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Io. Argus. Syrinx.


There is a grove in Thessaly, enclosed
on every side with crags, precipitous,—
on which a forest grows—and this is called
the Vale of Tempe—through this valley flows
the River Peneus, white with foaming waves,
that issue from the foot of Pindus, whence
with sudden fall up gather steamy clouds
that sprinkle mist upon the circling trees,
and far away with mighty roar resound.
It is the abode, the solitary home,
that mighty River loves, where deep in gloom
of rocky cavern, he resides and rules
the flowing waters and the water nymphs
abiding there. All rivers of that land
now hasten thither, doubtful to console
or flatter Daphne's parent: poplar crowned
Sperchios, swift Enipeus and the wild
Amphrysos, old Apidanus and Aeas,
with all their kindred streams that wandering maze
and wearied seek the ocean. Inachus
alone is absent, hidden in his cave
obscure, deepening his waters with his tears—
most wretchedly bewailing, for he deems
his daughter Io lost. If she may live
or roam a spirit in the nether shades
he dares not even guess but dreads

for Jove not long before had seen her while
returning from her father's stream, and said;
“O virgin, worthy of immortal Jove,
although some happy mortal's chosen bride,—
behold these shades of overhanging trees,
and seek their cool recesses while the sun
is glowing in the height of middle skies—”
and as he spoke he pointed out the groves—
“But should the dens of wild beasts frighten you,
with safety you may enter the deep woods,
conducted by a God—not with a God
of small repute, but in the care of him
who holds the heavenly scepter in his hand
and fulminates the trackless thunder bolts.—
forsake me not! ” For while he spoke she fled,
and swiftly left behind the pasture fields
of Lerna, and Lyrcea's arbours, where
the trees are planted thickly. But the God
called forth a heavy shadow which involved
the wide extended earth, and stopped her flight
and ravished in that cloud her chastity.

Meanwhile, the goddess Juno gazing down
on earth's expanse, with wonder saw the clouds
as dark as night enfold those middle fields
while day was bright above. She was convinced
the clouds were none composed of river mist
nor raised from marshy fens. Suspicious now,
from oft detected amours of her spouse,
she glanced around to find her absent lord,
and quite convinced that he was far from heaven,
she thus exclaimed; “This cloud deceives my mind,
or Jove has wronged me.” From the dome of heaven
she glided down and stood upon the earth,
and bade the clouds recede. But Jove had known
the coming of his queen. He had transformed
the lovely Io, so that she appeared
a milk white heifer—formed so beautiful
and fair that envious Juno gazed on her.
She queried: “Whose? what herd? what pasture fields?”
As if she guessed no knowledge of the truth.
And Jupiter, false hearted, said the cow
was earth begotten, for he feared his queen
might make inquiry of the owner's name.
Juno implored the heifer as a gift.—
what then was left the Father of the Gods?
'Twould be a cruel thing to sacrifice
his own beloved to a rival's wrath.
Although refusal must imply his guilt
the shame and love of her almost prevailed;
but if a present of such little worth
were now denied the sharer of his couch,
the partner of his birth, 'twould prove indeed
the earth born heifer other than she seemed—
and so he gave his mistress up to her.

Juno regardful of Jove's cunning art,
lest he might change her to her human form,
gave the unhappy heifer to the charge
of Argus, Aristorides, whose head
was circled with a hundred glowing eyes;
of which but two did slumber in their turn
whilst all the others kept on watch and guard.

Whichever way he stood his gaze was fixed
on Io—even if he turned away
his watchful eyes on Io still remained.
He let her feed by day; but when the sun
was under the deep world he shut her up,
and tied a rope around her tender neck.

She fed upon green leaves and bitter herbs
and on the cold ground slept—too often bare,
she could not rest upon a cushioned couch.
She drank the troubled waters. Hoping aid
she tried to stretch imploring arms to Argus,
but all in vain for now no arms remained;
the sound of bellowing was all she heard,
and she was frightened with her proper voice.

Where former days she loved to roam and sport,
she wandered by the banks of Inachus:
there imaged in the stream she saw her horns
and, startled, turned and fled. And Inachus
and all her sister Naiads knew her not,
although she followed them, they knew her not,
although she suffered them to touch her sides
and praise her.

When the ancient Inachus
gathered sweet herbs and offered them to her,
she licked his hands, kissing her father's palms,
nor could she more restrain her falling tears.
If only words as well as tears would flow,
she might implore his aid and tell her name
and all her sad misfortune; but, instead,
she traced in dust the letters of her name
with cloven hoof; and thus her sad estate
was known.

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