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aloft as from a mountain peak it seemed
to look down on the valley and the depth
of Acheron; and, when sunk down in a trough
of waves engulfing, it appeared to look
up at the zenith from infernal seas.
Often the waves fell on the sides with crash
as terrible as when a flying stone
or iron ram shatters a citadel.
As lions, mustering up their strength anew,
might hurl their breasts against the spears
and outstretched arms of huntsmen, so the waves,
upon the rising of the winds, rushed forth
against the battered sides of the tossed ship
and rose much higher than the slanting masts.
The ship-bolts lost their grip, the loosened planks,
despoiled of covering wax, gave open seams,
through which streamed water of the fatal waves.—
vast sheets of rain pour from dissolving clouds,
so suddenly, it seemed that all the heavens
were flung into the deep, while swelling seas
ascended to the emptied fields of heaven!
The sails are drenched with rain, the salt sea waves
are mingled with the waters of the skies.
The firmament is black without a star,
and night is doubly dark with its own gloom
and blackness of the storm. Quick lightning makes
the black skies glitter, and the waves are fired
with flames of thunder-bolts. Now floods leap up
into the very middle of the ship.
Just as a soldier, more courageous than
the rest of his brave fellows, after he
has often charged against the embattled walls
of a defended city, gains at length
the place which he has fought for; all inflamed
with his desire of glory, scales the wall
and stands alone among a thousand foes;
so, when destructive waves have beat against
the ship's high sides, the tenth wave with known power,
rushes more furious than the nine before,
nor ceases to attack the failing ship,
until dashed high above the captured walls
it surges in the hold. Part of the sea
is still attempting to get in the ship,
and part is in it. All are panic stricken,
like men within a doomed and shaken town;
who see some foes attack the walls without,
and others hold possession of the walls
within the city. Every art has failed,
their courage sinks. With every coming wave
another death seems rushing in upon them.
One sailor yields in tears; another falls
down, stupefied; another calls those blest
whom funeral rites await; another prays,
addressing trusted gods, lifting his hands
up to that heaven unseen, as vainly he
implores some aid divine, and one in fright
recalls his brothers and his parent, while
another names his children and his home:
each frightened sailor thinks of all he left.
King Ceyx thinks only of Halcyone,
no other name is on his lips but hers:
and though he longs for her, yet he is glad
that she is safe at home. Ah, how he tried
to look back to the shore of his loved land,
to turn his last gaze towards his wife and home.
But he has lost direction.—The tossed sea
is raging in a hurricane so vast,
and all the sky is hidden by the gloom
of thickened storm-clouds, doubled in pitch-black.
The mast is shattered by the violence
of drenching tempests, and the useless helm
is broken. One undaunted giant wave
stands over wreck and spoil, and looks down like
a conqueror upon the other waves:
then falls as heavily as if some god
should hurl Mount Athos or Mount Pindus, torn
from rock foundations, into that wide sea:
so, with down-rushing weight and violence
it struck and plunged the ship to the lowest deeps.
And as the ship sank, many of the crew
sank overwhelmed in deep surrounding waves,
never to rise from suffocating death:
but some in desperation, clung for life
to broken timbers and escaped that fate.
King Ceyx clung to a fragment of the wreck
with that majestic hand which often before
had proudly swayed the sceptre. And in vain,
alas, he called upon his father's name,
alas, he begged his father-in-law's support.
But, while he swam, his lips most frequently
pronounced that dearest name, “Halcyone!”
He longs to have his body carried by waves
to her dear gaze and have at last,
entombment by the hands of his loved friends.
Swimming, he called Halcyone—far off,
as often as the billows would allow
his lips to open, and among the waves
his darling's name was murmured, till at last
a night-black arch of water swept above
the highest waves and buried him beneath
Lucifer was dim
past recognition when the dawn appeared
and, since he never could depart from heaven,
soon hid his grieving countenance in clouds.
Meanwhile, Halcyone, all unaware
of his sad wreck, counts off the passing nights
and hastens to prepare for him his clothes
that he may wear as soon as he returns to her;
and she is choosing what to wear herself,
and vainly promises his safe return—
all this indeed, while she in hallowed prayer
is giving frankincense to please the gods:
and first of loving adorations, she
paid at the shrine of Juno. There she prayed
for Ceyx—after he had suffered death,
that he might journey safely and return
and might love her above all other women,
this one last prayer alone was granted to her
but Juno could not long accept as hers
these supplications on behalf of one
then dead; and that she might persuade Halcyone
to turn her death-polluted hands away
from hallowed altars, Juno said in haste,
“O, Iris, best of all my messengers,
go quickly to the dreadful court of Sleep,
and in my name command him to despatch
a dream in the shape of Ceyx, who is dead,
and tell Halcyone the woeful truth.”
So she commanded.—Iris instantly
assumed a garment of a thousand tints;
and as she marked the high skies with her arch,
went swiftly thence as ordered, to the place
where Sleep was then concealed beneath a rock.
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