Hero Tales

Page: 4

"Apollo of the silver bow," said she, "have you not made a mistake in choosing this place for a dwelling? These rich plains around us will not always be as peaceful as now; for their very richness will tempt the spoiler, and the song of the cicada will then give place to the din of battle. Even in times of peace you would hardly have a quiet hour here: for great herds of cattle come crowding down every day to my lake for water; the noisy ploughman, driving his team afield, disturbs the morning hour with his boorish shouts; and boys and dogs keep up a constant din, and make life in this place a burden."

"Fair nymph," said Apollo, "I had hoped to dwell here in thy happy vale, a neighbor and friend to thee. Yet, since this place is not what it seems to be, whither shall I go, and where shall I build my house?"

"Go to the cleft in Mount Parnassus," answered the nymph. "There thou canst dwell in peace, and men will come from all parts of the world to do thee honor."

And so Apollo went down to Parnassus, and there in the cleft of the mountain he laid the foundations of his shrine. Then he called the master architects of the world, Trophonius and Agamedes, and gave to them the building of the high walls and the massive roof. When they had finished their work, he said, "Say now what reward you most desire for your labor, and I will give it you."

"Give us," said the brothers, "that which is the best for men."

"It is well," answered Apollo. "When the full moon is seen above the mountain-tops, you shall have your wish."

But when the moon rose full and clear above the heights, the two brothers were dead.

Apollo was pleased with the place which he had chosen for a home; for there he found rest and quiet, and neither the hum of labor nor the din of battle was likely ever to enter. One thing, however, must needs be done before he could have perfect peace. There lived near the foot of the mountain a huge serpent called Python, which was the terror of all the land. Oftentimes, coming out of its den, this monster attacked the flocks and herds, and sometimes even their keepers; and it had been known to carry little children and helpless women to its den, and there devour them.

The men of the place came to Apollo, and prayed him to drive out or destroy their terrible enemy. So, taking in hand his silver bow, he sallied out at break of day to meet the monster when it should issue from its slimy cave. The vile creature shrank back when it saw its radiant enemy, and would fain have hidden itself in the deep gorges of the mountain. But Apollo quickly launched a swift arrow at it, crying, "Thou bane of man, lie thou upon the earth, and enrich it with thy dead body!" The never-erring arrow sped to the mark; and the great beast died, wallowing in its gore. And the people in their joy came out to meet the archer, singing paeans in his praise. They crowned him with wild flowers and wreaths of olives, and hailed him as the Pythian king; and the nightingales sang to him in the groves, and the swallows and cicadas twittered and tuned their melodies in harmony with his lyre.