A Book of Myths

Page: 53

“Arethusa!” she heard him cry, in a voice of piteous longing—“Arethusa!—my belovèd!”

Patiently he waited, with the love that makes uncouth things beautiful, until at length a little breath from Zephyrus blew aside the soft grey veil that hid his beloved from his sight, and he saw that the nymph had been transformed into a fountain. Not for a moment did Alpheus delay, but, turning himself into a torrent in flood, he rushed on in pursuit of Arethusa. Then did Diana, to save her votary, cleave a way for her through the dark earth even into the gloomy realm of Pluto himself, and the nymph rushed onward, onward still, and then upward, until at length she emerged again to the freedom of the blue sky and green trees, and beheld the golden orange groves and the grey olives, the burning [Pg 104] red geranium flowers and the great snow-capped mountain of Sicily.

But Alpheus had a love for her that cast out all fear. Through the terrible blackness of the Cocytus valley he followed Arethusa, and found a means of bursting through the encumbering earth and joining her again. And in a spring that rises out of the sea near the shore he was able at last to mingle his waters with those of the one for whom he had lost his godship.

“And now from their fountains
In Enna’s mountains,
Down one vale where the morning basks,
Like friends once parted
Grown single-hearted,
They ply their watery tasks,
At sunrise they leap
From their cradles steep
In the cave of the shelving hill;
At noontide they flow
Through the woods below
And the meadows of asphodel;
And at night they sleep
In the rocking deep
Beneath the Ortygian shore;
Like spirits that lie
In the azure sky
When they love but live no more.”


[Pg 105]


“We call such a man a hero in English to this day, and call it a ‘heroic’ thing to suffer pain and grief, that we may do good to our fellow-men.”

Charles Kingsley.

In the pleasant land of Argos, now a place of unwholesome marshes, once upon a time there reigned a king called Acrisius, the father of one fair daughter. Danaë was her name, and she was very dear to the king until a day when he longed to know what lay hid for him in the lap of the gods, and consulted an oracle. With hanging head he returned from the temple, for the oracle had told him that when his daughter Danaë had borne a son, by the hand of that son death must surely come upon him. And because the fear of death was in him more strong than the love of his daughter, Acrisius resolved that by sacrificing her he would baffle the gods and frustrate Death itself. A great tower of brass was speedily built at his command, and in this prison Danaë was placed, to drag out her weary days.