Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 97

Milton thus alludes to the frenzy of Hercules:

  "As when Alcides (Alcides, a name of Hercules; the word means
      "descendant of Alcaeus"), from OEchalia crowned
  With conquest, felt the envenomed robe, and tore,
  Through pain, up by the roots Thessalian pines
  And Lichas from the top of OEta threw
  Into the Euboic Sea."

The gods themselves felt troubled at seeing the champion of the earth so brought to his end; but Jupiter with cheerful countenance thus addressed them; "I am pleased to see your concern, my princes, and am gratified to perceive that I am the ruler of a loyal people, and that my son enjoys your favor. For although your interest in him arises from his noble deeds, yet it is not the less gratifying to me. But now I say to you, Fear not. He who conquered all else is not to be conquered by those flames which you see blazing on Mount OEta. Only his mother's share in him can perish; what he derived from me is immortal. I shall take him, dead to earth, to the heavenly shores, and I require of you all to receive him kindly. If any of you feel grieved at his attaining this honor, yet no one can deny that he has deserved it." The gods all gave their assent; Juno only heard the closing words with some displeasure that she should be so particularly pointed at, yet not enough to make her regret the determination of her husband. So when the flames had consumed the mother's share of Hercules, the diviner part, instead of being injured thereby, seemed to start forth with new vigor, to assume a more lofty port and a more awful dignity. Jupiter enveloped him in a cloud, and took him up in a four-horse chariot to dwell among the stars. As he took his place in heaven, Atlas felt the added weight.

Juno, now reconciled to him, gave him her daughter Hebe in marriage.

The poet Schiller, in one of his pieces called the Ideal and Life, illustrates the contrast between the practical and the imaginative in some beautiful stanzas, of which the last two may be thus translated:

  "Deep degraded to a coward's slave,
  Endless contests bore Alcides brave,
  Through the thorny path of suffering led;
  Slew the Hydra, crushed the lion's might,
  Threw himself, to bring his friend to light,
  Living, in the skiff that bears the dead.
  All the torments, every toil of earth
  Juno's hatred on him could impose,
  Well he bore them, from his fated birth
  To life's grandly mournful close.
  Till the god, the earthly part forsaken,
  From the man in flames asunder taken,
  Drank the heavenly ether's purer breath.
  Joyous in the new unwonted lightness,
  Soared he upwards to celestial brightness,
  Earth's dark heavy burden lost in death.
  High Olympus gives harmonious greeting
  To the hall where reigns his sire adored;
  Youth's bright goddess, with a blush at meeting,
  Gives the nectar to her lord."
  S. G. Bulfinch