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And so went striding off, on that straight way
Leads to Larissa and the suburb tomb.
Gladness be with thee, Helper of our world!
I think this is the authentic sign and seal
Of Godship that it ever waxes glad,
And more glad, until gladness blossoms, bursts
Into a rage to suffer for mankind,
And recommence at sorrow: drops like seed
After the blossom, ultimate of all.
Say, does the seed scorn earth and seek the sun?
Surely it has no other end and aim
Than to drop, once more die into the ground,
Taste cold and darkness and oblivion there:
And thence rise, tree-like grow through pain to joy,
More joy and most joy, — do man good again.
So to the struggle off strode Herakles.
Long time the Thessalians waited and mourned. As for Herakles, no doubt they supposed him dead. When — but can it be? —
. . . Ay, he it was advancing! In he strode,
And took his stand before Admctos, — turned
Now by despair to such a quietude,
He neither raised his face nor spoke, this time,
The while his friend surveyed him steadily.
That friend looked rough with fighting: had he strained
Worst brute to breast was ever strangled yet?
Somehow, a victory — for there stood the strength,
Happy, as always; something grave, perhaps;
The great vein-cordage on the fret-worked front,
Black-swollen, beaded yet with battle-dew
The golden hair o' the hero! — his big frame
A-quiver with each muscle sinking back
Into the sleepy smooth it leaped from late.
Under the great guard of one arm, there leant
A shrouded something, live and woman-like,
Propped by the heartbeats 'ncath the lion-coat.
When he had finished his survey, it seemed,
The heavings of the heart began subside,
The helpful breath returned, and last the smile
Shone out, all Herakles was back again,
"Admetus," said he, " take and keep this woman, my captive, till I come thy way again." But Admetus would admit no woman into the hall that Alcestis had left empty. Then cried Herakles, "Take hold of her. See now, my friend, if she look not somewhat like that wife thou hast lost."
Ah, but the tears come, find the words at fault!
There is no telling how the hero twitched
The veil off; and there stood, with such fixed eyes
And such slow smile, Alkestis' silent self!
It was the crowning grace of that great heart,
To keep back joy: procrastinate the truth
Until the wife, who had made proof and found
The husband wanting, might essay once more,
Hear, see, and feel him renovated now —
Able to do now all herself had done,
Risen to the height of her: so, hand in hand,
The two might go together, live and die.
Beside, when he found speech, you guess the speech
He could not think he saw his wife again:
It was some mocking God that used the bliss
To make him mad! Till Herakles must help:
Assure him that no spectre mocked at all;
He was embracing whom he buried once,
Still, — did he touch, might he address the true,
True eye, true body of the true live wife?
. . . And Herakles said little, but enough —
How he engaged in combat with that king
O' the ttemons: how the field of contest lay
By the tomb's self: how he sprang from ambuscade,
Captured Death, caught him in that pair of hands.
But all the time, Alkestis moved not once
Herakles solemnly replied, "Not yet
§ 82. Apollo, the Musician. — Not only in Arcadia, Laconia, and Thessaly did Apollo care, as a herdsman, for the cattle of a mortal master; in Mount Ida, too, by the order of Jupiter he herded for a year the "shambling, crook-horned kine" of King Laomedon, and, playing on the lyre, aided Neptune to build the walls of Troy, just as Amphion, in his turn, had aided in the building of Thebes. Apollo's life as herdsman was spent in establishing wise laws and customs, in musical contests on the flute, and the lyre, or in passages of love with nymphs and maidens of mortal mould.
§ 83. Apollo, Pan, and Midas.2—It is said that on a certain occasion Pan had the temerity to compare his music with that of Apollo, and to challenge the god of the lyre to a trial of skill. The challenge was accepted, and Tmolus, the mountain-god, was chosen umpire. The senior took his seat, and cleared away the trees from his ears to listen. At a given signal Pan blew on his pipes, and with his rustic melody gave great satisfaction to himself and his faithful follower Midas, who happened to be present. Then Tmolus turned his head toward the sun-god, and all his trees turned with him. Apollo rose; his brow wreathed with Parnassian laurel, while his robe of Tyrian purple swept the ground. In his left hand he held the lyre, and with his right hand struck the strings. Tmolus at once awarded the victory to the lyric god, and all but Midas acquiesced in the judgment. He dissented, and
1 For the originals, see Iliad 2:715, and the Alcestis of Euripides.
2 Ovid, Metam. 11: 146-193.
questioned the justice of the award. Apollo promptly transformed his depraved pair of ears into those of an ass.
King Midas tried to hide his misfortune under an ample turban But his hair-dresser found it too much for his discretion to keep such a secret; he dug a hole in the ground, and, stooping down, whispered the story, and covered it up. But a thick bed of reeds springing up in the meadow began whispering the story, and has continued to do so from that day to this, every time a breeze passes over the place.
In the following "Hymn,"1 Pan taunts Apollo as he might have done when Midas was sitting contentedly by:
From the forests and highlands
We come, we come; From the river-girt islands,
Where loud waves are dumb, Listening to my sweet pipings. The wind in the reeds and the rushes,
The bees on the bells of thyme,
The cicale above in the lime,
Liquid Peneus was flowing,
And all dark Tempe lay,
The light of the dying day,
1 Shelley, Hymn of Pan.
Speeded by my sweet pipings.
And the Nymphs of the woods and waves,
And the brink of the dewy caves,
I sang of the dancing stars,
I sang of the daedal Earth,
I pursued a maiden, and clasp'd a reed:
It breaks in our bosom and then we bleed:
§ 84. The Loves of Apollo. — Beside Psamathe of Argos,1 Coronis of Thessaly,2 and the nymph Clymene,3 Apollo loved the muse Calliope, who bore him Orpheus,4 and the nymph Cyrene, whose son was Aristxus.5 Of his relations with two other maidens the following myths exist.
§ 85. Daphne."—The lord of the silver bow was not always prosperous in his wooing. His first love, which, by the way, owed its origin to the malice of Cupid, — was specially unfortunate. It appears that Apollo, seeing the boy playing with his bow and arrows, had tauntingly advised him to leave warlike weapons for hands worthv nf them and content himself with the torch of love.