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    Chapter 19

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    Chapter 19
    Previous Chapter
    Chapter XIX
    Endymion. Orion. Aurora and Tithonus. Acis and Galatea

    Endymion was a beautiful youth who fed his flock on Mount Latmos.
    One calm, clear night, Diana, the Moon, looked down and saw him
    sleeping. The cold heart of the virgin goddess was warmed by his
    surpassing beauty, and she came down to him, kissed him, and
    watched over him while he slept.

    Another story was that Jupiter bestowed on him the gift of
    perpetual youth united with perpetual sleep. Of one so gifted we
    can have but few adventures to record. Diana, it was said, took
    care that his fortunes should not suffer by his inactive life,
    for she made his flock increase, and guarded his sheep and lambs
    from the wild beasts.

    The story of Endymion has a peculiar charm from the human meaning
    which it so thinly veils. We see in Endymion the young poet, his
    fancy and his heart seeking in vain for that which can satisfy
    them, finding his favorite hour in the quiet moonlight, and
    nursing there beneath the beams of the bright and silent witness
    the melancholy and the ardor which consumes him. The story
    suggests aspiring and poetic love, a life spent more in dreams
    than in reality, and an early and welcome death.
    S. G. Bulfinch

    The Endymion of Keats is a wild and fanciful poem, containing
    some exquisite poetry, as this, to the moon:

    "The sleeping kine
    Couched in thy brightness dream of fields divine.
    Innumerable mountains rise, and rise,
    Ambitious for the hallowing of thine eyes,
    And yet thy benediction passeth not
    One obscure hiding place, one little spot
    Where pleasure may be sent; the nested wren
    Has thy fair face within its tranquil ken."

    Dr. Young in the Night Thoughts alludes to Endymion thus:

    "These thoughts, O Night, are thine;
    >From thee they came like lovers' secret sighs,
    While others slept. So Cynthia, poets feign,
    In shadows veiled, soft, sliding from her sphere,
    Her shepherd cheered, of her enamored less
    Than I of thee."

    Fletcher, in the Faithful Shepherdess, tells,

    "How the pale Phoebe, hunting in a grove,
    First saw the boy Endymion, from whose eyes
    She took eternal fire that never dies;
    How she conveyed him softly in a sleep,
    His temples bound with poppy, to the steep
    Head of Old Latmos, where she stoops each night,
    Gilding the mountain with her brother's light,
    To kiss her sweetest."


    Orion was the son of Neptune. He was a handsome giant and a
    mighty hunter. His father gave him the power of wading through
    the depths of the sea, or as others say, of walking on its

    Orion loved Merope, the daughter of Oenopion, king of Chios, and
    sought her in marriage. He cleared the island of wild beasts,
    and brought the spoils of the chase as presents to his beloved;
    but as Oenopion constantly deferred his consent, Orion attempted
    to gain possession of the maiden by violence. Her father,
    incensed at this conduct, having made Orion drunk, deprived him
    of his sight, and cast him out on the sea shore. The blinded
    hero followed the sound of the Cyclops' hammer till he reached
    Lemnos, and came to the forge of Vulcan, who, taking pity on him,
    gave him Kedalion, one of his men, to be his guide to the abode
    of the sun. Placing Kedalion on his shoulders, Orion proceeded
    to the east, and there meeting the sun-god, was restored to sight
    by his beam.

    After this he dwelt as a hunter with Diana, with whom he was a
    favorite, and it is even said she was about to marry him. Her
    brother was highly displeased and often chid her, but to no
    purpose. One day, observing Orion wading though the sea with his
    head just above the water, Apollo pointed it out to his sister
    and maintained that she could not hit that black thing on the
    sea. The archer-goddess discharged a shaft with fatal aim. The
    waves rolled the dead body of Orion to the land, and bewailing
    her fatal error with many tears, Diana placed him among the
    stars, where he appears as a giant, with a girdle, sword, lion's
    skin, and club. Sirius, his dog, follows him, and the Pleiads
    fly before him.

    The Pleiads were daughters of Atlas, and nymphs of Diana's train.
    One day Orion saw them, and became enamored, and pursued them.
    In their distress they prayed to the gods to change their form,
    and Jupiter in pity turned them into pigeons, and then made them
    a constellation in the sky. Though their numbers was seven, only
    six stars are visible, for Electra, one of them, it is said, left
    her place that she might not behold the ruin of Troy, for that
    city was founded by her son Dardanus. The sight had such an
    effect on her sisters that they have looked pale ever since.

    Mr. Longfellow has a poem on the "Occultation of Orion." The
    following lines are those in which he alludes to the mythic
    story. We must premise that on the celestial globe Orion is
    represented as robed in a lion's skin and wielding a club. At
    the moment the stars of the constellation one by one were
    quenched in the light of the moon, the poet tells us,

    "Down fell the red skin of the lion
    Into the river at his feet.
    His mighty club no longer beat
    The forehead of the bull; but he
    Reeled as of yore beside the sea,
    When blinded by Oenopion
    He sought the blacksmith at his forge,
    And climbing up the narrow gorge,
    Fixed his blank eyes upon the sun."

    Tennyson has a different theory of the Pleiads:

    "Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising through the mellow shade,
    Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid."
    Locksley Hall

    Byron alludes to the lost Pleiad:

    "Like the lost Pleiad seen no more below."

    See also Mrs. Heman's verses on the same subject.


    Aurora, the goddess of the Dawn, like her sister the Moon, was at
    times inspired with the love of mortals. Her greatest favorite
    was Tithonus, son of Laomedon, king of Troy. She stole him away,
    and prevailed on Jupiter to grant him immortality; but forgetting
    to have youth joined in the gift, after some time she began to
    discern, to her great mortification, that he was growing old.
    When his hair was quite white she left his society; but he still
    had the range of her palace, lived on ambrosial food, and was
    clad in celestial raiment. At length he lost the power of using
    his limbs, and then she shut him up in his chamber, whence his
    feeble voice might at times be heard. Finally she turned him
    into a grasshopper.

    Memnon was the son of aurora and Tithonus. He was king of the
    AEthiopians, and dwelt in the extreme east, on the shore of
    Ocean. He came with his warriors to assist the kindred of his
    father in the war of Troy. King Priam received him with great
    honors, and listened with admiration to his narrative of the
    wonders of the ocean shore.

    The very day after his arrival, Memnon, impatient of repose, led
    his troops to the field. Antilochus, the brave son of Nestor,
    fell by his hand, and the Greeks were put to flight, when
    Achilles appeared and restored the battle. A long and doubtful
    contest ensued between him and the son of Aurora; at length
    victor declared for Achilles, Memnon fell, and the Trojans fled
    in dismay.

    Aurora, who, from her station in the sky, had viewed with
    apprehension the danger of her son, when she saw him fall
    directed his brothers, the Winds, to convey his body to the banks
    of the river Esepus in Paphlagonia. In the evening Aurora came,
    accompanied by the Hours and the Pleiads, and wept and lamented
    over her son. Night, in sympathy with her grief, spread the
    heaven with clouds; all nature mourned for the offspring of the
    Dawn. The Aethiopians raised his tomb on the banks of the stream
    in the grove of the nymphs, and Jupiter caused the sparks and
    cinders of his funeral-pile to be turned into birds, which,
    dividing into two flocks, fought over the pile till they fell
    into the flame. Every year, at the anniversary of his death,
    they return and celebrate his obsequies in like manner. Aurora
    remains inconsolable for the loss of her son. Her tears still
    flow, and may be seen at early morning in the form of dew-drops
    on the grass.

    Unlike most of the marvels of ancient mythology, there will exist
    some memorials of this. On the banks of the river Nile, in
    Egypt, are two colossal statues, one of which is said to be the
    statue of Memnon. Ancient writers record that when the first
    rays of the rising sun fall upon this statue, a sound is heard to
    issue from it which they compare to the snapping of a harp-
    string. There is some doubt about the identification of the
    existing statue with the one described by the ancients, and the
    mysterious sounds are still more doubtful. Yet there are not
    wanting some modern testimonies to their being still audible. It
    has been suggested that sounds produced by confined air making
    its escape from crevices or caverns in the rocks may have given
    some ground for the story. Sir Gardner Wilkinson, a late
    traveller, of the highest authority, examined the statue itself,
    and discovered that it was hollow, and that "in the lap of the
    statue is a stone, which, on being struck, emits a metallic
    sound, that might still be made use of to deceive a visitor who
    was predisposed to believe its powers."

    The vocal statue of Memnon is a favorite subject of allusion with
    the poets. Darwin, in his Botanic Garden, says,

    "So to the sacred Sun in Memnon's fane
    Spontaneous concords choired the matin strain;
    Touched by his orient beam responsive rings
    The living lyre and vibrates all its strings;
    Accordant aisles the tender tones prolong,
    And holy echoes swell the adoring song."


    Scylla was a fair virgin of Sicily, a favorite of the Sea-Nymphs.
    She had many suitors, but repelled them all, and would go to the
    grotto of Galatea, and tell her how she was persecuted. One day
    the goddess, while Scylla dressed her hair, listened to the
    story, and then replied, "Yet, maiden, your persecutors are of
    the not ungentle race of men, whom if you will you can repel; but
    I, the daughter of Nereus, and protected by such a band of
    sisters, found no escape from the passion of the Cyclops but in
    the depths of the sea;" and tears stopped her utterance, which
    when the pitying maiden had wiped away with her delicate finger,
    and soothed the goddess, "Tell me, dearest," said she, "the cause
    of your grief." Galatea then said, "Acis was the son of Faunus
    and a Naiad. His father and mother loved him dearly, but their
    love was not equal to mine. For the beautiful youth attached
    himself to me alone, and he was just sixteen years old, the down
    just beginning to darken his cheeks. As much as I sought his
    society, so much did the cyclops seek mine; and if you ask me
    whether my love for Acis or my hatred for Polyphemus was the
    stronger, I cannot tell you; they were in equal measure. Oh,
    Venus, how great is thy power! This fierce giant, the terror of
    the woods, whom no hapless stranger escaped unharmed, who defied
    even Jove himself, learned to feel what love was, and touched
    with a passion for me, forgot his flocks and his well-stored
    caverns. Then, for the first time, he began to take some care of
    his appearance, and to try to make himself agreeable; he harrowed
    those coarse locks of his with a comb, and mowed his beard with a
    sickle, looked at his harsh features in the water, and composed
    his countenance. His love of slaughter, his fierceness and
    thirst of blood prevailed no more, and ships that touched at his
    island went away in safety. He paced up and down the sea-shore,
    imprinting huge tracks with his heavy tread, and, when weary, lay
    tranquilly in his cave.

    "There is a cliff which projects into the sea, which washes it on
    either side. Thither one day the huge Cyclops ascended, and sat
    down while his flocks spread themselves around. Laying down his
    staff which would have served for a mast to hold a vessel's sail,
    and taking his instrument, compacted of numerous pipes, he made
    the hills and the waters echo the music of his song. I lay hid
    under a rock, by the side of my beloved Acis, and listened to the
    distant strain. It was full of extravagant praises of my beauty,
    mingled with passionate reproaches of my coldness and cruelty.

    "When he had finished he rose up, and like a raging bull, that
    cannot stand still, wandered off into the woods. Acis and I
    thought no more of him, till on a sudden he came to a spot which
    gave him a view of us as we sat. 'I see you,' he exclaimed, 'and
    I will make this the last of your love-meetings.' His voice was
    a roar such as an angry Cyclops alone could utter. AEtna
    trembled at the sound. I, overcome with terror, plunged into the
    water. Acis turned and fled, crying, 'Save me, Galatea, save me,
    my parents!" The Cyclops pursued him, and tearing a rock from
    the side of the mountain hurled it at him. Though only a corner
    of it touched him it overwhelmed him.

    "All that fate left in my power I did for Acis. I endowed him
    with the honors of his grandfather the river-god. The purple
    blood flowed out from under the rock, but by degrees grew paler
    and looked like the stream of a river rendered turbid by rains,
    and in time it became clear. The rock cleaved open, and the
    water, as it gushed from the chasm, uttered a pleasing murmur."

    Thus Acis was changed into a river, and the river retains the
    name of Acis.

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