Classic Myths

Page: 24

"Drawing his little hand across the strings, there came the sweetest sounds, and the first harp on earth was made. He was so pleased that he hid it under his white dress until he came to some thick reeds by the river, and there he laid it safely away.

"Running swiftly homeward, he came softly through the narrow opening, back into his own room, and, creeping into his cradle, he cuddled down and went to sleep."

"Why, mother, he was so little! Only a baby; how could he?"

"The old myth says he was only three days old when he did this, but remember, this is like a fairy story, and Mercury was the son of the great Jupiter. But let me tell the rest. When his mother came back, she was frightened to think he had been alone an hour, but he was sleeping so sweetly when she looked at him that she felt he had not been harmed. The mother never dreamed when she saw the open sandals that he had been away."

"But the harp, mother; didn't she ever find that?"

"No, you know the little rogue had hidden the harp in the reeds by the river. Another day he ran away and got into worse trouble than he expected, for he dared to steal some of Apollo's cattle. They were beautiful snow-white creatures, feeding in the violet meadows of the sky. As he saw them drifting slowly toward him, the mischief in him made him drive these gentle creatures into the sea, and, being tired and hungry, he tore the last one to pieces and fed on it.

"Though this mischief-maker walked backward to his home, trying to deceive any who would hunt for him, Apollo found him out. When the sun-god saw him lying there, a helpless baby in a cradle, Mercury almost made him think that he had not done the wrong. But at last even Mercury's mother believed him guilty, for the proofs brought were many, and Apollo came to take him away. Then the little wind-god took from under his cradle-clothes the harp which he had hidden there, and breathed upon it. Apollo was charmed by the melody and could only say:

"'Give me that, and I will not ask for my stolen cattle.'

MERCURY. From a statue in Florence, Italy.

"That was just what Mercury wished. He quickly handed him the tortoise shell. In Apollo's hands it made still sweeter music, for everything Apollo did was best.

"So nimble Mercury was free. When the child was a few months older, Apollo chose him for his messenger. He gave him a cap with wings at either side, and winged sandals. In his hands he always carried a winged wand with two serpents crossed and recrossed upon it. You have surely seen his picture, Ethel?"

"Oh, yes. Down at the art store there is a little statue of him. I can remember, this story always."



Vanemuine, the god of song, dwelt on the Hill of Taara. But he grew tired of living in Finland and of his beautiful hill, so he sent word for all things to come to him to receive the language they were to speak before he went away to his palace in the sky. As they gathered around him, he opened his lips and sang so sweetly, so softly, that the murmur of his harp strings seemed almost harsh as compared with the music of his rich voice.