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Bk XI:474-572 The Tempest.
They had left the harbour, and the breeze was stirring the rigging: the captain shipped the oars, ran the yard up to the top of the mast, and put on all sail to catch the freshening breeze. The ship was cutting through the waves, no more than mid-way across, maybe less, far from either shore, when, at nightfall, the sea began to whiten with swelling waves, and the east wind to blow with greater strength.
The captain shouts: "Lower the yards, now, and close reef all sails." He shouts the order but the adverse wind drowns it, and his voice cannot be heard above the breaking seas. Yet, some of the crew, on their own initiative, remove the oars, some protect the bulwarks, some deny the wind canvas-room. Here one bails water back into the water, another secures the spars. While these things are being done, randomly, the storm increases its severity, and the roaring winds attack from every quarter, stirring the angry waves. The captain himself is fearful, and admits he does not know how things stand, what to order, what to prevent: such is the weight of destruction, so much more powerful than his skill.
There is uproar: men shouting, the rigging straining, the sound of the breaking sea from a weight of sea, and the crash of thunder. The waves rise up and seem to form the sky, and their spray touches the lowering clouds. Now the water is tainted yellow, with sand churned from the depths, now blacker than the Styx, while the waves break white with hissing foam. The Trachinian ship is driven in the grip of fate, now lifted on high, as if looking down on the valleys from a mountain summit, into the depths of Acheron: now sinking, caught in the trough of the wave, staring at heaven from the infernal pool. Again and again the force of the flood strikes the sides with a huge crash, sounding no lighter a blow than when, sometime, an iron ram, or a ballista, strikes a damaged fortress. As fierce lions, on the attack, drive themselves onto the armoured chests and extended spears of the hunters, so the waves drove forward in the rising winds, reaching the height of the ship, and higher, above it.
And now the wooden wedges give way, and, stripped of their wax covering, cracks appear, offering the lethal waves a passage. Look how the heavy rain falls from the melting clouds, and you would think the whole heaven was emptying into the sea, and the sea was filling the heavenly zones. The sails are soaked with spray, and the seawater mingles with water from the heavens. The sky is starless, and the murky night is full of its own and the storm’s gloom. Flashes of lightning cleave it, and give light: the rain is illuminated by the lightning flares.
Now the sea pours into the ship’s hollow hull, as well. As a soldier, more outstanding than the rest, who has often tried to scale the battlement of a besieged city, succeeds at last, and fired with a love of glory, takes the wall, one man in a thousand; so when the waves have battered nine times against the steep sides, the tenth wave surging with greater impetus rushes on, and does not cease its assault on the beleaguered craft, until it breaches the conquered vessel’s defences. So one part of the sea is still trying to take the ship, and part is already inside.
All is confusion, as a city is confused when some are undermining the walls from outside, while others hold them from within. Skill fails, and courage ebbs, and as many separate deaths as advancing waves seem to rush upon them and burst over them. One cannot hold his tears, another is stupefied, and one cries out that they are fortunate whom proper burial rites await. One worships the gods in prayer, and, lifting his arms in vain to the sky, he cannot see, begs for help. Some think of fathers and brothers, some of home and children, or whatever they have left behind. But Alcyone is what moves Ceyx: nothing but Alcyone is on Ceyx’s lips, and though he only longs for her, he rejoices that she is not there.
How he would like to see his native shores again, and turn his last gaze towards his home, but he knows not where it is: the sea swirls in such vortices, and the covering shadows of pitch-black clouds so hide the sky, that it mirrors the aspect of night. The mast is shattered by the onset of a storm-driven whirlwind, and the rudder is shattered. One ultimate wave, like a conqueror delighting in his spoils, rears up gazing down at the other waves, and, as if one tore Pindus, and Athos, from their base, and threw them utterly into the open sea, it fell headlong, and the weight and the impulse together, drove the ship to the bottom. The majority of the crew met their fate with the ship, driven down by the mass of water, never to return to the light. The rest clung to broken pieces of the vessel.
Ceyx himself, held on to a fragment of the wreck, with a hand more used to holding a sceptre, and called on his father, Lucifer, and his father-in-law, Aeolus, but alas, in vain. Mostly it is his wife’s, Alcyone’s, name on his lips.
He thinks of her, and speaks to her, and prays that the waves might carry his body to her sight, and that, lifeless, he might be entombed by her dear hands. While he can swim, and as often as the waves allow him to open his mouth, he speaks the name of Alcyone, far off, until the waves themselves murmur it, See, a black arc of water breaks over the heart of the sea, and the bursting wave buries his drowning head.
Lucifer was indistinct, and not to be known, that dawn, and since he was not allowed to leave the sky, he covered his face in dense cloud.
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