|by Charles Kingsley|
|Stories of the heroes of ancient Greece, told in fine poetic prose. Includes accounts of Perseus who slew Medusa the Gorgon, Jason who sought the Golden Fleece, and Theseus who slew the Minotaur. By preserving the Greek spirit in the retelling of these myths, Kingsley gives us plain strength and seriousness, courage, steadfastness, and beauty. Dozens of attractive illustrations by T. H. Robinson enliven the text. Ages 9-12 |
HOW PERSEUS AND HIS MOTHER CAME TO SERIPHOS
 ONCE upon a time there were two princes who were twins.
Their names were Acrisius and Prtus, and they lived in the
pleasant vale of Argos, far away in Hellas. They had
fruitful meadows and vineyards, sheep and oxen, great herds
of horses feeding down in Lerna Fen, and all that men could
need to make them blest; and yet they were wretched, because
they were jealous of each other. From the moment they were
born they began to quarrel; and when they grew up, each tried
to take away
 the other's share of the kingdom, and keep all
for himself. So first Acrisius drove out Prtus; and he
went across the seas, and brought home a foreign princess for
his wife, and foreign warriors to help him, who were called
Cyclopes; and drove out Acrisius in his turn; and then they
fought a long while up and down the land, till the quarrel
was settled; and Acrisius took Argos and one half the land,
and Prtus took Tiryns and the other half. And Prtus and
his Cyclopes built around Tiryns great walls of unhewn stone,
which are standing to this day.
But there came a prophet to that hard-hearted Acrisius and
prophesied against him, and said: "Because you have risen up
against your own blood, your own blood shall rise up against
you; because you have sinned against your kindred, by your
kindred you shall be punished. Your daughter Danae shall
bear a son, and by that son's hands you shall die. So the
 gods have ordained, and it will surely come to pass."
And at that, Acrisius was very much afraid; but he did not
mend his ways. He had been cruel to his own family; and,
instead of repenting and being kind to them, he went on to be
more cruel than ever; for he shut up his fair daughter Danae
in a cavern underground, lined with brass, that no one might
come near her. So he fancied himself more cunning than the
gods: but you will see presently whether he was able to
Now it came to pass that in time Danae bore a son; so
beautiful a babe that any but king Acrisius would have had
pity on it. But he had no pity. For he took Danae and her
babe down to the sea-shore, and put them into a great chest
and thrust them out to sea, for the winds and the waves to
carry them whithersoever they would.
The northwest wind blew freshly out of
 the blue mountains,
and down the pleasant vale of Argos, and away and out to sea.
And away and out to sea before it, floated the mother and her
babe, while all who watched them wept, save that cruel
father, king Acrisius.
So they floated on and on, and the chest danced up and down
upon the billows, and the baby slept upon its mother's
breast; but the poor mother could not sleep, but watched and
wept, and she sang to her baby as they floated; and the song
which she sang you shall learn yourselves some day.
And now they are past the last blue headland, and in the open
sea; and there is nothing round them but the waves, and the
sky, and the wind. But the waves are gentle, and the sky is
clear, and the breeze is tender and low; for these are the
days when Halcyone and Ceyx build their nests, and no storms
ever ruffle the pleasant summer sea.
 And who were Halcyone and Ceyx? You shall hear while the
chest floats on. Halcyone was a fairy maiden, the daughter
of the beach and of the wind. And she loved a sailor boy,
and married him; and none on earth were so happy as they.
But at last Ceyx was wrecked; and before he could swim to the
shore, the billows swallowed him up. And Halcyone saw him
drowning, and leapt into the sea to him; but in vain. Then
the Immortals took pity on them both, and changed them into
two fair sea-birds; and now they build a floating nest every
year, and sail up and down happily forever, upon the pleasant
seas of Greece.
So a night passed, and a day, and a long day it was for
Danae; and another night and day beside, till Danae was faint
with hunger and weeping, and yet no land appeared. And all
the while the babe slept quietly; and at last poor Danae
dropped her head and fell asleep likewise, with her cheek
against her babe's.
 After a while she was awakened suddenly; for the chest was
jarring and grinding, and the air was full of sound. She
looked up, and over her head were mighty cliffs, all red in
the setting sun, and around her rocks and breakers, and
flying flakes of foam. She clasped her hands together, and
shrieked aloud for help. And when she cried, help met her;
for now there came over the rocks a tall and stately man, and
looked down wondering upon poor Danae tossing about in the
chest among the waves.
He wore a rough cloak of frieze, and on his head a broad hat
to shade his face; in his hand he carried a trident for
spearing fish, and over his shoulder was a casting-net; but
Danae could see that he was no common man by his stature, and
his walk, and his flowing golden hair and beard; and by the
two servants who came behind him, carrying baskets for his
fish. But she had hardly time to look at him, before
 he had
laid aside his trident, and leapt down the rocks, and thrown
his casting-net so surely over Danae and the chest, that he
drew it, and her, and the baby, safe upon a ledge of rock.
Then the fisherman took Danae by the hand, and lifted her out
of the chest, and said:—
"O beautiful damsel, what strange chance has brought you to
this island in so frail a ship? Who are you, and whence?
Surely you are some king's daughter; and this boy has
somewhat more than mortal."
And as he spoke he pointed to the babe; for its face shone
like the morning star.
But Danae only held down her head, and sobbed out:—
"Tell me to what land I have come, unhappy that I am; and
among what men I have fallen?"
And he said: "This isle is called Seriphos,
 and I am a
Hellen, and dwell in it. I am the brother of Polydectes the
king; and men call me Dictys the netter, because I catch the
fish of the shore."
Then Danae fell down at his feet, and embraced his knees, and
"Oh, Sir, have pity upon a stranger, whom a cruel doom has
driven to your land; and let me live in your house as a
servant; but treat me honourably, for I was once a king's
daughter, and this my boy (as you have truly said) is of no
common race. I will not be a charge to you, or eat the bread
of idleness; for I am more skilful in weaving and embroidery
than all the maidens of my land."
And she was going on; but Dictys stopped her, and raised her
up, and said:
"My daughter, I am old, and my hairs are growing gray; while
I have no children to make my home cheerful. Come with me
then, and you shall be a daughter to me and to my wife, and
this babe shall
 be our grandchild. For I fear the gods, and
show hospitality to all strangers; knowing that good deeds,
like evil ones, always return to those who do them."
So Danae was comforted, and went home with Dictys the good
fisherman, and was a daughter to him and to his wife, till
fifteen years were past.
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