Perseus the Hero

We call such a man a hero in English to this day, and call it a 'heroic' thing to suffer pain and grief, that we may do good to our fellow-men.Charles Kingsley.

In the pleasant land of Argos, now a place of unwholesome marshes, once upon a time there reigned a king called Acrisius, the father of one fair daughter. Danaë was her name, and she was very dear to the king until a day when he longed to know what lay hid for him in the lap of the gods, and consulted an oracle. With hanging head he returned from the temple, for the oracle had told him that when his daughter Danaë had borne a son, by the hand of that son death must surely come upon him. And because the fear of death was in him more strong than the love of his daughter, Acrisius resolved that by sacrificing her he would baffle the gods and frustrate Death itself. A great tower of brass was speedily built at his command, and in this prison Danaë was placed, to drag out her weary days.

But who can escape the designs of the gods? From Olympus great Zeus himself looked down and saw the air princess sighing away her youth. And, full of pity and of love, he himself entered the brazen tower in a golden shower, and Danaë became the bride of Zeus and happily passed with him the time of her imprisonment.

To her at length was born a son, a beautiful and  kingly child, and great was the wrath of her father when he had tidings of the birth. Did the gods in the high heavens laugh at him? The laugh should yet be on his side. Down to the seashore he hurried Danaë and her newly-born babe, the little Perseus, put them in a great chest, and set them adrift to be a plaything for winds and waves and a prey for the cruel and hungry sea.

When in the cunningly-wrought chest the raging blast and the stirred billow and terror fell upon her, with tearful cheeks she cast her arm around Perseus and spake, Alas, my child, what sorrow is mine! But thou slumberest, in baby-wise sleeping in this woeful ark; midst the darkness of the brazen rivet thou shinest and in the swart gloom sent forth; thou heedest not the deep foam of the passing wave above thy locks nor the voice of the blast as thou liest in thy purple covering, a sweet face. If terror had terrors for thee, and thou wert giving ear to my gentle words—I bid thee sleep, my babe, and may the sea sleep and our measureless woe; and may change of fortune come forth, Father Zeus, from thee. For that I make my prayer in boldness and beyond right, forgive me.Simonides of Keos.