Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

play the trickster and the thief, as Apollo found out to his vexation, and Argus, and many another unfortunate. His methods, however, were not always questionable ; although the patron of gamblers and the god of chance, he, at the same time, was the furtherer of lawful industry and of commerce by land and sea. The gravest function of the Messenger was to conduct the souls of the dead “that gibber like bats as they fare, down the dank

[graphic]

ways, past the streams of Oceanus, past the gates of the sun and the land of dreams, to the mead of asphodel in the dark realm of Hades, where dwell the souls, the phantoms of men outworn.” 1

$ 42. Vesta (Hestia), goddess of the hearth, public and private, was the first-born child of Cronus and Rhea, and, accordingly, the elder sister of Jupiter, Juno, Neptune, Pluto, and Ceres. Vesta was an old maid by choice. Averse to Venus and all her ways, she scorned the flattering advances of both Neptune and Apollo, and resolved to remain single. Whereupon Jupiter gave her to sit in the middle of his palace, to receive in Olympus the choicest morsels of the feast, — and, in the temples of the gods on earth, reverence as the oldest and worthiest of Olympian divinities. As goddess of the burning hearth, Vesta is the divinity of the home: of settled, in opposition to nomadic, habits of life. She was worshipped, first of the gods, at every feast. Before her shrine in city and state the holy flame was religiously cherished. From her altars those of the other gods obtained their fires. No new colony, no new home, was duly consecrated till on its central hearth there glowed coals from her ancestral hearth. In her temple at Rome a sacred fire, tended by six virgin priestesses called Vestals, was kept religiously aflame. As the safety of the city was held to be connected with its conservation, any negligence, by which it might go out, was severely punished. Whenever the fire did die, it was rekindled from the rays of the sun. t

1 Lang, Odyssey 24:1; adapted.

§ 43. Of the Lesser Divinities of Heaven the most worthy of mention are: —

(1) Cupid (Eros), small but mighty god of love, the son of Venus, and her constant companion. He was often represented with eyes covered because of the blindness of his actions. With his bow and arrows, he shot the darts of desire into the bosoms of gods and men. Another deity named Anteros, reputed the brother of Eros, was sometimes represented as the avenger of slighted love, and sometimes as the symbol of reciprocal affection. Venus was also attended at times by Hymen, a beautiful youth of divine descent, the personification of the wedding feast, and leader of the nuptial chorus.

“ Within a forest, as I strayed

Far down a sombre autumn glade,

His bow and arrows cast aside,
His lovely arms extended wide,
A depth of leaves above,
Beneath o'erarching boughs he made
A place for sleep in russet shade.

“His lips, more red than any rose,
Were like a flower that overflows
With honey pure and sweet;

And clustering round that holy mouth,

The golden bees in eager drouth
Plied busy wings and feet;

Tiinama

[merged small][ocr errors]

They knew, what every lover knows, There's no such honey-bloom that blows.” 1 (2) Hebe, daughter of Jupiter and Juno, goddess of youth, and cup-bearer to the gods. According to one story, she resigned that office on becoming the wife of Hercules. According to another, Hebe was dismissed from her position 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.

(3) The Graces, daughters of Jove by Eurynome, daughter of Oceanus. They were goddesses presiding over the banquet, the dance, all social pleasures, and polite accomplishments. They were three in number, — 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.

(4) The Muses, daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne (Memory). They presided over song, and prompted the memory.

1 Eros, by Edmund Gosse. For verses on the blindness of Cupid, see Lyly's Cupid and Campaspe in Commentary, $ 43.

They are ordinarily cited as nine in number; and to each of them was assigned the presidence over some 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.

(5) Themis, one of the Titans, a daughter of Uranus. She sat, as goddess of justice, beside Jupiter on his throne. She was beloved of the father of gods and men, and bore him the Hours, goddesses who regulated the seasons, and the Fates.

(6) The Fates, three in number, — Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Their office was to spin the thread of human destiny, and they were provided with shears, with which they cut it off when they pleased. According to Hesiod, they were daughters of Night. 1 (7) Nemesis, daughter of Night. She represented the righteous anger and vengeance of the gods, particularly toward the proud, the insolent, and breakers of the law.

(8) Æsculapius, son of Apollo. By his skill in medicine, he restored the dead to life. Being killed by the lightning of Jove, he was translated to the ranks of Heaven. His function was the art of healing. '; (9) The Winds, — Boreas or Aquilo, the north wind ; Zephyrus

or Favonius, the west ; ΒΟΡΕΑΣ

Notus or Auster, the south; and Eurus, the east.' The first two, chiefly, have been celebrated by the poets, the former as the type of rudeness, the latter of gentleness. It is

said that Boreas loved the nymph Orithyia, and tried to play the lover's part, but met with poor success: for it was hard for him to breathe gently,

1 For description of their spinning, see translation of Catullus Lxiv, in § 165.

[graphic]

Com

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]
« НазадПродовжити »