A Book of Myths
Page: 91In terror his father watched him, and as he called to him in a voice of anguished warning that was drowned by the whistling rush of the air currents through the wings of Icarus and the moist whisper of the clouds as through them he cleft a way for himself, there befell the dreaded thing. It seemed as though the strong wings had begun to lose their power. Like a wounded bird Icarus fluttered, lunged sidewise from the straight, clean line of his flight, recovered himself, and fluttered again. And then, like the bird into whose soft breast the sure hand of a mighty archer has driven an arrow, downwards he fell, turning over and yet turning again, downwards, ever downwards, until he fell with a plunge into the sea that still was radiant in shining emerald and translucent blue.
Then did the car of Apollo drive on. His rays had slain one who was too greatly daring, and now they fondled the little white feathers that had fallen from the broken wings and floated on the water like the petals of a torn flower.
Stricken at heart was Dædalus, but there was no time to lament his son’s untimely end, for even now the black-prowed ships of Minos might be in pursuit. Onward he flew to safety, and in Sicily built a temple to Apollo, and there hung up his wings as a propitiatory offering to the god who had slain his son.
And when grey night came down on that part of the sea that bears the name of Icarus to this day, still there floated the body of the boy whose dreams had come true. For only a little while had he known the exquisite realisation of dreamed-of potentialities, for only a few hours tasted the sweetness of perfect pleasure, and then, by an over-daring flight, had lost it all for ever.
The sorrowing Nereids sang a dirge over him as he was swayed gently hither and thither by the tide, and when the silver stars came out from the dark firmament of heaven and were reflected in the blackness of the sea at night, it was as though a velvet pall, silver-decked in his honour, was spread around the slim white body with its outstretched snowy wings.
So much had he dared—so little accomplished.
Is it not the oft-told tale of those who have followed Icarus? Yet who can say that gallant youth has lived in vain when, as Icarus did, he has breasted the very skies, has flown with fearless heart and soul to the provinces of the deathless gods?—when, even for the space of a few of the heart-beats of Time, he has tasted supreme power—the ecstasy of illimitable happiness?
The sunbeams are basking on the high walls of the old garden—smiling on the fruit that grows red and golden in their warmth. The bees are humming round the bed of purple heliotrope, and drowsily murmuring in the shelter of the soft petals of the blush roses whose sweetness brings back the fragrance of days that are gone. On the old grey sundial the white-winged pigeons sleepily croon as they preen their snowy plumage, and the Madonna lilies hang their heads like a procession of white-robed nuns who dare not look up from telling their beads until the triumphal procession of an all-conquering warrior has gone by. What can they think of that long line of tall yellow flowers by the garden wall, who turn their faces sunwards with an arrogant assurance, and give stare for stare to golden-haired Apollo as he drives his blazing car triumphant through the high heavens?