HOW THE ARGONAUTS SAILED TO COLCHIS





And what happened next, my children, whether it be true or not,

stands written in ancient songs, which you shall read for

yourselves some day. And grand old songs they are, written in

grand old rolling verse; and they call them the Songs of Orpheus,

or the Orphics, to this day. And they tell how the heroes came to

Aphetai, across the bay, and waited for the south-west wind, and

chose themselves a captain from their crew: and how all called for

Heracles, because he was the strongest and most huge; but Heracles

refused, and called for Jason, because he was the wisest of them

all. So Jason was chosen captain; and Orpheus heaped a pile of

wood, and slew a bull, and offered it to Hera, and called all the

heroes to stand round, each man's head crowned with olive, and to

strike their swords into the bull. Then he filled a golden goblet

with the bull's blood, and with wheaten flour, and honey, and wine,

and the bitter salt-sea water, and bade the heroes taste. So each

tasted the goblet, and passed it round, and vowed an awful vow:

and they vowed before the sun, and the night, and the blue-haired

sea who shakes the land, to stand by Jason faithfully in the

adventure of the golden fleece; and whosoever shrank back, or

disobeyed, or turned traitor to his vow, then justice should

minister against him, and the Erinnues who track guilty men.



Then Jason lighted the pile, and burnt the carcase of the bull; and

they went to their ship and sailed eastward, like men who have a

work to do; and the place from which they went was called Aphetai,

the sailing-place, from that day forth. Three thousand years and

more they sailed away, into the unknown Eastern seas; and great

nations have come and gone since then, and many a storm has swept

the earth; and many a mighty armament, to which Argo would be but

one small boat; English and French, Turkish and Russian, have

sailed those waters since; yet the fame of that small Argo lives

for ever, and her name is become a proverb among men.



So they sailed past the Isle of Sciathos, with the Cape of Sepius

on their left, and turned to the northward toward Pelion, up the

long Magnesian shore. On their right hand was the open sea, and on

their left old Pelion rose, while the clouds crawled round his dark

pine-forests, and his caps of summer snow. And their hearts

yearned for the dear old mountain, as they thought of pleasant days

gone by, and of the sports of their boyhood, and their hunting, and

their schooling in the cave beneath the cliff. And at last Peleus

spoke, 'Let us land here, friends, and climb the dear old hill once

more. We are going on a fearful journey; who knows if we shall see

Pelion again? Let us go up to Cheiron our master, and ask his

blessing ere we start. And I have a boy, too, with him, whom he

trains as he trained me once--the son whom Thetis brought me, the

silver-footed lady of the sea, whom I caught in the cave, and tamed

her, though she changed her shape seven times. For she changed, as

I held her, into water, and to vapour, and to burning flame, and to

a rock, and to a black-maned lion, and to a tall and stately tree.

But I held her and held her ever, till she took her own shape

again, and led her to my father's house, and won her for my bride.

And all the rulers of Olympus came to our wedding, and the heavens

and the earth rejoiced together, when an Immortal wedded mortal

man. And now let me see my son; for it is not often I shall see

him upon earth: famous he will be, but short-lived, and die in the

flower of youth.'



So Tiphys the helmsman steered them to the shore under the crags of

Pelion; and they went up through the dark pine-forests towards the

Centaur's cave.



And they came into the misty hall, beneath the snow-crowned crag;

and saw the great Centaur lying, with his huge limbs spread upon

the rock; and beside him stood Achilles, the child whom no steel

could wound, and played upon his harp right sweetly, while Cheiron

watched and smiled.



Then Cheiron leapt up and welcomed them, and kissed them every one,

and set a feast before them of swine's flesh, and venison, and good

wine; and young Achilles served them, and carried the golden goblet

round. And after supper all the heroes clapped their hands, and

called on Orpheus to sing; but he refused, and said, 'How can I,

who am the younger, sing before our ancient host?' So they called

on Cheiron to sing, and Achilles brought him his harp; and he began

a wondrous song; a famous story of old time, of the fight between

the Centaurs and the Lapithai, which you may still see carved in

stone. {1} He sang how his brothers came to ruin by their folly,

when they were mad with wine; and how they and the heroes fought,

with fists, and teeth, and the goblets from which they drank; and

how they tore up the pine-trees in their fury, and hurled great

crags of stone, while the mountains thundered with the battle, and

the land was wasted far and wide; till the Lapithai drove them from

their home in the rich Thessalian plains to the lonely glens of

Pindus, leaving Cheiron all alone. And the heroes praised his song

right heartily; for some of them had helped in that great fight.



Then Orpheus took the lyre, and sang of Chaos, and the making of

the wondrous World, and how all things sprang from Love, who could

not live alone in the Abyss. And as he sang, his voice rose from

the cave, above the crags, and through the tree-tops, and the glens

of oak and pine. And the trees bowed their heads when they heard

it, and the gray rocks cracked and rang, and the forest beasts

crept near to listen, and the birds forsook their nests and hovered

round. And old Cheiron claps his hands together, and beat his

hoofs upon the ground, for wonder at that magic song.



Then Peleus kissed his boy, and wept over him, and they went down

to the ship; and Cheiron came down with them, weeping, and kissed

them one by one, and blest them, and promised to them great renown.

And the heroes wept when they left him, till their great hearts

could weep no more; for he was kind and just and pious, and wiser

than all beasts and men. Then he went up to a cliff, and prayed

for them, that they might come home safe and well; while the heroes

rowed away, and watched him standing on his cliff above the sea,

with his great hands raised toward heaven, and his white locks

waving in the wind; and they strained their eyes to watch him to

the last, for they felt that they should look on him no more.



So they rowed on over the long swell of the sea, past Olympus, the

seat of the Immortals, and past the wooded bays of Athos, and

Samothrace the sacred isle; and they came past Lemnos to the

Hellespont, and through the narrow strait of Abydos, and so on into

the Propontis, which we call Marmora now. And there they met with

Cyzicus, ruling in Asia over the Dolions, who, the songs say, was

the son of AEneas, of whom you will hear many a tale some day. For

Homer tells us how he fought at Troy, and Virgil how he sailed away

and founded Rome; and men believed until late years that from him

sprang our old British kings. Now Cyzicus, the songs say, welcomed

the heroes, for his father had been one of Cheiron's scholars; so

he welcomed them, and feasted them, and stored their ship with corn

and wine, and cloaks and rugs, the songs say, and shirts, of which

no doubt they stood in need.



But at night, while they lay sleeping, came down on them terrible

men, who lived with the bears in the mountains, like Titans or

giants in shape; for each of them had six arms, and they fought

with young firs and pines. But Heracles killed them all before

morn with his deadly poisoned arrows; but among them, in the

darkness, he slew Cyzicus the kindly prince.



Then they got to their ship and to their oars, and Tiphys bade them

cast off the hawsers and go to sea. But as he spoke a whirlwind

came, and spun the Argo round, and twisted the hawsers together, so

that no man could loose them. Then Tiphys dropped the rudder from

his hand, and cried, 'This comes from the Gods above.' But Jason

went forward, and asked counsel of the magic bough.



Then the magic bough spoke, and answered, 'This is because you have

slain Cyzicus your friend. You must appease his soul, or you will

never leave this shore.'



Jason went back sadly, and told the heroes what he had heard. And

they leapt on shore, and searched till dawn; and at dawn they found

the body, all rolled in dust and blood, among the corpses of those

monstrous beasts. And they wept over their kind host, and laid him

on a fair bed, and heaped a huge mound over him, and offered black

sheep at his tomb, and Orpheus sang a magic song to him, that his

spirit might have rest. And then they held games at the tomb,

after the custom of those times, and Jason gave prizes to each

winner. To Ancaeus he gave a golden cup, for he wrestled best of

all; and to Heracles a silver one, for he was the strongest of all;

and to Castor, who rode best, a golden crest; and Polydeuces the

boxer had a rich carpet, and to Orpheus for his song a sandal with

golden wings. But Jason himself was the best of all the archers,

and the Minuai crowned him with an olive crown; and so, the songs

say, the soul of good Cyzicus was appeased and the heroes went on

their way in peace.



But when Cyzicus' wife heard that he was dead she died likewise of

grief; and her tears became a fountain of clear water, which flows

the whole year round.



Then they rowed away, the songs say, along the Mysian shore, and

past the mouth of Rhindacus, till they found a pleasant bay,

sheltered by the long ridges of Arganthus, and by high walls of

basalt rock. And there they ran the ship ashore upon the yellow

sand, and furled the sail, and took the mast down, and lashed it in

its crutch. And next they let down the ladder, and went ashore to

sport and rest.



And there Heracles went away into the woods, bow in hand, to hunt

wild deer; and Hylas the fair boy slipt away after him, and

followed him by stealth, until he lost himself among the glens, and

sat down weary to rest himself by the side of a lake; and there the

water nymphs came up to look at him, and loved him, and carried him

down under the lake to be their playfellow, for ever happy and

young. And Heracles sought for him in vain, shouting his name till

all the mountains rang; but Hylas never heard him, far down under

the sparkling lake. So while Heracles wandered searching for him,

a fair breeze sprang up, and Heracles was nowhere to be found; and

the Argo sailed away, and Heracles was left behind, and never saw

the noble Phasian stream.



Then the Minuai came to a doleful land, where Amycus the giant

ruled, and cared nothing for the laws of Zeus, but challenged all

strangers to box with him, and those whom he conquered he slew.

But Polydeuces the boxer struck him a harder blow than he ever felt

before, and slew him; and the Minuai went on up the Bosphorus, till

they came to the city of Phineus, the fierce Bithynian king; for

Zetes and Calais bade Jason land there, because they had a work to

do.



And they went up from the shore toward the city, through forests

white with snow; and Phineus came out to meet them with a lean and

woful face, and said, 'Welcome, gallant heroes, to the land of

bitter blasts, the land of cold and misery; yet I will feast you as

best I can.' And he led them in, and set meat before them; but

before they could put their hands to their mouths, down came two

fearful monsters, the like of whom man never saw; for they had the

faces and the hair of fair maidens, but the wings and claws of

hawks; and they snatched the meat from off the table, and flew

shrieking out above the roofs.



Then Phineus beat his breast and cried, 'These are the Harpies,

whose names are the Whirlwind and the Swift, the daughters of

Wonder and of the Amber-nymph, and they rob us night and day. They

carried off the daughters of Pandareus, whom all the Gods had

blest; for Aphrodite fed them on Olympus with honey and milk and

wine; and Hera gave them beauty and wisdom, and Athene skill in all

the arts; but when they came to their wedding, the Harpies snatched

them both away, and gave them to be slaves to the Erinnues, and

live in horror all their days. And now they haunt me, and my

people, and the Bosphorus, with fearful storms; and sweep away our

food from off our tables, so that we starve in spite of all our

wealth.'



Then up rose Zetes and Calais, the winged sons of the North-wind,

and said, 'Do you not know us, Phineus, and these wings which grow

upon our backs?' And Phineus hid his face in terror; but he

answered not a word.



'Because you have been a traitor, Phineus, the Harpies haunt you

night and day. Where is Cleopatra our sister, your wife, whom you

keep in prison? and where are her two children, whom you blinded in

your rage, at the bidding of an evil woman, and cast them out upon

the rocks? Swear to us that you will right our sister, and cast

out that wicked woman; and then we will free you from your plague,

and drive the whirlwind maidens to the south; but if not, we will

put out your eyes, as you put out the eyes of your own sons.'



Then Phineus swore an oath to them, and drove out the wicked woman;

and Jason took those two poor children, and cured their eyes with

magic herbs.



But Zetes and Calais rose up sadly and said, 'Farewell now, heroes

all; farewell, our dear companions, with whom we played on Pelion

in old times; for a fate is laid upon us, and our day is come at

last, in which we must hunt the whirlwinds over land and sea for

ever; and if we catch them they die, and if not, we die ourselves.'



At that all the heroes wept; but the two young men sprang up, and

aloft into the air after the Harpies, and the battle of the winds

began.



The heroes trembled in silence as they heard the shrieking of the

blasts; while the palace rocked and all the city, and great stones

were torn from the crags, and the forest pines were hurled

earthward, north and south and east and west, and the Bosphorus

boiled white with foam, and the clouds were dashed against the

cliffs.



But at last the battle ended, and the Harpies fled screaming toward

the south, and the sons of the North-wind rushed after them, and

brought clear sunshine where they passed. For many a league they

followed them, over all the isles of the Cyclades, and away to the

south-west across Hellas, till they came to the Ionian Sea, and

there they fell upon the Echinades, at the mouth of the Achelous;

and those isles were called the Whirlwind Isles for many a hundred

years. But what became of Zetes and Calais I know not, for the

heroes never saw them again: and some say that Heracles met them,

and quarrelled with them, and slew them with his arrows; and some

say that they fell down from weariness and the heat of the summer

sun, and that the Sun-god buried them among the Cyclades, in the

pleasant Isle of Tenos; and for many hundred years their grave was

shown there, and over it a pillar, which turned to every wind. But

those dark storms and whirlwinds haunt the Bosphorus until this

day.



But the Argonauts went eastward, and out into the open sea, which

we now call the Black Sea, but it was called the Euxine then. No

Hellen had ever crossed it, and all feared that dreadful sea, and

its rocks, and shoals, and fogs, and bitter freezing storms; and

they told strange stories of it, some false and some half-true, how

it stretched northward to the ends of the earth, and the sluggish

Putrid Sea, and the everlasting night, and the regions of the dead.

So the heroes trembled, for all their courage, as they came into

that wild Black Sea, and saw it stretching out before them, without

a shore, as far as eye could see.



And first Orpheus spoke, and warned them, 'We shall come now to the

wandering blue rocks; my mother warned me of them, Calliope, the

immortal muse.'



And soon they saw the blue rocks shining like spires and castles of

gray glass, while an ice-cold wind blew from them and chilled all

the heroes' hearts. And as they neared they could see them

heaving, as they rolled upon the long sea-waves, crashing and

grinding together, till the roar went up to heaven. The sea sprang

up in spouts between them, and swept round them in white sheets of

foam; but their heads swung nodding high in air, while the wind

whistled shrill among the crags.



The heroes' hearts sank within them, and they lay upon their oars

in fear; but Orpheus called to Tiphys the helmsman, 'Between them

we must pass; so look ahead for an opening, and be brave, for Hera

is with us.' But Tiphys the cunning helmsman stood silent,

clenching his teeth, till he saw a heron come flying mast-high

toward the rocks, and hover awhile before them, as if looking for a

passage through. Then he cried, 'Hera has sent us a pilot; let us

follow the cunning bird.'



Then the heron flapped to and fro a moment, till he saw a hidden

gap, and into it he rushed like an arrow, while the heroes watched

what would befall.



And the blue rocks clashed together as the bird fled swiftly

through; but they struck but a feather from his tail, and then

rebounded apart at the shock.



Then Tiphys cheered the heroes, and they shouted; and the oars bent

like withes beneath their strokes as they rushed between those

toppling ice-crags and the cold blue lips of death. And ere the

rocks could meet again they had passed them, and were safe out in

the open sea.



And after that they sailed on wearily along the Asian coast, by the

Black Cape and Thyneis, where the hot stream of Thymbris falls into

the sea, and Sangarius, whose waters float on the Euxine, till they

came to Wolf the river, and to Wolf the kindly king. And there

died two brave heroes, Idmon and Tiphys the wise helmsman: one

died of an evil sickness, and one a wild boar slew. So the heroes

heaped a mound above them, and set upon it an oar on high, and left

them there to sleep together, on the far-off Lycian shore. But

Idas killed the boar, and avenged Tiphys; and Ancaios took the

rudder and was helmsman, and steered them on toward the east.



And they went on past Sinope, and many a mighty river's mouth, and

past many a barbarous tribe, and the cities of the Amazons, the

warlike women of the East, till all night they heard the clank of

anvils and the roar of furnace-blasts, and the forge-fires shone

like sparks through the darkness in the mountain glens aloft; for

they were come to the shores of the Chalybes, the smiths who never

tire, but serve Ares the cruel War-god, forging weapons day and

night.



And at day-dawn they looked eastward, and midway between the sea

and the sky they saw white snow-peaks hanging, glittering sharp and

bright above the clouds. And they knew that they were come to

Caucasus, at the end of all the earth: Caucasus the highest of all

mountains, the father of the rivers of the East. On his peak lies

chained the Titan, while a vulture tears his heart; and at his feet

are piled dark forests round the magic Colchian land.



And they rowed three days to the eastward, while Caucasus rose

higher hour by hour, till they saw the dark stream of Phasis

rushing headlong to the sea, and, shining above the tree-tops, the

golden roofs of King Aietes, the child of the Sun.



Then out spoke Ancaios the helmsman, 'We are come to our goal at

last, for there are the roofs of Aietes, and the woods where all

poisons grow; but who can tell us where among them is hid the

golden fleece? Many a toil must we bear ere we find it, and bring

it home to Greece.'



But Jason cheered the heroes, for his heart was high and bold; and

he said, 'I will go alone up to Aietes, though he be the child of

the Sun, and win him with soft words. Better so than to go

altogether, and to come to blows at once.' But the Minuai would

not stay behind, so they rowed boldly up the stream.



And a dream came to Aietes, and filled his heart with fear. He

thought he saw a shining star, which fell into his daughter's lap;

and that Medeia his daughter took it gladly, and carried it to the

river-side, and cast it in, and there the whirling river bore it

down, and out into the Euxine Sea.



Then he leapt up in fear, and bade his servants bring his chariot,

that he might go down to the river-side and appease the nymphs, and

the heroes whose spirits haunt the bank. So he went down in his

golden chariot, and his daughters by his side, Medeia the fair

witch-maiden, and Chalciope, who had been Phrixus' wife, and behind

him a crowd of servants and soldiers, for he was a rich and mighty

prince.



And as he drove down by the reedy river he saw Argo sliding up

beneath the bank, and many a hero in her, like Immortals for beauty

and for strength, as their weapons glittered round them in the

level morning sunlight, through the white mist of the stream. But

Jason was the noblest of all; for Hera, who loved him, gave him

beauty and tallness and terrible manhood.



And when they came near together and looked into each other's eyes

the heroes were awed before Aietes as he shone in his chariot, like

his father the glorious Sun; for his robes were of rich gold

tissue, and the rays of his diadem flashed fire; and in his hand he

bore a jewelled sceptre, which glittered like the stars; and

sternly he looked at them under his brows, and sternly he spoke and

loud -



'Who are you, and what want you here, that you come to the shore of

Cutaia? Do you take no account of my rule, nor of my people the

Colchians who serve me, who never tired yet in the battle, and know

well how to face an invader?'



And the heroes sat silent awhile before the face of that ancient

king. But Hera the awful goddess put courage into Jason's heart,

and he rose and shouted loudly in answer, 'We are no pirates nor

lawless men. We come not to plunder and to ravage, or carry away

slaves from your land; but my uncle, the son of Poseidon, Pelias

the Minuan king, he it is who has set me on a quest to bring home

the golden fleece. And these too, my bold comrades, they are no

nameless men; for some are the sons of Immortals, and some of

heroes far renowned. And we too never tire in battle, and know

well how to give blows and to take: yet we wish to be guests at

your table: it will be better so for both.'



Then Aietes' race rushed up like a whirlwind, and his eyes flashed

fire as he heard; but he crushed his anger down in his breast, and

spoke mildly a cunning speech -



'If you will fight for the fleece with my Colchians, then many a

man must die. But do you indeed expect to win from me the fleece

in fight? So few you are that if you be worsted I can load your

ship with your corpses. But if you will be ruled by me, you will

find it better far to choose the best man among you, and let him

fulfil the labours which I demand. Then I will give him the golden

fleece for a prize and a glory to you all.'



So saying, he turned his horses and drove back in silence to the

town. And the Minuai sat silent with sorrow, and longed for

Heracles and his strength; for there was no facing the thousands of

the Colchians and the fearful chance of war.



But Chalciope, Phrixus' widow, went weeping to the town; for she

remembered her Minuan husband, and all the pleasures of her youth,

while she watched the fair faces of his kinsmen, and their long

locks of golden hair. And she whispered to Medeia her sister, 'Why

should all these brave men die? why does not my father give them up

the fleece, that my husband's spirit may have rest?'



And Medeia's heart pitied the heroes, and Jason most of all; and

she answered, 'Our father is stern and terrible, and who can win

the golden fleece?' But Chalciope said, 'These men are not like

our men; there is nothing which they cannot dare nor do.'



And Medeia thought of Jason and his brave countenance, and said,

'If there was one among them who knew no fear, I could show him how

to win the fleece.'



So in the dusk of evening they went down to the river-side,

Chalciope and Medeia the witch-maiden, and Argus, Phrixus' son.

And Argus the boy crept forward, among the beds of reeds, till he

came where the heroes were sleeping, on the thwarts of the ship,

beneath the bank, while Jason kept ward on shore, and leant upon

his lance full of thought. And the boy came to Jason, and said -



'I am the son of Phrixus, your Cousin; and Chalciope my mother

waits for you, to talk about the golden fleece.'



Then Jason went boldly with the boy, and found the two princesses

standing; and when Chalciope saw him she wept, and took his hands,

and cried--'O cousin of my beloved, go home before you die!'



'It would be base to go home now, fair princess, and to have sailed

all these seas in vain.' Then both the princesses besought him;

but Jason said, 'It is too late.'



'But you know not,' said Medeia, 'what he must do who would win the

fleece. He must tame the two brazen-footed bulls, who breathe

devouring flame; and with them he must plough ere nightfall four

acres in the field of Ares; and he must sow them with serpents'

teeth, of which each tooth springs up into an armed man. Then he

must fight with all those warriors; and little will it profit him

to conquer them, for the fleece is guarded by a serpent, more huge

than any mountain pine; and over his body you must step if you

would reach the golden fleece.'



Then Jason laughed bitterly. 'Unjustly is that fleece kept here,

and by an unjust and lawless king; and unjustly shall I die in my

youth, for I will attempt it ere another sun be set.'



Then Medeia trembled, and said, 'No mortal man can reach that

fleece unless I guide him through. For round it, beyond the river,

is a wall full nine ells high, with lofty towers and buttresses,

and mighty gates of threefold brass; and over the gates the wall is

arched, with golden battlements above. And over the gateway sits

Brimo, the wild witch-huntress of the woods, brandishing a pine-

torch in her hands, while her mad hounds howl around. No man dare

meet her or look on her, but only I her priestess, and she watches

far and wide lest any stranger should come near.'



'No wall so high but it may be climbed at last, and no wood so

thick but it may be crawled through; no serpent so wary but he may

be charmed, or witch-queen so fierce but spells may soothe her; and

I may yet win the golden fleece, if a wise maiden help bold men.'



And he looked at Medeia cunningly, and held her with his glittering

eye, till she blushed and trembled, and said -



'Who can face the fire of the bulls' breath, and fight ten thousand

armed men?'



'He whom you help,' said Jason, flattering her, 'for your fame is

spread over all the earth. Are you not the queen of all

enchantresses, wiser even than your sister Circe, in her fairy

island in the West?'



'Would that I were with my sister Circe in her fairy island in the

West, far away from sore temptation and thoughts which tear the

heart! But if it must be so--for why should you die?--I have an

ointment here; I made it from the magic ice-flower which sprang

from Prometheus' wound, above the clouds on Caucasus, in the dreary

fields of snow. Anoint yourself with that, and you shall have in

you seven men's strength; and anoint your shield with it, and

neither fire nor sword can harm you. But what you begin you must

end before sunset, for its virtue lasts only one day. And anoint

your helmet with it before you sow the serpents' teeth; and when

the sons of earth spring up, cast your helmet among their ranks,

and the deadly crop of the War-god's field will mow itself, and

perish.'



Then Jason fell on his knees before her, and thanked her and kissed

her hands; and she gave him the vase of ointment, and fled

trembling through the reeds. And Jason told his comrades what had

happened, and showed them the box of ointment; and all rejoiced but

Idas, and he grew mad with envy.



And at sunrise Jason went and bathed, and anointed himself from

head to foot, and his shield, and his helmet, and his weapons, and

bade his comrades try the spell. So they tried to bend his lance,

but it stood like an iron bar; and Idas in spite hewed at it with

his sword, but the blade flew to splinters in his face. Then they

hurled their lances at his shield, but the spear-points turned like

lead; and Caineus tried to throw him, but he never stirred a foot;

and Polydeuces struck him with his fist a blow which would have

killed an ox, but Jason only smiled, and the heroes danced about

him with delight; and he leapt, and ran, and shouted in the joy of

that enormous strength, till the sun rose, and it was time to go

and to claim Aietes' promise.



So he sent up Telamon and Aithalides to tell Aietes that he was

ready for the fight; and they went up among the marble walls, and

beneath the roofs of gold, and stood in Aietes' hall, while he grew

pale with rage.



'Fulfil your promise to us, child of the blazing Sun. Give us the

serpents' teeth, and let loose the fiery bulls; for we have found a

champion among us who can win the golden fleece.'



And Aietes bit his lips, for he fancied that they had fled away by

night: but he could not go back from his promise; so he gave them

the serpents' teeth.



Then he called for his chariot and his horses, and sent heralds

through all the town; and all the people went out with him to the

dreadful War-god's field.



And there Aietes sat upon his throne, with his warriors on each

hand, thousands and tens of thousands, clothed from head to foot in

steel chain-mail. And the people and the women crowded to every

window and bank and wall; while the Minuai stood together, a mere

handful in the midst of that great host.



And Chalciope was there and Argus, trembling, and Medeia, wrapped

closely in her veil; but Aietes did not know that she was muttering

cunning spells between her lips.



Then Jason cried, 'Fulfil your promise, and let your fiery bulls

come forth.'



Then Aietes bade open the gates, and the magic bulls leapt out.

Their brazen hoofs rang upon the ground, and their nostrils sent

out sheets of flame, as they rushed with lowered heads upon Jason;

but he never flinched a step. The flame of their breath swept

round him, but it singed not a hair of his head; and the bulls

stopped short and trembled when Medeia began her spell.



Then Jason sprang upon the nearest and seized him by the horn; and

up and down they wrestled, till the bull fell grovelling on his

knees; for the heart of the brute died within him, and his mighty

limbs were loosed, beneath the steadfast eye of that dark witch-

maiden and the magic whisper of her lips.



So both the bulls were tamed and yoked; and Jason bound them to the

plough, and goaded them onward with his lance till he had ploughed

the sacred field.



And all the Minuai shouted; but Aietes bit his lips with rage, for

the half of Jason's work was over, and the sun was yet high in

heaven.



Then he took the serpents' teeth and sowed them, and waited what

would befall. But Medeia looked at him and at his helmet, lest he

should forget the lesson she had taught.



And every furrow heaved and bubbled, and out of every clod arose a

man. Out of the earth they rose by thousands, each clad from head

to foot in steel, and drew their swords and rushed on Jason, where

he stood in the midst alone.



Then the Minuai grew pale with fear for him; but Aietes laughed a

bitter laugh. 'See! if I had not warriors enough already round me,

I could call them out of the bosom of the earth.'



But Jason snatched off his helmet, and hurled it into the thickest

of the throng. And blind madness came upon them, suspicion, hate,

and fear; and one cried to his fellow, 'Thou didst strike me!' and

another, 'Thou art Jason; thou shalt die!' So fury seized those

earth-born phantoms, and each turned his hand against the rest; and

they fought and were never weary, till they all lay dead upon the

ground. Then the magic furrows opened, and the kind earth took

them home into her breast and the grass grew up all green again

above them, and Jason's work was done.



Then the Minuai rose and shouted, till Prometheus heard them from

his crag. And Jason cried, 'Lead me to the fleece this moment,

before the sun goes down.'



But Aietes thought, 'He has conquered the bulls, and sown and

reaped the deadly crop. Who is this who is proof against all

magic? He may kill the serpent yet.' So he delayed, and sat

taking counsel with his princes till the sun went down and all was

dark. Then he bade a herald cry, 'Every man to his home for to-

night. To-morrow we will meet these heroes, and speak about the

golden fleece.'



Then he turned and looked at Medeia. 'This is your doing, false

witch-maid! You have helped these yellow-haired strangers, and

brought shame upon your father and yourself!'



Medeia shrank and trembled, and her face grew pale with fear; and

Aietes knew that she was guilty, and whispered, 'If they win the

fleece, you die!'



But the Minuai marched toward their ship, growling like lions

cheated of their prey; for they saw that Aietes meant to mock them,

and to cheat them out of all their toil. And Oileus said, 'Let us

go to the grove together, and take the fleece by force.'



And Idas the rash cried, 'Let us draw lots who shall go in first;

for, while the dragon is devouring one, the rest can slay him and

carry off the fleece in peace.' But Jason held them back, though

he praised them; for he hoped for Medeia's help.



And after awhile Medeia came trembling, and wept a long while

before she spoke. And at last -



'My end is come, and I must die; for my father has found out that I

have helped you. You he would kill if he dared; but he will not

harm you, because you have been his guests. Go then, go, and

remember poor Medeia when you are far away across the sea.' But

all the heroes cried -



'If you die, we die with you; for without you we cannot win the

fleece, and home we will not go without it, but fall here fighting

to the last man.'



'You need not die,' said Jason. 'Flee home with us across the sea.

Show us first how to win the fleece; for you can do it. Why else

are you the priestess of the grove? Show us but how to win the

fleece, and come with us, and you shall be my queen, and rule over

the rich princes of the Minuai, in Iolcos by the sea.'



And all the heroes pressed round, and vowed to her that she should

be their queen.



Medeia wept, and shuddered, and hid her face in her hands; for her

heart yearned after her sisters and her playfellows, and the home

where she was brought up as a child. But at last she looked up at

Jason, and spoke between her sobs -



'Must I leave my home and my people, to wander with strangers

across the sea? The lot is cast, and I must endure it. I will

show you how to win the golden fleece. Bring up your ship to the

wood-side, and moor her there against the bank; and let Jason come

up at midnight, and one brave comrade with him, and meet me beneath

the wall.'



Then all the heroes cried together, 'I will go!' 'and I!' 'and I!'

And Idas the rash grew mad with envy; for he longed to be foremost

in all things. But Medeia calmed them, and said, 'Orpheus shall go

with Jason, and bring his magic harp; for I hear of him that he is

the king of all minstrels, and can charm all things on earth.'



And Orpheus laughed for joy, and clapped his hands, because the

choice had fallen on him; for in those days poets and singers were

as bold warriors as the best.



So at midnight they went up the bank, and found Medeia; and beside

came Absyrtus her young brother, leading a yearling lamb.



Then Medeia brought them to a thicket beside the War-god's gate;

and there she bade Jason dig a ditch, and kill the lamb, and leave

it there, and strew on it magic herbs and honey from the honeycomb.



Then sprang up through the earth, with the red fire flashing before

her, Brimo the wild witch-huntress, while her mad hounds howled

around. She had one head like a horse's, and another like a

ravening hound's, and another like a hissing snake's, and a sword

in either hand. And she leapt into the ditch with her hounds, and

they ate and drank their fill, while Jason and Orpheus trembled,

and Medeia hid her eyes. And at last the witch-queen vanished, and

fled with her hounds into the woods; and the bars of the gates fell

down, and the brazen doors flew wide, and Medeia and the heroes ran

forward and hurried through the poison wood, among the dark stems

of the mighty beeches, guided by the gleam of the golden fleece,

until they saw it hanging on one vast tree in the midst. And Jason

would have sprung to seize it; but Medeia held him back, and

pointed, shuddering, to the tree-foot, where the mighty serpent

lay, coiled in and out among the roots, with a body like a mountain

pine. His coils stretched many a fathom, spangled with bronze and

gold; and half of him they could see, but no more, for the rest lay

in the darkness far beyond.



And when he saw them coming he lifted up his head, and watched them

with his small bright eyes, and flashed his forked tongue, and

roared like the fire among the woodlands, till the forest tossed

and groaned. For his cries shook the trees from leaf to root, and

swept over the long reaches of the river, and over Aietes' hall,

and woke the sleepers in the city, till mothers clasped their

children in their fear.



But Medeia called gently to him, and he stretched out his long

spotted neck, and licked her hand, and looked up in her face, as if

to ask for food. Then she made a sign to Orpheus, and he began his

magic song.



And as he sung, the forest grew calm again, and the leaves on every

tree hung still; and the serpent's head sank down, and his brazen

coils grew limp, and his glittering eyes closed lazily, till he

breathed as gently as a child, while Orpheus called to pleasant

Slumber, who gives peace to men, and beasts, and waves.



Then Jason leapt forward warily, and stept across that mighty

snake, and tore the fleece from off the tree-trunk; and the four

rushed down the garden, to the bank where the Argo lay.



There was a silence for a moment, while Jason held the golden

fleece on high. Then he cried, 'Go now, good Argo, swift and

steady, if ever you would see Pelion more.'



And she went, as the heroes drove her, grim and silent all, with

muffled oars, till the pine-wood bent like willow in their hands,

and stout Argo groaned beneath their strokes.



On and on, beneath the dewy darkness, they fled swiftly down the

swirling stream; underneath black walls, and temples, and the

castles of the princes of the East; past sluice-mouths, and

fragrant gardens, and groves of all strange fruits; past marshes

where fat kine lay sleeping, and long beds of whispering reeds;

till they heard the merry music of the surge upon the bar, as it

tumbled in the moonlight all alone.



Into the surge they rushed, and Argo leapt the breakers like a

horse; for she knew the time was come to show her mettle, and win

honour for the heroes and herself.



Into the surge they rushed, and Argo leapt the breakers like a

horse, till the heroes stopped all panting, each man upon his oar,

as she slid into the still broad sea.



Then Orpheus took his harp and sang a paean, till the heroes'

hearts rose high again; and they rowed on stoutly and steadfastly,

away into the darkness of the West.





HOW THE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM OF THE BLACK BROTHERS WAS INTERFERED HOW THE ARGONAUTS WERE DRIVEN INTO THE UNKNOWN SEA facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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