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Padraic Colum

Near to Iolcus Again

dropcap image HE sun sank; then that star came that bids the shepherd bring his flock to the fold, that brings the wearied plowman to his rest. But no rest did that star bring to the Argonauts. The breeze that filled the sail died down; they furled the sail and lowered the mast; then, once again, they pulled at the oars. All night they rowed, and all day, and again when the next day came on. Then they saw the island that is halfway to Greece—the great and fair island of Crete.

It was Theseus who first saw Crete—Theseus who was to come to Crete upon another ship. They drew the Argo  near the great island; they wanted water, and they were fain to rest there.

Minos, the great king, ruled over Crete. He left the guarding of the island to one of the race of bronze, to Talos, who had lived on after the rest of the bronze men had been destroyed. Thrice a day would Talos stride around the island; his brazen feet were tireless.

Now Talos saw the Argo  drawing near. He took up great rocks and he hurled them at the heroes, and very quickly they had to draw their ship out of range.

They were wearied and their thirst was consuming them. But still that bronze man stood there ready to sink their ship with the great rocks that he took up in his hands. Medea stood forward upon the ship, ready to use her spells against the man of bronze.

In body and limbs he was made of bronze and in these he was invulnerable. But beneath a sinew in his ankle there was a vein that ran up to his neck and that was covered by a thin skin. If that vein were broken Talos would perish.

Medea did not know about this vein when she stood forward upon the ship to use her spells against him. Upon a cliff of Crete, all gleaming, stood that huge man of bronze. Then, as she was ready to fling her spells against him, Medea thought upon the words that Arete, the wise queen, had given her—that she was not to use spells and not to practice against the life of any one.

But she knew that there was no impiety in using spells and practicing against Talos, for Zeus had already doomed all his race. She stood upon the ship, and with her Magic Song she enchanted him. He whirled round and round. He struck his ankle against a jutting stone. The vein broke, and that which was the blood of the bronze man flowed out of him like molten lead. He stood towering upon the cliff. Like a pine upon a mountaintop that the woodman had left half hewn through and that a mighty wind pitches against, Talos stood upon his tireless feet, swaying to and fro. Then, emptied of all his strength, Minos's man of bronze fell into the Cretan Sea.


The heroes landed. That night they lay upon the land of Crete and rested and refreshed themselves. When dawn came they drew water from a spring, and once more they went on board the Argo.

A day came when the helmsman said, "To-morrow we shall see the shore of Thessaly, and by sunset we shall be in the harbor of Pagasæ. Soon, O voyagers, we shall be back in the city from which we went to gain the Golden Fleece."

Then Jason brought Medea to the front of the ship so that they might watch together for Thessaly, the homeland. The Mountain Pelion came into sight. Jason exulted as he looked upon that mountain; again he told Medea about Chiron, the ancient centaur, and about the days of his youth in the forests of Pelion.

The Argo  went on; the sun sank, and darkness came on. Never was there darkness such as there was on that night. They called that night afterward the Pall of Darkness. To the heroes upon the Argo  it seemed as if black chaos had come over the world again; they knew not whether they were adrift upon the sea or upon the River of Hades. No star pierced the darkness nor no beam from the moon.

After a night that seemed many nights the dawn came. In the sunrise they saw the land of Thessaly with its mountain, its forests, and its fields. They hailed each other as if they had met after a long parting. They raised the mast and unfurled the sail.

But not toward Pagasæ did they go. For now the voice of Argo  came to them, shaking their hearts: Jason and Orpheus, Castor and Polydeuces, Zetes and Calais, Peleus and Telamon, Theseus, Admetus, Nestor, and Atalanta, heard the cry of their ship. And the voice of Argo  warned them not to go into the harbor of Pagasæ.

As they stood upon the ship, looking toward Iolcus, sorrow came over all the heroes, such sorrow as made their hearts nearly break. For long they stood there in utter numbness.

Then Admetus spoke—Admetus who was the happiest of all those who went in quest of the Golden Fleece. "Although we may not go into the harbor of Pagasæ, nor into the city of Iolcus," Admetus said, "still we have come to the land of Greece. There are other harbors and other cities that we may go into. And in all the places that we go to we will be honored, for we have gone through toils and dangers, and we have brought to Greece the famous Fleece of Gold."

So Admetus said, and their spirits came back again to the heroes—came back to all of them save Jason. The rest had other cities to go to, and fathers and mothers and friends to greet them in other places, but for Jason there was only Iolcus.

Medea took his hand, and sorrow for him overcame her. For Medea could divine what had happened in Iolcus and why it was that the heroes might not go there.

It was to Corinth that the Argo  went. Creon, the king of Corinth, welcomed them and gave great honor to the heroes who had faced such labors and such dangers to bring the world's wonder to Greece.

The Argonauts stayed together until they went to Calydon, to hunt the boar that ravaged Prince Meleagrus's country. After that they separated, each one going to his own land. Jason came back to Corinth where Medea stayed. And in Corinth he had tidings of the happenings in Iolcus.

King Pelias now ruled more fearfully in Iolcus, having brought down from the mountains more and fiercer soldiers. And Æson, Jason's father, and Alcimide, his mother, were now dead, having been slain by King Pelias.

This Jason heard from men who came into Corinth from Thessaly. And because of the great army that Pelias had gathered there, Jason might not yet go into Iolcus, either to exact a vengeance, or to show the people THE GOLDEN FLEECE that he had gone so far to gain.