This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
came on, and she grew bolder in the dark.
And now it is the late and silent hour
when slumber takes possession of the breast.
Outwearied with the cares of busy day;
then as her father slept, with stealthy tread
she entered his abode, and there despoiled,
and clipped his fatal lock of purple hair.
Concealing in her bosom the sad prize
of crime degenerate, she at once went forth
a gate unguarded, and with shameless haste
sped through the hostile army to the tent
of Minos, whom, astonished, she addressed:
“Only my love has led me to this deed.
The daughter of King Nisus, I am called
the maiden Scylla. Unto you I come
and offer up a power that will prevail
against my country, and I stipulate
no recompense except yourself. Take then
this purple hair, a token of my love.—
Deem it not lightly as a lock of hair
held idly forth to you; it is in truth
my father's life.” And as she spoke
she held out in her guilty hand the prize,
and begged him to accept it with her love.
Shocked at the thought of such a heinous crime,
Minos refused, and said, “O execrable thing!
Despised abomination of our time!
May all the Gods forever banish you
from their wide universe, and may the earth
and the deep ocean be denied to you!
So great a monster shall not be allowed
to desecrate the sacred Isle of Crete,
where Jupiter was born.” So Minos spoke.
Nevertheless he conquered Megara,
(so aided by the damsel's wicked deed)
and as a just and mighty king imposed
his own conditions on the vanquished land.
He ordered his great fleet to tarry not;
the hawsers were let loose, and the long oars
quickly propelled his brazen-pointed ships.—
When Scylla saw them launching forth,
observed them sailing on the mighty deep,
she called with vain entreaties; but at last,
aware the prince ignored her and refused
to recompense her wickedness, enraged,
and raving, she held up her impious hands,
her long hair streaming on the wind, — and said:
“Oh, wherefore have you flown, and left behind
the author of your glory. Oh, wretch! wretch
to whom I offered up my native land,
and sacrificed my father! Where have you
now flown, ungrateful man whose victory
is both my crime and virtue? And the gift
presented to you, and my passion,
have these not moved you? All my love and hope
in you alone!
“Forsaken by my prince,
shall I return to my defeated land?
If never ruined it would shut its walls
against me.—Shall I seek my father's face
whom I delivered to all-conquering arms?
My fellow-citizens despise my name;
my friends and neighbors hate me; I have shut
the world against me, only in the hope
that Crete would surely welcome me;—and now,
he has forbidden me.
“And is it so
I am requited by this thankless wretch!
Europa could not be your mother! Spawn
of cruel Syrtis! Savage cub of fierce
Armenian tigress;—or Charybdis, tossed
by the wild South-wind begot you! Can you be
the son of Jupiter? Your mother was
not ever tricked by the false semblance
of a bull. All that story of your birth
is false! You are the offspring of a bull
as fierce as you are!
“Let your vengeance fall
upon me, O my father Nisus, let
the ruined city I betrayed rejoice
at my misfortunes—richly merited—
destroy me, you whom I have ruined;—I
should perish for my crimes! But why should you,
who conquered by my crime, abandon me?
The treason to my father and my land
becomes an act of kindness in your cause.
“That woman is a worthy mate for you
who hid in wood deceived the raging bull,
and bore to him the infamy of Crete.
I do not wonder that Pasiphae
preferred the bull to you, more savage than
the wildest beast. Alas, alas for me!
“Do my complaints reach your unwilling ears?
Or do the same winds waft away my words
that blow upon your ships, ungrateful man?—
Ah, wretched that I am, he takes delight
in hastening from me. The deep waves resound
as smitten by the oars, his ship departs;
and I am lost and even my native land
is fading from his sight.
“Oh heart of flint!
you shall not prosper in your cruelty,
and you shall not forget my sacrifice;
in spite of everything I follow you!
I'll grasp the curving stern of your swift ship,
and I will follow through unending seas.”
And as she spoke, she leaped into the waves,
and followed the receding ships—for strength
from passion came to her. And soon she clung
unwelcome, to the sailing Gnossian ship.
Meanwhile, the Gods had changed her father's form
and now he hovered over the salt deep,
a hawk with tawny wings. So when he saw
his daughter clinging to the hostile ship
he would have torn her with his rending beak;—
he darted towards her through the yielding air.
In terror she let go, but as she fell
the light air held her from the ocean spray;
her feather-weight supported by the breeze;
she spread her wings, and changed into a bird.
They called her “Ciris” when she cut the wind,
and “Ciris”—cut-the-lock—remains her name.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.