Byblis.When Themis, prophesying future days,
had said these words, the Gods of Heaven complained
because they also could not grant the gift
of youth to many others in this way.
Aurora wept because her husband had
white hair; and Ceres then bewailed the age
of her Iasion, grey and stricken old;
and Mulciber demanded with new life
his Erichthonius might again appear;
and Venus, thinking upon future days,
said old Anchises' years must be restored.
And every god preferred some favorite,
until vexed with the clamor, Jupiter
implored, “If you can have regard for me,
consider the strange blessings you desire:
does any one of you believe he can
prevail against the settled will of Fate?
As Iolaus has returned by fate,
to those years spent by him; so by the Fates
Callirhoe's sons from infancy must grow
to manhood with no struggle on their part,
or force of their ambition. And you should
endure your fortune with contented minds:
I, also, must give all control to Fate.
“If I had power to change the course of Fate
I would not let advancing age break down
my own son Aeacus, nor bend his back
with weight of year; and Rhadamanthus should
retain an everlasting flower of youth,
together with my own son Minos, who
is now despised because of his great age,
so that his scepter has lost dignity.”
Such words of Jupiter controlled the Gods,
and none continued to complain, when they
saw Aeacus and Rhadamanthus old,
and Minos also, weary of his age.
And they remembered Minos in his prime,
had warred against great nations, till his name
if mentioned was a certain cause of fear.
But now, enfeebled by great age, he feared
Miletus, Deione's son, because
of his exultant youth and strength derived
from his great father Phoebus. And although
he well perceived Miletus' eye was fixed
upon his throne, he did not dare to drive
him from his kingdom.
But although not forced,
Miletus of his own accord did fly,
by swift ship, over to the Asian shore,
across the Aegean water, where he built
the city of his name.
BYBLIS AND CAUNUSCyane, who
was known to be the daughter of the stream
Maeander, which with many a twist and turn
flows wandering there—Cyane said to be
indeed most beautiful, when known by him,
gave birth to two; a girl called Byblis, who
was lovely, and the brother Caunus—twins.
Byblis is an example that the love
of every maiden must be within law.
Seized with a passion for her brother, she
loved him, descendant of Apollo, not
as sister loves a brother; not in such
a manner as the law of man permits.
At first she thought it surely was not wrong
to kiss him passionately, while her arms
were thrown around her brother's neck, and so
deceived herself. And, as the habit grew,
her sister-love degenerated, till
richly attired, she came to see her brother,
with all endeavors to attract his eye;
and anxious to be seen most beautiful,
she envied every woman who appeared
of rival beauty. But she did not know
or understand the flame, hot in her heart,
though she was agitated when she saw
the object of her swiftly growing love.
Now she began to call him lord, and now
she hated to say brother, and she said,
“Do call me Byblis—never call me sister!”
And yet while feeling love so, when awake
she does not dwell upon impure desire;
but when dissolved in the soft arms of sleep,
she sees the very object of her love,
and blushing, dreams she is embraced by him,
till slumber has departed. For a time
she lies there silent, as her mind recalls
the loved appearance of her lovely dream,
until her wavering heart, in grief exclaims:—
“What is this vision of the silent night?
Ah wretched me! I cannot count it true.
And, if he were not my own brother, he
why is my fond heart tortured with this dream?
He is so handsome even to envious eyes,
it is not strange he has filled my fond heart;
so surely would be worthy of my love.
But it is my misfortune I am his
own sister. Let me therefore strive, awake,
to stand with honor, but let sleep return
the same dream often to me.—There can be
no fear of any witness to a shade
which phantoms my delight.—O Cupid, swift
of love-wing with your mother, and O my
beloved Venus! wonderful the joys
of my experience in the transport. All
as if reality sustaining, lifted me
up to elysian pleasure, while in truth
I lay dissolving to my very marrow:
the pleasure was so brief, and Night, headlong
sped from me, envious of my coming joys.
“If I could change my name, and join to you,
how good a daughter I would prove to your
dear father, and how good a son would you
be to my father. If the Gods agreed,
then everything would be possessed by us
in common, but this must exclude ancestors.
For I should pray, compared with mine yours might
be quite superior. But, oh my love,
some other woman by your love will be
a mother; but because, unfortunate,
my parents are the same as yours, you must
be nothing but a brother. Sorrows, then,
shall be to us in common from this hour.
What have my night-born vision signified?
What weight have dreams? Do dreams have any weight?
The Gods forbid! The Gods have sisters! Truth
declares even Saturn married Ops, his own
blood-kin, Oceanus his Tethys, Jove,
Olympian his Juno. But the Gods
are so superior in their laws, I should
not measure human custom by the rights
established in the actions of divinities.
This passion must be banished from my heart,
or, if it cannot be so, I must pray
that I may perish, and be laid out dead
upon my couch so my dear brother there
may kiss my lips. But then he must consent,
and my delight would seem to him a crime.
“Tis known the sons of Aeolus embraced
their sisters —But why should I think of these?
Why should I take example from such lives?
Must I do as they did? Far from it! let
such lawless flames be quenched, until I feel
no evil love for him, although the pure
affection of a sister may be mine,
and cherished. If it should have happened first
that my dear brother had loved me—ah then,
I might have yielded love to his desire.
Why not now? I myself must woo him, since
I could not have rejected him, if he
had first wooed me. But is it possible
for me to speak of it, with proper words
describing such a strange confession? Love
will certainly compel and give me speech.
But, if shame seal my lips, then secret flame
in a sealed letter may be safely told.”