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

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“Then, as the full orb poised upon the peak,
There came a lovely vision of a maid,
Who seemed to step as from a golden car
Out of the low-hung moon.”
Lewis Morris.

Diana, fully as enamored as he, could not bear to pass him by without a caress, and invariably left her car for a moment, as it touched the mountain peak, to run to him and snatch a hasty kiss.

“Chaste Artemis, who guides the lunar car,
The pale nocturnal vigils ever keeping,
Sped through the silent space from star to star,
And, blushing, stooped to kiss Endymion sleeping.”

But, even when asleep, Endymion watched for her coming, and enjoyed the bliss of her presence; yet a spell seemed to prevent his giving any sign of consciousness.

Time passed thus. Diana, who could not bear to think of the youth’s beauty being marred by want, toil, and exposure, finally caused an eternal sleep to fall upon him, and bore him off to Mount Latmus, where she concealed him in a cave held sacred to her, and never profaned by human gaze. There each night [98] the goddess paused to gaze enraptured upon his beloved countenance, and to press a soft kiss upon his unconscious lips. Such is the tale of Diana and her lowly sweetheart, which has inspired poets of all ages.

“Queen of the wide air; thou most lovely queen
Of all the brightness that mine eyes have seen!
As thou exceedest all things in thy shrine,
So every tale, does this sweet tale of thine.”
Story of Orion.

Endymion was not, however, the only mortal loved by Diana, for mythologists report that her affections were also bestowed upon a young hunter by the name of Orion. All day long this youth scoured the forest, his faithful dog Sirius at his heels.

One day, in the dense shade of the forest, he met a group of Diana’s nymphs, the seven Pleiades, daughters of Atlas. These fair maidens needed but to be seen to be passionately loved, and Orion’s heart burned as he sought to approach them; but they were very coy, and, as he drew near and addressed them, turned and fled.

Afraid lest he should never see them again were he now to lose sight of them, he pursued them hotly; but the nymphs sped on, until, their strength failing, they called upon their patroness’s aid. Their prayer was no sooner heard than answered, and Orion, panting and weary, came up just in time to see seven snow-white pigeons wing their way up into the azure sky.

There a second transformation overtook the Pleiades, who were changed into a constellation, composed of seven bright stars, and there they shone undimmed for ages; but when Troy fell into the enemy’s hands, all grew pale with grief, and one, more timid and impressionable than the rest, withdrew from sight to hide her anguish from the curious eyes of men.

“And is there glory from the heavens departed?—
O void unmark’d!—thy sisters of the sky
Still hold their place on high,
[99] Though from its rank thine orb so long hath started
Thou, that no more art seen of mortal eye!”

Orion, like a fickle youth, was soon consoled for their disappearance, and loved Merope, daughter of Œnopion, King of Chios, who consented to their union on condition that his future son-in-law should win his bride by some heroic deed. Now, as Orion was anything but a patient man, the delay was very unwelcome indeed, and he made up his mind to abduct his bride instead of marrying her openly; but the plan was frustrated by Œnopion’s watchfulness, and Orion was punished by the loss not only of his bride, but also of his eyesight.

Blind, helpless, and alone, he now wandered from place to place, hoping to find some one capable of restoring his sight. At last he reached the Cyclopes’ cave, and one of them took pity on him, and led him to the Sun, from whose radiance he borrowed a store of light,—

“When, blinded by Œnopion,
He sought the blacksmith at his forge,
And, climbing up the mountain gorge,
Fixed his blank eyes upon the sun.”

Happy once more, he resumed his favorite sport, and hunted from morn till eve. Diana met him in the forest, and, sharing his tastes, soon learned to love him; but this affection was viewed with great displeasure by Apollo, from whose piercing glance nothing that occurred by day could be hidden, and he resolved to put an end to his sister’s infatuation. He therefore summoned her to his side. To divert her suspicions, he began to talk of archery, and, under the pretext of testing her skill as a markswoman, bade her shoot at a dark speck rising and falling far out at sea.

Diana seized her bow, feathered her arrow, and sent it with such force and accurate aim, that she touched the point, and saw it vanish beneath the waves, little suspecting that the dark [100] head of Orion, who was refreshing himself by a sea bath, was given her as a target. When she discovered her error, she mourned his loss with many tears, vowed never to forget him, and placed him and his faithful dog Sirius as constellations in the sky.

Story of Actæon.

When Diana had finished her nightly journey in her moon car, she seized her bow and arrows, and, attended by her nymphs, was wont to sally forth to hunt the wild beasts in the forest.

One summer afternoon, after an unusually long and exciting pursuit, Diana and her followers came to one of the still mountain pools where they had often resorted to enjoy a plunge. The cool waters rippled so invitingly, that the goddess and her attendants hastened to divest themselves of their short hunting garments, and lave their heated limbs.