Cassiopeia

Cassiopeia, queen whose awful boast
Brought Poseidon’s wrath up on all the coast;
For she was vain, and thought herself supreme,
And in her fancy, her fictitious dream
She took for truth, declaring she was best
In beauty; and for this the god distressed
The nation, but with all the others she
Was placed in heaven for all mankind to see.
When Archer rises, then she does the same,
And sets when Scorpion rises. But her shame,
It still remains: Zeus set her upside down;
For on her pride, the God did rightly frown:
So she revolves head downwards for all time
To mark her folly, and shame her for her crime.

Andromeda

Athena, goddess who sprang from the mind
Of Zeus, in whom all wisdom is refined,
In whom perfection of all things is found,
Who makes all heaven by his will move round,
She placed Andromeda on high to show
The deeds of Perseus, when he dwelt below.
With arms outstretched, Andromeda appears,
As though the serpent still its head uprears;
From this did Perseus deliver her,
And after this her woman’s will did spur
Her to abandon father, mother, home,
And to set off with Perseus to roam
The earth with him, wherever he did lead,
Though her father and mother both did plead
That she should stay with them: but she refused;
For by their weakness she had been abused.
‘Gainst the Nereids did her mother boast,
And so the serpent had ravaged their coast;
Her father being weak declined to fight,
Nor would he punish his wife for her slight.
But he determined his posterity
He’d sacrifice to the monster of the sea.
The hero saved Andromeda by force,
And so, she wisely chose the stronger horse.
In heaven she was placed to mark these deeds,
And he who would be wise all heaven heeds;
For, by the gods is written in the sky
The wisdom by which all ascend on high.

The Constellation Perseus

How Perseus among the stars was placed,
That all his tale might never be erased,
Endeavour we to tell and make it plain:
Zeus placed him there, for heaven’s his domain.
Gorgon Medusa’s head is in his hand,
The sight of which no mortal man could stand;
For man to see it bore a dreadful cost,
Who’er beheld it turned to stone and lost
His life. The Gorgons’ guards had but one eye,
They passed about, and when the time was nigh
For one to pass it to the next the son
Of Zeus, he seized it, and then not a one
Could see him, for he hurled the orb into
The Lake Tritonis, then breached the guard and slew
Medusa with the sickle he received
From Hephaistos; the Gorgon was relieved
Of her head, but her face pointed away.
He then departed thence without delay.
The Grey Sisters, having lost their eye, were blind
And could not hinder or their own way find.
Upon his feet Perseus wore the gift
He got from Hermes, shoes exceeding swift.
Gorgon Medusa’s head was later pressed
By Athena on to her godly breast.
But Perseus, he rises with the Bull
And Ram, and he sets when his time is full
And when the Archer and Capricorn rise,
Fulfilling the years in the nightly skies.

Cepheus

The heavens tell the tale that oft repeats,
Which births great daring deeds and noble feats;
How, against the gods, arrogance offends,
And weakness then its prime duty suspends;
The beautiful it ceases to protect,
Until its house and seed is nearly wrecked.
Then, what is good beholds calamity,
And fights until it has the mastery.
The wicked seed of Chaos it destroys:
This done, the fruits of Beauty it enjoys.
For Cepheus took up Andromeda,
After that his wife Cassiopeia
Boasted that the sea nymphs were less beautiful
Than she. For this, Poseidon was wrathful;
He sent the serpent Cetus to his coasts,
Whose savagery did put an end to boasts.
Cepheus, he chained his daughter to a rock,
And cowered, waiting for the gruesome shock;
Posterity he sacrificed to save
Himself and all his kingdom from the grave.
But when the son of Zeus arrived, he sought
The monster out, and bravely rose and fought,
And slew the serpent with the Gorgon head,
Whose awful gaze was death in all its dread.
So, Perseus took Andromeda as prize,
And feasted on her beauty with his eyes.
What weakness had relinquished in its fear,
The strong received, and cherished what was dear.
The coward king, who would have lost it all,
Received the hero in his banquet hall.
And in the heavens, Cepheus was placed,
Where all his stars by men can yet be traced.
This record stands that all may know that Zeus
Shall rise and render serpent fiends abuse.

Draco

When Zeus took Hera to make her his bride,
Then Earth, of old both bounteous and wide,
She brought a gift of golden fruit in hand,
And Hera bid her plant them in the land
That was her garden; this was Earth’s delight,
For what she tends grows well and without blight.
This garden reached towards Atlas, and its fruit
His daughters saw, and promptly took as loot;
And Hera was displeased, and so she took
A serpent, large and with a fearsome look,
And set him there to guard the golden gift;
And he was cunning, stealthy, strong, and swift.
If any thief approached, he’d strike with speed,
And send them to Tartarus for their greed.
But Heracles, he struck him with his spear,
And killed him, who to Hera had been dear;
She took him up and placed him in the sky,
That there the guardian might nightly lie:
And this is Draco, dragon of the host
Of heaven – fifteen stars this one can boast.

The Little Bear

The Little Bear, whose form is in heaven,
Of stars that shine, it’s in number seven.
Some say her name was Cynosura, nurse
Of Zeus; such is the tale that they rehearse:
A nymph of Ida was she from her birth,
Of most uncommon virtue, beauty, worth.
She nursed the king when he was but a child;
For this the king of heaven on her smiled.
He placed her with the stars in heaven’s dome,
Where she, with them, could nightly shine and roam.
How great in strength was she to nurse the god,
Who scours all earth and heaven with his rod.
But others call her Helike; the name,
Though different, still speaks of the very same.
The god shows honour, always, where it’s due,
And makes his servants live each night anew.

The Seven Against Thebes

Though greatness drape the man of state, yet none
Can see the wishes of the gods undone.
Apollo swore that any son would kill
King Laius: such did Oedipus fulfill.
His sons each sought to steer the ship of state,
But could not countermand the will of Fate.
When Eteocles sat in Thebes as king,
A host against him did his brother bring.
He knew that if the city fell, he would
Deserve the blame, but if their cause was good,
It came from Zeus, the ruling God, whose sign
Is Good in all its form, the true divine;
By him they held the siege until the day
When they no longer could the battle stay.
Without a fire, the prophet of the birds
Brought warning, urging them with honest words:
Foresaw he well assault was planned that night:
The time had come for them to stand and fight.
So, Eteocles called the men to arms,
And sounded out through all the town alarms;
He bid them take up shield and spear and sword,
And urged them not to fear the foreign horde.
A messenger brought word to Eteocles
Of seven men who took oaths to Ares,
To Enyo, and to bloody, dreadful Fear
Against the city all their might to rear,
To lay it level with the dust, in haste,
Or make of all a barren, bloody waste.
Beseeching all the gods, the women wailed,
Whose hearts were weak, whose hope had quickly failed.
“Be silent!” Eteocles commanded,
But they could not be calmed or reprimanded;
They chattered shrilly, languishing in fear,
Unable even their own selves to steer.
The king commanded, yet went up their cries:
Such balefulness did Eteocles despise.
The messenger returned and said the host
Had chosen champions and each did boast;
He told their arms, for each one bore a shield;
Each countenance was fierce, and all were steeled,
And every one was set against a gate,
And sought to vent on Thebes their wrath and hate.
Like thunder did Tydeus shout with rage,
His foe with eagerness seeking to engage:
He chafed because the prophet bid him wait,
And so, he struck him to his anger sate.
He wore a helmet decked with plumes, and took
His shield in hand, and this with fury shook.
Upon the shield rang brazen bells of fear,
And on it did the sky with stars appear;
The center bore the Moon as though an eye
Looked out, beholding all from up on high.
But Eteocles stood firm and replied:
“No arms shall make me shake, and nothing spied
Upon a shield can wound, and if he die,
Then justly shall he lie under the sky.
And so I charge the son of Astacus,
That he, as champion, face Tydeus;
For he is not a coward, but he sprung
From Sown Men who shot up when earth was young.
“The gods grant him luck”, the herald replied,
Then told how by Electra’s gates was spied
Capaneus, a giant in his height,
Who breathes out monstrous threats in pride and spite.
He scorns the gods, declaring that he’ll sack
The city, even if God’s help should lack;
The bolt of Zeus he likens to the rays
Of sun at noontime; and his shield displays
A naked man, who bears a flaming torch,
All ready to burn down, destroy, and scorch;
‘I’ll burn the city’ does the shield declare,
Promising that there’s nothing he will spare.”
Eteocles declared the boast was vain,
And that to them it’d prove to be a gain;
For he declared his trust to be in Zeus,
Who that, no doubt, would let his bolt fly loose
And strike the man who boasted ‘gainst the king:
To face this one, a champion they’d bring;
Polyphontes, who was greatly favoured by
Artemis, and all of the gods on high.
Of Eteoclus, next the herald spoke,
Who did the fury of his horses stoke;
He wheeled them round, while bridle pipes did play,
And sounded out their breath; and his array
Was fearsome; for he also bore a shield,
Which he brandished and did with fury wield;
A man in armour on the shield appeared,
And climbed a ladder, which ‘gainst the walls was reared;
And he cried, “Ares shall not cast me down”,
Certain was he that he would take the town.
Before the herald ceased, already sent
By Eteocles, Megareus went;
Of the seed of Sown Men, and Creon’s son,
To face the champion he’d quickly run.
“He will not yield the gate, nor fear the horse,
But hold unto the end the rightful course.
He’ll do the deed his shield proclaims and take
Two men and too the city; for his stake
He’ll have their riches, and with them he’ll crown
His father’s house, when he has thrown him down.
Tell me now the next one who boasts in vain,
For we shall live to see all of them slain.”
The messenger declared “The fourth does hold
The gate near Onka Athena, where bold
And full of fury, he gives a mighty shout,
Hippomedon, of giant frame, and stout.
He twirls his shield as though it were a disk,
Confident in all, daring any risk;
Upon its face a sight so dreadful shows:
Typhon, from whose mouth a dark smoke bellows;
Around the rim, a mass of coiling snakes,
While he cries loudly and with bloodlust shakes.
Like Ares does he glory in the war;
He’ll raise a panic boasts he with a roar.”
But still the king was calm, and so, declared
That by Athena’s favour, they’d be spared.
“She will not suffer violence thus to reign;
She’ll hate the fiend and will his life disdain.”
He set Hyperbius to face in fight
This one; so it seemed wise in Hermes’ sight.
Hyperbius would bear Zeus on his shield,
That Hippomedon’s doom be surely sealed.
Each would face the other as mortal foes,
While the warring gods would clash in their blows.
For Zeus shall never fall, so he that waits
On Typhon shall be cast down by the Fates.
“The fifth, now, at the Northern gate, with spear,
He stands and swears, unchecked by any fear,
That he shall sack the town, though Zeus should try
To stop him, yet he shall the god defy.
Of a mountain mother has this one sprung,
His beard yet newly grown, still green and young.
A savage Gorgon look is on his face,
And forth he strides; with speed he sets his pace.
He also boasts and bears a shield of brass,
Which hurls an insult, bloody, gruesome, crass:
The Sphinx that ate men raw is carved thereon;
Her claws, they hold a Theban, and upon
The same shall most of all our arrows fall:
His shield shall serve him for a brazen wall.”
But Eteocles, unperturbed, replied
“May they themselves receive what they have cried;
The gods reward such an impious boast,
And overthrow their whole ungodly host!
We have one who boasts not, but does instead;
He will not stand for mischief to be bred
Within our gates, nor flow across our walls,
To tear down and destroy our hallowed halls.
He’ll suffer not the Sphinx to enter in,
Nor he that bears her to the battle win.
Actor will hammer her outside the gate:
On he who bears her, she will turn her hate.”
The herald, then, spoke of the sixth, whose state
Was warrior and prophet both, and great
He was. “His name is Amphiaraus,
Who stood shouting insults at Tydeus,
Reviling him, and saying ‘Murderer!
Of all the host, a dreadful destroyer!
A herald of the Furies, loving ill,
And evil, and delighting much to spill
The blood of men.’ And Polynices too,
He curses, saying he does evil brew;
To bring a foreign host to his native land,
To overthrow his gods with his own hand,
Is evil, so he calls your brother cursed;
And for his own life, he fears not the worst.
‘I shall make the soil fat with my own life’
Declares he, ready for the day of strife.
He brandishes his shield, but it is bare
Of all device, but yet you should beware:
For master not of the art of seeming
Is he, but rather of the art of being.
He worships the gods, and is therefore wise:
He’d be a fool who would this one despise.”
“What awful chance can join together they
Who are as different as night is from day!
The honest man with evil souls brings doom,
And only death within such fields can bloom.
How often has the just been caught and snared,
And when the city falls has not been spared,
Because he was with men of evil sort;
Or who was shipwrecked, never reaching port,
For he served aboard with an evil crew,
And died when God their vessel overthrew,”
Eteocles cried, then continued thus,
“So this prophet shall with the impious
Fall and perish, though he is wise and just;
For God shall bring them down into the dust.
I doubt that he shall even storm the gate,
Knowing that to fall fighting is his fate.
Apollo speaks what’s true or not at all:
They shall not prosper, but they’ll surely fall.
And yet, against him, we shall send a man,
Whose might shall best this foe, if any can.
Lasthenes has a young man’s strength; his eyes
Are sharp; his mind like old men, though, is wise.
But yet, from God comes failure or success;
Our cause, I trust, he shall see fit to bless.”
The herald then, with heavy heart, began
To tell Eteocles who was the man
That would assault the seventh gate; for black
Are the portents when blood does blood attack:
It was the brother of Eteocles,
Who stood to storm the gate, Polynices.
He cursed the city, all his former state,
For he was filled with unrelenting hate.
“He’s filled with rage and a most bitter spite;
He’s determined to face you in a fight.
He says he’ll meet, next to your corpse, his death,
And this he swears with every raging breath.
But if you live, then into banishment
He is determined will be your judgement.
He calls the gods of all his race, and prays
That they will judge his cause and be his stays.
He bears a newly fashioned shield in hand,
And all in gold on it does Justice stand;
She leads a warrior back to his home,
Where he no longer shall be forced to roam
In foreign lands. Now, choose you who to send
And from the fratricidal foe defend.”
Then, Eteocles sighed with deep despair
For how the gods had made his house to fare.
“O, how greatly cursed!” he, with sorrow, cried,
Though his countenance his despair belied;
He shed not a tear, but yet stood upright,
Stooping not beneath his sire’s curse and blight.
“We’ll soon know the truth of the golden letters
Written on his shield, or whether fetters
Shall be his end; for Justice never took
Him in hand before, nor gave him a look;
And I cannot believe she’ll take his cause,
In disregard of all established laws.
Who more than I has right to face this foe?
Bring me my arms, for I myself will go.”
The women, then, in anguish raised a cry,
Which no man could silence, though he might try,
And they besought the king to stay and let
Another go: on him the sword could wet
Itself with blood, but Eteocles refused:
He knew that after death he’d be abused
With evil words, if he forsook the good,
But fame he’d have if he did what he should.
Unmoved, he took the curse of Phoebus well,
Despite that his own doom it did foretell.
The women said that a bad victory
Was better than manslaying misery:
But from his purpose, he’d not be shaken,
Though by all the gods he was forsaken.
And, so he went, while they remained, forlorn,
While battle raged, and all the earth was torn;
The clash was fierce; the din discordant fell,
And those within knew not what it did spell.
In time, the messenger returned with news:
The town was safe, not one gate did they lose;
Their champions at six gates had prevailed
Against the enemies that had assailed,
But, at the final gate the brothers died;
For none could ever say that Phoebus lied:
Captain of Sevens at number seven,
He took all with all the might of heaven.
The ground had drunk its fill of that red flood
The warring brothers spilled, the royal blood.
Though Thebes had joy in this, her victory,
Yet, in their deaths, she reaped great misery.
The city had its rest from plague and war;
The curse of Oedipus vexed it no more;
The land did take her sons into its fold:
The brothers, dead, in graves, to ever hold.

The Great Bear

Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, born
To revel in the hunt, to Artemis sworn:
But Zeus looked down from heaven and beheld,
And saw your beauty, and his desire swelled,
And in his cunning, he took a disguise,
Appearing as the goddess in your eyes.
By force he took you, but you did not blame,
Till the day when you couldn’t hide your shame;
For when your belly was heavy with child,
Artemis beheld, and with fury wild,
Demanded why you turned from devotion,
But you replied, heavy with emotion,
That the goddess was guilty of the deed;
From her you had received the shameful seed.
The goddess, then, was filled with awful rage,
Which none could turn, to cause her to assuage
Her wrath; so she turned you into a bear,
And suffered not a mortal soul to dare
To speak a lie, and the divine defame,
Lest evil souls presume to do the same.
And, after this you bore Arcas, a son,
And he grew up, and after you did run;
And both of you were taken in a wood
By the Aetolians, who thought it good
To offer you up as a gift to Zeus;
Their intention you quickly did deduce.
The temple of Lycaean Zeus was near;
To it you fled for refuge in your fear,
And Arcas came behind you in your flight:
Zeus, who sat above, looked down from his height,
And knew himself of this to be the cause;
Then, since he’s just and right in all his laws,
He snatched you up and placed you in the sky,
And then he took your son and set him by,
To follow you among the stars each night,
And never from the heavens to alight.
For, Tethys, wife of Ocean, will not let
You enter in, and so you never set;
For Hera, in her wrath, was filled with hate,
So Tethys would not let you cross her gate;
For, she was Hera’s nurse, and loves her so:
She will not suffer you to sink below.
You wander nightly in your northern home,
Above, in heaven’s starry nighttime dome.

Chiron

Half-man, half-beast, yet learned in every art,
From each compounded, each its proper part:
Chiron, centaur, most noble, just, and wise;
Though Philyra, that bare you, did despise
Your form; for Kronos sired you as a horse,
So nature took its right and proper course;
And Apollon looked down, from where on high
He sat, and he beheld you, helpless, lie;
He took you up, and taught you prophecy,
And music, medicine, and archery.
So, learned in arts of war, your inner beast
Took joy in hunting, and the killer’s feast:
But having knowledge, too, of peace, what joy
In sacred arts and song did you employ.
He, whoever, was wounded to the quick
Found you a skilled purveyor of physic;
And watching movements of the stars that guide
Mankind, the workings on the Earth were spied,
And portents known, you spoke the truth to all,
Though good or evil from the gods should fall.
Achilles was your pupil, whom you taught:
From you he got the wisdom that was sought
By Peleus, who brought to you the lad,
And you received him, and in heart were glad.
For, every man that tames the inner beast
Is, like you, his own effectual priest;
He nurtures all that’s beautiful in life,
Unconquered by the chaos of mad strife.
And, though you dropped the shaft of Heracles,
Which pierced your foot and spread a foul disease
(The hydra’s blood was poison, and it spread
Through all your veins, to bring you to the dead),
But Zeus refused to give you to the deep,
Preferring that a better boon you’d reap,
He placed you with the stars that nightly vie
For place, and reign o’er all, both low and high.
So, those divine you watched on Earth with love,
With them you live and move each night above.

Astraeus

Astraeus, husband of the golden dawn,
The Dusk which all the starry night does spawn;
These children give to night their twinkling glow;
The winds you also birthed, who ever blow.
At even time, you shepherd in the night,
While Dawn, your place, takes up at morning light.
The grandson of Gaia and Uranus,
And son of Eurybia and Crius.
And though the Titan reign was overthrown
By Zeus, you still bring in the night alone;
Your proper place is yours to rule; for just
Is Zeus, and every Soul does what it must.
Thus, ever honoured, every eve you rise,
Presiding over all the darkening skies.