« НазадПродовжити »
dian of their humble cottage, and they bethought them to make this a sacrifice in honor of their guests. But the goose, too nimble for the old folks, with the aid of feet and wings 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. The country behind them was speedily sunk in a lake, only their own house left standing. While they gazed with wonder at the sight, that old house of theirs was changed. 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 common wish. “We ask to be priests and guardians of this thy temple, and that one and the same hour may take us both from life.” Their prayer was granted. When they had attained a great age, 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 Philemon saw Baucis changing in like manner. While still they exchanged parting words, a leafy crown grew over their heads. “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, — an oak and a linden, standing side by side.
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 :
. . . They scarce had spoke, when, fair and soft,
1 Ovid, Metam. 8 : 620-724.
Aloft rose every beam and rafter;
$ 66. Juno's Best Gift. — What the queen of heaven deemed the greatest blessing reserved for mortals is narrated in the beautiful myth of Biton and Cleobis. One Cydippe, an ancient priestess of the white-armed goddess, had desired to behold the famous new statue of Hera at Argos. Her sons testified their affection for their mother, by yoking themselves, since no oxen were at hand, to her chariot, and so dragging her through heat and dust many a weary league till they reached the temple, where stood the gold and ivory master-work of Polyclitus. With admiration the devoted priestess and her pious sons were received by the populace crowding round the statue. The priest officiating in the solemn rites thought meet that so reverend a worshipper should herself approach the goddess, — ay, should ask of Hera some blessing on her faithful sons :
... Slowly old Cydippe rose and cried :
Hera, whose priestess I have been and am,
Whereat the statue from its jewelled eyes
1 From the Sons of Cydippe, by Edmund Gosse: On Viol and Flute.
2. MYTHS OF MINERVA. $ 67. The Contest with Neptune. — Minerva, as we have seen, presided over the useful and ornamental arts, both those of men —such as agriculture and navigation — and those of women — spinning, weaving, and needle-work. She was also a warlike divinity, but favored only defensive warfare. With Mars' savage love of violence and bloodshed she, therefore, had no sympathy. Athens, her chosen seat, her own city, was awarded to her as the prize of a peaceful contest with Neptune, who also aspired to it.
In the reign of Cecrops, the first king of Athens, the two deities had contended for the possession of the city. The gods decreed that it should be awarded to the one who produced the gift most useful to mortals. Neptune gave the horse ; Minerva produced the olive. The gods awarded the city to the goddess, and after her Greek appellation it was named.
Arachne. — In another contest, a mortal dared to come into competition -with the gray-eyed daughter of Jove. This was Arachne, a maiden who had attained such skill in the arts of carding and spinning, of weaving and embroidery, that the Nymphs themselves would leave their groves and fountains to come and
1$$ 35 and Commentary.
gaze upon her work. It was not only beautiful when it was done, but beautiful also in the doing. To watch her 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. Assuming the form of an old woman, she appeared to Arachne, and kindly advised her to challenge her fellow-mortals if she would, but at once to ask forgiveness of the goddess. Arachne bade the old dame to keep her counsel for others. “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. A sudden color dyed her cheek, and then she grew pale ; but she stood to her resolve, and rushed on her fate. 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. Wool of Tyrian dye is contrasted with that of other colors, shaded off into one another so adroitly that the joining deceives the eye. And the effect is like the bow whose long arch tinges the heavens, formed by sunbeams reflected from the shower,' 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 were represented, Jupiter, with august gravity, sitting in the midst. Neptune, the ruler of the sea, held his trident, and appeared to have just smitten the Earth, from which a horse had leaped forth. The bright-eyed goddess depicted herself with helmed head, her ægis covering her breast, as when she had created the olive-tree, with its berries and its dark green leaves.
1 From Ovid.