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Daphne

from Good Stories For Great Holidays - BIRD DAY





BY OVID (ADAPTED)

In ancient times, when Apollo, the god of the shining sun, roamed the
earth, he met Cupid, who with bended bow and drawn string was seeking
human beings to wound with the arrows of love.

"Silly boy," said Apollo, "what dost thou with the warlike bow? Such
burden best befits my shoulders, for did I not slay the fierce serpent,
the Python, whose baleful breath destroyed all that came nigh him?
Warlike arms are for the mighty, not for boys like thee! Do thou carry a
torch with which to kindle love in human hearts, but no longer lay claim
to my weapon, the bow!"

But Cupid replied in anger: "Let thy bow shoot what it will, Apollo, but
my bow shall shoot THEE!" And the god of love rose up, and beating the
air with his wings, he drew two magic arrows from his quiver. One was
of shining gold and with its barbed point could Cupid inflict wounds of
love; the other arrow was of dull silver and its wound had the power to
engender hate.

The silver arrow Cupid fixed in the breast of Daphne, the daughter of
the river-god Peneus; and forthwith she fled away from the homes of men,
and hunted beasts in the forest.

With the golden arrow Cupid grievously wounded Apollo, who fleeing to
the woods saw there the Nymph Daphne pursuing the deer; and straightway
the sun-god fell in love with her beauty. Her golden locks hung down
upon her neck, her eyes were like stars, her form was slender and
graceful and clothed in clinging white. Swifter than the light wind she
flew, and Apollo followed after.

"O Nymph! daughter of Peneus," he cried, "stay, I entreat thee! Why dost
thou fly as a lamb from the wolf, as a deer from the lion, or as a dove
with trembling wings Bees from the eagle! I am no common man! I am no
shepherd! Thou knowest not, rash maid, from whom thou art flying! The
priests of Delphi and Tenedos pay their service to me. Jupiter is my
sire. Mine own arrow is unerring, but Cupid's aim is truer, for he has
made this wound in my heart! Alas! wretched me! though I am that great
one who discovered the art of healing, yet this love may not be healed
by my herbs nor my skill!"

But Daphne stopped not at these words, she flew from him with timid
step. The winds fluttered her garments, the light breezes spread her
flowing locks behind her. Swiftly Apollo drew near even as the keen
greyhound draws near to the frightened hare he is pursuing. With
trembling limbs Daphne sought the river, the home of her father, Peneus.
Close behind her was Apollo, the sun-god. She felt his breath on her
hair and his hand on her shoulder. Her strength was spent, she grew
pale, and in faint accents she implored the river:--

"O save me, my father, save me from Apollo, the sun-god!"

Scarcely had she thus spoken before a heaviness seized her limbs. Her
breast was covered with bark, her hair grew into green leaves, and her
arms into branches. Her feet, a moment before so swift, became rooted to
the ground. And Daphne was no longer a Nymph, but a green laurel tree.

When Apollo beheld this change he cried out and embraced the tree, and
kissed its leaves.

"Beautiful Daphne," he said, "since thou cannot be my bride, yet shalt
thou be my tree. Henceforth my hair, my lyre, and my quiver shall be
adorned with laurel. Thy wreaths shall be given to conquering chiefs,
to winners of fame and joy; and as my head has never been shorn of its
locks, so shalt thou wear thy green leaves, winter and summer--forever!"

Apollo ceased speaking and the laurel bent its new-made boughs in
assent, and its stem seemed to shake and its leaves gently to murmur.





Next: The Old Woman Who Became A Woodpecker

Previous: The Dryad Of The Old Oak



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