The Quest of Heracles

by Hugh McCulloch

Hugh McCulloch


A tiny boat, most men would scarcely dare
To journey far in, almost like a toy.
But strongly built, well jointed everywhere.

While he began with eagerness of joy
To make her ready, storing meat and wine
Within her, he beheld a half-grown boy

Toward him running, making many a sign
For him to wait And when the boy drew near
He prayed by all the immortal ones divine

That he might go ; for he was used to steer,
He said, and skilled to row and set the sail.
Inured to hardship, destitute of fear.

And longed to link his name to some brave tale
As friend to her^. Then the Hero bent
His gaze upon the lad, nor saw him quail

Beneath the scrutiny, and was content
To have him come, he looked so fair and brave.
So westward then the boy and Hero went.

By daylight tossed they westward o'er the wave.
At night upon some shore they beached their boat,
When shore appeared and welcoming shelter gave.

Or else, compelled beneath the stars to float,
They talked the night away, of valourous deed
Discoursing, or retold some tale of note.


To where eternal verities abide.

But when from out the palpitating East

The imperial moon in majesty doth ride,
We turn us from the fading stars, to feast

Our eyes upon the glory of her state,

Our worship of the infinite increased.
So Heracles, when he had passed the gate

With his companion, quite forgot the sound

Which lately made his weary heart wax great,
And led him into this enchanted ground.

He found him in the entrance to a glen

Whose flowers, and trees,and perfumed rivers drowned
The memories which had haunted him till then :

The thoughts of mortal infamy and pain,

The murmuring multitudes of weary men.
The agony of sinew and of brain.

Amidst the garden's melody and spice,

A&r, across the joy enmantled plain,
Flamed Argos with his hundred glowing eyes,

The guardian of the treasure-bearing tree.

Forever fiercer grew hb glowing dyes.
And ever more in dreams of luxury

The Hero's fancy plunged. Upon the green

Lay maidens, glancing carelessly to see


As he approached the sacred tree and old,
The eyes that menaced him with raging heat
Grew fainter in their colouring, grew cold ;

And feding into some unseen retreat
They were not. As if Argos had not been,
But seemed to be to frighten from the feat

The dauntless Hero, who could yield to sin,
To lust, and combat, but who mocked despair,
And every cowardice contained therein.

Bewildered, for a moment stood he there.
Then laughed to think of Argos fled away,
So silent and so strange, he knew not where ;

Then shook the tree until the apples lay
A-glimmering in the flower-besprinkled grass.
And gathering them he said : ''No time for play !

Upon our homeward journey must we pass
To And us fresh adventures to pursue.''
The boy, now weary, answered him : "Alas I

Thou hast the prize ; what further wouldst thou do ?
What thou hast toiled for wilt thou give to one
That hath done nothing? If old tales are true.

This fruit is precious. Glowing like the sun
It makes the owner mighty ; keep it then."
But Heracles : " When once a deed is done.

Last updated August 24, 2017