A Book of Myths

Page: 94

“Take up my cause, dear cranes!” he said, “since no voice but yours answers my cry!”

And the cranes screamed hoarsely and mournfully as if in farewell, as they flapped their way towards Corinth and left the poet lying dead.

When his body was found, robbed and terribly wounded, from all over Greece, where he was known and loved, there uprose a great clamour of lamentation.

“Is it thus I find you restored to me?” said he who had expected him in Corinth as his honoured guest; [Pg 194] “I who hoped to place the victor’s laurels on your head when you triumphed in the temple of song!”

And all those whom the loving personality of Ibycus and the charm of his music had made his friends were alert and eager to avenge so foul a murder. But none knew how the wicked deed had come to pass—none, save the cranes.

Then came the day to which Ibycus had looked forward with such joy, when thousands upon thousands of his countrymen sat in the theatre at Cyprus and watched a play that stirred their hearts within them.

The theatre had for roof the blue vault of heaven; the sun served for footlights and for the lights above the heads of those who acted. The three Furies—the Eumenides—with their hard and cruel faces and snaky locks, and with blood dripping from their eyes, were represented by actors so great that the hearts of their beholders trembled within them. In their dread hands lay the punishment of murder, of inhospitality, of ingratitude, and of all the cruellest and basest of crimes. Theirs was the duty of hurrying the doomed spirits entrusted to their merciless care over the Phlegethon, the river of fire that flows round Hades, and through the brazen gates that led to Torment, and their robes were robes worn

“With all the pomp of horror, dy’d in gore.”


In solemn cadence, while the thousands of beholders watched and listened enthralled, the Furies walked round the theatre and sang their song of terror:

[Pg 195] “Woe! woe! to him whose hands are soiled with blood! The darkness shall not hide him, nor shall his dread secret lie hidden even in the bowels of the earth! He shall not seek by flight to escape us, for vengeance is ours, and swifter than a hawk that strikes its quarry shall we strike. Unwearying we pursue, nor are our swift feet and our avenging arms made slow by pity. Woe! woe! to the shedder of innocent blood, for nor peace nor rest is his until we have hurried his tormented soul down to torture that shall endure everlastingly!”

As the listeners heard the dirge of doom, there were none who did not think of Ibycus, the gentle-hearted poet, so much beloved and so foully done to death, and in the tensity of the moment when the voices ceased, a great thrill passed over the multitudes as a voice, shrill with amazed horror, burst from one of the uppermost benches: