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HOW PERSEUS AND HIS MOTHER CAME TO SERIPHOS

from The Heroes - Perseus





Once upon a time there were two princes who were twins. Their
names were Acrisius and Proetus, and they lived in the pleasant
vale of Argos, far away in Hellas. They had fruitful meadows and
vineyards, sheep and oxen, great herds of horses feeding down in
Lerna Fen, and all that men could need to make them blest: and yet
they were wretched, because they were jealous of each other. From
the moment they were born they began to quarrel; and when they grew
up each tried to take away the other's share of the kingdom, and
keep all for himself. So first Acrisius drove out Proetus; and he
went across the seas, and brought home a foreign princess for his
wife, and foreign warriors to help him, who were called Cyclopes;
and drove out Acrisius in his turn; and then they fought a long
while up and down the land, till the quarrel was settled, and
Acrisius took Argos and one half the land, and Proetus took Tiryns
and the other half. And Proetus and his Cyclopes built around
Tiryns great walls of unhewn stone, which are standing to this day.

But there came a prophet to that hard-hearted Acrisius and
prophesied against him, and said, 'Because you have risen up
against your own blood, your own blood shall rise up against you;
because you have sinned against your kindred, by your kindred you
shall be punished. Your daughter Danae shall bear a son, and by
that son's hands you shall die. So the Gods have ordained, and it
will surely come to pass.'

And at that Acrisius was very much afraid; but he did not mend his
ways. He had been cruel to his own family, and, instead of
repenting and being kind to them, he went on to be more cruel than
ever: for he shut up his fair daughter Danae in a cavern
underground, lined with brass, that no one might come near her. So
he fancied himself more cunning than the Gods: but you will see
presently whether he was able to escape them.


Now it came to pass that in time Danae bore a son; so beautiful a
babe that any but King Acrisius would have had pity on it. But he
had no pity; for he took Danae and her babe down to the seashore,
and put them into a great chest and thrust them out to sea, for the
winds and the waves to carry them whithersoever they would.

The north-west wind blew freshly out of the blue mountains, and
down the pleasant vale of Argos, and away and out to sea. And away
and out to sea before it floated the mother and her babe, while all
who watched them wept, save that cruel father, King Acrisius.

So they floated on and on, and the chest danced up and down upon
the billows, and the baby slept upon its mother's breast: but the
poor mother could not sleep, but watched and wept, and she sang to
her baby as they floated; and the song which she sang you shall
learn yourselves some day.

And now they are past the last blue headland, and in the open sea;
and there is nothing round them but the waves, and the sky, and the
wind. But the waves are gentle, and the sky is clear, and the
breeze is tender and low; for these are the days when Halcyone and
Ceyx build their nests, and no storms ever ruffle the pleasant
summer sea.

And who were Halcyone and Ceyx? You shall hear while the chest
floats on. Halcyone was a fairy maiden, the daughter of the beach
and of the wind. And she loved a sailor-boy, and married him; and
none on earth were so happy as they. But at last Ceyx was wrecked;
and before he could swim to the shore the billows swallowed him up.
And Halcyone saw him drowning, and leapt into the sea to him; but
in vain. Then the Immortals took pity on them both, and changed
them into two fair sea-birds; and now they build a floating nest
every year, and sail up and down happily for ever upon the pleasant
seas of Greece.

So a night passed, and a day, and a long day it was for Danae; and
another night and day beside, till Danae was faint with hunger and
weeping, and yet no land appeared. And all the while the babe
slept quietly; and at last poor Danae drooped her head and fell
asleep likewise with her cheek against the babe's.

After a while she was awakened suddenly; for the chest was jarring
and grinding, and the air was full of sound. She looked up, and
over her head were mighty cliffs, all red in the setting sun, and
around her rocks and breakers, and flying flakes of foam. She
clasped her hands together, and shrieked aloud for help. And when
she cried, help met her: for now there came over the rocks a tall
and stately man, and looked down wondering upon poor Danae tossing
about in the chest among the waves.

He wore a rough cloak of frieze, and on his head a broad hat to
shade his face; in his hand he carried a trident for spearing fish,
and over his shoulder was a casting-net; but Danae could see that
he was no common man by his stature, and his walk, and his flowing
golden hair and beard; and by the two servants who came behind him,
carrying baskets for his fish. But she had hardly time to look at
him, before he had laid aside his trident and leapt down the rocks,
and thrown his casting-net so surely over Danae and the chest, that
he drew it, and her, and the baby, safe upon a ledge of rock.

Then the fisherman took Danae by the hand, and lifted her out of
the chest, and said -

'O beautiful damsel, what strange chance has brought you to this
island in so flail a ship? Who are you, and whence? Surely you
are some king's daughter; and this boy has somewhat more than
mortal.'

And as he spoke he pointed to the babe; for its face shone like the
morning star.

But Danae only held down her head, and sobbed out -

'Tell me to what land I have come, unhappy that I am; and among
what men I have fallen!'

And he said, 'This isle is called Seriphos, and I am a Hellen, and
dwell in it. I am the brother of Polydectes the king; and men call
me Dictys the netter, because I catch the fish of the shore.'

Then Danae fell down at his feet, and embraced his knees, and cried
-

'Oh, sir, have pity upon a stranger, whom a cruel doom has driven
to your land; and let me live in your house as a servant; but treat
me honourably, for I was once a king's daughter, and this my boy
(as you have truly said) is of no common race. I will not be a
charge to you, or eat the bread of idleness; for I am more skilful
in weaving and embroidery than all the maidens of my land.'

And she was going on; but Dictys stopped her, and raised her up,
and said -

'My daughter, I am old, and my hairs are growing gray; while I have
no children to make my home cheerful. Come with me then, and you
shall be a daughter to me and to my wife, and this babe shall be
our grandchild. For I fear the Gods, and show hospitality to all
strangers; knowing that good deeds, like evil ones, always return
to those who do them.'

So Danae was comforted, and went home with Dictys the good
fisherman, and was a daughter to him and to his wife, till fifteen
years were past.





Next: HOW PERSEUS VOWED A RASH VOW




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