The Life and Death of Jason

5. BOOK V.

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The death of Cyzicus. Phineus freed from the Harpies.

NOW, driven by the oar, and feeling well
The wind that made the fair white sail outswell,
Thessalian Argo flew on toward the place
Where first the rude folk saw dead Helle's face:
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There, fearful of the darkness of the night,
Without the rocks they anchored till the light,
And when the day broke, sped them through the straits
With oars alone, and through the narrow gates
Came out into Propontis, where with oar
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And sail together, within sight of shore,
They went, until the sun was filling down,
And then they saw the white walls of a town,
And made thereto, and soon being come anigh,
They found that on an isle the place did lie,
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And Tiphys called it Cyzicum, a place
Built by a goodly man of a great race,
Himself called Cyzicus, Euzorus' son,
Who still in peace ruled over many an one,
Merchants and other, in that city fair.
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Therefore, they thought it good to enter there,
And going softly, with sails struck, at last
Betwixt the two walls of a port they passed,
And on the quays beheld full many a man
Buying and selling, nigh the water wan.
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So, as they touched the shore, a champion tall

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Drew nigh, and bade them name themselves withal;
And when he heard, he cried: O heroes, land,
For here shall all things be at your command;
And here shall you have good rest from the sea.
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Therewith he sent one to go speedily
And tell the king these folks were landed there.
Then passed the heroes forth upon the fair
Well-builded quays; and all the merchant-folk
Beholding them, from golden dreams awoke,
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And of the sword and clattering shield grew fain,
And glory for awhile they counted gain.
BUT Jason and his fair folk passing these,
Came to a square shaded about by trees,
Where they beheld the crowned king glorious stand
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To wait them, who took Jason by the hand
And led him through the rows of linden trees
Unto his house, the crown of palaces;
And there he honoured them with royal feast
In his fair hall, hung round with man and beast
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Wrought in fair Indian cloths, and on soft beds,
When they grew weary, did they lay their heads.
BUT he, when on the morn they would away
Full many a rich gift in their keel did lay,
And while their oars were whitening the green sea,
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Within his temple he prayed reverently
For their good hap to Jove the Saving God.
Hapless himself that these had ever trod
His quiet land; for, sailing all the day,
Becalmed at last at fall of night they lay;
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And lying there, an hour before midnight
A black cloud rose that swallowed up the light
Of moon and stars, and therefrom leapt a wind
That drave the Argo, tottering, lame, and blind,
Back on her course, and, as it died, at last
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They heard the breakers roaring, and so cast
Their anchors out within some shallow bay,
They knew not where, to wait until the day.
THERE, as they waited, they saw beacons flame
Along the coast, and in a while there came
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A rout of armed men thereto, as might seem
By shouts and clash of arms that now 'gan gleam
Beneath the light of torches that they bore.
Then could the heroes see that they from shore
Were distant scarce a bowshot, and the tide
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Had ebbed so quick the sands were well-nigh dried
Betwixt them and the foremost of the foe,
Who, ere they could push off, began to go
Across the wet beach, and with many a cry
The biting arrows from their bows let fly.
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Nor were the heroes slow to make return,
Aiming where'er they saw the torches burn.
SO passed the night with little death of men;
But when the sky at last grew grey, and when
Dimly the Argo's crew could see their foes,
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Then overboard they leapt, that they might close
With these scarce seen far-fighting enemies,
And so met man to man, crying their cries,
In deadly shock, but Jason, for his part,
Rushing before the rest, put by a dart
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A tall man threw, and closing with him, drave
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His spear through shield and breast-plate weak to save
His heart from such an arm; then straight he fell
Dead on the sands, and with a wailing yell
The others, when they saw it, fled away,
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And gat them swiftly to the forest grey
Which hedged the yellow sands the sea-flood's hem,
Nor gave the seafarers much chase to them,
But on the hard sand all together drew.
And now, day growing, they the country knew
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And found it Cyzicum, and Jason said:
Fellows, what have we done? by likely-head
An evil deed and luckless, but come now,
Draw off the helmet from this dead man's brow
And name him. So when they had done this thing
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They saw the face of Cyzicus the king.
BUT Jason, when he saw him, wept, and said:
Ill hast thou fared, O friend, that I was led
To take thy gifts and slay thee; in such guise,
Blind and unwitting, do fools die, and wise;
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And I myself may hap to come to die
By that I trusted, and like thee to lie
Dead ere my time, a wonder to the world.
But, O poor king, thy corpse shall not be hurled
Hither and thither by the heedless wave,
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But in an urn thine ashes will I save,
And build a temple when I come to Greece
A rich man, with the fair-cuffed Golden Fleece,
And set them there, and call it by thy name,
That thou mayst yet win an undying fame.
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Then hasted all the men, and in a while,
'Twixt sea and woodland, raised a mighty pile,
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And there they burned him; but for spices sweet
Could cast thereon but wrack from 'neath their feet,
And wild wood flowers, and resin from the pine;
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And when the pile grew low, with odorous wine
They quenched the ashes, and the king's they set
Within a golden vessel, that with fret
Of twining boughs and gem-made flowers was wrought,
That they from Pelias' treasure-house had brought.
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Then, since the sun his high meridian
Had left, they pushed into the waters wan,
And so, with hoisted sail and stroke of oar,
Drew off from that unlucky fateful shore.
NOW eastward with a fair wind as they went,
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And towards the opening of the ill sea bent
Their daring course, Tiphys arose and said:
Heroes, it seems to me that hardihead
Helps mortal men but little, if thereto
They join not wisdom; now needs must we go
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Into the evil sea through blue rocks twain,
Which no keel yet hath passed; although in vain
Some rash men trying it of old, have been
Pounded therein, as poisonous herbs and green
Are pounded by a witch-wife on the shore
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Of Pontus; for these two rocks evermore
Each against each are driven, and leave us not
Across the whole strait such a little spot
Safe from the grinding of their mighty blows,
As that through which a well-aimed arrow goes
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When archers for a match shoot at the ring.
Now, heroes, do I mind me of a king
That dwelleth at a sea-side town of Thrace
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That men call Salmydessa, from this place
A short day's sail, who hidden things can tell
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Beyond all men; wherefore, I think it well
That we for counsel should now turn thereto,
Nor headlong to our own destruction go.
THEN all men said that these his words were good,
And turning, towards the Thracian coast they stood,
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Which yet they reached not till the moonlit night
Was come, and from the shore the wind blew light;
Then they lay to until the dawn, and then
Creeping along, found an abode of men
That Tiphys knew to be the place they sought.
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Thereat they shouted, and right quickly brought
Fair Argo to the landing-place, and threw
Grapnels ashore, and landing forthwith drew
Unto the town, seeking Phineus the king.
But those they met and asked about this thing
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Grew pale at naming him, and few words said;
Natheless, they being unto the palace led,
And their names told, soon were they bidden in
To where the king sat, a man blind and thin,
And haggard beyond measure, who straightway
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Called out aloud: Now blessed be the way
That led thee to me, happiest man of all
Who from the poop see the prow rise and fall
And the sail bellying, and the glittering oars;
And blessed be the day whereon our shores
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First felt thy footsteps, since across the sea
My hope and my revenge thou bring'st with thee.
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Then Jason said: "Hail, Phineus, that men call
Wisest of men, and may all good befall
Both thee and thine, and happy mayst thou live!
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Yet do we rather pray thee gifts to give,
Than bring thee any gifts, for, soothly, we
Sail, desperate men and poor, across the sea.
Then answered Phineus: Guest, I know indeed
What gift it is that on this day ye need,
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Which I will not withhold; and yet, I pray,
That ye will eat and drink with me to-day,
Then shall ye see how wise a man am I,
And how well-skilled to 'scape from misery.
Therewith he groaned, and bade his folk to bring
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Such feast as 'longed unto a mighty king
And spread the board therewith; who straight obeyed,
Trembling and pale, and on the tables laid
A royal feast most glorious in all show.
Then said the king: I give you now to know
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That the Gods love me not, O guests; therefore,
Lest your expected feast be troubled sore,
Eat by yourselves alone, while I sit here
Looking for that which scarcely brings me fear
This day, since I so long have suffered it.
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So, wondering at his words, they all did sit
At that rich board, and ate and drank their fill;
But yet with little mirth indeed; for still
Within their wondering ears the king's words rang,
And his blind eyes, made restless by some pang,
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They still felt on them, though no word he said.

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AT last he called out: Though ye be full fed,
Sit still at table and behold me eat,
Then shall ye witness with what royal meat
The Gods are pleased to feed me, since I know
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As much as they do both of things below
And things above. Then, hearkening to this word,
The most of them grew doubtful and afeard
Of what should come; but now unto the board
The king was led, and nigh his hand his sword,
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Two-edged and ivory-hilted, did they lay,
And set the richest dish of all that day
Before him, and a wine-crowned golden cup,
And a pale, trembling servant lifted up
The cover from the dish; then did they hear
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A wondrous rattling sound that drew anear,
Increasing quickly: then the gilded hall
Grew dark at noon, as though the night did fall,
And open were all doors and windows burst,
And such dim light gleamed out as lights the cursed,
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Unto the torments behind Minos' throne:
Dim, green, and doubtful through the hall it shone,
Lighting up shapes no man had seen, before
They fell, awhile ago, upon that shore.
FOR now, indeed, the trembling Minyæ
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The dreadful Snatchers, who like women were
Down to the breast, with scanty coarse black hair
About their heads, and dim eyes ringed with red,
And bestial mouths set round with lips of lead,
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But from their gnarled necks there began to spring
Half hair, half feathers, and a sweeping wing
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Grew out instead of arm on either side,
And thick plumes underneath the breast did hide
The place where joined the fearful natures twain.
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Grey feathered were they else, with many a stain
Of blood thereon, and on birds' claws they went.
These through the hall unheard-of shrieking sent,
And rushed at Phineus, just as to his mouth
He raised the golden cup to quench his drouth,
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And scattered the red wine, and buffeted
The wretched king, and one, perched on his head,
Laughed as the furies laugh, when kings come down
To lead new lives within the fiery town,
And said: O Phineus, thou art lucky now
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The hidden things of heaven and hell to know;
Eat, happy man, and drink. Then did she draw
From off the dish a gobbet with her claw,
And held it nigh his mouth, the while he strove
To free his arm, which one, hovering above,
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Within her filthy vulture-claws clutched tight,
And cried out at him: Truly, in dark night
Thou seest, Phineus, as the leopard doth.
Then cried the third: Fool, who would fain have both,
Delight and knowledge! therefore, with blind eyes
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Clothe thee in purple, wrought with braveries,
And set the pink-veined marble 'neath thy throne;
Then on its golden cushions sit alone,
Hearkening thy chain-galled slaves without singing
For joy, that they behold so many a thing.
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Then shrieked the first one in a dreadful voice:
And I, O Phineus, bid thee to rejoice,
That 'midst thy knowledge still thou know'st not this
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Whose flesh the lips, wherewith thy lips I kiss,
This morn have fed on Then she laughed again,
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And fawning on him, with her sisters twain
Spread her wide wings, and hid him from the sight,
And mixed his groans with screams of shrill delight.
NOW trembling sat the seafarers, nor dared
To use the weapons from their sheaths half-bared,
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Fearing the Gods, who there before their eyes,
Had shown them with what shame and miseries
They visit impious men: yet from the board
There started two with shield and ready sword,
The Northwind's offspring; fearless they and wise,
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Their father's children: dight in such-like guise
As well availed them: so, when Phineus knew,
By his divine art, that the godlike two
Were armed to help him, then from 'twixt the wings
He cried aloud: O, heroes, more than kings,
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Strike, and fear not, but set me free to-day,
That ye within your brazen chests may lay
The best of all my treasure-house doth hold,
Fair linen, scarlet cloth, and well-wrought gold!
Then shrieked the Snatchers, knowing certainly
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That now the time had come when they must fly
From pleasant Salmydessa, casting off
The joys they had in shameful mock and scoff.
So gat they from the blind king, leaving him
Pale and forewearied in his every limb;
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And, flying through the roof, they set them down
Above the hall-doors, 'mid the timbers brown,
Chattering with fury. Then the fair-dyed wings
Opened upon the shoulders of the kings,
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And on their heels, and shouting they uprose,
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And poised themselves in air to meet their foes.
Then here and there these loathly things did wheel
Before the brazen shields, and restless steel,
But as they flew, unlucky words they cried.
The first said: Hail, O folk who wander wide,
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Seeking a foolish thing across the sea,
Not heeding in what case your houses be,
Where now perchance the rovers cast the brand
Up to the roof, and leading by the hand
The fair-limbed women with their fettered feet
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Pass down the sands, their hollow ship to meet.
Luck to the toilsome seeker after fame,
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The third one from the open hall-door cried,
Fare ye well, Jason, still unsatisfied,
Still seeking for a better thing than best,
A fairer thing than fairest, without rest;
Good speed, O traitor, who shall think to wed
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Soft limbs and white, and find thy royal bed
Dripping with blood and burning up with fire;
Good hap to him who henceforth ne'er shall tire
In seeking good that ever flies his hand
Till he lies buried in an alien land!
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SO screamed the monstrous fowl, but now the twain
Sprung from the Northwind's loins to be their bane,
Drew nigh unto them; then, with huddled wings,
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Forth from the hall they gat, but evil things
In flying they gave forth with weakened voice,
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Saying unto them O ye men, rejoice,
Whose bodies worms shall feed on soon or late,
Blind slaves, and foolish of unsparing fate,
Seeking for that which ye can never get,
Whilst life and death alike ye do forget
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In needless strife, until on some sure day,
Death takes your scarcely tasted life away.
Quivering their voices ceased as on they flew
Before the swift wings of the godlike two
Far over land and sea, until they were
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Anigh the isles called Strophades, and there,
With tired wings all voiceless did they light,
Trembling to see anigh the armour bright
The wind-born brothers bore; but as these drew
Their gleaming swords and towards the monsters flew,
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From out the deep rose up a black-haired man,
Who, standing on the white-topped waves that ran
On towards the shore cried: Heroes, turn again,
For on this islet shall ye land in vain;
But without sorrow leave the chase of these
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Who henceforth 'mid the rocky Strophades
Shall dwell for ever, servants unto me,
Working my will; therefore rejoice that ye
Win gifts and honour for your deed to-day.
THEN, even as he spoke, they saw but grey
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White-headed waves rolling where he had stood,
Whereat they sheathed their swords, and through their blood
A tremor ran, for now they knew that he
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Was Neptune, shaker of the earth and sea;
Therefore they turned them back unto the hall
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Where yet the others were, and ere nightfall
Came back to Salmydessa and the king,
And lighting down they told him of the thing.
Who, hearing them, straight lifted up his voice,
And 'midst the shouts cried: Heroes, now rejoice
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With me who am delivered on this day
From that which took all hope and joy away;
Therefore to feast again, until the sun
Another glad day for us has begun,
And then, indeed, if ye must try the sea,
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With gifts and counsel shall ye go from me;
Such as the Gods have given to me to give,
And happy lives and glorious may ye live.
Then did they fall to banqueting again,
Forgetting all forebodings and all pain;
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And when that they had ate and drank enow,
With songs and music, and a goodly show,
Their hearts were gladdened; for before their eyes
Played youths and damsels with strange fantasies,
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With green leaves gathered from the summer tree,
When all the year was summer everywhere,
And every man and woman blest and fair.
So, set 'twixt pleasure and some soft regret,
All cares of mortal men did they forget,
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Except the vague wish that they might not die,
The hopeless hope to flee from certainty,
Which sights and sounds we love will bring on us
In this sweet fleeting world and piteous. Notes Book V


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