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Athamas et Ino.


Throughout the land of Thebes miraculous
the power of Bacchus waxed; and far and wide
Ino, his aunt, reported the great deeds
by this divinity performed. Of all
her sisters only she escaped unharmed,
when Fate destroyed them, and she knew not grief—
only for sorrow of her sisters' woes.—

While Ino vaunted of her mother-joys,
and of her kingly husband, Athamas,
and of the mighty God, her foster-child;
Juno, disdaining her in secret, said;
“How shall the offspring of a concubine
transform Maeonian mariners, overwhelm
them in the ocean, sacrifice a son
to his deluded mother, who insane,
tears out his entrails; how shall he invent
wings for three daughters of King Minyas,
while Juno unavenged, bewails despite?—
Is it the end? the utmost of my power?
His deeds instruct the way; true wisdom heeds
an enemy's device; by the strange death
of Pentheus, all that madness could perform
was well revealed to all; what then denies
a frenzy may unravel Ino's course
to such a fate as wrought her sisters' woe?”

A shelving path in shadows of sad yew
through utter silence to the deep descends,
infernal, where the languid Styx exhales
vapours; and there the shadows of the dead,
descend, after they leave their sacred urns,
and ghostly forms invade: and far and wide,
those dreary regions Horror and bleak Cold

The ghosts, arrived, not know the way,—
which leadeth to the Stygian city-gates,—
not know the melancholy palace where
the swarthy Pluto stays, though streets and ways
a thousand to that city lead, and gates
out-swing from every side: and as the sea
with never-seen increase engulfs the streams
unnumbered of the world, that realm enfolds
the souls of men, nor ever is it filled.

Around the shadowy spirits go; bloodless
boneless and bodiless; they throng the place
of judgment, or they haunt the mansion where
abides the Utmost Tyrant, or they tend
to various callings, as their whilom way; —
appropriate punishment confines to pain
the multitude condemned.

To this abode,
impelled by rage and hate, from habitation
celestial, Juno, of Saturn born, descends,
submissive to its dreadful element.

No sooner had she entered the sad gates,
than groans were uttered by the threshold, pressed
by her immortal form, and Cerberus
upraising his three-visaged mouths gave vent
to triple-barking howls.—She called to her
the sisters, Night-begot, implacable,
terrific Furies. They did sit before
the prison portals, adamant confined,
combing black vipers from their horrid hair.

When her amid the night-surrounding shades
they recognized, those Deities uprose.
O dread confines! dark seat of wretched vice!
Where stretched athwart nine acres, Tityus,
must thou endure thine entrails to be torn!
O Tantalus, thou canst not touch the wave,
and from thy clutch the hanging branches rise!
O Sisyphus, thou canst not stay the stone,
catching or pushing, it must fall again!
O thou Ixion! whirled around, around,
thyself must follow to escape thyself!
And, O Belides, (plotter of sad death
upon thy cousins) thou art always doomed
to dip forever ever-spilling waves!

When that the daughter of Saturnus fixed
a stern look on those wretches, first her glance
arrested on Ixion; but the next
on Sisyphus; and thus the goddess spoke;—
“For why should he alone of all his kin
suffer eternal doom, while Athamas,
luxurious in a sumptuous palace reigns;
and, haughty with his wife, despises me.”
So grieved she, and expressed the rage of hate
that such descent inspired, beseeching thus,
no longer should the House of Cadmus stand,
so that the sister Furies plunge in crime
overweening Athamas.—Entreating them,
she mingled promises with her commands.—

When Juno ended speech, Tisiphone,
whose locks entangled are not ever smooth,
tossed them around, that backward from her face
such crawling snakes were thrown;—then answered she:
“Since what thy will decrees may well be done,
why need we to consult with many words?
Leave thou this hateful region and convey
thyself, contented, to a better realm.”

Rejoicing Juno hastens to the clouds—
before she enters her celestial home,
Iris, the child of Thaumas, purifies
her limbs in sprinkled water.

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