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“And genial Ceres, full of joy, that now
her daughter was regained, began to speak;
‘Declare the reason of thy wanderings,
O Arethusa! tell me wherefore thou
wert made a sacred stream.’ The waters gave
no sound; but soon that goddess raised her head
from the deep springs; and after sue had dried
her green hair with her hand, with fair address
she told the ancient amours of that stream
which flows through Elis.—‘I was one among
the Nymphs of old Achaia,’—so she said—
‘And none of them more eager sped than I,
along the tangled pathways; and I fixed
the hunting-nets with zealous care.—Although
I strove not for the praise that beauty gives,
and though my form was something stout for grace,
it had the name of being beautiful.

‘So worthless seemed the praise, I took no joy
in my appearance—as a country lass
I blushed at those endowments which would give
delight to others—even the power to please
seemed criminal.—And I remember when
returning weary from Stymphal fan woods,
and hot with toil, that made the glowing sun
seem twice as hot, I chanced upon a stream,
that flowed without a ripple or a sound
so smoothly on, I hardly thought it moved.

‘The water was so clear that one could see
and count the pebbles in the deepest parts,
and silver willows and tall poplar trees,
nourished by flowing waters, spread their shade
over the shelving banks. So I approached,
and shrinkingly touched the cool stream with my feet;
and then I ventured deeper to my knees;
and not contented doffed my fleecy robes,
and laid them on a bending willow tree.
Then, naked, I plunged deeply in the stream,
and while I smote the water with my hands,
and drew it towards me, striking boldly forth,
moving my body in a thousand ways,
I thought I heard a most unusual sound,
a murmuring noise beneath the middle stream.

‘Alarmed, I hastened to the nearest bank,
and as I stood upon its edge, these words
hoarsely Alpheus uttered from his waves;
‘Oh, whither dost thou hasten?’ and again,
‘Oh, whither dost thou hasten?’ said the voice.

‘Just as I was, I fled without my clothes,
for I had left them on the other bank;
which, when he saw, so much the more inflamed,
more swiftly he pursued: my nakedness
was tempting to his gaze. And thus I ran;
and thus relentlessly he pressed my steps:
so from the hawk the dove with trembling wings;
and so, the hawk pursues the frightened dove.

‘Swiftly and long I fled, with winding course,
to Orchamenus, Psophis and Cyllene,
and Maenalus and Erymanthus cold,
and Elis. Neither could he gain by speed,
although his greater strength must soon prevail,
for I not longer could endure the strain.

‘Still I sped onward through the fields and woods,
by tangled wilds and over rocks and crags;
and as I hastened from the setting sun,
I thought I saw a growing shadow move
beyond my feet; it may have been my fear
imagined it, but surely now I heard
the sound of footsteps: I could even feel
his breathing on the loose ends of my hair;
and I was terrified. At last, worn out
by all my efforts to escape, I cried;
‘Oh, help me—thou whose bow and quivered darts
I oft have borne—thy armour-bearer calls—
O chaste Diana help,—or I am lost.’
‘It moved the goddess, and she gathered up
a dense cloud, and encompassed me about.—
The baffled River circled round and round,
seeking to find me, hidden in that cloud—
twice went the River round, and twice cried out,
‘Ho, Arethusa! Arethusa, Ho!’
‘What were my wretched feelings then? Could I
be braver than the Iamb that hears the wolves,
howling around the high-protecting fold?
Or than the hare, which lurking in the bush
knows of the snarling hounds and dares not move?
And yet, Alpheus thence would not depart,
for he could find no footprints of my flight.

‘He watched the cloud and spot, and thus besieged,
a cold sweat gathered on my trembling limbs.
The clear-blue drops, distilled from every pore,
made pools of water where I moved my feet,
and dripping moisture trickled from my hair.—
Much quicker than my story could be told,
my body was dissolved to flowing streams.—
But still the River recognized the waves,
and for the love of me transformed his shape
from human features to his proper streams,
that so his waters might encompass mine.

‘Diana, therefore, opened up the ground,
in which I plunged, and thence through gloomy caves
was carried to Ortygia—blessed isle!
To which my chosen goddess gave her name!
Where first I rose amid the upper air!’


“Thus Arethusa made an end of speech:
and presently the fertile goddess yoked
two dragons to her chariot: she curbed
their mouths with bits: they bore her through the air,
in her light car betwixt the earth and skies,
to the Tritonian citadel, and to
Triptolemus, to whom she furnished seed,
that he might scatter it in wasted lands,
and in the fallow fields; which, after long
neglect, again were given to the plow.

“After he had traveled through uncharted skies,
over wide Europe and vast Asian lands,
he lit upon the coast of Scythia, where
a king called Lyncus reigned. And there, at once
he sought the palace of that king, who said;
‘Whence come you, stranger, wherefore in this land?
Come, tell to me your nation and your name.’
“And after he was questioned thus, he said,
‘I came from far-famed Athens and they call
my name Triptolemus. I neither came
by ship through waves, nor over the dry land;
for me the yielding atmosphere makes way.—
I bear the gifts of Ceres to your land,
which scattered over your wide realm may yield
an ample harvest of nutritious food.’
“The envious Lyncus, wishing to appear
the gracious author of all benefits,
received the unsuspecting youth with smiles;
but when he fell into a heavy sleep
that savage king attacked him with a sword—
but while attempting to transfix his guest,
the goddess Ceres changed him to a lynx:—
and once again she sent her favoured youth
to drive her sacred dragons through the clouds.


“The greatest of our number ended thus
her learned songs; and with concordant voice
the chosen Nymphs adjudged the Deities,
on Helicon who dwell, should be proclaimed
the victors.

“But the vanquished nine began
to scatter their abuse; to whom rejoined
the goddess; ‘Since it seems a trifling thing
that you should suffer a deserved defeat,
and you must add unmerited abuse
to heighten your offence, and since by this
appears the end of our endurance, we
shall certainly proceed to punish you
according to the limit of our wrath.’

“But these Emathian sisters laughed to scorn
our threatening words; and as they tried to speak,
and made great clamour, and with shameless hands
made threatening gestures, suddenly stiff quills
sprouted from out their finger-nails, and plumes
spread over their stretched arms; and they could see
the mouth of each companion growing out
into a rigid beak.—And thus new birds
were added to the forest.—While they made
complaint, these Magpies that defile our groves,
moving their stretched-out arms, began to float,
suspended in the air. And since that time
their ancient eloquence, their screaming notes,
their tiresome zeal of speech have all remained.”

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