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HEROES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW
TALES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE OF THE WORLD'S HEROES IN ALL AGES
HAMILTON WRIGHT MABIE
ILLUSTRATED AND DECORATED BY BLANCHE OSTERTAG
INTRODUCTORY NOTE TO "HEROES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW"
The endeavour has been made in this volume to bring together the
heroic men of different races, periods and types; and in the
selection of material the most attractive, intelligent and
authoritative literature has been drawn upon. In cases in which the
material selected belongs distinctively to the best literature, no
changes have been made, although narratives have been abbreviated;
in cases in which the material has a historical rather than a
distinctively literary quality, the text has been treated for
"substance of doctrine," and omissions have been freely made, and
connecting words, phrases and even sentences have been introduced to
give the narrative clear connection and completeness. In the
preparation of the material for the volume the intelligence and
skill of Miss Kate Stephens have been so freely used that she is
entitled to the fullest recognition as associate editor.
H. W. M.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS TO "HEROES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW"
The editor and publishers wish to extend their thanks and
acknowledgment to the firms who have kindly permitted the use of
material in this volume:
To The Macmillan Co. for selections from "Heroes of Chivalry and
Romance," "Stories of Charlemagne and the Peers of France," "Old
English History," "The Crusaders," "Father Damien: A Journey from
Cashmere to His Home in Hawaii"; to Thomas Nelson & Son for material
from "Martyrs and Saints of the First Twelve Centuries"; to J. M.
Dent & Co. for selections from "Stories from Le Morte d'Arthur and
The Mabinogion" in the Temple Classics for Young People; to E. P.
Dutton & Co. for material from "Chronicle of the Cid"; to Longmans,
Green & Co. for material from "The Book of Romance"; to John C.
Winston Co. for material from "Stories from History"; to Lothrop,
Lee & Shepard for material from "The True Story of Abraham Lincoln."
CONTENTS TO "HEROES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW"
I. PERSEUS. Adapted from "The Heroes," by Charles Kingsley
II. HERCULES. By Kate Stephens
III. DANIEL. From Book of Daniel, Chapter vi., Verses 1 to 24
IV. DAVID. From I. Book of Samuel, Chapter xvii
V. ST. GEORGE. Adapted from "Martyrs and Saints of the First
Twelve Centuries," by Mrs. E. Rundle Charles
VI. KING ARTHUR. Adapted from "Stories from Le Morte d'Arthur and
the Mabinogion," by Beatrice Clay
VII. SIR GALAHAD. Adapted from "Stories from Le Morte d'Arthur and
the Mabinogion," by Beatrice Clay; followed by
"Sir Galahad," by Alfred Tennyson
VIII. SIEGFRIED. Adapted from "Heroes of Chivalry and Romance," by
A. J. Church
IX. ROLAND. Adapted from "Stories of Charlemagne and the Peers of
France," by A. J. Church
X. KING ALFRED. Adapted from "Old English History," by E. A.
XI. THE CID. Adapted from "Chronicle of the Cid," from the Spanish,
by Robert Southey
XII. ROBIN HOOD. Adapted from "Book of Romance," edited by Andrew
Lang; including a version of the popular ballad,
"Robin Hood and the Butcher"
XIII. RICHARD THE LION-HEARTED. Adapted from "The Crusaders," by A.
XIV. SAINT Louis. Adapted from "The Crusaders," by A. J. Church
XV. WILLIAM TELL. Adapted from "Stories from History," by Agnes
XVI. ROBERT BRUCE. Adapted from "Tales of a Grandfather from
Scottish History," by Sir Walter Scott
XVII. GEORGE WASHINGTON. Adapted from "Recollections and Private
Memoirs of Washington," by G. W. Parke Custis
XVIII. ROBERT E. LEE. From "Letters and Recollections of General
Lee," by Captain Robert E. Lee
XIX. ABRAHAM: LINCOLN. Adapted from "The True Story of Abraham
Lincoln," by Elbridge S. Brooks
XX. FATHER DAMIEN. Adapted from "Father Damien: A Journey from
Cashmere to His Home in Hawaii," by Edward
INTRODUCTION TO "HEROES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW"
If there had been no real heroes there would have been created
imaginary ones, for men cannot live without them. The hero is just
as necessary as the farmer, the sailor, the carpenter and the
doctor; society could not get on without him. There have been a
great many different kinds of heroes, for in every age and among
every people the hero has stood for the qualities that were most
admired and sought after by the bravest and best; and all ages and
peoples have imagined or produced heroes as inevitably as they have
made ploughs for turning the soil or ships for getting through the
water or weapons with which to fight their enemies. To be some kind
of a hero has been the ambition of spirited boys from the beginning
of history; and if you want to know what the men and women of a
country care for most, you must study their heroes. To the boy the
hero stands for the highest success: to the grown man and woman he
stands for the deepest and richest life.
Men have always worked with their hands, but they have never been
content with that kind of work; they have looked up from the fields
and watched the sun and stars; they have cut wood for their fires in
the forest, but they have noticed the life which goes on among the
trees and they have heard the mysterious sounds which often fill the
air in the remotest places. From the beginning men have not only
used their hands but their intellect and their imagination; they
have had to work or starve, but they have seen the world, thought
about it and dreamed about it.
They had worked and thought and dreamed only a little time before
they began to explain the marvelous earth on which they found
themselves and the strange things that happened in it; the vastness
and beauty of the fields, woods, sky and sea, the force of the wind,
the coming and going of the day and night, the warmth of summer when
everything grew, and the cold of winter when everything died, the
rush of the storm and the terrible brightness of the lightning. They
had no idea of what we call law or force; they could not think of
anything being moved or any noise being made unless there was some
one like themselves to move things and make sounds; and so they made
stories of gods and giants and heroes and nymphs and fawns; and the
myths, which are poetic explanations of the world and of the life of
men in it, came into being.
But they did not stop with these great matters; they began to tell
stories about themselves and the things they wanted to do and the
kind of life they wanted to lead. They wanted ease, power, wealth,
happiness, freedom; so they created genii, built palaces, made magic
carpets which carried them to the ends of the earth and horses with
wings which bore them through the air, peopled the woods and fields
with friendly, frolicsome or mischievous little people, who made
fires for them if they were friendly, or milked cows, overturned
bowls, broke dishes and played all kinds of antics and made all
sorts of trouble if they were mischievous or unfriendly. Beside the
great myths, like wild flowers in the shade of great trees, there
sprang up among the people of almost all countries a host of poetic,
satirical, humorous or homely stories of fairies, genii, trolls,
giants, dwarfs, imps, and queer creatures of all kinds; so that to
the children of two hundred years ago the woods, the fields, the
solitary and quiet places everywhere, were full of folk who kept out
of sight, but who had a great deal to do with the fortunes and fates
of men and women.
From very early times great honor was paid to courage and strength;
qualities which won success and impressed the imagination in
primitive not less than in highly developed societies. The first
heroes were gods or demi-gods, or men of immense strength who did
difficult things. When men first began to live in the world they
were in constant peril and faced hardships of every kind; and from
the start they had very hard work to do. There were fields to be
cultivated, houses to be built, woods to be explored, beasts to be
killed and other beasts to be tamed and set to work. There were many
things to be done and no tools to work with; there were great storms
to be faced and no houses for protection; there was terrible cold
and no fire or clothing; there were diseases and no medicine; there
were perils on land, in the water and in the air, and no knowledge
of the ways of meeting them.
At the very start courage and strength were necessary if life was to
be preserved and men were to live together in safety and with
comfort. When a strong man appeared he helped his fellows to make
themselves more at ease in the world. Sometimes he did this by
simply making himself more comfortable and thus showing others how
to do it; sometimes he did it by working for his fellows. No matter
how selfish a man may be, if he does any real work in the world he
works not only for himself but for others. In this way a selfish man
like Napoleon does the work of a hero without meaning to do it: for
the world is so made that no capable man or woman can be entirely
selfish, no matter how hard they try to get and keep everything for
It was not long before men saw that strong men could not work for
themselves without working for others, and there came in very early
the idea of service as part of the idea of heroism, and the demi-
gods, who were among the earliest heroes, were servants as well as
masters. Hercules, the most powerful of the heroes to Greek and
Roman boys was set to do the most difficult things not for himself
but for others. He destroyed lions, hydras, wild boars, birds with
brazen beaks and wings, mad bulls, many-headed monsters, horses
which fed on human flesh, dragons, he mastered the three-headed dog
Cerberus, he tore asunder the rocks at the Strait of Gibraltar which
bear his name to open a channel between the Mediterranean and the
Atlantic. He fought the Centaur and brought back Alcestis, the wife
of Admetus, from the pale regions of death where she had gone to
save her husband's life. In all these labors, which were so great
that works of extraordinary magnitude have since been called
Herculean, the brave, patient, suffering hero, was helping other
people rather than helping himself.
And this was true of Thor, the strong god of the Norsemen whose
hammer was the most terrible weapon in the world, the roll and crash
of thunder being the sound of it and the blinding lightning the
flash of it. The gods were the friends of men, giving the light and
warmth and fertility of the summer that the fields might bear food
for them and the long, bright days might bring them peace and
happiness. And the giants were the enemies of men, tirelessly trying
to make the fields desolate and stop the singing of birds and shroud
the sky in darkness by driving away summer with the icy breath of
winter. In this perpetual conflict Thor was the hero of strength and
courage, beating back the giants, defeating their schemes and
fighting the battle for gods and men with tireless zeal; counting no
peril or hardship too great if there was heroic work to be done.
Courage and achievement are the two signs of the hero; he may
possess or lack many other qualities, but he must be daring and he
must do things and not dream or talk about them.
From the days of Hercules to those of Washington and Livingston, men
of heroic spirit have not stopped to count the cost when a deed must
be done but have done it, usually with very little talk or noise;
for heroes, as a rule, are much more interested in getting their
work done than in making themselves conspicuous or winning a
reputation. Heroes have often been harsh and even brutal, especially
in the earliest times when humane feeling and a compassionate spirit
had not been developed; Siegfried, Jason, Gustavas Adolphus and Von
Tromp were often arbitrary and oppressive in their attitude toward
men; and, in later times, Alfred the Great, William the Silent and
Nelson were not without serious defects of temper and sometimes of
character. Men are not great or heroic because they are faultless;
they are great and heroic because they dare, suffer, achieve and
And men love their heroes not because they have been perfect
characters under all conditions, but because they have been brave,
true, able, and unselfish, A man may have few faults and count for
very little in the world, because he lacks force, daring, the
greatness of soul which moves before a generation like a flaming
torch; a man may lead a stainless life, not because he is really
virtuous but because he has very few temptations within or without.
Some of the most heroic men have put forth more strength in
resisting a single temptation than men of theories and more
commonplace natures put forth in a life time. The serious faults of
heroes are not overlooked or forgotten; the great man is as much the
servant of the moral law as the little man, and pays the same price
for disobedience; but generosity of spirit, devotion to high aims
and capacity for self-sacrifice often outweigh serious offences.
Nelson is less a hero because he yielded to a great temptation; but
he remains a hero in spite of the stain on his fame. It is much
better not to be profane under any circumstances, but when
Washington swore fiercely at Charles Lee on the battle field of
Monmouth his profanity was the expression of the righteous wrath of
a good man. In judging the hero one must take into account the age
in which he lived, the differences in moral standards between the
past and the present, and the force of the temptations which come
with strength of body, passion, imagination, great position,
colossal enterprises; these do not conceal or excuse the faults of
heroes but they explain those faults.
The men whose bravery and great deeds are described in these pages
have been selected not because they are faultless in character and
life, but because they were brave, generous, self-forgetful, self-
sacrificing and capable of splendid deeds. Men love and honour them
not only because they owe them a great deal of gratitude, but
because they see in their heroes the kind of men they would like to
be; for the possibilities of the heroic are in almost all men.
Stories of the heroes have often made other men strong and brave and
true in the face of great perils and tasks, and this book is put
forth in the faith that it will not only pass on the fame of the
heroes of the past but help make heroes in the present.
H. W. M.
Once upon a time there were two princes who were twins. Their names
were Acrisius and Proetus, and they lived in the pleasant vale of
Argos, far away in Hellas. They had fruitful meadows and vineyards,
sheep and oxen, great herds of horses feeding down in Lerna Fen, and
all that men could need to make them blest: and yet they were
wretched, because they were jealous of each other. From the moment
they were born they began to quarrel; and when they grew up each
tried to take away the other's share of the kingdom, and keep all
But there came a prophet to Acrisius and prophesied against him, and
said, "Because you have risen up against your own blood, your own
blood shall rise up against you; because you have sinned against
your kindred, by your kindred you shall be punished. Your daughter
Danae shall have a son, and by that son's hands you shall die. So
the gods have ordained, and it will surely come to pass."
And at that Acrisius was very much afraid; but he did not mend his
ways. He had been cruel to his own family, and, instead of repenting
and being kind to them, he went on to be more cruel than ever: for
he shut up his fair daughter Danae in a cavern underground, lined
with brass, that no one might come near her. So he fancied himself
more cunning than the gods: but you will see presently whether he
was able to escape them.
Now it came to pass that in time a son came to Danae: so beautiful a
babe that any but King Acrisius would have had pity on it. But he
had no pity; for he took Danae and her babe down to the seashore,
and put them into a great chest and thrust them out to sea, for the
winds and the waves to carry them whithersoever they would.
The northwest wind blew freshly out of the blue mountains, and down
the pleasant vale of Argos, and away and out to sea. And away and
out to sea before it floated the mother and her babe, while all who
watched them wept, save that cruel father, King Acrisius.
So they floated on and on, and the chest danced up and down upon the
billows, and the baby slept upon its mother's breast: but the poor
mother could not sleep, but watched and wept, and she sang to her
baby as they floated; and the song which she sang you shall learn
yourselves some day.
And now they are past the last blue headland, and in the open sea;
and there is nothing round them but the waves, and the sky, and the
wind. But the waves are gentle, and the sky is clear, and the breeze
is tender and low.
So a night passed, and a day, and a long day it was for Danae; and
another night and day beside, till Danae was faint with hunger and
weeping, and yet no land appeared. And all the while the babe slept
quietly; and at last poor Danae drooped her head and fell asleep
likewise with her cheek against the babe's.
After a while she was awakened suddenly; for the chest was jarring
and grinding, and the air was full of sound. She looked up, and over
her head were mighty cliffs, all red in the setting sun, and around
her rocks and breakers, and flying flakes of foam. She clasped her
hands together, and shrieked aloud for help. And when she cried,
help met her: for now there came over the rocks a tall and stately
man, and looked down wonderingly upon poor Danae tossing about in
the chest among the waves.
He wore a rough cloak of frieze, and on his head a broad hat to
shade his face; in his hand he carried a trident for spearing fish,
and over his shoulder was a casting-net; but Danae could see that he
was no common man by his stature, and his walk, and his flowing
golden hair and beard; and by the two servants who came behind him,
carrying baskets for his fish. But she had hardly time to look at
him before he had laid aside his trident and leapt down the rocks,
and thrown his casting-net so surely over Danae and the chest, that
he drew it, and her, and the baby, safe upon a ledge of rock.
Then the fisherman took Danae by the hand, and lifted her out of the
chest, and said:
"O beautiful damsel, what strange chance has brought you to this
island in so frail a ship? Who are you, and whence? Surely you are
some King's daughter and this boy has somewhat more than mortal."
And as he spoke he pointed to the babe; for its face shone like the
But Danae only held down her head, and sobbed out:
"Tell me to what land I have come, unhappy that I am; and among what
men I have fallen!"
And he said, "This isle is called Seriphos, and I am a Hellen, and
dwell in it. I am the brother of Polydectes the King; and men call
me Dictys the netter, because I catch the fish of the shore."
Then Danae fell down at his feet, and embraced his knees and cried:
"Oh, sir, have pity upon a stranger, whom a cruel doom has driven to
your land; and let me live in your house as a servant; but treat me
honourably, for I was once a king's daughter, and this my boy (as
you have truly said) is of no common race. I will not be a charge to
you, or eat the bread of idleness; for I am more skilful in weaving
and embroidery than all the maidens of my land."
And she was going on; but Dictys stopped her, and raised her up, and
"My daughter, I am old, and my hairs are growing grey; while I have
no children to make my home cheerful. Come with me then, and you
shall be a daughter to me and to my wife, and this babe shall be our
grandchild. For I fear the gods, and show hospitality to all
strangers; knowing that good deeds, like evil ones, always return to
those who do them."
So Danae was comforted, and went home with Dictys the good
fisherman, and was a daughter to him and to his wife.
Fifteen years were passed and gone and the babe was now grown to a
tall lad and a sailor, and went many voyages after merchandise to
the islands round. His mother called him Perseus; but all the people
in Seriphos said that he was not the son of mortal man, and called
him Zeus, the son of the king of the Immortals. For though he was
but fifteen, he was taller by a head than any man in the island; and
he was the most skilful of all in running and wrestling and boxing,
and in throwing the quoit and the javelin, and in rowing with the
oar, and in playing on the harp, and in all which befits a man. And
he was brave and truthful, gentle and courteous, for good old Dictys
had trained him well; and well it was for Perseus that he had done
Now one day at Samos, while the ship was lading, Perseus wandered
into a pleasant wood to get out of the sun, and sat down on the turf
and fell asleep. And as he slept a strange dream came to him--the
strangest dream which he had ever had in his life.
There came a lady to him through the wood, taller than he, or any
mortal man; but beautiful exceedingly, with grey eyes, clear and
piercing, but strangely soft and mild. On her head was a helmet, and
in her hand a spear. And over her shoulder, above her long blue
robes, hung a goat-skin, which bore up a mighty shield of brass,
polished like a mirror. She stood and looked at him with her clear
grey eyes; and Perseus saw that her eyelids never moved, nor her
eyeballs, but looked straight through and through him, and into his
very heart, as if she could see all the secrets of his soul, and
knew all that he had ever thought or longed for since the day that
he was born. And Perseus dropped his eyes, trembling and blushing,
as the wonderful lady spoke.
"Perseus, you must do an errand for me."
"Who are you, lady? And how do you know my name?"
"I am Pallas Athene; and I know the thoughts of all men's hearts,
and discern their manhood or their baseness. And from the souls of
clay I turn away, and they are blest, but not by me. They fatten at
ease, like sheep in the pasture, and eat what they did not sow, like
oxen in the stall. They grow and spread, like the gourd along the
ground; but, like the gourd, they give no shade to the traveller,
and when they are ripe death gathers them, and they go down unloved
into hell, and their name vanishes out of the land.
"But to the souls of fire I give more fire, and to those who are
manful I give a might more than man's. These are the heroes, the
sons of the Immortals who are blest, but not like the souls of clay.
For I drive them forth by strange paths, Perseus, that they may
fight the Titans and the monsters, the enemies of gods and men.
Through doubt and need, danger and battle, I drive them; and some of
them are slain in the flower of youth, no man knows when or where;
and some of them win noble names, and a fair and green old age; but
what will be their latter end I know not, and none, save Zeus, the
father of gods and men. Tell me now, Perseus, which of these two
sorts of men seem to you more blest?"
Then Perseus answered boldly: "Better to die in the flower of youth,
on the chance of winning a noble name, than to live at ease like the
sheep, and die unloved and unrenowned."
Then that strange lady laughed, and held up her brazen shield, and
cried: "See here, Perseus; dare you face such a monster as this, and
slay it, that I may place its head upon this shield?"
And in the mirror of the shield there appeared a face and as Perseus
looked on it his blood ran cold. It was the face of a beautiful
woman; but her cheeks were pale as death, and her brows were knit
with everlasting pain, and her lips were thin and bitter like a
snake's; and, instead of hair, vipers wreathed about her temples,
and shot out their forked tongues; while round her head were folded
wings like an eagle's, and upon her bosom claws of brass.
And Perseus looked awhile, and then said: "If there is anything so
fierce and foul on earth, it were a noble deed to kill it. Where can
I find the monster?"
Then the strange lady smiled again, and said: "Not yet; you are too
young, and too unskilled; for this is Medusa the Gorgon, the mother
of a monstrous brood."
And Perseus said, "Try me; for since you spoke to me a new soul has
come into my breast, and I should be ashamed not to dare anything
which I can do. Show me, then, how I can do this!"
"Perseus," said Athene, "think well before you attempt; for this
deed requires a seven years' journey, in which you cannot repent or
turn back nor escape; but if your heart fails you, you must die in
the Unshapen Land, where no man will ever find your bones."
"Better so than live despised," said Perseus. "Tell me, then, oh
tell me, fair and wise Goddess, how I can do but this one thing, and
then, if need be, die!"
Then Athene smiled and said:
"Be patient, and listen; for if you forget my words, you will indeed
die. You must go northward to the country of the Hyperboreans, who
live beyond the pole, at the sources of the cold north wind, till
you find the three Grey Sisters, who have but one eye and one tooth
between them. You must ask them the way to the Nymphs, the daughters
of the Evening Star, who dance about the golden tree, in the
Atlantic island of the west. They will tell you the way to the
Gorgon, that you may slay her, my enemy, the mother of monstrous
beasts. Once she was a maiden as beautiful as morn, till in her
pride she sinned a sin at which the sun hid his face; and from that
day her hair was turned to vipers, and her hands to eagle's claws;
and her heart was filled with shame and rage, and her lips with
bitter venom; and her eyes became so terrible that whosover looks on
them is turned to stone; and her children are the winged horse and
the giant of the golden sword; and her grandchildren are Echidna the
witch-adder, and Geryon the three-headed tyrant, who feeds his herds
beside the herds of hell. So she became the sister of the Gorgons,
the daughters of the Queen of the Sea. Touch them not, for they are
immortal; but bring me only Medusa's head."
"And I will bring it!" said Perseus; "but how am I to escape her
eyes? Will she not freeze me too into stone?"
"You shall take this polished shield," said Athene, "and when you
come near her look not at her yourself, but at her image in the
brass; so you may strike her safely. And when you have struck off
her head, wrap it, with your face turned away, in the folds of the
goatskin on which the shield hangs. So you will bring it safely back
to me, and win to yourself renown, and a place among the heroes who
feast with the Immortals upon the peak where no winds blow."
Then Perseus said, "I will go, though I die in going. But how shall
I cross the seas without a ship? And who will show me my way? And
when I find her, how shall I slay her, if her scales be iron and
Now beside Athene appeared a young man more light-limbed than the
stag, whose eyes were like sparks of fire. By his side was a
scimitar of diamond, all of one clear precious stone, and on his
feet were golden sandals, from the heels of which grew living wings.
Then the young man spoke: "These sandals of mine will bear you
across the seas, and over hill and dale like a bird, as they bear me
all day long; for I am Hermes, the far-famed Argus-slayer, the
messenger of the Immortals who dwell on Olympus."
Then Perseus fell down and worshipped, while the young man spoke
"The sandals themselves will guide you on the road, for they are
divine and cannot stray; and this sword itself the Argus-slayer,
will kill her, for it is divine, and needs no second stroke. Arise,
and gird them on, and go forth."
So Perseus arose, and girded on the sandals and the sword.
And Athene cried, "Now leap from the cliff and be gone."
But Perseus lingered.
"May I not bid farewell to my mother and to Dictys? And may I not
offer burnt offerings to you, and to Hermes the far-famed Argus-
slayer, and to Father Zeus above?"
"You shall not bid farewell to your mother, lest your heart relent
at her weeping. I will comfort her and Dictys until you return in
peace. Nor shall you offer burnt offerings to the Olympians; for
your offering shall be Medusa's head. Leap, and trust in the armour
of the Immortals."
Then Perseus looked down the cliff and shuddered; but he was ashamed
to show his dread. Then he thought of Medusa and the renown before
him, and he leapt into the empty air.
And behold, instead of falling he floated, and stood, and ran along
the sky. He looked back, but Athene had vanished, and Hermes; and
the sandals led him on northward ever, like a crane who follows the
spring toward the Ister fens.
So Perseus started on his journey, going dry-shod over land and sea;
and his heart was high and joyful, for the winged sandals bore him
each day a seven days' journey. And he turned neither to the right
hand nor the left, till he came to the Unshapen Land, and the place
which has no name.
And seven days he walked through it on a path which few can tell,
till he came to the edge of the everlasting night, where the air was
full of feathers, and the soil was hard with ice; and there at last
he found the three Grey Sisters, by the shore of the freezing sea,
nodding upon a white log of driftwood, beneath the cold white winter
moon; and they chanted a low song together, "Why the old times were
better than the new."
There was no living thing around them, not a fly, not a moss upon
the rocks. Neither seal nor sea gull dare come near, lest the ice
should clutch them in its claws. The surge broke up in foam, but it
fell again in flakes of snow; and it frosted the hair of the three
Grey Sisters, and the bones in the ice cliff above their heads. They
passed the eye from one to the other, but for all that they could
not see; and they passed the tooth from one to the other, but for
all that they could not eat; and they sat in the full glare of the
moon, but they were none the warmer for her beams. And Perseus
pitied the three Grey Sisters; but they did not pity themselves.
So he said, "Oh, venerable mothers, wisdom is the daughter of old
age. You therefore should know many things. Tell me, if you can, the
path to the Gorgon."
Then one cried, "Who is this who reproaches us with old age?" And
another, "This is the voice of one of the children of men."
Then one cried, "Give me the eye, that I may see him"; and another,
"Give me the tooth, that I may bite him." But Perseus, when he saw
that they were foolish and proud, and did not love the children of
men, left off pitying them. Then he stepped close to them, and
watched till they passed the eye from hand to hand. And as they
groped about between themselves, he held out his own hand gently,
till one of them put the eye into it, fancying that it was the hand
of her sister. Then he sprang back, and laughed, and cried:
"Cruel and proud old women, I have your eye; and I will throw it
into the sea, unless you tell me the path to the Gorgon, and swear
to me that you tell me right."
Then they wept, and chattered, and scolded; but in vain. They were
forced to tell the truth, though, when they told it, Perseus could
hardly make out the road.
"You must go," they said, "foolish boy, to the southward, into the
ugly glare of the sun, till you come to Atlas the Giant, who holds
the heaven and the earth apart. And you must ask his daughters, the
Hesperides, who are young and foolish like yourself. And now give us
back our eye, for we have forgotten all the rest."
So Perseus gave them back their eye. And he leaped away to the
southward, leaving the snow and the ice behind. And the terns and
the sea gulls swept laughing round his head, and called to him to
stop and play, and the dolphins gambolled up as he passed, and
offered to carry him on their back. And all night long the sea
nymphs sang sweetly. Day by day the sun rose higher and leaped more
swiftly into the sea at night, and more swiftly out of the sea at
dawn; while Perseus skimmed over the billows like a sea gull, and
his feet were never wetted; and leapt on from wave to wave, and his
limbs were never weary, till he saw far away a mighty mountain, all
rose-red in the setting sun. Perseus knew that it was Atlas, who
holds the heavens and the earth apart.
He leapt on shore, and wandered upward, among pleasant valleys and
waterfalls. At last he heard sweet voices singing; and he guessed
that he was come to the garden of the Nymphs, the daughters of the
Evening Star. They sang like nightingales among the thickets, and
Perseus stopped to hear their song; but the words which they spoke
he could not understand. So he stepped forward and saw them dancing,
hand in hand around the charmed tree, which bent under its golden
fruit; and round the tree foot was coiled the dragon, old Ladon the
sleepless snake, who lies there for ever, listening to the song of
the maidens, blinking and watching with dry bright eyes.
Then Perseus stopped, not because he feared the dragon, but because
he was bashful before those fair maids; but when they saw him, they
too stopped, and called to him with trembling voices:
"Who are you, fair boy? Come dance with us around the tree in the
garden which knows no winter, the home of the south wind and the
sun. Come hither and play with us awhile; we have danced alone here
for a thousand years, and our hearts are weary with longing for a
"I cannot dance with you, fair maidens; for I must do the errand of
the Immortals. So tell me the way to the Gorgon, lest I wander and
perish in the waves."
Then they sighed and wept; and answered:
"The Gorgon! she will freeze you into stone."
"It is better to die like a hero than to live like an ox in a stall.
The Immortals have lent me weapons, and they will give me wit to use
Then they sighed again and answered: "Fair boy, if you are bent on
your own ruin, be it so. We know not the way to the Gorgon; but we
will ask the giant Atlas above upon the mountain peak." So they went
up the mountain to Atlas their uncle, and Perseus went up with them.
And they found the giant kneeling, as he held the heavens and the
They asked him, and he answered mildly, pointing to the sea board
with his mighty hand, "I can see the Gorgons lying on an island far
away, but this youth can never come near them, unless he has the hat
of darkness, which whosoever wears cannot be seen."
Then cried Perseus, "Where is that hat, that I may find it?"
But the giant smiled. "No living mortal can find that hat, for it
lies in the depths of Hades, in the regions of the dead. But my
nieces are immortal, and they shall fetch it for you, if you will
promise me one thing and keep your faith."
Then Perseus promised; and the giant said, "When you come back with
the head of Medusa, you shall show me the beautiful horror, that I
may lose my feeling and my breathing, and become a stone for ever;
for it is weary labour for me to hold the heavens and the earth
Then Perseus promised, and the eldest of the Nymphs went down, and
into a dark cavern among the cliffs, out of which came smoke and
thunder, for it was one of the mouths of hell.
And Perseus and the Nymphs sat down seven days and waited trembling,
till the Nymph came up again; and her face was pale, and her eyes
dazzled with the light for she had been long in the dreary darkness;
but in her hand was the magic hat.
Then all the Nymphs kissed Perseus, and wept over him a long while;
but he was only impatient to be gone. And at last they put the hat
upon his head, and he vanished out of their sight.
But Perseus went on boldly, past many an ugly sight, far away into
the heart of the Unshapen Land, till he heard the rustle of the
Gorgons' wings and saw the glitter of their brazen talons; and then
he knew that it was time to halt, lest Medusa should freeze him into
He thought awhile with himself, and remembered Athene's words. He
arose aloft into the air, and held the mirror of the shield above
his head, and looked up into it that he might see all that was below
And he saw the three Gorgons sleeping. He knew that they could not
see him, because the hat of darkness hid him; and yet he trembled as
he sank down near them, so terrible were those brazen claws.
Two of the Gorgons were foul as swine, and lay sleeping heavily,
with their mighty wings outspread; but Medusa tossed to and fro
restlessly, and as she tossed Perseus pitied her. But as he looked,
from among her tresses the vipers' heads awoke, and peeped up with
their bright dry eyes, and showed their fangs, and hissed; and
Medusa, as she tossed, threw back her wings and showed her brazen
Then Perseus came down and stepped to her boldly, and looked
steadfastly on his mirror, and struck with Herpe stoutly once; and
he did not need to strike again.
Then he wrapped the head in the goat-skin, turning away his eyes,
and sprang into the air aloft, faster than he ever sprang before.
For Medusa's wings and talons rattled as she sank dead upon the
rocks; and her two foul sisters woke, and saw her lying dead.
Into the air they sprang yelling, and looked for him who had done
the deed. They rushed, sweeping and flapping, like eagles after a
hare; and Perseus's blood ran cold as he saw them come howling on
his track; and he cried, "Bear me well now, brave sandals, for the
hounds of Death are at my heels!"
And well the brave sandals bore him, aloft through cloud and
sunshine, across the shoreless sea; and fast followed the hounds of
Death. But the sandals were too swift, even for Gorgons, and by
nightfall they were far behind, two black specks in the southern
sky, till the sun sank and he saw them no more.
Then he came again to Atlas, and the garden of the Nymphs; and when
the giant heard him coming he groaned, and said, "Fulfil thy promise
to me." Then Perseus held up to him the Gorgon's head, and he had
rest from all his toil; for he became a crag of stone, which sleeps
forever far above the clouds.
Perseus thanked the Nymphs, and asked them, "By what road shall I go
homeward again, for I have wandered far in coming hither?"
And they wept and cried, "Go home no more, but stay and play with
us, the lonely maidens, who dwell for ever far away from gods and
But he refused, and they told him his road. And he leapt down the
mountain, and went on, lessening and lessening like a sea gull, away
and out to sea.
So Perseus flitted onward to the northeast, over many a league of
sea, till he came to the rolling sand hills and the dreary Lybian
And he flitted on across the desert: over rock ledges, and banks of
shingle, and level wastes of sand, and shell drifts bleaching in the
sunshine, and the skeletons of great sea monsters, and dead bones of
ancient giants, strewn up and down upon the old sea floor. And as he
went the blood drops fell to the earth from the Gorgon's head, and
became poisonous asps and adders, which breed in the desert to this
Over the sands he went, till he saw the Dwarfs who fought with
cranes. Their spears were of reeds and rushes, and their houses of
the eggshells of the cranes; and Perseus laughed, and went his way
to the northeast, hoping all day long to see the blue Mediterranean
sparkling, that he might fly across it to his home.
But now came down a mighty wind, and swept him back southward toward
the desert. All day long he strove against it; but even the winged
sandals could not prevail. So he was forced to float down the wind
all night; and when the morning dawned there was nothing but the
blinding sun in the blinding blue; and round him there was nothing
but the blinding sand.
And Perseus said, "Surely I am not here without the will of the
Immortals, for Athene will not lie. Were not these sandals to lead
me in the right road? Then the road in which I have tried to go must
be a wrong road."
Then suddenly his ears were opened, and he heard the sound of
running water. And at that his heart was lifted up, though he
scarcely dare believe his ears; and within a bowshot of him was a
glen in the sand, and marble rocks, and date trees, and a lawn of
gay green grass. And through the lawn a streamlet sparkled and
wandered out beyond the trees, and vanished in the sand. And Perseus
laughed for joy, and leapt down the cliff and drank of the cool
water, and ate of the dates, and slept upon the turf, and leapt up
and went forward.
Then he towered in the air like an eagle, for his limbs were strong
again; and he flew all night across the mountain till the day began
to dawn, and rosy-fingered Eos came blushing up the sky. And then,
behold, beneath him was the long green garden of Egypt and the
shining stream of Nile.
And he saw cities walled up to heaven, and temples, and obelisks,
and pyramids, and giant gods of stone. And he came down amid fields
of barley and flax, and millet, and clambering gourds; and saw the
people coming out of the gates of a great city, and setting to work,
each in his place, among the water courses, parting the streams
among the plants cunningly with their feet, according to the wisdom
of the Egyptians. But when they saw him they all stopped their work,
and gathered round him, and cried:
"Who art thou, fair youth? and what Dearest thou beneath they goat--
skin there? Surely thou art one of the Immortals; for thy skin is
white like ivory, and ours is red like clay. Thy hair is like
threads of gold, and ours is black and curled. Surely thou art one
of the Immortals"; and they would have worshipped him then and
there; but Perseus said:
"I am not one of the Immortals; but I am a hero of the Hellens. And
I have slain the Gorgon in the wilderness, and bear her head with
me. Give me food, therefore, that I may go forward and finish my
Then they gave him food, and fruit, but they would not let him go.
And when the news came into the city that the Gorgon was slain, the
priests came out to meet him, and the maidens, with songs and
dances, and timbrels and harps; and they would have brought him to
their temple and to their King; but Perseus put on the hat of
darkness, and vanished away out of their sight.
And Perseus flew along the shore above the sea; and he went on all
the day; and he went on all the night.
And at the dawn of day he looked toward the cliffs; and at the
water's edge, under a black rock, he saw a white image stand.
"This," thought he, "must surely be the statue of some sea god; I
will go near and see what kind of gods these barbarians worship."
But when he came near, it was no statue, but a maiden of flesh and
blood; for he could see her tresses streaming in the breeze; and as
he came closer still, he could see how she shrank and shivered when
the waves sprinkled her with cold salt spray. Her arms were spread
above her head, and fastened to the rock with chains of brass; and
her head drooped on her bosom, either with sleep, or weariness, or
grief. But now and then she looked up and wailed, and called her
mother; yet she did not see Perseus, for the cap of darkness was on
Full of pity and indignation, Perseus drew near and looked upon the
maid. And, lifting the hat from his head, he flashed into her sight.
She shrieked with terror, and tried to hide her face with her hair,
for she could not with her hands; but Perseus cried:
"Do not fear me, fair one; I am a Hellen, and no barbarian. What
cruel men have bound you? But first I will set you free."
And he tore at the fetters, but they were too strong for him; while
the maiden cried:
"Touch me not; I am accursed, devoted as a victim to the sea gods.
They will slay you, if you dare to set me free."
"Let them try," said Perseus; and drawing Herpe from his thigh, he
cut through the brass as if it had been flax.
"Now," he said, "you belong to me, and not to these sea gods,
whosoever they may be!" But she only called the more on her mother.
"Why call on your mother? She can be no mother to have left you
And she answered, weeping:
"I am the daughter of Cepheus, King of Iopa, and my mother is
Cassiopoeia of the beautiful tresses, and they called me Andromeda,
as long as life was mine. And I stand bound here, hapless that I am,
for the sea monster's food, to atone for my mother's sin. For she
boasted of me once that I was fairer than the Queen of the Fishes;
so she in her wrath sent the sea floods, and her brother the Fire
King sent the earthquakes, and wasted all the land, and after the
floods a monster bred of the slime what devours all living things.
And now he must devour me, guiltless though I am--me who never
harmed a living thing, nor saw a fish upon the shore but I gave it
life, and threw it back into the sea; for in our land we eat no
fish, for fear of their queen. Yet the priests say that nothing but
my blood can atone for a sin which I never committed."
But Perseus laughed, and said, "A sea monster? I have fought with
worse than him: I would have faced Immortals for your sake: how much
more a beast of the sea?"
Then Andromeda looked up at him, and new hope was kindled in her
breast, so proud and fair did he stand with one hand round her, and
in the other the glittering sword. But she only sighed, and wept the
more, and cried:
"Why will you die, young as you are? Is there not death and sorrow
enough in the world already? It is noble for me to die, that I may
save the lives of a whole people; but you, better than them all, why
should I slay you too? Go you your way; I must go mine." And then,
suddenly looking up, she pointed to the sea, and shrieked:
"There he comes, with the sunrise, as they promised. I must die now.
How shall I endure it? Oh, go! Is it not dreadful enough to be torn
piecemeal, without having you to look on?" And she tried to thrust
But he said: "I go; yet promise me one thing ere I go: that if I
slay this beast you will be my wife, and come back with me to my
kingdom in fruitful Argos. Promise me, and seal it with a kiss."
Then she lifted up her face, and kissed him; and Perseus laughed for
joy, and flew upward, while Andromeda crouched trembling on the
On came the great sea monster, coasting along like a huge black
galley. His great sides were fringed with clustering shells and
seaweeds, and the water gurgled in and out of his wide jaws.
At last he saw Andromeda, and shot forward to take his prey, while
the waves foamed white behind him, and before him the fish fled
Then down from the height of the air fell Perseus like a shooting
star; down to the crests of the waves, while Andromeda hid her face
as he shouted; and then there was silence for a while.
At last she looked up trembling, and saw Perseus springing toward
her; and instead of the monster a long black rock, with the sea
rippling quietly round it.
Who then so proud as Perseus, as he leapt back to the rock, and
lifted his fair Andromeda in his arms, and flew with her to the
cliff top, as a falcon carries a dove?
Who so proud as Perseus, and who so joyful as all the AEthiop
people? For they had stood watching the monster from the cliffs,
wailing for the maiden's fate. And already a messenger had gone to
Cepheus and Cassiopoeia, where they sat in sackcloth and ashes on
the ground, in the innermost palace chambers, awaiting their
daughter's end. And they came, and all the city with them, to see
the wonder, with songs and with dances, with cymbals and harps, and
received their daughter back again, as one alive from the dead.
Then Cepheus said, "Hero of the Hellens, stay here with me and be my
son-in-law, and I will give you the half of my kingdom."
"I will be your son-in-law," said Perseus, "but of your kingdom I
will have none, for I long after the pleasant land of Greece, and my
mother who waits for me at home."
Then Cepheus said, "You must not take my daughter away at once, for
she is to us like one alive from the dead. Stay with us here a year,
and after that you shall return with honour." And Perseus consented.
So they went up to the palace; and when they came in, there stood in
the hall Phineus, the brother of Cepheus, chafing like a bear robbed
of her whelps, and with him his sons, and his servants, and many an
armed man, and he cried to Cepheus:
"You shall not marry your daughter to this stranger of whom no one
knows even the name. Was not Andromeda betrothed to my son? And now
she is safe again, has he not a right to claim her?"
But Perseus laughed, and answered: "If your son is in want of a
bride, let him save a maiden for himself."
Then he unveiled the Gorgon's head, and said, "This has delivered my
bride from one wild beast; it shall deliver her from many." And as
he spoke Phineus and all his men-at-arms stopped short, and
stiffened each man as he stood; and before Perseus had drawn the
goat-skin over the face again, they were all turned into stone. Then
Perseus bade the people bring levers and roll them out.
So they made a great wedding feast, which lasted seven whole days,
and who so happy as Perseus and Andromeda?
And when a year was ended Perseus hired Phoenicians from Tyre, and
cut down cedars, and built himself a a noble galley; and painted its
cheeks with vermilion and pitched its sides with pitch; and in it he
put Andromeda, and all her dowry of jewels, and rich shawls, and
spices from the East; and great was the weeping when they rowed
away. But the remembrance of his brave deed was left behind; and
Andromeda's rock was shown at Iopa in Palestine till more than a
thousand years were past.
So Perseus and the Phoenicians rowed to the westward, across the
sea, till they came to the pleasant Isles of Hellas, and Seriphos,
his ancient home.
Then he left his galley on the beach, and went up as of old; and he
embraced his mother, and Dictys his good foster-father, and they
wept over each other a long while, for it was seven years and more
since they had met.
Then he went home to Argos, and reigned there well with fair
Andromeda. But the will of the gods was accomplished towards
Acrisius, his grandfather, for he died from the falling of a quoit
which Perseus had thrown in a game.
Perseus and Andromeda had four sons and three daughters, and died in
a good old age. And when they died, the ancients say, Athene took
them up into the sky, with Cepheus and Cassiopoeia. And there on
starlight nights you may see them shining still; Cepheus with his
kingly crown, and Cassiopoeia in her ivory chair, plaiting her star-
spangled tresses, and Perseus with the Gorgon's head, and fair
Andromeda beside him, spreading her long white arms across the
heavens, as she stood when chained to the stone for the monster. All
night long they shine, for a beacon to wandering sailors; but all
day they feast with the gods, on the still blue peaks of Olympus.
Many, many years ago in the far-off land of Hellas, which we call
Greece, lived a happy young couple whose names were Alcmene and
Amphitryon. Now Amphitryon, the husband, owned many herds of cattle.
So also the father of Alcmene, who was King of Mycenae, owned many.
All these cattle grazing together and watering at the same springs
became united in one herd. And this was the cause of much trouble,
for Amphitryon fell to quarreling with the father of his wife about
his portion of the herd. At last he slew his father-in-law, and from
that day he fled his old home at Mycenae.
Alcmene went with her husband and the young couple settled at
Thebes, where were born to them two boys--twins--which were later
named Hercules and Iphicles.
From the child's very birth Zeus, the King of all heaven that is the
air and clouds, and the father of gods and men--from the boy's very
birth Zeus loved Hercules. But when Hera, wife of Zeus, who shared
his honours, saw this love she was angry. Especially she was angry
because Zeus foretold that Hercules should become the greatest of
Therefore one night, when the two babies were but eight months old,
Hera sent two huge serpents to destroy them. The children were
asleep in the great shield of brass which Amphitryon carried in
battle for his defence. It was a good bed, for it was round and
curved toward the centre, and filled with soft blankets which
Alcmene and the maids of the house had woven at their looms. Forward
toward this shield the huge snakes were creeping, and just as they
lifted their open mouths above the rim, and were making ready to
seize them, the twins opened their eyes. Iphicles screamed with
fright. His cries wakened their mother, Alcmene, who called in a
loud voice for help. But before Amphitryon and the men of the
household could draw their swords and rush to the rescue, the baby
Hercules, sitting up in the shield unterrified and seizing a serpent
in each hand, had choked and strangled them till they died.
From his early years Hercules was instructed in the learning of his
time. Castor, the most experienced charioteer of his day, taught
him, Eurytus also, how to shoot with a bow and arrows; Linus how to
play upon the lyre; and Eumolpus, grandson of the North Wind,
drilled him in singing. Thus time passed to his eighteenth year
when, so great already had become his strength and knowledge, he
killed a fierce lion which had preyed upon the flocks of Amphitryon
while they were grazing on Mount Cithaeron, and which had in fact
laid waste many a fat farm of the surrounding country.
But the anger of Hera still followed Hercules, and the goddess sent
upon him a madness. In this craze the hero did many unhappy deeds.
For punishment and in expiation he condemned himself to exile, and
at last he went to the great shrine of the god Apollo at Delphi to
ask whither he should go and where settle. The Pythia, or priestess
in the temple, desired him to settle at Tiryns, to serve as bondman
to Eurystheus, who ruled at Mycenae as King, and to perform the
great labours which Eurystheus should impose upon him. When these
tasks were all accomplished, the inspired priestess added, Hercules
should be numbered among the immortal gods.
THE FIRST LABOUR--WRESTLING WITH THE NEMEAN LION
The first task which Eurystheus required of Hercules was to bring
him the skin of a lion which no arrow nor other weapon could wound,
and which had long been a terror to the good people who lived in
Nemea. Hercules set forth armed with bow and quiver, but paused in
the outer wood of Nemea long enough to cut himself his famous club.
There too he fell in with an honest countryman who pledged him to
make a sacrifice to Zeus, the saviour, if he, Hercules, should
return victorious; but if he were slain by the monstrous lion, then
the countryman should make the sacrifice a funeral offering to
himself as a hero.
So Hercules proceeded, far into a dense wood, deserted because all
people feared the fierce beast it protected. On he went till after
many days he sighted the lion at rest near the cave which was its
den. Standing behind a tree of great girth, Hercules fitted and let
fly an arrow. It struck and glanced, leaving the animal unharmed.
Then he tried another shot, aiming at the heart. Again the arrow
failed. But the lion was by this time roused, and his eyes shot
fiery glances, and the heavy roar from his throat made the woods
most horribly resound. Then the devoted Hercules seized his heavy
wooden club, and rushing forward drove the lion by the suddenness
and fierceness of his assault into his den. But the den had two
entrances. Against one Hercules rolled huge stones, and entering the
cave by the other he grasped the lion's throat with both hands, and
thus held him struggling and gasping for breath till he lay at his
Hercules swung the mighty bulk upon his shoulders and proceeded to
seek the countryman with whom his pledge stood. So great had been
his journey, and so hard his search, that he did not find the good
man till the last of the thirty days. There he stood just on the
point of offering a sheep to Hercules, supposing him dead. Together
they sacrificed the sheep to Zeus instead, and Hercules, vigorous
and victorious, bore the mighty lion's body to Eurystheus at
Entering the place and throwing the carcass down before the king,
Hercules so terrified Eurystheus by this token of his wonderful
strength that the King forbade him ever again to enter the city.
Indeed some say that the terror of Eurystheus was so great that he
had a jar or vessel of brass secretly constructed underground which
he might use as a safe retreat in case of danger. This "jar" was
probably a chamber and its walls covered within with plates of
brass. For now in our own day is seen there at Mycenae a room under
the earth, and the nails which fastened the brass plates to the wall
still remain. Ever after the conquest of this lion Hercules clothed
himself with the skin.
THE SECOND LABOUR--DESTROYING THE LERNEAN HYDRA
The second task of Hercules was to destroy a hydra or water snake
which dwelt in the marsh of Lerna, a small lake near Mycenae. The
body of this snake was large and from its body sprang nine heads.
Eight of these heads were mortal, but the ninth head was undying.
Hercules stepped into his chariot and his dear nephew Iolaus, who
was permitted by the Delphic priestess to drive for him, took up the
reins. The way to Lerna was pleasant. In spring-time crocuses and
hyacinths sprang by the roadside, and in early summer the
nightingales sang in the olive groves, vineyard and forest. That so
great and horrible a monster could be near!
When Hercules and Iolaus came to Lerna they drew close to ground
rising near a spring, and Hercules dismounting and searching found
the very hole into which the hydra had retired. Into this he shot
fiery arrows. The arrows discomforting the snake it crawled forth
and, darting at him furiously, endeavoured to twine itself about his
legs. The hero began then to wield his mighty club. He crushed head
after head upon the snake's body, but for every one crushed two
sprang in its place.
At length the hydra had coiled so firmly round one leg, that
Hercules could not move an inch from the spot. And now an enormous
crab came from the water out of friendship for the hydra, and that
too crept up to Hercules and, seizing his foot, painfully wounded
Swinging his club with heroic vigor Hercules beat the crab to death.
Then he called to Iolaus to fire a little grove of trees near by.
Iolaus at once set the fire, and when the saplings were well aflame
he seized them and, standing by the hero, as fast as Hercules cut
off a head of the hydra he seared the neck with a flaming brand. The
searing prevented the heads from growing again. When all the eight
mortal heads had thus been dispatched Hercules struck off the one
said to be immortal and buried it in the roadway, setting a heavy
stone above. The body of the hydra he cut up and dipped his arrows
in the gall, which was so full of poison that the least scratch from
such an arrow would bring certain death.
Eurystheus received the news of the destruction of the water snake
with bad grace. He claimed that Hercules had not destroyed the
monster alone, but only with the assistance of Iolaus. All the
people, however, rejoiced greatly, and they hastened to drain the
marsh where the hydra had dwelt so that never again could such an
enemy abide upon their lands.
THE THIRD LABOUR--CAPTURING THE ARCADIAN HIND
In the days in which Hercules lived, Arcadia was a beautiful country
of cool, sweet-scented woods, clear mountain streams, and sloping
meadow-sides from which rose every now and then the roof of a
hunter's cottage or a shepherd's hutch. It was a country also
peculiarly pleasing to Artemis, the goddess of the chase, and
peculiarly also it was the haunt of all animals especially dear to
A hind was there of such loveliness and grace that Artemis had
marked her for her own, and given her a pair of golden horns so that
she might be known from all other deer and her life thus preserved.
For no good Hellen, or Greek, would slay for food any animal sacred
to a god. This beautiful golden-horned hind Eurystheus ordered
Hercules to bring to him alive, for the irreverence of the King did
not go so far as to demand her dead.
So Hercules went forth for the hunting and, not wishing to wound the
hind, pursued her for one entire year. Up hill he went, down many a
mountain dale, across many a gleaming river, through deep forest and
open field, and always dancing before him were the golden tips of
horns of the hind--near enough to be seen, too far to be seized. At
last tired with the pursuit the lovely beast one day took refuge
upon a mountain side, and there as she sought the water of a river,
Hercules struck her with an arrow. The wound was slight, but it
helped the hero to catch the creature, and to lift her to his
shoulders. Thereupon, he started for the court of Eurystheus.
But the way was long, and it lay through a part of Arcadia where the
bush was heavy, and forests were deep, and mountains were high, and
while Hercules was pursuing his way and bearing his meek-eyed
burden, he one day met the fair goddess to whom the hind was sacred.
Her brother, the beautiful god Apollo, was with her.
Artemis seeing her captured deer cried to the hero, "Mortal, oho!
thus wilt thou violate a creature set aside by the gods?" "Mighty
Artemis and huntress," answered Hercules, "this hind I know is
thine. A twelve-month have I chased and at last caught her. But the
god Necessity forced me! Oh, immortal one, I am not impious.
Eurystheus commanded me to catch the hind and the priestess of
Apollo enjoined me to observe the King's command."
When Artemis understood how Hercules was bond-man she dismissed her
anger, and sent him forward with kind words, and thus he brought the
golden-horned hind to Mycenae and sent it in to the King.
THE FOURTH LABOUR--CAPTURING THE BOAR OF ERYMANTHUS
In the northwestern part of the famed Arcadia where the golden-
horned hind roamed was a range of mountains called Erymanthus. Over
the high tops of this range wandered also a wild beast, but unlike
the lovely hind he was fierce and terrible of aspect and deadly in
encounter. He was known as the boar of Erymanthus. This tusked and
terrible being the King of Mycenae, Eurystheus, commanded the mighty
Hercules, his bondman, to bring alive to him.
Again Hercules set out, and again he fared over hill and across
bright waters, and as he went the birds sang spring songs to him
from vine and tree shade, and yellow crocuses carpeted the earth. In
his journey he came one day to the home of Pholus, a centaur, who
dwelt with other centaurs upon the side of a mountain. Now the
centaurs were, of all the dwellers of that distant land, most unlike
us modern folks. For report has it that they were half that noble
creature man, and half that noble creature horse: that is to say,
they were men as far as the waist, and then came the body of the
horse with its swift four feet. There are those, indeed, who claim
that the centaurs were men and rode their mountain ponies so deftly
that man and horse seemed one whole creature. Be that as it may,
upon this mountain side the centaur Pholus dwelt with others of his
kind, and there to visit with him came Hercules.
The centaur with his hospitable heart and own hands prepared a
dinner of roast meat for the hungry traveller, and as they sat at
the board in genial converse they had much enjoyment. But Hercules
was also thirsty, and the sparkling water from the mountain spring
seemed not to satisfy him. He asked the centaur for wine. "Ah, wine,
my guest-friend Hercules," answered Pholus, "I have none of my own.
Yonder is a jar of old vintage, but it belongs to all the centaurs
of our mountain and I cannot open it." "But friend Pholus," said
Hercules pressingly, "I would I had a little for my stomach's sake."
Now the centaur had a kind heart as we have said, and he rejoiced
that Hercules had come, and to give the hero his desires he opened
the jar. The wine was made from grapes that grew under the fair
skies of Arcadia and its fragrance was like a scent of lilies or of
roses, and when the soft winds entered the door, near which Hercules
sat drinking, it seized the perfume and bore it over the mountain
side. Now hear of all the mischief a little wine may make.
The fragrance in the air told the centaurs, wherever each happened
to be, that their wine jar had been opened, and they rushed to its
resting place perhaps to defend it from any wayfaring thief, perhaps
to help drink it, we do not know. But each came angrily to the mouth
of the cave of Pholus and all were armed with stones and staves
which they had seized as they hastened onward. When they first
entered with raging cries and threatening gesture Hercules grasped
the brands burning on the hospitable hearth and drove them back. As
others pressed behind them the hero drew forth his arrows poisoned
with the gall of the Lernean hydra, and sent among them many a
shaft. Thus they fought retreating and, they fleeing and Hercules
pursuing, came finally to the dwelling of Chiron, most famed of all
the centaurs and a teacher of Hercules in his youth, teacher of his
great art of surgery.
The wine raging in the veins of Hercules made him for the moment
forgetful of all the good Chiron had bestowed upon him, and still
letting fly his poisonous arrows he, aiming at another, hit the
noblest of the centaurs. Grief seized Hercules when he saw what he
had done and he ran and drew out the arrow and applied a soft
ointment which Chiron himself had taught him to make. But it was in
vain, for the centaur, inspiring teacher and famed for his love of
justice as he was, soon gave up the ghost.
Saddened at his own madness Hercules now returned to the cave of his
guest-friend Pholus. There among others his host lay, and stark
dead. He had drawn an arrow from the body of one who had died from
its wound, and, while examining it and wondering how so slight a
shaft could be so fatal, had accidentally dropped it out of his
hand. It struck his foot and he expired that very moment.
Hercules paid all funeral honour to his friends and afterward
departing from the unhappy neighbourhood took up his search of the
Heavy snows were lying on the crests of Erymanthus when Hercules
came upon the tracks of the wild creature, and following patiently
finally reached his lair. There the boar stood, his tusks pointed
outward ready for attack, his eyes snapping vindictively. He was
indeed a terrible thing to see.
Hercules, instead of shooting at the animal, began to call, and
shouting with loud cries he so confused the boar that he ran into
the vast snowdrift standing near by. Thereupon the hero seized and
bound him with a wild grapevine he had brought for the purpose. And
so swinging him over his shoulder he took his way toward Mycenae.
The King Eurystheus was terribly frightened at the very prospect of
having the boar to keep, and when he heard Hercules was coming to
town with the animal on his shoulders he took to the brazen
underground chamber, which he had built, when Hercules came in with
the body of the Nemean lion. There he stayed for several days,
according to a good old historian, Diodorus, who in writing of the
King told that he was so great a coward.
THE FIFTH LABOUR--CLEANSING THE STABLES OF AUGEAS
Although Eurystheus was seized with tremor at the coming of Hercules
with the Erymanthian boar, still he continued relentless, and
demanded the performance of the next task, which was nothing less
than the cleaning out in one day of stables where numerous cattle
had been confined for many years. These noisome stalls belonged to
Augeas, a King of Elis and a man rich in herds--so rich indeed that
as the years passed and his cattle increased he could not find men
enough to care for his kine and their house. Thus the animals had
continued, and had so littered their abiding place that it had
become well nigh intolerable and a source of disease and even of
pestilence to the people.
When Hercules came to King Augeas he said nothing to him of the
command Eurystheus had laid upon him, but looking through the
stables which covered a space of many meadows he spoke of the cattle
and the evil condition of their housing. "The moon-eyed kine will do
better in clean stables," said the wise Hercules, "and if thou wilt
pledge me a tenth of thy herds I will clean out thy stalls in a
day." To this Augeas delightedly agreed and, speaking as they were
in the presence of the young son of the King, Hercules called upon
the prince to witness the pact.
Now Hercules in going about the great stables had noticed that at
the upper end of their building flowed a swift river, and at the
lower end was a second swift stream. When therefore Augeas had
pledged himself to the work, Hercules, beginning early next day,
took down the walls at the upper end of the stalls and the walls at
the lower end. Then with his own mighty hands he dug channels and
canals and led the waters of the upper swift-flowing river into the
heavily littered floor of the stalls. And the waters rose and pushed
the litter before them and made one channel into the lower river,
and then another and another and so, working through the hours of
the day, the upper river scoured the stables clean and carried the
refuse to the lower river. And the lower river took the burden and
carried it out to the salt sea, which is ever and always cleaning
and purifying whatever comes to its waters. And when night fell
there stood the hero Hercules looking at his work--the filthy
stables of Augeas cleaned.
When next day Hercules asked for the tenth of the herds which the
King had pledged, Augeas refused to stand by his agreement. He had
learned that this labour of cleaning his stables had been imposed
upon Hercules, and he claimed he should pay nothing for it; in fact,
he denied he had promised anything, and offered to lay the matter
before judges. The cause therefore was tried, and at the trial the
young son of the King, who had witnessed the pact, testified to the
truth of Hercules' claim. This so enraged his father that in most
high-handed manner he banished both his son and the hero from Elis
without waiting for the judgment of the court. Hercules returned to
Mycenae. But again the cowardly and contemptible Eurystheus refused
to count this labour, saying Hercules had done it for hire.
THE SIXTH LABOUR--SHOOTING THE STYMPHALIAN BIRDS
Far in the famed land of Arcadia is a beautiful lake known so many
years ago, as in the time of Hercules, and even by us in our day, as
Lake Stymphalus. It is a lake of pure sweet water and it lies, as
such waters lie in our own country, high up in mountains and amid
hillsides covered with firs and poplars and clinging vines and wild
In our day the lake is a resort for gentle singing birds, but in the
time of Hercules other birds were there also. The other birds were
water fowls, and they had gathered at Lake Stymphalus because they
had been driven out of their old home by wolves, who alone were
hungrier and more destructive than they. These fowls had claws of
iron, and every feather of theirs was sharper than a barbed arrow,
and so strong and fierce and ravenous they were that they would dart
from the air and attack hunters, yea, and pecking them down would
tear and strip their flesh till but a bony skeleton remained of that
which a few minutes before had been a strong, active, buoyant man
seeking in the chase food for his hearthside.
To make way with this horrid tribe of the air was the sixth command
Eurystheus laid upon Hercules. Toward Lake Stymphalus therefore
turned our hero. Again he walked Arcadian waysides, and again as he
fared the spring sun shone above, and the birds sang welcome, and
the narcissus lifted its golden cup, and as he went his heart
rejoiced in his life, whatever the difficulty of his labour, and in
the beauty of the world before his eyes. And as he walked also he
thought of how he should accomplish the great undertaking upon which
he was bent.
While thus deliberating the grey-eyed goddess of wisdom, Athene,
came to him--just as this goddess even in our day comes to those who
think--and she suggested to his mind that he should scare the fowl
from their retreat by brazen rattles. The goddess did even more than
put the notion of using a rattle in the mind of Hercules. It is said
she actually brought him one, a huge, bronze clapper made for him by
the forger of the gods, limping Hephaestus.
Hercules took this rattle and mounting a neighbouring height shook
it in his great hands till every hill echoed and the very trees
quivered with the horrid sound. And the man-eating birds? Not one
remained hidden. Each and every one rose terrified in the air,
croaking and working its steely talons and sharp-pointed feathers in
Now from his quiver the hero fast picked his barbed arrows, and fast
he shot and every shot brought to his feet one of the terrible man-
eaters, till at last he had slain every one. Or, if indeed, any of
the tribe had escaped, they had flown far away, for never after, in
all the long history of Lake Stymphalus, have such creatures
appeared again above its fair waters.
So ended the sixth labour of Hercules.
THE SEVENTH LABOUR--CAPTURING THE CRETAN BULL
Just as Zeus who, as we said in the beginning, was King of all
heaven that is the air and clouds, so Posidon was King of the sea.
With his queen, Amphitrite, he lived far down underneath the waves,
and dwelt in a palace splendid with all the beautiful things of the
In the midst of the blue waters of the Mediterranean where Posidon
had his home, lies an island called Crete, and long ago in the days
when Hercules laboured, a King, whose name was Minos, ruled over
this land. The island is long and narrow and has much sea coast, and
because of this fact King Minos stood in intimate relations with the
god of the sea.
Now one day in an especial burst of friendliness, Minos vowed to
sacrifice to Posidon whatever should come out of the salt waters.
The god in pleasure at the vow, and to test mayhap the devotion of
Minos, sent at once a beautiful bull leaping and swimming through
the waves. When the creature had come to the rocky coast and made
land, its side shone with such beauty, and its ivory-white horns
garlanded with lilies set so like a crown above its graceful head
that Minos and all the people who saw it marvelled that anywhere
could have grown such a bull. And a sort of greed and deceit seized
Minos as he gazed, and for his sacrifice to Posidon he resolved to
use another bull. And so he ordered his herdsman to take this fair
creature that had come from the sea and to put it among his herd,
and also to bring forth another for the offering.
Because of this avarice of Minos the god below the waves was angry
and he made the bull wild and furious, so that no herdsman dared
approach to feed or care for it. For his seventh task Eurystheus
commanded Hercules to fetch him this mad bull of Crete.
Hercules accordingly boarded one of the ships that plied in that
far-off day, as well as in this time of ours, between the rocky
coast of Crete and the fair land of Hellas, and in due time the hero
came to Minos' court. "I have come, sire," said Hercules, "for the
mad bull that terrifies thy herdsmen and is rumoured beyond
capture." "Ay, young man," cried the king, "thou hast come for my
bull and my bull shalt thou have. When thou hast taken it, it is
thine," and the King laughed grimly, for the strength and fury of
the creature he deemed beyond any man's control.
Hercules sought the grove where Posidon's gift had strayed from its
fellows, and there deftly seizing it by the horns, he bound its feet
with stout straps of bull's hide and its horns he padded with moss
of the sea from which it came, and so having made it powerless he
lifted it to his shoulders and carried it to the shore. A swift
black ship was just spreading sail from Crete, and entering upon it
the hero soon ended his journey and laid his capture before
Eurystheus. A day or two later Hercules loosed the bull, which,
after wandering through the woodlands of Arcadia, crossed the
isthmus and came to the plains of Marathon, whence, after doing much
damage, it swam off to sea and was never heard of after.
So far we have told how Hercules accomplished seven of the tasks
laid upon him. Space does not permit us to recount in detail the
other five. The eighth task was to bring to Eurystheus the man-
eating mares of the King of Windy Thrace. The ninth task was to
fetch a girdle which Ares, god of war, had given the Queen of the
Amazons--an exceedingly difficult labour, for the Amazons were a
nation of women-warriors renowned for valour. For the tenth task
Eurystheus demanded the purple oxen of a famous giant who dwelt on
an island far out in the ocean. The eleventh task was to bring
apples from the garden of the Hesperides--golden apples guarded by a
dragon with a hundred heads, no one of which ever closed its eyes in
sleep. And the twelfth and last task, which was to free the mighty
Hercules from his bondage to cowardly Eurystheus, was to fetch
Cerberus, the three-headed dog, who guarded the entrance to Hades,
the unseen abode of departed spirits.
Each and every one of these labours the strong hero accomplished.
Having won his freedom and gained the honours promised by the
priestess at Delphi many years before, Hercules worked many a noble
deed and finally in reward for his much enduring and his aid to
mortals, he was carried upon a thunder cloud to the upper air, and
entered into the very gates of heaven.
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty
princes, which should be over the whole kingdom.
And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the
princes might give accounts unto them, and the King should have no
Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes,
because an excellent spirit was in him; and the King thought to set
him over the whole realm.
Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against
Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor
fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or
fault found in him.
Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this
Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.
Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the King,
and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.
All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes,
the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to
establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever
shall ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of
thee, O King, he shall be cast into the den of lions.
Now, O King, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be
not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which
Wherefore King Darius signed the writing and the decree.
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his
house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem,
he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave
thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making
supplication before his God.
Then they came near, and spake before the King concerning the King's
decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask
a petition of any god or man within thirty days, save of thee, O
King, shall be cast into the den of lions? The King answered and
said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and
Persians, which altereth not.
Then answered they and said before the King, That Daniel, which is
of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O
King, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition
three times a day.
Then the King, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with
himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured
till the going down of the sun to deliver him.
Then these men assembled unto the King, and said unto the King,
Know, O King, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no
decree nor statute which the King establisheth may be changed.
Then the King commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into
the den of lions. Now the King spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God
whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.
And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the
King sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his
lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
Then the King went to his palace, and passed the night fasting:
neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep
went from him.
Then the King arose very early in the morning, and went in haste
unto the den of lions.
And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto
Daniel: and the King spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of
the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to
deliver thee from the lions?
Then said Daniel unto the King, O King, live for ever.
My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that
they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found
in me: and also before thee, O King, have I done no hurt.
Then was the King exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they
should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of
the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he
believed in his God.
The Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were
gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched
between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.
And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched
by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the
And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel
stood on a mountain on the other side; and there was a valley
And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines,
named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a
coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels
And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass
between his shoulders.
And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's
head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and one bearing a shield
went before him.
And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto
them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a
Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and
let him come down to me.
If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your
servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye
be our servants, and serve us.
And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give
me a man, that we may fight together.
When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they
were dismayed, and greatly afraid.
Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-judah, whose
name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men
for an old man in the days of Saul.
And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the
battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were
Eliab the firstborn, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third
And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul.
But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at
And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented
himself forty days.
And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an
ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the
camp to thy brethren;
And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and
look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge.
Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of
Elah, fighting with the Philistines.
And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a
keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came
to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted
for the battle.
For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array army
And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the
carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.
And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the
Philistine of Gam, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the
Philistines, and spake according to the same words; and David heard
And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and
were sore afraid.
And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up?
surely to defy Israel is he come up; and it shall be, that the man
who killeth him, the King will enrich him with great riches, and
will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in
And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be
done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the
reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that
he should defy the armies of the living God?
And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it
be done to the man that killeth him.
And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and
Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest
thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in
the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine
heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.
And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?
And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same
manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner.
And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them
before Saul: and he sent for him.
And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy
servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this
Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man
of war from his youth.
And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and
there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:
And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his
mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and
smote him, and slew him.
Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised
Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies
of the living God.
David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of
the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of
the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the
Lord be with thee.
And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass
upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.
And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he essayed to go;
for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with
these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.
And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones
out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had,
even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to
And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man
that bore the shield went before him.
And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained
him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.
And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to
me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy
flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.
Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword,
and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name
of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou
This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite
thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses
of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air,
and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know
that there is a God in Israel.
And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword
and spear: for the battle is the Lord's and He will give you into
And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew
nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to
meet the Philistine.
And David put his hand to his bag, and took thence a stone, and
slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone
sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a
stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no
sword in the hand of David.
Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his
sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut
off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion
was dead, they fled.
And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued
the Philistines, until thou comest to the valley, and to the gates
of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to
Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron.
And the children of Irsael returned from chasing after the
Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.
And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to
Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent.
And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said
unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth?
And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O King, I cannot tell.
And the King said, Enquire thou whose son the stripling is.
And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner
took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the
Philistine in his hand.
And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David
answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.
In the year 280, in a town in Cappadocia, was born that great
soldier and champion of the oppressed whom we call St. George. His
parents were Christians, and by them, and especially by his mother,
he was most carefully instructed and trained.
When the youth came to the age of seventeen years he took up the
profession of arms, and since he was gifted with beauty of person,
intelligence, and an exquisite courtesy, he rose rapidly to a
considerable military rank. Especially he pleased his imperial
One day while the Emperor, who was devoted to the worship of Apollo,
was consulting at a shrine of that god upon an affair of much
importance, from the dark depths of the cavern came forth a voice
saying, "The just who are on the earth keep me from telling the
truth. By them the inspiration of the Sacred Tripod is made a lie."
At once the Emperor was stricken with consternation and asked who
these just people were. "Master," answered one of the priests of
Apollo, "they are the Christians." This answer so enraged Diocletian
that he rekindled his persecutions.
Now from the first the young soldier George had burned with
indignation because of the unspeakable cruelties put upon
Christians, and he had spoken out boldly in defence of his brethren.
His friends had counselled silence and prudence. But George would
have none. He knew, however, that he might be called upon to suffer
at any time, and he hoped to do better work for the world and to die
after braver effort. He therefore distributed his money and his fine
apparel among the poor and needy, set free all the slaves he
possessed, and went forth upon knightly travel.
While pricking one day through the plains of Libya he came to a
certain city called Silene, the people of which were bewailing a
dire misfortune that had come upon them. An enormous dragon had
issued from a marsh neighbouring the town and had devoured all their
flocks and herds. Already the monster had taken dwelling near the
city walls, and at such distance the people had been able to keep
him only by granting him two sheep every day for his food and drink.
If they had failed in this he would have come within their walls and
poisoned every man, woman, and child with his plague-like breath.
But now already all the flocks and herds had been eaten. Nothing
remained to fill the insatiable maw of the dragon but the little
people of the homes and hearths of all the town. Every day two
children were now given him. Each child taken was under the age of
fifteen, and was chosen by lot. Thus it happened that every house
and every street and all the public squares echoed with the wailing
of unhappy parents and the cries of the innocents who were soon to
Now it chanced that the King of the city had one daughter, an
exceeding fair girl both in mind and body, and after many days of
the choosing of lots for the sacrifice, and after many a blooming
girl and boy had met an unhappy death, the lot fell to this maiden,
Cleodolinda. When her father, the King, heard his misfortune, in his
despair he offered all the gold in the state treasury and even half
his kingdom, to redeem the maiden. But at this many fathers and
mothers who had lost their children murmured greatly and said, "O
King, art thou just? By thy edict thou hast made us desolate. And
now behold thou wouldst withhold thine own child!"
Thus the people spake, and speaking they waxed wroth greatly, and so
joining together they marched threatening to burn the King in his
palace unless he delivered the maiden to fulfil her lot. To such
demands the King perforce submitted, and at last he asked only a
delay of eight days which he might spend with the lovely girl and
bewail her fate. This the people granted.
At the end of the time agreed to the fair victim was led forth. She
fell at her father's feet asking his blessing and protesting she was
ready to die for her people. Then amid tears and lamentations she
was led to the walls and put without. The gates were shut and barred
She walked towards the dwelling of the dragon, slowly and painfully,
for the road was strewn with the bones of her playmates, and she
wept as she went on her way.
It was this very morning that George, courageously seeking to help
the weak, and strong to serve the truth, was passing by in his
knightly journeying. He saw stretched before him the noisome path,
and, moved to see so beautiful a maiden in tears, he checked his
charger and asked her why she wept. The whole pitiful story she
recounted, to which the valiant one answered, "Fear not; I will
"Oh noble youth," cried the fair victim, "tarry not here lest you
perish with me. Fly, I beseech you."
"God forbid that I should fly," said George in answer; "I will lift
my hand against this loathly thing, and I will deliver you through
the power that lives in all true followers of Christ."
At that moment the dragon was seen coming forth from his lair half
flying and half crawling towards them. "Fly, I beseech you, brave
knight," cried the fair girl trembling, "Leave me here to die."
But George answered not. Rather he put spurs to his horse and,
calling upon his Lord, rushed towards the monster, and, after a
terrible and prolonged combat, pinned the mighty hulk to the earth
with his lance. Then he called to the maiden to bring him her