Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art
Page: 37The cries of mortals rose in chorus, and their clamors became so loud and importunate, that they roused Jupiter from a profound sleep, and caused him to look around to discover their origin. One glance of his all-seeing eye sufficed to reveal the damaged earth and the youthful charioteer. How had a beardless youth dared to mount the sun chariot? Jupiter could scarcely credit what he saw. In his anger he vowed he would make the rash mortal expiate his presumption by immediate death. He therefore selected the deadliest thunderbolt in his arsenal, aimed it with special care, and hurled it at Phaeton, whose burned and blackened corpse fell from his lofty seat down into the limpid waves of the Eridanus River.
And hurled from the Sun to utter sunlessness,
Like a flame-bearded comet, with ghastliest hiss,
Fell headlong in the amazed Eridanus,
Monarch of streams, who on the Italian fields
Let loose, and far beyond his flowery lips
Foam-white, ran ruinous to the Adrian deep.”
The tidings of his death soon reached poor Clymene, who mourned her only son, and refused to be comforted; while the Heliades, Phaeton’s sisters, three in number,—Phaetusa, Lampetia, and Ægle,—spent their days by the riverside, shedding tears, wringing their white hands, and bewailing their loss, until the gods, in pity, transformed them into poplar trees, and their tears into amber, which substance was supposed by the ancients to flow from the poplar trees like teardrops. Phaeton’s intimate friend, Cycnus, piously collected his charred remains, and gave them an honorable [Pg 88] burial. In his grief he continually haunted the scene of his friend’s death, and repeatedly plunged into the river, in the hope of finding some more scattered fragments, until the gods changed him into a swan; which bird is ever sailing mournfully about, and frequently plunging, his head into the water to continue his sad search.
Into his hands they put the lyre of gold,
And, crowned with sacred laurel at their fount,
Placed him as Musagetes on their throne.”
Although the Muses united at times in one grand song, they had each separate duties assigned them.
Clio, the Muse of history, recorded all great deeds and heroic actions, with the names of their authors, and was therefore generally represented with a laurel wreath and a book and stylus, to indicate her readiness to note all that happened to mortal men or immortal gods.
Euterpe, the graceful “Mistress of Song,” was represented with a flute, and garlands of fragrant flowers.
That, to the sparkling crown Urania wears,
And to her sister Clio’s laurel wreath,
Preferr’st a garland culled from purple heath!”