Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art
Page: 43But unfortunately the goddess and her attendant nymphs had not been the only ones out hunting that day. Actæon, the huntsman, had risen at dawn to stalk the deer; and now, weary and parched with thirst, he too sought the well-known mountain spring,
Where the cold crystal of a mossy pool
Rose to the flowery marge, and gave again
The soft green lawn where ofttimes, overspent,
I lay upon the grass and eager bathed
My limbs in the clear lymph.”
As he drew near the accustomed spot, Actæon fancied he heard bursts of silvery laughter: so he crept on very cautiously, and soon, gently parting the thick branches of the underbrush, beheld the sporting group.
At the selfsame moment Diana turned to ascertain the cause of the rustle which had caught her practiced ear, and met the admiring gaze of the astonished young hunter. Speechless with indignation that a mortal had beheld her thus, she caught some [Pg 101] water in her hollow palm, flung it in his face, and bade him go and declare, if he could, that he had seen Diana disrobed.
The glittering drops had no sooner touched the young man’s face, than he turned to obey her command, and found himself transformed into a stag, with slender, sinewy limbs, furry skin, and wide-branching antlers. Nothing remained of his former self except the woeful consciousness of his transformation; and as he stood there, motionless and dismayed, the distant baying of his hounds coming to join him fell upon his ear.
An electric thrill of fear shot through every vein, as, mindful of his new form, he bounded away through the forest. Alas! too late; for the pack had caught one glimpse of his sleek sides, and were after him in full cry.
In vain poor Actæon strained every muscle. His limbs refused their support, and, as he sank exhausted to the ground, the hounds sprang at his quivering throat.
With bloodshot eyes and red jaws dripping foam;
And when I strove to check their savagery,
Speaking with words, no voice articulate came,
Only a dumb, low bleat. Then all the throng
Leapt swift on me, and tore me as I lay!”
Diana was widely worshiped, and temples without number were dedicated to her service; among others, the world-renowned sanctuary of Ephesus. The ancients also celebrated many festivals in honor of this fair goddess of the moon, who was ever ready to extend her protection over all deserving mortals.
Venus (Dione, Aphrodite, Cytherea), the goddess of beauty, love, laughter, and marriage, is said by some mythologists to be the daughter of Jupiter and Dione, goddess of moisture: others report that she sprang from the foam of the sea.
Those floating bubbles with such light divine?
They break, and from their mist a lily form
Rises from out the wave, in beauty warm.
The wave is by the blue-veined feet scarce press’d,
Her silky ringlets float about her breast,
Veiling its fairy loveliness; while her eye
Is soft and deep as the blue heaven is high.
The Beautiful is born; and sea and earth
May well revere the hour of that mysterious birth.”