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The Argonautica

Page: 56

(ll. 367-371) Such was the tale of Argus; but the king at his words was filled with rage as he heard; and his heart was lifted high in wrath. And he spake in heavy displeasure; and was angered most of all with the son of Chalciope; for he deemed that on their account the strangers had come; and in his fury his eyes flashed forth beneath his brows:

(ll. 372-381) "Begone from my sight, felons, straightway, ye and your tricks, from the land, ere someone see a fleece and a Phrixus to his sorrow. Banded together with your friends from Hellas, not for the fleece, but to seize my sceptre and royal power have ye come hither. Had ye not first tasted of my table, surely would I have cut out your tongues and hewn off both hands and sent you forth with your feet alone, so that ye might be stayed from starting hereafter. And what lies have ye uttered against the blessed gods!"

(ll. 382-385) Thus he spake in his wrath; and mightily from its depths swelled the heart of Aeacus' son, and his soul within longed to speak a deadly word in defiance, but Aeson's son checked him, for he himself first made gentle answer:

(ll. 386-395) "Aeetes, bear with this armed band, I pray. For not in the way thou deemest have we come to thy city and palace, no, nor yet with such desires. For who would of his own will dare to cross so wide a sea for the goods of a stranger? But fate and the ruthless command of a presumptuous king urged me. Grant a favour to thy suppliants, and to all Hellas will I publish a glorious fame of thee; yea, we are ready now to pay thee a swift recompense in war, whether it be the Sauromatae or some other people that thou art eager to subdue to thy sway."

(ll. 396-400) He spake, flattering him with gentle utterance; but the king's soul brooded a twofold purpose within him, whether he should attack and slay them on the spot or should make trial of their might. And this, as he pondered, seemed the better way, and he addressed Jason in answer:

(ll. 401-421) "Stranger, why needest thou go through thy tale to the end? For if ye are in truth of heavenly race, or have come in no wise inferior to me, to win the goods of strangers, I will give thee the fleece to bear away, if thou dost wish, when I have tried thee. For against brave men I bear no grudge, such as ye yourselves tell me of him who bears sway in Hellas. And the trial of your courage and might shall be a contest which I myself can compass with my hands, deadly though it be. Two bulls with feet of bronze I have that pasture on the plain of Ares, breathing forth flame from their jaws; them do I yoke and drive over the stubborn field of Ares, four plough-gates; and quickly cleaving it with the share up to the headland, I cast into the furrows the seed, not the corn of Demeter, but the teeth of a dread serpent that grow up into the fashion of armed men; them I slay at once, cutting them down beneath my spear as they rise against me on all sides. In the morning do I yoke the oxen, and at eventide I cease from the harvesting. And thou, if thou wilt accomplish such deeds as these, on that very day shalt carry off the fleece to the king's palace; ere that time comes I will not give it, expect it not. For indeed it is unseemly that a brave man should yield to a coward."


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