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Ceyx et Alcyone. Somnus.


King Ceyx, disturbed by his loved brother's fate
and prodigies which happened since that time,
prepared to venture to the Clarian god,
that he might there consult the oracle,
so sanctified to consolation of distress:
for then the way to Delphi was unsafe
because of Phorbas and his Phlegyans.
Before he went he told his faithful queen,
his dear Halcyone. She felt at once
terror creep through the marrow of her bones,
pallor of boxwood overspread her face,
and her two cheeks were wet with gushing tears.
Three times she tried to speak while tears and sobs
delayed her voice, until at last she said:—

“What fault of mine, my dearest, has so changed
your usual thoughts? Where is that care for me
that always has stood first? Can you leave me
for this long journey with no anxious fear—
Halcyone, forsaken in these halls?
Will this long journey be a pleasant change
because far from you I should be more dear?
Perhaps you think you will go there by land,
and I shall only grieve, and shall not fear
the sea affrights me with its tragic face.
Just lately I observed some broken planks
upon our seashore, and I've read and read
the names of seamen on their empty tombs!

“Oh, let no false assurance fill your mind
because your father-in-law is Aeolus.
Who in a dungeon shuts the stormful winds
and smoothes at will the troubled ocean waves
soon as the winds get freedom from his power,
they take entire possession of the deep,
and nothing is forbidden their attack;
and all the rights of every land and sea
are disregarded by them. They insult
even the clouds of heaven and their wild
concussions urge the lightnings to strike fires.
The more I know of them, for I knew
them in my childhood and I often saw
them from my father's home, the more I fear.

“But, O dear husband! if this new resolve
can not be altered by my prayers and fears,
and if you are determined, take me, too:
some comfort may be gained, if in the storms
we may be tossed together. I shall fear
only the ills that really come to us,
together we can certainly endure
discomforts till we gain that distant land.”

Such words and tears of the daughter of Aeolus
gave Ceyx, famed son of the Morning Star,
much thought and sorrow; for the flame of love
burned in his heart as strongly as in hers.

Reluctant to give up the voyage, even more
to make Halcyone his partner on
the dangerous sea, he answered her complaints
in many ways to pacify her breast,
but could not comfort her until at last
he said, “This separation from your love
will be most sorrowful; and so I swear
to you, as witnessed by the sacred fire
of my Star-father, if the fates permit
my safe return, I will come back to you
before the moon has rounded twice her orb.”

These promises gave hope of his return.
Without delay he ordered a ship should
be drawn forth from the dock, launched in the sea,
and properly supplied against the needs
of travel.—Seeing this, Halcyone,
as if aware of future woe, shuddered,
wept, and embraced him, and in extreme woe
said with a sad voice, “Ah—Farewell!” and then,
her nerveless body sank down to the ground.

While Ceyx longed for some pretext to delay,
the youthful oarsmen, chosen for their strength,
in double rows began to draw the oars
back towards their hardy breasts, cutting the waves
with equal strokes. She raised her weeping eyes
and saw her husband on the high-curved stern.
He by his waving hand made signs to her,
and she returned his signals. Then the ship
moved farther from the shore until her eyes
could not distinguish his loved countenance.
Still, while she could, she followed with her gaze
the fading hull; and, when that too was lost
far in the distance, she remained and gazed
at the white topsails, waving from the mast.
But, when she could no longer see the sails,
with anxious heart she sought her lonely couch
and laid herself upon it. Couch and room
renewed her sorrow and reminded her
how much of life was absent on the sea.

The ship had left the harbor, and the breeze
shook the taut rigging. Now the captain bade
the idle oars be drawn up to the sides.
They ran the pointed sailyards up the mast
and with spread canvas caught the coming breeze.

Perhaps the ship had not sailed half her course,
on every side the land was out of sight
in fact at a great distance, when, towards dark
the sea grew white with its increasing waves,
while boisterous east winds blew with violence.—
prompt in his duty, the captain warns his crew,
“Lower the top sails—quick—furl all the sails
tight to the yards!”—He ordered, but the storm
bore all his words away, his voice could not
be heard above the roaring of the sea.

But of their own accord some sailors rushed
to draw the oars in, others to secure
the sides from danger, and some strove to pull
the sails down from the wind. One pumps the waves
up from the hold, and pours the rushing sea
again into the sea; another takes
the yards off.—While such things are being done
without command or order, the wild storm
increases, and on every side fierce winds
wage a destructive warfare, which stirs up
the furious waters to their utmost power.

Even the captain, terrified, confessed
he did not know the status of the ship,
and could not order nor forbid the men—
so great the storm, so far beyond his skill.

Then he gave up control, while frightened men
shouted above the rattled cordage shocks,
and heavy waves were dashed against huge waves,
and ail the sky reverberated with
terrific thunders. The deep sea upturned
tremendous billows, which appeared to reach
so near the heaven they touched the heavy clouds
with foam of their tossed waters.—At one time,
while the great billows churned up yellow sand
from off the bottom, the wild rolling waves
were of that color. At another time
they were more black than water of the Styx.
Sometimes they levelled, white with lashing foam.

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