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The Argonautica

Page: 71

(ll. 1246-1277) Meanwhile, prompted by Medea, Jason steeped the charm in water and sprinkled with it his shield and sturdy spear, and sword; and his comrades round him made proof of his weapons with might and main, but could not bend that spear even a little, but it remained firm in their stalwart hands unbroken as before. But in furious rage with them Idas, Aphareus' son, with his great sword hewed at the spear near the butt, and the edge leapt back repelled by the shock, like a hammer from the anvil; and the heroes shouted with joy for their hope in the contest. And then he sprinkled his body, and terrible prowess entered into him, unspeakable, dauntless; and his hands on both sides thrilled vigorously as they swelled with strength. And as when a warlike steed eager for the fight neighs and beats the ground with his hoof, while rejoicing he lifts his neck on high with ears erect; in such wise did Aeson's son rejoice in the strength of his limbs. And often hither and thither did he leap high in air tossing in his hands his shield of bronze and ashen spear. Thou wouldst say that wintry lightning flashing from the gloomy sky kept on darting forth from the clouds what time they bring with them their blackest rainstorm. Not long after that were the heroes to hold back from the contests; but sitting in rows on their benches they sped swiftly on to the plain of Ares. And it lay in front of them on the opposite side of the city, as far off as is the turning-post that a chariot must reach from the starting-point, when the kinsmen of a dead king appoint funeral games for footmen and horsemen. And they found Aeetes and the tribes of the Colchians; these were stationed on the Caucasian heights, but the king by the winding brink of the river.

(ll. 1278-1325) Now Aeson's son, as soon as his comrades had made the hawsers fast, leapt from the ship, and with spear and shield came forth to the contest; and at the same time he took the gleaming helmet of bronze filled with sharp teeth, and his sword girt round his shoulders, his body stripped, in somewise resembling Ares and in somewise Apollo of the golden sword. And gazing over the field he saw the bulls' yoke of bronze and near it the plough, all of one piece, of stubborn adamant. Then he came near, and fixed his sturdy spear upright on its butt, and taking his helmet, off leant it against the spear. And he went forward with shield alone to examine the countless tracks of the bulls, and they from some unseen lair beneath the earth, where was their strong steading, wrapt in murky smoke, both rushed out together, breathing forth flaming fire. And sore afraid were the heroes at the sight. But Jason, setting wide his feet, withstood their onset, as in the sea a rocky reef withstands the waves tossed by the countless blasts. Then in front of him he held his shield; and both the bulls with loud bellowing attacked him with their mighty horns; nor did they stir him a jot by their onset. And as when through the holes of the furnace the armourers' bellows anon gleam brightly, kindling the ravening flame, and anon cease from blowing, and a terrible roar rises from the fire when it darts up from below; so the bulls roared, breathing forth swift flame from their mouths, while the consuming heat played round him, smiting like lightning; but the maiden's charms protected him. Then grasping the tip of the horn of the right-hand bull, he dragged it mightily with all his strength to bring it near the yoke of bronze, and forced it down on to its knees, suddenly striking with his foot the foot of bronze. So also he threw the other bull on to its knees as it rushed upon him, and smote it down with one blow. And throwing to the ground his broad shield, he held them both down where they had fallen on their fore-knees, as he strode from side to side, now here, now there, and rushed swiftly through the flame. But Aeetes marvelled at the hero's might. And meantime the sons of Tyndareus for long since had it been thus ordained for them—near at hand gave him the yoke from the ground to cast round them. Then tightly did he bind their necks; and lifting the pole of bronze between them, he fastened it to the yoke by its golden tip. So the twin heroes started back from the fire to the ship. But Jason took up again his shield and cast it on his back behind him, and grasped the strong helmet filled with sharp teeth, and his resistless spear, wherewith, like some ploughman with a Pelasgian goad, he pricked the bulls beneath, striking their flanks; and very firmly did he guide the well fitted plough handle, fashioned of adamant.


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