GREAT PAGES INSPIRED
THROUGH THE CENTURIES
BY THE INCOMPARABLE MESSAGE OF
John Stuart Blackie
Lays and Legends from Greece
The sun shines bright on Ephyre’s height,
And right and left, with billowy might,
Poseidon rules the sea;
But not the Sun that rules above,
Nor strong Poseidon, nor great Jove,
Can look with looks of favouring love,
Bellerophon, on thee.
There’s blood upon thy hands; the hounds
Of hell pursue thy path;
Nor they within rich Corinth’s bounds
Shall slack their vengeful wrath.
Black broods the sky above thy head,
The Earth breeds serpents at thy tread,
The Furies’ foot hath found thee;
A baleful pest their presence brings,
A curse to peasants and to kings;
The horrid shadow of their wings
Turns day to darkness round thee.
Flee o’er the Argive hills, and there,
With suppliant branch and pious prayer,
Thou shalt not crave in vain
Some prince, whose hands not worthless hold
The sceptre of Phoroneus old,
To cleanse thy guilt, and make thee bold
To look on men again.
Darkly the Nemean forests frown,
Where Apesantian Jove
From his broad altar-seat looks down
On the Ogygian grove.
Fierce roars the lion from his den
In Tretus’ long and narrow glen;
And many a lawless man
Here by the stony water-bed
Lists the lone traveller’s errant tread,
And wakes the plundering clan.
Here be thy flight, Bellerophon,
But danger fear thou none;
For she, the warlike and the wise,
Jove’s blue-eyed daughter, from surprise
Secure shall lead thee on.
To Hera on the hill
The sacred keys, he pours his prayers,
And drinks the scanty rill.
He flees: and now before his eye,
With wall and gate and bulwark high,
And many a tower that fronts the sky,
And many a covered way,
Strong Tiryns stands, whose massy blocks
Were torn by the Cyclops from the rocks,
And piled in vast array.
Here Proetus reigns; and here, at length,
The suppliant flings his jaded strength
Before a friendly door;
And now from hot pursuit secure,
And from blood-guiltiness made pure,
His heart shall fear no more.
The princely Proetus opes his gate,
And on the fugitive’s dark fate
Smiles gracious; him from fear,
And terror of the scourge divine,
He purifies with blood of swine
And sprinkled water clear.
O blessed was the calm that now
Lulled his racked brain, and smoothed his brow!
Nor wildly now did roll
His sleepless eyes; from gracious Jove
Came down the gentle dew of love,
And soothed his wounded soul.
And grateful was the face of man
To heart now free from Furies’ ban,
And sweet the festive lyre.
Fair was each sight on that fair day,
Spread forth in beautiful array,
To move the heart’s desire.
Each manly sport and social game
Thrilled with new joy his re-strung frame,
And waked the living fire.
Antea saw him poise the dart,
In the fleet race the foremost start,
And lawless Venus smote her heart;
She loved her lord no more:
As no chaste woman sues she sued,
Her guest the partial hostess wooed,
And lavished beauty’s store
Of luminous smiles and glistening tears,
And silvery speech; but he reveres
The rights of hospitable Jove,
Chastely repels her perilous love,
Nor hears her parley more.
Who slights a woman’s love cuts deep,
And wakes a brood of snakes that sleep
Beneath a bed of roses.
The lustful wife of Proetus now
To earthly Venus vows a vow,
And in her heart proposes
A fiendish thing. She, with the pin
That bound her peplos, pierced the skin
Of her smooth-rounded arm;
And when the crimson stream began
To trickle down, she instant ran,
And with a feigned alarm
Roused all her maids, and in the ear
Of the fond Proetus, quick to hear,
She poured the piteous lie,
That the false guest had sought to move
Her loyal-mated heart with love,
And with rude hands had dared assail
He virtue, cased in surer mail
Than Dian’s panoply:
Then, more to stir his wrathful mood,
She bared her arm that streamed with blood,
And scared his jealous eye.
Hot boiled his Argive heart; his eyes
Flash vengeance; but himself denies
The reins to his own spleen.
His public face in smiles is dressed,
He joins the banquet with the rest,
And tells the tale, and plies the jest,
With easy social mien;
And to his high Corinthian guest
Lets not a thought be seen.
“Take here,” quote he, “thou high-souled knight,
To Iobates the Lycian wight ,
The brother of my queen,
These tablets; he will honour thee
Even more than I; and thou shalt see
A famous and a fruitful land,
With all Apollo’s beauty bland,
And leafy splendour green.”
Uprose the knight with willing feet,
His heart was light, his pace was fleet;
Girt for the road and venture bold,
He left the strong Tirynthian hold
And gaily wends his way
O’er steep Arachne’s ridge, till he
Passed Aesculapius sacred fane,
Whose virtue soothes each racking pain,
And reached, with foot untied, the sea
That beats with billow bounding free
The Epidaurian bay.
TO BE CONTINUED