But Medeia called gently to him; and he stretched out his long spotted neck, and licked her hand, and looked up in her face, as if to ask for food. Then she made a sign to Orpheus, and he began his magic song.
And as he sung, the forest grew calm again, and the leaves on every tree hung still; and the serpent’s head sank down, and his brazen coils grew limp, and his glittering eyes closed lazily, till he breathed as gently as a child, while Orpheus called to pleasant Slumber, who gives peace to men, and beasts, and waves.
Then Jason leapt forward warily, and stept across that mighty snake, and tore the fleece from off the tree trunk; and the four rushed down the garden, to the bank where the Argo lay.
There was a silence for a moment, while Jason held the golden fleece on high. Then he cried: “Go now, good Argo, swift and steady, if ever you would see Pelion more.”
And she went, as the heroes drove her, grim and silent all, with muffled oars, till the pine wood bent like willow in their hands, and stout Argo groaned beneath their strokes.
On and on, beneath the dewy darkness, they fled swiftly down the swirling stream; underneath black walls, and temples, and the castles of the princes of the East; past sluice mouths, and fragrant gardens, and groves of all strange fruits; past marshes where fat kine lay sleeping, and long beds of whispering reeds; till they heard the merry music of the surge upon the bar, as it tumbled in the moonlight all alone.
Into the surge they rushed, and Argo leapt the breakers like a horse; for she knew the time was come to show her mettle, and win honour for the heroes and herself.
Into the surge they rushed, and Argo leapt the breakers like a horse, till the heroes stopped all panting, each man upon his oar, as she slid into the still broad sea.
Then Orpheus took his harp and sang a paean, till the heroes’ hearts rose high again; and they rowed on stoutly and steadfastly, away into the darkness of the West.
How the Argonauts Were Driven into the Unknown Sea
So they fled away in haste to the westward: but Aietes manned his fleet and followed them. And Lynceus the quick eyed saw him coming, while he was still many a mile away, and cried: “I see a hundred ships, like a flock of white swans, far in the east.” And at that they rowed hard, like heroes; but the ships came nearer every hour.
Then Medeia, the dark witch maiden, laid a cruel and a cunning plot; for she killed Absyrtus her young brother, and cast him into the sea, and said: “Ere my father can take up his corpse and bury it, he must wait long, and be left far behind.”
And all the heroes shuddered, and looked one at the other for shame; yet they did not punish that dark witch woman, because she had won for them the golden fleece.
And when Aietes came to the place, he saw the floating corpse; and he stopped a long while, and bewailed his son, and took him up, and went home. But he sent on his sailors toward the westward, and bound them by a mighty curse: “Bring back to me that dark witch woman, that she may die a dreadful death. But if you return without her, you shall die by the same death yourselves.”