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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 Palace of Æetes

By William Morris (1834–1896)

(From The Life and Death of Jason, Book VI)

AMIDST these thoughts, between the fair streets led,

He noted well the size and goodly head

Of all the houses, and the folk well clad,

And armed as though good store of wealth they had,

Peering upon them with a wondering gaze.

At last a temple, built in ancient days

Ere Æa was a town, they came unto;

Huge was it, but not fair unto the view

Of one beholding from without, but round

The ancient place they saw a spot of ground

Where laurels grew each side the temple door,

And two great images set up before

The brazen doors, whereof the one was she,

Who draws this way and that the fitful sea;

The other the great God, the life of man,

Who makes the brown earth green, the green earth wan,

From spring to autumn, through quick following days,

The lovely archer with his crown of rays.

Now over against this temple, towering high

Above all houses, rose majestically

Æetes’ marble house: silent it stood,

Brushed round by doves, though many a stream of blood

Had trickled o’er its stones since it was built,

But now, unconscious of all woe and guilt,

It drank the sunlight that fair afternoon.

Then spake Æetes: “Stranger, thou shalt soon

Hear all thou wouldst hear in my house of gold;

Yet ere thou enterest the door, behold

That ancient temple of the Far Darter,

And know that thy desire hangeth there,

Against the gold wall of the inmost shrine,

Guarded by seven locks, whose keys are thine

When thou hast done what else thou hast to do,

And thou mayst well be bold to come thereto.”

“King,” said the prince, “fear not, but do thy part,

Nor look to see me turn back faint of heart,

Though I may die as my forefathers died,

Who, living long, their loved souls failed to hide

From death at last, however wise they were.

But verily, O King, thy house is fair,

And here I think to see full many a thing

Men love; so, whatso the next day may bring,

Right merrily shall pass these coming hours

Amidst fair things and wine-cups crowned with flowers.”

“Enter, O guests,” the king said, “and doubt not

Ye shall see things to make the heart grow hot

With joy and longing.”
As he spoke, within

Blew up the horns, as when a king doth win

His throne at last, and from behind, the men

Who hedged the heroes in, shouted as when

He stands up on his throne, hidden no more.

Then those within threw open wide the door,

And straight the king took Jason by the hand,

And entered, and the Minyæ did stand

In such a hall as there has never been

Before or afterwards, since Ops was queen.

The pillars, made the mighty roof to hold,

The one was silver and the next was gold,

All down the hall; the roof, of some strange wood

Brought over sea, was dyed as red as blood,

Set thick with silver flowers, and delight

Of intertwining figures wrought aright.

With richest webs the marble walls were hung,

Picturing sweet stories by the poets sung

From ancient days, so that no wall seemed there,

But rather forests black and meadows fair,

And streets of well-built towns, with tumbling seas

About their marble wharves and palaces;

And fearful crags and mountains; and all trod

By many a changing foot of nymph and god,

Spear-shaking warrior and slim-ankled maid.

The floor, moreover, of the place was laid

With colored stones, wrought like a flowery mead;

And ready to the hand for every need:

Midmost the hall, two fair streams trickled down

O’er wondrous gem-like pebbles, green and brown,

Betwixt smooth banks of marble, and therein

Bright-colored fish shone through the water thin.

Now midst these wonders were there tables spread,

Whither the wondering seafarers were led,

And there with meat and drink full delicate

Were feasted, and strange dainty things they ate,

Of unused savor, and drank godlike wine;

While from the golden galleries, divine,

Heart-softening music breathed about the place;

And ’twixt the pillars, at a gentle pace,

Passed lovely damsels, raising voices sweet

And shrill unto the music, while their feet

From thin dusk raiment now and then would gleam

Upon the polished edges of the stream.