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What ayleth thee (quoth Theseus) to sygh so sore? and how
Befell it thee to get this mayme that is uppon thy brow?
The noble streame of Calydon made answer, who did weare
A Garland made of reedes and flags upon his sedgie heare:
A greeveus pennance you enjoyne. For who would gladly show
The combats in the which himself did take the overthrow?
Yit will I make a just report in order of the same.
For why? to have the woorser hand was not so great a shame,
As was the honor such a match to undertake. And much
It comforts mee that he who did mee overcome, was such
A valiant champion. If perchaunce you erst have heard the name
Of Deyanyre, the fayrest Mayd that ever God did frame
Shee was in myne opinion. And the hope to win her love
Did mickle envy and debate among hir wooers move.
With whome I entring to the house of him that should have bee
My fathrilaw: Parthaons sonne (I sayd) accept thou mee
Thy Sonnylaw. And Hercules in selfsame sort did woo.
And all the other suters streight gave place unto us two.
He vaunted of his father Jove, and of his famous deedes,
And how ageinst his stepdames spyght his prowesse still proceedes.
And I ageine a toother syde sayd thus: It is a shame
That God should yeeld to man. (This stryfe was long ere he became
A God). Thou seeist mee a Lord of waters in thy Realme
Where I in wyde and wynding banks doo beare my flowing streame.
No straunger shalt thou have of mee sent farre from forreine land:
But one of household, or at least a neyghbour heere at hand.
Alonly let it bee to mee no hindrance that the wyfe
Of Jove abhorres mee not, ne that upon the paine of lyfe
Shee sets mee not to talk. For where thou bostest thee to bee
Alcmenas sonne, Jove eyther is not father unto thee:
Or if he bee it is by sin. In making Jove thy father,
Thou maakst thy mother but a whore. Now choose thee whither rather
Thou had to graunt this tale of Jove surmised for to bee,
Or else thy selfe begot in shame and borne in bastardee.
At that he grimly bendes his browes, and much adoo he hath
To hold his hands, so sore his hart inflamed is with wrath.
He said no more but thus: My hand dooth serve mee better than
My toong. Content I am (so I in feighting vanquish can)
That thou shalt overcome in wordes. And therewithall he gan
Mee feercely to assaile. Mee thought it was a shame for mee
That had even now so stoutly talkt, in dooings faint to bee.
I casting off my greenish cloke thrust stifly out at length
Mine armes and streynd my pawing armes to hold him out by strength,
And framed every limme to cope. With both his hollow hands
He caught up dust and sprincked mee: and I likewise with sands
Made him all yelow too. One whyle hee at my necke dooth snatch
Another whyle my cleere crisp legges he striveth for to catch,
Or trippes at mee: and everywhere the vauntage he dooth watch.
My weightinesse defended mee, and cleerly did disfeate
His stoute assaults as when a wave with hideous noyse dooth beate
Against a Rocke, the Rocke dooth still both sauf and sound abyde
By reason of his massinesse. Wee drew a whyle asyde.
And then incountring fresh ageine, wee kept our places stowt
Full minded not to yeeld an inch, but for to hold it owt.
Now were wee stonding foote to foote. And I with all my brest
Was leaning forward, and with head ageinst his head did rest,
And with my gryping fingars I ageinst his fingars thrust.
So have I seene two myghtie Bulles togither feercely just
In seeking as their pryse to have the fayrest Cow in all
The feeld to bee their make, and all the herd bothe greate and small
Stand gazing on them fearfully not knowing unto which
The conquest of so greate a gayne shall fall. Three tymes a twich
Gave Hercules and could not wrinch my leaning brest him fro
But at the fourth he shooke mee off and made mee to let go
My hold: and with a push (I will tell truthe) he had a knacke
To turne me off, and heavily he hung upon my backe.
And if I may beleeved bee (as sure I meene not I
To vaunt my selfe vayngloriusly by telling of a lye,)
Mee thought a mountaine whelmed me. But yit with much adoo
I wrested in my sweating armes, and hardly did undoo
His griping hands. He following still his vauntage, suffred not
Mee once to breath or gather strength, but by and by he got
Mee by the necke. Then was I fayne to sinke with knee to ground,
And kisse the dust. Now when in strength too weake myself I found,
I tooke mee to my slights, and slipt in shape of Snake away
Of wondrous length. And when that I of purpose him to fray
Did bend myself in swelling rolles, and made a hideous noyse
Of hissing with my forked toong, he smyling at my toyes,
And laughing them to scorne sayd thus: It is my Cradle game
To vanquish Snakes, O Acheloy. Admit thou overcame
All other Snakes, yet what art thou compared to the Snake
Of Lerna, who by cutting off did still encreasement take?
For of a hundred heades not one so soone was paarde away,
But that uppon the stump therof there budded other tway.
This sprouting Snake whose braunching heads by slaughter did revive
And grow by cropping, I subdewd, and made it could not thryve.
And thinkest thou (who being none wouldst seeme a Snake) to scape?
Who doost with foorged weapons feyght and under borowed shape?
This sayd, his fingars of my necke he fastned in the nape.
Mee thought he graand my throte as though he did with pinsons nip.
I struggled from his churlish thumbes my pinched chappes to slip
But doo the best and worst I could he overcame mee so.
Then thirdly did remayne the shape of Bull, and quickly tho
I turning to the shape of Bull rebelld ageinst my fo.
He stepping to my left syde cloce, did fold his armes about
My wattled necke, and following mee then running maynely out
Did drag mee backe, and made mee pitch my homes against the ground,
And in the deepest of the sand he overthrew mee round.
And yit not so content, such hold his cruell hand did take
Uppon my welked horne, that he asunder quight it brake,
And pulld it from my maymed brew. The waterfayries came
And filling it with frute and flowres did consecrate the same,
And so my horne the Tresory of plenteousnesse became.
As soone as Acheloy had told this tale a wayting Mayd
With flaring heare that lay on both hir shoulders and arrayd
Like one of Dame Dianas Nymphes with solemne grace forth came
And brought that rich and precious home, and heaped in the same
All kynd of frutes that Harvest sendes, and specially such frute
As serves for latter course at meales of every sort and sute.
As soone as daylight came ageine, and that the Sunny rayes
Did shyne upon the tops of things, the Princes went their wayes.
They would not tarry till the floud were altogither falne
And that the River in his banks ran low ageine and calme.
Then Acheloy amid his waves his Crabtree face did hyde
And head disarmed of a home.

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    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Trachiniae, 507
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