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Padraic Colum

The Mountain Caucasus

dropcap image HEY rested in the harbor of Thynias, the desert island, and sailing from there they came to the land of the Mariandyni, a people who were constantly at war with the Bebrycians; there the hero Polydeuces was welcomed as a god. Twelve days afterward they passed the mouth of the River Callichorus; then they came to the mouth of that river that flows through the land of the Amazons, the River Thermodon. Fourteen days from that place brought them to the island that is filled with the birds of Ares, the god of war. These birds dropped upon the heroes heavy, pointed feathers that would have pierced them as arrows if they had not covered themselves with their shields; then by shouting, and by striking their shields with their spears, they raised such a clamor as drove the birds away.

They sailed on, borne by a gentle breeze, until a gulf of the sea opened before them, and lo! a mountain that they knew bore some mighty name. Orpheus, looking on its peak and its crags, said, "Lo, now! We, the Argonauts, are looking upon the mountain that is named Caucasus!"

When he declared the name the heroes all stood up and looked on the mountain with awe. And in awe they cried out a name, and that name was "Prometheus!"

For upon that mountain the Titan god was held, his limbs bound upon the hard rocks by fetters of bronze. Even as the Argonauts looked toward the mountain a great shadow fell upon their ship, and looking up they saw a monstrous bird flying. The beat of the bird's wings filled out the sail and drove the Argo  swiftly onward. "It is the bird sent by Zeus," Orpheus said. "It is the vulture that every day devours the liver of the Titan god." They cowered down on the ship as they heard that word—all the Argonauts save Heracles; he stood upright and looked out toward where the bird was flying. Then, as the bird came near to the mountain, the Argonauts heard a great cry of anguish go up from the rocks.

"It is Prometheus crying out as the bird of Zeus flies down upon him," they said to one another. Again they cowered down on the ship, all save Heracles, who stayed looking toward where the great vulture had flown.

The night came and the Argonauts sailed on in silence, thinking in awe of the Titan god and of the doom that Zeus had inflicted upon him. Then, as they sailed on under the stars, Orpheus told them of Prometheus, of his gift to men, and of the fearful punishment that had been meted out to him by Zeus.