Part 2 out of 11
Now (brandished weapons glittering in their hands)
Mankind is broken loose from moral bands:
No rights of hospitality remain;
The guest by him who harbored him is slain;
The son-in-law pursues the father's life;
The wife her husband murders, he the wife;
The step-dame poison for the son prepares,
The son inquires into his father's years.
Faith flies, and Piety in exile mourns;
And Justice, here oppressed, to heaven returns.
The Scriptures assert that the wickedness of mankind was the cause
of the Noachian flood, or deluge. So, also, we find that, in Grecian
mythology, like causes led to the deluge of Deuca'lion. Therefore,
before giving Ovid's account of this latter event, we give, from
Hesiod, a curious account of
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL, AND ITS INTRODUCTION INTO THE WORLD.
It appears from the legend that, during a controversy between
the gods and men, Pro-me'theus, [Footnote: In most Greek proper
names ending in 'eus', the 'eus' is pronounced in one syllable;
as Or'pheus, pronounced Or'phuse.] who is said to have surpassed
all his fellow-men in intellectual vigor and sagacity, stole fire
from the skies, and, concealing it in a hollow staff, brought it
to man. Jupiter, angry at the theft of that which had been reserved
from mortals for wise purposes, resolved to punish Prometheus, and
through him all mankind, to show that it was not given to man to
elude the wisdom of the gods. He therefore caused Vulcan to form
an image of air and water, to give it human voice and strength,
and make it assume the form of a beautiful woman, like the immortal
goddesses themselves. Minerva endowed this new creation with
artistic skill, Venus gave her the witchery of beauty, Mercury
inspired her with an artful disposition, and the Graces added
all their charms. But we append the following extracts from the
beautifully written account by Hesiod, beginning with the command
which Jupiter gave to Vulcan, the fire-god:
Thus spoke the sire, whom heaven and earth obey,
And bade the fire-god mould his plastic clay;
In-breathe the human voice within her breast;
With firm-strung nerves th'elastic limbs invest;
Her aspect fair as goddesses above--
A virgin's likeness, with the brows of love.
He bade Minerva teach the skill that dyes
The wool with color's as the shuttle flies:
He called the magic of Love's charming queen
To breathe around a witchery of mien;
Then plant the rankling stings of keen desire
And cares that trick the limbs with pranked attire:
Bade Her'mes [Footnote: Mercury.] last impart the Craft refined
Of thievish manners, and a shameless mind.
He gives command--the inferior powers obey--
The crippled artist [Footnote: Vulcan.] moulds the tempered clay:
A maid's coy image rose at Jove's behest;
Minerva clasped the zone, diffused too vest;
Adored Persuasion and the Graces young
Her tapered limbs with golden jewels hung;
Round her smooth brow the beauteous-tressed Hours
A garland twined of Spring's purpureal flowers.
The whole attire Minerva's graceful art
Disposed, adjusted, formed to every part;
And last, the winged herald [Footnote: Mercury.] of the skies,
Slayers of Argus, gave the gift of lies--
Gave trickish manners, honeyed words instilled,
As he that rolls the deepening thunder willed:
Then by the feathered messenger of Heaven
The name PANDO'RA to the maid was given;
For all the gods conferred a gifted grace
To crown this mischief of the mortal race.
Thus furnished, Pandora was brought as a gift from Jupiter to
the dwelling of Ep-i-me'theus, the brother of Prometheus; and
the former, dazzled by her charms, received her in spite of the
warnings of his sagacious brother, and made her his wife.
The sire commands the winged herald bear
The finished nymph, th' inextricable snare.
To Epimetheus was the present brought:
Prometheus' warning vanished from his thought--
That he disdain each offering of the skies,
And straight restore, lest ill to man arise.
But he received, and, conscious, knew too late
Th' insidious gift, and felt the curse of fate.
In the dwelling of Epimetheus stood a closed casket, which he
had been forbidden to open; but Pandora, disregarding the
injunction, raised the lid; when lo! to her consternation, all
the evils hitherto unknown to mortals poured out, and spread
themselves over the earth. In terror at the sight of these monsters,
Pandora shut down the lid just in time to prevent the escape of
Hope, which thus remained to man, his chief support and consolation
amid the trials of his pilgrimage.
On earth, of yore, the sons of men abode
From evil free, and labor's galling load;
Free from diseases that; with racking rage,
Precipitate the pale decline of age.
Now swift the days of manhood haste away,
And misery's pressure turns the temples gray.
The Woman's hands an ample casket bear;
She lifts the lid--she scatters ill in air.
Hope sole remained within, nor took her flight--
Beneath the vessel's verge concealed from light;
Issued the rest, in quick dispersion buried,
And woes innumerous roamed the breathing world:
With ills the land is full, with ills the sea;
Diseases haunt our frail humanity;
Self-wandering through the noon, at night they glide
Voiceless--a voice the power all-wise denied:
Know, then, this awful truth: it is not given
To elude the wisdom of omniscient Heaven.
--Trans. by ELTON.
PROFESSOR BLACKIE has made this legend the subject of a pleasing
poem, from which we take the following extracts, beginning with
the acceptance by Epimetheus of the gift from Jupiter. The deluded
"Bless thee, bless thee, gentle Hermes!
Once I sinned, and strove
Vainly with my haughty brother
'Gainst Olympian Jove.
Now my doubts his love hath vanquished;
Evil knows not he,
Whose free-streaming grace prepared
Such gift of gods for me.
Henceforth I and fair Pandora,
Joined in holy love,
Only one in heaven will worship--
Thus he; and from the god received
The glorious gift of Jove,
And with fond embracement clasped her,
Thrilled by potent love;
And in loving dalliance with her
Lived from day to day,
While her bounteous smiles diffusive
Scared pale care away.
By the mountain, by the river,
'Neath the shaggy pine,
By the cool and grassy fountain
Where clear waters shine,
He with her did lightly stray,
Or softly did recline,
Drinking sweet intoxication
From that form divine.
One day, when the moon had wheeled
Four honeyed weeks away,
From her chamber came Pandora
Decked with trappings gay,
And before fond Epimetheus
Fondly she did stand,
A box all bright with lucid opal
Holding in her hand.
"Dainty box!" cried Epimetheus.
"Dainty well may't be,"
Quoth Pandora--"curious Vulcan
Framed it cunningly;
Jove bestowed it in my dowry:
Like bright Phoebus' ray
It shines without; within, what wealth
I know not to this day."
It will be observed in what follows that the poet does not strictly
adhere to the legend as given by Hesiod, in which it is stated
that Pandora, probably under the influence of curiosity, herself
raised the lid of the mysterious casket. The poet, instead,
attributes the act to Epimetheus, and so relieves Pandora of the
odium and the guilt.
"Let me see," quoth Epimetheus,
"What my touch can do!"
And swiftly to his finger's call
The box wide open flew.
O heaven! O hell! What Pandemonium
In the pouncet dwells!
How it quakes, and how it quivers;
How it seethes and swells!
Misty steams from it upwreathing,
Wave on wave is spread!
Like a charnel-vault, 'tis breathing
Vapors of the dead!
Fumes on fumes as from a throat
Of sooty Vulcan rise,
Clouds of red and blue and yellow
Blotting the fair skies!
And the air, with noisome stenches,
As from things that rot,
Chokes the breather--exhalation
From the infernal pot.
And amid the thick-curled vapors
Ghastly shapes I see
Of dire diseases, Epimetheus,
Launched on earth by thee.
A horrid crew! Some lean and dwindled,
Some with boils and blains
Blistered, some with tumors swollen,
And water in the veins;
Some with purple blotches bloated,
Some with humors flowing
Putrid, some with creeping tetter
Like a lichen growing
O'er the dry skin scaly-crusted;
Some with twisted spine
Dwarfing low with torture slow
The human form divine;
Limping some, some limbless lying;
Fever, with frantic air,
And pale consumption veiling death
With looks serenely fair.
All the troop of cureless evils,
Rushing reinless forth
From thy damned box, Pandora,
Seize the tainted earth!
And to lay the marshalled legions
Of our fiendish pains,
Hope alone, a sorry charmer,
In the box remains.
Epimetheus knew the dolors,
But he knew too late;
Jealous Jove himself, now vainly,
Would revoke the fate.
And he cursed the fair Pandora,
But he cursed in vain;
Still, to fools, the fleeting pleasure
Buys the lasting pain!
WHAT PROMETHEUS PERSONIFIED.
PROFESSOR BLACKIE says, regarding Prometheus, that the common
conception of him is, that he was the representative of freedom
in contest with despotism. He thinks, however, that Goethe is
nearer the depth of the myth when, in his beautiful lyric, he
represents Prometheus as the impersonation of that indefatigable
endurance in man which conquers the earth by skilful labor, in
opposition to and despite; those terrible influences of the wild,
elemental forces of Nature which the Greeks supposed were
concentrated in the person of Jove. Accordingly, PROFESSOR BLACKIE,
in his Legend of Prometheus; represents him as proclaiming, in the
following language, his empire on the earth, in opposition to the
"Jove rules above: Fate willed it so.
'Tis well; Prometheus rules below.
Their gusty games let wild winds play,
And clouds on clouds in thick array
Muster dark armies in the sky:
Be mine a harsher trade to ply--
This solid Earth, this rocky frame
To mould, to conquer, and to tame--
And to achieve the toilsome plan
My workman shall be MAN.
"The Earth is young. Even with these eyes
I saw the molten mountains rise
From out the seething deep, while Earth
Shook at the portent of their birth.
I saw from out the primal mud
The reptiles crawl, of dull, cold blood,
While winged lizards, with broad stare,
Peered through the raw and misty air.
Where then was Cretan Jove? Where then
This king of gods and men?
"When, naked from his mother Earth,
Weak and defenceless, man crept forth,
And on mis-tempered solitude
Of unploughed field and unclipped wood
Gazed rudely; when; with brutes, he fed
On acorns, and his stony bed
In dark, unwholesome caverns found,
No skill was then to tame the ground,
No help came then from him above--
This tyrannous, blustering Jove.
"The Earth is young. Her latest birth,
This weakling man, my craft shall girth
With cunning strength. Him I will take,
And in stern arts my scholar make.
This smoking reed, in which hold
The empyrean spark, shall mould
Rock and hard steel to use of man:
He shall be as a god to plan
And forge all things to his desire
By alchemy of fire.
"These jagged cliffs that flout the air,
Harsh granite rocks, so rudely bare,
Wise Vulcan's art and mine shall own
To piles of shapeliest beauty grown.
The steam that snorts vain strength away
Shall serve the workman's curious sway,
Like a wise child; as clouds that sail
White-winged before the summer gale,
The smoking chariot o'er the land
Shall roll at his command.
"'Blow, winds, and crack your checks!' my home
Stands firm beneath Jove's rattling dome,
This stable Earth. Here let me work!
The busy spirits that eager lurk
Within a thousand laboring breasts
Here let me rouse; and whoso rests
From labor, let him rest from life.
To 'live's to strive;' and in the strife
To move the rock and stir the clod
Man makes himself a god!"
THE PUNISHMENT OF PROMETHEUS.
Regarding the punishment of Prometheus for his daring act, the
legend states that Jupiter bound him with chains to a rock or
pillar, supposed to be in Scythia, and sent an eagle to prey
without ceasing on his liver, which grew every night as much as
it had lost during the day. After an interval of thirty thousand
years Hercules, a hero of great strength and courage, slew the
eagle and set the sufferer free. The Greek poet ÆS'CHYLUS, justly
styled the father of Grecian tragedy, has made the punishment of
Prometheus the basis of a drama, entitled Prometheus Bound, which
many think is this poet's masterpiece, and of which it has been
"Nothing can be grander than the scenery in which the poet has
made his hero suffer. He is chained to a desolate and stupendous
rock at the extremity of earth's remotest wilds, frowning over
old ocean. The daughters of O-ce'a-nus, who constitute the chorus
of the tragedy, come to comfort and calm him; and even the aged
Oceanus himself, and afterward Mercury, do all they can to persuade
him to submit to his oppressor, Jupiter. But all to no purpose;
he sternly and triumphantly refuses. Meanwhile, the tempest rages,
the lightnings flash upon the rock, the sands are torn up by
whirlwinds, the seas are dashed against the sky, and all the
artillery of heaven is leveled against his bosom, while he proudly
defies the vengeance of his tyrant, and sinks into the earth to
the lower regions, calling on the Powers of Justice to avenge his
In trying to persuade the defiant Prometheus to relent, Æschylus
represents Mercury as thus addressing him:
"I have indeed, methinks, said much in vain,
For still thy heart, beneath my showers of prayers,
Lies dry and hard! nay, leaps like a young horse
Who bites against the new bit in his teeth,
And tugs and struggles against the new-tried rein,
Still fiercest in the weakest thing of all,
Which sophism is--for absolute will alone,
When left to its motions in perverted minds,
Is worse than null for strength! Behold and see,
Unless my words persuade thee, what a blast
And whirlwind of inevitable woe
Must sweep persuasion through thee! For at first
The Father will split up this jut of rock
With the great thunder and the bolted flame,
And hide thy body where the hinge of stone
Shall catch it like an arm! and when thou hast passed
A long black time within, thou shalt come out
To front the sun; and Zeus's winged hound,
The strong, carnivorous eagle, shall wheel down
To meet thee--self-called to a daily feast--
And set his fierce beak in thee, and tear off
The long rags of thy flesh, and batten deep
Upon thy dusky liver!
"Do not look
For any end, moreover, to this curse,
Or ere some god appear to bear thy pangs
On his own head vicarious, and descend
With unreluctant step the darks of hell,
And the deep glooms enringing Tartarus!
Then ponder this: the threat is not growth
Of vain invention--it is spoken and meant!
For Zeus's mouth is impotent to lie,
And doth complete the utterance in the act.
So, look to it, thou! take heed! and nevermore
Forget good counsel to indulge self-will!
To which Prometheus answers as follows:
"Unto me, the foreknower, this mandate of power,
He cries, to reveal it!
And scarce strange is my fate, if I suffer from hate
At the hour that I feel it!
Let the rocks of the lightning, all bristling and whitening,
Flash, coiling me round!
While the ether goes surging 'neath thunder and scourging
Of wild winds unbound!
Let the blast of the firmament whirl from its place
The earth rooted below--
And the brine of the ocean, in rapid emotion,
Be it driven in the face
Of the stars up in heaven, as they walk to and fro!
Let him hurl me anon into Tartarus--on--
To the blackest degree,
With necessity's vortices strangling me down!
But he cannot join death to a fate meant for me!"
--Trans. by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.
THE SUFFERINGS OF PROMETHEUS.
We close this subject with a brief extract from the Prometheus
Bound of the English poet SHELLEY, in which the sufferings of
the defiant captive are vividly portrayed:
"No change, no pause, no hope! yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
The crawling glaciers pierce me with the spears
Of their moon-freezing crystals; the bright chains
Eat with their burning gold into my bones.
Heaven's winged hound, polluting from thy lips
His beak in poison not his own, tears up
My heart; and shapeless sights come wandering by--
The ghastly people of the realm of dream
Mocking me; and the Earthquake fiends are charged
To wrench the rivets from my quivering wounds
When the rocks split and close again behind;
While from their loud abysses howling throng
The genii of the storm."
Returning now to the poet Ovid, we present the account which he
gives of the Deluge, or the destruction of mankind by a flood,
called by the Greeks,
THE DELUGE OF DEUCALION.
Deucalion is represented as the son of Prometheus, and is styled
the father of the Greek nation of post-diluvian times. When Jupiter
determined to destroy the human race on account of its impiety,
it was his first design, OVID tells us, to accomplish it with fire.
But his own safety demanded the employment of a less dangerous
Already had Jove tossed the flaming brand,
And rolled the thunder in his spacious hand,
Preparing to discharge on seas and land;
But stopped, for fear, thus violently driven,
The sparks should catch his axle-tree of heaven--
Remembering, in the Fates, a time when fire
Should to the battlements of heaven aspire,
And all his blazing worlds above should burn,
And all the inferior globe to cinders turn.
His dire artillery thus dismissed, he bent
His thoughts to some securer punishment;
Concludes to pour a watery deluge down,
And what he durst not burn resolves to drown.
In all this myth, it will be seen, Jupiter may very properly be
considered as a personification of the elemental strife that
drowned a guilty world. Deucalion, warned, by his father, of the
coming deluge, thereupon made himself an ark or skiff, and, putting
provisions into it, entered it with his wife, Pyrrha. The whole
earth is then overspread with the flood of waters, and all animal
life perishes, except Deucalion and his wife.
The northern breath that freezes floods, Jove binds,
With all the race of cloud-dispelling winds:
The south he loosed, who night and horror brings,
And fogs are shaken from his flaggy wings.
From his divided beard two streams he pours;
His head and rheumy eyes distil in showers.
The skies, from pole to pole, with peals resound;
And showers enlarged come pouring on the ground.
Nor from his patrimonial heaven alone
Is Jove content to pour his vengeance down:
Aid from his brother of the seas he craves,
To help him with auxiliary waves.
The watery tyrant calls his brooks and floods,
Who roll from mossy caves, their moist abodes,
And with perpetual urns his palace fill;
To whom, in brief, he thus imparts his will:
Small exhortation needs; your powers employ,
And this bad world (so Jove requires) destroy.
Let loose the reins to all your watery store;
Bear down the dams and open every door."
The floods, by nature enemies to land,
And proudly swelling with their new command,
Remove the living stones that stopped their way,
And, gushing from their source, augment the sea.
Then with his mace their monarch struck the ground:
With inward trembling Earth received the wound,
And rising stream a ready passage found.
The expanded waters gather on the plain,
They float the fields and overtop the grain;
Then, rushing onward, with a sweepy sway,
Bear flocks and folds and laboring hinds away.
Nor safe their dwellings were; for, sapped by floods,
Their houses fell upon their household gods.
The solid hills, too strongly built to fall,
High o'er their heads behold a watery wall.
Now seas and earth were in confusion lost--
A world of waters, and without a coast.
One climbs a cliff; one in his boat is borne,
And ploughs above where late he sowed his corn.
Others o'er chimney-tops and turrets row,
And drop their anchors on the meads below;
Or, downward driven, they bruise the tender vine,
Or, tossed aloft, are hurled against a pine.
And where of late the kids had cropped the grass,
The monsters of the deep now take their place.
Insulting Ner'e-ids on the cities ride,
And wondering dolphins o'er the palace glide.
On leaves and masts of mighty oaks they browse,
And their broad fins entangle in the boughs.
The frighted wolf now swims among the sheep,
The yellow lion wanders in the deep;
His rapid force no longer helps the boar,
The stag swims faster than he ran before.
The fowls, long beating on their wings in vain,
Despair of land, and drop into the main.
Now hills and vales no more distinction know,
And levelled nature lies oppressed below.
The most of mortals perished in the flood,
The small remainder dies for want of food.
Deucalion and Pyrrha were conveyed to the summit of Mount Parnassus,
the highest mountain in Central Greece. According to Ovid, Deucalion
now consulted the ancient oracle of Themis respecting the restoration
of mankind, and received the following response:
"Depart from the temple, veil your heads, loosen your girded
vestments, and cast behind you the great bones of your parent." At
length Deucalion discovered the meaning of the oracle--the bones
being, by a very natural figure, the stones, or rocky heights, of
the earth. The poet then gives the following account of the
abatement of the waters, and of the appearance of the earth:
"When Jupiter, surveying earth from high,
Beheld it in a lake of water lie--
That, where so many millions lately lived,
But two, the best of either sex, survived--
He loosed the northern wind: fierce Boreas flies
To puff away the clouds and purge the skies:
Serenely, while he blows, the vapors driven
Discover heaven to earth and earth to heaven;
The billows fall while Neptune lays his mace
On the rough sea, and smooths its furrowed face.
Already Triton [Footnote: Son of Neptune.] at his call appears
Above the waves: a Tyrian robe he wears,
And in his hands a crooked trumpet bears.
The sovereign bids him peaceful sounds inspire,
And give the waves the signal to retire.
The waters, listening to the trumpet's roar,
Obey the summons, and forsake the shore.
A thin circumference of land appears,
And Earth, but not at once, her visage rears,
And peeps upon the seas from upper grounds:
The streams, but just contained within their bounds,
By slow degrees into their channels crawl,
And earth increases as the waters fall:
In longer time the tops of trees appear,
Which mud on their dishonored branches bear.
At length the world was all restored to view,
But desolate, and of a sickly hue:
Nature beheld herself, and stood aghast,
A dismal desert and a silent waste.
When the waters had abated Deucalion left the rocky heights behind
him, in obedience to the direction of the oracle, and went to
dwell in the plains below.
MORAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE GODS, AND OF THEIR RULE OVER MANKIND.
It is a prominent feature of the polytheistic system of the Greeks
that the gods are represented as subject to all the passions and
frailties of human nature. There were, indeed, among them
personifications of good and of evil, as we see in A'te, the
goddess of revenge or punishment, and in the Erin'nys (or Furies),
who avenge violations of filial duty, punish perjury, and are the
maintainers of order both in the moral and the natural world; yet
while these moral ideas restrained and checked men, the gods seem
to have been almost wholly free from such control. "The society
of Olympus, therefore," says MAHAFFY, "is only an ideal Greek
society in the lowest sense--the ideal of the school-boy who
thinks all control irksome, and its absence the greatest good--the
ideal of a voluptuous man, who has strong passions, and longs for
the power to indulge them without unpleasant consequences. It
appears, therefore, that the Homeric picture of Olympus is very
valuable, as disclosing to us the poet's notion of a society freed
from the restraints of religion; for the rhapsodists [Footnote:
Rhapsodist, a term applied to the reciters of Greek verse.] were
dealing a death-blow (perhaps unconsciously) to the received
religious belief by these very pictures of sin and crime among
the gods. Their idea is a sort of semi-monarchical aristocracy,
where a number of persons have the power to help favorites, and
thwart the general progress of affairs; where love of faction
overpowers every other consideration, and justifies violence or
deceit. [Footnote: "Social Life in Greece," by J. P. Mahaffy.]
MR. GLADSTONE has given us, in the following extract, his views
of what he calls the "intense humanity" of the Olympian system,
drawn from what its great expounder has set forth in the Iliad
and the Odyssey. "That system," he says, "exhibits a kind of royal
or palace life of man, but on the one hand more splendid and
powerful, on the other more intense and free. It is a wonderful
and a gorgeous creation. It is eminently in accordance with the
signification of the English epithet--rather a favorite, apparently,
with our old writers--the epithet jovial, which is derived from
the Latin name of its head. It is a life of all the pleasures of
mind and body, of banquet and of revel, of music and of song; a
life in which solemn grandeur alternates with jest and gibe; a
life of childish willfulness and of fretfulness, combined with
serious, manly, and imperial cares; for the Olympus of Homer has
at least this one recommendation to esteem--that it is not peopled
with the merely lazy and selfish gods of Epicurus, but its
inhabitants busily deliberate on the government of man, and in
their debates the cause of justice wins.
"I do not now discuss the moral titles of the Olympian scheme;
what I dwell upon is its intense humanity, alike in its greatness
and its littleness, its glory and its shame. As the cares and
joys of human life, so the structure of society below is reflected,
by the wayward wit of man, on heaven above. Though the names and
fundamental traditions of the several deities were wholly or in
great part imported from abroad, their characters, relations, and
attributes passed under a Hellenizing process, which gradually
marked off for them special provinces and functions, according to
laws which appear to have been mainly original and indigenous,
and to have been taken by analogy from the division of labor in
political society. The Olympian society has its complement of
officers and servants, with their proper functions. He-phæs'tus
(or Vulcan) moulds the twenty golden thrones which move
automatically to form the circle of the council of the gods, and
builds for each of his brother deities a separate palace in the
deep-folded recesses of the mighty mountain. Music and song are
supplied by Apollo and the Muses; Gan-y-me'de and He'be are the
cup-bearers, Hermes and Iris are the messengers; but Themis, in
whom is impersonated the idea of deliberation and of relative
rights, is the summoner of the Great Assembly of the gods in the
Twentieth Iliad, when the great issue of the Trojan war is to be
determined." [Footnote: Address to the Edinburgh University,
November 3, 1865.]
But, however prone the gods were to evil passions, and subject
to human frailties, they were not believed to approve (in men)
of the vices in which they themselves indulged, but were, on
the contrary, supposed to punish violations of justice and
humanity, and to reward the brave and virtuous. We learn that
they were to be appeased by libations and sacrifice; and their
aid, not only in great undertakings, but in the common affairs
of life, was to be obtained by prayer and supplication. For
instance, in the Ninth Book of HOMER'S Iliad the aged
Phoe'nix--warrior and sage--in a beautiful allegory personifying
"Offence" and "Prayers," represents the former as robust and fleet
of limb, outstripping the latter, and hence roaming over the earth
and doing immense injury to mankind; but the Prayers, following
after, intercede with Jupiter, and, if we avail ourselves of them,
repair the evil; but if we neglect them we are told that the
vengeance of the wrong shall overtake us. Thus, Phoenix says of
"If a mortal man
Offend them by transgression of their laws,
Libation, incense, sacrifice, and prayer,
In meekness offered, turn their wrath away.
Prayers are Jove's daughters,
Which, though far distant, yet with constant pace
Follow Offence. Offence, robust of limb,
And treading firm the ground, outstrips them all,
And over all the earth before them runs,
Hurtful to man. They, following, heal the hurt.
Received respectfully when they approach,
They yield us aid and listen when we pray;
But if we slight, and with obdurate heart
Resist them, to Saturinian Jove they cry.
Against us, supplicating that Offence
May cleave to us for vengeance of the wrong."
In the Seventeenth Book, Men-e-la'us is represented going into
battle, "supplicating, first, the sire of all"--that is, Jupiter,
the king of the gods. In the Twenty-third Book, Antil'ochus
attributes the ill-success of Eu-me'lus in the chariot-race to
his neglect of prayer. He says,
"He should have offered prayer; then had be not
Arrived, as now, the hindmost of us all."
Numerous other instances might be given, from the works of the
Grecian poets, of the supposed efficacy of prayer to the gods.
The views of the early Greeks respecting the dispensations of an
overruling Providence, as shown in their belief in retributive
justice, are especially prominent in some of the sublime choruses
of the Greek tragedians, and in the "Works and Days" of Hesiod.
For instance, Æschylus says,
The ruthless and oppressive power
May triumph for its little hour;
But soon, with all their vengeful train,
The sullen Furies rise,
Break his full force, and whirl him down
Thro' life's dark paths, unpitied and unknown.
The following extracts from Hesiod illustrate the certainty with
which Justice was believed to overtake and punish those who pervert
her ways, while the good are followed by blessings. They also
show that the crimes of one are often "visited on all."
Earth's crooked judges--lo! the oath's dread god
Avenging runs, and tracks them where they trod.
Rough are the ways of Justice as the sea,
Dragged to and fro by men's corrupt decree;
Bribe-pampered men! whose hands, perverting, draw
The right aside, and warp the wrested law.
Though while Corruption on their sentence waits
They thrust pale Justice from their haughty gates,
Invisible their steps the Virgin treads,
And musters evil o'er their sinful heads.
She with the dark of air her form arrays,
And walks in awful grief the city ways:
Her wail is heard; her tear, upbraiding, falls
O'er their stained manners and devoted walls.
But they who never from the right have strayed--
Who as the citizen the stranger aid--
They and their cities flourish: genial peace
Dwells in their borders, and their youth increase;
Nor Jove, whose radiant eyes behold afar,
Hangs forth in heaven the signs of grievous war;
Nor scath, nor famine; on the righteous prey--
Peace crowns the night, and plenty cheers the day.
Rich are their mountain oaks: the topmost tree
The acorns fill, its trunk the hiving bee;
Their sheep with fleeces pant; their women's race
Reflect both parents in the infant face:
Still flourish they, nor tempt with ships the main;
The fruits of earth are poured from every plain.
But o'er the wicked race, to whom belong
The thought of evil and the deed of wrong,
Saturnian Jove, of wide-beholding eyes,
Bids the dark signs of retribution rise;
And oft the deeds of one destructive fall--
The crimes of one--are visited on all.
The god sends down his angry plagues from high--
Famine and pestilence--in heaps they die!
Again, in vengeance of his wrath, he falls
On their great hosts, and breaks their tottering walls;
Scatters their ships of war; and where the sea
Heaves high its mountain billows, there is he!
Ponder, O Judges! in your inmost thought
The retribution by his vengeance wrought.
Invisible, the gods are ever nigh,
Pass through the midst, and bend th' all-seeing eye.
The man who grinds the poor, who wrests the right,
Aweless of Heaven, stands naked to their sight:
For thrice ten thousand holy spirits rove
This breathing world, the delegates of Jove;
Guardians of man, their glance alike surveys
The upright judgments and the unrighteous ways.
A virgin pure is Justice, and her birth
August from him who rules the heavens and earth--
A creature glorious to the gods on high,
Whose mansion is yon everlasting sky.
Driven by despiteful wrong she takes her seat,
In lowly grief, at Jove's eternal feet.
There of the soul unjust her plaints ascend:
So rue the nations when their kings offend--
When, uttering wiles and brooding thoughts of ill,
They bend the laws, and wrest them to their will.
Oh! gorged with gold, ye kingly judges, hear!
Make straight your paths, your crooked judgments fear,
That the foul record may no more be seen--
Erased, forgot, as though it ne'er had been.
--Trans. by ELTON.
As in the beginning of the foregoing extract, so the poets
frequently refer to the oaths that were taken by those who entered
into important compacts, showing that then as now, and as in Old
Testament times, some overruling deity was invoked to witness
the agreement or promise, and punish its violation. Sometimes
the person touched the altar of the god by whom he swore, or the
blood that was shed in the ceremonial sacrifice, while some walked
through the fire to sanctify their oaths. When Abraham swore unto
the King of Sodom that he would not enrich himself with any of
the king's goods, he lifted up his hand to heaven, pointing to
the supposed residence of the Deity, as if calling on him to
witness the oath. When he requires his servant to take an oath
unto him he says, "Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: and
I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth;"
and Jacob requires the same ceremony from Joseph when the latter
promises to carry his father's bones up out of Egypt.
When the goddess Vesta swore an oath in the very presence of
Jupiter, as represented in Homer's hymn, she touched his head,
as the most fitting ceremonial.
Touching the head of Ægis-bearing Jove,
A mighty oath she swore, and hath fulfilled,
That she among the goddesses of heaven
Would still a virgin be.
We find a military oath described by Æschylus in the drama of
"The Seven Chiefs against Thebes":
O'er the hollow of a brazen shield
A bull they slew, and, touching with their hands
The sacrificial stream, they called aloud
On Mars, Eny'o, and blood-thirsty Fear,
And swore an oath or in the dust to lay
These walls, and give our people to the sword,
Or, perishing, to steep the land in blood!
That there was sometimes a fire ordeal to sanctify the oath, we
learn from the Antig'o-ne of SOPHOCLES. The Messenger who brought
tidings of the burial of Polyni'ces says,
"Ready were we to grasp the burning steel,
To pass through fire, and by the gods to swear
The deed was none of ours, nor aught we knew
Of living man by whom 'twas planned or done."
In the Twelfth Book of VIRGIL'S Æne'id, when King Turnus enters
into a treaty with the Trojans, he touches the altars of his
gods and the flames, as part of the ceremony:
"I touch the sacred altars, touch the flames,
And all these powers attest, and all their names,
Whatever chance befall on either side,
No term of time this union shall divide;
No force nor fortune shall my vows unbind,
To shake the steadfast tenor of my mind."
The ancient poets and orators denounce perjury in the strongest
terms, and speak of the offence as one of a most odious character.
THE FUTURE STATE.
The future state in which the Greeks believed was to some extent
one of rewards and punishments. The souls of most of the dead,
however, were supposed to descend to the realms of Ha'des, where
they remained, joyless phantoms, the mere shadows of their former
selves, destitute of mental vigor, and, like the spectres of the
North American Indians, pursuing, with dreamlike vacancy, the
empty images of their past occupations and enjoyments. So cheerless
is the twilight of the nether world that the ghost of Achilles
informs Ulysses that it would rather live the meanest hireling
on earth than be doomed to continue in the shades below, even
though as sovereign ruler there. Thus Achilles asks him--
"How hast thou dared descend into the gloom
Of Hades, where the shadows of the dead,
Forms without intellect, alone reside?"
And when Ulysses tries to console him by reminding him that he
was even there supreme over all his fellow-shades, he receives
"Renowned Ulysses! think not death a theme
Of consolation: I would rather live
The servile hind for hire, and eat the bread
Of some man scantily himself sustained,
Than sovereign empire hold o'er all the shades."
--Odyssey, by COWPER, B. XI.
But even in Hades a distinction is made between the good and the
bad, for there Ulysses finds Mi'nos, the early law-giver of Crete,
advanced to the position of judge over the assembled shades--
absolving the just, and condemning the guilty.
High on a throne, tremendous to behold,
Stern Minos waves a mace of burnished gold;
Around, ten thousand thousand spectres stand,
Through the wide dome of Dis, a trembling band;
Whilst, as they plead, the fatal lots he rolls,
Absolves the just, and dooms the guilty souls.
--Odyssey, by POPE, B. XI.
The kinds of punishment inflicted here are, as might be expected,
wholly earthly in their nature, and may be regarded rather as
the reflection of human passions than as moral retributions by
the gods. Thus, Tan'talus, placed up to his chin in water, which
ever flowed away from his lips, was tormented with unquenchable
thirst, while the fruits hanging around him constantly eluded
his grasp. The story of Tantalus is well told by PROFESSOR BLACKIE,
O Tantalus! thou wert a man
More blest than all since earth began
Its weary round to travel;
But, placed in Paradise, like Eve,
Thine own damnation thou didst weave,
Without help from the devil.
Alas! I fear thy tale to tell;
Thou'rt in the deepest pool of hell,
And shalt be there forever.
For why? When thou on lofty seat
Didst sit, and eat immortal meat
With Jove, the bounteous Giver,
The gods before thee loosed their tongue,
And many a mirthful ballad sung,
And all their secrets open flung
Into thy mortal ear.
The poet then goes on to describe the gossip, and pleasures, and
jealousies, and scandals of Olympus which Tantalus heard and
witnessed, and then proceeds as follows:
But witless he such grace to prize;
And, with licentious babble,
He blazed the secrets of the skies
Through all the human rabble,
And fed the greed of tattlers vain
With high celestial scandal,
And lent to every eager brain
And wanton tongue a handle
Against the gods. For which great sin,
By righteous Jove's command,
In hell's black pool up to the chin
The thirsty king doth stand:
With-parched throat he longs to drink,
But when he bends to sip,
The envious waves receding sink,
And cheat his pining lip.
Like in character was the punishment inflicted upon Sis'y-phus,
"the most crafty of men," as Homer calls him. Being condemned to
roll a huge stone up a hill, it proved to be a never-ending,
still-beginning toil, for as soon as the stone reached the summit
it rolled down again into the plain. So, also, Ix-i'on, "the Cain
of Greece," as he is expressly called--the first shedder of kindred
blood--was doomed to be fastened, with brazen bands, to an
ever-revolving fiery wheel. But the very refinement of torment,
similar to that inflicted upon Prometheus, was that suffered by
the giant Tit'y-us, who was placed on his back, while vultures
constantly fed upon his liver, which grew again as fast as it was
THE DESCENT OF OR'PHEUS.
Only once do we learn that these torments ceased, and that was
when the musician Orpheus, lyre in hand, descended to the lower
world to reclaim his beloved wife, the lost Eu-ryd'i-ce. At the
music of his "golden shell" Tantalus forgot his thirst, Sisyphus
rested from his toil, the wheel of Ixion stood still, and Tityus
ceased his moaning. The poet OVID thus describes the wonderful
effects of the musician's skill:
The very bloodless shades attention keep,
And, silent, seem compassionate to weep;
Even Tantalus his flood unthirsty views,
Nor flies the stream, nor he the stream pursues:
Ixion's wondrous wheel its whirl suspends,
And the voracious vulture, charmed, attends;
No more the Bel'i-des their toil bemoan,
And Sisyphus, reclined, sits listening on the stone.
--Trans. by CONGREVE.
Pope's translation of this scene from the Iliad is peculiarly
But when, through all the infernal bounds
Which flaming Phleg'e-thon surrounds,
Love, strong as death, the poet led
To the pale nations of the dead,
What sounds were heard,
What scenes appeared,
O'er all the dreary coasts!
Fires that glow,
Shrieks of woe,
And cries of tortured ghost!!!
But hark! he strikes the golden lyre;
And see! the tortured ghosts respire!
See! shady forms advance!
Thy stone, O Sisyphus, stands still,
Ixion rests upon his wheel,
And the pale spectres dance;
The Furies sink upon their iron beds,
And snakes uncurled hang listening round their heads.
The Greeks also believed in an Elys'ium--some distant island of
the ocean, ever cooled by refreshing breezes, and where spring
perpetual reigned--to which, after death, the blessed were conveyed,
and where they were permitted to enjoy it happy destiny. In the
Fourth Book of the Odyssey the sea god Pro'teus, in predicting
for Menelaus a happier lot than that of Hades, thus describes the
But oh! beloved of Heaven! reserved for thee
A happier lot the smiling Fates decree:
Free from that law beneath whose mortal sway
Matter is changed and varying forms decay,
Elysium shall be thine--the blissful plains
Of utmost earth, where Rhadaman'thus reigns.
Joys ever young, unmixed with pain or fear,
Fill the wide circle of the eternal year.
Stern Winter smiles on that auspicious clime;
The fields are florid with unfading prime;
From the bleak pole no winds inclement blow,
Mould the round hail, or flake the fleecy snow;
But from the breezy deep the blest inhale
The fragrant murmurs of the western gale.
Similar views are expressed by the lyric poet PINDAR in the
All whose steadfast virtue thrice
Each side the grave unchanged hath stood,
Still unseduced, unstained with vice--
They, by Jove's mysterious road,
Pass to Saturn's realm of rest--
Happy isle, that holds the blest;
Where sea-born breezes gently blow
O'er blooms of gold that round them glow,
Which Nature, boon from stream or strand
Or goodly tree, profusely showers;
Whence pluck they many a fragrant band,
And braid their locks with never-fading flowers.
--Trans. by A. MOORE.
There is so much similarity between the mythology of the early
Greeks and that of many of the Asiatic nations, that we give
place here to the supposed meditations of a Hindu prince and
skeptic on the great subject of a future state of existence,
as a fitting close of our brief review of the religious beliefs
of the ancients. Among the Asiatic nations are to be found accounts
of the Creation, and of multitudes of gods, good and evil, all
quite as pronounced as those that are derived from the Grecian
myths; and while the wildest and grossest of superstitious fancies
have prevailed among the common people, skepticism and atheistic
doubt are known to have been nearly universal among the learned.
The poem which we give in this connection, therefore, though
professedly a Hindu creation, may be accepted not only as
portraying Hindu doubt and despondency, but also as a faithful
picture of the anxiety, doubt, and almost utter despair, not only
of the ancient Greeks; but of the entire heathen world, concerning
the destiny of mankind.
The Hindu skeptic tells us that ever since mankind began their
race on this earth they have been seeking for the "signs and
steps of a God;" and that in mystical India, where the deities
hover and swarm, and a million shrines stand open, with their
myriad idols and, legions of muttering priests, mankind are still
groping in darkness; still listening, and as yet vainly hoping
for a message that shall tell what the wonders of creation mean,
and whither they tend; ever vainly seeking for a refuge from the
ills of life, and a rest beyond for the weary and heavy-laden, He
turns to the deified heroes of his race, and though long he watches
and worships for a solution of the mysteries of life, he waits in
vain for an answer, for their marble features never relax in
response to his prayers and entreaties; and he says, mournfully,
"Alas! for the gods are dumb." The darts of death still fall as
surely as ever, hurled by a Power unseen and a hand unknown; and
beyond the veil all is obscurity and gloom.
All the world over, I wonder, in lands that I never have trod,
Are the people eternally seeking for the signs and steps of a God?
Westward across the ocean, and northward beyond the snow,
Do they all stand gazing, as ever? and what do the wisest know?
Here, in this mystical India, the deities hover and swarm
Like the wild bees heard in the tree-tops, or the gusts of a
In the air men hear their voices, their feet on the rocks are seen,
Yet we all say, "Whence is the message--and what may the
A million shrines stand open, and ever the censer swings,
As they bow to a mystic symbol or the figures of ancient kings;
And the incense rises ever, and rises the endless cry
Of those who are heavy-laden, and of cowards loath to die.
For the destiny drives us together like deer in a pass of the hills:
Above is the sky, and around us the sound and the shot that kills.
Pushed by a Power we see not, and struck by a hand unknown,
We pray to the trees for shelter, and press our lips to a stone.
The trees wave a shadowy answer, and the rock frowns hollow and grim,
And the form and the nod of the demon are caught in the
And we look to the sunlight falling afar on the mountain crest--
Is there never a path runs upward to a refuge there and a rest?
The path--ah, who has shown it, and which is the faithful guide?
The haven--ah, who has known it? for steep is the mountain-side.
For ever the shot strikes surely, and ever the wasted breath
Of the praying multitude rises, whose answer is only death!
Here are the tombs of my kinsfolk, the first of an ancient name--
Chiefs who were slain on the war-field, and women who died in flame.
They are gods, these kings of the foretime, they are spirits who
guard our race:
Ever I watch and worship--they sit with a marble face.
And the myriad idols around me, and the legion of muttering priests--
The revels and rites unholy, the dark, unspeakable feasts--
What have they wrung from the silence? Hath even a Whisper come
Of the secret--whence and whither? Alas! for the gods are dumb.
Getting no light from the religious guides of his own country,
he turns to the land where the English--the present rulers of
India--dwell, and asks,
Shall I list to the word of the English, who come from the
"The secret, hath it been told you? and what is your message to me?
It is naught but the wide-world story, how the earth and the
How the gods are glad and angry, and a deity once was man.
And so he gathers around him the mantle of doubt and despondency;
he asks if life is, after all, but a dream and delusion, while
ever and ever is forced upon him that other question, "Where
shall the dreamer awake?"
I had thought, "Perchance in the cities where the rulers of
Whose orders flash from the far land, who girdle the earth with
They have fathomed the depths we float on, or measured the
Sadly they turn from the venture, and say that the quest is
Is life, then, a dream and delusion? and where shall the dreamer
Is the world seen like shadows on water? and what if the mirror
Shall it pass as a camp that is struck, as a tent that is gathered
From the sands that were lamp-lit at eve, and at morning are
level and lone?
Is there naught in the heaven above, whence the hail and the
levin are hurled,
But the wind that is swept around us by the rush of the rolling
The wind that shall scatter my ashes, and bear me to silence
With the dirge and the sounds of lamenting, and voices of
women who weep?
--The Cornhill Magazine.
What a commentary on all this doubt and despondency are the
meditations of the Christian, who, "sustained and soothed by an
unfaltering trust," approaches his grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams!
* * * * *
II. THE EARLIEST INHABITANTS OF GREECE.
The earliest reliable information that we possess of the country
called Greece represents it in the possession of a number of rude
tribes, of which the Pelas'gians were the most numerous and
powerful, and probably the most ancient. Of the early character
of the Pelasgians, and of the degree of civilization to which
they had attained before the reputed founding of Argos, we have
unsatisfactory and conflicting accounts. On the one hand, they
are represented as no better than the rudest barbarians, dwelling
in caves, subsisting on reptiles, herbs, and wild fruits, and
strangers to the simplest arts of civilized life. Other and more
reliable traditions, however, attribute to them a knowledge of
agriculture, and some little acquaintance with navigation; while
there is a strong probability that they were the authors of those
huge structures commonly called Cyclopean, remains of which are
still visible in many parts of Greece and Italy, and on the western
coast of Asia Minor.
Argos, the capital of Ar'golis, is generally considered the most
ancient city of Greece; and its reputed founding by In'achus, a
son of the god O-ce'anus, 1856 years before the Christian era,
is usually assigned as the period of the commencement of Grecian
history. But the massive Cyclopean walls of Argos evidently show
the Pelasgic origin of the place, in opposition to the traditionary
Phoenician origin of Inachus, whose very existence is quite
problematical. Indeed, although many of the traditions of the
Greeks point to a contrary conclusion, the accounts usually given
of early foreign settlers in Greece, who planted colonies there,
founded dynasties, built cities, and introduced a knowledge of
the arts unknown to the ruder natives, must be taken with a great
degree of abatement. The civilization of the Greeks and the
development of their language bear all the marks of home growth,
and probably were little affected by foreign influence. Still,
many of these traditions are exceedingly interesting, and have
attained great celebrity. One of the most celebrated is that
which describes the founding of Athens, one of the renowned
THE FOUNDING OF ATHENS.
Ce'crops, an Egyptian, is said to have led a colony from the
Delta to Greece, about the year 1556 B.C. Two years later he
proceeded to Attica, which had been desolated by a deluge a century
before, and there he is said to have founded, on the Cecropian
rock--the Acrop'olis--a city which, under the following
circumstances, he called Athens, in honor of the Grecian goddess
Athe'na, whom the Romans called Minerva.
It is an ancient Attic legend that about this time the gods had
begun to choose favorite spots among the dwellings of man for
their own residence; and whatever city a god chose, he gave to
that city protection, and there that particular deity was
worshipped with special homage. Now, it happened that both Neptune
and Minerva contended for the supremacy over this new city founded
by Cecrops; and Cecrops was greatly troubled by the contest, as
he knew not to which deity to render homage. So Jove summoned a
council of the gods, and they decided that the supremacy should
be given to the one who should confer the greatest gift upon the
favored city. The story of the contest is told by PROFESSOR BLACKIE
in the following verses.
Mercury, the messenger of the gods, being sent to Cecrops, thus
announces to him the decision of the Council:
"On the peaks of Olympus, the bright snowy-crested,
The gods are assembled in council to-day,
The wrath of Pos-ei'don, the mighty broad-breasted,
'Gainst Pallas, the spear-shaking maid, to allay.
And thus they decree--that Poseidon offended
And Pallas shall bring forth a gift to the place:
On the hill of Erech'theus the strife shall be ended,
When she with her spear, and the god with his mace,
Shall strike the quick rock; and the gods shall deliver
The sentence as Justice shall order; and thou
Shalt see thy loved city established forever,
With Jove for a judge, and the Styx for a vow."
So the gods assembled, in the presence of Cecrops himself, on
the "hill of Erechtheus"--afterward known as the Athenian
Acropolis--to witness the trial between the rival deities, as
described in the following language. First; Neptune strikes the
rock with his trident:
Lo! at the touch of his trident a wonder!
Virtue to earth from his deity flows;
From the rift of the flinty rock, cloven asunder,
A dark-watered fountain ebullient rose.
Inly elastic, with airiest lightness
It leapt, till it cheated the eyesight; and, lo!
It showed in the sun, with a various brightness,
The fine-woven hues of the heavenly bow.
"WATER IS BEST!" cried the mighty, broad-breasted
Poseidon; "O Cecrops, I offer to thee
To ride on the back of the steeds foamy-crested
That toss their wild manes on the huge-heaving sea.
The globe thou shalt mete on the path of the waters,
To thy ships shall the ports of far ocean be free;
The isles of the sea shall be counted thy daughters,
The pearls of the East shall be gathered for thee!"
Thus Neptune offered, as his gift--symbolized in the salt spring
that he caused to issue from the rock--the dominion of the sea,
with all the wealth and renown that flow from unrestricted commerce
with foreign lands.
But Minerva was now to make her trial:
Then the gods, with a high-sounding pæan,
Applauded; but Jove hushed the many-voiced tide;
"For now with the lord of the briny Æge'an
Athe'na shall strive for the city," he cried.
"See where she comes!" and she came, like Apollo,
Serene with the beauty ripe wisdom confers;
The clear-scanning eye, and the sure hand to follow
The mark of the far-sighted purpose, were hers.
Strong in the mail of her father she standeth,
And firmly she holds the strong spear in her hand;
But the wild hounds of war with calm power she commandeth,
And fights but to pledge surer peace to the land.
Chastely the blue-eyed approached, and, surveying
The council of wise-judging gods without fear,
The nod of her lofty-throned father obeying,
She struck the gray rock with her nice-tempered spear.
Lo! from the touch of the virgin a wonder!
Virtue to earth from her deity flows:
From the rift of the flinty rock, cloven asunder,
An olive-tree, greenly luxuriant, rose--
Green but yet pale, like an eye-drooping maiden,
Gentle, from full-blooded lustihood far;
No broad-staring hues for rude pride to parade in,
No crimson to blazon the banners of war.
Mutely the gods, with a calm consultation,
Pondered the fountain and pondered the tree;
And the heart of Poseidon, with high expectation,
Throbbed till great Jove thus pronounced the decree:
"Son of my father, thou mighty, broad-breasted
Poseidon, the doom that I utter is true;
Great is the might of thy waves foamy-crested
When they beat the white walls of the screaming sea-mew;
Great is the pride of the keel when it danceth,
Laden with wealth, o'er the light-heaving wave--
When the East to the West, gayly floated, advanceth,
With a word from the wise and a help from the brave.
But earth--solid earth--is the home of the mortal
That toileth to live, and that liveth to toil;
And the green olive-tree twines the wreath of his portal
Who peacefully wins his sure bread from the soil,"
Thus Jove: and to heaven the council celestial
Rose, and the sea-god rolled back to the sea;
But Athena gave Athens her name, and terrestrial
Joy from the oil of the green olive-tree.
Thus Jove decided in favor of the peaceful pursuits of industry
on the land, as against the more alluring promises but uncertain
results of commerce, thereby teaching this lesson in political
economy--that a people consisting of mere merchants, and neglecting
the cultivation of the soil, never can become a great and powerful
nation. So Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, and patroness of all
the liberal arts and sciences, became the tutelary deity of Athens.
The contest between her and Neptune was represented on one of the
pediments of the Parthenon.
Of the history of Athens for many centuries subsequent to its
alleged founding by Cecrops we have no certain information; but
it is probable that down to about 683 B.C. it was ruled by kings,
like all the other Grecian states. Of these kings the names of
The'seus and Co'drus are the most noted. To the former is ascribed
the union of the twelve states of Attica into one political body,
with Athens as the capital, and other important acts of government
which won for him the love of the Athenian people. Consulting the
oracle of Delphi concerning his new government, he is said to have
received the following answer:
From royal stems thy honor, Theseus, springs;
By Jove beloved, the sire supreme of kings.
See rising towns, see wide-extended states,
On thee dependent, ask their future fates!
Hence, hence with fear! Thy favored bark shall ride
Safe o'er the surges of the foamy tide.
About half a century after the time of Cecrops another Egyptian,
named Dan'a-us, is said to have fled to Greece, with a family
of fifty daughters, and to have established a second Egyptian
colony in the vicinity of Argos. He subsequently became king of
Argos, and the inhabitants were called Dan'a-i. About the same
time Cadmus, a Phoenician, is reported to have led a colony into
Boeo'tia, bringing with him the Phoenician alphabet, the basis
of the Grecian; and to have founded Cadme'a, which afterward
became the citadel of Thebes. Another colony is said to have been
led from Asia by Pe'lops, from whom the southern peninsula of
Greece derived its name of Peloponne'sus, and of whom Agamemnon,
King of Myce'næ, was a lineal descendant. About this time a people
called the Helle'nes--but whether a Pelasgic tribe or otherwise
is uncertain--first appeared in the south of Thessaly, and,
gradually diffusing themselves over the whole country, became,
by their martial spirit and active, enterprising genius, the ruling
class, and impressed new features upon the Grecian character. The
Hellenes gave their name to the population of the whole peninsula,
although the term Grecians was subsequently applied to them by the
In accordance with the Greek custom of attributing the origin
of their tribes or nations to some remote mythical ancestor,
Hel'len, a son of the fabulous Deuca'lion and Pyrrha, is
represented as the father of the Hellen'ic nation. His three
sons were Æ'o-lus, Do'rus, and Xu'thus, from the two former of
whom are represented to have descended the Æo'lians and Do'rians;
and from Achæ'us and I'on, sons of Xuthus, the Achæ'ans and
Io'nians. These four Hellen'ic or Grecian tribes were
distinguished from one another by many peculiarities of language
and institutions. Hellen is said to have left his kingdom to
Æolus, his eldest son; and the Æolian tribe spread the most
widely, and long exerted the most influence in the affairs of
the nation; but at a later period it was surpassed by the fame
and the power of the Dorians and Ionians.
* * * * *
III. THE HEROIC AGE.
The period from the time of the first appearance of the Hellenes
in Thessaly to the return of the Greeks from the expedition against
Troy--a period of about two hundred years--is usually called the
Heroic Age. It is a period abounding in splendid fictions of
heroes and demi-gods, embracing, among others, the twelve wonderful
labors of Hercules; the exploits of the Athenian king The'seus,
and of Mi'nos, King of Crete, the founder of Grecian law and
civilization; the events of the Argonautic expedition; the Theban
and Argol'ic wars; the adventures of Beller'ophon, Per'seus, and
many others; and concluding with the Trojan war and the supposed
fall of Troy. These seem to have been the times which the archangel
Michael foretold to Adam when he said,
For in those days might only shall be admired,
And valor and heroic virtue called:
To overcome in battle, and subdue
Nations, and bring home spoils with infinite
Manslaughter, shall be held the highest pitch
Of human glory; and, for glory done,
Of triumph to be styled great conquerors,
Patrons of mankind, gods, and sons of gods--
Destroyers rightly called, and plagues of men.
--Paradise Lost, B. XI.
THE LABORS OF HERCULES.
The twelve arduous labors of the celebrated hero Hercules, who
was a son of Jupiter by the daughter of an early king of Mycenæ,
are said to have been imposed upon him by an enemy--Eurys'theus--to
whose will Jupiter, induced by a fraud of Juno and the fury-goddess
A'te, and unwittingly bound by an oath, had made the hero
subservient for twelve years. Jupiter grieved for his son, but,
unable to recall the oath which he had sworn, he punished Ate by
hurling her from Olympus down to the nether world.
Grief seized the Thunderer, by his oath engaged;
Stung to the soul, he sorrowed and he raged.
From his ambrosial head, where perched she sate,
He snatched the fury-goddess of debate:
The dread, the irrevocable oath he swore,
The immortal seats should ne'er behold her more;
And whirled her headlong down, forever driven
From bright Olympus and the starry heaven:
Thence on the nether world the fury fell,
Ordained with man's contentious race to dwell.
Full oft the god his son's hard toils bemoaned,
Cursed the dire folly, and in secret groaned.
--HOMER'S Iliad, B. XIX. POPE'S Trans.
The following, in brief, are the twelve labors attributed to
Hercules: 1. He strangled the Ne'mean lion, and ever after wore
his skin. 2. He destroyed the Lernæ'an hydra, which had nine
heads, eight of them mortal and one immortal. 3. He brought into
the presence of Eurystheus a stag famous for its incredible
swiftness and golden horns. 4. He brought to Mycenæ the wild
boar of Eryman'thus, and slew two of the Centaurs, monsters who
were half men and half horses. 5. He cleansed the Auge'an stables
in one day by changing the courses of the rivers Alphe'us and
Pene'us. 6. He destroyed the carnivorous birds of the lake
Stympha'lus, in Arcadia. 7. He brought into Peloponnesus the
prodigious wild bull which ravaged Crete. 8. He brought from
Thrace the mares of Diome'de, which fed on human flesh. 9. He
obtained the famous girdle of Hippol'y-te, queen of the Amazons.
10. He slew the monster Ge'ry-on, who had the bodies of three
men united. 11. He brought from the garden of the Hesper'i-des
the golden apples, and slew the dragon which guarded them. 12. He
went down to the lower regions and brought upon earth the
three-headed dog Cer'berus.
The favor of the gods had completely armed Hercules for his
undertakings, and his great strength enabled him to perform them.
This entire fable of Hercules is generally believed to be merely
a fanciful representation of the sun in its passage through the
twelve signs of the zodiac, in accordance with Phoenician mythology,
from which the legend is supposed to be derived. Thus Hercules
is the sun-god. In the first month of the year the sun passes
through the constellation Leo, the lion; and in his first labor
the hero slays the Nemean lion. In the second month, when the
sun enters the sign Virgo, the long-extended constellation of
the Hydra sets--the stars of which, like so many heads, rise
one after another; and, therefore, in his second labor, Hercules
destroys the Lernæan hydra with its nine heads. In like manner
the legend is explained throughout. Besides these twelve labors,
however, Hercules is said to have achieved others on his own
account; and one of these is told in the fable of Hercules and
Antæ'us, in which the powers of art and nature are supposed to
FABLE OF HERCULES AND ANTÆUS.
Antæ'us--a son of Neptune and Terra, who reigned over Libya, or
Africa, and dwelt in a forest cave--was so famed for his Titanic
strength and skill in wrestling that he was emboldened to leave
his woodland retreat and engage in a contest with the renowned
hero Hercules. So long as Antæus stood upon the ground he could
not be overcome, whereupon Hercules lifted him up in the air,
and, having apparently squeezed him to death in his arms, threw
him down; but when Antæus touched his mother Earth and lay at
rest upon her bosom, renewed life and fresh power were given him.
In this fable Antæus, who personifies the woodland solitude and
the desert African waste, is easily overcome by his adversary,
who represents the river Nile, which, divided into a thousand
arms, or irrigating canals, prevents the arid sand from being
borne away and then back again by the winds to desolate the fertile
valley. Thus the legend is nothing more than the triumph of art
and labor, and their reclaiming power over the woodland solitudes
and the encroaching sands of the desert. An English poet has very
happily versified the spirit of the legend, to which he has appended
a fitting moral, doubtless suggested by the warning of his own
approaching sad fate.[Footnote: This gifted poet, Mortimer Collins,
died in 1876, at the age of forty-nine, a victim to excessive
literary labor and anxiety.]
Deep were the meanings of that fable. Men
Looked upon earth with clearer eyesight then,
Beheld in solitude the immortal Powers,
And marked the traces of the swift-winged Hours.
Because it never varies, all can bear
The burden of the circumambient air;
Because it never ceases, none can hear
The music of the ever-rolling sphere--
None, save the poet, who, in moor and wood,
Holds converse with the spirit of Solitude.
And I remember how Antæus heard,
Deep in great oak-woods, the mysterious word
Which said, "Go forth across the unshaven leas
To meet unconquerable Hercules."
Leaving his cavern by the cedar-glen,
This Titan of the primal race of men,
Whom the swart lions feared, and who could tear
Huge oaks asunder, to the combat bare
Courage undaunted. Full of giant grace,
Built up, as 'twere, from earth's own granite base.
Colossal, iron-sinewed, firm he trod
The lawns. How vain against a demi-god!
Oh, sorrow of defeat! He plunges far
Into his forests, where deep shadows are,
And the wind's murmur comes not, and the gloom
Of pine and cedar seems to make a tomb
For fallen ambition. Prone the mortal lies
Who dared mad warfare with the unpitying skies,
But lo! as buried in the waving ferns,
The baffled giant for oblivion yearns,
Cursing his human feebleness, he feels
A sudden impulse of new strength, which heals
His angry wounds; his vigor he regains--
His blood is dancing gayly through his veins.
Fresh power, fresh life is his who lay at rest
On bounteous Hertha's kind creative breast.
[Footnote: Hertha, a goddess of the ancient Germans,
the same as Terra, or the Earth. Her favorite retreat
was a sacred grove in an island of the ocean.]
Even so, O poet, by the world subdued,
Regain thy health 'mid perfect solitude.
In noisy cities, far from hills and trees,
The brawling demi-god, harsh Hercules,
Has power to hurt thy placid spirit--power
To crush thy joyous instincts every hour,
To weary thee with woes for mortals stored,
Red gold (coined hatred) and the tyrant's sword.
Then--then, O sad Antæus, wilt thou yearn
For dense green woodlands and the fragrant fern;
Then stretch thy form upon the sward, and rest
From worldly toil on Hertha's gracious breast;
Plunge in the foaming river, or divide
With happy arms gray ocean's murmuring tide,
And drinking thence each solitary hour
Immortal beauty and immortal power,
Thou may'st the buffets of the world efface
And live a Titan of earth's earliest race.
THE ARGONAUTIC EXPEDITION.
From what was probably a maritime adventure that plundered some
wealthy country at a period when navigation was in its infancy
among the Greeks, we get the fable of the Argonautic Expedition.
The generally accepted story of this expedition is as follows:
Pe'lias, a descendant of Æ'o-lus, the mystic progenitor of the
Great Æol'ic race, had deprived his half-brother Æ'son of the
kingdom of Iol'cus in Thessaly. When Jason, son of Æson, had
attained to manhood, he appeared before his uncle and demanded
the throne. Pelias consented only on condition that Jason should
first capture and bring to him the golden fleece of the ram which
had carried Phrix'us and Hel'le when they fled from their stepmother
I'no. Helle dropped into the sea between Sigæ'um and the
Cher'sonese, which was named from her Hellespon'tus; but Phrixus
succeeded in reaching Col'chis, a country at the eastern extremity
of the Euxine, or Black Sea. Here he sacrificed the ram, and
nailed the fleece to an oak in the grove of Mars, where it was
guarded by a sleepless dragon.
Joined by the principal heroes of Greece, Hercules among the
number, Jason set sail from Iolcus in the ship Argo, after first
invoking the favor of Jupiter, the winds, and the waves, for the
success of the expedition. The ceremony on this occasion, as
descried by the poets, reads like an account of the "christening
of the ship" in modern times, but we seem to have lost the full
significance of the act.
And soon as by the vessel's bow
The anchor was hung up,
Then took the leader on the prow
In hands a golden cup,
And on great father Jove did call;
And on the winds and waters all
Swept by the hurrying blast,
And on the nights, and ocean ways,
And on the fair auspicious days,
And sweet return at last.
From out the clouds, in answer kind,
A voice of thunder came,
And, shook in glistening beams around,
Burst out the lightning flame.
The chiefs breathed free, and, at the sign,
Trusted in the power divine.
Hinting sweet hopes, the seer cried
Forthwith their oars to ply,
And swift went backward from rough hands
The rowing ceaselessly.
--PINDAR. Trans. by Rev. H. F. CARY.
After many adventures Jason reached Col'chis, where, by the aid
of magic and supernatural arts, and through the favor of Me-de'a,
daughter of the King of Colchis, he succeeded in capturing the
fleece. After four months of continued danger and innumerable
hardships, Jason returned to Iolcus with the prize, accompanied
by Medea, whom he afterward deserted, and whose subsequent history
is told by the poet Euripides in his celebrated tragedy entitled
Growing out of the Argonautic legend is one concerning the youth
Hy'las, a member of the expedition, and a son of the King of
Mys'ia, a country of Asia Minor. Hylas was greatly beloved by
Hercules. On the coast of Mysia the Argonauts stopped to obtain
a supply of water, and Hylas, having gone from the vessel alone
with an urn for the same purpose, takes the opportunity to bathe
in the river Scaman'der, under the shadows of Mount Ida. He throws
his purple chlamys, or cloak, over the urn, and passes down into
the water, where he is seized by the nymphs of the stream, and, in
spite of his struggles and entreaties, he is borne by them "down
from the noonday brightness to their dark caves in the depths
below." Hercules went in search of Hylas, and the ship sailed
from its anchorage without him. We have a faithful and beautiful
reproduction of this Greek legend, both in theme and spirit, in
a poem by BAYARD TAYLOR, from which the following extracts are
Storm-wearied Argo slept upon the water.
No cloud was seen: on blue and craggy Ida
The hot noon lay, and on the plains enamel;
Cool in his bed, alone, the swift Scamander.
"Why should I haste?" said young and rosy Hylas;
The seas are rough, and long the way from Colchis.
Beneath the snow-white awning slumbers Jason,
Pillowed upon his tame Thessalian panther;
The shields are piled, the listless oars suspended
On the black thwarts, and all the hairy bondsmen
Doze on the benches. They may wait for water
Till I have bathed in mountain-born Scamander."
He saw his glorious limbs reversely mirrored
In the still wave, and stretched his foot to press it
On the smooth sole that answered at the surface:
Alas! the shape dissolved in glittering fragments.
Then, timidly at first, he dipped, and catching
Quick breath, with tingling shudder, as the waters
Swirled round his limbs, and deeper, slowly deeper,
Till on his breast the river's cheek was pillowed;
And deeper still, till every shoreward ripple
Talked in his ear, and like a cygnet's bosom
His white, round shoulder shed the dripping crystal.
There, as he floated with a rapturous motion,
The lucid coolness folding close around him,
The lily-cradling ripples murmured, "Hylas!"
He shook from off his ears the hyacinthine
Curls that had lain unwet upon the water,
And still the ripples murmured, "Hylas! Hylas!"
He thought--"The voices are but ear-born music.
Pan dwells not here, and Echo still is calling
From some high cliff that tops a Thracian valley;
So long mine ears, on tumbling Hellespontus,
Have heard the sea-waves hammer Argo's forehead,
That I misdeem the fluting of this current
For some lost nymph"--again the murmur, "Hylas!"
The sound that seemed to come from the lilies was the voice of
the sea-nymphs, calling to him to go with them where they wander--
"Down beneath the green translucent ceiling--
Where, on the sandy bed of old Scamander,
With cool white buds we braid our purple tresses,
Lulled by the bubbling waves around us stealing."
To all their entreaties Hylas exclaims:
"Leave me, naiads!
Leave me!" he cried. "The day to me is dearer
Than all your caves deep-spread in ocean's quiet.
I would not change this flexile, warm existence,
Though swept by storms, and shocked by Jove's dread thunder,
To be a king beneath the dark-green waters.
Let me return! the wind comes down from Ida,
And soon the galley, stirring from her slumber,
Will fret to ride where Pelion's twilight shadow
Falls o'er the towers of Jason's sea-girt city.
I am not yours--I cannot braid the lilies
In your wet hair, nor on your argent bosoms
Close my drowsed eyes to hear your rippling voices.
Hateful to me your sweet, cold, crystal being--
Your world of watery quiet. Help, Apollo!"
But the remonstrances and struggles of Hylas unavailing:
The boy's blue eyes, upturned, looked through the water
Pleading for help; but heaven's immortal archer;
Was swathed in cloud. The ripples hid his forehead;
And last, the thick, bright curls a moment floated,
So warm and silky that the stream upbore them,
Closing reluctant as he sank forever.
The sunset died behind the crags of Imbros.
Argo was tugging at her chain; for freshly
Blew the swift breeze, and leaped the restless billows.
The voice of Jason roused the dozing sailors,
And up the mast was heaved the snowy canvas.
But mighty Hercules, the Jove-begotten,
Unmindful stood beside the cool Scamander,
Leaning upon his club. A purple chlamys
Tossed o'er an urn was all that lay before him;
And when he called, expectant, "Hylas! Hylas!"
The empty echoes made him answer--"Hylas!"
THE TROJAN WAR.
Of all the events of the Heroic period, however, the Trojan war
has been rendered the most celebrated, through the genius of
Homer. The alleged causes of the war, briefly stated, are these:
Helen, the most beautiful woman of the age, and the daughter of
Tyn'darus, King of Sparta, was sought in marriage by all the
Princes of Greece. Tyndarus, perplexed with the difficulty of
choosing one of the suitors without displeasing all the rest,
being advised by the sage Ulysses, bound all of them by an oath
that they would approve of the uninfluenced choice of Helen, and
would unite to restore her to her husband, and to avenge the
outrage, if ever she was carried off. Menela'us became the choice
of Helen, and soon after, on the death of Tyndarus, succeeded to
the vacant throne of Sparta.
Three years subsequently, Paris, son of Priam, King of Ilium,
or Troy, visited the court of Menelaus, where he was hospitably
received; but during the temporary absence of the latter he
corrupted the fidelity of Helen, and induced her to flee with
him to Troy. When Menelaus returned he assembled the Grecian
princes, and prepared to avenge the outrage. Combining their
forces under the command of Agamem'non, King of Myce'næ, a brother
of Menelaus, they sailed with a great army for Troy. The
imagination of the poet EURIPIDES describes this armament as
With eager haste
The sea-girt Aulis strand I paced,
Till to my view appeared the embattled train
Of Hellas, armed for mighty enterprise,
And galleys of majestic size,
To bear the heroes o'er the main;
A thousand ships for Ilion steer,
And round the two Atridæ's spear
The warriors swear fair Helen to regain.
After a siege of ten years Troy was taken by stratagem, and the
fair Helen was recovered. On the fanciful etymology of the word
Helen, from a Greek verb signifying to take or seize, the poet
ÆCHYLUS indulges in the following reflections descriptive of the
character and the history of this "spear-wooed maid of Greece:"
Who gave her a name
So true to her fame?
Does a Providence rule in the fate of a word?
Sways there in heaven a viewless power
O'er the chance of the tongue in the naming hour?
Who gave her a name,
This daughter of strife, this daughter of shame,
The spear-wooed maid of Greece!
Helen the taker! 'tis plain to see,
A taker of ships, a taker of men,
A taker of cities is she!
From the soft-curtained chamber of Hymen she fled,
By the breath of giant Zephyr sped,
And shield-bearing throngs in marshalled array
Hounded her flight o'er the printless way,
Where the swift-flashing oar
The fair booty bore
To swirling Sim'o-is' leafy shore,
And stirred the crimson fray.
--Trans. by BLACKIE.
According to Homer, the principal Greek heroes engaged in the
siege of Troy, aside from Agamemnon, were Menelaus, Achilles,
Ulysses, Ajax (the son of Tel'amon), Di'omed, Patro'clus, and
Palame'des; while among the bravest of the defenders of Troy
were Hector, Sarpe'don, and Æne'as.
The poet's story opens, in the tenth year of the siege, with an
account of a contentious scene between two of the Grecian chiefs
--Achilles and Agamemnon--which resulted in the withdrawal of
Achilles and his forces from the Grecian army. The aid of the
gods was invoked in behalf of Achilles, and Jupiter sent a
deceitful vision to Agamemnon, seeking to persuade him to lead
his forces to battle, in order that the Greeks might realize
their need of Achilles. Agamemnon first desired to ascertain the
feeling or disposition of the army regarding the expedition it
had undertaken, and so proposed a return to Greece, which was
unanimously and unexpectedly agreed to, and an advance was made
toward the ships. But through the efforts of the valiant and
sagacious Ulysses all discontent on the part of the troops was
suppressed, and they returned to the plains of Troy.
Among those in the Grecian camp who had complained of their
leaders, and of the folly of the expedition itself, was a brawling,
turbulent, and tumultuous character named Thersi'tes, whose
insolence Ulysses sternly and effectively rebuked. The following
sketch of Thersites reads like a picture drawn from modern
life; while the merited reproof administered by Ulysses is in
the happiest vein of just and patriotic indignation:
Ulysses and Thersites.
Thersites only clamored in the throng,
Loquacious, loud, and turbulent of tongue;
Awed by no shame, by no respect controlled,
In scandal busy, in reproaches bold;
With witty malice, studious to defame;
Scorn all his joy, and censure all his aim;
But chief he gloried, with licentious style,
To lash the great, and monarchs to revile.
His figure such as might his soul proclaim:
One eye was blinking, and one leg was lame;
His mountain shoulders half his breast o'erspread,
Thin hairs bestrew'd his long misshapen head;
Spleen to mankind his envious heart possessed,
And much he hated all--but most, the best.
Ulysses or Achilles still his theme;
But royal scandal his delight supreme.
Long had he lived the scorn of every Greek,
Vext when he spoke, yet still they heard him speak:
Sharp was his voice; which, in the shrillest tone,
Thus with injurious taunts attacked the throne.
Ulysses, in his tent, listens awhile to the complaints, and censures,
and scandals against the chiefs, with which Thersites addresses
the throng gathered around him, and at length--
With indignation sparkling in his eyes,
He views the wretch, and sternly thus replies:
"Peace, factious monster, born to vex the state
With wrangling talents formed for foul debate,
Curb that impetuous tongue, nor, rashly vain,
And singly mad, asperse the sovereign reign.
"Have we not known thee, slave! of all our host
The man who acts the least, upbraids the most?
Think not the Greeks to shameful flight to bring;
Nor let those lips profane the name of King.
For our return we trust the heavenly powers;
Be that their care; to fight like men be ours.
"But grant the host, with wealth our chieftain load;
Except detraction, what hast thou bestowed?
Suppose some hero should his spoil resign,
Art thou that hero? Could those spoils be thine?
Gods! let me perish on this hateful shore,
And let these eyes behold my son no more,
If on thy next offence this hand forbear
To strip those arms thou ill deserv'st to wear,
Expel the council where our princes meet,
And send thee scourged and howling through the fleet."
--B. II. POPE'S Trans.
COMBAT OF MENELAUS AND PARIS.
The opposing armies being ready to engage, a single combat is
agreed upon between Menelaus, and Paris son of Priam, for the
determination of the war. Paris is soon vanquished, but is rescued
from death by Venus; and, according to the terms on which the
combat took place, Agamemnon demands the restoration of Helen.
But the gods declare that the war shall go on. So the conflict
begins, and Diomed, assisted by the goddess Pallas (or Minerva),
performs wonders in this day's battle, wounding and putting to
flight Pan'darus, Æneas, and the goddess Venus, even wounding
the war-god Mars, who had challenged him to combat, and sending
him groaning back to heaven.
Hector, the eldest son of Priam King of Troy, and the chief hero
of the Trojans, leaves the field for a brief space, to request
prayers to Minerva for assistance, and especially for the removal
of Diomed from the fight. This done, he seeks a momentary interview
with his wife, the fair and virtuous Androm'a-che, whose touching
appeal to him, and his reply, are both, perhaps, without a parallel
in tender, natural solicitude.
Parting of Hector and Andromache.
"Too daring prince! ah, whither dost thou run?
Ah, too forgetful of thy wife and son!
And think'st thou not how wretched we shall be,
A widow I, a helpless orphan he?
For sure such courage length of life denies,
And thou must fall, thy virtue's sacrifice.
Greece in her single heroes strove in vain;
Now hosts oppose thee, and thou must be slain!
Oh grant me, gods! ere Hector meets his doom,
All I can ask of heaven, an early tomb!
So shall my days in one sad tenor run,
And end with sorrows as they first begun.
"No parent now remains my griefs to share,
No father's aid, no mother's tender care.
The fierce Achilles wrapp'd our walls in fire,
Laid The'be waste, and slew my warlike sire!
By the same arm my seven brave brothers fell;
In one sad day beheld the gates of hell.
My mother lived to bear the victor's bands,
The queen of Hippopla'cia's sylvan lands.
"Yet, while my Hector still survives, I see
My father, mother, brethren, all in thee:
Alas! my parents, brothers, kindred, all
Once more will perish, if my Hector fall.
Thy wife, thy infant, in thy danger share:
Oh, prove a husband's and a father's care!
That quarter most the skilful Greeks annoy,
Where yon wild fig-trees join the walls of Troy;
Thou from this tower defend the important post;
There Agamemnon points his dreadful host,
That pass Tydi'des, Ajax, strive to gain,
And there the vengeful Spartan fires his train.
Thrice our bold foes the fierce attack have given,
Or led by hopes, or dictated from heaven.
Let others in the field their arms employ,
But stay my Hector here, and guard his Troy."
The chief replied: "That post shall be my care,
Nor that alone, but all the works of war.
How would the sons of Troy, in arms renown'd,
And Troy's proud dames, whose garments sweep the ground,
Attaint the lustre of my former name,
Should Hector basely quit the field of fame!
My early youth was bred to martial pains,
My soul impels me to the embattled plains:
Let me be foremost to defend the throne,
And guard my father's glories and my own.
"Yet come it will, the day decreed by fates;