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The Argonautica

Page: 64

(ll. 802-824) She spake, and brought a casket wherein lay many drugs, some for healing, others for killing, and placing it upon her knees she wept. And she drenched her bosom with ceaseless tears, which flowed in torrents as she sat, bitterly bewailing her own fate. And she longed to choose a murderous drug to taste it, and now she was loosening the bands of the casket eager to take it forth, unhappy maid! But suddenly a deadly fear of hateful Hades came upon her heart. And long she held back in speechless horror, and all around her thronged visions of the pleasing cares of life. She thought of all the delightful things that are among the living, she thought of her joyous playmates, as a maiden will; and the sun grew sweeter than ever to behold, seeing that in truth her soul yearned for all. And she put the casket again from off her knees, all changed by the prompting of Hera, and no more did she waver in purpose; but longed for the rising dawn to appear quickly, that she might give him the charms to work the spell as she had promised, and meet him face to face. And often did she loosen the bolts of her door, to watch for the faint gleam: and welcome to her did the dayspring shed its light, and folk began to stir throughout the city.

(ll. 825-827) Then Argus bade his brothers remain there to learn the maiden's mind and plans, but himself turned back and went to the ship.

(ll. 828-890) Now soon as ever the maiden saw the light of dawn, with her hands she gathered up her golden tresses which were floating round her shoulders in careless disarray, and bathed her tear-stained cheeks, and made her skin shine with ointment sweet as nectar; and she donned a beautiful robe, fitted with well-bent clasps, and above on her head, divinely fair, she threw a veil gleaming like silver. And there, moving to and fro in the palace, she trod the ground forgetful of the heaven-sent woes thronging round her and of others that were destined to follow. And she called to her maids. Twelve they were, who lay during the night in the vestibule of her fragrant chamber, young as herself, not yet sharing the bridal couch, and she bade them hastily yoke the mules to the chariot to bear her to the beauteous shrine of Hecate. Thereupon the handmaids were making ready the chariot; and Medea meanwhile took from the hollow casket a charm which men say is called the charm of Prometheus. If a man should anoint his body therewithal, having first appeased the Maiden, the only-begotten, with sacrifice by night, surely that man could not be wounded by the stroke of bronze nor would he flinch from blazing fire; but for that day he would prove superior both in prowess and in might. It shot up first-born when the ravening eagle on the rugged flanks of Caucasus let drip to the earth the blood-like ichor of tortured Prometheus. And its flower appeared a cubit above ground in colour like the Corycian crocus, rising on twin stalks; but in the earth the root was like newly-cut flesh. The dark juice of it, like the sap of a mountain-oak, she had gathered in a Caspian shell to make the charm withal, when she had first bathed in seven ever-flowing streams, and had called seven times on Brimo, nurse of youth, night-wandering Brimo, of the underworld, queen among the dead,—in the gloom of night, clad in dusky garments. And beneath, the dark earth shook and bellowed when the Titanian root was cut; and the son of Iapetus himself groaned, his soul distraught with pain. And she brought the charm forth and placed it in the fragrant band which engirdled her, just beneath her bosom, divinely fair. And going forth she mounted the swift chariot, and with her went two handmaidens on each side. And she herself took the reins and in her right hand the well-fashioned whip, and drove through the city; and the rest, the handmaids, laid their hands on the chariot behind and ran along the broad highway; and they kilted up their light robes above their white knees. And even as by the mild waters of Parthenius, or after bathing in the river Amnisus, Leto's daughter stands upon her golden chariot and courses over the hills with her swift-footed roes, to greet from afar some richly-steaming hecatomb; and with her come the nymphs in attendance, gathering, some at the spring of Amnisus itself, others by the glens and many-fountained peaks; and round her whine and fawn the beasts cowering as she moves along: thus they sped through the city; and on both sides the people gave way, shunning the eyes of the royal maiden. But when she had left the city's well paved streets, and was approaching the shrine as she drove over the plains, then she alighted eagerly from the smooth-running chariot and spake as follows among her maidens:


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