Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 88

Hercules left the expedition at Mysia, for Hylas, a youth beloved by him, having gone for water, was laid hold of and kept by the nymphs of the spring, who were fascinated by his beauty. Hercules went in quest of the lad, and while he was absent the Argo put to sea and left him. Moore, in one of his songs, makes a beautiful allusion to this incident:

  "When Hylas was sent with his urn to the fount,
  Through fields full of light and with heart full of play,
  Light rambled the boy over meadow and mount,
  And neglected his task for the flowers in the way.

  "Thus many like me, who in youth should have tasted
  The fountain that runs by Philosophy's shrine,
  Their time with the flowers on the margin have wasted,
  And left their light urns all as empty as mine."

But Hercules, as some say, went onward to Colchis by land, and there performed many mighty deeds, and wiped away the stain of cowardice which might have clung to him.


Amid the rejoicings for the recovery of the golden Fleece, Jason felt that one thing was wanting, the presence of AESON, his father, who was prevented by his age and infirmities from taking part in them. Jason said to Medea, "My wife, I would that your arts, whose power I have seen so mighty for my aid, could do me one further service, and take some years from my life to add them to my father's." Medea replied, "Not at such a cost shall it be done, but if my art avails me, his life shall be lengthened without abridging yours." The next full moon she issued forth alone, while all creatures slept; not a breath stirred the foliage, and all was still. To the stars she addressed her incantations, and to the moon; to Hecate (Hecate was a mysterious divinity sometimes identified with Diana and sometimes with Proserpine. As Diana represents the moonlight splendor of night, so Hecate represents its darkness and terrors. She was the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft, and was believed to wander by night along the earth, seen only by the dogs whose barking told her approach.), the goddess of the underworld, and to Tellus, the goddess of the earth, by whose power plants potent for enchantments are produced. She invoked the gods of the woods and caverns, of mountains and valleys, of lakes and rivers, of winds and vapors. While she spoke the stars shone brighter, and presently a chariot descended through the air, drawn by flying serpents. She ascended it, and, borne aloft, made her way to distant regions, where potent plants grew which she knew how to select for her purpose. Nine nights she employed in her search, and during that time came not within the doors of her palace nor under any roof, and shunned all intercourse with mortals.

She next erected two altars, the one to Hecate, the other to Hebe, the goddess of youth, and sacrificed a black sheep, pouring libations of milk and wine. She implored Pluto and his stolen bride that they would not hasten to take the old man's life. Then she directed that AESON should be led forth, and having thrown him into a deep sleep by a charm, had him laid on a bed of herbs, like one dead. Jason and all others were kept away from the place, that no profane eyes might look upon her mysteries. Then, with streaming hair, she thrice moved round the altars, dipped flaming twigs in the blood, and laid them thereon to burn. Meanwhile the caldron with its contents was got ready. In it she put magic herbs, with seeds and flowers of acrid juice, stones from the distant East, and sand from the shore of all-surrounding ocean; hoar frost, gathered by moonlight, a screech-owl's head and wings, and the entrails of a wolf. She added fragments of the shells of tortoises, and the liver of stags, animals tenacious of life, and the head and beak of a crow, that outlives nine generations of men. These, with many other things without a name, she boiled together for her purposed work, stirring them up with a dry olive branch; and behold, the branch when taken out instantly became green, and before long was covered with leaves and a plentiful growth of young olives; and as the liquor boiled and bubbled, and sometimes ran over, the grass, wherever the sprinklings fell, shot forth with a verdure like that of spring.