Classical Texts Library >> Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica >> Book 7




1. Jason & King Pelias
2. Assembly of the Argonauts
3. Death of Aeson


1. Women of Lemnos
2. Hercules & the Sea Monster
3. The Hellespont


1. Cyzicus
2. Hylas & the Naiads


1. Wresling of Amcyus
2. Phineus & the Harpies
3. The Clashing Rocks


1. The Black Sea
2. Jason & King Aeetes


1. Colchian-Scythian War
2. Hera & the Love of Medea


1. Jason & Medea
2. Jason & the Bronze Bulls


1. Theft of the Golden Fleece
2. Marriage of Jason & Medea
3. Absyrtus' Pursuit


[1] Now doth late evening sunder thee, maiden, from the Thessalian stranger, and now do thy joys leave thee, while night comes on apace with balm for all save for the lover alone. So when, heart-sick, with feet that hesitated on the threshold’s verge, she gained her chamber and in the darkness her imaginings took fire, long time she lay unsleeping, brooding on various plaints and ignorant of what plague was vexing her; at last at the height of her distress she dares avow the cause, and thus she speaks: “What mishap, what wilful deluding error holds me that so I lie ever sleepless? Not such for sure were my nights ere I had seen thy countenance, gallant youth. What madness makes me recall it again and yet again, though oceans lie between us? Why are my thoughts upon the stranger only? Nay, let him rather even now receive his kinsman Phrixus’ fleece, his only quest and sole cause of all his toil. For when will he see this abode again? or when will my father visit Haemonia’s cities? Happy they who braved the intervening seas, nor feared so long a voyage but straightway followed so valiant a hero to this land: for all that, valiant though he be, let him begone.”

[21] Then, as restlessly she tosses and tries now this, now that side of her couch, lo! she sees the doorway shimmering white as the daystar fades, nor less did the risen dawn refresh the love-sick girl than when a light shower lifts drooping ears of corn, or a welcome breeze descends upon weary oarsmen.

[26] But already the Minyae are bethinking them of the purpose of their long voyage; and in the very hour of triumph and of service they in vain repair to the king; and Jason, suffering him first o pay the gods his vowed burnt-offering of captured booty, leans forward and casts his gaze afar, to see if the golden fleece be already there, making the courtyard bright with its promised wool.

[32] But while he even now is preparing his countenance for speech, the other forestalls him and cuts short his tarrying, ay, even as he tarries springs forward to his face and thus outpours his wrath: “Sons of another world, with your own shores and realms, what madness has driven you to this land over seas so wide, or was I the object of your friendship? Thou Phrixus, my son-in-law, wert the prime cause of ill for me. Alas! that thou wert not drowned in the same sea as thy sister! that so I might be happy, knowing to-day no Grecian name! Who is King Pelias, who the Thessalian, what is Greece? what race of men do I here behold? or where are the Cyanean rocks? Look! a stranger has come to Scythian shores! Shall Jason with fifty outcasts (O shame!) win through to Asia? and shall one vessel, one! so slight me beyond all other men as to bear away spoils from a living prince? Shall he command me myself to offer, myself to throw open my own groves, nor even deign to conquer? Pirate, why hast thou not a fancy to ravish the sacred gifts from all our shrines, and our own daughters from our bosoms? Shall I think you have parents, you have homes, whom your ship alone supports with impious brigandage and savage tempests feed, you whom – to trust your own tale – your king has flung upon the waves and forbidden to return, that he may possess forsooth, the gold of the Aeolian ram! Ere that shall my own Caucasus descend, its shadowy forests felled, and over the seas track out the Haemonian robbers; ere that shall I see return living from the deep that Helle whose image I have bidden be set up adorned with funeral chaplets.1

[58] “Yet if otherwise thou refusest to depart from this land, if shame of a fruitless homecoming moves thee and if aught more than its crew lies hidden2 in that one ship, I will not withhold what ye demand: only do thou first perform what I bid thee. Before the city there lies the plain of Mars, rough with neglect through many years, and fiery bulls there are, slow sometimes to recognise even me when the ploughshare bites the ground. These more and more have my increasing years now suffered to grow wild and unruly, and a prouder flame than of wont shoots from their bellowing mouths. Succeed then, valiant stranger, to my renown, and till my fields once more. The seed which once I sowed will not be lacking, nor the harvest which I encountered alone. One night will suffice for thy decision, alone with thy gods consider my behest; and if there be aught in that wooden hulk of thine, thou wilt undertake the rustic toil I told thee of. For myself, I know not yet whether I would have thee straightway enwrapped in flame and darkness, or rather see thee endure a while till the plain be upturned and the seeds sown and warriors come forth from the teeth of Cadmus’ snake and the fallows flower with armed men.”

[78] His daughter first, perplexed and marvelling at the cruel tyrant’s words, turned her pale face towards the youth, trembling for fear lest the stranger unwitting make the venture, and, hapless one, deem he were equal to the task. He too, stricken through with horror, stood motionless in anger and dismay. Not so thunderstruck stands the Ionian and Tyrrhenian skipper, when, as he gazes towards Tiber and the lighthouse clearly sighted ‘neath a summer sky, suddenly driven headlong he sees nowhere the river-mouth, nowhere Ausonia, but the fierce Syrtes drawing nigh. Yet he bethinks him then what answer to make to the impious tyrant, and at length rises from his deep pondering. “Not such was the returning,” says he, “not such the hope thou didst offer to the Minyae, Aeetes, when first we donned our armour before thy walls. Whither is thy promise gone? What guile are ye3 plotting in this behest? Another Pelias see I here, another ocean. Nay, come now all ye tyrants, vent your imperious hate upon this head; never shall right hand nor confidence fail me; I am accustomed to obey nor yield to hardship. One thing I beg: if that harvest overwhelm me with its spears, or if to-morrow the flames of those confronting jaws swallow me up, let a message be sent hence to Pelias’ cruel ears, that my men have perished here, and that I, if in aught ye had been trustworthy, could have been brought back to my native land.”

[101] Then leaves he father and daughter, astonished at his words, and rushes forth headlong from the faithless hall. But the maiden trembling and abandoned ‘mid her own folk is silent, nor could she even for a while hold her eyes fixed upon the ground, nor keep her sad gaze from roaming, but looked toward the gates and found him still even as he went; and alas! as he departed still comelier seemed the stranger to the lovelorn girl: such shoulders, such frame doth he leave to her remembrance. She prays that the house and very doors may move forward a space,4 yet keeps her ardent steps within the threshold. As when wandering Io felt the sandy verge and ventured and shrank again, yet by compulsion of Erinys must she go upon the swelling sea, and the Pharian matrons call her over the deep: not otherwise moves she to and fro and hovers by the open doors, if perchance her sire in kindlier mood recall the Minyae; and, seeking in vain the stranger’s face, either she mourns exhausted by her lonely couch, or flees for refuge to her dear sister’s bosom, and essaying to speak is silent; and again returning asks her how Phrixus came from abroad to settle in the Aeaean land, how Circe was borne away by winged serpents. Then doth she gaze, wretched girl, upon her handmaidens, nor can be sated with looking; and suddenly she clings to her parents in coaxing mood, and covers her father’s hand with kisses. So doth a favourite lapdog that is wont to share its mistress’ table and her cushions, when already sick with a new plague and approaching madness, roam whimpering, ere it flee, over all the house.

[128] And at length she thus chides herself in gentle anger: “On thou goest, mad girl, and it is the image and thought of him that tortures thee; and he perchance is fled and out at sea, nor will he bear back even my name to the cities of his land. Yet why feel I so for him, whether he master his toils, or whether he fall, and Greece be confounded with so great a grief? At least, if already his last hour be come, it were better he had gone to an unknown court! Ah! grant, ay, grant he perished not in this city! For he is of our own Phrixus’ heavenly seed, they say, and my own dear sister, I saw, grieved over him; and he says, poor youth, that by command was he driven to sail these seas. Well, may he return, whate’er befall, nor know that I make this prayer, and may he not hate my father.”

[141] So her bed, if haply repose may come in pity, whereupon on this side the stranger kneels imploring, on that her sire. New terrors make her start from slumber, upright upon her bed; she recognises her maidens and the home she loves, who but a moment since was faring through the towns of Thessaly: even as Orestes, his mind disordered by Furies and blind fears, seizes a sword and slashes at his fierce mother’s armed bands: ‘tis himself the snakes are stinging, himself on whom the horrid-sounding lash is wreaking its ire, and once more in fancy he pursues the Laconian harlot, all hot to slay her; and wearily doth he return from the imagined slaughter of the goddesses, and fall upon the neck of his unhappy sister.

[153] When Juno sees the Colchian maid wavering perplexed to no purpose nor yielding yet to the full force of passion, no more doth she take the voice and countenance of feigned Chalciope. Since her love is waning, and being milder brings shame, and her heart strives against the poison, she rises aloft into the tenuous air and seeks out Venus amid Olympus’ ruddy glow. “Mindful am I how thou didst join me in this task; but the girl is stubborn still, and in resentment hath turned in anger and frenzy, and, not deluded, hath abandoned me. Go thou, I implore thee, carry to victory that passion whereof she cheats me, that wantonly she may dare to leave her father’s house at last and defend my Jason from all mischance. Ay, and that serpent too, that whole nights long keeps guard and winds innumerable circling coils about his grove and (look thou yonder!) about the golden fleece – him let her enchant with the black venom wherein she trusts, and lure him into slumber from his mighty ash tree. That be thy task: the rest I enjoin upon the Furies and upon the maid herself.”

[171] Then thus spake in answer the mother of the winged Loves: “I failed thee not when first thou didst attempt to bend the maiden’s heart and to touch her with trouble she knew not: nay, forthwith did I give thee – and thee alone – my girdle, whereby she hath given ground and been shaken and forced to yield. But this suffices not: I myself am needed, it is I whom her wavering heart and shamefast doubt demand; soon will I make her herself seek union with the Haemonian chief and tremble at delay. See thou that he go apace to the shrine of light-bringing Diana, where the Colchian is wont to shed the light of sacred torches and with her company of maidens dance around its queen.5 Nor let dread of Hecate now come over thee; fear not lest she hinder my efforts. Nay, let her even venture: straightway will the passion pass to her,6 and I will compel her herself to subdue with triple chant the fire-breathing bulls, and to suffer embraces.”

[186] Juno spies winged Iris and bids her swiftly obey Dione’s command and bring the Aesonian youth to the appointed grove. Iris forthwith seeks out the Minyae, and Cytherea the Colchian maid; Juno takes her seat upon the rocks of Caucasus to watch the issue, keeping her wondering gaze turned in hope and fear toward the Aeaean walls, and ignorant yet of what will befall.

[193] Scarce had Venus from her hiding-place cast her first glance upon the city, when lo! a new sickness fastens on the maiden’s heart, and redoubled is passion and new-stirred lament. Once more then she lets her varied fancies play upon the stranger, and in sorrowful thought thus vainly addresses the absent one: “Ah, would that thy mother now perchance, or thy wife (if alas! thou hast a wife), could aid thee with Thessalian spells! What can a maiden do but grieve for thy toils! Ah me! may I not be forced to behold thy final fate, and once more to bear my heartless sister company! Even now he deems that none is moved to sorrow by his lot, nor remembers him at all, and with all the rest he hates me too. Yet if ever any power be mine, those ashes that shall lie last upon the ghastly field, those bones that bulls and devouring fire shall have spared, will I set in order and appoint their resting-place Then may I rightly love the hero’s ghost and pay my duty to his tomb.”

[210] Her words were ended: lo! of a sudden Venus was sitting on her bed, changed as she was from heavenly shape and counterfeiting Circe, Titan’s daughter, with broidered robe and magic wand. But the girl, as though mocked by the lingering image of a dream, gazes perplexed and only little by little deems her to be the sister of her mighty sire; then in tearful joy she sprang forward and of her own accord kissed the cruel goddess, and first addressed her: “Circe! at last, scarce at last, cruel one! restored to thine own – why did the yoked snakes bear thee hence in flight? What sojourning was more pleasing to thee than my father’s land? The ship of Thessaly hath reached Phasis and hapless Jason hath come in vain through so many perils were love of thine own land moved thee.”

[222] Then Venus checks further speech and thus rejoins7: “Thou alone art the cause of this my journey; I come knowing long since thou art no longer a child; spare thy complaints, nor blame me who have chosen a better lot; nay (that now we may bear in mind heaven’s gifts), deem rather that this world is shared by all living souls, and shared too are the gods. Call that thy country where the sun goes forth and back again; seek not, my child, with unfeeling heart to imprison me in this eternal cold. I had a right – as thou too hast – to leave the unprofitable Colchians. And now am I Ausonian Picus’ royal consort, nor are my meadows there unsightly with flame-breathing bulls, but in me thou beholdest the mistress of the Tuscan sea. But what kind of suitors are the Sauromatae for thee, poor child? To what Hiberian (Heaven help me!) or fierce Gelonian wilt thou go, one among many wives!”

[237] Straightway she spoke in answer, scorning the goddess’ words: “Not so forgetful of great Perseis8 dost thou see me as to be driven, a hapless victim, into such wedlock. Prithee, lay aside that fear on my behalf. But rather save me, for thou canst, from these wretched cares, whence come to me fears and tumults and all the fiery torment of perplexity, O mother,9 that I have long suffered. My mind knows no peace, I sleep not, my tongue is dry. Seek some respite for my ills and make my mind sound again; give me back day and night, grant me to take thy sleep-bringing raiment and to close my eyelids with that wand of thine.10 Thou, too, mother art no help to me; I was stronger alone before. A baneful marriage do I see, and all things threatening harm, and on thine own brow serpents rising erect.” 11

[251] So spake Medea, and fell weeping on cruel Venus’ bosom, showing how the plague lurked in her bones and how the fire burnt at her heart’s core. Venus clasps the girl in her embrace, imprinting kisses that drive to frenzy and inspiring love mingled with hatred. And while she soothes her grief with various converse and occupies her with talk of other things: “Nay, listen to this,” she says, “lift up thy face,” and thus begins amid her sobs: “When I was gliding to thee anon from Hesperian lands, I beheld by chance a ship on the point to flee from the shore’s verge, such a ship as my island, which ever yet detains all mariners, would wish never to send forth from its haven.12 One there who seemed to me more comely than all the rest (and indeed I had been admiring the prince from afar) hastened up, and thinking me one of thy companions, ‘I implore thee,’ he says, ‘if thou canst feel any awe for one who soon must die, and whom thou seest exposed to unmerited horrors, take this message to the ear of her that is thy mistress and tell her of my sorrows; to her do I send these words, in what wise I may, and hold out these hands, as best I can, here from the shore. Those same goddesses13 whom I brought with me through a thousand perils now have failed me; my sole hope and means of safety is that which she will give, if so be she give it. Let her not refuse this prayer, this prayer of mine; bid her, I pray thee, lend aid to all these lives, that she will not even see hereafter, and preserve these names. Alas! that here I can pay no debt of gratitude; yet let her know that this body, saved from a cruel death, this soul is hers. Will she have pity, then? Speak,’ said he, ‘or rather –– ‘and he was falling upon his naked sword. I promised: fail him not, I beg thee. And thou I was moved myself by the hero’s lot and his appeal, I have suffered thee rather to hear his prayer; thou art more worthy of new glory, of a suppliant worthy thee; my spells have gained for me fame enough already. If Hippodamia of old made easy the stern task of Pelops, and seeing so many suitors’ heads exposed at last felt horror of her father’s chariot, if the Minoan maid did her own brother to death, why shouldst not thou righteously succour worthy strangers, and bid the Aeaean fields grow more merciful? Let Cadmus’ harvest sink now in eternal death at last, and the bulls that breathe flame when they espy a stranger.” 14

[292] Long had Medea been rolling her eyes with lowering look, as she scarce held back her angry hands from flying at the very face of the goddess as she spoke; so wrathful is the tumult of shame within her. And now the wretched girl pressed her terrified ears upon the couch lest the voice reach them, and shuddering seized her tender limbs. Nor sees she whither to fly, or where, thus trapped, to turn; long has she desired to be buried and crushed in a gulf of earth, and so to escape those dreadful words.

[301] The goddess bids her follow and waits for her in the very gateway. Even as angry Bacchus leaves moisture from his horns,15 while he, full of the god, suddenly seizes, poor fool, his mother’s shameful raiment and timbrels and womanly spear: not otherwise fears the girl when she is left alone and casts her gaze around and is fain not to leave the palace. Yet on the other hand cruel passion and Jason’s danger urge her on, and the words she has heard gain force within her breast. Alas, what is she to do? She knows full well she is heartlessly betraying her father to a stranger, and now she foresees the fame of her own crimes, and wearies heaven above and Tartarus beneath with her complaints; she beats upon the ground, and murmuring into her clutching hands calls on the Queen of Night and Dis to bring her aid by granting death, and to send him who is the cause of her madness down with her to destruction; and now she fiercely demands Pelias, who vented his wrath so murderously upon the youth; often again she is resolved to promise her skill to the unhappy man, then again refuses, and is determined rather to perish with him; and she cries that never will she yield to so base a passion nor proffer powerful aid to one she knows not; and on her bed she stays outstretched, when once again she seemed to be summoned, and the doors grated as their hinges moved.

[323] When therefore she felt that she was being utterly vanquished by some strange power, and that all shame’s former promptings were torn away, then sought she her secret bower to find the mightiest aid she knew for the captain of the Haemonian ship. And when from afar the chambers breathing magic spells burst open and the grim doors flew wide, and she gazed at all that she had torn from the ocean-bed or from the shades below, or drawn down from the blood-red visage of the moon, “Wilt thou pursue,” she said, “or submit to aught that is shameful, when thou hast so many means of death and quick escape from a deed so wicked?” 16 So saying, she gazes with full force of her vision, but all in vain, upon the swiftest of her poisons, and lingers over it, and would fain summon up her wrath upon death’s brink.17 Ah! daylight all too sweet, and dearer yet in the very hour of death! She stood, and mavelling at her frenzy, “Alas!” she cries, “thou wilt die in the first flush of life! Hast thou the heart? Wilt thou lose all the joys of youth, nor see the sweet down grow upon thy brother’s cheeks? This Jason too, whoe’er he be, knowest thou not, cruel one, that thy death will kill him? Jason, who now implores and beseeches thee alone, whom I was first to see upon our strand. Why was it thy pleasure, my father, to join then in treacherous friendship and not straightway destroy the youth with thy monsters? Myself, I avow, myself I wished it then. Dear Circe, Titan’s daughter, I call thy words to witness, where thou leadest I will follow, thy ancient wisdom overbears me, and in my youthfulness I yield to your counsels.”

[349] When she had spoken thus, she turns one more to anxiety and fear for the Haemonian youth; glad on his behalf alone to love or die, whatever he may wish, she prays Hecate to send her now more potent spells and mightier powers, nor abides contented with the drugs she knew. Then she girds up her robe and takes forth a Caucasian herb, of potency sure beyond all others, sprung of the gore that dropped from the liver of Prometheus, and grass wind-nurtured, fostered and strengthened by that blood divine among snows and grisly frosts, when the vulture rises from his feasting on the flesh and from his open beak bedews the cliffs. That flower knows not the languor of a long term of life, but stands, immortally fresh, against the thunderbolt, and in the midst of lightnings its leaves are green. Hecate first, plying a blade that Stygian springs had hardened, tore forth the strong stalk from the rocks; then showed she the plant to her handmaid, who beneath the tenth shining of Phoebe’s light reaps the harvest of the mountain-side and rages madly among all the gory relics of the god; fruitlessly doth he groan, beholding the face of the Colchian maid; then over all the mountain pain contracts his limbs, and all his fetters shake beneath her sickle.18

[371] With such poisons doth the unhappy girl arm herself against her own kingdom, and goes forth trembling into the dark night. Venus leads hand and voice, and with words that soothe her terror and with step joined close to hers leads her through the city. Even as when a fearful mother from the high nest first leads forth into the air her tender brood, and bids them follow her and rise on puny wings, the first shuddering dread of the blue air makes them quail, and soon they pray her to return, and make for their accustomed tree: so faints Medea as she passes through the walls of the unseeing city, and shudders at the silent houses. Here once more19 on the threshold of the outmost gate she halted, in vain, and once more her tears gave vent to passion, and looking on the goddess she stayed awhile, speaking thus: “Is it true that Jason himself is asking, himself imploring me? Lurks here no blame, no stain on modesty, no passion? And is it not shame to serve a man who begs?”

[388] Naught answered the other, and cut short her empty words. And now the Colchian began to move through the dark night with sound of magic spells, and the mountain fairies hid their faces and the rivers and their hills shrank away; already had panic fallen upon stall and fold, and there was tumult among the tombs; Night herself, aghast, wheels her dense shade more slowly, and now Venus affrighted follows far behind; and when they came to the tall trees and the shade of the triple goddess, suddenly before their eyes Jason, unexpected as yet, stepped quickly forth, and the terrified maid beheld him first; and on this side the Thaumantian20 rose on swift wings and fled, on that Venus slipped from the hand that grasped her. As when in the deep of night panic fear comes with full shock on herd and herdsman, or as when sightless, voiceless ghosts meet in the abyss of hell: so in the midnight shadows of the grove did they two meet and draw nigh each other, awe-struck, like silent first or motionless cypresses, when the mad South wind hath not yet intertwined their boughs.21

[407] While then each stood motionless with silent face, while night was pursuing her course, Medea longed every moment that Jason would lift his eyes and be first to speak; and the hero, when he saw her fear-struck and weeping, her cheeks afire with piteous shame, at length spoke, soothing the lovelorn girl: "Bringst any hope of light?” he said, “comest thou in pity of my labours? or wilt thou too have pleasure in my death? I pray thee, maiden, bear not thyself like thy abhorred sire; cruelty becomes not a face so beautiful. Was such gratitude now seemly, such recompense of toil? Should I be so dismissed, O maiden, in the presence? Nay, lend thine ears to righteous words. Why would thy father have me grapple with monsters so dire (what have I deserved?), or suffer retribution thus? Is it that my Canthus now hath fallen by a foreign spear? or that my Iphis hath been slain in battle for your city? or so many Scythian warriors among the foe? He should have bidden me depart, the traitor! and straightway leave his realm. Through what perils and on what terms he makes good the hopes vouchsafed me, thou seest. To die is after all in my power, and so am I resolved rather than not undergo whate’er thy sire commands; never will I go hence without the fleece, nor shalt thou first behold me lacking in manhood.”

[431] So doth he speak; she, trembling and seeing that the suppliant’s lips have fallen silent and that now her words are called for, can find in her bewilderment no words wherewith to begin, how to order or where to end her speech; fain would she pour out all in her first utterance, but not even the first words doth fear-stricken shame allow her. Still she hesitates, and scarce at length lifts up her eyes and speaks: “Why camest thou, man of Thessaly, to our land, I pray thee? Whence hopedst thou aught of me? Why daredst thou not such labours trusting to thine own powers? Verily, had I feared to leave my father’s house, thou hadst perished, verily a share in thy cruel doom awaited this life of mine.22 Where now is Juno, where the Tritonian maid, since I alone, the princess of a foreign house, am at hand to help thee in misfortune? Ay, thou wonderest thyself, I ween, nor doth this woodland know me for Aeetes’ daughter. But I am overborne by thy destiny; take now my gifts, O suppliant; and if once more Pelias seeks to destroy thee, and sends thee to other risks and other cities, ah! trust not to thy beauty!”

[449] And already had she begun to take the Titanian herbs and Persean potencies form her bosom; once more she addresses Jason thus: “Yet if thou puttest any hope in those gods of thine, or if thine own power can save thee perchance from present doom, even now, I pray thee, O stranger, let me go and send me back guiltless to my unhappy sire.” So spake she, and forthwith (for the stars were hastening to their setting, and Bootes had swung to the horizon’s edge) with groans and tears she proffered the poisons to the youth, as though it were her country and her glory and good fame that she was giving. He reaches forth his hand and grasps all their potency.

[461] Then, when she as made guilty and irrevocable shame had gone for ever from her cheeks and the Fury’s nearer influence mastered her, spell after spell doth she bind and pour upon all the limbs of the son of Aeson, and with sevenfold muttering goes over all his shield and makes the hero’s spear more deadly; and already though far away the gulls feel their fires languishing. “Come now,” she says, “take again this crested helm which Discord held but now in her death-bringing hand. When thou hast turned the sods, hurl this into the midst of the harvest; straightway shall all the troop turn upon themselves in rage, and my father himself shall cry aloud in wonder, and turn his gaze mayhap on me.”

[472] As she thus spoke, more and more now she was letting her thoughts roam on the high seas, and already saw the Minyae spreading sail without her. Then indeed, pierced by grief’s bitterest pang, she clutched the hand of Jason and humbly besought him thus: “Remember me, I pray, for never, believe me, shall I be forgetful of thee. When thou art gone, tell me, I beg, on what quarter of the heaven must I gaze? Ah, but do thou too have some thought of me, wheresoever thou art, how long soever the years; remember that such was thy plight to-day, confess that the gifts were mine, and be not ashamed to have been saved by a girl’s skill. Ah, why do no tears stream from thine eyes? Thou knowst full well that my father in righteous wrath will slay me. For thee a prosperous throne in thine own land, a wife and children are waiting: for me desertion waits and death. Yet I complain not; gladly for thee would I leave the light itself.”

[488] Quickly spoke the stranger in reply (for with silent magic had she swayed him and inspired long since an answering passion): “Thinkest thou that Jason desires aught at the price of deserting thee, or can endure any place on earth without thee? Nay, give me up rather to the tyrant, take back and strip me of thy thankless spells. What love of the light have I? why should I hope for my country any more, if my father Aeson folds thee not first to his embrace, while Grecia joyously sees thee glittering from afar with thine own fleece and runs to the sea’s verge to meet thee? Have regard to these words of mine, and be gracious now, I pray thee – wife! By this power that sways alike gods above and gods below, by the stars whose course thy will, O maiden, can turn, by this hour of our peril do I swear: if ever I forget this night, this deed of thine, thy flight from sceptre, home and parents, if thou find me ever regardless of this promise, then let it not avail me to have escaped the bulls and the savage earth-born men, then in my very home let thy flames and cunning arts affright me; let none by nigh to help me thus ungrateful, and if thou hast aught more baleful than these, add it, and amid my terror leave me.” The Fury heard it, who ever avenges the complaints of lovers, and therewith pledged due retribution to his perjury.

[511] So spake he, yet both stand with downcast gaze; and now the lift their eyes that glow with the joy of daring youth, eyes that together snatch many a sweet glance, now in sick shame their faces fall again, and speech is stifled. Yet once more the maiden addresses Jason: “Hear what perils are yet to come when thou hast quelled the bulls, and what a warder of the Aeolian fleece awaits thee; not yet, I avow, have I performed all my promises. There remains yet a direr task which – ah, would that thou hadst so much faith in me and in Hecate, queen of night, and in the power we sway!”

[522] She spoke, and that she might show the hero what monsters yet remained, she forthwith roused the snake reposing on his innumerable curves and suddenly cast upon him the shadow of the Haemonian prince. The snake, as never before, lifted his head and sent forth vibrant hisses; and when in alarm he had raised himself about the fleece he guarded, while all the tree bristled with his coils, then he began to search, and raged through the air with empty jaws.23 “What noise is this? tell me, O maid, what mean these crashing sounds?” cries Jason, as chill with alarm he stands and bears his sword. Smiling she draws him aside, and putting the snake to silence speaks at length24: “He is the last of all that my father’s anger has in store for thee; alas! unhappy man, once more alas! shalt thou bear the brunt of danger. Ah, would I could see thee without hardship climbing unaided this ash, all rough and dark with interlacing spires, and trampling the very folds of the sleepless monster! Ah! then might I die!” So saying she fled, and betook herself to the city as darkness waned.

[539] And now beneath the scarlet dawn vain hope had sent the king abroad, wondering how great a stretch of waters one night had set between him and Aeson’s son, whether the sea was open and inviting to behold and all the ocean quiet as before. And while he is preparing to spy it out from afar, Echion the Arcadian meets him with a message, “that already the hero is standing in the Circean field of Mars: let the king send forth his bronze-footed bulls to battle.”

[547] “Lo! of his own accord he challenges me,” he cried, while hope took wings within him. “Now, bulls, now for the first time plough me the furrows into flame, now open forth and send rolling all your fiery blasts. Let the Haemonian husbandman find a notable harvest to his reaping, and do thou, my daughter, at thy sire’s behest ply thy serpent against the Grecians. Let them perish in sight of the fleece itself, let its very hid keep the dread stains of blood for me to see.”

[553] He speaks, and bids the plain be opened to the charging bulls. Some shoulder the monstrous seeds, the Echionian teeth, others bear the heavy wood of the awful plough. But the great-hearted leader is escorted by a throng of his own men from Pagasae; then with heartening words all withdrew far from the grim fields. Firmly he planted his feet, and out of all his company was standing there alone, as some bird deserted by its wheeling squadrons, cut off by the sands of the burning South where day grows weary, or, as it struggles toward Riphaean heights, by snow and the shuddering fury of the dark North wind; when suddenly the most distant wave of astonied Phasis and the trees of Caucasus and all Aeetes’ land flashed bright as the stalls poured forth a glowing darkness.25 And even as on a time the lightning wrath of Jove sends forth from one cloud two fiery brands upon mankind, or as two winds together break prison and escape: so then did the two bulls issue from the barriers and snort forth a mighty whirlwind of murky flame. Shuddered the crew of Argo, shuddered bold Idas who late was lamenting that a girl’s spells had saved him, and despite himself gazed at the maid of Colchis.

[576] Jason brooked no delay, but rushed upon them when he saw them parting, and waved his threatening helm, and advancing towards them summons with right hand their wandering fire.26 When at length the bull who first saw Jason’s approaching armour stood still and with angry glance changed his course, he delays a moment, then bursts forth in sudden fury. Not so madly so the seas rush against the cliffs and fall broken back again. Twice with thunderous blasts does he charge the hero and envelop him in cloud, but the Colchian suffers not the burning heat to come nigh him, and the fire cools as it rushes upon his shield, and the flame pales when it feels the poisons. Aesonides puts forth his right hand and tempers the burning horns, then clinging presses them down with all his might. The bull struggles against the hero and against even thee then, Medea, and would fain shake him off, and standing motionless bears him, as he wrestles with all his rage, upon his horns; at length sinking down he begins to bellow with a deeper note, his horns are weary and he falls to the ground beaten. Then the son of Aeson glances towards his friends, calling for the huge bridle, and now he has closed his mouth, drags him and is dragged, and pressing his knee against him overpowers him, and forces the quivering shoulders beneath the brazen yoke.

[596] The other bull then does the anxious Colchian rob of his terrors, and brings him to Jason moving slowly and threatening but timidly, and now as he draws near she casts a cloud about him; exhausted he falls upon his head and shoulders by the sheer force of his weight and angry rage: Jason is upon him and from above plies all his strength and presses him down, his own blasts failing him. And when he has got him beneath the yoke and bound him fast in the strong plough, with his knee he makes him rise and goads him also with the ruthless spear: just as when from the midst of the yawning earth a horse came newly forth, and Lapithes leapt upon its back and checked its first neighing with a bridle, and appeared on Ossa’s summit.27

[607] Then, as though it were the Libyan plain or the fertile plough-lands of rich Nile that he was cleaving, he joyfully scatters the seeds by handfuls on the ground and burdens the newly-tilled land with war. Then thrice from the very ploughshare issued the trump of Mars and from every furrow blared the horns; then was the warlike soil shaken, and the phalanx took life and arms together, and sprang up over all the plain. The hero withdrew and betwook himself for a space to his companions, waiting till the earth should show him the first troop. But when he saw the furrows at last open before the summits of the crests, and the surface quivering with the helmet-peaks, eh darted upon them, and where the earth lay closest to the base of their necks, nor yet had their shoulders seen the light, quick to the work with obedient sword he levels the trunks with the ground; and as they follow, gleaming corselet or hands first rising from their mother doth he attack and lays them low ere they can strike. Yet suffices he not for the thousands who on this side and on that are springing up, any more than when the Tirynthian wearied in fight against the hydra’s dreadful hosts turned to the fires of Pallas.28

[625] Once more then he has recourse to the Colchian’s friendly arts, and disjoins the chain and fastening at his helmet’s base; yet he hesitates and would fain himself challenge the whole array; but no hope offers, so closely throng the banners of the earth-born on every side, so loud their shouts and trumpet calls. And now all caught sight of the man, and at once all weapons are flying at him. Then mad with fear in such peril he flung into their midst the helmet which Medea of late had drugged with hellish poison: straightway the spears were turned about. And just as the anger of the mournful Mother29 rends every year the frenzied Phrygians, or as Bellona lacerates the long-haired eunuchs, so doth Medea suddenly inflame and embroil the cohorts and drive the doomed brethren to battle with their kin. Each one thinks that it is Jason he is laying low, all alike are fired with similar rage. Aeetes stands aghast and would fain recall the madmen, but all the host was on the ground, nor was any first to fall or last to remain, but the earth of a sudden swallowed up all her dead.

[644] Straightway the son of Aeson hastens in reeking armour to the river, like unto Mars when leaving the dust of Getic warfare he enters Hebrus in his car and brands it deep30 with the burning sweat of battle, or when a Cyclops all black from the hot furnaces where the glowing bolts are forged finds respite and refuge in the Sicilian sea. At length he returns and embraces his exulting comrades, and no longer deigns to claim his promise from the lying king; nor, even if he who made the compact of his own accord pressed the fleece upon him, would he any more be willing to return to peaceful amity; both men withdrew in fierce and threatening mood.

1. i.e. ere that shall impossible things happen. To complete the sense the line suggested by Kramer has been added.
2. Here and in 71 there is a hint of some mysterious power lurking in the Argo.
3. Aeetes and Pelias.
4. Apparently, that so she might follow Jason; but, if the grammar allowed it, one would rather translate “she would fain go forward a space from the house and the doorway.”
5. For “lustrare” with the meaning of “encircle in the dance” cf. Virgil, Aen. 10. 224, though it might also mean a moving band or procession seems to be implied in “fundere.” Torches were a special feature of the worship of Hecate as the goddess of night and the underworld.
6. Even Hecate will yield to passion if Venus inspires it. In “trilingui” (185) there is apparently a reference to the threefold form of the goddess.
7. Venus masquerading as Circe hints at the advantages of the western lands in contrast with the unpleasant north: Medea might well do worse than follow Circe’s example, who has married an Ausonian prince; there is a touch of Stoic cosmopolitanism in 226-8.
8. Hecate is frequently called by this name (Ovid, Met. 7. 74, Statius, Theb. 4. 481, besides Apollonius) because she was the daughter of Persaeus (Homeric Hymn to Demeter, 24) a Titan. Medea means that she has not so forgotten the magic spells taught her by Hecate as to be driven helplessly into a marriage she does not desire. But “Perseis” may mean Circe here, whom she is addressing: “I have not so far forgotten your example.” Circe was the daughter of Perse (Apollonius, 4. 591).
9. Circe was of course Medea’s aunt.
10. Circe is assumed to have the power to bring sleep upon people by means of her wand; the reference to raiment that causes sleep appears to be an invention of the poet; the wand is in Homer, Od. 10. 238, etc.

11. Even Circe seems like a Fury to Medea in her gloomy foreboding.
12. It may be noted that here along Valerius has forgotten that the Argo was the first ship and that therefore there could not have been any other sailors for Circe to detain.
13. Juno and Minerva.
14. Kramer thinks that the speech should end at 283, sat fama meis iam parta venenis, and that the lines that follow are an alternative passage which the poet intended to substitute for 288-91. Hippodamia was the daughter of Oenomaus, and helped her lover Pelops to defeat him in the chariot-race. In which all suitors had to compete with him. Ariadne helped Theseus to kill the Minotaur, the offspring of her mother Pasiphae by a bull.
15. Apparently wine is meant, which bedews the fillets of the god; but the expression is obscure; it is difficult, though, to see how it can refer to Pentheus. Bacchus was frequently represented in art as horned. The reference is to the story of Pentheus, king of Thebes, who disguised himself as a Bacchanal in order to spy on the Bacchic revel led by his mother Agave.
16. By taking her own life she can escape the loss of honour and fair fame.
17. She tries to be angry with herself for yielding to her passion, but the love of life is too strong.
18. Prometheus suffers anguish when the plant sprung from his blood is gathered; the poet may here have the Virgilian passage about Polydorus in mind (Aen. 3. 22 sqq.)
19. The first time was on the threshold of her house (see 306).
20. Iris, daughter of Thaumas and Electra (cf. 188).

21. This simile is taken from Apollonius (3. 966-71).
22. i.e. I would have died too.
23. The snake lunges with his fangs here and there in a vain attempt to seize the intruder.
24. Only one more peril remains, she says, and if she could see him safely accomplishing that task she would gladly die.
25. The mingled fire and smoke of the bulls.
26. The bulls do not at first see Jason and go another way, so that he has to attract them by waving his helmet. This is a realistic touch, probably taken from an actual bull-fight.
27. A reference to the story of how Neptune rent the earth and sent forth the first horse from the chasm. Lapithes was a son of Apollo, and the ancestor of the tribe of Lapithae.
28. The use of fire in combating the Hydra was suggested to Hercules by Minerva.
29. Cybele mourning for Attis; Bellona, goddess of war, whose priestesses and votaries, eunuchs called Bellonarii, cut themselves with knives at her festival (Juvenal, 4. 123; Lucan, 1. 565).
30. Hyperbole unusual even in Valerius, that the heat of battle is enough to leave its mark upon a river.