Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Russia
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Russia: Vol. XX.  1876–79.
 
Asiatic Russia: Colchis (Transcaucasia)
The Golden Fleece
John Dyer (1700?–1758)
 
(From The Fleece, Book II)

IN eldest times, when kings and hardy chiefs
In bleating sheepfolds met, for purest wool
Phœnicia’s hilly tracts were most renowned,
And fertile Syria’s and Judæa’s land,
Hermon, and Seir, and Hebron’s brooky sides:        5
Twice with the murex, crimson hue, they tinged
The shining fleeces: hence their gorgeous wealth;
And hence arose the walls of ancient Tyre.
  Next busy Colchis, blessed with frequent rains,
And lively verdure (who the lucid stream        10
Of Phasis boasted, and a portly race
Of fair inhabitants) improved the fleece;
When, o’er the deep by flying Phryxus brought,
The famed Thessalian ram enriched her plains.
  This rising Greece with indignation viewed        15
And youthful Jason an attempt conceived
Lofty and bold: along Peneus’ banks,
Around Olympus’ brows, the Muses’ haunts,
He roused the brave to redemand the fleece.
Attend, ye British swains, the ancient song.        20
From every region of Ægea’s shore
The brave assembled; those illustrious twins,
Castor and Pollux; Orpheus, tuneful bard!
Zetes and Calais, as the wind in speed;
Strong Hercules; and many a chief renowned.        25
  On deep Iolcos’ sandy shore they thronged,
Gleaming in armor, ardent of exploits;
And soon, the laurel cord and the huge stone
Uplifting to the deck, unmoored the bark;
Whose keel, of wondrous length, the skilful hand        30
Of Argus fashioned for the proud attempt;
And in th’ extended keel a lofty mast
Upraised, and sails full-swelling; to the chiefs
Unwonted objects; now first, now they learned
Their bolder steerage over ocean wave,        35
Led by the golden stars, as Chiron’s art
Had marked the sphere celestial. Wide abroad
Expands the purple deep: the cloudy isles,
Scyros and Scopelos and Icos rise,
And Halonesos: soon huge Lemnos heaves        40
Her azure head above the level brine,
Shakes off her mists, and brightens all her cliffs:
While they, her flattering creeks and opening bowers
Cautious approaching, in Myrina’s port
Cast out the cabled stone upon the strand.        45
Next to the Mysian shore they shape their course,
But with too eager haste: in the white foam
His oar Alcides breaks; howe’er, not long
The chase detains; he springs upon the shore,
And, rifting from the roots a tapering pine,        50
Renews his stroke. Between the threatening towers
Of Hellespont they ply the rugged surge,
To Hero’s and Leander’s ardent love
Fatal: then smooth Propontis’ widening wave,
That like a glassy lake expands, with hills;        55
Hills above hills, and gloomy woods, begirt.
And now the Thracian Bosphorus they dare,
Till the Symplegades, tremendous rocks,
Threaten approach; but they, unterrified,
Through the sharp-pointed cliffs and thundering floods        60
Cleave their bold passage: nathless by the crags
And torrents sorely shattered: as the strong
Eagle or vulture, in the entangling net
Involved, breaks through, yet leaves his plumes behind.
Thus, through the wide waves, their slow way they force        65
To Thynia’s hospitable isle. The brave
Pass many perils, and to fame by such
Experience rise. Refreshed, again they speed
From cape to cape, and view unnumbered streams,
Halys, with hoary Lycus, and the mouths        70
Of Asparus and Glaucus, rolling swift
To the broad deep their tributary waves;
Till in the long-sought harbor they arrive
Of golden Phasis. Foremost on the strand
Jason advanced: the deep capacious bay,        75
The crumbling terrace of the marble port,
Wondering he viewed, and stately palace-domes,
Pavilions proud of luxury: around,
In every glittering hall, within, without,
O’er all the timbrel-sounding squares and streets,        80
Nothing appeared but luxury, and crowds
Sunk deep in riot. To the public weal
Attentive none he found: for he, their chief
Of shepherds, proud Æétes, by the name
Sometimes of king distinguished, ’gan to slight        85
The shepherd’s trade, and turn to song and dance:
Even Hydrus ceased to watch; Medea’s songs
Of joy and rosy youth and beauty’s charms,
With magic sweetness lulled his cares asleep,
Till the bold heroes grasped the golden fleece.        90
Nimbly they winged the bark, surrounded soon
By Neptune’s friendly waves: secure they speed
O’er the known seas, by every guiding cape,
With prosperous return. The myrtle shores,
And glassy mirror of Iolcos’ lake,        95
With loud acclaim received them. Every vale
And every hillock touched the tuneful stops
Of pipes unnumbered, for the ram regained.
 
 
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