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.

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.