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The Heroes by Charles Kingsley

Part 2 out of 3

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looked down on him, with great soft heifer's eyes; with great eyes,
mild and awful, which filled all the glen with light.

And Jason fell upon his knees, and hid his face between his hands.

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

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

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

Then he went down toward Iolcos; and as he walked he found that he
had lost one of his sandals in the flood.

And as he went through the streets, the people came out to look at
him, so tall and fair was he; but some of the elders whispered
together; and at last one of them stopped Jason, and called to him,
'Fair lad, who are you, and whence come you; and what is your
errand in the town?'

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

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

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

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

Then Jason laughed a great laugh, like a war-horse in his pride.
'Good news, good father, both for you and me. For that very end I
came into the town.'

Then he strode on toward the palace of Pelias, while all the people
wondered at his bearing.

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

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

'I am Jason, the son of AEson, the heir of all this land.'

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

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

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

Then Pelias sighed heavily again and again and again, like a man
who had to tell some dreadful story, and was afraid to begin; but
at last -

'For seven long years and more have I never known a quiet night;
and no more will he who comes after me, till the golden fleece be
brought home.'

Then he told Jason the story of Phrixus, and of the golden fleece;
and told him, too, which was a lie, that Phrixus' spirit tormented
him, calling to him day and night. And his daughters came, and
told the same tale (for their father had taught them their parts),
and wept, and said, 'Oh who will bring home the golden fleece, that
our uncle's spirit may rest; and that we may have rest also, whom
he never lets sleep in peace?'

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

But when Pelias saw him silent, he began to talk of other things,
and courted Jason more and more, speaking to him as if he was
certain to be his heir, and asking his advice about the kingdom;
till Jason, who was young and simple, could not help saying to
himself, 'Surely he is not the dark man whom people call him. Yet
why did he drive my father out?' And he asked Pelias boldly, 'Men
say that you are terrible, and a man of blood; but I find you a
kind and hospitable man; and as you are to me, so will I be to you.
Yet why did you drive my father out?'

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

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

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

After awhile Jason answered, half laughing, 'Were I you, I would
send him to fetch that same golden fleece; for if he once set forth
after it you would never be troubled with him more.'

And at that a bitter smile came across Pelias' lips, and a flash of
wicked joy into his eyes; and Jason saw it, and started; and over
his mind came the warning of the old man, and his own one sandal,
and the oracle, and he saw that he was taken in a trap.

But Pelias only answered gently, 'My son, he shall be sent

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

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

Jason saw that he was entrapped; but his second promise to Cheiron
came into his mind, and he thought, 'What if the Centaur were a
prophet in that also, and meant that I should win the fleece!'
Then he cried aloud -

'You have well spoken, cunning uncle of mine! I love glory, and I
dare keep to my word. I will go and fetch this golden fleece.
Promise me but this in return, and keep your word as I keep mine.
Treat my father lovingly while I am gone, for the sake of the all-
seeing Zeus; and give me up the kingdom for my own on the day that
I bring back the golden fleece.'

Then Pelias looked at him and almost loved him, in the midst of all
his hate; and said, 'I promise, and I will perform. It will be no
shame to give up my kingdom to the man who wins that fleece.' Then
they swore a great oath between them; and afterwards both went in,
and lay down to sleep.

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

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

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

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


So the heralds went out, and cried to all the heroes of the Minuai,
'Who dare come to the adventure of the golden fleece?'

And Hera stirred the hearts of all the princes, and they came from
all their valleys to the yellow sands of Pagasai. And first came
Heracles the mighty, with his lion's skin and club, and behind him
Hylas his young squire, who bore his arrows and his bow; and
Tiphys, the skilful steersman; and Butes, the fairest of all men;
and Castor and Polydeuces the twins, the sons of the magic swan;
and Caeneus, the strongest of mortals, whom the Centaurs tried in
vain to kill, and overwhelmed him with trunks of pine-trees, but
even so he would not die; and thither came Zetes and Calais, the
winged sons of the north wind; and Peleus, the father of Achilles,
whose bride was silver-footed Thetis, the goddess of the sea. And
thither came Telamon and Oileus, the fathers of the two Aiantes,
who fought upon the plains of Troy; and Mopsus, the wise
soothsayer, who knew the speech of birds; and Idmon, to whom
Phoebus gave a tongue to prophesy of things to come; and Ancaios,
who could read the stars, and knew all the circles of the heavens;
and Argus, the famed shipbuilder, and many a hero more, in helmets
of brass and gold with tall dyed horse-hair crests, and embroidered
shirts of linen beneath their coats of mail, and greaves of
polished tin to guard their knees in fight; with each man his
shield upon his shoulder, of many a fold of tough bull's hide, and
his sword of tempered bronze in his silver-studded belt; and in his
right hand a pair of lances, of the heavy white ash-staves.

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

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

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

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

Then Orpheus rose up sighing, and took his harp, and went over
Strymon. And he led Jason to the south-west, up the banks of
Haliacmon and over the spurs of Pindus, to Dodona the town of Zeus,
where it stood by the side of the sacred lake, and the fountain
which breathed out fire, in the darkness of the ancient oakwood,
beneath the mountain of the hundred springs. And he led him to the
holy oak, where the black dove settled in old times, and was
changed into the priestess of Zeus, and gave oracles to all nations
round. And he bade him cut down a bough, and sacrifice to Hera and
to Zeus; and they took the bough and came to Iolcos, and nailed it
to the beak-head of the ship.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Then Cheiron leapt up and welcomed them, and kissed them every one,
and set a feast before them of swine's flesh, and venison, and good
wine; and young Achilles served them, and carried the golden goblet
round. And after supper all the heroes clapped their hands, and
called on Orpheus to sing; but he refused, and said, 'How can I,
who am the younger, sing before our ancient host?' So they called
on Cheiron to sing, and Achilles brought him his harp; and he began
a wondrous song; a famous story of old time, of the fight between
the Centaurs and the Lapithai, which you may still see carved in
stone. {1} He sang how his brothers came to ruin by their folly,
when they were mad with wine; and how they and the heroes fought,
with fists, and teeth, and the goblets from which they drank; and
how they tore up the pine-trees in their fury, and hurled great
crags of stone, while the mountains thundered with the battle, and
the land was wasted far and wide; till the Lapithai drove them from
their home in the rich Thessalian plains to the lonely glens of
Pindus, leaving Cheiron all alone. And the heroes praised his song
right heartily; for some of them had helped in that great fight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At that all the heroes wept; but the two young men sprang up, and
aloft into the air after the Harpies, and the battle of the winds

The heroes trembled in silence as they heard the shrieking of the
blasts; while the palace rocked and all the city, and great stones
were torn from the crags, and the forest pines were hurled
earthward, north and south and east and west, and the Bosphorus
boiled white with foam, and the clouds were dashed against the

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

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

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

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

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

Then the heron flapped to and fro a moment, till he saw a hidden
gap, and into it he rushed like an arrow, while the heroes watched
what would befall.

And the blue rocks clashed together as the bird fled swiftly
through; but they struck but a feather from his tail, and then
rebounded apart at the shock.

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

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

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

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

And they rowed three days to the eastward, while Caucasus rose
higher hour by hour, till they saw the dark stream of Phasis
rushing headlong to the sea, and, shining above the tree-tops, the
golden roofs of King Aietes, the child of the Sun.

Then out spoke Ancaios the helmsman, 'We are come to our goal at
last, for there are the roofs of Aietes, and the woods where all
poisons grow; but who can tell us where among them is hid the
golden fleece? Many a toil must we bear ere we find it, and bring
it home to Greece.'

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

And a dream came to Aietes, and filled his heart with fear. He
thought he saw a shining star, which fell into his daughter's lap;
and that Medeia his daughter took it gladly, and carried it to the
river-side, and cast it in, and there the whirling river bore it
down, and out into the Euxine Sea.

Then he leapt up in fear, and bade his servants bring his chariot,
that he might go down to the river-side and appease the nymphs, and
the heroes whose spirits haunt the bank. So he went down in his
golden chariot, and his daughters by his side, Medeia the fair
witch-maiden, and Chalciope, who had been Phrixus' wife, and behind
him a crowd of servants and soldiers, for he was a rich and mighty

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

And when they came near together and looked into each other's eyes
the heroes were awed before Aietes as he shone in his chariot, like
his father the glorious Sun; for his robes were of rich gold
tissue, and the rays of his diadem flashed fire; and in his hand he
bore a jewelled sceptre, which glittered like the stars; and
sternly he looked at them under his brows, and sternly he spoke and
loud -

'Who are you, and what want you here, that you come to the shore of
Cutaia? Do you take no account of my rule, nor of my people the
Colchians who serve me, who never tired yet in the battle, and know
well how to face an invader?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So in the dusk of evening they went down to the river-side,
Chalciope and Medeia the witch-maiden, and Argus, Phrixus' son.
And Argus the boy crept forward, among the beds of reeds, till he
came where the heroes were sleeping, on the thwarts of the ship,
beneath the bank, while Jason kept ward on shore, and leant upon
his lance full of thought. And the boy came to Jason, and said -

'I am the son of Phrixus, your Cousin; and Chalciope my mother
waits for you, to talk about the golden fleece.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he looked at Medeia cunningly, and held her with his glittering
eye, till she blushed and trembled, and said -

'Who can face the fire of the bulls' breath, and fight ten thousand
armed men?'

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

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

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

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

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

'Fulfil your promise to us, child of the blazing Sun. Give us the
serpents' teeth, and let loose the fiery bulls; for we have found a
champion among us who can win the golden fleece.'

And Aietes bit his lips, for he fancied that they had fled away by
night: but he could not go back from his promise; so he gave them
the serpents' teeth.

Then he called for his chariot and his horses, and sent heralds
through all the town; and all the people went out with him to the
dreadful War-god's field.

And there Aietes sat upon his throne, with his warriors on each
hand, thousands and tens of thousands, clothed from head to foot in
steel chain-mail. And the people and the women crowded to every
window and bank and wall; while the Minuai stood together, a mere
handful in the midst of that great host.

And Chalciope was there and Argus, trembling, and Medeia, wrapped
closely in her veil; but Aietes did not know that she was muttering
cunning spells between her lips.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And every furrow heaved and bubbled, and out of every clod arose a
man. Out of the earth they rose by thousands, each clad from head
to foot in steel, and drew their swords and rushed on Jason, where
he stood in the midst alone.

Then the Minuai grew pale with fear for him; but Aietes laughed a
bitter laugh. 'See! if I had not warriors enough already round me,
I could call them out of the bosom of the earth.'

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

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

But Aietes thought, 'He has conquered the bulls, and sown and
reaped the deadly crop. Who is this who is proof against all
magic? He may kill the serpent yet.' So he delayed, and sat
taking counsel with his princes till the sun went down and all was
dark. Then he bade a herald cry, 'Every man to his home for to-
night. To-morrow we will meet these heroes, and speak about the
golden fleece.'

Then he turned and looked at Medeia. 'This is your doing, false
witch-maid! You have helped these yellow-haired strangers, and
brought shame upon your father and yourself!'

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

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

And Idas the rash cried, 'Let us draw lots who shall go in first;
for, while the dragon is devouring one, the rest can slay him and
carry off the fleece in peace.' But Jason held them back, though
he praised them; for he hoped for Medeia's help.

And after awhile Medeia came trembling, and wept a long while
before she spoke. And at last -

'My end is come, and I must die; for my father has found out that I
have helped you. You he would kill if he dared; but he will not
harm you, because you have been his guests. Go then, go, and
remember poor Medeia when you are far away across the sea.' But
all the heroes cried -

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

'You need not die,' said Jason. 'Flee home with us across the sea.
Show us first how to win the fleece; for you can do it. Why else
are you the priestess of the grove? Show us but how to win the
fleece, and come with us, and you shall be my queen, and rule over
the rich princes of the Minuai, in Iolcos by the sea.'

And all the heroes pressed round, and vowed to her that she should
be their queen.

Medeia wept, and shuddered, and hid her face in her hands; for her
heart yearned after her sisters and her playfellows, and the home
where she was brought up as a child. But at last she looked up at
Jason, and spoke between her sobs -

'Must I leave my home and my people, to wander with strangers
across the sea? The lot is cast, and I must endure it. I will
show you how to win the golden fleece. Bring up your ship to the
wood-side, and moor her there against the bank; and let Jason come
up at midnight, and one brave comrade with him, and meet me beneath
the wall.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was a silence for a moment, while Jason held the golden
fleece on high. Then he cried, 'Go now, good Argo, swift and
steady, if ever you would see Pelion more.'

And she went, as the heroes drove her, grim and silent all, with
muffled oars, till the pine-wood bent like willow in their hands,
and stout Argo groaned beneath their strokes.

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

Into the surge they rushed, and Argo leapt the breakers like a
horse; for she knew the time was come to show her mettle, and win
honour for the heroes and herself.

Into the surge they rushed, and Argo leapt the breakers like a
horse, till the heroes stopped all panting, each man upon his oar,
as she slid into the still broad sea.

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


So they fled away in haste to the westward; but Aietes manned his
fleet and followed them. And Lynceus the quick-eyed saw him
coming, while he was still many a mile away, and cried, 'I see a
hundred ships, like a flock of white swans, far in the east.' And
at that they rowed hard, like heroes; but the ships came nearer
every hour.

Then Medeia, the dark witch-maiden, laid a cruel and a cunning
plot; for she killed Absyrtus her young brother, and cast him into
the sea, and said, 'Ere my father can take up his corpse and bury
it, he must wait long, and be left far behind.'

And all the heroes shuddered, and looked one at the other for
shame; yet they did not punish that dark witch-woman, because she
had won for them the golden fleece.

And when Aietes came to the place he saw the floating corpse; and
he stopped a long while, and bewailed his son, and took him up, and
went home. But he sent on his sailors toward the westward, and
bound them by a mighty curse--'Bring back to me that dark witch-
woman, that she may die a dreadful death. But if you return
without her, you shall die by the same death yourselves.'

So the Argonauts escaped for that time: but Father Zeus saw that
foul crime; and out of the heavens he sent a storm, and swept the
ship far from her course. Day after day the storm drove her, amid
foam and blinding mist, till they knew no longer where they were,
for the sun was blotted from the skies. And at last the ship
struck on a shoal, amid low isles of mud and sand, and the waves
rolled over her and through her, and the heroes lost all hope of

Then Jason cried to Hera, 'Fair queen, who hast befriended us till
now, why hast thou left us in our misery, to die here among unknown
seas? It is hard to lose the honour which we have won with such
toil and danger, and hard never to see Hellas again, and the
pleasant bay of Pagasai.'

Then out and spoke the magic bough which stood upon the Argo's
beak, 'Because Father Zeus is angry, all this has fallen on you;
for a cruel crime has been done on board, and the sacred ship is
foul with blood.'

At that some of the heroes cried, 'Medeia is the murderess. Let
the witch-woman bear her sin, and die!' And they seized Medeia, to
hurl her into the sea, and atone for the young boy's death; but the
magic bough spoke again, 'Let her live till her crimes are full.
Vengeance waits for her, slow and sure; but she must live, for you
need her still. She must show you the way to her sister Circe, who
lives among the islands of the West. To her you must sail, a weary
way, and she shall cleanse you from your guilt.'

Then all the heroes wept aloud when they heard the sentence of the
oak; for they knew that a dark journey lay before them, and years
of bitter toil. And some upbraided the dark witch-woman, and some
said, 'Nay, we are her debtors still; without her we should never
have won the fleece.' But most of them bit their lips in silence,
for they feared the witch's spells.

And now the sea grew calmer, and the sun shone out once more, and
the heroes thrust the ship off the sand-bank, and rowed forward on
their weary course under the guiding of the dark witch-maiden, into
the wastes of the unknown sea.

Whither they went I cannot tell, nor how they came to Circe's isle.
Some say that they went to the westward, and up the Ister {2}
stream, and so came into the Adriatic, dragging their ship over the
snowy Alps. And others say that they went southward, into the Red
Indian Sea, and past the sunny lands where spices grow, round
AEthiopia toward the West; and that at last they came to Libya, and
dragged their ship across the burning sands, and over the hills
into the Syrtes, where the flats and quicksands spread for many a
mile, between rich Cyrene and the Lotus-eaters' shore. But all
these are but dreams and fables, and dim hints of unknown lands.

But all say that they came to a place where they had to drag their
ship across the land nine days with ropes and rollers, till they
came into an unknown sea. And the best of all the old songs tells
us how they went away toward the North, till they came to the slope
of Caucasus, where it sinks into the sea; and to the narrow
Cimmerian Bosphorus, {3} where the Titan swam across upon the bull;
and thence into the lazy waters of the still Maeotid lake. {4} And
thence they went northward ever, up the Tanais, which we call Don,
past the Geloni and Sauromatai, and many a wandering shepherd-
tribe, and the one-eyed Arimaspi, of whom old Greek poets tell, who
steal the gold from the Griffins, in the cold Riphaian hills. {5}

And they passed the Scythian archers, and the Tauri who eat men,
and the wandering Hyperboreai, who feed their flocks beneath the
pole-star, until they came into the northern ocean, the dull dead
Cronian Sea. {6} And there Argo would move on no longer; and each
man clasped his elbow, and leaned his head upon his hand, heart-
broken with toil and hunger, and gave himself up to death. But
brave Ancaios the helmsman cheered up their hearts once more, and
bade them leap on land, and haul the ship with ropes and rollers
for many a weary day, whether over land, or mud, or ice, I know
not, for the song is mixed and broken like a dream. And it says
next, how they came to the rich nation of the famous long-lived
men; and to the coast of the Cimmerians, who never saw the sun,
buried deep in the glens of the snow mountains; and to the fair
land of Hermione, where dwelt the most righteous of all nations;
and to the gates of the world below, and to the dwelling-place of

And at last Ancaios shouted, 'Endure a little while, brave friends,
the worst is surely past; for I can see the pure west wind ruffle
the water, and hear the roar of ocean on the sands. So raise up
the mast, and set the sail, and face what comes like men.'

Then out spoke the magic bough, 'Ah, would that I had perished long
ago, and been whelmed by the dread blue rocks, beneath the fierce
swell of the Euxine! Better so, than to wander for ever, disgraced
by the guilt of my princes; for the blood of Absyrtus still tracks
me, and woe follows hard upon woe. And now some dark horror will
clutch me, if I come near the Isle of Ierne. {7} Unless you will
cling to the land, and sail southward and southward for ever, I
shall wander beyond the Atlantic, to the ocean which has no shore.'

Then they blest the magic bough, and sailed southward along the
land. But ere they could pass Ierne, the land of mists and storms,
the wild wind came down, dark and roaring, and caught the sail, and
strained the ropes. And away they drove twelve nights, on the wide
wild western sea, through the foam, and over the rollers, while
they saw neither sun nor stars. And they cried again, 'We shall
perish, for we know not where we are. We are lost in the dreary
damp darkness, and cannot tell north from south.'

But Lynceus the long-sighted called gaily from the bows, 'Take
heart again, brave sailors; for I see a pine-clad isle, and the
halls of the kind Earth-mother, with a crown of clouds around

But Orpheus said, 'Turn from them, for no living man can land
there: there is no harbour on the coast, but steep-walled cliffs
all round.'

So Ancaios turned the ship away; and for three days more they
sailed on, till they came to Aiaia, Circe's home, and the fairy
island of the West. {8}

And there Jason bid them land, and seek about for any sign of
living man. And as they went inland Circe met them, coming down
toward the ship; and they trembled when they saw her, for her hair,
and face, and robes shone like flame.

And she came and looked at Medeia; and Medeia hid her face beneath
her veil.

And Circe cried, 'Ah, wretched girl, have you forgotten all your
sins, that you come hither to my island, where the flowers bloom
all the year round? Where is your aged father, and the brother
whom you killed? Little do I expect you to return in safety with
these strangers whom you love. I will send you food and wine: but
your ship must not stay here, for it is foul with sin, and foul
with sin its crew.'

And the heroes prayed her, but in vain, and cried, 'Cleanse us from
our guilt!' But she sent them away, and said, 'Go on to Malea, and
there you may be cleansed, and return home.'

Then a fair wind rose, and they sailed eastward by Tartessus on the
Iberian shore, till they came to the Pillars of Hercules, and the
Mediterranean Sea. And thence they sailed on through the deeps of
Sardinia, and past the Ausonian islands, and the capes of the
Tyrrhenian shore, till they came to a flowery island, upon a still
bright summer's eve. And as they neared it, slowly and wearily,
they heard sweet songs upon the shore. But when Medeia heard it,
she started, and cried, 'Beware, all heroes, for these are the
rocks of the Sirens. You must pass close by them, for there is no
other channel; but those who listen to that song are lost.'

Then Orpheus spoke, the king of all minstrels, 'Let them match
their song against mine. I have charmed stones, and trees, and
dragons, how much more the hearts of men!' So he caught up his
lyre, and stood upon the poop, and began his magic song.

And now they could see the Sirens on Anthemousa, the flowery isle;
three fair maidens sitting on the beach, beneath a red rock in the
setting sun, among beds of crimson poppies and golden asphodel.
Slowly they sung and sleepily, with silver voices, mild and clear,
which stole over the golden waters, and into the hearts of all the
heroes, in spite of Orpheus' song.

And all things stayed around and listened; the gulls sat in white
lines along the rocks; on the beach great seals lay basking, and
kept time with lazy heads; while silver shoals of fish came up to
hearken, and whispered as they broke the shining calm. The Wind
overhead hushed his whistling, as he shepherded his clouds toward
the west; and the clouds stood in mid blue, and listened dreaming,
like a flock of golden sheep.

And as the heroes listened, the oars fell from their hands, and
their heads drooped on their breasts, and they closed their heavy
eyes; and they dreamed of bright still gardens, and of slumbers
under murmuring pines, till all their toil seemed foolishness, and
they thought of their renown no more.

Then one lifted his head suddenly, and cried, 'What use in
wandering for ever? Let us stay here and rest awhile.' And
another, 'Let us row to the shore, and hear the words they sing.'
And another, 'I care not for the words, but for the music. They
shall sing me to sleep, that I may rest.'

And Butes, the son of Pandion, the fairest of all mortal men, leapt
out and swam toward the shore, crying, 'I come, I come, fair
maidens, to live and die here, listening to your song.'

Then Medeia clapped her hands together, and cried, 'Sing louder,
Orpheus, sing a bolder strain; wake up these hapless sluggards, or
none of them will see the land of Hellas more.'

Then Orpheus lifted his harp, and crashed his cunning hand across
the strings; and his music and his voice rose like a trumpet
through the still evening air; into the air it rushed like thunder,
till the rocks rang and the sea; and into their souls it rushed
like wine, till all hearts beat fast within their breasts.

And he sung the song of Perseus, how the Gods led him over land and
sea, and how he slew the loathly Gorgon, and won himself a peerless
bride; and how he sits now with the Gods upon Olympus, a shining
star in the sky, immortal with his immortal bride, and honoured by
all men below.

So Orpheus sang, and the Sirens, answering each other across the
golden sea, till Orpheus' voice drowned the Sirens', and the heroes
caught their oars again.

And they cried, 'We will be men like Perseus, and we will dare and
suffer to the last. Sing us his song again, brave Orpheus, that we
may forget the Sirens and their spell.'

And as Orpheus sang, they dashed their oars into the sea, and kept
time to his music, as they fled fast away; and the Sirens' voices
died behind them, in the hissing of the foam along their wake.

But Butes swam to the shore, and knelt down before the Sirens, and
cried, 'Sing on! sing on!' But he could say no more, for a charmed
sleep came over him, and a pleasant humming in his ears; and he
sank all along upon the pebbles, and forgot all heaven and earth,
and never looked at that sad beach around him, all strewn with the
bones of men.

Then slowly rose up those three fair sisters, with a cruel smile
upon their lips; and slowly they crept down towards him, like
leopards who creep upon their prey; and their hands were like the
talons of eagles as they stept across the bones of their victims to
enjoy their cruel feast.

But fairest Aphrodite saw him from the highest Idalian peak, and
she pitied his youth and his beauty, and leapt up from her golden
throne; and like a falling star she cleft the sky, and left a trail
of glittering light, till she stooped to the Isle of the Sirens,
and snatched their prey from their claws. And she lifted Butes as
he lay sleeping, and wrapt him in golden mist; and she bore him to
the peak of Lilybaeum, and he slept there many a pleasant year.

But when the Sirens saw that they were conquered, they shrieked for
envy and rage, and leapt from the beach into the sea, and were
changed into rocks until this day.

Then they came to the straits by Lilybaeum, and saw Sicily, the
three-cornered island, under which Enceladus the giant lies
groaning day and night, and when he turns the earth quakes, and his
breath bursts out in roaring flames from the highest cone of AEtna,
above the chestnut woods. And there Charybdis caught them in its
fearful coils of wave, and rolled mast-high about them, and spun
them round and round; and they could go neither back nor forward,
while the whirlpool sucked them in.

And while they struggled they saw near them, on the other side the
strait, a rock stand in the water, with its peak wrapt round in
clouds--a rock which no man could climb, though he had twenty hands
and feet, for the stone was smooth and slippery, as if polished by
man's hand; and halfway up a misty cave looked out toward the west.

And when Orpheus saw it he groaned, and struck his hands together.
And 'Little will it help us,' he cried, 'to escape the jaws of the
whirlpool; for in that cave lives Scylla, the sea-hag with a young
whelp's voice; my mother warned me of her ere we sailed away from
Hellas; she has six heads, and six long necks, and hides in that
dark cleft. And from her cave she fishes for all things which pass
by--for sharks, and seals, and dolphins, and all the herds of
Amphitrite. And never ship's crew boasted that they came safe by
her rock, for she bends her long necks down to them, and every
mouth takes up a man. And who will help us now? For Hera and Zeus
hate us, and our ship is foul with guilt; so we must die, whatever

Then out of the depths came Thetis, Peleus' silver-footed bride,
for love of her gallant husband, and all her nymphs around her; and
they played like snow-white dolphins, diving on from wave to wave,
before the ship, and in her wake, and beside her, as dolphins play.
And they caught the ship, and guided her, and passed her on from
hand to hand, and tossed her through the billows, as maidens toss
the ball. And when Scylla stooped to seize her, they struck back
her ravening heads, and foul Scylla whined, as a whelp whines, at
the touch of their gentle hands. But she shrank into her cave
affrighted--for all bad things shrink from good--and Argo leapt
safe past her, while a fair breeze rose behind. Then Thetis and
her nymphs sank down to their coral caves beneath the sea, and
their gardens of green and purple, where live flowers bloom all the
year round; while the heroes went on rejoicing, yet dreading what
might come next.

After that they rowed on steadily for many a weary day, till they
saw a long high island, and beyond it a mountain land. And they
searched till they found a harbour, and there rowed boldly in. But
after awhile they stopped, and wondered, for there stood a great
city on the shore, and temples and walls and gardens, and castles
high in air upon the cliffs. And on either side they saw a
harbour, with a narrow mouth, but wide within; and black ships
without number, high and dry upon the shore.

Then Ancaios, the wise helmsman, spoke, 'What new wonder is this?
I know all isles, and harbours, and the windings of all seas; and
this should be Corcyra, where a few wild goat-herds dwell. But
whence come these new harbours and vast works of polished stone?'

But Jason said, 'They can be no savage people. We will go in and
take our chance.'

So they rowed into the harbour, among a thousand black-beaked
ships, each larger far than Argo, toward a quay of polished stone.
And they wondered at that mighty city, with its roofs of burnished
brass, and long and lofty walls of marble, with strong palisades
above. And the quays were full of people, merchants, and mariners,
and slaves, going to and fro with merchandise among the crowd of
ships. And the heroes' hearts were humbled, and they looked at
each other and said, 'We thought ourselves a gallant crew when we
sailed from Iolcos by the sea; but how small we look before this
city, like an ant before a hive of bees.'

Then the sailors hailed them roughly from the quay, 'What men are
you?--we want no strangers here, nor pirates. We keep our business
to ourselves.'

But Jason answered gently, with many a flattering word, and praised
their city and their harbour, and their fleet of gallant ships.
'Surely you are the children of Poseidon, and the masters of the
sea; and we are but poor wandering mariners, worn out with thirst
and toil. Give us but food and water, and we will go on our voyage
in peace.'

Then the sailors laughed, and answered, 'Stranger, you are no fool;
you talk like an honest man, and you shall find us honest too. We
are the children of Poseidon, and the masters of the sea; but come
ashore to us, and you shall have the best that we can give.'

So they limped ashore, all stiff and weary, with long ragged beards
and sunburnt cheeks, and garments torn and weather-stained, and
weapons rusted with the spray, while the sailors laughed at them
(for they were rough-tongued, though their hearts were frank and
kind). And one said, 'These fellows are but raw sailors; they look
as if they had been sea-sick all the day.' And another, 'Their
legs have grown crooked with much rowing, till they waddle in their
walk like ducks.'

At that Idas the rash would have struck them; but Jason held him
back, till one of the merchant kings spoke to them, a tall and
stately man.

'Do not be angry, strangers; the sailor boys must have their jest.
But we will treat you justly and kindly, for strangers and poor men
come from God; and you seem no common sailors by your strength, and
height, and weapons. Come up with me to the palace of Alcinous,
the rich sea-going king, and we will feast you well and heartily;
and after that you shall tell us your name.'

But Medeia hung back, and trembled, and whispered in Jason's ear,
'We are betrayed, and are going to our ruin, for I see my
countrymen among the crowd; dark-eyed Colchi in steel mail-shirts,
such as they wear in my father's land.'

'It is too late to turn,' said Jason. And he spoke to the merchant
king, 'What country is this, good sir; and what is this new-built

'This is the land of the Phaeaces, beloved by all the Immortals;
for they come hither and feast like friends with us, and sit by our
side in the hall. Hither we came from Liburnia to escape the
unrighteous Cyclopes; for they robbed us, peaceful merchants, of
our hard-earned wares and wealth. So Nausithous, the son of
Poseidon, brought us hither, and died in peace; and now his son
Alcinous rules us, and Arete the wisest of queens.'

So they went up across the square, and wondered still more as they
went; for along the quays lay in order great cables, and yards, and
masts, before the fair temple of Poseidon, the blue-haired king of
the seas. And round the square worked the ship-wrights, as many in
number as ants, twining ropes, and hewing timber, and smoothing
long yards and oars. And the Minuai went on in silence through
clean white marble streets, till they came to the hall of Alcinous,
and they wondered then still more. For the lofty palace shone
aloft in the sun, with walls of plated brass, from the threshold to
the innermost chamber, and the doors were of silver and gold. And
on each side of the doorway sat living dogs of gold, who never grew
old or died, so well Hephaistos had made them in his forges in
smoking Lemnos, and gave them to Alcinous to guard his gates by
night. And within, against the walls, stood thrones on either
side, down the whole length of the hall, strewn with rich glossy
shawls; and on them the merchant kings of those crafty sea-roving
Phaeaces sat eating and drinking in pride, and feasting there all
the year round. And boys of molten gold stood each on a polished
altar, and held torches in their hands, to give light all night to
the guests. And round the house sat fifty maid-servants, some
grinding the meal in the mill, some turning the spindle, some
weaving at the loom, while their hands twinkled as they passed the
shuttle, like quivering aspen leaves.

And outside before the palace a great garden was walled round,
filled full of stately fruit-trees, gray olives and sweet figs, and
pomegranates, pears, and apples, which bore the whole year round.
For the rich south-west wind fed them, till pear grew ripe on pear,
fig on fig, and grape on grape, all the winter and the spring. And
at the farther end gay flower-beds bloomed through all seasons of
the year; and two fair fountains rose, and ran, one through the
garden grounds, and one beneath the palace gate, to water all the
town. Such noble gifts the heavens had given to Alcinous the wise.

So they went in, and saw him sitting, like Poseidon, on his throne,
with his golden sceptre by him, in garments stiff with gold, and in
his hand a sculptured goblet, as he pledged the merchant kings; and
beside him stood Arete, his wise and lovely queen, and leaned
against a pillar as she spun her golden threads.

Then Alcinous rose, and welcomed them, and bade them sit and eat;
and the servants brought them tables, and bread, and meat, and

But Medeia went on trembling toward Arete the fair queen, and fell
at her knees, and clasped them, and cried, weeping, as she knelt -

'I am your guest, fair queen, and I entreat you by Zeus, from whom
prayers come. Do not send me back to my father to die some
dreadful death; but let me go my way, and bear my burden. Have I
not had enough of punishment and shame?'

'Who are you, strange maiden? and what is the meaning of your

'I am Medeia, daughter of Aietes, and I saw my countrymen here to-
day; and I know that they are come to find me, and take me home to
die some dreadful death.'

Then Arete frowned, and said, 'Lead this girl in, my maidens; and
let the kings decide, not I.'

And Alcinous leapt up from his throne, and cried, 'Speak,
strangers, who are you? And who is this maiden?'

'We are the heroes of the Minuai,' said Jason; 'and this maiden has
spoken truth. We are the men who took the golden fleece, the men
whose fame has run round every shore. We came hither out of the
ocean, after sorrows such as man never saw before. We went out
many, and come back few, for many a noble comrade have we lost. So
let us go, as you should let your guests go, in peace; that the
world may say, "Alcinous is a just king."'

But Alcinous frowned, and stood deep in thought; and at last he
spoke -

'Had not the deed been done which is done, I should have said this
day to myself, "It is an honour to Alcinous, and to his children
after him, that the far-famed Argonauts are his guests." But these
Colchi are my guests, as you are; and for this month they have
waited here with all their fleet, for they have hunted all the seas
of Hellas, and could not find you, and dared neither go farther,
nor go home.'

'Let them choose out their champions, and we will fight them, man
for man.'

'No guests of ours shall fight upon our island, and if you go
outside they will outnumber you. I will do justice between you,
for I know and do what is right.'

Then he turned to his kings, and said, 'This may stand over till
to-morrow. To-night we will feast our guests, and hear the story
of all their wanderings, and how they came hither out of the

So Alcinous bade the servants take the heroes in, and bathe them,
and give them clothes. And they were glad when they saw the warm
water, for it was long since they had bathed. And they washed off
the sea-salt from their limbs, and anointed themselves from head to
foot with oil, and combed out their golden hair. Then they came
back again into the hall, while the merchant kings rose up to do
them honour. And each man said to his neighbour, 'No wonder that
these men won fame. How they stand now like Giants, or Titans, or
Immortals come down from Olympus, though many a winter has worn
them, and many a fearful storm. What must they have been when they
sailed from Iolcos, in the bloom of their youth, long ago?'

Then they went out to the garden; and the merchant princes said,
'Heroes, run races with us. Let us see whose feet are nimblest.'

'We cannot race against you, for our limbs are stiff from sea; and
we have lost our two swift comrades, the sons of the north wind.
But do not think us cowards: if you wish to try our strength, we
will shoot, and box, and wrestle, against any men on earth.'

And Alcinous smiled, and answered, 'I believe you, gallant guests;
with your long limbs and broad shoulders, we could never match you
here. For we care nothing here for boxing, or for shooting with
the bow; but for feasts, and songs, and harping, and dancing, and
running races, to stretch our limbs on shore.'

So they danced there and ran races, the jolly merchant kings, till
the night fell, and all went in.

And then they ate and drank, and comforted their weary souls, till
Alcinous called a herald, and bade him go and fetch the harper.

The herald went out, and fetched the harper, and led him in by the
hand; and Alcinous cut him a piece of meat, from the fattest of the
haunch, and sent it to him, and said, 'Sing to us, noble harper,
and rejoice the heroes' hearts.'

So the harper played and sang, while the dancers danced strange
figures; and after that the tumblers showed their tricks, till the
heroes laughed again.

Then, 'Tell me, heroes,' asked Alcinous, 'you who have sailed the
ocean round, and seen the manners of all nations, have you seen
such dancers as ours here, or heard such music and such singing?
We hold ours to be the best on earth.'

'Such dancing we have never seen,' said Orpheus; 'and your singer
is a happy man, for Phoebus himself must have taught him, or else
he is the son of a Muse, as I am also, and have sung once or twice,
though not so well as he.'

'Sing to us, then, noble stranger,' said Alcinous; 'and we will
give you precious gifts.'

So Orpheus took his magic harp, and sang to them a stirring song of
their voyage from Iolcos, and their dangers, and how they won the
golden fleece; and of Medeia's love, and how she helped them, and
went with them over land and sea; and of all their fearful dangers,
from monsters, and rocks, and storms, till the heart of Arete was
softened, and all the women wept. And the merchant kings rose up,
each man from off his golden throne, and clapped their hands, and
shouted, 'Hail to the noble Argonauts, who sailed the unknown sea!'

Then he went on, and told their journey over the sluggish northern
main, and through the shoreless outer ocean, to the fairy island of
the west; and of the Sirens, and Scylla, and Charybdis, and all the
wonders they had seen, till midnight passed and the day dawned; but
the kings never thought of sleep. Each man sat still and listened,
with his chin upon his hand.

And at last, when Orpheus had ended, they all went thoughtful out,
and the heroes lay down to sleep, beneath the sounding porch
outside, where Arete had strewn them rugs and carpets, in the sweet
still summer night.

But Arete pleaded hard with her husband for Medeia, for her heart
was softened. And she said, 'The Gods will punish her, not we.
After all, she is our guest and my suppliant, and prayers are the
daughters of Zeus. And who, too, dare part man and wife, after all
they have endured together?'

And Alcinous smiled. 'The minstrel's song has charmed you: but I
must remember what is right, for songs cannot alter justice; and I
must be faithful to my name. Alcinous I am called, the man of
sturdy sense; and Alcinous I will be.' But for all that Arete
besought him, until she won him round.

So next morning he sent a herald, and called the kings into the
square, and said, 'This is a puzzling matter: remember but one
thing. These Minuai live close by us, and we may meet them often
on the seas; but Aietes lives afar off, and we have only heard his
name. Which, then, of the two is it safer to offend--the men near
us, or the men far off?'

The princes laughed, and praised his wisdom; and Alcinous called
the heroes to the square, and the Colchi also; and they came and
stood opposite each other, but Medeia stayed in the palace. Then
Alcinous spoke, 'Heroes of the Colchi, what is your errand about
this lady?'

'To carry her home with us, that she may die a shameful death; but
if we return without her, we must die the death she should have

'What say you to this, Jason the AEolid?' said Alcinous, turning to
the Minuai.

'I say,' said the cunning Jason, 'that they are come here on a
bootless errand. Do you think that you can make her follow you,
heroes of the Colchi--her, who knows all spells and charms? She
will cast away your ships on quicksands, or call down on you Brimo
the wild huntress; or the chains will fall from off her wrists, and
she will escape in her dragon-car; or if not thus, some other way,
for she has a thousand plans and wiles. And why return home at
all, brave heroes, and face the long seas again, and the Bosphorus,
and the stormy Euxine, and double all your toil? There is many a
fair land round these coasts, which waits for gallant men like you.
Better to settle there, and build a city, and let Aietes and
Colchis help themselves.'

Then a murmur rose among the Colchi, and some cried 'He has spoken
well;' and some, 'We have had enough of roving, we will sail the
seas no more!' And the chief said at last, 'Be it so, then; a
plague she has been to us, and a plague to the house of her father,
and a plague she will be to you. Take her, since you are no wiser;
and we will sail away toward the north.'

Then Alcinous gave them food, and water, and garments, and rich
presents of all sorts; and he gave the same to the Minuai, and sent
them all away in peace.

So Jason kept the dark witch-maiden to breed him woe and shame; and
the Colchi went northward into the Adriatic, and settled, and built
towns along the shore.

Then the heroes rowed away to the eastward, to reach Hellas, their
beloved land; but a storm came down upon them, and swept them far
away toward the south. And they rowed till they were spent with
struggling, through the darkness and the blinding rain; but where
they were they could not tell, and they gave up all hope of life.
And at last touched the ground, and when daylight came waded to the
shore; and saw nothing round but sand and desolate salt pools, for
they had come to the quicksands of the Syrtis, and the dreary
treeless flats which lie between Numidia and Cyrene, on the burning
shore of Africa. And there they wandered starving for many a weary
day, ere they could launch their ship again, and gain the open sea.
And there Canthus was killed, while he was trying to drive off
sheep, by a stone which a herdsman threw.

And there too Mopsus died, the seer who knew the voices of all
birds; but he could not foretell his own end, for he was bitten in
the foot by a snake, one of those which sprang from the Gorgon's
head when Perseus carried it across the sands.

At last they rowed away toward the northward, for many a weary day,
till their water was spent, and their food eaten; and they were
worn out with hunger and thirst. But at last they saw a long steep
island, and a blue peak high among the clouds; and they knew it for
the peak of Ida, and the famous land of Crete. And they said, 'We
will land in Crete, and see Minos the just king, and all his glory
and his wealth; at least he will treat us hospitably, and let us
fill our water-casks upon the shore.'

But when they came nearer to the island they saw a wondrous sight
upon the cliffs. For on a cape to the westward stood a giant,
taller than any mountain pine, who glittered aloft against the sky
like a tower of burnished brass. He turned and looked on all sides
round him, till he saw the Argo and her crew; and when he saw them
he came toward them, more swiftly than the swiftest horse, leaping
across the glens at a bound, and striding at one step from down to
down. And when he came abreast of them he brandished his arms up
and down, as a ship hoists and lowers her yards, and shouted with
his brazen throat like a trumpet from off the hills, 'You are
pirates, you are robbers! If you dare land here, you die.'

Then the heroes cried, 'We are no pirates. We are all good men and
true, and all we ask is food and water;' but the giant cried the
more -

'You are robbers, you are pirates all; I know you; and if you land,
you shall die the death.'

Then he waved his arms again as a signal, and they saw the people
flying inland, driving their flocks before them, while a great
flame arose among the hills. Then the giant ran up a valley and
vanished, and the heroes lay on their oars in fear.

But Medeia stood watching all from under her steep black brows,
with a cunning smile upon her lips, and a cunning plot within her
heart. At last she spoke, 'I know this giant. I heard of him in
the East. Hephaistos the Fire King made him in his forge in AEtna
beneath the earth, and called him Talus, and gave him to Minos for
a servant, to guard the coast of Crete. Thrice a day he walks
round the island, and never stops to sleep; and if strangers land
he leaps into his furnace, which flames there among the hills; and
when he is red-hot he rushes on them, and burns them in his brazen

Then all the heroes cried, 'What shall we do, wise Medeia? We must
have water, or we die of thirst. Flesh and blood we can face
fairly; but who can face this red-hot brass?'

'I can face red-hot brass, if the tale I hear be true. For they
say that he has but one vein in all his body, filled with liquid
fire; and that this vein is closed with a nail: but I know not
where that nail is placed. But if I can get it once into these
hands, you shall water your ship here in peace.'

Then she bade them put her on shore, and row off again, and wait
what would befall.

And the heroes obeyed her unwillingly, for they were ashamed to
leave her so alone; but Jason said, 'She is dearer to me than to
any of you, yet I will trust her freely on shore; she has more
plots than we can dream of in the windings of that fair and cunning

So they left the witch-maiden on the shore; and she stood there in
her beauty all alone, till the giant strode back red-hot from head
to heel, while the grass hissed and smoked beneath his tread.

And when he saw the maiden alone, he stopped; and she looked boldly
up into his face without moving, and began her magic song:-

'Life is short, though life is sweet; and even men of brass and
fire must die. The brass must rust, the fire must cool, for time
gnaws all things in their turn. Life is short, though life is
sweet: but sweeter to live for ever; sweeter to live ever youthful
like the Gods, who have ichor in their veins--ichor which gives
life, and youth, and joy, and a bounding heart.'

Then Talus said, 'Who are you, strange maiden, and where is this
ichor of youth?'

Then Medeia held up a flask of crystal, and said, 'Here is the
ichor of youth. I am Medeia the enchantress; my sister Circe gave
me this, and said, "Go and reward Talus, the faithful servant, for
his fame is gone out into all lands." So come, and I will pour
this into your veins, that you may live for ever young.'

And he listened to her false words, that simple Talus, and came
near; and Medeia said, 'Dip yourself in the sea first, and cool
yourself, lest you burn my tender hands; then show me where the
nail in your vein is, that I may pour the ichor in.'

Then that simple Talus dipped himself in the sea, till it hissed,
and roared, and smoked; and came and knelt before Medeia, and
showed her the secret nail.

And she drew the nail out gently, but she poured no ichor in; and
instead the liquid fire spouted forth, like a stream of red-hot
iron. And Talus tried to leap up, crying, 'You have betrayed me,
false witch-maiden!' But she lifted up her hands before him, and
sang, till he sank beneath her spell. And as he sank, his brazen
limbs clanked heavily, and the earth groaned beneath his weight;
and the liquid fire ran from his heel, like a stream of lava, to
the sea; and Medeia laughed, and called to the heroes, 'Come
ashore, and water your ship in peace.'

So they came, and found the giant lying dead; and they fell down,
and kissed Medeia's feet; and watered their ship, and took sheep
and oxen, and so left that inhospitable shore.

At last, after many more adventures, they came to the Cape of
Malea, at the south-west point of the Peloponnese. And there they
offered sacrifices, and Orpheus purged them from their guilt. Then
they rode away again to the northward, past the Laconian shore, and
came all worn and tired by Sunium, and up the long Euboean Strait,
until they saw once more Pelion, and Aphetai, and Iolcos by the

And they ran the ship ashore; but they had no strength left to haul
her up the beach; and they crawled out on the pebbles, and sat
down, and wept till they could weep no more. For the houses and
the trees were all altered; and all the faces which they saw were
strange; and their joy was swallowed up in sorrow, while they
thought of their youth, and all their labour, and the gallant
comrades they had lost.

And the people crowded round, and asked them 'Who are you, that you
sit weeping here?'

'We are the sons of your princes, who sailed out many a year ago.
We went to fetch the golden fleece, and we have brought it, and
grief therewith. Give us news of our fathers and our mothers, if
any of them be left alive on earth.'

Then there was shouting, and laughing, and weeping; and all the
kings came to the shore, and they led away the heroes to their
homes, and bewailed the valiant dead.

Then Jason went up with Medeia to the palace of his uncle Pelias.
And when he came in Pelias sat by the hearth, crippled and blind
with age; while opposite him sat AEson, Jason's father, crippled
and blind likewise; and the two old men's heads shook together as
they tried to warm themselves before the fire.

And Jason fell down at his father's knees, and wept, and called him
by his name. And the old man stretched his hands out, and felt
him, and said, 'Do not mock me, young hero. My son Jason is dead
long ago at sea.'

'I am your own son Jason, whom you trusted to the Centaur upon
Pelion; and I have brought home the golden fleece, and a princess
of the Sun's race for my bride. So now give me up the kingdom,
Pelias my uncle, and fulfil your promise as I have fulfilled mine.'

Then his father clung to him like a child, and wept, and would not
let him go; and cried, 'Now I shall not go down lonely to my grave.
Promise me never to leave me till I die.'


And now I wish that I could end my story pleasantly; but it is no
fault of mine that I cannot. The old songs end it sadly, and I
believe that they are right and wise; for though the heroes were
purified at Malea, yet sacrifices cannot make bad hearts good, and
Jason had taken a wicked wife, and he had to bear his burden to the

And first she laid a cunning plot to punish that poor old Pelias,
instead of letting him die in peace.

For she told his daughters, 'I can make old things young again; I
will show you how easy it is to do.' So she took an old ram and
killed him, and put him in a cauldron with magic herbs; and
whispered her spells over him, and he leapt out again a young lamb.
So that 'Medeia's cauldron' is a proverb still, by which we mean
times of war and change, when the world has become old and feeble,
and grows young again through bitter pains.

Then she said to Pelias' daughters, 'Do to your father as I did to
this ram, and he will grow young and strong again.' But she only
told them half the spell; so they failed, while Medeia mocked them;
and poor old Pelias died, and his daughters came to misery. But
the songs say she cured AEson, Jason's father, and he became young,
and strong again.

But Jason could not love her, after all her cruel deeds. So he was
ungrateful to her, and wronged her; and she revenged herself on
him. And a terrible revenge she took--too terrible to speak of
here. But you will hear of it yourselves when you grow up, for it
has been sung in noble poetry and music; and whether it be true or
not, it stands for ever as a warning to us not to seek for help
from evil persons, or to gain good ends by evil means. For if we
use an adder even against our enemies, it will turn again and sting

But of all the other heroes there is many a brave tale left, which
I have no space to tell you, so you must read them for yourselves;-
-of the hunting of the boar in Calydon, which Meleager killed; and
of Heracles' twelve famous labours; and of the seven who fought at
Thebes; and of the noble love of Castor and Polydeuces, the twin
Dioscouroi--how when one died the other would not live without him,
so they shared their immortality between them; and Zeus changed
them into the two twin stars which never rise both at once.

And what became of Cheiron, the good immortal beast? That, too, is
a sad story; for the heroes never saw him more. He was wounded by
a poisoned arrow, at Pholoe among the hills, when Heracles opened
the fatal wine-jar, which Cheiron had warned him not to touch. And
the Centaurs smelt the wine, and flocked to it, and fought for it
with Heracles; but he killed them all with his poisoned arrows, and
Cheiron was left alone. Then Cheiron took up one of the arrows,
and dropped it by chance upon his foot; and the poison ran like
fire along his veins, and he lay down and longed to die; and cried,
'Through wine I perish, the bane of all my race. Why should I live
for ever in this agony? Who will take my immortality, that I may

Then Prometheus answered, the good Titan, whom Heracles had set
free from Caucasus, 'I will take your immortality and live for
ever, that I may help poor mortal men.' So Cheiron gave him his
immortality, and died, and had rest from pain. And Heracles and
Prometheus wept over him, and went to bury him on Pelion; but Zeus
took him up among the stars, to live for ever, grand and mild, low
down in the far southern sky.

And in time the heroes died, all but Nestor, the silver-tongued old
man; and left behind them valiant sons, but not so great as they
had been. Yet their fame, too, lives till this day, for they
fought at the ten years' siege of Troy: and their story is in the
book which we call Homer, in two of the noblest songs on earth--the
'Iliad,' which tells us of the siege of Troy, and Achilles' quarrel
with the kings; and the 'Odyssey,' which tells the wanderings of
Odysseus, through many lands for many years, and how Alcinous sent
him home at last, safe to Ithaca his beloved island, and to
Penelope his faithful wife, and Telemachus his son, and Euphorbus
the noble swineherd, and the old dog who licked his hand and died.
We will read that sweet story, children, by the fire some winter
night. And now I will end my tale, and begin another and a more
cheerful one, of a hero who became a worthy king, and won his
people's love.



Once upon a time there was a princess in Troezene, Aithra, the
daughter of Pittheus the king. She had one fair son, named
Theseus, the bravest lad in all the land; and Aithra never smiled
but when she looked at him, for her husband had forgotten her, and
lived far away. And she used to go up to the mountain above
Troezene, to the temple of Poseidon and sit there all day looking
out across the bay, over Methana, to the purple peaks of AEgina and
the Attic shore beyond. And when Theseus was full fifteen years
old she took him up with her to the temple, and into the thickets
of the grove which grew in the temple-yard. And she led him to a
tall plane-tree, beneath whose shade grew arbutus, and lentisk, and
purple heather-bushes. And there she sighed, and said, 'Theseus,
my son, go into that thicket and you will find at the plane-tree
foot a great flat stone; lift it, and bring me what lies

Then Theseus pushed his way in through the thick bushes, and saw
that they had not been moved for many a year. And searching among
their roots he found a great flat stone, all overgrown with ivy,
and acanthus, and moss. He tried to lift it, but he could not.
And he tried till the sweat ran down his brow from heat, and the
tears from his eyes for shame; but all was of no avail. And at
last he came back to his mother, and said, 'I have found the stone,
but I cannot lift it; nor do I think that any man could in all

Then she sighed, and said, 'The Gods wait long; but they are just
at last. Let it be for another year. The day may come when you
will be a stronger man than lives in all Troezene.'

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