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.