Scylla et Circe.
SCYLLA TRANSFORMED TO A ROCKNow the Euboean dweller in great waves,
Glaucus, had left behind the crest of Aetna,
raised upward from a giant's head; and left
the Cyclops' fields, that never had been torn
by harrow or by plough and never were
indebted to the toil of oxen yoked;
left Zancle, also, and the opposite walls
of Rhegium, and the sea, abundant cause
of shipwreck, which confined with double shores
bounds the Ausonian and Sicilian lands.
All these behind him, Glaucus, swimming on
with his huge hands through those Tyrrhenian seas,
drew near the hills so rich in magic herbs
and halls of Circe, daughter of the Sun,—
halls filled with men in guise of animals.
After due salutations had been given—
received by her as kindly—Glaucus said,
“You as a goddess, certainly should have
compassion upon me, a god; for you
alone (if I am worthy of it) can
relieve my passion. What the power of herbs
can be, Titania, none knows more than I,
for by their power I was myself transformed.
To make the cause of my strange madness known,
I have found Scylla on Italian shores,
directly opposite Messenian walls.
“It shames me to recount my promises,
entreaties, and caresses, and at last
rejection of my suit. If you have known
a power of incantation, I implore
you now repeat that incantation here,
with sacred lips—If herbs have greater power,
use the tried power of herbs. But I would not
request a cure—the healing of this wound.
Much better than an end of pain, let her
share, and feel with me my impassioned flame.”
But Circe was more quick than any other
to burn with passion's flame. It may have been
her nature or it may have been the work
of Venus, angry at her tattling sire.
“You might do better,” she replied, “to court
one who is willing, one who wants your love,
and feels a like desire. You did deserve
to win her love, yes, to be wooed yourself.
In fact you might be. If you give some hope,
you have my word, you shall indeed be wooed.
That you may have no doubt, and so retain
all confidence in your attraction's power—
behold! I am a goddess, and I am
the daughter also, of the radiant Sun!
And I who am so potent with my charms,
and I who am so potent with my herbs,
wish only to be yours. Despise her who
despises you, and her who is attached
to you repay with like attachment—so
by one act offer each her just reward.”
But Glaucus answered her attempt of love,
“The trees will sooner grow in ocean waves,
the sea-weed sooner grow on mountain tops,
than I shall change my love for graceful! Scylla.”
The goddess in her jealous rage could not
and would not injure him, whom she still loved,
but turned her wrath upon the one preferred.
She bruised immediately the many herbs
most infamous for horrid juices, which,
when bruised, she mingled with most artful care
and incantations given by Hecate.
Then, clothed in azure vestments, she passed through
her troop of fawning savage animals,
and issued from the center of her hall.
Pacing from there to Rhegium, opposite
the dangerous rocks of Zancle, she at once
entered the tossed waves boiling up with tides:
on these as if she walked on the firm shore,
she set her feet and, hastening on dry shod,
she skimmed along the surface of the deep.
Not far away there was an inlet curved,
round as a bent bow, which was often used
by Scylla as a favorite retreat.
There, she withdrew from heat of sea and sky
when in the zenith blazed the unclouded sun
and cast the shortest shadows on the ground.
Circe infected it before that hour,
polluting it with monster-breeding drugs.
She sprinkled juices over it, distilled
from an obnoxious root, and thrice times nine
she muttered over it with magic lips,
her most mysterious charm involved in words
of strangest import and of dubious thought.
Scylla came there and waded in waist deep,
then saw her loins defiled with barking shapes.
Believing they could be no part of her,
she ran and tried to drive them back and feared
the boisterous canine jaws. But what she fled
she carried with her. And, feeling for her thighs,
her legs, and feet, she found Cerberian jaws
instead. She rises from a rage of dogs,
and shaggy backs encircle her shortened loins.
The lover Glaucus wept. He fled the embrace
of Circe and her hostile power of herbs
and magic spells. But Scylla did not leave
the place of her disaster; and, as soon
as she had opportunity, for hate
of Circe, she robbed Ulysses of his men.
She would have wrecked the Trojan ships, if she
had not been changed beforehand to a rock
which to this day reveals a craggy rim.
And even the rock awakes the sailors' dread.