DAPHNE AND PHOEBUSDaphne, the daughter of a River God
was first beloved by Phoebus, the great God
of glorious light. 'Twas not a cause of chance
but out of Cupid's vengeful spite that she
was fated to torment the lord of light.
For Phoebus, proud of Python's death, beheld
that impish god of Love upon a time
when he was bending his diminished bow,
and voicing his contempt in anger said;
“What, wanton boy, are mighty arms to thee,
great weapons suited to the needs of war?
The bow is only for the use of those
large deities of heaven whose strength may deal
wounds, mortal, to the savage beasts of prey;
and who courageous overcome their foes.—
it is a proper weapon to the use
of such as slew with arrows Python, huge,
whose pestilential carcase vast extent
covered. Content thee with the flames thy torch
enkindles (fires too subtle for my thought)
and leave to me the glory that is mine.”
to him, undaunted, Venus, son replied;
“O Phoebus, thou canst conquer all the world
with thy strong bow and arrows, but with this
small arrow I shall pierce thy vaunting breast!
And by the measure that thy might exceeds
the broken powers of thy defeated foes,
so is thy glory less than mine.” No more
he said, but with his wings expanded thence
flew lightly to Parnassus, lofty peak.
There, from his quiver he plucked arrows twain,
most curiously wrought of different art;
one love exciting, one repelling love.
The dart of love was glittering, gold and sharp,
the other had a blunted tip of lead;
and with that dull lead dart he shot the Nymph,
but with the keen point of the golden dart
he pierced the bone and marrow of the God.
Immediately the one with love was filled,
the other, scouting at the thought of love,
rejoiced in the deep shadow of the woods,
and as the virgin Phoebe (who denies
the joys of love and loves the joys of chase)
a maiden's fillet bound her flowing hair,—
and her pure mind denied the love of man.
Beloved and wooed she wandered silent paths,
for never could her modesty endure
the glance of man or listen to his love.
Her grieving father spoke to her, “Alas,
my daughter, I have wished a son in law,
and now you owe a grandchild to the joy
of my old age.” But Daphne only hung
her head to hide her shame. The nuptial torch
seemed criminal to her. She even clung,
caressing, with her arms around his neck,
and pled, “My dearest father let me live
a virgin always, for remember Jove
did grant it to Diana at her birth.”
But though her father promised her desire,
her loveliness prevailed against their will;
for, Phoebus when he saw her waxed distraught,
and filled with wonder his sick fancy raised
delusive hopes, and his own oracles
deceived him.—As the stubble in the field
flares up, or as the stacked wheat is consumed
by flames, enkindled from a spark or torch
the chance pedestrian may neglect at dawn;
so was the bosom of the god consumed,
and so desire flamed in his stricken heart.
He saw her bright hair waving on her neck;—
“How beautiful if properly arranged! ”
He saw her eyes like stars of sparkling fire,
her lips for kissing sweetest, and her hands
and fingers and her arms; her shoulders white
as ivory;—and whatever was not seen
more beautiful must be.
Swift as the wind
from his pursuing feet the virgin fled,
and neither stopped nor heeded as he called;
“O Nymph! O Daphne! I entreat thee stay,
it is no enemy that follows thee—
why, so the lamb leaps from the raging wolf,
and from the lion runs the timid faun,
and from the eagle flies the trembling dove,
all hasten from their natural enemy
but I alone pursue for my dear love.
Alas, if thou shouldst fall and mar thy face,
or tear upon the bramble thy soft thighs,
or should I prove unwilling cause of pain!
“The wilderness is rough and dangerous,
and I beseech thee be more careful—I
will follow slowly.—Ask of whom thou wilt,
and thou shalt learn that I am not a churl—
I am no mountain dweller of rude caves,
nor clown compelled to watch the sheep and goats;
and neither canst thou know from whom thy feet
fly fearful, or thou wouldst not leave me thus.
“The Delphic Land, the Pataraean Realm,
Claros and Tenedos revere my name,
and my immortal sire is Jupiter.
The present, past and future are through me
in sacred oracles revealed to man,
and from my harp the harmonies of sound
are borrowed by their bards to praise the Gods.
My bow is certain, but a flaming shaft
surpassing mine has pierced my heart—
untouched before. The art of medicine
is my invention, and the power of herbs;
but though the world declare my useful works
there is no herb to medicate my wound,
and all the arts that save have failed their lord.,”