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 mountain, 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 every thing 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, voluntarily surrender yourself to your lady and sovereign, and try by modesty and submission to win her forgiveness; 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 thinking of what she should say and how she should 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 suffering from 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 doves, 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 perfect consternation at the enormous work, sat stupid and silent, without moving a finger to the inextricable heap.
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 moment.
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 river-side, 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 flock 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 come 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, alone or 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. Hervey:—
"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 never more 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 Psyche.
"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 censer 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."
Chapter VII Cadmus. The Myrmidons.
Jupiter, under the disguise of a bull, had carried away to the island of Crete, 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 Phoebus. The cow went on till she passed the shallow channel of Cephisus and came out into the plain of Panope. There she stood still, and raising her broad forehead to the sky, filled the air with her lowings. Cadmus gave thanks, and stooping down kissed the foreign soil, then lifting his eyes, greeted the surrounding mountains. Wishing to offer a sacrifice to Jupiter, he sent his servants to seek pure water for a libation. Nearby there stood an ancient grove which had never been profaned by the axe, in the midst of which was a cave, thick covered with the growth of bushes, its roof forming a low arch, from beneath which burst forth a fountain of purest water. In the cave lurked a horrid serpent with a crested head and scales glittering like gold. His eyes shone like fire, his body was swollen with venom, he vibrated a triple tongue, and showed a triple row of teeth. No sooner had the Tyrians (Cadmus and his companions came from Tyre, the chief city of Phoenicia) dipped their pitchers in the fountain, and the ingushing waters made a sound, than the glittering serpent raised his head out of the cave and uttered a fearful hiss. The vessels fell from their hands, the blood left their cheeks, they trembled in every limb. The serpent, twisting his scaly body in a huge coil, raised his head so as to overtop the tallest trees, and while the Tyrians from terror could neither fight nor fly, slew some with his fangs, others in his folds, and others with his poisonous breath.
Cadmus having waited for the return of his men till midday, went in search of them. His covering was a lion's hide, and besides his javelin he carried in his hand a lance, and in his breast a bold heart, a surer reliance than either. When he entered the wood and saw the lifeless bodies of his men, and the monster with his bloody jaws, he exclaimed, "O faithful friends, I will avenge you, or share your death." So saying he lifted a huge stone and threw it with all his force at the serpent. Such a block would have shaken the wall of a fortress, but it made no impression on the monster. Cadmus next threw his javelin, which met with better success, for it penetrated the serpent's scales, and pierced through to his entrails. Fierce with pain the monster turned back his head to view the wound, and attempted to draw out the weapon with his mouth, but broke it off, leaving the iron point rankling in his flesh. His neck swelled with rage, bloody foam covered his jaws, and the breath of his nostrils poisoned the air around. Now he twisted himself into a circle, then stretched himself out on the ground like the trunk of a fallen tree. As he moved onward, Cadmus retreated before him, holding his spear opposite to the monster's opened jaws. The serpent snapped at the weapon and attempted to bite its iron point. At last Cadmus, watching his chance, thrust the spear at a moment when the animal's thrown back came against the trunk of a tree, and so succeeded in pinning him to its side. His weight bent the tree as he struggled in the agonies of death.
While Cadmus stood over his conquered foe, contemplating its vast size, a voice was heard (from whence he knew not, but he heard it distinctly), commanding him to take the dragon's teeth and sow them in the earth. He obeyed. He made a furrow in the ground, and planted the teeth, destined to produce a crop of men. Scarce had he done so when the clods began to move, and the points of spears to appear above the surface. Next helmets, with their nodding plumes, came up, and next, the shoulders and breasts and limbs of men with weapons, and in time a harvest of armed warriors. Cadmus, alarmed, prepared to encounter a new enemy, but one of them said to him, "Meddle not with our civil war." With that he who had spoken smote one of his earth-born brothers with a sword, and he himself fell pierced with an arrow from another. The latter fell victim to a fourth, and in like manner the whole crowd dealt with each other till all fell slain with mutual wounds except five survivors. One of these cast away his weapons and said, "Brothers, let us live in peace!" These five joined with Cadmus in building his city, to which they gave the name of Thebes.
Cadmus obtained in marriage Harmonia, the daughter of Venus. The gods left Olympus to honor the occasion with their presence, and Vulcan presented the bride with a necklace of surpassing brilliancy, his own workmanship. But a fatality hung over the family of Cadmus in consequence of his killing the serpent sacred to Mars. Semele and Ino, his daughters, and Actaeon and Pentheius, his grandchildren, all perished unhappily; and Cadmus and Harmonia quitted Thebes, now grown odious to them, and emigrated to the country of the Enchelians, who received them with honor and made Cadmus their king. But the misfortunes of their children still weighed upon their minds; and one day Cadmus exclaimed, "If a serpent's life is so dear to the gods, I would I were myself a serpent." No sooner had he uttered the words than he began to change his form. Harmonia beheld it, and prayed to the gods to let her share his fate. Both became serpents. They lie in the woods, but mindful of their origin they neither avoid the presence of man nor do they ever injure any one.
There is a tradition that Cadmus introduced into Greece the letters of the alphabet which were invented by the Phoenicians. This is alluded to by Byron, where, addressing the modern Greeks, he says:
"You have the letters Cadmus gave, Think you he meant them for a slave?"
Milton, describing the serpent which tempted Eve, is reminded of the serpents of the classical stories, and says,
"——-pleasing was his shape, And lovely; never since of serpent kind Lovelier; not those that in Illyria changed Hermione and Cadmus, nor the god in Epidaurus."
The "god in Epidaurus" was AEsculapius. Serpents were held sacred to him.
The Myrmidons were the soldiers of Achilles in the Trojan war. >From them all zealous and unscrupulous followers of a political chief are called by that name down to this day. But the origin of the Myrmidons would not give one the idea of a fierce and bloody race, but rather of a laborious and peaceful one.
Cephalus, king of Athens, arrived in the island of AEgina to seek assistance of his old friend and ally AEacus, the king, in his wars with Minos, king of Crete. Cephalus was kindly received, and the desired assistance readily promised. "I have people enough," said AEacus, "to protect myself and spare you such a force as you need." "I rejoice to see it," replied Cephalus, "and my wonder has been raised, I confess, to find such a host of youths as I see around me, all apparently of about the same age. Yet there are many individuals whom I previously knew that I look for now in vain. What has become of them?" AEacus groaned, and replied with a voice of sadness, "I have been intending to tell you, and will now do so without more delay, that you may see how from the saddest beginning a happy result sometimes flows. Those whom you formerly knew are now dust and ashes! A plague sent by angry Juno devastated the land. She hated it because it bore the name of one of her husband's female favorites. While the disease appeared to spring from natural causes we resisted it as we best might by natural remedies; but it soon appeared that the pestilence was too powerful for our efforts, and we yielded. At the beginning the sky seemed to settle down upon the earth, and thick clouds shut in the heated air. For four months together a deadly south wind prevailed. The disorder affected the wells and springs; thousands of snakes crept over the land and shed their poison in the fountains. The force of the disease was first spent on the lower animals; dogs, cattle, sheep, and birds. The luckless ploughman wondered to see his oxen fall in the midst of their work, and lie helpless in the unfinished furrow. The wool fell from the bleating sheep, and their bodies pined away. The horse, once foremost in the race, contested the palm no more, but groaned at his stall, and died an inglorious death. The wild boar forgot his rage, the stag his swiftness, the bears no longer attacked the herds. Everything languished; dead bodies lay in the roads, the fields, and the woods; the air was poisoned by them. I tell you what is hardly credible, but neither dogs nor birds would touch them, nor starving wolves. Their decay spread the infection. Next the disease attacked the country people, and then the dwellers in the city. At first the cheek was flushed, and the breath drawn with difficulty. The tongue grew rough and swelled, and the dry mouth stood open with its veins enlarged and gasped for the air. Men could not bear the heat of their clothes or their beds, but preferred to lie on the bare ground; and the ground did not cool them, but on the contrary, they heated the spot where they lay. Nor could the physicians help, for the disease attacked them also, and the contact of the sick gave them infection, so that the most faithful were the first victims. At last all hope of relief vanished and men learned to look upon death as the only deliverer from disease. Then they gave way to every inclination, and cared not to ask what was expedient, for nothing was expedient. All restraint laid aside, they crowded around the wells and fountains, and drank till they died, without quenching thirst. Many had not strength to get away from the water, but died in the midst of the stream, and others would drink of it notwithstanding. Such was their weariness of their sick-beds that some would creep forth, and if not strong enough to stand, would die on the ground. They seemed to hate their friends, and got away from their homes, as if, not knowing the cause of their sickness, they charged it on the place of their abode. Some were seen tottering along the road, as long as they could stand, while others sank on the earth, and turned their dying eyes around to take a last look, then closed them in death.
"What heart had I left me, during all this, or what ought I to have had, except to hate life and wish to be with my dead subjects? On all sides lay my people strewn like over-ripened apples beneath the tree, or acorns under the storm-shaken oak. You see yonder s temple on the height. It is sacred to Jupiter. Oh, how many offered prayers there; husbands for wives, fathers for sons, and died in the very act of supplication! How often, while the priest made ready for sacrifice, the victim fell, struck down by disease without waiting for the blow. At length all reverence for sacred things was lost. Bodies were thrown out unburied, wood was wanting for funeral piles, men fought with one another for the possession of them. Finally there were none left to mourn; sons and husbands, old men and youths, perished alike unlamented.
"Standing before the altar I raised my eyes to heaven. 'Oh, Jupiter,' I said, 'if thou art indeed my father, and art not ashamed of thy offspring, give me back my people, or take me also away!' At these words a clap of thunder was heard. 'I accept the omen,' I cried; 'oh, may it be a sign of a favorable disposition towards me!' By chance there grew by the place where I stood an oak with wide-spreading branches, sacred to Jupiter. I observed a troop of ants busy with their labor, carrying minute grains in their mouths and following one another in a line up the trunk of the tree. Observing their numbers with admiration, I said, 'Give me, oh father, citizens as numerous as these, and replenish my empty city.' The tree shook and gave a rustling sound with its branches though no wind agitated them. I trembled in every limb, yet I kissed the earth and the tree. I would not confess to myself that I hoped, yet I did hope. Night came on and sleep took possession of my frame oppressed with cares. The tree stood before me in my dreams, with its numerous branches all covered with living, moving creatures. It seemed to shake its limbs and throw down over the ground a multitude of those industrious grain-gathering animals, which appeared to gain in size, and grow larger, and by-and-by to stand erect, lay aside their superfluous legs and their black color, and finally to assume the human form. Then I awoke, and my first impulse was to chide the gods who had robbed me of a sweet vision and given me no reality in its place. Being still in the temple my attention was caught by the sound of many voices without; a sound of late unusual to my ears. While I began to think I was yet dreaming, Telamon, my son, throwing open the temple-gates, exclaimed, 'Father, approach, and behold things surpassing even your hopes!' I went forth; I saw a multitude of men, such as I had seen in my dream, and they were passing in procession in the same manner. While I gazed with wonder and delight they approached, and kneeling, hailed me as their king. I paid my vows to Jove, and proceeded to allot the vacant city to the new-born race, and to parcel out the fields among them. I called them Myrmidons from the ant (myrmex), from which they sprang. You have seen these persons; their dispositions resemble those which they had in their former shape. They are a diligent and industrious race, eager to gain, and tenacious of their gains. Among them you may recruit your forces. They will follow you to the war, young in years and bold in heart."
This description of the plague is copied by Ovid from the account which Thucydides, the Greek historian, gives of the plague of Athens. The historian drew from life, and all the poets and writers of fiction since his day, when they have had occasion to describe a similar scene, have borrowed their details from him.
Chapter VIII Nisus and Scylla. Echo and Narcissus. Clytie. Hero and Leander
Minos, king of Crete, made war upon Megara. Nisus was king of Megara, and Scylla was his daughter. The siege had now lasted six months, and the city still held out, for it was decreed by fate that it should not be taken so long as a certain purple lock, which glittered among the hair of King Nisus, remained on his head. There was a tower on the city walls, which overlooked the plain where Minos and his army were encamped. To this tower Scylla used to repair, and look abroad over the tents of the hostile army. The siege had lasted so long that she had learned to distinguish the persons of the leaders. Minos, in particular, excited her admiration. She admired his graceful deportment; if he threw his javelin, skill seemed combined with force in the discharge; if he drew his bow, Apollo himself could not have done it more gracefully. But when he laid aside his helmet, and in his purple robes bestrode his white horse with its gay caparisons, and reined in its foaming mouth, the daughter of Nisus was hardly mistress of herself; she was almost frantic with admiration. She envied the weapon that he grasped, the reins that he held. She felt as if she could, if it were possible, go to him through the hostile ranks; she felt an impulse to cast herself down from the tower into the midst of his camp, or to open the gates to him, or do anything else, so only it might gratify Minos. As she sat in the tower, she talked thus with herself: "I know not whether to rejoice or grieve at this sad war. I grieve that Minos is our enemy; but I rejoice at any cause that brings him to my sight. Perhaps he would be willing to grant us peace, and receive me as a hostage. I would fly down, if I could, and alight in his camp, and tell him that we yield ourselves to his mercy. But, then, to betray my father! No! Rather would I never see Minos again. And yet no doubt it is sometimes the best thing for a city to be conquered when the conqueror is clement and generous. Minos certainly has right on his side. I think we shall be conquered; and if that must be the end of it, why should not love unbar the gates to him, instead of leaving it to be done by war? Better spare delay and slaughter if we can. And, oh, if any one should wound or kill Minos! No one surely would have the heart to do it; yet ignorantly, not knowing him, one might. I will, I will surrender myself to him, with my country as a dowry, and so put an end to the war. But how? The gates are guarded, and my father keeps the keys; he only stands in my way. Oh, that it might please the gods to take him away! But why ask the gods to do it? Another woman, loving as I do, would remove with her own hands whatever stood in the way of her love. And can any other woman dare more than I? I would encounter fire and sword to gain my object; but here there is no need of fire and sword. I only need my father's purple lock. More precious than gold to me, that will give me all I wish."
While she thus reasoned night came on, and soon the whole palace was buried in sleep. She entered her father's bedchamber and cut off the fatal lock; then passed out of the city and entered the enemy's camp. She demanded to be led to the king, and thus addressed him: "I am Scylla, the daughter of Nisus. I surrender to you my country and my father's house. I ask no reward but yourself; for love of you I have done it. See here the purple lock! With this I give you my father and his kingdom." She held out her hand with the fatal spoil. Minos shrunk back and refused to touch it. "The gods destroy thee, infamous woman," he exclaimed; "disgrace of our time! May neither earth nor sea yield thee a resting place! Surely, my Crete, where Jove himself was cradled, shall not be polluted with such a monster!" Thus he said, and gave orders that equitable terms should be allowed to the conquered city, and that the fleet should immediately sail from the island.
Scylla was frantic. "Ungrateful man," she exclaimed, "is it thus you leave me? Me who have given you victory, who have sacrificed for you parent and country! I am guilty, I confess, and deserve to die, by not by your hand." As the ships left the shore, she leaped into the water, and seizing the rudder of the one which carried Minos, she was borne along an unwelcome companion of their course. A sea-eagle soaring aloft, it was her father who had been changed into that form, seeing her, pounced down upon her, and struck her with his beak and claws. In terror she let go the ship, and would have fallen into the water, but some pitying deity changed her into a bird. The sea- eagle still cherishes the old animosity; and whenever he espies her in his lofty flight, you may see him dart down upon her, with beak and claws, to take vengeance for the ancient crime.
ECHO AND NARCISSUS
Echo was a beautiful nymph, fond of the woods and hills, where she devoted herself to woodland sports. She was a favorite of Diana, and attended her in the chase. But Echo had one failing; she was fond of talking, and whether in chat or argument would have the last word. One day Juno was seeking her husband, who, she had reason to fear, was amusing himself among the nymphs. Echo by her talk contrived to detain the goddess till the nymphs made their escape. When Juno discovered it, she passed sentence upon Echo in these words: "You shall forfeit the use of that tongue with which you have cheated me, except for that one purpose you are so fond of REPLY. You shall still have the last word, but no power to speak first."
This nymph saw Narcissus, a beautiful youth, as he pursued the chase upon the mountains. She loved him, and followed his footsteps. Oh, how she longed to address him in the softest accents, and win him to converse, but it was not in her power. She waited with impatience for him to speak first, and had her answer ready. One day the youth, being separated from his companions, shouted aloud, "Who's here?" Echo replied, "Here." Narcissus looked around, but seeing no one, called out, "Come." Echo answered, "Come." As no one came, Narcissus called again, "Why do you shun me?" Echo asked the same question. "Let us join one another," said the youth. The maid answered with all her heart in the same words, and hastened to the spot, ready to throw her arms about his neck. He started back, exclaiming, "Hands off! I would rather die than you should have me." "Have me," said she; but it was all in vain. He left her, and she went to hide her blushes in the recesses of the woods. From that time forth she lived in caves and among mountain cliffs. Her form faded with grief, till at last all her flesh shrank away. Her bones were changed into rocks, and there was nothing left of her but her voice. With that she is still ready to reply to any one who calls her, and keeps up her old habit of having the last word.
Narcissus was cruel not in this case alone. He shunned all the rest of the nymphs as he had done poor Echo. One day a maiden, who had in vain endeavored to attract him, uttered a prayer that he might some time or other feel what it was to love and meet no return of affection. The avenging goddess heard and granted the prayer.
There was a clear fountain, with water like silver, to which the shepherds never drove their flocks. Nor did the mountain goats resort to it, nor any of the beasts of the forest; neither was it defaced with fallen leaves or branches; but the grass grew fresh around it, and the rocks sheltered it from the sun. Hither came one day the youth fatigued with hunting, heated and thirsty. He stooped down to drink, and saw his own image in the water; he thought it was some beautiful water=spirit living in the fountain. He stood gazing with admiration at those bright eyes, those locks curled like the locks of Bacchus or Apollo, the rounded cheeks, the ivory neck, the parted lips, and the glow of health and exercise over all. He fell in love with himself. He brought his lips near to take a kiss; he plunged his arms in to embrace the beloved object. It fled at the touch, but returned again after a moment and renewed the fascination. He could not tear himself away; he lost all thought of food or rest, while he hovered over the brink of the fountain gazing upon his own image. He talked with the supposed spirit: "Why, beautiful being, do you shun me? Surely my face is not one to repel you. The nymphs love me, and you yourself look not indifferent upon me. When I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and answer my beckonings with the like." His tears fell into the water and disturbed the image. As he saw it depart, he exclaimed, "Stay, I entreat you! Let me at least gaze upon you, if I may not touch you." With this, and much more of the same kind, he cherished the flame that consumed him, so that by degrees he lost his color, his vigor, and the beauty which formerly had so charmed the nymph Echo. She kept near him, however, and when he exclaimed, "Alas! Alas!" she answered him with the same words. He pined away and died; and when his shade passed the Stygian river, it leaned over the boat to catch a look of itself in the waters. The nymphs mourned for him, especially the water-nymphs; and when they smote their breasts, Echo smote hers also. They prepared a funeral pile, and would have burned the body, but it was nowhere to be found; but in its place a flower, purple within, and surrounded with white leaves, which bears the name and preserves the memory of Narcissus.
Milton alludes to the story of Echo and Narcissus in the Lady's song in Comus. She is seeking her brothers in the forest, and sings to attract their attention.
"Sweet Echo, sweetest nymph, that liv'st unseen Within thy aery shell By slow Meander's margent green. And in the violet-embroidered vale, Where the love-lorn nightingale Nightly to thee her sad song mourneth well; Canst thou not tell me of a gentle pair That likes thy Narcissus are? Oh, if thou have Hid them in some flowery cave, Tell me but where, Sweet queen of parly, daughter of the sphere, So may'st thou be translated to the skies, And give resounding grace to all heaven's harmonies."
Milton has imitated the story of Narcissus in the account which he makes Eve give of the first sight of herself reflected in the fountain:
"That day I oft remember when from sleep I first awaked, and found myself reposed Under a shade on flowers, much wondering where And what I was, whence thither brought, and how Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound Of waters issued from a cave, and spread Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved Pure as the expanse of heaven; I thither went With unexperienced thought, and laid me down On the green bank, to look into the clear Smooth lake that to me seemed another sky. As I bent down to look, just opposite A shape within the watery gleam appeared, Bending to look on me. I started back; It started back; but pleased I soon returned, Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks Of sympathy and love. There had I fixed Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire, Had not a voice thus warned me: 'What thou seest, What there thou seest, fair creature, is thyself.'" Paradise Lost, Book IV
The fable of Narcissus is often alluded to by the poets. Here are two epigrams which treat it in different ways. The first is by Goldsmith:
"ON A BEAUTIFUL YOUTH STRUCK BLIND BY LIGHTNING:
"Sure 'twas by Providence designed, Rather in pity than in hate, That he should be like Cupid blind, To save him from Narcissus' fate"
The other is by Cowper:
"ON AN UGLY FELLOW
"Beware, my friend, of crystal brook Or fountain, lest that hideous hook. Thy nose, thou chance to see; Narcissus' fate would then be thine, And self-detested thou would'st pine, As self-enamored he."
Clytie was a water-nymph and in love with Apollo, who made her no return. So she pined away, sitting all day long upon the cold ground, with her unbound tresses streaming over her shoulders. Nine days she sat and tasted neither food nor drink, her own tears and the chilly dew her only food. She gazed on the sun when he rose, and as he passed through his daily course to his setting; she saw no other object, her face turned constantly on him. At last, they say, her limbs rooted in the ground, her face became a sunflower, which turns on its stem so as always to face the sun throughout its daily course; for it retains to that extent the feeling of the nymph from whom it sprang.
One of the best known of the marble busts discovered in our own time, generally bears the name of Clytie. It has been very frequently copied in plaster. It represents the head of a young girl looking down, the neck and shoulders being supported in the cup of a large flower, which by a little effort of imagination can be made into a giant sunflower. The latest supposition, however, is that this bust represented not Clytie, but Isis.
Hood in his Flowers thus alludes to Clytie:
"I will not have the mad Clytie, Whose head is turned by the sun; The tulip is a courtly quean, Whom therefore I will shun; The cowslip is a country wench, The violet is a nun; But I will woo the dainty rose, The queen of every one."
The sunflower is a favorite emblem of constancy. Thus Moore uses it:
"The heart that has truly loved never forgets, But as truly loves on to the close; As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets The same look that she turned when he rose."
It is only for convenience that the modern poets translate the Latin word HELIOTROPIUM, by the English sunflower. The sunflower, which was known to the ancients, was called in Greek, helianthos, from HELIOS, the sun; and ANTHOS a flower, and in Latin, helianthus. It derives its name from its resemblance to the sun; but, as any one may see, at sunset, it does not "turn to the God when he sets the same look that it turned when he rose."
The Heliotrope of the fable of Clytie is called Turn-sole in old English books, and such a plant is known in England. It is not the sweet heliotrope of modern gardens, which is a South American plant. The true classical heliotrope is probably to be found in the heliotrope of southern France, a weed not known in America. The reader who is curious may examine the careful account of it in Larousse's large dictionary.
HERO AND LEANDER
Leander was a youth of Abydos, a town of the Asian side of the strait which separates Asia and Europe. On the opposite shore in the town of Sestos lived the maiden Hero, a priestess of Venus. Leander loved her, and used to swim the strait nightly to enjoy the company of his mistress, guided by a torch which she reared upon the tower, for the purpose. But one night a tempest arose and the sea was rough; his strength failed, and he was drowned. The waves bore his body to the European shore, where Hero became aware of his death, and in her despair cast herself down from the tower into the sea and perished.
The following sonnet is by Keats:
"ON A PICTURE OF LEANDER
"Come hither, all sweet maidens, soberly, Down looking aye, and with a chasten'd light, Hid in the fringes of your eyelids white, And meekly let your fair hands joined be, As if so gentle that ye could not see, Untouch'd, a victim of your beauty bright, Sinking away to his young spirit's night, Sinking bewilder'd 'mid the dreary sea. 'Tis young Leander toiling to his death. Nigh swooning, he doth purse his weary lips For Hero's cheek, and smiles against her smile. Oh, horrid dream! See how his body dips Dead-heavy; arms and shoulders gleam awhile; He's gone; up bubbles all his amorous breath!"
The story of Leander's swimming the Hellespont was looked upon as fabulous, and the feat considered impossible, till Lord Byron proved its possibility by performing it himself. In the Bride of Abydos he says,
"These limbs that buoyant wave hath borne."
The distance in the narrowest part is almost a mile, and there is a constant current setting out from the Sea of Marmora into the Archipelago. Since Byron's time the feat has been achieved by others; but it yet remains a test of strength and skill in the art of swimming sufficient to give a wide and lasting celebrity to any one of our readers who may dare to make the attempt and succeed in accomplishing it.
In the beginning of the second canto of the same poem, Byron alludes to this story:
"The winds are high on Helle's wave, As on that night of stormiest water, When Love, who sent, forgot to save The young, the beautiful, the brave, The lonely hope of Sestos' daughter. Oh, when alone along the sky The turret-torch was blazing high, Though rising gale and breaking foam, And shrieking sea-birds warned him home; And clouds aloft and tides below, With signs and sounds forbade to go, He could not see, he would not hear Or sound or sight foreboding fear. His eye but saw that light of love, The only star it hailed above; His ear but rang with Hero's song, 'Ye waves, divide not lovers long.' That tale is old, but love anew May nerve young hearts to prove as true."
The subject has been a favorite one with sculptors.
Schiller has made one of his finest ballads from the tragic fate of the two lovers. The following verses are a translation from the latter part of the ballad:
"Upon Hellespont's broad currents Night broods black, and rain in torrents >From the cloud's full bosom pours; Lightnings in the sky are flashing, All the storms below are dashing On the crag-piled shores. Awful chasms gaping widely, Separate the mountain waves; Ocean yawning as to open Downward e'en to Pluto's caves."
After the storm has arisen, Hero sees the danger, and cries,
"Woe, ah! Woe; great Jove have pity, Listen to my sad entreaty, Yet for what can Hero pray? Should the gods in pity listen, He, e'en now the false abyss in, Struggles with the tempest's spray. All the birds that skim the wave In hasty flight are hieing home; T the lee of safer haven All the storm-tossed vessels come.
"Ah! I know he laughs at danger, Dares again the frequent venture, Lured by an almighty power; For he swore it when we parted, With the vow which binds true-hearted Lovers to the latest hour. Yes! Even as this moment hastens Battles he the wave-crests rude, And to their unfathomed chasms Dags him down the angry flood.
"Pontus false! Thy sunny smile Was the lying traitor's guile, Like a mirror flashing there: All thy ripples gently playing Til they triumphed in betraying Him into thy lying snare. Now in thy mid-current yonder, Onward still his course he urges, Thou the false, on him the fated Pouring loose thy terror-surges. Waxes high the tempest's danger, Waves to mountains rise in anger, Oceans swell, and breakers dash, Foaming, over cliffs of rock Where even navies, stiff with oak, Could not bear the crash. In the gale her torch is blasted, Beacon of the hoped-for strand; Horror broods above the waters, Horror broods above the land.
Prays she Venus to assuage The hurricane's increasing rage, And to sooth the billows' scorn. And as gale on gale arises, Vows to each as sacrifices Spotless steer with gilded horn. To all the goddesses below, To "all the gods in heaven that be," She prays that oil of peace may flow Softly on the storm-tossed sea.
Blest Leucothea, befriend me! >From cerulean halls attend me; Hear my prayer of agony. In the ocean desert's raving, Storm-tossed seamen, succor craving, Find in thee their helper nigh. Wrap him in thy charmed veil, Secret spun and secret wove, Certain from the deepest wave To lift him to its crests above."
Now the tempests wild are sleeping, And from the horizon creeping Rays of morning streak the skies, Peaceful as it lay before The placid sea reflects the shore, Skies kiss waves and waves the skies. Little ripples, lightly plashing, Break upon the rock-bound strand, And they trickle, lightly playing O'er a corpse upon the sand.
Yes, 'tis he! Although he perished, Still his sacred troth he cherished, An instant's glance tells all to her; Not a tear her eye lets slip Not a murmur leaves her lip; Down she looks in cold despair; Gazes round the desert sea, Trustless gazes round the sky, Flashes then of noble fire Through her pallid visage fly!
"Yes, I know, ye mighty powers, Ye have drawn the fated hours Pitiless and cruel on. Early full my course is over. Such a course with such a lover; Such a share of joy I've known. Venus, queen, within thy temple, Thou hast known me vowed as thine, Now accept thy willing priestess As an offering at thy shrine."
Downward then, while all in vain her Fluttering robes would still sustain her, Springs she into Pontus' wave; Grasping him and her, the god Whirls them in his deepest flood, And, himself, becomes their grave. With his prizes then contented, Peaceful bids his waters glide, >From the unexhausted vessels, Whence there streams an endless tide.
Chapter IX Minerva and Arachne. Niobe. The Story of Perseus
Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, was the daughter of Jupiter. She, they say, sprang forth from his brain full grown and clad in complete armor. She presided over the useful and ornamental arts, both those of men, such as agriculture and navigation, and those of women, spinning, weaving, and needle-work. She was also a warlike divinity; but a lover of defensive war only. She had no sympathy with Mars's savage love of violence and bloodshed. Athens was her chosen seat, her own city, awarded to her as the prize of a contest with Neptune, who also aspired to it. The tale ran that in the reign of Cecrops, the first king of Athens, the two deities contended for the possession of the city. The gods decreed that it should be awarded to that one who produced the gift most useful to mortals. Neptune gave the horse; Minerva produced the olive. The gods gave judgment that the olive was the more useful of the two, and awarded the city to the goddess; and it was named after her, Athens, her name in Greek being Athene.
In another contest, a mortal dared to come in competition with Minerva. That mortal was Arachne, a maiden who had attained such skill in the arts of weaving and embroidery that the nymphs themselves would leave their groves and fountains to come and gaze upon her work. It was not only beautiful when it was done, but beautiful also in the doing. To watch her, as she took the wool in its rude state and formed it into rolls, or separated it with her fingers and carded it till it looked as light and soft as a cloud, or twirled the spindle with skilful touch, or wove the web, or, when woven, adorned it with her needle, one would have said that Minerva herself had taught her. But this she denied, and could not bear to be thought a pupil even of a goddess. "Let Minerva try her skill with mine," said she; "if beaten, I will pay the penalty." Minerva heard this and was displeased. Assuming the form of an old woman, she went and gave Arachne some friendly advice. "I have had much experience,: said she, "and I hope you will not despise my counsel. Challenge your fellow-mortals as you will, but do not compete with a goddess. On the contrary, I advise you to ask her forgiveness for what you have said, and, as she is merciful, perhaps she will pardon you." Arachne stopped her spinning, and looked at the old dame with anger in her countenance. "Keep your counsel," said she, "for your daughters or handmaids; for my part, I know what I say, and I stand to it. I am not afraid of the goddess; let her try her skill, if she dare venture." "She comes," said Minerva; and dropping her disguise, stood confessed. The nymphs bent low in homage, and all the bystanders paid reverence. Arachne alone was unterrified. She blushed, indeed; a sudden color dyed her cheek, and then she grew pale. But she stood to her resolve, and with a foolish conceit of her own skill rushed on her fate. Minerva forbore no longer, nor interposed any further advice. They proceed to the contest. Each takes her station and attaches the web to the beam. Then the slender shuttle is passed in and out among the threads. The reed with its fine teeth strikes up the woof into its place and compacts the web. Both work with speed; their skilful hands move rapidly, and the excitement of the contest makes the labor light. Wool of Tyrian dye is contrasted with that of other colors, shaded off into one another so adroitly that the joining deceives the eye. Like the bow, whose long arch tinges the heavens, formed by sunbeams reflected from the shower (this description of the rainbow is literally translated rom Ovid), in which, where the colors meet they seem as one, but at a little distance from the point of contact are wholly different.
Minerva wrought on her web the scene of her contest with Neptune. Twelve of the heavenly powers are represented, Jupiter, with August gravity, sitting in the midst. Neptune, the ruler of the sea, holds his trident, and appears to have just smitten the earth, from which a horse has leaped forth. Minerva depicted herself with helmed head, her AEgis covering her breast. Such was the central circle; and in the four corners were represented incidents illustrating the displeasure of the gods at such presumptuous mortals as had dared to contend with them. These were meant as warnings to her rival to give up the contest before it was too late.
Arachne filled her web with subjects designedly chosen to exhibit the failings and errors of the gods. One scene represented Leda caressing the swan, under which form Jupiter had disguised himself; and another, Danae, in the brazen tower in which her father had imprisoned her, but where the god effected his entrance in the form of a shower of gold. Still another depicted Europa deceived by Jupiter under the disguise of a bull. Encouraged by the tameness of the animal, Europa ventured to mount his back, whereupon Jupiter advanced into the sea, and swam with her to Crete. You would have thought it was a real bull so naturally was it wrought, and so natural was the water in which it swam. She seemed to look with longing eyes back upon the shore she was leaving, and to call to her companions for help. She appeared to shudder with terror at the sight of the heaving waves, and to draw back her feet from the water.
Arachne filled her canvas with these and like subjects, wonderfully well done, but strongly marking her presumption and impiety. Minerva could not forbear to admire, yet felt indignant at the insult. She struck the web with her shuttle, and rent it in pieces; she then touched the forehead of Arachne, and made her feel her guilt and shame. She could not endure it, and went and hanged herself. Minerva pitied her as she saw her hanging by a rope. "Live, guilty woman," said she; " and that you may preserve the memory of this lesson, continue to hang, you and your descendants, to all future times." She sprinkled her with the juices of aconite, and immediately her hair came off, and her nose and ears likewise. Her form shrank up, and her head grew smaller yet; her fingers grew to her side, and served for legs. All the rest of her is body, out of which she spins her thread, often hanging suspended by it, in the same attitude as when Minerva touched her and transformed her into a spider.
Spenser tells the story of Arachne in his Muiopotmos, adhering very closely to his master Ovid, but improving upon him in the conclusion of the story. The two stanzas which follow tell what was done after the goddess had depicted her creation of the olive tree:
"Amongst these leaves she made a Butterfly, With excellent device and wondrous slight, Fluttering among the olives wantonly, That seemed to live, so like it was in sight; The velvet nap which on his wings doth lie, The silken down with which his back is dight, His broad outstretched horns, his hairy thighs, His glorious colors, and his glistening eyes."
"Which when Arachne saw, as overlaid And mastered with workmanship so rare. She stood astonished long, ne aught gainsaid; And with fast-fixed eyes on her did stare, And by her silence, sign of one dismayed, The victory did yield her as her share; Yet did she inly fret and felly burn, And all her blood to poisonous rancor turn."
And so the metamorphosis is caused by Arachne's own mortification and vexation, and not by any direct act of the goddess.
The following specimen of old-fashioned gallantry is by Garrick:
UPON A LADY'S EMBROIDERY
"Arachne once, as poets tell, A goddess at her art defied, And soon the daring mortal fell The hapless victim of her pride.
"Oh, then, beware Arachne's fate; Be prudent, Chloe, and submit, For you'll most surely meet her hate, Who rival both her art and wit."
Tennyson, in his Palace of Art, describing the works of art with which the palace was adorned, thus alludes to Europa:
"——— sweet Europa's mantle blew unclasped >From off her shoulder, backward borne, >From one hand drooped a crocus, one hand grasped The mild bull's golden horn."
In his Princess there is this allusion to Danae:
"Now lies the earth all Danae to the stars, And all thy heart lies open unto me."
The fate of Arachne was noised abroad through all the country, and served as a warning to all presumptuous mortals not to compare themselves with the divinities. But one, and she a matron too, failed to learn the lesson of humility. It was Niobe, the queen of Thebes. She had indeed much to be proud of; but it was not her husband's fame, nor her own beauty, nor their great descent, nor the power of their kingdom that elated her. It was her children; and truly the happiest of mothers would Niobe have been, if only she had not claimed to be so. It was on occasion of the annual celebration in honor of Latona and her offspring, Apollo and Diana, when the people of Thebes were assembled, their brows crowned with laurel, bearing frankincense to the altars and paying their vows, that Niobe appeared among the crowd. Her attire was splendid with gold and gems, and her face as beautiful as the face of an angry woman can be. She stood and surveyed the people with haughty looks. "What folly," said she, "is this! to prefer beings whom you never saw to those who stand before your eyes! Why should Latona be honored with worship rather than I? My father was Tantalus, who was received as a guest at the table of the gods; my mother was a goddess. My husband built and rules this city, Thebes; and Phrygia is my paternal inheritance. Wherever I turn my eyes I survey the elements of my power; nor is my form and presence unworthy of a goddess. To all this let me add, I have seven sons and seven daughters, and look for sons-in-law and daughters-in- law of pretensions worthy of my alliance. Have I not cause for pride? Will you prefer to me this Latona, the Titan's daughter, with her two children? I have seven times as many. Fortunate indeed am I, and fortunate I shall remain! Will any one deny this? My abundance is my security. I feel myself too strong for Fortune to subdue. She may take from me much; I shall still have much left. Were I to lose some of my children, I should hardly be left as poor as Latona with her two only. Away with you from these solemnities, put off the laurel from your brows, have done with this worship!" The people obeyed, and left the sacred services uncompleted.
The goddess was indignant. On top of Mount Cynthus where she dwelt, she thus addressed her son and daughter: "My children, I who have been so proud of you both, and have been used to hold myself second to none of the goddesses except Juno alone, begin now to doubt whether I am indeed a goddess. I shall be deprived of my worship altogether unless you protect me." She was proceeding in this strain, but Apollo interrupted her. "Say no more," said he; "speech only delays punishment." So said Diana also. Darting through the air, veiled in clouds, they alighted on the towers of the city. Spread out before the gates was a broad plain, where the youth of the city pursued their warlike sports. The sons of Niobe were there among the rest, some mounted on spirited horses richly caparisoned, some driving gay chariots. Ismenos, the first-born, as he guided his foaming steeds, struck with an arrow from above, cried out, "Ah, me!" dropped the reins and fell lifeless. Another, hearing the sound of the bow, like a boatman who sees the storm gathering and makes all sail for the port, gave the rein to his horses and attempted to escape. The inevitable arrow overtook him as he fled. Two others, younger boys, just from their tasks, had gone to the playground to have a game of wrestling. As they stood breast to breast, one arrow pierced them both. They uttered a cry together, together cast a parting look around them, and together breathed their last. Alphenor, an elder brother, seeing them fall, hastened to the spot to render them assistance, and fell stricken in the act of brotherly duty. One only was left, Ilioneus. He raised his arms to heaven to try whether prayer might not avail. "Spare me, ye gods!" he cried, addressing all, in his ignorance that all needed not his intercession; and Apollo would have spared him, but the arrow had already left the string, and it was too late.
The terror of the people and grief of the attendants soon made Niobe acquainted with what had taken place. She could hardly think it possible; she was indignant that the gods had dared and amazed that they had been able to do it. Her husband, Amphion, overwhelmed with the blow, destroyed himself. Alas! How different was this Niobe from her who had so lately driven away the people from the sacred rites, and held her stately course through the city, the envy of her friends, now the pity even of her foes! She knelt over the lifeless bodies, and kissed, now one, now another of her dead sons. Raising her pallid arms to heaven, "Cruel Latona," said she, "feed full your rage with my anguish! Satiate your hard heart, while I follow to the grave my seven sons. Yet where is your triumph? Bereaved as I am, I am still richer than you, my conqueror. Scarce had she spoken when the bow sounded and struck terror into all hearts except Niobe's alone. She was brave from excess of grief. The sisters stood in garments of mourning over the biers of their dead brothers. One fell, struck by an arrow, and died on the corpse she was bewailing. Another, attempting to console her mother, suddenly ceased to speak, and sank lifeless to the earth. A third tried to escape by flight, a fourth by concealment, another stood trembling, uncertain what course to take. Six were now dead, and only one remained, whom the mother held clasped in her arms, and covered as it were with her whole body.
"Spare me one, and that the youngest! Oh, spare me one of so many?!" she cried; and while she spoke, that one fell dead. Desolate she sat, among sons, daughters, husband, all dead, and seemed torpid with grief. The breeze moved not her hair, nor color was on her cheek, her eyes glared fixed and immovable, there was no sign of life about her. Her very tongue clave to the roof of her mouth, and her veins ceased to convey the tide of life. Her neck bent not, her arms made no gesture, her foot no step. She was changed to stone, within and without. Yet tears continued to flow; and, borne on a whirlwind to her native mountain, she still remains, a mass of rock, from which a trickling stream flows, the tribute of her never-ending grief.
The story of Niobe has furnished Byron with a fine illustration of the fallen condition of modern Rome:
"The Niobe of nations! There she stands, Childless and crownless in her voiceless woe; An empty urn within her withered hands, Whose holy dust was scattered long ago; The Scipios' tomb contains no ashes now; The very sepulchres lie tenantless Of their heroic dwellers; dost thou flow, Old Tiber! Through a marble wilderness? Rise with thy yellow waves, and mantle her distress." Childe Harold, IV.79
The slaughter of the children of Niobe by Apollo, alludes to the Greek belief that pestilence and illness were sent by Apollo, and one dying by sickness was said to be struck by Apollo's arrow. It is to this that Morris alludes in the Earthly Paradise:
"While from the freshness of his blue abode, Glad his death-bearing arrows to forget, The broad sun blazed, nor scattered plagues as yet."
Our illustration of this story is a copy of a celebrated statue in the imperial gallery of Florence. It is the principal figure of a group supposed to have been originally arranged in the pediment of a temple. The figure of the mother clasped by the arm of her terrified child, is one of the most admired of the ancient statues. It ranks with the Laocoon and the Apollo among the masterpieces of art. The following is a translation of a Greek epigram supposed to relate to this statue:
"To stone the gods have changed her, but in vain; The sculptor's art has made her breathe again."
Tragic as is the story of Niobe we cannot forbear to smile at the use Moore has made of it in Rhymes on the Road:
"'Twas in his carriage the sublime Sir Richard Blackmore used to rhyme, And, if the wits don't do him wrong, 'Twixt death and epics passed his time, Scribbling and killing all day long; Like Phoebus in his car at ease, Now warbling forth a lofty song, Now murdering the young Niobes."
Sir Richard Blackmore was a physician, and at the same time a very prolific and very tasteless poet, whose works are now forgotten, unless when recalled to mind by some wit like Moore for the sake of a joke.
THE GRAEAE AND GORGONS
The Graeae were three sisters who were gray-haired from their birth, whence their name. The Gorgons were monstrous females with huge teeth like those of swine, brazen claws, and snaky hair. They also were three in number, two of them immortal, but the other, Medusa, mortal. None of these beings make much figure in mythology except Medusa, the Gorgon, whose story we shall next advert to. We mention them chiefly to introduce an ingenious theory of some modern writers, namely, that the Gorgons and Graeae were only personifications of the terrors of the sea, the former denoting the STRONG billows of the wide open main, and the latter the WHITE-crested waves that dash against the rocks of the coast. Their names in Greek signify the above epithets.
PERSEUS AND MEDUSA
Acrisius was the king who ruled in Argos. To him had an oracle declared that he should be slain by the child of his daughter Danae. Therefore the cruel king, thinking it better that Danae should have no children than that he should be slain, ordered a tower of brass to be made, and in this tower he confined his daughter away from all men.
But who can withstand Jupiter? He saw Danae, loved her, and changing his form to a shower of gold, he shone into the apartment of the captive girl.
Perseus was the child of Jupiter and Danae. Acrisius, finding that his precautions had come to nought, and yet hardly daring to kill his own daughter and her young child, placed them both in a chest and sent the chest floating on the sea. It floated away and was finally entangled in the net of Dicte, a fisherman in the island of Seriphus. He brought them to his house and treated them kindly, and in the house of Dicte, Perseus grew up. When Perseus was grown up, Polydectes, king of that country, wishing to send Perseus to his death, bade him go in quest of the head of Medusa. Medusa had once been a beautiful maiden, whose hair was her chief glory, but as she dared to vie in beauty with Minerva, the goddess deprived her of her charms and changed her beautiful ringlets into hissing serpents. She became a cruel monster of so frightful an aspect that no living thing could behold her without being turned into stone. All around the cavern where she dwelt might be seen the stony figures of men and beasts which had chanced to catch a glimpse of her and had been petrified with the sight. Minerva and Mercury aided Perseus. From Minerva, Perseus borrowed her shield, and from Mercury the winged shoes and the harpe or crooked sword. After having flown all over the earth Perseus espied in the bright shield the image of Medusa and her two immortal sisters. Flying down carefully he cut at her with his harpe and severed her head. Putting the trophy in his pouch he flew away just as the two immortal sisters were awakened by the hissings of their snaky locks.
PERSEUS AND ATLAS
After the slaughter of Medusa, Perseus, bearing with him the head of the Gorgon, flew far and wide, over land and sea. As night came on, he reached the western limit of the earth, where the sun goes down. Here he would gladly have rested till morning. It was the realm of King Atlas, whose bulk surpassed that of all other men. He was rich in flocks and herds and had no neighbor or rival to dispute his state. But his chief pride was in his gardens, whose fruit was of gold, hanging from golden branches, half hid with golden leaves. Perseus said to him, "I come as a guest. If you honor illustrious descent, I claim Jupiter for my father; if mighty deeds, I plead the conquest of the Gorgon. I seek rest and food." But Atlas remembered that an ancient prophecy had warned him that a son of Jove should one day rob him of his golden apples. So he answered, "Begone! Or neither your false claims of glory nor of parentage shall protect you;" and he attempted to thrust him out. Perseus, finding the giant too strong for him, said, "Since you value my friendship so little, deign to accept a present;" and turning his face away, he held up the Gorgon's head. Atlas, with all his bulk, was changed into stone. His beard and hair became forests, his arms and shoulders cliffs, his head a summit, and his bones rocks. Each part increased in bulk till he became a mountain, and (such was the pleasure of the gods) heaven with all its stars rests upon his shoulders.
And all in vain was Atlas turned to a mountain, for the oracle did not mean Perseus, but the hero Hercules, who should come long afterwards to get the golden apples for his cousin Eurystheus.
Perseus, continuing his flight, arrived at the country of the AEthiopians, of which Cepheus was king. Cassiopeia, his queen, proud of her beauty, had dared to compare herself to the Sea- Nymphs, which roused their indignation to such a degree that they sent a prodigious sea-monster to ravage the coast. To appease the deities, Cepheus was directed hy the oracle to expose his daughter Andromeda to be devoured by the monster. As Perseus looked down from his aerial height he beheld the virgin chained to a rock, and waiting the approach of the serpent. She was so pale and motionless that if it had not been for her flowing tears and her hair that moved in the breeze, he would have taken her for a marble statue. He was so startled at the sight that he almost forgot to wave his wings. As he hovered over her he said, "O virgin, undeserving of those chains, but rather of such as bind fond lovers together, tell me, I beseech you, your name and the name of your country, and why you are thus bound." At first she was silent from modesty, and, if she could, would have hid her face with her hands; but when he repeated his questions, for fear she might be thought guilty of some fault which she dared not tell, she disclosed her name and that of her country, and her mother's pride of beauty. Before she had done speaking, a sound was heard off upon the water, and the sea-monster appeared, with his head raised above the surface, cleaving the waves with his broad breast. The virgin shrieked, the father and mother who had now arrived at the scene, wretched both, but the mother more justly so, stood by, not able to afford protection, but only to pour forth lamentations and to embrace the victim. Then spoke Perseus: "There will be time enough for tears; this hour is all we have for rescue. My rank as the son of Jove and my renown as the slayer of the Gorgon might make me acceptable as a suitor; but I will try to win her by services rendered, if the gods will only be propitious. If she be rescued by my valor, I demand that she be my reward." The parents consent (how could they hesitate?) And promise a royal dowry with her.
And now the monster was within the range of a stone thrown by a skilful slinger, when with a sudden bound the youth soared into the air. As an eagle, when from his lofty flight he sees a serpent basking in the sun, pounces upon him and seizes him by the neck to prevent him from turning his head round and using his fangs, so the youth darted down upon the back of the monster and plunged his sword into its shoulder. Irritated by the wound the monster raised himself into the air, then plunged into the depth; then, like a wild boar surrounded by a pack of barking dogs, turned swiftly from side to side, while the youth eluded its attacks by means of his wings. Wherever he can find a passage for his sword between the scales he makes a wound, piercing now the side, now the flank, as it slopes towards the tail. The brute spouts from his nostrils water mixed with blood. The wings of the hero are wet with it, and he dares no longer trust to them. Alighting on a rock which rose above the waves, and holding on by a projecting fragment, as the monster floated near he gave him a death-stroke. The people who had gathered on the shore shouted so that the hills re-echoed to the sound. The parents, transported with joy, embraced their future son-in-law, calling him their deliverer and the savior of their house, and the virgin, both cause and reward of the contest, descended from the rock.
Cassiopeia was an Aethiopian, and consequently, in spite of her boasted beauty, black; at least so Milton seems to have thought, who alludes to this story in his Penseroso, where he addresses Melancholy as the
"———- goddess, sage and holy, Whose saintly visage is too bright To hit the sense of human sight, And, therefore, to our weaker view O'erlaid with black, staid Wisdom's hue. Black, but such as in esteem Prince Memnon's sister might beseem, Or that starred Aethiop queen that strove To set her beauty's praise above The Sea-nymphs, and their powers offended."
Cassiopeia is called "the starred Aethiop queen," because after her death she was placed among the stars, forming the constellation of that name. Though she attained this honor, yet the Sea-Nymphs, her old enemies, prevailed so far as to cause her to be placed in that part of the heaven near the pole, where every night she is half the time held with her head downward, to give her a lesson of humility.
"Prince Memnon" was the son of Aurora and Tithonus, of whom we shall hear later.
THE WEDDING FEAST
The joyful parents, with Perseus and Andromeda, repaired to the palace, where a banquet was spread for them, and all was joy and festivity. But suddenly a noise was heard of war-like clamor, and Phineus, the betrothed of the virgin, with a party of his adherents, burst in, demanding the maiden as his own. It was in vain that Cepheus remonstrated, "You should have claimed her when she lay bound to the rock, the monster's victim. The sentence of the gods dooming her to such a fate dissolved all engagements, as death itself would have done.:" Phineus made no reply, but hurled his javelin at Perseus, but it missed its mark and fell harmless. Perseus would have thrown his in turn, but the cowardly assailant ran and took shelter behind the altar. But his act was a signal for an onset by his band upon the guests of Cepheus. They defended themselves and a general conflict ensued, the old king retreating from the scene after fruitless expostulations, calling the gods to witness that he was guiltless of this outrage on the rights of hospitality.
Perseus and his friends maintained for some time the unequal contest; but the numbers of the assailants were too great for them, and destruction seemed inevitable, when a sudden thought struck Perseus: "I will make my enemy defend me." Then, with a loud voice he exclaimed, :If I have any friend here let him turn away his eyes!" and held aloft the Gorgon's head. "Seek not to frighten us with your jugglery," said Thescelus, and raised his javelin in act to throw, and became stone in the very attitude. Ampyx was about to plunge his sword into the body of a prostrate foe, but his arm stiffened and he could neither thrust forward nor withdraw it. Another, in the midst of a vociferous challenge, stopped, his mouth open, but no sound issuing. One of Perseus's friends, Aconteus, caught sight of the Gorgon and stiffened like the rest. Astyages struck him with his sword, but instead of wounding, it recoiled with a ringing noise.
Phineus beheld this dreadful result of his unjust aggression, and felt confounded. He called aloud to his friends, but got no answer; he touched them and found them stone. Falling on his knees and stretching out his hands to Perseus, but turning his head away, he begged for mercy. "Take all," said he, "give me but my life." "Base coward," said Perseus, "thus much I will grant you; no weapon shall touch you; moreover you shall be preserved in my house as a memorial of these events." So saying, he held the Gorgon's head to the side where Phineus was looking, and in the very form in which he knelt, with his hands outstretched and face averted, he became fixed immovably, a mass of stone!
The following allusion to Perseus is from Milman's Samor:
"As 'mid the fabled Libyan bridal stood Perseus in stern tranquillity of wrath, Half stood, half floated on his ankle-plumes Out-swelling, while the bright face on his shield Looked into stone the raging fray; so rose, But with no magic arms, wearing alone Th' appalling and control of his firm look, The Briton Samor; at his rising awe Went abroad, and the riotous hall was mute."
Then Perseus returned to Seriphus to King Polydectes and to his mother Danae and the fisherman Dicte. He marched up the tyrant's hall, where Polydectes and his guests were feasting. "Have you the head of Medusa?" exclaimed Polydectes. "Here it is," answered Perseus, and showed it to the king and to his guests.
The ancient prophecy which Acrisius had so much feared at last came to pass. For, as Perseus was passing through the country of Larissa, he entered into competition with the youths of the country at the game of hurling the discus. King Acrisius was among the spectators. The youths of Larissa threw first, and then Perseus. His discus went far beyond the others, and, seized by a breeze from the sea, fell upon the foot of Acrisius. The old king swooned with pain, and was carried away from the place only to die. Perseus, who had heard the story of his birth and parentage from Danae, when he learned who Acrisius was, filled with remorse and sorrow, went to the oracle at Delphi, and there was purified from the guilt of homicide.
Perseus gave the head of Medusa to Minerva, who had aided him so well to obtain it. Minerva took the head of her once beautiful rival and placed it in the middle of her Aegis.
Milton, in his Comus, thus alludes to the Aegis:
"What was that snaky-headed Gorgon-shield That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin, Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone, But rigid looks of chaste austerity, And noble grace that dashed brute violence With sudden adoration and blank awe!"
Armstrong, the poet of the Art of Preserving Health, thus describes the effect of frost upon the waters:
"Now blows the surly North and chills throughout the stiffening regions, while by stronger charms Than Circe e'er or fell Medea brewed, Each brook that wont to prattle to its banks Lies all bestilled and wedged betwixt its banks, Nor moves the withered reeds. . . . The surges baited by the fierce Northeast, Tossing with fretful spleen their angry heads, E'en in the foam of all their madness struck To monumental ice.
* * * * *
Such execution, So stern, so sudden, wrought the grisly aspect Of terrible Medusa, When wandering through the woods she turned to stone Their savage tenants; just as the foaming lion Sprang furious on his prey, her speedier power Outran his haste, And fixed in that fierce attitude he stands Like Rage in marble!" Imitations of Shakespeare
Of Atlas there is another story, which I like better than the one told. He was one of the Titans who warred against Jupiter like Typhoeus, Briareus, and others. After their defeat by the king of gods and men, Atlas was condemned to stand in the far western part of the earth, by the Pillars of Hercules, and to hold on his shoulders the weight of heaven and the stars.
The story runs that Perseus, flying by, asked and obtained rest and food. The next morning he asked what he could do to reward Atlas for his kindness. The best that giant could think of was that Perseus should show him the snaky head of Medusa, that he might be turned to stone and be at rest from his heavy load.
Chapter X Monsters. Giants. Sphinx. Pegasus and the Chimaera. Centaurs. Griffin. Pygmies
Monsters, in the language of mythology, were beings of unnatural proportions or parts, usually regarded with terror, as possessing immense strength and ferocity, which they employed for the injury and annoyance of men. Some of them were supposed to combine the members of different animals; such were the Sphinx and the Chimaera; and to these all the terrible qualities of wild beasts were attributed, together with human sagacity and faculties. Others, as the giants, differed from men chiefly in their size; and in this particular we must recognize a wide distinction among them. The human giants, if so they may be called, such as the Cyclopes, Antaeus, Orion, and others, must be supposed not to be altogether disproportioned to human beings, for they mingled in love and strife with them. But the superhuman giants, who warred with the gods, were of vastly larger dimensions. Tityus, we are told, when stretched on the plain, covered nine acres, and Enceladus required the whole of Mount AEtna to be laid upon him to keep him down.
We have already spoken of the war which the giants waged against the gods, and of its result. While this war lasted the giants proved a formidable enemy. Some of them, like Briareus, had a hundred arms; others, like Typhon, breathed out fire. At one time they put the gods to such fear that they fled into Egypt, and hid themselves under various forms. Jupiter took the form of a ram, whence he was afterwards worshipped in Egypt as the god Ammon, with curved horns. Apollo became a crow, Bacchus a goat, Diana a cat, Juno a cow, Venus a fish, Mercury a bird. At another time the giants attempted to climb up into heaven, and for that purpose took up the mountain Ossa and piled it on Pelion. They were at last subdued by thunderbolts, which Minerva invented, and taught Vulcan and his Cyclopes to make for Jupiter.
Laius, king of Thebes, was warned by an oracle that there was danger to his throne and life if his new-born son should be suffered to grow up. He therefore committed the child to the care of a herdsman, with orders to destroy him; but the herdsman, moved to pity, yet not daring entirely to disobey, tied up the child by the feet, and left him hanging to the branch of a tree. Here the infant was found by a herdsman of Polybus, king of Corinth, who was pasturing his flock upon Mount Cithaeron. Polybus and Merope, his wife, adopted the child, whom they called OEdipus, or Swollen-foot, for they had no children themselves, and in Corinth OEdipus grew up. But as OEdipus was at Delphi, the oracle prophesied to him that he should kill his father and marry his own mother. Fighting against Fate, OEdipus resolved to leave Corinth and his parents, for he thought that Polybus and Merope were meant by the oracle.
Soon afterwards, Laius being on his way to Delphi, accompanied only by one attendant, met in a narrow road a young man also driving in a chariot. On his refusal to leave the way at their command, the attendant killed one of his horses, and the stranger, filled with rage, slew both Laius and his attendant. The young man was OEdipus, who thus unknowingly became the slayer of his own father.
Shortly after this event the city of Thebes was afflicted with a monster which infested the high-road. It was called the Sphinx. It had the body of a lion, and the upper part of a woman. It lay crouched on the top of a rock, and stopped all travellers who came that way, proposing to them a riddle, with the condition that those who could solve it should pass safe, but those who failed should be killed. Not one had yet succeeded in solving it, and all had been slain. OEdipus was not daunted by these alarming accounts, but boldly advanced to the trial. The Sphinx asked him, "What animal is that which in the morning goes on four feet, at noon on two, and in the evening upon three?" OEdipus replied, "Man, who in childhood creeps on hands and knees, in manhood walks erect, and in old age with the aid of a staff." The Sphinx was so mortified at the solving of her riddle that she cast herself down from the rock and perished.
The gratitude of the people for their deliverance was so great that they made OEdipus their king, giving him in marriage their queen Jocasta. OEdipus, ignorant of his parentage, had already become the slayer of his father; in marrying the queen he became the husband of his mother. These horrors remained undiscovered, till at length Thebes was afflicted with famine and pestilence, and the oracle being consulted, the double crime of OEdipus came to light. Jocasta put an end to her own life, and OEdipus, seized with madness, tore out his eyes, and wandered away from Thebes, dreaded and abandoned hy all except his daughters, who faithfully adhered to him; till after a tedious period of miserable wandering, he found the termination of his wretched life.
PEGASUS AND THE CHIMAERA
When Perseus cut off Medusa's head, the blood sinking into the earth produced the winged horse Pegasus. Minerva caught and tamed him, and presented him to the Muses. The fountain Hippocrene, on the Muses' mountain Helicon, was opened by a kick from his hoof.
The Chimaera was a fearful monster, breathing fire. The fore part of its body was a compound of the lion and the goat, and the hind part a dragon's. It made great havoc in Lycia, so that the king Iobates sought for some hero to destroy it. At that time there arrived at his court a gallant young warrior, whose name was Bellerophon. He brought letters from Proetus, the son-in-law of Iobates, recommending Bellerophon in the warmest terms as an unconquerable hero, but added at the close a request to his father-in-law to put him to death. The reason was that Proetus was jealous of him, suspecting that his wife Antea looked with too much admiration on the young warrior. From this instance of Bellerophon being unconsciously the bearer of his own death- warrant, the expression "Bellerophontic letters" arose, to describe any species of communication which a person is made the bearer of, containing matter prejudicial to himself.
Iobates, on perusing the letters, was puzzled what to do, not willing to violate the claims of hospitality, yet wishing to oblige his son-in-law. A lucky thought occurred to him, to send Bellerophon to combat with the Chimaera. Bellerophon accepted the proposal, but before proceeding to the combat consulted the soothsayer Polyidus, who advised him to procure if possible the horse Pegasus for the conflict. For this purpose he directed him to pass the night in the temple of Minerva. He did so, and as he slept Minerva came to him and gave him a golden bridle. When he awoke the bridle remained in his hand. Minerva also showed him Pegasus drinking at the well of Pirene, and at sight of the bridle, the winged steed came willingly and suffered himself to be taken. Bellerophon mounting, rose with him into the air, and soon found the Chimaera, and gained an easy victory over the monster.
After the conquest of the Chimaera, Bellerophon was exposed to further trials and labors by his unfriendly host, but by the aid of Pegasus he triumphed in them all; till at length Iobates, seeing that the hero was a special favorite of the gods, gave him his daughter in marriage and made him his successor on the throne. At last Bellerophon by his pride and presumption drew upon himself the anger of the gods; it is said he even attempted to fly up into heaven on his winged steed; but Jupiter sent a gadfly which stung Pegasus and made him throw his rider, who became lame and blind in consequence. After this Bellerophon wandered lonely through the Aleian field, avoiding the paths of men, and died miserably.
Milton alludes to Bellerophon in the beginning o the seventh book of Paradise Lost:
"Descend from Heaven, Urania, by that name If rightly thou art called, whose voice divine Following above the Olympian hill I soar, Above the flight of Pegasean wing, Up-led by thee, Into the Heaven of Heavens I have presumed, An earthly guest, and drawn empyreal air, (Thy tempering;) with like safety guided down Return me to my native element; Lest from this flying steed unreined, (as once Bellerophon, though from a lower sphere,) Dismounted on the Aleian field I fall, Erroneous there to wander, and forlorn."
Young in his Night Thoughts, speaking of the skeptic, says,
"He whose blind thought futurity denies, Unconscious bears, Bellerophon, like thee His own indictment; he condemns himself, Who reads his bosom reads immortal life, Or nature there, imposing on her sons, Has written fables; man was made a lie." Vol. II.1,12.