Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art
Page: 108But, although safely concealed from the eyes of men, Danae was plainly seen by the everlasting gods; and Jupiter, looking down from Olympus, beheld her in all her loveliness and in all her loneliness. She was seated on top of her brazen tower, her eyes wistfully turned toward the city, where girls of her age enjoyed freedom, and were allowed to marry when they pleased.
Jupiter, pitying her isolation and admiring her beauty, resolved to go down and converse with her for a little while. To avoid being seen, he changed himself into a golden shower, and gently dropped down on the turret beside her, where his presence and spirited conversation soon won the maiden’s heart.
This first successful visit was frequently repeated, and Danae no longer felt lonely and deserted, for Jupiter spent most of his time with her, pursuing his courtship most diligently, and finally winning her to a secret marriage, to which no one offered the slightest objection, as no one suspected his visits, which he continued quite unmolested.
But one morning the guards rushed in terror to Acrisius’ palace to announce that Danae, his daughter, had given birth to a son, who, on account of his beauty, was called Perseus. The king no sooner learned this astonishing news, than he flew into a great rage, vowed that mother and child should perish, and dispatched the guards to fetch the unfortunate victims.
Acrisius, however, was not cruel enough to stain his own hands with his child’s blood, or to witness her execution: so he ordered that she should be placed in an empty cask with her helpless infant, and exposed to the fury of the waves. These orders were speedily executed; and Danae’s heart sank with terror when she felt the cask buffeted about by the great waves far out of sight of land, and out of all reach of help. Clasping her babe close to her bosom, she fervently prayed the gods to watch over them both, and bring them in safety to some hospitable shore.
Roar’d, and the heaving whirlpools of the deep
With rough’ning surge seem’d threatening to o’erturn
The wide-tost vessel, not with tearless cheeks
The mother round her infant gently twined
Her tender arm, and cried, ‘Ah me! my child!
What sufferings I endure! thou sleep’st the while,
Inhaling in thy milky-breathing breast
The balm of slumber.’”
Simonides (Elton’s tr.).
[Pg 242] Her piteous prayer was evidently heard, for, after much tossing, the cask was finally washed ashore on the Island of Seriphus, where Polydectes, the king, kindly received mother and child. Here Perseus, the golden-haired, grew to manhood, and here made his first appearance in games and combats.