« PreviousContinue »
Ing of Zeus, not when the twittering nestlings look towards the perch, while their mother flaps her wings above the smoke-browned beam; and all this that the lad might be fashioned to his mind, and might drive a straight furrow, and come to the true measure of man. . . .
"And Hylas of the yellow hair, with a vessel of bronze in his hand, went to draw water against supper-time, for Heracles himself and the steadfast Telamon, for these comrades twain supped ever at one table. Soon was he ware of a spring, in a hollow land, and the rushes grew thickly round it, and dark swallow-wort, and green maiden-hair, and blooming parsley, and deergrass spreading through the marshy land. In the midst of the water the nymphs were arranging their dances, the sleepless nymphs, dread goddesses of the country people, Eunice, and Malis, and Nycheia, with her April eyes. And now the boy was holding out the wide-mouthed pitcher to the water, intent on dipping it; but the nymphs all clung to his hand, for love of the Argive lad had fluttered the soft hearts of all of them. Then down he sank into the black water, headlong all, as when a star shoots flaming from the sky, plumb in the deep it falls; and a mate shouts out to the seamen, 'Up with the gear, my lads, the wind is fair for sailing.'
"Then the nymphs held the weeping boy on their laps, and with gentle words were striving to comfort him. But the son of Amphitryon was troubled about the lad, and went forth, carrying his bended bow in Scythian fashion, and the club that is ever grasped in his right hand. Thrice he shouted 'Hylas!' as loud as his deep throat could call, and thrice again the boy heard him, and thrice came his voice from the water, and, hard by though he was, he seemed very far away. And as when a bearded lion, a ravening lion on the hills, hears the bleating of a fawn afar off, and rushes forth from his lair to seize it, his readiest meal, even so the mighty Heracles, in longing for the lad, sped through the trackless briars, and ranged over much country.
"Reckless are lovers: great toils did Heracles bear, in hills and thickets wandering; and Jason's quest was all postponed to this. . .
"Thus loveliest Hylas is numbered with the Blessed; but for a runaway they girded at Heracles — the heroes — because he roamed from Argo of the sixty oarsmen. But on foot he came to Colchis and inhospitable Phasis."
§ 142. The Expedition against Laomedon. —After his servitude under Omphale was ended, Hercules sailed with eighteen ships against Troy. For Laomedon, king of that realm, had refused to give Hercules the horses of Neptune, which he had promised in gratitude for the rescue of his daughter Hesione from the seamonster.1 The hero, overcoming Troy, placed a son of Laomedon,
Priam, upon the throne, and gave Hesione to Telamon, who, with Peleus, Oi'cles, and other Greek heroes, had accompanied him. Also worthy of mention among the exploits of Hercules were his successful expeditions against Pylos and Sparta, his victory over the giants, his struggle with Death for the body and life of Alcestis,1 and his delivery, according to prophecy, of Prometheus, who, until that time, had remained in chains upon the Caucasian Mountains.2 § 143. The Death of Hercules.—Finally the hero married Dejanira, daughter of CEneus of Calydon, and sister of Meleager of the Calydonian hunt. With her he lived happily three years. But on one occasion, as they journeyed together, they came to a river, across which the centaur Nessus carried travellers for a stated fee. Hercules proceeded to ford the river, and gave Dejanira to Nessus to be carried across. Nessus, however, attempted to make off with her; whereupon Hercules, hearing her cries, shot an arrow into his heart. The centaur as he died, bade Dejanira take a portion of his blood and keep it, saying that it might be used as a charm to preserve the love of her husband. Dejanira did so. Before long, jealous of Hercules' fondness for Iole of CEchalia, a captive maiden, she steeped a sacrificial robe of her husband's in the blood of Nessus. As soon as the garment became warm on the body of Hercules, the poison penetrated his limbs. In his frenzy he seized Lichas, who had brought him the fatal robe, and hurled him into the sea; then tried to wrench off the garment, but it stuck to his flesh, and tore away whole pieces of his body.
"Alcides, from CEchalia crowned
In this state he embarked on board a ship, and was conveyed home. Dejanira, on seeing what she had unwittingly done, hanged herself. Hercules, prepared to die, ascended Mount CEta, where
1 i 81. 4 §§ 22-25. "Milton.
he built a funeral pile of trees, gave his bow and arrows to Philoctetes,1 and laid himself upon the pile, his head resting on his club, and his lion's skin spread over him. With a countenance as serene as if he were taking his place at a festal board, he commanded Philoctetes to apply the torch. The flames spread apace, and soon invested the whole mass.2
The gods themselves grieved to see the champion of the earth so brought to his end. But Jupiter took care that only his mother's part in him should perish by the flames. The immortal element, derived from Jupiter himself, was translated to heaven; and by the consent of the gods — even of reluctant Juno — Hercules was admitted as a deity to the ranks of the immortals. The whitearmed queen of heaven was finally reconciled to the offspring of Alcmena. She adopted him for her son, and gave him in marriage her daughter Hebe.
"Deep degraded to a coward's slave,
"Till the god, the earthly part forsaken,
1 See § 169. According to Sophocles, Philoctetes' father Poeas applied the torch a Sep the spirited poems, Deianeira and Herakles, in the classical, but too little read, Epic of Hades, by Lewis Morris.
Youth's bright goddess, with a blush at meeting,
Here we take leave for a time of the descendants of Inachus. We shall revert to them in the stories of Minos of Crete (§ 149) and of the house of Labdacus (§ 158).
1 Schiller's Ideal and Life. Translated by S. G. Bulfinch, brother of Thomas Bulfinch.
THE FAMILY OF ^OLUS.
§ 144. The Descendants of Deucalion.—Athamas, brother of Sisyphus, was descended from ^Eolus, whose father, Hellen, was the son of Deucalion of Thessaly. Athamas had, by his wife Nephele, two children, Phryxus and Helle. After a time, growing indifferent to his wife, Athamas put her away, and took Ino, the daughter of Cadmus. The unfortunate sequel of this second marriage we have already seen.1
Nephele, apprehending danger to her children from the influence of their step-mother, took measures to put them out of her reach. Mercury gave her a ram with a golden fleece, on which she set the two children. Vaulting into the air, the animal took his course to the East; but when he was crossing the strait that divides Europe and Asia, the girl Helle fell from his back into the sea, which from her was afterward called the Hellespont — now the Dardanelles. The ram safely landed the boy Phryxus in Colchis, where he was hospitably received by .yBetes, the king of that country. Phryxus sacrificed the ram to Jupiter, but the fleece he gave to ^Eetes, who placed it in a consecrated grove, under the care of a sleepless dragon.2
§ 145. The Quest of the Golden Fleece.3 — Another realm in Thessaly, near to that of Athamas, was ruled over by his nephew ^Eson. ^Eson, although he had a son Jason, surrendered the crown to a half-brother, Pelias,4 on condition that he should hold it only during the minority of the lad. This young Jason was, by the way, a second cousin of Belle rophon and of the Atalanta
1 J 129. 2 Apollod. 1. 9. § 1; Apollon. Rhod. 1:927.
8 Ovid, Metam. 6: 667; 7:143. The Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes. 4 See § 109.