Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 90

  "Round about the caldron go;
  In the poisoned entrails throw.
  * * * * * *
  Fillet of a fenny snake
  In the caldron boil and bake;
  Eye of newt and toe of frog,
  Wool of bat and tongue of dog.
  Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
  Lizard's leg and howlet's wing:
  * * * * * *
  Maw of ravening salt-sea shark,
  Root of hemlock digged in the dark."
  Macbeth, Act IV., Scene 1

And again:

  Macbeth. What is't you do?
  Witches. A deed without a name.

There is another story of Medea almost too revolting for record even of a sorceress, a class of persons to whom both ancient and modern poets have been accustomed to attribute every degree of atrocity. In her flight from Colchis she had taken her young brother Absyrtus with her. Finding the pursuing vessels of AEETES gaining upon the Argonauts, she caused the lad to be killed and his limbs to be strewn over the sea. AEETES on reaching the place found these sorrowful traces of his murdered son; but while he tarried to collect the scattered fragments and bestow upon them an honorable interment, the Argonauts escaped.

In the poems of Campbell will be found a translation of one of the choruses of the tragedy of Medea, where the poet Euripides has taken advantage of the occasion to pay a glowing tribute to Athens, his native city. It begins thus:

  "Oh, haggard queen! To Athens dost thou guide
  Thy glowing chariot, steeped in kindred gore;
  Or seek to hide thy damned parricide
  Where Peace and Justice dwell for evermore?"


The search for the Golden Fleece was undertaken by Jason, aided by heroes from all Greece, or Hellas as it was then called. It was the first of their common undertakings which made the Greeks feel that they were in truth one nation, though split up into many small kingdoms. Another of their great gatherings was for the Calydonian Hunt, and another, the greatest and most famous of all, for the Trojan War.

The hero of the quest for the golden Fleece was Jason. With the other heroes of the Greeks, he was present at the Calydonian Hunt. But the chief hero was Meleager, the son of OEneus, king of Calydon, and Althea, his queen.

Althea, when her son was born, beheld the three Destinies, who, as they spun their fatal thread, foretold that the life of the child should last no longer than a brand then burning upon the hearth. Althea seized and quenched the brand, and carefully preserved it for years, while Meleager grew to boyhood, youth, and manhood. It chanced, then, that OEneus, as he offered sacrifices to the gods, omitted to pay due honors to Diana, and she, indignant at the neglect, sent a wild boar of enormous size to lay waste the files of Calydon. Its eyes shone with blood and fire, its bristles stood like threatening spears, its tusks were like those of Indian elephants. The growing corn was trampled, the vines and olive trees laid waste, the flocks and herds were driven in wild confusion by the slaughtering foe. All common aid seemed vain; but Meleager called on the heroes of Greece to join in a bold hunt for the ravenous monster. Theseus and his friend Pirithous, Jason, Peleus afterwards the father of Achilles, Telamon the father of Ajax, Nestor, then a youth, but who in his age bore arms with Achilles and Ajax in the Trojan war, these and many more joined in the enterprise. With them came Atalanta, the daughter of Iasius, king of Arcadia. A buckle of polished gold confined her vest, an ivory quiver hung on her left shoulder, and her left hand bore the bow. Her face blent feminine beauty with the best graces of martial youth. Meleager saw and loved.