Part 2 out of 5
not always you will be there. When the flowers bloom upon the
earth you shall come up from the realm of darkness, and in great
joy we shall go through the world together, Demeter and
And so it has been since Persephone came back to her mother
after having eaten of the pomegranate seeds. For two seasons of
the year she stays with Demeter, and for one season she stays in
the Underworld with her dark lord. While she is with her mother
there is springtime upon the earth. Demeter blesses the furrows,
her heart being glad because her daughter is with her once more.
The furrows become heavy with grain, and soon the whole wide
earth has grain and fruit, leaves and flowers. When the furrows
are reaped, when the grain has been gathered, when the dark
season comes, Persephone goes from her mother, and going down
into the dark places, she sits beside her mighty lord Aidoneus
and upon his throne. Not sorrowful is she there; she sits with
head unbowed, for she knows herself to be a mighty queen. She has
joy, too, knowing of the seasons when she may walk with Demeter,
her mother, on the wide places of the earth, through fields of
flowers and fruit and ripening grain.
Such was the story that Orpheus told--Orpheus who knew the
histories of the gods.
A day came when the heroes, on their way back from a journey they
had made with the Lemnian maidens, called out to Heracles upon
the Argo. Then Heracles, standing on the prow of the ship,
shouted angrily to them. Terrible did he seem to the Lemnian
maidens, and they ran off, drawing the heroes with them. Heracles
shouted to his comrades again, saying that if they did not come
aboard the Argo and make ready for the voyage to Colchis,
he would go ashore and carry them to the ship, and force them
again to take the oars in their hands.
Not all of what Heracles said did the Argonauts hear.
That evening the men were silent in Hypsipyle's hall, and it was
Atalanta, the maiden, who told the evening's story.
There are two Atalantas, she said; she herself, the Huntress, and
another who is noted for her speed of foot and her delight in the
race--the daughter of Schceneus, King of Boeotia, Atalanta of
the Swift Foot.
So proud was she of her swiftness that she made a vow to the gods
that none would be her husband except the youth who won past her
in the race. Youth after youth came and raced against her, but
Atalanta, who grew fleeter and fleeter of foot, left each one of
them far behind her. The youths who came to the race were so many
and the clamor they made after defeat was so great, that her
father made a law that, as he thought, would lessen their number.
The law that he made was that the youth who came to race against
Atalanta and who lost the race should lose his life into the
bargain. After that the youths who had care for their lives
stayed away from Boeotia.
Once there came a youth from a far part of Greece into the
country that Atalanta's father ruled over. Hippomenes was his
name. He did not know of the race, but having come into
the city and seeing the crowd of people, he went with them to the
course. He looked upon the youths who were girded for the race,
and he heard the folk say amongst themselves, "Poor youths, as
mighty and as highspirited as they look, by sunset the life will
be out of each of them, for Atalanta will run past them as she
ran past the others." Then Hippomenes spoke to the folk in
wonder, and they told him of Atalanta's race and of what would
befall the youths who were defeated in it. "Unlucky youths,"
cried Hippomenes, "how foolish they are to try to win a bride at
the price of their lives."
Then, with pity in his heart, he watched the youths prepare for
the race. Atalanta had not yet taken her place, and he was
fearful of looking upon her. "She is a witch," he said to
himself, "she must be a witch to draw so many youths to their
deaths, and she, no doubt, will show in her face and figure the
But even as he said this, Hippomenes saw Atalanta. She stood with
the youths before they crouched for the first dart in the race.
He saw that she was a girl of a light and a lovely form. Then
they crouched for the race; then the trumpets rang out, and the
youths and the maiden darted like swallows over the sand of the
On came Atalanta, far, far ahead of the youths who had started
with her. Over her bare shoulders her hair streamed, blown
backward by the wind that met her flight. Her fair neck shone,
and her little feet were like flying doves. It seemed to
Hippomenes as he watched her that there was fire in her lovely
body. On and on she went as swift as the arrow that the Scythian
shoots from his bow. And as he watched the race he was not sorry
that the youths were being left behind. Rather would he have been
enraged if one came near overtaking her, for now his heart was
set upon winning her for his bride, and he cursed himself for not
having entered the race.
She passed the last goal mark and she was given the victor's
wreath of flowers. Hippomenes stood and watched her and he did
not see the youths who had started with her--they had thrown
themselves on the ground in their despair.
Then wild, as though he were one of the doomed youths, Hippomenes
made his way through the throng and came before the black-bearded
King of Boeotia. The king's brows were knit, for even then he was
pronouncing doom upon the youths who had been left behind in the
race. He looked upon Hippomenes, another youth who would make the
trial, and the frown became heavier upon his face.
But Hippomenes saw only Atalanta. She came beside her father; the
wreath was upon her head of gold, and her eyes were wide and
tender. She turned her face to him, and then she knew by the
wildness that was in his look that he had come to enter the race
with her. Then the flush that was on her face died away, and she
shook her head as if she were imploring him to go from that
The dark-bearded king bent his brows upon him and said, "Speak, 0
youth, speak and tell us what brings you here."
Then cried Hippomenes as if his whole life were bursting out with
his words: "Why does this maiden, your daughter, seek an easy
renown by conquering weakly youths in the race? She has not
striven yet. Here stand I, one of the blood of Poseidon, the god
of the sea. Should I be defeated by her in the race, then,
indeed, might Atalanta have something to boast of."
Atalanta stepped forward and said: "Do not speak of it, youth.
Indeed I think that it is some god, envious of your beauty and
your strength, who sent you here to strive with me and to meet
your doom. Ah, think of the youths who have striven with me even
now! Think of the hard doom that is about to fall upon them! You
venture your life in the race, but indeed I am not worthy of the
price. Go hence, O stranger youth, go hence and live happily, for
indeed I think that there is some maiden who loves you well."
"Nay, maiden," said Hippomenes, "I will enter the race and I will
venture my life on the chance of winning you for my bride. What
good will my life and my spirit be to me if they cannot win this
race for me?"
She drew away from him then and looked upon him no more, but bent
down to fasten the sandals upon her feet. And the black-bearded
king looked upon Hippomenes and said, "Face, then, this race
to-morrow. You will be the only one who will enter it. But
bethink thee of the doom that awaits thee at the end of it." The
king said no more, and Hippomenes went from him and from
Atalanta, and he came again to the place where the race had been
He looked across the sandy course with its goal marks, and in his
mind he saw again Atalanta's swift race. He would not meet doom
at the hands of the king's soldiers, he knew, for his spirit
would leave him with the greatness of the effort he would make to
reach the goal before her. And he thought it would be well to die
in that effort and on that sandy place that was so far from his
Even as he looked across the sandy course now deserted by the
throng, he saw one move across it, coming toward him with feet
that did not seem to touch the ground. She was a woman of
wonderful presence. As Hippomenes looked upon her he knew that
she was Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and of love.
"Hippomenes," said the immortal goddess, "the gods are mindful of
you who are sprung from one of the gods, and I am mindful of you
because of your own worth. I have come to help you in your race
with Atalanta, for I would not have you slain, nor would I have
that maiden go unwed. Give your greatest strength and your
greatest swiftness to the race, and behold! here are wonders that
will prevent the fleet-footed Atalanta from putting all her
spirit into the race."
And then the immortal goddess held out to Hippomenes a branch
that had upon it three apples of shining gold.
"In Cyprus," said the goddess, "where I have come from, there is
a tree on which these golden apples grow. Only I may pluck them.
I have brought them to you, Hippomenes. Keep them in your girdle,
and in the race you will find out what to do with them, I think."
So Aphrodite said, and then she vanished, leaving a fragrance in
the air and the three shining apples in the hands of Hippomenes.
Long he looked upon their brightness. They were beside him that
night, and when he arose in the dawn he put them in his girdle.
Then, before the throng, he went to the place of the race.
When he showed himself beside Atalanta, all around the course
were silent, for they all admired Hippomenes for his beauty and
for the spirit that was in his face; they were silent out of
compassion, for they knew the doom that befell the youths who
raced with Atalanta.
And now Schoeneus, the black-bearded king, stood up, and he spoke
to the throng, saying, "Hear me all, both young and old: this
youth, Hippomenes, seeks to win the race from my daughter,
winning her for his bride. Now, if he be victorious and escape
death I will give him my dear child, Atalanta, and many fleet
horses besides as gifts from me, and in honor he shall go back to
his native land. But if he fail in the race, then he will have to
share the doom that has been meted out to the other youths who
raced with Atalanta hoping to win her for a bride."
Then Hippomenes and Atalanta crouched for the start. The trumpets
were sounded and they darted off.
Side by side with Atalanta, Hippomenes went. Her flying hair
touched his breast, and it seemed to him that they were skimming
the sandy course as if they were swallows. But then Atalanta
began to draw away from him. He saw her ahead of him, and then he
began to hear the words of cheer that came from the throng
"Bend to the race, Hippomenes! Go on, go on! Use your strength to
the utmost." He bent himself to the race, but further and further
from him Atalanta drew.
Then it seemed to him that she checked her swiftness a little to
look back at him. He gained on her a little. And then his hand
touched the apples that were in his girdle. As it touched them it
came into his mind what to do with the apples.
He was not far from her now, but already her swiftness was
drawing her further and further away. He took one of the apples
into his hand and tossed it into the air so that it fell on the
track before her.
Atalanta saw the shining apple. She checked her speed and stooped
in the race to pick it up. And as she stooped Hippomenes darted
past her, and went flying toward the goal that now was within his
But soon she was beside him again. He looked, and he saw that the
goal marks were far, far ahead of him. Atalanta with the flying
hair passed him, and drew away and away from him. He had not
speed to gain upon her now, he thought, so he put his strength
into his hand and he flung the second of the shining apples. The
apple rolled before her and rolled off the course. Atalanta
turned off the course, stooped and picked up the apple.
Then did Hippomenes draw all his spirit into his breast as he
raced on. He was now nearer to the goal than she was. But he knew
that she was behind him, going lightly where he went heavily. And
then she was beside him, and then she went past him. She paused
in her speed for a moment and she looked back on him.
As he raced on, his chest seemed weighted down and his throat was
crackling dry. The goal marks were far away still, but Atalanta
was nearing them. He took the last of the golden apples into his
hand. Perhaps she was now so far that the strength of his throw
would not be great enough to bring the apple before her.
But with all the strength he could put into his hand he flung the
apple. It struck the course before her feet and then went
bounding wide. Atalanta swerved in her race and followed where
the apple went. Hippomenes marvelled that he had been able to
fling it so far. He saw Atalanta stoop to pick up the apple, and
he bounded on. And then, although his strength was failing, he
saw the goal marks near him. He set his feet between them and
then fell down on the ground.
The attendants raised him up and put the victor's wreath upon his
head. The concourse of people shouted with joy to see him victor.
But he looked around for Atalanta and he saw her standing there
with the golden apples in her hands. "He has won," he heard her
say, "and I have not to hate myself for bringing a doom upon him.
Gladly, gladly do I give up the race, and glad am I that it is
this youth who has won the victory from me."
She took his hand and brought him before the king. Then
Schoeneus, in the sight of all the rejoicing people, gave
Atalanta to Hippomenes for his bride, and he bestowed upon him
also a great gift of horses. With his dear and hard-won bride,
Hippomenes went to his own country, and the apples that she
brought with her, the golden apples of Aphrodite, were reverenced
by the people.
X. The Departure From Lemnos
A day came when Heracles left the Argo and went on the Lemnian
land. He gathered the heroes about him, and they, seeing Heracles
come amongst them, clamored to go to hunt the wild bulls that
were inland from the sea.
So, for once, the heroes left the Lemnian maidens who were their
friends. Jason, too, left Hypsipyle in the palace and went with
Heracles. And as they went, Heracles spoke to each of the heroes,
saying that they were forgetting the Fleece of Gold that they had
sailed to gain.
Jason blushed to think that he had almost let go out of his mind
the quest that had brought him from Iolcus. And then he thought
upon Hypsipyle and of how her little hand would stay in his, and
his own hand became loose upon the spear so that it nearly fell
from him. How could he, he thought, leave Hypsipyle and this land
of Lemnos behind?
He heard the clear voice of Atalanta as she, too, spoke to the
Argonauts. What Heracles said was brave and wise, said Atalanta.
Forgetfulness would cover their names if they stayed longer in
Lemnos--forgetfulness and shame, and they would come to despise
themselves. Leave Lemnos, she cried, and draw Argo into the sea,
and depart for Colchis.
All day the Argonauts stayed by themselves, hunting the bulls. On
their way back from the chase they were met by Lemnian maidens
who carried wreaths of flowers for them. Very silent were the
heroes as the maidens greeted them. Heracles went with Jason to
the palace, and Hypsipyle, seeing the mighty stranger coming,
seated herself, not on the couch where she was wont to sit
looking into the face of Jason, but on the stone throne of King
Thoas, her father. And seated on that throne she spoke to Jason
and to Heracles as a queen might speak.
In the hall that night the heroes and the Lemnian maidens who
were with them were quiet. A story was told; Castor began it and
Polydeuces ended it. And the story that Helen's brothers told
The Golden Maid
Epimetheus the Titan had a brother who was the wisest of all
Beings--Prometheus called the Foreseer. But Epimetheus himself
was slow-witted and scatter-brained. His wise brother once sent
him a message bidding him beware of the gifts that Zeus might
send him. Epimetheus heard, but he did not heed the warning, and
thereby he brought upon the race of men troubles and cares.
Prometheus, the wise Titan, had saved men from a great trouble
that Zeus would have brought upon them. Also he had given them
the gift of fire. Zeus was the more wroth with men now because
fire, stolen from him, had been given them; he was wroth with the
race of Titans, too, and he pondered in his heart how he might
injure men, and how he might use Epimetheus, the mindless Titan,
to further his plan.
While he pondered there was a hush on high Olympus, the mountain
of the gods. Then Zeus called upon the artisan of the gods, lame
Hephaestus, and he commanded him to make a being out of clay that
would have the likeness of a lovely maiden. With joy and pride
Hephaestus worked at the task that had been given him, and he
fashioned a being that had the likeness of a lovely maiden, and
he brought the thing of his making before the gods and the
All strove to add a grace or a beauty to the work of Hephaestus.
Zeus granted that the maiden should see and feel. Athene dressed
her in garments that were as lovely as flowers. Aphrodite, the
goddess of love, put a charm on her lips and in her eyes.
The Graces put necklaces around her neck and set agolden crown
upon her head. The Hours brought her a girdle of spring flowers.
Then the herald of the gods gave her speech thatwas sweet and
flowing. All the gods and goddesses had given giftsto her, and
for that reason the maiden of Hephaestus's making was called
Pandora, the All-endowed.
She was lovely, the gods knew; not beautiful as they themselves
are, who have a beauty that awakens reverence rather than love,
but lovely, as flowers and bright waters and earthly maidens are
lovely. Zeus smiled to himself when he looked upon her, and he
called to Hermes who knew all the ways of the earth, and he put
her into the charge of Hermes. Also he gave Hermes a great jar to
take along; this jar was Pandora's dower.
Epimetheus lived in a deep-down valley. Now one day, as he was
sitting on a fallen pillar in the ruined place that was now
forsaken by the rest of the Titans, he saw a pair coming toward
him. One had wings, and he knew him to be Hermes, the messenger
of the gods. The other was a maiden. Epimetheus marveled at the
crown upon her head and at her lovely garments. There was a glint
of gold all around her. He rose from where he sat upon the broken
pillar and he stood to watch the pair. Hermes, he saw, was
carrying by its handle a great jar.
In wonder and delight he looked upon the maiden. Epimetheus
had seen no lovely thing for ages. Wonderful indeed was this
Golden Maid, and as she came nearer the charm that was on her
lips and in her eyes came to the Earth-born One, and he smiled
with more and more delight.
Hermes came and stood before him. He also smiled, but his
smile had something baleful in it. He put the hands of the Golden
Maid into the great soft hand of the Titan, and he said, "0
Epimetheus, Father Zeus would be reconciled with thee, and as a
sign of his good will he sends thee this lovely goddess to be thy
Oh, very foolish was Epimetheus the Earth-born One! As he
looked upon the Golden Maid who was sent by Zeus he lost memory
of the wars that Zeus had made upon the Titans and the Elder
Gods; he lost memory of his brother chained by Zeus to the rock;
he lost memory of the warning that his brother, the wisest of all
beings, had sent him. He took the hands of Pandora, and he
thought of nothing at all in all the world but her. Very far away
seemed the voice of Hermes saying, "This jar, too, is from
Olympus; it has in it Pandora's dower."
The jar stood forgotten for long, and green plants grew over
it while Epimetheus walked in the garden with the Golden Maid, or
watched her while she gazed on herself in the stream, or searched
in the untended places for the fruits that the Elder Gods would
eat, when they feasted with the Titans in the old days, before
Zeus had come to his power. And lost to Epimetheus was the memory
of his brother now suffering upon the rock because of the gift
he had given to men.
And Pandora, knowing nothing except the brightness of the
sunshine and the lovely shapes and colors of things and the sweet
taste of the fruits that Epimetheus brought to her, could have
stayed forever in that garden.
But every day Epimetheus would think that the men and women
of the world should be able to talk to him about this maiden with
the wonderful radiance of gold, and with the lovely garments, and
the marvelous crown. And one day he took Pandora by the hand, and
he brought her out of that deep-lying valley, and toward the
homes of men. He did not forget the jar that Hermes had left with
her. All things that belonged to the Golden Maid were precious,
and Epimetheus took the jar along.
The race of men at the time were simple and content. Their
days were passed in toil, but now, since Prometheus had given
them fire, they had good fruits of their toil. They had
well-shaped tools to dig the earth and to build houses. Their
homes were warmed with fire, and fire burned upon the altars that
were upon their ways.
Greatly they reverenced Prometheus, who had given them fire,
and greatly they reverenced the race of the Titans. So when
Epimetheus came amongst them, tall as a man walking with stilts,
they welcomed him and brought him and the Golden Maid to their
hearths. And Epimetheus showed Pandora the wonderful element that
his brother had given to men, and she rejoiced to see the fire,
clapping her hands with delight. The jar that Epimetheus brought
he left in an open place.
In carrying it up the rough ways out of the valley Epimetheus may
have knocked the jar about, for the lid that had been tight upon
it now fitted very loosely. But no one gave heed to the jar as it
stood in the open space where Epimetheus had left it.
At first the men and women looked upon the beauty ofPandora, upon
her lovely dresses, and her golden crown and her girdle of
flowers, with wonder and delight. Epimetheus would have every one
admire and praise her. The men would leave off working in the
fields, or hammering on iron, or building houses, and the women
would leave off spinning or weaving, and come at his call, and
stand about and admire the Golden Maid. But as time went by a
change came upon the women: one woman would weep, and another
would look angry, and a third would go back sullenly to her work
when Pandora was admired or praised.
Once the women were gathered together, and one who was the
wisest amongst them said: "Once we did not think about ourselves,
and we were content. But now we think about ourselves, and we say
to ourselves that we are harsh and ill-favored indeed compared to
the Golden Maid that the Titan is so enchanted with. And we hate
to see our own men praise and admire her, and often, in our
hearts, we would destroy her if we could."
"That is true," the women said. And then a young woman cried
out in a most yearnful voice, "O tell us, you who are wise, how
can we make ourselves as beautiful as Pandora!"
Then said that woman who was thought to be wise, "This Golden
Maid is Lovely to look upon because she has lovely apparel and
all the means of keeping herself lovely. The gods have given her
the ways, and, so her skin remains fair, and her hair keeps its
gold, and her lips are ever red and her eyes shining. And I think
that the means that she has of keeping lovely are all in that jar
that Epimetheus brought with her."
When the woman who was thought to be wise said this, those around
her were silent for a while. But then one arose and another
arose, and they stood and whispered together, one saying to the
other that they should go to the place where the jar had been
left by Epimetheus, and that they should take out of it the
salves and the charms and the washes that would leave them as
beautiful as Pandora.
So the women went to that place. On their way they stopped at a
pool and they bent over to see themselves mirrored in it, and
they saw themselves with dusty and unkempt hair, with large and
knotted hands, with troubled eyes, and with anxious mouths.
They frowned as they looked upon their images, and they said in
harsh voices that in a while they would have ways of making
themselves as lovely as the Golden Maid.
And as they went on they saw Pandora. She was playing in a
flowering field, while Epimetheus, high as a man upon stilts,
went gathering the blossoms of the bushes for her. They went on,
and they came at last to the place where Epimetheus had left the
jar that held Pandora's dower.
A great stone jar it was; there was no bird, nor flower, nor
branch painted upon it. It stood high as a woman's shoulder. And
as the women looked on it they thought that there were things
enough in it to keep them beautiful for all the days of their
lives. But each one thought that she should not be the last to
get her hands into it.
Once the lid had been fixed tightly down on the jar. But the lid
was shifted a little now. As the hands of the women grasped it to
take off the lid the jar was cast down, and the things that were
inside spilled themselves forth.
They were black and gray and red; they were crawling and flying
things. And, as the women looked, the things spread themselves
abroad or fastened themselves upon them.
The jar, like Pandora herself, had been made and filled out of
the ill will of Zeus. And it had been filled, not with salves and
charms and washes, as the women had thought, but with Cares and
Troubles. Before the women came to it one Trouble had already
come forth from the jar--Self-thought that was upon the top of
the heap. It was Self-thought that had afflicted the women,
making them troubled about their own looks, and envious of the
graces of the Golden Maid.
And now the others spread themselves out--Sickness and War and
Strife between friends. They spread themselves abroad and entered
the houses, while Epimetheus, the mindless Titan, gathered
flowers for Pandora, the Golden Maid.
Lest she should weary of her play he called to her. He would take
her into the houses of men. As they drew near to the houses they
saw a woman seated on the ground, weeping; her husband had
suddenly become hard to her and had shut the door on her face.
They came upon a child crying because of a pain that he could not
understand. And then they found two men struggling, their strife
being on account of a possession that they had both held
In every house they went to Epimetheus would say, "I am the
brother of Prometheus, who gave you the gift of fire." But
instead of giving them a welcome the men would say, "We know
nothing about your relation to Prometheus. We see you as a
foolish man upon stilts."
Epimetheus was troubled by the hard looks and the cold words of
the men who once had reverenced him. He turned from the houses
and went away. In a quiet place he sat down, and for a while he
lost sight of Pandora. And then it seemed to him that he heard
the voice of his wise and suffering brother saying, "Do not
accept any gift that Zeus may send you."
He rose up and he hurried away from that place, leaving Pandora
playing by herself. There came into his scattered mind Regret and
Fear. As he went on he stumbled. He fell from the edge of a
cliff, and the sea washed away the body of the mindless brother
Not everything had been spilled out of the jar that had been
brought with Pandora into the world of men. A beautiful, living
thing was in that jar also. This was Hope. And this beautiful,
living thing had got caught under the rim of the jar and had not
come forth with the others. One day a weeping woman found Hope
under the rim of Pandora's jar and brought this living thing into
the house of men. And now because of Hope they could see an end
to their troubles. And the men and women roused themselves in the
midst of their afflictions and they looked toward gladness. Hope,
that had been caught under the rim of the jar, stayed behind the
thresholds of their houses.
As for Pandora, the Golden Maid, she played on, knowing only the
brightness of the sunshine and the lovely shapes of things.
Beautiful would she have seemed to any being who saw her, but now
she had strayed away from the houses of men and Epimetheus was
not there to look upon her. Then Hephaestus, the lame artisan of
the gods, left down his tools and went to seek her. He found
Pandora, and he took her back to Olympus. And in his brazen house
she stays, though sometimes at the will of Zeus she goes down
into the world of men.
When Polydeuces had ended the story that Castor had begun,
Heracles cried out: "For the Argonauts, too, there has been
a Golden Maid--nay, not one, but a Golden Maid for each. Out of
the jar that has been with her ye have taken forgetfulness of
your honor. As for me, I go back to the Argo lest one of these
Golden Maids should hold me back from the labors that make great
So Heracles said, and he went from Hypsipyle's hall. The heroes
looked at each other, and they stood up, and shame that they had
stayed so long away from the quest came over each of them. The
maidens took their hands; the heroes unloosed those soft hands
and turned away from them.
Hypsipyle left the throne of King Thoas and stood before Jason.
There was a storm in all her body; her mouth was shaken, and a
whole life's trouble was in her great eyes. Before she spoke
Jason cried out: "What Heracles said is true, 0 Argonauts! On the
Quest of the Golden Fleece our lives and our honors depend. To
Colchis--to Colchis must we go!"
He stood upright in the hall, and his comrades gathered around
him. The Lemnian maidens would have held out their arms and
would have made their partings long delayed, but that a strange
cry came to them through the night. Well did the Argonauts know
that cry--it was the cry of the ship, of Argo herself. They knew
that they must go to her now or stay from the voyage for ever.
And the maidens knew that there was something in the cry of the
ship that might not be gainsaid, and they put their hands before
their faces, and they said no other word.
Then said Hypsipyle, the queen, "I, too, am a ruler, Jason, and I
know that there are great commands that we have to obey. Go,
then, to the Argo. Ah, neither I nor the women of Lemnos will
stay your going now. But to-morrow speak to us from the deck of
the ship and bid us farewell. Do not go from us in the night,
Jason and the Argonauts went from Hypsipyle's hall. The maidens
who were left behind wept together. All but Hypsipyle. She sat on
the throne of King Thoas and she had Polyxo, her nurse, tell her
of the ways of Jason's voyage as he had told of them, and of all
that he would have to pass through. When the other Lemnian women
slept she put her head upon her nurse's, knees and wept; bitterly
Hypsipyle wept, but softly, for she would not have the others
hear her weeping.
By the coming of the morning's light the Argonauts had made
all ready for their sailing. They were standing on the deck when
the light came, and they saw the Lemnian women come to the shore.
Each looked at her friend aboard the Argo, and spoke, and went
away. And last, Hypsipyle, the queen, came. "Farewell,
Hypsipyle," Jason said to her, and she, in her strange way of
"What you told us I have remembered--how you will come to the
dangerous passage that leads into the Sea of Pontus, and how by
the flight of a pigeon you will know whether or not you may go
that way. 0 Jason, let the dove you fly when you come to that
dangerous place be Hypsipyle's."
She showed a pigeon held in her hands. She loosed it, and the
pigeon alighted on the ship, and stayed there on pink feet, a
white-feathered pigeon. Jason took up the pigeon and held it in
his hands, and the Argo drew swiftly away from the Lemnian land.
XI. The Passage Of The Symplegades
They came near Salmydessus, where Phineus, the wise king, ruled,
and they sailed past it; they sighted the pile of stones, with
the oar upright upon it that they had raised on the seashore over
the body of Tiphys, the skillful steersman whom they had lost;
they sailed on until they heard a sound that grew more and more
thunderous, and then the heroes said to each other, "Now we come
to the Symplegades and the dread passage into the Sea of Pontus."
It was then that Jason cried out: "Ah, when Pelias spoke of this
quest to me, why did I not turn my head away and refuse to be
drawn into it? Since we came near the dread passage that is
before us I have passed every night in groans. As for you who
have come with me, you may take your ease, for you need care only
for your own lives. But I have to care for you all, and to strive
to win for you all a safe return to Greece. Ah, greatly am I
afflicted now, knowing to what a great peril I have brought you!"
So Jason said, thinking to make trial of the heroes. They, on
their part, were not dismayed, but shouted back cheerful words to
him. Then he said: "O friends of mine, by your spirit my spirit
is quickened. Now if I knew that I was being borne down into the
black gulfs of Hades, I should fear nothing, knowing that you are
constant and faithful of heart."
As he said this they came into water that seethed all around the
ship. Then into the hands of Euphemus, a youth of Iolcus, who was
the keenest-eyed amongst the Argonauts, Jason put the pigeon that
Hypsipyle had given him. He bade him stand by the prow of the
Argo, ready to loose the pigeon as the ship came nigh that
dreadful gate of rock.
They saw the spray being dashed around in showers; they saw the
sea spread itself out in foam; they saw the high, black rocks
rush together, sounding thunderously as they met. The caves in
the high rocks rumbled as the sea surged into them, and the foam
of the dashing waves spurted high up the rocks.
Jason shouted to each man to grip hard on the oars. The Argo
dashed on as the rocks rushed toward each other again. Then there
was such noise that no man's voice could be heard above it.
As the rocks met, Euphemus loosed the pigeon. With his
keen eyes he watched her fly through the spray. Would she, not
finding an opening to fly through, turn back? He watched, and
meanwhile the Argonauts gripped hard on the oars to save the ship
from being dashed on the rocks. The pigeon fluttered as though
she would sink down and let the spray drown her. And then
Euphemus saw her raise herself and fly forward. Toward the place
where she had flown he pointed. The rowers gave a loud cry, and
Jason called upon them to pull with might and main.
The rocks were parting asunder, and to the right and left broad
Pontus was seen by the heroes. Then suddenly a huge wave rose
before them, and at the sight of it they all uttered a cry and
bent their heads. It seemed to them that it would dash down on
the whole ship's length and overwhelm them all. But Nauplius was
quick to ease the ship, and the wave rolled away beneath the
keel, and at the stern it raised the Argo and dashed her away
from the rocks.
They felt the sun as it streamed upon them through the sundered
rocks. They strained at the oars until the oars bent like bows in
their hands. The ship sprang forward. Surely they were now in the
wide Sea of Pontus!
The Argonauts shouted. They saw the rocks behind them with the
sea fowl screaming upon them. Surely they were in the Sea of
Pontus--the sea that had never been entered before through the
Rocks Wandering. The rocks no longer dashed together; each
remained fixed in its place, for it was the will of the gods that
these rocks should no more clash together after a mortal's ship
had passed between them.
They were now in the Sea of Pontus, the sea into which flowed the
river that Colchis was upon--the River Phasis. And now above
Jason's head the bird of peaceful days, the Halcyon, fluttered,
and the Argonauts knew that this was a sign from the gods that
the voyage would not any more be troublous.
XII. The Mountain Caucasus
They rested in the harbor of Thynias, the desert island, and
sailing from there they came to the land of the Mariandyni, a
people who were constantly at war with the Bebrycians; there the
hero Polydeuces was welcomed as a god. Twelve days afterward they
passed the mouth of the River Callichorus; then they came to the
mouth of that river that flows through the land of the Amazons,
the River Thermodon. Fourteen days from that place brought them
to the island that is filled with the birds of Ares, the god of
war. These birds dropped upon the heroes heavy, pointed feathers
that would have pierced them as arrows if they had not covered
themselves with their shields; then by shouting, and by striking
their shields with their spears, they raised such a clamor as
drove the birds away.
They sailed on, borne by a gentle breeze, until a gulf of the sea
opened before them, and lo! a mountain that they knew bore some
mighty name. Orpheus, looking on its peak and its crags, said,
"Lo, now! We, the Argonauts, are looking upon the mountain that
is named Caucasus!"
When he declared the name the heroes all stood up and looked on
the mountain with awe. And in awe they cried out a name, and that
name was "Prometheus!"
For upon that mountain the Titan god was held, his limbs bound
upon the hard rocks by fetters of bronze. Even as the Argonauts
looked toward the mountain a great shadow fell upon their ship,
and looking up they saw a monstrous bird flying. The beat of the
bird's wings filled out the sail and drove the Argo swiftly
onward. "It is the bird sent by Zeus," Orpheus said. "It is the
vulture that every day devours the liver of the Titan god." They
cowered down on the ship as they heard that word--all the
Argonauts save Heracles; he stood upright and looked out toward
where the bird was flying. Then, as the bird came near to the
mountain, the Argonauts heard a great cry of anguish go up from
"It is Prometheus crying out as the bird of Zeus flies down upon
him," they said to one another. Again they cowered down on the
ship, all save Heracles, who stayed looking toward where the
great vulture had flown.
The night came and the Argonauts sailed on in silence, thinking
in awe of the Titan god and of the doom that Zeus had
inflicted upon him. Then, as they sailed on under the stars,
Orpheus told them of Prometheus, of his gift to men, and of the
fearful punishment that had been meted out to him by Zeus.
The gods more than once made a race of men: the first was a
Golden Race. Very close to the gods who dwell on Olympus was this
Golden Race; they lived justly although there were no laws to
compel them. In the time of the Golden Race the earth knew only
one season, and that season was everlasting Spring. The men and
women of the Golden Race lived through a span of life that was
far beyond that of the men and women of our day, and when they
died it was as though sleep had become everlasting with them.
They had all good things, and that without labor, for the earth
without any forcing bestowed fruits and crops upon them. They had
peace all through their lives, this Golden Race, and after they
had passed away their spirits remained above the earth, inspiring
the men of the race that came after them to do great and gracious
things and to act justly and kindly to one another.
After the Golden Race had passed away, the gods made for the
earth a second race--a Silver Race. Less noble in spirit and in
body was this Silver Race, and the seasons that visited them were
less gracious. In the time of the Silver Race the gods made the
seasons--Summer and Spring, and Autumn and Winter. They knew
parching heat, and the bitter winds of winter, and snow and rain
and hail. It was the men of the Silver Race who first built
houses for shelter. They lived through a span of life that was
longer than our span, but it was not long enough to give wisdom
to them. Children were brought up at their mothers' sides for a
hundred years, playing at childish things. And when they came to
years beyond a hundred they quarreled with one another, and
wronged one another, and did not know enough to give reverence to
the immortal gods. Then, by the will of Zeus, the Silver Race
passed away as the Golden Race had passed away. Their spirits
stay in the Underworld, and they are called by men the blessed
spirits of the Underworld.
And then there was made the third race--the Race of Bronze.
They were a race great of stature, terrible and strong. Their
armor was of bronze, their swords were of bronze, their
implements were of bronze, and of bronze, too, they made their
houses. No great span of life was theirs, for with the weapons
that they took in their terrible hands they slew one another.
Thus they passed away, and went down under the earth to Hades,
leaving no name that men might know them by.
Then the gods created a fourth race--our own: a Race of Iron.
We have not the justice that was amongst the men of the Golden
Race, nor the simpleness that was amongst the men of the Silver
Race, nor the stature nor the great strength that the men of the
Bronze Race possessed. We are of iron that we may endure.
It is our doom that we must never cease from labor and that we
must very quickly grow old.
But miserable as we are to-day, there was a time when the lot of
men was more miserable. With poor implements they had to labor
on a hard ground. There was less justice and kindliness amongst
men in those days than there is now.
Once it came into the mind of Zeus that he would destroy the
fourth race and leave the earth to the nymphs and the satyrs. He
would destroy it by a great flood. But Prometheus, the--Titan god
who had given aid to Zeus against the other Titans--Prometheus,
who was called the Foreseer--could not consent to the race of men
being destroyed utterly, and he considered a way of saving some
of them. To a man and a woman, Deucalion and Pyrrha, just and
gentle people, he brought word of the plan of Zeus, and he showed
them how to make a ship that would bear them through what was
about to be sent upon the earth.
Then Zeus shut up in their cave all the winds but the wind that
brings rain and clouds. He bade this wind, the South Wind, sweep
over the earth, flooding it with rain. He called upon Poseidon
and bade him to let the sea pour in upon the land. And Poseidon
commanded the rivers to put forth all their strength, and sweep
dykes away, and overflow their banks.
The clouds and the sea and the rivers poured upon the earth. The
flood rose higher and higher, and in the places where the pretty
lambs had played the ugly sea calves now gambolled; men in their
boats drew fishes out of the tops of elm trees, and the water
nymphs were amazed to come on men's cities under the waves.
Soon even the men and women who had boats were overwhelmed by the
rise of water--all perished then except Deucalion and Pyrrha, his
wife; them the waves had not overwhelmed, for they were in a ship
that Prometheus had shown them how to build. The flood went down
at last, and Deucalion and Pyrrha climbed up to a high and a dry
ground. Zeus saw that two of the race of men had been left alive.
But he saw that these two were just and kindly, and had a right
reverence for the gods. He spared them, and he saw their children
again peopling the earth.
Prometheus, who had saved them, looked on the men and women of
the earth with compassion. Their labor was hard, and they wrought
much to gain little. They were chilled at night in their houses,
and the winds that blew in the daytime made the old men and women
bend double like a wheel. Prometheus thought to himself that if
men and women had the element that only the gods knew of--the
element of fire--they could make for themselves implements for
labor; they could build houses that would keep out the chilling
winds, and they could warm themselves at the blaze.
But the gods had not willed that men should have fire, and to go
against the will of the gods would be impious. Prometheus went
against the will of the gods. He stole fire from the
altar of Zeus, and he hid it in a hollow fennel stalk, and he
brought it to men.
Then men were able to hammer iron into tools, and cut down
forests with axes, and sow grain where the forests had been. Then
were they able to make houses that the storms could not
overthrow, and they were able to warm themselves at hearth fires.
They had rest from their labor at times. They built cities; they
became beings who no longer had heads and backs bent but were
able to raise their faces even to the gods.
And Zeus spared the race of men who had now the sacred element of
fire. But he knew that Prometheus had stolen this fire even from
his own altar and had given it to men. And he thought on how he
might punish the great Titan god for his impiety.
He brought back from the Underworld the giants that he had put
there to guard the Titans that had been hurled down to Tartarus.
He brought back Gyes, Cottus, and Briareus, and he commanded them
to lay hands upon Prometheus and to fasten him with fetters to
the highest, blackest crag upon Caucasus. And Briareus, Cottus,
and Gyes seized upon the Titan god, and carried him to Caucasus,
and fettered him with fetters of bronze to the highest, blackest
crag--with fetters of bronze that may not be broken. There they
have left the Titan stretched, under the sky, with the cold winds
blowing upon him, and with the sun streaming down on him. And
that his punishment might exceed all other punishments Zeus had
sent a vulture to prey upon him--a vulture that tears at his
liver each day.
And yet Prometheus does not cry out that he has repented of
his gift to man; although the winds blow upon him, and the sun
streams upon him, and the vulture tears at his liver, Prometheus
will not cry out his repentance to heaven. And Zeus may not
utterly destroy him. For Prometheus the Foreseer knows a secret
that Zeus would fain have him disclose. He knows that even as
Zeus overthrew his father and made himself the ruler in his
stead, so, too, another will overthrow Zeus. And one day Zeus
will have to have the fetters broken from around the limbs of
Prometheus, and will have to bring from the rock and the vulture,
and into the Council of the Olympians, the unyielding Titan god.
When the light of the morning came the Argo was very near to
the Mountain Caucasus. The voyagers looked in awe upon its black
crags. They saw the great vulture circling over a high rock, and
from beneath where the vulture circled they heard a weary cry.
Then Heracles, who all night had stood by the mast, cried out to
the Argonauts to bring the ship near to a landing place.
But Jason would not have them go near; fear of the wrath of
Zeus was strong upon him; rather, he bade the Argonauts put all
their strength into their rowing, and draw far off from that
forbidden mountain. Heracles, not heeding what Jason
ordered, declared that it was his purpose to make his way up to
the black crag, and, with his shield and his sword in his hands,
slay the vulture that preyed upon the liver of Prometheus.
Then Orpheus in a clear voice spoke to the Argonauts. "Surely
some spirit possesses Heracles," he said. "Despite all we do or
say he will make his way to where Prometheus is fettered to the
rock. Do not gainsay him in this! Remember what Nereus, the
ancient one of the sea, declared! Did Nereus not say that a great
labor awaited Heracles, and that in the doing of it he should
work out the will of Zeus? Stay him not! How just it would be if
he who is the son of Zeus freed from his torments the
much-enduring Titan god!"
So Orpheus said in his clear, commanding voice. They drew near to
the Mountain Caucasus. Then Heracles, gripping the sword and
shield that were the gifts of the gods, sprang out on the landing
place. The Argonauts shouted farewell to him. But he, filled as
he was with an overmastering spirit, did not heed their words.
A strong breeze drove them onward; darkness came down, and the
Argo went on through the night. With the morning light those who
were sleeping were awakened by the cry of Nauplius--"Lo! The
Phasis, and the utmost bourne of the sea!" They sprang up, and
looked with many strange feelings upon the broad river they had
Here was the Phasis emptying itself into the Sea of Pontus! Up
that river was Colchis and the city of King Aetes, the
end of their voyage, the place where was kept the Golden Fleece!
Quickly they let down the sail; they lowered the mast and they
laid it along the deck; strongly they grasped the oars; they
swung the Argo around, and they entered the broad stream of the
Up the river they went with the Mountain Caucasus on their left
hand, and on their right the groves and gardens of Aea, King
Aetes's city. As they went up the stream, Jason poured from a
golden cup an offering to the gods. And to the dead heroes of
that country the Argonauts prayed for good fortune to their
It was Jason's counsel that they should not at once appear before
King Aetes, but visit him after they had seen the strength of his
city. They drew their ship into a shaded backwater, and there
they stayed while day grew and faded around them.
Night came, and the heroes slept upon the deck of Argo. Many
things came back to them in their dreams or through their
half-sleep: they thought of the Lemnian maidens they had parted
from; of the Clashing Rocks they had passed between; of the look
in the eyes of Heracles as he raised his face to the high, black
peak of Caucasus. They slept, and they thought they saw before
them THE GOLDEN FLEECE; darkness surrounded it; it seemed to the
dreaming Argonauts that the darkness was the magic power that
King Aetes possessed.
PART II. The Return To Greece
I. King Aeetes
They had come into a country that was the strangest of all
countries, and amongst a people that were the strangest of all
peoples. They were in the land, this people said, before the moon
had come into the sky. And it is true that when the great king of
Egypt had come so far, finding in all other places men living on
the high hills and eating the acorns that grew on the oaks there,
he found in Colchis the city of Aea with a wall around it and
with pillars on which writings were graven. That was when Egypt
was called the Morning Land.
And many of the magicians of Egypt who had come with King
Sesostris stayed in that city of Aea, and they taught people
spells that could stay the moon in her going and coming, in her
rising and setting. Priests of the Moon ruled the city of Aea
until King Aeetes came.
Aeetes had no need of their magic, for Helios, the bright Sun,
was his father, as he thought. Also, Hephaestus, the artisan of
the gods, was his friend, and Hephaestus made for him many
wonderful things to be his protection. Medea, too, his wise
daughter, knew the secrets taught by those who could sway the
But Aeetes once was made afraid by a dream that he had: he dreamt
that a ship had come up the Phasis, and then, sailing on a mist,
had rammed his palace that was standing there in all its strength
and beauty until it had fallen down. On the morning of the night
that he had had this dream Aeetes called Medea, his wise
daughter, and he bade her go to the temple of Hecate, the Moon,
and search out spells that might destroy those who came against
That morning the Argonauts, who had passed the night in the
backwater of the river, had two youths come to them. They were in
a broken ship, and they had one oar only. When Jason, after
giving them food and fresh garments, questioned them, he found
out that these youths were of the city of Aea, and that they were
none others than the sons of Phrixus--of Phrixus who had come
there with the Golden Ram.
And the youths, Phrontis and Melas, were as amazed as was Jason
when they found out whose ship they had come aboard. For Jason
was the grandson of Cretheus, and Cretheus was the brother of
Athamas, their grandfather. They had ventured from Aea, where
they had been reared, thinking to reach the country of Athamas
and lay claim to his possessions. But they had been wrecked at a
place not far from the mouth of the Phasis, and with great pain
and struggle they had made their way back.
They were fearful of Aea and of their uncle King Aeetes, and they
would gladly go with Jason and the Argonauts back to Greece. They
would help Jason, they said, to persuade Aeetes to give the
Golden Fleece peaceably to them. Their mother was the daughter of
Aeetes--Chalciope, whom the king had given in marriage to
Phrixus, his guest.
A council of the Argonauts was held, and it was agreed that Jason
should go with two comrades to King Aeetes, Phrontis and Melas
going also. They were to ask the king to give them the Golden
Fleece and to offer him a recompense. Jason took Peleus and
Telamon with him.
As they came to the city a mist fell, and Jason and his comrades
with the sons of Phrixus went through the city without being
seen. They came before the palace of King Aeetes. Then Phrontis
and Melas were some way behind. The mist lifted, and before the
heroes was the wonder of the palace in the bright light of the
Vines with broad leaves and heavy clusters of fruit grew from
column to column, the columns holding a gallery up. And under the
vines were the four fountains that Hephaestus had made for King
Aeetes. They gushed out into golden, silver, bronze, and iron
basins. And one fountain gushed out clear water, and another
gushed out milk; another gushed out wine; and another oil. On
each side of the courtyard were the palace buildings; in one
King Aeetes lived with Apsyrtus, his son, and in the other
Chalciope and Medea lived with their handmaidens.
Medea was passing from her father's house. The mist lifted
suddenly and she saw three strangers in the palace courtyard. One
had a crimson mantle on; his shoulders were such as to make him
seem a man that a whole world could not overthrow, and his eyes
had all the sun's light in them.
Amazed, Medea stood looking upon Jason, wondering at his bright
hair and gleaming eyes and at the lightness and strength of the
hand that he had raised. And then a dove flew toward her: it was
being chased by a hawk, and Medea saw the hawk's eyes and beak.
As the dove lighted upon her shoulder she threw her veil around
it, and the hawk dashed itself against a column. And as Medea,
trembling, leaned against the column she heard a cry from her
sister, who was within.
For now Phrontis and Melas had come up, and Chalciope who was
spinning by the door saw them and cried out. All the servants
rushed out. Seeing Chalciope's sons there they, too, uttered loud
cries, and made such commotion that Apsyrtus and then King Aeetes
came out of the palace.
Jason saw King Aeetes. He was old and white, but he had great
green eyes, and the strength of a leopard was in all he did. And
Jason looked upon Apsyrtus too; the son of Aeetes looked like a
Phoenician merchant, black of beard and with rings in his ears,
with a hooked nose and a gleam of copper in his face.
Phrontis and Melas went from their mother's embrace and made
reverence to King Aeetes. Then they spoke of the heroes who were
with them, of Jason and his two comrades. Aeetes bade all enter
the palace; baths were made ready for them, and a banquet was
After the banquet, when they all sat together, Aeetes addressing
the eldest of Chalciope's sons, said:
"Sons of Phrixus, of that man whom I honored above all men who
came to my halls, speak now and tell me how it is that you have
come back to Aea so soon, and who they are, these men who come
Aeetes, as he spoke, looked sharply upon Phrontis and Melas, for
he suspected them of having returned to Aea, bringing these armed
men with them, with an evil intent. Phrontis looked at the King,
"Aeetes, our ship was driven upon the Island of Ares, where it
was almost broken upon the rocks. That was on a murky night, and
in the morning the birds of Ares shot their sharp feathers upon
us. We pulled away from that place, and thereafter we were driven
by the winds back to the mouth of the Phasis. There we met with
these heroes who were friendly to us. Who they are, what they
have come to your city for, I shall now tell you.
"A certain king, longing to drive one of these heroes from his
land, and hoping that the race of Cretheus might perish utterly,
led him to enter a most perilous adventure. He came here upon
a ship that was made by the command of Hera, the wife of
Zeus, a ship more wonderful than mortals ever sailed in before.
With him there came the mightiest of the heroes of Greece. He is
Jason, the grandson of Cretheus, and he has come to beg that you
will grant him freely the famous Fleece of Gold that Phrixus
brought to Aea.
"But not without recompense to you would he take the Fleece.
Already he has heard of your bitter foes, the Sauromatae. He with
his comrades would subdue them for you. And if you would ask of
the names and the lineage of the heroes who are with Jason I
shall tell you. This is Peleus and this is Telamon; they are
brothers, and they are sons of .,Eacus, who was of the seed of
Zeus. And all the other heroes who have come with them are of the
seed of the gods."
So Phrontis said, but the King was not placated by what he said.
He thought that the sons of Chalciope had returned to Aea
bringing these warriors with them so that they might wrest the
kingship from him, or, failing that, plunder the city. Aeetes's
heart was filled with wrath as he looked upon them, and his eyes
shone as a leopard's eyes.
"Begone from my sight," he cried, "robbers that ye are!
Tricksters! If you had not eaten at my table, assuredly I should
have had your tongues cut out for speaking falsehoods about the
blessed gods, saying that this one and that of your companions
was of their divine race."
Telamon and Peleus strode forward with angry hearts; they would
have laid their hands upon King Aeetes only Jason held them back.
And then speaking to the king in a quiet voice, Jason said:
"Bear with us, King Aeetes, I pray you. We have not come with
such evil intent as you think. Ah, it was the evil command of an
evil king that sent me forth with these companions of mine across
dangerous gulfs of the sea, and to face your wrath and the armed
men you can bring against us. We are ready to make great
recompense for the friendliness you may show to us. We will
subdue for you the Sauromatae, or any other people that you would
lord it over."
But Aeetes was not made friendly by Jason's words. His heart was
divided as to whether he should summon his armed men and have
them slain upon the spot, or whether he should put them into
danger by the trial he would make of them.
At last he thought that it would be better to put them to the
trial that he had in mind, slaying them afterward if need be. And
then he spoke to Jason, saying:
"Strangers to Colchis, it may be true what my nephews have said.
It may be that ye are truly of the seed of the immortals. And it
may be that I shall give you the Golden Fleece to bear away after
I have made trial of you."
As he spoke Medea, brought there by his messenger so that she
might observe the strangers, came into the chamber. She entered
softly and she stood away from her father and the four who were
speaking with him. Jason looked upon her, and even although his
mind was filled with the thought of bending King Aeetes to his
will, he saw what manner of maiden she was, and what beauty and
what strength was hers.
She had a dark face that was made very strange by her crown of
golden hair. Her eyes, like her father's, were wide and full of
light, and her lips were so full and red that they made her mouth
like an opening rose. But her brows were always knit as if there
was some secret anger within her.
"With brave men I have no quarrel," said Aeetes "I will make a
trial of your bravery, and if your bravery wins through the
trial, be very sure that you will have the Golden Fleece to bring
back in triumph to Iolcus.
"But the trial that I would make of you is hard for a great hero
even. Know that on the plain of Ares yonder I have two
fire-breathing bulls with feet of brass. These bulls were once
conquered by me; I yoked them to a plow of adamant, and with them
I plowed the field of Ares for four plow-gates. Then I sowed the
furrows, not with the seed that Demeter gives, but with teeth of
a dragon. And from the dragon's teeth that I sowed in the field
of Ares armed men sprang up. I slew them with my spear as they
rose around me to slay me. If you can accomplish this that I
accomplished in days gone by I shall submit to you and give you
the Golden Fleece. But if you cannot accomplish what I once
accomplished you shall go from my city empty-handed; for it is
not right that a brave man should yield aught to one who cannot
show himself as brave."
So Aeetes said. Then Jason, utterly confounded, cast his eyes
upon the ground. He raised them to speak to the king, and as he
did he found the strange eyes of Medea upon him. With all the
courage that was in him he spoke:
"I will dare this contest, monstrous as it is. I will face this
doom. I have come far, and there is nothing else for me to do but
to yoke your firebreathing bulls to the plow of adamant, and plow
the furrows in the field of Ares, and struggle with the
Earth-born Men." As he said this he saw the eyes of Medea grow
wide as with fear.
Then Aeetes, said, "Go back to your ship and make ready for the
trial." Jason, with Peleus and Telamon, left the chamber, and the
king smiled grimly as he saw them go. Phrontis and Melas went to
where their mother was. But Medea stayed, and Aeetes looked upon
her with his great leopard's eyes. "My daughter, my wise Medea,"
he said, "go, put spells upon the Moon, that Hecate may weaken
that man in his hour of trial." Medea turned away from her
father's eyes, and went to her chamber.
II. Medea The Sorceress
She turned away from her father's eyes and she went into her own
chamber. For a long time she stood there with her hands clasped
together. She heard the voice of Chalciope lamenting because
Aeetes had taken a hatred to her sons and might strive to
destroy them. She heard the voice of her sister lamenting, but
Medea thought that the cause that her sister had for grieving
was small compared with the cause that she herself had.
She thought on the moment when she had seen Jason for the first
time--in the courtyard as the mist lifted and the dove flew to
her; she thought of him as he lifted those bright eyes of his;
then she thought of his voice as he spoke after her father had
imposed the dreadful trial upon him. She would have liked then to
have cried out to him, "O youth, if others rejoice at the doom
that you go to, I do not rejoice."
Still her sister lamented. But how great was her own grief
compared to her sister's! For Chalciope could try to help her
sons and could lament for the danger they were in and no one
would blame her. But she might not strive to help Jason nor might
she lament for the danger he was in. How terrible it would be for
a maiden to help a stranger against her father's design! How
terrible it would be for a woman of Colchis to help a stranger
against the will of the king! How terrible it would be for a
daughter to plot against King Aeetes in his own palace!
And then Medea hated Aea, her city. She hated the furious people
who came together in the assembly, and she hated the brazen bulls
that Hephaestus had given her father. And then she thought that
there was nothing in Aea except the furious people and the
fire-breathing bulls. O how pitiful it was that the strange hero
and his friends should have come to such a place for the sake of
the Golden Fleece that was watched over by the sleepless serpent
in the grove of Ares!
Still Chalciope lamented. Would Chalciope come to her and ask
her, Medea, to help her sons? If she should come she might speak
of the strangers, too, and of the danger they were in. Medea went
to her couch and lay down upon it. She longed for her sister to
come to her or to call to her.
But Chalciope stayed in her own chamber. Medea, lying upon her
couch, listened to her sister's laments. At last she went near
where Chalciope was. Then shame that she should think so much
about the stranger came over her. She stood there without moving;
she turned to go back to the couch, and then trembled so much
that she could not stir. As she stood between her couch and her
sister's chamber she heard the voice of Chalciope calling to her.
She went into the chamber where her sister stood. Chalciope flung
her arms around her. "Swear," said she to Medea, "swear by
Hecate, the Moon, that you will never speak of something I am
going to ask you." Medea swore that she would never speak of it.
Chalciope spoke of the danger her sons were in. She asked Medea
to devise a way by which they could escape with the stranger from
Aea. "In Aea and in Colchis," she said, "there will be no safety
for my sons henceforth." And to save Phrontis and Melas, she
said, Medea would have to save the strangers also. Surely she
knew of a charm that would save the stranger from the brazen
bulls in the contest on the morrow!
So Chalciope came to the very thing that was in Medea's mind.
Her heart bounded with joy and she embraced her. "Chalciope,"
she said, "I declare that I am your sister, indeed--aye, and
your daughter, too, for did you not care for me when I was an
infant? I will strive to save your sons. I will strive to save
the strangers who came with your sons. Send one to the
strangers--send him to the leader of the strangers, and tell him
that I would see him at daybreak in the temple of Hecate."
When Medea said this Chalciope embraced her again. She was amazed
to see how Medea's tears were flowing. "Chalciope," she said, "no
one will know the dangers that I shall go through to save them."
Swiftly then Chalciope went from the chamber. But Medea stayed
there with her head bowed and the blush of shame on her face. She
thought that already she had deceived her sister, making her
think that it was Phrontis and Melas and not Jason that was in
her mind to save. And she thought on how she would have to plot
against her father and against her own people, and all for the
sake of a stranger who would sail away without thought of her,
without the image of her in his mind.
Jason, with Peleus and Telamon, went back to the Argo. His
comrades asked how he had fared, and when he spoke to them of the
fire-breathing bulls with feet of brass, of the dragon's teeth
that had to be sown, and of the Earth-born Men that had to be
overcome, the Argonauts were greatly cast down, for this task,
they thought, was one that could not be accomplished. He who
stood before the fire-breathing bulls would perish on the moment.
But they knew that one amongst them must strive to accomplish the
task. And if Jason held back, Peleus, Telamon, Theseus, Castor,
Polydeuces, or any one of the others would undertake it.
But Jason would not hold back. On the morrow, he said, he would
strive to yoke the fire-breathing, brazen-footed bulls to the
plow of adamant. If he perished the Argonauts should then do what
they thought was best--make other trials to gain the Golden
Fleece, or turn their ship and sail back to Greece.
While they were speaking, Phrontis, Chalciope's son, came to the
ship. The Argonauts welcomed him, and in a while he began to
speak of his mother's sister and of the help she could give. They
grew eager as be spoke of her, all except rough Arcas, who stood
wrapped in his bear's skin. "Shame on us," rough Arcas cried,
"shame on us if we have come here to crave the help of girls!
Speak no more of this! Let us, the Argonauts, go with
swords into the city of Aea, and slay this king, and carry off
the Fleece of Gold."
Some of the Argonauts murmured approval of what Arcas said. But
Orpheus silenced him and them, for in his prophetic mind Orpheus
saw something of the help that Medea would give them. It would be
well, Orpheus said, to take help from this wise maiden; Jason
should go to her in the temple of Hecate. The Argonauts agreed to
this; they listened to what Phrontis told them about the brazen
bulls, and the night wore on.
When darkness came upon the earth; when, at sea, sailors looked
to the Bear arid the stars of Orion; when, in the city, there was
no longer the sound of barking dogs nor of men's voices, Medea
went from the palace. She came to a path; she followed it until
it brought her into the part of the grove that was all black with
the shadow that oak trees made.
She raised up her hands and she called upon Hecate, the Moon. As
she did, there was a blaze as from torches all around, and she
saw horrible serpents stretching themselves toward her from the
branches of the trees. Medea shrank back in fear. But again she
called upon Hecate. And now there was a howling as from the
hounds of Hades all around her. Fearful, indeed, Medea grew as
the howling came near her; almost she turned to flee. But she
raised her hands again and called upon Hecate. Then the nymphs
who haunted the marsh and the river shrieked, and at those
shrieks Medea crouched down in fear.
She called upon Hecate, the Moon, again. She saw the moon rise
above the treetops, and then the hissing and shrieking and
howling died away. Holding up a goblet in her hand Medea poured
out a libation of honey to Hecate, the Moon.
And then she went to where the moon made a brightness upon the
ground. There she saw a flower that rose above the other
flowers--a flower that grew from two joined stalks, and that was
of the color of a crocus. Medea cut the stalks with a brazen
knife, and as she did there came a deep groan out of the earth.
This was the Promethean flower. It had come out of the earth
first when the vulture that tore at Prometheus's liver had let
fall to earth a drop of his blood. With a Caspian shell that she
had brought with her Medea gathered the dark juice of this
flower--the juice that went to make her most potent charm. All
night she went through the grove gathering the juice of secret
herbs; then she mingled them in a phial that she put away in her
She went from that grove and along the river. When the sun shed
its first rays upon snowy Caucasus she stood outside the temple
of Hecate. She waited, but she had not long to wait, for, like
the bright star Sirius rising out of Ocean, soon she saw Jason
coming toward her. She made a sign to him, and he came and stood
beside her in the portals of the temple.
They would have stood face to face if Medea did not have her head
bent. A blush had come upon her face, and Jason seeing it, and
seeing how her head was bent, knew how grievous it was to her to
meet and speak to a stranger in this way. He took her hand and he
spoke to her reverently, as one would speak to a priestess.
"Lady," he said, "I implore you by Hecate and by Zeus who helps
all strangers and suppliants to be kind to me and to the men who
have come to your country with me. Without your help I cannot
hope to prevail in the grievous trial that has been laid upon me.
If you will help us, Medea, your name will be renowned throughout
all Greece. And I have hopes that you will help us, for your face
and form show you to be one who can be kind and gracious."
The blush of shame had gone from Medea's face and a softer blush
came over her as Jason spoke. She looked upon him and she knew
that she could hardly live if the breath of the brazen bulls
withered his life or if the Earth-born Men slew him. She took the
charm from out her girdle; ungrudgingly she put it into Jason's
hands. And as she gave him the charm that she had gained with
such danger, the fear and trouble that was around her heart
melted as the dew melts from around the rose when it is warmed by
the first light of the morning.
Then they spoke standing close together in the portal of the
temple. She told him how he should anoint his body all over with
the charm; it would give him, she said, boundless and untiring
strength, and make him so that the breath of the bulls could not
wither him nor the horns of the bulls pierce him. She told him
also to sprinkle his shield and his sword with the charm.
And then they spoke of the dragon's teeth and of the Earth-born
Men who would spring from them. Medea told Jason that when they
arose out of the earth he was to cast a great stone amongst them.
The Earth-born Men would struggle about the stone, and they would
slay each other in the contest.
Her dark and delicate face was beautiful. Jason looked upon her,
and it came into his mind that in Colchis there was something
else of worth besides the Golden Fleece. And he thought that
after he had won the Fleece there would be peace between the
Argonauts and King Aeetes, and that he and Medea might sit
together in the king's hall. But when he spoke of being joined in
friendship with her father, Medea cried:
"Think not of treaties nor of covenants. In Greece such are
regarded, but not here. Ah, do not think that the king, my
father, will keep any peace with you! When you have won the
Fleece you must hasten away. You must not tarry in Aea."
She said this and her cheeks were wet with tears to think that he
should go so soon, that he would go so far, and that she would
never look upon him again. She bent her head again and she said:
"Tell me about your own land; about the place of your father,
the place where you will live when you win back from Colchis."
Then Jason told her of Icolus; he told her how it was circled by
mountains not so lofty as her Caucasus; he told her of the
pasture lands of Iolcus with their flocks of sheep; he told her
of the Mountain Pelion where he had been reared by Chiron, the
ancient centaur; he told her of his father who lingered out his
life in waiting for his return.
Medea said: "When you go back to Iolcus do not forget me, Medea.
I shall remember you, Jason, even in my father's despite. And it
will be my hope that some rumor of you will come to me like some
messenger-bird. If you forget me may some blast of wind sweep me
away to Iolcus, and may I sit in your hall an unknown and an
Then they parted; Medea went swiftly back to the palace, and
Jason, turning to the river, went to where the Argo was moored.
The heroes embraced and questioned him; he told them of Medea's
counsel and he showed them the charm she had given him. That
savage man Arcas scoffed at Medea's counsel and Medea's charm,
saying that the Argonauts had become poorspirited indeed when
they had to depend upon a girl's help.
Jason bathed in the river; then he anointed himself with the
charm; he sprinkled his spear and shield and sword with it. He
came to Arcas who sat upon his bench, still nursing his anger,
and he held the spear toward him.
Arcas took up his heavy sword and he hewed at the butt of the
spear. The edge of the sword turned. The blade leaped back in his
hand as if it had been struck against an anvil. And Jason,
feeling within him a boundless and tireless strength, laughed
III. The Winning Of The Golden Fleece
They took the ship out of the backwater and they brought her to a
wharf in the city. At a place that was called "The Ram's Couch"
they fastened the Argo. Then they marched to the field of Ares,
where the king and the Colchian people were.
Jason, carrying his shield and spear, went before the king. From
the king's hand he took the gleaming helmet that held the
dragon's teeth. This he put into the hands of Theseus, who went
with him. Then with the spear and shield in his hands, with his
sword girt across his shoulders, and with his mantle stripped
off, Jason looked across the field of Ares.
He saw the plow that he was to yoke to the bulls; he saw the yoke
of bronze near it; he saw the tracks of the bulls' hooves. He
followed the tracks until he came to the lair of the
fire-breathing bulls. Out of that lair, which was underground,
smoke and fire belched. He set his feet firmly upon the ground
and he held his shield before him. He awaited the onset of the
bulls. They came clanging up with loud bellowing, breathing out
fire. They lowered their heads, and with mighty, iron-tipped
horns they came to gore and trample him.
Medea's charm had made him strong; Medea's charm had made his
shield impregnable. The rush of the bulls did not overthrow him.
His comrades shouted to see him standing firmly there, and in
wonder the Colchians gazed upon him. All round him, as from a
furnace, there came smoke and fire.
The bulls roared mightily. Grasping the horns of the bull that
was upon his right hand, Jason dragged him until he had brought
him beside the yoke of bronze. Striking the brazen knees of the
bull suddenly with his foot he forced him down. Then he smote the
other bull as it rushed upon him, and it too he forced down upon
Castor and Polydeuces held the yoke to him. Jason bound it upon
the necks of the bulls. He fastened the plow to the yoke. Then he
took his shield and set it upon his back, and grasping the
handles of the plow he started to make the furrow.
With his long spear he drove the bulls before him as with a goad.
Terribly they raged, furiously they breathed out fire. Beside
Jason Theseus went holding the helmet that held the dragon's
teeth. The hard ground was torn up by the plow of adamant, and
the clods groaned as they were cast up. Jason flung the teeth
between the open sods, often turning his head in fear that the
deadly crop of the Earth-born Men were rising behind him.
By the time that a third of the day was finished the field of
Ares had been plowed and sown. As yet the furrows were free of
the Earth-born Men. Jason went down to the river and filled his
helmet full of water and drank deeply. And his knees that were
stiffened with the plowing he bent until they were made supple
He saw the field rising into mounds. It seemed that there were
graves all over the field of Ares. Then he saw spears and shields
and helmets rising up out of the earth. Then armed warriors
sprang up, a fierce battle cry upon their lips.
Jason remembered the counsel of Medea. He raised a boulder that
four men could hardly raise and with arms hardened by the plowing
he cast it. The Colchians shouted to see such a stone cast by the
hands of one man. Right into the middle of the Earth-born Men the
stone came. They leaped upon it like hounds, striking at one
another as they came together. Shield crashed on shield, spear
rang upon spear as they struck at each other. The Earth-born Men,
as fast as they arose, went down before the weapons in the hands
of their brethren.
Jason rushed upon them, his sword in his hand. He slew some that
had risen out of the earth only as far as the shoulders; he slew
others whose feet were still in the earth; he slew others who
were ready to spring upon him. Soon all the Earth-born
Men were slain, and the furrows ran with their dark blood as
channels run with water in springtime.
The Argonauts shouted loudly for Jason's victory. King Aeetes
rose from his seat that was beside the river and he went back to
the city. The Colchians followed him. Day faded, and Jason's
contest was ended.
But it was not the will of Aeetes that the strangers should be
let depart peaceably with the Golden Fleece that Jason had won.
In the assembly place, with his son Apsyrtus beside him, and with
the furious Colchians all around him, the king stood: on his
breast was the gleaming corselet that Ares had given him, and on
his head was that golden helmet with its four plumes that made
him look as if he were truly the son of Helios, the Sun.
Lightnings flashed from his great eyes; he spoke fiercely to the
Colchians, holding in his hand his bronze-topped spear.
He would have them attack the strangers and burn the Argo. He
would have the sons of Phrixus slain for bringing them to Aea.
There was a prophecy, he declared, that would have him be
watchful of the treachery of his own offspring: this prophecy was
being fulfilled by the children of Chalciope; he feared, too,
that his daughter, Medea, had aided the strangers. So the king
spoke, and the Colchians, hating all strangers, shouted around
Word of what her father had said was brought to Medea. She knew
that she would have to go to the Argonauts and bid them flee
hastily from Aea. They would not go, she knew, without the
Golden Fleece; then she, Medea, would have to show them how to
gain the Fleece.
Then she could never again go back to her father's palace, she
could never again sit in this chamber and talk to her
handmaidens, and be with Chalciope, her sister. Forever afterward
she would be dependent on the kindness of strangers. Medea wept
when she thought of all this. And then she cut off a tress of her
hair and she left it in her chamber as a farewell from one who
was going afar. Into the chamber where Chalciope was she
The palace doors were all heavily bolted, but Medea did not have
to pull back the bolts. As she chanted her Magic Song the bolts
softly drew back, the doors softly opened. Swiftly she went along
the ways that led to the river. She came to where fires were
blazing and she knew that the Argonauts were there.
She called to them, and Phrontis, Chalciope's son, heard the cry
and knew the voice. To Jason he spoke, and Jason quickly went to
where Medea stood.
She clasped Jason's hand and she drew him with her. "The Golden
Fleece," she said, "the time has come when you must pluck the
Golden Fleece off the oak in the grove of Ares." When she said
these words all Jason's being became taut like the string of a
It was then the hour when huntsmen cast sleep from their
eyes--huntsmen who never sleep away the end of the night, but
who are ever ready to be up and away with their hounds before the
beams of the sun efface the track and the scent of the quarry.
Along a path that went from the river Medea drew Jason. They
entered a grove. Then Jason saw something that was like a cloud
filled with the light of the rising sun. It hung from a great oak
tree. In awe he stood and looked upon it, knowing that at last he
looked upon THE GOLDEN FLEECE.
His hand let slip Medea's hand and he went to seize the
Fleece. As he did he heard a dreadful hiss. And then he saw the
guardian of the Golden Fleece. Coiled all around the tree, with
outstretched neck and keen and sleepless eyes, was a deadly
serpent. Its hiss ran all through the grove and the birds that
were wakening up squawked in terror.
Like rings of smoke that rise one above the other, the coils
of the serpent went around the tree--coils covered by hard and
gleaming scales. It uncoiled, stretched itself, and lifted its
head to strike. Then Medea dropped on her knees before it, and
began to chant her Magic Song.
As she sang, the coils around the tree grew slack. Like a
dark, noiseless wave the serpent sank down on the ground. But
still its jaws were open, and those dreadful jaws threatened
Jason. Medea, with a newly cut spray of juniper dipped in a
mystic brew, touched its deadly eyes. And still she chanted
her Magic Song. The serpent's jaws closed; its eyes became
deadened; far through the grove its length was stretched out.
Then Jason took the Golden Fleece. As he raised his hands to it,
its brightness was such as to make a flame on his face. Medea
called to him. He strove to gather it all up in his arms; Medea
was beside him, and they went swiftly on.
They came to the river and down to the place where the Argo was
moored. The heroes who were aboard started up, astonished to see
the Fleece that shone as with the lightning of Zeus. Over Medea
Jason cast it, and he lifted her aboard the Argo.
"O friends," he cried, "the quest on which we dared the gulfs of
the sea and the wrath of kings is accomplished, thanks to the
help of this maiden. Now may we return to Greece; now have we the
hope of looking upon our fathers and our friends once more. And
in all honor will we bring this maiden with us, Medea, the
daughter of King Aeetes.
Then he drew his sword and cut the hawsers of the ship, calling
upon the heroes to drive the Argo on. There was a din and a
strain and a splash of oars, and away from Aea the Argo dashed.
Beside the mast Medea stood; the Golden Fleece had fallen at her
feet, and her head and face were covered by her silver veil.
IV. THE SLAYING OF APSYRTUS
That silver veil was to be splashed with a brother's blood, and
the Argonauts, because of that calamity, were for a long time to
be held back from a return to their native land.
Now as they went down the river they saw that dangers were coming
swiftly upon them. The chariots of the Colchians were upon the
banks. Jason saw King Aeetes in his chariot, a blazing torch
lighting his corsclet and his helmet. Swiftly the Argo went, but
there were ships behind her, and they went swiftly too.
They came into the Sea of Pontus, and Phrontis, the son of
Phrixus, gave counsel to them. "Do not strive to make the passage
of the Symplegades," he said. "All who live around the Sea of
Pontus are friendly to King Aeetes they will be warned by him,
and they will be ready to slay us and take the Argo. Let us
journey up the River Ister, and by that way we can come to the
Thrinacian Sea that is close to your land."
The Argonauts thought well of what Phrontis said; into the waters
of the Ister the ship was brought. Many of the Colchian ships
passed by the mouth of the river, and went seeking the Argo
toward the passage of the Symplegades.
But the Argonauts were on a way that was dangerous for them. For
Apsyrtus had not gone toward the Symplegades seeking the Argo. He
had led his soldiers overland to the River Ister at a place that
was at a distance above its mouth. There were islands in the
river at that place, and the soldiers of Apsyrtus landed on the
islands, while Apsyrtus went to the kings of the people around
and claimed their support.
The Argo came and the heroes found themselves cut off. They could
not make their way between the islands that were filled with the
Colchian soldiers, nor along the banks that were lined with men
friendly to King Aeetes. Argo was stayed. Apsyrtus sent for the
chiefs; he had men enough to overwhelm them, but he shrank from a
fight with the heroes, and he thought that he might gain all he
wanted from them without a struggle.
Theseus and Peleus went to him. Apsyrtus would have them give up
the Golden Fleece; he would have them give up Medea and the sons
of Phrixus also.
Theseus and Peleus appealed to the judgment of the kings who
supported Apsyrtus. Aeetes, they said, had no more claim on the
Golden Fleece. He had promised it to Jason as a reward for tasks
that he had imposed. The tasks had been accomplished and the
Fleece, no matter in what way it was taken from the grove of
Ares, was theirs. So Theseus and Peleus said, and the kings who
supported Apsyrtus gave judgment for the Argonauts.
But Medea would have to be given to her brother. If that were
done the Argo would be let go on her course, Apsyrtus said, and
the Golden Fleece would be left with them. Apsyrtus said,
too, that he would not take Medea back to the wrath of her
father; if the Argonauts gave her up she would be let stay on the
island of Artemis and under the guardianship of the goddess.
The chiefs brought Apsyrtus's words back. There was a council of
the Argonauts, and they agreed that they should leave Medea on
the island of Artemis.
But grief and wrath took hold of Medea when she heard of this
resolve. Almost she would burn the Argo. She went to where Jason
stood, and she spoke again of all she had done to save his life
and win the Golden Fleece for the Argonauts. Jason made her look
on the ships and the soldiers that were around them; he showed
her how these could overwhelm the Argonauts and slay them all.
With all the heroes slain, he said, Medea would come into the
hands of Apsyrtus, who then could leave her on the island of
Artemis or take her back to the wrath of her father.
But Medea would not consent to go nor could Jason's heart consent
to let her go. Then these two made a plot to deceive Apsyrtus.
"I have not been of the council that agreed to give you up to
him," Jason said. "After you have been left there I will take you
off the island of Artemis secretly. The Colchians and the kings
who support them, not knowing that you have been taken off and
hidden on the Argo, will let us pass." This Medea and Jason
planned to do, and it was an ill thing, for it was breaking the
covenant that the chiefs had entered with Apsyrtus.
Medea then was left by the Argonauts on the island of Artemis.
Now Apsyrtus had been commanded by his father to bring her back
to Aea; he thought that when she had been left by the Argonauts
he could force her to come with him. So he went over to the
island. Jason, secretly leaving his companions, went to the
island from the other side.
Before the temple of Artemis Jason and Apsyrtus came face to
face. Both men, thinking they had been betrayed to their deaths,
drew their swords. Then, before the vestibule of the temple and
under the eyes of Medea, Jason and Apsyrtus fought. Jason's sword
pierced the son of Aeetes as he fell Apsyrtus cried out bitter
words against Medea, saying that it was on her account that he
had come on his death. And as he fell the blood of her brother
splashed Medea's silver veil.
Jason lifted Medea up and carried her to the Argo. They hid the
maiden under the Fleece of Gold and they sailed past the ships of
the Colchians. When darkness came they were far from the island
of Artemis. It was then that they heard a loud wailing, and they
knew that the Colchians had discovered that their prince had been
The Colchians did not pursue them. Fearing the wrath of Aeetes
they made settlements in the lands of the kings who had supported
A Apsyrtus; they never went back to Aea; they called themselves
Apsyrtians henceforward, naming themselves after the prince they
had come with.
They had escaped the danger that had hemmed them in, but the
Argonauts, as they sailed on, were not content; covenants had
been broken, and blood had been shed in a bad cause. And as they
went on through the darkness the voice of the ship was heard; at
the sound of that voice fear and sorrow came upon the voyagers,
for they felt that it had a prophecy of doom.
Castor and Polydeuces went to the front of the ship; holding up
their hands, they prayed. Then they heard the words that the
voice uttered: in the night as they went on the voice proclaimed
the wrath of Zeus on account of the slaying of Apsyrtus.
What was their doom to be? It was that the Argonauts would have
to wander forever over the gulfs of the sea unless Medea had
herself cleansed of her brother's blood. There was one who could
cleanse Medea--Circe, the daughter of Helios and Perse. The voice
urged the heroes to pray to the immortal gods that the way to the
island of Circe be shown to them.
V. MEDEA COMES TO CIRCE
They sailed up the River Ister until they came to the Eridanus,
that river across which no bird can fly. Leaving the Eridanus
they entered the Rhodanus, a river that rises in the extreme
north, where Night herself has her habitation. And voyaging up
this river they came to the Stormy Lakes. A mist lay upon the
lakes night and day; voyaging through them the Argonauts at last
brought out their ship upon the Sea of Ausonia.
It was Zetes and Calais, the sons of the North Wind, who brought
the Argo safely along this dangerous course. And to Zetes and
Calais Iris, the messenger of the gods, appeared and revealed to
them where Circe's island lay.
Deep blue water was all around that island, and on its height a
marble house was to be seen. But a strange haze covered
everything as with a veil. As the Argonauts came near they saw
what looked to them like great dragonflies; they came down to the
shore, and then the heroes saw that they were maidens in gleaming
The maidens waved their hands to the voyagers, calling them to
come on the island. Strange beasts came up to where the maidens
were and made whimpering cries.
The Argonauts would have drawn the ship close and would
have sprung upon the island only that Medea cried out to them.
She showed them the beasts that whimpered around the maidens, and
then, as the Argonauts looked upon them, they saw that these were
not beasts of the wild. There was something strange and fearful
about them; the heroes gazed upon them with troubled eyes. They
brought the ship near, but they stayed upon their benches,
holding the oars in their hands.
Medea sprang to the island; she spoke to the maidens so that they
shrank away; then the beasts came and whimpered around her.
"Forbear to land here, O Argonauts," Medea cried, "for this is
the island where men are changed into beasts." She called to
Jason to come; only Jason would she have come upon the island.
They went swiftly toward the marble house, and the beasts
followed them, looking up at Jason and Medea with pitiful human
eyes. They went into the marble house of Circe, and as suppliants
they seated themselves at the hearth.
Circe stood at her loom, weaving her many-colored threads.
Swiftly she turned to the suppliants; she looked for something
strange in them, for just before they came the walls of her house
dripped with blood and the flame ran over and into her pot,
burning up all the magic herbs she was brewing. She went toward
where they sat, Medea with her face hidden by her hands, and
Jason, with his head bent,--holding with its point in the ground
the sword with which he had slain the son of Aeetes
When Medea took her hands away from before her face, Circe knew
that, like herself, this maiden was of the race of Helios. Medea
spoke to her, telling her first of the voyage of the heroes and
of their toils; telling her then of how she had given help to
Jason against the will of Aeetes her father; telling her then,
fearfully, of the slaying of Apsyrtus. She covered her face with
her robe as she spoke of it. And then she told Circe she had
come, warned by the judgment of Zeus, to ask of Circe, the
daughter of Helios, to purify her from the stain of her brother's
Like all the children of Helios, Circe had eyes that were wide
and full of life, but she had stony lips--lips that were heavy
and moveless. Bright golden hair hung smoothly along each of her
sides. First she held a cup to them that was filled with pure
water, and Jason and Medea drank from that cup.
Then Circe stayed by the hearth; she burnt cakes in the flame,
and all the while she prayed to Zeus to be gentle with these
suppliants. She brought both to the seashore. There she washed
Medea's body and her garments with the spray of the sea.
Medea pleaded with Circe to tell her of the life she foresaw for
her, but Circe would not speak of it. She told Medea that one day
she would meet a woman who knew nothing about enchantments but
who had much human wisdom. She was to ask of her what she was to
do in her life or what she was to leave undone. And whatever this
woman out of her wisdom told her, that Medea was to regard. Once
more Circe offered them the cup filled with clear water, and when
they had drunken of it she left them upon the seashore. As she
went toward her marble house the strange beasts followed Circe,
whimpering as they went. Jason and Medea went aboard the Argo,
and the heroes drew away from Circe's island.
VI. In The Land of the Phaeacians
Wearied were the heroes now. They would have fain gone upon the
island of Circe to rest there away from the oars and the sound of
the sea. But the wisest of them, looking upon the beasts that
were men transformed, held the Argo far off the shore. Then Jason
and Medea came aboard, and with heavy hearts and wearied arms
they turned to the open sea again.
No longer had they such high hearts as when they drove the Argo
between the Clashers and into the Sea of Pontus. Now their heads
drooped as they went on, and they sang such songs as slaves sing
in their hopeless labor. Orpheus grew fearful for them now.
For Orpheus knew that they were drawing toward a danger. There
was no other way for them, he knew, but past the Island
Anthemoessa in the Tyrrhenian Sea where the Sirens were.
Once they had been nymphs and had tended Persephone before she
was carried off by Aidoneus to be his queen in the Underworld.
Kind they had been, but now they were changed, and they cared
only for the destruction of men.
All set around with rocks was the island where they were. As the
Argo came near, the Sirens, ever on the watch to draw mariners to
their destruction, saw them and came to the rocks and sang to
them, holding each other's hands.
They sang all together their lulling song. That song made the
wearied voyagers long to let their oars go with the waves, and
drift, drift to where the Sirens were. Bending down to them the
Sirens, with soft hands and white arms, would lift them to soft
resting places. Then each of the Sirens sang a clear, piercing
song that called to each of the voyagers. Each man thought that
his own name was in that song. "O how well it is that you have
come near," each one sang, "how well it is that you have come
near where I have awaited you, having all delight prepared for
Orpheus took up his lyre as the Sirens began to sing. He sang to
the heroes of their own toils. He sang of them, how, gaunt and
weary as they were, they were yet men, men who were the strength
of Greece, men who had been fostered by the love and hope of
their country. They were the winners of the Golden Fleece and
their story would be told forever. And for the fame that they had
won men would forego all rest and all delight. Why should they
not toil, they who were born for great labors and to face dangers
that other men might not face? Soon hands would be stretched out
to them--the welcoming hands of the men and women of their own
So Orpheus sang, and his voice and the music of his lyre
prevailed above the Sirens' voices. Men dropped their oars, but
other men remained at their benches, and pulled steadily, if
wearily, on. Only one of the Argonauts, Butes, a youth of Iolcus,
threw himself into the water and swam toward the rocks from which
the Sirens sang.
But an anguish that nearly parted their spirits from their bodies
was upon them as they went wearily on. Toward the end of the day
they beheld another island--an island that seemed very fair; they
longed to land and rest themselves there and eat the fruits of
the island. But Orpheus would not have them land. The island, he
said, was Thrinacia. Upon that island the Cattle of the Sun
pastured, and if one of the cattle perished through them their
return home might not be won. They heard the lowing of the cattle
through the mist, and a deep longing for the sight of their own
fields, with a white house near, and flocks and herds at pasture,
came over the heroes. They came near the Island of Thrinacia, and
they saw the Cattle of the Sun feeding by the meadow streams; not
one of them was black; all were white as milk, and the horns upon
their heads were golden. They saw the two nymphs who herded the