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.