Padraic Colum > The Golden Fleece > Part III. The Heroes of the Quest > Chapter II. Peleus and His Bride from the Sea > I
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Padraic Colum (1881–1972).  The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived before Achilles.  1921.

Part III. The Heroes of the Quest
 
Chapter II. Peleus and His Bride from the Sea
 
I
 
PRINCE PELEUS came on his ship to a bay on the coast of Thessaly. His painted ship lay between two great rocks, and from its poop he saw a sight that enchanted him. Out from the sea, riding on a dolphin, came a lovely maiden. And by the radiance of her face and limbs Peleus knew her for one of the immortal goddesses.   1
  Now Peleus had borne himself so nobly in all things that he had won the favor of the gods themselves. Zeus, who is highest amongst the gods, had made this promise to Peleus: he would honor him as no one amongst the sons of men had been honored before, for he would give him an immortal goddess to be his bride.   2
  She who came out of the sea went into a cave that was overgrown with vines and roses. Peleus looked into the cave and he saw her sleeping upon skins of the beasts of the sea. His heart was enchanted by the sight, and he knew that his life would be broken if he did not see this goddess day after day. So he went back to his ship and he prayed: “O Zeus, now I claim the promise that you once made to me. Let it be that this goddess come with me, or else plunge my ship and me beneath the waves of the sea.”   3
  And when Peleus said this he looked over the land and the water for a sign from Zeus.   4
  Even then the goddess sleeping in the cave had dreams such as had never before entered that peaceful resting place of hers. She dreamt that she was drawn away from the deep and the wide sea. She dreamt that she was brought to a place that was strange and unfree to her. And as she lay in the cave, sleeping, tears that might never come into the eyes of an immortal lay around her heart.   5
  But Peleus, standing on his painted ship, saw a rainbow touch upon the sea. He knew by that sign that Iris, the messenger of Zeus, had come down through the air. Then a strange sight came before his eyes. Out of the sea rose the head of a man; wrinkled and bearded it was, and the eyes were very old. Peleus knew that he who was there before him was Nereus, the ancient one of the sea.   6
  Said old Nereus: “Thou hast prayed to Zeus, and I am here to speak an answer to thy prayer. She whom you have looked upon is Thetis, the goddess of the sea. Very loath will she be to take Zeus’s command and wed with thee. It is her desire to remain in the sea, unwedded, and she has refused marriage even with one of the immortal gods.”   7
  Then said Peleus, “Zeus promised me an immortal bride. If Thetis may not be mine I cannot wed any other, goddess or mortal maiden.”   8
  “Then thou thyself wilt have to master Thetis,” said Nereus, the wise one of the sea. “If she is mastered by thee, she cannot go back to the sea. She will strive with all her strength and all her wit to escape from thee; but thou must hold her no matter what she does, and no matter how she shows herself. When thou hast seen her again as thou didst see her at first, thou wilt know that thou hast mastered her.” And when he had said this to Peleus, Nereus, the ancient one of the sea, went under the waves.   9

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