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raising both hands up towards the stars of heaven,
he cried, “Come Juno, feast upon my death;
feast on me, cruel one, look down from your
exalted seat; behold my dreadful end
and glut your savage heart! Oh, if I may
deserve some pity from my enemy,
from you I mean, this hateful life of mine
take from me—sick with cruel suffering
and only born for toil. The loss of life
will be a boon to me, and surely is
a fitting boon, such as stepmothers give!
“Was it for this I slew Busiris, who
defiled his temples with the strangers' blood?
For this I took his mother's strength from fierce
antaeus—that I did not show a fear
before the Spanish shepherd's triple form?
Nor did I fear the monstrous triple form
of Cerberus.—And is it possible
my hands once seized and broke the strong bull's horns?
And Elis knows their labor, and the waves
of Stymphalus, and the Parthenian woods.
For this the prowess of these hands secured
the Amazonian girdle wrought of gold;
and did my strong arms, gather all in vain
the fruit when guarded by the dragon's eyes.
The centaurs could not foil me, nor the boar
that ravaged in Arcadian fruitful fields.
Was it for this the hydra could not gain
double the strength from strength as it was lost?
And when I saw the steeds of Thrace, so fat
with human blood, and their vile mangers heaped
with mangled bodies, in a righteous rage
I threw them to the ground, and slaughtered them,
together with their master! In a cave
I crushed the Nemean monster with these arms;
and my strong neck upheld the wide-spread sky!
And even the cruel Juno, wife of Jove—
is weary of imposing heavy toils,
but I am not subdued performing them.
“A new calamity now crushes me,
which not my strength, nor valor, nor the use
of weapons can resist. Devouring flames
have preyed upon my limbs, and blasting heat
now shrivels the burnt tissue of my frame.
But still Eurystheus is alive and well!
And there are those who yet believe in Gods!”
Just as a wild bull, in whose body spears
are rankling, while the frightened hunter flies
away for safety, so the hero ranged
over sky-piercing Oeta; his huge groans,
his awful shrieks resounding in those cliffs.
At times he struggles with the poisoned robe.
Goaded to fury, he has razed great trees,
and scattered the vast mountain rocks around!
And stretched his arms towards his ancestral skies!
So, in his frenzy, as he wandered there,
he chanced upon the trembling Lichas, crouched
in the close covert of a hollow rock.
Then in a savage fury he cried out,
“Was it you, Lichas, brought this fatal gift?
Shall you be called the author of my death?”
Lichas, in terror, groveled at his feet,
and begged for mercy—“Only let me live!”
But seizing on him, the crazed Hero whirled
him thrice and once again about his head,
and hurled him, shot as by a catapult,
into the waves of the Euboic Sea.
While he was hanging in the air, his form
was hardened; as, we know, rain drops may first
be frozen by the cold air, and then change
to snow, and as it falls through whirling winds
may press, so twisted, into round hailstones:
even so has ancient lore declared that when
strong arms hurled Lichas through the mountain air
through fear, his blood was curdled in his veins.
No moisture left in him, he was transformed
into a flint-rock. Even to this day,
a low crag rising from the waves is seen
out of the deep Euboean Sea, and holds
the certain outline of a human form,
so sure]y traced, the wary sailors fear
to tread upon it, thinking it has life,
and they have called it Lichas ever since.
But, O illustrious son of Jupiter!
How many of the overspreading trees,
thick-growing on the lofty mountain-peak
of Oeta, did you level to the ground,
and heap into a pyre! And then you bade
obedient Philoctetes light a torch
beneath it, and then take in recompense
your bow with its capacious quiver full
of arrows, arms that now again would see
the realm of Troy. And as the pyre began
to kindle with the greedy flames, you spread
the Nemean lion skin upon the top,
and, club for pillow, you lay down to sleep,
as placid as if, with abounding cups
of generous wine and crowned with garlands, you
were safe, reclining on a banquet-couch.
And now on every side the spreading flames
were crackling fiercely, as they leaped from earth
upon the careless limbs of Hercules.
He scorned their power. The Gods felt fear
for earth's defender and their sympathy
gave pleasure to Saturnian Jove — he knew
their thought—and joyfully he said to them:
“Your sudden fear is surely my delight,
O heavenly Gods! my heart is lifted up
and joy prevails upon me, in the thought
that I am called the Father and the King
of all this grateful race of Gods. I know
my own beloved offspring is secure
in your declared protection: your concern
may justly evidence his worth, whose deeds
great benefits bestowed. Let not vain thoughts
alarm you, nor the rising flames of Oeta;
for Hercules who conquered everything,
shall conquer equally the spreading fires
which now you see: and all that part of him,
celestial — inherited of me—
immortal, cannot feel the power of death.
It is not subject to the poison-heat.
And therefore, since his earth-life is now lost,
him I'll translate, unshackled from all dross,
and purified, to our celestial shore.
I trust this action seems agreeable
to all the Deities surrounding me.
If any jealous god of heaven should grieve
at the divinity of Hercules,
he may begrudge the prize but he will know
at least 'twas given him deservedly,
and with this thought he must approve the deed.”
The Gods confirmed it: and though Juno seemed
to be contented and to acquiesce,
her deep vexation was not wholly hid,
when Jupiter with his concluding words
so plainly hinted at her jealous mind.
Now, while the Gods conversed, the mortal part
of Hercules was burnt by Mulciber;
but yet an outline of a spirit-form
remained. Unlike the well-known mortal shape
derived by nature of his mother, he
kept traces only of his father, Jove.
And as a serpent, when it is revived
from its old age, casts off the faded skin,
and fresh with vigor glitters in new scales,
so, when the hero had put off all dross,
his own celestial, wonderful appeared,
majestic and of godlike dignity.
And him, the glorious father of the Gods
in the great chariot drawn by four swift steeds,
took up above the wide-encircling clouds,
and set him there amid the glittering stars.
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