PERSEUS AND ANDROMEDA
BY V. C. TURNBULL
On the shores of the Great Sea there dwelt in ancient
times a simple folk of shepherds and tillers of the
ground, who called themselves the Blameless Ęthiops.
They were a pious race, and worshiped in particular
Atergatis, Queen of the Fishes. Year by year they dwelt
in peace among their flocks and herds, their fields of barley
and flax, and their vines that bore purple grapes on
the sunny hillsides.
But a great trouble fell upon this happy folk. For
the earth heaved and yawned, and the dwellings of the
people fell, and the sea poured in on the land, flooding
and laying waste the golden harvest fields. Then a
greater terror followed, for out of the sea rose a monster
huge and terrible, such as never man had seen. Riding
on the flood he came, bearing down upon the terrified
people, and into his maw he swept their fattest sheep
and kine, and also, alas! their fairest sons and daughters.
And thus he came night after night, till the people's
hearts failed them, and in their utter misery they sought
counsel of their king. And King Cepheus spoke unto
them, and said: "Surely, my people, ye have sinned,
and offended our great sea-god. Let us go to his temple
and offer gifts, and inquire of his priests, and learn
which of you has sinned."
So they went with their King Cepheus to consult the
priests of the sea-gods whom they worshiped. And when
many sacrifices had been offered, the priests cast lots
to find who it was who had angered the gods and caused
them to plague the land. And the lot fell upon Cassiopœia,
Then Cassiopœia stood up before all the people, her
ebon hair falling to her feet and her eyes shining with
tears, as she cried, and said: "O my friends, I have
sinned in my pride, and brought this evil on your homes.
For not many days since my heart was lifted up and I
boasted myself fairer than all the Nereids. And they,
hearing, have risen in their wrath to avenge the insult.
Pardon me, O my friends, for thus have I drawn desolation
upon our land."
And all the people were silent, but the priests made
answer: "Truly hast thou spoken, O Queen, and assuredly
has thy boasting been our curse. Now, therefore,
take thy daughter Andromeda and bind her to a
rock on the seashore, so that when the monster cometh
again he shall see that we have given him our best, even
our king's daughter. Perchance he will have mercy and
spare her when he sees our repentance, but anywise he
will depart whence he came and trouble us no more."
Then King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopœia rose up
and went down to their palace in grief too great for
tears. And they took Andromeda, their only child, the
fairest maiden in the land, and withal the tenderest and
truest, and carried her down to the sea-shore. And all
the people followed, weeping bitterly, for to many of
them Andromeda had spoken kind words, and to not a
few had she done gracious deeds. Yet when they thought
on their own desolate homes, where no children played,
they told themselves that the young princess must die
for the people.
So they led Andromeda to the base of a sea-washed
crag, and riveted her white arms with chains of brass to
the black rock. And Cassiopœia, kissing her, cried: "O
child, forgive thy wretched mother!"
And Andromeda answered: "It is not thou, mother,
but the sea-god who hath done me to death."
And the queen kissed her yet again, and departed
weeping. All the people followed, and night fell, and
she was left alone. Out of the sky looked down the white
moon behind the cloud rack, and not more fair was she
than this maiden standing on the black rock like a white
statue, half hid by the streaming locks that rippled to her
So all night she stood and waited for her doom, most
time mute with terror, but at whiles lamenting, and calling
on the gods for pity. But no answer came save the
thunder of the sea upon the rocks and the scream of the
sea-birds wheeling between earth and sky.
Morning came, flinging roses from her car and scattering
gold across the waters, and as those in bitterest
pain of heart take strange note of passing things, Andromeda's
eyes, dull and despairing, watched the sea-birds
at their play. Among them came one flying swifter
and greater than osprey or sea-eagle, and the gulls all
dived at his approach. As the winged form drew nigh
Andromeda was aware that this was no sea-bird; and
soon she perceived a youth, godlike and strong, whose
plumed sandals carried him over the deep as lightly as
if he had been indeed a bird. Blue as the sea were his
eyes, and his hair shone in the morning sun like spun
gold. From his shoulder floated a goat-skin, on his arm
he carried a brazen shield, and on his thigh hung a sword
that flashed like diamonds in the sun. Straight to
Andromeda he flew, and putting back the hair that covered
her face he gazed into her eyes with love and pity,
as he cried: "O maiden, beautiful and pitiful, what
cruelty hath brought thee to this pass?"
But Andromeda, wan and weak after the terrors of the
night, could only hang her head and weep. So Perseus
drew his diamond sword and smote through her chains,
and gathered her, set free, to his breast. But when she
had wept there a little space Andromeda thrust him away
with a sharp cry.
"Oh, leave me!" she wailed, "for I am the accursed
one, the victim offered to the angry gods. Come not between
me and my doom, for I suffer in the people's
"Never will I leave thee," answered Perseus, "and
never shalt thou suffer while I have strength to draw
sword in thy defense."
But Andromeda only wept the more and begged him
again to be gone, and he, thinking to calm her, again
entreated to hear the story of her sad plight. So
Andromeda told him why she was being offered up to
the monster, and as she finished speaking, her eyes, wandering
seaward, widened with horror, and she shrieked
aloud: "It comes! it comes! Oh, kind and godlike youth,
fly ere it is too late! Leave me; let not thine eyes behold
my shameful end!"
But Perseus, kissing the tears from her face, laughed
aloud and made a mock of the great fish-beast which even
now, like a leviathan of the deep, could be seen plowing
its way towards them across the sea.
"Shall I flee from a beast of the deep?" he asked.
"Maiden, my father was Jupiter, king of the gods, and
the great goddess Minerva hath me under her protection.
From her I received this shield, and from Mercury,
swiftest of the gods, a cap of darkness, these sandals,
and this sword. Then, at Minerva's bidding, I sped
northward through regions where man nor beast hath
trodden. There found I the Gray Sisters, and snatched
from them their one eye, keeping it till they told me the
way to the garden of the Hesperides. And from the
maidens in that garden I learned the secret dwelling-place
of the gorgon Medusa, the very sight of whose face
turns all men to stone. Her, at the bidding of Minerva,
I slew, using the shield as a mirror and looking not on
the gorgon's face as I shore off her viper-crowned head.
Seven years have these adventures filled; very far have
I traveled and many perils known. And shall I now
turn back from a beast of the sea?"
And he laughed again, and his laughter rang so joyously
through the morning air that some comfort stole
even into the sad heart of Andromeda; but still she besought
him to go.
"Many hath the sea-beast slain," she pleaded; "and
why should he slay thee? Shall two perish instead of
one? Strong-limbed art thou and brave; but what mortal
shall stand against that strength? Never have I
known fairer or gentler man than thou, and why should'st
thou die? Seven years hath thy mother awaited thy
homecoming, and shall her eyes see thee nevermore?"
And when she had said this, Andromeda hid her face
in her hair, sobbing very bitterly as she added: "Surely
some maiden longeth for thee afar; and shall she go longing
to her grave?"
But ere Perseus could answer there came a roar from
the sea, and looking down they saw that the monster was
at hand. His great snout, pouring forth fountains of
sea-water, lay already on the rocks, his vast scaly body,
shells clinging to its scales and seaweeds dripping down
its sides, rolled like some water-logged hulk; his tail,
curling, coil upon coil, to the horizon, lashed the waters
till they were white with foam, and the sea-birds
screamed as before him the fishes fled leaping.
Then Perseus, pausing not an instant, drew forth from
under his goat-skin the fatal head of Medusa, the sight
of which is death, and gripping it by its viper locks, he
swooped like a hawk upon the monster as it rose to
clamber up the beach. And the monster's great eyes
rolled upward, blinking and wicked; but when they saw
the Medusa they became fixed in a ghastly stare. And
a great spasm ran through the sea-beast from snout to
tail—a shiver, and then no motion or breath or sign of
life, for that which had been a monster was now nothing
but a long black rock.
Then Perseus went back to Andromeda and showed
her that her enemy was indeed dead, and Andromeda,
after all her sorrows, was now the happiest maiden in the
land. And all the people, hearing what had happened,
came down to the shore with laughter and dancing and
singing, and carried Andromeda and Perseus to the palace
of the king and queen, who sat sorrowing for their
daughter, deeming her already dead. And they, when
they heard the glad tidings, rose up and embraced their
daughter who had come back to them, as it were, from
the grave, and gave her to Perseus to wife, begging him
to stay with them for a while before he carried home
So Perseus stayed with Cepheus and Cassiopœia and
their dark-haired Ęthiopians for the space of a year,
teaching them many things; and after that he built himself
a ship of cedar-wood, and in it he sailed with
Andromeda to Seriphos among the Isles of Greece, where
his mother had waited for him seven years. And after
a little while Perseus became King of Argos in the place
of his grandfather Acrisius. Long and glorious was his
reign, and fair Andromeda bore him four sons and three
daughters. And when after many days Perseus died,
the gods took him up into the sky. Who has not seen
on a starlight night Cassiopœia seated on her golden
throne? There, too, is Perseus, still holding the
Medusa's head, and beside him is Andromeda, still
stretching out her starry arms to embrace her enstarred