BATTLE OF THE WEDDING FEASTPERSEUS AND ANDROMEDAWhile Perseus, the brave son of Jupiter,
surrounded at the feast by Cepheus' lords,
narrated this, a raging multitude
with sudden outcry filled the royal courts—
not with the clamours of a wedding feast
but boisterous rage, portentous of dread war.
As when the fury of a great wind strikes
a tranquil sea, tempestuous billows roll
across the peaceful bosom of the deep;
so were the pleasures at the banquet changed
to sudden tumult.
Foremost of that throng,
the rash ring-leader, Phineus, shook his spear,
brass-tipped of ash, and shouted, “Ha, 'tis I!
I come avenger of my ravished bride!
Let now your flittering wings deliver you,
or even Jupiter, dissolved in showers
of imitation gold.” So boasted he,
aiming his spear at Perseus.
Thus to him
cried Cepheus: “Hold your hand, and strike him not!
What strange delusions, O my brother, have
compelled you to this crime? Is it the just
requital of heroic worth? A fair
reguerdon for the life of her you loved?
“If truth were known, not Perseus ravished her
from you; but, either 'twas the awful God
that rules the Nereides; or Ammon, crowned
with crescent horns; or that monstrosity
of Ocean's vast abyss, which came to glut
his famine on the issue of my loins.
Nor was your suit abandoned till the time
when she must perish and be lost to you.
So cruel are you, seeking my daughter's death,
rejoicing lightly in our deep despair.—
“And was it not enough for you to stand
supinely by, while she was bound in chains,
and offer no assistance, though you were
her lover and betrothed? And will you grieve
that she was rescued from a dreadful fate,
and spoil her champion of his just rewards?
Rewards that now may seem magnificent,
but not denied to you if you had won
and saved, when she was fettered to the rock.
“Let him, whose strength to my declining years
restored my child, receive the merit due
his words and deeds; and know his suit was not
preferred to yours, but granted to prevent
her certain death.”
not deigning to reply,
against them Phineus stood; and glancing back
from him to Perseus, with alternate looks,
as doubtful which should feel his first attack,
made brief delay. Then vain at Perseus hurled
his spear, with all the force that rage inspired,
but, missing him it quivered in a couch.
Provoked beyond endurance Perseus leaped
forth from the cushioned seats, and fiercely sent
that outwrenched weapon back. It would have pierced
his hostile breast had not the miscreant crouched
behind the altars. Oh perverted good,
that thus an altar should abet the wrong!
But, though the craven Phineus escaped,
not vainly flew the whizzing point, but struck
in Rhoetus' forehead. As the barb was torn
out of the bone, the victim's heels began
to kick upon the floor, and spouting blood
defiled the festal board. Then truly flame
in uncontrolled rage the vulgar crowd,
and hurl their harmful darts.
And there are some
who hold that Cepheus and his son-in-law
deserved to die; but Cepheus had passed forth
the threshold of his palace: having called
on all the Gods of Hospitality
and Truth and Justice to attest, he gave
no comfort to the enemies of Peace.
Unconquered Pallas is at hand and holds
her Aegis to protect her brother's life;
she lends him dauntless courage. At the feast
was one from India's distant shores, whose name
was Athis. It was said that Limnate,
the daughter of the River Ganges, him
in vitreous caverns bright had brought to birth;
and now at sixteen summers in his prime,
the handsome youth was clad in costly robes.
A purple mantle with a golden fringe
covered his shoulders, and a necklace, carved
of gold, enhanced the beauty of his throat.
His hair encompassed with a coronal,
delighted with sweet myrrh. Well taught was he
to hurl the javelin at a distant mark,
and none with better skill could stretch the bow.
No sooner had he bent the pliant horns
than Perseus, with a smoking billet, seized
from the mid-altar, struck him on the face,
and smashed his features in his broken skull.
And when Assyrian Lycabas had seen
his dear companion, whom he truly loved,
beating his handsome countenance in blood.
And when he had bewailed his lost life,
that ebbed away from that unpiteous wound,
he snatched the bow that Athis used, and said;
“Let us in single combat seek revenge;
not long will you rejoice the stripling's fate;
a deed most worthy shame.” So speaking, forth
the piercing arrow bounded from the cord,
which, though avoided, struck the hero's cloak
and fastened in its folds.—
Then Perseus turned
upon him, with the trusted curving sword,
cause of Medusa's death, and drove the blade
deep in his breast. The dying victim's eyes,
now swimming in a shadowous night, looked 'round
for Athis, whom, beholding, he reclined
upon, and ushered to the other world,—
sad consolation of united death.