Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 18

Apollo was god of music and of poetry and also of medicine. For, as the poet Armstrong says, himself a physician:—

  "Music exalts each joy, allays each grief,
  Expels disease, softens every pain;
  And hence the wise of ancient days adored
  One power of physic, melody, and song."

The story of Apollo and Daphne is often alluded to by the poets. Waller applies it to the case of one whose amatory verses, though they did not soften the heart of his mistress, yet won for the poet wide-spread fame.

  "Yet what he sung in his immortal strain,
  Though unsuccessful, was not sung in vain.
  All but the nymph that should redress his wrong,
  Attend his passion and approve his song.
  Like Phoebus thus, acquiring unsought praise,
  He caught at love and filled his arms with bays."

The following stanza from Shelley's Adonais alludes to Byron's early quarrel with the reviewers:—

  "The herded wolves, bold only to pursue;
  The obscene ravens, clamorous o'er the dead;
  The vultures, to the conqueror's banner true,
  Who feed where Desolation first has fed.
  And whose wings rain contagion; how they fled,
  When like Apollo, from his golden bow,
  The Pythian of the age one arrow sped
  And smiled! The spoilers tempt no second blow;
  They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them as they go."


Pyramus was the handsomest youth, and Thisbe the fairest maiden, in all Babylonia, where Semiramis reigned. Their parents occupied adjoining houses; and neighborhood brought the young people together, and acquaintance ripened into love. They would gladly have married, but their parents forbade. One thing, however, they could not forbid that love should glow with equal ardor in the bosoms of both. They conversed by signs and glances, and the fire burned more intensely for being covered up. In the wall that parted the two houses there was a crack, caused by some fault in the structure. No one had remarked it before, but the lovers discovered it. 'What will love not discover? It afforded a passage to the voice; and tender messages used to pass backward and forward through the gap. As they stood, Pyramus on this side, Thisbe on that, their breaths would mingle. "Cruel wall," they said, "why do you keep two lovers apart? But we will not be ungrateful. We owe you, we confess, the privilege of transmitting loving words to willing ears." Such words they uttered on different sides of the wall; and when night came and they must say farewell, they pressed their lips upon the wall, she on her side, he on his, as they could come no nearer.

One morning, when Aurora had put out the stars, and the sun had melted the frost from the grass, they met at the accustomed spot. Then, after lamenting their hard fate, they agreed that next night, when all was still, they would slip away from watchful eyes, leave their dwellings and walk out into the fields; and to insure a meeting, repair to a well-known edifice, standing without the city's bounds, called the tomb of Ninus, and that the one who came first should await the other at the foot of a certain tree. It was a white mulberry tree and stood near a cool spring. All was agreed on, and they waited impatiently for the sun to go down beneath the waters and night to rise up from them. Then cautiously Thisbe stole forth, unobserved by the family, her head covered with a veil, made her way to the monument and sat down under the tree. As she sat alone in the dim light of the evening she descried a lioness, her jaws reeking with recent slaughter, approaching the fountain to slake her thirst. Thisbe fled at the sight, and sought refuge in the hollow of a rock. As she fled she dropped her veil. The lioness, after drinking at the spring, turned to retreat to the woods, and seeing the veil on the ground, tossed and rent it with her bloody mouth.