The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children
Page: 56Then out and spoke the magic bough which stood upon the Argo’s beak, ‘Because Father Zeus is angry, all this has fallen on you; for a cruel crime has been done on board, and the sacred ship is foul with blood.’
At that some of the heroes cried, ‘Medeia is the murderess. Let the witch-woman bear her sin, and die!’ And they seized Medeia, to hurl her into the sea, and atone for the young boy’s death; but the magic bough spoke again, ‘Let her live till her crimes are full. Vengeance waits for her, slow and sure; but she must live, for you need her still. She must show you the way to her sister Circe, who lives among the islands of the West. To her you must sail, a weary way, and she shall cleanse you from your guilt.’
Then all the heroes wept aloud when they heard the sentence of the oak; for they knew that a dark journey lay before them, and years of bitter toil. And some upbraided the dark witch-woman, and some said, ‘Nay, we are her debtors still; without her we should never have won the fleece.’ But most of them bit their lips in silence, for they feared the witch’s spells.
And now the sea grew calmer, and the sun shone out once more, and the heroes thrust the ship off the sand-bank, and rowed forward on their weary course under the guiding of the dark witch-maiden, into the wastes of the unknown sea.
Whither they went I cannot tell, nor how they came to Circe’s isle. Some say that they went to the westward, and up the Ister [130a] stream, and so came into the Adriatic, dragging their ship over the snowy Alps. And others say that they went southward, into the Red Indian Sea, and past the sunny lands where spices grow, round Æthiopia toward the West; and that at last they came to Libya, and dragged their ship across the burning sands, and over the hills into the Syrtes, where the flats and quicksands spread for many a mile, between rich Cyrene and the Lotus-eaters’ shore. But all these are but dreams and fables, and dim hints of unknown lands.
But all say that they came to a place where they had to drag their ship across the land nine days with ropes and rollers, till they came into an unknown sea. And the best of all the old songs tells us how they went away toward the North, till they came to the slope of Caucasus, where it sinks into the sea; and to the narrow Cimmerian Bosphorus, [130b] where the Titan swam across upon the bull; and thence into the lazy waters of the still Mæotid lake. [130c] And thence they went northward ever, up the Tanais, which we call Don, past the Geloni and Sauromatai, and many a wandering shepherd-tribe, and the one-eyed Arimaspi, of whom old Greek poets tell, who steal the gold from the Griffins, in the cold Riphaian hills. [131a]