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.

Philoctetes

Whose deed delivered Heracles at last
(For on the pyre that he had built he cast
Himself, desiring to be free from pain:
His wound was mortal: he couldn’t best this bane)?
Philoctetes was he that took the fire
And set alight the hero’s funeral pyre.
The sword of Vulcan, beneficial flame,
Did, at last, the pain of Heracles tame.
To Philoctetes, the hero gave his bow;
Then, deified, to heaven did he go.
The arrow points with poison were still tipped
(Into the hydra’s blood had they been dipped).
But with Philoctetes, Hera made war,
As also with Heracles she had before;
He set sail for Troy: but from Hera, a snake
Bit him in his foot; such a wound did it make:
It festered and gave off such a foul stench,
That burned in men’s noses and made them blench;
Odysseus said to leave him behind,
So Philoctetes set hate in his mind.
Alone he was left, upon Lemnos’ shore,
To tend to himself, vexed, crippled, and poor;
He hunted his food with Heracles’ bow,
And ate it in sorrow and bitter woe;
Ten years did he pass, and lived in a cave,
To his foot’s sickness, both weak and a slave.
Then, Odysseus learned they must have the arms
Of Heracles, so besought he with charms
Neoptolemus, who was Achilles’ son:
But with dishonor, he’d not be undone;
Though first Odysseus’ persuasion prevailed,
At last, the heart of Achilles’ son failed;
For Philoctetes, in a moment of pain
Had given to him, what he’d hoped to gain:
He had the weapon, to Odysseus’ joy,
But Achilles’ son couldn’t bear to destroy
Philoctetes: he gave back what he should:
Odysseus too received what was good;
For though Philoctetes raged at the first,
He suffered them not in the end to be cursed;
He sailed with them to Troy: there was he healed,
And this done, with his arms, he took the field.
He hid in the horse they left to deceive,
Then mothers of sons at night did bereave;
They slaughtered the Trojans, and set the fire
That made all of Troy a funeral pyre.
So, healed of disease, the hero arose
And rained down upon Troy a hail of blows;
He’d borne the wound that the serpent had struck,
Though bitter and cursing his wretched luck;
He’d laboured in sorrow until the day,
He sailed for Troy’s shores, and entered the fray:
Then like a hero, he behaved on the field,
Strengthened by suffering, and by hardship steeled.
Then, in time to come, like also his friend
Heracles, men upward to him did send
Prayers, and they offered libations as one
Who fought to the end, and surrendered to none.

On the Value of Struggle

The laws of men are given by the wise,
Or sometimes by magicians steeped in lies;
The former found just states, where good and truth
Abound, and raise in health and strength their youth:
The latter make of all a marketplace,
Devoid of charm, of beauty, wit, or grace;
Unchecked, desires, are suffered to expand
Until they glut the city, state, and land;
Then weakness grows, until, like fatted sows,
Ten sit and eat for every one that plows.
But nature, when the laws of men have failed,
When beauty, truth, and good like shades have paled,
This nature has its own laws it upholds;
The strong it raises, but the weak it scolds:
But these, unheeding, it will later crush;
The former, though, is verdant, full and lush:
So, those who check themselves before the law,
A better lot from nature do they draw;
When crushed beneath blind Fortune’s heavy trials,
They grow in strength, in health, in wit and wiles.
In this did Hera, on Heracles impose
So many troubles, many frightful blows;
She sent the serpents, soon as he was born:
But he strangled them, in his infant scorn;
She sent him Madness, so he did destroy
His wife and children, all his mortal joy;
She caused him, then, to serve the coward king
(a coward lord is such a bitter thing).
Twelve labours gave Eurystheus to kill:
But all of them did Heracles fulfill.
Then, when he died, he went to heaven where
He wedded Hebe, youthful goddess, fair,
Who was the daughter of Hera and Zeus:
Perfected, had he then, with Hera a truce;
Though all his life, his troubles vexed him sore,
Yet each one raised and strengthened him the more.
In his name we see this very mystery,
That Hera found in him felicity:
His name meant pride of Hera, for he rose
Above all troubles, trials, and all blows
Until he was the greatest man alive:
For this his name on earth does still survive.
So, they that struggle against all the odds,
They too find favour from the good, the gods;
Though Fate should hammer them with fearsome blows,
Against the tides of troubles and of woes
They beat their oars or swim until the waves,
Submerge them, sending them unto their graves.
But every height they scale, every battle won,
Every undertaken expedition,
Brings them closer to Olympus’ storied height,
Home of all the gods of beauty, truth, and light.

Zeus

When Zeus arises from his noble throne,
And stands the king of heaven, all alone,
Such thunder shakes the Earth that men with fright
Straight fly indoors to hide them from his sight;
Olympus too, its high and lofty court,
Though great in power dares not make retort,
But acquiesces humbly to his will,
And stands to, promptly, his commands fulfill.
His wits beguiled aren’t by Venusian charms:
He takes who’er he wants into his arms,
And that he does whenever he so please:
He carried Europa lightly o’er the seas;
A bull she saw him and caressed his flanks;
Among the demigods her sons found their ranks;
She bore him children who grew to be kings:
The seed of Zeus surpassed men in all things;
Might and wisdom these sons of his possessed,
And law and justice on their lands did rest.
For feats of war Zeus also is renowned;
Through all the earth his deeds echo and resound:
From every halting weakness of the mind
He was free, and so, all power did he find;
Though Kronos was his father, he could see
He was not bound to honor paternity:
His father was wicked, and deserved to be
Sent to Tartarus for all eternity;
And Typhon too he slew, that noisome beast,
And after this the bruit in heaven ceased.
And later when the son of his son the Sun,
Took his father’s steeds, but couldn’t check their run,
His heart was not too soft; he rose from his throne:
His bolt struck Phaethon, who fell like a stone.
Apollo’s son was smitten that he died,
And though Leto’s son in bitter anguish cried,
Though he determined to retire from the sky,
And cease the chariot of the Sun to fly,
Zeus would not stand for him to duty shirk,
But threatened him and said “Get back to work.”
The king of all knew that no child was worth,
Complete destruction of heaven and earth;
And so, he made the gods to know their place,
If they dared disobey, his wrath they’d face;
His frightful bolts were enough to suffice
To uphold alone peace in paradise.
When Hera and Athena thought to go
To aid the Achaean host, then Zeus said no:
The goddesses then beat hasty retreats,
And promptly back in heaven took their seats.
He never stooped to help the weakling who
Deserved in battle to be driven through;
When he beheld the strong earn with his sword
The battle’s spoils, he thought it just reward.

For Hera

The Argive Hera, wife of Zeus, became
The Queen of heaven in both deed and name;
She it was that bore Ares, god of war,
Whose rage in battle echoes with a roar;
And Liberty she also brought to birth,
Whom the brave esteem of unequalled worth;
And Hebe goddess of the golden age
Of youth, whose fruits life’s troubles do assuage:
For strength and vigour and beauty most of all,
These bring their joy until old age spreads its pall.
These Hera bore to Zeus the reigning king,
Who is the source from which all good things spring.
But without Zeus she also bore a child:
The ugly thing was not in beauty styled;
A cripple was this son Hephaistos born,
Hence from her breast this wanting son was torn:
She hurled him from Olympus, and below
He worked a forge and did a bellows blow.
There fashioned he whatever Zeus required,
Achilles’ armour too in his forge he fired.
And Hera safe in Heaven stayed with Zeus,
Though oftentimes he played on her a ruse;
Yet next to him enthroned she did appear;
Of all that lived she only did he fear.