By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Bulfinch's Mythology - The Age of Fable; The Age of Chivalry; Legends of Charlemagne
Author: Bulfinch, Thomas
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bulfinch's Mythology - The Age of Fable; The Age of Chivalry; Legends of Charlemagne" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

http://www.pgdpcanada.net with images provided by The
Internet Archives-US.

                          [Cover Illustration]

[Illustration: JOVE (JUPITER).
 Museum at Naples. Excavated from Pompeii in 1818.]

                           M Y T H O L O G Y

                            The Age of Fable
                          The Age of Chivalry
                         Legends of Charlemagne

                            THOMAS  BULFINCH

                       COMPLETE  IN  ONE  VOLUME


           GROSSET  &  DUNLAP  •  _Publishers_  •  NEW  YORK

                            COPYRIGHT, 1913,
                     BY THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY.


                          PUBLISHERS’ PREFACE

No new edition of Bulfinch’s classic work can be considered complete
without some notice of the American scholar to whose wide erudition and
painstaking care it stands as a perpetual monument. “The Age of Fable”
has come to be ranked with older books like “Pilgrim’s Progress,”
“Gulliver’s Travels,” “The Arabian Nights,” “Robinson Crusoe,” and five
or six other productions of world-wide renown as a work with which every
one must claim some acquaintance before his education can be called
really complete. Many readers of the present edition will probably
recall coming in contact with the work as children, and, it may be
added, will no doubt discover from a fresh perusal the source of
numerous bits of knowledge that have remained stored in their minds
since those early years. Yet to the majority of this great circle of
readers and students the name Bulfinch in itself has no significance.

Thomas Bulfinch was a native of Boston, Mass., where he was born in
1796. His boyhood was spent in that city, and he prepared for college in
the Boston schools. He finished his scholastic training at Harvard
College, and after taking his degree was for a period a teacher in his
home city. For a long time later in life he was employed as an
accountant in the Boston Merchants’ Bank. His leisure time he used for
further pursuit of the classical studies which he had begun at Harvard,
and his chief pleasure in life lay in writing out the results of his
reading, in simple, condensed form for young or busy readers. The plan
he followed in this work, to give it the greatest possible usefulness,
is set forth in the Author’s Preface.

“The Age of Fable,” First Edition, 1855; “The Age of Chivalry,” 1858;
“The Boy Inventor,” 1860; “Legends of Charlemagne, or Romance of the
Middle Ages,” 1863; “Poetry of the Age of Fable,” 1863; “Oregon and
Eldorado, or Romance of the Rivers,” 1860.

In this complete edition of his mythological and legendary lore “The Age
of Fable,” “The Age of Chivalry,” and “Legends of Charlemagne” are
included. Scrupulous care has been taken to follow the original text of
Bulfinch, but attention should be called to some additional sections
which have been inserted to add to the rounded completeness of the work,
and which the publishers believe would meet with the sanction of the
author himself, as in no way intruding upon his original plan but simply
carrying it out in more complete detail. The section on Northern
Mythology has been enlarged by a retelling of the epic of the
“Nibelungen Lied,” together with a summary of Wagner’s version of the
legend in his series of music-dramas. Under the head of “Hero Myths of
the British Race” have been included outlines of the stories of Beowulf,
Cuchulain, Hereward the Wake, and Robin Hood. Of the verse extracts
which occur throughout the text, thirty or more have been added from
literature which has appeared since Bulfinch’s time, extracts that he
would have been likely to quote had he personally supervised the new

Finally, the index has been thoroughly overhauled and, indeed, remade.
All the proper names in the work have been entered, with references to
the pages where they occur, and a concise explanation or definition of
each has been given. Thus what was a mere list of names in the original
has been enlarged into a small classical and mythological dictionary,
which it is hoped will prove valuable for reference purposes not
necessarily connected with “The Age of Fable.”

Acknowledgments are due the writings of Dr. Oliver Huckel for
information on the point of Wagner’s rendering of the Nibelungen legend,
and M. I. Ebbutt’s authoritative volume on “Hero Myths and Legends of
the British Race,” from which much of the information concerning the
British heroes has been obtained.

                            AUTHOR’S PREFACE

If no other knowledge deserves to be called useful but that which helps
to enlarge our possessions or to raise our station in society, then
Mythology has no claim to the appellation. But if that which tends to
make us happier and better can be called useful, then we claim that
epithet for our subject. For Mythology is the handmaid of literature;
and literature is one of the best allies of virtue and promoters of

Without a knowledge of mythology much of the elegant literature of our
own language cannot be understood and appreciated. When Byron calls Rome
“the Niobe of nations,” or says of Venice, “She looks a Sea-Cybele fresh
from ocean,” he calls up to the mind of one familiar with our subject,
illustrations more vivid and striking than the pencil could furnish, but
which are lost to the reader ignorant of mythology. Milton abounds in
similar allusions. The short poem “Comus” contains more than thirty
such, and the ode “On the Morning of the Nativity” half as many. Through
“Paradise Lost” they are scattered profusely. This is one reason why we
often hear persons by no means illiterate say that they cannot enjoy
Milton. But were these persons to add to their more solid acquirements
the easy learning of this little volume, much of the poetry of Milton
which has appeared to them “harsh and crabbed” would be found “musical
as is Apollo’s lute.” Our citations, taken from more than twenty-five
poets, from Spenser to Longfellow, will show how general has been the
practice of borrowing illustrations from mythology.

The prose writers also avail themselves of the same source of elegant
and suggestive illustration. One can hardly take up a number of the
“Edinburgh” or “Quarterly Review” without meeting with instances. In
Macaulay’s article on Milton there are twenty such.

But how is mythology to be taught to one who does not learn it through
the medium of the languages of Greece and Rome? To devote study to a
species of learning which relates wholly to false marvels and obsolete
faiths is not to be expected of the general reader in a practical age
like this. The time even of the young is claimed by so many sciences of
facts and things that little can be spared for set treatises on a
science of mere fancy.

But may not the requisite knowledge of the subject be acquired by
reading the ancient poets in translations? We reply, the field is too
extensive for a preparatory course; and these very translations require
some previous knowledge of the subject to make them intelligible. Let
any one who doubts it read the first page of the “Æneid,” and see what
he can make of “the hatred of Juno,” the “decree of the Parcæ,” the
“judgment of Paris,” and the “honors of Ganymede,” without this

Shall we be told that answers to such queries may be found in notes, or
by a reference to the Classical Dictionary? We reply, the interruption
of one’s reading by either process is so annoying that most readers
prefer to let an allusion pass unapprehended rather than submit to it.
Moreover, such sources give us only the dry facts without any of the
charm of the original narrative; and what is a poetical myth when
stripped of its poetry? The story of Ceyx and Halcyone, which fills a
chapter in our book, occupies but eight lines in the best (Smith’s)
Classical Dictionary; and so of others.

Our work is an attempt to solve this problem, by telling the stories of
mythology in such a manner as to make them a source of amusement. We
have endeavored to tell them correctly, according to the ancient
authorities, so that when the reader finds them referred to he may not
be at a loss to recognize the reference. Thus we hope to teach mythology
not as a study, but as a relaxation from study; to give our work the
charm of a story-book, yet by means of it to impart a knowledge of an
important branch of education. The index at the end will adapt it to the
purposes of reference, and make it a Classical Dictionary for the

Most of the classical legends in “Stories of Gods and Heroes” are
derived from Ovid and Virgil. They are not literally translated, for, in
the author’s opinion, poetry translated into literal prose is very
unattractive reading. Neither are they in verse, as well for other
reasons as from a conviction that to translate faithfully under all the
embarrassments of rhyme and measure is impossible. The attempt has been
made to tell the stories in prose, preserving so much of the poetry as
resides in the thoughts and is separable from the language itself, and
omitting those amplifications which are not suited to the altered form.

The Northern mythological stories are copied with some abridgment from
Mallet’s “Northern Antiquities.” These chapters, with those on Oriental
and Egyptian mythology, seemed necessary to complete the subject, though
it is believed these topics have not usually been presented in the same
volume with the classical fables.

The poetical citations so freely introduced are expected to answer
several valuable purposes. They will tend to fix in memory the leading
fact of each story, they will help to the attainment of a correct
pronunciation of the proper names, and they will enrich the memory with
many gems of poetry, some of them such as are most frequently quoted or
alluded to in reading and conversation.

Having chosen _mythology as connected with literature_ for our province,
we have endeavored to omit nothing which the reader of elegant
literature is likely to find occasion for. Such stories and parts of
stories as are offensive to pure taste and good morals are not given.
But such stories are not often referred to, and if they occasionally
should be, the English reader need feel no mortification in confessing
his ignorance of them.

Our work is not for the learned, nor for the theologian, nor for the
philosopher, but for the reader of English literature, of either sex,
who wishes to comprehend the allusions so frequently made by public
speakers, lecturers, essayists, and poets, and those which occur in
polite conversation.


In the “Stories of Gods and Heroes” the compiler has endeavored to
impart the pleasures of classical learning to the English reader, by
presenting the stories of Pagan mythology in a form adapted to modern
taste. In “King Arthur and His Knights” and “The Mabinogeon” the attempt
has been made to treat in the same way the stories of the second “age of
fable,” the age which witnessed the dawn of the several states of Modern

It is believed that this presentation of a literature which held
unrivalled sway over the imaginations of our ancestors, for many
centuries, will not be without benefit to the reader, in addition to the
amusement it may afford. The tales, though not to be trusted for their
facts, are worthy of all credit as pictures of manners; and it is
beginning to be held that the manners and modes of thinking of an age
are a more important part of its history than the conflicts of its
peoples, generally leading to no result. Besides this, the literature of
romance is a treasure-house of poetical material, to which modern poets
frequently resort. The Italian poets, Dante and Ariosto, the English,
Spenser, Scott, and Tennyson, and our own Longfellow and Lowell, are
examples of this.

These legends are so connected with each other, so consistently adapted
to a group of characters strongly individualized in Arthur, Launcelot,
and their compeers, and so lighted up by the fires of imagination and
invention, that they seem as well adapted to the poet’s purpose as the
legends of the Greek and Roman mythology. And if every well-educated
young person is expected to know the story of the Golden Fleece, why is
the quest of the Sangreal less worthy of his acquaintance? Or if an
allusion to the shield of Achilles ought not to pass unapprehended, why
should one to Excalibar, the famous sword of Arthur?—

    “Of Arthur, who, to upper light restored,
    With that terrific sword,
    Which yet he brandishes for future war,
    Shall lift his country’s fame above the polar star.”[1]

It is an additional recommendation of our subject, that it tends to
cherish in our minds the idea of the source from which we sprung. We are
entitled to our full share in the glories and recollections of the land
of our forefathers, down to the time of colonization thence. The
associations which spring from this source must be fruitful of good
influences; among which not the least valuable is the increased
enjoyment which such associations afford to the American traveller when
he visits England, and sets his foot upon any of her renowned


The legends of Charlemagne and his peers are necessary to complete the

In an age when intellectual darkness enveloped Western Europe, a
constellation of brilliant writers arose in Italy. Of these, Pulci (born
in 1432), Boiardo (1434), and Ariosto (1474) took for their subjects the
romantic fables which had for many ages been transmitted in the lays of
bards and the legends of monkish chroniclers. These fables they arranged
in order, adorned with the embellishments of fancy, amplified from their
own invention, and stamped with immortality. It may safely be asserted
that as long as civilization shall endure these productions will retain
their place among the most cherished creations of human genius.

In “Stories of Gods and Heroes,” “King Arthur and His Knights” and “The
Mabinogeon” the aim has been to supply to the modern reader such
knowledge of the fables of classical and mediæval literature as is
needed to render intelligible the allusions which occur in reading and
conversation. The “Legends of Charlemagne” is intended to carry out the
same design. Like the earlier portions of the work, it aspires to a
higher character than that of a piece of mere amusement. It claims to be
useful, in acquainting its readers with the subjects of the productions
of the great poets of Italy. Some knowledge of these is expected of
every well-educated young person.

In reading these romances, we cannot fail to observe how the primitive
inventions have been used, again and again, by successive generations of
fabulists. The Siren of Ulysses is the prototype of the Siren of
Orlando, and the character of Circe reappears in Alcina. The fountains
of Love and Hatred may be traced to the story of Cupid and Psyche; and
similar effects produced by a magic draught appear in the tale of
Tristram and Isoude, and, substituting a flower for the draught, in
Shakspeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” There are many other instances
of the same kind which the reader will recognize without our assistance.

The sources whence we derive these stories are, first, the Italian poets
named above; next, the “Romans de Chevalerie” of the Comte de Tressan;
lastly, certain German collections of popular tales. Some chapters have
been borrowed from Leigh Hunt’s Translations from the Italian Poets. It
seemed unnecessary to do over again what he had already done so well;
yet, on the other hand, those stories could not be omitted from the
series without leaving it incomplete.

                                                      THOMAS BULFINCH.

[Illustration: [Map 1: Western Mediterranean]
 The World of the Ancient Greeks and Romans.]

[Illustration: [Map 2: Eastern Mediterranean]
 The World of the Ancient Greeks and Romans.]

                       STORIES OF GODS AND HEROES

    CHAPTER                                                          PAGE
         I. Introduction                                                1
        II. Prometheus and Pandora                                     12
       III. Apollo and Daphne—Pyramus and Thisbe—Cephalus and
              Procris                                                  19
        IV. Juno and her Rivals, Io and Callisto—Diana and
              Actæon—Latona and the Rustics                            28
         V. Phaëton                                                    38
        VI. Midas—Baucis and Philemon                                  46
       VII. Proserpine—Glaucus and Scylla                              52
      VIII. Pygmalion—Dryope—Venus and Adonis—Apollo and Hyacinthus    62
        IX. Ceyx and Halcyone                                          69
         X. Vertumnus and Pomona—Iphis and Anaxarete                   76
        XI. Cupid and Psyche                                           80
       XII. Cadmus—The Myrmidons                                       91
      XIII. Nisus and Scylla—Echo and Narcissus—Clytie—Hero and
              Leander                                                  98
       XIV. Minerva and Arachne—Niobe                                 107
        XV. The Grææ and Gorgons—Perseus and Medusa—Atlas—Andromeda   115
       XVI. Monsters: Giants—Sphinx—Pegasus and
              Chimæra—Centaurs—Griffin—Pygmies                        122
      XVII. The Golden Fleece—Medea                                   129
     XVIII. Meleager and Atalanta                                     138
       XIX. Hercules—Hebe and Ganymede                                143
        XX. Theseus and Dædalus—Castor and Pollux—Festivals and
              Games                                                   150
       XXI. Bacchus and Ariadne                                       160
      XXII. The Rural Deities—The Dryads and
              Erisichthon—Rhœcus—Water Deities—Camenæ—Winds           166
     XXIII. Achelous and Hercules—Admetus and
              Alcestis—Antigone—Penelope                              177
      XXIV. Orpheus and
              mpus—Musæus                                             185
       XXV. Arion—Ibycus—Simonides—Sappho                             194
      XXVI. Endymion—Orion—Aurora and Tithonus—Acis and Galatea       204
     XXVII. The Trojan War                                            211
    XXVIII. The Fall of Troy—Return of the Greeks—Orestes and
              Electra                                                 227
      XXIX. Adventures of Ulysses—The Lotus-eaters—The
              Cyclopes—Circe—Sirens—Scylla and Charybdis—Calypso      236
       XXX. The Phæacians—Fate of the Suitors                         247
      XXXI. Adventures of Æneas—The Harpies—Dido—Palinurus            258
     XXXII. The Infernal Regions—The Sibyl                            266
    XXXIII. Æneas in Italy—Camilla—Evander—Nisus and
              Euryalus—Mezentius—Turnus                               276
     XXXIV. Pythagoras—Egyptian Deities—Oracles                       288
      XXXV. Origin of Mythology—Statues of Gods and Goddesses—Poets
              of Mythology                                            300
     XXXVI. Monsters (modern)—The
              Phœnix—Basilisk—Unicorn—Salamander                      310
    XXXVII. Eastern Mythology—Zoroaster—Hindu
              Mythology—Castes—Buddha—The Grand Lama—Prester John     318
   XXXVIII. Northern Mythology—Valhalla—The Valkyrior                 328
     XXXIX. Thor’s Visit to Jotunheim                                 337
        XL. The Death of Baldur—The Elves—Runic
              Letters—Skalds—Iceland—Teutonic Mythology—The
              Nibelungen Lied—Wagner’s Nibelungen Ring                343
       XLI. The Druids—Iona                                           358

                      KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS

    CHAPTER                                                          PAGE
         I. Introduction                                              367
        II. The Mythical History of England                           378
       III. Merlin                                                    389
        IV. Arthur                                                    394
         V. Arthur (_Continued_)                                      405
        VI. Sir Gawain                                                414
       VII. Caradoc Briefbras; or, Caradoc with the Shrunken Arm      418
      VIII. Launcelot of the Lake                                     424
        IX. The Adventure of the Cart                                 435
         X. The Lady of Shalott                                       441
        XI. Queen Guenever’s Peril                                    445
       XII. Tristram and Isoude                                       449
      XIII. Tristram and Isoude (_Continued_)                         457
       XIV. Sir Tristram’s Battle with Sir Launcelot                  464
        XV. The Round Table                                           467
       XVI. Sir Palamedes                                             472
      XVII. Sir Tristram                                              475
     XVIII. Perceval                                                  479
       XIX. The Sangreal, or Holy Graal                               486
        XX. The Sangreal (_Continued_)                                491
       XXI. The Sangreal (_Continued_)                                497
      XXII. Sir Agrivain’s Treason                                    507
     XXIII. Morte d’Arthur                                            515

                             THE MABINOGEON

    CHAPTER                                                          PAGE
            Introductory Note                                         527
         I. The Britons                                               529
        II. The Lady of the Fountain                                  534
       III. The Lady of the Fountain (_Continued_)                    539
        IV. The Lady of the Fountain (_Continued_)                    546
         V. Geraint, the Son of Erbin                                 553
        VI. Geraint, the Son of Erbin (_Continued_)                   564
       VII. Geraint, the Son of Erbin (_Continued_)                   572
      VIII. Pwyll, Prince of Dyved                                    583
        IX. Branwen, the Daughter of Llyr                             589
         X. Manawyddan                                                597
        XI. Kilwich and Olwen                                         608
       XII. Kilwich and Olwen (_Continued_)                           620
      XIII. Taliesin                                                  626

                     HERO MYTHS OF THE BRITISH RACE

 Beowulf                                                              635
 Cuchulain, Champion of Ireland                                       637
 Hereward the Wake                                                    641
 Robin Hood                                                           643

                         LEGENDS OF CHARLEMAGNE

 Introduction                                                         647
 The Peers, or Paladins                                               656
 The Tournament                                                       664
 The Siege of Albracca                                                672
 Adventures of Rinaldo and Orlando                                    683
 The Invasion of France                                               693
 The Invasion of France (_Continued_)                                 702
 Bradamante and Rogero                                                712
 Astolpho and the Enchantress                                         721
 The Orc                                                              732
 Astolpho’s Adventures continued, and Isabella’s begun                739
 Medoro                                                               745
 Orlando Mad                                                          753
 Zerbino and Isabella                                                 760
 Astolpho in Abyssinia                                                769
 The War in Africa                                                    777
 Rogero and Bradamante                                                788
 The Battle of Roncesvalles                                           801
 Rinaldo and Bayard                                                   814
 Death of Rinaldo                                                     819
 Huon of Bordeaux                                                     825
 Huon of Bordeaux (_Continued_)                                       832
 Huon of Bordeaux (_Continued_)                                       842
 Ogier, the Dane                                                      848
 Ogier, the Dane (_Continued_)                                        856
 Ogier, the Dane (_Continued_)                                        863


 PROVERBIAL EXPRESSIONS                                               873


 INDEX AND DICTIONARY                                                 877

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
                        (Added for convenience)

    1. JOVE (JUPITER). Museum at Naples. Excavated from Pompeii in 1818.
    2. Western Mediterranean Map The World of the Ancient Greeks and
         Romans, showing Location of Places mentioned in “Stories of Gods
         and Heroes.”
    3. Eastern Mediterranean Map The World of the Ancient Greeks and
         Romans, showing Location of Places mentioned in “Stories of Gods
         and Heroes.”
    4. THE DESCENT OF THE GODS [Greek and Roman Gods Family Tree]
    5. CIRCE. From painting by Burne-Jones.
    6. THE THREE FATES. From painting by Michael Angelo. Pitti Gallery,
    7. HERCULES IN BATTLE WITH A CENTAUR. Florence. John of Bologna.
    8. PARTING OF HECTOR AND ANDROMACHE. From painting by A. Maignan.
    9. THETIS BEARING THE ARMOR OF ACHILLES. From painting by François
   10. CIRCE AND THE FRIENDS OF ULYSSES. From painting by Briton Rivière.
   11. ÆNEAS AT THE COURT OF QUEEN DIDO. From painting by P. Guerin.
         Salon of 1817.
   12. A VALKYR. From painting by P. N. Arbo.
   13. THE BEGUILING OF MERLIN. From painting by Sir Edwin Burne-Jones.
   14. THE ROUND TABLE. From a photograph. This supposed relic of King
         Arthur and his Knights now hangs in the Great Hall of the Castle
         of Winchester (Camelot).
   15. SIR GALAHAD. From painting by George Frederick Watts.
   16. KING ARTHUR AND QUEEN GUENEVER. Original drawing by A. Fredericks.
   17. CHARLEMAGNE. From painting by Dürer in the Museum at Nuremburg.
   18. CHARLEMAGNE RECEIVING HIS GUESTS. Original drawing by Byam Shaw.

                        THE DESCENT OF THE GODS

                 CHAOS=Nox (Night)
     (Darkness) EREBUS=Nox (Night)
                      |                               Neptune
                  +-------+            +----------+-=Amphitrite+--Proteus
                  |       |            |          |            |
        (Light) AETHER=HEMERA (Day)    +--Nereus--+--Galatea   +--Triton
                      |                |          |
                    EROS (Amor) (Love) |          +--Thetis--Achilles
                      |                |
              +-------------+          |         +--Iris
              |             |          +--Thaumas|
         GÆA (Earth) PONTUS (Sea)=GÆA--|         +--Harpies
              |                        |
(Cronos) URANUS=GÆA                    |                +Gorgons
            |                          +--Phorcys=Ceto--+Sirens
            |                                           +Scylla
      |     |          |    |      |                 |
   Saturn=Rhea (Ops) Cœus=Phœbe Japetus        Oceanus=Tethys
         |               |         |                 |
   +-----+               |         |      +-------+--------+--------+
   |                   Latona      |      |       |        |        |
   +--Jupiter--Minerva (Leto)      | Inachus Oceanids Clymene Doris=Nereus
   |  (Zeus)  (Athene)             | and river gods                 |
   |                      +--------+-------+                     Nereides
   +--Ceres (Demeter)     |        |       |
   |                 Epimetheus Prometheus Atlas
   +--Juno (Hera)         |                |
   |                    Dione              Maia
   +--Pluto (Hades)
   +--Neptune (Poseidon)
   +--Vesta (Hestia)

  JUPITER=Juno (Hera)            JUPITER=Latona (Leto)    JUPITER=Dione
         |                              |                        |
  +------+---------+              +------------+                 |
  |      |         |              |            |                 |
Hebe   Mars      Vulcan     Phœbus Apollo    Diana       Venus (Aphrodite)
      (Ares)  (Hephæstus)                  (Artemis)             |

   JUPITER=Maia        JUPITER=Semele
         |                    |
         |                    |
         |                    |
 Mercury (Hermes)   Bacchus (Dionysus)

          JUPITER=Themis             JUPITER=Mnemosyne
                 |                           |
     +-----------+---------------+       Nine Muses
     |           |               |
   Horæ        Parcæ           Astræa
(The Hours) (The Fates) (Goddess of Justice)

 JUPITER=Eurynome  JUPITER=Demeter (Ceres)    JUPITER=Alcmene
       |                  |                           |
   Three Graces    Proserpina (Persephone)  Hercules (Heracles)

                       STORIES OF GODS AND HEROES

                               CHAPTER I


THE religions of ancient Greece and Rome are extinct. The so-called
divinities of Olympus have not a single worshipper among living men.
They belong now not to the department of theology, but to those of
literature and taste. There they still hold their place, and will
continue to hold it, for they are too closely connected with the finest
productions of poetry and art, both ancient and modern, to pass into

We propose to tell the stories relating to them which have come down to
us from the ancients, and which are alluded to by modern poets,
essayists, and orators. Our readers may thus at the same time be
entertained by the most charming fictions which fancy has ever created,
and put in possession of information indispensable to every one who
would read with intelligence the elegant literature of his own day.

In order to understand these stories, it will be necessary to acquaint
ourselves with the ideas of the structure of the universe which
prevailed among the Greeks—the people from whom the Romans, and other
nations through them, received their science and religion.

The Greeks believed the earth to be flat and circular, their own country
occupying the middle of it, the central point being either Mount
Olympus, the abode of the gods, or Delphi, so famous for its oracle.

The circular disk of the earth was crossed from west to east and divided
into two equal parts by the _Sea_, as they called the Mediterranean, and
its continuation the Euxine, the only seas with which they were

Around the earth flowed the _River Ocean_, its course being from south
to north on the western side of the earth, and in a contrary direction
on the eastern side. It flowed in a steady, equable current, unvexed by
storm or tempest. The sea, and all the rivers on earth, received their
waters from it.

The northern portion of the earth was supposed to be inhabited by a
happy race named the Hyperboreans, dwelling in everlasting bliss and
spring beyond the lofty mountains whose caverns were supposed to send
forth the piercing blasts of the north wind, which chilled the people of
Hellas (Greece). Their country was inaccessible by land or sea. They
lived exempt from disease or old age, from toils and warfare. Moore has
given us the “Song of a Hyperborean,” beginning

    “I come from a land in the sun-bright deep,
      Where golden gardens glow,
    Where the winds of the north, becalmed in sleep,
      Their conch shells never blow.”

On the south side of the earth, close to the stream of Ocean, dwelt a
people happy and virtuous as the Hyperboreans. They were named the
Æthiopians. The gods favored them so highly that they were wont to leave
at times their Olympian abodes and go to share their sacrifices and

On the western margin of the earth, by the stream of Ocean, lay a happy
place named the Elysian Plain, whither mortals favored by the gods were
transported without tasting of death, to enjoy an immortality of bliss.
This happy region was also called the “Fortunate Fields,” and the “Isles
of the Blessed.”

We thus see that the Greeks of the early ages knew little of any real
people except those to the east and south of their own country, or near
the coast of the Mediterranean. Their imagination meantime peopled the
western portion of this sea with giants, monsters, and enchantresses;
while they placed around the disk of the earth, which they probably
regarded as of no great width, nations enjoying the peculiar favor of
the gods, and blessed with happiness and longevity.

The Dawn, the Sun, and the Moon were supposed to rise out of the Ocean,
on the eastern side, and to drive through the air, giving light to gods
and men. The stars, also, except those forming the Wain or Bear, and
others near them, rose out of and sank into the stream of Ocean. There
the sun-god embarked in a winged boat, which conveyed him round by the
northern part of the earth, back to his place of rising in the east.
Milton alludes to this in his “Comus”:

    “Now the gilded car of day
    His golden axle doth allay
    In the steep Atlantic stream,
    And the slope Sun his upward beam
    Shoots against the dusky pole,
    Pacing towards the other goal
    Of his chamber in the east.”

The abode of the gods was on the summit of Mount Olympus, in Thessaly. A
gate of clouds, kept by the goddesses named the Seasons, opened to
permit the passage of the Celestials to earth, and to receive them on
their return. The gods had their separate dwellings; but all, when
summoned, repaired to the palace of Jupiter, as did also those deities
whose usual abode was the earth, the waters, or the underworld. It was
also in the great hall of the palace of the Olympian king that the gods
feasted each day on ambrosia and nectar, their food and drink, the
latter being handed round by the lovely goddess Hebe. Here they
conversed of the affairs of heaven and earth; and as they quaffed their
nectar, Apollo, the god of music, delighted them with the tones of his
lyre, to which the Muses sang in responsive strains. When the sun was
set, the gods retired to sleep in their respective dwellings.

The following lines from the “Odyssey” will show how Homer conceived of

    “So saying, Minerva, goddess azure-eyed,
    Rose to Olympus, the reputed seat
    Eternal of the gods, which never storms
    Disturb, rains drench, or snow invades, but calm
    The expanse and cloudless shines with purest day.
    There the inhabitants divine rejoice

The robes and other parts of the dress of the goddesses were woven by
Minerva and the Graces and everything of a more solid nature was formed
of the various metals. Vulcan was architect, smith, armorer, chariot
builder, and artist of all work in Olympus. He built of brass the houses
of the gods; he made for them the golden shoes with which they trod the
air or the water, and moved from place to place with the speed of the
wind, or even of thought. He also shod with brass the celestial steeds,
which whirled the chariots of the gods through the air, or along the
surface of the sea. He was able to bestow on his workmanship
self-motion, so that the tripods (chairs and tables) could move of
themselves in and out of the celestial hall. He even endowed with
intelligence the golden handmaidens whom he made to wait on himself.

Jupiter, or Jove (Zeus[2]), though called the father of gods and men,
had himself a beginning. Saturn (Cronos) was his father, and Rhea (Ops)
his mother. Saturn and Rhea were of the race of Titans, who were the
children of Earth and Heaven, which sprang from Chaos, of which we shall
give a further account in our next chapter.

There is another cosmogony, or account of the creation, according to
which Earth, Erebus, and Love were the first of beings. Love (Eros)
issued from the egg of Night, which floated on Chaos. By his arrows and
torch he pierced and vivified all things, producing life and joy.

Saturn and Rhea were not the only Titans. There were others, whose names
were Oceanus, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Ophion, males; and Themis,
Mnemosyne, Eurynome, females. They are spoken of as the elder gods,
whose dominion was afterwards transferred to others. Saturn yielded to
Jupiter, Oceanus to Neptune, Hyperion to Apollo. Hyperion was the father
of the Sun, Moon, and Dawn. He is therefore the original sun-god, and is
painted with the splendor and beauty which were afterwards bestowed on

    “Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself.”

Ophion and Eurynome ruled over Olympus till they were dethroned by
Saturn and Rhea. Milton alludes to them in “Paradise Lost.” He says the
heathens seem to have had some knowledge of the temptation and fall of

    “And fabled how the serpent, whom they called
    Ophion, with Eurynome, (the wide-Encroaching
    Eve perhaps,) had first the rule
    Of high Olympus, thence by Saturn driven.”

The representations given of Saturn are not very consistent; for on the
one hand his reign is said to have been the golden age of innocence and
purity, and on the other he is described as a monster who devoured his
children.[3] Jupiter, however, escaped this fate, and when grown up
espoused Metis (Prudence), who administered a draught to Saturn which
caused him to disgorge his children. Jupiter, with his brothers and
sisters, now rebelled against their father Saturn and his brothers the
Titans; vanquished them, and imprisoned some of them in Tartarus,
inflicting other penalties on others. Atlas was condemned to bear up the
heavens on his shoulders.

On the dethronement of Saturn, Jupiter with his brothers Neptune
(Poseidon) and Pluto (Dis) divided his dominions. Jupiter’s portion was
the heavens, Neptune’s the ocean, and Pluto’s the realms of the dead.
Earth and Olympus were common property. Jupiter was king of gods and
men. The thunder was his weapon, and he bore a shield called Ægis, made
for him by Vulcan. The eagle was his favorite bird, and bore his

Juno (Hera) was the wife of Jupiter, and queen of the gods. Iris, the
goddess of the rainbow, was her attendant and messenger. The peacock was
her favorite bird.

Vulcan (Hephæstos), the celestial artist, was the son of Jupiter and
Juno. He was born lame, and his mother was so displeased at the sight of
him that she flung him out of heaven. Other accounts say that Jupiter
kicked him out for taking part with his mother in a quarrel which
occurred between them. Vulcan’s lameness, according to this account, was
the consequence of his fall. He was a whole day falling, and at last
alighted in the island of Lemnos, which was thenceforth sacred to him.
Milton alludes to this story in “Paradise Lost,” Book I.:

                                  “. . . From morn
    To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve,
    A summer’s day; and with the setting sun
    Dropped from the zenith, like a falling star,
    On Lemnos, the Ægean isle.”

Mars (Ares), the god of war, was the son of Jupiter and Juno.

Phœbus Apollo, the god of archery, prophecy, and music, was the son of
Jupiter and Latona, and brother of Diana (Artemis). He was god of the
sun, as Diana, his sister, was the goddess of the moon.

Venus (Aphrodite), the goddess of love and beauty, was the daughter of
Jupiter and Dione. Others say that Venus sprang from the foam of the
sea. The zephyr wafted her along the waves to the Isle of Cyprus, where
she was received and attired by the Seasons, and then led to the
assembly of the gods. All were charmed with her beauty, and each one
demanded her for his wife. Jupiter gave her to Vulcan, in gratitude for
the service he had rendered in forging thunderbolts. So the most
beautiful of the goddesses became the wife of the most ill-favored of
gods. Venus possessed an embroidered girdle called Cestus, which had the
power of inspiring love. Her favorite birds were swans and doves, and
the plants sacred to her were the rose and the myrtle.

Cupid (Eros), the god of love, was the son of Venus. He was her constant
companion; and, armed with bow and arrows, he shot the darts of desire
into the bosoms of both gods and men. There was a deity named Anteros,
who was sometimes represented as the avenger of slighted love, and
sometimes as the symbol of reciprocal affection. The following legend is
told of him:

Venus, complaining to Themis that her son Eros continued always a child,
was told by her that it was because he was solitary, and that if he had
a brother he would grow apace. Anteros was soon afterwards born, and
Eros immediately was seen to increase rapidly in size and strength.

Minerva (Pallas, Athene), the goddess of wisdom, was the offspring of
Jupiter, without a mother. She sprang forth from his head completely
armed. Her favorite bird was the owl, and the plant sacred to her the

Byron, in “Childe Harold,” alludes to the birth of Minerva thus:

    “Can tyrants but by tyrants conquered be,
    And Freedom find no champion and no child,
    Such as Columbia saw arise, when she
    Sprang forth a Pallas, armed and undefiled?
    Or must such minds be nourished in the wild,
    Deep in the unpruned forest, ’midst the roar
    Of cataracts, where nursing Nature smiled
    On infant Washington? Has earth no more
    Such seeds within her breast, or Europe no such shore?”

Mercury (Hermes) was the son of Jupiter and Maia. He presided over
commerce, wrestling, and other gymnastic exercises, even over thieving,
and everything, in short, which required skill and dexterity. He was the
messenger of Jupiter, and wore a winged cap and winged shoes. He bore in
his hand a rod entwined with two serpents, called the caduceus.

Mercury is said to have invented the lyre. He found, one day, a
tortoise, of which he took the shell, made holes in the opposite edges
of it, and drew cords of linen through them, and the instrument was
complete. The cords were nine, in honor of the nine Muses. Mercury gave
the lyre to Apollo, and received from him in exchange the caduceus.[4]

Ceres (Demeter) was the daughter of Saturn and Rhea. She had a daughter
named Proserpine (Persephone), who became the wife of Pluto, and queen
of the realms of the dead. Ceres presided over agriculture.

Bacchus (Dionysus), the god of wine, was the son of Jupiter and Semele.
He represents not only the intoxicating power of wine, but its social
and beneficent influences likewise, so that he is viewed as the promoter
of civilization, and a lawgiver and lover of peace.

The Muses were the daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne (Memory). They
presided over song, and prompted the memory. They were nine in number,
to each of whom was assigned the precedence over some particular
department of literature, art, or science. Calliope was the muse of epic
poetry, Clio of history, Euterpe of lyric poetry, Melpomene of tragedy,
Terpsichore of choral dance and song, Erato of love poetry, Polyhymnia
of sacred poetry, Urania of astronomy, Thalia of comedy.

The Graces were goddesses presiding over the banquet, the dance, and all
social enjoyments and elegant arts. They were three in number. Their
names were Euphrosyne, Aglaia, and Thalia.

Spenser describes the office of the Graces thus:

    “These three on men all gracious gifts bestow
    Which deck the body or adorn the mind,
    To make them lovely or well-favored show;
    As comely carriage, entertainment kind,
    Sweet semblance, friendly offices that bind,
    And all the complements of courtesy;
      They teach us how to each degree and kind
      We should ourselves demean, to low, to high,
    To friends, to foes; which skill men call Civility.”

The Fates were also three—Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Their office
was to spin the thread of human destiny, and they were armed with
shears, with which they cut it off when they pleased. They were the
daughters of Themis (Law), who sits by Jove on his throne to give him

The Erinnyes, or Furies, were three goddesses who punished by their
secret stings the crimes of those who escaped or defied public justice.
The heads of the Furies were wreathed with serpents, and their whole
appearance was terrific and appalling. Their names were Alecto,
Tisiphone, and Megæra. They were also called Eumenides.

Nemesis was also an avenging goddess. She represents the righteous anger
of the gods, particularly towards the proud and insolent.

Pan was the god of flocks and shepherds. His favorite residence was in

The Satyrs were deities of the woods and fields. They were conceived to
be covered with bristly hair, their heads decorated with short,
sprouting horns, and their feet like goats’ feet.

Momus was the god of laughter, and Plutus the god of wealth.

                            ROMAN DIVINITIES

The preceding are Grecian divinities, though received also by the
Romans. Those which follow are peculiar to Roman mythology:

Saturn was an ancient Italian deity. It was attempted to identify him
with the Grecian god Cronos, and fabled that after his dethronement by
Jupiter he fled to Italy, where he reigned during what was called the
Golden Age. In memory of his beneficent dominion, the feast of
Saturnalia was held every year in the winter season. Then all public
business was suspended, declarations of war and criminal executions were
postponed, friends made presents to one another, and the slaves were
indulged with great liberties. A feast was given them at which they sat
at table, while their masters served them, to show the natural equality
of men, and that all things belonged equally to all, in the reign of

Faunus,[5] the grandson of Saturn, was worshipped as the god of fields
and shepherds, and also as a prophetic god. His name in the plural,
Fauns, expressed a class of gamesome deities, like the Satyrs of the

Quirinus was a war god, said to be no other than Romulus, the founder of
Rome, exalted after his death to a place among the gods.

Bellona, a war goddess.

Terminus, the god of landmarks. His statue was a rude stone or post, set
in the ground to mark the boundaries of fields.

Pales, the goddess presiding over cattle and pastures.

Pomona presided over fruit trees.

Flora, the goddess of flowers.

Lucina, the goddess of childbirth.

Vesta (the Hestia of the Greeks) was a deity presiding over the public
and private hearth. A sacred fire, tended by six virgin priestesses
called Vestals, flamed in her temple. As the safety of the city was held
to be connected with its conservation, the neglect of the virgins, if
they let it go out, was severely punished, and the fire was rekindled
from the rays of the sun.

Liber is the Latin name of Bacchus; and Mulciber of Vulcan.

Janus was the porter of heaven. He opens the year, the first month being
named after him. He is the guardian deity of gates, on which account he
is commonly represented with two heads, because every door looks two
ways. His temples at Rome were numerous. In war time the gates of the
principal one were always open. In peace they were closed; but they were
shut only once between the reign of Numa and that of Augustus.

The Penates were the gods who were supposed to attend to the welfare and
prosperity of the family. Their name is derived from Penus, the pantry,
which was sacred to them. Every master of a family was the priest to the
Penates of his own house.

The Lares, or Lars, were also household gods, but differed from the
Penates in being regarded as the deified spirits of mortals. The family
Lars were held to be the souls of the ancestors, who watched over and
protected their descendants. The words Lemur and Larva more nearly
correspond to our word Ghost.

The Romans believed that every man had his Genius, and every woman her
Juno: that is, a spirit who had given them being, and was regarded as
their protector through life. On their birthdays men made offerings to
their Genius, women to their Juno.

A modern poet thus alludes to some of the Roman gods:

    “Pomona loves the orchard,
      And Liber loves the vine,
    And Pales loves the straw-built shed
      Warm with the breath of kine;
    And Venus loves the whisper
      Of plighted youth and maid,
    In April’s ivory moonlight,
      Beneath the chestnut shade.”
     —_Macaulay_, “_Prophecy of Capys_.”


N.B.—It is to be observed that in proper names the final _e_ and _es_
are to be sounded. Thus Cybele and Penates are words of three syllables.
But Proserpine and Thebes are exceptions, and to be pronounced as
English words. In the Index at the close of the volume we shall mark the
accented syllable in all words which appear to require it.


                               CHAPTER II

                         PROMETHEUS AND PANDORA

THE creation of the world is a problem naturally fitted to excite the
liveliest interest of man, its inhabitant. The ancient pagans, not
having the information on the subject which we derive from the pages of
Scripture, had their own way of telling the story, which is as follows:

Before earth and sea and heaven were created, all things wore one
aspect, to which we give the name of Chaos—a confused and shapeless
mass, nothing but dead weight, in which, however, slumbered the seeds of
things. Earth, sea, and air were all mixed up together; so the earth was
not solid, the sea was not fluid, and the air was not transparent. God
and Nature at last interposed, and put an end to this discord,
separating earth from sea, and heaven from both. The fiery part, being
the lightest, sprang up, and formed the skies; the air was next in
weight and place. The earth, being heavier, sank below; and the water
took the lowest place, and buoyed up the earth.

Here some god—it is not known which—gave his good offices in arranging
and disposing the earth. He appointed rivers and bays their places,
raised mountains, scooped out valleys, distributed woods, fountains,
fertile fields, and stony plains. The air being cleared, the stars began
to appear, fishes took possession of the sea, birds of the air, and
four-footed beasts of the land.

But a nobler animal was wanted, and Man was made. It is not known
whether the creator made him of divine materials, or whether in the
earth, so lately separated from heaven, there lurked still some heavenly
seeds. Prometheus took some of this earth, and kneading it up with
water, made man in the image of the gods. He gave him an upright
stature, so that while all other animals turn their faces downward, and
look to the earth, he raises his to heaven, and gazes on the stars.

Prometheus was one of the Titans, a gigantic race, who inhabited the
earth before the creation of man. To him and his brother Epimetheus was
committed the office of making man, and providing him and all other
animals with the faculties necessary for their preservation. Epimetheus
undertook to do this, and Prometheus was to overlook his work, when it
was done. Epimetheus accordingly proceeded to bestow upon the different
animals the various gifts of courage, strength, swiftness, sagacity;
wings to one, claws to another, a shelly covering to a third, etc. But
when man came to be provided for, who was to be superior to all other
animals, Epimetheus had been so prodigal of his resources that he had
nothing left to bestow upon him. In his perplexity he resorted to his
brother Prometheus, who, with the aid of Minerva, went up to heaven, and
lighted his torch at the chariot of the sun, and brought down fire to
man. With this gift man was more than a match for all other animals. It
enabled him to make weapons wherewith to subdue them; tools with which
to cultivate the earth; to warm his dwelling, so as to be comparatively
independent of climate; and finally to introduce the arts and to coin
money, the means of trade and commerce.

Woman was not yet made. The story (absurd enough!) is that Jupiter made
her, and sent her to Prometheus and his brother, to punish them for
their presumption in stealing fire from heaven; and man, for accepting
the gift. The first woman was named Pandora. She was made in heaven,
every god contributing something to perfect her. Venus gave her beauty,
Mercury persuasion, Apollo music, etc. Thus equipped, she was conveyed
to earth, and presented to Epimetheus, who gladly accepted her, though
cautioned by his brother to beware of Jupiter and his gifts. Epimetheus
had in his house a jar, in which were kept certain noxious articles, for
which, in fitting man for his new abode, he had had no occasion. Pandora
was seized with an eager curiosity to know what this jar contained; and
one day she slipped off the cover and looked in. Forthwith there escaped
a multitude of plagues for hapless man,—such as gout, rheumatism, and
colic for his body, and envy, spite, and revenge for his mind,—and
scattered themselves far and wide. Pandora hastened to replace the lid!
but, alas! the whole contents of the jar had escaped, one thing only
excepted, which lay at the bottom, and that was _hope_. So we see at
this day, whatever evils are abroad, hope never entirely leaves us; and
while we have _that_, no amount of other ills can make us completely

Another story is that Pandora was sent in good faith, by Jupiter, to
bless man; that she was furnished with a box, containing her marriage
presents, into which every god had put some blessing. She opened the box
incautiously, and the blessings all escaped, _hope_ only excepted. This
story seems more probable than the former; for how could _hope_, so
precious a jewel as it is, have been kept in a jar full of all manner of
evils, as in the former statement?

The world being thus furnished with inhabitants, the first age was an
age of innocence and happiness, called the _Golden Age_. Truth and right
prevailed, though not enforced by law, nor was there any magistrate to
threaten or punish. The forest had not yet been robbed of its trees to
furnish timbers for vessels, nor had men built fortifications round
their towns. There were no such things as swords, spears, or helmets.
The earth brought forth all things necessary for man, without his labor
in ploughing or sowing. Perpetual spring reigned, flowers sprang up
without seed, the rivers flowed with milk and wine, and yellow honey
distilled from the oaks.

Then succeeded the _Silver Age_, inferior to the golden, but better than
that of brass. Jupiter shortened the spring, and divided the year into
seasons. Then, first, men had to endure the extremes of heat and cold,
and houses became necessary. Caves were the first dwellings, and leafy
coverts of the woods, and huts woven of twigs. Crops would no longer
grow without planting. The farmer was obliged to sow the seed and the
toiling ox to draw the plough.

Next came the _Brazen Age_, more savage of temper, and readier to the
strife of arms, yet not altogether wicked. The hardest and worst was the
_Iron Age_. Crime burst in like a flood; modesty, truth, and honor fled.
In their places came fraud and cunning, violence, and the wicked love of
gain. Then seamen spread sails to the wind, and the trees were torn from
the mountains to serve for keels to ships, and vex the face of ocean.
The earth, which till now had been cultivated in common, began to be
divided off into possessions. Men were not satisfied with what the
surface produced, but must dig into its bowels, and draw forth from
thence the ores of metals. Mischievous _iron_, and more mischievous
_gold_, were produced. War sprang up, using both as weapons; the guest
was not safe in his friend’s house; and sons-in-law and fathers-in-law,
brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, could not trust one another.
Sons wished their fathers dead, that they might come to the inheritance;
family love lay prostrate. The earth was wet with slaughter, and the
gods abandoned it, one by one, till Astræa[6] alone was left, and
finally she also took her departure.

Jupiter, seeing this state of things, burned with anger. He summoned the
gods to council. They obeyed the call, and took the road to the palace
of heaven. The road, which any one may see in a clear night, stretches
across the face of the sky, and is called the Milky Way. Along the road
stand the palaces of the illustrious gods; the common people of the
skies live apart, on either side. Jupiter addressed the assembly. He set
forth the frightful condition of things on the earth, and closed by
announcing his intention to destroy the whole of its inhabitants, and
provide a new race, unlike the first, who would be more worthy of life,
and much better worshippers of the gods. So saying he took a
thunderbolt, and was about to launch it at the world, and destroy it by
burning; but recollecting the danger that such a conflagration might set
heaven itself on fire, he changed his plan, and resolved to drown it.
The north wind, which scatters the clouds, was chained up; the south was
sent out, and soon covered all the face of heaven with a cloak of pitchy
darkness. The clouds, driven together, resound with a crash; torrents of
rain fall; the crops are laid low; the year’s labor of the husbandman
perishes in an hour. Jupiter, not satisfied with his own waters, calls
on his brother Neptune to aid him with his. He lets loose the rivers,
and pours them over the land. At the same time, he heaves the land with
an earthquake, and brings in the reflux of the ocean over the shores.
Flocks, herds, men, and houses are swept away, and temples, with their
sacred enclosures, profaned. If any edifice remained standing, it was
overwhelmed, and its turrets lay hid beneath the waves. Now all was sea,
sea without shore. Here and there an individual remained on a projecting
hill-top, and a few, in boats, pulled the oar where they had lately
driven the plough. The fishes swim among the tree-tops; the anchor is
let down into a garden. Where the graceful lambs played but now,
unwieldy sea calves gambol. The wolf swims among the sheep, the yellow
lions and tigers struggle in the water. The strength of the wild boar
serves him not, nor his swiftness the stag. The birds fall with weary
wing into the water, having found no land for a resting-place. Those
living beings whom the water spared fell a prey to hunger.

Parnassus alone, of all the mountains, overtopped the waves; and there
Deucalion, and his wife Pyrrha, of the race of Prometheus, found
refuge—he a just man, and she a faithful worshipper of the gods.
Jupiter, when he saw none left alive but this pair, and remembered their
harmless lives and pious demeanor, ordered the north winds to drive away
the clouds, and disclose the skies to earth, and earth to the skies.
Neptune also directed Triton to blow on his shell, and sound a retreat
to the waters. The waters obeyed, and the sea returned to its shores,
and the rivers to their channels. Then Deucalion thus addressed Pyrrha:
“O wife, only surviving woman, joined to me first by the ties of kindred
and marriage, and now by a common danger, would that we possessed the
power of our ancestor Prometheus, and could renew the race as he at
first made it! But as we cannot, let us seek yonder temple, and inquire
of the gods what remains for us to do.” They entered the temple,
deformed as it was with slime, and approached the altar, where no fire
burned. There they fell prostrate on the earth, and prayed the goddess
to inform them how they might retrieve their miserable affairs. The
oracle answered, “Depart from the temple with head veiled and garments
unbound, and cast behind you the bones of your mother.” They heard the
words with astonishment. Pyrrha first broke silence: “We cannot obey; we
dare not profane the remains of our parents.” They sought the thickest
shades of the wood, and revolved the oracle in their minds. At length
Deucalion spoke: “Either my sagacity deceives me, or the command is one
we may obey without impiety. The earth is the great parent of all; the
stones are her bones; these we may cast behind us; and I think this is
what the oracle means. At least, it will do no harm to try.” They veiled
their faces, unbound their garments, and picked up stones, and cast them
behind them. The stones (wonderful to relate) began to grow soft, and
assume shape. By degrees, they put on a rude resemblance to the human
form, like a block half-finished in the hands of the sculptor. The
moisture and slime that were about them became flesh; the stony part
became bones; the veins remained veins, retaining their name, only
changing their use. Those thrown by the hand of the man became men, and
those by the woman became women. It was a hard race, and well adapted to
labor, as we find ourselves to be at this day, giving plain indications
of our origin.

The comparison of Eve to Pandora is too obvious to have escaped Milton,
who introduces it in Book IV. of “Paradise-Lost”:

    “More lovely than Pandora, whom the gods
    Endowed with all their gifts; and O, too like
    In sad event, when to the unwiser son
    Of Japhet brought by Hermes, she insnared
    Mankind with her fair looks, to be avenged
    On him who had stole Jove’s authentic fire.”

Prometheus and Epimetheus were sons of Iapetus, which Milton changes to

Prometheus has been a favorite subject with the poets. He is represented
as the friend of mankind, who interposed in their behalf when Jove was
incensed against them, and who taught them civilization and the arts.
But as, in so doing, he transgressed the will of Jupiter, he drew down
on himself the anger of the ruler of gods and men. Jupiter had him
chained to a rock on Mount Caucasus, where a vulture preyed on his
liver, which was renewed as fast as devoured. This state of torment
might have been brought to an end at any time by Prometheus, if he had
been willing to submit to his oppressor; for he possessed a secret which
involved the stability of Jove’s throne, and if he would have revealed
it, he might have been at once taken into favor. But that he disdained
to do. He has therefore become the symbol of magnanimous endurance of
unmerited suffering, and strength of will resisting oppression.

Byron and Shelley have both treated this theme. The following are
Byron’s lines:

    “Titan! to whose immortal eyes
      The sufferings of mortality,
      Seen in their sad reality,
    Were not as things that gods despise;
    What was thy pity’s recompense?
    A silent suffering, and intense;
    The rock, the vulture, and the chain;
    All that the proud can feel of pain;
    The agony they do not show;
    The suffocating sense of woe.

    “Thy godlike crime was to be kind;
      To render with thy precepts less
      The sum of human wretchedness,
    And strengthen man with his own mind.
      And, baffled as thou wert from high,
      Still, in thy patient energy
    In the endurance and repulse
      Of thine impenetrable spirit,
    Which earth and heaven could not convulse,
      A mighty lesson we inherit.”

Byron also employs the same allusion, in his “Ode to Napoleon

    “Or, like the thief of fire from heaven,
      Wilt thou withstand the shock?
    And share with him—the unforgiven—
      His vulture and his rock?”


                              CHAPTER III


THE slime with which the earth was covered by the waters of the flood
produced an excessive fertility, which called forth every variety of
production, both bad and good. Among the rest, Python, an enormous
serpent, crept forth, the terror of the people, and lurked in the caves
of Mount Parnassus. Apollo slew him with his arrows—weapons which he
had not before used against any but feeble animals, hares, wild goats,
and such game. In commemoration of this illustrious conquest he
instituted the Pythian games, in which the victor in feats of strength,
swiftness of foot, or in the chariot race was crowned with a wreath of
beech leaves; for the laurel was not yet adopted by Apollo as his own

The famous statue of Apollo called the Belvedere represents the god
after this victory over the serpent Python. To this Byron alludes in his
“Childe Harold,” iv., 161:

    “. . . The lord of the unerring bow,
    The god of life, and poetry, and light,
    The Sun, in human limbs arrayed, and brow
    All radiant from his triumph in the fight.
    The shaft has just been shot; the arrow bright
    With an immortal’s vengeance; in his eye
    And nostril, beautiful disdain, and might
    And majesty flash their full lightnings by,
    Developing in that one glance the Deity.”

                           APOLLO AND DAPHNE

Daphne was Apollo’s first love. It was not brought about by accident,
but by the malice of Cupid. Apollo saw the boy playing with his bow and
arrows; and being himself elated with his recent victory over Python, he
said to him, “What have you to do with warlike weapons, saucy boy? Leave
them for hands worthy of them. Behold the conquest I have won by means
of them over the vast serpent who stretched his poisonous body over
acres of the plain! Be content with your torch, child, and kindle up
your flames, as you call them, where you will, but presume not to meddle
with my weapons.” Venus’s boy heard these words, and rejoined, “Your
arrows may strike all things else, Apollo, but mine shall strike you.”
So saying, he took his stand on a rock of Parnassus, and drew from his
quiver two arrows of different workmanship, one to excite love, the
other to repel it. The former was of gold and sharp pointed, the latter
blunt and tipped with lead. With the leaden shaft he struck the nymph
Daphne, the daughter of the river god Peneus, and with the golden one
Apollo, through the heart. Forthwith the god was seized with love for
the maiden, and she abhorred the thought of loving. Her delight was in
woodland sports and in the spoils of the chase. Many lovers sought her,
but she spurned them all, ranging the woods, and taking no thought of
Cupid nor of Hymen. Her father often said to her, “Daughter, you owe me
a son-in-law; you owe me grandchildren.” She, hating the thought of
marriage as a crime, with her beautiful face tinged all over with
blushes, threw her arms around her father’s neck, and said, “Dearest
father, grant me this favor, that I may always remain unmarried, like
Diana.” He consented, but at the same time said, “Your own face will
forbid it.”

Apollo loved her, and longed to obtain her; and he who gives oracles to
all the world was not wise enough to look into his own fortunes. He saw
her hair flung loose over her shoulders, and said, “If so charming in
disorder, what would it be if arranged?” He saw her eyes bright as
stars; he saw her lips, and was not satisfied with only seeing them. He
admired her hands and arms, naked to the shoulder, and whatever was
hidden from view he imagined more beautiful still. He followed her; she
fled, swifter than the wind, and delayed not a moment at his entreaties.
“Stay,” said he, “daughter of Peneus; I am not a foe. Do not fly me as a
lamb flies the wolf, or a dove the hawk. It is for love I pursue you.
You make me miserable, for fear you should fall and hurt yourself on
these stones, and I should be the cause. Pray run slower, and I will
follow slower. I am no clown, no rude peasant. Jupiter is my father, and
I am lord of Delphos and Tenedos, and know all things, present and
future. I am the god of song and the lyre. My arrows fly true to the
mark; but, alas! an arrow more fatal than mine has pierced my heart! I
am the god of medicine, and know the virtues of all healing plants.
Alas! I suffer a malady that no balm can cure!”

The nymph continued her flight, and left his plea half uttered. And even
as she fled she charmed him. The wind blew her garments, and her unbound
hair streamed loose behind her. The god grew impatient to find his
wooings thrown away, and, sped by Cupid, gained upon her in the race. It
was like a hound pursuing a hare, with open jaws ready to seize, while
the feebler animal darts forward, slipping from the very grasp. So flew
the god and the virgin—he on the wings of love, and she on those of
fear. The pursuer is the more rapid, however, and gains upon her, and
his panting breath blows upon her hair. Her strength begins to fail,
and, ready to sink, she calls upon her father, the river god: “Help me,
Peneus! open the earth to enclose me, or change my form, which has
brought me into this danger!” Scarcely had she spoken, when a stiffness
seized all her limbs; her bosom began to be enclosed in a tender bark;
her hair became leaves; her arms became branches; her foot stuck fast in
the ground, as a root; her face became a tree-top, retaining nothing of
its former self but its beauty. Apollo stood amazed. He touched the
stem, and felt the flesh tremble under the new bark. He embraced the
branches, and lavished kisses on the wood. The branches shrank from his
lips. “Since you cannot be my wife,” said he, “you shall assuredly be my
tree. I will wear you for my crown; I will decorate with you my harp and
my quiver; and when the great Roman conquerors lead up the triumphal
pomp to the Capitol, you shall be woven into wreaths for their brows.
And, as eternal youth is mine, you also shall be always green, and your
leaf know no decay.” The nymph, now changed into a Laurel tree, bowed
its head in grateful acknowledgment.

That Apollo should be the god both of music and poetry will not appear
strange, but that medicine should also be assigned to his province, may.
The poet Armstrong, himself a physician, thus accounts for it:

    “Music exalts each joy, allays each grief,
     Expels diseases, softens every pain;
     And hence the wise of ancient days adored
     One power of physic, melody, and song.”

The story of Apollo and Daphne is often alluded to by the poets. Waller
applies it to the case of one whose amatory verses, though they did not
soften the heart of his mistress, yet won for the poet wide-spread fame:

    “Yet what he sung in his immortal strain,
    Though unsuccessful, was not sung in vain.
    All but the nymph that should redress his wrong,
    Attend his passion and approve his song.
    Like Phœbus thus, acquiring unsought praise,
    He caught at love and filled his arms with bays.”

The following stanza from Shelley’s “Adonais” alludes to Byron’s early
quarrel with the reviewers:

     “The herded wolves, bold only to pursue;
      The obscene ravens, clamorous o’er the dead;
      The vultures, to the conqueror’s banner true,
      Who feed where Desolation first has fed,
      And whose wings rain contagion: how they fled,
      When like Apollo, from his golden bow,
      The Pythian of the age one arrow sped
      And smiled! The spoilers tempt no second blow;
    They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them as they go.”

                           PYRAMUS AND THISBE

Pyramus was the handsomest youth, and Thisbe the fairest maiden, in all
Babylonia, where Semiramis reigned. Their parents occupied adjoining
houses; and neighborhood brought the young people together, and
acquaintance ripened into love. They would gladly have married, but
their parents forbade. One thing, however, they could not forbid—that
love should glow with equal ardor in the bosoms of both. They conversed
by signs and glances, and the fire burned more intensely for being
covered up. In the wall that parted the two houses there was a crack,
caused by some fault in the structure. No one had remarked it before,
but the lovers discovered it. What will not love discover! It afforded a
passage to the voice; and tender messages used to pass backward and
forward through the gap. As they stood, Pyramus on this side, Thisbe on
that, their breaths would mingle. “Cruel wall,” they said, “why do you
keep two lovers apart? But we will not be ungrateful. We owe you, we
confess, the privilege of transmitting loving words to willing ears.”
Such words they uttered on different sides of the wall; and when night
came and they must say farewell, they pressed their lips upon the wall,
she on her side, he on his, as they could come no nearer.

Next morning, when Aurora had put out the stars, and the sun had melted
the frost from the grass, they met at the accustomed spot. Then, after
lamenting their hard fate, they agreed that next night, when all was
still, they would slip away from watchful eyes, leave their dwellings
and walk out into the fields; and to insure a meeting, repair to a
well-known edifice standing without the city’s bounds, called the Tomb
of Ninus, and that the one who came first should await the other at the
foot of a certain tree. It was a white mulberry tree, and stood near a
cool spring. All was agreed on, and they waited impatiently for the sun
to go down beneath the waters and night to rise up from them. Then
cautiously Thisbe stole forth, unobserved by the family, her head
covered with a veil, made her way to the monument and sat down under the
tree. As she sat alone in the dim light of the evening she descried a
lioness, her jaws reeking with recent slaughter, approaching the
fountain to slake her thirst. Thisbe fled at the sight, and sought
refuge in the hollow of a rock. As she fled she dropped her veil. The
lioness after drinking at the spring turned to retreat to the woods, and
seeing the veil on the ground, tossed and rent it with her bloody mouth.

Pyramus, having been delayed, now approached the place of meeting. He
saw in the sand the footsteps of the lion, and the color fled from his
cheeks at the sight. Presently he found the veil all rent and bloody. “O
hapless girl,” said he, “I have been the cause of thy death! Thou, more
worthy of life than I, hast fallen the first victim. I will follow. I am
the guilty cause, in tempting thee forth to a place of such peril, and
not being myself on the spot to guard thee. Come forth, ye lions, from
the rocks, and tear this guilty body with your teeth.” He took up the
veil, carried it with him to the appointed tree, and covered it with
kisses and with tears. “_My_ blood also shall stain your texture,” said
he, and drawing his sword plunged it into his heart. The blood spurted
from the wound, and tinged the white mulberries of the tree all red; and
sinking into the earth reached the roots, so that the red color mounted
through the trunk to the fruit.

By this time Thisbe, still trembling with fear, yet wishing not to
disappoint her lover, stepped cautiously forth, looking anxiously for
the youth, eager to tell him the danger she had escaped. When she came
to the spot and saw the changed color of the mulberries she doubted
whether it was the same place. While she hesitated she saw the form of
one struggling in the agonies of death. She started back, a shudder ran
through her frame as a ripple on the face of the still water when a
sudden breeze sweeps over it. But as soon as she recognized her lover,
she screamed and beat her breast, embracing the lifeless body, pouring
tears into its wounds, and imprinting kisses on the cold lips. “O
Pyramus,” she cried, “what has done this? Answer me, Pyramus; it is your
own Thisbe that speaks. Hear me, dearest, and lift that drooping head!”
At the name of Thisbe Pyramus opened his eyes, then closed them again.
She saw her veil stained with blood and the scabbard empty of its sword.
“Thy own hand has slain thee, and for my sake,” she said. “I too can be
brave for once, and my love is as strong as thine. I will follow thee in
death, for I have been the cause; and death which alone could part us
shall not prevent my joining thee. And ye, unhappy parents of us both,
deny us not our united request. As love and death have joined us, let
one tomb contain us. And thou, tree, retain the marks of slaughter. Let
thy berries still serve for memorials of our blood.” So saying she
plunged the sword into her breast. Her parents ratified her wish, the
gods also ratified it. The two bodies were buried in one sepulchre, and
the tree ever after brought forth purple berries, as it does to this

Moore, in the “Sylph’s Ball,” speaking of Davy’s Safety Lamp, is
reminded of the wall that separated Thisbe and her lover:

    “O for that Lamp’s metallic gauze,
      That curtain of protecting wire,
    Which Davy delicately draws
      Around illicit, dangerous fire!

    The wall he sets ’twixt Flame and Air,
      (Like that which barred young Thisbe’s bliss,)
    Through whose small holes this dangerous pair
      May see each other, but not kiss.”

In Mickle’s translation of the “Lusiad” occurs the following allusion to
the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, and the metamorphosis of the
mulberries. The poet is describing the Island of Love:

    “. . . here each gift Pomona’s hand bestows
    In cultured garden, free uncultured flows,
    The flavor sweeter and the hue more fair
    Than e’er was fostered by the hand of care.
    The cherry here in shining crimson glows,
    And stained with lovers’ blood, in pendent rows,
    The mulberries o’erload the bending boughs.”

If any of our young readers can be so hard-hearted as to enjoy a laugh
at the expense of poor Pyramus and Thisbe, they may find an opportunity
by turning to Shakspeare’s play of the “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” where
it is most amusingly burlesqued.

                          CEPHALUS AND PROCRIS

Cephalus was a beautiful youth and fond of manly sports. He would rise
before the dawn to pursue the chase. Aurora saw him when she first
looked forth, fell in love with him, and stole him away. But Cephalus
was just married to a charming wife whom he devotedly loved. Her name
was Procris. She was a favorite of Diana, the goddess of hunting, who
had given her a dog which could outrun every rival, and a javelin which
would never fail of its mark; and Procris gave these presents to her
husband. Cephalus was so happy in his wife that he resisted all the
entreaties of Aurora, and she finally dismissed him in displeasure,
saying, “Go, ungrateful mortal, keep your wife, whom, if I am not much
mistaken, you will one day be very sorry you ever saw again.”

Cephalus returned, and was as happy as ever in his wife and his woodland
sports. Now it happened some angry deity had sent a ravenous fox to
annoy the country; and the hunters turned out in great strength to
capture it. Their efforts were all in vain; no dog could run it down;
and at last they came to Cephalus to borrow his famous dog, whose name
was Lelaps. No sooner was the dog let loose than he darted off, quicker
than their eye could follow him. If they had not seen his footprints in
the sand they would have thought he flew. Cephalus and others stood on a
hill and saw the race. The fox tried every art; he ran in a circle and
turned on his track, the dog close upon him, with open jaws, snapping at
his heels, but biting only the air. Cephalus was about to use his
javelin, when suddenly he saw both dog and game stop instantly. The
heavenly powers who had given both were not willing that either should
conquer. In the very attitude of life and action they were turned into
stone. So lifelike and natural did they look, you would have thought, as
you looked at them, that one was going to bark, the other to leap

Cephalus, though he had lost his dog, still continued to take delight in
the chase. He would go out at early morning, ranging the woods and hills
unaccompanied by any one, needing no help, for his javelin was a sure
weapon in all cases. Fatigued with hunting, when the sun got high he
would seek a shady nook where a cool stream flowed, and, stretched on
the grass, with his garments thrown aside, would enjoy the breeze.
Sometimes he would say aloud, “Come, sweet breeze, come and fan my
breast, come and allay the heat that burns me.” Some one passing by one
day heard him talking in this way to the air, and, foolishly believing
that he was talking to some maiden, went and told the secret to Procris,
Cephalus’s wife. Love is credulous. Procris, at the sudden shock,
fainted away. Presently recovering, she said, “It cannot be true; I will
not believe it unless I myself am a witness to it.” So she waited, with
anxious heart, till the next morning, when Cephalus went to hunt as
usual. Then she stole out after him, and concealed herself in the place
where the informer directed her. Cephalus came as he was wont when tired
with sport, and stretched himself on the green bank, saying, “Come,
sweet breeze, come and fan me; you know how I love you! you make the
groves and my solitary rambles delightful.” He was running on in this
way when he heard, or thought he heard, a sound as of a sob in the
bushes. Supposing it some wild animal, he threw his javelin at the spot.
A cry from his beloved Procris told him that the weapon had too surely
met its mark. He rushed to the place, and found her bleeding, and with
sinking strength endeavoring to draw forth from the wound the javelin,
her own gift. Cephalus raised her from the earth, strove to stanch the
blood, and called her to revive and not to leave him miserable, to
reproach himself with her death. She opened her feeble eyes, and forced
herself to utter these few words: “I implore you, if you have ever loved
me, if I have ever deserved kindness at your hands, my husband, grant me
this last request; do not marry that odious Breeze!” This disclosed the
whole mystery: but alas! what advantage to disclose it now! She died;
but her face wore a calm expression, and she looked pityingly and
forgivingly on her husband when he made her understand the truth.

Moore, in his “Legendary Ballads,” has one on Cephalus and Procris,
beginning thus:

    “A hunter once in a grove reclined,
      To shun the noon’s bright eye,
    And oft he wooed the wandering wind
      To cool his brow with its sigh.
    While mute lay even the wild bee’s hum,
      Nor breath could stir the aspen’s hair,
    His song was still, ‘Sweet Air, O come!’
      While Echo answered, ‘Come, sweet Air!’”


                               CHAPTER IV


JUNO one day perceived it suddenly grow dark, and immediately suspected
that her husband had raised a cloud to hide some of his doings that
would not bear the light. She brushed away the cloud, and saw her
husband on the banks of a glassy river, with a beautiful heifer standing
near him. Juno suspected the heifer’s form concealed some fair nymph of
mortal mould—as was, indeed the case; for it was Io, the daughter of
the river god Inachus, whom Jupiter had been flirting with, and, when he
became aware of the approach of his wife, had changed into that form.

Juno joined her husband, and noticing the heifer praised its beauty, and
asked whose it was, and of what herd. Jupiter, to stop questions,
replied that it was a fresh creation from the earth. Juno asked to have
it as a gift. What could Jupiter do? He was loath to give his mistress
to his wife; yet how refuse so trifling a present as a simple heifer? He
could not, without exciting suspicion; so he consented. The goddess was
not yet relieved of her suspicions; so she delivered the heifer to
Argus, to be strictly watched.

Now Argus had a hundred eyes in his head, and never went to sleep with
more than two at a time, so that he kept watch of Io constantly. He
suffered her to feed through the day, and at night tied her up with a
vile rope round her neck. She would have stretched out her arms to
implore freedom of Argus, but she had no arms to stretch out, and her
voice was a bellow that frightened even herself. She saw her father and
her sisters, went near them, and suffered them to pat her back, and
heard them admire her beauty. Her father reached her a tuft of grass,
and she licked the outstretched hand. She longed to make herself known
to him, and would have uttered her wish; but, alas! words were wanting.
At length she bethought herself of writing, and inscribed her name—it
was a short one—with her hoof on the sand. Inachus recognized it, and
discovering that his daughter, whom he had long sought in vain, was
hidden under this disguise, mourned over her, and, embracing her white
neck, exclaimed, “Alas! my daughter, it would have been a less grief to
have lost you altogether!” While he thus lamented, Argus, observing,
came and drove her away, and took his seat on a high bank, from whence
he could see all around in every direction.

Jupiter was troubled at beholding the sufferings of his mistress, and
calling Mercury told him to go and despatch Argus. Mercury made haste,
put his winged slippers on his feet, and cap on his head, took his
sleep-producing wand, and leaped down from the heavenly towers to the
earth. There he laid aside his wings, and kept only his wand, with which
he presented himself as a shepherd driving his flock. As he strolled on
he blew upon his pipes. These were what are called the Syrinx or Pandean
pipes. Argus listened with delight, for he had never seen the instrument
before. “Young man,” said he, “come and take a seat by me on this stone.
There is no better place for your flocks to graze in than hereabouts,
and here is a pleasant shade such as shepherds love.” Mercury sat down,
talked, and told stories till it grew late, and played upon his pipes
his most soothing strains, hoping to lull the watchful eyes to sleep,
but all in vain; for Argus still contrived to keep some of his eyes open
though he shut the rest.

Among other stories, Mercury told him how the instrument on which he
played was invented. “There was a certain nymph, whose name was Syrinx,
who was much beloved by the satyrs and spirits of the wood; but she
would have none of them, but was a faithful worshipper of Diana, and
followed the chase. You would have thought it was Diana herself, had you
seen her in her hunting dress, only that her bow was of horn and Diana’s
of silver. One day, as she was returning from the chase, Pan met her,
told her just this, and added more of the same sort. She ran away,
without stopping to hear his compliments, and he pursued till she came
to the bank of the river, where he overtook her, and she had only time
to call for help on her friends the water nymphs. They heard and
consented. Pan threw his arms around what he supposed to be the form of
the nymph, and found he embraced only a tuft of reeds! As he breathed a
sigh, the air sounded through the reeds, and produced a plaintive
melody. The god, charmed with the novelty and with the sweetness of the
music, said, ‘Thus, then, at least, you shall be mine.’ And he took some
of the reeds, and placing them together, of unequal lengths, side by
side, made an instrument which he called Syrinx, in honor of the nymph.”
Before Mercury had finished his story he saw Argus’s eyes all asleep. As
his head nodded forward on his breast, Mercury with one stroke cut his
neck through, and tumbled his head down the rocks. O hapless Argus! the
light of your hundred eyes is quenched at once! Juno took them and put
them as ornaments on the tail of her peacock, where they remain to this

But the vengeance of Juno was not yet satiated. She sent a gadfly to
torment Io, who fled over the whole world from its pursuit. She swam
through the Ionian sea, which derived its name from her, then roamed
over the plains of Illyria, ascended Mount Hæmus, and crossed the
Thracian strait, thence named the Bosphorus (cow-ford), rambled on
through Scythia, and the country of the Cimmerians, and arrived at last
on the banks of the Nile. At length Jupiter interceded for her, and upon
his promising not to pay her any more attentions Juno consented to
restore her to her form. It was curious to see her gradually recover her
former self. The coarse hairs fell from her body, her horns shrank up,
her eyes grew narrower, her mouth shorter; hands and fingers came
instead of hoofs to her forefeet; in fine there was nothing left of the
heifer, except her beauty. At first she was afraid to speak, for fear
she should low, but gradually she recovered her confidence and was
restored to her father and sisters.

In a poem dedicated to Leigh Hunt, by Keats, the following allusion to
the story of Pan and Syrinx occurs:

    “So did he feel who pulled the bough aside,
    That we might look into a forest wide,
      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    Telling us how fair trembling Syrinx fled
    Arcadian Pan, with such a fearful dread.
    Poor nymph—poor Pan—how he did weep to find
    Nought but a lovely sighing of the wind
    Along the reedy stream; a half-heard strain,
    Full of sweet desolation, balmy pain.”


Callisto was another maiden who excited the jealousy of Juno, and the
goddess changed her into a bear. “I will take away,” said she, “that
beauty with which you have captivated my husband.” Down fell Callisto on
her hands and knees; she tried to stretch out her arms in
supplication—they were already beginning to be covered with black hair.
Her hands grew rounded, became armed with crooked claws, and served for
feet; her mouth, which Jove used to praise for its beauty, became a
horrid pair of jaws; her voice, which if unchanged would have moved the
heart to pity, became a growl, more fit to inspire terror. Yet her
former disposition remained, and with continual groaning, she bemoaned
her fate, and stood upright as well as she could, lifting up her paws to
beg for mercy, and felt that Jove was unkind, though she could not tell
him so. Ah, how often, afraid to stay in the woods all night alone, she
wandered about the neighborhood of her former haunts; how often,
frightened by the dogs, did she, so lately a huntress, fly in terror
from the hunters! Often she fled from the wild beasts, forgetting that
she was now a wild beast herself; and, bear as she was, was afraid of
the bears.

One day a youth espied her as he was hunting. She saw him and recognized
him as her own son, now grown a young man. She stopped and felt inclined
to embrace him. As she was about to approach, he, alarmed, raised his
hunting spear, and was on the point of transfixing her, when Jupiter,
beholding, arrested the crime, and snatching away both of them, placed
them in the heavens as the Great and Little Bear.

Juno was in a rage to see her rival so set in honor, and hastened to
ancient Tethys and Oceanus, the powers of ocean, and in answer to their
inquiries thus told the cause of her coming: “Do you ask why I, the
queen of the gods, have left the heavenly plains and sought your depths?
Learn that I am supplanted in heaven—my place is given to another. You
will hardly believe me; but look when night darkens the world, and you
shall see the two of whom I have so much reason to complain exalted to
the heavens, in that part where the circle is the smallest, in the
neighborhood of the pole. Why should any one hereafter tremble at the
thought of offending Juno, when such rewards are the consequence of my
displeasure? See what I have been able to effect! I forbade her to wear
the human form—she is placed among the stars! So do my punishments
result—such is the extent of my power! Better that she should have
resumed her former shape, as I permitted Io to do. Perhaps he means to
marry her, and put me away! But you, my foster-parents, if you feel for
me, and see with displeasure this unworthy treatment of me, show it, I
beseech you, by forbidding this guilty couple from coming into your
waters.” The powers of the ocean assented, and consequently the two
constellations of the Great and Little Bear move round and round in
heaven, but never sink, as the other stars do, beneath the ocean.

Milton alludes to the fact that the constellation of the Bear never
sets, when he says:

    “Let my lamp at midnight hour
    Be seen in some high lonely tower,
    Where I may oft outwatch the Bear,” etc.

And Prometheus, in J. R. Lowell’s poem, says:

    “One after one the stars have risen and set,
    Sparkling upon the hoar frost of my chain;
    The Bear that prowled all night about the fold
    Of the North-star, hath shrunk into his den,
    Scared by the blithesome footsteps of the Dawn.”

The last star in the tail of the Little Bear is the Pole-star, called
also the Cynosure. Milton says:

    “Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures
    While the landscape round it measures.
      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    Towers and battlements it sees
    Bosomed high in tufted trees,
    Where perhaps some beauty lies
    The Cynosure of neighboring eyes.”

The reference here is both to the Pole-star as the guide of mariners,
and to the magnetic attraction of the North. He calls it also the “Star
of Arcady,” because Callisto’s boy was named Arcas, and they lived in
Arcadia. In “Comus,” the brother, benighted in the woods, says:

    “. . . Some gentle taper!
    Though a rush candle, from the wicker hole
    Of some clay habitation, visit us
    With thy long levelled rule of streaming light,
    And thou shalt be our star of Arcady,
    Or Tyrian Cynosure.”

                            DIANA AND ACTÆON

Thus in two instances we have seen Juno’s severity to her rivals; now
let us learn how a virgin goddess punished an invader of her privacy.

It was midday, and the sun stood equally distant from either goal, when
young Actæon, son of King Cadmus, thus addressed the youths who with him
were hunting the stag in the mountains:

“Friends, our nets and our weapons are wet with the blood of our
victims; we have had sport enough for one day, and to-morrow we can
renew our labors. Now, while Phœbus parches the earth, let us put by our
implements and indulge ourselves with rest.”

There was a valley thick enclosed with cypresses and pines, sacred to
the huntress queen, Diana. In the extremity of the valley was a cave,
not adorned with art, but nature had counterfeited art in its
construction, for she had turned the arch of its roof with stones as
delicately fitted as if by the hand of man. A fountain burst out from
one side, whose open basin was bounded by a grassy rim. Here the goddess
of the woods used to come when weary with hunting and lave her virgin
limbs in the sparkling water.

One day, having repaired thither with her nymphs, she handed her
javelin, her quiver, and her bow to one, her robe to another, while a
third unbound the sandals from her feet. Then Crocale, the most skilful
of them, arranged her hair, and Nephele, Hyale, and the rest drew water
in capacious urns. While the goddess was thus employed in the labors of
the toilet, behold Actæon, having quitted his companions, and rambling
without any especial object, came to the place, led thither by his
destiny. As he presented himself at the entrance of the cave, the
nymphs, seeing a man, screamed and rushed towards the goddess to hide
her with their bodies. But she was taller than the rest and overtopped
them all by a head. Such a color as tinges the clouds at sunset or at
dawn came over the countenance of Diana thus taken by surprise.
Surrounded as she was by her nymphs, she yet turned half away, and
sought with a sudden impulse for her arrows. As they were not at hand,
she dashed the water into the face of the intruder, adding these words:
“Now go and tell, if you can, that you have seen Diana unapparelled.”
Immediately a pair of branching stag’s horns grew out of his head, his
neck gained in length, his ears grew sharp-pointed, his hands became
feet, his arms long legs, his body was covered with a hairy spotted
hide. Fear took the place of his former boldness, and the hero fled. He
could not but admire his own speed; but when he saw his horns in the
water, “Ah, wretched me!” he would have said, but no sound followed the
effort. He groaned, and tears flowed down the face which had taken the
place of his own. Yet his consciousness remained. What shall he do?—go
home to seek the palace, or lie hid in the woods? The latter he was
afraid, the former he was ashamed, to do. While he hesitated the dogs
saw him. First Melampus, a Spartan dog, gave the signal with his bark,
then Pamphagus, Dorceus, Lelaps, Theron, Nape, Tigris, and all the rest,
rushed after him swifter than the wind. Over rocks and cliffs, through
mountain gorges that seemed impracticable, he fled and they followed.
Where he had often chased the stag and cheered on his pack, his pack now
chased him, cheered on by his huntsmen. He longed to cry out, “I am
Actæon; recognize your master!” but the words came not at his will. The
air resounded with the bark of the dogs. Presently one fastened on his
back, another seized his shoulder. While they held their master, the
rest of the pack came up and buried their teeth in his flesh. He
groaned,—not in a human voice, yet certainly not in a stag’s,—and
falling on his knees, raised his eyes, and would have raised his arms in
supplication, if he had had them. His friends and fellow-huntsmen
cheered on the dogs, and looked everywhere for Actæon, calling on him to
join the sport. At the sound of his name he turned his head, and heard
them regret that he should be away. He earnestly wished he was. He would
have been well pleased to see the exploits of his dogs, but to feel them
was too much. They were all around him, rending and tearing; and it was
not till they had torn his life out that the anger of Diana was

In Shelley’s poem “Adonais” is the following allusion to the story of

      “’Midst others of less note came one frail form,
      A phantom among men: companionless
      As the last cloud of an expiring storm,
      Whose thunder is its knell; he, as I guess,
      Had gazed on Nature’s naked loveliness,
      Actæon-like, and now he fled astray
      With feeble steps o’er the world’s wilderness;
      And his own Thoughts, along that rugged way,
    Pursued like raging hounds their father and their prey.”
                                            Stanza 31.

The allusion is probably to Shelley himself.

                         LATONA AND THE RUSTICS

Some thought the goddess in this instance more severe than was just,
while others praised her conduct as strictly consistent with her virgin
dignity. As usual, the recent event brought older ones to mind, and one
of the bystanders told this story: “Some countrymen of Lycia once
insulted the goddess Latona, but not with impunity. When I was young, my
father, who had grown too old for active labors, sent me to Lycia to
drive thence some choice oxen, and there I saw the very pond and marsh
where the wonder happened. Near by stood an ancient altar, black with
the smoke of sacrifice and almost buried among the reeds. I inquired
whose altar it might be, whether of Faunus or the Naiads, or some god of
the neighboring mountain, and one of the country people replied, ‘No
mountain or river god possesses this altar, but she whom royal Juno in
her jealousy drove from land to land, denying her any spot of earth
whereon to rear her twins.’ Bearing in her arms the infant deities,
Latona reached this land, weary with her burden and parched with thirst.
By chance she espied on the bottom of the valley this pond of clear
water, where the country people were at work gathering willows and
osiers. The goddess approached, and kneeling on the bank would have
slaked her thirst in the cool stream, but the rustics forbade her. ‘Why
do you refuse me water?’ said she; ‘water is free to all. Nature allows
no one to claim as property the sunshine, the air, or the water. I come
to take my share of the common blessing. Yet I ask it of you as a favor.
I have no intention of washing my limbs in it, weary though they be, but
only to quench my thirst. My mouth is so dry that I can hardly speak. A
draught of water would be nectar to me; it would revive me, and I would
own myself indebted to you for life itself. Let these infants move your
pity, who stretch out their little arms as if to plead for me;’ and the
children, as it happened, were stretching out their arms.

“Who would not have been moved with these gentle words of the goddess?
But these clowns persisted in their rudeness; they even added jeers and
threats of violence if she did not leave the place. Nor was this all.
They waded into the pond and stirred up the mud with their feet, so as
to make the water unfit to drink. Latona was so angry that she ceased to
mind her thirst. She no longer supplicated the clowns, but lifting her
hands to heaven exclaimed, ‘May they never quit that pool, but pass
their lives there!’ And it came to pass accordingly. They now live in
the water, sometimes totally submerged, then raising their heads above
the surface or swimming upon it. Sometimes they come out upon the bank,
but soon leap back again into the water. They still use their base
voices in railing, and though they have the water all to themselves, are
not ashamed to croak in the midst of it. Their voices are harsh, their
throats bloated, their mouths have become stretched by constant railing,
their necks have shrunk up and disappeared, and their heads are joined
to their bodies. Their backs are green, their disproportioned bellies
white, and in short they are now frogs, and dwell in the slimy pool.”

This story explains the allusion in one of Milton’s sonnets, “On the
detraction which followed upon his writing certain treatises.”

    “I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs
      By the known laws of ancient liberty,
      When straight a barbarous noise environs me
    Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes and dogs.
    As when those hinds that were transformed to frogs
      Railed at Latona’s twin-born progeny,
      Which after held the sun and moon in fee.”

The persecution which Latona experienced from Juno is alluded to in the
story. The tradition was that the future mother of Apollo and Diana,
flying from the wrath of Juno, besought all the islands of the Ægean to
afford her a place of rest, but all feared too much the potent queen of
heaven to assist her rival. Delos alone consented to become the
birthplace of the future deities. Delos was then a floating island; but
when Latona arrived there, Jupiter fastened it with adamantine chains to
the bottom of the sea, that it might be a secure resting-place for his
beloved. Byron alludes to Delos in his “Don Juan”:

    “The isles of Greece! the isles of Greece!
      Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
    Where grew the arts of war and peace,
      Where Delos rose and Phœbus sprung!”


                               CHAPTER V


PHAËTON was the son of Apollo and the nymph Clymene. One day a
schoolfellow laughed at the idea of his being the son of the god, and
Phaëton went in rage and shame and reported it to his mother. “If,” said
he, “I am indeed of heavenly birth, give me, mother, some proof of it,
and establish my claim to the honor.” Clymene stretched forth her hands
towards the skies, and said, “I call to witness the Sun which looks down
upon us, that I have told you the truth. If I speak falsely, let this be
the last time I behold his light. But it needs not much labor to go and
inquire for yourself; the land whence the Sun rises lies next to ours.
Go and demand of him whether he will own you as a son.” Phaëton heard
with delight. He travelled to India, which lies directly in the regions
of sunrise; and, full of hope and pride, approached the goal whence his
parent begins his course.

The palace of the Sun stood reared aloft on columns, glittering with
gold and precious stones, while polished ivory formed the ceilings, and
silver the doors. The workmanship surpassed the material;[7] for upon
the walls Vulcan had represented earth, sea, and skies, with their
inhabitants. In the sea were the nymphs, some sporting in the waves,
some riding on the backs of fishes, while others sat upon the rocks and
dried their sea-green hair. Their faces were not all alike, nor yet
unlike,—but such as sisters’ ought to be.[8] The earth had its towns
and forests and rivers and rustic divinities. Over all was carved the
likeness of the glorious heaven; and on the silver doors the twelve
signs of the zodiac, six on each side.

Clymene’s son advanced up the steep ascent, and entered the halls of his
disputed father. He approached the paternal presence, but stopped at a
distance, for the light was more than he could bear. Phœbus, arrayed in
a purple vesture, sat on a throne, which glittered as with diamonds. On
his right hand and his left stood the Day, the Month, and the Year, and,
at regular intervals, the Hours. Spring stood with her head crowned with
flowers, and Summer, with garment cast aside, and a garland formed of
spears of ripened grain, and Autumn, with his feet stained with
grape-juice, and icy Winter, with his hair stiffened with hoar frost.
Surrounded by these attendants, the Sun, with the eye that sees
everything, beheld the youth dazzled with the novelty and splendor of
the scene, and inquired the purpose of his errand. The youth replied, “O
light of the boundless world, Phœbus, my father,—if you permit me to
use that name,—give me some proof, I beseech you, by which I may be
known as yours.” He ceased; and his father, laying aside the beams that
shone all around his head, bade him approach, and embracing him, said,
“My son, you deserve not to be disowned, and I confirm what your mother
has told you. To put an end to your doubts, ask what you will, the gift
shall be yours. I call to witness that dreadful lake, which I never saw,
but which we gods swear by in our most solemn engagements.” Phaëton
immediately asked to be permitted for one day to drive the chariot of
the sun. The father repented of his promise; thrice and four times he
shook his radiant head in warning. “I have spoken rashly,” said he;
“this only request I would fain deny. I beg you to withdraw it. It is
not a safe boon, nor one, my Phaëton, suited to your youth and strength.
Your lot is mortal, and you ask what is beyond a mortal’s power. In your
ignorance you aspire to do that which not even the gods themselves may
do. None but myself may drive the flaming car of day. Not even Jupiter,
whose terrible right arm hurls the thunderbolts. The first part of the
way is steep, and such as the horses when fresh in the morning can
hardly climb; the middle is high up in the heavens, whence I myself can
scarcely, without alarm, look down and behold the earth and sea
stretched beneath me. The last part of the road descends rapidly, and
requires most careful driving. Tethys, who is waiting to receive me,
often trembles for me lest I should fall headlong. Add to all this, the
heaven is all the time turning round and carrying the stars with it. I
have to be perpetually on my guard lest that movement, which sweeps
everything else along, should hurry me also away. Suppose I should lend
you the chariot, what would you do? Could you keep your course while the
sphere was revolving under you? Perhaps you think that there are forests
and cities, the abodes of gods, and palaces and temples on the way. On
the contrary, the road is through the midst of frightful monsters. You
pass by the horns of the Bull, in front of the Archer, and near the
Lion’s jaws, and where the Scorpion stretches its arms in one direction
and the Crab in another. Nor will you find it easy to guide those
horses, with their breasts full of fire that they breathe forth from
their mouths and nostrils. I can scarcely govern them myself, when they
are unruly and resist the reins. Beware, my son, lest I be the donor of
a fatal gift; recall your request while yet you may. Do you ask me for a
proof that you are sprung from my blood? I give you a proof in my fears
for you. Look at my face—I would that you could look into my breast,
you would there see all a father’s anxiety. Finally,” he continued,
“look round the world and choose whatever you will of what earth or sea
contains most precious—ask it and fear no refusal. This only I pray you
not to urge. It is not honor, but destruction you seek. Why do you hang
round my neck and still entreat me? You shall have it if you
persist,—the oath is sworn and must be kept,—but I beg you to choose
more wisely.”

He ended; but the youth rejected all admonition and held to his demand.
So, having resisted as long as he could, Phœbus at last led the way to
where stood the lofty chariot.

It was of gold, the gift of Vulcan; the axle was of gold, the pole and
wheels of gold, the spokes of silver. Along the seat were rows of
chrysolites and diamonds which reflected all around the brightness of
the sun. While the daring youth gazed in admiration, the early Dawn
threw open the purple doors of the east, and showed the pathway strewn
with roses. The stars withdrew, marshalled by the Day-star, which last
of all retired also. The father, when he saw the earth beginning to
glow, and the Moon preparing to retire, ordered the Hours to harness up
the horses. They obeyed, and led forth from the lofty stalls the steeds
full fed with ambrosia, and attached the reins. Then the father bathed
the face of his son with a powerful unguent, and made him capable of
enduring the brightness of the flame. He set the rays on his head, and,
with a foreboding sigh, said, “If, my son, you will in this at least
heed my advice, spare the whip and hold tight the reins. They go fast
enough of their own accord; the labor is to hold them in. You are not to
take the straight road directly between the five circles, but turn off
to the left. Keep within the limit of the middle zone, and avoid the
northern and the southern alike. You will see the marks of the wheels,
and they will serve to guide you. And, that the skies and the earth may
each receive their due share of heat, go not too high, or you will burn
the heavenly dwellings, nor too low, or you will set the earth on fire;
the middle course is safest and best.[9] And now I leave you to your
chance, which I hope will plan better for you than you have done for
yourself. Night is passing out of the western gates and we can delay no
longer. Take the reins; but if at last your heart fails you, and you
will benefit by my advice, stay where you are in safety, and suffer me
to light and warm the earth.” The agile youth sprang into the chariot,
stood erect, and grasped the reins with delight, pouring out thanks to
his reluctant parent.

Meanwhile the horses fill the air with their snortings and fiery breath,
and stamp the ground impatient. Now the bars are let down, and the
boundless plain of the universe lies open before them. They dart forward
and cleave the opposing clouds, and outrun the morning breezes which
started from the same eastern goal. The steeds soon perceived that the
load they drew was lighter than usual; and as a ship without ballast is
tossed hither and thither on the sea, so the chariot, without its
accustomed weight, was dashed about as if empty. They rush headlong and
leave the travelled road. He is alarmed, and knows not how to guide
them; nor, if he knew, has he the power. Then, for the first time, the
Great and Little Bear were scorched with heat, and would fain, if it
were possible, have plunged into the water; and the Serpent which lies
coiled up round the north pole, torpid and harmless, grew warm, and with
warmth felt its rage revive. Boötes, they say, fled away, though
encumbered with his plough, and all unused to rapid motion.

When hapless Phaëton looked down upon the earth, now spreading in vast
extent beneath him, he grew pale and his knees shook with terror. In
spite of the glare all around him, the sight of his eyes grew dim. He
wished he had never touched his father’s horses, never learned his
parentage, never prevailed in his request. He is borne along like a
vessel that flies before a tempest, when the pilot can do no more and
betakes himself to his prayers. What shall he do? Much of the heavenly
road is left behind, but more remains before. He turns his eyes from one
direction to the other; now to the goal whence he began his course, now
to the realms of sunset which he is not destined to reach. He loses his
self-command, and knows not what to do,—whether to draw tight the reins
or throw them loose; he forgets the names of the horses. He sees with
terror the monstrous forms scattered over the surface of heaven. Here
the Scorpion extended his two great arms, with his tail and crooked
claws stretching over two signs of the zodiac. When the boy beheld him,
reeking with poison and menacing with his fangs, his courage failed, and
the reins fell from his hands. The horses, when they felt them loose on
their backs, dashed headlong, and unrestrained went off into unknown
regions of the sky, in among the stars, hurling the chariot over
pathless places, now up in high heaven, now down almost to the earth.
The moon saw with astonishment her brother’s chariot running beneath her
own. The clouds begin to smoke, and the mountain tops take fire; the
fields are parched with heat, the plants wither, the trees with their
leafy branches burn, the harvest is ablaze! But these are small things.
Great cities perished, with their walls and towers; whole nations with
their people were consumed to ashes! The forest-clad mountains burned,
Athos and Taurus and Tmolus and Œte; Ida, once celebrated for fountains,
but now all dry; the Muses’ mountain Helicon, and Hæmus; Ætna, with
fires within and without, and Parnassus, with his two peaks, and
Rhodope, forced at last to part with his snowy crown. Her cold climate
was no protection to Scythia, Caucasus burned, and Ossa and Pindus, and,
greater than both, Olympus; the Alps high in air, and the Apennines
crowned with clouds.

Then Phaëton beheld the world on fire, and felt the heat intolerable.
The air he breathed was like the air of a furnace and full of burning
ashes, and the smoke was of a pitchy darkness. He dashed forward he knew
not whither. Then, it is believed, the people of Æthiopia became black
by the blood being forced so suddenly to the surface, and the Libyan
desert was dried up to the condition in which it remains to this day.
The Nymphs of the fountains, with dishevelled hair, mourned their
waters, nor were the rivers safe beneath their banks: Tanais smoked, and
Caicus, Xanthus, and Meander; Babylonian Euphrates and Ganges, Tagus
with golden sands, and Caÿster where the swans resort. Nile fled away
and hid his head in the desert, and there it still remains concealed.
Where he used to discharge his waters through seven mouths into the sea,
there seven dry channels alone remained. The earth cracked open, and
through the chinks light broke into Tartarus, and frightened the king of
shadows and his queen. The sea shrank up. Where before was water, it
became a dry plain; and the mountains that lie beneath the waves lifted
up their heads and became islands. The fishes sought the lowest depths,
and the dolphins no longer ventured as usual to sport on the surface.
Even Nereus, and his wife Doris, with the Nereids, their daughters,
sought the deepest caves for refuge. Thrice Neptune essayed to raise his
head above the surface, and thrice was driven back by the heat. Earth,
surrounded as she was by waters, yet with head and shoulders bare,
screening her face with her hand, looked up to heaven, and with a husky
voice called on Jupiter:

“O ruler of the gods, if I have deserved this treatment, and it is your
will that I perish with fire, why withhold your thunderbolts? Let me at
least fall by your hand. Is this the reward of my fertility, of my
obedient service? Is it for this that I have supplied herbage for
cattle, and fruits for men, and frankincense for your altars? But if I
am unworthy of regard, what has my brother Ocean done to deserve such a
fate? If neither of us can excite your pity, think, I pray you, of your
own heaven, and behold how both the poles are smoking which sustain your
palace, which must fall if they be destroyed. Atlas faints, and scarce
holds up his burden. If sea, earth, and heaven perish, we fall into
ancient Chaos. Save what yet remains to us from the devouring flame. O,
take thought for our deliverance in this awful moment!”

Thus spoke Earth, and overcome with heat and thirst, could say no more.
Then Jupiter omnipotent, calling to witness all the gods, including him
who had lent the chariot, and showing them that all was lost unless
speedy remedy were applied, mounted the lofty tower from whence he
diffuses clouds over the earth, and hurls the forked lightnings. But at
that time not a cloud was to be found to interpose for a screen to
earth, nor was a shower remaining unexhausted. He thundered, and
brandishing a lightning bolt in his right hand launched it against the
charioteer, and struck him at the same moment from his seat and from
existence! Phaëton, with his hair on fire, fell headlong, like a
shooting star which marks the heavens with its brightness as it falls,
and Eridanus, the great river, received him and cooled his burning
frame. The Italian Naiads reared a tomb for him, and inscribed these
words upon the stone:

    “Driver of Phœbus’ chariot. Phaëton,
    Struck by Jove’s thunder, rests beneath this stone.
    He could not rule his father’s car of fire,
    Yet was it much so nobly to aspire.”[10]

His sisters, the Heliades, as they lamented his fate, were turned into
poplar trees, on the banks of the river, and their tears, which
continued to flow, became amber as they dropped into the stream.

Milman, in his poem of “Samor,” makes the following allusion to
Phaëton’s story:

    “As when the palsied universe aghast
    Lay . . . mute and still,
    When drove, so poets sing, the Sun-born youth
    Devious through Heaven’s affrighted signs his sire’s
    Ill-granted chariot. Him the Thunderer hurled
    From th’ empyrean headlong to the gulf
    Of the half-parched Eridanus, where weep
    Even now the sister trees their amber tears
    O’er Phaëton untimely dead.”

In the beautiful lines of Walter Savage Landor, descriptive of the
Sea-shell, there is an allusion to the Sun’s palace and chariot. The
water-nymph says:

    “. . . I have sinuous shells of pearly hue
    Within, and things that lustre have imbibed
    In the sun’s palace porch, where when unyoked
    His chariot wheel stands midway on the wave.
    Shake one and it awakens; then apply
    Its polished lip to your attentive ear,
    And it remembers its august abodes,
    And murmurs as the ocean murmurs there.”
                             —_Gebir_, Book I.


                               CHAPTER VI

                       MIDAS—BAUCIS AND PHILEMON

BACCHUS, on a certain occasion, found his old school-master and
foster-father, Silenus, missing. The old man had been drinking, and in
that state wandered away, and was found by some peasants, who carried
him to their king, Midas. Midas recognized him, and treated him
hospitably, entertaining him for ten days and nights with an unceasing
round of jollity. On the eleventh day he brought Silenus back, and
restored him in safety to his pupil. Whereupon Bacchus offered Midas his
choice of a reward, whatever he might wish. He asked that whatever he
might touch should be changed into _gold_. Bacchus consented, though
sorry that he had not made a better choice. Midas went his way,
rejoicing in his new-acquired power, which he hastened to put to the
test. He could scarce believe his eyes when he found a twig of an oak,
which he plucked from the branch, become gold in his hand. He took up a
stone; it changed to gold. He touched a sod; it did the same. He took an
apple from the tree; you would have thought he had robbed the garden of
the Hesperides. His joy knew no bounds, and as soon as he got home, he
ordered the servants to set a splendid repast on the table. Then he
found to his dismay that whether he touched bread, it hardened in his
hand; or put a morsel to his lips, it defied his teeth. He took a glass
of wine, but it flowed down his throat like melted gold.

In consternation at the unprecedented affliction, he strove to divest
himself of his power; he hated the gift he had lately coveted. But all
in vain; starvation seemed to await him. He raised his arms, all shining
with gold, in prayer to Bacchus, begging to be delivered from his
glittering destruction. Bacchus, merciful deity, heard and consented.
“Go,” said he, “to the River Pactolus, trace the stream to its
fountain-head, there plunge your head and body in, and wash away your
fault and its punishment.” He did so, and scarce had he touched the
waters before the gold-creating power passed into them, and the
river-sands became changed into _gold_, as they remain to this day.

Thenceforth Midas, hating wealth and splendor, dwelt in the country, and
became a worshipper of Pan, the god of the fields. On a certain occasion
Pan had the temerity to compare his music with that of Apollo, and to
challenge the god of the lyre to a trial of skill. The challenge was
accepted, and Tmolus, the mountain god, was chosen umpire. The senior
took his seat, and cleared away the trees from his ears to listen. At a
given signal Pan blew on his pipes, and with his rustic melody gave
great satisfaction to himself and his faithful follower Midas, who
happened to be present. Then Tmolus turned his head toward the Sun-god,
and all his trees turned with him. Apollo rose, his brow wreathed with
Parnassian laurel, while his robe of Tyrian purple swept the ground. In
his left hand he held the lyre, and with his right hand struck the
strings. Ravished with the harmony, Tmolus at once awarded the victory
to the god of the lyre, and all but Midas acquiesced in the judgment. He
dissented, and questioned the justice of the award. Apollo would not
suffer such a depraved pair of ears any longer to wear the human form,
but caused them to increase in length, grow hairy, within and without,
and movable on their roots; in short, to be on the perfect pattern of
those of an ass.

Mortified enough was King Midas at this mishap; but he consoled himself
with the thought that it was possible to hide his misfortune, which he
attempted to do by means of an ample turban or head-dress. But his
hairdresser of course knew the secret. He was charged not to mention it,
and threatened with dire punishment if he presumed to disobey. But he
found it too much for his discretion to keep such a secret; so he went
out into the meadow, dug a hole in the ground, and stooping down,
whispered the story, and covered it up. Before long a thick bed of reeds
sprang up in the meadow, and as soon as it had gained its growth, began
whispering the story, and has continued to do so, from that day to this,
every time a breeze passes over the place.

The story of King Midas has been told by others with some variations.
Dryden, in the “Wife of Bath’s Tale,” makes Midas’s queen the betrayer
of the secret:

    “This Midas knew, and durst communicate
    To none but to his wife his ears of state.”

Midas was king of Phrygia. He was the son of Gordius, a poor countryman,
who was taken by the people and made king, in obedience to the command
of the oracle, which had said that their future king should come in a
wagon. While the people were deliberating, Gordius with his wife and son
came driving his wagon into the public square.

Gordius, being made king, dedicated his wagon to the deity of the
oracle, and tied it up in its place with a fast knot. This was the
celebrated _Gordian knot_, which, in after times it was said, whoever
should untie should become lord of all Asia. Many tried to untie it, but
none succeeded, till Alexander the Great, in his career of conquest,
came to Phrygia. He tried his skill with as ill success as others, till
growing impatient he drew his sword and cut the knot. When he afterwards
succeeded in subjecting all Asia to his sway, people began to think that
he had complied with the terms of the oracle according to its true

                          BAUCIS AND PHILEMON

On a certain hill in Phrygia stands a linden tree and an oak, enclosed
by a low wall. Not far from the spot is a marsh, formerly good habitable
land, but now indented with pools, the resort of fen-birds and
cormorants. Once on a time Jupiter, in human shape, visited this
country, and with him his son Mercury (he of the caduceus), without his
wings. They presented themselves, as weary travellers, at many a door,
seeking rest and shelter, but found all closed, for it was late, and the
inhospitable inhabitants would not rouse themselves to open for their
reception. At last a humble mansion received them, a small thatched
cottage, where Baucis, a pious old dame, and her husband Philemon,
united when young, had grown old together. Not ashamed of their poverty,
they made it endurable by moderate desires and kind dispositions. One
need not look there for master or for servant; they two were the whole
household, master and servant alike. When the two heavenly guests
crossed the humble threshold, and bowed their heads to pass under the
low door, the old man placed a seat, on which Baucis, bustling and
attentive, spread a cloth, and begged them to sit down. Then she raked
out the coals from the ashes, and kindled up a fire, fed it with leaves
and dry bark, and with her scanty breath blew it into a flame. She
brought out of a corner split sticks and dry branches, broke them up,
and placed them under the small kettle. Her husband collected some
pot-herbs in the garden, and she shred them from the stalks, and
prepared them for the pot. He reached down with a forked stick a flitch
of bacon hanging in the chimney, cut a small piece, and put it in the
pot to boil with the herbs, setting away the rest for another time. A
beechen bowl was filled with warm water, that their guests might wash.
While all was doing, they beguiled the time with conversation.

On the bench designed for the guests was laid a cushion stuffed with
sea-weed; and a cloth, only produced on great occasions, but ancient and
coarse enough, was spread over that. The old lady, with her apron on,
with trembling hand set the table. One leg was shorter than the rest,
but a piece of slate put under restored the level. When fixed, she
rubbed the table down with some sweet-smelling herbs. Upon it she set
some of chaste Minerva’s olives, some cornel berries preserved in
vinegar, and added radishes and cheese, with eggs lightly cooked in the
ashes. All were served in earthen dishes, and an earthenware pitcher,
with wooden cups, stood beside them. When all was ready, the stew,
smoking hot, was set on the table. Some wine, not of the oldest, was
added; and for dessert, apples and wild honey; and over and above all,
friendly faces, and simple but hearty welcome.

Now while the repast proceeded, the old folks were astonished to see
that the wine, as fast as it was poured out, renewed itself in the
pitcher, of its own accord. Struck with terror, Baucis and Philemon
recognized their heavenly guests, fell on their knees, and with clasped
hands implored forgiveness for their poor entertainment. There was an
old goose, which they kept as the guardian of their humble cottage; and
they bethought them to make this a sacrifice in honor of their guests.
But the goose, too nimble, with the aid of feet and wings, for the old
folks, eluded their pursuit, and at last took shelter between the gods
themselves. They forbade it to be slain; and spoke in these words: “We
are gods. This inhospitable village shall pay the penalty of its
impiety; you alone shall go free from the chastisement. Quit your house,
and come with us to the top of yonder hill.” They hastened to obey, and,
staff in hand, labored up the steep ascent. They had reached to within
an arrow’s flight of the top, when turning their eyes below, they beheld
all the country sunk in a lake, only their own house left standing.
While they gazed with wonder at the sight, and lamented the fate of
their neighbors, that old house of theirs was changed into a _temple_.
Columns took the place of the corner posts, the thatch grew yellow and
appeared a gilded roof, the floors became marble, the doors were
enriched with carving and ornaments of gold. Then spoke Jupiter in
benignant accents: “Excellent old man, and woman worthy of such a
husband, speak, tell us your wishes; what favor have you to ask of us?”
Philemon took counsel with Baucis a few moments; then declared to the
gods their united wish. “We ask to be priests and guardians of this your
temple; and since here we have passed our lives in love and concord, we
wish that one and the same hour may take us both from life, that I may
not live to see her grave, nor be laid in my own by her.” Their prayer
was granted. They were the keepers of the temple as long as they lived.
When grown very old, as they stood one day before the steps of the
sacred edifice, and were telling the story of the place, Baucis saw
Philemon begin to put forth leaves, and old Philemon saw Baucis changing
in like manner. And now a leafy crown had grown over their heads, while
exchanging parting words, as long as they could speak. “Farewell, dear
spouse,” they said, together, and at the same moment the bark closed
over their mouths. The Tyanean shepherd still shows the two trees,
standing side by side, made out of the two good old people.

The story of Baucis and Philemon has been imitated by Swift, in a
burlesque style, the actors in the change being two wandering saints,
and the house being changed into a church, of which Philemon is made the
parson. The following may serve as a specimen:

    “They scarce had spoke, when, fair and soft,
    The roof began to mount aloft;
    Aloft rose every beam and rafter;
    The heavy wall climbed slowly after.
    The chimney widened and grew higher,
    Became a steeple with a spire.
    The kettle to the top was hoist,
    And there stood fastened to a joist,
    But with the upside down, to show
    Its inclination for below;
    In vain, for a superior force,
    Applied at bottom, stops its course;
    Doomed ever in suspense to dwell,
    ’Tis now no kettle, but a bell.
    A wooden jack, which had almost
    Lost by disuse the art to roast,
    A sudden alteration feels.
    Increased by new intestine wheels;
    And, what exalts the wonder more,
    The number made the motion slower;
    The flier, though ’t had leaden feet,
    Turned round so quick you scarce could see ’t;
    But slackened by some secret power,
    Now hardly moves an inch an hour.
    The jack and chimney, near allied,
    Had never left each other’s side:
    The chimney to a steeple grown,
    The jack would not be left alone;
    But up against the steeple reared,
    Became a clock, and still adhered;
    And still its love to household cares
    By a shrill voice at noon declares,
    Warning the cook-maid not to burn
    That roast meat which it cannot turn;
    The groaning chair began to crawl,
    Like a huge snail, along the wall;
    There stuck aloft in public view,
    And with small change, a pulpit grew.
    A bedstead of the antique mode,
    Compact of timber many a load,
    Such as our ancestors did use,
    Was metamorphosed into pews,
    Which still their ancient nature keep
    By lodging folks disposed to sleep.”


                              CHAPTER VII


WHEN Jupiter and his brothers had defeated the Titans and banished them
to Tartarus, a new enemy rose up against the gods. They were the giants
Typhon, Briareus, Enceladus, and others. Some of them had a hundred
arms, others breathed out fire. They were finally subdued and buried
alive under Mount Ætna, where they still sometimes struggle to get
loose, and shake the whole island with earthquakes. Their breath comes
up through the mountain, and is what men call the eruption of the

The fall of these monsters shook the earth, so that Pluto was alarmed,
and feared that his kingdom would be laid open to the light of day.
Under this apprehension, he mounted his chariot, drawn by black horses,
and took a circuit of inspection to satisfy himself of the extent of the
damage. While he was thus engaged, Venus, who was sitting on Mount Eryx
playing with her boy Cupid, espied him, and said, “My son, take your
darts with which you conquer all, even Jove himself, and send one into
the breast of yonder dark monarch, who rules the realm of Tartarus. Why
should he alone escape? Seize the opportunity to extend your empire and
mine. Do you not see that even in heaven some despise our power? Minerva
the wise, and Diana the huntress, defy us; and there is that daughter of
Ceres, who threatens to follow their example. Now do you, if you have
any regard for your own interest or mine, join these two in one.” The
boy unbound his quiver, and selected his sharpest and truest arrow; then
straining the bow against his knee, he attached the string, and, having
made ready, shot the arrow with its barbed point right into the heart of

In the vale of Enna there is a lake embowered in woods, which screen it
from the fervid rays of the sun, while the moist ground is covered with
flowers, and Spring reigns perpetual. Here Proserpine was playing with
her companions, gathering lilies and violets, and filling her basket and
her apron with them, when Pluto saw her, loved her, and carried her off.
She screamed for help to her mother and companions; and when in her
fright she dropped the corners of her apron and let the flowers fall,
childlike she felt the loss of them as an addition to her grief. The
ravisher urged on his steeds, calling them each by name, and throwing
loose over their heads and necks his iron-colored reins. When he reached
the River Cyane, and it opposed his passage, he struck the river-bank
with his trident, and the earth opened and gave him a passage to

Ceres sought her daughter all the world over. Bright-haired Aurora, when
she came forth in the morning, and Hesperus when he led out the stars in
the evening, found her still busy in the search. But it was all
unavailing. At length, weary and sad, she sat down upon a stone, and
continued sitting nine days and nights, in the open air, under the
sunlight and moonlight and falling showers. It was where now stands the
city of Eleusis, then the home of an old man named Celeus. He was out in
the field, gathering acorns and blackberries, and sticks for his fire.
His little girl was driving home their two goats, and as she passed the
goddess, who appeared in the guise of an old woman, she said to her,
“Mother,”—and the name was sweet to the ears of Ceres,—“why do you sit
here alone upon the rocks?” The old man also stopped, though his load
was heavy, and begged her to come into his cottage, such as it was. She
declined, and he urged her. “Go in peace,” she replied, “and be happy in
your daughter; I have lost mine.” As she spoke, tears—or something like
tears, for the gods never weep—fell down her cheeks upon her bosom. The
compassionate old man and his child wept with her. Then said he, “Come
with us, and despise not our humble roof; so may your daughter be
restored to you in safety.” “Lead on,” said she, “I cannot resist that
appeal!” So she rose from the stone and went with them. As they walked
he told her that his only son, a little boy, lay very sick, feverish,
and sleepless. She stooped and gathered some poppies. As they entered
the cottage, they found all in great distress, for the boy seemed past
hope of recovery. Metanina, his mother, received her kindly, and the
goddess stooped and kissed the lips of the sick child. Instantly the
paleness left his face, and healthy vigor returned to his body. The
whole family were delighted—that is, the father, mother, and little
girl, for they were all; they had no servants. They spread the table,
and put upon it curds and cream, apples, and honey in the comb. While
they ate, Ceres mingled poppy juice in the milk of the boy. When night
came and all was still, she arose, and taking the sleeping boy, moulded
his limbs with her hands, and uttered over him three times a solemn
charm, then went and laid him in the ashes. His mother, who had been
watching what her guest was doing, sprang forward with a cry and
snatched the child from the fire. Then Ceres assumed her own form, and a
divine splendor shone all around. While they were overcome with
astonishment, she said, “Mother, you have been cruel in your fondness to
your son. I would have made him immortal, but you have frustrated my
attempt. Nevertheless, he shall be great and useful. He shall teach men
the use of the plough, and the rewards which labor can win from the
cultivated soil.” So saying, she wrapped a cloud about her, and mounting
her chariot rode away.

Ceres continued her search for her daughter, passing from land to land,
and across seas and rivers, till at length she returned to Sicily,
whence she at first set out, and stood by the banks of the River Cyane,
where Pluto made himself a passage with his prize to his own dominions.
The river nymph would have told the goddess all she had witnessed, but
dared not, for fear of Pluto; so she only ventured to take up the girdle
which Proserpine had dropped in her flight, and waft it to the feet of
the mother. Ceres, seeing this, was no longer in doubt of her loss, but
she did not yet know the cause, and laid the blame on the innocent land.
“Ungrateful soil,” said she, “which I have endowed with fertility and
clothed with herbage and nourishing grain, no more shall you enjoy my
favors.” Then the cattle died, the plough broke in the furrow, the seed
failed to come up; there was too much sun, there was too much rain; the
birds stole the seeds—thistles and brambles were the only growth.
Seeing this, the fountain Arethusa interceded for the land. “Goddess,”
said she, “blame not the land; it opened unwillingly to yield a passage
to your daughter. I can tell you of her fate, for I have seen her. This
is not my native country; I came hither from Elis. I was a woodland
nymph, and delighted in the chase. They praised my beauty, but I cared
nothing for it, and rather boasted of my hunting exploits. One day I was
returning from the wood, heated with exercise, when I came to a stream
silently flowing, so clear that you might count the pebbles on the
bottom. The willows shaded it, and the grassy bank sloped down to the
water’s edge. I approached, I touched the water with my foot. I stepped
in knee-deep, and not content with that, I laid my garments on the
willows and went in. While I sported in the water, I heard an indistinct
murmur coming up as out of the depths of the stream; and made haste to
escape to the nearest bank. The voice said, ‘Why do you fly, Arethusa? I
am Alpheus, the god of this stream.’ I ran, he pursued; he was not more
swift than I, but he was stronger, and gained upon me, as my strength
failed. At last, exhausted, I cried for help to Diana. ‘Help me,
goddess! help your votary!’ The goddess heard, and wrapped me suddenly
in a thick cloud. The river god looked now this way and now that, and
twice came close to me, but could not find me. ‘Arethusa! Arethusa!’ he
cried. Oh, how I trembled,—like a lamb that hears the wolf growling
outside the fold. A cold sweat came over me, my hair flowed down in
streams; where my foot stood there was a pool. In short, in less time
than it takes to tell it I became a fountain. But in this form Alpheus
knew me and attempted to mingle his stream with mine. Diana cleft the
ground, and I, endeavoring to escape him, plunged into the cavern, and
through the bowels of the earth came out here in Sicily. While I passed
through the lower parts of the earth, I saw your Proserpine. She was
sad, but no longer showing alarm in her countenance. Her look was such
as became a queen—the queen of Erebus; the powerful bride of the
monarch of the realms of the dead.”

When Ceres heard this, she stood for a while like one stupefied; then
turned her chariot towards heaven, and hastened to present herself
before the throne of Jove. She told the story of her bereavement, and
implored Jupiter to interfere to procure the restitution of her
daughter. Jupiter consented on one condition, namely, that Proserpine
should not during her stay in the lower world have taken any food;
otherwise, the Fates forbade her release. Accordingly, Mercury was sent,
accompanied by Spring, to demand Proserpine of Pluto. The wily monarch
consented; but, alas! the maiden had taken a pomegranate which Pluto
offered her, and had sucked the sweet pulp from a few of the seeds. This
was enough to prevent her complete release; but a compromise was made,
by which she was to pass half the time with her mother, and the rest
with her husband Pluto.

Ceres allowed herself to be pacified with this arrangement, and restored
the earth to her favor. Now she remembered Celeus and his family, and
her promise to his infant son Triptolemus. When the boy grew up, she
taught him the use of the plough, and how to sow the seed. She took him
in her chariot, drawn by winged dragons, through all the countries of
the earth, imparting to mankind valuable grains, and the knowledge of
agriculture. After his return, Triptolemus built a magnificent temple to
Ceres in Eleusis, and established the worship of the goddess, under the
name of the Eleusinian mysteries, which, in the splendor and solemnity
of their observance, surpassed all other religious celebrations among
the Greeks.

There can be little doubt of this story of Ceres and Proserpine being an
allegory. Proserpine signifies the seed-corn which when cast into the
ground lies there concealed—that is, she is carried off by the god of
the underworld. It reappears—that is, Proserpine is restored to her
mother. Spring leads her back to the light of day.

Milton alludes to the story of Proserpine in “Paradise Lost,” Book IV.:

    “. . . Not that fair field
    Of Enna where Proserpine gathering flowers,
    Herself a fairer flower, by gloomy Dis
    Was gathered, which cost Ceres all that pain
    To seek her through the world,—
    . . . might with this Paradise
    Of Eden strive.”

Hood, in his “Ode to Melancholy,” uses the same allusion very

    “Forgive, if somewhile I forget,
      In woe to come the present bliss;
    As frighted Proserpine let fall
      Her flowers at the sight of Dis.”

The River Alpheus does in fact disappear underground, in part of its
course, finding its way through subterranean channels till it again
appears on the surface. It was said that the Sicilian fountain Arethusa
was the same stream, which, after passing under the sea, came up again
in Sicily. Hence the story ran that a cup thrown into the Alpheus
appeared again in Arethusa. It is this fable of the underground course
of Alpheus that Coleridge alludes to in his poem of “Kubla Khan”:

    “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
      A stately pleasure-dome decree,
    Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
    Through caverns measureless to man,
      Down to a sunless sea.”

In one of Moore’s juvenile poems he thus alludes to the same story, and
to the practice of throwing garlands or other light objects on his
stream to be carried downward by it, and afterwards reproduced at its

    “O my beloved, how divinely sweet
    Is the pure joy when kindred spirits meet!
    Like him the river god, whose waters flow,
    With love their only light, through caves below,
    Wafting in triumph all the flowery braids
    And festal rings, with which Olympic maids
    Have decked his current, as an offering meet
    To lay at Arethusa’s shining feet.
    Think, when he meets at last his fountain bride,
    What perfect love must thrill the blended tide!
    Each lost in each, till mingling into one,
    Their lot the same for shadow or for sun,
    A type of true love, to the deep they run.”

The following extract from Moore’s “Rhymes on the Road” gives an account
of a celebrated picture by Albano, at Milan, called a Dance of Loves:

    “’Tis for the theft of Enna’s flower from earth
    These urchins celebrate their dance of mirth,
      Round the green tree, like fays upon a heath;—
        Those that are nearest linked in order bright,
      Cheek after cheek, like rosebuds in a wreath;
      And those more distant showing from beneath
        The others’ wings their little eyes of light.
      While see! among the clouds, their eldest brother,
        But just flown up, tells with a smile of bliss,
      This prank of Pluto to his charmed mother,
        Who turns to greet the tidings with a kiss.”

                           GLAUCUS AND SCYLLA

Glaucus was a fisherman. One day he had drawn his nets to land, and had
taken a great many fishes of various kinds. So he emptied his net, and
proceeded to sort the fishes on the grass. The place where he stood was
a beautiful island in the river, a solitary spot, uninhabited, and not
used for pasturage of cattle, nor ever visited by any but himself. On a
sudden, the fishes, which had been laid on the grass, began to revive
and move their fins as if they were in the water; and while he looked on
astonished, they one and all moved off to the water, plunged in, and
swam away. He did not know what to make of this, whether some god had
done it or some secret power in the herbage. “What herb has such a
power?” he exclaimed; and gathering some of it, he tasted it. Scarce had
the juices of the plant reached his palate when he found himself
agitated with a longing desire for the water. He could no longer
restrain himself, but bidding farewell to earth, he plunged into the
stream. The gods of the water received him graciously, and admitted him
to the honor of their society. They obtained the consent of Oceanus and
Tethys, the sovereigns of the sea, that all that was mortal in him
should be washed away. A hundred rivers poured their waters over him.
Then he lost all sense of his former nature and all consciousness. When
he recovered, he found himself changed in form and mind. His hair was
sea-green, and trailed behind him on the water; his shoulders grew
broad, and what had been thighs and legs assumed the form of a fish’s
tail. The sea-gods complimented him on the change of his appearance, and
he fancied himself rather a good-looking personage.

One day Glaucus saw the beautiful maiden Scylla, the favorite of the
water-nymphs, rambling on the shore, and when she had found a sheltered
nook, laving her limbs in the clear water. He fell in love with her, and
showing himself on the surface, spoke to her, saying such things as he
thought most likely to win her to stay; for she turned to run
immediately on the sight of him, and ran till she had gained a cliff
overlooking the sea. Here she stopped and turned round to see whether it
was a god or a sea animal, and observed with wonder his shape and color.
Glaucus partly emerging from the water, and supporting himself against a
rock, said, “Maiden, I am no monster, nor a sea animal, but a god; and
neither Proteus nor Triton ranks higher than I. Once I was a mortal, and
followed the sea for a living; but now I belong wholly to it.” Then he
told the story of his metamorphosis, and how he had been promoted to his
present dignity, and added, “But what avails all this if it fails to
move your heart?” He was going on in this strain, but Scylla turned and
hastened away.

Glaucus was in despair, but it occurred to him to consult the
enchantress Circe. Accordingly he repaired to her island—the same where
afterwards Ulysses landed, as we shall see in one of our later stories.
After mutual salutations, he said, “Goddess, I entreat your pity; you
alone can relieve the pain I suffer. The power of herbs I know as well
as any one, for it is to them I owe my change of form. I love Scylla. I
am ashamed to tell you how I have sued and promised to her, and how
scornfully she has treated me. I beseech you to use your incantations,
or potent herbs, if they are more prevailing, not to cure me of my
love,—for that I do not wish,—but to make her share it and yield me a
like return.” To which Circe replied, for she was not insensible to the
attractions of the sea-green deity, “You had better pursue a willing
object; you are worthy to be sought, instead of having to seek in vain.
Be not diffident, know your own worth. I protest to you that even I,
goddess though I be, and learned in the virtues of plants and spells,
should not know how to refuse you. If she scorns you scorn her; meet one
who is ready to meet you half way, and thus make a due return to both at
once.” To these words Glaucus replied, “Sooner shall trees grow at the
bottom of the ocean, and sea-weed on the top of the mountains, than I
will cease to love Scylla, and her alone.”

The goddess was indignant, but she could not punish him, neither did she
wish to do so, for she liked him too well; so she turned all her wrath
against her rival, poor Scylla. She took plants of poisonous powers and
mixed them together, with incantations and charms. Then she passed
through the crowd of gambolling beasts, the victims of her art, and
proceeded to the coast of Sicily, where Scylla lived. There was a little
bay on the shore to which Scylla used to resort, in the heat of the day,
to breathe the air of the sea, and to bathe in its waters. Here the
goddess poured her poisonous mixture, and muttered over it incantations
of mighty power. Scylla came as usual and plunged into the water up to
her waist. What was her horror to perceive a brood of serpents and
barking monsters surrounding her! At first she could not imagine they
were a part of herself, and tried to run from them, and to drive them
away; but as she ran she carried them with her, and when she tried to
touch her limbs, she found her hands touch only the yawning jaws of
monsters. Scylla remained rooted to the spot. Her temper grew as ugly as
her form, and she took pleasure in devouring hapless mariners who came
within her grasp. Thus she destroyed six of the companions of Ulysses,
and tried to wreck the ships of Æneas, till at last she was turned into
a rock, and as such still continues to be a terror to mariners.

Keats, in his “Endymion,” has given a new version of the ending of
“Glaucus and Scylla.” Glaucus consents to Circe’s blandishments, till he
by chance is witness to her transactions with her beasts.[11] Disgusted
with her treachery and cruelty, he tries to escape from her, but is
taken and brought back, when with reproaches she banishes him,
sentencing him to pass a thousand years in decrepitude and pain. He
returns to the sea, and there finds the body of Scylla, whom the goddess
has not transformed but drowned. Glaucus learns that his destiny is
that, if he passes his thousand years in collecting all the bodies of
drowned lovers, a youth beloved of the gods will appear and help him.
Endymion fulfils this prophecy, and aids in restoring Glaucus to youth,
and Scylla and all the drowned lovers to life.

The following is Glaucus’s account of his feelings after his

    “I plunged for life or death. To interknit
    One’s senses with so dense a breathing stuff
    Might seem a work of pain; so not enough
    Can I admire how crystal-smooth it felt,
    And buoyant round my limbs. At first I dwelt
    Whole days and days in sheer astonishment;
    Forgetful utterly of self-intent,
    Moving but with the mighty ebb and flow.
    Then like a new-fledged bird that first doth show
    His spreaded feathers to the morrow chill,
    I tried in fear the pinions of my will.
    ’Twas freedom! and at once I visited
    The ceaseless wonders of this ocean-bed,” etc.


                              CHAPTER VIII


PYGMALION saw so much to blame in women that he came at last to abhor
the sex, and resolved to live unmarried. He was a sculptor, and had made
with wonderful skill a statue of ivory, so beautiful that no living
woman came anywhere near it. It was indeed the perfect semblance of a
maiden that seemed to be alive, and only prevented from moving by
modesty. His art was so perfect that it concealed itself and its product
looked like the workmanship of nature. Pygmalion admired his own work,
and at last fell in love with the counterfeit creation. Oftentimes he
laid his hand upon it as if to assure himself whether it were living or
not, and could not even then believe that it was only ivory. He caressed
it, and gave it presents such as young girls love,—bright shells and
polished stones, little birds and flowers of various hues, beads and
amber. He put raiment on its limbs, and jewels on its fingers, and a
necklace about its neck. To the ears he hung earrings and strings of
pearls upon the breast. Her dress became her, and she looked not less
charming than when unattired. He laid her on a couch spread with cloths
of Tyrian dye, and called her his wife, and put her head upon a pillow
of the softest feathers, as if she could enjoy their softness.

The festival of Venus was at hand—a festival celebrated with great pomp
at Cyprus. Victims were offered, the altars smoked, and the odor of
incense filled the air. When Pygmalion had performed his part in the
solemnities, he stood before the altar and timidly said, “Ye gods, who
can do all things, give me, I pray you, for my wife”—he dared not say
“my ivory virgin,” but said instead—“one like my ivory virgin.” Venus,
who was present at the festival, heard him and knew the thought he would
have uttered; and as an omen of her favor, caused the flame on the altar
to shoot up thrice in a fiery point into the air. When he returned home,
he went to see his statue, and leaning over the couch, gave a kiss to
the mouth. It seemed to be warm. He pressed its lips again, he laid his
hand upon the limbs; the ivory felt soft to his touch and yielded to his
fingers like the wax of Hymettus. While he stands astonished and glad,
though doubting, and fears he may be mistaken, again and again with a
lover’s ardor he touches the object of his hopes. It was indeed alive!
The veins when pressed yielded to the finger and again resumed their
roundness. Then at last the votary of Venus found words to thank the
goddess, and pressed his lips upon lips as real as his own. The virgin
felt the kisses and blushed, and opening her timid eyes to the light,
fixed them at the same moment on her lover. Venus blessed the nuptials
she had formed, and from this union Paphos was born, from whom the city,
sacred to Venus, received its name.

Schiller, in his poem the “Ideals,” applies this tale of Pygmalion to
the love of nature in a youthful heart. The following translation is
furnished by a friend:

    “As once with prayers in passion flowing,
      Pygmalion embraced the stone,
    Till from the frozen marble glowing,
      The light of feeling o’er him shone,
    So did I clasp with young devotion
      Bright nature to a poet’s heart;
    Till breath and warmth and vital motion
      Seemed through the statue form to dart.

    “And then, in all my ardor sharing,
      The silent form expression found;
    Returned my kiss of youthful daring,
      And understood my heart’s quick sound.
    Then lived for me the bright creation,
      The silver rill with song was rife;
    The trees, the roses shared sensation,
      An echo of my boundless life.”
                            —_S. G. B._


Dryope and Iole were sisters. The former was the wife of Andræmon,
beloved by her husband, and happy in the birth of her first child. One
day the sisters strolled to the bank of a stream that sloped gradually
down to the water’s edge, while the upland was overgrown with myrtles.
They were intending to gather flowers for forming garlands for the
altars of the nymphs, and Dryope carried her child at her bosom,
precious burden, and nursed him as she walked. Near the water grew a
lotus plant, full of purple flowers. Dryope gathered some and offered
them to the baby, and Iole was about to do the same, when she perceived
blood dropping from the places where her sister had broken them off the
stem. The plant was no other than the nymph Lotis, who, running from a
base pursuer, had been changed into this form. This they learned from
the country people when it was too late.

Dryope, horror-struck when she perceived what she had done, would gladly
have hastened from the spot, but found her feet rooted to the ground.
She tried to pull them away, but moved nothing but her upper limbs. The
woodiness crept upward, and by degrees invested her body. In anguish she
attempted to tear her hair, but found her hands filled with leaves. The
infant felt his mother’s bosom begin to harden, and the milk cease to
flow. Iole looked on at the sad fate of her sister, and could render no
assistance. She embraced the growing trunk, as if she would hold back
the advancing wood, and would gladly have been enveloped in the same
bark. At this moment Andræmon, the husband of Dryope, with her father,
approached; and when they asked for Dryope, Iole pointed them to the
new-formed lotus. They embraced the trunk of the yet warm tree, and
showered their kisses on its leaves.

Now there was nothing left of Dryope but her face. Her tears still
flowed and fell on her leaves, and while she could she spoke. “I am not
guilty. I deserve not this fate. I have injured no one. If I speak
falsely, may my foliage perish with drought and my trunk be cut down and
burned. Take this infant and give it to a nurse. Let it often be brought
and nursed under my branches, and play in my shade; and when he is old
enough to talk, let him be taught to call me mother, and to say with
sadness, ‘My mother lies hid under this bark.’ But bid him be careful of
river banks, and beware how he plucks flowers, remembering that every
bush he sees may be a goddess in disguise. Farewell, dear husband, and
sister, and father. If you retain any love for me, let not the axe wound
me, nor the flocks bite and tear my branches. Since I cannot stoop to
you, climb up hither and kiss me; and while my lips continue to feel,
lift up my child that I may kiss him. I can speak no more, for already
the bark advances up my neck, and will soon shoot over me. You need not
close my eyes, the bark will close them without your aid.” Then the lips
ceased to move, and life was extinct; but the branches retained for some
time longer the vital heat.

Keats, in “Endymion,” alludes to Dryope thus:

    “She took a lute from which there pulsing came
    A lively prelude, fashioning the way
    In which her voice should wander. ’Twas a lay
    More subtle-cadenced, more forest-wild
    Than Dryope’s lone lulling of her child;” etc.

                            VENUS AND ADONIS

Venus, playing one day with her boy Cupid, wounded her bosom with one of
his arrows. She pushed him away, but the wound was deeper than she
thought. Before it healed she beheld Adonis, and was captivated with
him. She no longer took any interest in her favorite resorts—Paphos,
and Cnidos, and Amathos, rich in metals. She absented herself even from
heaven, for Adonis was dearer to her than heaven. Him she followed and
bore him company. She who used to love to recline in the shade, with no
care but to cultivate her charms, now rambles through the woods and over
the hills, dressed like the huntress Diana; and calls her dogs, and
chases hares and stags, or other game that it is safe to hunt, but keeps
clear of the wolves and bears, reeking with the slaughter of the herd.
She charged Adonis, too, to beware of such dangerous animals. “Be brave
towards the timid,” said she; “courage against the courageous is not
safe. Beware how you expose yourself to danger and put my happiness to
risk. Attack not the beasts that Nature has armed with weapons. I do not
value your glory so high as to consent to purchase it by such exposure.
Your youth, and the beauty that charms Venus, will not touch the hearts
of lions and bristly boars. Think of their terrible claws and prodigious
strength! I hate the whole race of them. Do you ask me why?” Then she
told him the story of Atalanta and Hippomenes, who were changed into
lions for their ingratitude to her.

Having given him this warning, she mounted her chariot drawn by swans,
and drove away through the air. But Adonis was too noble to heed such
counsels. The dogs had roused a wild boar from his lair, and the youth
threw his spear and wounded the animal with a sidelong stroke. The beast
drew out the weapon with his jaws, and rushed after Adonis, who turned
and ran; but the boar overtook him, and buried his tusks in his side,
and stretched him dying upon the plain.

Venus, in her swan-drawn chariot, had not yet reached Cyprus, when she
heard coming up through mid-air the groans of her beloved, and turned
her white-winged coursers back to earth. As she drew near and saw from
on high his lifeless body bathed in blood, she alighted and, bending
over it, beat her breast and tore her hair. Reproaching the Fates, she
said, “Yet theirs shall be but a partial triumph; memorials of my grief
shall endure, and the spectacle of your death, my Adonis, and of my
lamentations shall be annually renewed. Your blood shall be changed into
a flower; that consolation none can envy me.” Thus speaking, she
sprinkled nectar on the blood; and as they mingled, bubbles rose as in a
pool on which raindrops fall, and in an hour’s time there sprang up a
flower of bloody hue like that of the pomegranate. But it is
short-lived. It is said the wind blows the blossoms open, and afterwards
blows the petals away; so it is called Anemone, or Wind Flower, from the
cause which assists equally in its production and its decay.

Milton alludes to the story of Venus and Adonis in his “Comus”:

    “Beds of hyacinth and roses
    Where young Adonis oft reposes,
    Waxing well of his deep wound
    In slumber soft, and on the ground
    Sadly sits th’ Assyrian queen;” etc.

                         APOLLO AND HYACINTHUS

Apollo was passionately fond of a youth named Hyacinthus. He accompanied
him in his sports, carried the nets when he went fishing, led the dogs
when he went to hunt, followed him in his excursions in the mountains,
and neglected for him his lyre and his arrows. One day they played a
game of quoits together, and Apollo, heaving aloft the discus, with
strength mingled with skill, sent it high and far. Hyacinthus watched it
as it flew, and excited with the sport ran forward to seize it, eager to
make his throw, when the quoit bounded from the earth and struck him in
the forehead. He fainted and fell. The god, as pale as himself, raised
him and tried all his art to stanch the wound and retain the flitting
life, but all in vain; the hurt was past the power of medicine. As when
one has broken the stem of a lily in the garden it hangs its head and
turns its flowers to the earth, so the head of the dying boy, as if too
heavy for his neck, fell over on his shoulder. “Thou diest, Hyacinth,”
so spoke Phœbus, “robbed of thy youth by me. Thine is the suffering,
mine the crime. Would that I could die for thee! But since that may not
be, thou shalt live with me in memory and in song. My lyre shall
celebrate thee, my song shall tell thy fate, and thou shalt become a
flower inscribed with my regrets.” While Apollo spoke, behold the blood
which had flowed on the ground and stained the herbage ceased to be
blood; but a flower of hue more beautiful than the Tyrian sprang up,
resembling the lily, if it were not that this is purple and that silvery
white.[12] And this was not enough for Phœbus; but to confer still
greater honor, he marked the petals with his sorrow, and inscribed “Ah!
ah!” upon them as we see to this day. The flower bears the name of
Hyacinthus, and with every returning spring revives the memory of his

It was said that Zephyrus (the West wind), who was also fond of
Hyacinthus and jealous of his preference of Apollo, blew the quoit out
of its course to make it strike Hyacinthus. Keats alludes to this in his
“Endymion,” where he describes the lookers-on at the game of quoits:

    “Or they might watch the quoit-pitchers, intent
      On either side, pitying the sad death
      Of Hyacinthus, when the cruel breath
    Of Zephyr slew him; Zephyr penitent,
    Who now ere Phœbus mounts the firmament,
      Fondles the flower amid the sobbing rain.”

An allusion to Hyacinthus will also be recognized in Milton’s “Lycidas”:

    “Like to that sanguine flower inscribed with woe.”


                               CHAPTER IX


CEYX was king of Thessaly, where he reigned in peace, without violence
or wrong. He was son of Hesperus, the Day-star, and the glow of his
beauty reminded one of his father. Halcyone, the daughter of Æolus, was
his wife, and devotedly attached to him. Now Ceyx was in deep affliction
for the loss of his brother, and direful prodigies following his
brother’s death made him feel as if the gods were hostile to him. He
thought best, therefore, to make a voyage to Carlos in Ionia, to consult
the oracle of Apollo. But as soon as he disclosed his intention to his
wife Halcyone, a shudder ran through her frame, and her face grew deadly
pale. “What fault of mine, dearest husband, has turned your affection
from me? Where is that love of me that used to be uppermost in your
thoughts? Have you learned to feel easy in the absence of Halcyone?
Would you rather have me away?” She also endeavored to discourage him,
by describing the violence of the winds, which she had known familiarly
when she lived at home in her father’s house,—Æolus being the god of
the winds, and having as much as he could do to restrain them. “They
rush together,” said she, “with such fury that fire flashes from the
conflict. But if you must go,” she added, “dear husband, let me go with
you, otherwise I shall suffer not only the real evils which you must
encounter, but those also which my fears suggest.”

These words weighed heavily on the mind of King Ceyx, and it was no less
his own wish than hers to take her with him, but he could not bear to
expose her to the dangers of the sea. He answered, therefore, consoling
her as well as he could, and finished with these words: “I promise, by
the rays of my father the Day-star, that if fate permits I will return
before the moon shall have twice rounded her orb.” When he had thus
spoken, he ordered the vessel to be drawn out of the shiphouse, and the
oars and sails to be put aboard. When Halcyone saw these preparations
she shuddered, as if with a presentiment of evil. With tears and sobs
she said farewell, and then fell senseless to the ground.

Ceyx would still have lingered, but now the young men grasped their oars
and pulled vigorously through the waves, with long and measured strokes.
Halcyone raised her streaming eyes, and saw her husband standing on the
deck, waving his hand to her. She answered his signal till the vessel
had receded so far that she could no longer distinguish his form from
the rest. When the vessel itself could no more be seen, she strained her
eyes to catch the last glimmer of the sail, till that too disappeared.
Then, retiring to her chamber, she threw herself on her solitary couch.

Meanwhile they glide out of the harbor, and the breeze plays among the
ropes. The seamen draw in their oars, and hoist their sails. When half
or less of their course was passed, as night drew on, the sea began to
whiten with swelling waves, and the east wind to blow a gale. The master
gave the word to take in sail, but the storm forbade obedience, for such
is the roar of the winds and waves his orders are unheard. The men, of
their own accord, busy themselves to secure the oars, to strengthen the
ship, to reef the sail. While they thus do what to each one seems best,
the storm increases. The shouting of the men, the rattling of the
shrouds, and the dashing of the waves, mingle with the roar of the
thunder. The swelling sea seems lifted up to the heavens, to scatter its
foam among the clouds; then sinking away to the bottom assumes the color
of the shoal—a Stygian blackness.

The vessel shares all these changes. It seems like a wild beast that
rushes on the spears of the hunters. Rain falls in torrents, as if the
skies were coming down to unite with the sea. When the lightning ceases
for a moment, the night seems to add its own darkness to that of the
storm; then comes the flash, rending the darkness asunder, and lighting
up all with a glare. Skill fails, courage sinks, and death seems to come
on every wave. The men are stupefied with terror. The thought of
parents, and kindred, and pledges left at home, comes over their minds.
Ceyx thinks of Halcyone. No name but hers is on his lips, and while he
yearns for her, he yet rejoices in her absence. Presently the mast is
shattered by a stroke of lightning, the rudder broken, and the
triumphant surge curling over looks down upon the wreck, then falls, and
crushes it to fragments. Some of the seamen, stunned by the stroke,
sink, and rise no more; others cling to fragments of the wreck. Ceyx,
with the hand that used to grasp the sceptre, holds fast to a plank,
calling for help,—alas, in vain,—upon his father and his
father-in-law. But oftenest on his lips was the name of Halcyone. To her
his thoughts cling. He prays that the waves may bear his body to her
sight, and that it may receive burial at her hands. At length the waters
overwhelm him, and he sinks. The Day-star looked dim that night. Since
it could not leave the heavens, it shrouded its face with clouds.

In the meanwhile Halcyone, ignorant of all these horrors, counted the
days till her husband’s promised return. Now she gets ready the garments
which he shall put on, and now what she shall wear when he arrives. To
all the gods she offers frequent incense, but more than all to Juno. For
her husband, who was no more, she prayed incessantly: that he might be
safe; that he might come home; that he might not, in his absence, see
any one that he would love better than her. But of all these prayers,
the last was the only one destined to be granted. The goddess, at
length, could not bear any longer to be pleaded with for one already
dead, and to have hands raised to her altars that ought rather to be
offering funeral rites. So, calling Iris, she said, “Iris, my faithful
messenger, go to the drowsy dwelling of Somnus, and tell him to send a
vision to Halcyone in the form of Ceyx, to make known to her the event.”

Iris puts on her robe of many colors, and tingeing the sky with her bow,
seeks the palace of the King of Sleep. Near the Cimmerian country, a
mountain cave is the abode of the dull god Somnus. Here Phœbus dares not
come, either rising, at midday, or setting. Clouds and shadows are
exhaled from the ground, and the light glimmers faintly. The bird of
dawning, with crested head, never there calls aloud to Aurora, nor
watchful dog, nor more sagacious goose disturbs the silence. No wild
beast, nor cattle, nor branch moved with the wind, nor sound of human
conversation, breaks the stillness. Silence reigns there; but from the
bottom of the rock the River Lethe flows, and by its murmur invites to
sleep. Poppies grow abundantly before the door of the cave, and other
herbs, from whose juices Night collects slumbers, which she scatters
over the darkened earth. There is no gate to the mansion, to creak on
its hinges, nor any watchman; but in the midst a couch of black ebony,
adorned with black plumes and black curtains. There the god reclines,
his limbs relaxed with sleep. Around him lie dreams, resembling all
various forms, as many as the harvest bears stalks, or the forest
leaves, or the seashore sand grains.

As soon as the goddess entered and brushed away the dreams that hovered
around her, her brightness lit up all the cave. The god, scarce opening
his eyes, and ever and anon dropping his beard upon his breast, at last
shook himself free from himself, and leaning on his arm, inquired her
errand,—for he knew who she was. She answered, “Somnus, gentlest of the
gods, tranquillizer of minds and soother of care-worn hearts, Juno sends
you her commands that you despatch a dream to Halcyone, in the city of
Trachine, representing her lost husband and all the events of the

Having delivered her message, Iris hasted away, for she could not longer
endure the stagnant air, and as she felt drowsiness creeping over her,
she made her escape, and returned by her bow the way she came. Then
Somnus called one of his numerous sons,—Morpheus,—the most expert in
counterfeiting forms, and in imitating the walk, the countenance, and
mode of speaking, even the clothes and attitudes most characteristic of
each. But he only imitates men, leaving it to another to personate
birds, beasts, and serpents. Him they call Icelos; and Phantasos is a
third, who turns himself into rocks, waters, woods, and other things
without life. These wait upon kings and great personages in their
sleeping hours, while others move among the common people. Somnus chose,
from all the brothers, Morpheus, to perform the command of Iris; then
laid his head on his pillow and yielded himself to grateful repose.

Morpheus flew, making no noise with his wings, and soon came to the
Hæmonian city, where, laying aside his wings, he assumed the form of
Ceyx. Under that form, but pale like a dead man, naked, he stood before
the couch of the wretched wife. His beard seemed soaked with water, and
water trickled from his drowned locks. Leaning over the bed, tears
streaming from his eyes, he said, “Do you recognize your Ceyx, unhappy
wife, or has death too much changed my visage? Behold me, know me, your
husband’s shade, instead of himself. Your prayers, Halcyone, availed me
nothing. I am dead. No more deceive yourself with vain hopes of my
return. The stormy winds sunk my ship in the Ægean Sea, waves filled my
mouth while it called aloud on you. No uncertain messenger tells you
this, no vague rumor brings it to your ears. I come in person, a
shipwrecked man, to tell you my fate. Arise! give me tears, give me
lamentations, let me not go down to Tartarus unwept.” To these words
Morpheus added the voice, which seemed to be that of her husband; he
seemed to pour forth genuine tears; his hands had the gestures of Ceyx.

Halcyone, weeping, groaned, and stretched out her arms in her sleep,
striving to embrace his body, but grasping only the air. “Stay!” she
cried; “whither do you fly? let us go together.” Her own voice awakened
her. Starting up, she gazed eagerly around, to see if he was still
present, for the servants, alarmed by her cries, had brought a light.
When she found him not, she smote her breast and rent her garments. She
cares not to unbind her hair, but tears it wildly. Her nurse asks what
is the cause of her grief. “Halcyone is no more,” she answers, “she
perished with her Ceyx. Utter not words of comfort, he is shipwrecked
and dead. I have seen him, I have recognized him. I stretched out my
hands to seize him and detain him. His shade vanished, but it was the
true shade of my husband. Not with the accustomed features, not with the
beauty that was his, but pale, naked, and with his hair wet with
sea-water, he appeared to wretched me. Here, in this very spot, the sad
vision stood,”—and she looked to find the mark of his footsteps. “This
it was, this that my presaging mind foreboded, when I implored him not
to leave me, to trust himself to the waves. Oh, how I wish, since thou
wouldst go, thou hadst taken me with thee! It would have been far
better. Then I should have had no remnant of life to spend without thee,
nor a separate death to die. If I could bear to live and struggle to
endure, I should be more cruel to myself than the sea has been to me.
But I will not struggle, I will not be separated from thee, unhappy
husband. This time, at least, I will keep thee company. In death, if one
tomb may not include us, one epitaph shall; if I may not lay my ashes
with thine, my name, at least, shall not be separated.” Her grief
forbade more words, and these were broken with tears and sobs.

It was now morning. She went to the seashore, and sought the spot where
she last saw him, on his departure. “While he lingered here, and cast
off his tacklings, he gave me his last kiss.” While she reviews every
object, and strives to recall every incident, looking out over the sea,
she descries an indistinct object floating in the water. At first she
was in doubt what it was, but by degrees the waves bore it nearer, and
it was plainly the body of a man. Though unknowing of whom, yet, as it
was of some shipwrecked one, she was deeply moved, and gave it her
tears, saying, “Alas! unhappy one, and unhappy, if such there be, thy
wife!” Borne by the waves, it came nearer. As she more and more nearly
views it, she trembles more and more. Now, now it approaches the shore.
Now marks that she recognizes appear. It is her husband! Stretching out
her trembling hands towards it, she exclaims, “O dearest husband, is it
thus you return to me?”

There was built out from the shore a mole, constructed to break the
assaults of the sea, and stem its violent ingress. She leaped upon this
barrier and (it was wonderful she could do so) she flew, and striking
the air with wings produced on the instant, skimmed along the surface of
the water, an unhappy bird. As she flew, her throat poured forth sounds
full of grief, and like the voice of one lamenting. When she touched the
mute and bloodless body, she enfolded its beloved limbs with her
new-formed wings, and tried to give kisses with her horny beak. Whether
Ceyx felt it, or whether it was only the action of the waves, those who
looked on doubted, but the body seemed to raise its head. But indeed he
did feel it, and by the pitying gods both of them were changed into
birds. They mate and have their young ones. For seven placid days, in
winter time, Halcyone broods over her nest, which floats upon the sea.
Then the way is safe to seamen. Æolus guards the winds and keeps them
from disturbing the deep. The sea is given up, for the time, to his

The following lines from Byron’s “Bride of Abydos” might seem borrowed
from the concluding part of this description, if it were not stated that
the author derived the suggestion from observing the motion of a
floating corpse:

    “As shaken on his restless pillow,
    His head heaves with the heaving billow,
    That hand, whose motion is not life,
    Yet feebly seems to menace strife,
    Flung by the tossing tide on high,
    Then levelled with the wave . . .”

Milton in his “Hymn on the Nativity,” thus alludes to the fable of the

    “But peaceful was the night
    Wherein the Prince of light
      His reign of peace upon the earth began;
    The winds with wonder whist
    Smoothly the waters kist
      Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,
    Who now hath quite forgot to rave
    While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.”

Keats, also, in “Endymion,” says:

    “O magic sleep! O comfortable bird
    That broodest o’er the troubled sea of the mind
    Till it is hushed and smooth.”


                               CHAPTER X

                          VERTUMNUS AND POMONA

THE Hamadryads were Wood-nymphs. Pomona was of this class, and no one
excelled her in love of the garden and the culture of fruit. She cared
not for forests and rivers, but loved the cultivated country, and trees
that bear delicious apples. Her right hand bore for its weapon not a
javelin, but a pruning-knife. Armed with this, she busied herself at one
time to repress the too luxuriant growths, and curtail the branches that
straggled out of place; at another, to split the twig and insert therein
a graft, making the branch adopt a nursling not its own. She took care,
too, that her favorites should not suffer from drought, and led streams
of water by them, that the thirsty roots might drink. This occupation
was her pursuit, her passion; and she was free from that which Venus
inspires. She was not without fear of the country people, and kept her
orchard locked, and allowed not men to enter. The Fauns and Satyrs would
have given all they possessed to win her, and so would old Sylvanus, who
looks young for his years, and Pan, who wears a garland of pine leaves
around his head. But Vertumnus loved her best of all; yet he sped no
better than the rest. O how often, in the disguise of a reaper, did he
bring her corn in a basket, and looked the very image of a reaper! With
a hay band tied round him, one would think he had just come from turning
over the grass. Sometimes he would have an ox-goad in his hand, and you
would have said he had just unyoked his weary oxen. Now he bore a
pruning-hook, and personated a vine-dresser; and again, with a ladder on
his shoulder, he seemed as if he was going to gather apples. Sometimes
he trudged along as a discharged soldier, and again he bore a
fishing-rod, as if going to fish. In this way he gained admission to her
again and again, and fed his passion with the sight of her.

One day he came in the guise of an old woman, her gray hair surmounted
with a cap, and a staff in her hand. She entered the garden and admired
the fruit. “It does you credit, my dear,” she said, and kissed her, not
exactly with an old woman’s kiss. She sat down on a bank, and looked up
at the branches laden with fruit which hung over her. Opposite was an
elm entwined with a vine loaded with swelling grapes. She praised the
tree and its associated vine, equally. “But,” said she, “if the tree
stood alone, and had no vine clinging to it, it would have nothing to
attract or offer us but its useless leaves. And equally the vine, if it
were not twined round the elm, would lie prostrate on the ground. Why
will you not take a lesson from the tree and the vine, and consent to
unite yourself with some one? I wish you would. Helen herself had not
more numerous suitors, nor Penelope, the wife of shrewd Ulysses. Even
while you spurn them, they court you,—rural deities and others of every
kind that frequent these mountains. But if you are prudent and want to
make a good alliance, and will let an old woman advise you,—who loves
you better than you have any idea of,—dismiss all the rest and accept
Vertumnus, on my recommendation. I know him as well as he knows himself.
He is not a wandering deity, but belongs to these mountains. Nor is he
like too many of the lovers nowadays, who love any one they happen to
see; he loves you, and you only. Add to this, he is young and handsome,
and has the art of assuming any shape he pleases, and can make himself
just what you command him. Moreover, he loves the same things that you
do, delights in gardening, and handles your apples with admiration. But
_now_ he cares nothing for fruits nor flowers, nor anything else, but
only yourself. Take pity on him, and fancy him speaking now with my
mouth. Remember that the gods punish cruelty, and that Venus hates a
hard heart, and will visit such offences sooner or later. To prove this,
let me tell you a story, which is well known in Cyprus to be a fact; and
I hope it will have the effect to make you more merciful.

“Iphis was a young man of humble parentage, who saw and loved Anaxarete,
a noble lady of the ancient family of Teucer. He struggled long with his
passion, but when he found he could not subdue it, he came a suppliant
to her mansion. First he told his passion to her nurse, and begged her
as she loved her foster-child to favor his suit. And then he tried to
win her domestics to his side. Sometimes he committed his vows to
written tablets, and often hung at her door garlands which he had
moistened with his tears. He stretched himself on her threshold, and
uttered his complaints to the cruel bolts and bars. She was deafer than
the surges which rise in the November gale; harder than steel from the
German forges, or a rock that still clings to its native cliff. She
mocked and laughed at him, adding cruel words to her ungentle treatment,
and gave not the slightest gleam of hope.

“Iphis could not any longer endure the torments of hopeless love, and,
standing before her doors, he spake these last words: ‘Anaxarete, you
have conquered, and shall no longer have to bear my importunities. Enjoy
your triumph! Sing songs of joy, and bind your forehead with
laurel,—you have conquered! I die; stony heart, rejoice! This at least
I can do to gratify you and force you to praise me; and thus shall I
prove that the love of you left me but with life. Nor will I leave it to
rumor to tell you of my death. I will come myself, and you shall see me
die, and feast your eyes on the spectacle. Yet, O ye gods, who look down
on mortal woes, observe my fate! I ask but this: let me be remembered in
coming ages, and add those years to my fame which you have reft from my
life.’ Thus he said, and, turning his pale face and weeping eyes towards
her mansion, he fastened a rope to the gatepost, on which he had often
hung garlands, and putting his head into the noose, he murmured, ‘This
garland at least will please you, cruel girl!’ and falling hung
suspended with his neck broken. As he fell he struck against the gate,
and the sound was as the sound of a groan. The servants opened the door
and found him dead, and with exclamations of pity raised him and carried
him home to his mother, for his father was not living. She received the
dead body of her son, and folded the cold form to her bosom, while she
poured forth the sad words which bereaved mothers utter. The mournful
funeral passed through the town, and the pale corpse was borne on a bier
to the place of the funeral pile. By chance the home of Anaxarete was on
the street where the procession passed, and the lamentations of the
mourners met the ears of her whom the avenging deity had already marked
for punishment.

“‘Let us see this sad procession,’ said she, and mounted to a turret,
whence through an open window she looked upon the funeral. Scarce had
her eyes rested upon the form of Iphis stretched on the bier, when they
began to stiffen, and the warm blood in her body to become cold.
Endeavoring to step back, she found she could not move her feet; trying
to turn away her face, she tried in vain; and by degrees all her limbs
became stony like her heart. That you may not doubt the fact, the statue
still remains, and stands in the temple of Venus at Salamis, in the
exact form of the lady. Now think of these things, my dear, and lay
aside your scorn and your delays, and accept a lover. So may neither the
vernal frosts blight your young fruits, nor furious winds scatter your

When Vertumnus had spoken thus, he dropped the disguise of an old woman,
and stood before her in his proper person, as a comely youth. It
appeared to her like the sun bursting through a cloud. He would have
renewed his entreaties, but there was no need; his arguments and the
sight of his true form prevailed, and the Nymph no longer resisted, but
owned a mutual flame.

Pomona was the especial patroness of the Apple-orchard, and as such she
was invoked by Phillips, the author of a poem on Cider, in blank verse.
Thomson in the “Seasons” alludes to him:

    “Phillips, Pomona’s bard, the second thou
    Who nobly durst, in rhyme-unfettered verse,
    With British freedom, sing the British song.”

But Pomona was also regarded as presiding over other fruits, and as such
is invoked by Thomson:

    “Bear me, Pomona, to thy citron groves,
    To where the lemon and the piercing lime,
    With the deep orange, glowing through the green,
    Their lighter glories blend. Lay me reclined
    Beneath the spreading tamarind, that shakes,
    Fanned by the breeze, its fever-cooling fruit.”


                               CHAPTER XI

                            CUPID AND PSYCHE

A CERTAIN king and queen had three daughters. The charms of the two
elder were more than common, but the beauty of the youngest was so
wonderful that the poverty of language is unable to express its due
praise. The fame of her beauty was so great that strangers from
neighboring countries came in crowds to enjoy the sight, and looked on
her with amazement, paying her that homage which is due only to Venus
herself. In fact Venus found her altars deserted, while men turned their
devotion to this young virgin. As she passed along, the people sang her
praises, and strewed her way with chaplets and flowers.

This perversion of homage due only to the immortal powers to the
exaltation of a mortal gave great offence to the real Venus. Shaking her
ambrosial locks with indignation, she exclaimed, “Am I then to be
eclipsed in my honors by a mortal girl? In vain then did that royal
shepherd, whose judgment was approved by Jove himself, give me the palm
of beauty over my illustrious rivals, Pallas and Juno. But she shall not
so quietly usurp my honors. I will give her cause to repent of so
unlawful a beauty.”

Thereupon she calls her winged son Cupid, mischievous enough in his own
nature, and rouses and provokes him yet more by her complaints. She
points out Psyche to him and says, “My dear son, punish that
contumacious beauty; give thy mother a revenge as sweet as her injuries
are great; infuse into the bosom of that haughty girl a passion for some
low, mean, unworthy being, so that she may reap a mortification as great
as her present exultation and triumph.”

Cupid prepared to obey the commands of his mother. There are two
fountains in Venus’s garden, one of sweet waters, the other of bitter.
Cupid filled two amber vases, one from each fountain, and suspending
them from the top of his quiver, hastened to the chamber of Psyche, whom
he found asleep. He shed a few drops from the bitter fountain over her
lips, though the sight of her almost moved him to pity; then touched her
side with the point of his arrow. At the touch she awoke, and opened
eyes upon Cupid (himself invisible), which so startled him that in his
confusion he wounded himself with his own arrow. Heedless of his wound,
his whole thought now was to repair the mischief he had done, and he
poured the balmy drops of joy over all her silken ringlets.

Psyche, henceforth frowned upon by Venus, derived no benefit from all
her charms. True, all eyes were cast eagerly upon her, and every mouth
spoke her praises; but neither king, royal youth, nor plebeian presented
himself to demand her in marriage. Her two elder sisters of moderate
charms had now long been married to two royal princes; but Psyche, in
her lonely apartment, deplored her solitude, sick of that beauty which,
while it procured abundance of flattery, had failed to awaken love.

Her parents, afraid that they had unwittingly incurred the anger of the
gods, consulted the oracle of Apollo, and received this answer: “The
virgin is destined for the bride of no mortal lover. Her future husband
awaits her on the top of the mountain. He is a monster whom neither gods
nor men can resist.”

This dreadful decree of the oracle filled all the people with dismay,
and her parents abandoned themselves to grief. But Psyche said, “Why, my
dear parents, do you now lament me? You should rather have grieved when
the people showered upon me undeserved honors, and with one voice called
me a Venus. I now perceive that I am a victim to that name. I submit.
Lead me to that rock to which my unhappy fate has destined me.”
Accordingly, all things being prepared, the royal maid took her place in
the procession, which more resembled a funeral than a nuptial pomp, and
with her parents, amid the lamentations of the people, ascended the
mountain, on the summit of which they left her alone, and with sorrowful
hearts returned home.

While Psyche stood on the ridge of the mountain, panting with fear and
with eyes full of tears, the gentle Zephyr raised her from the earth and
bore her with an easy motion into a flowery dale. By degrees her mind
became composed, and she laid herself down on the grassy bank to sleep.
When she awoke refreshed with sleep, she looked round and beheld near by
a pleasant grove of tall and stately trees. She entered it, and in the
midst discovered a fountain, sending forth clear and crystal waters, and
fast by, a magnificent palace whose august front impressed the spectator
that it was not the work of mortal hands, but the happy retreat of some
god. Drawn by admiration and wonder, she approached the building and
ventured to enter. Every object she met filled her with pleasure and
amazement. Golden pillars supported the vaulted roof, and the walls were
enriched with carvings and paintings representing beasts of the chase
and rural scenes, adapted to delight the eye of the beholder. Proceeding
onward, she perceived that besides the apartments of state there were
others filled with all manner of treasures, and beautiful and precious
productions of nature and art.

While her eyes were thus occupied, a voice addressed her, though she saw
no one, uttering these words: “Sovereign lady, all that you see is
yours. We whose voices you hear are your servants and shall obey all
your commands with our utmost care and diligence. Retire, therefore, to
your chamber and repose on your bed of down, and when you see fit repair
to the bath. Supper awaits you in the adjoining alcove when it pleases
you to take your seat there.”

Psyche gave ear to the admonitions of her vocal attendants, and after
repose and the refreshment of the bath, seated herself in the alcove,
where a table immediately presented itself, without any visible aid from
waiters or servants, and covered with the greatest delicacies of food
and the most nectareous wines. Her ears too were feasted with music from
invisible performers; of whom one sang, another played on the lute, and
all closed in the wonderful harmony of a full chorus.

She had not yet seen her destined husband. He came only in the hours of
darkness and fled before the dawn of morning, but his accents were full
of love, and inspired a like passion in her. She often begged him to
stay and let her behold him, but he would not consent. On the contrary
he charged her to make no attempt to see him, for it was his pleasure,
for the best of reasons, to keep concealed. “Why should you wish to
behold me?” he said; “have you any doubt of my love? have you any wish
ungratified? If you saw me, perhaps you would fear me, perhaps adore me,
but all I ask of you is to love me. I would rather you would love me as
an equal than adore me as a god.”

This reasoning somewhat quieted Psyche for a time, and while the novelty
lasted she felt quite happy. But at length the thought of her parents,
left in ignorance of her fate, and of her sisters, precluded from
sharing with her the delights of her situation, preyed on her mind and
made her begin to feel her palace as but a splendid prison. When her
husband came one night, she told him her distress, and at last drew from
him an unwilling consent that her sisters should be brought to see her.

So, calling Zephyr, she acquainted him with her husband’s commands, and
he, promptly obedient, soon brought them across the mountain down to
their sister’s valley. They embraced her and she returned their
caresses. “Come,” said Psyche, “enter with me my house and refresh
yourselves with whatever your sister has to offer.” Then taking their
hands she led them into her golden palace, and committed them to the
care of her numerous train of attendant voices, to refresh them in her
baths and at her table, and to show them all her treasures. The view of
these celestial delights caused envy to enter their bosoms, at seeing
their young sister possessed of such state and splendor, so much
exceeding their own.

They asked her numberless questions, among others what sort of a person
her husband was. Psyche replied that he was a beautiful youth, who
generally spent the daytime in hunting upon the mountains. The sisters,
not satisfied with this reply, soon made her confess that she had never
seen him. Then they proceeded to fill her bosom with dark suspicions.
“Call to mind,” they said, “the Pythian oracle that declared you
destined to marry a direful and tremendous monster. The inhabitants of
this valley say that your husband is a terrible and monstrous serpent,
who nourishes you for a while with dainties that he may by and by devour
you. Take our advice. Provide yourself with a lamp and a sharp knife;
put them in concealment that your husband may not discover them, and
when he is sound asleep, slip out of bed, bring forth your lamp, and see
for yourself whether what they say is true or not. If it is, hesitate
not to cut off the monster’s head, and thereby recover your liberty.”

Psyche resisted these persuasions as well as she could, but they did not
fail to have their effect on her mind, and when her sisters were gone,
their words and her own curiosity were too strong for her to resist. So
she prepared her lamp and a sharp knife, and hid them out of sight of
her husband. When he had fallen into his first sleep, she silently rose
and uncovering her lamp beheld not a hideous monster, but the most
beautiful and charming of the gods, with his golden ringlets wandering
over his snowy neck and crimson cheek, with two dewy wings on his
shoulders, whiter than snow, and with shining feathers like the tender
blossoms of spring. As she leaned the lamp over to have a nearer view of
his face a drop of burning oil fell on the shoulder of the god, startled
with which he opened his eyes and fixed them full upon her; then,
without saying one word, he spread his white wings and flew out of the
window. Psyche, in vain endeavoring to follow him, fell from the window
to the ground. Cupid, beholding her as she lay in the dust, stopped his
flight for an instant and said, “O foolish Psyche, is it thus you repay
my love? After having disobeyed my mother’s commands and made you my
wife, will you think me a monster and cut off my head? But go; return to
your sisters, whose advice you seem to think preferable to mine. I
inflict no other punishment on you than to leave you forever. Love
cannot dwell with suspicion.” So saying, he fled away, leaving poor
Psyche prostrate on the ground, filling the place with mournful

When she had recovered some degree of composure she looked around her,
but the palace and gardens had vanished, and she found herself in the
open field not far from the city where her sisters dwelt. She repaired
thither and told them the whole story of her misfortunes, at which,
pretending to grieve, those spiteful creatures inwardly rejoiced. “For
now,” said they, “he will perhaps choose one of us.” With this idea,
without saying a word of her intentions, each of them rose early the
next morning and ascended the mountains, and having reached the top,
called upon Zephyr to receive her and bear her to his lord; then leaping
up, and not being sustained by Zephyr, fell down the precipice and was
dashed to pieces.

Psyche meanwhile wandered day and night, without food or repose, in
search of her husband. Casting her eyes on a lofty mountain having on
its brow a magnificent temple, she sighed and said to herself, “Perhaps
my love, my lord, inhabits there,” and directed her steps thither.

She had no sooner entered than she saw heaps of corn, some in loose ears
and some in sheaves, with mingled ears of barley. Scattered about, lay
sickles and rakes, and all the instruments of harvest, without order, as
if thrown carelessly out of the weary reapers’ hands in the sultry hours
of the day.

This unseemly confusion the pious Psyche put an end to, by separating
and sorting everything to its proper place and kind, believing that she
ought to neglect none of the gods, but endeavor by her piety to engage
them all in her behalf. The holy Ceres, whose temple it was, finding her
so religiously employed, thus spoke to her: “O Psyche, truly worthy of
our pity, though I cannot shield you from the frowns of Venus, yet I can
teach you how best to allay her displeasure. Go, then, and voluntarily
surrender yourself to your lady and sovereign, and try by modesty and
submission to win her forgiveness, and perhaps her favor will restore
you the husband you have lost.”

Psyche obeyed the commands of Ceres and took her way to the temple of
Venus, endeavoring to fortify her mind and ruminating on what she should
say and how best propitiate the angry goddess, feeling that the issue
was doubtful and perhaps fatal.

Venus received her with angry countenance. “Most undutiful and faithless
of servants,” said she, “do you at last remember that you really have a
mistress? Or have you rather come to see your sick husband, yet laid up
of the wound given him by his loving wife? You are so ill-favored and
disagreeable that the only way you can merit your lover must be by dint
of industry and diligence. I will make trial of your housewifery.” Then
she ordered Psyche to be led to the storehouse of her temple, where was
laid up a great quantity of wheat, barley, millet, vetches, beans, and
lentils prepared for food for her pigeons, and said, “Take and separate
all these grains, putting all of the same kind in a parcel by
themselves, and see that you get it done before evening.” Then Venus
departed and left her to her task.

But Psyche, in a perfect consternation at the enormous work, sat stupid
and silent, without moving a finger to the inextricable heap.

While she sat despairing, Cupid stirred up the little ant, a native of
the fields, to take compassion on her. The leader of the ant hill,
followed by whole hosts of his six-legged subjects, approached the heap,
and with the utmost diligence, taking grain by grain, they separated the
pile, sorting each kind to its parcel; and when it was all done, they
vanished out of sight in a moment.

Venus at the approach of twilight returned from the banquet of the gods,
breathing odors and crowned with roses. Seeing the task done, she
exclaimed, “This is no work of yours, wicked one, but his, whom to your
own and his misfortune you have enticed.” So saying, she threw her a
piece of black bread for her supper and went away.

Next morning Venus ordered Psyche to be called and said to her, “Behold
yonder grove which stretches along the margin of the water. There you
will find sheep feeding without a shepherd, with golden-shining fleeces
on their backs. Go, fetch me a sample of that precious wool gathered
from every one of their fleeces.”

Psyche obediently went to the riverside, prepared to do her best to
execute the command. But the river god inspired the reeds with
harmonious murmurs, which seemed to say, “O maiden, severely tried,
tempt not the dangerous flood, nor venture among the formidable rams on
the other side, for as long as they are under the influence of the
rising sun, they burn with a cruel rage to destroy mortals with their
sharp horns or rude teeth. But when the noontide sun has driven the
cattle to the shade, and the serene spirit of the flood has lulled them
to rest, you may then cross in safety, and you will find the woolly gold
sticking to the bushes and the trunks of the trees.”

Thus the compassionate river god gave Psyche instructions how to
accomplish her task, and by observing his directions she soon returned
to Venus with her arms full of the golden fleece; but she received not
the approbation of her implacable mistress, who said, “I know very well
it is by none of your own doings that you have succeeded in this task,
and I am not satisfied yet that you have any capacity to make yourself
useful. But I have another task for you. Here, take this box and go your
way to the infernal shades, and give this box to Proserpine and say, ‘My
mistress Venus desires you to send her a little of your beauty, for in
tending her sick son she has lost some of her own.’ Be not too long on
your errand, for I must paint myself with it to appear at the circle of
the gods and goddesses this evening.”

Psyche was now satisfied that her destruction was at hand, being obliged
to go with her own feet directly down to Erebus. Wherefore, to make no
delay of what was not to be avoided, she goes to the top of a high tower
to precipitate herself headlong, thus to descend the shortest way to the
shades below. But a voice from the tower said to her, “Why, poor unlucky
girl, dost thou design to put an end to thy days in so dreadful a
manner? And what cowardice makes thee sink under this last danger who
hast been so miraculously supported in all thy former?” Then the voice
told her how by a certain cave she might reach the realms of Pluto, and
how to avoid all the dangers of the road, to pass by Cerberus, the
three-headed dog, and prevail on Charon, the ferryman, to take her
across the black river and bring her back again. But the voice added,
“When Proserpine has given you the box filled with her beauty, of all
things this is chiefly to be observed by you, that you never once open
or look into the box nor allow your curiosity to pry into the treasure
of the beauty of the goddesses.”

Psyche, encouraged by this advice, obeyed it in all things, and taking
heed to her ways travelled safely to the kingdom of Pluto. She was
admitted to the palace of Proserpine, and without accepting the delicate
seat or delicious banquet that was offered her, but contented with
coarse bread for her food, she delivered her message from Venus.
Presently the box was returned to her, shut and filled with the precious
commodity. Then she returned the way she came, and glad was she to come
out once more into the light of day.

But having got so far successfully through her dangerous task, a longing
desire seized her to examine the contents of the box. “What,” said she,
“shall I, the carrier of this divine beauty, not take the least bit to
put on my cheeks to appear to more advantage in the eyes of my beloved
husband!” So she carefully opened the box, but found nothing there of
any beauty at all, but an infernal and truly Stygian sleep, which being
thus set free from its prison, took possession of her, and she fell down
in the midst of the road, a sleepy corpse without sense or motion.

But Cupid, being now recovered from his wound, and not able longer to
bear the absence of his beloved Psyche, slipping through the smallest
crack of the window of his chamber which happened to be left open, flew
to the spot where Psyche lay, and gathering up the sleep from her body
closed it again in the box, and waked Psyche with a light touch of one
of his arrows. “Again,” said he, “hast thou almost perished by the same
curiosity. But now perform exactly the task imposed on you by my mother,
and I will take care of the rest.”

Then Cupid, as swift as lightning penetrating the heights of heaven,
presented himself before Jupiter with his supplication. Jupiter lent a
favoring ear, and pleaded the cause of the lovers so earnestly with
Venus that he won her consent. On this he sent Mercury to bring Psyche
up to the heavenly assembly, and when she arrived, handing her a cup of
ambrosia, he said, “Drink this, Psyche, and be immortal; nor shall Cupid
ever break away from the knot in which he is tied, but these nuptials
shall be perpetual.”

Thus Psyche became at last united to Cupid, and in due time they had a
daughter born to them whose name was Pleasure.

The fable of Cupid and Psyche is usually considered allegorical. The
Greek name for a _butterfly_ is Psyche, and the same word means the
_soul_. There is no illustration of the immortality of the soul so
striking and beautiful as the butterfly, bursting on brilliant wings
from the tomb in which it has lain, after a dull, grovelling,
caterpillar existence, to flutter in the blaze of day and feed on the
most fragrant and delicate productions of the spring. Psyche, then, is
the human soul, which is purified by sufferings and misfortunes, and is
thus prepared for the enjoyment of true and pure happiness.

In works of art Psyche is represented as a maiden with the wings of a
butterfly, along with Cupid, in the different situations described in
the allegory.

Milton alludes to the story of Cupid and Psyche in the conclusion of his

    “Celestial Cupid, her famed son, advanced,
    Holds his dear Psyche sweet entranced,
    After her wandering labors long,
    Till free consent the gods among
    Make her his eternal bride;
    And from her fair unspotted side
    Two blissful twins are to be born,
    Youth and Joy; so Jove hath sworn.”

The allegory of the story of Cupid and Psyche is well presented in the
beautiful lines of T. K. Harvey:

    “They wove bright fables in the days of old,
      When reason borrowed fancy’s painted wings;
    When truth’s clear river flowed o’er sands of gold,
      And told in song its high and mystic things!
    And such the sweet and solemn tale of her
      The pilgrim heart, to whom a dream was given.
    That led her through the world,—Love’s worshipper,—
      To seek on earth for him whose home was heaven!

    “In the full city,—by the haunted fount,—
      Through the dim grotto’s tracery of spars,—
    ’Mid the pine temples, on the moonlit mount,
      Where silence sits to listen to the stars;
    In the deep glade where dwells the brooding dove,
      The painted valley, and the scented air,
    She heard far echoes of the voice of Love,
      And found his footsteps’ traces everywhere.

    “But nevermore they met! since doubts and fears,
      Those phantom shapes that haunt and blight the earth,
    Had come ’twixt her, a child of sin and tears,
      And that bright spirit of immortal birth;
    Until her pining soul and weeping eyes
    Had learned to seek him only in the skies;
    Till wings unto the weary heart were given,
    And she became Love’s angel bride in heaven!”

The story of Cupid and Psyche first appears in the works of Apuleius, a
writer of the second century of our era. It is therefore of much more
recent date than most of the legends of the Age of Fable. It is this
that Keats alludes to in his “Ode to Psyche”:

    “O latest born and loveliest vision far
      Of all Olympus’ faded hierarchy!
    Fairer than Phœbe’s sapphire-regioned star
      Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;
    Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,
        Nor altar heaped with flowers;
    Nor virgin choir to make delicious moan
        Upon the midnight hours;
    No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet,
        From chain-swung censor teeming;
    No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat
        Of pale-mouthed prophet dreaming.”

In Moore’s “Summer Fête” a fancy ball is described, in which one of the
characters personated is Psyche—

    “. . . not in dark disguise to-night
    Hath our young heroine veiled her light;—
    For see, she walks the earth, Love’s own.
      His wedded bride, by holiest vow
    Pledged in Olympus, and made known
      To mortals by the type which now
      Hangs glittering on her snowy brow.
    That butterfly, mysterious trinket,
    Which means the soul, (though few would think it,)
    And sparkling thus on brow so white
    Tells us we’ve Psyche here to-night.”


                              CHAPTER XII

                          CADMUS—THE MYRMIDONS

JUPITER, under the disguise of a bull, had carried away Europa, the
daughter of Agenor, king of Phœnicia. Agenor commanded his son Cadmus to
go in search of his sister, and not to return without her. Cadmus went
and sought long and far for his sister, but could not find her, and not
daring to return unsuccessful, consulted the oracle of Apollo to know
what country he should settle in. The oracle informed him that he should
find a cow in the field, and should follow her wherever she might
wander, and where she stopped, should build a city and call it Thebes.
Cadmus had hardly left the Castalian cave, from which the oracle was
delivered, when he saw a young cow slowly walking before him. He
followed her close, offering at the same time his prayers to Phœbus. The
cow went on till she passed the shallow channel of Cephisus and came out
into the plain of Panope. There she stood still, and raising her broad
forehead to the sky, filled the air with her lowings. Cadmus gave
thanks, and stooping down kissed the foreign soil, then lifting his
eyes, greeted the surrounding mountains. Wishing to offer a sacrifice to
Jupiter, he sent his servants to seek pure water for a libation. Near by
there stood an ancient grove which had never been profaned by the axe,
in the midst of which was a cave, thick covered with the growth of
bushes, its roof forming a low arch, from beneath which burst forth a
fountain of purest water. In the cave lurked a horrid serpent with a
crested head and scales glittering like gold. His eyes shone like fire,
his body was swollen with venom, he vibrated a triple tongue, and showed
a triple row of teeth. No sooner had the Tyrians dipped their pitchers
in the fountain, and the in-gushing waters made a sound, than the
glittering serpent raised his head out of the cave and uttered a fearful
hiss. The vessels fell from their hands, the blood left their cheeks,
they trembled in every limb. The serpent, twisting his scaly body in a
huge coil, raised his head so as to overtop the tallest trees, and while
the Tyrians from terror could neither fight nor fly, slew some with his
fangs, others in his folds, and others with his poisonous breath.

Cadmus, having waited for the return of his men till midday, went in
search of them. His covering was a lion’s hide, and besides his javelin
he carried in his hand a lance, and in his breast a bold heart, a surer
reliance than either. When he entered the wood, and saw the lifeless
bodies of his men, and the monster with his bloody jaws, he exclaimed,
“O faithful friends, I will avenge you, or share your death.” So saying
he lifted a huge stone and threw it with all his force at the serpent.
Such a block would have shaken the wall of a fortress, but it made no
impression on the monster. Cadmus next threw his javelin, which met with
better success, for it penetrated the serpent’s scales, and pierced
through to his entrails. Fierce with pain, the monster turned back his
head to view the wound, and attempted to draw out the weapon with his
mouth, but broke it off, leaving the iron point rankling in his flesh.
His neck swelled with rage, bloody foam covered his jaws, and the breath
of his nostrils poisoned the air around. Now he twisted himself into a
circle, then stretched himself out on the ground like the trunk of a
fallen tree. As he moved onward, Cadmus retreated before him, holding
his spear opposite to the monster’s opened jaws. The serpent snapped at
the weapon and attempted to bite its iron point. At last Cadmus,
watching his chance, thrust the spear at a moment when the animal’s head
thrown back came against the trunk of a tree, and so succeeded in
pinning him to its side. His weight bent the tree as he struggled in the
agonies of death.

While Cadmus stood over his conquered foe, contemplating its vast size,
a voice was heard (from whence he knew not, but he heard it distinctly)
commanding him to take the dragon’s teeth and sow them in the earth. He
obeyed. He made a furrow in the ground, and planted the teeth, destined
to produce a crop of men. Scarce had he done so when the clods began to
move, and the points of spears to appear above the surface. Next helmets
with their nodding plumes came up, and next the shoulders and breasts
and limbs of men with weapons, and in time a harvest of armed warriors.
Cadmus, alarmed, prepared to encounter a new enemy, but one of them said
to him, “Meddle not with our civil war.” With that he who had spoken
smote one of his earth-born brothers with a sword, and he himself fell
pierced with an arrow from another. The latter fell victim to a fourth,
and in like manner the whole crowd dealt with each other till all fell,
slain with mutual wounds, except five survivors. One of these cast away
his weapons and said, “Brothers, let us live in peace!” These five
joined with Cadmus in building his city, to which they gave the name of

Cadmus obtained in marriage Harmonia, the daughter of Venus. The gods
left Olympus to honor the occasion with their presence, and Vulcan
presented the bride with a necklace of surpassing brilliancy, his own
workmanship. But a fatality hung over the family of Cadmus in
consequence of his killing the serpent sacred to Mars. Semele and Ino,
his daughters, and Actæon and Pentheus, his grandchildren, all perished
unhappily, and Cadmus and Harmonia quitted Thebes, now grown odious to
them, and emigrated to the country of the Enchelians, who received them
with honor and made Cadmus their king. But the misfortunes of their
children still weighed upon their minds; and one day Cadmus exclaimed,
“If a serpent’s life is so dear to the gods, I would I were myself a
serpent.” No sooner had he uttered the words than he began to change his
form. Harmonia beheld it and prayed to the gods to let her share his
fate. Both became serpents. They live in the woods, but mindful of their
origin, they neither avoid the presence of man nor do they ever injure
any one.

There is a tradition that Cadmus introduced into Greece the letters of
the alphabet which were invented by the Phœnicians. This is alluded to
by Byron, where, addressing the modern Greeks, he says:

    “You have the letters Cadmus gave,
    Think you he meant them for a slave?”

Milton, describing the serpent which tempted Eve, is reminded of the
serpents of the classical stories and says:

    . . . “—pleasing was his shape,
    And lovely; never since of serpent kind
    Lovelier; not those that in Illyria changed
    Hermione and Cadmus, nor the god
    In Epidaurus.”

For an explanation of the last allusion, see Oracle of Æsculapius, p.

                             THE MYRMIDONS

The Myrmidons were the soldiers of Achilles, in the Trojan war. From
them all zealous and unscrupulous followers of a political chief are
called by that name, down to this day. But the origin of the Myrmidons
would not give one the idea of a fierce and bloody race, but rather of a
laborious and peaceful one.

Cephalus, king of Athens, arrived in the island of Ægina to seek
assistance of his old friend and ally Æacus, the king, in his war with
Minos, king of Crete. Cephalus was most kindly received, and the desired
assistance readily promised. “I have people enough,” said Æacus, “to
protect myself and spare you such a force as you need.” “I rejoice to
see it,” replied Cephalus, “and my wonder has been raised, I confess, to
find such a host of youths as I see around me, all apparently of about
the same age. Yet there are many individuals whom I previously knew,
that I look for now in vain. What has become of them?” Æacus groaned,
and replied with a voice of sadness, “I have been intending to tell you,
and will now do so, without more delay, that you may see how from the
saddest beginning a happy result sometimes flows. Those whom you
formerly knew are now dust and ashes! A plague sent by angry Juno
devastated the land. She hated it because it bore the name of one of her
husband’s female favorites. While the disease appeared to spring from
natural causes we resisted it, as we best might, by natural remedies;
but it soon appeared that the pestilence was too powerful for our
efforts, and we yielded. At the beginning the sky seemed to settle down
upon the earth, and thick clouds shut in the heated air. For four months
together a deadly south wind prevailed. The disorder affected the wells
and springs; thousands of snakes crept over the land and shed their
poison in the fountains. The force of the disease was first spent on the
lower animals—dogs, cattle, sheep, and birds. The luckless ploughman
wondered to see his oxen fall in the midst of their work, and lie
helpless in the unfinished furrow. The wool fell from the bleating
sheep, and their bodies pined away. The horse, once foremost in the
race, contested the palm no more, but groaned at his stall and died an
inglorious death. The wild boar forgot his rage, the stag his swiftness,
the bears no longer attacked the herds. Everything languished; dead
bodies lay in the roads, the fields, and the woods; the air was poisoned
by them. I tell you what is hardly credible, but neither dogs nor birds
would touch them, nor starving wolves. Their decay spread the infection.
Next the disease attacked the country people, and then the dwellers in
the city. At first the cheek was flushed, and the breath drawn with
difficulty. The tongue grew rough and swelled, and the dry mouth stood
open with its veins enlarged and gasped for the air. Men could not bear
the heat of their clothes or their beds, but preferred to lie on the
bare ground; and the ground did not cool them, but, on the contrary,
they heated the spot where they lay. Nor could the physicians help, for
the disease attacked them also, and the contact of the sick gave them
infection, so that the most faithful were the first victims. At last all
hope of relief vanished, and men learned to look upon death as the only
deliverer from disease. Then they gave way to every inclination, and
cared not to ask what was expedient, for nothing was expedient. All
restraint laid aside, they crowded around the wells and fountains and
drank till they died, without quenching thirst. Many had not strength to
get away from the water, but died in the midst of the stream, and others
would drink of it notwithstanding. Such was their weariness of their
sick beds that some would creep forth, and if not strong enough to
stand, would die on the ground. They seemed to hate their friends, and
got away from their homes, as if, not knowing the cause of their
sickness, they charged it on the place of their abode. Some were seen
tottering along the road, as long as they could stand, while others sank
on the earth, and turned their dying eyes around to take a last look,
then closed them in death.

“What heart had I left me, during all this, or what ought I to have had,
except to hate life and wish to be with my dead subjects? On all sides
lay my people strewn like over-ripened apples beneath the tree, or
acorns under the storm-shaken oak. You see yonder a temple on the
height. It is sacred to Jupiter. O how many offered prayers there,
husbands for wives, fathers for sons, and died in the very act of
supplication! How often, while the priest made ready for sacrifice, the
victim fell, struck down by disease without waiting for the blow! At
length all reverence for sacred things was lost. Bodies were thrown out
unburied, wood was wanting for funeral piles, men fought with one
another for the possession of them. Finally there were none left to
mourn; sons and husbands, old men and youths, perished alike unlamented.

“Standing before the altar I raised my eyes to heaven. ‘O Jupiter,’ I
said, ‘if thou art indeed my father, and art not ashamed of thy
offspring, give me back my people, or take me also away!’ At these words
a clap of thunder was heard. ‘I accept the omen,’ I cried; ‘O may it be
a sign of a favorable disposition towards me!’ By chance there grew by
the place where I stood an oak with wide-spreading branches, sacred to
Jupiter. I observed a troop of ants busy with their labor, carrying
minute grains in their mouths and following one another in a line up the
trunk of the tree. Observing their numbers with admiration, I said,
‘Give me, O father, citizens as numerous as these, and replenish my
empty city.’ The tree shook and gave a rustling sound with its branches,
though no wind agitated them. I trembled in every limb, yet I kissed the
earth and the tree. I would not confess to myself that I hoped, yet I
did hope. Night came on and sleep took possession of my frame oppressed
with cares. The tree stood before me in my dreams, with its numerous
branches all covered with living, moving creatures. It seemed to shake
its limbs and throw down over the ground a multitude of those
industrious grain-gathering animals, which appeared to gain in size, and
grow larger and larger, and by and by to stand erect, lay aside their
superfluous legs and their black color, and finally to assume the human
form. Then I awoke, and my first impulse was to chide the gods who had
robbed me of a sweet vision and given me no reality in its place. Being
still in the temple, my attention was caught by the sound of many voices
without; a sound of late unusual to my ears. While I began to think I
was yet dreaming, Telamon, my son, throwing open the temple gates,
exclaimed: ‘Father, approach, and behold things surpassing even your
hopes!’ I went forth; I saw a multitude of men, such as I had seen in my
dream, and they were passing in procession in the same manner. While I
gazed with wonder and delight they approached and kneeling hailed me as
their king. I paid my vows to Jove, and proceeded to allot the vacant
city to the new-born race, and to parcel out the fields among them. I
called them Myrmidons, from the ant (myrmex) from which they sprang. You
have seen these persons; their dispositions resemble those which they
had in their former shape. They are a diligent and industrious race,
eager to gain, and tenacious of their gains. Among them you may recruit
your forces. They will follow you to the war, young in years and bold in

This description of the plague is copied by Ovid from the account which
Thucydides, the Greek historian, gives of the plague of Athens. The
historian drew from life, and all the poets and writers of fiction since
his day, when they have had occasion to describe a similar scene, have
borrowed their details from him.


                              CHAPTER XIII


                            NISUS AND SCYLLA

MINOS, king of Crete, made war upon Megara. Nisus was king of Megara,
and Scylla was his daughter. The siege had now lasted six months and the
city still held out, for it was decreed by fate that it should not be
taken so long as a certain purple lock, which glittered among the hair
of King Nisus, remained on his head. There was a tower on the city
walls, which overlooked the plain where Minos and his army were
encamped. To this tower Scylla used to repair, and look abroad over the
tents of the hostile army. The siege had lasted so long that she had
learned to distinguish the persons of the leaders. Minos, in particular,
excited her admiration. Arrayed in his helmet, and bearing his shield,
she admired his graceful deportment; if he threw his javelin skill
seemed combined with force in the discharge; if he drew his bow Apollo
himself could not have done it more gracefully. But when he laid aside
his helmet, and in his purple robes bestrode his white horse with its
gay caparisons, and reined in its foaming mouth, the daughter of Nisus
was hardly mistress of herself; she was almost frantic with admiration.
She envied the weapon that he grasped, the reins that he held. She felt
as if she could, if it were possible, go to him through the hostile
ranks; she felt an impulse to cast herself down from the tower into the
midst of his camp, or to open the gates to him, or to do anything else,
so only it might gratify Minos. As she sat in the tower, she talked thus
with herself: “I know not whether to rejoice or grieve at this sad war.
I grieve that Minos is our enemy; but I rejoice at any cause that brings
him to my sight. Perhaps he would be willing to grant us peace, and
receive me as a hostage. I would fly down, if I could, and alight in his
camp, and tell him that we yield ourselves to his mercy. But then, to
betray my father! No! rather would I never see Minos again. And yet no
doubt it is sometimes the best thing for a city to be conquered, when
the conqueror is clement and generous. Minos certainly has right on his
side. I think we shall be conquered; and if that must be the end of it,
why should not love unbar the gates to him, instead of leaving it to be
done by war? Better spare delay and slaughter if we can. And O if any
one should wound or kill Minos! No one surely would have the heart to do
it; yet ignorantly, not knowing him, one might. I will, I will surrender
myself to him, with my country as a dowry, and so put an end to the war.
But how? The gates are guarded, and my father keeps the keys; he only
stands in my way. O that it might please the gods to take him away! But
why ask the gods to do it? Another woman, loving as I do, would remove
with her own hands whatever stood in the way of her love. And can any
other woman dare more than I? I would encounter fire and sword to gain
my object; but here there is no need of fire and sword. I only need my
father’s purple lock. More precious than gold to me, that will give me
all I wish.”

While she thus reasoned night came on, and soon the whole palace was
buried in sleep. She entered her father’s bedchamber and cut off the
fatal lock; then passed out of the city and entered the enemy’s camp.
She demanded to be led to the king, and thus addressed him: “I am
Scylla, the daughter of Nisus. I surrender to you my country and my
father’s house. I ask no reward but yourself; for love of you I have
done it. See here the purple lock! With this I give you my father and
his kingdom.” She held out her hand with the fatal spoil. Minos shrunk
back and refused to touch it. “The gods destroy thee, infamous woman,”
he exclaimed; “disgrace of our time! May neither earth nor sea yield
thee a resting-place! Surely, my Crete, where Jove himself was cradled,
shall not be polluted with such a monster!” Thus he said, and gave
orders that equitable terms should be allowed to the conquered city, and
that the fleet should immediately sail from the island.

Scylla was frantic. “Ungrateful man,” she exclaimed, “is it thus you
leave me?—me who have given you victory,—who have sacrificed for you
parent and country! I am guilty, I confess, and deserve to die, but not
by your hand.” As the ships left the shore, she leaped into the water,
and seizing the rudder of the one which carried Minos, she was borne
along an unwelcome companion of their course. A sea-eagle soaring
aloft,—it was her father who had been changed into that form,—seeing
her, pounced down upon her, and struck her with his beak and claws. In
terror she let go the ship and would have fallen into the water, but
some pitying deity changed her into a bird. The sea-eagle still
cherishes the old animosity; and whenever he espies her in his lofty
flight you may see him dart down upon her, with beak and claws, to take
vengeance for the ancient crime.

                           ECHO AND NARCISSUS

Echo was a beautiful nymph, fond of the woods and hills, where she
devoted herself to woodland sports. She was a favorite of Diana, and
attended her in the chase. But Echo had one failing; she was fond of
talking, and whether in chat or argument, would have the last word. One
day Juno was seeking her husband, who, she had reason to fear, was
amusing himself among the nymphs. Echo by her talk contrived to detain
the goddess till the nymphs made their escape. When Juno discovered it,
she passed sentence upon Echo in these words: “You shall forfeit the use
of that tongue with which you have cheated me, except for that one
purpose you are so fond of—_reply_. You shall still have the last word,
but no power to speak first.”

This nymph saw Narcissus, a beautiful youth, as he pursued the chase
upon the mountains. She loved him and followed his footsteps. O how she
longed to address him in the softest accents, and win him to converse!
but it was not in her power. She waited with impatience for him to speak
first, and had her answer ready. One day the youth, being separated from
his companions, shouted aloud, “Who’s here?” Echo replied, “Here.”
Narcissus looked around, but seeing no one called out, “Come.” Echo
answered, “Come.” As no one came, Narcissus called again, “Why do you
shun me?” Echo asked the same question. “Let us join one another,” said
the youth. The maid answered with all her heart in the same words, and
hastened to the spot, ready to throw her arms about his neck. He started
back, exclaiming, “Hands off! I would rather die than you should have
me!” “Have me,” said she; but it was all in vain. He left her, and she
went to hide her blushes in the recesses of the woods. From that time
forth she lived in caves and among mountain cliffs. Her form faded with
grief, till at last all her flesh shrank away. Her bones were changed
into rocks and there was nothing left of her but her voice. With that
she is still ready to reply to any one who calls her, and keeps up her
old habit of having the last word.

Narcissus’s cruelty in this case was not the only instance. He shunned
all the rest of the nymphs, as he had done poor Echo. One day a maiden
who had in vain endeavored to attract him uttered a prayer that he might
some time or other feel what it was to love and meet no return of
affection. The avenging goddess heard and granted the prayer.

There was a clear fountain, with water like silver, to which the
shepherds never drove their flocks, nor the mountain goats resorted, nor
any of the beasts of the forest; neither was it defaced with fallen
leaves or branches; but the grass grew fresh around it, and the rocks
sheltered it from the sun. Hither came one day the youth, fatigued with
hunting, heated and thirsty. He stooped down to drink, and saw his own
image in the water; he thought it was some beautiful water-spirit living
in the fountain. He stood gazing with admiration at those bright eyes,
those locks curled like the locks of Bacchus or Apollo, the rounded
cheeks, the ivory neck, the parted lips, and the glow of health and
exercise over all. He fell in love with himself. He brought his lips
near to take a kiss; he plunged his arms in to embrace the beloved
object. It fled at the touch, but returned again after a moment and
renewed the fascination. He could not tear himself away; he lost all
thought of food or rest, while he hovered over the brink of the fountain
gazing upon his own image. He talked with the supposed spirit: “Why,
beautiful being, do you shun me? Surely my face is not one to repel you.
The nymphs love me, and you yourself look not indifferent upon me. When
I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and
answer my beckonings with the like.” His tears fell into the water and
disturbed the image. As he saw it depart, he exclaimed, “Stay, I entreat
you! Let me at least gaze upon you, if I may not touch you.” With this,
and much more of the same kind, he cherished the flame that consumed
him, so that by degrees he lost his color, his vigor, and the beauty
which formerly had so charmed the nymph Echo. She kept near him,
however, and when he exclaimed, “Alas! alas!” she answered him with the
same words. He pined away and died; and when his shade passed the
Stygian river, it leaned over the boat to catch a look of itself in the
waters. The nymphs mourned for him, especially the water-nymphs; and
when they smote their breasts Echo smote hers also. They prepared a
funeral pile and would have burned the body, but it was nowhere to be
found; but in its place a flower, purple within, and surrounded with
white leaves, which bears the name and preserves the memory of

Milton alludes to the story of Echo and Narcissus in the Lady’s song in
“Comus.” She is seeking her brothers in the forest, and sings to attract
their attention:

    “Sweet Echo, sweetest nymph, that liv’st unseen
            Within thy aëry shell
        By slow Meander’s margent green,
      And in the violet-embroidered vale,
        Where the love-lorn nightingale
      Nightly to thee her sad song mourneth well;
      Canst thou not tell me of a gentle pair
        That likest thy Narcissus are?
            O, if thou have
        Hid them in some flowery cave,
            Tell me but where,
      Sweet queen of parly, daughter of the sphere,
      So may’st thou be translated to the skies,
    And give resounding grace to all heaven’s harmonies.”

Milton has imitated the story of Narcissus in the account which he makes
Eve give of the first sight of herself reflected in the fountain:

    “That day I oft remember when from sleep
    I first awaked, and found myself reposed
    Under a shade on flowers, much wondering where
    And what I was, whence thither brought, and how.
    Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound
    Of waters issued from a cave, and spread
    Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved
    Pure as the expanse of heaven; I thither went
    With unexperienced thought, and laid me down
    On the green bank, to look into the clear
    Smooth lake that to me seemed another sky.
    As I bent down to look, just opposite
    A shape within the watery gleam appeared,
    Bending to look on me. I started back;
    It started back; but pleased I soon returned,
    Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks
    Of sympathy and love. There had I fixed
    Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire,
    Had not a voice thus warned me: ‘What thou seest,
    What there thou seest, fair creature, is thyself;’” etc.
                                  —_Paradise Lost_, Book IV.

No one of the fables of antiquity has been oftener alluded to by the
poets than that of Narcissus. Here are two epigrams which treat it in
different ways. The first is by Goldsmith:

    “Sure ’twas by Providence designed,
      Rather in pity than in hate,
    That he should be like Cupid blind,
      To save him from Narcissus’ fate.”

The other is by Cowper:

             “ON AN UGLY FELLOW
    “Beware, my friend, of crystal brook
    Or fountain, lest that hideous hook,
      Thy nose, thou chance to see;
    Narcissus’ fate would then be thine,
    And self-detested thou would’st pine,
      As self-enamoured he.”


Clytie was a water-nymph and in love with Apollo, who made her no
return. So she pined away, sitting all day long upon the cold ground,
with her unbound tresses streaming over her shoulders. Nine days she sat
and tasted neither food nor drink, her own tears and the chilly dew her
only food. She gazed on the sun when he rose, and as he passed through
his daily course to his setting; she saw no other object, her face
turned constantly on him. At last, they say, her limbs rooted in the
ground, her face became a flower[13] which turns on its stem so as
always to face the sun throughout its daily course; for it retains to
that extent the feeling of the nymph from whom it sprang.

Hood, in his “Flowers,” thus alludes to Clytie:

    “I will not have the mad Clytie,
      Whose head is turned by the sun;
    The tulip is a courtly quean,
      Whom therefore I will shun;
    The cowslip is a country wench,
      The violet is a nun;—
    But I will woo the dainty rose,
      The queen of every one.”

The sunflower is a favorite emblem of constancy. Thus Moore uses it:

    “The heart that has truly loved never forgets,
      But as truly loves on to the close;
    As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
      The same look that she turned when he rose.”

                            HERO AND LEANDER

Leander was a youth of Abydos, a town of the Asian side of the strait
which separates Asia and Europe. On the opposite shore, in the town of
Sestos, lived the maiden Hero, a priestess of Venus. Leander loved her,
and used to swim the strait nightly to enjoy the company of his
mistress, guided by a torch which she reared upon the tower for the
purpose. But one night a tempest arose and the sea was rough; his
strength failed, and he was drowned. The waves bore his body to the
European shore, where Hero became aware of his death, and in her despair
cast herself down from the tower into the sea and perished.

The following sonnet is by Keats:

    “Come hither all sweet maidens soberly,
      Down looking aye, and with a chasten’d light
      Hid in the fringes of your eyelids white,
    And meekly let your fair hands joined be.
    As if so gentle that ye could not see,
      Untouch’d, a victim of your beauty bright,
      Sinking away to his young spirit’s night,
    Sinking bewilder’d ’mid the dreary sea.
    ’Tis young Leander toiling to his death.
      Nigh swooning he doth purse his weary lips
    For Hero’s cheek, and smiles against her smile.
      O horrid dream! see how his body dips
    Dead-heavy; arms and shoulders gleam awhile;
    He’s gone; up bubbles all his amorous breath!”

The story of Leander’s swimming the Hellespont was looked upon as
fabulous, and the feat considered impossible, till Lord Byron proved its
possibility by performing it himself. In the “Bride of Abydos” he says,

    “These limbs that buoyant wave hath borne.”

The distance in the narrowest part is almost a mile, and there is a
constant current setting out from the Sea of Marmora into the
Archipelago. Since Byron’s time the feat has been achieved by others;
but it yet remains a test of strength and skill in the art of swimming
sufficient to give a wide and lasting celebrity to any one of our
readers who may dare to make the attempt and succeed in accomplishing

In the beginning of the second canto of the same poem, Byron thus
alludes to this story:

    “The winds are high on Helle’s wave,
      As on that night of stormiest water,
    When Love, who sent, forgot to save
    The young, the beautiful, the brave,
      The lonely hope of Sestos’ daughter.
    O, when alone along the sky
    The turret-torch was blazing high,
    Though rising gale and breaking foam,
    And shrieking sea-birds warned him home;
    And clouds aloft and tides below,
    With signs and sounds forbade to go,
    He could not see, he would not hear
    Or sound or sight foreboding fear.
    His eye but saw that light of love,
    The only star it hailed above;
    His ear but rang with Hero’s song,
    ‘Ye waves, divide not lovers long.’
    That tale is old, but love anew
    May nerve young hearts to prove as true.”


                              CHAPTER XIV



MINERVA, the goddess of wisdom, was the daughter of Jupiter. She was
said to have leaped forth from his brain, mature, and in complete armor.
She presided over the useful and ornamental arts, both those of
men—such as agriculture and navigation—and those of women,—spinning,
weaving, and needlework. She was also a warlike divinity; but it was
defensive war only that she patronized, and she had no sympathy with
Mars’s savage love of violence and bloodshed. Athens was her chosen
seat, her own city, awarded to her as the prize of a contest with
Neptune, who also aspired to it. The tale ran that in the reign of
Cecrops, the first king of Athens, the two deities contended for the
possession of the city. The gods decreed that it should be awarded to
that one who produced the gift most useful to mortals. Neptune gave the
horse; Minerva produced the olive. The gods gave judgment that the olive
was the more useful of the two, and awarded the city to the goddess; and
it was named after her, Athens, her name in Greek being Athene.

There was another contest, in which a mortal dared to come in
competition with Minerva. That mortal was Arachne, a maiden who had
attained such skill in the arts of weaving and embroidery that the
nymphs themselves would leave their groves and fountains to come and
gaze upon her work. It was not only beautiful when it was done, but
beautiful also in the doing. To watch her, as she took the wool in its
rude state and formed it into rolls, or separated it with her fingers
and carded it till it looked as light and soft as a cloud, or twirled
the spindle with skilful touch, or wove the web, or, after it was woven,
adorned it with her needle, one would have said that Minerva herself had
taught her. But this she denied, and could not bear to be thought a
pupil even of a goddess. “Let Minerva try her skill with mine,” said
she; “if beaten I will pay the penalty.” Minerva heard this and was
displeased. She assumed the form of an old woman and went and gave
Arachne some friendly advice. “I have had much experience,” said she,
“and I hope you will not despise my counsel. Challenge your
fellow-mortals as you will, but do not compete with a goddess. On the
contrary, I advise you to ask her forgiveness for what you have said,
and as she is merciful perhaps she will pardon you.” Arachne stopped her
spinning and looked at the old dame with anger in her countenance. “Keep
your counsel,” said she, “for your daughters or handmaids; for my part I
know what I say, and I stand to it. I am not afraid of the goddess; let
her try her skill, if she dare venture.” “She comes,” said Minerva; and
dropping her disguise stood confessed. The nymphs bent low in homage,
and all the bystanders paid reverence. Arachne alone was unterrified.
She blushed, indeed; a sudden color dyed her cheek, and then she grew
pale. But she stood to her resolve, and with a foolish conceit of her
own skill rushed on her fate. Minerva forbore no longer nor interposed
any further advice. They proceed to the contest. Each takes her station
and attaches the web to the beam. Then the slender shuttle is passed in
and out among the threads. The reed with its fine teeth strikes up the
woof into its place and compacts the web. Both work with speed; their
skilful hands move rapidly, and the excitement of the contest makes the
labor light. Wool of Tyrian dye is contrasted with that of other colors,
shaded off into one another so adroitly that the joining deceives the
eye. Like the bow, whose long arch tinges the heavens, formed by
sunbeams reflected from the shower,[14] in which, where the colors meet
they seem as one, but at a little distance from the point of contact are
wholly different.

Minerva wrought on her web the scene of her contest with Neptune. Twelve
of the heavenly powers are represented, Jupiter, with august gravity,
sitting in the midst. Neptune, the ruler of the sea, holds his trident,
and appears to have just smitten the earth, from which a horse has
leaped forth. Minerva depicted herself with helmed head, her Ægis
covering her breast. Such was the central circle; and in the four
corners were represented incidents illustrating the displeasure of the
gods at such presumptuous mortals as had dared to contend with them.
These were meant as warnings to her rival to give up the contest before
it was too late.

Arachne filled her web with subjects designedly chosen to exhibit the
failings and errors of the gods. One scene represented Leda caressing
the swan, under which form Jupiter had disguised himself; and another,
Danaë, in the brazen tower in which her father had imprisoned her, but
where the god effected his entrance in the form of a golden shower.
Still another depicted Europa deceived by Jupiter under the disguise of
a bull. Encouraged by the tameness of the animal Europa ventured to
mount his back, whereupon Jupiter advanced into the sea and swam with
her to Crete. You would have thought it was a real bull, so naturally
was it wrought, and so natural the water in which it swam. She seemed to
look with longing eyes back upon the shore she was leaving, and to call
to her companions for help. She appeared to shudder with terror at the
sight of the heaving waves, and to draw back her feet from the water.

Arachne filled her canvas with similar subjects, wonderfully well done,
but strongly marking her presumption and impiety. Minerva could not
forbear to admire, yet felt indignant at the insult. She struck the web
with her shuttle and rent it in pieces; she then touched the forehead of
Arachne and made her feel her guilt and shame. She could not endure it
and went and hanged herself. Minerva pitied her as she saw her suspended
by a rope. “Live,” she said, “guilty woman! and that you may preserve
the memory of this lesson, continue to hang, both you and your
descendants, to all future times.” She sprinkled her with the juices of
aconite, and immediately her hair came off, and her nose and ears
likewise. Her form shrank up, and her head grew smaller yet; her fingers
cleaved to her side and served for legs. All the rest of her is body,
out of which she spins her thread, often hanging suspended by it, in the
same attitude as when Minerva touched her and transformed her into a

Spenser tells the story of Arachne in his “Muiopotmos,” adhering very
closely to his master Ovid, but improving upon him in the conclusion of
the story. The two stanzas which follow tell what was done after the
goddess had depicted her creation of the olive tree:

    “Amongst these leaves she made a Butterfly,
    With excellent device and wondrous slight,
    Fluttering among the olives wantonly,
    That seemed to live, so like it was in sight;
    The velvet nap which on his wings doth lie,
    The silken down with which his back is dight,
    His broad outstretched horns, his hairy thighs,
    His glorious colors, and his glistening eyes.”[15]

    “Which when Arachne saw, as overlaid
    And mastered with workmanship so rare,
    She stood astonied long, ne aught gainsaid;
    And with fast-fixed eyes on her did stare,
    And by her silence, sign of one dismayed,
    The victory did yield her as her share:
    Yet did she inly fret and felly burn,
    And all her blood to poisonous rancor turn.”

And so the metamorphosis is caused by Arachne’s own mortification and
vexation, and not by any direct act of the goddess.

The following specimen of old-fashioned gallantry is by Garrick:

    “Arachne once, as poets tell,
      A goddess at her art defied,
    And soon the daring mortal fell
      The hapless victim of her pride.

    “O, then beware Arachne’s fate;
      Be prudent, Chloe, and submit,
    For you’ll most surely meet her hate,
      Who rival both her art and wit.”

Tennyson, in his “Palace of Art,” describing the works of art with which
the palace was adorned, thus alludes to Europa:

    “. . . sweet Europa’s mantle blew unclasped
      From off her shoulder, backward borne,
    From one hand drooped a crocus, one hand grasped
      The mild bull’s golden horn.”

In his “Princess” there is this allusion to Danaë:

    “Now lies the earth all Danaë to the stars,
    And all thy heart lies open unto me.”


The fate of Arachne was noised abroad through all the country, and
served as a warning to all presumptuous mortals not to compare
themselves with the divinities. But one, and she a matron too, failed to
learn the lesson of humility. It was Niobe, the queen of Thebes. She had
indeed much to be proud of; but it was not her husband’s fame, nor her
own beauty, nor their great descent, nor the power of their kingdom that
elated her. It was her children; and truly the happiest of mothers would
Niobe have been if only she had not claimed to be so. It was on occasion
of the annual celebration in honor of Latona and her offspring, Apollo
and Diana,—when the people of Thebes were assembled, their brows
crowned with laurel, bearing frankincense to the altars and paying their
vows,—that Niobe appeared among the crowd. Her attire was splendid with
gold and gems, and her aspect beautiful as the face of an angry woman
can be. She stood and surveyed the people with haughty looks. “What
folly,” said she, “is this!—to prefer beings whom you never saw to
those who stand before your eyes! Why should Latona be honored with
worship, and none be paid to me? My father was Tantalus, who was
received as a guest at the table of the gods; my mother was a goddess.
My husband built and rules this city, Thebes, and Phrygia is my paternal
inheritance. Wherever I turn my eyes I survey the elements of my power;
nor is my form and presence unworthy of a goddess. To all this let me
add I have seven sons and seven daughters, and look for sons-in-law and
daughters-in-law of pretensions worthy of my alliance. Have I not cause
for pride? Will you prefer to me this Latona, the Titan’s daughter, with
her two children? I have seven times as many. Fortunate indeed am I, and
fortunate I shall remain! Will any one deny this? My abundance is my
security. I feel myself too strong for Fortune to subdue. She may take
from me much; I shall still have much left. Were I to lose some of my
children, I should hardly be left as poor as Latona with her two only.
Away with you from these solemnities,—put off the laurel from your
brows,—have done with this worship!” The people obeyed, and left the
sacred services uncompleted.

The goddess was indignant. On the Cynthian mountain top where she dwelt
she thus addressed her son and daughter: “My children, I who have been
so proud of you both, and have been used to hold myself second to none
of the goddesses except Juno alone, begin now to doubt whether I am
indeed a goddess. I shall be deprived of my worship altogether unless
you protect me.” She was proceeding in this strain, but Apollo
interrupted her. “Say no more,” said he; “speech only delays
punishment.” So said Diana also. Darting through the air, veiled in
clouds, they alighted on the towers of the city. Spread out before the
gates was a broad plain, where the youth of the city pursued their
warlike sports. The sons of Niobe were there with the rest,—some
mounted on spirited horses richly caparisoned, some driving gay
chariots. Ismenos, the first-born, as he guided his foaming steeds,
struck with an arrow from above, cried out, “Ah me!” dropped the reins,
and fell lifeless. Another, hearing the sound of the bow,—like a
boatman who sees the storm gathering and makes all sail for the
port,—gave the reins to his horses and attempted to escape. The
inevitable arrow overtook him as he fled. Two others, younger boys, just
from their tasks, had gone to the playground to have a game of
wrestling. As they stood breast to breast, one arrow pierced them both.
They uttered a cry together, together cast a parting look around them,
and together breathed their last. Alphenor, an elder brother, seeing
them fall, hastened to the spot to render assistance, and fell stricken
in the act of brotherly duty. One only was left, Ilioneus. He raised his
arms to heaven to try whether prayer might not avail. “Spare me, ye
gods!” he cried, addressing all, in his ignorance that all needed not
his intercessions; and Apollo would have spared him, but the arrow had
already left the string, and it was too late.

The terror of the people and grief of the attendants soon made Niobe
acquainted with what had taken place. She could hardly think it
possible; she was indignant that the gods had dared and amazed that they
had been able to do it. Her husband, Amphion, overwhelmed with the blow,
destroyed himself. Alas! how different was this Niobe from her who had
so lately driven away the people from the sacred rites, and held her
stately course through the city, the envy of her friends, now the pity
even of her foes! She knelt over the lifeless bodies, and kissed now
one, now another of her dead sons. Raising her pallid arms to heaven,
“Cruel Latona,” said she, “feed full your rage with my anguish! Satiate
your hard heart, while I follow to the grave my seven sons. Yet where is
your triumph? Bereaved as I am, I am still richer than you, my
conqueror.” Scarce had she spoken, when the bow sounded and struck
terror into all hearts except Niobe’s alone. She was brave from excess
of grief. The sisters stood in garments of mourning over the biers of
their dead brothers. One fell, struck by an arrow, and died on the
corpse she was bewailing. Another, attempting to console her mother,
suddenly ceased to speak, and sank lifeless to the earth. A third tried
to escape by flight, a fourth by concealment, another stood trembling,
uncertain what course to take. Six were now dead, and only one remained,
whom the mother held clasped in her arms, and covered as it were with
her whole body. “Spare me one, and that the youngest! O spare me one of
so many!” she cried; and while she spoke, that one fell dead. Desolate
she sat, among sons, daughters, husband, all dead, and seemed torpid
with grief. The breeze moved not her hair, no color was on her cheek,
her eyes glared fixed and immovable, there was no sign of life about
her. Her very tongue cleaved to the roof of her mouth, and her veins
ceased to convey the tide of life. Her neck bent not, her arms made no
gesture, her foot no step. She was changed to stone, within and without.
Yet tears continued to flow; and borne on a whirlwind to her native
mountain, she still remains, a mass of rock, from which a trickling
stream flows, the tribute of her never-ending grief.

The story of Niobe has furnished Byron with a fine illustration of the
fallen condition of modern Rome:

    “The Niobe of nations! there she stands,
    Childless and crownless in her voiceless woe;
    An empty urn within her withered hands,
    Whose holy dust was scattered long ago;
    The Scipios’ tomb contains no ashes now:
    The very sepulchres lie tenantless
    Of their heroic dwellers; dost thou flow,
    Old Tiber! through a marble wilderness?
    Rise with thy yellow waves, and mantle her distress.”
                                 _Childe Harold_, IV. 79.

This affecting story has been made the subject of a celebrated statue in
the imperial gallery of Florence. It is the principal figure of a group
supposed to have been originally arranged in the pediment of a temple.
The figure of the mother clasped by the arm of her terrified child is
one of the most admired of the ancient statues. It ranks with the
Laocoön and the Apollo among the masterpieces of art. The following is a
translation of a Greek epigram supposed to relate to this statue:

    “To stone the gods have changed her, but in vain;
    The sculptor’s art has made her breathe again.”

Tragic as is the story of Niobe, we cannot forbear to smile at the use
Moore has made of it in “Rhymes on the Road”:

    “’Twas in his carriage the sublime
    Sir Richard Blackmore used to rhyme,
      And, if the wits don’t do him wrong,
    ’Twixt death and epics passed his time,
      Scribbling and killing all day long;
        Like Phœbus in his car at ease,
      Now warbling forth a lofty song,
        Now murdering the young Niobes.”

Sir Richard Blackmore was a physician, and at the same time a very
prolific and very tasteless poet, whose works are now forgotten, unless
when recalled to mind by some wit like Moore for the sake of a joke.


                               CHAPTER XV


                        THE GRÆÆ AND THE GORGONS

THE Grææ were three sisters who were gray-haired from their birth,
whence their name. The Gorgons were monstrous females with huge teeth
like those of swine, brazen claws, and snaky hair. None of these beings
make much figure in mythology except Medusa, the Gorgon, whose story we
shall next advert to. We mention them chiefly to introduce an ingenious
theory of some modern writers, namely, that the Gorgons and Grææ were
only personifications of the terrors of the sea, the former denoting the
_strong_ billows of the wide open main, and the latter the
_white_-crested waves that dash against the rocks of the coast. Their
names in Greek signify the above epithets.

                           PERSEUS AND MEDUSA

Perseus was the son of Jupiter and Danaë. His grandfather Acrisius,
alarmed by an oracle which had told him that his daughter’s child would
be the instrument of his death, caused the mother and child to be shut
up in a chest and set adrift on the sea. The chest floated towards
Seriphus, where it was found by a fisherman who conveyed the mother and
infant to Polydectes, the king of the country, by whom they were treated
with kindness. When Perseus was grown up Polydectes sent him to attempt
the conquest of Medusa, a terrible monster who had laid waste the
country. She was once a beautiful maiden whose hair was her chief glory,
but as she dared to vie in beauty with Minerva, the goddess deprived her
of her charms and changed her beautiful ringlets into hissing serpents.
She became a cruel monster of so frightful an aspect that no living
thing could behold her without being turned into stone. All around the
cavern where she dwelt might be seen the stony figures of men and
animals which had chanced to catch a glimpse of her and had been
petrified with the sight. Perseus, favored by Minerva and Mercury, the
former of whom lent him her shield and the latter his winged shoes,
approached Medusa while she slept, and taking care not to look directly
at her, but guided by her image reflected in the bright shield which he
bore, he cut off her head and gave it to Minerva, who fixed it in the
middle of her Ægis.

Milton, in his “Comus,” thus alludes to the Ægis:

    “What was that snaky-headed Gorgon-shield
    That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin,
    Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone,
    But rigid looks of chaste austerity,
    And noble grace that dashed brute violence
    With sudden adoration and blank awe!”

Armstrong, the poet of the “Art of Preserving Health,” thus describes
the effect of frost upon the waters:

    “Now blows the surly North and chills throughout
    The stiffening regions, while by stronger charms
    Than Circe e’er or fell Medea brewed,
    Each brook that wont to prattle to its banks
    Lies all bestilled and wedged betwixt its banks,
    Nor moves the withered reeds . . .
    The surges baited by the fierce North-east,
    Tossing with fretful spleen their angry heads,
    E’en in the foam of all their madness struck
    To monumental ice.
      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
                          Such execution,
    So stern, so sudden, wrought the grisly aspect
    Of terrible Medusa,
    When wandering through the woods she turned to stone
    Their savage tenants; just as the foaming Lion
    Sprang furious on his prey, her speedier power
    Outran his haste,
    And fixed in that fierce attitude he stands
    Like Rage in marble!”
                        —_Imitations of Shakspeare._

                           PERSEUS AND ATLAS

After the slaughter of Medusa, Perseus, bearing with him the head of the
Gorgon, flew far and wide, over land and sea. As night came on, he
reached the western limit of the earth, where the sun goes down. Here he
would gladly have rested till morning. It was the realm of King Atlas,
whose bulk surpassed that of all other men. He was rich in flocks and
herds and had no neighbor or rival to dispute his state. But his chief
pride was in his gardens, whose fruit was of gold, hanging from golden
branches, half hid with golden leaves. Perseus said to him, “I come as a
guest. If you honor illustrious descent, I claim Jupiter for my father;
if mighty deeds, I plead the conquest of the Gorgon. I seek rest and
food.” But Atlas remembered that an ancient prophecy had warned him that
a son of Jove should one day rob him of his golden apples. So he
answered, “Begone! or neither your false claims of glory nor parentage
shall protect you;” and he attempted to thrust him out. Perseus, finding
the giant too strong for him, said, “Since you value my friendship so
little, deign to accept a present;” and turning his face away, he held
up the Gorgon’s head. Atlas, with all his bulk, was changed into stone.
His beard and hair became forests, his arms and shoulders cliffs, his
head a summit, and his bones rocks. Each part increased in bulk till he
became a mountain, and (such was the pleasure of the gods) heaven with
all its stars rests upon his shoulders.

                            THE SEA-MONSTER

Perseus, continuing his flight, arrived at the country of the
Æthiopians, of which Cepheus was king. Cassiopeia his queen, proud of
her beauty, had dared to compare herself to the Sea-Nymphs, which roused
their indignation to such a degree that they sent a prodigious
sea-monster to ravage the coast. To appease the deities, Cepheus was
directed by the oracle to expose his daughter Andromeda to be devoured
by the monster. As Perseus looked down from his aerial height he beheld
the virgin chained to a rock, and waiting the approach of the serpent.
She was so pale and motionless that if it had not been for her flowing
tears and her hair that moved in the breeze, he would have taken her for
a marble statue. He was so startled at the sight that he almost forgot
to wave his wings. As he hovered over her he said, “O virgin,
undeserving of those chains, but rather of such as bind fond lovers
together, tell me, I beseech you, your name, and the name of your
country, and why you are thus bound.” At first she was silent from
modesty, and, if she could, would have hid her face with her hands; but
when he repeated his questions, for fear she might be thought guilty of
some fault which she dared not tell, she disclosed her name and that of
her country, and her mother’s pride of beauty. Before she had done
speaking, a sound was heard off upon the water, and the sea-monster
appeared, with his head raised above the surface, cleaving the waves
with his broad breast. The virgin shrieked, the father and mother who
had now arrived at the scene, wretched both, but the mother more justly
so, stood by, not able to afford protection, but only to pour forth
lamentations and to embrace the victim. Then spoke Perseus: “There will
be time enough for tears; this hour is all we have for rescue. My rank
as the son of Jove and my renown as the slayer of the Gorgon might make
me acceptable as a suitor; but I will try to win her by services
rendered, if the gods will only be propitious. If she be rescued by my
valor, I demand that she be my reward.” The parents consent (how could
they hesitate?) and promise a royal dowry with her.

And now the monster was within the range of a stone thrown by a skilful
slinger, when with a sudden bound the youth soared into the air. As an
eagle, when from his lofty flight he sees a serpent basking in the sun,
pounces upon him and seizes him by the neck to prevent him from turning
his head round and using his fangs, so the youth darted down upon the
back of the monster and plunged his sword into its shoulder. Irritated
by the wound, the monster raised himself in the air, then plunged into
the depth; then, like a wild boar surrounded by a pack of barking dogs,
turned swiftly from side to side, while the youth eluded its attacks by
means of his wings. Wherever he can find a passage for his sword between
the scales he makes a wound, piercing now the side, now the flank, as it
slopes towards the tail. The brute spouts from his nostrils water mixed
with blood. The wings of the hero are wet with it, and he dares no
longer trust to them. Alighting on a rock which rose above the waves,
and holding on by a projecting fragment, as the monster floated near he
gave him a death stroke. The people who had gathered on the shore
shouted so that the hills reëchoed the sound. The parents, transported
with joy, embraced their future son-in-law, calling him their deliverer
and the savior of their house, and the virgin, both cause and reward of
the contest, descended from the rock.

Cassiopeia was an Æthiopian, and consequently, in spite of her boasted
beauty, black; at least so Milton seems to have thought, who alludes to
this story in his “Penseroso,” where he addresses Melancholy as the

    “. . . . goddess, sage and holy,
    Whose saintly visage is too bright
    To hit the sense of human sight,
    And, therefore, to our weaker view
    O’erlaid with black, staid Wisdom’s hue.
    Black, but such as in esteem
    Prince Memnon’s sister might beseem,
    Or that starred Æthiop queen that strove
    To set her beauty’s praise above
    The sea-nymphs, and their powers offended.”

Cassiopeia is called “the starred Æthiop queen” because after her death
she was placed among the stars, forming the constellation of that name.
Though she attained this honor, yet the Sea-Nymphs, her old enemies,
prevailed so far as to cause her to be placed in that part of the heaven
near the pole, where every night she is half the time held with her head
downward, to give her a lesson of humility.

Memnon was an Æthiopian prince, of whom we shall tell in a future

                           THE WEDDING FEAST

The joyful parents, with Perseus and Andromeda, repaired to the palace,
where a banquet was spread for them, and all was joy and festivity. But
suddenly a noise was heard of warlike clamor, and Phineus, the betrothed
of the virgin, with a party of his adherents, burst in, demanding the
maiden as his own. It was in vain that Cepheus remonstrated—“You should
have claimed her when she lay bound to the rock, the monster’s victim.
The sentence of the gods dooming her to such a fate dissolved all
engagements, as death itself would have done.” Phineus made no reply,
but hurled his javelin at Perseus, but it missed its mark and fell
harmless. Perseus would have thrown his in turn, but the cowardly
assailant ran and took shelter behind the altar. But his act was a
signal for an onset by his band upon the guests of Cepheus. They
defended themselves and a general conflict ensued, the old king
retreating from the scene after fruitless expostulations, calling the
gods to witness that he was guiltless of this outrage on the rights of

Perseus and his friends maintained for some time the unequal contest;
but the numbers of the assailants were too great for them, and
destruction seemed inevitable, when a sudden thought struck Perseus,—“I
will make my enemy defend me.” Then with a loud voice he exclaimed, “If
I have any friend here let him turn away his eyes!” and held aloft the
Gorgon’s head. “Seek not to frighten us with your jugglery,” said
Thescelus, and raised his javelin in act to throw, and became stone in
the very attitude. Ampyx was about to plunge his sword into the body of
a prostrate foe, but his arm stiffened and he could neither thrust
forward nor withdraw it. Another, in the midst of a vociferous
challenge, stopped, his mouth open, but no sound issuing. One of
Perseus’s friends, Aconteus, caught sight of the Gorgon and stiffened
like the rest. Astyages struck him with his sword, but instead of
wounding, it recoiled with a ringing noise.

Phineus beheld this dreadful result of his unjust aggression, and felt
confounded. He called aloud to his friends, but got no answer; he
touched them and found them stone. Falling on his knees and stretching
out his hands to Perseus, but turning his head away he begged for mercy.
“Take all,” said he, “give me but my life.” “Base coward,” said Perseus,
“thus much I will grant you; no weapon shall touch you; moreover, you
shall be preserved in my house as a memorial of these events.” So
saying, he held the Gorgon’s head to the side where Phineus was looking,
and in the very form in which he knelt, with his hands outstretched and
face averted, he became fixed immovably, a mass of stone!

The following allusion to Perseus is from Milman’s “Samor”:

    “As ’mid the fabled Libyan bridal stood
    Perseus in stern tranquillity of wrath,
    Half stood, half floated on his ankle-plumes
    Out-swelling, while the bright face on his shield
    Looked into stone the raging fray; so rose,
    But with no magic arms, wearing alone
    Th’ appalling and control of his firm look,
    The Briton Samor; at his rising awe
    Went abroad, and the riotous hall was mute.”


                              CHAPTER XVI



MONSTERS, in the language of mythology, were beings of unnatural
proportions or parts, usually regarded with terror, as possessing
immense strength and ferocity, which they employed for the injury and
annoyance of men. Some of them were supposed to combine the members of
different animals; such were the Sphinx and Chimæra; and to these all
the terrible qualities of wild beasts were attributed, together with
human sagacity and faculties. Others, as the giants, differed from men
chiefly in their size; and in this particular we must recognize a wide
distinction among them. The human giants, if so they may be called, such
as the Cyclopes, Antæus, Orion, and others, must be supposed not to be
altogether disproportioned to human beings, for they mingled in love and
strife with them. But the superhuman giants, who warred with the gods,
were of vastly larger dimensions. Tityus, we are told, when stretched on
the plain, covered nine acres, and Enceladus required the whole of Mount
Ætna to be laid upon him to keep him down.

We have already spoken of the war which the giants waged against the
gods, and of its result. While this war lasted the giants proved a
formidable enemy. Some of them, like Briareus, had a hundred arms;
others, like Typhon, breathed out fire. At one time they put the gods to
such fear that they fled into Egypt and hid themselves under various
forms. Jupiter took the form of a ram, whence he was afterwards
worshipped in Egypt as the god Ammon, with curved horns. Apollo became a
crow, Bacchus a goat, Diana a cat, Juno a cow, Venus a fish, Mercury a
bird. At another time the giants attempted to climb up into heaven, and
for that purpose took up the mountain Ossa and piled it on Pelion.[16]
They were at last subdued by thunderbolts, which Minerva invented, and
taught Vulcan and his Cyclopes to make for Jupiter.

                               THE SPHINX

Laius, king of Thebes, was warned by an oracle that there was danger to
his throne and life if his new-born son should be suffered to grow up.
He therefore committed the child to the care of a herdsman with orders
to destroy him; but the herdsman, moved with pity, yet not daring
entirely to disobey, tied up the child by the feet and left him hanging
to the branch of a tree. In this condition the infant was found by a
peasant, who carried him to his master and mistress, by whom he was
adopted and called Œdipus, or Swollen-foot.

Many years afterwards Laius being on his way to Delphi, accompanied only
by one attendant, met in a narrow road a young man also driving in a
chariot. On his refusal to leave the way at their command the attendant
killed one of his horses, and the stranger, filled with rage, slew both
Laius and his attendant. The young man was Œdipus, who thus unknowingly
became the slayer of his own father.

Shortly after this event the city of Thebes was afflicted with a monster
which infested the highroad. It was called the Sphinx. It had the body
of a lion and the upper part of a woman. It lay crouched on the top of a
rock, and arrested all travellers who came that way, proposing to them a
riddle, with the condition that those who could solve it should pass
safe, but those who failed should be killed. Not one had yet succeeded
in solving it, and all had been slain. Œdipus was not daunted by these
alarming accounts, but boldly advanced to the trial. The Sphinx asked
him, “What animal is that which in the morning goes on four feet, at
noon on two, and in the evening upon three?” Œdipus replied, “Man, who
in childhood creeps on hands and knees, in manhood walks erect, and in
old age with the aid of a staff.” The Sphinx was so mortified at the
solving of her riddle that she cast herself down from the rock and

The gratitude of the people for their deliverance was so great that they
made Œdipus their king, giving him in marriage their queen Jocasta.
Œdipus, ignorant of his parentage, had already become the slayer of his
father; in marrying the queen he became the husband of his mother. These
horrors remained undiscovered, till at length Thebes was afflicted with
famine and pestilence, and the oracle being consulted, the double crime
of Œdipus came to light. Jocasta put an end to her own life, and Œdipus,
seized with madness, tore out his eyes and wandered away from Thebes,
dreaded and abandoned by all except his daughters, who faithfully
adhered to him, till after a tedious period of miserable wandering he
found the termination of his wretched life.

                        PEGASUS AND THE CHIMÆRA

When Perseus cut off Medusa’s head, the blood sinking into the earth
produced the winged horse Pegasus. Minerva caught him and tamed him and
presented him to the Muses. The fountain Hippocrene, on the Muses’
mountain Helicon, was opened by a kick from his hoof.

The Chimæra was a fearful monster, breathing fire. The fore part of its
body was a compound of the lion and the goat, and the hind part a
dragon’s. It made great havoc in Lycia, so that the king, Iobates,
sought for some hero to destroy it. At that time there arrived at his
court a gallant young warrior, whose name was Bellerophon. He brought
letters from Prœtus, the son-in-law of Iobates, recommending Bellerophon
in the warmest terms as an unconquerable hero, but added at the close a
request to his father-in-law to put him to death. The reason was that
Prœtus was jealous of him, suspecting that his wife Antea looked with
too much admiration on the young warrior. From this instance of
Bellerophon being unconsciously the bearer of his own death warrant, the
expression “Bellerophontic letters” arose, to describe any species of
communication which a person is made the bearer of, containing matter
prejudicial to himself.

Iobates, on perusing the letters, was puzzled what to do, not willing to
violate the claims of hospitality, yet wishing to oblige his son-in-law.
A lucky thought occurred to him, to send Bellerophon to combat with the
Chimæra. Bellerophon accepted the proposal, but before proceeding to the
combat consulted the soothsayer Polyidus, who advised him to procure if
possible the horse Pegasus for the conflict. For this purpose he
directed him to pass the night in the temple of Minerva. He did so, and
as he slept Minerva came to him and gave him a golden bridle. When he
awoke the bridle remained in his hand. Minerva also showed him Pegasus
drinking at the well of Pirene, and at sight of the bridle the winged
steed came willingly and suffered himself to be taken. Bellerophon
mounted him, rose with him into the air, soon found the Chimæra, and
gained an easy victory over the monster.

After the conquest of the Chimæra Bellerophon was exposed to further
trials and labors by his unfriendly host, but by the aid of Pegasus he
triumphed in them all, till at length Iobates, seeing that the hero was
a special favorite of the gods, gave him his daughter in marriage and
made him his successor on the throne. At last Bellerophon by his pride
and presumption drew upon himself the anger of the gods; it is said he
even attempted to fly up into heaven on his winged steed, but Jupiter
sent a gadfly which stung Pegasus and made him throw his rider, who
became lame and blind in consequence. After this Bellerophon wandered
lonely through the Aleian field, avoiding the paths of men, and died

Milton alludes to Bellerophon in the beginning of the seventh book of
“Paradise Lost”:

    “Descend from Heaven, Urania, by that name
    If rightly thou art called, whose voice divine
    Following above the Olympian hill I soar,
    Above the flight of Pegasean wing.
                          Upled by thee,
    Into the Heaven of Heavens I have presumed,
    An earthly guest, and drawn empyreal air
    (Thy tempering); with like safety guided down
    Return me to my native element;
    Lest from this flying steed unreined (as once
    Bellerophon, though from a lower sphere),
    Dismounted on the Aleian field I fall,
    Erroneous there to wander and forlorn.”

Young, in his “Night Thoughts,” speaking of the sceptic, says:

    “He whose blind thought futurity denies,
    Unconscious bears, Bellerophon, like thee
    His own indictment; he condemns himself.
    Who reads his bosom reads immortal life,
    Or nature there, imposing on her sons,
    Has written fables; man was made a lie.”
                            Vol. II., p. 12.

Pegasus, being the horse of the Muses, has always been at the service of
the poets. Schiller tells a pretty story of his having been sold by a
needy poet and put to the cart and the plough. He was not fit for such
service, and his clownish master could make nothing of him. But a youth
stepped forth and asked leave to try him. As soon as he was seated on
his back the horse, which had appeared at first vicious, and afterwards
spirit-broken, rose kingly, a spirit, a god, unfolded the splendor of
his wings, and soared towards heaven. Our own poet Longfellow also
records an adventure of this famous steed in his “Pegasus in Pound.”

Shakspeare alludes to Pegasus in “Henry IV.,” where Vernon describes
Prince Henry:

    “I saw young Harry, with his beaver on,
    His cuishes on his thighs, gallantly armed,
    Rise from the ground like feathered Mercury,
    And vaulted with such ease into his seat,
    As if an angel dropped down from the clouds,
    To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,
    And witch the world with noble horsemanship.”

                              THE CENTAURS

These monsters were represented as men from the head to the loins, while
the remainder of the body was that of a horse. The ancients were too
fond of a horse to consider the union of his nature with man’s as
forming a very degraded compound, and accordingly the Centaur is the
only one of the fancied monsters of antiquity to which any good traits
are assigned. The Centaurs were admitted to the companionship of man,
and at the marriage of Pirithous with Hippodamia they were among the
guests. At the feast Eurytion, one of the Centaurs, becoming intoxicated
with the wine, attempted to offer violence to the bride; the other
Centaurs followed his example, and a dreadful conflict arose in which
several of them were slain. This is the celebrated battle of the Lapithæ
and Centaurs, a favorite subject with the sculptors and poets of

But not all the Centaurs were like the rude guests of Pirithous. Chiron
was instructed by Apollo and Diana, and was renowned for his skill in
hunting, medicine, music, and the art of prophecy. The most
distinguished heroes of Grecian story were his pupils. Among the rest
the infant Æsculapius was intrusted to his charge by Apollo, his father.
When the sage returned to his home bearing the infant, his daughter
Ocyroe came forth to meet him, and at sight of the child burst forth
into a prophetic strain (for she was a prophetess), foretelling the
glory that he was to achieve. Æsculapius when grown up became a renowned
physician, and even in one instance succeeded in restoring the dead to
life. Pluto resented this, and Jupiter, at his request, struck the bold
physician with lightning, and killed him, but after his death received
him into the number of the gods.

Chiron was the wisest and justest of all the Centaurs, and at his death
Jupiter placed him among the stars as the constellation Sagittarius.

                              THE PYGMIES

The Pygmies were a nation of dwarfs, so called from a Greek word which
means the cubit or measure of about thirteen inches, which was said to
be the height of these people. They lived near the sources of the Nile,
or according to others, in India. Homer tells us that the cranes used to
migrate every winter to the Pygmies’ country, and their appearance was
the signal of bloody warfare to the puny inhabitants, who had to take up
arms to defend their cornfields against the rapacious strangers. The
Pygmies and their enemies the Cranes form the subject of several works
of art.

Later writers tell of an army of Pygmies which finding Hercules asleep
made preparations to attack him, as if they were about to attack a city.
But the hero, awaking, laughed at the little warriors, wrapped some of
them up in his lion’s skin, and carried them to Eurystheus.

Milton uses the Pygmies for a simile, “Paradise Lost,” Book I.:

                “. . . like that Pygmæan race
    Beyond the Indian mount, or fairy elves
    Whose midnight revels by a forest side,
    Or fountain, some belated peasant sees
    (Or dreams he sees), while overhead the moon
    Sits arbitress, and nearer to the earth
    Wheels her pale course; they on their mirth and dance
    Intent, with jocund music charm his ear.
    At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds.”

                        THE GRIFFIN, OR GRYPHON

The Griffin is a monster with the body of a lion, the head and wings of
an eagle, and back covered with feathers. Like birds it builds its nest,
and instead of an egg lays an agate therein. It has long claws and
talons of such a size that the people of that country make them into
drinking-cups. India was assigned as the native country of the Griffins.
They found gold in the mountains and build their nests of it, for which
reason their nests were very tempting to the hunters, and they were
forced to keep vigilant guard over them. Their instinct led them to know
where buried treasures lay, and they did their best to keep plunderers
at a distance. The Arimaspians, among whom the Griffins flourished, were
a one-eyed people of Scythia.

Milton borrows a simile from the Griffins, “Paradise Lost,” Book II.:

    “As when a Gryphon through the wilderness,
    With winged course, o’er hill and moory dale,
    Pursues the Arimaspian who by stealth
    Hath from his wakeful custody purloined
    His guarded gold,” etc.


                              CHAPTER XVII

                        THE GOLDEN FLEECE—MEDEA

                           THE GOLDEN FLEECE

IN very ancient times there lived in Thessaly a king and queen named
Athamas and Nephele. They had two children, a boy and a girl. After a
time Athamas grew indifferent to his wife, put her away, and took
another. Nephele suspected danger to her children from the influence of
the stepmother, and took measures to send them out of her reach. Mercury
assisted her, and gave her a ram with a _golden fleece_, on which she
set the two children, trusting that the ram would convey them to a place
of safety. The ram vaulted into the air with the children on his back,
taking his course to the East, till when crossing the strait that
divides Europe and Asia, the girl, whose name was Helle, fell from his
back into the sea, which from her was called the Hellespont,—now the
Dardanelles. The ram continued his career till he reached the kingdom of
Colchis, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, where he safely landed
the boy Phryxus, who was hospitably received by Æetes, king of the
country. Phryxus sacrificed the ram to Jupiter, and gave the _Golden
Fleece_ to Æetes, who placed it in a consecrated grove, under the care
of a sleepless dragon.

There was another kingdom in Thessaly near to that of Athamas, and ruled
over by a relative of his. The king Æson, being tired of the cares of
government, surrendered his crown to his brother Pelias on condition
that he should hold it only during the minority of Jason, the son of
Æson. When Jason was grown up and came to demand the crown from his
uncle, Pelias pretended to be willing to yield it, but at the same time
suggested to the young man the glorious adventure of going in quest of
the Golden Fleece, which it was well known was in the kingdom of
Colchis, and was, as Pelias pretended, the rightful property of their
family. Jason was pleased with the thought, and forthwith made
preparations for the expedition. At that time the only species of
navigation known to the Greeks consisted of small boats or canoes
hollowed out from trunks of trees, so that when Jason employed Argus to
build him a vessel capable of containing fifty men, it was considered a
gigantic undertaking. It was accomplished, however, and the vessel named
“Argo,” from the name of the builder. Jason sent his invitation to all
the adventurous young men of Greece, and soon found himself at the head
of a band of bold youths, many of whom afterwards were renowned among
the heroes and demigods of Greece. Hercules, Theseus, Orpheus, and
Nestor were among them. They are called the Argonauts, from the name of
their vessel.

The “Argo” with her crew of heroes left the shores of Thessaly and
having touched at the Island of Lemnos, thence crossed to Mysia and
thence to Thrace. Here they found the sage Phineus, and from him
received instruction as to their future course. It seems the entrance of
the Euxine Sea was impeded by two small rocky islands, which floated on
the surface, and in their tossings and heavings occasionally came
together, crushing and grinding to atoms any object that might be caught
between them. They were called the Symplegades, or Clashing Islands.
Phineus instructed the Argonauts how to pass this dangerous strait. When
they reached the islands they let go a dove, which took her way between
the rocks, and passed in safety, only losing some feathers of her tail.
Jason and his men seized the favorable moment of the rebound, plied
their oars with vigor, and passed safe through, though the islands
closed behind them, and actually grazed their stern. They now  rowed
along the shore till they arrived at the eastern end of the sea, and
landed at the kingdom of Colchis.

Jason made known his message to the Colchian king, Æetes, who consented
to give up the golden fleece if Jason would yoke to the plough two
fire-breathing bulls with brazen feet, and sow the teeth of the dragon
which Cadmus had slain, and from which it was well known that a crop of
armed men would spring up, who would turn their weapons against their
producer. Jason accepted the conditions, and a time was set for making
the experiment. Previously, however, he found means to plead his cause
to Medea, daughter of the king. He promised her marriage, and as they
stood before the altar of Hecate, called the goddess to witness his
oath. Medea yielded, and by her aid, for she was a potent sorceress, he
was furnished with a charm, by which he could encounter safely the
breath of the fire-breathing bulls and the weapons of the armed men.

At the time appointed, the people assembled at the grove of Mars, and
the king assumed his royal seat, while the multitude covered the
hill-sides. The brazen-footed bulls rushed in, breathing fire from their
nostrils that burned up the herbage as they passed. The sound was like
the roar of a furnace, and the smoke like that of water upon quick-lime.
Jason advanced boldly to meet them. His friends, the chosen heroes of
Greece, trembled to behold him. Regardless of the burning breath, he
soothed their rage with his voice, patted their necks with fearless
hand, and adroitly slipped over them the yoke, and compelled them to
drag the plough. The Colchians were amazed; the Greeks shouted for joy.
Jason next proceeded to sow the dragon’s teeth and plough them in. And
soon the crop of armed men sprang up, and, wonderful to relate! no
sooner had they reached the surface than they began to brandish their
weapons and rush upon Jason. The Greeks trembled for their hero, and
even she who had provided him a way of safety and taught him how to use
it, Medea herself, grew pale with fear. Jason for a time kept his
assailants at bay with his sword and shield, till, finding their numbers
overwhelming, he resorted to the charm which Medea had taught him,
seized a stone and threw it in the midst of his foes. They immediately
turned their arms against one another, and soon there was not one of the
dragon’s brood left alive. The Greeks embraced their hero, and Medea, if
she dared, would have embraced him too.

It remained to lull to sleep the dragon that guarded the fleece, and
this was done by scattering over him a few drops of a preparation which
Medea had supplied. At the smell he relaxed his rage, stood for a moment
motionless, then shut those great round eyes, that had never been known
to shut before, and turned over on his side, fast asleep. Jason seized
the fleece and with his friends and Medea accompanying, hastened to
their vessel before Æetes the king could arrest their departure, and
made the best of their way back to Thessaly, where they arrived safe,
and Jason delivered the fleece to Pelias, and dedicated the “Argo” to
Neptune. What became of the fleece afterwards we do not know, but
perhaps it was found after all, like many other golden prizes, not worth
the trouble it had cost to procure it.

This is one of those mythological tales, says a late writer, in which
there is reason to believe that a substratum of truth exists, though
overlaid by a mass of fiction. It probably was the first important
maritime expedition, and like the first attempts of the kind of all
nations, as we know from history, was probably of a half-piratical
character. If rich spoils were the result it was enough to give rise to
the idea of the golden fleece.

Another suggestion of a learned mythologist, Bryant, is that it is a
corrupt tradition of the story of Noah and the ark. The name “Argo”
seems to countenance this, and the incident of the dove is another

Pope, in his “Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day,” thus celebrates the launching
of the ship “Argo,” and the power of the music of Orpheus, whom he calls
the Thracian:

    “So when the first bold vessel dared the seas,
      High on the stern the Thracian raised his strain,
    While Argo saw her kindred trees
      Descend from Pelion to the main.
    Transported demigods stood round,
    And men grew heroes at the sound.”

In Dyer’s poem of “The Fleece” there is an account of the ship “Argo”
and her crew, which gives a good picture of this primitive maritime

    “From every region of Ægea’s shore
    The brave assembled; those illustrious twins
    Castor and Pollux; Orpheus, tuneful bard;
    Zetes and Calais, as the wind in speed;
    Strong Hercules and many a chief renowned.
    On deep Iolcos’ sandy shore they thronged,
    Gleaming in armor, ardent of exploits;
    And soon, the laurel cord and the huge stone
    Uplifting to the deck, unmoored the bark;
    Whose keel of wondrous length the skilful hand
    Of Argus fashioned for the proud attempt;
    And in the extended keel a lofty mast
    Upraised, and sails full swelling; to the chiefs
    Unwonted objects. Now first, now they learned
    Their bold steerage over ocean wave,
    Led by the golden stars, as Chiron’s art
    Had marked the sphere celestial,” etc.

Hercules left the expedition at Mysia, for Hylas, a youth beloved by
him, having gone for water, was laid hold of and kept by the nymphs of
the spring, who were fascinated by his beauty. Hercules went in quest of
the lad, and while he was absent the “Argo” put to sea and left him.
Moore, in one of his songs, makes a beautiful allusion to this incident:

    “When Hylas was sent with his urn to the fount,
      Through fields full of light and heart full of play,
    Light rambled the boy over meadow and mount,
      And neglected his task for the flowers in the way.

    “Thus many like me, who in youth should have tasted
      The fountain that runs by Philosophy’s shrine,
    Their time with the flowers on the margin have wasted,
      And left their light urns all as empty as mine.”

                             MEDEA AND ÆSON

Amid the rejoicings for the recovery of the Golden Fleece, Jason felt
that one thing was wanting, the presence of Æson, his father, who was
prevented by his age and infirmities from taking part in them. Jason
said to Medea, “My spouse, would that your arts, whose power I have seen
so mighty for my aid, could do me one further service, take some years
from my life and add them to my father’s.” Medea replied, “Not at such a
cost shall it be done, but if my art avails me, his life shall be
lengthened without abridging yours.” The next full moon she issued forth
alone, while all creatures slept; not a breath stirred the foliage, and
all was still. To the stars she addressed her incantations, and to the
moon; to Hecate,[17] the goddess of the underworld, and to Tellus the
goddess of the earth, by whose power plants potent for enchantment are
produced. She invoked the gods of the woods and caverns, of mountains
and valleys, of lakes and rivers, of winds and vapors. While she spoke
the stars shone brighter, and presently a chariot descended through the
air, drawn by flying serpents. She ascended it, and borne aloft made her
way to distant regions, where potent plants grew which she knew how to
select for her purpose. Nine nights she employed in her search, and
during that time came not within the doors of her palace nor under any
roof, and shunned all intercourse with mortals.

She next erected two altars, the one to Hecate, the other to Hebe, the
goddess of youth, and sacrificed a black sheep, pouring libations of
milk and wine. She implored Pluto and his stolen bride that they would
not hasten to take the old man’s life. Then she directed that Æson
should be led forth, and having thrown him into a deep sleep by a charm,
had him laid on a bed of herbs, like one dead. Jason and all others were
kept away from the place, that no profane eyes might look upon her
mysteries. Then, with streaming hair, she thrice moved round the altars,
dipped flaming twigs in the blood, and laid them thereon to burn.
Meanwhile the caldron with its contents was got ready. In it she put
magic herbs, with seeds and flowers of acrid juice, stones from the
distant east, and sand from the shore of all-surrounding ocean; hoar
frost, gathered by moonlight, a screech owl’s head and wings, and the
entrails of a wolf. She added fragments of the shells or tortoises, and
the liver of stags,—animals tenacious of life,—and the head and beak
of a crow, that outlives nine generations of men. These with many other
things “without a name” she boiled together for her purposed work,
stirring them up with a dry olive branch; and behold! the branch when
taken out instantly became green, and before long was covered with
leaves and a plentiful growth of young olives; and as the liquor boiled
and bubbled, and sometimes ran over, the grass wherever the sprinklings
fell shot forth with a verdure like that of spring.

Seeing that all was ready, Medea cut the throat of the old man and let
out all his blood, and poured into his mouth and into his wound the
juices of her caldron. As soon as he had completely imbibed them, his
hair and beard laid by their whiteness and assumed the blackness of
youth; his paleness and emaciation were gone; his veins were full of
blood, his limbs of vigor and robustness. Æson is amazed at himself, and
remembers that such as he now is, he was in his youthful days, forty
years before.

Medea used her arts here for a good purpose, but not so in another
instance, where she made them the instruments of revenge. Pelias, our
readers will recollect, was the usurping uncle of Jason, and had kept
him out of his kingdom. Yet he must have had some good qualities, for
his daughters loved him, and when they saw what Medea had done for Æson,
they wished her to do the same for their father. Medea pretended to
consent, and prepared her caldron as before. At her request an old sheep
was brought and plunged into the caldron. Very soon a bleating was heard
in the kettle, and when the cover was removed, a lamb jumped forth and
ran frisking away into the meadow. The daughters of Pelias saw the
experiment with delight, and appointed a time for their father to
undergo the same operation. But Medea prepared her caldron for him in a
very different way. She put in only water and a few simple herbs. In the
night she with the sisters entered the bed chamber of the old king,
while he and his guards slept soundly under the influence of a spell
cast upon them by Medea. The daughters stood by the bedside with their
weapons drawn, but hesitated to strike, till Medea chid their
irresolution. Then turning away their faces, and giving random blows,
they smote him with their weapons. He, starting from his sleep, cried
out, “My daughters, what are you doing? Will you kill your father?”
Their hearts failed them and their weapons fell from their hands, but
Medea struck him a fatal blow, and prevented his saying more.

Then they placed him in the caldron, and Medea hastened to depart in her
serpent-drawn chariot before they discovered her treachery, or their
vengeance would have been terrible. She escaped, however, but had little
enjoyment of the fruits of her crime. Jason, for whom she had done so
much, wishing to marry Creusa, princess of Corinth, put away Medea. She,
enraged at his ingratitude, called on the gods for vengeance, sent a
poisoned robe as a gift to the bride, and then killing her own children,
and setting fire to the palace, mounted her serpent-drawn chariot and
fled to Athens, where she married King Ægeus, the father of Theseus, and
we shall meet her again when we come to the adventures of that hero.

The incantations of Medea will remind the reader of those of the witches
in “Macbeth.” The following lines are those which seem most strikingly
to recall the ancient model:

    “Round about the caldron go;
    In the poisoned entrails throw.
      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    Fillet of a fenny snake
    In the caldron boil and bake;
    Eye of newt and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
    Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
    Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing:
      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    Maw of ravening salt-sea shark,
    Root of hemlock digged in the dark,” etc.
                     —_Macbeth_, Act IV., Scene 1

And again:

    _Macbeth._—What is’t you do?
    _Witches._—A deed without a name.

There is another story of Medea almost too revolting for record even of
a sorceress, a class of persons to whom both ancient and modern poets
have been accustomed to attribute every degree of atrocity. In her
flight from Colchis she had taken her young brother Absyrtus with her.
Finding the pursuing vessels of Æetes gaining upon the Argonauts, she
caused the lad to be killed and his limbs to be strewn over the sea.
Æetes on reaching the place found these sorrowful traces of his murdered
son; but while he tarried to collect the scattered fragments and bestow
upon them an honorable interment, the Argonauts escaped.

In the poems of Campbell will be found a translation of one of the
choruses of the tragedy of “Medea,” where the poet Euripides has taken
advantage of the occasion to pay a glowing tribute to Athens, his native
city. It begins thus:

    “O haggard queen! to Athens dost thou guide
      Thy glowing chariot, steeped in kindred gore;
    Or seek to hide thy damned parricide
      Where peace and justice dwell for evermore?”


                             CHAPTER XVIII

                         MELEAGER AND ATALANTA

ONE of the heroes of the Argonautic expedition was Meleager, son of
Œneus and Althea, king and queen of Calydon. Althea, when her son was
born, beheld the three destinies, who, as they spun their fatal thread,
foretold that the life of the child should last no longer than a brand
then burning upon the hearth. Althea seized and quenched the brand, and
carefully preserved it for years, while Meleager grew to boyhood, youth,
and manhood. It chanced, then, that Œneus, as he offered sacrifices to
the gods, omitted to pay due honors to Diana; and she, indignant at the
neglect, sent a wild boar of enormous size to lay waste the fields of
Calydon. Its eyes shone with blood and fire, its bristles stood like
threatening spears, its tusks were like those of Indian elephants. The
growing corn was trampled, the vines and olive trees laid waste, the
flocks and herds were driven in wild confusion by the slaughtering foe.
All common aid seemed vain; but Meleager called on the heroes of Greece
to join in a bold hunt for the ravenous monster. Theseus and his friend
Pirithous, Jason, Peleus, afterwards the father of Achilles, Telamon the
father of Ajax, Nestor, then a youth, but who in his age bore arms with
Achilles and Ajax in the Trojan war,—these and many more joined in the
enterprise. With them came Atalanta, the daughter of Iasius, king of
Arcadia. A buckle of polished gold confined her vest, an ivory quiver
hung on her left shoulder, and her left hand bore the bow. Her face
blent feminine beauty with the best graces of martial youth. Meleager
saw and loved.

But now already they were near the monster’s lair. They stretched strong
nets from tree to tree; they uncoupled their dogs, they tried to find
the footprints of their quarry in the grass. From the wood was a descent
to marshy ground. Here the boar, as he lay among the reeds, heard the
shouts of his pursuers, and rushed forth against them. One and another
is thrown down and slain. Jason throws his spear, with a prayer to Diana
for success; and the favoring goddess allows the weapon to touch, but
not to wound, removing the steel point of the spear in its flight.
Nestor, assailed, seeks and finds safety in the branches of a tree.
Telamon rushes on, but stumbling at a projecting root, falls prone. But
an arrow from Atalanta at length for the first time tastes the monster’s
blood. It is a slight wound, but Meleager sees and joyfully proclaims
it. Anceus, excited to envy by the praise given to a female, loudly
proclaims his own valor, and defies alike the boar and the goddess who
had sent it; but as he rushes on, the infuriated beast lays him low with
a mortal wound. Theseus throws his lance, but it is turned aside by a
projecting bough. The dart of Jason misses its object, and kills instead
one of their own dogs. But Meleager, after one unsuccessful stroke,
drives his spear into the monster’s side, then rushes on and despatches
him with repeated blows.

Then rose a shout from those around; they congratulated the conqueror,
crowding to touch his hand. He, placing his foot upon the head of the
slain boar, turned to Atalanta and bestowed on her the head and the
rough hide which were the trophies of his success. But at this, envy
excited the rest to strife. Plexippus and Toxeus, the brothers of
Meleager’s mother, beyond the rest opposed the gift, and snatched from
the maiden the trophy she had received. Meleager, kindling with rage at
the wrong done to himself, and still more at the insult offered to her
whom he loved, forgot the claims of kindred, and plunged his sword into
the offenders’ hearts.

As Althea bore gifts of thankfulness to the temples for the victory of
her son, the bodies of her murdered brothers met her sight. She shrieks,
and beats her breast, and hastens to change the garments of rejoicing
for those of mourning. But when the author of the deed is known, grief
gives way to the stern desire of vengeance on her son. The fatal brand,
which once she rescued from the flames, the brand which the destinies
had linked with Meleager’s life, she brings forth, and commands a fire
to be prepared. Then four times she essays to place the brand upon the
pile; four times draws back, shuddering at the thought of bringing
destruction on her son. The feelings of the mother and the sister
contend within her. Now she is pale at the thought of the proposed deed,
now flushed again with anger at the act of her son. As a vessel, driven
in one direction by the wind, and in the opposite by the tide, the mind
of Althea hangs suspended in uncertainty. But now the sister prevails
above the mother, and she begins as she holds the fatal wood: “Turn, ye
Furies, goddesses of punishment! turn to behold the sacrifice I bring!
Crime must atone for crime. Shall Œneus rejoice in his victor son, while
the house of Thestius is desolate? But, alas! to what deed am I borne
along? Brothers forgive a mother’s weakness! my hand fails me. He
deserves death, but not that I should destroy him. But shall he then
live, and triumph, and reign over Calydon, while you, my brothers,
wander unavenged among the shades? No! thou hast lived by my gift; die,
now, for thine own crime. Return the life which twice I gave thee, first
at thy birth, again when I snatched this brand from the flames. O that
thou hadst then died! Alas! evil is the conquest; but, brothers, ye have
conquered.” And, turning away her face, she threw the fatal wood upon
the burning pile.

It gave, or seemed to give, a deadly groan. Meleager, absent and
unknowing of the cause, felt a sudden pang. He burns, and only by
courageous pride conquers the pain which destroys him. He mourns only
that he perishes by a bloodless and unhonored death. With his last
breath he calls upon his aged father, his brother, and his fond sisters,
upon his beloved Atalanta, and upon his mother, the unknown cause of his
fate. The flames increase, and with them the pain of the hero. Now both
subside; now both are quenched. The brand is ashes, and the life of
Meleager is breathed forth to the wandering winds.

Althea, when the deed was done, laid violent hands upon herself. The
sisters of Meleager mourned their brother with uncontrollable grief;
till Diana, pitying the sorrows of the house that once had aroused her
anger, turned them into birds.


The innocent cause of so much sorrow was a maiden whose face you might
truly say was boyish for a girl, yet too girlish for a boy. Her fortune
had been told, and it was to this effect: “Atalanta, do not marry;
marriage will be your ruin.” Terrified by this oracle, she fled the
society of men, and devoted herself to the sports of the chase. To all
suitors (for she had many) she imposed a condition which was generally
effectual in relieving her of their persecutions,—“I will be the prize
of him who shall conquer me in the race; but death must be the penalty
of all who try and fail.” In spite of this hard condition some would
try. Hippomenes was to be judge of the race. “Can it be possible that
any will be so rash as to risk so much for a wife?” said he. But when he
saw her lay aside her robe for the race, he changed his mind, and said,
“Pardon me, youths, I knew not the prize you were competing for.” As he
surveyed them he wished them all to be beaten, and swelled with envy of
any one that seemed at all likely to win. While such were his thoughts,
the virgin darted forward. As she ran she looked more beautiful than
ever. The breezes seemed to give wings to her feet; her hair flew over
her shoulders, and the gay fringe of her garment fluttered behind her. A
ruddy hue tinged the whiteness of her skin, such as a crimson curtain
casts on a marble wall. All her competitors were distanced, and were put
to death without mercy. Hippomenes, not daunted by this result, fixing
his eyes on the virgin, said, “Why boast of beating those laggards? I
offer myself for the contest.” Atalanta looked at him with a pitying
countenance, and hardly knew whether she would rather conquer him or
not. “What god can tempt one so young and handsome to throw himself
away? I pity him, not for his beauty (yet he is beautiful), but for his
youth. I wish he would give up the race, or if he will be so mad, I hope
he may outrun me.” While she hesitates, revolving these thoughts, the
spectators grow impatient for the race, and her father prompts her to
prepare. Then Hippomenes addressed a prayer to Venus: “Help me, Venus,
for you have led me on.” Venus heard and was propitious.

In the garden of her temple, in her own island of Cyprus, is a tree with
yellow leaves and yellow branches and golden fruit. Hence she gathered
three golden apples, and, unseen by any one else, gave them to
Hippomenes, and told him how to use them. The signal is given; each
starts from the goal and skims over the sand. So light their tread, you
would almost have thought they might run over the river surface or over
the waving grain without sinking. The cries of the spectators cheered
Hippomenes,—“Now, now, do your best! haste, haste! you gain on her!
relax not! one more effort!” It was doubtful whether the youth or the
maiden heard these cries with the greater pleasure. But his breath began
to fail him, his throat was dry, the goal yet far off. At that moment he
threw down one of the golden apples. The virgin was all amazement. She
stopped to pick it up. Hippomenes shot ahead. Shouts burst forth from
all sides. She redoubled her efforts, and soon overtook him. Again he
threw an apple. She stopped again, but again came up with him. The goal
was near; one chance only remained. “Now, goddess,” said he, “prosper
your gift!” and threw the last apple off at one side. She looked at it,
and hesitated; Venus impelled her to turn aside for it. She did so, and
was vanquished. The youth carried off his prize.

But the lovers were so full of their own happiness that they forgot to
pay due honor to Venus; and the goddess was provoked at their
ingratitude. She caused them to give offence to Cybele. That powerful
goddess was not to be insulted with impunity. She took from them their
human form and turned them into animals of characters resembling their
own: of the huntress-heroine, triumphing in the blood of her lovers, she
made a lioness, and of her lord and master a lion, and yoked them to her
car, where they are still to be seen in all representations, in statuary
or painting, of the goddess Cybele.

Cybele is the Latin name of the goddess called by the Greeks Rhea and
Ops. She was the wife of Cronos and mother of Zeus. In works of art she
exhibits the matronly air which distinguishes Juno and Ceres. Sometimes
she is veiled, and seated on a throne with lions at her side, at other
times riding in a chariot drawn by lions. She wears a mural crown, that
is, a crown whose rim is carved in the form of towers and battlements.
Her priests were called Corybantes.

Byron, in describing the city of Venice, which is built on a low island
in the Adriatic Sea, borrows an illustration from Cybele:

    “She looks a sea-Cybele fresh from ocean,
    Rising with her tiara of proud towers
    At airy distance, with majestic motion,
    A ruler of the waters and their powers.”
                        —_Childe Harold_, IV.

In Moore’s “Rhymes on the Road,” the poet, speaking of Alpine scenery,
alludes to the story of Atalanta and Hippomenes thus:

    “Even here, in this region of wonders, I find
    That light-footed Fancy leaves Truth far behind,
    Or at least, like Hippomenes, turns her astray
    By the golden illusions he flings in her way.”

[Illustration: CIRCE.
 From painting by Burne-Jones.]

[Illustration: THE THREE FATES.
 From painting by Michael Angelo. Pitti Gallery, Florence.]


                              CHAPTER XIX

                       HERCULES—HEBE AND GANYMEDE


HERCULES was the son of Jupiter and Alcmena. As Juno was always hostile
to the offspring of her husband by mortal mothers, she declared war
against Hercules from his birth. She sent two serpents to destroy him as
he lay in his cradle, but the precocious infant strangled them with his
own hands. He was, however, by the arts of Juno rendered subject to
Eurystheus and compelled to perform all his commands. Eurystheus
enjoined upon him a succession of desperate adventures, which are called
the “Twelve Labors of Hercules.” The first was the fight with the Nemean
lion. The valley of Nemea was infested by a terrible lion. Eurystheus
ordered Hercules to bring him the skin of this monster. After using in
vain his club and arrows against the lion, Hercules strangled the animal
with his hands. He returned carrying the dead lion on his shoulders; but
Eurystheus was so frightened at the sight of it and at this proof of the
prodigious strength of the hero, that he ordered him to deliver the
account of his exploits in future outside the town.

His next labor was the slaughter of the Hydra. This monster ravaged the
country of Argos, and dwelt in a swamp near the well of Amymone. This
well had been discovered by Amymone when the country was suffering from
drought, and the story was that Neptune, who loved her, had permitted
her to touch the rock with his trident, and a spring of three outlets
burst forth. Here the Hydra took up his position, and Hercules was sent
to destroy him. The Hydra had nine heads, of which the middle one was
immortal. Hercules struck off its heads with his club, but in the place
of the head knocked off, two new ones grew forth each time. At length
with the assistance of his faithful servant Iolaus, he burned away the
heads of the Hydra, and buried the ninth or immortal one under a huge

Another labor was the cleaning of the Augean stables. Augeas, king of
Elis, had a herd of three thousand oxen, whose stalls had not been
cleansed for thirty years. Hercules brought the rivers Alpheus and
Peneus through them, and cleansed them thoroughly in one day.

His next labor was of a more delicate kind. Admeta, the daughter of
Eurystheus, longed to obtain the girdle of the queen of the Amazons, and
Eurystheus ordered Hercules to go and get it. The Amazons were a nation
of women. They were very warlike and held several flourishing cities. It
was their custom to bring up only the female children; the boys were
either sent away to the neighboring nations or put to death. Hercules
was accompanied by a number of volunteers, and after various adventures
at last reached the country of the Amazons. Hippolyta, the queen,
received him kindly, and consented to yield him her girdle, but Juno,
taking the form of an Amazon, went and persuaded the rest that the
strangers were carrying off their queen. They instantly armed and came
in great numbers down to the ship. Hercules, thinking that Hippolyta had
acted treacherously, slew her, and taking her girdle made sail

Another task enjoined him was to bring to Eurystheus the oxen of Geryon,
a monster with three bodies, who dwelt in the island Erytheia (the red),
so called because it lay at the west, under the rays of the setting sun.
This description is thought to apply to Spain, of which Geryon was king.
After traversing various countries, Hercules reached at length the
frontiers of Libya and Europe, where he raised the two mountains of
Calpe and Abyla, as monuments of his progress, or, according to another
account, rent one mountain into two and left half on each side, forming
the straits of Gibraltar, the two mountains being called the Pillars of
Hercules. The oxen were guarded by the giant Eurytion and his two-headed
dog, but Hercules killed the giant and his dog and brought away the oxen
in safety to Eurystheus.

The most difficult labor of all was getting the golden apples of the
Hesperides, for Hercules did not know where to find them. These were the
apples which Juno had received at her wedding from the goddess of the
Earth, and which she had intrusted to the keeping of the daughters of
Hesperus, assisted by a watchful dragon. After various adventures
Hercules arrived at Mount Atlas in Africa. Atlas was one of the Titans
who had warred against the gods, and after they were subdued, Atlas was
condemned to bear on his shoulders the weight of the heavens. He was the
father of the Hesperides, and Hercules thought might, if any one could,
find the apples and bring them to him. But how to send Atlas away from
his post, or bear up the heavens while he was gone? Hercules took the
burden on his own shoulders, and sent Atlas to seek the apples. He
returned with them, and though somewhat reluctantly, took his burden
upon his shoulders again, and let Hercules return with the apples to

Milton, in his “Comus,” makes the Hesperides the daughters of Hesperus
and nieces of Atlas:

    “. . . amidst the gardens fair
    Of Hesperus and his daughters three,
    That sing about the golden tree.”

The poets, led by the analogy of the lovely appearance of the western
sky at sunset, viewed the west as a region of brightness and glory.
Hence they placed in it the Isles of the Blest, the ruddy Isle Erythea,
on which the bright oxen of Geryon were pastured, and the Isle of the
Hesperides. The apples are supposed by some to be the oranges of Spain,
of which the Greeks had heard some obscure accounts.

A celebrated exploit of Hercules was his victory over Antæus. Antæus,
the son of Terra, the Earth, was a mighty giant and wrestler, whose
strength was invincible so long as he remained in contact with his
mother Earth. He compelled all strangers who came to his country to
wrestle with him, on condition that if conquered (as they all were) they
should be put to death. Hercules encountered him, and finding that it
was of no avail to throw him, for he always rose with renewed strength
from every fall, he lifted him up from the earth and strangled him in
the air.

Cacus was a huge giant, who inhabited a cave on Mount Aventine, and
plundered the surrounding country. When Hercules was driving home the
oxen of Geryon, Cacus stole part of the cattle, while the hero slept.
That their footprints might not serve to show where they had been
driven, he dragged them backward by their tails to his cave; so their
tracks all seemed to show that they had gone in the opposite direction.
Hercules was deceived by this stratagem, and would have failed to find
his oxen, if it had not happened that in driving the remainder of the
herd past the cave where the stolen ones were concealed, those within
began to low, and were thus discovered. Cacus was slain by Hercules.

The last exploit we shall record was bringing Cerberus from the lower
world. Hercules descended into Hades, accompanied by Mercury and
Minerva. He obtained permission from Pluto to carry Cerberus to the
upper air, provided he could do it without the use of weapons; and in
spite of the monster’s struggling, he seized him, held him fast, and
carried him to Eurystheus, and afterwards brought him back again. When
he was in Hades he obtained the liberty of Theseus, his admirer and
imitator, who had been detained a prisoner there for an unsuccessful
attempt to carry off Proserpine.

Hercules in a fit of madness killed his friend Iphitus, and was
condemned for this offence to become the slave of Queen Omphale for
three years. While in this service the hero’s nature seemed changed. He
lived effeminately, wearing at times the dress of a woman, and spinning
wool with the hand-maidens of Omphale, while the queen wore his lion’s
skin. When this service was ended he married Dejanira and lived in peace
with her three years. On one occasion as he was travelling with his
wife, they came to a river, across which the Centaur Nessus carried
travellers for a stated fee. Hercules himself forded the river, but gave
Dejanira to Nessus to be carried across. Nessus attempted to run away
with her, but Hercules heard her cries and shot an arrow into the heart
of Nessus. The dying Centaur told Dejanira to take a portion of his
blood and keep it, as it might be used as a charm to preserve the love
of her husband.

Dejanira did so and before long fancied she had occasion to use it.
Hercules in one of his conquests had taken prisoner a fair maiden, named
Iole, of whom he seemed more fond than Dejanira approved. When Hercules
was about to offer sacrifices to the gods in honor of his victory, he
sent to his wife for a white robe to use on the occasion. Dejanira,
thinking it a good opportunity to try her love-spell, steeped the
garment in the blood of Nessus. We are to suppose she took care to wash
out all traces of it, but the magic power remained, and as soon as the
garment became warm on the body of Hercules the poison penetrated into
all his limbs and caused him the most intense agony. In his frenzy he
seized Lichas, Who had brought him the fatal robe, and hurled him into
the sea. He wrenched off the garment, but it stuck to his flesh, and
with it he tore away whole pieces of his body. In this state he embarked
on board a ship and was conveyed home. Dejanira, on seeing what she had
unwittingly done, hung herself. Hercules, prepared to die, ascended
Mount Œta, where he built a funeral pile of trees, gave his bow and
arrows to Philoctetes, and laid himself down on the pile, his head
resting on his club, and his lion’s skin spread over him. With a
countenance as serene as if he were taking his place at a festal board
he commanded Philoctetes to apply the torch. The flames spread apace and
soon invested the whole mass.

Milton thus alludes to the frenzy of Hercules:

    “As when Alcides,[18] from Œchalia crowned
    With conquest, felt the envenomed robe, and tore,
    Through pain, up by the roots Thessalian pines
    And Lichas from the top of Œta threw
    Into the Euboic Sea.”

The gods themselves felt troubled at seeing the champion of the earth so
brought to his end. But Jupiter with cheerful countenance thus addressed
them: “I am pleased to see your concern, my princes, and am gratified to
perceive that I am the ruler of a loyal people, and that my son enjoys
your favor. For although your interest in him arises from his noble
deeds, yet it is not the less gratifying to me. But now I say to you,
Fear not. He who conquered all else is not to be conquered by those
flames which you see blazing on Mount Œta. Only his mother’s share in
him can perish; what he derived from me is immortal. I shall take him,
dead to earth, to the heavenly shores, and I require of you all to
receive him kindly. If any of you feel grieved at his attaining this
honor, yet no one can deny that he has deserved it.” The gods all gave
their assent; Juno only heard the closing words with some displeasure
that she should be so particularly pointed at, yet not enough to make
her regret the determination of her husband. So when the flames had
consumed the mother’s share of Hercules, the diviner part, instead of
being injured thereby, seemed to start forth with new vigor, to assume a
more lofty port and a more awful dignity. Jupiter enveloped him in a
cloud, and took him up in a four-horse chariot to dwell among the stars.
As he took his place in heaven, Atlas felt the added weight.

Juno, now reconciled to him, gave him her daughter Hebe in marriage.

The poet Schiller, in one of his pieces called the “Ideal and Life,”
illustrates the contrast between the practical and the imaginative in
some beautiful stanzas, of which the last two may be thus translated:

    “Deep degraded to a coward’s slave,
    Endless contests bore Alcides brave,
    Through the thorny path of suffering led;
    Slew the Hydra, crushed the lion’s might,
    Threw himself, to bring his friend to light,
    Living, in the skiff that bears the dead.
    All the torments, every toil of earth
    Juno’s hatred on him could impose,
    Well he bore them, from his fated birth
    To life’s grandly mournful close.

    “Till the god, the earthly part forsaken,
    From the man in flames asunder taken,
    Drank the heavenly ether’s purer breath.
    Joyous in the new unwonted lightness,
    Soared he upwards to celestial brightness,
    Earth’s dark heavy burden lost in death.
    High Olympus gives harmonious greeting
    To the hall where reigns his sire adored;
    Youth’s bright goddess, with a blush at meeting,
    Gives the nectar to her lord.”
                                  —_S. G. B._

                           HEBE AND GANYMEDE

Hebe, the daughter of Juno, and goddess of youth, was cup-bearer to the
gods. The usual story is that she resigned her office on becoming the
wife of Hercules. But there is another statement which our countryman
Crawford, the sculptor, has adopted in his group of Hebe and Ganymede,
now in the Athenæum gallery. According to this, Hebe was dismissed from
her office in consequence of a fall which she met with one day when in
attendance on the gods. Her successor was Ganymede, a Trojan boy, whom
Jupiter, in the disguise of an eagle, seized and carried off from the
midst of his playfellows on Mount Ida, bore up to heaven, and installed
in the vacant place.

Tennyson, in his “Palace of Art,” describes among the decorations on the
walls a picture representing this legend:

    “There, too, flushed Ganymede, his rosy thigh
      Half buried in the eagle’s down,
    Sole as a flying star shot through the sky
      Above the pillared town.”

And in Shelley’s “Prometheus” Jupiter calls to his cup-bearer thus:

    “Pour forth heaven’s wine, Idæan Ganymede,
    And let it fill the Dædal cups like fire.”

The beautiful legend of the “Choice of Hercules” may be found in the
“Tatler,” No. 97.


                               CHAPTER XX



THESEUS was the son of Ægeus, king of Athens, and of Æthra, daughter of
the king of Trœzen. He was brought up at Trœzen, and when arrived at
manhood was to proceed to Athens and present himself to his father.
Ægeus on parting from Æthra, before the birth of his son, placed his
sword and shoes under a large stone and directed her to send his son to
him when he became strong enough to roll away the stone and take them
from under it. When she thought the time had come, his mother led
Theseus to the stone, and he removed it with ease and took the sword and
shoes. As the roads were infested with robbers, his grandfather pressed
him earnestly to take the shorter and safer way to his father’s
country—by sea; but the youth, feeling in himself the spirit and the
soul of a hero, and eager to signalize himself like Hercules, with whose
fame all Greece then rang, by destroying the evil-doers and monsters
that oppressed the country, determined on the more perilous and
adventurous journey by land.

His first day’s journey brought him to Epidaurus, where dwelt a man
named Periphetes, a son of Vulcan. This ferocious savage always went
armed with a club of iron, and all travellers stood in terror of his
violence. When he saw Theseus approach he assailed him, but speedily
fell beneath the blows of the young hero, who took possession of his
club and bore it ever afterwards as a memorial of his first victory.

Several similar contests with the petty tyrants and marauders of the
country followed, in all of which Theseus was victorious. One of these
evil-doers was called Procrustes, or the Stretcher. He had an iron
bedstead, on which he used to tie all travellers who fell into his
hands. If they were shorter than the bed, he stretched their limbs to
make them fit it; if they were longer than the bed, he lopped off a
portion. Theseus served him as he had served others.

Having overcome all the perils of the road, Theseus at length reached
Athens, where new dangers awaited him. Medea, the sorceress, who had
fled from Corinth after her separation from Jason, had become the wife
of Ægeus, the father of Theseus. Knowing by her arts who he was, and
fearing the loss of her influence with her husband if Theseus should be
acknowledged as his son, she filled the mind of Ægeus with suspicions of
the young stranger, and induced him to present him a cup of poison; but
at the moment when Theseus stepped forward to take it, the sight of the
sword which he wore discovered to his father who he was, and prevented
the fatal draught. Medea, detected in her arts, fled once more from
deserved punishment, and arrived in Asia, where the country afterwards
called Medea received its name from her. Theseus was acknowledged by his
father, and declared his successor.

The Athenians were at that time in deep affliction, on account of the
tribute which they were forced to pay to Minos, king of Crete. This
tribute consisted of seven youths and seven maidens, who were sent every
year to be devoured by the Minotaur, a monster with a bull’s body and a
human head. It was exceedingly strong and fierce, and was kept in a
labyrinth constructed by Dædalus, so artfully contrived that whoever was
enclosed in it could by no means find his way out unassisted. Here the
Minotaur roamed, and was fed with human victims.

Theseus resolved to deliver his countrymen from this calamity, or to die
in the attempt. Accordingly, when the time of sending off the tribute
came, and the youths and maidens were, according to custom, drawn by lot
to be sent, he offered himself as one of the victims, in spite of the
entreaties of his father. The ship departed under black sails, as usual,
which Theseus promised his father to change for white, in case of his
returning victorious. When they arrived in Crete, the youths and maidens
were exhibited before Minos; and Ariadne, the daughter of the king,
being present, became deeply enamored of Theseus, by whom her love was
readily returned. She furnished him with a sword, with which to
encounter the Minotaur, and with a clew of thread by which he might find
his way out of the labyrinth. He was successful, slew the Minotaur,
escaped from the labyrinth, and taking Ariadne as the companion of his
way, with his rescued companions sailed for Athens. On their way they
stopped at the island of Naxos, where Theseus abandoned Ariadne, leaving
her asleep.[19] His excuse for this ungrateful treatment of his
benefactress was that Minerva appeared to him in a dream and commanded
him to do so.

On approaching the coast of Attica, Theseus forgot the signal appointed
by his father, and neglected to raise the white sails, and the old king,
thinking his son had perished, put an end to his own life. Theseus thus
became king of Athens.

One of the most celebrated of the adventures of Theseus is his
expedition against the Amazons. He assailed them before they had
recovered from the attack of Hercules, and carried off their queen
Antiope. The Amazons in their turn invaded the country of Athens and
penetrated into the city itself; and the final battle in which Theseus
overcame them was fought in the very midst of the city. This battle was
one of the favorite subjects of the ancient sculptors, and is
commemorated in several works of art that are still extant.

The friendship between Theseus and Pirithous was of a most intimate
nature, yet it originated in the midst of arms. Pirithous had made an
irruption into the plain of Marathon, and carried off the herds of the
king of Athens. Theseus went to repel the plunderers. The moment
Pirithous beheld him, he was seized with admiration; he stretched out
his hand as a token of peace, and cried, “Be judge thyself—what
satisfaction dost thou require?” “Thy friendship,” replied the Athenian,
and they swore inviolable fidelity. Their deeds corresponded to their
professions, and they ever continued true brothers in arms. Each of them
aspired to espouse a daughter of Jupiter. Theseus fixed his choice on
Helen, then but a child, afterwards so celebrated as the cause of the
Trojan war, and with the aid of his friend he carried her off. Pirithous
aspired to the wife of the monarch of Erebus; and Theseus, though aware
of the danger, accompanied the ambitious lover in his descent to the
under-world. But Pluto seized and set them on an enchanted rock at his
palace gate, where they remained till Hercules arrived and liberated
Theseus, leaving Pirithous to his fate.

After the death of Antiope, Theseus married Phædra, daughter of Minos,
king of Crete. Phædra saw in Hippolytus, the son of Theseus, a youth
endowed with all the graces and virtues of his father, and of an age
corresponding to her own. She loved him, but he repulsed her advances,
and her love was changed to hate. She used her influence over her
infatuated husband to cause him to be jealous of his son, and he
imprecated the vengeance of Neptune upon him. As Hippolytus was one day
driving his chariot along the shore, a sea-monster raised himself above
the waters, and frightened the horses so that they ran away and dashed
the chariot to pieces. Hippolytus was killed, but by Diana’s assistance
Æsculapius restored him to life. Diana removed Hippolytus from the power
of his deluded father and false stepmother, and placed him in Italy
under the protection of the nymph Egeria.

Theseus at length lost the favor of his people, and retired to the court
of Lycomedes, king of Scyros, who at first received him kindly, but
afterwards treacherously slew him. In a later age the Athenian general
Cimon discovered the place where his remains were laid, and caused them
to be removed to Athens, where they were deposited in a temple called
the Theseum, erected in honor of the hero.

The queen of the Amazons whom Theseus espoused is by some called
Hippolyta. That is the name she bears in Shakspeare’s “Midsummer Night’s
Dream,”—the subject of which is the festivities attending the nuptials
of Theseus and Hippolyta.

Mrs. Hemans has a poem on the ancient Greek tradition that the “Shade of
Theseus” appeared strengthening his countrymen at the battle of

Theseus is a semi-historical personage. It is recorded of him that he
united the several tribes by whom the territory of Attica was then
possessed into one state, of which Athens was the capital. In
commemoration of this important event, he instituted the festival of
Panathenæa, in honor of Minerva, the patron deity of Athens. This
festival differed from the other Grecian games chiefly in two
particulars. It was peculiar to the Athenians, and its chief feature was
a solemn procession in which the Peplus, or sacred robe of Minerva, was
carried to the Parthenon, and suspended before the statue of the
goddess. The Peplus was covered with embroidery, worked by select
virgins of the noblest families in Athens. The procession consisted of
persons of all ages and both sexes. The old men carried olive branches
in their hands, and the young men bore arms. The young women carried
baskets on their heads, containing the sacred utensils, cakes, and all
things necessary for the sacrifices. The procession formed the subject
of the bas-reliefs which embellished the outside of the temple of the
Parthenon. A considerable portion of these sculptures is now in the
British Museum among those known as the “Elgin marbles.”

                        OLYMPIC AND OTHER GAMES

It seems not inappropriate to mention here the other celebrated national
games of the Greeks. The first and most distinguished were the Olympic,
founded, it was said, by Jupiter himself. They were celebrated at
Olympia in Elis. Vast numbers of spectators flocked to them from every
part of Greece, and from Asia, Africa, and Sicily. They were repeated
every fifth year in midsummer, and continued five days. They gave rise
to the custom of reckoning time and dating events by Olympiads. The
first Olympiad is generally considered as corresponding with the year
776 B.C. The Pythian games were celebrated in the vicinity of Delphi,
the Isthmian on the Corinthian isthmus, the Nemean at Nemea, a city of

The exercises in these games were of five sorts: running, leaping,
wrestling, throwing the quoit, and hurling the javelin, or boxing.
Besides these exercises of bodily strength and agility, there were
contests in music, poetry, and eloquence. Thus these games furnished
poets, musicians, and authors the best opportunities to present their
productions to the public, and the fame of the victors was diffused far
and wide.


The labyrinth from which Theseus escaped by means of the clew of Ariadne
was built by Dædalus, a most skilful artificer. It was an edifice with
numberless winding passages and turnings opening into one another, and
seeming to have neither beginning nor end, like the river Mæander, which
returns on itself, and flows now onward, now backward, in its course to
the sea. Dædalus built the labyrinth for King Minos, but afterwards lost
the favor of the king, and was shut up in a tower. He contrived to make
his escape from his prison, but could not leave the island by sea, as
the king kept strict watch on all the vessels, and permitted none to
sail without being carefully searched. “Minos may control the land and
sea,” said Dædalus, “but not the regions of the air. I will try that
way.” So he set to work to fabricate wings for himself and his young son
Icarus. He wrought feathers together, beginning with the smallest and
adding larger, so as to form an increasing surface. The larger ones he
secured with thread and the smaller with wax, and gave the whole a
gentle curvature like the wings of a bird. Icarus, the boy, stood and
looked on, sometimes running to gather up the feathers which the wind
had blown away, and then handling the wax and working it over with his
fingers, by his play impeding his father in his labors. When at last the
work was done, the artist, waving his wings, found himself buoyed
upward, and hung suspended, poising himself on the beaten air. He next
equipped his son in the same manner, and taught him how to fly, as a
bird tempts her young ones from the lofty nest into the air. When all
was prepared for flight he said, “Icarus, my son, I charge you to keep
at a moderate height, for if you fly too low the damp will clog your
wings, and if too high the heat will melt them. Keep near me and you
will be safe.” While he gave him these instructions and fitted the wings
to his shoulders, the face of the father was wet with tears, and his
hands trembled. He kissed the boy, not knowing that it was for the last
time. Then rising on his wings, he flew off, encouraging him to follow,
and looked back from his own flight to see how his son managed his
wings. As they flew the ploughman stopped his work to gaze, and the
shepherd leaned on his staff and watched them, astonished at the sight,
and thinking they were gods who could thus cleave the air.

They passed Samos and Delos on the left and Lebynthos on the right, when
the boy, exulting in his career, began to leave the guidance of his
companion and soar upward as if to reach heaven. The nearness of the
blazing sun softened the wax which held the feathers together, and they
came off. He fluttered with his arms, but no feathers remained to hold
the air. While his mouth uttered cries to his father it was submerged in
the blue waters of the sea, which thenceforth was called by his name.
His father cried, “Icarus, Icarus, where are you?” At last he saw the
feathers floating on the water, and bitterly lamenting his own arts, he
buried the body and called the land Icaria in memory of his child.
Dædalus arrived safe in Sicily, where he built a temple to Apollo, and
hung up his wings, an offering to the god.

Dædalus was so proud of his achievements that he could not bear the idea
of a rival. His sister had placed her son Perdix under his charge to be
taught the mechanical arts. He was an apt scholar and gave striking
evidences of ingenuity. Walking on the seashore he picked up the spine
of a fish. Imitating it, he took a piece of iron and notched it on the
edge, and thus invented the _saw_. He put two pieces of iron together,
connecting them at one end with a rivet, and sharpening the other ends,
and made a _pair of compasses_. Dædalus was so envious of his nephew’s
performances that he took an opportunity, when they were together one
day on the top of a high tower, to push him off. But Minerva, who favors
ingenuity, saw him falling, and arrested his fate by changing him into a
bird called after his name, the Partridge. This bird does not build his
nest in the trees, nor take lofty flights, but nestles in the hedges,
and mindful of his fall, avoids high places.

The death of Icarus is told in the following lines by Darwin:

    “. . . with melting wax and loosened strings
    Sunk hapless Icarus on unfaithful wings;
    Headlong he rushed through the affrighted air,
    With limbs distorted and dishevelled hair;
    His scattered plumage danced upon the wave,
    And sorrowing Nereids decked his watery grave;
    O’er his pale corse their pearly sea-flowers shed,
    And strewed with crimson moss his marble bed;
    Struck in their coral towers the passing bell,
    And wide in ocean tolled his echoing knell.”

                           CASTOR AND POLLUX

Castor and Pollux were the offspring of Leda and the Swan, under which
disguise Jupiter had concealed himself. Leda gave birth to an egg from
which sprang the twins. Helen, so famous afterwards as the cause of the
Trojan war, was their sister.

When Theseus and his friend Pirithous had carried off Helen from Sparta,
the youthful heroes Castor and Pollux, with their followers, hastened to
her rescue. Theseus was absent from Attica and the brothers were
successful in recovering their sister.

Castor was famous for taming and managing horses, and Pollux for skill
in boxing. They were united by the warmest affection and inseparable in
all their enterprises. They accompanied the Argonautic expedition.
During the voyage a storm arose, and Orpheus prayed to the Samothracian
gods, and played on his harp, whereupon the storm ceased and stars
appeared on the heads of the brothers. From this incident, Castor and
Pollux came afterwards to be considered the patron deities of seamen and
voyagers, and the lambent flames, which in certain states of the
atmosphere play round the sails and masts of vessels, were called by
their names.

After the Argonautic expedition, we find Castor and Pollux engaged in a
war with Idas and Lynceus. Castor was slain, and Pollux, inconsolable
for the loss of his brother, besought Jupiter to be permitted to give
his own life as a ransom for him. Jupiter so far consented as to allow
the two brothers to enjoy the boon of life alternately, passing one day
under the earth and the next in the heavenly abodes. According to
another form of the story, Jupiter rewarded the attachment of the
brothers by placing them among the stars as Gemini the Twins.

They received divine honors under the name of Dioscuri (sons of Jove).
They were believed to have appeared occasionally in later times, taking
part with one side or the other, in hard-fought fields, and were said on
such occasions to be mounted on magnificent white steeds. Thus in the
early history of Rome they are said to have assisted the Romans at the
battle of Lake Regillus, and after the victory a temple was erected in
their honor on the spot where they appeared.

Macaulay, in his “Lays of Ancient Rome,” thus alludes to the legend:

    “So like they were, no mortal
      Might one from other know;
    White as snow their armor was,
      Their steeds were white as snow.
    Never on earthly anvil
      Did such rare armor gleam,
    And never did such gallant steeds
      Drink of an earthly stream.
      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    “Back comes the chief in triumph
      Who in the hour of fight
    Hath seen the great Twin Brethren
      In harness on his right.
    Safe comes the ship to haven,
      Through billows and through gales,
    If once the great Twin Brethren
      Sit shining on the sails.”


                              CHAPTER XXI



BACCHUS was the son of Jupiter and Semele. Juno, to gratify her
resentment against Semele, contrived a plan for her destruction.
Assuming the form of Beroë, her aged nurse, she insinuated doubts
whether it was indeed Jove himself who came as a lover. Heaving a sigh,
she said, “I hope it will turn out so, but I can’t help being afraid.
People are not always what they pretend to be. If he is indeed Jove,
make him give some proof of it. Ask him to come arrayed in all his
splendors, such as he wears in heaven. That will put the matter beyond a
doubt.” Semele was persuaded to try the experiment. She asks a favor,
without naming what it is. Jove gives his promise, and confirms it with
the irrevocable oath, attesting the river Styx, terrible to the gods
themselves. Then she made known her request. The god would have stopped
her as she spake, but she was too quick for him. The words escaped, and
he could neither unsay his promise nor her request. In deep distress he
left her and returned to the upper regions. There he clothed himself in
his splendors, not putting on all his terrors, as when he overthrew the
giants, but what is known among the gods as his lesser panoply. Arrayed
in this, he entered the chamber of Semele. Her mortal frame could not
endure the splendors of the immortal radiance. She was consumed to

Jove took the infant Bacchus and gave him in charge to the Nysæan
nymphs, who nourished his infancy and childhood, and for their care were
rewarded by Jupiter by being placed, as the Hyades, among the stars.
When Bacchus grew up he discovered the culture of the vine and the mode
of extracting its precious juice; but Juno struck him with madness, and
drove him forth a wanderer through various parts of the earth. In
Phrygia the goddess Rhea cured him and taught him her religious rites,
and he set out on a progress through Asia, teaching the people the
cultivation of the vine. The most famous part of his wanderings is his
expedition to India, which is said to have lasted several years.
Returning in triumph, he undertook to introduce his worship into Greece,
but was opposed by some princes, who dreaded its introduction on account
of the disorders and madness it brought with it.

As he approached his native city Thebes, Pentheus the king, who had no
respect for the new worship, forbade its rites to be performed. But when
it was known that Bacchus was advancing, men and women, but chiefly the
latter, young and old, poured forth to meet him and to join his
triumphal march.

Mr. Longfellow in his “Drinking Song” thus describes the march of

    “Fauns with youthful Bacchus follow;
      Ivy crowns that brow, supernal
    As the forehead of Apollo,
      And possessing youth eternal.

    “Round about him fair Bacchantes,
      Bearing cymbals, flutes and thyrses,
    Wild from Naxian groves of Zante’s
      Vineyards, sing delirious verses.”

It was in vain Pentheus remonstrated, commanded, and threatened. “Go,”
said he to his attendants, “seize this vagabond leader of the rout and
bring him to me. I will soon make him confess his false claim of
heavenly parentage and renounce his counterfeit worship.” It was in vain
his nearest friends and wisest counsellors remonstrated and begged him
not to oppose the god. Their remonstrances only made him more violent.

But now the attendants returned whom he had despatched to seize Bacchus.
They had been driven away by the Bacchanals, but had succeeded in taking
one of them prisoner, whom, with his hands tied behind him, they brought
before the king. Pentheus, beholding him with wrathful countenance,
said, “Fellow! you shall speedily be put to death, that your fate may be
a warning to others; but though I grudge the delay of your punishment,
speak, tell us who you are, and what are these new rites you presume to

The prisoner, unterrified, responded, “My name is Acetes; my country is
Mæonia; my parents were poor people, who had no fields or flocks to
leave me, but they left me their fishing rods and nets and their
fisherman’s trade. This I followed for some time, till growing weary of
remaining in one place, I learned the pilot’s art and how to guide my
course by the stars. It happened as I was sailing for Delos we touched
at the island of Dia and went ashore. Next morning I sent the men for
fresh water, and myself mounted the hill to observe the wind; when my
men returned bringing with them a prize, as they thought, a boy of
delicate appearance, whom they had found asleep. They judged he was a
noble youth, perhaps a king’s son, and they might get a liberal ransom
for him. I observed his dress, his walk, his face. There was something
in them which I felt sure was more than mortal. I said to my men, ‘What
god there is concealed in that form I know not, but some one there
certainly is. Pardon us, gentle deity, for the violence we have done
you, and give success to our undertakings.’ Dictys, one of my best hands
for climbing the mast and coming down by the ropes, and Melanthus, my
steersman, and Epopeus, the leader of the sailor’s cry, one and all
exclaimed, ‘Spare your prayers for us.’ So blind is the lust of gain!
When they proceeded to put him on board I resisted them. ‘This ship
shall not be profaned by such impiety,’ said I. ‘I have a greater share
in her than any of you.’ But Lycabas, a turbulent fellow, seized me by
the throat and attempted to throw me overboard, and I scarcely saved
myself by clinging to the ropes. The rest approved the deed.

“Then Bacchus (for it was indeed he), as if shaking off his drowsiness,
exclaimed, ‘What are you doing with me? What is this fighting about? Who
brought me here? Where are you going to carry me?’ One of them replied,
‘Fear nothing; tell us where you wish to go and we will take you there.’
‘Naxos is my home,’ said Bacchus; ‘take me there and you shall be well
rewarded.’ They promised so to do, and told me to pilot the ship to
Naxos. Naxos lay to the right, and I was trimming the sails to carry us
there, when some by signs and others by whispers signified to me their
will that I should sail in the opposite direction, and take the boy to
Egypt to sell him for a slave. I was confounded and said, ‘Let some one
else pilot the ship;’ withdrawing myself from any further agency in
their wickedness. They cursed me, and one of them, exclaiming, ‘Don’t
flatter yourself that we depend on you for our safety,’ took my place as
pilot, and bore away from Naxos.

“Then the god, pretending that he had just become aware of their
treachery, looked out over the sea and said in a voice of weeping,
‘Sailors, these are not the shores you promised to take me to; yonder
island is not my home. What have I done that you should treat me so? It
is small glory you will gain by cheating a poor boy.’ I wept to hear
him, but the crew laughed at both of us, and sped the vessel fast over
the sea. All at once—strange as it may seem, it is true,—the vessel
stopped, in the mid sea, as fast as if it was fixed on the ground. The
men, astonished, pulled at their oars, and spread more sail, trying to
make progress by the aid of both, but all in vain. Ivy twined round the
oars and hindered their motion, and clung to the sails, with heavy
clusters of berries. A vine, laden with grapes, ran up the mast, and
along the sides of the vessel. The sound of flutes was heard and the
odor of fragrant wine spread all around. The god himself had a chaplet
of vine leaves, and bore in his hand a spear wreathed with ivy. Tigers
crouched at his feet, and forms of lynxes and spotted panthers played
around him. The men were seized with terror or madness; some leaped
overboard; others preparing to do the same beheld their companions in
the water undergoing a change, their bodies becoming flattened and
ending in a crooked tail. One exclaimed, ‘What miracle is this!’ and as
he spoke his mouth widened, his nostrils expanded, and scales covered
all his body. Another, endeavoring to pull the oar, felt his hands
shrink up and presently to be no longer hands but fins; another, trying
to raise his arms to a rope, found he had no arms, and curving his
mutilated body, jumped into the sea. What had been his legs became the
two ends of a crescent-shaped tail. The whole crew became dolphins and
swam about the ship, now upon the surface, now under it, scattering the
spray, and spouting the water from their broad nostrils. Of twenty men I
alone was left. Trembling with fear, the god cheered me. ‘Fear not,’
said he; ‘steer towards Naxos.’ I obeyed, and when we arrived there, I
kindled the altars and celebrated the sacred rites of Bacchus.”

Pentheus here exclaimed, “We have wasted time enough on this silly
story. Take him away and have him executed without delay.” Acetes was
led away by the attendants and shut up fast in prison; but while they
were getting ready the instruments of execution the prison doors came
open of their own accord and the chains fell from his limbs, and when
they looked for him he was nowhere to be found.

Pentheus would take no warning, but instead of sending others,
determined to go himself to the scene of the solemnities. The mountain
Citheron was all alive with worshippers, and the cries of the Bacchanals
resounded on every side. The noise roused the anger of Pentheus as the
sound of a trumpet does the fire of a war-horse. He penetrated through
the wood and reached an open space where the chief scene of the orgies
met his eyes. At the same moment the women saw him; and first among them
his own mother, Agave, blinded by the god, cried out, “See there the
wild boar, the hugest monster that prowls in these woods! Come on,
sisters! I will be the first to strike the wild boar.” The whole band
rushed upon him, and while he now talks less arrogantly, now excuses
himself, and now confesses his crime and implores pardon, they press
upon him and wound him. In vain he cries to his aunts to protect him
from his mother. Autonoë seized one arm, Ino the other, and between them
he was torn to pieces, while his mother shouted, “Victory! Victory! we
have done it; the glory is ours!”

So the worship of Bacchus was established in Greece.

There is an allusion to the story of Bacchus and the mariners in
Milton’s “Comus,” at line 46. The story of Circe will be found in
Chapter XXIX.

    “Bacchus that first from out the purple grapes
    Crushed the sweet poison of misused wine,
    After the Tuscan mariners transformed,
    Coasting the Tyrrhene shore as the winds listed
    On Circe’s island fell (who knows not Circe,
    The daughter of the Sun? whose charmed cup
    Whoever tasted lost his upright shape,
    And downward fell into a grovelling swine).”


We have seen in the story of Theseus how Ariadne, the daughter of King
Minos, after helping Theseus to escape from the labyrinth, was carried
by him to the island of Naxos and was left there asleep, while the
ungrateful Theseus pursued his way home without her. Ariadne, on waking
and finding herself deserted, abandoned herself to grief. But Venus took
pity on her, and consoled her with the promise that she should have an
immortal lover, instead of the mortal one she had lost.

The island where Ariadne was left was the favorite island of Bacchus,
the same that he wished the Tyrrhenian mariners to carry him to, when
they so treacherously attempted to make prize of him. As Ariadne sat
lamenting her fate, Bacchus found her, consoled her, and made her his
wife. As a marriage present he gave her a golden crown, enriched with
gems, and when she died, he took her crown and threw it up into the sky.
As it mounted the gems grew brighter and were turned into stars, and
preserving its form Ariadne’s crown remains fixed in the heavens as a
constellation, between the kneeling Hercules and the man who holds the

Spenser alludes to Ariadne’s crown, though he has made some mistakes in
his mythology. It was at the wedding of Pirithous, and not Theseus, that
the Centaurs and Lapithæ quarrelled.

      “Look how the crown which Ariadne wore
      Upon her ivory forehead that same day
      That Theseus her unto his bridal bore,
      Then the bold Centaurs made that bloody fray
      With the fierce Lapiths which did them dismay;
      Being now placed in the firmament,
      Through the bright heaven doth her beams display,
      And is unto the stars an ornament,
    Which round about her move in order excellent.”


                              CHAPTER XXII


                           THE RURAL DEITIES

PAN, the god of woods and fields, of flocks and shepherds, dwelt in
grottos, wandered on the mountains and in valleys, and amused himself
with the chase or in leading the dances of the nymphs. He was fond of
music, and as we have seen, the inventor of the syrinx, or shepherd’s
pipe, which he himself played in a masterly manner. Pan, like other gods
who dwelt in forests, was dreaded by those whose occupations caused them
to pass through the woods by night, for the gloom and loneliness of such
scenes dispose the mind to superstitious fears. Hence sudden fright
without any visible cause was ascribed to Pan, and called a Panic

As the name of the god signifies _all_, Pan came to be considered a
symbol of the universe and personification of Nature; and later still to
be regarded as a representative of all the gods and of heathenism

Sylvanus and Faunus were Latin divinities, whose characteristics are so
nearly the same as those of Pan that we may safely consider them as the
same personage under different names.

The wood-nymphs, Pan’s partners in the dance, were but one class of
nymphs. There were beside them the Naiads, who presided over brooks and
fountains, the Oreads, nymphs of mountains and grottos, and the Nereids,
sea-nymphs. The three last named were immortal, but the wood-nymphs,
called Dryads or Hamadryads, were believed to perish with the trees
which had been their abode and with which they had come into existence.
It was therefore an impious act wantonly to destroy a tree, and in some
aggravated cases were severely punished, as in the instance of
Erisichthon, which we are about to record.

Milton in his glowing description of the early creation, thus alludes to
Pan as the personification of Nature:

    “. . . Universal Pan,
    Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance,
    Led on the eternal spring.”

And describing Eve’s abode:

    “. . . In shadier bower,
    More sacred or sequestered, though but feigned,
    Pan or Sylvanus never slept, nor nymph
    Nor Faunus haunted.”
                           —_Paradise Lost_, B. IV.

It was a pleasing trait in the old Paganism that it loved to trace in
every operation of nature the agency of deity. The imagination of the
Greeks peopled all the regions of earth and sea with divinities, to
whose agency it attributed those phenomena which our philosophy ascribes
to the operation of the laws of nature. Sometimes in our poetical moods
we feel disposed to regret the change, and to think that the heart has
lost as much as the head has gained by the substitution. The poet
Wordsworth thus strongly expresses this sentiment:

    “. . . Great God, I’d rather be
    A Pagan, suckled in a creed outworn,
    So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
    Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea,
    And hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.”

Schiller, in his poem “Die Götter Griechenlands,” expresses his regret
for the overthrow of the beautiful mythology of ancient times in a way
which has called forth an answer from a Christian poet, Mrs. E. Barrett
Browning, in her poem called “The Dead Pan.” The two following verses
are a specimen:

    “By your beauty which confesses
    Some chief Beauty conquering you,
    By our grand heroic guesses
    Through your falsehood at the True,
    We will weep _not_! earth shall roll
    Heir to each god’s aureole,
                    And Pan is dead.

    “Earth outgrows the mythic fancies
    Sung beside her in her youth;
    And those debonaire romances
    Sound but dull beside the truth.
    Phœbus’ chariot course is run!
    Look up, poets, to the sun!
                    Pan, Pan is dead.”

These lines are founded on an early Christian tradition that when the
heavenly host told the shepherds at Bethlehem of the birth of Christ, a
deep groan, heard through all the isles of Greece, told that the great
Pan was dead, and that all the royalty of Olympus was dethroned and the
several deities were sent wandering in cold and darkness. So Milton in
his “Hymn on the Nativity”:

    “The lonely mountains o’er,
    And the resounding shore,
      A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
    From haunted spring and dale,
    Edged with poplar pale,
      The parting Genius is with sighing sent;
    With flower-enwoven tresses torn,
    The nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.”


Erisichthon was a profane person and a despiser of the gods. On one
occasion he presumed to violate with the axe a grove sacred to Ceres.
There stood in this grove a venerable oak so large that it seemed a wood
in itself, its ancient trunk towering aloft, whereon votive garlands
were often hung and inscriptions carved expressing the gratitude of
suppliants to the nymph of the tree. Often had the Dryads danced round
it hand in hand. Its trunk measured fifteen cubits round, and it
overtopped the other trees as they overtopped the shrubbery. But for all
that, Erisichthon saw no reason why he should spare it and he ordered
his servants to cut it down. When he saw them hesitate he snatched an
axe from one, and thus impiously exclaimed: “I care not whether it be a
tree beloved of the goddess or not; were it the goddess herself it
should come down if it stood in my way.” So saying, he lifted the axe
and the oak seemed to shudder and utter a groan. When the first blow
fell upon the trunk blood flowed from the wound. All the bystanders were
horror-struck, and one of them ventured to remonstrate and hold back the
fatal axe. Erisichthon, with a scornful look, said to him, “Receive the
reward of your piety;” and turned against him the weapon which he had
held aside from the tree, gashed his body with many wounds, and cut off
his head. Then from the midst of the oak came a voice, “I who dwell in
this tree am a nymph beloved of Ceres, and dying by your hands forewarn
you that punishment awaits you.” He desisted not from his crime, and at
last the tree, sundered by repeated blows and drawn by ropes, fell with
a crash and prostrated a great part of the grove in its fall.

The Dryads in dismay at the loss of their companion and at seeing the
pride of the forest laid low, went in a body to Ceres, all clad in
garments of mourning, and invoked punishment upon Erisichthon. She
nodded her assent, and as she bowed her head the grain ripe for harvest
in the laden fields bowed also. She planned a punishment so dire that
one would pity him, if such a culprit as he could be pitied,—to deliver
him over to Famine. As Ceres herself could not approach Famine, for the
Fates have ordained that these two goddesses shall never come together,
she called an Oread from her mountain and spoke to her in these words:
“There is a place in the farthest part of ice-clad Scythia, a sad and
sterile region without trees and without crops. Cold dwells there, and
Fear and Shuddering, and Famine. Go and tell the last to take possession
of the bowels of Erisichthon. Let not abundance subdue her, nor the
power of my gifts drive her away. Be not alarmed at the distance” (for
Famine dwells very far from Ceres), “but take my chariot. The dragons
are fleet and obey the rein, and will take you through the air in a
short time.” So she gave her the reins, and she drove away and soon
reached Scythia. On arriving at Mount Caucasus she stopped the dragons
and found Famine in a stony field, pulling up with teeth and claws the
scanty herbage. Her hair was rough, her eyes sunk, her face pale, her
lips blanched, her jaws covered with dust, and her skin drawn tight, so
as to show all her bones. As the Oread saw her afar off (for she did not
dare to come near), she delivered the commands of Ceres; and, though she
stopped as short a time as possible, and kept her distance as well as
she could, yet she began to feel hungry, and turned the dragons’ heads
and drove back to Thessaly.

Famine obeyed the commands of Ceres and sped through the air to the
dwelling of Erisichthon, entered the bedchamber of the guilty man, and
found him asleep. She enfolded him with her wings and breathed herself
into him, infusing her poison into his veins. Having discharged her
task, she hastened to leave the land of plenty and returned to her
accustomed haunts. Erisichthon still slept, and in his dreams craved
food, and moved his jaws as if eating. When he awoke, his hunger was
raging. Without a moment’s delay he would have food set before him, of
whatever kind earth, sea, or air produces; and complained of hunger even
while he ate. What would have sufficed for a city or a nation, was not
enough for him. The more he ate the more he craved. His hunger was like
the sea, which receives all the rivers, yet is never filled; or like
fire, that burns all the fuel that is heaped upon it, yet is still
voracious for more.

His property rapidly diminished under the unceasing demands of his
appetite, but his hunger continued unabated. At length he had spent all
and had only his daughter left, a daughter worthy of a better parent.
_Her too he sold._ She scorned to be the slave of a purchaser and as she
stood by the seaside raised her hands in prayer to Neptune. He heard her
prayer, and though her new master was not far off and had his eye upon
her a moment before, Neptune changed her form and made her assume that
of a fisherman busy at his occupation. Her master, looking for her and
seeing her in her altered form, addressed her and said, “Good fisherman,
whither went the maiden whom I saw just now, with hair dishevelled and
in humble garb, standing about where you stand? Tell me truly; so may
your luck be good and not a fish nibble at your hook and get away.” She
perceived that her prayer was answered and rejoiced inwardly at hearing
herself inquired of about herself. She replied, “Pardon me, stranger,
but I have been so intent upon my line that I have seen nothing else;
but I wish I may never catch another fish if I believe any woman or
other person except myself to have been hereabouts for some time.” He
was deceived and went his way, thinking his slave had escaped. Then she
resumed her own form. Her father was well pleased to find her still with
him, and the money too that he got by the sale of her; so he sold her
again. But she was changed by the favor of Neptune as often as she was
sold, now into a horse, now a bird, now an ox, and now a stag,—got away
from her purchasers and came home. By this base method the starving
father procured food; but not enough for his wants, and at last hunger
compelled him to devour his limbs, and he strove to nourish his body by
eating his body, till death relieved him from the vengeance of Ceres.


The Hamadryads could appreciate services as well as punish injuries. The
story of Rhœcus proves this. Rhœcus, happening to see an oak just ready
to fall, ordered his servants to prop it up. The nymph, who had been on
the point of perishing with the tree, came and expressed her gratitude
to him for having saved her life and bade him ask what reward he would.
Rhœcus boldly asked her love and the nymph yielded to his desire. She at
the same time charged him to be constant and told him that a bee should
be her messenger and let him know when she would admit his society. One
time the bee came to Rhœcus when he was playing at draughts and he
carelessly brushed it away. This so incensed the nymph that she deprived
him of sight.

Our countryman, J. R. Lowell, has taken this story for the subject of
one of his shorter poems. He introduces it thus:

    “Hear now this fairy legend of old Greece,
    As full of freedom, youth and beauty still,
    As the immortal freshness of that grace
    Carved for all ages on some Attic frieze.”

                           THE WATER DEITIES

Oceanus and Tethys were the Titans who ruled over the watery element.
When Jove and his brothers overthrew the Titans and assumed their power,
Neptune and Amphitrite succeeded to the dominion of the waters in place
of Oceanus and Tethys.


Neptune was the chief of the water deities. The symbol of his power was
the trident, or spear with three points, with which he used to shatter
rocks, to call forth or subdue storms, to shake the shores and the like.
He created the horse and was the patron of horse races. His own horses
had brazen hoofs and golden manes. They drew his chariot over the sea,
which became smooth before him, while the monsters of the deep gambolled
about his path.


Amphitrite was the wife of Neptune. She was the daughter of Nereus and
Doris, and the mother of Triton. Neptune, to pay his court to
Amphitrite, came riding on a dolphin. Having won her he rewarded the
dolphin by placing him among the stars.

                            NEREUS AND DORIS

Nereus and Doris were the parents of the Nereids, the most celebrated of
whom were Amphitrite, Thetis, the mother of Achilles, and Galatea, who
was loved by the Cyclops Polyphemus. Nereus was distinguished for his
knowledge and his love of truth and justice, whence he was termed an
elder; the gift of prophecy was also assigned to him.

                           TRITON AND PROTEUS

Triton was the son of Neptune and Amphitrite, and the poets make him his
father’s trumpeter. Proteus was also a son of Neptune. He, like Nereus,
is styled a sea-elder for his wisdom and knowledge of future events. His
peculiar power was that of changing his shape at will.


Thetis, the daughter of Nereus and Doris, was so beautiful that Jupiter
himself sought her in marriage; but having learned from Prometheus the
Titan that Thetis should bear a son who should grow greater than his
father, Jupiter desisted from his suit and decreed that Thetis should be
the wife of a mortal. By the aid of Chiron the Centaur, Peleus succeeded
in winning the goddess for his bride and their son was the renowned
Achilles. In our chapter on the Trojan war it will appear that Thetis
was a faithful mother to him, aiding him in all difficulties, and
watching over his interests from the first to the last.

                         LEUCOTHEA AND PALÆMON

Ino, the daughter of Cadmus and wife of Athamas, flying from her frantic
husband with her little son Melicertes in her arms, sprang from a cliff
into the sea. The gods, out of compassion, made her a goddess of the
sea, under the name of Leucothea, and him a god, under that of Palæmon.
Both were held powerful to save from shipwreck and were invoked by
sailors. Palæmon was usually represented riding on a dolphin. The
Isthmian games were celebrated in his honor. He was called Portunus by
the Romans, and believed to have jurisdiction of the ports and shores.

Milton alludes to all these deities in the song at the conclusion of

    “. . . Sabrina fair,
    Listen and appear to us,
    In name of great Oceanus;
    By the earth-shaking Neptune’s mace,
    And Tethys’ grave, majestic pace,
    By hoary Nereus’ wrinkled look,
    And the Carpathian wizard’s hook,[20]
    By scaly Triton’s winding shell,
    And old soothsaying Glaucus’ spell,
    By Leucothea’s lovely hands,
    And her son who rules the strands.
    By Thetis’ tinsel-slippered feet,
    And the songs of Sirens sweet;” etc.

Armstrong, the poet of the “Art of preserving Health,” under the
inspiration of Hygeia, the goddess of health, thus celebrates the
Naiads. Pæon is a name both of Apollo and Æsculapius.

    “Come, ye Naiads! to the fountains lead!
    Propitious maids! the task remains to sing
    Your gifts (so Pæon, so the powers of Health
    Command), to praise your crystal element.
    O comfortable streams! with eager lips
    And trembling hands the languid thirsty quaff
    New life in you; fresh vigor fills their veins.
    No warmer cups the rural ages knew,
    None warmer sought the sires of humankind;
    Happy in temperate peace their equal days
    Felt not the alternate fits of feverish mirth
    And sick dejection; still serene and pleased,
    Blessed with divine immunity from ills,
    Long centuries they lived; their only fate
    Was ripe old age, and rather sleep than death.”

                               THE CAMENÆ

By this name the Latins designated the Muses, but included under it also
some other deities, principally nymphs of fountains. Egeria was one of
them, whose fountain and grotto are still shown. It was said that Numa,
the second king of Rome, was favored by this nymph with secret
interviews, in which she taught him those lessons of wisdom and of law
which he imbodied in the institutions of his rising nation. After the
death of Numa the nymph pined away and was changed into a fountain.

Byron, in “Childe Harold,” Canto IV., thus alludes to Egeria and her

    “Here didst thou dwell, in this enchanted cover,
    Egeria! all thy heavenly bosom beating
    For the far footsteps of thy mortal lover;
    The purple midnight veiled that mystic meeting
    With her most starry canopy;” etc.

Tennyson, also, in his “Palace of Art,” gives us a glimpse of the royal
lover expecting the interview:

    “Holding one hand against his ear,
        To list a footfall ere he saw
    The wood-nymph, stayed the Tuscan king to hear
        Of wisdom and of law.”

                               THE WINDS

When so many less active agencies were personified, it is not to be
supposed that the winds failed to be so. They were Boreas or Aquilo, the
north wind; Zephyrus or Favonius, the west; Notus or Auster, the south;
and Eurus, the east. The first two have been chiefly celebrated by the
poets, the former as the type of rudeness, the latter of gentleness.
Boreas loved the nymph Orithyia, and tried to play the lover’s part, but
met with poor success. It was hard for him to breathe gently, and
sighing was out of the question. Weary at last of fruitless endeavors,
he acted out his true character, seized the maiden and carried her off.
Their children were Zetes and Calais, winged warriors, who accompanied
the Argonautic expedition, and did good service in an encounter with
those monstrous birds the Harpies.

Zephyrus was the lover of Flora. Milton alludes to them in “Paradise
Lost,” where he describes Adam waking and contemplating Eve still

    “. . . He on his side
    Leaning half raised, with looks of cordial love,
    Hung over her enamored, and beheld
    Beauty which, whether waking or asleep,
    Shot forth peculiar graces; then with voice,
    Mild as when Zephyrus on Flora breathes,
    Her hand soft touching, whispered thus: ‘Awake!
    My fairest, my espoused, my latest found,
    Heaven’s last, best gift, my ever-new delight.’”

Dr. Young, the poet of the “Night Thoughts,” addressing the idle and
luxurious, says:

    “Ye delicate! who nothing can support
    (Yourselves most insupportable) for whom
    The winter rose must blow, . . .
    . . . and silky soft
    Favonius breathe still softer or be chid!”

 Florence. John of Bologna.]

 From painting by A. Maignan.]


                             CHAPTER XXIII


                         ACHELOUS AND HERCULES

THE river-god Achelous told the story of Erisichthon to Theseus and his
companions, whom he was entertaining at his hospitable board, while they
were delayed on their journey by the overflow of his waters. Having
finished his story, he added, “But why should I tell of other persons’
transformations when I myself am an instance of the possession of this
power? Sometimes I become a serpent, and sometimes a bull, with horns on
my head. Or I should say I once could do so; but now I have but one
horn, having lost one.” And here he groaned and was silent.

Theseus asked him the cause of his grief, and how he lost his horn. To
which question the river-god replied as follows: “Who likes to tell of
his defeats? Yet I will not hesitate to relate mine, comforting myself
with the thought of the greatness of my conqueror, for it was Hercules.
Perhaps you have heard of the fame of Dejanira, the fairest of maidens,
whom a host of suitors strove to win. Hercules and myself were of the
number, and the rest yielded to us two. He urged in his behalf his
descent from Jove and his labors by which he had exceeded the exactions
of Juno, his stepmother. I, on the other hand, said to the father of the
maiden, ‘Behold me, the king of the waters that flow through your land.
I am no stranger from a foreign shore, but belong to the country, a part
of your realm. Let it not stand in my way that royal Juno owes me no
enmity nor punishes me with heavy tasks. As for this man, who boasts
himself the son of Jove, it is either a false pretence, or disgraceful
to him if true, for it cannot be true except by his mother’s shame.’ As
I said this Hercules scowled upon me, and with difficulty restrained his
rage. ‘My hand will answer better than my tongue,’ said he. ‘I yield to
you the victory in words, but trust my cause to the strife of deeds.’
With that he advanced towards me, and I was ashamed, after what I had
said, to yield. I threw off my green vesture and presented myself for
the struggle. He tried to throw me, now attacking my head, now my body.
My bulk was my protection, and he assailed me in vain. For a time we
stopped, then returned to the conflict. We each kept our position,
determined not to yield, foot to foot, I bending over him, clenching his
hand in mine, with my forehead almost touching his. Thrice Hercules
tried to throw me off, and the fourth time he succeeded, brought me to
the ground, and himself upon my back. I tell you the truth, it was as if
a mountain had fallen on me. I struggled to get my arms at liberty,
panting and reeking with perspiration. He gave me no chance to recover,
but seized my throat. My knees were on the earth and my mouth in the

“Finding that I was no match for him in the warrior’s art, I resorted to
others and glided away in the form of a serpent. I curled my body in a
coil and hissed at him with my forked tongue. He smiled scornfully at
this, and said, ‘It was the labor of my infancy to conquer snakes.’ So
saying he clasped my neck with his hands. I was almost choked, and
struggled to get my neck out of his grasp. Vanquished in this form, I
tried what alone remained to me and assumed the form of a bull. He
grasped my neck with his arm, and dragging my head down to the ground,
overthrew me on the sand. Nor was this enough. His ruthless hand rent my
horn from my head. The Naiades took it, consecrated it, and filled it
with fragrant flowers. Plenty adopted my horn and made it her own, and
called it ‘Cornucopia.’”

The ancients were fond of finding a hidden meaning in their mythological
tales. They explain this fight of Achelous with Hercules by saying
Achelous was a river that in seasons of rain overflowed its banks. When
the fable says that Achelous loved Dejanira, and sought a union with
her, the meaning is that the river in its windings flowed through part
of Dejanira’s kingdom. It was said to take the form of a snake because
of its winding, and of a bull because it made a brawling or roaring in
its course. When the river swelled, it made itself another channel. Thus
its head was horned. Hercules prevented the return of these periodical
overflows by embankments and canals; and therefore he was said to have
vanquished the river-god and cut off his horn. Finally, the lands
formerly subject to overflow, but now redeemed, became very fertile, and
this is meant by the horn of plenty.

There is another account of the origin of the Cornucopia. Jupiter at his
birth was committed by his mother Rhea to the care of the daughters of
Melisseus, a Cretan king. They fed the infant deity with the milk of the
goat Amalthea. Jupiter broke off one of the horns of the goat and gave
it to his nurses, and endowed it with the wonderful power of becoming
filled with whatever the possessor might wish.

The name of Amalthea is also given by some writers to the mother of
Bacchus. It is thus used by Milton, “Paradise Lost,” Book IV.:

    “. . . That Nyseian isle,
    Girt with the river Triton, where old Cham,
    Whom Gentiles Ammon call, and Libyan Jove,
    Hid Amalthea and her florid son,
    Young Bacchus, from his stepdame Rhea’s eye.”

                          ADMETUS AND ALCESTIS

Æsculapius, the son of Apollo, was endowed by his father with such skill
in the healing art that he even restored the dead to life. At this Pluto
took alarm, and prevailed on Jupiter to launch a thunderbolt at
Æsculapius. Apollo was indignant at the destruction of his son, and
wreaked his vengeance on the innocent workmen who had made the
thunderbolt. These were the Cyclopes, who have their workshop under
Mount Ætna, from which the smoke and flames of their furnaces are
constantly issuing. Apollo shot his arrows at the Cyclopes, which so
incensed Jupiter that he condemned him as a punishment to become the
servant of a mortal for the space of one year. Accordingly Apollo went
into the service of Admetus, king of Thessaly, and pastured his flocks
for him on the verdant banks of the river Amphrysos.

Admetus was a suitor, with others, for the hand of Alcestis, the
daughter of Pelias, who promised her to him who should come for her in a
chariot drawn by lions and boars. This task Admetus performed by the
assistance of his divine herdsman, and was made happy in the possession
of Alcestis. But Admetus fell ill, and being near to death, Apollo
prevailed on the Fates to spare him on condition that some one would
consent to die in his stead. Admetus, in his joy at this reprieve,
thought little of the ransom, and perhaps remembering the declarations
of attachment which he had often heard from his courtiers and dependents
fancied that it would be easy to find a substitute. But it was not so.
Brave warriors, who would willingly have perilled their lives for their
prince, shrunk from the thought of dying for him on the bed of sickness;
and old servants who had experienced his bounty and that of his house
from their childhood up, were not willing to lay down the scanty remnant
of their days to show their gratitude. Men asked, “Why does not one of
his parents do it? They cannot in the course of nature live much longer,
and who can feel like them the call to rescue the life they gave from an
untimely end?” But the parents, distressed though they were at the
thought of losing him, shrunk from the call. Then Alcestis, with a
generous self-devotion, proffered herself as the substitute. Admetus,
fond as he was of life, would not have submitted to receive it at such a
cost; but there was no remedy. The condition imposed by the Fates had
been met, and the decree was irrevocable. Alcestis sickened as Admetus
revived, and she was rapidly sinking to the grave.

Just at this time Hercules arrived at the palace of Admetus, and found
all the inmates in great distress for the impending loss of the devoted
wife and beloved mistress. Hercules, to whom no labor was too arduous,
resolved to attempt her rescue. He went and lay in wait at the door of
the chamber of the dying queen, and when Death came for his prey, he
seized him and forced him to resign his victim. Alcestis recovered, and
was restored to her husband.

Milton alludes to the story of Alcestis in his Sonnet “on his deceased

    “Methought I saw my late espoused saint
      Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave,
      Whom Jove’s great son to her glad husband gave,
    Rescued from death by force, though pale and faint.”

J. R. Lowell has chosen the “Shepherd of King Admetus” for the subject
of a short poem. He makes that event the first introduction of poetry to

    “Men called him but a shiftless youth,
      In whom no good they saw,
    And yet unwittingly, in truth,
      They made his careless words their law.

    “And day by day more holy grew
      Each spot where he had trod,
    Till after-poets only knew
      Their first-born brother was a god.”


A large proportion both of the interesting persons and of the exalted
acts of legendary Greece belongs to the female sex. Antigone was as
bright an example of filial and sisterly fidelity as was Alcestis of
connubial devotion. She was the daughter of Œdipus and Jocasta, who with
all their descendants were the victims of an unrelenting fate, dooming
them to destruction. Œdipus in his madness had torn out his eyes, and
was driven forth from his kingdom Thebes, dreaded and abandoned by all
men, as an object of divine vengeance. Antigone, his daughter, alone
shared his wanderings and remained with him till he died, and then
returned to Thebes.

Her brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, had agreed to share the kingdom
between them, and reign alternately year by year. The first year fell to
the lot of Eteocles, who, when his time expired, refused to surrender
the kingdom to his brother. Polynices fled to Adrastus, king of Argos,
who gave him his daughter in marriage, and aided him with an army to
enforce his claim to the kingdom. This led to the celebrated expedition
of the “Seven against Thebes,” which furnished ample materials for the
epic and tragic poets of Greece.

Amphiaraus, the brother-in-law of Adrastus, opposed the enterprise, for
he was a soothsayer, and knew by his art that no one of the leaders
except Adrastus would live to return. But Amphiaraus, on his marriage to
Eriphyle, the king’s sister, had agreed that whenever he and Adrastus
should differ in opinion, the decision should be left to Eriphyle.
Polynices, knowing this, gave Eriphyle the collar of Harmonia, and
thereby gained her to his interest. This collar or necklace was a
present which Vulcan had given to Harmonia on her marriage with Cadmus,
and Polynices had taken it with him on his flight from Thebes. Eriphyle
could not resist so tempting a bribe, and by her decision the war was
resolved on, and Amphiaraus went to his certain fate. He bore his part
bravely in the contest, but could not avert his destiny. Pursued by the
enemy, he fled along the river, when a thunderbolt launched by Jupiter
opened the ground, and he, his chariot, and his charioteer were
swallowed up.

It would not be in place here to detail all the acts of heroism or
atrocity which marked the contest; but we must not omit to record the
fidelity of Evadne as an offset to the weakness of Eriphyle. Capaneus,
the husband of Evadne, in the ardor of the fight declared that he would
force his way into the city in spite of Jove himself. Placing a ladder
against the wall he mounted, but Jupiter, offended at his impious
language, struck him with a thunderbolt. When his obsequies were
celebrated, Evadne cast herself on his funeral pile and perished.

Early in the contest Eteocles consulted the soothsayer Tiresias as to
the issue. Tiresias in his youth had by chance seen Minerva bathing. The
goddess in her wrath deprived him of his sight, but afterwards relenting
gave him in compensation the knowledge of future events. When consulted
by Eteocles, he declared that victory should fall to Thebes if Menœceus,
the son of Creon, gave himself a voluntary victim. The heroic youth,
learning the response, threw away his life in the first encounter.

The siege continued long, with various success. At length both hosts
agreed that the brothers should decide their quarrel by single combat.
They fought and fell by each other’s hands. The armies then renewed the
fight, and at last the invaders were forced to yield, and fled, leaving
their dead unburied. Creon, the uncle of the fallen princes, now become
king, caused Eteocles to be buried with distinguished honor, but
suffered the body of Polynices to lie where it fell, forbidding every
one on pain of death to give it burial.

Antigone, the sister of Polynices, heard with indignation the revolting
edict which consigned her brother’s body to the dogs and vultures,
depriving it of those rites which were considered essential to the
repose of the dead. Unmoved by the dissuading counsel of an affectionate
but timid sister, and unable to procure assistance, she determined to
brave the hazard, and to bury the body with her own hands. She was
detected in the act, and Creon gave orders that she should be buried
alive, as having deliberately set at naught the solemn edict of the
city. Her lover, Hæmon, the son of Creon, unable to avert her fate,
would not survive her, and fell by his own hand.

Antigone forms the subject of two fine tragedies of the Grecian poet
Sophocles. Mrs. Jameson, in her “Characteristics of Women,” has compared
her character with that of Cordelia, in Shakspeare’s “King Lear.” The
perusal of her remarks cannot fail to gratify our readers.

The following is the lamentation of Antigone over Œdipus, when death has
at last relieved him from his sufferings:

    “Alas! I only wished I might have died
    With my poor father; wherefore should I ask
    For longer life?
    O, I was fond of misery with him;
    E’en what was most unlovely grew beloved
    When he was with me. O my dearest father,
    Beneath the earth now in deep darkness hid,
    Worn as thou wert with age, to me thou still
    Wast dear, and shalt be ever.”
                 —_Francklin’s Sophocles._


Penelope is another of those mythic heroines whose beauties were rather
those of character and conduct than of person. She was the daughter of
Icarius, a Spartan prince. Ulysses, king of Ithaca, sought her in
marriage, and won her, over all competitors. When the moment came for
the bride to leave her father’s house, Icarius, unable to bear the
thoughts of parting with his daughter, tried to persuade her to remain
with him, and not accompany her husband to Ithaca. Ulysses gave Penelope
her choice, to stay or go with him. Penelope made no reply, but dropped
her veil over her face. Icarius urged her no further, but when she was
gone erected a statue to Modesty on the spot where they parted.

Ulysses and Penelope had not enjoyed their union more than a year when
it was interrupted by the events which called Ulysses to the Trojan war.
During his long absence, and when it was doubtful whether he still
lived, and highly improbable that he would ever return, Penelope was
importuned by numerous suitors, from whom there seemed no refuge but in
choosing one of them for her husband. Penelope, however, employed every
art to gain time, still hoping for Ulysses’ return. One of her arts of
delay was engaging in the preparation of a robe for the funeral canopy
of Laertes, her husband’s father. She pledged herself to make her choice
among the suitors when the robe was finished. During the day she worked
at the robe, but in the night she undid the work of the day. This is the
famous Penelope’s web, which is used as a proverbial expression for
anything which is perpetually doing but never done. The rest of
Penelope’s history will be told when we give an account of her husband’s


                              CHAPTER XXIV

                              ORPHEUS AND

                          ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE

ORPHEUS was the son of Apollo and the Muse Calliope. He was presented by
his father with a Lyre and taught to play upon it, which he did to such
perfection that nothing could withstand the charm of his music. Not only
his fellow-mortals but wild beasts were softened by his strains, and
gathering round him laid by their fierceness, and stood entranced with
his lay. Nay, the very trees and rocks were sensible to the charm. The
former crowded round him and the latter relaxed somewhat of their
hardness, softened by his notes.

Hymen had been called to bless with his presence the nuptials of Orpheus
with Eurydice; but though he attended, he brought no happy omens with
him. His very torch smoked and brought tears into their eyes. In
coincidence with such prognostics, Eurydice, shortly after her marriage,
while wandering with the nymphs, her companions, was seen by the
shepherd Aristæus, who was struck with her beauty and made advances to
her. She fled, and in flying trod upon a snake in the grass, was bitten
in the foot, and died. Orpheus sang his grief to all who breathed the
upper air, both gods and men, and finding it all unavailing resolved to
seek his wife in the regions of the dead. He descended by a cave
situated on the side of the promontory of Tænarus and arrived at the
Stygian realm. He passed through crowds of ghosts and presented himself
before the throne of Pluto and Proserpine. Accompanying the words with
the lyre, he sung, “O deities of the underworld, to whom all we who live
must come, hear my words, for they are true. I come not to spy out the
secrets of Tartarus, nor to try my strength against the three-headed dog
with snaky hair who guards the entrance. I come to seek my wife, whose
opening years the poisonous viper’s fang has brought to an untimely end.
Love has led me here, Love, a god all powerful with us who dwell on the
earth, and, if old traditions say true, not less so here. I implore you
by these abodes full of terror, these realms of silence and uncreated
things, unite again the thread of Eurydice’s life. We all are destined
to you, and sooner or later must pass to your domain. She too, when she
shall have filled her term of life, will rightly be yours. But till then
grant her to me, I beseech you. If you deny me I cannot return alone;
you shall triumph in the death of us both.”

As he sang these tender strains, the very ghosts shed tears. Tantalus,
in spite of his thirst, stopped for a moment his efforts for water,
Ixion’s wheel stood still, the vulture ceased to tear the giant’s liver,
the daughters of Danaüs rested from their task of drawing water in a
sieve, and Sisyphus sat on his rock to listen. Then for the first time,
it is said, the cheeks of the Furies were wet with tears. Proserpine
could not resist, and Pluto himself gave way. Eurydice was called. She
came from among the new-arrived ghosts, limping with her wounded foot.
Orpheus was permitted to take her away with him on one condition, that
he should not turn around to look at her till they should have reached
the upper air. Under this condition they proceeded on their way, he
leading, she following, through passages dark and steep, in total
silence, till they had nearly reached the outlet into the cheerful upper
world, when Orpheus, in a moment of forgetfulness, to assure himself
that she was still following, cast a glance behind him, when instantly
she was borne away. Stretching out their arms to embrace each other,
they grasped only the air! Dying now a second time, she yet cannot
reproach her husband, for how can she blame his impatience to behold
her? “Farewell,” she said, “a last farewell,”—and was hurried away, so
fast that the sound hardly reached his ears.

Orpheus endeavored to follow her, and besought permission to return and
try once more for her release; but the stern ferryman repulsed him and
refused passage. Seven days he lingered about the brink, without food or
sleep; then bitterly accusing of cruelty the powers of Erebus, he sang
his complaints to the rocks and mountains, melting the hearts of tigers
and moving the oaks from their stations. He held himself aloof from
womankind, dwelling constantly on the recollection of his sad mischance.
The Thracian maidens tried their best to captivate him, but he repulsed
their advances. They bore with him as long as they could; but finding
him insensible one day, excited by the rites of Bacchus, one of them
exclaimed, “See yonder our despiser!” and threw at him her javelin. The
weapon, as soon as it came within the sound of his lyre, fell harmless
at his feet. So did also the stones that they threw at him. But the
women raised a scream and drowned the voice of the music, and then the
missiles reached him and soon were stained with his blood. The maniacs
tore him limb from limb, and threw his head and his lyre into the river
Hebrus, down which they floated, murmuring sad music, to which the
shores responded a plaintive symphony. The Muses gathered up the
fragments of his body and buried them at Libethra, where the nightingale
is said to sing over his grave more sweetly than in any other part of
Greece. His lyre was placed by Jupiter among the stars. His shade passed
a second time to Tartarus, where he sought out his Eurydice and embraced
her with eager arms. They roam the happy fields together now, sometimes
he leading, sometimes she; and Orpheus gazes as much as he will upon
her, no longer incurring a penalty for a thoughtless glance.

The story of Orpheus has furnished Pope with an illustration of the
power of music, for his “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day.” The following
stanza relates the conclusion of the story:

    “But soon, too soon the lover turns his eyes;
    Again she falls, again she dies, she dies!
    How wilt thou now the fatal sisters move?
    No crime was thine, if ’tis no crime to love.
          Now under hanging mountains,
          Beside the falls of fountains,
          Or where Hebrus wanders,
          Rolling in meanders,
              All alone,
              He makes his moan,
              And calls her ghost,
            Forever, ever, ever lost!
          Now with furies surrounded,
          Despairing, confounded,
          He trembles, he glows,
          Amidst Rhodope’s snows.
    See, wild as the winds o’er the desert he flies;
    Hark! Hæmus resounds with the Bacchanals’ cries;
              Ah, see, he dies!
    Yet even in death Eurydice he sung,
    Eurydice still trembled on his tongue:
    Eurydice the woods
    Eurydice the floods
    Eurydice the rocks and hollow mountains rung.”

The superior melody of the nightingale’s song over the grave of Orpheus
is alluded to by Southey in his “Thalaba”:

          “Then on his ear what sounds
            Of harmony arose!
    Far music and the distance-mellowed song
          From bowers of merriment;
            The waterfall remote;
      The murmuring of the leafy groves;
            The single nightingale
    Perched in the rosier by, so richly toned,
    That never from that most melodious bird
    Singing a love song to his brooding mate,
      Did Thracian shepherd by the grave
      Of Orpheus hear a sweeter melody,
    Though there the spirit of the sepulchre
      All his own power infuse, to swell
      The incense that he loves.”

                        ARISTÆUS, THE BEE-KEEPER

Man avails himself of the instincts of the inferior animals for his own
advantage. Hence sprang the art of keeping bees. Honey must first have
been known as a wild product, the bees building their structures in
hollow trees or holes in the rocks, or any similar cavity that chance
offered. Thus occasionally the carcass of a dead animal would be
occupied by the bees for that purpose. It was no doubt from some such
incident that the superstition arose that the bees were engendered by
the decaying flesh of the animal; and Virgil, in the following story,
shows how this supposed fact may be turned to account for renewing the
swarm when it has been lost by disease or accident:

Aristæus, who first taught the management of bees, was the son of the
water-nymph Cyrene. His bees had perished, and he resorted for aid to
his mother. He stood at the river-side and thus addressed her: “O
mother, the pride of my life is taken from me! I have lost my precious
bees. My care and skill have availed me nothing, and you my mother have
not warded off from me the blow of misfortune.” His mother heard these
complaints as she sat in her palace at the bottom of the river, with her
attendant nymphs around her. They were engaged in female occupations,
spinning and weaving, while one told stories to amuse the rest. The sad
voice of Aristæus interrupting their occupation, one of them put her
head above the water and seeing him, returned and gave information to
his mother, who ordered that he should be brought into her presence. The
river at her command opened itself and let him pass in, while it stood
curled like a mountain on either side. He descended to the region where
the fountains of the great rivers lie; he saw the enormous receptacles
of waters and was almost deafened with the roar, while he surveyed them
hurrying off in various directions to water the face of the earth.
Arriving at his mother’s apartment, he was hospitably received by Cyrene
and her nymphs, who spread their table with the richest dainties. They
first poured out libations to Neptune, then regaled themselves with the
feast, and after that Cyrene thus addressed him: “There is an old
prophet named Proteus, who dwells in the sea and is a favorite of
Neptune, whose herd of sea-calves he pastures. We nymphs hold him in
great respect, for he is a learned sage and knows all things, past,
present, and to come. He can tell you, my son, the cause of the
mortality among your bees, and how you may remedy it. But he will not do
it voluntarily, however you may entreat him. You must compel him by
force. If you seize him and chain him, he will answer your questions in
order to get released, for he cannot by all his arts get away if you
hold fast the chains. I will carry you to his cave, where he comes at
noon to take his midday repose. Then you may easily secure him. But when
he finds himself captured, his resort is to a power he possesses of
changing himself into various forms. He will become a wild boar or a
fierce tiger, a scaly dragon or lion with yellow mane. Or he will make a
noise like the crackling of flames or the rush of water, so as to tempt
you to let go the chain, when he will make his escape. But you have only
to keep him fast bound, and at last when he finds all his arts
unavailing, he will return to his own figure and obey your commands.” So
saying she sprinkled her son with fragrant nectar, the beverage of the
gods, and immediately an unusual vigor filled his frame, and courage his
heart, while perfume breathed all around him.

The nymph led her son to the prophet’s cave and concealed him among the
recesses of the rocks, while she herself took her place behind the
clouds. When noon came and the hour when men and herds retreat from the
glaring sun to indulge in quiet slumber, Proteus issued from the water,
followed by his herd of sea-calves which spread themselves along the
shore. He sat on the rock and counted his herd; then stretched himself
on the floor of the cave and went to sleep. Aristæus hardly allowed him
to get fairly asleep before he fixed the fetters on him and shouted
aloud. Proteus, waking and finding himself captured, immediately
resorted to his arts, becoming first a fire, then a flood, then a
horrible wild beast, in rapid succession. But finding all would not do,
he at last resumed his own form and addressed the youth in angry
accents: “Who are you, bold youth, who thus invade my abode, and what do
you want of me?” Aristæus replied, “Proteus, you know already, for it is
needless for any one to attempt to deceive you. And do you also cease
your efforts to elude me. I am led hither by divine assistance, to know
from you the cause of my misfortune and how to remedy it.” At these
words the prophet, fixing on him his gray eyes with a piercing look,
thus spoke: “You receive the merited reward of your deeds, by which
Eurydice met her death, for in flying from you she trod upon a serpent,
of whose bite she died. To avenge her death, the nymphs, her companions,
have sent this destruction to your bees. You have to appease their
anger, and thus it must be done: Select four bulls, of perfect form and
size, and four cows of equal beauty, build four altars to the nymphs,
and sacrifice the animals, leaving their carcasses in the leafy grove.
To Orpheus and Eurydice you shall pay such funeral honors as may allay
their resentment. Returning after nine days, you will examine the bodies
of the cattle slain and see what will befall.” Aristæus faithfully
obeyed these directions. He sacrificed the cattle, he left their bodies
in the grove, he offered funeral honors to the shades of Orpheus and
Eurydice; then returning on the ninth day he examined the bodies of the
animals, and, wonderful to relate! a swarm of bees had taken possession
of one of the carcasses and were pursuing their labors there as in a

In “The Task,” Cowper alludes to the story of Aristæus, when speaking of
the ice-palace built by the Empress Anne of Russia. He has been
describing the fantastic forms which ice assumes in connection with
waterfalls, etc.:

    “Less worthy of applause though more admired
    Because a novelty, the work of man,
    Imperial mistress of the fur-clad Russ,
    Thy most magnificent and mighty freak,
    The wonder of the north. No forest fell
    When thou wouldst build, no quarry sent its stores
    T’ enrich thy walls; but thou didst hew the floods
    And make thy marble of the glassy wave.
    In such a palace Aristæus found
    Cyrene, when he bore the plaintive tale
    Of his lost bees to her maternal ear.”

Milton also appears to have had Cyrene and her domestic scene in his
mind when he describes to us Sabrina, the nymph of the river Severn, in
the Guardian-spirit’s Song in “Comus”:

              “Sabrina fair!
        Listen where thou art sitting
    Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave
        In twisted braids of lilies knitting
    The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair;
        Listen for dear honor’s sake,
        Goddess of the silver lake!
              Listen and save.”

The following are other celebrated mythical poets and musicians, some of
whom were hardly inferior to Orpheus himself:


Amphion was the son of Jupiter and Antiope, queen of Thebes. With his
twin brother Zethus he was exposed at birth on Mount Cithæron, where
they grew up among the shepherds, not knowing their parentage. Mercury
gave Amphion a lyre and taught him to play upon it, and his brother
occupied himself in hunting and tending the flocks. Meanwhile Antiope,
their mother, who had been treated with great cruelty by Lycus, the
usurping king of Thebes, and by Dirce, his wife, found means to inform
her children of their rights and to summon them to her assistance. With
a band of their fellow-herdsmen they attacked and slew Lycus, and tying
Dirce by the hair of her head to a bull, let him drag her till she was
dead. Amphion, having become king of Thebes, fortified the city with a
wall. It is said that when he played on his lyre the stones moved of
their own accord and took their places in the wall.

See Tennyson’s poem of “Amphion” for an amusing use made of this story.


Linus was the instructor of Hercules in music, but having one day
reproved his pupil rather harshly, he roused the anger of Hercules, who
struck him with his lyre and killed him.


An ancient Thracian bard, who in his presumption challenged the Muses to
a trial of skill, and being overcome in the contest, was deprived by
them of his sight. Milton alludes to him with other blind bards, when
speaking of his own blindness, “Paradise Lost,” Book III., 35.


Minerva invented the flute, and played upon it to the delight of all the
celestial auditors; but the mischievous urchin Cupid having dared to
laugh at the queer face which the goddess made while playing, Minerva
threw the instrument indignantly away, and it fell down to earth, and
was found by Marsyas. He blew upon it, and drew from it such ravishing
sounds that he was tempted to challenge Apollo himself to a musical
contest. The god of course triumphed, and punished Marsyas by flaying
him alive.


Melampus was the first mortal endowed with prophetic powers. Before his
house there stood an oak tree containing a serpent’s nest. The old
serpents were killed by the servants, but Melampus took care of the
young ones and fed them carefully. One day when he was asleep under the
oak the serpents licked his ears with their tongues. On awaking he was
astonished to find that he now understood the language of birds and
creeping things. This knowledge enabled him to foretell future events,
and he became a renowned soothsayer. At one time his enemies took him
captive and kept him strictly imprisoned. Melampus in the silence of the
night heard the woodworms in the timbers talking together, and found out
by what they said that the timbers were nearly eaten through and the
roof would soon fall in. He told his captors and demanded to be let out,
warning them also. They took his warning, and thus escaped destruction,
and rewarded Melampus and held him in high honor.


A semi-mythological personage who was represented by one tradition to be
the son of Orpheus. He is said to have written sacred poems and oracles.
Milton couples his name with that of Orpheus in his “Il Penseroso”:

    “But O, sad virgin, that thy power
    Might raise Musæus from his bower,
    Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing
    Such notes as warbled to the string,
    Drew iron tears down Pluto’s cheek,
    And made Hell grant what love did seek.”


                              CHAPTER XXV


THE poets whose adventures compose this chapter were real persons some
of whose works yet remain, and their influence on poets who succeeded
them is yet more important than their poetical remains. The adventures
recorded of them in the following stories rest on the same authority as
other narratives of the “Age of Fable,” that is, of the poets who have
told them. In their present form, the first two are translated from the
German, Arion from Schlegel, and Ibycus from Schiller.


Arion was a famous musician, and dwelt in the court of Periander, king
of Corinth, with whom he was a great favorite. There was to be a musical
contest in Sicily, and Arion longed to compete for the prize. He told
his wish to Periander, who besought him like a brother to give up the
thought. “Pray stay with me,” he said, “and be contented. He who strives
to win may lose.” Arion answered, “A wandering life best suits the free
heart of a poet. The talent which a god bestowed on me, I would fain
make a source of pleasure to others. And if I win the prize, how will
the enjoyment of it be increased by the consciousness of my widespread
fame!” He went, won the prize, and embarked with his wealth in a
Corinthian ship for home. On the second morning after setting sail, the
wind breathed mild and fair. “O Periander,” he exclaimed, “dismiss your
fears! Soon shall you forget them in my embrace. With what lavish
offerings will we display our gratitude to the gods, and how merry will
we be at the festal board!” The wind and sea continued propitious. Not a
cloud dimmed the firmament. He had not trusted too much to the
ocean—but he had to man. He overheard the seamen exchanging hints with
one another, and found they were plotting to possess themselves of his
treasure. Presently they surrounded him loud and mutinous, and said,
“Arion, you must die! If you would have a grave on shore, yield yourself
to die on this spot; but if otherwise, cast yourself into the sea.”
“Will nothing satisfy you but my life?” said he. “Take my gold, and
welcome. I willingly buy my life at that price.” “No, no; we cannot
spare you. Your life would be too dangerous to us. Where could we go to
escape from Periander, if he should know that you had been robbed by us?
Your gold would be of little use to us, if on returning home, we could
never more be free from fear.” “Grant me, then,” said he, “a last
request, since nought will avail to save my life, that I may die, as I
have lived, as becomes a bard. When I shall have sung my death song, and
my harp-strings shall have ceased to vibrate, then I will bid farewell
to life, and yield uncomplaining to my fate.” This prayer, like the
others, would have been unheeded,—they thought only of their
booty,—but to hear so famous a musician, that moved their rude hearts.
“Suffer me,” he added, “to arrange my dress. Apollo will not favor me
unless I be clad in my minstrel garb.”

He clothed his well-proportioned limbs in gold and purple fair to see,
his tunic fell around him in graceful folds, jewels adorned his arms,
his brow was crowned with a golden wreath, and over his neck and
shoulders flowed his hair perfumed with odors. His left hand held the
lyre, his right the ivory wand with which he struck its chords. Like one
inspired, he seemed to drink the morning air and glitter in the morning
ray. The seamen gazed with admiration. He strode forward to the vessel’s
side and looked down into the deep blue sea. Addressing his lyre, he
sang, “Companion of my voice, come with me to the realm of shades.
Though Cerberus may growl, we know the power of song can tame his rage.
Ye heroes of Elysium, who have passed the darkling flood,—ye happy
souls, soon shall I join your band. Yet can ye relieve my grief? Alas, I
leave my friend behind me. Thou, who didst find thy Eurydice, and lose
her again as soon as found; when she had vanished like a dream, how
didst thou hate the cheerful light! I must away, but I will not fear.
The gods look down upon us. Ye who slay me unoffending, when I am no
more, your time of trembling shall come. Ye Nereids, receive your guest,
who throws himself upon your mercy!” So saying, he sprang into the deep
sea. The waves covered him, and the seamen held on their way, fancying
themselves safe from all danger of detection.

But the strains of his music had drawn round him the inhabitants of the
deep to listen, and Dolphins followed the ship as if chained by a spell.
While he struggled in the waves, a Dolphin offered him his back, and
carried him mounted thereon safe to shore. At the spot where he landed,
a monument of brass was afterwards erected upon the rocky shore, to
preserve the memory of the event.

When Arion and the dolphin parted, each to his own element, Arion thus
poured forth his thanks: “Farewell, thou faithful, friendly fish! Would
that I could reward thee; but thou canst not wend with me, nor I with
thee. Companionship we may not have. May Galatea, queen of the deep,
accord thee her favor, and thou, proud of the burden, draw her chariot
over the smooth mirror of the deep.”

Arion hastened from the shore, and soon saw before him the towers of
Corinth. He journeyed on, harp in hand, singing as he went, full of love
and happiness, forgetting his losses, and mindful only of what remained,
his friend and his lyre. He entered the hospitable halls, and was soon
clasped in the embrace of Periander. “I come back to thee, my friend,”
he said. “The talent which a god bestowed has been the delight of
thousands, but false knaves have stripped me of my well-earned treasure;
yet I retain the consciousness of wide spread fame.” Then he told
Periander all the wonderful events that had befallen him, who heard him
with amazement. “Shall such wickedness triumph?” said he. “Then in vain
is power lodged in my hands. That we may discover the criminals, you
must remain here in concealment, and so they will approach without
suspicion.” When the ship arrived in the harbor, he summoned the
mariners before him. “Have you heard anything of Arion?” he inquired. “I
anxiously look for his return.” They replied, “We left him well and
prosperous in Tarentum.” As they said these words, Arion stepped forth
and faced them. His well-proportioned limbs were arrayed in gold and
purple fair to see, his tunic fell around him in graceful folds, jewels
adorned his arms, his brow was crowned with a golden wreath, and over
his neck and shoulders flowed his hair perfumed with odors; his left
hand held the lyre, his right the ivory wand with which he struck its
chords. They fell prostrate at his feet, as if a lightning bolt had
struck them. “We meant to murder him, and he has become a god. O Earth,
open and receive us!” Then Periander spoke. “He lives, the master of the
lay! Kind Heaven protects the poet’s life. As for you, I invoke not the
spirit of vengeance; Arion wishes not your blood. Ye slaves of avarice,
begone! Seek some barbarous land, and never may aught beautiful delight
your souls!”

Spenser represents Arion, mounted on his dolphin, accompanying the train
of Neptune and Amphitrite:

      “Then was there heard a most celestial sound
      Of dainty music which did next ensue,
      And, on the floating waters as enthroned,
      Arion with his harp unto him drew
      The ears and hearts of all that goodly crew;
      Even when as yet the dolphin which him bore
      Through the Ægean Seas from pirates’ view,
      Stood still, by him astonished at his lore,
    And all the raging seas for joy forgot to roar.”

Byron, in his “Childe Harold,” Canto II., alludes to the story of Arion,
when, describing his voyage, he represents one of the seamen making
music to entertain the rest:

      “The moon is up; by Heaven a lovely eve!
      Long streams of light o’er dancing waves expand;
      Now lads on shore may sigh and maids believe;
      Such be our fate when we return to land!
      Meantime some rude Arion’s restless hand
      Wakes the brisk harmony that sailors love;
      A circle there of merry listeners stand,
      Or to some well-known measure featly move
    Thoughtless as if on shore they still were free to rove.”


In order to understand the story of Ibycus which follows it is necessary
to remember, first, that the theatres of the ancients were immense
fabrics capable of containing from ten to thirty thousand spectators,
and as they were used only on festival occasions, and admission was free
to all, they were usually filled. They were without roofs and open to
the sky, and the performances were in the daytime. Secondly, the
appalling representation of the Furies is not exaggerated in the story.
It is recorded that Æschylus, the tragic poet, having on one occasion
represented the Furies in a chorus of fifty performers, the terror of
the spectators was such that many fainted and were thrown into
convulsions, and the magistrates forbade a like representation for the

Ibycus, the pious poet, was on his way to the chariot races and musical
competitions held at the Isthmus of Corinth, which attracted all of
Grecian lineage. Apollo had bestowed on him the gift of song, the
honeyed lips of the poet, and he pursued his way with lightsome step,
full of the god. Already the towers of Corinth crowning the height
appeared in view, and he had entered with pious awe the sacred grove of
Neptune. No living object was in sight, only a flock of cranes flew
overhead taking the same course as himself in their migration to a
southern clime. “Good luck to you, ye friendly squadrons,” he exclaimed,
“my companions from across the sea. I take your company for a good omen.
We come from far and fly in search of hospitality. May both of us meet
that kind reception which shields the stranger guest from harm!”

He paced briskly on, and soon was in the middle of the wood. There
suddenly, at a narrow pass, two robbers stepped forth and barred his
way. He must yield or fight. But his hand, accustomed to the lyre, and
not to the strife of arms, sank powerless. He called for help on men and
gods, but his cry reached no defender’s ear. “Then here must I die,”
said he, “in a strange land, unlamented, cut off by the hand of outlaws,
and see none to avenge my cause.” Sore wounded, he sank to the earth,
when hoarse screamed the cranes overhead. “Take up my cause, ye cranes,”
he said, “since no voice but yours answers to my cry.” So saying he
closed his eyes in death.

The body, despoiled and mangled, was found, and though disfigured with
wounds, was recognized by the friend in Corinth who had expected him as
a guest. “Is it thus I find you restored to me?” he exclaimed. “I who
hoped to entwine your temples with the wreath of triumph in the strife
of song!”

The guests assembled at the festival heard the tidings with dismay. All
Greece felt the wound, every heart owned its loss. They crowded round
the tribunal of the magistrates, and demanded vengeance on the murderers
and expiation with their blood.

But what trace or mark shall point out the perpetrator from amidst the
vast multitude attracted by the splendor of the feast? Did he fall by
the hands of robbers or did some private enemy slay him? The
all-discerning sun alone can tell, for no other eye beheld it. Yet not
improbably the murderer even now walks in the midst of the throng, and
enjoys the fruits of his crime, while vengeance seeks for him in vain.
Perhaps in their own temple’s enclosure he defies the gods, mingling
freely in this throng of men that now presses into the amphitheatre.

For now crowded together, row on row, the multitude fill the seats till
it seems as if the very fabric would give way. The murmur of voices
sounds like the roar of the sea, while the circles widening in their
ascent rise tier on tier, as if they would reach the sky.

And now the vast assemblage listens to the awful voice of the chorus
personating the Furies, which in solemn guise advances with measured
step, and moves around the circuit of the theatre. Can they be mortal
women who compose that awful group, and can that vast concourse of
silent forms be living beings?

The choristers, clad in black, bore in their fleshless hands torches
blazing with a pitchy flame. Their cheeks were bloodless, and in place
of hair writhing and swelling serpents curled around their brows.
Forming a circle, these awful beings sang their hymns, rending the
hearts of the guilty, and enchaining all their faculties. It rose and
swelled, overpowering the sound of the instruments, stealing the
judgment, palsying the heart, curdling the blood.

“Happy the man who keeps his heart pure from guilt and crime! Him we
avengers touch not; he treads the path of life secure from us. But woe!
woe! to him who has done the deed of secret murder. We the fearful
family of Night fasten ourselves upon his whole being. Thinks he by
flight to escape us? We fly still faster in pursuit, twine our snakes
around his feet, and bring him to the ground. Unwearied we pursue; no
pity checks our course; still on and on, to the end of life, we give him
no peace nor rest.” Thus the Eumenides sang, and moved in solemn
cadence, while stillness like the stillness of death sat over the whole
assembly as if in the presence of superhuman beings; and then in solemn
march completing the circuit of the theatre, they passed out at the back
of the stage.

Every heart fluttered between illusion and reality, and every breast
panted with undefined terror, quailing before the awful power that
watches secret crimes and winds unseen the skein of destiny. At that
moment a cry burst forth from one of the uppermost benches—“Look! look!
comrade, yonder are the cranes of Ibycus!” And suddenly there appeared
sailing across the sky a dark object which a moment’s inspection showed
to be a flock of cranes flying directly over the theatre. “Of Ibycus!
did he say?” The beloved name revived the sorrow in every breast. As
wave follows wave over the face of the sea, so ran from mouth to mouth
the words, “Of Ibycus! him whom we all lament, whom some murderer’s hand
laid low! What have the cranes to do with him?” And louder grew the
swell of voices, while like a lightning’s flash the thought sped through
every heart, “Observe the power of the Eumenides! The pious poet shall
be avenged! the murderer has informed against himself. Seize the man who
uttered that cry and the other to whom he spoke!”

The culprit would gladly have recalled his words, but it was too late.
The faces of the murderers, pale with terror, betrayed their guilt. The
people took them before the judge, they confessed their crime, and
suffered the punishment they deserved.


Simonides was one of the most prolific of the early poets of Greece, but
only a few fragments of his compositions have descended to us. He wrote
hymns, triumphal odes, and elegies. In the last species of composition
he particularly excelled. His genius was inclined to the pathetic, and
none could touch with truer effect the chords of human sympathy. The
“Lamentation of Danaë,” the most important of the fragments which remain
of his poetry, is based upon the tradition that Danaë and her infant son
were confined by order of her father, Acrisius, in a chest and set
adrift on the sea. The chest floated towards the island of Seriphus,
where both were rescued by Dictys, a fisherman, and carried to
Polydectes, king of the country, who received and protected them. The
child, Perseus, when grown up became a famous hero, whose adventures
have been recorded in a previous chapter.

Simonides passed much of his life at the courts of princes, and often
employed his talents in panegyric and festal odes, receiving his reward
from the munificence of those whose exploits he celebrated. This
employment was not derogatory, but closely resembles that of the
earliest bards, such as Demodocus, described by Homer, or of Homer
himself, as recorded by tradition.

On one occasion, when residing at the court of Scopas, king of Thessaly,
the prince desired him to prepare a poem in celebration of his exploits,
to be recited at a banquet. In order to diversify his theme, Simonides,
who was celebrated for his piety, introduced into his poem the exploits
of Castor and Pollux. Such digressions were not unusual with the poets
on similar occasions, and one might suppose an ordinary mortal might
have been content to share the praises of the sons of Leda. But vanity
is exacting; and as Scopas sat at his festal board among his courtiers
and sycophants, he grudged every verse that did not rehearse his own
praises. When Simonides approached to receive the promised reward Scopas
bestowed but half the expected sum, saying, “Here is payment for my
portion of thy performance; Castor and Pollux will doubtless compensate
thee for so much as relates to them.” The disconcerted poet returned to
his seat amidst the laughter which followed the great man’s jest. In a
little time he received a message that two young men on horseback were
waiting without and anxious to see him. Simonides hastened to the door,
but looked in vain for the visitors. Scarcely, however, had he left the
banqueting hall when the roof fell in with a loud crash, burying Scopas
and all his guests beneath the ruins. On inquiring as to the appearance
of the young men who had sent for him, Simonides was satisfied that they
were no other than Castor and Pollux themselves.


Sappho was a poetess who flourished in a very early age of Greek
literature. Of her works few fragments remain, but they are enough to
establish her claim to eminent poetical genius. The story of Sappho
commonly alluded to is that she was passionately in love with a
beautiful youth named Phaon, and failing to obtain a return of affection
she threw herself from the promontory of Leucadia into the sea, under a
superstition that those who should take that “Lover’s-leap” would, if
not destroyed, be cured of their love.

Byron alludes to the story of Sappho in “Childe Harold,” Canto II.:

    “Childe Harold sailed and passed the barren spot
    Where sad Penelope o’erlooked the wave,
    And onward viewed the mount, not yet forgot,
    The lover’s refuge and the Lesbian’s grave.
    Dark Sappho! could not verse immortal save
    That breast imbued with such immortal fire?

    “’Twas on a Grecian autumn’s gentle eve
    Childe Harold hailed Leucadia’s cape afar;” etc.

Those who wish to know more of Sappho and her “leap” are referred to the
“Spectator,” Nos. 223 and 229. See also Moore’s “Evenings in Greece.”


                              CHAPTER XXVI


                           DIANA AND ENDYMION

ENDYMION was a beautiful youth who fed his flock on Mount Latmos. One
calm, clear night Diana, the moon, looked down and saw him sleeping. The
cold heart of the virgin goddess was warmed by his surpassing beauty,
and she came down to him, kissed him, and watched over him while he

Another story was that Jupiter bestowed on him the gift of perpetual
youth united with perpetual sleep. Of one so gifted we can have but few
adventures to record. Diana, it was said, took care that his fortunes
should not suffer by his inactive life, for she made his flock increase,
and guarded his sheep and lambs from the wild beasts.

The story of Endymion has a peculiar charm from the human meaning which
it so thinly veils. We see in Endymion the young poet, his fancy and his
heart seeking in vain for that which can satisfy them, finding his
favorite hour in the quiet moonlight, and nursing there beneath the
beams of the bright and silent witness the melancholy and the ardor
which consumes him. The story suggests aspiring and poetic love, a life
spent more in dreams than in reality, and an early and welcome
death.—_S. G. B._

The “Endymion” of Keats is a wild and fanciful poem, containing some
exquisite poetry, as this, to the moon:

    “. . . The sleeping kine
    Couched in thy brightness dream of fields divine.
    Innumerable mountains rise, and rise,
    Ambitious for the hallowing of thine eyes,
    And yet thy benediction passeth not
    One obscure hiding-place, one little spot
    Where pleasure may be sent; the nested wren
    Has thy fair face within its tranquil ken;” etc., etc.

Dr. Young, in the “Night Thoughts,” alludes to Endymion thus:

    “. . . These thoughts, O night, are thine;
    From thee they came like lovers’ secret sighs,
    While others slept. So Cynthia, poets feign,
    In shadows veiled, soft, sliding from her sphere,
    Her shepherd cheered, of her enamoured less
    Than I of thee.”

Fletcher, in the “Faithful Shepherdess,” tells:

    “How the pale Phœbe, hunting in a grove,
    First saw the boy Endymion, from whose eyes
    She took eternal fire that never dies;
    How she conveyed him softly in a sleep,
    His temples bound with poppy, to the steep
    Head of old Latmos, where she stoops each night,
    Gilding the mountain with her brother’s light,
    To kiss her sweetest.”


Orion was the son of Neptune. He was a handsome giant and a mighty
hunter. His father gave him the power of wading through the depths of
the sea, or, as others say, of walking on its surface.

Orion loved Merope, the daughter of Œnopion, king of Chios, and sought
her in marriage. He cleared the island of wild beasts, and brought the
spoils of the chase as presents to his beloved; but as Œnopion
constantly deferred his consent, Orion attempted to gain possession of
the maiden by violence. Her father, incensed at this conduct, having
made Orion drunk, deprived him of his sight and cast him out on the
seashore. The blinded hero followed the sound of a Cyclops’ hammer till
he reached Lemnos, and came to the forge of Vulcan, who, taking pity on
him, gave him Kedalion, one of his men, to be his guide to the abode of
the sun. Placing Kedalion on his shoulders, Orion proceeded to the east,
and there meeting the sun-god, was restored to sight by his beam.

After this he dwelt as a hunter with Diana, with whom he was a favorite,
and it is even said she was about to marry him. Her brother was highly
displeased and often chid her, but to no purpose. One day, observing
Orion wading through the sea with his head just above the water, Apollo
pointed it out to his sister and maintained that she could not hit that
black thing on the sea. The archer-goddess discharged a shaft with fatal
aim. The waves rolled the dead body of Orion to the land, and bewailing
her fatal error with many tears, Diana placed him among the stars, where
he appears as a giant, with a girdle, sword, lion’s skin, and club.
Sirius, his dog, follows him, and the Pleiads fly before him.

The Pleiads were daughters of Atlas, and nymphs of Diana’s train. One
day Orion saw them and became enamoured and pursued them. In their
distress they prayed to the gods to change their form, and Jupiter in
pity turned them into pigeons, and then made them a constellation in the
sky. Though their number was seven, only six stars are visible, for
Electra, one of them, it is said left her place that she might not
behold the ruin of Troy, for that city was founded by her son Dardanus.
The sight had such an effect on her sisters that they have looked pale
ever since.

Mr. Longfellow has a poem on the “Occultation of Orion.” The following
lines are those in which he alludes to the mythic story. We must premise
that on the celestial globe Orion is represented as robed in a lion’s
skin and wielding a club. At the moment the stars of the constellation,
one by one, were quenched in the light of the moon, the poet tells us

    “Down fell the red skin of the lion
    Into the river at his feet.
    His mighty club no longer beat
    The forehead of the bull; but he
    Reeled as of yore beside the sea,
    When blinded by Œnopion
      He sought the blacksmith at his forge,
      And climbing up the narrow gorge,
    Fixed his blank eyes upon the sun.”

Tennyson has a different theory of the Pleiads:

    “Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising through the mellow shade,
    Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.”
                                                    —_Locksley Hall._

Byron alludes to the lost Pleiad:

    “Like the lost Pleiad seen no more below.”

See also Mrs. Hemans’s verses on the same subject.

                          AURORA AND TITHONUS

The goddess of the Dawn, like her sister the Moon, was at times inspired
with the love of mortals. Her greatest favorite was Tithonus, son of
Laomedon, king of Troy. She stole him away, and prevailed on Jupiter to
grant him immortality; but, forgetting to have youth joined in the gift,
after some time she began to discern, to her great mortification, that
he was growing old. When his hair was quite white she left his society;
but he still had the range of her palace, lived on ambrosial food, and
was clad in celestial raiment. At length he lost the power of using his
limbs, and then she shut him up in his chamber, whence his feeble voice
might at times be heard. Finally she turned him into a grasshopper.

Memnon was the son of Aurora and Tithonus. He was king of the
Æthiopians, and dwelt in the extreme east, on the shore of Ocean. He
came with his warriors to assist the kindred of his father in the war of
Troy. King Priam received him with great honors, and listened with
admiration to his narrative of the wonders of the ocean shore.

The very day after his arrival, Memnon, impatient of repose, led his
troops to the field. Antilochus, the brave son of Nestor, fell by his
hand, and the Greeks were put to flight, when Achilles appeared and
restored the battle. A long and doubtful contest ensued between him and
the son of Aurora; at length victory declared for Achilles, Memnon fell,
and the Trojans fled in dismay.

Aurora, who from her station in the sky had viewed with apprehension the
danger of her son, when she saw him fall, directed his brothers, the
Winds, to convey his body to the banks of the river Esepus in
Paphlagonia. In the evening Aurora came, accompanied by the Hours and
the Pleiads, and wept and lamented over her son. Night, in sympathy with
her grief, spread the heaven with clouds; all nature mourned for the
offspring of the Dawn. The Æthiopians raised his tomb on the banks of
the stream in the grove of the Nymphs, and Jupiter caused the sparks and
cinders of his funeral pile to be turned into birds, which, dividing
into two flocks, fought over the pile till they fell into the flame.
Every year at the anniversary of his death they return and celebrate his
obsequies in like manner. Aurora remains inconsolable for the loss of
her son. Her tears still flow, and may be seen at early morning in the
form of dew-drops on the grass.

Unlike most of the marvels of ancient mythology, there still exist some
memorials of this. On the banks of the river Nile, in Egypt, are two
colossal statues, one of which is said to be the statue of Memnon.
Ancient writers record that when the first rays of the rising sun fall
upon this statue a sound is heard to issue from it, which they compare
to the snapping of a harp-string. There is some doubt about the
identification of the existing statue with the one described by the
ancients, and the mysterious sounds are still more doubtful. Yet there
are not wanting some modern testimonies to their being still audible. It
has been suggested that sounds produced by confined air making its
escape from crevices or caverns in the rocks may have given some ground
for the story. Sir Gardner Wilkinson, a late traveller, of the highest
authority, examined the statue itself, and discovered that it was
hollow, and that “in the lap of the statue is a stone, which on being
struck emits a metallic sound, that might still be made use of to
deceive a visitor who was predisposed to believe its powers.”

The vocal statue of Memnon is a favorite subject of allusion with the
poets. Darwin, in his “Botanic Garden,” says:

    “So to the sacred Sun in Memnon’s fane
    Spontaneous concords choired the matin strain;
    Touched by his orient beam responsive rings
    The living lyre and vibrates all its strings;
    Accordant aisles the tender tones prolong,
    And holy echoes swell the adoring song.”
                                  Book I., 1. 182.

                            ACIS AND GALATEA

Scylla was a fair virgin of Sicily, a favorite of the Sea-Nymphs. She
had many suitors, but repelled them all, and would go to the grotto of
Galatea, and tell her how she was persecuted. One day the goddess, while
Scylla dressed her hair, listened to the story, and then replied, “Yet,
maiden, your persecutors are of the not ungentle race of men, whom, if
you will, you can repel; but I, the daughter of Nereus, and protected by
such a band of sisters, found no escape from the passion of the Cyclops
but in the depths of the sea;” and tears stopped her utterance, which
when the pitying maiden had wiped away with her delicate finger, and
soothed the goddess, “Tell me, dearest,” said she, “the cause of your
grief.” Galatea then said, “Acis was the son of Faunus and a Naiad. His
father and mother loved him dearly, but their love was not equal to
mine. For the beautiful youth attached himself to me alone, and he was
just sixteen years old, the down just beginning to darken his cheeks. As
much as I sought his society, so much did the Cyclops seek mine; and if
you ask me whether my love for Acis or my hatred of Polyphemus was the
stronger, I cannot tell you; they were in equal measure. O Venus, how
great is thy power! this fierce giant, the terror of the woods, whom no
hapless stranger escaped unharmed, who defied even Jove himself, learned
to feel what love was, and, touched with a passion for me, forgot his
flocks and his well-stored caverns. Then for the first time he began to
take some care of his appearance, and to try to make himself agreeable;
he harrowed those coarse locks of his with a comb, and mowed his beard
with a sickle, looked at his harsh features in the water, and composed
his countenance. His love of slaughter, his fierceness and thirst of
blood prevailed no more, and ships that touched at his island went away
in safety. He paced up and down the seashore, imprinting huge tracks
with his heavy tread, and, when weary, lay tranquilly in his cave.

“There is a cliff which projects into the sea, which washes it on either
side. Thither one day the huge Cyclops ascended, and sat down while his
flocks spread themselves around. Laying down his staff, which would have
served for a mast to hold a vessel’s sail, and taking his instrument
compacted of numerous pipes, he made the hills and the waters echo the
music of his song. I lay hid under a rock by the side of my beloved
Acis, and listened to the distant strain. It was full of extravagant
praises of my beauty, mingled with passionate reproaches of my coldness
and cruelty.

“When he had finished he rose up, and, like a raging bull that cannot
stand still, wandered off into the woods. Acis and I thought no more of
him, till on a sudden he came to a spot which gave him a view of us as
we sat. ‘I see you,’ he exclaimed, ‘and I will make this the last of
your love-meetings.’ His voice was a roar such as an angry Cyclops alone
could utter. Ætna trembled at the sound. I, overcome with terror,
plunged into the water. Acis turned and fled, crying, ‘Save me, Galatea,
save me, my parents!’ The Cyclops pursued him, and tearing a rock from
the side of the mountain hurled it at him. Though only a corner of it
touched him, it overwhelmed him.

“All that fate left in my power I did for Acis. I endowed him with the
honors of his grandfather, the river-god. The purple blood flowed out
from under the rock, but by degrees grew paler and looked like the
stream of a river rendered turbid by rains, and in time it became clear.
The rock cleaved open, and the water, as it gushed from the chasm,
uttered a pleasing murmur.”

Thus Acis was changed into a river, and the river retains the name of

Dryden, in his “Cymon and Iphigenia,” has told the story of a clown
converted into a gentleman by the power of love, in a way that shows
traces of kindred to the old story of Galatea and the Cyclops.

    “What not his father’s care nor tutor’s art
    Could plant with pains in his unpolished heart,
    The best instructor, Love, at once inspired,
    As barren grounds to fruitfulness are fired.
    Love taught him shame, and shame with love at strife
    Soon taught the sweet civilities of life.”


                             CHAPTER XXVII

                             THE TROJAN WAR

MINERVA was the goddess of wisdom, but on one occasion she did a very
foolish thing; she entered into competition with Juno and Venus for the
prize of beauty. It happened thus: At the nuptials of Peleus and Thetis
all the gods were invited with the exception of Eris, or Discord.
Enraged at her exclusion, the goddess threw a golden apple among the
guests, with the inscription, “For the fairest.” Thereupon Juno, Venus,
and Minerva each claimed the apple. Jupiter, not willing to decide in so
delicate a matter, sent the goddesses to Mount Ida, where the beautiful
shepherd Paris was tending his flocks, and to him was committed the
decision. The goddesses accordingly appeared before him. Juno promised
him power and riches, Minerva glory and renown in war, and Venus the
fairest of women for his wife, each attempting to bias his decision in
her own favor. Paris decided in favor of Venus and gave her the golden
apple, thus making the two other goddesses his enemies. Under the
protection of Venus, Paris sailed to Greece, and was hospitably received
by Menelaus, king of Sparta. Now Helen, the wife of Menelaus, was the
very woman whom Venus had destined for Paris, the fairest of her sex.
She had been sought as a bride by numerous suitors, and before her
decision was made known, they all, at the suggestion of Ulysses, one of
their number, took an oath that they would defend her from all injury
and avenge her cause if necessary. She chose Menelaus, and was living
with him happily when Paris became their guest. Paris, aided by Venus,
persuaded her to elope with him, and carried her to Troy, whence arose
the famous Trojan war, the theme of the greatest poems of antiquity,
those of Homer and Virgil.

Menelaus called upon his brother chieftains of Greece to fulfil their
pledge, and join him in his efforts to recover his wife. They generally
came forward, but Ulysses, who had married Penelope, and was very happy
in his wife and child, had no disposition to embark in such a
troublesome affair. He therefore hung back and Palamedes was sent to
urge him. When Palamedes arrived at Ithaca Ulysses pretended to be mad.
He yoked an ass and an ox together to the plough and began to sow salt.
Palamedes, to try him, placed the infant Telemachus before the plough,
whereupon the father turned the plough aside, showing plainly that he
was no madman, and after that could no longer refuse to fulfil his
promise. Being now himself gained for the undertaking, he lent his aid
to bring in other reluctant chiefs, especially Achilles. This hero was
the son of that Thetis at whose marriage the apple of Discord had been
thrown among the goddesses. Thetis was herself one of the immortals, a
sea-nymph, and knowing that her son was fated to perish before Troy if
he went on the expedition, she endeavored to prevent his going. She sent
him away to the court of King Lycomedes, and induced him to conceal
himself in the disguise of a maiden among the daughters of the king.
Ulysses, hearing he was there, went disguised as a merchant to the
palace and offered for sale female ornaments, among which he had placed
some arms. While the king’s daughters were engrossed with the other
contents of the merchant’s pack, Achilles handled the weapons and
thereby betrayed himself to the keen eye of Ulysses, who found no great
difficulty in persuading him to disregard his mother’s prudent counsels
and join his countrymen in the war.

Priam was king of Troy, and Paris, the shepherd and seducer of Helen,
was his son. Paris had been brought up in obscurity, because there were
certain ominous forebodings connected with him from his infancy that he
would be the ruin of the state. These forebodings seemed at length
likely to be realized, for the Grecian armament now in preparation was
the greatest that had ever been fitted out. Agamemnon, king of Mycenæ,
and brother of the injured Menelaus, was chosen commander-in-chief.
Achilles was their most illustrious warrior. After him ranked Ajax,
gigantic in size and of great courage, but dull of intellect; Diomede,
second only to Achilles in all the qualities of a hero; Ulysses, famous
for his sagacity; and Nestor, the oldest of the Grecian chiefs, and one
to whom they all looked up for counsel. But Troy was no feeble enemy.
Priam, the king, was now old, but he had been a wise prince and had
strengthened his state by good government at home and numerous alliances
with his neighbors. But the principal stay and support of his throne was
his son Hector, one of the noblest characters painted by heathen
antiquity. He felt, from the first, a presentiment of the fall of his
country, but still persevered in his heroic resistance, yet by no means
justified the wrong which brought this danger upon her. He was united in
marriage with Andromache, and as a husband and father his character was
not less admirable than as a warrior. The principal leaders on the side
of the Trojans, besides Hector, were Æneas and Deiphobus, Glaucus and

After two years of preparation the Greek fleet and army assembled in the
port of Aulis in Bœotia. Here Agamemnon in hunting killed a stag which
was sacred to Diana, and the goddess in return visited the army with
pestilence, and produced a calm which prevented the ships from leaving
the port. Calchas, the soothsayer, thereupon announced that the wrath of
the virgin goddess could only be appeased by the sacrifice of a virgin
on her altar, and that none other but the daughter of the offender would
be acceptable. Agamemnon, however reluctant, yielded his consent, and
the maiden Iphigenia was sent for under the pretence that she was to be
married to Achilles. When she was about to be sacrificed the goddess
relented and snatched her away, leaving a hind in her place, and
Iphigenia, enveloped in a cloud, was carried to Tauris, where Diana made
her priestess of her temple.

Tennyson, in his “Dream of Fair Women,” makes Iphigenia thus describe
her feelings at the moment of sacrifice:

    “I was cut off from hope in that sad place,
      Which yet to name my spirit loathes and fears;
    My father held his hand upon his face;
            I, blinded by my tears,

    “Still strove to speak; my voice was thick with sighs,
      As in a dream. Dimly I could descry
    The stern black-bearded kings, with wolfish eyes,
            Waiting to see me die.

    “The tall masts quivered as they lay afloat,
      The temples and the people and the shore;
    One drew a sharp knife through my tender throat
            Slowly,—and—nothing more.”

The wind now proving fair the fleet made sail and brought the forces to
the coast of Troy. The Trojans came to oppose their landing, and at the
first onset Protesilaus fell by the hand of Hector. Protesilaus had left
at home his wife, Laodamia, who was most tenderly attached to him. When
the news of his death reached her she implored the gods to be allowed to
converse with him only three hours. The request was granted. Mercury led
Protesilaus back to the upper world, and when he died a second time
Laodamia died with him. There was a story that the nymphs planted elm
trees round his grave which grew very well till they were high enough to
command a view of Troy, and then withered away, while fresh branches
sprang from the roots.

Wordsworth has taken the story of Protesilaus and Laodamia for the
subject of a poem. It seems the oracle had declared that victory should
be the lot of that party from which should fall the first victim to the
war. The poet represents Protesilaus, on his brief return to earth, as
relating to Laodamia the story of his fate:

    “‘The wished-for wind was given; I then revolved
      The oracle, upon the silent sea;
    And if no worthier led the way, resolved
      That of a thousand vessels mine should be
    The foremost prow impressing to the strand,—
    Mine the first blood that tinged the Trojan sand.

    “‘Yet bitter, ofttimes bitter was the pang
      When of thy loss I thought, beloved wife!
    On thee too fondly did my memory hang,
      And on the joys we shared in mortal life,
    The paths which we had trod,—these fountains, flowers;
    My new planned cities and unfinished towers.

    “‘But should suspense permit the foe to cry,
      “Behold they tremble! haughty their array,
    Yet of their number no one dares to die?”
      In soul I swept the indignity away:
    Old frailties then recurred: but lofty thought
    In act embodied my deliverance wrought.’

  .      .      .      .      .      .      .

    “. . . upon the side
      Of Hellespont (such faith was entertained)
    A knot of spiry trees for ages grew
      From out the tomb of him for whom she died;
      And ever when such stature they had gained
    That Ilium’s walls were subject to their view,
    The trees’ tall summits withered at the sight,
    A constant interchange of growth and blight!”

                              “THE ILIAD”

The war continued without decisive results for nine years. Then an event
occurred which seemed likely to be fatal to the cause of the Greeks, and
that was a quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon. It is at this point
that the great poem of Homer, “The Iliad,” begins. The Greeks, though
unsuccessful against Troy, had taken the neighboring and allied cities,
and in the division of the spoil a female captive, by name Chryseis,
daughter of Chryses, priest of Apollo, had fallen to the share of
Agamemnon. Chryses came bearing the sacred emblems of his office, and
begged the release of his daughter. Agamemnon refused. Thereupon Chryses
implored Apollo to afflict the Greeks till they should be forced to
yield their prey. Apollo granted the prayer of his priest, and sent
pestilence into the Grecian camp. Then a council was called to
deliberate how to allay the wrath of the gods and avert the plague.
Achilles boldly charged their misfortunes upon Agamemnon as caused by
his withholding Chryseis. Agamemnon, enraged, consented to relinquish
his captive, but demanded that Achilles should yield to him in her stead
Briseis, a maiden who had fallen to Achilles’ share in the division of
the spoil. Achilles submitted, but forthwith declared that he would take
no further part in the war. He withdrew his forces from the general camp
and openly avowed his intention of returning home to Greece.

The gods and goddesses interested themselves as much in this famous war
as the parties themselves. It was well known to them that fate had
decreed that Troy should fall, at last, if her enemies should persevere
and not voluntarily abandon the enterprise. Yet there was room enough
left for chance to excite by turns the hopes and fears of the powers
above who took part with either side. Juno and Minerva, in consequence
of the slight put upon their charms by Paris, were hostile to the
Trojans; Venus for the opposite cause favored them. Venus enlisted her
admirer Mars on the same side, but Neptune favored the Greeks. Apollo
was neutral, sometimes taking one side, sometimes the other, and Jove
himself, though he loved the good King Priam, yet exercised a degree of
impartiality; not, however, without exceptions.

Thetis, the mother of Achilles, warmly resented the injury done to her
son. She repaired immediately to Jove’s palace and besought him to make
the Greeks repent of their injustice to Achilles by granting success to
the Trojan arms. Jupiter consented, and in the battle which ensued the
Trojans were completely successful. The Greeks were driven from the
field and took refuge in their ships.

Then Agamemnon called a council of his wisest and bravest chiefs. Nestor
advised that an embassy should be sent to Achilles to persuade him to
return to the field; that Agamemnon should yield the maiden, the cause
of the dispute, with ample gifts to atone for the wrong he had done.
Agamemnon consented, and Ulysses, Ajax, and Phœnix were sent to carry to
Achilles the penitent message. They performed that duty, but Achilles
was deaf to their entreaties. He positively refused to return to the
field, and persisted in his resolution to embark for Greece without

The Greeks had constructed a rampart around their ships, and now instead
of besieging Troy they were in a manner besieged themselves, within
their rampart. The next day after the unsuccessful embassy to Achilles,
a battle was fought, and the Trojans, favored by Jove, were successful,
and succeeded in forcing a passage through the Grecian rampart, and were
about to set fire to the ships. Neptune, seeing the Greeks so pressed,
came to their rescue. He appeared in the form of Calchas the prophet,
encouraged the warriors with his shouts, and appealed to each
individually till he raised their ardor to such a pitch that they forced
the Trojans to give way. Ajax performed prodigies of valor, and at
length encountered Hector. Ajax shouted defiance, to which Hector
replied, and hurled his lance at the huge warrior. It was well aimed and
struck Ajax, where the belts that bore his sword and shield crossed each
other on the breast. The double guard prevented its penetrating and it
fell harmless. Then Ajax, seizing a huge stone, one of those that served
to prop the ships, hurled it at Hector. It struck him in the neck and
stretched him on the plain. His followers instantly seized him and bore
him off, stunned and wounded.

While Neptune was thus aiding the Greeks and driving back the Trojans,
Jupiter saw nothing of what was going on, for his attention had been
drawn from the field by the wiles of Juno. That goddess had arrayed
herself in all her charms, and to crown all had borrowed of Venus her
girdle, called “Cestus,” which had the effect to heighten the wearer’s
charms to such a degree that they were quite irresistible. So prepared,
Juno went to join her husband, who sat on Olympus watching the battle.
When he beheld her she looked so charming that the fondness of his early
love revived, and, forgetting the contending armies and all other
affairs of state, he thought only of her and let the battle go as it

But this absorption did not continue long, and when, upon turning his
eyes downward, he beheld Hector stretched on the plain almost lifeless
from pain and bruises, he dismissed Juno in a rage, commanding her to
send Iris and Apollo to him. When Iris came he sent her with a stern
message to Neptune, ordering him instantly to quit the field. Apollo was
despatched to heal Hector’s bruises and to inspirit his heart. These
orders were obeyed with such speed that, while the battle still raged,
Hector returned to the field and Neptune betook himself to his own

An arrow from Paris’s bow wounded Machaon, son of Æsculapius, who
inherited his father’s art of healing, and was therefore of great value
to the Greeks as their surgeon, besides being one of their bravest
warriors. Nestor took Machaon in his chariot and conveyed him from the
field. As they passed the ships of Achilles, that hero, looking out over
the field, saw the chariot of Nestor and recognized the old chief, but
could not discern who the wounded chief was. So calling Patroclus, his
companion and dearest friend, he sent him to Nestor’s tent to inquire.

Patroclus, arriving at Nestor’s tent, saw Machaon wounded, and having
told the cause of his coming would have hastened away, but Nestor
detained him, to tell him the extent of the Grecian calamities. He
reminded him also how, at the time of departing for Troy, Achilles and
himself had been charged by their respective fathers with different
advice: Achilles to aspire to the highest pitch of glory, Patroclus, as
the elder, to keep watch over his friend, and to guide his inexperience.
“Now,” said Nestor, “is the time for such influence. If the gods so
please, thou mayest win him back to the common cause; but if not let him
at least send his soldiers to the field, and come thou, Patroclus, clad
in his armor, and perhaps the very sight of it may drive back the

Patroclus was strongly moved with this address, and hastened back to
Achilles, revolving in his mind all he had seen and heard. He told the
prince the sad condition of affairs at the camp of their late
associates: Diomede, Ulysses, Agamemnon, Machaon, all wounded, the
rampart broken down, the enemy among the ships preparing to burn them,
and thus to cut off all means of return to Greece. While they spoke the
flames burst forth from one of the ships. Achilles, at the sight,
relented so far as to grant Patroclus his request to lead the Myrmidons
(for so were Achilles’ soldiers called) to the field, and to lend him
his armor, that he might thereby strike more terror into the minds of
the Trojans. Without delay the soldiers were marshalled, Patroclus put
on the radiant armor and mounted the chariot of Achilles, and led forth
the men ardent for battle. But before he went, Achilles strictly charged
him that he should be content with repelling the foe. “Seek not,” said
he, “to press the Trojans without me, lest thou add still more to the
disgrace already mine.” Then exhorting the troops to do their best he
dismissed them full of ardor to the fight.

Patroclus and his Myrmidons at once plunged into the contest where it
raged hottest; at the sight of which the joyful Grecians shouted and the
ships reëchoed the acclaim. The Trojans, at the sight of the well-known
armor, struck with terror, looked everywhere for refuge. First those who
had got possession of the ship and set it on fire left and allowed the
Grecians to retake it and extinguish the flames. Then the rest of the
Trojans fled in dismay. Ajax, Menelaus, and the two sons of Nestor
performed prodigies of valor. Hector was forced to turn his horses’
heads and retire from the enclosure, leaving his men entangled in the
fosse to escape as they could. Patroclus drove them before him, slaying
many, none daring to make a stand against him.

At last Sarpedon, son of Jove, ventured to oppose himself in fight to
Patroclus. Jupiter looked down upon him and would have snatched him from
the fate which awaited him, but Juno hinted that if he did so it would
induce all others of the inhabitants of heaven to interpose in like
manner whenever any of their offspring were endangered; to which reason
Jove yielded. Sarpedon threw his spear, but missed Patroclus, but
Patroclus threw his with better success. It pierced Sarpedon’s breast
and he fell, and, calling to his friends to save his body from the foe,
expired. Then a furious contest arose for the possession of the corpse.
The Greeks succeeded and stripped Sarpedon of his armor; but Jove would
not allow the remains of his son to be dishonored, and by his command
Apollo snatched from the midst of the combatants the body of Sarpedon
and committed it to the care of the twin brothers Death and Sleep, by
whom it was transported to Lycia, the native land of Sarpedon, where it
received due funeral rites.

Thus far Patroclus had succeeded to his utmost wish in repelling the
Trojans and relieving his countrymen, but now came a change of fortune.
Hector, borne in his chariot, confronted him. Patroclus threw a vast
stone at Hector, which missed its aim, but smote Cebriones, the
charioteer, and knocked him from the car. Hector leaped from the chariot
to rescue his friend, and Patroclus also descended to complete his
victory. Thus the two heroes met face to face. At this decisive moment
the poet, as if reluctant to give Hector the glory, records that Phœbus
took part against Patroclus. He struck the helmet from his head and the
lance from his hand. At the same moment an obscure Trojan wounded him in
the back, and Hector, pressing forward, pierced him with his spear. He
fell mortally wounded.

Then arose a tremendous conflict for the body of Patroclus, but his
armor was at once taken possession of by Hector, who retiring a short
distance divested himself of his own armor and put on that of Achilles,
then returned to the fight. Ajax and Menelaus defended the body, and
Hector and his bravest warriors struggled to capture it. The battle
raged with equal fortunes, when Jove enveloped the whole face of heaven
with a dark cloud. The lightning flashed, the thunder roared, and Ajax,
looking round for some one whom he might despatch to Achilles to tell
him of the death of his friend, and of the imminent danger that his
remains would fall into the hands of the enemy, could see no suitable
messenger. It was then that he exclaimed in those famous lines so often

    “Father of heaven and earth! deliver thou
    Achaia’s host from darkness; clear the skies;
    Give day; and, since thy sovereign will is such,
    Destruction with it; but, O, give us day.”

Or, as rendered by Pope,

    “. . . Lord of earth and air!
    O king! O father! hear my humble prayer!
    Dispel this cloud, the light of heaven restore;
    Give me to see and Ajax asks no more;
    If Greece must perish we thy will obey,
    But let us perish in the face of day.”

Jupiter heard the prayer and dispersed the clouds. Then Ajax sent
Antilochus to Achilles with the intelligence of Patroclus’s death, and
of the conflict raging for his remains. The Greeks at last succeeded in
bearing off the body to the ships, closely pursued by Hector and Æneas
and the rest of the Trojans.

Achilles heard the fate of his friend with such distress that Antilochus
feared for a while that he would destroy himself. His groans reached the
ears of his mother, Thetis, far down in the deeps of ocean where she
abode, and she hastened to him to inquire the cause. She found him
overwhelmed with self-reproach that he had indulged his resentment so
far, and suffered his friend to fall a victim to it. But his only
consolation was the hope of revenge. He would fly instantly in search of
Hector. But his mother reminded him that he was now without armor, and
promised him, if he would but wait till the morrow, she would procure
for him a suit of armor from Vulcan more than equal to that he had lost.
He consented, and Thetis immediately repaired to Vulcan’s palace. She
found him busy at his forge making tripods for his own use, so artfully
constructed that they moved forward of their own accord when wanted, and
retired again when dismissed. On hearing the request of Thetis, Vulcan
immediately laid aside his work and hastened to comply with her wishes.
He fabricated a splendid suit of armor for Achilles, first a shield
adorned with elaborate devices, then a helmet crested with gold, then a
corselet and greaves of impenetrable temper, all perfectly adapted to
his form, and of consummate workmanship. It was all done in one night,
and Thetis, receiving it, descended with it to earth, and laid it down
at Achilles’ feet at the dawn of day.

The first glow of pleasure that Achilles had felt since the death of
Patroclus was at the sight of this splendid armor. And now, arrayed in
it, he went forth into the camp, calling all the chiefs to council. When
they were all assembled he addressed them. Renouncing his displeasure
against Agamemnon and bitterly lamenting the miseries that had resulted
from it, he called on them to proceed at once to the field. Agamemnon
made a suitable reply, laying all the blame on Ate, the goddess of
discord; and thereupon complete reconcilement took place between the

Then Achilles went forth to battle inspired with a rage and thirst for
vengeance that made him irresistible. The bravest warriors fled before
him or fell by his lance. Hector, cautioned by Apollo, kept aloof; but
the god, assuming the form of one of Priam’s sons, Lycaon, urged Æneas
to encounter the terrible warrior. Æneas, though he felt himself
unequal, did not decline the combat. He hurled his spear with all his
force against the shield the work of Vulcan. It was formed of five metal
plates; two were of brass, two of tin, and one of gold. The spear
pierced two thicknesses, but was stopped in the third. Achilles threw
his with better success. It pierced through the shield of Æneas, but
glanced near his shoulder and made no wound. Then Æneas seized a stone,
such as two men of modern times could hardly lift, and was about to
throw it, and Achilles, with sword drawn, was about to rush upon him,
when Neptune, who looked out upon the contest, moved with pity for
Æneas, who he saw would surely fall a victim if not speedily rescued,
spread a cloud between the combatants, and lifting Æneas from the
ground, bore him over the heads of warriors and steeds to the rear of
the battle. Achilles, when the mist cleared away, looked round in vain
for his adversary, and acknowledging the prodigy, turned his arms
against other champions. But none dared stand before him, and Priam
looking down from the city walls beheld his whole army in full flight
towards the city. He gave command to open wide the gates to receive the
fugitives, and to shut them as soon as the Trojans should have passed,
lest the enemy should enter likewise. But Achilles was so close in
pursuit that that would have been impossible if Apollo had not, in the
form of Agenor, Priam’s son, encountered Achilles for a while, then
turned to fly, and taken the way apart from the city. Achilles pursued
and had chased his supposed victim far from the walls, when Apollo
disclosed himself, and Achilles, perceiving how he had been deluded,
gave up the chase.

But when the rest had escaped into the town Hector stood without
determined to await the combat. His old father called to him from the
walls and begged him to retire nor tempt the encounter. His mother,
Hecuba, also besought him to the same effect, but all in vain. “How can
I,” said he to himself, “by whose command the people went to this day’s
contest, where so many have fallen, seek safety for myself against a
single foe? But what if I offer him to yield up Helen and all her
treasures and ample of our own beside? Ah, no! it is too late. He would
not even hear me through, but slay me while I spoke.” While he thus
ruminated, Achilles approached, terrible as Mars, his armor flashing
lightning as he moved. At that sight Hector’s heart failed him and he
fled. Achilles swiftly pursued. They ran, still keeping near the walls,
till they had thrice encircled the city. As often as Hector approached
the walls Achilles intercepted him and forced him to keep out in a wider
circle. But Apollo sustained Hector’s strength and would not let him
sink in weariness. Then Pallas, assuming the form of Deiphobus, Hector’s
bravest brother, appeared suddenly at his side. Hector saw him with
delight, and thus strengthened stopped his flight and turned to meet
Achilles. Hector threw his spear, which struck the shield of Achilles
and bounded back. He turned to receive another from the hand of
Deiphobus, but Deiphobus was gone. Then Hector understood his doom and
said, “Alas! it is plain this is my hour to die! I thought Deiphobus at
hand, but Pallas deceived me, and he is still in Troy. But I will not
fall inglorious.” So saying he drew his falchion from his side and
rushed at once to combat. Achilles, secured behind his shield, waited
the approach of Hector. When he came within reach of his spear, Achilles
choosing with his eye a vulnerable part where the armor leaves the neck
uncovered, aimed his spear at that part and Hector fell, death-wounded,
and feebly said, “Spare my body! Let my parents ransom it, and let me
receive funeral rites from the sons and daughters of Troy.” To which
Achilles replied, “Dog, name not ransom nor pity to me, on whom you have
brought such dire distress. No! trust me, naught shall save thy carcass
from the dogs. Though twenty ransoms and thy weight in gold were
offered, I would refuse it all.”

So saying he stripped the body of its armor, and fastening cords to the
feet tied them behind his chariot, leaving the body to trail along the
ground. Then mounting the chariot he lashed the steeds and so dragged
the body to and fro before the city. What words can tell the grief of
King Priam and Queen Hecuba at this sight! His people could scarce
restrain the old king from rushing forth. He threw himself in the dust
and besought them each by name to give him way. Hecuba’s distress was
not less violent. The citizens stood round them weeping. The sound of
the mourning reached the ears of Andromache, the wife of Hector, as she
sat among her maidens at work, and anticipating evil she went forth to
the wall. When she saw the sight there presented, she would have thrown
herself headlong from the wall, but fainted and fell into the arms of
her maidens. Recovering, she bewailed her fate, picturing to herself her
country ruined, herself a captive, and her son dependent for his bread
on the charity of strangers.

When Achilles and the Greeks had taken their revenge on the killer of
Patroclus they busied themselves in paying due funeral rites to their
friend. A pile was erected, and the body burned with due solemnity; and
then ensued games of strength and skill, chariot races, wrestling,
boxing, and archery. Then the chiefs sat down to the funeral banquet and
after that retired to rest. But Achilles neither partook of the feast
nor of sleep. The recollection of his lost friend kept him awake,
remembering their companionship in toil and dangers, in battle or on the
perilous deep. Before the earliest dawn he left his tent, and joining to
his chariot his swift steeds, he fastened Hector’s body to be dragged
behind. Twice he dragged him around the tomb of Patroclus, leaving him
at length stretched in the dust. But Apollo would not permit the body to
be torn or disfigured with all this abuse, but preserved it free from
all taint or defilement.

While Achilles indulged his wrath in thus disgracing brave Hector,
Jupiter in pity summoned Thetis to his presence. He told her to go to
her son and prevail on him to restore the body of Hector to his friends.
Then Jupiter sent Iris to King Priam to encourage him to go to Achilles
and beg the body of his son. Iris delivered her message, and Priam
immediately prepared to obey. He opened his treasuries and took out rich
garments and cloths, with ten talents in gold and two splendid tripods
and a golden cup of matchless workmanship. Then he called to his sons
and bade them draw forth his litter and place in it the various articles
designed for a ransom to Achilles. When all was ready, the old king with
a single companion as aged as himself, the herald Idæus, drove forth
from the gates, parting there with Hecuba, his queen, and all his
friends, who lamented him as going to certain death.

But Jupiter, beholding with compassion the venerable king, sent Mercury
to be his guide and protector. Mercury, assuming the form of a young
warrior, presented himself to the aged couple, and while at the sight of
him they hesitated whether to fly or yield, the god approached, and
grasping Priam’s hand offered to be their guide to Achilles’ tent. Priam
gladly accepted his offered service, and he, mounting the carriage,
assumed the reins and soon conveyed them to the tent of Achilles.
Mercury’s wand put to sleep all the guards, and without hinderance he
introduced Priam into the tent where Achilles sat, attended by two of
his warriors. The old king threw himself at the feet of Achilles, and
kissed those terrible hands which had destroyed so many of his sons.
“Think, O Achilles,” he said, “of thy own father, full of days like me,
and trembling on the gloomy verge of life. Perhaps even now some
neighbor chief oppresses him and there is none at hand to succor him in
his distress. Yet doubtless knowing that Achilles lives he still
rejoices, hoping that one day he shall see thy face again. But no
comfort cheers me, whose bravest sons, so late the flower of Ilium, all
have fallen. Yet one I had, one more than all the rest the strength of
my age, whom, fighting for his country, thou hast slain. I come to
redeem his body, bringing inestimable ransom with me. Achilles!
reverence the gods! recollect thy father! for his sake show compassion
to me!” These words moved Achilles, and he wept; remembering by turns
his absent father and his lost friend. Moved with pity of Priam’s silver
locks and beard, he raised him from the earth, and thus spake: “Priam, I
know that thou hast reached this place conducted by some god, for
without aid divine no mortal even in his prime of youth had dared the
attempt. I grant thy request, moved thereto by the evident will of
Jove.” So saying he arose, and went forth with his two friends, and
unloaded of its charge the litter, leaving two mantles and a robe for
the covering of the body, which they placed on the litter, and spread
the garments over it, that not unveiled it should be borne back to Troy.
Then Achilles dismissed the old king with his attendants, having first
pledged himself to allow a truce of twelve days for the funeral

As the litter approached the city and was descried from the walls, the
people poured forth to gaze once more on the face of their hero.
Foremost of all, the mother and the wife of Hector came, and at the
sight of the lifeless body renewed their lamentations. The people all
wept with them, and to the going down of the sun there was no pause or
abatement of their grief.

The next day preparations were made for the funeral solemnities. For
nine days the people brought wood and built the pile, and on the tenth
they placed the body on the summit and applied the torch; while all Troy
thronging forth encompassed the pile. When it had completely burned,
they quenched the cinders with wine, collected the bones and placed them
in a golden urn, which they buried in the earth, and reared a pile of
stones over the spot.

    “Such honors Ilium to her hero paid,
    And peaceful slept the mighty Hector’s shade.”


                             CHAPTER XXVIII


                            THE FALL OF TROY

THE story of the Iliad ends with the death of Hector, and it is from the
Odyssey and later poems that we learn the fate of the other heroes.
After the death of Hector, Troy did not immediately fall, but receiving
aid from new allies still continued its resistance. One of these allies
was Memnon, the Æthiopian prince, whose story we have already told.
Another was Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, who came with a band of
female warriors. All the authorities attest their valor and the fearful
effect of their war cry. Penthesilea slew many of the bravest warriors,
but was at last slain by Achilles. But when the hero bent over his
fallen foe, and contemplated her beauty, youth, and valor, he bitterly
regretted his victory. Thersites, an insolent brawler and demagogue,
ridiculed his grief, and was in consequence slain by the hero.

Achilles by chance had seen Polyxena, daughter of King Priam, perhaps on
the occasion of the truce which was allowed the Trojans for the burial
of Hector. He was captivated with her charms, and to win her in marriage
agreed to use his influence with the Greeks to grant peace to Troy.
While in the temple of Apollo, negotiating the marriage, Paris
discharged at him a poisoned arrow, which, guided by Apollo, wounded
Achilles in the heel, the only vulnerable part about him. For Thetis his
mother had dipped him when an infant in the river Styx, which made every
part of him invulnerable except the heel by which she held him.[21]

The body of Achilles so treacherously slain was rescued by Ajax and
Ulysses. Thetis directed the Greeks to bestow her son’s armor on the
hero who of all the survivors should be judged most deserving of it.
Ajax and Ulysses were the only claimants; a select number of the other
chiefs were appointed to award the prize. It was awarded to Ulysses,
thus placing wisdom before valor; whereupon Ajax slew himself. On the
spot where his blood sank into the earth a flower sprang up, called the
hyacinth, bearing on its leaves the first two letters of the name of
Ajax, Ai, the Greek for “woe.” Thus Ajax is a claimant with the boy
Hyacinthus for the honor of giving birth to this flower. There is a
species of Larkspur which represents the hyacinth of the poets in
preserving the memory of this event, the Delphinium Ajacis—Ajax’s

It was now discovered that Troy could not be taken but by the aid of the
arrows of Hercules. They were in possession of Philoctetes, the friend
who had been with Hercules at the last and lighted his funeral pyre.
Philoctetes had joined the Grecian expedition against Troy, but had
accidentally wounded his foot with one of the poisoned arrows, and the
smell from his wound proved so offensive that his companions carried him
to the isle of Lemnos and left him there. Diomed was now sent to induce
him to rejoin the army. He succeeded. Philoctetes was cured of his wound
by Machaon, and Paris was the first victim of the fatal arrows. In his
distress Paris bethought him of one whom in his prosperity he had
forgotten. This was the nymph Œnone, whom he had married when a youth,
and had abandoned for the fatal beauty Helen. Œnone, remembering the
wrongs she had suffered, refused to heal the wound, and Paris went back
to Troy and died. Œnone quickly repented, and hastened after him with
remedies, but came too late, and in her grief hung herself.[22]

There was in Troy a celebrated statue of Minerva called the Palladium.
It was said to have fallen from heaven, and the belief was that the city
could not be taken so long as this statue remained within it. Ulysses
and Diomed entered the city in disguise and succeeded in obtaining the
Palladium, which they carried off to the Grecian camp.

But Troy still held out, and the Greeks began to despair of ever
subduing it by force, and by advice of Ulysses resolved to resort to
stratagem. They pretended to be making preparations to abandon the
siege, and a portion of the ships were withdrawn and lay hid behind a
neighboring island. The Greeks then constructed an immense _wooden
horse_, which they gave out was intended as a propitiatory offering to
Minerva, but in fact was filled with armed men. The remaining Greeks
then betook themselves to their ships and sailed away, as if for a final
departure. The Trojans, seeing the encampment broken up and the fleet
gone, concluded the enemy to have abandoned the siege. The gates were
thrown open, and the whole population issued forth rejoicing at the
long-prohibited liberty of passing freely over the scene of the late
encampment. The great _horse_ was the chief object of curiosity. All
wondered what it could be for. Some recommended to take it into the city
as a trophy; others felt afraid of it.

While they hesitate, Laocoön, the priest of Neptune exclaims, “What
madness, citizens, is this? Have you not learned enough of Grecian fraud
to be on your guard against it? For my part, I fear the Greeks even when
they offer gifts.”[23] So saying he threw his lance at the horse’s side.
It struck, and a hollow sound reverberated like a groan. Then perhaps
the people might have taken his advice and destroyed the fatal horse and
all its contents; but just at that moment a group of people appeared,
dragging forward one who seemed a prisoner and a Greek. Stupefied with
terror, he was brought before the chiefs, who reassured him, promising
that his life should be spared on condition of his returning true
answers to the questions asked him. He informed them that he was a
Greek, Sinon by name, and that in consequence of the malice of Ulysses
he had been left behind by his countrymen at their departure. With
regard to the wooden horse, he told them that it was a propitiatory
offering to Minerva, and made so huge for the express purpose of
preventing its being carried within the city; for Calchas the prophet
had told them that if the Trojans took possession of it they would
assuredly triumph over the Greeks. This language turned the tide of the
people’s feelings and they began to think how they might best secure the
monstrous horse and the favorable auguries connected with it, when
suddenly a prodigy occurred which left no room to doubt. There appeared,
advancing over the sea, two immense serpents. They came upon the land,
and the crowd fled in all directions. The serpents advanced directly to
the spot where Laocoön stood with his two sons. They first attacked the
children, winding round their bodies and breathing their pestilential
breath in their faces. The father, attempting to rescue them, is next
seized and involved in the serpents’ coils. He struggles to tear them
away, but they overpower all his efforts and strangle him and the
children in their poisonous folds. This event was regarded as a clear
indication of the displeasure of the gods at Laocoön’s irreverent
treatment of the wooden horse, which they no longer hesitated to regard
as a sacred object, and prepared to introduce with due solemnity into
the city. This was done with songs and triumphal acclamations, and the
day closed with festivity. In the night the armed men who were enclosed
in the body of the horse, being let out by the traitor Sinon, opened the
gates of the city to their friends, who had returned under cover of the
night. The city was set on fire; the people, overcome with feasting and
sleep, put to the sword, and Troy completely subdued.

One of the most celebrated groups of statuary in existence is that of
Laocoön and his children in the embrace of the serpents. A cast of it is
owned by the Boston Athenæum; the original is in the Vatican at Rome.
The following lines are from the “Childe Harold” of Byron:

    “Now turning to the Vatican go see
    Laocoön’s torture dignifying pain;
    A father’s love and mortal’s agony
    With an immortal’s patience blending;—vain
    The struggle! vain against the coiling strain
    And gripe and deepening of the dragon’s grasp
    The old man’s clinch; the long envenomed chain
    Rivets the living links; the enormous asp
    Enforces pang on pang and stifles gasp on gasp.”

The comic poets will also occasionally borrow a classical allusion. The
following is from Swift’s “Description of a City Shower”:

    “Boxed in a chair the beau impatient sits,
    While spouts run clattering o’er the roof by fits,
    And ever and anon with frightful din
    The leather sounds; he trembles from within.
    So when Troy chairmen bore the wooden steed
    Pregnant with Greeks impatient to be freed,
    (Those bully Greeks, who, as the moderns do,
    Instead of paying chairmen, run them through);
    Laocoön struck the outside with a spear,
    And each imprisoned champion quaked with fear.”

King Priam lived to see the downfall of his kingdom and was slain at
last on the fatal night when the Greeks took the city. He had armed
himself and was about to mingle with the combatants, but was prevailed
on by Hecuba, his aged queen, to take refuge with herself and his
daughters as a suppliant at the altar of Jupiter. While there, his
youngest son Polites, pursued by Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, rushed in
wounded, and expired at the feet of his father; whereupon Priam,
overcome with indignation, hurled his spear with feeble hand against
Pyrrhus,[24] and was forthwith slain by him.

Queen Hecuba and her daughter Cassandra were carried captives to Greece.
Cassandra had been loved by Apollo, and he gave her the gift of
prophecy; but afterwards offended with her, he rendered the gift
unavailing by ordaining that her predictions should never be believed.
Polyxena, another daughter, who had been loved by Achilles, was demanded
by the ghost of that warrior, and was sacrificed by the Greeks upon his

                           MENELAUS AND HELEN

Our readers will be anxious to know the fate of Helen, the fair but
guilty occasion of so much slaughter. On the fall of Troy Menelaus
recovered possession of his wife, who had not ceased to love him, though
she had yielded to the might of Venus and deserted him for another.
After the death of Paris she aided the Greeks secretly on several
occasions, and in particular when Ulysses and Diomed entered the city in
disguise to carry off the Palladium. She saw and recognized Ulysses, but
kept the secret and even assisted them in obtaining the image. Thus she
became reconciled to her husband, and they were among the first to leave
the shores of Troy for their native land. But having incurred the
displeasure of the gods they were driven by storms from shore to shore
of the Mediterranean, visiting Cyprus, Phœnicia, and Egypt. In Egypt
they were kindly treated and presented with rich gifts, of which Helen’s
share was a golden spindle and a basket on wheels. The basket was to
hold the wool and spools for the queen’s work.

Dyer, in his poem of the “Fleece,” thus alludes to this incident:

    “. . . many yet adhere
    To the ancient distaff, at the bosom fixed,
    Casting the whirling spindle as they walk.
      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    This was of old, in no inglorious days,
    The mode of spinning, when the Egyptian prince
    A golden distaff gave that beauteous nymph,
    Too beauteous Helen; no uncourtly gift.”

Milton also alludes to a famous recipe for an invigorating draught,
called Nepenthe, which the Egyptian queen gave to Helen:

    “Not that Nepenthes which the wife of Thone
    In Egypt gave to Jove-born Helena,
    Is of such power to stir up joy as this,
    To life so friendly or so cool to thirst.”

Menelaus and Helen at length arrived in safety at Sparta, resumed their
royal dignity, and lived and reigned in splendor; and when Telemachus,
the son of Ulysses, in search of his father, arrived at Sparta, he found
Menelaus and Helen celebrating the marriage of their daughter Hermione
to Neoptolemus, son of Achilles.


Agamemnon, the general-in-chief of the Greeks, the brother of Menelaus,
and who had been drawn into the quarrel to avenge his brother’s wrongs,
not his own, was not so fortunate in the issue. During his absence his
wife Clytemnestra had been false to him, and when his return was
expected, she with her paramour, Ægisthus, laid a plan for his
destruction, and at the banquet given to celebrate his return, murdered

It was intended by the conspirators to slay his son Orestes also, a lad
not yet old enough to be an object of apprehension, but from whom, if he
should be suffered to grow up, there might be danger. Electra, the
sister of Orestes, saved her brother’s life by sending him secretly away
to his uncle Strophius, King of Phocis. In the palace of Strophius
Orestes grew up with the king’s son Pylades, and formed with him that
ardent friendship which has become proverbial. Electra frequently
reminded her brother by messengers of the duty of avenging his father’s
death, and when grown up he consulted the oracle of Delphi, which
confirmed him in his design. He therefore repaired in disguise to Argos,
pretending to be a messenger from Strophius, who had come to announce
the death of Orestes, and brought the ashes of the deceased in a funeral
urn. After visiting his father’s tomb and sacrificing upon it, according
to the rites of the ancients, he made himself known to his sister
Electra, and soon after slew both Ægisthus and Clytemnestra.

This revolting act, the slaughter of a mother by her son, though
alleviated by the guilt of the victim and the express command of the
gods, did not fail to awaken in the breasts of the ancients the same
abhorrence that it does in ours. The Eumenides, avenging deities, seized
upon Orestes, and drove him frantic from land to land. Pylades
accompanied him in his wanderings and watched over him. At length, in
answer to a second appeal to the oracle, he was directed to go to Tauris
in Scythia, and to bring thence a statue of Diana which was believed to
have fallen from heaven. Accordingly Orestes and Pylades went to Tauris,
where the barbarous people were accustomed to sacrifice to the goddess
all strangers who fell into their hands. The two friends were seized and
carried bound to the temple to be made victims. But the priestess of
Diana was no other than Iphigenia, the sister of Orestes, who, our
readers will remember, was snatched away by Diana at the moment when she
was about to be sacrificed. Ascertaining from the prisoners who they
were, Iphigenia disclosed herself to them, and the three made their
escape with the statue of the goddess, and returned to Mycenæ.

But Orestes was not yet relieved from the vengeance of the Erinyes. At
length he took refuge with Minerva at Athens. The goddess afforded him
protection, and appointed the court of Areopagus to decide his fate. The
Erinyes brought forward their accusation, and Orestes made the command
of the Delphic oracle his excuse. When the court voted and the voices
were equally divided, Orestes was acquitted by the command of Minerva.

Byron, in “Childe Harold,” Canto IV., alludes to the story of Orestes:

    “O thou who never yet of human wrong
    Left the unbalanced scale, great Nemesis!
    Thou who didst call the Furies from the abyss,
    And round Orestes bade them howl and hiss,
    For that unnatural retribution,—just,
    Had it but been from hands less near,—in this,
    Thy former realm, I call thee from the dust!”

One of the most pathetic scenes in the ancient drama is that in which
Sophocles represents the meeting of Orestes and Electra, on his return
from Phocis. Orestes, mistaking Electra for one of the domestics, and
desirous of keeping his arrival a secret till the hour of vengeance
should arrive, produces the urn in which his ashes are supposed to rest.
Electra, believing him to be really dead, takes the urn and, embracing
it, pours forth her grief in language full of tenderness and despair.

Milton, in one of his sonnets, says:

    “. . . The repeated air
    Of sad Electra’s poet had the power
    To save the Athenian walls from ruin bare.”

This alludes to the story that when, on one occasion, the city of Athens
was at the mercy of her Spartan foes, and it was proposed to destroy it,
the thought was rejected upon the accidental quotation, by some one, of
a chorus of Euripides.


The facts relating to the city of Troy are still unknown to history.
Antiquarians have long sought for the actual city and some record of its
rulers. The most interesting explorations were those conducted about
1890 by the German scholar, Henry Schliemann, who believed that at the
mound of Hissarlik, the traditional site of Troy, he had uncovered the
ancient capital. Schliemann excavated down below the ruins of three or
four settlements, each revealing an earlier civilization, and finally
came upon some royal jewels and other relics said to be “Priam’s
Treasure.” Scholars are by no means agreed as to the historic value of
these discoveries.


                              CHAPTER XXIX


                           RETURN OF ULYSSES

THE romantic poem of the Odyssey is now to engage our attention. It
narrates the wanderings of Ulysses (Odysseus in the Greek language) in
his return from Troy to his own kingdom Ithaca.

From Troy the vessels first made land at Ismarus, city of the Ciconians,
where, in a skirmish with the inhabitants, Ulysses lost six men from
each ship. Sailing thence, they were overtaken by a storm which drove
them for nine days along the sea till they reached the country of the
Lotus-eaters. Here, after watering, Ulysses sent three of his men to
discover who the inhabitants were. These men on coming among the
Lotus-eaters were kindly entertained by them, and were given some of
their own food, the lotus plant, to eat. The effect of this food was
such that those who partook of it lost all thoughts of home and wished
to remain in that country. It was by main force that Ulysses dragged
these men away, and he was even obliged to tie them under the benches of
the ships.[25]

They next arrived at the country of the Cyclopes. The Cyclopes were
giants, who inhabited an island of which they were the only possessors.
The name means “round eye,” and these giants were so called because they
had but one eye, and that placed in the middle of the forehead. They
dwelt in caves and fed on the wild productions of the island and on what
their flocks yielded, for they were shepherds. Ulysses left the main
body of his ships at anchor, and with one vessel went to the Cyclopes’
island to explore for supplies. He landed with his companions, carrying
with them a jar of wine for a present, and coming to a large cave they
entered it, and finding no one within examined its contents. They found
it stored with the richest of the flock, quantities of cheese, pails and
bowls of milk, lambs and kids in their pens, all in nice order.
Presently arrived the master of the cave, Polyphemus, bearing an immense
bundle of firewood, which he threw down before the cavern’s mouth. He
then drove into the cave the sheep and goats to be milked, and,
entering, rolled to the cave’s mouth an enormous rock, that twenty oxen
could not draw. Next he sat down and milked his ewes, preparing a part
for cheese, and setting the rest aside for his customary drink. Then,
turning round his great eye, he discerned the strangers, and growled out
to them, demanding who they were, and where from. Ulysses replied most
humbly, stating that they were Greeks, from the great expedition that
had lately won so much glory in the conquest of Troy; that they were now
on their way home, and finished by imploring his hospitality in the name
of the gods. Polyphemus deigned no answer, but reaching out his hand
seized two of the Greeks, whom he hurled against the side of the cave,
and dashed out their brains. He proceeded to devour them with great
relish, and having made a hearty meal, stretched himself out on the
floor to sleep. Ulysses was tempted to seize the opportunity and plunge
his sword into him as he slept, but recollected that it would only
expose them all to certain destruction, as the rock with which the giant
had closed up the door was far beyond their power to remove, and they
would therefore be in hopeless imprisonment. Next morning the giant
seized two more of the Greeks, and despatched them in the same manner as
their companions, feasting on their flesh till no fragment was left. He
then moved away the rock from the door, drove out his flocks, and went
out, carefully replacing the barrier after him. When he was gone Ulysses
planned how he might take vengeance for his murdered friends, and effect
his escape with his surviving companions. He made his men prepare a
massive bar of wood cut by the Cyclops for a staff, which they found in
the cave. They sharpened the end of it, and seasoned it in the fire, and
hid it under the straw on the cavern floor. Then four of the boldest
were selected, with whom Ulysses joined himself as a fifth. The Cyclops
came home at evening, rolled away the stone and drove in his flock as
usual. After milking them and making his arrangements as before, he
seized two more of Ulysses’ companions and dashed their brains out, and
made his evening meal upon them as he had on the others. After he had
supped, Ulysses approaching him handed him a bowl of wine, saying,
“Cyclops, this is wine; taste and drink after thy meal of men’s flesh.”
He took and drank it, and was hugely delighted with it, and called for
more. Ulysses supplied him once again, which pleased the giant so much
that he promised him as a favor that he should be the last of the party
devoured. He asked his name, to which Ulysses replied, “My name is

After his supper the giant lay down to repose, and was soon sound
asleep. Then Ulysses with his four select friends thrust the end of the
stake into the fire till it was all one burning coal, then poising it
exactly above the giant’s only eye, they buried it deeply into the
socket, twirling it round as a carpenter does his auger. The howling
monster with his outcry filled the cavern, and Ulysses with his aids
nimbly got out of his way and concealed themselves in the cave. He,
bellowing, called aloud on all the Cyclopes dwelling in the caves around
him, far and near. They on his cry flocked round the den, and inquired
what grievous hurt had caused him to sound such an alarm and break their
slumbers. He replied, “O friends, I die, and Noman gives the blow.” They
answered, “If no man hurts thee it is the stroke of Jove, and thou must
bear it.” So saying, they left him groaning.

Next morning the Cyclops rolled away the stone to let his flock out to
pasture, but planted himself in the door of the cave to feel of all as
they went out, that Ulysses and his men should not escape with them. But
Ulysses had made his men harness the rams of the flock three abreast,
with osiers which they found on the floor of the cave. To the middle ram
of the three one of the Greeks suspended himself, so protected by the
exterior rams on either side. As they passed, the giant felt of the
animals’ backs and sides, but never thought of their bellies; so the men
all passed safe, Ulysses himself being on the last one that passed. When
they had got a few paces from the cavern, Ulysses and his friends
released themselves from their rams, and drove a good part of the flock
down to the shore to their boat. They put them aboard with all haste,
then pushed off from the shore, and when at a safe distance Ulysses
shouted out, “Cyclops, the gods have well requited thee for thy
atrocious deeds. Know it is Ulysses to whom thou owest thy shameful loss
of sight.” The Cyclops, hearing this, seized a rock that projected from
the side of the mountain, and rending it from its bed, he lifted it high
in the air, then exerting all his force, hurled it in the direction of
the voice. Down came the mass, just clearing the vessel’s stern. The
ocean, at the plunge of the huge rock, heaved the ship towards the land,
so that it barely escaped being swamped by the waves. When they had with
the utmost difficulty pulled off shore, Ulysses was about to hail the
giant again, but his friends besought him not to do so. He could not
forbear, however, letting the giant know that they had escaped his
missile, but waited till they had reached a safer distance than before.
The giant answered them with curses, but Ulysses and his friends plied
their oars vigorously, and soon regained their companions.

Ulysses next arrived at the island of Æolus. To this monarch Jupiter had
intrusted the government of the winds, to send them forth or retain them
at his will. He treated Ulysses hospitably, and at his departure gave
him, tied up in a leathern bag, with a silver string, such winds as
might be hurtful and dangerous, commanding fair winds to blow the barks
towards their country. Nine days they sped before the wind, and all that
time Ulysses had stood at the helm, without sleep. At last quite
exhausted he lay down to sleep. While he slept, the crew conferred
together about the mysterious bag, and concluded it must contain
treasures given by the hospitable king Æolus to their commander. Tempted
to secure some portion for themselves, they loosed the string, when
immediately the winds rushed forth. The ships were driven far from their
course, and back again to the island they had just left. Æolus was so
indignant at their folly that he refused to assist them further, and
they were obliged to labor over their course once more by means of their

                           THE LÆSTRYGONIANS

Their next adventure was with the barbarous tribe of Læstrygonians. The
vessels all pushed into the harbor, tempted by the secure appearance of
the cove, completely land-locked; only Ulysses moored his vessel
without. As soon as the Læstrygonians found the ships completely in
their power they attacked them, heaving huge stones which broke and
overturned them, and with their spears despatched the seamen as they
struggled in the water. All the vessels with their crews were destroyed,
except Ulysses’ own ship, which had remained outside, and finding no
safety but in flight, he exhorted his men to ply their oars vigorously,
and they escaped.

With grief for their slain companions mixed with joy at their own
escape, they pursued their way till they arrived at the Ææan isle, where
Circe dwelt, the daughter of the sun. Landing here, Ulysses climbed a
hill, and gazing round saw no signs of habitation except in one spot at
the centre of the island, where he perceived a palace embowered with
trees. He sent forward one-half of his crew, under the command of
Eurylochus, to see what prospect of hospitality they might find. As they
approached the palace, they found themselves surrounded by lions,
tigers, and wolves, not fierce, but tamed by Circe’s art, for she was a
powerful magician. All these animals had once been men, but had been
changed by Circe’s enchantments into the forms of beasts. The sounds of
soft music were heard from within, and a sweet female voice singing.
Eurylochus called aloud and the goddess came forth and invited them in;
they all gladly entered except Eurylochus, who suspected danger. The
goddess conducted her guests to a seat, and had them served with wine
and other delicacies. When they had feasted heartily, she touched them
one by one with her wand, and they became immediately changed into
_swine_, in “head, body, voice, and bristles,” yet with their intellects
as before. She shut them in her sties and supplied them with acorns and
such other things as swine love.

Eurylochus hurried back to the ship and told the tale. Ulysses thereupon
determined to go himself, and try if by any means he might deliver his
companions. As he strode onward alone, he met a youth who addressed him
familiarly, appearing to be acquainted with his adventures. He announced
himself as Mercury, and informed Ulysses of the arts of Circe, and of
the danger of approaching her. As Ulysses was not to be dissuaded from
his attempt, Mercury provided him with a sprig of the plant Moly, of
wonderful power to resist sorceries, and instructed him how to act.
Ulysses proceeded, and reaching the palace was courteously received by
Circe, who entertained him as she had done his companions, and after he
had eaten and drank, touched him with her wand, saying, “Hence, seek the
sty and wallow with thy friends.” But he, instead of obeying, drew his
sword and rushed upon her with fury in his countenance. She fell on her
knees and begged for mercy. He dictated a solemn oath that she would
release his companions and practise no further harm against him or them;
and she repeated it, at the same time promising to dismiss them all in
safety after hospitably entertaining them. She was as good as her word.
The men were restored to their shapes, the rest of the crew summoned
from the shore, and the whole magnificently entertained day after day,
till Ulysses seemed to have forgotten his native land, and to have
reconciled himself to an inglorious life of ease and pleasure.

At length his companions recalled him to nobler sentiments, and he
received their admonition gratefully. Circe aided their departure, and
instructed them how to pass safely by the coast of the Sirens. The
Sirens were sea-nymphs who had the power of charming by their song all
who heard them, so that the unhappy mariners were irresistibly impelled
to cast themselves into the sea to their destruction. Circe directed
Ulysses to fill the ears of his seamen with wax, so that they should not
hear the strain; and to cause himself to be bound to the mast, and his
people to be strictly enjoined, whatever he might say or do, by no means
to release him till they should have passed the Sirens’ island. Ulysses
obeyed these directions. He filled the ears of his people with wax, and
suffered them to bind him with cords firmly to the mast. As they
approached the Sirens’ island, the sea was calm, and over the waters
came the notes of music so ravishing and attractive that Ulysses
struggled to get loose, and by cries and signs to his people begged to
be released; but they, obedient to his previous orders, sprang forward
and bound him still faster. They held on their course, and the music
grew fainter till it ceased to be heard, when with joy Ulysses gave his
companions the signal to unseal their ears, and they relieved him from
his bonds.

The imagination of a modern poet, Keats, has discovered for us the
thoughts that passed through the brains of the victims of Circe, after
their transformation. In his “Endymion” he represents one of them, a
monarch in the guise of an elephant, addressing the sorceress in human
language, thus:

    “I sue not for my happy crown again;
    I sue not for my phalanx on the plain;
    I sue not for my lone, my widowed wife;
    I sue not for my ruddy drops of life,
    My children fair, my lovely girls and boys;
    I will forget them; I will pass these joys,
    Ask nought so heavenward; so too—too high;
    Only I pray, as fairest boon, to die;
    To be delivered from this cumbrous flesh,
    From this gross, detestable, filthy mesh,
    And merely given to the cold, bleak air.
    Have mercy, goddess! Circe, feel my prayer!”

                          SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS

Ulysses had been warned by Circe of the two monsters Scylla and
Charybdis. We have already met with Scylla in the story of Glaucus, and
remember that she was once a beautiful maiden and was changed into a
snaky monster by Circe. She dwelt in a cave high up on the cliff, from
whence she was accustomed to thrust forth her long necks (for she had
six heads), and in each of her mouths to seize one of the crew of every
vessel passing within reach. The other terror, Charybdis, was a gulf,
nearly on a level with the water. Thrice each day the water rushed into
a frightful chasm, and thrice was disgorged. Any vessel coming near the
whirlpool when the tide was rushing in must inevitably be ingulfed; not
Neptune himself could save it.

On approaching the haunt of the dread monsters, Ulysses kept strict
watch to discover them. The roar of the waters as Charybdis ingulfed
them, gave warning at a distance, but Scylla could nowhere be discerned.
While Ulysses and his men watched with anxious eyes the dreadful
whirlpool, they were not equally on their guard from the attack of
Scylla, and the monster, darting forth her snaky heads, caught six of
his men, and bore them away, shrieking, to her den. It was the saddest
sight Ulysses had yet seen; to behold his friends thus sacrificed and
hear their cries, unable to afford them any assistance.

Circe had warned him of another danger. After passing Scylla and
Charybdis the next land he would make was Thrinakia, an island whereon
were pastured the cattle of Hyperion, the Sun, tended by his daughters
Lampetia and Phaëthusa. These flocks must not be violated, whatever the
wants of the voyagers might be. If this injunction were transgressed
destruction was sure to fall on the offenders.

Ulysses would willingly have passed the island of the Sun without
stopping, but his companions so urgently pleaded for the rest and
refreshment that would be derived from anchoring and passing the night
on shore, that Ulysses yielded. He bound them, however, with an oath
that they would not touch one of the animals of the sacred flocks and
herds, but content themselves with what provision they yet had left of
the supply which Circe had put on board. So long as this supply lasted
the people kept their oath, but contrary winds detained them at the
island for a month, and after consuming all their stock of provisions,
they were forced to rely upon the birds and fishes they could catch.
Famine pressed them, and at length one day, in the absence of Ulysses,
they slew some of the cattle, vainly attempting to make amends for the
deed by offering from them a portion to the offended powers. Ulysses, on
his return to the shore, was horror-struck at perceiving what they had
done, and the more so on account of the portentous signs which followed.
The skins crept on the ground, and the joints of meat lowed on the spits
while roasting.

The wind becoming fair they sailed from the island. They had not gone
far when the weather changed, and a storm of thunder and lightning
ensued. A stroke of lightning shattered their mast, which in its fall
killed the pilot. At last the vessel itself came to pieces. The keel and
mast floating side by side, Ulysses formed of them a raft, to which he
clung, and, the wind changing, the waves bore him to Calypso’s island.
All the rest of the crew perished.

The following allusion to the topics we have just been considering is
from Milton’s “Comus,” line 252:

    “. . . I have often heard
    My mother Circe and the Sirens three,
    Amidst the flowery-kirtled Naiades,
    Culling their potent herbs and baneful drugs,
    Who as they sung would take the prisoned soul
    And lap it in Elysium. Scylla wept,
    And chid her barking waves into attention,
    And fell Charybdis murmured soft applause.”

Scylla and Charybdis have become proverbial, to denote opposite dangers
which beset one’s course. See Proverbial Expressions.


Calypso was a sea-nymph, which name denotes a numerous class of female
divinities of lower rank, yet sharing many of the attributes of the
gods. Calypso received Ulysses hospitably, entertained him
magnificently, became enamoured of him, and wished to retain him
forever, conferring on him immortality. But he persisted in his
resolution to return to his country and his wife and son. Calypso at
last received the command of Jove to dismiss him. Mercury brought the
message to her, and found her in her grotto, which is thus described by

    “A garden vine, luxuriant on all sides,
    Mantled the spacious cavern, cluster-hung
    Profuse; four fountains of serenest lymph,
    Their sinuous course pursuing side by side,
    Strayed all around, and everywhere appeared
    Meadows of softest verdure, purpled o’er
    With violets; it was a scene to fill
    A god from heaven with wonder and delight.”

Calypso with much reluctance proceeded to obey the commands of Jupiter.
She supplied Ulysses with the means of constructing a raft, provisioned
it well for him, and gave him a favoring gale. He sped on his course
prosperously for many days, till at length, when in sight of land, a
storm arose that broke his mast, and threatened to rend the raft
asunder. In this crisis he was seen by a compassionate sea-nymph, who in
the form of a cormorant alighted on the raft, and presented him a
girdle, directing him to bind it beneath his breast, and if he should be
compelled to trust himself to the waves, it would buoy him up and enable
him by swimming to reach the land.

Fenelon, in his romance of “Telemachus,” has given us the adventures of
the son of Ulysses in search of his father. Among other places at which
he arrived, following on his father’s footsteps, was Calypso’s isle,
and, as in the former case, the goddess tried every art to keep him with
her, and offered to share her immortality with him. But Minerva, who in
the shape of Mentor accompanied him and governed all his movements, made
him repel her allurements, and when no other means of escape could be
found, the two friends leaped from a cliff into the sea, and swam to a
vessel which lay becalmed off shore. Byron alludes to this leap of
Telemachus and Mentor in the following stanza:

      “But not in silence pass Calypso’s isles,
      The sister tenants of the middle deep;
      There for the weary still a haven smiles,
      Though the fair goddess long has ceased to weep,
      And o’er her cliffs a fruitless watch to keep
      For him who dared prefer a mortal bride.
      Here too his boy essayed the dreadful leap,
      Stern Mentor urged from high to yonder tide;
    While thus of both bereft the nymph-queen doubly sighed.”


                              CHAPTER XXX

                   The PHÆACIANS—FATE OF THE SUITORS

                             THE PHÆACIANS

ULYSSES clung to the raft while any of its timbers kept together, and
when it no longer yielded him support, binding the girdle around him, he
swam. Minerva smoothed the billows before him and sent him a wind that
rolled the waves towards the shore. The surf beat high on the rocks and
seemed to forbid approach; but at length finding calm water at the mouth
of a gentle stream, he landed, spent with toil, breathless and
speechless and almost dead. After some time, reviving, he kissed the
soil, rejoicing, yet at a loss what course to take. At a short distance
he perceived a wood, to which he turned his steps. There, finding a
covert sheltered by intermingling branches alike from the sun and the
rain, he collected a pile of leaves and formed a bed, on which he
stretched himself, and heaping the leaves over him, fell asleep.

The land where he was thrown was Scheria, the country of the Phæacians.
These people dwelt originally near the Cyclopes; but being oppressed by
that savage race, they migrated to the isle of Scheria, under the
conduct of Nausithoüs, their king. They were, the poet tells us, a
people akin to the gods, who appeared manifestly and feasted among them
when they offered sacrifices, and did not conceal themselves from
solitary wayfarers when they met them. They had abundance of wealth and
lived in the enjoyment of it undisturbed by the alarms of war, for as
they dwelt remote from gain-seeking man, no enemy ever approached their
shores, and they did not even require to make use of bows and quivers.
Their chief employment was navigation. Their ships, which went with the
velocity of birds, were endued with intelligence; they knew every port
and needed no pilot. Alcinoüs, the son of Nausithoüs, was now their
king, a wise and just sovereign, beloved by his people.

Now it happened that the very night on which Ulysses was cast ashore on
the Phæacian island, and while he lay sleeping on his bed of leaves,
Nausicaa, the daughter of the king, had a dream sent by Minerva,
reminding her that her wedding-day was not far distant, and that it
would be but a prudent preparation for that event to have a general
washing of the clothes of the family. This was no slight affair, for the
fountains were at some distance, and the garments must be carried
thither. On awaking, the princess hastened to her parents to tell them
what was on her mind; not alluding to her wedding-day, but finding other
reasons equally good. Her father readily assented and ordered the grooms
to furnish forth a wagon for the purpose. The clothes were put therein,
and the queen mother placed in the wagon, likewise, an abundant supply
of food and wine. The princess took her seat and plied the lash, her
attendant virgins following her on foot. Arrived at the river-side, they
turned out the mules to graze, and unlading the carriage, bore the
garments down to the water, and working with cheerfulness and alacrity
soon despatched their labor. Then having spread the garments on the
shore to dry, and having themselves bathed, they sat down to enjoy their
meal; after which they rose and amused themselves with a game of ball,
the princess singing to them while they played. But when they had
refolded the apparel and were about to resume their way to the town,
Minerva caused the ball thrown by the princess to fall into the water,
whereat they all screamed and Ulysses awaked at the sound.

Now we must picture to ourselves Ulysses, a shipwrecked mariner, but a
few hours escaped from the waves, and utterly destitute of clothing,
awaking and discovering that only a few bushes were interposed between
him and a group of young maidens whom, by their deportment and attire,
he discovered to be not mere peasant girls, but of a higher class. Sadly
needing help, how could he yet venture, naked as he was, to discover
himself and make his wants known? It certainly was a case worthy of the
interposition of his patron goddess Minerva, who never failed him at a
crisis. Breaking off a leafy branch from a tree, he held it before him
and stepped out from the thicket. The virgins at sight of him fled in
all directions, Nausicaa alone excepted, for _her_ Minerva aided and
endowed with courage and discernment. Ulysses, standing respectfully
aloof, told his sad case, and besought the fair object (whether queen or
goddess he professed he knew not) for food and clothing. The princess
replied courteously, promising present relief and her father’s
hospitality when he should become acquainted with the facts. She called
back her scattered maidens, chiding their alarm, and reminding them that
the Phæacians had no enemies to fear. This man, she told them, was an
unhappy wanderer, whom it was a duty to cherish, for the poor and
stranger are from Jove. She bade them bring food and clothing, for some
of her brother’s garments were among the contents of the wagon. When
this was done, and Ulysses, retiring to a sheltered place, had washed
his body free from the sea-foam, clothed and refreshed himself with
food, Pallas dilated his form and diffused grace over his ample chest
and manly brows.

The princess, seeing him, was filled with admiration, and scrupled not
to say to her damsels that she wished the gods would sent her such a
husband. To Ulysses she recommended that he should repair to the city,
following herself and train so far as the way lay through the fields;
but when they should approach the city she desired that he would no
longer be seen in her company, for she feared the remarks which rude and
vulgar people might make on seeing her return accompanied by such a
gallant stranger. To avoid which she directed him to stop at a grove
adjoining the city, in which were a farm and garden belonging to the
king. After allowing time for the princess and her companions to reach
the city, he was then to pursue his way thither, and would be easily
guided by any he might meet to the royal abode.

Ulysses obeyed the directions and in due time proceeded to the city, on
approaching which he met a young woman bearing a pitcher forth for
water. It was Minerva, who had assumed that form. Ulysses accosted her
and desired to be directed to the palace of Alcinoüs the king. The
maiden replied respectfully, offering to be his guide; for the palace,
she informed him, stood near her father’s dwelling. Under the guidance
of the goddess, and by her power enveloped in a cloud which shielded him
from observation, Ulysses passed among the busy crowd, and with wonder
observed their harbor, their ships, their forum (the resort of heroes),
and their battlements, till they came to the palace, where the goddess,
having first given him some information of the country, king, and people
he was about to meet, left him. Ulysses, before entering the courtyard
of the palace, stood and surveyed the scene. Its splendor astonished
him. Brazen walls stretched from the entrance to the interior house, of
which the doors were gold, the doorposts silver, the lintels silver
ornamented with gold. On either side were figures of mastiffs wrought in
gold and silver, standing in rows as if to guard the approach. Along the
walls were seats spread through all their length with mantles of finest
texture, the work of Phæacian maidens. On these seats the princes sat
and feasted, while golden statues of graceful youths held in their hands
lighted torches which shed radiance over the scene. Full fifty female
menials served in household offices, some employed to grind the corn,
others to wind off the purple wool or ply the loom. For the Phæacian
women as far exceeded all other women in household arts as the mariners
of that country did the rest of mankind in the management of ships.
Without the court a spacious garden lay, four acres in extent. In it
grew many a lofty tree, pomegranate, pear, apple, fig, and olive.
Neither winter’s cold nor summer’s drought arrested their growth, but
they flourished in constant succession, some budding while others were
maturing. The vineyard was equally prolific. In one quarter you might
see the vines, some in blossom, some loaded with ripe grapes, and in
another observe the vintagers treading the wine press. On the garden’s
borders flowers of all hues bloomed all the year round, arranged with
neatest art. In the midst two fountains poured forth their waters, one
flowing by artificial channels over all the garden, the other conducted
through the courtyard of the palace, whence every citizen might draw his

Ulysses stood gazing in admiration, unobserved himself, for the cloud
which Minerva spread around him still shielded him. At length, having
sufficiently observed the scene, he advanced with rapid step into the
hall where the chiefs and senators were assembled, pouring libation to
Mercury, whose worship followed the evening meal. Just then Minerva
dissolved the cloud and disclosed him to the assembled chiefs. Advancing
to the place where the queen sat, he knelt at her feet and implored her
favor and assistance to enable him to return to his native country. Then
withdrawing, he seated himself in the manner of suppliants, at the
hearth side.

For a time none spoke. At last an aged statesman, addressing the king,
said, “It is not fit that a stranger who asks our hospitality should be
kept waiting in suppliant guise, none welcoming him. Let him therefore
be led to a seat among us and supplied with food and wine.” At these
words the king rising gave his hand to Ulysses and led him to a seat,
displacing thence his own son to make room for the stranger. Food and
wine were set before him and he ate and refreshed himself.

The king then dismissed his guests, notifying them that the next day he
would call them to council to consider what had best be done for the

When the guests had departed and Ulysses was left alone with the king
and queen, the queen asked him who he was and whence he came, and
(recognizing the clothes which he wore as those which her maidens and
herself had made) from whom he received those garments. He told them of
his residence in Calypso’s isle and his departure thence; of the wreck
of his raft, his escape by swimming, and of the relief afforded by the
princess. The parents heard approvingly, and the king promised to
furnish a ship in which his guest might return to his own land.

The next day the assembled chiefs confirmed the promise of the king. A
bark was prepared and a crew of stout rowers selected, and all betook
themselves to the palace, where a bounteous repast was provided. After
the feast the king proposed that the young men should show their guest
their proficiency in manly sports, and all went forth to the arena for
games of running, wrestling, and other exercises. After all had done
their best, Ulysses being challenged to show what he could do, at first
declined, but being taunted by one of the youths, seized a quoit of
weight far heavier than any of the Phæacians had thrown, and sent it
farther than the utmost throw of theirs. All were astonished, and viewed
their guest with greatly increased respect.

After the games they returned to the hall, and the herald led in
Demodocus, the blind bard,—

    “. . . Dear to the Muse,
    Who yet appointed him both good and ill,
    Took from him sight, but gave him strains divine.”

He took for his theme the “Wooden Horse,” by means of which the Greeks
found entrance into Troy. Apollo inspired him, and he sang so feelingly
the terrors and the exploits of that eventful time that all were
delighted, but Ulysses was moved to tears. Observing which, Alcinoüs,
when the song was done, demanded of him why at the mention of Troy his
sorrows awaked. Had he lost there a father, or brother, or any dear
friend? Ulysses replied by announcing himself by his true name, and at
their request, recounted the adventures which had befallen him since his
departure from Troy. This narrative raised the sympathy and admiration
of the Phæacians for their guest to the highest pitch. The king proposed
that all the chiefs should present him with a gift, himself setting the
example. They obeyed, and vied with one another in loading the
illustrious stranger with costly gifts.

The next day Ulysses set sail in the Phæacian vessel, and in a short
time arrived safe at Ithaca, his own island. When the vessel touched the
strand he was asleep. The mariners, without waking him, carried him on
shore, and landed with him the chest containing his presents, and then
sailed away.

Neptune was so displeased at the conduct of the Phæacians in thus
rescuing Ulysses from his hands that on the return of the vessel to port
he transformed it into a rock, right opposite the mouth of the harbor.

Homer’s description of the ships of the Phæacians has been thought to
look like an anticipation of the wonders of modern steam navigation.
Alcinoüs says to Ulysses:

    “Say from what city, from what regions tossed,
    And what inhabitants those regions boast?
    So shalt thou quickly reach the realm assigned,
    In wondrous ships, self-moved, instinct with mind;
    No helm secures their course, no pilot guides;
    Like man intelligent they plough the tides,
    Conscious of every coast and every bay
    That lies beneath the sun’s all-seeing ray.”
                            —_Odyssey_, Book VIII.

Lord Carlisle, in his “Diary in the Turkish and Greek Waters,” thus
speaks of Corfu, which he considers to be the ancient Phæacian island:

“The sites explain the ‘Odyssey.’ The temple of the sea-god could not
have been more fitly placed, upon a grassy platform of the most elastic
turf, on the brow of a crag commanding harbor, and channel, and ocean.
Just at the entrance of the inner harbor there is a picturesque rock
with a small convent perched upon it, which by one legend is the
transformed pinnace of Ulysses.

“Almost the only river in the island is just at the proper distance from
the probable site of the city and palace of the king, to justify the
princess Nausicaa having had resort to her chariot and to luncheon when
she went with the maidens of the court to wash their garments.”

                          FATE OF THE SUITORS

Ulysses had now been away from Ithaca for twenty years, and when he
awoke he did not recognize his native land. Minerva appeared to him in
the form of a young shepherd, informed him where he was, and told him
the state of things at his palace. More than a hundred nobles of Ithaca
and of the neighboring islands had been for years suing for the hand of
Penelope, his wife, imagining him dead, and lording it over his palace
and people, as if they were owners of both. That he might be able to
take vengeance upon them, it was important that he should not be
recognized. Minerva accordingly metamorphosed him into an unsightly
beggar, and as such he was kindly received by Eumæus, the swine-herd, a
faithful servant of his house.

Telemachus, his son, was absent in quest of his father. He had gone to
the courts of the other kings, who had returned from the Trojan
expedition. While on the search, he received counsel from Minerva to
return home. He arrived and sought Eumæus to learn something of the
state of affairs at the palace before presenting himself among the
suitors. Finding a stranger with Eumæus, he treated him courteously,
though in the garb of a beggar, and promised him assistance. Eumæus was
sent to the palace to inform Penelope privately of her son’s arrival,
for caution was necessary with regard to the suitors, who, as Telemachus
had learned, were plotting to intercept and kill him. When Eumæus was
gone, Minerva presented herself to Ulysses, and directed him to make
himself known to his son. At the same time she touched him, removed at
once from him the appearance of age and penury, and gave him the aspect
of vigorous manhood that belonged to him. Telemachus viewed him with
astonishment, and at first thought he must be more than mortal. But
Ulysses announced himself as his father, and accounted for the change of
appearance by explaining that it was Minerva’s doing.

    “. . . Then threw Telemachus
    His arms around his father’s neck and wept.
    Desire intense of lamentation seized
    On both; soft murmurs uttering, each indulged
    His grief.”

The father and son took counsel together how they should get the better
of the suitors and punish them for their outrages. It was arranged that
Telemachus should proceed to the palace and mingle with the suitors as
formerly; that Ulysses should also go as a beggar, a character which in
the rude old times had different privileges from what we concede to it
now. As traveller and storyteller, the beggar was admitted in the halls
of chieftains, and often treated like a guest; though sometimes, also,
no doubt, with contumely. Ulysses charged his son not to betray, by any
display of unusual interest in him, that he knew him to be other than he
seemed, and even if he saw him insulted, or beaten, not to interpose
otherwise than he might do for any stranger. At the palace they found
the usual scene of feasting and riot going on. The suitors pretended to
receive Telemachus with joy at his return, though secretly mortified at
the failure of their plots to take his life. The old beggar was
permitted to enter, and provided with a portion from the table. A
touching incident occurred as Ulysses entered the courtyard of the
palace. An old dog lay in the yard almost dead with age, and seeing a
stranger enter, raised his head, with ears erect. It was Argus, Ulysses’
own dog, that he had in other days often led to the chase.

    “. . . Soon as he perceived
    Long-lost Ulysses nigh, down fell his ears
    Clapped close, and with his tail glad sign he gave
    Of gratulation, impotent to rise,
    And to approach his master as of old.
    Ulysses, noting him, wiped off a tear
    . . . Then his destiny released
    Old Argus, soon as he had lived to see
    Ulysses in the twentieth year restored.”

As Ulysses sat eating his portion in the hall, the suitors began to
exhibit their insolence to him. When he mildly remonstrated, one of them
raised a stool and with it gave him a blow. Telemachus had hard work to
restrain his indignation at seeing his father so treated in his own
hall, but remembering his father’s injunctions, said no more than what
became him as master of the house, though young, and protector of his

Penelope had protracted her decision in favor of either of her suitors
so long that there seemed to be no further pretence for delay. The
continued absence of her husband seemed to prove that his return was no
longer to be expected. Meanwhile her son had grown up, and was able to
manage his own affairs. She therefore consented to submit the question
of her choice to a trial of skill among the suitors. The test selected
was shooting with the bow. Twelve rings were arranged in a line, and he
whose arrow was sent through the whole twelve was to have the queen for
his prize. A bow that one of his brother heroes had given to Ulysses in
former times was brought from the armory, and with its quiver full of
arrows was laid in the hall. Telemachus had taken care that all other
weapons should be removed, under pretence that in the heat of
competition there was danger, in some rash moment, of putting them to an
improper use.

All things being prepared for the trial, the first thing to be done was
to bend the bow in order to attach the string. Telemachus endeavored to
do it, but found all his efforts fruitless; and modestly confessing that
he had attempted a task beyond his strength, he yielded the bow to
another. _He_ tried it with no better success, and, amidst the laughter
and jeers of his companions, gave it up. Another tried it and another;
they rubbed the bow with tallow, but all to no purpose; it would not
bend. Then spoke Ulysses, humbly suggesting that he should be permitted
to try; for, said he, “beggar as I am, I was once a soldier, and there
is still some strength in these old limbs of mine.” The suitors hooted
with derision, and commanded to turn him out of the hall for his
insolence. But Telemachus spoke up for him, and, merely to gratify the
old man, bade him try. Ulysses took the bow, and handled it with the
hand of a master. With ease he adjusted the cord to its notch, then
fitting an arrow to the bow he drew the string and sped the arrow
unerring through the rings.

Without allowing them time to express their astonishment, he said, “Now
for another mark!” and aimed direct at the most insolent one of the
suitors. The arrow pierced through his throat and he fell dead.
Telemachus, Eumæus, and another faithful follower, well armed, now
sprang to the side of Ulysses. The suitors, in amazement, looked round
for arms, but found none, neither was there any way of escape, for
Eumæus had secured the door. Ulysses left them not long in uncertainty;
he announced himself as the long-lost chief, whose house they had
invaded, whose substance they had squandered, whose wife and son they
had persecuted for ten long years; and told them he meant to have ample
vengeance. All were slain, and Ulysses was left master of his palace and
possessor of his kingdom and his wife.

Tennyson’s poem of “Ulysses” represents the old hero, after his dangers
past and nothing left but to stay at home and be happy, growing tired of
inaction and resolving to set forth again in quest of new adventures:

    “. . . Come, my friends,
    ’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
    Push off, and sitting well in order smite
    The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
    To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
    Of all the western stars, until I die.
    It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
    It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
    And see the great Achilles whom we knew;” etc.


                              CHAPTER XXXI


                          ADVENTURES OF ÆNEAS

WE have followed one of the Grecian heroes, Ulysses, in his wanderings
on his return home from Troy, and now we propose to share the fortunes
of the remnant of the _conquered_ people, under their chief Æneas, in
their search for a new home, after the ruin of their native city. On
that fatal night when the wooden horse disgorged its contents of armed
men, and the capture and conflagration of the city were the result,
Æneas made his escape from the scene of destruction, with his father,
and his wife, and young son. The father, Anchises, was too old to walk
with the speed required, and Æneas took him upon his shoulders. Thus
burdened, leading his son and followed by his wife, he made the best of
his way out of the burning city; but, in the confusion, his wife was
swept away and lost.

On arriving at the place of rendezvous, numerous fugitives, of both
sexes, were found, who put themselves under the guidance of Æneas. Some
months were spent in preparation, and at length they embarked. They
first landed on the neighboring shores of Thrace, and were preparing to
build a city, but Æneas was deterred by a prodigy. Preparing to offer
sacrifice, he tore some twigs from one of the bushes. To his dismay the
wounded part dropped blood. When he repeated the act a voice from the
ground cried out to him, “Spare me, Æneas; I am your kinsman, Polydore,
here murdered with many arrows, from which a bush has grown, nourished
with my blood.” These words recalled to the recollection of Æneas that
Polydore was a young prince of Troy, whom his father had sent with ample
treasures to the neighboring land of Thrace, to be there brought up, at
a distance from the horrors of war. The king to whom he was sent had
murdered him and seized his treasures. Æneas and his companions,
considering the land accursed by the stain of such a crime, hastened

They next landed on the island of Delos, which was once a floating
island, till Jupiter fastened it by adamantine chains to the bottom of
the sea. Apollo and Diana were born there, and the island was sacred to
Apollo. Here Æneas consulted the oracle of Apollo, and received an
answer, ambiguous as usual,—“Seek your ancient mother; there the race
of Æneas shall dwell, and reduce all other nations to their sway.” The
Trojans heard with joy and immediately began to ask one another, “Where
is the spot intended by the oracle?” Anchises remembered that there was
a tradition that their forefathers came from Crete and thither they
resolved to steer. They arrived at Crete and began to build their city,
but sickness broke out among them, and the fields that they had planted
failed to yield a crop. In this gloomy aspect of affairs Æneas was
warned in a dream to leave the country and seek a western land, called
Hesperia, whence Dardanus, the true founder of the Trojan race, had
originally migrated. To Hesperia, now called Italy, therefore, they
directed their future course, and not till after many adventures and the
lapse of time sufficient to carry a modern navigator several times round
the world, did they arrive there.

Their first landing was at the island of the Harpies. These were
disgusting birds with the heads of maidens, with long claws and faces
pale with hunger. They were sent by the gods to torment a certain
Phineus, whom Jupiter had deprived of his sight, in punishment of his
cruelty; and whenever a meal was placed before him the Harpies darted
down from the air and carried it off. They were driven away from Phineus
by the heroes of the Argonautic expedition, and took refuge in the
island where Æneas now found them.

When they entered the port the Trojans saw herds of cattle roaming over
the plain. They slew as many as they wished and prepared for a feast.
But no sooner had they seated themselves at the table than a horrible
clamor was heard in the air, and a flock of these odious harpies came
rushing down upon them, seizing in their talons the meat from the dishes
and flying away with it. Æneas and his companions drew their swords and
dealt vigorous blows among the monsters, but to no purpose, for they
were so nimble it was almost impossible to hit them, and their feathers
were like armor impenetrable to steel. One of them, perched on a
neighboring cliff, screamed out, “Is it thus, Trojans, you treat us
innocent birds, first slaughter our cattle and then make war on
ourselves?” She then predicted dire sufferings to them in their future
course, and having vented her wrath flew away. The Trojans made haste to
leave the country, and next found themselves coasting along the shore of
Epirus. Here they landed, and to their astonishment learned that certain
Trojan exiles, who had been carried there as prisoners, had become
rulers of the country. Andromache, the widow of Hector, became the wife
of one of the victorious Grecian chiefs, to whom she bore a son. Her
husband dying, she was left regent of the country, as guardian of her
son, and had married a fellow-captive, Helenus, of the royal race of
Troy. Helenus and Andromache treated the exiles with the utmost
hospitality, and dismissed them loaded with gifts.

From hence Æneas coasted along the shore of Sicily and passed the
country of the Cyclopes. Here they were hailed from the shore by a
miserable object, whom by his garments, tattered as they were, they
perceived to be a Greek. He told them he was one of Ulysses’s
companions, left behind by that chief in his hurried departure. He
related the story of Ulysses’s adventure with Polyphemus, and besought
them to take him off with them as he had no means of sustaining his
existence where he was but wild berries and roots, and lived in constant
fear of the Cyclopes. While he spoke Polyphemus made his appearance; a
terrible monster, shapeless, vast, whose only eye had been put out.[26]
He walked with cautious steps, feeling his way with a staff, down to the
sea-side, to wash his eye-socket in the waves. When he reached the
water, he waded out towards them, and his immense height enabled him to
advance far into the sea, so that the Trojans, in terror, took to their
oars to get out of his way. Hearing the oars, Polyphemus shouted after
them, so that the shores resounded, and at the noise the other Cyclopes
came forth from their caves and woods and lined the shore, like a row of
lofty pine trees. The Trojans plied their oars and soon left them out of

Æneas had been cautioned by Helenus to avoid the strait guarded by the
monsters Scylla and Charybdis. There Ulysses, the reader will remember,
had lost six of his men, seized by Scylla while the navigators were
wholly intent upon avoiding Charybdis. Æneas, following the advice of
Helenus, shunned the dangerous pass and coasted along the island of

Juno, seeing the Trojans speeding their way prosperously towards their
destined shore, felt her old grudge against them revive, for she could
not forget the slight that Paris had put upon her, in awarding the prize
of beauty to another. In heavenly minds can such resentments dwell![27]
Accordingly she hastened to Æolus, the ruler of the winds,—the same who
supplied Ulysses with favoring gales, giving him the contrary ones tied
up in a bag. Æolus obeyed the goddess and sent forth his sons, Boreas,
Typhon, and the other winds, to toss the ocean. A terrible storm ensued
and the Trojan ships were driven out of their course towards the coast
of Africa. They were in imminent danger of being wrecked, and were
separated, so that Æneas thought that all were lost except his own.

At this crisis, Neptune, hearing the storm raging, and knowing that he
had given no orders for one, raised his head above the waves, and saw
the fleet of Æneas driving before the gale. Knowing the hostility of
Juno, he was at no loss to account for it, but his anger was not the
less at this interference in his province. He called the winds and
dismissed them with a severe reprimand. He then soothed the waves, and
brushed away the clouds from before the face of the sun. Some of the
ships which had got on the rocks he pried off with his own trident,
while Triton and a sea-nymph, putting their shoulders under others, set
them afloat again. The Trojans, when the sea became calm, sought the
nearest shore, which was the coast of Carthage, where Æneas was so happy
as to find that one by one the ships all arrived safe, though badly

Waller, in his “Panegyric to the Lord Protector” (Cromwell), alludes to
this stilling of the storm by Neptune:

    “Above the waves, as Neptune showed his face,
    To chide the winds and save the Trojan race,
    So has your Highness, raised above the rest,
    Storms of ambition tossing us repressed.”


Carthage, where the exiles had now arrived, was a spot on the coast of
Africa opposite Sicily, where at that time a Tyrian colony under Dido,
their queen, were laying the foundations of a state destined in later
ages to be the rival of Rome itself. Dido was the daughter of Belus,
king of Tyre, and sister of Pygmalion, who succeeded his father on the
throne. Her husband was Sichæus, a man of immense wealth, but Pygmalion,
who coveted his treasures, caused him to be put to death. Dido, with a
numerous body of friends and followers, both men and women, succeeded in
effecting their escape from Tyre, in several vessels, carrying with them
the treasures of Sichæus. On arriving at the spot which they selected as
the seat of their future home, they asked of the natives only so much
land as they could enclose with a bull’s hide. When this was readily
granted, she caused the hide to be cut into strips, and with them
enclosed a spot on which she built a citadel, and called it Byrsa (a
hide). Around this fort the city of Carthage rose, and soon became a
powerful and flourishing place.

Such was the state of affairs when Æneas with his Trojans arrived there.
Dido received the illustrious exiles with friendliness and hospitality.
“Not unacquainted with distress,” she said, “I have learned to succor
the unfortunate.”[28] The queen’s hospitality displayed itself in
festivities at which games of strength and skill were exhibited. The
strangers contended for the palm with her own subjects, on equal terms,
the queen declaring that whether the victor were “Trojan or Tyrian
should make no difference to her.”[29] At the feast which followed the
games, Æneas gave at her request a recital of the closing events of the
Trojan history and his own adventures after the fall of the city. Dido
was charmed with his discourse and filled with admiration of his
exploits. She conceived an ardent passion for him, and he for his part
seemed well content to accept the fortunate chance which appeared to
offer him at once a happy termination of his wanderings, a home, a
kingdom, and a bride. Months rolled away in the enjoyment of pleasant
intercourse, and it seemed as if Italy and the empire destined to be
founded on its shores were alike forgotten. Seeing which, Jupiter
despatched Mercury with a message to Æneas recalling him to a sense of
his high destiny, and commanding him to resume his voyage.

Æneas parted from Dido, though she tried every allurement and persuasion
to detain him. The blow to her affection and her pride was too much for
her to endure, and when she found that he was gone, she mounted a
funeral pile which she had caused to be erected, and having stabbed
herself was consumed with the pile. The flames rising over the city were
seen by the departing Trojans, and, though the cause was unknown, gave
to Æneas some intimation of the fatal event.

The following epigram we find in “Elegant Extracts”:

              FROM THE LATIN

    “Unhappy, Dido, was thy fate
    In first and second married state!
    One husband caused thy flight by dying,
    Thy death the other caused by flying.”


After touching at the island of Sicily, where Acestes, a prince of
Trojan lineage, bore sway, who gave them a hospitable reception, the
Trojans reëmbarked, and held on their course for Italy. Venus now
interceded with Neptune to allow her son at last to attain the
wished-for goal and find an end of his perils on the deep. Neptune
consented, stipulating only for one life as a ransom for the rest. The
victim was Palinurus, the pilot. As he sat watching the stars, with his
hand on the helm, Somnus sent by Neptune approached in the guise of
Phorbas and said: “Palinurus, the breeze is fair, the water smooth, and
the ship sails steadily on her course. Lie down awhile and take needful
rest. I will stand at the helm in your place.” Palinurus replied, “Tell
me not of smooth seas or favoring winds,—me who have seen so much of
their treachery. Shall I trust Æneas to the chances of the weather and
the winds?” And he continued to grasp the helm and to keep his eyes
fixed on the stars. But Somnus waved over him a branch moistened with
Lethæan dew, and his eyes closed in spite of all his efforts. Then
Somnus pushed him overboard and he fell; but keeping his hold upon the
helm, it came away with him. Neptune was mindful of his promise and kept
the ship on her track without helm or pilot, till Æneas discovered his
loss, and, sorrowing deeply for his faithful steersman, took charge of
the ship himself.

There is a beautiful allusion to the story of Palinurus in Scott’s
“Marmion,” Introduction to Canto I., where the poet, speaking of the
recent death of William Pitt, says:

    “O, think how, to his latest day,
    When death just hovering claimed his prey,
    With Palinure’s unaltered mood,
    Firm at his dangerous post he stood;
    Each call for needful rest repelled,
    With dying hand the rudder held,
    Till in his fall, with fateful sway,
    The steerage of the realm gave way.”

The ships at last reached the shores of Italy, and joyfully did the
adventurers leap to land. While his people were employed in making their
encampment Æneas sought the abode of the Sibyl. It was a cave connected
with a temple and grove, sacred to Apollo and Diana. While Æneas
contemplated the scene, the Sibyl accosted him. She seemed to know his
errand, and under the influence of the deity of the place, burst forth
in a prophetic strain, giving dark intimations of labors and perils
through which he was destined to make his way to final success. She
closed with the encouraging words which have become proverbial: “Yield
not to disasters, but press onward the more bravely.”[30] Æneas replied
that he had prepared himself for whatever might await him. He had but
one request to make. Having been directed in a dream to seek the abode
of the dead in order to confer with his father, Anchises, to receive
from him a revelation of his future fortunes and those of his race, he
asked her assistance to enable him to accomplish the task. The Sibyl
replied, “The descent to Avernus is easy: the gate of Pluto stands open
night and day; but to retrace one’s steps and return to the upper air,
that is the toil, that the difficulty.”[31] She instructed him to seek
in the forest a tree on which grew a golden branch. This branch was to
be plucked off and borne as a gift to Proserpine, and if fate was
propitious it would yield to the hand and quit its parent trunk, but
otherwise no force could rend it away. If torn away, another would

Æneas followed the directions of the Sibyl. His mother, Venus, sent two
of her doves to fly before him and show him the way, and by their
assistance he found the tree, plucked the branch, and hastened back with
it to the Sibyl.


                             CHAPTER XXXII


                          THE INFERNAL REGIONS

AS at the commencement of our series we have given the pagan account of
the creation of the world, so as we approach its conclusion we present a
view of the regions of the dead, depicted by one of their most
enlightened poets, who drew his doctrines from their most esteemed
philosophers. The region where Virgil locates the entrance to this abode
is perhaps the most strikingly adapted to excite ideas of the terrific
and preternatural of any on the face of the earth. It is the volcanic
region near Vesuvius, where the whole country is cleft with chasms, from
which sulphurous flames arise, while the ground is shaken with pent-up
vapors, and mysterious sounds issue from the bowels of the earth. The
lake Avernus is supposed to fill the crater of an extinct volcano. It is
circular, half a mile wide, and very deep, surrounded by high banks,
which in Virgil’s time were covered with a gloomy forest. Mephitic
vapors rise from its waters, so that no life is found on its banks, and
no birds fly over it. Here, according to the poet, was the cave which
afforded access to the infernal regions, and here Æneas offered
sacrifices to the infernal deities, Proserpine, Hecate, and the Furies.
Then a roaring was heard in the earth, the woods on the hill-tops were
shaken, and the howling of dogs announced the approach of the deities.
“Now,” said the Sibyl, “summon up your courage, for you will need it.”
She descended into the cave, and Æneas followed. Before the threshold of
hell they passed through a group of beings who are enumerated as Griefs
and avenging Cares, pale Diseases and melancholy Age, Fear and Hunger
that tempt to crime, Toil, Poverty, and Death,—forms horrible to view.
The Furies spread their couches there, and Discord, whose hair was of
vipers tied up with a bloody fillet. Here also were the monsters,
Briareus, with his hundred arms, Hydras hissing, and Chimæras breathing
fire. Æneas shuddered at the sight, drew his sword and would have
struck, but the Sibyl restrained him. They then came to the black river
Cocytus, where they found the ferryman, Charon, old and squalid, but
strong and vigorous, who was receiving passengers of all kinds into his
boat, magnanimous heroes, boys and unmarried girls, as numerous as the
leaves that fall at autumn, or the flocks that fly southward at the
approach of winter. They stood pressing for a passage and longing to
touch the opposite shore. But the stern ferryman took in only such as he
chose, driving the rest back. Æneas, wondering at the sight, asked the
Sibyl, “Why this discrimination?” She answered, “Those who are taken on
board the bark are the souls of those who have received due burial
rites; the host of others who have remained unburied are not permitted
to pass the flood, but wander a hundred years, and flit to and fro about
the shore, till at last they are taken over.” Æneas grieved at
recollecting some of his own companions who had perished in the storm.
At that moment he beheld Palinurus, his pilot, who fell overboard and
was drowned. He addressed him and asked him the cause of his misfortune.
Palinurus replied that the rudder was carried away, and he, clinging to
it, was swept away with it. He besought Æneas most urgently to extend to
him his hand and take him in company to the opposite shore. But the
Sibyl rebuked him for the wish thus to transgress the laws of Pluto; but
consoled him by informing him that the people of the shore where his
body had been wafted by the waves should be stirred up by prodigies to
give it due burial, and that the promontory should bear the name of Cape
Palinurus, which it does to this day. Leaving Palinurus consoled by
these words, they approached the boat. Charon, fixing his eyes sternly
upon the advancing warrior, demanded by what right he, living and armed,
approached that shore. To which the Sibyl replied that they would commit
no violence, that Æneas’s only object was to see his father, and finally
exhibited the golden branch, at sight of which Charon’s wrath relaxed,
and he made haste to turn his bark to the shore, and receive them on
board. The boat, adapted only to the light freight of bodiless spirits,
groaned under the weight of the hero. They were soon conveyed to the
opposite shore. There they were encountered by the three-headed dog,
Cerberus, with his necks bristling with snakes. He barked with all his
three throats till the Sibyl threw him a medicated cake which he eagerly
devoured, and then stretched himself out in his den and fell asleep.
Æneas and the Sibyl sprang to land. The first sound that struck their
ears was the wailing of young children, who had died on the threshold of
life, and near to these were they who had perished under false charges.
Minos presides over them as judge, and examines the deeds of each. The
next class was of those who had died by their own hand, hating life and
seeking refuge in death. O how willingly would they now endure poverty,
labor, and any other infliction, if they might but return to life! Next
were situated the regions of sadness, divided off into retired paths,
leading through groves of myrtle. Here roamed those who had fallen
victims to unrequited love, not freed from pain even by death itself.
Among these, Æneas thought he descried the form of Dido, with a wound
still recent. In the dim light he was for a moment uncertain, but
approaching, perceived it was indeed herself. Tears fell from his eyes,
and he addressed her in the accents of love. “Unhappy Dido! was then the
rumor true that you had perished? and was I, alas! the cause? I call the
gods to witness that my departure from you was reluctant, and in
obedience to the commands of Jove; nor could I believe that my absence
would cost you so dear. Stop, I beseech you, and refuse me not a last
farewell.” She stood for a moment with averted countenance, and eyes
fixed on the ground, and then silently passed on, as insensible to his
pleadings as a rock. Æneas followed for some distance; then, with a
heavy heart, rejoined his companion and resumed his route.

They next entered the fields where roam the heroes who have fallen in
battle. Here they saw many shades of Grecian and Trojan warriors. The
Trojans thronged around him, and could not be satisfied with the sight.
They asked the cause of his coming, and plied him with innumerable
questions. But the Greeks, at the sight of his armor glittering through
the murky atmosphere, recognized the hero, and filled with terror turned
their backs and fled, as they used to do on the plains of Troy.

Æneas would have lingered long with his Trojan friends, but the Sibyl
hurried him away. They next came to a place where the road divided, the
one leading to Elysium, the other to the regions of the condemned. Æneas
beheld on one side the walls of a mighty city, around which Phlegethon
rolled its fiery waters. Before him was the gate of adamant that neither
gods nor men can break through. An iron tower stood by the gate, on
which Tisiphone, the avenging Fury, kept guard. From the city were heard
groans, and the sound of the scourge, the creaking of iron, and the
clanking of chains. Æneas, horror-struck, inquired of his guide what
crimes were those whose punishments produced the sounds he heard? The
Sibyl answered, “Here is the judgment hall of Rhadamanthus, who brings
to light crimes done in life, which the perpetrator vainly thought
impenetrably hid. Tisiphone applies her whip of scorpions, and delivers
the offender over to her sister Furies.” At this moment with horrid
clang the brazen gates unfolded, and Æneas saw within a Hydra with fifty
heads guarding the entrance. The Sibyl told him that the gulf of
Tartarus descended deep, so that its recesses were as far beneath their
feet as heaven was high above their heads. In the bottom of this pit,
the Titan race, who warred against the gods, lie prostrate; Salmoneus,
also, who presumed to vie with Jupiter, and built a bridge of brass over
which he drove his chariot that the sound might resemble thunder,
launching flaming brands at his people in imitation of lightning, till
Jupiter struck him with a real thunderbolt, and taught him the
difference between mortal weapons and divine. Here, also, is Tityus, the
giant, whose form is so immense that as he lies he stretches over nine
acres, while a vulture preys upon his liver, which as fast as it is
devoured grows again, so that his punishment will have no end.

Æneas saw groups seated at tables loaded with dainties, while near by
stood a Fury who snatched away the viands from their lips as fast as
they prepared to taste them. Others beheld suspended over their heads
huge rocks, threatening to fall, keeping them in a state of constant
alarm. These were they who had hated their brothers, or struck their
parents, or defrauded the friends who trusted them, or who, having grown
rich, kept their money to themselves, and gave no share to others; the
last being the most numerous class. Here also were those who had
violated the marriage vow, or fought in a bad cause, or failed in
fidelity to their employers. Here was one who had sold his country for
gold, another who perverted the laws, making them say one thing to-day
and another to-morrow.

Ixion was there, fastened to the circumference of a wheel ceaselessly
revolving; and Sisyphus, whose task was to roll a huge stone up to a
hill-top, but when the steep was well-nigh gained, the rock, repulsed by
some sudden force, rushed again headlong down to the plain. Again he
toiled at it, while the sweat bathed all his weary limbs, but all to no
effect. There was Tantalus, who stood in a pool, his chin level with the
water, yet he was parched with thirst, and found nothing to assuage it;
for when he bowed his hoary head, eager to quaff, the water fled away,
leaving the ground at his feet all dry. Tall trees laden with fruit
stooped their heads to him, pears, pomegranates, apples, and luscious
figs; but when with a sudden grasp he tried to seize them winds whirled
them high above his reach.

The Sibyl now warned Æneas that it was time to turn from these
melancholy regions and seek the city of the blessed. They passed through
a middle tract of darkness, and came upon the Elysian fields, the groves
where the happy reside. They breathed a freer air, and saw all objects
clothed in a purple light. The region has a sun and stars of its own.
The inhabitants were enjoying themselves in various ways, some in sports
on the grassy turf, in games of strength or skill, others dancing or
singing. Orpheus struck the chords of his lyre, and called forth
ravishing sounds. Here Æneas saw the founders of the Trojan state,
magnanimous heroes who lived in happier times. He gazed with admiration
on the war chariots and glittering arms now reposing in disuse. Spears
stood fixed in the ground, and the horses, unharnessed, roamed over the
plain. The same pride in splendid armor and generous steeds which the
old heroes felt in life, accompanied them here. He saw another group
feasting and listening to the strains of music. They were in a laurel
grove, whence the great river Po has its origin, and flows out among
men. Here dwelt those who fell by wounds received in their country’s
cause, holy priests also, and poets who have uttered thoughts worthy of
Apollo, and others who have contributed to cheer and adorn life by their
discoveries in the useful arts, and have made their memory blessed by
rendering service to mankind. They wore snow-white fillets about their
brows. The Sibyl addressed a group of these, and inquired where Anchises
was to be found. They were directed where to seek him, and soon found
him in a verdant valley, where he was contemplating the ranks of his
posterity, their destinies and worthy deeds to be achieved in coming
times. When he recognized Æneas approaching, he stretched out both hands
to him, while tears flowed freely. “Have you come at last,” said he,
“long expected, and do I behold you after such perils past? O my son,
how have I trembled for you as I have watched your career!” To which
Æneas replied, “O father! your image was always before me to guide and
guard me.” Then he endeavored to enfold his father in his embrace, but
his arms enclosed only an unsubstantial image.

Æneas perceived before him a spacious valley, with trees gently waving
to the wind, a tranquil landscape, through which the river Lethe flowed.
Along the banks of the stream wandered a countless multitude, numerous
as insects in the summer air. Æneas, with surprise, inquired who were
these. Anchises answered, “They are souls to which bodies are to be
given in due time. Meanwhile they dwell on Lethe’s bank, and drink
oblivion of their former lives.” “O father!” said Æneas, “is it possible
that any can be so in love with life as to wish to leave these tranquil
seats for the upper world?” Anchises replied by explaining the plan of
creation. The Creator, he told him, originally made the material of
which souls are composed of the four elements, fire, air, earth, and
water, all which when united took the form of the most excellent part,
fire, and became _flame_. This material was scattered like seed among
the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, and stars. Of this seed the inferior
gods created man and all other animals, mingling it with various
proportions of earth, by which its purity was alloyed and reduced. Thus,
the more earth predominates in the composition the less pure is the
individual; and we see men and women with their full-grown bodies have
not the purity of childhood. So in proportion to the time which the
union of body and soul has lasted is the impurity contracted by the
spiritual part. This impurity must be purged away after death, which is
done by ventilating the souls in the current of winds, or merging them
in water, or burning out their impurities by fire. Some few, of whom
Anchises intimates that he is one, are admitted at once to Elysium,
there to remain. But the rest, after the impurities of earth are purged
away, are sent back to life endowed with new bodies, having had the
remembrance of their former lives effectually washed away by the waters
of Lethe. Some, however, there still are, so thoroughly corrupted, that
they are not fit to be intrusted with human bodies, and these are made
into brute animals, lions, tigers, cats, dogs, monkeys, etc. This is
what the ancients called Metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls;
a doctrine which is still held by the natives of India, who scruple to
destroy the life even of the most insignificant animal, not knowing but
it may be one of their relations in an altered form.

Anchises, having explained so much, proceeded to point out to Æneas
individuals of his race, who were hereafter to be born, and to relate to
him the exploits they should perform in the world. After this he
reverted to the present, and told his son of the events that remained to
him to be accomplished before the complete establishment of himself and
his followers in Italy. Wars were to be waged, battles fought, a bride
to be won, and in the result a Trojan state founded, from which should
rise the Roman power, to be in time the sovereign of the world.

Æneas and the Sibyl then took leave of Anchises, and returned by some
short cut, which the poet does not explain, to the upper world.


Virgil, we have seen, places his Elysium under the earth, and assigns it
for a residence to the spirits of the blessed. But in Homer Elysium
forms no part of the realms of the dead. He places it on the west of the
earth, near Ocean, and describes it as a happy land, where there is
neither snow, nor cold, nor rain, and always fanned by the delightful
breezes of Zephyrus. Hither favored heroes pass without dying and live
happy under the rule of Rhadamanthus. The Elysium of Hesiod and Pindar
is in the Isles of the Blessed, or Fortunate Islands, in the Western
Ocean. From these sprang the legend of the happy island Atlantis. This
blissful region may have been wholly imaginary, but possibly may have
sprung from the reports of some storm-driven mariners who had caught a
glimpse of the coast of America.

J. R. Lowell, in one of his shorter poems, claims for the present age
some of the privileges of that happy realm. Addressing the Past, he

    “Whatever of true life there was in thee,
    Leaps in our age’s veins.
      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    Here, ’mid the bleak waves of our strife and care,
      Float the green ‘Fortunate Isles,’
    Where all thy hero-spirits dwell and share
      Our martyrdoms and toils.
        The present moves attended
    With all of brave and excellent and fair
        That made the old time splendid.”

Milton also alludes to the same fable in “Paradise Lost,” Book III., 1.

    “Like those Hesperian gardens famed of old,
    Fortunate fields and groves and flowery vales,
    Thrice happy isles.”

And in Book II. he characterizes the rivers of Erebus according to the
meaning of their names in the Greek language:

    “Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate,
    Sad Acheron of sorrow black and deep;
    Cocytus named of lamentation loud
    Heard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegethon
    Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage.
    Far off from these a slow and silent stream,
    Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls
    Her watery labyrinth, whereof who drinks
    Forthwith his former state and being forgets,
    Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain.”

                               THE SIBYL

As Æneas and the Sibyl pursued their way back to earth, he said to her,
“Whether thou be a goddess or a mortal beloved of the gods, by me thou
shalt always be held in reverence. When I reach the upper air I will
cause a temple to be built to thy honor, and will myself bring
offerings.” “I am no goddess,” said the Sibyl; “I have no claim to
sacrifice or offering. I am mortal; yet if I could have accepted the
love of Apollo I might have been immortal. He promised me the fulfilment
of my wish, if I would consent to be his. I took a handful of sand, and
holding it forth, said, ‘Grant me to see as many birthdays as there are
sand grains in my hand.’ Unluckily I forgot to ask for enduring youth.
This also he would have granted, could I have accepted his love, but
offended at my refusal, he allowed me to grow old. My youth and youthful
strength fled long ago. I have lived seven hundred years, and to equal
the number of the sand grains I have still to see three hundred springs
and three hundred harvests. My body shrinks up as years increase, and in
time, I shall be lost to sight, but my voice will remain, and future
ages will respect my sayings.”

These concluding words of the Sibyl alluded to her prophetic power. In
her cave she was accustomed to inscribe on leaves gathered from the
trees the names and fates of individuals. The leaves thus inscribed were
arranged in order within the cave, and might be consulted by her
votaries. But if perchance at the opening of the door the wind rushed in
and dispersed the leaves the Sibyl gave no aid to restoring them again,
and the oracle was irreparably lost.

The following legend of the Sibyl is fixed at a later date. In the reign
of one of the Tarquins there appeared before the king a woman who
offered him nine books for sale. The king refused to purchase them,
whereupon the woman went away and burned three of the books, and
returning offered the remaining books for the same price she had asked
for the nine. The king again rejected them; but when the woman, after
burning three books more, returned and asked for the three remaining the
same price which she had before asked for the nine, his curiosity was
excited, and he purchased the books. They were found to contain the
destinies of the Roman state. They were kept in the temple of Jupiter
Capitolinus, preserved in a stone chest, and allowed to be inspected
only by especial officers appointed for that duty, who, on great
occasions, consulted them and interpreted their oracles to the people.

There were various Sibyls; but the Cumæan Sibyl, of whom Ovid and Virgil
write, is the most celebrated of them. Ovid’s story of her life
protracted to one thousand years may be intended to represent the
various Sibyls as being only reappearances of one and the same

Young, in the “Night Thoughts,” alludes to the Sibyl. Speaking of
Worldly Wisdom, he says:

    “If future fate she plans ’tis all in leaves,
    Like Sibyl, unsubstantial, fleeting bliss;
    At the first blast it vanishes in air.
      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    As worldly schemes resemble Sibyl’s leaves,
    The good man’s days to Sibyl’s books compare,
    The price still rising as in number less.”

 From painting by François Gerard.]

 From painting by Briton Rivière.]

                             CHAPTER XXXIII


ÆNEAS, having parted from the Sibyl and rejoined his fleet, coasted
along the shores of Italy and cast anchor in the mouth of the Tiber. The
poet, having brought his hero to this spot, the destined termination of
his wanderings, invokes his Muse to tell him the situation of things at
that eventful moment. Latinus, third in descent from Saturn, ruled the
country. He was now old and had no male descendant, but had one charming
daughter, Lavinia, who was sought in marriage by many neighboring
chiefs, one of whom, Turnus, king of the Rutulians, was favored by the
wishes of her parents. But Latinus had been warned in a dream by his
father Faunus, that the destined husband of Lavinia should come from a
foreign land. From that union should spring a race destined to subdue
the world.

Our readers will remember that in the conflict with the Harpies one of
those half-human birds had threatened the Trojans with dire sufferings.
In particular she predicted that before their wanderings ceased they
should be pressed by hunger to devour their tables. This portent now
came true; for as they took their scanty meal, seated on the grass, the
men placed their hard biscuit on their laps, and put thereon whatever
their gleanings in the woods supplied. Having despatched the latter they
finished by eating the crusts. Seeing which, the boy Iulus said
playfully, “See, we are eating our tables.” Æneas caught the words and
accepted the omen. “All hail, promised land!” he exclaimed, “this is our
home, this our country.” He then took measures to find out who were the
present inhabitants of the land, and who their rulers. A hundred chosen
men were sent to the village of Latinus, bearing presents and a request
for friendship and alliance. They went and were favorably received.
Latinus immediately concluded that the Trojan hero was no other than the
promised son-in-law announced by the oracle. He cheerfully granted his
alliance and sent back the messengers mounted on steeds from his
stables, and loaded with gifts and friendly messages.

Juno, seeing things go thus prosperously for the Trojans, felt her old
animosity revive, summoned Alecto from Erebus, and sent her to stir up
discord. The Fury first took possession of the queen, Amata, and roused
her to oppose in every way the new alliance. Alecto then speeded to the
city of Turnus, and assuming the form of an old priestess, informed him
of the arrival of the foreigners and of the attempts of their prince to
rob him of his bride. Next she turned her attention to the camp of the
Trojans. There she saw the boy Iulus and his companions amusing
themselves with hunting. She sharpened the scent of the dogs, and led
them to rouse up from the thicket a tame stag, the favorite of Silvia,
the daughter of Tyrrheus, the king’s herdsman. A javelin from the hand
of Iulus wounded the animal, and he had only strength left to run
homewards, and died at his mistress’s feet. Her cries and tears roused
her brothers and the herdsmen, and they, seizing whatever weapons came
to hand, furiously assaulted the hunting party. These were protected by
their friends, and the herdsmen were finally driven back with the loss
of two of their number.

These things were enough to rouse the storm of war, and the queen,
Turnus, and the peasants all urged the old king to drive the strangers
from the country. He resisted as long as he could, but, finding his
opposition unavailing, finally gave way and retreated to his retirement.

                       OPENING THE GATES OF JANUS

It was the custom of the country, when war was to be undertaken, for the
chief magistrate, clad in his robes of office, with solemn pomp to open
the gates of the temple of Janus, which were kept shut as long as peace
endured. His people now urged the old king to perform that solemn
office, but he refused to do so. While they contested, Juno herself,
descending from the skies, smote the doors with irresistible force, and
burst them open. Immediately the whole country was in a flame. The
people rushed from every side breathing nothing but war.

Turnus was recognized by all as leader; others joined as allies, chief
of whom was Mezentius, a brave and able soldier, but of detestable
cruelty. He had been the chief of one of the neighboring cities, but his
people drove him out. With him was joined his son Lausus, a generous
youth, worthy of a better sire.


Camilla, the favorite of Diana, a huntress and warrior, after the
fashion of the Amazons, came with her band of mounted followers,
including a select number of her own sex, and ranged herself on the side
of Turnus. This maiden had never accustomed her fingers to the distaff
or the loom, but had learned to endure the toils of war, and in speed to
outstrip the wind. It seemed as if she might run over the standing corn
without crushing it, or over the surface of the water without dipping
her feet. Camilla’s history had been singular from the beginning. Her
father, Metabus, driven from his city by civil discord, carried with him
in his flight his infant daughter. As he fled through the woods, his
enemies in hot pursuit, he reached the bank of the river Amazenus,
which, swelled by rains, seemed to debar a passage. He paused for a
moment, then decided what to do. He tied the infant to his lance with
wrappers of bark, and poising the weapon in his upraised hand thus
addressed Diana: “Goddess of the woods! I consecrate this maid to you;”
then hurled the weapon with its burden to the opposite bank. The spear
flew across the roaring water. His pursuers were already upon him, but
he plunged into the river and swam across, and found the spear, with the
infant safe on the other side. Thenceforth he lived among the shepherds
and brought up his daughter in woodland arts. While a child she was
taught to use the bow and throw the javelin. With her sling she could
bring down the crane or the wild swan. Her dress was a tiger’s skin.
Many mothers sought her for a daughter-in-law, but she continued
faithful to Diana and repelled the thought of marriage.


Such were the formidable allies that ranged themselves against Æneas. It
was night and he lay stretched in sleep on the bank of the river under
the open heavens. The god of the stream, Father Tiber, seemed to raise
his head above the willows and to say, “O goddess-born, destined
possessor of the Latin realms, this is the promised land, here is to be
your home, here shall terminate the hostility of the heavenly powers, if
only you faithfully persevere. There are friends not far distant.
Prepare your boats and row up my stream; I will lead you to Evander, the
Arcadian chief, he has long been at strife with Turnus and the
Rutulians, and is prepared to become an ally of yours. Rise! offer your
vows to Juno, and deprecate her anger. When you have achieved your
victory then think of me.” Æneas woke and paid immediate obedience to
the friendly vision. He sacrificed to Juno, and invoked the god of the
river and all his tributary fountains to lend their aid. Then for the
first time a vessel filled with armed warriors floated on the stream of
the Tiber. The river smoothed its waves, and bade its current flow
gently, while, impelled by the vigorous strokes of the rowers, the
vessels shot rapidly up the stream.

About the middle of the day they came in sight of the scattered
buildings of the infant town, where in after times the proud city of
Rome grew, whose glory reached the skies. By chance the old king,
Evander, was that day celebrating annual solemnities in honor of
Hercules and all the gods. Pallas, his son, and all the chiefs of the
little commonwealth stood by. When they saw the tall ship gliding onward
near the wood, they were alarmed at the sight, and rose from the tables.
But Pallas forbade the solemnities to be interrupted, and seizing a
weapon, stepped forward to the river’s bank. He called aloud, demanding
who they were, and what their object. Æneas, holding forth an
olive-branch, replied, “We are Trojans, friends to you, and enemies to
the Rutulians. We seek Evander, and offer to join our arms with yours.”
Pallas, in amaze at the sound of so great a name, invited them to land,
and when Æneas touched the shore he seized his hand, and held it long in
friendly grasp. Proceeding through the wood, they joined the king and
his party and were most favorably received. Seats were provided for them
at the tables, and the repast proceeded.

                              INFANT ROME

When the solemnities were ended all moved towards the city. The king,
bending with age, walked between his son and Æneas, taking the arm of
one or the other of them, and with much variety of pleasing talk
shortening the way. Æneas with delight looked and listened, observing
all the beauties of the scene, and learning much of heroes renowned in
ancient times. Evander said, “These extensive groves were once inhabited
by fauns and nymphs, and a rude race of men who sprang from the trees
themselves, and had neither laws nor social culture. They knew not how
to yoke the cattle nor raise a harvest, nor provide from present
abundance for future want; but browsed like beasts upon the leafy
boughs, or fed voraciously on their hunted prey. Such were they when
Saturn, expelled from Olympus by his sons, came among them and drew
together the fierce savages, formed them into society, and gave them
laws. Such peace and plenty ensued that men ever since have called his
reign the golden age; but by degrees far other times succeeded, and the
thirst of gold and the thirst of blood prevailed. The land was a prey to
successive tyrants, till fortune and resistless destiny brought me
hither, an exile from my native land, Arcadia.”

Having thus said, he showed him the Tarpeian rock, and the rude spot
then overgrown with bushes where in after times the Capitol rose in all
its magnificence. He next pointed to some dismantled walls, and said,
“Here stood Janiculum, built by Janus, and there Saturnia, the town of
Saturn.” Such discourse brought them to the cottage of poor Evander,
whence they saw the lowing herds roaming over the plain where now the
proud and stately Forum stands. They entered, and a couch was spread for
Æneas, well stuffed with leaves, and covered with the skin of a Libyan

Next morning, awakened by the dawn and the shrill song of birds beneath
the eaves of his low mansion, old Evander rose. Clad in a tunic, and a
panther’s skin thrown over his shoulders, with sandals on his feet and
his good sword girded to his side, he went forth to seek his guest. Two
mastiffs followed him, his whole retinue and body guard. He found the
hero attended by his faithful Achates, and, Pallas soon joining them,
the old king spoke thus:

“Illustrious Trojan, it is but little we can do in so great a cause. Our
state is feeble, hemmed in on one side by the river, on the other by the
Rutulians. But I propose to ally you with a people numerous and rich, to
whom fate has brought you at the propitious moment. The Etruscans hold
the country beyond the river. Mezentius was their king, a monster of
cruelty, who invented unheard-of torments to gratify his vengeance. He
would fasten the dead to the living, hand to hand and face to face, and
leave the wretched victims to die in that dreadful embrace. At length
the people cast him out, him and his house. They burned his palace and
slew his friends. He escaped and took refuge with Turnus, who protects
him with arms. The Etruscans demand that he shall be given up to
deserved punishment, and would ere now have attempted to enforce their
demand; but their priests restrain them, telling them that it is the
will of heaven that no native of the land shall guide them to victory,
and that their destined leader must come from across the sea. They have
offered the crown to me, but I am too old to undertake such great
affairs, and my son is native-born, which precludes him from the choice.
You, equally by birth and time of life, and fame in arms, pointed out by
the gods, have but to appear to be hailed at once as their leader. With
you I will join Pallas, my son, my only hope and comfort. Under you he
shall learn the art of war, and strive to emulate your great exploits.”

Then the king ordered horses to be furnished for the Trojan chiefs, and
Æneas, with a chosen band of followers and Pallas accompanying, mounted
and took the way to the Etruscan city,[33] having sent back the rest of
his party in the ships. Æneas and his band safely arrived at the
Etruscan camp and were received with open arms by Tarchon and his

                           NISUS AND EURYALUS

In the meanwhile Turnus had collected his bands and made all necessary
preparations for the war. Juno sent Iris to him with a message inciting
him to take advantage of the absence of Æneas and surprise the Trojan
camp. Accordingly the attempt was made, but the Trojans were found on
their guard, and having received strict orders from Æneas not to fight
in his absence, they lay still in their intrenchments, and resisted all
the efforts of the Rutulians to draw them into the field. Night coming
on, the army of Turnus, in high spirits at their fancied superiority,
feasted and enjoyed themselves, and finally stretched themselves on the
field and slept secure.

In the camp of the Trojans things were far otherwise. There all was
watchfulness and anxiety and impatience for Æneas’s return. Nisus stood
guard at the entrance of the camp, and Euryalus, a youth distinguished
above all in the army for graces of person and fine qualities, was with
him. These two were friends and brothers in arms. Nisus said to his
friend, “Do you perceive what confidence and carelessness the enemy
display? Their lights are few and dim, and the men seem all oppressed
with wine or sleep. You know how anxiously our chiefs wish to send to
Æneas, and to get intelligence from him. Now, I am strongly moved to
make my way through the enemy’s camp and to go in search of our chief.
If I succeed, the glory of the deed will be reward enough for me, and if
they judge the service deserves anything more, let them pay it to you.”

Euryalus, all on fire with the love of adventure, replied, “Would you,
then, Nisus, refuse to share your enterprise with me? And shall I let
you go into such danger alone? Not so my brave father brought me up, nor
so have I planned for myself when I joined the standard of Æneas, and
resolved to hold my life cheap in comparison with honor.” Nisus replied,
“I doubt it not, my friend; but you know the uncertain event of such an
undertaking, and whatever may happen to me, I wish you to be safe. You
are younger than I and have more of life in prospect. Nor can I be the
cause of such grief to your mother, who has chosen to be here in the
camp with you rather than stay and live in peace with the other matrons
in Acestes’ city.” Euryalus replied, “Say no more. In vain you seek
arguments to dissuade me. I am fixed in the resolution to go with you.
Let us lose no time.” They called the guard, and committing the watch to
them, sought the general’s tent. They found the chief officers in
consultation, deliberating how they should send notice to Æneas of their
situation. The offer of the two friends was gladly accepted, themselves
loaded with praises and promised the most liberal rewards in case of
success. Iulus especially addressed Euryalus, assuring him of his
lasting friendship. Euryalus replied, “I have but one boon to ask. My
aged mother is with me in the camp. For me she left the Trojan soil, and
would not stay behind with the other matrons at the city of Acestes. I
go now without taking leave of her. I could not bear her tears nor set
at nought her entreaties. But do thou, I beseech you, comfort her in her
distress. Promise me that and I shall go more boldly into whatever
dangers may present themselves.” Iulus and the other chiefs were moved
to tears, and promised to do all his request. “Your mother shall be
mine,” said Iulus, “and all that I have promised to you shall be made
good to her, if you do not return to receive it.”

The two friends left the camp and plunged at once into the midst of the
enemy. They found no watch, no sentinels posted, but, all about, the
sleeping soldiers strewn on the grass and among the wagons. The laws of
war at that early day did not forbid a brave man to slay a sleeping foe,
and the two Trojans slew, as they passed, such of the enemy as they
could without exciting alarm. In one tent Euryalus made prize of a
helmet brilliant with gold and plumes. They had passed through the
enemy’s ranks without being discovered, but now suddenly appeared a
troop directly in front of them, which, under Volscens, their leader,
were approaching the camp. The glittering helmet of Euryalus caught
their attention, and Volscens hailed the two, and demanded who and
whence they were. They made no answer, but plunged into the wood. The
horsemen scattered in all directions to intercept their flight. Nisus
had eluded pursuit and was out of danger, but Euryalus being missing he
turned back to seek him. He again entered the wood and soon came within
sound of voices. Looking through the thicket he saw the whole band
surrounding Euryalus with noisy questions. What should he do? how
extricate the youth, or would it be better to die with him.

Raising his eyes to the moon, which now shone clear, he said, “Goddess!
favor my effort!” and aiming his javelin at one of the leaders of the
troop, struck him in the back and stretched him on the plain with a
deathblow. In the midst of their amazement another weapon flew and
another of the party fell dead. Volscens, the leader, ignorant whence
the darts came, rushed sword in hand upon Euryalus. “You shall pay the
penalty of both,” he said, and would have plunged the sword into his
bosom, when Nisus, who from his concealment saw the peril of his friend,
rushed forward exclaiming, “’Twas I, ’twas I; turn your swords against
me, Rutulians, I did it; he only followed me as a friend.” While he
spoke the sword fell, and pierced the comely bosom of Euryalus. His head
fell over on his shoulder, like a flower cut down by the plough. Nisus
rushed upon Volscens and plunged his sword into his body, and was
himself slain on the instant by numberless blows.


Æneas, with his Etrurian allies, arrived on the scene of action in time
to rescue his beleaguered camp; and now the two armies being nearly
equal in strength, the war began in good earnest. We cannot find space
for all the details, but must simply record the fate of the principal
characters whom we have introduced to our readers. The tyrant Mezentius,
finding himself engaged against his revolting subjects, raged like a
wild beast. He slew all who dared to withstand him, and put the
multitude to flight wherever he appeared. At last he encountered Æneas,
and the armies stood still to see the issue. Mezentius threw his spear,
which striking Æneas’s shield glanced off and hit Anthor. He was a
Grecian by birth, who had left Argos, his native city, and followed
Evander into Italy. The poet says of him with simple pathos which has
made the words proverbial, “He fell, unhappy, by a wound intended for
another, looked up at the skies, and dying remembered sweet Argos.”[34]
Æneas now in turn hurled his lance. It pierced the shield of Mezentius,
and wounded him in the thigh. Lausus, his son, could not bear the sight,
but rushed forward and interposed himself, while the followers pressed
round Mezentius and bore him away. Æneas held his sword suspended over
Lausus and delayed to strike, but the furious youth pressed on and he
was compelled to deal the fatal blow. Lausus fell, and Æneas bent over
him in pity. “Hapless youth,” he said, “what can I do for you worthy of
your praise? Keep those arms in which you glory, and fear not but that
your body shall be restored to your friends, and have due funeral
honors.” So saying, he called the timid followers and delivered the body
into their hands.

Mezentius meanwhile had been borne to the riverside, and washed his
wound. Soon the news reached him of Lausus’s death, and rage and despair
supplied the place of strength. He mounted his horse and dashed into the
thickest of the fight, seeking Æneas. Having found him he rode round him
in a circle, throwing one javelin after another, while Æneas stood
fenced with his shield, turning every way to meet them. At last, after
Mezentius had three times made the circuit, Æneas threw his lance
directly at the horse’s head. It pierced his temples and he fell, while
a shout from both armies rent the skies. Mezentius asked no mercy, but
only that his body might be spared the insults of his revolted subjects,
and be buried in the same grave with his son. He received the fatal
stroke not unprepared, and poured out his life and his blood together.

                        PALLAS, CAMILLA, TURNUS

While these things were doing in one part of the field, in another
Turnus encountered the youthful Pallas. The contest between champions so
unequally matched could not be doubtful. Pallas bore himself bravely,
but fell by the lance of Turnus. The victor almost relented when he saw
the brave youth lying dead at his feet, and spared to use the privilege
of a conqueror in despoiling him of his arms. The belt only, adorned
with studs and carvings of gold, he took and clasped round his own body.
The rest he remitted to the friends of the slain.

After the battle there was a cessation of arms for some days to allow
both armies to bury their dead. In this interval Æneas challenged Turnus
to decide the contest by single combat, but Turnus evaded the challenge.
Another battle ensued, in which Camilla, the virgin warrior, was chiefly
conspicuous. Her deeds of valor surpassed those of the bravest warriors,
and many Trojans and Etruscans fell pierced with her darts or struck
down by her battle-axe. At last an Etruscan named Aruns, who had watched
her long, seeking for some advantage, observed her pursuing a flying
enemy whose splendid armor offered a tempting prize. Intent on the chase
she observed not her danger, and the javelin of Aruns struck her and
inflicted a fatal wound. She fell and breathed her last in the arms of
her attendant maidens. But Diana, who beheld her fate, suffered not her
slaughter to be unavenged. Aruns, as he stole away, glad, but
frightened, was struck by a secret arrow, launched by one of the nymphs
of Diana’s train, and died ignobly and unknown.

At length the final conflict took place between Æneas and Turnus. Turnus
had avoided the contest as long as he could, but at last, impelled by
the ill success of his arms and by the murmurs of his followers, he
braced himself to the conflict. It could not be doubtful. On the side of
Æneas were the expressed decree of destiny, the aid of his
goddess-mother at every emergency, and impenetrable armor fabricated by
Vulcan, at her request, for her son. Turnus, on the other hand, was
deserted by his celestial allies, Juno having been expressly forbidden
by Jupiter to assist him any longer. Turnus threw his lance, but it
recoiled harmless from the shield of Æneas. The Trojan hero then threw
his, which penetrated the shield of Turnus, and pierced his thigh. Then
Turnus’s fortitude forsook him and he begged for mercy; and Æneas would
have given him his life, but at the instant his eye fell on the belt of
Pallas, which Turnus had taken from the slaughtered youth. Instantly his
rage revived, and exclaiming, “Pallas immolates thee with this blow,” he
thrust him through with his sword.

Here the poem of the “Æneid” closes, and we are left to infer that
Æneas, having triumphed over his foes, obtained Lavinia for his bride.
Tradition adds that he founded his city, and called it after her name,
Lavinium. His son Iulus founded Alba Longa, which was the birthplace of
Romulus and Remus and the cradle of Rome itself.

There is an allusion to Camilla in those well-known lines of Pope, in
which, illustrating the rule that “the sound should be an echo to the
sense,” he says:

    “When Ajax strives some rock’s vast weight to throw,
    The line too labors and the words move slow.
    Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
    Flies o’er th’ unbending corn or skims along the main.”
                                  —_Essay on Criticism._


                             CHAPTER XXXIV



THE teachings of Anchises to Æneas, respecting the nature of the human
soul, were in conformity with the doctrines of the Pythagoreans.
Pythagoras (born five hundred and forty years B.C.) was a native of the
island of Samos, but passed the chief portion of his life at Crotona in
Italy. He is therefore sometimes called “the Samian,” and sometimes “the
philosopher of Crotona.” When young he travelled extensively, and it is
said visited Egypt, where he was instructed by the priests in all their
learning, and afterwards journeyed to the East, and visited the Persian
and Chaldean Magi, and the Brahmins of India.

At Crotona, where he finally established himself, his extraordinary
qualities collected round him a great number of disciples. The
inhabitants were notorious for luxury and licentiousness, but the good
effects of his influence were soon visible. Sobriety and temperance
succeeded. Six hundred of the inhabitants became his disciples and
enrolled themselves in a society to aid each other in the pursuit of
wisdom, uniting their property in one common stock for the benefit of
the whole. They were required to practise the greatest purity and
simplicity of manners. The first lesson they learned was _silence_; for
a time they were required to be only hearers. “He [Pythagoras] said so”
(_Ipse dixit_), was to be held by them as sufficient, without any proof.
It was only the advanced pupils, after years of patient submission, who
were allowed to ask questions and to state objections.

Pythagoras considered _numbers_ as the essence and principle of all
things, and attributed to them a real and distinct existence; so that,
in his view, they were the elements out of which the universe was
constructed. How he conceived this process has never been satisfactorily
explained. He traced the various forms and phenomena of the world to
numbers as their basis and essence. The “Monad” or _unit_ he regarded as
the source of all numbers. The number _Two_ was imperfect, and the cause
of increase and division. _Three_ was called the number of the whole
because it had a beginning, middle, and end. _Four_, representing the
square, is in the highest degree perfect; and _Ten_, as it contains the
sum of the four prime numbers, comprehends all musical and arithmetical
proportions, and denotes the system of the world.

As the numbers proceed from the monad, so he regarded the pure and
simple essence of the Deity as the source of all the forms of nature.
Gods, demons, and heroes are emanations of the Supreme, and there is a
fourth emanation, the human soul. This is immortal, and when freed from
the fetters of the body passes to the habitation of the dead, where it
remains till it returns to the world, to dwell in some other human or
animal body, and at last, when sufficiently purified, it returns to the
source from which it proceeded. This doctrine of the transmigration of
souls (metempsychosis), which was originally Egyptian and connected with
the doctrine of reward and punishment of human actions, was the chief
cause why the Pythagoreans killed no animals. Ovid represents Pythagoras
addressing his disciples in these words: “Souls never die, but always on
quitting one abode pass to another. I myself can remember that in the
time of the Trojan war I was Euphorbus, the son of Panthus, and fell by
the spear of Menelaus. Lately being in the temple of Juno, at Argos, I
recognized my shield hung up there among the trophies. All things
change, nothing perishes. The soul passes hither and thither, occupying
now this body, now that, passing from the body of a beast into that of a
man, and thence to a beast’s again. As wax is stamped with certain
figures, then melted, then stamped anew with others, yet is always the
same wax, so the soul, being always the same, yet wears, at different
times, different forms. Therefore, if the love of kindred is not extinct
in your bosoms, forbear, I entreat you, to violate the life of those who
may haply be your own relatives.”

Shakspeare, in the “Merchant of Venice,” makes Gratiano allude to the
metempsychosis, where he says to Shylock:

    “Thou almost mak’st me waver in my faith,
    To hold opinion with Pythagoras,
    That souls of animals infuse themselves
    Into the trunks of men; thy currish spirit
    Governed a wolf; who hanged for human slaughter
    Infused his soul in thee; for thy desires
    Are wolfish, bloody, starved and ravenous.”

The relation of the notes of the musical scale to numbers, whereby
harmony results from vibrations in equal times, and discord from the
reverse, led Pythagoras to apply the word “harmony” to the visible
creation, meaning by it the just adaptation of parts to each other. This
is the idea which Dryden expresses in the beginning of his “Song for St.
Cecilia’s Day”:

    “From harmony, from heavenly harmony
    This everlasting frame began;
    From harmony to harmony
    Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
    The Diapason closing full in Man.”

In the centre of the universe (he taught) there was a central fire, the
principle of life. The central fire was surrounded by the earth, the
moon, the sun, and the five planets. The distances of the various
heavenly bodies from one another were conceived to correspond to the
proportions of the musical scale. The heavenly bodies, with the gods who
inhabited them, were supposed to perform a choral dance round the
central fire, “not without song.” It is this doctrine which Shakspeare
alludes to when he makes Lorenzo teach astronomy to Jessica in this

    “Look, Jessica, see how the floor of heaven
    Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold!
    There’s not the smallest orb that thou behold’st
    But in his motion like an angel sings,
    Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubim;
    Such harmony is in immortal souls!
    But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
    Doth grossly close it in we cannot hear it.”
                         —_Merchant of Venice._

The spheres were conceived to be crystalline or glassy fabrics arranged
over one another like a nest of bowls reversed. In the substance of each
sphere one or more of the heavenly bodies was supposed to be fixed, so
as to move with it. As the spheres are transparent we look through them
and see the heavenly bodies which they contain and carry round with
them. But as these spheres cannot move on one another without friction,
a sound is thereby produced which is of exquisite harmony, too fine for
mortal ears to recognize. Milton, in his “Hymn on the Nativity,” thus
alludes to the music of the spheres:

    “Ring out, ye crystal spheres!
    Once bless our human ears
      (If ye have power to charm our senses so);
    And let your silver chime
    Move in melodious time,
      And let the base of Heaven’s deep organ blow;
    And with your ninefold harmony
    Make up full concert with the angelic symphony.”

Pythagoras is said to have invented the lyre. Our own poet Longfellow,
in “Verses to a Child,” thus relates the story:

    “As great Pythagoras of yore,
    Standing beside the blacksmith’s door,
    And hearing the hammers as they smote
    The anvils with a different note,
    Stole from the varying tones that hung
    Vibrant on every iron tongue,
    The secret of the sounding wire,
    And formed the seven-chorded lyre.”

See also the same poet’s “Occultation of Orion”—

    “The Samian’s great Æolian lyre.”

                          SYBARIS AND CROTONA

Sybaris, a neighboring city to Crotona, was as celebrated for luxury and
effeminacy as Crotona for the reverse. The name has become proverbial.
J. R. Lowell uses it in this sense in his charming little poem “To the

    “Not in mid June the golden cuirassed bee
    Feels a more summer-like, warm ravishment
        In the white lily’s breezy tent
    (His conquered Sybaris) than I when first
    From the dark green thy yellow circles burst.”

A war arose between the two cities, and Sybaris was conquered and
destroyed. Milo, the celebrated athlete, led the army of Crotona. Many
stories are told of Milo’s vast strength, such as his carrying a heifer
of four years old upon his shoulders and afterwards eating the whole of
it in a single day. The mode of his death is thus related: As he was
passing through a forest he saw the trunk of a tree which had been
partially split open by wood-cutters, and attempted to rend it further;
but the wood closed upon his hands and held him fast, in which state he
was attacked and devoured by wolves.

Byron, in his “Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte,” alludes to the story of Milo:

    “He who of old would rend the oak
      Deemed not of the rebound;
    Chained by the trunk he vainly broke,
      Alone, how looked he round!”

                            EGYPTIAN DEITIES

The Egyptians acknowledged as the highest deity Amun, afterwards called
Zeus, or Jupiter Ammon. Amun manifested himself in his word or will,
which created Kneph and Athor, of different sexes. From Kneph and Athor
proceeded Osiris and Isis. Osiris was worshipped as the god of the sun,
the source of warmth, life, and fruitfulness, in addition to which he
was also regarded as the god of the Nile, who annually visited his wife,
Isis (the Earth), by means of an inundation. Serapis or Hermes is
sometimes represented as identical with Osiris, and sometimes as a
distinct divinity, the ruler of Tartarus and god of medicine. Anubis is
the guardian god, represented with a dog’s head, emblematic of his
character of fidelity and watchfulness. Horus or Harpocrates was the son
of Osiris. He is represented seated on a Lotus flower, with his finger
on his lips, as the god of Silence.

In one of Moore’s “Irish Melodies” is an allusion to Harpocrates:

    “Thyself shall, under some rosy bower,
      Sit mute, with thy finger on thy lip;
    Like him, the boy, who born among
      The flowers that on the Nile-stream blush,
    Sits ever thus,—his only song
      To Earth and Heaven, ‘Hush all, hush!’”

                        MYTH OF OSIRIS AND ISIS

Osiris and Isis were at one time induced to descend to the earth to
bestow gifts and blessings on its inhabitants. Isis showed them first
the use of wheat and barley, and Osiris made the instruments of
agriculture and taught men the use of them, as well as how to harness
the ox to the plough. He then gave men laws, the institution of
marriage, a civil organization, and taught them how to worship the gods.
After he had thus made the valley of the Nile a happy country, he
assembled a host with which he went to bestow his blessings upon the
rest of the world. He conquered the nations everywhere, but not with
weapons, only with music and eloquence. His brother Typhon saw this, and
filled with envy and malice sought during his absence to usurp his
throne. But Isis, who held the reins of government, frustrated his
plans. Still more embittered, he now resolved to kill his brother. This
he did in the following manner: Having organized a conspiracy of
seventy-two members, he went with them to the feast which was celebrated
in honor of the king’s return. He then caused a box or chest to be
brought in, which had been made to fit exactly the size of Osiris, and
declared that he would give that chest of precious wood to whosoever
could get into it. The rest tried in vain, but no sooner was Osiris in
it than Typhon and his companions closed the lid and flung the chest
into the Nile. When Isis heard of the cruel murder she wept and mourned,
and then with her hair shorn, clothed in black and beating her breast,
she sought diligently for the body of her husband. In this search she
was materially assisted by Anubis, the son of Osiris and Nephthys. They
sought in vain for some time; for when the chest, carried by the waves
to the shores of Byblos, had become entangled in the reeds that grew at
the edge of the water, the divine power that dwelt in the body of Osiris
imparted such strength to the shrub that it grew into a mighty tree,
enclosing in its trunk the coffin of the god. This tree with its sacred
deposit was shortly after felled, and erected as a column in the palace
of the king of Phœnicia. But at length by the aid of Anubis and the
sacred birds, Isis ascertained these facts, and then went to the royal
city. There she offered herself at the palace as a servant, and being
admitted, threw off her disguise and appeared as a goddess, surrounded
with thunder and lightning. Striking the column with her wand she caused
it to split open and give up the sacred coffin. This she seized and
returned with it, and concealed it in the depth of a forest, but Typhon
discovered it, and cutting the body into fourteen pieces scattered them
hither and thither. After a tedious search, Isis found thirteen pieces,
the fishes of the Nile having eaten the other. This she replaced by an
imitation of sycamore wood, and buried the body at Philæ, which became
ever after the great burying place of the nation, and the spot to which
pilgrimages were made from all parts of the country. A temple of
surpassing magnificence was also erected there in honor of the god, and
at every place where one of his limbs had been found minor temples and
tombs were built to commemorate the event. Osiris became after that the
tutelar deity of the Egyptians. His soul was supposed always to inhabit
the body of the bull Apis, and at his death to transfer itself to his

Apis, the Bull of Memphis, was worshipped with the greatest reverence by
the Egyptians. The individual animal who was held to be Apis was
recognized by certain signs. It was requisite that he should be quite
black, have a white square mark on the forehead, another, in the form of
an eagle, on his back, and under his tongue a lump somewhat in the shape
of a scarabæus or beetle. As soon as a bull thus marked was found by
those sent in search of him, he was placed in a building facing the
east, and was fed with milk for four months. At the expiration of this
term the priests repaired at new moon, with great pomp, to his
habitation and saluted him Apis. He was placed in a vessel magnificently
decorated and conveyed down the Nile to Memphis, where a temple, with
two chapels and a court for exercise, was assigned to him. Sacrifices
were made to him, and once every year, about the time when the Nile
began to rise, a golden cup was thrown into the river, and a grand
festival was held to celebrate his birthday. The people believed that
during this festival the crocodiles forgot their natural ferocity and
became harmless. There was, however, one drawback to his happy lot: he
was not permitted to live beyond a certain period, and if, when he had
attained the age of twenty-five years, he still survived, the priests
drowned him in the sacred cistern and then buried him in the temple of
Serapis. On the death of this bull, whether it occurred in the course of
nature or by violence, the whole land was filled with sorrow and
lamentations, which lasted until his successor was found.

We find the following item in one of the newspapers of the day:

“_The Tomb of Apis._—The excavations going on at Memphis bid fair to
make that buried city as interesting as Pompeii. The monster tomb of
Apis is now open, after having lain unknown for centuries.”

Milton, in his “Hymn on the Nativity,” alludes to the Egyptian deities,
not as imaginary beings, but as real demons, put to flight by the coming
of Christ.

    “The brutish gods of Nile as fast,
    Isis and Horus and the dog Anubis haste.
        Nor is Osiris seen
        In Memphian grove or green
    Trampling the unshowered[35] grass with lowings loud;
        Nor can he be at rest
        Within his sacred chest;
    Nought but profoundest hell can be his shroud.
        In vain with timbrel’d anthems dark
    The sable-stoled sorcerers bear his worshipped ark.”

Isis was represented in statuary with the head veiled, a symbol of
mystery. It is this which Tennyson alludes to in “Maud,” IV., 8:

    “For the drift of the Maker is dark, an Isis hid by the veil,” etc.


Oracle was the name used to denote the place where answers were supposed
to be given by any of the divinities to those who consulted them
respecting the future. The word was also used to signify the response
which was given.

The most ancient Grecian oracle was that of Jupiter at Dodona. According
to one account, it was established in the following manner: Two black
doves took their flight from Thebes in Egypt. One flew to Dodona in
Epirus, and alighting in a grove of oaks, it proclaimed in human
language to the inhabitants of the district that they must establish
there an oracle of Jupiter. The other dove flew to the temple of Jupiter
Ammon in the Libyan Oasis, and delivered a similar command there.
Another account is, that they were not doves, but priestesses, who were
carried off from Thebes in Egypt by the Phœnicians, and set up oracles
at the Oasis and Dodona. The responses of the oracle were given from the
trees, by the branches rustling in the wind, the sounds being
interpreted by the priests.

But the most celebrated of the Grecian oracles was that of Apollo at
Delphi, a city built on the slopes of Parnassus in Phocis.

It had been observed at a very early period that the goats feeding on
Parnassus were thrown into convulsions when they approached a certain
long deep cleft in the side of the mountain. This was owing to a
peculiar vapor arising out of the cavern, and one of the goatherds was
induced to try its effects upon himself. Inhaling the intoxicating air,
he was affected in the same manner as the cattle had been, and the
inhabitants of the surrounding country, unable to explain the
circumstance, imputed the convulsive ravings to which he gave utterance
while under the power of the exhalations to a divine inspiration. The
fact was speedily circulated widely, and a temple was erected on the
spot. The prophetic influence was at first variously attributed to the
goddess Earth, to Neptune, Themis, and others, but it was at length
assigned to Apollo, and to him alone. A priestess was appointed whose
office it was to inhale the hallowed air, and who was named the Pythia.
She was prepared for this duty by previous ablution at the fountain of
Castalia, and being crowned with laurel was seated upon a tripod
similarly adorned, which was placed over the chasm whence the divine
afflatus proceeded. Her inspired words while thus situated were
interpreted by the priests.

                          ORACLE OF TROPHONIUS

Besides the oracles of Jupiter and Apollo, at Dodona and Delphi, that of
Trophonius in Bœotia was held in high estimation. Trophonius and
Agamedes were brothers. They were distinguished architects, and built
the temple of Apollo at Delphi, and a treasury for King Hyrieus. In the
wall of the treasury they placed a stone, in such a manner that it could
be taken out; and by this means, from time to time, purloined the
treasure. This amazed Hyrieus, for his locks and seals were untouched,
and yet his wealth continually diminished. At length he set a trap for
the thief and Agamedes was caught. Trophonius, unable to extricate him,
and fearing that when found he would be compelled by torture to discover
his accomplice, cut off his head. Trophonius himself is said to have
been shortly afterwards swallowed up by the earth.

The oracle of Trophonius was at Lebadea in Bœotia. During a great
drought the Bœotians, it is said, were directed by the god at Delphi to
seek aid of Trophonius at Lebadea. They came thither, but could find no
oracle. One of them, however, happening to see a swarm of bees, followed
them to a chasm in the earth, which proved to be the place sought.

Peculiar ceremonies were to be performed by the person who came to
consult the oracle. After these preliminaries, he descended into the
cave by a narrow passage. This place could be entered only in the night.
The person returned from the cave by the same narrow passage, but
walking backwards. He appeared melancholy and dejected; and hence the
proverb which was applied to a person low-spirited and gloomy, “He has
been consulting the oracle of Trophonius.”

                          ORACLE OF ÆSCULAPIUS

There were numerous oracles of Æsculapius, but the most celebrated one
was at Epidaurus. Here the sick sought responses and the recovery of
their health by sleeping in the temple. It has been inferred from the
accounts that have come down to us that the treatment of the sick
resembled what is now called Animal Magnetism or Mesmerism.

Serpents were sacred to Æsculapius, probably because of a superstition
that those animals have a faculty of renewing their youth by a change of
skin. The worship of Æsculapius was introduced into Rome in a time of
great sickness, and an embassy sent to the temple of Epidaurus to
entreat the aid of the god. Æsculapius was propitious, and on the return
of the ship accompanied it in the form of a serpent. Arriving in the
river Tiber, the serpent glided from the vessel and took possession of
an island in the river, and a temple was there erected to his honor.

                             ORACLE OF APIS

At Memphis the sacred bull Apis gave answer to those who consulted him
by the manner in which he received or rejected what was presented to
him. If the bull refused food from the hand of the inquirer it was
considered an unfavorable sign, and the contrary when he received it.

It has been a question whether oracular responses ought to be ascribed
to mere human contrivance or to the agency of evil spirits. The latter
opinion has been most general in past ages. A third theory has been
advanced since the phenomena of Mesmerism have attracted attention, that
something like the mesmeric trance was induced in the Pythoness, and the
faculty of clairvoyance really called into action.

Another question is as to the time when the Pagan oracles ceased to give
responses. Ancient Christian writers assert that they became silent at
the birth of Christ, and were heard no more after that date. Milton
adopts this view in his “Hymn on the Nativity,” and in lines of solemn
and elevated beauty pictures the consternation of the heathen idols at
the advent of the Saviour:

    “The oracles are dumb;
    No voice or hideous hum
      Rings through the arched roof in words deceiving.
    Apollo from his shrine
    Can no more divine,
      With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.
    No nightly trance or breathed spell
    Inspires the pale-eyed priest from the prophetic cell.”

In Cowper’s poem of “Yardley Oak” there are some beautiful mythological
allusions. The former of the two following is to the fable of Castor and
Pollux; the latter is more appropriate to our present subject.
Addressing the acorn he says:

    “Thou fell’st mature; and in the loamy clod,
    Swelling with vegetative force instinct,
    Didst burst thine egg, as theirs the fabled Twins
    Now stars; two lobes protruding, paired exact;
    A leaf succeeded and another leaf,
    And, all the elements thy puny growth
    Fostering propitious, thou becam’st a twig.
    Who lived when thou wast such? O, couldst thou speak,
    As in Dodona once thy kindred trees
    Oracular, I would not curious ask
    The future, best unknown, but at thy mouth
    Inquisitive, the less ambiguous past.”

Tennyson, in his “Talking Oak,” alludes to the oaks of Dodona in these

    “And I will work in prose and rhyme,
      And praise thee more in both
    Than bard has honored beech or lime,
      Or that Thessalian growth
    In which the swarthy ring-dove sat
      And mystic sentence spoke;” etc.

Byron alludes to the oracle of Delphi where, speaking of Rousseau, whose
writings he conceives did much to bring on the French revolution, he

    “For then he was inspired, and from him came,
      As from the Pythian’s mystic cave of yore,
    Those oracles which set the world in flame,
      Nor ceased to burn till kingdoms were no more.”

 From painting by P. Guerin. Salon of 1817.]

[Illustration: A VALKYR.
 From painting by P. N. Arbo.]

                              CHAPTER XXXV


                          ORIGIN OF MYTHOLOGY

HAVING reached the close of our series of stories of Pagan mythology, an
inquiry suggests itself. “Whence came these stories? Have they a
foundation in truth, or are they simply dreams of the imagination?”
Philosophers have suggested various theories on the subject; and 1. The
Scriptural theory; according to which all mythological legends are
derived from the narratives of Scripture, though the real facts have
been disguised and altered. Thus Deucalion is only another name for
Noah, Hercules for Samson, Arion for Jonah, etc. Sir Walter Raleigh, in
his “History of the World,” says, “Jubal, Tubal, and Tubal-Cain were
Mercury, Vulcan, and Apollo, inventors of Pasturage, Smithing, and
Music. The Dragon which kept the golden apples was the serpent that
beguiled Eve. Nimrod’s tower was the attempt of the Giants against
Heaven.” There are doubtless many curious coincidences like these, but
the theory cannot without extravagance be pushed so far as to account
for any great proportion of the stories.

2. The Historical theory; according to which all the persons mentioned
in mythology were once real human beings, and the legends and fabulous
traditions relating to them are merely the additions and embellishments
of later times. Thus the story of Æolus, the king and god of the winds,
is supposed to have risen from the fact that Æolus was the ruler of some
islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, where he reigned as a just and pious
king, and taught the natives the use of sails for ships, and how to tell
from the signs of the atmosphere the changes of the weather and the
winds. Cadmus, who, the legend says, sowed the earth with dragon’s
teeth, from which sprang a crop of armed men, was in fact an emigrant
from Phœnicia, and brought with him into Greece the knowledge of the
letters of the alphabet, which he taught to the natives. From these
rudiments of learning sprung civilization, which the poets have always
been prone to describe as a deterioration of man’s first estate, the
Golden Age of innocence and simplicity.

3. The Allegorical theory supposes that all the myths of the ancients
were allegorical and symbolical, and contained some moral, religious, or
philosophical truth or historical fact, under the form of an allegory,
but came in process of time to be understood literally. Thus Saturn, who
devours his own children, is the same power whom the Greeks called
Cronos (Time), which may truly be said to destroy whatever it has
brought into existence. The story of Io is interpreted in a similar
manner. Io is the moon, and Argus the starry sky, which, as it were,
keeps sleepless watch over her. The fabulous wanderings of Io represent
the continual revolutions of the moon, which also suggested to Milton
the same idea.

    “To behold the wandering moon
    Riding near her highest noon,
    Like one that had been led astray
    In the heaven’s wide, pathless way.”
                 —_Il Penseroso._

4. The Physical theory; according to which the elements of air, fire,
and water were originally the objects of religious adoration, and the
principal deities were personifications of the powers of nature. The
transition was easy from a personification of the elements to the notion
of supernatural beings presiding over and governing the different
objects of nature. The Greeks, whose imagination was lively, peopled all
nature with invisible beings, and supposed that every object, from the
sun and sea to the smallest fountain and rivulet, was under the care of
some particular divinity. Wordsworth, in his “Excursion,” has
beautifully developed this view of Grecian mythology:

    “In that fair clime the lonely herdsman, stretched
    On the soft grass through half a summer’s day,
    With music lulled his indolent repose;
    And, in some fit of weariness, if he,
    When his own breath was silent, chanced to hear
    A distant strain far sweeter than the sounds
    Which his poor skill could make, his fancy fetched
    Even from the blazing chariot of the Sun
    A beardless youth who touched a golden lute,
    And filled the illumined groves with ravishment.
    The mighty hunter, lifting up his eyes
    Toward the crescent Moon, with grateful heart
    Called on the lovely Wanderer who bestowed
    That timely light to share his joyous sport;
    And hence a beaming goddess with her nymphs
    Across the lawn and through the darksome grove
    (Not unaccompanied with tuneful notes
    By echo multiplied from rock or cave)
    Swept in the storm of chase, as moon and stars
    Glance rapidly along the clouded heaven
    When winds are blowing strong. The Traveller slaked
    His thirst from rill or gushing fount, and thanked
    The Naiad. Sunbeams upon distant hills
    Gliding apace with shadows in their train,
    Might with small help from fancy, be transformed
    Into fleet Oreads sporting visibly.
    The Zephyrs, fanning, as they passed, their wings,
    Lacked not for love fair objects whom they wooed
    With gentle whisper. Withered boughs grotesque,
    Stripped of their leaves and twigs by hoary age,
    From depth of shaggy covert peeping forth
    In the low vale, or on steep mountain side;
    And sometimes intermixed with stirring horns
    Of the live deer, or goat’s depending beard;
    These were the lurking Satyrs, a wild brood
    Of gamesome deities; or Pan himself,
    That simple shepherd’s awe-inspiring god.”

All the theories which have been mentioned are true to a certain extent.
It would therefore be more correct to say that the mythology of a nation
has sprung from all these sources combined than from any one in
particular. We may add also that there are many myths which have arisen
from the desire of man to account for those natural phenomena which he
cannot understand; and not a few have had their rise from a similar
desire of giving a reason for the names of places and persons.

                          STATUES OF THE GODS

To adequately represent to the eye the ideas intended to be conveyed to
the mind under the several names of deities was a task which called into
exercise the highest powers of genius and art. Of the many attempts
_four_ have been most celebrated, the first two known to us only by the
descriptions of the ancients, the others still extant and the
acknowledged masterpieces of the sculptor’s art.

                          THE OLYMPIAN JUPITER

The statue of the Olympian Jupiter by Phidias was considered the highest
achievement of this department of Grecian art. It was of colossal
dimensions, and was what the ancients called “chryselephantine;” that
is, composed of ivory and gold; the parts representing flesh being of
ivory laid on a core of wood or stone, while the drapery and other
ornaments were of gold. The height of the figure was forty feet, on a
pedestal twelve feet high. The god was represented seated on his throne.
His brows were crowned with a wreath of olive, and he held in his right
hand a sceptre, and in his left a statue of Victory. The throne was of
cedar, adorned with gold and precious stones.

The idea which the artist essayed to embody was that of the supreme
deity of the Hellenic (Grecian) nation, enthroned as a conqueror, in
perfect majesty and repose, and ruling with a nod the subject world.
Phidias avowed that he took his idea from the representation which Homer
gives in the first book of the “Iliad,” in the passage thus translated
by Pope:

    “He spoke and awful bends his sable brows,
    Shakes his ambrosial curls and gives the nod,
    The stamp of fate and sanction of the god.
    High heaven with reverence the dread signal took,
    And all Olympus to the centre shook.”[36]

                      THE MINERVA OF THE PARTHENON

This was also the work of Phidias. It stood in the Parthenon, or temple
of Minerva at Athens. The goddess was represented standing. In one hand
she held a spear, in the other a statue of Victory. Her helmet, highly
decorated, was surmounted by a Sphinx. The statue was forty feet in
height, and, like the Jupiter, composed of ivory and gold. The eyes were
of marble, and probably painted to represent the iris and pupil. The
Parthenon, in which this statue stood, was also constructed under the
direction and superintendence of Phidias. Its exterior was enriched with
sculptures, many of them from the hand of Phidias. The Elgin marbles,
now in the British Museum, are a part of them.

Both the Jupiter and Minerva of Phidias are lost, but there is good
ground to believe that we have, in several extant statues and busts, the
artist’s conceptions of the countenances of both. They are characterized
by grave and dignified beauty, and freedom from any transient
expression, which in the language of art is called _repose_.

                          THE VENUS DE’ MEDICI

The Venus of the Medici is so called from its having been in the
possession of the princes of that name in Rome when it first attracted
attention, about two hundred years ago. An inscription on the base
records it to be the work of Cleomenes, an Athenian sculptor of 200
B.C., but the authenticity of the inscription is doubtful. There is a
story that the artist was employed by public authority to make a statue
exhibiting the perfection of female beauty, and to aid him in his task
the most perfect forms the city could supply were furnished him for
models. It is this which Thomson alludes to in his “Summer”:

    “So stands the statue that enchants the world;
    So bending tries to veil the matchless boast,
    The mingled beauties of exulting Greece.”

Byron also alludes to this statue. Speaking of the Florence Museum, he

    “There, too, the goddess loves in stone, and fills
    The air around with beauty;” etc.

And in the next stanza,

    “Blood, pulse, and breast confirm the Dardan shepherd’s prize.”

See this last allusion explained in Chapter XXVII.

                          THE APOLLO BELVEDERE

The most highly esteemed of all the remains of ancient sculpture is the
statue of Apollo, called the Belvedere, from the name of the apartment
of the Pope’s palace at Rome in which it was placed. The artist is
unknown. It is supposed to be a work of Roman art, of about the first
century of our era. It is a standing figure, in marble, more than seven
feet high, naked except for the cloak which is fastened around the neck
and hangs over the extended left arm. It is supposed to represent the
god in the moment when he has shot the arrow to destroy the monster
Python. (See Chapter III.) The victorious divinity is in the act of
stepping forward. The left arm, which seems to have held the bow, is
outstretched, and the head is turned in the same direction. In attitude
and proportion the graceful majesty of the figure is unsurpassed. The
effect is completed by the countenance, where on the perfection of
youthful godlike beauty there dwells the consciousness of triumphant

                          THE DIANA A LA BICHE

The Diana of the Hind, in the palace of the Louvre, may be considered
the counterpart to the Apollo Belvedere. The attitude much resembles
that of the Apollo, the sizes correspond and also the style of
execution. It is a work of the highest order, though by no means equal
to the Apollo. The attitude is that of hurried and eager motion, the
face that of a huntress in the excitement of the chase. The left hand is
extended over the forehead of the Hind, which runs by her side, the
right arm reaches backward over the shoulder to draw an arrow from the

                         THE POETS OF MYTHOLOGY

Homer, from whose poems of the “Iliad” and “Odyssey” we have taken the
chief part of our chapters of the Trojan war and the return of the
Grecians, is almost as mythical a personage as the heroes he celebrates.
The traditionary story is that he was a wandering minstrel, blind and
old, who travelled from place to place singing his lays to the music of
his harp, in the courts of princes or the cottages of peasants, and
dependent upon the voluntary offerings of his hearers for support. Byron
calls him “The blind old man of Scio’s rocky isle,” and a well-known
epigram, alluding to the uncertainty of the fact of his birthplace,

    “Seven wealthy towns contend for Homer dead,
    Through which the living Homer begged his bread.”

These seven were Smyrna, Scio, Rhodes, Colophon, Salamis, Argos, and

Modern scholars have doubted whether the Homeric poems are the work of
any single mind. This arises from the difficulty of believing that poems
of such length could have been committed to writing at so early an age
as that usually assigned to these, an age earlier than the date of any
remaining inscriptions or coins, and when no materials capable of
containing such long productions were yet introduced into use. On the
other hand it is asked how poems of such length could have been handed
down from age to age by means of the memory alone. This is answered by
the statement that there was a professional body of men, called
Rhapsodists, who recited the poems of others, and whose business it was
to commit to memory and rehearse for pay the national and patriotic

The prevailing opinion of the learned, at this time, seems to be that
the framework and much of the structure of the poems belong to Homer,
but that there are numerous interpolations and additions by other hands.

The date assigned to Homer, on the authority of Herodotus, is 850 B.C.


Virgil, called also by his surname, Maro, from whose poem of the “Æneid”
we have taken the story of Æneas, was one of the great poets who made
the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus so celebrated, under the name of
the Augustan age. Virgil was born in Mantua in the year 70 B.C. His
great poem is ranked next to those of Homer, in the highest class of
poetical composition, the Epic. Virgil is far inferior to Homer in
originality and invention, but superior to him in correctness and
elegance. To critics of English lineage Milton alone of modern poets
seems worthy to be classed with these illustrious ancients. His poem of
“Paradise Lost,” from which we have borrowed so many illustrations, is
in many respects equal, in some superior, to either of the great works
of antiquity. The following epigram of Dryden characterizes the three
poets with as much truth as it is usual to find in such pointed

                  “ON MILTON

    “Three poets in three different ages born,
    Greece, Italy, and England did adorn.
    The first in loftiness of soul surpassed,
    The next in majesty, in both the last.
    The force of nature could no further go;
    To make a third she joined the other two.”

From Cowper’s “Table Talk”:

    “Ages elapsed ere Homer’s lamp appeared,
    And ages ere the Mantuan swan was heard.
    To carry nature lengths unknown before,
    To give a Milton birth, asked ages more.
    Thus genius rose and set at ordered times,
    And shot a dayspring into distant climes,
    Ennobling every region that he chose;
    He sunk in Greece, in Italy he rose,
    And, tedious years of Gothic darkness past,
    Emerged all splendor in our isle at last.
    Thus lovely Halcyons dive into the main,
    Then show far off their shining plumes again.”


often alluded to in poetry by his other name of Naso, was born in the
year 43 B.C. He was educated for public life and held some offices of
considerable dignity, but poetry was his delight, and he early resolved
to devote himself to it. He accordingly sought the society of the
contemporary poets, and was acquainted with Horace and saw Virgil,
though the latter died when Ovid was yet too young and undistinguished
to have formed his acquaintance. Ovid spent an easy life at Rome in the
enjoyment of a competent income. He was intimate with the family of
Augustus, the emperor, and it is supposed that some serious offence
given to some member of that family was the cause of an event which
reversed the poet’s happy circumstances and clouded all the latter
portion of his life. At the age of fifty he was banished from Rome, and
ordered to betake himself to Tomi, on the borders of the Black Sea.
Here, among the barbarous people and in a severe climate, the poet, who
had been accustomed to all the pleasures of a luxurious capital and the
society of his most distinguished contemporaries, spent the last ten
years of his life, worn out with grief and anxiety. His only consolation
in exile was to address his wife and absent friends, and his letters
were all poetical. Though these poems (the “Trista” and “Letters from
Pontus”) have no other topic than the poet’s sorrows, his exquisite
taste and fruitful invention have redeemed them from the charge of being
tedious, and they are read with pleasure and even with sympathy.

The two great works of Ovid are his “Metamorphoses” and his “Fasti.”
They are both mythological poems, and from the former we have taken most
of our stories of Grecian and Roman mythology. A late writer thus
characterizes these poems:

“The rich mythology of Greece furnished Ovid, as it may still furnish
the poet, the painter, and the sculptor, with materials for his art.
With exquisite taste, simplicity, and pathos he has narrated the
fabulous traditions of early ages, and given to them that appearance of
reality which only a master hand could impart. His pictures of nature
are striking and true; he selects with care that which is appropriate;
he rejects the superfluous; and when he has completed his work, it is
neither defective nor redundant. The ‘Metamorphoses’ are read with
pleasure by youth, and are re-read in more advanced age with still
greater delight. The poet ventured to predict that his poem would
survive him, and be read wherever the Roman name was known.”

The prediction above alluded to is contained in the closing lines of the
“Metamorphoses,” of which we give a literal translation below:

    “And now I close my work, which not the ire
    Of Jove, nor tooth of time, nor sword, nor fire
    Shall bring to nought. Come when it will that day
    Which o’er the body, not the mind, has sway,
    And snatch the remnant of my life away,
    My better part above the stars shall soar,
    And my renown endure forevermore.
    Where’er the Roman arms and arts shall spread,
    There by the people shall my book be read;
    And, if aught true in poet’s visions be,
    My name and fame have immortality.”


                             CHAPTER XXXVI


                            MODERN MONSTERS

THERE is a set of imaginary beings which seem to have been the
successors of the “Gorgons, Hydras, and Chimeras dire” of the old
superstitions, and, having no connection with the false gods of
Paganism, to have continued to enjoy an existence in the popular belief
after Paganism was superseded by Christianity. They are mentioned
perhaps by the classical writers, but their chief popularity and
currency seem to have been in more modern times. We seek our accounts of
them not so much in the poetry of the ancients as in the old natural
history books and narrations of travellers. The accounts which we are
about to give are taken chiefly from the Penny Cyclopedia.

                               THE PHŒNIX

Ovid tells the story of the Phœnix as follows: “Most beings spring from
other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself.
The Assyrians call it the Phœnix. It does not live on fruit or flowers,
but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. When it has lived five hundred
years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of an oak, or on the top
of a palm tree. In this it collects cinnamon, and spikenard, and myrrh,
and of these materials builds a pile on which it deposits itself, and
dying, breathes out its last breath amidst odors. From the body of the
parent bird, a young Phœnix issues forth, destined to live as long a
life as its predecessor. When this has grown up and gained sufficient
strength, it lifts its nest from the tree (its own cradle and its
parent’s sepulchre), and carries it to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt,
and deposits it in the temple of the Sun.”

Such is the account given by a poet. Now let us see that of a
philosophic historian. Tacitus says, “In the consulship of Paulus Fabius
(A.D. 34) the miraculous bird known to the world by the name of the
Phœnix, after disappearing for a series of ages, revisited Egypt. It was
attended in its flight by a group of various birds, all attracted by the
novelty, and gazing with wonder at so beautiful an appearance.” He then
gives an account of the bird, not varying materially from the preceding,
but adding some details. “The first care of the young bird as soon as
fledged, and able to trust to his wings, is to perform the obsequies of
his father. But this duty is not undertaken rashly. He collects a
quantity of myrrh, and to try his strength makes frequent excursions
with a load on his back. When he has gained sufficient confidence in his
own vigor, he takes up the body of his father and flies with it to the
altar of the Sun, where he leaves it to be consumed in flames of
fragrance.” Other writers add a few particulars. The myrrh is compacted
in the form of an egg, in which the dead Phœnix is enclosed. From the
mouldering flesh of the dead bird a worm springs, and this worm, when
grown large, is transformed into a bird. Herodotus _describes_ the bird,
though he says, “I have not seen it myself, except in a picture. Part of
his plumage is gold-colored, and part crimson; and he is for the most
part very much like an eagle in outline and bulk.”

The first writer who disclaimed a belief in the existence of the Phœnix
was Sir Thomas Browne, in his “Vulgar Errors,” published in 1646. He was
replied to a few years later by Alexander Ross, who says, in answer to
the objection of the Phœnix so seldom making his appearance, “His
instinct teaches him to keep out of the way of the tyrant of the
creation, _man_, for if he were to be got at, some wealthy glutton would
surely devour him, though there were no more in the world.”

Dryden in one of his early poems has this allusion to the Phœnix:

    “So when the new-born Phœnix first is seen,
    Her feathered subjects all adore their queen,
    And while she makes her progress through the East,
    From every grove her numerous train’s increased;
    Each poet of the air her glory sings,
    And round him the pleased audience clap their wings.”

Milton, in “Paradise Lost,” Book V., compares the angel Raphael
descending to earth to a Phœnix:

    “. . . Down thither, prone in flight
    He speeds, and through the vast ethereal sky
    Sails between worlds and worlds, with steady wing,
    Now on the polar winds, then with quick fan
    Winnows the buxom air; till within soar
    Of towering eagles, to all the fowls he seems
    A Phœnix, gazed by all; as that sole bird
    When, to enshrine his relics in the sun’s
    Bright temple, to Egyptian Thebes he flies.”

                      THE COCKATRICE, OR BASILISK

This animal was called the king of the serpents. In confirmation of his
royalty, he was said to be endowed with a crest, or comb upon the head,
constituting a crown. He was supposed to be produced from the egg of a
cock hatched under toads or serpents. There were several species of this
animal. One species burned up whatever they approached; a second were a
kind of wandering Medusa’s heads, and their look caused an instant
horror which was immediately followed by death. In Shakspeare’s play of
“Richard the Third,” Lady Anne, in answer to Richard’s compliment on her
eyes, says, “Would they were basilisk’s, to strike thee dead!”

The basilisks were called kings of serpents because all other serpents
and snakes, behaving like good subjects, and wisely not wishing to be
burned up or struck dead, fled the moment they heard the distant hiss of
their king, although they might be in full feed upon the most delicious
prey, leaving the sole enjoyment of the banquet to the royal monster.

The Roman naturalist Pliny thus describes him: “He does not impel his
body, like other serpents, by a multiplied flexion, but advances lofty
and upright. He kills the shrubs, not only by contact, but by breathing
on them, and splits the rocks, such power of evil is there in him.” It
was formerly believed that if killed by a spear from on horseback the
power of the poison conducted through the weapon killed not only the
rider, but the horse also. To this Lucan alludes in these lines:

    “What though the Moor the basilisk hath slain,
    And pinned him lifeless to the sandy plain,
    Up through the spear the subtle venom flies,
    The hand imbibes it, and the victor dies.”

Such a prodigy was not likely to be passed over in the legends of the
saints. Accordingly we find it recorded that a certain holy man, going
to a fountain in the desert, suddenly beheld a basilisk. He immediately
raised his eyes to heaven, and with a pious appeal to the Deity laid the
monster dead at his feet.

These wonderful powers of the basilisk are attested by a host of learned
persons, such as Galen, Avicenna, Scaliger, and others. Occasionally one
would demur to some part of the tale while he admitted the rest.
Jonston, a learned physician, sagely remarks, “I would scarcely believe
that it kills with its look, for who could have seen it and lived to
tell the story?” The worthy sage was not aware that those who went to
hunt the basilisk of this sort took with them a mirror, which reflected
back the deadly glare upon its author, and by a kind of poetical justice
slew the basilisk with his own weapon.

But what was to attack this terrible and unapproachable monster? There
is an old saying that “everything has its enemy”—and the cockatrice
quailed before the weasel. The basilisk might look daggers, the weasel
cared not, but advanced boldly to the conflict. When bitten, the weasel
retired for a moment to eat some rue, which was the only plant the
basilisks could not wither, returned with renewed strength and soundness
to the charge, and never left the enemy till he was stretched dead on
the plain. The monster, too, as if conscious of the irregular way in
which he came into the world, was supposed to have a great antipathy to
a cock; and well he might, for as soon as he heard the cock crow he

The basilisk was of some use after death. Thus we read that its carcass
was suspended in the temple of Apollo, and in private houses, as a
sovereign remedy against spiders, and that it was also hung up in the
temple of Diana, for which reason no swallow ever dared enter the sacred

The reader will, we apprehend, by this time have had enough of
absurdities, but still we can imagine his anxiety to know what a
cockatrice was like. The following is from Aldrovandus, a celebrated
naturalist of the sixteenth century, whose work on natural history, in
thirteen folio volumes, contains with much that is valuable a large
proportion of fables and inutilities. In particular he is so ample on
the subject of the cock and the bull that from his practice, all
rambling, gossiping tales of doubtful credibility are called _cock and
bull stories_. Aldrovandus, however, deserves our respect and esteem as
the founder of a botanic garden, and as a pioneer in the now prevalent
custom of making scientific collections for purposes of investigation
and research.

Shelley, in his “Ode to Naples,” full of the enthusiasm excited by the
intelligence of the proclamation of a Constitutional Government at
Naples, in 1820, thus uses an allusion to the basilisk:

    “What though Cimmerian anarchs dare blaspheme
    Freedom and thee? a new Actæon’s error
    Shall theirs have been,—devoured by their own hounds!
        Be thou like the imperial basilisk,
    Killing thy foe with unapparent wounds!
        Gaze on oppression, till at that dread risk,
        Aghast she pass from the earth’s disk.
    Fear not, but gaze,—for freemen mightier grow,
    And slaves more feeble, gazing on their foe.”

                              THE UNICORN

Pliny, the Roman naturalist, out of whose account of the unicorn most of
the modern unicorns have been described and figured, records it as “a
very ferocious beast, similar in the rest of its body to a horse, with
the head of a deer, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a boar, a deep,
bellowing voice, and a single black horn, two cubits in length, standing
out in the middle of its forehead.” He adds that “it cannot be taken
alive;” and some such excuse may have been necessary in those days for
not producing the living animal upon the arena of the amphitheatre.

The unicorn seems to have been a sad puzzle to the hunters, who hardly
knew how to come at so valuable a piece of game. Some described the horn
as movable at the will of the animal, a kind of small sword, in short,
with which no hunter who was not exceedingly cunning in fence could have
a chance. Others maintained that all the animal’s strength lay in its
horn, and that when hard pressed in pursuit, it would throw itself from
the pinnacle of the highest rocks horn foremost, so as to pitch upon it,
and then quietly march off not a whit the worse for its fall.

But it seems they found out how to circumvent the poor unicorn at last.
They discovered that it was a great lover of purity and innocence, so
they took the field with a young _virgin_, who was placed in the
unsuspecting admirer’s way. When the unicorn spied her, he approached
with all reverence, couched beside her, and laying his head in her lap,
fell asleep. The treacherous virgin then gave a signal, and the hunters
made in and captured the simple beast.

Modern zoölogists, disgusted as they well may be with such fables as
these, disbelieve generally the existence of the unicorn. Yet there are
animals bearing on their heads a bony protuberance more or less like a
horn, which may have given rise to the story. The rhinoceros horn, as it
is called, is such a protuberance, though it does not exceed a few
inches in height, and is far from agreeing with the descriptions of the
horn of the unicorn. The nearest approach to a horn in the middle of the
forehead is exhibited in the bony protuberance on the forehead of the
giraffe; but this also is short and blunt, and is not the only horn of
the animal, but a third horn, standing in front of the two others. In
fine, though it would be presumptuous to deny the existence of a
one-horned quadruped other than the rhinoceros, it may be safely stated
that the insertion of a long and solid horn in the living forehead of a
horse-like or deer-like animal is as near an impossibility as anything
can be.

                             THE SALAMANDER

The following is from the “Life of Benvenuto Cellini,” an Italian artist
of the sixteenth century, written by himself: “When I was about five
years of age, my father, happening to be in a little room in which they
had been washing, and where there was a good fire of oak burning, looked
into the flames and saw a little animal resembling a lizard, which could
live in the hottest part of that element. Instantly perceiving what it
was, he called for my sister and me, and after he had shown us the
creature, he gave me a box on the ear. I fell a-crying, while he,
soothing me with caresses, spoke these words: ‘My dear child, I do not
give you that blow for any fault you have committed, but that you may
recollect that the little creature you see in the fire is a salamander;
such a one as never was beheld before to my knowledge.’ So saying he
embraced me, and gave me some money.”

It seems unreasonable to doubt a story of which Signor Cellini was both
an eye and ear witness. Add to which the authority of numerous sage
philosophers, at the head of whom are Aristotle and Pliny, affirms this
power of the salamander. According to them, the animal not only resists
fire, but extinguishes it, and when he sees the flame charges it as an
enemy which he well knows how to vanquish.

That the skin of an animal which could resist the action of fire should
be considered proof against that element is not to be wondered at. We
accordingly find that a cloth made of the skin of salamanders (for there
really is such an animal, a kind of lizard) was incombustible, and very
valuable for wrapping up such articles as were too precious to be
intrusted to any other envelopes. These fire-proof cloths were actually
produced, said to be made of salamander’s wool, though the knowing ones
detected that the substance of which they were composed was asbestos, a
mineral, which is in fine filaments capable of being woven into a
flexible cloth.

The foundation of the above fables is supposed to be the fact that the
salamander really does secrete from the pores of his body a milky juice,
which when he is irritated is produced in considerable quantity, and
would doubtless, for a few moments, defend the body from fire. Then it
is a hibernating animal, and in winter retires to some hollow tree or
other cavity, where it coils itself up and remains in a torpid state
till the spring again calls it forth. It may therefore sometimes be
carried with the fuel to the fire, and wake up only time enough to put
forth all its faculties for its defence. Its viscous juice would do good
service, and all who profess to have seen it, acknowledge that it got
out of the fire as fast as its legs could carry it; indeed, too fast for
them ever to make prize of one, except in one instance, and in that one
the animal’s feet and some parts of its body were badly burned.

Dr. Young, in the “Night Thoughts,” with more quaintness than good
taste, compares the sceptic who can remain unmoved in the contemplation
of the starry heavens to a salamander unwarmed in the fire:

    “An undevout astronomer is mad!
      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    “O, what a genius must inform the skies!
    And is Lorenzo’s salamander-heart
    Cold and untouched amid these sacred fires?”


                             CHAPTER XXXVII



OUR knowledge of the religion of the ancient Persians is principally
derived from the Zendavesta, or sacred books of that people. Zoroaster
was the founder of their religion, or rather the reformer of the
religion which preceded him. The time when he lived is doubtful, but it
is certain that his system became the dominant religion of Western Asia
from the time of Cyrus (550 B.C.) to the conquest of Persia by Alexander
the Great. Under the Macedonian monarchy the doctrines of Zoroaster
appear to have been considerably corrupted by the introduction of
foreign opinions, but they afterwards recovered their ascendency.

Zoroaster taught the existence of a supreme being, who created two other
mighty beings and imparted to them as much of his own nature as seemed
good to him. Of these, Ormuzd (called by the Greeks Oromasdes) remained
faithful to his creator, and was regarded as the source of all good,
while Ahriman (Arimanes) rebelled, and became the author of all evil
upon the earth. Ormuzd created man and supplied him with all the
materials of happiness; but Ahriman marred this happiness by introducing
evil into the world, and creating savage beasts and poisonous reptiles
and plants. In consequence of this, evil and good are now mingled
together in every part of the world, and the followers of good and
evil—the adherents of Ormuzd and Ahriman—carry on incessant war. But
this state of things will not last forever. The time will come when the
adherents of Ormuzd shall everywhere be victorious, and Ahriman and his
followers be consigned to darkness forever.

The religious rites of the ancient Persians were exceedingly simple.
They used neither temples, altars, nor statues, and performed their
sacrifices on the tops of mountains. They adored fire, light, and the
sun as emblems of Ormuzd, the source of all light and purity, but did
not regard them as independent deities. The religious rites and
ceremonies were regulated by the priests, who were called Magi. The
learning of the Magi was connected with astrology and enchantment, in
which they were so celebrated that their name was applied to all orders
of magicians and enchanters.

Wordsworth thus alludes to the worship of the Persians:

    “. . . the Persian,—zealous to reject
    Altar and Image, and the inclusive walls
    And roofs of temples built by human hands,—
    The loftiest heights ascending, from their tops,
    With myrtle-wreathed Tiara on his brows,
    Presented sacrifice to Moon and Stars,
    And to the Winds and mother Elements,
    And the whole circle of the Heavens, for him
    A sensitive existence and a God.”
                              —_Excursion_, Book IV.

In “Childe Harold” Byron speaks thus of the Persian worship:

      “Not vainly did the early Persian make
      His altar the high places and the peak
      Of earth-o’er-gazing mountains, and thus take
      A fit and unwalled temple, there to seek
      The Spirit, in whose honor shrines are weak,
      Upreared of human hands. Come and compare
      Columns and idol-dwellings, Goth or Greek,
      With Nature’s realms of worship, earth and air,
    Nor fix on fond abodes to circumscribe thy prayer.”
                                            III., 91.

The religion of Zoroaster continued to flourish even after the
introduction of Christianity, and in the third century was the dominant
faith of the East, till the rise of the Mahometan power and the conquest
of Persia by the Arabs in the seventh century, who compelled the greater
number of the Persians to renounce their ancient faith. Those who
refused to abandon the religion of their ancestors fled to the deserts
of Kerman and to Hindustan, where they still exist under the name of
Parsees, a name derived from Pars, the ancient name of Persia. The Arabs
call them Guebers, from an Arabic word signifying unbelievers. At Bombay
the Parsees are at this day a very active, intelligent, and wealthy
class. For purity of life, honesty, and conciliatory manners, they are
favorably distinguished. They have numerous temples to Fire, which they
adore as the symbol of the divinity.

The Persian religion makes the subject of the finest tale in Moore’s
“Lalla Rookh,” the “Fire Worshippers.” The Gueber chief says,

    “Yes! I am of that impious race,
      Those slaves of Fire, that morn and even
    Hail their creator’s dwelling-place
      Among the living lights of heaven;
    Yes! I am of that outcast crew
    To Iran and to vengeance true,
    Who curse the hour your Arabs came
    To desecrate our shrines of flame,
    And swear before God’s burning eye,
    To break our country’s chains or die.”

                            HINDU MYTHOLOGY

The religion of the Hindus is professedly founded on the Vedas. To these
books of their scripture they attach the greatest sanctity, and state
that Brahma himself composed them at the creation. But the present
arrangement of the Vedas is attributed to the sage Vyasa, about five
thousand years ago.

The Vedas undoubtedly teach the belief of one supreme God. The name of
this deity is Brahma. His attributes are represented by the three
personified powers of _creation_, _preservation_, and _destruction_,
which under the respective names of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva form the
_Trimurti_ or triad of principal Hindu gods. Of the inferior gods the
most important are: 1. Indra, the god of heaven, of thunder, lightning,
storm, and rain; 2. Agni, the god of fire; 3. Yama, the god of the
infernal regions; 4. Surya, the god of the sun.

Brahma is the creator of the universe, and the source from which all the
individual deities have sprung, and into which all will ultimately be
absorbed. “As milk changes to curd, and water to ice, so is Brahma
variously transformed and diversified, without aid of exterior means of
any sort.” The human soul, according to the Vedas, is a portion of the
supreme ruler, as a spark is of the fire.


Vishnu occupies the second place in the triad of the Hindus, and is the
personification of the preserving principle. To protect the world in
various epochs of danger, Vishnu descended to the earth in different
incarnations, or bodily forms, which descents are called Avatars. They
are very numerous, but ten are more particularly specified. The first
Avatar was as Matsya, the Fish, under which form Vishnu preserved Manu,
the ancestor of the human race, during a universal deluge. The second
Avatar was in the form of a Tortoise, which form he assumed to support
the earth when the gods were churning the sea for the beverage of
immortality, Amrita.

We may omit the other Avatars, which were of the same general character,
that is, interpositions to protect the right or to punish wrong-doers,
and come to the ninth, which is the most celebrated of the Avatars of
Vishnu, in which he appeared in the human form of Krishna, an invincible
warrior, who by his exploits relieved the earth from the tyrants who
oppressed it.

Buddha is by the followers of the Brahmanical religion regarded as a
delusive incarnation of Vishnu, assumed by him in order to induce the
Asuras, opponents of the gods, to abandon the sacred ordinances of the
Vedas, by which means they lost their strength and supremacy.

Kalki is the name of the _tenth_ Avatar, in which Vishnu will appear at
the end of the present age of the world to destroy all vice and
wickedness, and to restore mankind to virtue and purity.


Siva is the third person of the Hindu triad. He is the personification
of the destroying principle. Though the third name, he is, in respect to
the number of his worshippers and the extension of his worship, before
either of the others. In the Puranas (the scriptures of the modern Hindu
religion) no allusion is made to the original power of this god as a
destroyer; that power not being to be called into exercise till after
the expiration of twelve millions of years, or when the universe will
come to an end; and Mahadeva (another name for Siva) is rather the
representative of regeneration than of destruction.

The worshippers of Vishnu and Siva form two sects, each of which
proclaims the superiority of its favorite deity, denying the claims of
the other, and Brahma, the creator, having finished his work, seems to
be regarded as no longer active, and has now only one temple in India,
while Mahadeva and Vishnu have many. The worshippers of Vishnu are
generally distinguished by a greater tenderness for life, and consequent
abstinence from animal food, and a worship less cruel than that of the
followers of Siva.


Whether the worshippers of Juggernaut are to be reckoned among the
followers of Vishnu or Siva, our authorities differ. The temple stands
near the shore, about three hundred miles south-west of Calcutta. The
idol is a carved block of wood, with a hideous face, painted black, and
a distended blood-red mouth. On festival days the throne of the image is
placed on a tower sixty feet high, moving on wheels. Six long ropes are
attached to the tower, by which the people draw it along. The priests
and their attendants stand round the throne on the tower, and
occasionally turn to the worshippers with songs and gestures. While the
tower moves along numbers of the devout worshippers throw themselves on
the ground, in order to be crushed by the wheels, and the multitude
shout in approbation of the act, as a pleasing sacrifice to the idol.
Every year, particularly at two great festivals in March and July,
pilgrims flock in crowds to the temple. Not less than seventy or eighty
thousand people are said to visit the place on these occasions, when all
castes eat together.


The division of the Hindus into classes or castes, with fixed
occupations, existed from the earliest times. It is supposed by some to
have been founded upon conquest, the first three castes being composed
of a foreign race, who subdued the natives of the country and reduced
them to an inferior caste. Others trace it to the fondness of
perpetuating, by descent from father to son, certain offices or

The Hindu tradition gives the following account of the origin of the
various castes: At the creation Brahma resolved to give the earth
inhabitants who should be direct emanations from his own body.
Accordingly from his mouth came forth the eldest born, Brahma (the
priest), to whom he confided the four Vedas; from his right arm issued
Shatriya (the warrior), and from his left, the warrior’s wife. His
thighs produced Vaissyas, male and female (agriculturists and traders),
and lastly from his feet sprang Sudras (mechanics and laborers).

The four sons of Brahma, so significantly brought into the world, became
the fathers of the human race, and heads of their respective castes.
They were commanded to regard the four Vedas as containing all the rules
of their faith, and all that was necessary to guide them in their
religious ceremonies. They were also commanded to take rank in the order
of their birth, the Brahmans uppermost, as having sprung from the head
of Brahma.

A strong line of demarcation is drawn between the first three castes and
the Sudras. The former are allowed to receive instruction from the
Vedas, which is not permitted to the Sudras. The Brahmans possess the
privilege of teaching the Vedas, and were in former times in exclusive
possession of all knowledge. Though the sovereign of the country was
chosen from the Shatriya class, also called Rajputs, the Brahmans
possessed the real power, and were the royal counsellors, the judges and
magistrates of the country; their persons and property were inviolable;
and though they committed the greatest crimes, they could only be
banished from the kingdom. They were to be treated by sovereigns with
the greatest respect, for “a Brahman, whether learned or ignorant, is a
powerful divinity.”

When the Brahman arrives at years of maturity it becomes his duty to
marry. He ought to be supported by the contributions of the rich, and
not to be obliged to gain his subsistence by any laborious or productive
occupation. But as all the Brahmans could not be maintained by the
working classes of the community, it was found necessary to allow them
to engage in productive employments.

We need say little of the two intermediate classes, whose rank and
privileges may be readily inferred from their occupations. The Sudras or
fourth class are bound to servile attendance on the higher classes,
especially the Brahmans, but they may follow mechanical occupations and
practical arts, as painting and writing, or become traders or
husbandmen. Consequently they sometimes grow rich, and it will also
sometimes happen that Brahmans become poor. That fact works its usual
consequence, and rich Sudras sometimes employ poor Brahmans in menial

There is another class lower even than the Sudras, for it is not one of
the original pure classes, but springs from an unauthorized union of
individuals of different castes. These are the Pariahs, who are employed
in the lowest services and treated with the utmost severity. They are
compelled to do what no one else can do without pollution. They are not
only considered unclean themselves, but they render unclean everything
they touch. They are deprived of all civil rights, and stigmatized by
particular laws regulating their mode of life, their houses, and their
furniture. They are not allowed to visit the pagodas or temples of the
other castes, but have their own pagodas and religious exercises. They
are not suffered to enter the houses of the other castes; if it is done
incautiously or from necessity, the place must be purified by religious
ceremonies. They must not appear at public markets, and are confined to
the use of particular wells, which they are obliged to surround with
bones of animals, to warn others against using them. They dwell in
miserable hovels, distant from cities and villages, and are under no
restrictions in regard to food, which last is not a privilege, but a
mark of ignominy, as if they were so degraded that nothing could pollute
them. The three higher castes are prohibited entirely the use of flesh.
The fourth is allowed to use all kinds except beef, but only the lowest
caste is allowed every kind of food without restriction.


Buddha, whom the Vedas represent as a delusive incarnation of Vishnu, is
said by his followers to have been a mortal sage, whose name was
Gautama, called also by the complimentary epithets of Sakyasinha, the
Lion, and Buddha, the Sage.

By a comparison of the various epochs assigned to his birth, it is
inferred that he lived about one thousand years before Christ.

He was the son of a king; and when in conformity to the usage of the
country he was, a few days after his birth, presented before the altar
of a deity, the image is said to have inclined its head as a presage of
the future greatness of the new-born prophet. The child soon developed
faculties of the first order, and became equally distinguished by the
uncommon beauty of his person. No sooner had he grown to years of
maturity than he began to reflect deeply on the depravity and misery of
mankind, and he conceived the idea of retiring from society and devoting
himself to meditation. His father in vain opposed this design. Buddha
escaped the vigilance of his guards, and having found a secure retreat,
lived for six years undisturbed in his devout contemplations. At the
expiration of that period he came forward at Benares as a religious
teacher. At first some who heard him doubted of the soundness of his
mind; but his doctrines soon gained credit, and were propagated so
rapidly that Buddha himself lived to see them spread all over India. He
died at the age of eighty years.

The Buddhists reject entirely the authority of the Vedas, and the
religious observances prescribed in them and kept by the Hindus. They
also reject the distinction of castes, and prohibit all bloody
sacrifices, and allow animal food. Their priests are chosen from all
classes; they are expected to procure their maintenance by perambulation
and begging, and among other things it is their duty to endeavor to turn
to some use things thrown aside as useless by others, and to discover
the medicinal power of plants. But in Ceylon three orders of priests are
recognized; those of the highest order are usually men of high birth and
learning, and are supported at the principal temples, most of which have
been richly endowed by the former monarchs of the country.

For several centuries after the appearance of Buddha, his sect seems to
have been tolerated by the Brahmans, and Buddhism appears to have
penetrated the peninsula of Hindustan in every direction, and to have
been carried to Ceylon, and to the eastern peninsula. But afterwards it
had to endure in India a long-continued persecution, which ultimately
had the effect of entirely abolishing it in the country where it had
originated, but to scatter it widely over adjacent countries. Buddhism
appears to have been introduced into China about the year 65 of our era.
From China it was subsequently extended to Corea, Japan, and Java.

                             THE GRAND LAMA

It is a doctrine alike of the Brahminical Hindus and of the Buddhist
sect that the confinement of the human soul, an emanation of the divine
spirit, in a human body, is a state of misery, and the consequence of
frailties and sins committed during former existences. But they hold
that some few individuals have appeared on this earth from time to time,
not under the necessity of terrestrial existence, but who voluntarily
descended to the earth to promote the welfare of mankind. These
individuals have gradually assumed the character of reappearances of
Buddha himself, in which capacity the line is continued till the present
day, in the several Lamas of Thibet, China, and other countries where
Buddhism prevails. In consequence of the victories of Gengis Khan and
his successors, the Lama residing in Thibet was raised to the dignity of
chief pontiff of the sect. A separate province was assigned to him as
his own territory, and besides his spiritual dignity he became to a
limited extent a temporal monarch. He is styled the Dalai Lama.

The first Christian missionaries who proceeded to Thibet were surprised
to find there in the heart of Asia a pontifical court and several other
ecclesiastical institutions resembling those of the Roman Catholic
church. They found convents for priests and nuns; also processions and
forms of religious worship, attended with much pomp and splendor; and
many were induced by these similarities to consider Lamaism as a sort of
degenerated Christianity. It is not improbable that the Lamas derived
some of these practices from the Nestorian Christians, who were settled
in Tartary when Buddhism was introduced into Thibet.

                              PRESTER JOHN

An early account, communicated probably by travelling merchants, of a
Lama or spiritual chief among the Tartars, seems to have occasioned in
Europe the report of a Presbyter or Prester John, a Christian pontiff
resident in Upper Asia. The Pope sent a mission in search of him, as did
also Louis IX. of France, some years later, but both missions were
unsuccessful, though the small communities of Nestorian Christians,
which they did find, served to keep up the belief in Europe that such a
personage did exist somewhere in the East. At last in the fifteenth
century, a Portuguese traveller, Pedro Covilham, happening to hear that
there was a Christian prince in the country of the Abessines
(Abyssinia), not far from the Red Sea, concluded that this must be the
true Prester John. He accordingly went thither, and penetrated to the
court of the king, whom he calls Negus. Milton alludes to him in
“Paradise Lost,” Book XI., where, describing Adam’s vision of his
descendants in their various nations and cities, scattered over the face
of the earth, he says,—

    “. . . Nor did his eyes not ken
    Th’ empire of Negus, to his utmost port,
    Ercoco, and the less maritime kings,
    Mombaza and Quiloa and Melind.”


                            CHAPTER XXXVIII


                           NORTHERN MYTHOLOGY

THE stories which have engaged our attention thus far relate to the
mythology of southern regions. But there is another branch of ancient
superstitions which ought not to be entirely overlooked, especially as
it belongs to the nations from which we, through our English ancestors,
derive our origin. It is that of the northern nations, called
Scandinavians, who inhabited the countries now known as Sweden, Denmark,
Norway, and Iceland. These mythological records are contained in two
collections called the Eddas, of which the oldest is in poetry and dates
back to the year 1056, the more modern or prose Edda being of the date
of 1640.

According to the Eddas there was once no heaven above nor earth beneath,
but only a bottomless deep, and a world of mist in which flowed a
fountain. Twelve rivers issued from this fountain, and when they had
flowed far from their source, they froze into ice, and one layer
accumulating over another, the great deep was filled up.

Southward from the world of mist was the world of light. From this
flowed a warm wind upon the ice and melted it. The vapors rose in the
air and formed clouds, from which sprang Ymir, the Frost giant and his
progeny, and the cow Audhumbla, whose milk afforded nourishment and food
to the giant. The cow got nourishment by licking the hoar frost and salt
from the ice. While she was one day licking the salt stones there
appeared at first the hair of a man, on the second day the whole head,
and on the third the entire form endowed with beauty, agility, and
power. This new being was a god, from whom and his wife, a daughter of
the giant race, sprang the three brothers Odin, Vili, and Ve. They slew
the giant Ymir, and out of his body formed the earth, of his blood the
seas, of his bones the mountains, of his hair the trees, of his skull
the heavens, and of his brain clouds, charged with hail and snow. Of
Ymir’s eyebrows the gods formed Midgard (mid earth), destined to become
the abode of man.

Odin then regulated the periods of day and night and the seasons by
placing in the heavens the sun and moon and appointing to them their
respective courses. As soon as the sun began to shed its rays upon the
earth, it caused the vegetable world to bud and sprout. Shortly after
the gods had created the world they walked by the side of the sea,
pleased with their new work, but found that it was still incomplete, for
it was without human beings. They therefore took an ash tree and made a
man out of it, and they made a woman out of an elder, and called the man
Aske and the woman Embla. Odin then gave them life and soul, Vili reason
and motion, and Ve bestowed upon them the senses, expressive features,
and speech. Midgard was then given them as their residence, and they
became the progenitors of the human race.

The mighty ash tree Ygdrasill was supposed to support the whole
universe. It sprang from the body of Ymir, and had three immense roots,
extending one into Asgard (the dwelling of the gods), the other into
Jotunheim (the abode of the giants), and the third to Niffleheim (the
regions of darkness and cold). By the side of each of these roots is a
spring, from which it is watered. The root that extends into Asgard is
carefully tended by the three Norns, goddesses, who are regarded as the
dispensers of fate. They are Urdur (the past), Verdandi (the present),
Skuld (the future). The spring at the Jotunheim side is Ymir’s well, in
which wisdom and wit lie hidden, but that of Niffleheim feeds the adder
Nidhogge (darkness), which perpetually gnaws at the root. Four harts run
across the branches of the tree and bite the buds; they represent the
four winds. Under the tree lies Ymir, and when he tries to shake off its
weight the earth quakes.

Asgard is the name of the abode of the gods, access to which is only
gained by crossing the bridge Bifrost (the rainbow). Asgard consists of
golden and silver palaces, the dwellings of the gods, but the most
beautiful of these is Valhalla, the residence of Odin. When seated on
his throne he overlooks all heaven and earth. Upon his shoulders are the
ravens Hugin and Munin, who fly every day over the whole world, and on
their return report to him all they have seen and heard. At his feet lie
his two wolves, Geri and Freki, to whom Odin gives all the meat that is
set before him, for he himself stands in no need of food. Mead is for
him both food and drink. He invented the Runic characters, and it is the
business of the Norns to engrave the runes of fate upon a metal shield.
From Odin’s name, spelt Woden, as it sometimes is, came Wednesday, the
name of the fourth day of the week.

Odin is frequently called Alfadur (All-father), but this name is
sometimes used in a way that shows that the Scandinavians had an idea of
a deity superior to Odin, uncreated and eternal.

                        OF THE JOYS OF VALHALLA

Valhalla is the great hall of Odin, wherein he feasts with his chosen
heroes, all those who have fallen bravely in battle, for all who die a
peaceful death are excluded. The flesh of the boar Schrimnir is served
up to them, and is abundant for all. For although this boar is cooked
every morning, he becomes whole again every night. For drink the heroes
are supplied abundantly with mead from the she-goat Heidrum. When the
heroes are not feasting they amuse themselves with fighting. Every day
they ride out into the court or field and fight until they cut each
other in pieces. This is their pastime; but when meal time comes they
recover from their wounds and return to feast in Valhalla.

                              THE VALKYRIE

The Valkyrie are warlike virgins, mounted upon horses and armed with
helmets and spears. Odin, who is desirous to collect a great many heroes
in Valhalla to be able to meet the giants in a day when the final
contest must come, sends them down to every battlefield to make choice
of those who shall be slain. The Valkyrie are his messengers, and their
name means “Choosers of the slain.” When they ride forth on their
errand, their armor sheds a strange flickering light, which flashes up
over the northern skies, making what men call the “Aurora Borealis,” or
“Northern Lights.”[37]

                       OF THOR AND THE OTHER GODS

Thor, the thunderer, Odin’s eldest son, is the strongest of gods and
men, and possesses three very precious things. The first is a hammer,
which both the Frost and the Mountain giants know to their cost, when
they see it hurled against them in the air, for it has split many a
skull of their fathers and kindred. When thrown, it returns to his hand
of its own accord. The second rare thing he possesses is called the belt
of strength. When he girds it about him his divine might is doubled. The
third, also very precious, is his iron gloves, which he puts on whenever
he would use his mallet efficiently. From Thor’s name is derived our
word Thursday.

Frey is one of the most celebrated of the gods. He presides over rain
and sunshine and all the fruits of the earth. His sister Freya is the
most propitious of the goddesses. She loves music, spring, and flowers,
and is particularly fond of the Elves (fairies). She is very fond of
love ditties, and all lovers would do well to invoke her.

Bragi is the god of poetry, and his song records the deeds of warriors.
His wife, Iduna, keeps in a box the apples which the gods, when they
feel old age approaching, have only to taste of to become young again.

Heimdall is the watchman of the gods, and is therefore placed on the
borders of heaven to prevent the giants from forcing their way over the
bridge Bifrost (the rainbow). He requires less sleep than a bird, and
sees by night as well as by day a hundred miles around him. So acute is
his ear that no sound escapes him, for he can even hear the grass grow
and the wool on a sheep’s back.

                        OF LOKI AND HIS PROGENY

There is another deity who is described as the calumniator of the gods
and the contriver of all fraud and mischief. His name is Loki. He is
handsome and well made, but of a very fickle mood and most evil
disposition. He is of the giant race, but forced himself into the
company of the gods, and seems to take pleasure in bringing them into
difficulties, and in extricating them out of the danger by his cunning,
wit, and skill. Loki has three children. The first is the wolf Fenris,
the second the Midgard serpent, the third Hela (Death). The gods were
not ignorant that these monsters were growing up, and that they would
one day bring much evil upon gods and men. So Odin deemed it advisable
to send one to bring them to him. When they came he threw the serpent
into that deep ocean by which the earth is surrounded. But the monster
had grown to such an enormous size that holding his tail in his mouth he
encircles the whole earth. Hela he cast into Niffleheim, and gave her
power over nine worlds or regions, into which she distributes those who
are sent to her; that is, all who die of sickness or old age. Her hall
is called Elvidner. Hunger is her table, Starvation her knife, Delay her
man, Slowness her maid, Precipice her threshold, Care her bed, and
Burning Anguish forms the hangings of the apartments. She may easily be
recognized, for her body is half flesh color and half blue, and she has
a dreadfully stern and forbidding countenance.

The wolf Fenris gave the gods a great deal of trouble before they
succeeded in chaining him. He broke the strongest fetters as if they
were made of cobwebs. Finally the gods sent a messenger to the mountain
spirits, who made for them the chain called Gleipnir. It is fashioned of
six things, viz., the noise made by the footfall of a cat, the beards of
women, the roots of stones, the breath of fishes, the nerves
(sensibilities) of bears, and the spittle of birds. When finished it was
as smooth and soft as a silken string. But when the gods asked the wolf
to suffer himself to be bound with this apparently slight ribbon, he
suspected their design, fearing that it was made by enchantment. He
therefore only consented to be bound with it upon condition that one of
the gods put his hand in his (Fenris’s) mouth as a pledge that the band
was to be removed again. Tyr (the god of battles) alone had courage
enough to do this. But when the wolf found that he could not break his
fetters, and that the gods would not release him, he bit off Tyr’s hand,
and he has ever since remained one-handed.


Once on a time, when the gods were constructing their abodes and had
already finished Midgard and Valhalla, a certain artificer came and
offered to build them a residence so well fortified that they should be
perfectly safe from the incursions of the Frost giants and the giants of
the mountains. But he demanded for his reward the goddess Freya,
together with the sun and moon. The gods yielded to his terms, provided
he would finish the whole work himself without any one’s assistance, and
all within the space of one winter. But if anything remained unfinished
on the first day of summer he should forfeit the recompense agreed on.
On being told these terms the artificer stipulated that he should be
allowed the use of his horse Svadilfari, and this by the advice of Loki
was granted to him. He accordingly set to work on the first day of
winter, and during the night let his horse draw stone for the building.
The enormous size of the stones struck the gods with astonishment, and
they saw clearly that the horse did one-half more of the toilsome work
than his master. Their bargain, however, had been concluded, and
confirmed by solemn oaths, for without these precautions a giant would
not have thought himself safe among the gods, especially when Thor
should return from an expedition he had then undertaken against the evil

As the winter drew to a close, the building was far advanced, and the
bulwarks were sufficiently high and massive to render the place
impregnable. In short, when it wanted but three days to summer, the only
part that remained to be finished was the gateway. Then sat the gods on
their seats of justice and entered into consultation, inquiring of one
another who among them could have advised to give Freya away, or to
plunge the heavens in darkness by permitting the giant to carry away the
sun and the moon.

They all agreed that no one but Loki, the author of so many evil deeds,
could have given such bad counsel, and that he should be put to a cruel
death if he did not contrive some way to prevent the artificer from
completing his task and obtaining the stipulated recompense. They
proceeded to lay hands on Loki, who in his fright promised upon oath
that, let it cost him what it would, he would so manage matters that the
man should lose his reward. That very night when the man went with
Svadilfari for building stone, a mare suddenly ran out of a forest and
began to neigh. The horse thereat broke loose and ran after the mare
into the forest, which obliged the man also to run after his horse, and
thus between one and another the whole night was lost, so that at dawn
the work had not made the usual progress. The man, seeing that he must
fail of completing his task, resumed his own gigantic stature, and the
gods now clearly perceived that it was in reality a mountain giant who
had come amongst them. Feeling no longer bound by their oaths, they
called on Thor, who immediately ran to their assistance, and lifting up
his mallet, paid the workman his wages, not with the sun and moon, and
not even by sending him back to Jotunheim, for with the first blow he
shattered the giant’s skull to pieces and hurled him headlong into

                       THE RECOVERY OF THE HAMMER

Once upon a time it happened that Thor’s hammer fell into the possession
of the giant Thrym, who buried it eight fathoms deep under the rocks of
Jotunheim. Thor sent Loki to negotiate with Thrym, but he could only
prevail so far as to get the giant’s promise to restore the weapon if
Freya would consent to be his bride. Loki returned and reported the
result of his mission, but the goddess of love was quite horrified at
the idea of bestowing her charms on the king of the Frost giants. In
this emergency Loki persuaded Thor to dress himself in Freya’s clothes
and accompany him to Jotunheim. Thrym received his veiled bride with due
courtesy, but was greatly surprised at seeing her eat for her supper
eight salmons and a full grown ox, besides other delicacies, washing the
whole down with three tuns of mead. Loki, however, assured him that she
had not tasted anything for eight long nights, so great was her desire
to see her lover, the renowned ruler of Jotunheim. Thrym had at length
the curiosity to peep under his bride’s veil, but started back in
affright and demanded why Freya’s eyeballs glistened with fire. Loki
repeated the same excuse and the giant was satisfied. He ordered the
hammer to be brought in and laid on the maiden’s lap. Thereupon Thor
threw off his disguise, grasped his redoubted weapon, and slaughtered
Thrym and all his followers.

Frey also possessed a wonderful weapon, a sword which would of itself
spread a field with carnage whenever the owner desired it. Frey parted
with this sword, but was less fortunate than Thor and never recovered
it. It happened in this way: Frey once mounted Odin’s throne, from
whence one can see over the whole universe, and looking round saw far
off in the giant’s kingdom a beautiful maid, at the sight of whom he was
struck with sudden sadness, insomuch that from that moment he could
neither sleep, nor drink, nor speak. At last Skirnir, his messenger,
drew his secret from him, and undertook to get him the maiden for his
bride, if he would give him his sword as a reward. Frey consented and
gave him the sword, and Skirnir set off on his journey and obtained the
maiden’s promise that within nine nights she would come to a certain
place and there wed Frey. Skirnir having reported the success of his
errand, Frey exclaimed:

    “Long is one night,
    Long are two nights,
    But how shall I hold out three?
    Shorter hath seemed
    A month to me oft
    Than of this longing time the half.”

So Frey obtained Gerda, the most beautiful of all women, for his wife,
but he lost his sword.

This story, entitled “Skirnir For,” and the one immediately preceding
it, “Thrym’s Quida,” will be found poetically told in Longfellow’s
“Poets and Poetry of Europe.”


                             CHAPTER XXXIX

                       THOR’S VISIT TO JOTUNHEIM


ONE day the god Thor, with his servant Thialfi, and accompanied by Loki,
set out on a journey to the giant’s country. Thialfi was of all men the
swiftest of foot. He bore Thor’s wallet, containing their provisions.
When night came on they found themselves in an immense forest, and
searched on all sides for a place where they might pass the night, and
at last came to a very large hall, with an entrance that took the whole
breadth of one end of the building. Here they lay down to sleep, but
towards midnight were alarmed by an earthquake which shook the whole
edifice. Thor, rising up, called on his companions to seek with him a
place of safety. On the right they found an adjoining chamber, into
which the others entered, but Thor remained at the doorway with his
mallet in his hand, prepared to defend himself, whatever might happen. A
terrible groaning was heard during the night, and at dawn of day Thor
went out and found lying near him a huge giant, who slept and snored in
the way that had alarmed them so. It is said that for once Thor was
afraid to use his mallet, and as the giant soon waked up, Thor contented
himself with simply asking his name.

“My name is Skrymir,” said the giant, “but I need not ask thy name, for
I know that thou art the god Thor. But what has become of my glove?”
Thor then perceived that what they had taken overnight for a hall was
the giant’s glove, and the chamber where his two companions had sought
refuge was the thumb. Skrymir then proposed that they should travel in
company, and Thor consenting, they sat down to eat their breakfast, and
when they had done, Skrymir packed all the provisions into one wallet,
threw it over his shoulder, and strode on before them, taking such
tremendous strides that they were hard put to it to keep up with him. So
they travelled the whole day, and at dusk Skrymir chose a place for them
to pass the night in under a large oak tree. Skrymir then told them he
would lie down to sleep. “But take ye the wallet,” he added, “and
prepare your supper.”

Skrymir soon fell asleep and began to snore strongly; but when Thor
tried to open the wallet, he found the giant had tied it up so tight he
could not untie a single knot. At last Thor became wroth, and grasping
his mallet with both hands he struck a furious blow on the giant’s head.
Skrymir, awakening, merely asked whether a leaf had not fallen on his
head, and whether they had supped and were ready to go to sleep. Thor
answered that they were just going to sleep, and so saying went and laid
himself down under another tree. But sleep came not that night to Thor,
and when Skrymir snored again so loud that the forest reëchoed with the
noise, he arose, and grasping his mallet launched it with such force at
the giant’s skull that it made a deep dint in it. Skrymir, awakening,
cried out, “What’s the matter? Are there any birds perched on this tree?
I felt some moss from the branches fall on my head. How fares it with
thee, Thor?” But Thor went away hastily, saying that he had just then
awoke, and that as it was only midnight, there was still time for sleep.
He, however, resolved that if he had an opportunity of striking a third
blow, it should settle all matters between them. A little before
daybreak he perceived that Skrymir was again fast asleep, and again
grasping his mallet, he dashed it with such violence that it forced its
way into the giant’s skull up to the handle. But Skrymir sat up, and
stroking his cheek said, “An acorn fell on my head. What! Art thou
awake, Thor? Methinks it is time for us to get up and dress ourselves;
but you have not now a long way before you to the city called Utgard. I
have heard you whispering to one another that I am not a man of small
dimensions; but if you come to Utgard you will see there many men much
taller than I. Wherefore, I advise you, when you come there, not to make
too much of yourselves, for the followers of Utgard-Loki will not brook
the boasting of such little fellows as you are. You must take the road
that leads eastward, mine lies northward, so we must part here.”

Hereupon he threw his wallet over his shoulders and turned away from
them into the forest, and Thor had no wish to stop him or to ask for any
more of his company.

Thor and his companions proceeded on their way, and towards noon
descried a city standing in the middle of a plain. It was so lofty that
they were obliged to bend their necks quite back on their shoulders in
order to see to the top of it. On arriving they entered the city, and
seeing a large palace before them with the door wide open, they went in,
and found a number of men of prodigious stature, sitting on benches in
the hall. Going further, they came before the king, Utgard-Loki, whom
they saluted with great respect. The king, regarding them with a
scornful smile, said, “If I do not mistake me, that stripling yonder
must be the god Thor.” Then addressing himself to Thor, he said,
“Perhaps thou mayst be more than thou appearest to be. What are the
feats that thou and thy fellows deem yourselves skilled in, for no one
is permitted to remain here who does not, in some feat or other, excel
all other men?”

“The feat that I know,” said Loki, “is to eat quicker than any one else,
and in this I am ready to give a proof against any one here who may
choose to compete with me.”

“That will indeed be a feat,” said Utgard-Loki, “if thou performest what
thou promisest, and it shall be tried forthwith.”

He then ordered one of his men who was sitting at the farther end of the
bench, and whose name was Logi, to come forward and try his skill with
Loki. A trough filled with meat having been set on the hall floor, Loki
placed himself at one end, and Logi at the other, and each of them began
to eat as fast as he could, until they met in the middle of the trough.
But it was found that Loki had only eaten the flesh, while his adversary
had devoured both flesh and bone, and the trough to boot. All the
company therefore adjudged that Loki was vanquished.

Utgard-Loki then asked what feat the young man who accompanied Thor
could perform. Thialfi answered that he would run a race with any one
who might be matched against him. The king observed that skill in
running was something to boast of, but if the youth would win the match
he must display great agility. He then arose and went with all who were
present to a plain where there was good ground for running on, and
calling a young man named Hugi, bade him run a match with Thialfi. In
the first course Hugi so much outstripped his competitor that he turned
back and met him not far from the starting place. Then they ran a second
and a third time, but Thialfi met with no better success.

Utgard-Loki then asked Thor in what feats he would choose to give proofs
of that prowess for which he was so famous. Thor answered that he would
try a drinking-match with any one. Utgard-Loki bade his cup-bearer bring
the large horn which his followers were obliged to empty when they had
trespassed in any way against the law of the feast. The cupbearer having
presented it to Thor, Utgard-Loki said, “Whoever is a good drinker will
empty that horn at a single draught, though most men make two of it, but
the most puny drinker can do it in three.”

Thor looked at the horn, which seemed of no extraordinary size though
somewhat long; however, as he was very thirsty, he set it to his lips,
and without drawing breath, pulled as long and as deeply as he could,
that he might not be obliged to make a second draught of it; but when he
set the horn down and looked in, he could scarcely perceive that the
liquor was diminished.

After taking breath, Thor went to it again with all his might, but when
he took the horn from his mouth, it seemed to him that he had drunk
rather less than before, although the horn could now be carried without

“How now, Thor?” said Utgard-Loki; “thou must not spare thyself; if thou
meanest to drain the horn at the third draught thou must pull deeply;
and I must needs say that thou wilt not be called so mighty a man here
as thou art at home if thou showest no greater prowess in other feats
than methinks will be shown in this.”

Thor, full of wrath, again set the horn to his lips, and did his best to
empty it; but on looking in found the liquor was only a little lower, so
he resolved to make no further attempt, but gave back the horn to the

“I now see plainly,” said Utgard-Loki, “that thou art not quite so stout
as we thought thee: but wilt thou try any other feat, though methinks
thou art not likely to bear any prize away with thee hence.”

“What new trial hast thou to propose?” said Thor.

“We have a very trifling game here,” answered Utgard-Loki, “in which we
exercise none but children. It consists in merely lifting my cat from
the ground; nor should I have dared to mention such a feat to the great
Thor if I had not already observed that thou art by no means what we
took thee for.”

As he finished speaking, a large gray cat sprang on the hall floor. Thor
put his hand under the cat’s belly and did his utmost to raise him from
the floor, but the cat, bending his back, had, notwithstanding all
Thor’s efforts, only one of his feet lifted up, seeing which Thor made
no further attempt.

“This trial has turned out,” said Utgard-Loki, “just as I imagined it
would. The cat is large, but Thor is little in comparison to our men.”

“Little as ye call me,” answered Thor, “let me see who among you will
come hither now I am in wrath and wrestle with me.”

“I see no one here,” said Utgard-Loki, looking at the men sitting on the
benches, “who would not think it beneath him to wrestle with thee; let
somebody, however, call hither that old crone, my nurse Elli, and let
Thor wrestle with her if he will. She has thrown to the ground many a
man not less strong than this Thor is.”

A toothless old woman then entered the hall, and was told by Utgard-Loki
to take hold of Thor. The tale is shortly told. The more Thor tightened
his hold on the crone the firmer she stood. At length after a very
violent struggle Thor began to lose his footing, and was finally brought
down upon one knee. Utgard-Loki then told them to desist, adding that
Thor had now no occasion to ask any one else in the hall to wrestle with
him, and it was also getting late; so he showed Thor and his companions
to their seats, and they passed the night there in good cheer.

The next morning, at break of day, Thor and his companions dressed
themselves and prepared for their departure. Utgard-Loki ordered a table
to be set for them, on which there was no lack of victuals or drink.
After the repast Utgard-Loki led them to the gate of the city, and on
parting asked Thor how he thought his journey had turned out, and
whether he had met with any men stronger than himself. Thor told him
that he could not deny but that he had brought great shame on himself.
“And what grieves me most,” he added, “is that ye will call me a person
of little worth.”

“Nay,” said Utgard-Loki, “it behooves me to tell thee the truth, now
thou art out of the city, which so long as I live and have my way thou
shalt never enter again. And, by my troth, had I known beforehand that
thou hadst so much strength in thee, and wouldst have brought me so near
to a great mishap, I would not have suffered thee to enter this time.
Know then that I have all along deceived thee by my illusions; first in
the forest, where I tied up the wallet with iron wire so that thou
couldst not untie it. After this thou gavest me three blows with thy
mallet; the first, though the least, would have ended my days had it
fallen on me, but I slipped aside and thy blows fell on the mountain,
where thou wilt find three glens, one of them remarkably deep. These are
the dints made by thy mallet. I have made use of similar illusions in
the contests you have had with my followers. In the first, Loki, like
hunger itself, devoured all that was set before him, but Loki was in
reality nothing else than Fire, and therefore consumed not only the
meat, but the trough which held it. Hugi, with whom Thialfi contended in
running, was Thought, and it was impossible for Thialfi to keep pace
with that. When thou in thy turn didst attempt to empty the horn, thou
didst perform, by my troth, a deed so marvellous that had I not seen it
myself I should never have believed it. For one end of that horn reached
the sea, which thou wast not aware of, but when thou comest to the shore
thou wilt perceive how much the sea has sunk by thy draughts. Thou didst
perform a feat no less wonderful by lifting up the cat, and to tell thee
the truth, when we saw that one of his paws was off the floor, we were
all of us terror-stricken, for what thou tookest for a cat was in
reality the Midgard serpent that encompasseth the earth, and he was so
stretched by thee that he was barely long enough to enclose it between
his head and tail. Thy wrestling with Elli was also a most astonishing
feat, for there was never yet a man, nor ever will be, whom Old Age, for
such in fact was Elli, will not sooner or later lay low. But now, as we
are going to part, let me tell thee that it will be better for both of
us if thou never come near me again, for shouldst thou do so, I shall
again defend myself by other illusions, so that thou wilt only lose thy
labor and get no fame from the contest with me.”

On hearing these words Thor in a rage laid hold of his mallet and would
have launched it at him, but Utgard-Loki had disappeared, and when Thor
would have returned to the city to destroy it, he found nothing around
him but a verdant plain.


                               CHAPTER XL

                       MYTHOLOGY—NIBELUNGEN LIED

                          THE DEATH OF BALDUR

BALDUR the Good, having been tormented with terrible dreams indicating
that his life was in peril, told them to the assembled gods, who
resolved to conjure all things to avert from him the threatened danger.
Then Frigga, the wife of Odin, exacted an oath from fire and water, from
iron and all other metals, from stones, trees, diseases, beasts, birds,
poisons, and creeping things, that none of them would do any harm to
Baldur. Odin, not satisfied with all this, and feeling alarmed for the
fate of his son, determined to consult the prophetess Angerbode, a
giantess, mother of Fenris, Hela, and the Midgard serpent. She was dead,
and Odin was forced to seek her in Hela’s dominions. This Descent of
Odin forms the subject of Gray’s fine ode beginning,—

    “Uprose the king of men with speed
    And saddled straight his coal-black steed.”

But the other gods, feeling that what Frigga had done was quite
sufficient, amused themselves with using Baldur as a mark, some hurling
darts at him, some stones, while others hewed at him with their swords
and battle-axes; for do what they would, none of them could harm him.
And this became a favorite pastime with them and was regarded as an
honor shown to Baldur. But when Loki beheld the scene he was sorely
vexed that Baldur was not hurt. Assuming, therefore, the shape of a
woman, he went to Fensalir, the mansion of Frigga. That goddess, when
she saw the pretended woman, inquired of her if she knew what the gods
were doing at their meetings. She replied that they were throwing darts
and stones at Baldur, without being able to hurt him. “Ay,” said Frigga,
“neither stones, nor sticks, nor anything else can hurt Baldur, for I
have exacted an oath from all of them.” “What,” exclaimed the woman,
“have all things sworn to spare Baldur?” “All things,” replied Frigga,
“except one little shrub that grows on the eastern side of Valhalla, and
is called Mistletoe, and which I thought too young and feeble to crave
an oath from.”

As soon as Loki heard this he went away, and resuming his natural shape,
cut off the mistletoe, and repaired to the place where the gods were
assembled. There he found Hodur standing apart, without partaking of the
sports, on account of his blindness, and going up to him, said, “Why
dost thou not also throw something at Baldur?”

“Because I am blind,” answered Hodur, “and see not where Baldur is, and
have, moreover, nothing to throw.”

“Come, then,” said Loki, “do like the rest, and show honor to Baldur by
throwing this twig at him, and I will direct thy arm towards the place
where he stands.”

Hodur then took the mistletoe, and under the guidance of Loki, darted it
at Baldur, who, pierced through and through, fell down lifeless. Surely
never was there witnessed, either among gods or men, a more atrocious
deed than this. When Baldur fell, the gods were struck speechless with
horror, and then they looked at each other, and all were of one mind to
lay hands on him who had done the deed, but they were obliged to delay
their vengeance out of respect for the sacred place where they were
assembled. They gave vent to their grief by loud lamentations. When the
gods came to themselves, Frigga asked who among them wished to gain all
her love and good will. “For this,” said she, “shall he have who will
ride to Hel and offer Hela a ransom if she will let Baldur return to
Asgard.” Whereupon Hermod, surnamed the Nimble, the son of Odin, offered
to undertake the journey. Odin’s horse, Sleipnir, which has eight legs
and can outrun the wind, was then led forth, on which Hermod mounted and
galloped away on his mission. For the space of nine days and as many
nights he rode through deep glens so dark that he could not discern
anything, until he arrived at the river Gyoll, which he passed over on a
bridge covered with glittering gold. The maiden who kept the bridge
asked him his name and lineage, telling him that the day before five
bands of dead persons had ridden over the bridge, and did not shake it
as much as he alone. “But,” she added, “thou hast not death’s hue on
thee; why then ridest thou here on the way to Hel?”

“I ride to Hel,” answered Hermod, “to seek Baldur. Hast thou perchance
seen him pass this way?”

She replied, “Baldur hath ridden over Gyoll’s bridge, and yonder lieth
the way he took to the abodes of death.”

Hermod pursued his journey until he came to the barred gates of Hel.
Here he alighted, girthed his saddle tighter, and remounting clapped
both spurs to his horse, who cleared the gate by a tremendous leap
without touching it. Hermod then rode on to the palace, where he found
his brother Baldur occupying the most distinguished seat in the hall,
and passed the night in his company. The next morning he besought Hela
to let Baldur ride home with him, assuring her that nothing but
lamentations were to be heard among the gods. Hela answered that it
should now be tried whether Baldur was so beloved as he was said to be.
“If, therefore,” she added, “all things in the world, both living and
lifeless, weep for him, then shall he return to life; but if any one
thing speak against him or refuse to weep, he shall be kept in Hel.”

Hermod then rode back to Asgard and gave an account of all he had heard
and witnessed.

The gods upon this despatched messengers throughout the world to beg
everything to weep in order that Baldur might be delivered from Hel. All
things very willingly complied with this request, both men and every
other living being, as well as earths, and stones, and trees, and
metals, just as we have all seen these things weep when they are brought
from a cold place into a hot one. As the messengers were returning, they
found an old hag named Thaukt sitting in a cavern, and begged her to
weep Baldur out of Hel. But she answered,

    “Thaukt will wail
    With dry tears
    Baldur’s bale-fire.
    Let Hela keep her own.”

It was strongly suspected that this hag was no other than Loki himself,
who never ceased to work evil among gods and men. So Baldur was
prevented from coming back to Asgard.[38]

                         THE FUNERAL OF BALDUR

The gods took up the dead body and bore it to the seashore where stood
Baldur’s ship “Hringham,” which passed for the largest in the world.
Baldur’s dead body was put on the funeral pile, on board the ship, and
his wife Nanna was so struck with grief at the sight that she broke her
heart, and her body was burned on the same pile as her husband’s. There
was a vast concourse of various kinds of people at Baldur’s obsequies.
First came Odin accompanied by Frigga, the Valkyrie, and his ravens;
then Frey in his car drawn by Gullinbursti, the boar; Heimdall rode his
horse Gulltopp, and Freya drove in her chariot drawn by cats. There were
also a great many Frost giants and giants of the mountain present.
Baldur’s horse was led to the pile fully caparisoned and consumed in the
same flames with his master.

But Loki did not escape his deserved punishment. When he saw how angry
the gods were, he fled to the mountain, and there built himself a hut
with four doors, so that he could see every approaching danger. He
invented a net to catch the fishes, such as fishermen have used since
his time. But Odin found out his hidingplace and the gods assembled to
take him. He, seeing this, changed himself into a salmon, and lay hid
among the stones of the brook. But the gods took his net and dragged the
brook, and Loki, finding he must be caught, tried to leap over the net;
but Thor caught him by the tail and compressed it, so that salmons ever
since have had that part remarkably fine and thin. They bound him with
chains and suspended a serpent over his head, whose venom falls upon his
face drop by drop. His wife Siguna sits by his side and catches the
drops as they fall, in a cup; but when she carries it away to empty it,
the venom falls upon Loki, which makes him howl with horror, and twist
his body about so violently that the whole earth shakes, and this
produces what men call earthquakes.

                               THE ELVES

The Edda mentions another class of beings, inferior to the gods, but
still possessed of great power; these were called Elves. The white
spirits, or Elves of Light, were exceedingly fair, more brilliant than
the sun, and clad in garments of a delicate and transparent texture.
They loved the light, were kindly disposed to mankind, and generally
appeared as fair and lovely children. Their country was called Alfheim,
and was the domain of Freyr, the god of the sun, in whose light they
were always sporting.

The Black or Night Elves were a different kind of creatures. Ugly,
long-nosed dwarfs, of a dirty brown color, they appeared only at night,
for they avoided the sun as their most deadly enemy, because whenever
his beams fell upon any of them they changed them immediately into
stones. Their language was the echo of solitudes, and their
dwelling-places subterranean caves and clefts. They were supposed to
have come into existence as maggots produced by the decaying flesh of
Ymir’s body, and were afterwards endowed by the gods with a human form
and great understanding. They were particularly distinguished for a
knowledge of the mysterious powers of nature, and for the runes which
they carved and explained. They were the most skilful artificers of all
created beings, and worked in metals and in wood. Among their most noted
works were Thor’s hammer, and the ship “Skidbladnir,” which they gave to
Freyr, and which was so large that it could contain all the deities with
their war and household implements, but so skillfully was it wrought
that when folded together it could be put into a side pocket.


It was a firm belief of the northern nations that a time would come when
all the visible creation, the gods of Valhalla and Niffleheim, the
inhabitants of Jotunheim, Alfheim, and Midgard, together with their
habitations, would be destroyed. The fearful day of destruction will
not, however, be without its forerunners. First will come a triple
winter, during which snow will fall from the four corners of the
heavens, the frost be very severe, the wind piercing, the weather
tempestuous, and the sun impart no gladness. Three such winters will
pass away without being tempered by a single summer. Three other similar
winters will then follow, during which war and discord will spread over
the universe. The earth itself will be frightened and begin to tremble,
the sea leave its basin, the heavens tear asunder, and men perish in
great numbers, and the eagles of the air feast upon their still
quivering bodies. The wolf Fenris will now break his bands, the Midgard
serpent rise out of her bed in the sea, and Loki, released from his
bonds, will join the enemies of the gods. Amidst the general devastation
the sons of Muspelheim will rush forth under their leader Surtur, before
and behind whom are flames and burning fire. Onward they ride over
Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, which breaks under the horses’ hoofs. But
they, disregarding its fall, direct their course to the battlefield
called Vigrid. Thither also repair the wolf Fenris, the Midgard serpent,
Loki with all the followers of Hela, and the Frost giants.

Heimdall now stands up and sounds the Giallar horn to assemble the gods
and heroes for the contest. The gods advance, led on by Odin, who
engages the wolf Fenris, but falls a victim to the monster, who is,
however, slain by Vidar, Odin’s son. Thor gains great renown by killing
the Midgard serpent, but recoils and falls dead, suffocated with the
venom which the dying monster vomits over him. Loki and Heimdall meet
and fight till they are both slain. The gods and their enemies having
fallen in battle, Surtur, who has killed Freyr, darts fire and flames
over the world, and the whole universe is burned up. The sun becomes
dim, the earth sinks into the ocean, the stars fall from heaven, and
time is no more.

After this Alfadur (the Almighty) will cause a new heaven and a new
earth to arise out of the sea. The new earth filled with abundant
supplies will spontaneously produce its fruits without labor or care.
Wickedness and misery will no more be known, but the gods and men will
live happily together.

                             RUNIC LETTERS

One cannot travel far in Denmark, Norway, or Sweden without meeting with
great stones of different forms, engraven with characters called Runic,
which appear at first sight very different from all we know. The letters
consist almost invariably of straight lines, in the shape of little
sticks either singly or put together. Such sticks were in early times
used by the northern nations for the purpose of ascertaining future
events. The sticks were shaken up, and from the figures that they formed
a kind of divination was derived.

The Runic characters were of various kinds. They were chiefly used for
magical purposes. The noxious, or, as they called them, the _bitter_
runes, were employed to bring various evils on their enemies; the
favorable averted misfortune. Some were medicinal, others employed to
win love, etc. In later times they were frequently used for
inscriptions, of which more than a thousand have been found. The
language is a dialect of the Gothic, called Norse, still in use in
Iceland. The inscriptions may therefore be read with certainty, but
hitherto very few have been found which throw the least light on
history. They are mostly epitaphs on tombstones.

Gray’s ode on the “Descent of Odin” contains an allusion to the use of
Runic letters for incantation:

    “Facing to the northern clime,
    Thrice he traced the Runic rhyme;
    Thrice pronounced, in accents dread,
    The thrilling verse that wakes the dead,
    Till from out the hollow ground
    Slowly breathed a sullen sound.”

                               THE SKALDS

The Skalds were the bards and poets of the nation, a very important
class of men in all communities in an early stage of civilization. They
are the depositaries of whatever historic lore there is, and it is their
office to mingle something of intellectual gratification with the rude
feasts of the warriors, by rehearsing, with such accompaniments of
poetry and music as their skill can afford, the exploits of their heroes
living or dead. The compositions of the Skalds were called Sagas, many
of which have come down to us, and contain valuable materials of
history, and a faithful picture of the state of society at the time to
which they relate.


The Eddas and Sagas have come to us from Iceland. The following extract
from Carlyle’s lectures on “Heroes and Hero Worship” gives an animated
account of the region where the strange stories we have been reading had
their origin. Let the reader contrast it for a moment with Greece, the
parent of classical mythology:

“In that strange island, Iceland,—burst up, the geologists say, by fire
from the bottom of the sea, a wild land of barrenness and lava,
swallowed many months of every year in black tempests, yet with a wild,
gleaming beauty in summer time, towering up there stern and grim in the
North Ocean, with its snow yokuls [mountains], roaring geysers [boiling
springs], sulphur pools, and horrid volcanic chasms, like the waste,
chaotic battlefield of Frost and Fire,—where, of all places, we least
looked for literature or written memorials,—the record of these things
was written down. On the seaboard of this wild land is a rim of grassy
country, where cattle can subsist, and men by means of them and of what
the sea yields; and it seems they were poetic men these, men who had
deep thoughts in them and uttered musically their thoughts. Much would
be lost had Iceland not been burst up from the sea, not been discovered
by the Northmen!”

                           TEUTONIC MYTHOLOGY

In the mythology of Germany proper, the name of Odin appears as Wotan;
Freya and Frigga are regarded as one and the same divinity, and the gods
are in general represented as less warlike in character than those in
the Scandinavian myths. As a whole, however, Teutonic mythology runs
along almost identical lines with that of the northern nations. The most
notable divergence is due to modifications of the legends by reason of
the difference in climatic conditions. The more advanced social
condition of the Germans is also apparent in their mythology.

                          THE NIBELUNGEN LIED

One of the oldest myths of the Teutonic race is found in the great
national epic of the Nibelungen Lied, which dates back to the
prehistoric era when Wotan, Frigga, Thor, Loki, and the other gods and
goddesses were worshipped in the German forests. The epic is divided
into two parts, the first of which tells how Siegfried, the youngest of
the kings of the Netherlands, went to Worms, to ask in marriage the hand
of Kriemhild, sister of Günther, King of Burgundy. While he was staying
with Günther, Siegfried helped the Burgundian king to secure as his wife
Brunhild, queen of Issland. The latter had announced publicly that he
only should be her husband who could beat her in hurling a spear,
throwing a huge stone, and in leaping. Siegfried, who possessed a cloak
of invisibility, aided Günther in these three contests, and Brunhild
became his wife. In return for these services, Günther gave Siegfried
his sister Kriemhild in marriage.

After some time had elapsed, Siegfried and Kriemhild went to visit
Günther, when the two women fell into a dispute about the relative
merits of their husbands. Kriemhild, to exalt Siegfried, boasted that it
was to the latter that Günther owed his victories and his wife.
Brunhild, in great anger, employed Hagan, liegeman of Günther, to murder
Siegfried. In the epic Hagan is described as follows:

    “Well-grown and well-compacted was that redoubted guest;
    Long were his legs and sinewy, and deep and broad his chest;
    His hair, that once was sable, with gray was dashed of late;
    Most terrible his visage, and lordly was his gait.”
                            —_Nibelungen Lied_, stanza 1789.

This Achilles of German romance stabbed Siegfried between the shoulders,
as the unfortunate King of the Netherlands was stooping to drink from a
brook during a hunting expedition.

The second part of the epic relates how, thirteen years later, Kriemhild
married Etzel, King of the Huns. After a time, she invited the King of
Burgundy, with Hagan and many others, to the court of her husband. A
fearful quarrel was stirred up in the banquet hall, which ended in the
slaughter of all the Burgundians but Günther and Hagan. These two were
taken prisoners and given to Kriemhild, who with her own hand cut off
the heads of both. For this bloody act of vengeance Kriemhild was
herself slain by Hildebrand, a magician and champion, who in German
mythology holds a place to an extent corresponding to that of Nestor in
the Greek mythology.

                          THE NIBELUNGEN HOARD

This was a mythical mass of gold and precious stones which Siegfried
obtained from the Nibelungs, the people of the north whom he had
conquered and whose country he had made tributary to his own kingdom of
the Netherlands. Upon his marriage, Siegfried gave the treasure to
Kriemhild as her wedding portion. After the murder of Siegfried, Hagan
seized it and buried it secretly beneath the Rhine at Lochham, intending
to recover it at a future period. The hoard was lost forever when Hagan
was killed by Kriemhild. Its wonders are thus set forth in the poem:

    “’Twas as much as twelve huge wagons in four whole nights and days
    Could carry from the mountain down to the salt sea bay;
    Though to and fro each wagon thrice journeyed every day.

    “It was made up of nothing but precious stones and gold;
    Were all the world bought from it, and down the value told,
    Not a mark the less would there be left than erst there was, I ween.”
                                              —_Nibelungen Lied_, XIX.

Whoever possessed the Nibelungen hoard were termed Nibelungers. Thus at
one time certain people of Norway were so called. When Siegfried held
the treasure he received the title “King of the Nibelungers.”

                        WAGNER’S NIBELUNGEN RING

Though Richard Wagner’s music-drama of the Nibelungen Ring bears some
resemblance to the ancient German epic, it is a wholly independent
composition and was derived from various old songs and sagas, which the
dramatist wove into one great harmonious story. The principal source was
the Volsunga Saga, while lesser parts were taken from the Elder Edda and
the Younger Edda, and others from the Nibelungen Lied, the Ecklenlied,
and other Teutonic folklore.

In the drama there are at first only four distinct races,—the gods, the
giants, the dwarfs, and the nymphs. Later, by a special creation, there
come the valkyrie and the heroes. The gods are the noblest and highest
race, and dwell first in the mountain meadows, later in the palace of
Valhalla on the heights. The giants are a great and strong race, but
lack wisdom; they hate what is noble, and are enemies of the gods; they
dwell in caves near the earth’s surface. The dwarfs, or _nibelungs_, are
black uncouth pigmies, hating the good, hating the gods; they are crafty
and cunning, and dwell in the bowels of the earth. The nymphs are pure,
innocent creatures of the water. The valkyrie are daughters of the gods,
but mingled with a mortal strain; they gather dead heroes from the
battle-fields and carry them to Valhalla. The heroes are children of the
gods, but also mingled with a mortal strain; they are destined to become
at last the highest race of all, and to succeed the gods in the
government of the world.

The principal gods are Wotan, Loki, Donner, and Froh. The chief giants
are Fafner and Fasolt, brothers. The chief dwarfs are Alberich and Mime,
brothers, and later Hagan, son of Alberich. The chief nymphs are the
Rhine-daughters, Flosshilda, Woglinda, and Wellgunda. There are nine
Valkyrie, of whom Brunhild is the leading one.

Wagner’s story of the Ring may be summarized as follows:

A hoard of gold exists in the depths of the Rhine, guarded by the
innocent Rhine-maidens. Alberich, the dwarf, forswears love to gain this
gold. He makes it into a magic ring. It gives him all power, and he
gathers by it a vast amount of treasures.

Meanwhile Wotan, chief of the gods, has engaged the giants to build for
him a noble castle, Valhalla, from whence to rule the world, promising
in payment Freya, goddess of youth and love. But the gods find they
cannot spare Freya, as they are dependent on her for their immortal
youth. Loki, called upon to provide a substitute, tells of Alberich’s
magic ring and other treasure. Wotan goes with Loki, and they steal the
ring and the golden hoard from Alberich, who curses the ring and lays
the curse on all who shall henceforth possess it. The gods give the ring
and the treasure to the giants as a substitute for Freya. The curse at
once begins. One giant, Fafner, kills his brother to get all, and
transforms himself into a dragon to guard his wealth. The gods enter
Valhalla over the rainbow bridge. This ends the first part of the drama,
called the Rhine-Gold.

The second part, the Valkyrie, relates how Wotan still covets the ring.
He cannot take it himself, for he has given his word to the giants. He
stands or falls by his word. So he devises an artifice to get the ring.
He will get a hero-race to work for him and recover the ring and the
treasures. Siegmund and Sieglinda are twin children of this new race.
Sieglinda is carried off as a child and is forced into marriage with
Hunding. Siegmund comes, and unknowingly breaks the law of marriage, but
wins Nothung, the great sword, and a bride. Brunhild, chief of the
Valkyrie, is commissioned by Wotan at the instance of Fricka, goddess of
marriage, to slay him for his sin. She disobeys and tries to save him,
but Hunding, helped by Wotan, slays him. Sieglinda, however, about to
bear the free hero, to be called Siegfried, is saved by Brunhild, and
hid in the forest. Brunhild herself is punished by being made a mortal
woman. She is left sleeping on the mountains with a wall of fire around
her which only a hero can penetrate.

The drama continues with the story of Siegfried, which opens with a
scene in the smithy between Mime the dwarf and Siegfried. Mime is
welding a sword, and Siegfried scorns him. Mime tells him something of
his mother, Sieglinda, and shows him the broken pieces of his father’s
sword. Wotan comes and tells Mime that only one who has no fear can
remake the sword. Now Siegfried knows no fear and soon remakes the sword
Nothung. Wotan and Alberich come to where the dragon Fafner is guarding
the ring. They both long for it, but neither can take it. Soon Mime
comes bringing Siegfried with the mighty sword. Fafner comes out, but
Siegfried slays him. Happening to touch his lips with the dragon’s
blood, he understands the language of the birds. They tell him of the
ring. He goes and gets it. Siegfried now has possession of the ring, but
it is to bring him nothing of happiness, only evil. It is to curse love
and finally bring death. The birds also tell him of Mime’s treachery. He
slays Mime. He longs for some one to love. The birds tell him of the
slumbering Brunnhilda, whom he finds and marries.

The Dusk of the Gods portrays at the opening the three norns or fates
weaving and measuring the thread of destiny. It is the beginning of the
end. The perfect pair, Siegfried and Brunhild, appear in all the glory
of their life, splendid ideals of manhood and womanhood. But Siegfried
goes out into the world to achieve deeds of prowess. He gives her the
Nibelungen ring to keep as a pledge of his love till his return.
Meanwhile Alberich also has begotten a son, Hagan, to achieve for him
the possession of the ring. He is partly of the Gibichung race, and
works through Günther and Gutrune, half-brother and half-sister to him.
They beguile Siegfried to them, give him a magic draught which makes him
forget Brunhild and fall in love with Gutrune. Under this same spell, he
offers to bring Brunhild for wife to Günther. Now is Valhalla full of
sorrow and despair. The gods fear the end. Wotan murmurs, “O that she
would give back the ring to the Rhine.” But Brunhild will not give it
up,—it is now her pledge of love. Siegfried comes, takes the ring, and
Brunhild is now brought to the Rhine castle of the Gibichungs, but
Siegfried under the spell does not love her. She is to be wedded to
Günther. She rises in wrath and denounces Siegfried. But at a hunting
banquet Siegfried is given another magic draught, remembers all, and is
slain by Hagan by a blow in the back, as he calls on Brunhild’s name in
love. Then comes the end. The body of Siegfried is burned on a funeral
pyre, a grand funeral march is heard, and Brunhild rides into the flames
and sacrifices herself for love’s sake; the ring goes back to the
Rhine-daughters; and the old world—of the gods of Valhalla, of passion
and sin—is burnt up with flames, for the gods have broken moral law,
and coveted power rather than love, gold rather than truth, and
therefore must perish. They pass, and a new era, the reign of love and
truth, has begun.

Those who wish to study the differences in the legends of the Nibelungen
Lied and the Nibelungen Ring, and the way in which Wagner used this
ancient material, are referred to Professor W. C. Sawyer’s book on
“Teutonic Legends in the Nibelungen Lied and the Nibelungen Ring,” where
the matter is treated in full detail. For a very thorough and clear
analysis of the Ring as Wagner gives it, with a study of the musical
motifs, probably nothing is better for general readers than the volume
“The Epic of Sounds,” by Freda Winworth. The more scholarly work of
Professor Lavignac is indispensable for the student of Wagner’s dramas.
There is much illuminating comment on the sources and materials in
“Legends of the Wagner Drama” by J. L. Weston.


                              CHAPTER XLI

                            THE DRUIDS—IONA


THE Druids were the priests or ministers of religion among the ancient
Celtic nations in Gaul, Britain, and Germany. Our information respecting
them is borrowed from notices in the Greek and Roman writers, compared
with the remains of Welsh and Gaelic poetry still extant.

The Druids combined the functions of the priest, the magistrate, the
scholar, and the physician. They stood to the people of the Celtic
tribes in a relation closely analogous to that in which the Brahmans of
India, the Magi of Persia, and the priests of the Egyptians stood to the
people respectively by whom they were revered.

The Druids taught the existence of one god, to whom they gave a name
“Be’ al,” which Celtic antiquaries tell us means “the life of
everything,” or “the source of all beings,” and which seems to have
affinity with the Phœnician Baal. What renders this affinity more
striking is that the Druids as well as the Phœnicians identified this,
their supreme deity, with the _Sun_. Fire was regarded as a symbol of
the divinity. The Latin writers assert that the Druids also worshipped
numerous inferior gods.

They used no images to represent the object of their worship, nor did
they meet in temples or buildings of any kind for the performance of
their sacred rites. A circle of stones (each stone generally of vast
size), enclosing an area of from twenty feet to thirty yards in
diameter, constituted their sacred place. The most celebrated of these
now remaining is Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain, England.

These sacred circles were generally situated near some stream, or under
the shadow of a grove or widespreading oak. In the centre of the circle
stood the Cromlech or altar, which was a large stone, placed in the
manner of a table upon other stones set up on end. The Druids had also
their high places, which were large stones or piles of stones on the
summits of hills. These were called Cairns, and were used in the worship
of the deity under the symbol of the sun.

That the Druids offered sacrifices to their deity there can be no doubt.
But there is some uncertainty as to what they offered, and of the
ceremonies connected with their religious services we know almost
nothing. The classical (Roman) writers affirm that they offered on great
occasions human sacrifices; as for success in war or for relief from
dangerous diseases. Cæsar has given a detailed account of the manner in
which this was done. “They have images of immense size, the limbs of
which are framed with twisted twigs and filled with living persons.
These being set on fire, those within are encompassed by the flames.”
Many attempts have been made by Celtic writers to shake the testimony of
the Roman historians to this fact, but without success.

The Druids observed two festivals in each year. The former took place in
the beginning of May, and was called Beltane or “fire of God.” On this
occasion a large fire was kindled on some elevated spot, in honor of the
sun, whose returning beneficence they thus welcomed after the gloom and
desolation of winter. Of this custom a trace remains in the name given
to Whitsunday in parts of Scotland to this day. Sir Walter Scott uses
the word in the “Boat Song” in the “Lady of the Lake”:

    “Ours is no sapling, chance sown by the fountain,
    Blooming at Beltane in winter to fade;” etc.

The other great festival of the Druids was called “Samh’in,” or “fire of
peace,” and was held on Hallow-eve (first of November), which still
retains this designation in the Highlands of Scotland. On this occasion
the Druids assembled in solemn conclave, in the most central part of the
district, to discharge the judicial functions of their order. All
questions, whether public or private, all crimes against person or
property, were at this time brought before them for adjudication. With
these judicial acts were combined certain superstitious usages,
especially the kindling of the sacred fire, from which all the fires in
the district, which had been beforehand scrupulously extinguished, might
be relighted. This usage of kindling fires on Hallow-eve lingered in the
British islands long after the establishment of Christianity.

Besides these two great annual festivals, the Druids were in the habit
of observing the full moon, and especially the sixth day of the moon. On
the latter they sought the Mistletoe, which grew on their favorite oaks,
and to which, as well as to the oak itself, they ascribed a peculiar
virtue and sacredness. The discovery of it was an occasion of rejoicing
and solemn worship. “They call it,” says Pliny, “by a word in their
language, which means ‘heal-all,’ and having made solemn preparation for
feasting and sacrifice under the tree, they drive thither two milk-white
bulls, whose horns are then for the first time bound. The priest then,
robed in white, ascends the tree, and cuts off the mistletoe with a
golden sickle. It is caught in a white mantle, after which they proceed
to slay the victims, at the same time praying that God would render his
gift prosperous to those to whom he had given it.” They drink the water
in which it has been infused, and think it a remedy for all diseases.
The mistletoe is a parasitic plant, and is not always nor often found on
the oak, so that when it is found it is the more precious.

The Druids were the teachers of morality as well as of religion. Of
their ethical teaching a valuable specimen is preserved in the Triads of
the Welsh Bards, and from this we may gather that their views of moral
rectitude were on the whole just, and that they held and inculcated many
very noble and valuable principles of conduct. They were also the men of
science and learning of their age and people. Whether they were
acquainted with letters or not has been disputed, though the probability
is strong that they were, to some extent. But it is certain that they
committed nothing of their doctrine, their history, or their poetry to
writing. Their teaching was oral, and their literature (if such a word
may be used in such a case) was preserved solely by tradition. But the
Roman writers admit that “they paid much attention to the order and laws
of nature, and investigated and taught to the youth under their charge
many things concerning the stars and their motions, the size of the
world and the lands, and concerning the might and power of the immortal

Their history consisted in traditional tales, in which the heroic deeds
of their forefathers were celebrated. These were apparently in verse,
and thus constituted part of the poetry as well as the history of the
Druids. In the poems of Ossian we have, if not the actual productions of
Druidical times, what may be considered faithful representations of the
songs of the Bards.

The Bards were an essential part of the Druidical hierarchy. One author,
Pennant, says, “The Bards were supposed to be endowed with powers equal
to inspiration. They were the oral historians of all past transactions,
public and private. They were also accomplished genealogists,” etc.

Pennant gives a minute account of the Eisteddfods or sessions of the
Bards and minstrels, which were held in Wales for many centuries, long
after the Druidical priesthood in its other departments became extinct.
At these meetings none but Bards of merit were suffered to rehearse
their pieces, and minstrels of skill to perform. Judges were appointed
to decide on their respective abilities, and suitable degrees were
conferred. In the earlier period the judges were appointed by the Welsh
princes, and after the conquest of Wales, by commission from the kings
of England. Yet the tradition is that Edward I., in revenge for the
influence of the Bards in animating the resistance of the people to his
sway, persecuted them with great cruelty. This tradition has furnished
the poet Gray with the subject of his celebrated ode, the “Bard.”

There are still occasional meetings of the lovers of Welsh poetry and
music, held under the ancient name. Among Mrs. Hemans’ poems is one
written for an Eisteddfod, or meeting of Welsh Bards, held in London,
May 22, 1822. It begins with a description of the ancient meeting, of
which the following lines are a part:

    “. . . midst the eternal cliffs, whose strength defied
    The crested Roman in his hour of pride;
    And where the Druid’s ancient cromlech frowned,
    And the oaks breathed mysterious murmurs round,
    There thronged the inspired of yore! on plain or height,
    In the sun’s face, beneath the eye of light,
    And baring unto heaven each noble head,
    Stood in the circle, where none else might tread.”

The Druidical system was at its height at the time of the Roman invasion
under Julius Cæsar. Against the Druids, as their chief enemies, these
conquerors of the world directed their unsparing fury. The Druids,
harassed at all points on the mainland, retreated to Anglesey and Iona,
where for a season they found shelter and continued their now dishonored

The Druids retained their predominance in Iona and over the adjacent
islands and mainland until they were supplanted and their superstitions
overturned by the arrival of St. Columba, the apostle of the Highlands,
by whom the inhabitants of that district were first led to profess


One of the smallest of the British Isles, situated near a rugged and
barren coast, surrounded by dangerous seas, and possessing no sources of
internal wealth, Iona has obtained an imperishable place in history as
the seat of civilization and religion at a time when the darkness of
heathenism hung over almost the whole of Northern Europe. Iona or
Icolmkill is situated at the extremity of the island of Mull, from which
it is separated by a strait of half a mile in breadth, its distance from
the mainland of Scotland being thirty-six miles.

Columba was a native of Ireland, and connected by birth with the princes
of the land. Ireland was at that time a land of gospel light, while the
western and northern parts of Scotland were still immersed in the
darkness of heathenism. Columba with twelve friends landed on the island
of Iona in the year of our Lord 563, having made the passage in a wicker
boat covered with hides. The Druids who occupied the island endeavored
to prevent his settling there, and the savage nations on the adjoining
shores incommoded him with their hostility, and on several occasions
endangered his life by their attacks. Yet by his perseverance and zeal
he surmounted all opposition, procured from the king a gift of the
island, and established there a monastery of which he was the abbot. He
was unwearied in his labors to disseminate a knowledge of the Scriptures
throughout the Highlands and islands of Scotland, and such was the
reverence paid him that though not a bishop, but merely a presbyter and
monk, the entire province with its bishops was subject to him and his
successors. The Pictish monarch was so impressed with a sense of his
wisdom and worth that he held him in the highest honor, and the
neighboring chiefs and princes sought his counsel and availed themselves
of his judgment in settling their disputes.

When Columba landed on Iona he was attended by twelve followers whom he
had formed into a religious body of which he was the head. To these, as
occasion required, others were from time to time added, so that the
original number was always kept up. Their institution was called a
monastery and the superior an abbot, but the system had little in common
with the monastic institutions of later times. The name by which those
who submitted to the rule were known was that of Culdees, probably from
the Latin “cultores Dei”—worshippers of God. They were a body of
religious persons associated together for the purpose of aiding each
other in the common work of preaching the gospel and teaching youth, as
well as maintaining in themselves the fervor of devotion by united
exercises of worship. On entering the order certain vows were taken by
the members, but they were not those which were usually imposed by
monastic orders, for of these, which are three,—celibacy, poverty, and
obedience.—the Culdees were bound to none except the third. To poverty
they did not bind themselves; on the contrary they seem to have labored
diligently to procure for themselves and those dependent on them the
comforts of life. Marriage also was allowed them, and most of them seem
to have entered into that state. True, their wives were not permitted to
reside with them at the institution, but they had a residence assigned
to them in an adjacent locality. Near Iona there is an island which
still bears the name of “Eilen nam ban,” women’s island, where their
husbands seem to have resided with them, except when duty required their
presence in the school or the sanctuary.

Campbell, in his poem of “Reullura,” alludes to the married monks of

    “. . . The pure Culdees
      Were Albyn’s earliest priests of God,
    Ere yet an island of her seas
      By foot of Saxon monk was trod,
    Long ere her churchmen by bigotry
    Were barred from holy wedlock’s tie.
    ’Twas then that Aodh, famed afar,
      In Iona preached the word with power,
    And Reullura, beauty’s star,
      Was the partner of his bower.”

In one of his “Irish Melodies,” Moore gives the legend of St. Senanus
and the lady who sought shelter on the island, but was repulsed:

    “O, haste and leave this sacred isle,
    Unholy bark, ere morning smile;
    For on thy deck, though dark it be,
        A female form I see;
    And I have sworn this sainted sod
    Shall ne’er by woman’s foot be trod.”

In these respects and in others the Culdees departed from the
established rules of the Romish church, and consequently were deemed
heretical. The consequence was that as the power of the latter advanced
that of the Culdees was enfeebled. It was not, however, till the
thirteenth century that the communities of the Culdees were suppressed
and the members dispersed. They still continued to labor as individuals,
and resisted the inroads of Papal usurpation as they best might till the
light of the Reformation dawned on the world.

Iona, from its position in the western seas, was exposed to the assaults
of the Norwegian and Danish rovers by whom those seas were infested, and
by them it was repeatedly pillaged, its dwellings burned, and its
peaceful inhabitants put to the sword. These unfavorable circumstances
led to its gradual decline, which was expedited by the subversion of the
Culdees throughout Scotland. Under the reign of Popery the island became
the seat of a nunnery, the ruins of which are still seen. At the
Reformation, the nuns were allowed to remain, living in community, when
the abbey was dismantled.

Iona is now chiefly resorted to by travellers on account of the numerous
ecclesiastical and sepulchral remains which are found upon it. The
principal of these are the Cathedral or Abbey Church and the Chapel of
the Nunnery. Besides these remains of ecclesiastical antiquity, there
are some of an earlier date, and pointing to the existence on the island
of forms of worship and belief different from those of Christianity.
These are the circular Cairns which are found in various parts, and
which seem to have been of Druidical origin. It is in reference to all
these remains of ancient religion that Johnson exclaims, “That man is
little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the
plains of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer amid the ruins
of Iona.”

In the “Lord of the Isles” Scott beautifully contrasts the church on
Iona with the cave of Staffa, opposite:

    “Nature herself, it seemed, would raise
    A minister to her Maker’s praise!
    Not for a meaner use ascend
    Her columns, or her arches bend;
    Nor of a theme less solemn tells
    That mighty surge that ebbs and swells,
    And still between each awful pause,
    From the high vault an answer draws,
    In varied tone, prolonged and high,
    That mocks the organ’s melody;
    Nor doth its entrance front in vain
    To old Iona’s holy fane,
    That Nature’s voice might seem to say,
    Well hast thou done, frail child of clay!
    Thy humble powers that stately shrine
    Tasked high and hard—but witness mine!”

                      KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS

                               CHAPTER I


ON the decline of the Roman power, about five centuries after Christ,
the countries of Northern Europe were left almost destitute of a
national government. Numerous chiefs, more or less powerful, held local
sway, as far as each could enforce his dominion, and occasionally those
chiefs would unite for a common object; but, in ordinary times, they
were much more likely to be found in hostility to one another. In such a
state of things the rights of the humbler classes of society were at the
mercy of every assailant; and it is plain that, without some check upon
the lawless power of the chiefs, society must have relapsed into
barbarism. Such checks were found, first, in the rivalry of the chiefs
themselves, whose mutual jealousy made them restraints upon one another;
secondly, in the influence of the Church, which, by every motive, pure
or selfish, was pledged to interpose for the protection of the weak; and
lastly, in the generosity and sense of right which, however crushed
under the weight of passion and selfishness, dwell naturally in the
heart of man. From this last source sprang Chivalry, which framed an
ideal of the heroic character, combining invincible strength and valor,
justice, modesty, loyalty to superiors, courtesy to equals, compassion
to weakness, and devotedness to the Church; an ideal which, if never met
with in real life, was acknowledged by all as the highest model for

The word “Chivalry” is derived from the French “_cheval_,” a horse. The
word “knight,” which originally meant boy or servant, was particularly
applied to a young man after he was admitted to the privilege of bearing
arms. This privilege was conferred on youths of family and fortune only,
for the mass of the people were not furnished with arms. The knight then
was a mounted warrior, a man of rank, or in the service and maintenance
of some man of rank, generally possessing some independent means of
support, but often relying mainly on the gratitude of those whom he
served for the supply of his wants, and often, no doubt, resorting to
the means which power confers on its possessor.

In time of war the knight was, with his followers, in the camp of his
sovereign, or commanding in the field, or holding some castle for him.
In time of peace he was often in attendance at his sovereign’s court,
gracing with his presence the banquets and tournaments with which
princes cheered their leisure. Or he was traversing the country in quest
of adventure, professedly bent on redressing wrongs and enforcing
rights, sometimes in fulfilment of some vow of religion or of love.
These wandering knights were called knights-errant; they were welcome
guests in the castles of the nobility, for their presence enlivened the
dulness of those secluded abodes, and they were received with honor at
the abbeys, which often owed the best part of their revenues to the
patronage of the knights; but if no castle or abbey or hermitage were at
hand their hardy habits made it not intolerable to them to lie down,
supperless, at the foot of some wayside cross, and pass the night.

It is evident that the justice administered by such an instrumentality
must have been of the rudest description. The force whose legitimate
purpose was to redress wrongs might easily be perverted to inflict them.
Accordingly, we find in the romances, which, however fabulous in facts,
are true as pictures of manners, that a knightly castle was often a
terror to the surrounding country; that is, dungeons were full of
oppressed knights and ladies, waiting for some champion to appear to set
them free, or to be ransomed with money; that hosts of idle retainers
were ever at hand to enforce their lord’s behests, regardless of law and
justice; and that the rights of the unarmed multitude were of no
account. This contrariety of fact and theory in regard to chivalry will
account for the opposite impressions which exist in men’s minds
respecting it. While it has been the theme of the most fervid eulogium
on the one part, it has been as eagerly denounced on the other. On a
cool estimate, we cannot but see reason to congratulate ourselves that
it has given way in modern times to the reign of law, and that the civil
magistrate, if less picturesque, has taken the place of the mailed

                        THE TRAINING OF A KNIGHT

The preparatory education of candidates for knighthood was long and
arduous. At seven years of age the noble children were usually removed
from their father’s house to the court or castle of their future patron,
and placed under the care of a governor, who taught them the first
articles of religion, and respect and reverence for their lords and
superiors, and initiated them in the ceremonies of a court. They were
called _pages_, _valets_, or _varlets_, and their office was to carve,
to wait at table, and to perform other menial services, which were not
then considered humiliating. In their leisure hours they learned to
dance and play on the harp, were instructed in the mysteries of _woods_
and _rivers_, that is, in hunting, falconry, and fishing, and in
wrestling, tilting with spears, and performing other military exercises
on horseback. At fourteen the page became an esquire, and began a course
of severer and more laborious exercises. To vault on a horse in heavy
armor; to run, to scale walls, and spring over ditches, under the same
encumbrance; to wrestle, to wield the battle-axe for a length of time,
without raising the visor or taking breath; to perform with grace all
the evolutions of horsemanship,—were necessary preliminaries to the
reception of knighthood, which was usually conferred at twenty-one years
of age, when the young man’s education was supposed to be completed. In
the meantime, the esquires were no less assiduously engaged in acquiring
all those refinements of civility which formed what was in that age
called _courtesy_. The same castle in which they received their
education was usually thronged with young persons of the other sex, and
the page was encouraged, at a very early age, to select some lady of the
court as the mistress of his heart, to whom he was taught to refer all
his sentiments, words, and actions. The service of his mistress was the
glory and occupation of a knight, and her smiles, bestowed at once by
affection and gratitude, were held out as the recompense of his
well-directed valor. Religion united its influence with those of loyalty
and love, and the order of knighthood, endowed with all the sanctity and
religious awe that attended the priesthood, became an object of ambition
to the greatest sovereigns.

The ceremonies of initiation were peculiarly solemn. After undergoing a
severe fast, and spending whole nights in prayer, the candidate
confessed, and received the sacrament. He then clothed himself in
snow-white garments, and repaired to the church, or the hall, where the
ceremony was to take place, bearing a knightly sword suspended from his
neck, which the officiating priest took and blessed, and then returned
to him. The candidate then, with folded arms, knelt before the presiding
knight, who, after some questions about his motives and purposes in
requesting admission, administered to him the oaths, and granted his
request. Some of the knights present, sometimes even ladies and damsels,
handed to him in succession the spurs, the coat of mail, the hauberk,
the armlet and gauntlet, and lastly he girded on the sword. He then
knelt again before the president, who, rising from his seat, gave him
the “accolade,” which consisted of three strokes, with the flat of a
sword, on the shoulder or neck of the candidate, accompanied by the
words: “In the name of God, of St. Michael, and St. George, I make thee
a knight; be valiant, courteous, and loyal!” Then he received his
helmet, his shield, and spear; and thus the investiture ended.


The other classes of which society was composed were, first, _freemen_,
owners of small portions of land independent, though they sometimes
voluntarily became the vassals of their more opulent neighbors, whose
power was necessary for their protection. The other two classes, which
were much the most numerous, were either serfs or villains, both of
which were slaves.

The _serfs_ were in the lowest state of slavery. All the fruits of their
labor belonged to the master whose land they tilled, and by whom they
were fed and clothed.

The _villains_ were less degraded. Their situation seems to have
resembled that of the Russian peasants at this day. Like the serfs, they
were attached to the soil, and were transferred with it by purchase; but
they paid only a fixed rent to the landlord, and had a right to dispose
of any surplus that might arise from their industry.

The term “clerk” was of very extensive import. It comprehended,
originally, such persons only as belonged to the clergy, or clerical
order, among whom, however, might be found a multitude of married
persons, artisans or others. But in process of time a much wider rule
was established; every one that could read being accounted a _clerk_ or
_clericus_, and allowed the “benefit of clergy,” that is, exemption from
capital and some other forms of punishment, in case of crime.


The splendid pageant of a tournament between knights, its gaudy
accessories and trappings, and its chivalrous regulations, originated in
France. Tournaments were repeatedly condemned by the Church, probably on
account of the quarrels they led to, and the often fatal results. The
“joust,” or “just,” was different from the tournament. In these, knights
fought with their lances, and their object was to unhorse their
antagonists; while the tournaments were intended for a display of skill
and address in evolutions, and with various weapons, and greater
courtesy was observed in the regulations. By these it was forbidden to
wound the horse, or to use the point of the sword, or to strike a knight
after he had raised his vizor, or unlaced his helmet. The ladies
encouraged their knights in these exercises; they bestowed prizes, and
the conqueror’s feats were the theme of romance and song. The stands
overlooking the ground, of course, were varied in the shapes of towers,
terraces, galleries, and pensile gardens, magnificently decorated with
tapestry, pavilions, and banners. Every combatant proclaimed the name of
the lady whose _servant d’amour_ he was. He was wont to look up to the
stand, and strengthen his courage by the sight of the bright eyes that
were raining their influence on him from above. The knights also carried
_favors_, consisting of scarfs, veils, sleeves, bracelets, clasps,—in
short, some piece of female habiliment,—attached to their helmets,
shields, or armor. If, during the combat, any of these appendages were
dropped or lost the fair donor would at times send her knight new ones,
especially if pleased with his exertions.

                               MAIL ARMOR

Mail armor, of which the hauberk is a species, and which derived its
name from _maille_, a French word for _mesh_, was of two kinds, _plate_
or _scale_ mail, and _chain_ mail. It was originally used for the
protection of the body only, reaching no lower than the knees. It was
shaped like a carter’s frock, and bound round the waist by a girdle.
Gloves and hose of mail were afterwards added, and a hood, which, when
necessary, was drawn over the head, leaving the face alone uncovered. To
protect the skin from the impression of the iron network of the chain
mail, a quilted lining was employed, which, however, was insufficient,
and the bath was used to efface the marks of the armor.

The hauberk was a complete covering of double chain mail. Some hauberks
opened before, like a modern coat; others were closed like a shirt.

The chain mail of which they were composed was formed by a number of
iron links, each link having others inserted into it, the whole
exhibiting a kind of network, of which (in some instances at least) the
meshes were circular, with each link separately riveted.

The hauberk was proof against the most violent blow of a sword; but the
point of a lance might pass through the meshes, or drive the iron into
the flesh. To guard against this, a thick and well-stuffed doublet was
worn underneath, under which was commonly added an iron breastplate.
Hence the expression “to pierce both plate and mail,” so common in the
earlier poets.

Mail armor continued in general use till about the year 1300, when it
was gradually supplanted by plate armor, or suits consisting of pieces
or plates of solid iron, adapted to the different parts of the body.

Shields were generally made of wood, covered with leather, or some
similar substance. To secure them, in some sort, from being cut through
by the sword, they were surrounded with a hoop of metal.


The helmet was composed of two parts: the _headpiece_, which was
strengthened within by several circles of iron, and the _visor_, which,
as the name implies, was a sort of grating to see through, so contrived
as, by sliding in a groove, or turning on a pivot, to be raised or
lowered at pleasure. Some helmets had a further improvement called a
_bever_, from the Italian _bevere_, to drink. The _ventayle_, or
“air-passage,” is another name for this.

To secure the helmet from the possibility of falling, or of being struck
off, it was tied by several laces to the meshes of the hauberk;
consequently, when a knight was overthrown it was necessary to undo
these laces before he could be put to death; though this was sometimes
effected by lifting up the skirt of the hauberk, and stabbing him in the
belly. The instrument of death was a small dagger, worn on the right


In ages when there were no books, when noblemen and princes themselves
could not read, history or tradition was monopolized by the
story-tellers. They inherited, generation after generation, the wondrous
tales of their predecessors, which they retailed to the public with such
additions of their own as their acquired information supplied them with.
Anachronisms became of course very common, and errors of geography, of
locality, of manners, equally so. Spurious genealogies were invented, in
which Arthur and his knights, and Charlemagne and his paladins, were
made to derive their descent from Æneas, Hector, or some other of the
Trojan heroes.

With regard to the derivation of the word “Romance,” we trace it to the
fact that the dialects which were formed in Western Europe, from the
admixture of Latin with the native languages, took the name of _Langue
Romaine_. The French language was divided into two dialects. The river
Loire was their common boundary. In the provinces to the south of that
river the affirmative, _yes_, was expressed by the word _oc_; in the
north it was called _oil_ (_oui_); and hence Dante has named the
southern language _langue d’oc_, and the northern _langue d’oil_. The
latter, which was carried into England by the Normans, and is the origin
of the present French, may be called the French Romane; and the former
the Provençal, or Provencial Romane, because it was spoken by the people
of Provence and Languedoc, southern provinces of France.

These dialects were soon distinguished by very opposite characters. A
soft and enervating climate, a spirit of commerce encouraged by an easy
communication with other maritime nations, the influx of wealth, and a
more settled government, may have tended to polish and soften the
diction of the Provencials, whose poets, under the name of Troubadours,
were the masters of the Italians, and particularly of Petrarch. Their
favorite pieces were _Sirventes_ (satirical pieces), love-songs, and
_Ténsons_, which last were a sort of dialogue in verse between two
poets, who questioned each other on some refined points of loves’
casuistry. It seems the Provencials were so completely absorbed in these
delicate questions as to neglect and despise the composition of fabulous
histories of adventure and knighthood, which they left in a great
measure to the poets of the northern part of the kingdom, called

At a time when chivalry excited universal admiration, and when all the
efforts of that chivalry were directed against the enemies of religion,
it was natural that literature should receive the same impulse, and that
history and fable should be ransacked to furnish examples of courage and
piety that might excite increased emulation. Arthur and Charlemagne were
the two heroes selected for this purpose. Arthur’s pretensions were that
he was a brave, though not always a successful warrior; he had withstood
with great resolution the arms of the infidels, that is to say of the
Saxons, and his memory was held in the highest estimation by his
countrymen, the Britons, who carried with them into Wales, and into the
kindred country of Armorica, or Brittany, the memory of his exploits,
which their national vanity insensibly exaggerated, till the little
prince of the Silures (South Wales) was magnified into the conqueror of
England, of Gaul, and of the greater part of Europe. His genealogy was
gradually carried up to an imaginary Brutus, and to the period of the
Trojan war, and a sort of chronicle was composed in the Welsh, or
Armorican language, which, under the pompous title of the “History of
the Kings of Britain,” was translated into Latin by Geoffrey of
Monmouth, about the year 1150. The Welsh critics consider the material
of the work to have been an older history, written by St. Talian, Bishop
of St. Asaph, in the seventh century.

As to Charlemagne, though his real merits were sufficient to secure his
immortality, it was impossible that his _holy wars_ against the Saracens
should not become a favorite topic for fiction. Accordingly, the
fabulous history of these wars was written, probably towards the close
of the eleventh century, by a monk, who, thinking it would add dignity
to his work to embellish it with a contemporary name, boldly ascribed it
to Turpin, who was Archbishop of Rheims about the year 773.

These fabulous chronicles were for a while imprisoned in languages of
local only or of professional access. Both Turpin and Geoffrey might
indeed be read by ecclesiastics, the sole Latin scholars of those times,
and Geoffrey’s British original would contribute to the gratification of
Welshmen; but neither could become extensively popular till translated
into some language of general and familiar use. The Anglo-Saxon was at
that time used only by a conquered and enslaved nation; the Spanish and
Italian languages were not yet formed; the Norman French alone was
spoken and understood by the nobility in the greater part of Europe, and
therefore was a proper vehicle for the new mode of composition.

That language was fashionable in England before the Conquest, and
became, after that event, the only language used at the court of London.
As the various conquests of the Normans, and the enthusiastic valor of
that extraordinary people, had familiarized the minds of men with the
most marvellous events, their poets eagerly seized the fabulous legends
of Arthur and Charlemagne, translated them into the language of the day,
and soon produced a variety of imitations. The adventures attributed to
these monarchs, and to their distinguished warriors, together with those
of many other traditionary or imaginary heroes, composed by degrees that
formidable body of marvellous histories which, from the dialect in which
the most ancient of them were written, were called “Romances.”

                           METRICAL ROMANCES

The earliest form in which romances appear is that of a rude kind of
verse. In this form it is supposed they were sung or recited at the
feasts of princes and knights in their baronial halls. The following
specimen of the language and style of Robert de Beauvais, who flourished
in 1257, is from Sir Walter Scott’s “Introduction to the Romance of Sir

            “Ne voil pas emmi dire,
            Ici diverse la matyere,
            Entre ceus qui solent cunter,
            E de le cunte Tristran parler.”

    “I will not say too much about it,
    So diverse is the matter,
    Among those who are in the habit of telling
    And relating the story of Tristran.”

This is a specimen of the language which was in use among the nobility
of England, in the ages immediately after the Norman conquest. The
following is a specimen of the English that existed at the same time,
among the common people. Robert de Brunne, speaking of his Latin and
French authorities, says:

    “Als thai haf wryten and sayd
    Haf I alle in myn Inglis layd,
    In symple speche as I couthe,
    That is lightest in manne’s mouthe.
    Alle for the luf of symple men,
    That strange Inglis cannot ken.”

The “strange Inglis” being the language of the previous specimen.

It was not till toward the end of the thirteenth century that the
_prose_ romances began to appear. These works generally began with
disowning and discrediting the sources from which in reality they drew
their sole information. As every romance was supposed to be a real
history, the compilers of those in prose would have forfeited all credit
if they had announced themselves as mere copyists of the minstrels. On
the contrary, they usually state that, as the popular poems upon the
matter in question contain many “lesings,” they had been induced to
translate the real and true history of such or such a knight from the
original Latin or Greek, or from the ancient British or Armorican
authorities, which authorities existed only in their own assertion.

A specimen of the style of the prose romances may be found in the
following extract from one of the most celebrated and latest of them,
the “Morte d’Arthur” of Sir Thomas Mallory, of the date of 1485. From
this work much of the contents of this volume has been drawn, with as
close an adherence to the original style as was thought consistent with
our plan of adapting our narrative to the taste of modern readers.

“It is notoyrly knowen thorugh the vnyuersal world that there been ix
worthy and the best that ever were. That is to wete thre paynyms, three
Jewes, and three crysten men. As for the paynyms, they were tofore the
Incarnacyon of Cryst whiche were named, the fyrst Hector of Troye; the
second Alysaunder the grete, and the thyrd Julyus Cezar, Emperour of
Rome, of whome thystoryes ben wel kno and had. And as for the thre Jewes
whyche also were tofore thyncarnacyon of our Lord, of whome the fyrst
was Duc Josue, whyche brought the chyldren of Israhel into the londe of
beheste; the second Dauyd, kyng of Jherusalem, and the thyrd Judas
Machabeus; of these thre the byble reherceth al theyr noble hystoryes
and actes. And sythe the sayd Incarnacyon haue ben the noble crysten men
stalled and admytted thorugh the vnyuersal world to the nombre of the ix
beste and worthy, of whome was fyrst the noble Arthur, whose noble actes
I purpose to wryte in this person book here folowyng. The second was
Charlemayn, or Charles the grete, of whome thystorye is had in many
places both in frensshe and englysshe, and the thyrd and last was
Godefray of boloyn.”


                               CHAPTER II


THE illustrious poet, Milton, in his “History of England,” is the author
whom we chiefly follow in this chapter.

According to the earliest accounts, Albion, a giant, and son of Neptune,
a contemporary of Hercules, ruled over the island, to which he gave his
name. Presuming to oppose the progress of Hercules in his western march,
he was slain by him.

Another story is that Histion, the son of Japhet, the son of Noah, had
four sons, Francus, Romanus, Alemannus, and Britto, from whom descended
the French, Roman, German, and British people.

Rejecting these and other like stories, Milton gives more regard to the
story of Brutus, the Trojan, which, he says, is supported by “descents
of ancestry long continued, laws and exploits not plainly seeming to be
borrowed or devised, which on the common belief have wrought no small
impression; defended by many, denied utterly by few.” The principal
authority is Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose history, written in the twelfth
century, purports to be a translation of a history of Britain brought
over from the opposite shore of France, which, under the name of
Brittany, was chiefly peopled by natives of Britain who, from time to
time, emigrated thither, driven from their own country by the inroads of
the Picts and Scots. According to this authority, Brutus was the son of
Silvius, and he of Ascanius, the son of Æneas, whose flight from Troy
and settlement in Italy are narrated in “Stories of Gods and Heroes.”

Brutus, at the age of fifteen, attending his father to the chase,
unfortunately killed him with an arrow. Banished therefor by his
kindred, he sought refuge in that part of Greece where Helenus, with a
band of Trojan exiles, had become established. But Helenus was now dead
and the descendants of the Trojans were oppressed by Pandrasus, the king
of the country. Brutus, being kindly received among them, so throve in
virtue and in arms as to win the regard of all the eminent of the land
above all others of his age. In consequence of this the Trojans not only
began to hope, but secretly to persuade him to lead them the way to
liberty. To encourage them, they had the promise of help from Assaracus,
a noble Greek youth, whose mother was a Trojan. He had suffered wrong at
the hands of the king, and for that reason the more willingly cast in
his lot with the Trojan exiles.

Choosing a fit opportunity, Brutus with his countrymen withdrew to the
woods and hills, as the safest place from which to expostulate, and sent
this message to Pandrasus: “That the Trojans, holding it unworthy of
their ancestors to serve in a foreign land, had retreated to the woods,
choosing rather a savage life than a slavish one. If that displeased
him, then, with his leave, they would depart to some other country.”
Pandrasus, not expecting so bold a message from the sons of captives,
went in pursuit of them, with such forces as he could gather, and met
them on the banks of the Achelous, where Brutus got the advantage, and
took the king captive. The result was, that the terms demanded by the
Trojans were granted; the king gave his daughter Imogen in marriage to
Brutus, and furnished shipping, money, and fit provision for them all to
depart from the land.

The marriage being solemnized, and shipping from all parts got together,
the Trojans, in a fleet of no less than three hundred and twenty sail,
betook themselves to the sea. On the third day they arrived at a certain
island, which they found destitute of inhabitants, though there were
appearances of former habitation, and among the ruins a temple of Diana.
Brutus, here performing sacrifice at the shrine of the goddess, invoked
an oracle for his guidance, in these lines:

    “Goddess of shades, and huntress, who at will
    Walk’st on the rolling sphere, and through the deep;
    On thy third realm, the earth, look now, and tell
    What land, what seat of rest, thou bidd’st me seek;
    What certain seat where I may worship thee
    For aye, with temples vowed and virgin choirs.”

To whom, sleeping before the altar, Diana in a vision thus answered:

    “Brutus! far to the west, in the ocean wide,
    Beyond the realm of Gaul, a land there lies,
    Seagirt it lies, where giants dwelt of old;
    Now, void, it fits thy people: thither bend
    Thy course; there shalt thou find a lasting seat;
    There to thy sons another Troy shall rise,
    And kings be born of thee, whose dreaded might
    Shall awe the world, and conquer nations bold.”

Brutus, guided now, as he thought, by divine direction, sped his course
towards the west, and, arriving at a place on the Tyrrhene sea, found
there the descendants of certain Trojans who, with Antenor, came into
Italy, of whom Corineus was the chief. These joined company, and the
ships pursued their way till they arrived at the mouth of the river
Loire, in France, where the expedition landed, with a view to a
settlement, but were so rudely assaulted by the inhabitants that they
put to sea again, and arrived at a part of the coast of Britain, now
called Devonshire, where Brutus felt convinced that he had found the
promised end of his voyage, landed his colony, and took possession.

The island, not yet Britain, but Albion, was in a manner desert and
inhospitable, occupied only by a remnant of the giant race whose
excessive force and tyranny had destroyed the others. The Trojans
encountered these and extirpated them, Corineus, in particular,
signalizing himself by his exploits against them; from whom Cornwall
takes its name, for that region fell to his lot, and there the hugest
giants dwelt, lurking in rocks and caves, till Corineus rid the land of

Brutus built his capital city, and called it Trojanova (New Troy),
changed in time to Trinovantus, now London;[39] and, having governed the
isle twenty-four years, died, leaving three sons, Locrine, Albanact and
Camber. Locrine had the middle part, Camber the west, called Cambria
from him, and Albanact Albania, now Scotland. Locrine was married to
Guendolen, the daughter of Corineus, but having seen a fair maid named
Estrildis, who had been brought captive from Germany, he became
enamoured of her, and had by her a daughter, whose name was Sabra. This
matter was kept secret while Corineus lived, but after his death Locrine
divorced Guendolen, and made Estrildis his queen. Guendolen, all in
rage, departed to Cornwall, where Madan, her son, lived, who had been
brought up by Corineus, his grandfather. Gathering an army of her
father’s friends and subjects, she gave battle to her husband’s forces
and Locrine was slain. Guendolen caused her rival, Estrildis, with her
daughter Sabra, to be thrown into the river, from which cause the river
thenceforth bore the maiden’s name, which by length of time is now
changed into Sabrina or Severn. Milton alludes to this in his address to
the rivers,—

    “Severn swift, guilty of maiden’s death”;—

and in his “Comus” tells the story with a slight variation, thus:

    “There is a gentle nymph not far from hence,
    That with moist curb sways the smooth Severn stream;
    Sabrina is her name, a virgin pure:
    Whilom she was the daughter of Locrine,
    That had the sceptre from his father, Brute,
    She, guiltless damsel, flying the mad pursuit
    Of her enragéd step-dame, Guendolen,
    Commended her fair innocence to the flood,
    That stayed her flight with his cross-flowing course
    The water-nymphs that in the bottom played,
    Held up their pearléd wrists and took her in,
    Bearing her straight to aged Nereus’ hall,
    Who, piteous of her woes, reared her lank head,
    And gave her to his daughters to imbathe
    In nectared lavers strewed with asphodel,
    And through the porch and inlet of each sense
    Dropped in ambrosial oils till she revived,
    And underwent a quick, immortal change,
    Made goddess of the river,” etc.

If our readers ask when all this took place, we must answer, in the
first place, that mythology is not careful of dates; and next, that, as
Brutus was the great-grandson of Æneas, it must have been not far from a
century subsequent to the Trojan war, or about eleven hundred years
before the invasion of the island by Julius Cæsar. This long interval is
filled with the names of princes whose chief occupation was in warring
with one another. Some few, whose names remain connected with places, or
embalmed in literature, we will mention.


Bladud built the city of Bath, and dedicated the medicinal waters to
Minerva. He was a man of great invention, and practised the arts of
magic, till, having made him wings to fly, he fell down upon the temple
of Apollo, in Trinovant, and so died, after twenty years’ reign.


Leir, who next reigned, built Leicester, and called it after his name.
He had no male issue, but only three daughters. When grown old he
determined to divide his kingdom among his daughters, and bestow them in
marriage. But first, to try which of them loved him best, he determined
to ask them solemnly in order, and judge of the warmth of their
affection by their answers. Goneril, the eldest, knowing well her
father’s weakness, made answer that she loved him “above her soul.”
“Since thou so honorest my declining age,” said the old man, “to thee
and to thy husband I give the third part of my realm.” Such good success
for a few words soon uttered was ample instruction to Regan, the second
daughter, what to say. She therefore to the same question replied that
“she loved him more than all the world beside;” and so received an equal
reward with her sister. But Cordeilla, the youngest, and hitherto the
best beloved, though having before her eyes the reward of a little easy
soothing, and the loss likely to attend plain-dealing, yet was not moved
from the solid purpose of a sincere and virtuous answer, and replied:
“Father, my love towards you is as my duty bids. They who pretend beyond
this flatter.” When the old man, sorry to hear this, and wishing her to
recall these words, persisted in asking, she still restrained her
expressions so as to say rather less than more than the truth. Then
Leir, all in a passion, burst forth: “Since thou hast not reverenced thy
aged father like thy sisters, think not to have any part in my kingdom
or what else I have;”—and without delay, giving in marriage his other
daughters, Goneril to the Duke of Albany, and Regan to the Duke of
Cornwall, he divides his kingdom between them, and goes to reside with
his eldest daughter, attended only by a hundred knights. But in a short
time his attendants, being complained of as too numerous and disorderly,
are reduced to thirty. Resenting that affront, the old king betakes him
to his second daughter; but she, instead of soothing his wounded pride,
takes part with her sister, and refuses to admit a retinue of more than
five. Then back he returns to the other, who now will not receive him
with more than one attendant. Then the remembrance of Cordeilla comes to
his thoughts, and he takes his journey into France to seek her, with
little hope of kind consideration from one whom he had so injured, but
to pay her the last recompense he can render,—confession of his
injustice. When Cordeilla is informed of his approach, and of his sad
condition, she pours forth true filial tears. And, not willing that her
own or others’ eyes should see him in that forlorn condition, she sends
one of her trusted servants to meet him, and convey him privately to
some comfortable abode, and to furnish him with such state as befitted
his dignity. After which Cordeilla, with the king her husband, went in
state to meet him, and, after an honorable reception, the king permitted
his wife, Cordeilla, to go with an army and set her father again upon
his throne. They prospered, subdued the wicked sisters and their
consorts, and Leir obtained the crown and held it three years. Cordeilla
succeeded him and reigned five years; but the sons of her sisters, after
that, rebelled against her, and she lost both her crown and life.

Shakspeare has chosen this story as the subject of his tragedy of “King
Lear,” varying its details in some respects. The madness of Leir, and
the ill success of Cordeilla’s attempt to reinstate her father, are the
principal variations, and those in the names will also be noticed. Our
narrative is drawn from Milton’s “History;” and thus the reader will
perceive that the story of Leir has had the distinguished honor of being
told by the two acknowledged chiefs of British literature.

                           FERREX AND PORREX

Ferrex and Porrex were brothers, who held the kingdom after Leir. They
quarrelled about the supremacy, and Porrex expelled his brother, who,
obtaining aid from Suard, king of the Franks, returned and made war upon
Porrex. Ferrex was slain in battle and his forces dispersed. When their
mother came to hear of her son’s death, who was her favorite, she fell
into a great rage, and conceived a mortal hatred against the survivor.
She took, therefore, her opportunity when he was asleep, fell upon him,
and, with the assistance of her women, tore him in pieces. This horrid
story would not be worth relating, were it not for the fact that it has
furnished the plot for the first tragedy which was written in the
English language. It was entitled “Gorboduc,” but in the second edition
“Ferrex and Porrex,” and was the production of Thomas Sackville,
afterwards Earl of Dorset, and Thomas Norton, a barrister. Its date was

                           DUNWALLO MOLMUTIUS

This is the next name of note. Molmutius established the Molmutine laws,
which bestowed the privilege of sanctuary on temples, cities, and the
roads leading to them, and gave the same protection to ploughs,
extending a religious sanction to the labors of the field. Shakspeare
alludes to him in “Cymbeline,” Act III., Scene 1:

    “. . . Molmutius made our laws;
    Who was the first of Britain which did put
    His brows within a golden crown, and called
    Himself a king.”

                          BRENNUS AND BELINUS,

the sons of Molmutius, succeeded him. They quarrelled, and Brennus was
driven out of the island, and took refuge in Gaul, where he met with
such favor from the king of the Allobroges that he gave him his daughter
in marriage, and made him his partner on the throne. Brennus is the name
which the Roman historians give to the famous leader of the Gauls who
took Rome in the time of Camillus. Geoffrey of Monmouth claims the glory
of the conquest for the British prince, after he had become king of the


After Belinus and Brennus there reigned several kings of little note,
and then came Elidure. Arthgallo, his brother, being king, gave great
offence to his powerful nobles, who rose against him, deposed him, and
advanced Elidure to the throne. Arthgallo fled, and endeavored to find
assistance in the neighboring kingdoms to reinstate him, but found none.
Elidure reigned prosperously and wisely. After five years’ possession of
the kingdom, one day, when hunting, he met in the forest his brother,
Arthgallo, who had been deposed. After long wandering, unable longer to
bear the poverty to which he was reduced, he had returned to Britain,
with only ten followers, designing to repair to those who had formerly
been his friends. Elidure, at the sight of his brother in distress,
forgetting all animosities, ran to him, and embraced him. He took
Arthgallo home with him, and concealed him in the palace. After this he
feigned himself sick, and, calling his nobles about him, induced them,
partly by persuasion, partly by force, to consent to his abdicating the
kingdom, and reinstating his brother on the throne. The agreement being
ratified, Elidure took the crown from his own head, and put it on his
brother’s head. Arthgallo after this reigned ten years, well and wisely,
exercising strict justice towards all men.

He died, and left the kingdom to his sons, who reigned with various
fortunes, but were not long-lived, and left no offspring, so that
Elidure was again advanced to the throne, and finished the course of his
life in just and virtuous actions, receiving the name of _the pious_,
from the love and admiration of his subjects.

Wordsworth has taken the story of Artegal and Elidure for the subject of
a poem, which is No. 2 of “Poems founded on the Affections.”


After Elidure, the Chronicle names many kings, but none of special note,
till we come to Lud, who greatly enlarged Trinovant, his capital, and
surrounded it with a wall. He changed its name, bestowing upon it his
own, so that henceforth it was called Lud’s town, afterwards London. Lud
was buried by the gate of the city called after him Ludgate. He had two
sons, but they were not old enough at the time of their father’s death
to sustain the cares of government, and therefore their uncle,
Caswallaun, or Cassibellaunus, succeeded to the kingdom. He was a brave
and magnificent prince, so that his fame reached to distant countries.


About this time it happened (as is found in the Roman histories) that
Julius Cæsar, having subdued Gaul, came to the shore opposite Britain.
And having resolved to add this island also to his conquests, he
prepared ships and transported his army across the sea, to the mouth of
the River Thames. Here he was met by Cassibellaun with all his forces,
and a battle ensued, in which Nennius, the brother of Cassibellaun,
engaged in single combat with Cæsar. After several furious blows given
and received, the sword of Cæsar stuck so fast in the shield of Nennius
that it could not be pulled out, and the combatants being separated by
the intervention of the troops Nennius remained possessed of this
trophy. At last, after the greater part of the day was spent, the
Britons poured in so fast that Cæsar was forced to retire to his camp
and fleet. And finding it useless to continue the war any longer at that
time, he returned to Gaul.

Shakspeare alludes to Cassibellaunus, in “Cymbeline”:

    “The famed Cassibelan, who was once at point
    (O giglot fortune!) to master Cæsar’s sword,
    Made Lud’s town with rejoicing fires bright,
    And Britons strut with courage.”

                        KYMBELINUS, OR CYMBELINE

Cæsar, on a second invasion of the island, was more fortunate, and
compelled the Britons to pay tribute. Cymbeline, the nephew of the king,
was delivered to the Romans as a hostage for the faithful fulfilment of
the treaty, and, being carried to Rome by Cæsar, he was there brought up
in the Roman arts and accomplishments. Being afterwards restored to his
country, and placed on the throne, he was attached to the Romans, and
continued through all his reign at peace with them. His sons, Guiderius
and Arviragus, who made their appearance in Shakspeare’s play of
“Cymbeline,” succeeded their father, and, refusing to pay tribute to the
Romans, brought on another invasion. Guiderius was slain, but Arviragus
afterward made terms with the Romans, and reigned prosperously many


The next event of note is the conquest and colonization of Armorica, by
Maximus, a Roman general, and Conan, lord of Miniadoc or Denbigh-land,
in Wales. The name of the country was changed to Brittany, or Lesser
Britain; and so completely was it possessed by the British colonists,
that the language became assimilated to that spoken in Wales, and it is
said that to this day the peasantry of the two countries can understand
each other when speaking their native language.

The Romans eventually succeeded in establishing themselves in the
island, and after the lapse of several generations they became blended
with the natives so that no distinction existed between the two races.
When at length the Roman armies were withdrawn from Britain, their
departure was a matter of regret to the inhabitants, as it left them
without protection against the barbarous tribes, Scots, Picts, and
Norwegians, who harassed the country incessantly. This was the state of
things when the era of King Arthur began.

The adventure of Albion, the giant, with Hercules is alluded to by
Spenser, “Faery Queene,” Book IV., Canto xi:

    “For Albion the son of Neptune was;
    Who for the proof of his great puissance,
    Out of his Albion did on dry foot pass
    Into old Gaul that now is cleped France,
    To fight with Hercules, that did advance
    To vanquish all the world with matchless might:
    And there his mortal part by great mischance
    Was slain.”


                              CHAPTER III


MERLIN was the son of no mortal father, but of an Incubus, one of a
class of beings not absolutely wicked, but far from good, who inhabit
the regions of the air. Merlin’s mother was a virtuous young woman, who,
on the birth of her son, intrusted him to a priest, who hurried him to
the baptismal fount, and so saved him from sharing the lot of his
father, though he retained many marks of his unearthly origin.

At this time Vortigern reigned in Britain. He was a usurper, who had
caused the death of his sovereign, Moines, and driven the two brothers
of the late king, whose names were Uther and Pendragon, into banishment.
Vortigern, who lived in constant fear of the return of the rightful
heirs of the kingdom, began to erect a strong tower for defence. The
edifice, when brought by the workmen to a certain height, three times
fell to the ground, without any apparent cause. The king consulted his
astrologers on this wonderful event, and learned from them that it would
be necessary to bathe the corner-stone of the foundation with the blood
of a child born without a mortal father.

In search of such an infant, Vortigern sent his messengers all over the
kingdom, and they by accident discovered Merlin, whose lineage seemed to
point him out as the individual wanted. They took him to the king; but
Merlin, young as he was, explained to the king the absurdity of
attempting to rescue the fabric by such means, for he told him the true
cause of the instability of the tower was its being placed over the den
of two immense dragons, whose combats shook the earth above them. The
king ordered his workmen to dig beneath the tower, and when they had
done so they discovered two enormous serpents, the one white as milk,
the other red as fire. The multitude looked on with amazement, till the
serpents, slowly rising from their den, and expanding their enormous
folds, began the combat, when every one fled in terror, except Merlin,
who stood by clapping his hands and cheering on the conflict. The red
dragon was slain, and the white one, gliding through a cleft in the
rock, disappeared.

These animals typified, as Merlin afterwards explained, the invasion of
Uther and Pendragon, the rightful princes, who soon after landed with a
great army. Vortigern was defeated, and afterwards burned alive in the
castle he had taken such pains to construct. On the death of Vortigern,
Pendragon ascended the throne. Merlin became his chief adviser, and
often assisted the king by his magical arts.

    “Merlin, who knew the range of all their arts,
    Had built the King his havens, ships and halls.”

Among other endowments, he had the power of transforming himself into
any shape he pleased. At one time he appeared as a dwarf, at others as a
damsel, a page, or even a greyhound or a stag. This faculty he often
employed for the service of the king, and sometimes also for the
diversion of the court and the sovereign.

Merlin continued to be a favorite counsellor through the reigns of
Pendragon, Uther, and Arthur, and at last disappeared from view, and was
no more found among men, through the treachery of his mistress, Viviane,
the Fairy, which happened in this wise.

Merlin, having become enamoured of the fair Viviane, the Lady of the
Lake, was weak enough to impart to her various important secrets of his
art, being impelled by fatal destiny, of which he was at the same time
fully aware. The lady, however, was not content with his devotion,
unbounded as it seems to have been, but “cast about,” the Romance tells
us, how she might “detain him for evermore,” and one day addressed him
in these terms: “Sir, I would that we should make a fair place and a
suitable, so contrived by art and by cunning that it might never be
undone, and that you and I should be there in joy and solace.” “My
lady,” said Merlin, “I will do all this.” “Sir,” said she, “I would not
have you do it, but you shall teach me, and I will do it, and then it
will be more to my mind.” “I grant you this,” said Merlin. Then he began
to devise, and the damsel put it all in writing. And when he had devised
the whole, then had the damsel full great joy, and showed him greater
semblance of love than she had ever before made, and they sojourned
together a long while. At length it fell out that, as they were going
one day hand in hand through the forest of Brécéliande, they found a
bush of white-thorn, which was laden with flowers; and they seated
themselves under the shade of this white-thorn, upon the green grass,
and Merlin laid his head upon the damsel’s lap, and fell asleep. Then
the damsel rose, and made a ring with her wimple round the bush, and
round Merlin, and began her enchantments, such as he himself had taught
her; and nine times she made the ring, and nine times she made the
enchantment, and then she went and sat down by him, and placed his head
again upon her lap.

                                “And a sleep
    Fell upon Merlin more like death, so deep
    Her finger on her lips; then Vivian rose,
    And from her brown-locked head the wimple throws,
    And takes it in her hand and waves it over
    The blossomed thorn tree and her sleeping lover.
    Nine times she waved the fluttering wimple round,
    And made a little plot of magic ground.”
                                   —_Matthew Arnold._

And when he awoke, and looked round him, it seemed to him that he was
enclosed in the strongest tower in the world, and laid upon a fair bed.
Then said he to the dame: “My lady, you have deceived me, unless you
abide with me, for no one hath power to unmake this tower but you
alone.” She then promised she would be often there, and in this she held
her covenant with him. And Merlin never went out of that tower where his
Mistress Viviane had enclosed him; but she entered and went out again
when she listed.

After this event Merlin was never more known to hold converse with any
mortal but Viviane, except on one occasion. Arthur, having for some time
missed him from his court, sent several of his knights in search of him,
and, among the number, Sir Gawain, who met with a very unpleasant
adventure while engaged in this quest. Happening to pass a damsel on his
road, and neglecting to salute her, she revenged herself for his
incivility by transforming him into a hideous dwarf. He was bewailing
aloud his evil fortune as he went through the forest of Brécéliande,
when suddenly he heard the voice of one groaning on his right hand; and,
looking that way, he could see nothing save a kind of smoke, which
seemed like air, and through which he could not pass. Merlin then
addressed him from out the smoke, and told him by what misadventure he
was imprisoned there. “Ah, sir!” he added, “you will never see me more,
and that grieves me, but I cannot remedy it; I shall never more speak to
you, nor to any other person, save only my mistress. But do thou hasten
to King Arthur, and charge him from me to undertake, without delay, the
quest of the Sacred Graal. The knight is already born, and has received
knighthood at his hands, who is destined to accomplish this quest.” And
after this he comforted Gawain under his transformation, assuring him
that he should speedily be disenchanted; and he predicted to him that he
should find the king at Carduel, in Wales, on his return, and that all
the other knights who had been on like quest would arrive there the same
day as himself. And all this came to pass as Merlin had said.

Merlin is frequently introduced in the tales of chivalry, but it is
chiefly on great occasions, and at a period subsequent to his death, or
magical disappearance. In the romantic poems of Italy, and in Spenser,
Merlin is chiefly represented as a magical artist. Spenser represents
him as the artificer of the impenetrable shield and other armor of
Prince Arthur (“Faery Queene,” Book I., Canto vii.), and of a mirror, in
which a damsel viewed her lover’s shade. The Fountain of Love, in the
“Orlando Innamorata,” is described as his work; and in the poem of
“Ariosto” we are told of a hall adorned with prophetic paintings, which
demons had executed in a single night, under the direction of Merlin.

The following legend is from Spenser’s “Faery Queene,” Book III., Canto

                           IMPRISONED FIENDS.

      “Forthwith themselves disguising both, in straunge
      And base attire, that none might them bewray,
      To Maridunum, that is now by chaunge
      Of name Caer-Merdin called, they took their way:
      There the wise Merlin whylome wont (they say)
      To make his wonne, low underneath the ground
      In a deep delve, far from the view of day,
      That of no living wight he mote be found,
    Whenso he counselled with his sprights encompassed round.

      “And if thou ever happen that same way
      To travel, go to see that dreadful place;
      It is a hideous hollow cave (they say)
      Under a rock that lies a little space
      From the swift Barry, tombling down apace
      Amongst the woody hills of Dynevor;
      But dare not thou, I charge, in any case,
      To enter into that same baleful bower,
    For fear the cruel fiends should thee unwares devour.

      “But standing high aloft, low lay thine ear,
      And there such ghastly noise of iron chains
      And brazen cauldrons thou shalt rumbling hear,
      Which thousand sprites with long enduring pains
      Do toss, that it will stun thy feeble brains;
      And oftentimes great groans, and grievous stounds,
      When too huge toil and labor them constrains;
      And oftentimes loud strokes and ringing sounds
    From under that deep rock most horribly rebounds.

      “The cause some say is this. A little while
      Before that Merlin died, he did intend
      A brazen wall in compas to compile
      About Caermerdin, and did it commend
      Unto these sprites to bring to perfect end;
      During which work the Lady of the Lake,
      Whom long he loved, for him in haste did send;
      Who, thereby forced his workmen to forsake,
    Them bound till his return their labor not to slack.

      “In the mean time, through that false lady’s train,
      He was surprised, and buried under beare,[40]
      Ne ever to his work returned again;
      Nathless those fiends may not their work forbear,
      So greatly his commandëment they fear;
      But there do toil and travail day and night,
      Until that brazen wall they up do rear.
      For Merlin had in magic more insight
    Than ever him before or after living wight.”


                               CHAPTER IV


WE shall begin our history of King Arthur by giving those particulars of
his life which appear to rest on historical evidence; and then proceed
to record those legends concerning him which form the earliest portion
of British literature.

Arthur was a prince of the tribe of Britons called Silures, whose
country was South Wales, the son of Uther, named Pendragon, a title
given to an elective sovereign, paramount over the many kings of
Britain. He appears to have commenced his martial career about the year
500, and was raised to the Pendragonship about ten years later. He is
said to have gained twelve victories over the Saxons. The most important
of them was that of Badon, by some supposed to be Bath, by others
Berkshire. This was the last of his battles with the Saxons, and checked
their progress so effectually, that Arthur experienced no more annoyance
from them, and reigned in peace, until the revolt of his nephew Modred,
twenty years later, which led to the fatal battle of Camlan, in
Cornwall, in 542. Modred was slain, and Arthur, mortally wounded, was
conveyed by sea to Glastonbury, where he died, and was buried. Tradition
preserved the memory of the place of his interment within the abbey, as
we are told by Giraldus Cambrensis, who was present when the grave was
opened by command of Henry II. about 1150, and saw the bones and sword
of the monarch, and a leaden cross let into his tombstone, with the
inscription in rude Roman letters, “Here lies buried the famous King
Arthur, in the island Avalonia.” This story has been elegantly versified
by Warton. A popular traditional belief was long entertained among the
Britons, that Arthur was not dead, but had been carried off to be healed
of his wounds in Fairy-land, and that he would reappear to avenge his
countrymen and reinstate them in the sovereignty of Britain. In Warton’s
“Ode” a bard relates to King Henry the traditional story of Arthur’s
death, and closes with these lines.

    “Yet in vain a paynim foe
    Armed with fate the mighty blow:
    For when he fell, the Elfin queen,
    All in secret and unseen,
    O’er the fainting hero threw
    Her mantle of ambrosial blue,
    And bade her spirits bear him far,
    In Merlin’s agate-axled car,
    To her green isle’s enamelled steep,
    Far in the navel of the deep.
    O’er his wounds she sprinkled dew
    From flowers that in Arabia grew.
      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
    There he reigns a mighty king,
    Thence to Britain shall return,
    If right prophetic rolls I learn,
    Borne on victory’s spreading plume,
    His ancient sceptre to resume,
    His knightly table to restore,
    And brave the tournaments of yore.”

After this narration another bard came forward who recited a different

    “When Arthur bowed his haughty crest,
    No princess veiled in azure vest
    Snatched him, by Merlin’s powerful spell,
    In groves of golden bliss to dwell;
    But when he fell, with winged speed,
    His champions, on a milk-white steed,
    From the battle’s hurricane,
    Bore him to Joseph’s towered fane,[41]
    In the fair vale of Avalon;
    There, with chanted orison
    And the long blaze of tapers clear,
    The stoled fathers met the bier;
    Through the dim aisles, in order dread
    Of martial woe, the chief they led,
    And deep entombed in holy ground,
    Before the altar’s solemn bound.”

It must not be concealed that the very existence of Arthur has been
denied by some. Milton says of him: “As to Arthur, more renowned in
songs and romances than in true stories, who he was, and whether ever
any such reigned in Britain, hath been doubted heretofore, and may
again, with good reason.” Modern critics, however, admit that there was
a prince of this name, and find proof of it in the frequent mention of
him in the writings of the Welsh bards. But the Arthur of romance,
according to Mr. Owen, a Welsh scholar and antiquarian, is a
mythological person. “Arthur,” he says, “is the Great Bear, as the name
literally implies (Arctos, Arcturus), and perhaps this constellation,
being so near the pole, and visibly describing a circle in a small
space, is the origin of the famous Round Table.”

                              KING ARTHUR

Constans, king of Britain, had three sons, Moines, Ambrosius, otherwise
called Uther, and Pendragon. Moines, soon after his accession to the
crown, was vanquished by the Saxons, in consequence of the treachery of
his seneschal, Vortigern, and growing unpopular, through misfortune, he
was killed by his subjects, and the traitor Vortigern chosen in his

Vortigern was soon after defeated in a great battle by Uther and
Pendragon, the surviving brothers of Moines and Pendragon ascended the

This prince had great confidence in the wisdom of Merlin, and made him
his chief adviser. About this time a dreadful war arose between the
Saxons and Britons. Merlin obliged the royal brothers to swear fidelity
to each other, but predicted that one of them must fall in the first
battle. The Saxons were routed, and Pendragon, being slain, was
succeeded by Uther, who now assumed in addition to his own name the
appellation of Pendragon.

Merlin still continued a favorite counsellor. At the request of Uther he
transported by magic art enormous stones from Ireland, to form the
sepulchre of Pendragon. These stones constitute the monument now called
Stonehenge, on Salisbury plain.

Merlin next proceeded to Carlisle to prepare the Round Table, at which
he seated an assemblage of the great nobles of the country. The
companions admitted to this high order were bound by oath to assist each
other at the hazard of their own lives, to attempt singly the most
perilous adventures, to lead, when necessary, a life of monastic
solitude, to fly to arms at the first summons, and never to retire from
battle till they had defeated the enemy, unless night intervened and
separated the combatants.

Soon after this institution, the king invited all his barons to the
celebration of a great festival, which he proposed holding annually at

As the knights had obtained the sovereign’s permission to bring their
ladies along with them, the beautiful Igerne accompanied her husband,
Gorlois, Duke of Tintadel, to one of these anniversaries. The king
became deeply enamoured of the duchess, and disclosed his passion; but
Igerne repelled his advances, and revealed his solicitations to her
husband. On hearing this, the duke instantly removed from court with
Igerne, and without taking leave of Uther. The king complained to his
council of this want of duty, and they decided that the duke should be
summoned to court, and, if refractory, should be treated as a rebel. As
he refused to obey the citation, the king carried war into the estates
of his vassal and besieged him in the strong castle of Tintadel. Merlin
transformed the king into the likeness of Gorlois, and enabled him to
have many stolen interviews with Igerne. At length the duke was killed
in battle and the king espoused Igerne.

From this union sprang Arthur, who succeeded his father, Uther, upon the

                           ARTHUR CHOSEN KING

Arthur, though only fifteen years old at his father’s death, was elected
king, at a general meeting of the nobles. It was not done without
opposition, for there were many ambitious competitors.

                    “For while he linger’d there
    A doubt that ever smoulder’d in the hearts
    Of those great Lords and Barons of his realm
    Flash’d forth and into war: for most of these
    Made head against him, crying, ‘Who is he
    That he should rule us? who hath proven him
    King Uther’s son? for lo! we look at him,
    And find nor face nor bearing, limbs nor voice,
    Are like to those of Uther whom we knew.”
                            —_Coming of Arthur._

But Bishop Brice, a person of great sanctity, on Christmas eve addressed
the assembly, and represented that it would well become them, at that
solemn season, to put up their prayers for some token which should
manifest the intentions of Providence respecting their future sovereign.
This was done, and with such success, that the service was scarcely
ended when a miraculous stone was discovered before the church door, and
in the stone was firmly fixed a sword, with the following words engraven
on its hilt:

    “I am hight Escalibore,
    Unto a king fair tresore.”

Bishop Brice, after exhorting the assembly to offer up their
thanksgiving for this signal miracle, proposed a law, that whoever
should be able to draw out the sword from the stone, should be
acknowledged as sovereign of the Britons; and his proposal was decreed
by general acclamation. The tributary kings of Uther, and the most
famous knights, successively put their strength to the proof, but the
miraculous sword resisted all their efforts. It stood till Candlemas; it
stood till Easter, and till Pentecost, when the best knights in the
kingdom usually assembled for the annual tournament. Arthur, who was at
that time serving in the capacity of squire to his foster-brother, Sir
Kay, attended his master to the lists. Sir Kay fought with great valor
and success, but had the misfortune to break his sword, and sent Arthur
to his mother for a new one. Arthur hastened home, but did not find the
lady; but having observed near the church a sword, sticking in a stone,
he galloped to the place, drew out the sword with great ease, and
delivered it to his master. Sir Kay would willingly have assumed to
himself the distinction conferred by the possession of the sword, but
when, to confirm the doubters, the sword was replaced in the stone he
was utterly unable to withdraw it, and it would yield a second time to
no hand but Arthur’s. Thus decisively pointed out by Heaven as their
king, Arthur was by general consent proclaimed as such, and an early day
appointed for his solemn coronation.

Immediately after his election to the crown, Arthur found himself
opposed by eleven kings and one duke, who with a vast army were actually
encamped in the forest of Rockingham. By Merlin’s advice Arthur sent an
embassy to Brittany, to solicit the aid of King Ban and King Bohort, two
of the best knights in the world. They accepted the call, and with a
powerful army crossed the sea, landing at Portsmouth, where they were
received with great rejoicing. The rebel kings were still superior in
numbers; but Merlin, by a powerful enchantment, caused all their tents
to fall down at once, and in the confusion Arthur with his allies fell
upon them and totally routed them.

After defeating the rebels, Arthur took the field against the Saxons. As
they were too strong for him unaided, he sent an embassy to Armorica,
beseeching the assistance of Hoel, who soon after brought over an army
to his aid. The two kings joined their forces, and sought the enemy,
whom they met, and both sides prepared for a decisive engagement.
“Arthur himself,” as Geoffrey of Monmouth relates, “dressed in a
breastplate worthy of so great a king, places on his head a golden
helmet engraved with the semblance of a dragon. Over his shoulders he
throws his shield called Priwen, on which a picture of the Holy Virgin
constantly recalled her to his memory. Girt with Caliburn, a most
excellent sword, and fabricated in the isle of Avalon, he graces his
right hand with the lance named Ron. This was a long and broad spear,
well contrived for slaughter.” After a severe conflict, Arthur, calling
on the name of the Virgin, rushes into the midst of his enemies, and
destroys multitudes of them with the formidable Caliburn, and puts the
rest to flight. Hoel, being detained by sickness, took no part in this

This is called the victory of Mount Badon, and, however disguised by
fable, it is regarded by historians as a real event.

The feats performed by Arthur at the battle of Badon Mount are thus
celebrated in Drayton’s verse:

    “They sung how he himself at Badon bore, that day,
    When at the glorious goal his British sceptre lay;
    Two daies together how the battel stronglie stood;
    Pendragon’s worthie son, who waded there in blood,
    Three hundred Saxons slew with his owne valiant hand.”
                                           —_Song IV._


Merlin had planned for Arthur a marriage with the daughter of King
Laodegan of Carmalide. By his advice Arthur paid a visit to the court of
that sovereign, attended only by Merlin and by thirty-nine knights whom
the magician had selected for that service. On their arrival they found
Laodegan and his peers sitting in council, endeavoring, but with small
prospect of success, to devise means of resisting the impending attack
of Ryence, king of Ireland, who, with fifteen tributary kings and an
almost innumerable army, had nearly surrounded the city. Merlin, who
acted as leader of the band of British knights, announced them as
strangers, who came to offer the king their services in his wars; but
under the express condition that they should be at liberty to conceal
their names and quality until they should think proper to divulge them.
These terms were thought very strange, but were thankfully accepted, and
the strangers, after taking the usual oath to the king, retired to the
lodging which Merlin had prepared for them.

A few days after this, the enemy, regardless of a truce into which they
had entered with King Laodegan, suddenly issued from their camp and made
an attempt to surprise the city. Cleodalis, the king’s general,
assembled the royal forces with all possible despatch. Arthur and his
companions also flew to arms, and Merlin appeared at their head, bearing
a standard on which was emblazoned a terrific dragon. Merlin advanced to
the gate, and commanded the porter to open it, which the porter refused
to do, without the king’s order. Merlin thereupon took up the gate, with
all its appurtenances of locks, bars, bolts, etc., and directed his
troops to pass through, after which he replaced it in perfect order. He
then set spurs to his horse and dashed, at the head of his little troop,
into a body of two thousand pagans. The disparity of numbers being so
enormous, Merlin cast a spell upon the enemy, so as to prevent their
seeing the small number of their assailants; notwithstanding which the
British knights were hard pressed. But the people of the city, who saw
from the walls this unequal contest, were ashamed of leaving the small
body of strangers to their fate, so they opened the gate and sallied
forth. The numbers were now more nearly equal, and Merlin revoked his
spell, so that the two armies encountered on fair terms. Where Arthur,
Ban, Bohort, and the rest fought the king’s army had the advantage; but
in another part of the field the king himself was surrounded and carried
off by the enemy. The sad sight was seen by Guenever, the fair daughter
of the king, who stood on the city wall and looked at the battle. She
was in dreadful distress, tore her hair, and swooned away.

But Merlin, aware of what passed in every part of the field, suddenly
collected his knights, led them out of the battle, intercepted the
passage of the party who were carrying away the king, charged them with
irresistible impetuosity, cut in pieces or dispersed the whole escort,
and rescued the king. In the fight Arthur encountered Caulang, a giant
fifteen feet high, and the fair Guenever, who had already began to feel
a strong interest in the handsome young stranger, trembled for the issue
of the contest. But Arthur, dealing a dreadful blow on the shoulder of
the monster, cut through his neck so that his head hung over on one
side, and in this condition his horse carried him about the field, to
the great horror and dismay of the Pagans. Guenever could not refrain
from expressing aloud her wish that the gentle knight, who dealt with
giants so dexterously, were destined to become her husband, and the wish
was echoed by her attendants. The enemy soon turned their backs and fled
with precipitation, closely pursued by Laodegan and his allies.

After the battle Arthur was disarmed and conducted to the bath by the
princess Guenever, while his friends were attended by the other ladies
of the court. After the bath the knights were conducted to a magnificent
entertainment, at which they were diligently served by the same fair
attendants. Laodegan, more and more anxious to know the name and quality
of his generous deliverers, and occasionally forming a secret wish that
the chief of his guests might be captivated by the charms of his
daughter, appeared silent and pensive, and was scarcely roused from his
reverie by the banters of his courtiers. Arthur, having had an
opportunity of explaining to Guenever his great esteem for her merit,
was in the joy of his heart, and was still further delighted by hearing
from Merlin the late exploits of Gawain at London, by means of which his
immediate return to his dominions was rendered unnecessary, and he was
left at liberty to protract his stay at the court of Laodegan. Every day
contributed to increase the admiration of the whole court for the
gallant strangers, and the passion of Guenever for their chief; and when
at last Merlin announced to the king that the object of the visit of the
party was to procure a bride for their leader, Laodegan at once
presented Guenever to Arthur, telling him that, whatever might be his
rank, his merit was sufficient to entitle him to the possession of the
heiress of Carmalide.

    “And could he find a woman in her womanhood
    As great as he was in his manhood—
    The twain together might change the world.”

Arthur accepted the lady with the utmost gratitude, and Merlin then
proceeded to satisfy the king of the rank of his son-in-law; upon which
Laodegan, with all his barons, hastened to do homage to their lawful
sovereign, the successor of Uther Pendragon. The fair Guenever was then
solemnly betrothed to Arthur, and a magnificent festival was proclaimed,
which lasted seven days. At the end of that time, the enemy appearing
again with renewed force, it became necessary to resume military

We must now relate what took place at and near London, while Arthur was
absent from his capital. At this very time a band of young heroes were
on their way to Arthur’s court, for the purpose of receiving knighthood
from him. They were Gawain and his three brothers, nephews of Arthur,
sons of King Lot, and Galachin, another nephew, son of King Nanters.
King Lot had been one of the rebel chiefs whom Arthur had defeated, but
he now hoped by means of the young men to be reconciled to his
brother-in-law. He equipped his sons and his nephew with the utmost
magnificence, giving them a splendid retinue of young men, sons of earls
and barons, all mounted on the best horses, with complete suits of
choice armor. They numbered in all seven hundred, but only nine had yet
received the order of knighthood; the rest were candidates for that
honor, and anxious to earn it by an early encounter with the enemy.
Gawain, the leader, was a knight of wonderful strength; but what was
most remarkable about him was that his strength was greater at certain
hours of the day than at others. From nine o’clock till noon his
strength was doubled, and so it was from three to evensong; for the rest
of the time it was less remarkable, though at all times surpassing that
of ordinary men.

After a march of three days they arrived in the vicinity of London,
where they expected to find Arthur and his court, and very unexpectedly
fell in with a large convoy belonging to the enemy, consisting of
numerous carts and wagons, all loaded with provisions, and escorted by
three thousand men, who had been collecting spoil from all the country
round. A single charge from Gawain’s impetuous cavalry was sufficient to
disperse the escort and recover the convoy, which was instantly
despatched to London. But before long a body of seven thousand fresh
soldiers advanced to the attack of the five princes and their little
army. Gawain, singling out a chief named Choas, of gigantic size, began
the battle by splitting him from the crown of the head to the breast.
Galachin encountered King Sanagran, who was also very huge, and cut off
his head. Agrivain and Gahariet also performed prodigies of valor. Thus
they kept the great army of assailants at bay, though hard pressed, till
of a sudden they perceived a strong body of the citizens advancing from
London, where the convoy which had been recovered by Gawain had arrived,
and informed the mayor and citizens of the danger of their deliverer.
The arrival of the Londoners soon decided the contest. The enemy fled in
all directions, and Gawain and his friends, escorted by the grateful
citizens, entered London, and were received with acclamations.


                               CHAPTER V

                          ARTHUR (_Continued_)

AFTER the great victory of Mount Badon, by which the Saxons were for the
time effectually put down, Arthur turned his arms against the Scots and
Picts, whom he routed at Lake Lomond, and compelled to sue for mercy. He
then went to York to keep his Christmas, and employed himself in
restoring the Christian churches which the Pagans had rifled and
overthrown. The following summer he conquered Ireland, and then made a
voyage with his fleet to Iceland, which he also subdued. The kings of
Gothland and of the Orkneys came voluntarily and made their submission,
promising to pay tribute. Then he returned to Britain, where, having
established the kingdom, he dwelt twelve years in peace.

During this time he invited over to him all persons whatsoever that were
famous for valor in foreign nations, and augmented the number of his
domestics, and introduced such politeness into his court as people of
the remotest countries thought worthy of their imitation. So that there
was not a nobleman who thought himself of any consideration unless his
clothes and arms were made in the same fashion as those of Arthur’s

Finding himself so powerful at home, Arthur began to form designs for
extending his power abroad. So, having prepared his fleet, he first
attempted Norway, that he might procure the crown of it for Lot, his
sister’s husband. Arthur landed in Norway, fought a great battle with
the king of that country, defeated him, and pursued the victory till he
had reduced the whole country under his dominion, and established Lot
upon the throne. Then Arthur made a voyage to Gaul and laid siege to the
city of Paris. Gaul was at that time a Roman province, and governed by
Flollo, the Tribune. When the siege of Paris had continued a month, and
the people began to suffer from famine, Flollo challenged Arthur to
single combat, proposing to decide the conquest of the province in that
way. Arthur gladly accepted the challenge, and slew his adversary in the
contest, upon which the citizens surrendered the city to him. After the
victory Arthur divided his army into two parts, one of which he
committed to the conduct of Hoel, whom he ordered to march into
Aquitaine, while he with the other part should endeavor to subdue the
other provinces. At the end of nine years, in which time all the parts
of Gaul were entirely reduced, Arthur returned to Paris, where he kept
his court, and, calling an assembly of the clergy and people,
established peace and the just administration of the laws in that
kingdom. Then he bestowed Normandy upon Bedver, his butler, and the
province of Andegavia upon Kay, his steward,[43] and several other
provinces upon his great men that attended him. And, having settled the
peace of the cities and countries, he returned back in the beginning of
spring to Britain.

Upon the approach of the feast of Pentecost, Arthur, the better to
demonstrate his joy after such triumphant successes, and for the more
solemn observation of that festival, and reconciling the minds of the
princes that were now subject to him, resolved during that season to
hold a magnificent court, to place the crown upon his head, and to
invite all the kings and dukes under his subjection to the solemnity.
And he pitched upon Caerleon, the City of Legions, as the proper place
for his purpose. For, besides its great wealth above the other
cities,[44] its situation upon the river Usk, near the Severn sea, was
most pleasant and fit for so great a solemnity. For on one side it was
washed by that noble river, so that the kings and princes from the
countries beyond the seas might have the convenience of sailing up to
it. On the other side the beauty of the meadows and groves, and
magnificence of the royal palaces, with lofty gilded roofs that adorned
it, made it even rival the grandeur of Rome. It was also famous for two
churches, whereof one was adorned with a choir of virgins, who devoted
themselves wholly to the service of God, and the other maintained a
convent of priests. Besides, there was a college of two hundred
philosophers, who, being learned in astronomy and the other arts, were
diligent in observing the courses of the stars, and gave Arthur true
predictions of the events that would happen. In this place, therefore,
which afforded such delights, were preparations made for the ensuing

Ambassadors were then sent into several kingdoms, to invite to court the
princes both of Gaul and of the adjacent islands. Accordingly there came
Augusel, king of Albania, now Scotland, Cadwallo, king of Venedotia, now
North Wales, Sater, king of Demetia, now South Wales; also the
archbishops of the metropolitan sees, London and York, and Dubricius,
bishop of Caerleon, the City of Legions. This prelate, who was primate
of Britain, was so eminent for his piety that he could cure any sick
person by his prayers. There were also the counts of the principal
cities, and many other worthies of no less dignity.

From the adjacent islands came Guillamurius, king of Ireland, Gunfasius,
king of the Orkneys, Malvasius, king of Iceland, Lot, king of Norway,
Bedver, the butler, Duke of Normandy, Kay, the sewer, Duke of Andegavia;
also the twelve peers of Gaul, and Hoel, Duke of the Armorican Britons,
with his nobility, who came with such a train of mules, horses, and rich
furniture as it is difficult to describe. Besides these there remained
no prince of any consideration on this side of Spain who came not upon
this invitation. And no wonder, when Arthur’s munificence, which was
celebrated over the whole world, made him beloved by all people.

When all were assembled upon the day of the solemnity the archbishops
were conducted to the palace, in order to place the crown upon the
king’s head. Then Dubricius, inasmuch as the court was held in his
diocese, made himself ready to celebrate the office. As soon as the king
was invested with his royal habiliments he was conducted in great pomp
to the metropolitan church, having four kings, viz., of Albania,
Cornwall, Demetia, and Venedotia, bearing four golden swords before him.
On another part was the queen, dressed out in her richest ornaments,
conducted by the archbishops and bishops to the Church of Virgins; the
four queens, also, of the kings last mentioned, bearing before her four
white doves, according to ancient custom. When the whole procession was
ended so transporting was the harmony of the musical instruments and
voices, whereof there was a vast variety in both churches, that the
knights who attended were in doubt which to prefer, and therefore
crowded from the one to the other by turns, and were far from being
tired of the solemnity, though the whole day had been spent in it. At
last, when divine service was over at both churches, the king and queen
put off their crowns, and, putting on their lighter ornaments, went to
the banquet. When they had all taken their seats according to
precedence, Kay, the sewer, in rich robes of ermine, with a thousand
young noblemen all in like manner clothed in rich attire, served up the
dishes. From another part Bedver, the butler, was followed by the same
number of attendants, who waited with all kinds of cups and
drinking-vessels. And there was food and drink in abundance, and
everything was of the best kind, and served in the best manner. For at
that time Britain had arrived at such a pitch of grandeur that in
riches, luxury, and politeness it far surpassed all other kingdoms.

As soon as the banquets were over they went into the fields without the
city to divert themselves with various sports, such as shooting with
bows and arrows, tossing the pike, casting of heavy stones and rocks,
playing at dice, and the like, and all these inoffensively, and without
quarrelling. In this manner were three days spent, and after that they
separated, and the kings and noblemen departed to their several homes.

After this Arthur reigned five years in peace. Then came ambassadors
from Lucius Tiberius, Procurator under Leo, Emperor of Rome, demanding
tribute. But Arthur refused to pay tribute, and prepared for war. As
soon as the necessary dispositions were made he committed the government
of his kingdom to his nephew Modred and to Queen Guenever, and marched
with his army to Hamo’s Port, where the wind stood fair for him. The
army crossed over in safety, and landed at the mouth of the river Barba.
And there they pitched their tents to wait the arrival of the kings of
the islands.

As soon as all the forces were arrived Arthur marched forward to
Augustodunum, and encamped on the banks of the river Alba. Here repeated
battles were fought, in all which the Britons, under their valiant
leaders, Hoel, Duke of Armorica, and Gawain, nephew to Arthur, had the
advantage. At length Lucius Tiberius determined to retreat, and wait for
the Emperor Leo to join him with fresh troops. But Arthur, anticipating
this event, took possession of a certain valley, and closed up the way
of retreat to Lucius, compelling him to fight a decisive battle, in
which Arthur lost some of the bravest of his knights and most faithful
followers. But on the other hand Lucius Tiberius was slain, and his army
totally defeated. The fugitives dispersed over the country, some to the
by-ways and woods, some to cities and towns, and all other places where
they could hope for safety.

Arthur stayed in those parts till the next winter was over, and employed
his time in restoring order and settling the government. He then
returned into England, and celebrated his victories with great splendor.

Then the king stablished all his knights, and to them that were not rich
he gave lands, and charged them all never to do outrage nor murder, and
always to flee treason; also, by no means to be cruel, but to give mercy
unto him that asked mercy, upon pain of forfeiture of their worship and
lordship; and always to do ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen service,
upon pain of death. Also that no man take battle in a wrongful quarrel,
for no law, nor for any world’s goods. Unto this were all the knights
sworn of the Table Round, both old and young. And at every year were
they sworn at the high feast of Pentecost.


While the army was encamped in Brittany, awaiting the arrival of the
kings, there came a countryman to Arthur, and told him that a giant,
whose cave was on a neighboring mountain, called St. Michael’s Mount,
had for a long time been accustomed to carry off the children of the
peasants to devour them. “And now he hath taken the Duchess of Brittany,
as she rode with her attendants, and hath carried her away in spite of
all they could do.” “Now, fellow,” said King Arthur, “canst thou bring
me there where this giant haunteth?” “Yea, sure,” said the good man;
“lo, yonder where thou seest two great fires, there shalt thou find him,
and more treasure than I suppose is in all France beside.” Then the king
called to him Sir Bedver and Sir Kay, and commanded them to make ready
horse and harness for himself and them; for after evening he would ride
on pilgrimage to St. Michael’s Mount.

So they three departed, and rode forth till they came to the foot of the
mount. And there the king commanded them to tarry, for he would himself
go up into that mount. So he ascended the hill till he came to a great
fire, and there he found an aged woman sitting by a new-made grave,
making great sorrow. Then King Arthur saluted her, and demanded of her
wherefore she made such lamentation; to whom she answered: “Sir knight,
speak low, for yonder is a devil, and if he hear thee speak, he will
come and destroy thee. For ye cannot make resistance to him, he is so
fierce and so strong. He hath murdered the Duchess, which here lieth,
who was the fairest of all the world, wife to Sir Hoel, Duke of
Brittany.” “Dame,” said the king, “I come from the noble conqueror, King
Arthur, to treat with that tyrant.” “Fie on such treaties,” said she;
“he setteth not by the king, nor by no man else.” “Well,” said Arthur,
“I will accomplish my message for all your fearful words.” So he went
forth by the crest of the hill, and saw where the giant sat at supper,
gnawing on the limb of a man, and baking his broad limbs at the fire,
and three fair damsels lying bound, whose lot it was to be devoured in
their turn. When King Arthur beheld that, he had great compassion on
them, so that his heart bled for sorrow. Then he hailed the giant,
saying, “He that all the world ruleth give thee short life and shameful
death. Why hast thou murdered this Duchess? Therefore come forth, for
this day thou shalt die by my hand.” Then the giant started up, and took
a great club, and smote at the king, and smote off his coronal; and then
the king struck him in the belly with his sword, and made a fearful
wound. Then the giant threw away his club, and caught the king in his
arms, so that he crushed his ribs. Then the three maidens kneeled down
and prayed for help and comfort for Arthur. And Arthur weltered and
wrenched, so that he was one while under, and another time above. And so
weltering and wallowing they rolled down the hill, and ever as they
weltered Arthur smote him with his dagger; and it fortuned they came to
the place where the two knights were. And when they saw the king fast in
the giant’s arms they came and loosed him. Then the king commanded Sir
Kay to smite off the giant’s head, and to set it on the truncheon of a
spear, and fix it on the barbican, that all the people might see and
behold it. This was done, and anon it was known through all the country,
wherefor the people came and thanked the king. And he said, “Give your
thanks to God; and take ye the giant’s spoil and divide it among you.”
And King Arthur caused a church to be builded on that hill, in honor of
St. Michael.


One day King Arthur rode forth, and on a sudden he was ware of three
churls chasing Merlin, to have slain him. And the king rode unto them
and bade them, “Flee, churls!” Then were they afraid when they saw a
knight, and fled. “O Merlin,” said Arthur, “here hadst thou been slain,
for all thy crafts, had I not been by.” “Nay,” said Merlin, “not so, for
I could save myself if I would; but thou art more near thy death than I
am.” So, as they went thus talking, King Arthur perceived where sat a
knight on horseback, as if to guard the pass. “Sir knight,” said Arthur,
“for what cause abidest thou here?” Then the knight said, “There may no
knight ride this way unless he just with me, for such is the custom of
the pass.” “I will amend that custom,” said the king. Then they ran
together, and they met so hard that their spears were shivered. Then
they drew their swords and fought a strong battle, with many great
strokes. But at length the sword of the knight smote King Arthur’s sword
in two pieces. Then said the knight unto Arthur, “Thou art in my power,
whether to save thee or slay thee, and unless thou yield thee as
overcome and recreant, thou shalt die.” “As for death,” said King
Arthur, “welcome be it when it cometh; but to yield me unto thee as
recreant, I will not.” Then he leapt upon the knight, and took him by
the middle and threw him down; but the knight was a passing strong man,
and anon he brought Arthur under him, and would have razed off his helm
to slay him. Then said Merlin, “Knight, hold thy hand, for this knight
is a man of more worship than thou art aware of.” “Why, who is he?” said
the knight. “It is King Arthur.” Then would he have slain him for dread
of his wrath, and lifted up his sword to slay him; and therewith Merlin
cast an enchantment on the knight, so that he fell to the earth in a
great sleep. Then Merlin took up King Arthur, and set him on his horse.
“Alas!” said Arthur, “what hast thou done, Merlin? hast thou slain this
good knight by thy crafts?” “Care ye not,” said Merlin; “he is wholer
than ye be. He is only asleep, and will wake in three hours.”

Then the king and he departed, and went till they came to a hermit, that
was a good man and a great leech. So the hermit searched all his wounds,
and applied good salves; and the king was there three days, and then
were his wounds well amended, that he might ride and go. So they
departed, and as they rode Arthur said, “I have no sword.” “No matter,”
said Merlin; “hereby is a sword that shall be yours.” So they rode till
they came to a lake, which was a fair water and broad. And in the midst
of the lake Arthur was aware of an arm clothed in white samite,[45] that
held a fair sword in the hand. “Lo!” said Merlin, “yonder is that sword
that I spake of. It belongeth to the Lady of the Lake, and, if she will,
thou mayest take it; but if she will not, it will not be in thy power to
take it.”

So Sir Arthur and Merlin alighted from their horses, and went into a
boat. And when they came to the sword that the hand held Sir Arthur took
it by the handle and took it to him, and the arm and the hand went under
the water.

Then they returned unto the land and rode forth. And Sir Arthur looked
on the sword and liked it right well.

So they rode unto Caerleon, whereof his knights were passing glad. And
when they heard of his adventures they marvelled that he would jeopard
his person so alone. But all men of worship said it was a fine thing to
be under such a chieftain as would put his person in adventure as other
poor knights did.


                               CHAPTER VI

                               SIR GAWAIN

SIR GAWAIN was nephew to King Arthur, by his sister Morgana, married to
Lot, king of Orkney, who was by Arthur made king of Norway. Sir Gawain
was one of the most famous knights of the Round Table, and is
characterized by the romancers as the _sage_ and _courteous_ Gawain. To
this Chaucer alludes in his “Squiere’s Tale,” where the strange knight
“salueth” all the court

    “With so high reverence and observance,
    As well in speeche as in countenance,
    That Gawain, with his olde curtesie,
    Though he were come agen out of faërie,
    Ne coude him not amenden with a word.”

Gawain’s brothers were Agrivain, Gahariet, and Gareth.

                         SIR GAWAIN’S MARRIAGE

Once upon a time King Arthur held his court in merry Carlisle, when a
damsel came before him and craved a boon. It was for vengeance upon a
caitiff knight, who had made her lover captive and despoiled her of her
lands. King Arthur commanded to bring him his sword, Excalibar, and to
saddle his steed, and rode forth without delay to right the lady’s
wrong. Ere long he reached the castle of the grim baron, and challenged
him to the conflict. But the castle stood on magic ground, and the spell
was such that no knight could tread thereon but straight his courage
fell and his strength decayed. King Arthur felt the charm, and before a
blow was struck, his sturdy limbs lost their strength, and his head grew
faint. He was fain to yield himself prisoner to the churlish knight, who
refused to release him except upon condition that he should return at
the end of a year, and bring a true answer to the question, “What thing
is it which women most desire?” or in default thereof surrender himself
and his lands. King Arthur accepted the terms, and gave his oath to
return at the time appointed. During the year the king rode east, and he
rode west, and inquired of all whom he met what thing it is which all
women most desire. Some told him riches; some, pomp and state; some,
mirth; some, flattery; and some, a gallant knight. But in the diversity
of answers he could find no sure dependence. The year was well-nigh
spent, when one day, as he rode thoughtfully through a forest, he saw
sitting beneath a tree a lady of such hideous aspect that he turned away
his eyes, and when she greeted him in seemly sort, made no answer. “What
wight art thou,” the lady said, “that will not speak to me? It may
chance that I may resolve thy doubts, though I be not fair of aspect.”
“If thou wilt do so,” said King Arthur, “choose what reward thou wilt,
thou grim lady, and it shall be given thee.” “Swear me this upon thy
faith,” she said, and Arthur swore it. Then the lady told him the
secret, and demanded her reward, which was that the king should find
some fair and courtly knight to be her husband.

King Arthur hastened to the grim baron’s castle and told him one by one
all the answers which he had received from his various advisers, except
the last, and not one was admitted as the true one. “Now yield thee,
Arthur,” the giant said, “for thou hast not paid thy ransom, and thou
and thy lands are forfeited to me.” Then King Arthur said:

    “Yet hold thy hand, thou proud baron,
      I pray thee hold thy hand,
    And give me leave to speak once more,
      In rescue of my land.
    This morn as I came over a moor,
      I saw a lady set,
    Between an oak and a green holly,
      All clad in red scarlett.
    She says _all women would have their will_,
      This is their chief desire;
    Now yield, as thou art a baron true,
      That I have paid my hire.”

“It was my sister that told thee this,” the churlish baron exclaimed.
“Vengeance light on her! I will some time or other do her as ill a

King Arthur rode homeward, but not light of heart, for he remembered the
promise he was under to the loathly lady to give her one of his young
and gallant knights for a husband. He told his grief to Sir Gawain, his
nephew, and he replied, “Be not sad, my lord, for I will marry the
loathly lady.” King Arthur replied:

    “Now nay, now nay, good Sir Gawaine,
      My sister’s son ye be;
    The loathly lady’s all too grim,
      And all too foule for thee.”

But Gawain persisted, and the king at last, with sorrow of heart,
consented that Gawain should be his ransom. So one day the king and his
knights rode to the forest, met the loathly lady, and brought her to the
court. Sir Gawain stood the scoffs and jeers of his companions as he
best might, and the marriage was solemnized, but not with the usual
festivities. Chaucer tells us:

    “. . . There was no joye ne feste at alle;
    There n’ as but hevinesse and mochel sorwe,
    For prively he wed her on the morwe,
    And all day after hid him as an owle,
    So we was him his wife loked so foule!”[46]

When night came, and they were alone together, Sir Gawain could not
conceal his aversion; and the lady asked him why he sighed so heavily,
and turned away his face. He candidly confessed it was on account of
three things, her age, her ugliness, and her low degree. The lady, not
at all offended, replied with excellent arguments to all his objections.
She showed him that with age is discretion, with ugliness security from
rivals, and that all true gentility depends, not upon the accident of
birth, but upon the character of the individual.

Sir Gawain made no reply; but, turning his eyes on his bride, what was
his amazement to perceive that she wore no longer the unseemly aspect
that had so distressed him. She then told him that the form she had worn
was not her true form, but a disguise imposed upon her by a wicked
enchanter, and that she was condemned to wear it until two things should
happen: one, that she should obtain some young and gallant knight to be
her husband. This having been done, one-half of the charm was removed.
She was now at liberty to wear her true form for half the time, and she
bade him choose whether he would have her fair by day, and ugly by
night, or the reverse. Sir Gawain would fain have had her look her best
by night, when he alone would see her, and show her repulsive visage, if
at all, to others. But she reminded him how much more pleasant it would
be to her to wear her best looks in the throng of knights and ladies by
day. Sir Gawain yielded, and gave up his will to hers. This alone was
wanting to dissolve the charm. The lovely lady now with joy assured him
that she should change no more, but as she now was, so would she remain
by night as well as by day.

    “Sweet blushes stayned her rud-red cheek,
      Her eyen were black as sloe,
    The ripening cherrye swelled her lippe,
      And all her neck was snow.
    Sir Gawain kist that ladye faire
      Lying upon the sheete,
    And swore, as he was a true knight,
      The spice was never so swete.”

The dissolution of the charm which had held the lady also released her
brother, the “grim baron,” for he too had been implicated in it. He
ceased to be a churlish oppressor, and became a gallant and generous
knight as any at Arthur’s court.


                              CHAPTER VII


CARADOC was the son of Ysenne, the beautiful niece of Arthur. He was
ignorant who his father was, till it was discovered in the following
manner: When the youth was of proper years to receive the honors of
knighthood, King Arthur held a grand court for the purpose of knighting
him. On this occasion a strange knight presented himself, and challenged
the knights of Arthur’s court to exchange blow for blow with him. His
proposal was this—to lay his neck on a block for any knight to strike,
on condition that, if he survived the blow, the knight should submit in
turn to the same experiment. Sir Kay, who was usually ready to accept
all challenges, pronounced this wholly unreasonable, and declared that
he would not accept it for all the wealth in the world. And when the
knight offered his sword, with which the operation was to be performed,
no person ventured to accept it, till Caradoc, growing angry at the
disgrace which was thus incurred by the Round Table, threw aside his
mantle and took it. “Do you do this as one of the best knights?” said
the stranger. “No,” he replied, “but as one of the most foolish.” The
stranger lays his head upon the block, receives a blow which sends it
rolling from his shoulders, walks after it, picks it up, replaces it
with great success, and says he will return when the court shall be
assembled next year, and claim his turn. When the anniversary arrived,
both parties were punctual to their engagement. Great entreaties were
used by the king and queen, and the whole court, in behalf of Caradoc,
but the stranger was inflexible. The young knight laid his head upon the
block, and more than once desired him to make an end of the business,
and not keep him longer in so disagreeable a state of expectation. At
last the stranger strikes him gently with the side of the sword, bids
him rise, and reveals to him the fact that he is his father, the
enchanter Eliaures, and that he gladly owns him for a son, having proved
his courage and fidelity to his word.

But the favor of enchanters is short-lived and uncertain. Eliaures fell
under the influence of a wicked woman, who, to satisfy her pique against
Caradoc, persuaded the enchanter to fasten on his arm a serpent, which
remained there sucking at his flesh and blood, no human skill sufficing
either to remove the reptile or alleviate the torments which Caradoc

Caradoc was betrothed to Guimier, sister to his bosom friend, Cador, and
daughter to the king of Cornwall. As soon as they were informed of his
deplorable condition, they set out for Nantes, where Caradoc’s castle
was, that Guimier might attend upon him. When Caradoc heard of their
coming, his first emotion was that of joy and love. But soon he began to
fear that the sight of his emaciated form, and of his sufferings, would
disgust Guimier; and this apprehension became so strong, that he
departed secretly from Nantes, and hid himself in a hermitage. He was
sought far and near by the knights of Arthur’s court, and Cador made a
vow never to desist from the quest till he should have found him. After
long wandering, Cador discovered his friend in the hermitage, reduced
almost to a skeleton, and apparently near his death. All other means of
relief having already been tried in vain, Cador at last prevailed on the
enchanter Eliaures to disclose the only method which could avail for his
rescue. A maiden must be found, his equal in birth and beauty, and
loving him better than herself, so that she would expose herself to the
same torment to deliver him. Two vessels were then to be provided, the
one filled with sour wine, and the other with milk. Caradoc must enter
the first, so that the wine should reach his neck, and the maiden must
get into the other, and, exposing her bosom upon the edge of the vessel,
invite the serpent to forsake the withered flesh of his victim for this
fresh and inviting food. The vessels were to be placed three feet apart,
and as the serpent crossed from one to the other, a knight was to cut
him in two. If he failed in his blow, Caradoc would indeed be delivered,
but it would be only to see his fair champion suffering the same cruel
and hopeless torment. The sequel may be easily foreseen. Guimier
willingly exposed herself to the perilous adventure, and Cador, with a
lucky blow, killed the serpent. The arm in which Caradoc had suffered so
long recovered its strength, but not its shape, in consequence of which
he was called Caradoc Briefbras, Caradoc of the Shrunken Arm.

Caradoc and Guimier are the hero and heroine of the ballad of the “Boy
and the Mantle,” which follows:


    “In Carlisle dwelt King Arthur,
      A prince of passing might,
    And there maintained his Table Round,
      Beset with many a knight.

    “And there he kept his Christmas,
      With mirth and princely cheer,
    When lo! a strange and cunning boy
      Before him did appear.

    “A kirtle and a mantle
      This boy had him upon,
    With brooches, rings, and ouches,
      Full daintily bedone.

    “He had a sash of silk
      About his middle meet;
    And thus with seemly curtesie
      He did King Arthur greet:

    “‘God speed thee, brave King Arthur.
      Thus feasting in thy bower,
    And Guenever, thy goodly queen,
      That fair and peerless flower.

    “‘Ye gallant lords and lordlings,
      I wish you all take heed,
    Lest what ye deem a blooming rose
      Should prove a cankered weed.’

    “Then straightway from his bosom
      A little wand he drew;
    And with it eke a mantle,
      Of wondrous shape and hue.

    “Now have thou here, King Arthur,
      Have this here of me,
    And give unto thy comely queen,
      All shapen as you see.

    “‘No wife it shall become,
      That once hath been to blame.’
    Then every knight in Arthur’s court
      Sly glanced at his dame.

    “And first came Lady Guenever,
      The mantle she must try.
    This dame she was new-fangled,[47]
      And of a roving eye.

    “When she had taken the mantle,
      And all with it was clad,
    From top to toe it shivered down,
      As though with shears beshred.

    “One while it was too long,
      Another while too short,
    And wrinkled on her shoulders,
      In most unseemly sort.

    “Now green, now red it seemed,
      Then all of sable hue;
    ‘Beshrew me,’ quoth King Arthur,
      ‘I think thou be’st not true!’

    “Down she threw the mantle,
      No longer would she stay;
    But, storming like a fury,
      To her chamber flung away.

    “She cursed the rascal weaver,
      That had the mantle wrought;
    And doubly cursed the froward imp
      Who thither had it brought.

    “‘I had rather live in deserts,
      Beneath the greenwood tree,
    Than here, base king, among thy grooms
      The sport of them and thee.’

    “Sir Kay called forth his lady,
      And bade her to come near:
    ‘Yet dame, if thou be guilty,
      I pray thee now forbear.’

    “This lady, pertly giggling,
      With forward step came on,
    And boldly to the little boy
      With fearless face is gone.

    “When she had taken the mantle,
      With purpose for to wear,
    It shrunk up to her shoulder,
      And left her back all bare.

    “Then every merry knight,
      That was in Arthur’s court,
    Gibed and laughed and flouted,
      To see that pleasant sport.

    “Down she threw the mantle,
      No longer bold or gay,
    But, with a face all pale and wan,
      To her chamber slunk away.

    “Then forth came an old knight
      A pattering o’er his creed,
    And proffered to the little boy
      Five nobles to his meed:

    “‘And all the time of Christmas
      Plum-porridge shall be thine,
    If thou wilt let my lady fair
      Within the mantle shine.’

    “A saint his lady seemed,
      With step demure and slow,
    And gravely to the mantle
      With mincing face doth go.

    “When she the same had taken
      That was so fine and thin,
    It shrivelled all about her,
      And showed her dainty skin.

    “Ah! little did her mincing,
      Or his long prayers bestead;
    She had no more hung on her
      Than a tassel and a thread.

    “Down she threw the mantle,
      With terror and dismay,
    And with a face of scarlet
      To her chamber hied away.

    “Sir Cradock called his lady,
      And bade her to come near:
    ‘Come win this mantle, lady,
      And do me credit here:

    “‘Come win this mantle, lady,
      For now it shall be thine,
    If thou hast never done amiss,
      Since first I made thee mine.’

    “The lady, gently blushing,
      With modest grace came on;
    And now to try the wondrous charm
      Courageously is gone.

    “When she had ta’en the mantle,
      And put it on her back,
    About the hem it seemed
      To wrinkle and to crack.

    “‘Lie still,’ she cried, ‘O mantle!
      And shame me not for naught;
    I’ll freely own whate’er amiss
      Or blameful I have wrought.

    “‘Once I kissed Sir Cradock
      Beneath the greenwood tree;
    Once I kissed Sir Cradock’s mouth,
      Before he married me.’

    “When she had thus her shriven,
      And her worst fault had told,
    The mantle soon became her,
      Right comely as it should.

    “Most rich and fair of color,
      Like gold it glittering shone,
    And much the knights in Arthur’s court
      Admired her every one.”

The ballad goes on to tell of two more trials of a similar kind, made by
means of a boar’s head and a drinking horn, in both of which the result
was equally favorable with the first to Sir Cradock and his lady. It
then concludes as follows:

    “Thus boar’s head, horn, and mantle
      Were this fair couple’s meed;
    And all such constant lovers,
      God send them well to speed.”
                   —_Percy’s Reliques._


                              CHAPTER VIII

                         LAUNCELOT OF THE LAKE

KING BAN, of Brittany, the faithful ally of Arthur was attacked by his
enemy Claudas, and after a long war saw himself reduced to the
possession of a single fortress, where he was besieged by his enemy. In
this extremity he determined to solicit the assistance of Arthur, and
escaped in a dark night, with his wife Helen and his infant son
Launcelot, leaving his castle in the hands of his seneschal, who
immediately surrendered the place to Claudas. The flames of his burning
citadel reached the eyes of the unfortunate monarch during his flight
and he expired with grief. The wretched Helen, leaving her child on the
brink of a lake, flew to receive the last sighs of her husband, and on
returning perceived the little Launcelot in the arms of a nymph, who, on
the approach of the queen, threw herself into the lake with the child.
This nymph was Viviane, mistress of the enchanter Merlin, better known
by the name of the Lady of the Lake. Launcelot received his appellation
from having been educated at the court of this enchantress, whose palace
was situated in the midst, not of a real, but, like the appearance which
deceives the African traveller, of an imaginary lake, whose deluding
resemblance served as a barrier to her residence. Here she dwelt not
alone, but in the midst of a numerous retinue, and a splendid court of
knights and damsels.

The queen, after her double loss, retired to a convent, where she was
joined by the widow of Bohort, for this good king had died of grief on
hearing of the death of his brother Ban. His two sons, Lionel and
Bohort, were rescued by a faithful knight, and arrived in the shape of
greyhounds at the palace of the lake, where, having resumed their
natural form, they were educated along with their cousin Launcelot.

The fairy, when her pupil had attained the age of eighteen, conveyed him
to the court of Arthur for the purpose of demanding his admission to the
honor of knighthood; and at the first appearance of the youthful
candidate the graces of his person, which were not inferior to his
courage and skill in arms, made an instantaneous and indelible
impression on the heart of Guenever, while her charms inspired him with
an equally ardent and constant passion. The mutual attachment of these
lovers exerted, from that time forth, an influence over the whole
history of Arthur. For the sake of Guenever, Launcelot achieved the
conquest of Northumberland, defeated Gallehaut, King of the Marches, who
afterwards became his most faithful friend and ally, exposed himself in
numberless encounters, and brought hosts of prisoners to the feet of his

                             SIR LAUNCELOT

After King Arthur was come from Rome into England all the knights of the
Table Round resorted unto him and made him many justs and tournaments.
And in especial Sir Launcelot of the Lake in all tournaments and justs
and deeds of arms, both for life and death, passed all other knights,
and was never overcome, except it were by treason or enchantment; and he
increased marvellously in worship, wherefore Queen Guenever had him in
great favor, above all other knights. And for certain he loved the queen
again above all other ladies; and for her he did many deeds of arms, and
saved her from peril, through his noble chivalry. Thus Sir Launcelot
rested him long with play and game, and then he thought to prove himself
in strange adventures; so he bade his nephew, Sir Lionel, to make him
ready,—“for we two will seek adventures.” So they mounted on their
horses, armed at all sights, and rode into a forest, and so into a deep
plain. And the weather was hot about noon, and Sir Launcelot had great
desire to sleep. Then Sir Lionel espied a great apple-tree that stood by
a hedge, and he said: “Brother, yonder is a fair shadow—there may we
rest us and our horses.” “It is well said,” replied Sir Launcelot. So
they there alighted, and Sir Launcelot laid him down, and his helm under
his head, and soon was asleep passing fast. And Sir Lionel waked while
he slept. And presently there came three knights riding as fast as ever
they might ride, and there followed them but one knight. And Sir Lionel
thought he never saw so great a knight before. So within a while this
great knight overtook one of those knights, and smote him so that he
fell to the earth. Then he rode to the second knight and smote him, and
so he did to the third knight. Then he alighted down and bound all the
three knights fast with their own bridles. When Sir Lionel saw him do
thus, he thought to assay him, and made him ready silently, not to awake
Sir Launcelot, and rode after the strong knight, and bade him turn. And
the other smote Sir Lionel so hard that horse and man fell to the earth;
and then he alighted down and bound Sir Lionel, and threw him across his
own horse; and so he served them all four, and rode with them away to
his own castle. And when he came there he put them in a deep prison, in
which were many more knights in great distress.

Now while Sir Launcelot lay under the apple-tree sleeping, there came by
him four queens of great estate. And that the heat should not grieve
them, there rode four knights about them, and bare a cloth of green silk
on four spears, betwixt them and the sun. And the queens rode on four
white mules.

Thus as they rode they heard by them a great horse grimly neigh. Then
they were aware of a sleeping knight, that lay all armed under an
apple-tree; and as the queens looked on his face, they knew it was Sir
Launcelot. Then they began to strive for that knight, and each one said
she would have him for her love. “We will not strive,” said Morgane le
Fay, that was King Arthur’s sister, “for I will put an enchantment upon
him, that he shall not wake for six hours, and we will take him away to
my castle; and then when he is surely within my hold, I will take the
enchantment from him, and then let him choose which of us he will have
for his love.” So the enchantment was cast upon Sir Launcelot. And then
they laid him upon his shield, and bare him so on horseback between two
knights, and brought him unto the castle and laid him in a chamber, and
at night they sent him his supper.

And on the morning came early those four queens, richly dight, and bade
him good morning, and he them again. “Sir knight,” they said, “thou must
understand thou art our prisoner; and we know thee well, that thou art
Sir Launcelot of the Lake, King Ban’s son, and that thou art the noblest
knight living. And we know well that there can no lady have thy love but
one, and that is Queen Guenever; and now thou shalt lose her for ever,
and she thee; and therefore it behooveth thee now to choose one of us. I
am the Queen Morgane le Fay, and here is the Queen of North Wales, and
the Queen of Eastland, and the Queen of the Isles. Now choose one of us
which thou wilt have, for if thou choose not, in this prison thou shalt
die.” “This is a hard case,” said Sir Launcelot, “that either I must
die, or else choose one of you; yet had I liever to die in this prison
with worship, than to have one of you for my paramour, for ye be false
enchantresses.” “Well,” said the queens, “is this your answer, that ye
will refuse us.” “Yea, on my life it is,” said Sir Launcelot. Then they
departed, making great sorrow.

Then at noon came a damsel unto him with his dinner, and asked him,
“What cheer?” “Truly, fair damsel,” said Sir Launcelot, “never so ill.”
“Sir,” said she, “if you will be ruled by me, I will help you out of
this distress. If ye will promise me to help my father on Tuesday next,
who hath made a tournament betwixt him and the king of North Wales; for
last Tuesday my father lost the field.” “Fair maiden,” said Sir
Launcelot, “tell me what is your father’s name, and then will I give you
an answer.” “Sir knight,” she said, “my father is King Bagdemagus.” “I
know him well,” said Sir Launcelot, “for a noble king and a good knight;
and, by the faith of my body, I will be ready to do your father and you
service at that day.”

So she departed, and came on the next morning early and found him ready,
and brought him out of twelve locks, and brought him to his own horse,
and lightly he saddled him, and so rode forth.

And on the Tuesday next he came to a little wood where the tournament
should be. And there were scaffolds and holds, that lords and ladies
might look on, and give the prize. Then came into the field the king of
North Wales, with eightscore helms, and King Badgemagus came with
fourscore helms. And then they couched their spears, and came together
with a great dash, and there were overthrown at the first encounter
twelve of King Bagdemagus’s party and six of the king of North Wales’s
party, and King Bagdemagus’s party had the worse.

With that came Sir Launcelot of the Lake, and thrust in with his spear
in the thickest of the press; and he smote down five knights ere he held
his hand; and he smote down the king of North Wales, and he brake his
thigh in that fall. And then the knights of the king of North Wales
would just no more; and so the gree was given to King Bagdemagus.

And Sir Launcelot rode forth with King Bagdemagus unto his castle; and
there he had passing good cheer, both with the king and with his
daughter. And on the morn he took his leave, and told the king he would
go and seek his brother, Sir Lionel, that went from him when he slept.
So he departed, and by adventure he came to the same forest where he was
taken sleeping. And in the highway he met a damsel riding on a white
palfrey, and they saluted each other. “Fair damsel,” said Sir Launcelot,
“know ye in this country any adventures?” “Sir knight,” said the damsel,
“here are adventures near at hand, if thou durst pursue them.” “Why
should I not prove adventures?” said Sir Launcelot, “since for that
cause came I hither.” “Sir,” said she, “hereby dwelleth a knight that
will not be overmatched for any man I know, except thou overmatch him.
His name is Sir Turquine, and, as I understand, he is a deadly enemy of
King Arthur, and he has in his prison good knights of Arthur’s court,
threescore and more, that he hath won with his own hands.” “Damsel,”
said Launcelot, “I pray you bring me unto this knight.” So she told him,
“Hereby, within this mile, is his castle, and by it on the left hand is
a ford for horses to drink of, and over that ford there groweth a fair
tree, and on that tree hang many shields that good knights wielded
aforetime, that are now prisoners; and on the tree hangeth a basin of
copper and latten, and if thou strike upon that basin thou shalt hear
tidings.” And Sir Launcelot departed, and rode as the damsel had shown
him, and shortly he came to the ford, and the tree where hung the
shields and the basin. And among the shields he saw Sir Lionel’s and Sir
Hector’s shields, besides many others of knights that he knew.

Then Sir Launcelot struck on the basin with the butt of his spear; and
long he did so, but he saw no man. And at length he was ware of a great
knight that drove a horse before him, and across the horse there lay an
armed knight bounden. And as they came near, Sir Launcelot thought he
should know the captive knight. Then Sir Launcelot saw that it was Sir
Gaheris, Sir Gawain’s brother, a knight of the Table Round. “Now, fair
knight,” said Sir Launcelot, “put that wounded knight off the horse, and
let him rest awhile, and let us two prove our strength. For, as it is
told me, thou hast done great despite and shame unto knights of the
Round Table, therefore now defend thee.” “If thou be of the Table
Round,” said Sir Turquine, “I defy thee and all thy fellowship.” “That
is overmuch said,” said Sir Launcelot.

Then they put their spears in the rests, and came together with their
horses as fast as they might run. And each smote the other in the middle
of their shields, so that their horses fell under them, and the knights
were both staggered; and as soon as they could clear their horses they
drew out their swords and came together eagerly, and each gave the other
many strong strokes, for neither shield nor harness might withstand
their strokes. So within a while both had grimly wounds, and bled
grievously. Then at the last they were breathless both, and stood
leaning upon their swords. “Now, fellow,” said Sir Turquine, “thou art
the stoutest man that ever I met with, and best breathed; and so be it
thou be not the knight that I hate above all other knights, the knight
that slew my brother, Sir Carados, I will gladly accord with thee; and
for thy love I will deliver all the prisoners that I have.”

“What knight is he that thou hatest so above others?” “Truly,” said Sir
Turquine, “his name is Sir Launcelot of the Lake.” “I am Sir Launcelot
of the Lake, King Ban’s son of Benwick, and very knight of the Table
Round; and now I defy thee do thy best.” “Ah!” said Sir Turquine,
“Launcelot, thou art to me the most welcome that ever was knight; for we
shall never part till the one of us be dead.” And then they hurtled
together like two wild bulls, rashing and lashing with their swords and
shields, so that sometimes they fell, as it were, headlong. Thus they
fought two hours and more, till the ground where they fought was all
bepurpled with blood.

Then at the last Sir Turquine waxed sore faint, and gave somewhat aback,
and bare his shield full low for weariness. That spied Sir Launcelot,
and leapt then upon him fiercely as a lion, and took him by the beaver
of his helmet, and drew him down on his knees. And he raised off his
helm, and smote his neck in sunder.

And Sir Gaheris, when he saw Sir Turquine slain, said, “Fair lord, I
pray you tell me your name, for this day I say ye are the best knight in
the world, for ye have slain this day in my sight the mightiest man and
the best knight except you that ever I saw.” “Sir, my name is Sir
Launcelot du Lac, that ought to help you of right for King Arthur’s
sake, and in especial for Sir Gawain’s sake, your own dear brother. Now
I pray you, that ye go into yonder castle, and set free all the
prisoners ye find there, for I am sure ye shall find there many knights
of the Table Round, and especially my brother Sir Lionel. I pray you
greet them all from me, and tell them I bid them take there such stuff
as they find; and tell my brother to go unto the court and abide me
there, for by the feast of Pentecost I think to be there; but at this
time I may not stop, for I have adventures on hand.” So he departed, and
Sir Gaheris rode into the castle, and took the keys from the porter, and
hastily opened the prison door and let out all the prisoners. There was
Sir Kay, Sir Brandeles, and Sir Galynde, Sir Bryan, and Sir Alyduke, Sir
Hector de Marys, and Sir Lionel, and many more. And when they saw Sir
Gaheris they all thanked him, for they thought, because he was wounded,
that he had slain Sir Turquine. “Not so,” said Sir Gaheris; “it was Sir
Launcelot that slew him, right worshipfully; I saw it with mine eyes.”

Sir Launcelot rode till at nightfall he came to a fair castle, and
therein he found an old gentlewoman, who lodged him with good-will, and
there he had good cheer for him and his horse. And when time was, his
host brought him to a fair chamber over the gate to his bed. Then Sir
Launcelot unarmed him, and set his harness by him, and went to bed, and
anon he fell asleep. And soon after, there came one on horseback and
knocked at the gate in great haste; and when Sir Launcelot heard this,
he arose and looked out of the window, and saw by the moonlight three
knights riding after that one man, and all three lashed on him with
their swords, and that one knight turned on them knightly again and
defended himself. “Truly,” said Sir Launcelot, “yonder one knight will I
help, for it is shame to see three knights on one.” Then he took his
harness and went out at the window by a sheet down to the four knights;
and he said aloud, “Turn you knights unto me, and leave your fighting
with that knight.” Then the knights left Sir Kay, for it was he they
were upon, and turned unto Sir Launcelot, and struck many great strokes
at Sir Launcelot, and assailed him on every side. Then Sir Kay addressed
him to help Sir Launcelot, but he said, “Nay, sir, I will none of your
help; let me alone with them.” So Sir Kay suffered him to do his will,
and stood one side. And within six strokes Sir Launcelot had stricken
them down.

Then they all cried, “Sir knight, we yield us unto you.” “As to that,”
said Sir Launcelot, “I will not take your yielding unto me. If so be ye
will yield you unto Sir Kay the Seneschal, I will save your lives, but
else not.” “Fair knight,” then they said, “we will do as thou commandest
us.” “Then shall ye,” said Sir Launcelot, “on Whitsunday next, go unto
the court of King Arthur, and there shall ye yield you unto Queen
Guenever, and say that Sir Kay sent you thither to be her prisoners.”
“Sir,” they said, “it shall be done, by the faith of our bodies;” and
then they swore, every knight upon his sword. And so Sir Launcelot
suffered them to depart.

On the morn Sir Launcelot rose early and left Sir Kay sleeping; and Sir
Launcelot took Sir Kay’s armor, and his shield, and armed him, and went
to the stable and took his horse, and so he departed. Then soon after
arose Sir Kay, and missed Sir Launcelot. And then he espied that he had
taken his armor and his horse. “Now, by my faith, I know well,” said Sir
Kay, “that he will grieve some of King Arthur’s knights, for they will
deem that it is I, and will be bold to meet him. But by cause of his
armor I am sure I shall ride in peace.” Then Sir Kay thanked his host
and departed.

Sir Launcelot rode in a deep forest, and there he saw four knights,
under an oak, and they were of Arthur’s court. There was Sir Sagramour
le Desirus, and Hector de Marys, and Sir Gawain, and Sir Uwaine. As they
spied Sir Launcelot they judged by his arms it had been Sir Kay. “Now,
by my faith,” said Sir Sagramour, “I will prove Sir Kay’s might;” and
got his spear in his hand, and came towards Sir Launcelot. Therewith Sir
Launcelot couched his spear against him, and smote Sir Sagramour so sore
that horse and man fell both to the earth. Then said Sir Hector, “Now
shall ye see what I may do with him.” But he fared worse than Sir
Sagramour, for Sir Launcelot’s spear went through his shoulder and bare
him from his horse to the ground. “By my faith,” said Sir Uwaine,
“yonder is a strong knight, and I fear he hath slain Sir Kay, and taken
his armor.” And therewith Sir Uwaine took his spear in hand, and rode
toward Sir Launcelot; and Sir Launcelot met him on the plain and gave
him such a buffet that he was staggered, and wist not where he was. “Now
see I well,” said Sir Gawain, “that I must encounter with that knight.”
Then he adjusted his shield, and took a good spear in his hand, and Sir
Launcelot knew him well. Then they let run their horses with all their
mights, and each knight smote the other in the middle of his shield. But
Sir Gawain’s spear broke, and Sir Launcelot charged so sore upon him
that his horse fell over backward. Then Sir Launcelot passed by smiling
with himself, and he said, “Good luck be with him that made this spear,
for never came a better into my hand.” Then the four knights went each
to the other and comforted one another. “What say ye to this adventure,”
said Sir Gawain, “that one spear hath felled us all four?” “I dare lay
my head it is Sir Launcelot,” said Sir Hector; “I know it by his

And Sir Launcelot rode through many strange countries, till by fortune
he came to a fair castle; and as he passed beyond the castle he thought
he heard two bells ring. And then he perceived how a falcon came flying
over his head, toward a high elm; and she had long lunys[48] about her
feet, and she flew unto the elm to take her perch, and the lunys got
entangled in the bough; and when she would have taken her flight, she
hung by the legs fast, and Sir Launcelot saw how she hung, and beheld
the fair falcon entangled, and he was sorry for her. Then came a lady
out of the castle and cried aloud, “O Launcelot, Launcelot, as thou art
the flower of all knights, help me to get my hawk; for if my hawk be
lost, my lord will slay me, he is so hasty.” “What is your lord’s name?”
said Sir Launcelot. “His name is Sir Phelot, a knight that belongeth to
the king of North Wales.” “Well, fair lady, since ye know my name, and
require me of knighthood to help you, I will do what I may to get your
hawk; and yet in truth I am an ill climber, and the tree is passing
high, and few boughs to help me.” And therewith Sir Launcelot alighted
and tied his horse to the tree, and prayed the lady to unarm him. And
when he was unarmed, he put off his jerkin, and with might and force he
clomb up to the falcon, and tied the lunys to a rotten bough, and threw
the hawk down with it; and the lady got the hawk in her hand. Then
suddenly there came out of the castle her husband, all armed, and with
his naked sword in his hand, and said, “O Knight Launcelot, now have I
got thee as I would,” and stood at the boll of the tree to slay him.
“Ah, lady!” said Sir Launcelot, “why have ye betrayed me?” “She hath
done,” said Sir Phelot, “but as I commanded her; and therefore there is
none other way but thine hour is come, and thou must die.” “That were
shame unto thee,” said Sir Launcelot; “thou an armed knight to slay a
naked man by treason.” “Thou gettest none other grace,” said Sir Phelot,
“and therefore help thyself if thou canst.” “Alas!” said Sir Launcelot,
“that ever a knight should die weaponless!” And therewith he turned his
eyes upward and downward; and over his head he saw a big bough leafless,
and he brake it off from the trunk. And then he came lower, and watched
how his own horse stood; and suddenly he leapt on the further side of
his horse from the knight. Then Sir Phelot lashed at him eagerly,
meaning to have slain him. But Sir Launcelot put away the stroke, with
the big bough, and smote Sir Phelot therewith on the side of the head,
so that he fell down in a swoon to the ground. Then Sir Launcelot took
his sword out of his hand and struck his head from the body. Then said
the lady, “Alas! why hast thou slain my husband?” “I am not the cause,”
said Sir Launcelot, “for with falsehood ye would have slain me, and now
it is fallen on yourselves.” Thereupon Sir Launcelot got all his armor,
and put it upon him hastily, for fear of more resort, for the knight’s
castle was so nigh. And as soon as he might, he took his horse and
departed, and thanked God he had escaped that adventure.

And two days before the feast of Pentecost, Sir Launcelot came home; and
the king and all the court were passing glad of his coming. And when Sir
Gawain, Sir Uwaine, Sir Sagramour, and Sir Hector de Marys saw Sir
Launcelot in Sir Kay’s armor then they wist well it was he that smote
them down, all with one spear. Then there was laughing and merriment
among them; and from time to time came all the knights that Sir Turquine
had prisoners, and they all honored and worshipped Sir Launcelot. Then
Sir Gaheris said, “I saw all the battle from the beginning to the end,”
and he told King Arthur all how it was. Then Sir Kay told the king how
Sir Launcelot had rescued him, and how he “made the knights yield to me,
and not to him.” And there they were, all three, and confirmed it all.
“And, by my faith,” said Sir Kay, “because Sir Launcelot took my harness
and left me his, I rode in peace, and no man would have to do with me.”

And so at that time Sir Launcelot had the greatest name of any knight of
the world, and most was he honored of high and low.

 From painting by Sir Edwin Burne-Jones.]

[Illustration: THE ROUND TABLE.
 From a photograph. This supposed relic of King Arthur and his
 Knights now hangs in the Great Hall of the Castle of Winchester

                               CHAPTER IX

                       THE ADVENTURE OF THE CART

IT befell in the month of May, Queen Guenever called to her knights of
the Table Round, and gave them warning that early upon the morrow she
would ride a-maying into the woods and fields beside Westminster; “and I
warn you that there be none of you but he be well horsed, and that ye
all be clothed in green, either silk or cloth; and I shall bring with me
ten ladies, and every knight shall have a lady behind him, and every
knight shall have a squire and two yeoman, and all well horsed.”

    “For thus it chanced one morn when all the court,
    Green-suited, but with plumes that mock’d the May,
    Had been, their wont, a-maying.”

So they made them ready; and these were the names of the knights: Sir
Kay the Seneschal, Sir Agrivaine, Sir Brandiles, Sir Sagramour le
Desirus, Sir Dodynas le Sauvage, Sir Ozanna, Sir Ladynas, Sir Persant of
Inde, Sir Ironside, and Sir Pelleas; and these ten knights made them
ready, in the freshest manner, to ride with the queen. So upon the morn
they took their horses with the queen, and rode a-maying in woods and
meadows, as it pleased them, in great joy and delight. Now there was a
knight named Maleagans, son to King Brademagus, who loved Queen Guenever
passing well, and so had he done long and many years. Now this knight,
Sir Maleagans, learned the queen’s purpose, and that she had no men of
arms with her but the ten noble knights all arrayed in green for maying;
so he prepared him twenty men of arms, and a hundred archers, to take
captive the queen and her knights.

    “In the merry month of May,
    In a morn at break of day,
    With a troop of damsels playing,
    The Queen, forsooth, went forth a-maying.”
                                  —_Old Song._

So when the queen had mayed, and all were bedecked with herbs, mosses,
and flowers in the best manner and freshest, right then came out of a
wood Sir Maleagans with eightscore men well harnessed, and bade the
queen and her knights yield them prisoners. “Traitor knight,” said Queen
Guenever, “what wilt thou do? Wilt thou shame thyself? Bethink thee how
thou art a king’s son, and a knight of the Table Round, and how thou art
about to dishonor all knighthood and thyself?” “Be it as it may,” said
Sir Maleagans, “know you well, madam, I have loved you many a year and
never till now could I get you to such advantage as I do now; and
therefore I will take you as I find you.” Then the ten knights of the
Round Table drew their swords, and the other party run at them with
their spears, and the ten knights manfully abode them, and smote away
their spears. Then they lashed together with swords till several were
smitten to the earth. So when the queen saw her knights thus dolefully
oppressed, and needs must be slain at the last, then for pity and sorrow
she cried, “Sir Maleagans, slay not my noble knights and I will go with
you, upon this covenant, that they be led with me wheresoever thou
leadest me.” “Madame,” said Maleagans, “for your sake they shall be led
with you into my own castle, if that ye will be ruled, and ride with
me.” Then Sir Maleagans charged them all that none should depart from
the queen, for he dreaded lest Sir Launcelot should have knowledge of
what had been done.

Then the queen privily called unto her a page of her chamber that was
swiftly horsed, to whom she said, “Go thou when thou seest thy time, and
bear this ring unto Sir Launcelot, and pray him as he loveth me, that he
will see me and rescue me. And spare not thy horse,” said the queen,
“neither for water nor for land.” So the child espied his time, and
lightly he took his horse with the spurs and departed as fast as he
might. And when Sir Maleagans saw him so flee, he understood that it was
by the queen’s commandment for to warn Sir Launcelot. Then they that
were best horsed chased him, and shot at him, but the child went from
them all. Then Sir Maleagans said to the queen, “Madam, ye are about to
betray me, but I shall arrange for Sir Launcelot that he shall not come
lightly at you.” Then he rode with her and them all to his castle, in
all the haste that they might. And by the way Sir Maleagans laid in
ambush the best archers that he had to wait for Sir Launcelot. And the
child came to Westminster and found Sir Launcelot and told his message
and delivered him the queen’s ring. “Alas!” said Sir Launcelot, “now am
I shamed for ever, unless I may rescue that noble lady.” Then eagerly he
asked his armor and put it on him, and mounted his horse and rode as
fast as he might; and men say he took the water at Westminster Bridge,
and made his horse swim over Thames unto Lambeth. Then within a while he
came to a wood where was a narrow way; and there the archers were laid
in ambush. And they shot at him and smote his horse so that he fell.
Then Sir Launcelot left his horse and went on foot, but there lay so
many ditches and hedges betwixt the archers and him that he might not
meddle with them. “Alas! for shame,” said Sir Launcelot, “that ever one
knight should betray another! but it is an old saw, a good man is never
in danger, but when he is in danger of a coward.” Then Sir Launcelot
went awhile and he was exceedingly cumbered by his armor, his shield,
and his spear, and all that belonged to him. Then by chance there came
by him a cart that came thither to fetch wood.

Now at this time carts were little used except for carrying offal and
for conveying criminals to execution. But Sir Launcelot took no thought
of anything but the necessity of haste for the purpose of rescuing the
queen; so he demanded of the carter that he should take him in and
convey him as speedily as possible for a liberal reward. The carter
consented, and Sir Launcelot placed himself in the cart and only
lamented that with much jolting he made but little progress. Then it
happened Sir Gawain passed by and seeing an armed knight travelling in
that unusual way he drew near to see who it might be. Then Sir Launcelot
told him how the queen had been carried off, and how, in hastening to
her rescue, his horse had been disabled and he had been compelled to
avail himself of the cart rather than give up his enterprise. Then Sir
Gawain said, “Surely it is unworthy of a knight to travel in such sort;”
but Sir Launcelot heeded him not.

At nightfall they arrived at a castle and the lady thereof came out at
the head of her damsels to welcome Sir Gawain. But to admit his
companion, whom she supposed to be a criminal, or at least a prisoner,
it pleased her not; however, to oblige Sir Gawain, she consented. At
supper Sir Launcelot came near being consigned to the kitchen and was
only admitted to the lady’s table at the earnest solicitation of Sir
Gawain. Neither would the damsels prepare a bed for him. He seized the
first he found unoccupied and was left undisturbed.

Next morning he saw from the turrets of the castle a train accompanying
a lady, whom he imagined to be the queen. Sir Gawain thought it might be
so, and became equally eager to depart. The lady of the castle supplied
Sir Launcelot with a horse and they traversed the plain at full speed.
They learned from some travellers whom they met, that there were two
roads which led to the castle of Sir Maleagans. Here therefore the
friends separated. Sir Launcelot found his way beset with obstacles,
which he encountered successfully, but not without much loss of time. As
evening approached he was met by a young and sportive damsel, who gayly
proposed to him a supper at her castle. The knight, who was hungry and
weary, accepted the offer, though with no very good grace. He followed
the lady to her castle and ate voraciously of her supper, but was quite
impenetrable to all her amorous advances. Suddenly the scene changed and
he was assailed by six furious ruffians, whom he dealt with so
vigorously that most of them were speedily disabled, when again there
was a change and he found himself alone with his fair hostess, who
informed him that she was none other than his guardian fairy, who had
but subjected him to tests of his courage and fidelity. The next day the
fairy brought him on his road, and before parting gave him a ring, which
she told him would by its changes of color disclose to him all
enchantments, and enable him to subdue them.

Sir Launcelot pursued his journey, without being much incommoded except
by the taunts of travellers, who all seemed to have learned, by some
means, his disgraceful drive in the cart. One, more insolent than the
rest, had the audacity to interrupt him during dinner, and even to risk
a battle in support of his pleasantry. Launcelot, after an easy victory,
only doomed him to be carted in his turn.

At night he was received at another castle, with great apparent
hospitality, but found himself in the morning in a dungeon, and loaded
with chains. Consulting his ring, and finding that this was an
enchantment, he burst his chains, seized his armor in spite of the
visionary monsters who attempted to defend it, broke open the gates of
the tower, and continued his journey. At length his progress was checked
by a wide and rapid torrent, which could only be passed on a narrow
bridge, on which a false step would prove his destruction. Launcelot,
leading his horse by the bridle, and making him swim by his side, passed
over the bridge, and was attacked as soon as he reached the bank by a
lion and a leopard, both of which he slew, and then, exhausted and
bleeding, seated himself on the grass, and endeavored to bind up his
wounds, when he was accosted by Brademagus, the father of Maleagans,
whose castle was then in sight, and at no great distance. This king, no
less courteous than his son was haughty and insolent, after
complimenting Sir Launcelot on the valor and skill he had displayed in
the perils of the bridge and the wild beasts, offered him his
assistance, and informed him that the queen was safe in his castle, but
could only be rescued by encountering Maleagans. Launcelot demanded the
battle for the next day, and accordingly it took place, at the foot of
the tower, and under the eyes of the fair captive. Launcelot was
enfeebled by his wounds, and fought not with his usual spirit, and the
contest for a time was doubtful; till Guenever exclaimed, “Ah,
Launcelot! my knight, truly have I been told that thou art no longer
worthy of me!” These words instantly revived the drooping knight; he
resumed at once his usual superiority, and soon laid at his feet his
haughty adversary.

He was on the point of sacrificing him to his resentment, when Guenever,
moved by the entreaties of Brademagus, ordered him to withhold the blow,
and he obeyed. The castle and its prisoners were now at his disposal.
Launcelot hastened to the apartment of the queen, threw himself at her
feet, and was about to kiss her hand, when she exclaimed, “Ah,
Launcelot! why do I see thee again, yet feel thee to be no longer worthy
of me, after having been disgracefully drawn about the country in a—”
She had not time to finish the phrase, for her lover suddenly started
from her, and, bitterly lamenting that he had incurred the displeasure
of his sovereign lady, rushed out of the castle, threw his sword and his
shield to the right and left, ran furiously into the woods, and

It seems that the story of the abominable cart, which haunted Launcelot
at every step, had reached the ears of Sir Kay, who had told it to the
queen, as a proof that her knight must have been dishonored. But
Guenever had full leisure to repent the haste with which she had given
credit to the tale. Three days elapsed, during which Launcelot wandered
without knowing where he went, till at last he began to reflect that his
mistress had doubtless been deceived by misrepresentation, and that it
was his duty to set her right. He therefore returned, compelled
Maleagans to release his prisoners, and, taking the road by which they
expected the arrival of Sir Gawain, had the satisfaction of meeting him
the next day; after which the whole company proceeded gayly towards


                               CHAPTER X

                          THE LADY OF SHALOTT

KING ARTHUR proclaimed a solemn tournament to be held at Winchester. The
king, not less impatient than his knights for this festival, set off
some days before to superintend the preparations, leaving the queen with
her court at Camelot. Sir Launcelot, under pretence of indisposition,
remained behind also. His intention was to attend the tournament in
disguise; and having communicated his project to Guenever, he mounted
his horse, set off without any attendant, and, counterfeiting the
feebleness of age, took the most unfrequented road to Winchester, and
passed unnoticed as an old knight who was going to be a spectator of the
sports. Even Arthur and Gawain, who happened to behold him from the
windows of a castle under which he passed, were the dupes of his
disguise. But an accident betrayed him. His horse happened to stumble,
and the hero, forgetting for a moment his assumed character, recovered
the animal with a strength and agility so peculiar to himself, that they
instantly recognized the inimitable Launcelot. They suffered him,
however, to proceed on his journey without interruption, convinced that
his extraordinary feats of arms must discover him at the approaching

In the evening Launcelot was magnificently entertained as a stranger
knight at the neighboring castle of Shalott. The lord of this castle had
a daughter of exquisite beauty, and two sons lately received into the
order of knighthood, one of whom was at that time ill in bed, and
thereby prevented from attending the tournament, for which both brothers
had long made preparation. Launcelot offered to attend the other, if he
were permitted to borrow the armor of the invalid, and the lord of
Shalott, without knowing the name of his guest, being satisfied from his
appearance that his son could not have a better assistant in arms, most
thankfully accepted the offer. In the meantime the young lady, who had
been much struck by the first appearance of the stranger knight,
continued to survey him with increased attention, and, before the
conclusion of supper, became so deeply enamoured of him, that after
frequent changes of color, and other symptoms which Sir Launcelot could
not possibly mistake, she was obliged to retire to her chamber, and seek
relief in tears. Sir Launcelot hastened to convey to her, by means of
her brother, the information that his heart was already disposed of, but
that it would be his pride and pleasure to act as her knight at the
approaching tournament. The lady, obliged to be satisfied with that
courtesy, presented him her scarf to be worn at the tournament.

Launcelot set off in the morning with the young knight, who, on their
approaching Winchester, carried him to the castle of a lady, sister to
the lord of Shalott, by whom they were hospitably entertained. The next
day they put on their armor, which was perfectly plain and without any
device, as was usual to youths during the first year of knighthood,
their shields being only painted red, as some color was necessary to
enable them to be recognized by their attendants. Launcelot wore on his
crest the scarf of the maid of Shalott, and, thus equipped, proceeded to
the tournament, where the knights were divided into two companies, the
one commanded by Sir Galehaut, the other by King Arthur. Having surveyed
the combat for a short time from without the lists, and observed that
Sir Galehaut’s party began to give way, they joined the press and
attacked the royal knights, the young man choosing such adversaries as
were suited to his strength, while his companion selected the principal
champions of the Round Table, and successively overthrew Gawain, Bohort,
and Lionel. The astonishment of the spectators was extreme, for it was
thought that no one but Launcelot could possess such invincible force;
yet the favor on his crest seemed to preclude the possibility of his
being thus disguised, for Launcelot had never been known to wear the
badge of any but his sovereign lady. At length Sir Hector, Launcelot’s
brother, engaged him, and, after a dreadful combat, wounded him
dangerously in the head, but was himself completely stunned by a blow on
the helmet, and felled to the ground; after which the conqueror rode off
at full speed, attended by his companion.

They returned to the castle of Shalott, where Launcelot was attended
with the greatest care by the good earl, by his two sons, and, above
all, by his fair daughter, whose medical skill probably much hastened
the period of his recovery. His health was almost completely restored,
when Sir Hector, Sir Bohort, and Sir Lionel, who, after the return of
the court to Camelot, had undertaken the quest of their relation,
discovered him walking on the walls of the castle. Their meeting was
very joyful; they passed three days in the castle amidst constant
festivities, and bantered each other on the events of the tournament.
Launcelot, though he began by vowing vengeance against the author of his
wound, yet ended by declaring that he felt rewarded for the pain by the
pride he took in witnessing his brother’s extraordinary prowess. He then
dismissed them with a message to the queen, promising to follow
immediately, it being necessary that he should first take a formal leave
of his kind hosts, as well as of the fair maid of Shalott.

The young lady, after vainly attempting to detain him by her tears and
solicitations, saw him depart without leaving her any ground for hope.

It was early summer when the tournament took place; but some months had
passed since Launcelot’s departure, and winter was now near at hand. The
health and strength of the Lady of Shalott had gradually sunk, and she
felt that she could not live apart from the object of her affections.
She left the castle, and descending to the river’s brink placed herself
in a boat, which she loosed from its moorings, and suffered to bear her
down the current toward Camelot.

One morning, as Arthur and Sir Lionel looked from the window of the
tower, the walls of which were washed by a river, they descried a boat
richly ornamented, and covered with an awning of cloth of gold, which
appeared to be floating down the stream without any human guidance. It
struck the shore while they watched it, and they hastened down to
examine it. Beneath the awning they discovered the dead body of a
beautiful woman, in whose features Sir Lionel easily recognized the
lovely maid of Shalott. Pursuing their search, they discovered a purse
richly embroidered with gold and jewels, and within the purse a letter,
which Arthur opened, and found addressed to himself and all the knights
of the Round Table, stating that Launcelot of the Lake, the most
accomplished of knights and most beautiful of men, but at the same time
the most cruel and inflexible, had by his rigor produced the death of
the wretched maiden, whose love was no less invincible than his cruelty.
The king immediately gave orders for the interment of the lady with all
the honors suited to her rank, at the same time explaining to the
knights the history of her affection for Launcelot, which moved the
compassion and regret of all.


Tennyson has chosen the story of the “Lady of Shalott” for the subject
of a poem. The catastrophe is told thus:

    “Under tower and balcony,
    By garden-wall and gallery,
    A gleaming shape she floated by,
    A corse between the houses high,
        Silent into Camelot.
    Out upon the wharfs they came,
    Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
    And round the prow they read her name,
        ‘The Lady of Shalott.’

    “Who is this? and what is here?
    And in the lighted palace near
    Died the sound of royal cheer;
    And they crossed themselves for fear,
    All the knights at Camelot.
    But Launcelot mused a little space;
    He said, ‘She has a lovely face;
    God in his mercy lend her grace,
        The Lady of Shalott.’”


                               CHAPTER XI

                         QUEEN GUENEVER’S PERIL

IT happened at this time that Queen Guenever was thrown into great peril
of her life. A certain squire who was in her immediate service, having
some cause of animosity to Sir Gawain, determined to destroy him by
poison, at a public entertainment. For this purpose he concealed the
poison in an apple of fine appearance, which he placed on the top of
several others, and put the dish before the queen, hoping that, as Sir
Gawain was the knight of greatest dignity, she would present the apple
to him. But it happened that a Scottish knight of high distinction, who
arrived on that day, was seated next to the queen, and to him as a
stranger she presented the apple, which he had no sooner eaten than he
was seized with dreadful pain, and fell senseless. The whole court was,
of course, thrown into confusion; the knights rose from table, darting
looks of indignation at the wretched queen, whose tears and
protestations were unable to remove their suspicions. In spite of all
that could be done the knight died, and nothing remained but to order a
magnificent funeral and monument for him, which was done.

Some time after Sir Mador, brother of the murdered knight, arrived at
Arthur’s court in quest of him. While hunting in the forest he by chance
came to the spot where the monument was erected, read the inscription,
and returned to court determined on immediate and signal vengeance. He
rode into the hall, loudly accused the queen of treason, and insisted on
her being given up for punishment, unless she should find by a certain
day a knight hardy enough to risk his life in support of her innocence.
Arthur, powerful as he was, did not dare to deny the appeal, but was
compelled with a heavy heart to accept it, and Mador sternly took his
departure, leaving the royal couple plunged in terror and anxiety.

During all this time Launcelot was absent, and no one knew where he was.
He fled in anger from his fair mistress, upon being reproached by her
with his passion for the Lady of Shalott, which she had hastily inferred
from his wearing her scarf at the tournament. He took up his abode with
a hermit in the forest, and resolved to think no more of the cruel
beauty, whose conduct he thought must flow from a wish to get rid of
him. Yet calm reflection had somewhat cooled his indignation, and he had
begun to wish, though hardly able to hope, for a reconciliation when the
news of Sir Mador’s challenge fortunately reached his ears. The
intelligence revived his spirits, and he began to prepare with the
utmost cheerfulness for a contest which, if successful, would insure him
at once the affection of his mistress and the gratitude of his

The sad fate of the Lady of Shalott had ere this completely acquitted
Launcelot in the queen’s mind of all suspicion of his fidelity, and she
lamented most grievously her foolish quarrel with him, which now, at her
time of need, deprived her of her most efficient champion.

As the day appointed by Sir Mador was fast approaching, it became
necessary that she should procure a champion for her defence; and she
successively adjured Sir Hector, Sir Lionel, Sir Bohort, and Sir Gawain
to undertake the battle. She fell on her knees before them, called
heaven to witness her innocence of the crime alleged against her, but
was sternly answered by all that they could not fight to maintain the
innocence of one whose act, and the fatal consequence of it, they had
seen with their own eyes. She retired, therefore, dejected and
disconsolate; but the sight of the fatal pile on which, if guilty, she
was doomed to be burned, exciting her to fresh effort, she again
repaired to Sir Bohort, threw herself at his feet, and piteously calling
on him for mercy, fell into a swoon. The brave knight was not proof
against this. He raised her up, and hastily promised that he would
undertake her cause, if no other or better champion should present
himself. He then summoned his friends, and told them his resolution; and
as a mortal combat with Sir Mador was a most fearful enterprise, they
agreed to accompany him in the morning to the hermitage in the forest,
where he proposed to receive absolution from the hermit, and to make his
peace with Heaven before he entered the lists. As they approached the
hermitage, they espied a knight riding in the forest, whom they at once
recognized as Sir Launcelot. Overjoyed at the meeting, they quickly, in
answer to his questions, confirmed the news of the queen’s imminent
danger, and received his instructions to return to court, to comfort her
as well as they could, but to say nothing of his intention of
undertaking her defence, which he meant to do in the character of an
unknown adventurer.

On their return to the castle they found that mass was finished, and had
scarcely time to speak to the queen before they were summoned into the
hall to dinner. A general gloom was spread over the countenances of all
the guests. Arthur himself was unable to conceal his dejection, and the
wretched Guenever, motionless and bathed in tears, sat in trembling
expectation of Sir Mador’s appearance. Nor was it long ere he stalked
into the hall, and with a voice of thunder, rendered more impressive by
the general silence, demanded instant justice on the guilty party.
Arthur replied with dignity, that little of the day was yet spent, and
that perhaps a champion might yet be found capable of satisfying his
thirst for battle. Sir Bohort now rose from table, and shortly returning
in complete armor, resumed his place, after receiving the embraces and
thanks of the king, who now began to resume some degree of confidence.
Sir Mador, growing impatient, again repeated his denunciations of
vengeance, and insisted that the combat should no longer be postponed.

In the height of the debate there came riding into the hall a knight
mounted on a black steed, and clad in black armor, with his visor down,
and lance in hand. “Sir,” said the king, “is it your will to alight and
partake of our cheer?” “Nay, sir,” he replied; “I come to save a lady’s
life. The queen hath ill bestowed her favors, and honored many a knight,
that in her hour of need she should have none to take her part. Thou
that darest accuse her of treachery, stand forth, for to-day shalt thou
need all thy might.”

Sir Mador, though surprised, was not appalled by the stern challenge and
formidable appearance of his antagonist, but prepared for the encounter.
At the first shock both were unhorsed. They then drew their swords, and
commenced a combat which lasted from noon till evening, when Sir Mador,
whose strength began to fail, was felled to the ground by Launcelot, and
compelled to sue for mercy. The victor, whose arm was already raised to
terminate the life of his opponent, instantly dropped his sword,
courteously lifted up the fainting Sir Mador, frankly confessing that he
had never before encountered so formidable an enemy. The other, with
similar courtesy, solemnly renounced all further projects of vengeance
for his brother’s death; and the two knights, now become fast friends,
embraced each other with the greatest cordiality. In the meantime
Arthur, having recognized Sir Launcelot, whose helmet was now unlaced,
rushed down into the lists, followed by all his knights, to welcome and
thank his deliverer. Guenever swooned with joy, and the place of combat
suddenly exhibited a scene of the most tumultuous delight.

The general satisfaction was still further increased by the discovery of
the real culprit. Having accidentally incurred some suspicion, he
confessed his crime, and was publicly punished in the presence of Sir

The court now returned to the castle, which, with the title of “La
Joyeuse Garde” bestowed upon it in memory of the happy event, was
conferred on Sir Launcelot by Arthur, as a memorial of his gratitude.


                              CHAPTER XII

                          TRISTRAM AND ISOUDE

MELIADUS was king of Leonois, or Lionesse, a country famous in the
annals of romance, which adjoined the kingdom of Cornwall, but has now
disappeared from the map, having been, it is said, overwhelmed by the
ocean. Meliadus was married to Isabella, sister of Mark, king of
Cornwall. A fairy fell in love with him, and drew him away by
enchantment while he was engaged in hunting. His queen set out in quest
of him, but was taken ill on her journey, and died, leaving an infant
son, whom, from the melancholy circumstances of his birth, she called

Gouvernail, the queen’s squire, who had accompanied her, took charge of
the child, and restored him to his father, who had at length burst the
enchantments of the fairy, and returned home.

Meliadus after seven years married again, and the new queen, being
jealous of the influence of Tristram with his father, laid plots for his
life, which were discovered by Gouvernail, who in consequence fled with
the boy to the court of the king of France, where Tristram was kindly
received, and grew up improving in every gallant and knightly
accomplishment, adding to his skill in arms the arts of music and of
chess. In particular, he devoted himself to the chase and to all
woodland sports, so that he became distinguished above all other
chevaliers of the court for his knowledge of all that relates to
hunting. No wonder that Belinda, the king’s daughter, fell in love with
him; but as he did not return her passion, she, in a sudden impulse of
anger, excited her father against him, and he was banished the kingdom.
The princess soon repented of her act, and in despair destroyed herself,
having first written a most tender letter to Tristram, sending him at
the same time a beautiful and sagacious dog, of which she was very fond,
desiring him to keep it as a memorial of her. Meliadus was now dead, and
as his queen, Tristram’s stepmother, held the throne, Gouvernail was
afraid to carry his pupil to his native country, and took him to
Cornwall, to his uncle Mark, who gave him a kind reception.

King Mark resided at the castle of Tintadel, already mentioned in the
history of Uther and Igerne. In this court Tristram became distinguished
in all the exercises incumbent on a knight; nor was it long before he
had an opportunity of practically employing his valor and skill.
Moraunt, a celebrated champion, brother to the queen of Ireland, arrived
at the court, to demand tribute of King Mark. The knights of Cornwall
are in ill repute in romance for their cowardice, and they exhibited it
on this occasion. King Mark could find no champion who dared to
encounter the Irish knight, till his nephew Tristram, who had not yet
received the honors of knighthood, craved to be admitted to the order,
offering at the same time to fight the battle of Cornwall against the
Irish champion. King Mark assented with reluctance; Tristram received
the accolade, which conferred knighthood upon him, and the place and
time were assigned for the encounter.

Without attempting to give the details of this famous combat, the first
and one of the most glorious of Tristram’s exploits, we shall only say
that the young knight, though severely wounded, cleft the head of
Moraunt, leaving a portion of his sword in the wound. Moraunt, half dead
with his wound and the disgrace of his defeat, hastened to hide himself
in his ship, sailed away with all speed for Ireland, and died soon after
arriving in his own country.

The kingdom of Cornwall was thus delivered from its tribute. Tristram,
weakened by loss of blood, fell senseless. His friends flew to his
assistance. They dressed his wounds, which in general healed readily;
but the lance of Moraunt was poisoned, and one wound which it made
yielded to no remedies, but grew worse day by day. The surgeons could do
no more. Tristram asked permission of his uncle to depart, and seek for
aid in the kingdom of Loegria (England). With his consent he embarked,
and after tossing for many days on the sea, was driven by the winds to
the coast of Ireland. He landed, full of joy and gratitude that he had
escaped the peril of the sea; took his rote,[49] and began to play. It
was a summer evening, and the king of Ireland and his daughter, the
beautiful Isoude, were at a window which overlooked the sea. The strange
harper was sent for, and conveyed to the palace, where, finding that he
was in Ireland, whose champion he had lately slain, he concealed his
name, and called himself Tramtris. The queen undertook his cure, and by
a medicated bath gradually restored him to health. His skill in music
and in games occasioned his being frequently called to court, and he
became the instructor of the princess Isoude in minstrelsy and poetry,
who profited so well under his care, that she soon had no equal in the
kingdom, except her instructor.

At this time a tournament was held, at which many knights of the Round
Table, and others, were present. On the first day a Saracen prince,
named Palamedes, obtained the advantage over all. They brought him to
the court, and gave him a feast, at which Tristram, just recovering from
his wound, was present. The fair Isoude appeared on this occasion in all
her charms. Palamedes could not behold them without emotion, and made no
effort to conceal his love. Tristram perceived it, and the pain he felt
from jealousy taught him how dear the fair Isoude had already become to

Next day the tournament was renewed. Tristram, still feeble from his
wound, rose during the night, took his arms, and concealed them in a
forest near the place of the contest, and, after it had begun, mingled
with the combatants. He overthrew all that encountered him, in
particular Palamedes, whom he brought to the ground with a stroke of his
lance, and then fought him hand to hand, bearing off the prize of the
tourney. But his exertions caused his wound to reopen; he bled fast, and
in this sad state, yet in triumph, they bore him to the palace. The fair
Isoude devoted herself to his relief with an interest which grew more
vivid day by day; and her skilful care soon restored him to health.

It happened one day that a damsel of the court, entering the closet
where Tristram’s arms were deposited, perceived that a part of the sword
had been broken off. It occurred to her that the missing portion was
like that which was left in the skull of Moraunt, the Irish champion.
She imparted her thought to the queen, who compared the fragment taken
from her brother’s wound with the sword of Tristram, and was satisfied
that it was part of the same, and that the weapon of Tristram was that
which reft her brother’s life. She laid her griefs and resentment before
the king, who satisfied himself with his own eyes of the truth of her
suspicions. Tristram was cited before the whole court, and reproached
with having dared to present himself before them after having slain
their kinsman. He acknowledged that he had fought with Moraunt to settle
the claim for tribute, and said that it was by force of winds and waves
alone that he was thrown on their coast. The queen demanded vengeance
for the death of her brother; the fair Isoude trembled and grew pale,
but a murmur rose from all the assembly that the life of one so handsome
and so brave should not be taken for such a cause, and generosity
finally triumphed over resentment in the mind of the king. Tristram was
dismissed in safety, but commanded to leave the kingdom without delay,
and never to return thither under pain of death. Tristram went back,
with restored health, to Cornwall.

King Mark made his nephew give him a minute recital of his adventures.
Tristram told him all minutely; but when he came to speak of the fair
Isoude he described her charms with a warmth and energy such as none but
a lover could display. King Mark was fascinated with the description,
and, choosing a favorable time, demanded a boon[50] of his nephew, who
readily granted it. The king made him swear upon the holy reliques that
he would fulfil his commands. Then Mark directed him to go to Ireland,
and obtain for him the fair Isoude to be queen of Cornwall.

Tristram believed it was certain death for him to return to Ireland; and
how could he act as ambassador for his uncle in such a cause? Yet, bound
by his oath, he hesitated not for an instant. He only took the
precaution to change his armor. He embarked for Ireland; but a tempest
drove him to the coast of England, near Camelot, where King Arthur was
holding his court, attended by the knights of the Round Table, and many
others, the most illustrious in the world.

Tristram kept himself unknown. He took part in many justs; he fought
many combats, in which he covered himself with glory. One day he saw
among those recently arrived the king of Ireland, father of the fair
Isoude. This prince, accused of treason against his liege sovereign,
Arthur, came to Camelot to free himself from the charge. Blaanor, one of
the most redoubtable warriors of the Round Table, was his accuser, and
Argius, the king, had neither youthful vigor nor strength to encounter
him. He must therefore seek a champion to sustain his innocence. But the
knights of the Round Table were not at liberty to fight against one
another, unless in a quarrel of their own. Argius heard of the great
renown of the unknown knight; he also was witness of his exploits. He
sought him, and conjured him to adopt his defence, and on his oath
declared that he was innocent of the crime of which he was accused.
Tristram readily consented, and made himself known to the king, who on
his part promised to reward his exertions, if successful, with whatever
gift he might ask.

Tristram fought with Blaanor, and overthrew him, and held his life in
his power. The fallen warrior called on him to use his right of
conquest, and strike the fatal blow. “God forbid,” said Tristram, “that
I should take the life of so brave a knight!” He raised him up and
restored him to his friends. The judges of the field decided that the
king of Ireland was acquitted of the charge against him, and they led
Tristram in triumph to his tent. King Argius, full of gratitude,
conjured Tristram to accompany him to his kingdom. They departed
together, and arrived in Ireland; and the queen, forgetting her
resentment for her brother’s death, exhibited to the preserver of her
husband’s life nothing but gratitude and good-will.

How happy a moment for Isoude, who knew that her father had promised his
deliverer whatever boon he might ask! But the unhappy Tristram gazed on
her with despair, at the thought of the cruel oath which bound him. His
magnanimous soul subdued the force of his love. He revealed the oath
which he had taken, and with trembling voice demanded the fair Isoude
for his uncle.

Argius consented, and soon all was prepared for the departure of Isoude.
Brengwain, her favorite maid of honor, was to accompany her. On the day
of departure the queen took aside this devoted attendant, and told her
that she had observed that her daughter and Tristram were attached to
one another, and that to avert the bad effects of this inclination she
had procured from a powerful fairy a potent philter (love-draught),
which she directed Brengwain to administer to Isoude and to King Mark on
the evening of their marriage.

Isoude and Tristram embarked together. A favorable wind filled the
sails, and promised them a fortunate voyage. The lovers gazed upon one
another, and could not repress their sighs. Love seemed to light up all
his fires on their lips, as in their hearts. The day was warm; they
suffered from thirst. Isoude first complained. Tristram descried the
bottle containing the love-draught, which Brengwain had been so
imprudent as to leave in sight. He took it, gave some of it to the
charming Isoude, and drank the remainder himself. The dog Houdain licked
the cup. The ship arrived in Cornwall, and Isoude was married to King
Mark. The old monarch was delighted with his bride, and his gratitude to
Tristram was unbounded. He loaded him with honors, and made him
chamberlain of his palace, thus giving him access to the queen at all

In the midst of the festivities of the court which followed the royal
marriage, an unknown minstrel one day presented himself, bearing a harp
of peculiar construction. He excited the curiosity of King Mark by
refusing to play upon it till he should grant him a boon. The king
having promised to grant his request, the minstrel, who was none other
than the Saracen knight, Sir Palamedes, the lover of the fair Isoude,
sung to the harp a lay, in which he demanded Isoude as the promised
gift. King Mark could not by the laws of knighthood withhold the boon.
The lady was mounted on her horse, and led away by her triumphant lover.
Tristram, it is needless to say, was absent at the time, and did not
return until their departure. When he heard what had taken place he
seized his rote, and hastened to the shore, where Isoude and her new
master had already embarked. Tristram played upon his rote, and the
sound reached the ears of Isoude, who became so deeply affected, that
Sir Palamedes was induced to return with her to land, that they might
see the unknown musician. Tristram watched his opportunity, seized the
lady’s horse by the bridle, and plunged with her into the forest,
tauntingly informing his rival that “what he had got by the harp he had
lost by the rote.” Palamedes pursued, and a combat was about to
commence, the result of which must have been fatal to one or other of
these gallant knights; but Isoude stepped between them, and, addressing
Palamedes, said, “You tell me that you love me; you will not then deny
me the request I am about to make?” “Lady,” he replied, “I will perform
your bidding.” “Leave, then,” said she, “this contest, and repair to
King Arthur’s court, and salute Queen Guenever from me; tell her that
there are in the world but two ladies, herself and I, and two lovers,
hers and mine; and come thou not in future in any place where I am.”
Palamedes burst into tears. “Ah, lady,” said he, “I will obey you; but I
beseech you that you will not for ever steel your heart against me.”
“Palamedes,” she replied, “may I never taste of joy again if I ever quit
my first love.” Palamedes then went his way. The lovers remained a week
in concealment, after which Tristram restored Isoude to her husband,
advising him in future to reward minstrels in some other way.

The king showed much gratitude to Tristram, but in the bottom of his
heart he cherished bitter jealousy of him. One day Tristram and Isoude
were alone together in her private chamber. A base and cowardly knight
of the court, named Andret, spied them through a keyhole. They sat at a
table of chess, but were not attending to the game. Andret brought the
king, having first raised his suspicions, and placed him so as to watch
their motions. The king saw enough to confirm his suspicions, and he
burst into the apartment with his sword drawn, and had nearly slain
Tristram before he was put on his guard. But Tristram avoided the blow,
drew his sword, and drove before him the cowardly monarch, chasing him
through all the apartments of the palace, giving him frequent blows with
the flat of his sword, while he cried in vain to his knights to save
him. They were not inclined, or did not dare, to interpose in his


A proof of the great popularity of the tale of Sir Tristram is the fact
that the Italian poets, Boiardo and Ariosto, have founded upon it the
idea of the two enchanted fountains, which produced the opposite effects
of love and hatred. Boiardo thus describes the fountain of hatred:

      “Fair was that, fountain, sculptured all of gold,
      With alabaster sculptured, rich and rare;
      And in its basin clear thou might’st behold
      The flowery marge reflected fresh and fair.
      Sage Merlin framed the font,—so legends bear,—
      When on fair Isoude doated Tristram brave,
      That the good errant knight, arriving there,
      Might quaff oblivion in the enchanted wave,
    And leave his luckless love, and ’scape his timeless grave.

      “But ne’er the warrior’s evil fate allowed
      His steps that fountain’s charmed verge to gain.
      Though restless, roving on adventure proud,
      He traversed oft the land and oft the main.”
      .      .      .      .      .      .      .


                              CHAPTER XIII

                   TRISTRAM AND ISOUDE (_Continued_)

AFTER this affair Tristram was banished from the kingdom, and Isoude
shut up in a tower, which stood on the bank of a river. Tristram could
not resolve to depart without some further communication with his
beloved; so he concealed himself in the forest, till at last he
contrived to attract her attention, by means of twigs which he curiously
peeled, and sent down the stream under her window. By this means many
secret interviews were obtained. Tristram dwelt in the forest,
sustaining himself by game, which the dog Houdain ran down for him; for
this faithful animal was unequalled in the chase, and knew so well his
master’s wish for concealment, that, in the pursuit of his game, he
never barked. At length Tristram departed, but left Houdain with Isoude,
as a remembrancer of him.

Sir Tristram wandered through various countries, achieving the most
perilous enterprises, and covering himself with glory, yet unhappy at
the separation from his beloved Isoude. At length King Mark’s territory
was invaded by a neighboring chieftain, and he was forced to summon his
nephew to his aid. Tristram obeyed the call, put himself at the head of
his uncle’s vassals, and drove the enemy out of the country. Mark was
full of gratitude, and Tristram, restored to favor and to the society of
his beloved Isoude, seemed at the summit of happiness. But a sad reverse
was at hand.

Tristram had brought with him a friend named Pheredin, son of the king
of Brittany. This young knight saw Queen Isoude, and could not resist
her charms. Knowing the love of his friend for the queen, and that that
love was returned, Pheredin concealed his own, until his health failed,
and he feared he was drawing near his end. He then wrote to the
beautiful queen that he was dying for love of her.

The gentle Isoude, in a moment of pity for the friend of Tristram,
returned him an answer so kind and compassionate that it restored him to
life. A few days afterwards Tristram found this letter. The most
terrible jealousy took possession of his soul; he would have slain
Pheredin, who with difficulty made his escape. Then Tristram mounted his
horse, and rode to the forest, where for ten days he took no rest nor
food. At length he was found by a damsel lying almost dead by the brink
of a fountain. She recognized him, and tried in vain to rouse his
attention. At last recollecting his love for music she went and got her
harp, and played thereon. Tristram was roused from his reverie; tears
flowed; he breathed more freely; he took the harp from the maiden, and
sung this lay, with a voice broken with sobs:

    “Sweet I sang in former days,
    Kind love perfected my lays:
    Now my art alone displays
    The woe that on my being preys.

    “Charming love, delicious power,
    Worshipped from my earliest hour,
    Thou who life on all dost shower,
    Love! my life thou dost devour.

    “In death’s hour I beg of thee,
    Isoude, dearest enemy,
    Thou who erst couldst kinder be,
    When I’m gone, forget not me.

    “On my gravestone passers-by
    Oft will read, as low I lie,
    ‘Never wight in love could vie
    With Tristram, yet she let him die.’”

Tristram, having finished his lay, wrote it off and gave it to the
damsel, conjuring her to present it to the queen.

Meanwhile Queen Isoude was inconsolable at the absence of Tristram. She
discovered that it was caused by the fatal letter which she had written
to Pheredin. Innocent, but in despair at the sad effects of her letter,
she wrote another to Pheredin, charging him never to see her again. The
unhappy lover obeyed this cruel decree. He plunged into the forest, and
died of grief and love in a hermit’s cell.

Isoude passed her days in lamenting the absence and unknown fate of
Tristram. One day her jealous husband, having entered her chamber
unperceived, overheard her singing the following lay:

    “My voice to piteous wail is bent,
    My harp to notes of languishment;
    Ah, love! delightsome days be meant
    For happier wights, with hearts content.

    “Ah, Tristram! far away from me,
    Art thou from restless anguish free?
    Ah! couldst thou so one moment be,
    From her who so much loveth thee?”

The king hearing these words burst forth in a rage; but Isoude was too
wretched to fear his violence. “You have heard me,” she said; “I confess
it all. I love Tristram, and always shall love him. Without doubt he is
dead, and died for me. I no longer wish to live. The blow that shall
finish my misery will be most welcome.”

The king was moved at the distress of the fair Isoude, and perhaps the
idea of Tristram’s death tended to allay his wrath. He left the queen in
charge of her women, commanding them to take especial care lest her
despair should lead her to do harm to herself.

Tristram meanwhile, distracted as he was, rendered a most important
service to the shepherds by slaying a gigantic robber named Taullas, who
was in the habit of plundering their flocks and rifling their cottages.
The shepherds, in their gratitude to Tristram, bore him in triumph to
King Mark to have him bestow on him a suitable reward. No wonder Mark
failed to recognize in the half-clad, wild man, before him his nephew
Tristram; but grateful for the service the unknown had rendered he
ordered him to be well taken care of, and gave him in charge to the
queen and her women. Under such care Tristram rapidly recovered his
serenity and his health, so that the romancer tells us he became
handsomer than ever. King Mark’s jealousy revived with Tristram’s health
and good looks, and, in spite of his debt of gratitude so lately
increased, he again banished him from the court.

Sir Tristram left Cornwall, and proceeded into the land of Loegria
(England) in quest of adventures. One day he entered a wide forest. The
sound of a little bell showed him that some inhabitant was near. He
followed the sound, and found a hermit, who informed him that he was in
the forest of Arnantes, belonging to the fairy Viviane, the Lady of the
Lake, who, smitten with love for King Arthur, had found means to entice
him to this forest, where by enchantments she held him a prisoner,
having deprived him of all memory of who and what he was. The hermit
informed him that all the knights of the Round Table were out in search
of the king, and that he (Tristram) was now in the scene of the most
grand and important adventures.

This was enough to animate Tristram in the search. He had not wandered
far before he encountered a knight of Arthur’s court, who proved to be
Sir Kay the Seneschal, who demanded of him whence he came. Tristram
answering, “From Cornwall,” Sir Kay did not let slip the opportunity of
a joke at the expense of the Cornish knight. Tristram chose to leave him
in his error, and even confirmed him in it; for meeting some other
knights Tristram declined to just with them. They spent the night
together at an abbey, where Tristram submitted patiently to all their
jokes. The Seneschal gave the word to his companions that they should
set out early next day, and intercept the Cornish knight on his way, and
enjoy the amusement of seeing his fright when they should insist on
running a tilt with him. Tristram next morning found himself alone; he
put on his armor, and set out to continue his quest. He soon saw before
him the Seneschal and the three knights, who barred the way, and
insisted on a just. Tristram excused himself a long time; at last he
reluctantly took his stand. He encountered them, one after the other,
and overthrew them all four, man and horse, and then rode off, bidding
them not to forget their friend, the knight of Cornwall.

Tristram had not ridden far when he met a damsel, who cried out, “Ah, my
lord! hasten forward, and prevent a horrid treason!” Tristram flew to
her assistance, and soon reached a spot where he beheld a knight, whom
three others had borne to the ground, and were unlacing his helmet in
order to cut off his head.

Tristram flew to the rescue, and slew with one stroke of his lance one
of the assailants. The knight, recovering his feet, sacrificed another
to his vengeance, and the third made his escape. The rescued knight then
raised the visor of his helmet, and a long white beard fell down upon
his breast. The majesty and venerable air of this knight made Tristram
suspect that it was none other than Arthur himself, and the prince
confirmed his conjecture. Tristram would have knelt before him, but
Arthur received him in his arms, and inquired his name and country; but
Tristram declined to disclose them, on the plea that he was now on a
quest requiring secrecy. At this moment the damsel who had brought
Tristram to the rescue darted forward, and, seizing the king’s hand,
drew from his finger a ring, the gift of the fairy, and by that act
dissolved the enchantment. Arthur, having recovered his reason and his
memory, offered to Tristram to attach him to his court, and to confer
honors and dignities upon him; but Tristram declined all, and only
consented to accompany him till he should see him safe in the hands of
his knights. Soon after, Hector de Marys rode up, and saluted the king,
who on his part introduced him to Tristram as one of the bravest of his
knights. Tristram took leave of the king and his faithful follower, and
continued his quest.

We cannot follow Tristram through all the adventures which filled this
epoch of his history. Suffice it to say, he fulfilled on all occasions
the duty of a true knight, rescuing the oppressed, redressing wrongs,
abolishing evil customs, and suppressing injustice, thus by constant
action endeavoring to lighten the pains of absence from her he loved. In
the meantime Isoude, separated from her dear Tristram, passed her days
in languor and regret. At length she could no longer resist the desire
to hear some news of her lover. She wrote a letter, and sent it by one
of her damsels, niece of her faithful Brengwain. One day Tristram, weary
with his exertions, had dismounted and laid himself down by the side of
a fountain and fallen asleep. The damsel of Queen Isoude arrived at the
same fountain, and recognized Passebreul, the horse of Tristram, and
presently perceived his master asleep. He was thin and pale, showing
evident marks of the pain he suffered in separation from his beloved.
She awakened him, and gave him the letter which she bore, and Tristram
enjoyed the pleasure, so sweet to a lover, of hearing from and talking
about the object of his affections. He prayed the damsel to postpone her
return till after the magnificent tournament which Arthur had proclaimed
should have taken place, and conducted her to the castle of Persides, a
brave and loyal knight, who received her with great consideration.

Tristram conducted the damsel of Queen Isoude to the tournament, and had
her placed in the balcony among the ladies of the queen.

        “He glanced and saw the stately galleries,
    Dame, damsel, each through worship of their Queen
    White-robed in honor of the stainless child,
    And some with scatter’d jewels, like a bank
    Of maiden snow mingled with sparks of fire.
    He looked but once, and veiled his eyes again.”
                           —_The Last Tournament._

He then joined the tourney. Nothing could exceed his strength and valor.
Launcelot admired him, and by a secret presentiment declined to dispute
the honor of the day with a knight so gallant and so skilful. Arthur
descended from the balcony to greet the conqueror; but the modest and
devoted Tristram, content with having borne off the prize in the sight
of the messenger of Isoude, made his escape with her, and disappeared.

The next day the tourney recommenced. Tristram assumed different armor,
that he might not be known; but he was soon detected by the terrible
blows that he gave. Arthur and Guenever had no doubt that it was the
same knight who had borne off the prize of the day before. Arthur’s
gallant spirit was roused. After Launcelot of the Lake and Sir Gawain he
was accounted the best knight of the Round Table. He went privately and
armed himself, and came into the tourney in undistinguished armor. He
ran a just with Tristram, whom he shook in his seat; but Tristram, who
did not know him, threw him out of the saddle. Arthur recovered himself,
and content with having made proof of the stranger knight bade Launcelot
finish the adventure, and vindicate the honor of the Round Table. Sir
Launcelot, at the bidding of the monarch, assailed Tristram, whose lance
was already broken in former encounters. But the law of this sort of
combat was that the knight after having broken his lance must fight with
his sword, and must not refuse to meet with his shield the lance of his
antagonist. Tristram met Launcelot’s charge upon his shield, which that
terrible lance could not fail to pierce. It inflicted a wound upon
Tristram’s side, and, breaking, left the iron in the wound. But Tristram
also with his sword smote so vigorously on Launcelot’s casque that he
cleft it, and wounded his head. The wound was not deep, but the blood
flowed into his eyes, and blinded him for a moment, and Tristram, who
thought himself mortally wounded, retired from the field. Launcelot
declared to the king that he had never received such a blow in his life

Tristram hastened to Gouvernail, his squire, who drew forth the iron,
bound up the wound, and gave him immediate ease. Tristram after the
tournament kept retired in his tent, but Arthur, with the consent of all
the knights of the Round Table, decreed him the honors of the second
day. But it was no longer a secret that the victor of the two days was
the same individual, and Gouvernail, being questioned, confirmed the
suspicions of Launcelot and Arthur that it was no other than Sir
Tristram of Leonais, the nephew of the king of Cornwall.

King Arthur, who desired to reward his distinguished valor, and knew
that his Uncle Mark had ungratefully banished him, would have eagerly
availed himself of the opportunity to attach Tristram to his court,—all
the knights of the Round Table declaring with acclamation that it would
be impossible to find a more worthy companion. But Tristram had already
departed in search of adventures, and the damsel of Queen Isoude
returned to her mistress.

[Illustration: SIR GALAHAD.
 From painting by George Frederick Watts.]

 Original drawing by A. Fredericks.]

                              CHAPTER XIV


SIR TRISTRAM rode through a forest and saw ten men fighting, and one man
did battle against nine. So he rode to the knights and cried to them,
bidding them cease their battle, for they did themselves great shame, so
many knights to fight against one. Then answered the master of the
knights (his name was Sir Breuse sans Pitie, who was at that time the
most villanous knight living): “Sir knight, what have ye to do to meddle
with us? If ye be wise depart on your way as you came, for this knight
shall not escape us.” “That were pity,” said Sir Tristram, “that so good
a knight should be slain so cowardly; therefore I warn you I will succor
him with all my puissance.”

Then Sir Tristram alighted off his horse, because they were on foot,
that they should not slay his horse. And he smote on the right hand and
on the left so vigorously that well-nigh at every stroke he struck down
a knight. At last they fled, with Breuse sans Pitie, into the tower, and
shut Sir Tristram without the gate. Then Sir Tristram returned back to
the rescued knight, and found him sitting under a tree, sore wounded.
“Fair knight,” said he, “how is it with you?” “Sir knight,” said Sir
Palamedes, for he it was, “I thank you of your great goodness, for ye
have rescued me from death.” “What is your name?” said Sir Tristram. He
said, “My name is Sir Palamedes.” “Say ye so?” said Sir Tristram; “now
know that thou art the man in the world that I most hate; therefore make
thee ready, for I will do battle with thee.” “What is your name?” said
Sir Palamedes. “My name is Sir Tristram, your mortal enemy.” “It may be
so,” said Sir Palamedes; “but you have done overmuch for me this day,
that I should fight with you. Moreover, it will be no honor for you to
have to do with me, for you are fresh and I am wounded. Therefore, if
you will needs have to do with me, assign me a day, and I shall meet you
without fail.” “You say well,” said Sir Tristram; “now I assign you to
meet me in the meadow by the river of Camelot, where Merlin set the
monument.” So they were agreed. Then they departed and took their ways
diverse. Sir Tristram passed through a great forest into a plain, till
he came to a priory, and there he reposed him with a good man six days.

Then departed Sir Tristram, and rode straight into Camelot to the
monument of Merlin, and there he looked about him for Sir Palamedes. And
he perceived a seemly knight, who came riding against him all in white,
with a covered shield. When he came nigh Sir Tristram said aloud,
“Welcome, sir knight, and well and truly have you kept your promise.”
Then they made ready their shields and spears, and came together with
all the might of their horses, so fiercely, that both the horses and the
knights fell to the earth. And as soon as they might they quitted their
horses, and struck together with bright swords as men of might, and each
wounded the other wonderfully sore, so that the blood ran out upon the
grass. Thus they fought for the space of four hours and never one would
speak to the other one word. Then at last spake the white knight, and
said, “Sir, thou fightest wonderful well, as ever I saw a knight;
therefore, if it please you, tell me your name.” “Why dost thou ask my
name?” said Sir Tristram; “art thou not Sir Palamedes?” “No, fair
knight,” said he, “I am Sir Launcelot of the Lake.” “Alas!” said Sir
Tristram, “what have I done? for you are the man of the world that I
love best.” “Fair knight,” said Sir Launcelot, “tell me your name.”
“Truly,” said he, “my name is Sir Tristram de Lionesse.” “Alas! alas!”
said Sir Launcelot, “what adventure has befallen me!” And therewith Sir
Launcelot kneeled down and yielded him up his sword; and Sir Tristram
kneeled down and yielded him up his sword; and so either gave other the
degree. And then they both went to the stone, and sat them down upon it
and took off their helms and each kissed the other a hundred times. And
then anon they rode toward Camelot, and on the way they met with Sir
Gawain and Sir Gaheris, that had made promise to Arthur never to come
again to the court till they had brought Sir Tristram with them.

“Return again,” said Sir Launcelot, “for your quest is done; for I have
met with Sir Tristram. Lo, here he is in his own person.” Then was Sir
Gawain glad, and said to Sir Tristram, “Ye are welcome.” With this came
King Arthur, and when he wist there was Sir Tristram, he ran unto him,
and took him by the hand, and said, “Sir Tristram, ye are as welcome as
any knight that ever came to this court.” Then Sir Tristram told the
king how he came thither for to have had to do with Sir Palamedes, and
how he had rescued him from Sir Breuse sans Pitie and the nine knights.
Then King Arthur took Sir Tristram by the hand, and went to the Table
Round, and Queen Guenever came, and many ladies with her, and all the
ladies said with one voice, “Welcome, Sir Tristram.” “Welcome,” said the
knights. “Welcome,” said Arthur, “for one of the best of knights, and
the gentlest of the world, and the man of most worship; for of all
manner of hunting thou bearest the prize, and of all measures of blowing
thou art the beginning, and of all the terms of hunting and hawking ye
are the inventor, and of all instruments of music ye are the best
skilled; therefore, gentle knight,” said Arthur, “ye are welcome to this
court.” And then King Arthur made Sir Tristram knight of the Table Round
with great nobley and feasting as can be thought.

                      SIR TRISTRAM AS A SPORTSMAN

Tristram is often alluded to by the Romancers as the great authority and
model in all matters relating to the chase. In the “Faery Queene,”
Tristram, in answer to the inquiries of Sir Calidore, informs him of his
name and parentage, and concludes:

      “All which my days I have not lewdly spent,
      Nor spilt the blossom of my tender years
      In idlesse; but, as was convenient,
      Have trained been with many noble feres
      In gentle thewes, and such like seemly leers;[51]
      ’Mongst which my most delight hath always been
      To hunt the salvage chace, amongst my peers,
      Of all that rangeth in the forest green,
    Of which none is to me unknown that yet was seen.

      “Ne is there hawk which mantleth on her perch,
      Whether high towering or accosting low,
      But I the measure of her flight do search,
      And all her prey, and all her diet know.
      Such be our joys, which in these forests grow.”


                               CHAPTER XV

                            THE ROUND TABLE

THE famous enchanter, Merlin, had exerted all his skill in fabricating
the Round Table. Of the seats which surrounded it he had constructed
thirteen, in memory of the thirteen Apostles. Twelve of these seats only
could be occupied, and they only by knights of the highest fame; the
thirteenth represented the seat of the traitor Judas. It remained always
empty. It was called the _perilous seat_, ever since a rash and haughty
Saracen knight had dared to place himself in it, when the earth opened
and swallowed him up.

    “In our great hall there stood a vacant chair,
    Fashion’d by Merlin ere he past away,
    And carven with strange figures; and in and out
    The figures, like a serpent, ran a scroll
    Of letters in a tongue no man could read.
    And Merlin call’d it ‘The Siege perilous,’
    Perilous for good and ill; ‘for there,’ he said,
    ‘No man could sit but he should lose himself.’”
                                —_The Holy Grail._

A magic power wrote upon each seat the name of the knight who was
entitled to sit in it. No one could succeed to a vacant seat unless he
surpassed in valor and glorious deeds the knight who had occupied it
before him; without this qualification he would be violently repelled by
a hidden force. Thus proof was made of all those who presented
themselves to replace any companions of the order who had fallen.

One of the principal seats, that of Moraunt of Ireland, had been vacant
ten years, and his name still remained over it ever since the time when
that distinguished champion fell beneath the sword of Sir Tristram.
Arthur now took Tristram by the hand and led him to that seat.
Immediately the most melodious sounds were heard, and exquisite perfumes
filled the place; the name of Moraunt disappeared, and that of Tristram
blazed forth in light. The rare modesty of Tristram had now to be
subjected to a severe task; for the clerks charged with the duty of
preserving the annals of the Round Table attended, and he was required
by the law of his order to declare what feats of arms he had
accomplished to entitle him to take that seat. This ceremony being
ended, Tristram received the congratulations of all his companions. Sir
Launcelot and Guenever took the occasion to speak to him of the fair
Isoude, and to express their wish that some happy chance might bring her
to the kingdom of Loegria.

While Tristram was thus honored and caressed at the court of King
Arthur, the most gloomy and malignant jealousy harassed the soul of
Mark. He could not look upon Isoude without remembering that she loved
Tristram, and the good fortune of his nephew goaded him to thoughts of
vengeance. He at last resolved to go disguised into the kingdom of
Loegria, attack Tristram by stealth, and put him to death. He took with
him two knights, brought up in his court, who he thought were devoted to
him; and, not willing to leave Isoude behind, named two of her maidens
to attend her, together with her faithful Brengwain, and made them
accompany him.

Having arrived in the neighborhood of Camelot, Mark imparted his plan to
his two knights, but they rejected it with horror; nay, more, they
declared that they would no longer remain in his service; and left him,
giving him reason to suppose that they should repair to the court to
accuse him before Arthur. It was necessary for Mark to meet and rebut
their accusation; so, leaving Isoude in an abbey, he pursued his way
alone to Camelot.

Mark had not ridden far when he encountered a party of knights of
Arthur’s court, and would have avoided them, for he knew their habit of
challenging to a just every stranger knight whom they met. But it was
too late. They had seen his armor, and recognized him as a Cornish
knight, and at once resolved to have some sport with him. It happened
they had with them Daguenet, King Arthur’s fool, who, though deformed
and weak of body, was not wanting in courage. The knights as Mark
approached laid their plan that Daguenet should personate Sir Launcelot
of the Lake, and challenge the Cornish knight. They equipped him in
armor belonging to one of their number who was ill, and sent him forward
to the cross-road to defy the strange knight. Mark, who saw that his
antagonist was by no means formidable in appearance, was not disinclined
to the combat; but when the dwarf rode towards him, calling out that he
was Sir Launcelot of the Lake, his fears prevailed, he put spurs to his
horse, and rode away at full speed, pursued by the shouts and laughter
of the party.

Meanwhile Isoude, remaining at the abbey with her faithful Brengwain,
found her only amusement in walking occasionally in a forest adjoining
the abbey. There, on the brink of a fountain girdled with trees, she
thought of her love, and sometimes joined her voice and her harp in lays
reviving the memory of its pains or pleasures. One day the caitiff
knight, Breuse the Pitiless, heard her voice, concealed himself, and
drew near. She sang:

    “Sweet silence, shadowy bower, and verdant lair,
      Ye court my troubled spirit to repose,
    Whilst I, such dear remembrance rises there,
      Awaken every echo with my woes.

    “Within these woods, by nature’s hand arrayed,
      A fountain springs, and feeds a thousand flowers;
    Ah! how my groans do all its murmurs aid!
      How my sad eyes do swell it with their showers!

    “What doth my knight the while? to him is given
      A double meed; in love and arms’ emprise,
    Him the Round Table elevates to heaven!
      Tristram! ah me! he hears not Isoude’s cries.”

Breuse the Pitiless, who like most other caitiffs had felt the weight of
Tristram’s arm, and hated him accordingly, at hearing his name breathed
forth by the beautiful songstress, impelled by a double impulse, rushed
forth from his concealment and laid hands on his victim. Isoude fainted,
and Brengwain filled the air with her shrieks. Breuse carried Isoude to
the place where he had left his horse; but the animal had got away from
his bridle, and was at some distance. He was obliged to lay down his
fair burden, and go in pursuit of his horse. Just then a knight came up,
drawn by the cries of Brengwain, and demanded the cause of her distress.
She could not speak, but pointed to her mistress lying insensible on the

Breuse had by this time returned, and the cries of Brengwain, renewed at
seeing him, sufficiently showed the stranger the cause of the distress.
Tristram spurred his horse towards Breuse, who, not unprepared, ran to
the encounter. Breuse was unhorsed, and lay motionless, pretending to be
dead; but when the stranger knight left him to attend to the distressed
damsels, he mounted his horse, and made his escape.

The knight now approached Isoude, gently raised her head, drew aside the
golden hair which covered her countenance, gazed thereon for an instant,
uttered a cry, and fell back insensible. Brengwain came; her cares soon
restored her mistress to life, and they then turned their attention to
the fallen warrior. They raised his visor, and discovered the
countenance of Sir Tristram. Isoude threw herself on the body of her
lover, and bedewed his face with her tears. Their warmth revived the
knight, and Tristram on awaking found himself in the arms of his dear

It was the law of the Round Table that each knight after his admission
should pass the next ten days in quest of adventures, during which time
his companions might meet him in disguised armor and try their strength
with him. Tristram had now been out seven days, and in that time had
encountered many of the best knights of the Round Table, and acquitted
himself with honor. During the remaining three days, Isoude remained at
the abbey, under his protection, and then set out with her maidens,
escorted by Sir Tristram, to rejoin King Mark at the court of Camelot.

This happy journey was one of the brightest epochs in the lives of
Tristram and Isoude. He celebrated it by a lay upon the harp in a
peculiar measure, to which the French give the name of _Triolet_.

    “With fair Isoude, and with love,
    Ah! how sweet the life I lead!
    How blest for ever thus to rove,
    With fair Isoude, and with love!
    As she wills, I live and move,
    And cloudless days to days succeed:
    With fair Isoude, and with love,
    Ah! how sweet the life I lead!

    “Journeying on from break of day,
    Feel you not fatigued, my fair?
    Yon green turf invites to play;
    Journeying on from day to day,
    Ah! let us to that shade away,
    Were it but to slumber there!
    Journeying on from break of day,
    Feel you not fatigued, my fair?”

They arrived at Camelot, where Sir Launcelot received them most
cordially. Isoude was introduced to King Arthur and Queen Guenever, who
welcomed her as a sister. As King Mark was held in arrest under the
accusation of the two Cornish knights, Queen Isoude could not rejoin her
husband, and Sir Launcelot placed his castle of La Joyeuse Garde at the
disposal of his friends, who there took up their abode.

King Mark, who found himself obliged to confess the truth of the charge
against him, or to clear himself by combat with his accusers, preferred
the former, and King Arthur, as his crime had not been perpetrated,
remitted the penalty, only enjoining upon him, under pain of his signal
displeasure, to lay aside all thoughts of vengeance against his nephew.
In the presence of the king and his court all parties were formally
reconciled; Mark and his queen departed for their home, and Tristram
remained at Arthur’s court.


                              CHAPTER XVI

                             SIR PALAMEDES

WHILE Sir Tristram and the fair Isoude abode yet at La Joyeuse Garde,
Sir Tristram rode forth one day, without armor, having no weapon but his
spear and his sword. And as he rode he came to a place where he saw two
knights in battle, and one of them had gotten the better and the other
lay overthrown. The knight who had the better was Sir Palamedes. When
Sir Palamedes knew Sir Tristram, he cried out, “Sir Tristram, now we be
met, and ere we depart we will redress our old wrongs.” “As for that,”
said Sir Tristram, “there never yet was Christian man that might make
his boast that I ever fled from him, and thou that art a Saracen shalt
never say that of me.” And therewith Sir Tristram made his horse to run,
and with all his might came straight upon Sir Palamedes, and broke his
spear upon him. Then he drew his sword and struck at Sir Palamedes six
great strokes, upon his helm. Sir Palamedes saw that Sir Tristram had
not his armor on, and he marvelled at his rashness and his great folly;
and said to himself, “If I meet and slay him, I am shamed wheresoever I
go.” Then Sir Tristram cried out and said, “Thou coward knight, why wilt
thou not do battle with me? for have thou no doubt I shall endure all
thy malice.” “Ah, Sir Tristram!” said Sir Palamedes, “thou knowest I may
not fight with thee for shame; for thou art here naked, and I am armed;
now I require that thou answer me a question that I shall ask you.”
“Tell me what it is,” said Sir Tristram. “I put the case,” said
Palamedes, “that you were well armed, and I naked as ye be; what would
you do to me now, by your true knighthood?” “Ah!” said Sir Tristram,
“now I understand thee well, Sir Palamedes; and, as God bless me, what I
shall say shall not be said for fear that I have of thee. But if it were
so, thou shouldest depart from me, for I would not have to do with
thee.” “No more will I with thee,” said Sir Palamedes, “and therefore
ride forth on thy way.” “As for that, I may choose,” said Sir Tristram,
“either to ride or to abide. But, Sir Palamedes, I marvel at one
thing,—that thou art so good a knight, yet that thou wilt not be
christened.” “As for that,” said Sir Palamedes, “I may not yet be
christened, for a vow which I made many years ago; yet in my heart I
believe in our Saviour and his mild mother, Mary; but I have yet one
battle to do, and when that is done I will be christened, with a good
will.” “By my head,” said Sir Tristram, “as for that one battle, thou
shalt seek it no longer; for yonder is a knight, whom you have smitten
down. Now help me to be clothed in his armor, and I will soon fulfil thy
vow.” “As ye will,” said Sir Palamedes, “so shall it be.” So they rode
both unto that knight that sat on a bank; and Sir Tristram saluted him,
and he full weary saluted him again. “Sir,” said Sir Tristram, “I pray
you to lend me your whole armor; for I am unarmed, and I must do battle
with this knight.” “Sir,” said the hurt knight, “you shall have it, with
a right good will.” Then Sir Tristram unarmed Sir Galleron, for that was
the name of the hurt knight, and he as well as he could helped to arm
Sir Tristram. Then Sir Tristram mounted upon his own horse, and in his
hand he took Sir Galleron’s spear. Thereupon Sir Palamedes was ready,
and so they came hurling together, and each smote the other in the midst
of their shields. Sir Palamedes’ spear broke, and Sir Tristram smote
down the horse. Then Sir Palamedes leapt from his horse, and drew out
his sword. That saw Sir Tristram, and therewith he alighted and tied his
horse to a tree. Then they came together as two wild beasts, lashing the
one on the other, and so fought more than two hours; and often Sir
Tristram smote such strokes at Sir Palamedes that he made him to kneel,
and Sir Palamedes broke away Sir Tristram’s shield, and wounded him.
Then Sir Tristram was wroth out of measure, and he rushed to Sir
Palamedes and wounded him passing sore through the shoulder, and by
fortune smote Sir Palamedes’ sword out of his hand. And if Sir Palamedes
had stooped for his sword Sir Tristram had slain him. Then Sir Palamedes
stood and beheld his sword with a full sorrowful heart. “Now,” said Sir
Tristram, “I have thee at a vantage, as thou hadst me to-day; but it
shall never be said, in court, or among good knights, that Sir Tristram
did slay any knight that was weaponless; therefore take thou thy sword,
and let us fight this battle to the end.” Then spoke Sir Palamedes to
Sir Tristram: “I have no wish to fight this battle any more. The offence
that I have done unto you is not so great but that, if it please you, we
may be friends. All that I have offended is for the love of the queen,
La Belle Isoude, and I dare maintain that she is peerless among ladies;
and for that offence ye have given me many grievous and sad strokes, and
some I have given you again. Wherefore I require you, my lord Sir
Tristram, forgive me all that I have offended you, and this day have me
unto the next church; and first I will be clean confessed, and after
that see you that I be truly baptized, and then we will ride together
unto the court of my lord, King Arthur, so that we may be there at the
feast of Pentecost.” “Now take your horse,” said Sir Tristram, “and as
you have said, so shall it be done.” So they took their horses, and Sir
Galleron rode with them. When they came to the church of Carlisle, the
bishop commanded to fill a great vessel with water; and when he had
hallowed it, he then confessed Sir Palamedes clean, and christened him,
and Sir Tristram and Sir Galleron were his godfathers. Then soon after
they departed, and rode towards Camelot, where the noble King Arthur and
Queen Guenever were keeping a court royal. And the king and all the
court were glad that Sir Palamedes was christened. Then Sir Tristram
returned again to La Joyeuse Garde, and Sir Palamedes went his way.

Not long after these events Sir Gawain returned from Brittany, and
related to King Arthur the adventure which befell him in the forest of
Breciliande, how Merlin had there spoken to him, and enjoined him to
charge the king to go without delay upon the quest of the Holy Greal.
While King Arthur deliberated Tristram determined to enter upon the
quest, and the more readily, as it was well known to him that this holy
adventure would, if achieved, procure him the pardon of all his sins. He
immediately departed for the kingdom of Brittany, hoping there to obtain
from Merlin counsel as to the proper course to pursue to insure success.


                              CHAPTER XVII

                              SIR TRISTRAM

ON arriving in Brittany Tristram found King Hoel engaged in a war with a
rebellious vassal, and hard pressed by his enemy. His best knights had
fallen in a late battle, and he knew not where to turn for assistance.
Tristram volunteered his aid. It was accepted; and the army of Hoel, led
by Tristram, and inspired by his example, gained a complete victory. The
king, penetrated by the most lively sentiments of gratitude, and having
informed himself of Tristram’s birth, offered him his daughter in
marriage. The princess was beautiful and accomplished, and bore the same
name with the Queen of Cornwall; but this one is designated by the
Romancers as Isoude of the White Hands, to distinguish her from Isoude
the Fair.

How can we describe the conflict that agitated the heart of Tristram? He
adored the first Isoude, but his love for her was hopeless, and not
unaccompanied by remorse. Moreover, the sacred quest on which he had now
entered demanded of him perfect purity of life. It seemed as if a happy
destiny had provided for him in the charming princess Isoude of the
White Hands the best security for all his good resolutions. This last
reflection determined him. They were married, and passed some months in
tranquil happiness at the court of King Hoel. The pleasure which
Tristram felt in his wife’s society increased day by day. An inward
grace seemed to stir within him from the moment when he took the oath to
go on the quest of the Holy Greal; it seemed even to triumph over the
power of the magic love-potion.

The war, which had been quelled for a time, now burst out anew. Tristram
as usual was foremost in every danger. The enemy was worsted in
successive conflicts, and at last shut himself up in his principal city.
Tristram led on the attack of the city. As he mounted a ladder to scale
the walls he was struck on the head by a fragment of rock, which the
besieged threw down upon him. It bore him to the ground, where he lay

As soon as he recovered consciousness he demanded to be carried to his
wife. The princess, skilled in the art of surgery, would not suffer any
one but herself to touch her beloved husband. Her fair hands bound up
his wounds; Tristram kissed them with gratitude, which began to grow
into love. At first the devoted cares of Isoude seemed to meet with
great success; but after a while these flattering appearances vanished,
and, in spite of all her care, the malady grew more serious day by day.

In this perplexity, an old squire of Tristram’s reminded his master that
the princess of Ireland, afterwards queen of Cornwall, had once cured
him under circumstances quite as discouraging. He called Isoude of the
White Hands to him, told her of his former cure, added that he believed
that the Queen Isoude could heal him, and that he felt sure that she
would come to his relief, if sent for.

Isoude of the White Hands consented that Gesnes, a trusty man and
skilful navigator, should be sent to Cornwall. Tristram called him, and,
giving him a ring, “Take this,” he said, “to the Queen of Cornwall. Tell
her that Tristram, near to death, demands her aid. If you succeed in
bringing her with you, place white sails to your vessel on your return,
that we may know of your success when the vessel first heaves in sight.
But if Queen Isoude refuses, put on black sails; they will be the
presage of my impending death.”

Gesnes performed his mission successfully. King Mark happened to be
absent from his capital, and the queen readily consented to return with
the bark to Brittany. Gesnes clothed his vessel in the whitest of sails,
and sped his way back to Brittany.

Meantime the wound of Tristram grew more desperate day by day. His
strength, quite prostrated, no longer permitted him to be carried to the
seaside daily, as had been his custom from the first moment when it was
possible for the bark to be on the way homeward. He called a young
damsel, and gave her in charge to keep watch in the direction of
Cornwall, and to come and tell him the color of the sails of the first
vessel she should see approaching.

When Isoude of the White Hands consented that the queen of Cornwall
should be sent for, she had not known all the reasons which she had for
fearing the influence which renewed intercourse with that princess might
have on her own happiness. She had now learned more, and felt the danger
more keenly. She thought, if she could only keep the knowledge of the
queen’s arrival from her husband, she might employ in his service any
resources which her skill could supply, and still avert the dangers
which she apprehended. When the vessel was seen approaching, with its
white sails sparkling in the sun, the damsel, by command of her
mistress, carried word to Tristram that the sails were black.

Tristram, penetrated with inexpressible grief, breathed a profound sigh,
turned away his face, and said, “Alas, my beloved! we shall never see
one another again!” Then he commended himself to God, and breathed his

The death of Tristram was the first intelligence which the queen of
Cornwall heard on landing. She was conducted almost senseless into the
chamber of Tristram, and expired holding him in her arms.

Tristram, before his death, had requested that his body should be sent
to Cornwall, and that his sword, with a letter he had written, should be
delivered to King Mark. The remains of Tristram and Isoude were embarked
in a vessel, along with the sword, which was presented to the king of
Cornwall. He was melted with tenderness when he saw the weapon which
slew Moraunt of Ireland,—which had so often saved his life, and
redeemed the honor of his kingdom. In the letter Tristram begged pardon
of his uncle, and related the story of the amorous draught.

Mark ordered the lovers to be buried in his own chapel. From the tomb of
Tristram there sprung a vine, which went along the walls, and descended
into the grave of the queen. It was cut down three times, but each time
sprung up again more vigorous than before, and this wonderful plant has
ever since shaded the tombs of Tristram and Isoude.


Spenser introduces Sir Tristram in his “Faery Queene.” In Book VI.,
Canto ii., Sir Calidore encounters in the forest a young hunter, whom he
thus describes:

      “Him steadfastly he marked, and saw to be
      A goodly youth of amiable grace,
      Yet but a slender slip, that scarce did see
      Yet seventeen yeares; but tall and faire of face,
      That sure he deemed him borne of noble race.
      All in a woodman’s jacket he was clad
      Of Lincoln greene, belayed with silver lace;
      And on his head an hood with aglets[52] sprad,
    And by his side his hunter’s horne he hanging had.

      “Buskins he wore of costliest cordawayne,
      Pinckt upon gold, and paled part per part,[53]
      As then the guize was for each gentle swayne.
      In his right hand he held a trembling dart,
      Whose fellow he before had sent apart;
      And in his left he held a sharp bore-speare,
      With which he wont to launch the salvage heart
      Of many a lyon, and of many a beare,
    That first unto his hand in chase did happen neare.”


                             CHAPTER XVIII


THE father and two elder brothers of Perceval had fallen in battle or
tournaments, and hence, as the last hope of his family, his mother
retired with him into a solitary region, where he was brought up in
total ignorance of arms and chivalry. He was allowed no weapon but “a
lyttel Scots spere,” which was the only thing of all “her lordes faire
gere” that his mother carried to the wood with her. In the use of this
he became so skilful, that he could kill with it not only the animals of
the chase for the table, but even birds on the wing. At length, however,
Perceval was roused to a desire of military renown by seeing in the
forest five knights who were in complete armor. He said to his mother,
“Mother, what are those yonder?” “They are angels, my son,” said she.
“By my faith, I will go and become an angel with them.” And Perceval
went to the road and met them. “Tell me, good lad,” said one of them,
“sawest thou a knight pass this way either to-day or yesterday?” “I know
not,” said he, “what a knight is.” “Such an one as I am,” said the
knight. “If thou wilt tell me what I ask thee, I will tell thee what
thou askest me.” “Gladly will I do so,” said Sir Owain, for that was the
knight’s name. “What is this?” demanded Perceval, touching the saddle.
“It is a saddle,” said Owain. Then he asked about all the accoutrements
which he saw upon the men and the horses, and about the arms, and what
they were for, and how they were used. And Sir Owain showed him all
those things fully. And Perceval in return gave him such information as
he had.

Then Perceval returned to his mother, and said to her, “Mother, those
were not angels, but honorable knights.” Then his mother swooned away.
And Perceval went to the place where they kept the horses that carried
firewood and provisions for the castle, and he took a bony, piebald
horse, which seemed to him the strongest of them. And he pressed a pack
into the form of a saddle, and with twisted twigs he imitated the
trappings which he had seen upon the horses. When he came again to his
mother, the countess had recovered from her swoon. “My son,” said she,
“desirest thou to ride forth?” “Yes, with thy leave,” said he. “Go
forward, then,” she said, “to the court of Arthur, where there are the
best and the noblest and the most bountiful of men, and tell him thou
art Perceval, the son of Pelenore, and ask of him to bestow knighthood
on thee. And whenever thou seest a church, repeat there thy
pater-noster; and if thou see meat and drink, and hast need of them,
thou mayest take them. If thou hear an outcry of one in distress,
proceed toward it, especially if it be the cry of a woman, and render
her what service thou canst. If thou see a fair jewel, win it, for thus
shalt thou acquire fame; yet freely give it to another, for thus thou
shalt obtain praise. If thou see a fair woman, pay court to her, for
thus thou wilt obtain love.”

After this discourse Perceval mounted the horse and taking a number of
sharp-pointed sticks in his hand he rode forth. And he rode far in the
woody wilderness without food or drink. At last he came to an opening in
the wood where he saw a tent, and as he thought it might be a church he
said his pater-noster to it. And he went towards it; and the door of the
tent was open. And Perceval dismounted and entered the tent. In the tent
he found a maiden sitting, with a golden frontlet on her forehead and a
gold ring on her hand. And Perceval said, “Maiden, I salute you, for my
mother told me whenever I met a lady I must respectfully salute her.”
Perceiving in one corner of the tent some food, two flasks full of wine,
and some boar’s flesh roasted, he said, “My mother told me, whenever I
saw meat and drink to take it.” And he ate greedily, for he was very
hungry. The maiden said, “Sir, thou hadst best go quickly from here, for
fear that my friends should come, and evil should befall you.” But
Perceval said, “My mother told me wheresoever I saw a fair jewel to take
it,” and he took the gold ring from her finger, and put it on his own;
and he gave the maiden his own ring in exchange for hers; then he
mounted his horse and rode away.

Perceval journeyed on till he arrived at Arthur’s court. And it so
happened that just at that time an uncourteous knight had offered Queen
Guenever a gross insult. For when her page was serving the queen with a
golden goblet, this knight struck the arm of the page and dashed the
wine in the queen’s face and over her stomacher. Then he said, “If any
have boldness to avenge this insult to Guenever, let him follow me to
the meadow.” So the knight took his horse and rode to the meadow,
carrying away the golden goblet. And all the household hung down their
heads and no one offered to follow the knight to take vengeance upon
him. For it seemed to them that no one would have ventured on so daring
an outrage unless he possessed such powers, through magic or charms,
that none could be able to punish him. Just then, behold, Perceval
entered the hall upon the bony, piebald horse, with his uncouth
trappings. In the centre of the hall stood Kay the Seneschal. “Tell me,
tall man,” said Perceval, “is that Arthur yonder?” “What wouldst thou
with Arthur?” asked Kay. “My mother told me to go to Arthur and receive
knighthood from him.” “By my faith,” said he, “thou art all too meanly
equipped with horse and with arms.” Then all the household began to jeer
and laugh at him. But there was a certain damsel who had been a whole
year at Arthur’s court, and had never been known to smile. And the
king’s fool[54] had said that this damsel would not smile till she had
seen him who would be the flower of chivalry. Now this damsel came up to
Perceval and told him, smiling, that if he lived he would be one of the
bravest and best of knights. “Truly,” said Kay, “thou art ill taught to
remain a year at Arthur’s court, with choice of society, and smile on no
one, and now before the face of Arthur and all his knights to call such
a man as this the flower of knighthood;” and he gave her a box on the
ear, that she fell senseless to the ground. Then said Kay to Perceval,
“Go after the knight who went hence to the meadow, overthrow him and
recover the golden goblet, and possess thyself of his horse and arms,
and thou shalt have knighthood.” “I will do so, tall man,” said
Perceval. So he turned his horse’s head toward the meadow. And when he
came there, the knight was riding up and down, proud of his strength and
valor and noble mien. “Tell me,” said the knight, “didst thou see any
one coming after me from the court?” “The tall man that was there,” said
Perceval, “told me to come and overthrow thee, and to take from thee the
goblet and thy horse and armor for myself.” “Silence!” said the knight;
“go back to the court, and tell Arthur either to come himself, or to
send some other to fight with me; and unless he do so quickly, I will
not wait for him.” “By my faith,” said Perceval, “choose thou whether it
shall be willingly or unwillingly, for I will have the horse and the
arms and the goblet.” Upon this the knight ran at him furiously, and
struck him a violent blow with the shaft of his spear, between the neck
and the shoulder. “Ha, ha, lad!” said Perceval, “my mother’s servants
were not used to play with me in this wise; so thus will I play with
thee.” And he threw at him one of his sharp-pointed sticks, and it
struck him in the eye, and came out at the back of his head, so that he
fell down lifeless.

“Verily,” said Sir Owain, the son of Urien, to Kay the Seneschal, “thou
wast ill-advised to send that madman after the knight, for he must
either be overthrown or flee, and either way it will be a disgrace to
Arthur and his warriors; therefore will I go to see what has befallen
him.” So Sir Owain went to the meadow, and he found Perceval trying in
vain to get the dead knight’s armor off, in order to clothe himself with
it. Sir Owain unfastened the armor, and helped Perceval to put it on,
and taught him how to put his foot in the stirrup, and use the spur; for
Perceval had never used stirrup nor spur, but rode without saddle, and
urged on his horse with a stick. Then Owain would have had him return to
the court to receive the praise that was his due; but Perceval said, “I
will not come to the court till I have encountered the tall man that is
there, to revenge the injury he did to the maiden. But take thou the
goblet to Queen Guenever, and tell King Arthur that, wherever I am, I
will be his vassal, and will do him what profit and service I can.” And
Sir Owain went back to the court, and related all these things to Arthur
and Guenever, and to all the household.

And Perceval rode forward. And he came to a lake on the side of which
was a fair castle, and on the border of the lake he saw a hoary-headed
man sitting upon a velvet cushion, and his attendants were fishing in
the lake. When the hoary-headed man beheld Perceval approaching, he
arose and went into the castle. Perceval rode to the castle, and the
door was open, and he entered the hall. And the hoary-headed man
received Perceval courteously, and asked him to sit by him on the
cushion. When it was time the tables were set, and they went to meat.
And when they had finished their meat the hoary-headed man asked
Perceval if he knew how to fight with the sword. “I know not,” said
Perceval, “but were I to be taught, doubtless I should.” And the
hoary-headed man said to him, “I am thy uncle, thy mother’s brother; I
am called King Pecheur.[55] Thou shalt remain with me a space, in order
to learn the manners and customs of different countries, and courtesy
and noble bearing. And this do thou remember, if thou seest aught to
cause thy wonder, ask not the meaning of it; if no one has the courtesy
to inform thee, the reproach will not fall upon thee, but upon me that
am thy teacher.” While Perceval and his uncle discoursed together,
Perceval beheld two youths enter the hall bearing a golden cup and a
spear of mighty size, with blood dropping from its point to the ground.
And when all the company saw this they began to weep and lament. But for
all that, the man did not break off his discourse with Perceval. And as
he did not tell him the meaning of what he saw, he forebore to ask him
concerning it. Now the cup that Perceval saw was the Sangreal, and the
spear the sacred spear; and afterwards King Pecheur removed with those
sacred relics into a far country.

  .      .      .      .      .      .      .

One evening Perceval entered a valley, and came to a hermit’s cell; and
the hermit welcomed him gladly, and there he spent the night. And in the
morning he arose, and when he went forth, behold! a shower of snow had
fallen in the night, and a hawk had killed a wild-fowl in front of the
cell. And the noise of the horse had scared the hawk away, and a raven
alighted on the bird. And Perceval stood and compared the blackness of
the raven and the whiteness of the snow and the redness of the blood to
the hair of the lady that best he loved, which was blacker than jet, and
to her skin, which was whiter than the snow, and to the two red spots
upon her cheeks, which were redder than the blood upon the snow.

Now Arthur and his household were in search of Perceval, and by chance
they came that way. “Know ye,” said Arthur, “who is the knight with the
long spear that stands by the brook up yonder?” “Lord,” said one of
them, “I will go and learn who he is.” So the youth came to the place
where Perceval was, and asked him what he did thus, and who he was. But
Perceval was so intent upon his thought that he gave him no answer. Then
the youth thrust at Perceval with his lance; and Perceval turned upon
him, and struck him to the ground. And when the youth returned to the
king, and told how rudely he had been treated, Sir Kay said, “I will go
myself.” And when he greeted Perceval, and got no answer, he spoke to
him rudely and angrily. And Perceval thrust at him with his lance, and
cast him down so that he broke his arm and his shoulder-blade. And while
he lay thus stunned his horse returned back at a wild and prancing pace.

Then said Sir Gawain, surnamed the Golden-Tongued, because he was the
most courteous knight in Arthur’s court: “It is not fitting that any
should disturb an honorable knight from his thought unadvisedly; for
either he is pondering some damage that he has sustained, or he is
thinking of the lady whom best he loves. If it seem well to thee, lord,
I will go and see if this knight has changed from his thought, and if he
has, I will ask him courteously to come and visit thee.”

And Perceval was resting on the shaft of his spear, pondering the same
thought, and Sir Gawain came to him, and said: “If I thought it would be
as agreeable to thee as it would be to me, I would converse with thee. I
have also a message from Arthur unto thee, to pray thee to come and
visit him. And two men have been before on this errand.” “That is true,”
said Perceval; “and uncourteously they came. They attacked me, and I was
annoyed thereat.” Then he told him the thought that occupied his mind,
and Gawain said, “This was not an ungentle thought, and I should marvel
if it were pleasant for thee to be drawn from it.” Then said Perceval,
“Tell me, is Sir Kay in Arthur’s court?” “He is,” said Gawain; “and
truly he is the knight who fought with thee last.” “Verily,” said
Perceval, “I am not sorry to have thus avenged the insult to the smiling
maiden.” Then Perceval told him his name, and said, “Who art thou?” And
he replied, “I am Gawain.” “I am right glad to meet thee,” said
Perceval, “for I have everywhere heard of thy prowess and uprightness;
and I solicit thy fellowship.” “Thou shalt have it, by my faith; and
grant me thine,” said he. “Gladly will I do so,” answered Perceval.

So they went together to Arthur, and saluted him.

“Behold, lord,” said Gawain, “him whom thou hast sought so long.”
“Welcome unto thee, chieftain,” said Arthur. And hereupon there came the
queen and her handmaidens, and Perceval saluted them. And they were
rejoiced to see him, and bade him welcome. And Arthur did him great
honor and respect and they returned towards Caerleon.


                              CHAPTER XIX

                      THE SANGREAL, OR HOLY GRAAL

THE Sangreal was the cup from which our Saviour drank at his last
supper. He was supposed to have given it to Joseph of Arimathea, who
carried it to Europe, together with the spear with which the soldier
pierced the Saviour’s side. From generation to generation, one of the
descendants of Joseph of Arimathea had been devoted to the guardianship
of these precious relics; but on the sole condition of leading a life of
purity in thought, word, and deed. For a long time the Sangreal was
visible to all pilgrims, and its presence conferred blessings upon the
land in which it was preserved. But at length one of those holy men to
whom its guardianship had descended so far forgot the obligation of his
sacred office as to look with unhallowed eye upon a young female pilgrim
whose robe was accidentally loosened as she knelt before him. The sacred
lance instantly punished his frailty, spontaneously falling upon him,
and inflicting a deep wound. The marvellous wound could by no means be
healed, and the guardian of the Sangreal was ever after called “Le Roi
Pescheur,”—The Sinner King. The Sangreal withdrew its visible presence
from the crowds who came to worship, and an iron age succeeded to the
happiness which its presence had diffused among the tribes of Britain.

              “But then the times
    Grew to such evil that the Holy cup
    Was caught away to heaven and disappear’d.”
                             —_The Holy Grail._

We have told in the history of Merlin how that great prophet and
enchanter sent a message to King Arthur by Sir Gawain, directing him to
undertake the recovery of the Sangreal, informing him at the same time
that the knight who should accomplish that sacred quest was already
born, and of a suitable age to enter upon it. Sir Gawain delivered his
message, and the king was anxiously revolving in his mind how best to
achieve the enterprise, when, at the vigil of Pentecost, all the
fellowship of the Round Table being met together at Camelot, as they sat
at meat, suddenly there was heard a clap of thunder, and then a bright
light burst forth, and every knight, as he looked on his fellow, saw
him, in seeming, fairer than ever before. All the hall was filled with
sweet odors, and every knight had such meat and drink as he best loved.
Then there entered into the hall the Holy Graal, covered with white
samite, so that none could see it, and it passed through the hall
suddenly, and disappeared. During this time no one spoke a word, but
when they had recovered breath to speak King Arthur said, “Certainly we
ought greatly to thank the Lord for what he hath showed us this day.”
Then Sir Gawain rose up, and made a vow that for twelve months and a day
he would seek the Sangreal, and not return till he had seen it, if so he
might speed. When they of the Round Table heard Sir Gawain say so, they
arose, the most part of them, and vowed the same. When King Arthur heard
this, he was greatly displeased, for he knew well that they might not
gainsay their vows. “Alas!” said he to Sir Gawain, “you have nigh slain
me with the vow and promise that ye have made, for ye have bereft me of
the fairest fellowship that ever were seen together in any realm of the
world; for when they shall depart hence, I am sure that all shall never
meet more in this world.”

                              SIR GALAHAD

At that time there entered the hall a good old man, and with him he
brought a young knight, and these words he said: “Peace be with you,
fair lords.” Then the old man said unto King Arthur, “Sir, I bring you
here a young knight that is of kings’ lineage, and of the kindred of
Joseph of Arimathea, being the son of Dame Elaine, the daughter of King
Pelles, king of the foreign country.” Now the name of the young knight
was Sir Galahad, and he was the son of Sir Launcelot du Lac; but he had
dwelt with his mother, at the court of King Pelles, his grandfather,
till now he was old enough to bear arms, and his mother had sent him in
the charge of a holy hermit to King Arthur’s court. Then Sir Launcelot
beheld his son, and had great joy of him. And Sir Bohort told his
fellows, “Upon my life, this young knight shall come to great worship.”
The noise was great in all the court, so that it came to the queen. And
she said, “I would fain see him, for he must needs be a noble knight,
for so is his father.” And the queen and her ladies all said that he
resembled much unto his father; and he was seemly and demure as a dove,
with all manner of good features, that in the whole world men might not
find his match. And King Arthur said, “God make him a good man, for
beauty faileth him not, as any that liveth.”

Then the hermit led the young knight to the Siege Perilous; and he
lifted up the cloth, and found there letters that said, “This is the
seat of Sir Galahad, the good knight;” and he made him sit in that seat.
And all the knights of the Round Table marvelled greatly at Sir Galahad,
seeing him sit securely in that seat, and said, “This is he by whom the
Sangreal shall be achieved, for there never sat one before in that seat
without being mischieved.”

On the next day the king said, “Now, at this quest of the Sangreal shall
all ye of the Round Table depart, and never shall I see you again
altogether; therefore I will that ye all repair to the meadow of
Camelot, for to just and tourney yet once more before ye depart.” But
all the meaning of the king was to see Sir Galahad proved. So then were
they all assembled in the meadow. Then Sir Galahad, by request of the
king and queen, put on his harness and his helm, but shield would he
take none for any prayer of the king. And the queen was in a tower, with
all her ladies, to behold that tournament. Then Sir Galahad rode into
the midst of the meadow; and there he began to break spears
marvellously, so that all men had wonder of him, for he surmounted all
knights that encountered with him, except two, Sir Launcelot and Sir

    “So many knights, that all the people cried,
    And almost burst the barriers in their heat,
    Shouting ‘Sir Galahad and Sir Perceval!’”
                                 —_Sir Galahad._

Then the king, at the queen’s request, made him to alight, and presented
him to the queen; and she said, “Never two men resembled one another
more than he and Sir Launcelot, and therefore it is no marvel that he is
like him in prowess.”

Then the king and the queen went to the minster, and the knights
followed them. And after the service was done they put on their helms
and departed, and there was great sorrow. They rode through the streets
of Camelot, and there was weeping of the rich and poor; and the king
turned away, and might not speak for weeping. And so they departed, and
every knight took the way that him best liked.

Sir Galahad rode forth without shield, and rode four days, and found no
adventure. And on the fourth day he came to a white abbey; and there he
was received with great reverence, and led to a chamber. He met there
two knights, King Bagdemagus and Sir Uwaine, and they made of him great
solace. “Sirs,” said Sir Galahad, “what adventure brought you hither?”
“Sir,” said they, “it is told us that within this place is a shield,
which no man may bear unless he be worthy; and if one unworthy should
attempt to bear it, it shall surely do him a mischief.” Then King
Bagdemagus said, “I fear not to bear it, and that shall ye see

So on the morrow they arose, and heard mass; then King Bagdemagus asked
where the adventurous shield was. Anon a monk led him behind an altar,
where the shield hung, as white as snow; but in the midst there was a
red cross. Then King Bagdemagus took the shield, and bare it out of the
minster; and he said to Sir Galahad, “If it please you, abide here till
ye know how I shall speed.”

Then King Bagdemagus and his squire rode forth; and when they had ridden
a mile or two, they saw a goodly knight come towards them, in white
armor, horse and all; and he came as fast as his horse might run, with
his spear in the rest; and King Bagdemagus directed his spear against
him, and broke it upon the white knight, but the other struck him so
hard that he broke the mails, and thrust him through the right shoulder,
for the shield covered him not, and so he bare him from his horse. Then
the white knight turned his horse and rode away.

Then the squire went to King Bagdemagus, and asked him whether he were
sore wounded or not. “I am sore wounded,” said he, “and full hardly
shall I escape death.” Then the squire set him on his horse, and brought
him to an abbey; and there he was taken down softly, and unarmed, and
laid in a bed, and his wound was looked to, for he lay there long, and
hardly escaped with his life. And the squire brought the shield back to
the abbey.

The next day Sir Galahad took the shield, and within a while he came to
the hermitage, where he met the white knight, and each saluted the other
courteously. “Sir,” said Sir Galahad, “can you tell me the marvel of the
shield?” “Sir,” said the white knight, “that shield belonged of old to
the gentle knight, Joseph of Arimathea; and when he came to die he said,
‘Never shall man bear this shield about his neck but he shall repent it,
unto the time that Sir Galahad the good knight bear it, the last of my
lineage, the which shall do many marvellous deeds.’” And then the white
knight vanished away.

                               SIR GAWAIN

After Sir Gawain departed, he rode many days, both toward and forward,
and at last he came to the abbey where Sir Galahad took the white
shield. And they told Sir Gawain of the marvellous adventure that Sir
Galahad had done. “Truly,” said Sir Gawain, “I am not happy that I took
not the way that he went, for, if I may meet with him, I will not part
from him lightly, that I may partake with him all the marvellous
adventures which he shall achieve.” “Sir,” said one of the monks, “he
will not be of your fellowship.” “Why?” said Sir Gawain. “Sir,” said he,
“because ye be sinful, and he is blissful.” Then said the monk, “Sir
Gawain, thou must do penance for thy sins.” “Sir, what penance shall I
do?” “Such as I will show,” said the good man. “Nay,” said Sir Gawain,
“I will do no penance, for we knights adventurous often suffer great woe
and pain.” “Well,” said the good man; and he held his peace. And Sir
Gawain departed.

Now it happened, not long after this, that Sir Gawain and Sir Hector
rode together, and they came to a castle where was a great tournament.
And Sir Gawain and Sir Hector joined themselves to the party that seemed
the weaker, and they drove before them the other party. Then suddenly
came into the lists a knight, bearing a white shield with a red cross,
and by adventure he came by Sir Gawain, and he smote him so hard that he
clave his helm and wounded his head, so that Sir Gawain fell to the
earth. When Sir Hector saw that, he knew that the knight with the white
shield was Sir Galahad, and he thought it no wisdom to abide him, and
also for natural love, that he was his uncle. Then Sir Galahad retired
privily, so that none knew where he had gone. And Sir Hector raised up
Sir Gawain, and said, “Sir, me seemeth your quest is done.” “It is
done,” said Sir Gawain; “I shall seek no further.” Then Gawain was borne
into the castle, and unarmed, and laid in a rich bed, and a leech found
to search his wound. And Sir Gawain and Sir Hector abode together, for
Sir Hector would not away till Sir Gawain were whole.


                               CHAPTER XX

                       THE SANGREAL (_Continued_)

                             SIR LAUNCELOT

SIR LAUNCELOT rode overthwart and endlong in a wide forest, and held no
path but as wild adventure led him.

    “My golden spurs now bring to me,
      And bring to me my richest mail,
    For to-morrow I go over land and sea
      In search of the Holy, Holy Grail.
    Shall never a bed for me be spread,
    Nor shall a pillow be under my head,
    Till I begin my vow to keep.
    Here on the rushes will I sleep,
    And perchance there may come a vision true
    Ere day create the world anew.”
                       —_Lowell’s Holy Grail._

And at last he came to a stone cross. Then Sir Launcelot looked round
him, and saw an old chapel. So he tied his horse to a tree, and put off
his shield, and hung it upon a tree; and then he went into the chapel,
and looked through a place where the wall was broken. And within he saw
a fair altar, full richly arrayed with cloth of silk; and there stood a
fair candlestick, which bare six great candles, and the candlestick was
of silver. When Sir Launcelot saw this sight, he had a great wish to