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Now when the valiant Argonauts returned
to Thessaly, their happy relatives,
fathers and mothers, praised the living Gods;
and with their hallowed gifts enhanced the flames
with precious incense; and they offered Jove
a sacred bullock, rich with gilded horns.

But Jason's father, Aeson, came not down
rejoicing to behold his son, for now
worn out with many years, he waited death.
And Jason to Medea grieving said:

“Dearest, to whom my life and love are due,
although your kindness has been great to me,
and you have granted more than I should ask,
yet one thing more I beg of you; if your
enchantments can accomplish my desire,
take from my life some years that I should live
and add them to my father's ending days.”—
And as he spoke he could not check his tears.

Medea, moved by his affection, thought
how much less she had grieved for her loved sire:
and she replied:—“A wicked thing you ask!
Can I be capable of using you
in such a manner as to take your life
and give it to another? Ask not me
a thing so dreadful! May the Gods forbid!—
I will endeavor to perform for you
a task much greater. By the powers of Night
I will most certainly return to him
the lost years of your father, but must not
deprive you of your own. — Oh grant the power,
great goddess of the triple form, that I
may fail not to accomplish this great deed!”

Three nights were wanting for the moon to join
her circling horns and form a perfect orb.
When these were passed, the rounded light shone full
and bright upon the earth.—Through the still night
alone, Medea stole forth from the house
with feet bare, and in flowing garment clothed—
her long hair unadorned and not confined.
Deep slumber has relaxed the world, and all
that's living, animals and birds and men,
and even the hedges and the breathing leaves
are still—and motionless the laden air.

Only the stars are twinkling, and to them
she looks and beckons with imploring hands.
Now thrice around she paces, and three times
besprinkles her long hair with water dipt
from crystal streams, which having done
she kneels a moment on the cold, bare ground,
and screaming three times calls upon the Night,—

“O faithful Night, regard my mysteries!
O golden-lighted Stars! O softly-moving Moon
genial, your fire succeeds the heated day!
O Hecate! grave three-faced queen of these
charms of enchanters and enchanters, arts!
O fruitful Earth, giver of potent herbs!
O gentle Breezes and destructive Winds!
You Mountains, Rivers, Lakes and sacred Groves,
and every dreaded god of silent Night!
Attend upon me!—

“When my power commands,
the rivers turn from their accustomed ways
and roll far backward to their secret springs!
I speak—and the wild, troubled sea is calm,
and I command the waters to arise!
The clouds I scatter—and I bring the clouds;
I smooth the winds and ruffle up their rage;
I weave my spells and I recite my charms;
I pluck the fangs of serpents, and I move
the living rocks and twist the rooted oaks;
I blast the forests. Mountains at my word
tremble and quake; and from her granite tombs
the liberated ghosts arise as Earth
astonished groans! From your appointed ways,
O wonder-working Moon, I draw you down
against the magic-making sound of gongs
and brazen vessels of Temesa's ore;
I cast my spells and veil the jeweled rays
of Phoebus' wain, and quench Aurora's fires.

“At my command you tamed the flaming bulls
which long disdained to bend beneath the yoke,
until they pressed their necks against the plows;
and, subject to my will, you raised up war
till the strong company of dragon-birth
were slaughtered as they fought amongst themselves;
and, last, you lulled asleep the warden's eyes—
guards of the Golden Fleece—till then awake
and sleeping never—so, deceiving him,
you sent the treasure to the Grecian cities!

“Witness my need of super-natured herbs,
elixirs potent to renew the years of age,
giving the bloom of youth.—You shall not fail
to grant me this; for not in vain the stars
are flashing confirmation; not in vain
the flying dragons, harnessed by their necks,
from skies descending bring my chariot down.”

A chariot, sent from heaven, came to her—
and soon as she had stroked the dragons' necks,
and shaken in her hands the guiding reins—
as soon as she had mounted, she was borne
quickly above, through unresisting air.
And, sailing over Thessaly, she saw
the vale of Tempe, where the level soil
is widely covered with a crumbling chalk—
she turned her dragons towards new regions there:
and she observed the herbs by Ossa born,
the weeds on lofty Pelion, Othrys, Pindus
and vast Olympus—and from here she plucked
the needed roots, or there, the blossoms clipped
all with a moon-curved sickle made of brass—
many the wild weeds by Apidanus,
as well as blue Amphrysus' banks, she chose,
and not escaped Enipeus from her search;
Peneian stretches and Spercheian banks
all yielded what she chose:—and Boebe's shore
where sway the rushes; and she plucked up grass,
a secret grass, from fair Euboean fields

life-giving virtues in their waving blades,
as yet unknown for transformation wrought
on Glaucus.

All those fields she visited,
with ceaseless diligence in quest of charms,
nine days and nine nights sought strong herbs,
and the swift dragons with their active wings,
failed not to guide the chariot where she willed—
until they reached her home. The dragons then
had not been even touched by anything,
except the odor of surrounding herbs,
and yet they sloughed their skins, the growth of years.

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load focus English (Arthur Golding, 1567)
load focus Latin (Hugo Magnus, 1892)
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    • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 54
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