METMORHOSES BOOK 8, TRANS. BY BROOKES MORE
KING MINOS AND SCYLLA
 Now Lucifer unveiled the glorious day,
and as the session of the night dissolved,
the cool east wind declined, and vapors wreathed
the moistened valleys. Veering to the south
the welcome wind gave passage to the sons
of Aeacus, and wafted Cephalus
on his returning way, propitious; where
before the wonted hour, they entered port.
King Minos, while the fair wind moved their ship,
was laying waste the land of Megara.
He gathered a great army round the walls
built by Alcathous, where reigned in splendor
King Nisus—mighty and renowned in war—upon the center of whose hoary head
a lock of purple hair was growing.—Its
proved virtue gave protection to his throne.
 Six times the horns of rising Phoebe grew,
and still the changing fortune of the war
was in suspense; so, Victory day by day
between them hovered on uncertain wings. Within that city was a regal tower
on tuneful walls; where once Apollo laid
his golden harp; and in the throbbing stone
the sounds remained. And there, in times of peace
the daughter of king Nisus loved to mount
the walls and strike the sounding stone with pebbles:
so, when the war began, she often viewed
the dreadful contest from that height;
until, so long the hostile camp remained,
she had become acquainted with the names,
and knew the habits, horses and the arms
of many a chief, and could discern the signs
of their Cydonean quivers. More than all,
the features of King Minos were engraved
upon the tablets of her mind. And when
he wore his helmet, crested with gay plumes,
she deemed it glorious; when he held his shield
shining with gold, no other seemed so grand;
and when he poised to hurl the tough spear home,
she praised his skill and strength; and when he bent
his curving bow with arrow on the cord,
she pictured him as Phoebus taking aim,—but when, arrayed in purple, and upon
the back of his white war horse, proudly decked
with richly broidered housings, he reined in
the nervous steed, and took his helmet off,
showing his fearless features, then the maid,
daughter of Nisus, could control herself
no longer; and a frenzy seized her mind. She called the javelin happy which he touched,
and blessed were the reins within his hand. She had an impulse to direct her steps,
a tender virgin, through the hostile ranks,
or cast her body from the topmost towers
into the Gnossian camp. She had a wild
desire to open to the enemy
the heavy brass-bound gates, or anything
that Minos could desire.
 And as she sat
beholding the white tents, she cried, “Alas!
Should I rejoice or grieve to see this war?
I grieve that Minos is the enemy
of her who loves him; but unless the war
had brought him, how could he be known to me?
But should he take me for a hostage? That
might end the war—a pledge of peace, he might
keep me for his companion. O, supreme
of mankind! she who bore you must have been
as beautiful as you are; ample cause
for Jove to lose his heart. O, happy hour!
If moving upon wings through yielding air,
I could alight within the hostile camp
in front of Minos, and declare to him
my name and passion! Then would I implore
what dowry he could wish, and would provide
whatever he might ask, except alone
the city of my father. Perish all
my secret hopes before one act of mine
should offer treason to accomplish it.
And yet, the kindness of a conqueror
has often proved a blessing, manifest
to those who were defeated. Certainly
the war he carries on is justified
by his slain son. He is a mighty king,
thrice strengthened in his cause. Undoubtedly
we shall be conquered, and, if such a fate
awaits our city, why should he by force
instead of my consuming love, prevail
to open the strong gates? Without delay
and dreadful slaughter, it is best for him
to conquer and decide this savage war. Ah, Minos, how I fear the bitter fate
should any warrior hurl his cruel spear
and pierce you by mischance, for surely none
can be so hardened to transfix your breast
with purpose known. Oh, let her love prevail
to open for his army the great gates.
Only the thought of it, has filled her soul;
she is determined to deliver up
her country as a dowry with herself,
and so decide the war!
 "But what avails
this idle talk. A guard surrounds the gates,
my father keeps the keys, and he alone
is my obstruction, and the innocent
account of my despair. Would to the Gods
I had no father! Is not man the God
of his own fortune, though his idle prayers
avail not to compel his destiny? Another woman crazed with passionate desires,
which now inflame me, would not hesitate,
but with a fierce abandon would destroy
whatever checked her passion. Who is there
with love to equal mine? I dare to go
through flames and swords; but swords and flames
are not now needed, for I only need
my royal father's lock of purple hair.
More precious than fine gold, it has a power
to give my heart all that it may desire.”
 While Scylla said this, night that heals our cares
came on, and she grew bolder in the dark.
And now it is the late and silent hour
when slumber takes possession of the breast.
Outwearied with the cares of busy day;
then as her father slept, with stealthy tread
she entered his abode, and there despoiled,
and clipped his fatal lock of purple hair. Concealing in her bosom the sad prize
of crime degenerate, she at once went forth
a gate unguarded, and with shameless haste
sped through the hostile army to the tent
of Minos, whom, astonished, she addressed: “Only my love has led me to this deed.
The daughter of King Nisus, I am called
the maiden Scylla. Unto you I come
and offer up a power that will prevail
against my country, and I stipulate
no recompense except yourself. Take then
this purple hair, a token of my love.—Deem it not lightly as a lock of hair
held idly forth to you; it is in truth
my father's life.” And as she spoke
she held out in her guilty hand the prize,
and begged him to accept it with her love. Shocked at the thought of such a heinous crime,
Minos refused, and said, “O execrable thing!
Despised abomination of our time!
May all the Gods forever banish you
from their wide universe, and may the earth
and the deep ocean be denied to you!
So great a monster shall not be allowed
to desecrate the sacred Isle of Crete,
where Jupiter was born.”
 So Minos spoke. Nevertheless he conquered Megara,
(so aided by the damsel's wicked deed)
and as a just and mighty king imposed
his own conditions on the vanquished land. He ordered his great fleet to tarry not;
the hawsers were let loose, and the long oars
quickly propelled his brazen-pointed ships.—When Scylla saw them launching forth,
observed them sailing on the mighty deep,
she called with vain entreaties; but at last,
aware the prince ignored her and refused
to recompense her wickedness, enraged,
and raving, she held up her impious hands,
her long hair streaming on the wind,—and said: “Oh, wherefore have you flown, and left behind
the author of your glory. Oh, wretch! wretch
to whom I offered up my native land,
and sacrificed my father! Where have you
now flown, ungrateful man whose victory
is both my crime and virtue? And the gift
presented to you, and my passion,
have these not moved you? All my love and hope
in you alone! Forsaken by my prince,
shall I return to my defeated land?
If never ruined it would shut its walls
against me.—Shall I seek my father's face
whom I delivered to all-conquering arms?
My fellow-citizens despise my name;
my friends and neighbors hate me; I have shut
the world against me, only in the hope
that Crete would surely welcome me;—and now,
he has forbidden me.
 "And is it so
I am requited by this thankless wretch!
Europa could not be your mother! Spawn
of cruel Syrtis! Savage cub of fierce
Armenian tigress;—or Charybdis, tossed
by the wild South-wind begot you! Can you be
the son of Jupiter? Your mother was
not ever tricked by the false semblance
of a bull. All that story of your birth
is false! You are the offspring of a bull
as fierce as you are! Let your vengeance fall
upon me, O my father Nisus, let
the ruined city I betrayed rejoice
at my misfortunes—richly merited—destroy me, you whom I have ruined;—I
should perish for my crimes! But why should you,
who conquered by my crime, abandon me?
The treason to my father and my land
becomes an act of kindness in your cause. That woman is a worthy mate for you
who hid in wood deceived the raging bull,
and bore to him the infamy of Crete.
I do not wonder that Pasiphae
preferred the bull to you, more savage than
the wildest beast. Alas, alas for me! Do my complaints reach your unwilling ears?
Or do the same winds waft away my words
that blow upon your ships, ungrateful man?—Ah, wretched that I am, he takes delight
in hastening from me. The deep waves resound
as smitten by the oars, his ship departs;
and I am lost and even my native land
is fading from his sight. Oh heart of flint!
you shall not prosper in your cruelty,
and you shall not forget my sacrifice;
in spite of everything I follow you!
I'll grasp the curving stern of your swift ship,
and I will follow through unending seas.”
 And as she spoke, she leaped into the waves,
and followed the receding ships—for strength
from passion came to her. And soon she clung
unwelcome, to the sailing Gnossian ship. Meanwhile, the Gods had changed her father's form
and now he hovered over the salt deep,
a hawk with tawny wings. So when he saw
his daughter clinging to the hostile ship
he would have torn her with his rending beak;—he darted towards her through the yielding air.
In terror she let go, but as she fell
the light air held her from the ocean spray;
her feather-weight supported by the breeze;
she spread her wings, and changed into a bird.
They called her “Ciris” when she cut the wind,
and “Ciris”—cut-the-lock—remains her name.
MINOS AND THE MINOTAUR
 King Minos, when he reached the land of Crete
and left his ships, remembered he had made
a vow to Jupiter, and offered up
a hundred bulls.—The splendid spoils of war
adorned his palace.—Now the infamous
reproach of Crete had grown, till it exposed
the double-natured shame. So, Minos, moved
to cover his disgrace, resolved to hide
the monster in a prison, and he built
with intricate design, by Daedalus
contrived, an architect of wonderful
ability, and famous. This he planned
of mazey wanderings that deceived the eyes,
and labyrinthic passages involved.
so sports the clear Maeander, in the fields
of Phrygia winding doubtful; back and forth
it meets itself, until the wandering stream
fatigued, impedes its wearied waters' flow;
from source to sea, from sea to source involved.
So Daedalus contrived innumerous paths,
and windings vague, so intricate that he,
the architect, hardly could retrace his steps.
 In this the Minotaur was long concealed,
and there devoured Athenian victims sent
three seasons, nine years each, till Theseus, son
of Aegeus, slew him and retraced his way,
finding the path by Ariadne's thread. Without delay the victor fled from Crete,
together with the loving maid, and sailed
for Dia Isle of Naxos, where he left
the maid forlorn, abandoned. Her, in time,
lamenting and deserted, Bacchus found
and for his love immortalized her name. He set in the dark heavens the bright crown
that rested on her brows. Through the soft air
it whirled, while all the sparkling jewels changed
to flashing fires, assuming in the sky
between the Serpent-holder and the Kneeler
the well-known shape of Ariadne's Crown.
DAEDALUS AND ICARUS
 But Daedalus abhorred the Isle of Crete—and his long exile on that sea-girt shore,
increased the love of his own native place.
“Though Minos blocks escape by sea and land.”
He said, “The unconfined skies remain
though Minos may be lord of all the world
his sceptre is not regnant of the air,
and by that untried way is our escape.”
This said, he turned his mind to arts unknown
and nature unrevealed. He fashioned quills
and feathers in due order—deftly formed
from small to large, as any rustic pipe
prom straws unequal slants. He bound with thread
the middle feathers, and the lower fixed
with pliant wax; till so, in gentle curves
arranged, he bent them to the shape of birds. While he was working, his son Icarus,
with smiling countenance and unaware
of danger to himself, perchance would chase
the feathers, ruffled by the shifting breeze,
or soften with his thumb the yellow wax,
and by his playfulness retard the work
his anxious father planned.
 But when at last
the father finished it, he poised himself,
and lightly floating in the winnowed air
waved his great feathered wings with bird-like ease.
And, likewise he had fashioned for his son
such wings; before they ventured in the air
he said, “My son, I caution you to keep
the middle way, for if your pinions dip
too low the waters may impede your flight;
and if they soar too high the sun may scorch them.
Fly midway. Gaze not at the boundless sky,
far Ursa Major and Bootes next.
Nor on Orion with his flashing brand,
but follow my safe guidance.” As he spoke
he fitted on his son the plumed wings
with trembling hands, while down his withered cheeks
the tears were falling. Then he gave his son
a last kiss, and upon his gliding wings
assumed a careful lead solicitous.
As when the bird leads forth her tender young,
from high-swung nest to try the yielding air;
so he prevailed on willing Icarus;
encouraged and instructed him in all
the fatal art; and as he waved his wings
looked backward on his son. Beneath their flight,
the fisherman while casting his long rod,
or the tired shepherd leaning on his crook,
or the rough plowman as he raised his eyes,
astonished might observe them on the wing,
and worship them as Gods.
 Upon the left
they passed by Samos, Juno's sacred isle;
Delos and Paros too, were left behind;
and on the right Lebinthus and Calymne,
fruitful in honey. Proud of his success,
the foolish Icarus forsook his guide,
and, bold in vanity, began to soar,
rising upon his wings to touch the skies;
but as he neared the scorching sun, its heat
softened the fragrant wax that held his plumes;
and heat increasing melted the soft wax—he waved his naked arms instead of wings,
with no more feathers to sustain his flight.
And as he called upon his father's name
his voice was smothered in the dark blue sea,
now called Icarian from the dead boy's name. The unlucky father, not a father, called,
“Where are you, Icarus?” and “Where are you?
In what place shall I seek you, Icarus?”
He called again; and then he saw the wings
of his dear Icarus, floating on the waves;
and he began to rail and curse his art. He found the body on an island shore,
now called Icaria, and at once prepared
to bury the unfortunate remains.
 But while he labored a pert partridge near,
observed him from the covert of an oak,
and whistled his unnatural delight. Know you the cause? 'Twas then a single bird,
the first one of its kind. 'Twas never seen
before the sister of Daedalus had brought
him Perdix, her dear son, to be his pupil.
And as the years went by the gifted youth
began to rival his instructor's art. He took the jagged backbone of a fish,
and with it as a model made a saw,
with sharp teeth fashioned from a strip of iron.
And he was first to make two arms of iron,
smooth hinged upon the center, so that one
would make a pivot while the other, turned,
described a circle. Wherefore Daedalus
enraged and envious, sought to slay the youth
and cast him headlong from Minerva's fane,—then spread the rumor of an accident. But Pallas, goddess of ingenious men,
saving the pupil changed him to a bird,
and in the middle of the air he flew
on feathered wings; and so his active mind—and vigor of his genius were absorbed
into his wings and feet; although the name
of Perdix was retained. The Partridge hides
in shaded places by the leafy trees
its nested eggs among the bush's twigs;
nor does it seek to rise in lofty flight,
for it is mindful of its former fall.
 Wearied with travel Daedalus arrived
at Sicily,—where Cocalus was king;
and when the wandering Daedalus implored
the monarch's kind protection from his foe,
he gathered a great army for his guest,
and gained renown from an applauding world.
ATALANTA AND MELEAGER
 Now after Theseus had destroyed in Crete
the dreadful monster, Athens then had ceased
to pay her mournful tribute; and with wreaths
her people decked the temples of the Gods;
and they invoked Minerva, Jupiter,
and many other Gods whom they adored,
with sacrifice and precious offerings,
and jars of Frankincense.
had spread reports of Theseus through the land;
and all the peoples of Achaia, from that day,
when danger threatened would entreat his aid.
So it befell, the land of Calydon,
through Meleager and her native hero,
implored the valiant Theseus to destroy
a raging boar, the ravage of her realm. Diana in her wrath had sent the boar
to wreak her vengeance; and they say the cause
was this:—The nation had a fruitful year,
for which the good king Oeneus had decreed
that all should offer the first fruits of corn
to Ceres—and to Bacchus wine of grapes—and oil of olives to the golden haired
Minerva. Thus, the Gods were all adored,
beginning with the lowest to the highest,
except alone Diana, and of all the Gods
her altars only were neglected. No
frankincense unto her was given! Neglect
enrages even Deities. “Am I
to suffer this indignity?” she cried,
“Though I am thus dishonored, I will not
be unrevenged!” And so the boar was sent
to ravage the fair land of Calydon.
 And this avenging boar was quite as large
as bulls now feeding on the green Epirus,
and larger than the bulls of Sicily.
A dreadful boar.—His burning, bloodshot eyes
seemed coals of living fire, and his rough neck
was knotted with stiff muscles, and thick-set
with bristles like sharp spikes. A seething froth
dripped on his shoulders, and his tusks
were like the spoils of Ind. Discordant roars
reverberated from his hideous jaws;
and lightning—belched forth from his horrid throat—scorched the green fields. He trampled the green corn
and doomed the farmer to lament his crops,
in vain the threshing-floor has been prepared,
in vain the barns await the promised yield.
Long branches of the vine and heavy grapes
are scattered in confusion, and the fruits
and branches of the olive tree, whose leaves
should never wither, are cast on the ground. His spleen was vented on the simple flocks,
which neither dogs nor shepherd could protect;
and the brave bulls could not defend their herds.
The people fled in all directions from the fields,
for safety to the cities. Terror reigned.
There seemed no remedy to save the land,
till Meleager chose a band of youths,
united for the glory of great deeds.
 What heroes shall immortal song proclaim?
Castor and Pollux, twins of Tyndarus;
one famous for his skill in horsemanship,
the other for his boxing. Jason, too, was there,
the glorious builder of the world's first ship,
and Theseus with his friend Perithous,
and Toxeus and Plexippus, fated sons
of Thestius, and the son of Aphareus,
Lynkeus with his fleet-foot brother Idas
and Caeneus, first a woman then a man
the brave Leucippus and the argonaut
Acastus, swift of dart; and warlike Dryas,
Hippothous and Phoenix, not then blind,
the son of King Amyntor, and the twain
who sprung from Actor, Phyleus thither brought
from Elis; Telamon was one of them
and even Peleus, father of the great
Achilles; and the son of Pheres joined,
and Iolas, the swift Eurytion,
Echion fleet of foot, Narycian Lelex—and Panopeus, and Hyleus and Hippasus,
and Nestor (youthful then), and the four sons
Hippocoon from eld Amyclae sent,
the father-in-law of queen Penelope,
Ancaeus of Arcadia, and the wise
soothsayer Mopsus, and the prophet, son
of Oeclus, victim of a traitor-wife.—And Atalanta, virgin of the groves,
of Mount Lycaeus, glory of her sex;
a polished buckle fastened her attire;
her lustrous hair was fashioned in a knot;
her weapons rattled in an ivory case,
swung from her white left shoulder, and she held
a bow in her left hand. Her face appeared
as maidenly for boy, or boyish for girl. When Meleager saw her, he at once
longed for her beauty, though some god forbade.
The fires of love flamed in him; and he said,
“Happy the husband who shall win this girl!”
Neither the time nor his own modesty
permitted him to say another word.
But now the dreadful contest with the boar
engaged this hero's energy and thought.
 A wood, umbrageous, not impaired with age,
slopes from a plain and shadows the wide fields,
and there this band of valiant heroes went—eager to slay the dreaded enemy,
some spread the nets and some let loose the dogs,
some traced the wide spoor of the monster's hoofs. There is a deep gorge where the rivulets
that gather from the rain, discharge themselves;
and there the bending willow, the smooth sedge,
the marsh-rush, ozier and tall tangled reed
in wild profusion cover up the marsh.
Aroused from this retreat the startled boar,
as quick as lightning from the clashing clouds
crashed all the trees that cumbered his mad way.—The young men raised a shout, leveled their spears,
and brandished their keen weapons; but the boar
rushed onward through the yelping dogs,
and scattered them with deadly sidelong stroke. Echion was the first to hurl his spear,
but slanting in its course it only glanced
a nearby maple tree, and next the spear
of long-remembered Jason cut the air;
so swiftly hurled it seemed it might transfix
the boar's back, but with over-force it sped
beyond the monster. Poising first his dart,
the son of Ampyx, as he cast it, he
implored Apollo, “Grant my prayer if I
have truly worshiped you, harken to me
as always I adore you! Let my spear
unerring strike its aim.” Apollo heard,
and guided the swift spear, but as it sped
Diana struck the iron head from the shaft,
and the blunt wood fell harmless from his hide.
 Then was the monster's savage anger roused;
as the bright lightning's flash his red eyes flamed;
his breath was hot as fire. As when a stone
is aimed at walls or strong towers, which protect
encompassed armies,—launched by the taut rope
it strikes with dreaded impact; so the boar
with fatal onset rushed among this band
of noble lads, and stretched upon the ground
Eupalamon and Pelagon whose guard
was on the right; and their companions bore
their bodies from the field. Another youth,
the brave son of Hippocoon received
a deadly wound—while turning to escape,
the sinew of his thigh was cut and failed
to bear his tottering steps.—
 And Nestor might
have perished then, so long before he fought
the heroes of old Troy, but ever wise,
he vaulted on his long lance from the ground
into the branches of a sheltering tree;
where in a safe position, he could look
down on his baffled foe. The raging boar
whetted his gleaming tushes on an oak. Then with his sharpened tusks he gored the thigh
of mighty Hippasus. Observed of all,
and mounted on their horses—whiter than
the northern snow—the twins (long afterward
transformed to constellations) sallied forth,
and brandishing their lances, poised in air,
determined to destroy the bristling boar.
It thwarted their design by hiding in
a thicket intricate; where neither steed
nor lance could penetrate. But Telamon
pursued undaunted, and in haste tripped up
by tangled roots, fell headlong.—Peleus stooped
to rescue him.
 While he regained his feet,
the virgin, Atalanta, took her bow
and fitting a sharp arrow to the notch,
twanged the tight cord. The feathered shaft
quivered beneath the monster's ear, the red blood
stained his hard bristles. Flushed with her success
rejoiced the maid, but not more gladly than
the hero Meleager. He it was
who first observed the blood, and pointed out
the stain to his companions as he cried,
“Give honor to the courage of a maid!”
Unwilling to be worsted by a maid,
the rushing heroes raised a mighty cry
and as they shouted in excitement, hurled
their weapons in confusion; and so great
the multitude their actions interfered.
 Behold! Ancaeus wielding his war-axe,
and rushing madly to his fate, exclaimed,
“Witness it! See the weapons of a man
excel a woman's! Ho, make way for my
achievement! Let Diana shield the brute!
Despite her utmost effort my right hand
shall slaughter him!” So mighty in his boast
he puffed himself; and, lifting with both hands
his double-edged axe, he stood erect,
on tiptoe fiercely bold. The savage boar
caught him, and ripped his tushes through his groin,
a spot where death is sure.—Ancaeus fell;
and his torn entrails and his crimson blood
stained the fair verdure of the spot with death.
 Ixion's doughty son was running straight
against the monster, shaking his long lance
with nervous vigor in his strong right hand;
but Theseus, standing at a distance called:
“Beware! beware, O, dearest of my friends;
be valiant at a distance, or the fate
of rashly-bold Ancaeus may be yours!” Even as he spoke he balanced in his hand
his brazen-pointed lance of corner wood;
with aim so true it seemed the great boar's death
was certain, but an evergreen oak branch
shielded the beast.—Then Jason hurled his dart,
which turned by chance, transfixed a luckless dog
and pinned him yelping, to the sanguine earth.—
 So fared those heroes. Better fortune gave
success to Meleager; first he threw
a spear that missed and quivered in the ground;
but next he hurled a spear with certain aim.
It pierced the middle of the monster's back;
and rushing in upon the dreaded beast,
while raging it was whirling round and round,
the fearless prince provoked to greater rage
the wounded adversary. Bloody froth
dripped down his champing jaws—his purple blood
poured from a rankling wound. Without delay
the mighty Meleager plunged a spear
deep in the monster's shoulder. All his friends
raised a glad shout, and gathering round him, tried
to grasp his hand.—With wonder they beheld
the monster's bulk stretched out upon the plain;
and fearful still to touch him, they began
to stain their weapons in his spouting blood.
 At length the hero Meleager pressed
his conquering foot upon the monster's head
and said, “O Atalanta, glorious maid,
of Nonacris, to you is yielded spoil,
my lawful right, and I rejoice to share
the merit of this glorious victory.” And while he spoke, he gave to her the pelt,
covered with horrid bristles, and the head
frightful with gory tusks: and she rejoiced
in Meleager and his royal gift.But all the others, envious, began
to murmur; and the sons of Thestius
levelled their pointed spears, and shouted out;
“Give up the prize! Let not the confidence
of your great beauty be a snare to you!
A woman should not interfering filch
the manly honors of a mighty hunt!
Aside! and let your witless lover yield!”
So threatened they and took from her the prize;
and forcibly despoiled him of his rights. The warlike prince, indignant and enraged,—rowed with resentment, shouted out. “What! Ho!
You spoilers of this honor that is ours,
brave deeds are different far from craven threats!”
And with his cruel sword he pierced the breast
of rash Plexippus, taken unawares,
and while his brother, Toxeus, struck with fear,
stood hesitating whether to avenge
or run to safety, Meleager plunged
the hot sword, smoking with a brother's blood,
in his breast also. And so perished they.
ALTHAEA AND THE DEATH OF MELEAGER
 Ere this, Althaea, mother of the prince,
and sister of the slaughtered twain,—because
her son had killed the boar, made haste to bear
rich offerings to the temples of the Gods;
but when she saw her slaughtered brothers borne
in sad procession, she began to shriek,
and filled the city with her wild lament.
Unwilling to abide her festal robes
she dressed in sable.—When she was informed
her own son Meleager was the cause,
she banished grief and lamentations,—thirsting for vengeance.
 She remembered well,
how, when she lay in childbirth round her stood
the three attendant sisters of his fate.
There was a billet in the room, and this
they took and cast upon the wasting flames,
and as they spun and drew the fatal threads
they softly chanted, “Unto you we give,
O child new-born! only the life of this;
the period of this billet is your life.”
And having spoken so, they vanished in the smoke. Althaea snatched the billet from the fire,
and having quenched it with drawn water, hid
it long and secretly in her own room,
where, thus preserved, it acted as a charm
to save the life of Meleager. This
the mother now brought forth, and fetched a pile
of seasoned tinder ready for the torch.
She lit the torches and the ready pile,
and as the flames leaped up, four times prepared
to cast the fatal billet in the midst;
and four times hesitated to commit
the dreadful deed,—so long the contest veered
between the feelings of a mother's breast
and the fierce vengeance of a sister's rage. Now is the mother's visage pale with fear,
and now the sister's sanguinary rage
glows in her eyes. Her countenance contorts
with cruel threats and in bewildered ways
dissolves compassionate: And even when
the heat of anger had dried up her eyes
the conflict of her passion brought new tears. As when the wind has seized upon a ship
and blows against a tide of equal force,
the vexed vessel feels repellent powers,
and with unsteady motion sways to both;
so did Althaea hesitate between
the conflict of her passions: when her rage
had cooled, her fury was as fast renewed:
but always the unsatisfied desire
of blood, to ease the disembodied shades
of her slain brothers, seemed to overcome
the mother-instinct; and intensity
of conduct proved the utmost test of love.
 She took the billet in her arms and stood
before the leaping flames, and said, “Alas,
be this the funeral pyre of my own flesh!”
And as she held in her relentless hand
the destiny of him she loved, and stood
before the flames, in all her wretchedness
she moaned, “You sad Eumenides attend!
Relentless Gods of punishment,—turn, turn
your dreadful vision on these baneful rites!
I am avenging and committing crime!
With death must death be justified and crime
be added unto crime! Let funerals
upon succeeding funerals attend! Let these accumulating woes destroy
a wicked race. Shall happy Oeneus bask
in the great fame of his victorious son,
and Thestius mourn without slaughtered ones?
'Tis better they should both lament the deed!
Witness the act of my affection, shades
of my departed brothers! and accept
my funeral offering, given at a cost
beyond my strength to bear. Ah wretched me!
Distracted is my reason! Pity me,
the yearnings of a stricken mother's heart
withholding me from duty! Aye, although
his punishment be just, my hands refuse
the office of such vengeance. What, shall he
alive, victorious, flushed with his success,
inherit the broad realms of Calydon,
and you, my slaughtered brothers, unavenged,
dissolved in ashes, float upon the air,
unpalpitating phantoms? How can I
endure the thought of it? Oh let the wretch
forever perish, and with him be lost
the hopes of his sad father, in the wreck
of his distracted kingdom. Where are now
the love and feelings of a mother; how
can I forget the bitter pangs endured
while twice times five the slow moon waxed and waned?
 “O had you perished in your infancy
by those first fires, and I had suffered it!
Your life was in my power! and now your death
is the result of wrongs which you have done—take now a just reward for what you did:
return to me the life I gave and saved.
When from the flames I snatched the fatal brand.
Return that gift or take my wretched life,
that I may hasten to my brothers' tomb. What dreadful deed can satisfy the law,
when I for love against my love am forced?
For even as my brothers' wounds appear
in visions dreadful to denounce my son,
the love so nurtured in a mother's breast
breaks down the resolution! Wretched me!
Such vengeance for my brothers overcomes
first at your birth I gave it, and again
the yearning of a mother for her son!
Let not my love denounce my vengeance!
My soul may follow with its love the shade
of him I sacrifice, and following him
my shade and his and yours unite below.”
 She spoke and as she turned her face away,
she threw the fatal billet on the fire,
and as the flames devoured it, a strange groan
was heard to issue from the burning wood but Meleager at a distance knows
of naught to wreck his hour of victory,
until he feels the flame of burning wood
scorching with secret fire his forfeit life.
Yet with a mighty will, disdaining pain
he grieves his bloodless and ignoble death.
He calls Ancaeus happy for the wounds
that caused his death. With sighs and groans he called
his aged father's name, and then the names
of brothers, sisters, and his wife—and last,
they say he called upon his mother's name. His torment always with the fire increased,
until, as little of the wood remained,—his pain diminished with the heat's decrease;
and as the flames extinguished, so his life
slowly ascended in the rising air.
 And all the mighty realm of Calydon
was filled with lamentations—young and old
the common people and the nobles mourned;
and all the wailing women tore their hair
his father threw his body on the ground,
and as he covered his white hair and face
with ashy dust, bewailed his aged days. Althaea, maddened in her mother's grief,
has punished herself with a ruthless hand;
she pierced her heart with iron.—Oh! if some God
had given a resounding harp, a voice
an hundred-fold more mighty, and a soul
enlarged with genius, I could never tell
the grief of his unhappy sisters.—They,
regardless of all shame, beat on their breasts;
before the body was consumed with fire,
embraced it, and again embracing it,
rained kisses on their loved one and the bier.
And when the flames had burnt his shrinking form
they strained his gathered ashes to their breasts,
and prostrate on the tomb kissed his dear name,
cut only in the stone,—and bathed it with their tears Latona's daughter, glutted with the woes
inflicted on Parthaon's house, now gave
two of the weeping sisters wide-spread wings,
but Gorge and the spouse of Hercules
not so were changed. Latona stretched long wings
upon their arms, transformed their mouths to beaks,
and sent them winging through the lucent air.
PERIMELA AND ACHELOUS
 And Theseus, meantime, having done great deeds,
was wending towards Tritonian Athen's towers,
but Achelous, swollen with great rains,
opposed his journey and delayed his steps.
“O famous son of Athens, come to me,
beneath my roof, and leave my rapid floods;
for they are wont to bear enormous beams,
and hurl up heavy stones to bar the way,—mighty with roaring, down the steep ravines.
And I have seen the sheep-folds on my banks
swept down the flood, together with the sheep;
and in the current neither strength availed
the ox for safety, nor swift speed the horse.
When rushed the melting snows from mountain peaks
how many bodies of unwary men
this flood has overwhelmed in whirling waves!
Rest safely then, until my river runs
within its usual bounds—till it contains
its flowing waters in its proper banks." And gladly answered Theseus, “I will make
good use of both your dwelling and advice.”
And waiting not he entered a rude hut,
of porous pumice and of rough stone built.
The floor was damp and soft with springy moss,
and rows of shells and murex arched the roof.
 And now Hyperion having measured quite
two thirds of daylight, Theseus and his friends
reclined upon the couches.—On his right
Ixion's son was placed, and on his left
the gray-haired hero Lelex; and others
deemed worthy by the Acarnanian-god
who was so joyful in his noble guests.
Without delay the barefoot nimble Nymphs
attending to the banquet, rich food brought;
and after all were satisfied with meat
and dainties delicate, the careful Nymphs
removed all traces of the feast, and served
delicious wine in bowls embossed with gems.
 And after they had eaten, Theseus arose,
and as he pointed with his finger, said,
“Declare to me what name that island bears,
or is it one or more than one I see?”
To which the ready River-God replied: “It is not one we see but five are there,
deceptive in the distance. And that you
may wonder less at what Diana did,
those islands were five Naiads.—Long ago,
ten bullocks for a sacrifice they slew;
and when the joyous festival was given,
ignoring me they bade all other Gods.
Indignant at the slight, I swelled with rage
as great as ever when my banks are full,—and so redoubled both in rage and flood,
I ravished woods from woods, and fields from fields,
and hurled into the sea the very soil,
together with the Nymphs, who then at last
remembered their neglect. And soon my waves,
united with the ocean streams, cut through
the solid soil, and fashioned from the one,
five islands you may see amid the waves,
which men since then, have called Echinades.
 "But yet beyond you can observe how one
most beautiful of all is far withdrawn;
and this which most delights me, mariners
have Perimela named. She was so fair
that I deprived her of a precious wealth.
And when Hippodamas, her father, knew,
enraged he pushed her, heavy then with child,
forth from a rock into the cruel sea,
where she must perish,—but I rescued her;
and as I bore her on my swimming tide,
I called on Neptune, ruler of the deep, `O Trident-wielder, you who are preferred
next to the god most mighty! who by lot
obtained the empire of the flowing deep,
to which all sacred rivers flow and end;
come here, O Neptune, and with gracious will
grant my desire;—I injured her I save;—but if Hippodamas, her father, when
he knew my love, had been both kind and just,
if he had not been so unnatural,
he would have pitied and forgiven her.
Ah, Neptune, I beseech you, grant your power
may find a place of safety for this Nymph,
abandoned to the deep waves by her sire.
Or if that cannot be, let her whom I
embrace to show my love, let her become
a place of safety.’ Instantly to me
the King of Ocean moved his mighty head,
and all the deep waves quivered in response. The Nymph, afraid, still struggled in the deep,
and as she swam I touched her throbbing breast;
and as I felt her bosom, trembling still,
I thought her soft flesh was becoming hard;
for even then, new earth enclosed her form;
and as I prayed to Neptune, earth encased
her floating limbs;—and on her changing form
the heavy soil of that fair island grew.”
BAUCIS AND PHILEMON
 And at this point, the River said no more.
This wonderful event astonished all;
but one was there, Ixion's haughty son—a known despiser of the living Gods—who, laughing, scorned it as an idle tale.
He made a jest of those who heard, and said,
“A foolish fiction! Achelous, how
can such a tale be true? Do you believe
a god there is, in heaven so powerful,
a god to give and take away a form—transform created shapes? Such impious words
found no response in those who heard him speak.
Amazed he could so doubt known truth, before
them all, uprose to vindicate the Gods
the hero Lelex, wise in length of days.
“The glory of the living Gods,” he said,
“Is not diminished, nor their power confined,
and whatsoever they decree is done. And I have this to tell, for all must know
the evil of such words:—Upon the hills
of Phrygia I have seen two sacred trees,
a lime-tree and an oak, so closely grown
their branches interlace. A low stone wall
is built around to guard them from all harm.
And that you may not doubt it, I declare
again, I saw the spot, for Pittheus there
had sent me to attend his father's court. Near by those trees are stagnant pools and fens,
where coots and cormorants delight to haunt;
but it was not so always.
 "Long ago
'twas visited by mighty Jupiter,
together with his nimble-witted son,
who first had laid aside his rod and Wings. As weary travelers over all the land
they wandered, begging for their food and bed;
and of a thousand houses, all the doors
were bolted and no word of kindness given—so wicked were the people of that land.
At last, by chance, they stopped at a small house,
whose humble roof was thatched with reeds and straw;—and here a kind old couple greeted them. The good dame, Baucis, seemed about the age
of old Philemon, her devoted man;
they had been married in their early youth,
in that same cottage and had lived in it,
and grown together to a good old age;
contented with their lot because they knew
their poverty, and felt no shame of it;
they had no need of servants; the good pair
were masters of their home and served themselves;
their own commands they easily obeyed.
 "Now when the two Gods, Jove and Mercury,
had reached this cottage, and with bending necks
had entered the low door, the old man bade
them rest their wearied limbs, and set a bench,
on which his good wife, Baucis, threw a cloth;
and then with kindly bustle she stirred up
the glowing embers on the hearth, and then
laid tinder, leaves and bark; and bending down
breathed on them with her ancient breath until
they kindled into flame. Then from the house
she brought a store of faggots and small twigs,
and broken branches, and above them swung
a kettle, not too large for simple folk.
And all this done, she stripped some cabbage leaves,
which her good husband gathered for the meal. Then with a two-pronged fork the man let down
a rusty side of bacon from aloft,
and cut a little portion from the chine;
which had been cherished long. He softened it
in boiling water. All the while they tried
with cheerful conversation to beguile,
so none might notice a brief loss of time. Swung on a peg they had a beechwood trough,
which quickly with warm water filled, was used
for comfortable washing. And they fixed,
upon a willow couch, a cushion soft
of springy sedge, on which they neatly spread
a well worn cloth preserved so many years;
'Twas only used on rare and festive days;
and even it was coarse and very old,
though not unfit to match a willow couch!
 "Now as the Gods reclined, the good old dame,
whose skirts were tucked up, moving carefully,
for so she tottered with her many years,
fetched a clean table for the ready meal—but one leg of the table was too short,
and so she wedged it with a potsherd—so
made firm, she cleanly scoured it with fresh mint. And here is set the double-tinted fruit
of chaste Minerva, and the tasty dish
of corner, autumn-picked and pickled; these
were served for relish; and the endive-green,
and radishes surrounding a large pot
of curdled milk; and eggs not overdone
but gently turned in glowing embers—all
served up in earthen dishes. Then sweet wine
served up in clay, so costly! all embossed,
and cups of beechwood smoothed with yellow wax. So now they had short respite, till the fire
might yield the heated course. Again they served
new wine, but mellow; and a second course:
sweet nuts, dried figs and wrinkled dates and plums,
and apples fragrant, in wide baskets heaped;
and, in a wreath of grapes from purple vines,
concealed almost, a glistening honey-comb;
and all these orchard dainties were enhanced
by willing service and congenial smiles.
 " But while they served, the wine-bowl often drained,
as often was replenished, though unfilled,
and Baucis and Philemon, full of fear,
as they observed the wine spontaneous well,
increasing when it should diminish, raised
their hands in supplication, and implored
indulgence for their simple home and fare.
And now, persuaded by this strange event
such visitors were deities unknown,
this aged couple, anxious to bestow
their most esteemed possession, hastily
began to chase the only goose they had—the faithful guardian of their little home—which they would kill and offer to the Gods.
But swift of wing, at last it wearied them,
and fled for refuge to the smiling Gods.
At once the deities forbade their zeal,
and said, `A righteous punishment shall fall
severe upon this wicked neighborhood;
but by the might of our divinity,
no evil shall befall this humble home;
but you must come, and follow as we climb
the summit of this mountain!’
 "Both obeyed,
and leaning on their staves toiled up the steep.
Not farther from the summit than the flight
of one swift arrow from a hunter's how,
they paused to view their little home once more;
and as they turned their eyes, they saw the fields
around their own engulfed in a morass,
although their own remained,—and while they wept
bewailing the sad fate of many friends,
and wondered at the change, they saw their home,
so old and little for their simple need—put on new splendor, and as it increased
it changed into a temple of the gods.
Where first the frame was fashioned of rude stakes
columns of marble glistened, and the thatch
gleamed golden in the sun, and legends carved,
adorned the doors. And all the ground shone white
with marble rich, and after this was done,
the Son of Saturn said with gentle voice,
`Now tell us, good old man and you his wife,
worthy and faithful, what is your desire?’
 "Philemon counselled with old Baucis first;
and then discovered to the listening Gods
their hearts' desire, `We pray you let us have
the care of your new temple; and since we
have passed so many years in harmony,
let us depart this life together—Let
the same hour take us both—I would not see
the tomb of my dear wife; and let me not
be destined to be buried by her hands!’ At once their wishes were fulfilled. So long
as life was granted they were known to be
the temple's trusted keepers, and when age
had enervated them with many years,
as they were standing, by some chance, before
the sacred steps, and were relating all
these things as they had happened, Baucis saw
Philemon, her old husband, and he, too,
saw Baucis, as their bodies put forth leaves;
and while the tops of trees grew over them,
above their faces,—they spoke each to each;
as long as they could speak they said, `Farewell,
farewell, my own’—and while they said farewell;
new leaves and branches covered both at once.
 "The people of Tyana (Thynia) still point out
two trees which grew there from a double trunk,
two forms made into one. Old truthful men,
who have no reason to deceive me, told
me truly all that I have told to you,
and I have seen the votive wreaths hung from
the branches of the hallowed double-tree.
And one time, as I hung fresh garlands there,
I said, `Those whom the Gods care for are Gods!
And those who worshiped are now worshiped here.’”
 He ceased, and this miraculous event,
and he who told it, had astonished them.
But Theseus above all. The hero asked
to hear of other wonders wrought by Gods.
The Calydonian River-God replied,
and leaning on one elbow, said to him:
“There are, O valiant hero, other things
whose forms once-changed as these, have so remained,
but there are some who take on many shapes,
as you have, Proteus, dweller of the deep—the deep whose arms embrace the earth. For some
have seen you as a youth, then as a lion,
a furious boar one time, a serpent next,
so dreadful to the touch—and sometimes horns
have made you seem a bull—or now a stone,
or now a tree, or now a slipping stream,
or even—the foe of water—next a fire.”
ERYSICHTHON AND MESTRA
 "Now Erysichthon's daughter, Mestra, had
that power of Proteus—she was called the wife
of deft Autolycus.—Her father spurned
the majesty of all the Gods, and gave
no honor to their altars. It is said
he violated with an impious axe
the sacred grove of Ceres, and he cut
her trees with iron. Long-standing in her grove
there grew an ancient oak tree, spread so wide,
alone it seemed a standing forest; and
its trunk and branches held memorials,
as, fillets, tablets, garlands, witnessing
how many prayers the goddess Ceres granted.
And underneath it laughing Dryads loved
to whirl in festal dances, hand in hand,
encircling its enormous trunk, that thrice
five ells might measure; and to such a height
it towered over all the trees around,
as they were higher than the grass beneath.
 "But Erysichthon, heedless of all things,
ordered his slaves to fell the sacred oak,
and as they hesitated, in a rage
the wretch snatched from the hand of one an axe,
and said, `If this should be the only oak
loved by the goddess of this very grove,
or even were the goddess in this tree,
I'll level to the ground its leafy head.' So boasted he, and while he swung on high
his axe to strike a slanting blow, the oak
beloved of Ceres, uttered a deep groan
and shuddered. Instantly its dark green leaves
turned pale, and all its acorns lost their green,
and even its long branches drooped their arms.
But when his impious hand had struck the trunk,
and cut its bark, red blood poured from the wound,—as when a weighty sacrificial bull
has fallen at the altar, streaming blood
spouts from his stricken neck. All were amazed.
And one of his attendants boldly tried
to stay his cruel axe, and hindered him;
but Erysichthon, fixing his stern eyes
upon him, said, `Let this, then, be the price
of all your pious worship!' So he turned
the poised axe from the tree, and clove his head
sheer from his body, and again began
to chop the hard oak. From the heart of it
these words were uttered; `Covered by the bark
of this oak tree I long have dwelt a Nymph,
beloved of Ceres, and before my death
it has been granted me to prophesy,
that I may die contented. Punishment
for this vile deed stands waiting at your side.' No warning could avert his wicked arm.
Much weakened by his countless blows, the tree,
pulled down by straining ropes, gave way at last
and leveled with its weight uncounted trees
that grew around it.
 "Terrified and shocked,
the sister-dryads, grieving for the grove
and what they lost, put on their sable robes
and hastened unto Ceres, whom they prayed,
might rightly punish Erysichthon's crime;—the lovely goddess granted their request,
and by the gracious movement of her head
she shook the fruitful, cultivated fields,
then heavy with the harvest; and she planned
an unexampled punishment deserved,
and not beyond his miserable crimes—the grisly bane of famine; but because
it is not in the scope of Destiny,
that two such deities should ever meet
as Ceres and gaunt Famine,—calling forth
from mountain-wilds a rustic Oread,
the goddess Ceres, said to her, `There is
an ice-bound wilderness of barren soil
in utmost Scythia, desolate and bare
of trees and corn, where Torpid-Frost, White-Death
and Palsy and Gaunt-Famine, hold their haunts;
go there now, and command that Famine flit
from there; and let her gnawing-essence pierce
the entrails of this sacrilegious wretch,
and there be hidden—Let her vanquish me
and overcome the utmost power of food.
Heed not misgivings of the journey's length,
for you will guide my dragon-bridled car
through lofty ether.'
 "And she gave to her
the reins; and so the swiftly carried Nymph
arrived in Scythia. There, upon the told
of steepy Caucasus, when she had slipped
their tight yoke from the dragons' harnessed necks,
she searched for Famine in that granite land,
and there she found her clutching at scant herbs,
with nails and teeth. Beneath her shaggy hair
her hollow eyes glared in her ghastly face,
her lips were filthy and her throat was rough
and blotched, and all her entrails could be seen,
enclosed in nothing but her shriveled skin;
her crooked loins were dry uncovered bones,
and where her belly should be was a void;
her flabby breast was flat against her spine;
her lean, emaciated body made
her joints appear so large, her knobbled knees
seemed large knots, and her swollen ankle-bones
 "When the Nymph, with keen sight, saw
the Famine-monster, fearing to draw near
she cried aloud the mandate she had brought
from fruitful Ceres, and although the time
had been but brief, and Famine far away,
such hunger seized the Nymph, she had to turn
her dragon-steeds, and flee through yielding air
and the high clouds;—at Thessaly she stopped.
 "Grim Famine hastened to obey the will
of Ceres, though their deeds are opposite,
and rapidly through ether heights was borne
to Erysichthon's home. When she arrived
at midnight, slumber was upon the wretch,
and as she folded him in her two wings,
she breathed her pestilential poison through
his mouth and throat and breast, and spread the curse
of utmost hunger in his aching veins. When all was done as Ceres had decreed,
she left the fertile world for bleak abodes,
and her accustomed caves.
 "While this was done
sweet Sleep with charming pinion soothed the mind
of Erysichthon. In a dreamful feast
he worked his jaws in vain, and ground his teeth,
and swallowed air as his imagined food;
till wearied with the effort he awoke
to hunger scorching as a fire, which burned
his entrails and compelled his raging jaws,
so he, demanding all the foods of sea
and earth and air, raged of his hunger, while
the tables groaned with heaps before him spread;
he, banqueting, sought banquets for more food,
and as he gorged he always wanted more. The food of cities and a nation failed
to satisfy the cravings of one man.
The more his stomach gets, the more it needs—even as the ocean takes the streams of earth,
although it swallows up great rivers drawn
from lands remote, it never can be filled
nor satisfied. And as devouring fire
its fuel refuses never, but consumes
unnumbered beams of wood, and burns for more
the more 'tis fed, and from abundance gains
increasing famine, so the raving jaws
of wretched Erysichthon, ever craved
all food in him, was only cause of food,
and what he ate made only room for more.
 "And after Famine through his gluttony
at last had wasted his ancestral wealth
his raging hunger suffered no decline,
and his insatiate gluttony increased.
When all his wealth at last was eaten up,
his daughter, worthy of a fate more kind,
alone was left to him and her he sold.
Descendant of a noble race, the girl
refusing to be purchased as a slave,
then hastened to the near shore of the sea,
and as she stretched her arms above the waves,
implored kind Neptune with her tears, `Oh, you
who have deprived me of virginity,
deliver me from such a master's power!' Although the master, seeking her, had seen
her only at that moment, Neptune changed
her quickly from a woman to a man,
by giving her the features of a man
and garments proper to a fisher-man:
and there she stood. He even looked at her
and cried out, `Hey, there! Expert of the rod!
While you are casting forth the bit of brass,
concealed so deftly in its tiny bait,—gods-willing! let the sea be smooth for you,
and let the foolish fishes swimming up,
never know danger till they snap the hook!
Now tell me where is she, who only now,
in tattered garment and wind-twisted hair,
was standing on this shore—for I am sure
I saw her standing on this shore, although
no footstep shows her flight.” By this assured
the favor of the god protected her;
delighted to be questioned of herself,
she said, “No matter who you are, excuse me.
So busy have I been at catching fish,
I have not had the time to move my eyes
from this pool; and that you may be assured
I only tell the truth, may Neptune, God
of ocean witness it, I have not seen a man
where I am standing on this shore—myself
excepted—not a woman has stood here.” Her master could not doubt it, and deceived
retraced his footsteps from the sandy shore.
As soon as he had disappeared, her form
unchanged, was given back to her. But when
her father knew his daughter could transform
her body and escape, he often sold
her first to one and then another—all
of whom she cheated—as a mare, bird,
a cow, or as a stag she got away; and so
brought food, dishonestly, to ease his greed. And so he lived until the growing strength
of famine, gnawing at his vitals, had
consumed all he could get by selling her:
his anguish burned him with increasing heat.
He gnawed his own flesh, and he tore his limbs
and fed his body all he took from it.
 "Ah, why should I dwell on the wondrous deeds
of others—Even I, O gathered youths,
have such a power I can often change
my body till my limit has been reached.
A while appearing in my real form,
another moment coiled up as a snake,
then as a monarch of the herd my strength
increases in my horns—my strength increased
in my two horns when I had two—but now
my forehead, as you see, has lost one horn."
And having ended with such words,—he groaned.