Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

ments for a season. But becoming disgusted with her treachery and cruelty, he endeavors to escape froin her. The attempt proving unsuccessful, he is brought back, and sentenced to pass a thousand years in decrepitude and pain. Consequently, returning to the sea, he there discovers the body of Scylla, whom the goddess has not transformed, but drowned ; and learns that if he passes his thousand years in collecting the bodies of drowned lovers, a youth beloved of the gods will, in time, appear and help him. This prophecy is fulfilled by Endymion, who aids in restoring Glaucus to youth, and Scylla and the drowned lovers to life.

$ 128. Nisus and Scylla. -- The daughter of Phorcys is frequently confounded with another Scylla, daughter of King Nisus of Megara. Scylla of Megara betrayed her father to his enemy, Minos II. of Crete, with whom, although the kings were at war, she had fallen violently in love. It seems that Nisus had on his head a purple lock of hair, upon which depended his fortune and his life. This lock his daughter clipped, and conveyed to Minos. But recoiling from the treacherous gift, that king, after he had conquered Megara, bound Scylla to the rudder of his ship, and so dragged her through the waves toward Crete. The girl was ultimately transformed into the monster of the barking dogs, or, according to another authority, into a bird continually the prey of the sea-eagle, whose form her father Nisus had assumed.

$ 129. Leucothea.” — Another sea-change was that of Ino, the daughter of Cadmus and wife of Athamas, who, flying from her frantic husband, sprang, with her child Melicertes in her arms, from a cliff into the sea. The gods, out of compassion, made her a goddess of the sea, under the name of Leucothea, and her son a god under that of Palæmon. Both were held powerful to save from shipwreck, and were invoked by sailors. Palæmon was usually represented as riding on a dolphin. In his honor the Isthmian games were celebrated. By the Romans he was called Portumnus, and had jurisdiction of ports and shores. 1 Apollod. 3:15, $ 8.

2 Ovid., Metam. 4:432-542.

$ 130. Proteus and Aristæus. — Though Aristæus, the lover of Eurydice, was son of Apollo and guardian himself of herds and flocks, protector of vine and olive, and keeper of bees, still, he was son of Cyrene, a water-nymph, and his most interesting adventure brought him into contact with another deity of the sea.

His bees having perished, Aristæus resorted for aid to his mother. She, surrounded by her maidens in the crystalline abode under her river, overheard his complaints, and ordered that he should be brought into her presence. The stream at her command opened itself, and let him enter, while it stood heaped like a mountain on either side. Cyrene and her nymphs, having poured out libations to Neptune, gave the youth to eat, and listened to his complaint: then informed him that an aged prophet named Proteus, who dwelt in the sea, and pastured the sea-calves of Neptune, could explain the cause of the mortality among the bees, and how to remedy it. But that the wizard would have to be chained and compelled to answer; and that even when chained, he would try to escape by assuming a series of dreadful forms. “Still, thou hast but to keep him fast bound,” concluded Cyrene ; “and at last, when he finds his arts of no avail, he will obey thy behest.” The nymph then sprinkled her son with nectar, whereupon an unusual vigor filled his frame, and courage his heart.

Cyrene led her son to the prophet's cave, which was in the island of Pharos, or of Carpathos, and concealed him. At noon issued Proteus from the water, followed by his herd of sea-calves, which spread themselves along the shore. He, too, stretched himself on the floor of the cave, and went to sleep. Aristæus immediately clapped fetters on him, and shouted at the top of his voice. Proteus, finding himself captured, resorted to his craft, becoming first a fire, then a flood, then a horrible wild beast, in rapid succession; nor did he succumb till all schemes had failed to set him free. Then he resumed his own form and, in response to the questioning of Aristæus, said: “Thou receivest the merited

[ocr errors]

reward of thy deed, by which Eurydice met her death. To avenge her, the nymphs have sent this destruction on thy bees. Their anger thou must appease. Four bulls shalt thou select, of perfect form and size, and four cows of equal beauty; and four altars shalt thou build to the nymphs; and shalt sacrifice the animals, leaving their carcasses in the leafy grove. To Orpheus and Eurydice thou shalt pay such funeral honors as may allay their resentment. Returning after nine days, examine the bodies of the cattle slain, and see what has befallen.” Aristæus faithfully obeyed these directions. Returning to the grove, on the ninth day, he found that a swarm of bees had taken possession of one of the carcasses, and were pursuing their labors there as in a hive.

$ 131. Acheloüs and Hercules. — A similar contest took place between Hercules and the river-god Achelous. · The cause of the strife was Dejanira of Calydon, whom both heroes loved. Hercules boasted his divine descent. Acheloüs, not content with advancing his claim as lord of the mightiest and most ancient river of Greece, insinuated suspicions with regard to the value of Hercules' pretensions. Then began a mighty struggle. Finding he was no match for Hercules in the wrestler's art, Achelous glided away in the form of a serpent. Hercules, remarking that it was the labor of his infancy to strangle snakes,' clasped the neck of Acheloüs, and choked him. Then Acheloüs assumed the seeming of a bull. Whereupon Hercules, seizing him by the horns, dragged his head to the ground, overthrew him, and rent one horn away. This trophy the Naiads consecrated, and filled with flowers for the goddess of Plenty, who, adopting it as her symbol, named it Cornucopia.

No writer in modern times has made more graceful poetic use of the divinities of the streams than has Milton. The following song, chanted by a Spirit in invocation of “the gentle nymph ... that with moist curb sways the smooth Severn stream,” is but one 1 See Commentary, $ 130.

3 Ovid, Metam. 9:1-100. 8 $ 139.

[graphic]

refrain of many caught by the poet from the far-echoing chorus of classical verse.

“ 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.

“ Listen and appear to us

In name of great Oceanus.
By th' earth-shaking Neptune's mace,
And Tethys' grave, majestic pace,
By hoary Nereus' wrinkled look,
And the Carpathian wizard's hook,
By scaly Triton's winding shell,
And old soothsaying Glaucus' spell,
By Leucothea's lovely hands,
And her son that rules the strands,
By Thetis' tinsel-slippered feet,
And the songs of Sirens sweet,
By dead Parthenope'si dear tomb
And fair Ligea's 1 golden comb,
Wherewith she sits on diamond rocks,
Sleeking her soft, alluring locks,
By all the nymphs that nightly dance
Upon thy streams with wily glance;
Rise, rise, and heave thy rosy head
From thy coral-paven bed,
And bridle in thy headlong wave,
Till thou our summons answered have,

Listen and save." 2

1 See Commentary.
2 Milton's Comus, 859–889.

« НазадПродовжити »