Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art
Page: 111Thus the mere sight of Medusa changed Atlas into the rugged mountains which have since borne his name; and, as their summits are lost in the clouds, the ancients supposed they sustained the full weight of the heavenly vault.
Thence Perseus flew on until he reached the seashore, where a strange sight greeted him. Away down on the “rock-bound coast,” so near the foaming billows that their spray continually dashed over her fair limbs, a lovely maiden was chained fast to an overhanging rock. This maiden was the Princess Andromeda. To atone for the vanity of her mother, Cassiopeia, who claimed she was fairer than any of the sea nymphs, she had been exposed there as prey for a terrible sea monster sent to devastate the homes along the coast.
[Pg 248] An oracle, when consulted, declared that the monster would not depart until Andromeda was sacrificed to his fury; and Perseus could even now perceive the receding procession which had solemnly accompanied her to the appointed place of sacrifice, and chained her fast.
At the same time, too, he saw the waters below the maiden lashed to foam by the monster’s tail, and the scales of his hideous body slowly rising up out of the water. Fascinated by this horrible sight, the maiden’s eyes were fixed on the monster. She did not see the rapid approach of her deliverer, who, dauntless, drew his sword from its scabbard, and, swooping down, attacked the monster, cheered by the shouts of the people, who had seen him, and now rushed back to witness the slaying of their foe.
Of joy, and on the rocks the ring of mail;
And while the hungry serpent’s gloating eyes
Were fixed on me, a knight in casque of gold
And blazing shield, who with his flashing blade
Fell on the monster. Long the conflict raged,
Till all the rocks were red with blood and slime,
And yet my champion from those horrible jaws
And dreadful coils was scathless.”
Of course, this fierce struggle could have but one conclusion; and when Perseus had slain the monster, freed Andromeda from her chains, and restored her to the arms of her overjoyed parents, they immediately offered any reward he might be pleased to claim. When he, therefore, expressed a desire to marry the maiden he had so bravely rescued, they gladly gave him her hand, although in early youth the princess had been promised to her uncle Phineus.
Preparations for the marriage were immediately begun; and the former suitor, who had been too cowardly to venture a single blow to deliver her from the monster, prepared to fight the rival who was about to carry off his promised bride. Unbidden he [Pg 249] came to the marriage feast with a number of armed followers, and was about to carry off Andromeda, when Perseus suddenly bade his adherents stand behind him, unveiled the Medusa head, and, turning its baleful face toward Phineus and his followers, changed them all into stone.