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HOW PERSEUS CAME HOME AGAIN

from The Heroes - The Argonauts





And when a year was ended Perseus hired Phoenicians from Tyre, and
cut down cedars, and built himself a noble galley; and painted its
cheeks with vermilion, and pitched its sides with pitch; and in it
he put Andromeda, and all her dowry of jewels, and rich shawls, and
spices from the East; and great was the weeping when they rowed
away. But the remembrance of his brave deed was left behind; and
Andromeda's rock was shown at Iopa in Palestine till more than a
thousand years were past.

So Perseus and the Phoenicians rowed to the westward, across the
sea of Crete, till they came to the blue AEgean and the pleasant
Isles of Hellas, and Seriphos, his ancient home.

Then he left his galley on the beach, and went up as of old; and he
embraced his mother, and Dictys his good foster-father, and they
wept over each other a long while, for it was seven years and more
since they had met.

Then Perseus went out, and up to the hall of Polydectes; and
underneath the goat-skin he bore the Gorgon's head.

And when he came into the hall, Polydectes sat at the table-head,
and all his nobles and landowners on either side, each according to
his rank, feasting on the fish and the goat's flesh, and drinking
the blood-red wine. The harpers harped, and the revellers shouted,
and the wine-cups rang merrily as they passed from hand to hand,
and great was the noise in the hall of Polydectes.

Then Persons stood upon the threshold, and called to the king by
name. But none of the guests knew Perseus, for he was changed by
his long journey. He had gone out a boy, and he was come home a
hero; his eye shone like an eagle's, and his beard was like a
lion's beard, and he stood up like a wild bull in his pride.

But Polydectes the wicked knew him, and hardened his heart still
more; and scornfully he called -

'Ah, foundling! have you found it more easy to promise than to
fulfil?'

'Those whom the Gods help fulfil their promises; and those who
despise them, reap as they have sown. Behold the Gorgon's head!'

Then Perseus drew back the goat-skin, and held aloft the Gorgon's
head.

Pale grew Polydectes and his guests as they looked upon that
dreadful face. They tried to rise up from their seats: but from
their seats they never rose, but stiffened, each man where he sat,
into a ring of cold gray stones.

Then Perseus turned and left them, and went down to his galley in
the bay; and he gave the kingdom to good Dictys, and sailed away
with his mother and his bride.

And Polydectes and his guests sat still, with the wine-cups before
them on the board, till the rafters crumbled down above their
heads, and the walls behind their backs, and the table crumbled
down between them, and the grass sprung up about their feet: but
Polydectes and his guests sit on the hillside, a ring of gray
stones until this day.

But Perseus rowed westward toward Argos, and landed, and went up to
the town. And when he came, he found that Acrisius his grandfather
had fled. For Proetus his wicked brother had made war against him
afresh; and had come across the river from Tiryns, and conquered
Argos, and Acrisius had fled to Larissa, in the country of the wild
Pelasgi.

Then Perseus called the Argives together, and told them who he was,
and all the noble deeds which he had done. And all the nobles and
the yeomen made him king, for they saw that he had a royal heart;
and they fought with him against Argos, and took it, and killed
Proetus, and made the Cyclopes serve them, and build them walls
round Argos, like the walls which they had built at Tiryns; and
there were great rejoicings in the vale of Argos, because they had
got a king from Father Zeus.

But Perseus' heart yearned after his grandfather, and he said,
'Surely he is my flesh and blood, and he will love me now that I am
come home with honour: I will go and find him, and bring him home,
and we will reign together in peace.'

So Perseus sailed away with his Phoenicians, round Hydrea and
Sunium, past Marathon and the Attic shore, and through Euripus, and
up the long Euboean sea, till he came to the town of Larissa, where
the wild Pelasgi dwelt.

And when he came there, all the people were in the fields, and
there was feasting, and all kinds of games; for Teutamenes their
king wished to honour Acrisius, because he was the king of a mighty
land.

So Perseus did not tell his name, but went up to the games unknown;
for he said, 'If I carry away the prize in the games, my
grandfather's heart will be softened toward me.'

So he threw off his helmet, and his cuirass, and all his clothes,
and stood among the youths of Larissa, while all wondered at him,
and said, 'Who is this young stranger, who stands like a wild bull
in his pride? Surely he is one of the heroes, the sons of the
Immortals, from Olympus.'

And when the games began, they wondered yet more; for Perseus was
the best man of all at running, and leaping, and wrestling and
throwing the javelin; and he won four crowns, and took them, and
then he said to himself, 'There is a fifth crown yet to be won: I
will win that, and lay them all upon the knees of my grandfather.'

And as he spoke, he saw where Acrisius sat, by the side of
Teutamenes the king, with his white beard flowing down upon his
knees, and his royal staff in his hand; and Perseus wept when he
looked at him, for his heart yearned after his kin; and he said,
'Surely he is a kingly old man, yet he need not be ashamed of his
grandson.'

Then he took the quoits, and hurled them, five fathoms beyond all
the rest; and the people shouted, 'Further yet, brave stranger!
There has never been such a hurler in this land.'

Then Perseus put out all his strength, and hurled. But a gust of
wind came from the sea, and carried the quoit aside, and far beyond
all the rest; and it fell on the foot of Acrisius, and he swooned
away with the pain.

Perseus shrieked, and ran up to him; but when they lifted the old
man up he was dead, for his life was slow and feeble.

Then Perseus rent his clothes, and cast dust upon his head, and
wept a long while for his grandfather. At last he rose, and called
to all the people aloud, and said -

'The Gods are true, and what they have ordained must be. I am
Perseus, the grandson of this dead man, the far-famed slayer of the
Gorgon.'

Then he told them how the prophecy had declared that he should kill
his grandfather, and all the story of his life.

So they made a great mourning for Acrisius, and burnt him on a
right rich pile; and Perseus went to the temple, and was purified
from the guilt of the death, because he had done it unknowingly.

Then he went home to Argos, and reigned there well with fair
Andromeda; and they had four sons and three daughters, and died in
a good old age.

And when they died, the ancients say, Athene took them up into the
sky, with Cepheus and Cassiopoeia. And there on starlight nights
you may see them shining still; Cepheus with his kingly crown, and
Cassiopoeia in her ivory chair, plaiting her star-spangled tresses,
and Perseus with the Gorgon's head, and fair Andromeda beside him,
spreading her long white arms across the heaven, as she stood when
chained to the stone for the monster.

All night long, they shine, for a beacon to wandering sailors; but
all day they feast with the Gods, on the still blue peaks of
Olympus.





Next: HOW THE CENTAUR TRAINED THE HEROES ON PELION

Previous: HOW PERSEUS CAME TO THE AETHIOPS



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