Amanda Aremisia Forrester
Sing O Muse, of the failed love affairs of Apollo,
the shining God. Passionate Apollo was much loved, by men
and women alike. But the tales of His greatest loves ended in
sadness, as many tales of the loves of the Immortal Gods do.
O Muses who dwell on Helikon, tell us first the tale
of rich-haired Daphne, beautiful nymph. One beautiful sunny
day, the Apollo was wandering in the shepherd’s fields, in His
days as a more agrarian God. He spotted a beautiful nymph and
He instantly desired her. Now this nymph, who was called
Daphne, was by nature a shy creature. She was an admirer of
Artemis, and so pledged to remain chaste all her days.
When Apollo approached her with lust in His eyes,
Daphne knew what He was after. She turned and ran, racing
across the countryside. She was only more comely with her face
flushed and her long hair blowing about her face. Apollo followed
after her, calling for her to stop, saying He was no mere shepherd
and He had no evil intentions towards her.
She ran faster, her delicate feet pounding into the dirt. She
prayed to her father that she might somehow escape Apollo’s
attentions. When her feet hit the bank of the river, they stuck to the
ground and shot deep roots in the fruitful earth. Her soft and pliant
skin became hard bark, Her hair became leaves, and her arms
branches. She had been transformed into the first laurel tree.
Apollo still loved Daphne, even in tree shape. Beauty alone
was unchanged. He declared “Since you cannot be my wife, you will
be my tree. My hair, my lyre, my quiver will always bear you, O
laurel, as adornment … And as my head is always young with uncut
locks, may you always keep the beauty of your leaves everlasting
Ever after the laurel has been the most sacred tree of Apollo.
The winners of athletic or musical contests are crowned with a wreath
of its leaves, and Apollo’s most holy priestess, the Pythia, chewed its
leaves to bring about her oracular trance.
Next, O rich-haired Muses Nine , sing of the sad tale of Cyparrissus,
whom Apollo loved with all His divine heart. Young Cyparissus had no
interest in the gifts of Aphrodite, but only wished to spend his days caring
for his beloved pet stag. He was not the least bit interested in the occupations
of young men, not in hunting, not in young girls, or philosophy. He even
ignored far-shooting Apollo’s attentions.
On one ill-fated day, Cyparissus accidentally stabbed his beloved pet
with a javelin. The poor boy was heartbroken and overcome with grief.
He cried to Apollo “If you love me, grant that I may mourn my stag forever.”
The God granted his strange request, turning him into the cypress tree, ever
after regarded as the tree of mourning, saying “I shall mourn for you, for
others you shall mourn; you [the cypress tree] shall attend when men with
grief are torn.”
Lastly, sweet Muses, sing of Hyacinthus, a fine youth of Sparta.
An exceptional youth he was, skilled in hunting, music and athletics.
A lover of Apollo he was. But Zephyros, the God of West Wind, had
also fallen in love with him. Hyacinthus chose Apollo, paying no
attention to the West Wind. Zephyros was hurt, angry, and consumed
with jealousy. One balmy summer day, while Apollo and Hyacinthus
were a playing game of discus, the wind ripped the discus out of the
God’s hand and directed it at Hyacinthus. The boy was stuck hard in the
head, a fatal wound. Apollo ran to His love, blaming Himself for not
being more careful with the fragile human. Apollo tried to heal Hyacinthus,
but it was too late. He was dead. Shining Phoebos could do nothing but
hold the body of His mortal lover and weep great tears of pain. Where the
blood of Hyacinthus had spilled upon the ground, a beautifully flower sprung
up. The hyacinth blooms in the spring, and the petals quickly wither and die,
a symbol of youth cut tragically short. Some of the poets claim that Apollo
also took Hyacinthus’s soul to Olympus to remain His companion, even in
death, but I do not know if that part of the tale is truthful.
O shining Apollo, unlucky in love, I will remember You in another song.