A Book of Myths

Page: 95

See there! see there! behold, comrade, the cranes of Ibycus!

Every eye looked upwards, and, harshly crying, there passed overhead the flock of cranes to whom the poet had entrusted his dying message. Then, like an electric shock, there came to all those who beheld the knowledge that he who had cried aloud was the murderer of Ibycus.

“Seize him! seize him!” cried in unison the voices of thousands. “Seize the man, and him to whom he spoke!”

Frantically the trembling wretch tried to deny his words, but it was too late. The roar of the multitudes [Pg 196] was as that of an angry sea that hungers for its prey and will not be denied. He who had spoken and him to whom he spoke were seized by a score of eager hands.

In white-faced terror, because the Furies had hunted them down, they made confession of their crime and were put to death. And the flock of grey-plumaged, rosy-headed cranes winged their way on to the marshes, there to beck and bow to each other, and to dance in the golden sunset, well content because their message was delivered, and Ibycus, the poet-musician who had given them welcome, was avenged.

[Pg 197]


“Is it because the wild-wood passion still lingers in our hearts, because still in our minds the voice of Syrinx lingers in melancholy music, the music of regret and longing, that for most of us there is so potent a spell in running waters?”

Fiona Macleod.

As the evening shadows lengthen, and the night wind softly steals through the trees, touching with restless fingers the still waters of the little lochans that would fain have rest, there can be heard a long, long whisper, like a sigh. There is no softer, sadder note to be heard in all Pan’s great orchestra, nor can one marvel that it should be so, for the whisper comes from the reeds who gently sway their heads while the wind passes over them as they grow by lonely lake or river.

This is the story of Syrinx, the reed, as Ovid has told it to us.

In Arcadia there dwelt a nymph whose name was Syrinx. So fair she was that for her dear sake fauns and satyrs forgot to gambol, and sat in the green woods in thoughtful stillness, that they might see her as she passed. But for none of them had Syrinx a word of kindness. She had no wish for love.

“But as for Love, truly I know him not,
I have passionately turned my lips therefrom,
And from that fate the careless gods allot.”

Lady Margaret Sackville.

[Pg 198] To one only of the gods did she give her loyal allegiance. She worshipped Diana, and with her followed the chase. As she lightly sped through the forest she might have been Diana herself, and there were those who said they would not know nymph from goddess, but that the goddess carried a silver bow, while that of Syrinx was made of horn. Fearless, and without a care or sorrow, Syrinx passed her happy days. Not for all the gold of Midas would she have changed places with those love-lorn nymphs who sighed their hearts out for love of a god or of a man. Heartwhole, fancy free, gay and happy and lithe and strong, as a young boy whose joy it is to run and to excel in the chase, was Syrinx, whose white arms against the greenwood trees dazzled the eyes of the watching fauns when she drew back her bow to speed an arrow at the stag she had hunted since early dawn. Each morning that she awoke was the morning of a day of joy; each night that she lay down to rest, it was to sleep as a child who smiles in his sleep at the remembrance of a perfect day.