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Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 47

In the mean while Halcyone, ignorant of all these horrors, counted the days till her husband's promised return. Now she gets ready the garments which he shall put on, and now what she shall wear when he arrives. To all the gods she offers frequent incense but more than all to Juno. For her husband, who was no more, she prayed incessantly; that he might be safe; that he might come home; that he might not, in his absence, see any one that he would love better than her. But of all these prayers, the last was the only one destined to be granted. The goddess, at length, could not bear any longer to be pleaded with for one already dead, and to have hands raised to her altars, that ought rather to be offering funeral rites. So, calling Iris, she said, "Iris, my faithful messenger, go to the drowsy dwelling of Somnus, and tell him to send a vision to Halcyone, in the form of Ceyx, to make known to her the event."

Iris puts on her robe of many colors, and tingeing the sky with her bow, seeks the palace of the King of Sleep. Near the Cimmerian country, a mountain cave is the abode of the dull god, Somnus, Here Phoebus dares not come, either rising, or at midday, or setting. Clouds and shadows are exhaled from the ground, and the light glimmers faintly. The bird of dawn, with crested head, never calls aloud there to Aurora, nor watchful dog, nor more sagacious goose disturbs the silence. (This comparison of the dog and the goose is a reference by Ovid to a passage in Roman history.) No wild beast, nor cattle, nor branch moved with the wind, nor sound of human conversation, breaks the stillness. Silence reigns there; and from the bottom of the rock the River Lethe flows, and by its murmur invites to sleep. Poppies grow abundantly before the door of the cave, and other herbs, from whose juices Night collects slumbers, which she scatters over the darkened earth. There is no gate to the mansion, to creak on its hinges, nor any watchman; but in the midst, a couch of black ebony, adorned with black plumes and black curtains. There the god reclines, his limbs relaxed with sleep. Around him lie dreams, resembling all various forms, as many as the harvest bears stalks, or the forest leaves, or the seashore grains of sand.

As soon as the goddess entered and brushed away the dreams that hovered around her, her brightness lit up all the cave. The god, scarce opening his eyes, and ever and anon dropping his beard upon his breast, at last shook himself free from himself, and leaning on his arm, inquired her errand, for he knew who she was. She answered, "Somnus, gentlest of the gods, tranquillizer of minds and soother of careworn hearts, Juno sends you her commands that you dispatch a dream to Halcyone, in the city of Trachinae, representing her lost husband and all the events of the wreck."


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