The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 32

Then Æson put down the lad, and whispered—

‘Fear not, but go in, and whomsoever you shall find, lay your hands upon his knees, and say, “In the name of Zeus, the father of Gods and men, I am your guest from this day forth.”’

Then the lad went in without trembling, for he too was a hero’s son; but when he was within, he stopped in wonder to listen to that magic song.

And there he saw the singer lying upon bear-skins and fragrant boughs: Cheiron, the ancient centaur, the wisest of all things beneath the sky. Down to the waist he was a man, but below he was a noble horse; his white hair rolled down over his broad shoulders, and his white beard over his broad brown chest; and his eyes were wise and mild, and his forehead like a mountain-wall.

And in his hands he held a harp of gold, and struck it with a golden key; and as he struck, he sang till his eyes glittered, and filled all the cave with light.

And he sang of the birth of Time, and of the heavens and the dancing stars; and of the ocean, and the ether, and the fire, and the shaping of the wondrous earth. And he sang of the treasures of the hills, and the hidden jewels of the mine, and the veins of fire and metal, and the virtues of all healing herbs, and of the speech of birds, and of prophecy, and of hidden things to come.

Then he sang of health, and strength, and manhood, and a valiant heart; and of music, and hunting, and wrestling, and all the games which heroes love: and of travel, and wars, and sieges, and a noble death in fight; and then he sang of peace and plenty, and of equal justice in the land; and as he sang the boy listened wide-eyed, and forgot his errand in the song.

And at the last old Cheiron was silent, and called the lad with a soft voice.

And the lad ran trembling to him, and would have laid his hands upon his knees; but Cheiron smiled, and said, ‘Call hither your father Æson, for I know you, and all that has befallen, and saw you both afar in the valley, even before you left the town.’

Then Æson came in sadly, and Cheiron asked him, ‘Why camest you not yourself to me, Æson the Æolid?’

And Æson said—

‘I thought, Cheiron will pity the lad if he sees him come alone; and I wished to try whether he was fearless, and dare venture like a hero’s son. But now I entreat you by Father Zeus, let the boy be your guest till better times, and train him among the sons of the heroes, that he may avenge his father’s house.’

Then Cheiron smiled, and drew the lad to him, and laid his hand upon his golden locks, and said, ‘Are you afraid of my horse’s hoofs, fair boy, or will you be my pupil from this day?’

‘I would gladly have horse’s hoofs like you, if I could sing such songs as yours.’