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The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 72

And when his eighteenth year was past, Aithra led him up again to the temple, and said, ‘Theseus, lift the stone this day, or never know who you are.’ And Theseus went into the thicket, and stood over the stone, and tugged at it; and it moved. Then his spirit swelled within him, and he said, ‘If I break my heart in my body, it shall up.’ And he tugged at it once more, and lifted it, and rolled it over with a shout.

And when he looked beneath it, on the ground lay a sword of bronze, with a hilt of glittering gold, and by it a pair of golden sandals; and he caught them up, and burst through the bushes like a wild boar, and leapt to his mother, holding them high above his head.

But when she saw them she wept long in silence, hiding her fair face in her shawl; and Theseus stood by her wondering, and wept also, he knew not why. And when she was tired of weeping, she lifted up her head, and laid her finger on her lips, and said, ‘Hide them in your bosom, Theseus my son, and come with me where we can look down upon the sea.’

Then they went outside the sacred wall, and looked down over the bright blue sea; and Aithra said—

‘Do you see this land at our feet?’

And he said, ‘Yes; this is Troezene, where I was born and bred.’

And she said, ‘It is but a little land, barren and rocky, and looks towards the bleak north-east. Do you see that land beyond?’

‘Yes; that is Attica, where the Athenian people dwell.’

Theseus and Aithra

‘That is a fair land and large, Theseus my son; and it looks toward the sunny south; a land of olive-oil and honey, the joy of Gods and men. For the Gods have girdled it with mountains, whose veins are of pure silver, and their bones of marble white as snow; and there the hills are sweet with thyme and basil, and the meadows with violet and asphodel, and the nightingales sing all day in the thickets, by the side of ever-flowing streams. There are twelve towns well peopled, the homes of an ancient race, the children of Kekrops the serpent king, the son of Mother Earth, who wear gold cicalas among the tresses of their golden hair; for like the cicalas they sprang from the earth, and like the cicalas they sing all day, rejoicing in the genial sun. What would you do, son Theseus, if you were king of such a land?’

Then Theseus stood astonished, as he looked across the broad bright sea, and saw the fair Attic shore, from Sunium to Hymettus and Pentelicus, and all the mountain peaks which girdle Athens round. But Athens itself he could not see, for purple Ægina stood before it, midway across the sea.


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