Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ovid's Metamorphoses: Jason and the Golden Fleece

This story is part of the Ovid's Metamorphoses unit. Story source: Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by Tony Kline (2000).




Jason promises to marry Medea

Medea went to the ancient altars of Hecate, daughter of the Titan Perses, that the shadowy grove conceals, in the remote forest. And now she was strong and her passion, now conquered, had ebbed, when she saw the son of Aeson and the flame, that was dead, relit. Her cheeks flushed, and then her whole face became pallid. Just as a tiny spark that lies buried under the ashes, takes life from a breath of air, and grows and, living, regains its previous strength, so now her calmed passion, that you would have thought had dulled, when she saw the young hero, flared up at his visible presence.

It chanced that Aeson’s son was more than usually handsome that day: you could forgive her for loving him. She gazed at him, and fixed her eyes on him as if she had never looked at him before, and in her infatuation, seeing his face, could not believe him mortal, nor could she turn away. So that when, indeed, the stranger grasped her right hand, and began to speak, and in a submissive voice asked for her help, promising marriage, she replied in a flood of tears. ‘I see what I am doing: it is not ignorance of the truth that ensnares me, but love. Your salvation is in my gift, but being saved, remember your promise!’

He swore by the sacred rites of the Triple Goddess, by the divine presence of the grove, by the all-seeing Sun, who was the father of King Aeetes, his father-in-law to be, and by his own good fortune, and by his great danger. Immediately, as he was now trusted, he accepted the magic herbs from her, and learnt their use, and returned to the palace, joyfully.

Jason wins the Golden Fleece

The next day’s dawn dispelled the glittering stars. Then the people gathered on the sacred field of Mars and took up their position on the ridge. The king was seated in the middle, clothed in purple, and distinguished by his ivory sceptre.

Behold, the bronze-footed bulls, breathing Vulcan’s fire from nostrils of steel! At the touch of their heat the grass shrivels, and as stoked fires roar, or as broken limestone, that has absorbed the heat inside an earthen furnace, hisses explosively, when cool water is scattered over it, so the flames sounded, pent up in their heaving chests and burning throats. Still the son of Aeson went out to meet them.

As he came to them, the fierce creatures, with their iron-tipped horns, turned their terrible gaze towards him, pawed the dusty ground with their cloven feet, and filled the air with the steam of their bellowing. The Minyans were frozen in fear. He went up to the bulls, not feeling their fiery breath (so great is the power of magic drugs!) and stroking their hanging dewlaps with a bold hand, yoked them together and forced them to pull the heavy blade, and till the virgin field with the iron plough. The Colchians were stunned, but the Argonauts increased their shouting, and heightened his courage.

Then he took the dragon’s teeth from the bronze helmet, and scattered them over the turned earth. The soil softened the seeds that had been steeped in virulent poison, and they sprouted, and the teeth, freshly sown, produced new bodies. As an embryo takes on human form in the mother’s womb, and is fully developed there in every aspect, not emerging to the living air until it is complete, so when those shapes of men had been made in the bowels of the pregnant earth, they surged from the teeming soil, and, what is even more wonderful, clashed weapons, created with them. The Pelasgians’ faces fell in fear, and their courage failed them, when they saw these warriors preparing to hurl their sharp spears, at the head of the Haemonian hero.

She also, who had rendered him safe, was afraid. When she saw the solitary youth attacked by so many enemies, she grew pale, and sat there, suddenly cold and bloodless. And in case the herbs she had given him had not been potent enough, she chanted a spell to support them, and called on her secret arts.

He threw a boulder into the midst of his enemies, and this turned their attack, on him, against themselves. The earth-born brothers died at each other’s hands, and fell as in civil war. The Achaeans cheered, and clung to the victor, and hugged him in eager embraces. You also, princess among the barbarians, longed to hold the victorious man: but modesty prevented it. Still, you might have held him, but concern for your reputation stopped you from doing so. What you might fittingly do you did, rejoicing silently, giving thanks, for your incantations, and the gods who inspired them.

The final task was to put the dragon to sleep with the magic drugs. Known for its crest, its triple tongues and curved fangs, it was the dread guardian of the tree’s gold. But when Jason had sprinkled it with the Lethean juice of a certain herb, and three times repeated the words that bring tranquil sleep, that calm the rough seas and turbulent rivers, sleep came to those sleepless eyes, and the heroic son of Aeson gained the Golden Fleece. Proud of his prize, and taking with him a further prize, the one who had helped him gain it, the hero, and his wife Medea, returned to the harbour at Iolchos.


(1000 words)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments for Google accounts; you can also contact me at laura-gibbs@ou.edu.