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90 Coxerat ære cavo, viridi versata cicuta.
Consequitur motos velociter ignibus ignes. 95 Sic victrix jussique potens ad inania magni 510 Regna redit Ditis, sumtumque recingitur anguem.
Protinus Æolides media furibundus in aula
leæna." 100 Utque feræ, sequitur vestigia conjugis amens, 515
Deque sinu matris ridentem et parva Learchum
Discutit ora ferox. Tum denique concita mater, 105 Seu dolor hoc fecit seu sparsi causa veneni, 520
Exululat, passisque fugit male sana capillis,
Evoe, Bacche !” sonat. Bacchi sub nomine Juno
110 Imminet æquoribus scopulus; pars ima cavatur
Fluctibus, et tectas defendit ab imbribus undas, 526
Seque super pontum, nullo tardata timore, 115 Mittit onusque suum. Percussa recanduit unda. 530
At Venus, immeritæ neptis miserata labores,
Magna quidem posco; sed tu miserere meorum, 120 Jactari quos cernis in Ionio immenso,
536 Et dîs adde tuis : aliqua et mihi gratia ponto est; Si tamen in medio quondam concreta profundo Spuma fui, Grajumque manet mihi nomen ab illa."
Annuit oranti Neptunus, et abstulit illis 125 Quod mortale fuit, majestatemque verendam 540
Imposuit, nomenque simul faciem que novavit,
(IV. 615–V. 235.)
Perseus, one of the most famous heroes of the ancient legendary world, was the grandson of Acrisius, a king of Argos. Acrisius had been informed by an oracle that his daughter Danaê would give birth to a son, by whose hands he would himself be slain. To avoid this danger, he shut her up under ground, in a brazen chamber ; but Jupiter descended through the roof in the shape of a shower of gold (fecundo auro,' v. 84), and Danaê became the mother of Perseus. When Acrisius received this dreaded intelligence, he enclosed both mother and son in a chest, and ordered it to be thrown into the sea. The chest, however, was carried by the waves to the island of Serīphos, where Danaê and her child met with a friendly
reception from Polydectes. When, however, the boy grew up, Polydectes, who had conceived a bitter hatred against him, sent him to slay the famous Gorgon, Medûsa. The Gorgons were three sisters, of whom Medûsa alone was mortal. Her head, which was surrounded with snakes for hair (whence 'viperei monstri, v. 1), had the wondrous power, that whatever living being she gazed upon, was turned into stone : so that to slay a being so wonderfully endowed there was need, not only of bravery, but also of still higher supernatural means. hero was assisted by Minerva, who presented him with a glittering shield, and Mercury both lent him his winged sandals, with which he could move through the air, and gave him a curved or sickle-shaped falchion (harpe Cyllenis, v. 351). But he required, besides, the Imet of Orcus, to make him invisible, and a wallet in which to put the head of Medûsa. Both the helmet and the wallet were in the possession of the sisters of the Gorgons, the Grææ, who moreover alone knew the way to the abode of the Gorgons. These Grææ were two frightful virgins, who had only one tooth and one eye between them. Perseus got possession of this eye as one of them was about to hand it to the other, upon which, being now blind, they fled home in their distress, and thus involuntarily showed him the way to the Gorgons, whom he found asleep. By using the surface of the bright shield of Minerva as a mirror, Perseus beheld the reflexion of Medûsa's head, without looking upon the reality, and cut it off at one blow with the sword given to him by Mercury. He was in the act of hastening away, after putting the head in his wallet mentioned above, when the other Gorgons pursued him ; but he saved himself from their pursuit by means of the helmet of Orcus, which rendered him invisible. Then, by aid of the winged sandals, he flew over land and sea (with this begins the tale,
referens spolium monstri,' v. 1); and, after being long driven hither and thither by the winds, he sought a resting-place at the abode of the gigantic Atlas on the north-western coast of Africa. Atlas, however, was indisposed to receive him, because, according to an oracle, it was fated that some son of Jupiter (Hercules was meant) should succeed in stealing the golden apples of Atlas. Perseus turned the inhospitable giant into a mountain. After this he arrived at the country of the Cephenians, an Ethiopian people of Asia, whose king, Cepheus, had a wife of extraordinary beauty, Cassiopēa, and an equally beautiful daughter, Androměda. Cassiopēa, proud of her beauty, had looked down upon sea-goddesses, the Nereids, and boasted of being more beautiful than they were. Indignant at this presumption, the Nereids applied to Neptune for revenge, who accordingly sent great calamities on the territory of Cepheus, his land being devastated, not only by inundations, but also by a sea monster (ponas maternæ linguæ,' v. 56). Cepheus, having inquired of the oracle of Jupiter Ammon how he might best obtain relief, was commanded by the god (“jusserat Ammon,' v. 57) to give up his daughter Androměda as a prey to the monster. The
unhappy father was compelled by the Cephenians to obey the decree, and Androměda was chained to a rock on the sea-shore. Perseus, however, having rescued her by slaying the monster, received the promise of her hand in marriage ; but Phineus, the brother of Cepheus, had been previously betrothed to the beautiful princess, and now attempted, at the marriage festival, to take her from Perseus by force; on which Perseus, after a long contest, turned him into stone by means of the Gorgon's head. After these deeds he came, with his spouse Androměda, into Greece. Here Proetus, the founder of the city Tiryns, had dethroned Acrisius, the grandfather of Perseus (he is signified by 'parens,' v. 142), and was therefore annihilated by Perseus with the petrifying head of Medūsa. Polydectes too, who still retained his hatred against Perseus, ridiculed the hero, and pronounced the slaughter of Medūsa a fabrication ; accordingly, he too had to experience the fatal power of Medūsa's head. Afterwards Perseus ruled over Tiryns and Mycēnæ, and became, through his son Alcæus and his granddaughter Alcmēna, the forefather of Hercules.
The myth of Perseus is probably of oriental origin, and was brought from Persia into Greece; where the Greeks clothed it in a dress of their own and appropriated it to themselves. And as in the case of Io (comp. Introd. VI.), so in that of the traditionary oriental demon, which lies at the foundation of the fable of Perseus, they were led by their national feeling to make him of Greek origin, asserting him to be the son of Danae, a woman of Argos, and even deriving the name of the Persians from Perses, the son of Perseus.
Viperei referens spolium memorabile monstri, 615 Aera carpebat Perseus stridentibus alis.
Cumque super Libycas victor penderet arenas,
Gorgonei capitis guttæ cecidere cruentæ ; 5 Quas humus exceptas varios animavit in angues : Unde frequens illa est infestaque terra colubris. 620
Inde per immensum ventis discordibus actus
Fertur, et ex alto seductas æthere longe
Ter gelidas Arctos, ter Cancri brachia vidit; 625
Constitit Hesperio, regnis Atlantis, in orbe,
Hic, hominum cunctos ingenti corpore præstans, Iapetionides Atlas fuit. Ultima tellus
Rege sub hoc et pontus erat, qui Solis anhelis 20 Æquora subdit equis, et fessos excipit axes. Mille greges
totidemque armenta per herbas 635 Errabant, et humum vicinia nulla premebat; Arboreæ frondes auro radiante nitentes
Ex auro ramos, ex auro poma tegebant. 25
“Hospes," ait Perseus illi, "seu gloria tangit
Sortis erat : Themis hanc dederat Parnasia sortem : 30 “Tempus, Atla, veniet, tua quo spoliabitur auro Arbor; et hunc prædæ titulum Jove natus habebit.”
645 Id metuens, solidis pomaria clauserat Atlas Mænibus et vasto dederat servanda draconi,
Arcebatque suis externos finibus omnes. 35 Huic quoque, “Vade procul, ne longe gloria rerum,
Quas mentiris," ait, “ longe tibi Jupiter absit !” 650
Viribus inferior-quis enim par esset Atlanti 40 Viribus ?—"At quoniam parvi tibi gratia nostra est,
Accipe munus !” ait, lævaque a parte Medusæ 655
Ipse retroversus squalentia protulit ora.
que In silvas abeunt, juga sunt humerique manusque, 45 Quod caput ante fuit, summo est in monte cacumen.
Ossa lapis fiunt ; tum partes auctus in omnes 660
Clauserat Hippotades æterno carcere ventos, 50 Admonitorque operum coelo clarissimus alto
Lucifer ortus erat : pennis ligat ille resumtis 665
Gentibus innumeris circumque infraque relictis, 55 Æthiopum populos Cephæaque conspicit arva.
Illic immeritam maternæ pendere linguæ 670
Quam simul ad duras religatam brachia cautes Vidit Abantiades ;—nisi quod levis aura capillos 60 Moverat, et trepido manabant lumina fletu ;
Marmoreum ratus esset opus—trahit inscius ignes 675
Ut stetit, “0,” dixit, "non istis digna catenis, 65 Sed quibus inter se cupidi junguntur amantes,
Pande requirenti nomen terræque tuumque, 680
Celasset vultus, si non religata fuisset.
685 Nolle videretur, nomen terræque suumque, Quantaque maternæ fuerit fiducia formæ,
Indicat ; et, nondum memoratis omnibus, unda 75 Insonuit, veniensque immenso bellua ponto
Eminet, et latum sub pectore possidet æquor. 690
Nec secum auxilium, sed dignos tempore fletus 80 Plangoremque ferunt, vinctoque in corpore adhærent.