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The Argonautica

Page: 73





BOOK IV

(ll. 1-5) Now do thou thyself, goddess Muse, daughter of Zeus, tell of the labour and wiles of the Colchian maiden. Surely my soul within me wavers with speechless amazement as I ponder whether I should call it the lovesick grief of mad passion or a panic flight, through which she left the Colchian folk.

(ll. 6-10) Aeetes all night long with the bravest captains of his people was devising in his halls sheer treachery against the heroes, with fierce wrath in his heart at the issue of the hateful contest; nor did he deem at all that these things were being accomplished without the knowledge of his daughters.

(ll. 11-29) But into Medea's heart Hera cast most grievous fear; and she trembled like a nimble fawn whom the baying of hounds hath terrified amid the thicket of a deep copse. For at once she truly forboded that the aid she had given was not hidden from her father, and that quickly she would fill up the cup of woe. And she dreaded the guilty knowledge of her handmaids; her eyes were filled with fire and her ears rung with a terrible cry. Often did she clutch at her throat, and often did she drag out her hair by the roots and groan in wretched despair. There on that very day the maiden would have tasted the drugs and perished and so have made void the purposes of Hera, had not the goddess driven her, all bewildered, to flee with the sons of Phrixus; and her fluttering soul within her was comforted; and then she poured from her bosom all the drugs back again into the casket. Then she kissed her bed, and the folding-doors on both sides, and stroked the walls, and tearing away in her hands a long tress of hair, she left it in the chamber for her mother, a memorial of her maidenhood, and thus lamented with passionate voice:

(ll. 30-33) "I go, leaving this long tress here in my stead, O mother mine; take this farewell from me as I go far hence; farewell Chalciope, and all my home. Would that the sea, stranger, had dashed thee to pieces, ere thou camest to the Colchian land!"

(ll. 34-56) Thus she spake, and from her eyes shed copious tears. And as a bondmaid steals away from a wealthy house, whom fate has lately severed from her native land, nor yet has she made trial of grievous toil, but still unschooled to misery and shrinking in terror from slavish tasks, goes about beneath the cruel hands of a mistress; even so the lovely maiden rushed forth from her home. But to her the bolts of the doors gave way self-moved, leaping backwards at the swift strains of her magic song. And with bare feet she sped along the narrow paths, with her left hand holding her robe over her brow to veil her face and fair cheeks, and with her right lifting up the hem of her tunic. Quickly along the dark track, outside the towers of the spacious city, did she come in fear; nor did any of the warders note her, but she sped on unseen by them. Thence she was minded to go to the temple; for well she knew the way, having often aforetime wandered there in quest of corpses and noxious roots of the earth, as a sorceress is wont to do; and her soul fluttered with quivering fear. And the Titanian goddess, the moon, rising from a far land, beheld her as she fled distraught, and fiercely exulted over her, and thus spake to her own heart:


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