Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 28

Apollo and Hyacinthus.

Although successful in war, Apollo was very unfortunate indeed in friendship. One day he came down to earth to enjoy the society of a youth of mortal birth, named Hyacinthus. To pass the time agreeably, the friends began a game of quoits, but had not played long, before Zephyrus, god of the south wind, passing by, saw them thus occupied. Jealous of Apollo, for he too loved Hyacinthus, Zephyrus blew Apollo’s quoit aside so violently that it struck his playmate, and felled him to the ground. Vainly Apollo strove to check the stream of blood which flowed from the ghastly wound. Hyacinthus was already beyond aid, and in a few seconds breathed his last in his friend’s arms. To keep some reminder of the departed, Apollo changed the fallen blood drops into clusters of flowers, ever since called, from the youth’s name, hyacinths; while Zephyrus, perceiving too late the fatal effect of his jealousy, hovered inconsolable over the sad spot, and tenderly caressed the dainty flowers which had sprung from his friend’s lifeblood.

“Zephyr penitent,
Who now, ere Phœbus mounts the firmament,
Fondles the flower.”
Apollo and Cyparissus.

To divert his mind from the mournful fate of Hyacinthus, Apollo sought the company of Cyparissus, a clever young hunter; but this friendship was also doomed to a sad end, for Cyparissus, having accidentally killed Apollo’s pet stag, grieved so sorely over this mischance, that he pined away, and finally died. Apollo then changed his lifeless clay into a Refer to caption

APOLLO AND DAPHNE.—Bernini. (Villa Borghese, Rome.)

Apollo, coming up just then with outstretched arms, clasped nothing but a rugged tree trunk. At first he could not realize that the fair maiden had vanished from his sight forever; but, [70] when the truth dawned upon him, he declared that from henceforth the laurel would be considered his favorite tree, and that prizes awarded to poets, musicians, etc., should consist of a wreath of its glossy foliage.

“I espouse thee for my tree:
Be thou the prize of honor and renown;
The deathless poet, and the poem, crown;
Thou shalt the Roman festivals adorn,
And, after poets, be by victors worn.”
Ovid (Dryden’s tr.).

This story of Apollo and Daphne was an illustration of the effect produced by the sun (Apollo) upon the dew (Daphne). The sun is captivated by its beauty, and longs to view it more closely; the dew, afraid of its ardent lover, flies, and, when its fiery breath touches it, vanishes, leaving nothing but verdure in the selfsame spot where but a moment before it sparkled in all its purity.

The ancients had many analogous stories, allegories of the sun and dew, amongst others the oft-quoted tale of Cephalus and Procris. Cephalus was a hunter, who fell in love with and married one of Diana’s nymphs, Procris. She brought him as dowry a hunting dog, Lelaps, and a javelin warranted never to miss its mark. The newly married pair were perfectly happy; but their content was viewed with great displeasure by Eos (Aurora), goddess of dawn, who had previously tried, but without success, to win Cephalus’ affections, and who now resolved to put an end to the bliss she envied.