13. THE DEPARTURE FROM LEMNOS
The day came when Hercules left the Argo and went on Lemnian land. He gathered the heroes about him, and they, seeing Hercules, wanted to go to hunt the wild bulls that were inland from the sea.
So, for once, the heroes left the Lemnian maidens who were their friends. Jason, too, left Hypsipyle in the palace and went with Hercules. As they went, Hercules spoke to each of the heroes, saying that they were forgetting the Fleece of Gold that they had set sail for.
Jason blushed to think that he had almost forgotten the quest that had brought him from Iolcus. Then he thought about Hypsipyle and of how her little hand would stay in his, and his own hand loosened his grip on the spear so that he nearly dropped it. How could he, he thought, leave Hypsipyle and this land of Lemnos behind?
He heard the clear voice of Atalanta as she, too, spoke to the Argonauts. What Hercules said was brave and wise, said Atalanta. Forgetfulness would cover their names with shame if they stayed longer in Lemnos, and they would come to despise themselves. Leave Lemnos, she cried, and draw Argo into the sea, and depart for Colchis.
All day the Argonauts stayed by themselves, hunting the bulls. On their way back from the chase they were met by Lemnian maidens who carried wreaths of flowers for them. The heroes were very silent as the maidens greeted them. Hercules went with Jason to the palace, and Hypsipyle, seeing the mighty stranger coming, seated herself, not on the couch where she usually sat looking into the face of Jason, but on the stone throne of King Thoas, her father. And seated on that throne she spoke to Jason and to Hercules as a queen might speak.
In the hall that night the heroes and the Lemnian maidens who were with them were quiet. A story was told. Castor began it and Polydeuces ended it. The story that Helen’s brothers told was:
The Golden Maid
Epimetheus the Titan had a brother who was the wisest of all beings—Prometheus called the Foreseer. But Epimetheus himself was slow-witted and scatter-brained. His wise brother once sent him a message telling him to beware of the gifts that Zeus might send him. Epimetheus heard, but he did not heed the warning, and so he brought upon the race of men troubles and cares.
Prometheus, the wise Titan, had saved men from a great trouble that Zeus would have caused them. Also he had given them the gift of fire. Zeus was angrier with men now because fire, stolen from him, had been given to them .He was angry with the race of Titans, too, and he pondered in his heart how he might injure men, and how he might use Epimetheus, the mindless Titan, to further his plan.
While he pondered there was a quiet on high Olympus, the mountain of the gods. Then Zeus called the artisan of the gods, lame Hephaestus, and commanded him to make a being out of clay that would have the likeness of a lovely maiden. With joy and pride Hephaestus worked at the task that had been given to him, and he made a being that had the likeness of a lovely maiden, and he brought it before the gods and the goddesses.
All added a grace or a beauty to the work of Hephaestus. Zeus stated that the maiden should see and feel. Athene dressed her in garments that were as lovely as flowers. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, put a charm on her lips and in her eyes. The Graces put necklaces around her neck and set a golden crown upon her head. The Hours brought her a belt of spring flowers. Then the herald of the gods gave her speech that was sweet and flowing. All the gods and goddesses had given gifts to her, and for that reason the maiden of Hephaestus’s making was called Pandora, the All-endowed.
She was lovely, the gods knew, but not as beautiful as they themselves are, who have a beauty that causes reverence rather than love, but lovely, as flowers and bright waters and earthly maidens are lovely. Zeus smiled to himself when he looked at her, and he called to Hermes, and he put her into his charge. Also he gave Hermes a great jar to take along. This jar was Pandora’s dowry.
Epimetheus lived in a deep valley. Now one day, as he was sitting on a fallen pillar in the ruined place that was now deserted by the rest of the Titans, he saw a pair coming toward him. One had wings, and he knew it was Hermes, the messenger of the gods. The other was a maiden. Epimetheus marveled at the crown upon her head and at her lovely garments. There was a glint of gold all around her. He rose from where he sat upon the broken pillar and he stood to watch the pair. Hermes, he saw, was carrying by its handle a great jar.
In wonder and delight he looked at the maiden. Epimetheus had not seen such a lovely thing for ages. This Golden Maid was wonderful indeed, and as she came nearer the charm that was on her lips and in her eyes affected Epimetheus, and he smiled with more and more delight.
Hermes came and stood before him. He also smiled, but his smile had something spiteful in it. He put the hands of the Golden Maid into the great hand of the Titan, and he said, “Epimetheus, Father Zeus wishes for a better relationship with you, and as a sign of his good will he sends you this lovely goddess to be your companion.”
Epimetheus, was very foolish indeed! As he looked at the Golden Maid who was sent by Zeus he forgot the wars that Zeus had made upon the Titans and the Elder Gods. He forgot about his brother chained by Zeus to the rock. He forgot about the warning that his brother, the wisest of all beings, had sent him. He took the hands of Pandora, and he thought of nothing at all in all the world but her. The voice of Hermes seemed very far away saying, “This jar, too, is from Olympus. It has in it Pandora’s dowry.”
The jar stood forgotten for long, and green plants grew over it while Epimetheus walked in the garden with the Golden Maid, or watched her while she gazed on herself in the stream, or searched in the forest for the fruits that the Elder Gods would eat, when they feasted with the Titans in the old days, before Zeus had come to power. And lost to Epimetheus was the memory of his brother now suffering upon the rock because of the gift he had given to men.
Pandora, knowing nothing except the brightness of the sunshine and the lovely shapes and colors of things and the sweet taste of the fruits that Epimetheus brought to her, could have stayed forever in that garden.
But every day Epimetheus would think that the men and women of the world should be able to see this maiden with the wonderful radiance of gold, and with the lovely garments, and the marvelous crown. And one day he took Pandora by the hand, and he brought her out of that deep-lying valley, and toward the homes of men. He did not forget the jar that Hermes had left with her. Everything that belonged to the Golden Maid was precious, and Epimetheus took the jar along.
The race of men at the time were simple and content. Their days were spent working, but now, since Prometheus had given them fire, they benefitted greatly from their work. They had well-shaped tools to dig the earth and to build houses. Their homes were warmed with fire, and fire burned upon the altars in their temples.
They worshipped Prometheus, who had given them fire, and also the race of Titans. So when Epimetheus came amongst them, tall as a tree, they welcomed him and brought him and the Golden Maid to their homes. Epimetheus showed Pandora the wonderful element that his brother had given to men, and she rejoiced to see the fire, clapping her hands with delight. The jar that Epimetheus brought he left in an open place.
In carrying it up the rough ways out of the valley Epimetheus may have knocked the jar about, for the lid that had been tight upon it now fitted very loosely. But no one paid any attention to the jar as it stood in the open space where Epimetheus had left it.
At first the men and women looked upon the beauty of Pandora, upon her lovely dresses, and her golden crown and her belt of flowers, with wonder and delight. Epimetheus wanted everyone to admire her. The men would stop working in the fields, or hammering on iron, or building houses, and the women would stop spinning or weaving, and come at his call, and stand about and admire the Golden Maid. But as time went by a change came upon the women: one woman would weep, and another would look angry, and a third would go back sullenly to her work when Pandora was admired or praised.
Once the women were gathered together, and one who was the wisest amongst them said, “Once we did not think about ourselves, and we were content. But now we think about ourselves, and we say to ourselves that we are unlucky indeed compared to the Golden Maid that the Titan is so enchanted with. We hate to see our own men praise and admire her, and often, in our hearts, we would destroy her if we could.”
“That is true,” the women said. Then a young woman cried out in a yearning voice, “Tell us, wise woman, how can we make ourselves as beautiful as Pandora!”
Then that woman who was thought to be wise replied, “This Golden Maid is lovely to look upon because she has lovely apparel and all the means of keeping herself lovely. The gods have given her the means, and, so her skin remains fair, and her hair keeps its gold, and her lips are ever red and her eyes shining. I think that the means that she has of keeping lovely are all in that jar that Epimetheus brought with her.”
When the woman who was thought to be wise said this, those around her were silent for a while. But then one arose and another arose, and they stood and whispered together, one saying to the other that they should go to the place where the jar had been left by Epimetheus, and that they should take out of it the lotions and the charms that would make them as beautiful as Pandora.
So the women went to find the jar. On their way they stopped at a pool and they bent over to see themselves reflected in it, and they saw themselves with dusty and unkempt hair, with large and knotted hands, with troubled eyes, and with anxious mouths.
They frowned as they looked upon their images, and they said in harsh voices that in a while they would have ways of making themselves as lovely as the Golden Maid.
As they went on they saw Pandora. She was playing in a field of flowers, while Epimetheus, , went gathering the blossoms of the bushes for her. They went on, and they came at last to the place where Epimetheus had left the jar that held Pandora’s dowry.
It was a great stone jar.There was no bird, nor flower, nor branch painted upon it. It stood high as a woman’s shoulder. As the women looked at it they thought that there must be enough things in it to keep them beautiful for all the days of their lives. But each one thought that she should not be the last to get her hands into it.
Once the lid had been fixed tightly down on the jar but the lid had shifted a little now. As the hands of the women grasped it to take off the lid the jar was knocked over, and the things that were inside spilled out.
They were black and gray and red; they were crawling and flying things. As the women looked, the things spread themselves out or leaped on the women.
The jar, like Pandora herself, had been made and filled out of the ill will of Zeus. It had been filled, not with lotions and charms, as the women had thought, but with Cares and Troubles. Before the women came to it one Trouble had already come out from the jar—it was Envy that was upon the top of the heap. It was Envy that had afflicted the women, making them troubled about their own looks, and envious of the graces of the Golden Maid.
Now the others spread themselves out—Sickness and War and Strife between friends. They spread themselves out and entered the houses, while Epimetheus, the foolish Titan, gathered flowers for Pandora, the Golden Maid.
He called to her to take her into the houses of men. As they drew near to the houses they saw a woman seated on the ground, weeping. Her husband had suddenly become mean to her and had shut the door in her face.
They came upon a child crying because of a pain that he could not understand. And then they found two men fighting over nothing.
In every house they went to Epimetheus would say, “I am the brother of Prometheus, who gave you the gift of fire.” But instead of giving them a welcome the men would say, “We know nothing about your relation to Prometheus. We see you as a foolish man.”
Epimetheus was troubled by the hard looks and the cold words of the men who once had respected him. He turned from the houses and went away. In a quiet place he sat down, and for a while he lost sight of Pandora. Then it seemed to him that he heard the voice of his wise and suffering brother saying, “Do not accept any gift that Zeus may send you.”
He rose up and he hurried away from that place, leaving Pandora playing by herself. There came into his scattered mind Regret and Fear. As he went on he stumbled. He fell from the edge of a cliff, and the sea washed away the body of the foolish brother of Prometheus.
Not everything had spilled out of the jar that had been brought with Pandora into the world of men. A beautiful, living thing was in that jar also. This was Hope. This beautiful, living thing had got caught under the rim of the jar and had not come out with the others. One day a weeping woman found Hope under the rim of Pandora’s jar and brought this living thing into the house of men. Now because of Hope they could see an end to their troubles.
As for Pandora, the Golden Maid, she played on, knowing only the brightness of the sunshine and the lovely shapes of things. She would have seemed beautiful to anyone who saw her, but now she had strayed away from the houses of men and Epimetheus was not there to look at her. Then Hephaestus, the lame artisan of the gods, put down his tools and went to find her. He found Pandora, and he took her back to Olympus. She stays in his house, though sometimes at the will of Zeus she goes down into the world of men.
When Polydeuces had ended the story that Castor had begun, Hercules cried out,”For the Argonauts, too, there has been a Golden Maid—no, not one, but a Golden Maid for each of you. Out of the jar that has been with her you have taken forgetfulness of your honor. As for me, I go back to the Argo in case one of these Golden Maids should hold me back from the labors that make a man great.”
Having said this Hercules left Hypsipyle’s hall. The heroes looked at each other, ashamed that they had stayed so long away from the quest. The maidens tried to take their hands but the heroes turned away from them.
Hypsipyle left the throne of King Thoas and stood before Jason. There was fire in her eyes and her body was shaking. Before she spoke Jason cried out, “What Hercules said is true, Argonauts! On the Quest of the Golden Fleece our lives and our honor depend. To Colchis—to Colchis must we go!”
He stood up in the hall, and his friends gathered around him. The Lemnian maidens would have held out their arms and would have delayed their partings, but a strange cry was heard through the night. The Argonauts knew that cry well—it was the cry of the ship, of Argo herself. They knew that they must go to her now or forget the voyage forever. The maidens knew that there was something in the cry of the ship that might not be denied, and they put their hands on their faces in grief, and could say nothing.
Then Hypsipyle, the queen said, “I, too, am a ruler, Jason, and I know that there are great commands that we have to obey. Go, then, to the Argo. Neither I nor the women of Lemnos will prevent your going now. But tomorrow speak to us from the deck of the ship and bid us farewell. Do not leave us in the night, Jason.”
Jason and the Argonauts went from Hypsipyle’s hall. The maidens who were left behind wept together. All but Hypsipyle.. When the other Lemnian women slept she put her head upon her nurse’s, knees and wept bitterly .Hypsipyle wept, but softly, for she would not have the others hear her weeping.
By dawn the Argonauts were ready to set sail. They were standing on the deck when the Sun rose, and they saw the Lemnian women come to the shore. Each looked at her friend aboard the Argo, and spoke, and went away. At last, Hypsipyle, the queen, came. “Farewell, Hypsipyle,” Jason said to her, and she replied,” I remember what you told us—how you will come to the dangerous passage that leads into the Sea of Pontus, and how by the flight of a pigeon you will know whether or not you may go that way. Jason, let the bird you fly when you come to that dangerous place be Hypsipyle’s.”
She showed a pigeon held in her hands. She released it, and the pigeon alighted on the ship, and stayed, a white-feathered pigeon. Jason picked up the pigeon and held it in his hands, and the Argo drew swiftly away from the Lemnian land.