|Greek and Roman Mythology > Menelaus and Helen
Menelaus and Helen
but guilty occasion of so much slaughter. On the fall of Troy
Menelaus recovered possession of his wife, who had not ceased to
love him, though she had yielded to the might of Venus and
deserted him for another. After the death of Paris she aided the
Greeks secretly on several occasions, and in particular when
Ulysses and Diomedes entered the city in disguise to carry off
the Palladium. She saw and recognized Ulysses, but kept the
secret, and even assisted them in obtaining the image. Thus she
became reconciled to her husband, and they were among the first
to leave the shores of Troy for their native land. But having
incurred the displeasure of the gods they were driven by storms
from shore to shore of the Mediterranean, visiting Cyprus,
Phoenicia and Egypt. In Egypt they were kindly treated and
presented with rich gifts, of which Helen's share was a golden
spindle and a basket on wheels. The basket was to hold the wool
and spools for the queen's work.
Dyer, in his poem of The Fleece, thus alludes to the incident:
"_________many yet adhere
To the ancient distaff at the bosom fixed.
Casting the whirling spindle as they walk.
. . . . . . . . . .
This was of old, in no inglorious days,
The mode of spinning, when the Egyptian prince
A golden distaff gave that beauteous nymph,
Too beauteous Helen; no uncourtly gift."
Milton also alludes to a famous recipe for an invigorating
draught, called Nepenthe, which the Egyptian queen gave to Helen:
"Not that Nepenthes which the wife of Thone
In Egypt gave to Jove-born Helena,
Is of such power to stir up joy as this,
To life so friendly or so cool to thirst."
Menelaus and Helen at length arrived in safety at Sparta, resumed
their royal dignity, and lived and reigned in splendor; and when
Telemachus, the son of Ulysses, in search of his father, arrived
at Sparta, he found Menelaus and Helen celebrating the marriage
of their daughter Hermione to Neoptolemus, son of Achilles.
In "the Victory Feast," Schiller thus reviews the return of the
"The son of Atreus, king of men,
The muster of the hosts surveyed,
How dwindled from the thousands, when
Along Scamander first arrayed!
With sorrow and the cloudy thought,
The great king's stately look grew dim,
Of all the hosts to Ilion brought,
How few to Greece return with him!
Still let the song to gladness call,
For those who yet their home shall greet!
For them the blooming life is sweet;
Return is not for all!
"Nor all who reach their native land
May long the joy of welcome feel;
Beside the household gods may stand
Grim Murder, with awaiting steel
And they who 'scape the foe, may die
Beneath the foul, familiar glaive.
Thus he to whom prophetic eye
Her light the wise Minerva gave;
'Ah! Bless'd, whose hearth, to memory true
The goddess keeps unstained and pure;
For woman's guile is deep and sure,
And falsehood loves the new!'
"The Spartan eyes his Helen's charms,
By the best blood of Greece recaptured;
Round that fair form his glowing arms
(A second bridal) wreath, enraptured.
Woe waits the work of evil birth,
Revenge to deeds unblessed is given!
For watchful o'er the things of earth,
The eternal council-halls of heaven.
Yes, ill shall never ill repay;
Jove to the impious hands that stain
The altar of man's heart,
Again the doomer's doom shall weigh!"
Sir Edw. L. Bulwer's translation