Изображения страниц

Then follows a long fabulous account of this sign, which gives in detail the history of the Golden Fleece, so celebrated by writers who have left us accounts of the Argonautic Expedition, and of the Loves of Medea and Jason. Some writers have maintained that the sign Aries has some connexion with the Paschal Lamb of the Israelites and of the Paschal Tapers of the Catholics. At all events, it is derived from the Golden Fleece of the Argonautic Expedition; and the term Phryxea, used by Ovid, will be found explained by the accounts left of that voyage, which took place in the ship Argo, about 79 years before the taking of Troy, or 1263 B.C. The causes of this.expedition arose from the following circumstance:– Athamas, King of Thebes, had married Ino the daughter of Cadmus, whom he divorced to marry Nephele, by whom he had two children, Phryxus and Helle. As Nephele was subject to certain fits of madness, Athamas repudiated her, and took a second time Ino, by whom he had soon after two sons, Learchus and Melicerta. As the children of Nephele were to succeed to their father by right of birth, Ino conceived an immortal hatred against them, and she caused the city of Thebes to be visited by a pestilence, by poisoning all the grain which had been sown in the earth. Upon this the oracle was consulted; and as it had been corrupted by means of Ino, the answer was, that Nephele's children should be immolated to the gods. Phryxus was apprised of this, and he immediately embarked with his sister Helle, and fled to the court of Æetes, King of Colchis, one of his near relations. In the voyage Helle died, and Phryxus arrived safe at Colchis, and was received with kindness by the king. The poets have embellished the flight of Phryxus, by supposing that he and Helle fled through the air on a Ram which had a golden fleece and wings, and was endowed with the faculties of speech. This Ram, as they say, was the offspring of Neptune's amours, under the form of a Ram, with the nymph Theophane. As they were going to be sacrificed, the Ram took them on his back, and instantly disappeared in the air. On their way Helle was giddy, and fell into that part of the sea which from her was called the Hellespont. When Phryxus came to Colchis, he sacrificed the Ram to Jupiter, or according to others, to Mars, to whom he also dedicated the Golden Fleece. He soon after married Chalciope the daughter of Æetes; but his father in law envied him the possession of the Golden Fleece, and therefore to obtain it he murdered him. Some time after this event, when Jason, the son of Aeson, demanded of his uncle Pelias the crown which he usurped, Pelias said that he would restore it to him, pro

vided he avenged the death of their common relation, Phryxus, whom Aeetes had basely murdered in Colchis. Jason, who was in the vigour of youth, and of an ambitious soul, cheerfully undertook the expedition, and embarked with all the young princes of Greece in the ship Argo. They stopped at the island of Lemnos, where they remained two years, and raised a new race of men from the Lemnian women who had murdered their husbands. After they had left Lemnos, they visited Samothrace, where they offered sacrifices to the gods, and thence passed to Troas and Cyzicum. Here they met with a favourable reception from Cyzicus, the king of the country. The night after their departure, they were driven back by a storm again on the coast of Cyzicum ; and the inhabitants, supposing them to be their enemies, the Pelasgi, furiously attacked them. In this nocturnal engagement the slaughter was great, and Cyzicus was killed by the hand of Jason, who, to expiate the murder he had ignorantly committed, buried him in a magnificent manner, and offered a sacrifice to the mother of the gods, to whom he built a temple on Mount Dindymus. From Cyzicum they visited Bebrycia, otherwise called Bithynia, where Pollux accepted the challenge of Amycus, king of the country, in the combat of the cestus, and slew him. They were driven from Bebrycia by a storm, to Salmydessa, on the coast of Thrace, where they delivered Phineus, king of the place, from the persecution of the harpies. Phineus directed their course through the Cyanean rock or the Symplegades, and they safely entered the Euxine sea. They visited the country of the Mariandynians, where Lycus reigned, and lost two of their companions, Idmon, and Tiphys their pilot. After they had left this coast, they were driven upon the island of Arecia, where they found the children of Phryxus, whom Aeetes their grandfather had sent to Greece to take possession of their father's kingdom. From this island they at last arrived safe in Aea, the capital of Colchis. Jason explained the causes of his voyage to Aeetes; but the conditions on which he was to recover the Golden Fleece, were so hard, that the Argonauts must have perished in the attempt, had not Medea, the king's daughter, fallen in love with their leader. She had a conference with Jason, and after mutual oaths of fidelity in the temple of Hecate, Medea pledged herself to deliver the Argonauts from her father's hard conditions, if Jason married her, and carried her with him to Greece. He was to tame two Bulls, which had brazen feet and horns, and which vomited clouds of fire and smoke, and to tie them to a plough made of adamant stone, and to plough a field of two acres of ground never

before cultivated. After this he was to sow in the plain the teeth of a Dragon, from which an armed multitude were to rise up, and to be all destroyed by his hands. This done, be was to kill an ever watchful dragon, which was at the Lottom of the tree on which the Golden Fleece was suspended. All these labours were to be performed in one day; and Medea's assistance, whose knowledge of herbs, magic, and potions, was unparalleled, easily extricated Jason from all danger, to the astonishment and terror of his companions, and of Aeetes, and the people of Colchis, who had assembled to be spectators of this wonderful action. He tamed the Bulls with ease, ploughed the field, sowed the Dragon's teeth, and when the armed men sprang from the earth, he threw a stone in the midst of them, and they immediately turned their weapons one against the other, till they all perished. After this he went to the Dragon, and by means of enchanted herbs, and a draught which Medea had given him, he lulled the monster to sleep, and obtained the Golden Fleece, and immediately set sail with Medea. He was soon pursued by Absyrtus, the king's son, who came up to them, and was seized and murdered by Jason and Medea. The mangled limbs of Absyrtus were strewed in the way through which Aeetes was to pass, that his farther pursuit might be stopped. After the murder of Absyrtus, they entered the Palus Maeotis, and by pursuing their course towards the left, (according to the foolish account of poets who were ignorant of geography,) they came to the island Peucestes, and to that of Circe. Here Circe informed Jason, that the cause of all his calamities arose from the murder of Absyrtus, of which she refused to expiate him. Soon after, they entered the Mediterranean by the columns of Hercules, and passed the straits of Charybdis and Scylla, where they must have perished, had not Tethys, the mistress of Peleus, one of the Argonauts, delivered them. They were preserved from the Sirens by the eloquence of Orpheus, and arrived in the island of the Phaeacians, where they met the enemy's feet, which had continued their pursuit by a different course. It was therefore resolved that Medea should be restored, if she had not been actually married to Jason; but the wife of Alcinoüs, the king of the country, being appointed umpire between the Colchians and Argonauts, had the marriage privatelyconsummated by night, and declared that the claims of Aeetes to Medea were now void. Prom Phaeacia the Argonauts came to the bay of Ambracia, whence they were driven by a storm upon the coast of Africa, and after many disasters, at last came in sight of the promontory of Melea, in the Peloponnesus, where Jason was purified of the murder of Absyrtus, and soon after arrived safe in Thessaly. The impracticability of such a voyage is well known. Apollonius Rhodius gives another account equally improbable. He says, that they sailed from the Euxine up one of the mouths of the Danube, and that Absyrtus pursued them by entering another mouth of the river. After they had continued their voyage for some leagues, the waters decreased, and they were obliged to carry the ship Argo across the country to the Adriatic, upwards of 150 miles. Here they met with Absyrtus, who had pursued the same measures, and conveyed his ships in like manner over the land. Absyrtus was immediately put to death; and soon after the beam of Dodona gave an oracle, that Jason should never return home, if he were not previously purified of the murder. Upon this they sailed to the island of Aea, where Circe, who was the sister of Aeetes, expiated him without knowing who he

as. There is a third tradition which maintains, that they returned to Colchis a second time, and visited many places of Asia.

March 19. St. Joseph. St. Alemund, Martyr.
VERNAL EQUINOX. Orises at vi, and sets at vi.

Quinquatria Minervae.-Rom. Cal. The Vernal Equinox is that point in the heavens where the Sun appears when the day and night are of equal length. From this point the longitudes of the planetary bodies are calculated.

On the Precession of the Equinox.—The equinoctial points are always westering, that is, getting back among the preceding signs of stars, at the rate of about fifty seconds each year, which retrogade motion is called the precession, or sometimes the retrocession, of the equinoxes. As then the fixed stars remain immoveable, and the equinoxes go backward, the stars will seem to move more and more eastward with respect to them ; whence the longitudes of the stars, which are reckoned from the first point of Aries, are continually increasing. On this account, the interval of time between any equinox, and that same equinox, in the following revolution of the earth, which is called the tropical year, is some minutes shorter than the sidereal year, or the period in which the earth revolves from one point of her orbit to the same point again; and, because the retrograde motion of the equinoctial points thus advances during the time of every equinox a little sooner than it would otherwise have

happened, this phenomenon is called the 'precession of the equinoxes.'

Hence it is that the constellations have all changed the places assigned them by the ancient astronomers. In the time of Hipparchus, the equinoctial points were fixed to the first stars of Aries and of Libra; but the signs are now no longer in the same points, and the stars which were then in conjunction with the Sun, when he was in the equinox, are now a whole sign, or thirty degrees, to the east of it. Thus, the first star of Aries is now in that portion of the ecliptic called Taurus; and the first star of Taurus now resides in Gemini, and Gemini is advanced into Cancer. By this retrograde motion the equinoxes will have made their revolution westward, and will be returned to Aries again, or the constellations will have made theirs eastward, and will again fall into their former places, with regard to the equinoxes, in 25,816 years, according to Tycho Brahè; in 25,920 years, according to Ricciolus; and in 24,800, according to Cassini; and then, and not before, the same stars, which at present mark the equinoctial points and corresponding longitudes, will, by the Earth's motion, mark them over again.

FAUNA. Many fish now come up the rivers to spawn, particularly the Smelt Salmo eperlanus. This fish is all the year found on the coasts, for they rarely leave it to go to any great distance, except at the spawning season. The Smelt has a peculiar odour, which is commonly compared to that of a cucumber. This fish varies in size, sometimes measuring twelve inches and upwards in length, and weighing half a pound.

Bees now venture out of their hives. There are several species of Bees, natives of Great Britain; but it is the common Honey Bee Apis mellifica which has been so long and justly celebrated for its wonderful polity, the neatness and precision with which it constructs its cells, and the diligence with which it provides, during the warmth of Summer, a supply of food for the support of the hive during the rigours of the succeeding winter. A hive contains three kinds of Bees. 1. A single Queen Bee, distinguishable by the length of her body, and the proportional shortness of her wings. 2. Working Bees, or neuters, to the amount of many thousands : these are the smallest sized Bees in the hive, and are armed with a sting. 3. Drones, or males, to the number, perhaps, of 1500 or 2000: these are larger than the workers, and are of a darker colour; they make a greater noise in flying, and have no sting. The whole labour of the community is performed by the workers: they elaborate the wax and construct the cells; they collect the honey and


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »