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The Argonautica

Page: 95

(ll. 1393-1421) Then, like raging hounds, they rushed to search for a spring; for besides their suffering and anguish, a parching thirst lay upon them, and not in vain did they wander; but they came to the sacred plain where Ladon, the serpent of the land, till yesterday kept watch over the golden apples in the garden of Atlas; and all around the nymphs, the Hesperides, were busied, chanting their lovely song. But at that time, stricken by Heracles, he lay fallen by the trunk of the apple-tree; only the tip of his tail was still writhing; but from his head down his dark spine he lay lifeless; and where the arrows had left in his blood the bitter gall of the Lernaean hydra, flies withered and died over the festering wounds. And close at hand the Hesperides, their white arms flung over their golden heads, lamented shrilly; and the heroes drew near suddenly; but the maidens, at their quick approach, at once became dust and earth where they stood. Orpheus marked the divine portent, and for his comrades addressed them in prayer: "O divine ones, fair and kind, be gracious, O queens, whether ye be numbered among the heavenly goddesses, or those beneath the earth, or be called the Solitary nymphs; come, O nymphs, sacred race of Oceanus, appear manifest to our longing eyes and show us some spring of water from the rock or some sacred flow gushing from the earth, goddesses, wherewith we may quench the thirst that burns us unceasingly. And if ever again we return in our voyaging to the Achaean land, then to you among the first of goddesses with willing hearts will we bring countless gifts, libations and banquets."

(ll. 1422-1431) So he spake, beseeching them with plaintive voice; and they from their station near pitied their pain; and lo! First of all they caused grass to spring from the earth; and above the grass rose up tall shoots, and then flourishing saplings grew standing upright far above the earth. Hespere became a poplar and Eretheis an elm, and Aegle a willow's sacred trunk. And forth from these trees their forms looked out, as clear as they were before, a marvel exceeding great, and Aegle spake with gentle words answering their longing looks:

(ll. 1432-1449) "Surely there has come hither a mighty succour to your toils, that most accursed man, who robbed our guardian serpent of life and plucked the golden apples of the goddesses and is gone; and has left bitter grief for us. For yesterday came a man most fell in wanton violence, most grim in form; and his eyes flashed beneath his scowling brow; a ruthless wretch; and he was clad in the skin of a monstrous lion of raw hide, untanned; and he bare a sturdy bow of olive, and a bow, wherewith he shot and killed this monster here. So he too came, as one traversing the land on foot, parched with thirst; and he rushed wildly through this spot, searching for water, but nowhere was he like to see it. Now here stood a rock near the Tritonian lake; and of his own device, or by the prompting of some god, he smote it below with his foot; and the water gushed out in full flow. And he, leaning both his hands and chest upon the ground, drank a huge draught from the rifted rock, until, stooping like a beast of the field, he had satisfied his mighty maw."


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