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Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 40

In vain the poor girls sought to escape the flying arrows. In vain Niobe sought to protect them, and called upon all the gods of Olympus. Her daughters fell one by one, never to rise again. The last clung convulsively to her mother’s breast; but, even in that fond mother’s passionate embrace, death found and claimed her. Then the gods, touched by the sight of woe so intense, changed Niobe into stone, just as she stood, with upturned face, streaming eyes, and quivering lips.

This statue was placed on Mount Sipylus, close to a stream of running water; and it was said that tears continually flowed down the marble cheeks, for, though changed, Niobe still felt, and wept for her great loss.

[95]

Refer to caption

NIOBE. (Uffizi Palace, Florence.)

[96] This story is an allegory, in which Niobe, the mother, represents winter, hard, cold, and proud; until Apollo’s deadly arrows, the sunbeams, slay her children, the winter months. Her tears are emblems of the natural thaw which comes in spring, when winter’s pride has melted.

Diana’s avocations.

As soon as the young Goddess of the Moon had been introduced in Olympus, all the gods expressed a wish to marry her; but she refused to listen to their entreaties, begged her father’s permission to remain single all her life, and pleaded her cause so ably, that Jupiter was forced to grant her request.

Every evening, as soon as the Sun had finished his course, Diana mounted her moon car, and drove her milk-white steeds across the heavens, watched over and loved by the countless stars, which shone their brightest to cheer her on her way; and as she drove she often bent down to view the sleeping earth, so shadowy and dreamlike, and to breathe the intoxicating perfume of the distant flowers. It always seemed to her then as if Nature, so beautiful during the day, borrowed additional charms from the witching hours of the night.

“’Twas now the time when Phœbus yields to night,
And rising Cynthia sheds her silver light,
Wide o’er the world in solemn pomp she drew
Her airy chariot hung with pearly dew.”
Story of Endymion.

One evening, as she was driving noiselessly along, she suddenly checked her steeds; for there on the hillside she saw a handsome young shepherd, fast asleep, his upturned face illumined by the moon’s soft light. Diana wonderingly gazed upon his beauty, and before long felt her heart beat with more than admiration. Gliding gently from her chariot, she floated to his side, bent slowly, and dropped an airy kiss upon his slightly parted lips.

The youth Endymion, only partially awakened by this demonstration, half raised his fringed lids, and for a moment his [97] sleep-dimmed eyes rested wonderingly upon the beautiful vision. That one glance, although it drove Diana away in great haste, kindled in his heart an inextinguishable passion. He rose with a start, and rubbed his sleepy eyes; but when he saw the moon, which he fancied close beside him, sailing away across the deep-blue sky, he felt sure the whole occurrence had been but a dream, but so sweet a dream that he cast himself down upon the sward, hoping to woo it to visit him once more.


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