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Theseus apud Acheloum. Perimele.

PERIMELA AND ACHELOUS

And Theseus, meantime, having done great deeds,
was wending towards Tritonian Athen's towers,
but Achelous, swollen with great rains,
opposed his journey and delayed his steps.

“O famous son of Athens, come to me,
beneath my roof, and leave my rapid floods;
for they are wont to bear enormous beams,
and hurl up heavy stones to bar the way,—
mighty with roaring, down the steep ravines.
And I have seen the sheep-folds on my banks
swept down the flood, together with the sheep;
and in the current neither strength availed
the ox for safety, nor swift speed the horse.
When rushed the melting snows from mountain peaks
how many bodies of unwary men
this flood has overwhelmed in whirling waves!
Rest safely then, until my river runs
within its usual bounds—till it contains
its flowing waters in its proper banks.”

and gladly answered Theseus, “I will make
good use of both your dwelling and advice.”
And waiting not he entered a rude hut,
of porous pumice and of rough stone built.
The floor was damp and soft with springy moss,
and rows of shells and murex arched the roof.

And now Hyperion having measured quite
two thirds of daylight, Theseus and his friends
reclined upon the couches.—On his right
Ixion's son was placed, and on his left
the gray-haired hero Lelex; and others
deemed worthy by the Acarnanian-god
who was so joyful in his noble guests.
Without delay the barefoot nimble Nymphs
attending to the banquet, rich food brought;
and after all were satisfied with meat
and dainties delicate, the careful Nymphs
removed all traces of the feast, and served
delicious wine in bowls embossed with gems.

And after they had eaten, Theseus arose,
and as he pointed with his finger, said,
“Declare to me what name that island bears,
or is it one or more than one I see?”
To which the ready River-God replied:

“It is not one we see but five are there,
deceptive in the distance. And that you
may wonder less at what Diana did,
those islands were five Naiads.—Long ago,
ten bullocks for a sacrifice they slew;
and when the joyous festival was given,
ignoring me they bade all other Gods.
Indignant at the slight, I swelled with rage
as great as ever when my banks are full,—
and so redoubled both in rage and flood,
I ravished woods from woods, and fields from fields,
and hurled into the sea the very soil,
together with the Nymphs, who then at last
remembered their neglect. And soon my waves,
united with the ocean streams, cut through
the solid soil, and fashioned from the one,
five islands you may see amid the waves,
which men since then, have called Echinades.

“But yet beyond you can observe how one
most beautiful of all is far withdrawn;
and this which most delights me, mariners
have Perimela named. She was so fair
that I deprived her of a precious wealth.
And when Hippodamas, her father, knew,
enraged he pushed her, heavy then with child,
forth from a rock into the cruel sea,
where she must perish,—but I rescued her;
and as I bore her on my swimming tide,
I called on Neptune, ruler of the deep,
‘O Trident-wielder, you who are preferred
next to the god most mighty! who by lot
obtained the empire of the flowing deep,
to which all sacred rivers flow and end;
come here, O Neptune, and with gracious will
grant my desire;—I injured her I save;—
but if Hippodamas, her father, when
he knew my love, had been both kind and just,
if he had not been so unnatural,
he would have pitied and forgiven her.
Ah, Neptune, I beseech you, grant your power
may find a place of safety for this Nymph,
abandoned to the deep waves by her sire.
Or if that cannot be, let her whom I
embrace to show my love, let her become
a place of safety.’ Instantly to me
the King of Ocean moved his mighty head,
and all the deep waves quivered in response.

“The Nymph, afraid, still struggled in the deep,
and as she swam I touched her throbbing breast;
and as I felt her bosom, trembling still,
I thought her soft flesh was becoming hard;
for even then, new earth enclosed her form;
and as I prayed to Neptune, earth encased
her floating limbs;—and on her changing form
the heavy soil of that fair island grew.”

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