The Bear-Guard, Arctophylax

The Bear Guard, born the son of Zeus, who took
Callisto when from heaven he did look;
The king beheld her beauty and did sate
Himself and made her for a time his mate;
His son was murdered to revenge the deed:
His grandsire thought some mischief good to breed.
Callisto was his daughter, and he sought
Revenge, conceiving in his heart a thought,
Which he brought forth and took his grandson’s life,
And trimmed him for the table with his knife.
To see if Zeus knew all, he called him there,
And set a lavish table in his lair:
But Zeus was wroth, for when he saw the meat,
He knew Lycaon guilty of deceit,
And in his rage he overturned the board,
And promptly to his former form restored
His son and placed him in a goat herd’s care,
And when he grew he went to hunt a bear,
Not knowing that his mother had exchanged
Her human form, and to the bear been changed.
He overstepped the temple’s boundary,
A crime which carried a death penalty:
But Zeus, he snatched them up into the sky
In order that they’d live and never die;
He placed his son in heaven with the Bear
To guard and make it his eternal care.
So, Arctophylax, Bear-Guard he was called,
When in the heavens he had been installed.
But lightning struck Lycaon’s house when Zeus
Hurled down his bolt, revenging the abuse.
He turned Lycaon to a wolf to feast
On flesh to be thenceforth a savage beast.

Corona Borealis

The crown that Dionysus placed among
The stars of heaven when the world was young,
For Aphrodite and the Seasons thought
His bride deserving, so a gift they brought
To Ariadne on his wedding day;
In heaven did the god this crown display.
And one there is that said the god desired
Ariadne, and with the crown inspired
Her love, when he came down to see her sire,
For it was lightened by a holy fire
Which burned within, so it gave off a light,
Which was most pleasing in the damsel’s sight.
Hephaistos made it greater than its parts,
A dazzling work from all his cunning arts.
Again some men have said Dionysus took
And set it by, because he would not brook
Pollution of it by the hordes of dead
In Tartarus where all is grim and dread.
For he went down to bring his mother back,
And this accomplished, the god did not slack
To place it in the stars, eternally
Reminding all who see of Semele.
But finally, there’s some who say it’s there
Because the Kneeler, Theseus did wear
It, having got it from Thetis when he
Retrieved the ring of Minos from the sea.
He showed himself in truth Poseidon’s son,
When this tremendous task by him was done.
For though the tyrant Minos set his heart
On a damsel from Athens for his part,
Yet Theseus against the tyrant rose,
But said it was not fitting to oppose
A tyrant merely to defend a girl,
And so into the sea did Minos hurl
His ring to test the claim of the noble youth,
To prove if he was the god’s son in truth.
Poseidon’s wife gave Theseus the prize,
The crown to dazzle all beholding eyes.
And still it sits in heaven as a sign
Of triumph, truth, and all that’s good and fine.

Lyra

The Lyre which Hermes fashioned with his skill,
He gave Apollo for to work his will;
He stole the oxen of the Sun by sleight
And robbed him while the earth was cloaked in Night,
And Phoebus’ rage was kindled like a fire,
And so he sought to hurl him in his ire
Into the depths of Tartarus below,
But could not stem the cunning words that flow
From Hermes’ lips, whose speech is without peer,
As he so wills, it is obscure or clear,
And like a labyrinth do they twist and turn:
The cunning only manage to discern
His meaning. Such was Zeus, who can’t be fooled,
Whose strength of mind cannot be overruled.
For Hermes spoke, and winked upon his sire,
Who laughed and loved his begotten liar.
And Hermes played a most enchanting song
And charmed Apollo’s heart with it ere long.
The gods now friends, they each exchanged a gift,
And by this act they healed their former rift.
For Hermes gave his Lyre unto the Sun,
To play each day while his fierce coursers run,
And for the herd with which he did abscond,
Apollo forgave him, and gave him a wand.
And Hermes parted serpents when they fought,
And made a peace where danger had been fraught.
In time, the Sun gave Orpheus the Lyre,
And taught him how to man and beasts inspire;
The poet praised th’eternal gods with song,
But he forgot one god and did him wrong;
For Dionysus did he fail to praise,
And so the Bacchants made an end of days
For him, and torn to pieces did his head
Roll down into the sea when he was dead.
The Muses placed his Lyre up in the sky,
That memory of him might never die.

Cygnus, the Swan

The swan of heaven, we could but call it Zeus,
For in this form, he acted out a ruse;
And Nemesis was fooled, and thought to save
Him from the eagle’s grasp, and thus, the grave.
But, the bird of prey was the goddess of
Tyranny itself, that is to say, of Love:
Aphrodite chased the king of heaven,
And in her lap Nemesis made a haven,
And Zeus as Cygnus settled there, until
She fell asleep, and then he took his fill;
The rape accomplished, he flew to the sky;
And so that none might say it was a lie,
He placed a swan of stars to fly at night,
Eternally to show itself in flight.
But Nemesis brought forth an egg, whose yolk
In time grew up, and by her beauty broke
That city, which was most renowned in fame,
But luxury had made it weak and tame;
For Helen brought about the fall of Troy
(How often Venus’ charms weaken and destroy!).
By Zeus, in eastern skies the Bird remains,
A nightly sight to all the rustic swains.

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.