Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 113


Ino, the daughter of Cadmus and wife of Athamas, flying from her frantic husband, with her little son Melicertes in her arms, sprang from a cliff into the sea. The gods, out of compassion, made her a goddess of the sea, under the name of Leucothea, and him a god under that of Palaemon. Both were held powerful to save from shipwreck, and were invoked by sailors. Palaemon was usually represented riding on a dolphin. The Isthmian games were celebrated in his honor. He was called Portumnus by the Romans, and believed to have jurisdiction of the ports and shores.

Milton alludes to all these deities in the song at the conclusion of Comus.

  "Sabrina fair,
  Listen and appear to us,
  In name of great Oceanus;
  By the earth-shaking Neptune's mace,
  And Tethys' grave, majestic pace,
  By hoary Nereus' wrinkled look,
  And the Carpathian wizard's hook (Proteus)
  By scaly Triton's winding shell,
  And old soothsaying Glaucus; spell,
  By Leucothea's lovely hands,
  And her son who rules the strands,
  By Thetis' tinsel-slippered feet,
  And the songs of Sirens sweet."

Armstrong, the poet of the Art of preserving Health, under the inspiration of Hygeia, the goddess of health, thus celebrates the Naiads. Paeon is a name both of Apollo and Aesculapius.

  "Come, ye Naiads! To the fountains lead!
  Propitious maids! The task remains to sing
  Your gifts (so Paeon, so the powers of health
  Command), to praise your crystal element.
  Oh, comfortable streams! With eager lips
  And trembling hands the languid thirsty quaff
  New life in you; fresh vigor fills their veins.
  No warmer cups the rural ages knew,
  None warmer sought the sires of humankind;
  Happy in temperate peace their equal days
  Felt not the alternate fits of feverish mirth
  And sick dejection; still serene and pleased,
  Blessed with divine immunity from ills,
  Long centuries they lived; their only fate
  Was ripe old age, and rather sleep than death."


By this name the Latins designated the Muses, but included under it also some other deities, principally nymphs of fountains. Egeria was one of them, whose fountain and grotto are still shown. It was said that Numa, the second king of Rome, was favored by this nymph with secret interviews, in which she taught him those lessons of wisdom and of law which he embodied in the institutions of his rising nation. After the death of Numa the nymph pined away and was changed into a fountain.

Byron, in Childe Harold, Canto IV., thus alludes to Egeria and her grotto:

  "Here didst thou dwell in this enchanted cover,
  Egeria! All thy heavenly bosom beating
  For the far footsteps of thy mortal lover;
  The purple midnight veiled that mystic meeting
  With her most starry canopy."

Tennyson, also, in his Palace of Art, gives us a glimpse of the royal lover expecting the interview.

  "Holding one hand against his ear,
  To list a footfall ere he saw
  The wood-nymph, stayed the Tuscan king to hear
  Of wisdom and of law."