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The Argonautica

Page: 93

(ll. 1277-1317) Thus he spake with tears, and all of them that had knowledge of ships agreed thereto; but the hearts of all grew numb, and pallor overspread their cheeks. And as, like lifeless spectres, men roam through a city awaiting the issue of war or of pestilence, or some mighty storm which overwhelms the countless labours of oxen, when the images of their own accord sweat and run down with blood, and bellowings are heard in temples, or when at mid-day the sun draws on night from heaven, and the stars shine clear through the mist; so at that time along the endless strand the chieftains wandered, groping their way. Then straightway dark evening came upon them; and piteously did they embrace each other and say farewell with tears, that they might, each one apart from his fellow, fall on the sand and die. And this way and that they went further to choose a resting-place; and they wrapped their heads in their cloaks and, fasting and unfed, lay down all that night and the day, awaiting a piteous death. But apart the maidens huddled together lamented beside the daughter of Aeetes. And as when, forsaken by their mother, unfledged birds that have fallen from a cleft in the rock chirp shrilly; or when by the banks of fair-flowing Pactolus, swans raise their song, and all around the dewy meadow echoes and the river's fair stream; so these maidens, laying in the dust their golden hair, all through the night wailed their piteous lament. And there all would have parted from life without a name and unknown to mortal men, those bravest of heroes, with their task unfulfilled; but as they pined in despair, the heroine-nymphs, warders of Libya, had pity on them, they who once found Athena, what time she leapt in gleaming armour from her father's head, and bathed her by Trito's waters. It was noon-tide and the fiercest rays of the sun were scorching Libya; they stood near Aeson's son, and lightly drew the cloak from his head. And the hero cast down his eyes and looked aside, in reverence for the goddesses, and as he lay bewildered all alone they addressed him openly with gentle words:

(ll. 1318-1329) "Ill-starred one, why art thou so smitten with despair? We know how ye went in quest of the golden fleece; we know each toil of yours, all the mighty deeds ye wrought in your wanderings over land and sea. We are the solitary ones, goddesses of the land, speaking with human voice, the heroines, Libya's warders and daughters. Up then; be not thus afflicted in thy misery, and rouse thy comrades. And when Amphitrite has straightway loosed Poseidon's swift-wheeled car, then do ye pay to your mother a recompense for all her travail when she bare you so long in her womb; and so ye may return to the divine land of Achaea."

(ll. 1330-1332) Thus they spake, and with the voice vanished at once, where they stood. But Jason sat upon the earth as he gazed around, and thus cried:


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