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Hypsipyle to Jason

You are said to have reached the Thessalian coasts in your returning bark, enriched with the prize of the golden fleece. I congratulate your safety, as far as I am permitted: but I ought to have known this by a letter from yourself. For, though unfavorable winds might have hindered you from landing in my kingdom, had you even desired it, yet a letter might have been sealed and sent: surely Hypsipyle deserved this testimony of your love. Why as fame the first

messenger of your success? Why did I first hear from report, that the bulls sacred to the stern god of war had submitted to the yoke,------that harvests of armed men sprang from the sowing of the dragon's teeth, and did not want your right hand to cut them off,------that the yellow fleecy spoils, though guarded by a vigilant dragon, were yet a prey to your valiant arm? If I could assure those who believe with diffidence, that all this was confirmed to me by a letter from yourself, how great would be my happiness! Why do I complain that my husband by so long an absence has failed in the respect he owes me? If your heart continues mine, I have still all I ask. You are said to have brought with you a barbarian enchantress, and admitted her to a share of that bed which you had promised to me. Love is credulous and full of fears. I wish it may be found that I have rashly charged my husband with false crimes. A stranger lately arrived here from Thessaly: scarcely had he touched the threshold, when I enquired how my Jason was. He, overcome with shame, stood silent, and fixed his eyes upon the ground. Impatient, I ran up to him;

and in wild distraction tearing his coat from his breast, Tell me, I cried, does he still live, or has Fate determined also to end my days? He lives, said he. I forced the intimidated stranger to confirm the statement by an oath, and could scarcely be convinced of your existence even by the testimony of a God. After recovering from my surprise, I began to enquire of your exploits. He tells me how the brazen-footed bulls of Mars turned up the furrowed plain; that the teeth of the dragon were thrown into the earth for seed, and a sudden crop of armed men sprang up; and that these earth-born heroes, cut off by civil broils, had filled up the short span of life allotted to them by Fate. Upon hearing of the serpent overcome. I again asked if Jason still lived; my heart beating alternately with hope and fear. While he proceeds in recounting one thing after another, in the current of his discourse, he at last discovers the wounds made in your heart. Alas! where is now your promised faith? where are now the nuptial ties? and Hymen's torch, fitter to have lighted up my funeral pile? I was not known to you by stealth. Juno was witness to our vows; and Hymen also, having his temples bound with garlands. But neither Juno nor Hymen, but cruel Erinnys, bore in procession the inauspicious torch. What concern had I with the Argonauts?

what with the ship of Pallas? Why did your pilot Tiphys think of touching at this coast? Here was no ram to entice you by his golden spoils; nor had ├ćetes his royal palace at Lemnos. I had determined (but my unhappy destiny overruled me) to expel the strangers with a female band. The Lemnian ladies have too glaringly shown themselves an overmatch for men. My life and peace ought to have been defended by so trusty a band.

I allowed Jason to enter my city, and admitted him into my house and heart. Here two summers and two winters rolled away. It was now the third harvest, when, forced to unfold the spreading sails, with tears in your eyes you uttered these soft and tender words.

"Alas! I am torn from you, Hypsipyle; but, if Heaven grant me a safe return, as I depart thine, so will I ever remain thine, Let the pledge of our mutual love, that you now carry about in your teeming womb, be fondly cherished, that it may prove the joy and blessing of its parents." Thus far you spoke, while, the tears trickling down you deceitful checks, grief deprived you of the power to proceed. You were the last to ascend the sacred ship: she flies, and a favorable wind fills the swelling sails. The sea-green waves recede from before the stemming prow; your eyes are fixed upon the shore, while mine follow you through the deep. An adjacent tower opens a prospect on all sides towards the sea. Thither I bend my course, my face and bosom bedewed with tears. I view you through my tears; and my eyes, favoring the eagerness of my mind, carry forward my sight beyond its usual bounds. I address Heaven with chaste prayers and timorous vows,------vows to the performed, now that you are safe. Must I then pay vows for the triumphs of Medea? My heart yields to grief, and my love flames into rage. Shall I carry offerings to the temples, because Jason lives, and lives for another? Are victims to be slain in return for my disappointments? I was indeed always diffident, and dreaded

that your father might choose a daughter-in-law from some city of Greece. I feared the Greeks, but suffer from a barbarian harlot, and am wounded by an unexpected hand. She has not charmed you by her beauty, or won you by her accomplishments. She holds you by her enchantments, and cuts the baneful herbs with a magic sickle. She endeavours to charm the reluctant moon from her orb, and involve the chariot of the sun in darkness. She bridles the waves, stops the winding currents, and removes from their seats the woods and banging rocks. She wanders through the tombs with her hair disheveled, and collects bones from the yet smoking pyres. Her witchcraft affects even the absent; she moulds the images of wax, and gores the wretched liver with torturing needles. Add a multiplicity of other magic artifices, which I am better unacquainted with. Love should be gained by merit and beauty, not by berbs and philtres. How can you receive her into your embraces, or quietly trust yourself in her treacherous arms? As formerly the bulls, so has she forced you also to submit to the yoke, and bound you with the same fetters wherewith she

before chained the dragons. Add that she boasts of having contributed to your success, and that of your companions; and the fame of the wife eclipses that of the husband. Those of the Pelian faction ascribe all to sorcery; and the malicious world is too ready to believe them. "It was not Jason, (say they,) but Medea of Colchis, that bore away the rich fleece of the consecrated ram."

If you will be governed by the advice of a mother, she disapproves your choice; nor does your father relish a bride from the frozen zone. Let her seek a husband from the borders of the Tanais, the marshy fens of Scythia, or her native banks of Phasis. Inconstant Jason, More unstable than the vernal breeze; why are your words without their promised weight? You departed my husband, and return wedded to another. But, as I was your wife when we parted, let me be still the

same since your return. If nobility and great names move you, I boast a descent from Thoas, the grandson of Minos. I have Bacchus for my grandfather; whose spouse, adorned with a radiant crown, eclipses the inferior lights by her more refulgent rays. Lemnos is my dowry, a fertile land, that crowns the labor of the cultivator. And I myself am not to be overlooked amidst so many noble gifts. I am also a mother, and bore the load with pleasure for the father's sake: let us both rejoice in this auspicious pledge. I am happy too in the number, and have brought forth twins, a double pledge of Lucina's favor. If you enquire concerning their likeness, you may be known by them: they are indeed strangers to treachery, but, in every thing else, the express image of their father. These had been sent envoys for their mother; but a cruel stepdame prevented the intended journey. I dreaded Medea; Medea is more cruel than even cruelty itself. Medea has hands ready for every kind of wickedness. Would she, who could scatter the dismembered joints of her own brother, scruple to imbue her hands in the blood of these innocent pledges of my love?

And yet, O deluded man, intoxicated with the philtres of Colchis! this is the woman for whom you are said to have deserted Hypsipyle. She basely associated with the husband of another; we were chastely united by the hymeneal torch. She betrayed her father; I saved mine from destruction. She deserted her native land; I still remain at Lemnos. But what avails it, if her wickedness triumphs over my piety, and she gains the heart of her husband by her very crimes? Far from admiring the cruelty of the Lemnian ladies, I blame it, Jason; although indignation and resentment stirred them up to arms. Tell me, if, driven by inhospitable winds, you and your companion had entered my ports, and I, accompanied by my twin-offspring, had gone out to welcome you, would you not have wished the earth to open and swallow you up? With what face could you have beheld the harmless babes, and me your faithful wife? What punishment could have been inflicted upon you, equal to your perfidy

and ingratitude? You would indeed have been safe and unhurt; not because you deserved it, but in consequence of my softness and good-nature. But I would have satiated my eyes with the blood of that harlot; and you, the slave of her sorceries, should have beheld the tragedy. I would have been Medea to Medea. If you, O just Jupiter, hear from heaven the prayers of injured love, may this base intruder into my chaste bed groan under the same pangs which I now feel, and herself experience that treachery of which she has set the first example; and, as I, a wife and the mother of twins, am left destitute and forlorn, may she also be ravished from her husband and children: may she soon lose and shamefully abandon these ill-gotten trophies; exiled, and wandering a fugitive over all the earth! What sister she was to her brother, what daughter to her parent, such a mother and wife may she prove to her children and husband! When she has traversed the earth and sea, let her attempt the air, till, destitute and hopeless, she end a miserable life by her own hand. These are the prayers of the disappointed and injured daughter of Thoas. May you live an execrable pair, the partners of a devoted bed!

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hide References (5 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (5):
    • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 61
    • John Conington, Commentary on Vergil's Aeneid, Volume 1, 4.166
    • George W. Mooney, Commentary on Apollonius: Argonautica, 1.784
    • George W. Mooney, Commentary on Apollonius: Argonautica, 4.59
    • Charles Simmons, The Metamorphoses of Ovid, Books XIII and XIV, 13.541
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