BELLEROPHON

Bellerophon
Son of Glaucus
Grandson of Sisyphus
Left Corinth under a cloud
Having first killed one
Bellerus
(which earned him his nickname)
And then his own brother
Deliades.

He fled as a suppliant to
Proteus
King of Tiryns
. . but . .
Anteia
Wife to Proetus
Fell in love with him at sight.

When he rejected her advances
She accused him of having tried
To seduce her
And Proetus
Who believed the story
Grew incensed.

Yet he dared not risk
The Furies' vengeance
By the direct murder
Of a supplicant
And therefore sent him to
Anteia's father Iobates
King of Lycia
Carrying a sealed letter
Which read:
'Pray remove the bearer
From this world;
He has tried to violate my wife,
Your daughter.'

Iobates
Equally loth
To ill-treat a royal guest
Asked
Bellerophon to do him
The service of destroying
The Chimaera
A fire-breathing she-monster
With lion's head
Goat's body, and
Serpent's tail.

'She is'
He explained
'A daughter of Echidne
Whom my enemy
The King of Caria
Has made
A household pet.'

Before setting about this task
Bellerophon
Consulted the seer
Polyeidne
Who advised him
Catch and tame
The winged horse
Pegasus
Beloved by the Muses
Of Mount Helicon
For whom he created
The well Hippocrene
By stamping
His moon-shaped
Hoof.

Pegasus
Was absent from
Helicon
But Bellerophon
Found him drinking at
Peirene
On the Acropolis of Corinth
Another of his
Wells.

Bellerophon
Threw over his head
A golden bridle
Athene's timely
Gift.

Bellerophon
Overcame the Chimaera
By flying above her
On Pegasus' back
Riddling her with arrows
Then thrusting between her jaws
A lump of lead
Which he had fixed
To the point
Of his spear.

The Chimaera's fiery breath
Melted the lead
Which trickled down
Her throat
Searing
Her vitals.

Far from rewarding
Bellerophon
For his daring feat
Iobates
Sent him at once
Against the warlike Solymians
And their allies
The Amazons.

He conquered both
By soaring high above
Well out of bowshot
To drop large boulders
On their
Heads.

Next
In the Lycian Plain of
Xanthus
He beat off a band
Of Carian pirates
Led by one
Cheimarrhus
A fiery and boastful warrior
Who sailed in a ship adorned
With a lion figurehead
And a serpent
Stern.

Showing yet
No gratitude
Iobates
Still
Sent the palace guard
To ambush Bellerophon
On his return.

Bellerophon dismounted
Praying that
While he advanced on foot
Poseidon
Would flood
The Xanthian Plain
Behind him.

Poseidon
Heard his prayer
He sent great waves
Rolling slowly forward
As Bellerophon approached
The palace of
Iobates.

Because
No man
Could persuade him to retire
The Xanthian women
Hoisted their skirts
To the waist
And came rushing toward him
Full butt
Offering themselves to him
One and all
If only he would
Relent.

Bellerophon's modesty was such
That he turned tail and ran
The waves retreated
With him.

Convinced now that
Proteus
Must have been mistaken
About the attempt
On the virtue of Anteia
Iobates
Produced the letter
Demanding an exact account
Of the affair.

On learning the truth
He implored Bellerophon's
Forgiveness
Gave him his daughter
Philonoe
In marriage
And made him heir
To the Lycian Throne.

Bellerophon
At height of fortune
Presumptuously
Undertook a flight
To Olympus
As though he were
An immortal.

Zeus
Sent a gadfly
Which stung Pegasus under the tail
Making him rear and fling
Bellerophon
Ingloriously
To earth.

Pegasus
Completed the flight to Olympus
Where Zeus now uses him
As a pack beast for
Thunderbolts.

Bellerophon
Who had fallen
Into a thorn-bush
Wandered about the Earth
lame
blind
lonely
accursed

Always avoiding the paths of
Men
Until Death
Overtook him.

© 2005 by Michael J. Farrand

Adapted from "Bellerophon" in Robert Graves' The Greek Myths (Volume 1), first printed in 1955 by Penguin Books.

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