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Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 163

Their first landing was at the island of the Harpies:

  "——The daughters of the earth and sea,
  The dreadful snatchers, who like women were
  Down to the breast, with scanty coarse black hair
  About their heads, and dim eyes ringed with red,
  And bestial mouths set round with lips of lead,
  But from their gnarled necks there began to spring
  Half hair, half feathers, and a sweeping wing
  Grew out instead of arm on either side,
  And thick plumes underneath the breast did hide
  The place where joined the fearful natures twain.
  Gray-feathered were they else, with many a stain
  Of blood thereon, and on birds' claws they went.
  Morris: Life and Death of Jason

The Harpies had been sent by the gods to torment a certain Phineus, whom Jupiter had deprived of his sight in punishment of his cruelty; and whenever a meal was placed before him, the Harpies darted down from the air and carried it off. They were driven away from Phineus by the heroes of the Argonautic expedition, and took refuge in the island where AEneas now found them.

When they entered the port the Trojans saw herds of cattle roaming over the plain. They slew as many as they wished, and prepared for a feast. But no sooner had they seated themselves at the table, than a horrible clamor was heard in the air, and a flock of odious Harpies came rushing down upon them, seizing in their talons the meat from the dishes, and flying away with it. AEneas and his companions drew their swords and dealt vigorous blows among the monsters, but to no purpose, for they were so nimble it was almost impossible to hit them, and their feathers were like armor impenetrable to steel. One of them, perched on a neighboring cliff, screamed out, "Is it thus, Trojans, you treat us innocent birds, first slaughter our cattle, and then make war on ourselves?" She then predicted dire sufferings to them in their future course, and having vented her wrath flew away. The Trojans made haste to leave the country, and next found themselves coasting along the shore of Epirus. Here they landed, and to their astonishment learned that certain Trojan exiles, who had been carried there as prisoners, had become rulers of the country. Andromache, the widow of Hector, became the wife of one of the victorious Grecian chiefs, to whom she bore a son. Her husband dying, she was left regent of the country, as guardian of her son, and had married a fellow-captive, Helenus, of the royal race of Troy. Helenus and Andromache treated the exiles with the utmost hospitality, and dismissed them loaded with gifts.

From hence AEneas coasted along the shore of Sicily, and passed the country of Cyclopes. Here they were hailed from the shore by a miserable object, whom by his garments, tattered as they were, they perceived to be a Greek. He told them he was one of Ulysses' companions, left behind by that chief in his hurried departure. He related the story of Ulysses' adventure with Polyphemus, and besought them to take him off with them, as he had no means of sustaining his existence where he was, but wild berries and roots, and lived in constant fear of the Cyclopes. While he spoke Polyphemus made his appearance; a terrible monster, shapeless, vast, whose only eye had been put out. He walked with cautious steps, feeling his way with a staff, down to the sea-side, to wash his eye-socket in the waves. When he reached the water, he waded out towards them, and his immense height enabled him to advance far into the sea, so that the Trojans, in terror, took to their oars to get out of his way. Hearing the oars, Polyphemus shouted after them, so that the shores resounded, and at the noise the other Cyclopes came forth from their caves and woods, and lined the shore, like a row of lofty pine trees. The Trojans plied their oars, and soon left them out of sight.


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