Eliza Robbins


Classic tales : designed for the instruction and amusement of young persons

Robbins, Eliza (1786-1853), Classic Tales : Designed for the Instruction and Amusement of Young Persons. By the Author of “American Popular Lessons,” “Tales from American History,”, etc. etc. Embellished with Original and Appropriate Engravings, New York, Peabody & Co. Publishers, 1833, 163 p. Source : Google Livres.
Ont participé à cette édition électronique : Nejla Midassi (OCR, Stylage sémantique), Eric Thiébaud (Stylage sémantique) et Diego Pellizzari (Encodage TEI).

Cupid and Psyche §

In a certain country the name of which is forgotten, a very long time ago, reigned a good king and queen who had three daughters. The elder two were pretty, but not amiable, so that they had an ill-natured look, and their friends on that account did not much admire their beauty. The youngest sister was the prettiest of the three, and she was gentle, modest, and good natured, and every body loved and commended her.

It will hardly be believed that the elder sisters hated the pretty Psyche, because goodness and beauty are lovely, and none but the envious and malignant hate the good and beautiful; but the sisters of Psyche did hate, and often tried to hurt their amiable sister. Psyche’s elder sisters were married to two princes whose dominions lay hear their father’s kingdom.

The parents of Psyche were not very wise persons, they loved their little daughter with a foolish fondness. They thought her the most beautiful creature in the world. They would say she is fairer than Venus herself. Though Venus was a goddess, she was just like a silly woman. She was the most beautiful of all goddesses, and if any mortal was pronounced to be as fair as she, Venus was so jealous, that she was offended at those who pretended to equal her.

Psyche’s parents were wrong to compare their daughter with Venus, but Psyche was perfectly innocent, and did not deserve to be punished for the folly of her father and mother; however, Venus resolved to bring some misfortune upon the young princess, and she said, “I will give her the ugliest husband in the world, and she shall dislike him, and he shall make her miserable.”

Venus had a son called Cupid. He was the god who made young people love whom he pleased. He could make a pretty young girl love the most ill-looking, disagreeable man that can be imagined. Venus one day called to her the god of love, and said, “I have a commission for you, my son. You must descend to earth, to the palace of a certain king,” whose name she mentioned, “and there you will see a young girl who is the king’s daughter. I detest that girl, and I am resolved to make her miserable. Now listen to what I shall tell you, for I must employ you to afflict Psyche.”

“But why, dear mother, said Cupid, interrupting his mother,” would you afflict poor Psyche. Has she despised you? Does she not bring flowers and doves to your altar, and sing hymns in your praise?

“No,” answered the goddess, “Her parents have never aught her to celebrate me, and they have declared she is hirer than I. To punish their presumption, you must do as I command you; you must first see Psyche, and then find some very ugly old man, end make her acquainted with him. You must make her love him, and that will vex her father and mother, and they will scold and insult her for her perverseness, and she will be very unhappy. At length you must make her so foolish that she will marry this disgusting man, and afterwards he must appear to her as disagreeable as he truly is, and then she must loathe and hate him, and be very wretched.” It seems by this that Venus was a malignant spiteful goddess, who could please herself by making human creatures foolish and miserable. Happily this is all a fable, there never was a god that delighted in afflicting the young and innocent.

The fable says, that Cupid readily obeyed his mother’s injunction to visit Psyche. He found the young maiden in the palace garden, wreathing a chaplet of flowers to adorn the head of a pretty fawn that was cropping the grass at her feet, and at the same time she was singing a song. She looked very happy, as she drew the flowers one by one from her lap with her delicate fingers, and twisted their slender stalks together, while her fawn looked at her with his large eyes, and sometimes fondly rested has head upon her shoulder, or cropped the rose she would hold to his mouth.   

Cupid, when he saw in Psyche’s sweet mild eyes that she would not harm any living thing, and that she loved whatever she looked upon, thought it would be very cruel to make her unhappy.

He lay down upon a bank of violets, near where Psyche sat, and said to himself as he gazed at her, “Ah, mother!” at the same time dropping his bow and arrows, with which he was prepared to wound Psyche, “I can do nothing to disturb this innocent creature. If it be thy will to grieve her, choose another to do it; and then, after watching her a considerable time, he snatched up the bow and arrows, and flew away unseen.”

But now he thought more of earth than of heaven, and checking his flight, he again descended to the garden, and lingered a while to look upon Psyche, who appeared to him the loveliest being he had ever beheld; and at last, when he once more winged his way to Olympus, he thought it were better to dwell below with so fair a mortal, than to abide above with fierce, tyrannical, cruel gods.

As he flew upward, Cupid thought it might be well not to tell his mother of his intention to disobey her. She might, perhaps, employ some other minister of her will, who could not feel the same kindness for Psyche that he did; so, in order to learn how he should act, he repaired to a god who dwelt in Egypt, this was Harpocrates, the god of silence.

When Cupid entered the sanctuary of Harpocrates, he found that god seated upon a throne, overshadowed by a peach tree. Near him were the venerable images of Isis, and Osiris, the most ancient deities of Egypt, and the parents of Harpocrates. In his left hand Harpocrates held a seal, and the forefinger of his right hand was pressed upon his lips; before him stood an altar crowned with fruits and flowers, the only offerings which he ever received.

“Powerful divinity,” said Cupid, addressing himself to the god, “thou art discretion itself — the guide of the doubtful, and the author of wise counsels — condescend to instruct and direct me.” Cupid then proceeded to relate to the god the commands of Venus concerning Psyche, and his desire to possess her himself.

Harpocrates did not speak in reply, but he descended from his throne, and covered Cupid entirely with a veil.

All this is an allegory. When Cupid consulted the god of silence, he was silent himself, and inquired by meditation, or thought without speaking, what was the wisest conduct he could pursue; and when he was covered with a veil, he only determined to hide his own plans. — Not to tell his mother his intentions concerning Psyche, lest she should be offended, nor to tell Psyche that he was a god, lest she should imprudently inform some person who he was, that would betray him to his mother.

Some persons call such planning and concealment prudent forecast, but it is cunning, and is often detected and punished, as happened in this case.

In the meantime, the father and mother of Psyche became very curious to know the future fortune of their daughter, and they repaired to the oracle of Apollo to learn what might happen to her. The oracle informed them that she must be carried to a promontory near the sea, and there left till her destined husband should find her and marry her.

The parents of Psyche dared not disobey the oracle, but they were thrown into great affliction at the thoughts of parting with her. When the young girl was informed that she must quit the dwelling of her father, and be forced to marry, she knew not whom, she was not so distressed as some timid girls would have been: she said, “The gods command me to leave my parents, but the gods are good, they cannot intend to hurt me. Why should they harm me? I have always honoured them. I have prayed to them, and obeyed their commands, I have pitied and helped the poor; and when I leave my dear father and mother, all my friends will be sorry for my departure; but I will go, and trust the gods that they will take care of me.”

Psyche had a good conscience, she knew she had been good, and she hoped no misfortune would happen to her. Being conducted to the rock, and left there alone, she said to herself, “Now I will prepare myself to see the most frightful monster in the world; but that which is ugly may be good. I will endeavour to make him love me. My kindness and gentleness will render him affectionate.”

Cupid, desirous to remove Psyche from the desolate I spot to which she was conveyed, repaired to Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, and asked his assistance to remove her. Zephyrus readily complied with Cupid’s request. He immediately flew away to the cave of Somnus, the god of sleep. Near the couch of Somnus stood his three sons, Morpheus, Phobetor, and Phantasmo. Zephyrus with a soft touch, drew back the black curtains of the ebony bed, and beheld Somnus in profound slumber. Zephyrus, fanning him gently with his wings, soon awaked him.

“Cupid,” said Zephyrus to Somnus, “has charged me to come hither, and request you would have the goodness to go along with me to a high promontory, which overlooks the sea; there we shall find the beautiful princess Psyche. She is alone in that bleak and solitary spot. It is the will of Cupid she should be removed to a delightful palace in the midst of a garden in one of the islands, not far from the place where she now is.”

Somnus instantly arose, and expanding his large shadowy pinions, which seemed to extend over half the earth, replied, “Lead the way, winged messenger of Cupid — I will attend thee.” The two gods, after a speedy flight, alighted on the promontory where Psyche was, and approached the maiden unseen. She was reclining beneath a huge rock, and gazing pensively upon the dashing waves of the sea.

Somnus carried in his hand a leaden sceptre which was wreathed with poppies, and when he shook it over the head of Psyche, she fell into a deep sleep. As soon as she was become insensible to every thing around her, Zephyrus and his attendant spirit, took her up, and bore her over the dark blue waters, and laid her gently down under some flowering myrtle trees in the garden whither Cupid had directed them.

When Psyche opened her eyes, she perceived that instead of an expanse of water lying before her, she was surrounded by a garden of flowers, and at the extremity of the garden stood a stately palace. She instantly rose, and proceeding to the palace, entered it. She walked from room to room, but could see no living being.

A slight refreshment of fruits was set upon a table in one of the apartments, and a concert of music produced by invisible performers was heard. Suddenly the music ceased, and a voice from some unseen person thus addressed her:

“Fear not, beautiful Psyche, I am come according to the decree of the oracle to make thee my wife; but you must never see me. We must always meet under cover of the night, and then you must never attempt to look at me. If you should forget what I now tell you, if you should be very curious to see me, and should inconsiderately look at me, a dreadful misfortune will happen to you. Remember what I tell you, obey my words, and you will be happy.”

Psyche listened — she felt very sorry not to see the face of him who addressed her. His voice was uncommonly sweet. If, thought she, his face should resemble this delightful voice, how great a pleasure would it he, to see as well as to hear him. An Epithalamium1 was sung, and the musicians were invisible. The invisible bridegroom was no other than Cupid, and a voice proclaimed that Psyche was the wife of him who claimed her for his bride. And from this time Psyche was content to receive the unseen bridegroom as her husband.

Every evening he returned to the palace, and every morning he departed. His conversation was so entertaining, and Psyche became so accustomed to his society, that she found it painful to live without it. All day long she only thought of the hour when he would return.

One evening, as Psyche was conversing with Cupid, she said le him, “I have a favour to ask of you. My time is mostly spent in a sad and lonely way; if I could sometimes be indulged with the society of my sisters, I should be grateful to you for it” This request was very reasonable. Cupid could not refuse Psyche the pleasure of seeing her sisters, without appearing very unkind; but he was sorry that she had made the request, because he knew that the princesses hated their sister, and he feared they would trouble her in some way or other.

He hesitated a moment when Psyche ceased to speak, but after a short pause, he replied: “If you desire it, my dear Psyche, receive your sisters; but beware of taking any advice they may give you. I have no confidence in their good will towards you. I am afraid they will injure you if they can.”

Soon after, the sisters were invited to the palace, and were conducted all over it, and over the beautiful grounds that belonged to it. This abode was more elegant than any place they had ever seen, and they were so mean as to envy their sister the possession of it, and meditated upon some way to disturb her enjoyment in it.

They told her it was the strangest thing in the world, that her husband should absent himself from her every day. It was enough, they said, to make any woman miserable. “There can be no doubt,” said one, “that he is the most frightful monster living; and as the oracle said be was unreasonable and capricious, very likely he may, some night, take it into his head to kill you. You are extremely foolish to mind his injunction never to attempt to see him. Follow my advice; it is very easy to get a sight of him. When you know that he is fast asleep, take a lamp and examine his features. If be should be found to be a very shocking object, you had best kill him. I will give you a dagger. When you approach the couch where be shall be asleep, take this instrument in your hand; if you should find him the deformed object you suppose him to be, you will know what to do.”

Psyche had the weakness to listen to this foolish and wicked counsel. The very next night after her sisters had left her, when Psyche presumed that her husband was asleep, she arose, and went into the next room for a lamp, which she had purposely placed there. With the lamp in her hand, she next approached the bed when Cupid was lying.

What was the surprise and delight of Psyche, when, instead of a distorted and repulsive figure, she beheld one of the loveliest forms and faces imaginable; the beautiful rosy cheek was partly concealed by clusters of golden curls, and the ruby lips looked like a half opened flower. She was struck with admiration as she saw revealed to her this lovely object. She could hardly believe her own eyes; but in her delightful surprise, the hand which held the lamp trembled — a single drop of scalding oil fell upon the shoulder of Cupid — the dagger dropped from the grasp of Psyche, and fell to the floor — Cupid, waked by the smart and the noise, started up; and, what should he behold but the blushing and affrighted Psyche, with a lamp in her hand, and a dagger at her feet.

At this sight, Cupid darted at Psyche a look of the keenest displeasure and reproach, and spreading his light wings, flew toward the open window of the room. The wretched culprit caught one of his feet, hoping to detain him, but she was drawn after him into the open air, and instantly dropped to the ground.

As Cupid flew off, Psyche heard these angry words from his lips: “I quit you, ungrateful Psyche. My mother commanded me to find a monster, and force you to marry him; but instead of obeying her, I gave you myself! To reward my tenderness, you formed a design to kill me, even before you knew me. I go to punish your wicked sisters — you I abandon.”

Hearing this, Psyche, overwhelmed with shame and remorse, burst into tears, and wept bitterly. The cold earth on which she lay, and the chill air, caused her to shudder all over; and, starting up, she ran she knew not whither, nor did she stop till she found herself upon the bank of a rushing stream. There she stood, tired and despairing, and fixed her eyes upon the river — “Here I may find peace,” she cried: “Receive my body, gentle god of these waters, and bear me whither I shall cease to live, or cease to suffer.”

The spirit of the stream heard her, and as she plunged into the waves he upheld her. She became senseless when the waters closed round her, but the river god bore her in his arms to a flowery bank on his border, and now the first rays of morning light showed him her beauty, and the Naiades came forth from their grottoes to look at her.

As soon as Venus saw her son, after his return from earth, she perceived that an accident had happened to him, and she inquired why his fair shoulder was covered with the folds of that slight mantle which sometimes wrapped his waist. He fled away from her inquiries, but she sought him, and urged him to tell her the truth.

At first Cupid would not open his lips, but when his mother importuned him, he told her the whole story, and she was more than ever provoked with Psyche, and was determined to punish her severely. She sent for Mercury, who does the messages of all the gods, and telling him that Psyche had been insolently compared with her, and moreover attempted to kill her son, demanded of him to go in pursuit of her, and when she should be found, return to the skies, and inform her where the audacious mortal could be found.

Poor Psyche, when she had quite come to herself, and felt the warm sun, and had drunk a draught of milk, which a young girl that came down to the river side and saw her distress, brought her, thought, perhaps, if she should repair to the shrine of some deity and offer her prayers, she might be instructed how she ought to act.

Therefore, she wandered into the country till she came to a rustic temple that stood on a hill. This temple overlooked all the country, and a beautiful country it was, covered with flocks, and pastures, and fields of wheat, and olive trees, and grape vines; and these were interspersed with cottages, and labourers reaping in harvest fields, and boys and girls performing some useful work in the open air, under shady trees; and all these people loved and honoured the gods of the vineyards and of harvest.

The temple which Psyche saw on a hill was dedicated to Ceres, a benevolent goddess, who had first taught these people to divide their fields, to sow seeds, and to reap the wheat. She had invented and given to them the plough and the sickle, and had improved their manners by teaching them to respect one another’s property; and she had made them comfortable by giving them bread, and kine, and sheep; and they were very grateful to her, and worshipped her, offering her rams and wheat sheaves in their sacrifices to her.

Psyche had heard of all the goodness of this compassionate goddess; and she said, “Perhaps, as she has pitied the poor and ignorant, she will be gracious to me, a foolish and unhappy girl, who listened to wicked advice, and forgot her duty to one who loved her; but being sorry for her folly, may entreat mercy from the good gods.”

Then she bent her steps to the temple. She entered the precincts, a small space enclosed around the temple by a slight paling, and under the portico which formed the front, she saw the goddess. She was a tall venerable figure, her head was crowned with wheat sheaves, and a long robe in graceful folds covered her form. She was looking at the scene before her, and so benign was her countenance that she seemed to rejoice in the happiness which she witnessed, but the soft tread of Psyche’s way-worn feet drew her attention, and she smiled graciously as the young girl knelt down before her.

In that attitude the afflicted Psyche related her history, and concluded thus: “Gracious goddess! I perceive in the precincts of this thy sanctuary, heaps of wheat, which the liberal and devout have brought hither, as offerings to thee. Have compassion upon me; the implacable Venus pursues me in her anger; hide me, I entreat thee, beside one of these heaps.”

“I grieve,” answered Ceres, “that I must deny thy petition. Willingly would I afford thee protection, unhappy fugitive, but thou knowest that I can do nothing in opposition to any sister goddess. It becomes divinities to set before mortals an example of harmony among themselves; I must therefore leave thee to be dealt with as thy persecutor wills. I pity, but I cannot relieve thee.”


Repulsed by Ceres, Psyche next resorted to the queen of Heaven, to Juno, the imperial wife of Jove. Departing from the temple of Ceres, she sought the presence of Juno. Presenting herself before the goddess, she begged to be granted an asylum from the persecutions of Venus. Juno heard her and replied.

“I am sorry, unhappy Psyche, to reject thy prayer. I know that Venus is wrong, thus to afflict thee; but she is my daughter-in-law. I cannot make a quarrel with her on your account. It would greatly offend her should I screen from her displeasure a mortal against whom she is so incensed.”

When Psyche heard this refusal, she felt as if she should die of despair; but after a moment she indulged a hope, that Venus herself might relent, and she resolved to throw herself at the feet of the goddess. She proceeded to a shrine of the goddess, and there invoked her. Venus instantly appeared, and Psyche protested to her, that she had never designed to offend her. She had, it was true, for a moment, harboured the thought of murdering her unknown husband: she confessed she had been guilty of that unworthy design — she could not excuse herself — she was sincerely sorry, but she begged to be forgiven. She begged to be restored to that beloved being of whom she was now deprived. She was an outcast and a wanderer: none pitied nor would relieve her. She might be very happy if she could reconcile a goddess who, she knew, was the most beautiful among the immortals. She hoped she might receive pardon and favour from her.

Venus was inflexible; all the contrition of Psyche could not move her purpose to afflict her; and she was preparing to denounce some severer punishment, when a messenger of the gods, it might have been Mercury, or Iris, whispered her that Cupid had fallen into a swoon, and she instantly withdrew to discover what was the cause of her son’s illness.

Psyche saw her depart with some little satisfaction. The beautiful eyes of Venus were just fixed upon her with a most vengeful expression. It seemed to the trembling Psyche as if they aimed arrows at her, and would pierce her to the heart with the scorn and spite of her hatred, and she was relieved by her absence.

Psyche was just revolving in her mind that no hope remained to her; that if gods persecuted, mortals could not save her; when Venus again appeared. She struck Psyche several blows, and turned her into a barn. There stood an immense heap of different vegetable substances; wheat, barley, peas, and beans, were all mixed together.

At sight of this heap, “I command thee,” said the imperious Venus to Psyche, “to separate the different articles which compose it. Arrange them in different piles. In two days, if thou failest to accomplish this task, thou shalt die!” Having said this, Venus left Psyche to her impracticable labour.

As Psyche, when Venus had left her alone, stood looking at the enormous task set before her, she observed the bam floor covered with innumerable ants. The ants instantly began the work allotted to Psyche, and in half the time allowed to her, completed it. Venus, at the time appointed, came to the granary, and perceived that the work which she had allotted to Psyche was accomplished, she immediately gave her another trial.


“I see, presumptuous Psyche,” said the queen of love and beauty, as she was sometimes called, “that some power, to me unknown, has thought fit to interfere with my commands. You have been assisted in the task I gave you, but I shall assign you another, in which you may find it more difficult to procure help.” Venus then leading the way from the bam to the open air, commanded Psyche to follow.

When they were advanced a few steps, Venus pointed to a high mountain, which lay before them, at a considerable distance, and near the summit of which fed a few sheep. “Go, Psyche,” said she, “to the top of yonder mountain, and bring me a lock of wool from the back of one of those sheep.”

Psyche instantly set off, not daring to hope she should ever reach the top of the mountain, which was almost inaccessible to human feet. A river flowed at the foot of the mountain, and while Psyche lingered an instant on the bank, gathering strength to ascend, “Go on, fair Psyche, without fear,” whispered the reeds which grew there. Some power unseen directed her to a safe path, and in a short time she obtained the lock of wool, and presented it to Venus.

This did not satisfy her persecutor; she next commanded her to bring some water from a fountain which was guarded by a dragon. Psyche took a vase in her hand, and with fear and trembling proceeded to the fountain; but scarcely had she come in sight of it, when an eagle darted down from over her head, snatched the vase with his beak from her hand, flew to the fountain, and having filled it with water, returned it to Psyche, who hastened with it to the queen of love.


One further trial was all that the relentless Venus could think of inflicting upon her. “Behold me, child of earth,” said the goddess to Psyche, “seest thou not the celestial, rosy red of my cheeks is faded. It is thou who hast done this, by pretending to rival the unmatched bloom of my face. By enticing my son to the chains of mortal wedlock, thou hast disturbed my repose. Peace is the preserver of beauty. When the heart is at ease, health and pleasure make the countenance lovely; but sorrow withers the flower of beauty. My vexation at thy presumptuous conduct has robbed me of my colour.

“Go to the dark dominions of Pluto, and say to the queen of that gloomy region, — Proserpine, the celestial Venus demands of thee a cosmetic that shall revive the bloom of her cheek; that tint which is more beautiful than all the fruits and flowers in nature can match, and which grief has banished from her cheek.”

Psyche knew that Proserpine’s kingdom was the realm of the dead, and she believed she must die before she could be admitted to the land of ghosts; so she climbed to the top of a high tower, that she might throw herself down, and thence be conveyed to the land of spirits. But as she stood on the verge of the tower, the stones spoke, and commanded her to enter a cavern, not far distant, where she would descry a road that led directly to the place of her destination. “There,” said the voice, “you will see some cakes and some money. The cakes you will give to a great dog called Cerberus, who will bark at you and bite you, when you get to the entrance of Pluto’s kingdom, and who will be quiet if you offer him a cake. And there is a river called the Styx, which you must cross, where you will see a boatman ready to convey you over; his name is Charon; give him the money, for your passage.”

Psyche followed these directions, and descended to Avernus, undismayed; her innocence gave her a feeling of security in every danger. The shades of the departed looked on with complacency; Cerberus licked her pretty feet; Proserpine smiled upon her, and gave her the cosmetic, and Charon, the grim ferry-man conveyed her over the Styx, twice without pay, and she might have presented the cosmetic to Venus without difficulty, had not Psyche committed a slight fault.

As she was rapidly returning to earth, thinking of all the strange and wonderful things she had seen, she imagined the box that Proserpine had given her to renew the faded bloom of Venus, must contain some curious substance which she had never seen; she longed to look at it, and to refresh herself with the delightful odour she fancied it might exhale, and she incautiously opened it. But instead of a delicious odour, a noxious vapour arose from it, and enveloped her like a cloud, and she fell down insensible.

Happily for Psyche, Cupid was hovering near the spot where this indiscretion was committed, and flew to her assistance. He gathered the cloud into its condensed form, restored it to the box, revived Psyche, and giving her a kiss of peace, bade her go to his mother and deliver it, telling her at the same time he Would go to Olympus and ask the sire of gods and men to sanction their union.

Jupiter received Cupid with a gracious smile, and after he had heard his petition, made some good natured objections to matching the sons of gods with the daughters of men; but Cupid declared that Psyche was worthy of a place among the immortals. She had been tried by many sorrows and much persecution, and now that she had repented of her faults, and been punished for them, it might be hoped she would be as pure and good as the spirits of light.

Jupiter was persuaded by this consideration, and not only gave consent to the marriage of Cupid and Psyche, but declared it should be celebrated in the presence of all the gods and goddesses. He next informed all the gods that his son had declared that he could not enjoy heaven itself if he were there to be deprived of his beloved Psyche; and it was his will, (and none of the gods ever opposed his sovereign will,) that they should be united.

Venus was not much pleased with this decision, but she could not dispute the fiat of Jove, and so she was forced to consent to the marriage of her son. All the gods, the celestial, terrestrial, marine, and infernal, were called to the celebration. Jupiter introduced Psyche to all the gods and goddesses, and presented her with a cup of nectar with his own hand.

“Receive,” said be, fair Psyche, this mark of my favour. When you drink of this, your human nature will be exalted to that of the immortals.”

The blooming pair then made a vow to love each other eternally, and a benediction was pronounced upon them. The festivity ended in a dance, and Venus was the gayest of the gay.

Conversation: Mother and Ann. §

Little Ann Walton one day read die story of Cupid and Psyche to her mother. When she had finished reading, they conversed together concerning the story.

Ann. Mother, is any part of this story true?

Mother. Only a very small part of it. It is true people once believed that there were such gods as you have been reading about.

Ann. But there never were such gods. Who believed that there were?

Mother. The Greeks and Romans believed it.

Ann. I thought the Greeks and Romans were very wise people.

Mother. They were very wise in many things, but not wise in their religion.

Ann. Do the people of Greece and Rome now believe in this false religion?

Mother. No; they are become Christians. The people of Greece and Italy have been taught something of our religion — the religion we learn from the Bible.

Ann. How long have the people of Greece and Italy been Christians.

Mother. Some of them learned to be Christiana while Christ and his apostles were in the world, and all of them left off worshipping heathen gods and goddesses about three hundred years after the birth of Christ.

Ann. That is, they left off paganism; you told me that was the name of the old religion, fifteen hundred years ago. How came they ever to worship Jupiter and the other false gods and goddesses?

Mother. They did not know better. They had not been told, like the Hebrews, that there was one true God.

Ann. were these gods whom they worshipped nothing but images of wood and stone?

Mother. Most likely those gods and goddesses had been men and women, who were very useful and sometimes very good, when they were alive; and when they were dead, they were celebrated and praised till people believed that they were gods, and were in beaten, or in different parts of our world, doing good, unseen by men.

Ann. Who think you was Jupiter?

Mother. Very likely some great king, who did much good and some harm, and after he was dead he was called the king of Gods and men.

Ann. Who was Ceres?

Mother. Some wise woman that taught men how to cultivate the ground.

Ann. And who was the malignant Venus that persecuted Psyche.

Mother. She was perhaps some king’s daughter; the most beautiful woman at that time known.

Ann. Did the pagans believe in Heaven and Hell, where the good and the bad go after death.

Mother. Yes; they called their heaven Elysium, and their hell was Tartarus. They placed both Elysium and Tartarus below the surface of the earth.

Ann. Psyche went to Pluto’s kingdom; where was that?

Mother. Pluto was the king of the world of ghosts, that is, the souls of dead men.

Ann. How came Proserpine there?

Mother. She was Pluto’s queen.

Ann. Who was that grim ferryman who took Psyche over the Styx without pay?

Mother. He was Charon. The ancients fabled that a river, called the Styx, separated the borders of this world from that of the dead, and that Mercury conveyed the souls of the dead to the borders of Styx, and Charon took them across in his boat.

Ann. What dug was Cerberus, to whom Psyche gave a cake.

Mother. He was a great dog with three heads, who barked at those who went into the infernal regions, or abode of the dead.

Ann. Does this fable of Psyche teach any thing?

Mother. Yes; it shows you that impertinent curiosity, such as Psyche’s looking into the box, is liable to punishment; and acting secretly and deceitfully, as Cupid did, will be followed by misfortunes.

Ann. Is the story of Psyche very old?

Mother. Yes; one Apuleius, who lived in Sicily, and wrote in Greek, about seventeen hundred years ago, said he found it in an old book; so it must be very old.

Ann. It is a very pretty story.

Mother. I think so. Many beside you think so. The Italian painters like it very much. I gave it you because I thought you might see prints of it, which you would better understand if you knew the story. Sir James Edward Smith, an English traveller, saw this whole story painted in a palace in Italy; he says, in a journal of his travels, “The Farnesina, a little palace on the Tiber, belonging to the king of Naples, is adorned with beautiful fresco paintings by Raphael . The walls of the palace are embellished with a representation of the story of Cupid and Psyche in twenty-four compartments. Never was a story better exhibited.”

Ann. Have you any more stories like this of Psyche for me to read?

Mother. Yes, I have many; and the next I will give you shall be one about Proserpine, who gave Psyche the box.

Proserpine. §

Ceres delighted in the island of Sicily. It is a beautiful country. Once the people of Sicily had nothing but chestnuts and acorns to eat; but Ceres taught them agriculture, and gave them fruit trees. She dwelt herself near the delightful plain of Enna, which was covered with fragrant flowers.

Ceres had a beautiful daughter, whom she loved excessively; this was Proserpine. Ceres often left her daughter with the young maidens her companions, while she made long excursions to instruct the ignorant in planting trees, or in making bread, and other useful arts. One day it happened that Pluto, the king of the infernal regions, was roaming over the island, and he saw the youthful Proserpine.

Pluto thought that Proserpine, so young and fair, would make an admirable queen for him, but he knew that her fond mother would never consent she should go to his gloomy kingdom; for such, all who dwelt in in the cheerful light of the sun, fancied Pluto’s domain must be. Pluto, however, resolved to have her without her mother’s permission.

One charming day, Proserpine, and her young companions, gathered a quantity of flowers in the plain of Enna, and sat down to select some, and to throw away the rest Each cast her portion into the lap of Proserpine, who was to distribute them.

“This rose,” said she, “I will give to Maria, it resembles her blushing cheek. This violet, blue as the eye of Minerva, or your own, my Licinia, and sweet and modest as thou art, I give to thee,” said she to Licinia.

“This lily is fair, like Cyane; take it, it will become thy white bosom — but nay, not this for thee; I will give this to Cytheris; her hair is raven black;” and placing the pure white lily in the hair of Cytheris, she said, “It is here like a star in the dark night.”

“Leontia,” she exclaimed, “what suits thee, my friend? Cowslip and yellow primrose faded in April, but here is heart’s-ease for thee;” and Leontia took the heart’s-ease.

“Here,” cried Proserpine, is honey-suckle; this shall be thine Cyane. Wear it for my sake.”

At that moment the sun was overcast, and a noise like distant thunder startled the young girls. They sprang up, dropped all their flowers upon the ground, and saw a chariot drawn by two fiery black horses coming towards them. In it was seated a majestic figure, of a stern, but not frightful countenance; his bright keen eyes were fixed upon Proserpine, and he smiled as he approached her.

Cyane knew, by the kingly crown which he wore, and his magnificent appearance, it could be no other than the lord of the world below. She shrieked out in her alarm,

“’Tis he, ’tis he: he comes to us
From the depths of Tartarus,
From the centre of the world,
Where the sinful dead are hurled, — 
Mark him as he moves along,
Drawn by horses black and strong.”

“It is indeed the gloomy Pluto,” cried Proserpine, and she stood, not knowing whether to fly or to await the awful deity. “But he is my father’s brother,” said she, “and shall the daughter of Jove fear him. Ah, I do fear him! Cyane, let us go,” she exclaimed, clasping the hand of Cyane, who clung to her robe, as if she would force her away while the damsels, their companions, had ran away, and hidden themselves.

“Stay, oh stay, Proserpina,” cried Pluto, in a sweet persuasive voice, as he came near, and seized the hand which Proserpine had raised to her eyes, to shade them from the lustre of Pluto’s, which he fixed fondly upon hers, “I am come hither, fairest of Sicilian maids, not to harm, but to bless thee — to make thee my queen. Thou art lovelier than all the daughters of earth, than the blue-haired sea-nymphs, or those that haunt the rivers and fountains. I have left them all, and chosen thee. Come, then, with me, and be my queen.”

“Hear him not,” cried Cyane; “come with me; let us away. If you believe him, you will die. Think of your mother; can you quit her; and us, your friends; and these pleasant groves, and this bright sun, and the sparkling waters.”

“Hear me, Proserpina;” interrupted the god; “one third of the world shall be yours. None hut the queen of heaven, the glorious Juno, shall outshine you. You shall sit upon my throne, and bright gems shall encircle your forehead. You shall sport in the fields of Elysium, and good spirits shall serve you. There, soft music, and odorous flowers, and still waters, and green groves, shall forever delight you. Come, beautiful Proserpina, and see the kingdom over which you shall reign.”

“Will you love me?” asked Proserpina, half persuaded.

“I will love you as mortal man can never love you. Come, then, my bride,” he answered, drawing her toward him.

“Depart — leave me!” she cried. “Virgins, my friends, do you forsake me?”

But Pluto heeded not; nor was Proserpine unwilling to be carried off. He caught her up in his arms, seated her beside him in the chariot, and striking the earth with his trident, they disappeared together.

“They are gone, afar, afar:
Like the shooting of a star.
See t their chariot fades away;
Farewell, lost Proserpina,”

Were the last words of Cyane, for she was transformed into a fountain, and the young girls of Sicily who dwell near it repaired thither every year, to sing songs to her memory?

Conversation: Ann and her Mother. §

Ann. I am not quite satisfied with this story, mother, of Proserpine. I should like to know if Pluto kept her, and how her mother bore the loss of her.

Mother. You shall have a story of Ceres, and that will tell you how much she grieved for her daughter.

Ann. Did any person ever believe that Cyane was changed to a fountain.

Mother. They said so, and very likely some ignorant people believed it. In the bible we read that Lot’s wife was changed to a pillar of salt. Perhaps she was quite covered over, or encrusted with salt.

Ann. But how could Cyane be changed to a fountain?

Mother. I think the whole story is only this, in truth. Some pretty girls were playing in a meadow, and a rude man carried off one of them. One of this girl’s companions was so frightened and afflicted, when she saw her young friend forced away, that she ran to a neighbouring fountain, and drowned herself; and other young women, afterward, went yearly to the fountain to celebrate her, and so this marvellous story of the transformation of Cyane came to be believed by ignorant credulous people.

Ann. What is a transformation?

Mother. It is a change of form or shape, as that of a woman to a tree. This change is sometimes called a metamorphosis. In the heathen mythology are many stories of metamorphoses.

Ann. How can people believe such unlikely things?

Mother. Because we must know a great deal, and think a great deal, before we can know whether what we hear is true or false; so ignorant people believe what is false, and will not believe what is true, always. I once beard of a man who did not believe that water could be changed to ice.

Ann. But the man might have seen it himself.

Mother. No; that man could not have seen it. He lived in a very hot country, where it never freezes; and so he did not believe that it was possible. The change from water to ice is a sort of metamorphosis you know.

Ann. Yes; from fluid to solid, from sparkling to dull. How can one know what to believe?

Mother. By really wishing to know what is true, and by asking the wise, and by thinking carefully about what one hears.

This carrying off of Proserpine is called the Rape of Proserpine, which means the rapid, sudden, or hurried conveyance of her.

The Search for Proserpine. §

Ceres returned to her home, expecting to be received by her beloved daughter; but no daughter awaited her. Where to look for her, the distracted mother knew not. She went to all the places in which she knew that Proserpine took delight. She saw in Enna a fountain, whose waters made a mournful murmuring, where she had never seen water before, and the veil of Proserpine lay beside it; this was all she could learn of what had happened.

Night came, and no Proserpine returned; Ceres ascended to the burning top of Etna, and, lighting a torch at its flames, resolved to search all night for the lost one — but her search was vain. The next day she found, by a fountain side, a naiad named Arethusa. “Who are you?” said the goddess to Arethusa, who was sitting on a stone, laving her feet in the running water.

“Once,” replied the naiad, “I was an attendant of Diana, and spent my time in the woods, hunting or sporting among the trees; but going one day to bathe in the river Alpheus, the river-god saw, and pursued me. Diana opened a passage for me under the sea, when I fled from him, and emerged here in Sicily. This fountain bears my name; it flows beneath the bed of the sea, from Elis to this valley.2 I mourn for my guardian goddess and the wood-nymphs, my companions. I pity you; for, like you, I am deprived of those I love.”

“Do you know me, Arethusa?” asked the wheat-crowned goddess.

“Yes; you are she who have gained the hills and valleys which once belonged to Diana. Where the stag was chased, and the fox and the hare hid themselves, the cottage is reared, the harvest waves, and the olive yields its fruit. The fields you have given to man were once my favourite haunts — and Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, has done this.”

“Your pleasure, then,” replied the goddess, “was death and destruction, but mine is to bestow comfort and happiness. Oh that I had not lost the dearest object I possessed myself — my dear, dear Proserpine. Have you never seen or heard of my child?”

Arethusa then told her she had seen the descent of her daughter, and the transformation of Cyane. No sooner had Ceres heard this, than she instantly harnessed two dragons to her car, flew to Olympus, and demanded her daughter of Jupiter.

“You may have your daughter,” answered Jupiter to her supplication, “if she has not tasted food, in the kingdom of Pluto; but if she has, she cannot be restored to you. But why do you wish to recover her? She is wedded to a husband who loves her. He is a king of the greatest empire in the universe. The countless dead are all the past generations of men. The whole worlds of living men are but one generation. Pluto’s subjects are the guilty and the good of all ages, and all countries. But your daughter is in Elysium, where the virtuous and the pure alone forever dwell. Why would you bring her back to a world, where the violent and the wicked are mingled with the virtuous?”

Ceres loved herself better than she loved her daughter. So she preferred to recover Proserpine rather than suffer her to be happy with Pluto, and with Jupiter’s leave descended to the world of ghosts. Proserpine received her mother tenderly, and consented to return to earth.

It happened that as Proserpine was walking in the Elysian fields, she had plucked a pomegranate and eat it. It does not appear that Proserpine was honest enough to tell the truth to her mother or to Pluto; she hoped she had not been seen, but one Ascalaphus saw her eating the pomegranate, and he told Pluto of it. Proserpine was offended at Ascalaphus, and metamorphosed him into an owl.

Ceres was so miserable, now that she must lose her daughter, that Pluto consented she should dwell with her mother half of the year, and the rest of the time she should remain with Pluto.

Becubo’s son. §

While Ceres was making search for Proserpine through Sicily, she seemed like a common woman, and the peasants of Sicily did not take her for a goddess. It is related that one night she stopped at the door of a poor cottage, quite overcome with hunger. The woman of the cottage came to the door, and admitted her.

“Good woman,” said Ceres, “I am hungry and tired; can you give me any food?”

“Such as it is, you are welcome to part of our supper,” said the poor woman, whose name was Becubo.

In Sicily chestnut trees abound; they produce vast quantities of chestnuts, and there, and over the greater part of Italy, the people make use of the flour of chestnuts as an article of food. They make a sort of pudding of it, called polenta. Becubo had polenta for the supper of herself and her little son, who sat in the chimney corner, watching the pot, when Ceres came into the house and seated herself not far off.

Becubo offered Ceres a dish of the polenta, and as she was very hungry, she devoured it voraciously. The little boy of Becubo was made to wait till the stranger-guest was satisfied. This little boy was hungry also, and somewhat impatient, and surprised to see Ceres eat so eagerly. The peasant boys of Sicily were always very fond of polenta.

“Mother,” said Becubo’s son, “I am afraid there will be no polenta for my supper. Look at that greedy woman, who has just come hither. She will eat up all that is in the cauldron, and I shall have none; and then what shall I do?”

Ceres was very angry with the boy, though it does not appear that he was more greedy and selfish than she was, and she darted at him a look of displeasure. His mother exclaimed, “Be silent, boy; are you not ashamed. This poor woman is weary, and almost famished. Surely she wants a good supper more than you.”

Ceres was more offended at the poor child than he deserved; for, to punish him, she threw in his face the contents of her dish, and transformed him into a lizard. At this sight, Becubo burst into tears, and reached out her hands to catch up the lizard; but the little animal was become shy, like the rest of its species, and he glided into a hole from which his mother couldn’t recover him.

Conversation: Mother and Ann. §

Ann. Does this story teach any thing?

Mother. Yes; it informs you of one of the modes of satisfying hunger which God has afforded to the people of Italy. You did not know before, that chestnuts formed a large part of the sustenance of any people, and that they are more easily procured and prepared than other farinaceous food.

Ann. What is farinaceous food?

Mother. Whatever can be reduced to flour, such as wheat, rye, and potatoes; and such food is very wholesome, and is abundant almost every where.

Ann. Is that all the story teaches?

Mother. No; it shows you the hospitality of poor peasants all over the world. Such people will give of their small pittance to the destitute and wandering, and ought to be honoured and imitated for their liberality.

Ann. I think Ceres was neither just nor grateful, when she punished Becubo’s son so severely for so small a fault. She should have remembered his mother’s kindness to herself, and excused the little boy.

Mother. She might have reproved him gently, and that would have taught him better manners. The next story you read, will be one of a prettier transformation, than that of Becubo’s son.

Philomela. §

In the early ages of Greece, the whole province of Attica was not governed by the kings of Athens; and the rude people of that country, seeing good houses, and flocks, and all the comforts of life, in the city and its neighbourhood, would go in bands, and carry off whatever they could seize, and they would kill those who tried to hinder them.

The people, who lived in the country about Athens, were thus forced to remove to the town for safety, and even there they were not protected from the Attic robbers. At the time to which the following story belongs, Pandion, king of Athens, found that he must call upon some other king to punish the robbers, for he was not able to do it himself.

He sent all the way to Thrace, to Tereus, the king of that country, and told him the distress of his people. Tereus promised to do what he could to relieve Pandion and his subjects; and he came with a sufficient army into Attica, and so effectually punished the barbarians, that the Athenians were no longer afraid of them.

Pandion was very grateful to Tereus, and invited him to live with his family, while he should stay in Greece. Pandion had two amiable daughters, and Tereus was so well pleased with Progne, the eldest, that he asked her of her father for a wife. Pandion granted his request, and Progne herself agreed to marry Tereus.

The people of Athens, as well as all the king’s family, rejoiced in the happy prospects of Progne. In those days, the king of a little city was known by every body in his domain, and beloved by all. He was the judge that settled their disputes, the general that led their armies, and the priest that offered sacrifices to their gods — in short, they regarded him as their father, and they loved all whom he loved.3

Marriages were celebrated in public among the Greeks, and all the friends of the parties joined in the festival which was made on the occasion; and they believed that the gods and goddesses came unseen, and blessed the happy pair; and sometimes they spoke of them as if they saw them.

At the wedding of Progne, says the fable, Juno and Hymen refused to attend, and the Graces and Loves, when they entered the bride’s apartment, fled in terror; for they perceived that the Furies, with their lighted torches were there, and that the screech-owl and raven, birds of evil omen, were perched over their heads. All this threatened misfortune to the couple about to be united.

But notwithstanding these sad portents, Tereus and Progne were married, and left Athens. Progne wept bitterly when she took leave of her amiable sister, Philomela. Progne lived happily enough in Thrace for a few years. She had a little boy, whom she named Itys, and she loved him dearly. When Itys was about a year old, Progne begged her husband to allow her to go to Athens, to see her aged father, and her sister.

Tereus replied to this request, “I would indulge you in this matter gladly, but you know it is a long and dangerous voyage to Athens. Our little Itys is too young to be exposed to the rude gales of the sea; and if we should leave him with his nurse, we should not be happy away from him. Will it not be better for me to go, and bring your sister hither?”

Progne was easily persuaded to submit to her husband’s wishes. She was a dutiful wife, and did not set up her own will against his. She readily consented to stay at home, while Tereus went to fetch Philomela. Tereus went, as he had proposed, and Pandion received him kindly; but the old king wept because Tereus had not brought Progne with him. Tereus told him the reason why she staid behind, and the old man was then satisfied.

But Pandion wept afresh when Tereus said he had come to ask a favour of him — it was to part with Philomela for the space of a year — to suffer her to accompany him back to Thrace on a visit to her sister. Pandion loved Philomela dearly; he could not bear to be separated from her; and he only shook his head, as if to say “No,” when Tereus urged him to gratify Progne with her sister’s company.

When Philomela saw her father’s reluctance to spare her, she entreated him herself. “Permit me,” she said, “to go with Tereus. You know Progne cannot come to us. Grant me the pleasure of seeing her once more. You forget how long it is since she left us. Think how unhappy she must be never to see her father and her sister. You cannot leave the kingdom; your subjects require your care, but I have no subjects that need me. My good Zanthea, the faithful maiden whom I so tenderly love, shall be a daughter to you while I am gone. And, my dear father, I shall soon return to you, if it be the will of the gods.” While Philomela was thus urging the consent of her father, she tenderly pressed his hand, and looked lovingly in his face.

“I can refuse you nothing, my own Philomela,” answered the fond old man, smiling upon her through his tears. “But, my child, do not forget me. Recollect your promise, that you will not dwell long in that northern land. Let not the love of your sister, nor the winning ways of the little Itys entice you to forget that here, by the sad Ilyssus, your aged and solitary parent weeps daily for you — weeps that you do not walk by his side, nor sit with him at his table. Go; but haste thee home again.”

All things having been prepared for her departure, Pandion attended his daughter to the harbour of Piræus, where the vessel of Tereus lay. There Pandion embraced Philomela, and giving her in charge to Tereus, returned sorrowfully to Athens, solemnly commending her and his son-in-law, as he left them, to the protection of Neptune, to the Winds, and all the marine deities.

The winds were propitious, and the voyage to Thrace was not long; but in the course of it, the wicked Tereus formed a plan to prevent Philomela from seeing her sister. Tereus had become tired of Progne, and when he saw Philomela, he preferred her; though he could not have her for a wife while her sister lived.

Tereus did not exactly know how to get rid of Progne, but he thought he would shut up Philomela in a lonely house which belonged to him, near the coast, and that be would tell Progne she was dead; and perhaps he might persuade Philomela to suffer him to come to her prison, and stay with her when it pleased him.

Poor Philomela, when she left the vessel, did not know any thing of this vile plan, but cheerfully followed Tereus whither he led her, presuming he was conducting her to her sister; and she quickened her steps through the thick wood into which Tereus had entered, supposing she should soon embrace Progne and Itys.

At length they entered a solitary house, which was surrounded by a high wall. Philomela saw nobody there but an old woman, and she felt a strange alarm at her situation. Fatigued with her walk, and not knowing what was about to befall her, she sat down and burst into tears.

Tereus said, pretending to comfort her, “Do not weep, lovely Philomela; no harm is intended you. I must quit you now, but I will soon return. This woman will give you whatever you want. I love you, Philomela, and I will get rid of Progne, and you shall be my queen.”

Philomela, terrified and angry at this guilty proposal, demanded of Tereus to set her at liberty. “Base man,” she cried, “did not you promise my father to be kind to me, and to restore me to him? Did not I trust myself to you without fear; and now do you betray me? If you do not release me; if you do not convey me to my sister, these woods shall ring with my cries. Surely the just gods will not forsake me. Know, false wretch, they will sooner or later execute vengeance upon you for your perfidy.”

Tereus was alarmed at these menaces, and his own guilty conscience told him, that if his treachery should be known, every one would abhor him. To prevent Philomela from ever proclaiming it, he cut her tongue out, and then returned to his own house.

Progne was grieved and disappointed, when she saw her husband returned without Philomela, and eagerly inquired for her. “She died on the passage, and we threw her into the sea,” answered the lying Tereus.

Philomela remained a whole year in confinement, without being able to inform her sister of her unhappy condition; but at last she devised an expedient that might communicate her misfortunes to Progne. All the Greek women, and all other women of antiquity, practiced embroidery, and made pictures that represented facts. As they could not write, they conveyed messages and recorded histories in these pictures, or hieroglyphics.

Philomela made signs to the old woman that she wanted a piece of cloth, and materials for embroidery She pitied the poor young creature, alone and route as she was, and thought if she could have something to employ herself about, she would feel a little reconciled to her unhappy state; so she procured Philomela the articles she wanted.

Philomela soon wrought upon the cloth the figure of herself, and of Tereus cutting out her tongue. When she has finished her work, she made signs to the old woman to carry it to the queen, who would give her some money for it. The hope of a magnificent reward induced the old woman to obey Philomela, and she hastened off to the queen with the embroidery.

Progne received her favourably, and she delivered to her the web. Philomela was accustomed to put a mark upon her work, by which it might be known. Progne knew the embroidery was hers, and with inexpressible indignation and sorrow, she learned the condition of her sister. Her first desire was to release her from confinement, and she bribed the old woman to tell her where Philomela was confined.

The people of Thrace, as well as those of Greece, celebrated the orgies of Bacchus; and when Progne got intelligence of her sister’s imprisonment, these rites were about to commence, and the Bacchantes were already selecting kids for the sacrifices, weaving their thyrses with ivy, and forming garlands for their heads.

Progne resolved upon engaging the Bacchantes to aid her in the liberation of her sister. She intended to clothe herself in deer skin, the attire of the Bacchantes, and to go with them into the woods. She designed, when they should be running about in the forest, to direct them to the prison-house of her sister, and with their help to set her free.

It was not difficult to do this. On a certain day, a great number of Thracian women issued forth to the woods, and began the rites of Bacchus. Progne was among them, and the old woman also, from whom she had got the web of Philomela; the latter guided Prague, and she took a course which her companions followed.

They soon came to a thicket of tall trees, through which the sun’s rays rarely penetrated, and proceeded to the dismal house within. Its gates were strongly barred. The Bacchantes set up their accustomed shouting, and beat violently upon them. The superstitious people of Thrace thought the Bacchantes were holy, and that all they demanded must be granted; accordingly the keeper, to whom the old woman had entrusted Philomela, instantly admitted them.

As soon as Progne and her companions got into the house, singing, dancing, and waving their thyrses, the sad Philomela, who was seated on a low stool, in one corner of the room which they entered, sprung up, and extended her bands in speechless supplication, to the first female she saw.

In a moment Progne recognised her abused sister, and throwing off her disguise, pressed her to her heart. They kissed each other, and shed many tears. Progne entreated Philomela to cease from weeping, and to go with her to her own house. She next turned to the Bacchantes, who stood around wondering what the scene meant, and explained it to them.

In a few words Progne related the cruelty of Tereus toward her sister, and demanded of the Bacchantes, in their sacred character, to protect them both till they could reach her house; and the Bacchantes, touched with pity for the afflicted sisters, and more especially for Philomela, attended them all the way thither.

In those barbarous times, revenge, the returning of evil for evil, was thought to be right, so Progne resolved to inflict the greatest possible suffering upon Tereus, and to do that, she killed their child, Itys. When the guilty father saw the dead body, he drew his sword, and would have murdered Progne and Philomela, but an invisible power restrained his hand, and all three were metamorphosed into birds. Tereus into a hoopo, Progne into a swallow, and Philomela into a nightingale.

Conversation: Ann and her Mother §

Ann. This story would be agreeable enough if it were not for the unhappy end of it, and the bad actions it describes. I like to read stories of the good, and not of the bad.

Mother. And I like to have you read stories of good people, because good actions present agreeable ideas, and what is better still, they afford good examples.

Ann. May I then ask you why you ever give me stories of bad men and women.

Mother. Because I wish that all you read should give you a true account of human nature and human manners.

Ann. What are human nature and human manners?

Mother. The character of men, women, and children, is human nature, and their conduct is human manners. These are in the world, and there always have been good and bad people. When you read of the unworthy conduct of the bad, you honour the good more.

Ann. I do not know of any men so bad as Tereus, or any women so wicked as Progne and Philomela.

Mother. But there were many people as bad when they lived.

Ann. But why were they so bad then?

Mother. As I have told you before, because they did not know better.

Ann. How do we know any better than to kill one another?

Mother. The Bible has taught us better. It teaches us, you know, not to kill or injure our fellow creatures.

Ann. Yes, the sixth commandment is, “Thou shalt not kill.” Did the Greeks have that commandment?

Mother. No; God gave it to the Hebrews, and they did not associate with the Greeks at that time. Besides, these stories relate to times before the commandment was given at all?

Ann. When were the commandments given?

Mother. The commandments were given to Moses fourteen and a half centuries before the birth of Christ. The stories of these primitive Greeks shock you, and they are revolting accounts of uncivilized men, but they were not worse than the Hebrews in many respects. There was good mixed with evil in them both. Do you remember the history of Joseph, in the book of Genesis?

Ann. Very well. His brothers wanted to kill him, because their father loved him; and they did sell him for a slave; and they told lies to their father, pretending that some wild beast had killed Joseph.

Mother. You see that they were envious, murderers, and liars. The early history of all men exhibits such conduct, but now the respectable part of society abhors and avoids such actions.

Ann. Then men do grow better, instead of worse, all the world over.

Mother. Yes; and that growing better is the progress of society.

Ann. What made Tereus tell his wife that it was a long voyage to Athens from Thrace? I do not think it a long voyage.

Mother. It is not a long distance, not much more than two hundred miles, in what is called an air-line; but then the vessels in use were not like ours; and so ill-contrived and ill-managed were they, that a passage from Thrace round the peninsula of Attica, took many days, perhaps weeks.

Ann. Then, navigation is one of the arts in which men are improved.

Mother. Yes; wonderfully.

Baucis and Philemon. §

“When the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, who was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.” But Paul and Barnabas told them, “We are men.”

Acts, chapter xiv.

The people mentioned in these verses above were of the city of Lystra, a Greek town in Asia Minor. When they saw the miracles done by Paul and Silas, they called them Jupiter and Mercury. Not far from Lystra was the province of Phrygia. There is an old fable which is very pretty, that belongs to Phrygia, in Asia Minor, where it would seem the people were apt to believe in the visits of Jupiter and Mercury. These gods, says the fable, once resolved to go about in disguise, to learn among the different classes of men, the rich and the poor, which were the best. Jupiter laid down his thunder-bolts, and Mercury his caduceus. They appeared, in this journey, like common mortals, or rather like poor, weary, wayfaring men.

The two gods, when night was approaching, looked about them for supper and lodging. They knocked at many doors, but were refused at all. One man said, “My friends are with me; I can admit no other guests;” a second answered their application by saying, “I do not like your appearance; people must be careful nowadays who they take in, there are so many rogues in the world;” and a third declared, “He had seen the taller stranger before. He was the same who carried off his uncle’s daughter, as she was watering the flock with her two brothers at the fountain; and he was stronger than they, and beat them both.”

The two gods were repulsed in similar rude ways from many doors, and might have gone back to Olympus, to the golden beds4 which Vulcan had constructed for them, if a poor cottage had not attracted their notice. It was low, and its roof was covered with reeds and straw woven together.

Beneath this humble roof lived Baucis and Philemon, an aged and a happy pair. They were poor, but they did not desire to be rich. They had no servants to command, and they needed none; they loved and helped one another.

Spurned from better habitations, Jupiter and Mercury knocked at the little door of this poor couple, and the good man of the house instantly opened it. “Allow us, friend,” said Jupiter to the man, “to rest ourselves a while at your hearth.” “You do me honour, sirs,” answered Philemon, “to pass by loftier dwellings and to sojourn in mine. You will find indifferent cheer, but you shall be welcome;” and waving his hand for them to pass, they stooped their heads a little, at the low door, and entered the cottage.

A stout oaken bench, with a hard back to it, called a settle, was drawn towards the fire, and the guests were invited to repose themselves upon it Just as they were taking their seats, Baucis, the mistress of the house said, “Nay; stay you a minute;” and she quickly found cushions stuffed with straw, which she put upon the bench. “These,” she said, “will ease your weary limbs.” They were the best she had, and, though coarse, were as comfortable as an embroidered divan.5

The little room was warm, but the air abroad was chilly, and the fire half extinct. Baucis raked away the ashes, and spread opt the uncovered coals, which brightened and glowed as the air fanned them; she next applied to them brushwood and chips. A thick volume of smoke arose; she gently blowed the kindling coals with her breath, and a bright blaze soon dispersed the blue column that rose from the fuel, and cheerfully lighted up the small apartment, from which every beam of declining day was excluded.

When the fire burned clear, Baucis set upon it a kettle which shone like burnished gold. Philemon went out into his garden, and plucking some coleworts, a sort of cabbage, brought them in for Baucis to cook for supper. Having selected the best of these, she drew down with a long fork, a gammon of bacon which hung upon the rafter over the chimney, and cutting off a piece, threw it and the coleworts into a pot.

It took a good while to boil this bacon and cabbage, but the guests in the mean lime sat before the fire and diverted themselves by conversing with Philemon, who talked of rains and droughts, of his garden and his grape vines, and of pigs and fowls. The old woman was too busy to join in the conversation.

But, without saying a word, she took down from certain pegs two snow-white beechen pails, and pouring into them some water gently warmed, gave her guests each a bath for his feet, which were soiled with dust; and after they were cleaned, she wiped them dry with her own hands.

She next spread soft flexible willow branches on the floor, and covered them over with old garments, as a couch for the guests. This done, she took out the supper table; one leg was broken, hut she put a smooth stone under it, and made the table stand even, and then she rubbed it all over with mint, which afforded a pleasant odour.

Olives and salad, curds and cream, and new-laid eggs, which Baucis roasted carefully, were served up in coarse, clean, earthen dishes. The chief ornament of the table was an old pitcher of red pottery, stained black in sundry figures, not ungraceful. On each side of the pitcher were placed two wooden bowls, waxed without, and scoured white within. The pitcher held the wine, and the bowls were the drinking vessels. All these articles arranged, the bacon and cabbage were brought on smoking hot, and Jupiter and Mercury made a supper which even their godships relished, though it was not ambrosia.

But eggs and bacon, and cabbage, and olives, did not satisfy the liberality of Baucis; those removed, she set on a second course. Plums and apples, nuts and figs, grapes and dates, formed what we in these times call that dessert; and in addition to these was a delicious honeycomb, and sweet, light bread. All was given so readily and kindly, that the welcome was better than the feast.

Baucis and Philemon ate with their visiters; and greatly surprised they were, when they saw the pitcher replenished, and the bowls filled with the very best wine, and running about the table from hand to hand, of their own accord as it were. They looked at each other, and then at the strangers. Their faces were gracious and beautiful, and their voices mild and sweet toned. “They are not men,” said Philemon to Baucis, softly; “come with me;” and she followed him to the little yard of the cottage.

There they conferred, and there they prayed that good, and not evil, might follow this strange visit. “It becomes us to offer a sacrifice to these gods,” said Baucis.

“We have no victim,” said Philemon, “save our old goose yonder.” “The old6 goose — nobody knew how old she was — had served them as a sentry for forty years. They kept no dog, and the goose’s loud cackling gave them the alarm whenever a stranger approached.

“The old goose will serve very well,” said Baucis, looking wistfully at her. The creature instantly ran toward the house door, which stood a little open, and the old couple pursued her; but she entered the cottage, and took refuge between the feet of Jupiter, who motioned her pursuers to spare the goose.

They obeyed, and Jupiter, throwing off the sordid garments that concealed his dignity, showed himself a god. “My good friends,” he said, addressing himself to Baucis and Philemon, “I thank you for your hospitality. We, for my companion is no other than the god Mercury, sought kindness from the people all about you, and they meanly refused us shelter and protection.

“Such churlish conduct the good gods detest and punish, but benevolence like yours deserves recompense. Ascend to yonder mountain top, nor once look back in your flight till you reach the summit. It is my will to bring destruction upon an impious people, but you shall not be involved in their punishment. Trust the gods; they will deliver you.”

Philemon bowed submissively, and taking a staff in one hand and Baucis by the other, away they went, as fast as they could travel, nor ever stopped till they had nearly reached the mountain top; then they turned and looked down upon the valley. It was covered with water; its inhabitants were drowned, their houses were inundated, and their fields and gardens had disappeared.

A fruitful plain was converted to an extensive lake, only the cottage of Philemon stood upon a small island in the centre. The cottage, too, soon changed its form: it rose in height; its grey front became pure white marble; its little casements turned to polished columns; the green turf before it was altered to a broad pavement, and rich sculpture graced its lofty portico; in short, it became a temple of the gods.

Jupiter stood beside his ancient host and hostess, as they gazed at this wonderful change of objects. “O virtuous pair,” exclaimed the god; “just man, excellent woman, and worthy of each other! Have you a wish in your hearts which the gods can grant in this world? In the next, the delights of Elysium await you. Ask what you will; whatever your modest wishes desire, Providence has in store for you.”

They looked at each other, and withdrawing a moment from the god, conferred in a whisper. Philemon soon returned, and addressing himself humbly to Jupiter, said, “It is our request, since thou permittest us to express our desires, that in the few days which remain to us, we may be allowed to serve at thine altar, to minister together in thy holy rites; and when this service shall be finished, that in the same hour we may cease to breathe.”

“We beg one hour of death, that neither she
With widow’s tears may live to bury me,
Nor weeping I, with withered arms, may bear
My breathless Baucis to the sepulchre.”7

Jupiter granted their request, and for a few years they dwelt in the precincts of his temple, and assisted in his worship. But one day, as they stood at the gate discoursing with some strangers who had come thither, and were relating the transformation of their cottage, old Philemon perceived his good dame to be covered with leaves, of tender green; and old Baucis saw his lengthened arms putting forth branches; roots sprung from their feet and penetrated the ground; their bodies, suddenly enclosed with bark, assumed the form of a tree’s trunk, and an encroaching rind closed up their lips, as they uttered the fond words, “Farewell, faithful husband!” “Farewell, beloved wife!”

Philemon became a vigorous oak, and Baucis a shady linden. Their story was told far and wide, and their virtues were held in respect. Worshippers who resorted to the temple, brought garlands there, and hung upon the branches of the trees, which stood side by side. The votaries prayed that their wives might be helpers and comforters like Baucis, and their husbands constant till death, like Philemon.

“The good, said they, are God’s peculiar care,
And such as honour Heaven, shall heavenly honour share.”

Conversation: Mother and Ann. §

Mother. How do you like Baucis and Philemon?

Ann. Very much. But I should like to know why they had no glass windows in their cottage, as I suppose they had not, for their room was dark till the fire blazed.

Mother. Glass was known two thousand years ago, but glass windows have not been in fashion in Europe more than three hundred years.

Ann. I have read of very fine houses which were in Greece and Rome. Those fine houses could not have been very comfortable without glass windows.

Mother. No; not so convenient as ours. Their windows, or casements, were shutters. When the weather was fine, as the climate was agreeable in Greece and in Italy, people could sit with open windows; but when the weather was disagreeable, they could not enjoy the light of day.

Ann. I think Baucis and Philemon were a very happy couple.

Mother. Yes; all people, let them be ever so humble, that are good-natured, honest, and industrious, and who love each other, are happy. Luxuries are not necessary to happiness.

Ann. What are luxuries?

Mother. Such articles as we can easily do without. Coaches, and fine horses, rich carpets, and pictures, expensive clothes, and musical instruments, are luxuries. Necessaries are good food, and warm garment, and whatever makes us merely comfortable, and keeps us alive.

Ann. What do you suppose is the fact contained in this fable?

Mother. It might be, that where a, virtuous pair had lived, a temple was built, and an oak and a linden tree planted in honour of their memories.

Ann. This story reminds me of some I have read in the Bible.

Mother. Of what Scripture stories does it remind you?

Ann. The flight of Baucis and Philemon, and the destruction of their valley, reminds me of the flight of Lot’s family, and the destruction of the wicked city of Sodom. And when Baucis washed the feet of her guests, it reminded me of the visit paid by the angels to Abraham.

Mother. Do you remember the passage?

Ann. Yes, the very words, and where I read them. These are the words which Abraham addressed to the angels, when be sat at the tent-door, and invited them to enter, “Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts.” This may be found in the 18th chapter of Genesis.

Mother. Many of the fables you read resemble passages of Scripture. Do you know why it was accounted an act of civility to wash the feet of strangers among the ancients?

Ann. Because they did not wear stockings, nor properly shoes, but sandals, which were only a sole laced on the foot; and travellers did not ride; they walked in the dust, and their limbs were soiled, so that they were refreshed and purified by bathing themselves when they first entered a house.

Mother. As you have pointed out a story in the Old Testament, I will tell you one from the New. When two of the apostles were at Lystra, in Asia Minor, near the province of Phrygia, where the fable says Jupiter and Mercury visited Baucis and Philemon, the people took them for Jupiter and Mercury. Read the 14th chapter of Acts, and you will come to the narrative.

Ann. (Takes the Bible, looks for the passage, reads it to herself, and then aloud to her mother.)

“When,” & c. See page 53.

Mother. Now you see one of the uses of classical fables.

Ann. I see that they serve to explain the Bible sometimes. I never beard a nightingale sing; have you?

Mother. The nightingale is not known in America. She has been celebrated in all ages. She is a native of the southern countries of Europe, and it may be of Western Asia. She is called in poetry, Philomela, from that fable you have been reading. The fable might be concluded by saying, that Philomela bewailed her misfortunes in sweet melancholy music, which she made chiefly in the night. That is what the nightingale does. You shall read part of Mr. Keats’s sweet description of this poetic warbler.

(Her mother gives her a book, and Ann reads.)

“Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird!
   No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night, was heard
   In ancient days, by emperor and clown;
Perhaps the selfsame song that found a path
   Through the sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home,
      She stood in tears amid the alien corn.

Mercury and Herse. §

Mercury was one day hovering in the air over the city of Athens, then the happy abode of industrious and peaceable inhabitants. He saw in the street a procession of young females; they were going to the temple of Minerva to celebrate a festival of that goddess.

Minerva was honoured by young girls particularly, for she was skilful in embroidery, in spinning, and weaving, and she was industrious and modest. In some of the statues of her, she was not drawn in her military costume, or apparel, but in the dress of a female, having a distaff in her hand, to show that she was the patroness of female industry.

Among the most beautiful young girls whom Mercury saw in the procession was Herse, the daughter of Cecrops, the first king of Athens. Gods liked mortal ladies for wives, as has been shown in the history of Psyche. As soon as Mercury saw Herse, he determined to have her for a wife, and immediately descended the king’s house that he might be there when she should return from the sacrifice.

Aglauria, the eldest daughter of Cecrops, was at home. It was a custom in those days for the eldest daughter of a family to be married the first, and if a young man desired to take a younger member, he was sometimes refused, because the elder was not chosen. Mercury did not conform to this custom.

When he first entered the palace of Cecrops, he met the princess Aglauria. He had folded up his wings, and appeared like a handsome young man. “I am come hither, fair lady,” said Mercury addressing himself to Aglauria, to “see your sister Herse. I desire to make her my bride. Will you have the goodness to persuade your sister to favour my suit?”

Aglauria replied, “those who ask favours of me must pay for them. My sister will soon return from the temple, whither she is now gone, and when she comes, she will go to the apartment of the ladies of our house. We have no mother, but our good nurse, Euryclea, is our friend and companion. If you will give me money enough, I will conduct you to her, and she will present you to my sister.”

Minerva was near, and overheard this conversation, and she detested this mean proposal of Aglauria. She knew it displeased Aglauria, that her sister should be preferred to herself. Minerva saw that she envied her sister, and that she felt the bad passion of avarice, which is the love of money.

Minerva determined to punish Aglauria for these odious vices, so she sought out Envy, who was a deformed and disgusting old woman. The dwelling of Envy was a cave, which the rays of the sun never entered, and it was stained all over with the bipod of those she had wounded or killed.

When Minerva entered this cavern, Envy was seated in the middle of it, feeding upon snakes, which formed her ordinary repast. Minerva’s countenance exhibited a severe and awful beauty, and she was clothed in that radiant armour which dazzled every beholder. Envy, as she advanced toward her, could not bear the sight of this noble form.

But she arose, drew her ragged mantle over her shrunk person, and stepped forward to receive Minerva. Her face was deadly pale, and traces of tears were on her sunken cheeks. Minerva, who was all goodness herself, could not converse without pain with so spiteful a being, though she sometimes employed her to punish the wicked.

On this occasion, she laid her commands upon Envy in a few words. “Go,” said she, “to the royal palace at Athens. You know the princess Aglauria; she grieves because her sister is beloved, and she is neglected; and she intends, as much as she can, to disturb the amiable Herse. It is my will that those who wish to injure others shall be miserable themselves, therefore make her as unhappy as you can. When she finds that her selfish, envious disposition makes her wretched, she will cease to persecute her sister, and will try to become better.” Having said this, Minerva withdrew from the dark cavern, and returned to the cheerful light of day.

Envy cast a scowling look upon her, as she departed, but the office of punishment suited her malignant heart, and taking a crooked stick in her hand, and wrapping herself in a mist, she pursued her way to the palace of Cecrops, and glided unnoticed into the apartment of Aglauria.

The princess had thrown herself down upon her couch, vexed and mortified; for when she promised to admit Mercury to her sister, for a sum of money, the god only answered by looking reproachfully at her, and withdrew instantly from the room. What was become of him she knew not. She supposed he might be gone to torment Herse.

Herse had gone to the procession, attended by two young women, who were slaves, and whose office it was, one to bear a folded seat, on which she might rest if she were tired; and the other to held over her head a sort of parasol, to screen her from the sun’s rays;8 and these were expected to see her safe home again.

Aglauria could not sleep quietly; she dreamed that she saw her sister walking homeward, along a retired way, from the temple of Minerva, and that she accidentally dropped her veil. One of her maiden stopped to pick it up, but the wind took it, and a beautiful youth, rushing from a grove near by, caught it, and running after Aglauria, presented it to her. They looked at each other with pleasure, and Herse blushed.

At this moment, a cold, withered hand was laid upon the bosom of Aglauria, and she seemed to breathe a pestiferous atmosphere. The hand was that of Envy, and, wherever she came, the very air seemed to be filled with her presence.

Aglauria, half waked by the chilling touch, changed her position, and slept again, and again she dreamed. She beheld the same youth, who had presented the veil to her sister, but she now distinctly saw his winged cap and the folded pinions on his shoulders, and she recognised in him the god who mounts the wind. He was leading Herse to the altar of Hymen. Hymen stood by, and his torch burned with a clear, steady blaze. Her father and all her friends were present, and they smiled with complacency upon Mercury and Herse.

At this sight, sleep fled, and Aglauria started from her pillow. “This dream,” she cried, “is false, or I will make it so. Some evil genius has sent it to torment me. I will go to my father. I will ask him to bestow my sister immediately upon a mortal, and then she cannot be given to a god. Mercury himself respects marriage vows. If Herse is once married to a man, he will not break their union.

Aglauria then took her way to the garden, which was near the house. She thought she could meditate there without interruption, upon some plan to disappoint Mercury. But as she stood at the door, about to descend into the garden, the god unexpectedly appeared before her, and would have entered the house, but Aglauria placed herself in the way, and stopped him.

In the most eloquent manner Mercury besought her to admit him. He pleaded in vain; Aglauria still stood in the doorway, nor would she suffer him to pass. At length Mercury’s patience was exhausted by her obstinacy, and, with a touch of his caduceus, he transformed her to a statue. According to the fable, Mercury obtained Herse of her father, and they were married, as Aglauria had foreseen in her dream.

Conversation: Mother and Ann. §

Ann. Is any part of this story true?

Mother. Yes; all stories have some truth in them, or we should not like them.

Ann. Why not?

Mother. Because every body loves truth.

Ann. But we love stories, or fictions, also.

Mother. That is true, too. We love both fact and fiction, though they are different. A fiction must have some truth mixed with it, or we should not like it we call a story impossible, when it cannot be true; and improbable, when it is not very likely to be true.

Ann. What part of the story I have been reading is true?

Mother. That Cecrops was king of Athens is true. He was the first king the Athenians ever had. He was the founder, or beginner of their city.

Ann. Did he call it Athens?

Mother. No. It was called for him, Cecropia; but the name was altered afterwards in honour of the goddess Minerva. One of her names was Athena.

Ann. Where did Cecrops come from?

Mother. From Egypt; and he brought a colony with him. That is, he brought men, women, and children, to settle in Greece. He made laws for them, and for the people whom he found in Attica, so that district was called, and they and his followers became one people, and lived peaceably together.

Am. What sort of people were they of Attica?

Mother. They were very ignorant, and did not know how to build good houses, nor to make good clothes, nor did the men and women marry and have families. They lived almost like flocks of wild animals; but Cecrops taught them to live in families, to separate the fields, and to buy and sell property; and he taught them a great deal more, which they did not know before. Cecrops had learned this in Egypt, where he came from.

Ann. Did the Egyptians know more than other people?

Mother. At that time they did.

Ann. What time was that?

Mother. A hundred years after Joseph, a hundred years before Moses, and fifteen and a half centuries before Christ.

Ann. What was the, wisdom of the Egyptians?

Mother. When you read the history of Joseph, you read that he was a servant to a king’s officer; that he went to prison; that he afterwards rode in a chariot, and wore a chain and a ring of gold, built a granary and distributed com to people all over Egypt. So, you see the Egyptians had a king, and the king had a court, and that he and his officers wore rich clothes and ornaments, which the people made; and that the people had laws, and obeyed them. All that shows you the Egyptians were civilized, and that they might teach the ignorant a great deal. Their knowledge and their arts were their wisdom.

Ann. Had the Egyptians and Greeks the same gods?

Mother. Yes, though they called them by different names. Do you not remember that the Pierian princess said, in her song, that the gods took the shapes of animals, and went into Egypt, and the people worshipped the animals?

Ann. Yes, I remember that. I should like to know something about Mercury.

Mother. Mercury was an Egyptian god. The Egyptians called him Hermes. I will tell you his attributes.

Ann. What do you mean by his attributes?

Mother. What we call his character. He was endowed with wings, was quick in flight, and was eloquent and watchful over the affairs of mortals. Celerity, or quick motion; eloquence, or ready speech; vigilance, or watchfulness, were his attributes. He assisted thieves and orators, and carried messages for the gods; such was his function, or business. Do you understand me?

Ann. Very well. What was the caduceus?

Mother. It was a wand, or stick, round which serpents were twined. As a stick inflicts blows, and may defend a man, may prevent others from injuring him, or punish them if they do — a stick, or thick rod of wood, shows that the person bearing it is powerful. Such a rod in a king’s hand is a sceptre. In the hand of a god, or witch, or pretended prophet, it is a wand; and with it, fables say, the god, or witch, calls up absent or dead persons, and does other wonders, which he could not do without it Mercury’s caduceus, when he touched people with it, made them wake, or fall asleep, just as he chose. Homer describes it as

“The wand which causes sleep to fly,
Or in soft slumber seals the wakeful eye.”

Ann. Or metamorphosed them to stone, as Aglauria was.

Mother. Yes. I will tell you a pretty story of Mercury. One morning, very early, he was walking on the sea shore, and he saw the shell of a dead tortoise, which is oval and hollow, like a dish cover, only rather flatter. He picked up the shell; a single fibre or thread of the dead animal’s body was stretched across it. He pulled it and it made a low sound. Mercury thought that if he stretched other strings across the shell, it would make more music. He tried the experiment, and it produced very sweet tones.

This instrument was called the lyre, and was a favourite instrument of the Greeks. When you read in poetry of the “vocal shell,” it means this instrument. Afterward, the shell was cut away, and left only a frame to stretch the strings across. You may see a lyre in the hands of one of the muses. Poets made songs to be sung to the music of the lyre, and called their songs lyrics; and the poets were called lyric poets. We frequently call animated poetry lyric, at the present time. A very wise man9 said, the invention of the lyre was “the good fruits of early rising. Mercury was an industrious deity, and an example to man.” That is the moral of the fable.

Ann. I have often seen the moral of a fable mentioned. What is a moral?

Mother. What the fable teaches is the moral.

Ann. What is the moral of the story of Mercury and Herse?

Mother. The moral belongs properly to Aglauria. Aglauria was envious, so she was unhappy; and malignant, or spiteful, and she was turned to stone, or made more hard-hearted. That shows that if we are wicked, we must try to be good, or we shall be punished; and that if we do not try we shall grow worse and worse, till we shall not care whether we are good or not. That is being turned to stone, or having “a heart of stone,” as the Bible says.

Ann. How came the ancients to believe that gods wanted to marry their children?

Mother. Because there was little travelling in those days, and when strangers, who were young and handsome, visited a place, they called them gods, and perhaps they believed it

Ann. What did Aglauria mean, when she said an “evil genius” sent her a dream?

Mother. The ancients believed that there were spirits who were sent among men, and that “when we sleep or when we wake, they walk unseen” about us, doing us good or harm. They called the good spirit, a good genius; and the wicked, spiteful spirit, who gave pain, an evil genius.

Ann. That is something like mischievous fairies and kind fairies.

Mother. Somewhat like them. Shall I tell you another story?

Ann. If you please. I should like to hear one.

Mother. That gentleman who said Mercury was a good example to man, said also that Narcissus was a striking example of idleness and vanity, and of their punishment.

Ann’s mother then related to her the following story.

Narcissus. §

Lyriope, a sea-nymph, had a pretty infant, whom she named Narcissus. Like the parents of Psyche, she wished to know what would be the future fortune of her child; and she went to Tiresias, an old prophet who dwelt in the city of Thebes, to learn what good or evil might happen to her son.

Before I tell you what the prophet told Lyriope, I will give you his history, for you may read of him again. Tiresias was considered the wisest man in Greece at that time. The people of Thebes, and some from distant places, would come to him for advice; and he would tell them what to do when they could not determine for themselves, and make peace between those who quarrelled.

Once Jupiter and Juno, who you know was the god’s wife, had a dispute; and they could not settle it, so they went to Tiresias, and said he should decide for them. Tiresias heard what each party had to say, and then he told Juno that she had been wrong, and Jupiter was right. Jupiter was satisfied, and Juno was much offended at this decision.

Juno, who was of a vengeful disposition, struck Tiresias blind; but the father of the gods pitied him, and made him amends for the loss of sight. He conferred upon him the gift of prophecy, and likewise a term of life seven times longer than that of common men; and Minerva, still more to mitigate his misfortune, gave him a staff, with which he could walk every where as securely as the most dear-sighted person.

When Lyriope consulted Tiresias, the prophet told her that Narcissus would live to be old, if he could be kept from seeing himself; and, then, that was not so difficult a matter as it would be at this time, in our houses hung with mirrors. The Greeks had no glass; sometimes they used plates of polished brass or steel to see their faces in. Lyriope certainly had none in the coral cave where she dwelt; so little Narcissus might be kept there from looking at his pretty face.

But Lyriope sent her son to a beautiful island, where, as he grew up, he ran about the woods, and spent the whole day in gathering flowers, and in chasing butterflies. The young girls, who saw the pretty youth, and admired his clustering curls and his rosy cheeks, often invited him to join in their sports and dances, but he always refused to partake of their diversions.

Among those who admired Narcissus, was a young maiden, named Echo. But Narcissus would take no notice of her; and that neglect mortified the poor nymph so much, that she pined away, till nothing could be found of her but her voice.

She still inhabits woods and solitary places, and always repeats the last word which she hears.

The nymphs, vexed at Narcissus for his unsocial behaviour toward them, prayed the gods to torment him with a wish for something which he should never be able to obtain. Those who refuse to enjoy what they have, often afflict themselves with longing for what they cannot get. This was the punishment the gods inflicted on the silly youth, who refused to enjoy the innocent pleasures which the young country girls offered him.

Narcissus, weary with pursuing a brilliant butterfly, of the very largest size, which at last eluded his grasp, just as his fingers brushed its party-coloured wings, threw himself down by a fountain-side, to cool and refresh himself. The water was smooth and limpid, and in it, for the first time, Narcissus saw his own person reflected in the clear bosom of the stream. He thought he saw a beautiful water-nymph — the most lovely image he had ever seen — and he longed to dive into the water, and take it by the hand.

Day after day, Narcissus resorted to the fountain, and supplicated the image to come out. Then he plunged into the water, but the image disappeared, and he emerged disappointed and despairing. Not long after, he died of grief; and when the young girls came to look at him lying on the bank, as they had seen him, he was no longer there, but in his place the pretty flower which hears his name.

Cadmus. §

The city of Tiresias was Thebes. It was about forty miles from Athens. Thebes was built by Cadmus; he was the son of Agenor, king of Phoenicia. Jupiter came to the meadows where the flocks of Agenor fed. He saw the pretty Europa, the king’s daughter. He thought he should like to have her himself; so he came like a beautiful milk-white bull, and began to eat grass where Europa was sporting with some young girls, her friends.

They all thought the bull the most beautiful animal they had ever seen. Europa wove a wreath for his horns, and he knelt down beside her, and uttered a mild, kind moan. The maidens admired this gentleness, and Europa sprang upon his back, and he swam away with her from Asia to the continent opposite, which was afterward called Europe, for Europa.

Agenor, when he heard of the strange disappearance of Europa, was very much grieved, and he sent his son Cadmus to search for her. Cadmus could not find Europa, and he did not like to return to his father without her; therefore he went into Greece, but he did not know where to fix himself till he had prayed to the gods for instruction.

The oracle told him, before he should fix upon a residence, to follow a certain heifer, which he should soon meet in the way, and where she should stop, and lie down, to commence a new city. Cadmus went from Delphi, where he consulted the god, toward the east, and proceeded to the fountain of Castalia.

He there perceived a young heifer without a keeper; she was walking slowly before him. Cadmus, obedient to the direction he had received, followed her. After crossing the little river Cephisus, and traversing the plains of Panope, the heifer stopped, and raising her head toward the sky, made it resound with her loud and continual lowings. After a while she ceased, and lay down on the grass to rest.

Cadmus judged that this was the place where the gods intended he should establish himself. The first act which the founders of cities performed when they began to build a city was to make a sacrifice, and to offer prayers to the gods; therefore Cadmus built an altar, and slew a victim. This was the heifer which had been his guide.

Water was necessary in these solemn services, and Cadmus sent certain men, his companions, to a near fountain, to procure some. The attendants of Cadmus soon came to a reservoir of clear water, and without asking leave of any person, they dipped their vessels into it and filled them.

This fountain was consecrated to the god Mars; that means, it had been dedicated, by the rude people living near, to Mars. They had said it belonged to that god, and that none but his worshippers should have any of it. and it was guarded by a dragon, which then was gone into a neighbouring wood; but just as the followers of Cadmus were about to bear off their vessels of water, the dragon returned, and killed them all.

Cadmus, after long wondering why they did not return, became seriously alarmed, and went to look after his friends. He took care to put on armour, to clothe himself in a lion’s skin, and to carry with him a lance and his bow and arrows. What was his surprise and horror, to see his friends’ dead bodies on the ground, and the dragon tearing one of them.

Enraged at the sight, he aimed an arrow at the dragon, which pierced its scaly coat, and he soon killed him with the sharp point of his lance. But Cadmus was now alone; and he could not build a city alone, nor find inhabitants for it. Grieved and perplexed, he stood pondering on what he should do, when Minerva appeared before him.

Minerva was sorry to see Cadmus so much afflicted, and she soon counselled him how to proceed. She commanded him to sow the earth with the teeth of the dragon; and she informed him that from these teeth would spring warriors who would assist him in his enterprise.

Cadmus obeyed Minerva. He drew the dragon’s teeth, and sowed them, when soon after he saw the points of spears pushing up from the surface of the ground; after which helmets appeared, and, by degrees, entire bodies of armed men arose before him.

These children of earth, as soon as they had takes breath, began to fight among themselves; and in a short time, so furious was the combat, only five remained alive. One of those who survived was Echion, and he and four others cheerfully helped Cadmus to build a house, and mark out streets, and to persuade people from distant cities to come and work with them, and dwell in the new city of Thebes, which in time came to contain thirty thousand inhabitants.

Cadmus was a good king; he did not love war; he tried to make his people wise and happy. He first taught letters in Greece, and after his time the Greeks began to read and write. He came into Greece about fifty years after Cecrops. Cecrops was truly beloved by his subjects.

“On him — the judge and king — when passing forth
Among the city-ways, all reverend looked
With a mild worship, as he’d been a god.”

Conversation: Mother and Ann. §

Ann. There are many strange things in the adventures of Europa and her brother Cadmus. How can you explain the flight of Europa.

Mother. I suppose a man came to the sea-coast, where she was amusing herself; that a bull’s head was sculptured upon the prow of his vessel, and that he carried off Europa. Then the attendants said a bull carried her off.

Arm. Do you suppose a heifer guided Cadmus?

Mother. He might have followed a heifer; and where she lay down might have been a spot on which he thought fit to build a city.

Ann. Is there such an animal as a dragon?

Mother. No; a dragon is a fabulous animal, mentioned only in fables. It is drawn like a great lizard with wings, having a serpent’s tail, terrible teeth, fiery eyes, and a body covered with scales, which swords and spears could not penetrate.

Ann. Did the stories of dragons mean any thing?

Mother. I think a dragon meant many furious armed men. When Cadmus sowed the dragon’s teeth, he only appeased, or made friends of the armed men who had killed his followers. But they fought among themselves, and after some were killed, the survivers joined Cadmus.

You will remember all the dragons you have read of, guarded wells and gardens. In those days there were many robbers, and the dragons were men that drove off strangers from fountains and gardens.

Ann. Your account makes the story of Cadmus quite plain. I thank you for it.

Mother. It requires attention and thought, to understand any thing. Another day you shall have more stories of the family of Cadmus.

Acteon. §

                                  “Harmonia, born
Of lovely Venus, gave to Cadmus’ love
Ino and Semele: and, fair of cheek,
Agave, and Antinoe, the bride
Of Aristeus, with the clustering locks;
And Polydorus, born in towery Thebes.”
Elton’s Hesiod.

Cadmus married Harmonia, the daughter of Mars and Venus, and they lived happily together. They had one son and four daughters. Their son was Polydorus, and their daughters were Ino, Agave, Antinoe, and Semele. Antinoe married a prince named Aristeus, and they had a son called Acteon. This Acteon was one of the most expert hunters in the world.

Acteon being one day fatigued by the chase lay down to rest himself by a fountain, in the valley of Gargaphia. The trees which surrounded the fountain were sacred to Diana, and it was not permitted to any man to enter her domain. Diana was a modest female deity, and she watched over modest young girls.

Acteon did not know he had entered a consecrated grove, and he fell asleep there, through weariness. He had not slumbered long, when he was awaked by dashing of waters, and the laughing of young girls bathing in the fountain.

Acteon would have escaped unobserved, but Diana saw him, and was greatly incensed that a man should enter her sacred grove. In her displeasure, she snatched up some water in the hollow of her hand, and throwing it at Acteon, transformed him to a stag.

The unhappy Acteon now felt himself a mere brute, and he fled away from the offended goddess, weeping bitterly at the metamorphosis he had undergone. He was soon met by one of his own dogs, who did not know him, but at sight of him set up a violent barking. This roused the rest of the pack, and all, rushing from a neighbouring thicket, set upon Acteon and tore him in pieces.

Conversation: Mother and Ann. §

Little Ann, having read the story of Acteon, as usual, desired to know the meaning of it, which her mother thus explained.

Mother. The grove consecrated to Diana, I suppose, was a bath kept for the use of females only, and it was improper that any man should enter it. Acteon, unluckily, went into it. When some young girls and their governess, who in the fable is called Diana, entered the place, they found the intruder. The Greeks were then a rude people; either males or females would kill or beat those who offended them. Perhaps, when he was asleep, they tied Acteon’s hands, so that he could not defend himself, and then fastened upon him a stag’s horns and skin, to make him ridiculous, and drove him into the wood, where some dogs, mistaking him for a stag, fell upon him and killed him.

Ann. The young girls were very cruel to do that.

Mother. They thought, perhaps, that Acteon came there by design, to frighten or insult them, and that provoked them.

Ann. Does this fable teach any thing?

Mother. Yes; it teaches caution, or care, in all that we do. If Acteon had been cautious, he would not have gone to sleep in a place which he did not know to be safe. We cannot always know where we are safe, but we can almost always think before we act, and thus may prevent bad consequences of our own conduct.

Ann. Is that all which this fable teaches?

Mother. No; it teaches that when others offend us, we should know whether they really intended it, before we are displeased with them; and, even if they have injured or affronted us, to be moderate in our anger, and not punish them loo severely.

Tisiphone in the palace of Athamas. §

Those who know any thing of the world, that is, who know how men and women act, know that while there are many good and happy persons every where, there are also many who are wicked and miserable.

The ancients, thought, that there were three sister-deities, who made man wicked and miserable. These they sometimes called the Furies, and sometimes the Eumenides. The furies were Tisiphone, Alecto, and Megara. The ancients sometimes said the Eumenides were very cruel, and here is a fable which shows that they thought so.

Ino, the eldest daughter of Cadmus, was married to Athamas, who had a little kingdom of his own, not far from Thebes. Bacchus, the god of wine, was the son of Semele, Ino’s sister, and Ino was very proud of her relation, and would often boast that her nephew was one of the gods, and had his abode with Jupiter, at Olympus.

Juno took upon herself to punish this foolish pride of Ino. Athamas and Ino loved one another, and they had very fine children, whom they loved dearly. They were rich, had a better house than their neighbours, and were beloved by their subjects, to whom they were very kind.

It is not easy to make those unhappy who are amiable, and who love one another; because, if they should be afflicted, they comfort each other, and sympathy and pity make us happy, even when we are in trouble. Juno could think of no way to make them miserable, but to tempt them to some wicked act, or to deprive them of reason.

To do this, Juno descended to Hades, or the realm of Pluto. As was told in the story of Proserpine, this region was divided. Its distinct places were Elysium, Tartarus, and Erebus. Elysium was the abode of men and women who had obeyed the gods during their lives. Tartarus was assigned to blasphemers, robbers, and murderers, to the ungrateful and the unjust; in short, to the worst of mankind. Erebus was a dark gloomy place, where perpetual silence reigned. There the indolent, those who in their lives had been of no service to others, had their portion after death.

The near approach to Hades was through a melancholy grove of yew trees, and the prospect was clouded by a thick fog, which arose from the Styx. Cerberus fawned upon Juno; he recognised in her one of the immortals; indeed he received mortals with seeming favour sometimes.

                                   —“a stratagem
Is his, malicious: them, who enter there,
With tail and bended ear he fawning soothes:
But suffers not that they with backward step
Repass. Whoe’er would issue from the gates
Of Pluto strong, and stem Proserpina,
For them with marking eye he lurks; on them
Springs from his couch, and pitiless devours.”

Juno was not much inclined to pass the triple-headed monster; so she called the Daughters of Night, who were the keepers of the prison Tartarus, and requested them to guide her to Tisiphone. They attended her very respectfully, and on the way asked her to stop at Tartarus, and see their prisoners.

Juno consented, and they unbarred the heavy gates of burnished brass, and admitted her. Here she saw giants who had revolted against Jupiter, and the Titans, who would have turned the gods out of Olympus. Among the condemned was Tityas, who had offered an insult to Latona, the mother of Apollo and Diana. For this offence he was sentenced, by the judges of the dead, to be chained to the ground in Tartarus, while a vulture was continually devouring his liver, and that as often grew again.

There, too, Juno saw the wretched Tantalus, who had caused his son Pelops to be murdered. As a punishment for this crime, he suffered incessant hunger and thirst, though he was surrounded by delicious fruits and sweet waters. Beside these was Sisyphus, who had been a noted robber. He was condemned to roll, to the top of a hill, a great stone, which instantly rolled back again.

Near Sisyphus was Ixion, who was whirling upon an ever-turning wheel. He had pretended that Juno preferred him to Jupiter, and for this falsehood was sentenced to the eternally revolving wheel.

Not far from the wheel was a group of distressed looking women; tears were rolling down their cheeks, and they were dipping water in bottomless vessels from a cistern at their feet. They were the Danaides, who had murdered their husbands. Juno cast an unpitying look at them, and turned toward Sisyphus.

To him she exclaimed, “Eternal toil and eternal fatigue is your portion. Know you, that while you suffer here, your brother Athamas inhabits a luxurious house, and is surrounded with delightful things. But envy not his happiness; his enjoyments are of short duration, for the fell Tisiphone shall drive him to madness and destruction.”

Sisyphus looked reproachfully at Juno, as he lifted the heavy stone from the ground, and said, “The misery you see here may content you; suffer those who breathe the upper air to enjoy a few comforts; soon will the hand of death compel them to this dreary world below. But the just judges of the dead will recompense Athamas for all the evil that you and the foul Tisiphone can bring upon him.”

Juno answered not, but followed her guides to a dark nook beyond Tartarus, where Tisiphone and her sisters sat discoursing upon the vices of mankind. The furies soon learned Juno’s errand; and Tisiphone, having heard what she had to say, shaking her head, to throw back the serpents which hung over her face, replied, “Goddess, you shall be obeyed. Now, leave this forlorn place.”

Satisfied with Tisiphone’s ready compliance with her wishes, Juno returned to Olympus, and instantly purified herself in a bath of living water, prepared by her handmaid Iris.

As soon as Juno had left the murky abode of the Furies, the cruel Tisiphone arrayed herself in a bloodstained robe, fastened round the waist by a coiling serpent, seized her flaming torch, and, being followed by her terrific attendants, Fear, Horror, Grief, and Frenzy, went forth to execute her commission.

The house of Athamas shook to the foundation when Tisiphone entered it; venomous exhalations issued from her mouth, forked lightnings played about her feet, and the sun, as if he sickened at the sight of her, was overcast.

Among the ancients, it was believed that witches and sorcerers mixed together sundry incongruous substances, which had the property, when certain words were said over them, to cause pain or delirium to absent persons, who were cursed by the sorcerer. These strange articles were boiled in a pot, or cauldron, and the witch would march round and round, and mutter curses, and pray that harm might happen to those she meant to hurt These muttered words were the incantation, or spell.

Tisiphone had a mixture of this sort. It was compounded of the froth distilled from the jaws of Cerberus, of blood newly drawn, and the juice of water hemlock. These and other substances had been boiled in a brazen helmet.

When Athamas and Ino beheld their infernal visiter, they were struck with sudden horror, and tried to escape through an open door, but Tisiphone intercepted them. Lightnings dazzled their eyes, and the snakes which hung in the hair of Tisiphone, darted at them their barbed tongues, and uttered fearful hissings, and the terrified couple stood motionless and pale with fear.

Tisiphone soon roused them; she shook from a vial she held in her hand, a shower of her deleterious liquor, and waving her torch in a circle, withdrew to the regions of Pluto.

Driven to madness by the poison, Athamas no longer saw any thing as it was. Every object assumed a new form. The unhappy Ino seemed to be a lioness and his children whelps. Impelled by his delirium, Athamas ran at them with blind fury, and instantly killed his infant son, Learchus. Ino, in her terror, with her other son, Milecerta, in her arras, fled from his pursuit to the verge of a precipice, from which she fell into the sea.

Venus pitied poor Ino and her child, and she besought Neptune to place them among the marine deities. At her request, Neptune gave them new forms and new names: Ino became the sea-nymph Leucothoe, and Milecerta was changed to Palemon.

Conversation: Mother and Ann. §

Ann. How can this fable be explained?

Mother. Easily enough. The fact was, the son-in-law of Cadmus and his wife were a happy pair, and were the king and queen of some petty state in Greece. Athamas went mad. His insanity was such as afflicts other men; but the people of that age did not consider it a disease, as it was; they supposed it was a curse inflicted by a god. You know if Athamas were ever so good, if he lost his reason, he might have killed his wife and child.

Ann. Yes, because insane persons do not know what they do. What made the ancients think the gods were malicious, as the story describes Juno and the fury Tisiphone?

Mother. Because they did not know any better. They saw that men committed crimes, and that they suffered afflictions; and they presumed that malignant gods induced men to commit those crimes, and also that they brought evils upon mankind.

Ann. Did every body believe that?

Mother. Not every body, I think. Some people thought the gods were very kind to men. They thought that if the gods allowed men to do wrong, and to suffer pain, that they only punished them in order to make them good; and that if the good were unhappy in this world, the gods would make them amends in another life.

These Furies, whom you have read of as very cruel, some persons called by another name, the Eumenides; and that means, the benevolent, who, when they inflicted pain, were supposed to intend to improve the sufferer’s heart

Ann. I have heard before of uttering a curse. What is a curse?

Mother. It is a sort of wicked prayer, a wish that God would bring evil upon some hated person; and a blessing is a prayer that God would bestow some good upon the person prayed for.

The Orgies. §

In ancient times, when persons wished to commend a man very much, they would say, he is not the son of a man, but of a god, as they said that Perseus was the son of Jupiter; and also, when they did not know who a person’s father was, they said he was some god.

Semele, one of the daughters of Cadmus, had a little boy, who was called Bacchus. His mother died when he was very young, and it was said that Jupiter was his father. Bacchus, while he was a boy, lived in the isle of Naxos, and was stolen from there by some pirates.

He was seen by them, as he lay asleep under a tree, near the seaside, from a place where they had landed to procure water. The pirates imagined that the beautiful boy was the son of rich parents, and that if they should carry him off; his father would offer a large sum to have him restored. In order to get this ransom, they proceeded to take him.

Actes, the master of the vessel, heard the men talk of what they intended to do, and he commanded them to forbear, but they disobeyed him, and, in spite of his remonstrances, carried off the prize. Soon after the ship had put off from the shore, Bacchus awaked, and perceiving that he was rapidly leaving Naxos, entreated the mariners to return with him to the island, but they took no notice of his supplications.

Finding them inflexible, he suddenly caused the vessel to stop in the midst of the sea, where she became immoveable as a rock, and her sails, cordage, masts, and oars, were instantly all covered with branches of ivy, and twisted about with vine tendrils. The god then rose at once to the stature of a man, and assumed an air of authority.

Bacchus, after this transformation, held in his hand a staff, wreathed with ivy, called a thyrsus, and he was immediately surrounded by tigers, panthers, and leopards. The sordid, piratical sailors, struck with shame and terror, at the sight, plunged into the sea, and were changed to dolphins. Bacchus spared the captain, and afterward made him his high priest.

The ship was then loosed, and they soon went ashore. Bacchus then commenced what are called his conquests, but more properly his travels. He went over different countries, instructing the ignorant people in useful arts — in cultivating the grape, in making wine, and in other rural occupations, and many persons travelled with and assisted him in his benevolent enterprizes.

In consequence of the good he did, Bacchus was honoured all over Greece, and he was worshipped as a god. Festivals were every where celebrated in honour of him. These festivals were called Orgies, and were sometimes held in the wood, and frequently in the night.

The Bacchæ, Bacchantes, or Menades, were women who assisted in the worship of Bacchus. They would go in bands into the woods, carrying thyrses and burning torches in their hands, running up and down the hills, and traversing the fields and forests, shouting and dancing in the most frantic manner.

Sometimes they made processions. A man, dressed to represent Bacchus, was placed in a car, attended by one called Silenus, riding on an ass, and followed by a multitude of men, women, and children — some blowing horns, others beating drums, and all making a loud clamour of voices, and waving the thyrsus.


Pentheus, king of Thebes, was the grandson of Cadmus. His grandfather, now become old, had resigned the kingdom to Pentheus. Pentheus detested the orgies. The Bacchantes often intoxicated themselves, and behaved in a very unseemly manner. Though Pentheus was not instructed in true religion, he knew that religious worship is serious and solemn, and that noise and drunkenness could not be acceptable to a god.

Pentheus should have told the Bacchantes that their behaviour was improper, and have tried to persuade them to a more orderly conduct; but he offended, without reforming them. Instead of teaching the Bacchantes the madness and folly of their worship, he ordered soldiers to march against them and disperse them wherever they should assemble.

Superstitious persons, whenever they are rudely opposed, become more fixed in their superstitious practices, the Bacchantes hated Pentheus, because he tried to interrupt their frantic rites, and persevered in them the more for his prohibition.

When Pentheus learned that the Bacchantes disregarded his orders, he resolved to attend one of their festivals, that he might know the truth concerning them. He went to Mount Citheron, where the orgies were held, and concealed himself, as he thought, in the branches of a tree, the better to observe the Bacchantes.

Among them was Agave, the mother of Pentheus, and his two aunts, Ino and Autonoe. Though Pentheus thought he was effectually hidden, he did not escape the searching eyes of the Bacchantes. They were accustomed to illuminate the woods, to hang the trees with lamps, and to dance, and sing hymns to Bacchus beneath them.

Some of the Bacchantes in their revels heard a rustling of leaves. They soon discovered Pentheus in the tree, though they did not recognise him, and in their rage dragged him down, and abused and mangled him till he was dead. Mobs, that is, numbers of people together, commit foolish and cruel actions which no. single person would perpetrate.

The Bacchantes used to call their fury, inspiration. We cannot, they would say, restrain this feeling which we have. We cannot prevent our desire to shriek, and shout, and destroy whatever comes in our way. The god inspires us; he disposes us to these extravagances. They were intoxicated, and thus they excused their folly.

Agave and her sisters did not perceive who it was they had killed, and they cut off his head and fixed it upon the point of a thyrsus, and Agave ran about with it, shouting, and showing it to her companions.

In the midst of all this extravagance, the aged Cadmus came out into the woods, and met his daughters and their companions. He instantly saw, in the ghastly features of the severed head, those of his beloved grandson, and soon convinced Agave that she was exulting in the death of her son.

Too late, Agave saw the atrocity of such conduct; she beat her breast, and tore her hair, but she could not restore life to the dead. Cadmus grieved bitterly for the undeserved death of Pentheus. One of the Greek poets thus describes his lamentation for him:

“Dearest of men! for thou, though now no more,
Shall yet be numbered ’mongst my best lov’d sons.
No more thy hand shall stroke this beard; no more
Embrace thy mother’s father, nor thy voice
Address me thus: ‘Who wrings thy heart
With rude offence? Inform me, and my hand
Shall punish him that injures thee, my father.’’”
Potter’s Euripides.

As if Cadmus had said, as he stood over the disfigured body of his grandson, “Beloved Pentheus! thou art indeed dead; killed by the madness and folly of the Menades. Still, though no longer alive, I will call thee my dear son. I remember all your tenderness.’ You would say, gently stroking this long gray beard, ‘My dear grandfather, does any one ever dare to offend thee by the least disrespect? If any should forget to honour thy reverend age, I will punish him.’”

The remains of Pentheus were treated with respect, and Agave, restored to reason, bitterly repented of her guilty conduct. The sight of a thyrsus became shocking to her, and she never went near mount Citheron; for there the recollection of her murdered son, and of her crime, were too painful to be endured.

Conversation: Mother and Ann. §

Mother. Ann, perhaps you can tell me the moral of this story?

Ann. It is a sad story, and describes vary shocking conduct.

Mother. But the shocking conduct is not all it describes. Does it show no goodness?

Ann. Yes, the goodness of Cadmus and of Pentheus. Cadmus was an affectionate old man, and a generous one, for he had given a kingdom to his grandson.

Mother. And what think you of Pentheus?

Ann. That he was not very prudent to hide himself where the Menades held their orgies; but though he was imprudent, he was otherwise a good man. He detested drunken revels, and he respected age.

Mother. His respect for his old grandfather was an excellent quality. How do you explain the virtue of discretion, or prudence?

Ann. Prudence is like caution somewhat. It is thinking beforehand what is best to be done; thinking of what may happen in consequence of what we do.

Mother. What is consequence?

Ann. Consequence is what follows some circumstance or action, and the consequence belongs to the circumstance or action. If I wear thin shoes in the wet and muddy streets, I am imprudent — I shall take cold. My cold will be the consequence of my imprudence.

Mother. Did you ever hear of cause and effect?

Ann. Yes. My wearing thin shoes in the wet would be the cause of my cold, and the cold would be the effect.

Mother. That is right. What do you think of Bacchus?

Ann. I presume that he was a man who taught the ignorant to cultivate the grape, and some other arts, and after he was dead, he was worshipped as a god.

Mother. That is very probable. Does the history of Agave teach you any thing?

Ann. Yes. It shows me that to drink too much wine makes persons commit the worst of crimes. I am glad that men and women at this time do not worship false gods, and that they have been taught to worship God properly.

Mother. These stories of false gods show how unworthy false religion is, and how beautiful is the true.

Ann. I hope there are no such foolish ways of worshipping the true, or any false god, now among any people.

Mother. I am sorry to say there is still much false religion in the world. Whole nations in Asia and Africa are pagans, and some Christians are superstitious.

Ann. What do you mean by superstitious?

Mother. Men, in many practices, praise God, which do harm instead of good; and these practices are superstitions, and they who practise them are superstitious persons.

Ann. Did all the Greeks worship Bacchus in that frantic manner?

Mother. No; at Athens, festivals in honour of Bacchus were very decent. They were called Dionysia, and magistrates restrained the people from committing any impropriety. The same worship was called the Brumalia at Rome; but the Roman people, like the early Greeks, got drunk at these celebrations, and the senate abolished the rites of Bacchus. I read, in a book of travels, that the modem Italians imitated these rites at the present time. You know that there is a feast of the Christian Church, called the Epiphany.

Arm. The Epiphany celebrates the visit which wise men from the East paid to the infant Jesus. That visit mentioned in the second chapter of Matthew.

Mother. I will tell you how the people of Florence, and some other Italian cities, observe the Epiphany. The lower classes of the people collect, in considerable numbers, in some public place, on the day of the feast. A car, on which a sort of throne, covered with leaves and branches, is placed, is drawn about by donkeys. Multitudes, bearing torches, shouting, and blowing horns, follow the car. Coarse glass tubes, which make a tremendous noise, are used as trumpets, upon this occasion, and increase the turbulence.

Ann. This is much like the procession of Bacchus, but there is no Silenus in it.

Mother. Nor any leopards. The ancients, in their sculptures, represented Bacchus in a car drawn by panthers, or leopards. But this, I think, was only meant to show that civilized men can tame wild beasts.

Danæ and Perseus. §

Acrisius, king of Argos, had a beautiful daughter, whose name was Danæ. While Danæ was very young, her father went to consult the oracle, to know what should befall him in his future life. Silly people go to fortune-tellers, in these days, to learn what may happen to them; just as the Greeks, a long time ago, went to the oracle. The oracle told Acrisius that his daughter Danas would have a son, who would kill him.

Acrisius thought if his daughter were never married, she could have no son to kill him, and therefore he shut up the princess in a high tower, where no man could see her, nor visit her. Jupiter loved and pitied the poor young prisoner, and metamorphosed himself for gods could take what shape they pleased, into a shower of gold, that he might enter Danæ’s apartment

This only means, that some man who loved Danæ, paid, or bribed, the keepers of her prison, and thus went to see her. Money buys every thing in this world; so, in this fable, it was called a god: afterward, Jupiter gave Danæ a little son, whom she called Perseus.

As soon as Acrisius heard of the birth of his grandson, he thought. This is the boy who will kill me; but I will take care to prevent that: I will get rid of him and his mother too.

The tower in which Danæ was confined, stood on a rock on the sea coast, and her father ordered that she and her infant should be put into a chest, and thrown into the waves.

Many pathetic stories have been written concerning poor Danæ, tossed about upon the billows with her child. But Neptune, who was the god of the sea, had compassion on them, and the winds wafted the chest in safety to Seriphus, one of the Cyclades. An old fisherman, named Dictys, was standing near the shore, mending his net, when he saw the chest gently thrown on the beach by the waves, and perceived in it a female and a child.

Dictys hastened to the place, and found a beautiful woman weeping, and clasping her infant to her bosom. The child was in a sweet sleep. Dictys spoke first. “Unhappy lady,” said he, “whence came you? Have you been shipwrecked? Have all your companions perished? The vessel, perhaps, was dashed upon some fatal rock.”

“Alas! good man,” replied Danæ, “you see before you all the vessel in which I have encountered the sea. My cruel father, the king of Argos, in displeasure against me and this innocent babe, caused us to be thrown into the waves, and some merciful god has saved our lives. But where am I? in what strange land? Who will protect us? What will become of the unhappy Danæ and this outcast boy?” Saying these words, her tears flowed afresh.

Dictys saw the affliction of Danæ, and it grieved him, for he had a compassionate heart. “Young stranger,” said he to her, “do not despair; you are not among barbarians. A king more merciful than Acrisius reigns in this island. The friendly Nereides, unseen, guided your frail vessel to Seriphus. Polydectes, our king, will receive and protect you, I know.”

“I know not Polydectes, nor the way to his house,” said Danæ, still weeping.

“Leave that chest,” said Dictys to her, in an encouraging voice; “give me your child, and follow me to my cabin. There is my wife; she will welcome you; and I will present myself to the king, and tell him your misfortunes; I know he will receive and comfort you.” Cheered by the good man’s eagerness to serve her, Danæ rose, and followed his directions. They soon reached, a low cabin, half hidden by the rocks. At the door stood the good Aglauria, the fisherman’s wife; she was expecting her husband, but was much surprised at the sight of Danæ, for she had never, in her life, seen a lady so dressed, and so delicate and fair.

Danæ wore an embroidered robe; her hair hung in long loose tresses; tears stood upon her pale cheek; and sorrow and weariness depressed her head, and caused her limbs to tremble, as she tried to keep up with the pace of Dictys. Aglauria looked at the strange lady, and then at her husband, as she saw them approach near, but did not speak a word.

Dictys put the babe into her arms, and said, “Aglauria, this unfortunate lady, and this pretty child, were thrown upon our shore by the waves; I know you will shelter and comfort them.”

“Indeed I will, if I can. Come in, lady,” said Aglauria, and Danæ entered the only room in the house. Aglauria conducted her to a bed of clean rushes, which was the best the poor woman had, but there, after all her fatigue, she found rest and refreshment.

Danæ and her little boy did not remain long in the fisherman’s hut. Dictys went to the palace of Polydectes, and told him her story; he immediately sent a chariot for her, and she and the young Perseus were removed to the palace. When Danæ left the fisherman’s hut, she thanked the fisherman and his wife over and over again, for all their goodness; and hoped, she said, that one day or other she should be able to repay them.


Perseus grew up under the protection of Polydectes; he learned all that boys in those days learned: to throw the lance or spear, to shoot the arrow with dexterity, to dance, and run with great speed, to wrestle, and drive a chariot, and manage horses, with great skill. Every body admired and loved Perseus. They admired him, because in wrestling he threw his antagonist; in driving a chariot, he won the race; and, in aiming an arrow, he could bring down a bird, or hit a mark, without missing. They loved him, because he was manly, and generous, and kind.

But Polydectes, though he had been very kind to Dana; and her son, did not love Perseus when he had grown up to be a man. Perseus was young, handsome, and vigorous; he was fit to be king over a rude people like those of Seriphus, who thought beauty and strength very fine qualities for a king: but Polydectes was weak, and old, and ill-natured. He knew this himself.

He said to himself. My subjects are tired of me, and they love young Perseus; they will kill me, I fear; or perhaps he will, that he may be king himself. But I will be too cunning for him. If I should kill him, my subjects would kill me, because they love him; so I should gain nothing by that. I will not do so; I will, however, drive him from my palace: I will vex and mortify him, so that he shall be very miserable, and go away to some distant country.

One day Polydectes invited Perseus to a great banquet. On this occasion, it was expected that each of the guests would bring a fine horse, and present it to the king. Perseus could not procure such a horse; but he thought of another present, more rare and curious: this was the head of the gorgon Medusa.

The gorgons were three sisters, Euryale, Stheno, and Medusa; they dwelt at a great distance from Seriphus, on the borders of Western Africa. An old Greek poet calls them Hesperian maidens. Hesper, or Vesper, is the evening star, and appears in the west.

“Gorgona dwelling on the brink of night,
Beyond Die Hounding main: where, silver-voiced,
The Hesperian maidens in their watches sing.
Stheno, Euryale, Medusa these:
The last ill-fated, since of mortal date:
The two Immortal, and unchanged by years.”
Elton’s Hesiod.

These verses show that Medusa was destined to die, therefore she might be killed; but her sisters were immortal.

Medusa had been very beautiful, but she once behaved improperly in Minerva’s temple. Minerva was the goddess of wisdom. She required all worshippers to offer her serious, respectful worship; and if persons in her temple, or any other, behaved improperly, the ancients called it profaning the temple, and sacrilege, and caused the sacrilegious person to be punished.

Minerva, to punish Medusa, changed her beauty into the most frightful ugliness, and her fine hair into snakes; and she looked so dreadful, that when others looked at her, they were turned to stone.

Perseus proposed to cut off the head of Medusa for Polydectes. This would be a great achievement, and his courage would be commended every where. Polydectes admired the project; he thought Perseus would lose his life by his foolhardiness, and he should thus get rid of him for ever.

Polydectes, however, was mistaken in this expectation. The gods protected and aided Perseus. Pluto presented to him a helmet which rendered him invisible; Minerva sent him a shield of transcendent brightness; Mercury furnished him with wings; and Vulcan gave him a sword. Being completely equipped, Perseus took his flight, quick as the swift-winged light, quite over the Mediterranean, to the Atlantic coast of Africa.

He soon reached the country of the Gorgons, and, with the assistance of some women almost as deformed as themselves, discovered their habitation. Medusa happened to be asleep when Perseus arrived; but he was afraid to look at her, on account of the petrifying power of her ugliness. So he used the shield, which Minerva had given him, as a mirror, and in that he beheld her. It is difficult to imagine why the image of her deformity, seen in, that mirror, should not kill him as well as the sight of the gorgon herself; but it seems it did not.

Taking advantage of her sleeping posture, Perseus struck her one blow, and severed her head from her body, and then bore it over the deserts of Africa. Every drop of blood which fell from it was turned into a snake.

Perseus directed his flight to the region of Mauritania, and descended in the palace court of Atlas, king of the country. Atlas was famous for his great wealth. To him belonged innumerable docks and herds, and the gardens of the Hesperides; the entrance to the gardens was defended by two dragons. The dominion of Atlas extended to that ocean which is called, from his name, the Atlantic; and there, every evening when the people saw the sun set, they said the horses of Apollo had descended to refresh themselves, after their glorious course from east to west.

Perseus wrapped up Medusa’s head in his mantle, and asked to he conducted to the king. Atlas received him graciously, and Perseus thus announced himself: “You see before you, great king, a son of Jupiter. Descended from the immortal gods, you will not refuse me hospitality. With your permission, I will abide in your palace till morning, and then pursue my journey.”

Perseus expected a cordial welcome from Atlas; but, to his surprise, no such welcome was offered him. The king looked at him earnestly, and seemed shocked and terrified; he tried, it appeared, to speak, but in spite of himself he hesitated, and shuddered

“What can this mean?” thought Perseus; “I have concealed the frightful Medusa; what alarms the king?” and he stood a moment, fearfully conjecturing what the scene meant. It was caused by a prediction which had been made long before, but which Atlas now recollected. An oracle had declared, that the gardens of the Hesperides should be robbed by a son of Jupiter; and the moment that Atlas heard Perseus say Jupiter was his father, he saw in him the spoiler of his gardens.

“Depart from these walls, impostor,” at length cried the enraged king; “if thou delayest an instant, I will thrust thee out with my own hands.” Atlas did not wait to be obeyed, but immediately aimed at Perseus a violent blow of his gigantic arm.

Perseus avoided the blow, nor did he return it; he only uncovered the fatal head, and Atlas stood, not a man, but a rock. An accumulation of earth, says the fable, grew to this rock, extended its base, and exalted its summit, so that at length clouds enveloped its head, and forests grew on its sides. Images of Atlas are made in the form of a man bearing the earth upon his shoulders.


Æolus had shut up the winds in their prison, the night was tranquil, and Perseus being delivered from the king of Mauritania, fell into a refreshing sleep. Nature reposed in quiet, till Lucifer, the morning star, shedding silvery light upon the couch of the shepherd and the ploughman, admonished them that the hour to commence their daily labour had arrived. Perseus still slumbered, but Aurora unbarred the gates of day, and roused him from his rest. He rose with renewed vigour, and pursued his way, like some migratory bird, through immeasurable fields of ether, leaving, in his flight, nations and cities behind him.

The next descent of Perseus was into the dominions of Cepheus, king of Ethiopia. Here he beheld Andromeda, the king’s daughter, chained to a rock, where she was expecting, in unspeakable anguish, to be devoured by a sea monster.

Andromeda’s mother was a vain, silly woman. She boasted of her own beauty, and said that she was handsomer than Juno or the Nereides. Neptune, as god of the sea, had a great regard for the Nereides. They were fifty daughters of the sea-god Nereus, and had their habitation in the ocean. Milton calls them the “blue-haired” deities.

Neptune was offended with Cassiope, and because she was a queen, laid her whole kingdom under water. The poor people, to escape from the inundation, climbed upon house-tops, and the highest branches of trees; some were drowned and others starved, and a great sea monster came up and devoured many.

Cepheus, in this calamity, resorted to the oracle of Jupiter Ammon. This oracle was in Lybia, nine days journey from Alexandria. There was a temple to Jupiter and in it the figure of a ram, with large horns; and so he was sometimes called “horned Ammon.” Cepheus entreated the oracle to instruct him what he should do to satisfy the angry Neptune.

“You must,” said he, “give him your beautiful daughter, Andromeda. When you are returned home, you must chain her to a rock which projects into the sea, not far from your palace; and that monster which has devoured some of your subjects, will come to that place, and feast upon Andromeda. Cepheus did as he was commanded.

Andromeda was just chained to the foot of the rock, when Perseus alighted upon the verge above. She clasped her hands, and looked upward, as if to implore the gods to take pity on her, but her eyes met those of Perseus, whom she imagined to be Mercury, whose wings he wore.

“Thou art come to my relief, gracious power,” she exclaimed. “Thou hast heard my prayer.”

Perseus instantly descended to the spot where she stood, her delicate arm bound by a heavy chain attached to the rock. “Beautiful lady,” said he, “I am no god, but the good gods aid me. They know that I desire to deliver the innocent from their oppressors and to punish the cruel; and as they love the good, and abhor the wicked, they assist those who are foil of compassion like themselves. I trust them; I know they will afford me help to deliver you: but tell me how came you to be in this sad condition? Andromeda then related how she was exposed to the sea monster, to appease the angry Neptune. Perseus heard her with tenderness and pity. She concluded by saying, “The monster will come hither at noon, and then” She could not say more, but burst into tears.

Perseus tried to comfort her, told her he must leave her a moment, but he would return soon, and remove her in safety. Then he went to the king and told him, in a few words, that he had seen his daughter; that he would preserve her and destroy the monster, if Cepheus would bestow her upon him as the reward of his achievement. Cepheus joyfully consented to this proposal, and Perseus went back to Andromeda.

Perseus, with all speed, then flew to Andromeda, and presently the sea was tossed into foaming billows by the monster, who dashed through the water with a terrific noise; but when he would have seized her, Perseus presented to his view the horrible head, and he was instantly changed to stone. Perseus then laid the Medusa down upon some marine plants, and went to unchain Andromeda.

Perseus easily broke the chain and releasing the arm of the princess, she gave him her hand, and he restored her to her father and mother. The plants, upon which the Medusa was laid, were changed to the substance now called coral.


Perseus, in token of his gratitude to the gods, for the deliverance of Andromeda, erected three altars, one, in the middle, to Jupiter; one, on the right, to Minerva; and a third, on the left, to Mercury.

Having offered sacrifices on these altars, and praised and thanked the several gods, in the manner of a devout heathen, Perseus went to Cepheus, and asked the hand of Andromeda. The young girl and her parents consented to this request, and preparations were made for the wedding.

On the appointed day, a marriage procession was formed. Cupid and Hymen lighted their torches, the palace was hung with garlands of flowers, and music and songs were heard on every side.

When the marriage vows were mutually given, the whole company sat down to a splendid banquet. Before the guests rose from the table, some of the company begged Perseus to relate to them his adventures. He consented, and commenced as follows:

“You know, my friends that I promised the king of Seriphus, to bring him the head of Medusa, though I could not have travelled to her dwelling, but for the wings which Mercury lent me. When I reached the country whither the god had directed me, I saw first some ugly women, called the Graiæ, and they informed me where I should find their frightful neighbours. I took the right way, through a path which was strown with men and animals that haft beep transformed into stone by the horrid visage of the gorgon”

Perseus paused, for the sudden entrance of an armed man, followed by a numerous train, drew every body’s attention. This intruder was Phineus, to whom the parents of Andromeda had promised her before they knew Perseus. Phineus, saying nothing to any other person, advanced to Perseus. “Stranger!” uttered he, addressing himself to Perseus; “You have taken another man’s bride. It may be that you do not know the perfidy of her father and mother. They gave her to me when I asked her in marriage; yet, regardless of their own promise, they did not wait for me to claim her, but have bestowed her upon you. Restore her to me; else thou and they may dread my vengeance.”

Perseus cut short the matter, by telling Phineus, that Andromeda was his, and no man living should separate them. The friends of Perseus took his part; and they and the adherents of Phineus soon came to blows. Many of the defenders of Perseus were killed. He, perceiving that the assailants were more numerous than his party, led the terrified Andromeda to the altar of Hymen, behind which they screened themselves, and soon perceived Minerva standing near, holding before them her invulnerable shield, the Ægis.

Phineus, seeing the bride and bridegroom were escaped, did not spare the adherents of Perseus; and the latter, from his place of retreat, seeing their danger, would not permit them to be slain in his cause. He rushed from his concealment, seized the Medusa’s head, which was not far off, and exposing it in view of his enemies, turned every one to stone, in the attitude in which he stood.


Having thus baffled his foes, Perseus proposed to Andromeda to visit his grandfather, Acrisius, in Argos. Danæ had often related to Perseus the cruelty of her father to herself and to him; but they had both forgiven him. They knew that believed his grandson would live to be his murderer, and that he had only attempted to save his own life, by taking theirs.

When Perseus reached Argos, he found his grandfather no longer its king. His brother, Phætus, a very artful man, had deposed the old king, and taken his place. Perseus immediately resolved to expel the usurper, and reinstate his grandfather. He had nothing to do but to exhibit the Medusa, and Phætus became a statue in that very palace from which he had banished his brother. Perseus having restored his grandfather, departed with his bride for Seriphus.

Perseus arrived in good time at Seriphus. Polydectes became the persecutor of Danæ, as he had been of her son, and to protect herself from his insults, she went to the temple of Minerva, whither no person durst follow to disturb her. A man, or woman, might go to a temple, as a refuge from injury, or to save life, but no one dared to follow him or her thither, lest he should offend the compassionate deity.

Danæ received Perseus and his beautiful wife in the cabin of Dictys. Her ancient benefactor was not forgotten. When she fled from the palace of Polydectes to the temple, the old man heard of it, and afterward conveyed her to his humble home, where Aglauria still lived.

Danæ and her children did not long remain in the cottage of the fisherman. Perseus knew it was easy to punish Polydectes, for his base conduct, and he did not long delay. He had only to expose to the sight of Polydectes, the hideous head. As soon as Polydectes saw it, he was petrified to death.

Perseus was not inclined to reign in Seriphus, so he placed Dictys on the throne of Polydectes. Dictys left is sordid garments in the cottage of the rock; and, as he was a man of great benevolence and good sense, when he was established in the palace, and attired like a king, he appeared like one, and knew how to make every body about him happy. That was all the art of government necessary in Seriphus.

When Dictys was well received by the people, as their king, Perseus got ready to return, with his mother and wife, to Argos; but he first restored the loans of the gods to their proper owners. On the shield of Minerva, when he gave it back to her, with solemn thanks, he laid the Medusa’s head as an offering.

That head was afterward attached to the shield, but Minerva did not always carry it about; only when she designed to punish foe wicked, she clothed herself in her “gorgon-terrors,” in order to affright the bad, or to conclude their crimes by killing them.

Previous to entering Argos, the travellers stopped at the city of Larissa; and there they heard that Teatimas, the king, was celebrating funeral games in honour of his father. At funeral games, it was customary for athletic men to try their strength in certain contests; among them was throwing the quoit, or discus, a heavy piece of stone or metal, which was aimed at a particular mark.

The king of Argos happened to attend the funeral games of Teatimas. Persius offered himself to the labours of the Dise; and the strength of his arm, and the certainty of his aim, were both admired. At length, his hand became unsteady, and, by an unfortunate motion, he misdirected the ponderous quoit, and, instead of reaching the point intended, it struck the king of Argos, and killed him instantly. Perseus thus unwittingly accomplished the oracle, which was uttered before he came into the world.

Perseus was now king of Argos, but he chose, rather than reign there, to found a new kingdom. He became the founder of a new city, near Argos, which he called Mycenæ. As long as Dictys lived, he was loved and honoured; and his kindness to Danæ and Perseus was celebrated all over Greece. At Athens, the memory of the good fisherman of Seriphus was highly esteemed. There, an altar was raised, To the Memory of Dictys, the friend of Danæ and Perseus.

Conversation: Mother and Ann. §

Ann. Mother, you say Polydectes hated Perseus for his fine qualities: because he was young and strong, and because others loved him. That was like Psyche’s sisters, and Cinderella’s, in the fairy tale, who disliked their sister for being amiable and pretty. All that is very strange. What do you call that feeling, the hatred of the bad for the good?

Mother. It is called Envy. When we wish to imitate the good, that is emulation; but if another’s beauty, or accomplishments, make them disagreeable to us, and we dislike their goodness or beauty, it makes us unhappy, and it makes us very disagreeable, for people see our bad disposition, and despise us. The ancients personified envy.

Ann. What does personify mean?

Mother. Envy you know, my child, is a bad passion, which persons feel. It cannot be seen, like a woman or child, though you may think of it. But poets, and writers of fables, imagine that envy is a woman; that her hair is snakes, which sting and bite; and that her garments are stained with bleed, which she has drawn from innocent persons, because envious people hurt the innocent, when they have an opportunity, as Polydectes would have hurt Perseus. Now, I suppose you know what a personification is.

Ann. Yes. I know a child that always speaks truth, and I think of truth when I think of her. If I should draw a figure like hers, and not call it by her name, but should call it Truth, I should make a person of truth; I should personify truth.

Mother. That is right. I will give you a story in which envy is personified.

Ann. First, if you please, tell me something about Hymen.

Mother. Hymen was the god of marriage; he attended the ceremony, and blessed the youthful pair. His picture is drawn as a young man, dressed in a saffron robe, and he holds in his hand a flame-coloured veil. A wreath of sweet-scented marjoram and roses bound his brows and he carried a torch in one hand.

If the hymeneal torch, which was lighted at marriages, burnt with a bright, clear light, it was a happy omen; a sign, it was thought, that the married pair would be very happy. If it shed a lurid glare, or dim, smoky flame of red light, that was an evil portent. It indicated that the married pair would meet with misfortunes.

Ann. And, now, who was Lucifer?

Mother. Lucifer is a name of the planet Venus, when she rises before the sun, and is called the Morning Star. When that star is seen at evening, just after sunset, then she is Vesper and Hesperus, in poetry, but we commonly say the Evening Star, and a beautiful star she is.

Ann. One or two questions more and I will have done. What was Minerva’s Ægis?

Mother. It was a shield which no weapon could penetrate. It means that the truly wise have a defence in their wisdom, against the wicked, the cruel, and the foolish.

Ann. Was there ever such a man as Perseus?

Mother. Yes; he was a prince of Peloponnesus, in Greece, and he had many children, and they became founders of cities, like their ancestor, Perseus.

Ann. And who was he that shut up the winds?

Mother. Æolus, the wind god, who had a cave where be kept the winds. These were Boreas, the north wind; Auster, the south; and Zephyrus, the west I cannot give you a name for the east wind.

The Pierides. §

      — “the Muses; dwellers on the mount
Of heaven nine daughters of the mighty Jove:
Melpomene, Euterpe, Erato,
Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia,
Urania, Clio, and Calliope.”

Soon after Minerva had received the head of Medusa, she went to pay a visit to the Muses. These were nine sisters, who dwelt in the pleasant valley of Tempe, though, like other goddesses, they could go wherever they liked, were it ever so distant from their favourite valley. They sang, and danced, and played upon the lyre, all day, and sometimes the god Apollo came to see them. Poets used to pray to them; and they fancied they could not make good verses, unless one of the Muses would assist them.

At this time, when Minerva went to see them, they were at Mount Helicon. Minerva, who was never married, was sometimes called the martial, or warlike maid, and she was often seen with a spear in her hand, a helmet on her head, and her terrible shield on one arm; but this day, at Mount Helicon, she put off her warlike attire, and was dressed in a beautiful robe, and a long veil which she embroidered herself.

The sisters were delighted with the honour she did them; they seated themselves around her, in a delightful grove, and exerted themselves to entertain her. Calliope related that not far from the place where they were seated, in the valley below, a fountain had lately gushed from the rock long sealed and dry. “We have,” said she, “called the fountain Hippocrene, for our winged horse, Pegasus. He struck that spot with his foot, and I instantly pure and sparkling water burst from the chasm opened by his hoof.”

Minerva proposed they should all go to the fountain, and immediately she and the nine sisters took their way thither. While they all stood by it, listening to the soft gurgling sound of its waters, as they flowed from the rock, among the trees which overshadowed them, they heard a sound like human voices.

“Can these be birds which I hear?” asked Minerva.

“They are birds now,” answered Polyhymnia; “they are magpies, and their history is curious.”

“I never heard it,” continued Minerva; “do me the favour to relate it.

“These magpies,” said Polyhymnia in reply, “were once women. Their father was Pierus, king of Macedonia. The princesses had delightful voices; they sung sweetly, but they were so vain as to match their voices with ours, and even to challenge us to a, trial with them. ‘Cease, goddesses of Thespia,’ said one of these sisters to us, as we met her in the Yale of Tempe; ‘cease to pretend that your voices only are divine. We fear neither your numbers nor your talents: there are nine of us, and no more of you. Let us try our skill together; and let the nymphs of the valley decide between us. If you are vanquished, we claim that you should resign to us Mount Helicon, and the fountains Hippocrene and Aganippe; and, on the contrary, if you are found to excel us, you may demand the delightful country of Emathia, as for as the snow-covered mountains of Pæonia.’

“We accepted the challenge. A day was appointed, and the nymphs who were constituted judges in the matter, swore to give an impartial decision. When we were all assembled, the eldest of the Pierides began a song in praise of the giants: of those who once attempted to dethrone our father Jupiter, and all the gods.

“She sung that the giants were great and brave; they desired to reign in heaven, and that was glorious ambition; they would thrust out the gods, and seat themselves in high Olympus: they were worthy of crowns and thrones. Nor did the gods dare to meet them; but, veiling their glorious forms, they took those of sordid animals — of beasts, and birds, and creeping things — and fled into Egypt. There the servile Egyptians cherished and worshipped them; and still they adore, for their sakes, the ox, the ibis, and the ichneumon.

“When she princess of Pieria had ended her strain, Calliope took her turn. The hills resounded to the melody of her voice, as she sung the gifts of Ceres: to man she gave the plough and the spade, the scythe and the sickle. She taught him the seasons of seed-time and harvest; she gave him the yellow wheat and the fragrant pea; and she it is who pours out the milky draught for his children, and bids the green herb spring up for his flocks. Her gentle hand led him from caves and wild woods, to the smiling field and the sheltering cottage; and has stripped the bloody fur from his limbs, and wrapped him in the clean fleece of his sheep.

“All the Muses, and all the Pierides, sung by turns; but the nymphs decided that the daughters of Memory (the Muses) surpassed their rivals. Thus the trial ended, and we claimed for our own the district of Emathia. We then admonished those conceited women, never more to enter into competition with any but the children of earth.

“And did they not heed your counsel?” asked Minerva. “No; they were defeated, and that provoked them; and they pretended that they were injured. They said the Muses were selfish, and the nymphs were partial. This was arrogant and false; and we deemed it right to punish them. We turned them to magpies, and here they are chattering in the trees which hang over the Pierian Spring, for so we sometimes call the fountain Hippocrene. They desired to possess it, and now they haunt its borders.”

“You treated them as they deserved,” remarked Minerva; “conceit and presumption ought to be mortified.” “Has this spring any peculiar qualities?” she then asked.

“Yes,” answered Polyhymnia. “You know that multitudes of mortals, when they would compose songs and other verses, pray to us to assist them. We sometimes tell them to drink of these waters; they give them knowledge and ideas which they can repeat. If they drink much of the water, they will make fine verses, perhaps; but if they just taste, and expect a single draught to inspire them, they become conceited, but they produce nothing fine.

The chariot of day began to decline in the west; Minerva knew that then the gods expected her, and she left the sisters in the pleasant grove, promising to visit them soon again, and always to aid them with her inspirations.

Apollo and the Python. §

Of all the gods of antiquity, Apollo was the most beautiful. He was perhaps the sun, and was sometimes represented driving the chariot of day over the heavens. His car was drawn by two fiery horses. When the sun set in the sea, the pagans who worshipped Apollo, said his coursers had gone to bathe and refresh themselves in the tooling waves.

Sometimes Apollo was described as dwelling with the gods upon Olympus, with a lyre in his hand, and sometimes surrounded by the Muses on Mount Parnassus. At other times, with a bow and arrow, and a quiver at his back, he was a hunter in the woods. He was found in the palaces of princes, and as often in the cottages of peasants. In fact, like the “blessed sun,” he was every where, making all eyes glad, restoring the sick to health, inspiring the poet to utter verses, and teaching the musician his sweetest tones.

His mother was Latona, and his sister, Diana, or the moon. Jupiter loved Latona, and that made Juno hate her. Juno found a hideous serpent, hatched in the mud of the Nile, called the Python, and she employed him to torment Latona. Wherever Latona went, this frightful monster followed her.

Neptune took pity upon her, and raised up an island, afterward called Delos, from the bosom of the Egean, on purpose to receive her. Terra (the earth) had refused to protect Latona, but Neptune metamorphosed her to a quail, and she flew off from the continent, perhaps of Africa, to the newly-raised island; and then Neptune restored her to her human shape.

There Apollo and Diana, who were twins, were bora. The Greeks held the island of Delos in high honour, for Apollo was their favourite deity, and they sent offerings to him yearly to Delos, because that island had been the refuge of Latona, and the birth-place of her divine children,

Apollo acquired the use of the bow and arrow, by shooting at the fleet and timid animals of the island of Delos. When he had become sufficiently expert at this exercise, he resolved to kill the Python, for its persecution of his mother.

With a quiver full of arrows, he attacked the Python, but he did not kill him till he had shot away every one of his arrows, or darts. Apollo was afterward called Python.

Conversation: Mother and Ann. §

Ann. This is a short story; nothing more than that Apollo killed the Python.

Mother. A great many circumstances belong to this story: many associations.

Ann. What do you mean by associations?

Mother. Nothing that we see, or hear, or think of, is quite alone. When I speak of Sunday, what do you immediately think of?

Ann. When I hear Sunday mentioned, I think of the bells which ring to summon us to church; I think also of the church itself, of the minister, and of the congregation; indeed, I think of many more things. They all come into my mind together.

Mother. They come into your mind together because they belong to one another, that is, they are associated with one another. You have seen the objects you speak of at the same time. This thinking of things together is the association of ideas.

Ann. But how does this relate to Apollo?

Mother. It was necessary for me to explain to you folly the term, or word association, before I could make you understand that many associations belong to the story of Apollo and the Python.

Ann. What are some of them?

Mother. After he had killed the Python, he was sometimes called Pythias. The Greeks built a temple in honour of Apollo at Delphi, and Homer calls it “rocky Pytho.” They instituted an oracle there, and the priestess was called the Pythia. They said that the tripod on which this priestess sat was covered with the skin of the Python. And they celebrated the death of the Python in certain games, called the Pythian.

Ann. What was a tripod?

Mother. It was sometimes a stool with three feet. The Greeks were very fond of tripods; I mean the form of a tripod was very fashionable among them. They used them for many purposes, and they were sometimes used to burn perfumes, or to set lamps upon. Here is one with an antique lamp on it. There was a street at Athens called the street of the Tripods.

Ann. What do you mean by antique?

Mother. Ancient, or in fashion a long time ago. When we say this gem or statue is from the antique, we commonly mean something left by ancient Greeks or Romans, and preserved to the present time.

Ann. What were the Pythian games?

Mother. They were like other games held in Greece. These games which we are talking of, were celebrated every fifth year at Delphi. Great numbers of people resorted thither, and among them came poets, musicians and athletes. The poets recited their verses; the musicians played on the lyre, and sang lyric songs; and the athletes ran, and wrestled; and the people listened and looked on. The best poet, the finest musician, and he who outran his competitors, or who could throw down an antagonist, received a prize.

Ann. What were the prizes?

Mother. They were wreaths, or garlands of oak leaves, or beach or palm leaves. There were judges chosen, who bestowed the prizes, and placed them on the victor’s head, and all the surrounding people shouted and praised the victors. This sort of praise is called glory. Too much love of it is vain-glory. Apollo’s favourite and most honourable crown was the laurel, and you shall read a story concerning it

Ann. I should like first to know the true story of the Python, if I could.

Mother. The Python is supposed to have been some fatal disease, which had destroyed great numbers o people; at length, it was stopped. Some excellent physician might have found a remedy for it; and then the disease was called a serpent, and the healer a god Apollo was the god of health, and the patron of must and poetry.

Apollo and Daphne. §

Those who have read the story of Cupid and Psyche, now that he was the god who disposed men and women to love each other. In that story he was described as a young man, and was unarmed; but in almost all fables, he is represented as a boy, with a bow and arrow in his hands, and a quiver at his back.

Soon after Apollo had conquered the Python, he met Cupid in the woods. Apollo told him, contemptuously, that bows and arrows did not suit his weak hands: that he should leave them to the god of day, and to his sister Diana, who was a huntress. Cupid was offended, and resolved to punish what he deemed the insolence of Apollo.

One day, awaking from a delicious slumber, Cupid recollected his late conversation with Apollo, and drawing from his quiver two arrows, he pointed one with gold, and the other with lead. The person struck by the golden-tipped arrow would love the lady he next saw; while the person who should be wounded by the leaden one would dislike the first one he or she should look upon.

Cupid aimed the former at Apollo, and the latter at Daphne, a young girl, the daughter of the river Peneus. Apollo soon after, clad like a shepherd, went into the fields, and Daphne chanced to wander thither. As soon as Apollo saw her, he thought her very beautiful, and he looked at her with admiration; but she felt an extreme dislike to him, and, turning from him, fled away as fast as she could.

Apollo was beautiful and eloquent, but neither his beauty nor his eloquence pleased Daphne; she would not listen to him, though he urged her with tender entreaties. “Stay, lovely Daphne,” he exclaimed; “you fly from me because you do not know who I am. I am not a shepherd of the mountains, but the son of Jupiter, the god of light. The inhabitants of Tenedos and of Delphi are my subjects. I am also the god of music and of healing; stay, and listen my lyre.”

Daphne heard, but would not be detained. Fleet as the fearful fawn, she hurried from the soft, tender voice of Apollo, and the god, with more than mortal swiftness, pursued her. He overtook her just as she reached the banks of the Peneus. There, sinking down by the river’s side, she entreated her father to hear her prayer.

“O, father!” she cried, “I detest Apollo, but still he pursues me. Rather than be his, I would be swallowed up by the cold earth: suffer me to be hidden in her dark bosom, so that I escape from him.”

Daphne’s supplication was granted. Suddenly, her feet took root in the ground, thick bark compressed her delicate frame, her extended arms branched to slender boughs, and her graceful head was covered with dark green leaves.

Apollo beheld the metamorphosis, and striking his radiant forehead, exclaimed, “O, Daphne, thou canst not be my bride, but thou shalt be my favourite tree. My temples, my lute, and my quiver shall be adorned with thy leaves, and in ages to come, thou shalt encircle the brow of the poet and the warrior. Fame shall crown their triumphant heads, with garlands plucked from thy branches. Time and age shall not wither thy foliage, but thy verdure shall be at once the emblem of glory and of immortality!”

From that time, the laurel became sacred to Apollo, and garlands of laurel were bestowed at his festivals upon those who excelled in the strife of genius or the struggle of force.

Conversation: Mother and Ann. §

Ann. I have heard of Shakspeare’s laurels; what does that mean?

Mother. It only means Shakspeare’s fame, or reputation. Shakspeare was a great poet. He lived more than two hundred years ago; but every reader admires and praises Shakspeare. That admiration of so many persons, for so long a time, is his fame; his undying or immortal fame, as some persons say, because he is now more admired than ever. As, in ancient times, poets were crowned with laurels, to show that their genius was known and admired; so when, at this time, we speak of a poet’s laurels, we mean his fame, or the admiration of mankind for him.

Ann. It is what is called a metaphorical, or figurative way of speaking, when one word, like “laurels,” means glory, and not literally, or as the word is, laurels.

Mother. You understand, I perceive, what you have been told concerning literal and figurative language. I must tell you a little more concerning Apollo. You have seen casts and medallions of the pagan gods.

Ann. Yes; marble and plaster images of them.

Mother. The art of making these figures is sculpture. It is one of the fine arts. Useful art, is the making of useful, necessary things; the making of shoes, and weaving cloth, are useful arts, but making statues belongs to the fine arts.

Ann. I perceive that ornaments and luxuries are afforded by the fine arts; and that painting and sculpture are fine arts.

Mother. They are. Rich persons make collections of the best specimens of the fine arts. The gallery of paintings at the Louvre, in Paris, is a grand collection of pictures; and the Vatican palace, at Rome, is another very grand collection of antique vases, tripods, statues, and innumerable beautiful things of that sort. One of the finest things in it is the Belvidere Apollo. A print of him is in the book you have been reading. Belvidere signifies beautiful view. This famous statue stands in an apartment of the Vatican which has a singularly fine prospect.

Ann. Who made the statue?

Mother. That is not known. About three hundred years ago, it was dug up from among some ruins in Antium, near Rome. It was dreadfully broken, but the fragments were found, and put ingeniously together, and it was conveyed to the Vatican, where it is carefully preserved. I will allow you to read to me another day some few more Classical Tales; but when they shall have been finished, you must return to something useful.

Ann. Are not these useful?

Mother; Yes; they will enable you to understand pictures, and statues, and poetry, better than you could have done without reading them. But, at present, you can afford no more time to fictions; you must read facts. I have a book of Grecian History,10 which will teach you many important truths connected with the Greeks.

Adventures of Io §

The Greeks personified rivers. Upon ancient medals, and in prints, may be seen figures of venerable men, sometimes pouring water from an urn, or reclined by some running stream: these represent rivers, and are sometimes the Peneus, the Alpheus, or the Nile. These rivers, or river gods, are represented to have had children and friends, and to have loved them, as Peneus loved Daphne. The truth probably is, that some person whose lands lay along the rivers, was called the god of that river.

Upon a map of Greece, the river Peneus may be seen in Thessaly, passing through the Vale of Tempe, and pouring its waters into the Egean sea. On the transformation of Daphne to a laurel, all the rivers of Greece, says the fable, paid a visit of condolence to the afflicted Peneus; the venerable Inachus only was absent. He had hidden himself in the inmost recesses of his rocky dwelling, there to weep for the absence of his daughter Io, who had withdrawn herself, he knew not whither.

Io was a priestess of Juno, and served in her temple at Argos. Jupiter once observed this beautiful nymph, as she was returning from a visit to her father, and instantly descended from Olympus to converse with her. Io knew that her celestial mistress had strictly forbidden the young women who served at her altars to hold any conversation with her husband, and she fled from the sire of the gods, with the speed of an arrow from the bow. Io was in Arcadia; and while she rapidly coursed along the borders of the lake of Lerna, she was checked in her flight by Jupiter, who followed her in a cloud of thick darkness, which suddenly covered her at noonday.

Overcome with fright, at this strange appearance, Io uttered piercing shrieks, but she was relieved by the gentlest accents. “Fear nothing, fairest,” said a soft voice, addressing her, “I am come to offer thee favour and protection. I have commanded this cloud to envelop thy path, and I can dispel it.” Io instantly recognised the silver tones which had first accosted her in her return from her paternal home, and thus stopped, she listened with trembling to her divine admirer.

At this moment, Juno, looking down from high heaven, saw the country of Peloponnesus involved in midnight gloom, and she hastened to the thunderer to inquire the cause of this obscuration. Jupiter was absent from Olympus, and when Juno discovered this, she instantly suspected that he was the cause of that noonday darkness. To satisfy herself, she immediately took her car, drawn by peacocks, and was borne swiftly down to the spot which was veiled by the strange cloud. Jupiter felt the approach of Juno, and to save Io from her anger, changed her into a beautiful white heifer.

The cloud gradually dispersed as Juno came nearer to earth, and when she found herself by the side of Jupiter, the bright sun enlivened every surrounding object, and the white heifer was reclining beneath a shady tree. As soon as Juno saw this beautiful animal, she admired her pearly horns and velvet ears, and inquired of Jupiter to whose herd she belonged, and finally ended by begging of him to give her to her.

Jupiter had ho excuse for denying this request, and was forced to give Io to his queen. Juno suspected that the heifer was some mortal lady, and a favourite of Jupiter, so she resolved to take good care of her. In order to do this, she gave her in charge to Argus, a person renowned for his vigilance. Argus was said to have had an hundred eyes, some of which were always awake. Every day Argus turned Io into the fields, and at night he shut her up securely.

One day, as she was grazing on the banks of the Inachus, the loved scene of her youthful sports, she perceived her father, and approached him with familiarity. Inachus was attracted by the gentleness of the beautiful heifer, and plucking a handful of grass, offered it to her, while he bound her horns with a garland of flowers. The heifer seemed grateful, and licked the hand of her father with her large rough tongue.

Io longed to communicate to Inachus that she was his lost daughter, and at length fell upon the expedient of tracing the story of her metamorphosis, with her foot, upon the sand. Inachus was surprised and shocked beyond measure, when he perceived the strange motions of the heifer, and saw in the sands these words, “I am Io, thy daughter; Jupiter has transformed me to this shape.”

Inachus threw his arms around the neck of the heifer, and wept over her, but Argus saw this tender interview, and instantly drove away Io to a distant pasture. Jupiter, pitying Io, sent Mercury to deliver her from the power of Argus. “Go,” said the sovereign of the gods; “go and destroy Argus. It is my will that Io should be transported to Egypt, to preside over the waters of the Nile: the winds which breathe over that river shall be subject to her control, and grateful navigators, as they speed their course over that majestic stream, shall pay her thanks for safety, and for gentle breezes.

Mercury immediately obeyed his father: he disguised himself in the habit of a shepherd, and took along with him a small number of goats. When he was near the spot in which Argus was, he took up a flute and began to play upon that instrument. Argus had never before beard a flute, and he was ravished at the sound. He invited Mercury to seat himself by his side, and to inform him how the pipe was invented. Mercury, to satisfy the curiosity of Argus, related.

The Story of Pan and Syrinx. §

Among the nymphs of Arcadia, one of the most beautiful was Syrinx, the daughter of Ladon. Syrinx was a worshipper of Diana, and that goddess forbade her followers to listen to any male, either divine or human. One day as Syrinx was descending from Mount Lyceus, she met the god Pan, a rural deity, who was a great favourite in Arcadia. Pan accosted the modest Syrinx, but she did not reply to him; she only ran away. Pan ran after her, and, when he overtook her, seized her by the arm; but instead of clasping the youthful Syrinx, he only held a bundle of reeds.

Pan was grieved at this metamorphosis, but he converted the reeds to a flute of seven pipes, which he called Syrinx, “and like this,” concluded Mercury, “which I hold in my hand, it soothes the pensive mind, and holds the divinities of the woods in mute attention.”


Mercury then began a sweet air, and soon perceived that he had almost lulled Argus to sleep; he next touched, with the caduceus, those of the hundred eyes which remained open, and Argus immediately fell into the profoundest slumber. When Mercury found the sharp-sighted Argus in his power, he drew forth a cemetery which he had concealed under his cloak, and with one blow severed his head from his body.

Juno was grieved at the loss of Argus, and caused his hundred eyes to be placed in the tail of her peacocks; where, deprived of the power of vision, they served to adorn that party-coloured bird. Juno now hated Io more than ever, and she drove her from place to place by a most cruel contrivance; this was the incessant buzzing and stinging of a large gad-fly, which followed and tormented the unhappy Io wherever she went.

Driven to madness by her incessant persecutor, Io plunged into the Mediterranean, at that part since called from her the Ionian Sea; thence she passed over Illyria and Thrace, swam across the Bosphorus, ran over Scythia and the mountains of Caucasus, and, after traversing Asia, pursued her career into Africa. Being arrived in Africa, she became calm, knelt down, and raising her head toward heaven, implored Jupiter, with her loud and continual lowing, to take pity on her sufferings.

Io’s prayer was heard; she was restored to her human form, and afterward became queen of Egypt.

Phæton. §

“The world’s vice luminary.”

It is related that Io, after she became queen of Egypt, had a son named Epaphus, who was the favourite friend of Phæton. Phæton was the son of Apollo and Clymene. Epaphus and Phæton passed much of their time together. Young persons are apt to boast of their own consequence; some commend themselves for their wealth and others for the importance and dignity of their relations and ancestors: but we are not more worthy on account of our good fortune, or more estimable because other persons who are related to us, are, or have been wise and virtuous. Our own goodness, knowledge, and amiable manners, alone entitle us to praise, but not to self-praise, only to the approbation and esteem of others.

Epaphus and Phæton both commended themselves upon their parentage. “I,” said Epaphus, “am the son of Jupiter, the chief of the gods; you, Phæton, cannot boast of so glorious an origin.”

“I know not why,” replied Phæton; “my father was Apollo, the son of your father, and is himself the most graceful, beautiful, and accomplished of all divinities.”

“I do not,” retorted Epaphus, “dispute the perfections of Apollo; but perhaps he is not your father. Did he acknowledge that you were his son?

“My mother, Clymene,” answered Phæton, “has often told me that I was the son of Apollo; and I will instantly go to her, and tell her that you dispute her word, and do not believe that I am, like yourself, descended from Jove.”

To settle the question, Phæton immediately sought his mother, and complained of Epaphus. “My dear son,” answered Clymene to this complaint, “this young prince has no more glorious ancestors than your own; as I have often told you, they are the very same. Go to the palace of the sun; the god of day will receive you with tenderness, I am sure; he will comfort you. The taunts of mortals will not disturb your repose, when you are assured of the truth of your mother, and the affection of your celestial father.”

So counselled, Phæton quickly ascended to the summit of Olympus, and there, upon a throne of burnished gold, surrounded by Hours, Days, Months, Years, and Ages, standing at respective distances from each other, was seated the son of Latona. Apollo perceived the youthful Phæton, as he advanced with his hands before his eyes, shading them from the intense lustre of the beaming sun, and instantly removed from his brow the diadem which shed its glory all over the world, and which mortal vision, save the eye of the mighty eagle could not meet undazzled.

Phæton, thus encouraged, approached the throne, and knelt before the god. “I am come hither, gracious parent,” said the suppliant, “to entreat thee to declare thyself my father. The son of Io has vaunted that he is the offspring of a god, while I am no other than a child of mortality. Condescend, divine Apollo, to vindicate the words of my mother, who asserts that her child derives his birth from the gods, as certainly as that Egyptian does.”

“My son,” answered the god, “I am grieved that thou shouldst permit thyself to be thus disturbed by this young man’s suspicions of thy mother’s veracity; truly thou art my own, and truly I love thee; to convince thee how well, I swear by the Styx, that inviolate oath of the gods, that whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will most assuredly grant thee.”

Phæton eagerly took advantage of this promise, and asked for one day to guide the chariot of the sun, which was drawn by two coursers of such power and spirit, that no hand, except that of Apollo, could restrain them. “Audacious young man,” replied the god; “you know not what you ask. To conduct the flaming car of day is an enterprise which Jupiter himself would scarcely undertake; notwithstanding my own skill and experience, I find it requires my utmost ability to guide my fiery horses through the vast expanse of ether, among myriads of heavenly bodies in constant and contrary motion.”

Phæton heard Apollo, but he was not moved by his remonstrances. “Remember thy oath, my father,” replied the rash youth; “instruct me how to perform this journey, and thou shalt see me return in gladness and triumph from the glowing west, after having dispensed thy glory to all the nations of the earth.” Apollo, knowing that the obstinate and presumptuous are only taught from their own experience, expostulated no more with Phæton, but conducted him to the car.

The car of Apollo was the workmanship of Vulcan, and diffused myriads of bright rays, even when it was not occupied by the god, who was himself the very spirit of light. The vigilant Aurora appeared at the same time, and with rosy fingers unbarred the shining portals of the East, and the Hours harnessed the horses, already impatient to commence their diurnal career through the heavens.

Phæton ascended the chariot, and the winged coursers rushed forth with impetuosity, dividing the clouds which lay beneath their flying feet, and attended by the winds, which had risen to accompany them through the fields of ether. They soon felt that a feeble hand held the reins, and bounded away from the limits of their accustomed path, sometimes mounting to the fixed stars, and sometimes whirling the car, with its terrified conductor, from pole to pole.

Phæton now repented of his rashness, but it was too late; already the burning axles had set fire to the earth; the forests on the mountain tops flamed; Etna burned with new fury; the snows of Rhodope melted; the ice of Scythia dissolved; and Pindus and Olympus sent forth blazes far as the Alps and Appenines; the river gods, to avoid the conflagration, Withdrew to the beds of their streams, and even Neptune in vain essayed to appear on the surface of the ocean.

In this dreadful extremity, Terra (earth) prayed to Jupiter for protection; and he, propitious to her prayer, precipitated Phæton into the Eridanus,11 a river of Italy, and he was drowned. The Hesperian nymphs performed his funeral rites, and raised a monument to his memory. Apollo, grieved at the loss of his son, hid his brilliant head, and refused to cheer the world by his presence; while Clymene, accompanied by the Hiades, her daughters, wandered about the world in search of the unfortunate youth’s remains.

At length, the mother and sisters of Phæton discovered his monument, and wept over his remains with exceeding bitterness. That the afflicted sisters might always abide near this favourite spot, Jupiter changed them to poplars. These trees, in the course of years, became the most beautiful and abundant of the sylvan ornaments of the majestic Eridanus.

Cygnus, a young Ligurian prince, who was the intimate friend of Phæton, came also to weep over his grave, and Jupiter metamorphosed him into a swan. In this form Cygnus entered the river, and was constantly seen gliding by the tomb of his friend.

Apollo, immediately after the death of Phæton, refused to guide the chariot of day, and the gods assembling around him, entreated that he would not leave the earth in darkness. But Apollo only answered, that Jupiter ought himself to undertake the task of enlightening the earth, that he might know how difficult was the task, and how little Phæton had deserved to die because he had failed in it.

Jupiter, however, persuaded Apollo that it was necessary, few the preservation of the earth, that the presumptuous charioteer should die; and afterward induced Apollo to reascend his glorious car, and to cheer the earth mice mere with the smiles of the blessed sun.


Hours, Days, Months, Seasons, Years, and Ages. — All these are personified in mythology, in poetry, and in the arts. The Horæ, or Hours, are represented as lovely young girls, having light embroidered robes. They appear thus in Guido’s Aurora. Prints of Aurora, attended by the Hours, and taken from the original of Guido, are not very rare in this country. Guido’s painting is the splendid embellishment of a ceiling in the Palazzo Respigliosi, at Rome.

Niobe. §

Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus, king of Lydia; that very Tantalus who was sentenced to perpetual hunger and thirst in Tartarus. This princess was married to Amphion, king of Thebes. Niobe had lived in Mæonia, of Asia Minor, and had heard of the fate of Arachne; she was shocked at the injustice of Minerva, and used to complain of the tyrannical disposition of that goddess; and, at length, she despised all the gods and goddesses, and their worship.

In Thebes dwelt Manto, the daughter of Tiresias, the prophet. This prophetess used to go out into the streets and exhort the Thebans. At the time when the queen of Thebes uttered her contempt for the gods, it would seem without dread of their vengeance, Manto called upon the people to be more zealous in their devotions. “Haste, Thebans,” said she, “to the worship of Latona; bind your brows with laurels, and bum incense on the altars of her children. Apollo and Diana command you, by my voice, to pay them homage.”

The people readily obeyed. Crowning their heads with the ever-verdant foliage which Apollo had consecrated, and bearing incense in their hands, they preceded to the temple of Latona, there to prefer their supplications. In the midst of these solemnities, Niobe entered the assembly, magnificently attired in a Phrygian habit of gold and purple, and followed by a splendid retinue.

“Thebans,” cried Niobe, “I have come among you in pity for your folly; how absurd is your homage to Latona, who is only a mortal, and who cannot serve you, let you flatter her ever so foolishly, or supplicate her ever so fervently. If you have heard her history, you must know that, previous to the birth of her children, she had not a dwelling, and Terra refused her one, so that she can have no power to bestow any thing upon you.

“If a mortal deserves your homage, behold your queen; is not she worthy of your veneration? — the daughter of Tantalus, who once made a banquet for the gods — the sister of the Pleiades, and the grand-daughter of Atlas, who sustains the heavens. Do the offspring of Latona command your homage of their mother? — they are but two! But the progeny of the royal house of Thebes; the pride and ornament of your country are fourteen — seven youthful heroes, and seven blooming maids. Compare the desert of Latona and her children, with the merits of Niobe and hers.”

Such was the eloquence of Niobe, that she prevailed upon the capricious Thebans to throw away their laurels, and abandon the altar of Latona. Being vexed at this disrespect, Latona repaired to Mount Cynthus, an eminence in the middle of the island of Delos, which was consecrated to Apollo and Latona, and besought them to avenge the insult offered her by Niobe. In obedience to her wishes, Apollo and Diana involved themselves in a thick cloud, which hung in portentous blackness over the ancient palace of Cadmus; and from behind this murky curtain, they discharged the winged shafts of death upon the devoted family of Niobe.

When this fatal arrest fell upon them, the sons of Amphion were engaged in occupations proper to their years: in athletic exercises and youthful sports; in running, and wrestling, and in managing the horse — but, without warning, they fell, struck by the fatal arrows. Scarcely had tidings of this misfortune reached their mother, when the wretched queen saw her daughters transfixed by the same unseen darts; and while the youngest of them yet lived, she covered her with her robe, entreating with bitter cries, that one of her offspring might be spared; but her supplications were vain; the last-born of this fair train expired in her embrace.

Amphion, driven to madness by the loss of all his children, killed himself; and their mother, left alone of all, sat the mute image of despair. In this state, she was hardened to stone, and transported by a whirlwind to Lydia.


The explanation given of this fable is that the arrows of Apollo were some sudden and fatal disease, which destroyed the family of Amphion.

Latona and the Frogs. §

The fate of Niobe having exhibited a dreadful example of the vengeance of the gods, the Thebans set about making amends for their impiety; they repaired once more to the sacrifices of Latona and her children, and all the solemnities which they had forsaken were repeated anew. All that was believed concerning Latona became the subject of frequent conversation, and was related and listened to by the credulous Thebans. An old husbandman, from the neighbouring country, who had come into the city to attend one of these sacrifices, being seated one evening in an arbour, near the house of some of his friends, recounted to them the following adventure of Latona:

“In my youth,” began the old man, “my father, being too old and infirm to bear the fatigues of a long journey, sent me to Lydia, to purchase bullocks; and as I neither knew the road, nor was acquainted with the language of the people with whom I was to transact this business, I engaged a native of the country to be my guide.

“During our journey, we met with nothing extraordinary; but a few days after our arrival in Lydia, as we were walking through some of those fine meadows which afford abundant pasture to the herds of cattle that are bred in that country, I observed an antique altar in the middle of a small lake, on the banks of which grew a great quantity of rushes, and the surface was covered with abundance of those aquatic plants which float on the bosom of small collections of waters.

“On the altar lay a heap of rushes and cinders, indicating a recent offering. When we had come to the verge of the lake, my companion stopped, and I followed is example; and suddenly, assuming an air of devotion, and fixing his eyes upon the altar, he bowed, and in a low tone of voice, murmured, ‘Protect me, and be propitious!’ I repeated the same words, and then inquired rho was the presiding deity of the place.

“‘Young man,’ replied my companion, ‘this altar is dedicated to Latona. You know that when Earth refused her an asylum, Neptune, for her reception, raised the island of Delos from the Egean Sea, and that there were born Apollo and Diana; but the unrelenting Juno hound means to drive her from this place of refuge; and Latona, taking the young Apollo in one hand, and leading his sister by the other, fled into Lydia.

“‘When Latona and her children reached the place where we now stand, it happened to be a season of great drought; the streams no longer flowed through the fields, and the grass was deprived of its verdure. Oppressed with heat, and parched with thirst, Latona with joy perceived this lake, then pure and transparent, and hastening to the margin, she eagerly knelt down to drink. Some peasants, who were cutting osiers near the banks, observed her, and approaching, one of them thus coarsely accosted her: ‘Why come you hither, woman; is there no other water in the world that you must come to drink of this lake?

“‘Can any man be so unreasonable and cruel as to deny this refreshment to a weary and thirsty wanderer?’ said Latona. ‘Hard-hearted wretches! behold these innocent children; they have not tasted water this day!’

“‘The countrymen only laughed at this expostulation, and to make the water unfit to drink, some of them jumped into it, and stirred up the clay at the bottom. Latona, justly provoked at their insolence, exclaimed, ‘Henceforward, be this lake thy habitation!’ Scarcely had she pronounced these words, when they were all changed to frogs; and to this day’, continued my companion, ‘they jump, and splash, and croak, in the lake, to the great annoyance of all who come hither to enjoy the pleasures of quiet meditation.’”