William Morris Archive

Annotations, Book II

II.8 cornel-wood: The wood of Cornus mascula, celebrated for its hardness and toughness, and used for javelins, arrows, and other objects requiring strength.

II.36 eld: archaic. old age; the quality of being elderly

II.47 a-nigh: near

II.50 episode of river crossing: This episode retains the classical version, in which Jason helped Juno, disguised as a decrepit old woman, across a torrential river. The point of such an incident, common in folk and religious tradition, is that a supernatural being tests a mortal by seeking his help, then rewards or punishes him/her for aid or refusal. Here Morris rejects Lemprière's version in favor of that of Apollonius Rhodius (II: 70-75). See Mench (1968:38): "The classical accounts all state that Jason was carried by Juno across the river. Lemprière has pointlessly reversed the formula." Morris's use of the traditional version is consistent with the poem's emphasis on the hero's dependence on external and divine aid.

II.58 the Stygian stream: The river Styx, which in Greek mythology served as the boundary of the home of the dead, or Hades, the circumference of which it is said to have run nine times around the infernal regions. For the Olympian gods, to swear an oath by the river Styx was to swear an inviolable vow of the highest and most solemn variety.

II.64 mazed: archaic. here, filled with wonder; (a)mazed

II.72 sore: archaic. violently

II.81 fain: archaic. wish to

II.91 latchet: A thong used to fasten a shoe; a (shoe-)lace. Now only dial. except in Biblical allusions.

II.121 weed: clothing

II.124 sire: i.e. Aeson

II.167 what wouldst thou: What do you want?

II.177 Alcimide: Jason's mother, and a daughter of Clymene and granddaughter of Minyas, associated with Chthonic Minyan rites. Little is made of her in Morris’s tale, but there are ways in which her matrilineal origins suggest the earth-goddess rites of Medea.

II.183 aright: rightly, correctly

II.203 press: a crowd, a throng

II.204 fame: archaic. a report, a rumour

II.221 reck: here, take heed

II.224 lime: lime tree

II.266 rushes: a thick growth of waterside plants

II.280 revolving: here, pondering

II.300 both most and least: archaic. without exception

II.302 bled: to bleed; here, means to allow (liquid) to drain away through a cock, valve, or the like

II.305 did: here, placed

II.327 twelve hours' labour: The narrator here points out the stark contrast between the well-fed and bred with the rural husbandmen.

II.330 bore them well: e.g., did good/noble deeds; "them" is reflexive

II.347 Athamas: Legendary king of Orchomenos, son of Aeolus and father of Phryxus and Helle. He married first Nephele (a cloud-goddess), then Ino daughter of Cadmus. Ino became jealous of his children by Nephele, and arranged for an oracle to demand their sacrificial deaths. They escaped on a winged golden ram, headed toward Colchis, but Helle fell into the Hellespont. Phryxus survived to reach Colchis, where he was murdered by King Pelias who coveted the ram's Golden Fleece. The implication is that Jason is seizing something which originally belonged to his homeland.

II.347 Thebes: On the south edge of the east plain of Boeotia, this city replaced, according to tradition, Orchomenus (q.v.) as leading city of Boeotia. It plays an important part in Greek saga in the generations before the Trojan War. See Map 1, F5.

II.350 Nephele: In Greek mythology, a cloud-goddess, first wife of Athamas, and mother of Phrixus and Helle.

II.351 gat: past of “to beget”; fathered

II.352 Phryxus and Helle: The story of Phryxus and Helle is recounted in Book II. The son of Athamas, king of Orchomenos (Boeotia), and his wife Nephele, partly of divine ancestry, Phryxus/Phrixus and his sister Helle were intended victims of a plot by his second wife Ino, mother of Learchus and Melicertes.

Ino sought to have Phryxus and Helle made human sacrifices, but they escaped on the back of a magic winged ram which set out with them on his back toward Colchis on the Black Sea. En route, Helle fell into the Hellespont but Phryxus survived to kill the ram as a sacrifice and place the fleece in his home. King Aeetes of Colchis killed him in order to steal the fleece and place it in a temple to Mars within his royal palace, where it was guarded by a dragon.

II.354 Ino: Mythological daughter of Cadmus, second wife of Athamas, and mother of Learchus and Melicertes.

II.362 hale: healthy

II.376 fell: here, cruel or violent

II.381 wont: accustomed

II.385 her: i.e., Nephele

II.393 seethed: boiled, so as to render it barren

II.410 wroth: furious; angry

II.434 the dreadful Bearer of the bow: i.e. Diana

II.438 meet: here, suitable

II.443 hapless: unfortunate

II.480 nothing: i.e. not at all

II.481 trefoil: clover

II.503 the ever-changing God ... Neptune: The "ever-changing" God is Proteus, who was able to shape-shift at will. In the old myths, he is an old man of the sea, who in some accounts is entrusted by Poseidon (but not Neptune; the relationship between the Greek Poseidon and the Roman Neptune is not exact) with the watching of his flocks, which are the seals that frolic along the coastal borders of the sea-god's domain. Lempriere fails to mention this aspect of Proteus' role, but Morris here pastoralizes this maritime setting.

II.516 goodly: notable or considerable in respect of size, quantity, or number

II.528 in most manly mood: Phryxus has been "bold" from his very conception.

II.550 gazehound: Formerly, a species of dog used in hunting, which follows its prey by sight and not by scent.

II.553 slip: here, unleash

II.600 sea-pink: The plant Thrift, Armeria maritima.

II.639 zone: here, belt, from the Greek for "belt"

II.712 lief: beloved

II.712 Æetes: At the time of Jason's arrival, the king of Colchis, a region rich in timber, hemp and other crops, at the east end of the Black or Euxine Sea, southeast of the Caucasus mountains.

II.717 Holpen: archaic. helped

II.729 wain: In poetical or figurative contexts, a car or chariot; elsewhere, archaic term for farm-wagon.

II.865 wright: Here, a skilled craftsman; a carpenter. Argus, who fits this description, is the first man to enlist.