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The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 58

And the heroes prayed her, but in vain, and cried, ‘Cleanse us from our guilt!’ But she sent them away, and said, ‘Go on to Malea, and there you may be cleansed, and return home.’

Then a fair wind rose, and they sailed eastward by Tartessus on the Iberian shore, till they came to the Pillars of Hercules, and the Mediterranean Sea. And thence they sailed on through the deeps of Sardinia, and past the Ausonian islands, and the capes of the Tyrrhenian shore, till they came to a flowery island, upon a still bright summer’s eve. And as they neared it, slowly and wearily, they heard sweet songs upon the shore. But when Medeia heard it, she started, and cried, ‘Beware, all heroes, for these are the rocks of the Sirens. You must pass close by them, for there is no other channel; but those who listen to that song are lost.’

Then Orpheus spoke, the king of all minstrels, ‘Let them match their song against mine. I have charmed stones, and trees, and dragons, how much more the hearts of men!’ So he caught up his lyre, and stood upon the poop, and began his magic song.

And now they could see the Sirens on Anthemousa, the flowery isle; three fair maidens sitting on the beach, beneath a red rock in the setting sun, among beds of crimson poppies and golden asphodel. Slowly they sung and sleepily, with silver voices, mild and clear, which stole over the golden waters, and into the hearts of all the heroes, in spite of Orpheus’ song.

And all things stayed around and listened; the gulls sat in white lines along the rocks; on the beach great seals lay basking, and kept time with lazy heads; while silver shoals of fish came up to hearken, and whispered as they broke the shining calm. The Wind overhead hushed his whistling, as he shepherded his clouds toward the west; and the clouds stood in mid blue, and listened dreaming, like a flock of golden sheep.

And as the heroes listened, the oars fell from their hands, and their heads drooped on their breasts, and they closed their heavy eyes; and they dreamed of bright still gardens, and of slumbers under murmuring pines, till all their toil seemed foolishness, and they thought of their renown no more.

Then one lifted his head suddenly, and cried, ‘What use in wandering for ever? Let us stay here and rest awhile.’ And another, ‘Let us row to the shore, and hear the words they sing.’ And another, ‘I care not for the words, but for the music. They shall sing me to sleep, that I may rest.’

And Butes, the son of Pandion, the fairest of all mortal men, leapt out and swam toward the shore, crying, ‘I come, I come, fair maidens, to live and die here, listening to your song.’


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