Theseus.All unknown to him
came Theseus to his kingly court.—Before
the time his valor had established peace
on all the isthmus, raved by dual seas.
Medea, seeking his destruction, brewed
the juice of aconite, infesting shores
of Scythia, where, 'tis fabled, the plant grew
on soil infected by Cerberian teeth.
There is a gloomy entrance to a cave,
that follows a declivitous descent:
there Hercules with chains of adamant
dragged from the dreary edge of Tartarus
that monster-watch-dog, Cerberus, which, vain
opposing, turned his eyes aslant from light—
from dazzling day. Delirious, enraged,
that monster shook the air with triple howls;
and, frothing, sprinkled as it raved, the fields,
once green—with spewing of white poison-foam.
And this, converted into plants, sucked up
a deadly venom with the nourishment
of former soils,—from which productive grew
upon the rock, thus formed, the noxious plant;
by rustics, from that cause, named aconite.
Medea worked on Aegeus to present
his own son, Theseus, with a deadly cup
of aconite; prevailing by her art
so that he deemed his son an enemy.
Theseus unwittingly received the cup,
but just before he touched it to his lips,
his father recognized the sword he wore,
for, graven on its ivory hilt was wrought
a known device—the token of his race.
Astonished, Aegeus struck the poison-cup
from his devoted son's confiding lips.
Medea suddenly escaped from death,
in a dark whirlwind her witch-singing raised.
THE MYRMIDONSRecoiling from such utter wickedness,
rejoicing that his son escaped from death,
the grateful father kindled altar-fires,
and gave rich treasure to the living Gods. —
He slaughtered scores of oxen, decked with flowers
and gilded horns. The sun has never shone
upon a day more famous in that land,
for all the elders and the common folk
united in festivities,—with wine
inspiring wit and song;—“O you,” they sang,
“Immortal Theseus, victory was yours!
Did you not slaughter the huge bull of Crete?
“Yes, you did slay the boar of Cromyon —
where now the peasant unmolested plows;
“And Periphetes, wielder of the club,
was worsted when he struggled with your strength;
“And fierce Procrustes, matched with you
beside the rapid river, met his death;
“And even Cercyon, in Eleusis lost
his wicked life—inferior to your might;
“And Sinis, a monstrosity of strength,
who bent the trunks of trees, and used his might
“Against the world for everything that's wrong.
For evil, he would force down to the earth,
“Pine tops to shoot men's bodies through the air.
Even the road to Megara is safe,
“For you did hurl the robber Scyron,—sheer—
over the cliff. Both land and sea denied
“His bones a resting place—as tossed about
they changed into the cliffs that bear his name.
“How can we tell the number of your deeds,—
deeds glorious, that now exceed your years!
“For you, brave hero, we give public thanks
and prayers; to you we drain our cups of wine!”
And all the palace rings with happy songs,
and with the grateful prayers of all the people.
And sorrow in that city is not known.—