Part 1 out of 19
Robert Rowe, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
THE AGE OF FABLE
THE AGE OF CHIVALRY
LEGENDS OF CHARLEMAGNE
BY THOMAS BULFINCH
COMPLETE IN ONE VOLUME
[Editor's Note: The etext contains all three sections.]
No new edition of Bulfinch's classic work can be considered
complete without some notice of the American scholar to whose wide
erudition and painstaking care it stands as a perpetual monument.
"The Age of Fable" has come to be ranked with older books like
"Pilgrim's Progress," "Gulliver's Travels," "The Arabian Nights,"
"Robinson Crusoe," and five or six other productions of world-wide
renown as a work with which every one must claim some acquaintance
before his education can be called really complete. Many readers
of the present edition will probably recall coming in contact with
the work as children, and, it may be added, will no doubt discover
from a fresh perusal the source of numerous bits of knowledge that
have remained stored in their minds since those early years. Yet
to the majority of this great circle of readers and students the
name Bulfinch in itself has no significance.
Thomas Bulfinch was a native of Boston, Mass., where he was born
in 1796. His boyhood was spent in that city, and he prepared for
college in the Boston schools. He finished his scholastic training
at Harvard College, and after taking his degree was for a period a
teacher in his home city. For a long time later in life he was
employed as an accountant in the Boston Merchants' Bank. His
leisure time he used for further pursuit of the classical studies
which he had begun at Harvard, and his chief pleasure in life lay
in writing out the results of his reading, in simple, condensed
form for young or busy readers. The plan he followed in this work,
to give it the greatest possible usefulness, is set forth in the
"Age of Fable," First Edition, 1855; "The Age of Chivalry," 1858;
"The Boy Inventor," 1860; "Legends of Charlemagne, or Romance of
the Middle Ages," 1863; "Poetry of the Age of Fable," 1863;
"Oregon and Eldorado, or Romance of the Rivers,"1860.
In this complete edition of his mythological and legendary lore
"The Age of Fable," "The Age of Chivalry," and "Legends of
Charlemagne" are included. Scrupulous care has been taken to
follow the original text of Bulfinch, but attention should be
called to some additional sections which have been inserted to add
to the rounded completeness of the work, and which the publishers
believe would meet with the sanction of the author himself, as in
no way intruding upon his original plan but simply carrying it out
in more complete detail. The section on Northern Mythology has
been enlarged by a retelling of the epic of the "Nibelungen Lied,"
together with a summary of Wagner's version of the legend in his
series of music-dramas. Under the head of "Hero Myths of the
British Race" have been included outlines of the stories of
Beowulf, Cuchulain, Hereward the Wake, and Robin Hood. Of the
verse extracts which occur throughout the text, thirty or more
have been added from literature which has appeared since
Bulfinch's time, extracts that he would have been likely to quote
had he personally supervised the new edition.
Finally, the index has been thoroughly overhauled and, indeed,
remade. All the proper names in the work have been entered, with
references to the pages where they occur, and a concise
explanation or definition of each has been given. Thus what was a
mere list of names in the original has been enlarged into a small
classical and mythological dictionary, which it is hoped will
prove valuable for reference purposes not necessarily connected
with "The Age of Fable."
Acknowledgments are due the writings of Dr. Oliver Huckel for
information on the point of Wagner's rendering of the Nibelungen
legend, and M. I. Ebbutt's authoritative volume on "Hero Myths and
Legends of the British Race," from which much of the information
concerning the British heroes has been obtained
If no other knowledge deserves to be called useful but that which
helps to enlarge our possessions or to raise our station in
society, then Mythology has no claim to the appellation. But if
that which tends to make us happier and better can be called
useful, then we claim that epithet for our subject. For Mythology
is the handmaid of literature; and literature is one of the best
allies of virtue and promoters of happiness.
Without a knowledge of mythology much of the elegant literature of
our own language cannot be understood and appreciated. When Byron
calls Rome "the Niobe of nations," or says of Venice, "She looks a
Sea-Cybele fresh from ocean," he calls up to the mind of one
familiar with our subject, illustrations more vivid and striking
than the pencil could furnish, but which are lost to the reader
ignorant of mythology. Milton abounds in similar allusions. The
short poem "Comus" contains more than thirty such, and the ode "On
the Morning of the Nativity" half as many. Through "Paradise Lost"
they are scattered profusely. This is one reason why we often hear
persons by no means illiterate say that they cannot enjoy Milton.
But were these persons to add to their more solid acquirements the
easy learning of this little volume, much of the poetry of Milton
which has appeared to them "harsh and crabbed" would be found
"musical as is Apollo's lute." Our citations, taken from more than
twenty-five poets, from Spenser to Longfellow, will show how
general has been the practice of borrowing illustrations from
The prose writers also avail themselves of the same source of
elegant and suggestive illustration. One can hardly take up a
number of the "Edinburgh" or "Quarterly Review" without meeting
with instances. In Macaulay's article on Milton there are twenty
But how is mythology to be taught to one who does not learn it
through the medium of the languages of Greece and Rome? To devote
study to a species of learning which relates wholly to false
marvels and obsolete faiths is not to be expected of the general
reader in a practical age like this. The time even of the young is
claimed by so many sciences of facts and things that little can be
spared for set treatises on a science of mere fancy.
But may not the requisite knowledge of the subject be acquired by
reading the ancient poets in translations? We reply, the field is
too extensive for a preparatory course; and these very
translations require some previous knowledge of the subject to
make them intelligible. Let any one who doubts it read the first
page of the "Aeneid," and see what he can make of "the hatred of
Juno," the "decree of the Parcae," the "judgment of Paris," and
the "honors of Ganymede," without this knowledge.
Shall we be told that answers to such queries may be found in
notes, or by a reference to the Classical Dictionary? We reply,
the interruption of one's reading by either process is so annoying
that most readers prefer to let an allusion pass unapprehended
rather than submit to it. Moreover, such sources give us only the
dry facts without any of the charm of the original narrative; and
what is a poetical myth when stripped of its poetry? The story of
Ceyx and Halcyone, which fills a chapter in our book, occupies but
eight lines in the best (Smith's) Classical Dictionary; and so of
Our work is an attempt to solve this problem, by telling the
stories of mythology in such a manner as to make them a source of
amusement. We have endeavored to tell them correctly, according to
the ancient authorities, so that when the reader finds them
referred to he may not be at a loss to recognize the reference.
Thus we hope to teach mythology not as a study, but as a
relaxation from study; to give our work the charm of a story-book,
yet by means of it to impart a knowledge of an important branch of
education. The index at the end will adapt it to the purposes of
reference, and make it a Classical Dictionary for the parlor.
Most of the classical legends in "Stories of Gods and Heroes" are
derived from Ovid and Virgil. They are not literally translated,
for, in the author's opinion, poetry translated into literal prose
is very unattractive reading. Neither are they in verse, as well
for other reasons as from a conviction that to translate
faithfully under all the embarrassments of rhyme and measure is
impossible. The attempt has been made to tell the stories in
prose, preserving so much of the poetry as resides in the thoughts
and is separable from the language itself, and omitting those
amplifications which are not suited to the altered form.
The Northern mythological stories are copied with some abridgment
from Mallet's "Northern Antiquities." These chapters, with those
on Oriental and Egyptian mythology, seemed necessary to complete
the subject, though it is believed these topics have not usually
been presented in the same volume with the classical fables.
The poetical citations so freely introduced are expected to answer
several valuable purposes. They will tend to fix in memory the
leading fact of each story, they will help to the attainment of a
correct pronunciation of the proper names, and they will enrich
the memory with many gems of poetry, some of them such as are most
frequently quoted or alluded to in reading and conversation.
Having chosen mythology as connected with literature for our
province, we have endeavored to omit nothing which the reader of
elegant literature is likely to find occasion for. Such stories
and parts of stories as are offensive to pure taste and good
morals are not given. But such stories are not often referred to,
and if they occasionally should be, the English reader need feel
no mortification in confessing his ignorance of them.
Our work is not for the learned, nor for the theologian, nor for
the philosopher, but for the reader of English literature, of
either sex, who wishes to comprehend the allusions so frequently
made by public speakers, lecturers, essayists, and poets, and
those which occur in polite conversation.
In the "Stories of Gods and Heroes" the compiler has endeavored to
impart the pleasures of classical learning to the English reader,
by presenting the stories of Pagan mythology in a form adapted to
modern taste. In "King Arthur and His Knights" and "The
Mabinogeon" the attempt has been made to treat in the same way the
stories of the second "age of fable," the age which witnessed the
dawn of the several states of Modern Europe.
It is believed that this presentation of a literature which held
unrivalled sway over the imaginations of our ancestors, for many
centuries, will not be without benefit to the reader, in addition
to the amusement it may afford. The tales, though not to be
trusted for their facts, are worthy of all credit as pictures of
manners; and it is beginning to be held that the manners and modes
of thinking of an age are a more important part of its history
than the conflicts of its peoples, generally leading to no result.
Besides this, the literature of romance is a treasure-house of
poetical material, to which modern poets frequently resort. The
Italian poets, Dante and Ariosto, the English, Spenser, Scott, and
Tennyson, and our own Longfellow and Lowell, are examples of this.
These legends are so connected with each other, so consistently
adapted to a group of characters strongly individualized in
Arthur, Launcelot, and their compeers, and so lighted up by the
fires of imagination and invention, that they seem as well adapted
to the poet's purpose as the legends of the Greek and Roman
mythology. And if every well-educated young person is expected to
know the story of the Golden Fleece, why is the quest of the
Sangreal less worthy of his acquaintance? Or if an allusion to the
shield of Achilles ought not to pass unapprehended, why should one
to Excalibar, the famous sword of Arthur?--
"Of Arthur, who, to upper light restored,
With that terrific sword,
Which yet he brandishes for future war,
Shall lift his country's fame above the polar star."
It is an additional recommendation of our subject, that it tends
to cherish in our minds the idea of the source from which we
sprung. We are entitled to our full share in the glories and
recollections of the land of our forefathers, down to the time of
colonization thence. The associations which spring from this
source must be fruitful of good influences; among which not the
least valuable is the increased enjoyment which such associations
afford to the American traveller when he visits England, and sets
his foot upon any of her renowned localities.
The legends of Charlemagne and his peers are necessary to complete
In an age when intellectual darkness enveloped Western Europe, a
constellation of brilliant writers arose in Italy. Of these, Pulci
(born in 1432), Boiardo (1434), and Ariosto (1474) took for their
subjects the romantic fables which had for many ages been
transmitted in the lays of bards and the legends of monkish
chroniclers. These fables they arranged in order, adorned with the
embellishments of fancy, amplified from their own invention, and
stamped with immortality. It may safely be asserted that as long
as civilization shall endure these productions will retain their
place among the most cherished creations of human genius.
In "Stories of Gods and Heroes," "King Arthur and His Knights" and
"The Mabinogeon" the aim has been to supply to the modern reader
such knowledge of the fables of classical and mediaeval literature
as is needed to render intelligible the allusions which occur in
reading and conversation. The "Legends of Charlemagne" is intended
to carry out the same design. Like the earlier portions of the
work, it aspires to a higher character than that of a piece of
mere amusement. It claims to be useful, in acquainting its readers
with the subjects of the productions of the great poets of Italy.
Some knowledge of these is expected of every well-educated young
In reading these romances, we cannot fail to observe how the
primitive inventions have been used, again and again, by
successive generations of fabulists. The Siren of Ulysses is the
prototype of the Siren of Orlando, and the character of Circe
reappears in Alcina. The fountains of Love and Hatred may be
traced to the story of Cupid and Psyche; and similar effects
produced by a magic draught appear in the tale of Tristram and
Isoude, and, substituting a flower for the draught, in
Shakspeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream." There are many other
instances of the same kind which the reader will recognize without
The sources whence we derive these stories are, first, the Italian
poets named above; next, the "Romans de Chevalerie" of the Comte
de Tressan; lastly, certain German collections of popular tales.
Some chapters have been borrowed from Leigh Hunt's Translations
from the Italian Poets. It seemed unnecessary to do over again
what he had already done so well; yet, on the other hand, those
stories could not be omitted from the series without leaving it
STORIES OF GODS AND HEROES
II. Prometheus and Pandora
III. Apollo and Daphne--Pyramus and Thisbe--Cephalus and Procris
IV. Juno and her Rivals, Io and Callisto--Diana and Actaeon
--Latona and the Rustics
VI. Midas--Baucis and Philemon
VII. Proserpine--Glaucus and Scylla
VIII. Pygmalion--Dryope--Venus and Adonis--Apollo and Hyacinthus
IX. Ceyx and Halcyone
X. Vertumnus and Pomona--Iphis and Anaxarete
XI. Cupid and Psyche
XII. Cadmus--The Myrmidons
XIII. Nisus and Scylla--Echo and Narcissus--Clytie--Hero and Leander
XIV. Minerva and Arachne--Niobe
XV. The Graeae and Gorgons--Perseus and Medusa--Atlas--Andromeda
XVI. Monsters: Giants--Sphinx--Pegasus and Chimaera--Centaurs
XVII. The Golden Fleece--Medea
XVIII. Meleager and Atalanta
XIX. Hercules--Hebe and Ganymede
XX. Theseus and Daedalus--Castor and Pollux--Festivals and Games
XXI. Bacchus and Ariadne
XXII. The Rural Deities--The Dryads and Erisichthon
XXIII. Achelous and Hercules--Admetus and Alcestis--Antigone--Penelope
XXIV. Orpheus and Eurydice--Aristaeus--Amphion--Linus
XXVI. Endymion--Orion--Aurora and Tithonus--Acis and Galatea
XXVII. The Trojan War
XXVIII. The Fall of Troy--Return of the Greeks--Orestes and Electra
XXIX. Adventures of Ulysses--The Lotus-eaters--The Cyclopes
--Circe--Sirens--Scylla and Charybdis--Calypso
XXX. The Phaeacians--Fate of the Suitors
XXXI. Adventures of Aeneas--The Harpies--Dido--Palinurus
XXXII. The Infernal Regions--The Sibyl
XXXIII. Aeneas in Italy--Camilla--Evander--Nisus and Euryalus
XXXIV. Pythagoras--Egyptian Deities--Oracles
XXXV. Origin of Mythology--Statues of Gods and Goddesses
--Poets of Mythology
XXXVI. Monsters (modern)--The Phoenix--Basilisk--Unicorn--Salamander
XXXVII. Eastern Mythology--Zoroaster--Hindu Mythology--Castes--Buddha
--The Grand Lama--Prester John
XXXVIII. Northern Mythology--Valhalla--The Valkyrior
XXXIX. Thor's Visit to Jotunheim
XL. The Death of Baldur--The Elves--Runic Letters--Skalds--Iceland
--Teutonic Mythology--The Nibelungen Lied
--Wagner's Nibelungen Ring
XLI. The Druids--Iona
KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS
II. The Mythical History of England
V. Arthur (Continued)
VI. Sir Gawain
VII. Caradoc Briefbras; or, Caradoc with the Shrunken Arm
VIII. Launcelot of the Lake
IX. The Adventure of the Cart
X. The Lady of Shalott
XI. Queen Guenever's Peril
XII. Tristram and Isoude
XIII. Tristram and Isoude (Continued)
XIV. Sir Tristram's Battle with Sir Launcelot
XV. The Round Table
XVI. Sir Palamedes
XVII. Sir Tristram
XIX. The Sangreal, or Holy Graal
XX. The Sangreal (Continued)
XXI. The Sangreal (Continued)
XXII. Sir Agrivain's Treason
XXIII. Morte d'Arthur
I. The Britons
II. The Lady of the Fountain
III. The Lady of the Fountain (Continued)
IV. The Lady of the Fountain (Continued)
V. Geraint, the Son of Erbin
VI. Geraint, the Son of Erbin (Continued)
VII. Geraint, the Son of Erbin (Continued)
VIII. Pwyll, Prince of Dyved
IX. Branwen, the Daughter of Llyr
XI. Kilwich and Olwen
XII. Kilwich and Olwen (Continued)
HERO MYTHS OF THE BRITISH RACE
Cuchulain, Champion of Ireland
Hereward the Wake
LEGENDS OF CHARLEMAGNE
The Peers, or Paladins
The Siege of Albracca
Adventures of Rinaldo and Orlando
The Invasion of France
The Invasion of France (Continued)
Bradamante and Rogero
Astolpho and the Enchantress
Astolpho's Adventures continued, and Isabella's begun.
Zerbino and Isabella
Astolpho in Abyssinia
The War in Africa
Rogero and Bradamante
The Battle of Roncesvalles
Rinaldo and Bayard
Death of Rinaldo
Huon of Bordeaux
Huon of Bordeaux (Continued)
Huon of Bordeaux (Continued)
Ogier, the Dane
Ogier, the Dane (Continued)
Ogier, the Dane (Continued)
STORIES OF GODS AND HEROES
The religions of ancient Greece and Rome are extinct. The so-
called divinities of Olympus have not a single worshipper among
living men. They belong now not to the department of theology, but
to those of literature and taste. There they still hold their
place, and will continue to hold it, for they are too closely
connected with the finest productions of poetry and art, both
ancient and modern, to pass into oblivion.
We propose to tell the stories relating to them which have come
down to us from the ancients, and which are alluded to by modern
poets, essayists, and orators. Our readers may thus at the same
time be entertained by the most charming fictions which fancy has
ever created, and put in possession of information indispensable
to every one who would read with intelligence the elegant
literature of his own day.
In order to understand these stories, it will be necessary to
acquaint ourselves with the ideas of the structure of the universe
which prevailed among the Greeks--the people from whom the
Romans, and other nations through them, received their science and
The Greeks believed the earth to be flat and circular, their own
country occupying the middle of it, the central point being either
Mount Olympus, the abode of the gods, or Delphi, so famous for its
The circular disk of the earth was crossed from west to east and
divided into two equal parts by the Sea, as they called the
Mediterranean, and its continuation the Euxine, the only seas with
which they were acquainted.
Around the earth flowed the River Ocean, its course being from
south to north on the western side of the earth, and in a contrary
direction on the eastern side. It flowed in a steady, equable
current, unvexed by storm or tempest. The sea, and all the rivers
on earth, received their waters from it.
The northern portion of the earth was supposed to be inhabited by
a happy race named the Hyperboreans, dwelling in everlasting bliss
and spring beyond the lofty mountains whose caverns were supposed
to send forth the piercing blasts of the north wind, which chilled
the people of Hellas (Greece). Their country was inaccessible by
land or sea. They lived exempt from disease or old age, from toils
and warfare. Moore has given us the "Song of a Hyperborean,"
"I come from a land in the sun-bright deep,
Where golden gardens glow,
Where the winds of the north, becalmed in sleep,
Their conch shells never blow."
On the south side of the earth, close to the stream of Ocean,
dwelt a people happy and virtuous as the Hyperboreans. They were
named the Aethiopians. The gods favored them so highly that they
were wont to leave at times their Olympian abodes and go to share
their sacrifices and banquets.
On the western margin of the earth, by the stream of Ocean, lay a
happy place named the Elysian Plain, whither mortals favored by
the gods were transported without tasting of death, to enjoy an
immortality of bliss. This happy region was also called the
"Fortunate Fields," and the "Isles of the Blessed."
We thus see that the Greeks of the early ages knew little of any
real people except those to the east and south of their own
country, or near the coast of the Mediterranean. Their imagination
meantime peopled the western portion of this sea with giants,
monsters, and enchantresses; while they placed around the disk of
the earth, which they probably regarded as of no great width,
nations enjoying the peculiar favor of the gods, and blessed with
happiness and longevity.
The Dawn, the Sun, and the Moon were supposed to rise out of the
Ocean, on the eastern side, and to drive through the air, giving
light to gods and men. The stars, also, except those forming the
Wain or Bear, and others near them, rose out of and sank into the
stream of Ocean. There the sun-god embarked in a winged boat,
which conveyed him round by the northern part of the earth, back
to his place of rising in the east. Milton alludes to this in his
"Now the gilded car of day
His golden axle doth allay
In the steep Atlantic stream,
And the slope Sun his upward beam
Shoots against the dusky pole,
Pacing towards the other goal
Of his chamber in the east"
The abode of the gods was on the summit of Mount Olympus, in
Thessaly. A gate of clouds, kept by the goddesses named the
Seasons, opened to permit the passage of the Celestials to earth,
and to receive them on their return. The gods had their separate
dwellings; but all, when summoned, repaired to the palace of
Jupiter, as did also those deities whose usual abode was the
earth, the waters, or the underworld. It was also in the great
hall of the palace of the Olympian king that the gods feasted each
day on ambrosia and nectar, their food and drink, the latter being
handed round by the lovely goddess Hebe. Here they conversed of
the affairs of heaven and earth; and as they quaffed their nectar,
Apollo, the god of music, delighted them with the tones of his
lyre, to which the Muses sang in responsive strains. When the sun
was set, the gods retired to sleep in their respective dwellings.
The following lines from the "Odyssey" will show how Homer
conceived of Olympus:
"So saying, Minerva, goddess azure-eyed,
Rose to Olympus, the reputed seat
Eternal of the gods, which never storms
Disturb, rains drench, or snow invades, but calm
The expanse and cloudless shmes with purest day.
There the inhabitants divine rejoice
The robes and other parts of the dress of the goddesses were woven
by Minerva and the Graces and everything of a more solid nature
was formed of the various metals. Vulcan was architect, smith,
armorer, chariot builder, and artist of all work in Olympus. He
built of brass the houses of the gods; he made for them the golden
shoes with which they trod the air or the water, and moved from
place to place with the speed of the wind, or even of thought. He
also shod with brass the celestial steeds, which whirled the
chariots of the gods through the air, or along the surface of the
sea. He was able to bestow on his workmanship self-motion, so
that the tripods (chairs and tables) could move of themselves in
and out of the celestial hall. He even endowed with intelligence
the golden handmaidens whom he made to wait on himself.
Jupiter, or Jove (Zeus [Footnote: The names included in
parentheses are the Greek, the others being the Roman or Latin
names] ), though called the father of gods and men, had himself a
beginning. Saturn (Cronos) was his father, and Rhea (Ops) his
mother. Saturn and Rhea were of the race of Titans, who were the
children of Earth and Heaven, which sprang from Chaos, of which we
shall give a further account in our next chapter.
There is another cosmogony, or account of the creation, according
to which Earth, Erebus, and Love were the first of beings. Love
(Eros) issued from the egg of Night, which floated on Chaos. By
his arrows and torch he pierced and vivified all things, producing
life and joy.
Saturn and Rhea were not the only Titans. There were others, whose
names were Oceanus, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Ophion, males; and
Themis, Mnemosyne, Eurynome, females. They are spoken of as the
elder gods, whose dominion was afterwards transferred to others.
Saturn yielded to Jupiter, Oceanus to Neptune, Hyperion to Apollo.
Hyperion was the father of the Sun, Moon, and Dawn. He is
therefore the original sun-god, and is painted with the splendor
and beauty which were afterwards bestowed on Apollo.
"Hyperion's curls, the front of Jove himself"
Ophion and Eurynome ruled over Olympus till they were dethroned by
Saturn and Rhea. Milton alludes to them in "Paradise Lost." He
says the heathens seem to have had some knowledge of the
temptation and fall of man.
"And fabled how the serpent, whom they called
Ophion, with Eurynome, (the wide-
Encroaching Eve perhaps,) had first the rule
Of high Olympus, thence by Saturn driven."
The representations given of Saturn are not very consistent; for
on the one hand his reign is said to have been the golden age of
innocence and purity, and on the other he is described as a
monster who devoured his children. [Footnote: This inconsistency
arises from considering the Saturn of the Romans the same with the
Grecian deity Cronos (Time), which, as it brings an end to all
things which have had a beginning, may be said to devour its own
offspring] Jupiter, however, escaped this fate, and when grown up
espoused Metis (Prudence), who administered a draught to Saturn
which caused him to disgorge his children. Jupiter, with his
brothers and sisters, now rebelled against their father Saturn and
his brothers the Titans; vanquished them, and imprisoned some of
them in Tartarus, inflicting other penalties on others. Atlas was
condemned to bear up the heavens on his shoulders.
On the dethronement of Saturn, Jupiter with his brothers Neptune
(Poseidon) and Pluto (Dis) divided his dominions. Jupiter's
portion was the heavens, Neptune's the ocean, and Pluto's the
realms of the dead. Earth and Olympus were common property.
Jupiter was king of gods and men. The thunder was his weapon, and
he bore a shield called Aegis, made for him by Vulcan. The eagle
was his favorite bird, and bore his thunderbolts.
Juno (Hera) was the wife of Jupiter, and queen of the gods. Iris,
the goddess of the rainbow, was her attendant and messenger. The
peacock was her favorite bird.
Vulcan (Hephaestos), the celestial artist, was the son of Jupiter
and Juno. He was born lame, and his mother was so displeased at
the sight of him that she flung him out of heaven. Other accounts
say that Jupiter kicked him out for taking part with his mother in
a quarrel which occurred between them. Vulcan's lameness,
according to this account, was the consequence of his fall. He was
a whole day falling, and at last alighted in the island of Lemnos,
which was thenceforth sacred to him. Milton alludes to this story
in "Paradise Lost," Book I.:
"... From morn
To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve,
A summer's day; and with the setting sun
Dropped from the zenith, like a falling star,
On Lemnos, the Aegean isle."
Mars (Ares), the god of war, was the son of Jupiter and Juno.
Phoebus Apollo, the god of archery, prophecy, and music, was the
son of Jupiter and Latona, and brother of Diana (Artemis). He was
god of the sun, as Diana, his sister, was the goddess of the moon.
Venus (Aphrodite), the goddess of love and beauty, was the
daughter of Jupiter and Dione. Others say that Venus sprang from
the foam of the sea. The zephyr wafted her along the waves to the
Isle of Cyprus, where she was received and attired by the Seasons,
and then led to the assembly of the gods. All were charmed with
her beauty, and each one demanded her for his wife. Jupiter gave
her to Vulcan, in gratitude for the service he had rendered in
forging thunderbolts. So the most beautiful of the goddesses
became the wife of the most ill-favored of gods. Venus possessed
an embroidered girdle called Cestus, which had the power of
inspiring love. Her favorite birds were swans and doves, and the
plants sacred to her were the rose and the myrtle.
Cupid (Eros), the god of love, was the son of Venus. He was her
constant companion; and, armed with bow and arrows, he shot the
darts of desire into the bosoms of both gods and men. There was a
deity named Anteros, who was sometimes represented as the avenger
of slighted love, and sometimes as the symbol of reciprocal
affection. The following legend is told of him:
Venus, complaining to Themis that her son Eros continued always a
child, was told by her that it was because he was solitary, and
that if he had a brother he would grow apace. Anteros was soon
afterwards born, and Eros immediately was seen to increase rapidly
in size and strength.
Minerva (Pallas, Athene), the goddess of wisdom, was the offspring
of Jupiter, without a mother. She sprang forth from his head
completely armed. Her favorite bird was the owl, and the plant
sacred to her the olive.
Byron, in "Childe Harold," alludes to the birth of Minerva thus:
"Can tyrants but by tyrants conquered be,
And Freedom find no champion and no child,
Such as Columbia saw arise, when she
Sprang forth a Pallas, armed and undefiled?
Or must such minds be nourished in the wild,
Deep in the unpruned forest,'midst the roar
Of cataracts, where nursing Nature smiled
On infant Washington? Has earth no more
Such seeds within her breast, or Europe no such shore?"
Mercury (Hermes) was the son of Jupiter and Maia. He presided over
commerce, wrestling, and other gymnastic exercises, even over
thieving, and everything, in short, which required skill and
dexterity. He was the messenger of Jupiter, and wore a winged cap
and winged shoes. He bore in his hand a rod entwined with two
serpents, called the caduceus.
Mercury is said to have invented the lyre. He found, one day, a
tortoise, of which he took the shell, made holes in the opposite
edges of it, and drew cords of linen through them, and the
instrument was complete. The cords were nine, in honor of the nine
Muses. Mercury gave the lyre to Apollo, and received from him in
exchange the caduceus.
[Footnote: From this origin of the instrument, the word "shell" is
often used as synonymous with "lyre," and figuratively for music
and poetry. Thus Gray, in his ode on the "Progress of Poesy,"
"O Sovereign of the willing Soul,
Parent of sweet and solemn-breathing airs,
Enchanting shell! the sullen Cares
And frantic Passions hear thy soft control."]
Ceres (Demeter) was the daughter of Saturn and Rhea. She had a
daughter named Proserpine (Persephone), who became the wife of
Pluto, and queen of the realms of the dead. Ceres presided over
Bacchus (Dionysus), the god of wine, was the son of Jupiter and
Semele. He represents not only the intoxicating power of wine, but
its social and beneficent influences likewise, so that he is
viewed as the promoter of civilization, and a lawgiver and lover
The Muses were the daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne (Memory).
They presided over song, and prompted the memory. They were nine
in number, to each of whom was assigned the presidence over some
particular department of literature, art, or science. Calliope was
the muse of epic poetry, Clio of history, Euterpe of lyric poetry,
Melpomene of tragedy, Terpsichore of choral dance and song, Erato
of love poetry, Polyhymnia of sacred poetry, Urania of astronomy,
Thalia of comedy.
The Graces were goddesses presiding over the banquet, the dance,
and all social enjoyments and elegant arts. They were three in
number. Their names were Euphrosyne, Aglaia, and Thalia.
Spenser describes the office of the Graces thus:
"These three on men all gracious gifts bestow
Which deck the body or adorn the mind,
To make them lovely or well-favored show;
As comely carriage, entertainment kind,
Sweet semblance, friendly offices that bind,
And all the complements of courtesy;
They teach us how to each degree and kind
We should ourselves demean, to low, to high,
To friends, to foes; which skill men call Civility."
The Fates were also three--Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Their
office was to spin the thread of human destiny, and they were
armed with shears, with which they cut it off when they pleased.
They were the daughters of Themis (Law), who sits by Jove on his
throne to give him counsel.
The Erinnyes, or Furies, were three goddesses who punished by
their secret stings the crimes of those who escaped or defied
public justice. The heads of the Furies were wreathed with
serpents, and their whole appearance was terrific and appalling.
Their names were Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera. They were also
Nemesis was also an avenging goddess. She represents the righteous
anger of the gods, particularly towards the proud and insolent.
Pan was the god of flocks and shepherds. His favorite residence
was in Arcadia.
The Satyrs were deities of the woods and fields. They were
conceived to be covered with bristly hair, their heads decorated
with short, sprouting horns, and their feet like goats' feet.
Momus was the god of laughter, and Plutus the god of wealth.
The preceding are Grecian divinities, though received also by the
Romans. Those which follow are peculiar to Roman mythology:
Saturn was an ancient Italian deity. It was attempted to identify
him with the Grecian god Cronos, and fabled that after his
dethronement by Jupiter he fled to Italy, where he reigned during
what was called the Golden Age. In memory of his beneficent
dominion, the feast of Saturnalia was held every year in the
winter season. Then all public business was suspended,
declarations of war and criminal executions were postponed,
friends made presents to one another and the slaves were indulged
with great liberties. A feast was given them at which they sat at
table, while their masters served them, to show the natural
equality of men, and that all things belonged equally to all, in
the reign of Saturn.
Faunus, [Footnote: There was also a goddess called Fauna, or Bona
Dea.] the grandson of Saturn, was worshipped as the god of fields
and shepherds, and also as a prophetic god. His name in the
plural, Fauns, expressed a class of gamesome deities, like the
Satyrs of the Greeks.
Quirinus was a war god, said to be no other than Romulus, the
founder of Rome, exalted after his death to a place among the
Bellona, a war goddess.
Terminus, the god of landmarks. His statue was a rude stone or
post, set in the ground to mark the boundaries of fields.
Pales, the goddess presiding over cattle and pastures.
Pomona presided over fruit trees.
Flora, the goddess of flowers.
Lucina, the goddess of childbirth.
Vesta (the Hestia of the Greeks) was a deity presiding over the
public and private hearth. A sacred fire, tended by six virgin
priestesses called Vestals, flamed in her temple. As the safety of
the city was held to be connected with its conservation, the
neglect of the virgins, if they let it go out, was severely
punished, and the fire was rekindled from the rays of the sun.
Liber is the Latin name of Bacchus; and Mulciber of Vulcan.
Janus was the porter of heaven. He opens the year, the first month
being named after him. He is the guardian deity of gates, on which
account he is commonly represented with two heads, because every
door looks two ways. His temples at Rome were numerous. In war
time the gates of the principal one were always open. In peace
they were closed; but they were shut only once between the reign
of Numa and that of Augustus.
The Penates were the gods who were supposed to attend to the
welfare and prosperity of the family. Their name is derived from
Penus, the pantry, which was sacred to them. Every master of a
family was the priest to the Penates of his own house.
The Lares, or Lars, were also household gods, but differed from
the Penates in being regarded as the deified spirits of mortals.
The family Lars were held to be the souls of the ancestors, who
watched over and protected their descendants. The words Lemur and
Larva more nearly correspond to our word Ghost.
The Romans believed that every man had his Genius, and every woman
her Juno: that is, a spirit who had given them being, and was
regarded as their protector through life. On their birthdays men
made offerings to their Genius, women to their Juno.
A modern poet thus alludes to some of the Roman gods:
"Pomona loves the orchard,
And Liber loves the vine,
And Pales loves the straw-built shed
Warm with the breath of kine;
And Venus loves the whisper
Of plighted youth and maid,
In April's ivory moonlight,
Beneath the chestnut shade."
--Macaulay, "Prophecy of Capys."
N.B.--It is to be observed that in proper names the final e and es
are to be sounded. Thus Cybele and Penates are words of three
syllables. But Proserpine and Thebes are exceptions, and to be
pronounced as English words. In the Index at the close of the
volume we shall mark the accented syllable in all words which
appear to require it.
PROMETHEUS AND PANDORA
The creation of the world is a problem naturally fitted to excite
the liveliest interest of man, its inhabitant. The ancient pagans,
not having the information on the subject which we derive from the
pages of Scripture, had their own way of telling the story, which
is as follows:
Before earth and sea and heaven were created, all things wore one
aspect, to which we give the name of Chaos--a confused and
shapeless mass, nothing but dead weight, in which, however,
slumbered the seeds of things. Earth, sea, and air were all mixed
up together; so the earth was not solid, the sea was not fluid,
and the air was not transparent. God and Nature at last
interposed, and put an end to this discord, separating earth from
sea, and heaven from both. The fiery part, being the lightest,
sprang up, and formed the skies; the air was next in weight and
place. The earth, being heavier, sank below; and the water took
the lowest place, and buoyed up the earth.
Here some god--it is not known which--gave his good offices in
arranging and disposing the earth. He appointed rivers and bays
their places, raised mountains, scooped out valleys, distributed
woods, fountains, fertile fields, and stony plains. The air being
cleared, the stars began to appear, fishes took possession of the
sea, birds of the air, and four-footed beasts of the land.
But a nobler animal was wanted, and Man was made. It is not known
whether the creator made him of divine materials, or whether in
the earth, so lately separated from heaven, there lurked still
some heavenly seeds. Prometheus took some of this earth, and
kneading it up with water, made man in the image of the gods. He
gave him an upright stature, so that while all other animals turn
their faces downward, and look to the earth, he raises his to
heaven, and gazes on the stars.
Prometheus was one of the Titans, a gigantic race, who inhabited
the earth before the creation of man. To him and his brother
Epimetheus was committed the office of making man, and providing
him and all other animals with the faculties necessary for their
preservation. Epimetheus undertook to do this, and Prometheus was
to overlook his work, when it was done. Epimetheus accordingly
proceeded to bestow upon the different animals the various gifts
of courage, strength, swiftness, sagacity; wings to one, claws to
another, a shelly covering to a third, etc. But when man came to
be provided for, who was to be superior to all other animals,
Epimetheus had been so prodigal of his resources that he had
nothing left to bestow upon him. In his perplexity he resorted to
his brother Prometheus, who, with the aid of Minerva, went up to
heaven, and lighted his torch at the chariot of the sun, and
brought down fire to man. With this gift man was more than a match
for all other animals. It enabled him to make weapons wherewith to
subdue them; tools with which to cultivate the earth; to warm his
dwelling, so as to be comparatively independent of climate; and
finally to introduce the arts and to coin money, the means of
trade and commerce. Woman was not yet made. The story (absurd
enough!) is that Jupiter made her, and sent her to Prometheus and
his brother, to punish them for their presumption in stealing fire
from heaven; and man, for accepting the gift. The first woman was
named Pandora. She was made in heaven, every god contributing
something to perfect her. Venus gave her beauty, Mercury
persuasion, Apollo music, etc. Thus equipped, she was conveyed to
earth, and presented to Epimetheus, who gladly accepted her,
though cautioned by his brother to beware of Jupiter and his
gifts. Epimetheus had in his house a jar, in which were kept
certain noxious articles, for which, in fitting man for his new
abode, he had had no occasion. Pandora was seized with an eager
curiosity to know what this jar contained; and one day she slipped
off the cover and looked in. Forthwith there escaped a multitude
of plagues for hapless man,--such as gout, rheumatism, and colic
for his body, and envy, spite, and revenge for his mind,--and
scattered themselves far and wide. Pandora hastened to replace the
lid! but, alas! the whole contents of the jar had escaped, one
thing only excepted, which lay at the bottom, and that was HOPE.
So we see at this day, whatever evils are abroad, hope never
entirely leaves us; and while we have THAT, no amount of other
ills can make us completely wretched.
Another story is that Pandora was sent in good faith, by Jupiter,
to bless man; that she was furnished with a box, containing her
marriage presents, into which every god had put some blessing. She
opened the box incautiously, and the blessings all escaped, HOPE
only excepted. This story seems more probable than the former; for
how could HOPE, so precious a jewel as it is, have been kept in a
jar full of all manner of evils, as in the former statement?
The world being thus furnished with inhabitants, the first age was
an age of innocence and happiness, called the Golden Age. Truth
and right prevailed, though not enforced by law, nor was there any
magistrate to threaten or punish. The forest had not yet been
robbed of its trees to furnish timbers for vessels, nor had men
built fortifications round their towns. There were no such things
as swords, spears, or helmets. The earth brought forth all things
necessary for man, without his labor in ploughing or sowing.
Perpetual spring reigned, flowers sprang up without seed, the
rivers flowed with milk and wine, and yellow honey distilled from
Then succeeded the Silver Age, inferior to the golden, but better
than that of brass. Jupiter shortened the spring, and divided the
year into seasons. Then, first, men had to endure the extremes of
heat and cold, and houses became necessary. Caves were the first
dwellings, and leafy coverts of the woods, and huts woven of
twigs. Crops would no longer grow without planting. The farmer was
obliged to sow the seed and the toiling ox to draw the plough.
Next came the Brazen Age, more savage of temper, and readier to
the strife of arms, yet not altogether wicked. The hardest and
worst was the Iron Age. Crime burst in like a flood; modesty,
truth, and honor fled. In their places came fraud and cunning,
violence, and the wicked love of gain. Then seamen spread sails to
the wind, and the trees were torn from the mountains to serve for
keels to ships, and vex the face of ocean. The earth, which till
now had been cultivated in common, began to be divided off into
possessions. Men were not satisfied with what the surface
produced, but must dig into its bowels, and draw forth from thence
the ores of metals. Mischievous IRON, and more mischievous GOLD,
were produced. War sprang up, using both as weapons; the guest was
not safe in his friend's house; and sons-in-law and fathers-in-
law, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, could not trust one
another. Sons wished their fathers dead, that they might come to
the inheritance; family love lay prostrate. The earth was wet with
slaughter, and the gods abandoned it, one by one, till Astraea
alone was left, and finally she also took her departure.
[Footnote: The goddess of innocence and purity. After leaving
earth, she was placed among the stars, where she became the
constellation Virgo--the Virgin. Themis (Justice) was the mother
of Astraea. She is represented as holding aloft a pair of scales,
in which she weighs the claims of opposing parties.
It was a favorite idea of the old poets that these goddesses would
one day return, and bring back the Golden Age. Even in a Christian
hymn, the "Messiah" of Pope, this idea occurs:
"All crimes shall cease, and ancient fraud shall fail,
Returning Justice lift aloft her scale,
Peace o'er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-robed Innocence from heaven descend."
See, also, Milton's "Hymn on the Nativity," stanzas xiv. and xv.]
Jupiter, seeing this state of things, burned with anger. He
summoned the gods to council. They obeyed the call, and took the
road to the palace of heaven. The road, which any one may see in a
clear night, stretches across the face of the sky, and is called
the Milky Way. Along the road stand the palaces of the illustrious
gods; the common people of the skies live apart, on either side.
Jupiter addressed the assembly. He set forth the frightful
condition of things on the earth, and closed by announcing his
intention to destroy the whole of its inhabitants, and provide a
new race, unlike the first, who would be more worthy of life, and
much better worshippers of the gods. So saying he took a
thunderbolt, and was about to launch it at the world, and destroy
it by burning; but recollecting the danger that such a
conflagration might set heaven itself on fire, he changed his
plan, and resolved to drown it. The north wind, which scatters the
clouds, was chained up; the south was sent out, and soon covered
all the face of heaven with a cloak of pitchy darkness. The
clouds, driven together, resound with a crash; torrents of rain
fall; the crops are laid low; the year's labor of the husbandman
perishes in an hour. Jupiter, not satisfied with his own waters,
calls on his brother Neptune to aid him with his. He lets loose
the rivers, and pours them over the land. At the same time, he
heaves the land with an earthquake, and brings in the reflux of
the ocean over the shores. Flocks, herds, men, and houses are
swept away, and temples, with their sacred enclosures, profaned.
If any edifice remained standing, it was overwhelmed, and its
turrets lay hid beneath the waves. Now all was sea, sea without
shore. Here and there an individual remained on a projecting
hilltop, and a few, in boats, pulled the oar where they had lately
driven the plough. The fishes swim among the tree-tops; the anchor
is let down into a garden. Where the graceful lambs played but
now, unwieldy sea calves gambol. The wolf swims among the sheep,
the yellow lions and tigers struggle in the water. The strength of
the wild boar serves him not, nor his swiftness the stag. The
birds fall with weary wing into the water, having found no land
for a resting-place. Those living beings whom the water spared
fell a prey to hunger.
Parnassus alone, of all the mountains, overtopped the waves; and
there Deucalion, and his wife Pyrrha, of the race of Prometheus,
found refuge--he a just man, and she a faithful worshipper of the
gods. Jupiter, when he saw none left alive but this pair, and
remembered their harmless lives and pious demeanor, ordered the
north winds to drive away the clouds, and disclose the skies to
earth, and earth to the skies. Neptune also directed Triton to
blow on his shell, and sound a retreat to the waters. The waters
obeyed, and the sea returned to its shores, and the rivers to
their channels. Then Deucalion thus addressed Pyrrha: "O wife,
only surviving woman, joined to me first by the ties of kindred
and marriage, and now by a common danger, would that we possessed
the power of our ancestor Prometheus, and could renew the race as
he at first made it! But as we cannot, let us seek yonder temple,
and inquire of the gods what remains for us to do." They entered
the temple, deformed as it was with slime, and approached the
altar, where no fire burned. There they fell prostrate on the
earth, and prayed the goddess to inform them how they might
retrieve their miserable affairs. The oracle answered, "Depart
from the temple with head veiled and garments unbound, and cast
behind you the bones of your mother." They heard the words with
astonishment. Pyrrha first broke silence: "We cannot obey; we dare
not profane the remains of our parents." They sought the thickest
shades of the wood, and revolved the oracle in their minds. At
length Deucalion spoke: "Either my sagacity deceives me, or the
command is one we may obey without impiety. The earth is the great
parent of all; the stones are her bones; these we may cast behind
us; and I think this is what the oracle means. At least, it will
do no harm to try." They veiled their faces, unbound their
garments, and picked up stones, and cast them behind them. The
stones (wonderful to relate) began to grow soft, and assume shape.
By degrees, they put on a rude resemblance to the human form, like
a block half-finished in the hands of the sculptor. The moisture
and slime that were about them became flesh; the stony part became
bones; the veins remained veins, retaining their name, only
changing their use. Those thrown by the hand of the man became
men, and those by the woman became women. It was a hard race, and
well adapted to labor, as we find ourselves to be at this day,
giving plain indications of our origin.
The comparison of Eve to Pandora is too obvious to have escaped
Milton, who introduces it in Book IV. of "Paradise Lost":
"More lovely than Pandora, whom the gods
Endowed with all their gifts; and O, too like
In sad event, when to the unwiser son
Of Japhet brought by Hermes, she insnared
Mankind with her fair looks, to be avenged
On him who had stole Jove's authentic fire."
Prometheus and Epimetheus were sons of Iapetus, which Milton
changes to Japhet.
Prometheus has been a favorite subject with the poets. He is
represented as the friend of mankind, who interposed in their
behalf when Jove was incensed against them, and who taught them
civilization and the arts. But as, in so doing, he transgressed
the will of Jupiter, he drew down on himself the anger of the
ruler of gods and men. Jupiter had him chained to a rock on Mount
Caucasus, where a vulture preyed on his liver, which was renewed
as fast as devoured. This state of torment might have been brought
to an end at any time by Prometheus, if he had been willing to
submit to his oppressor; for he possessed a secret which involved
the stability of Jove's throne, and if he would have revealed it,
he might have been at once taken into favor. But that he disdained
to do. He has therefore become the symbol of magnanimous endurance
of unmerited suffering, and strength of will resisting oppression.
Byron and Shelley have both treated this theme. The following are
"Titan! to whose immortal eyes
The sufferings of mortality,
Seen in their sad reality,
Were not as things that gods despise;
What was thy pity's recompense?
A silent suffering, and intense;
The rock, the vulture, and the chain;
All that the proud can feel of pain;
The agony they do not show;
The suffocating sense of woe.
"Thy godlike crime was to be kind;
To render with thy precepts less
The sum of human wretchedness,
And strengthen man with his own mind.
And, baffled as thou wert from high,
Still, in thy patient energy
In the endurance and repulse
Of thine impenetrable spirit,
Which earth and heaven could not convulse,
A mighty lesson we inherit."
Byron also employs the same allusion, in his
"Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte":
"Or, like the thief of fire from heaven,
Wilt thou withstand the shock?
And share with him--the unforgiven--
His vulture and his rock?"
APOLLO AND DAPHNE--PYRAMUS AND THISBE CEPHALUS AND PROCRIS
The slime with which the earth was covered by the waters of the
flood produced an excessive fertility, which called forth every
variety of production, both bad and good. Among the rest, Python,
an enormous serpent, crept forth, the terror of the people, and
lurked in the caves of Mount Parnassus. Apollo slew him with his
arrows--weapons which he had not before used against any but
feeble animals, hares, wild goats, and such game. In commemoration
of this illustrious conquest he instituted the Pythian games, in
which the victor in feats of strength, swiftness of foot, or in
the chariot race was crowned with a wreath of beech leaves; for
the laurel was not yet adopted by Apollo as his own tree.
The famous statue of Apollo called the Belvedere represents the
god after this victory over the serpent Python. To this Byron
alludes in his "Childe Harold," iv., 161:
"... The lord of the unerring bow,
The god of life, and poetry, and light,
The Sun, in human limbs arrayed, and brow
All radiant from his triumph in the fight
The shaft has just been shot; the arrow bright
With an immortal's vengeance; in his eye
And nostril, beautiful disdain, and might
And majesty flash their full lightnings by,
Developing in that one glance the Deity."
APOLLO AND DAPHNE
Daphne was Apollo's first love. It was not brought about by
accident, but by the malice of Cupid. Apollo saw the boy playing
with his bow and arrows; and being himself elated with his recent
victory over Python, he said to him, "What have you to do with
warlike weapons, saucy boy? Leave them for hands worthy of them.
Behold the conquest I have won by means of them over the vast
serpent who stretched his poisonous body over acres of the plain!
Be content with your torch, child, and kindle up your flames, as
you call them, where you will, but presume not to meddle with my
weapons." Venus's boy heard these words, and rejoined, "Your
arrows may strike all things else, Apollo, but mine shall strike
you." So saying, he took his stand on a rock of Parnassus, and
drew from his quiver two arrows of different workmanship, one to
excite love, the other to repel it. The former was of gold and
sharp pointed, the latter blunt and tipped with lead. With the
leaden shaft he struck the nymph Daphne, the daughter of the river
god Peneus, and with the golden one Apollo, through the heart.
Forthwith the god was seized with love for the maiden, and she
abhorred the thought of loving. Her delight was in woodland sports
and in the spoils of the chase. Many lovers sought her, but she
spurned them all, ranging the woods, and taking no thought of
Cupid nor of Hymen. Her father often said to her, "Daughter, you
owe me a son-in-law; you owe me grandchildren." She, hating the
thought of marriage as a crime, with her beautiful face tinged all
over with blushes, threw arms around her father's neck, and said,
"Dearest father, grant me this favor, that I may always remain
unmarried, like Diana." He consented, but at the same time said,
"Your own face will forbid it."
Apollo loved her, and longed to obtain her; and he who gives
oracles to all the world was not wise enough to look into his own
fortunes. He saw her hair flung loose over her shoulders, and
said, "If so charming in disorder, what would it be if arranged?"
He saw her eyes bright as stars; he saw her lips, and was not
satisfied with only seeing them. He admired her hands and arms,
naked to the shoulder, and whatever was hidden from view he
imagined more beautiful still. He followed her; she fled, swifter
than the wind, and delayed not a moment at his entreaties. "Stay,"
said he, "daughter of Peneus; I am not a foe. Do not fly me as a
lamb flies the wolf, or a dove the hawk. It is for love I pursue
you. You make me miserable, for fear you should fall and hurt
yourself on these stones, and I should be the cause. Pray run
slower, and I will follow slower. I am no clown, no rude peasant.
Jupiter is my father, and I am lord of Delphos and Tenedos, and
know all things, present and future. I am the god of song and the
lyre. My arrows fly true to the mark; but, alas! an arrow more
fatal than mine has pierced my heart! I am the god of medicine,
and know the virtues of all healing plants. Alas! I suffer a
malady that no balm can cure!"
The nymph continued her flight, and left his plea half uttered.
And even as she fled she charmed him. The wind blew her garments,
and her unbound hair streamed loose behind her. The god grew
impatient to find his wooings thrown away, and, sped by Cupid,
gained upon her in the race. It was like a hound pursuing a hare,
with open jaws ready to seize, while the feebler animal darts
forward, slipping from the very grasp. So flew the god and the
virgin--he on the wings of love, and she on those of fear. The
pursuer is the more rapid, however, and gains upon her, and his
panting breath blows upon her hair. Her strength begins to fail,
and, ready to sink, she calls upon her father, the river god:
"Help me, Peneus! open the earth to enclose me, or change my form,
which has brought me into this danger!" Scarcely had she spoken,
when a stiffness seized all her limbs; her bosom began to be
enclosed in a tender bark; her hair became leaves; her arms became
branches; her foot stuck fast in the ground, as a root; her face,
became a tree-top, retaining nothing of its former self but its
beauty. Apollo stood amazed. He touched the stem, and felt the
flesh tremble under the new bark. He embraced the branches, and
lavished kisses on the wood. The branches shrank from his lips.
"Since you cannot be my wife," said he, "you shall assuredly be my
tree. I will wear you for my crown; I will decorate with you my
harp and my quiver; and when the great Roman conquerors lead up
the triumphal pomp to the Capitol, you shall be woven into wreaths
for their brows. And, as eternal youth is mine, you also shall be
always green, and your leaf know no decay." The nymph, now changed
into a Laurel tree, bowed its head in grateful acknowledgment.
That Apollo should be the god both of music and poetry will not
appear strange, but that medicine should also be assigned to his
province, may. The poet Armstrong, himself a physician, thus
accounts for it:
"Music exalts each joy, allays each grief,
Expels diseases, softens every pain;
And hence the wise of ancient days adored
One power of physic, melody, and song."
The story of Apollo and Daphne is often alluded to by the poets.
Waller applies it to the case of one whose amatory verses, though
they did not soften the heart of his mistress, yet won for the
poet wide-spread fame:
"Yet what he sung in his immortal strain,
Though unsuccessful, was not sung in vain.
All but the nymph that should redress his wrong,
Attend his passion and approve his song.
Like Phoebus thus, acquiring unsought praise,
He caught at love and filled his arms with bays."
The following stanza from Shelley's "Adonais" alludes to Byron's
early quarrel with the reviewers:
"The herded wolves, bold only to pursue;
The obscene ravens, clamorous o'er the dead;
The vultures, to the conqueror's banner true,
Who feed where Desolation first has fed,
And whose wings rain contagion: how they fled,
When like Apollo, from his golden bow,
The Pythian of the age one arrow sped
And smiled! The spoilers tempt no second blow;
They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them as they go."
PYRAMUS AND THISBE
Pyramus was the handsomest youth, and Thisbe the fairest maiden,
in all Babylonia, where Semiramis reigned. Their parents occupied
adjoining houses; and neighborhood brought the young people
together, and acquaintance ripened into love. They would gladly
have married, but their parents forbade. One thing, however, they
could not forbid--that love should glow with equal ardor in the
bosoms of both. They conversed by signs and glances, and the fire
burned more intensely for being covered up. In the wall that
parted the two houses there was a crack, caused by some fault in
the structure. No one had remarked it before, but the lovers
discovered it. What will not love discover! It afforded a passage
to the voice; and tender messages used to pass backward and
forward through the gap. As they stood, Pyramus on this side,
Thisbe on that, their breaths would mingle. "Cruel wall," they
said, "why do you keep two lovers apart? But we will not be
ungrateful. We owe you, we confess, the privilege of transmitting
loving words to willing ears." Such words they uttered on
different sides of the wall; and when night came and they must say
farewell, they pressed their lips upon the wall, she on her side,
he on his, as they could come no nearer.
Next morning, when Aurora had put out the stars, and the sun had
melted the frost from the grass, they met at the accustomed spot.
Then, after lamenting their hard fate, they agreed, that next
night, when all was still, they would slip away from watchful
eyes, leave their dwellings and walk out into the fields; and to
insure a meeting, repair to a well-known edifice standing without
the city's bounds, called the Tomb of Ninus, and that the one who
came first should await the other at the foot of a certain tree.
It was a white mulberry tree, and stood near a cool spring. All
was agreed on, and they waited impatiently for the sun to go down
beneath the waters and night to rise up from them. Then cautiously
Thisbe stole forth, unobserved by the family, her head covered
with a veil, made her way to the monument and sat down under the
tree. As she sat alone in the dim light of the evening she
descried a lioness, her jaws reeking with recent slaughter,
approaching the fountain to slake her thirst. Thisbe fled at the
sight, and sought refuge in the hollow of a rock. As she fled she
dropped her veil. The lioness after drinking at the spring turned
to retreat to the woods, and seeing the veil on the ground, tossed
and rent it with her bloody mouth.
Pyramus, having been delayed, now approached the place of meeting.
He saw in the sand the footsteps of the lion, and the color fled
from his cheeks at the sight. Presently he found the veil all rent
and bloody. "O hapless girl," said he, "I have been the cause of
thy death! Thou, more worthy of life than I, hast fallen the first
victim. I will follow. I am the guilty cause, in tempting thee
forth to a place of such peril, and not being myself on the spot
to guard thee. Come forth, ye lions, from the rocks, and tear this
guilty body with your teeth." He took up the veil, carried it with
him to the appointed tree, and covered it with kisses and with
tears. "MY blood also shall stain your texture," said he, and
drawing his sword plunged it into his heart. The blood spurted
from the wound, and tinged the white mulberries of the tree all
red; and sinking into the earth reached the roots, so that the red
color mounted through the trunk to the fruit.
By this time Thisbe, still trembling with fear, yet wishing not to
disappoint her lover, stepped cautiously forth, looking anxiously
for the youth, eager to tell him the danger she had escaped. When
she came to the spot and saw the changed color of the mulberries
she doubted whether it was the same place. While she hesitated she
saw the form of one struggling in the agonies of death. She
started back, a shudder ran through her frame as a ripple on the
face of the still water when a sudden breeze sweeps over it. But
as soon as she recognized her lover, she screamed and beat her
breast, embracing the lifeless body, pouring tears into its
wounds, and imprinting kisses on the cold lips. "O Pyramus," she
cried, "what has done this? Answer me, Pyramus; it is your own
Thisbe that speaks. Hear me, dearest, and lift that drooping
head!" At the name of Thisbe Pyramus opened his eyes, then closed
them again. She saw her veil stained with blood and the scabbard
empty of its sword. "Thy own hand has slain thee, and for my
sake," she said. "I too can be brave for once, and my love is as
strong as thine. I will follow thee in death, for I have been the
cause; and death which alone could part us shall not prevent my
joining thee. And ye, unhappy parents of us both, deny us not our
united request. As love and death have joined us, let one tomb
contain us. And thou, tree, retain the marks of slaughter. Let thy
berries still serve for memorials of our blood." So saying she
plunged the sword into her breast. Her parents ratified her wish,
the gods also ratified it. The two bodies were buried in one
sepulchre, and the tree ever after brought forth purple berries,
as it does to this day.
Moore, in the "Sylph's Ball," speaking of Davy's Safety Lamp, is
reminded of the wall that separated Thisbe and her lover:
"O for that Lamp's metallic gauze,
That curtain of protecting wire,
Which Davy delicately draws
Around illicit, dangerous fire!
The wall he sets 'twixt Flame and Air,
(Like that which barred young Thisbe's bliss,)
Through whose small holes this dangerous pair
May see each other, but not kiss."
In Mickle's translation of the "Lusiad" occurs the following
allusion to the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, and the metamorphosis
of the mulberries. The poet is describing the Island of Love:
"... here each gift Pomona's hand bestows
In cultured garden, free uncultured flows,
The flavor sweeter and the hue more fair
Than e'er was fostered by the hand of care.
The cherry here in shining crimson glows,
And stained with lovers' blood, in pendent rows,
The mulberries o'erload the bending boughs."
If any of our young readers can be so hard-hearted as to enjoy a
laugh at the expense of poor Pyramus and Thisbe, they may find an
opportunity by turning to Shakspeare's play of the "Midsummer
Night's Dream," where it is most amusingly burlesqued.
CEPHALUS AND PROCRIS
Cephalus was a beautiful youth and fond of manly sports. He would
rise before the dawn to pursue the chase. Aurora saw him when she
first looked forth, fell in love with him, and stole him away. But
Cephalus was just married to a charming wife whom he devotedly
loved. Her name was Procris. She was a favorite of Diana, the
goddess of hunting, who had given her a dog which could outrun
every rival, and a javelin which would never fail of its mark; and
Procris gave these presents to her husband. Cephalus was so happy
in his wife that he resisted all the entreaties of Aurora, and she
finally dismissed him in displeasure, saying, "Go, ungrateful
mortal, keep your wife, whom, if I am not much mistaken, you will
one day be very sorry you ever saw again."
Cephalus returned, and was as happy as ever in his wife and his
woodland sports. Now it happened some angry deity had sent a
ravenous fox to annoy the country; and the hunters turned out in
great strength to capture it. Their efforts were all in vain; no
dog could run it down; and at last they came to Cephalus to borrow
his famous dog, whose name was Lelaps. No sooner was the dog let
loose than he darted off, quicker than their eye could follow him.
If they had not seen his footprints in the sand they would have
thought he flew. Cephalus and others stood on a hill and saw the
race. The fox tried every art; he ran in a circle and turned on
his track, the dog close upon him, with open jaws, snapping at his
heels, but biting only the air. Cephalus was about to use his
javelin, when suddenly he saw both dog and game stop instantly.
The heavenly powers who had given both were not willing that
either should conquer. In the very attitude of life and action
they were turned into stone. So lifelike and natural did they
look, you would have thought, as you looked at them, that one was
going to bark, the other to leap forward.
Cephalus, though he had lost his dog, still continued to take
delight in the chase. He would go out at early morning, ranging
the woods and hills unaccompanied by any one, needing no help, for
his javelin was a sure weapon in all cases. Fatigued with hunting,
when the sun got high he would seek a shady nook where a cool
stream flowed, and, stretched on the grass, with his garments
thrown aside, would enjoy the breeze. Sometimes he would say
aloud, "Come, sweet breeze, come and fan my breast, come and allay
the heat that burns me." Some one passing by one day heard him
talking in this way to the air, and, foolishly believing that he
was talking to some maiden, went and told the secret to Procris,
Cephalus's wife. Love is credulous. Procris, at the sudden shock,
fainted away. Presently recovering, she said, "It cannot be true;
I will not believe it unless I myself am a witness to it." So she
waited, with anxious heart, till the next morning, when Cephalus
went to hunt as usual. Then she stole out after him, and concealed
herself in the place where the informer directed her. Cephalus
came as he was wont when tired with sport, and stretched himself
on the green bank, saying, "Come, sweet breeze, come and fan me;
you know how I love you! you make the groves and my solitary
rambles delightful." He was running on in this way when he heard,
or thought he heard, a sound as of a sob in the bushes. Supposing
it some wild animal, he threw his javelin at the spot. A cry from
his beloved Procris told him that the weapon had too surely met
its mark. He rushed to the place, and found her bleeding, and with
sinking strength endeavoring to draw forth from the wound the
javelin, her own gift. Cephalus raised her from the earth, strove
to stanch the blood, and called her to revive and not to leave him
miserable, to reproach himself with her death. She opened her
feeble eyes, and forced herself to utter these few words: "I
implore you, if you have ever loved me, if I have ever deserved
kindness at your hands, my husband, grant me this last request; do
not marry that odious Breeze!" This disclosed the whole mystery:
but alas! what advantage to disclose it now! She died; but her
face wore a calm expression, and she looked pityingly and
forgivingly on her husband when he made her understand the truth.
Moore, in his "Legendary Ballads," has one on Cephalus and
Procris, beginning thus:
"A hunter once in a grove reclined,
To shun the noon's bright eye,
And oft he wooed the wandering wind
To cool his brow with its sigh
While mute lay even the wild bee's hum,
Nor breath could stir the aspen's hair,
His song was still, 'Sweet Air, O come!'
While Echo answered, 'Come, sweet Air!'"
JUNO AND HER RIVALS, IO AND CALLISTO--DIANA AND ACTAEON--LATONA
AND THE RUSTICS
Juno one day perceived it suddenly grow dark, and immediately
suspected that her husband had raised a cloud to hide some of his
doings that would not bear the light. She brushed away the cloud,
and saw her husband on the banks of a glassy river, with a
beautiful heifer standing near him. Juno suspected the heifer's
form concealed some fair nymph of mortal mould--as was, indeed the
case; for it was Io, the daughter of the river god Inachus, whom
Jupiter had been flirting with, and, when he became aware of the
approach of his wife, had changed into that form.
Juno joined her husband, and noticing the heifer praised its
beauty, and asked whose it was, and of what herd. Jupiter, to stop
questions, replied that it was a fresh creation from the earth.
Juno asked to have it as a gift. What could Jupiter do? He was
loath to give his mistress to his wife; yet how refuse so trifling
a present as a simple heifer? He could not, without exciting
suspicion; so he consented. The goddess was not yet relieved of
her suspicions; so she delivered the heifer to Argus, to be
Now Argus had a hundred eyes in his head, and never went to sleep
with more than two at a time, so that he kept watch of Io
constantly. He suffered her to feed through the day, and at night
tied her up with a vile rope round her neck. She would have
stretched out her arms to implore freedom of Argus, but she had no
arms to stretch out, and her voice was a bellow that frightened
even herself. She saw her father and her sisters, went near them,
and suffered them to pat her back, and heard them admire her
beauty. Her father reached her a tuft of grass, and she licked the
outstretched hand. She longed to make herself known to him, and
would have uttered her wish; but, alas! words were wanting. At
length she bethought herself of writing, and inscribed her name--
it was a short one--with her hoof on the sand. Inachus recognized
it, and discovering that his daughter, whom he had long sought in
vain, was hidden under this disguise, mourned over her, and,
embracing her white neck, exclaimed, "Alas! my daughter, it would
have been a less grief to have lost you altogether!" While he thus
lamented, Argus, observing, came and drove her away, and took his
seat on a high bank, from whence he could see all around in every
Jupiter was troubled at beholding the sufferings of his mistress,
and calling Mercury told him to go and despatch Argus. Mercury
made haste, put his winged slippers on his feet, and cap on his
head, took his sleep-producing wand, and leaped down from the
heavenly towers to the earth. There he laid aside his wings, and
kept only his wand, with which he presented himself as a shepherd
driving his flock. As he strolled on he blew upon his pipes. These
were what are called the Syrinx or Pandean pipes. Argus listened
with delight, for he had never seen the instrument before. "Young
man," said he, "come and take a seat by me on this stone. There is
no better place for your flocks to graze in than hereabouts, and
here is a pleasant shade such as shepherds love." Mercury sat
down, talked, and told stories till it grew late, and played upon
his pipes his most soothing strains, hoping to lull the watchful
eyes to sleep, but all in vain; for Argus still contrived to keep
some of his eyes open though he shut the rest.
Among other stories, Mercury told him how the instrument on which
he played was invented. "There was a certain nymph, whose name was
Syrinx, who was much beloved by the satyrs and spirits of the
wood; but she would have none of them, but was a faithful
worshipper of Diana, and followed the chase. You would have
thought it was Diana herself, had you seen her in her hunting
dress, only that her bow was of horn and Diana's of silver. One
day, as she was returning from the chase, Pan met her, told her
just this, and added more of the same sort. She ran away, without
stopping to hear his compliments, and he pursued till she came to
the bank of the river, where he overtook her, and she had only
time to call for help on her friends the water nymphs. They heard
and consented. Pan threw his arms around what he supposed to be
the form of the nymph, and found he embraced only a tuft of reeds!
As he breathed a sigh, the air sounded through the reeds, and
produced a plaintive melody. The god, charmed with the novelty and
with the sweetness of the music, said, 'Thus, then, at least, you
shall be mine.' And he took some of the reeds, and placing them
together, of unequal lengths, side by side, made an instrument
which he called Syrinx, in honor of the nymph." Before Mercury had
finished his story he saw Argus's eyes all asleep. As his head
nodded forward on his breast, Mercury with one stroke cut his neck
through, and tumbled his head down the rocks. O hapless Argus! the
light of your hundred eyes is quenched at once! Juno took them and
put them as ornaments on the tail of her peacock, where they
remain to this day.
But the vengeance of Juno was not yet satiated. She sent a gadfly
to torment Io, who fled over the whole world from its pursuit. She
swam through the Ionian sea, which derived its name from her, then
roamed over the plains of Illyria, ascended Mount Haemus, and
crossed the Thracian strait, thence named the Bosphorus (cow-
ford), rambled on through Scythia, and the country of the
Cimmerians, and arrived at last on the banks of the Nile. At
length Jupiter interceded for her, and upon his promising not to
pay her any more attentions Juno consented to restore her to her
form. It was curious to see her gradually recover her former self.
The coarse hairs fell from her body, her horns shrank up, her eyes
grew narrower, her mouth shorter; hands and fingers came instead
of hoofs to her forefeet; in fine there was nothing left of the
heifer, except her beauty. At first she was afraid to speak, for
fear she should low, but gradually she recovered her confidence
and was restored to her father and sisters.
In a poem dedicated to Leigh Hunt, by Keats, the following
allusion to the story of Pan and Syrinx occurs:
"So did he feel who pulled the bough aside,
That we might look into a forest wide,
Telling us how fair trembling Syrinx fled
Arcadian Pan, with such a fearful dread.
Poor nymph--poor Pan--how he did weep to find
Nought but a lovely sighing of the wind
Along the reedy stream; a half-heard strain.
Full of sweet desolation, balmy pain."
Callisto was another maiden who excited the jealousy of Juno, and
the goddess changed her into a bear. "I will take away," said she,
"that beauty with which you have captivated my husband." Down fell
Callisto on her hands and knees; she tried to stretch out her arms
in supplication--they were already beginning to be covered with
black hair. Her hands grew rounded, became armed with crooked
claws, and served for feet; her mouth, which Jove used to praise
for its beauty, became a horrid pair of jaws; her voice, which if
unchanged would have moved the heart to pity, became a growl, more
fit to inspire terror. Yet her former disposition remained, and
with continual groaning, she bemoaned her fate, and stood upright
as well as she could, lifting up her paws to beg for mercy, and
felt that Jove was unkind, though she could not tell him so. Ah,
how often, afraid to stay in the woods all night alone, she
wandered about the neighborhood of her former haunts; how often,
frightened by the dogs, did she, so lately a huntress, fly in
terror from the hunters! Often she fled from the wild beasts,
forgetting that she was now a wild beast herself; and, bear as she
was, was afraid of the bears.
One day a youth espied her as he was hunting. She saw him and
recognized him as her own son, now grown a young man. She stopped
and felt inclined to embrace him. As she was about to approach,
he, alarmed, raised his hunting spear, and was on the point of
transfixing her, when Jupiter, beholding, arrested the crime, and
snatching away both of them, placed them in the heavens as the
Great and Little Bear.
Juno was in a rage to see her rival so set in honor, and hastened
to ancient Tethys and Oceanus, the powers of ocean, and in answer
to their inquiries thus told the cause of her coming: "Do you ask
why I, the queen of the gods, have left the heavenly plains and
sought your depths? Learn that I am supplanted in heaven--my place
is given to another. You will hardly believe me; but look when
night darkens the world, and you shall see the two of whom I have
so much reason to complain exalted to the heavens, in that part
where the circle is the smallest, in the neighborhood of the pole.
Why should any one hereafter tremble at the thought of offending
Juno, when such rewards are the consequence of my displeasure? See
what I have been able to effect! I forbade her to wear the human
form--she is placed among the stars! So do my punishments result--
such is the extent of my power! Better that she should have
resumed her former shape, as I permitted Io to do. Perhaps he
means to marry her, and put me away! But you, my foster-parents,
if you feel for me, and see with displeasure this unworthy
treatment of me, show it, I beseech you, by forbidding this guilty
couple from coming into your waters." The powers of the ocean
assented, and consequently the two constellations of the Great and
Little Bear move round and round in heaven, but never sink, as the
other stars do, beneath the ocean.
Milton alludes to the fact that the constellation of the Bear
never sets, when he says:
"Let my lamp at midnight hour
Be seen in some high lonely tower,
Where I may oft outwatch the Bear," etc.
And Prometheus, in J. R. Lowell's poem, says:
"One after one the stars have risen and set,
Sparkling upon the hoar frost of my chain;
The Bear that prowled all night about the fold
Of the North-star, hath shrunk into his den,
Scared by the blithesome footsteps of the Dawn."
The last star in the tail of the Little Bear is the Pole-star,
called also the Cynosure. Milton says:
"Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures
While the landscape round it measures.
Towers and battlements it sees
Bosomed high in tufted trees,
Where perhaps some beauty lies
The Cynosure of neighboring eyes"
The reference here is both to the Pole-star as the guide of
mariners, and to the magnetic attraction of the North He calls it
also the "Star of Arcady," because Callisto's boy was named Arcas,
and they lived in Arcadia. In "Comus," the brother, benighted in
the woods, says:
"... Some gentle taper!
Though a rush candle, from the wicker hole
Of some clay habitation, visit us
With thy long levelled rule of streaming light,
And thou shalt be our star of Arcady,
Or Tyrian Cynosure."
DIANA AND ACTAEON
Thus in two instances we have seen Juno's severity to her rivals;
now let us learn how a virgin goddess punished an invader of her
It was midday, and the sun stood equally distant from either goal,
when young Actaeon, son of King Cadmus, thus addressed the youths
who with him were hunting the stag in the mountains:
"Friends, our nets and our weapons are wet with the blood of our
victims; we have had sport enough for one day, and to-morrow we
can renew our labors. Now, while Phoebus parches the earth, let us
put by our implements and indulge ourselves with rest."
There was a valley thick enclosed with cypresses and pines, sacred
to the huntress queen, Diana. In the extremity of the valley was a
cave, not adorned with art, but nature had counterfeited art in
its construction, for she had turned the arch of its roof with
stones as delicately fitted as if by the hand of man. A fountain
burst out from one side, whose open basin was bounded by a grassy
rim. Here the goddess of the woods used to come when weary with
hunting and lave her virgin limbs in the sparkling water.
One day, having repaired thither with her nymphs, she handed her
javelin, her quiver, and her bow to one, her robe to another,
while a third unbound the sandals from her feet. Then Crocale, the
most skilful of them, arranged her hair, and Nephele, Hyale, and
the rest drew water in capacious urns. While the goddess was thus
employed in the labors of the toilet, behold Actaeon, having
quitted his companions, and rambling without any especial object,
came to the place, led thither by his destiny. As he presented
himself at the entrance of the cave, the nymphs, seeing a man,
screamed and rushed towards the goddess to hide her with their
bodies. But she was taller than the rest and overtopped them all
by a head. Such a color as tinges the clouds at sunset or at dawn
came over the countenance of Diana thus taken by surprise.
Surrounded as she was by her nymphs, she yet turned half away, and
sought with a sudden impulse for her arrows. As they were not at
hand, she dashed the water into the face of the intruder, adding
these words: "Now go and tell, if you can, that you have seen
Diana unapparelled." Immediately a pair of branching stag's horns
grew out of his head, his neck gained in length, his ears grew
sharp-pointed, his hands became feet, his arms long legs, his body
was covered with a hairy spotted hide. Fear took the place of his
former boldness, and the hero fled. He could not but admire his
own speed; but when he saw his horns in the water, "Ah, wretched
me!" he would have said, but no sound followed the effort. He
groaned, and tears flowed down the face which had taken the place
of his own. Yet his consciousness remained. What shall he do?--go
home to seek the palace, or lie hid in the woods? The latter he
was afraid, the former he was ashamed, to do. While he hesitated
the dogs saw him. First Melampus, a Spartan dog, gave the signal
with his bark, then Pamphagus, Dorceus, Lelaps, Theron, Nape,
Tigris, and all the rest, rushed after him swifter than the wind.
Over rocks and cliffs, through mountain gorges that seemed
impracticable, he fled and they followed. Where he had often
chased the stag and cheered on his pack, his pack now chased him,
cheered on by his huntsmen. He longed to cry out, "I am Actaeon;
recognize your master!" but the words came not at his will. The
air resounded with the bark of the dogs. Presently one fastened on
his back, another seized his shoulder. While they held their
master, the rest of the pack came up and buried their teeth in his
flesh. He groaned,--not in a human voice, yet certainly not in a
stag's,--and falling on his knees, raised his eyes, and would have
raised his arms in supplication, if he had had them. His friends
and fellow-huntsmen cheered on the dogs, and looked everywhere for
Actaeon, calling on him to join the sport. At the sound of his
name he turned his head, and heard them regret that he should be
away. He earnestly wished he was. He would have been well pleased
to see the exploits of his dogs, but to feel them was too much.
They were all around him, rending and tearing; and it was not till
they had torn his life out that the anger of Diana was satisfied.
In Shelley's poem "Adonais" is the following allusion to the story
"'Midst others of less note came one frail form,
A phantom among men: companionless
As the last cloud of an expiring storm,
Whose thunder is its knell; he, as I guess,
Had gazed on Nature's naked loveliness,
Actaeon-like, and now he fled astray
With feeble steps o'er the world's wilderness;
And his own Thoughts, along that rugged way,
Pursued like raging hounds their father and their prey."
The allusion is probably to Shelley himself.
LATONA AND THE RUSTICS
Some thought the goddess in this instance more severe than was
just, while others praised her conduct as strictly consistent with
her virgin dignity. As, usual, the recent event brought older ones
to mind, and one of the bystanders told this story: "Some
countrymen of Lycia once insulted the goddess Latona, but not with
impunity. When I was young, my father, who had grown too old for
active labors, sent me to Lycia to drive thence some choice oxen,
and there I saw the very pond and marsh where the wonder happened.
Near by stood an ancient altar, black with the smoke of sacrifice
and almost buried among the reeds. I inquired whose altar it might
be, whether of Faunus or the Naiads, or some god of the
neighboring mountain, and one of the country people replied, 'No
mountain or river god possesses this altar, but she whom royal
Juno in her jealousy drove from land to land, denying her any spot
of earth whereon to rear her twins. Bearing in her arms the infant
deities, Latona reached this land, weary with her burden and
parched with thirst. By chance she espied on the bottom of the
valley this pond of clear water, where the country people were at
work gathering willows and osiers. The goddess approached, and
kneeling on the bank would have slaked her thirst in the cool
stream, but the rustics forbade her. 'Why do you refuse me water?'
said she; 'water is free to all. Nature allows no one to claim as
property the sunshine, the air, or the water. I come to take my
share of the common blessing. Yet I ask it of you as a favor. I
have no intention of washing my limbs in it, weary though they be,
but only to quench my thirst. My mouth is so dry that I can hardly
speak. A draught Of water would be nectar to me; it would revive
me, and I would own myself indebted to you for life itself. Let
these infants move your pity, who stretch out their little arms as
if to plead for me;' and the children, as it happened, were
stretching out their arms.
"Who would not have been moved with these gentle words of the
goddess? But these clowns persisted in their rudeness; they even
added jeers and threats of violence if she did not leave the
place. Nor was this all. They waded into the pond and stirred up
the mud with their feet, so as to make the water unfit to drink.
Latona was so angry that she ceased to mind her thirst. She no
longer supplicated the clowns, but lifting her hands to heaven
exclaimed, 'May they never quit that pool, but pass their lives
there!' And it came to pass accordingly. They now live in the
water, sometimes totally submerged, then raising their heads above
the surface or swimming upon it. Sometimes they come out upon the
bank, but soon leap back again into the water. They still use
their base voices in railing, and though they have the water all
to themselves, are not ashamed to croak in the midst of it. Their
voices are harsh, their throats bloated, their mouths have become
stretched by constant railing, their necks have shrunk up and
disappeared, and their heads are joined to their bodies. Their
backs are green, their disproportioned bellies white, and in short
they are now frogs, and dwell in the slimy pool."
This story explains the allusion in one of Milton's sonnets, "On
the detraction which followed upon his writing certain treatises."
"I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs
By the known laws of ancient liberty,
When straight a barbarous noise environs me
Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes and dogs.
As when those hinds that were transformed to frogs
Railed at Latona's twin-born progeny,
Which after held the sun and moon in fee."
The persecution which Latona experienced from Juno is alluded to
in the story. The tradition was that the future mother of Apollo
and Diana, flying from the wrath of Juno, besought all the islands
of the Aegean to afford her a place of rest, but all feared too
much the potent queen of heaven to assist her rival. Delos alone
consented to become the birthplace of the future deities. Delos
was then a floating island; but when Latona arrived there, Jupiter
fastened it with adamantine chains to the bottom of the sea, that
it might be a secure resting-place for his beloved. Byron alludes
to Delos in his "Don Juan":
"The isles of Greece! the isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose and Phoebus sprung!"
Phaeton was the son of Apollo and the nymph Clymene. One day a
schoolfellow laughed at the idea of his being the son of the god,
and Phaeton went in rage and shame and reported it to his mother.
"If," said he, "I am indeed of heavenly birth, give me, mother,
some proof of it, and establish my claim to the honor." Clymene
stretched forth her hands towards the skies, and said, "I call to
witness the Sun which looks down upon us, that I have told you the
truth. If I speak falsely, let this be the last time I behold his
light. But it needs not much labor to go and inquire for yourself;
the land whence the Sun rises lies next to ours. Go and demand of
him whether he will own you as a son." Phaeton heard with delight.
He travelled to India, which lies directly in the regions of
sunrise; and, full of hope and pride, approached the goal whence
his parent begins his course.
The palace of the Sun stood reared aloft on columns, glittering
with gold and precious stones, while polished ivory formed the
ceilings, and silver the doors. The workmanship surpassed the
material; [Footnote: See Proverbial Expressions.] for upon the
walls Vulcan had represented earth, sea, and skies, with their
inhabitants. In the sea were the nymphs, some sporting in the
waves, some riding on the backs of fishes, while others sat upon
the rocks and dried their sea-green hair. Their faces were not all
alike, nor yet unlike,--but such as sisters' ought to be.
[Footnote: See Proverbial Expressions.] The earth had its towns
and forests and rivers and rustic divinities. Over all was carved
the likeness of the glorious heaven; and on the silver doors the
twelve signs of the zodiac, six on each side.
Clymene's son advanced up the steep ascent, and entered the halls
of his disputed father. He approached the paternal presence, but
stopped at a distance, for the light was more than he could bear.
Phoebus, arrayed in a purple vesture, sat on a throne, which
glittered as with diamonds. On his right hand and his left stood
the Day, the Month, and the Year, and, at regular intervals, the
Hours. Spring stood with her head crowned with flowers, and
Summer, with garment cast aside, and a garland formed of spears of
ripened grain, and Autumn, with his feet stained with grape-juice,
and icy Winter, with his hair stiffened with hoar frost.
Surrounded by these attendants, the Sun, with the eye that sees
everything, beheld the youth dazzled with the novelty and splendor
of the scene, and inquired the purpose of his errand. The youth
replied, "O light of the boundless world, Phoebus, my father,--if
you permit me to use that name,--give me some proof, I beseech
you, by which I may be known as yours." He ceased; and his father,
laying aside the beams that shone all around his head, bade him
approach, and embracing him, said, "My son, you deserve not to be
disowned, and I confirm what your mother has told you. To put an
end to your doubts, ask what you will, the gift shall be yours. I
call to witness that dreadful lake, which I never saw, but which
we gods swear by in our most solemn engagements." Phaeton
immediately asked to be permitted for one day to drive the chariot
of the sun. The father repented of his promise; thrice and four
times he shook his radiant head in warning. "I have spoken