Aeacus. Pestilentia. Myrmidones.But pleasure always is alloyed with grief,
and sorrow mingles in the joyous hour.
While the king Aegeus and his son rejoiced,
Minos prepared for war. He was invincible
in men and ships—and stronger in his rage
to wreak due vengeance on the king who slew
his son Androgeus. But first he sought
some friends to aid his warfare; and he scoured
the sea with a swift fleet—which was his strength.
Anaphe and Astypalaea, both
agreed to join his cause—the first one moved
by promises, the second by his threats.
Level Myconus and the chalky fields
of Cimolus agreed to aid, and Syros
covered with wild thyme, level Seriphos,
Paros of marble cliffs, and that place which
Arne the impious Siphnian had betrayed,
who having got the gold which in her greed
she had demanded, was changed to a bird
which ever since that day imagines gold
its chief delight—a black-foot black-winged daw.
But Oliarus, Didymae, and Tenos,
Gyaros, Andros, and Peparethos
rich in its glossy olives, gave no aid
to the strong Cretan fleet. Sailing from them
Minos went to Oenopia, known realm
of the Aeacidae.—Men of old time
had called the place Oenopia; but Aeacus
styled it Aegina from his mother's name.
At his approach an eager rabble rushed
resolved to see and know so great a man.
Telamon met him, and his brother,
younger than Telamon, and Phocus who
was third in age. Even Aeacus appeared,
slow with the weight of years, and asked him what
could be a reason for his coming there.
The ruler of a hundred cities, sighed,
as he beheld the sons of Aeacus,
for they reminded him of his lost son;—
and heavy with his sorrow, he replied:
“I come imploring you to take up arms,
and aid me in the war against my foes;
for I must give that comfort to the shade
of my misfortuned son—whose blood they shed.”
But Aeacus replied to Minos, “Nay,
it is a vain request you make, for we
are bound in strict alliance to the land
and people of Cecropia.”
Full of rage,
because he was denied, the king of Crete,
Minos, as he departed from their shores
replied, “Let such a treaty be your bane.”
And he departed with his crafty threat,
believing it expedient not to waste
his power in wars until the proper time.
Before the ships of Crete had disappeared,
before the mist and blue of waves concealed
their fading outlines from the anxious throng
which gathered on Oenopian shores, a ship
of Athens covered with wide sails appeared,
and anchored safely by their friendly shore;
and, presently, the mighty Cephalus,
well known through all that nation for his deeds,
addressed them as he landed, and declared
the good will of his people. Him the sons
of Aeacus remembered well, although
they had not seen him for some untold years.
They led him to their father's welcome home;
and with him, also, his two comrades went,
Clytus and Butes.
Center of all eyes,
the hero still retained his charm,
the customary greetings were exchanged,
the graceful hero, bearing in his hands
a branch of olive from his native soil,
delivered the Athenian message, which
requested aid and offered for their thought
the treaty and the ancestral league between
their nations. And he added, Minos sought
not only conquest of the Athenian state
but sovereignty of all the states of Greece.
And when this eloquence had shown his cause;
with left hand on his gleaming sceptre's hilt,
King Aeacus exclaimed: “Ask not our aid,
but take it, Athens; and count boldly yours
all of the force this island holds, and all
things which the state of my affairs supplies.
My strength for this war is not light, and I
have many soldiers for myself and for
my enemy. Thanks to the Gods! the times
are happy, giving no excuse for my
refusal.” “May it prove so,” Cephalus
replied, “and may your city multiply
in men: just now as I was landing, I
rejoiced to meet youths, fair and matched in age.
And yet I miss among them many whom
I saw before when last I visited
your city.” Aeacus then groaned and with
sad voice replied: “With weeping we began,
but better fortune followed. Would that I
could tell the last of it, and not the first!
Giving my heart command that simple words
and briefly spoken may not long detain.
Those happy youths who waited at your need,
who smiled upon you and for whom you ask,
because their absence grieves your noble mind,
they've perished! and their bleaching bones
or scattered ashes, only may remain,
sad remnants, impotent, of vanished power,
so recently my hope and my resource.
“Because this island bears a rival's name,
a deadly pestilence was visited
on my confiding people, through the rage
of jealous Juno flaming for revenge.
This great calamity at first appeared
a natural disease—but soon its power
baffled our utmost efforts. Medicines
availing not, a reign of terror swept
from shore to shore and fearful havoc raged.
“Thick darkness, gathered from descending skies,
enveloped our devoted land with heat
and languid sickness, for the space of full
four moons.—Four times the Moon increased her size.
Hot south winds blew with pestilential breath
upon us. At the same time the diseased
infection reached our needed springs and pools,
thousands of serpents crawling over our
deserted fields, defiled our rivers with
their poison. The swift power of the disease
at first was limited to death of dogs
and birds and cattle, or among wild beasts.
The luckless plowman marvels when he sees
his strong bulls fall while at their task
and sink down in the furrow. Woolly flocks
bleat feebly while their wool falls off without
a cause, and while their bodies pine away.
The prized horse of high courage, and of great
renown when on the race-course, has now lost
victorious spirit, and forgetting his
remembered glory groans in his shut stall,
doomed for inglorious death. The boar forgets
to rage, the stag to trust his speed; and even
the famished bear to fight the stronger herd.
“Death seizes on the vitals of all life;
and in the woods, and in the fields and roads
the loathsome bodies of the dead corrupt
the heavy-hanging air. Even the dogs,
the vultures and the wolves refuse to touch
the putrid flesh, there in the sultry sun
rotting upon the earth; emitting steams,
and exhalations, with a baneful sweep
increasing the dread contagion's wide extent.