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removed it with ease, and took the sword and shoes. Since, at that time, the roads were infested with robbers, his grandfather Pittheus pressed him earnestly to take the shorter and safer way to his father's country, by sea; but the youth, feeling in himself the spirit and the soul of a hero, and eager to signalize himself like Hercules, determined on the more perilous and adventurous journey by land.
His first day's journey brought him to Epidaurus, where dwelt Periphetes, a son of Vulcan. This ferocious savage always went armed with a club of iron, and all travellers stood in terror of his violence; but beneath the blows of the young hero he speedily fell.
Several similar contests with the petty tyrants and marauders of the country followed, in all of which Theseus was victorious. Most important was his slaughter of Procrustes, or the Stretcher. This giant had an iron bedstead, on which he used to tie all travellers who fell into his hands. If they were shorter than the bed, he stretched them till they fitted it; if they were longer than the bed, he lopped off their limbs.
In the course of time, Theseus reached Athens; but here new dangers awaited him. For Medea, the sorceress, who had fled from Corinth after her separation from Jason,1 had become the wife of yEgeus. Knowing by her arts who the stranger was, and fearing the loss of her influence with her husband, if Theseus should be acknowledged as his son, she tried to poison the youth; but the sword which he wore discovered him to his father, and prevented the fatal draught. Medea fled to Asia, where the country afterwards called Media is said to have received its name from her. Theseus was acknowledged by his sire, and declared successor to the throne.
§ 153. Theseus and Ariadne.2—Now the Athenians were at that time in deep affliction, on account of the tribute of youths and maidens which they were forced to send to the Minotaur, dwelling in the labyrinth of Crete, — a penalty said to have been imposed
1 $ 147. * Od. 11:321; Plutarch's Theseus; Catullus. LXIV.
by Minos upon the Athenians because ^Egeus had sent Androgetis, the son of Minos, against the Marathonian bull, and so had brought about the young man's death.
From this calamity Theseus resolved to deliver his countrymen, or to die in the attempt. He, therefore, in spite of the entreaties of his father, presented himself as champion of Athens and of her fair sons and daughters, to do battle against the Minotaur; and departed with the victims in a vessel bearing black sails, which he promised his father to change for white in the event of his returning victorious. So, —
Rather than cargo on cargo of corpses undead should be wafted1
Then as the maid Ariadne beheld him with glances of longing, —
1 Catullus, LXIV. From the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis. A Translation in Hexameters, by Charles Mills Gayley.
In what wildering seas ye tossed the impassionate maiden
Ever a-sighing, — aye for the fair-haired stranger a-sighing!
Ah, what ponderous fears oppressed her languishing bosom,
How, more pallid than gold her countenance flashed into whiteness,
What time Theseus marched unto death or to glory undying,
Manful, minded to quell the imbruted might of the monster!
Not unaided, however, did he undertake the task; for Ariadne, apprehensive lest he might lose his way in the daedalian labyrinth, furnished him with a thread, the gift of Vulcan, — which, unrolled by Theseus as he entered the maze, should enable him on his return to retrace his former path. Meanwhile, —
Offering artless bribes, Ariadne invoked the Immortals,
Then with abundant laud he turned, unscathed from the combat,
Why should I tarry to tell how, quitting her sire, Ariadne
Gazing amain from the marge of the flood-reverberant Dia,
Heart o'erwhelmed with woe — ah, thus, while
thus she is gazing,— Down from her yellow hair slips, sudden, the
weed of the fine-spun Snood, and the vesture light of her
mantle down from the shoulders
Slips, and the twisted scarf encircling her womanly bosom;
Then, they say, that at last, infuriate out of all measure,
Carelessly homeward bearest, with baleful ballast of curses?
Never, could never a plea forefend thy cruelly minded
Counsel? Never a pity entreat thy bosom for shelter? . . .
Hence, let never a maid confide in the oath of a lover,
Never presume man's vows hold aught trustworthy within them!
Verily, while in anguish of heart his spirit is longing,
Nothing he spares to assever, nor aught makes scruple to promise:
But, an his dearest desire, his nearest of heart be accorded —
Nothing he recks of affiance, and reckons perjury, — nothing.
"Oh! what lioness whelped thee? Oh! what desolate cavern? What was the sea that spawned, that spat from its churning abysses.. Thee, — what wolfish Scylla, or Syrtis, or vasty Charybdis, Thee, — thus thankful for life, dear gift of living, I gave thee? . . . Had it not liked thee still to acknowledge vows that we plighted, Mightest thou homeward, yet, have borne me a damsel beholden, Fain to obey thy will, and to lave thy feet like a servant, Fain to bedeck thy couch with purple coverlet for thee.
"But to the hollow winds why stand repeating my quarrel, — I, for sorrow unselfed, — they, but breezes insensate, — Potent neither voices to hear nor words to re-echo? . . . Yea, but where shall I turn? Forlorn, what succor rely on? 'Haste to the Gnossian hills?' Ah, see how distantly surging Deeps forbid, distending their gulfs abhorrent before me! 'Comfort my heart, mayhap, with the loyal love of my husband?' Lo, the reluctant oar, e'en now, he plies to forsake me! — Nought but the homeless strand of an isle remote of the ocean! No, no way of escape, where the circling sea without shore is,— No, no counsel of flight, no hope, no sound of a mortal; All things desolate, dumb, yea, all things summoning deathward! Yet mine eyes shall not fade in death that sealeth the eyelids, Nor from the frame outworn shall fare my lingering senses, Ere, undone, from powers divine I claim retribution — Ere I call — in the hour supreme, on the faith of Immortals!
"Come, then, Righters of Wrong, O vengeful dealers of justice, Braided with coil of the serpents, O Eumenides, ye of Brows that blazon ire exhaling aye from the bosom, Haste, oh, haste ye, hither and hear me, vehement plaining, Destitute, fired with rage, stark-blind, demented for fury ! — As with careless heart yon Theseus sailed and forgot me, So with folly of heart, may he slay himself and his household!"