PHAETHON AND PHOEBUSGlowing with gold, flaming with carbuncles
on stately columns raised, refulgent shone
the palace of the Sun, with polished dome
of ivory gleaming, and with portals twain
of burnished silver. And the workmanship
exceeded all the wealth of gems and gold;
for there had Mulciber engraved the seas
encircling middle earth; the round of earth,
and heaven impending over the land.
amid the waves were azure deities:
melodious Triton and elusive Proteus; there
Aegeaan pressing with his arms the backs.
Of monstrous whales; and Doris in the sea
and all her daughters; some amid the waves
and others sitting on the bank to dry
their sea-green hair, and others borne about
by fishes. Each was made to show a fair
resemblance to her sisters—yet not one
appearance was assigned to all—they seemed
as near alike as sisters should in truth.
And men and cities, woods and savage beasts,
and streams and nymphs, and sylvan deities
were carved upon the land; and over these
an image of the glittering sky was fixed;—
six signs were on the right, six on the left.
Here when audacious Phaethon arrived
by steep ascending paths, without delay
he entered in the shining palace-gates
of his reputed parent, making haste
to stand in his paternal presence. There,
unable to endure the dazzling light,
he waited at a distance.
arrayed in royal purple, on a throne
that glittered with the purest emeralds.—
there to the left and right, Day, Month and Year,
time and the Hours, at equal distance stood;
and vernal Spring stood crowned with wreathed flowers;
and naked Summer stood with sheaves of wheat;
and Autumn stood besmeared with trodden grapes;
and icy Winter rough with hoary hair.
And from the midst, with orbs that view the world,
Phoebus beheld the trembling youth, fear-struck,
in mute amazement, and he said; “Declare
the reason of thy journey. What wilt thou
in this my palace, Phaethon my child
And to him replied the youth;
“O universal light of all the world,
my father Phoebus, if thy name be mine,
if Clymene has not concealed her sin
beneath some pretext, give to me, my sire,
a token to declare thy fatherhood
which may establish my assured descent,
and leave no dark suspicions in our minds.”—
then Phoebus from his shining brows cast down
his circling rays; called Phaethon to him,
and as he held him to his breast replied;
“O child most worthy of thy sire, the truth
was told thee by thy mother; wherefore doubts
to dissipate, consider thy desire,
and ask of me that I may freely give:
yea, let the Nether Lake, beyond our view,
(which is the oath of Gods inviolate)
be witness to my word.”
When this was said
the happy youth at once began to plead
command and guidance of his father's steeds,
wing-footed, and his chariot for a day.
But Phoebus much repented that he sware,
and thrice and four times shook his radiant head;
“Ah, would I might refuse my plighted word;
and oh, that it were lawful to deny
the promised boon.—For I confess, O son,
this only I should keep from thee—and yet
'Tis lawful to dissuade. It is unsafe
to satisfy thy will. It is a great
request, O Phaethon, which neither suits
thy utmost strength nor tender years; for thou
art mortal, and thou hast aspired to things
immortal. Ignorance has made thy thought
transcend the province of the Gods. I vaunt
no vain exploits; but only I can stand
securely on the flame-fraught axle-tree:
even the Ruler of Olympian Gods,
who hurls fierce lightnings with his great right hand,
may never dare to drive this chariot,
and what art thou to equal mighty Jove?
“The opening path is steep and difficult,
for scarcely can the steeds, refreshed at dawn,
climb up the steeps: and when is reached the height,
extreme of midmost Heaven, and sea and earth
are viewed below, my trembling breast is filled
with fearful apprehensions: and requires
the last precipitous descent a sure
command. Then, also, Tethys, who receives
me in her subject waves, is wont to fear
lest I should fall disastrous. And around
the hastening sky revolves in constant whirl,
drawing the lofty stars with rapid twist.
“I struggle on. The force that overcomes
the heavenly bodies overwhelms me not,
and I am borne against that rapid globe.
Suppose the chariot thine: what canst thou do?
Canst thou drive straight against the twisted pole
and not be carried from the lofty path
by the swift car? Art thou deceived to think
there may be groves and cities of the Gods,
and costly temples wondrously endowed?
“The journey is beset with dreadful snares
and shapes of savage animals. If thou
shouldst hold upon thy way without mistake
yet must thy journey be through Taurus' horns,
and through the Bow Haemonian, and the jaws
of the fierce Lion, and the cruel arms
of Scorpion, bent throughout a vast expanse,—
and Cancer's curving arms reversely bent.
“It is no easy task for thee to rule
the mettled four-foot steeds, enflamed in fires
that kindle in their breasts, forth issuing
in breathings from their mouths and nostrils hot;—
I scarce restrain them, as their struggling necks
pull on the harness, when their heated fires
are thus aroused.
“And, O my son, lest I
may be the author of a baneful gift,
beware, and as the time permits recall
thy rash request. Forsooth thou hast besought
undoubted signs of thy descent from me?
My fears for thee are certain signs that thou
art of my race—by my paternal fears
'Tis manifest I am thy father. Lo!
Behold my countenance! and oh, that thou
couldst even pierce my bosom with thine eyes,
and so discover my paternal cares!
“Look round thee on the treasured world's delights
and ask the greatest blessing of the sky,
or sea or land, and thou shalt suffer no
repulse: but only this I must deplore,
which rightly named would be a penalty
and not an honour.—Thou hast made request
of punishment and not a gift indeed.
O witless boy! why dost thou hold my neck
with thy caressing arms? For, doubt it not,
as I have sworn it by the Stygian Waves,
whatever thou shalt wish, it shall be given—
but thou shouldst wish more wisely.”
So were all
his admonitions said, availing naught;
for Phaethon resisted his advice,
and urged again his claim, and eagerly burned
to use the chariot. Wherefore, Phoebus long
delaying and reluctant, took the youth
to view the spacious chariot, gift of Vulcan.—
gold was the axle and the beam was gold,
the great Wheel had a golden tire and spokes
of silver; chrysolites and diamonds
reflected from the spangled yoke the light
While aspiring Phaethon admired
the glittering chariot and its workmanship,
the vigilant Aurora opened forth
her purple portals from the ruddy east,
disclosing halls replete with roses. All
the stars took flight, while Lucifer, the last
to quit his vigil, gathered that great host
and disappeared from his celestial watch.
And when his father, Phoebus, saw the earth
and the wide universe in glowing tints
arrayed, as waned the Moon's diminished horns,
far-distant, then he bade the nimble Hours
to yoke the steeds.—At once the Deities
accomplished his commands, and led the steeds,
ambrosia-fed and snorting flames, from out
their spacious stalls; and fixed their sounding bits.
Then with a hallowed drug the father touched
the stripling's face, to make him proof against
the rapid flame, and wrought around his hair
the sun-rays. But, foreboding grief, he said,
while many a sigh heaved from his anxious breast;
“If thou canst only heed thy father's voice—
be sparing of the whip and use with nerve
the reins; for of their own accord the steeds
will hasten. Difficult are they to check
in full career. Thou must not drive the car
directly through five circles, for the track
takes a wide curve, obliquely, and is bound
by the extreme edge of three zones.—It avoids
the Southern Pole, and it avoids the Bear
that roams around the north. The way is plain;
the traces of the Wheel are manifest.
“Observe with care that both the earth and sky
have their appropriate heat—Drive not too low,
nor urge the chariot through the highest plane;
for if thy course attain too great a height
thou wilt consume the mansions of the sky,
and if too low the land will scorch with heat.
“Take thou the middle plane, where all is safe;
nor let the Wheel turn over to the right
and bear thee to the twisted Snake! nor let
it take thee to the Altar on the left—
so close to earth—but steer the middle course.—
to Fortune I commit thy fate, whose care
for thee so reckless of thyself I pray.
“While I am speaking humid night has touched
the margin of Hesperian shores. 'Tis not
for us to idle; we are called away;—
when bright Aurora shines the darkness flies.
Take up the reins! But if thy stubborn breast
be capable of change use not our car,
but heed my counsel while the time permits,
and while thy feet are on a solid base,
but not, according to thy foolish wish,
pressing the axle. Rather let me light
the world beneath thy safe and wondering gaze.”
But Phaethon with youthful vigor leaped,
and in the light-made chariot lightly stood:
and he rejoiced, and with the reins in hand
thanked his reluctant parent.
Eous, Aethon, Pyrois and Phlegon,
the winged horses of the Sun, gave vent
to flame-like neighs that filled the shaking air;
they pawed the barriers with their shining hoofs.
Then Tethys, witless of her grandson's fate
let back the barriers,—and the universe
was theirs to traverse. Taking the well-known road,
and moving through the air with winged feet,
they pierced resisting clouds, and spreading wide
their pinions soared upon the eastern wind,
far-wafted from that realm. But Phaethon,
so easy of their yoke, lost all control,
and the great car was tossed,—as tapered ships
when lightened of their ballast toss and heave
unsteady in the surging seas: the car
leaped lightly in the air, and in the heights
was tossed unsteady as an empty shell.
Soon as the steeds perceived it, with a rush
impetuous, they left the beaten track;
regardless of all order and control;
and Phaethon filled with fear, knew not to guide
with trusted reins, nor where the way might be—
nor, if he knew, could he control their flight.
Warmed in the sunshine, never felt before,
the gelid Triones attempted vain
to bathe in seas forbid: the Serpent cold
and torpid by the frozen Pole, too cold
for contest, warmed, and rage assumed from heat
bootes, troubled by the heat, took flight,
impeded by his wain.
And as from skies
of utmost height unhappy Phaethon
beheld the earth receding from his view,
a pallor spread his cheeks with sudden fear;
his knees began to quake; and through the flare
of vast effulgence darkness closed his eyes.
Now vainy he regrets he ever touched
his father's steeds, and he is stunned with grief
that so entreating he prevailed to know
his true descent. He rather would be called
the son of Merops. As a ship is tossed
by raging Boreas, when the conquered helm
has been abandoned, and the pilot leaves
the vessel to his vows and to the Gods;
so, helpless, he is borne along the sky.
What can he? Much of heaven remains behind;
a longer distance is in front of him—
each way is measured in his anxious mind.—
at first his gaze is fixed upon the west,
which fate has destined he shall never reach,
and then his eyes turn backward to the east.—
so, stupefied and dazed he neither dares
to loose the bits, nor tighten on the reins,
and he is ignorant of the horses' names.
He sees horrific wonders scattered round,
and images of hideous animals.—
and there's a spot where Scorpion bends his claws
in double circles, and with tail and arms
on either side, stretches his limbs throughout
the space of two Celestial Signs; and when
the lad beheld him, steeped in oozing slime
of venom, swart, and threatening to strike
grim wounds with jagged spear-points, he was lost;
and, fixed in chills of horror, dropped the reins.
When these they felt upon their rising backs,
the startled steeds sprang forthwith; and, unchecked,
through atmospheres of regions unexplored,
thence goaded by their unchecked violence,
broke through the lawful bounds, and rushed upon
the high fixed stars. They dragged the chariot
through devious ways, and soared amid the heights;
dashed down deep pathways, far, precipitous,
and gained a level near the scorching earth.
Phoebe is wondering that her brother's steeds
run lower than her own, and sees the smoke
of scorching clouds. The highest altitudes
are caught in flames, and as their moistures dry
they crack in chasms. The grass is blighted; trees
are burnt up with their leaves; the ripe brown crops
give fuel for self destruction—Oh what small
complaints! Great cities perish with their walls,
and peopled nations are consumed to dust—
the forests and the mountains are destroyed.
Cilician Taurus, Athos and Tmolus,
and Oeta are burning; and the far-famed Ida
and all her cooling rills are dry and burning,
and virgin Helicon, and Hoemos—later
Oeagrius called—and Aetna with tremendous,
redoubled flames, and double-peaked Parnassus,
Sicilian Eryx, Cynthus—Othrys, pine-clad,
and Rhodope, deprived his snowy mantle,
and Dindyma and Mycale and Mimas,
and Mount Cithaeron, famed for sacred rites:
and Scythia, though a land of frost, is burning,
and Caucasus,—and Ossa burns with Pindus,—
and greater than those two Olympus burns—
the lofty Alps, the cloud-topped Apennines.
And Phaethon, as he inhaled the air,
burning and scorching as a furnace blast,
and saw destruction on the flaming world,
and his great chariot wreathed in quenchless fires,
was suddenly unable to endure the heat,
the smoke and cinders, and he swooned away.—
if he had known the way, those winged steeds
would rush as wild unguided.—
then the skin
of Ethiopians took a swarthy hue,
the hot blood tingling to the surface: then
the heat dried up the land of Libya;
dishevelled, the lorn Nymphs, lamenting, sought
for all their emptied springs and lakes in vain;
Boeotia wailed for Dirce's cooling wave,
and Argos wailed for Amymone's stream—
and even Corinth for the clear Pyrene.
Not safer from the flames were distant streams;—
the Tanais in middle stream was steaming
and old Peneus and Teuthrantian Caicus,
Ismenus, rapid and Arcadian Erymanthus;
and even Xanthus destined for a second burning,
and tawny-waved Lycormas, and Meander,
turning and twisting, and Thracian Melas burns,
and the Laconian Eurotas burns,
the mighty Babylonian Euphrates,
Orontes and the Ganges, swift Thermodon,
Ister and Phasis and Alpheus boil.
The banks of Spercheus burn, the gold of Tagus
is melting in the flames. The swans whose songs
enhanced the beauties of Maeonian banks
are scalded in the Cayster's middle wave.
The Nile affrighted fled to parts remote,
and hid his head forever from the world:
now empty are his seven mouths, and dry
without or wave or stream; and also dry
Ismenian Hebrus, Strymon and the streams
of Hesper-Land, the rivers Rhine and Rhone,
and Po, and Tiber, ruler of the world.
And even as the ground asunder burst,
the light amazed in gloomy Tartarus
the King Infernal and his Spouse. The sea
contracted and his level waste became
a sandy desert. The huge mountain tops,
once covered by the ocean's waves, reared up,
by which the scattered Cyclades increased.
Even the fishes sought for deeper pools;—
the crooked dolphins dared not skip the waves;
the lifeless sea-calves floated on the top;
and it is even famed that Nereus hid
with Doris and her daughters, deep below
in seething caverns. With a dauntless mien
thrice Neptune tried to thrust his arms above
the waters;—thrice the heated air overcame
Then the genial Earth, although
surrounded by the waters of the sea,
was parched and dry; for all her streams had hid
deep in the darkness of her winding caves.—
she lifted her productive countenance,
up to her rounded neck, and held her palms
on her sad brows; and as the mountains huge
trembled and tottered, beneath her wonted plane
declined she for a space—and thus began,
with parched voice;
“If this is thy decree,
O, Highest of the Gods,—if I have sinned
why do thy lightnings linger? For if doomed
by fires consuming I to perish must,
let me now die in thy celestial flames—
hurled by thine arm—and thus alleviate,
by thine omnipotence, this agony.
“How difficult to open my parched mouth,
and speak these words! (the vapours choking her),
behold my scorching hair, and see the clouds
of ashes falling on my blinded eyes,
and on my features! What a recompense
for my fertility! How often I
have suffered from the wounds of crooked plows
and rending harrows—tortured year by year!
For this I give to cattle juicy leaves
and fruits to man and frankincense to thee!
“Suppose destruction is my just award
what have the waters and thy brother done?
Why should thy brother's cooling waves decrease
and thus recede so distant from the skies?
If not thy brother's good nor mine may touch
thy mercy, let the pity of thy Heaven,
for lo, the smoking poles on either side
attest, if flames consume them or destroy,
the ruin of thy palace. Atlas, huge,
with restive shoulders hardly can support
the burning heavens. If the seas and lands
together perish and thy palace fall,
the universe confused will plunge once more
to ancient Chaos. Save it from this wreck—
if anything survive the fury of the flames.”
So made the tortured Earth an end of speech;
and she was fain to hide her countenance
in caves that border on the nether night.
But now the Almighty Father, having called
to witness all the Gods of Heaven, and him
who gave the car, that, else his power be shown,
must perish all in dire confusion, high
he mounted to the altitude from which
he spreads the mantling clouds, and fulminates
his dreadful thunders and swift lightning-bolts
terrific.—Clouds were none to find on the earth,
and the surrounding skies were void of rain.—
Jove, having reached that summit, stood and poised
in his almighty hand a flashing dart,
and, hurling it, deprived of life and seat
the youthful charioteer, and struck with fire
the raging flames— and by the same great force
those flames enveloping the earth were quenched,
and he who caused their fury lost his life.
Frantic in their affright the horses sprang
across the bounded way and cast their yokes,
and through the tangled harness lightly leaped.
And here the scattered harness lay, and there
the shattered axle, wrenched from off the pole,
and various portions of the broken car;
spokes of the broken Wheel were scattered round.
And far fell Phaethon with flaming hair;
as haply from the summer sky appears
a falling star, although it never drops
to startled earth.—Far distant from his home
the deep Eridanus received the lad
and bathed his foaming face. His body charred
by triple flames Hesperian Naiads bore,
still smoking, to a tomb, and this engraved
upon the stone; “Here Phaethon's remains
lie buried. He who drove his father's car
and fell, although he made a great attempt.”
Filled with consuming woe, his father hid
his countenance which grief had overcast.
And now, surpassing our belief, they say
a day passed over with no glowing sun;—
but light-affording flames appeared to change
disaster to the cause of good.
the woeful Clymene, when she had moaned
in grief, amid her lamentations tore
her bosom, as across the world she roamed,
at first to seek his lifeless corpse, and then
his bones. She wandered to that distant land
and found at last his bones ensepulchred.
There, clinging to the grave she fell and bathed
with many tears his name on marble carved,
and with her bosom warmed the freezing
And all the daughters of the Sun went there
giving their tears, alas a useless gift;—
they wept and beat their breasts, and day and night
called, “Phaethon,” who heard not any sound
of their complaint:—and there they lay foredone,
all scattered round the tomb.
The silent moon
had four times joined her horns and filled her disk,
while they, according to an ancient rite,
made lamentation. Prone upon the ground,
the eldest, Phaethusa, would arise
from there, but found her feet were growing stiff;
and uttered moan. Lampetia wished to aid
her sister but was hindered by new roots;
a third when she would tear her hair, plucked forth
but leaves: another wailed to find her legs
were fastened in a tree; another moaned
to find her arms to branches had been changed.
And while they wondered, bark enclosed their thighs,
and covered their smooth bellies, and their breasts,
and shoulders and their hands, but left untouched
their lips that called upon their mother's name.
What can she do for them? Hither she runs
and thither runs, wherever frenzy leads.
She kisses them, alas, while yet she may!
But not content with this, she tried to hale
their bodies from the trees; and she would tear
the tender branches with her hands, but lo!
The blood oozed out as from a bleeding wound;
and as she wounded them they shrieked aloud,
“Spare me! O mother spare me; in the tree
my flesh is torn! farewell! farewell! farewell!”
And as they spoke the bark enclosed their lips.
Their tears flow forth, and from the new-formed
amber distils and slowly hardens in the sun;
and far from there upon the waves is borne
to deck the Latin women.
of Sthenelus, by his maternal house
akin to Phaethon, and thrice by love
allied, beheld this wonderful event.—
he left his kingdom of Liguria,
and all its peopled cities, to lament
where the sad sisters had increased the woods,
beside the green banks of Eridanus.
There, as he made complaint, his manly voice
began to pipe a treble, shrill; and long
gray plumes concealed his hair. A slender neck
extended from his breast, and reddening toes
were joined together by a membrane. Wings
grew from his sides, and from his mouth was made
a blunted beak. Now Cycnus is a swan,
and yet he fears to trust the skies and Jove,
for he remembers fires, unjustly sent,
and therefore shuns the heat that he abhors,
and haunts the spacious lakes and pools and streams
that quench the fires.
In squalid garb, meanwhile,
and destitute of all his rays, the sire
of Phaethon, as dark as when eclipse bedims
his Wheel, abhors himself and hates the light,
shuns the bright day, gives up his mind to grief,
adds passion to his woe, denies the earth
his countenance, and thus laments; “My lot
was ever restless from the dawn of time,
and I am weary of this labour, void
and endless. Therefore, let who will urge forth
my car, light-bearing, and if none may dare,
when all the Gods of Heaven acknowledge it,
let Jove himself essay the task. Perchance,
when he takes up the reins, he may forget
his dreadful lightning that bereaves of child
a father's love; and as he tries the strength
of those flame-footed steeds will know, in truth,
the lad who failed to guide my chariot
deserved not death.”
But all the Deities
encircle Phoebus as he makes complaint,
and with their supplications they entreat
him not to plunge the world in darkness. Jove
would find excuses for the lightning-bolt,
hurled from his hand, and adds imperious threats
to his entreaties. Phoebus calls his steeds,
frenzied with their maddening fires, and
their fury, as he vents with stinging lash
his rage upon them, and in passion lays
on them the death of Phaethon his son.
CALISTO AND JUPITERNow after Phaethon had suffered death
for the vast ruin wrought by scorching flames,
all the great walls of Heaven's circumference,
unmeasured, views the Father of the Gods,
with searching care, that none impaired by heat
may fall in ruins. Well assured they stand
in self-sustaining strength, his view, at last,
on all the mundane works of man is turned;—
his loving gaze long resting on his own
Arcadia. And he starts the streams and springs
that long have feared to flow; paints the wide earth
with verdant fields; covers the trees with leaves,
and clothes the injured forests in their green.
While wandering in the world, he stopped amazed,
when he beheld the lovely Nymph, Calisto,
and fires of love were kindled in his breast.
Calisto was not clothed in sumptuous robes,
nor did she deck her hair in artful coils;
but with a buckle she would gird her robe,
and bind her long hair with a fillet white.
She bore a slender javelin in her hand,
or held the curving bow; and thus in arms
as chaste Diana, none of Maenalus
was loved by that fair goddess more than she.
But everything must change. When bright the sun
rolled down the sky, beyond his middle course,
she pierced a secret thicket, known to her,
and having slipped the quiver from her arm,
she loosed the bended bow, and softly down
upon the velvet turf reclining, pressed
her white neck on the quiver while she slept.
When Jupiter beheld her, negligent
and beautiful, he argued thus, “How can
my consort, Juno, learn of this? And yet,
if chance should give her knowledge, what care I?
Let gain offset the scolding of her tongue!”
This said, the god transformed himself and took
Diana's form—assumed Diana's dress
and imitating her awoke the maid,
and spoke in gentle tones, “What mountain slope,
O virgin of my train, hath been thy chase?”
Which, having heard, Calisto, rose and said,
“Hail, goddess! greater than celestial Jove!
I would declare it though he heard the words.”
Jove heard and smiled, well pleased to be preferred
above himself, and kissed her many times,
and strained her in his arms, while she began
to tell the varied fortunes of her hunt.—
but when his ardent love was known to her,
she struggled to escape from his embrace:
ah, how could she, a tender maid, resist
almighty Jove?—Be sure, Saturnia
if thou hadst only witnessed her thy heart
had shown more pity!—
Jupiter on wings,
transcendent, sought his glorious heights;
but she, in haste departing from that grove,
almost forgot her quiver and her bow.
Behold, Diana, with her virgin train,
when hunting on the slopes of Maenalus,
amidst the pleasures of exciting sport,
espied the Nymph and called her, who, afraid
that Jove apparelled in disguise deceived,
drew backward for a moment, till appeared
to her the lovely Nymphs that followed: thus,
assured deceit was none, she ventured near.
Alas, how difficult to hide disgrace!
She could not raise her vision from the ground,
nor as the leader of the hunting Nymphs,
as was her wont, walk by the goddess' side.
Her silence and her blushes were the signs
of injured honour. Ah Diana, thou,
if thou wert not a virgin, wouldst perceive
and pity her unfortunate distress.
The Moon's bent horns were rising from their ninth
sojourn, when, fainting from Apollo's flames,
the goddess of the Chase observed a cool
umbrageous grove, from which a murmuring stream
ran babbling gently over golden sands.
When she approved the spot, lightly she struck
her foot against the ripples of the stream,
and praising it began; “Far from the gaze
of all the curious we may bathe our limbs,
and sport in this clear water.” Quickly they
undid their garments,—but Calisto hid
behind the others, till they knew her state.—
Diana in a rage exclaimed, “Away!
Thou must not desecrate our sacred springs!”
And she was driven thence.
Ere this transpired,
observed the consort of the Thunder-God
her altered mien; but she for ripening time
withheld severe resentment. Now delay
was needless for distracted Juno heard
Calisto of the god of Heaven had borne
a boy called Arcas. Full of jealous rage,
her eyes and thoughts enkindled as she cried;
“And only this was wanting to complete
your wickedness, that you should bear a son
and flaunt abroad the infamy of Jove!
Unpunished you shall not escape, for I
will spoil the beauty that has made you proud
and dazzled Jupiter with wanton art.”
So saying, by her forehead's tresses seized
the goddess on her rival; and she dragged
her roughly to the ground. Pleading she raised
her suppliant arms and begged for mercy.—While
she pled, black hair spread over her white limbs;
her hands were lengthened into feet, and claws
long-curving tipped them; snarling jaws deformed
the mouth that Jove had kissed. And lest her prayers
and piteous words might move some listening God,
and give remembrance, speech was so denied,
that only from her throat came angry growls,
now uttered hoarse and threatening.
her understanding, though her body, thus
transformed, makes her appear a savage bear.—
her sorrows are expressed in many a groan,
repeated as she lifts her hands—if we
may call them so—repeated as she lifts
them towards the stars and skies, ungrateful Jove
regarding; but her voice accuses not.
Afraid to rest in unfrequented woods,
she wandered in the fields that once were hers,
around her well-known dwelling. Over crags,
in terror, she was driven by the cries
of hounds; and many a time she fled in fear,
a huntress from the hunters, or she hid
from savage animals; forgetting her
transformed condition. Changed into a bear,
she fled affrighted from the bears that haunt
the rugged mountains; and she feared and fled
the wolves,—although her father was a wolf.
When thrice five birthdays rounded out the youth
of Arcas, offspring of Lycaon's child,
he hunted in the forest of his choice;
where, hanging with his platted nets the trees
of Erymanthian forest, he espied
his transformed mother,—but he knew her not;
no one had told him of his parentage.
Knowing her child, she stood with levelled gaze,
amazed and mute as he began approach;
but Arcas, frightened at the sight drew back
to pierce his mother's breast with wounding spear.—
but not permitting it the god of Heaven
averted, and removed them from that crime.
He, in a mighty wind—through vacant space,
upbore them to the dome of starry heaven,
and fixed them, Constellations, bright amid
the starry host.
Juno on high beheld
Calisto crowned with glory—great with rage
her bosom heaved. She flew across the sea,
to hoary Tethys and to old Oceanus,
whom all the Gods revere, and thus to them
in answer to their words she made address;
“And is it wondered that the Queen of Gods
comes hither from ethereal abodes?
My rival sits upon the Throne of Heaven:
yea, when the wing of Night has darkened
let my fair word be deemed of no repute,
if you behold not in the height of Heaven
those new made stars, now honoured to my shame,
conspicuous; fixed in the highest dome of space
that circles the utmost axis of the world.
“Who, then, should hesitate to put affront
on Juno? matchless goddess! each offense
redounds in benefit! Who dreads her rage?
Oh boundless powers! Oh unimagined deeds!
My enemy assumes a goddess' form
when my decree deprives her human shape;—
and thus the guilty rue their chastisement!
“Now let high Jove to human shape transform
this hideous beast, as once before he changed
his Io from a heifer.—Let him now
divorce his Juno and consort with her,
and lead Calisto to his couch, and take
that wolf, Lycaon, for a father-in-law!
“Oh, if an injury to me, your child,
may move your pity! drive the Seven Stars
from waters crystalline and azure-tint,
and your domain debar from those that shine
in Heaven, rewarded for Jove's wickedness.—
bathe not a concubine in waters pure.”—
Corvus. Coronis. Cornix. Ocyroe.the Gods of Ocean granted her request.
CORONIS AND PHOEBUSHigh in her graceful chariot through the air,
translucent, wends the goddess, glorious child
of Saturn, with her peacocks many-hued:
her peacocks, by the death of Argus limped,
so gay were made when black as midnight turned
thy wings, O chattering raven! white of yore.
For, long ago the ravens were not black—
their plumage then was white as any dove—
white-feathered, snow-white as the geese that guard
with watchful cries the Capitol: as white
as swans that haunt the streams. Disgrace reversed
the raven's hue from white to black, because
offense was given by his chattering tongue.
O glorious Phoebus! dutiful to thee,
Coronis of Larissa, fairest maid
of all Aemonia, was a grateful charm,
a joy to thee whilst faithful to thy love,—
while none defamed her chastity. But when
the Raven, bird of Phoebus, learned the Nymph
had been unfaithful, mischief-bent that bird,
spreading his white wings, hastened to impart
the sad news to his master. After him
the prattling Crow followed with flapping wings,
eager to learn what caused the Raven's haste.
Concealing nothing, with his busy tongue
the Raven gave the scandal to that bird:
and unto him the prattling Crow replied;
“A fruitless errand has befooled thy wits!
Take timely warning of my fateful cries:
consider what I was and what I am:
was justice done? 'Twas my fidelity
that caused my downfall. For, it came to pass,
within a basket, fashioned of small twigs,
Minerva had enclosed that spawn; begot
without a mother, Ericthonius;
which to the wardship of three virgins, born
of double-natured Cecrops, she consigned
with this injunction, ‘Look ye not therein,
nor learn the secret.’—
“But I saw their deeds
while hidden in the leaves of a great tree
two of the sisters, Herse and Pandrosos,
observed the charge, but scoffing at their fears,
the third, Aglauros, with her nimble hands
untied the knotted cords, and there disclosed
a serpent and an infant. This I told
Minerva; but in turn, she took away
her long protection, and degraded me
beneath the boding Owl.—My punishment
should warn the birds how many dangers they
incur from chattering tongues.
“Not my desire
impelled me to report to her, nor did
I crave protection; which, if thou wilt ask
Minerva, though enraged she must confirm.
And when is told to thee what lately fame
established, thou wilt not despise the Crow.
“Begot by Coronaeus, who was lord
of all the land of Phocis, I was once
a royal virgin, sought by suitors rich
and powerful. But beauty proved the cause
of my misfortune; for it came to pass,
as I was slowly walking on the sands
that skirt the merge of ocean, where was oft
my wont to roam, the god of Ocean gazed
impassioned, and with honied words implored
my love—but finding that I paid no heed,
and all his words despised, he fumed with rage
and followed me.
“I fled from that sea-shore,
to fields of shifting sands that all my steps
delayed: and in despair upon the Gods
and all mankind I called for aid, but I
was quite alone and helpless. Presently
the chaste Minerva, me, a virgin, heard
and me assistance gave: for as my arms
implored the Heavens, downy feathers grew
from out the flesh; and as I tried to cast
my mantle from my shoulders, wings appeared
upon my tender sides; and as I strove
to beat my naked bosom with my hands,
nor hands remained nor naked breast to beat.
“I ran, and as I sped the sands no more
delayed me; I was soaring from the ground;
and as I winged the air, Minerva chose
me for a life-companion; but alas,
although my life was blameless, fate or chance
deprived me of Minerva's loving aid;
for soon Nictimene succeeded me
to her protection and deserved esteem.—
it happened in this way,—Nictimene
committed the most wicked crimes, for which
Minerva changed her to the bird of night—
and ever since has claimed her as her own
instead of me; and this despite the deed
for which she shuns the glorious light of day,
and conscious of her crime conceals her shame
in the dark night—Minerva's Owl now called.
All the glad birds of day, indignant shun,
and chase her from the skies.”
But now replied
the Raven to the Crow, that talked so much,
“A mischief fall upon your prating head
for this detention of my flight. Your words
and warnings I despise.” With which retort
he winged upon his journey, swiftly thence
in haste, despite the warning to inform
his patron, Phoebus, how he saw the fair
Coronis with a lad of Thessaly.
And when Apollo, Phoebus, heard the tale
the busy Raven made such haste to tell,
he dropped his plectrum and his laurel wreath,
and his bright countenance went white with rage.
He seized his trusted arms, and having bent
his certain bow, pierced with a deadly shaft
that bosom which so often he had pressed
against his own.
Coronis moaned in pain,—
and as she drew the keen shaft from the wound,
her snow-white limbs were bathed in purple blood:
and thus she wailed, “Ah, Phoebus! punishment
is justly mine! but wherefore didst thou not
await the hour of birth? for by my death
an innocent is slain.” This said, her soul
expired with her life-blood, and death congealed
her drooping form.
Sadly the love-lore God
repents his jealous deed; regrets too late
his ready credence to the Raven's tale.
Mourning his thoughtless deed, blaming himself,
he vents his rage upon the talking bird;
he hates his bow, the string, his own right hand,
the fateful arrow. As a last resource,
and thus to overcome her destiny,
he strove to cherish her beloved form;
for vain were all his medicinal arts.
But when he saw upraised the funeral pyre,
where wreathed in flames her body should be burnt,
the sorrow of his heart welled forth in sighs;
but tearless orbed, for no celestial face
may tide of woe bedew. So grieves the poor dam,
when, swinging from his right the flashing ax,
the butcher with a sounding blow divides
the hollow temples of her sucking calf.
Yet, after Phoebus poured the fragrant myrrh,
sweet perfumes on her breast, that now once more
against his own he pressed, and after all
the prematurely hastened rites were done,
he would not suffer the offspring of his loins
to mingle with her ashes, but he plucked
from out the flames, forth from the mother's thighs
his child, unborn, and carried to the cave
of double-natured Chiron.
Then to him
he called the silly raven, high in hopes
of large requital due for all his words;
but, angry with his meddling ways, the God
turned the white feathers of that bird to black
and then forbade forever more to perch
among the favoured birds whose plumes are white.
OCYROE AND AESCULAPIUSChiron, the Centaur, taught his pupil; proud
that he was honoured by that God-like charge.
Behold, his lovely daughter, who was born
beside the margin of a rapid stream,
came forward, with her yellow hair as gold
adown her shoulders.—She was known by name
Ocyroe. The hidden things that Fate
conceals, she had the power to tell; for not
content was she to learn her father's arts,
but rather pondered on mysterious things.
So, when the god of Frenzy warmed her breast,
gazing on Aesculapius,—the child
of Phoebus and Coronis, while her soul
was gifted, with prophetic voice she said;
“O thou who wilt bestow on all the world
the blessed boon of health, increase in strength!
To thee shall mortals often owe their lives:
to thee is given the power to raise the dead.
But when against the power of Deities
thou shalt presume to dare thy mortal skill,
the bolts of Jove will shatter thy great might,
and health no more be thine from thence to grant.
And from a god thou shalt return to dust,
and once again from dust become a God;
and thou shalt thus renew thy destiny.—
“And thou, dear father Chiron, brought to birth
with pledge of an immortal life, informed
with ever-during strength, when biting flames
of torment from the baneful serpent's blood
are coursing in thy veins, thou shalt implore
a welcome death; and thy immortal life
the Gods shall suffer to the power of death.—
and the three Destinies shall cut thy thread.”
She would continue these prophetic words
but tears unbidden trickled down her face;
and, as it seemed her sighs would break her heart,
she thus bewailed; “The Fates constrain my speech
and I can say no more; my power has gone.
Alas, my art, although of little force
and doubtful worth, has brought upon my head
the wrath of Heaven.
“Oh wherefore did I know
to cast the future? Now my human form
puts on another shape, and the long grass
affords me needed nourishment. I want
to range the boundless plains and have become,
in image of my father's kind, a mare:
but gaining this, why lose my human shape?
My father's form is one of twain combined.”
And as she wailed the words became confused
and scarcely understood; and soon her speech
was only as the whinny of a mare.
Down to the meadow's green her arms were stretched;
her fingers joined together, and smooth hoofs
made of five nails a single piece of horn.
Her face and neck were lengthened, and her hair
swept downward as a tail; the scattered locks
that clung around her neck were made a mane,
tossed over to the right. Her voice and shape
were altogether changed, and since that day
the change has given her a different name.
Battus.In vain her hero father, Chiron, prayed
the glorious God, Apollo, her to aid.
He could not thwart the will of mighty Jove;
and if the power were his, far from the spot,
from thence afar his footsteps trod the fields
of Elis and Messenia, far from thence.
BATTUS AND MERCURYNow while Apollo wandered on those plains,—
his shoulders covered with a shepherd's skin,
his left hand holding his long shepherd's staff,
his right hand busied with the seven reeds
of seven sizes, brooding over the death
of Hymenaeus, lost from his delight;
while mournful ditties on the reeds were tuned,—
his kine, forgotten, strayed away to graze
over the plains of Pylos. Mercury
observed them, unattended, and from thence
drove them away and hid them in the forest.
So deftly did he steal them, no one knew
or noticed save an ancient forester,
well known to all the neighbor-folk, by them
called Battus. He was keeper of that wood,
and that green pasture where the blooded mares
of rich Neleus grazed.
distrusted him, he led him to one side
and said; “Good stranger, whosoever thou art,
if any one should haply question thee,
if thou hast seen these kine, deny it all;
and for thy good will, ere the deed is done,
I give as thy reward this handsome cow.”
Now when the gift was his, old Battus said,
“Go hence in safety, if it be thy will;
and should my tongue betray thee, let that stone
make mention of the theft.” And as he spoke,
he pointed to a stone.
The son of Jove
pretended to depart, but quickly changed
his voice and features, and retraced his steps,
and thus again addressed that ancient man;
“Kind sir, if thou wouldst earn a fair reward,
a heifer and a bull, if thou hast seen
some cattle pass, I pray thee give thy help,
and tell me of the theft.” So the reward
was doubled; and the old man answered him,
“Beyond those hills they be,” and so they were
‘Beyond those hills.’
And, laughing, Mercury said,
“Thou treacherous man to me dost thou betray
myself? Dost thou bewray me to myself?”
The god indignant turned his perjured breast
into a stone which even now is called
“The Spy of Pylos,” a disgraceful name,
derived from days of old, but undeserved.
AGLAUROS AND MERCURYHigh in the dome of Heaven, behold the bright
Caduceus-Bearer soared on balanced wings;
and far below him through a fruitful grove,
devoted to Minerva's hallowed reign,
some virgins bearing on their lovely heads,
in wicker baskets wreathed and decked with flowers,
their sacred offerings to the citadel
of that chaste goddess. And the winged God,
while circling in the clear unbounded skies,
beheld that train of virgins, beautiful,
as they were thence returning on their way.
Not forward on a level line he flew,
but wheeled in circles round. Lo, the swift kite
swoops round the smoking entrails, while the priests
enclose in guarded ranks their sacrifice:
wary with fear, that swiftest of all birds,
dares not to venture from his vantage height,
but greedily hovers on his waving wings
around his keen desire. So, the bright God
circled those towers, Actaean, round and round,
in mazey circles, greedy as the bird.
As much as Lucifer outshines the stars
that emulate the glory of his rays,
as greatly as bright Phoebe pales thy light,
O lustrous Lucifer! so far surpassed
in beauty the fair maiden Herse, all
those lovely virgins of that sacred train,
departing joyous from Minerva's grove.
The Son of Jove, astonished, while he wheeled
on balanced pinions through the yielding air,
burned hot; as oft from Balearic sling
the leaden missile, hurled with sudden force,
burns in a glowing heat beneath the clouds.
Then sloped the god his course from airy height,
and turned a different way; another way
he went without disguise, in confidence
of his celestial grace. But though he knew
his face was beautiful, he combed his hair,
and fixed his flowing raiment, that the fringe
of radiant gold appeared. And in his hand
he waved his long smooth wand, with which he gives
the wakeful sleep or waketh ridded eyes.
He proudly glanced upon his twinkling feet
that sparkled with their scintillating wings.
In a secluded part of that great fane,
devoted to Minerva's hallowed rites,
three chambers were adorned with tortoise shell
and ivory and precious woods inlaid;
and there, devoted to Minerva's praise,
three well known sisters dwelt. Upon the right
dwelt Pandrosos and over on the left
Aglauros dwelt, and Herse occupied
the room between those two.
drew near to them, Aglauros first espied
the God, and ventured to enquire his name,
and wherefore he was come. Then gracious spoke
to her in answer the bright son of Jove;
“Behold the god who carries through the air
the mandates of almighty Jupiter!
But I come hither not to waste my time
in idle words, but rather to beseech
thy kindness and good aid, that I may win
the love of thy devoted sister Herse.”
Aglauros, on the son of Jupiter,
gazed with those eyes that only lately viewed
the guarded secret of the yellow-haired
Minerva, and demanded as her price
gold of great weight; before he paid denied
admittance of the house.
with orbs of stern displeasure, towards the maid
Aglauros; and her bosom heaved with sighs
so deeply laboured that her Aegis-shield
was shaken on her valiant breast. For she
remembered when Aglauros gave to view
her charge, with impious hand, that monster form
without a mother, maugre Nature's law,
what time the god who dwells on Lemnos loved.—
now to requite the god and sister; her
to punish whose demand of gold was great;
Minerva to the Cave of Envy sped.
Dark, hideous with black gore, her dread abode
is hidden in the deepest hollowed cave,
in utmost limits where the genial sun
may never shine, and where the breathing winds
may never venture; dismal, bitter cold,
untempered by the warmth of welcome fires,
involved forever in abounding gloom.
When the fair champion came to this abode
she stood before its entrance, for she deemed
it not a lawful thing to enter there:
and she whose arm is mortal to her foes,
struck the black door-posts with her pointed spear,
and shook them to the center. Straight the doors
flew open, and, behold, within was Envy
ravening the flesh of vipers, self-begot,
the nutriment of her depraved desires.—
when the great goddess met her evil gaze
she turned her eyes away. But Envy slow,
in sluggish languor from the ground uprose,
and left the scattered serpents half-devoured;
then moving with a sullen pace approached.—
and when she saw the gracious goddess, girt
with beauty and resplendent in her arms,
she groaned aloud and fetched up heavy sighs.
Her face is pale, her body long and lean,
her shifting eyes glance to the left and right,
her snaggle teeth are covered with black rust,
her hanging paps overflow with bitter gall,
her slavered tongue drips venom to the ground;
busy in schemes and watchful in dark snares
sweet sleep is banished from her blood-shot eyes;
her smiles are only seen when others weep;
with sorrow she observes the fortunate,
and pines away as she beholds their joy;
her own existence is her punishment,
and while tormenting she torments herself.
Although Minerva held her in deep scorn
she thus commanded her with winged words;
“Instil thy poison in Aglauros, child
of Cecrops; I command thee; do my will.”
She spake; and spurning with her spear the ground
departed; and the sad and furtive-eyed
envy observed her in her glorious flight:
she murmured at the goddess, great in arms:
but waiting not she took in hand her staff,
which bands of thorns encircled as a wreath,
and veiled in midnight clouds departed thence.
She blasted on her way the ripening fields;
scorched the green meadows, starred with flowers,
and breathed a pestilence throughout the land
and the great cities. When her eyes beheld
the glorious citadel of Athens, great
in art and wealth, abode of joyful peace,
she hardly could refrain from shedding tears,
that nothing might be witnessed worthy tears.
She sought the chamber where Aglauros slept,
and hastened to obey the God's behest.
She touched the maiden's bosom with her hands,
foul with corrupting stains, and pierced her heart
with jagged thorns, and breathed upon her face
a noxious venom; and distilled through all
the marrow of her bones, and in her lungs,
a poison blacker than the ooze of pitch.
And lest the canker of her poisoned soul
might spread unchecked throughout increasing space,
she caused a vision of her sister's form
to rise before her, happy with the God
who shone in his celestial beauty. All
appeared more beautiful than real life.—
when the most wretched daughter of Cecrops
had seen the vision secret torment seized
on all her vitals; and she groaned aloud,
tormented by her frenzy day and night.
A slow consumption wasted her away,
as ice is melted by the slant sunbeam,
when the cool clouds are flitting in the sky.
If she but thought of Herse's happiness
she burned, as thorny bushes are consumed
with smoldering embers under steaming stems.
She could not bear to see her sister's joy,
and longed for death, an end of misery;
or schemed to end the torture of her mind
by telling all she knew in shameful words,
whispered to her austere and upright sire.
But after many agonizing hours,
she sat before the threshold of their home
to intercept the God, who as he neared
spoke softly in smooth blandishment.
“Enough,” she said, “I will not move from here
until thou hast departed from my sight.”
“Let us adhere to that which was agreed.”
Rejoined the graceful-formed Cyllenian God,
who as he spoke thrust open with a touch
of his compelling wand the carved door.
But when she made an effort to arise,
her thighs felt heavy, rigid and benumbed;
and as she struggled to arise her knees
were stiffened? and her nails turned pale and cold;
her veins grew pallid as the blood congealed.
And even as the dreaded cancer spreads
through all the body, adding to its taint
the flesh uninjured; so, a deadly chill
entered by slow degrees her breast, and stopped
her breathing, and the passages of life.
She did not try to speak, but had she made
an effort to complain there was not left
a passage for her voice. Her neck was changed
to rigid stone, her countenance felt hard;
she sat a bloodless statue, but of stone
not marble-white—her mind had stained it black.
Europa.So from the land of Pallas went the God,
his great revenge accomplished on the head
of impious Aglauros; and he soared
on waving wings into the opened skies:
and there his father called him to his side,
and said,—with words to hide his passion;—Son,—
thou faithful minister of my commands.—
let naught delay thee—swiftly take the way,
accustomed, to the land of Sidon (which
adores thy mother's star upon the left)
when there, drive over to the sounding shore
that royal herd, which far away is fed
on mountain grass.—
he spoke, and instantly
the herd was driven from the mountain side;
then headed for the shore, as Jove desired,—
to where the great king's daughter often went
in play, attended by the maids of Tyre.—
can love abide the majesty of kings?
Love cannot always dwell upon a throne.—
EUROPA AND JUPITERTHE HOUSE OF CADMUSJove laid aside his glorious dignity,
for he assumed the semblance of a bull
and mingled with the bullocks in the groves,
his colour white as virgin snow, untrod,
unmelted by the watery Southern Wind.
His neck was thick with muscles, dewlaps hung
between his shoulders; and his polished horns,
so small and beautifully set, appeared
the artifice of man; fashioned as fair
and more transparent than a lucent gem.
His forehead was not lowered for attack,
nor was there fury in his open eyes;
the love of peace was in his countenance.
When she beheld his beauty and mild eyes,
the daughter of Agenor was amazed;
but, daring not to touch him, stood apart
until her virgin fears were quieted;
then, near him, fragrant flowers in her hand
she offered,—tempting, to his gentle mouth:
and then the loving god in his great joy
kissed her sweet hands, and could not wait her will.
Jove then began to frisk upon the grass,
or laid his snow-white side on the smooth sand,
yellow and golden. As her courage grew
he gave his breast one moment for caress,
or bent his head for garlands newly made,
wreathed for his polished horns.
The royal maid,
unwitting what she did, at length sat down
upon the bull's broad back. Then by degrees
the god moved from the land and from the shore,
and placed his feet, that seemed but shining hoofs,
in shallow water by the sandy merge;
and not a moment resting bore her thence,
across the surface of the Middle Sea,
while she affrighted gazed upon the shore—
so fast receding. And she held his horn
with her right hand, and, steadied by the left,
held on his ample back—and in the breeze
her waving garments fluttered as they went.