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The Argonautica

Page: 88

(ll. 982-1013) Fronting the Ionian gulf there lies an island in the Ceraunian sea, rich in soil, with a harbour on both sides, beneath which lies the sickle, as legend saith—grant me grace, O Muses, not willingly do I tell this tale of olden days—wherewith Cronos pitilessly mutilated his father; but others call it the reaping-hook of Demeter, goddess of the nether world. For Demeter once dwelt in that island, and taught the Titans to reap the ears of corn, all for the love of Macris. Whence it is called Drepane, 1409 the sacred nurse of the Phaeacians; and thus the Phaeacians themselves are by birth of the blood of Uranus. To them came Argo, held fast by many toils, borne by the breezes from the Thrinacian sea; and Alcinous and his people with kindly sacrifice gladly welcomed their coming; and over them all the city made merry; thou wouldst say they were rejoicing over their own sons. And the heroes themselves strode in gladness through the throng, even as though they had set foot in the heart of Haemonia; but soon were they to arm and raise the battle-cry; so near to them appeared a boundless host of Colchians, who had passed through the mouth of Pontus and between the Cyanean rocks in search of the chieftains. They desired forthwith to carry off Medea to her father's house apart from the rest, or else they threatened with fierce cruelty to raise the dread war-cry both then and thereafter on the coming of Aeetes. But lordly Alcinous checked them amid their eagerness for war. For he longed to allay the lawless strife between both sides without the clash of battle. And the maiden in deadly fear often implored the comrades of Aeson's son, and often with her hands touched the knees of Arete, the bride of Aleinous:

(ll. 1014-1028) "I beseech thee, O queen, be gracious and deliver me not to the Colchians to be borne to my father, if thou thyself too art one of the race of mortals, whose heart rushes swiftly to ruin from light transgressions. For my firm sense forsook me—it was not for wantonness. Be witness the sacred light of Helios, be witness the rites of the maiden that wanders by night, daughter of Perses. Not willingly did I haste from my home with men of an alien race; but a horrible fear wrought on me to bethink me of flight when I sinned; other device was there none. Still my maiden's girdle remains, as in the halls of my father, unstained, untouched. Pity me, lady, and turn thy lord to mercy; and may the immortals grant thee a perfect life, and joy, and children, and the glory of a city unravaged!"

(ll. 1029-1030) Thus did she implore Arete, shedding tears, and thus each of the chieftains in turn:

(ll. 1031-1052) "On your account, ye men of peerless might, and on account of my toils in your ventures am I sorely afflicted; even I, by whose help ye yoked the bulls, and reaped the deadly harvest of the earthborn men; even I, through whom on your homeward path ye shall bear to Haemonia the golden fleece. Lo, here am I, who have lost my country and my parents, who have lost my home and all the delights of life; to you have I restored your country and your homes; with eyes of gladness ye will see again your parents; but from me a heavy-handed god has raft all joy; and with strangers I wander, an accursed thing. Fear your covenant and your oaths, fear the Fury that avenges suppliants and the retribution of heaven, if I fall into Aeetes' hands and am slain with grievous outrage. To no shrines, no tower of defence, no other refuge do I pay heed, but only to you. Hard and pitiless in your cruelty! No reverence have ye for me in your heart though ye see me helpless, stretching my hands towards the knees of a stranger queen; yet, when ye longed to seize the fleece, ye would have met all the Colchians face to thee and haughty Aeetes himself; but now ye have forgotten your courage, now that they are all alone and cut off."


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