The Sons of Boreas and the Harpies

The prophet Phineas heard the drumming
Of Argonauts treading in their coming;
Their ship had landed on the isle that he
Was settled on; he waited near the sea.
They marched to him; he was much delighted;
How long had he been tortured, cursed, and blighted;
A Fury blinded him, and with old age
Great Zeus had cursed him to appease his rage;
For though Apollo gave him sight to see
All hidden things, to know all prophecy,
Yet Phineus had not rendered to Zeus
Honor, and so Zeus heaped on him abuse.
But what was worse than this pursued him too;
When he would eat, down from on high there flew
The Harpies, hounds! They snatched from him his food,
And left a stench foul, horrid, noisome, crude.
From nests of spite, they swooped to raid each day;
Such was their sport, their joy, their awful play.
What crumbs they left did he devour, but still
They sapped his strength, his health, his heart, his will.
The Argonauts, they found this wretched soul,
And asked what thing had taken such a toll:
He knew the men, and called each one by name;
Already Jason was a man of fame;
And he besought them, “Save me from the beasts
Who make of all my food their vulgar feasts;
Zeus’ harpies hound me, leaving me no peace.
I suffer, so I beg you help me please!”
He told them of their many robberies,
And they could smell the stench of their disease;
He told them also that a prophecy
Said Boreas’ sons would from them make him free.
The hearts of both the Boreads arose,
And hearing, both were keen to seek the foes,
But feared the gods, not trusting prophecy;
They wished instead an oath for surety.
So, first by Leto’s son did Phineus swear;
Then those who dwell in the chthonic lair
Invoked he, promising their anger would
Fall not on Boreas’ sons for what was good.
This done, the sons of Boreas desired
To chase the Harpies, and with hope were fired;
So, they prepared the Harpies’ final meal,
Then set it out for feathered hounds to steal.
They stood by Phineus ready to fly
The moment that a Harpy dared swoop by.
They waited not: the Harpies came with speed,
Devouring all, in their insatiate greed.
The feast was gone; the Harpies took to flight,
And left a stench, the savour of their blight.
But Zeus sped Zetes, and Calaïs too;
They rose and swiftly in pursuit they flew.
The Harpies sailed far faster than the gales,
And yet the Boreads nearly grasped their tails;
They harried them until they reached the place
Of Ever-Floating Isles, and then the grace
Of Iris’ voice is heard, and it resounds
To stop the chase and save Zeus’ feathered hounds:
She says that Justice won’t abide the sword
To slay the playthings of Olympus’ lord.
“But yet the Harpies shall not anymore
Rob poor, blind Phineus, nor vex him sore:
The Harpies shall go back into their pen,
And eat no more the fruits of labouring men.”
And Iris swore an oath upon the Styx,
That river by which Earth and Tartarus mix.
This done the Boreads gave up the chase,
And each towards Thynia turned his face;
The Turning Isles then became the name
Of that place where the Boreads did the same;
And to Olympus Iris flew again
To join the king of Heaven’s faithful train;
The Harpies, leashed, could no more vex and rage,
But back in Crete they went into their cage.
Their stench was washed from off Phineus hide;
With overflowing joy, he laughed and cried.
The Argonauts prepared a feast and dined;
Phineus then their future path divined.
The morning after, the people came again,
And as in times of old, Phineus made plain
Their prophecies, receiving gifts of food,
To everyone who came, both high and rude.
But still his blindness could not be removed;
In that, by Zeus, he was as yet reproved.


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.


Long time before Zeus, Hera, Venus, Mars,
Were born, Uranus, cradle of the stars,
He covered Earth, from him the cosmic seed
Did things both noble and ignoble breed;
In Earth he chained them, forbidding them the sky,
Though Earth displeased revenged this by and by.
The constellations framed he in the night,
The twinkling orbs to bring to darkness light;
Galactic structure, filaments unknown,
The depths of space sustained by him alone.
He brought the Titans forth, who for a while,
Ruled over all the Earth by Kronos’ guile:
But Olympian Zeus rose and overthrew
The crooked Kronos, and those with him too;
So reigned again the celestial on high,
Uranus’ descendants, gods of light and sky.

Apollo and the Python

The serpent Python, foe of gods and men,
The crafty, cunning fiend, was defeated when
One child of noble birth, the son of Zeus,
Pulled taut his arrow and sudden let it loose.
For Python, who before had been the nurse,
Of dreadful Typhon, he whom Zeus did curse
(For Zeus, when Typhon rose to overthrow
The gods in heaven, cast to depths below,
Where shades of every kind, of chthonic type,
In Tartarus their lamentations pipe;
Though that horrid beast may on occasion spray
Up fire from below, yet the gods of day
And light and joy he harms not in his rage:
He cannot in his chains even them engage),
Did chase the mother of the golden twin,
And thought against the god of truth to win:
But even in the womb Apollo knew,
Nothing of the Python to be good or true;
And after he was born, still in infant might,
From his mother’s arms he leapt to seize the fight;
He took the bow and loosed a fatal shot,
Then left the Python in a cave to rot;
The god of prophecy he then became,
And snakes forever after lived in shame.
And so this second serpent was destroyed,
And the golden gods at last their peace enjoyed:
Not even to the shades did Apollo send
The noisome beast; its soul met its final end.
The subterranean, though it wail in pain,
Against the heavenly never makes a gain;
The darkness of its soul condemns its plight,
While the light of gods shows them to be right:
The celestial the evil beast won’t brook;
On such they will not even deign to look;
They condemn the same to live underground,
Forever hated, and forever bound.

The Fate of the Fallen

When Zeus conquered Kronos and began to reign,
He meted out the fates of all that did remain;
To Tartarus he sent Kronos to be bound,
Where never more in power shall be found
That crooked one, who could not ever sate
His appetite for power, and his children ate.
His child Typhon too caught a deadly blow,
And was hurled down where Hades reigns below.
And Menoetius, whose fruit was hubris’ bloom,
By Zeus’ thunderbolt met his mighty doom.
His brother Atlas got the captive’s curse;
To serve his conqueror. What could be worse?
Zeus sent Atlas to the ends of the earth,
Where he forced him to hold all heaven’s girth;
Upon his shoulders to bear all the weight
Of great Olympus: such was his tired fate.
The home of the gods, the celestial sphere,
He bore for them without end, year after year,
Until such time as Zeus’ son turned him to stone,
And so forever silenced his weary groan.
Medusa’s Gorgon head did Perseus show,
And so his final fate did on him bestow.

The Right of Might

The king of heaven, Zeus, sent Might, his guard,
To chain Prometheus and put him in ward;
And Violence sent he too to lend his hand,
Lest the judgment fail and the guilty stand
Unpunished for the crimes that he committed;
Though Vulcan begged the felon be acquitted:
But Zeus would not be swayed to turn from Right,
And so he gave command and sent forth Might.
These led Prometheus to the mountain top,
And found a place for him on a rocky crop;
And Might commanded Vulcan take a chain
And bind Prometheus, who cried in vain;
And Vulcan sought in earnest to assuage
The punishment that Zeus meted in his rage:
But Might reminded Vulcan he was charged
To do the will of Zeus who was enlarged
In all his power, holding sovereign sway;
And yet did Vulcan seek to wile by delay.
But Might was quick to threaten, so Vulcan did
As Might commanded what by Zeus was bid.
He bound the Titan thief that stole the fire
And thought that men therewith he could inspire:
By lies and theft the malefactor thought
He could subdue the king with whom he fought:
But cunning trickery only finds a way
When rulers cease to make might and right their way;
And so the thief was bound where his tongue could not
Spread through heaven’s ranks its deceit and rot.
Once he was tightly bound, Vulcan gave a sigh
And said “This is a sight that hurts the eye;
This plight pains the spirit when it observes.”
But Might said “I see he got what he deserves.”
So they left Prometheus where his words
Would be heard by none but wild beasts and birds;
Though he speak a thousand years he’d not succeed
In men or gods to rank rebellion breed.

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.

Zeus Slays Typhon

When Zeus the Titans had vanquished in war,
Then Earth upon the underworld did pour
Her love, and from this union bore a beast,
And a blasting curse did on all release.
This fell fiend was fashioned with the force of fire,
Where’er he dwelled was made a smoking pyre.
It had a hundred heads, each one a snake,
And eyes of fire and mouths from which each spake;
Their tongues were black; their voices did astound,
When from out their mouths their noises did resound
Through all the Earth. Sometimes they bellowed loud
Like bulls; other times they roared like lions proud:
Sometimes like gods immortal did they speak:
But just as oft they whined like puppies meek.
The mountains underneath this monster did
Ghastly echo all it said like servants bid.
And had the voices of the serpent sped,
With all his snaky parts through Earth and spread
His pestilential presence through every field,
Then would gods and men have been forced to yield:
In pits of sulfur serpents might have lain,
And all that’s good and beautiful been slain.
But Zeus spied quick the danger and arose
At once the monster Typhon to oppose:
Through all the Earth his thunder echoed fierce,
And through the fiend his lightning bolts did pierce.
When he arose did Earth and Ocean shake:
In dim Tartatus did old Kronos quake.
Each eye on Typhon’s heads sent out a flame,
Such as Hephaistos wields, that god who’s lame;
The flame of Typhon and the bolts of Zeus,
Upon the Earth and Sea great heat did loose.
The ocean waves did rage and shake their shores,
And Earth did burn, the forests, plains, and moors.
Tartarus shook and Hades quaked with fear,
When in the chthonic depths did appear
The might of Zeus. It terrified those who
With Kronos Zeus in battle did subdue.
Zeus hurled his bolts and burned each snaky head,
And earthquakes heaved wherever he did tread.
He seized a whip and lashed him like a slave,
Then threw him down deformed into his grave.
A fire leapt out from Typhon when the blow
Of Zeus his soul sent to the shades below;
The fire of Typhon struck a mountainside,
And down its side did melted iron slide;
Like Vulcan’s forge a smoke blackened the air,
But Zeus was untouched, unharmed by this affair.
Zeus hurled him to Tartarus in a rage,
And only then his great wrath did assuage.
From Typhon also come winds of fearsome rains,
And dreadful gusts that bring to sailors pains:
The gentle winds the gods send as a gift,
But the evil winds blow great ships adrift;
In violent bursts they scatter and they kill,
And glut the sea until it’s had its fill.
Helpless are the men who meet these winds at sea:
As one they fall to dread calamity.
And if by chance the sea these winds forsake,
And instead a path o’er the Earth do take,
They kick up dust and leave men’s fields a waste,
Ruining the crops that with care they placed.
If likewise from the mouths of men a blast
Of evil words should issue, let them be cast
From out the land, like Typhon was by Zeus,
Lest to better men they bring foul abuse;
For Typhon being thrown down was destroyed,
And gods, and men, and Earth were overjoyed;
In heaven too was joy and gladness spread
When at the hands of Zeus Typhon was dead.

The Defeat of the Titans

The Titan Kronos, crooked slave of age,
Aroused through all his cruelty Zeus’ rage.
Kronos ate his children soon as they were born,
And so left his wife dejected and forlorn:
For prophecy had said he’d be overthrown
By one of his seed that in Earth he’d sown.
But Rhea deceived, and fed him a stone:
And Earth reared Zeus in secret till he was grown.
The sons of Heaven had Ouranos bound
And doomed to live in chains beneath the ground,
In subterranean caves devoid of light,
He imprisoned them in a fit of spite:
But Zeus freed them. The slav’ry was undone.
Also fought with Zeus the great Titan Sun:
The best of all the Titans was Helios,
Who shining destroys whatever Darkness cloaks;
And Oceanos too sided with Zeus;
Since crooked Cronos’ bonds great Zeus did loose.
But Prometheus, who was a lying thief,
Allied with Zeus only to bring him grief:
When the war was over he sought to deceive,
So Zeus of his freedom did him relieve.
Prometheus stole all he ever had,
Even the fire that he thought would make men glad:
This from Hephaistos, the lame servant of Zeus,
Did he take for his own mischievous use.
From different mountains did the forces come,
All the gods with Zeus, with Kronos other some.
Th’ Olympians they had anger in their hearts,
From which they drew the strength to hurl their darts.
Love, the poison, the weakening disease,
Not a moment the heart of Zeus did seize.
For ten full years the war raged between the two,
No side found victory o’er the other crew.
At last to Heaven’s sons great Zeus gave a speech,
“Great sons of Heaven naught is beyond your reach.
Long has been the war, the fight for victory;
Now the day has come to bring calamity
On crooked Kronos, the Titan king. The time
Has come for him to pay for his wicked crime.”
Kottos, Gyes, and Briareus, all
Sons whom Heaven had in anger held in thrall,
These Zeus had freed and thus to them he spoke,
And in their spirits great battle rage awoke.
All that stood with Zeus against the Titan horde,
They clashed with Kronos who before was their lord.
Against the Titans they hurled giant rocks,
And it thundered when great Zeus shook his locks.
The sea roared all around and great heaven groaned,
When the Titans by mighty blows were stoned.
Then Zeus came down from heaven in his wrath,
And his thunderbolts before him blazed a path.
His lightning lit the earth, laying Titans waste;
Before him Terror scattered all in haste.
The forests burned and all the seas were boiled,
And the earthborn Titans to a one were spoiled.
Such a dreadful din of noise filled the air:
But Zeus would not relent nor a one would spare.
Quaking shook the Earth; duststorms swirled about:
Earthborn Titans were put to utter rout.
Even to Chaos, the first of all the gods,
Reached the awful heat of Zeus’ lightning rods.
And wicked Kronos was overthrown at last,
By the strength of Zeus and his awful blast.
And Heaven’s sons they hurled three hundred stones,
And the Titans were wounded to their bones.
In everlasting darkness underground
Were they cast and there by great Zeus were bound.
In Tartarus forever are they chained,
Forever cloaked in Night: so Zeus has deigned.
Before the place Poseidon built a gate,
To keep in prison the Titan king of Hate:
This fate did crooked Kronos justly earn;
This all the wise in all ages do discern.
Kottos, Gyes, and Briareus, they
Whom Zeus had freed before the gates do stay;
As guards these sons of Heaven stand for Zeus,
That never again the Titans be set loose.