V sec. d.C.

NONNO di PANOPOLI, Dionisiaca, XXV, vv. 31-113


Nimbleknee Perseus, waving his winged feet, held his course near the clouds, a wayfarer pacing throught the air, if he really did fly. But what was the good if he swung his ankles and swam the winds with that strange oarage of legs ? and then crept up on tiptoe, keeping his footfall noiseless, and with hollowed hand and robber’s fist caught the roving eye  of Phorcys’ unsleeping daughter, then shore off the snaky swathe of one Medusa, while her womb was still burdened and swollen with young, still in foal of Pegasus; what good if the sickle played the part of childbirth  Eileithyai, and reaped the neck of the pregnant Gorgon, firstfruits of a horsebreeding nechìk? There was no battle when swiftshoe Perseus lifted the lifeless token of the victory, the snaky sheaf of Gorgon hair, relics of the head  dripping drops of blood, gently wheezing a half-heard hiss though the severed throats: he did not march to battle with men, no din of conflict was there then on land, no maritime Ares on the sea with battle-rousing winds bellied the sails of ships of war against a warrior Perseus, no Lybian Nereus was reddened with showers of blood, no fatal water swallowed a dead body rolling herplessly. No! Perseus fled with flickering wings trembling at the hiss of mad Sthenno’ s hairy snakes, although he bore the cap of Hades and the sickle of Pallas, with Hermes’ wings though Zeus was his father; he sailed a fugitive on swiftest shoes, listening for no trumpet but Euryale’s bellowing –having despoiled a little Lybian hole! He slew no army of men , he burnt no city with fiery torch. Far other was the struggle of Bromios. For Bacchos was no sneaking champion, crawling along in his armour; he laid no ambush for the sentinel eye of Phorcys, the ball of the sleepless eye that passed from hand to hand, giving each her share under the wing of sleep in turn; he won no womanish match over a Medusa unarmed. But he cut the lines of his enemies in a double victory, battle on land and tumult at the ford; he soaked the earth with gore, he mingled the waves with blood, he dyed the Nereids purple in their reddened streams, as a killed the barbarbarian hordes. Great was the harvest of highcrested Indians buried headless in mother hearth; shoals of dead Indians slain by the sharp thyrsus floated  at random and voyaged over  the deep, a moltitude! I pass by that billowy warfare, when the battlestirring river hurled his wafes against invicible Lyaios , when the blazing torch of Bacchos kindled the barbarian stream with a damp spark, and watery Hydaspes with waves boiling hot puffed out smoke from his depths. But you will say, “ Perseus killed a monster of the sea; with the Gorgon’s eye he turned to stone a leviathan of the deep!” What was the good, if Polydectes, looking upon deadly Medusa’s eye, changed his human limbs to another kind and transformed himself into a stone? The terrible exploits  of Bacchos were not one Gorgon, not an airsoaring seabeaten cliff, not a Polydectes. No Bacchos reaped the stubble of snakehaired giants, a conquering hero with a tiny manbreaking wand, when he cast the battling ivy against Porphyrion, when he buffeted Encelaados and drove off Alcyones with a volleyof leaves: then the wands flew in showers, and brought the eathborn down in defence of Olympos, when the coiling sons of Earth with two hundreds hands, who pressed the starry vault with manynecked heads, bent the knee before a flimsy javelin of vineleaves or a spear of ivy. Not so great a swarm fell to the fiery thunderbolt as fell to the manbreaking thyrsus. Is he proud of the golden wooing of Zeus? But rainy Zeus did not raise Danae to his heaven, to glorify a few loving drops of creative dew in that furtive union. ......; but Danae receveid no home in Olympos. She the bride of Zeus went voyaging in a chest over the sea, regretting the deceitful rain of wedded love, after the unstable  happines  of  a passing shower.