his camp where Anio flows into the Tiber. And by this time the men of Veii also had come up with their army, and these were on the right wing next to the river, and the men of Fidenæ on the left, next to the mountains. The ordering of King Tullus was that he and his men should do battle with the men of Veii, and Mettus and the Albans with the men of Fidenæ. Now Mettus, as he was not minded to do right, so had no courage to do wrong boldly; and because he dared not to go over to the enemy, led his men away slowly toward the[511] mountains. Being come thither, he set out his men in battle array, being minded to join them whom he should perceive to prevail. At first the Romans marvelled that Mettus and his men should so depart from them; and after a while they sent a messenger to the king, saying, “The men of Alba have left us.” Then the king knew in his heart that there was treachery, and he vowed that he would build temples to Paleness and Panic, if he should win the victory that day. Nevertheless he showed no sign of fear, but cried to the horsemen with a loud voice, that the enemy might hear, saying, “Go thou back to the battle, and bid thy comrades be of good courage. Mettus does my bidding that he may take the men of Fidenæ in the rear.” Also he bade the cavalry raise their spears in the air, that so the Romans might, for the most part, be hindered from seeing that the men of Alba had deserted them; and they that saw, believing what the king had said, fought with the more courage. Then there fell a great fear upon the enemy, for these also had heard the saying, which, being in the Latin tongue, was understood of the men of Fidenæ. They, therefore, fearing lest Mettus and the army of Alba should come down from the mountains and shut them off from their town, began to give ground. And when the king had broken their array, he turned the more fiercely on the men of Veii. These also fled before him, but were hindered from escape by the river. And some, throwing away their arms, ran blindly into the water, and some while they lingered on the bank, and knew not whether they should fight or fly, so perished. Never before had[512] the Romans so fierce a fight with their enemies. After this the king spoke in this fashion, “Men of Rome, if ever before ye had occasion to give thanks for victory won, first to the immortal gods, and secondly to your own valor, such occasion ye found in the battle of yesterday. For ye fought not only with the enemy, but with that from which there is peril greater by far, even treachery in allies. I would not have you ignorant of the truth. It was not by any ordering of mine that the men of Alba went toward the mountains. I gave no such command; yet did I feign that I had given it to this end, that ye might not know that we were deserted, and so might fight with the better courage, and that our enemies, thinking that they should be assailed from behind, might be stricken with fear and so fly before us. Yet I say not that all the men of Alba are guilty of this matter. They followed their captain, even as ye, men of Rome, would have followed me whithersoever I might have led you. Mettus only is guilty. He contrived this departure, even as he brought about this war, and brake the covenant that was between Alba and Rome. And what he hath done others may dare hereafter, if I do not so deal with him that he shall be an ensample for all that come after.” Then the captains of hundreds, having arms in their hands, laid hold upon Mettus. After this the king spake again: “May the gods bless to the people of Rome, and to me, and to you also, men of Alba, that which I purpose to do. For my purpose is to carry away the people of Alba to Rome; the commons of Alba will I make citizens of Rome, and the nobles will I number among our senators.[513] So shall there be one city and one commonwealth.” When the men of Alba heard these words, all had not the same mind about the matter, but all kept silence, fearing to speak, because being without arms they were compassed on every side with armed men.

Then said the king, “Mettus, if indeed thou couldst learn faith and the keeping of treaties, I had suffered thee to live that thou mightest have such teaching from me. But now, seeing that thy disease is past healing, thou shalt teach other men to hold in reverence the holy things which thou hast despised. For even as thou wast divided in heart between Rome and Fidenæ, so shall thy body be divided.” Then, at the king’s bidding, they brought two chariots, with four horses harnessed to each of them; and binding the body of Mettus to the chariots, they drave the horses divers ways so that the man was torn asunder.

But because Alba was thus brought to destruction, Rome increased greatly; for the number of the citizens was increased twofold. The Cœlian hill was added to the city, in which hill, that others might the more readily dwell there, the king himself commanded that they should build him a palace. Also the chief houses of Alba, as the house of Julius and of Servilius, were chosen into the Senate; and that there might be a place of meeting for the Senate being thus multiplied, the king built a temple and called it Hostilia, after his own name. Also ten squadrons of horsemen were chosen out of the men of Alba.

Now the end of King Tullus was this. There[514] came a pestilence upon the land. And when for this cause the people were wearied of war, nevertheless the king, both because he delighted in war, and because he believed that the young men should have better health if they went abroad than if they tarried at home, gave them no rest. But after a while he also fell into a tedious sickness, which so brake him both in body and mind that, whereas in time past he thought it unworthy of a king to busy himself with matters of religion, now he gave himself up wholly to superstition, and filled the minds of his people also with the like thoughts, so that they regarded nothing but this, how they should make atonement to the gods, and so be rid of their present distress. As for the king himself, men say that reading the sacred book of King Numa he found therein certain sacrifices, very secret and solemn, that should be done to Jupiter by such as would bring him down from heaven, and that he shut himself up to do these sacrifices; but because he set not about them rightly or did than not in due form, there appeared to him no similitude of the immortal gods (for such he had hoped to see); but Jupiter, having great wrath at such unlawful dealings, struck him with lightning and consumed both him and his house.




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