Bulfinch's Mythology
Thomas Bulfinch

Part 2 out of 19

rashly," said he; "this only request I would fain deny. I beg you
to withdraw it. It is not a safe boon, nor one, my Phaeton, suited
to your youth and strength. Your lot is mortal, and you ask what
is beyond a mortal's power. In your ignorance you aspire to do
that which not even the gods themselves may do. None but myself
may drive the flaming car of day. Not even Jupiter, whose terrible
right arm hurls the thunderbolts. The first part of the way is
steep, and such as the horses when fresh in the morning can hardly
climb; the middle is high up in the heavens, whence I myself can
scarcely, without alarm, look down and behold the earth and sea
stretched beneath me. The last part of the road descends rapidly,
and requires most careful driving. Tethys, who is waiting to
receive me, often trembles for me lest I should fall headlong. Add
to all this, the heaven is all the time turning round and carrying
the stars with it. I have to be perpetually on my guard lest that
movement, which sweeps everything else along, should hurry me also
away. Suppose I should lend you the chariot, what would you do?
Could you keep your course while the sphere was revolving under
you? Perhaps you think that there are forests and cities, the
abodes of gods, and palaces and temples on the way. On the
contrary, the road is through the midst of frightful monsters. You
pass by the horns of the Bull, in front of the Archer, and near
the Lion's jaws, and where the Scorpion stretches its arms in one
direction and the Crab in another. Nor will you find it easy to
guide those horses, with their breasts full of fire that they
breathe forth from their mouths and nostrils. I can scarcely
govern them myself, when they are unruly and resist the reins.
Beware, my son, lest I be the donor of a fatal gift; recall your
request while yet you may. Do you ask me for a proof that you are
sprung from my blood? I give you a proof in my fears for you. Look
at my face--I would that you could look into my breast, you would
there see all a father's anxiety. Finally," he continued, "look
round the world and choose whatever you will of what earth or sea
contains most precious--ask it and fear no refusal. This only I
pray you not to urge. It is not honor, but destruction you seek.
Why do you hang round my neck and still entreat me? You shall have
it if you persist,--the oath is sworn and must be kept,--but I beg
you to choose more wisely."

He ended; but the youth rejected all admonition and held to his
demand. So, having resisted as long as he could, Phoebus at last
led the way to where stood the lofty chariot.

It was of gold, the gift of Vulcan; the axle was of gold, the pole
and wheels of gold, the spokes of silver. Along the seat were rows
of chrysolites and diamonds which reflected all around the
brightness of the sun. While the daring youth, gazed in
admiration, the early Dawn threw open the purple doors of the
east, and showed the pathway strewn with roses. The stars
withdrew, marshalled by the Day-star, which last of all retired
also. The father, when he saw the earth beginning to glow, and the
Moon preparing to retire, ordered the Hours to harness up the
horses. They obeyed, and led forth from the lofty stalls the
steeds full fed with ambrosia, and attached the reins. Then the
father bathed the face of his son with a powerful unguent, and
made him capable of enduring the brightness of the flame. He set
the rays on his head, and, with a foreboding sigh, said, "If, my
son, you will in this at least heed my advice, spare the whip and
hold tight the reins. They go fast enough of their own accord; the
labor is to hold them in. You are not to take the straight road
directly between the five circles, but turn off to the left. Keep
within the limit of the middle zone, and avoid the northern and
the southern alike. You will see the marks of the wheels, and they
will serve to guide you. And, that the skies and the earth may
each receive their due share of heat, go not too high, or you will
burn the heavenly dwellings, nor too low, or you will set the
earth on fire; the middle course is safest and best. [Footnote:
See Proverbial Expressions] And now I leave you to your chance,
which I hope will plan better for you than you have done for
yourself. Night is passing out of the western gates and we can
delay no longer. Take the reins; but if at last your heart fails
you, and you will benefit by my advice, stay where you are in
safety, and suffer me to light and warm the earth." The agile
youth sprang into the chariot, stood erect, and grasped the reins
with delight, pouring out thanks to his reluctant parent.

Meanwhile the horses fill the air with their snortings and fiery
breath, and stamp the ground impatient. Now the bars are let down,
and the boundless plain of the universe lies open before them.
They dart forward and cleave the opposing clouds, and outrun the
morning breezes which started from the same eastern goal. The
steeds soon perceived that the load they drew was lighter than
usual; and as a ship without ballast is tossed hither and thither
on the sea, so the chariot, without its accustomed weight, was
dashed about as if empty. They rush headlong and leave the
travelled road. He is alarmed, and knows not how to guide them;
nor, if he knew, has he the power. Then, for the first time, the
Great and Little Bear were scorched with heat, and would fain, if
it were possible, have plunged into the water; and the Serpent
which lies coiled up round the north pole, torpid and harmless,
grew warm, and with warmth felt its rage revive. Bootes, they say,
fled away, though encumbered with his plough, and all unused to
rapid motion.

When hapless Phaeton looked down upon the earth, now spreading in
vast extent beneath him, he grew pale and his knees shook with
terror. In spite of the glare all around him, the sight of his
eyes grew dim. He wished he had never touched his father's horses,
never learned his parentage, never prevailed in his request. He is
borne along like a vessel that flies before a tempest, when the
pilot can do no more and betakes himself to his prayers. What
shall he do? Much of the heavenly road is left behind, but more
remains before. He turns his eyes from one direction to the other;
now to the goal whence he began his course, now to the realms of
sunset which he is not destined to reach. He loses his self-
command, and knows not what to do,--whether to draw tight the
reins or throw them loose; he forgets the names of the horses. He
sees with terror the monstrous forms scattered over the surface of
heaven. Here the Scorpion extended his two great arms, with his
tail and crooked claws stretching over two signs of the zodiac.
When the boy beheld him, reeking with poison and menacing with his
fangs, his courage failed, and the reins fell from his hands. The
horses, when they felt them loose on their backs, dashed headlong,
and unrestrained went off into unknown regions of the sky, in
among the stars, hurling the chariot over pathless places, now up
in high heaven, now down almost to the earth. The moon saw with
astonishment her brother's chariot running beneath her own. The
clouds begin to smoke, and the mountain tops take fire; the fields
are parched with heat, the plants wither, the trees with their
leafy branches burn, the harvest is ablaze! But these are small
things. Great cities perished, with their walls and towers; whole
nations with their people were consumed to ashes! The forest-clad
mountains burned, Athos and Taurus and Tmolus and OEte; Ida, once
celebrated for fountains, but now all dry; the Muses' mountain
Helicon, and Haemus; Aetna, with fires within and without, and
Parnassus, with his two peaks, and Rhodope, forced at last to part
with his snowy crown. Her cold climate was no protection to
Scythia, Caucasus burned, and Ossa and Pindus, and, greater than
both, Olympus; the Alps high in air, and the Apennines crowned
with clouds.

Then Phaeton beheld the world on fire, and felt the heat
intolerable. The air he breathed was like the air of a furnace and
full of burning ashes, and the smoke was of a pitchy darkness. He
dashed forward he knew not whither. Then, it is believed, the
people of Aethiopia became black by the blood being forced so
suddenly to the surface, and the Libyan desert was dried up to the
condition in which it remains to this day. The Nymphs of the
fountains, with dishevelled hair, mourned their waters, nor were
the rivers safe beneath their banks: Tanais smoked, and Caicus,
Xanthus, and Meander; Babylonian Euphrates and Ganges, Tagus with
golden sands, and Cayster where the swans resort. Nile fled away
and hid his head in the desert, and there it still remains
concealed. Where he used to discharge his waters through seven
mouths into the sea, there seven dry channels alone remained. The
earth cracked open, and through the chinks light broke into
Tartarus, and frightened the king of shadows and his queen. The
sea shrank up. Where before was water, it became a dry plain; and
the mountains that lie beneath the waves lifted up their heads and
became islands. The fishes sought the lowest depths, and the
dolphins no longer ventured as usual to sport on the surface. Even
Nereus, and his wife Doris, with the Nereids, their daughters,
sought the deepest caves for refuge. Thrice Neptune essayed to
raise his head above the surface, and thrice was driven back by
the heat. Earth, surrounded as she was by waters, yet with head
and shoulders bare, screening her face with her hand, looked up to
heaven, and with a husky voice called on Jupiter:

"O ruler of the gods, if I have deserved this treatment, and it is
your will that I perish with fire, why withhold your thunderbolts?
Let me at least fall by your hand. Is this the reward of my
fertility, of my obedient service? Is it for this that I have
supplied herbage for cattle, and fruits for men, and frankincense
for your altars? But if I am unworthy of regard, what has my
brother Ocean done to deserve such a fate? If neither of us can
excite your pity, think, I pray you, of your own heaven, and
behold how both the poles are smoking which sustain your palace,
which must fall if they be destroyed. Atlas faints, and scarce
holds up his burden. If sea, earth, and heaven perish, we fall
into ancient Chaos. Save what yet remains to us from the devouring
flame. O, take thought for our deliverance in this awful moment!"

Thus spoke Earth, and overcome with heat and thirst, could say no
more. Then Jupiter omnipotent, calling to witness all the gods,
including him who had lent the chariot, and showing them that all
was lost unless speedy remedy were applied, mounted the lofty
tower from whence he diffuses clouds over the earth, and hurls the
forked lightnings. But at that time not a cloud was to be found to
interpose for a screen to earth, nor was a shower remaining
unexhausted. He thundered, and brandishing a lightning bolt in his
right hand launched it against the charioteer, and struck him at
the same moment from his seat and from existence! Phaeton, with
his hair on fire, fell headlong, like a shooting star which marks
the heavens with its brightness as it falls, and Eridanus, the
great river, received him and cooled his burning frame. The
Italian Naiads reared a tomb for him, and inscribed these words
upon the stone:

"Driver of Phoebus' chariot Phaeton,
Struck by Jove's thunder, rests beneath this stone.
He could not rule his father's car of fire,
Yet was it much so nobly to aspire"

[Footnote: See Proverbial Expressions]

His sisters, the Heliades, as they lamented his fate, were turned
into poplar trees, on the banks of the river, and their tears,
which continued to flow, became amber as they dropped into the

Milman, in his poem of "Samor," makes the following allusion to
Phaeton's story:

"As when the palsied universe aghast
Lay mute and still,
When drove, so poets sing, the Sun-born youth
Devious through Heaven's affrighted signs his sire's
Ill-granted chariot. Him the Thunderer hurled
From th' empyrean headlong to the gulf
Of the half-parched Eridanus, where weep
Even now the sister trees their amber tears
O'er Phaeton untimely dead"

In the beautiful lines of Walter Savage Landor, descriptive of the
Sea-shell, there is an allusion to the Sun's palace and chariot.
The water-nymph says:

"I have sinuous shells of pearly hue
Within, and things that lustre have imbibed
In the sun's palace porch, where when unyoked
His chariot wheel stands midway on the wave.
Shake one and it awakens; then apply
Its polished lip to your attentive ear,
And it remembers its august abodes,
And murmurs as the ocean murmurs there."

--Gebir, Book I.



Bacchus, on a certain occasion, found his old schoolmaster and
foster-father, Silenus, missing. The old man had been drinking,
and in that state wandered away, and was found by some peasants,
who carried him to their king, Midas. Midas recognized him, and
treated him hospitably, entertaining him for ten days and nights
with an unceasing round of jollity. On the eleventh day he brought
Silenus back, and restored him in safety to his pupil. Whereupon
Bacchus offered Midas his choice of a reward, whatever he might
wish. He asked that whatever he might touch should be changed into
GOLD. Bacchus consented, though sorry that he had not made a
better choice. Midas went his way, rejoicing in his new-acquired
power, which he hastened to put to the test. He could scarce
believe his eyes when he found a twig of an oak, which he plucked
from the branch, become gold in his hand. He took up a stone; it
changed to gold. He touched a sod; it did the same. He took an
apple from the tree; you would have thought he had robbed the
garden of the Hesperides. His joy knew no bounds, and as soon as
he got home, he ordered the servants to set a splendid repast on
the table. Then he found to his dismay that whether he touched
bread, it hardened in his hand; or put a morsel to his lips, it
defied his teeth. He took a glass of wine, but it flowed down his
throat like melted gold.

In consternation at the unprecedented affliction, he strove to
divest himself of his power; he hated the gift he had lately
coveted. But all in vain; starvation seemed to await him. He
raised his arms, all shining with gold, in prayer to Bacchus,
begging to be delivered from his glittering destruction. Bacchus,
merciful deity, heard and consented. "Go," said he, "to the River
Pactolus, trace the stream to its fountain-head, there plunge your
head and body in, and wash away your fault and its punishment." He
did so, and scarce had he touched the waters before the gold-
creating power passed into them, and the river-sands became
changed into GOLD, as they remain to this day.

Thenceforth Midas, hating wealth and splendor, dwelt in the
country, and became a worshipper of Pan, the god of the fields. On
a certain occasion Pan had the temerity to compare his music with
that of Apollo, and to challenge the god of the lyre to a trial of
skill. The challenge was accepted, and Tmolus, the mountain god,
was chosen umpire. The senior took his seat, and cleared away the
trees from his ears to listen. At a given signal Pan blew on his
pipes, and with his rustic melody gave great satisfaction to
himself and his faithful follower Midas, who happened to be
present. Then Tmolus turned his head toward the Sun-god, and all
his trees turned with him. Apollo rose, his brow wreathed with
Parnassian laurel, while his robe of Tyrian purple swept the
ground. In his left hand he held the lyre, and with his right hand
struck the strings. Ravished with the harmony, Tmolus at once
awarded the victory to the god of the lyre, and all but Midas
acquiesced in the judgment. He dissented, and questioned the
justice of the award. Apollo would not suffer such a depraved pair
of ears any longer to wear the human form, but caused them to
increase in length, grow hairy, within and without, and movable on
their roots; in short, to be on the perfect pattern of those of an

Mortified enough was King Midas at this mishap; but he consoled
himself with the thought that it was possible to hide his
misfortune, which he attempted to do by means of an ample turban
or head-dress. But his hair-dresser of course knew the secret. He
was charged not to mention it, and threatened with dire punishment
if he presumed to disobey. But he found it too much for his
discretion to keep such a secret; so he went out into the meadow,
dug a hole in the ground, and stooping down, whispered the story,
and covered it up. Before long a thick bed of reeds sprang up in
the meadow, and as soon as it had gained its growth, began
whispering the story, and has continued to do so, from that day to
this, every time a breeze passes over the place.

The story of King Midas has been told by others with some
variations. Dryden, in the "Wife of Bath's Tale," makes Midas's
queen the betrayer of the secret:

"This Midas knew, and durst communicate
To none but to his wife his ears of state."

Midas was king of Phrygia. He was the son of Gordius, a poor
countryman, who was taken by the people and made king, in
obedience to the command of the oracle, which had said that their
future king should come in a wagon. While the people were
deliberating, Gordius with his wife and son came driving his wagon
into the public square.

Gordius, being made king, dedicated his wagon to the deity of the
oracle, and tied it up in its place with a fast knot. This was the
celebrated Gordian knot, which, in after times it was said,
whoever should untie should become lord of all Asia. Many tried to
untie it, but none succeeded, till Alexander the Great, in his
career of conquest, came to Phrygia. He tried his skill with as
ill success as others, till growing impatient he drew his sword
and cut the knot. When he afterwards succeeded in subjecting all
Asia to his sway, people began to think that he had complied with
the terms of the oracle according to its true meaning.


On a certain hill in Phrygia stands a linden tree and an oak,
enclosed by a low wall. Not far from the spot is a marsh, formerly
good habitable land, but now indented with pools, the resort of
fen-birds and cormorants. Once on a time Jupiter, in, human shape,
visited this country, and with him his son Mercury (he of the
caduceus), without his wings. They presented themselves, as weary
travellers, at many a door, seeking rest and shelter, but found
all closed, for it was late, and the inhospitable inhabitants
would not rouse themselves to open for their reception. At last a
humble mansion received them, a small thatched cottage, where
Baucis, a pious old dame, and her husband Philemon, united when
young, had grown old together. Not ashamed of their poverty, they
made it endurable by moderate desires and kind dispositions. One
need not look there for master or for servant; they two were the
whole household, master and servant alike. When the two heavenly
guests crossed the humble threshold, and bowed their heads to pass
under the low door, the old man placed a seat, on which Baucis,
bustling and attentive, spread a cloth, and begged them to sit
down. Then she raked out the coals from the ashes, and kindled up
a fire, fed it with leaves and dry bark, and with her scanty
breath blew it into a flame. She brought out of a corner split
sticks and dry branches, broke them up, and placed them under the
small kettle. Her husband collected some pot-herbs in the garden,
and she shred them from the stalks, and prepared them for the pot.
He reached down with a forked stick a flitch of bacon hanging in
the chimney, cut a small piece, and put it in the pot to boil with
the herbs, setting away the rest for another time. A beechen bowl
was filled with warm water, that their guests might wash. While
all was doing, they beguiled the time with conversation.

On the bench designed for the guests was laid a cushion stuffed
with sea-weed; and a cloth, only produced on great occasions, but
ancient and coarse enough, was spread over that. The old lady,
with her apron on, with trembling hand set the table. One leg was
shorter than the rest, but a piece of slate put under restored the
level. When fixed, she rubbed the table down with some sweet-
smelling herbs. Upon it she set some of chaste Minerva's olives,
some cornel berries preserved in vinegar, and added radishes and
cheese, with eggs lightly cooked in the ashes. All were served in
earthen dishes, and an earthenware pitcher, with wooden cups,
stood beside them. When all was ready, the stew, smoking hot, was
set on the table. Some wine, not of the oldest, was added; and for
dessert, apples and wild honey; and over and above all, friendly
faces, and simple but hearty welcome.

Now while the repast proceeded, the old folks were astonished to
see that the wine, as fast as it was poured out, renewed itself in
the pitcher, of its own accord. Struck with terror, Baucis and
Philemon recognized their heavenly guests, fell on their knees,
and with clasped hands implored forgiveness for their poor
entertainment. There was an old goose, which they kept as the
guardian of their humble cottage; and they bethought them to make
this a sacrifice in honor of their guests. But the goose, too
nimble, with the aid of feet and wings, for the old folks, eluded
their pursuit, and at last took shelter between the gods
themselves. They forbade it to be slain; and spoke in these words:
"We are gods. This inhospitable village shall pay the penalty of
its impiety; you alone shall go free from the chastisement. Quit
your house, and come with us to the top of yonder hill." They
hastened to obey, and, staff in hand, labored up the steep ascent.
They had reached to within an arrow's flight of the top, when
turning their eyes below, they beheld all the country sunk in a
lake, only their own house left standing. While they gazed with
wonder at the sight, and lamented the fate of their neighbors,
that old house of theirs was changed into a temple. Columns took
the place of the corner posts, the thatch grew yellow and appeared
a gilded roof, the floors became marble, the doors were enriched
with carving and ornaments of gold. Then spoke Jupiter in
benignant accents: "Excellent old man, and woman worthy of such a
husband, speak, tell us your wishes; what favor have you to ask of
us?" Philemon took counsel with Baucis a few moments; then
declared to the gods their united wish. "We ask to be priests and
guardians of this your temple; and since here we have passed our
lives in love and concord, we wish that one and the same hour may
take us both from life, that I may not live to see her grave, nor
be laid in my own by her." Their prayer was granted. They were the
keepers of the temple as long as they lived. When grown very old,
as they stood one day before the steps of the sacred edifice, and
were telling the story of the place, Baucis saw Philemon begin to
put forth leaves, and old Philemon saw Baucis changing in like
manner. And now a leafy crown had grown over their heads, while
exchanging parting words, as long as they could speak. "Farewell,
dear spouse," they said, together, and at the same moment the bark
closed over their mouths. The Tyanean shepherd still shows the two
trees, standing side by side, made out of the two good old people.

The story of Baucis and Philemon has been imitated by Swift, in a
burlesque style, the actors in the change being two wandering
saints, and the house being changed into a church, of which
Philemon is made the parson. The following may serve as a

"They scarce had spoke, when, fair and soft,
The roof began to mount aloft;
Aloft rose every beam and rafter;
The heavy wall climbed slowly after.
The chimney widened and grew higher,
Became a steeple with a spire.
The kettle to the top was hoist.
And there stood fastened to a joist,
But with the upside down, to show
Its inclination for below;
In vain, for a superior force,
Applied at bottom, stops its course;
Doomed ever in suspense to dwell,
'Tis now no kettle, but a bell.
A wooden jack, which had almost
Lost by disuse the art to roast,
A sudden alteration feels
Increased by new intestine wheels;
And, what exalts the wonder more.
The number made the motion slower;
The flier, though't had leaden feet,
Turned round so quick you scarce could see't;
But slackened by some secret power,
Now hardly moves an inch an hour.
The jack and chimney, near allied,
Had never left each other's side:
The chimney to a steeple grown,
The jack would not be left alone;
But up against the steeple reared,
Became a clock, and still adhered;
And still its love to household cares
By a shrill voice at noon declares,
Warning the cook-maid not to burn
That roast meat which it cannot turn;
The groaning chair began to crawl,
Like a huge snail, along the wall;
There stuck aloft in public view,
And with small change, a pulpit grew.
A bedstead of the antique mode,
Compact of timber many a load,
Such as our ancestors did use,
Was metamorphosed into pews,
Which still their ancient nature keep
By lodging folks disposed to sleep."



When Jupiter and his brothers had defeated the Titans and banished
them to Tartarus, a new enemy rose up against the gods. They were
the giants Typhon, Briareus, Enceladus, and others. Some of them
had a hundred arms, others breathed out fire. They were finally
subdued and buried alive under Mount Aetna, where they still
sometimes struggle to get loose, and shake the whole island with
earthquakes. Their breath comes up through the mountain, and is
what men call the eruption of the volcano.

The fall of these monsters shook the earth, so that Pluto was
alarmed, and feared that his kingdom would be laid open to the
light of day. Under this apprehension, he mounted his chariot,
drawn by black horses, and took a circuit of inspection to satisfy
himself of the extent of the damage. While he was thus engaged,
Venus, who was sitting on Mount Eryx playing with her boy Cupid,
espied him, and said, "My son, take your darts with which you
conquer all, even Jove himself, and send one into the breast of
yonder dark monarch, who rules the realm of Tartarus. Why should
he alone escape? Seize the opportunity to extend your empire and
mine. Do you not see that even in heaven some despise our power?
Minerva the wise, and Diana the huntress, defy us; and there is
that daughter of Ceres, who threatens to follow their example. Now
do you, if you have any regard for your own interest or mine, join
these two in one." The boy unbound his quiver, and selected his
sharpest and truest arrow; then straining the bow against his
knee, he attached the string, and, having made ready, shot the
arrow with its barbed point right into the heart of Pluto.

In the vale of Enna there is a lake embowered in woods, which
screen it from the fervid rays of the sun, while the moist ground
is covered with flowers, and Spring reigns perpetual. Here
Proserpine was playing with her companions, gathering lilies and
violets, and filling her basket and her apron with them, when
Pluto saw her, loved her, and carried her off. She screamed for
help to her mother and companions; and when in her fright she
dropped the corners of her apron and let the flowers fall,
childlike she felt the loss of them as an addition to her grief.
The ravisher urged on his steeds, calling them each by name, and
throwing loose over their heads and necks his iron-colored reins.
When he reached the River Cyane, and it opposed his passage, he
struck the river-bank with his trident, and the earth opened and
gave him a passage to Tartarus.

Ceres sought her daughter all the world over. Bright-haired
Aurora, when she came forth in the morning, and Hesperus when he
led out the stars in the evening, found her still busy in the
search. But it was all unavailing. At length, weary and sad, she
sat down upon a stone, and continued sitting nine days and nights,
in the open air, under the sunlight and moonlight and falling
showers. It was where now stands the city of Eleusis, then the
home of an old man named Celeus. He was out in the field,
gathering acorns and blackberries, and sticks for his fire. His
little girl was driving home their two goats, and as she passed
the goddess, who appeared in the guise of an old woman, she said
to her, "Mother,"--and the name was sweet to the ears of Ceres,--
"why do you sit here alone upon the rocks?" The old man also
stopped, though his load was heavy, and begged her to come into
his cottage, such as it was. She declined, and he urged her. "Go
in peace," she replied, "and be happy in your daughter; I have
lost mine." As she spoke, tears--or something like tears, for the
gods never weep--fell down her cheeks upon her bosom. The
compassionate old man and his child wept with her. Then said he,
"Come with us, and despise not our humble roof; so may your
daughter be restored to you in safety." "Lead on," said she, "I
cannot resist that appeal!" So she rose from the stone and went
with them. As they walked he told her that his only son, a little
boy, lay very sick, feverish, and sleepless. She stooped and
gathered some poppies. As they entered the cottage, they found all
in great distress, for the boy seemed past hope of recovery.
Metanira, his mother, received her kindly, and the goddess stooped
and kissed the lips of the sick child. Instantly the paleness left
his face, and healthy vigor returned to his body. The whole family
were delighted--that is, the father, mother, and little girl, for
they were all; they had no servants. They spread the table, and
put upon it curds and cream, apples, and honey in the comb. While
they ate, Ceres mingled poppy juice in the milk of the boy. When
night came and all was still, she arose, and taking the sleeping
boy, moulded his limbs with her hands, and uttered over him three
times a solemn charm, then went and laid him in the ashes. His
mother, who had been watching what her guest was doing, sprang
forward with a cry and snatched the child from the fire. Then
Ceres assumed her own form, and a divine splendor shone all
around. While they were overcome with astonishment, she said,
"Mother, you have been cruel in your fondness to your son. I would
have made him immortal, but you have frustrated my attempt.
Nevertheless, he shall be great and useful. He shall teach men the
use of the plough, and the rewards which labor can win from the
cultivated soil." So saying, she wrapped a cloud about her, and
mounting her chariot rode away.

Ceres continued her search for her daughter, passing from land to
land, and across seas and rivers, till at length she returned to
Sicily, whence she at first set out, and stood by the banks of the
River Cyane, where Pluto made himself a passage with his prize to
his own dominions. The river nymph would have told the goddess all
she had witnessed, but dared not, for fear of Pluto; so she only
ventured to take up the girdle which Proserpine had dropped in her
flight, and waft it to the feet of the mother. Ceres, seeing this,
was no longer in doubt of her loss, but she did not yet know the
cause, and laid the blame on the innocent land. "Ungrateful soil,"
said she, "which I have endowed with fertility and clothed with
herbage and nourishing grain, no more shall you enjoy my favors."
Then the cattle died, the plough broke in the furrow, the seed
failed to come up; there was too much sun, there was too much
rain; the birds stole the seeds--thistles and brambles were the
only growth. Seeing this, the fountain Arethusa interceded for the
land. "Goddess," said she, "blame not the land; it opened
unwillingly to yield a passage to your daughter. I can tell you of
her fate, for I have seen her. This is not my native country; I
came hither from Elis. I was a woodland nymph, and delighted in
the chase. They praised my beauty, but I cared nothing for it, and
rather boasted of my hunting exploits. One day I was returning
from the wood, heated with exercise, when I came to a stream
silently flowing, so clear that you might count the pebbles on the
bottom. The willows shaded it, and the grassy bank sloped down to
the water's edge. I approached, I touched the water with my foot.
I stepped in knee-deep, and not content with that, I laid my
garments on the willows and went in. While I sported in the water,
I heard an indistinct murmur coming up as out of the depths of the
stream: and made haste to escape to the nearest bank. The voice
said, 'Why do you fly, Arethusa? I am Alpheus, the god of this
stream.' I ran, he pursued; he was not more swift than I, but he
was stronger, and gained upon me, as my strength failed. At last,
exhausted, I cried for help to Diana. 'Help me, goddess! help your
votary!' The goddess heard, and wrapped me suddenly in a thick
cloud. The river god looked now this way and now that, and twice
came close to me, but could not find me. 'Arethusa! Arethusa!' he
cried. Oh, how I trembled,--like a lamb that hears the wolf
growling outside the fold. A cold sweat came over me, my hair
flowed down in streams; where my foot stood there was a pool. In
short, in less time than it takes to tell it I became a fountain.
But in this form Alpheus knew me and attempted to mingle his
stream with mine. Diana cleft the ground, and I, endeavoring to
escape him, plunged into the cavern, and through the bowels of the
earth came out here in Sicily. While I passed through the lower
parts of the earth, I saw your Proserpine. She was sad, but no
longer showing alarm in her countenance. Her look was such as
became a queen--the queen of Erebus; the powerful bride of the
monarch of the realms of the dead."

When Ceres heard this, she stood for a while like one stupefied;
then turned her chariot towards heaven, and hastened to present
herself before the throne of Jove. She told the story of her
bereavement, and implored Jupiter to interfere to procure the
restitution of her daughter. Jupiter consented on one condition,
namely, that Proserpine should not during her stay in the lower
world have taken any food; otherwise, the Fates forbade her
release. Accordingly, Mercury was sent, accompanied by Spring, to
demand Proserpine of Pluto. The wily monarch consented; but, alas!
the maiden had taken a pomegranate which Pluto offered her, and
had sucked the sweet pulp from a few of the seeds. This was enough
to prevent her complete release; but a compromise was made, by
which she was to pass half the time with her mother, and the rest
with her husband Pluto.

Ceres allowed herself to be pacified with this arrangement, and
restored the earth to her favor. Now she remembered Celeus and his
family, and her promise to his infant son Triptolemus. When the
boy grew up, she taught him the use of the plough, and how to sow
the seed. She took him in her chariot, drawn by winged dragons,
through all the countries of the earth, imparting to mankind
valuable grains, and the knowledge of agriculture. After his
return, Triptolemus built a magnificent temple to Ceres in
Eleusis, and established the worship of the goddess, under the
name of the Eleusinian mysteries, which, in the splendor and
solemnity of their observance, surpassed all other religious
celebrations among the Greeks.

There can be little doubt of this story of Ceres and Proserpine
being an allegory. Proserpine signifies the seed-corn which when
cast into the ground lies there concealed--that is, she is carried
off by the god of the underworld. It reappears--that is,
Proserpine is restored to her mother. Spring leads her back to the
light of day.

Milton alludes to the story of Proserpine in "Paradise Lost," Book

". . . Not that fair field
Of Enna where Proserpine gathering flowers,
Herself a fairer flower, by gloomy Dis
Was gathered, which cost Ceres all that pain
To seek her through the world,--
... might with this Paradise
Of Eden strive."

Hood, in his "Ode to Melancholy," uses the same allusion very

"Forgive, if somewhile I forget,
In woe to come the present bliss;
As frighted Proserpine let fall
Her flowers at the sight of Dis."

The River Alpheus does in fact disappear underground, in part of
its course, finding its way through subterranean channels till it
again appears on the surface. It was said that the Sicilian
fountain Arethusa was the same stream, which, after passing under
the sea, came up again in Sicily. Hence the story ran that a cup
thrown into the Alpheus appeared again in Arethusa. It is this
fable of the underground course of Alpheus that Coleridge alludes
to in his poem of "Kubla Khan":

"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man,
Down to a sunless sea."

In one of Moore's juvenile poems he thus alludes to the same
story, and to the practice of throwing garlands or other light
objects on his stream to be carried downward by it, and afterwards
reproduced at its emerging:

"O my beloved, how divinely sweet
Is the pure joy when kindred spirits meet!
Like him the river god, whose waters flow,
With love their only light, through caves below,
Wafting in triumph all the flowery braids
And festal rings, with which Olympic maids
Have decked his current, as an offering meet
To lay at Arethusa's shining feet.
Think, when he meets at last his fountain bride,
What perfect love must thrill the blended tide!
Each lost in each, till mingling into one,
Their lot the same for shadow or for sun,
A type of true love, to the deep they run."

The following extract from Moore's "Rhymes on the Road" gives an
account of a celebrated picture by Albano, at Milan, called a
Dance of Loves:

"'Tis for the theft ef Enna's flower from earth
These urchins celebrate their dance of mirth,
Round the green tree, like fays upon a heath;--
Those that are nearest linked in order bright,
Cheek after cheek, like rosebuds in a wreath;
And those more distant showing from beneath
The others' wings their little eyes of light.
While see! among the clouds, their eldest brother,
But just flown up, tells with a smile of bliss,
This prank of Pluto to his charmed mother,
Who turns to greet the tidings with a kiss."


Glaucus was a fisherman. One day he had drawn his nets to land,
and had taken a great many fishes of various kinds. So he emptied
his net, and proceeded to sort the fishes on the grass. The place
where he stood was a beautiful island in the river, a solitary
spot, uninhabited, and not used for pasturage of cattle, nor ever
visited by any but himself. On a sudden, the fishes, which had
been laid on the grass, began to revive and move their fins as if
they were in the water; and while he looked on astonished, they
one and all moved off to the water, plunged in, and swam away. He
did not know what to make of this, whether some god had done it or
some secret power in the herbage. "What herb has such a power?" he
exclaimed; and gathering some of it, he tasted it. Scarce had the
juices of the plant reached his palate when he found himself
agitated with a longing desire for the water. He could no longer
restrain himself, but bidding farewell to earth, he plunged into
the stream. The gods of the water received him graciously, and
admitted him to the honor of their society. They obtained the
consent of Oceanus and Tethys, the sovereigns of the sea, that all
that was mortal in him should be washed away. A hundred rivers
poured their waters over him. Then he lost all sense of his former
nature and all consciousness. When he recovered, he found himself
changed in form and mind. His hair was sea-green, and trailed
behind him on the water; his shoulders grew broad, and what had
been thighs and legs assumed the form of a fish's tail. The sea-
gods complimented him on the change of his appearance, and he
fancied himself rather a good-looking personage.

One day Glaucus saw the beautiful maiden Scylla, the favorite of
the water-nymphs, rambling on the shore, and when she had found a
sheltered nook, laving her limbs in the clear water. He fell in
love with her, and showing himself on the surface, spoke to her,
saying such things as he thought most likely to win her to stay;
for she turned to run immediately on the sight of him, and ran
till she had gained a cliff overlooking the sea. Here she stopped
and turned round to see whether it was a god or a sea animal, and
observed with wonder his shape and color. Glaucus partly emerging
from the water, and supporting himself against a rock, said,
"Maiden, I am no monster, nor a sea animal, but a god; and neither
Proteus nor Triton ranks higher than I. Once I was a mortal, and
followed the sea for a living; but now I belong wholly to it."
Then he told the story of his metamorphosis, and how he had been
promoted to his present dignity, and added, "But what avails all
this if it fails to move your heart?" He was going on in this
strain, but Scylla turned and hastened away.

Glaucus was in despair, but it occurred to him to consult the
enchantress Circe. Accordingly he repaired to her island--the same
where afterwards Ulysses landed, as we shall see in one of our
later stories. After mutual salutations, he said, "Goddess, I
entreat your pity; you alone can relieve the pain I suffer. The
power of herbs I know as well as any one, for it is to them I owe
my change of form. I love Scylla. I am ashamed to tell you how I
have sued and promised to her, and how scornfully she has treated
me. I beseech you to use your incantations, or potent herbs, if
they are more prevailing, not to cure me of my love,--for that I
do not wish,--but to make her share it and yield me a like
return." To which Circe replied, for she was not insensible to the
attractions of the sea-green deity, "You had better pursue a
willing object; you are worthy to be sought, instead of having to
seek in vain. Be not diffident, know your own worth. I protest to
you that even I, goddess though I be, and learned in the virtues
of plants and spells, should not know how to refuse you. If she
scorns you scorn her; meet one who is ready to meet you half way,
and thus make a due return to both at once." To these words
Glaucus replied, "Sooner shall trees grow at the bottom of the
ocean, and sea-weed on the top of the mountains, than I will cease
to love Scylla, and her alone."

The goddess was indignant, but she could not punish him, neither
did she wish to do so, for she liked him too well; so she turned
all her wrath against her rival, poor Scylla. She took plants of
poisonous powers and mixed them together, with incantations and
charms. Then she passed through the crowd of gambolling beasts,
the victims of her art, and proceeded to the coast of Sicily,
where Scylla lived. There was a little bay on the shore to which
Scylla used to resort, in the heat of the day, to breathe the air
of the sea, and to bathe in its waters. Here the goddess poured
her poisonous mixture, and muttered over it incantations of mighty
power. Scylla came as usual and plunged into the water up to her
waist. What was her horror to perceive a brood of serpents and
barking monsters surrounding her! At first she could not imagine
they were a part of herself, and tried to run from them, and to
drive them away; but as she ran she carried them with her, and
when she tried to touch her limbs, she found her hands touch only
the yawning jaws of monsters. Scylla remained rooted to the spot.
Her temper grew as ugly as her form, and she took pleasure in
devouring hapless mariners who came within her grasp. Thus she
destroyed six of the companions of Ulysses, and tried to wreck the
ships of Aeneas, till at last she was turned into a rock, and as
such still continues to be a terror to mariners.

Keats, in his "Endymion," has given a new version of the ending of
"Glaucus and Scylla." Glaucus consents to Circe's blandishments,
till he by chance is witness to her transactions with her beasts.
Disgusted with her treachery and cruelty, he tries to escape from
her, but is taken and brought back, when with reproaches she
banishes him, sentencing him to pass a thousand years in
decrepitude and pain. He returns to the sea, and there finds the
body of Scylla, whom the goddess has not transformed but drowned.
Glaucus learns that his destiny is that, if he passes his thousand
years in collecting all the bodies of drowned lovers, a youth
beloved of the gods will appear and help him. Endymion fulfils
this prophecy, and aids in restoring Glaucus to youth, and Scylla
and all the drowned lovers to life.

The following is Glaucus's account of his feelings after his "sea-

"I plunged for life or death. To interknit
One's senses with so dense a breathing stuff
Might seem a work of pain; so not enough
Can I admire how crystal-smooth it felt,
And buoyant round my limbs. At first I dwelt
Whole days and days in sheer astonishment;
Forgetful utterly of self-intent,
Moving but with the mighty ebb and flow.
Then like a new-fledged bird that first doth show
His spreaded feathers to the morrow chill,
I tried in fear the pinions of my will.
'Twas freedom! and at once I visited
The ceaseless wonders of this ocean-bed," etc.




Pygmalion saw so much to blame in women that he came at last to
abhor the sex, and resolved to live unmarried. He was a sculptor,
and had made with wonderful skill a statue of ivory, so beautiful
that no living woman came anywhere near it. It was indeed the
perfect semblance of a maiden that seemed to be alive, and only
prevented from moving by modesty. His art was so perfect that it
concealed itself and its product looked like the workmanship of
nature. Pygmalion admired his own work, and at last fell in love
with the counterfeit creation. Oftentimes he laid his hand upon it
as if to assure himself whether it were living or not, and could
not even then believe that it was only ivory. He caressed it, and
gave it presents such as young girls love,--bright shells and
polished stones, little birds and flowers of various hues, beads
and amber. He put raiment on its limbs, and jewels on its fingers,
and a necklace about its neck. To the ears he hung earrings and
strings of pearls upon the breast. Her dress became her, and she
looked not less charming than when unattired. He laid her on a
couch spread with cloths of Tyrian dye, and called her his wife,
and put her head upon a pillow of the softest feathers, as if she
could enjoy their softness.

The festival of Venus was at hand--a festival celebrated with
great pomp at Cyprus. Victims were offered, the altars smoked, and
the odor of incense filled the air. When Pygmalion had performed
his part in the solemnities, he stood before the altar and timidly
said, "Ye gods, who can do all things, give me, I pray you, for my
wife"--he dared not say "my ivory virgin," but said instead--"one
like my ivory virgin." Venus, who was present at the festival,
heard him and knew the thought he would have uttered; and as an
omen of her favor, caused the flame on the altar to shoot up
thrice in a fiery point into the air. When he returned home, he
went to see his statue, and leaning over the couch, gave a kiss to
the mouth. It seemed to be warm. He pressed its lips again, he
laid his hand upon the limbs; the ivory felt soft to his touch and
yielded to his fingers like the wax of Hymettus. While he stands
astonished and glad, though doubting, and fears he may be
mistaken, again and again with a lover's ardor he touches the
object of his hopes. It was indeed alive! The veins when pressed
yielded to the finger and again resumed their roundness. Then at
last the votary of Venus found words to thank the goddess, and
pressed his lips upon lips as real as his own. The virgin felt the
kisses and blushed, and opening her timid eyes to the light, fixed
them at the same moment on her lover. Venus blessed the nuptials
she had formed, and from this union Paphos was born, from whom the
city, sacred to Venus, received its name.

Schiller, in his poem the "Ideals," applies this tale of Pygmalion
to the love of nature in a youthful heart. The following
translation is furnished by a friend:

"As once with prayers in passion flowing,
Pygmalion embraced the stone,
Till from the frozen marble glowing,
The light of feeling o'er him shone,
So did I clasp with young devotion
Bright nature to a poet's heart;
Till breath and warmth and vital motion
Seemed through the statue form to dart.

"And then, in all my ardor sharing,
The silent form expression found;
Returned my kiss of youthful daring,
And understood my heart's quick sound.
Then lived for me the bright creation,
The silver rill with song was rife;
The trees, the roses shared sensation,
An echo of my boundless life."

--S. G. B.


Dryope and Iole were sisters. The former was the wife of
Andraemon, beloved by her husband, and happy in the birth of her
first child. One day the sisters strolled to the bank of a stream
that sloped gradually down to the water's edge, while the upland
was overgrown with myrtles. They were intending to gather flowers
for forming garlands for the altars of the nymphs, and Dryope
carried her child at her bosom, precious burden, and nursed him as
she walked. Near the water grew a lotus plant, full of purple
flowers. Dryope gathered some and offered them to the baby, and
Iole was about to do the same, when she perceived blood dropping
from the places where her sister had broken them off the stem. The
plant was no other than the nymph Lotis, who, running from a base
pursuer, had been changed into this form. This they learned from
the country people when it was too late.

Dryope, horror-struck when she perceived what she had done, would
gladly have hastened from the spot, but found her feet rooted to
the ground. She tried to pull them away, but moved nothing but her
upper limbs. The woodiness crept upward, and by degrees invested
her body. In anguish she attempted to tear her hair, but found her
hands filled with leaves. The infant felt his mother's bosom begin
to harden, and the milk cease to flow. Iole looked on at the sad
fate of her sister, and could render no assistance. She embraced
the growing trunk, as if she would hold back the advancing wood,
and would gladly have been enveloped in the same bark. At this
moment Andraemon, the husband of Dryope, with her father,
approached; and when they asked for Dryope, Iole pointed them to
the new-formed lotus. They embraced the trunk of the yet warm
tree, and showered their kisses on its leaves.

Now there was nothing left of Dryope but her face. Her tears still
flowed and fell on her leaves, and while she could she spoke. "I
am not guilty. I deserve not this fate. I have injured no one. If
I speak falsely, may my foliage perish with drought and my trunk
be cut down and burned. Take this infant and give it to a nurse.
Let it often be brought and nursed under my branches, and play in
my shade; and when he is old enough to talk, let him be taught to
call me mother, and to say with sadness, 'My mother lies hid under
this bark.' But bid him be careful of river banks, and beware how
he plucks flowers, remembering that every bush he sees may be a
goddess in disguise. Farewell, dear husband, and sister, and
father. If you retain any love for me, let not the axe wound me,
nor the flocks bite and tear my branches. Since I cannot stoop to
you, climb up hither and kiss me; and while my lips continue to
feel, lift up my child that I may kiss him. I can speak no more,
for already the bark advances up my neck, and will soon shoot over
me. You need not close my eyes, the bark will close them without
your aid." Then the lips ceased to move, and life was extinct; but
the branches retained for some time longer the vital heat.

Keats, in "Endymion," alludes to Dryope thus:

"She took a lute from which there pulsing came
A lively prelude, fashioning the way
In which her voice should wander. 'T was a lay
More subtle-cadenced, more forest-wild
Than Dryope's lone lulling of her child;" etc.


Venus, playing one day with her boy Cupid, wounded her bosom with
one of his arrows. She pushed him away, but the wound was deeper
than she thought. Before it healed she beheld Adonis, and was
captivated with him. She no longer took any interest in her
favorite resorts--Paphos, and Cnidos, and Amathos, rich in metals.
She absented herself even from heaven, for Adonis was dearer to
her than heaven. Him she followed and bore him company. She who
used to love to recline in the shade, with no care but to
cultivate her charms, now rambles through the woods and over the
hills, dressed like the huntress Diana; and calls her dogs, and
chases hares and stags, or other game that it is safe to hunt, but
keeps clear of the wolves and bears, reeking with the slaughter of
the herd. She charged Adonis, too, to beware of such dangerous
animals. "Be brave towards the timid," said she; "courage against
the courageous is not safe. Beware how you expose yourself to
danger and put my happiness to risk. Attack not the beasts that
Nature has armed with weapons. I do not value your glory so high
as to consent to purchase it by such exposure. Your youth, and the
beauty that charms Venus, will not touch the hearts of lions and
bristly boars. Think of their terrible claws and prodigious
strength! I hate the whole race of them. Do you ask me why?" Then
she told him the story of Atalanta and Hippomenes, who were
changed into lions for their ingratitude to her.

Having given him this warning, she mounted her chariot drawn by
swans, and drove away through the air. But Adonis was too noble to
heed such counsels. The dogs had roused a wild boar from his lair,
and the youth threw his spear and wounded the animal with a
sidelong stroke. The beast drew out the weapon with his jaws, and
rushed after Adonis, who turned and ran; but the boar overtook
him, and buried his tusks in his side, and stretched him dying
upon the plain.

Venus, in her swan-drawn chariot, had not yet reached Cyprus, when
she heard coming up through mid-air the groans of her beloved,
and turned her white-winged coursers back to earth. As she drew
near and saw from on high his lifeless body bathed in blood, she
alighted and, bending over it, beat her breast and tore her hair.
Reproaching the Fates, she said, "Yet theirs shall be but a
partial triumph; memorials of my grief shall endure, and the
spectacle of your death, my Adonis, and of my lamentations shall
be annually renewed. Your blood shall be changed into a flower;
that consolation none can envy me." Thus speaking, she sprinkled
nectar on the blood; and as they mingled, bubbles rose as in a
pool on which raindrops fall, and in an hour's time there sprang
up a flower of bloody hue like that of the pomegranate. But it is
short-lived. It is said the wind blows the blossoms open, and
afterwards blows the petals away; so it is called Anemone, or Wind
Flower, from the cause which assists equally in its production and
its decay.

Milton alludes to the story of Venus and Adonis in his "Comus":

"Beds of hyacinth and roses
Where young Adonis oft reposes,
Waxing well of his deep wound
In slumber soft, and on the ground
Sadly sits th' Assyrian queen;" etc.


Apollo was passionately fond of a youth named Hyacinthus. He
accompanied him in his sports, carried the nets when he went
fishing, led the dogs when he went to hunt, followed him in his
excursions in the mountains, and neglected for him his lyre and
his arrows. One day they played a game of quoits together, and
Apollo, heaving aloft the discus, with strength mingled with
skill, sent it high and far. Hyacinthus watched it as it flew, and
excited with the sport ran forward to seize it, eager to make his
throw, when the quoit bounded from the earth and struck him in the
forehead. He fainted and fell. The god, as pale as himself, raised
him and tried all his art to stanch the wound and retain the
flitting life, but all in vain; the hurt was past the power of
medicine. As when one has broken the stem of a lily in the garden
it hangs its head and turns its flowers to the earth, so the head
of the dying boy, as if too heavy for his neck, fell over on his
shoulder. "Thou diest, Hyacinth," so spoke Phoebus, "robbed of thy
youth by me. Thine is the suffering, mine the crime. Would that I
could die for thee! But since that may not be, thou shalt live
with me in memory and in song. My lyre shall celebrate thee, my
song shall tell thy fate, and thou shalt become a flower inscribed
with my regrets." While Apollo spoke, behold the blood which had
flowed on the ground and stained the herbage ceased to be blood;
but a flower of hue more beautiful than the Tyrian sprang up,
resembling the lily, if it were not that this is purple and that
silvery white. [Footnote: It is evidently not our modern hyacinth
that is here described. It is perhaps some species of iris, or
perhaps of larkspur or of pansy.] And this was not enough for
Phoebus; but to confer still greater honor, he marked the petals
with his sorrow, and inscribed "Ah! ah!" upon them, as we see to
this day. The flower bears the name of Hyacinthus, and with every
returning spring revives the memory of his fate.

It was said that Zephyrus (the West wind), who was also fond of
Hyacinthus and jealous of his preference of Apollo, blew the quoit
out of its course to make it strike Hyacinthus. Keats alludes to
this in his "Endymion," where he describes the lookers-on at the
game of quoits:

"Or they might watch the quoit-pitchers, intent
On either side, pitying the sad death
Of Hyacinthus, when the cruel breath
Of Zephyr slew him; Zephyr penitent,
Who now ere Phoebus mounts the firmament,
Fondles the flower amid the sobbing rain."

An allusion to Hyacinthus will also be recognized in Milton's

"Like to that sanguine flower inscribed with woe."



Ceyx was king of Thessaly, where he reigned in peace, without
violence or wrong. He was son of Hesperus, the Day-star, and the
glow of his beauty reminded one of his father. Halcyone, the
daughter of Aeolus, was his wife, and devotedly attached to him.
Now Ceyx was in deep affliction for the loss of his brother, and
direful prodigies following his brother's death made him feel as
if the gods were hostile to him. He thought best, therefore, to
make a voyage to Carlos in Ionia, to consult the oracle of Apollo.
But as soon as he disclosed his intention to his wife Halcyone, a
shudder ran through her frame, and her face grew deadly pale.
"What fault of mine, dearest husband, has turned your affection
from me? Where is that love of me that used to be uppermost in
your thoughts? Have you learned to feel easy in the absence of
Halcyone? Would you rather have me away?" She also endeavored to
discourage him, by describing the violence of the winds, which she
had known familiarly when she lived at home in her father's
house,--Aeolus being the god of the winds, and having as much as
he could do to restrain them. "They rush together," said she,
"with such fury that fire flashes from the conflict. But if you
must go," she added, "dear husband, let me go with you, otherwise
I shall suffer not only the real evils which you must encounter,
but those also which my fears suggest."

These words weighed heavily on the mind of King Ceyx, and it was
no less his own wish than hers to take her with him, but he could
not bear to expose her to the dangers of the sea. He answered,
therefore, consoling her as well as he could, and finished with
these words: "I promise, by the rays of my father the Day-star,
that if fate permits I will return before the moon shall have
twice rounded her orb." When he had thus spoken, he ordered the
vessel to be drawn out of the shiphouse, and the oars and sails to
be put aboard. When Halcyone saw these preparations she shuddered,
as if with a presentiment of evil. With tears and sobs she said
farewell, and then fell senseless to the ground.

Ceyx would still have lingered, but now the young men grasped
their oars and pulled vigorously through the waves, with long and
measured strokes. Halcyone raised her streaming eyes, and saw her
husband standing on the deck, waving his hand to her. She answered
his signal till the vessel had receded so far that she could no
longer distinguish his form from the rest. When the vessel itself
could no more be seen, she strained her eyes to catch the last
glimmer of the sail, till that too disappeared. Then, retiring to
her chamber, she threw herself on her solitary couch.

Meanwhile they glide out of the harbor, and the breeze plays among
the ropes. The seamen draw in their oars, and hoist their sails.
When half or less of their course was passed, as night drew on,
the sea began to whiten with swelling waves, and the east wind to
blow a gale. The master gave the word to take in sail, but the
storm forbade obedience, for such is the roar of the winds and
waves his orders are unheard. The men, of their own accord, busy
themselves to secure the oars, to strengthen the ship, to reef the
sail. While they thus do what to each one seems best, the storm
increases. The shouting of the men, the rattling of the shrouds,
and the dashing of the waves, mingle with the roar of the thunder.
The swelling sea seems lifted up to the heavens, to scatter its
foam among the clouds; then sinking away to the bottom assumes the
color of the shoal--a Stygian blackness.

The vessel shares all these changes. It seems like a wild beast
that rushes on the spears of the hunters. Rain falls in torrents,
as if the skies were coming down to unite with the sea. When the
lightning ceases for a moment, the night seems to add its own
darkness to that of the storm; then comes the flash, rending the
darkness asunder, and lighting up all with a glare. Skill fails,
courage sinks, and death seems to come on every wave. The men are
stupefied with terror. The thought of parents, and kindred, and
pledges left at home, comes over their minds. Ceyx thinks of
Halcyone. No name but hers is on his lips, and while he yearns for
her, he yet rejoices in her absence. Presently the mast is
shattered by a stroke of lightning, the rudder broken, and the
triumphant surge curling over looks down upon, the wreck, then
falls, and crushes it to fragments. Some of the seamen, stunned by
the stroke, sink, and rise no more; others cling to fragments of
the wreck. Ceyx, with the hand that used to grasp the sceptre,
holds fast to a plank, calling for help,--alas, in vain,--upon his
father and his father-in-law. But oftenest on his lips was the
name of Halcyone. To her his thoughts cling. He prays that the
waves may bear his body to her sight, and that it may receive
burial at her hands. At length the waters overwhelm him, and he
sinks. The Day-star looked dim that night. Since it could not
leave the heavens, it shrouded its face with clouds.

In the meanwhile Halcyone, ignorant of all these horrors, counted
the days till her husband's promised return. Now she gets ready
the garments which he shall put on, and now what she shall wear
when he arrives. To all the gods she offers frequent incense, but
more than all to Juno. For her husband, who was no more, she
prayed incessantly: that he might be safe; that he might come
home; that he might not, in his absence, see any one that he would
love better than her. But of all these prayers, the last was the
only one destined to be granted. The goddess, at length, could not
bear any longer to be pleaded with for one already dead, and to
have hands raised to her altars that ought rather to be offering
funeral rites. So, calling Iris, she said, "Iris, my faithful
messenger, go to the drowsy dwelling of Somnus, and tell him to
send a vision to Halcyone in the form of Ceyx, to make known to
her the event."

Iris puts on her robe of many colors, and tingeing the sky with
her bow, seeks the palace of the King of Sleep. Near the Cimmerian
country, a mountain cave is the abode of the dull god Somnus. Here
Phoebus dares not come, either rising, at midday, or setting.
Clouds and shadows are exhaled from the ground, and the light
glimmers faintly. The bird of dawning, with crested head, never
there calls aloud to Aurora, nor watchful dog, nor more sagacious
goose disturbs the silence. No wild beast, nor cattle, nor branch
moved with the wind, nor sound of human conversation, breaks the
stillness. Silence reigns there; but from the bottom of the rock
the River Lethe flows, and by its murmur invites to sleep. Poppies
grow abundantly before the door of the cave, and other herbs, from
whose juices Night collects slumbers, which she scatters over the
darkened earth. There is no gate to the mansion, to creak on its
hinges, nor any watchman; but in the midst a couch of black ebony,
adorned with black plumes and black curtains. There the god
reclines, his limbs relaxed with sleep. Around him lie dreams,
resembling all various forms, as many as the harvest bears stalks,
or the forest leaves, or the seashore sand grains.

As soon as the goddess entered and brushed away the dreams that
hovered around her, her brightness lit up all the cave. The god,
scarce opening his eyes, and ever and anon dropping his beard upon
his breast, at last shook himself free from himself, and leaning
on his arm, inquired her errand,--for he knew who she was. She
answered, "Somnus, gentlest of the gods, tranquillizer of minds
and soother of care-worn hearts, Juno sends you her commands that
you despatch a dream to Halcyone, in the city of Trachine,
representing her lost husband and all the events of the wreck."

Having delivered her message, Iris hasted away, for she could not
longer endure the stagnant air, and as she felt drowsiness
creeping over her, she made her escape, and returned by her bow
the way she came. Then Somnus called one of his numerous sons,--
Morpheus,--the most expert in counterfeiting forms, and in
imitating the walk, the countenance, and mode of speaking, even
the clothes and attitudes most characteristic of each. But he only
imitates men, leaving it to another to personate birds, beasts,
and serpents. Him they call Icelos; and Phantasos is a third, who
turns himself into rocks, waters, woods, and other things without
life. These wait upon kings and great personages in their sleeping
hours, while others move among the common people. Somnus chose,
from all the brothers, Morpheus, to perform the command of Iris;
then laid his head on his pillow and yielded himself to grateful

Morpheus flew, making no noise with his wings, and soon came to
the Haemonian city, where, laying aside his wings, he assumed the
form of Ceyx. Under that form, but pale like a dead man, naked, he
stood before the couch of the wretched wife. His beard seemed
soaked with water, and water trickled from his drowned locks.
Leaning over the bed, tears streaming from his eyes, he said, "Do
you recognize your Ceyx, unhappy wife, or has death too much
changed my visage? Behold me, know me, your husband's shade,
instead of himself. Your prayers, Halcyone, availed me nothing. I
am dead. No more deceive yourself with vain hopes of my return.
The stormy winds sunk my ship in the Aegean Sea, waves filled my
mouth while it called aloud on you. No uncertain messenger tells
you this, no vague rumor brings it to your ears. I come in person,
a shipwrecked man, to tell you my fate. Arise! give me tears, give
me lamentations, let me not go down to Tartarus unwept." To these
words Morpheus added the voice, which seemed to be that of her
husband; he seemed to pour forth genuine tears; his hands had the
gestures of Ceyx.

Halcyone, weeping, groaned, and stretched out her arms in her
sleep, striving to embrace his body, but grasping only the air.
"Stay!" she cried; "whither do you fly? let us go together." Her
own voice awakened her. Starting up, she gazed eagerly around, to
see if he was still present, for the servants, alarmed by her
cries, had brought a light. When she found him not, she smote her
breast and rent her garments. She cares not to unbind her hair,
but tears it wildly. Her nurse asks what is the cause of her
grief. "Halcyone is no more," she answers, "she perished with her
Ceyx. Utter not words of comfort, he is shipwrecked and dead. I
have seen him, I have recognized him. I stretched out my hands to
seize him and detain him. His shade vanished, but it was the true
shade of my husband. Not with the accustomed features, not with
the beauty that was his, but pale, naked, and with his hair wet
with sea-water, he appeared to wretched me. Here, in this very
spot, the sad vision stood,"--and she looked to find the mark of
his footsteps. "This it was, this that my presaging mind
foreboded, when I implored him not to leave me, to trust himself
to the waves. Oh, how I wish, since thou wouldst go, thou hadst
taken me with thee! It would have been far better. Then I should
have had no remnant of life to spend without thee, nor a separate
death to die. If I could bear to live and struggle to endure, I
should be more cruel to myself than the sea has been to me. But I
will not struggle, I will not be separated from thee, unhappy
husband. This time, at least, I will keep thee company. In death,
if one tomb may not include us, one epitaph shall; if I may not
lay my ashes with thine, my name, at least, shall not be
separated." Her grief forbade more words, and these were broken
with tears and sobs.

It was now morning. She went to the seashore, and sought the spot
where she last saw him, on his departure. "While he lingered here,
and cast off his tacklings, he gave me his last kiss." While she
reviews every object, and strives to recall every incident,
looking out over the sea, she descries an indistinct object
floating in the water. At first she was in doubt what it was, but
by degrees the waves bore it nearer, and it was plainly the body
of a man. Though unknowing of whom, yet, as it was of some
shipwrecked one, she was deeply moved, and gave it her tears,
saying, "Alas! unhappy one, and unhappy, if such there be, thy
wife!" Borne by the waves, it came nearer. As she more and more
nearly views it, she trembles more and more. Now, now it
approaches the shore. Now marks that she recognizes appear. It is
her husband! Stretching out her trembling hands towards it, she
exclaims, "O dearest husband, is it thus you return to me?"

There was built out from the shore a mole, constructed to break
the assaults of the sea, and stem its violent ingress. She leaped
upon this barrier and (it was wonderful she could do so) she flew,
and striking the air with wings produced on the instant, skimmed
along the surface of the water, an unhappy bird. As she flew, her
throat poured forth sounds full of grief, and like the voice of
one lamenting. When she touched the mute and bloodless body, she
enfolded its beloved limbs with her new-formed wings, and tried to
give kisses with her horny beak. Whether Ceyx felt it, or whether
it was only the action of the waves, those who looked on doubted,
but the body seemed to raise its head. But indeed he did feel it,
and by the pitying gods both of them were changed into birds. They
mate and have their young ones. For seven placid days, in winter
time, Halcyone broods over her nest, which floats upon the sea.
Then the way is safe to seamen. Aeolus guards the winds and keeps
them from disturbing the deep. The sea is given up, for the time,
to his grandchildren.

The following lines from Byron's "Bride of Abydos" might seem
borrowed from the concluding part of this description, if it were
not stated that the author derived the suggestion from observing
the motion of a floating corpse:

"As shaken on his restless pillow,
His head heaves with the heaving billow,
That hand, whose motion is not life,
Yet feebly seems to menace strife,
Flung by the tossing tide on high,
Then levelled with the wave ..."

Milton in his "Hymn on the Nativity," thus alludes to the fable of
the Halcyon:

"But peaceful was the night
Wherein the Prince of light
His reign of peace upon the earth began;
The winds with wonder whist
Smoothly the waters kist
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave."

Keats, also, in "Endymion," says:

"O magic sleep! O comfortable bird
That broodest o'er the troubled sea of the mind
Till it is hushed and smooth."



The Hamadryads were Wood-nymphs. Pomona was of this class, and no
one excelled her in love of the garden and the culture of fruit.
She cared not for orests and rivers, but loved the cultivated
country, and trees that bear delicious apples. Her right hand bore
for its weapon not a javelin, but a pruning-knife. Armed with
this, she busied herself at one time to repress the too luxuriant
growths, and curtail the branches that straggled out of place; at
another, to split the twig and insert therein a graft, making the
branch adopt a nursling not its own. She took care, too, that her
favorites should not suffer from drought, and led streams of water
by them, that the thirsty roots might drink. This occupation was
her pursuit, her passion; and she was free from that which Venus
inspires. She was not without fear of the country people, and kept
her orchard locked, and allowed not men to enter. The Fauns and
Satyrs would have given all they possessed to win her, and so
would old Sylvanus, who looks young for his years, and Pan, who
wears a garland of pine leaves around his head. But Vertumnus
loved her best of all; yet he sped no better than the rest. O how
often, in the disguise of a reaper, did he bring her corn in a
basket, and looked the very image of a reaper! With a hay band
tied round him, one would think he had just come from turning over
the grass. Sometimes he would have an ox-goad in his hand, and you
would have said he had just unyoked his weary oxen. Now he bore a
pruning-hook, and personated a vine-dresser; and again, with a
ladder on his shoulder, he seemed as if he was going to gather
apples. Sometimes he trudged along as a discharged soldier, and
again he bore a fishing-rod, as if going to fish. In this way he
gained admission to her again and again, and fed his passion with
the sight of her.

One day he came in the guise of an old woman, her gray hair
surmounted with a cap, and a staff in her hand. She entered the
garden and admired the fruit. "It does you credit, my dear," she
said, and kissed her, not exactly with an old woman's kiss. She
sat down on a bank, and looked up at the branches laden with fruit
which hung over her. Opposite was an elm entwined with a vine
loaded with swelling grapes. She praised the tree and its
associated vine, equally. "But," said she, "if the tree stood
alone, and had no vine clinging to it, it would have nothing to
attract or offer us but its useless leaves. And equally the vine,
if it were not twined round the elm, would lie prostrate on the
ground. Why will you not take a lesson from the tree and the vine,
and consent to unite yourself with some one? I wish you would.
Helen herself had not more numerous suitors, nor Penelope, the
wife of shrewd Ulysses. Even while you spurn them, they court
you,--rural deities and others of every kind that frequent these
mountains. But if you are prudent and want to make a good
alliance, and will let an old woman advise you,--who loves you
better than you have any idea of,--dismiss all the rest and
accept Vertumnus, on my recommendation. I know him as well as he
knows himself. He is not a wandering deity, but belongs to these
mountains. Nor is he like too many of the lovers nowadays, who
love any one they happen to see; he loves you, and you only. Add
to this, he is young and handsome, and has the art of assuming any
shape he pleases, and can make himself just what you command him.
Moreover, he loves the same things that you do, delights in
gardening, and handles your apples with admiration. But NOW he
cares nothing for fruits nor flowers, nor anything else, but only
yourself. Take pity on him, and fancy him speaking now with my
mouth. Remember that the gods punish cruelty, and that Venus hates
a hard heart, and will visit such offences sooner or later. To
prove this, let me tell you a story, which is well known in Cyprus
to be a fact; and I hope it will have the effect to make you more

"Iphis was a young man of humble parentage, who saw and loved
Anaxarete, a noble lady of the ancient family of Teucer. He
struggled long with his passion, but when he found he could not
subdue it, he came a suppliant to her mansion. First he told his
passion to her nurse, and begged her as she loved her foster-child
to favor his suit. And then he tried to win her domestics to his
side. Sometimes he committed his vows to written tablets, and
often hung at her door garlands which he had moistened with his
tears. He stretched himself on her threshold, and uttered his
complaints to the cruel bolts and bars. She was deafer than the
surges which rise in the November gale; harder than steel from the
German forges, or a rock that still clings to its native cliff.
She mocked and laughed at him, adding cruel words to her ungentle
treatment, and gave not the slightest gleam of hope.

"Iphis could not any longer endure the torments of hopeless love,
and, standing before her doors, he spake these last words:
'Anaxarete, you have conquered, and shall no longer have to bear
my importunities. Enjoy your triumph! Sing songs of joy, and bind
your forehead with laurel,--you have conquered! I die; stony
heart, rejoice! This at least I can do to gratify you and force
you to praise me; and thus shall I prove that the love of you left
me but with life. Nor will I leave it to rumor to tell you of my
death. I will come myself, and you shall see me die, and feast
your eyes on the spectacle. Yet, O ye gods, who look down on
mortal woes, observe my fate! I ask but this: let me be remembered
in coming ages, and add those years to my fame which you have reft
from my life. Thus he said, and, turning his pale face and weeping
eyes towards her mansion, he fastened a rope to the gatepost, on
which he had often hung garlands, and putting his head into the
noose, he murmured, 'This garland at least will please you, cruel
girl!' and falling hung suspended with his neck broken. As he fell
he struck against the gate, and the sound was as the sound of a
groan. The servants opened the door and found him dead, and with
exclamations of pity raised him and carried him home to his
mother, for his father was not living. She received the dead body
of her son, and folded the cold form to her bosom, while she
poured forth the sad words which bereaved mothers utter. The
mournful funeral passed through the town, and the pale corpse was
borne on a bier to the place of the funeral pile. By chance the
home of Anaxarete was on the street where the procession passed,
and the lamentations of the mourners met the ears of her whom the
avenging deity had already marked for punishment.

"'Let us see this sad procession,' said she, and mounted to a
turret, whence through an open window she looked upon the funeral.
Scarce had her eyes rested upon the form of Iphis stretched on the
bier, when they began to stiffen, and the warm blood in her body
to become cold. Endeavoring to step back, she found she could not
move her feet; trying to turn away her face, she tried in vain;
and by degrees all her limbs became stony like her heart. That you
may not doubt the fact, the statue still remains, and stands in
the temple of Venus at Salamis, in the exact form of the lady. Now
think of these things, my dear, and lay aside your scorn and your
delays, and accept a lover. So may neither the vernal frosts
blight your young fruits, nor furious winds scatter your

When Vertumnus had spoken thus, he dropped the disguise of an old
woman, and stood before her in his proper person, as a comely
youth. It appeared to her like the sun bursting through a cloud.
He would have renewed his entreaties, but there was no need; his
arguments and the sight of his true form prevailed, and the Nymph
no longer resisted, but owned a mutual flame.

Pomona was the especial patroness of the Apple-orchard, and as
such she was invoked by Phillips, the author of a poem on Cider,
in blank verse. Thomson in the "Seasons" alludes to him:

"Phillips, Pomona's bard, the second thou
Who nobly durst, in rhyme-unfettered verse,
With British freedom, sing the British song."

But Pomona was also regarded as presiding over other fruits, and
as such is invoked by Thomson:

"Bear me, Pomona, to thy citron groves,
To where the lemon and the piercing lime,
With the deep orange, glowing through the green,
Their lighter glories blend. Lay me reclined
Beneath the spreading tamarind, that shakes,
Fanned by the breeze, its fever-cooling fruit."



A certain king and queen had three daughters. The charms of the
two elder were more than common, but the beauty of the youngest
was so wonderful that the poverty of language is unable to express
its due praise. The fame of her beauty was so great that strangers
from neighboring countries came in crowds to enjoy the sight, and
looked on her with amazement, paying her that homage which is due
only to Venus herself. In fact Venus found her altars deserted,
while men turned their devotion to this young virgin. As she
passed along, the people sang her praises, and strewed her way
with chaplets and flowers.

This perversion of homage due only to the immortal powers to the
exaltation of a mortal gave great offence to the real Venus.
Shaking her ambrosial locks with indignation, she exclaimed, "Am I
then to be eclipsed in my honors by a mortal girl? In vain then
did that royal shepherd, whose judgment was approved by Jove
himself, give me the palm of beauty over my illustrious rivals,
Pallas and Juno. But she shall not so quietly usurp my honors. I
will give her cause to repent of so unlawful a beauty."

Thereupon she calls her winged son Cupid, mischievous enough in
his own nature, and rouses and provokes him yet more by her
complaints. She points out Psyche to him and says, "My dear son,
punish that contumacious beauty; give thy mother a revenge as
sweet as her injuries are great; infuse into the bosom of that
haughty girl a passion for some low, mean, unworthy being, so that
she may reap a mortification as great as her present exultation
and triumph."

Cupid prepared to obey the commands of his mother. There are two
fountains in Venus's garden, one of sweet waters, the other of
bitter. Cupid filled two amber vases, one from each fountain, and
suspending them from the top of his quiver, hastened to the
chamber of Psyche, whom he found asleep. He shed a few drops from
the bitter fountain over her lips, though the sight of her almost
moved him to pity; then touched her side with the point of his
arrow. At the touch she awoke, and opened eyes upon Cupid (himself
invisible), which so startled him that in his confusion he wounded
himself with his own arrow. Heedless of his wound, his whole
thought now was to repair the mischief he had done, and he poured
the balmy drops of joy over all her silken ringlets.

Psyche, henceforth frowned upon by Venus, derived no benefit from
all her charms. True, all eyes were cast eagerly upon her, and
every mouth spoke her praises; but neither king, royal youth, nor
plebeian presented himself to demand her in marriage. Her two
elder sisters of moderate charms had now long been married to two
royal princes; but Psyche, in her lonely apartment, deplored her
solitude, sick of that beauty which, while it procured abundance
of flattery, had failed to awaken love.

Her parents, afraid that they had unwittingly incurred the anger
of the gods, consulted the oracle of Apollo, and received this
answer: "The virgin is destined for the bride of no mortal lover.
Her future husband awaits her on the top of the mountain. He is a
monster whom neither gods nor men can resist."

This dreadful decree of the oracle filled all the people with
dismay, and her parents abandoned themselves to grief. But Psyche
said, "Why, my dear parents, do you now lament me? You should
rather have grieved when the people showered upon me undeserved
honors, and with one voice called me a Venus. I now perceive that
I am a victim to that name. I submit. Lead me to that rock to
which my unhappy fate has destined me." Accordingly, all things
being prepared, the royal maid took her place in the procession,
which more resembled a funeral than a nuptial pomp, and with her
parents, amid the lamentations of the people, ascended the
mountain, on the summit of which they left her alone, and with
sorrowful hearts returned home.

While Psyche stood on the ridge of the mountain, panting with fear
and with eyes full of tears, the gentle Zephyr raised her from the
earth and bore her with an easy motion into a flowery dale. By
degrees her mind became composed, and she laid herself down on the
grassy bank to sleep. When she awoke refreshed with sleep, she
looked round and beheld near by a pleasant grove of tall and
stately trees. She entered it, and in the midst discovered a
fountain, sending forth clear and crystal waters, and fast by, a
magnificent palace whose august front impressed the spectator that
it was not the work of mortal hands, but the happy retreat of some
god. Drawn by admiration and wonder, she approached the building
and ventured to enter. Every object she met filled her with
pleasure and amazement. Golden pillars supported the vaulted roof,
and the walls were enriched with carvings and paintings
representing beasts of the chase and rural scenes, adapted to
delight the eye of the beholder. Proceeding onward, she perceived
that besides the apartments of state there were others filled with
all manner of treasures, and beautiful and precious productions of
nature and art.

While her eyes were thus occupied, a voice addressed her, though
she saw no one, uttering these words: "Sovereign lady, all that
you see is yours. We whose voices you hear are your servants and
shall obey all your commands with our utmost care and diligence.
Retire, therefore, to your chamber and repose on your bed of down,
and when you see fit repair to the bath. Supper awaits you in the
adjoining alcove when it pleases you to take your seat there."

Psyche gave ear to the admonitions of her vocal attendants, and
after repose and the refreshment of the bath, seated herself in
the alcove, where a table immediately presented itself, without
any visible aid from waiters or servants, and covered with the
greatest delicacies of food and the most nectareous wines. Her
ears too were feasted with music from invisible performers; of
whom one sang, another played on the lute, and all closed in the
wonderful harmony of a full chorus.

She had not yet seen her destined husband. He came only in the
hours of darkness and fled before the dawn of morning, but his
accents were full of love, and inspired a like passion in her. She
often begged him to stay and let her behold him, but he would not
consent. On the contrary he charged her to make no attempt to see
him, for it was his pleasure, for the best of reasons, to keep
concealed. "Why should you wish to behold me?" he said; "have you
any doubt of my love? have you any wish ungratified? If you saw
me, perhaps you would fear me, perhaps adore me, but all I ask of
you is to love me. I would rather you would love me as an equal
than adore me as a god."

This reasoning somewhat quieted Psyche for a time, and while the
novelty lasted she felt quite happy. But at length the thought of
her parents, left in ignorance of her fate, and of her sisters,
precluded from sharing with her the delights of her situation,
preyed on her mind and made her begin to feel her palace as but a
splendid prison. When her husband came one night, she told him her
distress, and at last drew from him an unwilling consent that her
sisters should be brought to see her.

So, calling Zephyr, she acquainted him with her husband's
commands, and he, promptly obedient, soon brought them across the
mountain down to their sister's valley. They embraced her and she
returned their caresses. "Come," said Psyche, "enter with me my
house and refresh yourselves with whatever your sister has to
offer." Then taking their hands she led them into her golden
palace, and committed them to the care of her numerous train of
attendant voices, to refresh them in her baths and at her table,
and to show them all her treasures. The view of these celestial
delights caused envy to enter their bosoms, at seeing their young
sister possessed of such state and splendor, so much exceeding
their own.

They asked her numberless questions, among others what sort of a
person her husband was. Psyche replied that he was a beautiful
youth, who generally spent the daytime in hunting upon the
mountains. The sisters, not satisfied with this reply, soon made
her confess that she had never seen him. Then they proceeded to
fill her bosom with dark suspicions. "Call to mind," they said,
"the Pythian oracle that declared you destined to marry a direful
and tremendous monster. The inhabitants of this valley say that
your husband is a terrible and monstrous serpent, who nourishes
you for a while with dainties that he may by and by devour you.
Take our advice. Provide yourself with a lamp and a sharp knife;
put them in concealment that your husband may not discover them,
and when he is sound asleep, slip out of bed, bring forth your
lamp, and see for yourself whether what they say is true or not.
If it is, hesitate not to cut off the monster's head, and thereby
recover your liberty."

Psyche resisted these persuasions as well as she could, but they
did not fail to have their effect on her mind, and when her
sisters were gone, their words and her own curiosity were too
strong for her to resist. So she prepared her lamp and a sharp
knife, and hid them out of sight of her husband. When he had
fallen into his first sleep, she silently rose and uncovering her
lamp beheld not a hideous monster, but the most beautiful and
charming of the gods, with his golden ringlets wandering over his
snowy neck and crimson cheek, with two dewy wings on his
shoulders, whiter than snow, and with shining feathers like the
tender blossoms of spring. As she leaned the lamp over to have a
nearer view of his face a drop of burning oil fell on the shoulder
of the god, startled with which he opened his eyes and fixed them
full upon her; then, without saying one word, he spread his white
wings and flew out of the window. Psyche, in vain endeavoring to
follow him, fell from the window to the ground. Cupid, beholding
her as she lay in the dust, stopped his flight for an instant and
said, "O foolish Psyche, is it thus you repay my love? After
having disobeyed my mother's commands and made you my wife, will
you think me a monster and cut off my head? But go; return to your
sisters, whose advice you seem to think preferable to mine. I
inflict no other punishment on you than to leave you forever. Love
cannot dwell with suspicion." So saying, he fled away, leaving
poor Psyche prostrate on the ground, filling the place with
mournful lamentations.

When she had recovered some degree of composure she looked around
her, but the palace and gardens had vanished, and she found
herself in the open field not far from the city where her sisters
dwelt. She repaired thither and told them the whole story of her
misfortunes, at which, pretending to grieve, those spiteful
creatures inwardly rejoiced. "For now," said they, "he will
perhaps choose one of us." With this idea, without saying a word
of her intentions, each of them rose early the next morning and
ascended the mountains, and having reached the top, called upon
Zephyr to receive her and bear her to his lord; then leaping up,
and not being sustained by Zephyr, fell down the precipice and was
dashed to pieces.

Psyche meanwhile wandered day and night, without food or repose,
in search of her husband. Casting her eyes on a lofty mountain
having on its brow a magnificent temple, she sighed and said to
herself, "Perhaps my love, my lord, inhabits there," and directed
her steps thither.

She had no sooner entered than she saw heaps of corn, some in
loose ears and some in sheaves, with mingled ears of barley.
Scattered about, lay sickles and rakes, and all the instruments of
harvest, without order, as if thrown carelessly out of the weary
reapers' hands in the sultry hours of the day.

This unseemly confusion the pious Psyche put an end to, by
separating and sorting everything to its proper place and kind,
believing that she ought to neglect none of the gods, but endeavor
by her piety to engage them all in her behalf. The holy Ceres,
whose temple it was, finding her so religiously employed, thus
spoke to her: "O Psyche, truly worthy of our pity, though I cannot
shield you from the frowns of Venus, yet I can teach you how best
to allay her displeasure. Go, then, and voluntarily surrender
yourself to your lady and sovereign, and try by modesty and
submission to win her forgiveness, and perhaps her favor will
restore you the husband you have lost."

Psyche obeyed the commands of Ceres and took her way to the temple
of Venus, endeavoring to fortify her mind and ruminating on what
she should say and how best propitiate the angry goddess, feeling
that the issue was doubtful and perhaps fatal.

Venus received her with angry countenance. "Most undutiful and
faithless of servants," said she, "do you at last remember that
you really have a mistress? Or have you rather come to see your
sick husband, yet laid up of the wound given him by his loving
wife? You are so ill-favored and disagreeable that the only way
you can merit your lover must be by dint of industry and
diligence. I will make trial of your housewifery." Then she
ordered Psyche to be led to the storehouse of her temple, where
was laid up a great quantity of wheat, barley, millet, vetches,
beans, and lentils prepared for food for her pigeons, and said,
"Take and separate all these grains, putting all of the same kind
in a parcel by themselves, and see that you get it done before
evening." Then Venus departed and left her to her task.

But Psyche, in a perfect consternation at the enormous work, sat
stupid and silent, without moving a finger to the inextricable

While she sat despairing, Cupid stirred up the little ant, a
native of the fields, to take compassion on her. The leader of the
ant hill, followed by whole hosts of his six-legged subjects,
approached the heap, and with the utmost diligence, taking grain
by grain, they separated the pile, sorting each kind to its
parcel; and when it was all done, they vanished out of sight in a

Venus at the approach of twilight returned from the banquet of the
gods, breathing odors and crowned with roses. Seeing the task
done, she exclaimed, "This is no work of yours, wicked one, but
his, whom to your own and his misfortune you have enticed." So
saying, she threw her a piece of black bread for her supper and
went away.

Next morning Venus ordered Psyche to be called and said to her,
"Behold yonder grove which stretches along the margin of the
water. There you will find sheep feeding without a shepherd, with
golden-shining fleeces on their backs. Go, fetch me a sample of
that precious wool gathered from every one of their fleeces."

Psyche obediently went to the riverside, prepared to do her best
to execute the command. But the river god inspired the reeds with
harmonious murmurs, which seemed to say, "O maiden, severely
tried, tempt not the dangerous flood, nor venture among the
formidable rams on the other side, for as long as they are under
the influence of the rising sun, they burn with a cruel rage to
destroy mortals with their sharp horns or rude teeth. But when the
noontide sun has driven the cattle to the shade, and the serene
spirit of the flood has lulled them to rest, you may then cross in
safety, and you will find the woolly gold sticking to the bushes
and the trunks of the trees."

Thus the compassionate river god gave Psyche instructions how to
accomplish her task, and by observing his directions she soon
returned to Venus with her arms full of the golden fleece; but she
received not the approbation of her implacable mistress, who said,
"I know very well it is by none of your own doings that you have
succeeded in this task, and I am not satisfied yet that you have
any capacity to make yourself useful. But I have another task for
you. Here, take this box and go your way to the infernal shades,
and give this box to Proserpine and say, 'My mistress Venus
desires you to send her a little of your beauty, for in tending
her sick son she has lost some of her own.' Be not too long on
your errand, for I must paint myself with it to appear at the
circle of the gods and goddesses this evening."

Psyche was now satisfied that her destruction was at hand, being
obliged to go with her own feet directly down to Erebus.
Wherefore, to make no delay of what was not to be avoided, she
goes to the top of a high tower to precipitate herself headlong,
thus to descend the shortest way to the shades below. But a voice
from the tower said to her, "Why, poor unlucky girl, dost thou
design to put an end to thy days in so dreadful a manner? And what
cowardice makes thee sink under this last danger who hast been so
miraculously supported in all thy former?" Then the voice told her
how by a certain cave she might reach the realms of Pluto, and how
to avoid all the dangers of the road, to pass by Cerberus, the
three-headed dog, and prevail on Charon, the ferryman, to take her
across the black river and bring her back again. But the voice
added, "When Proserpine has given you the box filled with her
beauty, of all things this is chiefly to be observed by you, that
you never once open or look into the box nor allow your curiosity
to pry into the treasure of the beauty of the goddesses."

Psyche, encouraged by this advice, obeyed it in all things, and
taking heed to her ways travelled safely to the kingdom of Pluto.
She was admitted to the palace of Proserpine, and without
accepting the delicate seat or delicious banquet that was offered
her, but contented with coarse bread for her food, she delivered
her message from Venus. Presently the box was returned to her,
shut and filled with the precious commodity. Then she returned the
way she came, and glad was she to come out once more into the
light of day.

But having got so far successfully through her dangerous task, a
longing desire seized her to examine the contents of the box.
"What," said she, "shall I, the carrier of this divine beauty, not
take the least bit to put on my cheeks to appear to more advantage
in the eyes of my beloved husband!" So she carefully opened the
box, but found nothing there of any beauty at all, but an infernal
and truly Stygian sleep, which being thus set free from its
prison, took possession of her, and she fell down in the midst of
the road, a sleepy corpse without sense or motion.

But Cupid, being now recovered from his wound, and not able longer
to bear the absence of his beloved Psyche, slipping through the
smallest crack of the window of his chamber which happened to be
left open, flew to the spot where Psyche lay, and gathering up the
sleep from her body closed it again in the box, and waked Psyche
with a light touch of one of his arrows. "Again," said he, "hast
thou almost perished by the same curiosity. But now perform
exactly the task imposed on you by my mother, and I will take care
of the rest."

Then Cupid, as swift as lightning penetrating the heights of
heaven, presented himself before Jupiter with his supplication.
Jupiter lent a favoring ear, and pleaded the cause of the lovers
so earnestly with Venus that he won her consent. On this he sent
Mercury to bring Psyche up to the heavenly assembly, and when she
arrived, handing her a cup of ambrosia, he said, "Drink this,
Psyche, and be immortal; nor shall Cupid ever break away from the
knot in which he is tied, but these nuptials shall be perpetual."

Thus Psyche became at last united to Cupid, and in due time they
had a daughter born to them whose name was Pleasure.

The fable of Cupid and Psyche is usually considered allegorical.
The Greek name for a butterfly is Psyche, and the same word means
the soul. There is no illustration of the immortality of the soul
so striking and beautiful as the butterfly, bursting on brilliant
wings from the tomb in which it has lain, after a dull,
grovelling, caterpillar existence, to flutter in the blaze of day
and feed on the most fragrant and delicate productions of the
spring. Psyche, then, is the human soul, which is purified by
sufferings and misfortunes, and is thus prepared for the enjoyment
of true and pure happiness.

In works of art Psyche is represented as a maiden with the wings
of a butterfly, along with Cupid, in the different situations
described in the allegory.

Milton alludes to the story of Cupid and Psyche in the conclusion
of his "Comus":

"Celestial Cupid, her famed son, advanced,
Holds his dear Psyche sweet entranced,
After her wandering labors long,
Till free consent the gods among
Make her his eternal bride;
And from her fair unspotted side
Two blissful twins are to be born,
Youth and Joy; so Jove hath sworn."

The allegory of the story of Cupid and Psyche is well presented in
the beautiful lines of T. K. Harvey:

"They wove bright fables in the days of old,
When reason borrowed fancy's painted wings;
When truth's clear river flowed o'er sands of gold,
And told in song its high and mystic things!
And such the sweet and solemn tale of her
The pilgrim heart, to whom a dream was given,
That led her through the world,--Love's worshipper,--
To seek on earth for him whose home was heaven!

"In the full city,--by the haunted fount,--
Through the dim grotto's tracery of spars,--
'Mid the pine temples, on the moonlit mount,
Where silence sits to listen to the stars;
In the deep glade where dwells the brooding dove,
The painted valley, and the scented air,
She heard far echoes of the voice of Love,
And found his footsteps' traces everywhere.

"But nevermore they met since doubts and fears,
Those phantom shapes that haunt and blight the earth,
Had come 'twixt her, a child of sin and tears,
And that bright spirit of immortal birth;
Until her pining soul and weeping eyes
Had learned to seek him only in the skies;
Till wings unto the weary heart were given,
And she became Love's angel bride in heaven!"

The story of Cupid and Psyche first appears in the works of
Apuleius, a writer of the second century of our era. It is
therefore of much more recent date than most of the legends of the
Age of Fable. It is this that Keats alludes to in his "Ode to

"O latest born and loveliest vision far
Of all Olympus' faded hierarchy!
Fairer than Phoebe's sapphire-regioned star
Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;
Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,
Nor altar heaped with flowers;
Nor virgin choir to make delicious moan
Upon the midnight hours;
No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet,
From chain-swung censor teeming;
No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat
Of pale-mouthed prophet dreaming."

In Moore's "Summer Fete" a fancy ball is described, in which one
of the characters personated is Psyche--

"... not in dark disguise to-night
Hath our young heroine veiled her light;--
For see, she walks the earth, Love's own.
His wedded bride, by holiest vow
Pledged in Olympus, and made known
To mortals by the type which now
Hangs glittering on her snowy brow.
That butterfly, mysterious trinket,
Which means the soul, (though few would think it,)
And sparkling thus on brow so white
Tells us we've Psyche here to-night."



Jupiter, under the disguise of a bull, had carried away Europa,
the daughter of Agenor, king of Phoenicia. Agenor commanded his
son Cadmus to go in search of his sister, and not to return
without her. Cadmus went and sought long and far for his sister,
but could not find her, and not daring to return unsuccessful,
consulted the oracle of Apollo to know what country he should
settle in. The oracle informed him that he should find a cow in
the field, and should follow her wherever she might wander, and
where she stopped, should build a city and call it Thebes. Cadmus
had hardly left the Castalian cave, from which the oracle was
delivered, when he saw a young cow slowly walking before him. He
followed her close, offering at the same time his prayers to


Back to Full Books