My friend is trying to put together a script and performance of the story of Jason and the Argonauts, and I said I would write some things for the script. He hasn’t made as much progress on this as I had hoped (get to work, !)…
but I wound up writing Argonautica:II as a speech that a Greek-style chorus could recite while Jason is off killing the dragon. I’m almost done with another piece, Argonautica: I, which is a speech for the citizens of Colchis, speaking back and forth to one another, wondering about the approaching ship. That one consciously alternates between men and women; this one could do that, but that may be for someone else to decide — probably .
a canzone by me
Jason came in a hollow ship, from Greece,
Seeking treasure from our land and king,
A token of Diane, the Golden Fleece
That brought Agamemnon’s daughter from Greece –
Who thus released from sacrifice and pain
Vowed never again to return to Greece
But stayed in Colchis. Now the sacred fleece
Hangs in an oak grove where it shall abide
‘til the world’s ending. Its jaws gaping wide,
a fire-breathing dragon guards the fleece.
Our king, Aeëtes, heard Jason’s demand
And gave his own impossible command.
Jason must slay the wyrm with his own hand,
Before he dares to touch the Golden Fleece;
And then he must plant each tooth in the sand.
So the power inherent in the land
Will rouse the dragon tooth and make it sing:
Each tooth will grow an armed and armored man,
Each a warrior with spear close to hand;
And each shall have but one thought in his brain:
To visit death on his planter, and pain.
Thus does Aeëtes, to ill purpose bend
The sailor’s visit. Custom far and wide
Permits no harm to a visitor’s hide –
By deliberate act. Yet the gods let slide
Cases where travelers make their own end.
Even a minor gift may be denied
To unwelcome guests. So Aeëtes tried
To ruin Jason who comes for the Fleece.
None comes to Colchis from the farther side
Of the Black Sea to get an easy ride.
Aeëtes is a wise and cunning king:
Since Jason landed, he has been plotting.
Thus in public he grinned and smiled wide,
While scheming that he might the Fleece retain,
So Jason died – and the king’s hands stayed clean.
Alas, then! The king’s heart must surely keen!
Medea might have been his ally’s bride,
Since he kept his daughter free from all stain;
Still the sight of Jason twisted her brain.
Now she has magic and knowledge to lend
To make the dragon sleep, and send the rain
So dragon-fire will not even stain
The brazen arms of the sailor from Greece.
With her help, he might seize the Golden Fleece!
No storied future shall Colchis attain
Without the luckiness the Fleece must bring.
Medea’s betrayal must shame our king.
Yet if King Aeëtes did any thing
He would blacken the land with dreadful stain,
And Colchis would linger when poets sing
As the home of beasts, with a wicked king.
The Cyclops were ruined when Homer lied:
Poseidon’s son became cannibal-king.
As Ariadne with her magic string
Led Theseus to the Labyrinth’s end,
We wait to learn what the Goddess intend.
The Argonaut may yet outwit our king,
Slaying the dragon, and seizing the Fleece,
And Medea, too, will leave us for Greece.
Look – Jason comes from the field of the Fleece,
With a bag of dragon-teeth in his hand,
And Medea the princess at his side.
Thus do triumphant heroes always gain
Honors from battle, and hate from the king.