The Life and Death of Jason

14. BOOK XIV.

Kelmscott Edition Page 229

Page 229

The Sirens. The Garden of the Hesperides. The heroes do sacrifice at Malea.

ACROSS the open sea they drew their wake
For three long days, and when the fourth 'gan break
Their eyes beheld the fair Trinacrian shore,
And there-along they coasted two days more.
5
Then first Medea warned them to take heed,
Lest they should end all memory of their deed
Where dwell the Sirens on the yellow sand,
And folk should think some tangled poisonous land
Had buried them, or some tumultuous sea
10
O'er their white bones was tossing angrily;
Or that some muddy river, far from Greece,
Drove seaward o'er the ringlets of the Fleece.
But when the Minyæ hearkened to this word,
With many a thought their wearied hearts were stirred,
15
And longing for the near-gained Grecian land,
Where in a little while their feet should stand;
Yet none the less like to a happy dream,
Now, when they neared it, did their own home seem,
And like a dream the glory of their quest,
20
And therewithal some thought of present rest
Stole over them, and they were fain to sigh,
Hearkening the sighing restless wind go by.
But hard on even of the second day,
As o'er the gentle waves they took their way,
25
The orange-scented land-breeze seemed to bear

Kelmscott Edition Page 230

Page 230

Some other sounds unto the listening ear
Than all day long they had been hearkening,
The land-born signs of many a well-known thing.
Thereat Medea trembled, for she knew
30
That nigh the dreadful sands at last they drew,
For certainly the Sirens' song she heard,
Though yet her ear could shape it to no word,
And by their faces could the queen behold
How sweet it was, although no tale it told,
35
To those worn toilers o'er the bitter sea.
NOW, as they sped along, they presently,
Rounding a headland, reached a little bay
Wailed from the sea by splintered cliffs and grey,
Capped by the thymy hills' green wind-beat head,
40
Where 'mid the whin the burrowing rabbits fed.
And 'neath the cliff they saw a belt of sand,
'Twixt Nereus' pasture and the high scarped land,
Whereon, yet far off, could their eyes behold
White bodies moving, crowned and girt with gold,
45
Wherefrom it seemed that lovely music welled.
So when all this the grey-eyed queen beheld,
She said: O Jason, I have made thee wise
In this and other things; turn then thine eyes
Seaward, and note the ripple of the sea,
50
Where there is hope as well as fear for thee.
Nor look upon the death that lurketh there
'Neath the grey cliff, though sweet it seems and fair;
For thou art young upon this day to die.
Take then the helm, and gazing steadily
55
Upon the road to Greece, make strong thine hand,

Kelmscott Edition Page 231

Page 231

And steer us toward the lion-haunted land:
And thou, O Thracian! if thou e'er hast moved
Men's hearts with stories of the Gods who loved,
And men who suffered, move them on this day,
60
Taking the deadly love of death away,
That even now is stealing over them,
While still they gaze upon the ocean's hem,
Where their undoing is if they but knew.
BUT while she spake, still nigher Argo drew
65
Unto the yellow edges of the shore,
And little help she had of ashen oar,
For as her shielded side rolled through the sea,
Silent with glittering eyes the Minyæ
Gazed o'er the surge, for they were nigh enow
70
To see the gusty wind of evening blow
Long locks of hair across those bodies white,
With golden spray hiding some dear delight;
Yea, nigh enow to see their red lips smile,
Wherefrom all song had ceased now for a while,
75
As though they deemed the prey was in the net,
And they no more had need a bait to set,
But their own bodies, fair beyond man's thought,
Under the grey cliff, hidden not of aught
But of such mist of tears as in the eyes
80
Of those seafaring men might chance to rise.
A moment Jason gazed, then through the waist
Ran swiftly, and with trembling hands made haste
To trim the sail, then to the tiller ran,
And thrust aside the skilled Milesian man,
85
Who with half-open mouth, and dreamy eyes,
Stood steering Argo to that land of lies;
Kelmscott Edition Page 232

Page 232

But as he staggered forward, Jason's hand
Hard on the tiller steered away from land,
And as her head a little now fell off
90
Unto the wide sea, did he shout this scoff
To Thracian Orpheus: Minstrel, shall we die,
Because thou hast forgotten utterly
What things she taught thee whom men call divine?
Or will thy measures but lead folk to wine,
95
And scented beds, and not to noble deeds?
Or will they fail as fail the shepherd's reeds
Before the trumpet, when these sea-witches
Pipe shrilly to the washing of the seas?
I am a man, and these but beasts, and thou
100
Giving these souls, that all were men ere now,
Shall be a very God and not a man!
So spake he; but his fingers Orpheus ran
Over the strings, and sighing turned away
From that fair ending of the sunny bay;
105
But as his well-skilled hands were preluding
What his heart swelled with, they began to sing
With pleading voices from the yellow sands,
Clustered together, with appealing hands
Reached out to Argo as the great sail drew,
110
While o'er their white limbs sharp the spray-shower flew,
Since they spared not to set white feet among
The cold waves heedless of their honied song.
Sweetly they sang, and still the answer came
Piercing and clear from him, as bursts the flame
115
From out the furnace in the moonless night;
Yet, as their words are no more known aright
Through lapse of many ages, and no man
Kelmscott Edition Page 233

Page 233

Can any more across the waters wan
Behold those singing women of the sea,
120
Once more I pray you all to pardon me,
If with my feeble voice and harsh I sing
From what dim memories yet may chance to cling
About men's hearts, of lovely things once sung
Beside the sea, while yet the world was young.
125
Sirens
O HAPPY seafarers are ye,
And surely all your ills are past,
And toil upon the land and sea,
Since ye are brought to us at last.
130
To you the fashion of the world,
Wide lands laid waste, fair cities burned,
And plagues, and kings from kingdoms hurled,
Are nought, since hither ye have turned.
For as upon this beach we stand,
135
And o’er our heads the sea-fowl flit,
Our eyes behold a glorious land,
And soon shall ye be kings of it.
Orpheus
A LITTLE more, a little more,
140
O carriers of the Golden Fleece,
A little labour with the oar,
Before we reach the land of Greece.
E'en now perchance hint rumours reach
Men's ears of this our victory,
145
And draw them down unto the beach
To gaze across the empty sea.
But since the longed-for day is nigh,
And scarce a God could stay us now,
Why do ye hang your heads and sigh,
150
Hindering for nought our eager prow?
Sirens
AH, had ye chanced to reach the home
On which your fond desires were set,
Into what troubles had ye come?
155
Short love and joy and long regret.
But now, but now, when ye have lain
Asleep with us a little while
Beneath the washing of the main,
How calm shall be your waking smile!
160
For ye shall smile to think of life
That knows no troublous change or fear,
No unavailing bitter strife,
That ere its time brings trouble near.
Orpheus
165
IS there some murmur in your ears,
That all that we have done is nought,
And nothing ends our cares and fears,
Till the last fear on us is brought?
Sirens
170
ALAS! and will ye stop your ears,
In vain desire to do aught,
And wish to live 'mid cares and fears,
Until the last fear makes you nought?
Orpheus
175
IS not the May-time now on earth,
When close against the city wall
The folk are singing in their mirth,
While on their heads the May-flowers fall?
Sirens
180
YES, May is come, and its sweet breath
Shall well-nigh make you weep to-day,
Andpensive with swift-coming death,
Shall ye be satiate of the May.
Orpheus
185
SHALL not July bring fresh delight,
As underneath green trees ye sit,
And o'er some damsel's body white
The noontide shadows change and flit?
Sirens
190
NO new delight July shall bring
But ancient fear and fresh desire,
And, spite of every lovely thing,
Of July surely shall ye tire.
Orpheus
195
AND now, when August comes on thee,
And 'mid the golden sea of corn
The merry reapers thou mayst see,
Wilt thou still think the earth forlorn?
Sirens
200
SET flowers upon thy short-lived head,
And in thine heart forgetfulness
Of man's hard toil, and scanty bread,
And weary of those days no less.
Orpheus
205
OR wilt thou climb the sunny hill,
In the October afternoon,
To watch the purple earth's blood fill
The grey vat to the maiden's tune?
Sirens
210
WHEN thou beginnest to grow old,
Bring back remembrance of thy bliss
With that the shining cup doth hold,
And weary helplessly of this.
Orpheus
215
Or pleasureless shall we pass by
The long cold night and leaden day,
That song, and tale, and minstrelsy
Shall make as merry as the May?
Sirens
220
List then, to-night, to some old tale
Until the tears o'erflow thine eyes;
But what shall all these things avail,
When sad to-morrow comes and dies?
Orpheus
225
And when the world is born again,
And with some fair love, side by side,
Thou wanderest 'twixt the sun and rain,
In that fresh love-begetting tide;
Then, when the world is born again,
230
And the sweet year before thee lies,
Shall thy heart think of coming pain,
Or vex itself with memories?
Sirens
AH! then the world is born again
235
With burning love unsatisfied,
And new desires fond and vain,
And weary days from tide to tide.
AH! when the world is born again,
A little day is soon gone by,
240
When thou, unmoved by sun or rain,
Within a cold straight house shall lie.
THEREWITH they ceased awhile, as languidly
The head of Argo fell off toward the sea,
And through the water she began to go,
245
For from the land a fitful wind did blow,
That, dallying with the many-coloured sail,
Would sometimes swell it out and sometimes fail,
As nigh the east side of the bay they drew;
Then o'er the waves again the music flew.
Kelmscott Edition Page 237

Page 237

250
Sirens
THINK not of pleasure, short and vain.
Wherewith, 'mid days of toil and pain,
With sick and sinking hearts ye strive
To cheat yourselves that ye may live
255
With cold death ever close at hand;
Think rather of a peaceful land,
The changeless land where ye may be
Roofed over by the changeful sea.
Orpheus
260
AND is the fair town nothing then,
The coming of the wandering men
With that long talked-of thing and strange,
And news of how the kingdoms change;
The pointed hands, and wondering
265
At doers of a desperate thing?
Push on, for surely this shall be
Across a narrow strip of sea.
Sirens
ALAS! poor souls and timorous,
270
Will ye draw nigh to gaze at us
And see if we are fair indeed;
For such as we shall be your meed,
There, where our hearts would have you go.
And where can the earth-dwellers show
275
In any land such loveliness
As that wherewith your eyes we bless,
O wanderers of the Minyæ,
Worn rollers over land and sea?
Orpheus
280
FAIR as the lightning thwart the sky,
As sun-dyed snow upon the high
Untrodden heaps of threatening stone
The eagle looks upon alone,
O fair as the doomed victim's wreath,
285
O fair as deadly sleep and death,
What will ye with them, earthly men,
To mate your three-score years and ten?
Toil rather, suffer and be free,
Betwixt the green earth and the sea.
290
Sirens
IF ye be bold with us to go,
Things such as happy dreams may show
Shall your once heavy eyes behold
About our palaces of gold;
295
Where waters 'neath the waters run,
And from o'erhead a harmless sun
Gleams through the woods of chrysolite.
There gardens fairer to the sight
Than those of the Phæacian king
300
Shall ye behold; and, wondering,
Gaze on the sea-born fruit and flowers,
And thornless and unchanging bowers,
Whereof the May-time knoweth nought,
SO to the pillared house being brought,
305
Poor souls, ye shall not be alone,
For o'er the floors of pale blue stone
All day such feet as ours shall pass,
And, 'twixt the glimmering walls of glass,
Such bodies garlanded with gold,
310
So faint, so fair, shall ye behold,
And clean forget the treachery
Of changing earth and tumbling sea.
Orpheus
O THE sweet valley of deep grass,
315
Where-through the summer stream doth pass,
In chain of shallow, and still pool,
From misty morn to evening cool;
Where the black ivy creeps and twines
O'er the dark-arm’d, red-trunked pines,
320
Whence clattering the pigeon flits,
Or, brooding o'er her thin eggs, sits,
And every hollow of the hills
With echoing song the mavis fills.
There by the stream, all unafraid,
325
Shall stand the happy shepherd maid,
Alone in first of sunlit hours;
Behind her, on the dewy flowers,
Her homespun woollen raiment lies,
And her white limbs and sweet grey eyes
330
Shine from the calm green pool and deep,
While round about the swallows sweep,
Not silent; and would God that we,
Like them, were landed from the sea.
Sirens
335
SHALL not rise with you at night,
Up through the shimmering green twilight,
That maketh there our changeless day,
Then going through the moonlight grey,
Shall we not sit upon these sands,
340
To think upon the troublous lands
Long left behind, where once ye were,
When every day brought change and fear?
There, with white arms about you twined,
And shuddering somewhat at the wind
345
That ye rejoiced erewhile to meet,
Be happy, while old stories sweet,
Half understood, float round your ears,
And fill your eyes with happy tears.
Ah! while we sing unto you there,
350
As now we sing, with yellow hair
Blown round about these pearly limbs,
While underneath the grey sky swims
The light shell-sailor of the waves,
And to our song, from sea-filled caves
355
Booms out an echoing harmony,
Shall ye not love the peaceful sea?
Orpheus
NIGH the vine-covered hillocks green,
In days agone, have I not seen
360
The brown-clad maidens amorous,
Below the long rose-trellised house,
Dance to the querulous pipe and shrill,
When the grey shadow of the hill
Was lengthening at the end of day?
365
Not shadowy nor pale were they,
But limbed like those who ‘twixt the trees,
Follow the swift of Goddesses.
Sunburnt they are somewhat, indeed,
To where the rough brown woollen weed
370
Is drawn across their bosoms sweet,
Or cast from off their dancing feet;
But yet the stars, the moonlight grey,
The water wan, the dawn of day,
Can see their bodies fair and white
375
As Hers, who once, for man's delight,
Before the world grew hard and old,
Came o'er the bitter sea and cold;
And surely those that met me there,
Her handmaidens and subjects were;
380
And shame-faced, half-repressed desire
Had lit their glorious eyes with fire,
That maddens eager hearts of men.
O would that I were with them when
The new-risen moon is gathering light,
385
And yellow from the homestead white
The windows gleam; but verily
This waits us o'er a little sea.
Sirens
COME to the land where none grows old,
390
And none is rash or over-bold,
Nor any noise there is nor war,
Nor rumour from wild lands afar,
Nor plagues, nor birth and death of kings;
No vain desire of unknown things.
395
Shall vex you there, no hope or fear
Of that which never draweth near;
But in that lovely land and still
Ye may remember what ye will,
And what ye will, forget for aye.
400
So while the kingdoms pass away,
Ye sea-beat hardened toilers erst,
Unresting, for vain fame athirst,
Shall be at peace for evermore,
With hearts fulfilled of Godlike lore,
405
And calm, unwavering Godlike love,
No lapse of time can turn or move.
There, ages after your fair Fleece
Is clean forgotten, yea, and Greece
Is no more counted glorious,
410
Alone with us, alone with us,
Alone with us, dwell happily,
Beneath our trembling roof of sea.
Orpheus
AH! do ye weary of the strife
415
And long to change this eager life
For shadowy and dull hopelessness,
Thinking indeed to gain no less
Than far from this grey light to lie,
And there to die and not to die
420
To be as if ye ne'er had been,
Yet keep your memory fresh and green,
To have no thought of good or ill,
Yet feed your fill of pleasure still?
O idle dream! Ah, verily
425
If it shall happen unto me
That I have thought of anything,
When o’er my bones the sea-fowl sing,
And I lie dead, how shall I pine
For those fresh joys that once were mine,
430
On this green fount of joy and mirth,
The ever young and glorious earth;
Then, helpless, shall I call to mind
Thoughts of the sweet flower-scented wind,
The dew, the gentle rain at night,
435
The wonder-working snow and white,
The song of birds, the water's fall,
The sun that maketh bliss of all;
Yea, this our toil and victory,
The tyrannous and conquered sea.
440
Sirens
AH, will ye go, and whither then
Will ye go from us, soon to die,
To fill your three-score years and ten,
With many an unnamed misery?
445
And this the wretchedest of all,
That when upon your lonely eyes
The last faint heaviness shall fall
Ye shall bethink you of our cries.
Come back, nor grown old, seek in vain
450
To hear us sing across the sea.
Come back, come back, come back again,
Come back, O fearful Minyæ!
Orpheus
Ah, once again, ah, once again,
455
The black prow plunges through the sea,
Nor yet shall all your toil be vain,
Nor yet forgot, O Minyæ.
IN such wise sang the Thracian, in such wise
Out gushed the Sirens' deadly melodies;
460
But long before the mingled song was done,
Back to the oars the Minyæ, one by one,
Slunk silently; though many an one sighed sore,
As his strong fingers met the wood once more,
And from his breast the toilsome breathing came.
465
But as they laboured, some for very shame
Hung down their heads, and yet amongst them some
Gazed at the place whence that sweet song had come,
But round the oars and Argo's shielded side
Kelmscott Edition Page 244

Page 244

The sea grew white, and she began to glide
470
Swift through the waters of that deadly bay;
But when a long wake now behind her lay,
And still the whistle of the wind increased,
Past shroud and mast, and all the song had ceased,
Butes rose up, the fair Athenian man,
475
And with wild eyes betwixt the rowers ran
Unto the poop and leapt into the sea;
Then all men rested on their oars, but he
Rose to the top, and towards the shore swam fast;
While all eyes watched him, who had well-nigh past
480
The place where sand and water 'gan to meet
In wreaths and ripples round the ivory feet,
When sun-burnt swimmer, snow-white glancing limb,
And yellow sand unto their eyes grew dim.
Nor did they see their fellow any more.
485
But when they once again beheld the shore
The wind sung o'er the empty beach and bare,
And by the cliff uprose into the air
A delicate and glittering little cloud,
That seemed some many-coloured sun to shroud;
490
But as the rugged cliff it drew above
The wondering Minyæ beheld it move
Westward, toward Lilybaeum and the sun.
THEN once more was their seaward course begun,
And soon those deadly sands were far astern,
495
Nor ever after could the heroes learn
If Butes lived or died; but old tales tell
That while the tumbling waves he breasted well,
Venus beheld him, as unseen she drew
From sunny Cyprus to the headland blue
Kelmscott Edition Page 245

Page 245

500
Of Lilybæum, where her temple is;
She, with a mind his sun-burnt brows to kiss,
E'en as his feet were dropping nigh the beach,
And ere his hand the deadly hands could reach,
Stooped, as the merlin stoops upon the dove,
505
And snatched him thence to be awhile her love,
Betwixt the golden pillars of her shrine,
That those who pass the Aegades see shine
From high-raised Lilybæum o'er the sea.
BUT far away the sea-beat Minyæ
510
Cast forth the foam, as through the growing night
They laboured ever, having small delight
In life all empty of that promised bliss;
In love that scarce can give a dying kiss;
In pleasure ending sweet songs with a wail;
515
In fame that little can dead men avail;
In vain toil struggling with the fateful stream,
In hope, the promise of a morning dream.
Yet as night died, and the cold sea and grey
Seemed running with them toward the dawn of day,
520
Needs must they once again forget their death,
Needs must they, being alive and drawing breath,
As men who of no other life can know
In their own minds again immortal grow.
BUT toward the south a little now they bent,
525
And for a while o'er landless sea they went,
But on the third day made another land
At dawn of day, and thitherward did stand;
And since the wind blew lightly from the shore,
Somewhat abeam, they feared not with the oar
Kelmscott Edition Page 246

Page 246

530
To push across the shallowing sea and green,
That washed a land the fairest they had seen,
Whose shell-strewn beach at highest of the tide
'Twixt sea and flowery shore was nowise wide,
And drawn a little backward from the sea
535
There stood a marble wall wrought cunningly,
Rosy and white, set thick with images,
And over-topped with heavy-fruited trees,
Which by the shore ran, as the bay did bend,
And to their eyes had neither gap nor end;
540
Nor any gate: and looking over this,
They saw a place not made for earthly bliss,
Or eyes of dying men, for growing there
The yellow apple and the painted pear,
And well-filled golden cups of oranges
545
Hung amid groves of pointed cypress trees;
On grassy slopes the twining vine-boughs grew,
And hoary olives 'twixt far mountains blue,
And many-coloured flowers, like as a cloud
The rugged southern cliffs did softly shroud;
550
And many a green-necked bird sung to his mate
Within the slim-leaved, thorny pomegranate,
That flung its unstrung rubies on the grass,
And slowly o'er the place the wind did pass
Heavy with many odours that it bore
555
From thymy hills down to the sea-beat shore;
Because no flower there is, that all the year,
From spring to autumn, beareth otherwhere,
But there it flourished; nor the fruit alone
From 'twixt the green leaves and the boughs outshone,
560
For there each tree was ever flowering.

Kelmscott Edition Page 247

Page 247

Nor was there lacking many a living thing
Changed of its nature; for the roebuck there
Walked fearless with the tiger; and the bear
Rolled sleepily upon the fruit-strawn grass,
565
Letting the conies o'er his rough hide pass,
With blinking eyes, that meant no treachery.
Careless the partridge passed the red fox by;
Untouched the serpent left the thrushes brown,
And as a picture was the lion's flown.
570
BUT in the midst there was a grassy space,
Raised somewhat over all the flowery place,
On marble terrace-walls wrought like a dream;
And round about it ran a clear blue stream,
Bridged o'er with marble steps, and midmost there
575
Grew a green tree, whose smooth grey boughs did bear
Such fruit as never man elsewhere had seen,
For 'twixt the sunlight and the shadow green
Shone out fair apples of red gleaming gold.
Moreover round the tree, in many a fold,
580
Lay coiled a dragon, glittering little less
Than that which his eternal watchfulness
Was set to guard; nor yet was he alone,
For from the daisied grass about him shone
Gold raiment wrapping round two damsels fair,
585
Of whom one slept, one sat and combed her hair,
And with shut eyes sung low as in a dream;
But yet another stood in the blue stream,
While on the bank her golden raiment lay;
But on that noontide of the quivering day,
590
She only, hearing the seafarers' shout,
Her lovely golden head had turned about,
Kelmscott Edition Page 248

Page 248

And seen their white sail flapping o'er the wall,
And as she turned had let her tresses fall,
Which the thin water rippling round her knee
595
Bore outward from her toward the restless sea.
Not long she stood, but looking seaward yet,
From out the water made good haste to get,
And catching up her raiment hastily,
Ran up the marble stair, and 'gan to cry:
600
Wake, O my sisters, wake, for now are come
The thieves of Aea to our peaceful home.
Then at her voice they gat them to their feet,
And when her raiment all her body sweet
Once more had hidden, joining hand to hand,
605
About the sacred apples did they stand,
While coiled the dragon closer to the tree,
And raised his head above them threateningly.
MEANWHILE, from Argo many a sea-beat face
Gazed longingly upon that lovely place,
610
And some their eager hands already laid
Upon the gangway. Then Medea said:
Get back unto the oars, O Minyæ,
Nor loiter here, for what have such as we
To do herein, where, ‘mid undying trees,
615
Undying watch the wise Hesperides,
And where the while they watch, scarce can a God
Set foot upon the fruit-besprinkled sod
That no snow ever covers? therefore haste,
Nor yet in wondering your fair lives waste;
620
For these are as the Gods, nor think of us,
Nor to their eyes can aught be glorious
Kelmscott Edition Page 249

Page 249

That son of man can do; would God that I
Could see far off the misty headland lie,
Where we the guilt of blood shall wash away,
625
For I grow weary of the dashing spray,
And ceaseless roll of interwoven seas,
And fain were sitting 'neath the whispering trees
In homely places, where the children play,
Who change like me, grow old, and die some day.
630
She ceased, and little soothly did they grieve,
For all its loveliness, that land to leave,
For now some God had chilled their hardihead,
And in their hearts had set a sacred dread,
They knew not why; but on their oars they hung,
635
A little longer as the sisters sung.
O YE, who to this place have strayed,
That never for man’s eyes was made,
Depart in haste, as ye have come,
And bear back to your sea-beat home
640
This memory of the age of gold,
And for your eyes, grown over-bold,
Your hearts shall pay in sorrowing,
For want of many a half-seen thing.
LO such as is this garden green,
645
In days past, all the world has been,
And what we know all people knew,
Save this, that unto worse all grew.
But since the golden age is gone,
This little place is left alone,
650
Unchanged, unchanging, watched of us,
The daughters of wise Hesperus.
Kelmscott Edition Page 250

Page 250

Surely the heavenly Messenger
Full oft is fain to enter here,
And yet without must he abide;
655
Nor longeth less the dark king's bride
To set red lips unto that fruit
That erst made nought her mother's suit.
Here would Diana rest awhile,
Forgetful of her woodland guile,
660
Among these beasts that fear her nought.
Nor is it less in Pallas' thought,
Beneath our trees to ponder o'er
The wide, unfathomed sea of lore;
And oft-kissed Citheræa, no less
665
Weary of love, full fain would press
These flowers with soft unsandalled feet.
BUT us our rest is sweet,
Neither shall any man or God
Or lovely Goddess touch the sod
670
Where-under old times buried lie,
Before the world knew misery.
Nor will we have a slave or king,
Nor yet will we learn anything
But that we know, that makes us glad;
675
While oft the very Gods are sad
With knowing what the Fates shall do.
NEITHER from us shall wisdom go
To fill the hungering hearts of men,
Lest to them threescore years and ten
680
Come but to seem a little day,
Once given, and taken soon away.
Nay, rather let them find their life
Kelmscott Edition Page 251

Page 251

Bitter and sweet, fulfilled of strife,
Restless with hope, vain with regret,
685
Trembling with fear, most strangely set
'Twixt memory and forgetfulness;
So more shall joy be, troubles less,
And surely when all this is past,
They shall not want their rest at last.
690
LET earth and heaven go on their way,
While still we watch from day to day,
In this green place left all alone,
A remnant of the days long gone.
THERE in the wind they hung, as word by word
695
The clear-voiced singers silently they heard;
But when the air was barren of their song,
Anigh the shore they durst not linger long;
So northward turned forewearied Argo's head,
And dipping oars, from that fair country sped,
700
Fulfilled of new desires and pensive thought,
Which that day's life unto their hearts had brought.
THEN hard they toiled upon the bitter sea,
And in two days they did not fail to be
In sight of land, a headland high and blue,
705
Which straight Milesian Erginus knew
To be the fateful place which now they sought,
Stormy Malea, so thitherward they brought
The groaning ship, and, casting anchor, lay
Beneath that headland's lee, within a bay,
Kelmscott Edition Page 252

Page 252

710
Wherefrom the more part landed, and their feet
Once more the happy soil of Greece did meet.
Therewith they failed not to bring ashore
Rich robes of price and of fair arms good store,
And gold and silver, that they there might buy
715
What yet they lacked for their solemnity;
Then, while upon the highest point of land
Some built an altar, Jason, with a band
Of all the chiefest of the Minyæ,
Turned inland from the murmur of the sea.
720
NOT far they went ere by a little stream
Down in a valley they could see the gleam
Of brazen pillars and fair-gilded vanes,
And, dropping down by dank dark-wooded lanes
From off the hill-side, reached a house at last
725
Where in and out men-slaves and women passed,
And guests were streaming fast into the hall,
Where now the oaken boards were laid for all.
With these the Minyæ went, and soon they were
Within a pillared hall both great and fair,
730
Where folk already sat beside the board,
And on the dais was an ancient lord.
But when these saw the fearless Minyæ
Glittering in arms, they sprang up hastily,
And each man turned about unto the wall
735
To seize his spear or staff: then through the hall
Jason cried out: Laconians, fear ye not,
Nor leave the flesh-meat while it reeketh hot
For dread of us, for we are men as ye,
And I am Jason of the Minyæ,
740
And come from Aea to the land of Greece,

Kelmscott Edition Page 253

Page 253

And in my ship bear back the Golden Fleece,
And a fair Colchian queen to fill my bed.
And now we pray to share your wine and bread,
And other things we need, and at our hands
745
That ye will take fair things of many lands.
Sirs, said the ancient lord, be welcome here,
Come up and sit by me, and make such cheer
As here ye can: glad am I that to me
The first of Grecian men from off the sea
750
Ye now are come Therewith the great hall rang
With joyful shouts, and as, with clash and clang
Of well-wrought arms, up to the dais they went,
All eyes upon the Minyæ were bent,
Nor could they have enough of wondering
755
At this or that sea-tossed victorious king.
SO with the strangers there they held high feast,
And afterwards the slaves drove many a beast
Down to the shore, and carried back again
Great store of precious things in pack and wain;
760
Wrought gold and silver, gems, full many a bale
Of scarlet cloth, and fine silk, fit to veil
The perfect limbs of dreaded Goddesses;
Spices fresh-gathered from the outland trees,
And arms well-wrought, and precious scarce-known wine,
765
And carven images well-nigh divine.
So when all folk with these were satisfied,
Back went the Minyæ to the water-side,
And with them that old lord, fain to behold
Victorious Argo and the Fleece of Gold.
770
And so aboard amid the oars he lay
Throughout the night, and at the dawn of day
Kelmscott Edition Page 254

Page 254

Did all men land, nor spared that day to wear
The best of all they had of gold-wrought gear,
And every one, being crowned with olive grey,
775
Up to the headland did they take their way,
Where now already stood the crowned priests
About the altars by the gilt-horned beasts.
There, as the fair sun rose, did Jason break
Over the altar the thin barley-cake,
780
And cast the salt abroad, and there were slain
The milk-white bulls, and there red wine did rain
On to the fire from out the ancient jar,
And high rose up the red flame, seen afar
From many another headland of that shore:
785
But over all its crackling and its roar
Uprose from time to time a joyous song,
That on the summer morning lay for long,
The mighty voices of the Minyæ
Exulting o'er the tossing conquered sea,
790
That far below thrust on by tide and wind
The crumbling bases of the headland mined. Notes Book XIV


PREVIOUS - Book XIIINEXT - Book XV

Content I II III IV V VI VII VIII
IX X XI XII XIII XIV XV XVI XVII

Back to top