A Book of Myths

Page: 67

“Would that I could die for thee, Hyacinthus!” cried the god, his god’s heart near breaking. “I have robbed thee of thy youth. Thine is the suffering, mine the crime. I shall sing thee ever—oh perfect friend! And evermore shalt thou live as a flower that will speak to the hearts of men of spring, of everlasting youth—of life that lives forever.”

As he spoke, there sprang from the blood-drops at his feet a cluster of flowers, blue as the sky in spring, yet hanging their heads as if in sorrow. DARKNESS FELL ON THE EYES OF HYACINTHUS

And still, when winter is ended, and the song of birds tell us of the promise of spring, if we go to the woods, we find traces of the vow of the sun-god. The trees are budding in buds of rosy hue, the willow branches are decked with silvery catkins powdered with gold. The larches, like slender dryads, wear a feathery garb of tender green, and under the trees of the woods the primroses look up, like fallen stars. Along the woodland path we go, treading on fragrant pine-needles and [Pg 133] on the beech leaves of last year that have not yet lost their radiant amber. And, at a turn of the way, the sun-god suddenly shines through the great dark branches of the giants of the forest, and before us lies a patch of exquisite blue, as though a god had robbed the sky and torn from it a precious fragment that seems alive and moving, between the sun and the shadow.

And, as we look, the sun caresses it, and the South Wind gently moves the little bell-shaped flowers of the wild hyacinth as it softly sweeps across them. So does Hyacinthus live on; so do Apollo and Zephyrus still love and mourn their friend.


[4] Legend says that on the petals of the hyacinth Apollo transcribed the letters “Aì,”—“Alas!”

[Pg 134]


In the plays of Shakespeare we have three distinct divisions—three separate volumes. One deals with Tragedy, another with Comedy, a third with History; and a mistake made by the young in their aspect of life is that they do the same thing, and keep tragedy and comedy severely apart, relegating them to separate volumes that, so they think, have nothing to do with each other. But those who have passed many milestones on the road know that “History” is the only right label for the Book of Life’s many parts, and that the actors in the great play are in truth tragic comedians.

This is the story of Midas, one of the chief tragic comedians of mythology.

Once upon a time the kingdom of Phrygia lacked a king, and in much perplexity, the people sought help from an oracle. The answer was very definite:

“The first man who enters your city riding in a car shall be your king.”

That day there came slowly jogging into the city in their heavy, wooden-wheeled wain, the peasant Gordias and his wife and son, whose destination was the marketplace, and whose business was to sell the produce of their little farm and vineyard—fowls, a goat or two, and a [Pg 135] couple of skinsful of strong, purple-red wine. An eager crowd awaited their entry, and a loud shout of welcome greeted them. And their eyes grew round and their mouths fell open in amaze when they were hailed as King and Queen and Prince of Phrygia.