Зображення сторінки

half hid with golden leaves. Perseus said to him, “I come as a guest. If thou holdest in honor illustrious descent, I claim Jupiter for my father ; if mighty deeds, I plead the conquest of the Gorgon. I seek rest and food.” But Atlas, remembering an ancient prophecy that had warned him against a son of Jove who should one day rob him of his golden apples, attempted to thrust the youth out. Whereupon Perseus, finding the giant too strong for him, held up the Gorgon's head. Atlas, with all his bulk, was changed into stone. His beard and hair became forests, his arms and shoulders cliffs, his head a summit, and his bones rocks. Each part increased in mass till the giant became the mountain upon whose shoulders rests heaven with all its stars.

$ 137. Perseus and Andromeda. — On his way back to Seriphus, the Gorgon-slayer arrived at the country of the Æthiopians, over whom Cepheus was king. His wife was Cassiopea —

“That starred Æthiop queen that strove

To set her beauty's praise above
The sea-nymphs, and their powers offended.”!

These nymphs had consequently sent a sea-monster to ravage the coast. To appease the deities, Cepheus was directed by the oracle to devote his daughter Andromeda to the ravening maw of the prodigy. As Perseus looked down from his aërial height, he beheld the virgin chained to a rock. Drawing nearer, he pitied, then comforted her, and sought the reason of her disgrace. At first from modesty she was silent; but when he repeated his questions, for fear she might be thought guilty of some offence which she dared not tell, she disclosed her name and that of her country, and her mother's pride of beauty. Before she had done speaking, a sound was heard upon the water, and the monster appeared. The virgin shrieked; the father and mother, who had now arrived, poured forth lamentations and threw their arms about the victim. But the hero, himself, undertook to slay the monster, on condition that, if the maiden were rescued by his valor, she should

1 Milton, Il Penseroso, l. 19.

be his reward. The parents consented. Perseus embraced his
promised bride; then —
Loosing his arms from her waist he few upward, awaiting the sea-beast.
Onward it came from the southward, as bulky and black as a galley,
Lazily coasting along, as the fish fled leaping before it;
Lazily breasting the ripple, and watching by sandbar and headland,
Listening for laughter of maidens at bleaching, or song of the fisher,
Children at play on the pebbles, or cattle that passed on the sand-hills.
Rolling and dripping it came, where bedded in glistening purple
Cold on the cold sea-weeds lay the long white sides of the maiden,
Trembling, her face in her hands, and her tresses afloat on the water.1

The youth darted down upon the back of the monster, and plunged his sword into its shoulder, then eluded its furious attack by means of his wings. Wherever he could find a passage for his sword, he plunged it between the scales of fank and side. The wings of the hero were finally drenched and unmanageable with the blood and water that the brute spouted. Then alighting on a rock and holding by a projection, he gave the monster his deathblow.

The joyful parents, with Perseus and Andromeda, repaired to the palace, where a banquet was opened for them. But in the midst of the festivities, a noise was heard of warlike clamor; and Phineus, who had formerly been betrothed to the bride, burst in demanding her for his own. In vain, Cepheus remonstrated that all such engagements had been dissolved by the sentence of death passed upon Andromeda, and that if Phineus had actually loved the girl, he would have tried to rescue her. Phineus and his adherents, persisting in their intent, attacked the wedding party, and would have broken it up with most admired disorder, but

Mid the fabled Libyan bridal stood
Perseus in stern tranquillity of wrath,
Half stood, half floated on his ankle-plumes
Out-swelling, while the bright face on his shield
Looked into stone the raging fray.?

1 From Charles Kingsley's Andromeda.

2 Milman's Samor.

Leaving Phineus and his fellows in merited petrifaction, and conveying Andromeda to Seriphus, the hero, there, turned into


stone Polydectes and his court, because the tyrant had rendered Danaë's life intolerable with his attentions. Perseus then restored

to their owners the charmed helmet, the winged shoes, and the pouch in which he had conveyed the Gorgon's head. The head itself he bestowed upon Minerva, who bore it afterward upon her ægis or shield. Of that Gorgon-shield no more poetic interpretation can be framed than the following:

“What was that snaky-headed Gorgon-shield

That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin,
Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone,
But rigid looks of chaste austerity,
And noble grace that dashed brute violence
With sudden adoration and blank awe!"1

With his mother and his wife Perseus returned to Argos to seek his grandfather. But Acrisius, still fearing his doom, had retired to Larissa in Thessaly. Thither Perseus followed him, and found him presiding over certain funeral games. As luck would have it, the hero took part in the quoit-throwing, and hurled a quoit far beyond the mark. The disc, falling upon his grandfather's foot, brought about the old man's death ; and in that way the prophecy was fulfilled. Of Perseus and Andromeda three sons were born, through one of whom, Electryon, they became grandparents of the famous Alcmene, sweetheart of Jove, and mother of Hercules.

$ 138. Bellerophon and the Chimæra.? — The horse Pegasus, which sprang from the Gorgon's blood, found a master in Bellerophon of Corinth. This youth was of the Hellenic branch of the Greek nation, being descended from Sisyphus, and through him from Æolus, the son of Hellen.His adventures might therefore be recited with those of Jason and other descendants of Æolus in the next chapter, but that they follow so closely on those of Perseus. His father, Glaucus, king of Corinth, is frequently identified with Glaucus the fisherman. This Glaucus of Corinth was noted for his love of horse-racing, his fashion of feeding his mares on human flesh, and his destruction by the fury of

1 Milton's Comus. 2 Iliad 6: 155-202; Apollodorus, 1. 9. $ 3; Horace, Odes 4:11, 26. 3 See Commentary, $$ 95, 138.

« НазадПродовжити »