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The Argonautica

Page: 92

(ll. 1228-1250) Now had they left behind the gulf named after the Ambracians, now with sails wide spread the land of the Curetes, and next in order the narrow islands with the Echinades, and the land of Pelops was just descried; even then a baleful blast of the north wind seized them in mid-course and swept them towards the Libyan sea nine nights and as many days, until they came far within Syrtis, wherefrom is no return for ships, when they are once forced into that gulf. For on every hand are shoals, on every hand masses of seaweed from the depths; and over them the light foam of the wave washes without noise; and there is a stretch of sand to the dim horizon; and there moveth nothing that creeps or flies. Here accordingly the flood-tide—for this tide often retreats from the land and bursts back again over the beach coming on with a rush and roar—thrust them suddenly on to the innermost shore, and but little of the keel was left in the water. And they leapt forth from the ship, and sorrow seized them when they gazed on the mist and the levels of vast land stretching far like a mist and continuous into the distance; no spot for water, no path, no steading of herdsmen did they descry afar off, but all the scene was possessed by a dead calm. And thus did one hero, vexed in spirit, ask another:

(ll. 1251-1258) "What land is this? Whither has the tempest hurled us? Would that, reckless of deadly fear, we had dared to rush on by that same path between the clashing rocks! Better were it to have overleapt the will of Zeus and perished in venturing some mighty deed. But now what should we do, held back by the winds to stay here, if ever so short a time? How desolate looms before us the edge of the limitless land!"

(ll. 1259-1276) Thus one spake; and among them Ancaeus the helmsman, in despair at their evil case, spoke with grieving heart: "Verily we are undone by a terrible doom; there is no escape from ruin; we must suffer the cruellest woes, having fallen on this desolation, even though breezes should blow from the land; for, as I gaze far around, on every side do I behold a sea of shoals, and masses of water, fretted line upon line, run over the hoary sand. And miserably long ago would our sacred ship have been shattered far from the shore; but the tide itself bore her high on to the land from the deep sea. But now the tide rushes back to the sea, and only the foam, whereon no ship can sail, rolls round us, just covering the land. Wherefore I deem that all hope of our voyage and of our return is cut off. Let someone else show his skill; let him sit at the helm the man that is eager for our deliverance. But Zeus has no will to fulfil our day of return after all our toils."


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