: Perseus
: The Heroes

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 the
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


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.