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▶  More from Histories Off Stand the Wolves
Fettered Seahawk
Off Stand the Wolves 6
Having reached the sand, the well-paved streets behind him,
Jason was greeted by his waving men, and like they, was amazed at Acastus, in fine double cloak and Argus in hanging, black bull hide, fleetly defying the king to join them. [1]
Not woman in the least, Jason left unasked the many questions that their act brought to mind and declared a council.
In a moment, half seated on the furled sail and the others upon the mast, they heard Jason’s address:
“Argo is ready and eager.
We are partners in the quest to Kolkhis,
Partners too in our return to Hellas.
You must choose a leader;
Argo must have a master,
We must have a trusted guide,
When strangers are met this man will call them friend or enemy—all rests on his shoulders.”
Every head turned,
Every eye rested with confidence,
On the mighty form of Herakles,
The hero sitting matchless in their midst.
With an impatient shrug of his shoulders,
A cut of his hand, Herakles rumbled:
“Do not burden me with your care.
He who summons, leads, Jason—
Disagree if you dare!”
Buoyed by the wrath of Herakles, [2]
Jason graciously accepted the band’s unanimous acclaim.
Delighted with his command, Jason directed:
“Enough delays,
Argo must launch,
Helios must be honored,
And you men must load and crew Her.”
Without another word—outfaring rites were known to all—Jason stripped and stood first to the work,
His men doing likewise,
Piling their clothes on a rock,
A ledge once scoured by winter seas, now ages dry.
At a word from Argus, Her shipwright,
They girded Argo with tight-wound rope,
So when wicked seas pounded her belly
No plank would spring from its bolt. [3]
They dug a trench down to the sea,
Wide enough for Her beam,
Even into the sea,
Long enough for Her stem,
Lined it with rollers,
Tipper her by the belly,
Racked the oars inward,
A fist length through the thole without— [4]
Seizing these, their pushing handles,
As Typhus, aged mariner leapt aboard and sung the harsh notes of the pushing song.
They grunted the answering chant
And ran Her down to the sea,
Smoke rising from the rollers,
Between the ranks of shouting men,
Swift as a bird she swooped down—
And would have voyaged on alone,
Had they not hawsered Her to shore. [5]
There she floated, waiting for men and god.
They brought Her mast,
Hung Her sail,
Swung Her oars,
Decked Her sides,
Loaded Her stores,
Cast lots for their benches—accepting Herakles and Ankaeus, who would pull at mid ship,
With Typhus elected to steer. [6]
All had filled Her hold,
Tested Her deck,
Checked their thole,
Except Jason, loathe to embark,
Until his God, had been honored and appeased,
Until he had pleased He who drove back the Dark.
1. The king’s authority literally did not extend beyond the city walls. His errant son and subject would camp the night on the beach a few bow shots away.
2. This is the classic relationship of the leader with the alienated figure, who, instead of acting as a divisive rival, or acting as a saboteur, assigns himself a supporting role.
3. In a later age, Viking craft would be built unbolted of overlapping planks to achieve the same durability. Dhows plying the Arabian Sea would employ coconut fiber rope for lashing planks for similar durability in heavy seas.
4. A fist length was a pugdon, the same measurement as the cubit, from the elbow, except that the cubit measured to the finger tips of the open hand, and the pugdon to the knuckles of the closed fist. The thole is the locking hole through which oars are stowed inward or deployed outward.
5. Hawsers are the array of rope and pulleys used to moor a ship to the shore and even winch it along by levering against its own anchor.
6. This was not yet accomplished with a rudder attached to a ship’s wheel, but rather a broad sweep controlled by a beam, a matter requiring quite some strength.
He: Gilgamesh: Into the Face of Time
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