The Death of Locrian Ajax

That king of men, that mighty man of old
Locrian Ajax, in might and courage bold,
His spear he hurled and slew who’er he met
When on the plains of Troy the war was set
His feet were swift, and far outstripped them all,
Save Achilles who dragged Hector round the wall.

Now, once the walls were breached by the wooden horse,
Whose womb spilled forth at night the Achaean force,
Then through the streets of Troy fast the fires spread:
They drove before them a crushing weight of dread.
Cassandra, who had prophesied the fall,
In the temple did on Athena call.

And Ajax into the temple went and saw
Cassandra whom he took without heed to law.
Forth from the altar he dragged her by the hair,
From servitude he’d not Priam’s daughter spare:
To her cries he paid not the slightest heed,
Cast among the captives she would not be freed.

And here we see how Fortune, blind to all,
Raises up the one, and makes the other fall.
Cassandra who was born daughter of a king,
To the rank of slave did blind Fortune bring.
There’s no one so high the gods can’t bring them low,
Even to the just great Zeus measures woe.

For this Athena was filled with awesome rage,
No supplication could her wrath assuage;
Thus when Ajax did after Troy set sail,
She dashed all his ships in a fearsome gale.
But Poseidon, the god of earth and sea,
Set him safe upon a rock in his mercy.

But Ajax gripped by madness did arise
And all the gods in fury did despise:
He boasted that he did by his prowess save
Himself and thus he sent himself to the grave.
For Poseidon, the ruler of the main,
Would not countenance such pride and disdain.

Indignant did he hurl his trident and struck,
The rock and Ajax from safety did pluck.
It split top to bottom and the sea did flood
The place where Ajax in his pride had stood.
The waves submerged him and to some ocean beast
His life became a prey and a bloody feast.

The Revolt of Kronos

The sons of Heaven were hated from the first,

He hid them each in Earth and they were cursed;

Until their mother, Earth, who loved them so

Urged them to rise and Heaven overthrow.

They were hid in darkness soon as they were born,

They could not see the light, and were left forlorn.

But Earth, she groaned within her and was strained,

Heaven’s wickedness she loathed and disdained.

Of adamant she made a sickle great,

To bring down Heaven she fashioned it with hate.

She loved her sons and bid them to repay,

Their father’s crimes to bring them to light of day.

“Your father is a heedless fool,” she said,

“From him every sort of wickedness was bred.”

She spoke, but fear sprang up in everyone

Till crooked Kronos, Earth’s great Titan son,

Replied to her, emboldened in his heart.

He gave his word and swore vengeance for his part.

“I care not, Mother, for my ineffable

Father, Heaven, whose acts are terrible.

I will set myself and perform the deed,

And then we all from him shall at last be freed.”

Earth was filled with joy and a plan devised,

That Heaven would by Kronos be surprised.

She gave her son the sickle she had made,

And hid him once with this he was arrayed.

Then with the night did Heaven come and lay

Around the Earth and by her side did stay.

He longed for love, but hate was in her heart;

Deceived great Heaven did she for her part.

Her hidden son came forth and made his stand,

The saw-toothed sickle held in his right hand,

And with his left he reached and seized his sire,

The blade sent pain through Heaven like a fire.

He cut the stones from Heaven, who, castrated,

Was overthrown by one whom he’d created.

The stones did Kronos cast behind his back,

And revelled in the fruits of his attack.

And now as king of all did Kronos reign,

While Heaven’s blood in giant drops did rain.

This rain the Earth received, and so was born

All that raged and frenzied in its baleful scorn.

The Furies first and Giants, who with spears

And armour in their greatness filled with fears

All those lesser souls that lived upon the Earth;

These the Giants harrowed in great mirth.

Niobe’s Reward

The queen of Thebes, daughter of Tantalus,
Who received not wisdom nor grace from Pallas,
Bore children to her husband Amphion,
And judged them bright and radiant as the dawn.
Fourteen they numbered, the boys were seven,
And likewise the girls, these gifts from heaven.

These did Niobe as a mother love,
And for their number thought herself above
The goddess who had born the golden twins;
Her tale of woe thus with folly begins.
Her thought she kept not hidden in her heart,
But from her mouth in words she let it depart.

She boasted that she was better than Leto,
And thus brought down the wrath of Apollo.
The doom that approached Niobe beheld,
Her love for her children action compelled:
She begged Apollo mercy to bestow,
But Phoebus heard not: he drew back his bow.

He smote all the boy children down to the ground,
Their bloody corpses were strewn all around,
And Artemis slew the girls for her part:
From each one protruded a fatal dart.
The children’s souls to Hades were tendered,
By the blows that the twins of Leto rendered.

And Amphion, grieved to death, gave a roar,
When he saw the ground stained purple with gore;
He bellowed with rage and swore retribution,
And brought on himself his own execution:
Apollo at once struck him to the ground,
His soul from his body was instant unbound.

Unburied nine days, the corpses lay bare,
Till from desecration the gods deigned to spare
Them, and so they were buried at the last:
The birds were denied their hoped for repast.
But on Niobe seized sorrow and grief;
No succor could comfort nor give relief.

She fled to a mountain and turned into stone
And wept forever, bereft and alone.
Her tears as rivers flowed down from the rock,
Forever bewailing that gruesome shock
That she received from the gods for her pride,
Who in their wisdom smote them that they died.

The Theogony

In the beginning, Chaos reigned supreme;
No light, no voice, no thing did move or dream.
But then the Earth appeared, that steadfast place,
And all the gods did stand upon its face.
Tartarus too was there, in shroud of mist,
To hold in chains the wicked in his fist.
And then came Love; of all he was the worst:
For his sake many suffered and were cursed.
He tamed their spirits, and he made them weak.
Never did they rise or against him speak,
For he was beautiful and thus held sway,
And all who knew him thought him just and gay.

And Chaos birthed him Erebos and Night,
And Night gave birth to Space and Day the bright.
These two in love to Erebos she bore,
And after these she ceased and bore no more.
Earth bore Heaven who was Ouranos named,
In whom the stars that shine were set and framed.
And this she made that all the gods might be
Secure in rest for all eternity.
The hills and mountain clefts she fashioned for,
The nymphs, the goddesses of ancient lore.
The barren sea with breaking waves, its birth
Was such as came without sweet love or mirth.

With Heaven then, Ouranos, lay the Earth,
And by him brought twelve children to the birth.
The deep and swirling Oceanus, first
Of Heaven’s sons from Gaia’s womb did burst.
Then Koios, Kreius, and Iapetos who bore
Prometheus whose schemes provoked Zeus sore;
Hyperion, the father of the Sun,
Was born the next, but still Earth was not done.
Theia, Rhea, Themis, and Mnemosyne;
Then Tethys, lovely in form and design;
Then Phoebe, Titan was golden crowned;
And Kronos who was in Tartarus bound.

Again the Earth did bare the Cyclopes,
Arges the proud, Brontes, and Steropes;
And they were those who found and gave to Zeus
The lightning bolt and thunder that he loosed.
The brow of these had but a single eye,
Great virtue showed they in all that they did try.
Last of all they bore, Gaia and Ouranos,
The Hundred-hands, the first of which was Kottos,
And Gyes and Briareus, the three
Had each so many eyes with which to see,
For they had fifty heads, and with their arms,
The beat till battered all their foes in swarms.

The Humbling of Prometheus

In olden days when all the gods still walked
On mounts of Earth and played and laid and talked,
When every word was sure accounted for,
Reward and retribution held in store
To recompense with action every deed,
And misplaced word that malice dared to breed;
In those days cunning lifted up its eyes
And dared behold and beholding despise
The god of heaven, great and mighty Zeus,
And for this folly the god’s wrath did loose.

Fool Prometheus thought his wits could beat
The king of heaven, so he thought to cheat
Him of his portion, so he divided
Good from bad and by deceit misguided
Zeus the king, for the ox’s white bones he wrapped
And cased them in a coat of gleaming fat.
The portion of the bones in size outstripped
The marbled meat, whose portion size was clipped.
And Zeus, equitable, beheld the pair
And charged Prometheus they were unfair.

But Iapetos’ son, his reverence feigned,
Spoke the truth, deceiving when Zeus he claimed
The greatest of immortal gods to be;
And gave to Zeus the choice and bowed the knee.
But Zeus knew guile and the plan suspected,
And means devised that it be detected.
And Zeus the king, the fatted portion seized
And when he proved the trick he was not pleased,
And seethed in anger, and within he raged,
His wrath was fixed, and would not be assuaged.

And then as thunder did Zeus’ voice ring out
And sentence certain with no shred of doubt
He gave to Iapetos’ son the clever.
“Why, friend, your tricks, you forget them never!”
From wretched men, friends of Prometheus,
He withheld fire, and so punished them thus.
But Iapetos’ son, he again deceived,
And so the final punishment received.
And this time Zeus found a reward the worse,
A fitting, proper, and eternal curse.

For men he fashioned women to be wives,
To vex and to plague them all of their lives,
They’d help the men never when destitute,
But when men were rich, they’d share for to loot.
If men were crafty, avoiding this fate,
Then when they were old, no children would wait
On them, and feeble they’d suffer till death
Took from them their last and belabored breath.
And men loved the curse that Zeus had rendered,
To Love that’s cruel, they gladly surrendered.

But Prometheus, who was wise and kind,
He received his reward, for Zeus did bind
Him with chains around a mighty pillar,
And set an eagle to eat his liver.
And his liver grew again every night,
And so again each day befell this plight
Upon Iapetos’ son, whose knavery
Could not withstand the strength or bravery
Of Zeus the Thunderer and heaven’s king,
Who in might and wisdom did justice bring.