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THE BOOK OF
THETIi SAVLS FHE ARGONAIITS FROM SCYLLA
DAVID NVTT- IN-THE-STRAND
Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON &' CO.
At the Ballantyne Press
ST was my custom for several years to
tell my children every Friday night a
voyage, told in the first person, but, if
the truth must come out, simply
"lifted," or at best adapted from all
the imaginary voyages I could come across. I led the
youngsters to understand that I had gone through one
hundred voyages in my time, but that I should never be
able to tell them my hundredth voyage, for if I told
that I should burst. Sure enough I got to the ninety-
ninth voyage, and on the following Friday there was, of
course, no narrative forthcoming. But the following
week a deputation from the young ones begged for my
hundredth voyage, whatever the consequences.
I have thought that if my poor recital of these
imaginary voyages could rouse interest and curiosity to
such an unfilial pitch among my own children the
originals from which I derived them might be equally
attractive to other children; and I have brought together
in the present volume the most memorable of those
flights of the imagination which form almost as marked
a class of popular literature as fairy tales themselves. It
seems as natural to build ships, as to build castles, in the
air; and there can be but few children of any age that
have not at one time or another seen themselves trans-
ported to lands where the ordinary Laws of Mechanics
or Physiology do not apply, and things throw off the
causal nexus of common life. But though we fly our
kite of imagination, it is always secured, if only by a
thread, to earthly fact, and in the wildest flights of
imaginary voyagers there is always some germ of geo-
So natural is this tendency towards these voyages to
the Land of Fancy that we find specimens of them in
almost all lands, and it has been my aim in the present
collection to bring characteristic specimens from as many
and as diverse quarters as my space permitted. Hellas
gives us The Argonauts; the Celts tell The Voyage of
Maelduin, which attracted Tennyson's notice. Sindbad
would have perhaps been the appropriate representative
of Arabia, but one hesitates to divorce him from the
" Nights," and Mr. Batten had treated him in his appro-
priate connection. So I have selected Hasan of Bassorah
and his Voyage to the Islands of Wak- Wak to represent
Arabia. Curiously enough, the greatest voyagers of all,
the Norsemen, seemingly found little temptation to let
their imagination play about their business concerns, and
in order to obtain a representative Wonder Voyage from
the most wonderful voyagers of medieval times, I have
had to combine two minor sagas which can be classed
under that genre.
To be at all effective, a Wonder Voyage requires a
certain amount of sea-room. One does not get one's sea
legs, so to speak, till a sheet or two of print has been let
loose. Hence I have not been able to include more
than four or five voyages in the present volume, but
they will surely serve as Winter Nights' Tales. They
should be read when the stormy winds do blow, do blow.
SThe story of The Argonauts had been told so well by
Kingsley that I dared not commit the sacrilege of pro-
ducing a rival version. I have to thank Messrs. Mac-
millan for permitting me to utilise his Heroes." Mr.
Alfred Nutt with his usual kindness has provided me
with a version of Maelduin, in which he has had per-
mission from Dr. Whitley Stokes to use his translation
which appeared in the Revue Celtique. Hasan I have
retold in an abridged form, using as my "originals" the
three translations from the Arabic, none of which were
sufficiently simple to suit the audience for whom I
intended his Adventures. For my Icelandic I have had
to resort to the friendly offices of the Rev. J. Sephton,
who has been good enough to translate the Eric Saga
for this volume, while I have combined with it an adapta-
tion of Thorkill's Voyage to the World Beyond the
Ocean," from Saxo Grammaticus, utilising for that purpose
Mr. Elton's version published by the Folk-Lore Society.
To all these gentlemen I hereby record my grateful
As the world grows old and grey, and men become
everywhere alike, the value of the imagination for
ornament and for delight will become more and more
appreciated, even in education. The training and the
practice of the imagination will become ever increasingly
important as life gets more neutral tinted. Let therefore
our children be early trained to adventurous voyages on
the Sea of Imagination.
The Argonauts I
The Voyage of Maelduin 87
Hasan of Bassorah. 23
The Journeyings of Thorkill and of Eric the Far-
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Thetis saves the Argonauts from Scylla
Phrixus and Helle
,Eson and Jason
Chiron's Farewell to the Argonauts
The Chase of the Harpies.
The Crop of the Dragon's Teeth
Orpheus and Medea charm the Snake
Circe and Medea .
The Beguiling of Talus .
The Giant Ants .
The Monster of the Feats .
The Red Hot Swine .
The Mill of Grudging .
The Queen of the Magic Clew .
The Great Bird .
The Persian sews up Hasan
The Flight of the Swan Maidens
.to face 54
Sto face 61
Sto face 104
to face 114
to face 140
xii List of Illustrations
Hasan's Wife carries off her Children 149
The Shaykh Abu al-Ruwaysh 156
The King and Manar al-Sana 167
Hasan rejoins his Wife .oace 171
Shawahi on the Jar. 173
Thorkill and the Serpent 92
The Horn-snouted Giants. 96
The Illustrations are from process blocks prepared
by the WESTERN MAIL, LTD.
The Photogravure Frontispiece has been executed by
the SWAN ELECTRIC ENGRAVING COMPANY
How the Centaur Trained the Heroes on Pelion
S o OW I have a tale of heroes who sailed
away into a distant land, to win them-
selves renown for ever, in the adventure
of the Golden Fleece.
And what was that Golden Fleece?
The old Hellens said that it hung in Colchis, which
we call the Circassian coast, nailed to a beech-tree in
the War-god's wood; and that it was the fleece of
the wondrous ram who bore Phrixus and Helle across-
the Euxine sea. For Phrixus and Helle were the
children of the cloud-nymph, and of Athamas the Minuan
king. And when a famine came upon the land, their
cruel stepmother Ino wished to kill them, that her own
children might reign, and said that they must be sacri-
ficed on an altar, to turn away the anger of the gods.
So the poor children were brought to the altar, and the
priest stood ready with his knife, when out of the clouds
came the Golden Ram, and took them on his back, and
The Argonauts 3
vanished. Then madness came upon that foolish king,
Athamas,'and ruin upon Ino and her children. For
Athamas killed one of them in his fury, and Ino fled from
him with the other in her arms, and leaped from a cliff
into the sea, and was changed into a dolphin, such as
you have seen, which wanders over the waves for ever
sighing, with its little one clasped to its breast.
But the people drove out King Athamas, because he
had killed his child; and he roamed about in his misery,
till he came to the Oracle in Delphi. And the Oracle
4 The Book of Wonder Voyages
told him that he must wander for his sin, till the wild
beasts should feast him as their guest. So he went on
in hinger and sorrow for many a weary day, till he saw
a pack of wolves. The wolves were tearing a sheep;
but when they saw Athamas they fled, and left the sheep
for him, and he ate of it; and then he knew that the
oracle was fulfilled at last. So he wandered no more;
but settled, and built a town, and became a king again.
But the ram carried the two children far away over
land and sea, till he came to the Thracian Chersonese,
and there Helle fell into the sea. So those narrow
straits are called Hellespont," after her; and they bear
that name until this day.
Then the ram flew on with Phrixus to the north-east
across the sea which we call the Black Sea now; but the
Hellens called it Euxine. And at last, they say, he
stopped at Colchis, on the steep Circassian coast; and
there Phrixus married Chalciope, the daughter of Aietes
the king; and offered the ram in sacrifice; and Aietes
nailed the ram's fleece to a beech, in the grove of Ares
And after a while Phrixus died, and was buried, but his
spirit had no rest; for he was buried far from his native
land, and the pleasant hills of Hellas. So he came in
dreams to the heroes of the Minuai, and called sadly by
their beds, "Come and set my spirit free, that I may go
home to my fathers and to my kinsfolk, and the pleasant
And they asked, How shall we set your spirit free ?"
"You must sail over the sea to Colchis, and bring
The Argonauts 5
home the golden fleece; and then my spirit will come
back with it, and I shall sleep with my fathers and have
He came thus, and called to them often; but when
they woke they looked at each other, and said: "Who
dare sail to Colchis, or bring home the golden fleece? "
And in all the country none was brave enough to try it;
for the man and the time were not come.
Phrixus had a cousin called Ason, who was king in
Iolcos by the sea. There he ruled over the rich Minuan
heroes, as Athamas his uncle ruled in Bceotia; and, like
Athamas, he was an unhappy man. For he had a step-
brother named Pelias, of whom some said that he was a
nymph's son, and there were dark and sad tales about his
birth. When he was a babe he was cast out on the
mountains, and a wild mare came by and kicked him.
But a shepherd passing found the baby, with its face all
blackened by the blow; and took him home, and called
him Pelias, because his face was bruised and black. And
he grew up fierce and lawless, and did many a fearful
deed; and at last he drove out /Eson his step-brother,
and then his own brother Neleus, and took the kingdom
to himself, and ruled over the rich Minuan heroes, in
Iolcos by the sea.
And Eson, when he was driven out, went sadly away
out of the town, leading his little son by the hand; and
he said to himself, I must hide the child in the moun-
tains; or Pelias will surely kill him because he is the
So he went up from the sea across the valley, through
The Book of Wonder Voyages
the vineyards and the olive groves, and across the
torrent of Anauros, toward Pelion the ancient mountain,
whose brows are white with snow.
He went up and up into the mountain, over marsh,
and crag, and down, till the boy was tired and footsore,
and AEson had to bear him in his arms, till he came to
the mouth of a lonely cave, at the foot of a mighty cliff.
Above the cliff the snow-wreaths hung, dripping and
cracking in the sun; but at its foot around the cave's
mouth grew all fair flowers and herbs, as if in a garden,
ranged in order, each sort by itself. There they grew
gaily in the sunshine, and the spray of the torrent from
above; while from the cave came the sound of music,
and a man's voice singing to the harp.
Then AZson put down the lad, and whispered:
Fear not, but go in, and whomsoever you shall find,
lay your hands upon his knees and say, 'In the name of
Zeus, the father of gods and men, I am your guest from
this day forth.'"
Then the lad went in without trembling, for he too
was a hero's son; but when he was within, he stopped in
wonder to listen to that magic song.
And there he saw the singer lying upon bear-skins
and fragrant boughs: Chiron, the ancient centaur, the
wisest of all things beneath the sky. Down to the waist
he was a man, but below he was a noble horse; his
white hair rolled down over his broad shoulders, and his
white beard over his broad brown chest; and his eyes
were wise and mild, and his forehead like a mountain-
And in his hands he held a harp of gold, and struck it
with a golden key; and as he struck, he sang till his
eyes glittered, and filled all the cave with light.
And he sang of the birth of Time, and of the heavens
and the dancing stars; and of the ocean, and the ether,
and the fire, and the shaping of the wondrous earth.
And he sang of the treasures of the hills, and the hidden
jewels of the mine, and the veins of fire and metal, and
8 The Book of Wonder Voyages
the virtues of all healing herbs, and of the speech of
birds, and of prophecy, and of hidden things to come.
Then he sang of health, and strength, and manhood,
and a valiant heart; and of music, and hunting, and
wrestling, and all the games which heroes love; and of
travel, and wars, and sieges, and a noble death in fight;
and then he sang of peace and plenty, and of equal
justice in the land; and as he sang the boy listened
wide-eyed, and forgot his errand in the song.
And at the last old Chiron was silent, and called the
lad with a soft voice.
And the lad ran trembling to him, and would have
laid his hands upon his knees; but Chiron smiled, and
said, "Call hither your father AEson, for I know you,
and all that has befallen, and saw you both afar in the
valley, even before you left the town."
Then AEson came in sadly, and Chiron asked him,
"Why camest you not yourself to me, AEson the
A olid ?"
And AEson said:
I thought, Chiron will pity the lad if he sees him
come alone; and I wished to try whether he was
fearless, and dare venture like a hero's son. But now I
entreat you by Father Zeus, let the boy be your guest
till better times, and train him among the sons of the
heroes, that he may avenge his father's house."
Then Chiron smiled, and drew the lad to him, and
laid his hand upon his golden locks, and said, "Are you
afraid of my horse's hoofs, fair boy, or will you be my
pupil from this day ?"
The Argonauts 9
I would gladly have horse's hoofs like you, if I could
sing such songs as yours."
And Chiron laughed, and said, "Sit here by me till
sundown, when your playfellows will come home, and
you shall learn like them to be a king, worthy to rule
over gallant men."
Then he turned to 2Eson, and said, "Go back in
peace, and bend before the storm like a prudent man.
This boy shall not cross the Anauros again, till he has
become a glory to you and to the house of Eolus."
And A.son wept over his son and went away; but the
boy did not weep, so full was his fancy of that strange
cave, and the centaur, and his song, and the playfellows
whom he was to see.
Then Chiron put the lyre into his hands, and taught
how how to play it, till the sun sank low behind the cliff,
and a shout was heard outside.
And then in came the sons of the heroes, AEneas, and
Hercules, and Peleus, and many another mighty name.
And great Chiron leapt up joyfully, and his hoofs
made the cave resound, as they shouted, Come out,
Father Chiron; come out and see our game." And one
cried, I have killed two deer;" and another, I took a
wild cat among the crags;" and Hercules dragged a
wild goat after him by its horns, for he was as huge as a
mountain crag; and Caeneus carried a bear-cub under
each arm, and laughed when they scratched and bit, for
neither tooth nor steel could wound him.
And Chiron praised them all, each according to his
So The Book of Wonder Voyages
Only one walked apart and silent, zEsculapius, the too-
wise child, with his bosom full of herbs and flowers, and
round his wrist a spotted snake; he came with downcast
eyes to Chiron, and whispered how he had watched the
snake cast its old skin, and grow young again before his
eyes, and how he had gone down into a village in the
vale, and cured a dying man with a herb which he had
seen a sick goat eat.
And Chiron smiled, and said, "To each Athene and
Apollo give some gift, and each is worthy in his place;
but to this child they have given an honour beyond all
honours, to cure while others kill."
Then the lads brought in wood, and split it, and lighted
a blazing fire; and others skinned the deer and quartered
them, and set them to roast before the fire; and while
the venison was cooking they bathed in the snow-torrent,
and washed away the dust and sweat.
And then all ate till they could eat no more (for they
had tasted nothing since the dawn), and drank of the
clear spring water, for wine is not fit for growing lads.
And when the remnants were put away, they all lay
down upon the skins and leaves about the fire, and each
took the lyre in turn, and sang and played with all his
And after a while they all went out to a plot of grass
at the cave's mouth, and there they boxed, and ran, and
wrestled, and laughed till the stones fell from the cliffs.
Then Chiron took his lyre, and all the lads joined
hands; and as he played, they danced to his measure, in
and out, and round and round. There they danced hand
The Argonauts II
in hand, till the night fell over land and sea, while the
black glen shone with their broad white limbs and the
gleam of their golden hair.
And the lad danced with them, delighted, and then
slept a wholesome sleep, upon fragrant leaves of bay,
and myrtle, and marjoram, and flowers of thyme; and
rose at the dawn, and bathed in the torrent, and became
a schoolfellow to the heroes' sons, and forgot lolcos, and
his father, and all his former life. But he grew strong,
and brave and cunning, upon the pleasant downs of
Pelion, in the keen hungry mountain air. And he learnt
to wrestle, and to box, and to hunt, and to play upon the
harp; and next he learnt to ride, for old Chiron used to
mount him on his back; and he learnt the virtues of all
herbs, and how to cure all wounds; and Chiron called
him Jason the healer, and that is his name until this
How Jason Lost his Sandal in Anauros
SND ten years came and went, and Jason
was grown to be a mighty man. Some
of his fellows were gone, and some were
growing up by his side. AEsculapius was
gone into Peloponnese to work his won-
drous cures on men; and some say he used to raise the
dead to life. And Hercules was gone to Thebes to fulfil
those famous labours which have become a proverb
among men. And Peleus had married a sea-nymph, and
his wedding is famous to this day. And AEneas was
gone home to Troy, and many a noble tale you will read
of him, and of all the other gallant heroes, the scholars of
Chiron the just. And it happened on a day that Jason
stood on the mountain, and looked north and south and
east and west; and Chiron stood by him and watched
him, for he knew that the time was come.
And Jason looked and saw the plains of Thessaly,
where the Lapithai breed their horses; and the lake of
Boib6, and the stream which runs northward to Peneus
and Tempe; and he looked north, and saw the mountain
wall which guards the Magnesian shore; Olympus, the
The Argonauts 13
seat of the Immortals, and Ossa, and Pelion, where he
stood. Then he looked east and saw the bright blue sea,
which stretched away for ever toward the dawn. Then
he looked south, and saw a pleasant land, with white-
walled towns and farms, nestling along the shore of a
land-locked bay, while the smoke rose blue among the
trees; and he knew it for the bay of Pagasai, and the
rich lowlands of Hamonia, and Iolcos by the sea.
Then he sighed, and asked, Is it true what the heroes
tell me-that I am heir of that fair land ?"
And what good would it be to you, Jason, if you were
heir of that fair land ? "
I would take it and keep it."
"A strong man has taken it and kept it long. Are
you stronger than Pelias the terrible ?"
I can try my strength with his," said Jason; but
Chiron sighed, and said :
You have many a danger to go through before you
rule in Iolcos by the sea: many a danger and many a
woe; and strange troubles in strange lands, such as man
never saw before."
The happier I," said Jason, "to see what man never
And Chiron sighed again, and said, "The eaglet must
leave the nest when it is fledged. Will you go to lolcos
by the sea? Then promise me two things before you
Jason promised, and Chiron answered, Speak harshly
to no soul whom you may meet, and stand by the word
which you shall speak."
14 The Book of Wonder Voyages
Jason wondered why Chiron asked this of him; but
he knew that the Centaur was a prophet, and saw things
long before they came. So he promised, and leapt down
the mountain, to take his fortune like a man.
He went down through the arbutus thickets, and
across the downs of thyme, till he came to the vineyard
walls, and the pomegranates and the olives in the glen;
and among the olives roared Anauros, all foaming with a
And on the bank of Anauros sat a woman, all wrinkled,
grey, and old; her head shook palsied on her breast, and
her hands shook palsied on her knees; and when she
saw Jason, she spoke whining, "Who will carry me
across the flood?"
Jason was bold and hasty, and was just going to leap
into the flood: and yet he thought twice before he leapt,
so loud roared the torrent down, all brown from the
mountain rains, and silver-veined with melting snow;
while underneath he could hear the boulders rumbling
like the tramp of horsemen or the roll of wheels, as they
ground along the narrow channel, and shook the rocks
on which he stood.
But the old woman whined all the more, I am weak
and old, fair youth. For Hera's sake, carry me over the
And Jason was going to answer her scornfully, when
Chiron's words came to his mind.
So he said, "For Hera's sake, the Queen of the Im-
mortals on Olympus, I will carry you over the torrent,
unless we both are drowned midway."
The Argonauts 15
Then the old dame leapt upon his back as nimbly as a
goat; and Jason staggered in, wondering; and the first
step was up to his knees.
The first step was up to his knees, and the second
step was up to his waist; and the stones rolled about his
feet, and his feet slipped about the stones; so he went on
staggering and panting, while the old woman cried from
off his back :
Fool, you have wet my mantle! Do you make game
of poor old souls like me ? "
Jason had half a mind to drop her, and let her get
through the torrent by herself; but Chiron's words were
in his mind, and he said only, "Patience, mother; the
best horse may stumble some day."
At last he staggered to the shore, and set her down
upon the bank; and a strong man he needed to have
been, or that wild water he never would have crossed.
He lay panting a while upon the bank, and then leapt
up to go upon his journey; but he cast one look at the
old woman, for he thought, "She should thank me once
And as he looked, she grew fairer than all women, and
taller than all men on earth; and her garments shone
like the summer sea, and her jewels like the stars of
heaven; and over her forehead was a veil, woven of the
golden clouds of sunset; and through the veil she looked
down on him, with great soft heifer's eyes; with great
eyes, mild and awful, which filled all the glen with light.
And Jason fell upon his knees, and hid his face between
16 The Book of WTonder Voyages
And she spoke, I am the Queen of Olympus, Hera
the wife of Zeus. As thou hast done to me, so will I do
to thee. Call on me in the hour of need, and try if the
Immortals can forget."
And when Jason looked up, she rose from off the
earth, like a pillar of tall white cloud, and floated away
across the mountain peaks, towards Olympus the holy
Then a great fear fell on Jason : but after a while he
grew light of heart; and he blessed old Chiron, and said,
" Surely the Centaur is a prophet, and guessed what
would come to pass, when he bade me speak harshly to
no soul whom I might meet."
Then he went down toward Iolcos; and as he walked
he found that he had lost one of his sandals in the flood.
And as he went through the streets, the people came
out to look at him, so tall and fair was he; but some of
the elders whispered together; and at last one of them
stopped Jason, and called to him, Fair lad, who are
you, and whence come you; and what is your errand in
the town ? "
My name, good father, is Jason, and I come from
Pelion up above; and my errand is to Pelias your king;
tell me, then, where his palace is."
But the old man started, and grew pale, and said, Do
you not know the oracle, my son, that you go so boldly
through the town with but one sandal on ?"
I am a stranger here, and know of no oracle; but
what of my one sandal ? I lost the other in Anauros,
while I was struggling with the flood."
The Argonauts 17
Then the old man looked back to his companions; and
one sighed, and another smiled; at last he said, I will
tell you, lest you rush upon your ruin unawares. The
Oracle in Delphi has said that a man wearing one sandal
should take the kingdom from Pelias, and keep it for
himself. Therefore beware how you go up to his palace,
for he is the fiercest and most cunning of all kings."
Then Jason laughed a great laugh, like a warhorse in
his pride. "Good news, good father, both for you and
me. For that very end I came into the town."
Then he strode on toward the palace of Pelias, while
all the people wondered at his bearing.
And he stood in the doorway and cried, Come out,
come out, Pelias the valiant, and fight for your kingdom
like a man."
Pelias came out wondering, and, "Who are you, bold
youth ?" he cried.
"I am Jason, the son of Aison, the heir of all this
Then Pelias lifted up his hands and eyes, and wept, or
seemed to weep; and blessed the heavens which had
brought his nephew to him, never to leave him more.
" For," said he, '' I have but three daughters, and no son
to be my heir. You shall be my heir, then, and rule the
kingdom after me, and marry whichsoever of my daughters
you shall choose; though,.a sad kingdom you will find it,
and whosoever rules it a miserable man. But come in,
come in, and feast."
So he drew Jason in, whether he would or not, and
spoke to him so lovingly and feasted him so well, that
I8 The Book of Wonder Voyages
Jason's anger passed; and after supper his three cousins
came into the hall, and Jason thought that he should like
well enough to have one of them for his wife.
But at last he said to Pelias, "Why do you look so
sad, my uncle? And what did you mean just now when
you said that this was a doleful kingdom, and its ruler a
miserable man ?"
Then Pelias sighed heavily again and again and again,
like a man who had to tell some dreadful story, and was
afraid to begin; but at last:
For seven long years and more have I never known
a quiet night; and no more will he who comes after me,
till the golden fleece be brought home."
Then he told Jason the story of Phrixus, and of the
golden fleece; and told him, too, which was a lie, that
Phrixus' spirit tormented him, calling to him day and
night. And his daughters came, and told the same tale
(for their father had taught them their parts), and wept,
and said, "Oh, who will bring home the golden fleece,
that our uncle's spirit may rest; and that we may have
rest also, whom he never lets sleep in peace? "
Jason sat a while, sad and silent; for he had often
heard of that golden fleece; but he looked on it as a thing
hopeless and impossible for any mortal man to win it.
But when Pelias saw him silent, he began to talk of
other things, and courted Jason more and more, speaking
to him as if he were certain to be his heir, and asking
his advice about the kingdom; till Jason, who was young
and simple, could not help saying to himself, Surely he
is not the dark man whom people call him. Yet why
The Argonauts 19
did he drive my father out?" And he asked Pelias
boldly, "Men say that you are terrible, and a man of
blood; but I find you a kind and hospitable man; and as
you are to me, so will I be to you. Yet why did you
drive my father out? "
Pelias smiled and sighed. Men have slandered me
in that, as in all things. Your father was growing old
and weary, and he gave the kingdom up to me of his own
will. You shall see him to-morrow, and ask him; and
he will tell you the same."
Jason's heart leapt in him when he heard that he was
to see his father; and he believed all that Pelias said,
forgetting that his father might not dare to tell the truth.
"One thing more there is," said Pelias, "on which I
need your advice; for, though you are young, I see in
you a wisdom beyond your years. There is one neigh-
bour of mine, whom I dread more than all men on earth.
I am stronger than he now, and can command him; but
I know that if he stay among us, he will work my ruin in
the end. Can you give me a plan, Jason, by which I can
rid myself of that man ? "
After a while Jason answered, half laughing, "Were I
you, I would send him to fetch that same golden fleece;
for if he once set forth after it you would never be troubled
with him more."
And at that a bitter smile came across Pelias' lips, and
a flash of wicked joy into his eyes; and Jason saw it and
started; and over his mind came the warning of the old
man, and his own one sandal, and the oracle, and he saw
that he was taken in a trap.
20 The Book of Wonder Voyages
But Pelias only answered gently, My son, he shall be
You mean me ?" cried Jason, starting up, "because
I came here with one sandal ? And he lifted his fist
angrily, while Pelias stood up to him like a wolf at bay;
and whether of the two was the stronger and the fiercer
it would be hard to tell.
But after a moment Pelias spoke gently, Why then
so rash, my son? You, and not I, have said what is
said; why blame me for what I have not done ? Had
you bid me love the man of whom I spoke, and make
him my son-in-law and heir, I would have obeyed you;
and what if I obey you now, and send the man to win
himself immortal fame? I have not harmed you, or
him. One thing at least I know, that he will go, and
that gladly ; for he has a hero's heart within him, loving
glory, and scorning to break the word which he has
Jason saw that he was entrapped; but his second
promise to Chiron came into his mind, and he thought,
" What if the Centaur were a prophet in that also, and
meant that I should win the fleece! Then he cried
You have well spoken, cunning uncle of mine! I
love glory, and I dare keep to my word. I will go and
fetch this golden fleece. Promise me but this in return,
and keep your word as I keep mine. Treat my father
lovingly while I am gone, for the sake of the all-seeing
Zeus; and give me up the kingdom for my own on the
day that I bring back the golden fleece."
The Argonauts 21
Then Pelias looked at him and almost loved him, in
the midst of all his hate; and said, I promise, and I
will perform. It will be no shame to give up my king-
dom to the man who wins that fleece."
Then they swore a great oath between them; and
afterwards both went in, and lay down to sleep.
But Jason could not sleep for thinking of his mighty
oath, and how he was to fulfil it, all alone, and without
wealth or friends. So he tossed a long time upon his
bed, and thought of this plan and of that ; and sometimes
Phrixus seemed to call him, in a thin voice, faint and
low, as if it came from far across the sea, Let me come
home to my fathers and have rest." And sometimes he
seemed to see the eyes of Hera, and to hear her words
again: Call on me in the hour of need, and see if the
Immortals can forget."
And on the morrow he went to Pelias, and said,
"Give me a victim, that I may sacrifice to Hera." So
he went up, and offered his sacrifice; and as he stood by
the altar Hera sent a thought into his mind; and he
went back to Pelias, and said:
If you are indeed in, earnest, give me two heralds,
that they may go round to all the princes of the Minuai,
who were pupils of the Centaur with me, that we may
fit out a ship together, and take what shall befall."
At that Pelias praised his wisdom, and hastened to
send the heralds out; for he said in his heart, Let all
the princes go with him, and, like him, never return;
for so I shall be lord of all the Minuai, and the greatest
king in Hellas."
How they Built the Ship Argo in lolcos
O the heralds went out, and cried to all
the heroes of the Minuai, "Who dare
come to the adventure of the golden
And Hera stirred the hearts of all the
princes, and they came from all their valleys to the
yellow sands of Pagasai. And first came Hercules the
mighty, with his lion's skin and club, and behind him
Hylas his young squire, who bore his arrows and his
bow; and Tiphys, the skilful steersman ; and Butes, the
fairest of all men; and Castor and Polydeuces the twins,
the sons of the magic swan; and Coeneus, the strongest
of mortals, whom the Centaurs tried in vain to kill, and
overwhelmed him with trunks of pine-trees, but even so
he would not die; and thither came Zetes and Calais,
the winged sons of the north wind; and Peleus, the
father of Achilles, whose bride was silver-footed Thetis,
the goddess of the sea. And thither came Telamon and
Oileus, the fathers of the two Ajaxes, who fought upon
the plains of Troy; and Mopsus, the wise soothsayer,
who knew the speech of birds; and Idmon, to whom
The Argonauts 23
Phcebus gave a tongue to prophesy of things to come;
and Ancaios, who could read the stars, and knew all the
circles of the heavens ; and Argus, the famed shipbuilder,
and many a hero more, in helmets of brass and gold with
tall dyed horse-hair crests, and embroidered shirts of
linen beneath their coats of mail, and greaves of polished
tin to guard their knees in fight; with each man his
shield upon his shoulder, of many a fold of tough bull's
hide, and his sword of tempered bronze in his silver-
studded belt; and in his right hand a pair of lances, of
the heavy white ash-staves.
So they came down to lolcos, and all the city came
out to meet them, and were never tired with looking at
their height, and their beauty, and their gallant bearing,
and the glitter of their inlaid arms. And some said,
" Never was such a gathering of the heroes since the
Hellens conquered the land." But the women sighed
over them, and whispered, Alas they are all going to
Then they felled the pines on Pelion, and shaped them
with the axe, and Argus taught them to build a galley,
the first long ship which ever sailed the seas. They
pierced her for fifty oars-an oar for each hero of the
crew-and pitched her with coal-black pitch, and painted
her bows with vermilion; and they named her Argo
after Argus, and worked at her all day long. And at
night Pelias feasted them like a king, and they slept in
But Jason went away to the northward, and into the
land of Thrace, till he found Orpheus, the prince of min-
24 The Book of Wonder Voyages
strels, where he dwelt in his cave under Rhodope, among
the savage Cicon tribes. And he asked him, Will you
leave your mountains, Orpheus, my fellow-scholar in old
times, and cross Strymon once more with me, to sail
with the heroes of the Minuai, and bring home the
golden fleece, and charm for us all men and all monsters
with your magic harp and song ?"
Then Orpheus sighed, Have I not had enough of
toil and of weary wandering far and wide since I lived
in Chiron's cave, above Iolcos by the sea ? In vain is
the skill and the voice which my goddess mother gave
me; in vain have I sung and laboured; in vain I went
down to the dead, and charmed all the kings of Hades,
to win back Eurydice my bride. For I won her, my
beloved, and lost her again the same day, and wandered
away in my madness, even to Egypt and the Libyan
sands, and the isles of all the seas, driven on by the
terrible gadfly, while I charmed in vain the hearts of
men, and the savage forest beasts, and the trees, and
the lifeless stones, with my magic harp and song, giving
rest, but finding none. But at last Calliope my mother
delivered me, and brought me home in peace; and I
dwell here in the cave alone, among the savage Cicon
tribes, softening their wild hearts with music and the
gentle laws of Zeus. And now I must go out again, to
the ends of all the earth, far away into the misty dark-
ness, to the last wave of the Eastern Sea. But what is
doomed must be, and a friend's demand obeyed; for
prayers are the daughters of Zeus, and who honours
them honours him."
The Argonauts 25
Then Orpheus rose up sighing, and took his harp, and
went over Strymon. And he led Jason to the south-
west, up the banks of Haliacmon and over the spurs of
Pindus, to Dodona the town of Zeus, where it stood by
the side of the sacred lake, and the fountain which
breathed out fire, in the darkness of the ancient oak-
wood, beneath the mountain of the hundred springs.
And he led him to the holy oak, where the black dove
settled in old times, and was changed into the priestess
of Zeus, and gave oracles to all nations round. And he
bade him cut down a bough, and sacrifice to Hera and
to Zeus; and they took the bough and came to lolcos,
and nailed it to the beak-head of the ship.
And at last the ship was finished, and they tried to
launch her down the beach; but she was too heavy for
them to move her, and her keel sank deep into the sand.
Then all the heroes looked at each other blushing; but
Jason spoke, and said, "Let us ask the magic bough;
perhaps it can help us in our need."
Then a voice came from the bough, and Jason heard
the words it said, and bade Orpheus play upon the harp,
while the heroes waited round, holding the pine-trunk
rollers, to help her toward the sea.
Then Orpheus took his harp, and began his magic
song: How sweet it is to ride upon the surges, and to
leap from wave to wave, while the wind sings cheerful in
the cordage, and the oars flash fast among the foam!
How sweet it is to roam across the ocean, and see new
towns and wondrous lands, and to come home laden with
treasure, and to win undying fame!"
26 The Book of Wonder Voyages
And the good ship Argo heard him, and longed to be
away and out at sea; till she stirred in every timber, and
heaved from stem to stern, and leapt up from the sand
upon the rollers, and plunged onward like a gallant
horse; and the heroes fed her path with pine-trunks, till
she rushed into the whispering sea.
Then they stored her well with food and water, and
pulled the ladder up on board, and settled themselves
each man to his oar, and kept time to Orpheus' harp;
and away across the bay they rowed southward, while
the people lined the cliffs; and the women wept, while
the men shouted, at the starting of that gallant crew.
How the Argonauts Sailed to Colchis
0 ND what happened next, my children,
whether it be true or not, stands written
in ancient songs, which you shall read
ofor yourselves some day. And grand
S0 0 old songs they are, written in grand old
rolling verse; and they call them the Songs of Orpheus,
or the Orphics, to this day. And they tell how the
heroes came to Aphetai, across the bay, and waited for
the south-west wind, and chose themselves a captain
from their crew: and how all called for Hercules,
because he was the strongest and most huge; but
Hercules refused, and called for Jason, because he was
the wisest of them all. So Jason was chosen captain;
and Orpheus heaped a pile of wood, and slew a bull, and
offered it to Hera, and called all the heroes to stand
round, each man's head crowned with olive, and to strike
their swords into the bull. Then he filled a golden
goblet with the bull's blood, and with wheaten flour, and
honey, and wine, and the bitter salt-sea water, and bade
the heroes taste. So each tasted the goblet, and passed
it round, and vowed an awful vow: and they vowed
The Book of Wonder Voyages
before the sun, and the night, and the blue-haired sea
who shakes the land, to stand by Jason faithfully in the
adventure of the golden fleece; and whosoever shrank
back, or disobeyed, or turned traitor to his vow, then
justice should minister against him, and the Erinnues
who track guilty men.
Then Jason lighted the pile, and burnt the carcass of
the bull; and they went to their ship and sailed east-
ward, like men who have a work to do; and the place
from which they went was called Aphetai, the sailing-
place, from that day forth. Three thousand years and
more they sailed away, into the unknown Eastern seas;
and great nations have come and gone since then, and
many a storm has swept the earth; and many a mighty
armament, to which Argo would be but one small boat;
English and French, Turkish and Russian, have sailed
those waters since; yet the fame of that small Argo
lives for ever, and her name is become a proverb among
So they sailed past the Isle of Sciathos, with the Cape
of Sepius on their left, and turned to the northward
toward Pelion, up the long Magnesian shore. On their
right hand was the open sea, and on their left old Pelion
rose, while the clouds crawled round his dark pine-
forests, and his caps of summer snow. And their hearts
yearned for the dear old mountain, as they thought of
pleasant days gone by, and of the sports of their boy-
hood, and their hunting, and their schooling in the cave
beneath the cliff. And at last Peleus spoke, Let us
land here, friends, and climb the dear old hill once more.
We are going on a fearful journey; who knows if we
shall see Pelion again? Let us go up to Chiron our
master, and ask his blessing ere we start. And I have a
boy, too, with him, whom he trains as he trained me
once-the son whom Thetis brought me, the silver-
footed lady of the sea, whom I caught in the cave, and
tamed her, though she changed her shape seven times.
For she changed, as I held her, into water, and to
vapour, and to burning flame, and to a rock, and to a
black-maned lion, and to a tall and stately tree. But I
held her and held her ever, till she took her own shape
again, and led her to my father's house, and won her for
my bride. And all the rulers of Olympus came to our
wedding, and the heavens and the earth rejoiced together,
when an Immortal wedded mortal man. And now let
me see my son; for it is not often I shall see him upon
earth: famous he will be, but short-lived, and die in the
flower of youth."
So Tiphys the helmsman steered them to the shore
under the crags of Pelion; and they went up through
the dark pine-forests towards the Centaur's cave.
And they came into the misty hall, beneath the snow-
crowned crag; and saw the great Centaur lying, with
his huge limbs spread upon the rock; and beside him
stood Achilles, the child whom no steel could wound,
and played upon his harp right sweetly, while Chiron
watched and smiled.
Then Chiron leapt up and welcomed them, and kissed
them every one, and set a feast before them of swine's
flesh, and venison,, and good wine; and young Achilles
30 The Book of Wonder Voyages
served them, and carried the golden goblet round. And
after supper all the heroes clapped their hands, and
called on Orpheus to sing; but he refused, and said,
"How can I, who am the younger, sing before our
ancient host?" So they called on Chiron to sing, and
Achilles brought him his harp; and he began a wondrous
song; a famous story of old time, of the fight between
the Centaurs and the Lapithai. He sang how his
brothers came to ruin by their folly, when they were
mad with wine; and how they and the heroes fought,
with fists, and teeth, and the goblets from which they
drank; and how they tore up the pine-trees in their fury,
and hurled great crags of stone, while the mountains
thundered with the battle, and the land was wasted far
and wide; till the Lapithai drove them from their home
in the rich Thessalian plains to the lonely glens of
Pindus, -leaving Chiron all alone. And the heroes
praised his song right heartily; for some of them had
helped in that great .fight.
Then Orpheus took the lyre, and sang of Chaos, and
the making of the wondrous World, and how all things
sprang from Love, who could not live alone in the
Abyss. And as he sang, his voice rose from the cave,
above the crags, and through the tree-tops, and the glens
of oak and pine. And the trees bowed their heads when
they heard it, and the grey rocks cracked and rang, and
the forest beasts crept near to listen, and the birds for-
sook their nests and hovered round. And old Chiron
clapt his hands together, and beat his hoofs upon the
ground, for wonder at that magic song.
The Argonauts 31
Then Peleus kissed his boy, and wept over him, and
they went down to the ship; and Chiron came down
with them, weeping, and kissed them one by one, and
blest them, and promised to them great renown. And
the heroes wept when they left him, till their great hearts
could weep no more; for he was kind and just and pious,
and wiser than all beasts and men. Then he went up to
a cliff, and prayed for them, that they might come home
32 The Book of Wonder Voyages
safe and well; while the heroes rowed away, and watched
him standing on his cliff above the sea, with his great
hands raised toward heaven, and his white locks waving
in the wind; and they strained their eyes to watch him
to the last, for they felt that they should look on him no
So they rowed on over the long swell of the sea, past
Olympus, the seat of the Immortals, and past the wooded
bays of Athos, and Samothrace the sacred isle; and they
came past Lemnos to the Hellespont, and through the
narrow strait of Abydos, and so on into the Propontis,
which we call Marmora now. And there they met with
Cyzicus, ruling in Asia over the Dolions, who, the songs
say, was the son of iEneas, of whom you will hear many
a tale some day. For Homer tells us how he fought at
Troy, and Virgil how he sailed away and founded Rome;
and men believed until late years that from him sprang
our old British kings. Now Cyzicus, the songs say,
welcomed the heroes, for his father had been one of
Chiron's scholars; so he welcomed them, and feasted
them, and stored their ship with corn and wine, and
cloaks and rugs, the songs say, and shirts, of which no
doubt they stood in need.
But at night, while they lay sleeping, came down on
them terrible men, who lived with the bears in the
mountains, like Titans or giants in shape; for each of
them had six arms, and they fought with young firs and
pines. But Hercules killed them all before morn with
his deadly poisoned arrows; but among them, in the
darkness, he slew Cyzicus the kindly prince.
The Argonauts 33
Then they got to their ship and to their oars, and
Tiphys bade them cast 'off the hawsers and go to sea.
But as he spoke a whirlwind came, and spun the Argo
round, and twisted the hawsers together, so that no man
could loose them. Then Tiphys dropped the rudder
from his hand, and cried, "This comes from the gods
above." But Jason went forward, and asked counsel of
the magic bough.
Then the magic bough spoke, and answered, "This is
because you have slain Cyzicus your friend. You must
appease his soul, or you will never leave this shore."
Jason went back sadly, and told the heroes what he
had heard. And they leapt on shore, and searched till
dawn; and at dawn they found the body, all rolled in
dust and blood, among the corpses of those monstrous
beasts. And they wept over their kind host, and laid
him on a fair bed, and heaped a huge mound over him,
and offered black sheep at his tomb, and Orpheus sang a
-magic song to him, that his spirit might have rest. And
then they held games at the tomb, after the custom of
those times, and Jason gave prizes to each winner. To
Ancaeus he gave a golden cup, for he wrestled best of
all; and to Hercules a silver one, for he was the strongest
of all; and to Castor, who rode best, a golden crest; and
Polydeuces the boxer had a rich carpet, and to Orpheus
for his song a sandal with golden wings. But Jason him-
self was the best of all the archers, and the Minuai
crowned him with an olive crown; and so, the songs say,
the soul of good Cyzicus was appeased and the heroes
went on their way in peace.
34 The Book of [Fonder Voyages
But when Cyzicus' wife heard that he was dead, she
died likewise of grief; and her tears became a fountain
of clear water, which flows the whole year round.
Then they rowed away, the songs say, along the
Mysian shore, and past the mouth of Rhindacus, till they
found a pleasant bay, sheltered by the long ridges of
Arganthus, and by high walls of basalt rock. And there
they ran the ship ashore upon the yellow sand, and furled
the sail, and took the mast down, and lashed it in its
crutch. And next they let down the ladder, and went
ashore to sport and rest.
And there Hercules went away into the woods, bow
in hand, to hunt wild deer; and Hylas, the fair boy, slipt
away after him, and followed him by stealth, until he lost
himself among the glens, and sat down weary to rest
himself by the side of a lake; and there the water-nymphs
came up to look at him, and loved him, and carried him
down under the lake to be their playfellow, for ever happy
and young. And Hercules sought for him in vain, shout-
ing his name till all the mountains rang; but Hylas never
heard him, far down under the sparkling lake. So while
Hercules wandered searching for him, a fair breeze sprang
up, and Hercules was nowhere to be found; and the Argo
sailed away, and Hercules was left behind, and never saw
the noble Phasian stream.
Then the Minuai came to a doleful land, where Amycus
the giant ruled, and cared nothing for the laws of Zeus,
but challenged all strangers to box with him, and those
whom he conquered he slew. But Polydeuces the boxer
struck him a harder blow than he ever felt before, and
The Argonauts 35
slew him; and the Minuai went on up the Bosphorus,
till they came to the city of Phineus, the fierce Bithynian
king; for Zetes and Calais bade Jason land there, because
they had a work to do.
And they went up from the shore toward the city,
through forests white with snow; and Phineus came out
to meet them with a lean and woeful face, and said:
"Welcome, gallant heroes, to the land of bitter blasts,
the land of cold and misery; yet I will feast you as best
I can." And he led them in, and set meat before them;
but before they could put their hands to their mouths,
down came two fearful monsters, the like of whom man
never saw; for they had the faces and hair of fair maidens,
but the wings and claws of hawks; and they snatched the
meat from off the table, and flew shrieking out above the
Then Phineus beat his breast and cried: "These are
the Harpies, whose names are the Whirlwind and the
Swift, the daughters of Wonder and of the Amber-nymph,
and they rob us night and day. They carried off the
daughters of Pandareus, whom all the gods had blest;
for Aphrodite fed them on Olympus with honey and milk
and wine; and Hera gave them beauty and wisdom, and
Athene skill in all the arts; but when they came to their
wedding, the Harpies snatched them both away, and
gave them to be slaves to the Erinnues, and live in
horror all their days. And now they haunt me, and my
people, and the Bosphorus, with fearful storms; and
sweep away our food from off our tables, so that we
starve in spite of all our wealth."
36 The Book of Wonder Voyages
Then up rose Zetes and Calais, the winged sons of the
North-wind, and said: Do you not know us, Phineus,
and these wings which grow upon our backs ?" And
Phineus hid his face in terror; but he answered not a
Because you have been a traitor, Phineus, the
Harpies haunt you day and night. Where is Cleopatra
our sister, your wife, whom you keep in prison? and
where are her two children, whom you blinded in your
rage, at the bidding of an evil woman, and cast them out
upon the rocks? Swear to us that you will right our
sister, and cast out that wicked woman; and then we will
free you from your plague, and drive the whirlwind
maidens to the south; but if not, we will put out your
eyes, as you put out the eyes of your own sons."
SThen Phineus swore an oath to them, and drove out
the wicked woman; and Jason took those two poor
children, and cured their eyes with magic herbs.
But Zetes and Calais rose up sadly and said: Fare-
well now, heroes all; farewell, our dear companions, with
whom we played on Pelion in old times; for a fate is
laid upon us, and our day is come at last, in which we
must hunt the whirlwinds over land and sea for ever; and
if we catch them they die, and if not, we die ourselves."
At that all the heroes wept; but the two young men
sprang up, and aloft into the air after the Harpies, and
the battle of the winds began.
The heroes trembled in silence as they heard the
shrieking of the blasts; while the palace rocked and all
the city, and great stones were torn from the crags, and
The Argonauts 37
the forest pines were hurled earthward, north and south
and east and west, and the Bosphorus boiled white with
foam, and the clouds were dashed against the cliffs.
But at last the battle ended, and the Harpies fled
screaming toward the south, and the sons of the North-
wind rushed after them, and brought clear sunshine where
they passed. For many a league they followed them,
over all the isles of the Cyclades, and away to the south-
west acrost Hellas, till they came to the Ionian Sea, and
3 8 The Book of W[onder Voyages
there they fell upon the Echinades, at the mouth of the
Achelous; and those isles were called the Whirlwind
Isles for many a hundred years. But what became of
Zetes and Calais I know not, for the heroes never saw
them again: and some say that Hercules met them, and
quarrelled with them, and slew them with his arrows;
and some say that they fell down from weariness and the
heat of the summer sun, and that the Sun-god buried
them among the Cyclades, in the pleasant Isle of Tenos;
and for many hundred years their grave was shown there,
and over it a pillar, which turned to every wind. But
those dark storms and whirlwinds haunt the Bosphorus
until this day.
But the Argonauts went eastward, and out into the
open sea, which we now call the Black Sea, but it was
called the Euxine then. No Hellen had ever crossed it,
and all feared that dreadful sea, and its rocks, and shoals,
and fogs and bitter freezing storms ; and they told strange
stories of it, some false and some half true, how it
stretched northward to the ends of the earth, and the
sluggish Putrid Sea, and the everlasting night, and the
regions of the dead. So the heroes trembled, for all
their courage, as they came into that wild Black Sea, and
saw it stretching out before them, without a shore, as far
as eye could see.
And first Orpheus spoke, and warned them: "We
shall come now to the wandering blue rocks; my mother
warned me of them, Calliope, the immortal muse."
And soon they saw the blue rocks shining like spires
and castles of grey glass, while an ice-cold wind blew
The Argonauts 39
from them and chilled all the heroes' hearts. And as
they neared they could see them heaving, as they rolled
upon the long sea-waves, crashing and grinding together,
till the roar went up to heaven. The sea sprang up in
spouts between them, and swept round them in white
sheets of foam; but their heads swung nodding high in
air, while the wind whistled shrill among the crags.
The heroes' hearts sank within them, and they lay
upon their oars in fear; but Orpheus called to Tiphys
the helmsman: "Between them we must pass; so look
ahead for an opening, and be brave, for Hera is with
us." But Tiphys the cunning helmsman stood silent,
clenching his teeth, till he saw a heron come flying mast-
high toward the rocks, and hover a while before them, as
if looking for a passage through. Then he cried,
" Hera has sent us a pilot; let us follow the cunning
Then the heron flapped to and fro a moment, till he
saw a hidden gap, and into it he rushed like an arrow,
while the heroes watched what would befall.
And the blue rocks clashed together as the bird fled
swiftly through; but they struck but a feather from his
tail, and then rebounded apart at the shock.
Then Tiphys cheered the heroes, and they shouted;
and the oars bent like withes beneath their strokes as
they rushed between those toppling ice-crags and the
cold blue lips of death. And ere the rocks could meet
again they had passed them, and were safe out in the
And after that they sailed on wearily along the Asian
4.0 The Book of Wonder Voyages
coast, by the Black Cape and Thyneis, where the hot
stream of Thymbris falls into the sea, and Sangarius,
whose waters float on the Euxine, till they came to Wolf
the river, and to Wolf the kindly king. And there died
two brave heroes, Idmon and Tiphys the wise helmsman:
one died of an evil sickness, and one a wild boar slew.
So the heroes heaped a mound above them, and set
upon it an oar on high, and left them there to sleep
together, on the far-off Lycian shore. But Idas killed
the boar, and avenged Tiphys; and Ancaios took the
rudder and was helmsman, and steered them on toward
And they went on past Sinope, and many a mighty
river's mouth, and past many a barbarous tribe, and the
cities of the Amazons, the warlike women of the East,
till all night they heard the clank of anvils and the roar
of furnace-blasts, and the forge-fires shone like sparks
through the darkness in the mountain glens aloft; for
they were come to the shores of the Chalybes, the
smiths who never tire, but serve Ares the cruel War-
god, forging weapons day and night.
And at day-dawn they looked eastward, and midway
between the sea and the sky they saw white snow-peaks
hanging, glittering sharp and bright above the clouds.
And they knew that they were come to Caucasus, at the
end of all the earth: Caucasus the highest of all,
mountains, the father of the rivers of the East. On his I
peak lies chained the Titan, while a vulture tears his
heart; and at his feet are piled dark forests round the
magic Colchian land.
The Argonauts 41
And they rowed three days to the eastward, while
Caucasus rose higher hour by hour, till they saw the
dark stream of Phasis rushing headlong to the sea, and,
shining above the tree-tops, the golden roofs of King
Aietes, the child of the Sun.
Then out spoke Ancaios the helmsman, "We are
come to our goal at last, for there are the roofs of
Aietes, and the woods where all poisons grow; but who
can tell us where among them is hid the 'golden fleece?
Many a toil must we bear ere we find it, and bring it
home to Greece."
But Jason cheered the heroes, for his heart was
high and bold; and he said, "I will go alone up
to Aietes, though he be the child of the Sun, and win
him with soft words. Better so than to go all together,
and to come to blows at once." But the Minuai
would not stay behind, so they rowed boldly up the
And a dream came to Aietes, and filled his heart with
fear. He thought he saw a shining star, which fell into
his daughter's lap; and that Medea his daughter took it
gladly, and carried it to the river-side, and cast it in, and
there the whirling river bore it down, and out into the
Then he leapt up in fear, and bade his servants bring
his chariot, that he might go down to the river-side and
appease the nymphs, and the heroes whose spirits haunt
the bank. So he went down in his golden chariot, and
his daughters by his side, Medea the fair witch-maiden,
and Chalciope, who had been Phrixus' wife, and behind
42 The Book of Wfonder Voyages
him a crowd of servants and soldiers, for he was a rich
and mighty prince.
And as he drove down by the reedy river he saw
Argo sliding up beneath the bank, and many a hero in
her, like Immortals for beauty and for strength, as their
weapons glittered round them in the level morning
sunlight, through the white mist of the stream. But
Jason was the noblest of all; for Hera, who loved him,
gave him beauty and tallness and terrible manhood.
And when they came near together and looked into
each other's eyes the heroes were awed before Aietes as
he shone in his chariot, like his father the glorious Sun;
for his robes were of rich gold tissue, and the rays of his
diadem flashed fire; and in his hand he bore a jewelled
sceptre, which glittered like the stars; and sternly he
looked at them under his brows, and sternly he spoke
"Who are you, and what want you here, that you
come to the shore of Cutaia ? Do you take no account
of my rule, nor of my people the Colchians who serve
me, who never tired yet in the battle, and know well
how to face an invader? "
And the heroes sat silent a while before the face of that
ancient king. But Hera the awful goddess put courage
into Jason's heart, and he rose and shouted loudly in
answer, "We are no pirates nor lawless men. We come
not to plunder and to ravage, or carry away slaves from
your land; but my uncle, the son of Poseidon, Pelias the
Minuan king, he it is who has set me on a quest to.bring
home the golden fleece. And these too, my bold
The Argonauts 43
comrades, they are no nameless men; for some are the
sons of Immortals, and some of heroes far renowned.
And we too never tire in battle, and know well how to
give blows and to take; yet we wish to be guests at your
table: it will be better so for both."
Then Aietes' rage rushed up like a whirlwind, and his
eyes flashed fire as he heard; but he crushed his anger
down in his breast, and spoke mildly a cunning speech:
"If you will fight for the fleece with my Colchians,
then many a man must die. But do you indeed expect
to win from me the fleece in fight? So few you are that
if you be worsted I can load your ship with your corpses.
But if you will be ruled by me, you will. find it better far
to choose the best man among you, and let him fulfil the
labours which I demand. Then I will give him the
golden fleece for a prize and a glory to you all."
So saying, he turned his horses and drove back in
silence to the town. And the Minuai sat silent with
sorrow, and longed for Hercules and his strength; for
there was no facing the thousands of the Colchians and
the fearful chance of war.
But Chalciope, Phrixus' widow, went weeping to the
town; for she remembered her Minuan husband, and all
the pleasures of her youth, while she watched the fair
faces of his kinsmen, and their long locks of golden hair.
And she whispered to Medea her sister: "Why should
all these brave men die? why does not my father give
them up the fleece, that my husband's spirit may have
And Medea's heart pitied the heroes, and Jason most
44 The Book of Wonder Voyages
of all; and she answered: Our father is stern and
terrible, and who can win the golden fleece ?" But
Chalciope said: These men are not like our men ; there
is nothing which they cannot dare nor do."
And Medea thought of Jason and his brave counte-
nance, and said: "If there was one among them who
knew no fear, I could show him how to win the fleece."
So in the dusk of evening they went down to the
river-side, Chalciope and Medea the witch-maiden, and
Argus, Phrixus' son. And Argus the boy crept forward,
among the beds of reeds, till he came where the heroes
were sleeping, on the thwarts of the ship, beneath the
bank, while Jason kept ward on shore, and leant upon
his lance full of thought. And the boy came to Jason,
I am the son of Phrixus, your cousin; and Chalciope
my mother waits for you, to talk about the golden
Then Jason went boldly with the boy, and found the
two princesses standing; and when Chalciope saw him
she wept, and took his hands, and cried:
cousin of my beloved, go home before you die!"
It would be base to go home now, fair princess, and
to have sailed all these seas in vain." Then both the
princesses besought him; but Jason said, It is too
But you know not," said Medea, "what he must do
who would win the fleece. He must tame the two
brazen-footed bulls, who breathe devouring flame; and
with them he must plough ere nightfall four acres in the
The Argonauts 45
field of Ares; and he must sow them with serpents'
teeth, of which each tooth springs up into an armed man.
Then he must fight with all those warriors; and little
will it profit him to conquer them, for the fleece is
guarded by a serpent, more huge than any mountain
pine; and over his body you must step if you would
reach the golden fleece."
Then Jason laughed bitterly. Unjustly is that fleece
kept here, and by an unjust and lawless king; and un-
justly shall I die in my youth, for I will attempt it ere
another sun be set."
Then Medea trembled, and said: No mortal man
can reach that fleece unless I guide him through. For
round it, beyond the river, is a wall full nine ells high,
with lofty towers and buttresses, and mighty gates of
threefold brass; and over the gates the wall is arched,
with golden battlements above. And over the gateway
sits Brimo, the wild witch-huntress of the woods, brand-
Sishing a pine-torch in her hands, while her mad hounds
howl around. No man dare meet her or look on her,
but only I her priestess, and she watches far and wide
lest any stranger should come near."
No wall so high but it may be climbed at last, and
no wood so thick but it may be crawled through; no
serpent so wary but he may be charmed, or witch-queen
so fierce but spells may soothe her; and I may yet win
the golden fleece, if a wise maiden help bold men."
And he looked at Medea cunningly, and held her with
his glittering eye, till she blushed and trembled, and
The Book of WTonder Voyages
"Who can face the fire of the bulls' breath, and fight
ten thousand armed men ? "
He whom you help," said Jason, flattering her, "for
your fame is spread over all the earth. Are you not
the queen of all enchantresses, wiser even than your
sister Circe, in her fairy island in the West ?"
"Would that I were with my sister Circe in her fairy
island in the West, far away from sore temptation and
thoughts which tear the heart! But if it must be so-
for why should you die ?-I have an ointment here; I
made it from the magic ice-flower which sprang from
Prometheus' wound, above the clouds on Caucasus, in
the dreary fields of snow. Anoint yourself with that,
and you shall have in you seven men's strength; and
anoint your shield with it, and neither fire nor sword can
harm you. But what you begin you must end before
sunset, for its virtue lasts only one day. And anoint
your helmet with it before you sow the serpents' teeth;
and when the sons of earth spring up, cast your helmet
among their ranks, and the deadly crop of the War-god's
field will mow itself, and perish."
Then Jason fell on his knees before her, and thanked
her and kissed her hands ; and she gave him the vase of
ointment, and fled trembling through the reeds. And
Jason told his comrades what had happened, and showed
them the box of ointment; and all rejoiced but Idas, and
he grew mad with envy.
And at sunrise Jason went and bathed, and anointed
himself from head to foot, and his shield, and his helmet,
and his weapons, and bade his comrades try the spell.
The Argonauts 47
So they tried to bend his lance, but it stood like an iron
bar; and Idas in spite hewed at it with his sword, but
the blade flew to splinters in his face. Then they hurled
their lances at his shield, but the spear-points turned like
lead; and Caineus tried to throw him, but he never
stirred a foot ; and Polydeuces struck him with his fist a
blow which would have killed an ox, but Jason only
smiled, and the heroes danced about him with delight;
and he leapt, and ran, and shouted in the joy of that
enormous strength, till the sun rose, and it was time to
go and to claim Aietes' promise.
So he sent up Telamon and Aithalides to tell Aietes
that he was ready for the fight; and they went up
among the marble walls, and beneath the roofs of
gold, and stood in Aietes' hall, while he grew pale with
"Fulfil your promise to us, child of the blazing Sun.
Give us the serpents' teeth, and let loose the fiery bulls;
for we have found a champion among us who can win
the golden fleece."
And Aietes bit his lips, for he fancied that they had
fled away by night: but he could not go back from his
promise; so he gave them the serpents' teeth.
Then he called for his chariot and his horses, and sent
heralds through all the town; and all the people went
out with him to the dreadful War-god's field.
And there Aietes sat upon his throne, with his warriors
on each hand, thousands and tens of thousands, clothed
from head to foot in steel chain-mail. And the people
and the women crowded to every window and bank and
48 The Book of WFonder Voyages
wall; while the Minuai stood together, a mere handful
in the midst of that great host.
And Chalciope was there and Argus, trembling, and
Medea, wrapped closely in her veil; but Aietes did not
know that she was muttering cunning spells between her
Then Jason cried, Fulfil your promise, and let your
fiery bulls come forth."
Then Aietes bade open the gates, and the magic bulls
leapt out. Their brazen hoofs rang upon the ground,
and their nostrils sent out sheets of flame, as they rushed
with lowered heads upon Jason; but he never flinched
a step. The flame of their breath swept round him,
but it singed not a hair of his head; and the bulls
stopped short and trembled when Medea began her
Then Jason sprang upon the nearest and seized him
by the horn; and up and down they wrestled, till the
bull fell grovelling on his knees; for the heart of the
brute died within him, and his mighty limbs were loosed,
beneath the steadfast eye of that dark witch-maiden and
the magic whisper of her lips.
So both. the bulls were tamed and yoked; and Jason
bound them to the plough, and goaded them onward
with his lance till he had ploughed the sacred field.
And all the Minuai shouted; but Aietes bit his lips
with rage, for the half of Jason's work was over, and the
sun was yet high in heaven.
Then he took the serpents' teeth and sowed them,
and waited what would befall. But Medea looked at
him and at his helmet, lest he should forget the lesson
she had taught.
And every furrow heaved and bubbled, and out of
every clod arose a man. Out of the earth they rose by
thousands, each clad from head to foot in steel, and drew
their swords and rushed on Jason, where he stood in the
Then the Minuai grew pale with fear for him; but
Aietes laughed a bitter laugh. "See! if I had not
50 The Book of Wonder Voyages
warriors enough already round me, I could call them out
of the bosom of the earth."
But Jason snatched off his helmet, and hurled it into
the thickest of the throng. And blind madness came
upon them, suspicion, hate, and fear; and one cried to
his fellow, "Thou didst strike me! and another, Thou
art Jason; thou shalt die!" So fury seized those earth-
born phantoms, and each turned his hand against the
rest; and they fought and were never weary, till they all
lay dead upon the ground. Then the magic furrows
opened and the kind earth took them home into her
breast; and the grass grew up all green again above
them, and Jason's work was done.
Then the Minuai rose and shouted, till Prometheus
heard them from his crag. And Jason cried, Lead
me to the fleece this moment, before the sun goes
But Aietes thought, He has conquered the bulls, and
sown and reaped the deadly crop. Who is this who is
proof against all magic? He may kill the serpent yet."
So he delayed, and sat taking counsel with his princes
till the sun went down and all was dark. Then he bade
a herald cry, Every man to his home for to-night. To-
morrow we will meet these heroes, and speak about the
Then he turned and looked at Medea. "This is your
doing, false witch-maid! You have helped these yellow-
haired strangers, and brought shame upon your father
and yourself! "
Medea shrank and trembled, and her face grew pale
The Argonauts 51
with fear; and Aietes knew that she was guilty, and
whispered, If they win the fleece, you die! "
But the Minuai marched toward their ship, growling
like lions cheated of their prey; for they saw that Aietes
meant to mock them, and to cheat them out of all their
toil. And Oileus said, Let us go to the grove together,
and take the fleece by force."
And Idas the rash cried, Let us draw lots who shall
go in first; for, while the dragon is devouring one, the
rest can slay him and carry off the fleece in peace." But
Jason held them back, though he praised them; for he
hoped for Medea's help.
And after a while Medea came trembling, and wept a
long while before she spoke. And at last:
My end is come, and I must die; for my father has
found out that I have helped you. You he would kill if
he dared; but he will not harm you, because you have
been his guests. Go, then, go, and remember poor
Medea when you are far away across the sea." But all
the heroes cried :
If you die, we die with you; for without you we
cannot win the fleece, and home we will not go without
it, but fall here fighting to the last man."
"You need not die," said Jason. Flee home with
us across the sea. Show us first how to win the fleece;
for you can do it. Why else are you the priestess of
the grove? Show us but how to win the fleece, and
come with us, and you shall be my queen, and rule
over the rich princes of the Minuai, in Iolcos by the
52 The Book of Wonder Voyages
And all the heroes pressed round, and vowed to her
that she should be their queen.
Medea wept, and shuddered, and hid her face in her
hands; for her heart yearned after her sisters and her
playfellows, and the home where she was brought up as
a child. But at last she looked up at Jason, and spoke
between her sobs :
Must I leave my home and my people, to wander
with strangers across the sea ? The lot is cast, and I
must endure it. I will show you how to win the golden
fleece. Bring up your ship to the wood-side, and moor
her there against the bank; and let Jason come up at
midnight, and one brave comrade with him, and meet me
beneath the wall."
Then all the heroes cried together, "I will go "and
I "and I! And Idas the rash grew mad with envy;
for he longed to be foremost in all things. But Medea
calmed them, and said, Orpheus shall go with Jason,
and bring his magic harp; for I hear of him that he is the
king of all minstrels, and can charm all things on earth."
And Orpheus laughed for joy, and clapped his hands,
because the choice had fallen on him; for in those days
poets and singers were as bold warriors as the best.
So at midnight they went up the bank, and found
Medea: and beside came Absyrtus her young brother,
leading a yearling lamb.
Then Medea brought them to a thicket beside the
War-god's gate; and there she bade Jason dig a ditch
and kill the lamb, and leave it there, and strew on it
magic herbs and honey from the honeycomb.
The Argonauts 53
Then sprang up through the earth, with the red fire
flashing before her, Brimo the wild witch-huntress, while
her mad hounds howled around. She had one head like
a horse's, and another like a ravening hound's, and another
like a hissing snake's, and a sword in either hand. And
she leapt into the ditch with her hounds, and they ate and
drank their fill, while Jason and Orpheus trembled, and
Medea hid her eyes. And at last the witch-queen vanished,
and fled with her hounds into the woods; and the bars of
the gates fell down, and the brazen doors flew wide, and
Medea and the heroes ran forward and hurried through
the poison wood, among the dark stems of the mighty
beeches, guided by the gleam of the golden fleece, until
they saw it hanging on one vast tree in the midst. And
Jason would have sprung to seize it; but Medea held
him back, and pointed, shuddering, to the tree-foot,
where the mighty serpent lay, coiled in and out- among
the roots, with a body like a mountain pine. His coils
stretched many a fathom, spangled with bronze and gold;
and half of him they could see, but no more, for the rest
lay in the darkness far beyond.
And when he saw them coming he lifted up his head,
and watched them with his small bright eyes, and flashed
his forked tongue, and roared like the fire among the
woodlands, till the forest tossed and groaned. For his
cries shook the trees from leaf to root, and swept over
the long reaches of the river, and over Aietes' hall, and
woke the sleepers in the city, till mothers clasped their
children in their fear.
But Medea called gently to him, and he stretched out
54 The Book of Wionder Voyages
his long spotted neck, and licked her hand, and looked
up in her face, as if to ask for food. Then she made a
sign to Orpheus, and he began his magic song.
And as he sung, the forest grew calm again, and the
leaves on every tree hung still; and the serpent's head
sank down, and his brazen coils grew limp, and his
glittering eyes closed lazily, till he breathed as gently as
a child, while Orpheus called to pleasant Slumber, who
gives peace to men, and beasts, and waves.
Then Jason leapt forward warily, and stept across that
mighty snake, and tore the fleece from off the tree-
trunk; and the four rushed down the garden, to the
bank where the Argo lay.
There was a silence for a moment, while Jason held
the golden fleece on high. Then he cried, "Go now,
good Argo, swift and steady, if ever you would see
And she went, as the heroes drove her, grim and
silent all, with muffled oars, till the pine-wood bent like
willow in their hands, and stout Argo groaned beneath
On and on, beneath the dewy darkness, they fled
swiftly down the swirling stream; underneath black
walls, and temples, and the castles of the princes of the
East; past sluice-mouths, and fragrant gardens, and
groves of all strange fruits; past marshes where fat
kine lay sleeping, and long beds of whispering reeds;
till they heard the merry music of the surge upon the
bar, as it tumbled in the moonlight all alone.
Into the surge they rushed, and Argo leapt the
GOLDEN-FLEECE-J \s S-sN
The Argonauts 55
breakers like a horse; for she knew the time was come
to show her mettle, and win honour for the heroes and
Into the surge they rushed, and Argo leapt the
breakers like a horse, till the heroes stopped all panting
each man upon his oar, as she slid into the still broad
Then Orpheus took his harp and sang a paean, till the
heroes' hearts rose high again; and they rowed on
stoutly and steadfastly, away into the darkness of the
How the Argonauts were Driven into the Unknown Sea
SO they fled away in haste to the westward;
but Aietes manned his fleet and followed
them. And Lynceus the quick-eyed saw
Shim coming, while he was still many a
mile away, and cried, I see a hundred
ships, like a flock of white swans, far in the east." And
at that they rowed hard, like heroes; but the ships came
nearer every hour.
Then Medea, the dark witch-maiden, laid a cruel and
a cunning plot; for she killed Absyrtus, her young
brother, and cast him into the sea, and said, Ere my
father can take up his corpse and bury it, he must wait
long, and be left far behind."
And all the heroes shuddered, and looked one at the
other for shame; yet they did not punish that dark
witch-woman, because she had won for them the golden
And when Aietes came to the place he saw the floating
corpse; and he stopped a long while, and bewailed his
son, and took him up, and went home. But he sent on
his sailors toward the westward, and bound them by a
The Argonauts 57
mighty curse: "Bring back to me that dark witch-
woman, that she may die a dreadful death. But if you
return without her, you shall die by the same death
So the Argonauts escaped for that time; but Father
Zeus saw that foul crime; and out of the heavens he sent
a storm, and swept the ship far from her course. Day
after day the storm drove her, amid foam and blinding
mist, till they knew no longer where they were, for the
sun was blotted from the skies. And at last the ship
struck on a shoal, amid low isles of mud and sand, and
the waves rolled over her and through her, and the
heroes lost all hope of life.
Then Jason cried to Hera, Fair queen, who hast
befriended us till now, why hast thou left us in our
misery, to die here among unknown seas ? It is hard to
lose the honour which we have won with such toil and
danger, and hard never to see Hellas again, and the
pleasant'bay of Pagasai."
Then out and spoke the magic bough which stood
upon the Argo's beak, Because Father Zeus is angry,
all this has fallen on you; for a cruel crime has been
done on board, and the sacred ship is foul with blood."
At that some of the heroes cried, Medea is the mur-
deress. Let the witch-woman bear her sin, and die! "
And they seized Medea, to hurl her into the sea, and
atone for the young boy's death; but the magic bough
spoke again, Let her live till her crimes are full. Ven-
geance waits for her, slow and sure; but she must live,
for you need her still She must show you the way to
58 The Book of Wonder Voyages
her sister Circe, who lives among the islands of the
West. To her you must sail, a weary way, and she shall
cleanse you from your guilt."
Then all the heroes wept aloud when they heard the
sentence of the oak; for they knew that a dark journey
lay before them, and years of bitter toil. And some up-
braided the dark witch-woman, and some said, Nay, we
are her debtors still; without her we should never have
won the fleece." But most of them bit their lips in
silence, for they feared the witch's spells.
And now the sea grew calmer, and the sun shone out
once more, and the heroes thrust the ship off the sand-
bank, and rowed forward on their weary course under the
guiding of the dark witch-maiden, into the wastes of the
Whither they went I cannot tell, nor how they came to
Circe's isle. Some say that they went to the westward,
and up the Ister stream, and so came into the Adriatic,
dragging their ship over the snowy Alps. And others
say that they went southward, into the Red Indian Sea,
and past the sunny lands where spices grow, round
AEthiopia toward the West; and that at last they came
to Libya, and dragged their ship across the burning
sands, and over the hills into the Syrtes, where the flats
and quicksands spread for many a mile, between rich
Cyrene and the Lotus-eaters' shore. But all these
are but dreams and fables, and dim hints of unknown
But all say that they came to a place where they had
to drag their ship across the land nine days with ropes
The Argonauts 59
and rollers, till they came into an unknown sea. And
the best of all the old songs tells us how they went away
toward the North, till they came to the slope of Caucasus,
where it sinks into the sea; and to the narrow Cimme-
rian Bosphorus, where the Titan swam across upon the
bull; and thence into the lazy waters of the still Maeotid
lake. And thence they went northward ever, up the
Tanais, which we call Don, past the Geloni and Sauro-
matai, and many a wandering shepherd-tribe, and the
one-eyed Arimaspi, of whom old Greek poets tell, who
steal the gold from the Griffins, in the cold Riphaian hills.
And they passed the Scythian archers, and the Tauri
who eat men, and the wandering Hyperboreai, who feed
their flocks beneath the pole-star, until they came into
the northern ocean, the dull dead Cronian Sea. And
there Argo would move on no longer; and each man
clasped his elbow, and leaned his head upon his hand,
heartbroken with toil and hunger, and gave himself up to
death. But brave Ancaios the helmsman cheered up
their hearts once more, and bade them leap on land, and
haul the ship with ropes and rollers for many a weary
day, whether over land, or mud, or ice, I know not, for
the song is mixed and broken like a dream. And it says
next, how they came to the rich nation of the famous
long-lived men ; and to the coast of the Cimmerians, who
never saw the sun, buried deep in the glens of the snow
mountains; and to the fair land of Hermione, where
dwelt the most righteous of all nations : and to the
gates of the world below, and to the dwelling-place of
60 The Book of Wonder Voyages
And at last Ancaios shouted, Endure a little while,
brave friends, the worst is surely past; for I can see the
pure west wind ruffle the water, and hear the roar of
ocean on the sands. So raise up the mast, and set the
sail, and face what comes like men."
Then out spoke the magic bough : Ah, would that I
had perished long ago, and been whelmed by the dread
blue rocks beneath the fierce swell of the Euxine Better
so, than to wander for ever, disgraced by the guilt of my
princes; for the blood of Absyrtus still tracks me, and
woe follows hard upon woe. And now some dark horror
will clutch me, if I come near the Isle of Ierne. Unless
you will cling to the land, and sail southward and south-
ward for ever, I shall wander beyond the Atlantic, to the
ocean which has no shore."
Then they blest the magic bough, and sailed south
ward along the land. But ere they could pass Ierne, the
land of mists and storms, the wild wind came down, dark
and roaring, and caught the sail, and strained the ropes.
And away they drove twelve nights, on the wide wild
western sea, through the foam, and over the rollers, while
they saw neither sun nor stars. And they cried again:
" We shall perish, for we know not'where we are. We
are lost in the dreary damp darkness, and cannot tell
north from south."
But Lynceus the long-sighted called gaily from the
bows: Take heart again, brave sailors ; for I see a pine-
clad isle, and the halls of the kind Earth-mother, with a
crown of clouds around them."
But Orpheus said: Turn from them, for no living
CIRCE AND MEDEA
The Argonauts 61
man can land there; there is no harbour on the coast,
but steep-walled cliffs all round."
So Ancaios turned the ship away; and for three days
more they sailed on, till they came to Aiaia, Circe's home,
and the fairy island of the West.
And there Jason bid them land, and seek about for any
sign of living man. And as they went inland Circe met
them, coming down toward the ship; and they trembled
when they saw her, for her hair, and face, and robes
shone like flame.
And she came and looked at Medea; and Medea hid
her face beneath her veil.
And Circe cried: "Ah, wretched girl, have you for-
gotten all your sins, that you come hither to my island,
where the flowers bloom all the year round? Where is
your aged father, and the brother whom you killed ? Little
do I expect you to return in safety with these strangers
whom you love. I will send you food and wine: but
your ship must not stay here, for it is foul with sin, and
foul with sin its crew."
And the heroes prayed her, but in vain, and cried,
" Cleanse us from our guilt! But she sent them away,
and said, Go on to Malea, and there you may be cleansed,
and return home."
Then a fair wind rose, and they sailed eastward, by
Tartessus on the Iberian shore, till they came to the
Pillars of Hercules, and the Mediterranean Sea. And
thence they sailed on through the deeps of Sardinia, and
past the Ausonian Islands, and the capes of the Tyrrhenian
shore, till they came to a flowery island upon a still
62 The Book of Wonder Voyages
bright summer's eve. And as they neared it, slowly and
wearily, they heard sweet songs upon the shore. But
when Medea heard it, she started, and cried, Beware,
all heroes, for these are the rocks of the Sirens. You must
pass close by them, for there is no other channel; but
those who listen to that song are lost."
Then Orpheus spoke, the king of all minstrels, Let
them match their song against mine. I have charmed
stones, and trees, and dragons, how much more the hearts
of men!" So he caught up his lyre, and stood upon the
poop, and began his magic song.
And now they could see the Sirens on Anthemousa,
the flowery isle; three fair maidens sitting on the beach,
beneath a red rock in the setting sun, among beds of
crimson poppies and golden asphodel. Slowly they sung
and sleepily, with silver voices, mild and clear, which
stole over the golden waters, and into the hearts of all the
heroes, in spite of Orpheus' song.
And all things stayed around and listened; the gulls
sat in white lines along the rocks; on the beach great
seals lay basking, and kept time with lazy heads ; while
silver shoals of fish came up to hearken, and whispered
as they broke the shining calm. The Wind overhead
hushed his whistling, as he shepherded his clouds toward
the west; and the clouds stood in mid-blue, and listened
dreaming, like a flock of golden sheep.
And as the heroes listened, the oars fell from their
hands, and their heads drooped on their breasts, and they
closed their heavy eyes ; and they dreamed of bright still
gardens, and of slumbers under murmuring pines, till all
The Argonauts 63
their toil seemed foolishness, and they thought of their
renown no more.
Then one lifted his head suddenly, and cried, "What
use in wandering for ever? Let us stay here and rest
a while." And another, Let us row to the shore, and
hear the words they sing." And another, I care not
for the words, but for the music. They shall sing me to
sleep, that I may rest."
And Butes, the son of Pandion, the fairest of all mortal
men, leapt out and swam toward the shore, crying, I
come, I come, fair maidens, to live and die here, listening
to your song."
Then Medea clapped her hands together, and cried,
" Sing louder, Orpheus, sing a bolder strain; wake up
these hapless sluggards, or none of them will see the land
of Hellas more."
Then Orpheus lifted his harp, and crashed his cunning
hand across the strings; and his music and his voice rose
like a trumpet through the still evening air; into the air
it rushed like thunder, till the rocks rang and the sea;
and into their souls it rushed like wine, till all hearts beat
fast within their breasts.
And he sung the song of Perseus, how the gods led
him over land and sea, and how he slew the loathly
Gorgon, and won himself a peerless bride; and how he
sits now with the gods upon Olympus, a shining star in the
sky, immortal with his immortal bride, and honoured by
all men below.
So Orpheus sang, and the Sirens, answering each
other across the golden sea, till Orpheus' voice
64 The Book of JWonder Voyages
drowned the Sirens', and the heroes caught their oars
And they cried, "We will be men like Perseus, and
we will dare and suffer to the last. Sing us his song
again, brave Orpheus, that we may forget the Sirens and
And as Orpheus sang, they dashed their oars into the
sea, and kept time to his music, as they fled fast away;
and the Sirens' voices died behind them, in the hissing of
the foam along their wake.
But Butes swam to the shore, and knelt down before
the Sirens, and cried, "Sing on! sing on!" But he
could say no more, for a charmed sleep came over him,
and a pleasant humming in his ears; and he sank all
along upon the pebbles, and forgot all heaven and earth,
and never looked at that sad beach around him, all strewn
with the bones of men.
Then slowly rose up those three fair sisters, with a
cruel smile upon their lips; and slowly they crept down
towards him, like leopards who creep upon their prey;
and their hands were like the talons of eagles as they
stept across the bones of their victims to enjoy their
But fairest Aphrodite saw him from the highest
Idalian peak, and she pitied his youth and his beauty,
and leapt up from her golden throne; and like a falling
star she cleft the sky, and left a trail of glittering light,
till she stooped to the Isle of the Sirens, and snatched
their prey from their claws. And she lifted Butes as he
lay sleeping, and wrapt him in a golden mist; and she
The Argonauts 65
bore him to the peak of Lilybaeum, and he slept there
many a pleasant year.
But when the Sirens saw that they were conquered,
they shrieked for envy and rage, and leapt from the
beach into the sea,. and were changed into rocks until
Then they came to the straits by Lilybaeum, and saw
Sicily, the three-cornered island, under which Enceladus
the giant lies groaning day and night, and when he turns
the earth quakes, and his breath bursts out in roaring
flames from the highest cone of ,Etna, above the chest-
nut woods. And there Charybdis caught them in its
fearful coils of wave, and rolled mast-high about them,
and spun them round and round; and they could go
neither back nor forward, while the whirlpool sucked
And while they struggled they saw near them, on the
other side the strait, a rock stand in the water, with its
peak wrapt round in clouds-a rock which no man could
climb, though he had twenty hands and feet, for the
stone was smooth and slippery, as if polished by man's
hand; and half-way up a misty cave looked out toward
And when Orpheus saw it he groaned, and struck his
hands together. And Little will it help us," he cried,
"to escape the jaws of the whirlpool; for in that cave
lives Scylla, the sea-hag with a young whelp's voice;
my mother warned me of her ere we sailed away from
Hellas; she has six heads, and six long necks, and hides
in that dark cleft. And from her cave she fishes for all
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things which pass by-for sharks, and seals, and dolphins,
and all the herds of Amphitrite. And never ship's crew
boasted that they came safe by her rock, for she bends
her long necks down to them, and every mouth takes up
a man. And who will help us now? For Hera and
Zeus hate us, and our ship is foul with guilt; so we must
die, whatever befalls."
Then out of the depths came Thetis, Peleus' silver-
footed bride, for love of her gallant husband, and all her
nymphs around her; and they played like snow-white
dolphins, diving on from wave to wave, before the ship,
and in her wake, and beside her, as dolphins play. And
they caught the ship, and guided her, and passed her on
from hand to hand, and tossed her through the billows,
as maidens toss the ball. And when Scylla stooped to
seize her, they struck back her ravening heads, and foul
Scylla whined, as a whelp whines, at the touch of their
gentle hands. But she shrank into her cave affrighted-
for all bad things shrink from good-and Argo leapt safe
past her, while a fair breeze rose behind. Then Thetis
and her nymphs sank down to their coral caves beneath
the sea, and their gardens of green and purple, where
live flowers bloom all the year round; while the heroes
went on rejoicing, yet dreading what might come next.
After that they rowed on steadily for many a weary
day, till they saw a long high island, and beyond it a
mountain land. And they searched till they found a
harbour, and there rowed boldly in. But after a while
they stopped, and wondered, for there stood a great city
on the shore, and temples and walls and gardens, and
The Argonauts 67
castles high in air upon the cliffs. And on either side
they saw a harbour, with a narrow mouth, but wide
within; and black ships without number, high and dry
upon the shore.
Then Ancaios, the wise helmsman, spoke: "What
new wonder is this? I know all isles, and harbours, and
the windings of all seas; and this should be Corcyra,
where a few wild goat-herds dwell. But whence come
these new harbours and vast works of polished stone ? "
But Jason said, "They can be no savage people. We
will go in and take our chance."
So they rowed into the harbour, among a thousand
black-beaked ships, each larger far than Argo, toward a
quay of polished stone. And they wondered at that
mighty city, with its roofs of burnished brass, and long
and lofty walls of marble, with strong palisades above.
And the quays were full of people, merchants, and
mariners, and slaves, going to and fro with merchandise
among the crowd of ships. And the heroes' hearts were
humbled, and they looked at each other and said, "We
thought ourselves a gallant crew when we sailed from
lolcos by the sea; but how small we look before this
city, like an ant before a hive of bees."
Then the sailors hailed them roughly from the quay:
"What men are you ?-we want no strangers here, nor
pirates. We keep our business to ourselves."
But Jason answered gently, with many a flattering
word, and praised their city and their harbour, and their
fleet of gallant ships. Surely you are the children of
Poseidon, and the masters of the sea; and we are but
68 The Book of Wonder Voyages
poor wandering mariners, worn out with thirst and toil.
Give us but food and water, and we will go on our voyage
Then the sailors laughed, and answered: "Stranger,
you are no fool; you talk like an honest man, and you
shall find us honest too. We are the children of Poseidon,
and the masters of the sea; but come ashore to us, and
you shall have the best that we can give."
So they limped ashore, all stiff and weary, with long
ragged beards and sunburnt cheeks, and garments torn
and weather-stained, and weapons rusted with the spray,
while the sailors laughed at them (for they were rough-
tongued, though their hearts were frank and kind). And
one said, "These fellows are but raw sailors; they look
as if they had been sea-sick all the day." And another,
"Their legs have grown crooked with much rowing, till
they waddle in their walk like ducks."
At that Idas the rash would have struck them; but
Jason held him back, till one of the merchant kings spoke
to them, a tall and stately man :
"Do not be angry, strangers; the sailor boys must
have their jest. But we will treat you justly and kindly,
for strangers and poor men come from God; and you
seem no common sailors by your strength, and height,
and weapons. Come up with me to the palace of
Alcinous, the rich sea-going king, and we will feast you
well and heartily; and after that you shall tell us your
But Medea hung back, and trembled, and whispered
in Jason's ear, We are betrayed, and are going to our
The Argonauts 69
ruin, for I see my countrymen among the crowd; dark-
eyed Colchi in steel mail-shirts, such as they wear in my
It is too late to turn," said Jason. And he spoke to
the merchant king: "What country is this, good sir?
And what is this new-built town? "
"This is the land of the Phaeaces, beloved by all the
Immortals; for they come hither and feast like friends
with us, and sit by our side in the hall. Hither we came
from Laburnia to escape the unrighteous Cyclopes; for
they robbed us, peaceful merchants, of our hard-earned
wares and wealth. So Nausithous, the son of Poseidon,
brought us hither, and died in peace; and now his son
Alcinous rules us, and Arete the wisest of queens."
So they went up across the square, and wondered still
more as they went; for along the quays lay in order
great cables, and yards, and masts, before the fair temple
of Poseidon, the blue-haired king of the seas. And round
the square worked the shipwrights, as many in number as
ants, twining ropes, and hewing timber, and smoothing
long yards and oars. And the Minuai went on in silence
through clean white marble streets, till they came to the
hall of Alcinous, and they wondered then still more. For
the lofty palace shone aloft in the sun, with walls of plated
brass, from the threshold to the innermost chamber, and
the doors were of silver and gold. And on each side of
the doorway sat living dogs of gold, who never grew old
or died, so well Hephaistos had made them in his forges
in smoking Lemnos, and gave them to Alcinous to guard
Shis gates by night. And within, against the walls, stood
70 The Book of Wonder Voyages
thrones on either side, down the whole length of the hall,
strewn with rich glossy shawls; and on them the merchant
kings of those crafty sea-roving Phaeaces sat eating arid
drinking in pride, and feasting there all the year round.
And boys of molten gold stood each on a polished altar,
and held torches in their hands, to give light all night to
the guests. And round the house sat fifty maid-servants,
some grinding the meal in the mill, some turning the
spindle, some weaving at the loom, while their hands
twinkled as they passed the shuttle, like quivering aspen
And outside before the palace a great garden was
walled round, filled full of stately fruit-trees, grey olives
and sweet figs, and pomegranates, pears, and apples,
which bore the whole year round. For the rich south-
west wind fed them, till pear grew ripe on pear, fig
on fig, and grape on grape, all the winter and the
spring. And at the further end gay flower-beds
bloomed through all seasons of the year; and two fair
fountains rose, and ran, one through the garden
grounds, and one beneath the palace gate, to water
all the town. Such noble gifts the heavens had given
to Alcinous the wise.
So they went in, and saw him sitting, like Poseidon,
on his throne, with his golden sceptre by him, in
garments stiff with gold, and in his hand a sculptured
goblet as he pledged the merchant kings; and beside
him stood Arete, his wise- and lovely queen, and leaned
against a pillar as she spun her golden threads.
Then Alcinous rose, and welcomed them, and bade
The Argonauts 71
them sit and eat; and the servants brought them tables,
and bread, and meat, and wine.
But Medea went on trembling toward Arete the fair
queen, and fell at her knees, and clasped them, and
cried, weeping, as she knelt:
I am your guest, fair queen, and I entreat you by
Zeus, from whom prayers come. Do not send me back
to my father to die some dreadful death; but let me go
my way, and bear my burden. Have I not had enough
of punishment and shame ? "
"Who are you, strange maiden? and what is the
meaning of your prayer ? "
"I am Medea, daughter of Aietes, and I saw my
countrymen here to-day; and I know that they are come
to find me, and take me home to die some dreadful
Then Arete frowned, and said, Lead this girl in, my
maidens; and let the kings decide, not I."
And Alcinous leapt up from his throne, and cried,
"Speak, strangers, who are you? And who is this
We are the heroes of the Minuai," said Jason; "and
this maiden has spoken truth. We are the men who
took the golden fleece, the men whose fame has run
round every shore. We came hither out of the ocean,
after sorrows such as man never saw before. We went
out many, and come back few, for many a noble comrade
have we lost. So let us go, as you should let your
guests go, in peace; that the world may say, 'Alcinous
is a just king.'"
72 The Book of Wonder Voyages
But Alcinous frowned, and stood deep in thought;
and at last he spoke:
Had not the deed been done which is done, I should
have said this day to myself, 'It is an honour to
Alcinous, and to his children after him, that the far-
famed Argonauts are his guests.' But these Colchi are
my guests, as you are; and for this month they have
waited here with all their fleet, for they have hunted all
the seas of Hellas, and could not find you, and dared
neither go farther, nor go home."
Let them choose out their champions, and we will
fight them, man for man."
No guests of ours shall fight upon our island, and if
you go outside they will outnumber you. I will do
justice between you, for I know and do what is right."
Then he turned to his kings, and said, "This may
stand over till to-morrow. To-night we will feast our
guests, and hear the story of all their wanderings, and
how they came hither out of the ocean."
So Alcinous bade the servants take the heroes in, and
bathe them, and give them clothes. And they were glad
when they saw the warm water, for it was long since
they had bathed. And they washed off the sea-salt from
their limbs, and anointed themselves from head to foot
with oil, and combed out their golden hair. Then they
came back again into the hall, while the merchant kings
rose up to do them honour. And each man said to his
neighbour, No wonder that these men won fame.
How they stand now like Giants, or Titans, or Immortals
come down from Olympus, though many a winter has
The Argonauts 73
worn them, and many a fearful storm. What must they
have been when they sailed from Iolcos, in the bloom of
their youth, long ago ? "
Then they went out to the garden; and the merchant
princes said, Heroes, run races with us. Let us see
whose feet are nimblest."
"We cannot race against you, for our limbs are stiff
from sea: and we have lost our two swift comrades, the
sons of the north wind. But do not think us cowards: if
you wish to try our strength, we will shoot, and box, and
wrestle, against any men on earth."
And Alcinous smiled, and answered, I believe you,
gallant guests; with your long limbs and broad shoulders,
we could never match you here. For we care nothing
here for boxing, or for shooting with the bow; but for
feasts, and songs, and harping, and dancing, and running
races, to stretch our limbs on shore."
So they danced there and ran races, the jolly merchant
kings, till the night fell, and all went in.
And then they ate and drank, and comforted their
weary souls, till Alcinous called a herald, and bade him
go and fetch the harper.
The herald went out, and fetched the harper, and led
him in by the hand; and Alcinous cut him a piece of
meat, from the fattest of the haunch, and sent it to him,
and said, "Sing to us, noble harper, and rejoice the
So the harper played and sang, while the dancers
danced strange figures; and after that the tumblers
showed their tricks, till the heroes laughed again.
The Book of Wonder Voyages
Then, "Tell me, heroes," asked Alcinous, "you who
have sailed the ocean round, and seen the manners of all
nations, have you seen such dancers as ours here, or
heard such music and such singing? We hold ours to
be the best on earth."
"Such dancing we have never seen," said Orpheus;
"and your singer is a happy man, for Phcebus himself
must have taught him, or else he is the son of a Muse,
as I am also, and have sung once or twice, though not so
well as he."
"Sing to us, then, noble stranger," said Alcinous;
"and we will give you precious gifts."
So Orpheus took his magic harp, and sang to them a
stirring song of their voyage from lolcos, and their
dangers, and how they won the golden fleece; and of
Medea's love, and how she helped them, and went with
them over land and sea; and of all their fearful dangers,
from monsters, and rocks, and storms, till the heart of
Arete was softened, and all the women wept. And the
merchant kings rose up, each man from off his golden
throne, and clapped their hands, and shouted, Hail to
the noble Argonauts, who sailed the unknown sea!"
Then he went on, and told their journey over the
sluggish northern main, and through the shoreless outer
ocean, to the fairy island of the west; and of the Sirens,
and Scylla, and Charybdis, and all the wonders they had
seen, till midnight passed and the day dawned; but the
kings never thought of sleep. Each man sat still and
listened, with his chin upon his hand.
And at last, when Orpheus had ended, they all went
The Argonauts 75
thoughtful out, and the heroes lay down to sleep,
beneath the sounding porch outside, where Arete had
strewn them rugs and carpets, in the sweet still summer
But Arete pleaded hard with her husband for Medea,
for her heart was softened. And she said, "The gods
will punish her, not we. After all, she is our guest and
my suppliant, and prayers are the daughters of Zeus.
And who, too, dare part man and wife, after all they
have endured together? "
And Alcinous smiled. "The minstrel's song has
charmed you; but I must remember what is right, for
songs cannot alter justice; and I must be faithful to my
name. Alcinous I am called, the man of sturdy sense;
and Alcinous I will be." But for all that Arete besought
him, until she won him round.
So next morning he sent a herald, and called the
kings into the square, and said, "This is a puzzling
matter: remember but one thing. These Minuai live
close by us, and we may meet them often on the seas;
but Aietes lives afar off, and we have only heard his
name. Which, then, of the two is it safer to offend--the
men near us, or the men far off?"
The princes laughed, and praised his wisdom; and
Alcinous called the heroes to the square, and the Colchi
also; and they came and stood opposite each other, but
Medea stayed in the palace. Then Alcinous spoke,
" Heroes of the Colchi, what is your errand about this
lady ? "
"To carry her home with us, that she may die a
The Book of W[onder Voyages
shameful death; but if we return without her, we must
die the death she should have died."
"What say you to this, Jason the AEolid?" said
Alcinous, turning to the Minuai.
I say," said the cunning Jason, "that they are come
here on a bootless errand. Do you think that you can
make her follow you, heroes of the Colchi-her, who
knows all spells and charms? She will cast away your
ships on quicksands, or call down on you Brimo the wild
huntress; or the chains will fall from off her wrists, and
she will escape in her dragon-car; or if not thus, some
other way, for she has a thousand plans and wiles. And
why return home at all, brave heroes, and face the long
seas again, and the Bosphorus, and the stormy Euxine,
and double all your toil? There is many a fair land
round these coasts, which waits for gallant men like you.
Better to settle there, and build a city, and let Aietes and
Colchis help themselves."
Then a murmur rose among the Colchi, and some
cried, He has spoken well; and some, We have had
enough of roving, we will sail the seas no more And
the chief said at last, Be it so, then; a plague she has
been to us, and a plague to the house of her father, and
a plague she will be to you. Take her, since you are no
wiser; and we will sail away toward the north."
Then Alcinous gave them food and water, and gar-
ments, and rich presents of all sorts; and he gave the
same to the Minuai, and sent them all away in peace.
So Jason kept the dark witch-maiden to breed
him woe and shame; and the Colchi went northward
into the Adriatic, and settled, and built towns along
Then the heroes rowed away to the eastward to
reach Hellas, their beloved land; but a storm came
down upon them, and swept them far away toward the
south. And they rowed till they were spent with
struggling, through the darkness and the blinding rain;
but where they were they could not tell, and they gave
up all hope of life. And at last they touched the ground,
and when daylight came they waded to the shore ; and
saw nothing round but sand and desolate salt pools, for
they had come to the quicksands of the Syrtis, and the
dreary treeless flats which lie between Numidia and
Cyrene, on the burning shore of Africa. And there they
wandered starving for many a weary day, ere they could
launch their ship again, and gain the open sea. And
there Canthus was killed, while he was trying to drive off
sheep, by a stone which a herdsman threw.
And there too Mopsus died, the seer who knew the
voices of all birds; but he could not foretell his own end,
for he was bitten in the foot by a snake, one of those
which sprang from the Gorgon's head when Perseus
carried it across the sands.
At last they rowed away toward the northward, for
many a weary day, till their water was spent, and their
food eaten; and they were worn out with hunger and
thirst. But at last they saw a long steep island, and a
blue peak high among the clouds; and they knew it for
the peak of Ida, and the famous land of Crete. And
they said, "We will land in Crete, and see Minos the
78 The Book of Wonder Voyages
just king, and all his glory and his wealth; at least he
will treat us hospitably, and let us fill our water-casks
upon the shore."
But when they came nearer to the island they saw a
wondrous sight upon the cliffs. For on a cape to the
westward stood a giant, taller than any mountain pine,
who glittered aloft against the sky like a tower of
burnished brass. He turned and looked on all sides
round him, till he saw the Argo and her crew; and when
he saw them he came toward them, more swiftly than the
swiftest horse, leaping across the glens at a bound, and
striding at one step from down to down. And when he
came abreast of them he brandished his arms up and
down, as a ship hoists and lowers her yards, and shouted
with his brazen throat like a trumpet from off the hills,
"You are pirates, you are robbers! If you dare land
here, you die."
Then the heroes cried, We are no pirates. We are
all good men and true, and all we ask is food and water;"
but the giant cried the more :
"You are robbers, you are pirates all; I know you;
and if you land, you shall die the death."
Then he waved his arms again as a signal, and they
saw the people flying inland, driving their flocks before
them, while a great flame arose among the hills. Then
the giant ran up a valley and vanished, and the heroes
lay on their oars in fear.
But Medea stood watching all from under her steep
black brows, with a cunning smile upon her lips, and a
cunning plot within her heart. At last she spoke: I
know this giant. I heard of him in the East. Hepha-
istos the Fire King made him in his forge in /Etna
beneath the earth, and called him Talus, and gave him
to Minos for a servant, to guard the coast of Crete.
Thrice a day he walks round the island, and never stops
to sleep; and if strangers land he leaps into his furnace,
which flames there among the hills; and when he is
red-hot he rushes on them, and burns them in his brazen
Then all the heroes cried, What shall we do, wise
Medea? We must have water, or we die of thirst. Flesh
and blood we can face fairly; but who can face this red-
hot brass ? "
I can face red-hot brass, if the tale I hear be true.
For they say that he has but one vein in all his body,
filled with liquid fire; and that this vein is closed with a
nail; but I know not where that nail is placed. But if I
can get it once into these hands, you shall water your
ship here in peace."
Then she bade them put her on shore, and row off
again, and wait what would befall.
And the heroes obeyed her unwillingly, for they were
ashamed to leave her so alone; but Jason said, "She is
dearer to me than to any of you, yet I will trust her
freely on shore; she has more plots than we can dream
of in the windings of that fair and cunning head."
So they left the witch-maiden on the shore; and she
stood there in her beauty all alone, till the giant strode
back red-hot from head to heel, while the grass hissed
and smoked beneath his tread.
80 The Book of Wonder Voyages
And when he saw the maiden alone, he stopped; and
she looked boldly up into his face without moving, and
began her magic song:
Life is short, though life is sweet; and even men of
brass and fire must die. The brass must rust, the fire
must cool, for-time gnaws all things in their turn. Life
is short, though life is sweet: but sweeter to live for
ever; sweeter to live ever youthful like the gods, who
have ichor in their veins-ichor which gives life, and
youth, and joy, and a bounding heart."
Then Talus said, Who are you, strange maiden, and
where is this ichor of youth ? "
Then Medea held up a flask of crystal, and said,
" Here is the ichor of youth. I am Medea the enchan-
tress; my sister Circe gave me this, and said, 'Go and
reward Talus, the faithful servant, for his fame is gone
out into all lands.' So come, and I will pour this into
your veins, that you may live for ever young."
And he listened to her false words, that simple Talus,
and came near; and Medea said, Dip yourself in the
sea first, and cool yourself, lest you burn my tender hands;
then show me where the nail in your vein is, that I may
pour the ichor in."
Then that simple Talus dipped himself in the sea, till
it hissed, and roared, and smoked; and came and knelt
before Medea, and showed her the secret nail.
And she drew the nail out gently, but she poured no
ichor in ; and instead the liquid fire spouted forth, like a
stream of red-hot iron. And Talus tried to leap up,
crying, "You have betrayed me, false witch-maiden!"
The Argonauts 81
But she lifted up her hands before him, and sang, till he
sank beneath her spell. And as he sank, his brazen
limbs clanked heavily, and the earth groaned beneath
his weight ; and the liquid fire ran from his heel, like a
stream of lava, to the sea; and Medea laughed, and
called to the heroes, Come
So they came, and found
they fell down, and kissed
their ship, and took sheep
ashore, and water your ship
the giant lying dead; and
Medea's feet; and watered
and oxen, and so left that
82 The Book of Wonder Voyages
At last, after many more adventures, they came to the
Cape of Malea, at the south-west point of the Pelopon-
nese. And there they offered sacrifices, and Orpheus
purged them from their guilt. Then they rode away
again to the northward, past the Laconian 'shore, and
came all worn and tired by Sunium, and up the long
Eubcean Strait, until they saw once more Pelion, and
Aphetai, and Iolcos by the sea.
And they ran the ship ashore; but they had no
strength left to haul her up the beach; and they crawled
out on the pebbles, and sat down, and wept till they
could weep no more. For the houses and the trees
were all altered; and all the faces which they saw were
strange; and their joy was swallowed up in sorrow,
while they thought of their youth, and all their labour,
and the gallant comrades they had lost.
And the people crowded round, and asked them,
" Who are you, that you sit weeping here? "
"We are the sons of your princes, who sailed out
many a year ago. We went to fetch the golden fleece,
and we have brought it, and grief therewith. Give us
news of our fathers and our mothers, if any of them be
left alive on earth."
Then there was shouting, and laughing, and weeping;
and all the kings came to the shore, and they led away
the heroes to their homes, and bewailed the valiant dead.
Then Jason went up with Medea to the palace of his
uncle Pelias. And when he came in Pelias sat by the
hearth, crippled and blind with age; while opposite him
sat /Eson, Jason's father, crippled and blind likewise;
The Argonauts 83
and the two old men's heads shook together as they tried
to warm themselves before the fire.
And Jason fell down at his father's knees, and wept,
and called him by his name. And the old man stretched
his hands out, and felt him, and said, Do not mock me,
young hero. My son Jason is dead long ago at sea."
I am your own son Jason, whom you trusted to the
Centaur upon Pelion; and I have brought home the
golden fleece, and a princess of the Sun's race for my
bride. So now give me up the kingdom, Pelias my
uncle, and fulfil your promise as I have fulfilled mine."
Then his father clung to him like a child, and wept,
and would not let him go; and cried, Now I shall not
go down lonely to my grave. Promise me never to leave
me till I die."
What was the End of the Heroes
o ND now I wish that I could end my story
pleasantly; but it is no fault of mine that
I cannot. The old songs end it sadly,
and I believe that they are right and
Swise; for though the heroes were purified
at Malea, yet sacrifices cannot make bad hearts good,
and Jason had taken a wicked wife, and he had to bear
his burden to the last.
And first she laid a cunning plot to punish that poor
old Pelias, instead of letting him die in peace.
For she told his daughters, I can make old things
young again; I will show you how easy it is to do." So
she took an old ram and killed him, and put him in a
cauldron with magic herbs; and whispered her spells
over him, and he leapt out again a young lamb. So that
"Medea's cauldron" is a proverb still, by which we
mean times of war and change, when the world has
become old and feeble, and grows young again through
Then she said to Pelias' daughters, Do to your father
as I did to this ram, and he will grow young and strong