A Book of Myths
Page: 46IDAS AND MARPESSA
By day, while the sun-god drove his chariot in the high heavens and turned the blue-green Ægean Sea into the semblance of a blazing shield of brass, Idas and Marpessa sat together in the trees’ soft shades, or walked in shadowy valleys where violets and wild parsley grew, and where Apollo rarely deigned to come. At eventide, when, in royal splendour of purple and crimson and gold, Apollo sought his rest in the western sky, Idas and Marpessa wandered by the seashore watching the little wavelets softly kissing the pebbles on the beach, or climbed to the mountain side from whence they could see the first glimpse of Diana’s silver crescent and the twinkling lights of the Pleiades breaking through the blue canopy of the sky. While Apollo sought in heaven and on earth the best means to gratify his imperial whims, Idas, for whom all joys had come to mean but one, sought ever to be by the side of Marpessa. Shadowy valley, murmuring sea, lonely mountain side, or garden where grew the purple amaranth and where roses of pink and amber-yellow and deepest crimson dropped their radiant petals on the snowy marble paths, all were the same to Idas—Paradise for him, were Marpessa by his side; without her, dreary desert.
More beautiful than any flower that grew in the [Pg 91] garden was Marpessa. No music that Apollo’s lute could make was as sweet in the ears of Idas as her dear voice. Its music was ever new to him—a melody to make his heart more quickly throb. New, too, ever was her beauty. For him it was always the first time that they met, always the same fresh ravishment to look in her eyes. And when to Idas came the knowledge that Marpessa gave him love for love, he had indeed won happiness so great as to draw upon him the envy of the gods.
“The course of true love never did run smooth,” and, like many and many another father since his day, Evenos, the father of Marpessa, was bitterly opposed to a match where the bridegroom was rich only in youth, in health, and in love. His beautiful daughter naturally seemed to him worthy of something much more high. Thus it was an unhappy day for Marpessa when, as she sat alone by the fountain which dripped slowly down on the marble basin, and dreamed of her lover, Idas, Apollo himself, led by caprice, noiselessly walked through the rose bushes, whose warm petals dropped at his feet as he passed, and beheld a maiden more fair than the fairest flower that grew. The hum of bees, the drip, drip of the fountain, these lulled her mind and heart and soothed her day-dreams, and Marpessa’s red lips, curved like the bow of Eros, smiled as she thought of Idas, the man she loved. Silently Apollo watched her. This queen of all the roses was not fit to be the bride of mortal man—Marpessa must be his.