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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

By 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:

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

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

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.

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.

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

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,

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

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.

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,

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;

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

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

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

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,

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,

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

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.

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,

With loud acclaim received them. Every vale

And every hillock touched the tuneful stops

Of pipes unnumbered, for the ram regained.