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Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 79

Perseus and Andromeda, repaired to the palace, where a banquet was spread for them, and all was joy and festivity. But suddenly a noise was heard of war-like clamor, and Phineus, the betrothed of the virgin, with a party of his adherents, burst in, demanding the maiden as his own. It was in vain that Cepheus remonstrated, "You should have claimed her when she lay bound to the rock, the monster's victim. The sentence of the gods dooming her to such a fate dissolved all engagements, as death itself would have done.:" Phineus made no reply, but hurled his javelin at Perseus, but it missed its mark and fell harmless. Perseus would have thrown his in turn, but the cowardly assailant ran and took shelter behind the altar. But his act was a signal for an onset by his band upon the guests of Cepheus. They defended themselves and a general conflict ensued, the old king retreating from the scene after fruitless expostulations, calling the gods to witness that he was guiltless of this outrage on the rights of hospitality.

Perseus and his friends maintained for some time the unequal contest; but the numbers of the assailants were too great for them, and destruction seemed inevitable, when a sudden thought struck Perseus: "I will make my enemy defend me." Then, with a loud voice he exclaimed, :If I have any friend here let him turn away his eyes!" and held aloft the Gorgon's head. "Seek not to frighten us with your jugglery," said Thescelus, and raised his javelin in act to throw, and became stone in the very attitude. Ampyx was about to plunge his sword into the body of a prostrate foe, but his arm stiffened and he could neither thrust forward nor withdraw it. Another, in the midst of a vociferous challenge, stopped, his mouth open, but no sound issuing. One of Perseus's friends, Aconteus, caught sight of the Gorgon and stiffened like the rest. Astyages struck him with his sword, but instead of wounding, it recoiled with a ringing noise.

Phineus beheld this dreadful result of his unjust aggression, and felt confounded. He called aloud to his friends, but got no answer; he touched them and found them stone. Falling on his knees and stretching out his hands to Perseus, but turning his head away, he begged for mercy. "Take all," said he, "give me but my life." "Base coward," said Perseus, "thus much I will grant you; no weapon shall touch you; moreover you shall be preserved in my house as a memorial of these events." So saying, he held the Gorgon's head to the side where Phineus was looking, and in the very form in which he knelt, with his hands outstretched and face averted, he became fixed immovably, a mass of stone!

The following allusion to Perseus is from Milman's Samor:

  "As 'mid the fabled Libyan bridal stood
  Perseus in stern tranquillity of wrath,
  Half stood, half floated on his ankle-plumes
  Out-swelling, while the bright face on his shield
  Looked into stone the raging fray; so rose,
  But with no magic arms, wearing alone
  Th' appalling and control of his firm look,
  The Briton Samor; at his rising awe
  Went abroad, and the riotous hall was mute."

Then Perseus returned to Seriphus to King Polydectes and to his mother Danae and the fisherman Dicte. He marched up the tyrant's hall, where Polydectes and his guests were feasting. "Have you the head of Medusa?" exclaimed Polydectes. "Here it is," answered Perseus, and showed it to the king and to his guests.

The ancient prophecy which Acrisius had so much feared at last came to pass. For, as Perseus was passing through the country of Larissa, he entered into competition with the youths of the country at the game of hurling the discus. King Acrisius was among the spectators. The youths of Larissa threw first, and then Perseus. His discus went far beyond the others, and, seized by a breeze from the sea, fell upon the foot of Acrisius. The old king swooned with pain, and was carried away from the place only to die. Perseus, who had heard the story of his birth and parentage from Danae, when he learned who Acrisius was, filled with remorse and sorrow, went to the oracle at Delphi, and there was purified from the guilt of homicide.


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