Near the Cimmerian Land there is a cave,
with a long entrance, in a hallowed mountain,
the home of slothful Sleep. To that dark cave
the Sun, when rising or in middle skies,
or setting, never can approach with light.
There dense fogs, mingled with the dark, exhale
darkness from the black soil—and all that place
is shadowed in a deep mysterious gloom.
No wakeful bird with visage crested high
calls forth the morning's beauty in clear notes;
nor do the watchful dogs, more watchful geese,
nor wild beasts, cattle, nor the waving trees,
make sound or whisper; and the human voice
is never heard there—silent Rest is there.
But, from the bottom of a rock beneath,
Lethean waters of a stream ooze forth,
sounds of a rivulet, which trickle with
soft murmuring amid the pebbles and
invite soft sleep. Before the cavern doors
most fertile poppies and a wealth of herbs
bloom in abundance, from the juice of which
the humid night-hours gather sleep and spread
it over darkened Earth. No door is in
that cavern-home and not a hinge's noise
nor guarding porter's voice disturbs the calm.
But in the middle is a resting-couch,
raised high on night-black ebony and soft
with feathered cushions, all jet black, concealed
by a rich coverlet as dark as night,
on which the god of sleep, dissolved in sloth
lies with unmoving limbs. Around him there
in all directions, unsubstantial dreams
recline in imitation of all shapes—
as many as the uncounted ears of corn
at harvest—as the myriad leaves of trees—
or tiny sand grains spread upon the shore.
As soon as Iris entered that dread gloom,
she pushed aside the visions in her way
with her fair glowing hands; and instantly,
that sacred cavern of the god of Sleep
was all illuminated with the glow
and splendor of her garment.—Out of himself
the god with difficulty lifted up
his lanquid eyes. From this small sign of life
relapsing many times to languid sloth,
while nodding, with his chin he struck his breast
again and again. At last he roused himself
from gloom and slumber; and, while raised upon
his elbow, he enquired of Iris why
she came to him.—He knew her by her name.
She answered him, “O, Sleep, divine repose
of all things! Gentlest of the deities!
Peace to the troubled mind, from which you drive
the cares of life, restorer of men's strength
when wearied with the toils of day, command
a vision that shall seem the actual form
of royal Ceyx to visit Trachin famed
for Hercules and tell Halcyone
his death by shipwreck. It is Juno's wish.”
Iris departed after this was said.
For she no longer could endure the effect
of slumber-vapor; and as soon as she
knew sleep was creeping over her tired limbs
she flew from there—and she departed by
the rainbow, over which she came before.
Out of the multitude—his thousand sons—
the god of sleep raised Morpheus by his power.
Most skillful of his sons, who had the art
of imitating any human shape;
and dexterously could imitate in men
the gait and countenance, and every mode
of speaking. He could simulate the dress
and customary words of any man
he chose to represent—but he could not
assume the form of anything but man.
Such was his art. Another of Sleep's sons
could imitate all kinds of animals;
such as a wild beast or a flying bird,
or even a serpent with its twisted shape;
and that son, by the gods above was called
Icelos—but the inhabitants of earth
called him Phobetor—and a third son, named
Phantasos, cleverly could change himself
into the forms of earth that have no life;
into a statue, water, or a tree.
It was the habit of these three to show
themselves at night to kings and generals;
and other sons would frequently appear
among the people of the common class.
All such the aged god of Sleep passed by.
Selecting only Morpheus from among
the many brothers to accomplish this,
and execute what Iris had desired.
And after all that work, he dropped his head,
and sank again in languid drowsiness,
shrinking to sloth within his lofty couch.
Morpheus at once flew through the night
of darkness, on his wings that make no sound,
and in brief space of intervening time,
arrived at the Haemonian city walls;
and there he laid aside his wings, and took
the face and form of Ceyx. In that form
as one deprived of life, devoid of clothes,
wan and ghastly, he stood beside the bed
of the sad wife. The hero's beard seemed dripping,
sea water streamed down from his drenching hair.
Then leaning on the bed, while dropping tears
were running down his cheeks, he said these words:
“Most wretched wife, can you still recognize
your own loved Ceyx, or have my looks changed:
so much with death you can not?—Look at me,
and you will be assured I am your own:
but here instead of your dear husband, you
will find only his ghost. Your faithful prayers
did not avail, Halcyone, and I
have perished. Give up all deluding hopes
of my return. The stormy Southwind caught
my ship while sailing the Aegean sea;
and there, tossed by the mighty wind, my ship
was dashed to pieces. While I vainly called
upon your name, the angry waters closed
above my drowning head and it is no
uncertain messenger that tells you this
and nothing from vague rumors has been told.
But it is I myself, come from the wreck,
now telling you my fate. Come then, arise
shed tears, and put on mourning; do not send
me unlamented, down to Tartarus.”
And Morpheus added to these words a voice
which she would certainly believe was her
beloved husband's; and he seemed to be
shedding fond human tears; and even his hands
were moved in gestures that Ceyx often used.
Halcyone shed tears and groaned aloud,
and, as she moved her arms and caught at his
dear body, she embraced the vacant air
she cried out loudly, “Stay, oh stay with me!
Why do you hurry from me? We will go
together!” Agitated by her own
excited voice; and by what seemed to be
her own dear husband, she awoke from sleep.
And first looked all about her to persuade
herself that he whom she had lately seen
must yet be with her, for she had aroused
the servants who in haste brought lights desired.
When she could find him nowhere, in despair
she struck her face and tore her garment from
her breast and beat her breast with mourning hands.
She did not wait to loosen her long hair;
but tore it with her hands and to her nurse,
who asked the cause of her wild grief, she cried:
“Alas, Halcyone is no more! no more!
with her own Ceyx she is dead! is dead!
Away with words of comfort, he is lost
by shipwreck! I have seen him, and I knew
him surely—as a ghost he came to me;
and when desirous to detain him, I
stretched forth my arms to him, his ghost left me—
it vanished from me; but it surely was
the ghost of my dead husband. If you ask
description of it, I must truly say
he did not have his well known features—he
was not so cheerful as he was in life!
Alas, I saw him pale and naked, with
his hair still dripping—his ghost from the waves
stood on this very spot:” and while she moaned
she sought his footprints on the floor. “Alas,
this was my fear, and this is what my mind
shuddered to think of, when I begged that you
would not desert me for the wind's control.
But how I wish, since you were sailing forth
to perish, that you had but taken me
with you. If I had gone with you, it would
have been advantage to me, for I should
have shared the whole course of my life with you
and you would not have met a separate death.
I linger here but I have met my death,
I toss on waves, and drift upon the sea.
“My heart would be more cruel than the waves,
if it should ask me to endure this life—
if I should struggle to survive such grief.
I will not strive nor leave you so forlorn,
at least I'll follow you to death. If not
the urn at least the lettered stone
shall keep us still together. If your bones
are not united with my bones, 'tis sure
our names must be united.”Overcome
with grief, she could not say another word—
but she continued wailing, and her groans
were heaved up from her sorrow-stricken breast.
At early dawn, she went from her abode
down to the seashore, where most wretchedly,
she stood upon the spot from which he sailed,
and sadly said; “He lingered here while he
was loosening the cables, and he kissed
me on this seashore when he left me here.”
And while she called to recollection all
that she had seen when standing there, and while
she looked far out on flowing waves from there,
she noticed floating on the distant sea—
what shall I say? At first even she could not
be sure of what she saw. But presently
although still distant—it was certainly
a floating corpse. She could not see what man
he might be, but because it seemed to her
it surely was a shipwrecked body, she
was moved as at an omen and began
to weep; and, moaning as she stood there, said:—
“Ah wretched one, whoever it may be,
ah, wretched is the wife whom you have left!”
As driven by the waves the body came
still nearer to her, she was less and less
the mistress of herself, the more she looked
upon it; and, when it was close enough
for her to see its features, she beheld
her husband. “It is he,” she cried and then
she tore her face, her hair, her royal robe
and then, extending both her trembling hands
towards Ceyx, “So dearest one! So do you come
to me again?” She cried, “O luckless mate.”
A mole, made by the craft of man, adjoins
the sea and breaks the shoreward rush of waves.
To this she leaped—it seemed impossible—
and then, while beating the light air with wings
that instant formed upon her, she flew on,
a mourning bird, and skimmed above the waves.
And while she lightly flew across the sea
her clacking mouth with its long slender bill,
full of complaining, uttered moaning sounds:
but when she touched the still and pallied form,
embracing his dear limbs with her new wings,
she gave cold kisses with her hardened bill.
All those who saw it doubted whether Ceyx
could feel her kisses; and it seemed to them
the moving waves had raised his countenance.
But he was truly conscious of her grief;
and through the pity of the gods above,
at last they both were changed to flying birds,
together in their fate. Their love lived on,
nor in these birds were marriage bonds dissolved,
and they soon coupled and were parent birds.
Each winter during seven full days of calm
Halcyone broods on her floating nest—
her nest that sails upon a halcyon sea:
the passage of the deep is free from storms,
throughout those seven full days; and Aeolus
restraining harmful winds, within their cave,
for his descendants' sake gives halcyon seas.
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